We flew into (and stayed in Hampton Inn) Newark on Thursday, September 26th. Easy to use AirLink and NJ Transit train into Manhattan. We enjoyed remarkable, mild, weather and did LOTS of walking!
Using a shuttle service to get the Port of Mahattan, on 9/28, we arrived early, checked-in our luggage and took a huge elevator up to the security waiting area. Despite our carry-ons with "PRIORITY" tags and our paperwork with "Suite" number and information, we kept being asked "Are you VIP?" We obviously were on their printed list, so we found the question to be insulting after the third time! Finally, we were through security and directed to a desk where the actual check-in took place. I hope that what took place i our processing was a computer glitch, but after some lengthy paper shuffling, our photos were taken and we told to wait in the VIP lounge (where there was not a light on, no NCL representative, a set-up of food and drink, but "hot" things had no electric power. Eventually, Carlos (the concierge) arrived and started answering questions for others whom had arrived following us. Around 11ish, we were escorted by Carlos toward Embarkation. Only to find out at ship's security that my room card/ID card had my husband's photo (as did his)! This caused a complete hold-up in the security line, until Carlos told them he would handle the problem once he got all of us onboard. We were escorted to the Concierge Lounge (AKA: Star Bar) and I was then escorted down to the front desk, where they retook my photo. Overall, I felt rather embarassed by being "singled-out" in this situation! Next we ate an excellent meal in Cagney's and had just finished when they announced that "ALL Staterooms are now available!" We decided not to wait for our Butler to escort us to our room, so we headed right down to it. And as we had expected, it was lovely!
The mandatory boat drill was the usual... everybody talking when they should have been attentive.
Leaving NYC was spectacular frm our AFT Balcony! We had a fabulous panoramic view of both sides of the Hudson... without the wind that one gets on a Forward Balcony. Additionally, we got to enjoy an awesome sunset view later.
The unfortunate part of this itinerary is that Sunday is the only "Sea Day."
We enjoyed every port tremendously. Since we did our own (unescorted) tours, mostly walking, I won't be critiquing the ports, other than to say, there are plenty of things to see and do, the weather was great (with the exception of rain when we were a St. John... still walked all day and loved this stop, too) and people were friendly!
Pros of the Gem: Nice size ship, seemed clean throughout, friendly staff, good food (even if eggs and/or steaks did not always come out as ordered) with plenty of variety. I'm going to take a moment to state that while the two MDRs do list the same menu every evening, that is only on the right side! Every evening, there is a pleasing selection of variety on the left side. If you think about over 2000 personal tastes... some consistantly "boring" (but still good!) offerings would need to be available!!! The pools and hot tubs looked clean and inviting, even if we did not use them. We were lucky enough to see few children on this cruise.
We played Bingo as often as we could. We loved that the packages offered stayed at $69, or less!!!
Cons: We hardly saw any of the shows because they had changed the schedule to 6pm and 8pm showtimes. Those times did not work-out wth other things we had scheduled. Such a shame!
So, I can not vouch for the quality of entertainment, since we saw so little of it. What we did see was "okay"
While we saw few children, there was one family that obviously did not care what their little ones were doing to other people... and we kept ending up near them constantly : ( ... Just our darned luck!
Disembarkation was considerably later than we had thought it would be (which worked-out fine with our plans). Getting through Customs was fast and easy.