Having read many of the reviews on this website and others, my friend and I chose NCL gem for our first cruise, we were happy to go free style, as we really did not want to have to take extra cruise clothing in the end of a cold winter, coming from Northern Vermont we were already carrying layers of winter clothing.
Embarkation was very smooth, when we got on the ship we were told out room would be ready in an hour so we went to the Garden cafe for lunch, which was excellent. When we got to our room we found it clean and tidy, however our bathroom was not so clean, we asked our room service lady ( Yvonne) if she could re -clean which she happily did for us. Beds very comfortable, plenty of room for our suitcase under bed and hanging closets had enough hangers etc.
We made our way out to the deck to view Statue of Liberty, but it was so foggy we did not see much.
Day2: we walked the decks and got to know our way around the ship, weather was not great, but we played some of the quizzes and bingo, which kept us amused, it was not quite pool weather, a storm was coming up east coast and by dinner time it was getting rocky, we saw a show, went to spininker lounge to listen to the band , both show and band excellent, that night the captain informed us it was going to be a few rough hours, very rocky all night, dramiminne became our best friend, next morning everyone even staff looked like we had all been dragged up all night.
Day 3 Captain came on the intercom to tell us that by lunch we would be out of rough sea, we did feel queasy so we went back to bed for a few hours, when we got up it was much calmer and warmer finally. We played games went to dance lessons, walked the decks, etc.
Day4 arrived into San Jaun, we walked around downtown, there is a CVS just along from the dock in case you forgot anything. We took the free trolly up to the forts which cost us $5 for both tours, then fre trolly back to downtown where we shopped before going back to ship, one note get back to ship before dark San Jaun is very different at night.
Day5 St. Maarten, Phillipsburg, lovely beach, walked the streets did the market, bargains to be had , but they love to haggle prices, we talked to a few locals ( very friendly) and found out there was a bus to the French side for $2 each way, we got a bus and went to Marigot, we were lucky enough to be able to take photos out the bus window and got all the famous bay photos along the way, we shopped and ate lunch, then got bus back to Phillipsburg, where we swam in the ocean and enjoyed the sun. Back on ship saw the show with comedy act very funny, dinner in Grand Pacific, very good, but busy waited for food, no drinks offered except water, we would have had wine with dinner if someone had asked!
Day 6. St. Thomas, went into Charlotte Amalie, where it was full of jewellry stores with great prices if you haggle but the locals do not come down in price much, we joined 4 other people from another cruise line
And haggled a great price with local taxi for tour to mountain top, cost $20 each, he took us on 3 hour tour stoping for photos and shops and interest points long the way, great time had by all, back in time for boarding ship, show that night was cirque de soile acrobatic couple very entertaining, dancing in the spininker to the sounds the band who are excellent . Cocktails were $5-9 depending on what you had, they were ok. Staff attentive. beautiful sunsets.
Day 6 Sanmana DR, we had researched tours for here and had found one called Tour Sanmana with Terry, so we had booked ahead for the number 11 zip line tour, we were tendered into Sanmana which was pretty quick, no hassle. Picked up our tour at the dock and went up into the rain forest for our tour, we were harnessed up and away we went down 11 Ziplines, great experience loads of fun, went to secluded beach for genuine DR BBQ then on Eco tour to small village in rain forest to meet some locals,who sell trinkets and souvenirs as extra income. Note : this is a third world country, very poor,and lots of begging children, if you go on the tour with Terry take some school supplies, which he distributes to the children that need it. Back onto tour truck to be back I time for tender to ship, back on board we ate in buffet which was consistently good with lots of choice.
Days 7-8-9, saw all the shows we could, danced as much as we could went to the white hot party, newlywed and not so newlywed game, loads of fun, toured gym, walked the deck, spent time in the library, on the lounge chairs in from deck of ship, discovered parts of ship not discovered before.
We had a great first cruise, I would research doing tours on your own as ship excursions are expensive and some not worth it. The complimentary buffet and eating restaurant were all good food and value except the blue lagoon, which was long waits and cold food. Casino was too smoky for me to hang out in, and the bingo and deal or no deal were rip offs as far as hidden fees etc.The drinks and water package not worth it. I wished they had had more charade, quiz games and scavenger hunts for cruisers to meet and mingle, loved the dance classes, Latin and Bollywood, shows were great, staff attentive and fun Leslie especially as well as Dan Dan who can really sing, Good value for money, and I will cruise withNCL again but maybe from FL next time so as to avoid the rough sea going and coming back.