Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by MicheleCr: Fun for the whole family
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Fun for the whole family
This cruise was our honeymoon (second wedding for both of us), and so we brought the kids (8 & 11 years old) with us. It was the first time we had been on a cruise, so we have nothing to compare it to. We are both professionals, in our early 40s. Since we live about an hour and a half north of NYC, we had a car service for transportation to the terminal. We arrived at the terminal around 11:30am, and were on the ship by 12:15pm, with minimal waiting on lines. Our room was a family balcony, #10136. Once we were on the ship, we did some exploring and made some additional dinner reservations. I had pre-booked most of our dining reservations and our shore excursions well in advance. It should also be mentioned that we took a cruise during the spring break, so the ship was full, and had a larger-than-usual number of children aboard.
As far as the stateroom went, we were pleased. The four of us were slightly cramped in the room when the beds were pulled out, but during the day More it was better. One of the things we learned was that we really over-packed, and next time would bring much less. The service staff were wonderful, and one of the kids' favorite things was to return to the room each evening to see what kind of towel animal we had. One night they took my daughter's "spring break journal" and made a giant frog and positioned the journal so that he was "reading" it. Everyday, both in the morning , and then again in the afternoon, the room would be made-up and freshened up, new towels placed in the room. We never had to ask for anything. We enjoyed the attention to detail.
Children's Club: The kids were eager to check the club out, as were we. We registered them the first night and had planned to make use of the club for a couple of evenings and a day we spent at the spa. This worked out very well, and the kids really enjoyed the staff and club. We were a little worried about the number of children aboard, however the staff accommodated everyone very well.
Restaurants: Generally speaking, we only went to the buffet for breakfasts a few times. Otherwise, we used the buffet to feed the kids on the nights we went out to romantic dinners. I felt that the food at the buffet was OK, for the most part, with the notable exception of the desserts, which were just plain terrible. All desserts at the buffet were basically gelatin-based, kind-of wiggly and tasteless. Overall, the food was the same, no matter the venue on the ship, however the presentation was better in the specialty restaurants. We went to Cagney's, and I honestly felt that it was not worth the money at all. The meat was exactly the same as on the rest of the ship. We did really enjoy LeBistro and Moderno. We did enjoy Grand Pacific for several breakfasts and a couple of dinners, and felt that the food was good there. One thing that we noticed with all of the restaurants was that they never asked you for drink orders when we were seated. They put water out, but we always had to ask for drinks. It was just odd. We did not purchase the drink packages, as we only had a few drinks some days, usually with dinners. We never had to wait more than a minute or so to be seated at any restaurant. One thing I found really funny was that the dress code was odd. You could pay to go to Cagney's and dress like a slob (and people DID!)...but god forbid you went to the Grand Pacific for dinner in a polo and dress shorts :) By the end of the cruise, we were a bit tired of the same foods over and over...but the restaurants were overall pretty good.
Ports and Shore Excursions: We first went on a bus tour of San Juan. I am glad we chose this, as I am not really sure what else we might have done on our own here. The tour was fun and we got a nice introduction of the island this way. The second day we went to St. Maarten, and we went solo for this port. We did a little shopping at Diamonds International, and then took a cab to Maho Beach. We had a great day watching the planes overhead and had no trouble getting back to the port, as we asked for a timed pick-up, and our driver came right back at the time we requested. On St. Thomas, we took an excursion to Tortola to do the Dolphin Encounter. The whole family had a blast on this excursion. The only part that was bothersome was the people on the boat to Tortola, who were nonstop complaining about how choppy and "treacherous" the ride was...how they were going to complain, sue, etc... That got old pretty quickly, so I asked them if they had read the description for the excursion (of course not!), because we CHOSE that particular excursion for the hour-long cruise through the Sir Francis Drake Passage. It was beautiful, but because we were going against the waves, it was choppy. Being used to boats, we had no problem with this and really enjoyed the entire day. The dolphin encounter was a blast. One tip...they take a ton of pictures...smile and let them take all the pictures they want...and then spend the $200 for the entire picture package. Otherwise you are going through 120 pictures for the few you want to take home. By getting the whole package, we got 115 pictures on disc, 5 prints of our choosing, and a little dolphin flash drive keychain. Also plan to bring a snack or spend a fortune on lunch at the Dolphin Discovery ($60 for a family of 4...burgers, fries and drinks). This was our splurge, so we went all out this day. We had a great time. Our last excursion was to Cayo Leventado, which was a wonderful beach day. The waves were just right, the water a beautiful clear light blue...really peaceful and nice.
Entertainment: We enjoyed the game shows and the White Hot Party. We also enjoyed Bliss Lounge with the kids (before 11pm), so that they could get a little taste of the club. We played air hockey and the kids did karaoke. The kids spent a considerable amount of "at sea" time in the pool and the kids' hot tub, which they enjoyed a great deal. We enjoyed reading books and being attended to by pool wait-staff. They knew our names and what we liked to drink, despite not being big drinkers.
Spa Services: We spent two days in the spa, an "at sea" day in the beginning and at the end of the cruise. Each day we scheduled the couples massage with bathing ritual, I had a deep tissue and my husband had a hot stone massage. We then had facials. My husband enjoyed a couple of hot lather shaves and I got a mani/pedi, as well. I also got the tooth whitening, however afterwards, I felt that this was a complete waste of money. Overall, the spa was nice, but it was very overpriced, and they were often a very hard sale for Elemis products.
Overall impression: We were pleased with NCL and would cruise with them again. I am already looking at the 12-day Caribbean cruises for next year, and we can't wait! One thing which bothered me, but we didn't realize until the last night, was that we didn't get the package we were told we would when we booked the cruise. We called the 800-number and booked directly through NCL, with a woman named Melissa. When she heard that it was our honeymoon, she congratulated us and said that she would have a bottle of wine, a fruit/cheese platter for us one night, as well as a dinner at Le Bistro. When we got to the room the first day, that evening, we found our shore excursion tickets, prepaid on-board credits, and a card that said "Happy Anniversary" on it. The card stated to take it to the restaurant of our choice whenever we wanted to. Thinking this was our complementary dinner, we made an additional reservation for Le Bistro. We never did get any of the other things she promised. The night we went to Le Bistro, we presented the card to the hostess when we got there. At the end of the meal, they came and brought a cake to us. When we left, we got a check for the cover charge. When we asked, we were told that the card only got us a cake. A bit of a let-down, at the very end of an otherwise wonderful cruise. Less
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Cabin review: 10136
As far as the stateroom went, we were pleased. The four of us were slightly cramped in the room when the beds were pulled out, but during the day it was better. One of the things we learned was that we really over-packed, and next time would bring much less. The service staff were wonderful, and one of the kids' favorite things was to return to the room each evening to see what kind of towel animal we had. One night they took my daughter's "spring break journal" and made a giant frog and positioned the journal so that he was "reading" it. Everyday, both in the morning , and then again in the afternoon, the room would be made-up and freshened up, new towels placed in the room. We never had to ask for anything. We enjoyed the attention to detail.