We recently returned from a fabulous week on the Gem- June 21-28th out of NYC.
I never thought I'd be wow'ed in NY Harbor - yeah, I'm a lifelong NJ resident - however the moment we stepped into the terminal, I felt like our vacation had started. We were effeciently processed into the cool spacious waiting area, boarded in a relatively short time, and once on board, within minutes (like 15) we heard the announcement that our cabin was ready. After travelling on RCarribean several time, we never ever accessed our cabin so quickly.
First impression upon seeing the ship up close: the Gem is beautiful, with colorful oversized exterior paintings, desk-side murals and a spotless exterior. Our trip out into the Hudson was pretty cool- traveling alongside towering cargo ships, tiny sailboats, scows and barges, pleasure boats; a real New York scene. Then - cool! a fireboat streaming fountains of water above as we passed Lady Liberty. It was hard to determine which side to the GEM to favor with views of the new NYC skyline and Freedom Tower or the historic Ellis Island area and Palisades of NJ.
As with ship's hallways, public areas and lounges, there was nothing "white box" about our inside cabin, with framed art on the walls, bright carpeting and tile, and a modern wood paneling interior. Plenty of lighting sources, electric outlets, drawers and such. The cabin steward's service was impeccable and friendly with being overbearing. Our bedding was protected by vinyl mat, placed in advance, for unpacking and packing times, avoiding any suitcase spills or smudges. I recall that now as an example of the extra steps to ensure cleanliness on this spotless vessel.
Our initial meals were lovely in the Grand Pacific dining room, with window views and and a light airy atmosphere. Menu varied slightly each day, so we had the chance to try something that had been passed up the day before, such as the tender roasted lamb shank and roasted tomato soup. Our portions were perfect, so that dessert could be enjoyed without unbuttoning anything on the waistline... more on that later. We enjoyed a table for two, being seated at various places in the spacious room and receiving consistently gracious and friendly service at every meal.
Freestyle Dining was another first for us.The Teppanyaki was an energetic hibachi grill experience. Although our fellow diners were on the reserved side, the chefs were a hoot, and the food seasoned to perfection.
The Moderno Churaschatto.. Braziliam steak house had to be our best night out. After enjoying the salad bar- there must be 35 items from specialty cheeses to interesting salads, we remarked that we could exist on only that, but we were soon proved wrong! ONe after another succulent meat items sizzling on skereers were present to us.. wow.
We enjoyed breakfasts at the Great Outdoors buffet on Deck 12. Lunch, and afternoon tea were busy but never crowded. It was a few steps away from the busy pool area and the air conditioned Garden Cafe. The staff kept the area immaculate. The evening barman, Adam , was a riot, always ready with a with a joke or quip. Because we had only calm sunny days, we spent more time outside rather than indoors games and the scheduled activities.
The Pool area is designed with kid's activities and slide on one end and adult pools on the other. Poolside band "Uprizyn'" was hopping in the evening, fun in the afternoon - with reggae and pop hits. Although there were a lot of kids on board, we saw them for the Nickelodeon pool party and another kiddie event, a pirate walk perhaps? Otherwise they were observed smiling or sleeping in parent's arms at the end of an day of fun. (This being our first kid-free cruise, we found kid's activities wonderfully entertaining for the kids as well as their parents in the past. Do it!) The the on-board entertainment, unless otherwise noted, was G Rated, like the daily big-screen movies the the Atrium.
Throughout the ship, entertainers- not only poolside - were very professional. Paulo on acoustic guitar and an amazing voice and Tatiania on piano were my most memorable. Dan Dan energetically hosted many ship events, and still had a big surprise for us at the last night. Patricia, piano and ukelele - even asked a lovely teenage musician on board to accompany her a few times! All were very approachable, friendly and personable both on and off stage. The singers and dancers in the Production crew were outgoing and conversational before performances or on a chance meeting on board, never shying away but instead extending a handshake and a warm greeting.
Speaking of personalities - Jenny the Hotel Director is an amazing young woman. As she explained it, a person can run a traditional hotel, but running a hotel on a ship is another thing altogether. With all varied her responsibilities, she always had a smile, an offer to make an experience better, and personally served up lunch poolside one day along with Tyson, the head chef. Fajitas anyone? When Jenny said, call me - she meant it! Disappointed that a World Cup match we had anticipated was subject to poor tv reception, we called Jenny and within minutes she had corrected the situation and came personally to make sure all was up to par, even though just 20 people were affected! Her #2 in command Klaus was a super guy, making us feel like celebrities and calling out to us by name whenever our paths crossed on board.
Ports of Call, Shopping, Bar Hopping - you're on your own adventure. To experience the GEM was fantastic for us - we hope it will be for you too!
B & G in NJ