This was a second time on the beautiful Gem for DH and me. We love sailing out of the NYC terminal. Its upgrades are quite nice. We boarded the ship a little before 1PM and received our glass of bubbly and a warm welcome. We went straight to the Grand Pacific main restaurant and had a delightful lunch.
Our cabin was ready after lunch. We selected the same cabin that we had last April. We always stay in the middle of the ship as low as possible, and contrary to previous reviews, we don't feel any of the movement, even on rough days. It does pay to be in the middle if you want to be more comfortable if seas are rough.
Our Meet and Greet was fun. Several of the chief staffers came including the Captain. We presented the Captain with a charm containing a picture of President and Mrs. Obama, since we wanted to be remembered as the group that sailed during the historic event. A few hours later our charm had already been placed on the It Girl Mermaid on Deck 10. NCL wants you to have a good time and they aim to keep you happy. Once again they kept their promise.
We had no glitches. Loved the food, good service throughout the ship, and the friendly staff. The Hotel Director, Prem, has a life goal of making sure passengers are happy and want to return to NCL. His kindness and professional manners were seen and appreciated throughout the cruise. Ray Carr(CD), Bingo Joe Peach (Asst.CD), and staff members Jade, Joel, Cletus, Maria, Hillary, Charlene, and Andreas made us feel like we were part of the family and spent much time getting to know the passengers. I asked for dance classes and Joe called me back immediately to tell me how he was planning them - great Salsa class, Joe!
My only sad thing to report was meeting a couple who had been robbed and beaten in Antigua. My DH and I walked around alone on a Sunday morning in this city looking for a church. I didn't feel safe. Shops were closed and no one was around. We finally met another group looking for the same church and we all enjoyed a lovely mass. We walked back to the ship with another couple. Unfortunately the above mentioned couple had been looking for the same church, but had the horrible experience. When they got back on the ship, after spending time in a filthy police station and hospital, they were met by an NCL officer who took them to the medical center on board. The couple told us they went up to the chapel and prayed thanks that they were not seriously hurt. They just want all cruise lines to emphasize taking excursions or staying close to the ship (especially on Sundays). It's not safe to walk around these islands on your own. They all have drug problems like the rest of the world. This did not stop these folks from enjoying the rest of the cruise. NCL was very kind to them. We learned to use common sense and not live in fear, but be fearful and take precautions.
I recommend the Best of St.Thomas, Coast to Coast Barbados, and the Best of Tortola for excursions. Breathtaking views and beautiful 80 degree weather made them memorable. I could live on Barbados forever!
Disembarkation was a breeze. We did self disembarkation and rolled off the ship at 9:30AM, and we were in our car on the pier and driving home at 9:45AM.
We plan to return to the GEM again. The FreeStyle dining is great and this ship has the best fresh air. NCL has wonderful smoking policies - smoking in the casino, only one bar for smokers, smoking in the cabins, and some outside locations on deck. It's delightful walking around the ship without having to dodge smoke.