This is my review of the NCL Gem that left from NYC for a 7 night cruise to Port Canaveral, FL., Great Stirrup Cay and Nassau, Bahamas.
Embarkation- We arrived at 12:30pm and waited a total of 40 minutes to board the ship after getting through the lines, etc. Certainly not a bad deal considering we did not have to fly in to board the ship. I checked in my wine (3 bottles with a corkage fee of $15 each) I chose to do this rather than ordering bottles from the ship. After that, we headed aboard and went straight to the pool deck. *tip- If you want to get right into the hot tub or pool, wear your bathing suit under your clothes because there is a wait for your luggage. Don't forget a change of dry clothes in your carry on! You have to participate in the mandatory life vest drill before you leave port! The weather this day was a wonderful 72 degrees. The sail away party was in full spirit. There were plenty of cushioned lounge chairs by the pool (adult pool and children's pool) along with scattered round lounge chairs and day beds on the higher decks above the pools.
Entertainment- Plenty of it. Wonderful piano players, singers, dancers, bands, hypnotists, karaoke, wide assortment of different genre music.. Since I like to sing, not only did I get to enjoy plenty of karaoke nights in Spinaker Lounge set up with a very nice sound system but I also got to sing at the piano with one of NCL's entertainers on deck 7. During the day, there was a lot of club music at the pool. This may appeal to some (like myself) but I did wonder if it annoyed some of the older generation aboard. Speaking of club music, Bliss Lounge provided plenty for the late night dancing along with a dance show behind a screen. The dj was great as was the club vibe. Lot's of dancing and fun to be found. What made this club extra special were the beds and lounges scattered throughout and the two bowling lanes on each side of the club. As for the shows, we saw a few. The dancing and singing acts were all very good. The magician show done by the assistant cruise director needed some work as did Second City improv but the Hypnotist show was hysterical and very crowd interactive as were a few of the other shows including The Quest game show. Along with these shows, they also featured pub crawls, wine, martini, beer and mojito tastings all with a nominal fee starting at $15 but well worth it. On this cruise, we were also invited to participate in the Latitudes guest party where we were served free wine and other drinks and served cheese and crackers. The ship employees walked around and greeted us. We also met up at the cruise critic meet and greet where we met fellow guests from the roll call boards. The staff gave us a very warm welcome and offered their services to us even including numbers to reach them if we had any service requests or issues. Quite nice.
Food- Plenty of it! The buffet hosted a huge assortment. Now, since I am on the subject of the buffet, I will mention this.. the design of it for this particular ship is all wrong. It's much too small to properly accommodate the amount of guests on the ship. It was hustle and bustle in there at the prime times. Getting a cup of coffee in the morning was like fighting a New Yorker for a cab. The order was all wrong. There was not enough seating in the main room and they could really use another buffet. In the back of the buffet room to the right is the Italian restaurant. They should consider remodeling that room to accommodate another buffet line. Speaking of the Italian restaurant- *tip- Get your food and walk to the back of the ship.. make a right and head into the Italian restaurant.. there are plenty of seats to sit. Other restaurants we ate at included both main dining rooms (free of charge) Magenta and Grand Pacific. They were ok. Not bad but just ok. The service was not great nor were the servers overly friendly. They were too busy. But you shouldn't leave hungry. Ask for two entrees or order a few appetizers. Since my boyfriend and I appreciate dining out ( we eat out at least 3-4 times a week), we tried some of the pay restaurants. Le Bistro was one of them. Not only was the service great but the mushroom soup and the filet mignon get special mentioning. I've never had a better soup before and the filet was very tender and the peppercorn sauce savory and delicious. $20 cover. We did not bother with Cagneys ($25) as this filet at Le Bistro satisfied our red meat need. Next, was the sushi bar. We had a great time talking with the bartender who served us sake and then chatted a while with the sushi chefs. We chose to sit at the sushi bar so we could watch them prepare their art. The sushi was good and the presentation excellent. $15 cover. On to Teppanyaki.. Hibachi.. wow!! !! A must have. $25 cover. Not only a great show and a good way to meet fellow passengers but the food was excellent. I chose to have to have the lobster (request it), filet mignon and shrimp.. fried rice, salad and soup. $25 cover. We also got to meet some of our fellow passengers at our table including another karaoke singer. Finally, we ate at the Mexican restaurant called Tequila. They start you off with a free margarita. We had the shrimp and swordfish skewers and the lobster tacos. $15 cover. Very good! We did not get a chance to eat at the Italian or Asian restaurants nor Cagney's steakhouse. Drinks- Wonderful selection of wines, beer and mixed cocktails. If you want a strong drink, just ask! They will make it for you. We did the martini tasting and they made us 4 grey goose martinis each!($15 cover but well worth it) Note that tips for drinks are automatically added onto the check. *Tip- we brought on our own water bottles packed in a separate bag then stored them in the room refrigerator. No problem. As for the wine I brought on, after you pay the fee you can have it served at each restaurant you visit or you can carry it with you.
Excursions- We did not book any ship excursions. In Florida, we started by taking a tour-type bus that was waiting right outside the ship. It cost $10 a person but you could use it all day. We asked to go to a public beach (cocoa beach behind Ron Jon surf shop) The water was cold and the air temp was only 72 but it was still nice enough to hang out. Unfortunately, they didn't have any drinks or entertainment.. just beach.. so we then took a local bus down the road to a place called Coconuts. Tiki type bar with a wonderful local band right on the beach. It was great. Bus there was only $1.25 pp
Tip for Great Stirrup Cay.. get down in line to get your color tag to get off the boat on the first tender. They take out the first 350 people. Get down in line at 8:45am.. otherwise you will not get a chair. Very pretty beach even though we came after a heavy rain so the waves were a little rough and there was a lot of seaweed washed up. I don't think it is normally like that. The beach was crowded but since we arrived on the first boat, we were able to get chairs. There were some local market stands set up (they do NOT bargain) and NCL had a huge bbq going on. We were one of the first to get food.. all was good. Huge bbq roast beef, burgers, hot dogs, salads, etc. Plenty of drink waiters and bars around.. If facing the water, take a walk to your left.. there is a path to follow to another part of the beach. Very pretty and secluded. Over all, the beach is too small for the amount of people on the ship but I hear they are doing some construction in the fall to enlarge it. It's needed. We still thoroughly enjoyed ourselves there regardless of the crowd.
Bahamas.. we rented a scooter to check out the island. I wish we instead bought a day pass at either Breezes for $55 (includes all amenities including booze) or the Wyndham resort pass for $40. Atlantis is just not something we wanted to spend $150 each on. Renting scooters is a great way to explore (we do this in Bermuda) but there are not enough public beaches available in Bahamas. One in Paradise Island, one next to the ship called Junkanoo (name that for a good reason) and one on Cable beach. They are not the nicest beaches like the resorts maintain. Overall, though, air temp was perfect.. water too cold for my taste but people were still in it.
Disembarkation- You can choose to walk off with your luggage or choose a color associated with a time to leave. Take your time! Avoid the rush.. have some coffee, breakfast and time to reflect on your trip. It will take time to get off the ship because you have to go through customs. Be patient and remember that. ;)
Overall, we had an excellent vacation despite only minor complaints.. one of the being the Free Style Daily.. very hard to read. I recommend a high lighter.. also, they printed the wrong times for some of the events. Example- the liquor raffle. (you get a ticket if you purchase liquor from the gift shop.) The paper stated it would start at 9:15 but they called it 15 minutes earlier. Not cool. *Tip- if you plan to buy liquor from the liquor shop to bring home, do it right away! We waited and almost everything we wanted was sold out! They hold it for you until the last night at sea. Anyway, we genuinely loved the Gem and have booked her for two cruises next year to Bermuda. :) Keep in mind that your vacation will be a good one if your attitude is a good one.. regardless of any problems.. beats work, right?
Finally, to get a better understanding of this review, please feel free to look at my public photo album located at- http://nclgemmarch202010.shutterfly.com/pictures/8 Captions are located underneath each photo.. you can find menus, food shots, ports of call, ship pics, etc. Any questions, feel free to comment under each photo and I will respond back.