We are a family of 5, 3 boys, 10,9, and 4 with me and my wife, took the NCL GEM from NYC on 12/11/2010 to 12/18/2010. Our last cruise was on Carnival Fantasy about 15 years ago. We usually go to all inclusive resorts in Punta Cana or Cancun.
We were originally scheduled to depart 4pm but it got rescheduled to 7pm. We got phone calls, emails and texts. A personal call from travel agent to have a person to person phone confirmation that we know it got pushed out to 7pm due to dry dock delay. At least it wasn't delayed a whole day like the Jewel a week before. It was very crowded at the port and the ship didn't depart until about sometime between 10pm-11pm. NCL gave us $100 per room for the inconvenience.
Port of Calls
We stopped at Port Canaveral and Nassu. NCL skipped Great stirrup Cay due to late arrival in NYC.
At Port Canaveral the ship got in around 8am or 9am. I think GEM normally arrives in Port Canaveral at noon. So we actually had a whole day in Orlando area. We took the rental car van from the parking lot to the rental agency just few mintues outside the port. It was about 32F, very cold. The news on board showed icicles on the Florida oranges. It was about 45mins to Orlando. We made it to Magic Kingdom by 11am. We left Magic Kingdom by 6pm. Made it back on board the ship by 7:15pm. We had to take the taxi back from the Rental dropoff.
Nassau was cold too; about 65F. We originally planned for Atlantis Aquaventure but the ship didn't disembark people until around 1pm; Something about port workers slow down due to local labor dispute. With a very little day light left so we decided just to tour Atlantis. $3pp for the Water Ferry and $4pp for Taxi. We took the Water Ferry over and Taxi back. It was free to see the Atlatis lobby(Aquarium). There is a beach but you have to walk a bit outside of the Atlantis area to get to it. It was too cold to be in the water so we came right back to the ship with a little shopping close by the port. Port area is not the best for shopping. We got few items at Atlatis which was much more like our regular usa shopping mall.
The first day we tried the Blue Lagoon. The chicken wings and New York style cheese cake was fantastic. Blue Lagoon is the only place you can get New York Style chess cake. Other restaurant's cheese cake is more like pudding than cake. Garden Cafe is the buffet restaurant, it was great for a quick food for the kids especially when its right next to the kids club. The food was great but finding seats and going for extra plates was a challenge. We quickly figured out that we feed the kids here but go to sit down restaurant for myself and my wife. We tried the Magenta and the Grand Pacific. We found that Grand Pacific was our favorite; however its in the back of ship so it does get rocky sometimes. Our favorite was the Rack of Lamb, Turkey and Yorkshire Putting w/Loin. Try to order extra plate of Rack of Lamb, it only comes in 3 small pieces. You can get New York Strip at Grand Pacific during lunch hours. There is an "8oz Sirloin Steak" on the menu which is awful compared to the "New York Strip". Grand Pacific had singing and piano by the waiters one night; great atmosphere. Reservations weren't required but as we got closer to the end of the cruise more people went for the sit down restaurants than the buffet; we had short wait for the tables with beepers toward the end of the cruise. As days went on, I ordered more appetizers as my main meal to make room for so many great desserts. Freestyle eating is a great concept, we had dessert at Garden Cafe as appetizers, went to Magenta for main meal and went to Blue Lagoon for dessert. You can eat what you want in any order and any place. Soda card is definitely a must, its so convenient during shows or activities where only bar service is available.
Since the weather wasn't great we tried bowling twice($5pp), video games($1.5pg), bingo($39-$69), wii bowling and two days of rock climbing. They was two golf cage and a tennis/basketball/soccer cage but didn't get to use it much due to the weather. There was dancing lessons, trivia games and juggling lessons. All lots of fun.
They had the singing and dancing show two nights. First show was called Colorz and second show was called World Beat. Although the dancers and singers really did a great job; we all fell asleep for both shows. The juggling by John Barry was really good. Second City improve is fantastic. The International Crew Show, provided by the NCL activity crew and restaurant crew on the last night is not to be missed. Cello (Italian looking guy) was the hit of all acts on this ship. The "Fountains" act is the funniest of all acts on this ship. The last show of the cruise seem to fill up more than eariler shows during the cruise.
This is great. You sign up the kids and you can drop them off anytime between 9am-10:30pm. But they won't feed your kids. I guess allergy liability is too great. There seems to be activities at the beginning of the hour at each hour. They played games like Camouflage, Spy Hunt and Legos. Two of the days they took the kids to the show but we only signed up for one of them. So we were able to enjoy dinner and show with myself and my wife only. My kids 10 and 9 year old really seem to enjoy the Kids Club. My 4yr old didn't like it so much. Lot of outdoor kids activities got cancelled due to bad weather.
I just chose the time to leave which was 10am purple. But you should just choose the earliest time color tag, I think it was white. Then just go leave the boat when ever you're ready. There is a long line for passport check and declaration form after the bag pick up. Porter Service seems to allow you to skip the ready line.
The first day in the open sea quickly made me realize why I did not go on a cruise vacation in the last 15 years. It was like being on a roller coaster. Myself and my wife did not get sick but my 3 boys all got sick the first day at sea. SEA-CALM was available everywhere for free. You can tell when the ship will be rocky; sick bags are out by the elevator doors. The ship security came into our room to lock the port-holes with metal plates because he said the rough waves could actually crack the glass/plastic port holes. Once you start taking the SEA-CALM all seems better. Less throw ups on the ship as more days went by. But you do still see throw ups around the ship every now and then. But the crew does a great job of cleaning it up quickly. The weather was awful so we didn't even get to enjoy outdoor activities much on the cruise ship. We had a dip in the pool during the day ship was docked at Nassau and another day at sea after Nassau. I think if the weather was warmer this could have been a better vacation but I think I'm going to stick to my land loving beach for all my future vacations. As Sugar says on the ship, bye! bye!