I spent seven wonderful days aboard the Gem, two forty something year old women (myself and my cousin) and my 15 year old son. We've sailed NCL many times but this was our first time on the Gem.
Embarkation: We arrived around 11:30 and as a Suite guest had VIP boarding and we were really treated very well. We spent five minutes checking in at the counter getting key cards, were then escorted into a separate waiting room and greeted by Ryan, our concierge (loved him). A table was set up with all sorts of refreshments. Within 5 to 10 minutes we were escorted directly onto the ship and straight to Cagney's for lunch. We were told that our cabin should be ready by the time we finished lunch, which was estimated to be about 2:00/2:30. By 2:30 we were in our cabin and unpacking our suitcases which all arrived together. Hooray!
Cabin: It was the Ninth Floor Forward PH Suite (9500) and was really quite nice. It was much larger than the standard cabins with lots of storage, and the bathroom was pretty much the same as standard cabins with the exception of it having a combo bath/shower. The sitting area had a small sleeper sofa (large enough for one adult) and slipper chair, a small dining table (w/4 seats) adorned with fresh flowers and fruit all week long. Late afternoon treats were delivered every day. We had a fabulous coffeemaker, which we really enjoyed, a flat panel TV with limited channel selections, DVD Player (we brought a couple of our own movies since they no longer have the DVD library, but there were PPV movies, something like 49 to choose from at $10 apiece, but were complimentary to suite guests. The balcony was gigantic and furnished quite nicely with 2 chaise loungers, 2 armed chairs, a settee - all cushioned and a coffee table and wicker storage chest. Pretty much every morning we enjoyed our coffee on the balcony and a lot sunbathing was done here as well.
Met Fidel our Cabin Steward pretty much immediately, and knew from the second we spoke to him that he was a keeper. From that first day and throughout the week he met all of our requests, and most times pretty much immediately, such as ice and ash tray requests, our asking if he could soften up the convertible sofa bed, to which he replied; "Don't worry, I will make it nice for you" and he sure did, and always with a friendly smile.
Soon after, we met our Butler, the sweet and competent Josephine. We really could not imagine what we would need a Butler for but boy were we mistaken. With her help doing things I would normally take care of, she added hours in saved time for me. All room service was personally attended to by her and most times with the speed of light. She always had us well stocked with coffees, buckets of ice and a nice cold pitcher of water that we had requested. We dined in our suite a few times; a couple of breakfasts and dinner one evening, since we spent the day at Disney and arrived back to the ship around 9PM. Josephine took our dinner orders before we left the ship and said we should call her when we arrived back on and she would bring our food right away. When we returned that night the dining table was beautifully set for dinner and within 15 minutes after receiving our call that we returned, she was wheeling in our prime rib which was hot and cooked just right. I am home now sitting on my sofa typing this review and wish Josephine and Fidel were still at hand because they really did attend to all of our wants and desires and made us feel like it was their pleasure to do so.
I mentioned our Concierge, Ryan Rabe, earlier and would like to say a few things about this amazing guy. He expedited all of our off and on ship trips and made them painless. All restaurant reservations achieved in the blink of an eye (even when our requests came very late in the day). Our last minute changes, which we had a few, were navigated smoothly. Again with his help, extra hours were added to our trip by taking care of things which I didn't have to. With all of the time and effort we saved with Josephine's and Ryan's help it made this more like an 8 day cruise! Any issues, big or small, like my room safe jamming up and not being able to open, he was all over it. Did I mention what a nice guy he was too? NCL is lucky to have him.
Our Meet & Greet which I had organized was Sunday at 11AM. 100% attendance by all who signed up (there were 29 of us). Captain Roger and all of the Senior Staff attended. I have never met a nicer group of officers. I believe this feeling was shared by all in our group as they said it was the "best" M&G they had ever attended. Captain Roger, what a nice guy, and so very approachable. The Hotel Director, Sean, was personable and charming, and assured us that if there was anything he could do for us to please contact him on his cell. Joseph, Food & Beverage, was again a pleasure to meet. I cannot say enough about this fine group of Officers. They were a very hands on group who you saw everywhere throughout the week.
Our CC group met again on Thursday morning, as we planned a cabin crawl (did 5 cabins ranging from inside to PH Suite) and then went over to the Casino where I had arranged with the Casino Host for us to do a slot pull. $21 per person, about 7 pulls each on Wheel of Fortune, and we all ended up winning $1 a piece. The Casino Manager then comped everyone in our group a cocktail at the bar and our group had lots of fun and laughs.
We enjoyed very nice weather throughout the week. It was hot and sunny in Florida, the Bahamas and GSC. It was a bit cooler and windy coming from and returning to NYC (which was expected for early April). The pool area could get quite crowded on the fabulous sea days, and we just avoided this area at those times as there are plenty of other places to sun and relax or keep yourself entertained.
Dining: Food is a very personal experience, as it should be. I have an Italian mother who is a wonderful cook, even so there are certain things she will cook that I just don't like. With that being said, we enjoyed most of the food on the Gem. Some things were better than others, and some I found to be really not good at all (specifically the sirloin in the MDR just your average piece of beef lacking in flavor), but hey, there are literally hundreds of choices as far as food goes.
We ate breakfast either in our cabin from room service or Cagney's (since we had privileges). They were both very good. My son enjoyed the steak and eggs most mornings in Cagney's (it was a very nice piece of filet) and I tried everything from Eggs Benedict topped with crab cakes (a bit decadent for the AM), French Toast, not like a diner makes - but very rich and delicious and just good old plain poached eggs and toast on most mornings. My cousin did the steak and eggs and eggs benedict too and loved them.
We ate lunch usually at the buffet, since it seemed this time of day we were always somewhat in a hurry to get somewhere and this worked out well for us. They had a varied and nice selection, and it was easy to find something to enjoy. Depending on what time you arrive, sea day or port day, and the weather outside, finding seating right away would vary. A couple of times we had lunch in Cagney's - though I enjoyed having breakfast here, I was not all that excited about their lunch menu and thought the choices in the buffet were much better.
Dinner was a bit of everything. We were in the Main Dining Room Magenta the first night, which we really enjoyed, and the service was excellent. Grand Pacific, MDR, 2nd night - again very good and the service was excellent. We did eat one evening in our cabin as I mentioned earlier. Went to Teppenyaki and had steak and shrimp and we thought that both the meal and service was great. We also ate at Tex-Mex and dined overlooking the music and singing below. We had the lobster tacos (hard shell) and could not believe how delicious this was and it is now one of my new favorites, and again we enjoyed wonderful service. We ate French the next night, and all of us ordered escargot for app and the lobster as entrEe and we were not disappointed with the food or the service as it was exceptional. The only meal we had that I was not very happy with was the last night in the Grand Pacific MDR. It seemed incredibly busy (I guess maybe everyone wanted to eat around the same time at a reasonable hour since packing had to be done this night and all would be rising somewhat early for disembarking, this is just a guess on my part) but felt that the service was really lacking (water glasses weren't being refilled, requested bread and it took a real long time to come, small things like this that we had not experienced all week long (which were not really such a big deal). Also this night I did not enjoy the entrEe selections so much. If I had to do the last night over again this would be the night I would choose a specialty restaurant.
Entertainment: During the day there was various activities scheduled, trivia, bingo, dance lessons, etc both on sea and port days, though less while in port. Comparing this sailing to our Jewel sailing of last year, I would have liked for the Pub Crawl to have been held earlier in the week, as it is a fun way to get to know your fellow cruisers and fun is guaranteed with all of the games and silliness. Instead it was held on Thursday compared to the first night on the Jewel last year and they only had one for the whole cruise, when last year there were two. We are also fans of the Martini Tastings, but they only held one for the whole week. I think we had three on the Jewel sailing last year and these were really a big hit with everyone. The CD, Jill, who is filling in for Sinan while he vacations, was just okay. She was very nice but I thought she was a tad boring. Assistant CD, Megan, what a sweetheart, would have preferred her to be the CD. She is a young, bubbly and happy person who is fun to be around. Megan was extremely approachable and a much better fit for the tough (and I mean this in a nice way being a native) mostly "New York" crowd that you get leaving from Manhattan.
Every night there would be a show at Stardust and various other entertainment throughout the night in different venues. We saw a few of the shows, which I thought were good but spent the greater part of my nights losing in the casino. One of my favorite shows, which I truly recommend you make the time for, is the crew show that takes place at 3:30 in the afternoon on Friday. The final act "Fountains" was not only original but a AAA+ act. The White Hot Party they did extravagantly, while entering the lounge you felt as if you were part of a Broadway production, quite beautiful.
Ports: We did Epcot in Florida. Since we only had about 5/6 hours we thought this was a good park choice since it really doesn't have the major long lines you find in the other parks. This worked out well for us as we got to walk through the Worlds with enough time to stop and eat and rest in each one and finished up with Soaring (get your fast pass as soon as you enter as they do sell out) which is the most popular and probably because I think it was the best attraction.
GSC: We were able to take the first tender over and arrived around 10:30. It was a very nice beach day. The water was not too cold so we were able to swim. It does get very crowded on a beautiful beach day. To avoid being frustrated by the wait to tender and the possibility of not finding lounge chairs, either try to go very early, or go very late. The Last tender back was at 5:30. If you go early like we did, we spent 3 hours on the beach then headed back to the ship at 1:30 for lunch as we heard that the line for the lunch BBQ at this time was very long. If you go later, have lunch on the ship then head over to the island. You will not have to wait on the lunch line and many who arrived earlier will be returning, as we did, and you have a good chance of finding their vacated lounge chairs. Right at mid-day, 1:00, those that were arriving had a hard time finding lounge chairs either right in the thick of things or in shaded areas, but if you walk further down it does thin out and there are some relaxing areas to enjoy.
Nassau: Since we have visited this port too many times to count we chose to stay on board and just relax. The pools and public areas typically empty at this time and make for a most relaxing day on board.
Disembarking: We chose to put our luggage out the night before. We woke at 7 AM, packed the remainder of our stuff and headed to breakfast at 8:00. By 9:00 we were ready to leave the ship. We got our luggage and were through customs and waiting for my husband at curbside by 9:45. Whether you carry your luggage off yourself or put it out the night before, pretty much everyone is off the ship by 10:00 AM and through customs and on their way by 10:30. It's a very efficient system.
If I had to choose just one of my favorite things about the Gem, and this would be difficult, it would hands down be the fantastic Officers led by Captain Roger and Hotel Director Sean, and their amazing Crew. Can't wait to sail her again.