Embarkation at NYC was a breeze, as usual. Arrived at 11:30 am & was on board, in our Haven suite by 12:30pm. Went to Cagney's while my grandson took a quick nap & enjoyed the Cagney signature lunch. Luggage arrived by 2:30 pm with muster station drill at 4:00pm. Sail away in NYC was delightful as the weather was in the low 50's. Had a family dinner in Grand Pacific & here's where the issues began. We decided to have a family dinner the first night because we figured it would be quicker & easier with two young children. The service was terrible. On past cruises, there were at least 2 waiters and 1 busboy assigned to each table. I'm not sure WHO was assigned to this table. It took nearly 20 minutes to place our order. The entire time that we waited to place our order, our wine sat, UNOPENED, on the table & no one made any attempt to offer to open it. It was finally opened after 3 requests & the arrival of our second course. I hoped that this fiasco was a fluke & that I wouldn't need to retreat to the Haven & the specialty restaurants for the remainder of the cruise. Unfortunately, It wasn't a fluke. So much for the main dinning rooms.
My 4 1/2 year old grand daughter absolutely LOVED the Kids Club. She spent hours playing, doing crafts & getting her face painted. Just what a kid could love. The counselors were the best. Security was tops. Never felt any reason to be concerned with her safety while she was there. Never saw one child crying in the club, only when it was time to leave!
The Haven provided the privacy and comfort of a world removed from the hustle & bustle of the ship's activities. Taguh, the Haven's private waiter, was tops. He delivered breakfast & lunch each day from Cagney's and added special extras such as mixed, fresh berries for the kids at breakfast & hot wings from Blue Lagoon for the adults at lunch. No request was a bother for him. We had sailed with him on the Jewel in May 2011 & I was pleasantly surprised to see that he would be taking care of us on the Gem. The staff was very responsive to the guest's requests to open/close the glass roof & to adjust the temperatures of both the hot tub & pool. I didn't know they could heat the pool. One day, there was so much activity in the pool that they turned the temperature up so that it was a big hot tub. Very nice touch. Jenny, the assistant hotel manager made several visits each day to check on the Haven & it's guests. Gigi, our room steward, did an excellent job keeping our cabins clean, neat & sanitized. She worked around the kids naps & never seemed to be bothered by any unusual requests. Note that the sun deck on the Gem is half as large as on the Jewel. This was a little disappointing because you didn't have the ability to move from side to side, depending upon the sun & wind. There were also not enough padded lounges on the sun deck. No one "saved" chairs, but there is still a need for more lounges. NCL......the "snacks" delivered each evening to the suites are mostly inedible. Although we ordered cheese platters and fruit, it seemed a waste that these little morsels of snacks were mostly wasted.
We didn't use our butler too much, frankly very little. Roel was a nice enough guy, but didn't seem to be really into his job. It seemed that keeping my ice bucket & wine bucket full of ice was a problem. But he did keep the kids supplied with fresh milk. We saw him alot on the last 2 days of the cruise. HUH?
Dining in the specialty restaurants was good as usual. The menus have changed since May, substituting some less cost staples, but there was still a nice variety. Cagney's was number one with me. The only glitch was that the only fish served was salmon (which could be had anywhere), but upon speaking to the hostess, grouper was made available for dinner (it is on the lunch menu). We dined in the Italian several times & requested outdoor seating. There are 3 tables outside, screened from the Garden Cafe & lovely to sit at when in port. They don't really advertise the outdoor seating. I think it is a little bother for them but we like it. The Tex-Mex was good. The free margaritas seemed to flow freely this trip. In past trips, a small sample was included with your meal. On this trip, the glasses were refilled as often as requested. This was a very nice touch. The Asian restaurant provided a very nice variety of asian specialties & offered GREAT, friendly service. We dined here several times & had the same wait staff each time. They were very attentive. Made the mistake of trying to eat one dinner in the Garden Cafe.....bad choice. Very limited decent entree selection & NO ONE ever offered to open our wine for the entire meal. Buffet was fine for breakfast & lunch but crap for dinner. The kids buffet area was a nice touch. Low tables & chairs and a special kids buffet made it painless to get the kids fed before wheeling them off to the Stardust Theatre.
The shows were fun & entertaining. We saw the early show (7 or 7:30pm) with the grand children, while their parents dined each night. There was a good variety of shows & the ship's entertainment troupe really sings & dances up a storm. Big Ken the CD was little annoying, but I guess that goes with the job.
Unfortunately, the worst of the cruise came at the absolute end, leaving a bad taste for NCL in my mouth. DISEMBARKATION was an absolute nightmare. Since we encountered 20' waves & 65 mph winds on the last day before NYC, I think the captain slowed the ship down overnight and we arrived a little late into port. In an effort to get us all off & get ready for the turnaround, chaos erupted. Florentina, our concierge, seemed to be clueless as to what was going on. We were scheduled to meet her at the Haven pool at 8:45 am to be escorted off the ship. She appeared at 9:15 am and didn't know when we would be leaving. Suddenly she received a call & ordered everyone to the elevator lobby to go down to deck 7. The only problem was she was unable to get any elevators to come to the 14th deck. People in wheel chairs & children in strollers could not be carried down 7 fights of stairs. We chose to walk down, leaving our grand children to wait for the elevators. Upon getting to the 7th deck, it was obvious that it had become a total free for all. Florentina appeared on the 7th about 20 minutes later and got into an elevator to bring it up to 14. Thirty minutes after she told us we could disembark, we were all jambed into the elevator loby of deck 7. They were call for a variety of luggage tag color passengers to ALL disembark at once. It was a zoo on board just trying to get to the gangway & it was a bigger zoo on the pier, trying to get through the masses to retrieve our luggage. This had to be the worst "priority" disembarkation I ever experienced.
A wonderful 10 cruise was tarnished with a very unhappy ending. NCL needs to examine it's disembarkation procedures.