DAY 1- Despite delays due to weekday midtown traffic, once we arrived at the pier embarkation proceeded smoothly and we were aboard around noon. After arriving at our aft-facing Mini-suite, we found it in excellent condition due to the efforts of our Cabin Attendant Danilo from the Philippines. Throughout the cruise, he provided for our every need in a prompt and efficient manner and always with a smile and a warm greeting. We dined the first night at Cagney's with another couple using the NCL buy three dinners, get one free coupon. the food and service were first rate and we especially enjoyed the Oysters Rockefeller, Filet Mignon and Rack of Lamb. The Welcome Aboard show in the Stardust Theater introduced us to Cruise Director Big Ken and some of the performers including comedian Darrell Joyse. A very pleasant beginning of our cruise.
DAY 2- After morning trivia, where we formed a formidable trivia team with old and new friends, we attended the cruisecritic Meet and Greet in the Bliss Lounge at 11AM. About 70 of our roll call members showed up and I believe the NCL staff was impressed with by our turnout. We were greeted warmly by Captain Gustvsen, the Cruise Director Big Ken, the affable Hotel Director Steve Knott from Australia and other Gem senior staff members. They answered our questions and the members of our roll call were able to meet and exchange ideas. We enjoyed smooth seas and sunny and increasingly warmer weather the first sea day. The first production show that evening featuired a talented and energetic cast performed "World Beat" which many of us have seen before. Perhaps it is time to replace the shows that have been around for years?
DAY 3- I was delighted to start the second sea day by swimming some laps in the pool before breakfast. Water and air temperature were now just warm enough for me to enjoy my daily pool regimen. By afternoon, the poolside deck chairs were much i use on another calm, sunny day. The Captain remarked about the unusually calm conditions for our sea days. The Stardust Theatre production that night featured hypnotist Nadeen who seemed to have problems with an not too cooperative group of participants.
DAY 4- Arrived in San Juan at 3:00PM after another enjoyable day of sunny skies and calm seas. Good place to mail your post cards with U.S. stamps and some assurance they will be received before you get home, ours were. We had our first of two dinners that night at LeBistro with old friends and former cruisemates. We especially enjoyed the excellent Bouillabaisse soup, Rack of Lamb and superb Duck.
DAY 5- St. Thomas. Took the Sea Blaster snorkeling excursion. A fast trip to a good snorkeling site and lots of rum punch for the return trip. Good weather continued despite a brief shower in the late afternoon. We enjoyed the Gem orchestra performing Big Band Music in the Spinnaker Lounge featuring the anthem of our generation- Glenn Miller's Moonlight Serenade. After a break, the orchestra played more ballroom dance music. Many of us are so glad that the Spinnaker Lounge on the Gem will remain and not be rplaced by additional cabins as has been done on other NCL ships. It is a great dancing venue.
DAY 6- Antigua. Went to nearby Sandhaven Beach ($6. per person round trip cab fare). Nice uncrowded beach with changing facilities and showers. Enjoyed the production show Colorz that night. The second show featured comedian Rex Havens who was hilarious and easily the best show of the entire cruise. Very clever and innovative comedy without resorting to smut. He was great!
DAY 7- St. Marteen. Been there, done that. Decided to avoid the traffic to the crowded beaches and spend the day on board. The salt water in the pool was just as refreshing as that at the beaches and the showers, jacuzzi and lounge chairs were easily available nearby. Another great sunny day.
DAY 8 Tortola. Took the excursion to Long Bay Resort for our last Caribbean port. The beach was too rough for swimming but there is a nice pool if you are young enough to climb a hill and many steps. That evening the performace of Jocka and Maria in the Stardust Theater was outstanding. A very talented duo.
DAY 9- Great weather continued with everybody trying to soak up as much sun as we head north. We had dinner with friends that evening in La Cucina Italian specialty restaurant. Food was good and plentiful though the service was a little slow because every table was occupied. Popular night for the specialty restaurants. The production show "Get Down Tonight" feaured a lot of contemporary music by an enthusiastic cast. Considering that these cruise have so many retirees, it would be nice to have one show featuring the music of their era, Hollywood and Broadway songs of the 40's and 50's?
DAY 10- Final sea day. Last early morning swim in the uncrowded pool. Lots of morning sunbathing, but after lunch the seas fianlly started to act up as the Captain had predicted. We ran into 60 knot winds and a rain squall which caused some discomfort. Our only rough weather of the entire cruise. Sorry it had to come at the time of the tented Crew Show at 3PM. A talented and hardy group. Seas calmed somewhat in the evening as we packed.
DAY 11- Sailed into New York at 8:00AM under cool sunny skies and calm winds. Debarkation was slowed considerably due to the Jewel arriving the same time on the same pier. Passengers from two ships had to go through customs at the same time so debarkation took longer than in the past.
ENTERTAINMENT- Two pianists were featured in the various lounges. One did not sing at all and the other sang oo much. Neither bothered to perform a Name That Tune contest? Missed some NCL's great keyboard performers Vladimir, Ariel, Fabrizio, Pamala and Martini. However, guitarist Leo was outstanding and often drew SRO crowds. The band Ocean Vibes performed a lot of dance music in Spinnakers and did an excellent Beatles tribute. We especially enjoyed the twice daily trivia contests where my friends Barb, Silva, Randy, Lynn, Dave & Nancy aften joined me for cranial exercise. A lot of fun.
FOOD- thought the food was very good in almost all venues. The Garden Cafe always had a good variety fo food especially at their salad bar. We really enjoyed Cagney's, LeBistro and La Cucina. The poolside barbecues were also a delight, a tribute to Food & Beverage Manager Josef from Austria who was always in evidence at all dining venues interchanging with passengers and staff. My scale when I returned home confirmed the quality of the food.
STAFF & CREW- I can't say enough about the quality and friendliness of the crew that always greet you with a smile. I must make special mention of the following whio deserved style cards: Capt. Gustavsen for his timely and accurate weather reports. Always smiling Hotel Director Steve from Australia whose great spirit was contagious. Cruise Director Big Ken, always accessable. Trivia conductors Fish, Eddie Spaghetti, Shirley and Ruby. Fitness instructor Violetta and Cagney staff Azenith & Elena. What a great crew.
SUMMARY- Another wonderful mid-winter escape on NCL. Looking forward to the Jewel 12 day next January.