Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by Sailing Fisch
- Sail Date: March 2008
- Destination: Bahamas
- Cabin Type: Family Penthouse with Balcony
Embarkation was remarkably easy. We arrived via a limo (the posh, posh traveling life!) at 12:30 and our luggage was promptly picked up by a porter. We made our way through the terminal and had a Mr. Bean moment as we bypassed the long check in line for the suite check-in line. We were then escorted to the VIP lounge where Lisa, the friendly and efficient concierge, greeted us and escorted us to the ship. With champagne in hand, we were on our way to lunch in the Grand Pacific by 1:00.
Lunch set the theme for the rest of the cruise. We were seated at a window table and enjoyed a leisurely meal while watching the other boats sail past. It was announced that rooms were ready so we headed on up to Deck 11 to see our home for the next 8 days. WOW! The penthouse suites are remarkable. The colors are definitely not what would be chosen for home dEcor, but they truly work for the ship and have a very upscale feel. The boys had their own bed and bath, and enjoyed having their own TV - they called their room the Lizard Lounge. The master bathroom was something to behold. You can lie in bed and look at the ocean through the huge window over the bathtub. The shower was everyone's favorite. It had one of those great rainwater heads and even had body sprayers, but the best part was the floor to ceiling window. As long as you weren't in port you could shower and look at the ocean. Of course, there was a privacy shade too. Shortly after we arrived in our room our butler Christopher came in and introduced himself, gave a little talk about the ship, the roles of the various staff and also what we could expect from him. Christopher was wonderful, and is now a butler in the Villas (so I hope you Villa guests treat him well!). We were always greeted with a smile and he was genuinely interested in what we did each day. It was wonderful to have him bring breakfast for us on the days when we had to be out early for shore excursions. Both Christopher and the housekeeping staff always kept our room extremely tidy and well supplied with towels, with cute towel animals and mints each night.
The next day was Easter Sunday and I'm sure the Priest on board was pleased about the standing room only gathering in the Spinnaker Lounge for mass at 9:15. It was oddly spiritual listening to him and watching the whitecaps while the disco ball swayed.
A lot of people who have written reviews haven't been thrilled with the food. While I don't feel the food is as good as nice land restaurant, I think it is very good for feeding all 2K or so of us at sea. We enjoyed several very nice meals at Magenta, as well as Tappas, Orchid Garden and La Cucina. Since we were in a suite we had access to breakfast and lunch at Cagney's Star Bar, but we were out and about so much we didn't get the opportunity to enjoy this until the last day. Once we got into the warmer climates, we all enjoyed the buffet breakfast on the outdoor terrace of the Great Outdoors. I had no problems getting reservations for the specialty restaurants, and this was calling the morning of the day we wanted to eat there. As a family, we really liked the whole freestyle dining process and could always find something to eat all over the ship. The boys got soda stickers on their keycards, so they would often go get sodas to bring back to the room. They had charging privileges (after a little talk about financial responsibility) and were happy to go to the Java Cafe to get coffee cooladas. The selection of bars was great. We aren't huge drinkers, but a nightly cocktail or two was always enjoyed. Our favorite was the martini bar, with a great selection of martinis to appeal to everyone's taste. Word to the wise - martinis at sea are STRONG and two is one too many! I'll leave it at that.
Excursions are great and we booked ours through the ship so all we had to do was show up and everything else was done for us. We did the NASA Up Close tour which was amazing and gave us all a greater appreciation for the space program. In Nassau we did the dolphin swim which is a tad expensive but worth every penny. In Freeport we went on the Eco Horseback Adventure which was fun, and we had major saddle sores the next day. The seas were too rough to tender to Great Stirrup Cay, so we got an extra half day in Nassau. The straw market made me nervous, but we did have fun going to some of the smaller shops and even had a nice frappucino with some native Bahamians (spelling?) at the local Starbucks. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked to braid my hair I could have picked up the entire ship's bar tab!
The captain was very personable and visible, as was the rest of the senior staff. As for the shows, we went to nearly every one and thought the entertainment was varied, and the entertainers were talented. I expected cruise ship entertainment to be much more Lawrence Welk, so this was a great surprise! Kudos to the band as well.
The last day was a sad day, but all good things must come to an end. Disembarkation was easy as we did the express check-out and carried our own bags. The escalator to customs was a little scary, but the whole process was uneventful. We were back home to NJ around 1:00.
The only blemish on our whole week was that our suite was located directly below the weight room in the fitness center. Why this is open all night is a mystery, but our first night some "spring breakers" decided to have some sort of contest and were dropping weights for a good three hours in the wee hours! My poor 10 year-old was sleeping in the bunk so this banging was going on about a foot away from his head. The next day we spoke to the concierge about this and the weight room was closed each evening from 11 p.m. through 7 a.m. (thanks, Lisa!). Since we had booked our cruise through NCL directly, and I had several conversations with the agent about getting a quiet room, this was disappointing (especially considering the price of a suite). BTW, the beds are very comfortable with cozy duvets and super fluffy feather pillows, so it was nice to sleep soundly the rest of the cruise.
We had a wonderful time and will be back again next April, as we've already booked the Gem for Easter week 2009! It's nice to have something to look forward to….
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