Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by mitsybella
- Sail Date: April 2008
- Destination: Bahamas
- Cabin Type: Family Penthouse with Balcony
We sailed on the GEM on 4/5/08 Prior to sailing we were not very impressed with NCL and their customer service, we had reviewed several cruise options and NCL is one of the few that sails from the NY area and we choose this cruise because of this. I had called NCL and had wanted two connecting cabins but at the time their site did not show any availabilty, I was unaware at the time that you could put in room numbers on their site and there are other rooms available but for some reason they only show a few at a time (I was not a member of CC at the time and only found this out after we had booked from some helpful CC members) At the suggestion of a NCL rep. we settled on a Mini suite as we were assured that we would fit with 2 adults and 2 children, one of which would be in a crib. After joining this site and seeing some of the issues people had with cribs I called NCL to ensure that a crib would fit in this room only to be told that with the sofa bed out (which we needed for our older child) a crib would not fit. We then noticed that there were several connecting cabins now being listed, we were even willing to switch to a cabin with no balcony in order to make sure we would all be comfortable and requested to switch to these cabins (they would have cost us more also because you pay for the children at full fair as they are the second passanger in the room and we were OK with that, we had done that on our previous NCL cruise) but NCL has a policy against downgrading after you have paid in full and would only do this charging a fee of $250 per person, Each time NCL was called you would get a different answer to a question which also made things more confusing. After attempting to work with NCL I decided if I was going to pay extra I might as well just upgrade (NCL does not charge extra for this type of change) and we upgraded to a penthouse AB cabin. We were all very excited about our cruise and are lucky that we could drive to NYC, we had printed the directions from the NCL web site to get to the terminal, I would suggest that you do your own directions as they are very vague. Upon arrival we dropped of our luggage outside with porters and entered into the terminal. Part of the suite package is to have priority embarkation but we were ushered into the regular line, the signs are a little confusing because the one line states Garden villa, court yard villa, romance suite guest but for some reason did not mention penthouse suite guests. This line did move quickly and when we went thru the metal detectors, we did then get to the correct line to obtain our room cards, the whole process went very quickly. We boarded the ship and there was glassed of champagne and we found the decor to be very lively. We attempted to find the dining room but each staff member we saw would tell us to go the buffet area and without having the ships layout yet we settled for the buffet. When we went to our room I was very glad we had upgraded, we walked past the mini suites and I could not have imagined a restful vacation had we been in one of these rooms, my youngest still takes afternoon naps and in the mini there would have been no way for us all to be in the room and for him to still have had his quiet time for a nap. The penthouse suite has 3 separate areas, a childs room with it own bathroom and TV, this can sleep 3, the sofa pulls out and could sleep 2 and then there is a pullman overhead. Then there is the sitting area that has a table with 4 chairs and a sofa, and 2 chairs (we used this area for my youngest to sleep at night as he still wakes up at times and we did not want him to wake our older child.) this area also had a large TV and a DVD player, we did not see the DVD player at first as it is over by the coffee/tea machine, there was also a bottle of champagne and water provided, they had wine glasses and a cork screw already in a cabinet in the room. I had seen on this site where people had requested wine instead of the champagne, we request a change and the butler switched the champagne for a bottle of wine with no problem. There was a list on the table to choose which fruit we would like in our room, and this was refilled each day, a few days we did need to request a refill. There is also a good size mini fridge in this room, we were able to leave all the mini bar items inside and still fit the milk we needed for the children. The master bed area was great, there is a TV above the tub (we never even used this one) and another TV with DVD player in the bed area. It was really nice having 2 DVD players as they could both watch what they wanted and no fights!! LOL. The TV programing is poor, the selection of stations is very limited, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon network, CNN and Fox News and a sports channel, no NBC, ABC or regular FOX. We had our collection of DVD with us so this was no big deal anyway, and one of the perks of a suite is you can also get DVDs from the ships collection and watch them in your room, in other cabins there was a charge to watch the movies on TV between $10-$12. Overall the room was a very comfortable size for the four of us and it was nice to have the space for the children to run around and keep themselves busy while we were getting dressed. As far as the cleaning of the room, on the surface it was clean, but during the cruise we misplaced some of the toys and went looking under furniture and beds, gross is all I can say, under the beds were left over items and food items, and on the curtains there were stains and something spilled. Some of the upgrades in the suite were great like the oversized towels, we did not even realize this until we requested and extra towel and it was smaller, there were bath salts for the tub, and in the vanity area there were cotton balls and q-tips, and the hair dryer. The shower was great, it had the main shower head, body sprays and an overhead rain shower, and they did have blinds over the tub and in the shower for those days in port. (for those who think you cant see thru the glass you can!!) We enjoyed our first day at sea, we had signed the children up to the kids club, they loved the kids club as there was a huge jungle gym and they did all kinds of crafts and face painting, they were always asking to go back. While the children were busy we went to the spa for a relaxing massage, they had specials every day on different treatments. After our massage we were informed you can stay in the spa area for up to 1 hour without paying the spa fee, that was a nice touch and we did relax in there. For our meals we choose to use the perk of the suites and had breakfast in our cabin every morning. some of the choices included omelettes with or without cheese, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, muffins/bread tea, coffee. With 2 young children this was really nice as we could relax in our PJs and have a relaxing breakfast, you can even get this on the day you leave in the suites. Most of our lunches were at the buffet, we never felt crowded, there was always plenty of seating, the layout of the ship is a little different than shown, the kids eating area is not towards the pool as shown on the layout but rather towards the back of the ship near the great outdoors, which was inconvenient as they don't have trays to carry your food and it is a longer walk back and forth if you forget something. One other nice thing was the kids area had apple juice each day, something you can't get at the adult buffet, and one day we asked for orange juice and they gave us some. The only thing NCL could have done better in the Kids area was to have the TV hooked up to a DVD player with Childrens programing, as stated before the TV reception was poor and many time the screen was just blank. We only ate lunch in the main dining rooms one time and the food was overcooked, we found the selection at the Buffet to be better so did not see any reason to try the DR at lunch again. For dinners we ate in the Grand pacific. We went early most nights because on the night we went at 6 there was already a wait and beepers being given out even thou the room was half empty, they had many table that could seat 6-8 open and no table for 2-4 available. We also found some of the staff to be rude at times, several days while we would be waiting the hostess would be chastising other guests for not making reservations if they were in a large party, and would tell them they should do this in the future, meanwhile these guests had shown up at 5:30 and the room was empty! In the hostess area they did not appear to be organized and it was not a smooth check in, they would have people waiting and no one being seated while they argued amongst themselves over who was going to do something. The waiters were pleasant and accommodating, we requested items off the menu (for our picky eater) and they were able to provide a plain cooked chicken breast, but one night after 1 hour of waiting we did ask why it took so long to make. The other thing that NCL could do to make this experience better for all is to try to seat people in areas that are alike, example, seat families with children in one area and others without in another, while our children are mostly quiet, we took coloring books and toys they can still be noisy and we did see some other guest moving seats when they were seated near children. We did not eat in any of the pay restaurants, we have of previous NCL Cruises and did not find them to be anything spectacular or worth the extra fees so choose not to waste our money in this area. We also did not book any excursions thru NCL,except to get transportation on our day in Florida to Disney, our experience with past cruises is that you can find less expensive alternatives once you get to your destination, we always search each port prior to leaving to know what is available and plan what we are going to do this way. The pools area was great, the water in the pool very warm, children loved the big slide and our toddler had a great time in the kiddy pool, this was also great because it was out of the sun, and they used chlorine in the water just in case of accidents! On our day in Florida we treated the children to a day at disney, we used the transportation thru NCL could have rented a car for less but did not want the hassle, but I would recommend if you can as the extra time at Disney would have been nice. Kids had a great day we thought it was not going to be so busy as spring break was over but in Florida they were having their spring break so it was crowded. The day at NCLs island was great, we had vip tender tickets so did not have to wait, we were on the second tender so were able to get chairs on the beach, we did notice that after about 6-7 tenders there were no more chairs and some people were disappointed. We did not have the BBQ, other guests were saying the bugs were all over that area so we opted to go back to the ship and have lunch and then the children played in the pool which was empty since everyone was still on the island. Bahamas was another perfect day for weather, we enjoyed a horse and buggy ride and took the children to the pirate museum (one NCL offers, is walking distance from the ship don't pay for this one, much cheaper to just walk there yourself) and my DH treated me to a beautiful sapphire tennis bracelet that I have been looking for ever since my youngest was born (his birthstone, I already had a ring for my eldest :-) The stop at Grand bahamas Island we could have missed, this is a real industrial port, we had a view of a container ship yard loading and unloading boats, not much of a view and certainly not pretty. We did go ashore and walk around the small market, things were less expensive here than at the straw market in Nassau, but not as big. The staff on the ship were mostly friendly and helpful, our room steward was great, he greeted us everyday and made a fuss of the children, he had children their age and his son had the same name, he would put the towel animals on their beds every morning and change to a different one every night, so yes we had 2 towel animals every day!!! and we have pictures of every one :-) . Having a butler was a treat, they were more quiet but attentive, we only used them for breakfast and to have milk delivered each day and they would refill the fruit. As far as the Concierge she was poor, we had a woman named Lisa, she never stopped by the room while we were there (and we did spend time in our room) she left one note on our door the day we were at disney, we ran into her in the hall and she was very rushed, the next time we heard from her was the night before we left to say we would be docking early and for VIP passengers we would be meeting in the stardust theater at 9:45 so she could escort us off the ship. However the next morning we woke and were in a thick fog and the ship was still sailing up the river at 9:45, I am glad we did not listen to her as go down we would have been waiting a long time. Also we were supposed to be given customs forms and they were never put in our room, when I asked her about the forms she said we would have to go to the desk and get them, this was wrong information and the rooms stewards have them. We did go down around 10:45, suite passengers are supposed to have priority disembarkation, but for some reason they had all the passengers with their luggage go first while all the suite passengers stood waiting and watching them leave, the concierge Lisa said it was because the luggage was not out yet and she was going to escort us but we decided to leave and not wait for her and the luggage was there, if you have a porter they have a smaller line to go thru for customs and we were off the ship, collected our luggage and thru customs in less that 10 mins.
Overall we did have a good vacation, but we did pay much more for the suite and would have had just as good a time if we could have booked two connecting cabins, NCL does now charge for more restaurants, so less FREE and unless you ate at 5:30 or after 9 not so easy to Eat when you want to eat. The customer service on land needs improvement but the staff on the ship were for the most part pleasant and helpful.
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