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We are frequent cruisers (this was #8) and embarked on the Norwegian Gem to the Bahamas on April 12, 2008. We were travelling with two small children (under 3), my parents, my brother, SIL and niece and my brother's ILs. Because of the kids (one of whom is a horrible sleeper), we booked an AB penthouse so that we would have room for everyone to sleep in separate areas. We knew from the description of the cabin that it would be spacious and entitled us to certain "VIP" perks, but we had no idea how indispensable those perks would prove to be, especially when travelling with small children. Embarkation: We drove to the pier and found ample parking available, even with the QE2 in dock that same day. VIP passengers (generally, those who book a Garden Villa, Courtyard Villa, Owner's Suite or Penthouse) have a separate line where you are ushered past the longer line of general guests. We didn't have to wait at all and were promptly given our room cards (pink ones) and escorted into the VIP waiting area where refreshments were served. Lisa, the Concierge, met us at the line and was very kind and informative. She was an excellent resource throughout the week. We were delayed in boarding due to the prior cruise's late return to the pier, but once we got on the boat, we received the standard glass of champagne and the card instructing everyone to go to either the Garden Buffet or the Grand Pacific dining room. After reading some posts on CC, we decided to head up to Cagney's for the VIP lunch. Perfect!!!! No-one was there and we were able to dine with our family and let the kids run around a bit. It was a little slow service that day. Cabin: Wow. The AB penthouses are impressive for ship accommodations! You enter the room into a foyer. To the left is the children's bedroom. Not that large, but has a tv a pull-out couch and a Pullman bed. With the couch closed, it can also fit a crib with the Pullman down. The one thing we didn't like about the children's bedroom was that, if you closed to door, you needed your keycard to open it. It was never a problem, but I kept envisioning the kids locking themselves in and our cards were inside. Of course, we NEVER put our keycards in there. Beyond the children's bedroom is a doorway (also lockable with a keycard—we never closed this door) which leads to the main sitting area. There is a bar area with a cappuccino/espresso machine, glassware and a portable phone. This phone worked throughout the ship and, therefore, if you carry it with you, your party can call you from any phone on the ship and it would ring to you. Next to the bar was a small dining room table and 4 chairs. The room also had a flatscreen tv, a couch and two chairs. Off this room was the standard sized balcony. The televisions in the main room and the master bedroom had dvd players and VIP guests have access to free "movie rentals"—a selection of 100 movies. Off to the left of the main room is a sliding doorway that leads to the "Master Suite". To the left is the master bedroom—just a queen-sized bed and sidetables with curtains to separate the room. To the right is the bathroom. Our tub had a TV over it and a view of the ocean. There were double sinks, as well. I had thought it was supposed to be a whirlpool tub, but it was not. Still, it was big enough to sit in while bathing the children, so that was nice. The toilet is behind a glass door (not very private, especially if you have guests in the sitting area and your kids keep opening the sliding door!!!) The most impressive part of the whole suite was the shower. It had a rainforest shower head, a detachable handheld sprayer and six body jets! Plus, the pretty long shower had a floor to ceiling window overlooking the ocean (or the ports—but it also had a shade for those port days). The shower was fantastic. We all miss it. Concierge/Butler: Lisa, the Concierge, was very helpful. She made all of our dinner reservations for us so we never had to wait on line. She was able to do them for the whole week (and not only 48 hrs in advance, as was the case on our last NCL cruise when we were not VIPs). Additionally, we were able to make some at the last minute and never had a problem with availability. Lisa was also helpful in securing priority debarkation on port days. We saw her every morning at Cagney's for breakfast (another VIP perk) and she always had helpful information. Maxi was out butler and he definitely had a big hand in making our vacation special. On the first day, he came by and introduced himself and asked if there was anything we needed. He got our crib and, per our request, made sure that our mini-fridge always had at least 5 cartons of whole milk for the baby. He also brought appetizers and chocolates to the room each night. Additionally, we were able to select a variety of fruits for our room's fruit basket and he refilled them frequently throughout the cruise. The kids loved having the fruit in the room. Additionally, there were a few occasions when we had to leave dinner due to the kids being unruly and tired. On these occasions, the restaurants offered to have our meals delivered to our room for us (I don't' know if this is customary, or part of the VIP treatment, but either way, nice touch). Entertainment: I didn't get to go out much due to my kids' early bedtime (7pm), but the comedian on the second night (Ross Bennett) was pretty funny. I also saw the magician (Duck Cameron). His show was entertaining, but most of his tricks have been done before. I believe he said that was his last night on the cruise. Ports: As mentioned by a previous reviewer, we did not stop at the private island due to rough waters. I wasn't planning on getting off anyway, so this did not affect me. We went to Seaworld when we docked at Port Canaveral. We walked around off the ship in Nassau but did not take a tour. Freeport (Grand Bahamas Island) looks like an industrial park where the ship docks. I had been there before, so we did not get off. Other than the straw market in Lucaya or a beach, not too much to see or do. We enjoyed our time at the pool while people were off the ship in this port. Pool: Just a quick note to say that I loved that all of the loungers had cushions. Also, the area with the lounge couches is fantastic for large groups. We loved it and were fortunate enough to get them several times. Also, there is a toddler pool in an enclosed area on deck that is perfect for the under 3 crowd. I believe Swimmy diapers were permitted (and if they weren't, no one was being stopped) and there was a little slide in there as well. Kids Area: My DS was afraid to participate in Kids Club, but we did receive a notice on our door that they had a play area for the under 2 set. We went there once. Not much to play with, a few tents and some toys on the floor, but it was nice that they offered something. Restaurants: Our biggest complaint is that they now charge for Tequilas and Cucina. Part of the wonderfulness of "Freestyle" was that you could do some of the specialty restaurants without a cover. Without those free options, you are basically stuck with the dining rooms (as on all other cruise lines) and the only difference between NCL and the others is the lack of assigned seating/dining times—nice with kids and/or VIP, but not necessarily so nice when you're stuck waiting in lines at peak times due to uneven distribution of diners. I realize that perhaps NCL is looking for a way to make more money, but it comes off as if they are "nickel and diming" the customers that believed that most food was included. Everything seemed to be at an extra charge (bowling, juice at lunch [all be it "Fresh Squeezed"], specialty restaurants, etc.) Perhaps the most egregious example of this trend is that within some of the pay restaurants a few of the entrée options come at an extra charge. In Cagney's, you automatically pay a $25 cover to get in, but if you want the "Surf and Turf", you pay an additional fee on top of the $25!!! Hardly seems worth it when you could otherwise order all of the other entrée selections for one person and only pay the $25! That being said, I loved the food at Tequila and Teppanyaki was great, as well. I'm not much of a meat-eater, but Cagney's was good (per my family). The Orchid Garden had a great selection and was tasty, as well. We never went to Le Bistro or La Cucina. Overall, a nice trip made even better by VIP service. Unfortunately, now we can never go back!

VIP is worth the price!

Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by tms317

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: April 2008
  • Destination: Bahamas
  • Cabin Type: Family Penthouse with Balcony
We are frequent cruisers (this was #8) and embarked on the Norwegian Gem to the Bahamas on April 12, 2008. We were travelling with two small children (under 3), my parents, my brother, SIL and niece and my brother's ILs. Because of the kids (one of whom is a horrible sleeper), we booked an AB penthouse so that we would have room for everyone to sleep in separate areas. We knew from the description of the cabin that it would be spacious and entitled us to certain "VIP" perks, but we had no idea how indispensable those perks would prove to be, especially when travelling with small children.
Embarkation: We drove to the pier and found ample parking available, even with the QE2 in dock that same day. VIP passengers (generally, those who book a Garden Villa, Courtyard Villa, Owner's Suite or Penthouse) have a separate line where you are ushered past the longer line of general guests. We didn't have to wait at all and were promptly given our room cards (pink ones) and escorted into the VIP waiting area where refreshments were served. Lisa, the Concierge, met us at the line and was very kind and informative. She was an excellent resource throughout the week. We were delayed in boarding due to the prior cruise's late return to the pier, but once we got on the boat, we received the standard glass of champagne and the card instructing everyone to go to either the Garden Buffet or the Grand Pacific dining room. After reading some posts on CC, we decided to head up to Cagney's for the VIP lunch. Perfect!!!! No-one was there and we were able to dine with our family and let the kids run around a bit. It was a little slow service that day. Cabin: Wow. The AB penthouses are impressive for ship accommodations! You enter the room into a foyer. To the left is the children's bedroom. Not that large, but has a tv a pull-out couch and a Pullman bed. With the couch closed, it can also fit a crib with the Pullman down. The one thing we didn't like about the children's bedroom was that, if you closed to door, you needed your keycard to open it. It was never a problem, but I kept envisioning the kids locking themselves in and our cards were inside. Of course, we NEVER put our keycards in there. Beyond the children's bedroom is a doorway (also lockable with a keycard—we never closed this door) which leads to the main sitting area. There is a bar area with a cappuccino/espresso machine, glassware and a portable phone. This phone worked throughout the ship and, therefore, if you carry it with you, your party can call you from any phone on the ship and it would ring to you. Next to the bar was a small dining room table and 4 chairs. The room also had a flatscreen tv, a couch and two chairs. Off this room was the standard sized balcony. The televisions in the main room and the master bedroom had dvd players and VIP guests have access to free "movie rentals"—a selection of 100 movies. Off to the left of the main room is a sliding doorway that leads to the "Master Suite". To the left is the master bedroom—just a queen-sized bed and sidetables with curtains to separate the room. To the right is the bathroom. Our tub had a TV over it and a view of the ocean. There were double sinks, as well. I had thought it was supposed to be a whirlpool tub, but it was not. Still, it was big enough to sit in while bathing the children, so that was nice. The toilet is behind a glass door (not very private, especially if you have guests in the sitting area and your kids keep opening the sliding door!!!) The most impressive part of the whole suite was the shower. It had a rainforest shower head, a detachable handheld sprayer and six body jets! Plus, the pretty long shower had a floor to ceiling window overlooking the ocean (or the ports—but it also had a shade for those port days). The shower was fantastic. We all miss it.
Concierge/Butler: Lisa, the Concierge, was very helpful. She made all of our dinner reservations for us so we never had to wait on line. She was able to do them for the whole week (and not only 48 hrs in advance, as was the case on our last NCL cruise when we were not VIPs). Additionally, we were able to make some at the last minute and never had a problem with availability. Lisa was also helpful in securing priority debarkation on port days. We saw her every morning at Cagney's for breakfast (another VIP perk) and she always had helpful information. Maxi was out butler and he definitely had a big hand in making our vacation special. On the first day, he came by and introduced himself and asked if there was anything we needed. He got our crib and, per our request, made sure that our mini-fridge always had at least 5 cartons of whole milk for the baby. He also brought appetizers and chocolates to the room each night. Additionally, we were able to select a variety of fruits for our room's fruit basket and he refilled them frequently throughout the cruise. The kids loved having the fruit in the room. Additionally, there were a few occasions when we had to leave dinner due to the kids being unruly and tired. On these occasions, the restaurants offered to have our meals delivered to our room for us (I don't' know if this is customary, or part of the VIP treatment, but either way, nice touch). Entertainment: I didn't get to go out much due to my kids' early bedtime (7pm), but the comedian on the second night (Ross Bennett) was pretty funny. I also saw the magician (Duck Cameron). His show was entertaining, but most of his tricks have been done before. I believe he said that was his last night on the cruise.
Ports: As mentioned by a previous reviewer, we did not stop at the private island due to rough waters. I wasn't planning on getting off anyway, so this did not affect me. We went to Seaworld when we docked at Port Canaveral. We walked around off the ship in Nassau but did not take a tour. Freeport (Grand Bahamas Island) looks like an industrial park where the ship docks. I had been there before, so we did not get off. Other than the straw market in Lucaya or a beach, not too much to see or do. We enjoyed our time at the pool while people were off the ship in this port.
Pool: Just a quick note to say that I loved that all of the loungers had cushions. Also, the area with the lounge couches is fantastic for large groups. We loved it and were fortunate enough to get them several times. Also, there is a toddler pool in an enclosed area on deck that is perfect for the under 3 crowd. I believe Swimmy diapers were permitted (and if they weren't, no one was being stopped) and there was a little slide in there as well.
Kids Area: My DS was afraid to participate in Kids Club, but we did receive a notice on our door that they had a play area for the under 2 set. We went there once. Not much to play with, a few tents and some toys on the floor, but it was nice that they offered something.
Restaurants: Our biggest complaint is that they now charge for Tequilas and Cucina. Part of the wonderfulness of "Freestyle" was that you could do some of the specialty restaurants without a cover. Without those free options, you are basically stuck with the dining rooms (as on all other cruise lines) and the only difference between NCL and the others is the lack of assigned seating/dining times—nice with kids and/or VIP, but not necessarily so nice when you're stuck waiting in lines at peak times due to uneven distribution of diners. I realize that perhaps NCL is looking for a way to make more money, but it comes off as if they are "nickel and diming" the customers that believed that most food was included. Everything seemed to be at an extra charge (bowling, juice at lunch [all be it "Fresh Squeezed"], specialty restaurants, etc.) Perhaps the most egregious example of this trend is that within some of the pay restaurants a few of the entrée options come at an extra charge. In Cagney's, you automatically pay a $25 cover to get in, but if you want the "Surf and Turf", you pay an additional fee on top of the $25!!! Hardly seems worth it when you could otherwise order all of the other entrée selections for one person and only pay the $25! That being said, I loved the food at Tequila and Teppanyaki was great, as well. I'm not much of a meat-eater, but Cagney's was good (per my family). The Orchid Garden had a great selection and was tasty, as well. We never went to Le Bistro or La Cucina.
Overall, a nice trip made even better by VIP service. Unfortunately, now we can never go back!
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