We embarked from New York for this cruise. Living on Long Island, being able to take a limo to the ship instead of flying someplace just makes it all worthwhile. We exited the limo at the pier and our bags were "swept away" by a porter. Good deal! The embarkation process left something to be desired. Why so many people seem to have problems going through security never ceases to amaze me. Once through the half hour crawl to the metal detector things picked up. The folks at the NCL check in were courteous and capable. Inside of 15 minutes we were on our way up the gangway. I would agree some of the decor was a bit much on the Gem but it didn't deter from the overall experience which in my estimation was great. We had a balcony cabin on deck 10. The cabin was what you would expect. There was enough storage and the coffee maker was a plus. We ate in the "Tex Mex" and "Asian Fusion" restaurants and both were enjoyable. We had lunch in the Grand Pacific one day but they seemed disorganized. We also tried the "Blue Lagoon" but found the food service slow and the food not up to par. Cold grilled cheese and greasy wings, ugh. We tried the "Bistro" on one evening but were seated at a table that was almost in the kitchen. Before we even got our menus the noise was enough to give you a headache. We walked out and ate somewhere else. We had our diners in the Magenta most nights. The service and food were all one could ask for. If something works, "quit while your ahead" as the saying goes. Not that I don't like variety but we had done most of the speciality restaurants on the Dawn and had the notes. The staff on the Gem was one of the best I have ever encountered. Always helpful and smiling. The room was always made up and clean. I still think my cruise on the HAL Noordam was my best but the Gem was a close second. I would go again in a heartbeat. We had a total of 15 in our party and no one had any complaints. The Magenta staff even put a table for 15 together for us on the last evening. Cappuccinos on the aft deck in the evening will always be a fond memory!
About what one would expect. A bit bigger would have been nice. Balcony was nice. Coffee maker was a welcome plus.The bathroom was well laid out given the size.
Having been to Saint Thomas on numerous occasions we opted to just handle the important things first and went to the Cardon Jewelry shop. I bought some beautiful earrings for the princess and relaxed at a small local spot nearby for a Corona and some Nachos. All good.
Our second "port of call" was Antiqua. It seemed a quiet place. It was a Sunday so most shops were closed early in the day and opened later. We spoke with a friendly cab driver who told us things would open later and offered to take us to a beach for $3 per head. The beach was a great spot near the "Sandals Resort". He arranged to pick us up in 3 hours and drop us off at the shopping area near the ship. He was there right on time. Who could ask for more. The shopping was varied. There were a few higher end shops and some of the usual trinket shops. Frendly folks and a nice day all in all.
Day three, Barbados. It had been 20 years since my last time here. Things have changed. I thought the town was a bit dirty for my liking. Having lived and worked in NYC I'm not shy of cities but this one just had a bad feel. We walked into town and back. On the way we stopped at a few shops manned by local craftsman. Some nice items were available but they weren't giving anything away. I'm told the other side of the island is beautiful but we didn't try it. If you don't take a tour my guess is the shopping at the dock would suffice.
A favorite. Another spot I've been to on numerous occasions. We nailed this one. The water taxi has an all day round trip fare and is well worth it. We went to town and shopped for an hour or two. I love the "Delft Outlet". When we finished shopping it was off to the "Blue Bitch Bar" on the beach for a snack. We then went to the beach and got two beach chairs, an umbrella, and a "bucket of beer" for $20.00. It felt like one of the Corona adds on TV. A beach chair, a cold beer and a beautiful beach. It doesn't get a lot better in January.
Another island that is a winner every time. A tour around the island is a sure bet. Beautiful views and quiet beaches. On this occasion we opted for a short stay due to the 1:00 departure. Don't want to miss the ship. We hit Pusers for a "Pain Killer" and just wandered through the cute shops. A last minute gift or two at the flea market and we were back aboard in plenty of time. A nice ending to a great cruise