Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by amberjohn
- Sail Date: October 2017
- Destination: Eastern Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Inside
Introduction: Monday 10/30/17
This was our 7th cruise, last 4 with NCL. This was my wife (Nancy) and my first cruise without the children. We got a great deal ($499) and booked this cruise less than 2 weeks out. Our plan was to go down early on October 30th. We had the Hampton Inn Park and shuttle booked. I think this is a very good deal. For $240 (including tax) you get a night at the hotel, breakfast the next morning, a shuttle both ways to the cruise port and back and parking for the length of your cruise. We were traveling from Southern NH. The tail end of Phillip hit us hard. When we went to bed Sunday (10/29) we had water in our basement and no power. We got up at daybreak and the power was still out. Without power we couldn't use the pump or shop vac to get the water out of the house. We didn't want to leave our son with this mess so we waited until 1pm for the power to come back on. It didn't come on (came on at 5:30pm) so we left at 1pm. Because of the late start and a couple of stops we didn't get to the hotel until 7pm (drive 1pm-7pm), drive should have been less than 5 hours. There was no problem with checkin. The hotel seemed to be in a safe area right near the highway. It was nice and very clean. There was an indoor pool, 24 hour coffee/tea and free internet. The breakfast had your typical items plus hot oatmeal, scrambled eggs, waffles and sausage.
Debarkation Day: Tuesday 10/31/17 (Halloween)
We got up at 8am. We had a very nice breakfast at the hotel (all the typical foods plus sausage, waffles and scrambled eggs. The shuttle picked the four of us up (Nancy, Me and two other cruisers) at 10:15am and we were in Port by 10:45am. We were through Security and Checkin by 11:10am. I started to organize my paperwork and they started to board us. I couldn't believe we were onboard by 11:20am. As you can seen everything went smooth and efficient so far today. When we boarded the ship, everything was decorated for Halloween. We walked around the ship and nibbled at the buffet and then went to O'Sheehan's for lunch. Nancy had the "Salmon Salad" (she thought it was fair) and I had the "Open Faced Roast Beef Sandwich" (very good) and we shared Buffalo and Chai Wings (very good). Rooms were ready at 1pm and they announced that the Departure would be earlier than the 6pm scheduled time. We ended up leaving at 6pm. I guess the ship was in lockdown because of the killings in NY. We have never seen NY before. It was getting dark and the NY skylight looked awesome. Our highlight was passing a lit-up Statue of Liberty. As we passed through the Garden Cafe we noticed a delicious looking buffet and we decided to get the Prime Rib, Clam Chowder and much more. Everything was delicious. After dinner we went through the Haunted Trail (cute) and watched the "Welcome Aboard Show" which was the best one we have seen on NCL ships. Once the show was over we went up to the Spinnaker and watched the costume contest and stayed a little while for the Halloween Dance. We did a last lap around the ship, got a small snack at the "Great Outdoors" and went to bed at 11pm.
Day One: Wednesday 11/01/17 (Sea Day #1)
We woke up at 9am, we had a great sleep. We went for breakfast in the "Garden Cafe". After breakfast we went to the "Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle" from 11am-Noon. This was the first time I have attended one of these. After the Meet and Mingle we went to the gym. I ran a couple of miles on the treadmill and then we went to the Art Auction for a short time (they never gave us our free champagne). For the rest of the afternoon we talked to Excursion Desk People, walked around the ship, snacked and used the Hot Tub until 4pm. It was time to get ready for dinner. At 5pm we had a delicious dinner at the "Grand Pacific" of Roast Beef and Bolognese Spaghetti. After dinner we went to the 7pm show "Comedy of Tim Kaminski" which we had seen a small bit of at the "Welcome Aboard Party". We noticed that the Comedian picked his "victims" for the show in the front part of the theater so we sat in the middle, in the back of the theater so we wouldn't get picked "to be part of the show". He was down to his last "volunteer" and somehow saw me. I was escorted to the stage to perform in the ship's rendition of the "Wizard of OZ". In case you are wondering, I played the famous "Waldo" in the show. Even though I couldn't see any of the show (I was backstage for most of it) it was a unique and fun experience. After the show we roamed the ship. In the Garden Cafe we noticed skewers of large shrimp. We had to stop and have our fill of them. We went to bed at 11pm. (7 Waldo shout outs from 8-11pm today)
Day Two: Thursday 11/02/17 (Sea Day #2)
We got up at 9am and did 2 miles on the treadmill. We went to breakfast at 10am followed by a trip to “Tradewinds” to check on the daily $10 specials. After browsing we went to Magnum’s to listen to the “Digital Camera Seminar” and stuck around to do the “Goofy Golf Tournament”. With a field of 19 I was able to take 2nd place in this prestigious golf tournament. At lunch we decided to have lunch at O’Sheehan’s. Nancy got a Reuben Sandwich and some Chai Chicken wings and I got the “Open Face Roast Beef Sandwich and Buffalo Wings. After lunch we went to Origami Class. We each made a beautiful heart that will go on our Christmas Tree. Next we went to the front of the ship (7th floor, I think) to the Bridge where we were able to watch the crew control the ship. After spending a decent amount of time at the Bridge we went to the top deck and walked a mile on the jogging track and then hit golf balls for an hour in the “Golf Driving Cage”. We wanted to make the 7pm show which was called “Swing” so we were trying to eat at an early dinner. Straight from the golf cage to the “Grand Pacific” (under dressed) we went. Nancy got the asparagus risotto as an appetizer and loved it. I got the chicken parmesan and Nancy got a steak as our main meals. We split a dish of mushroom alfredo. The food was all very good. Once we were done eating we went to the 7pm showing of “Swing”. The singing and dancing were terrific but the music wasn’t our taste. After the show we had some roast beef at the Garden Café. We watched a little NFL football and then headed to our cabin at 10pm. (19 Waldo shout outs/ 26 total)
Day Three: Friday 11/03/17 (Sea Day #3)
We woke up to another sunny day. We decided to use the pool before breakfast. We loved the pools on this ship. There was a family pool and an adults only pool. Both were decent sizes for the size of the ship. There were 3 hot tubs, one which was designated for adults only. The pools and hot tubs were never crowded the whole cruise. We swam for an hour and then ate a little breakfast. After breakfast we went to the Atrium to purchase two excursion tickets to the “Catamaran Snorkel Trip” in St. Kitts. It was now time to learn how to make balloon animals and then over to Magnums’ for another round of Goofy Golf. I did lousy but Nancy took 2nd place in the women’s bracket. We then squeezed 2 miles in on the treadmill before going to dinner. Our plan was to make as many of the 5pm dinner seating as we could so we could go to the 7pm shows. Tonight was a show performed by a Vegas entertainer named Katy. Katy was a singer (who performed in Las Vegas) and would sing songs as a tribute to the Divas. She was very good and it was a great show. After the show we went to the Atrium to play in a Trivia Game called “Last Man Standing”. Trivia can make you hungry so we got a snack and then were in our cabin by 10pm. We wanted to get some sleep before our 7am wakeup call. (12 Waldo shout outs/ 38 total)
Day Four: Saturday 11/04/17 (St. Kitts)
Our alarm and wakeup call got us up at 7am. We got dressed and went up to the Garden Café for a small breakfast. We were supposed to meet at 8:50am for our “Catamaran and Snorkel” excursion. Since we got to the meeting spot 30 minutes early we checked out a few shops. St Kitts has a very nice shopping area at the port. Our plan was to do the excursion (cost was $99 minus 10% Silver Member discount) and then go back to the cabin to shower and change our clothes. We were going to have lunch and then spend a few hours shopping and sending emails. It didn’t turn out that way. The Catamaran ride was fun and informative. The snorkeling was nice but didn’t have many fish. The highlight was when we were able to see a large turtle and follow it for about 5 minutes. As soon as the snorkeling was over the boat crew opened up the bar. We drank quite a bit and don’t exactly remember going back to our cabin. When we woke up it was 4:30pm and we were heading out to sea, so much for walking around town. We hadn’t eaten all day so we went up to the Garden Café at 7pm. We had some pasta, scallops, shrimp and pork for dinner. All the food was very good. We went back to the cabin at 8pm and fell asleep around 10pm. Tonight’s show was the “Second City Improv” which we have never liked. We have seen this show 3 times before and didn’t want to see it again. This was the only show we would miss. (7 Waldo shut outs/ 45 total)
Day Five: Sunday 11/05/17 (St. Lucia)
We woke up at 8am. Our plan was to walk to Vigie Beach following directions that we got from someone on Cruise Critic. We were going to swim for a few hours and then walk back to the ship. Between the rain and the constant hounding by taxi drivers, tour guides and people selling drugs and the fact we weren’t entirely sure we were going the right way we decided to head back to the ship. Because it was Sunday the only shops we found open were at the pier. We looked through the shops at the pier and then went back to the ship. We didn’t see much of the island but it seemed very grungy from the little bit we saw. Back on the ship we took advantage of the empty pool and hot tubs. While Nancy went to the cabin I did 2.5 miles on the treadmill. Nancy met me at the Garden Café for lunch. We did go back to the pier to use the free WiFi. Now it was time to go back to Magnums for another round of Goofy Golf. After golf we went to O’Sheehan’s for wings and then out on the ship deck to watch the sailaway. We watched some Sunday football until it was time for the 7pm show called “Blazing Boots”. This was another very good show. After the show we went to dinner at the “Orchid Gardens”. The food was good, not great. As we were eating we noticed an island and the fact that the ship was not moving. I guess Barbados was so close (our next island) that the GEM was just drifting of the coast of St. Lucia to save fuel. We watched some more NFL football on the large screen in the Atrium until it was time for the deck party with the live band “Sonata”. Great music, lots more food then off to bed. (3 Waldo shout outs/ 48 total)
Day Six: Monday 11/06/17 (Barbados)
We woke up at 8am and had a small breakfast. Our plan was to walk to the “Boatyard”. As we were getting directions from the port officers, they told us we could take a shuttle for $5 one way per person. This sounded like a great idea. This was an interesting ride from the pier through the capitol to the beach. We were dropped off and paid our $20 per person. We booked our snorkel tour, picked out our 2chairs/umbrella and got our free drinks. We both got a beer and took a swim.
There were also 3 inflatable that were included in the package. While swimming we were paged for our snorkel time. This was worth the admission alone. We were taken out to 2 ship wrecks for over an hour. We saw the sunken ships and many fish. This was the best snorkel of our vacation. The last part of the package was a free ride back to the cruise port. We went back to our cabin to shower and change and then went upstairs and had a quick lunch. After lunch we went back to the port shops at 2pm to get souvenirs and use the free WiFi. We got back to the ship at 4pm. We went up to the Garden Café for ribs and pasta. We were going to wait for the ship to leave port but it kept getting delayed. We were supposed to depart at 5pm but didn’t leave until 7pm. At 7pm we went to the “Jean Pierre Parent Magic Show”. We thought the show was amusing but not up to the standards of the other shows. It had some decent comedy mixed in with card tricks. We watched a little NFL football and then listened to the “Sonata Band”. My wife really wanted to see the “Tina Turner Tribute” so we stayed to watch it. The show was excellent. I don’t really care for her music but could appreciate how well it was done. After the show we went back to the cabin. We finished watching the NFL football game and then went to bed at 1am. (9 Waldo shout outs/ 57 total)
Day Seven: Tuesday 11/07/17 (Martinique)
We woke at 7am and had a small breakfast. After breakfast we walked around the ship taking pictures. We left the ship at 10am. We walked all around the city, took pictures, visited the church and library and waded a little at a small beach near the pier. We walked for about 3 hours and went back to the ship by 2pm. We had a quick snack and I took a dip in the pool and hot tub while Nancy was relaxing on a lawn chair. At 4pm the Captain announced that there were problems with the propeller and it could only move at a slow speed, we would not be able to make it home. Instead of heading to St Thomas we were being re-routed to Grenada and the stay was being extended to 6pm. Thursday and Friday were supposed to be sea days but that itinerary was being changed. Thursday would still be a sea day but the ship was being re-routed back to Barbados. It would arrive at 1:30am Friday and they would begin to start flying people from Barbados to NJ. We had a snack, got dressed and went to the 7pm show. Tonight was a Ventriloquist named Kevin Johnson. He was funny and entertaining but (like the magician) could have had a little better act. After the show we went to dinner at the “Magenta” for the first time. Nancy had the fish and I had Steak Diane, both good. When dinner was finished we went to a Bee Gees/ABBA tribute by the band Sonata and then watched the “Liars Club Game Show” in the Spinnaker. We went to the “Late Night Dance Party” on the pool deck and then back to our cabin at midnight. (4 Waldo shout outs/ 61 total)
Day Eight: Wednesday 11/08/17 (Grenada)
We woke and had another quick breakfast. We left the ship at 10am, our intention was to walk around the port city. We were greeted by a local who was going to take us to some places to look at spices. I started to realize that we were being scammed and he was trying to charge us for a “walking tour”. I should have charged him for my lost time! There wasn’t much to look at in the downtown area. We went back to the ship for lunch. Around 1:30pm we got on our bathing suits and took the water taxi ($5 each way per person) to the beach. We swam and had a beer. This must have been the place to go. We kept bumping into people from the cruise. We went back to the ship at 4pm, showered and went out for a snack. We went to the 7pm show “Duo Dynasty”, a fantastic aerial duo. After the show we went for fish and chips (very good) and wings at O’Sheehan’s. After dinner we talked to Guest Services about our flights and then listened to Sonata (we love this band) in the Atrium. We turned in our travel form and went up to the “White Hot dance party”. We had a cup of tea and then were in our cabin by 11:30pm. (10 Waldo shout outs/ 71 total)
Day Nine: Thursday 11/09/17 (Sea Day)
Sadly, this would turn out to be our last cruise day. We finally went for a big breakfast. After breakfast we went to the Comedian “Tim Kaminski's Q and A” (really enjoyed this). We ate lunch and then went to the “Afternoon Trivia”. Next it was back to the Spinnaker to watch the “Battle of the Cake Makers”. We caught the end of “Scattergories” and played the “10 Minute Mystery” and then went to watch the end of the Art Auction. Next it was a round of “Washer Toss” and then we went for a snack in the “Great Outdoors”. While up there we bumped into the entertainers from the “Duo Dynasty” and talked to them for a while (what a nice couple). We walked a mile around the ship before going to the Atrium. The Atrium was hosting a “Crew Spotlight Jam Session” which we watched. For the remainder of the cruise the Atrium would be very busy with people trying to get answers about their flights home and the remainder of the cruise. We had been accumulating points all week from the activities that we had been involved in. It was now time to go to the “Bliss” and turn them in for prizes. We collected 3 pens and 2 can insulators. Our last activity was to attend the show “Get Down Tonight” which was a 70’s themed show (very good). We went back to our cabin and our “letter” was on our bed. It stated that we were “pink”, one of the lousy colors which meant we were on one of the earlier flights. We had to be in Le Bistro at 5am Friday, missing a whole day of the cruise. We had to have our luggage in the hallway by 10pm Thursday night. Finally got packed and organized and in bed by 1am. (3 Waldo shout outs/ 74 total)
Day Ten: Friday 11/10/17 (Departure/Barbados airport)
We were supposed to get up at 5am to fill out Immigration paperwork. At 3:50am there was an announcement that we needed to be there at 4am (first line/wait). We filled out our paperwork and had a very light breakfast. We were supposed to be off the ship and on a bus by 6:30am so we decided to spend our last hour relaxing in our cabin. At 6:30am we were on our way to the Barbados airport. We got to the airport around 7am and waited in line to get our boarding passes (second line/wait). We were waiting in line for 75 minutes dragging our luggage with us. As I got to the front of the line the computers crashed (third line/wait). We waited in another line for passports (fourth line/wait) and then around the corner (fifth line/wait) for a security check (shoes off). Plane loading was supposed to be at 9:10am (sixth line/wait), didn’t happen until 9:50am. Departure was supposed to be at 10am, over 30 minutes late. This is nothing compared to the disorganization in NJ. There were Customs and Immigration lines (seventh + eighth line/wait). We collected our bags and were told to sit in an area for an NCL Rep. She showed up very late and took us to an elevator (ninth line/wait) where we had to go up in small groups lugging all our heavy luggage (no porters to help). One elderly gentleman collapsed (I assume from exhaustion and/or dehydration) onto the floor, while waiting in the elevator line. We finally all got to the 2nd floor and had to drag luggage across the terminal. This was the most ridiculous line of all (tenth line/wait). There was supposed to be a group of NCL Reps sending passengers to the proper vehicles for transport. When we got to the area where we were supposed to pick up our transports there was only one Rep using a smartphone to direct us. Only about 75% of the information he was giving out was correct. When it was our turn he told us to take the shuttle to Manhattan. I told him my car was at the Hampton Inn in NJ. He told me to take a cab ($80) and NCL would reimburse me. It was now rush hour and we were exhausted (14 hour day) so we decided to stay at the Hampton Inn and get an early start to NH in the morning. The initial problem was not NCL’s problem, things break, but they did a lousy job of dealing with this problem. (7 Waldo shout outs/ 81 final total)
Day Eleven: Saturday 11/11/17 (Drive Home)
We had a good nights sleep and a nice breakfast at the Hampton Inn and then headed north to NH. We couldn’t believe the difference in temperature, 80 degrees down to freezing in 24 hours. The ride home was uneventful. We took the scenic Palisades Parkway and stopped a couple of times to look at the views.
Drive: The drive from Southern NH to Ridgefield NJ took us longer than it should have. We left late because of the storm up North and hit rush hour in NY/NJ. The ride home was much better. We took the scenic Palisades Parkway and drove in the middle of the day. The drive to NY/NJ was an experiment for us and we would do it again. The Hampton Inn Park and shuttle was a great deal for us and we would do this again next time.
Cabin: We booked the guaranteed room which cost us $499 each with no perks. The catch was that the room wouldn't be assigned to us until we got close to the cruise departure date. We lucked out. We got cabin #10035 which worked out to be a great location for everything on the top decks of the ship. This was the first time that we had a cabin with only the two of us in the room so the cabin "seemed" so much bigger. Our cabin steward (Neal) was the best we have ever had. He was very attentive and would greet us by name every day.
Weather: This seems like the best time of year to cruise in the Caribbean. The threats of bad storms seemed to be over. The cruise was smooth the whole time, no rough weather. We got very little rain and mostly beautiful sunny weather, but not too hot. The only cool day was when we departed NY.
Food: We loved the food on the GEM. We ate at the complimentary restaurants and thought there was a lot of variety. We had all sorts of complimentary food including Seafood (Shrimp, Scallops, Salmon, ect.) and Meats (chicken, pork, turkey, ribs, wings, lots of beef, ect), salads, pastas, pizza and much more. We did a variety of sit down restaurants, Buffet, Barbecue on the deck and Chinese food. There was always comfort food at the "Great Outdoors" when we needed it.
Entertainment: We thought the shows were great. We loved anytime the house Band (Sonata) played and enjoyed all the shows that the Ship's Dancers and Singers did. We don't enjoy the Improv done by the Improv group. We enjoyed the magician and ventriloquist but thought their acts were weak. We really enjoyed the Aerial Duo and the Comedian (Tim). The band Sonata was excellent and the other onboard musicians were decent. We got involved in much of the onboard activities and kept very busy. We actually thought we would have a lot of down time based on the length of the cruise and the fact there was just the two of us travelling. Just the opposite happened, we couldn't find enough time to do everything we wanted to.
Ship: We loved the GEM. The layout of the ship was wonderful. The GEM had two decent sized pools and one was adults only plus an adults only hot tub. It also had a slide in the pool area. They showed movies and sports on a 2-story TV screen in the Atrium. They had a multi-sport area with a variety of sports. We hope to have a chance to take another cruise on the GEM.
Itinerary: Because of all the destructive storms our itinerary was changed from St. Thomas, St. Maarten, San Juan, Totola and St. Kitts to St Kitts, Grenada, St. Lucia, Barbados and Martinique. We haven't been to any of the islands on the new itinerary so this was all new to us. We enjoyed all of the islands except St. Lucia. We didn't get the new itinerary until less than 2 weeks before departure so it was tough to set up excursions. The new islands were further south which cruises from NY usually don't go to. We liked the new itinerary.
Crowds: I don't know if it was the time of year or the fear of further storms but the crowds were minimal. We never had a wait for anything. The pools and Hot tubs were not crowded. If you came in 2 minutes before show time you could get a good seat. No wait for sit down restaurants, Chinese restaurant or for the Buffet lines. Even the embarkation was seamless. The only long lines we encountered were during the whole mess of trying to get home from Barbados
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