We had a wonderful cruise over Winter Break. I was cruising with my husband and 2 children (11 and 9) and whereas we have cruised a number of times together before, we have never cruised on Norwegian or the Gem previously. Overall, we had a terrific time and would definitely recommend the ship and itinerary.
Embarkation: We were dropped off at the terminal at around 1PM. We easily got rid of our bags on the curb. We had to wait a bit at security but once through check in and were on the ship relatively quickly. We were able to get right into our rooms and up to the Garden Cafe to get something to eat.
The Ship: We liked the Gem a lot. It is a smaller ship and was easy to navigate. Everything was always very clean. It doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles like some of the larger ships. We really enjoyed sitting in the Great Outdoors on the aft of the Lido Deck. I never had problems finding a place to sit even though it was a very busy holiday sailing. My daughter enjoyed trying the climbing wall. My son played basketball on the sports court. The kids both spent time in the hot tubs. The kids missed certain aspects of other ships we have been on. There was no LCD screen on deck and "Dive in Movies" was something we enjoyed on the Carnival Ships. My son watched all of the football games in the atrium but it was an awkward space to watch a movie in.
Cabin: We chose to have 2 inside cabins for our family of 4. (9151 and 9155). They were always kept very clean. 9151 was a "sideways"' cabin, where you enter in the middle. It felt a little more spacious than 9155 due to the different layout. The cabin was fine but the bathroom was a little tight for my tall husband who didn't feel like he could sit comfortably in the bathroom.
Dinner: We enjoyed our dinners on the ship. Cagneys was terrific both times we went and Teppanyaki was also fun. My husband had a great meal at Le Bistro. I was less enthusiastic about it. We also had some nice meals at the Grand Pacific though some dishes weren't great there. The thing about cruising is that if you don't like one dish you can always ask for another. The buffet had interesting theme nights and some nights we took the kids to eat there and then went to dinner ourselves. They LOVED the crepe station. Also on Asian night they had a sushi bar with the rolls that you have to pay for in the Asian themed restaurant. They were a big hit.
Lunch: This was lackluster. The buffet served pretty much the same food every day and it didn't seem like there were a lot of choices. We did enjoy the poolside BBQ but the kids had pizza and burgers pretty much every day. We had lunch off the ship while in port.
Breakfast: We usually did the buffet in the Great Outdoors and loved eating outside. They also had late night snacks there. The omelet station was popular with the family and my daughter says the hash browns were great. Also popular were the wings at O'Sheehans.
Overall we could always find something to eat when we wanted to and had some wonderful meals. The service was always great.
Entertainment and Activities: I would say that there was overall a relaxed vibe to the ship. We could have very easily just done nothing on this trip and I would have been fine with it. We chose this cruise for the great itinerary and the islands we were visiting. However, we really made in effort to participate in lots of activities on the ship and had a great time doing so. We got up early for Sudoku and Trivia, played lots of Games. (I won Deal or No Deal, my husband won Where in the World Trivia and my daughter won a shuffleboard tournament. ) We didn't go to a lot of shows but loved the Duo de Cirque show. We tried Karaoke in Bliss (not my best moment). The kids spent some time in Splash Academy and made some friends on the boat but they also participated in sushi demonstrations and played Bingo with us. The Splash Academy put on a circus show on the main stage and my daughter learned devil sticks. I got a spa pass and made good use of the therapy pool. At all of these activities we mostly had fun because we enjoyed the company of the other passengers and crew members on board. My favorite activity and perhaps greatest accomplishment was completing the Search for Nations Scavenger Hunt where our family hunted down staff members from around the globe. I got to speak to so many lovely crew members. Thanks to Clare, the cruise director, and Aris for putting together such a good hunt. There were a few families who got really into trying to find everyone and we would help each other out.
Service: The service on the boat was excellent! Our room and public spaces were kept very clean. Whenever you walked into the buffet you would be greeted by crew members to spray your hands with disinfectant. The crew members really went out of their way to be helpful. They work incredibly hard: 10 hours a day, 7 days a week. On a few occasions I saw passengers being incredibly rude to crew members and they always handled themselves with grace, patience and good humor.
Ports and Shore Excursions:
This cruise left from NY at Sunset and came back into NY and Sunrise. It was absolutely breathtaking. Sailing under the Verrazano away from NYC past the Statue of Liberty. Amazing! It's slip is right next to the Intrepid. How cool is that??
Puerto Rico: Our first stop was Puerto Rico and we arrived at 4PM on Christmas Day so there wasn't much to do. Some people arranged a Pub Crawl but we didn't go. Another family we went managed to get in a couple hours at the beach. We just went to Walgreens.
St. Kitts: We went to Cockleshell Beach. It was a little crowded but the view of Nevis was amazing and the drive out there was breathtaking. The water was clear and lovely. I actually brought my own beach chair from home which was great because the beaches on all the islands we went to were public.
St. Lucia: We did the resort pass at Bay Gardens. AMAZING value and highly recommended. The lunch was terrific/it includes a massage or water sports/4 drinks per person. BUT we had to wait a long time for the transportation there and back. We would have had an extra hour there if we just got our own taxi.
Barbados: Beautiful Island. We went to the Caves and to the Synagogue.
Antigua: This was the one day without great weather but we had a great time and Darkwood Beach. The water was a little rough due to the weather. Had great fish/drinks at the beach bar there.
St. Thomas: We had arranged the excursion for the champagne catamaran sail to St. John. Due to the chop we couldn't go and went to another snorkel site. The crew was great but it wasn't St. John. Also since we depart at 1 from St. Thomas it was a bit crazy getting back on the boat. The one time I really had to wait in a line.
SUMMARY: Overall we all had a terrific time. We relaxed. We were well taken care of by the crew. We had good food, saw beautiful islands and made some nice new friends. There is a reason that so many people we met go on this sailing for the holidays year after year.
Great for an inside. Sideways cabin.
Great to leave from NYC at sunset and watch Manhattan as you sail away.
The problem isn't with San Juan, it is that we arrived at 4pm so we were very limited in what there was available to do.
Beautiful island with amazing vistas. We went to Cockleshell Beach which was crowded and I would recommend water shoes. The water was beautiful!!
We went to Bay Gardens for a Resort Day. It was amazing there. I recommend it as it was beautiful and a great value. I would take a taxi over waiting for other passengers to show up for the shuttle though.
I love this island. We went to walk around Bridgetown and up to the Caves. Fun Family Day.
The weather wasn't great but nice beach day anyway at Darkwood Beach. Terrific Lunch too.
We love St. John and were looking forward to it but due to weather conditions we ended up snorkeling at Christmas Cove. It was disappointing as there was no beach there and didn't seem like a comparable spot. The crew was great and kept the booze flowing but for those who didn't want to snorkel there wasn't much to do.View All 206 St. John Snorkel/Sail Reviews