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Norwegian Gem Cruise Review
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
2,530 Reviews

Exceptional service, wonderful memories

Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by juried

4 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Mar 2020
  • Destination: the Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Garden Villa

NCL Gem Review 3/6/2020 through 3/16/2020

Sorry, this is a long one.

I almost did not write it. I mean with so many more serious things on our minds lately. But then I thought, this cruise was exceptional and maybe people need to hear that.

4 Adults in the Garden Villa Suite 14000.

Both my husband and I are platinum plus latitude members.

We had booked an H3 months prior but once our travel agent told me the H1 was all of a sudden open, I bid on it and my bid was accepted 4 days prior to sailing.

So at the last minute we invited my sister and her husband who had sailed on the Gem with us in 2013 and they said YES!

We also invited my brother and his wife but he had strep throat so no way… bummer. We had an extra bedroom which we joked about if someone drank too much we would not let them drive home ;)

We left New Hampshire at 5:30 on the morning of our cruise and arrived at the Port of NY by 11:30. An easy Friday drive.

We dropped off the bags, tipped the porter and parked above for $400.00, for 10 days, very easy. Except that we parked in the first parking area and it was way too far away. My husband had his knee replaced about 5 weeks ago so it was a long walk back to the ship.

Once they took our temperature we were escorted to the Haven area and had to fill out a medical questionnaire. We were processed very quickly and then we saw RAVI! Ravi is an amazing butler we had for 2 sailings, many, many years ago. He greeted us and told us he already had Mr. M’s Guinness on ice and he asked about our kids … Ravi is one of those special people you meet in life that you just do not forget. And we were so happy he would be our butler once again.

I will say here that this is what NCL does best. They have incredible staff that they are able to retain. Ravi has been with NCL 19 years.

We went directly to Cagney’s for lunch while they finished preparing our suite.

The Garden Villa is wonderful. In the past the colors were vibrant either blue, green and gold, or Orange Red and gold which might be a bit loud for everyday, but absolutely perfect for a Caribbean cruise vacation. Plus there used to be a very cool circular leather sofa.

They refurbished the Villa a few years ago and the new colors are tasteful and neutral. A bit more upscale but rather subdued, IMO. And circular sofa is now just a solid oversized sectional. Comfy but dull.

The Garden Villa is huge. 3 bedrooms all with their own bathroom. One is definitely the master suite with an enormous soaking tub.

I will not bore you with all the details of Garden Villa, it is just as awesome as you have heard.

We were kept well hydrated with 6 bottles of alcohol, and all the boxed water, soda (Pepsi products only) juices and mixers we could want. We had a few parties and they allowed us to purchase extra beer, wine and more bottles of liquor.

Service: In a word, Outstanding.

Ravi kept brining us food and did not mind us planning parties and our room stewards Patrick and Teddy were wonderful.

They kept the Villa and Sundeck pristine.

One thing that changed in the space was the courtyard area.

When we sailed last we had a very private top deck.

Now the Top deck is half the size and the people in the 15000 can actually look over and see us from the steps of their hot tub. It was very odd and invasive.

And the Sauna never really got hot.

And the master bedroom was always very cold.

Our concierge was Alex from Croatia and he was excellent.

Alex made our spa reservations, dining (often at the last minute) and showed us to the special seating at the Stardust and much more.

He also ordered local flowers for me on behalf of my husband, with the instructions "something local and funky" he did not disappoint. It was fabulous.

Ravi our amazing butler went above all expectations.

We always had fresh fruit, cookies, midnight blt’s, chips and pastry platters.

Ravi also brought us hot breakfast every morning from Cagneys. steak and eggs, omelets, waffles with cream and berries, OMG Ravi spoiled us.

He gave us suggestions for dinner and shows, reminded us of parties and many little things that made this particular cruise so very special.

The first 3 nights this ship was rocking. It was white water all day.

The cruise home was just the opposite, slow and calm and very nice.

Friends of ours were getting married on this cruise, which was the primary reason for this trip to begin with. So once we got the Villa we had about 72 hours to re-plan a wedding / reception. We got signs created by ETSY and had a local printer make 2 so all the guests could sign one. Then we ordered everything “peacock” theme we could get our hands on. Plus a shiny gold cake topper and balloon letters, lots of peacock feathers and favor boxes. Ravi got us extra vases for peacock bouquets and table cloths.

The grooms and friends had already planned to have the wedding and reception in the Bliss and had the menu already planned, they also had gorgeous gift bags with custom printed candies and fancy glass peacocks.

After speaking with Alex and Ravi the wedding / reception was relocated from the Bliss to the Villa with 54 guests PLUS the ship photographer Jillian was just wonderful. She took loads of pics and guests could go to the photo gallery and ask to view the Baker wedding to purchase their own pics.

We were docked in San Juan and the ship was finally still.

The wedding was perfect. NCL provided drink servers and someone serving horderves (sp) and Ravi had help at the Bar.

The wedding cake was chocolate mousse and the best I ever tasted and I am kind of a cake snob 

During the cruise we had 2 more slightly smaller parties in the Villa and Alex and Ravi provided plenty of great finger foods and desserts, it was awesome.

Dining:

I loved all the food Moderno, LeBistro were excellent and Teppanyaki was fresh and fun. I did not eat the buffet but really enjoyed Sheehans and the MDR’s.

The only disappointment was La Cucina. The pizza was OK but it should not be a “specialty” restaurant, IMO.

Ports: Sorry, I do not know.

We had been to all of them before, so we did not get off the ship. We took the time to enjoy the hot tub and I got some work done.

Work: I had pre-purchased the fastest internet package for $249.00 but when I went to log in the package was not there and I needed it so I agreed to pay $349.00 for the same package. Alex was able to fix this so I was not charged extra.

I brought my desktop with 4 travel monitors (all fit in one rolling carryon) and I set them up on the desk overlooking the pool area and the sea … it was perfect. I was able to work a couple hours a day and check my emails and it made my vacation so much better, knowing I was not facing 10 days of work upon returning home.

And with the Covid-19 scare taking over the world while we were away it was doubly important for me to be able to communicate with our clients and online followers. Our business is event management and we had scheduled a huge Spring Arts and Craft Festival in MA for the following weekend. Then the Governor of Massachusetts prohibited gatherings of over 50 people so we had to act quickly to suspend ad campaigns and notify our artisans and update our website, etc, etc. If I did not have this package I do not know how I would have dealt with it.

One thing to note … I could not get my new fancy wifi portable printer to work. If your device does not have a screen it will not work with the NCL wifi system. But luckily Alex allowed me to email any docs to him and he printed them for me. Awesome.

Another cool thing was loads of first run movies on demand at no additional cost.

I played a little Texas Hold em in the Casino and this was the first NCL ship where sometimes there were not enough players to have a game.

We saw 3 shows: Blazing Boots, Get Down Tonight and some kind of amazing acrobat show with a comedy clown who only whistled and he brought the house down. The shows were the best I have ever seen at sea.

The cruise director was terrific, seemingly everywhere. Sorry I do not recall his name.

We danced a little with the excellent house band at a couple of the 10pm poolside parties.

We got VIP treatment all the way but there are less free parties, no more chocolate buffet or towel animals or bowling … and that was fine by me.

The staff on the Gem is the friendliest on any ship.

Everyone knew my husband … they greeted him by name, Good Day Mr, M., Good Evening Mr. M, etc. I mean everybody from the guys with suits and gold bars on the shoulders to the waiters and maintenance men …

And if there was a bar that did not serve Guinness they would get it for Mr. M.

Disembarkation: We were escorted off by Ravi our butler who handed us off to some port women who thought they could bypass the line and they did, sort of. It was a little odd.

Then they walked us into the Customs office who had no idea why we were there … but just asked if we did a lot of shopping (NO) and said ok we are good to go.

We found a young man with a cart and he took all our luggage up to the parking area.

It was eerily quiet … I walked all the way to the first parking area where mine was the only vehicle there.

If you have ever cruised out of NYC you know the chaos of trying to get off the ship while 2500 people are trying to get on the ship. Well we were the final cruise on the Gem until Mid-April or when Covid 19 is over, so it was quiet and odd.

It was strange on the ship, knowing that most of the people working were uncertain if they would have a job the next week or where they were going and if they were sent home chances were very high that their home country would put them in quarantine in a hospital for 2 weeks.

I felt so bad for these hard working professionals who, through absolutely no fault of their own, may lose their career and way of life.

And I dearly hope this pandemic does not end such a magnificent industry. It was such a remarkable cruise that I will treasure these memories and hope to return to make more.

Hope all stay well and stay home … for a while anyway 

Till next time.

Juried (Terry)

PS On the final sea day here was a medical emergency that called for a med-flight. All of the outdoor furniture was secured from our courtyard to prepare but the Helicopter instead went to the front of the ship and safely picked up a passenger. We were less than 200 miles from NYC so this person must have been very ill. I hope he or she is alright, we never heard.

It was incredible to witness this operation in the open water.

I will attached a photo and if you look closely you can see the helicopter hovering.

Stay well.


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Cabin Review

Garden Villa

The Garden Villa is wonderful. In the past the colors were vibrant either blue, green and gold, or Orange Red and gold which might be a bit loud for everyday, but absolutely perfect for a Caribbean cruise vacation. Plus there used to be a very cool circular leather sofa.

They refurbished the Villa a few years ago and the new colors are tasteful and neutral. A bit more upscale but rather subdued, IMO. And circular sofa is now just a solid oversized sectional. Comfy but dull.

The Garden Villa is huge. 3 bedrooms all with their own bathroom. One is definitely the master suite with an enormous soaking tub.

One thing that changed in the space was the courtyard area.

When we sailed last we had a very private top deck.

Now the Top deck is half the size and the people in the 15000 can actually look over and see us from the steps of their hot tub. It was very odd and invasive.

And the Sauna never really got hot.

And the master bedroom was always very cold.


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