March 2015 - Norwegian Gem to Caribbean - Eastern
I loved my 10-day cruise on the Norwegian Gem. We did not explore in New York before or after the cruise, so the only pre/post cruise experiences we had were at LGA airport and in taxis to and from the cruise port in Manhattan. Embarkation was easy, debarkation was a bit delayed. I bought spa passes for the week, and these were the same price as two excursions. It was the best purchase I made all week... having access to warm, quiet, padded loungers at the front of the ship was worth every penny on the four days that the ship is at sea. The weather is cold and rainy until the ship gets to the Caribbean, so being outside is not pleasant. I loved having a semi-private, heated pool and hot tub, and the tiled loungers are heavenly. Many people fell asleep using them, myself included. The best part? No children allowed. Everything is clean, towels and robes are plentiful, and the hot tea/citrus water was a delight. I am now considering only booking spa cabins from now on. It was that good. The service was inconsistent in regards to restaurants/staterooms. Our cabin steward would knock on our door at odd times, and we often felt pressured to leave the room when he would do this. I say that because if we didn't, we wouldn't receive any service that day. This happened twice. I never have had that happen before on a cruise. In the restaurants, some nights we would receive great service. At times, when there was a delay, we would be offered a glass of wine or champagne. However, at one of the specialty restaurants our service was terrible. And sometimes we would have to leave a restaurant because it was so loud. I realize that I can't control other diners; but on more than two occasions we left before dessert, due to tables near us almost shouting at each other to be heard. The star of this cruise? The captain. He was more personable at events than the cruise director. Captain Lars would have us in stitches, and we looked forward to his afternoon "ramblings" over the loud speaker to see what he was going to say. At the cruise officers Q&A, he was cracking jokes and telling stories for almost an hour. We played some bingo, gambled a little, went to the shows, and watched a great comedian named Jeff. I loved San Juan, St. Thomas, and Tortola. Maho beach in St. Maarten wasn't worth the time and money... it really is overrated. I wish I had gone to any other beach. In comparison to our previous cruises, I missed the connection that we had with having the same waitstaff every night for dinner. The specialty restaurants were not worth the money. The food was much better overall than the food on Carnival, and the live music was fantastic. Carnival really is missing the mark by not having live bands perform, and using karaoke as the filler. Just terrible. People on the Gem would arrive early and save seats for two bands, because they were that good. When they would perform in the Atrium, you could have lunch/dinner in the O'Sheehan's pub and hear them from below. The Gem also showed the Final Four games on the big screen, as well as new and old movies. (Gone With the Wind was very popular on the third sea day.) While there were almost 500 kids on this cruise, due to spring break/Easter week, I rarely had to dodge them. That says wonders about the programs for kids and teens. When the teens don't like a program, then they will be everywhere on the ship: running through hallways, playing on elevators, messing up buffets/ice cream machines, etc. This only happened after 10:30 or 11 PM that we noticed. The late night buffet was on the aft deck, and after seeing that it was the teen hangout (due to them not being able to go to any clubs or have anything organized for them) we avoided it every night. Little kids? Never saw them. So the Splash program must be just outstanding. And they are asleep after the program ends, so parental supervision isn't a problem.
I am from Louisiana, so I am going to put this in here for non-New York/New Jersey residents: don't expect people to say "Excuse me, Thank you, Sir, or Ma'am." Don't expect people to hold the door as you are passing through behind them. It isn't anything that you can change... it just isn't how they were raised. While I knew this ahead of time, it was a bit of a culture shock for me. I just had to remember that it isn't expected where they are from, so I shouldn't hold that against them. Everyone's ideas of manners are different.