Not so secret dairy of a cruise virgin aged 44 and 6 days

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#1
Halifax UK
149 Posts
Joined Sep 2017
Hello

This is my review of my first ever cruise - it was aboard the Gem 24th Feb to 6th March 2018 from New York to the Caribbean - it is quite long apologies in advance! Firstly I would like to say thank you to everyone on this forum that gave me advice and put up with my silly questions - it helped massively, bit of background me and hubby are from the UK mid 40's and have never cruised before - so to the review

The flight - we have never flown to the USA before so had no starting point - we did not choose to add flights to our cruise as it seemed expensive ( over £1000 more each) so we booked our own and got a bargain - Aerlingus Manchester - New York £379 return - we did this through Skyscanner .net we transferred through Dublin to JFK on the way there and left through Newark to Dublin then Manchester on the way back

Dublin has it's own US clearance - this was amazing - I got selected for extra screening which involved a body search and swabbing of everything with me - all was fine, then onto fingerprints and photo's as well as questions about spending money and return date, very efficient from arriving in Dublin to sitting in the lounge waiting to go was less than half an hour, on arrival in JFK we got off the plane and went straight and collected our luggage and were out on the street 10 mins later - flight was great with a decent meal totally recommended

On arrival at JFK we followed the signs for taxi's and they were great - you told them were you are going the put you in the cab and gave you a receipt to tell you roughly how much it should cost - reassuring - it took us about 1 and a half hours from JFK to Manhattan and costs $60 ( flat rate plus a charge for a bridge)


Pre cruise hotel

We had no clue on this so went with NCL's recommendation - it cost the most I have ever paid for a hotel room - around £400 for one night - The Marquis Marriott - it was steps from Times Square - the location was brilliant, it was very clean, very central although the hotel is massive we were on the 33rd floor and the room was spacious, no breakfast included though ( for £400 a night!) and the lifts were mainly made of glass so I did not like them - I had a strange experience in the middle of the night - I needed a wee so got up and went to the toilet in our room and encountered a naked angry looking woman heading towards me - I screamed my head off!!! It was of course a mirror of the outside of the toilet door - a funny story to tell but something to be aware of if you stay here - I was disappointed in NY - too busy, too many people trying to sell you stuff and very expensive - maybe I'm too old I wouldn't rush back, it cost us $50 for breakfast!

The Cruise

We arrived at the port at 11.18, to see huge lines ( we were at the back of the queue) and we were anxious but we were all checked in and on the ship by 12.15 -very efficient - they announced the first onboard while we were there about 11.30, rooms were ready just after 1pm so we went to O'Sheehans for lunch - wings are delicious, it was cold and wet, we attended the CC sail away party in the Mojioto bar ( the Raspberry ones are delicious) but it was freezing and we couldn't stay outside for very long - I did meet someone that had a spa pass ( I did also) we said they headed to the spa and did sailaway from there in the warm - why did I not think of that! That would be my tip for sailaway from NY in Feb!

We had a mini suite ( 11608) and it was perfect for 2 people, plenty of space and storage and I'm a Brit so I loved the bath - the room steward was brilliant and we made sure to tip him well

I intended to do a day by day thing while on the cruise ( even bought a notepad) but found I had so much fun I didn't do it! so here are my recollections and tips/questions I had before I cruised

Smoking

We are smokers and were worried about not being able to find anywhere - we need not have worried - the port side ( I think) of deck 7 you can smoke, on deck 12 the bar above the pool you can smoke, the casino you can smoke and if all the outside decks are shut you can smoke in the Cigar Room on deck 6 - we hand roll our cigs and wondered how we could dry out our tobacco - no need to worry we brought a plastic container and put it on the shelf behind the TV in our room and it was dry within a few hours, there was no tobacco to buy on board only cigarettes

Eating

We were worried we would not like the food ( we are food snobs no apologies we just are) we purchased a 4 night food package that meant we could eat in the 'posh' places - we ate a La Cuchina the first night - this was a mistake - the food was great but we were tired, jetlagged and didn't appreciate it so if you have the same save it- however the tip to book a place to eat on the first night was still a great one, we saw lots of people waiting in line to eat, we ate breakfast in the buffet - I thought we would hate it but we loved it, cooked to order omelettes, great little sausage patties and non greasy hash browns were my choice - although there were options for everything - never seen so much food in my life! Everything we ate was good, we used the rest of our package to eat again at La Cuchina and twice at Cagneys - just order the 8oz fillet, it is the best hands down - in short we never went hungry and everything was good - we were amazed as we never expected this on a cruise

Ports

Antigua

We had pre booked beachlimerz - got picked up promptly and was everything we wanted a relaxed beach day - but we never got to see much of the island, next time we would to an island tour - out of all the ports this was the only place were able to buy tobacco ( very cheap wish we had bought more)

St Lucia

We had to tender when we didn't know we did - had ticket for tender 3 but managed to get on tender 2 ( queue up at the towel station on deck 12 for tender tickets get there early!) very worried as tour we had booked ( Cosol Tours) was 8.20am till 4pm and last tender was 4 - no need to worry they adjusted the tour so it ended at 3pm - it means tour felt a little rushed but was still brilliant - look up the reviews and just book it

Martinique

Was supposed to be my birthday island but we had to miss it out due to poor weather brewing in the sea back to NY - next time!

St Thomas

Ended up being my birthday island but the tour hubby had booked for the cable cars was cancelled - no explanation but given the hurricane if it wasn't safe then I didn't want him on it ( no way I would have done it ever) we had nothing else planned so found a cafe and used free wifi to contact home

Trip back to NYC

Captain announced that we would miss Martinique due to bad weather forecast on the way back to NY - not great but as I understand that is cruising! we took an alternate route and sailed back to NYC in 3 days not 2 - it was rough, rolling out of your bed rough - we did not get sick but all outside decks were closed, pools were drained and our chairs on the balcony were tied to the ship and we could not use the balcony, which meant we spent far too much in the Casino!!!

It made a sad end to a wonderful trip we just wanted to be home, I would not want to experience that again, so I would not cruise out if NYC again - but I would absolutely cruise Norwegian again in a heartbeat - we bought cruise next and will book again but probably out of Miami so we have sun all the time

So if you have never been before I say just do it - we did and now I think we may be hooked - it was amazing

Thanks for reading this far!

Any questions please ask I am sure I have missed stuff out

Vicki
#2
Pennsylvania
221 Posts
Joined Sep 2011
Vicki;

So glad that you enjoyed the experience. Surprised that you did not seek cheaper alternatives for the overnight stay in N.Y. You could have done it for substantially less money at more than adequate hotels. We are NCL fans and did the same cruise a few weeks before yours. No St. Thomas though, slightly different itinerary. Fourth time for the Gem; going to do it's sister ship, the Pearl, next January out of Tampa.
#3
Halifax UK
149 Posts
Joined Sep 2017
Originally posted by sloperate
Vicki;

So glad that you enjoyed the experience. Surprised that you did not seek cheaper alternatives for the overnight stay in N.Y. You could have done it for substantially less money at more than adequate hotels. We are NCL fans and did the same cruise a few weeks before yours. No St. Thomas though, slightly different itinerary. Fourth time for the Gem; going to do it's sister ship, the Pearl, next January out of Tampa.
I know wished we had now but not knowing anything about NYC we decided to play safe - expensive mistake we won't be making again!
#4
Norwood, MA
192 Posts
Joined Feb 2012
Sounds like a great time! NYC can be tough, but with a lot of research you can find some pretty good food that is cheap, but you probably would have had to travel quite far from your hotel in search of good food that was also fairly priced! In nicer weather that can be fun, but lately the weather around here is just awful.

Glad to hear that you enjoyed the cruise despite the rough weather on the way back! We love the ship as much as we love the locations, so we're usually not put off by rough seas (though it can make walking from one place to another quite an adventure!). Sounds like you made the best of it too!! Happy birthday!
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#5
Halifax UK
149 Posts
Joined Sep 2017
NYC was tough, we were awake at could not find anything to eat at 7am on a Saturday! What is up with that -disappointed
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#8
Pennsylvania
221 Posts
Joined Sep 2011
Originally posted by MrsTabs
NYC was tough, we were awake at could not find anything to eat at 7am on a Saturday! What is up with that -disappointed
Mrs. Tabs, goodness gracious, you were in the heart of Manhattan in the most happening city in the world. There were places to eat breakfast in the hotel you were staying in, you could have walked out the door and walked a block or two in any direction and found several more.

N.Y.C. can be very intimidating, I understand that, but sometimes you just have to step out the front door, take a look around and enjoy the sights and sounds..........................as long as you know how to get back to your hotel you have nothing to worry about. Even then you could find thousands of folks who would be happy to direct you.

Come back again, contact me here and I'll give you a list of moderately priced hotels NEARBY to stay in, restaurants to eat in and nearby sights to see. NCL does some neat trips out of N.Y. to Bermuda, which is, I suspect, a place you have never been too and worth visiting.

Nothing is cheap in N.Y., but it doesn't have to be a $400.00 a night hotel, even though I have experienced the hotel several times in past years. Now that I travel on my own "dime", I still enjoy my old hometown when given the opportunity, but I am much more judicious with my monies. You're just not going to get the 7th floor lobby and glass elevators.
#10
Lincolnshire, UK
273 Posts
Joined Jan 2015
We're from the UK too and have cruised on the Gem out of NYC twice. Early September when the weather is really warm and both times we stayed for a week near enough. I love the place and it doesn't have to be expensive, once you've done the usuals, Empire State, Statue of Liberty etc. you have plenty of time to stray away from Times Square and find some great places to eat at reasonable prices and cheaper hotels. We stayed nearer to Columbus Circle first time, a place I'd never heard of, but a place I now really like. Give NYC another try, maybe when its warmer, its definitely worth it. Very wise words about the flights. We're flying back with Thomas Cook after our Bliss transatlantic, and a couple of days in NYC (gotta get my Yankees fix) its a damn site cheaper than any NCL recommended flights, although you can get it even cheaper but not always .with meals or luggage included. I'm sure if you look around you can get far cheaper hotels just a bit further from Times Square.

Hopefully you'll have a bit better luck with the cruise but you still sound as though you enjoyed it.
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#11
Ellenton Florida
975 Posts
Joined Feb 2012
Originally posted by Arayasky
100 percent book your next one out of florida. Florida in itself is a vacation.
I agree totally.
I travel a lot for work and fun and the big apple is not for me. Florida is a cheap vacation spot except Disney lol.

I also can not wait to check out the pearl when it comes to Tampa. Its the biggest ship that will fit under the skyway bridge I sure wish it was a tunnel instead of the bridge I would not have to go to Miami any more
. I do like Miami.
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#12
North East England
3,669 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
did you book through NCL?
They chargeper person for hotels whereas booking direct is per room-makes a big difference in expensive places like New York
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