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puddles99

Review: 11.16.2013 Gem 9-Day Eastern Caribbean Adventure

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This review will take me a little while to write, so please hang with me - but also feel free to post questions along the way & I'll do my best to respond to everyone.

 

A bit of background: We were a "family" of seven sailing together in the Horizon Villa (Garden Villa 14000). In the master bedroom, we had myself, my husband (DH), and my two daughters (DD#1, age 11 and DD#2, age 8). In the middle bedroom was my best friend (CC username Laurabegorrah) and in the third bedroom were her Mom & Stepdad (SD). All of us had sailed with Norwegian before - but for some in our group, it had been quite a few years. I suspect that Laurabegorrah will chime in here and add her pespective at some point :) Clearly this entire review is simply our perspective of our experience and your mileage may vary.

 

For those of you who really aren't interested in all of the details, here's the synopsis: We had a great cruise. There were some bumps along the way - including a suspected Noro outbreak (not yet confirmed by the CDC last I looked) - but we had an amazing time and continue to look forward to Cruising Like a Norwegian in the months & years ahead.

 

______________________

 

Embarkation & Cruising South

Saturday, November 16th - Monday, November 18th

 

We arrived at the Manhattan Cruise Port / Pier 88 as two separate groups - both via car service. For us, the drop off was pretty easy. The security & check-in process was a bit delayed due to a Coast Guard inspection, but still ran pretty smoothly. It was during the check-in that we first observed what would become a bit of a theme of the week -- a good percentage of guests seemed to have a sense of entitlement and/or spent an undue amount of energy complaining and taking issue with the littlest of things. In this case, the couple next to us lectured the check-in agent for using their first names and insisted that it was extremely disrespectful to do so. When he tried to apologize, they commented that his entire generation had not been raised well and it really was a shame. Yes, I did roll my eyes.

 

After completing check-in, we were pointed to the VIP Lounge where we picked up our key cards and some other information from Carlos (the Concierge). Within a short amount of time, Carlos arrived in the lounge and began greeting guests - some of which had a clear fondness for Carlos from past cruises. We found Carlos to be charming and attentive and by the end of the cruise consensus was that he was the best concierge we've ever sailed with. Once the Coast Guard had cleared the ship, we were able to board (around 1:30pm, if memory serves me right), and we headed straight to Cagney's for lunch where Laurabegorrah and I toasted the day with a "Pear Pleasure" martini as we all chatted and dreamed about the adventure that lay ahead.

 

After lunch, Carlos escorted us to cabin and we all had fun exploring our new home and beginning to make mental lists of all the things we wanted to do. Laurabegorrah had the room decorated with the "Happy Birthday" package (embarkation day was my birthday) and it was quite festive. We registered the girls for Splash Academy (a far more impressive set up than we experienced on the Sun last year) and spent the afternoon wandering the ship, checking out the Casino, and settling into our cabin. We thoroughly enjoyed our sunset sailaway from our private sundeck and took lots of pictures as we sailed down the Hudson River and past the Statue of Liberty.

 

We went to the 7pm Welcome Aboard show to get a sampling of the week's entertainment and then decided to eat my birthday dinner at Le Bistro where we were doted on and shared a fantastic bottle of Silver Oak which we had brought on board. For the record, it was painless to pay the corkage fee & bring our five bottles on board and I would do it again in a heartbeat. We drank four of the five bottles while on board and have set the fifth bottle aside to take with us on our next Norwegian cruise.

 

On Sunday morning, we woke up a little giddy about the day. We started with a late breakfast at Cagney's and then gathered the nametags & slotpull paperwork to head to the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet in Bliss. We had a great showing of more than 60 people & a number of ship staff joined us as well. The girls had fun handing out name tags & helping me "manage" the event. Hotel Director Jenny told the group that a number of new trainee staff had just boarded the ship - and this was extremely good to know as we heard a lot of buzz about spotty service throughout the week which may very well have been attributable to the newness of many crew members. After another lunch at Cagney's, we dropped the girls off at Splash Academy & headed to the Casino for the Roll Call Slot Pull which mommyto2girls helped me wrangle. By the time we arrived, she had already arranged for a round of Rum Punch (on the house) and we had been assigned a machine. We had twenty members of the Roll Call participating and we doubled our money!!!

 

During the next day & a half at sea, we played 80's music trivia, TV tunes trivia, and two rounds of Bingo (without winning ;)), the girls decided that they really liked Splash Academy (thank goodness!) & climbing the rock wall, we all lounged on our sundeck (despite quite a bit of wind!) & in our hot tub, and started gaining weight thanks to breakfasts & lunches at Cagney's, our first of two dinners at Moderno, and snacking galore :p. By our second day, we had already become big fans of Assistant Cruise Director, Dan Dan, who was absolutely hilarious & fun. We also had already begun being spoiled by our Room Steward, Gigi, and Butler, Rizzy.

 

. . . . more to come (I think I need to switch devices so I can add pictures)!

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GiGi and Rizzy are amazing...glad to see Rizzy is still getting to be a butler!!

 

he was our Pool Valet for our cruise and was wonderful and attentive!!

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GiGi and Rizzy are amazing...glad to see Rizzy is still getting to be a butler!!

 

he was our Pool Valet for our cruise and was wonderful and attentive!

 

I didn't realize he had been the Courtyard Valet previously - he was a little frazzled the first evening, but was a GREAT butler once he settled into a routine.

 

Great start to what is going to be a very interesting read!

 

More, please!:)

 

Coming right up :D

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[quote name=puddles99;

After another lunch at Cagney's' date=' we dropped the girls off at Splash Academy & headed to the Casino for the Roll Call Slot Pull which mommyto2girls helped me wrangle. By the time we arrived, she had already arranged for a round of Rum Punch (on the house) and we had been assigned a machine. We had twenty members of the Roll Call participating and we doubled our money!!!

![/i]

 

I have just one question......so far LOL.

 

I have heard conflicting answers about arranging slot pulls. One person stated to call NCL before sailing to arrange and I have read others say after boarding to arrange. How did you arrange this or Mommy2two girls? We will be wanting to do this next oct

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I have just one question......so far LOL.

 

I have heard conflicting answers about arranging slot pulls. One person stated to call NCL before sailing to arrange and I have read others say after boarding to arrange. How did you arrange this or Mommy2two girls? We will be wanting to do this next oct

 

We did it on board. I had tried to contact the Casino Manager before sail away, but I think I confused the hostess when I asked so I just waited until the next day. By then, mommyto2girls had spoken to the Casino Manager and he knew we were coming - it didn't seem to be any trouble at all. The cashier was also great about giving me the payout in increments that made it really easy to divide up the winnings (and tip the bartender & hostess).

Edited by puddles99

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Ok Thank you so much!! I am looking forward to reading more of your review!! So we'll written!

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....Yeah....what she said....

 

hehe.

 

My mom and stepdad had never sailed in a suite before, but got used to Carlos and Rizzy quite quickly :D They also were so insistent that they really only wanted to do the Grand Pacific for breakfast and lunch. But after we took them to Cageny's, they never looked back!

Edited by laurabegorrah

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Thanks for the honorable mention..lol the Slot Pull was fun and you arranged a wonderful M&G. We are so addicted to the Gem. I have to second Gigi as being the best, this was our third cruise with her and cannot wait to see her again in January.

I am so glad you enjoyed the Villa, your family was always smiling and your children so well behaved and polite. You should be proud!

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We have just about the exact same pic of going under the bridge!! I can't find it right now, but when I do, I will post so you can see!!

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In this case, the couple next to us lectured the check-in agent for using their first names and insisted that it was extremely disrespectful to do so.

 

LMAO

Were they the King and Queen of someplace? LOL

 

Great review

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Thanks for the honorable mention..lol the Slot Pull was fun and you arranged a wonderful M&G. We are so addicted to the Gem. I have to second Gigi as being the best, this was our third cruise with her and cannot wait to see her again in January.

I am so glad you enjoyed the Villa, your family was always smiling and your children so well behaved and polite. You should be proud!

 

Thanks so much for your kind words - that's one of the best compliments a Momma can hear!

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Before I begin posting about the ports & our excursion experiences, I thought I'd comment on a few other miscellaneous topics.

 

Misc. Info / Observations

 

I had read here that it wasn't possible to transfer OBC to other accounts and that instead the best way to "share" OBC is to transfer charges from an account without OBC to an account with OBC. We had a total of $550 OBC from NCL (from back when the 9-month suite OBC and DASH Sale OBC were actually combinable :rolleyes:) as well as additional OBC from our Travel Agent. We had agreed to share the NCL OBC among our party with each adult receiving $100 to spend and each child receiving $25. After each adult had spent their $100, I visited guest services to transfer their charges to my account and discovered that you actually CAN transfer OBC. It's a simple form you fill out at Guest Services & the transactions showed up in our accounts within hours. Super simple.

 

Splash Academy activities don't actually end at the time stated on the schedule. The first few nights of the cruise, we went to pick up the girls at 10pm just to be asked to "please come back later" (by the girls, not the staff) because they were still doing the activity & were having fun I wish the schedules wouldn't list "free play" from 10-10:30pm each night as the actual activities lasted right up to 10:30pm. I also wish DH could stay awake long enough to pick up the kids at Splash Academy, but I suppose its his vacation, too! LOL

 

At least in the Garden Villa, you really do get unlimited mixers with the bar set up. We asked for, and received, pina colada mix, sours mix, margarita mix, orange juice, grapefruit juice, & cranberry juice. We also had an unlimited supply of milk / cream for our coffee. We carried on some Starbucks syrups and DH became a master of both the bar set-up & the espresso machine, making me lovely Vanilla Lattes each morning. I highly recommend taking your own travel mug / cup aboard to enable you to move freely about the ship nursing your caffeinated or adult beverage ;)

 

I'm sure I'll think of more random things later!

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See the third photo in post #6. ;)

 

I might be losing it but I see a Sunset. I'm on my mobile??

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I might be losing it but I see a Sunset. I'm on my mobile??

 

The sunset is the first photo in post #7. The two beds for the children are the third photo in post #6. I suppose it's possible that your mobile is only showing you the first photo in each post, though.

 

:confused:

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The sunset is the first photo in post #7. The two beds for the children are the third photo in post #6. I suppose it's possible that your mobile is only showing you the first photo in each post, though.

 

:confused:

 

Thanks. Must be my phone. Weird. ImageUploadedByForums1386177245.034189.jpg.e9e81ac4dc75a54fcf9f331182601976.jpg

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Awesome set up. I looked at the photos on my computer. It appears that a twin trundle bed was placed next to the master bed.

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Awesome set up. I looked at the photos on my computer. It appears that a twin trundle bed was placed next to the master bed.

 

Yes. There is a couch that turns into a twin & then they provided a twin rollaway as well so the girls slept side by side. They were both set up next to the king size bed in front of the glass slider that leads to the hot tub (we just kept those curtains closed the whole time). There is also a couch in the third bedroom that can be made into a twin bed. Hopefully that makes sense!

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Really loving your posts! We are on Gem for the first time for the Xmas and New Year cruise.

Looking forward to info about the ports.

Thanks so much for taking the time to post this for us to enjoy:)

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Caribbean Port Play

Tuesday, November 19th - Friday, November 22nd

 

I am pretty sure we did absolutely nothing other than lounge around on the morning of November 19th as we prepared to arrive in San Juan. I have a friend who we were meeting up with in San Juan, so we didn't plan any type of excursion. Upon arriving in port, we simply disembarked and walked to his place (just up the road from San Cristobal). After having a few drinks and catching up a bit, we set out on a little walking tour. Along the way, he shared with us the stories of some of the local buildings, the cobalt blue cobblestones, and other sites. We wandered past El Morro, down past the Governor's Palace, and along the city "gate". It was an absolutely lovely walk. Eventually we decided to stop for a fabulous dinner at El Jibarito. After dinner, we walked back to the ship (with a few pit stops for souvenir and rum shopping) and said our goodbyes. It really was a lovely afternoon & evening. Sail away was breezy but beautiful.

 

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On Tuesday evening as we lounged in the Garden area, I double-checked the details of our excursion the next day with Captain Bob of Soualiga Destinations (http://www.soualigadestinations.com/soualiga_destinations/Welcome.html). I realized that our confirmation email said that he noted we'd be arriving at 10am and needed to meet him at 10:30. However, we were arriving at 8am! I quickly fired off an email and luckily Bob was quick to respond that he had accidentally sent us the wrong confirmation and that we needed to meet him at 9:30am. Yikes! I was so thankful I caught the mistake (and Bob was extremely apologetic).

 

On Wednesday morning, we followed the directions in our confirmation to the marina to meet Captain Bob. He had a total of three speed boats - each with 12 passengers - going out that morning. We were assigned to Captain Fab's Dive Encounters boat. Fab was, well, fab :D. He ensured everyone had a fun ride in the boat (thankfully my kids LOVED zooming at speeds around 50mph around the island) as we explored the coastlines of the Dutch & French side of St. Maarten. Fab told stories, pointed out sites, and kept us all apprised of the plan for the day.

 

Unfortunately due to recent weather events, there was absolutely no snorkeling to be had this day. The girls were really disappointed about that, but I know that this is beyond the tour operators control. Instead, we spent some time lazing about on Pinel Island, had a little extra time on the beach where we had lunch at a local restaurant (guava berry coladas = YUM!), and then hung out in Maho Bay to see a small plane land and a large US Airways plane take off. All in all, it was a very enjoyable day & the girls just couldn't stop talking about how awesome the boat ride was.

 

I should also note that there were six cruise ships in port this day - including one of the huge RCL ships (I think it was Oasis). By taking this excursion, we really never felt the crush of the crowds. We had passengers from Celebrity and P&O on our little speedboat with us and enjoyed chatting with them all. We did have another little glitch after lunch as we were attempting to reboard the boat - one of the passengers yanked on the anchor rope as it was wrapped around the ladder and the ladder broke off. Only four of us were back on the boat at that time so Fab improvised. He asked everyone left on the beach to walk about the length of a football field to a little dock, pulled out his tool kit & removed the broken ladder pieces, and then went and picked everyone else up. He was extremely professional in how he handled it - especially since he had said "please do not hold the rope" and "please let go of the rope" about a hundred times before this happened!

 

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Thursday we arrived in St. Thomas in the rain. It was gray and dreary and we all felt a little sluggish but we were going swimming with turtles today!!! After the previous days' bust for snorkeling, I really had my fingers crossed that we'd actually be successful in our outing with Fury Charters (http://www.usvisailing.com/) and as it turned out, I had nothing to worry about.

 

As everyone sat shivering during the sail out from the marina, First Mate Nikki took the time to explain why we'd be warmer once we started snorkeling. Both Captain Mike & Nikki got to know their passengers, pointed out sites around the islands, and told wonderful tales as we sailed. Once we arrived at our snorkel destination, Mike & Nikki ensured everyone had the equipment they needed & knew how to use it. Vests, flippers, snorkels, masks, and other flotation devices were provided to whomever needed them. Nikki got in the water and showed everyone the best areas, pointing out sea turtles, sting rays, and various types of coral & fish along the way.

 

We had lots of time in the water & had an amazing time. On our way back, Captain Mike gave the kids a chance to drive the boat, which they loved. We also had a medical incident aboard (another CC member's husband took ill, but luckily a good night's rest and he was back up & out with us for another adventure in Samana) which Mike & Nikki handled with grace & competence. After dropping us all back at the marina, Mike discovered that we had left two raincoats on board and he delivered them to our cruise ship before we left port - definitely going above & beyond! This was one of our top adventures & I highly recommend a day with Fury Charters - we certainly hope to spend another day with Captain Mike & Nikki again in the future.

 

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Our final stop was in Samana, Dominican Republic. I had done a lot of reading about this stop (which is a the only tender port on this cruise) and took the advice of booking an excursion in advance. I can understand why folks don't recommend "winging it" in Samana. We booked with Tour Samana With Terry (http://www.toursamanawithterry.com/) and selected Excursion#3a: Quad ATV+Walk the Plank Zip Line.

 

I had never driven an ATV before, but after a little while (and only briefly scaring other drivers!), I caught on. The zip line was fantastic & long and the local food served for lunch was delicious. We also enjoyed learning about the foods, medicines, and local artistry of the Dominican Republic. For some, the poverty of this area may be shocking, but seeing how the locals lived provided an opportunity to discuss cultural and economic disparity with my kids. I'm glad we spent the day in a less touristy destination & expressed our gratitude to the local community by purchasing wares from local vendors who partner with Terry. This is another excursion that we would absolutely book again.

 

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loving re-living parts of our 9-day on Gem last January through this review…and we were even in the very same room ;) Waaaahhhh, I wish I could go back right now!

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loving re-living parts of our 9-day on Gem last January through this review…and we were even in the very same room ;) Waaaahhhh, I wish I could go back right now!

 

Me too! :D Maybe someday I can retire to a GV. Could you imagine?

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Misc. Info / Observations Part II

 

We were excited to once again partake in a Chef's Table experience during this cruise but the Executive Chef decided not to host one. Bummer! We did eat at several specialty restaurants, however and had very nice meals at La Cucina (which we were pleasantly surprised with), Le Bistro (fabulous as always), Moderno (twice), and Orchid Garden. Our waiter in La Cucina was either new or just really scattered, but his assistant was quite lovely and attentive. Our Orchid Garden experience was a bit odd . . . we attempted to walk in because they were "green" on the seating boards but they told us they had no tables available. We could see that only about four tables were in use, so we called the concierge who escorted us back. I felt really bad about it at first because I feared we might be bumping someone who had a reservation but the entire time we ate, only two other tables were seated and the restaurant remained more than half empty. It was very odd - but at least the food was good!

 

Our group was a bit mixed on the entertainment & production cast. Laurabegorrah's stepdad thought they were fantastic & chose to attend some of the shows twice. I personally thought they were "fine." I went to the Welcome Aboard show & Get Down Tonight. They were fun shows. We also attended the Variety show the last night because I just had to see Fountains ;). We didn't take in many singer / musician performances unless we stumbled on them as we were wandering somewhere else.

 

Butler delivered room service is awesome. Since we were in the GV, we had a large dining table that could accommodate up to ten people. Two evenings we ordered a variety of meals from several different restaurants. By ordering room service, we were able to pick and choose who wanted which appetizers, entrees, and desserts and none of us felt like we needed to "settle" for something we weren't in the mood for. One thing I will note is that multiple restaurant orders does delay delivery - the one evening we waited over an hour. But who cared? We had no where we needed to be! :D

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