I thought I would add this review since previous reviews didn't actually provide information that is useful to future passengers. I hope this will be helpful.
We just returned from the Gem March 8/08 cruise. What a great vacation!
There were four of us, my DH and my two sons (13 & 16). We drove from Ottawa to NYC on Thursday -- what a very smart move that turned out to be -- huge snow storm on the Friday. We had a great time in New York for a couple of days. We did get to see Young Frankenstein on Broadway -- a great new experience for the boys. This is our 5th cruise and our boys' 3rd cruise. We have cruised from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, New York and Port Canaveral in the past. We definitely prefer to leave from New York, it is the best pre or post cruise port for us for many reasons (shopping, shopping and did I mention shopping?).
It was a painless embarkation process and we were on the ship at around 1:30pm. We thought we would check to see if our cabins were ready, and they were. We were in a mini-suite in cabin 11586 and the boys were across the hall in an inside, 11585. Great location, mid-ship. The cabin was excellent, clean and well appointed. The balcony was a good size, roomy enough for the two chairs that were there, but could have fit loungers. The boy's inside cabin was a wee bit small. It was able to sleep three, but two was enough. Our cabin stewards left our cabins spotless everyday and even made cute towel animals. We read the riot act to our boys not to leave every article of clothing around the room, the room stewards have enough to contend with without our lads leaving their drawers on door knobs!
The ship was just beautiful. Fabulous furniture!!! It was like something from Dr. Seuss or Alice in Wonderland. The décor over all was very modern and funky. As a realtor who sees dozens of homes each week and doing staging for clients, I really appreciate what the designers have done. Bliss lounge is hot hot hot!!!! My DH had a quest to lounge in the yellow or blue chairs (Loungers?) in the spinnaker lounge and read. Every time we were there it was "I really must try THAT chair."
The service was fantastic. We had terrific service from just about every staffer we encountered. I know so many people wonder how the restaurants and dining rooms are on the ship. In my line of work, I entertain a great deal and I spend far more time and money in restaurants than most people. I don't do Denny's or buffets. My standards tend to be very high and I am a tough cookie. I have to say the food and service that we encountered was excellent. We ate breakfast mainly at the Grand Pacific dining room, we went to the buffet with our boys a couple of mornings. There seemed to be just about anything most people would like in the breakfast buffet, omelets, pancakes, yogurt, fruits etc. The dining room had much of the same thing, only without the crowds. I prefer to sit down, have a cup of tea and get my French toast in a quiet place. I did see one old sourpuss in the dining room -- the miserable old bag had a face like a slapped arse -- she sniffed her nose that something came out in the wrong order (toast? jam?) and was rude and horrible to the wait staff. This crabby article was saying to her long suffering husband "it's the language issue blah blah". Meanwhile, two of the servers were waiting on this misery guts hand and foot. I doubt this old sourpuss would treat someone in their local diner with such distain. Just an FYI for all those rude/nasty/miserable people out there -- smile -- your face won't crack.
During the week we ate at La Cucina (twice), Tequila, Teppanyaki, Le Bistro and Cagney's (twice). We didn't venture into the main dining rooms for dinner, so I can't comment on those venues. La Cucina was very good and the service was terrific. The servers were very accommodating to our boys, they got served quickly so they could head out to the teen club activities and left us to have a leisurely dinner. Tequila was fun -- yummy sangria and the oddest looking meal. We had Il popo, which was chicken, beef and vegetables on this hanging contraption. Teppanyaki was delicious. My hollow legged boys walked away full. Le Bistro was a highlight -- excellent service and an excellent chateaubriand. We went to Cagney's with the boys one evening, and one without. Both evenings were very good, but the second evening it was a nice romantic dinner just DH and myself. We saw Prem, the Hotel manager and the Food and Beverage manager (sorry I forget his name at the moment) every single night. Each night we ate about 7:30 or 8pm, so that is when they do their rounds. We had absolutely no trouble getting reservations and we never waited to be seated. After a nice chat with Prem in Le Bistro it is clear that they take service and guest satisfaction very seriously. We were very impressed with the manager's level of visibility.
As an aside note, we brought several bottles of our own wine, which we paid corkage. Yes, we are wine snobs. We know they cannot store wine properly on a cruise ship, so there is a limited selection of really good wines. The $15 corkage was a bargain, as the wines we brought with us would have easily been marked up to the $80+ range -- so the $30+ per bottle we paid at the LCBO was money well spent. We also brought my diet caffeine free coke and Gatorade on board. We also did a bar set up.
My eldest son spent quite a bit of time in the gym, he didn't seem to wait for any equipment considering the number of spring breakers on board. The boys also played quite a bit of basketball. I don't think they got on the rock climbing wall -- the day the teen club was supposed to use it they couldn't for some reason. The boys also spent a great deal of time at the Blue Lagoon, ordering 'quadruple' order of chicken fingers (I am not kidding!!). They stayed up til all hours hanging out in the Leopard lounge and various places around the ship. They didn't haul their lazy carcasses out of bed til at least 11am. We laughed when the 'herd' of teenagers would go by, usually munching on something. The tall skinny one was my youngest. They all seemed to be quite well behaved and no reports of any mischief from this group. They just ate their way through the ship. One funny note -- the young lads booked a table at Tequila and all the lads were in their collared shirts and long pants -- no issues with these lads dressing appropriately for dinner (I guess only some adults have trouble getting dressed). They were all between 13 and 17 btw.
We saw the comedian Ross Bennett a couple of times, he is quite good. We saw the magician, my DH liked him more than I did, but it isn't my cup of tea. We saw the World Beat show -- usual cheesy stuff. One of the highlights was Carrie Stone in the Maltings bar -- she is a very talented singer/songwriter. She played lots of cover songs, but her original material was fantastic. We saw Second City (which I normally love) in the stardust theater, which was ok. We saw the scriptless show later in the week, again which was just ok. I know each show is different, lets hope this troupe gets a bit more on the ball for later cruises. We participated in the Quest on the last night -- oh my gawd was it fun!!! We had a crazy group and we all did our bit. The only thing we didn't come up with was false teeth (that's all I'm going to say -- nudge nudge wink wink).
It was a very mixed demographic on the ship. As to be expected there were hundreds of our fellow Canadians on board. It was our March Break in Ontario, so there were lots of families. There were also lots of US college/university spring breakers (lots from UConn it seemed). There were a fair number of seniors on board too -- I did hear a little bit of griping about the number of kids. But hey -- if those passengers didn't know it was school break time they should get a better travel agent or do more research online. We did see a good friend of ours from my boy's karate studio. He spent time trying to avoid my eldest so he didn't have to do push ups and chin ups (he says "Callum is an animal -- I am too old to keep up!"). Big ship, small world?
The first day at sea we went to the CC meeting. It was nice to see all the senior officers there for the M&G. We lounged around the Spinnaker, read and had a nice chat with Seashark (Len) and had a couple of drinks. Everyone was enjoying the funky furniture on the cool, sunny day. Many people were sound asleep on the beds and loungers. Perfect place for that! For Port Canaveral we didn't bother getting off the ship. We were going to go to KSC. We have been there a couple of times before. The day was so nice, there was so much going on around the ship we thought 'what the heck, let's just stay'. We had a great day! On GSC we got off, found a bit of a quiet spot (yes there is some there, you just have to stay away from the crowds on the beach) and had a wonderful day. In Nassau we booked a room at the Comfort Suites to use the facilities at the Atlantis resort. The boys had a fantastic time using all the waterslides etc. In the small world category, I saw my boss and his wife there. Huge resort, thousands of people, we met in the lazy river pool. In Freeport we took a taxi to the Sheraton and went to the beach. It was a very nice beach, the weather was great. The last sea day we just relaxed, went in the pool, read and lounged.
Overall we had a terrific week. Lounged, read, relaxed. Yes, I know I brought my laptop and did some work (don't give me a hard time Len!!). Our boys had a wonderful time meeting new friends and hanging out. We enjoyed going to a different restaurant every night, five minutes from "home". We had a great time bowling -- or at least my pitiful attempt at bowling. We even had a little luck at the casino. We would definitely do another cruise from New York.