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Back on The Sea Again: Gem 08/29/2021 Review


AKR2011
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Our last day of vacation started way too early, but at least we didn't get forced out of our room (which has definitely happened before). We knew that we had a long day at the airport ahead, so we made sure to eat a nice big breakfast at the buffet:

Breakfast.thumb.jpg.78d37110d9c559e7a588ed4c3e9b2c80.jpg

 

We were off the ship very quickly and were called about 20 minutes early. I filled up my water bottle with ice, because I read that although you cannot being large liquids into the airport, you can bring ice. I wanted to have enough for cold water throughout our stay. We said goodbye to the port at breakfast:

228230864_PortofMiami.thumb.jpg.e53775f15f18fdb159dde71cad0eb415.jpg

 

We were at the airport by 9:45...for a 5pm flight. I had read that you couldn't check in until 4 hours prior, but this was not the case. Delta took our bags outside, and then we went through security quickly. I was hoping for a nice big terminal with a shopping mall vibe to stay occupied, but I was sorely disappointed. Delta at Fort Lauderdale is about 8 gates, and we couldn't pay out of pocket for lounge use. Instead, we just moved around to empty gates throughout the day for social distancing. I didn't want to wear an N95 until the plane (of course we had our normal masks on), so that was the best idea we thought. I did have some projects in my carry-on. One of the port days I picked up a journal to sew:

1707050089_JournalKit.thumb.jpg.151e995b5ea70f068714c3caf222e703.jpg

 

I always love crafts at sea. They're free and usually really good quality. Definitely better than all of the trivia prizes we are always fighting to win! This project took over an hour, and I was happy with my result:

Journal.thumb.jpg.31fad66c367925846c00647c372f63b2.jpg

 

On another port day, Tony grabbed me a cord organizer kit made with plastic leather that had to be sewn:

1972393685_CordOrganizerKit.thumb.jpg.945fbdde63fe30e2a2c4ba413380ee01.jpg

 

This project took almost 3 hours, and I was not happy with how the decals ended up, but it was fun to make and occupied some time:

1168603159_CordOrganizer.thumb.jpg.c88b6efe1587d08602d08afa33237888.jpg

536754371_CordOrganizer2.thumb.jpg.d54402387780e9a77d436127f3926744.jpg

 

We eventually ate food at the worst Shake Shack ever. It took 40 minutes to order and receive our food, they didn't have any shakes, and my diet soda was practically water (I returned that immediately). It was a sad end to our vacation. We read books, we walked in circles a lot, we played games on my tablet. Finally we were able to board for La Guardia. I had asked earlier if we could get an earlier flight, knowing that the airport would at least be more interesting, but no luck. It was a little stormy for take-off, but generally a nice flight:

1147138755_FortLauderdale.thumb.jpg.aa9fb5aba4fe9afa2ecd3bdb99791b23.jpg

 

We settled in and were happy with the free movie selection. I caught Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish in "Here Today," a great movie about dementia that I highly recommend:

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We transferred and took our second flight to Syracuse. We knew this was the end:

Plane.jpg.44c509881e9cb16597f80dca21eefea5.jpg

 

We made it home by 11:30pm, spent Labor Day with my parents telling stories and doing the rest of our laundry, and then headed back to work the next day.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS:

  • NCL has been advertising "The Great Cruise Comeback," and it was definitely that. The crew were some of the best that I have encountered on any ship and reminded me why we continue to sail with NCL. The ship was in tip-top shape, and crew were always cleaning and sanitizing. We felt safe the entire time and had a very relaxing week.
  • Although we had been to most of these ports before, I had a lot of fun digging into other things to do. There is always something that I didn't know existed and that gives me a new experiences. I can't wait to ride an electric bike again! Every guide that we had was knowledgeable, friendly, and attentive, and we made sure to tip them all knowing how hard it has been without tourists and knowing that since these tours were mostly private, ours were the only tips that they would get. I know tipping is a controversial topic, but I've worked in the service industry. Trust me, it means a lot and you don't forget.
  • We had a couple issues that I pointed out with the safe and the room temperature, and those were disappointing, but we didn't let them ruin our trip. I will always be thankful just to be on vacation, and I smiled ear to ear most of the week no matter what happened.
  • Food is always subjective, but besides runny scrambled eggs and Buffalo sauce that tasted like BBQ, I had no problem with any meals. Whether we ate at a free venue or specialty, the food was hot and plentiful, and service was great. We never had a single meal that was more than an hour, and most were around 40 minutes.
  • The bartenders were all fantastic and willing to experiment or offer new things. I became a big fan of Grasshoppers and AMFs, and I'm glad that I got to try that crazy shot. I wish I tried more things, but I definitely took full advantage and had probably 15-20 drinks every day. Thanks to my excessive water intake, I never felt sick but always felt happy. I have nothing but love for the beverage package!
  • This cruise was REALLY short to us after our last two being 14 days and the ones before that being 10 and 9. Because of that and because my parents want to come next time, we are booked in 2023 for a Back-to Back on The Pearl. We are doing the last Bermuda cruise and the first Canada/New England cruise out of Boston, so my parents have a choice of which leg to join us on. When you book on the ship, you get a free category upgrade, and I found the same great sideways interior on both sailings with the help of Cruise Next. This week I transferred it over to my TA for a bigger discount. Very easily done, and it was all switched within just a couple hours. I'll catch you all back for another review eventually:
  • Countdown.thumb.jpg.a0f84bdc59a5f791f3113654e14210e1.jpg

Thank you to everyone who has read along, linked my review to other threads, left comments and love, etc. I just want to help others have the best vacation possible, so hopefully I did that. In the meantime, I will live vicariously through everyone else's reviews and start planning our next adventure. Thanks again, everyone!!

 

~ Ashley

Edited by AKR2011
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21 hours ago, Shellbelle28 said:

Tell me of these crafts you speak of. I have NEVER seen craft kits and I've been on a lot of NCL cruises! 

 

8 hours ago, janroatan said:

Where did you find the Craft kits? Onboard?

 

This seems to be a popular topic. I have often seen crafts in the daily. I liked the ones this time, because they took awhile and were not simple origami or paper flowers like you often see. As for other craft kits, I have definitely done other notebooks in the past, and I don't have themg anymore since I used them up. I have done a frame three times, and this is the one on my desk at work:

Frame.jpg.88d188630f817fd9629b99cfd05db930.jpg

 

I also made a really cool treasure box on a cruise that lives on my desk at work:

Box.jpg.4eefac9089d45f67519a32b4717d23a3.jpg

 

I keep notepads and pens inside, but I took them out to take this photo for you:

1984996878_BoxInside.jpg.b337ea5f3dd6bce65766486c80a65f70.jpg

 

So yes, crafts at sea definitely have existed before, and hopefully they will continue. I definitely still love and use my stuff!

 

~ Ashley

Edited by AKR2011
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22 hours ago, CruisinMama2003 said:

Im sad this review is over, but happy that you had the best time! Thank you for such a great review!

Thanks so much for reading. I really appreciate it!

 

20 hours ago, meatball_nyc said:

Thanks for the review. Bravo!

 

heres to the Gem, Whiskey, games and the Ocean!!

Cheers!! I hope we cross paths the next time I get to sail out of the city. That is still my favorite embarkation port ❤️

 

19 hours ago, SenatorsFan said:

Thanks so much for your review, Ashley. It was a pleasure to follow along with you. I was very impressed by the variety of your excursions. You really picked some good ones! 😀🍹

I appreciate your comments. I really dive into the ports to find unique things. It makes vacation seem longer when I build up to it for so long!

 

19 hours ago, janpa70 said:

Great review. Sad that it's over. I've also been so enjoying it.

I am sad too. Thank you following along and commenting.

 

21 hours ago, luvcruzing said:

Thank you, Ashley, for this.  You looked like you were having a great time.  It was a fun read.

I really appreciate you being here. It was a blast!!

 

6 hours ago, Travelicious said:

Great review, Ashley!  Thanks for sharing.

Thanks for your comment and for reading!

 

4 hours ago, Carnac767 said:

Great review.  Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thanks so much for following along!

 

 

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1 hour ago, AKR2011 said:

 

 

This seems to be a popular topic. I have often seen crafts in the daily. I liked the ones this time, because they took awhile and were not simple origami or paper flowers like you often see. As for other craft kits, I have definitely done other notebooks in the past, and I don't have themg anymore since I used them up. I have done a frame three times, and this is the one on my desk at work:

Frame.jpg.88d188630f817fd9629b99cfd05db930.jpg

 

I also made a really cool treasure box on a cruise that lives on my desk at work:

Box.jpg.4eefac9089d45f67519a32b4717d23a3.jpg

 

I keep notepads and pens inside, but I took them out to take this photo for you:

1984996878_BoxInside.jpg.b337ea5f3dd6bce65766486c80a65f70.jpg

 

So yes, crafts at sea definitely have existed before, and hopefully they will continue. I definitely still love and use my stuff!

 

~ Ashley

I have a beautiful kokui nut lei and one made from grosgrain ribbon that we did on our Hawaii cruise, but since then all I've encountered are the sad copy paper origami activities. I'll have to look harder at the dailies next month on the Bliss! 

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This was a GREAT review--thank you!! You guys are much like us: a happy marriage where some people get up early and others...don't.  Lots of book-reading and interesting excursions otherwise!!

 

I waited until the end because I was afraid everyone else would also ask then people would say 'REFER BACK TO POST xxx", but what is the game Puerto RIco? We are also big game players so I got pretty excited about it. Have you guys tried the game Watergate? It's a pretty good two-person game. Anyway, great review and I wish you the best for your next cruise! 🙂

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Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed review.

 

Maybe you answered this somewhere but was the cruise entirely mask free (while on board) and was everything open and back to normal as far as you could tell?  No COVID protocols?

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22 hours ago, Shellbelle28 said:

I have a beautiful kokui nut lei and one made from grosgrain ribbon that we did on our Hawaii cruise, but since then all I've encountered are the sad copy paper origami activities. I'll have to look harder at the dailies next month on the Bliss! 

I really want to do Hawaii someday. Bucket list for sure!

 

20 hours ago, rmandmm said:

This was a GREAT review--thank you!! You guys are much like us: a happy marriage where some people get up early and others...don't.  Lots of book-reading and interesting excursions otherwise!!

 

I waited until the end because I was afraid everyone else would also ask then people would say 'REFER BACK TO POST xxx", but what is the game Puerto RIco? We are also big game players so I got pretty excited about it. Have you guys tried the game Watergate? It's a pretty good two-person game. Anyway, great review and I wish you the best for your next cruise! 🙂

Thanks so much for your comments. We do have a very happy marriage, and cruises definitely help to focus on "us" instead of those that we serve in our field. Puerto Rico is a resource collecting Game that is very fun. It's typically for 3-5 players (there's a version called San Juan for 2 players I believe), but we adjust the pieces for the two of us and make it work. WE love geeky board games and often find good deals on used ones from boardgameco dot com. I will have to check on Watergate. I just read a review, and it looks like fun. Thanks for the recommendation!

 

11 hours ago, TSUmom said:

Great review!  Thank you for sharing with us!  It is so wonderful to have people cruising again and sharing the cruise and pictures with us!

Thanks so much for reading. I am loving all of the reviews on here lately. So many great stories!

 

7 hours ago, Rob-Bob said:

Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed review.

 

Maybe you answered this somewhere but was the cruise entirely mask free (while on board) and was everything open and back to normal as far as you could tell?  No COVID protocols?

It was mask free for passengers in the ship the entire time, but crew had to wear masks. The only Covid protocol that I noticed was the personal and very brief muster drill when we got on board and the lack of the crew parading on stage on the last night. There was also no Dinner With the Officers or Behind the Scenes Tour for Platinum, but I found that totally reasonable. It was a very normal cruise at half capacity with no kids. NCL did a great job!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Have to concur with everyone else great review and wonderful pictures. Have a few questions

am going on the Gem November 28. There is an open bar included but the I saw that you can add another level. Which package did you choose?

 

How much did you tip guides and bartenders?

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57 minutes ago, Nywoman1940 said:

Have to concur with everyone else great review and wonderful pictures. Have a few questions

am going on the Gem November 28. There is an open bar included but the I saw that you can add another level. Which package did you choose?

 

How much did you tip guides and bartenders?

Thanks for commenting. We just had the beverage package that came with Free at Sea. Most drinks were under the $15 limit. In fact, I think it was only Alex's Chocolate Martini on Day 1 that we paid the $2 difference on. You prepay gratuities on the package, so no additional tip is needed, but I usually tipped $1 when a bartender brought me a drink as opposed to me going to the bar. It's always up to you on if/when you tip. There were so many bartenders ready and willing to bring drinks, never any wait.

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 9/14/2021 at 7:33 PM, AKR2011 said:

We went to Bar City, and Tony was down there asking for the Jameson that I owed him. I went to get a double shot and ended up chatting with a couple at the bar for probably half an hour. They're on CC too, and we shared our love of NCL cruises. They told me about a shot that I just had to order, so I brought the whiskey over to Tony and returned to grab these shots for myself and Alex. Presenting Alien Brain Hemorrhage shots:

 

It was great to meet you Ashley - glad you got to have those shots!

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