2018 Eastern Caribbean Cruise

Company: Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)
Ship: Norwegian Gem
Duration: 11 nights/12 days
Dates of Travel: 2/13/18 – 2/24/18
Departure Port: Manhattan Cruise Terminal, New York, NY, USA
Countries Visited: St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Puerto Rico (USA)

Read about our trip!

Anticipation before Departure
Getting There
Shore Excursions – The Plan
Sea Days
St. Kitts Beach Day
St. Lucia Trolley Train
Barbados Cave
Antigua Beach Day
Old San Juan
-Reflections

Decisions, Decisions…

Our son, Kai, was two months away from his 2nd birthday. My husband, Michael had suggested my parents, Kai and me take a trip somewhere warm during tax season. He is an accountant. During busy season he works 6 days a week. He leaves the house around 6am, and doesn’t get home until 8 or 9pm.

My parents ended up agreeing to treat us to a cruise! I hadn’t been on one since 2014.  Four years ago, when we dogless and childless, it was a completely different experience!

There were several cruises available for us to take. However, it was important for us that we didn’t have to fly somewhere first then go on a cruise. When we started the planning process, we eliminated any ports that weren’t driving distance from Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

That left New York City! At the time there were only two cruise lines that departed from the NY/NJ area: Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises. We selected NCL, based on price and style of travel.

Style

NCL offers more of a “freestyle cruise”, where there are no formal nights and no assigned tables for dinner, etc. I would say it’s more casual than other cruises we have taken in the past like Holland America, Royal Caribbean, or Carnival.

Programming

I kind of wished I saved all of the daily program booklets we got every night. There’s so much to do on the cruise ship. There’s something for everyone. Events happen throughout the day. There’s BINGO (for a fee), a casino, shops, restaurants (complimentary and ones where you have to pay extra), four hot tubs (two family and two adult only), two large pools (one adult only), a large water slide, a kids splash pad with a kiddie slide, a game room (stocked with playing cards, board games, etc.), a reading room/library, a gym/fitness center, a spa (services and ammenities available for use for an additional fee), a running track (on Deck 13), several gaming areas for giant chess, giant checkers, a basketball/tennis court area, and I might be missing some stuff…but you get the idea!

Specifically for children, there was the Splash Academy. You need to be 3 years old and above to send your kids there. It’s a parent-free zone. There are cruise ship employees who watch and organize activities for the kids.

Kai was under 3 at the time, so we were able to play in a designated area for children under 3. The “guppies” playroom was rather small though :/ but it was useful. The staff also organized a half an hour children program everyday at 5:15pm.

Planning ahead?

Little did we know the week we booked the cruise was the same week as school vacation for the schools in New York City! Everywhere you went, there were people everywhere. There were pros and cons to this. Kai loves people. He loves saying hi and seeing them around. He actually behaves a lot better when there’s more people around. Kai is a very social child. He loves interacting with everyone.

The downside was when we had to eat. The buffet was always very crowded. Getting food took longer than normal. When we went to dine at a sit-down a la carte restaurant, the food took a longer time to get served.

Shore excursions were also got booked up pretty quickly.

Internet/Phone

We got the “Distinctive Package” onboard which included 250 minutes of wifi usage along with 150 minutes of international calling from our cabin. This was extremely useful since we left my husband back at home. We used all of the minutes from both the internet and calling. It worked out perfectly.

My only complaint was how slow the internet was! The cruise ship uses satellite internet, so it was super slow. And, they don’t charge you based on how much GB you use. It’s based on minutes. So, please keep in mind when you login to logout as soon as you are finished using the internet.

You have to connect to the wifi on board. Then when you want to use the internet you go to www.login.com to use the services. Keep in mind if you have the promotion, you must use the primary member’s name, email address and birthday to claim the package.

Let’s Sum Up!

At time of booking

Since we booked less than 90 days before departure (I think), the full amount was due.

Guest Fare = $1,858.00 for 4 people (because we got buy 2 get 2 free if we shared a cabin)
Government Taxes/Port Expenses/Fees = $811.48
Travel Insurance (Essentials Package) = $100 ($25/person)

Subtotal (before gratuities, on board expenses, and shore excursions) = $2,769.48

Shore Excursions

St. Kitts Beach Day where we took our own transportation = $67
Barbados Cave visit – took our own transportation = $173
Antigua Beach Day – took our own transportation = $68
We only did one shore excursion through the cruise ship, and we had a $50 shore excursion credit per cabin, per day we were docked at port (with one of the promotions they were having). And the St. Lucia Trolley Train shore excursion we took was $45. So we essentially got that one for free!

Subtotal for Shore Excursions = $308

Gratuities

They send you an invoice with these charges the last day of the cruise. They didn’t charge my son Kai for the on board gratuity.

Subtotal for gratuities= $13.99/person/day = $503.64

Subtotal for Souvenirs = $200

Since we didn’t get a beverage package or anything, we didn’t have any extra charges in that department. We also didn’t purchase any food or go to any “paying” restaurants.

TOTAL COST of vacation = $3,781.12

Thank you for reading! Want to read more about our past cruises (sans baby)?
Alaska Cruise with Holland America 
Western Caribbean Cruise with Carnival

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