Well other than my honeymoon, this is the only cruise I have taken. We went as a family with my in-laws who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. There were 8 of us traveling together, 2 of them kids (10 and 14). We choose the Gem only because of the location. One of the members of our party does not fly, so in order to cruise it had to come out of New York. We arrived on the pier at around 11:45 am and we were on the ship by 12:45 pm. As soon as we got on board, we went to the restaruant reservations to reserve a table for 8 in the Grand Pacific dining room for my in-laws anniversary dinner that night. At around 2 PM we were allowed to go to our rooms. We got a connecting stateroom with a balcony mid-ship, so that the kids would have one room and we would be in the connecting room. This worked out great. If we had all tried to stay in the one room it would have been a disaster as the rooms are very small for 4 people. We found the stateroom to be clean and we meet our cabin steward rather quickly. It was a little odd because we had connecting rooms and we had a different cabin steward for each room. The kids room was taken care of by Immee and she did a fabulous job keeping the room clean and all our needs meet. She always greeted us by name when she saw us. The other cabin steward was just as friendly, but did not give us the extra care that Immee did. The biggest problem with the staterooms was the lighting was dark and it was hard to read.
We ate at the Grand Pacific that night and the food was excellent. Our server was very attentive also. Overall, the breakfast buffet at The Great Outdoors was our favorite meal of the day each day. Oatmeal, cereal, eggs, biscuits and gravy, fruit, bacon, sausage, pastries everything you could possibly want and more. The buffet for lunch and dinner we ate at a few nights and their were many choices. Very clean and above average food for a buffet. For the kids e purchased the soda program and it was well worth it. We drank flavored water and iced tea at dinners and it was fine for us. We ate in the Magenta one night and the food was very good. We ate at the Grand Pacific the last 2 nights of the cruise and we were given outstanding service by our waiter Andrew from India. He was quiet, but very attentive and friendly. We liked Andrew so much that the second night we requested his station.
The entertainment was ongoing. We saw a couple of the shows and they were high quality shows. The kids played WII tennis on the big screen and that was fun, but with so many people on board they only get to play one match for 5 or 10 minutes. There was shuffleboard, bowling, basketball, checkers and chess on the deck as well as the rock climbing wall. The tennis was in the basketball court, but only set up from 8 - 10 am. The golf was a very small area that you hit into a netted area. We were told that there were 1300 kids and 1100 adults on our cruise and it was very crowded especially on sea days. The pool area is not that big. There are only 2 pools, one for kids and one for adults. The adult pool was closed many times when we were there, so not much to do but watch or sunbath on the deck.
Overall, the ship was great and there was plenty to do onboard.