For those that prefer detail, I have done a review giving a lot of information. For those that prefer bottom line results, we were both very happy with this NCL cruise: the ship was attractive and well laid out; both the food and selections were generally very good (excellent number of choices at the buffet); the service was pleasant, friendly, and generally efficient; a lot of choices for entertainment; and plenty of activities to keep you busy, even on the four days at sea. The main downsides: mediocre coffee and a somewhat small outside cabin. Details follow.
Our previous cruise with Norwegian was in 2008 and unfortunately had many aspects that we did not care for. It was therefore with some anxiety that we started our 9-day Norwegian Gem cruise to the Caribbean. Our first impressions were very good: the ship was very attractive and we enjoyed both the selection of food at lunch and also the quality. This held through the rest of our dining experience, with the Garden Cafe buffet having an unusually large selection of choices, all of which we found to be tasty and well prepared. The two main dining rooms had a good selection of everyday choices that were similar in each dining room, but not identical. I occasionally wished for a larger or more interesting selection of daily specials, but they were usually reasonable enough. The 24 x 7 dining area (the Blue Lagoon) was another dining option, especially for late night snacks, and the two optional, extra cost, restaurants we dined at were excellent. The lowest point of the food quality was NCL's coffee, which could have and should have been better.
The liquor prices seemed to be comparable to or better than similar cruise lines we've sailed with, and I was impressed with the availability and cost of some high end options (such as Remy Martin XO and Johnnie Walker Blue). I just wish there had been a list of what higher end options were available.
A minor downside was the size of the room, which was somewhat smaller than similar cruise line cabins. By itself this was not much of a consideration except we were in a cabin with a bunk bed on the wall; given the small quarters, I had to constantly be careful getting into and out of bed not to hit my head on the folded up bunk bed. On the other hand, the storage space was as good as any ship we've been on and the shower was the roomiest (and with the best drainage) we've had.
The rest of the ship was well kept and attractive, with areas for almost any activity that a guest could want, from a rock climbing wall, to (extra cost) bowling, a nightclub venue, a large (!) screen in the atrium used for daily movies and seminars, quiet areas for reading or listening to piano or guitar music, in addition to the obvious activities like the pool and card room. NCL was especially good at one of our favorite activities, with generally three or more trivia contests a day. There was a large mix of ages on board, and all seemed to be accommodated nicely.
Cruise lines have done a very good job upgrading their entertainment options, with more choices than just the usual song and dance routines. On our cruise we had comedians, a hypnotist doing everything from comedy to weight loss and stress relief, and the Second City comedy troupe. There were also various game shows and many of the family oriented shows and game shows had adult versions later in the evening.
One our first full day on board the hotel manager (Steve) spoke at the CruiseCritic Meet & Greet, where said that one significant reason for Norwegian now being the fastest growing company in the world was by paying attention to guests comments. The major turnaround from our previous cruise shows that they really are paying attention and that such an effort works.