Went on this cruise with my wife for our honeymoon. This was our 2nd cruise with NCL (NCL Star in 2011). The Gem is a great ship - well kept, clean, tons of stuff to do & a great and friendly staff.
Got to the pier at 11am & was on the ship by 11:50am. No long lines, tons of porters to help with luggage, very smooth check-in. I noticed for people that arrived later than us some longer lines were starting to form, but definitely none of the crazy horror stories that people were talking about in previous reviews.
Went to the Grand Pacific MDR for lunch & by about 2pm the rooms were ready.
We booked a mini-suite on deck 11 (starboard side so we could see the Statue or Liberty as we sailed out of NYC). The room was very clean, had a full sized bathtub & had a ton of storage for both of us. Our room steward Loney was great. Always available, hard working, friendly & made us towel animals every night. If you are a smoker, spring for a balcony cabin or better...TRUST ME!
We spent alot of time relaxing on our balcony just listening to the ocean below us.
The only drawbacks to the room was the tight space where the toilet was & the lack of an outlet near the bed.
Positive - A ton of different choices of specialty restaurants (for a reasonable fee). We ate in LeBistro, Moderno, LaCucina & Cagney's and all of those meals were excellent...great quality food, nice portions & delicious. The Blue Lagoon is a free 24 hour diner that has yummy comfort food & an awsome brownie sunday.
Negative - The buffet was the exact same for breakfast every day & the food was luke warm at best every meal we had there. The quality wasn't the best. Both of the MDR's & the Blue Lagoon had good tasting food, but again was always luke warm & had some of the smallest portions I've seen that weren't on a kid's menu...it's almost as if NCL wants to embarrass people into asking for a double order.
OMG!!! We booked a swedish couples massage & I have never felt that relaxed in my life! The only downside was the sales pitch they made to us to buy the products they used on us. I would also recommend the spa pass so you can enjoy the special pool & heated chairs. Also, it's quiet & no kids are allowed.
San Juan - Bacardi Tour w/ evening city tour of Old San Juan...boring as hell & not enough time to explore San Juan.
St. Maarten (not ship sponsored) - Took a cab to Maho Beach (next to the airport's runway)...beautiful beach & fun experience watching the planes fly right over our heads....good drinks at the Sunset Bar & Grill located right on the beach.
St. Thomas - Mini-speed boats & snorkeling...fun driving the boats & saw a ton of fish while snokeling including stingrays, puffer fish, etc.
Samana - ATV Adventure...drove from tender pier to rain forrest, hiked about 10 minutes to a waterfall, drove ATV's on beach & then back to pier...had a blast!
Very good...don't miss the Man From Mars show (Cirque style show)
Off the ship by 10am, very organized & luggage was waiting for us on the pier.