I will try not to ramble on, but want to give a clear impression of this ship. I will break it down by category.
Embarkation: Arrived in NY around 11am and grabbed a cab to the dock. Dock is a stones throw away from Penn Station, about a $10 cab ride. Entered the terminal and proceeded through security fairly quickly. You will be given paper numbers that designate when you may board the ship. When your number is called, that group may proceed to the boat. Unfortunately, the wait to check in, get the room cards, etc, took so long that we were still in line when our number was called. There should be a more efficient way to have people board, but we've sat through worse. We boarded the boat on Deck 6, right in front of the Java Cafe.....welcome to the 70's.
Public Rooms: Ship was pretty clean. Public rooms were adequately maintained.
Cabin: We had a balcony stateroom, 10148, towards aft of boat. Cabin was kept very clean (thank you Sharon!). Bed was not very comfortable. Shower was bigger than anticipated. All in all, the room was fine.
Fitness & Recreation: The Fitness Center has an area for free weights, the main area with machines and treadmills, etc. And a seperate room for stretching, etc. Note to early risers: There was a sign in the free weight room stating you could not use them between 6am-8am. Come to find out there are staterooms UNDER the gym and those folks were complaining about the noise from the weights. This is unacceptable. Either inform those under the gym that they may hear noise, or do not rent out those cabins. Yes, I worked out anyway during this time......apologies to those below the fitness center.
The aft of the boat has a rock climbing wall, and a basketball/tennis court. BIG waste of space Hardly used. It would be a perfect space for another pool, as the only pools on board are in the middle of the ship.
Rates: OUCH! Be prepared for anyone 3 years and older to pay a $12/day charge for the mere privilege of being in the cabin. But wait.....I thought I had already PAID for it beforehand. In our case, 2 people, 7 days, $12/person = $168. So you're in the hole this amount before getting your first drink.
Dining: Everyday the cruise director would rave about the "World Class" cuisine on the boat. Really? Really? First morning we ate breakfast at the Grand Pacific main dining area. Ordered a ham & cheese omelette. Cheese used was not real cheese (orange and applied like cheese wiz) and was not melted. Fake cheese on a boat? We learned to go to the buffet and have an omlet cooked to order. Somehow they have real cheese there.
The selections in the main dining areas were not great. Menu did not change much from day to day. We did pay the $20 and ate at the brazilian restaurant for my girl's bday. Food was not top shelve and the staff did nothing to honor her birthday.
If you want a pizza delivered to your room, $5. We did this twice and both times the pizza was pretty raw (and we asked for it well done).
In short, if you are one who cares about what goes into your body food-wise, you will be disappointed. If you are the type who likes to gorge on crap (hamburgers, hotdogs, etc), you will be in heaven.
Just a side note - we never felt "right" after eating on the boat (espeically breakfast).
Entertainment: We saw the comedian Phil Tag. He was very good. The other shows didn't really interest us.
Service: Our room steward, Sharon, was fantastic! Other than her, the service was ok. We've cruised Royal and Princess in the past, and service was much better.
Shore Excursions: We did not do any, and thank god we didn't. Both the stop at their private island, and Nassau, were rained out. Alot of people forfeited their excursions because of the weather.
Disembarkation: NCL actually did this very well. The fastest we've ever been off a ship. We did early walk off, and was off the boat by 8am or so. Very fast!
Value: NOT GOOD. I have spent less money on other cruise lines and have had superior service.
Overall: In my opinion, the GEM is due for a complete overhaul. It needs a total redesign: better pool layout, better food, etc. With some of their new ships now in service, take this one offline and spruce her up.
I realize this review is very negative, but I wanted to be very frank about how it really is.