Sailed from new York to the Bahamas with my wife ans 3 1/2 yo daughter (and 13 friends). This was my third cruise, first on NCL. I enjoyed the free style atmosphere, and would rate NCL as my favorite cruise line.
Overall the Gem was nicely decorated and had plenty of room. I never felt crowded, even on sea days. The service was very good, no complaints, and the entire crew is very friendly. I took the "behind the scenes" tour, and would highly recommend it, for those who like that sort of thing.
While the pools did become somewhat crowed, there was always room to swim. My daughter loved the children's pool, but be warned. The pool is DEEP (5'9" all around) I could not stand up in the pool. This could be a potential problem. Also, the pool is very salty. A shower is necessary after each use. While the pool deck was also somewhat crowed, our group never had trouble finding a couple of deck chairs to share.
EMBARKATION - Fast and easy. Arrived at 11:00, on board by 12:00. had lunch, and the rooms were ready about 1.
CABINS - Stayed in a mini-suite on deck 11. The room was a nice size, and the three of us never felt cramped. There was plenty of closet/storage space, and the balcony was fine. The bed was good, but the pull-out sofa bed was hard as a rock.
DINING - The first night we ate at the Magenta. The smallest portions I have ever seen. All of my party had to order seconds. Also, it was very cold in the room. Service was very slow. Food was good, lobster was very good.
We ate at the Grand Pacific twice, both time it was very enjoyable. The atmosphere and service were better than the Magenta, and bigger portions. The food was very good. I tried the "regional special" each night and wasn't disappointed.
We ate breakfast each day, most lunches and a couple of dinners in the buffet. All were good. You have to look around though. For example, the bacon at the front of the buffet was rare, while at other parts of the buffet it was crispy. The food was uniformly good, and a good selection. We were always able to find seating, and my daughter loved the children's area at the back.
We ate at Moderno, in a word, fantastic. Good atmosphere, good service, and excellent food. We also ate lunch at the sushi bar, again excellent food, and a decent selection.
We ate one dinner at Orchid Garden. Avoid. while the appetizers were serviceable, the entrees were terrible.
The BBQ poolside was good, with a good variety of food. The lines were not that long if you waited for after the initial rush.
ACTIVITIES - The shows were uniformly good. I enjoyed each stage production. Second City was bad.
I got the pass to the week pass at the spa. I enjoyed the hydrotheropy pool and other facilities, but I don't think I would get it again.
FAMILY - My daughter loved the kid's club. The counselors were great, and on the last day they put on a circus; it was great.
EXCURSIONS - We stayed on the ship in Port Canaveral, as did many others. Great Stirrup Cay was OK, but as the other reviews point out, it is very rocky. Water shoes are a must. The buffet was good, and not overly crowded.
We went to the Dolphin Interaction at Atlantis. My daughter loved it. Atlantis is very expensive.
DISEMBARKATION - Great. We got called at 9 (15 minutes early) and was out of the facility with our bags by 9:30.
I truly enjoyed the cruise, and I recommend NCL, and the Norwegian Gem, to all.