We had never cruised on NCL and after reading the member reviews were anxious to begin our cruise on the Gem.
Overall we were quite impressed with the Gem and the Free Style concept.
Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the pier early, around 10:15. Being we drove and wanted to park at the pier we got there early to get a spot. The parking at the terminal was crowded as two or more ships had gone out the previous week but we had no problem. Once we got into the terminal we got on line and checked in within 15 minutes. Sat down and waited another 30 minutes or so and around 11:15 boarding began. The whole process was easy. On the ship and went to main dining room for lunch.
The ship was very clean throughout. The staff friendly. Easy to navigate around and it did not feel too crowded except in the buffet and around the pool. There were many children but one pool was designated for the kids and one for adults. Staff did a great job enforcing rules. No problem finding lounge chairs on upper decks. However the pool deck was very loud. Music was loud, The assistant cruise director Krazy Kristine was very loud. Towards the end of the cruise the kids were just running around the entire ship.
The entertainment was ok, nothing spectacular. The pool band was very good as was the ventriloquist . Never had a problem finding a seat for a show.
Dining was good. Never waited for a table in any of the restaurants. The staff was very good in Grand Pacific. It was also a very nice atmosphere. We had breakfast at The Great Outdoors buffet. The main buffet was always crowded and too loud to enjoy. The pool grill was good. No line and good selection for quick lunch or snack. We dined in the Italian venue La Cucina and enjoyed it very much. The food and service were excellent. We also tried Cagneys steakhouse and did not enjoy it. The steaks were not what we expected and my wife and I both returned them. We did not feel it was worth the $30pp up charge . The room was nice though. They refunded one of the $30 up charges.
Other than La Cucina the food was average. The steaks not good, the fish was very good in Grand Pacific.
The cabin was very clean and our cabin steward Ray was great. The bathroom was small but very clean. The room temp was always very comfortable. The bed was ok. The balcony was nice size.
The only issue was you could hear everything from the next cabin and everyone slammed their doors. Plenty of storage for 7 days. Closet had light inside. TV remote did not work. Reported to steward and it worked then did not work.
Ports of call were good. Went to Port Canaveral. Huge. Not really a port of call. Went on airboat excursion. It was ok. Next stop NCL private island Great Stirrup Cay. Tendering was awful. Over 3 hours to get ashore. Only had two tenders running back and forth. Island clean but not as nice as Half Moon Cay. Next stop was Nassau. Went on Blue Lagoon Island excursion. It was terrific. Clean, the staff was friendly and the included lunch was good. Hamburgers , hot dogs and chicken but it was good. Very relaxing and not crowded, we did the beach only option but they also have dolphin encounter for extra fee.
Began our return to NY. Two nice days at sea.
Disembarkation was easy as we did the early walk off. It was confusing regarding disembarkation as we did not receive any instructions. We found out that is also free style as you go to an area near main desk and choose your time to get off and take your own luggage tags.
One additional comment. There are way too many announcements. They have an announcement for everything. It is already in the daily planner, no need to repeat and repeat so loudly. I am on vacation and want some peace.
We were pleasantly surprised with the Free Style concept.
We would consider NCL again. Probably when school is in session as there were too many kids.