My mom and I took a New England/Canada cruise together on the Gem, sailing out of Manhattan in October of 2013. As a point of reference, I am a youthful and active 47 year old woman, mom is also youthful and active, age 70. We are both seasoned cruisers with about 6-7 cruises each under our belts. I have been on Celebrity (3 times), Carnival (once), and Holland (once) in addition to this Norwegian cruise and mom has been on Norwegian a couple of times, as well as Holland and Celebrity (a few times).
The ship is in great condition, with great public spaces. Entertainment was top-knotch, particularly with respect to the singers and dancers who appeared to be Broadway-quality. The shows are, of course, hokey, but fun nonetheless. There are nice variety of evening activities - different types of themed dance parties, game shows, karakoke, etc. and for the most part they are a lot of fun. With the exception of the rude and hostile Manhattan Norwegian port staff, the rest of the staff were friendly, warm and lovely people who work hard to give great service. The restaurant service is friendly and efficient, although not particularly sophisticated or polished. The cabin was small, but very well designed and the beds were super comfy and plush, with quality (Egyptian cotton?) linens and super plus pillows. It was like sleeping in a cloud! We absolutely LOVED the outdoor pool which was very nicely heated (maybe 90-95 degrees) so we could enjoy it, even though the weather was cool. Oh, and a special mention for the sun deck ("Quiet Zone") with round wicker lounges on the top forward outside deck. BLISS!!!
The main thing that would prevent me from booking another Norwegian cruise is the food. Out of everything I ate the entire week, there were only about 3 things I would rate as very good. Everything else was just average (diner quality food) and in some cases, there were things that were just inedible. Let me just say that for me to take one bite of a piece of chocolate cheesecake (with Oreo crust) and toss it in the trash says something because I have NEVER met a piece of chocolate ANYTHING I won't eat, even chocolate cake from a box. But even my mom agreed....this cake was just awful. Most of the dinner food in the main dining room was decent-tasting but oversalted and at times, processed-tasting. Desserts were just so-so. Most of the food tasted cheap and processed. French fries were, in most cases, cold or lukewarm at best. Breads and rolls were at times stale. Pizza was akin to Ellio's. Even the ice cream - which is something I love - wasn't that good. The scooped ice cream tasted like a cheap, overly-processed generic grocery-store brand. The soft serve ice cream wasn't any better. In fact, I had it once and never went back to have it again (if you knew me, you would realize this says a lot).
I was irritated with all of the nickle-and-diming....the fact that while there are something like 10-11 restaurants on the ship, most of them required a surcharge. The food in the complimentary dining areas wasn't that great and the menus didn't change much. More nickle-and-diming: I would have loved to use the indoor spa pool (especially since this was a cool weather cruise) but they charged $110/week for use of the pool, and did not offer day passes. On one of our Celebrity cruises, the spa pool was free to use (I don't know if this is still the case). Everywhere we turned, they were trying to make money off of us and we really had to be careful, lest we leave the ship with a bill of $1,000! (It could easily happen with a few drinks/day, excursions and other things they charge you for).
The passengers on this cruise were mostly eldery, with the average age in the 60s - 80s. Many canes and wheelchairs. Not many young adults or even youthful middle-aged folks. On the plus side, very few children, which made for a more relaxing vacation.
P.S. Ports were (for the most part) beautiful, particularly Halifax, Bar Harbor and Newport. St. John is nothing special and the Bay of Fundy isn't anything to look at. Can't comment on Boston as we stayed on the ship (we needed a rest day).