We booked this cruise because it was an unbelievable deal, and it departed out of NYC, so we saved ourselves a trip to Florida. We sailed with Norwegian many times before and had generally good experiences.
We arrived at the dock around noon, and based on what some previous customers commented on, we expected a long check-in process. Not true. Check-in was smooth as can be and as good or better than what our general previous experience was (47 cruises).
Went right up to the buffet and were pleasantly surprised about the variety and quality of the food offered. Yes, it was a bit crowded up there, but it is a relatively small ship and on the first day lots of people take their luggage up there while waiting for the cabin to be ready.
Our cabin (el-cheapo inside) again was a bit on the small side, but very functional. Sufficient storage space, clean, good mattress and a Flat TV that worked flawlessly (unlike some of the modern ships we were on where the TV crashed every once in a while).
The general décor and lighting of the public areas on ship looks a bit dated, but it is functional and clean. Yes, you get a bit of a ‘nickel and dimeing’ feeling, but hey, what do you expect for the price you pay?
We spent most of our day time around the pool which we thoroughly enjoyed. There always seemed to be a lot of activity around it, including an almost daily offering of poolside BBQ and lots of music. And talking about music, they had lots of it throughout the ship. And of pretty good quality too! Shows and night time entertainment was slightly above average.
The food on this ship was also slightly above average. Special mention goes to the Bistro (extra pay) restaurant. While our past experience with these venues is not too good, this one was great. We did test the onion soup which was offered in both restaurants. We suspected that it would be the same soup in both, but it wasn’t. The one in the Bistro was totally different and much better. Also, the meat in general seemed to be better that what we expected. If every ship has something in the food they excel at, it would be the desserts in the Gem. They had a great variety and excellent quality.
My recommendation: Try to avoid the crowds. Inexperienced cruisers always want to be first. So, check in late and you will have no line up. Then go right to the Blue Lagoon instead of the buffet. When tendering, get to the boat late, and when disembarking, be the last one off the ship.