Note: We are laid-back kind of people. We didn't do much activities or went to the pool deck. Our room was a vacation oasis.
Before this cruise, I cruised on NCL with my family in 2010 (NCL Dawn). Having such a great time on the Dawn & NCL, I had to recommend another NCL ship when my SO wanted to go on vacation. We wanted to go out of NYC (very close), and the Gem was perfect for the price and availability.
Originally, we were suppose to go in a penthouse suite, but after figuring we wanted to go sooner and save some money, we settled with the next best thing: a mini-suite. I was not disappointed at all!
First of all, the room is very large! Plenty of room for two people (I can even see four vacationing comfortably!). We were greeted by our stewart who was very keen on our requests and knowing our names. He was also very friendly knowing that we were a gay couple (a fear I had since booking). Our steward made sure there was plenty of ice, cleaned-up after our messy-selves, and even folded our clothes if we threw them on the ground (we tipped accordingly).
On the second day, Larry (the room steward) brought us robes and a nifty NCL note-pad without us asking. I'll be honest, I had very low expectations because when I cruised on the Dawn, I was 18 and did not know what to expect or what should be expected. Larry kept us at ease and came-and-left without us knowing he was there!
If you think the décor looks gaudy, think again! It only looks gaudy in the images. When you leave the ship, it is one of the things you'll miss!
We had a very spacious bathroom when you first walked in. It has three separate compartments: a toilet, a washing station, and bathtub/shower arrangement. I loved the tub! It was very deep and fit me very well (I am a bigger guy).
When you walked passed the bathroom, the bed was big and had a large closet that I never used (there were so many drawers and storage space throughout the room for even a 9-day vacation!). Passing the bed was a curtain that separated the bed area and sitting area/pull-out couch (perfect for families who would like to have privacy). The sitting area was large; after getting room-service, we had plenty of room to place dirty dishes without being bothered by them. The curtain that separated the two areas was perfect for keeping all the sun out of the bedroom area (I am a late sleeper).
The balcony was big enough for the both of us. A lounge chair can even fit on the balcony if you desire (the people next to us requested one). It was a standard balcony that all balcony rooms got, but was by-far the largest in the industry for the price. My only complaint was that the windows and glass were salt-crusted, but I am sure Larry would have done something if we asked (we didn't).
WONDERFUL! Of course not everything was perfect, but it was everything we needed.
For breakfast, we are not heavy morning eaters, but the room service for breakfast was great! The coffee is fresh and hot, and they have small pastries for enjoyment. They give you a door hanger to record what you would like that you put on your door before you go to bed. They come when you tell them to, and it was perfect.
I LOVED enjoying my coffee al fresco watching the blue waters while I got ready (at my own pace). By the time we would leave the room, it would be lunch and we would usually go to the 24/7 dining option that had great light lunches and fast service (Blue Lagoon). We would then attend some activities, walk around, and do whatever pleased us.
When dinner-time came around, we would retreat to our room to freshen up (it was such a great feeling that everything was prepared for us in our cabin by the time we returned).
For dinner, we attended mostly the speciality restaurants. What a treat! Money was well spent in all of the speciality restaurants. It was very nice to return to a room that was re-cleaned after dinner.
I don't really want to do a ship review because this was about the room, but if you want an alternative to a balcony but don't want to dish out the money for the suites, a mini-suite is a perfect option.
If you can do without a lot of walking room and a bathtub, go for the balcony, But for a real treat, the mini-suite is truly a mini-vacation on a great ship!!