My husband was skeptical, he is not the cruising type, but booking a European cruise got him on board, so to speak. We arrived in Barcelona on Friday morning and spent 3 days in that amazing city before we boarded the Gem on Sunday afternoon.
We took the subway train to the station closest to the port and then a taxi into the dock area. We boarded about 3 pm and embarkation was exceptionally easy, no lines at all. We were greeted with a glass of champagne and went to our cabin. We had a balcony room, not huge, but well laid out. The bathroom was nice and the bed was especially comfortable.
The whole ship was very nicely decorated with lots of cherry paneling, other than the Vegas style carpeting in the hallways and our room. Especially liked the art-deco styling of the Main Dining Rooms. Although the ship is large and was at capacity, we never felt crowded or like there were huge crowds anywhere. The pool does seem small for the size ship, but we didn't use it since we were there in October.
The food was good to very good. We live in San Francisco, so we have pretty high expectations. I'd say the food was always good, and sometimes great. We only ate in the buffet once, as the crowds and food made the experience just okay. We loved the main dining room for breakfast (never a line) and for dinner, as well as Magentas. Since it was such a port heavy trip, we never had lunch on board. We paid the up-charge to eat in Teppanyaki ($25pp - but worth it and fun), Sushi ($15 pp - great sushi!). We went to the wine tasting in the Italian Restaurant which was very nice as well.
Entertainment on board was okay to great. The magician just okay. Musical numbers pretty good and Second City Comedy was great.
Service was wonderful throughout the ship. We were constantly greeted by everyone from officers to cabin stewards. All the wait staff were attentive and helpful. By the time we went to the last show, when they had all the crew get up on stage, everyone in the audience actually gave them a standing ovation.
We did all our own shore excursions, none with the cruise line. It was easy for us. In each port, we planned each day to visit one tourist site, have a great lunch and then do some shopping.
We loved cruising, we loved NCL and can't wait to go on our next cruise with them