This was our 10th NCL cruise and first trans-atlantic crossing. The cruise left from Barcelona and we flew in a day early from NYC to be well rested before boarding the ship. Really did very little in Barcelona but roam Las Ramblas for awhile and the Barri. Went to the famous market and had the best ice cream ever. The embarcation was the easiest we have had. We were led to the latitudes area and the procedure was over in about 5 minutes. The crew on the Gem were wonderful from the moment we stepped foot on the ship. There was a line-up of crew all smiling and welcoming. NCL is very diligent with sanitation and right from the start our hands were sprayed and the crew member said washie, washie!! This is silly, but fun. And immediately set the tone for the friendliness of this staff. We were told we couldn't get to our cabins until after 2 PM. So, we headed to a quiet place which turned out to be the Star Bar tucked away on a top deck. Great place to spend some time with no interruptions.
Our cabin was an inside on the 9th deck. It was one of the largest we've had on NCL and we had tons of space for storage. We also loved the small refrigerator which our steward emptied for us as we were not going to use the drinks it was loaded with. I want to note, this was my first trip being a gold latitudes member. We had a large fruit bowl waiting for us on arrival. We were sent priority tender tickets and priority disembarcation tags. We didn't have to ask for anything as everything was taken care of and I appreciated this.
Let me talk about the Gem a bit. She is a beautiful ship and very clean. The atrium, especially after recently experiencing the non atrium on the Zuiderdam, was very well done. It is not soaring like the Spirit, but lots of comfortable seating, ceiling and glass art and very dressed for the Christmas season. The public rooms, especially Spinnaker on the 13th deck, Bliss and both Grand Pacific and Magenta dining rooms are very comfortable and well presented. Bliss is something to experience with its bowling alley and beds for lounging. We spent some time in Maltings Bar and Magnums both of which were great for drinks and people watching.
The specialty restaurants we experienced were La Cucina and Cagney's. We enjoyed La Cucina although I missed the "trolley" of olives, cheeses and salads they had in the past. Cagney's was what we are used to in a top restaurant in comfort and service. The food I can't comment on fairly, as we were both suffering from 6 days of storms on the open Atlantic and couldn't really enjoy the meal.
I'll comment on our ports in another section, but I'll close with a comment on the crossing. It was a very stormy and difficult crossing. Lots of people were ill and spent lots of time in cabins. The ship never stopped pitching and making lots of noise. However, the Captain spoke to us every day with information and the crew was wonderful in attitude and their ability to take care of us while balancing on a pitching ship. I'd sail anytime with NCL, but I think for a trans-atlantic crossing, I'd do it a bit earlier than December.