This was my second Norwegian cruise - first one was 2 years ago in Hawaii. I really enjoyed the 2 days at sea both going and coming - allowed me to get some badly needed rest and to acquaint myself with the ship.
Ports of call were great and the weather was terrific the whole time (I know the cruise line can't control that!) But it was a lot of fun. Shore excursions were priced reasonably, but next time I think I'd explore more on my own.
Food was good and plentiful. I found the Magenta to be claustrophic and really preferred dining in the Grand Pacific - service was great and fast. Ate some meals in the Garden Cafe and enjoyed them. Ate in 2 specialty restaurants - Tappanyaki and La Cucina. La Cucina was very nice and food was good. Tappanyaki had good food but I felt rushed there - like they had to get us fed and out the door to get ready for the next group. In these types of restaurants, they usually make a big show out of the food preparation, ie. making a volcano out of the onions, etc (did on the Hawaii cruise) but here they seemed to be concentrating on getting the food cooked - fast.
My stateroom was fine for one, but it would have been very cramped if there had been 2 of us. One thing that was missing - and which I really missed - was an in-room coffee maker. We had them on the Hawaiian cruise and would have really enjoyed having one on this cruise. Other people commented on it also and also on the nickel and dime-ing that we felt was going on. There was a huge push to purchase jewelry, liquor, t-shirts, etc on board with "specials" coming up constantly, plus "deals" on bingo, casino, etc. On the Hawaiian cruise we had a decent size refrigerator with nothing in it but what we placed in there. This had a tiny refrigerator stocked with soda, wine and liquor at very inflated prices.
I wasn't traveling with children but some of our group were and they said the kids had a ball - there seemed to be a lot for the kids to do.
Went to most of the shows and thought the entertainment was fair to good. The first night we had a comedian who was very good but he left the ship in St. Thomas. The big show at the end was postponed to the last night as we experienced rough seas and there was a concern for the safety of the dancers. It was worth the wait - the washee, washee fellow from the Garden Cafe came out last and stole the show. I've read criticisms of the Gem saying the washee, washee, happy, happy, smiley, smiley stuff was a turnoff but I felt they got something essential across in a fun way. I am a healthcare professional and know what the norovirus can do, so I appreciated that they required us to wash as we came back on the ship and every time we entered a place that served food. Right after we got back one of the Celebrity ships - in fact, I think it was the one we were berthed with in several ports - reported an outbreak with 350 people sick with the virus. Sure glad it wasn't us!
The seas were VERY rough coming home - barf bags were out by all the elevators - but we survived. People shared meds and methods for dealing with the queasiness and we made out fine. Don't think the cruise line is responsible for the sea conditions.
Like I said at the beginning, I really like Freestyle Cruising and plan to do it again.