I've read many of the reviews here on the Gem, and our experience was a very positive one as opposed to some of the other reviews I read. The negative reviews actually had me concerned before going. We, however, had a wonderful time.
We arrived a couple days early so we could see the sites in Venice. What an amazing city! I am so glad we decided to do that before leaving on the cruise.
We did not use any transportation provided by Norwegian. The Crowne Plaza hotel we stayed at arranged a taxi to pick us up in the early afternoon. We had been advised by the taxi driver that picked us up from the airport to not show up at the port until 1:00 or later because it's crazy at noon time. We took his advice and are very happy we did. There were 4 of us so the taxi ride to the port was a total of 60 Euro. (Which is less per person than the shuttle ride Norwegian offers)
Because we arrived around 1:20 or so, the embarkation was a breeze. There were signs clearly marked where to go. It did help that the taxi driver dropped us off at the right spot as well. We immediately turned in our luggage and it didn't take long after that to get on board. They used a group numbering system for going through security. We didn't wait very long for our number to be called.
The ship itself is very clean. We were impressed with how they were always making sure things were clean. They were often vacuuming for example. The decor is a bit loud, but aside from that, it is a beautiful ship.
We really enjoyed our room. We had a mini-suite which was very spacious and had plenty of storage space for our clothing and anything else we needed put away. I liked the fact that there was a separate vanity area for getting ready with a blow dryer. The bathroom was very spacious as well. The best part of all is the balcony. We loved having that private outdoor space.
Our room stewards were very good. They addressed us by name every time they saw us in the hallway. Our rooms were always very clean and the made sure we always had clean towels.
The food wasn't terrible or amazing. I don't go on cruises for the food though. The main dining rooms had decent food. We only ate at an up-charge restaurant twice. The first time was at the Tex-Mex. I don't think that was worth the up-charge price. I think the food in the main dining rooms is better. The other time was at Teppanyaki. This restaurant was worth the up-charge. I would say the food was very good. It seemed to be the most popular as it was always booked and reservations are necessary to get in. We had called for reservations a little after 7:00 AM, and the only times left were 5:30 PM and 9:30 PM. We know for next time to call the day before if we want other times. The buffet was good for breakfast. The omelette station will make you a fresh omelette and you just tell the cook what ingredients you want in it. Overall, the food on the cruise was fine.
The service was very good all over the ship. It felt to me that the crew wanted to make sure we were happy.
I've read people complain about nickel and diming. All cruises charge for alcohol and they do approach you in any public area you sit in, but you don't have to buy anything. And if they approach you for anything else, (such as bottled water) just say no. It's up to you as to how much you spend on the ship.
We really enjoyed most of the entertainment on the ship. The Broadway style shows were very enjoyable. I personally enjoyed the last one the most which was called "World Beat". There are a total of 3 of the Broadway style shows and we enjoyed them all. The magic show was good, but the magicians assistant, who is also his wife, wasn't wearing much clothing; especially at the end. The last night was an opera singer. He was very good. He sang music from Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli. Opera isn't really of much interest to me, but I appreciated his talent. The only entertainment I really didn't enjoy was the female singer by the pool. She sings flat constantly and it was hard to listen to. Okay, so that's my one negative comment. The male singer was very good though.
The ports were all very enjoyable. They were all unique from one another which made it even more fun. We did not do any shore excursions though the ship. We knew it would be cheaper to do things on our own. I did hear the kayaking in Split was a lot of fun though which may have been worth it because that's not something you can do on your own.
The debarkation was painless as well. You can pick up colored luggage tags that represent the time you would like to debark. We had pre-arranged for a taxi to take us back to the airport so we were able to select the tag that best suit our time, which was great. You do have to be out of your room by 9:00 AM, but there they do have to start getting the rooms ready for the next cruise coming aboard, so there is a good reason. We were sad to leave the ship but walked off very happy happy, smiley smiley. (This will mean something to those who are taking this cruise)