Our third European cruise with different ports. The Gem is much the same as the Jewel which we were on last year in the same category suite. This time we had a total of 6 people.
Embarkation in Venice-We arrived by train since we were already in Italy with our kids. We made the mistake of using the baggage service we thought was run by cruise lines but NOT. 5 euro per bag to get to the ship. It did save us hauling it over the bridge ourselves but for the cost we could have used a taxi instead of looking for the "free shuttle" to the ship. We ended up walking a mile since the shuttle never showed up after an hour wait. Other shuttles ran 2 or 3 times while we waited. We tried to get on another cruise shuttle but they would only carry their own passengers. Bad first impression.
Once at the port we went to the suite line and checked in and wet the concierge Ruth and waited in an area with snacks and drinks. Around 1:00 we got on the ship and dropped off carryons in room and ate lunch at Cagneys. This was the best suite benefit of all. Service was always excellent and food was great. We had dinner at Cagneys one evening and it was great. We ate at the main dining rooms most evenings and only used the garden cafe buffet twice. Breakfast was okay (no comparison to Cagneys) and the one lunch there was very crowded but we found the selection more than adequate and overall quality excellent. Seating was a problem but we finally found a spot.Room service was excellent in our suite. We asked for a pitcher of tea with our food and received all we asked for. The coffee makers were great but we were not able to get more than 1 or 2 pods of regular coffee a day because they had supply issues. This is my biggest complaint. Don't provide me an excellent machine and then tell me I can't have the coffee to go with it.
The room was always well taken care of and we did have a couple of messy people who really did require more attention than normal. We did tip everyone extra under the circumstances. The ship was clean. We don't barhop but did use the spinnaker lounge and casino as well as the bowling alley and pool areas. We saw the magicians show which was quite good. The other show we saw was the Cirque type show which I loved but my husband could take it or leave it.
I thought overall this experience was not quite as good as on the Jewel but it was a different itinerary and a year ago. I would cruise on this ship again and difinitely on NCL. Since we had a suite I think our experience was better than if we had a standard balcony but I also believe you get what you pay for. Hope this helps anyone trying to decide on the Gem.