This was our first NCL cruise, we have previously sailed with Cunard.
First the departure was delayed, and the itinerary changed. Embarkation was delayed too, so some people sat in the terminal for 8 hours waiting. To compensate they provided the nastiest hot-dogs and sandwiches you have ever seen.
The itinerary change meant a sea day instead of the day at Great Stirrup Cay. At first this didn't seem like a major problem, and we were given $100 credit to the stateroom ($50 each). The reality became we puttered along at 15knots through rough seas to delay the arrival at Cape Canaveral by a day. It seemed everyone was locked in their stateroom while trying to combat sea sickness, or were out and generally miserable. I watched a poor lady chuck all over herself, and the floor - not pretty. So we got to the Cape a few hours earlier than the original plan (albiet a day later) - why, I don't know. It was freezing, and devoid of fun. It is a highly industrial area with nothing to do, but get ripped off by NCL for activities that should have cost half as much and been twice the fun. Highlight (for many): shopping at Walgreens (seriously).
On to Nassau. It took forever to get off the ship - there was a delay in the clearance process. Everyone huddled in the staircase by the gangway waiting (and complaining) as their only chance for sun metered away. Finally on land, the weather was okay, but Nassau is dirty and full of noxious fumes from poorly maintained busses and cars. Shops are over priced and it feels like they have some kind of scam going with the cruise line, as the ship's tele tries to indoctrinate you into believing certain stores are the best place to buy (insert precious stone here). People there were very polite and friendly to give them credit. Atlantis is quite a hotel, but it is locked down to non-guests unless you pay up to NCL. It costs $8 round-trip to get there and walk around "public areas" food is out-of-this-world expensive - piece of pizza $10, bottle of water $7. Free internet outside of the terminal.
Back on the ship. Hope to catch a few rays while still in warmer waters, grab a stale beer for $7 and wait for it to end.
On board things are bad. The food is horrific. Honestly ghastly - day one/two/three feeling regret, afterwards with the same stuff day after day - wishing for death. You think paying up to get better food will help? It won't. Same #$*! different room... okay marginally better but not $15-$20 pp better, not even close and with more regret like "I can't believe we just spent another $50 for that!". Don't do it.
Most meals are at the buffet where you can serve yourself and not have to wait for bad service in the free sit-down places. Good luck finding a seat, or a seat without someone else's leftover mess. Tip: At breakfast you can bring your tray into "La Cucina" it's less crowded. For entertainment watch the omelette makers learn on the job.
Entertainment is sub par, music is not great. The broadcast of stage shows I saw glimpses of on the cctv were scary. The tv proper has about 3+ channels of intermittent reception - MSNBC, BBC, E - no GPS map. Pay per view movies. Lot's of propaganda about where and how to shop. Small screen.
The spa is by far the best entertainment available. Hot tub, bubble/massage pool, and heat chaise longues are co-ed. Steam room, sauna, and personal whirlpool tubs are unisex. The facilities are clean, and the atmosphere is decent. Free cold OJ anytime.
Mini suites are fairly spacious and tastefullish. The bathroom is large and functional. Other than the tv issues no complaints.
One word: Annoying. Phrases like "washy washy" upon entering the dining area, and an obnoxious "Bye-Bye" from the cruise director after every announcement make you feel like NCL believes their passengers are a bunch of dim-wits. Meanwhile there is always someone attempting to sing, or whistle and are way off key and not improving the general enjoyment of the passengers.
On ships like the QM2 the staff function with military precision, professionalism, and are constantly at your service. On the Gem most seem generally unhappy, and are certainly very disorganized, and very inefficient - you are not a priority. The exception was the room stewards, who were generally competent, although they didn't always honour the "Do not disturb" setting on the dial. In all fairness, I'm sure most staff members are trying hard to do well, in what may or may not be a good situation behind the scenes. Please don't complain, no one gives a toss.
The few announcements from the bridge were useless, and the presence of the Captain as an ambassador of the line non-existant. Crew rotate ships every six months, they hate it there - I heard the IT guy say so to other passengers.
Avoid. Depending on the stateroom it seems like a good price for a seven day vacation, but the fact is to get any semblance of quality you are getting into the more luxury price range for a distinctly less than luxury experience. Pay up front and buy a ticket on a higher end line.