We chose Norwegian because of the freestyle aspect - my parents do not like getting dressed up, or told when to eat. I know other cruise lines have adapted a "your time dining" option, but I've heard that it can be chaotic, and overall, it is much more smoothly implemented on Norwegian. Also being a first cruise, we wanted something simple, so three days docked in Bermuda seemed to be perfect (also factor in that the cruise was a week after my 21st birthday!)
EMBARKATION: We loved embarking from New York, as it was only about a half-hour drive. I found it to be efficient and organized, and we did not wait very long at all to board.
CABIN: We knew that four people sharing a room (my mom's cousin had her own room) was going to be tricky to execute. We decided on an oceanview room because my mother felt she would be too claustrophobic in an inside, and also did not want to spend the extra $$ on a balcony room. While the cabin was indeed quite small, we found that we made it work well. The bathroom seemed to be utilized efficiently.
DINING: We had embarkation lunch in the Grand Pacific dining room. We had every breakfast at the Garden Cafe, save for one morning where we ate at the Blue Lagoon. The Garden Cafe had an array of choices, and pretty much something for everyone. I especially loved the smoked salmon and the eggs benedict with spinach. Most days I was too full to enjoy lunch, but a hot dog and fries from Topsiders (with extra pickles!) satisfied whatever hunger pains I had. Even my red-meat phobic mother loved their hamburgers. We changed it up for dinner - we ate at both Grand Pacific and Magenta (which have the same menu, but Magenta is the smaller and more casual of the two). We also had dinner one night at the Garden Cafe, which was nice, but I preferred that venue for breakfast. The adults also dined in Cagney's, which they said was outrageous. They enjoyed jumbo shrimp cocktail and salmon and ribeye and filet mignon. My boyfriend and I dined one night at Orchid Garden, where we enjoyed Asian dumplings and noodles, and Tequila, where we enjoyed potent margaritas, fajitas, and lobster tacos. We felt that every specialty restaurant was well worth the extra charge (Cagney's - $25 per person; Orchid Garden - $15 per person, Tequila - $10 per person). We also utilized room service once, which was prompt, and ate at the 24 hour Blue Lagoon several times for late night snacks. I was kind of disappointed in the Chocoholic buffet.
ENTERTAINMENT: We enjoyed several shows in the Stardust Lounge - the 70s show, the acrobatic show, the Second City Show and the Crew Talent Show. We also went to the game shows in the Spinnaker every night (Perfect Couple, Newlywed-Not-So-Newlywed, and Dancing with the Gem Stars - which my boyfriend and I both competed in! and the adult Second City Show). We enjoyed the theme dance parties (The 50s rock and roll, 70s disco, the White Hot Party, Classic Rock Night, and Beatles Night). During the day, we kept ourselves occupied by the pool, or by browsing the shops, or taking some classes that were offered (Napkin-folding, line dancing, improv workshop). My father and boyfriend often took to playing in the ping pong tournaments.
PORT: We were in Bermuda for three days, but honestly, I enjoyed myself more on the ship! We went to Horseshoe Bay Beach the first day, then to the aquarium/zoo and St. George the next. My mother shopped around the dock the last day, but I preferred to stay on the ship.
SERVICE: What a great team of people. So friendly and helpful. My only complaint was that they were slow with bringing non-alcoholic drinks over to the table (which is understandable). I found that if I wanted a non-alcoholic drink, I would just get it from the bar myself.
We absolutely loved NCL and the Gem and cannot wait to cruise with them again.