My husband frequently says that happiness is who you're with. If he's right, and I think he is, then the NCL Gem is a place that should make most people happy. My reference point for gauging any vacation is that I have never been anywhere that's perfect. I'm holding out that rating for Heaven. Every trip I've ever taken has a few bumps along the way. The real test of whether it's a good vacation is whether the destination works to avoid the bumps and corrects for them when they happen. If the flaw doesn't work to ruin the whole package for you, then it's probably a good vacation.
But enough about my philosophy. The NCL Gem is the newest ship in the fleet and in some ways, both good and not quite so good, it shows. The ship itself is beautifully maintained. The public spaces are clean and someone is working on them all the time. I could question the decorating choices as a little gaudy (Yeah, I'm talking about you, "inside a purple geode-looking atrium ceiling."), but then everything ain't for everybody. It's not so garish as to put you off, but some understated quality would have been enough. The staterooms are slightly upgraded with new and improved mattresses, magnifying makeup mirrors, and improved coffee and coffeemakers. A small vase of flowers in the room is nice touch. Our stateroom was a minisuite with a balcony and it's well worth the extra expense if you like to enjoy a private, quiet time with the ocean. The barriers between the balconies are also a bit larger than on other NCL ships, offering slightly more privacy.
The food.... I've eaten in five star restaurants and had food that made me want to slap my mama. It was that good. The Gem had one or two moments like that, but because it is catering to thousands of people at one time, I sensed a holding back on the part of the chefs, so as not to offend the majority with more inspired risk taking. I have no complaints. I had one wildly superior meal in Cagney's and one "Meh" meal in Tequila. Not a bad meal in the lot. All of the specialty restaurants are worth the extra cost, with the aforementioned Tequila and the Teppanyaki restaurants being the weakest of the group. The main dining rooms, The Grand Pacific and the Magenta, were consistently good and the service was excellent.