We are not seasoned cruisers so take this review with a pinch of salt as others might have other standards/views. This is our 3rd cruise, the first on NCL Epic then one on MSC Seaview and this one on the Gem. We started cruising on huge ships because of my fear of seasickness and I was a bit worried to go on a smaller ship due to this. However, we loved much better this size of the ship and it does not look old at all and is very well maintained, the room was on a smaller side balcony but enough for our family of 3, as we are very tidy in general and we can manage. It feels like the public spaces are just as big as those of a bigger ship but since there are fewer passengers it feels less crowded everywhere. Even on sea day, the vibe on Gem never felt like the apocalypse as I saw on the bigger ships when 4000 people wanted to go to the pool or buffet. We also realized that we like better the American customer service vs. the European one (although we are Europeans :) ). We loved that the fellow cruisers were so nice and laid back-mainly North Americans and South Americans. This was a major difference vs. MSC where our fellow Italian and French cruisers were generally awful- taking up ALL sunbeds at 7AM, cutting the lines, shouting/screaming/fighting and generally being rude to the staff and other cruisers. On the Gem, I could go to the sun deck at 12pm and always found a sun bed and people were generally so polite and nice. The service on the Gem was impeccable in all areas. The food- we like sit down meals and we loved the pub-our go to when coming back from the shore, we found the steakhouse to be state-of-the-art service and food and the bistro was good but less than the steakhouse. We didn't like the service or food in the Asian complementary resto, which we tried once. The main dining room was hit and miss but it's probably a matter of taste as well- for us a lot of the food had that artificial taste of sodium glutamate, which in the a la carte restaurants we didn't really taste. Some dishes were very good, some not that much but we enjoy the atmosphere and never went hungry at the end of our meal. We only tried the buffet for breakfast so can't comment on dinner. Regarding food, I found the main dining room on MSC to be more on our European taste-more natural and fresh tasting and more consistent quality. Drinks-party: they have an area with several bars-whisky, martini, and champagne which was amazing for before or after-dinner drinks and the vibe was amazing. After that, we headed to Spinnaker lounge where they had live music as well and our evening was always full and lively. We are not big fans of shows like musicals and such, so we didn't stay to watch any, we did stay for a circus show which was nice. Not many people attended those shows. The only glitch was right at the end when we were not informed at all that we will disembark in the cargo port not the cruise port in Trieste, hence far away from our car- and no one told us anything and how we should get back to where we started. Many angry people trying to figure out things which was a shame to end on a bad note such a beautiful cruise. We did manage to get into a bus and get back into town but it was just by asking 10 people around and trying to speak Italian with the driver rather than clear instructions from the staff. All in all, we would cruise NCL gladly again and all the stops of our cruise were great (the most underwhelming was Corfou but I think you need to get out of the main town for a better experience).
Cabin is on a smaller side with a double bed and a couch for our 13y old. They also have a single bed that drops from the ceiling but when down, that bed blocks access and view to the balcony. We requested our steward to put the mattress from that bed on the couch and made the couch a more comfortable bed. Without the mattress, that couch is just an ironing board, unfortunately. I was initially disappointed that we've got an enclosed balcony (didn't know at booking) but it was actually very nice and felt more private. We hardly used it anyway, just to dry our swimwear
I think Corfu town does not do justice to the island, which in itself is beautiful. Also being there on 40 degrees celsius didnt help the experience, so we might be biased. We just took a stroll in the old town (not very clean) had a drink and came back on ship as it was unbearably hot.
Old town is amazing. There is a public bus outside of the port and can get there with 1EUR vs. 15USD with the cruise line bus.
Island is beautiful but honestly, we felt over-rated, especially if you are not a party harder. We did a beach day which was recommended by a taxi driver, the beach was beautiful and nice atmosphere (70EUR for 2 sun beds). A bit of hustler mentality in Greece so make sure you negotiate your prices and don't believe that "my friend no one will charge you less" mantra. But we are from the Balkans and are used to this mentality but for others might come as a shock. We paid 30EUR to go on a 15min taxi ride to the beach and we took the 50cents public bus back :). But when we left the port we didn't know from where we should take the bus, and no one was very helpful, hence why we took the cab. We rather spend our money on food/drinks rather than transport but Mykonos was the hardest island to navigate with public transport although is so small.
We liked it the best. We booked a speed boat ride from the cruise port to Oia, which included a bus ride back to Fira every hour. We spent most of our time in Oia and had lunch, and it was amazing. We then came to Fira by bus, explored a bit, and came down by ourselves with the cable. We wanted to come down by foot but it was so hot and no shade at all, and we gave the idea up. Older people or reduced mobility can have a very hard time here as everything is so steep.
We booked a speed boat tour to the blue cave and the highlight was bathing in the golf there. The old town of Kotor is also beautiful.