We have cruised on other lines before, and this was our first experience on NCL. We are now huge fans! First of all, I loved the Gem - the ship is perfectly sized for me. It was easy to get around, and there were lots of areas to sit and hang out with a book and a drink. My favorite was the Spinnaker Lounge early in the morning with a book and a cup of coffee (you can get coffee right around the corner at the Bali Hai bar in the mornings). The whole giant room would be empty or nearly empty and you could grab a couch right at the front of the ship and just relax and read while looking out through floor-to-ceiling windows - stunning! All the seating in the Spinnaker was super nice and cozy. I also loved the deck 6 bar area where the martini and wine bars and Maltings are situated. There was really nice seating all around and my husband and I enjoyed MANY delicious martinis while gazing out the windows and people-watching.
The food by far exceeded my expectations - even the buffet! I am not a buffet fan, and yet we found ourselves there pretty often and I enjoyed pretty much everything I tried. The Indian food was exceptionally good, and on one particularly rough sea day the soup station really saved me. They had a really nice set-up of broth, noodles and toppings for asian-style soups that made me feel a ton better after I had been pretty queasy all morning. My kids ate their body weight in french fries, ice cream and waffles. The burgers served by the pool smelled great and were delicious. The smallish size of the ship and the buffet/great outdoors being so huge and convenient to get to made it so we never had any issues staying hydrated - we could get a glass of water, juice or lemonade in just a few minutes no matter where we were on the ship. The specialty dining options were very, very good. We ate at Cagney's twice and everyone enjoyed that - the chocolate cake was my teenager's favorite dessert on the ship. We ate at Moderno, which everyone loved. Definitely save room for the grilled pineapple! La Cucina surprised me with how good it was - I got an alfredo with mushrooms and it was probably one of my favorite meals on the ship. And my husband and I both enjoyed stopping by the Sushi Bar for a roll or two before dinner some nights.
The bars on the pool deck were SUPER busy and sometimes had a bit of a wait, but they seemed very organized about getting to everyone. I think the longest I ever waited was about 10 minutes. The bars inside, though, were much much quicker to get drinks. We never waited long at the mojito bar, martini bar or the spinnaker. Drinks were all very good - our favorites were the Rum Cake and the Bahama Mama, which they were doing on draft outside (which speeds up getting your drink quite a bit!)
We stayed in the 2BR Family Suite and it was absolutely perfect for a family of 4. My 10 year old slept on the pull-out couch in the living room, and even being 6 inches away from the balcony, with the curtains closed the room was very dark. He slept great. My 13 year old slept in the second bedroom and it was very cozy.
We had plenty of closet/storage space for 4 people who definitely over-packed. :)
We brought nice bath products with us and we each enjoyed the tub on sea days, looking out the window and relaxing. The one slightly problematic thing about the room was that the main bathroom and bedroom (and 75% of the storage space) are in one room, so when someone needs to USE the bathroom, it cuts everyone off from the bedroom and all your things until they are done. With four people, that happened pretty frequently. We found we rarely used the tiny second bathroom even though it would have helped get around this issue, so it was honestly not that bad.
We were on floor 11, forward, and the location was great. We were right below the library and card room, so above us was pretty quiet except for late at night. We were on our cruise over spring break, so there were a LOT of kids, and they did a lot of running and jumping between the hours of 10 p.m. - 12 a.m. but that is honestly the only thing we could hear from our room (and who can blame kids for having a great time on vacation!)
The best part of this room is the perks that come with a suite (butler, concierge, priority embarkation and debarkation, special dining options, etc.) without having to pay for the Haven. We used all the extra amenities and would say it was 100% worth it - having the suite really made our vacation.
We took a minibus to Horseshoe Bay and had a great day. We would have loved to have seen more of the port and done some shopping, but everything is SO FAR from the ship, we didn't end up having the time/energy after our day.
This port has it all! We never left - it has pools, a lazy river, lots of bars, restaurants and shopping, and my son's favorite activity of the whole trip - Monkey Island! He went through twice to play with the monkeys.