These smaller Web sites, sometimes called "sitelets," are created to explore a topic, concept or an idea too specific for a "regular" site -- and are a hot trend in the cruise world. P&O recently launched virtualventura.co.uk to generate excitement for its upcoming Ventura and Royal Caribbean introduced it's largest-ever Freedom of the Seas via freedomoftheseas.com.
NCL's gemitgirl.com offers all of the nitty-gritty details you'll also find on ncl.com like deck plans and itineraries, but is more interactive. It's actually designed to look a bit like a MySpace profile: on the left, a big splashy photo and fun stats (favorite food: escargot from Le Bistro); on the right, a blog and select photos of her "friends" (here called the Entourage).
To join the "It" Girl's Entourage you'll need to create your own digital avatar, or virtual self. A few mouse clicks confirm your skin tone, eye color, hair, outfit and backdrop. Once created, your avatar is automatically pictured in the Entourage Gallery (look for me, TravelMel!). At the beginning of the process, you can choose to enter a weekly drawing to become "It" Girl's BFF (Best Friend Forever) of the Week; the weekly prize is a $50 American Express gift card. You can also enter on the site to win a Nintendo Wii.
In fact, this create-your-own avatar tool -- and a virtual bowling game with high score board (sadly, you won't see TravelMel there) -- may be a nod to the cruise line's partnership with Nintendo Wii, which provides gaming consoles onboard Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Gem. These two features on gemitgirl.com are similar to the Wii's digital "Mii" avatar creator and Wii Sports Bowling. They're also the coolest, most interactive parts of the site.
Other gemitgirl.com features include a calendar of events, and a play list of the "It" Girl's favorite songs like Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" and Fergie's "Glamorous," which can be downloaded directly from iTunes for 99 cents. And the blog, which is updated about once a week, is written from the point of view of the ship. Here's a recent, ahem, gem:
"I had a great workout last weekend. I had my sea trials and my first chance to get out on the open ocean. A girl does have to keep in shape you know. I'm trying to stay at a sleek 93,000 tons."
Stay tuned for coverage of the ship's first sailings in Europe in early October....
--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor