By Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief, and Graham Kates, Cruise Critic Contributor
Norwegian takes a one-ship-fits-all approach to cruising with Gem, where rock climbing meets shuffleboard and hot-stone massages meet Guitar Hero and chess played with comically large game pieces.
Gem launched in 2007, and on it, Norwegian Cruise Line continues to refine its Freestyle Cruising concept, which focuses on flexibility and a casual atmosphere. On Gem, more than 2,300 passengers enjoy the freedom to dine where, when and with whom they wish (except for when reservations require otherwise). The dress code is relaxed, with an optional formal night for those looking to get all dolled up. In spring 2008, the ship underwent the company's Freestyle 2.0 upgrade program, receiving several enhancements to its menus, new beds throughout and service tweaks at all levels.
If casual is the goal, entertainment is the modus operandi. As passengers board Gem, they're greeted in the main atrium with blaring beats spun by a D.J. whose ruby red turntable is almost as flashy as the glowing space itself. Thirteen bars, an enormous 1,115-seat theater -- featuring Second City and Broadway-esque productions -- and a dozen restaurants keep the ship hopping throughout the trip.
The ship also accommodates those in need of quiet time; from the spacious and serene spa, with armchairs overlooking a vast ocean expanse, to a variety of lounges and a library, there are nooks aplenty for relaxation.
The ability to shift between active and restful, party and calm, at a moment's notice is Norwegian's calling card. With so many options, Gem ensures that you can find time to do what you want onboard -- whatever that may be.
Norwegian Gem Fellow Passengers
Passengers are predominately from the U.S. and Canada. The average age varies; on longer cruises, the ship appeals to older passengers. On seven-night trips during school holiday seasons, it's dominated by families.
Norwegian Gem Dress Code
Just about anything goes, wardrobe-wise, with most passengers wearing casual, poolside garb during the day and resort casual-style clothing -- including jeans -- at night. (Shorts and tank tops are only permitted in the Garden Cafe and Blue Lagoon after hours.) Grand Pacific is the ship's dress-up restaurant in the evenings.
Norwegian Gem Gratuity
Passengers are charged $12 per person, per day (including kids ages 3 and up). A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to orders for drinks (from sodas and juices to bottles of wine and cocktails). The Yin & Yang Spa automatically adds an 18 percent tip on all spa and salon services and, oddly enough, on fitness programs at its Body Waves facility. There's no gratuity expected to counselors of the kids programs, but tips are gratefully accepted. (Aim for about $3 per day, per child.) Passengers in suites that come with butlers tip at their own discretion. (Plan to pay $3 to $5 per day, per person -- more if you made a lot of extra requests.)
The onboard currency is the U.S. dollar.
We were in a suite and the embarkation process was fast and almost flawless. We were accompanied to the concierge lounge on deck 13 and met Pearl Amamoto (sp?) the concierge. She gave a brief talk on what she does and then we went to our cabin ...continue
This was the second cruise for my wife and myself having gone out of Seattle to Alaska about 6 years ago where we had a penthouse in front on the Star. This time we had a mid ship mini suite on the 11th deck Starboard which proved to be a much ...continue
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My husband and I just returned from an overnight cruise to nowhere and had a fantastic experience. We're in our early 40's with 2 small children, so this short trip was a perfect pre-Valentine's getaway. Leaving out of NYC was a breeze. We drove ...continue