Carolyn Spencer Brown
Cruise Critic Chief Content Strategist
5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Entertainment

Norwegian Gem Entertainment & Activities

Norwegian Gem's entertainment (like that on other NCL ships) is superb, particularly during the evening hours. Activities were head-spinning in their range and quantity. Vocalists strumming guitars or tickling piano keys are mainstays in smaller venues like Magnum's Champagne Bar and the Crystal Atrium. Each night, there's a jazz jam in various venues. Passengers who want to dance head up to Deck 13's Spinnaker Lounge. There's the occasional evening bingo game and movies, shown on the vast video screen in the Crystal Atrium.

These are just the activities that warm up passengers for the big events. Superb performances of music revues in the three-deck-high Stardust Theater include "Get Down Tonight," a 1970's-era musical tribute. The hypnotist who performed on several evenings was anything but lame; she proved to skeptics that there's an art to it in a show that was both funny and sort of terrifying. Passengers can also fill their evenings by attending a pub crawl or karaoke. 

Easily the highlight for adults was The Quest, a sort of scavenger hunt in which passengers paired up in a handful of groups and then were required to secure various items in order to win. The prize was meaningless; it was all about the competition to be first and get the biggest laughs from the audience. (Items to bring back included men walking around with a pair of bras on their heads, house keys, business cards and belts.) This is an adult show, held well after dinner hours, and we were dismayed at how many parents allowed their kids to attend.

Another much-anticipated event each cruise is the ship's White Hot Party, with all waiters dressed in white and the Spinnaker Lounge redecorated with white canvas and table coverings. On our spring break cruise, the many families and younger cruisers onboard gave the event a 20-something party vibe -- and this 40-something felt old, old, old!

The generously sized Gem Casino has table games, video betting and slots. Gamblers can also use video screens in Spinnaker and poolside to bet.

The Bliss Ultra Club is a modern nightclub that goes late into the night. 

At Bar Central, on Deck 6, three specialized bars sit side-by-side to create one large watering hole. The large room is divided into three sections with different upscale feels: Magnum's, the Champagne and wine bar with an early 1900's lounge look; Shakers Martini & Cocktail Bar, an angular Art Deco bar that aims to look like a 1960's throwback; and Maltings, the no pretenses beer and whiskey joint in varying hues of brown.

Norwegian's enrichment program is primarily focused around food and drink -- for instance, separate events centered on pairing different foods with sake, beer and wine. And, of course, the ship offers the typical brain-teaser events from trivia games to Sudoku challenges, gaming lessons, fitness boot camps and unique events like "Guess the Price of the Picasso" on the Promenade.

Once in port, Gem has an impressive array of shore excursions available. As is the freestyle way, activities at each stop catered to just about everyone, ranging from those seeking active pursuits to those looking for something more laid-back.

Norwegian Gem Public Rooms

Norwegian Gem's focal point is its three-story Crystal Atrium with its vast video screen -- which hosts occasional Wii tournaments -- a coffee bar (that also serves cocktails) and lots of squishy-squashy velvet-covered chairs and sofas. The purser's desk and the shore excursion counter are located there, as is an all-glass boutique that sells perfumes and cosmetics.

The ship's Internet cafe is located in the atrium and features several terminals. Find more information about Norwegian Cruise Line's Internet Packages and Prices.

Tucked away up on Deck 12 is the ship's well-stocked library. There's not much that's really recent, but there's plenty of choice if you're looking for something to read. There's also a card room next door.

A lengthy photo gallery leads from the Grand Pacific dining room to the Crystal Atrium; on the opposite side is the ship's art gallery. A nondenominational chapel is available for passenger-organized services. (There's no clergy onboard.)

A medical center is located on Deck 4.

There's no self-serve laundry center, but the ship does offer various paid laundry and dry-cleaning options.

Norwegian Gem Spa & Fitness

The ship's Tahitian-inspired pool area on Deck 12 is vivacious and exuberant with vivid colors and decor. There are two pools and four whirlpools -- a pair of which are adult-only and seemed to stay that way even on my family-oriented voyage. There's also a twisty, corkscrew slide. Lounge chairs, which most definitely were at a premium on sunny days, are made of wicker-like material and have elegant, plush cushions atop. The younger set can chill in the indoor kids pool, with its pint-sized slide and ample padding.

Body Waves, Norwegian Gem's health club, is one of the most comprehensive we've seen at sea. Its main room features treadmills, stationary bikes and StairMasters, all with individual mini-flat-screen televisions. There is the usual array of weight machines, as well as a separate weight room. Also carved out of a separate space is the facility's aerobics studio, which is cordoned off from the noisy fitness area by glass doors. Some classes held there, such as "early morning stretch," "fab abs" and body-conditioning, are fee-free. Other workouts, such as yoga, Pilates and spinning, cost $12 per session, plus an additional 18 percent gratuity. You can buy a package of four Pilates and yoga workouts, which offers a slight discount. Personal training is available for an extra cost, as well.

Mandara’s Spa & Salon, the ship's spa, continues the Norwegian tradition of really terrific onboard spa services and facilities. This one, operated by Steiner, as most in the cruise industry are, includes a beauty salon for hair-styling, manicures and pedicures, and also a treatment area for both the usual -- Swedish massage and facials -- and more exotic options, like hot-stone massages and a Quartz life facial with an advanced anti-aging focus. Prices seem a little higher than average; do keep an eye out for port-day specials.

The hottest trend today in onboard treatments is medi-spa services, and Gem's spa has several options, including Botox, Restylane and other types of facial rejuvenation. Treatments are overseen by a licensed medical doctor. The spa also offers teetth-whitening and acupuncture.

Where the spa excels is in its "chill out" thermal lounge. It's available to those who buy a cruise pass to the facility, which includes separate areas for men and women (with small whirlpools, sunbeds looking out to sea, saunas and steam rooms) and a coed central room with a thalassotherapy pool and heated tiled loungers. 

The ship has a rock-climbing wall and a sports court -- a full-length basketball court -- that can also be used for volleyball, tennis and soccer. A running track can be found on Deck 13. Other diversions include open Wii play in the Crystal Atrium and Ping-Pong on the pool deck.

Norwegian Gem For Kids

Children have a ball on Norwegian Gem. The hub of the line's Splash Academy program is Deck 12's Tree Tops Kids Club (conveniently close to the Garden Cafe buffet). Children are separated into four groups for scheduled activities: Guppies (6 months to 3 years, with parent), Turtles (3 - 5), Seals (6 - 9) and Dolphins (10 - 12).

All groups feature age-appropriate activities. For instance, Turtles might participate in family LEGO-building, crafts and traditional fun stuff like "duck, duck, goose" and "musical chairs." Seals might take part in more recreational play, with games like dodgeball, soccer, Astroball and Nintendo Wii, but it also incorporates more learning-oriented activities like rocket science programs and environmental "fun."

Teens have their own dedicated space called Entourage (open until 1 a.m.), but activities take place all over the ship. There might be a "make a pizza" cooking lesson at La Cucina, the ship's Italian restaurant, or bowling at the Bliss Lounge. There's could also be a "murder mystery dinner," air hockey tournaments and a "hot tub social." Much of the program really gives the kids time to hang out, and in the evenings, they bring their iPods to the Leopard Lounge and download music to dance to. The facility has Wii, Playstation, foosball and air hockey. In the evenings, a bar serves up for-fee nonalcoholic beverages.

The younger kids have their own dining area in the Garden Cafe with a small buffet of child-friendly favorites. (See the Dining section.)

A Deck 12 arcade offers the usual games.

Norwegian does not charge young passengers to participate in its program on sea days. However, on days when the ship is in port, the cost for kids, ages 3 to 12, to stay onboard in the program is $6 per hour for the first child and $4 for each additional child. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Evening group baby-sitting is also available at the same rates from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Norwegian Gem Ship Stats

  • Crew: 1,101
  • Launched: 2007
  • Decks: 15
  • Passengers: 2,394
  • Registry: Bahamas
  • CDC Score: 99

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