Kim Foley MacKinnon
Cruise Critic Contributor
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Entertainment

Norwegian Gem Entertainment & Activities

Other shows include tribute nights to stars such as Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder, plus performances by guest comedians, jugglers, hypnotists and circus acts.

Theater
Superb performances in the three-deck Stardust Theater included the Tony-nominated "Swing! The Musical" and the song-and-dance-style revue "Blazing Boots," a wildly popular pop country show. "Get Down Tonight," a rousing tribute to the 1970s performed by the Gem dancers and orchestra, was also a huge hit, with some passengers opting to see the show twice.

Daily Fun
A quick glance at the Freestyle Daily (the daily program that is delivered to your room each night) tells you all you need to know about daytime fun -- There's a lot of it. Trivia, demonstrations ranging from cooking and vegetable carving to towel animal making, dance and fitness classes (free and for fee), and myriad family fun activities, from a circus workshop and origami lessons to balloon twisting, are on offer. Shuffleboard, sports competitions, art auctions, drink tastings, goofy golf challenges, bingo, "Deal or No Deal" and casino tournaments are other daytime options.

Keep in mind that almost all of the so-called seminars you'll see on the schedule, such as detoxing for health and weight loss, digital cameras or relieving back pain, are money-making pitches to get you to buy things.

Don't miss a visit to the Bridge Viewing Room on Deck 11 forward, which has an enormous window looking into the ship's operations. The room is set up like a mini-museum, with models and images lining the walls and a cool video showing how the ship was constructed.

At Night
Vocalists strumming guitars or tickling piano keys are mainstays in smaller venues such as Magnum's Champagne & Wine Bar and the Crystal Atrium. Each night, there's a jazz jam in various venues. We found that nights preceding a day at sea were the liveliest, with passengers willing to stay up late when they knew they could sleep in the next day.

Passengers who want to dance head up to Deck 13's Spinnaker Lounge, which was packed on theme nights with people dancing until late, but otherwise the ship seemed to settle down by midnight or so. There's the occasional evening bingo game and movies, shown on the vast video screen in the Crystal Atrium.

The generously sized Gem Casino has table games, video betting and slots.

Norwegian Gem Bars and Lounges

A bar for every taste, Norwegian Gem can satisfy every type of tippler from martini aficionados to beer experts and mojito-lovers. The variety of live entertainment also invites lingering over drinks in the comfortable spaces, which we found lively but never too crowded to find a seat.

Highlights include:

Magnum's Champagne Bar (Deck 6): This Champagne bar features an early 1900's lounge look and is the first of three different bars sitting next to each other on Deck 6 (collectively referred to as Bar City) between the casino and the Magenta Dining Room. Magnum's, with its fun-colored bubbling liquid glass bar counter, offers the most seating of the three but has no TVs. Instead, it's a great place to chill in the evening and listen to live music. Tucked away in the corner is the enclosed Cigar Bar.

Shakers Martini Bar (Deck 6): The middle bar in the three-bar complex, Shakers is manned by expert bartenders whipping up shaken or stirred drinks to passengers who enjoy the look of the angular Art Deco bar.

Maltings Beer & Whiskey Bar (Deck 6): Maltings, the no-pretenses beer and whiskey joint in varying hues of brown with big soft couches and chairs, is where you'll find the ship's weekly beer and whiskey tastings, a TV playing sporting events and a cozy spot to sit with friends to talk. It's not a spot for music, though you can hear the sounds of the piano or jazz band playing in nearby Magnum's.

Java Cafe & Bar (Deck 7): Located in the Crystal Atrium, the Java Cafe serves not only delicious coffee drinks but also any libation you might like from its full bar.

Bliss Ultra Lounge (Deck 7): You can grab a drink in between dancing until the wee hours at this late-night dance club, which has an intimate feel, with cozy nooks and a DJ who starts spinning after midnight. You might find yourself just one of a handful here though, as most people head to Spinnaker for late-night fun. The space is also used for karaoke sessions.

O' Sheehan's Bar (Deck 8): This Irish pub and restaurant's bar area is a great place to watch the activities one deck below in the Atrium.

Great Outdoors Bar (Deck 12): The Great Outdoors Bar offers plenty of outdoor seating with terrific views of the ship's wake. It's the perfect spot to grab a drink to go with your between-meals snack from the Great Outdoors buffet eatery.

Bali Hai Bar (Deck 13): Overlooking the pool area, Bali Hai is a large bar area where, if you're not a smoker or not a fan of smoke, is not going to be the place for you as this is where smokers seem to gravitate day and night.

Spinnaker Lounge (Deck 13): The expansive Spinnaker Lounge functions as Norwegian Gem's main nightclub and secondary theater, hosting game shows, trivia and musical performances, as well as the popular Glow Party and a Q&A session with the ship's officers, held once per cruise.

Sugarcane Mojito Bar (Deck 13): Feeling a bit like an afterthought, this small mojito bar takes up residence in Moderno Churrascaria. You can grab a predinner drink while killing time before a meal at Moderno or Cagney's, which is just across the hall.

Norwegian Gem Outside Recreation

Pools
There are two pools on the Norwegian Gem, one specifically for adults and one for kids, plus a slide and four hot tubs, all located on Deck 12. A double slide (so you can race your friends) is a fun, twisty feature on the pool deck, which isn't too scary so it's popular with kids and adults alike.

An additional small pool and hot tub are found in The Haven, but they're reserved for The Haven suite passengers only.

Recreation
There are shuffleboard courts in Deck 7. If you're feeling sporty, follow the jogging track to the ship's basketball court, which also doubles as a spot to play tennis and volleyball. Two giant chessboards and a golf cage can also be found on either side of Deck 13.

On the pool deck, travelers can join in the fun with Ping-Pong tournaments and contests such as Mr. Sexy Legs. (Check your Freestyle Daily for days and times.) A rock climbing wall is found on Deck 14.

Sun Decks
The pool deck offers sun loungers, but on sea days, you might find yourself having to venture up to Deck 13 to find space. If you really want some alone time, or relative quiet, poke around some of the rarely visited areas on Deck 14, which is so secluded there might not even be chairs available to use. Not to worry: You can drag your own up there or ask a crew member for help.

Norwegian Gem Services

Deck 7, midship, is the hub for everything from the guest services desk to the adjacent shore excursions desk and future cruise office. Guest services can help passengers make restaurant reservations, obtain daily schedules, answer questions about their onboard accounts and obtain new keycards if lost or deactivated.

Located farther aft on Deck 7 are the photo gallery, art gallery and internet manager's desk, where passengers can sign up for service or get assistance. The area is manned by an IT professional for a few hours a day (times varies).

Internet packages range from $125 for 250 minutes or unlimited access plans for $29.99 per day (if you book online in advance, fees are cheaper). There's also a social media Wi-Fi package, which gives you access to a majority of social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, WeChat, etc.) for $14.99 per day. (Note: The Internet Cafe, such as it is, is located in the library on Deck 12. It's basically a few computers you can log in to.)

Also located on Deck 7, you'll find the large onboard shop, which sells duty-free watches and jewelry, cigarettes, perfume and alcohol, in addition to logo items, clothing and a small selection of toiletries and snacks.

On Deck 12 forward, just inside and off the pool deck, is the ship's photo studio, game room and library. The photography studio is where passengers can make appointments to have professional photos taken.

The game room provides several tables and chairs, as well as card and board games for cruisers to use. Next door is the library, which offers limited times to borrow books, usually just one or two hours in the morning. But, forget about trying to read or work in peace: With the pool next door and activities in the game room, it's rarely quiet. Should you find yourself bookless and bored, the library is also the place to grab a sudoku puzzle or trivia sheet.

Norwegian Gem offers no self-service laundry, but laundry services are available for a fee. The ship's medical facility is on Deck 4, and three conference rooms can be found on Deck 6. A small chapel is located on Deck 13 forward, just outside of the port side entrance to Spinnaker Lounge. It's used for onboard weddings, but most often it hosts passenger-led prayer services and Friends of Bill W. meetings.

Norwegian Gem Spa & Fitness

Spa
The Mandara Spa, Deck 12 forward, encompasses changing facilities; treatment rooms for both singles and couples; an extra-fee thermal suite with sauna and steam rooms, a hot tub and a thalassotherapy pool; and a salon that offers hair and nail services. It's open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Treatments run the gamut from facials, massages (a 50-minute Swedish massage starts at $129) and acupuncture to upstyling, manicures and teeth whitening. Deals are often advertised during the cruise and might include discounted services on port days, packages that offer several abridged services for one price or a percentage savings for booking multiple treatments at the same time.

We were surprised that spa goers don't have access to lockers, showers or amenities such as hair products, especially after something like a massage when you might want to wash some of the oil off before heading back to your cabin.

You can purchase a Thermal Suite pass for the entire cruise or a day pass (when available) to chill out in the expansive lounge, which has a coed room with the thalassotherapy pool and heated ceramic loungers. There are also gender-specific areas with an ocean-view sauna, eucalyptus steam room, individual whirlpool tubs, icy-cold plunge pool and padded chaises.

The salon also offers a retail section, where passengers can buy products from Elemis, La Therapie and Bliss. If you have a treatment, know that there will be a product pitch at the end unless you specifically request not to have one.

Fitness
Pulse, the onboard fitness center on Deck 12 forward, is outfitted with Technogym equipment and multiple exercise bikes, ellipticals, treadmills, rowers, various weight machines and free weights.

There's also a small studio with yoga mats, balance balls and foam rollers available for passenger use when for-fee spin ($15), yoga ($15), Pilates ($15), TRX ($20) and boot camp ($20) classes aren't in session. Personal training is also offered at $89 per session. Free classes are posted, as well, and they include group ab workouts and 1-mile sea-day morning walks.

The facility also offers a water fountain, a cooler with chilled towels and men's and women's changing facilities, each with lockers, one shower, one toilet stall and a steam room.

There's a jogging track on the outer edges of the aft section of Deck 13. Up there, you'll have to do 5.5 laps for a mile. A promenade that rings Deck 7 is great for walking; 2 2/3 laps equal 1 mile.

Norwegian Gem For Kids

Splash Academy is the collective name for Norwegian's kids clubs for children up to age 12. The academy is broken down into four age groups for babies and kids: Guppies (6 months to 2 years), Turtles (3 to 5 years), Seals (6 to 9 years) and Dolphins (10 to 12 years).

Teens, ages 13 to 17, have their own space, known as Entourage. All kids and teens facilities are located on Deck 12 midship.

Regular programming is free of charge, but there's a $6 per child fee for supervision during meals (for kids ages 3 to 12).

For parents needing some alone time in the evenings, there are also late-night group activities available for kids from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. at $6 per child, per hour, and $4 per hour for each additional child in the same family.

Kids
For babies, Guppies programming offers a play space that's open daily from morning till night for parents to use with their little ones. Although parents must always be present, there are also staff-run activities scheduled at various times throughout each sailing. Those might include ball play, using building blocks and creating masterpieces with edible paints.

Although kids from ages 3 to 12 years share the same large, colorful space -- complete with tables and chairs, a movie viewing room and plenty of space to run around -- their activities are broken down to an age-appropriate level. Turtles (3 to 5 years old) might enjoy finger painting, board games and giant puzzles, while Seals (6 to 9) might do themed arts and crafts or play video games. For the Dolphins (10 to 12), there are trivia, video games and sports.

Children 9 and younger must be signed in or out by a family member. Those ages 10 to 12 can sign themselves out after spending a minimum of two hours in the club and knowing where a parent is located.

Teens
Teens ages 13 to 17 can come and go as they please from Entourage, which is staffed but much less structured than Splash Academy. Teens are issued wristbands, which they need as well as their keycard to enter Entourage. Inside, they'll find plenty of alcoves to hang out in, as well as board games, foosball and TVs for watching movies and playing video games. Activities include dodgeball under the stars, charades, scavenger hunts and dance parties.

Between Splash Academy and Entourage is the ship's arcade, which charges keycards for each play. Gamers will find air hockey, racing games, first-person shooters and claw games where teens and others can try to pick up prizes. Parents can limit their children's onboard spending by visiting the guest services desk.

Norwegian Gem Ship Stats

  • Crew: 1,070
  • Launched: 2007
  • Decks: 15
  • Passengers: 2,394
  • Registry: Bahamas
  • CDC Score: 99

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