Norwegian Gem Review - Norwegian Cruise Line

 

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Norwegian Gem Overview

Norwegian Gem Sails From New York 

Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Gem at Sea -copyright Norwegian Cruise Line



April 2011, I had the pleasure of sailing on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Gem. The cruise was a 7-day sailing from New York to Cape Canaveral, Florida, Nassau in the Bahamas and Great Stirrup Cay – Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island.

This is the second time I had been on the Norwegian Gem, the first time was a tour given to the Media when she was first introduced. My earlier review of the Norwegian Gem can be found here -> Norwegian Gem Review December 2007.

This week long visit gave me the opportunity to perform an in-depth review and experience the entire cruise experience first hand.

The strong points of the Norwegian Gen include:

An Incredible number of dining options (some included in the cruise fare, while some are available at an additional charge).

Excellent quality food.

Accommodations for all budgets.

A Friendly and courteous crew.

Great value for the money.

On this sailing I cruised with my wife and two children (16 and 13 years old). We share a single, standard, balcony cabin.

Norwegian Gem Under Construction on at Meyer Werft Shipyard in Papenburg Germany
Norwegian Gem Under Construction in 2007 - Copyright Meyer Werft.

At 93,530 tons and carrying 2,394 passengers double occupancy , the Norwegian Gem is considered a large ship but not as large as some of the new ship being introduced. The Meyer Werft Shipyard in Germany, who constructed the vessel in 2007, have created a design which gives the large ship a very intimate feeling.



PUBLIC SPACES - Crystal Atrium onboard NCL's Norwegian Gem - NYCRUISEINFO.com

 

Norwegian Gems Crystal Atrium

Crystal Atrium on board NCL's Norwegian Gem

The Norwegian Gem has two, 2-storey atriums.


The main atrium (the Crystal Atrium) has a grand staircase descending from the upper level. Below is a lounging area with sofas, dance floor, band area, coffee bar, reception desk, shore excursion desk, future cruise sales office and internet café. There are also some shops adorning the area. On the second level is the Tapas Restaurant and the Blue Lagoon Restaurant. The area is friendly and welcoming. The large decorative glass doors provide access to the outside promenade area which is excellent for taking in the seascape.


The second Atrium is surrounded by the Tepannyaki Restaurant, Orchid Asian Fusion Restaurant and Sushi Bar on the upper level. On the lower level is the Bistro French Restaurant, a lounging area with sofas, stools and dance floor, a piano, Magnum’s Champagne Bar and cigar room.·

The main show lounge on the Norwegian Gem is the two storey, Stardust Theatre. All of the main productions and headline entertainment happen in this room. There is no bad seat in the house. The seats are very comfortable and provide an unobstructed view of the stage. Normally the same show is played twice an evening to provide passengers flexibility.

The Spinnaker lounge is the 2nd show lounge located high above the bridge of the ship. This is the show lounge where all of the theme nights occur and dancing can continue to the wee hours of the morning. In the Spinnaker lounge you can find a pool table as well.
In the front of the Spinnaker Lounge are two extensions over the side of the ship, which provide a dramatic view of the ship while under weigh.

Norwegian Gem Spinnaker Lounge

Norwegian Gem Spinnaker Lounge - Copyright NCL

.

Located aft is the Bliss Lounge – This unique lounge has unusual seating which are more like beds opposed to sofas. There are two alcove rooms off of the main room were you can have an intimate conversation. There is a large dance floor, disco-lighting and large bar. The 4 bowling lanes are located in the Bliss lounge. Although the four bowling lanes did see allot of action, there was only a short wait for a lane.



Photo: Bliss Lounge Bowling Alley onboard the Norwegian Gem

There is Magnum’s Champagne Bar and Shakers Bar where you can have a glass of bubbly, beer or wine before or after dinner.

There is a large casino where you can try your luck at the games of chance including slot machines, blackjack tables, roulette and more. Additional gambling tables can be found poolside and automated gambling machines in the Spinnaker Lounge.

There is a photo gallery, photo studio, art exhibition and art auction onboard.

The Card Room is a great place to play a board or card game. The Library, loaded with maritime memorabilia, is a great place to read a book or view menus from the age of the great transatlantic liners. The library had a larges selections of titles to choose from.

Not to be missed is the bridge viewing station on deck 11 which allows you to look in on the officer on the bridge and see all of the technical equipment to operate and steer the ship. Also located in this room are two television screens displaying video of the construction of the ship in Meyer Werft Shipyard in Papenburg, Germany,

Gymnasium and Spa (more info below).


Norwegian Gem Pool Area
OUTSIDE AREAS - Pool Area with twisty Slide onboard NCL's Norwegian Gem. - copyright NYCRUISEINFO.com

The Norwegian Gem has some great deck spaces and some of them are hidden away.

Some of the hidden secret areas include the forward area high above the bridge with the clam shell seating. Ideal for two to lounge in the sun.

The area on the upper deck leading up to the are above the bridge is also ideal for escaping the crowd.

If you are looking for a shady area, there is the wrap around promenade which is quiet and out of the hustle and bustle of the ship. It allows you a quiet escape from your fellow passengers.

I highly recommend walking the full length of the promenade deck, the view of the wake of the ship from the stern cannot be missed.

There are ample deck chairs around the pool and upper pool deck areas as well.


STATEROOMS
Norwegian Gem - Balcony Mini--Suite Stateroom

Sample Norwegian Gem Balcony Mini-Suite Stateroom. - Copyright NYCruiseInfo.com.

The Norwegian Gem has accommodations for every budget. From inside cabins to Penthouse Apartment Suites with a semi-private pool, dining area and hot tubs the Norwegian Gem has a wide variety of staterooms to choose from.

All Staterooms include ample storage, a small refrigerator, hair dryer, safe, coffee maker and welcome shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer and hand soap

The inside staterooms (Cabins without an outside view) have a queen size bed and adequate storage. The bathrooms are compact but functional.

There are outside cabins which have either a porthole or picture window and offer a view of the sea. They are slightly larger than the inside cabins but have a similar configuration.

Sample NCL's Norwegian Gem Outside Stateroom.

Sample Norwegian Gem Outside Stateroom. - Copyright NCL.

The Balcony cabins are slightly larger and offer floor to ceiling windows with a sliding glass door. There is a moderate sized outdoor seating area, large enough for two chairs and a small table.

During my recent cruise, I was in cabin 9660 which was a compact balcony cabin. This category of stateroom can accommodate 4 people in a cabin. We found it to be very compact and when the 4th bed was dropped from the ceiling (after dinner), the balcony was inaccessible. If there are 4 people traveling in your party and you are sharing a cabin, I highly recommend a more comfortable mini-suite on deck 11. Cabin 9660 is ideal for 2 people and possibly a 3rd.

The Norwegian Gem has Mini-suites which provide more cabin space than the traditional balcony cabin.

And finally there are the Penthouse Garden Suites, located high above the ship. These multi-room suites include separate seating areas, multiple bedrooms and baths, larger private balconies and more. The Garden Suites also have access to a private pool area, private sun deck, Hot Tubs, mini-gym and more. You also will have your own butler, access to the concierge and private dining for breakfast and lunch at Cagney’s steakhouse

ACTIVITIES -

 

Rock Climbing Wall on NCL's Norwegian Gem

Rock Climbing Wall on NCL's Norwegian Gem - Copyright NYCruiseInfo.com

Onboard the Norwegian Gem there is always something to do – if you choose to. The Norwegian Gem has:

A full court basketball / tennis court.

Arcade room.

Oversized Chess Board to challenge a fellow passenger to a match.

Ping Pong tables.

Jogging track.

Golf driving cage.

2 Outdoor pools.

Hot Tubs.

Sun Decks for sunbathing.

Wrap around promenade to get exercise and take in the sea air.

Casino.

Internet Café (additional cost).

Library.

Bowling (additional cost).

Rock-climbing wall.

These are all in addition to the items included in the daily cruise program:

Bingo

Dance Lessons

Wine/Liquor tasting.

Exercise classes.

Napkin Folding.

The Perfect Couple Game Show.

Crew Talent Show

More.

The Norwegian Gem has a substantial shopping area onboard where guests can purchase high quality jewelry, gold or silver by the inch, costume jewelry, liquor, souvenirs, perfume and more. All purchases are tax free. I found the prices for most items to be reasonable.


Gym on Board the Norwegian Gem - Norwegian Cruise Line
SPA / GYM AREAS - Gym onboard the Norwegian Gem - Copyright NYCRUISEINFO.com

Gym on board the Norwegian Gem

The Norwegian Gem has a large Gymnasium with at least 20 machines including treadmills, weightlifting and stair machines. There is also a separate room where there are free weights and exercise rooms. There are free classes and seminars for health improvement as well as exercise classes, personalized training and personalized training programs which are available at a fee. The Gymnasium has floor to ceiling windows providing a view of the sea while exercising.

The Norwegian Gem has extensive spa facilities. The Spa is know as the Mandara Spa and offers Swedish Message, Botox Treatments and much more. There is a Spa pool, saunas and more. The Mandara Spa offers as wide range of treatments to pamper yourself. Spa treatments are available at an additional cost.
Spa on Board the Norwegian Gem - Norwegian Cruise Line
Spa onboard the Norwegian Gem - Copyright NYCRUISEINFO.com

As part of the Spa area, there is a hair and nail salon so you can always look your best.

DINING ON BOARD -

 

Grand Pacific Dining Room onboard the Norwegian Gem
Grand Pacific Dining Room onboard NCL's Norwegian Gem - Copyright NYCRUISEINFO.com

The Norwegian Gem offers a wide variety of dining options to vacationers. Some of the restaurants are included in the cruise fare and others are available at an additional charge of $10-$25 per person depending on the restaurant. Regardless of the restaurant, I found the menu to offer a wide selection of specialties of the day plus some traditional means that are available every evening.

The restaurants included in the cruise fare are:

The Magenta – with its artistic, fresh ambience. The walls of the restaurant are adorned with large glass hand painted murals of flowers with perfectly accented lighting. The dining experience here is a little more intimate than the ship’s main restaurant – The Grand Pacific.

The Grand Pacific - is a large, sophisticated restaurant located at the rear of the ship, offering excellent views of the ocean. The entire back wall of the dining room is floor to ceiling, oversized windows. The restaurant has high ceilings, with ornate chandeliers and is reminiscent of the sophisticated New York dining experience from the 1930’s.

Both main dining rooms offer delicious traditional cuisines from around the world.

One of many delicious meals onboard NCL's Norwegian Gem

One of many delicious meals onboard NCL's Norwegian Gem - Copyright NYCRUISEINFO.com

For more casual dining, there is the Garden Café, which is the buffet area on the Norwegian Gem. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner are served at the Garden Buffet providing guests a less formal dining experience. At the Garden Café much of the food is made to order and is prepared fresh. NCL was the first to introduce what they referred to as the “Action Stations”, where the food is made to order and served fresh. Action Stations include: Pasta with a choice of sauces and fresh vegetables, Asian Food Station, Salad station and more.

At the Garden Café, in addition to the action stations, there is a carving station, hot rotisserie chicken, soups, salads, Pizza, Fresh Fruit, prepared dishes, hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, bratwurst and more…
For Desert, there are various cakes, pies and ice cream (soft serve and regular).
For breakfast there is freshly made omelets, sausage, bacon, waffles, pancakes, french toast, cereal, croissants, bread, juices, fresh fruit and more.
Located in the aft section of the Garden Café is a separate section called the Kid’s Buffet which includes kid friendly food; Chicken Nuggets, french fries, hot dogs, Mac and cheese and more.

The Blue Lagoon which is open 24 hours and offers comfort food including chicken fingers and fries, Tuna Melts, Mozzarella & Pancetta Panini, hot dogs, hamburgers and more.

During lunch there is the Grill and the Great Outdoors for those wishing to dine outdoors or poolside. Here you can find the traditional BBQ items as well as some specialty items.

The Great Outdoors Dining Area on NCL's Norwegian Gem

The Great Outdoors Dining Area on NCL's Norwegian Gem - Copyright NyCruiseInfo.com

One evening during the cruise there is the Chocolate buffet. Everything at the buffet is made of Chocolate. This caffeine rich buffet replaces ice sculptures with sculptures made of chocolate, and hundreds of deserts made of chocolate to sample.

Restaurants requiring a cover charge include:

Cagney’s Steak House, which offers main dishes which feature tender steaks, including filet mignon and lobster, prime steak cuts or chicken with a choice of sides. The food is actually prepared at an action station located in the dining room and delivered fresh and hot to your table. Appetizers include Cagney’s famous crab cakes, jumbo shrimp cocktail and more. If you like steaks this is the place for you.

Le Bistro which features French Cuisine is an intimate dining atmosphere with a French flair.

My personal favorite is the Teppanyaki – The Japanese restaurant features freshly grilled, steaks, chicken, shrimp, rice, fresh vegetables and more made to order at your table. The chiefs, themselves provide the entertainment, grilling the meat, chopping the vegetables, making jokes and including the diners in the food preparation. The food is made fresh right at your table, served hot and the experience is wonderful.

The Orchid Garden – serving Asian Fusion entrees.

The Sushi Bar – Serving freshly made sushi.

Grand Pacific Dining Room onboard NCL's Norwegian Gem

Sushi Bar onboard NCL's Norwegian Gem

Tequilla – offering Spanish Tapas specialties.

La Cucina – offering Italian Specialties. This restaurant offers both inside and outside dining (at peak times) and offers traditional Italian and specialty dining options. Appetizers include Calamari, Cesar Salads, fig salad and more. Entrees include Tortellini, Linguini Cabonara, Pork Cutlet Solembacka with gnocchi, delicately prepared veal chops and more. You will not leave this restaurant hungry.

 


KIDS AND TEENS -

 

Kids Program on Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Gem

NCL's Norwegian Gem Offers Activities for the Kids - Copyright NYCruiseInfo.com


Usually the kids programs are divided into 3 age groups with age appropriate activities - young cruisers, middle cruisers and then teens.

There are structured activities for each age group 2-17 years old. –

Young Cruisers activities include Pirate Dress up, Pirate parades, Arts and Crafts and more. Activities start around 1 PM on days at sea to about 4 PM or 5 PM. There is a break for dinner and then the program resume early evening until around 10:00 PM. Additional activities are available after 10:00 PM but at an additional fee.

Middle Cruisers activities include scavenger hunts, video games and more. Hours of operation are about the same.

Young Cruiser and Middle Cruisers programs are held in the Treetop Kids Club.

Teen Cruisers – Although there are structured activities – Dances, Scavenger hunts, attending the ship show, hot tub parties and more, teens are free to participate or not. They have the run of the ship. These activities go from Noon to 1:00 AM. Teen Program is conducted in the Leopard Lounge.

There are separate rooms for teen and for the younger cruisers.

In addition to the structured Kids program, there is a kiddie pool and kids outdoor splash/shower area (Adult supervision required).

There is a game room and card room stocked with games.

As mentioned above, there is an arcade (fee), basketball court, jogging track, rock climbing wall, bowling (fee) and more (see activities mentioned above).

Kids can also play Wii on the 2 storey Television Screen in the ship’s main atrium at select times.

ENTERTAINMENT -

Stardust Theatre onboard NCL's Norwegian Gem

 

Stardust Theatre onboard NCL's Norwegian Gem - Copyright NYCruiseInfo.com


There are two shows every evening. The early show is at 7:30 PM and the late shown at 9:30 PM. Entertainment included:

A comedian.

Second City Comedy show and passenger improv sessions.

Themed musical productions featuring singers and dancers.

A Hypnotist.

Live Music.

Piano Music and vocalist.

Theme nights and bands in the Spinnaker Lounge. 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s nights and NCL’s signature White Hot Party.

Disco in the Bliss and Spinnaker Lounge.

Overall the entertainment was good. The singers and dancer were enjoyable and the ship band was excellent.

PORTS OF CALL -

Scuba Diving off the shores of Nassau in the Bahamas

Scuba Diving off the shores of Nassau in the Bahamas - Copyright NYCRUISEINFO.com


Port Canaveral Florida – Offers excursions to Disney, Universal Studio, Kennedy Space Center, Coco Beach and more. Note that depending on the time of the year and the arrival time of the ship in Port Canaveral, some of the theme parks may close early, cutting your stay at the park shorter. On our particular cruise, the ship arrived at noon, travel time to the theme parks is 45 to 60 minutes and the parks closed at 7:00 PM.

Since we have been at the theme parks multiple times, we opted to go to Coco Beach. There really is not much in Coco Beach except the beach. The beach was wide, clean and offered restrooms. Everyone enjoyed the beach. As far as shopping, there is a Ron Jon Surf Shop, a small mall, Walgreens and other stores found in any small city in the US.

Nassau in the Bahamas – We have been to Nassau a few times. This time we went to Atlantis and swam with the dolphins. Although the excursion was quite expense, $299 per person, swimming with the dolphins is something you should do at least once. The fee includes your transportation to and from Atlantis, 30 minutes of swimming and interaction with the dolphins, snorkeling equipment, admissions to “The Dig”, Atlantis’ underground fish tanks, pools and all of the water parks. Meals are additional at Atlantis. Tip: My recommendation is eating at the deli or the Pizzeria over by the marina. Lunch in the deli will set you back $60 for a family of 4. The Pizzeria was $35 – for 6 slices of pizza (with no drinks). Tip: Bring your own water bottles from home and refill it on the ship and take it ashore at Atlantis. This will be sure to save you at least $15. In general, food in the Bahamas is expensive so there is no escaping having to pay.

Tip: If you are just considering using Atlantis’ pools, water park and the Dig, you may want to book a room at Comfort Suites Paradise Island next door, which will allow you access to Atlantis’ Pools, water-parks and “The Dig”. Depending on the number of people in your party, it may be less expensive than booking the excursion through the cruise line. Confirm with the Comfort suites to assure the agreement is still in place and be sure to book the right hotel since there are multiple Comfort Suites in the Bahamas.

There is a rickety ferry that can transport you from the pier to Paradise Island at a reasonable fare. Once at Paradise Island, Atlantis is a short walk from the ferry. My kids love the ferry, since it is an experience in itself.

Other excursions in the Bahamas include catamaran sailing, snorkeling, dolphin counter and swimming with the dolphins at Blue Lagoon, Island tours and shopping.

Great Stirrup Cay - Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island – has allot to offer. NCL is making significant improvements to the island including the addition of a docking area. Because the water is not deep enough for the ship to dock, passengers must be tendered in to the island. Prior to creating a separate docking facility, the tenders pulled up on the beach and dropped down a front loading ramp and passengers disembarked right on the beach. Although this may sound nice, it did make a portion of the beach unusable since passengers were ferried on and off all day long. Now NCL has created a sheltered canal system to allow the tenders to dock in an area away from the beach.

The renovations completed so far, include a new covered, outside dining areas with picnic tables and a new food preparation and buffet area.

The island is undergoing additional improvements including significant expansion of the beach area. Rumor has it that a Stingray encounter area is being created and will probably be available as an excursion.

Already available at the private island is the beach party buffet, swimming, sun bathing, Jet Skiing, float rentals, Eco Excursion tour, inflatable slides, volleyball, scuba rentals and coordinated activities for the teens.

Tip: Be sure to pack your sun tan lotion and sun glasses since the tropical sun can burn you easily.

In the spring, summer and early fall the Norwegian Gem sails to Bermuda replacing her winter Florida, Bahamas itinerary. Bermuda is a great destination. To learn more about Bermuda, Click Here -> Bermuda Review. The Norwegian Gem will spend multiple days (usually 2 nights/3days) at Kings Wharf Bermuda.

Tip: It should be noted that from November through the end of April, the first and last day of your cruise could be quite cool, so be sure to pack a sweater and somewhat warmer clothing.

CONCLUSION -

Rock Climbing Wall on Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Gem

Overall the cruise was very enjoyable.

My teens had a great time, with structured activities as well as run of the ship.

The Freestyle Dining allowed us to have dinner as a family multiple nights but also allowed the flexibility for my wife and I to have dinner for two a few nights.

Enjoyed not having set time for meals.

The food was very good. Better than most mass marketed cruise lines.

The crew was very friendly, welcoming and always smiling.

The accommodations were comfortable but compact. Higher priced accommodations are more spacious.

Nice combination of days at sea and days in port.

Many activities to appeal to everyone.

Florida and Bahamian cruises ports offer enjoyable activities.

An excellent value for the money.

Overall I would cruise on the Norwegian Gem again.

I would rate the ship 4 stars out of 5 stars.


Norwegian Gem Statistics
 

Norwegian Gem - Norwegian Cruise Line  STATISTICS 

 
 Photo Norwegian Gem
 Gross Tonnage 93,530 Tons
 Length 965 feet
 Beam 125 feet
 Draft 27 Feet
 Cruising Speed 25 knots
 Guest Capacity (Double Occupancy) 2,394
 Total Staff 1,154
 Registry Nassau, Bahamas
 Maiden Voyage October, 2007