All Aboard the Norwegian Gem


Cruising aboard the Norwegian Gem never gets boring, with facilities like a bowling alley in its Bliss Ultra Lounge Night Club


There's something for everyone on the Norwegian Gem, as Travel Agent recently found out while freestyle cruising from the port of New York to Florida and the Bahamas. Focusing on family and healthy cruising, this voyage highlighted the numerous ways Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) can meet the needs and wants of every family member, from the smallest to the tallest.

The Norwegian Gem, the fourth and final of NCL’s Jewel Class ships, was delivered to the line on October 1, 2007. She spent her initial season at her homeport in Manhattan, sailing cruises to the Bahamas, Florida and the Southern Caribbean. For summer 2009, the Gem has been based in Barcelona, operating seven-night cruises to various Mediterranean destinations, including Malta, Naples, Rome, Florence and Cannes. (The Norwegian Sky takes over the Florida and Bahamas routes when the Gem heads toward Europe.)

Onboard Action

With a 30-foot rock-climbing wall, a four-lane bowling alley, a fitness center boasting a comprehensive (and impressive) class list, basketball, volleyball and tennis courts, a jogging/walking track, pools and an area to drive golf balls, you could stay onboard the Norwegian Gem and never get bored. (A word of caution, though: Give each other a generous handicap for bowling while at sea. Even the most adept bowler will find the listing of the ship difficult to overcome.) To keep up your momentum or get some started onboard, passengers can hire a personal trainer for one-on-one instruction on a personal fitness routine. In the Crystal Atrium, Wii Fit competitions are frequent crowd-pullers. (Case in point: Watching my five-year-old compete in the Wii Fit Hula Hoop competition, broadcast on a two-story TV screen…now that’s something we definitely can’t do at home.)


The Norwegian Gem has been based in Barcelona for the summer 2009 season, operating cruises to various Mediterranean destinations


Onboard playtime was enhanced by frequent visits to the Kids’ Crew. The kids played lots of games that kept them physically active, went on scavenger hunts and did who-knows-what-else. When I picked them up, they were worn out!

Aside from the complimentary Kids’ Crew Program, NCL has even more supervised fun for the kids. Port Play and the Late Night Fun Zone are both fee-based group-sitting services for kids ages 2 through 12. The cost per hour is $5 per child and $3 for each additional sibling. (Port Play hours run from the time the ship arrives in port until 8 p.m. Late Night Fun Zone runs from 10:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m.)

This particular cruise emphasized fun and games and a host of ways to be active. Once the ship is docked, though, passengers were on their own. At each port, there were opportunities to scuba dive, snorkel, dive, windsurf, parasail, kayak, bike…the list is endless.


Families will find that the Norwegian Gem meets everyone’s requirements for a comfortable home away from home. The Mini-Suite was perfect for three people, which included one adult and two children (ages 5 and 8).

The sofa converted into a queen-size bed, which had more than enough room for both the kids. Once the suitcases were stashed, we had ample space for our belongings. I highly recommend booking a room with a balcony—in our case that extra few feet of space and fresh air made all the difference. The negatives to the room were few and minimal. Most notably, trying to work after the kids were in bed was difficult, as I couldn’t sit at the desk and use my computer once the sofa was folded out. The only outlet was at the desk, on “their” side of the room, so I’d suggest bringing an extension cord if you’re catching up on work and computer-time after bedtime.

As everyone knows, the real beauty of a cruise is waking up in a new place every day without schlepping your luggage and your kids to get there. We hugged dolphins, saw real live manatees, touched stingrays, scampered about under a Plexiglas tank of sharks, fed seals, splashed in the ocean, rode roller coasters and went down the onboard water slide at least 100 times—all in one trip. We had opportunities to do so much more—but we’re saving some things for our next cruise.


The Norwegian Gem has a 30-foot rockclimbing wall for those who love adventure


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