Couldn’t you use a vacation right now? I sure could. Unfortunately, there is none in sight until late in the summer. Still, it’s not hard to find yourself using your spare time to stare out the window and dream about being taken away…far far away…
Yes, that is JUST WHAT I WAS THINKING ABOUT. That my friends is the Norwegian Gem, one of 11 ships that make up Norwegian Cruise Line. Last month, I was invited to have lunch on board and take a tour of all the Gem had to offer. It certainly put me in the vacation mind set! The Gem was in port on a Saturday before heading on a Caribbean itinerary. That’s how she spends her summer, coming into NYC every Saturday and sailing out with a new group of passengers bound for sun and fun. Envious? Me? Maybe…
First off, some lingo. Remember that this is a ship, not a boat. As my husband, who used to work for a cruise line, always reminds me, a ship carries boats on her. Likewise, she’s a she. I’m sure there is some long and complicate maritime tradition there that I will spare you. Also, there is no right and left, only starboard and port. If you think I have trouble with my right and left, forget starboard and port. Though I do remember my boating instructor in 6th grade saying “Port wine is red, and the light on the left side of the boat is red, so port-red-left.” What you end up remembering from these things…
We were asked to get to the ship around 11am. She was docked on the West Side in the Passenger Ship Terminal. I drive by this every day on the way to work, and sometimes it takes all my energy not to throw caution to the wind (and sea) and jump on board whatever ship is in port to see where life will take me.
Once we got signed in, we went through security and got boarding passes. I was thrilled to see some familiar faces and meet some new folks. Even though we were only there for the day, we still needed to be accounted for. Certainly don’t want the ship to sail off with a couple of mom blogger stow-aways, right?
Our first stop was to check out the spectacular accommodations on the upper decks. These included the garden villas, owner’s suites, deluxe owner’s suites, courtyard villas and penthouse suites. These are multi-room accommodations for those who want a little more room or have a larger family.
While in port, they had a spectacular view of the NYC skyline. I’m not sure of the hierarchy and configuration, but I believe most of these rooms had either private balconies or access to a private deck and hot tub. That seemed especially nice, as it allowed for a secluded spot to relax.
Next, it was time for lunch where we were treated to the menu that is usually served at the “Jazz Brunch”. I had a great table…
I was thrilled when I got to the ship to see so many familar faces. Especially Ellen, who I don’t see enough. We really need to work on that. She’s funny, whip smart and very caring. I need more of that in my life. Plus, we make it easier for others at the table – you only have to remember one name to cover two of us.
She’s also patient. I couldn’t help but get all 15 year old boy over the massage oil in our gift bag. That’s my hand, below, helping the oil pose with Ellen and Tsh from Simple Mom. I think they are both used to dealing with children, so I didn’t phase them.
We met several members of the cruise staff who talked to us about what NCL vacations are liked. Two things especially stood out to me.
1. Freestyle cruising – what exactly is freestyle cruising? Here’s how NCL defines it:
Freestyle Cruising challenges the conventional model of cruising and is designed to meet the changing needs of today’s cruise passengers. Freestyle Cruising is characterized, in particular, by having no fixed dining times, relaxed attire, more than 20 distinct dining options, relaxed disembarkation and even more lounges, bars, theatres and other entertainment and activity options.
If you have not cruised before, you may not know that most other ships assign you to a set dinner time. For instance, one ship I cruised on had dining times of 5:30 or 8:00. Another ship had a single dining time of 6:00pm. Sometimes that works for people, but let’s say you want dinner tonight at 6 but tomorrow you want to really slug out by the pool and don’t want to eat till 8. On most ships, that’s a problem, but not on NCL. Freestyle cruising means you eat when you want. You also have a choice of restaurants with . On the Gem, you could have dinner at a different one each night of your cruise. For someone who wants to be a little less Type A, I think I would really like the freestyle option. No rushing and worrying, taking things at your own pace for once – sounds great to me!
2. Kids Clubs – NCL has amazing options for kids. The ships have fantastic pools with water slides a plenty and splash areas. There are also play rooms and jungle gyms. A few NCL ships like the Gem even feature Nickelodeon themed programnming and entertainment. You might even meet this guy:
Attendance at the kids clubs is free, and give parents an opportunity to have some time away from the youngins, knowing they are safe and having a great time. When we asked, the youth cruise director said they can accomodate kids with special needs, but I would advise anyone in that situation to contact the line in advance to make sure you and the kids couselors are on the same page during your vacation.
If they have as much fun as we did, it’s got to be a good cruise. You might think moms would be good at plate spinning, but we didn’t exactly have our a-game on…
All in all, I thought it was a lovely ship and the passengers getting ready to sail off were going to have a great time. I love the idea of cruising out of and into NYC – no hassles with planes and transfers. Puts you in that “ready to relax” mode right away. I certainly appreciated the time that the staff took to enterain us and show us around. It’s not like they had anything else to do that day – other than disembark 2000+ passengers and take on new ones, bring on provisions for said passengers, turn rooms around, etc. Not an easy task but they made it look effortless.
You can learn more about Norwegian Cruise Line, especially the Gem, at NCL.com.
Disclosure: I was not paid for my time on board, but I received lunch and a gift bag for attending the event. I was not asked to blog about the event and all opinions are my own.