By Mike Coleman
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) unveiled a new ship over the holidays and, with the New Year now upon us, has produced a series of ambitious fleet-wide resolutions.
The 2,400 passenger Norwegian Gem features, among a host of innovative amenities, 12 posh villas two with their own private gardens and sundecks plus 10 with private courtyard, pool and sundeck.
Look for dining and several entertainment options in 12 onboard restaurants and a 24-hour nightlife complex boasting the second four-lane, 10-pin bowling alley at sea, an NCL exclusive first offered on Norwegian Pearl.
Guests looking for a physical challenge will find a 30-foot rock climbing wall with five different climbing routes, each with varying degrees of difficulty. Norwegian Gem also features the Wii video game system by Nintendo. Wii tournaments are held in Norwegian Gem’s atrium on a two-story LED screen allowing guests to gather and play against each other.
The ship will sail 7-, 10- and 11-day itineraries from her home port of New York to the Bahamas, Florida and the Caribbean through April when she repositions to Europe for a series of 28 seven-day Western Mediterranean itineraries roundtrip from Barcelona. Later this year she will return to the Big Apple to feature seven-day Bahamas and Florida itineraries.
The ship is the eighth vessel purpose-built for NCL’s signature Freestyle Cruising – an approach to cruise travel unlike any other offered in the industry. Freestyle Cruising leaves regimented schedules behind, and is characterized by having no fixed dining times, no formal dress codes, relaxed disembarkation and dozens of on-board entertainment and activity options.
The line, meanwhile, has also announced significant fleet wide enhancements to its onboard product. Dubbed Freestyle 2.0, look for an improved dining experience; stateroom upgrades, new wide-ranging onboard activities for guests all of ages; additional recognition, service and amenities for balcony, suite and villa guests, and the re-launch of a past guest recognition program.Â
Among the highlights: Lobster in the main restaurant on multiple days and in one restaurant every night of the cruise; a signature specialty dish in every restaurant; one or two alternative restaurants open for lunch on sea days; a new and expanded room service menu; upgrades in bedding, sheets, pillows, duvets, towels, bathrobes and in-cabin amenities including coffee maker and expanded TV offerings.
Additionally, look for an “at your service” hotline; separate check-in for balcony and mini-suite guests; personal escort to stateroom; plus concierge and butler service in all suites and villas.Â
Most of the enhancements are being rolled out immediately and will be largely implemented by summer.