While not one of Norwegian Cruise Line's newest or largest vessels, Norwegian Gem nonetheless has a fierce fan base. It has a large number of repeat passengers who love this particular ship, Norwegian's casual Freestyle Cruising concept, its excellently produced Las Vegas-style shows and its wide variety of dining options.
The fun starts as soon as you board Gem via the Atrium on Deck 7, which serves as a busy hub of activities, from live musical performances to trivia contests to movies. Overhead, an eye-catching custom chandelier features color-changing lights, and the centrally located Java Cafe & Bar is usually packed from morning to night.
Flexibility and a casual vibe are hallmarks of Norwegian's Freestyle Cruising, which means that almost 2,400 passengers can enjoy the freedom to dine where, when and with whom they wish (other than at the specialty restaurants, which usually need reservations) and only have to dress up for dinner if they want to. Many passengers come prepared for the ship's theme nights, one of which is the popular Glow Party, an amped-up version of the ship's former White Hot Party, where passengers are encouraged to wear white or neon clothing.
Perusing the Freestyle Daily newsletter reveals a staggering amount of activities to choose from, some of which cost extra but many of which are free, such as the always-popular scavenger hunt, silly pool contests, card lessons and food demonstrations.
Norwegian Gem's wide variety of onboard activities offers something for every type of traveler, from gambling through the night to meeting other passengers in friendly competitions to simply lounging by the pool. It would be a challenge to do everything, but trying is a fun occupation at sea.
Passengers are predominantly from the U.S. and Canada. The average age varies. On longer cruises, the ship appeals to older passengers. On seven-night trips, and especially during school holiday seasons, it's dominated by families.
More so than other ships we've cruised on, we found our fellow Gem passengers loved to talk to strangers, making for a very convivial atmosphere onboard.
Daytime: Pretty much anything goes during the day, which means summer and casual dresses, skirts, regular or capri pants, shorts, jeans and tops for women and khakis, jeans, shorts and casual shirts for men. Swimwear is OK at the buffet and outdoor restaurant, but a shirt or a cover-up and shoes are required.
Evening: At night, smart-casual is preferred in the dining rooms and specialty restaurants. For women, this means slacks or jeans, dresses, skirts and tops. For men, jeans or slacks with a collared shirt and closed-toed shoes are ideal. That isn't to say we didn't see plenty of people sporting T-shirts, though.
Not permitted: Tank tops (for men), flip-flops, baseball caps, visors or jeans that are overly faded, with holes or tears are a no-no in the main dining rooms and specialty restaurants.
For more information, visit Cruise Line Dress Code: Norwegian.
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Our first cruise ever: One of MANY!
Even the free coffee was delicious