My family and I recently set sail on The Norwegian Cruise line. It was a once in a lifetime experience and fun was had by all. We went on a 7 day cruise to Orlando, FL and Nassau Bahamas.
This was a new experience for both my husband and I as we prepared to spend the next week cruising with our 6 year old son and 1 year old daughter.
Our first mission was to arrive on time to NCL’s “Gem” which was luckily docked in our own backyard on the west side highway in NYC. Check-in was a breeze and we quickly boarded the larger than life ship with eagerness and anticipation to what awaited us.
We checked into our room and instantly looked at each other with concern given the let’s say “tight quarters”! Our concern was put to rest once we checked out the daily itinerary that was waiting for us in our room. The activities were endless and my son was already screaming with excitement.
Our first stop was to get signed in at the kids club. Our daughter missed the mark by a couple of years (the minimum age is 3, max is 17) but our son was in business. The staff was so friendly and helpful and addressed all of our concerns and gave us a run down of how “splash academy” works. Our son was given a bracelet to wear the entire time. There was a different theme each night which our son loved. They would have nightly games, entertainment, and more which left him looking forward to the next day or night. The hours are set according to your boat’s schedule and there are several nights in which the kids club is open until 1PM leaving time for parents to have a fun night out. I will also mention the security is top notch and there was one occasion I was not allowed to pick up my son without my room key. Yes, we eventually retrieved him but that’s how strict they are. We were also given a special remote phone to use on the boat since our son has a medical condition that requires assistance if needed. They were really the best and extremely accommodating to our special needs. The Splash Academy ROCKS!
Anytime someone mentions they were on a cruise, it is almost 2nd nature to ask “how was the food?” I found the food to be exceptional on the Norwegian Gem. I would say the buffet was by far the most popular area of the cruise. I am personally not a fan of buffet’s in any way shape or form, BUT on the Gem we were able to sit down at one of the 6 restaurants and have a fabulous 3 course dining service for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We did, however, make advance reservations at a couple of the reservation only restaurants a week before we left. Reservations are not guaranteed at the time you may need so you are allowed to make them in advance. With young kids, we needed earlier reservations and this gave us peace of mind. You can also make any changes once on board which we did as well. One of our favorite night outs to dinner was at the Benihana restaurant. We actually ended up eating here twice it was so much fun. The chef make the dinner so interactive for the kids and the food was also spectacular. There was also complimentary room service which was awesome for the times we used it.
The wait staff was fantastic. I really cannot say enough nice things about them. Any special request my son had they would go out of their way and always find him what he asked for. We were never denied any special request and if they sensed something was unsatisfactory they would find a way to appease.
The employees of Norwegian Cruise Line went above and beyond at every turn. Each night our room steward would make my son special animals out of towels and came into our room several times a day to tidy up. He would transform our room in the late evening and pull out a bunk bed from the ceiling. This was really cool! The ship in general was very clean and you would constantly see crew members doing light housekeeping every day all over the ship. Sanitary conditions are key on a ship this big and NCL did a great job.
Our first 2 days were at sea and this did take a little bit to adjust to the whole “no internet thing” You could buy a package such as my husband did, but if you are like me you just sucked it up and waited until the ship was at port. Our first stop was Orlando. The ship had a dedicated “excursions” counter in which you could plan your day. You are not required to leave the boat, but I would say most people do. The excursions are pricey but in comparison no more than going on your own to one of these destinations.
The pool area on the Gem was awesome. There were water slides, multiple pools, hot tubs and plenty of lounge areas. My son probably went down the water slide about 2,ooo times and had a blast each and every time. The pool did not feel overcrowd and again was very clean and well maintained.
Our family chose Universal Studios for our Orlando day trip. Ok, that is not true… our son chose Universal and we all tagged along 🙂 On excursion days your time is limited, so we were really on a crunch to get everything done and make sure we made it back to the bus on time. We ran through the park riding everything we could and even watched a “One Direction” tribute concert in the pouring rain… “Memories”
Once back on the boat our next stop was the Bahamas. We were really excited about going somewhere tropical and “Atlantis” was number one on our list. Now, I should stop here and tell you about an encounter My husband and I had while exploring the ship. A girl in the camera department informed us we could book a photoshoot free of charge and only purchase the photos we liked. She suggested a photo shoot once we arrive to Nassau so before we went to Atlantis we met with the ship photographer for such a fun session. I am actually a family photographer back home in NYC, so any chance I can get a family photo professionally taken I am totally up for it! The photographer was so nice and got some fabulous shots I will cherish. I ended up buying several which I have posted below.
Atlantis has always been sort of a mystical illusion to me. The commercials are on TV all the time that peaks my curiosity and I have several friends and family members who have been as well. Atlantis was amazing. The aquariums took most of our day and we also took time out to eat in one of their renown restaurants. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate for us to use the infamous water slides but we still had a blast. I would look forward to a trip back here one day…. it was gorgeous and there was so much to do!
After leaving Nassau, the Gem made it’s way back up the east coast to NYC. We had the next 3 days at sea and we made the most of it by enjoying all the activate the boat had to offer. There was live entertainment, nightly shows and an actual bowling alley on board! The bowling was an additional cost but well worth it! My son also entertained himself for awhile playing the Wii on the ship’s 2 story TV…. insane! There were family dance parties at night on the deck complete with popcorn, cupcakes, and more. My son loved the family Nickelodeon trivia which we did a couple of time and my husband became addicted to BINGO (who knew?) and got a pie smashed in his face !
The Norwegian Cruise lines pride themselves on cruising “freestyle”. You are not obligated to eat at certain times, dress in formal attire or anything else that may be hindering to your schedule. There is always something around if you need it and even my one year old daughter found plenty to do.
The Norwegian Gem was a wonderful getaway for our family and we will not forget our important bonding time. A special thanks to The Moms for connecting us to NCL for this experience.