For most of her career, Norwegian Gem has been based in New York City. About 95 percent of her guests are Americans, most of whom come from the Northeast.
Gem now shares New York with Norwegian Breakaway, a ship Ms. Sommeregger knows well having been on the team that brought Breakaway into service and having served on her as Assistant Hotel Director. However, even though Breakaway is newer and larger than Gem, Gem is able to hold her own.
“People do cruise on the Breakaway but prefer the Gem. We have people who prefer the Breakaway but they also cruise on the Gem.”
“We hear many times people prefer the Gem because of the size of the ship, the friendliness of the crew and they know what they are expecting when they come. It is like their home away from home. They book the cruise because of the staff. Guests really follow the management or the crew. This is nice to see. Our crew goes out above and beyond expectations because it is nice to have that feeling when the guest comes back.”
“Here on the Gem, we have a lot of repeat cruisers. We see guests back every couple of months. We know a lot of people here. That is why I like to sail out of New York. I was on the Breakaway, I was on the Dawn years back, on the Jewel and I am back here now. You know the people, you know what they are looking for. They are not going because of the itinerary we are doing. They come back because of the service and the crew, the staff and the ship.”
In the autumn of 2016, Gem will spend a couple of months based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This is part of an initiative to deploy the Norwegian fleet to more parts of the world. “Its time to change. We have a lot of ships now and people want to see something else. A lot of guests have done our itineraries, they want to see something else too.”
But not everyone is pleased at the thought of having to fly to reach the Gem. “A lot of New Yorkers are not happy. If we don't try as a company we will not find out [what works]. Always when you make changes there is a little bit of negativity. People do not want to get out of their comfort zone. [But] it is nice to see a change, it is nice to see something else. It is good to see changes, we all change.”
The senior hotel mangers on Gem during a welcome aboard show.
The New Norwegian Gem
In late 2015, Norwegian Gem underwent a major refit in which the public areas of the ship were refurbished. This was part of a fleetwide upgrade process, which continues to manifest itself in various ways on the Gem.
“With the refit of the public areas, I am very impressed, very happy. And the guests - - very good feedback. The colors are more calm, not so bright. The pink, green and bluish is gone. So it is more beige, brown, a little bit blue, a few colors here and there but it is calm, it is nice.”
One of the most visible changes is the Bliss Lounge, which had been decorated to shock and awe. Now it is a stylish nightclub. Similarly, the Spinnaker observation lounge has lost its audacious colors. “Spinnaker is a lounge where people like to hang out.”
“The restaurants are very nice. The Magenta restaurant with all this beige, bluish colors and the chairs, gives a different impression. Before, everyone liked the Grand Pacific. But now with the new style of the Magenta Restaurant, going away from these dark red colors, it is calm and people prefer to go there. So the dining rooms are balanced.”
“The Garden Cafe doesn't look like a buffet. The buffet line, the tiling, the lights, the chairs, the carpet, the decoration looks nice.”
“Great Outdoors, now we have new chairs there. People don't rush and eat and get out because the chairs now are very comfortable. People sit, they can read a book. It is a quiet area, they can have a coffee there in the afternoon. It is where people are hanging out.”
“Moderno and Cagnery's have new chairs, new carpets. Very comfortable chairs there now.”
“In the whiskey bar we had this half wall, now it is open. People can listen to music, they can talk. I am very pleased.”
“The ship looks very nice now. The only thing we are waiting for now is to refurnish the cabins. That's the next step. That is coming. Its in the pipeline.”
Complementing this upgrade of the physical space is an upgraded set of menus presenting more choices with better quality ingredients. Tested on Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Breakaway, these bring cruise ship dining to a new level.
“Entertainment-wise, we are getting a new show here, implemented in April. We need to change a little bit. People coming back want to go and see the shows and the entertainment so you need to change a little bit of the variety there to keep people coming back.”
Cruise ship interview - Norwegian Cruise Line - Norwegian Gem - Hotel Director - page two