After the lifeboat drill, the cruise began in earnest with a sail-away party on the pool deck as the ship glided past the Manhattan skyline. Although this was a warmer day than most days in November, it was still cold. There were a few children using the pool and the water slide. A few hardy adults settled into the hot tubs but most people were dressed in winter gear with hats and gloves.
The cruise director took to the bandstand and began to rev up the crowd. He introduced the ship's singers and dancers who performed a lively number in the area between the pools. They were followed by the Nickelodeon characters who also sang and danced. Once the live entertainment was over, the ship's DJ played tunes over the pool deck's sound system.
While all this was going on, several large barbeque kettles had been set up at the aft end of the pool deck. The ship's officers assisted the crew in distributing hamburgers, hot dogs and seafood chowder.
Once darkness had fallen and the ship had sailed under the Verazano Narrows Bridge out into the open sea, the focus shifted to inside the ship. Indeed, when I strolled across the pool deck later in the evening, there were only a few smokers and a few couples gazing up at the full moon, which was partially obscured by thin clouds.
In the theater, the ship's singers and dancers performed a 70s revue at seven o'clock. An hour after they had finished, comedian Jeff Harms did a stand-up show in the same venue. In contrast to a longer cruise,“we don't do two of the same show [in the theater]. We try to give more variety to the guests.”
The scene then changed to the Spinnaker Lounge, Gem's observation lounge high at the front of the ship. Gem's Second City comedy troupe performed an improvised adult comedy show.
This was followed by the White Hot Party. Introduced by the cruise director, the ship's dancers did a number. They were then joined by the activities staff and passengers on the dance floor. The party went on until 2 a.m.
Elsewhere on the ship, various musicians performed in the ship's bars and lounges. Their styles varied from a group playing Caribbean music to a guitarist playing rock favorites to a single pianist playing lounge music. Thus, passengers could find a bar that had entertainment to suit their tastes.
The evening did not resemble a temperance meeting. People were in the bars and it was not uncommon to see glasses of wine at dinner. However, it was not a rowdy crowd. People behaved.
For many people, the focus of the evening was not the entertainment but the dining. Gem has several specialty restaurants and they were fully reserved. Cagney's Steakhouse was particularly popular as might be expected with a New York area crowd, doing over 200 covers.
“For our Cagney's steakhouse, we have a cover charge of $30 for appetizers, soup, main course and dessert. That is a bargain that you cannot get in New York City. It is a nice experience and something that you cannot get in New York City.”
Despite having surf and turf on the menu, the two main dining rooms did not appear as full as usual. They were not empty by any means but the specialty restaurants and the buffet seemed to be the bigger draws.
Another focal point for some guests was the ship's shops. “A lot of guests come aboard to buy alcohol and cigarettes.”
A one night cruise is not easy for the officers and crew. Within 24 hours they have to disembark one group of passengers, embark another, disembark them and embark yet another group. With a few exceptions, everything that is done the first day must be done again the next day. Furthermore, inasmuch as more activities are packed into the short cruise, it is a busier day than a typical embarkation day.
This means longer hours for the officers as well as the crew. “The captain has to wake up early each day to take the ship into port. For the department heads, it is a longer day because on the one night cruise the guests traditionally stay up late and we need to have the supervisors on the floor.”
There are some exceptions. For example, there are no shore excursions to sell as there are no ports of call.
In addition, the ship does not have to do provisioning twice. It can take on supplies and fuel for the short cruise and for the following cruise at the same time. Therefore, provisioning need only be done once.
Also, because most people only take a carry-on overnight bag for a one night cruise, the crew does not have to embark and disembark a horde of bags as on a longer cruise.
This does not mean that the crew members who are normally involved in baggage handling or provisioning get to take the day off. Rather, they are re-deployed to help other crew members who may be more hard pressed such as room stewards who have to clean and prepare each cabin twice in the course of a day. “We try to help each other out - - shift the manpower.”
While the cruise was like a concentrated version of a regular Gem cruise, not everything that is done on a normal cruise is done on a short cruise. For example, there was no room service during the cruise. Instead, the ship's buffet restaurant stayed open until 5 a.m.
“We expect more people to stay up for a late night snack. They have dinner [between six and seven], party, party, party and then they want some food. We cannot do all of those deliveries. So we keep the Garden Cafe open to accommodate a larger crowd. This way the guests can enjoy it and get as fast service as possible.”
Along the same lines, the receptions and parties that are a part of Norwegian's past passenger loyalty program do not take place on a short cruise. There are usually a lot of Latitudes members on a Gem cruise (upwards to 50 percent of the passengers) and although only about 30 percent of the passengers on this cruise were Latitudes members, “we don't have time to accommodate everybody. It is too short. On a one-night or two night cruise, we do not offer Latitudes benefits.”
The next morning it did not seem like it had been less than 24 hours since we had come aboard. A lot of living had taken place in a short time. It did not feel like just an evening out but rather like a real cruise experience.
Unlike most cruises where there are crowds of people waiting in the public areas to get off, on this cruise people finished their breakfasts, picked up their bags from the cabins and walked off. There was a steady stream of people exiting with no significant lines. By 10:30, the cruise was over and the Gem was well along the way to being ready to receive the guests for her next cruise.
Feature Article - - Norwegian Gem - -Norwegian Cruise Line - One Night on Norwegian Gem - page 2