Norwegian Gem - Inaugural
Bliss Ultra Lounge & Nightclub is another you have to see to believe.  There is an equivalent room on Norwegian Pearl.  I nicknamed this the knocking shop while Pam called one of the statues Madonna due to the conical boobs.  Beds, bowling alleys, slot machines, dancefloor, beds.  It really is an odd room.  The paintings too are of naked people (there were a lot around the ship - paintings not naked people that I saw).  More velour here.  The majority of seating is velour around the entire ship.  Some seats in Bliss were uncomfortable, as were most of the beds.  Unfortunately there wasn't time to go back at night to see what people got up to.
There is such beautiful artwork at the entrances to the Stardust Theater and inside there was some sort of prop rehearsal going on.  It was unusual to find the theatre open during the day and we were lucky to get in when we did as a few hours later it was closed.  We also found open the Academia Meeting Room so grabbed a shot.
La Cucina Italian Restaurant was amazing.  There were some tables outside while inside had a cosy ambiance with a lot of dark woods.  The floor was a terrific illusion.  It looked just like terracotta but was soft carpet.  Even walking on it you couldn't get over it not being a hard floor.  Pam decided to book a table for four and got one at 9:30pm.  As she was on the phone I spotted a bit of bad carpet laying outside.
The Magenta Main Dining Room on Deck 6 was the other main one.  We had tried to get in earlier while on that deck only the door wouldn't open.  We tried again with success although the metal door was very heavy and an easy way to keep people in or out.  Afterwards we went to the Grand Pacific.
Pam had left a message via reception for Matt about the booking.  As we were leaving the Crystal Atrium we bumped into him.  She invited him to join us meeting Bart who runs the Ship Parade website at 2pm.  After getting off the ship there were some male singers in the building.  Bart was waiting at the bottom of the escalator and we went for a stroll across the bridge to the other side.  He informed us there were 600 Dutch visitors onboard after a newspaper advert offered places for ten Euros each.  No wonder we were invaded!  We thought the visitors were breeding there were that many all over the place.
Here is where I shocked Pam by saying, "There's our beautiful ship."  Yes I had been well and truly brainwashed by all the fish logos!  But despite one or two places she is actually beautiful and Pam had been right about me liking her.  There was a very good atmosphere aboard and NCL are another who put P&O to shame on short trips.  It was a gloriously hot day in Amsterdam that afternoon so I had to carry my coat.  Afterwards we went to the terminal cafe for a coffee.
To reboard you needed to pass immigration with your passport.  They took it, felt the pages and handed it back.  This hadn't happened in Rotterdam.  You just showed it and your onboard card at security and were waved through.  Strange how two ports in the same country do things differently.  Before reboarding, we took some photos from the gangway, including our cabin, which is the sixth along the left from the diamond.
We had some time to kill before the 7pm departure.  At least I THINK it was 7pm.  This was one thing I didn't like about NCL.  There you were in a country using Central European Time so were an hour ahead while everything had to be done on ship's time which was UK time.  This caused no end of confusion.  But we were on well before the 5.30pm deadline.  I'm assuming that was ship's time.  Time for a stroll around the Promenade Deck after watching the river traffic.  The artwork on the walls may look like graffiti but Pam explained there's method in their madness.  Each section as you go along tells you where you are like the theatre, shops or restaurants.  Quite clever really.  Well I got around faster than Pam but then she was taking more photos than I was.  By the time we met up I'd done 3/4 and she'd done 1/4 so I waited for her where we'd started.
We went to the Garden Cafe for a coffee.  Most if it was shut up preparing for evening meals and the drinks still available were running out.  They didn't even restock the milk or put out clean teaspoons which is fine if you like black coffee with no sugar like Pam.  Then it was time for our departure.  It's a shame it was so late, thus getting dark.  The observation deck is as bad as Constellation and hopeless for flash as the light fades.  But to enjoy the full effect of the sailing it was really the only place to be and quite crowded even before anything happened.
The flag was taken down at 6.50pm, followed a few minutes later by the ropes being cast off from the dock.  As we waited for them to be wound in, I noticed one crew member on the bow having his photo taken by another.  Nice to see crew behaving like tourists as well!  The ship gave three blasts at 6.56pm and moved up towards the turning circle up the other channel.
As soon as people saw the water tug at our side they dashed over.  I did too but with the glass and gaps along that side it made it impossible to get a photo so I returned to the front and hoped for the best.  When it came into view I reached over the top with my camera and pointed.  A woman told her husband off for not helping me so he asked if I wanted a leg up which caused a lot of laughter among my fellow passengers.  Once we had straightened we blasted three more times and followed the tug which then turned the water off.  All sorts of honks and whistles came as we passed the port on our way out and once we had turned the corner, passing the stopped tug, we blasted three more times.  The tug gave the same number back to which we blasted again and so did the tug.  It had got too dark to get photos by that point.
Time for what we hadn't been able to do so far - shopping!  There were no postcards.  Very disappointing especially as they only put one in the cabin for two people.  That, like every other image onboard, is NOT Norwegian Gem but Norwegian Jewel photoshopped.  There are subtle differences between Jewel, Pearl and Gem, most notably Jewel has no rock wall.  Pam had managed to wheedle a bunch from a reluctant reception which helped even though it meant my list was shortened.  But they had bears - yay!  Next stop was for the professional photos.  This is my one major gripe about NCL.  Usually if there is more than one version or copy you take what you like and leave what you don't.  Not them.  You HAD to buy both or nothing.  The second boarding one was a complete waste of ink and Pam didn't want the deck one from Dover but ended up with it.  Also they had no albums to keep them in.  Now whether it was due to being a new ship so their supply hadn't arrived or just don't do them I have no idea.  The only albums you could buy held 6x4 photos and these were bigger.  After dropping everything in the cabin, Pam went to the Spinnaker Lounge to meet Matt and Mark while I changed.  The cocktail of the day was Tropical Itch, made with rum and vodka.  Wow!  I don't think it affected Pam but it did me.  They came in souvenir glasses.  She had Norwegian Dawn while I had Norwegian Spirit which, of course, used to be SuperStar Leo and the only Star Cruises ship I had ever seen and tranferred to NCL after they took them over.  We were told there were no Norwegian Gem ones so when we ordered
another, she asked for
Spirit while I wanted Dawn.  It also transpired they had none left and it
was a choice between Norwegian Gem and Pride of Aloha!  These were also glass as opposed to plastic.  We both went for Gem.  Before the second lot of drinks we watched as we entered the lock at Ijmuiden at 9.18pm (or 8.18 ship's time).  We came out half an hour later.  Just before 9.30pm (ship's time - see how confusing this is?) we headed to La Cucina for dinner only they weren't ready for us so we waited at the Garden Cafe.  I was already gone by this time and hadn't started my second Tropical Itch.  The food and service were fabulous.  I remember that.  We ended up being the last to leave and it was a surprise really that, although it was Italian and you had to book, it as an ordinary Freestyle restaurant so no extra charge.  It would have been worth it if it had been.  Afterwards we went to Deck 11 to find the Bridge Viewing Room which wasn't on the deckplan we'd been given.  Unfortunately it was closed as we were leaving a port.  Then it was bed.
Another 6am wake-up as we were heading back to Dover.  I hadn't put the mobile back so it was really 5am.  Oops!  That wasn't all.  I discovered after I'd got home I'd actually put the camcorder forward another hour instead of back.  Double oops!  Never done that before.  That Tropical Itch, while delicious, was lethal!  Another 8am arrival but we docked before that.  Still it gave us a chance to finish packing seeing as we had to lug the cases off as well.
So it was all over.  We disembarked just after 8am and waited for Mike to pick us up.  After we collected Pam's car she dropped me off at Woking where I got the 11am train.  I got a taxi at the station and was home by 12:15pm battered and bruised from lugging the case both ways.

So the verdict?  A very enjoyable cruise even though it was short.  It was bound to have a few teething troubles which I hope they correct.  Dover wasn't bad and it would have been better to have porterage but I'm glad, apart from one, all my future cruises are local.  Less hassle and bruised legs!  Although a Jewel class, I am looking forward to
Norwegian Jade (at the time of writing Pride of Hawai'i) next year to see the differences and how much of the original is left.  Pam and I got on well which was a relief with the next seven cruises to come, including Norwegian Jade.

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© Patricia Dempsey 6th-8th October 2007
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