Has someone finally built megaships for Generations X and Y? With a mix of classy and fun spaces, a lively atmosphere, awesome kids' facilities, and an amazing number of restaurants, these are some of the most original mainstream megaships to come along in years.
Typical Per Diems: $70-$115
Norwegian Dawn sails the Caribbean from Miami (spring/winter) and Bermuda from New York (summer/fall).
Norwegian Gem sails the Bahamas & Florida from New York (spring/winter) and Bermuda from New York (summer/fall).
Norwegian Jade sails Europe (year-round).
Norwegian Jewel sails the Caribbean from Miami (winter) and the Bahamas & Florida from New York (spring/summer/fall).
Norwegian Pearl sails the Caribbean from Miami (spring/winter) and Alaska from Vancouver (summer/fall).
Norwegian Spirit sails the Caribbean from New Orleans (year-round).
Norwegian Star sails the Mexican Riviera from Los Angeles (spring 2011), Alaska from Seattle (summer/fall) and the Caribbean from Tampa (winter, spring 2012).
These sexy sisters are (along with Norwegian Epic) the most fun megaships at sea today. Each has a supersocial atmosphere, creative decor, and onboard music and pop culture references tailored to a surprisingly young demographic -- generally, from folks in their 20s to folks in their 50s. Are these the Generations X and Y megaships? Could be.
The word of the day is "options." Want fun? How about Spirit's Maharini's Lounge, with its bordello-like, velvet-draped seating nooks (with beds even!), or the Bliss Ultra Lounge on Pearl and Gem, which juxtaposes the same bordello decor with a four-lane, Day-Glo bowling alley. Want food? Each of these ships has 8 to 10 different restaurants, from fancy steakhouses and teppanyaki restaurants to casual Tex-Mex and burger joints. Want fantasy? The nightclubs and atriums feature furniture right out of Alice in Wonderland. Want high style? Check out Dawn's and Star's Gatsby's Champagne Bar, and Jewel, Pearl, and Gem's Bar Central on Deck 6.
Want extravagance? These ships' Garden Villas spread out to an astonishing 5,350 square feet, making them the largest suites at sea today. Each features private gardens, multiple bedrooms with mind-blowing bathrooms, separate living rooms, full kitchens, and private butler service. Zowie! Zowie, too, on their price: about $13,750 per person, per week, for the first two guests, and $499 for each additional guest (up to a maximum of six people). Normal cabins, on the other hand, come at normal prices.
NCL divides these ships into three classes: Dawn and Star in the Dawn class; Jewel, Pearl, Jade, and Gem in the Jewel Class; and Spirit all by herself, with no class name at all. Overall, though, these ships are vastly more similar than different, with all but Spirit (the oldest of the bunch, and which came to NCL from the Star Cruises fleet) sharing a nearly identical layout. The Jewel-class ships, though, are more fully realized vessels, with a number of additional attractions.
Standard inside (142 sq. ft.) and outside (158-205 sq. ft.) cabins, though not overly large compared to some in the industry (particularly those of Carnival's and Holland America's ships), are larger than aboard NCL's older ships. Decor is a mix, with stylish elements (such as cherrywood wall paneling and snazzy rounded lights), kitschy elements (such as bright island-colored carpeting), and cheap touches (such as some spindly chairs and end tables, and wall-mounted soap dispensers in the bathrooms). Each comes with a small TV and minifridge, a tea/coffeemaker, a private safe, and cool, retro-looking hair dryers. Closets and drawer space are more than ample for weeklong sailings, and bathrooms in all categories are well designed, with large sinks whose faucets swing out of the way, a magnifying mirror inset in the regular mirror, adequate though not exceptional counter/shelf space, and (in all but inside cabins) separate shower and toilet compartments. Balconies in standard cabins accommodate two metal chairs and a small table, but aren't terribly roomy.
Minisuites (229 sq. ft.) provide about 60 more feet of floor space than standard cabins, with a large foldout couch, a curtain between the bed and the sitting area, and a bathtub. The so-called Romance Suites really are romantic, with 288 square feet of space, a stereo with CD/DVD library, a bathroom with separate shower and tub, and nice wooden deck chairs on the balcony. Penthouse Suites offer the same, plus gorgeous bathrooms with a whirlpool tub and tiled, seaview shower stall, a larger balcony, and a walk-in closet. Some suites have a separate kids' room and bathroom. Those facing the bow on Decks 9 and 10 have large windows and deep balconies, but safety requirements mandate that instead of a nice glass door, their balconies are accessed via honest-to-God steel bulkheads marked FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY, OPEN ONLY WHEN THE VESSEL IS IN PORT.
The ships' Owner's Suites are huge, with two balconies, living and dining areas, a powder room, a guest bathroom, and 750 square feet of space. Compared to the two Garden Villas up on Deck 14, though, these suites are peasant's quarters. The Garden Villas are, in a word, H-U-G-E, the biggest at sea today at 5,350 sq. ft., comprising an enormous living room with a grand piano, dining room, three bedrooms with their own extravagant seaview bathrooms with whirlpool tubs, private Italian garden (with pool, hot tub, and sun deck), panoramic views all around, and private butler service. They're priced beyond the range of . . . well, pretty much everybody, but on the other hand, they do sleep six adults and there's room for two rollaway beds and three cribs, so if you share with your whole clan, who knows?
Norwegian Jewel, Pearl, Jade, and Gem have an intermediate level of smaller Courtyard Villas on the same top-of-the-ship deck as the Garden Villa. They offer spacious suite accommodations coupled with access to a villa-guests-only courtyard, a private sun deck, and a staffed concierge lounge. The courtyard is a stunner, with a small private swimming pool, hot tub, and several plush, shaded sun beds. The suites (which open to a hallway around the courtyard rather than right into it) are also knockouts, with a separate bedroom and living/dining room; a huge, gorgeously appointed bathroom with an oceanview whirlpool tub and shower; a large private balcony; and floor space that ranges from 440 to 572 square feet. The larger Courtyard Penthouses also have a separate children's room with a foldout couch bed and a second bathroom. Prices for Courtyard Villas tend to hover in the $5,000 range for weeklong itineraries.
Four cabins are wheelchair accessible aboard Spirit, as are 20 on Star, 24 on Dawn, and 27 on Jewel, Pearl, and Gem.
You'll be in a party mood from the moment you step aboard into the ships' large, broad atrium lobbies. Public areas throughout the vessels are fanciful and extremely spacious, done in a mix of bright, Caribbean- and Miami-themed decor and high-style Art Deco, with lots of nooks and some downright wonderful lounges and bars mixed in among all the restaurants.
On the main entertainment deck, a multideck theater has 1,000 seats sloping down to a large stage. There's also a nightclub for smaller-scale cabaret entertainment and dancing. Deck 12 features a complex of "sit-down" rooms, including a comfortable cinema with traditional theater seats, a library, a card room, a reading room, a "lifestyles" room (used for classes, private functions, and so on), several meeting rooms, and a small wedding chapel. Forward of these is an observation lounge/disco with some fanciful Alice in Wonderland seating. Up top, on Deck 13, there's a nice bar/lounge with piano entertainment in the evening. Dawn, Spirit, and Star have a British-themed pub with piano entertainment, a big-screen TV for sports, and tasty fish and chips; and Spirit and Star also have a covered outdoor Bier Garten stocked with German pilsner, hefeweizen, and wheat beers. Jewel, Pearl, Jade, and Gem instead have three themed bars clustered together in a Bar Central arrangement on Deck 6. Their beer and whiskey bars are the best at sea, with about 45 beers and 65 whiskeys to choose from. Next door is a martini/cocktail bar and a champagne/wine bar.
Aboard Spirit, Maharini's combines Bollywood Indian themes with a kind of fashion-world ambience, its mood-lit nooks separated by thick red-velvet curtains and outfitted with large, comfortable daybeds strewn with pillows. Sexy! The similarly decorated Bliss Ultra Lounges on Pearl and Gem add four 10-pin bowling lanes to the bordello vibe, gaining NCL points for retro-chic credibility.
Other rooms include a spacious casino, an Internet center, several shops, and a coffee bar.
For kids, these ships have some of the better facilities at sea, with a huge, brightly colored crafts/play area, a big-screen TV room stuffed full of beanbag chairs, a huge ball jump/crawling maze play-gym, and a computer room. Outside, the pool areas on Dawn, Star, and Spirit are fantastic. On Dawn, it's right out of The Flintstones, with giant polka-dotted dinosaurs hovering around faux rock walls, slides, a paddling pool, and even a kids' Jacuzzi. Star's has a space-age rocket theme. Norwegian Jewel, Pearl, Jade, and Gem have much smaller outdoor play areas. There are video arcades and teen centers on all six ships, with computers, a dance floor equipped with a sound/video system, and a soda bar.
Pool Fitness & Spa Facilities
Main pool areas have the feel of a resort, ringed by flower-shaped "streetlamps," deck chairs arrayed around the central pool and hot tubs, and (on Star, Jewel, Pearl, Jade, and Gem) a large corkscrew water slide. At a huge bar, running almost the width of the ship, ice cream is served on one side, drinks on the other. Nice space, but the real plaudits go to the stylish spas, with the one aboard Dawn taking the prize. At the entrance, its sunlit foyer rises three decks high and is decorated with plants and Maya reliefs, with a juice bar on the side. Inside, the spa is centered on a kind of "aqua suite" with a large lap pool, hot tub, jet-massage pool, and sunny seating areas with windows and furnished with wooden deck chairs, all of it hearkening back to the indoor pools on the classic transatlantic liners. Spirit also has Aqua Swim, a room with two stationary lap pools. Jewel, Pearl, Jade, and Gem have four of the better onboard gyms of recent years -- large and extremely well appointed, with dozens of fitness machines and a large aerobics/spinning room.
Outside there's an extralong jogging track, a sports court for basketball and volleyball, golf-driving nets, and facilities for shuffleboard and deck chess, plus acres of open deck space for sunning. Dawn and Star provide a nice spot on the tiered Sun Deck, where a lone hot tub looks out over the bow. Spirit, on the other hand, has a beautiful tiered, amphitheater-like stern looking down to a pirate-themed kids' pool.
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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.