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A solo cruise on the Atlantic in December was just what I needed – no phones, no emails, and just many days of lazing around, doing whatever I liked on a brand new ship.. Just perfect!

Launched: 2007 Passengers: 2,384 Registry: Bahamas Tonnage: 93,000 Crew: 1,154 Decks: 15

Since I was traveling solo, I was determined to be outgoing, although that is not my nature. When we arrived at Barcelona Airport, I talked to anyone who looked like a likely prospect for the same cruise. I met Pat and Mike, a nice couple from Connecticut, who had spent the prior week in India, at their son’s wedding. They did not like India, and were pleased to be back in civilization. I met another fellow, and then a very proper looking American fellow, none of whom wanted to share a cab to the ship. (Too much luggage, I was told). 20 euros later (with tip), I was at the docks of the sparkling Norwegian Gem. The decoration that look from afar to be flowers on the hull, were gems. I should have guessed that. No fanfare, no lines, and within 5 minutes I was through the duty free area and on board.. The decor was more subdued than most NCL ships, thankfully. Still all turquoise, blue, melon and burgundy was everywhere. The carpet pattern in the hallways is ocean like, and I was later told, the carpet dolphins swim towards the front of the ship to aid in finding your way.

It was 5PM by the time I boarded. I met with our Cruise Critics in the Star Bar at 6PM. A nice bunch of people, but I had the good fortune to sit at a table with two English couples, Wendy and Mike, and Ken and Jean. They were friendly and welcoming. I discovered that Wendy and Mike now lived in Florida, and the other couple in California. After an hour or pleasant conversation, they invited me to dinner, but I declined. I was still dressed in jeans, the one outfit that is not allowed in the fancier dining rooms. They recommended the Blue Lagoon, and I had some good Tex-mex food there. The evening entertainment in the Stardust Theatre was a singer- dancer replica of Sammy Davis Jr, whom I did even like when he was alive. I stayed for the whole show, though and won $54 in an instant win game (Like Lotto scratch off cards) .

Day 2 I really wanted to sleep all day, but with a meet and greet party at 1030, that wasn’t possible. All 103 Cruise Critic people were there, and we met some of the staff. I met a few more people whose names I knew from the board. Always nice to associate a face with a name. An art lecture (and one free print later), a Red Hat Lady meeting where I seemed to be the only participant the dinner with Ken and Jean. Ken excused himself and Jean told me her very interesting life story until the wee hours of the morning. Mine is not an eighth as interesting! Everything from the daughter of a chip shop owner, to a single mother after a failed marriage to finding her way to America with her second husband Ken and her then teenage daughter.

Day 3. I slept so late that I missed breakfast. I went to the gym, but with a massive headache, I felt sick and lasted there only a few minutes. I walked by the outdoor pool, and the sunshine was warm, even though we were now in the Atlantic. Bingo for 40 minutes, and I left $35 poorer. A VERY L O NG art auction brought a second free print, but not much else.

Day 4 Funchal our only port of call. Madeira is a jewel rising from the Atlantic with poinsettias on TREES, beautiful orange cone like flowers – aloe. And bougainvillea. The island features a long steep climb to top with volcanic peaks, and Nuns Valley below. It was a beautiful day. At the top of the toboggan run, an accordion player in a white outfit with a Madeira hat entertained us while we waited a few seconds for our sledge to arrive – a two seater flanked by two men in white with jaunty straw hats. The toboggans or sledges were fun, When the slowed or stopped, the men added wax to make them run over slow spots. The photo taken en route showed two large sized women, crammed into the sledge with mouths open. I bought a brightly colored Madeira hat and football jerseys featuring the local hero, who apparently plays for Man United. We returned to the ship just before it left.

Day 5 I was scheduled for a bowling tournament, but arrived ½ hour after it started. What a concept, bowling at sea. The waves did nothing to help my score. We each threw a ball, and the next person finished the frame. My team was easily eliminated on the first try. The highlight of the day was the murder mystery dinners. We were assigned to teams of 6, each with the same story, and led to the Grand Pacific dining room, where we acted out our parts. I played Holly Day, a billionaire’s wife on vacation in Hawaii. It certainly kept the conversation going during dinner.

Day 6. Today’s evening entertainment, a comedy troupe from Second City were excellent. Ship – excellent, spacious, always being touched up, even only 6 weeks after 1st sailing.

The rest of the journey was blur. I read 3 ½ books. I slept well. The weather on board out on open deck was warm enough to just wear a long sleeved shirt – no coat or vest needed. My overall impression: Food excellent Specialty restaurants Teppenyaki very good (like a Benehana) and the Italian La Cucina was excellent. Do it yourself laundry on board. Entertainment varied, some just okay, some excellent. Room stewards efficient and made fun towel animals nightly.

I would definitely travel on the Norwegian Gem again, and would not hesitate to do a trans-atlantic cruise, even in the dead of winter.

write by Keva

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