The Norwegian Gem will begin sailing from Jacksonville in November 2025. | JaxportThe Norwegian Gem will begin sailing from Jacksonville in November 2025. | Jaxport

Norwegian Gem will become Jax’s 2nd cruise ship

Published on February 6, 2024 at 3:50 pm

Norwegian Cruise Line plans to begin sailing from Jacksonville in November 2025, becoming the second cruise company departing the First Coast.

The Norwegian Gem will offer seasonal cruises — from November to April — to the Bahamas and the eastern Caribbean.

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The Jaxport board of directors approved an agreement with Norwegian on Tuesday, with cruises planned through 2028.

Jaxport said last month that a second cruise line was considering Jacksonville, but the name was not revealed until Tuesday.

Jaxport said Norwegian will provide three 12-day and two 11-day eastern Caribbean sailings from Jacksonville to Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas; Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; St. Thomas and St. John’s, U.S. Virgin Islands; Antigua; Basseterre, St. Kitts; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and others.

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The ship also will sail a series of four- and five-day cruises to Great Stirrup Cay, Freeport, and Nassau, Bahamas.

Cruises will be available to book beginning Feb. 15 at ncl.com.

The Norwegian Gem holds 2,394 passengers and carries 1,070 crew. The ship was built in 2007 and refurbished in 2022.

The Gem’s amenities include a spa, pool, specialty restaurants and bars, entertainment, an arcade and casino, Splash Academy, Norwegian’s complimentary youth program and more.

The only other ship in Jacksonville is the Carnival Elation, which provides space for 2,190 passengers and 900 crew, according to Carnival’s website.

Jaxport sees Jacksonville as a growing drive-to cruise market. More than 98 million consumers live within driving distance of the Jaxport Cruise Terminal, the port said in a news release Tuesday.

“Expanding our popular cruise program provides passengers throughout the Southeast U.S. and beyond with even more reasons to choose Jacksonville for their next vacation,” Jaxport CEO Eric Green said in the release.

In an interview with Jacksonville Today, Green said: “You’re talking well over possibly 2,400 people visiting Jacksonville 26 times during the course of a year. So you’re talking about the ability of people to either fly in or drive to and maybe stay a day before or a day after, once the cruise returns.”

Green said he has been friends with Juan Kuryla, a senior vice president at Norwegian who once served as CEO of PortMiami. Kuryla texted him one day and asked whether he would be interested in a second, seasonal cruise line at Jaxport. “And I said, ‘Absolutely,'” Green said.

The Norwegian Gem was one of the ships Jaxport accommodated during the temporary suspension of cruising at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when cruise lines had to find places to park their ships.

“The relationship with Norwegian started back, believe it or not, during the pandemic, and it sort of continued on, and the conversations with myself and Juan continued and here we are today,” Green said.

Jaxport said the cruise industry in Jacksonville is responsible for nearly 800 jobs and more than $187 million in annual economic impact for Northeast Florida, based on a study in 2019.

Sixty percent of travelers surveyed cited easy access to the port as the primary reason for cruising out of Jacksonville. More than three-quarters of passengers surveyed said they would be “very likely” to return to Jacksonville for a future vacation.

Jacksonville Today reporter Will Brown contributed to this report.


author image Senior News Director, WJCT Public Media

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, where as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 35 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. 

author image Senior News Director, WJCT Public Media

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, where as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 35 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida.