More slime time as Norwegian ups Nickelodeon tie-ins

By Jerry Limone
Norwegian Gem Alex, SpongeBob, Jerry, JosieWhen the Norwegian Breakaway enters service in April, cruisers will see even more of the Nickelodeon branding and activities that Norwegian Cruise Line introduced on the Norwegian Epic in 2010.

Besides the Nickelodeon-themed water park where young cruisers will splash among life-size characters from the "SpongeBob SquarePants" cartoon, Norwegian is in production for a Nickelodeon-style game show for the Breakaway Theater, said Richard Ambrose, Norwegian's vice president of entertainment.

It's probably safe to assume that Nickelodeon's famous green slime will make an appearance.

Plus, Norwegian is bringing the existing Nickelodeon program aboard the Breakaway, including the popular Pajama Jam character breakfast, an event that is priced at $15 per attendee.

My family and I experienced Pajama Jam on a summer Bahamas-Florida cruise that departed from New York on the Norwegian Gem.

The Nick crew and several Nickelodeon characters dressed in their PJs got kids and their parents up and moving with popular kids' songs.

Afterward, the Nickelodeon characters — including SpongeBob, Patrick Star and Dora the Explorer — were available for photos. The event was well attended and well organized.

Because of events such as Pajama Jam and Dora's Dance Party, my 6-year-old son, Alex, called the Norwegian Gem sailing "the Nickelodeon cruise," but not every guest is on the ship to see SpongeBob, of course. This means that when Norwegian plans expansion of Nickelodeon-themed activities, the cruise line must do so judiciously.

"We have to be very diligent in scheduling, meaning that if we are offering a Nickelodeon event, we have to offer something else to our guests who do not want to participate in a Nickelodeon event," Ambrose said. "You will find that our Nickelodeon product is finished for all intent and purpose by 6 p.m. each day. SpongeBob or Dora may pop up during an evening, but our major scheduled events are all before 6 p.m. We have had very good success with this approach."

Indeed, a couple of the characters did "pop up" after 6 p.m. at least once on our cruise, and that was to mingle with guests in the atrium during formal night, when many cruisers were posing for pictures.

Young children like my son are big fans of the Nickelodeon characters, but they are not the only age group that watches Nickelodeon programming. Nickelodeon draws preteens and teens with sitcoms such as "Victorious" and "iCarly." So far, Norwegian hasn't incorporated teen-focused Nickelodeon activities.

"We are currently working on this," Ambrose said. "However, the challenge with this group [teenagers] and the Nickelodeon product that is geared to this group is that it is live action and concentrated on individual, live-talent actors. In my experience, teenagers want the real thing, i.e., the talent, so that makes programming challenging for this group."
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