Length: 965 ft
One of the better, older Norwegian ships, Eclectic decor, many dining options, good entertainmentBest For People Who Want
Best for People who Want: A terrestrial resort-style vacation, but at sea; very flexible dining with a large variety of alternative restaurants.Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Should be Avoided By People Who Prefer: Quiet settings, understated decor, all-inclusive cruises where all dinners are taken at pre-set times in the dining room with the same table and waiters every night.Onboard Experience
Nowhere at sea can you enjoy something more closely resembling a terrestrial resort vacation than on Norwegian Pearl, especially when it comes to dining options. For those who like to try a different cuisine every night, Pearl is absolutely heaven-sent. The days at sea are jam-packed with activities, from cooking/carving demonstrations, gaming lessons, art auctions, health seminars, putting contests, diamond and gem seminars, basic language courses, and snorkeling demos, to makeover seminars, bridge play, and even finance-themed lectures. And if all that isn't quite enough for you, there are, for extra fees, wine, martini and margarita tastings; yoga; Pilates; indoor cycling; bingo; and instruction in massage.
On the pool deck, the water slide takes up a lot of acreage and most of the foot traffic is on the deck opposite the teen facility, so on sea days the pool areas get crowded. The upper deck, though, is a fairly reliable refuge. There are 1,047 deck chairs on board, and not a single cushion, unless someone's smuggled one aboard.Public Rooms
In keeping with the burgeoning trend by NCL to take on Carnival for the "most like a theme park" decor award, one word that will never come to mind aboard Pearl, is "understated." In contrast to elegance, whether simple or not, as on Princess or the luxury lines, this ship will appeal to people who enjoy raising their pulse. The color and design in Spinnakers Lounge is bright enough to send you back to your stateroom for sunglasses. The chaise lounges for two seem like something from the decadent Roman age, while the deep blue sateen, inverted comma-shaped, tabels and chairs seem to grow out the similarly colored carpet also filled with similar design patterns. These cushy couches are punctuated by chairs that evoke NASA nosecones.
Chairs & Loungers in Spinnakers Nightclub
The Bliss Nightclub is even more decadent with its king-size bed chaise lounges that evoke the silent question "What time does the orgy start?" Deep blue, orange and gold sateen cover every surface except the cocktail tables, dance floor and the the four bowling lanes on either side of the room.
Satiny chair and overstuffed pillows Bowling Alley Plush queen-size loungers in Bliss A king-size lounge-bed in Bliss
The Internet cafe, open 24 hours a day, features eight computer stations. After an account activation fee of $3.95, the basic charge is .75 per minute. Frequent users do better with package rates: 250 minutes for $100 or 100 minutes for $55. Shorter plans the last day of the cruise include 15 minutes for $8.25 and 30 minutes for $12.
The wood burl shelves of The Library groan happily beneath the weight of a good selection of self-help, sports, travel, science, history, fiction and children's books in multiple languages. Passengers can check out three at a time.Cuisine
The restaurants are more conducive to relaxation, especially Le Bistro and Mambo's Tapas Restaurant. La Cucina's appetizers and pasta are very delicious, as too is Le Bistro's filet mignon. Many passengers seem to enjoy watching the Teppenaki's predictably exhibitionistic chefs through the large picture window design. The $5 all-you-can-eat sushi menu, effective day or night, is a remarkably good deal. The menu at the two main dining rooms is the same each day.Restaurants
The two main dining rooms, Azura and Tsar's Palace, seat 310 and 552, respectively. The very attractive Russian themed Tsar's, all royal burgundy, green, and gold, with chandeliers, marbled pillars and faux Faberge egg balustrades, is two stories tall, with fabulous huge windows aft. There are seldom lines for either Tsar's or the smaller, sleeker, pop-art-decorated Azura. Traditional cruise-ship style dining arrangements are offered; if you want to be seated at the same time each night, at the same table, simply arrange it with the maitre 'd. Either Tsar's or Azura is open for breakfast and lunch.
The Garden Café and Great Outdoors buffet areas offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. Meals are always varied, occasionally with a culinary theme. Multiple serving stations are surprisingly efficient to preclude crowding, even on days at sea. Serving stations for breakfast include custom-made waffles and omelets, while lunch and dinner feature pastas and sauces in the combination of your choice.
Garden Court Carving Station Outdoor Grill near Garden Cafe Separate Action Stations Ice Cream Station
Le Bistro, the line's signature alternative restaurant, does French. Each of the other four other restaurants has its own specialty. Cagney's does steaks, Tango's Tapas does Tex-Mex; Chin Chin does Chinese, Teppanyaki, Shabu-Shabu and sushi; and we'll let you guess what Mama's Italian Kitchen does. Neither Mama's nor Tango's levies an extra charge. The others charge a modest $10 or $15. All are open for dinner. Cagney's, Chin Chin, and Le Bistro all halve their cover charge between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.
Next to the buffet area, the casual Blue Lagoon, overlooking the water or the atrium, is a great place to grab a snack when returning from a shore excursion. It is open from 10 p.m. at night until 4:30 the following afternoon.
In an impressive leap forward in the art of free-style dining, NCL's all original and innovative reservations system lets guests book tables anytime they want during the cruise for the entire week, beginning as soon as they board. There a TV-style monitors throughout the ship showing the hours of operation for each restaurant and how busy they are at any given moment. If the restuarant you walk up to is too crowded, you can ask the Maitre D' to book you in another restuarant right on the spot. No other cruise line does this. Upon making a selection, the party is given a beeper, allowing them to wander the ship until their table is ready.Service
The staff, recruited from all over the globe, is generally attentive and pleasant.Tipping
$10 per adult per day and $5 per child are added to your folio automatically. Fifteen percent is automatically added to bar bills and spa services. NCL suggests that concierges and butlers be tipped separately in accordance with the services they provide.Entertainment
The main entertainment venue, the Stardust Theatre, customarily packed, presents nightly Broadway and Vegas-style productions, comedy and magic acts, and a Cirque du Soleil-style aerial thriller, Cirque Bijou, including gymnasts, acrobats and bungee jumpers. Or you might prefer the justly celebrated Second City Troupe, which has produced many of North America's best-loved comedians the past few decades, including Martin Short and Rick Moranis.
Evening and late-night attractions include a 50s/60s dance and comedy show, the Not-So-Newlywed Game, and Liar's Club. The Spinnaker's lounge is a big favorite for people of the 60s and seventies with a great rock-n-roll band including lead guitar, sax and three "chick singers."
The attractive casino's two hundred video games and slot machines include penny slots; to the delight of serious players, the craps tables offers Las Vegas betting odds.
Shore excursions run the gamut from canopy zipline tours for thrill-seekers to sedate sightseeing trips. What they all have in common, unfortunately, is an often endless tender process between ship and shore.Cabins
The ship has 1,188 cherry wood-finished rooms broken down into 32 categories, a positively dizzying range best considered group by group. The largest group, with 1,008 rooms, includes inside rooms at 143 sq. ft.; ocean-view rooms at 158-166 sq. ft.; and ocean-view rooms with balcony at 205 sq. ft. All have safes, hairdryers, TVs and refrigerators, beds that convert from queen to twins, and enough drawer and closet space for two people on a seven-night cruise.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the two groundbreaking Garden Villas, 4,390 sq. ft., have living rooms, dining rooms, sun decks and three separate bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. Each Garden Villa sleeps up to six adults, two kids/adults in rollaway beds and three infants in cribs -- great for a big family. The smaller (574 sq. ft.) 10 Courtyard Villas share a central courtyard with its own pool and small gym.
For those wanting something between the wonderful Villas and the regular inside/outside rooms, there are 168 Owner's Suites, Penthouses, Romance Suites and Mini-Suites. Many of them are placed on the Garden Villa deck and share a common area with a "swim against the current" swimming pool, private massage areas, a private workout area with stairstepper and treadmill and a hot tub.
Owner's Suite Owner's Suite Dining Area Bar and Bedroom Entrance Master Bedroom
On the topmost deck is an expanse of suites all surrounding a private Garden Villa outdoor pool deck. This private area has a swim against the current pool, a hot tub, a private exercise room, massage services available and pool cabanas with double-bed size comfy cushions.
Private Pool Deck View from other end Private Hot tub Cabanas surround the poolFitness/Spa
Body Waves Center, Deck 12, open 24/7, has 14 treadmills with their own TVs, more than 25 other pieces of fitness equipment, abundant free weights, and a large workout area with lots of aerobic equipment, such as steps and balls. The Bora Bora Health Spa and Salon, operated by Mandara, has 20 treatment rooms for such exotic treatments as algae detox, lime and ginger salt glows, coconut rubs, and milk ritual wraps, including three for couples. Men's and women's sides are set up with stream and sauna rooms, whirlpool, indoor lap pool, jet-current exercise pool, hydrotherapy pool, and Jacuzzis.Children's Facilities
Norwegian Pearl is wild about them, as witness: interconnecting cabins, a kids-only pool and water slide, and the Splashdown Kid's Club, featuring a kid cinema and video arcade. Where most at-sea children's programs turn their backs on the under-threes, NCL welcomes even those in their terrible twos.
In addition to selections from their own menu, young passengers can eat hot dogs and chicken nuggets in the Kid's Corner buffet, with mini stools and low tables. The complimentary Kid's Crew program is organized by age group: Junior Sailors (2 - 5), First Mates (6 - 9), Navigators (10 - 12) and Teens (13 - 17). Families can gather in the Card Room for a game of Monopoly or Clue, sing together during family karaoke night, or compete in a "Family Feud" game show.Attire
Determinedly casual, though T-shirts, shorts, and tank tops are forbidden in the dining rooms after 5 p.m., except for the Garden Café//Great Outdoors. Very few people dress up for the one "formal optional" night.
NORWEGIAN PEARL NOVEMBER 27TH 2011 This was our 7th cruise, the first one on Norwegian and we were looking forward to experiencing the difference between them and Carnival and Princess, the other two lines we have sailed on before. Check in was very similar to all the other check in’s we have experienced, long lines and waiting, so nothing new there. I did like it that the Ship’s officers were waiting onboard to greet us as we stepped onto the ship and walked along the deck to the atrium doors. The atrium was much smaller then any we had seen before, this wasn’t necessarily bad or good, just different. We made our way to the Lido deck, I know the deck was called something else but to me it is always the Lido deckâ€¦lol. Pearl, my wife and I sat down and enjoyed a burger and fries, delicious! My first thought was, if the burgers are this good, I can’t wait to try the rest of the food. After my cousin Tom and his wife, Christine and son Christian joined us we went sight seeing. As a foot note, Tom andhis family didn’t know we were coming on this cruise. We wanted to surprise them and we were hoping they had boarded before we did, but they caught us as we stood at the boarding counter at check in. The layout of the Pearl was different then any of the other ships we had sailed because it wasn’t associated with Carnival Corp. like Princess and Carnival are (Basically same designs). The ship, while not gaudy in colors, was beautiful to behold and the dÃ©cor was amazing. The Bliss lounge was my favorite, it had a oriental flare with seating that looked like beds and 4 bowling lanes, 2 on each side of the lounge. The Stardust Theater, while roomy was cramped for leg room and if you sat in the middle of a row you could forget about ordering a drink as there was no room for the bar staff to walk to you and deliver your drink. The Spinnaker lounge was uniquely designed, but there wasn’t really a bad seat in the room. Bar City was a big area for watching sports and having drinks with your friends. The casino was spacious and easy to walk through. I didn’t have any luck in the casino and it seemed there were very few big winners. The Lido deck had 2 swimming pools and 3 hot tubs. There was plenty of seating and I liked it that there were very few places here for sun bathers, they were up 1 deck, so it was easier to walk thru the area. The one thing I wanted to do but never got around to was try their big water slideâ€¦it looked fun! Our room was a ocean view, a first for us, 8590. It was a obstructed view cabin having a lovely view of the lifeboatâ€¦lol. I did like the lay out as it was side ways from what most cabins are. You walk in and the bed is on the right and the closet and bathroom is on the left. Plenty of storage room in the closet and vanity, no problems there and the bathroom shower was amazing. I’m 6’3” tall and weigh 300 lb’s and normally I can just soap the walls and spin around in most showers to suds up, this shower actually had a door on it and plenty of room to move, ahhhh so nice. The toilet was a different story. I have already stated my size! I barely had room in the toilet area, another area with it’s own door I might add, but I barely had room to bend over andâ€¦well you know what I mean, I actually used a public toilet down the hall a short piece instead of our own toilet when I actually had to sit down on the toiletâ€¦if u catch my drift. But over all the bed was comfy and the room was of good size. Our room steward, Mike, did a okay job. The biggest problem we had was getting our beach towels replaced each night but other then that he was very responsive to our needs and remembered our names from day 1. What we really loved about the room was it’s location! It was on the 8th floor not 25 feet from the elevators and the Blue Lagoon dining room. This dining room was the best kept secret on the ship for breakfast for most of the cruise. It had most of the selections of the main dining room for breakfast but it was really less crowded and the service much faster. We never did eat there for lunch or supper because it just served comfort food and the food was so good elsewhere. Since I am on the subject of diningâ€¦..There are two main dining rooms on the ship. One, The Summer Palace, was huge and grand! It looked like somewhere a King would dine. The 2nd main dining room was called Indigo, which was much smaller and reminded me of dining in a nice restaurant somewhere. Both served basically the same menu, however, service was much faster and better, in my opinion at the Indigo then at the bigger Summer Palace. It was at the Indigo that we met our servers Budi and Julie. We enjoyed their service very much on the first night and then found out that we could ask for them every time we ate and they would serve us, NICE!! Â Budi and Julie even came and served us even when they were not scheduled to work or were on standby, how cool was that! We had figured that with Freestyle cruising we would miss having the same people waiting on us in the main dining room like we had on Carnival and Princess so to us, this was like having your cake and eating it too. We also was surprised as we never had to wait to be seated. We did make reservations the 2 times we ate in the pay for restaurants. We ate in the Italian restaurant, La Cucina and the Japanese steakhouse Teppanyaki. LaCucina was very good and the portions very nice. The nice thing here it was only $10.00 each to eat here. Teppanyaki had come highly recommended from another couple we had talked to in the elevator. They told us the show that the chefs did alone was worth the $25 dollars we paid to eat there. I guess that couple had never ate in a Japanese steakhouse before because it was the same old same old and I didn’t think the food was all that good. The food in the Indigo was awesome! I can tell you right now, I have never had better food on any cruise ship! Everything we ate was delicious. The buffet, The Garden Caf’e was very good and we ate breakfast there once and lunch and late night snacks a couple of times. There was also a grill at the rear of the ship and also out by the pool area that had really good burgers, dogs and fries. They even had a BBQ grill set up twice cooking Burgers, dogs and chicken that was fabulous. The entertainment on the ship was also very good. From the singers to the dancers to the comedians, all were excellent. There wasn’t a big production cast or orchestra like we have seen on other ships. What Norwegian has is a small troop of dancers, some very good singers and the Second city Comedy group to entertain you as well as a juggling act called Sharkbite who were super good and funny and a stand up comedian who was very good... There wasn’t a piano bar pianist leading songs but there was a guy playing a guitar called Tino who was very good and was fun to be around in the lounges where he played. Â There was also a Mexican singing group who played latin music and another group who played the 70’s and 80’s dance parties. There is also a huge screen T.V. in the atrium. This T.V. must have been 20 ft tall and they had the NFL games on there on Monday and Thursday night. They also played Wii on this big screen with players 3 timed your heightâ€¦cool. My cousins son, who is 15 didn’t think much of Norwegians teen program. There were very few kids on the ship and fewer teenagers, so he was kinda bored. We all did do the bowling together and let me tell you, if you think bowling is easy on a rocking ship, you have another thing coming. You could have a ball headed right for the pocket and all of the sudden it would veer right or left, whichever way the ship rocked. Either way it was fun! Christian, as we all did, loved the free icecream, whether it was from the machine or hand dipped. We visited Great Stirrup Cay, Ocho Rios Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, MX. We enjoyed the beautiful beach at Great Stirrup Cay. There is still a lot of building going on but it didn’t interfere with all the fun. Norwegian had 3 big tender boats so tendering was a snap. We visited Mystic Mountain in Ocho Rios Jamaica. We had been there before but wanted to visit with my cousin and his family. This time we brought our swim suites and enjoyed the pool and waterslideâ€¦.nice. We were real lucky at Grand Cayman. The water was too rough for ships to tender where the cruise ships normally tender from so we moved to another part of the Island where we was able to tender. This area didn’t have many tenders though so the Carnival and Royal Caribbean ships who were there too were not allowed to stop there and had to cancel that port of call. We did the Dolphin encounter and sting ray excursion through the ship and had a blast. I really enjoyed being up close with the Dolphins and sting rays and would highly recommend this excursion. At Cozumel, Mexico, our 3rd visit there, we did the X-rail excursion thru the ship and had a great time. These X-rails are not easy to drive with standard steering and a small steering wheel that can be ripped from your hand at anytime when u hit a rock. The wife and I really had fun driving it though and we also visited a secluded cavern and went for a swim in the crystal clear water there. I will warn everyone nowâ€¦you will get muddy and the shower off area is less then desirable back at the main building being pvc pipes with holes drilled in them outside with no privacy. We were sad to see the cruise end as this was definitely our favorite cruise we have been on. Debarkation was easy, the only problem was there was a lot of foreigners on this ship so customs was really slow. We definitely will sail Norwegian again. We loved the freestyle concept and would like to see it continue to expand industry wide. The overall crew was wonderful. Not overbearing but catering to your needs and wants and they seemed genuinely happy, unlike many cruises we have been on.
"No booze in the stateroom"
We've travelled over ten cruises before this one with Norwegian Cruise Lines, so we're well aware of the restrictions that are in place regarding the bringing on board of liquor. All the previous cruise lines we have travelled with have, however, turned a blind eye to liquor packed in checked luggage.
Not NCL. On boarding, I waited for five hours for my checked baggage to arrive; eventually, I got a note telling me that I had restricted contents in my bag and that I would have to go to a certain location to have my bag searched. Proceeding to that location, I found a queue of about two to three hundred angry passengers in the same situation. After a long wait and a humiliating search, my checked two litre bottles were confiscated for the duration of the cruise.
During the lineup, I had plenty of opportunity to commiserate with fellow passengers about this appalling lack of consideration for customers on the part of NCL. One guy had brought along a bottle of his favorite Kentucky whisky which he knew would not be available on just about any cruiseship, but it was taken anyway. Without exception, all were vowing that this would be their last cruise with NCL.
So, why do they do it? Well, it must be partly because of the liquor prices. NCl charged consistently charged a couple of dollars or so more per drink than on the cruise we took with a competitor immediately following theirs. I even asked for a bar menu and the standard drinks were listed, but no prices! Clearly, NCL is aware of their predatory pricing and can't bring themselves to admit it, and do all they can to maximise their liquor profit.
Another problem is with the "free style dining." Firstly, you don't get the opportunity to get to know dinner companions in the same way that traditional cruise dining gives you. Although we were prepared to accept that, what we were not prepared for was the 20 to 30 minute wait for an available table at dinner. It was possible to make an advance reservation (at least several hours in advance), but even then you had to wait 10 minutes or so. Furthermore, if you got into the restaurant after 8.30 pm or so, in the hope of avoiding the crowds, the waiters were clearly agitated at having to serve so late, bringing on courses before you had finished the previous one.
The food itself was generally poor. At dinner, I did get excellent roast pork loin once, other times not so good. For instance, once I ordered "rack of lamb," only to be served with a couple of extremely tough regular individual lamb chops, not the delicate small juicy ones you normally associate as a rack.
There are numerous premium-priced "specialty" restaurants on board, which again tells you something about NCL's eagerness to extract yet more money from its customers. For instance, there is "Le Bistro," a restaurant offering French cuisine for an extra $25 per person. But what most diners don't realise is that once inside, to order any item you wish from the extensive menu may cost you $10 more. Check the menus carefully prior to using these establishments.
What can I say to be positive? Well, the standard of entertainment is very high and presented in a beautiful theater. There is lots to do daytime with plenty of interesting and fun activities. We had a very spacious penthouse suite with the services of a butler and a concierge fresh flowers and a welcome bottle of champagne, etc. The concierge was particularly helpful. The balcony was huge, but being forward (just below the bridge) was almost always unuseable when the ship was in motion due to the high wind.
Beware of some of the shore excursions. We went on a snorkelling trip at our Belize stop and the boat we were taken on was totally unequipped for this; no rear platform for easy access to the water and the rental snorkel gear was defective. "Lunch" consisted of dried-up roast chicken with rice and beans, worth all of $3. In fairness to NCL, after we complained about this to NCL our money ($109 per person) was completely refunded.
In summary, although NCL offers some very attractively-priced cruises, they more than make up for it once you're on board. And, because of the outrageous liquor seizure, We will never sail with NCL again.
The Pearl is a newer ship and now it is our favorite. We have been on 12 cruises and the Pearl was the most enjoyable, beautiful and well run ship we have been on in a long time. No lines anywhere, 12 ( I think) restaurants, even the buffet was amazing. They even had a juice station where you could pick whole raw carrots, celery, fruits, etc to have fresh juice made. 4 made to order omlet stations, pasta stations, too many choices to list. Quality of food was also very good. We really enjoyed the French Bistro.
So much to do too. A lounge on an upper level was laid out with sofas, beds, etc in small semi private cubbys with a stage for entertainment and 4 bowling lanes & casino slot machines. The lobby atrium has a huge floor to ceiling film screen that runs Wii games during the day inbetween movies. Great entertainment on the stages, and in the lounges.
We stopped at NCL's private island and couldn't believe how much nicer it was than Carnivals. Palm trees gave lots of shade for all the rows of beach chairs,hammocks strung between the trees, the beach lunch was on the beach not a half hour walk inland. The beach was clean and water clear, a craggy rock outcrop had many different fish to feed and snorkel around.
This is a great cruise and wonderful cruise ship.