In December 1966 the Norwegian M/S Sunward sailed into the newly constructed Miami Port. All 8,600 tons of her carried 558 passengers and her itinerary was biweekly round trips to the Bahamas. The Sunward was the first ship of the new Norwegian Caribbean Lines (NCL). Now, after 40 years the burgeoning cruise industry is graced with the N. Pearl, 93,000 tons and carrying 2,732 passengers this cruise, with an average age of 58 years: there were a lot of young people, both single and with families consisting of both youngsters and grandparents --- a wonderful mix! NCL has a high ratio of crew members to passengers. On the N. Pearl there are 1,154 crew headed by the nicest gentleman sailor: Captain Lars Bengtsson.
The Pearl was launched in 2006 and has Emmy Award winning TV personality Rosie O'Donnell as her Godmother. On board there are 12 Restaurants, 11 Bars & Lounges, a 4 lane Bowling Alley, A Rock Climbing Wall, plus Basketball, Volley Ball, and Tennis courts. There are Courtyard Villas and two 4,390 sq. ft. Garden Villas. NCL has introduced "Freestyle Cruising" to the industry, which frees passengers from strict schedules todining anytime, anywhere on the ship. Cruisers can be as formal or as informal as they like; make reservations in one of the specialty restaurants or just go to the buffet. Choices include the following: Cagney's Steakhouse, Le Bistro (French cuisine), Lotus Garden (Asian fare) & Sushi Bar, Teppanyaki (Japanese), La Cucina (Italian), etc. Dress up, dress down, it's whatever "your" lifestyle dictates!
The Hotel Director Dallas Easterly (yes, he was born in Dallas, Texas) is very knowledgeable and acquainted with all 13 decks in detail. He told us that the Pearl runs not only on fuel, but also on rice --- these are the two most used commodities on board. By way of explanation, the crew is mostly Philippine and rice is their staple food. We should all eat more rice, because we noticed the polite manners and happy faces of all the crew around us.
Embarkation Sunday, driving from our house in Boca Raton to Miami is painless because traffic is light. We arrived at the Port at 12:30pm, and after a wait for someone to push Vincent's wheelchair we were on by 1:00pm. We had lunch at the Indigo Restaurant and avoided the crowd at the Buffet, and were in our mini suite by 1:30pm. Rooms are not ready for passengers until 1:00pm, so unless you want to carry hand luggage around, try not to get to port too early. We had no need to check on our dinner seating arrangements, since they would change daily. Boat Drill was at 3:30pm, a bit too early for those flying in who hadn't had time to eat. Our muster station was in the Summer Palace Main Restaurant Deck 6 Aft. We saw this as a potential problem, since there is only one elevator to Deck 7 Promenade, where the life boats are located. After the drill there was a bottle neck, and a long wait for handicapped passengers. In case of a real emergency, it would be better to put the muster station for the handicapped directly on Deck 7 and thus avoid having to transfer them up one deck. We were told that four crew members were assigned to each wheelchair passenger and that we needn't worry.
As we boarded, we met our old friend Concierge Carlos Zarate, with whom we sailed around the Horn in S. America in 2002. What a warm welcome we got on our arrival! Carlos made our cruise terrific.
Ship The latest NCL ships are decorated on the outside very colorfully. What was once referred to as the White Fleet is now unique among cruising ships, with their gaily painted hulls. The Norwegian Pearl has a string of colored pearls painted on both her sides going from stem to stern with a colorful banner. There are 13 Decks which all display the clean lines of Norse influence. The many open spaces are a welcome sight. The first three Decks are all for crew.
Deck 4 has the medical center and staterooms.
Deck 5 has staterooms and forward the Stardust Theater with a stylized peacock on the magnificent curtain. Very nice, each seat has a clear view of the stage.
Deck 6 forward has the Summer Palace Main Restaurant aft. This high ceiling, open, airy, room calls to mind the Malachite Room of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Malachite Green columns are only surpassed by the rows of crystal chandeliers and the walls filled with charming portraits of the last Tsarist family, the Romanov. Pictures of small children all in their white sailor dresses and suits are especially poignant considering their brutal end at the hands of the Communists. Another unique touch is the faux Faberge eggs on the balustrades.
On this deck is the Indigo Restaurant with its Asian influences. Midship there is a string of bars: Maltings Beer & Whiskey Bar, Magnum's Champagne & Wine Bar with bubbling windows, Corona Cigar Club, and Shaker's Martini & Cocktail Bar. Next, towards aft is Le Bistro French ($15) specialty restaurant. Finally, there is the Pearl Casino and the next level of the Stardust Theater.
Deck 7 aft has the Bliss Ultra Lounge, Nightclub with its four lane Bowling Alley and an odd melange of sofas, canopied beds and seating. It does qualify as an "Ultra" lounge. Midship is the Crystal Atrium with its crystal stalagmites or icicles on the ceiling, and the blue and ice glass blown sculpture by Dale Chihuly --- an interesting, intricate series of graceful tubes. Here are the Java Cafe, the Reception and Shore Excursion Desks, and a huge multimedia screen. Toward forward are the Lotus Garden Restaurant ($15), Teppanyaki Room (Japanese cuisine) ($25), the Sushi Bar ($15) which make up the Asian complex of specialty restaurants.
Toward the prow are the Trade Routes Boutiques with again the usual fare. It seems that most cruise lines have the same brands of goods available. Deck 7 forward is the balcony of the Stardust Theater. Here in the rear are wheelchair reserved seats.
Deck 8 forward and aft are staterooms. Midship are the Blue Lagoon (snack type foods such as soups, wings, fish and chips, etc., and desserts such as the chocolate brownie sundae) and also located here is Mambo's Latin Tapas Restaurant ($10).
Decks 9, 10, and 11 are all staterooms.
Deck 12 aft has the Great Outdoors Buffet, then the Garden Cafe with buffet style dining, which opens for breakfast at 6:30 am (7:00 am on sea days), and La Cucina Italian Restaurant ($10), nice appetizer cart, soups (Pasta e Fagioli and Minestrone). Entrees were varied but NCL needs a real Italian Chef! With our Italian taste buds, we were a bit taken aback by the mountain of grated cheese on the lobster Ravioli --- Italians usually don't put cheese on seafood, since it overpowers the delicacy of the dish. It is better to ask the diner before drowning the entree in cheese.
Midship are the Kid's Cafe, Video Arcade, Kid's Club, Topsider Bar & Grille, Tahitian Pool Hot Tubs, The Library (open only 2 hours daily) and forward is the S. Pacific Spa & Fitness Center. Deck 13 aft has the basketball/volleyball/tennis court, jogging/walking track and Cagney's Steak House ($20): this is excellent and well worth it. Forward is the Sky High Bar, the Chapel and the Spinnaker Lounge.
Decks 14 & 15 have the Rock Climbing Wall, and the The Courtyard Villas.
All in all, the ship is lovely, spacious and well set up. Her decorations are modest but tasteful.
Food & Service Since we covered the various food venues in detail in our N. Jewel Review (2006) and NCL has made them homogeneous across its fleet, we want to discuss "Freestyle" cruising in general. Those of us who have cruised for many years see the various innovations as welcome. Where just a few years ago, passengers were summoned to the formal dining room by bells or carillons and if you were 15 to 20 minutes late you found that the dining room doors were closed. Now, you may opt for the same table every evening at the same time. But, if you find this boring, instead you may choose one of twelve or so venues anytime from 5:30pm to as late as 10:30pm.
You are offered formal settings, Japanese style dining, Casual Buffet, room service with simple soups, salads or sandwiches --- whatever makes you happy. NCL has new controlled portion sizes, which is welcomed by us. No more wasting food and there is more always available for those who want it.
The menus offer several appetizers, some always available, like shrimp cocktail. There are salads of just fruit or the mixed green type or Caesar's salad always available. Soups are hot or cold and quite good; try the cold fruited ones like berry smoothies. Entrees range from Vegetarian, to fish, fowl, beef, lamb and veal. There are Asian, European, Latin and American offerings. This week on board one third of the passengers were non US citizens. Latitudes had several parties for NCL repeaters where the drinks were abundant and the hors d'oeuvres included caviar.
The food on board is good, ample and everywhere. Lots of fresh fruits, tropical and berries. The desserts were made from scratch and many featured fresh fruits. There were usually one or two hot from the oven like almond souffle or an apple bread pudding. Food can be an adventure on board the Pearl. Hotel Director Dallas has seen to every passengers needs --- service is fast, excellent and pleasant.
Cabin Mini Suite #11654 is in the rear of the ship with an excellent view of the ship's wake and the sound of rushing water, when the balcony door is open. There were two chaise lounges and two chairs and two tables on the roomy balcony which has an automatic electric door opener.
When entering on the right is the large bath with a 4'X4' shower with fold up seat and safety rails all around. There is a tilt mirror and a sink with two shelves for toiletries. Next, there is a king size, high bed flanked by two night tables and reading lamps. Then, there is a desk with three drawers and a mini fridge.
When entering on the left is a double armoire and two sets of shelves and a private safe. There is another set of shelves with a TV, and a table with a coffee/tea set up. Next, there is a sofa, quite firm. The rug has the watermelon pink, lime green and blue colors of other NCL ships; and the Maple wood furnishings are lovely. There are two small pictures and one large, all similarly showing palm trees and beach settings.
Entertainment Cruise Director Linda Minnikin is a ball of fire. The Jean Ann Ryan singers and dancers did production shows including The Show Girl Revue with the music of Sinatra, Beyonce and Timberlake. The singing seemed in need of a sound check. The dancers were terrific. There was also the comedy of Chicago's "Second City" improvisation comedy troupe. Bud Anderson had the audience rolling in the aisles with his "physical" comedy. It cannot be described, you must see it!
There are many events to occupy passengers, from musical groups like Trio Los Hernandez, whom we saw in the Crystal Atrium playing requests. They were exceptional at Elvis tunes and Latin sounds. Tzachev was also excellent at piano. There was also Bingo, Casino Games, Raffles, Trivia, Darts, Ping Pong, Shuffleboard, and Golf. NCL pulls out all the stops to give passengers a good time.
Ports of Call Day 1 -- Miami, FL -- Sail Away. Day 2 -- At Sea Day 3 -- Roatan, Honduras -- Arrive 8:00am, Depart 5:00pm Day 4 -- Belize City, Belize -- Arrive 8:00am, Depart 5:00pm Day 5 -- Cozumel, Mexico -- Arrive 8:00am, Depart 5:00pm Day 6 -- At Sea Day 7 -- Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas -- Arrive 9:00am, Depart 6:00pm Day 8 -- Miami, FL -- Arrive 6:00am, Debarkation
Debarkation This was for us one of the best organized debarkations. Concierge Carlos Zarate gave us VIP tags for our luggage and wheelchair assistance off the ship through customs and out of the port. He made this one of the fastest and smoothest exits. Thanks Carlos for all your thoughtfulness.
Conclusion The Freestyle Dining is a major difference between NCL and other cruise lines. We do enjoy both Freestyle Dining, which allows more flexibility on when, where or with whom you'll dine, and the traditional style, which assigns a specified table and time in the main dining room. The first one gives more freedom in the choice of venues and dining time; the second has the advantage of knowing and being known by the wait staff, usually resulting in better and more consistent service.
We did enjoy this cruise and we are going to cruise on NCL ships again (we have already purchased a future cruise, yet to be determined); however, we would like to see some improvement of certain entrees in Specialty Restaurants, mainly the use of appropriate ingredients and recipes to meet the expectation of a gourmet's palate; i.e., Ossobuco served in La Cucina did not taste "Italian." Happy Cruising!
We just returned from a 7 day Alaskan cruise on the NCL Pearl. Unfortunately, this was, by far, the worst cruise experience we have ever had.
CONS Communication with most staff members was weak at best. Our cabin steward was not attentive at all and we had to beg for him to do the simplest of tasks; i.e., cleaning out the coffee pot, replacing used towels, removing dirty glasses, etc. The majority of the ship's crew were not accommodating either. Yes, we did voice complaints which fell on deaf ears.
The food was borderline edible in all venues. We primarily dined in all of the specialty restaurants -- Cagney's Steakhouse, Lotus Garden, Teppenyaki Room, Le Bistro, etc., with each one equally as bad as the other. Whenever possible we opted to eat in the various ports. Pretty sad when we couldn't even get a decent cup of coffee anywhere on the ship!
The onboard entertainment was terrible.
The ship was not well maintained and this made for an overall horrible trip that was quite costly.
PROS Just one: Our mini suite cabin which had a great bathroom for a ship. That's the only goodthing we have to report about the NCL Pearl.
We were a group of 20 and not one of us would recommend this ship to our worst enemies!!!!!!!!
So I just went on my first cruise ever and for the most part it was a good relaxing vacation. I was worried at first reading some of the reviews on this site -- some people loved the Pearl where other people hated it.
Embarkation was smooth and easy for my older brother and myself, though it took my parents a little longer. I'm guessing it's because my mother is an Legal alien and something about her green card, but whatever.
We met up with the rest of the family (all 17 of us) and boarded the ship. We ate lunch at the Garden Cafe. Pretty good food, lots of varity and the people that worked there were super friendly. I've got a 7 year old cousin that only eats mashed potatos and they were nice enough to make him some.
We finally were allowed into our cabins at 1:30, an hour earlier than what we were told. We all got inside cabins and yes, they were small but my older brother and I, who are about (125 (me) pounds and 155 pounds) could walk around comfortably. I have 2 cousins thatare football players so they are bulkier and they had a few problems, but they were fine.
We had a flat screen tv in each cabin. My older brother and myself did have a problem with the beds because they were stuck together to make a large bed instead of 2 twin beds. But we called room service and they came up to fix it pretty fast.
We didn't have a problem with making reservations at the resturants. There was no hassle at all and we had a pretty large party of 17 people including the picky 7 year old. We didn't get to make it to the French or sushi bar, but the other restaurants that we did make it to were very good. I especially liked the steak restaurant.
I did get seasick waiting for my food, but they were sweet enough to send it up to my room along with my desert. The white party was really fun although they say it's for 18 years and up, but I saw a lot of little kids like 3-5 years olds there. But the best thing about that party was seeing Paul, our cruise director (whom I think is very cute) who was wearing big wings.
The shows on the ship were okay. I didn't see a lot of them, but I saw Shark Bait (SO FUNNY). I couldn't stop laughing, they are both really nice guys too. The staff talent show was good. The last showing was too funny and I couldn't stop laughing. The Liers Club was funny as well. I saw the comedian Sam who I thought was a riot as well. Chorus Girls was entertaining as well. I did go to see the Ship and Dales show, but it wasn't great, though it was entertaining. Us ladies were trying to get Paul to strip. He wasn't going for it though.
Now for the downside to our cruise:
There were a few things that bugged me. Now I understand it's a cruise line and I don't expect the food to be top notch. But after two days of the same food at the buffet, it got kinda boring. Our room attendents weren't very nice. My little cousin had a nightmare and slept in our room and we shared a bed. He had a bloody nose and some blood got on the sheets. I wrote them a letter asking them to change the sheets. They didn't.
But the one thing that got me really mad was at Glacier Bay when they had the Ranger get on the intercom at like 9 o'clock in the morning and it woke me up. I'm on vacation and I don't wanna be woken up until at least 11. I wish they had the intercoms set up so that they only came on in the areas where people were awake -- like in the dining areas -- instead of all through the ship, waking people up when they don't want to be.
Just back from our Southern Caribbean trip on the Norwegian Pearl (March 7-16th). I can now say that I am an NCL cruiser! Yay. Here is a quick review of the trip. Let me say first off that my husband and I look for the following things on a cruise vacation: Great itinerary, good food, and most importantly, relaxation. That is pretty much enough to make us happy. That being said, here we go:
Embarkation What a breeze. We did arrive to the port early, around 10:30am. The area is very well organized and we flew through the process. We were on the ship by 11:30 and into our cabins by 1:00 -- 1:30. We had a lunch in the Garden Café before heading to our rooms and we took care of some business during the wait. (Casino card, spa weekly pass).
Stateroom We had an inside cabin on deck 9. Yes, it was small, but it worked. For the two of us and all that I over packed, we had plenty of room. I personally love the interiors because it saves us money and allows us to do more thingsin port -- and I get the best sleep of my life while on a cruise. Our stateroom attendant Wilfred was wonderful. There was one small issue when we first arrived to our room and he took care of it without hesitation. After that, I couldn't have asked for anything better. It was fun getting to know him as the cruise progressed as well.
Public Rooms The Pearl is a beautiful ship. We only have one to compare her to (Mariner of the Seas on RCCL) and I must say that I liked her layout and décor much better. Some say that they miss having a grand atrium, but to each their own. They need to have somewhere to fit all the extra restaurants in. The one thing that I did miss in the theater is cup holders in the arm of the chairs. That was nice on Mariner.
My husband and I spent a lot of time at the Spa. It was great. For $250 a couple for a 9 day cruise, you can't beat it. You can also spend $20 a day on a day-by-day basis if you like. I think it is even cheaper after you receive a spa service. It is worth it for sure. My husband and I were by ourselves for the first night, and maybe had two or three others join us for the 2nd and 3rd nights. More people caught on by the end of the cruise, but it still was by no means crowded.
We did not spend a good deal of time at the pool, as it was very crowded, just like every other cruise ship known to man. There is an adult pool and a children's pool. I would see children in the adult pool at times and usually the parent gets the idea that they aren't supposed to be in there, and takes them out. I loved the fact that the pools are chlorinated and not saltwater. I have enough saltwater on my excursions. But I heard that others wanted the saltwater pools. I was happy though. There were many chairs available on our cruise when we would venture outside. Of course, none around the pool, but that would be too much foot traffic anyway and not a prime location in my opinion. We would go up to deck 13 and find a nice spot without problems. When I wanted shade, I would also find chairs on the Promenade deck (7) to read my book. This took a bit longer, but I always seemed to find something
Restaurants and Freestyle OK, I know this is what most people argue about on this board. My husband and I tried every restaurant except blue lagoon and the Summer Palace main dining room, and I have to say that I wouldn't cruise any other way. My husband and I NEVER had a problem getting a reservation OR walking in. We walked into Indigo, Mambos and Lotus Garden without a problem. No wait at all. We made reservations for the restaurants that had more visitors. It was very convenient however. When leaving the ship at the various ports there is a station where you can check out towels. Right next to that station is where you make all of your reservations. We would get our towels, make reservations for that night, and have a great day. Maybe it was because my husband and I just had two in our party. Maybe it was because we are flexible in our eating times. I don't know. Nevertheless, we experienced absolutely no problems with the freestyle system. We really liked that we could eat by ourselves and actually choose what type of food to have. I won't go into huge detail about each restaurant but just say that we liked all of them. My husband said that the sushi was very good (I don't eat it). We also enjoyed Cagney's, Le Bistro's appetizers and desserts (didn't care as much for the entrees), loved Teppanyaki, Lotus Garden, and La Cucina. We thought that the buffet was good as well. It's buffet, so don't expect gourmet food please. Mambo's was my least favorite of all the restaurants on board. After this experience, I don't think that we will go back to the traditional style if we cruise again.
Shows We went to most of the shows. The best show by far for us was Sharkbait. They were hilarious, so don't miss it. We also liked Second City. Their improve show was great as well in the Spinnaker lounge. Get there early as seats go quickly! We missed the soap opera guy (can't remember his name -- sorry) but heard that he was great as well. The magician was good. I heard his close up show is pretty good as well. Personally didn't care for the Jean Ann Ryan shows. Kinda cheesy and not the greatest of performers. I feel bad saying that, but again, just my opinion. I wouldn't miss the late night shows in the Spinnaker lounge -- they were very funny and entertaining.
Staff Simon the cruise director is great. Very funny, not showy and fake. We liked him a lot. Lots of smiling faces. Everyone was great.
Ports Great, great itinerary for us. Some people don't like Samana, but it is because you have to put some effort into that one in order to enjoy it. Pick an excursion to do and you will have a great time. I enjoyed each port very much.
Disembarkation Awesome. We did the get off when you want thing and we were off in no time. What a difference from our last cruise where we sat and sat and sat for hours, waiting to be called. We got up at 7 that morning, packed until 8, and were off the ship, through customs in into our taxi by 8:30. Awesome.
Didn't Like Two things I was disappointed in on the ship (besides the small things in the review). I really like coffee, and I like to have "specialty coffee." My café mocha on the ship was pretty bad. The "mocha" was a nestle hot chocolate packet.
I didn't like that the cruise line didn't enforce the no children in the pool policy as well as the 21 and older only policy in the Spinnaker lounge for the late night shows. Teens have the ability to be very disrupting. Luckily, the Second City guys have the ability to make fun of the teens in an attempt to shut them up. It worked for a bit, but teens will be teens.
That being said, I would recommend this cruise to everyone. Great ports, great ship, great relaxation -- I am a happy camper with my decision to cruise NCL.
I went on this ship for my honeymoon. I had never been on a ship before. I told my friends how it was and they all told me they had never been on a cruise like this one. NCL looks at it this way, "I have you trapped on a ship so let me sell you any and everything." I felt like it was the Kmart blue light special. The cruise director was on the intercom every 30 min talking about some special you must see. It's crazy. I understand selling things on the cruise like artwork, pictures, drinks and souverniers. All the rest is not needed. If they do want to sell it they do not need to make it known over the intercom. They made it sound like they were giving the stuff away. I'd rather deal with a car salesman rather then NCL for 5 days. I would never recomend these people for a cruise.
The layout of bathroom was a joke. I am 5'8" and 175lbs and I could not sit on the toilet. The beds were very small. I had broken lights in my cabin.The list can go on and on.
I am not a picky person but the food was horrable. The only good food you had to pay a min $20pp for. The "FREE" food is worse the "Dennys." Burger King can make better food that that. IT HAD NO TASTE. How can you mess up scrambled eggs?
The pool in my backyard is bigger than what they had on this ship. You have 2000 people on the ship and you have 2 pools 18x30 each. I had to wait 1 hour to get a spot in the pool. Then there is so much bleach in it, your skin feels like it is going to fall off.
Well, now for the good stuff. They did have a set of shows in the Star Dust theater.
They did make up the cabin pretty fast. When you went out, they went in and fixed it up.
Pictures, pictures, pictures. They take a lot of pics of you and you can purchase them. I thought they were a little expensive and they had no package deals. $14.99 per 5x7 (even if they took 2 pics of the same scene they will sell each seperate). The larger size pics were $24.99 each. They also just throw the other pics away in front of you, which I did not like.
I don't have anything to compare this cruise to, but I think it was a little pricey.
Well, that's all I can remember about the ship. I did like Mexico and Caymen Island, though.
Freestyle Cruising is not free or Freestyle
My husband and I live in South Florida and cruise 4-5 times per year. I am 38 and my husband is 44. Every December we take a two week cruise. We have cruised on Celebrity, Holland America, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Carnival. This year we decided to try Norwegian for our 2 week December cruise. We thought we would enjoy the "Freestyle" dining and not having to dress for formal night. (Since we cruise so often, formal nights get old).
We booked the Norwegian Pearl for a 5 & 9 night back-to-back cruise = 14 nights. The ship is beautiful!! The giant screen TV in the atrium is like nothing we have ever seen! We also thought the bowling alley (the only one on the high seas) would be cool. The Bliss lounge is like nothing we have ever seen before -- it rivals any South Beach club.Garden Buffet -- the only TRUE "freestyle" place to eat. -- FREE (if you enjoy eating the same thing day and night for two weeks in a row). 2 Main Dining Rooms -- The Indigo & The Summer Palace -- FREE (The Summer Palace Dining Room does not allow jeans). Blue Lagoon -- 24 hour fried food -- FREE Mangos -- Mexican Style -- FREE La Cucina -- Italian Style -- FREE Cagney's -- Steakhouse -- $20pp Le Bistro -- French -- $15pp Teppanyaki -- Benihanna Style -- $15pp Lotus Garden -- Asian -- $10pp Sushi Bar -- $10pp
Sounds good, right!? Plenty of places to eat at no additional charge… Maybe we will treat ourselves a couple of times to one of the "specialty" restaurants.
Well, think again, this cruise is gonna cost ya!!!
The first night on the ship began the steady disappointment. We arrived at the Indigo Dining Room around 7:00pm. Now mind you, we immediately realized that if you want to see the shows at night, you still have to eat at certain hours anyway. If you do not care about the nightly entertainment, then "Freestyle" your night away…
Anyway, back at the Indigo, we asked for a table for 2.
"Did you make a reservation? No? It will be 30-45 minutes -- take a beeper."
My husband asked if I knew about this reservation "stuff" -- Nope!
Probably just because it is the first night, everybody is trying to get in…
Here is the way "Freestyle" works on this ship.
In order to eat in any of the FREE restaurants, you must make a reservation.
In order to make a reservation, you must set an alarm and go to deck 7 Mambo's at:
7:00 AM -- 2 DAYS IN ADVANCE!!!!
Oh yes, they tell you that you can call from your room anytime, but that is not true.
If you call, either the line is busy or you receive a voice mail asking you to leave a message, which is never returned. Do not think that leaving a message gets you a reservation. If you do get through, you will be told that you do not need a reservation for 2 in either of the dining rooms, but just try to show up without one and you will get a beeper. If you ask for seats in either the FREE Mexican or Italian Restaurants without standing in the aforementioned 7:00 am 2 days prior line, you will be told that these 2 restaurants are full unless you would like to be seated at 10:00 pm.
You cannot wear shorts at night in any of the restaurants. Ok I get it, but this was the Caribbean. You cannot wear jeans in The Summer Palace either.
You can dress however you want at the Buffet. They serve the exact same menu for lunch and dinner, so get used to it!!! The first day or so you think, OK, there is a lot to choose from here, this is cool. But try seeing the same menu day and night for 2 weeks!!
The food in the 2 Main Dining Rooms is horrible!! The portions are ridiculously small and the choices are limited. (same menu both weeks)
I'll give examples: On the "Lobster Night" that everyone usually looks forward to, first of all you would miss it on the menu; it says "Seafood Extravaganza." Sounds good? Shrimp, scallops, mussels, and lobster -- bring it on!!! You will get -- 2 medium size shrimp, 2 small scallops, 2 mussels and one-quarter tail of lobster. (no lie, the actual lobster meat was the size of my thumb). Now, I do not want to sound like a pig. I weigh 90 lbs. This was no "Extravaganza." One night they had NY Strip. (The size of a deck of cards.) One night they had prime rib. I figured, prime rib comes in one size, they cannot miniaturize this. (OK, they sliced it so thin you could see through it.) One night they had eggplant. (the entrée was served with one slice of eggplant on a plate. No side of pasta or vegetable, just one piece of eggplant.)
This is the first cruise ship that I have ever been hungry on.
So, as I mentioned, it is impossible to get into the FREE Mexican or Italian restaurant. One night we met another couple and decided to try to get into the Italian place since it was late -- 9:30pm. We arrived first to be told that our friend had to go "put some pants on" since he was wearing these long "not quite shorts, not quite pants" pants.
"Do you have a reservation? No? I'm sorry I cannot seat you, I have no tables available."
"I'm sure you could find a table, it is already very late for dinner."
Now, you cannot see into this restaurant from the hostess desk. So I waited for her to seat someone else and I went in to take a peak. GUESS WHAT!? There were at least 10-12 clean, empty tables available!
"I'm SURE that you could seat us. I see that you have many tables available."
"Not without a reservation. These tables are all reserved."
"REALLY?! So late? I am sure that you could seat us!!"
"Can you finish your meal in 15 minutes? Otherwise these tables are reserved."
"Lady, if you can manage to serve it to us in 15 minutes, we'll eat it! I insist that we be seated."
Finally after this argument, we were seated. Someone came over after waiting 15 minutes. I want you to know that only two other couples came in after us all night! Those tables were not reserved, they were just empty. PERIOD.
So, as we were leaving I spoke to the Maitre D' of that restaurant and told her that her hostess was rude, refused to seat us, and that the restaurant was half empty. She proceeded to tell me that she PURPOSLY keeps the restaurant half full so that the wait staff and cooks are not overwhelmed!!! I informed her that no restaurant on land would operate that way! If you need more staff, get it!!
I believe that this ship (I cannot speak for any other Norwegian ships) purposely serves sub par meals in the dining rooms (the service is sub par as well) and also purposely makes dining in any of the free restaurants virtually impossible in order to FORCE passengers to choose one of the specialty restaurants. We had dinner in Cagney's Steakhouse 4 nights out of 14. ($20 x 2 x4 = $160 + tips) We forced our way in the Italian restaurant the night above mentioned and had to lie our way into Mambo's Mexican restaurant on one occasion. (I insisted that I had made a reservation and it was their fault if they lost it.) Two nights we gave up and went to the buffet and the other 4 nights we ate in the dining room.
As with most other cruise lines, there is a gratuity charge for the wait staff and cabin stewards. Norwegian calls it a "service charge" and automatically charges $10 per person per day to your bill. I also believe this policy is one of the reasons that the wait staff does not strive to provide excellent service. There is no incentive! They will get paid the same no matter what! On most cruises, you have the same waiter every night and he knows that if he does not give great service, you will come empty handed to the dining room on the last night of the cruise.
I want you to know that the "service charge" is not mandatory. If you feel that you did not receive great service, go to the reception desk on the last sea day and ask that the charges be removed. We did! Why?? Keep reading…
In addition, the 2 weeks we were on the Pearl, there had been a previous outbreak of the Norwalk virus the week before we boarded. We overheard that the ship almost did not receive CDC permission to sail. We asked an employee what had happened and he told us that the week before a group went on a tour in Tortola, ate lunch on the tour and they all came back with the virus. Before you know it, 300 people were sick. When we were between sailings, we went to the meeting for back-to-back passengers. After the awful week we had just experienced (you could not serve yourself at the buffet, not even a glass of water, silverware or condiment, the long lines to get food at each station, and the rude staff who was not accustomed to this), I stood up in the meeting and protested going to Tortola. I said, "there is nothing in Tortola worth getting sick over, I can tell you." The woman in charge of "embarkation" said, "Where did you hear that? Well, it is on our itinerary and we are stopping there." Nothing like, I will discuss your concerns with the captain or with you in private, just dismissed me.
Our cabin steward was also lazy. The first night when he turned down the room, he left the dirty, wet towels on the floor in the bathroom. When we returned at midnight or so, we could not shower. (his card says that his hours are 9am-12pm and 6-9pm. So I called the desk, the man sounded very annoyed and said someone would be there in 20-30 minutes with towels. I told them to forget it. When I mentioned it to the cabin steward the next day he said, "I only replace the towels on the floor." I said, "they were on the floor!" Also, my husband has a severe scalp condition and there are spots of blood on his pillow in the morning. Instead of changing the pillowcases every day, the cabin steward simply flipped the pillows over each day until the cases had no more clean sides and he was forced to change them.
On Monday night, there was a football game in the atrium. I went upstairs to the Blue Lagoon 24 hour restaurant to get some chicken wings for me and my husband. An order of chicken wings consists of 4 wings. So I asked the guy to give me 5 orders on one plate. He looked at me like I was crazy. I asked for them "to go." When I tried to go downstairs with them, I was stopped and told I could not take them downstairs!!! BS!!!
I did anyway.
Then, one day out on the pool deck my friend went over to the bar to get some popcorn. She was told by the bartender that she could only have popcorn if she bought a drink!!!
The last straw was one night there were no openings in any of the restaurants until 10:00pm. There were several games going on that night in the lounges that we wanted to see, so we were forced to eat dinner at 6:00pm. So by 9:30, we wanted dessert. I remembered there was a very good dessert at Mambos Mexican restaurant (one of the FREE restaurants). We had some time between shows so we went there. I went over to Blue Lagoon (the 24 hour place) and asked if we could order dessert from the Mambos menu there. (they are right across from each other and when we had previously eaten at Mambos, we were seated in the Blue Lagoon, so I didn't think it was out of the question). -- WRONG! So we went over to Mambos and asked if we could order dessert.
"Do you have a reservation?"
"No, we just want dessert."
"I'm afraid we are full, you cannot be served without a reservation."
"How about if I order it over at Blue Lagoon?"
"OK, can I have them "to go??"
"So you are telling me that I cannot have a FREE dessert?!?!"
After staring each other down, she decided to let me take them to go.
She gave them to us with no silverware (we do not happen to have silverware in our room).
So we walked over to Blue Lagoon and sat down. (the restaurant was empty.)
A waitress walks over and says, "who said you could sit there?"
Well, I lost it!!! I said, "who do you think you are speaking to in that manner? Do I look like a child to you? I said I could sit here and didn't ask you for a thing, so mind your own business."
Over the 2 weeks I had spoken to several head waiters and Maitre D's. Several apologized and acted shocked, but nothing ever changed. So finally on the last day I decided no one on that ship deserved a tip.
I wrote almost this exact same letter (I had been keeping a log) and addressed it to Michael, the head of the hotel department and turned it in with my complaint.
We received a message in our room later that day from his assistant that "they are shocked and offered dinner in Le Bistro restaurant that night. Of course, proper attire is required. I see that you have had dinner at Cagney's many times, perhaps you would like to try Le Bistro." REALLY???? If I wanted dinner in Le Bistro I would have eaten there for half the price of Cagney's. If she really wanted to make me happy she should have offered dinner at Cagney's and removed all of the previous charges as well. We never even returned the call, especially after the reminder of how we should dress on our "Freestyle" vacation.
Oh, and by the way, they charge $5 pp per game for bowling too! No practice balls, nothing. 10 balls = $5. We went on Royal Caribbean and could ride the WaveRider all day for free. I think that the technology that went into that marvel was much more expensive than a bowling alley.
Funny thing is that there were several opportunities to win a free cruise. There was a free cruise bingo and a raffle by turning in your "Guest Satisfaction" cards. We declined both. I would not take another Norwegian cruise even for FREE!!! And I plan to tell everyone I know (and even those I don't) about how awful they are.
We were not the only ones complaining by the way, just in case you think we are uptight or hard to please. There were several people we met that thought it sucked. In fact we met several people who this was their first cruise and they were so disappointed. I made a point of telling them that they should cruise again on another line, this was no representation of how cruising is. Most ships bend over backward to please. The service is better than most 4 star hotels and the food is great!
I said please and thank you more those 2 weeks than I heard from any staff. They are rude, and do not even try to hide it. They make faces or roll their eyes when you ask for something. Everyday we felt like we had to BEG for food. It was awful!!! One person told me to try and make the best of it -- You're on vacation! That is my point! It is OUR vacation. We paid for it! We should be able to enjoy it! If the staff is annoyed by the passengers who pay their salary, they should get a job elsewhere!
I had the opportunity to attend a conference aboard the Norwegian Pearl for her 5 day Western Caribbean sailing from Miami to Cozumel and Grand Cayman. The ships alternates a 5 night Sunday to Friday sailing with a 9 night Southern Caribbean sailing. This new ship had just arrived from a repositioning cruise from Alaska to Miami, and this was the first sailing for Pearl from Miami. They were assigned a former Carnival terminal, the most seaward of the berths at the Port of Miami. Perhaps because it was the first sailing, the embarkation lines were long, extending out the door and down the steps by 2pm.
The cabin, a category BA, 10058 midships starboard side, was ready and spotless. The balcony has two chairs and a small table, but no reclining chairs. The room has a stocked refrigerator, a coffee maker, flat screen TV, and the new beds with duvets. The bathroom was just as large as in the minisuites, with a toilet with a sliding door separating it from the washroom, and the shower, with its own sliding door. The room steward, whom I saw only three times the wholecruise, kept the cabin spotless.
With Freestyle dining, there are 10 dining venues, including two main restaurants, the Summer Palace and the smaller Indigo. I ate in the Summer Palace twice and once in Indigo. In addition, they have four specialty restaurants that require reservations, three of which have a service charge: Cagney’s Steakhouse, Lotus Garden Asian Restaurant and Teppanyaki, and Le Bistro French restaurant. There is also an Italian Trattoria, where I ate one night, which has no service charge but does require reservations. The Lotus Garden and Teppanyaki seemed to be the ones fully booked every night. I did enjoy the Lotus Garden one night. It is wise to pick the ones you want to reserve as soon as you get aboard and book them that afternoon, or you may be eating very early or very late. They serve from 5:30pm till 10:30pm. The Garden Buffet is spacious, many food stations so you don’t have to stand in long lines. There were three different eggs to order/omelet stations, for example. There is no charge for ice cream, and it wasn’t just soft serve ice cream. Many people don’t realize that there is also a food station at the rear of the buffet that is outside on the deck. Mango’s served Mexican food and the Blue Lagoon was more of a short order fast, food place, with table seating. I tried both of those for snacks, including nachos in the Mexican restaurant.
There are, of course, many bars and lounges. My favorite is the Star Bar on deck 12 aft. It is not frequented much, has superb personalized service, windows, and music in the background. The Star is my favorite on every NCL ship I have sailed on. The Atrium area had a WII set up and every day, all day, people were playing tennis or golf on a screen several stories high. This is the same area where portrait photographs were taken several nights and musicians played occasionally in the evening. The purser’s desk is in this area too.
There were two evening shows by the Jean Ann Ryan Company, at 7:30 and 9pm, comedy improve acts, and a comedic juggler. The production shows, Broadway style, were excellent.
The new item on this ship is the Bliss Lounge where there are four bowling alleys divided by a disco and bar with sofas, loungers, stools, and many video screens. The disco is busy well into the morning. Bowling was $5 per line.
The best part of Freestyle in my opinion is Debarkation. While they still distribute colored luggage tags and ask that your luggage be outside the door by 1am the last night, they don’t require you to vacate your cabin until 10am. You can leave your carry on luggage in the room instead of dragging it to breakfast, and then you can leave either when your color tag is called or when you like, as long as it is by 10am. The customs/immigration lines were lengthy, three stations with two inspectors each.
The two ports, which I had visited many times before, were Cozumel and Grand Cayman. The last time I was scheduled for Cozumel it was hit by hurricane Wilma and the visit was scheduled. I was eager to see how the refurbishment has gone. We berthed at the pier at Playa Langouste, across the street from Sr Frog’s and Carlos and Charlie’s. We visited Playa Mia for a beach excursion, and noticed the still denuded trees on the way there. Playa Mia, we found, was the old Play del Sol revitalized after the hurricane but essentially the same place. The water is too murky to snorkel. While they are still rebuilding the destroyed international pier, it was in use by Enchantment of the Seas. There were only three ships there when we were there. The downtown shows no signs of the storm anymore.
Grand Cayman was especially pleasant because they have rebuilt the tendering piers, use large commercial tenders, and the process was seamless. In addition the Pearl was the only ship in port that day, so there was no congestion.
In all, this was an excellent experience on an absolutely spotless new ship.
This was our 5th cruise but first on NCL. It was a 5 night from Miami.
Embarkation was a nightmare. They had 3 lines, VIP and 2 regular. We were in a regular and it was the longest with the least number of agents. After an hour of hardly moving 2 ladies in front of us complained and they finally started sending people to the next area which had 12 agents for a shorter line. Once we got to an agent we were processed quickly. Of course we had done the online so that helped.
Once on board we went to our cabin. There was not anyone to tell you how to get to your cabin, so had to find by ourselves and left our carry ons. Then off to to buffet, and then a bit of walking around.
We were on deck 13 for sailaway. There was a very small sailaway party on deck 12, really nothing to talk about.
We had an inside cabin on deck 4, with the bed set up as a queen which made a small cabin even smaller. We would have asked our steward to rearrangethe bed to twins but we never saw the steward until the last night. We had heard all about the towel animals and never had one.
Deck 12 has the pools and it is very crowded. I went in the pool one time and it was a comfortable temp.
The first night we ate in the Indigo dining room and were taken to a table by ourselves. The second night we did dress up and ate in the Summer Palace. This was my birthday and my husband had told them so at the end they brought out the birthday cake. It was big enough for 6 people.
Third night we ate at Mambos. Forth night dinner at Summer Palace and the last night ate at La Cucina. The food in all was good but not really impressive. Unfortunately the best food was in the reservation only resturants. NCL needs to improve in both Indigo and the Summer Palace. Being Freestyle, not everyone wants to make a reservation each night, so the non-reservation resturants need to be as good as possible and we did not feel that NCL does this.
We had a very hard time getting a reservation for La Cucina. We tried calling, going to the reservation desk and ended up using the reception desk to help us and we never were able to talk to anyone any other way.
While there are not a lot of announcements on board, they do make sure you know about BINGO as much as possible. And the photographers were all over the place.
The Chocolate Buffet was very good, but we had to find a seat near one of the entrances to the buffet in order to be sure to get in easy.
We used ship's excursions at both Cozumel and Grand Cayman. XCaret was very nice. And we loved Sting Ray Sandbar.
We only went to the first night's show and the last night's show in the theater. The first show was okay. The last night was a juggler act and the 2 were very good.
Disembarkation started off very good and they were ahead in calling colors off. Then they stopped for an hour. Since they do not give you a piece of the tag, we finally decided to just get off. There was a problem with the gangway. Once you got to the tunnel part, there was a drop off of about 2 feet and hard to do without falling. Went thru Customs in a breaze.
Overall we were not impressed with NCL and would not recommend to our friends, but that is something that each person/couple needs to decide on their own. I would not discourage someone I don't know not to try NCL.
About Us: 54/59 year old semi-retired professional. Our 30th cruise, 8th with NCL. First on the Jewel class of ships. Travelling with us our 30"ish daughter and fiance - their first cruise.
Embarkation: We had registered on line so from locking the car to unlocking the cabin was 20 minutes. Our daughter parked in the garage ($15/day) and we walked over the skybridge to the port. There were separate lines for Latituteds members, mini-suite and villa passengers. The welcome aboard photos were done aboard the ship rather than in the terminal. I think this helped speed up boarding and was easy to bypass for those not inclined to photos.
>Cabin: We were in cabin 8542 a BD balcony. The cabin was typical of balcony cabins with NCL or RCCL except for the bathroom. There is an almost normal sized shower with a ceiling to floor sliding door!!! There is also a sliding door on the toilet area, but using it was a bit awkward. There was ample storage in the bath and cabin for DH and I. We are not huge packers but we had room to spare.
In the bath there isa razor outlet only. In the cabin there was one outlet. There is a 4 cup coffee maker, equipped with Folgers coffee, and a blowdryer. Furnishing were bright (more on that later) as was the rest of the ship. Bedding was high quality and comfortable. The balcony had two comfortable (for a change) chairs and a small table. The cabin had a fold out loveseat. The curtains were surprisingly light blocking and closed well.
So you don"t have to ask - there is no DVD player or iron.
Public Areas: Well . . . if your cat ate a pint of rainbow sherbert, a box of fruity pebbles and a glow stick, then threw up - that pretty well describes the color scheme of the ship.. The colors are hideous. NCL must have kidnapped the Carnival designer, fed him psychodelic mushrooms and turned him loose with a paint palet. Lots of wild shades and swirly designs. To me it was very jarring. The visual version of nails on a blackboard. There is also some very unusually shaped furniture. I felt as though the Cheshire Cat might appear at any moment. But having said that the very ugly W-shaped lounge chairs in the Spinnaker Lounge were terrific for lounging while reading or whale watching. It somewhat amazes me that they place a stage in the very front of the lounge, which otherwise would afford a 300+ degree view from the front of the ship.
The crystal atrium -- The reception desk, excursion desk, etc is here. The reception area has no queing ropes so it was crazy at busy times. The excursion desk could teach them a few things about organization. But zaniest of all is this humongous two-story video screen against the wall. Various forms of video are shown here- shopping talks, jewelry seminars and a video game known as WII. Guess I"m showing my age, but I found it irritating to have that degree of electronic stimulation in your face. Especially since it was visible from Mambos and the Blue Lagoon restaurants.
The Bliss Lounge (home of the bowling alley -- $5 per person per game) has two areas for private reservation. The alcoves of the lounge can be reserved for $20/hour and include some food and beverage perks. Karaoke was held there nightly and there are several double bed sized chaises. The areas like everywhere else is quite decadent. Lots of velvet textures, tassels and glitz.
The theatre is fine (especially if you like purple) and there did not seem to be any blind spots. There are air vents on the back of the chairs so ventilation is ample.
The Summer Palace is one of the public dining rooms. It is done on a Catherine"s Palace theme and very interesting. It is the larger of the two dining areas and jeans are not allowed for dinner, even the first night. It is noisier than the Indigo but has better views.
There are multiple specialty restaurants and all are very attractive places. Screens around the ship show waiting times at all the restaurants.
Okay - enough of that. The ship was immaculate and well laid out.
Food Service: The buffet has the usual bottlenecks and for the life of me I don"t know why they only put 2 ice machines in a buffet that size. One was always out of order as well. The food areas are pretty spacious and several items repeat so there is not much pile up (once people learn that). The biggy is the omelet station. Always a long line. If you are a real omlet fan go up to the Blue Lagoon and get one there. The menu is limited but for breakfast without fanfare it is a nice quiet place. The ice cream station is usually crowded and offered 6-8 different varieties of ice cream or sherbert (not soft serve). It however backs up to one of the ice machines and beverage area so it"s a bottleneck. The designers of this buffet could have taken a few lessons from the Norwegian Sun.
Straight through the buffet is a children"s buffet area with hot dogs, burgers and mac anc cheese and little tables. Nice touch for the little ones. It opens onto the Great Outdoor buffet which is open air and has an abbreviated version of the big buffet. Usually less crowded and a nice place to dine, weather permitting.
We dined one night at La Cocina, the Italian restaurant and enjoyed it very much. Reservations are necessary but there is no fee. We also ate at Teppanyaki, the Japanese steak house, (reservations necessary and $20/person) and found it mediocre. There are 8 people per table and 4 tables in the restaurant. The "show" done by the cooks is not comparable to Benihana"s (sp?) but the food was pretty good. There is a huge range hood over the area that makes it quite noisy.
We tried to make reservations for several other restaurants but were not able to. Our kids ate sushi ($15/person) several times and enjoyed it.
I felt the food quality and service was much improved over our last NCL cruise (2/07) and may actually have been some of the best we"ve had in many years.
There was a wine program that was never advertised until the last day. If you bought 6 bottles of wine you received 1 free. You had to bring all your tickets to any restaurant or bar and they gave you a bottle of your preferred wine. Don"t know what they would do if you requested a bottle more expensive than your usual order, but we are boring people and drank the same wine most nights.
Dress Code: "Nice" jeans are allowed in all venues for dinner except Summer Palace. No jeans are permitted there, even on the first night. It was stri ctly, but nicely enforced. You may not wear your swim suit in the buffet, although if you are passing through the buffet to get the Great Outdoors it"s okay.
Smoking has been limited to an increasingly fewer place (yeh!) which made some decks entirely smoke free.
The casino has the usual assortment of games and slots. There was a poker tournament but I do not believe it was a regular table game. There was a good variety of slots from penny to $100. Payout seemed to be pretty good, as those things go. Go, being the operative word. DH did well at blackjack although they have automatic shuffler except at the $25 table. There is a blackjack table poolside when the weather permitted. Likewise, there are four slot machines in the Bliss Lounge.
My only complaint about the casino was the short hours. At several ports they would not open for 2 hours or so after sailing. On the final day the casino closed at 1:30 in the afternoon as we entered Washington state waters. We did not dock in Victoria until 6:00 p.m. so it made for a long afternoon for those of us who like to while away time in the casino.
Entertainment: The comedy group Second City performed twice and were enjoyable. The Jean Ann Ryan dancers new show, "Sea Legs" was just awful. The worst entertainment on the seas I"ve ever seen. We did not bother going to their second show, as seemed to be the case with many others. Our daughter (who is a theater person) went and said it was better but still lacking. The dancers were talented young people who were not challenged in the least by the choreography. There were two airialists who saved the show.
Other entertainment around the ship was quite nice. A nice dance band, show band, pianist, guitarist. All top notch. Of course there was the usual assortment of games and bingo. The late night game in the Spinnaker Louge was pretty wild and the younger folks especially seemed to enjoy it.
Spa: The spa area is delightful, but to use the really nice part, known as the Thermal Suite, there is a $15/day fee. You can get a reduced weekly rate but I do not remember exactly what it was. $65, I think. It included warm tile loungers, steam and sauna, and several jacuzzi"s., all looking out on the ocean. I did not use this area but as I toured it I noticed signs requesting you to limit usage to 20 minutes. There never seemed to be anyone in there when I was around. For no charge you can use the steam room (no sauna) in the changing areas. Lockers are available as well as towels. But if you want a wash cloth you will need to bring one from your cabin. (my husban"ds pet peeve). All the usual services are available at inflated prices now including accupuncture.
Gym: Nice assortment of various machines, looking out to sea. Pilates, Yoga, and spin classes were available for a fee. The walking track is very nice. Good texture and padding on the shaded boat deck. Approx. 3 laps/mile.
Pool: Two pools. One for the kiddies with a water slide and two jacuzzis, and one for adults with two jacuzzis. The adult pool had a waterfall which added nice ambiance and helped drown out some background noise (like the kids pool). Both pools were salt water.
In the pool area, beneath the upper pool deck were double sized, wicker chaise lounges. These were great for gazing out to sea, reading and just chillin" out. Very nice touch. The regular lounge chairs are of a fabric mesh rather than the nylon straps. Much more comfortable.
There is an area available to look down into the bridge for those inclined to do so.
Itinerary: We docked at all locations, no tendering.
Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan -- This was our third trip to all of these so we enjoyed chatting with locals, strolling about and having a local brew or two. I would gladly have exchanged any of these days for a chance to cruise additional glaciers but they didn"t ask me.
Glacier Bay -- Three naturalists from the Forestry Service were onboard to narrate our passage in Glacier Bay and one did a slide show in the afternoon. They were available on the deck to answer questions. We did not get as close to the Johns Hopkins glacier as the Margerie and Great Pacific because of the baby seal population. Still quite nice. In both places the captain turned the ship completely around so you had a good view from all spots on the ship.
Victoria -- Since the Pearl sails from a US port and visits all US ports it is ncecessary to make a foreign call, so Victoria fills the bill. We did an excursion to Butchart Gardens that would have been fabulous had it not been pouring down rain. But that"s what we get for having great weather in all the other ports. This port of call is only from 6P til midnight so it seemed a bit odd not to be toasting the cruise at our table on the final night at sea and made for a short night since we did not get back on board until 11:30.
Crew: Multinational with the majority from the Phillipines or eastern Europe. All very friendly and helpful.
Passenger Make-Up: Middle aged to older Americans although there was a surprising number of childen on board. There was a large charter from Hawaii of what appeared to be Samoans.
A fair number of europeans, particularly Brits, and Canadians. A well behaved crowd.
Disembarkation: We chose self-debarking, as usual, but were not allowed off the ship until 8:15 or so. There appeared to be a problem of some sort clearing all the crew through immigration.
They brought the drug dogs through the hallways, which some folks found odd, obviously, they"ve not cruised Aruba! Clearing customs was just a wave-through procedure and once they opened the cattle gates we were in our car within a very few minutes.
Odds and Ends: Sanitation stations were manned and you were nicely reminded to cleanse your hands. Security was present and quite visible, no problems. Photography: very few this trip, which is okay with me. They were at each port for disembarking photos with the eagle, the whate, etc, but not in your face every time you put a fork in your mouth. Who needs evidence of that - I have my thighs!
Drink prices seemed to be about average for a good restaurant onshore but still, $5.75 for a scotch and soda gets steep after a while. Beverage cards are up to a whopping $60.38 (who makes up these numbers?), so you would have to drink a lot of soda to justify that.
There is an onboard cruise consultant but they do not do onboard bookings any longer. There was a special that if you paid a $250 deposit against any cruise to be booked within the next 12 months they would give you an immedite OBC of $100.
As has been the case for a while now, there is no Captain"s party since there is no formal night. There was a Latitudes Party on the first sea day at 1:00 p.m. There were also the usual meetings available for friends of Bob and Dorothy. There was a VWF gathering one afternoon and a service club meeting..
There is a nice little chapel which probably seats about 18 people. Sabbath services were held on Friday but no services for other faiths was published.
There was a wedding onboard mid-week and it was lovely to see the wedding party around the ship.
The internet cafe has about 10 stations and packages are available or per minute (.75) usage.
Norwegian Pearl May 20-27, 2007 Sailing from Seattle, WA. Room 11056.
Our 6th cruise, 2nd on NCL and 2nd cruise to Alaska.
Overall, a wonderful cruise on a new ship with a very attentive staff. Good food and beautiful scenery. We had a little rain, but overall the weather was nice and we never needed more than a sweater or light jacket.
Embarkation- Easy and quick. We got to Pier 66 in Seattle about 11:30 and were in line for less than 5 minutes. We were through security and on the ship about 20 minutes later. Bags were delivered to our room by 2:00.
Ship-Beautiful new ship, bright colors on carpet and in rooms. Very friendly, cheerful staff throughout. One criticism of "freestyle dining" was that the staff would not be as attentive since their tips were automatically guaranteed, but this was one of the friendliest crews we have had and the service could not have been better. One problem I had with this ship as well as our other NCL ship was that the hallways don't run all the way from front to rear and sometimes stop abruptly on one side ofthe ship requiring a detour across the deck or to another floor. Even though we were in Alaska, some guests were using the pool and hot tubs, but I wasn't one of them. The fitness center was well stocked and the treadmills all had individual TVs on them. The internet service was expensive and seemed to be slower than expected.
Stateroom-Mini-suite was very adequate for my wife and I and our two children. There was plenty of storage room and the bathroom was quite large compared to other ships and included a full tub with shower. The balcony was nice sized as well and we used it quite a bit. It was especially good to have the balcony at the glaciers as the ship moved in front of two glaciers and then did a 180 degree spin to leave the area.
Itinerary - It would have been nice to have spent a full day in the ports to allow more time for side trips and sight seeing the interior. Since the ship traveled the Inside Passage, we got to see a lot of beautiful scenery from the ship and from our balcony. We also saw dolphins, whales and seals in the water near the ship.
Juneau-2:00 PM to 10:00 PM. We went to Mendenhall Glacier on a local shuttle bus for about half of the rate charged on the ship. We got there about 4:00 PM and the park closed at 5:30. We got to see the glacier, but would have liked to have more time there. We got back to Juneau in time to visit the Red Dog Saloon and walk through the port shopping area, which with a couple of exceptions had the same shops that you see in every port in Alaska or the Caribbean.
Skagway-7:00 AM to 8:00 PM. The one port where we had a full day. We walked around town before boarding the White Pass and Yukon RR. It was a very interesting ride and we got to see some of the interior of Alaska. We did see mountain goats and a couple of bears from long distance. This was a very worthwhile side trip.
Glacier Bay - we spent the morning at two glaciers and the ship was able to get very close to both. We couldn't have asked for a better view and stayed at each glacier about an hour. The boat turned so passengers on both sides could get views from the balconies as well as from the decks. Two park rangers got on the boat and gave a running description of the glaciers, history of the National Park, etc.
Ketchikan-6:00 AM to 1:30 PM. We wanted to go fishing, but didn't see how we could do much in the short time. We got off the boat and looked around in the port area, but that was it.
Victoria- 6:00 PM to 11:30 PM. We have visited Victoria several times before and didn't get off the ship.
Food-The restaurants were excellent and the food on this ship was equal to any of our previous five cruises. The Grand Palace and Indigo, the main dining rooms, were excellent and we never had to wait to be seated. The Garden Cafe, an open buffet where we ate most of our breakfasts and some lunches, offered good variety and good quality food. The Great Outdoors restaurant on the rear of the ship was not used too much because of the cool weather, but was similar to the Garden Cafe. Specialty restaurants were excellent and offered a good variety, Asian, steak, Italian, Spanish/Mex, French, etc. We enjoyed the "freestyle dining" as a good change of pace from the standard, fixed dining on other cruise lines was preference for our children who were not interested in "formal" dining and fixed schedules. Reservations for the specialty restaurants not much of a problem when requested the day before. The only one we couldn't get into was La Cucina, the Italian restaurant, which was small (90 people), popular and had no added charge. The Chocolate Buffet was Friday night and not as elaborate as most we have attended, but was nice and the crowds were huge, as always.Grand Palace (One of the two Main Dining Rooms): B+ Indigo (One of the two Main Dining Rooms): B+ Garden Cafe (buffet): B Cagney's (steak house): A- Le Bistro (French): C Lotus Blossom (Asian): A- Teppanyaki (Japanese): B+ Mambos (Spanish/Mexican): C Blue Lagoon (24 hour cafe): B Great Outdoors (buffet): B La Cucina - Not used. Sushi - Not used.
Entertainment-This was not a strong point on the cruise. Two acts were very good, the Second City Comedy Troop and the Japanese themed theater performance with acrobats. The other Vegas style theater performance was poor-dancers were never together and it looked pretty amateurish. The juggler and magician were pretty standard fare for cruise ships.
Debarkation- This went as smoothly as getting on. You got to pick your debarkation time and corresponding color-coded baggage tags. There were no problems with customs or getting our baggage. We caught a cab right outside the exit gate to the airport, which cost about $30.