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.
Overall a great cruise. As with any cruise some things could be better, but nothing worth writing about. The only question being weather you like the Idea of free style dining.
The positives are that 1.you can eat when you want and 2. the different restaurants all were outstanding in in food and service.
Regardless of other reviews, the ablility of obtaining reservations was no problem. I suppose if you wanted to get a reservation at say 7:30 or 8:00 there may be problems. Of course call any of your good restaurants at home and try for similar reservation(if they take them) and see what happens. Or go to any restaurant without reservations and see how long you have to wait. At least on the ship, if you have to wait they give you a beeper and you can go about your business.
The negatives.If you like meeting new people on cruises, there is no better way than to sit at a large table every night with strangers.Also, there wasn"t the variety of meal in the main dining room as there is on traditional ships. Also, you don't get to know your diningroom staff and get the personal service, since you never sit at the same table. Third is the money, allthough it is rather minimal for the service you get, it is still more money than you usally need to pay. Sometimes that got to me a bit.
Basicly it gets down to what you like. If you like the idea of free style dining, it is great. If you like the idea of traditional service then this is probably not for you. Or you may just have to try for youself and see. It will be fun either way
Also in som of the reviews people complained about the boarding. I couldn't have been pleased more. It may have been a little hectic,but for the number op passangers, everything lwent smoothly and quickly. another plus was that on disembarkment, for a $15.00 fee they gave you your boarding passes and took care of your luggage. You never had to worry about it till you got off your airplane at home. Really convenient
I'll start with the transportation in Miami. We rented a car the day before and the day after our cruise. THANK GOD we had the Hertz Neverlost system or we'd still be in Florida somewhere. The cab ride from the airport to the terminal is 24.00. We gave the cabbie an extra 8 bucks because he was so pleasant and the signs at the port had him driving in circles for a while. The cabbie back made me pay the toll fees so he got a two dollar tip and I reported him.
Embarkation was not only a breeze but the guy who checked us in had a great sense of humor.
Cabin- We had balcony cabin 10574. Gotta say the first glimpse kinda took our breath away. Just gorgeous. There are three drawers and about six shelves beneath the safe. The closet is very roomy with a shelf above and a fold down shelf in the middle. We overpacked (3 suitcases) and had plenty of room.
The bathroom area is a little small (so what) but laid out quite nicely. The shower was quite roomy with very responsive water controls. Iused the shampoo and bath gel (wife didn't). The head is a little tight but who wants to spend much time there anyway?
Our bar set-up was prominently displayed and the mini-fridge was STOCKED to the hilt. Ice bucket was filled daily but is a little small. Our steward caught me filling our sink from the ice chests and he rolled it to our door and filled it up himself.
The balcony is more than adequate for two and has very comfortable chairs, the table is a little small.DO NOT open your cabin door while the balcony door is open.
Cabin was wonderful EXCEPT , (and this is huge) we could not cool it down. I expect the public areas to be a little warm while in the Carribean but not our cabin. We tried closing the drapes to keep the sun out, no luck. Many other passengers had the same problem, from the Villas to the 5th deck. The heat was oppressive at times, sweating while I sleep is not my idea of fun.
Food- Well, this was a bust. The first night we set sail at 8pm so we just had a buffet snack. Day two we tried to get a seat at La Cucina while the "Seating Availability Chart" told us there would be a short wait. I was told "maybe tomorrow". I got smart and booked a table at Cagney's. We then went to the buffet (more on that later).
Day 3- Cagney's I hemmed and hawed over getting the 1.5 lb lobster or the surf and turf. I chose the surf and turf while the missus went with the filet. My "turf" consisted of a filet the size of remember "Hostess Ding Dongs"? only half as thick. Literally 2 1/2 inches across. The lobster? Maybe the meat was the size of your baby finger curled.
VERY, VERY dissappointed. Couple martinis and a bottle of wine, the tab was 150.00 (including tip)An hour later we went looking for a cheeseburger.
Day 4-Tried to book La Cucina and was told both nights were booked. We ate at Mambos, food was pretty good.
Day 5 Was pretty dispirited at this point, just made a sandwich at the buffet.
Buffet- Good points: Pasta made to order, omelettes made to order.
Iced Tea was very good.
Bad points: Salad dressing watery, salad greens were brown, breakfast meats are not firm
, and this is HUGE. MILK is warm, should be packed in ice.
Warm cabin and warm milk just ruined the cruise for us.
Peter James plays a wicked piano in Bar City.
Casino is roomy and not innudated with smoke.
We will try a few other lines before we do NCL again
First off..Freestyle dining is not Freestyle when you have to get up early the previous day to have a chance at getting a reservation at one of the premium resturants...The reservation policy is that you can make reservations beginning at 7AM the previous day.
You can either call a reservation # or go to a reservation center located on Deck 8.. So, by 6:30 AM each morning the line begins to form..which means while your on vacation you have to get up very early to try and take advantage of "Freestyle Dining" at a premium restuarant..Not my idea of a vacation...Also, noticed that the food in the main dining areas lacked the quality and quantity you received in the premium resturants.
All but one lounge (Bliss) allowed smoking..making all those other venues intolerable for non smokers.
The ship is very nice and the staff (for the most part) provide good service..All in all, it was an OK cruise...Celebrity is our choice from now on..
This cruise exceeded all of our expectations especially for NCL, as well as for any cruise line. The ship is more than beautiful both inside and out. Most everything is well laid out. (I didn't like continually having to go to the 7th floor to access a 6th floor restaurant.) Our cabin was better laid out, with much more storage, in comparison to others we've been on. Staff was generally very good.
Food in general went from good to very excellent. There was a varied, aesthetically pleasing, tasty, and healthy menu that was served attentively. The Summer Palace restaurant is top notch. Free Style dining worked very well.
Shows were suprisingly excellent, of top professional quality. Although the ship is relatively large, there was no problem getting into restaurants or shows.
There was a wide range of passenger ages ranging from newborns to seniors. The activities were aimed mostly for the younger range of passengers - that's exactly what they had.
Embarkation and disembarkation went exceptionally smoothly.
My major complaint is their terrible unworkable web site. Never had to deal with such an unworkable, un-userfriendly, and frustrating web site. Couldn't find basic information, such as shoreexcursions, or book shore excursions on their site. They know it works fine for them but not for their customers, but do notbing about it. So we didn't go on shore excursions through the ship. Had a great time anyway.
Embarkation: We arrived at the embarkation pier at around 1:00 pm which was pretty late already as a lot of people were already queuing for a departure time set at 4pm. So I would rather advise you to arrive 30 minutes earlier that we did.
Embarkation staff (Gilles) was everything but friendly showing no sign of empathy whatsoever ..he acted like a machine and if he goes on like that, I am sure NCL would do some savings in replacing such a guy by a PC!
All in all the procedures were then rather quick, without hassle and we were within 50 minutes in our cabin.
4 Pieces of our luggage arrived within short time whereas the last one arrived only very late.
Staterooms: We had 2 adjacent staterooms ( the other for our 2 big sons) with balcony on deck 10, Stateroom 10542 and 10540; you will see later on that those numbers could be of importance for future members!
The beds can be arranged either as queen-bed or as 2 single beds. They are very comfortable and the mattresses allow an extremely good sleep. The A/C can be individually set andwork efficiently.
Very well-equipped with enough space for storage, the colour scheme is very attracting. The balconies are wide and offer enough privacy from neighbours.
Since we forgot a transformer for 110v, the reception send 2 technicians who installed within 5 minutes a prolongation cable with 220v plugs. It shows how NCL is committed to giving an outstanding customer service.
Dining: By far the best quality item for NCL. Their free-style cruising scheme offers a wide range of not less than 12 restaurants. Be wise to book latest by end of the 1st day if you want to dine at the time you wish. Large screens throughout the ship show the waiting time for each outlet.
We spoke with a lot of passengers on this cruise and they all seemed to love this dining style. For us and our 2 youths, it is out of question to use another more traditional dining seating! It is NCL or nothing.
Cagney's dishes are all excellent and we dined twice there; we also tried the Shabu Shabu (Mongolian hot pot) in the Lotus Garden and we did not like it.
La Cuccina and Mambo Tapas Restaurant offer an equally good quality;
For lunch the Summer Garden offer so many buffet stations that we never experienced a waiting time at any of them. As a hint, go to the outside garden restaurant at the aft of deck 12, it is never crowded and you can eat outside. Great views and fresh air.
All of the 12 restaurants offer superb quality and their staff mostly from Romania or India are very kind. They also speak several languages. They also all offer a wide selection of European or US wines at a good price.
Entertainment: Nothing to say except that all facilities work perfectly well and the staff attending either the pool area or the fitness area or the spa are extremely-well groomed. No wonder as most of them have joined NCL since a long time.
The bowling alley is not too crowded in the late afternoons and offers a good change to the traditional water sports. Fully computerized and located next to a well-attended bar lounge, I can only recommend it.
Shore excursions: On the 2nd day we opted in Samana, Domenican Republic for the excursion "Discover Samana".our only comment FORGET IT and AVOID IT.
The excursion desk received so many complaints that they immediately refunded the entire amount of this excursion to the people who complained. Again an excellent proof of good service.
We did not hear a single positive comment on Samana on this cruise.
As for Tortola and St Thomas, nothing to say. The disembarkation was at both places very smooth and the transfer to the buses well organized.
Customer service: During this cruise, we experienced a problem with our toilet flush which was flushing continouesly. Despite several calls to the reception, the problem ended in having our cabin groundfloor flooded. The technical staff arrived to stop the leakage and repair the damages while we were off-shore.
As we came back, a message from Krista, the assistant Reception Manager was waiting for us offering us another accommodation for the night until the floor is dry. As we arrived in our cabin, we were happy to see that the cabin was fully useable so we called her to cancel the transfer to another stateroom. She send immediately some staff to clean and change the beds. In the evening we received 2 bottles of red wine together with a letter of apologies.
Two days later, the same problem appeared. This can always happen on a new equipment ..we thought. Again Krista called in the late afternnon offering us a online credit of USD 100.- per cabin as a compensation for the problems we experienced. Since we did not ask for anything, we appreciate even more this commercial gesture from NCL! Excellent attitude and immediate reaction are keys to their success.Disembarkation: We choose to disembark at 8:30 and 5 min. before they call for our tag colour. The disembarkation went much smoothier as the embarkation and within 10 minutes we were off the ship and waiting for our transfer to the hotel. Customs procedures for US non-residents are reduced to the minimum: a stamp on the passport and on the green arrival immigration form.
Summary: As 1st-time cruisers we are very much pleased by NCL, the ship and its amenities and can only recommend it to whoever hesitate. Our 2 sons ( 24 and 21) who were reluctant to come along are fully convinced and want us to book already the next one very soon. It says all !