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.
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.
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
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 !
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.
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
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..