A Happy Ship
The Norwegian Pearl is just as the Chief Engineer described: "A happy ship."
First I'll start off by saying that this was my first cruise (and for my fiancee as well; her first cruise on the Oceanos doesn't count). I'm definitely glad that we went with Norwegian first, instead of Celebrity or Cunard which would have been my first choices. My expectations were exceeded in every way. The food was amazing and the staff friendly, happy, and willing to go the extra mile. We didn't have one bad meal or drink on board, and that was just eating in the main dining room. The one specialty restaurant we ate at was Moderno Churruscaria, and we're glad that's the one we chose. Great cuts of meat, and all you can eat!
Definitely get at least a mini-suite. They're very spacious and really not that expensive. We met a couple aboard and I was able to see their oceanview stateroom. If it's all you can afford, it's not bad at all, but if you're like me, a balcony on a ship is a must More
Overall we had a wonderful time. The only complaint I have with the ship itself is a trivial one, which I won't describe here. I wasn't too thrilled with the itinerary, though. No big deal, just a lesson learned for my own tastes. Don't let that reflect badly on the ship! It's a lovely ship, beautiful and luxurious, and with plenty to do. You won't be bored if you want excitement, and if you want to relax, you can do that too. It's amazing that with over 2,200 passengers on board, it really doesn't feel like it.
Enjoy your cruise on the lovely Pearl! She is a jewel indeed. Less
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Cabin review: MB11500 Mini-Suite with Balcony
#11500. Great spot, all the way forward (but only if you LIKE feeling the motion of the ship). Also right next to the bridge viewing room (which if you're into ships & navigation you'll love). The mini suite itself is very spacious, plenty of closet space, and a great balcony. The bed is soft and comfortable, and the curtain dividing the sitting area from the bed is a smart addition.
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Port and Shore Excursions
We had about twenty minutes on the beach at a resort, since it was in tandem with the Mayan Ruins tour. Definitely DO NOT take this option.
Norwegian needs to ditch the company that they contract with for the Tulum tour. Before you even get to Tulum they stop for a "bathroom" break at what reminds me of an Indian mall tourist trap along Interstate 40. It's this big building full of overpriced touristy junk, AND you don't even have enough time to buy anything because of the huge line. Second, the Tulum tour itself is very rushed. Our guide was very knowledgeable about Mayan history and culture, but I feel like a lot was left out. Tulum is also very crowded, which I feel spoils the magnificence of the ruins themselves. If you've never seen a Mayan ruin before, check it out, but if you've seen some of the other, bigger sites, skip this one. The tour group rushes you through it; you barely have time to really marvel at what is before you.
For a full review, see my blog at http://lincolnmemorandum.blogspot.com
Had a blast here. Everyone we interacted with was very nice and courteous. You didn't feel like anyone was trying to hustle you. We didn't take a shore excursion through the ship, but we did take a tour with Nativeways (http://www.nativewaywatersports.com/). If you want to snorkel and do Stingray City, do it through them. It's cheaper and probably better. They don't rush you, you get to feed the stingrays, and they take you to a good snorkel spot where there aren't a bunch of other tourists. It cost $120 for my fiancee and I for 3 stops, and still enough time for shopping in Geo-Town. Through Norwegian it was $120 PER PERSON just for Stingray City.
The water in Grand Cayman is AMAZING. Clear blue and warm. What a gorgeous locale. We will be coming back here without a cruise so we can really get to know it!
Check out my blog for a full review and pictures: http://lincolnmemorandum.blogspot.com
Don't expect too terribly much, at least until they're done renovating. There's construction equipment all over, and the main beach is REALLY crowded. Venture off toward the west if you want some tranquility. If you go far enough you can spy one of the other cruise lines' private island (since there was no ship docked I can't tell you which). Keep an eye out for lizards too; they make this island home, but not around any people. You'll definitely want to reserve a clamshell too, because there is hardly any shade! I gave it a 4 rating because I think it will have potential once the remodeling is done.
Check out http://lincolnmemorandum.blogspot.com for a further review and pictures.
I'll say this: you can freaking have Jamaica. I did not feel safe there (actually the EXACT opposite), the beaches really aren't that great, and the people working the resorts always seem to be giving you the sideways look. Really, I'm not an A-hole American who thinks you owe me something. I'm trying to be nice to you, so please don't give me the stink eye!
The ONLY reason I'm giving Jamaica a 2 is because I got to see Ian Fleming's house & the Goldeneye property. There, the people were nice. I'm glad I saw it, since I'm a big James Bond fan. But I will NEVER return to Jamaica again.
For a full chronicle of the "adventure" of Ocho Rios, check out http://lincolnmemorandum.blogspot.com. It's my personal travel blog (don't worry there are no ads!)