We were delighted to be upgraded to a Penthouse Suite for our wk. aboard. This included butler, concierge, and breakfast/lunch in Cagney's Steakhouse, one of the ship's specialty restaurants.
THE SUITE: Nice, roomy one-roomer with very gaudy colors, art. Bed was like sleeping on a dream! NCL has such wonderful mattresses and linens. There was a small table which we used once for in-room dining. The TV was a flat-screen, embedded into the wall. Really nice bathroom with plush towels and a full bath w/shower. Great having that on a cruise! Turning on the shower takes a little brain-power. They have a very unusual spigot for both hot/cold. Once you figure it out, you're fine, but for the elderly, it may be a challenge. Shower light was not working when we boarded, but service was very prompt and it was fixed within the hour. Lovely flower-arrangement, including a big, red rose. Also received the usual NCL bubbly: Pol Clement. This was an aft cabin, so standing on the balcony, you can smell the delicious bakery on a lower deck. Mmmmmm..... There were nice terry robes and slippers in the closet and generous closet and drawer space. There were two safes. One didn't work, but we really only needed one, so it wasn't a big deal. I enjoyed usage of the lit magnifying mirror for doing make-up and the Elemis products in the little bottles that were complimentary were quite nice. They generously gave me more when asked. The scale was great for when we had to pack and weigh our bags before leaving.
THE SERVICE: In general, service was EXCELLENT! Cruises are where people go to be pampered, and in a Penthouse, you really get that great, extra-mile treatment from NCL. Our Butler, Roshan was wonderful. He always had a smile on his face, had a real servant's heart, and gentle personality. He was extremely prompt with his service, and certainly made sure we had attention given to ice service, towels, etc. The only thing we ran out of once was toilet paper, and that was taken care of on the spot. I enjoyed chatting with Roshan. So many of the crew are from different cultures, and if you begin talking with them and get them to open up a little, you find truly fascinating people, very dedicated to what they do. Our Concierge was Anoop and he really did do a super job for us, too. Whenever we needed specialty restaurant reservations, it was simple to phone him and get reservations. Anoop was present at breakfast to make himself visible and available to all suite passengers needing assistance. He also offered priority disembarkation when needed and also took suite guests into the big NCL Chocoholic Buffet early so we could take photos and be served ahead of other passengers. Suite guests pay over the top for service, so these little things really did add to the "special" status of being in a Suite. We were a little lat in arriving to get aboard the ship, but were escorted quickly and efficiently onto the boat and straight into our cabin. In Victoria on the final evening, we should have used Anoop's gracious help to disembark. Not doing so was our fault, but it was a mess. People were rude, pushing, shoving, and the line we were in first, wasn't moving at all. We went further aft towards the other disembarkation area and things were moving much better. Fortunately, none of the shore excursions had left, and it almost seemed as though they were used to everybody coming up to them a little behind schedule. Our Suite was serviced with new ice, towels, etc. and appetizers or treats twice daily. Loved getting to use the little Cappucino/Tea maker in our room. Delish!
THE FOOD: I was mildly disappointed with the food this trip. Our experiences with quality food were much better aboard the Star. My husband loves steak and he had it nearly every meal, including in Cagney's. However, most of the steak I tasted wasn't very flavorful and really didn't make the greatest impression on me. My best meals in the Summer Palace were seafood and the delicious pork chop I had the final night of the cruise. We went to the Moderno Churrascaria, which is NCL's new Brazilian Steak House twice on our trip, because we like it so much. It's fun having the different skewers of meat offered and trying different things from Filet Mignon to lamb, was great. There's a huge salad bar at that restaurant to choose from, and the cheese puffs brought in place of bread are FABULOUS! NCL makes all its own bread aboard the ship, so regardless of where you are, bread and pastries, cakes, etc. are WONDERFUL! As aforementioned, Suite passengers are able to eat Breakfast & Lunch at Cagney's. This cruise, I was very disappointed in both the food and service at Cagney's. My husband loves getting to breakfast early, and I like going later. I found service over all to be slow and there were several days when I had to wait a good ten minutes just to be greeted by a server and receive my beverage. Not good, that. As a result of my "issues" there, we didn't go to dinner there, which is unusual for us, since my husband usually loves Cagney's. I found food and service to be much better at the Summer Palace. Each server really knew their stuff and was able to give good guidance as to which desserts to choose, etc. I really enjoyed the Summer Palace's Chef Specialties each night... finding out what they were. Several nights, they turned out to be my entree. We never ate at the buffets this trip, and they seemed terribly chaotic whenever we passed through them. We did use room service one day for lunch. Suite guests get to order straight from the regular menu, which has a lot better selection than the typical room service menu does. The one meal we had in-room was super and Roshan prepared our room table with linen cloths, etc. Tres elegant!
THE ACTIVITIES: This is our fifth NCL cruise. Absolutely the BEST value aboard is the week's spa membership. It has gone up in price ($119 now, formerly $99). I can say that aboard the Pearl, it's WORTH EVERY PENNY! The Pearl's Mandarin Spa has a unisex whirlpool, HUGE therapy pool, heated tile recliners, coffee/tea service... and this is all in just the common area, used by both men/women. The women's private area is my favorite. Two mini whirlpool Jacuzzis for just a single individual, a steam-room, cold-plunge bath, and sauna. All of this is at the very front of the boat on Deck 12, so the views, especially while cruising Alaska, are stunning. I could literally sit in one of the individualized Jacuzzis and look out over the water at glaciers, etc. One day, several of us watched about ten humpback whales from the giant floor-to ceiling window in the women's quarters at the spa. Thrilling! Staff provides ice water, hot beverages, plush towels, and robes. There are also lockers. This was my second trip on the Pearl and here comes my only "issue" with the membership. Last time on the boat, each locker a a key with a bracelet you could wear in the spa. Now, there are digital buttons, similar to those on room safes on each locker. Some didn't work and four times during my spa visits, I had to report to the front desk to either get a different locker that worked OR get help in opening it, as it wouldn't open, even with my code! NCL: Please go back to key lockers. It's so much easier!!! We're Bingo lovers, and this was the best Bingo and most organized Bingo we've encountered on any NCL cruise. They've gone back to standard card-Bingo, and it's much more cost-efficient. Also, they had much nicer Giveaways, including specialty restaurant dinners, free-Bingo play, and the customary Cruise for Two at the end of the week. We're not huge entertainment fans, as far as shows, but two acts really stood out this trip. First, there was a lady vocalist (don't remember her name) who sang/played soft, relaxing music, accompanied by guitar. She was WONDERFUL! Then there was Second City. We've always gone to Second City shows on each NCL cruise, but this particular cast was the best we've EVER seen. They were wonderful. I was pleased to see them performing three times aboard the boat. Really great comedy!
NON-SMOKERS BEWARE: This is the 3rd time we've purchased a balcony fare. Two of those three times, we've been lucky enough to receive a Penthouse upgrade. To get either a balcony or Penthouse anywhere costs more money. Unfortunately, one of the places people are allowed to smoke is on their balconies. There are three places people smoke aboard NCL ships: Balconies, Promenade Dec 7, and The Casino. This makes the third time we've had to endure second-hand smoke on our balcony. This is a major inconvenience to those of us who are allergic to tobacco smoke. It actually even stuck up our cabin!!! NCL: More and more health-conscious people consider smoking to be dangerous and rude. This Christmas, we've elected to turn-away from NCL to try another cruise company that doesn't allow smoking. As much as we've loved our NCL experiences, the non-smoking policy really appealed to us!