The embarkation process on Nov. 4th was well organized, and ran smoothly. The entire process only took about 30 min. from the time we walked into the building. Once on board, we were able to go right to our cabins and drop off our carry ons. We met our cabin steward at that time, and only saw him maybe twice in the hallway the entire trip. This was very different from past cruises we've been on, where our cabin stewards were very attentive, and greeted us on at the very least a daily basis. Once we had dropped our belongings in our cabin, we made our way up to the Garden Cafe for lunch.
There was a wide variety of food in the Garden Cafe, and remained so throughout the cruise. The quality of food here was better than we have experienced on other cruises. This was the only ship that had decent coffee, and orange juice compared to previous cruises...a big plus for us!
I was a bit confused about the difference between Freestyle cruising compared to my time dining More
on other ships. My time dining from our experience was just being able to eat your meals anytime you like without reservations or assigned seating...Freestyle allowed that as well, but also offered a couple of different places to eat. The Summer Palace was the Pearls "formal" dining room, Indigo was a little less formal, and more like a regular restraunt, and then, the Blue Lagoon, which was open 24 hrs. All three places had the same menu, so I'm not sure why 3 different venues were needed. There were also several places you could dine for a surcharge.
As I stated earlier, the quality of food on the Pearl was probably better than on previous cruises, but the variety, was minimal. It seemed that the special every night was a dish that encorporated Red Snapper. Dress for dining was casual, however shorts are not allowed in the Summer Palace. The wait staff in the Summer Palace fell short of what we have experienced on other cruises. Other trips we have been on, the wait staff was very friendly, and entertaining. The wait staff that we experienced on the Pearl seemed to be void of any personality, and rather stiff. No entertainment was provided by the staff during dining as on other cruises.
Entertainment on the Pearl was excellent...from the nightly shows in the Stardust Theater to the entertainment in the Spinnaker and Bliss lounges. The seating in the Stardust Theater was however extremely uncomfortable! The seats had very poor support, and felt like they were worn out and in need of replacing.
As far as the ports we had a great time, but do feel that improvement could be made.
The last day of our cruise, we were enjoying the review show in the Stardust Theater, when our enjoyment was interrupted by an inebriated couple. When this interruption became threatening I asked that security be called, and crew members who were watching this incident unravel, did NOTHING to diffuse the situation, but threw up their hands and closed the door on us. It took another passenger to call security. This was a potential dangerous situation that I feel was handled very poorly by crew members. Once security got hold of us a report was made, and we received an apology from the security staff. I had no complaints about security itself, I just feel that crew members need to be trained on how to attempt to diffuse hostile situations until security arrives.
Cozumel, was our final Caribbean port. Again, the port that we have visited Cozumel in on other cruises...(RCI and Carnival) was preferable to this one. This port for NCL was more industrial than the local flair that we found with RCI. It kind of looses the charm without that quaint location. Our excursion for the day was the Palancar snorkel and Playa Mia beach break. We have taken this same excursion before with RCI and absolutely LOVED it. The first time we snorkeled with about 20 people over 3 different reefs which provided a multitude of sea life and beautifully colored coral...this time however, we were on that same boat with probably 80 or more people, and were taken to a spot to snorkel that was no where near as colorful as the first time. The fact that there were so many people in this group really took away from the quality of this excursion. It is difficult to snorkel with so many people in close proximity. Very disappointing! After snorkeling, we were taken to Playa Mia for a complimentary snack (lunch) that was very good, along with as much to drink as you wanted, all included! In all, we only had about an hour and a half on the beach, which really isn't enough time to enjoy all the beach has to offer.
On past cruises, we were tendered right into Georgetown...however NCL had us tendered in to Bodden Town, which required a taxi ride to get into Georgetown. The port in Bodden Town was very lack lustre, and looked as if it were the "ugly step-child" of the tender ports from previous trips. It would have been nice if we had known this ahead of time, but you live and you learn...not a big deal in the scope of things. We chose not to have an organized excursion in Grand Cayman, but rather spent the day walking around Georgetown shopping.
Our first port was Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegians private island. In my opinion, this was a port we could have skipped all together. It looks just like what it is...a man made port that is not finished. Aesthetically in was not at all pleasing. We had booked a wave runner tour with the friends we were traveling with, and ended up requesting a refund, it was so bad. We have been on wave runner tours on other cruises, and fell in love with it! However the organization and safety of this tour fell far below our expectations. The tour was not organized with safety in mind! Less than mid-way into our tour, the leader took off with most of the group, and did not pre arrange a meeting place. My husband and I were left in the middle of the ocean without a group, and without a guide. Eventually another guide found me, at which time I requested that he guide us back and end the tour. I contacted the excursion mgr. for the Pearl and he was very concerned, apologized, gave us a full refund, and followed up with us the next day on ship.
In Ocho Rios, our excursion was the Catamaran Reggae Party to Dunn's River Falls. The crew on the Catamaran was fantastic! They were very interactive with passengers, and got everyone involved in the party!