Norwegian Pearl~ Simply Irresistible?
The new Norwegian Pearl was hyped from the moment we got on with a corporate catch phrase of simply irresistible. They should have made that Totally Irresistible because this racks up a huge win.
Personally, I have not been all that big of a fan of Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) in the past. This 2-day preview cruise the new 99-ton Pearl, changed all that.
Food- 4.5 (out of 5)
I must start here because this is an area where this ship blows away the competition.
There is no buffet on this ship. Instead they have action stations. Yes, it looks like a buffet at first glance. But very quickly you notice that there are a bunch of different stations that are manned with crew, preparing most all of the selections there for you. There is a two-fold benefit to it.
In addition to the food being cooked to order and piping hot so it doesn't sit around in Bain Marie's all day as NCL exec Andy Stewart noted, it also provides a great deal of protection against food-born illness. You see, each station is completely protected not just with the traditional salad-bar style sneeze guard, but with a full plate glass barrier between the guest and the chef preparing what they want. Look for the other cruise lines to do this soon; it just makes such perfect sense.
If the occasional stories of flu-like illness on cruise ships concern you, this is the ship for you. Look for the same setup on next years Norwegian Gem debut too.
This ship also proved that it was not a fluke on previous sailings of the NCL Star and Sun to have crispy bacon. Again, attention to detail was everywhere and this is a product that every other cruise line fails with miserably.
Freestyle dining fans are going to love this ship.
We dined in the Lotus Garden Asian Restaurant, which was quite good. I say that not because of the food, which was good, but because of the service. I have always said that in the restaurant business really great service starts when there is a problem.
On our visit we were seated within minutes of arriving but quickly forgotten. We were seated but then nobody came to our table. At first I said to Lisa let's just see how long it takes but then got tired of waiting and caught the eye of a manager to get things moving along.
Not only did he get things moving along, but he kept an eye on our table and checked back to be sure we were happy throughout the meal. This is what needs to happen in a situation like this. He paid attention.
Previewing various pre-inaugural photos of the ship, one word came to mind: Gaudy. Ok two words, Gaudy and Tacky. My initial thoughts and the idea I walked on board with were Wow, anybody who does not like the sometimes Vegas-like flash of Carnival is going to hate this ship.
Quite the contrary thought slapped me in the face stepping foot on the ship. Yes, there are areas with really bright colors with almost a 70's psychedelic feel, but it all works. In addition, there are some areas of the ship that offer really innovative looks and feels.
The Crystal Atrium, which greets you upon embarkation, is nothing short of spectacular. A huge video wall on one end projects live-action video that puts a Royal Caribbean Get out there commercial to shame and blows away the wow factor of Princess' Movies Under The Stars on-deck video screen.
Carnival? Come see what a water slide is supposed to be like.
NCL has paid attention, learned from other cruise lines and done what nobody else has totally done yet: brought the total experience right down to passenger level. I would find this theme and attention to detail in many other areas as well.
The way this ship breaks up huge expanses of interior deck space into smaller, more intimate areas is pure genius. Bar Service- 4.5
Not long ago, in a review of the fabulous new Celebrity Century, I left out a little detail that seemed insignificant at the time. I was standing at the pool-side bar on that ship one morning and overheard one of the bartenders talking to a guest. It seems that guest had ordered a Bloody Mary and was told they were out of Bloody Mary mix. I remember thinking at the time how odd that was to be out of such a popular item but dismissed it as just one of those things. No big deal.
What I saw and experienced on the new Pearl was impressive. They too were out of Bloody Mary mix. The subtle difference was that instead of telling guests that, they made it from scratch! Knowing a good Bloody Mary recipe when I see it, the bartender making it knew what he was doing too.
It was a little thing, but one that would come back quietly again and again, putting this ship and crew over the top in what was an honest desire to please. Not just a they were told to be nice program; these people lived and breathed it.
Another example of their commitment to service quality and to guests having a great time came when we were trying to find our cabin.
In the past I would always study deck plans in advance of embarkation to get an idea of where things were on the ship. I had been busy with other things before this sailing and failed to do so. We were lost. Lisa is usually pretty good at pulling us out of a mess like this but even she was stumped as to how to get to our cabin. We were so far off track that I was about to enter a crew area to search for our cabin when a crew member who was vacuuming the carpet stopped me.
I asked how to get to our cabin and he told me but then said Here let me show you, took my luggage from me and walked us to our cabin. Before I could fish out a tip, he was gone. Pretty impressive.
I found service from other crew members equally impressive. Not in every single instance but the spirit of helping and caring was there nonetheless.
We were in the absolutely lowest category of inside cabin on the ship, 143 square feet. But there was nothing sparse or lacking in any way. In fact, with the exception of Lisa thinking we could have used a little more drawer space, this was as nicely appointed inside cabin as I had yet seen.
A couple elements stood out as exceptional and well-planned.
First was the movable table and chairs that could be placed in several locations in the cabin. Perhaps as a card table, a dining table or (as we used it) a place to collect stuff that might otherwise clutter the cabin. Another was the mini-bar refrigerator, conveniently located at eye-level for easy access.
In the bathroom, the sliding glass door in the amply sized shower prevented the fogging of glass when taking a shower. Only drawback: the sit-on-it-sideways Princess-style commode, which was just odd and awkward unless you were very short, or a child.
I also toured all the other cabin categories and found them to range from great to spectacular. From our inside cabin to the dual Owners Suites, they were all well appointed with nice flat screen televisions to espresso/cappuccino machines in the higher level cabins.
NCL hit a home run with this offering. I was totally blown away by this ship. Maybe it was because I was expecting the mediocre experience I had had in the past on their ships. Maybe it was because they didn't just steal ideas from other ships, like the addition of Royal Caribbean's signature rock-climbing wall, they took them and made them their own. From the crew member who showed us our stateroom because he really cared, not for the tip, to the right-in-your-face sanitation procedures, they really are on the ball here.
NCL has created a totally different product, if not a re-invention of itself with the launch of the fabulous Norwegian Pearl. This one truly is Totally Irresistible.