We just arrived home after a 7 Day Cruise on the NCL Pearl. We had a wonderful time. I had had a recent accident which resulted in a compression fracture of one of the vertebrae in my back and we thought that taking a cruise might be a nice way to relax and heal. Doctor had suggested taking it easy and what better way than to cruise. We had notified NCL that we would need a wheelchair to board the ship in Miami. They also arranged for us to have a handicapped room since I could not do the raised step to the bathroom. We also asked that we needed a small freezer to store my ice packs. NCL assured us that all the refrigerators aboard had small freezers in the cabins. We also assigned a cabin that was close to the main dining room as well as the buffet. We felt that this trip was really going to make my healing process work while I wore a back brace and used a rolling walker to get around while aboard the ship.
Since we are locals in North Miami Beach we drove to a parking facility called Premier Parking. We were told to arrive no sooner than 10:30 AM and at that time we would be able to park our car for $6.99 a day, and be transported to the port at no extra charge and also a return trip back to the parking facility at no extra charge. This all sounded good since the parking at the Port of Miami is quite a bit higher, $20/ day. They no longer offer free parking for the handicapped. We arrived at the Parking facility at 10:30 AM and found that we could not enter the facility and had to wait in line in our car for at least one hour. Once we were allowed to enter we gave the valet our key and asked if he could help with our luggage. He said yes and then promptly disappeared. My husband had to lift the bags himself from the trunk and then we had to wait for the tour bus to arrive inside a small building that had about six steps that you had to carry the luggage up with no assistance(no ramp available and no personnel available to assist you). Once inside we found the waiting room very cramped and there were only a few chairs to sit in. We were fortunate enough to obtain two chairs. The wait for the bus was about 15 minutes and fortunately there was a ramp by the back door leading to the bus. The bus driver was very courteous. He loaded the bags onto the bus for everyone. Once again we found about 5 steps to climb into the bus. This was difficult for me and have already decided that we would no longer use Premier Parking on any future cruises in Miami.
Once at the Port of Miami the driver unloaded all the bags and dropped us close to the building for check in. There was a ramp to enter the building and after about a 15 minute wait our pre-arranged wheel chair arrived. The NCL employee who wheeled us directly to our cabin was very courteous and gave me a smooth ride. He mentioned to us as we went aboard that he worked as a waiter on board in one of the specialty restaurants. I asked him if he knew which night was lobster night? He told us it is only served in the buffet on the first night of the cruise. I had never heard of this before. It usually is served the first formal night in the main dining room. But he was correct. Recently they changed this because they found that service in the main dining room on lobster night caused dining to be delayed because of the back-up in the kitchen because everyone would want more than one lobster. It turned out the lobster night was the second night of the cruise. The Cruise Director, Pedro, announced that the lobster would be served in the buffet from 5:30 PM- 9:30PM. It was delicious and plentiful. The staff was helpful when they saw I had a walker carrying my dish for me to our table. Fortunately when staff was not available my husband was right there to help me. NCL offers room service and we took advantage of this having breakfast in our cabin daily. This was offered even on the last day of the cruise. This made dining much easier for me. Their breakfast choices were all cold food items except for coffee and tea. The fresh fruit plate and the blueberry muffins were my favorite. My husband enjoyed their chocolate croissants. Their coffee was delicious and always hot. We usually had lunch in the buffet because they seemed to have larger variety of choices than the main dining room. Our best dining experience was in the Italian Restaurant, La Cochina. Service was excellent and the platters were delicious. The tiramasu was exceptional. We also tried the Moderno Steak House but found it did not compare to La Cochina. Service was very slow and the food was okay. Food in the main dining room was good and the service excellent.
The lifeboat drill was held inside in either the restaurants or the theater. It went very fast.
Our Handicapped inside cabin was huge. It made getting around for me quite easy since there was no step into the bathroom. The steward, June, was wonderful. We were disappointed that the refrigerator did not have a small freezer in it as promised. We found there were no freezers in any cabins. The Hotel Manager was able to store my ice packs in a freezer in the kitchen area and deliver them to our room when I needed them. We found this too inconvenient with delays in retrieving them so we made do with having 2 ice buckets in our room twice a day. Our shower head had to be changed because it was not adjustable for stronger speeds which I needed to massage my back. Also are TV remote did not work for advancing the channels and our room steward replaced it for us. There was a sleep timer on the remote which I find so helpful in getting a restful night of sleep. The ship records some of the activities aboard with the cruisers and replays them in your cabin. We had a wake-up call on our phone that worked for about 3 nights and then stopped working. Till it was fixed we were able to call reception desk and they would call and wake us in the morning. The bed was so comfortable and the sheets felt like silk. The ship was very smooth and we always had a restful night of sleep. Even though this was spring break we did not get disturbed by any loud teenagers in the hallways. We had 2 very nice bathrobes in our cabin. Since we are Platinum Members of Latitude we had free laundry service. Nothing was lost and all the clothing that was washed was delivered folded in a nice wicker laundry basket lined with tissue paper. Our Captain adjusted our time aboard always to be on ships time so there was no need to keep changing the time on your watch. This made it possible not to mess with your body's time clock. Just loved this idea.
Since we were members of the Cruise Critic group we attended the Meet and Greet Party. It was held on the first sea day. We had several members of the chief officers attend the party including the Captain, Cruise Director, Hotel Manager, Front Desk Manager, Bar Manager and Restaurant Manager. What a wonderful staff! We found them all to get along well and on top of that were very amusing. The Captain, Hotel Manager and Cruise Director all could be stand-up comedians. The Captain invited us all to attend a Bridge Tour. We found this very interesting and special since no one else was allowed this privilege. The Captain, Hotel Director and Cruise Director had a one hour question and answer session that was open to the entire ship which was held in the Theater.
Entertainment was very good. Our favorite show was "Oh What a Night". The four singers did all the songs of "The Four Seasons." Show was so good we went back to see it again. Second on our list was the comedy of Bud Anderson. They also had an amazing piano bar singer with" Jim" in Bar City. The Liar's club was one of our favorite shows. It included all the funniest crew members including the comedian, Bud Anderson, Pedro, the Cruise Director, the piano player Jim, and the magician, Martin. We enjoyed them so much and were delighted that our Cruise Critic Leader video taped the show and posted it on You Tube for all to enjoy. Dancing with the stars was performed on board with cruisers who volunteered by throwing their names in a bucket and were chosen at random. We enjoyed this show so much. The cruisers they chose were all very talented dancers and it was so well done that it looked like it had been previously choreographed which it was not. Unfortunately one of the passengers chosen was intoxicated and at first it was not noticed but after he tried to pick his dancing partner over his head and wound up falling on the ground with her on top of him he was removed from the competition. Fortunately, the staff member Lisa, the one who fell just scratched her leg and was not seriously injured. I spoke to the Cruise Director after the show and asked if there was anything that could be done to screen the cruisers to make sure they are not intoxicated. He assured me that he has never seen this happen before and as soon as they became aware of this cruiser's state they removed him. I feel they should do more because I have seen this happen before on NCL. They did not have the "Quest Game" on this cruise but they did have the "Fountains" show along with the Cruise Talent Show. We had found the Theater to be very cold and you must bring a warm jacket. The handicapped seats are badly located on the 6th deck. People used the handicapped row to cut through to get to the regular non handicapped seats. I actually got stepped on once while they passed through.
Our first port of call was Roatan. Fortunately we did not get off at this port. We had seen it before and decided to relax aboard the ship. We played trivia. They had these games 2 or 3 times a day. They changed the way they give prizes for the activities. Before they gave you activity cards that had to be signed after you participated in the activity. You accumulated cards after each event and on the next to last day of the cruise you turned them in for prizes. Now they just give out a prize per event. Prizes were like keychain flashlight, cozies, and playing cards. No more good prizes like pool bags, tee shirts,sipper cups or pens.
An unfortunate thing happened while docked in Roatan. One of the ships chef’s was murdered ashore. Someone was trying to steal his cell phone and he was fatally shot in the the head. He was only 27 years old and had a baby. This was his first contract with NCL. One of the ship's senior officers and a close friend stayed with the body to make arrangements and notify his family. From what we understand ships are now boycotting this port.
Our second port was Belize. We could not get off at this port although we had attempted to. As we approached the tender we found a full flight of steps and no ramp to board the tender. It was never noted in our documents that there would be stairs instead of a ramp available for boarding. If we had known in advance we would not have tried to go on the tender. Our next port Cozumel was our favorite. Always good for shopping and fun speaking our broken spanish. Señor Frogs is a must see. Our last port was Key West. It is a shame the ships miss the sundown celebration at Mallory Pier in Key West. I believe this is because the dock master leaves at 6PM and once he is gone ships cannot leave.
Debarkation went smoothly. They picked me up in a wheelchair in our cabin and escorted me off the ship. Debarking was more difficult for me since the NCL personnel pushing my chair took a very long route to the gangway hitting many thresholds that jarred my back. There should have been a more direct route to the gang way to avoid all these jarring bumps. As we exited the gangway we saw other wheelchair cruisers leaving from doors closer to the gang way. Other than those nasty bumps the ride was fine and smooth just like the elevators on the ship. We were taken to pick up our luggage and headed towards customs where we were told I had to exit my wheel chair because the NCL employee could not travel any further.
After customs we proceeded to the parking lot to catch our shuttle back to Premier Parking. Only had to wait 10 minutes before the bus arrived and the driver helped load the luggage and when we arrived at the parking area at Premier ParkingI asked if they could help load the luggage into our car. To my surprise they did.
All in all we had a great time and felt that the entire staff staff could not have been nicer.