We just returned from a cruise on the Pearl to Alaska, departing June 1st. This was my second cruise and my partner's first. Embarkation in Seattle was time consuming but painless. The ship was sold out but never seemed too crowded. Upon checking into our cabin, which we loved, we noticed the person next door was smoking on their balcony. Because the ship was sold out we couldn't change cabins but I did ask our neighbor if we could coordinate schedules so we both wouldn't be on our balconies at the same time. Luckily he agreed, otherwise I would have been very upset as I can't stand smoke and would hate to pay for a balcony and not be able to use it. I hope that NCL changes their policy and restricts smoking to a few places on the public decks.
Overall, we enjoyed the cruise. The ports were great and we had a lot of fun. We got the thermal spa pass and it was well worth the money. There were never more than 15 people there at a time and it was great to go there and relax in quiet. We went there once or twice a day. It was especially nice the day we were in Glacier Bay.
1. Loved the mini-suite. We had friends in outside and regular balcony cabins. I wasn't sure if the extra mini-suite space would make much of a difference but it did. We loved the cabin size and the even though there were only 2 of us the ability to pull the curtain between the bed and sitting area when one person took a nap was nice. I loved the design of the bathrooms also. I was nervous about the cabin location since it was directly below common areas but we were never disturbed by any noise. Yes, occasionally we could hear people above us walking but it was never enough to make us think about booking another cabin.
2. Loved the freestyle concept. I hate being on a schedule and dressing up for dinner. If I'm on vacation the last thing I want to do is wear a jacket or be at dinner at a specific time.
3. I liked the ship size. It was not too small and not too big.
1. The food was very disappointing. The buffet was terrible so we avoided it when possible. Summer Palace and Indigo were ok but I was expecting that they would not be that great since there were so many specialty restaurants. Sadly, with the exception of Le Bistro, all of the specialty restaurants were average at best. I don't mind paying a cover charge, but I expect the food and service to be good. Because the food was such a disappointment, I will most likely consider another cruise line in the future even though it would require me to dress up and stick to a schedule.
2. I'm not sure if this happens on all cruises, but I always felt like they were trying to make extra money. The shopping staff were especially misleading. I thought they would give you good tips on where to shop in ports but instead they just wanted you to go to the diamond and tourist traps that they received commissions from. Who wants to go to Alaska to buy diamonds? I would go to Belgium or New York for Diamonds. For Alaska I want local art and gifts. All of the other bingos, games, etc. just seemed like ways for them to make more money. At first this was a big turn off but then I just learned to block the announcements out and ignore them.
1. Summer Palace - We only went here for breakfast. The food was ok but the service was extremely slow, which was odd because it seemed most people ate at the buffet.
2. Indigo - We went here 2 nights because we liked the decor and the service seemed better. The food was pretty good one night but just average the other night.
3. La Cucina - They should just call this Olive Garden because that's similar to what it was. The food wasn't any better than the MDR and the service was terrible, again this was odd as there were only a few others in the restaurant.
4. Moderno - I've been to several Brazilian steakhouses so thought I knew what to expect. The salad bar was ok but the meat they served was terrible. We kept asking for the filet but they would never bring it. It's almost as if they were trying to get us full on the cheap meats. Sadly, when the filet finally arrived it wasn't good. We made a decision after this experience that red meat on NCL should be avoided.
5. Le Bistro - This was the only restaurant we liked, so much that we went there twice. If I were to cruise with NCL again I think I would go here every night.
6. Buffet - Typical buffet food, it was as I thought it would be but I could never figure out why it was always so crowded. The MDRs were not great, but there were much better than the buffet. I guess some people just like the ability to eat as much as they want.
I was really hoping that my partner would like cruising so that we could go on more in the future. We travel a lot but when we go on land based vacations we always eat well. I've told him that I believe Celebrity has better food so think we might try that next before giving up on cruising all together.