Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review by Tom Anderson: Norwegian Pearl - Alaska
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Norwegian Pearl - Alaska
We sailed out of Seattle on Sunday afternoon August 26th, after an extremely easy boarding process, from curb to ship probably taking only 15-20 minutes in all. Rooms are not open until 1:30 pm or so, but Norwegian allows boarding from 11:30 am or thereabouts, so at least you are on the ship even if you can't get into your room for a while.
We live in Seattle, so it was nice to get on the Pearl full of energy, and not exhausted after a long flight and a cab from the airport.
The Pearl was launched in November 2006, and it does look like a new ship, although the bright colors may be a little too overwhelming at first! Don't want to be hung over and walk through this ship.
My wife had won the cruise on a business trip, and as such we were on Deck 4, in a room in the bow of the boat, with only a porthole view. It was very noisy the first two nights as we cruised up the Outside Passage around Vancouver Island on our way to Juneau. There also was a lot of More clanking noised on and off day and night, possible from the anchor, or maybe there is a machine shop on board that we don't know about! We spoke with some people on Deck 5 and they said it wasn't noisy there, so maybe it is only on Deck 4, and/or only in the bow of the boat. Anyway, earplugs were definitely needed. The room was small but well laid out, and the bathroom is great, with sliding glass doors separating the toilet area, sink area, and shower.
The room attendants were nice enough, but not as outgoing as on previous cruises with Princess and Celebrity, it seemed to us.
We ate lunch and dinner in the main dining room (Summer Palace) several times, and like it very much, and the service was great, but we did try a few of the restaurants that require a cover charge as well. You have to make your reservations for every surcharged restaurant at Mambo's Latin restaurant, which can be a hassle, as one person is at the desk in the mornings and you can only make reservations one day ahead, in person or by phone.
There are video screens around the ship showing how busy the restaurants are, and the surcharge ones are often marked with a yellow or even red light during the day, which lets you know there is a wait for seating there. We found out that yellow can mean a 75-minute wait for a table, so keep your eyes open for green if you don't have a reservation!
Teppanyaki was a lot of fun, as our table of nine people really got into watching our chef whack away with his utensils on the stainless steel cook top in front of us. Unfortunately the table next to our included a family group that had apparently been partying since the boarded, so let's just say they were a little loud and obnoxious and leave it at that.
Le Bistro, the French restaurant, was classy, and we went there on the first "Dress Up or Not" night and enjoyed it very much, although we did not like the fact that half of the menu required and extra charge to purchase. The wait staff was great as well, even allowing my wife to have the surcharge menu dessert at no extra cost, however, which was nice!
Mambo's was nice, though the room is laid out in a weird way, with a gossamer curtain diving the halves, which was kind of strange, but the wait staff was very nice, if a bit rushed the night we went there. The food, as always at the surcharge spots, was really good.
Cagney's steak house was a nice quiet spot with a great window view of the ocean, and our waiter steered me to a great cut of meat, so be sure and ask your waitperson for his/her suggestions. We did try Caesar salads at three of the restaurants (to try not to gain too much weight), and Cagney's was definitely the best!
The Photo gallery seemed overpriced, as each pic was from $14.95 up to $24.95, and they did not have any deals such as "Buy 3 get one free," or "Buy four and get a free album." Since we are used to paying $9.95 or so on other cruise lines we only bought one photo, the best one of us that they had taken. Speaking of rip-offs, the Spa rips you off by adding an %18 tip to every service, without mentioning it ahead of time, while the excellent wait staff in the bars and restaurants only gets %15 - what's the rationale behind that?
Quickies: We took part in a Trivia competition, and came in second with 13 out of 20 correct, as the winner only got 15 correct - it was the toughest trivia contest we had ever been in!
One afternoon in port we got talked into playing Wii golf on a huge screen in the Crystal Atrium, and it is a lot better than baseball or tennis, give it a try!
We played Bingo on the last sea day - playing six paper cards per game, as the 'electronic cards' (149 at once?) make it too easy! Of course electronic card players won every game!
Martini and Margarita tastings - $15 for tastes of three drinks seemed like a pretty good deal, and it was!
We saw both Humpbacks and Orca whales on our "Whale Watching" boat ride in Juneau, which was amazing!
Our Skagway excursion went up the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad to the summit, then to an exciting suspension bridge to nowhere in Canada, and then back to Alaska and Jewel Gardens, ending with snacks, wine & chocolate, making for a long fun day!
Cruising Glacier Bay was amazing, with several glaciers to take pictures of and be stunned by. There was fun commentary by the Park rangers on the ship's speakers as well.
Juggler/comedian great Charles Peachock and Second City were a lot of fun, but the Jean Ann Ryan dance shows were embarrassingly bad, with Las Vegas-style outfits on the too-many female dancers, and only two male dancers, along with two aerialists, for no apparent reason, and a pair of singers that did almost nothing but stand on stage most of the time.
Ketchikan was drizzly, our plane ride was cancelled because of clouds, and nothing opened until we had been in port for two hours - an interesting turn of events, so we did our back-up black and looked in galleries for native art, which we found.
There was too short time in Victoria BC (6pm-midnight), and we returned to the ship for a windy on-deck BBQ that was s-l-o-w-l-y moved indoors, leading to crazy hungry crowds returning from shore for a late dinner.
We disembarked very quickly - you can pick your own time to leave! And since we live in Seattle we were home in less than 30 minutes! Less
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Great warm crew, good food.
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