Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review by msydpdx: Norwegian Pearl - Alaska
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Norwegian Pearl - Alaska
A little background: Hubs is 60 and lived in Fairbanks and Anchorage, AK, for about 8 years previous to our meeting and I'm 53, from Seattle originally. In our 25 years of marriage we have visited AK frequently, flying into Anchorage and then traveling by car to Seward, the Kenai Peninsula, Fairbanks, Denali and all points in between and then some; we are not new to Alyeska (The Great Land). Our home base is Portland, Oregon, so we drove to Seattle and stayed overnight at the Doubletree Hotel at South Center. Good restaurants nearby as well as family for us to meet with Saturday evening. Sunday morning we awoke to overcast skies that soon cleared to beautiful sunny weather. We drove the 20 minutes to the parking garage (Republic) which is directly across the street from Pier 66 where The Pearl was docked and awaiting our arrival; the time: noon. After leaving the car with the valet we made our way with our carry-ons across the sky bridge (use their free shuttle service if you have too More
many bags to handle alone or do as we did and just leave the bigger bags with them), down the escalator and through an area that required your photo i.d. and ticket to be shown. We then proceeded to check-in and there was no one in the Latitudes line. We checked in quickly and before we knew it we were headed through x-ray and on board. How exciting to be back aboard one of the beautiful NCL ships! (We previously sailed on The Jewel in April out of Miami.) We were informed that staterooms would not be available until 3:00 p.m. and would we please make ourselves comfortable at either the buffet or any open area of the ship. We went to the back sundeck of the cafe and enjoyed the sunshine, meeting people and having a light bite to eat. Of course that included an adult beverage with a little umbrella in it! The Seahawks were playing a game that started at 1:00 p.m., so we were entertained by the Chinook helicopters that were hovering over Alki Beach and Vashion Island as they waited to do their fly-by for the opening of the game. Ferryboats were active as were sailboats and, in the distance, Holland and Princess were both getting ready to sail. At about 2:15 p.m. the announcement was made that our rooms were ready and off we went to claim our little cabin on deck 9. We had an aft cabin (9674), which was exactly as we'd had before except one deck lower. Our room was very clean and had been decorated for Bon Voyage as we had invited people to come to our cabin for sail away. We dropped everything to run to the sliding glass door and fling ourselves into the fresh air and sunshine! Hubs received his bag shortly thereafter and we got him unpacked in record time. Then it was time for Muster, which was held for the aft area in The Summer Palace. Some folks didn't bring their life jackets, which is a no-no. People! For gosh sakes, this is the time to learn how the things work and how they fit! Sheesh! Muster was over quickly and we headed back to our cabin to find my bag had arrived and I was unpacked quickly too. Minutes later our cabin stewardess, Rose, came by to introduce herself and make sure we had our bags. Our champagne was chilling and a knock at the door brought the steward with chocolate dipped (gigantic) strawberries—yum! And so, with sail away about to commence the cork was popped, as was a strawberry! How delish is this??? It wasn't long before CC members came to our cabin and we all leaned on the deck and watched Seattle slowly fade into the distance.
And now for the trip: The Pearl: Sister ship to The Jewel with the added attraction of a bowling alley that has neon lights everywhere. A group on board held a party there (it's located in Bliss Lounge) and got a little loud, but you didn't notice unless you were directly above or walking by the doorway. She is a beautiful ship, kept ship shape, sparkling clean. We watched floors being cleaned, counters being wiped and even the back of the ship got a good scrubbing while we were in Skagway (now there was something to watch!). You don't see much cleaning going on unless you hang back before going into port; everyone is very discreet. Hand sanitizing is top of the list and we appreciate that we've not gotten sick on either journey.
The Captain and Crew: Wow, what a team! The Captain was not only good at piloting the ship, but he also was a wonderful speaker (we teased that he sounded like the Swedish Chef ala Muppets!). I have to say, he nearly brought me to tears once; he gave a very nice speech to everyone on September 11th—very fitting and very emotional—God bless him for that. Simon, the Cruise Director, seemed to always be 16 different places at once and kept everyone going, even when you were about to drop! Gary Alldredge, the Guest Services Coordinator, was a Godsend for our CC Meet and Greet. We had Le Bistro on Monday morning for an hour (we stayed 1 ½ hours) and club sandwiches, pastries and beverages (juice and coffee) were very graciously provided to us. We loved meeting everyone and are still in touch with some. Many of the dining staff were fabulous, but none more so than Ruth in Le Bistro. She is one charming woman with a wicked sense of humor and a quick smile. Ruth spoiled us rotten and even had our dessert delivered to our cabin (we were just too full!). She even found us the next day in the buffet and stopped to chat for a minute...still with that humor! Our Cabin Stewardess, Rose, was just great! We had such a bad experience with this on The Jewel, that we were glad to have such fabulous service. We explained to Rose early on that we are generally early risers and fairly early to bed. With that in mind, Rose had our room cleaned every morning before we even returned from breakfast, freshened in the late afternoon and turn down before we returned from our dinners. We had towel animals galore! The cutest was an elephant, then a puppy, rabbit, turtle and then one that Hubs said was an alligator and I think a Komodo Dragon (winkey-winkey). One night I filled out the card, used to report any problems in your cabin, to point out that the seal in the patio door was coming out and needed to be repaired for the next sailing (didn't need to be done for us). When we returned after dinner the card was still there, but the door had been repaired! Got to tell you: I was really impressed! Room Service: We ordered coffee for Hubs every morning as I used the little coffee maker for hot water for my tea. Our order was always complete and on time. Delightful! Entertainment: We did not attend any shows as, even with the patch, I start getting seasick in the theatre. One thing we did enjoy was going to the viewing room for the Bridge. What a kick! Like something out of Star Trek! Ports of Call: Juneau: It was foggy in the morning on the way into Juneau and we saw a chunk of ice float by and then the sun came out so hot that I got sunburned on our little deck! Disembarkation went smoothly until you had to wait for buses to take you the mile or so into town, but it beat walking! The wait wasn't long and the drivers were pleasant and the buses clean. We only booked one excursion (Skagway), as we like to get the feel of the town and talk to locals. We went through the various gift stores and then headed up town and into a drugstore where we asked a local for a good place to get fresh seafood. Four blocks later and we were in a big blue building called The Wharf and inside is The Hanger, which is a brewpub type establishment. You can see the blue building from the ship and it is where the floatplanes dock. The clam chowder was absolutely excellent and we shared some very fresh halibut, washed down with some great brew! We left Juneau all too soon; must go back one day and really spend some time.
Skagway: We were docked by 6:00 a.m. and had until 8:00 p.m. to return, but we didn't actually leave the ship until about 10:00 a.m. as our excursion (train ride) was scheduled for 4:15 p.m. We wandered through town and spent some time in one shop talking with a shop owner that shared our love of gold nuggets and jade jewelry from Alaska. After a while we decided to head back to the ship and have a little lunch and a quick nap before our train ride. At 4:15 we were bussed about ¼ mile to the 'train station' and boarded one of four cars reserved for NCL passengers. The ride was phenomenal, climbing over 3,000 feet, with views that were to die for (pun intended). We saw Dead Man's Gulch and the narrator went into good detail about the path (you can still see parts of it) and those that never made it past this point. We opted to do the round trip train ride, but if to do again would take the bus one way. The wicked trestle seen from below is NOT one we crossed as it is too old. Photos were hard to take so we took advantage of the DVD offered for $10.00. It was a fascinating trip with wonderful views back to the ship and the ever-changing topography was very interesting. I would say that we were too long in this port; 6-8 hours would have worked fine. Glacier Bay: We've been awaiting this part of the trip for a long time. I was sitting on our bed that morning, looking out on the deck, when a killer whale jumped right into our wake! It was just unreal and no time to grab a camera; the best memories are in your head! Although we've viewed other glaciers, John Hopkins was like a crystal alter. Everyone thought Marjorie was The One, but Hopkins really did it for me. I honestly got choked up upon seeing it and many fellow CC members said the same thing. On the way into this inlet we saw brown bears swimming off the starboard side followed by seals sunning on ice chunks off the port side. This is one time the Captain really did a fine job; he ever so slowly let that huge ship slid into position and then, like a ballerina, gracefully turned the ship around…slowly and silently. It was just AWESOME! We continued to see pods of whales as we left Glacier Bay and headed to Ketchikan. Ketchikan: I awoke early to see if I might glimpse the Northern Lights as the Captain said they had seen them around 4:15 a.m. the previous morning. No such luck—as we slid into the harbor the natural weather that is Ketchikan, fog, rolled in! Again, we did not book any excursions, but made up one of our own. Early on I made reservations at the Cape Fox Lodge for breakfast. I hadn't had a reindeer sausage omelet in five years and I was good and hungry for one. We found one lonely cab at the docks and he took us the 3-minute ride up the hill for $5.00. Now here is a place I would come back to! The Lodge is absolutely beautiful (done in typical northwest lodge style) and the view (as the fog rolled in and out) was unbelievable! Our breakfast was just delicious and we savored every bite! Then we hopped into the little red tram at the lodge and descended to the main street of town where all the locals have their shops. (This is the area where you see the buildings on stilts over the creek.) The minute the door of the tram opened IT hit you! The smell was at first overwhelming, but eventually fades as you walk. What is it? Fish! The salmon are trying to spawn by going up the creek and many die before they can make it. They lay dead on the rocks where the seagulls have their tasty breakfast; not for the faint of heart, but part of the salmon's life cycle. We enjoyed the local shopkeepers we met and shared information about the ports and the ship. Victoria: Having visited Victoria often we did not disembark here. We were entertained by the folks who drive down to the wharf to watch the ships come in, the locals who dress up like England of old to welcome the ship, and the helicopters that land nearby (a regular service, not unlike airplane service). We decided this would be our only chance to eat at La Cucina as it was always booked early. And we also took this time to do our packing and get our bags outside our cabin. Restaurants: Garden Cafe (buffet): Although we do not like the layout of this cafe (The Jewel's works better), the food was absolutely fabulous. The only complaint we'd have was the soup; we love soup and this stuff looked just awful. The roasting chickens (roasters are located by the sundeck!) smelled good, looked good and tasted great! There was Indian, Chinese, Italian, American, etc., every lunch and dinner. The burgers and dogs were ready for those that wanted it and pizza too. The salad variety was great as was the bread and dessert bar (and don't forget the ice-cream cones!). We ate here a lot and will do so in the future. (Note: I complained last time about craving potato chips to go with my sammiches and none in site; not this trip! I had chips whenever I wanted—thank you, NCL!) Asian Fusion: The service is way too stuffy for us and offering bottled water when the ship's water is just fine is silly. The lettuce wraps were delicious but limited in amount. This is really nouveau cuisine and seldom seemed like Chinese food (which we love). We were very disappointed and don't plan to eat there again. Mambos: The service here was great as was the atmosphere and the food was excellent. We'd go there again in a heartbeat. Le Bistro: We purchased the Honeymoon/Anniversary package and this is the restaurant you celebrate at. Our server, Ruth, was just delightful! The food was as good as we remembered from April, but what disappointed us is that the menu is exactly the same as that sailing! Aside from that: The French onion soup is great as is the escargot. Hubs had the duck, which he liked and I had chicken with morels. The wine provided with the package is also good. We had a wonderful time due mostly in part to Ruth! Cagney's: Hubs had the best lamb chops of his life! I tasted and they truly were like "buttah"! My filet mignon (8 oz!) was delicious and very tender…not to mention that it was cooked to perfection (medium rare was exactly that). The salad was delicious as was the crème brule for dessert. We had good service and our only complaint is that you are seated just an arm's length from the next table which is very uncomfortable if you are trying to have an intimate meal or don't feel like gabbing. La Cucina: Very disappointing! Have a salad or soup (some with pasta), then pick a pasta side dish, then a dish or either pasta, pizza or a sort of nouveau Italian cuisine. Too much pasta! My dish had veal and it was like a piece of rubber! Hubs ended up with TWO meals and thank goodness as one was not very good. My side of gnocchi fried in butter was so dry I could hardly get it down. The best part? Dessert! The wait staff insisted we take a small anniversary cake with us; we finally agreed when they put what we wanted on the same plate: Tiramisu—which was sooooo delicious! Best part of the whole meal. A good way to end the cruise… We were naughty and visited the Martini Bar two different nights. What a relaxing place to be and the wait staff is very pleasant. The munchies they offer with your drink changes nightly so you don't get tired of pretzels! The view is lovely from this area and you can literally 'zone'. This being our second cruise on NCL we received our Latitudes pins and attended the Captain's cocktail party held in the Spinnaker Lounge. We had a lovely time and enjoyed our photo with the Captain. This is when we really heard the Captain speak to the group and he did so very eloquently; what a personality that man has!
We did not use the spa or workout room (when you are aft you get lots of workouts getting to/from where you want to be—especially if you use the stairs a lot and we did!) And, no, we did not gain any weight on this cruise! I did use the laundry as we left Ketchikan and did have a problem with one of the machines so one load ended up taking 2 ½ hours! I called reception and a tech arrived within 5 minutes and fixed the problem. I appreciate that laundry facilities are there as well as irons and ironing boards. This meant we didn't have to bother friends in Seattle when we arrived for a few days stay after the cruise. Reception/Cashier: We found everyone here to be most hospitable and Melinda (cashier) was wonderful at getting a charge off our bill that shouldn't be there. (Be sure to check your bill from time to time.) Casino: As usual Hubs wins a little and then it's gone. I ended up with about $350 on slots over the course of the entire trip. We usually spent about an hour or two per day here…we're not big gamblers. Ship Shopping: I didn't find as many things as I would have liked; for future sailings I would have liked tank tops with the Pearl logo. All I could find was a little sweatshirt type cardigan in lime green; everything else was for cold weather. And I never found ONE postcard with The Pearl on it except for the huge ones in our room. That was really disappointing…
Disembarkation: Our color was navy blue and we were expected to disembark about 8:30 a.m. At 8:00 we were ready to head up for a light breakfast when our color was called. We kind of looked at each other and said what the heck and headed out. It was hard to leave this beautiful ship and delightful crew. We found our bags in record time, sailed easily through customs and right out to the waiting shuttles to our car. Before you could say, "Bon Voyage" we were in our car and heading out. If I hadn't been in shock I would have cried! Final thoughts: We're already booked on The Pearl for next year's reposition from Seattle to Miami via the Panama Canal and we can't wait! Some of our CC pals are considering joining us and we already are chatting with the folks that will be our neighbors on board. The travel journal for this epic 19-day journey has been purchased and the talk doesn't stop! What a fabulous way to see the world and meet wonderful people on a wonderful cruise line. Less
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