This was my first cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines. I have been a passenger on eight of the other major cruise lines serving the American Market. Norwegian's lavish advertisements promise one type of cruise experience -- which they consistently fail to deliver.
The "Norwegian Pearl" is the newest NCL ship. It does 9 day Eastern Caribbean sailings out of Miami. Ports visited are Tortola (British Virgin Islands), Samana (North East coast of the Dominican Republic), Antigua, Barbados and St Lucia. One of the reasons I chose this particular cruise was the unusual selection of ports. I did not pay enough attention to the posted schedule.
If the ship maintains its posted schedule, it will always be the last port to dock. As "low man on the totem pole" the Norwegian Pearl is always located at the most remote and inconvenient spot on the dock. As the last ship into port, the Pearl passengers must wait until any docking problems with any of the other cruise ships are More
resolved before the Pearl can finally dock. By the time the Pearl passengers finally get off the ship, they have to fight their way through all of the other ships passengers who are clogging the port area, blocking the shops,. taking the taxis. On Barbados alone it took almost an hour to get from the ship to the taxi stand at the front of the terminal.
Passengers should also note that the Pearl only visits the Dominican Republic on SUNDAYS. Samana is located in a very rural area of the Island. For religious reasons, many of the shops and almost all of the services are closed on SUNDAYS. Unless passengers take a shore excursion, there is really nothing to do in the port area. The waterfront area smells strongly of human waste, it is not pleasant to linger in that area.
Norwegian Cruise Lines has never been known for the quality of its cuisine. The food presented is on par with a lower quality family style buffet restaurant - except when it comes to desserts. For nine days the primary desserts offered were bread pudding and paper thin slices of frozen pound cake.
The "bean counters" have taken portion control to some absurd levels. There are no trays available in the buffet line. Passengers must balance their silverware, their glasses, and their china in their hands. Each individual food item is placed on its own separate piece of heavy china. For example, one HALF of a small apricot is on its own large plate. If a passenger hopes to have three small apricots for breakfast, it would require carrying SIX large plates. Individual portions of cream cheese are cemented onto a chilled metal platter. It is almost impossible to scrape a pat of cream cheese off these platters -- most people just tend to give up in frustration.
Eating in the main dining room was an exercise in frustration. There are still some substantial glitches in the food service. We had a party of three at our table. It was very rare for all three of us to get the specific items we had ordered. The wrong item was often brought -- or forgotten all together. There were frequently 40 minute gaps between courses. Requests to refill the bread basket or to bring more butter were routinely ignored
Free Style cruising, at least on the Pearl, is a total fiasco. Passengers wait in line to make a reservation at one of the specialty restaurants. Reservations can only be made the for the same day or the following day. Passengers may stand in line on three separate days trying to make a reservation -- only to be told when they finally reach the front of the line that there are no spaces available. I finally did manage to make a reservation at the Italian restaurant - for 10:00pm at night. My party stood in line for 25 minutes -- only to be told that someone else had taken our reservation. Someone without a reservation came up to the Hostess station and glanced over the list of names on the reservations list -- and gave MY name.
The Pearl is very short staffed -- compared to any of the other cruise lines. They are overwhelmed by the demands placed on them. The general staff such as the cabin attendants, and the food service staff, still manage to have a very positive attitude. The supervisory staff are passively indifferent and often rude.
By far the worst port of this entire cruise was the shore excursions department. I booked a shore excursion on the Island of Barbados. I have been on this specific shore excursion before. It was scheduled to be a 3 hour and 15 minute drive from Coast to Coast. Our tour bus was 40 minutes late in leaving. It did not follow the printed itinerary, did not make all of the scheduled stops. We arrived back at the port 14 minutes early. I expressed my concerns to the Head of the Shore Excursions Department on the Ship. She was indifferent. If the Ship's Shore Excursion Department doe snot enforce minimal standards -- the local tour operators quickly realize they can give a less than acceptable tour -- and nothing will be done.
I strongly encourage passengers to bypass the Shore Excursions Department entirely -- and book directly with the tour operators on shore. At least then, you will have some control over the quality of the shore excursion you receive.
This particular sailing had an outbreak of gastrointestinal problems. Over 400 passengers and crew members were impacted. I have concerns about the over all level of sanitation on the Pearl. With confirmed cases of G.I. on the ship, staff should have been present to sanitize handrails, elevator buttons and so no. I saw no evidence of any enhanced sanitation being done.
I cannot recommend sailing on the Norwegian Pearl at this time. There are such severe and substantial problems on this particular ship. Even though the basic ticket price appears to be reasonable, it is not worth the incredible hassle the passengers are subjected to at each and every step of the way. Less