We cruised August 24-31 on the Norwegian Pearl.
Embarkation was very easy. We arrived early and dropped off our bags. There we were greeted with the letter that so thoroughly upset me. Our ship had a problem with the "thrust bearing" which meant we would need to travel at a slower speed and miss our stop in Victoria, B.C. Oh, and NCL decided to throw in a $25 credit because of the inconvenience. My initial thought? "Ok, but missing a port is equivalent to missing 1/4 of my promised vacation." I thought the refund could have been a bit more generous. This also may be because I am a biologist and was most looking forward to the stop in Victoria because of my scheduled Orca Whale Watching Expedition. The letter was very frank, and we never received an apology on ship..from the captain...or anyone! NCL could have handled the notification process better. They have the majority of our e-mail addresses, and we should have found out before we got into that line.
The ship is pretty, and I liked the decor. My only complaint would be that many of the sales pitches were held in the common atrium. I really grew tired of walking through sales pitch after sales pitch about gemstones, or future cruises. These presentations should be held in the auditorium.
We had a balcony room, and it was definitely worth the extra cost. The views were incredible, and the peace and quiet it afforded was invaluable.
I quickly grew tired of our cruise director, Simon. It is unnecessary to announce every single bingo game or shopping presentation over the PA system. Your guests can read, and if they want to go to a presentation, they will. Save the global announcements for events that apply to all guests (embarkation, debarkation and safety instructions).
The food was good. I have had better on cruise ships. We at two specialty restaurants: Teppanyaki and Le Bistro. Teppanyaki was a great experience and the food was delicious! The price is a bit steep, but overall I am glad we went. Le Bistro was delicious as well, and we really enjoyed the experience. FYI, it is difficult to get reservations for groups larger than 4. If we did not call at 7am the day prior to our desired reservation time, we were shut out of the specialty restaurants.
The gym was great (although a bit small). I took several of the classes and really enjoyed the instructors.
The spa was gorgeous, and my biggest regret was not purchasing the $75 spa pass before it sold out. That pass would have allowed access to several hot tubs, relaxation areas and a gorgeous sauna with wrap around windows. At the spa I had a hot stone massage and a facial. Both were heavenly and well worth the cost!
We really enjoyed our excursions. In Juneau we did the Guide's Choice Adventure Hike. It was 4 miles long, but not as strenuous as I imagined it would be. We had great views of the Mendenhall Glacier from the top of the hike. In Skagway we did the evening wildlife expedition and it was a highlight because we saw a female grizzly bear, and we took a ferry to the gorgeous little town of Haines. The buses used on the tour are very old, and cramped. That would be my only compliant. Otherwise, the tour was great. In Ketchikan we skipped NCL arranged tours, and walked to the Eagle Recovery Center and Salmon Hatchery. An easy 15 minute walk with great views of the spawning salmon along the way. The center was great, and well worth the $9 admission. We snapped some amazing pics of the Bald Eagles on display.
As I mentioned earlier we missed Victoria, and my scheduled orca expedition. Boo!
Glacier Bay was the best part about the trip. It is awe-inspiring, and photos just cannot capture the beauty of that place. This is when having your own private balcony was well worth the cost!
By the end of the cruise I became very suspicious of our ship's "thrust bearing" problem. To be honest, I think NCL slowed the ship down on purpose to save on fuel costs. We made it to every other port on time and managed a constant speed. On our way to Victoria we cut our speed in half, and often drifted. By 6pm (when we were scheduled to land in Victoria) we were only 60 miles away. They could have sped up a bit during that day to get us there on time. We then slowed down even more and finally floated into Victoria at 10pm. If the ship really had a mechanical problem...wouldn't we have needed to operate at a reduced speed on all days? Not just the last day? Someone, preferably NCL, please educate me on this....
Bottomline, it was a good cruise, but I would not rank it well due to the ship's mechanical problems. It would have been nice if we were given a better description about "thrust bearing" problems, so we could understand why we were missing 1/4 of our vacation. Lord knows, I did not need another lecture about some obscure gemstone that was going to make me gobs of money in 10-15 years....