Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review by CrusinTchr79: Alaska-The Cruise of a Lifetime!
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Alaska-The Cruise of a Lifetime!
Our group of four was comprised of me and my husband (early 30s) and my in-laws (mid 60s). It was our second cruise, with the first being a Caribbean itinerary on Carnival. We loved the mixed age groups on board and found that there was something for everyone on the Pearl.
Embarkment - As others have said, this is one area that NCL shines. After having been warned not to arrive before 11:00am, we arrived at Pier 66 at 10:30am and - surprisingly - were able to check our bags and begin the check-in process. Very smooth and organized. We were done with everything and in the waiting area all within about 20 minutes. Once we boarded the ship we went to Summer Palace where they had begun serving lunch. I think most everyone goes to the buffet, Garden Cafe, but we were far happier and more relaxed sitting in the MDR while everyone was boarding. Our rooms were ready at about 1:00pm and the luggage arrived shortly thereafter.
Food/Drink - Over the course of our cruise, we More sampled a healthy variety of what the Pearl had to offer including both MDRs (Summer Palace and Indigo), the buffet (Garden Cafe), Topsiders Grill (outdoor, aft), La Cucina (2 for 1 night), and Cagney's ($25pp). We also ordered room service twice and on neither occasion did we have to wait very long for our food. All in all, the food on board was good, but then again we didn't go into this cruise expecting 5-star dining, as many people apparently do. It's easy to forget that there are thousands of other people on board. So when you consider the sheer number of people that are being fed on this ship, NCL does a pretty good job with the quality of food. Additionally, the specialty dining experience at Cagney's was well worth the surcharge. Both service and food were amazing! Since we shy away from soda, we felt no need to buy a soda pass while on board, but do wish there were more "water/ice stations" around the ship and regret not having brought a refillable water bottle to carry around with us. Alcoholic beverages were good and if you take advantage of the drink specials - like half-price martini's - they're comparable in price to what you'd find ashore. Star Bar was a great place to have a drink, chat and listen to Sinatra in the evenings. Bliss was also fun when my husband and I wanted to get away and get some music/dancing/drinks in the evenings.
Room - We were fortunate to book two side-by-side BA staterooms on the very back of the ship, deck 9. I cannot say enough good things about the view from these rooms! Wake view and you can see both port and starboard views as well. We saw so many whales feeding in our wake while heading into Juneau. Amazing! The room was fine with regards to size. Suitcases fit under the bed perfectly. Another tip with the rooms is to buy a clear over-the-door shoe holder to hang over the towel bar on the bathroom door. Great suggestion from another CC member to hold all of our toiletries without cluttering the counter of the bathroom. Also, we definitely made use out of the in-room coffee maker while in Glacier Bay. Bring some of the hot chocolate packets back to your room from the Garden Cafe, heat up some water, and voila! Yummy goodness while viewing the glaciers from our balcony.
Service/Staff - The service aboard the Pearl was inconsistent. Sometimes you'd get a really kind, engaging and enthusiastic staff member and other times you'd encounter staff that really didn't seem to want to be there. I think this is also influenced by the freestyle approach to dining. Not having set waitstaff was something I actually missed this cruise, although sitting with whom we wanted and when we wanted was a huge bonus. So it's a trade-off. Over all, however, we do like the freestyle cruising. The floating bartenders were too numerous in several areas of the ship and we did get tired of being approached every few minutes. On another note, cruise director Andy was fabulous and we cannot say enough good things about his engagement with the passengers and activities he and his staff planned.
Entertainment/Activities - The "Oh What a Night" and The Second City shows were both very good. We tried to get seats to see Buzz Southerland (comedian) not once, but twice. However, since the shows were inexplicably at their smaller venue, Spinnaker Lounge, we found it difficult to do so. Getting good seats at certain shows is also made more difficult by the fact that the crew makes no effort at enforcing the age restrictions at the shows. For example, many people were not able to sit at the Adult Newlywed Game show because some parents decided they would bring their elementary school-aged children. Made use of the spa and fitness center while we were aboard also. Spa does try to push products on you post-treatment, but as long as you're strong at using the word "NO" you'll be fine. I purchased the week-long pass for the thermal suite for $99 and found it was well worth the money, as they only sell about 100 of them for use the entire week. Sauna, steam bath, whirlpools, heated tile chaise loungers, thermal pool - all were wonderful and a great place for relaxation, reading and views!
Seattle - If you visit Pike's Market before the cruise, do what I did and buy one of their beautiful, cheap ($10!) bouquets to bring on board. Your room steward can get you a vase and they will last all week. Best money I spent and added so much to our stateroom! We Priceline'd our hotel room for pre/post-cruise and booked great downtown hotels for $100 each.
Juneau - We went glacier trekking with NorthStar Trekking, which was an amazing experience.
Skagway - We booked our Yukon tour (bus and White Pass Railway) through Chilkoot Charters and had a great time. Highly recommend this company for your Skagway excursion.
Ketchikan - We took a floatplane to Traitor's Cove for bear watching with Seawind Aviation. Great company, highly recommended.
Victoria - We decided to go against the tide and not take the limited time we had in Victoria to go see the Butchart Gardens at night. And we were happy with our decision. Instead, we took a taxi to the Inner Harbour, walked around to see the sights and grabbed a drink at The Local Kitchen.
Value - All in all we felt we got our money's worth. However, while we do not cruise frequently enough to know if the nickel and diming of customers is becoming more common across the cruise lines, we did feel that we were expected to pay for a lot of "extras" on NCL.
Disembarkment - Not as smooth as embarkation because PA system announcements for color tags were not communicated as clearly as we'd expected, and so we had to ask around to see if it was our turn to disembark. Our luggage was ready when we finally got off the ship, however, and we hopped in a cab right away to our hotel.
Bottom line - Despite a few minor concerns, we had a great time on the NCL Pearl, and we will cruise with Norwegian again in the future. As for Alaska, it is a truly magnificent and beautiful place and we would cruise there again in a heartbeat (on a different line perhaps). Less
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Cabin review: Norwegian Pearl 9674
We were fortunate to book two side-by-side BA staterooms on the very back of the ship, deck 9. I cannot say enough good things about the view from these rooms! Wake view and you can see both port and starboard views as well. We saw so many whales feeding in our wake while heading into Juneau. Amazing! The room was fine with regards to size. Suitcases fit under the bed perfectly. Another tip with the rooms is to buy a clear over-the-door shoe holder to hang over the towel bar on the bathroom door. Great suggestion from another CC member to hold all of our toiletries without cluttering the counter of the bathroom. Also, we definitely made use out of the in-room coffee maker while in Glacier Bay. Bring some of the hot chocolate packets back to your room from the Garden Cafe, heat up some water, and voila! Yummy goodness while viewing the glaciers from our balcony.
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