This repositioning cruise on the Norwegian Pearl was literally all over the map. It started in sunny, 86-degree Los Angeles and ended in cloudy, 50-degree Vancouver. Inbetween we hit the bigger cities of San Francisco and Victoria and the small towns of Astoria and Nanaimo. Our shore excursions ranged from dim sum in Chinatown to a visit to a cranberry farm on Vancouver Island. Mom played lots of bridge, and I had lots of two-for-one drink specials in Star Bar with the other "Friends of Dorothy." But the one consistency in our cruise was the friendliness of the Pearl crew and the virtues of NCL's popular Jewel-class ship.
Embarkation in Los Angeles was a nightmare. Everyone thought so, novice and frequent cruiser alike. It took two hours of standing in line to get on the ship, but it was a small price to pay to get aboard.
Our interior stateroom was comfortable and clean. The bed was set up as a queen rather than two singles, but our stewards reset it while we were at dinner. Once we unpacked, there was plenty of room. This cabin had the largest cruise-ship shower I've ever been in, and it had as much hot water as I could use.
We dined entirely in the "free" dining rooms, including the Summer Palace, Indigo, and Blue Lagoon. The food was very good, and the service was excellent. We ate fairly early, so we never had to wait, but there was often a short line for the Summer Palace when we left. We also frequented the champagne bar to listen to the piano player, who was very good. I'd recommend the bellini.
Most evenings I went to Star Bar for their two-for-one Svedka vodka special. Pia Amanda, Star Bar's excellent bartender, is an perfect example of the friendliness of NCL staff. She remembered my name after the first night, what I drank, and how many I drank! I'll remember Pia for a long time. The Pearl hosted an event for LGBT passengers almost every night, and these were well attended. No NCL staff attended, but it's nice that they actually thought to include us on the schedule.
The entertainment was fun. The Pearl Production Company put together two nights of Vegas-like dance numbers. Oh What A Night was a four-man singing act similar to Jersey Boys, and they were just as popular. Second City Comedy was more cerebral than bust-out-laughing funny, but I enjoyed them. And the jugglers of Sharkbait were suprisingly entertaining.
The shore excursions ran the gammut. The San Francisco city tour and dim sum lunch was a 6-hour value for the money. Tea at the Empress in Victoria was an elegant experience that exceeded expectations. However, the tour in Nanaimo, which included a visit to a rural art gallery/garden and cranberry farm was a disappointment. Nanaimo looked like a very nice town, but there was no excursion focusing on the town.
The ship-board experience was comfortable and fun. The ship was essentially full, but it never felt crowded. I met lots of new friends in my two hours a day in the hot tub. Mom and I only shared a table once, but we struck up many conversations with folks and neighboring tables. And all the folks who hung out in Star Bar, gay and straight, were super friendly. A middle-aged mom from Nanaimo talked me into going down the water slide. I went down head first, and it was a blast.
I really wanted to do a Carribean itinerary so I could get some sun, but this was my 70-year-old mom's first cruise and she wanted to stay close to home. This was also my first non-RSVP Vacations cruise, and I expected it to be a lot less fun. Thankfully, I can say I had a blast, I met a lot of nice people, and I'd do the whole cruise all over again.