My husband and I have cruised on RCL and HAL many times, first time picking NCL which we did because of the itinerary! (We wanted to start in Venice !) This was our 3rd time cruising to the Mediterranean, first time on NCL. Went with ... Read More
My husband and I have cruised on RCL and HAL many times, first time picking NCL which we did because of the itinerary! (We wanted to start in Venice !) This was our 3rd time cruising to the Mediterranean, first time on NCL. Went with friends who were first time cruisers to celebrate our 60th birthdays. I was a bit worried after reading the terrible reviews, and hearing about the ships mechanical difficulties, however I am very happy to report that the Pearl surpassed my expectations, and we had a very enjoyable holiday. We had a midship 9th floor balcony stateroom with adjoining rooms that was very clean, roomy and comfortable for the time we spent in it. A balcony is a must have on this type of cruise as it was a perfect place to have before dinner drinks as we watched the ship sail away from our beautiful ports and to have quiet time to relax and read when needed!
We made 7:30 pm reservations before we sailed in the Summer Palace Dining Room and really enjoyed the food, service and venue. Having made the reservation prior to departure was a good decision for us, with no wait lines as well as a nice routine that we enjoyed. Even though I enjoyed the food, I would have to agree that the food on HAL offered more seafood and soup options. On two evenings we cancelled the Summer Palace (the guys wanted to wear more casual clothes for dinner) and ate instead at the Lotus Garden and O'Sheenans, which were both good choices. We were very pleased with all of the choices at the breakfast and lunch buffet, and had no problems finding tables for the 4 of us.
This was a very busy itinerary, with only 1 sea day. We never had a problem getting the loungers that we wanted around the pool deck, and on the sea day we weren't able to sit together, but that was ok. The pool area was never busy, and I was able to sit around the pool and enjoy a refreshing swim almost every day upon return from our port adventures. At first it was annoying that we couldn't have our drinks with us sitting at the pool, but the guard on duty was accommodating and we able to work it out without difficulty. We went with the drink plan option and even though there was an upfront cost, we think it worked out to our advantage and made ordering wine for dinner, and all other drinks worry free. I especially enjoyed the mango meltdown!
I can't believe that previous reviews were critical of the ports and tenders. All of the ports were amazing (even though this was my 3rd time at most of them I was awe struck by their beauty). Thorough research ahead is the key to enjoying these busy places! We booked 3 cruise line tours (Cabrio Dubrovnik, Kayaking in Kotor, Transportation to Pompeii) and were very happy with them all. On my own, I booked ahead, skip the line tickets at the Acropolis, Pompeii and the Colesseum and planned the best transportation way to get to each of them. We took city buses, trains, taxis and metros when available and made sure to check out prices and directions to get them before I left home. I also prebooked a taxi to pick us up at disembarkation in Civiteveccia, and at our Airbnb in Rome to the airport. We did attend the cruise port talk and I was disappointed as the focus was mainly on cruise tours, where on HAL you are given information of each port plus a map on doing it on your own. Luckily I was more than prepared but many other cruisers found the ports challenging if they hoped to wing it!!
I was also very pleased that the Pearl made every port, while other ships cancelled due to windy conditions. This certainly helped reduce the number of people in port and we got to see all that we hoped. I would have liked more time in Santorini, and am not sure why this port of call was so short, especially since the tenders and cable car lineups take away from your time touring.
We found the ship to be in excellent condition, enjoyed the variety of bars and lounges, had fun at the 10:30 dance parties, and attended a few of the shows that were good.
Overall, this 3rd sailing for us in the Mediterranean was just as special and amazing as the first 2 which were on the HAL ships. Read Less