Every pearl has an imperfection: Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review by hartsnvt

Norwegian Pearl 5
Member Since 2012
543 Forum Posts

Overall Member Rating

Every pearl has an imperfection

Sail Date: December 2012
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Miami
Every pearl has an imperfection where the sphere is attached to the oyster. This feature does not detract from the beauty but does represent something not quite perfect. I had very high expectations for our cruise on NCL's Pearl because it was a long time coming. Since 2003 I have suffered from a myriad of health problems including lymphoma. My husband and I had to downsize to a singlewide home in Vermont and have never taken a vacation. In my former life, I was an independent cruise consultant and enjoyed over 10 cruises on various cruise lines. After relocating and remarrying we never had the ability to take a vacation and even though my two daughters took plenty of vacations with their father, the four of us did not. So, with the sale of our home in August, the first thing I did was book our cruise so we would be able to enjoy a fabulous family getaway. My oldest daughter teaches English in South Korea and my youngest is a Junior at Uconn. The hardest part was coordinating every More one's schedule. I had researched far and wide because let's face it, I had not taken a cruise in over 16 years and from what I gathered here on Cruise Critic, cruises have changed quite a bit. I decided that the "freestyle dining" concept was going to be an excellent choice as I never did like the strict structure of dining options from my prior cruises. I had also read on CC that the aft balcony experience was not to be missed so I booked a B1 aft balcony and secured the inside cabin across the hall for my daughters. We had booked this 4 months in advance and there were no extra perks offered through NCL. My PCC did a great job selling me the cruise but was lacking in service after the sale until 1-2 weeks before when I noticed that our 2 cabins were now $900 less and still available. Since I had spent quite a bit for the 2 cabins, shore excursions etc, I really felt like it would be nice to have some sort of OBC. She finally came through with $100 per cabin as well as a bottle of wine and a shrimp platter. In retrospect I would wait until closer to my sail date to book my cabins as watching the rates plummet was quite stressful. I would also book a cruise through a cruise outlet as they have many perks available and one does not have to beg for them.
Embarkation Day: We flew from Hartford, Ct to Fort Lauderdale via Southwest which was disappointing as the plane was dirty and bare bones. I also do not like not having a seat assignment. You basically have to purchase their program ($10 each way) to get priority check in so you have a better boarding position. We arrived at FLL and went to the baggage claim area to fetch our luggage and find the NCL representative. We found our luggage but there was not a NCL rep to be found. Eventually I asked the Royal Caribbean Rep where I might find his NCL counterpart and he pointed me to a small desk between baggage carousels 4 and 5. I wish that info had been available to me in my EDocs. Once aboard the bus we motored to the pier in Miami which took about 45 minutes. We arrived at about 12:30 and boy was it mobbed. The line snaked around the side of the building out in the hot sun. Coming from Vermont it felt good but I was glad I had my bottled water as I was seeing some people melting in line. After about 30 minutes in line we went through security and found ourselves being checked in by a very friendly and helpful pier agent whose name I have forgotten (I have a baaad memory for names). We were whisked through check in and up to have our first (of many) photos taken. We did not purchase that particular photo as we were all disheveled from being up at 4:00am and looked absolutely spent. Once aboard I finally felt like we were on vacation but I did miss the welcoming champagne or juice from cruises years ago. I will add that we do not carry a credit card and it was no problem to board and add cash at the guest services desk. Our cabins were available so we dropped off our stuff and per CC recommendations we headed to the Summer Palace main dining room. We were seated at the aft window where we looked at another NCL ship that was behind us. The dining room had about 5 tables occupied and I really appreciated the CC advice to eat hear instead of the crowded buffet, Thanks!!!. The food was really good and the service also. Our journey through food and ocean had begun!After lunch (around 2:00pm) I went to guest services to add some cash and sign up my daughter (20) with a permission form to drink wine or beer. I will say that having 3 employees on embarkation day is not sufficient. (Especially when one left and then there were 2). it was easy to add the cash but the woman would not let us complete the permission form because we had different last names, really? I gave up and went the next day and it was no problem. Needless to say I was getting cranky so we went back to our cabin to find that our fridge had not been cleaned out which was not a big deal. However my youngest daughter is a diabetic on a pump and not only was their fridge not cleared out so she could store her meds, it was locked! I kept asking different room stewards if they were hers, and no one was. I did ask one if they could find her room steward and let him know that her fridge had to be unlocked as soon as possible as her ice packs were melted and her meds had to be refrigerated. It was puzzling that even though our cabins were across from one another we had different room stewards. Both of my daughters went to bed after a very quick muster drill at 3pm. DH and I decided to explore the ship and watch the sail away party on the pool deck.
I found the ship to be very clean and not too crowded considering the ship was sold out. The crew was stellar except for a few moments. Our aft balcony was amazing except our slider would not always latch properly and slammed open and shut during our rough sea night(which was a blast!) I see that this has taken much too long to write. Suffice it to say we did enjoy our final vacation together and I thank NCL for making this possible. As I head into surgery this Friday I can say that we all had a wonderful time and I only wish I could cruise again. This was port intensive and was great for everyone to explore new places. If I could ever cruise again I would sail to Bermuda and be able to explore it in its entirety. Thanks to CC members for all of your advice as I used it a lot during our cruise! Our "pearl" cruise was a wonderful adventure and though not perfect it was as beautiful as the treasure found in the ocean! Less

Published 01/10/13
1 Helpful Vote

Cabin review: B110168 Aft-Facing Balcony

Aft Balcony (B1) 10168 was great! The bed was the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on. (2 twins form queen). Good storage space and don't forget to put luggage under the bed! Bathroom was good size for a cruise ship with sliding doors for the shower and separate toilet area for privacy. Plenty of shelves for stuff. I liked the fact that the hair dryer was in the room near the balcony door which freed up the bathroom. Our balcony was larger than BB balconies or other afts on different decks. It was 10 ft x 8 ft. Deck 10 so only cabins above and below. No ash, little wind and little vibration. Awesome view of the wake and on each side! Our daughters had the inside across from us (10167) which had the head of their beds facing forward instead of side to side. Their bathroom was different with the toilet area and sink area together. (They did not have the slider toiler area that we did).

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Port and Shore Excursions

Dolphin Swim & Encounter

This was a once in a lifetime experience for myself and my family which included my husband and 2 daughters (23 & 20). We stood on a waist high platform and were able to kiss and touch Marina, our dolphin. It was 40 minutes of interaction and education that was priceless and we will never forget it. What was unfortunate was the price of the photos. $29.95 for one, $69.95 for 3 and $120 for 8. There were great individual pics of each of us but no package for 4 photos. We just could not afford them. I would suggest one person of your party (or two) go in the next group so they could take pics from the balcony. An unforgettable experience that will last in my memory but not on my wall.

Turtle Farm

Because we tendered and had purchased this excursion, we met in the Stardust and had only a brief wait until we were on the tender cruising for the dock. Another brief wait and our guide met us and escorted us onto a full sized air conditioned bus. It took approximately a 1/2 hour with the guide giving us detailed information about Grand Cayman. Every home we went by was in pristine shape and you could really feel the pride of ownership on the island. We arrived at the Turtle Farm and were met by a guide who immediately showed us the large pond and other turtle tanks which housed different types of turtles. He explained the conservation efforts of the farm and really took his time to educate us about sea turtles. At the next portion of the tour we were able to hold young turtles and could use our own cameras to take as many pictures as we wanted. Once we were done with the babies, we were on our own! There was an aviary, a predator tank and my favorite, the yearling turtle lagoon where we could don a snorkel and mask (also included in the price) and snorkel through a fish filled (and turtle filled ) lagoon. I never saw a turtle but my daughter saw 6. The lagoon meandered around large rocks and coral all the way to the glass partition which separated us from the predator tank. It was like snorkeling in the ocean but calmer. I finally found that after following one or two fish near the man made beach, the schools of fish were next to the glass at the predator tank. So, don't waste time trying to get underwater pics in the water near the beach but go to the glass separator under the bridge and there are fish galore! It was also interesting to take pictures of the fish and in the background through the glass was a nurse shark that was about 10 feet long! I was glad that the glass was so thick! After snorkeling, we had lunch at their restaurant. Myself, my husband, and 2 daughters each had a drink (alcoholic), and simple food. I saw that the prices were up there even for the light lunch we had, but was a bit taken back by the $109 bill! The food was tasty but I thought it was very overpriced. Apparently some of the excursions from other ships had lunch included and I would have preferred to pay for lunch upfront. The gift shop was huge and decently priced but I did not buy anything. I also loved the wild lizards and the chickens that ran around the place. I would recommend this tour. I want to add that after we left our driver drove us to the town of He (double hockey sticks) where I was able to send a postcard to myself which was fun. It was a quick stop but we did see the reason they named it H*e*l*l which was behind the shop. We went back to the ship a different way so we could see more of the island. We got back to the pier with plenty of time to shop. and explore the waterfront a bit. It is a beautiful Island and when I win the lottery I would want to live there!

Originally we had pre-purchased the snorkel and stingray combo. ($29). Even though I had checked with my PCC to make sure the stingray experience was still available after Sandy and she confirmed this, it was not and I found the cancellation when we boarded. We decided to snorkel anyway and purchased this "excursion" for..$29! The white buoys were hard to see to find the "treasures" though I found some on my own. I would suggest bringing your own snorkel and mask. My husband had never snorkeled before and there was no one there to give him a brief lesson as I apparently could not make him understand how to use the snorkel and mask properly. No refunds for him! The best variety of fish is way out by the big rocks and I did get some nice pictures. I was also stung by a jellyfish that I never saw, and the lifeguards had vinegar on their stands for me to use. I was disappointed that the stingray part being cancelled was not announced before the cruise to those of us who purchased it so we could have time to find another stingray encounter to enjoy at another port.

River Tubing

After docking we experienced the organized chaos of everyone trying to find their tour operators. Our driver found us and off we went on a 30 minute ride (with running commentary) up through the winding hills with jungleicious views. We stopped at the base to get our safety helmets before being driven to the entry point of the White River. We donned safety vests and were ushered into the river with a tube. It was refreshing and invigorating and our group consisted of all age groups (must be able to swim!) The guides were great and the flora was beautiful. I am not physically active and did not need to be. This was a relaxing journey with a few rapids but they were very manageable. At the end of our hour tube experience we ended back at base. The photos were pricey but worth it as they took the pics of our most fun moments. They had a small bar and gift shop. They also rent lockers which we used while we tubed. I highly recommend this excursion!

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Member Since 2012
543 Forum Posts
Enrichment Activities
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