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Trek to the point of embarkation, south from Orlando, save $22 and take Toll Road 528 to I-95 and get off the FL Turnpike. Travel time is the same and there's more amenities. Night prior to cruise, recommend the Embassy Suites, Airport for spacious rooms and complimentary cooked to order breakfast. Through airportreservations.com, parking is $7/night vs. $20 at the Port. The hotel is 8 miles away. Shuttles are available for $10 person or take a cab for $25. Embarkation - arrive by Noon for 4 pm sailing and expect 30 minute process. Gets longer the later it gets. Attempts to bring alcohol on board will result in the items being confiscated until the end of the cruise - you will get caught. You may bring water bottles and sodas in checked luggage - this I recommend for various reasons. The cabins have small refrigerators stocked with ship drinks (at high prices) but the crew will empty their stock out at your request and you can use the fridge. Ship exceeds expecations. It is clean, modern, well laid out, easy to navigate. Compared to other cruises, the cabins are smaller, but the bathrooms are larger, which makes a huge comfort difference. The showers have sliding glass doors and there is room to move around in the bathroom without feeling cramped - kudos to the architects on that move. The fitness center exceptional and free. Rock climbing wall is great (and hard), tennis courts, basketball courts, golf cage - all very nice.Dining is poor. Two free restaurants and 1 buffet. There are 8 specialty restaurants charging $10 - $30. Without the surcharge, do not expect quality food or service. The entertainment was just "fair." The Second City improv rocks and was the saving grace. There were some jugglers, good but lame. The comedian was OK - but there was only one. Most of the shows lasted only 45 minutes. No pool deck parties. No limbo contests. No midnight buffet parties. Other cruises I'd been on offer many events thru the "at sea" days but not this one. Excursions - book these yourself through outside vendors for better experiences and lower costs. Cruise Critic posts provide so much information that with little homework, it's easy. My oldest son and I went diving in Honduras (Subway Watersports), Belize (thru ship), and Cozumel (Dive Paradise), while my wife took the younger kids on other excurions. The only time we went thru the ship was in Belize because the dive site is so far from Belize City that the only way to reach it is to use the ships vendor, Hugh Parkley's Dive Connection. The land rover tour throught he jungle and mountains can only be booked through the cruise ship (she tried directly and was re-routed to the ship.Kids clubs were good. We have two in the 8 - 10 range and one in the 10 - 12 group. They were quick to make friends and actually requested to go to the club each night. My wife and I welcomed that which gave us a little freedom to enjoy a quiet dinner, drinks, or a show. The clubs are free except during port times and after 10:30 pm. Our teenager made friends as well and claims he had the best vacation ever. On this topic, I would agree with cruise ratings that it is one of the best for kids. Service was good. The cabin stewards were friendly and did a great job. They always would acknowledge you even though they were so busy. Staff at the bars and the reception desk were great. Personnel in the "free" restaurants" though were not as cordial and often difficult to understand. The one time we ate in a specialty restuaurant and paid the $20 per person fee, our waitress was exceptional...again, to get good food and decent service, it comes at a cost. I would recommend checking your stateroom folio a day or two ahead of the end of the trip. I did and had no issues. However, the reception desk was overwhelmed on the last day for those not checking in advance. Disembarkation was the best of the 4 cruises I've done. We did the "express" and carried off our own luggage starting at 7:15 am. In doing this, we didn't have to put our luggage out the night before or wait in lines. In fact, there was no waiting at all...simply walked off the ship, to customs, and out the door. Limited here only by as fast as you can walk. Fabulous. We had a great time largely because of what we made of it. We went for the destinations and excursions that we booked, not for the food or cruise ship entertainment. Next time, I will take a deeper look at the restaurant offerings and any additional charges that may apply.

NCL Pearl Thanksgiving 2008

Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review by Barefoot Traveler

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: November 2008
  • Destination: Western Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Inside
Trek to the point of embarkation, south from Orlando, save $22 and take Toll Road 528 to I-95 and get off the FL Turnpike. Travel time is the same and there's more amenities.

Night prior to cruise, recommend the Embassy Suites, Airport for spacious rooms and complimentary cooked to order breakfast. Through airportreservations.com, parking is $7/night vs. $20 at the Port. The hotel is 8 miles away. Shuttles are available for $10 person or take a cab for $25.

Embarkation - arrive by Noon for 4 pm sailing and expect 30 minute process. Gets longer the later it gets. Attempts to bring alcohol on board will result in the items being confiscated until the end of the cruise - you will get caught. You may bring water bottles and sodas in checked luggage - this I recommend for various reasons. The cabins have small refrigerators stocked with ship drinks (at high prices) but the crew will empty their stock out at your request and you can use the fridge.

Ship exceeds expecations. It is clean, modern, well laid out, easy to navigate. Compared to other cruises, the cabins are smaller, but the bathrooms are larger, which makes a huge comfort difference. The showers have sliding glass doors and there is room to move around in the bathroom without feeling cramped - kudos to the architects on that move. The fitness center exceptional and free. Rock climbing wall is great (and hard), tennis courts, basketball courts, golf cage - all very nice.Dining is poor. Two free restaurants and 1 buffet. There are 8 specialty restaurants charging $10 - $30. Without the surcharge, do not expect quality food or service.

The entertainment was just "fair." The Second City improv rocks and was the saving grace. There were some jugglers, good but lame. The comedian was OK - but there was only one. Most of the shows lasted only 45 minutes. No pool deck parties. No limbo contests. No midnight buffet parties. Other cruises I'd been on offer many events thru the "at sea" days but not this one.

Excursions - book these yourself through outside vendors for better experiences and lower costs. Cruise Critic posts provide so much information that with little homework, it's easy. My oldest son and I went diving in Honduras (Subway Watersports), Belize (thru ship), and Cozumel (Dive Paradise), while my wife took the younger kids on other excurions. The only time we went thru the ship was in Belize because the dive site is so far from Belize City that the only way to reach it is to use the ships vendor, Hugh Parkley's Dive Connection. The land rover tour throught he jungle and mountains can only be booked through the cruise ship (she tried directly and was re-routed to the ship.Kids clubs were good. We have two in the 8 - 10 range and one in the 10 - 12 group. They were quick to make friends and actually requested to go to the club each night. My wife and I welcomed that which gave us a little freedom to enjoy a quiet dinner, drinks, or a show. The clubs are free except during port times and after 10:30 pm. Our teenager made friends as well and claims he had the best vacation ever. On this topic, I would agree with cruise ratings that it is one of the best for kids.

Service was good. The cabin stewards were friendly and did a great job. They always would acknowledge you even though they were so busy. Staff at the bars and the reception desk were great. Personnel in the "free" restaurants" though were not as cordial and often difficult to understand. The one time we ate in a specialty restuaurant and paid the $20 per person fee, our waitress was exceptional...again, to get good food and decent service, it comes at a cost.

I would recommend checking your stateroom folio a day or two ahead of the end of the trip. I did and had no issues. However, the reception desk was overwhelmed on the last day for those not checking in advance.

Disembarkation was the best of the 4 cruises I've done. We did the "express" and carried off our own luggage starting at 7:15 am. In doing this, we didn't have to put our luggage out the night before or wait in lines. In fact, there was no waiting at all...simply walked off the ship, to customs, and out the door. Limited here only by as fast as you can walk. Fabulous.

We had a great time largely because of what we made of it. We went for the destinations and excursions that we booked, not for the food or cruise ship entertainment. Next time, I will take a deeper look at the restaurant offerings and any additional charges that may apply.
Barefoot Traveler’s Full Rating Summary
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