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This is the 6th Thanksgiving cruise my sister and I have taken, out of a total of 16 cruises on various lines. We had lunch in Miami and then joined the line for embarkation. From this we learned to get to the port before noon, unless we have VIP status. It took us approximately one hour in line to actually board the ship. We were delighted that the mandatory practice drill didn't require standing on the outside deck. The ship is large and has quite a number of passengers. We had initially reserved a balcony cabin in June, as we watched the cost go down during the next few months, we were a little upset that suites were going for less than what we paid for a balcony and there was no automatic upgrade commensurate with our payment. We contacted the travel agency used and were upgraded to a mini suite....The difference between a balcony and mini-suite (as far as we could see) is a bathtub. So, unless you require a bathtub the value is not worth the cost. (Regular suites receive VIP goodies and concierge services, etc...mini suites do not) We immediately went to reserve dinners in the pay restaurants for the week. We were informed that reservations were only allowed for the current evening and the next and they could not accommodate reservations for the entire cruise. HMMMM. On day two, we remembered the reading on cruise critic about the mystery dinner and attempted to make reservations...it was already sold out. I don't remember even seeing it advertised in the daily paper...I didn't meet anyone who had participated so can't even provide a second hand recommendation for you. We then went to the Spa to obtain weekly passes. $75 for the cruise was a bargain! Day use is $20 each. I witnessed folks being turned away during the week because the Spa was at capacity. The value for this activity is well worth the cost and probably the BEST value offered on the ship. It allows the guest a free locker and to take advantage of the co-ed room with the thalassotherapy pool and heated ceramic loungers, or go gender-specific with an oceanview sauna, steam, individual whirlpool tubs, icy-cold plunge pool and padded chaises. Iced water and teas and juice are available at no extra charge during the use of the Spa. An additional comment is that for the number of passengers on this ship, additional heated ceramic loungers would have been beneficial for passengers. Generally there was a wait unless you used the Spa at dinner time. We ate at the Japanese steak house the first evening. It was fun and the food delicious! (We did note that bean sprouts were removed from the side dishes as on other NCL ships) On Monday were were torn between the CC meet and greet and the Texas Hold'Em tournament. We had our gifts in hand and luckily meet a couple with wrapped gifts in the buffet. We asked if they we attending the CC meet and greet and asked them to deliver our gifts. We also provided them with our stateroom number. We received a phonecall stating that the DC and Salem witch gifts delighted the recipients....but no information to collect our gifts. LOL!! So looks like someone's brain was on vacation mode. We are still chuckling about that!! The Texas Hold'Em tournament began at 11 am and was well attend. I believe we started with 9 tables. It ran until 2:30 pm with the last 6 players chopping the prize proportionate to chips in hand. Entry was $60, add-ons available for $60 and rebuys and half-time for $60. It was alot of fun and we missed the best sun. NCL should consider an evening tournament on the first sea day. We ate at Cagney's steak house, which was great. We did note that the assistant "waitresses/waiters" did more work than the assigned waiter/waitress........and we Hand-cash tipped appropriately. Roatan: We did not schedule a formal excursion for this port. We departed the ship and witnessed a couple negotiating with a taxi drive for a tour of the island. When their negotiations were complete, we asked the other passengers if we could join and then negotiated a lower price. So each passenger paid $25. The tour of the island was excellent and the young driver knowledgeable. We had read that on a previous cruise to this port there was a civil disturbance and folks couldn't go to shore. It turns out that the private electric company had planned an increase in electric rates. The citizens closed all roads. The rate increase prevented. We should try that in the US!!! We asked to be dropped off at the West end beach...to our surprise the driver said he would come back for us when he finished the tour for the other couple. The beach was actually a private beach which offered restrooms, dining, drinks and a multitude of locals who wanted to provide massages. Once you said no to each and every one, that was it. There were also many children trying to sell junk to you. It was a good wake up call to see how fortunate and spoiled we are here in the US. Our driver came back and located us and we asked him to join us for lunch... and learned more about Roatan and how many of the goods and food come to the island from the mainland. Much development is being done on the island by foreign companies...in ten years there will be more resorts on this island than Cozumel. My sister had read about the good quality and inexpensive hammocks to be purchased in Roatan. The driver drove us to the store accompanied her in the store as she made her selection and carried it out to the cab. It must have weighed 25 pounds and was made of better materials than those hammocks offered on the beach. She paid US$20 for a hammock that for the same quality in US would be over $100. The driver then took us to a local grocery store where we purchased Honduran coffee beans the cost about $5 per pound. That evening we ate at the Italian restaurant...again worth the cost, at the time we wanted, attentive staff and away from the masses of folks at the dining rooms. Portions were good, the roll to your table salads was a treat. Again, we noted that the "assistant" waitress worked more and the cash tip was handed to her. Belize: We booked on line with Major Tom and the Fun Team for the tubing through the caves excursion ($40 US much less expensive than the ships excursion). Cash payment was requested when we joined the group. The team met us at the port and drove us to the site. Major Tom himself provided the small group (about 30) with an oratory history of the area which revealed his love of the country. THIS WAS THE BEST EXCURSION I'VE EVER TAKEN (ziplining is a close second) OUT OF 16 CRUISES. Individuals are equipped with spelunking lights and tubes. You walk an even but rocky path to the cave entrance. We came upon a termite nest and were encouraged to "taste" them as a source of protein should ever we appear on "survivor". LOL! They tasted like woody mint! What a treat and who would have dared if not on this excursion??? The guides were well informed and repeatedly offered to carry tubes for folks during the hike up to the caves. You are led through the caves, sitting in the tube, with your feet under the arms of the person in front of you. The guides do most of the work, paddling along as they point out images on the walls. At one point the guides ask you to turn off your spelunking lights...it is dark in there!! We also saw bats...only a few flying around, a few finds of past Mayan culture and growing crystals that looked like a blanket of snow! At the end of the tour there is a rope swing for those that dare jump into the river. On the drive to and from the caves there was one stop to pick up necessities. On the ride back one could order a meal for $6...chicken rice and salad...excellent value for the money. I was very impressed with the safety standards imposed by this tour and will use Major Tom to arrange other excursions in the future. That evening we ate in the Asian restaurant. Delicious!! The dumplings were fantastic, the shrimp salad was wrapped shrimp over a bed of shredded carrots and cabbage, the lo mein and Singapore noodles a meal in themselves, the main entrees excellent...and when it says HOT and Spicy it means hot so that your lips burn!! The cream brulee and the tapioca desserts were wonderful and the persons next to us had the banana pancakes that they raved about. This fare was better than the steakhouse, but lacked the entertainment of the chef. Again, the "assistant" waitress did all of the work and the cash tip handed to her. Cozumel: We've been here numerous times and decided to book with the ship to go to Xcaret. We were only disappointed in the short time we were allowed to be here. We did the river swim (unfortunately, if we had been in Cozumel prior to Belize cave tubing we would have been thrilled)tanned at a cove and had lunch delivered to our loungers. Get the platter for two..great and inexpensive $27 including sodas). We didn't have time to see all that this park offered. I recommend it if you are in port for 12 hours or so. Four hours for this excursion cheats yourself and forces many choices to be made. It takes about 45 minutes each way for the ferry, so keep this in mind. We will take the ferry over to the mainland next time on our own and spend the day at one of the beaches. We dined at Cagney's for our Thanksgiving meal and again enjoyed steaks cooked to perfection! We did witness an extraordinary demonstration of rudeness to a passenger after the casino closed. We went up to the Blue Lagoon (fish & chips, soups are great, macaroni and cheese- horrid, deserts were great). The head waiter or manager of the Blue Lagoon approach a customer and asked him if he was on break and reminded him that he couldn't eat at the Blue Lagoon!!! When the passenger informed him he was a passenger the NCL guy demanded his passport!!! We were in Shock!! The passenger listened to this guy's lecture for about 15 minutes (we were waiting to be seated during this exchange and completely ignored.) The next day we ran into the passenger and asked if he had complained. He laughed and said that security had approached him to report that the NCL guy had filed a harassment complaint against him. We provided him with our cabin number if NCL wanted to further investigate. We were never contacted. That incident fulfilled any need for drama on the cruise. LOL! The last port was the NCL stirrup key. We've been here before and knew to walk over to the rocks, rent floating pads ($12 for 1 $18 for 2)to lie on and tan. The water is gorgeous!! It is cramped, however most folks took later tenders over so ours wasn't even full to capacity. Swimming was fabulous here, away from the maddening crowd. The last evening we ate at Le Bistro and were very very disappointed. The escargot was served in a hot plate with the escargot cold!! The whole meal, with the exception of the dessert sucked! Service was also less than expected. We choose the wrong restaurant for the last night. From this experience we deduct that the food is microwaved and not cooked to order. I do not recommend Le Bistro, the Blue Lagoon food was much better. We had breakfast coffee and rolls delivered each morning to our cabin....there is nothing more satisfying then starting the day with coffee and a view of the vast ocean! For a small tip, the pleasure is great. I hadn't been on a NCL cruise in over 18 months, so lost any casino points I may have been able to carry forward. So if you have substantial points remaining on your account make sure you join another NCL cruise within 18 months, or don't play slots the last night of the cruise. Unlike other cruise lines, Casino at Seas on NCL doesn't provide trinkets like ball caps, tshirts, key chains etc that you obtain on other cruiselines for your play. Like other cruise lines, if you're a chronic slot player, your drinks in the casino are taken care of and you may get comped a dinner in a gourmet restaurant then based on points you are provided some on board credits towards your account. By an approximation, it seems that you are rewarded with .005% of your play...definitely notVegas or Atlantic City! What was different on this cruise is that activities (sexy legs, hairy chest, belly flop etc.) weren't provided and the daily listings weren't very helpful....done in fine print. Although I did note that lectures on the Mayan culture was offered, which is a step up in enrichment activities offered by NCL. We made it to a few shows only, Sharkbait- graduates of circus clown school were great at juggling and offered a "class" the day after the show that was appreciated. The on-board cast shows were entertaining, they offer two great aerial/body acts that make attending worth it. Bingo wasn't that well attended, probably due to the cost...It was entertaining to see the bowling alleys...again not very affordable if you had a number of children with you. I think it would be about $50 for a family of four....better off getting a spa pass for the week. We choose to walk off with our luggage late...there was no benefit to walking off with our luggage at the late hour...there were lines and lines to get off the ship, then to go through immigration. Of course, we didn't have to pack until after the casino closed the last night! We had bid on a hotel in Miami on priceline and took a taxi to the Miami Mart airport hotel ($51). My sister caught up on her sleep then took the free shuttle to the Miami airport. Quite easy. I stayed for a few days and was well pleased. The hotel offers 24/7 room service, a buffet lunch and dinner (expensive after a cruise...$11 pizza and coke delivered to my room ended up costing $28 after tax, imposed gratuity and imposed delivery charge) and a swimming pool. The juccuzzi was not working. The structure is 15 stories and staff are attentive and pleasant. I was worried when obtained at that price for naught. Next to the hotel is an import/export retail/wholesale mall. Two floors of small shops with great bargains. Most stores were offering 50% off labeled costs. Less expensive if you were purchasing in bulk. I was delighted to purchase jewelry similar to that offered in Cozumel for less expense than even aggressive bargaining would have gotten. I will definitely come back to this hotel, if just for theshopping offered next door! There is a Starbucks and an Au Bon Pain located in the mall, which are open during weekends. Overall, NCL has changed or eliminated some of its fun activities, the gambling was as expected (table games begin at $5) blackjack and slot tournaments are offered during the cruise, the Spa is a definite value and the gourmet restaurants offer a free from the crowd dining experience for a price. The itinerary for this cruise was great. Yes I will cruise with NCL again when the price is right...and will never pay more for a mini-suite than a balcony. I believe any future cruise with NCL will be on a ship with less passengers. Overall it was a delightful cruise....how can anyone not enjoy a cruise? Feel free to contact me.

Thanksgiving NCL Pearl

Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review by WannaBGambla

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: November 2008
  • Destination: Western Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Mini-Suite with Balcony
This is the 6th Thanksgiving cruise my sister and I have taken, out of a total of 16 cruises on various lines. We had lunch in Miami and then joined the line for embarkation. From this we learned to get to the port before noon, unless we have VIP status. It took us approximately one hour in line to actually board the ship. We were delighted that the mandatory practice drill didn't require standing on the outside deck. The ship is large and has quite a number of passengers.
We had initially reserved a balcony cabin in June, as we watched the cost go down during the next few months, we were a little upset that suites were going for less than what we paid for a balcony and there was no automatic upgrade commensurate with our payment. We contacted the travel agency used and were upgraded to a mini suite....The difference between a balcony and mini-suite (as far as we could see) is a bathtub. So, unless you require a bathtub the value is not worth the cost. (Regular suites receive VIP goodies and concierge services, etc...mini suites do not)
We immediately went to reserve dinners in the pay restaurants for the week. We were informed that reservations were only allowed for the current evening and the next and they could not accommodate reservations for the entire cruise. HMMMM. On day two, we remembered the reading on cruise critic about the mystery dinner and attempted to make reservations...it was already sold out. I don't remember even seeing it advertised in the daily paper...I didn't meet anyone who had participated so can't even provide a second hand recommendation for you.
We then went to the Spa to obtain weekly passes. $75 for the cruise was a bargain! Day use is $20 each. I witnessed folks being turned away during the week because the Spa was at capacity. The value for this activity is well worth the cost and probably the BEST value offered on the ship. It allows the guest a free locker and to take advantage of the co-ed room with the thalassotherapy pool and heated ceramic loungers, or go gender-specific with an oceanview sauna, steam, individual whirlpool tubs, icy-cold plunge pool and padded chaises. Iced water and teas and juice are available at no extra charge during the use of the Spa. An additional comment is that for the number of passengers on this ship, additional heated ceramic loungers would have been beneficial for passengers. Generally there was a wait unless you used the Spa at dinner time.
We ate at the Japanese steak house the first evening. It was fun and the food delicious! (We did note that bean sprouts were removed from the side dishes as on other NCL ships)
On Monday were were torn between the CC meet and greet and the Texas Hold'Em tournament. We had our gifts in hand and luckily meet a couple with wrapped gifts in the buffet. We asked if they we attending the CC meet and greet and asked them to deliver our gifts. We also provided them with our stateroom number. We received a phonecall stating that the DC and Salem witch gifts delighted the recipients....but no information to collect our gifts. LOL!! So looks like someone's brain was on vacation mode. We are still chuckling about that!!
The Texas Hold'Em tournament began at 11 am and was well attend. I believe we started with 9 tables. It ran until 2:30 pm with the last 6 players chopping the prize proportionate to chips in hand. Entry was $60, add-ons available for $60 and rebuys and half-time for $60. It was alot of fun and we missed the best sun. NCL should consider an evening tournament on the first sea day.
We ate at Cagney's steak house, which was great. We did note that the assistant "waitresses/waiters" did more work than the assigned waiter/waitress........and we Hand-cash tipped appropriately.
Roatan: We did not schedule a formal excursion for this port. We departed the ship and witnessed a couple negotiating with a taxi drive for a tour of the island. When their negotiations were complete, we asked the other passengers if we could join and then negotiated a lower price. So each passenger paid $25. The tour of the island was excellent and the young driver knowledgeable. We had read that on a previous cruise to this port there was a civil disturbance and folks couldn't go to shore. It turns out that the private electric company had planned an increase in electric rates. The citizens closed all roads. The rate increase prevented. We should try that in the US!!! We asked to be dropped off at the West end beach...to our surprise the driver said he would come back for us when he finished the tour for the other couple. The beach was actually a private beach which offered restrooms, dining, drinks and a multitude of locals who wanted to provide massages. Once you said no to each and every one, that was it. There were also many children trying to sell junk to you. It was a good wake up call to see how fortunate and spoiled we are here in the US. Our driver came back and located us and we asked him to join us for lunch... and learned more about Roatan and how many of the goods and food come to the island from the mainland. Much development is being done on the island by foreign companies...in ten years there will be more resorts on this island than Cozumel.
My sister had read about the good quality and inexpensive hammocks to be purchased in Roatan. The driver drove us to the store accompanied her in the store as she made her selection and carried it out to the cab. It must have weighed 25 pounds and was made of better materials than those hammocks offered on the beach. She paid US$20 for a hammock that for the same quality in US would be over $100. The driver then took us to a local grocery store where we purchased Honduran coffee beans the cost about $5 per pound.
That evening we ate at the Italian restaurant...again worth the cost, at the time we wanted, attentive staff and away from the masses of folks at the dining rooms. Portions were good, the roll to your table salads was a treat. Again, we noted that the "assistant" waitress worked more and the cash tip was handed to her. Belize: We booked on line with Major Tom and the Fun Team for the tubing through the caves excursion ($40 US much less expensive than the ships excursion). Cash payment was requested when we joined the group. The team met us at the port and drove us to the site. Major Tom himself provided the small group (about 30) with an oratory history of the area which revealed his love of the country. THIS WAS THE BEST EXCURSION I'VE EVER TAKEN (ziplining is a close second) OUT OF 16 CRUISES. Individuals are equipped with spelunking lights and tubes. You walk an even but rocky path to the cave entrance. We came upon a termite nest and were encouraged to "taste" them as a source of protein should ever we appear on "survivor". LOL! They tasted like woody mint! What a treat and who would have dared if not on this excursion??? The guides were well informed and repeatedly offered to carry tubes for folks during the hike up to the caves. You are led through the caves, sitting in the tube, with your feet under the arms of the person in front of you. The guides do most of the work, paddling along as they point out images on the walls. At one point the guides ask you to turn off your spelunking lights...it is dark in there!! We also saw bats...only a few flying around, a few finds of past Mayan culture and growing crystals that looked like a blanket of snow! At the end of the tour there is a rope swing for those that dare jump into the river. On the drive to and from the caves there was one stop to pick up necessities. On the ride back one could order a meal for $6...chicken rice and salad...excellent value for the money. I was very impressed with the safety standards imposed by this tour and will use Major Tom to arrange other excursions in the future.
That evening we ate in the Asian restaurant. Delicious!! The dumplings were fantastic, the shrimp salad was wrapped shrimp over a bed of shredded carrots and cabbage, the lo mein and Singapore noodles a meal in themselves, the main entrees excellent...and when it says HOT and Spicy it means hot so that your lips burn!! The cream brulee and the tapioca desserts were wonderful and the persons next to us had the banana pancakes that they raved about. This fare was better than the steakhouse, but lacked the entertainment of the chef. Again, the "assistant" waitress did all of the work and the cash tip handed to her.
Cozumel: We've been here numerous times and decided to book with the ship to go to Xcaret. We were only disappointed in the short time we were allowed to be here. We did the river swim (unfortunately, if we had been in Cozumel prior to Belize cave tubing we would have been thrilled)tanned at a cove and had lunch delivered to our loungers. Get the platter for two..great and inexpensive $27 including sodas). We didn't have time to see all that this park offered. I recommend it if you are in port for 12 hours or so. Four hours for this excursion cheats yourself and forces many choices to be made. It takes about 45 minutes each way for the ferry, so keep this in mind. We will take the ferry over to the mainland next time on our own and spend the day at one of the beaches.
We dined at Cagney's for our Thanksgiving meal and again enjoyed steaks cooked to perfection!
We did witness an extraordinary demonstration of rudeness to a passenger after the casino closed. We went up to the Blue Lagoon (fish & chips, soups are great, macaroni and cheese- horrid, deserts were great). The head waiter or manager of the Blue Lagoon approach a customer and asked him if he was on break and reminded him that he couldn't eat at the Blue Lagoon!!! When the passenger informed him he was a passenger the NCL guy demanded his passport!!! We were in Shock!! The passenger listened to this guy's lecture for about 15 minutes (we were waiting to be seated during this exchange and completely ignored.) The next day we ran into the passenger and asked if he had complained. He laughed and said that security had approached him to report that the NCL guy had filed a harassment complaint against him. We provided him with our cabin number if NCL wanted to further investigate. We were never contacted. That incident fulfilled any need for drama on the cruise. LOL!
The last port was the NCL stirrup key. We've been here before and knew to walk over to the rocks, rent floating pads ($12 for 1 $18 for 2)to lie on and tan. The water is gorgeous!! It is cramped, however most folks took later tenders over so ours wasn't even full to capacity. Swimming was fabulous here, away from the maddening crowd.
The last evening we ate at Le Bistro and were very very disappointed. The escargot was served in a hot plate with the escargot cold!! The whole meal, with the exception of the dessert sucked! Service was also less than expected. We choose the wrong restaurant for the last night. From this experience we deduct that the food is microwaved and not cooked to order. I do not recommend Le Bistro, the Blue Lagoon food was much better.
We had breakfast coffee and rolls delivered each morning to our cabin....there is nothing more satisfying then starting the day with coffee and a view of the vast ocean! For a small tip, the pleasure is great.
I hadn't been on a NCL cruise in over 18 months, so lost any casino points I may have been able to carry forward. So if you have substantial points remaining on your account make sure you join another NCL cruise within 18 months, or don't play slots the last night of the cruise. Unlike other cruise lines, Casino at Seas on NCL doesn't provide trinkets like ball caps, tshirts, key chains etc that you obtain on other cruiselines for your play. Like other cruise lines, if you're a chronic slot player, your drinks in the casino are taken care of and you may get comped a dinner in a gourmet restaurant then based on points you are provided some on board credits towards your account. By an approximation, it seems that you are rewarded with .005% of your play...definitely notVegas or Atlantic City!
What was different on this cruise is that activities (sexy legs, hairy chest, belly flop etc.) weren't provided and the daily listings weren't very helpful....done in fine print. Although I did note that lectures on the Mayan culture was offered, which is a step up in enrichment activities offered by NCL.
We made it to a few shows only, Sharkbait- graduates of circus clown school were great at juggling and offered a "class" the day after the show that was appreciated. The on-board cast shows were entertaining, they offer two great aerial/body acts that make attending worth it.
Bingo wasn't that well attended, probably due to the cost...It was entertaining to see the bowling alleys...again not very affordable if you had a number of children with you. I think it would be about $50 for a family of four....better off getting a spa pass for the week.
We choose to walk off with our luggage late...there was no benefit to walking off with our luggage at the late hour...there were lines and lines to get off the ship, then to go through immigration. Of course, we didn't have to pack until after the casino closed the last night!
We had bid on a hotel in Miami on priceline and took a taxi to the Miami Mart airport hotel ($51). My sister caught up on her sleep then took the free shuttle to the Miami airport. Quite easy. I stayed for a few days and was well pleased. The hotel offers 24/7 room service, a buffet lunch and dinner (expensive after a cruise...$11 pizza and coke delivered to my room ended up costing $28 after tax, imposed gratuity and imposed delivery charge) and a swimming pool. The juccuzzi was not working. The structure is 15 stories and staff are attentive and pleasant. I was worried when obtained at that price for naught.
Next to the hotel is an import/export retail/wholesale mall. Two floors of small shops with great bargains. Most stores were offering 50% off labeled costs. Less expensive if you were purchasing in bulk. I was delighted to purchase jewelry similar to that offered in Cozumel for less expense than even aggressive bargaining would have gotten. I will definitely come back to this hotel, if just for theshopping offered next door! There is a Starbucks and an Au Bon Pain located in the mall, which are open during weekends.
Overall, NCL has changed or eliminated some of its fun activities, the gambling was as expected (table games begin at $5) blackjack and slot tournaments are offered during the cruise, the Spa is a definite value and the gourmet restaurants offer a free from the crowd dining experience for a price. The itinerary for this cruise was great.
Yes I will cruise with NCL again when the price is right...and will never pay more for a mini-suite than a balcony. I believe any future cruise with NCL will be on a ship with less passengers. Overall it was a delightful cruise....how can anyone not enjoy a cruise? Feel free to contact me.
WannaBGambla’s Full Rating Summary
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