Based on our previous experience on the Norwegian Pearl to the Western Caribbean, we selected the same ship for our Eastern Caribbean adventure. The cruise prior had experienced the norovirus with apparent significant impact on crew and passengers. Some CC members had been advised by various methods of the situation, however, as we were already in transit, we did not receive any notification. Only through the CC Roll Call did we learn of the problem.
Overall, our cruise experience was as we expected with certain limitations and items worth commenting upon. We enjoyed the trip and would choose the Pearl again in a heartbeat. I will attempt to categorize my comments for each area.
We knew that the check-in would be delayed and arrived at the terminal shortly after 12 P.M. Needless to say, there were many who were already there. The security screening was relatively fast and it was only when we joined the check-in line that a slowdown was encountered. It came to a grinding halt for a reason that was not apparent to us. We still aren’t aware of the cause. After about 20 minutes, it started up again, however, no announcements were made as to the reason for the delay or when it would start again. Once we did get to the counter, check-in went smoothly.
Upstairs, there was mass confusion. When ship boarding commenced, nobody was really aware of what was happening. One young staff member attempted to provide information, however, her voice did not carry well through the din. Not her fault but there should have been PA announcements.
On board, lunch was available at the Garden Café and Great Outdoors. They eventually became very crowded as rooms were quite late being readied for the new occupants.
Lunch was our start to the restrictions which were put in place for the duration of the cruise which I’ll briefly try to describe. There was no direct handling of cutlery, plates, beverage facilities, or anything. For example, buffets were not self-service; no table condiments including salt, pepper, etc.; no glasses, coffee makers, bathrobes in the cabins. Washy, washy everywhere. (Insert smiley here).
Although somewhat inconvenient, it was totally understandable and most tried to make the best of it. The staff were overworked, and, although they tried to remain upbeat, it was evident that the long hours was taking its toll. Our hats are off to them for everything they did.
Due to the required cleaning and preparation, departure was delayed by four hours and various events were impacted to some degree.
As you ventured throughout the ship, it was evident that additional hand sanitizing stations had been set up. These appeared to be well-used by everyone as far as we saw.
CC Meet and Greet.
Held in the Bliss Lounge we had a good turnout of members and crew. Due to the restrictions, there was not the usual juices, sweets, etc. Understandable. The crew provided us with as much information as possible about the problem and processes that had been established. It was well received by all.
Information was provided that, due to the situation, the reception would be delayed. It was eventually held in the Spinnaker Lounge on the second last sea day. Totally understandable. Also, since a second reception would not be held, a free drink coupon was given to members.
On this cruise, we stopped at Tortola, BVI, St John’s Antigua, Fort de France Martinique, Basseterre St Kitts and St Thomas, USVI. At Tortola, ships tenders were required due to dock repairs. We did not encounter any problems with this procedure. We docked at all other ports.
We found Tortola to be the least enjoyable due to the cleanliness and obvious poverty. Martinique, a French colony that uses the Euro, was a pleasant surprise and the island is making every endeavour to accommodate visitors. St Thomas and St John’s were the most pleasant. On all islands, we found the people to be quite pleasant.
We were in a mini-suite on the port side. The only downside to this cabin was that access to the closet was limited and one of the doors would not completely open. As previously mentioned, amenities had been removed, but, on request, we got glasses and a coffee maker. Our steward, Christopher, was good and worked hard. All stewards were obviously tired from the effort to sanitize the cabins and the long hours required to make our cruise as safe as possible. Hats off to them.
Carpets were being replaced in our hallway throughout the cruise and the maintenance staff made every endeavour to limit the disruption of passenger’s daily activities. Future passengers need to look for the red herring in the carpet.
During the cruise, we ate at the Great Outdoors, Garden Buffet, O’Sheehan’s, Indigo, Summer Palace, Cagney’s and Teppanyaki. At all venues, the staff was very pleasant and accommodating. Except for the pancakes one morning at the Great Outdoors, all food was the right temperature. The menus provided good variety and, overall, we were pleased. The Outdoor Grill was closed for the duration except for a BBQ on the last two sea days.
We attended most of the shows in the Stardust Theater. The Pearl Production Cast was very good in all of their appearances including the SWING production. Hypnotist, Brenda Kaye was okay, but her results lacked somewhat. Juggler Tuey Wilson was probably the least entertaining. Although he had some excellent parts to his act, for someone who had been in the business for as long as he has, he made some simple errors. Magician and Comedian, Matt Marcy, was very entertaining and had some unbelievable parts to his act. We really enjoyed the two appearances of the Flashback Four, a singing group featuring songs from a few decades back. Comedian Bud Anderson was fairly decent. Legends in Concert included Elton John, Tina Turner and Madonna impersonators. We had previously attended a performance in Las Vegas and so were familiar with the group. Of these three, the Madonna impersonator was the best.
Throughout the ship, various groups and individual entertainers rotated each evening. We saw most of them and they were entertaining and fairly good.
Cruise Director, Dan Olsson was very enthusiastic and, I might add, sang quite well himself.
These were used extensively and, on most days, a lounger could be found, but mostly on the upper deck. People were “reserving” loungers contrary to normal cruise line policy. To us, this is very inconsiderate not respective of others wishes for a few hours in the sun. I observed an attendant marking loungers but whether he freed them up for others I could not tell. Cruise lines need to be very proactive in this endeavour to make the facilities equally accessible for all.
The Outdoor Grill was not regularly open for this cruise but a BBQ was held on the last two days.
Cruise Critic Wrap-up.
This was something we had not experiences on previous NCL cruises, but it was very worthwhile. We had a meeting with the Hotel Director and Senior Staff on the last day in the Barcelona Meeting Room. We were informed to what extent the norovirus had been contained and that the restrictions would remain in place for the first couple of days on the next cruise. Everyone in attendance praised the staff for how the problem was handled and were thankful that appropriate measures had paid off.
Various comments were passed on to the staff who made notes for review and potential action. Well done.
Disembarkation was done by colour coding according to the time you wished to get off. As we were in no hurry, we chose a 9 A.M. departure. We were not hurried and it took us less than 45 minutes from leaving the ship to getting our baggage, going through immigration and getting to the airport. A breeze.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed this cruise on the Norwegian Pearl. Reviews that I have seen on other sites don’t seem to agree, but I guess not everyone can be pleased.
This could have been the “cruise from hell” given the situation, but all staff and crew members worked long and hard to make sure this didn’t happen. Hats off to everyone.