Background: 1. Been on Caribbean and Mexican cruises 6 total, but they were many years ago therefore I expected some changes. 2. Live near Seattle so no flight or hotel just drop off at the pier.
Ship and room: The Pearl looked fantastic to us and turned out to be fantastic! We booked a "Penthouse Suite" #10002" that came with a butler. (as time permits I will try to put a "September 2017 Cabin 1002" video on YouTube) The room was exactly as I expected because I had looked at several YouTube videos. It was clean and nice with fresh flowers on arrival. Very nice. This room has one of the biggest balcony areas on the ship because of location in the front. We (my wife and I) thought we might have all rainy weather and would not use the balcony much however there was sun in Seattle and Victoria. Juneau was rainy at times and clear other times, not too cold at all. The balcony was wonderful, even on rainy days when we stood outside and marveled at the fog nestled between tree filled cliffs as we cruised out of Juneau....great photos, hand holding with a romantic hug (with wife of course!) I was told the cruise was fully booked and I found that this size ship seems to give you plenty of room wherever you go, I only experienced one "crowd" on the first night when one dining room was full up and we were sent to the other one which was no problem. Fast service and good food. I will admit that my "activities" revolved around giving up my diet for a few days, ordering lots of room service, heading out of the room (which was so great one could spend the entire cruise there! ....bathtub...movies...great views out the window while "lounging" on the very comfortable bed...) uh, where was I ....oh yeah ...I often scampered out of the room (my exercise) up to "O'Sheehan's" for some of their great food (IMHO). It is "complimentary" food (we purchased the soda package for drinks) and the service was always fast, efficient, with everyone wanting to fulfill my needs even when I ordered one of their meals "differently" (please hold the veggies and mashed potatoes on the open faced hot roast beef sandwich...just the beef on the bread with extra gravy). My orders would come fast and the servers checked on me often.
Activities: Okay, I got a bit ahead of myself but I was getting saliva on the keyboard just thinking of my on board "activities" (for the record I only gained 2 pounds on this cruise even with the "food festival" I designed) . Activities: I had bought the "Thermal Spa Package" for my wife and she used it a lot. She would get up early and walk on the track, have a light buffet or Moderno's breakfast (included with our room -complimentary), then off to the Thermal Spa. She liked the features very much. Her only complaint (here comes one of those "hiccups") was there were 12 attendants/ Norwegian employees there however only one would give any assistance. The rest were busy selling. My wife does not require much attention but just getting minor questions answered was tough. (the lockers were not working as an example and the one person who would help could not figure out how to fix them) A "hiccup" that did not ruin a great cruise but it becomes a bit weird when so many Norwegian folks are anxious to help in so many other areas. To continue...we did not do a lot of the many activities in the common areas as we were busy with our "plans" running around the ship! We went to three of the shows and enjoyed them all. The performers work very hard and my review (being someone who does not normally go to shows...even on my many Vegas Trips) is that it was worth the time set aside to see them. Great dancers, OK impersonators, a featured singer who - in his show sang several semitones off key but gave his performance all he could to please us.
Dining: Oh yeah. I loved the prime rib the first night in the main dining room and asked for two slices from the git-go. The rest of the trip I ate a lot of New York steaks that were good, not great but very flavorful even though pretty tough. I liked them. At O'Sheehan's I had several things, all good, and ordered the open faced hot roast beef sandwich with gravy a number of times. My wife had a lot of seafood and when I asked her about the quality she said it all was delicious. At this point I have to RAVE about our butler Theresa. I have seen mixed reviews about whether butler, concierge, or room steward was the hero. For us it was Theresa who RAN to get whatever we wanted and would serve it in room on white table cloth with cloth napkins if we wanted (we did not push that too much as she did so many other things for us). I filled out "Hero" cards that are supplied on Theresa, Albert the room steward, and one of the assistant Maitre D' s at O'Sheehan's. I had an in depth discussion with someone at the Guest Services desk who enthusiastically explained that they really appreciate these cards with specifics on them. He told me they go to a box in the Cruise Directors office and then go to the "boss" (I forget his title). The important thing was that they are used to decide promotions. I got that verified from a second very reliable source. Our steward Albert was fantastic at everything including getting extra down pillows, emptying out the "mini bar" refrigerator so we could use it, and making sure we had enough "big" coffee cups! The point is that when you get people who are sincerely working hard to make every part of your cruise great.....it is impressive. IMHO, not so much with our concierge. More about that coming up. Stay tuned! (under excursions).
Excursions: Our ports were Juneau and Victoria B.C. When we met our concierge in Seattle her first priority was to "sell". She looked very disappointed immediately at our first meeting that we were doing tourist things on our own. We saw very little of her the rest of the cruise until we insisted she come by our cabin at one point (not a telephone conversation) to deal with a problem. Uh oh. Another "hiccup". Wait for it.... Landing in Juneau we decided on one of the "touristy" things - the tram up the mountain. We had a credit with Norwegian if we booked through them. So...we contacted our concierge who kind of blew us off (IMO) and said "see the girl in our booth as you disembark". OK, maybe that is the process. But in other reviews people RAVED about their concierge and how they went to great lengths. It was becoming clear people have different experiences on each cruise. We then walked down to the booth where a young Norwegian rep was more worried about getting rid of her coffee and getting more coffee than talking to us as we stood in front of the booth. Finally we enthusiastically said we wanted to purchase the tram "excursion". She says: "ummmm....I don't think it's running". To me she seemed distant. So I pressed her with "Do you KNOW if it is not running". She says "I think it is not running. I think someone told me." We asked if she could contact them by phone and she said no she had no phone and told us to go there and find out if we wanted. Ouch. Blew off by another Norwegian "excursion specialist". We walked to the tram which was running fine every 5 or 6 minutes the whole day. We paid full price, and I would highly recommend taking this very scenic tram up the mountain looking down on Juneau and our cruise ship. A fun ride up and back down after visiting the lookout and the store. Lots of opportunities for great pictures or movies even in rain! When we told the tram management that the cruise booth said they were closed they rolled their eyes and said it was a common problem. On the way back we stopped at the booth where the girl had her head down doing paperwork. I told her that the tram was running all day. She shook her head and did not look up. I was not happy and asked for her name and she pointed to her badge continuing with her work. I then asked her to write it down and she got mad at me as she wrote it down saying "Not my fault. The manager called me and told me they were closed." What? Called on what phone? That's not what you said! .......She changed her story at least 3 times as I asked questions. Back in the room we called our concierge who wanted only to deal on the phone and seemed put out when asked to come talk in person for just a few minutes. We presented the situation to the concierge with the girl's name. She said she would get back to us. To her credit she came back after a while and informed us she got our excursion credit added to our account as a cash credit. OK. Nice. But then added something defending the girl and the changing stories. That is not how to handle a "hiccup" like this with a customer. 1. Apologize for any "misunderstandings", 2. Give the credit information and leave the customer with a good taste in their mouth. No need to add extra argument! Needless to say we did not see her near our cabin for the rest of the cruise (or even before that as I have said)....and that was fine, as Theresa and Albert were on a dead run to not only get everything we needed (and we did not need much) as well as bringing by extras for us. True heroes. The "tram incident", as it will go down in history, was a "hiccup" that did not taint the overall Norwegian Pearl cruise experience very much. Our other "excursion" experience was our own as we wandered around Victoria on a sunny day that even seemed quite warm for the time of year. Fun. Then back to the ship for great food (IMHO).
Well I hope some of this helps. I read Cruise Critic reviews, watched YouTube videos of cabins and the ship tour, and called the Norwegian "expert" line at least ten times where different people gave me different answers on about a third of my many questions. They were friendly and enthusiastic but seemed to have to "look up" answers to what I thought would be easy to answer by an expert. Very nice people. For me, I got my BEST information from the Cruise Critic reviews. Obviously there were differing opinions (one person on a different review site called the tram a "tourist trap" - yikes! We could have been trapped!) Different people have different expectations however in total I could see a big picture of what to expect / understand differences. I did not know about Cruise Critic before this. I was impressed by the "Meet and Greet" organized on board for the members. Thanks to all who post their experiences here in the past and to Cruise Critic for being here.
Finally: 1. Yes we would go again. We would like to go in the summer for my wife's birthday instead of Las Vegas, but the prices SKYROCKET (we don't need another penthouse suite...but the prices are still a problem that may stop us). Hard to tell if we will get to go again on the 7 day version. 2. Yes, embarkation and disembarkation (priority handling for the suite) was rocket fast and efficient.
Bon voyage mes amis!
Great. Fantastic balcony. Kept immaculate by the room steward who visited often (not too often) and asked many times how we liked the room and if we needed anything. Loved having Theresa the butler and wish we could afford someone like her at home! :)