First Time With NCL. It was DEFINITELY a PEARL!: Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review by castlecruisers

Norwegian Pearl 5
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First Time With NCL. It was DEFINITELY a PEARL!

Sail Date: January 2010
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation: Miami
This was our 5th cruise in the last 4 years. We have yet to have a "bad cruise experience" like some others have listed previously. We were traveling by car from Jacksonville, FL, about a 5 hour drive, so we left home at 5:00 am to give us extra time in case of traffic problems or anything else unexpected. No problems on the drive down I-95 and we arrived at the parking garage right on time at 10:00. We actually had to wait about 45 minutes to get our shuttle to the pier. We parked in a park-n-fly garage that I booked independently online for only $87 total for the week which included round trip shuttle service. The garage was located about 5 minutes from the pier. It was a great choice over the $20/day that the port of Miami charges.

Embarkation was smooth and seamless. We actually had to wait again in a "holding area" because we were so early, I guess. But it was only for about 20 minutes and then we were off to board the ship. I will say that something struck me as very More strange while traveling from the check-in desk all the way to the ship! We only had to show our sail cards ONCE and no picture ID's until the moment that we actually walked through the glass doors of the ship. We have traveled previously with Carnival and RCCL, both of which made us show our DL's and sail cards MULTIPLE times at multiple locations while boarding the ship. It was definitely more convenient not to pull out the cards, but a little troublesome, given today's troubled climate of terrorism, especially in the US. I was probably overanalyzing the situation, but food for thought?!? This is also the FIRST SHIP that we have traveled on that had someone spraying your hands with hand sanitizer everytime you turned around. Again, probably paranoid, but I was curious if the Pearl had a breakout of Norwalk previously or whether this was standard procedure for NCL? Either way, it was a good thing, I'm sure. Without getting too detailed with an extensive review, I will simply list some pros and cons that we found with the Pearl and NCL:

Things we liked: Flexibility of dining times, quality and selection of food in the Garden Cafe, quality of food in the main dining rooms and ability to sit exclusively with YOUR party and not with strangers, flexibility to wear casual resort attire in the Indigo dining room (collared shirt, pleated shorts and sandals), quality of the entertainment all week (Oh what a night tribute and Sharkbait were tops), layout and decor of the ship, clothing shelf space available in our cabin, layout of bathroom and shower (EXCEPT the TOILET! I am 6'4" and had to sit sideways due to lack of leg room), Very good stateroom staff, free scoopable ice cream in Garden Cafe, A CREPE' STATION in the Garden Cafe (Yummy), Total of 5 different omelette stations available in the Garden Cafe for breakfast (Never had to wait for a fresh omelette), multiple bed style lounges on the pool deck and in the Bliss and Spinnaker lounges, NCL does not precede there nightly shows with a Bingo game. We've noticed that Carnival does this so the Bingo participants always stay for the show and you could never get a decent seat. We did not have any problems getting good seats in the Stardust Theater on the NCL Pearl.

Things we didn't like: Very obvious decrease in the level of service in the main dining rooms which we can only attribute to the freestyle dining experience, Only water, tea and coffee to drink at dinner, unless you were drinking a purchased pepsi or alcohol (No fruit punch, lemonade or hot chocolate like found on Carnival and RCCL), $5/per person/per game for bowling (should be a free option just like the rock climbing), Late night comedy and adult only shows were limited to the Spinnaker Lounge instead of the Stardust theater. You could never find a seat and most of the time could not see the actual stage. Overall, we would rate this cruise a 9 out of 10 and definitely our favorite so far, not only for the ship, but also for the itenerary. We will definitely sail with NCL again, as the positives to freestyle dining out weigh the negatives of the decrease in service. The food quality was spectacular, probably the best overall of any cruiseline we've traveled with so far. We almost always book our cruises based on the total dollar value. NCL was a great value for us and exceeded our expectations! We will definitely book with NCL again in the future. Less

Published 01/11/10

Cabin review: IC11135 Inside

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Port and Shore Excursions

What can I say that already hasn't been said about St. Thomas. The most beautiful and scenic island in the Caribbean, in my opinion.

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Baths at Virgin Gorda! Need I say more! It was a must see on our itinerary and was the absolute highlight of our trip. Again, researched this one online ahead of time and did it independently with Speedy's fairy service. $38/pp round trip which included taxi service to the baths. Only $28/pp for 12 & under. Turns out this excursion booked through the ship got cancelled (not sure why???) so we were wise to do it on our own. Also, saved a ton of money doing it on our own. MAKE A NOTE HOWEVER: The Speedy's fairy is about a 15 minute walk once on the pier in Road Town. Check the daily fairy times online before leaving on your cruise and give yourself extra time to walk there. The fairy's only run on 1 1/2 hour intervals.

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