Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review by eRodriguez321
- Sail Date: September 2018
- Destination: Alaska
- Cabin Type: Balcony
We picked this cruise as a backup solution. We had planned an Oregon (specifically Crater Lake) hiking trip but the smoke from the forest fires was making it a waste of time and money. About 10 days before I started looking for alternatives and found a 7 day Alaska Cruise on the Norwegian Pearl. It seemed perfect. I could get a balcony at a reasonable price and we'd get the Free at Sea package (free drink package + 3 nights of dining at their specialty restaurants and $100 to spend onboard). By the time I called, 2 days later, I was told I could no longer have the free at sea package. They would still sell me the balcony room, but there would be no drink package, dining or on board spending. I probably should've realized something was up then, but I didn't think it would be such a big deal. We're not big drinkers and you don't HAVE to pay to dine, so I booked it. Of course, it became apparent once on board that we were part of a VERY small minority without such perks and therefore started to feel like second class cruisers.
The cruise mostly went smoothly. The ship itself is a nice size, not so big that you feel lost in the masses but not so small that you find yourself bored. The bowling alley is cute though it was just one more thing that cost "just a little bit" extra and all those extras add up. The itinerary was amazing. Alaska is gorgeous.
The staff were ok. The room steward did his job well if without ever actually bumping into us. Our ice bucket seemed to only get filled on nights we didn't want to use it, but that's a minor thing. The bar staff varied greatly. We had a really great bar tender up in the Sugar Cane Lounge (near the fancy restaurants) but bar tenders elsewhere would refuse to make my drink of choice because they hadn't made it before, or others would oblige and then charge it as a "premium" cocktail despite using house gin. I didn't feel like we really got to know any of them which is odd for a 7 day cruise.
I will say that the food was better than on a Carnival or even Royal Caribbean cruise. It was only slightly better in the free dining options (the Main dining room, O'Sheehan's and the Lotus Garden) but MUCH better in the two restaurants we tried (Cagney's and Moderno). You clearly get a discount for being on the boat (neither night cost more than $100) so I'd say they're worth it.
The entertainment was good, though I felt they had one too many solo singer shows and not enough full cast broadway style numbers. As far as I can tell, it was one full production and three solo singers which seemed an odd mix. A lot of their lounge/bar entertainment was really fantastic though. Lots of truly talented people.
Last, and perhaps most importantly, is the spa. We booked a couples "Bath Ritual & Swedish Massage" for the first at sea day. First, the spa staff were not at all helpful or welcoming. It was clearly an imposition on them that we wished to book something. When we arrived for our service they weren't ready. We spent 30 minutes waiting in the lobby while the staff studiously ignored us. When we finally got in to the spa itself, we both had lockers that malfunctioned. Mine wouldn't lock and my husband's wouldn't unlock (there's irony there somewhere).
Next, the bath was so hot it actually burned my husband. I don't know how the two staff members could have thought it was at a reasonable temperature. As soon as we made them actually test the water, they rushed to try and drain and then cool the bath, but even they couldn't stand to put their hand in to grab the drain so it was a slow arduous process involving bowls. We spent another 20 minutes sitting around awkwardly in our swimsuits while they struggled to adjust the bath. It was a bit late at that point. I was flustered and now hot, the bath was still HOT but at least not too hot to stand and the tub itself was terribly uncomfortable. Save your money and just get the massage. I thought they might offer us some sort of discount or credit as an apology, but no compensation was offered and I wasn't going to ask.
The massages themselves were great and I had almost forgotten the fiasco until the end of the cruise when I discovered the spa manager had charged us a second time for the same ritual... for no apparent reason.
This brings me to the front desk/debarkation. We decided to self-assist or easy walk off. So we had all our bags with us (thank god) when we stopped at the front desk around 8am to ask about the second charge. We talk to someone at the desk, explain we went to the spa ONCE and only once and were not inclined to go again, and would like them to void/refund the second nearly $400 charge. The woman listens and then disappears to the back room. Apparently the actual decision makers are there. She's just a go-between. Fifteen minutes later she returns and says she verified that we, indeed, only have one signed receipt from the spa, she has called the spa and they will refund the money, she will print us a new statement in 10 minutes if we just wait off to the side.
So we go to wait off to the side, the line balloons to huge proportions... and 35 minutes go by. Now, our flight is at 11am and SeaTac is about 25-30 minutes away so we're now within the window during which we need to leave. I make my way back into line and 10 minutes later am approached by the manager to ask about my complaint (he was clearly triaging the line). I explain that I've already had a conversation with the lady at the desk, we've already verified the charges are incorrect, and I just need my bill actually fixed.He goes to the back room again and ten minutes later comes out with a phone and has me speak to the spa manager who I have to convince AGAIN that they have charged me incorrectly and need to refund the money. NOW, seeing as I'll be lucky to make it to the airport with an hour and a half before my flight and I need to check bags (for anyone who isn't familiar, most airlines shut down checking of bags 45 minutes before the flight). So to recap, the spa bungled the service, charged me twice and then the front desk crew took THREE tries and 55 minutes to finally correct the error. At this point I'm told to wait ANOTHER five minutes and he WILL get me a corrected statement. More like 10 minutes later we're finally handed a corrected statement and allowed to at least skip PART of the debarkation line.
At this point it was 9:15 and we still had to get down the gangway, through customs, find a taxi and to the airport. We rolled up to the airport at 9:50 so with less than 25 minutes to spare with respect to checking bags and only 45 minutes before boarding began. The lines were huge. If I hadn't been a United Premiere member and both of us TSA precheck approved, I'm not sure we would have made it.
So, yes, the cruise was fantastic, we had a great time. But I feel like I was cheated out of the "Free at Sea" and then charged at every possible turn (in some cases twice) and it made debarkation a nightmare. I'm honestly not sure if we'll use Norwegian again. It will really depend on whether we can get the right deal.
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