1. Home
  2. Cruise Reviews
  3. Norwegian Pearl
INTRO Despite the fact that our NCL cruise to Mexico in 2008 on the Star still ranked the worst of our 14 cruises to date, we decided to give NCL another try due to price and convenience on a round trip to Alaska out of Seattle where we live. We traveled with my brother and SIL and I am happy to report that overall, we had an excellent experience. We started by booking an inside and ended up in a mini-suite due to price changes and calling NCL to change cabins. Brother and SIL kept their inside cabin. EMBARKATION Very easy. Son dropped us off in front of the pier at about 11:30 and it took not more than about 30 minutes to check in and get on board. We were told that rooms wouldn’t be ready until 1:30 or 2:00. Having known this, we’d decided to meet for lunch in the Summer Palace Dining room which was a great decision. The buffet on embarkation on every other cruise we’ve taken has been a madhouse. So, we had a nice leisurely lunch and were about done when announcements came that rooms were ready. ROOM We ended up in a mini-suite which was great but I wouldn’t pay extra for if given the choice between it and a balcony. I don’t know the difference between it and a regular balcony but it did have a bathtub and a mini coffee pot (probably the best part). Also a curtain that separated the bed area from the couch/tv/balcony area. This was actually handy when one wanted to sleep a bit later. My brother had an inside cabin which was quite a bit smaller with less storage but was suitable for them. They were a bit disappointed with their cabin steward though, having missed making up their cabin a couple of times. Raymond, our steward was excellent. He always greeted us by name and gave us the greatest towel animals ever. We were on deck 11 which I would probably avoid in a warmer climate as it is directly below the pool deck. Not a lot of folks out there in this climate but when we were out on the balcony we could hear chairs being moved around above us. FOOD Unlike our prior NCL cruise we found the food was acceptable to pretty good. I don’t expect gourmet dining on a mass market cruise ship but I do expect to find decent things to eat. For dinner, we mostly ate at the dining room – preferring the Indigo which, with more subtle lighting, has an atmosphere more like a restaurant. The buffet was pretty typical with what must be powdered scrambled eggs but egg/omelet stations as well. TIP – The farther back in the buffet area you go, generally the less crowded it will be. We also found that they had different lunch options than the rest of the buffet and enjoyed a very good German lunch one day. We ate lunch twice in the dining room and found it odd that the menu was the same both days. Our server said it was the same for the entire week. I don’t recall that being the case on other cruises, but I don’t think we ate lunch in the dining room very often so I could certainly be wrong. We ate once at Moderno which offers an excellent salad bar and a meat overload. It was fine, but don’t think I’ll be going to this type a restaurant again in the near future. DH is gluten free due to celiac disease and they noted that in their system when we boarded and were aware any time either my DH or I (as opposed to those we traveled with) gave their cards when being seated for dinner. They offered DH GF bread with dinner a couple of times but he’s not overly fond of it so didn’t ask himself. He did ask about items at the buffet once or twice and had a chef come out and walk him through what he could eat. I’d been a bit concerned about the GF issue but I think they accommodated very well. ENTERTAINMENT I usually hate production shows on cruises but agreed to go to the opening night on this cruise and was very pleasantly surprised. In addition, we attended the comedy show, the Not So Newlywed Show and the Elvis impersonator show, all of which we enjoyed. We went to a karaoke session one night (my second time at karaoke) and I’ve decided it’s not my thing. My SIL and I sat in the piano bar one night and enjoyed the performer. I thought he was an excellent piano player but the singing could have been better. Did see the bar packed on subsequent nights. DH loves trivia so we played at that usually once or twice a day and had fun. DH and I went bowling on the first night which was really rolling seas and that was pretty funny. I think I scored 39 and he got 54. PORTS We had fabulous weather the entire time. Highs 62-70 degrees and sunny at least in the afternoon. The only day I put anything really warm on was when were in Glacier Bay. Mostly t-shirts and maybe a sweater, windbreaker or fleece to throw on. So as you’ve read many times before - layer up! We’d been to Alaska once before doing Tracy Arm rather than Glacier Bay which we did on this cruise but otherwise, the ports were the same. Tours are quite expensive and we did this more for the cruise than the ports so didn’t do a lot. • Juneau – Short time in port from 2:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Took the tram up to Mount Roberts and went on a short hike. Fabulous views from up there with the best pictures probably being right as you exit the tram. Well worth the price. Walked around and did some shopping after. • Skagway – We docked early so looked around the little tourist town. Got our NPS passport books stamped at the museum then walked to our meeting point for our Chilkoot Rail/Bus tour. We took the train up to White Pass which is in Canada and then took a bus back down, making several stops for pictures along the way rather than taking the train both ways. It was fun standing out on the platform between cars. • Glacier Bay – Obviously not a port but definitely a highlight. Our longest stop was at Johns Hopkins glacier where we saw some small chunks of ice break off. That was followed by a short visit to the Margaret (sp?) glacier where there was one huge calving, sending broken ice all the way up to the ship. The views are fabulous but I had no idea about the loud, booming sounds when the fell. It was amazing! • Ketchikan – Gets about 5X more rain than our hometown in Seattle but another good day with temps in the low 60s and some sunshine. Also another short day in that we had to be back on board by about 12:45 pm. We went to Creek Street and then did the walking tour you can find online. It was interesting to see some residential neighborhoods in addition to the main tourist area. Best of all was seeing the salmon spawning area as shown on the map – literally hundreds of salmon just sitting there. Similar sites in a couple of other areas along the walk. Also lots of dead fish everywhere that didn’t smell very good especially with the tide out, but that’s part of the process. • Victoria – This was a very short stop from 6:00 pm to midnight. DH was tired and having been to Victoria several times decided to stay aboard and pack up (thanks honey!) So the other 3 of us took the bus from the port to downtown ($13 pp roundtrip). Victoria is a popular weekend trip from Seattle and we’d all been there a couple of times before. We walked around a bit and decided to go back to the ship. The four of us had our last dinner at Indigo about 9:30 pm and went to bed after that. DEBARKATION Since we had the luxury of having our son pick us up we’d chosen the latest debarkation time at 9:15 so had a leisurely breakfast in the buffet and went back to our room to await our luggage tag color being called. I believe the first call for walk-off only came about 7:00 or 7:15. They called several groups off about 9:00 am and maybe too 20 minutes to get through the line and customs. We’d texted him earlier so son had parked at the garage across the street and was waiting for us. Easy! Too bad we don’t live in California or Florida!

NCL Pearl to Alaska - What a difference a decade makes!

Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review by Brickwood

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: September 2018
  • Destination: Alaska
  • Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Mini-Suite with Balcony
INTRO

Despite the fact that our NCL cruise to Mexico in 2008 on the Star still ranked the worst of our 14 cruises to date, we decided to give NCL another try due to price and convenience on a round trip to Alaska out of Seattle where we live. We traveled with my brother and SIL and I am happy to report that overall, we had an excellent experience. We started by booking an inside and ended up in a mini-suite due to price changes and calling NCL to change cabins. Brother and SIL kept their inside cabin.

EMBARKATION

Very easy. Son dropped us off in front of the pier at about 11:30 and it took not more than about 30 minutes to check in and get on board. We were told that rooms wouldn’t be ready until 1:30 or 2:00. Having known this, we’d decided to meet for lunch in the Summer Palace Dining room which was a great decision. The buffet on embarkation on every other cruise we’ve taken has been a madhouse. So, we had a nice leisurely lunch and were about done when announcements came that rooms were ready.

ROOM

We ended up in a mini-suite which was great but I wouldn’t pay extra for if given the choice between it and a balcony. I don’t know the difference between it and a regular balcony but it did have a bathtub and a mini coffee pot (probably the best part). Also a curtain that separated the bed area from the couch/tv/balcony area. This was actually handy when one wanted to sleep a bit later. My brother had an inside cabin which was quite a bit smaller with less storage but was suitable for them. They were a bit disappointed with their cabin steward though, having missed making up their cabin a couple of times. Raymond, our steward was excellent. He always greeted us by name and gave us the greatest towel animals ever. We were on deck 11 which I would probably avoid in a warmer climate as it is directly below the pool deck. Not a lot of folks out there in this climate but when we were out on the balcony we could hear chairs being moved around above us.

FOOD

Unlike our prior NCL cruise we found the food was acceptable to pretty good. I don’t expect gourmet dining on a mass market cruise ship but I do expect to find decent things to eat. For dinner, we mostly ate at the dining room – preferring the Indigo which, with more subtle lighting, has an atmosphere more like a restaurant. The buffet was pretty typical with what must be powdered scrambled eggs but egg/omelet stations as well. TIP – The farther back in the buffet area you go, generally the less crowded it will be. We also found that they had different lunch options than the rest of the buffet and enjoyed a very good German lunch one day. We ate lunch twice in the dining room and found it odd that the menu was the same both days. Our server said it was the same for the entire week. I don’t recall that being the case on other cruises, but I don’t think we ate lunch in the dining room very often so I could certainly be wrong. We ate once at Moderno which offers an excellent salad bar and a meat overload. It was fine, but don’t think I’ll be going to this type a restaurant again in the near future. DH is gluten free due to celiac disease and they noted that in their system when we boarded and were aware any time either my DH or I (as opposed to those we traveled with) gave their cards when being seated for dinner. They offered DH GF bread with dinner a couple of times but he’s not overly fond of it so didn’t ask himself. He did ask about items at the buffet once or twice and had a chef come out and walk him through what he could eat. I’d been a bit concerned about the GF issue but I think they accommodated very well.

ENTERTAINMENT

I usually hate production shows on cruises but agreed to go to the opening night on this cruise and was very pleasantly surprised. In addition, we attended the comedy show, the Not So Newlywed Show and the Elvis impersonator show, all of which we enjoyed. We went to a karaoke session one night (my second time at karaoke) and I’ve decided it’s not my thing. My SIL and I sat in the piano bar one night and enjoyed the performer. I thought he was an excellent piano player but the singing could have been better. Did see the bar packed on subsequent nights. DH loves trivia so we played at that usually once or twice a day and had fun. DH and I went bowling on the first night which was really rolling seas and that was pretty funny. I think I scored 39 and he got 54.

PORTS

We had fabulous weather the entire time. Highs 62-70 degrees and sunny at least in the afternoon. The only day I put anything really warm on was when were in Glacier Bay. Mostly t-shirts and maybe a sweater, windbreaker or fleece to throw on. So as you’ve read many times before - layer up! We’d been to Alaska once before doing Tracy Arm rather than Glacier Bay which we did on this cruise but otherwise, the ports were the same. Tours are quite expensive and we did this more for the cruise than the ports so didn’t do a lot.

• Juneau – Short time in port from 2:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Took the tram up to Mount Roberts and went on a short hike. Fabulous views from up there with the best pictures probably being right as you exit the tram. Well worth the price. Walked around and did some shopping after.

• Skagway – We docked early so looked around the little tourist town. Got our NPS passport books stamped at the museum then walked to our meeting point for our Chilkoot Rail/Bus tour. We took the train up to White Pass which is in Canada and then took a bus back down, making several stops for pictures along the way rather than taking the train both ways. It was fun standing out on the platform between cars.

• Glacier Bay – Obviously not a port but definitely a highlight. Our longest stop was at Johns Hopkins glacier where we saw some small chunks of ice break off. That was followed by a short visit to the Margaret (sp?) glacier where there was one huge calving, sending broken ice all the way up to the ship. The views are fabulous but I had no idea about the loud, booming sounds when the fell. It was amazing!

• Ketchikan – Gets about 5X more rain than our hometown in Seattle but another good day with temps in the low 60s and some sunshine. Also another short day in that we had to be back on board by about 12:45 pm. We went to Creek Street and then did the walking tour you can find online. It was interesting to see some residential neighborhoods in addition to the main tourist area. Best of all was seeing the salmon spawning area as shown on the map – literally hundreds of salmon just sitting there. Similar sites in a couple of other areas along the walk. Also lots of dead fish everywhere that didn’t smell very good especially with the tide out, but that’s part of the process.

• Victoria – This was a very short stop from 6:00 pm to midnight. DH was tired and having been to Victoria several times decided to stay aboard and pack up (thanks honey!) So the other 3 of us took the bus from the port to downtown ($13 pp roundtrip). Victoria is a popular weekend trip from Seattle and we’d all been there a couple of times before. We walked around a bit and decided to go back to the ship. The four of us had our last dinner at Indigo about 9:30 pm and went to bed after that.

DEBARKATION

Since we had the luxury of having our son pick us up we’d chosen the latest debarkation time at 9:15 so had a leisurely breakfast in the buffet and went back to our room to await our luggage tag color being called. I believe the first call for walk-off only came about 7:00 or 7:15. They called several groups off about 9:00 am and maybe too 20 minutes to get through the line and customs. We’d texted him earlier so son had parked at the garage across the street and was waiting for us. Easy! Too bad we don’t live in California or Florida!
Brickwood’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Service
Onboard Experience
Free Price Drop Alerts
Get Norwegian Pearl price drops
250,000+ people have entered their email
By proceeding, you agree to Cruise Critic’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Cabin Review

Mid-Ship Mini-Suite with Balcony
Cabin MA 11538
Loved the one cup coffee maker and curtain that could be pulled between the bed and the couch/tv area. Didn't have much use for the bath but the larger shower nice. Beware deck 11 as you are under the pool deck and may hear chairs being dragged on the deck above you when you are on your balcony. I would not pay extra for this over a regular balcony cabin.
Deck 11 Inside Cabins, Suite Cabins