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This was a once in a life time deal to sail to the Panama Canal and see what it was all about. We have sailed on RCL and Princess in the past. Lots of factors involved in deciding on this cruise but location, timing and price where major factors. Not sure if "price point" is where NCL fits in but I somehow thought in my mind that we were signing up for a top notch cruise and we were both very excited. The start of the cruise might have been some clue as to what we were to encounter. The boarding process had been moved to San Diego for some reason ??? Los Angeles has a beautiful terminal that can handle large crowds and do it smoothly. Right from the beginning it appeared that it was rookie status. Simply unloading baggage was confusing and unorganized. "Is this the first time they have done this" seemed to be a common question in regard to handling logistics with this ship and cruise line. The terminal in San Diego is in a nice area with lots to see and do but the process to get on the ship was terrible and I would not recommend it to anyone. Not sure they could screw it up any better???? Next up was the birthday surprise for my wife from my adult children. My son tried to use NCL's website to send a BD gift to my wife and our friend on the ship. The website crashed while he was in the process and had to start over, which ended up causing him to be double billed. There was never an acknowledgement of the gift by NCL to my wife or our friend, just a credit on our bill??? "Is this the first time they have done this"??? Missing Cabo San Lucas was not NCL's fault and I did'nt mind the extra sea days but stopping in Pueto Quetzal was not what we thought it would be. It was nice to get off the ship for a few hours (again the unloading process seemed like a new concept to the staff). Would not go back to Guatemala. The tendering process was worse in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. The captain said it was because the swells were going one direction and the wind was going another,"Is this the first time they have done this"??? The meeting in the Stardust Theater was not organized and just seemed like rookie status. Part of our group finally made it to a tender only to have a motor fail. They floated around in the bay for 1/2 hour while other tenders went by trying while tender 10 captain was trying to restart the motor???? "Is this the first time they have done this"?? We just spent at least 4 days at sea did anyone think to check all of that stuff out to make sure it was ready to go???? Both Guatemala and Nicaragua are disgusting places to visit and really not sure why we stopped there. We did sign up for the Zip Line in Costa Rica and again the boarding process was a mess but the Zip Line Operation was dialed in. Very well run and organized and able to handle the 4-5 buses full of us needing a break from the ship. The Panama Canal was interesting but it might have been more interesting to visit Panama City or Colon while going through the Canal instead of the first two. The locks are amazing and the process was very cool. The history behind this area is incredible and worth investigating. I thought Cartagena Columbia would be a breath of fresh air after the disappointment of the first two stops but..... We signed up for the catamaran transfer to the old city. The city is amazing looking from the water going in. On the way in the catamaran captain warned us about the street vendors. He said just say, "No Garcias" and they will leave you alone. Almost before the boat docked, the vendors were shoving stuff inside the boat trying to get us "rich Americanos" to buy their crap. This continued for a block and half where the entrance into the old city is found, then inside the beautiful old city. As we walked along the streets it continued. The only way to get away from them was to duck into a shop and take a breather. Someone suggested that the street vendors are not locals but from Venezuela as their economy crashes??? Not sure, but what could have been an awesome experience walking around the old city and enjoying the nice people, turned into a battle to avoid a fight with the street vendors because we would not buy from them!!! The shop keepers inside the old city were very nice and very accommodating to us, get rid of the street vendors and I might go back. Next stop was George Town in Grand Cayman. The one bright spot in the cruise. We loved this little island and will find a way to get back there someday. The Rum tour was awesome, our guide was awesome and the people there were great. The sea days weren't bad on the Pearl but they just seemed to lack that extra little something we had experienced on other ships. The Halloween costume party was totally lame and the group that had gone above and beyond to dress up got tossed in the first round, again my thoughts were "Is this the first time they have done this"??? We really wanted to watch the World Series which involved the Dodgers but were told that the ship would have to pay a royalty to get the games and Miami (the head office) wasn't going to do that. So we got days and days of World Cup Soccer instead (not a fan). The best the ship could do was to post the score (only once) on the ships channel. Really, "Is this the first time they have done this"??? The unloading (disembarkation) process in Tampa was an absolute joke. We were given instructions and followed them to a T, but the ship began giving out different directions which conflicted with the pervious instructions. We were supposed to disembark by 0845 but did not leave until 1030. If you are not a fan of waiting for ever in long lines do not unload in Tampa (I am sure it was a combination of the boat staff and the terminal staff, long lines in each area). They tried to say it was everyone else's fault (customs, dock handlers, etc) but I watched as handlers and shore personnel were standing around, "Is this the first time they have done this"?? On previous cruises, it seemed, that as soon as the dock lines were secured the ramps went down, stuff started flying off the ship??? In the past we were actually disappointed to get off the ship and did not want it to end, in this case we were happy to be off and on our way to our next activity. Not sure how this happened but, the one thing NCL did get right was the service staff. From the bartenders to the cabin steward, these hard working people have a clue and were the one thing that would put a smile on our faces. The food was good and the specialty restaurants were nice but, it was hard for them to make up for the deficiencies of the rest of the ship. We were looking for an adventure and I guess that is kinda of what we got. Next time, I think we are booking with Princess.

"Is this the first time they have done this"

Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review by bajabob

Trip Details
This was a once in a life time deal to sail to the Panama Canal and see what it was all about. We have sailed on RCL and Princess in the past. Lots of factors involved in deciding on this cruise but location, timing and price where major factors. Not sure if "price point" is where NCL fits in but I somehow thought in my mind that we were signing up for a top notch cruise and we were both very excited.

The start of the cruise might have been some clue as to what we were to encounter. The boarding process had been moved to San Diego for some reason ??? Los Angeles has a beautiful terminal that can handle large crowds and do it smoothly. Right from the beginning it appeared that it was rookie status. Simply unloading baggage was confusing and unorganized. "Is this the first time they have done this" seemed to be a common question in regard to handling logistics with this ship and cruise line. The terminal in San Diego is in a nice area with lots to see and do but the process to get on the ship was terrible and I would not recommend it to anyone. Not sure they could screw it up any better????

Next up was the birthday surprise for my wife from my adult children. My son tried to use NCL's website to send a BD gift to my wife and our friend on the ship. The website crashed while he was in the process and had to start over, which ended up causing him to be double billed. There was never an acknowledgement of the gift by NCL to my wife or our friend, just a credit on our bill??? "Is this the first time they have done this"???

Missing Cabo San Lucas was not NCL's fault and I did'nt mind the extra sea days but stopping in Pueto Quetzal was not what we thought it would be. It was nice to get off the ship for a few hours (again the unloading process seemed like a new concept to the staff). Would not go back to Guatemala. The tendering process was worse in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. The captain said it was because the swells were going one direction and the wind was going another,"Is this the first time they have done this"??? The meeting in the Stardust Theater was not organized and just seemed like rookie status. Part of our group finally made it to a tender only to have a motor fail. They floated around in the bay for 1/2 hour while other tenders went by trying while tender 10 captain was trying to restart the motor???? "Is this the first time they have done this"?? We just spent at least 4 days at sea did anyone think to check all of that stuff out to make sure it was ready to go????

Both Guatemala and Nicaragua are disgusting places to visit and really not sure why we stopped there.

We did sign up for the Zip Line in Costa Rica and again the boarding process was a mess but the Zip Line Operation was dialed in. Very well run and organized and able to handle the 4-5 buses full of us needing a break from the ship.

The Panama Canal was interesting but it might have been more interesting to visit Panama City or Colon while going through the Canal instead of the first two. The locks are amazing and the process was very cool. The history behind this area is incredible and worth investigating.

I thought Cartagena Columbia would be a breath of fresh air after the disappointment of the first two stops but..... We signed up for the catamaran transfer to the old city. The city is amazing looking from the water going in. On the way in the catamaran captain warned us about the street vendors. He said just say, "No Garcias" and they will leave you alone. Almost before the boat docked, the vendors were shoving stuff inside the boat trying to get us "rich Americanos" to buy their crap. This continued for a block and half where the entrance into the old city is found, then inside the beautiful old city. As we walked along the streets it continued. The only way to get away from them was to duck into a shop and take a breather. Someone suggested that the street vendors are not locals but from Venezuela as their economy crashes??? Not sure, but what could have been an awesome experience walking around the old city and enjoying the nice people, turned into a battle to avoid a fight with the street vendors because we would not buy from them!!! The shop keepers inside the old city were very nice and very accommodating to us, get rid of the street vendors and I might go back.

Next stop was George Town in Grand Cayman. The one bright spot in the cruise. We loved this little island and will find a way to get back there someday. The Rum tour was awesome, our guide was awesome and the people there were great.

The sea days weren't bad on the Pearl but they just seemed to lack that extra little something we had experienced on other ships.

The Halloween costume party was totally lame and the group that had gone above and beyond to dress up got tossed in the first round, again my thoughts were "Is this the first time they have done this"???

We really wanted to watch the World Series which involved the Dodgers but were told that the ship would have to pay a royalty to get the games and Miami (the head office) wasn't going to do that. So we got days and days of World Cup Soccer instead (not a fan). The best the ship could do was to post the score (only once) on the ships channel. Really, "Is this the first time they have done this"???

The unloading (disembarkation) process in Tampa was an absolute joke. We were given instructions and followed them to a T, but the ship began giving out different directions which conflicted with the pervious instructions. We were supposed to disembark by 0845 but did not leave until 1030. If you are not a fan of waiting for ever in long lines do not unload in Tampa (I am sure it was a combination of the boat staff and the terminal staff, long lines in each area). They tried to say it was everyone else's fault (customs, dock handlers, etc) but I watched as handlers and shore personnel were standing around, "Is this the first time they have done this"?? On previous cruises, it seemed, that as soon as the dock lines were secured the ramps went down, stuff started flying off the ship???

In the past we were actually disappointed to get off the ship and did not want it to end, in this case we were happy to be off and on our way to our next activity.

Not sure how this happened but, the one thing NCL did get right was the service staff. From the bartenders to the cabin steward, these hard working people have a clue and were the one thing that would put a smile on our faces. The food was good and the specialty restaurants were nice but, it was hard for them to make up for the deficiencies of the rest of the ship.

We were looking for an adventure and I guess that is kinda of what we got. Next time, I think we are booking with Princess.
bajabob’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Mid-Ship Balcony
Cabin BA 10122
The cabin was nice but very small, the cabin we had on our Princess cruise was slightly bigger, which was nice.
Deck 10 Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews