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This was our 3rd cruise with NCL, we chose a 10 day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Pearl. It was my husband and I and another couple. My husband and I are 40, very laid back and just love the cruise life! Embarkation in Tampa went smoothly, we arrived early (9:30-ish?) and were on the ship before noon with Mojitos in hand! Having sailed on the Dawn and the Epic, the Pearl is similar to the Dawn. So far we prefer the ease of navigating the smaller ships and think they feel less crowded. There were very few times we felt overwhelmed with people. Highlights of the ship for us were the Spinnaker Lounge with all the windows overlooking the sea, the promenade on deck 7, and the Great Outdoors located on deck 12 aft. The Pearl doesn't have a lot of the bells and whistles the newer larger ships have, but we don't need those things anyway. We like to rest and take it easy while on vacation. Our cabin, 4551, was a basic inside cabin located forward on deck 4. We liked the location of the cabin due to it's proximity to the gangway, easy and quick on and off at the ports! We had the specialty dining package for the first time and ate at La Cucina, Cagney's and Le Bistro. While we enjoyed our meals, we didn't feel they were worth the up charge even though they were a little higher in quality than the MDR. The food in the MDR is always enjoyable, because I don't have to cook it or clean up, so no complaints there! We love NCL freestyle dining being able to eat when we want. I particularly enjoyed appetizers and dessert, sometimes I would just eat appetizers instead of a main entree. My husband and I regularly shared 3 desserts because, well, we're on a cruise. I had one breakfast in Summer Palace, and I highly recommend eating breakfast there if you can get out of bed in time (we slept in a lot!). Buffet is perfectly fine, but I really enjoyed having breakfast served. There is salmon mousse on the buffet, but you can get sliced smoked salmon in the dining room, which I prefer for breakfast. Buffet in the Garden Cafe was good, we ate our lunch and snacks there. Sometimes we would fill a plate and head to the Great Outdoors to sit. The Great Outdoors also has food so you don't have to carry food from the Garden Cafe. (I particularly enjoyed the chilled fruit soups located at the end of the Great Outdoors, I think I ate a bowl almost every day with added watermelon chunks.) We enjoyed the comedian and the acrobat show, Duo Quintessence was amazing! We HIGHLY recommend Legends in Concert as well, the performers portraying Tina Turner and Michael Jackson were wonderful! We also frequented Peter James when he was performing with his piano, singing along with every song. The service was great, sure there were times it was a bit lacking, but it's better than the service I get at home, which is none of course. We didn't have to make too many trips to the bar, for the most part someone would come around and get drinks for us. Our room steward, Francis, was great. We are low-maintenance and only requested the fridge be emptied and extra pillows, both requests were met. All staff we encountered were friendly and kind and we truly appreciated each and every one of them. Ports: Key West - It was my first time here, we walked to the Southernmost Point, visited an art gallery, toured the Hemingway House (we're cat people so that was a highlight for us!) and had drinks at Sloppy Joe's. It was a great day! Tortola - We took an NCL excursion to the Baths on Virgin Gorda. It was beautiful! Be sure to wear good shoes or prepare to go barefoot.You will be climbing (watch your head!) and the rocks are slippery. It was quite an adventure we will never forget! Antigua - If you like to relax, I must recommend the Catamaran, Snorkel, and Beach excursion! (We went through NCL) My friend and I stayed on the boat and enjoyed the sun while our husbands snorkeled. After snorkeling was complete they offered alcohol (non alcoholic drinks as well) and a snack and we sailed to a beach. They served us a delicious lunch and we had some beach time before sailing back to the port. We all agreed it was one of the best days of our cruise. St. Maarten - Hopped off the ship and walked to the taxi dispatch, we chose the 3 hour island tour, they got 6 other people to join so the price was only $25 per person. My husband and I like tours like this, we circled the island and visited various spots. It was informational and I liked all the views we saw, it is a beautiful island. Puerto Rico - We walked through the streets of Old San Juan and visited Castillo San Felipe del Morro (one of the forts). Please note if you have mobility issues it may be challenging to get around Old San Juan with the the cobblestone streets and I think everything is uphill (lol) We had lunch at Punto de Vista Rooftop Restaurant, did some quick shopping and headed back to the ship. We hope to cruise out of Puerto Rico in the future, the picturesque streets were beautiful. We had a total of 4 sea days which were spent lounging around the ship and playing games with our friends. (FYI, Bliss Lounge has beds everywhere, during the day it's pretty quiet in there, maybe a foreign language lesson or something along that line. My friend and I actually crawled on one and took a nap, lol!) I guess the only complaints we had were that we wish there were more chairs on the promenade for lounging. Also we REALLY WISH they would ENFORCE the rules for saving chairs (chair hogs). The day I spent poolside, I went out on deck around 8 am, there were several chairs already saved with towels. In particular there was a whole row of at least 8 chairs with towels on them already when I got there, I never saw a single person use those chairs for over 3 HOURS. That was ridiculous.I saw an attendant go around and put stickers with the time on some of the chairs around the pool but he never came back, I think he was just doing it because people were complaining. We did walk-off disembarkation, there was a bit of a line to get off the ship but it moved along quick enough. I think we were off the ship and in an Uber on the way to the airport by 9:30 am. (This may not be typical but was our experience) Being that this was a longer cruise in the middle of January, it was an older crowd (someone said the average age was 75) but it made no difference to us, we had a wonderful time and met great people. We would do this cruise again and would definitely cruise on the Pearl again!

Relaxing cruise to the Caribbean on the Pearl

Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review by Jonslola

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
This was our 3rd cruise with NCL, we chose a 10 day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Pearl. It was my husband and I and another couple. My husband and I are 40, very laid back and just love the cruise life!

Embarkation in Tampa went smoothly, we arrived early (9:30-ish?) and were on the ship before noon with Mojitos in hand!

Having sailed on the Dawn and the Epic, the Pearl is similar to the Dawn. So far we prefer the ease of navigating the smaller ships and think they feel less crowded. There were very few times we felt overwhelmed with people. Highlights of the ship for us were the Spinnaker Lounge with all the windows overlooking the sea, the promenade on deck 7, and the Great Outdoors located on deck 12 aft. The Pearl doesn't have a lot of the bells and whistles the newer larger ships have, but we don't need those things anyway. We like to rest and take it easy while on vacation.

Our cabin, 4551, was a basic inside cabin located forward on deck 4. We liked the location of the cabin due to it's proximity to the gangway, easy and quick on and off at the ports!

We had the specialty dining package for the first time and ate at La Cucina, Cagney's and Le Bistro. While we enjoyed our meals, we didn't feel they were worth the up charge even though they were a little higher in quality than the MDR.

The food in the MDR is always enjoyable, because I don't have to cook it or clean up, so no complaints there! We love NCL freestyle dining being able to eat when we want. I particularly enjoyed appetizers and dessert, sometimes I would just eat appetizers instead of a main entree. My husband and I regularly shared 3 desserts because, well, we're on a cruise.

I had one breakfast in Summer Palace, and I highly recommend eating breakfast there if you can get out of bed in time (we slept in a lot!). Buffet is perfectly fine, but I really enjoyed having breakfast served. There is salmon mousse on the buffet, but you can get sliced smoked salmon in the dining room, which I prefer for breakfast.

Buffet in the Garden Cafe was good, we ate our lunch and snacks there. Sometimes we would fill a plate and head to the Great Outdoors to sit. The Great Outdoors also has food so you don't have to carry food from the Garden Cafe. (I particularly enjoyed the chilled fruit soups located at the end of the Great Outdoors, I think I ate a bowl almost every day with added watermelon chunks.)

We enjoyed the comedian and the acrobat show, Duo Quintessence was amazing! We HIGHLY recommend Legends in Concert as well, the performers portraying Tina Turner and Michael Jackson were wonderful! We also frequented Peter James when he was performing with his piano, singing along with every song.

The service was great, sure there were times it was a bit lacking, but it's better than the service I get at home, which is none of course. We didn't have to make too many trips to the bar, for the most part someone would come around and get drinks for us. Our room steward, Francis, was great. We are low-maintenance and only requested the fridge be emptied and extra pillows, both requests were met. All staff we encountered were friendly and kind and we truly appreciated each and every one of them.

Ports:

Key West - It was my first time here, we walked to the Southernmost Point, visited an art gallery, toured the Hemingway House (we're cat people so that was a highlight for us!) and had drinks at Sloppy Joe's. It was a great day!

Tortola - We took an NCL excursion to the Baths on Virgin Gorda. It was beautiful! Be sure to wear good shoes or prepare to go barefoot.You will be climbing (watch your head!) and the rocks are slippery. It was quite an adventure we will never forget!

Antigua - If you like to relax, I must recommend the Catamaran, Snorkel, and Beach excursion! (We went through NCL) My friend and I stayed on the boat and enjoyed the sun while our husbands snorkeled. After snorkeling was complete they offered alcohol (non alcoholic drinks as well) and a snack and we sailed to a beach. They served us a delicious lunch and we had some beach time before sailing back to the port. We all agreed it was one of the best days of our cruise.

St. Maarten - Hopped off the ship and walked to the taxi dispatch, we chose the 3 hour island tour, they got 6 other people to join so the price was only $25 per person. My husband and I like tours like this, we circled the island and visited various spots. It was informational and I liked all the views we saw, it is a beautiful island.

Puerto Rico - We walked through the streets of Old San Juan and visited Castillo San Felipe del Morro (one of the forts). Please note if you have mobility issues it may be challenging to get around Old San Juan with the the cobblestone streets and I think everything is uphill (lol) We had lunch at Punto de Vista Rooftop Restaurant, did some quick shopping and headed back to the ship. We hope to cruise out of Puerto Rico in the future, the picturesque streets were beautiful.

We had a total of 4 sea days which were spent lounging around the ship and playing games with our friends. (FYI, Bliss Lounge has beds everywhere, during the day it's pretty quiet in there, maybe a foreign language lesson or something along that line. My friend and I actually crawled on one and took a nap, lol!)

I guess the only complaints we had were that we wish there were more chairs on the promenade for lounging. Also we REALLY WISH they would ENFORCE the rules for saving chairs (chair hogs). The day I spent poolside, I went out on deck around 8 am, there were several chairs already saved with towels. In particular there was a whole row of at least 8 chairs with towels on them already when I got there, I never saw a single person use those chairs for over 3 HOURS. That was ridiculous.I saw an attendant go around and put stickers with the time on some of the chairs around the pool but he never came back, I think he was just doing it because people were complaining.

We did walk-off disembarkation, there was a bit of a line to get off the ship but it moved along quick enough. I think we were off the ship and in an Uber on the way to the airport by 9:30 am. (This may not be typical but was our experience)

Being that this was a longer cruise in the middle of January, it was an older crowd (someone said the average age was 75) but it made no difference to us, we had a wonderful time and met great people. We would do this cruise again and would definitely cruise on the Pearl again!
Jonslola’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Inside
Cabin IF 4551
Just a basic inside cabin, nothing special, I liked the colors of the room. There was adequate storage for us. The only hang-up was the toilet, my husband is a big guy and tall, and had to sit sideways,there wasn't much leg room to sit at the correct angle. I actually sat on it sideways as well.
Deck 5 Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Catamaran Sail
    One of our favorite days of the cruise! It was a catamaran sail, snorkel and beach excursion. My friend and I chose not to snorkel so we enjoyed the sun on the boat while our husbands snorkeled. After snorkeling we sailed to a beach where we were provided with a tasty lunch, enjoyed some sun before sailing back to the port. Alcoholic (and non-alcoholic) drinks are included. The crew made sure we had a great time, very well done!
    View All 98 Catamaran Sail Reviews
  • Key West
    Walked Key West on our own, visiting the southernmost point and the Hemingway house. Had drinks at Sloppy Joes and stumbled back to the ship. There is a lot to do in the port close to the ship if you don't feel like walking far.
    View All 1,797 Key West Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Key West Cruise Port Review
  • San Juan
    Enjoyed the scenic streets of Old San Juan! If you have mobility issues it may be challenging to get around, cobblestone streets and many hills. However, it is gorgeous, we visited the forts and had mofongo at the Punto de Vista Rooftop Restaurant. Wish we had had a longer stop here!
    View All 3,794 San Juan Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's San Juan Cruise Port Review
  • St. Maarten
    Went to the taxi dispatch area and got a 3 hour tour of the island, with 8 people it only cost us $25 pp. Informational and had many beautiful views, went completely around the island visiting both French and Dutch sides. (Try a banana shake at the Exodus Juice Bar in Marigot!)
    View All 4,745 St. Maarten Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's St. Maarten Cruise Port Review
  • Virgin Gorda
    We loved the Baths at Virgin Gorda. The guide gave us the time of departure so my husband and I kind of went off and did our own thing making sure we met back with the group when it was time. You can (and probably should) stay with the guide, but we were feeling adventurous that day!
    View All 217 Virgin Gorda Reviews