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We chose this cruise for a couple of reasons. Number one, it crossed off one of our bucket list items, the Panama Canal. Number two, we were cruising on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well as New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. We had a mini-suite. We have learned from other cruises that we want to be mid-ship or a bit forward. Why? The smoke stack leaves soot on the balcony when your cabin is towards the back of the ship. Yes, you can get a bigger balcony, but the trade-off is you need to brush off the soot several times a day. The nice thing about the mini-suite is there is a large, deep tub that be used as either a soaker tub or a shower; we prefer the shower. The toilet is separated by a partial wall, so both of us could be in the bathroom at the same time. We had several freebies, including 5 specialty dining dinners, 250 free minutes of internet (but one device at a time), on-board credits, a shore excursion credit, and free adult beverages. Unlike some cruise lines, NCL does not limit the number of drinks per day. However, bottled water is not included in the beverage package. We were disappointed in most of the specialty dining restaurants. Teppanyaki's food was so-so. We know you go to Teppanyaki more for the show than the food, but the show was blah at best. We are used to the onion volcano and the fireman, neither of which we saw. Usually there is an egg tossing show, but there was none here. The food was nondescript at La Cucina and Moderno. We ended up at Cagney's twice, because we found the steaks to be awesome. The food at the free restaurants was, again, so-so. Breakfast at O'Sheehan's started out good, but we both agreed it went downhill as the trip continued. The waitstaff was somehow confused with my husband's request for both an apple and an orange juice. You can swap out sausage for the bacon for the express breakfast, but they did not always get that right either. We liked the Freestyle Dining. That means you don't have an assigned dining time or table if you want to dine in the main dining room. The Lotus Garden is considered part of the free dining. It is open for dinner only. We both enjoyed our appetizers (hot and sour soup that was not what we were used to but it was good plus vegetable egg rolls), but we thought our entrees were below par. The buffets were just not memorable (for breakfast, lunch, or dinner). We did not get off the ship at Harvest Caye, NCL's private island, for a couple of reasons. One, it started to rain as we were about to get off the ship. Number two, we heard it was very commercial. We've been on other private islands in the Caribbean, and they have a free BBQ on the island for lunch. Also, if you have the beverage plan your card works on the island. Not so for NCL. You must pay for everything on the island. Our first shore excursion (Exploring Magnificent Cartegena) was a bust. Our tour guide became disinterested during the tour. We almost always tip the tour guide, but we just could not; he did not deserve it. Also, the street vendors in Cartegena are EXTREMELY aggressive. That isn't NCL's fault, but be prepared to be approached every 1-2 minutes with someone trying to sell you cigars, magnets, hats, etc.. To say it was annoying would be an understatement. The Panama Canal was fantastic! We got up early so that we could see the ship entering the first lock. It is amazing how close the ships get to the sides of the locks. We didn't see or feel it during the passage, but apparently there is a lot of scraping of the ships during the movement. There is an 87 foot increase in height between the first full set of locks (there are 3 of them). You then get into the largest man-made lake in the world, where you either get off the ship for a shore excursion or stay onboard and go back the locks in the other direction. We opted to stay on board, and we did not regret our decision. Puerto Limon was fun. We took the Tortuguero Canal and River Cruise. Like many tours, it is all about the guide. We had a very good guide and driver, and we saw lots of sloths and monkeys. We also saw a boa constrictor and multiple bird and butterfly species. There was a change to the itinerary that we were alerted about when we checked into the ship. It wasn't a big change (2 destinations were reversed), but I liked the fact that NCL told us about this change before the ship left port. The casino is relatively small. It is very smokey. We were on another cruise line in August, and we really appreciated that they had a non-smoking section in the casino. NCL should consider this. For embarkation NCL asks you to select a 1/2 hour period to check in. We selected 11-11:30 AM. We arrived on time, and we were handed boarding card #10. We got on board about 12:30. We knew our room would not be available yet, so we headed to the buffet. FYI: while you are in a US port, you pay a small fee for every drink you order. In addition, you cannot order a drink on the day of disembarkation. We much prefer the embarkation process for Princess, where we pre-registered and got a medallion. We were onboard in 5 minutes. The other nice thing with Princess is that as we approached a bar the medallion was read, and we were greeted by the bartender with our names and our beverage preferences. NCL should consider using medallions. We did numerous trivia events. Some of them were very bizarre. We also did Jenga (it was fun) and bocce (watch out for the lip on the carpet). We were not very impressed with the entertainment. The fitness center was OK, but it was not set up logically (IMHO).

Been on better cruises, including other NCL ships

Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review by PegBK

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
We chose this cruise for a couple of reasons. Number one, it crossed off one of our bucket list items, the Panama Canal. Number two, we were cruising on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well as New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

We had a mini-suite. We have learned from other cruises that we want to be mid-ship or a bit forward. Why? The smoke stack leaves soot on the balcony when your cabin is towards the back of the ship. Yes, you can get a bigger balcony, but the trade-off is you need to brush off the soot several times a day.

The nice thing about the mini-suite is there is a large, deep tub that be used as either a soaker tub or a shower; we prefer the shower. The toilet is separated by a partial wall, so both of us could be in the bathroom at the same time.

We had several freebies, including 5 specialty dining dinners, 250 free minutes of internet (but one device at a time), on-board credits, a shore excursion credit, and free adult beverages. Unlike some cruise lines, NCL does not limit the number of drinks per day. However, bottled water is not included in the beverage package.

We were disappointed in most of the specialty dining restaurants. Teppanyaki's food was so-so. We know you go to Teppanyaki more for the show than the food, but the show was blah at best. We are used to the onion volcano and the fireman, neither of which we saw. Usually there is an egg tossing show, but there was none here. The food was nondescript at La Cucina and Moderno. We ended up at Cagney's twice, because we found the steaks to be awesome.

The food at the free restaurants was, again, so-so. Breakfast at O'Sheehan's started out good, but we both agreed it went downhill as the trip continued. The waitstaff was somehow confused with my husband's request for both an apple and an orange juice. You can swap out sausage for the bacon for the express breakfast, but they did not always get that right either.

We liked the Freestyle Dining. That means you don't have an assigned dining time or table if you want to dine in the main dining room. The Lotus Garden is considered part of the free dining. It is open for dinner only. We both enjoyed our appetizers (hot and sour soup that was not what we were used to but it was good plus vegetable egg rolls), but we thought our entrees were below par. The buffets were just not memorable (for breakfast, lunch, or dinner).

We did not get off the ship at Harvest Caye, NCL's private island, for a couple of reasons. One, it started to rain as we were about to get off the ship. Number two, we heard it was very commercial. We've been on other private islands in the Caribbean, and they have a free BBQ on the island for lunch. Also, if you have the beverage plan your card works on the island. Not so for NCL. You must pay for everything on the island.

Our first shore excursion (Exploring Magnificent Cartegena) was a bust. Our tour guide became disinterested during the tour. We almost always tip the tour guide, but we just could not; he did not deserve it. Also, the street vendors in Cartegena are EXTREMELY aggressive. That isn't NCL's fault, but be prepared to be approached every 1-2 minutes with someone trying to sell you cigars, magnets, hats, etc.. To say it was annoying would be an understatement.

The Panama Canal was fantastic! We got up early so that we could see the ship entering the first lock. It is amazing how close the ships get to the sides of the locks. We didn't see or feel it during the passage, but apparently there is a lot of scraping of the ships during the movement. There is an 87 foot increase in height between the first full set of locks (there are 3 of them). You then get into the largest man-made lake in the world, where you either get off the ship for a shore excursion or stay onboard and go back the locks in the other direction. We opted to stay on board, and we did not regret our decision.

Puerto Limon was fun. We took the Tortuguero Canal and River Cruise. Like many tours, it is all about the guide. We had a very good guide and driver, and we saw lots of sloths and monkeys. We also saw a boa constrictor and multiple bird and butterfly species.

There was a change to the itinerary that we were alerted about when we checked into the ship. It wasn't a big change (2 destinations were reversed), but I liked the fact that NCL told us about this change before the ship left port.

The casino is relatively small. It is very smokey. We were on another cruise line in August, and we really appreciated that they had a non-smoking section in the casino. NCL should consider this.

For embarkation NCL asks you to select a 1/2 hour period to check in. We selected 11-11:30 AM. We arrived on time, and we were handed boarding card #10. We got on board about 12:30. We knew our room would not be available yet, so we headed to the buffet. FYI: while you are in a US port, you pay a small fee for every drink you order. In addition, you cannot order a drink on the day of disembarkation. We much prefer the embarkation process for Princess, where we pre-registered and got a medallion. We were onboard in 5 minutes. The other nice thing with Princess is that as we approached a bar the medallion was read, and we were greeted by the bartender with our names and our beverage preferences. NCL should consider using medallions.

We did numerous trivia events. Some of them were very bizarre. We also did Jenga (it was fun) and bocce (watch out for the lip on the carpet). We were not very impressed with the entertainment. The fitness center was OK, but it was not set up logically (IMHO).
PegBK’s Full Rating Summary
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