New Year's Cruise: Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review by Dallas_Doggie_Mom

Norwegian Pearl 5
Member Since 2009
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New Year's Cruise

Sail Date: December 2011
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Miami
My family and I cruised on the Pearl for New Year's this year. My husband and I had cruised the last two Christmases on NCL's Spirit and the Dawn. We were excited to give New Year's a try, and we invited my husband's son and his wife to join us.

We arrived in Miami on the 23rd, and spent a day and a half seeing Miami. Our hotel was the Hilton Downtown, which was convenient to the port. We had a view of the bay, so we were able to watch the ships. We saw the Epic, which was cool, since we will sail on her for Christmas 2012.

We embarked on Christmas morning. The process was smooth and very quick. Within an hour, we were on the Pearl. (Thanks, Tiffany with NCL, for making everything move so quickly!)

Once on board, we went to make reservations for dinner that night at Le Bistro, and for New Year's Eve at Cagney's. We forgot how quickly Teppanyaki books up, so we had to scramble later in the week to get reservations. Luckily, they had a cancellation, so More we got in on Friday night after Cozumel. Word to the wise: Book this restaurant as soon as you hit the ship, because you might not be as lucky! Also, La Cucina tends to book solid, so if you want to eat here, don't wait to make these reservations either!

We managed to eat dinner at the following specialty restaurants: Le Bistro, Teppanyaki, Cagney's and La Cucina during our cruise. All were good to great. The night we were at La Cucina, the Captain sat at the table next to us. :D We also ate at the Summer Palace and Indigo, the main dining rooms. Our daughter-in-law is pregnant, and Judith, our server in Indigo, was very accommodating with her craving for chocolate ice cream as an appetizer! Judith was confused until I explained that she was pregnant! Then the ice cream made sense, and Ginger, our daughter-in-law, even got a second helping with indulgent smiles. We also asked for a basket of just the baguette, which was not what they were serving in Indigo, and they sent a waiter to go get us some. The staff at Indigo gets gold stars in our book for being so accommodating!

The first night, we lingered over dinner and missed the entertainment. The next night, we went and saw the show, Encore! It was a Broadway tribute show, and they had numbers from Movin' Out, Wicked, Mama Mia, The Producers, The Heights, and one I can't remember. The singers were really good. Warning: You will find yourself humming "Mama Mia" for the rest of the week!

The next night, we saw Oh What A Night! Tribute to Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, and we saw comedian Rex Havens. Oh What A Night is not to be missed. It was excellent - and made me sorry I missed Jersey Boys when it was in Dallas. I had heard Rex Havens on Sirius XM's comedy channels, so it was great to see him live. He's very, very funny - and he has the sweetest wife, Sarah.

One night, we made it to see the Not-so-Newlywed Game. This was funny, as usual. Seeing a husband turn red by his own answers is pretty amusing! Watching all three couple's reaction when Matt Sole, the cruise director, told them it had been recorded and would be on the NCL TV channel for the next 24 hours was priceless!

We saw the Second City adult's only show, and it was funny, but not as good as on other cruises. We think this was a combination of the troupe and the audience participation.

We were treated like VIPs by the ship's senior crew. They are incredibly kind and friendly. The other passengers on this cruise? Not so much. We were surprised at how little interaction there was with our fellow cruisers. We had cruised on the Dawn last Christmas, and we are still in touch with a few of our fellow Cruise Critic members. This year, we did not have the same involvement, which we found really enhanced a good cruise to a great cruise last year.

On the Pearl, we found everything to be as expected from NCL. The ship is well kept, clean, and the staff is very attentive - except in the bars, which was unexpected. The restaurant staff was great, the food was wonderful, and the executive chef was a hoot! Our room steward was attentive and accommodating, although we only got towel animals in our room all week.

The concierge, Anoop Bhanu, was very helpful, and we enjoyed some special treatment while aboard. He was especially helpful with dinner reservations and excursion questions. Thank you, Anoop! Wish you were here at home to help with life's little irritations!

The ports were good - and in some cases, great. We booked all of our excursions with NCL. Only one was a disappointment - the Bamboo Beach Break in Jamaica.

What surprised us the most on this cruise was the vibe from our fellow passengers. They were not as friendly or cheerful as on previous cruises. Our two prior experiences were Christmas cruises, and this was really a New Year's cruise. The Christmas spirit was definitely more contagious and out-going. People were not in as celebratory a mood on the New Year's cruise - except for that last hour or so before the countdown.

NCL threw a party on the main pool deck - music, dancing, champagne at midnight, and an ice sculpture of 2011 which Kaj Turunen, the Hotel Director, smashed with a giant fire axe at midnight. The Captain did the 10 second countdown over the loudspeakers, but the crowd was so loud, we missed most of what he was saying. When he hit 0, he blew the ship's horn for what felt like forever! It was very cool! (That horn gives me chills. Just me? Bet not!)

Overall, we had a great family vacation, I learned to snorkel, and everyone agreed that NCL is the way to sail! As a matter of fact, my husband and I called our NCL Cruise Consultant, Jorge Cruz, as soon as we could on Tuesday (after the holiday), and we booked two more cruises. LOVE, LOVE LOVE NCL! Less

Published 01/11/12

Cabin review: BB10642 Balcony

We were in cabin 10642, which is a handicapped balcony cabin aft. It was wonderful. Very spacious. The bathroom had a fold-down chair in the shower, which was my main concern. It was roomy and convenient. The mirror tilts to your needs, and there are rails all around. We had the two beds pushed together to make a queen. The only problem with this arrangement is the emergency call button is then located between the pillows! We accidentally pressed it twice - once while we were asleep and once while watching TV. Very embarrassing! On a positive note, I can report that the desk calls almost immediately to see if there is an emergency! :D From a practical standpoint, there are two 110 outlets right next to the bed on the vanity. This is very convenient if you have a CPAP or other medical appliance which needs to be plugged in. There is a third 110 outlet across the room, but this is where the coffee maker is plugged in. Some (my husband) would say this is another medical appliance! :D

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Port and Shore Excursions

Chef Luis ROCKS!! This was the second time my husband and I have taken this cooking class, and it was fantastic both times. The menu changed, too, so we learned how to make a few new dishes. When they advertise an open bar, they are serious - no skimping!! We never had an empty hand! Chef Luis would be walking around explaining a technique, and suddenly, he would put a new drink in your hand. Chef Moises was a great straight man for Chef Luis. :D We made a shrimp appetizer that was delicious. Can't wait to try this at home. The entree was either grouper or chicken in a tamarind sauce. YUMMY! The dessert was caramelized plantains with a chocolate sauce. (I liked the rice pudding we made two years ago better.) The dishes were easy to make and Chef Luis' instructions were easy to follow - even with the amount of alcohol we were consuming! After the dishes were complete, we were escorted upstairs to have lunch with a great view of the ocean. It was very rewarding to eat the food we had prepared ourselves. The beverages kept flowing, too. We had about an hour of beach time after the cooking class, and Playa Mia is a beautiful day resort. Wish we had more time to take advantage of it, but it was nice to relax under a palm tree with another beverage in hand after such a great lunch. If we go back to Cozumel, we will sign up for another day with Chef Luis and Chef Moises! They were great!

This was an excellent excursion! We were met at the dock, and escorted on a short walk to the Atlantis pier. Once you are there, you board a ferry-like boat, which takes you out to meet the sub. While you wait for the sub to emerge from the previous dive, they run you through a safety presentation. Once the sub emerges, they off-load the previous passengers to the lower deck of the ferry, and then you descend and board. Make sure you are next to the person/people you want to sit next to on the sub, because you sit as you board. There is NO maneuvering room below deck. The sub holds 48 passengers, and we had 45. This was great, because my husband and I not small. My daughter-in-law and I left an empty seat between us, and it gave all of us a little elbow room. The sub descends very smoothly. I had been worried about feeling claustrophobic, but it was not an issue at all! You get so caught up in the view, that you forget you are in a small space. Looking out gives you a feeling of lots of room. The sub has fish/coral/sponge "cheat-sheets" which identify the fish etc. which you will see. I saw a sponge and thought it was someone's knit hat until my stepson pointed out what it was on the sheet! Too funny! The sub descended to 117 feet on our trip. The crew takes you to the drop-off point, where the land falls away to depths of over 2,000 feet. It was awe-inspiring and scary at the same time. I was relieved when we moved to shallower waters! The crew on the subs is very professional, but they have a great sense of humor. Andrew was our guide, and he was hilarious. Take this excursion if you are like me - someone very unlikely to ever scuba dive! Well worth the money and time!

Island Tour

We booked two excursions in Grand Cayman. Discover Cayman was our morning excursion. It takes you to three stops: The town of Hell, the Tortuga Rum Factory store, and The Cayman Turtle Farm. In He*l, we got to send postcards and meet the Devil himself. (I had to put asterisks because Cruise Critic won't let me say the town's real name!). The Devil's name is Ivan. For a small tip, we also got our passports stamped, which is pretty unique! At the Tortuga Rum Factory store, we got to sample different flavored rums and rum cakes. They were delicious. If you bought rum or other alcohol, they would package it and deliver it to your ship so you don't have to carry it around all day. Unfortunately, they won't deliver the cakes, so be prepared to carry them! The Turtle Farm is very cool. We saw turtles of many sizes - from 8 week old babies (which we held) to the grande dame, at 35 yrs old. She was huge, but she is still spry and loves treats! The gift store had great merchandise, and is reasonably priced. Wish I had bought more gifts here! The bus dropped us either at the public beach or back at the dock. We went to the dock and had lunch at Margaritaville, since we had to meet our next excursion at 1pm. This was a great over-view tour of the island highlights, and perfect if you want the afternoon free to either sit on the beach or do another excursion. Well worth the money.

We were met at the dock by Angelika, our hostess for the day. Once we were on the bus, we were told she would be treating us "like babies! I'll bring you drinks, food, and anything else you need!" If she treated babies like this, Child Protective Services would be involved. We were promised unlimited food and drinks all day. What we got were vile drinks. I've had rum punch on multiple excursions, so I know rum punch. This was undrinkable. The mojitos were also gross. The lemonade (Non-alcoholic) were the only thing I could drink. My stepson said the beer was really Red Stripe, and while it tasted good, they ran out before the end of our time there. The food was not "all you can eat, all day". The hostesses brought out trays with plates of first rice, then pasta salad (With Mayo? On a hot beach? Really?), and eventually, they served a piece of jerk chicken and a hush puppy. My husband and I found the food, what there was of it, to be acceptable. Our daughter-in-law and son did not like most of it. Our daughter-in-law was fighting morning sickness, so she really needed something to eat at one point. She didn't eat either the rice or the pasta salad, and began to get queasy. We asked Angelika - FOUR TIMES - when they would be serving the chicken, and all we got was "soon". Soon translates to almost an hour. I explained that our daughter-in-law was feeling sick and needed to eat asap, and our son is diabetic and was getting a bit queasy, too, but this did not hurry things along. By the time the chicken arrived, all the groups which had arrived after our group had already been served. This tells me that the food was ready, so Angelika was just a really, really inept hostess. The entertainment for the day was a couple dancing and a guy with a drum. There was a DJ who played reggae music the rest of the time. Not especially exciting overall. The beach was pretty, but you could only swim on half of it. They warned us to avoid the other half as there were sea urchins in the water. Overall, I would not recommend this excursion compared to other beach excursions we've taken in other ports. You are bound to be disappointed.

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