With over 15 cruises on various ships and companies, we decided to take the NCL Pearl from Tampa to New York 9 April 19 with some close friends. First impressions are often lasting impressions. Early impression embarkation was very ... Read More
With over 15 cruises on various ships and companies, we decided to take the NCL Pearl from Tampa to New York 9 April 19 with some close friends. First impressions are often lasting impressions. Early impression embarkation was very inefficient. We were asked to be at the ship at 11:00 which had us in line to board the boat for about 60 minutes. Then allowed to board our rooms were not available for another 90 minutes, so we went to the buffet and had some lunch. No worries at this point but caution lights flashing.
The ship was in great shape both immaculate and maintenance up to expectation. It's a beautiful ship in all respects. Not overwhelming like the mega ships but large enough to not feel cramped. Got to our room, which usually you have a Steward there to say hello? We didn't meet her till that evening. Our room Steward was very nice, worked hard throughout the 11 days to make our trip outstanding in every detail. She seemed to work throughout the day to get all the morning cleanings done and into the evening to get the turndowns service complete. It was evident that the ship was short cleaners because she seemed to have a large number of rooms and no help to clean them, so rooms were not finished past 12:00 am and almost 9:00 pm. Her attitude was always happy, but you could see she was tired. We took good care of her at the end of the cruise to say thank-you. I am sure with all the new ships in the business, keeping qualified people must be a real chore.
Spa - We bought the spa package and loved bubbling every day. Open and airy and very large with segregated men and women areas for saunas and common areas for bubbling pool. It was never crowded which they said to be only selling spa area to 100 couples. Not sure they made it to 100 couples because it was $23 per day per person or $239 for the spa per person. If you are into spa relaxation pools, this one was one of the best.
Food: During this cruise, we purchased the package of 3 upgraded restaurants which included the Cagney's Steak House, La Cucina, and Le Bistro. Cagney's was outstanding and more food than anyone should eat, La Cucina was ok, and Le Bistro was also exceptional in the French tradition. La Cucina earned a disappointing OK because the food choices were standard Italian fare without the flair. With a $30 upcharge for the meal, they were offering essential Italian cuisines like Spaghetti Carbonara and pizza. Clearly, NCL wants people to eat in restaurants. Much of what was served would have been a part of the typical dinner fare 5 years ago.
Buffett - standard buffet you experience on any other ship. For breakfast, the standout was plenty of "ripe" fruit and omelets. They ran pretty much the same breakfast menu for 11 days. I was disappointed they didn't have smoked salmon which was served on all other cruises we made with other ships (even Carnival). Lunches had some variations but mostly revolved around different ethnic foods of burgers, hotdogs, pizza, Indian, Asian, and salads. Plenty of variety and the food was well prepared. It was ok. The excellent pizza was in La Cucina which was closed at lunch which should have been open for pizza like on many other ships. Italian food is simple but needs work on this ship.
Dinners when not at a specialty restaurant we went either to the Summer Palace, Indigo or Lotus Garden (Asian). This is where the cruise hits the rocky shoal. Summer Place and Indigo share the same menu which Indigo allows shorts to be worn. The food and menu were utterly uninspiring. They need a new chief. The food was not prepared well with many of the cooked vegetables served mostly raw. Deserts were ok and much better on the buffet…Never a soufflé. Crème Brule was mass produced and tasted that way. The ice cream had ice crystals which implied it had melted and refrozen. (While docking I counted 90+ containers sitting on the doc to be loaded for over 30minutes. I am sure it sat till it could be loaded into the freezer…Humm Ice crystals. The best thing on the menu was the New York Strip which was always served as ordered but with French fries instead of a baked potato. Common this is not Europe. I asked for crumbled bleu cheese which seemed like a difficult request. There was no special meal like lobster or crab over the 11 days. It was just ok and a complete disappointment at every level except the servers who worked hard to overcome the shortcomings of the kitchen. The buffet is better for eating. The benefit was we were not tempted to overeat trying different dishes. Clearly, their marketing was to drive you to the specialty restaurants to get that extra $30pp upcharge per meal.
Beverages. When we booked our room as part of the incentive package, we thought the beverage package was included in our mini-suite until we found out that it was not included. The mini-suite we picked based on all the marketing we thought the drink package was included until we read the tiny font 6 writing (pointed out by our booking agent after we booked and made a call) on the contract that said it was not Included. So, the marketing included on the website beverage package then when we booked, we found it not included. So, we bought our drinks for ala-cart. The prices were crazy high. You ordered a soda – Over $4.00. You requested a basic Mic Ultra beer – Over $8.00. Mix drink from $12 to $18 with 20% gratuity. The bottles of wine at dinner were reasonable if you added in their corking fee. So, a standard $12 bottle was $38. Lastly, you could not bring on any of your own soda and water to ensure a captive beverage audience. You could bring as much wine as you want but need to pay a corking fee no matter if you drink it in your room. They should really rethink their alcohol and beverage policies. The ala-cart beverage prices definatly made you reconsider that third drink.
Ports are the same ports of the Caribbean every cruise. They all pretty much look the same. Get outside the cruise area, plenty of traffic and trash all over the place. I blame this on cruise ports excluding many local businesses who don't benefit from the ships. Keep the money at the cruise ports run by the cruise lines. Plan on a Caribbean cruise for the sun, warmth and shake off winter …Mission accomplished
Overall for relaxation, the cruise was perfect. While there were some real disappointments (food), the people were fun, entertainment was great, and the staff was excellent. Promenade deck made it simple to get my 3-mile walks per day. Managing your caloric intake was not a problem because of the food. If you're looking for a step up NCL is not the place to be. If you're looking for 11 days of partying with unlimited drinks and an excellent buffet as your benchmark, NCL does a great job. Not sure we will travel again on NCL unless there is a compelling itinerary. Read Less