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57 Norwegian (NCL) British Columbia Cruise Reviews

Background: This is DH's and my 11th sail with NCL and we combined this little overnighter after taking Norwegian Star on her 7-day Sawyer Glacier cruise. We stayed overnight at the Comfort Inn at Sea-Tac as we were flying back in ... Read More
Background: This is DH's and my 11th sail with NCL and we combined this little overnighter after taking Norwegian Star on her 7-day Sawyer Glacier cruise. We stayed overnight at the Comfort Inn at Sea-Tac as we were flying back in from Vancouver (they allow up to 4 days parking with a one night stay and have a shuttle from the airport). We took a town car from the hotel to the pier ($45). We have sailed the Norwegian Pearl 3 other times: Glacier Bay, 5-day Coastal and 19-day Panama Canal reposition. So far Norwegian Star and Norwegian Pearl are our favorite ships and crews. Embarkation: Even though we were in a mini-suite, so no VIP check-in, we were whisked right to the Latitudes desk, checked in and were on board within 20 minutes. (We arrived about 11:00.) Our first course of action was to book dinner reservations and leave notes for friends at the front desk. Of course the 'drink of the day' was in order by the pool, but it was still chilly outside so we went to the buffet for lunch and sat in La Cuchina to eat where only a couple of officers were dining. Nice and quiet. Then we had another 'drink of the day' for a matching set of glasses (I'm kidding), on the aft deck where the sun was now shinging. It was then announced we could go to our cabins and we made our way aft to our mini-suite on deck 11, port corner. We met our Cabin Stewards and they fulfilled a small request and then said they'd be back about 8:00 for cabin turn-down. I like to shower before dinner, which I did, but the turn-down never happened and our calls were not answered, so downside is that I dried the next morning with a hand towel (more on that about the cabin). Cabin: We were in a cabin for the handicapped as DH has some physical limitations and we thought we'd give it a try. The cabin is extra large, has emergency call buttons everywhere (even on the headboard of the bed), has a ramp up to the deck which also has an extra railing to securely grasp. The deck door is operated by push button both inside and out; it's a little slow, so if it's windy it could be a problem. The closet has a pull down handle, so if you are wheelchair bound, you can still get to your clothing. There are 3 large drawers and lots of open storage. There is ample room to move a wheelchair or walker around and probably a Little Jazzy (or other brand) as well. Electrical outlets were everywhere to accommodate breathing machines, etc., so that was really nice for all of our electronics. Now the down side if you are not handicapped (that would be me): The bathroom is spacious, the mirror over the sink can be adjusted up or down and the toilet is extra high (I'm short). The real downside for me was the shower; I could never get water hot enough and even with towels around the drains the entire floor gets soaked. That's how I came to dry myself the next morning with a hand towel. Needless to say we did not leave a tip, but did leave an explanation as to why. Photos: So far Norwegian Pearl has the best photographers and we decided to dress for dinner and take advantage of the opportunity. We were not disappointed. On the way to photos we ran into Dave Lange, Safety Officer, whom we had dined with on our Panama trip last fall. He did remember us and we chatted for a few minutes. It was nice to see him again and I reminded him to 'mind his English' or he'd be in the naughty room (if you ever meet me, I'll tell you the story). He laughed and said he'd try! Dining: We were hungry for Cagney's and this is the nicest Cagney's on any of the ships yet. I had Oysters Rockefeller, a small salad and lobster, which was just delicious. DH had the salmon and King crab and said his was delicious too. The sun was just setting and the water was like glass; I believe we were sailing about 5 knots, so the view of the sunset over the Olympic Mountains was wonderful. After dinner we stopped by the Star Bar but nothing was going on, so I called one of my friends on board and we met in Star Bar for a drink while DH went back to the cabin. My friend arranged for us to have breakfast in Cagney's in the morning, which is always a treat. You know who you are and we thank you. Entertainment: By the time we made it for some jazz, it was all over, so we ordered a glass of wine and listened to Karaoke and I even gave it a try (big mistake—the guy that sang with me didn't know the song!)...which made it hilarious, to say the least. And then it was back to a cabin that had not been turned down. No fresh towels, nothing...and no one would answer their phone, including the front desk. Ah well...at least we slept well, listening to the beautiful wake of the ship. After a quick shower and packing we headed to Cagney's for breakfast. It was then about 8:00, when we were to disembark, but for some reason we were not cleared until almost 9:00. I stood in the lobby of Cagney's for a while and a waiter from the night before came up to talk to me and we danced a little mambo before he twirled me to the elevators with the promise to dance in February. Before disembarking I called my friend to say good-bye until our next meeting. Disembarkation was a breeze and we passed our past Concierge (Karan) on our way out. Now picture trying to hug as one is going down the elevator while the other is running up the steps! He finally gave up and came back down the stairs! We told him of our February plans and that fits with his schedule too. So...Karan, Denis and Captain Lars (we missed seeing you—that old jet lag again!), we'll see you in February! Getting home: DH is now a retired airline employee and all flights were booked or oversold until at least 8 p.m., so Budget needed a car driven to Seattle, which we did. Arrived SEA about 5:30 (long border wait) and then grabbed our car, a quick dinner and a big coffee for me (the driver) and headed to Portland, arriving 9:30 p.m. A long day, but good to be back home (even if the cat did yell at us all night!). All in all it was a nice little sail and moved us up a level in Latitudes before we sail again next month. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Background: This was our ninth sail with NCL, third on Pearl, and fourth this year. We previously sailed Pearl to Alaska in fall of 2007 and took her reposition from Seattle to Miami last fall. She is a beautiful ship and our trips aboard ... Read More
Background: This was our ninth sail with NCL, third on Pearl, and fourth this year. We previously sailed Pearl to Alaska in fall of 2007 and took her reposition from Seattle to Miami last fall. She is a beautiful ship and our trips aboard her never disappoint. Pre Cruise: We flew non-stop from Portland, OR, to Long Beach, CA, on Alaska Airlines. We had wonderful service and a smooth flight. We then took a cab ($45) from the airport to the Crowne Plaza in San Pedro and were upgraded to a suite.  We were meeting 3 other people and made phone calls to arrange a meeting place; we five were on the reposition trip last fall through the Panama Canal. We were anxious to make this 5-day trip up the coast and reconnect with our shipboard friends.  The hotel has a nice lounge and dining room with live music; the food is adequate and the rooms are clean and spacious. Embarkation: Due to the Jones Act we lost our suite, so sailed in a balcony cabin which was fine for 5 days. Our check-in took no more than 5 minutes and the wait to board the ship was about 15 minutes. We checked our bags next to the spa and went to Indigo for lunch. The service and food were fine, but we were all anxious to get to our cabins. After lunch the announcement was made (about 2:00) that we could go to our cabins, which we did, after collecting our bags. Our carry-ons were unpacked, we met our Cabin Steward Sheraton Parkinson and then received our cruise bags. We were totally unpacked before muster. Muster was quick and easy as only those boarding at San Pedro had to participate. We quickly made our way back to our cabin where we hosted a sail away party for our friends. We then went to dinner and met up with two more people I was connected with through NCL/Facebook. Our dinner in LeBistro was excellent, just like it always is. The Ship: Pearl is our favorite ship so far (we have sailed Sky, Star, Jewel and Pearl) with Star being a close second. She is a beautiful ship, constantly being maintained, and the hygienic standards are above and beyond. The state rooms are clean and fresh as are all of the public areas.  Behind the scenes the crew (like Energizer bunnies) work their magic to make sure we have a wonderful and safe journey.  I especially love to walk the Promenade in the morning and enjoy the smell of the fresh laundry wafting up on deck as I hit starboard, followed by the salt air as I round the bow and then head aft for the sound of the wake. Our cabin, for five days, was of adequate size and has great storage. We were aft on the starboard side which is usually the dock side, so we were able to watch Captain maneuver this big ship in and out of ports with the greatest of ease. He makes it look so easy... Cabin Stewards: We had great stewards, having our room clean and ready for us upon return from our breakfast each day and turn down done by the time we returned from dinner. We made a few small requests and they were fulfilled within minutes. In my opinion Sheraton Parkinson will make a fabulous butler one of these days. He is cheerful, helpful, but not suffocating in his quest to make things perfect for you. And thank you to Lanie for bringing us a beautiful fruit bowl; that was thoughtful and greatly appreciated (it was wonderful to see you again!). Prior to the Meet and Greet on Monday morning, we were reunited with both Capt. Lars Bengtsson and Hotel Director Denis Pgruda. I don't know who was more pleased to see whom! They are wonderful officers and terrific hosts. We later ran into our Concierge, Karan Arora, from our trans-Atlantic trip on Jewel last year. Before we knew it we were extended VIP status and had an invitation to join the Captain's cocktail party that evening (along with our 3 other friends). We had a marvelous time chatting with so many crew members we've come to appreciate and respect.   Restaurants: Le Bistro is always the first night choice and it didn't disappoint. The escargot are fabulous as is the cold seafood platter, lamb chops, French onion soup, etc. The service is impeccable and the dishes are presented beautifully. We were happy to see our favorite hostess, Reyhana Eads, and it was mutual—she nearly hugged us to death! We also ate one other night here, just the two of us, compliments of Denis Pgruda and we enjoyed a lovely dinner and bottle of wine (our toast was, of course, to his health). One comment on the quality of the lamb chops—this is the first time they were fatty and not that tasty. I think it was just a fluke as this has never happened before.  Mambos: We celebrated Cinco de Mayo with our 5 friends and had the fabulous lobster tacos (the first Margarita is on the house). We always enjoy the more relaxed atmosphere of this restaurant and the service is always good. Blue Lagoon: Ah, the comfort food place to go when nothing else sounds good. The fish and chips, tomato basil soup, chips and dip, etc., are all you need to make you feel all cozy inside. The atmosphere is wonderful with the beautiful windows on both sides and the service is great. Cagney's: Breakfast and lunch are always a treat here...so much to chose from and yet not overwhelming. It's a quiet place to get away to and have a relaxed, no rush, meal. The service was not up to its usual standards (French toast delivered with no butter or syrup and it took forever to get it) and I was very disappointed that the chef would not accommodate my allergy to bell peppers in the potatoes except for one morning. What's up with that??? Dinner is Cagney's is always a treat, but more so when Captain invites you to a private dinner, as he did the five of us plus one other lovely couple. The oysters Rockefeller are indeed a favorite of mine as is the petite filet mignon. You also can't go wrong with those huge shrimp cocktail! We had an unforgettable evening, catching up on what's been happening with all of us since we were last together. How honored we were that so many remembered us after all the passengers that have been aboard Pearl since we last disembarked in October! Spa: My one indulgence on a cruise is the oxygen facial and I always have that done the first morning I'm on board. All the stress of getting to the port, hurry, hurry, hurry, just melts away. There was also a special on the products, which I use at home, so I scored from that end. The only thing that marred it was that I had booked a polish change and called to cancel it. There was no one answering the phones as we came into port and I was due to meet someone, so I had to leave the cancellation until that afternoon. That meant I was within the 24-hour cancellation time period and the gal on the phone informed me that if I didn't rebook they would charge me 50% ($9.00). I explained to her that Captain had invited us to The Bridge for coffee and I certainly wasn't about to miss that. She reiterated the 50% charge and I hung up. Thankfully there was no charge on my bill, especially as I had spent so much on products. Internet Cafe: I bring my mini laptop with me to keep notes and write my review on the way home. Without a suite there is no Wi-Fi, so it was imperative to use this service. I don't think the prices are that bad and I only buy the minimum as I'm using the service to book rental cars and hotels, etc., that I may not have already done. Plus, I like to delete junk mail on my home account so that I'm not overwhelmed when I get home. Shopping: As this is our fourth cruise this year, we were used to the merchandise that was available. Our shopping consisted of a bottle of cologne for DH. However, we saw that all the newbies were actively purchasing things to the point of a sale at Feline's! Entertainment: As I get seasick in the theatre (the only place I do), we do not attend the shows, but watch them the next day on TV. The Almost Newlywed Game is always a kick and dear Simon Murray, cruise director, makes this fun. We did stop by Spinnaker one night for the comedians and the volume was so loud that we did not stay. Our friends danced in Bliss and had a wonderful time. We did not bowl this time, but it is a really fun activity. I wanted to play Wii, as I have one at home, but the timing never worked out...next time! Ports: San Francisco is always a wonderful place to visit and this was no exception.  Due to the azipod problem on our last sail on Pearl, this port was dropped, so it was wonderful to sail under the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge. We did the usual shops and I finally was able to find a pendant in Tanzanite that matches my ring from Old San Juan, purchased 2 years ago. The highlight of the port was meeting a cousin I had never met and sharing lunch with her at our fav place, Cioppino's. It was a lovely sunny day (once the fog lifted) and we had a wonderful martini sail away in another friend's cabin.  Astoria: As we are from Portland, this was a delightful stop, just down the road from home. The weather cooperated after a brief shower while docking. The bar was smooth both in and out of harbor and the pilot was lifted from the bow by helicopter which was quite the show. We did not book an excursion for obvious reasons, but rather shopped the craft booths that some of the locals had set up. Then we spent an hour in the local marine supply store as I'm hooked on all things nautical. All in all it was a great day followed by sail away in yet another friend's cabin. Disembarkation: Due to the Jones Act the second leg of our journey had to be cancelled and we were leaving Pearl in Vancouver. A sad situation to say the least. After stopping by The Bridge to bid our dear Captain Lars farewell we had a relaxed breakfast at Cagney's, collected our bags and proceeded to the Promenade. The lines looked awful and it was announced that only FOUR customs agents were available (we were one of three ships docking that morning).  However, a fifth agent was brought in and we were through customs and dockside in just under 30 minutes. We took a cab to the airport ($30) and were there in plenty of time to hook up with our non-stop Horizon flight home.  NOTE: There is a lot of construction going on right now due to the approaching Olympic Games coming to Vancouver next year. Be prepared for some delays. In conclusion: Many thanks to wonderful Captain Lars, Denis Pgruda, Karan Arora, and all of the other wonderful crew that we reunited with. You made our 5 days seem much more and we're sorry we had to leave you so soon. But...we'll be back. We're booking Pearl this coming week, so don't be surprised when we step aboard in the near future. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Norwegian Sun Repositioning Cruise LA to Vancouver BC - May, 2009 A group of friends and family joined the Norwegian Sun for the three night repositioning cruise from LA to Vancouver BC.  Below are some thoughts on the ship, and on ... Read More
Norwegian Sun Repositioning Cruise LA to Vancouver BC - May, 2009 A group of friends and family joined the Norwegian Sun for the three night repositioning cruise from LA to Vancouver BC.  Below are some thoughts on the ship, and on repositioning cruises. EMBARKATIONBecause of the swine flu scare it took longer than normal to embark.  We arrived at 11:55 and were not on board till 2:10 PM.  This would have been OK, if we had been given better information about the reasons, and also better direction when we were in the boarding area.  Direction in the boarding area consisted of one security guard yelling at people to stay back from the boarding line until your group number was called.  The few times he used the public address system he bellowed into it.  An NCL representative could have given the directions, and would likely have done so with more grace and charm. NORWEGIAN SUN - THE SHIPWe had previously taken the same journey aboard the Norwegian Star, so it was fun to compare the two ships.  The Sun is a smaller ship, which gave us more of a "homey" feeling, and made it easy to find our way around.  The downside is that there are fewer venues, so there is less variety.  The shopping on board was also more limited.  The ship was clean, comfortable and well maintained.  The cabin was nice, standard sized (balcony on the Fjord deck).  Bathroom was smaller than I've experienced in other ships, but was very efficiently laid out with an innovate circular design.  Certainly enough room to do everything that was needed. ENTERTAINMENTThis was probably the best aspect of the trip for me (apart from just being at sea!).  The Jean Ann Ryan Company was very good, with a Cirque de Soleil style show.  The comedian was funny, thinking well on his feet. The magician was also very good. Two things which could have done with improvement were the Martini "lesson" at "NCL U" where the staff member was difficult to understand, and the staff seemed unprepared for the number of people who turned up.  A passenger, who had taken the same "course" on board another ship said they did a better job, and had actually been able to mix the drinks themselves and so could learn more. The other demonstration was the towel folding, which was fun but again the staff member was difficult to understand. FOOD The food was very nice.  If you like to have a sit-down lunch when you first board, then check the various full service restaurants.  I was told by one crew member that no full service restaurant was available, but walked to Seven Seas and found they were serving lunch.   Similarly, if you like a full service breakfast check around.  On our trip they were serving full service breakfasts in the restaurants.  However, you had to check the daily paper, since they would direct you to a different restaurant if you were not in the one which was assigned to your cabin. STAFFStaff were very friendly, and dealt promptly with problems and concerns.  We noted that a lot of new staff came on board for our trip, and they were not fully up and running on how things worked.  We wondered if this partly due to this being a repositioning cruise.  Also, restaurants and housekeeping seemed to be short-staffed at times.  However, the staff's can do attitude made up for a lot. One thing which we appreciated was that the number of announcements over the public address system was limited.  The Captain spoke once a day (around 10:00 AM), and the Cruise Director made some announcements, which were not piped into the private cabin areas, which we very much appreciated. SERVICEService at times was sporadic.  For housekeeping, errors were made in each of the four cabins which we had.  Examples include: coffee makers weren't present, informational binders were missing, mattress toppers were not on the bed despite being requested, soap wasn't provided (despite two requests).  One cabin was not made up till about 3:00 PM, and the cabin steward apologized saying that his partner was at training that day. One complaint often heard is that you are continuously pressed to buy drinks on the mass market ships.  We actually found that this wasn't the case, except for the evenings in the Dazzles Nightclub. One notably poor area of service was the East meets West Steakhouse, where other diners were getting up to try and get the servers' attention.  The food there was wonderful however. FINAL THOUGHTS & REPO CRUISESDespite the issues raised above, we enjoyed our three nights aboard.  My cabin was a balcony on the Fjord deck (Deck 9) which was very quiet.  This deck is sandwiched between two other accommodations decks, which I try for, since I believe it makes for a quieter cabin.  Fellow Cruisers - A mixture of people and ages.  A think the destination, lack of port calls, and cooler weather made for a mellower crowd.  Still fun, and folks were having fun, but it was not a "booze cruise," which we appreciated. We also very much liked that there was no enforced "formal night" aboard.  Norwegian Cruise Lines' "Freestyle" cruising ethic means that you can dress formally if you wish to, but it is definitely not required.  NCL is The repositioning (repo) cruises make for a nice short break, and are a good way to try cruising if you just want to get taste.  Be advised that these types of cruises do not focus as much on port calls. Our trip did not have any intermediate stops, so we were at sea from Thursday evening till Sunday morning.  Also, some aspects (such as midnight chocolate buffet) which you might get on a longer cruise, are often not provided. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
Embarkation - This was my first time EVER using the Bell Street Pier (#66) in Seattle and I actually thought it was okay, although parts of it were strangely laid out. We got our luggage dropped off and got inside. We were about 40 minutes ... Read More
Embarkation - This was my first time EVER using the Bell Street Pier (#66) in Seattle and I actually thought it was okay, although parts of it were strangely laid out. We got our luggage dropped off and got inside. We were about 40 minutes early for boarding, but lots of chairs and they had juice and water if I saw right. On the way in, we had to go through the photographers (we just said no thanks) but they wouldn't let us pass those that wanted to stop and have theirs done because "that would be cutting in line"... Only a minor annoyance though... No biggie. Got on and started exploring. One of my friends we went with had been on the Star before and knew the layout pretty well. GOOD LUCK finding the Aqua restaurant if you're new to the ship though... we were right in front of it, and it still took a minute to see it. (The entrance is wedged into the middle of a bank of elevators) Decor - I love the metal art deco style pieces over the elevator banks, and the wood paneling along the corridors (even if it's faux, it still made the ship look classy.) I've never seen a ship with an atrium more than 3 decks tall so this was kind of cool too. The public rooms were all quite elegant and inviting. However, once NCL got the ceilings, walls, lights, linens, etc I think they remembered they were on a budget, because even from a Vegas or cruise ship approach, most of the carpet was just horrendous. Lifeboat Drill - Yeah, they had one on the 1-day (funny as most predicted NCL wouldn't and the Volendam would the next day... they didn't...) but in doing so I got to see a different line go through their motions. I think the life jackets are MUCH better designed. More compact, easier to figure out (not that they're difficult, but compare the 2 and HAL's lifejackets are borderline logic puzzles) The requested quiet on deck with no talking, drinking or smoking and everyone complied. They stand you all in rows of 4 and it was much easier for everyone to get by as this was going on. Not once did they have to remind everyone to be quiet (it happens EVERY drill I've done...), then before anyone left, they requested that everyone take their lifejacket off, fold it back and wrap the strap on it so it was compact again and then proceed back to the rooms to return them. Public rooms are open again, wash your hands, report gastro illness please... no charges for exams or medicine in these instances (HAL does the same, but doesn't mention no charges for it which I think freaks people out... not knowing how much it might be, they stay quiet about it and possibly spread it inadvertently) Ship Layout - Simply put, it wasn't HAL, and HAL is what I know... so it took a little while, but by the end I had it down. Dinner - La Trattoria is one of the optional restaurants with a charge, but only $10, and the food was GREAT. I got the beef carpaccio which was decent, and the salmon scalloppini which was amazing. It was over a white bean ragout with ham, carrots and some other vegetables. I could do that dinner every night of the cruise on a longer one. No room for dessert by the end, but the choices sounded pretty good. Entertainment - The show was called "Band on the Run" and it was fantastic. It was a throwback to the 70s and while I enjoy the majority of the shows I've seen on HAL, and while "enjoyed" is a good thing, this show absolutely blew the mind of every single one of us in the group. The music variety was great, lots of costume changes, great singers, the level of energy and precision was right on and they got the audience involved. Simply amazing! The White Party - While it seemed a little gimmicky when I read about it on the website about 3 days before the cruise, and had NO clue it was actually going to BE ON this cruise, I had a phenomenal time. It was held in the Spinnaker Lounge which is directly above the bridge and forward at the top of the ship (like the Crow's Nest, all the way forward, lots of windows all around) During the day it seemed a little more mellow but was also the impromptu sailaway party location since the weather was crap. At the White Party they obviously encourage you to wear white... I could have planned better had I known it was happening, but I got by alright with what I brought for 2 1-day cruises. Lots of varying music, but mostly modern songs currently on the radio (some throwbacks to 70s 80s 90s and current) Ice sculptures all over, a SNOW BLOWER right above the dance floor. The atmosphere was amazing and we all had such a good time. We ended around 1:30 but I heard it went until after 4am... Blue Lagoon - Afterhours food available in the middle of the night. While by no means the best food I have had on a cruise ship, the fact I was able to order a spinach and artichoke dip and fish and chips and with my friend getting a grilled chicken sandwich and the food tasted pretty good and was up in less than 5 minutes, this was a great destination to round out the night. Souvenir Glasses (A CONSTANT annoyance) - Is it typical for NCL to basically tell you they "don't HAVE any glasses that aren't souvenir glasses"?? We got our first drinks off to the side of the waterslides under the covered area and they came in the tall plastic neon glasses and ran about $10. None of us wanted the glasses but we just took the "oh well, lesson learned approach" then we went up to the Bier Garten (I don't remember what time, sorry I missed everyone) and ordered my drink. He held up the same kind of glass as I didn't even keep the first time and said "8.95?" to which I replied "No thanks. A regular glass is fine." I get the drink in a little glass that couldn't have been more than 8-10 ounces and find out when I go to sign the receipt, this was a different souvenir glass with the Star's hull paint on it that is SEVEN ninety five... Feeling totally taken again I realized everything must be a souvenir glass unless it's just clear and steered away from the cocktails for a while and had Bud Light. Later after getting wine at the Star Bar right before our dinner at La Trattoria and enjoying a couple bottles with dinner with our group we went to the show. We ordered our drinks, specified REGULAR PLAIN GLASSES, NOT THE SOUVENIR KIND before the show started and waited quite a while. The guy came back JUST as the show was starting and they asked for no talking and handed us our drinks... in the tall, neon plastic glasses. Not in a position to argue during the show, we sucked it up once again. After some shopping we went to the SPinnaker Lounge until about 1:30 and my friends had a few run-ins with these glasses too. He would specify a plain clear glass and they'd put it in a souvenir glass. He'd call them on it and they'd put it in a plain glass, but then tried to charge him a higher price (by $1.50) for the exact same thing he'd been drinking all night and paid the same price for each time up til then. He called them on that, and I saw the guy give him an incredibly dirty look, then find someone to fix it. After seeing that display, I kept it to buckets of Bud Light the rest of the night between a few of us. There was absolutely no way they could try to do anything with that, and the wandering drink order guys in Spinnakers were AWESOME about making sure the aluminum bottles (which I found out the hard way aren't twist top like every other Bud Light in the world) were getting opened just as we needed them. To be continued, because we took this issue to the... Front Office: and they actually initiated contact with us as we went about $20 over our cash deposit we made the next morning. We told them we were finishing getting ready and would be there in 10-15 minutes. "Well, we're closing NOW" was the reply. My friend grabbed some more cash and ran down there since he WAS ready at the time. He mentioned he was happy to pay any overages (but explained the entire souvenir glass ordeal and that it was ridiculous) "Well we can't go around and talk to all the different servers and bartenders you had to see what happened, so you need to pay this. We're not adjusting it" He proceeded to explain he was happy to pay for every cocktail, beer, etc... but the extra couple dollars on every drink for stuff we weren't even keeping was ridiculous. He even said "and we didn't know the first time, as this is our first cruise on NCL... you can keep the charge on for that one... whatever..." to which the Supervisor type guy at the desk just repeated the amount we were over from our deposit... It was a messy, VERY awkward situation which could have put a damper on the whole night if the entertainment, White Hot Party and food in La Trattoria hadn't made up for it. The balcony room (10596) was also great, except the closet door came off the hinges the first time we opened it, and the deck chair was ripped to the point I was scared of sitting on it (Stuff happens though, no biggie with that, and the closet was fixed within a couple hours while we were gone) Disembarkation - It was a free for all, or so it seemed. We woke up, didn't get breakfast (not so hungry) and it seemed like there was no organization to it. The lines were HUGE and stretched all through the Grand Atrium. We just sat for a while until it mellowed out some then got in line once it was shorter and worked our way to the Canada Place Pier, to walk in a big circle and get right back on... the Volendam this time... More on that one later... Like I said... 1-10 scale this cruise would be an 8 or 8.5 and had SO much more potential for even better scores if not for the souvenir glass "BS" and the way the Front Office chose to handle it. A great time overall. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
My wife and I along with two friends decided to take a weekend cruise to nowhere out of Seattle. The other couple we were with were completely new to cruising and my wife and I have only previously cruised on Disney. We thought it would be ... Read More
My wife and I along with two friends decided to take a weekend cruise to nowhere out of Seattle. The other couple we were with were completely new to cruising and my wife and I have only previously cruised on Disney. We thought it would be a great short get away to see what another line was like. When we boarded the ship I made a joke with wife that she needed to slap her wrist every time she started a sentence with "Well on Disney we did..." However, as the cruise progressed I realized just how superior service was on DCL. Overall I felt the ship was immaculate, the food was on par with other cruise lines, and the cabin was well appointed. The two major flaws with NCL were: 1.) Lack of information and abundance of misinformation. 2.) Freestyle cruising, while unique, lead to a lower level of overall quality service. The Website: A total waste of internet space. I find that the NCL website is completely unhelpful. At DCL you can check in for your cruise online, book shore excursions, reserve specialty restaurants, and even reserve kayaks at the private island. NCL only lets you print your edocs and reserve shore excursions. Embarkation: It was a complete nightmare. We arrived at port at 11:30 and started waiting in line. We eventually reached a sign that told us we were in the wrong line to check luggage and had to start our wait over again. After roughly two hours of waiting we were ready to board. The Cabin: We booked an oceanview knowing that it would most likely be far too cold to enjoy a balcony. The cabin was clean and well laid out. We had plenty of room and closet space for the two of us. The bathroom has a toilet that is separate from the shower, which makes it easier when multiple people that are getting ready in the morning. Our cabin steward was fantastic...but no towel animals? Really!? The Ship: The ship was extremely new, clean, and well constructed. Though I did not notice nearly as much maintenance going on as when I was on the Disney ship. at 93,000 tons, it was plenty big for us. Though, with cooler temperatures (more people below deck) and no ports of call, it felt very crowded at times. Bottom line, the Pearl was Beautiful. Dining: Some people love Freestyle and some don't. It's official - you can put me in the don't category. NCL makes Freestyle seem great. If I'm hungry, why not eat at the restaurant of your choice, perhaps with a minimal wait. How it actually goes - run around in the early morning to decide where you want to eat later and pray that you can make a reservation because the restaurants fill up to the point where you can't even wait for a table. I will say that some of the food we had was great and some...not so much. Cagney's fantastic and Mambo's was also very good. We felt like out visits to the buffet offered the same food every time and our lunch at the Blue Lagoon....terrible. Here is the biggest issue with Dining on Freestyle: tipping. On a non-freestyle cruise your server hitches their wagon to you and their tip depends on the level of service they give. Aboard the pearl we had some of the worst dining service on land OR sea. They were incapable of putting the right dish down in front of the right person. At one meal two of people in our party received their food around 10 minutes after the other. Ridiculous. I also was agitated that we had to hunt out where we had to make reservations for dinner. It changed every day. Why can't I make reservations at any kiosk? Summary: I am glad I got a chance to try another cruise line, but I most likely won't try NCL again unless we do an interisland Hawaiian. We'll stick with Disney when possible. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
My wife and I planned an eight-day getaway from Vancouver to Los Angeles and back, with the southbound portion on Amtrak, two frantic days in LA, and the return trip on the Norwegian Star. I have been wanting to do this rail/sea excursion ... Read More
My wife and I planned an eight-day getaway from Vancouver to Los Angeles and back, with the southbound portion on Amtrak, two frantic days in LA, and the return trip on the Norwegian Star. I have been wanting to do this rail/sea excursion for decades, and this year the opportunity finally arose. The primary goal of the vacation was to relax and forget the real world back at home. Other goals were to try out rail travel and cruising with a minimal investment. I think that in planning a vacation, the first step should be to decide what your needs, desires and expectations are. Is your goal to be pampered at every turn? Would your vacation be spoiled if you had to wait in line for thirty minutes? Are you okay with a decent bed, or do you require a deep and luxurious mattress? Will you be disappointed if your room attendant does not form your bath towel into an animal shape while you are at dinner? Does your enjoyment of a room turn on the color choices in the decor? Do you require gourmet food to have a good meal, or will a burger and beer be okay from time to time? I think that a mistake that many people who post reviews (including me) have made, is over analyzing the experience. Enjoy the ride instead of cataloguing all of the little details. Although this was my first cruise, I am sure that none of these cruise ships is bad, as long as your expectations are appropriate for the ship. We had a wonderful trip, and our expectations were met or exceeded at almost every turn. There were a few glitches that have me rating the experience at four out of five, but none of these spoiled the cruise. PRIOR TO DEPARTURE Rail Travel If you have not travelled on Amtrak, I have two words of advice: Sleeper Car. Sitting in coach is a hit-or-miss deal, but you can always close the door of your sleeper compartment and keep the noise of your neighbors at bay. And your neighbors generally have more money than those in coach, which usually makes them more pleasant neighbors. That said, the loudest and most obnoxious schmuck on the train was a businessman who owns several properties talking on a cell phone in the observation car. RMS Queen Mary We spent our last night in SoCal aboard the RMS Queen Mary. I had been warned that I would be disappointed, but was thrilled with our king-sized outside stateroom with portholes facing across the harbour to the city of Long Beach. The bathroom was, admittedly very dated, with chipped glazing on the bathtub and some mould in the corners. The tub was huge and filled in seconds. The service was courteous and helpful, and the breakfast that we bought was fine. The self-guided tour that is included with the room rate was fascinating, and we would have spent hours doing it if we had the time. Try different approaches to get the best room rate - travel agent, the hotel's web site and the hotel's reservations phone line. Make sure to look at the special packages online - the web site's navigation is tricky, so poke around. There is a free shuttle bus from the Queen Mary around the touristy bits of Long Beach that departs every 15 minutes. Los Angeles has a commuter rail system called the Metro, and it connects with the free shuttle. You might not want to take the Blue Line from Long Beach to downtown LA at night if you feel uncomfortable rubbing shoulders with people who live in rough districts. And you need to leave LA by 10:30 pm if you want to get the last shuttle bus back to the Queen Mary from the Blue Line terminus. Otherwise the cab fare is about eight bucks from the terminus to the old liner. THE CRUISE But you wanted to know about the Norwegian Star. Most of what you have read is true: Embarkation at Los Angeles is relatively painless if you have your documentation ready. The rooms are brightly decorated, smallish, and with little storage space. You definitely want a balcony unless you are sure that you will spend very little time in the cabin. The dining is okay at the buffet, Blue Lagoon and The Grill, and good-to-excellent in the dining rooms. The service in the restaurants and bars ranges from okay to very good, depending on the person, rather than the venue. You don't need to eat in the premium restaurants to have a good meal. You should book tomorrow's dinner time as soon as you wake up or be willing to be flexible at dinner time. The entertainment venues are all very nice, and the acts range from okay to very good. Drink prices are high, and soft drinks are not included with meals. Debarkation can be a real zoo, so patience is important and you won't want a tight connection schedule. All in all, you can have an amazingly good time on this ship. Embarkation Embarkation was fairly simple and quick. Boarding started at noon, and we arrived at the terminal about 1:30. I didn't time it, but it seemed about forty minutes to get through all the lines. Make sure to print your boarding pass from the eDocs section of the NCL web site before you leave home. And, you won't get aboard without a passport or other photo id and proof of citizenship. Even if you are only dreaming about a future cruise, get your passport now. You will need it in the future, so get it now. Our Cabin We had a balcony stateroom. I will never cruise without a balcony, now that I have tried it. Other reviewers noted a lot of noise from Deck 12 in cabins on Deck 11, so we booked a cabin on Deck 10. Noise was rarely a problem, and we never heard the people in the cabin above us. We chose the port side to get the afternoon sun as we cruised northward. We chose a midship stateroom to minimize the sensation of the ship pitching. The worst sensation of pitching on the ship (and it was mild) was towards the bow. The cabin was not large, but we were not cramped. The mini-suites are only slightly bigger - the only reason I can see to booking one of them is to get off the ship early. Ee had to work to get all our baggage stored, but we managed. One of the storage closet doors was dangling on 1.5 hinges - we reported it to the room steward, but it was not repaired during our trip. The sliding door to the balcony is heavy and it can get some momentum. Use the handle every time and you will avoid getting your fingers crushed when you open the door. It hurt for a few minutes, but no real damage. On the balcony you can hear your neighbors on their balconies. Also, you can see them reflected in the guardrail glass if both they and you are sitting. Some people bring masking tape to cover keyholes in the partitions between balconies. It was too cold and windy to sit on the balcony on the first sea day, but the second was very calm, and, wearing light jackets, we read out there. Bliss. I was impressed with how little wind there was on the balcony - almost none, when the ship was moving and the sea was calm. When the wind was blowing across the ship, there was a noticeably breeze on the balcony that might actually be refreshing on a warmer day. The thermostat in the cabin seemed to work. I turned the heat up and left the balcony door open at night. There is a sign in the room noting that you are supposed to leave the balcony door shut, but I disregarded it. I like fresh air. From the standpoint of energy conservation and carbon-footprint reduction, you should leave that door closed, though. On the last night, a pilot arrived by boat. (Pilots are sea captains who have a lot of experience in local waters, and who help the ship's own captain to navigate in tricky waters.) At 2:20 am, the boat roared off and waking me suddenly. I jumped from the bed, disoriented and momentarily frightened. It took a good while to get back to sleep. If your balcony is amidships, pay attention to any announcements that the captain makes about taking on a pilot at night - you might want to close that door. I liked the bright, nautically themed textiles in the cabin. The bed was okay, although the "joint" between the mattresses was distracting. We are used to a lot of blankets, but the supplied blanket is thin. On the last night we asked for an extra blanket, and were provided with two woollen blankets that were no more than a yard squared. I am not sure what the point of that was. My wife's arthritis gives her some trouble with dexterity. This is a particular problem with round, slippery knobs. Door handles with lever arms are easy for her to use, and the door to our suite and bathroom have good handles. The knobs in the shower to control water flow are round, slippery, and difficult for her to manage. The temperature control knob clicks into a safe warm position, and you need to depress a button while turning the knob to get hotter water. This was a real challenge for her. Our ice bucket was filled every morning. The room was always acceptably clean. One evening we found a rabbit formed from towels on the bed. To be honest, turn-down service is a new experience for me, and not one that makes me overly comfortable. I am capable of pulling out blankets to get into bed. I wondered if the point was to make sure that the bedspread was removed so that we would not get it dirty. The tiny television flickered so much that it was unwatchable. That didn't bother me; I can watch TV at home. Dining It seems that the term "Free-Style Cruising" just refers to dining. Cruising, then, seems to be the same as dining. I guess that we spent about three hours a day at one dining table or another. We had dinners in Aqua, Endless Summer and Versailles, in that order. We had called at 10:00 am on day 2 for a seating at La Trattoria on day 3, but it was already booked up. But we had no appreciable wait for either Aqua or Versailles when we arrived around 6:30. The waiter at Aqua was overly obsequious - calling my wife "milady," trying to sell us bottled water, and trying to get us to buy a bottle of wine instead of two glasses. His attitude put me off, but he was the only crew member that I met who wasn't good or excellent. The meal was okay - roast leg of lamb for me and mahi mahi for my wife. Really good desserts. I liked the service at Endless Summer. Prompt, polite and reserved. I also liked the food. My wife's tostada salad had more meat on it than the beef entree I would have the next night at Versailles. She enjoyed her quesadilla. I had pork ribs that were good, but not fall-off-the-bone tender. It is hard to eat ribs with a knife and fork, and no fingerbowl was provided. The desserts were excellent. The waiter lost our payment card at some stage during the meal. Without our knowing it, he cancelled both of our cards, and at the end of the meal he brought us new ones and explained what had happened. Dinner at Versailles was okay, but I found our waitress to be unrefined. Not rude, maybe not even impolite, but unfamiliar with Western dining customs. For instance, she expected us to order our dessert at the beginning of the meal. This did not bother us, but I found her mannerisms odd. I had English cut strip loin with Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes. I understand that English cut means thinly sliced roast beef, but I was surprised at how small the single slice of strip loin was. The three slices of potato were also meagre. The Yorkshire pud was enormous and not bad. I rarely order an appetizer, but wished that I had on this occasion - I was still hungry. As always, the dessert was excellent. Later in the evening, I filled the void at Blue Lagoon. A couple of times we had wings, potato skins or chicken strips at Blue Lagoon. We had to hover until somebody got up and then snagged the seat. Then we had to wait while the harried wait-staff failed to notice us. That place was just plain understaffed, but the crew did their best. The food was okay; the environment was noisy. On the afternoon before we sailed, I had a hamburger at The Grill: dry bun and luke-warm fries. We had our first breakfast at the buffet. If you like a big breakfast, this is the way to go. In fact, we were so full that we skipped lunch. But we had the rest of our breakfasts at Versailles because of the more interesting and refined menu. Both times, I was glad of the nicer food, but was still hungry when I left. We tried lunch at the buffet once. What I did not realize is that The Market Cafe has several buffets down the starboard side. Keep walking until you find something that you like. Bottom line: if you are hungry and the buffet is open, you can find something to eat. The environment will be noisy and the food won't be special, but you can eat. The dining rooms were the only places I had to be in the vicinity of children. Without exception, the parents had their kids very well-behaved. I complimented a couple of dads and moms for their children's behavior. My big beef with eating on NCL is that soft drinks bloody-well ought to be included with meals at no extra charge. Coke is cheaper than milk, but I could have all the milk I wanted. Coke I had to pay extra for. Iced tea is free at Blue Lagoon, so that is what I drank there, and I had water with the meals in the dining rooms. Gift Shop I wanted chocolate so I went to the gift-shop and bought a Cadbury almond bar. It was old and had been allowed to get hot. The chocolate was tough, tasteless, and had lost its gloss. Bleah. Every purchase apparently gives you a raffle ticket. You have to be there at 5:00 pm on the last day. The purpose is to get a few hundred people standing around to make impulse purchases. The prize basket seemed pretty good, but it was a waste of about 30 minutes waiting in vain hope. The gift shop features ammolite jewelry. Look it up on Wikipedia; it is interesting stuff. If it interests you, research prices before you go. I have no idea if the ship-board prices are reasonable. Entertainment I am a trivia buff. When you board, you will be given a daily schedule. Look for the progressive trivia game. It is a total-points competition that has one session per day throughout the cruise. You don't want to miss the first session if you want to win a coveted t-shirt, beach ball or deck of NCL cards at the end of the cruise. There are more trivia games each day with equally exciting prizes. Check that schedule they give you every day for shows in the big theatre. It is a very impressive room, but the seats on the right and left mezzanines have impaired sightlines. The shows were good. Even better was the Chinese acrobat show in the big forward lounge - amazing. That schedule also tells you when the various musical acts are performing at the various locations. It is good to eat at Endless Summer when a trio is performing in the atrium bar (the name of which escapes me). Watching the lounge acts is pretty relaxing. Cruise Critic Get-Togethers It is possible that you found this review through a Google search, and are unaware that CruiseCritic.com has extensive forums. If you register, you can find forums for "Roll Calls." This way you can find people online who you can later meet on the ship. That is how we came to meet SakeDad, badell, and about a dozen other nice people. We gathered on Deck 14 at the outdoor Bier Garten bar with this crowd for sailaway, and met again on the first full sea-day at a small NCL reception for us. If you are trying to meet up in a public area, it is a good idea for everybody to wear some identifying mark - but one that would not make people feel conspicuous. Maybe a blue ribbon or a happy face button? Debarkation On the last evening, visit the service desk in the atrium and ask for you bill to that point. Normally your bill gets slipped under your door while you sleep during the last night. There were some anomalies on mine that occurred when the payment card went missing at Endless Summer. If you wait until the last morning, you might have to stand in line for thirty minutes or more with everybody else who is settling up. Debarkation was a mess. The cruise director repeatedly encouraged everybody to use Express Debarkation. You fill out a simple form and drop it in a box the morning before your arrival. You put a sticker on your payment card. When you arrive in port, you haul your own luggage off the ship to Customs. All well and good, but it seemed that more than half the passengers on the ship had decided to do that. The line-up was half the length of the ship by the time the cruise director made his first announcement inviting us to line up to leave. I only saw one crew member directing traffic, and that was unacceptable. That being said, with six Border Services officers checking us through, the actual debarkation process only took about 30 minutes from the time we joined the line. I would recommend lining up thirty minutes before the announced beginning of Express Debarkation. CONCLUSION I had fun; my wife had fun. The food was good to very good; the entertainment was good; and the cabin was very good. The debarkation was poor. We were very relaxed and got our minds off our jobs for a while. Our ship-board charges were only $150. It was a great vacation. That being said, we won't be rushing to cruise again next year. Maybe in a few years we will take a higher-end Holland America or Celebrity cruise. Remember: You'll have more fun if you don't over analyze. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
3 night/4 day repositioning Cruise from LA to Vancouver - Apr 24-27/08 This was our first cruise. My wife and I along with our 17 yr old son and his 18 yr old best friend had just come from 5 wonderful days at Disneyland and the SoCal ... Read More
3 night/4 day repositioning Cruise from LA to Vancouver - Apr 24-27/08 This was our first cruise. My wife and I along with our 17 yr old son and his 18 yr old best friend had just come from 5 wonderful days at Disneyland and the SoCal beaches. We had booked this little cruise to take us back home to Vancouver and to find out whether or not we liked cruising. Prior to our departure, we had investigated the cruise and the Star in depth on the internet. We found that the majority of the reviews were somewhat negative. However, it was clear from the tone of many of those negative reviews that the authors were just simply crabby people with find-a-problem attitudes and an air of entitlement. We felt that if we were relaxed, laid back and happy, everything would be fine. It was! We arrived at the LA Port at around 2 pm. We were through the entire embarkation process in less than 15 minutes. It was breeze! We were particularly happy with the NCL passenger representative at the desk in the Port. She was tremendously helpful and thoughtful. Our very first contact with a live, in-person NCL employee was completely positive. When we got on board we went to the "front desk" registration area of the ship. The line-up was about 2 minutes to see someone. The clerk was very helpful as we set up cash accounts for the boys on the ship. She gave us a brief "heads up" on what we should do about dinner reservations, and told us that our room was ready for us. We had booked a partially obstructed oceanview cabin for 4. (Note: some of the oceanview cabins are set up for a maximum of 3 persons only. The legend on the NCL site will advise you which of the cabins have 3 or 4 beds). The room was a marvel of efficiency. While not large by any means, it accommodated the 4 of us just fine. (And I'm not a small fellow - 6'4", 250 lbs). There are two beds that convert to three beds at night - with one popping out from under the other up to the same height as the other two. And there is a fold down "upper bunk" bed. The mattresses were firm but very comfortable and the blankets and pillows were fine. The "turn down" service did yeoman's work, as making up the 4 beds must be a difficult task. Our cabin was essentially located amidships on Deck 8. We had no problem whatsoever with noise. We all were highly impressed by the bathroom in our cabin. It is effectively sectioned into three parts and the shower is quite large with a sliding glass door. It is not at all claustrophobic, as we had expected - even for a big guy like me. The mustering/safety drill was next. It was lengthened somewhat by the collapse of an elderly passenger a few feet from where my family and I were standing. However, she recovered quickly and when it was all over it was off to the bar to buy the kids two soft drink cards (these cards are must-purchases for kids/teenagers. - You will save a LOT of money) and an introductory cocktail for my wife and I. I want to say that absolutely every person who worked in a bar or restaurant on the Norwegian Star was, without fail, friendly to a fault. Our dinner at the Soho restaurant (highly recommended, by the way) was vastly improved by our waiter who made the evening even more memorable. We strongly recommend that if you dine at Soho that you have the Ahi Tuna and caviar salad/starter. Beautifully presented and absolutely delicious. We also found that the prices for a bottle of wine were fairly reasonable. We also ate at LaTrattoria (very good - reservations required, but no extra charge - again with an excellent waiter) and several times at the Versailles. The Versailles is a stunning restaurant. Beautifully appointed and quite opulent. The service was pretty good and the food was also pretty good. Our only complaint about Versailles is that the portions were rather small. However, we quickly learned that we could order as much as we liked and so, eventually - we did. The serving staff did not appear to mind at all when we'd order an extra appetizer or an extra order of pancakes for breakfast. The buffet for breakfast is ok...not great, but not bad. I'd recommend getting there reasonably early - hotter and fresher food will await you that way. We LOVED the entertainment. Our absolute favorite was Sean Byrnes in the Red Lion Pub. He's a young man (24) from Toronto - and his confidence, his swagger, his energy, his tremendous sense of humor - and his guitar playing and singing were a highlight for us. Every night the Red Lion was a center of activity - everyone shouting out requests, singing along, laughing our heads off! Watching a bar full of happily intoxicated travelers belting out the chorus of the "Hockey Song" is a memory that will not soon be forgotten. Also kudos to the bar manager who conducted a beer tasting and university-level history-of-beer class one afternoon. Lots of fun and highly informative. The young woman singing and playing guitar by Gatsby's lounge was also a favorite of ours and we made sure we listened to her each evening before dinner while relaxing with a refreshing mimosa! Ahhhh.... Other highlights were the Second City Review, Peter Sasso - but only in the orientation show - the first night (not so much during his infamous 200 jokes in 45 minutes show the next day - where we heard every old tired one-liner joke every written throughout the course of human history). We also loved the big musical night - where the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber was featured in very entertaining fashion. While the Norwegian Star was dress-casual throughout, my wife and I did decide to get dressed to the nines on Dress-up Optional night. Ricky, the Cruise Director (an endless well-spring of energy, I might add) saw us and complimented us on our "look" and offered to take a photo of us - we appreciated the attention. One small thing - on the 2nd evening, there were photographers at various locations around the Grand Atrium taking photos of the passengers. The idea was to be photographed by the 4 or 5 different photogs with various backdrops and poses and then pick the photos you liked the next morning. We had expected this to be an expensive proposition and so we were initially resistant. However we went ahead and the next morning were very pleased to find out that the photographs were of the highest quality and that an 8x10 professional color photo plus an 8x10 color photo of our ship all set out in a beautiful fold-out 2-sided frame was only $30.00! We now have a wonderful memory of our cruise displayed prominently at home. On of the members of the Cruise Directors staff, a woman from Minnesota named Jill, needs to be singled out for kudos. One night while my wife and I enjoyed one of the entertainers (a fellow that specializes in Motown and R&B music), Jill came over and sat down with us for about 20 minutes and engaged us in a lovely and very friendly conversation. (Jill, it turned out, was the same woman who very generously complimented my wife on her dress as we arrived on the Star on the very first day of the cruise). Later, Jill suggested that we might enjoy going to the Red Lion Pub before it closed. When we asked for directions to the Pub, Jill actually just hopped up and offered to walk with us there. Now that's SERVICE! All in all - we had an absolutely wonderful time on the Norwegian Star. We are now planning a 9 day Caribbean cruise for Spring/09 - as we want more time (and more sun/heat) for our next cruise. Last word - we had only two complaints about our experience. One - the four hot tubs were, at best, only "warm" tubs. We were told that the heater coils were malfunctioning for the entire cruise. Too bad, as the temperature on deck was relatively cool every day - a HOT tub would have been nice. Second, the casino is a smoke-filled hell. We are not much in the way of gamblers...but even if we were, unless we were prepared to inhale a carton of second hand cigarette smoke while making our cash "donations" to NCL in the Casino - we could not have stayed in that room for more than 5 minutes. Maybe NCL can figure out something to alleviate this problem? Anyway, that's it. My family loved the cruise - and - oh yes - my son and his friend became addicted to the gym, the sauna and the steam room. Apparently, they are all First Rate. Dale & Robyn daleewalker@hotmail.com Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
Since others have already posted detailed reviews of this trip, I won't attempt a complete blow-by-blow description. Rather, I'll just mention a few things that occurred to me, especially in my capacity as a "first ... Read More
Since others have already posted detailed reviews of this trip, I won't attempt a complete blow-by-blow description. Rather, I'll just mention a few things that occurred to me, especially in my capacity as a "first time" and "solo" cruiser. FREESTYLE DINING: This really worked for me! Since I was traveling alone, I initially thought that I might eat most meals in the buffet, but it always seemed crowded and chaotic. So I turned to the "free" dining rooms. I was always asked if I wanted to share a table, I always said, "I'd rather not," and I was always given a table to myself, even on one night when the dining room was especially crowded. Excellent! I had two breakfasts (very good) in the Versailles, two dinners (good) in the Aqua (I only had jeans to wear), plus a lite dinner (OK) in the Blue Lagoon and the final morning breakfast (OK - good) in the Market Cafe buffet. I grabbed lunches (good) at the walk-up pool grill or BBQ. TIPPING: I added "additional" tips to most bar bills. However, these resulted in confusing adjustments on my onboard account statement and in at least two instances the tips were omitted (and I didn't have time to look into this before leaving the ship). If I were doing this again I would leave such "additional" tips in CASH to avoid the confusion. SMOKING: As a non-smoker, this was my #1 concern. Thus, I was very pleased to find that I could NOT detect smoke (either current or past) in my cabin. But the hallway was often smoky, especially during early evening hours. And I don't think I ever took a lap on the Promenade deck without encountering smoke, in a couple of cases bad enough that I had to duck inside the ship for a minute. I was disappointed that the "port side only" rule enforced at the pool area did not also apply to the Promenade deck. I should note that I did NOT see anyone smoking where it wasn't allowed. Thus, the "problem" resulted from NCL's policies and not from (as is often the case) the bad behavior of a few individuals. I'd guess that when compared to my "real" life in a state with tough anti-smoking laws, I encountered about 3 week's worth of second hand smoke on this 3-day cruise. Bottom line: Do NOT go on this ship if you expect a smoke-free environment! DEBARKATION: For the sake of convenience I had purchased a somewhat pricey airport transfer from NCL. But here's how it really paid off: The transfer group was the first group called after "express" (hah!) debarkation. We were escorted out a special door to the Promenade deck and were allowed to weave in line at the gangway. So I was off the ship, through Canadian security and on the transfer bus in not more than 30 minutes. Sweet! THINGS I WISHED FOR: I wish they had a "quiet bar" where you could order a drink and stare out the window WITHOUT being subjected to entertainment, organized activities, sports TV or overly boisterous behavior. I also wish that they had "free" beverage dispensers in the pool area (or, if they were there, I never found them). And/or I wish that I had taken along a small water bottle that I could have refilled in my cabin and carried with me about the ship. WOULD I CRUISE ON NCL AGAIN: Yes!!! But I'm subtracting one point from my overall rating due to the smoking situation. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
Considering a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line? Especially if you're thinking about the Norwegian Star, this very lengthy review is for you. Hopefully, it will answer some of your questions and help you make an informed decision. ... Read More
Considering a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line? Especially if you're thinking about the Norwegian Star, this very lengthy review is for you. Hopefully, it will answer some of your questions and help you make an informed decision. BOOKING AND EMBARKATION Having never taken a cruise before, I was excited to see such low fares for Norwegian Cruise Line's 3-night "Pacific Coastal Cruise" from Los Angeles to Vancouver, essentially a repositioning maneuver to get their ship up north for the summer Alaska cruising season from its winter duty cruising the Mexican Riviera. Inside staterooms for $149 per person? It sounded good to me. I asked two of my family members if they'd like to come, and they agreed, and we decided to upgrade to the mini-suite (class AF and AG) with balcony. We figured it would not only be a treat for our first cruise, but it would give us more room and a bit of privacy (they're married, I'm single). We booked our cruise online and our total price, including taxes and fees, was roughly $265 per person. Although there were no ports of call scheduled during the voyage, we felt that the price was an exceptional value. We were sailing on the Norwegian Star, a mammoth vessel built in 2001. The Star is 971 feet long with a 105-foot beam (width), and 14 decks. She is an amazing, beautiful ship. I was struck at its sheer size when we reached the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro. Embarkation was a very smooth, effortless affair. We had all already completed the Advance Guest Registration on the NCL website, and had been mailed our Welcome Packet with luggage tags, each printed with our individual name, stateroom number and location (forward, mid, or aft). After handing off our tagged luggage curbside (which was delivered promptly to our stateroom), we checked in at NCL's counters and each had a card issued to us (just like a credit card) which served as our identification, our method of "payment" while onboard, and our stateroom key. We proceeded through security and had our hands sprayed and sanitized (the first of many, many such sprayings while onboard), and boarded the Star on Deck 7 Mid. STATEROOM After all the initial oohing and aahing at the Grand Atrium area, we took the elevators to our stateroom, which was number 11180, indicating suite 180 on deck 11. We were on the starboard side, aft. The first impression as we entered the cabin was, "Wow!" The mini-suite is about 230 sq. ft. and very tastefully designed and furnished. As you walk in, there is a short hallway with a shelf; fresh flowers and a bowl of fruit had been placed out for our arrival. The bathroom is on the left (in this particular stateroom) and is wonderful. As you enter, there is a nice-sized main area with sink, mirror, subdued lighting, towels, amenities (lotion, shower cap, shoe shine mitt, oatmeal soap). The sink is a good size with a nice, upscale faucet. The appropriate number of towels and glasses for our party of three had been placed in the racks. To the left of this area was the toilet room, separated by a sliding glass door. Again, everything was nice and very well-designed. To the right of the main area was the tub and shower. I was happy to discover that water pressure was outstanding. The plumbing fixture was European-style, with a pressure control knob on the left and a marked temperature control (in degrees Celsius) on the right. A small button must be depressed to turn the temperature knob past 38 degrees Celsius. A pushbutton dispenser with shampoo and soap is mounted on the wall, and the shower head is adjustable for height and also removable for handheld use. The shower/tub is contained behind a sliding glass door and a retractable clothesline rounds out the bathroom. Plenty of clothes and towel hooks are available as well. NCL participates in the voluntary towel re-use program you see in many hotels these days. They stress that the gesture is strictly voluntary and ask that if you wish to use your towel more than once, simply hang it up; if not, leave it on the floor and it will be replaced. Continuing down the short hallway to the main sleeping salon, a hairdryer is mounted to the wall, and there is a shelf and two large drawers for clothes, etc. Here you will also find power outlets, a UK-style 220v outlet and a polarized US-style 110v outlet. There is also a mirror and a comfortable padded stool. In the main sleeping area, two twin beds are present. Given the makeup of our party, the steward had already pulled the two beds together and fitted them with a pad to make a queen-sized bed. Pillows are excellent, fitted with damask covers, as is the duvet. The bed is firm and comfortable. Near the bed is the closet, complete with about a dozen wood hangers, shelves and an interior light. Above the closet is a row of "cubbies," where the extra pillows and life preservers are stored. Each life preserver identifies the cabin number and the designated meeting spot (called a muster station) for that cabin, should an emergency occur. As expected, the life preservers are excellent, fitted with an automatic light (activates when wet), a whistle, and an integrated headrest to prevent rolling or facial submersion if unconscious. Prior to leaving port, there is a mandatory safety and evacuation drill held at each of the muster stations. Lifeboats are plentiful and stocked with food rations, fresh water, and capacity for 150 people each. Back to the stateroom, beyond the sleeping area, there is a thick, heavy curtain that can be drawn to separate the bedroom area from the sitting area. In the sitting area is a comfortable sofa, a table, and a built-in center that contains the minibar/fridge, safe, color TV, coffee machine and its accoutrements, and a small counter area. Three 220v outlets are here: one UK-style, and two European-style (two pins). One of the Euro-style outlets is taken by the coffee machine. There is also storage space on top of this center. Minibar prices are high, but no more so than you would expect to find in most land-based hotels (a small can of Pringles is $1.50, a 50mL bottle of liquor is about $6.00, etc.); the ice bucket and glasses are here as well, and the steward refills the ice bucket 2-3 times a day, or upon request. The sofa bottom (seating area) slides out on rails, then the seatback part folds down easily, where it is covered with a thick pad and sheet set for a full-size bed. The cabin steward takes care of this every evening when the turndown service is performed, and returns it to its sofa position in the morning. Chocolate mints are placed on every pillow. The room was fantastic on its own, but was made much better by the balcony. Behind a thick, light-blocking curtain, a full sliding glass door (on smooth-sliding rollers, not just in a track) grants access to the large balcony (about 55 sq. ft.) with two comfortable deck chairs and a table. A dome light provides lighting for night use. The panel beneath the railing is a single sheet of tempered glass, so the view is completely unobstructed. We loved the balcony and used it quite a lot, despite the cool temperatures as we sailed north along the Pacific Coast. RESTAURANTS/DINING So we were extremely happy with the stateroom, but what about the rest of the ship? The first place we went was Deck 12, one of the main common-area decks aboard the Star. A festive, wonderful aura prevailed as newly boarded passengers socialized and soaked up the Southern California sunshine and ate a delicious BBQ buffet... live music, great food (chicken, brats, sausages, potatoes, pasta salads, etc.), and a wonderful atmosphere. It was a great way to start the cruise, and we were still about an hour away from departing! We left the docks about 30 minutes later than our scheduled 6:00 p.m. departure time and set out to sea under cloudless skies. The highlight was seeing a number of green buoys in the ocean, each completely covered with California sea lions soaking up the last of the day's sunshine. Several sea lions bobbed around in the water around the buoys, clearly wanting to get on the platform the instant a space opened up. The restaurants on the Norwegian Star are very good. NCL has "Freestyle Cruising," so there are no set dinner times, nor any specific dress codes (most restaurants, however, do enforce a "resort casual" policy - nice jeans are acceptable, as is business casual attire). You're welcome to dress as much up or down as you like, and for my part, I really enjoyed this approach. I've not cruised before where you have set dinner times and a formal night and all, so I don't have a basis for comparison. I talked to a number of other passengers during the cruise, though, and got the very distinct impression that while most people like the Freestyle Cruising approach, not all do, and it seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing. If you eat in the main dining venues, you always have the option of sharing a table with other passengers or having your own table for your dining party. I really liked having this option, because I enjoy meeting new people, but sometimes, you don't feel like being overly social, so it's really great to be able to choose. The two main dining venues, no reservations taken, are Versailles and Aqua. Versailles is typically open for all three meals; Aqua is a bit smaller and open only for dinner. We really liked the dEcor and ambiance of both dining rooms. The food is excellent and is served in four-course fashion (appetizer, soup/salad, entrEe, and dessert). Service is efficient and gracious, and in a dining room that seats nearly 500 (Versailles), astoundingly well-choreographed. We ate three meals in Versailles (breakfast and two lunches) and were pleased every time. The buffet is quite good and handled the crowds very well. They have a Caesar salad station that turned out the best Caesar salads I had on the ship (even better than the specialty restaurants). There was a good assortment of salads, pastas, breads, hot foods, desserts, etc. There's also a 24-hour restaurant called Blue Lagoon whose ambiance leaves a LOT to be desired, but for a quick bite to eat at midnight, it's pretty good. The fish and chips are excellent. Room service is available 24 hours a day, as well (no charge) and offers a decent selection of fruit, sandwiches, pizza, and such. One thing I learned rapidly about cruises, especially those with no ports of call, is that for the specialty restaurants, it's very helpful to make reservations as soon as possible because they fill up fast. I tried making reservations at Cagney's Steakhouse several hours beforehand the first night. No availability. I asked about the next night, but it was full then, too. I tried La Trattoria with the same results. Same for Le Bistro. However, to the astounding credit of NCL crew, they noted my stateroom number on the phone when I called (without me even asking), and as soon as space opened up (perhaps a cancellation) for Cagney's, they called me and asked if we still wanted a table. Very nice! And the hostess at Cagney's knew that we were trying to eat at La Trattoria as well, and she was friends with the hostess there, so she got us a table there at 6:00 the following night. I was amazed at this level of service. Cagney's is one of the restaurants that carries an additional cover charge. At $20 per person, it's also the most expensive supplementary charge onboard. Their wine list was quite good, and prices were generally comparable to those in a land-based restaurant (I found a nice Beaujolais for $28). The menu included appetizers such as crab cakes, jumbo shrimp cocktail, and oysters Rockefeller. We had them all at our table and they were all outstanding. The next course is soup and/or salad, with such offerings as lobster bisque, clam chowder, Caesar salad prepared tableside, and a traditional iceberg wedge salad. I had the lobster bisque, which was pretty good, and the Caesar salad, which was very good, but not prepared tableside as advertised in the menu. The entrees were classic steakhouse selections: veal chop, double-cut lamb chops, NY strip steak, rib eye, T-bone, and of course prime rib and filet mignon. A nice array of sides are also available, and you can get as many as you like. Cagney's also offers three special dishes: a 1.5-pound whole lobster, a surf and turf dish with lobster and filet mignon, and a 24-ounce Porterhouse. These special dishes cost $10 in addition to the $20 cover charge for a total of $30. I had the 8-ounce filet and it was very good, although not the best filet I've ever had. The selection of desserts was excellent and was a superb finish to a fine meal in a splendid old-school steakhouse atmosphere. All in all, I would definitely recommend Cagney's, particularly if you can get a 9 p.m. reservation and pay the half-priced cover charge. But even at full price, it's worth it. La Trattoria, while also a specialty restaurant, has no cover charge. The atmosphere, while not as upscale as Cagney's or Le Bistro, was suitably Italian, and certainly pleasant enough with great floor-to-ceiling windows along one side for a nice view of the ocean and sunset. Again, it's a minimum of four courses… up to six if you're a complete glutton (appetizer, soup/salad, pasta, pizza, entree, and dessert). No thanks! I definitely recommend this restaurant since it's the only true specialty dining room without a supplementary charge. From the appetizers (we had carpaccio, calamari, and prosciutto and melon) to the desserts (tiramisu for me... what else?), the food here was terrific, and I'd recommend this place without hesitation. Again, make your reservations as soon as possible because they fill up fast. ENTERTAINMENT AND SHOPPING The Stardust Theatre, which seats about 1,000 in three levels, had a separate show on each of the nights at sea. The first night was basically an amalgam of the upcoming shows and had one performance. The second night was a musical performance featuring the songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was about an hour long and pretty good. Certainly not top-end Broadway caliber, but very entertaining. There were two showtimes (7:30 and 9:30); we went to the early show, then had dinner at Cagney's. The final night at sea also had the same two showtimes (we went to the later show) and featured a Second City troupe performance, mostly sketch and improvisational comedy. Following the show, which was the last of the cruise, a large contingent of the ship's crew, including the captain and some of the senior officers, came out to thank and meet the passengers. I found the crew, with few exceptions, to be gracious and accommodating. Some 55 countries are represented by the vast international crew; the majority seemed to be Filipino. All in all, I was definitely pleased with the service onboard. We also went to a stand-up comedy routine in the very nice Spinnaker Lounge. The guy's routine was mostly one-liners, altogether family-friendly, and occasionally even funny, but not usually. There was also plenty of excellent live music at the various venues throughout the ship, my favorite of which was a woman who played in the nicer lounges with just her guitar. I can't remember her name, but she had a really nice singer-songwriter vibe (although she was covering classics) and was very easy to listen to. Deck 12 has the main pool with a couple of twisty water slides and four freshwater jacuzzis, as well. The water in the pool is seawater, filled once the ship sets out, and is heated to about 84°. I stuck my hand in a jacuzzi and it felt only slightly warmer, maybe 90-95°. Certainly not the 102-104° you might be used to in a hot tub. The jacuzzis had some intermittent use during the cruise, but I never saw anyone in the pool. Must have had something to do with the 50° air temperature. :) However, the pool deck was always clean and seemed to be well laid-out. I can only imagine what it would be like on a warm-weather cruise! The casino on the Star is on the small side (at least compared with a land-based casino), but nice. There were three blackjack tables open (more on this later), a craps table with 3x 4x 5x odds, roulette, a few specialty games (Let It Ride, Caribbean Stud Poker, Three Card Poker, and Pai Gow Poker). There is also an area for poker games, most notably (of course) Texas Hold 'Em. There are a fair number of slot machines and video poker machines, although I ignored those. There is a casino bar, a casino services counter, and a cashier cage. An ATM is available, naturally, but levies a staggering $5.50 fee for withdrawals, so if your bank doesn't cover your foreign ATM withdrawal fees, it's best to bring cash or arrange something with the casino, because that's a really steep fee. If you're into blackjack, the tables here offer very favorable rules for the player with a few notable exceptions. Blackjacks are paid at the proper 3:2, not the abhorrent 6:5 nonsense so pervasive in Vegas these days. There was one $5 minimum table, and two $10 minimum tables. The two tables in the front had six-deck continuous shuffle machines, which certainly don't favor the player, but the table in back ($10 minimum) has an eight-deck shoe with deep penetration. The rules definitely favor the player: double on any two cards, double after splitting, splitting up to three times, and dealer stands on soft 17. NCL also has a player's club called Seabucks which allows players to accumulate points and onboard credits based on their level of play. I didn't spend a lot of time in the casino, perhaps two hours total, but enjoyed it both times I was there. There is a duty-free shop and a rather large shopping venue (unimaginatively named "Galleria") which has a wide assortment of cheap tourist crap, as well as toiletries, sundries, and some overpriced clothes. I milled around in there a couple of times, and that was enough for me, but I'm not much of a shopper. There is also a fragrance shop, a shore excursions shop, and during the days, various vendors (jewelry, art, etc.) would ply their wares in the main atrium. There is also a photo shop where prints of candid and posed moments snapped by the ship's photographers are displayed for consideration, commentary, and, NCL hopes, purchase. DISEMBARKING AND CONCLUSION The debarkation was a bit of a fiasco, of course, but no more or less so than I would expect on any vessel trying to disgorge 2,000 people through three customs counters. The express debarkation was not anything of the sort and I'm glad we didn't elect to use this after seeing the incredible lines to "just walk off the ship." We had a nice, leisurely breakfast after we were moored, and finally wandered off the ship according to our color group (determined by stateroom location) at about 9:45 a.m. NCL is good about reminding you that you're still on vacation that final morning and they're not in any big rush to get you off the ship, so take your time, have a nice meal, enjoy yourself, etc. There are even a few morning activities planned, so it's quite nice to have that time. We placed our luggage outside our door the previous night at about midnight, so we had to think about what we'd wear and what we'd need upon awaking. It worked fine. All in all, this was a marvelous introduction to cruising for me. There are only a few things that I consider drawbacks… one is that it seems odd to me that soft drinks are considered some kind of premium beverage. I don't personally drink much pop anyway, so I was fine with the free drinks (water, tea, coffee, and milk), but for people who like their Cokes and Sprites, I would think $1.50+15% every time would add up in a hurry, particularly on a longer cruise. Alcoholic beverages were expensive, but not obscenely so (about what you'd pay in a bar on land). As an example, a six-pack of premium imported beer in a helmet full of ice out on Deck 12 was about $22+15%. So with tip, you're paying a bit over $4 per beer, which isn't awful, but certainly isn't a bargain. Spa services are about as expensive as you'd expect, and some of the things like wine tastings, martini tastings, etc., carried nominal fees (usually $10-15). Any sort of Internet access was incredibly expensive, but on a ship, I suppose that's not entirely out of the ordinary. WiFi access is available as well, but it's 75¢ per minute. I didn't find much on the ship that I felt was really overpriced (beyond soft drinks and Internet access), nor did I feel I was being pushed or manipulated to buy something at every turn. Gratuities are added to your shipboard account automatically at $10 per person, per day. I personally liked this, because it just freed me up to not have to think about signing for tips at restaurants or leaving tips in envelopes for stewards, etc. Some people might not like this method, and that's understandable. I did. My understanding is that you can adjust this amount with a quick word at the reception desk. Your statement is delivered to your stateroom on the final night at sea, while you sleep. I liked that each person in a common stateroom could have a separate shipboard account, or two people could be combined on one account, etc. However we wanted to play it, NCL accommodated us with ease. I'm a big fan of "Freestyle Cruising" and will definitely look to NCL for my next cruise. I'd like to try another line at some point for the sake of comparison, but this was a very good experience, and I'd recommend NCL to anyone, especially when you find a great deal like we did. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
My parents, my younger sister and myself went on a one day cruise the previous September on the Norwegian Star and we wanted to experience something a little bit more than one day. We discovered that there was a relocation cruise from Los ... Read More
My parents, my younger sister and myself went on a one day cruise the previous September on the Norwegian Star and we wanted to experience something a little bit more than one day. We discovered that there was a relocation cruise from Los Angeles to our hometown in Vancouver for three nights and we decided to book it and combine it with a small Las Vegas trip as well. It turned out that my older sister and her husband liked the idea as well, and they joined us as well. We flew from Vegas to Los Angeles on US Airways and got there around 11:00. We took a shuttle from the airport and arrived at the port around 11:45. Once there it took us about 40 minutes to check-in and board the ship. We had a slight delay at the metal detector. They were very sensitive to even the foil for cough drop packets and the little moist towelette packages. Once we were on board, we were greeted by some of the crew and boarded with no real problems. I knew that since it was a short cruise, it would be a good idea to make a reservation at Cagney's right away. Once I got my bearings, I found the reservation desk with no problems and made reservations for the next day. It was a good thing too as we discovered that Cagney's was fully booked for the rest of the cruise. They announced that our cabins were ready at about 1:30. We were located on deck 10 portside at the front of the ship. Our parents were a couple of football fields away on the back of the ship on deck 9 starboard. I really got my exercise running between the cabins. Our luggage was not in the cabin yet, but did arrive around 4:30, just after the muster drill. Now for the how the cruise itself went Room: The room was adequate and we did not feel too cramped. As it was not freestyle 2.0 yet, we asked for foam covers for our beds. This made the beds more comfortable. It was nice having the balcony. Now I know why they say that once you have a balcony you can never go back. At times, it was too cold to be out there, but you just had to go out there to enjoy the views. Food: We had dinner the first night at the Versailles and enjoyed the food that was served. The service was a little slow, but once the food arrived, it made up for it. We also had lunch the next day at the Versailles and breakfast the 3rd day of the cruise. The dinner on our second night was at Cagney's and this was definitely the best meal we had on the cruise. Our entire family almost tried everything that was possible. I loved the Shrimp Cocktail as did the others who ordered. I had a T-bone steak for myself as the main and it was cooked to perfection and the peppercorn sauce made it even better. Both my sisters had the lobster and it took them some time to finish it. The service was excellent and attentive. We even made fun of the maitre'd when they brought out a new bucket of ice cream that was frozen solid and he was having trouble scooping it. The surcharge of $20 ($30 for the lobster dishes) really didn't bother us after. The dinner on our final night was done at Ginza. My sister won the dinner (which means no surcharge) at the casino the previous day and we decided to take advantage of it. Now being of Chinese descent, we may have been expecting a little more, but ended up a little disappointed, as we were hoping for a bit of that wow factor. It was average at best and we would probably avoid it next time. However, the people we saw in the Teppanyaki room appeared to be having a good time, so we might try there instead next time. One thing that I have to mention is at lunch, we tried some of their buns for the burgers and hot dogs. My recommendation for those is to lose the buns as they were very dry and really didn't do the meat justice. Hopefully, they will do something about that in the future. Entertainment: There is a main showroom on the ship and we caught a couple of the shows on board. The first night was a welcome aboard show that had all the different performers from around the ship. It was a nice show and the cruise director Ricky Matthews really tried to keep the energy up (even if some of his jokes were a little cheesy). The second night they had an Andrew Lloyd Webber show. I found it to be okay, but found that some of the singers in the Jean Ann Ryan company seemed to be out of sync with the rest. The last night was second city, but we missed that show. One thing that they did before every show was try to sell pulltabs (they do it at the bingo as well) with a chance to win $2,000. On the second night my older sister ended up winning the $2,000. She was extremely happy for the rest of that evening. We also saw a few of the lounge acts as well. The best of the bunch was Jana Seale. Her sound is wonderful and I even picked up a copy of her CD. She mentioned that she was going on vacation after the cruise for 6 weeks, so next time she is back, I would highly recommend catching her. Drinks: The prices of the drinks were probably on par for what you would pay at an average restaurant, but they do charge an auto-gratuity of 18% on the drinks, so be prepared for that when you order. Other things: We went to the casino a few times and it was okay for it's size. I guess they want to retain a little of Vegas on their as it was filled with smokers quite often. The photographers made their presence felt at all the restaurants every night and on formal (optional) day, we had a family picture taken. My mom loved it and we ended buying it. They are a little pricey, but sometime you just have to pay for some memories. Overall, except for a couple of small things, we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. It has only made us want to try a longer cruise next time. We want to try the other cruise lines, but we definitely will try to fit another Norwegian Cruise in if it fits our plans. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
Pearl September 24-28, 2007, Vancouver, BC - Los Angeles Repositioning Cruise This was our third cruise on the Pearl in less than 8 months. We really love this ship, her crew and the upbeat decorations. We originally booked this cruise ... Read More
Pearl September 24-28, 2007, Vancouver, BC - Los Angeles Repositioning Cruise This was our third cruise on the Pearl in less than 8 months. We really love this ship, her crew and the upbeat decorations. We originally booked this cruise so our 82-year-old dad could join us on his second cruise. Unfortunately, circumstances didn't allow him to cruise with us. We were in a quandary deciding whether to go or not go and at the last minute, decided he was in good hands at the hospital and with his blessing, off we went. Embarkation Day: We had a 6AM flight and decided the stay overnight in El Paso, TX, about an hour's drive from home. We purchased the transfers through NCL and signage at YVR was good. We also were to take part in the USDirect program, but we missed those signs and were sent through Customs with the hoards of other Vancouver travelers. The line went fast and we were on our bus (wondering if we'd ever see our bag again). Arriving at Canada Place about 2:30, we had a rapid check-in and went immediately to our OV stateroom. We picked up our life vests for muster drill (held in the Summer Palace dining room). Our luggage was received quickly so the USDirect transfer program worked perfectly for our luggage. Our Stateroom: Our oceanview room was kept clean and orderly. We had more enough space for our belongings (more so than in a balcony room). Of course, we overpacked - bringing way too many clothes. We had our beds put together and had a tiny night table on either side of the bed. The table barely held the telephone - I'd say it was about 12" across. That's how much room you have between the bed and the wall. Getting in and out of bed was cumbersome, as you had to dodge the folded bunk that used about half of the wall space - leaving about 6-8" of body room. The room had a stocked mini-fridge, flat panel TV, coffee maker, safe, 6 drawers, built-in desk, shelves and ample hanging room in the closet. We requested an eggcrate mattress topper and it was brought quickly. I suggest you remove about half of the hangers in the closet, as they are bulky. We always bring a folding hamper and it fit in the closet nicely. The closet had a lower fold-down shelf but I still couldn't figure out its purpose. A nice touch was the light in the closet that we kept on at night for a great nightlight. Our multi-pocket shoe bag hung on the inside of our closet door and was perfect to hold the odds and ends that accumulated throughout the cruise. The bathroom space was adequate. This time when I asked for a bar of soap, our cabin attendant immediately brought two bars of oatmeal soap "made exclusively for NCL". Upon arrival, we were treated to a bottle of wine and a fruit basket, compliments of Latitudes. We also had letters from the hotel director and concierge (Karin Goedecke, more on her later). Our cabin stewards did their work and were very pleasant. We found all staff willing to go the extra mile to make things right. Gatherings: Our Meet and Greet (held in LeBistro the first sea day (Tuesday) was arranged by a member of our group but it was disappointing no one from NCL attended. NCL did provide beverages and pastries. PokrTom organized one of the best M&G's with gift exchanges among participants and door prizes. VIP Guests: As Platinum members, we were invited to dine in Cagney's for breakfast and lunch. The VIP cocktail party was held Tuesday evening and we enjoyed talking at length with the cruise director, Simon Murray. Each evening we would receive "tasty treats" ranging from hors d'oeuvres to cookies. Twice in the four days, we received two plates of treats. The concierge, Karin Goedecke was apparently kept busy with the Penthouse passengers, for she ignored us (except for the letter the day of embarkment). As VIP passengers she said she made dinner reservations for us, but we didn't have reservations in one of the dining rooms when we went at our scheduled time. We decided to double-check on our reservation at LeBistro, and sure enough, we didn't have a reservation. No problem, we just made our own. Needless to say, this new concierge did not receive a tip from us at all; infact, we left negative feedback for her. Dining: As mentioned previously, we enjoyed breakfast and lunch in Cagney's. While they have the same specialty breakfast menu daily, the lunch menu varied. We had lunch once in the Garden Cafe and once in Blue Lagoon. Our evening meals were in Lotus Garden, Mambos, Indigo, and LeBistro. I enjoyed all the meals, only wishing they were served a little warmer. My new favorite entrEe was the teriyaki steak at Lotus Garden with the Braised Short Ribs/Tenderloin at LeBistro coming in second. A few times we went to the Garden Cafe just to have a bowl of the chilled fruit soups. Sad to say, LeBistro's chocolate fondue was no longer available. The chocolate buffet was held from 10:00PM-11:00PM on Thursday night. Do try the Chocolate Decadence; it was divine with the consistency of soft fudge. Entertainment: Shows on this short cruise included SeaLegs at Sea, Garden of the Geisha, a magician and Second City, which were repeats for us. Apparently NCL had negative feedback on the original SeaLegs costumes as the girls' bottoms were covered. Simon Murray was the CD on this cruise and did a great job and his new assistant was very entertaining. We enjoyed watching "the Perfect Couple" game show. No art auction on this cruise, Murder Mystery dinner or talent shows. As usual, the casino was smoky (but since it's one of the few indoor places smokers are allowed, that's understandable.) Several machines were available for those wanting to play for lower denominations. I noticed penny, 2 cent and 5 cent slots. For far less noise and no smoke, go to the Bliss lounge for some machine poker. A very few hardy souls used the pools and hot tubs. Most days it was too windy and cool to enjoy the water, even if it was heated. You still have to get in and out! Very few outdoor activities were scheduled, but the weather in San Francisco was "smashing" - it couldn't have been better. Lounge chairs were at a premium. Lounges, tables and chairs were also on the Promenade deck. Miscellaneous: We did tried to use the stairs whenever possible. When it wasn't too windy, we also made it a point to use the outdoor walking circuits. Ports of Call: Our one and only port of call was San Francisco. Pier 30-32 is not attractive with nothing but a tent set up at the pier. No one was selling tours, so we opted to walk and jump on a cable car to Chinatown. It was quite an experience! After observing the chickens and ducks hanging in the windows, we decided we would eat on board the ship! Onboard Shopping: Everything from a candy bar, cold medicine, inexpensive (or expensive) jewelry or a t-shirt is available on the Pearl. One thing I wish they would sell is long sleeve t-shirts. Something between a t-shirt and a sweatshirt. Very few bargains on this cruise - with the exception of some Alaska t-shirts. Disembarkation: We had VIP departure off the ship and it was very easy. We had breakfast in Cagney's, gathered our luggage (we also chose Express) and went to the Blue Lagoon to meet the concierge. She escorted groups of 6 or so to an elevator (used exclusively by VIP guests) and we were off the ship in minutes. Customs was a breeze and then it was off to our shuttle to LAX. We had prepaid for the shuttle service; I believe it was $16pp - or $18 at the pier. Since we were on SWA, we were at a tiny gate area with limited bathroom facilities, few dining choices, etc. Our flight was approximately ½ hour late for departure but we still were back in El Paso by 4:00 our time. To Summarize: The Pearl is a beautiful ship and the food and crew are wonderful. There have been a few changes to some of the menus (elimination of the Chocolate fondue, no longer have access to juices after breakfast in the Garden Cafe, etc.). Meals could be served warmer, entertainment was good, and guests were cordial with many first-time cruisers. It was a fun trip but the four days went by way too fast! I purchased another future cruise package for $250. That put $250 into my NCL account to be used as the total deposit on a future cruise PLUS I received an immediate $100 on-board credit to my account. Thus the $250 only cost $150. A great value if you enjoy NCL. We have an upcoming NCL cruise on the Sun in October 2008 but I'm sure we'll cruise NCL again in the meantime. Perhaps a European cruise is in our future. I would rate this 4 day cruise as an 8 out of 10. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
Review: NCL Pearl 9-24-07 thru 9-28-07 Repo from Vancouver to Los Angeles The start of the cruise part of our vacation was a little rocky. This was our 10th cruise on NCL, and as Gold members of Latitudes, we were hoping for a little ... Read More
Review: NCL Pearl 9-24-07 thru 9-28-07 Repo from Vancouver to Los Angeles The start of the cruise part of our vacation was a little rocky. This was our 10th cruise on NCL, and as Gold members of Latitudes, we were hoping for a little better treatment for the embarkation process. Another ship, the Coral Princess was boarding at the Vancouver pier at the same time, and everyone on the pier was herded in the same line - a LONG line. Fortunately, it moved quickly, but we were still in a line, moving or not, for over an hour,with thousands of other passengers (5500 was a number I heard). It turns out that line was just for Customs. We didn't know that. Once thru Customs, we were split off from the Princess people and herded onto another LONG line. There was a special (short) line for passengers that had suites, but there was no mention of Gold members or higher (and that's supposed to be one of the perks of the Latitudes program). Finally, after 1 and a half hours in line, we finally got on board the ship. The staff behind the counter was very nice, but the ones acting as shepherds to all us herded cows were not. Not that they were nasty, but they were not interested in answering questions and just basically did their jobs which were to push us in the right direction. Once on board (whew!), things were fine again. We ditched our carry-ons in our room and headed out for lunch at the Garden Cafe. I personally like the food there. I prefer to eat mostly veggies, and there was always a wide assortment of them there, prepared in all kinds of ways. Due to the diverse nature of the passenger base on this cruise, it was apparent that the menu was diverse enough to try to satisfy as many as they could. There was always a selection of Asian stir-fry dishes, as well as Indian foods along with the comfort foods like mac and cheese, steamship style roasts and of course the typical hamburger and hot dog assortment, etc. Our only complaint is that because it is kept hot on steam tables, the food doesn't stay hot for very long, and by the time we found a table to sit at, got our drinks, etc, the plate was frequently quite cold. Don't know how that could be fixed, however. Our balcony stateroom was beautiful, impeccably clean. Man, I just wish that NCL would consult some women, especially those that go camping in rec vehicles when designing a cabin. ALthough there was ample space, it was organized in all the wrong ways. Cubby shelves were very large, and two of them were so high that they could only be seen into by NBA basketball players. My little 5'5" frame could not even reach into it. So it became useless. There was no desk drawer. NCL issues incredible amounts of paperwork in the forms of advertising or information,much of which I like to save, and there was no place to put it. It had to be left out on top of one of the tiny vanities. The hangers in the closet are very bulky and noisy. Because of their design, it is very difficult to remove them or to take clothes off of them without making a lot of noise. On long cruises, there never seems to be enough. I usually bring my own thin ones, which are much easier to use. I would also love to see a magazine rack on the wall of the bathroom next to the toilet, for obvious reasons. There's just lots of empty space It could even be a place to store all that blasted paperwork! Our Meet & Mingle was wonderfully organized (Thank you, Tom), and the company was fun. Very disappointed that there were absolutely no staff from NCL there. Such a difference from our previous Pearl experience where we met all kinds and levels of staff! Heard a rumor that Cruise Critic functions are no longer going to be considered any different than any other group and therefore require no attention other than the refreshments that NCL provides. That's unfortunate, really. It doesn't look good on the CC boards if NCL comes across as less caring than other cruise lines. But, if the executive decision has been made in that direction, then the chips will fall where they may. In general, we were satisfied with the food, both in the buffet and Summer Palace. Let's put it this way, we certainly never went hungry. I was, however, disappointed in the sugar-free desserts in the buffet. There were 2 or 3 offerings every day, but they were the same ones, every day. There is so much that can be done with Splenda, and fruit and even Jello, and with the products that are now available and the expert chefs that are on board, you'd think that they could come up with some pretty spectacular things. I wasn't looking for spectacular, necessarily, but the offerings they had (chocolate /strawberry mousse or "cheesecake") were bland and pretty tasteless. Day after day...... Once in awhile they did have a sugar-free ice cream, or a low fat or fat-free one. That was great. But it wasn't always there. I know that there are some ice creams that are fat-free with no sugar added that are out of this world, and cost the same. THAT would be great. We had nice surprises in our room just about every day, from canapEs to chocolate covered strawberries. Sometimes got treats from the concierge, sometimes from the manager of the Latitudes program for being Gold members. The first one was a bottle of wine with a fruit basket. The wine was a special treat for sure. The other treats (with the exception of the strawberries - yum!) were nicely presented, but too often went to waste because we were already full. Maybe food isn't the best Perk on a vacation that seems to already be centered totally around food. The shows varied greatly. Having been on NCL 10 times over the last 20 years, 7 of the cruises being in the last 5 years, (ah, the wonderful empty nest), we have seen the Jean Ann Ryan shows multiple times. The same show. We were on the Pearl 9 months ago when she was brand new and first started doing her Caribbean itineraries. The shows appeared to be the same this time, at least substantially. My hubby and I happen to be theater people, he as a sound and lighting professional and I as a costumer, so watching that aspect of the shows is great. But the content gets old after a little while. The cast is very talented and well directed, and still did a wonderful job, full of energy, which is key to a stage show like that. However, the guest entertainers are fantastic. We have always been so pleased. Second City delights us always, no matter how many times we see their shows (Some parts of their routines were the same too - but still funny) and the comedian (David Nasta) made us roar. He's truly a funny guy. He frequently strayed off his prepared routine and was able to ad lib funny comments on things he got from the audience. Enjoyed Bob and Sara Trunell also (again). They do a combined magic/illusion/comedy show that is very entertaining. With two of our four days being at sea, I was disappointed in the line-up of activities. There were many activities to be enjoyed, but they were not well distributed so you could enjoy many of them. There would be stretches of hours with virtually nothing except shopping or spa, etc. Then there would come a clump of activities, all scheduled exactly at the same time. Martini and margarita clinics were held at the same time in different bars, for instance. I had a hard time deciding which one to do, since I wanted to do both. Had they split them up, I could have participated in both and NCL would have made more money off me. I don't think it would be difficult to rearrange the schedule so that passengers could flow from one activity to the next. One activity that was very well received and that I happen to love is country line dancing. I attended the class one afternoon taught by an adorable staff member named Isabel, and for once, dancing had also been scheduled in the lounge the same evening! We were in our glory. Not only was Isabel there but many of the cruise staff were on the floor, helping newbies learn and interacting with all of us. I met some fabulous people on the dance floor that day, and we all felt like old friends by the time we saw each other that night. Too bad it was the last day of the cruise. If it had been the first or second day, and then repeated throughout the cruise, we could have made some "friends" that we could look forward to meeting at other times. HINT TO NCL. MORE COUNTRY LINE DANCING, MORE OFTEN. Those of us whose partners don't care to dance really appreciate the opportunity to dance without needing a partner. And it was terrific exercise! Another thing we thought was strange was the fact that despite two full days at sea, there was no pool band. They had one for sailaway out of Vancouver, but the band looked like it felt out of place, like they'd never played in that area before. The weather, altho chilly, was not rainy, so many people congregated outside. Brave souls (and there were quite a few of them) went into the hot tubs and the pools (which were heated fresh water), and the atmosphere could have been a little more charged if a pool band was there sometimes. Perhaps because of the short repo? We did notice that many of the staff seemed brand new and unfamiliar with things in general, so maybe they had a major staff shift..... Disembarkation was pleasant, sortof. We chose the latest time to disembark, since we had a 1:30 flight from Long Beach, and plenty of time. That part was great - walked off when we felt like it. The luggage collection lines were very small at that point, so we found our bag in about 2 seconds, literally, and strolled out to get a cab. That's where it got a little hairy. We had no reservations, and it seemed that even if you did, you were out of luck. Lines were long for the Prime Time and Supershuttle, and the cars were not returning quickly - I guess the traffic, as usual in LA was bad. So we did spend a lot of time waiting for a shuttle to come back. But the weather was decent and why be in a hurry to rush to an airport to just do more waiting? It worked out fine, in the end. I did not realize how long it took to get to Long Beach Airport from the pier - on the map it seems so close. Don't know if it was closer than LAX or not. But what a cute airport! Small and personal, it is simple and short to get your pass and get thru security. I love small airports, and this one's a keeper if we do this port again. With 2 metal hips, I always set off the alarm and have to go thru the full pat down routine before I can board. This can add a great deal of time and frustration at a major airport. Things have changed so much over the years. Freestyle cruising, as well as deeply discounted fares, has created situations that are not optimal for service and put more pressure onto staff. I've heard many people complain on many cruises that service just ain't what it used to be, and they're right. HOWEVER, with cheaper prices come staff reductions. The cabin steward that used to only have a handful of cabins to attend to would so frequently be in the hall folding towels or just generally working around, available to talk, available to be more attentive to our needs. The cabin load on the stewards has more than doubled over the years, from what I can see, and they barely have time to do the essentials. Being available for my every whim is just not possible any more. The newer ships also keep the stewards work areas sequestered in secret hallways, out of view, so we just don't see them as much anymore. So if it looks like the service is lousy, it seems to reflect on a bad attitude of the steward, but may in fact be a result of too much workload. I miss the days of conversing with my steward, finding out more about his/her homeland and family, developing a rapport. I think I caught a glimpse of my steward three times this trip as he was rushing around trying to take care of what he had to do. Conversation was just too much of a luxury. But when I did ask him for a top sheet (they use duvets which are much too warm for me) and an egg crate mattress, they were on my bed that night. Cabin make-up times and turn-down times were much longer than in the past. But I don't feel I can blame the stewards. Those people work extremely hard and get what seems to be very little for it. And some obnoxious passengers can turn their lives into hell very quickly. Same goes for the staff in Summer Palace. In the traditional dining experience, a waiter would have maybe 5 to 7 tables to take care of, all of whom would have the same passengers for each meal. He/she devoted himself to those passengers. Now, it appears that there are many more tables that become the responsibility of each waiter, and if all of them are full, he has to race around to take care of everyone. One of the downsides of Freestyle. On the whole, I enjoyed my cruise greatly. I always do. I find the experience to be delightful, relaxing, and very fulfilling. The food is plentiful and delicious, the staff very pleasant and helpful, and with just a few little tweaks here and there, could be downright perfect. 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Sail Date September 2007
Let me start by saying that I much prefer to write a good review over a bad review. In the case of this cruise there were many things that did not the way we would like, so we left with a bad taste in our mouth. I decided that I would ... Read More
Let me start by saying that I much prefer to write a good review over a bad review. In the case of this cruise there were many things that did not the way we would like, so we left with a bad taste in our mouth. I decided that I would write about the good stuff first so that the review was not all negative. I will state up front that we will cruise on NCL again, mainly because we were on a repositioning cruise and not a regular itinerary so things may not have been normal. The Good Embarkation: Embarkation at Canada Place went considerably smoother then our last time at Canada Place. After we got off Amtrak we took the Skytrain to Canada Place walked in and found a relatively short line. We dropped off our bags and wandered into Gastown for a little over an hour then returned to an even shorter line then before. Once we got into line it moved quickly and only took about 20 minutes to get to the X-Ray machines, another 5 minutes to get to customs and we walked right up to the check-in desk for the cruise. Ship Layout: We noticed that a lot of people have said that they did not like layout of the ship. We on the other hand did. Activities and restaurants were spread over four main decks, but they covered the whole deck. While this meant a lot of walking, it also meant that it was easier to figure out where we wanted to go. Additionally this helped to counter one of the effects of cruising that some people complain about, the food. *Smiles* After eating a good meal having to walk around the ship to different areas helped to counter that sedentary effect that happens when everything is centered in one area of the ship. On that note we learned a lesson on cabin placement that we will be using when booking cabins in the future. On this cruise we booked an aft facing cabin and found that most of the activities and shows we wanted to do were at the fore of the ship. This forced us to walk the length of the ship several times a day. So we have decided that on future cruises we would book a cabin at the farthest possible point from the bulk of what we would be interested in doing so that we force ourselves to exercise more. Our Balcony Stateroom: When we boarded the ship the cabins were available and like almost everyone we made a beeline to our stateroom. On our way to the cabin our stateroom attendant spotted us and introduced herself. The layout was fine and would have been just perfect if there had only been two of us in the stateroom, but we were a party of three and discovered at night that three in a standard balcony stateroom made things very tight. The washroom was laid out in an easy to use way but was a little cramped. The room itself had all the expected amenities as well as a fully stocked mini-bar which we immediately unloaded and put away so that we would not touch it. The view from our balcony was amazing, especially once the ship departed. We had heard that we would get a lot of noise at the aft of the ship but we found the sound soothing, more of a white noise then anything distracting. We did have to request extra towels from the attendant since the room had been set up for two rather than three. Also, my daughter is a smoker and wanted an ashtray to use on the balcony; they initially gave her a glass ashtray which had broken so a little forethought on the attendants part would have helped since they replaced it with a plastic ashtray, which is what she should have been given in the first place. Our biggest problem in the cabin was the placement of the third bed, which I discuss further below, and the fact that the attendant did not empty the ashtray unless specifically requested to do so. Health Concerns Upfront: Before you board the ship there is a crewmember standing at the gangway directing everyone boarding the ship to use the Sanitizer right there. Throughout the ship there are sanitizers everywhere and outside of the dining rooms there is a crewmember there to remind you to sanitize your hands every time you enter. This raised concern about the possible spread of virus is something that other cruise lines would do well to emulate. They did recommend against shaking hands at group gatherings but most people, including us, ignored that warning. Dining Choices: We really liked the Freestyle Cruising idea and the choice of 12 different restaurants was a nice option. Without having to pay an additional service fee we had the option to eat in two traditional cruise restaurants, the Summer Palace, and Indigo, a Tex-Mex restaurant, Mambo's, an Italian restaurant, La Cucina, a 24 hour cafe, Blue Lagoon, a Bar-B-Q Buffet, The Grill, a second BBQ option, The Shy High Grill, two buffets, Garden Cafe and The Great Outdoors, and Room Service. For an additional fee we had the option of eating in the high-end steak restaurant, Cagney's Steakhouse, three Asian restaurants, The Lotus Garden, Sushi Bar, and Teppanyaki, a Mongolian Grill, Shabu-Shabu, and a French restaurant, Le Bistro. While we did not visit any of the specialty restaurants that had a fee (My family refers to me by a name that cannot be repeated in this review) we did visit most of the fee free options. Did I mention that having an aft cabin forced us to exercise? *smile* More on the good and bad of those later. Warm Salt Free Pools: Like most everyone we visited the pool & hot tub on board. On previous cruises the pool & hot tub had been filled with Salt Water pumped directly from the sea. On this cruise the water in the pool & hot tub was fresh water. It was nice to be able to take a soak and not come out with that salty feeling. Gift Shops: The gift shops were all grouped together in one general area of the ship with easy access from one shop to another. All of the shops were on one deck, so you did not have to go searching far. Martini Tasting: For the first time my beloved bride decided to try something new in the name of alcohol drinks and attended the Martini Tasting classes in Bar City. For those that want to try something new and get alcohol on a ship this is the most cost effective option, you get to taste with full glasses three different styles of the drink for $15.00. The bartenders in bar city were friendly and helpful answering questions about the drinks. Library and Game Room: The Library and Game Room on the ship were fully stocked and had a nice selection for anyone who visited them. The chairs in the library were very comfortable lending themselves to a nice relaxed reading session. Internet throughout ship: Internet service was available everywhere within the ship if you had a wireless card, including the staterooms. The cost of the internet service was on par with other cruise lines although we still felt it was higher than we were willing to pay, we just waited until we were in port and could use our cell phone as a modem instead. Bliss: Bliss is one of the lounges on the ship and had the unique feature of having a 4 lane bowling alley as well. I really liked the ambiance of the room and Bliss is where they hold Karaoke nightly. Mambos: Mambos is the one restaurant that we really liked. The service was good as was the food; the one dish that we were not impressed by was Il Popo. It sounded good, but when it was delivered it was dry. The presentation was terrific though. One hiccup service wise was with our dessert order, we ordered coffee with our dessert, the dessert and coffee cup were delivered, and the coffee was never actually served. Garden Cafe & The Great Outdoors: For buffet fare the food in these two buffets was reasonably good. In the Garden Cafe the food stations were grouped along the wall with a chef behind each station, food was prepared as it was needed rather than being prepared in advance in a main kitchen. There was a wide variety available through the stations and they had an ice cream stand that served hard scoop ice cream like you would get in a ice cream parlor. The food flavor and quality did vary but it was not any worse than a buffet restaurant land-side. La Cucina: The flavor and selection of the food at La Cucina was good, we enjoyed the seafood pizza and the entrees were terrific. The wait staff checked on us regularly and made sure we received what we wanted and had plenty of drink available, the waitress even got our daughter a cappuccino and fixed it up nice when she had only ordered coffee and giggled when my daughter was surprised with the extra effort. We were slightly disappointed in the delivery of the appetizer, it may have been because we were in the overflow section but they only brought an antipasto plate instead of bringing the appetizer cart as listed in the menu. Entertainment: The entertainment throughout the ship seemed to be minimal, like no pool band, but what was available was great, be it a band in one of the lounges, a piano player in a bar or entertainment in the reception area. Second City: The Second City Comedy Troupe was terrific, they did a mixed improv skit show that was entertaining and included audience participation, using the audience as a school band with no instruments and having us actually produce some music was something that we had not seen before and added a touch that we will remember for awhile. San Francisco: The only port of call for the cruise was San Francisco. This city is a great place to visit and passing under the Golden Gate Bridge is a great site, it looks so big when you pass under it and it is something to remember, passing by Alcatraz is interesting and one of the excursions available was a tour of Alcatraz. Wandering around the city on our own is a great way to spend the day and gives us a chance to taste a little of the flavor of the area. Debarkation: Debarkation was quick and painless; the biggest wait was waiting for our color to be called. Once it was called we joined the queue to get off the ship in which ship security was the only bottleneck, since we had already been through customs in Vancouver we did not have to wait for it, grabbed our bags and walked right out to catch our ride. For those of you who do not want the negatives you should jump to the end of my review now as I will now be hitting on the bad and ugly things about our cruise. The Bad Food Service, Food Flavor & Quality: We have been on enough cruises to know what to expect service and quality wise in the restaurants. We were severely disappointed by the food service and quality in several of the restaurants, especially in the Summer Palace. After 10:30pm the only food options available are the Blue Lagoon and Room Service, neither seemed to provide great service. Blue Lagoon: I visited the Blue Lagoon twice, in both cases I was ignored by wait staff. The first time it took 15 minutes before a bus boy brought me a menu, about 15 minutes after that the manager of the restaurant noticed me sitting waiting patiently and motioned a server to me, the server then walked away, I assumed that it was to get a notepad or something but they did not return, five minutes after that the manager again noticed me waiting patiently and motioned at the same server and they again left the area not to return, five minutes after that the manager again noticed me and physically pointed the server to me and they finally came to get my order. I ordered the fish cakes and when she brought me food it was fish and chips, not the fish cakes I ordered, so I had to wait even longer for what I did order. Fortunately I was not in a hurry and had reading material. The second time service was not as bad but it was still slow, it seemed that they had a minimal staff on hand because it was a port day and all other restaurants were closed. Summer Palace: Service and Food Quality in the Summer Palace was probably our greatest disappointment on the cruise. The waiters seemed overworked and did not care how quickly anyone was served. On our first night one server asked my wife what she would like to drink, she said water, he left the table and brought back two bottles of water for her to purchase when tap water was all she wanted, when she said that she only wanted tap water he left not to return, another server brought water then left again never asking my daughter or me what we would like. When she returned to take our food order I requested coffee and it was not served until after we received dessert even though I asked for it a few times. The flavor of the food was bland. The second time we ate in the Summer Palace for dinner the service was not any better however the flavor of the main dish was better, but that was because it was seafood extravaganza, hard to ruin the flavor of that. *smiles* Reservations were a joke, we placed reservations but people who did not have reservations were placed into the same queue making the wait for a table the same whether we had reservations or not. When we complained about what the use of a reservation was we were informed that a reservation only guaranteed us a table not a seating time. So why even have a reservation system. Room Service: The room service menu had a limited selection and when called for we were informed that there was a 45 minute wait and the food was not delivered for over an hour and when it was delivered it was cold. Casino: The casino was like most casinos in that most everyone in it was donating to the line, so that is normal, it did seem that the slot machines were tighter than most casinos, gambling is only interesting if you win occasionally. The biggest problems in the casino were that the staff did not seem to know how the games were played and more than once we had to tell a dealer what a payoff was or that they did not pay someone that they should have. Also, the rake on the Texas Hold-Em game was enormous, 10% to $25 per hand is extremely high, most casinos charge 10% to $3 or $4 per hand, I would have been happy with $5 per hand but seeing so much removed from the table with every hand is basically robbery of the poker players. Bingo: I know that bingo is a game where only 1 or 2 people actually win and the odds are against the players but what it costs should be reasonable. We played bingo twice, the first time was $25 for a single packet in the 2 games and the second time was $45 for a single packet in the 4 games but they were really pushing the electronic games for $65 and $110, stressing that the bulk of the winners were electronic, which proved to be true, especially since the pace of the game was faster than most people could keep up and in one of the games that we played two winners missed their prize because the next numbers were called before they could find the previous numbers on their cards and in the second session this happened twice. It was obvious from the prize amount that more than 50% of the packet price was being kept for the "Big Game" on the last night. I know that they really want to advertise a big prize for the last game but it should not be at the expense of earlier players, especially when the price of the game went up with each session. In previous cruises the games that we had played each session had a "Big Game" that would pay the full jackpot if hit in 45 numbers or less and a consolation prize of less if it isn't hit in 45 numbers then the final session had a "Must Go" game, this cruise only offered a portion of the jackpot if hit in 45 numbers or less until that final session which made it clear that earlier players were funding that big game entirely. Smoking locations: Personally I am not a smoker however my daughter is a smoker and she found it difficult to find a spot to smoke that was "permitted area" and she found this frustrating. Art auction: Or should we say the lack of an art auction. We like to look at the different pieces of art provided in the art auctions at sea and actually purchased some in the past but on this cruise there was not a single auction. Furniture made for looks not comfort: Most of the furniture in the reception area and many of the common areas was made for looks but not comfort. Trying to sit in a chair that looks like a curlicue was uncomfortable to say the least and in some cases looked silly. San Francisco Dock: There were three ships in San Francisco on the day we made port there unfortunately the San Francisco dock is not configured in a way that allows for more than two ships in the downtown area of the port. This placed our ship further south of downtown and away from the Embarcadero making easy access to the main tourist areas of San Francisco difficult. In order to get to the Embarcadero we had to travel first on the BART finding out the hard way that we had to pay for additional fares since we could not purchase the day pass at the station near our dock. Alcohol Service: I know that a cruise line really makes its profit through the extra stuff on the ship, especially the alcohol but the pressure to buy drinks at shows, in the pool area, at bingo, and in the casino seemed to be higher on this ship than on our previous cruises. It seemed like every time we turned around there was someone asking us if we wanted a drink, in one case just as we were saying no to one server a second walked up and asked the very same question. If we want a drink we will flag a server, we don't need asked every time we take a breath. If you tell the same server no every five minutes waiting for a show to start you start wondering if you shouldn't just leave. Once again, if you don't like negative it is time to jump to my conclusion because the following items really got in my craw and are the real complaints I have about this cruise. The Ugly Purser's desk: In all of the cruises that we have taken we have not met a staff at a pursers desk that could not answer a question without consulting someone else like we did with this cruise. On top of not being able to make decisions or even answer some simple questions they were often rude, when my wife had to have her key card replaced because it stopped working it seemed that taking care of this most common issue was an inconvenience and seemed to take forever. They also did not take time to communicate with us when there was an issue. Credit card companies often block charge activity when they think something is fishy going on, on this trip our card was blocked, rather than contacting us and letting us know there was an issue they just blocked our onboard account. We did not find out there was an issue until it was late in the evening and we were at sea, we tried to purchase some items in the gift shops and were told by them that our account was closed. When I went to the pursers desk they acted like I was trying to rip them off and demanded that I settle the account right then, which I couldn't do since the card I was using had been blocked, I couldn't call the bank because we were at sea and if I wanted to incur the charge for a ship to shore call I couldn't since our shipboard account was closed. I told them that I would take care of the issue as soon as we docked in Los Angeles and while they accepted that they did not seem happy about that. Then at 3:00am I got a phone call from the pursers desk telling me that the night before they could not process our charges and when I told them that I had already talked to them and told them it would be handled in the morning they told me it had to be handled right then, I contacted my bank and the hold on my card was released allowing the charge to be processed but I felt highly harassed by the staff regarding this. Because we were displeased with the service that we had received we decided that we wanted to personally tip the people who did serve us and I filled out a service fee adjustment form at the purser's desk asking that our fee be removed, we then tipped our servers personally. After we got off the ship we found that they did not give us the full adjustment that we requested and so effectively we paid the service fees and tips. Water Pressure: Water pressure in our cabin was poor, it was barely sufficient to take a shower and if we removed the shower head from its holder we lost all pressure. We mentioned this to our room steward but it was never corrected. 3rd bed location & comfort: Unlike the other cabins where the third bunk is a folding bed on the wall the third bed in the balcony staterooms is a folding couch right next to the balcony door. Once the beds were turned down we had to climb over the third bed in order to get to the balcony door. This made the cabin considerably smaller and difficult to move around in. The bed itself was like laying on an exercise mat on the floor, it was hard enough you could set drinks on it, bounce on it, and not worry that anything would tip over because it won't. Parental Consent Revoked: On NCL a young adult ages 18-20 can drink beer and wine with a parents' consent when the ship is in international waters. Well, that is at least what the cruise lines documentation and website says but is not always true. We filled out the parental consent form for our daughter and figured all was fine until later that evening. My daughter tried to purchase a Mocktail, a frozen non-alcoholic drink, and was informed that her card was not working, so she went to the purser's desk and was informed that her card was deactivated because they needed to replace her card because the parental consent was revoked because we would not be in international waters for the whole cruise. If this was true then the ships casino should not open since the same basic rule for the drinking age also applies to the casino. The casino cannot open until the ship is in international waters, defined as being 3 miles offshore, a young adult cannot drink until the ship is in international waters, defined in the form we signed as three miles offshore. Needless to say they did not keep the casino closed, so either they broke the law and opened the casino when it should not have been or they revoked permission for young adults when they should not have. If they had told us when we first filled out the form that they had decided against it for this cruise it would have been better but to change their mind after embarkation and permission had been given is just inconsistent. Lack of staff for Meet & Greet: We planned a meeting for members of the Cruise Critic forums on this cruise and the meeting itself turned out well but everyone was disappointed by the lack of reception the group received from the cruise staff. In discussing the meet and greet with other cruise critic members we expected that we would see some ship staff at the meet and greet, no one appeared, most of the cruise critic members were very disappointed by this. When I checked with the manager of the pursers desk about this I was informed that the staff had changed two weeks previously and that they were informed that the cruise Critic group would not receive any special consideration as a group. I don't know if this is specific to the Norwegian Pearl or to all NCL ships but I was very surprised that this is the case. Passenger Services Act of 1886: Most cruisers have never heard of this act and when they do it usually results in a lot of turmoil for them. It seems that there is a long standing law in the U.S. that states that a passenger may not take a foreign flagged ship from one U.S. Port to another U.S. Port. This act does not affect most cruises because they are round trip cruises or they are one way cruises that either originate or terminate in a foreign port. On this trip we learned a very valuable lesson regarding the PSA because we had planned to do a back to back cruise on the Norwegian Pearl taking the Seattle to Vancouver Dinner Cruise then taking the Seattle to Los Angeles Repositioning Cruise. We booked and paid for both cruises with no mention of the PSA from NCL, we only found out about it because of discussion on the Cruise Critic forums, when we contacted NCL to ask if this would be an issue for us we were initially told no, it was not until I escalated to a supervisor was I told that it would be indeed an issue and that had we boarded the first cruise we would be refused boarding on the second cruise because of this law. We should have been notified by NCL that this was a problem long before we found out on our own as it resulted in extra expenses, not only for us but for several other cruisers that we had been chatting with. Conclusion So, Will we cruise on NCL again? The short answer is yes, while there were a lot of problems on this cruise we did enjoy ourselves for the bulk of it and we believe that most of the problems most likely stemmed from the fact that this was a repositioning cruise rather than a regular itinerary. We did like the ship and hope to experience it again in the future. We even did the future cruise deposit which is a good deal. Were we disappointed in this cruise? Again, the short answer is yes, this cruise had a lot of high and low points. Will we refer others to NCL and the Pearl? Again, the short answer is yes, we realize that everyone's experience will be different and we may be a little critical, especially since as travel agents in training ourselves we will be sending people on these ships ourselves. We learned a lot on this cruise and we did enjoy it. Hopefully others will find my review helpful and will use it to help them make their plans in the future. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
This was my fifth cruise on NCL which is, out of the 10+ cruises I've taken, one of my favorite lines. I enjoy the entire freestyle concept and the casual atmosphere. I have mixed feelings about this latest trip. There were definite ... Read More
This was my fifth cruise on NCL which is, out of the 10+ cruises I've taken, one of my favorite lines. I enjoy the entire freestyle concept and the casual atmosphere. I have mixed feelings about this latest trip. There were definite highlights and a lot of unnecessary lowlights. I'll get the worst out of the way first. I booked a total of five cabins for this excursion, including two Category AF mini-suites, and two category AE Penthouses. In addition there was one balcony cabin in our group of nine passengers. In short I brought a chunk of change to NCL that didn't cost them one dime of advertising. That said the worst experience I had was in trying to get one of my traveling companions the shipboard account credit which was part of the package which we were sold. He originally booked the Penthouse cabin for two people but his travel partner had to cancel due to the death of a very close friend. The deal sold to us by Expedia for that category cabin included $150.00 onboard account credit. There was no mention whatsoever in the Terms of the offer that it was a "per passenger" credit. It was clearly defined as a credit "per cabin" and even further stated that single passengers paying 200% of the fare would receive the credit. Because my friend's companion canceled so close to the cruise date there was no refund for the fare. So, in essence my friend paid for the entire cabin for one person. I will add that I had called NCL in Miami at least a week before the cruise to let them know one passenger wasn't go to go on the trip only to be told that he should be left on the reservation in case he changed his mind. Bottom line is NCL didn't convert the reservation to one passenger paying 200% of the fare. We found out on day two that the my friend was only to be credited $75.00 as he was the only passenger in the cabin. I fortunately had copies of the original Terms which I took to the Purser's desk when I went to help my friend resolve the problem. After getting nowhere with the woman who worked the front desk I asked to speak with the Supervisor. The Purser's desk Supervisor who shall remain nameless (but I'm sure NCL knows who I'm talking about) was one of the most arrogant, overbearing and rude people I've ever dealt with in a Customer Service capacity. Her response repeatedly to anything presented to her, even in writing, was to bark at us that she could not do anything to resolve the problem as it was NCL's policy. After getting absolutely no where with this woman I asked to whom she reported and she told me the Director of Finance. When he came out to speak with us we heard the same thing all over again, that it was NCL's policy even though he agreed that we should receive the credit. He told us that he would send an e-mail to the Miami office to see if he could authorization to allow the additional $75.00 credit. Eventually NCL did decide to give my friend the credit but only after a great amount of frustration and time on our parts. There were other minor issues that were able to be resolved quickly. However not one in our group could understand how there is not one person in the ship's management group who is authorized to adjust an onboard account credit issue even when they all agreed we should receive it. NCL has tied the hands of management in this regard and it is absolutely a wrong decision on NCL's part. NCL does nothing but irritate the passengers with this "policy" and it should be carefully reviewed. The other main issue I had was with the cabin itself. A category AE Penthouse is advertised on every website that I've visited as having a separate living room and bedroom. Not true on the Star. It is one large room but there is not any more separation of space than in a standard cabin. The cabin is larger but that's about it. Also, this category is advertised as having a separate shower and bathtub. It does not. It is also advertised as having a jacuzzi tub. It does not. The bathroom itself was only slightly larger than our friend's balcony cabin with the only difference in footage to accommodate a tub/shower combo versus a standard shower stall. This might sound petty but it's absolute false advertising and needs to be corrected. Our cabin Butler Carmen was above and beyond in service. We truly appreciated all the extra help from her in organizing for our entire group. Our room Stewards were efficient, but helped themselves to our snacks and beverages when we were out of the cabin. Big no-no in my book. Beds were comfortable as were the robes. We really enjoyed hot breakfast served by Carmen each morning in our cabin. She would set the table with a table cloth and serviceware as if in the main dining room. We loved that touch. Casino on this ship has terrible ventilation and the smoke will choke you. I had a sore throat every time I came out of there. There is a definite need for a smoking and nonsmoking section. The machines were pretty tight. I did OK on the craps table and the staff there was friendly and fun. Food in the dining rooms was very good to excellent. We dined at Cagney's twice, Soho, Le Bistro, Versailles, and Aqua. All were good but I think Cagney's was the best. For the $20.00 cover they offer the best veal chop I've ever had and I've paid twice that amount for just the entree in most restaurants. The buffet was poor in selection and quality. We had lunch there twice and it wasn't good. Lunch in Versailles is much better. No complaints with restaurant service except in Le Bistro where there seemed to be confusion at first when we sat down. It did eventually iron out and was satisfactory. Men's spa facilities were excellent and included steam, sauna, and soaking tubs, both hot and cold. Locker keys are provided at the spa desk. The ship was well maintained and kept clean. The only exception was the pool area and buffet tables. That's usually the case on a ship, though. Staff in general was friendly and helpful when needed. Embarkation went very well as did debarkation. I will probably take an NCL cruise again but I certainly hope NCL reviews their onboard management, policies, and advertising because all three need to be revised. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
We scheduled a repositioning cruise on the Vision of the Seas from Los Angeles to Vancouver, BC and I had checked the website and found that NCL was offering a one-night Dinner & Dance cruise from Vancouver, BC to Seattle, WA for an ... Read More
We scheduled a repositioning cruise on the Vision of the Seas from Los Angeles to Vancouver, BC and I had checked the website and found that NCL was offering a one-night Dinner & Dance cruise from Vancouver, BC to Seattle, WA for an unbelievable rate in a Balcony Cabin. Score! This trip proved to be an adventure for a one-nighter. I am going to try and keep a light tone to this review but it was nasty, as several thousand cruisers can attest to. We disembarked from the Vision of the Seas at the Balentine Cruise Terminal and waited 40 minutes for a taxi with several new friends that we made on the Vision and then took 45 minutes for what should have been a 5 minute taxi ride to Canada Place Cruise Terminal. Traffic through the city was horrendous. While we were driving through Gastown there was a gentleman dragging a suitcase whose rollers had broken down the street, we initially passed him however while we were sitting on the street watching the traffic basically go nowhere he passed us and finally disappeared, if we did not have all the luggage we did it was quite obvious that walking was much faster than driving. We should have realized at this point that we were in deep do-do. We arrived at Canada Place Cruise Terminal, checked our bags, and found a line of around 1,000 people. We were trying to figure out whether this was our line or the line for one of the other ships when we found a Port employee and were told that all ships went through the same line, we were then informed that we could not get in line and had to wait an hour or two because our ship had arrived late. We should have realized that this was the second sign of cruise terminal hell on earth. We headed out of Canada Place foraging for food and coffee and found a food court across the street where we wrestled a black bear for a table and set ourselves with some natural Canadian Mexican food to wait out our hour delay. An hour later we wandered back to madness. Think I'm kidding? I'm not. We took the underground tunnel into Canada Place and found the route via Elevator to the Cruise Terminal. The doors of the elevator opened and we found ourselves in the middle of an even longer line. I don't like line cutters myself, so we followed the line, over the river, through the woods, up the hill, over the dale, around the corner, in front of the hotel, up the steps, down the walkway, to the front of one of the ships. If you have never been to Canada Place imagine a huge building, bigger then some sports stadiums, long enough that two of the large cruise ships can park right next to it, one in front of the other and you can get an idea of how long this line was. I would guess that there were a good 4,000 people in front of us in line at this point. Needless to say, people were getting testy and annoyed; we literally stood in one spot for almost an hour. I may have been imagining this, but at one point I believe the line started doing the "can can" and a conga line formed as well, at least I think it did, until I clicked my red heels together and wished to go home and found myself standing in line again. Finally the line started moving again and about 3 hours later we were ushered down a stairway into the 2nd basement level. Comments about dungeons abounded and several people in line thought it may be possible that we were being led to the bottom of the ships to row or shovel coal. At this point thing started moving quickly, we were rushed through security, the line moved briskly through customs, enough that we felt a breeze, and we were finally to the cruise line desk, got our door keys and was directed to the ship. NCL is very conscious of the possible health issues on the ship as we were required to clean our hands with hand cleanser before we could board the ship. We got to our cabin and our bags were already there, they had been partying for some time, the garment bag asked us where we had been and did we have any vodka with us. The carpet bag was balancing on a rail trying to be a tight line walker; fortunately it did have good balance. We found our swimsuits and hobbled to the elevator for a quick trip to deck 12 and the blissful relaxation of the hot tubs. When we got to the pool deck we were amazed by how large the ship really was with a nice large pool with 2 water slides and 4 hot tubs. The outside diner was active and the food smelled great. After soaking in the hot tubs we went back to our cabin and placed reservation for dinner then wandered the ship for a bit, it really was a nice ship. We then headed to the main showroom for the production show "Cirque Pacific". "Cirque Pacific" was like most Cirque shows, best enjoyed when you are under the influence of something. Fortunately I did have some pharmaceuticals with me, too bad they were in my cabin. The show started with an announcement that smoking was not permitted in the auditorium, then they filled it with smoke, I know, show smoke, but still. I suspect that the smoke was a symbol of the state the director and choreographer where in when they put the show together; I seriously suspect they had smoked some happy grass beforehand. I had never seen hula girls doing river dance, women in blenders, and a character that looked like it belonged in "Tron" being representative of things from the Pacific region, but there they were. In reality the show was interesting and had some good high points and some of the performers were terrific, but Tarzan boy was just a little over the top. *winks* I did not name him this, this is what I heard from some of the other passengers. We had Dinner in the "Endless Summer" restaurant, which was TexMex cuisine; it was as good as any TexMex restaurant that we had eaten at previously, with good flavor and plentiful portions. We then went to the Casino, where we did what most people do, which is donate. But it was run professionally and while it was only open for a short time it was a good place to play. Finally we decided to hit the rack. A little disappointed how difficult it was to get ice as none was left in the cabin and no steward returned our calls. The next morning we had breakfast in the main buffet and it was about normal buffet fare. All guests on the ship were expedited departure, which meant we had to carry a weeks’ worth of luggage off the ship ourselves, but we did get off quickly and were outside in Seattle in a matter of minutes. While this was only a single day exposure to NCL it was a positive exposure to the ship with the exception of the madness at Canada Place. So hopefully we will be on one of their ships again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
NCL - Norwegian Star Repositioning Cruise May 1 - 4, 2007 Los Angeles, Astoria, Vancouver BC Overview Three of us took a repositioning cruise aboard the NCL Norwegian Star in May, 2007. Overall I would say that this was a good value, and ... Read More
NCL - Norwegian Star Repositioning Cruise May 1 - 4, 2007 Los Angeles, Astoria, Vancouver BC Overview Three of us took a repositioning cruise aboard the NCL Norwegian Star in May, 2007. Overall I would say that this was a good value, and a nice short-week (Tuesday - Friday) getaway. Embarkation This was very smooth. Arriving by shuttle from the airport at about 12:00 PM there was really no line, and the process was quick and painless. Fill out the online registration form beforehand to help expedite things. Your luggage can be handed to a porter and will be delivered to your cabin. Cabins are generally not ready till a bit later, but just go and enjoy lunch. Hint.... You'll be told that the Market Cafe is open for lunch, but you can also go to the Versailles restaurant with the gloriously large picture window looking out the stern of the ship, and a lot fewer people. Cabin Very clean, and efficiently laid out. I had sprung for a balcony, and although it was a bit chilly to spend much time outside when the ship was moving, it was wonderful to have the full "picture window" to look out over the ocean. There is quite a bit of storage space, but the cabin is a bit smaller than then one which I had on Carnival, but certainly adequate. As others have noted on these boards, having a shower stall with a sliding partition, as opposed to a hanging curtain, is really nice. The toilet stall is a bit small, but hopefully not somewhere you'll be spending a lot of time! Hint... There is an electrical outlet in both the cabin and the bathroom, so you can charge two electrical devices at once. If you have more than that, then the oft-recommended power strip is worthwhile. Crew Very nice, and very accommodating. However, as others have also noted, you will be frequently pestered to buy drinks when in the lounges. Also, my friends had a massage and were disappointed when their very enjoyable experience ended with a sales pitch for other products. Information could be a bit sporadic at times, for instance we were told to wait for announcement for the gangway to be opened in Astoria, but the announcement was never made and people only found out the gangway was open by looking down to see others disembarking. Also, on the final day we were told by staff at reception that we had to be off by 9:45 AM, but read the newsletter and found that we did not have to leave till 12:00 PM. Entertainment The Jean Ann Ryan Company's "Band on the Run" show was an excellent high-energy dance show, especially impressive since they were dancing on a rolling deck! The late night "adult comedy" show wasn't worth the time, and we actually thought that the comedians were audience members who had been called up on stage to help. The magic and comedy of Matt Marcy was fun. Hint….. They offer a "murder mystery" and it was even free! You gather in the cinema, are organized into teams and "solve" the crime over dinner in the Versailles or Aqua restaurant. Watch for this in the Freestyle Daily, or ask about it at reception. They don't advertise it heavily, since only 120 people can participate. Dining I really enjoyed the free-style dining. Cagney's (the steak place) was worth the extra $20 ($30 if you order the surf and turf), and was surprisingly not busy when we went there at 6:30 PM, though it had been a port day, and it was "formal night" [but you don't have to dress up if you don't want to] so people were probably eating later. Reservations are definitely recommended. You can make them for that day, or the next night but no further ahead than that. The Versailles Restaurant was also nice (no extra charge). Food was good, but if you're a high-end "foodie," you may not be satisfied. They are very flexible though about choices from the menu (if you'd like to make an appetizer into a main course, etc) and the service was quick. Market Cafe is a good place for a quicker breakfast, though the Versailles is nice for a served meal. Hint….. the port side of the Market Cafe is often quieter, so its worth walking around the corner. Dress codes….. Casual is the order of the days, but jeans are not allowed for the evening meals. You'll fit in best at night in casual slacks and a nice shirt. Jackets and ties are fine if you'd like, but definitely not mandatory. Lounges The emphasis is on colorful, light, decorating schemes. The emphasis is also definitely on selling…… In the Havana Club the server had no idea about cigars, which was disappointing since we wanted to learn more about them. Basically she was there to sell you what you pointed to. Matches and a cigar cutter were not even offered. On the other hand, the server in the martini bar knew a lot about martinis and was very knowledgeable. All alcoholic drinks come with a 15% tip added. I guess you could fight this at every turn, but it is supposed to be a vacation. I saw that they had a “Credit Desk” next to reception, so I don’t know if you could do a wholesale reversal of tips on drink purchases if you felt so inclined. The Red Lion Pub was a bit disappointing since it is basically in a hallway, and has more of a sports-bar atmosphere than that of a British pub. Disembarkation From this, and a previous cruise, I’ve learned that you definitely don’t want to plan for an early flight when leaving a cruise. Three cruise ships arrived at the same time at Canada Place in Vancouver, and very few Customs agents were assigned. The ship arrived around 9:30 AM, and we didn’t disembark till around 12:00 since we didn’t want to wait in long lines. We had chosen “express disembarkation” since we all had rolling luggage and we were staying in town for the night, so it really did not make much difference to us. The lines were huge so we just stayed in the cabin and enjoyed reading and watching the harbor go by till the lines died down. Had to feel sorry for some friends who were transferring to another ship for the one-night cruise to Seattle and so ended up going through long lines to get off, and yet more lines to get on board their next ship. With 6,000 people (2,000 per ship boarding and 2,000 unloading) the place was very packed and no taxis were to be seen. Although it would be tempting to have another night on a ship, and for a low cost by all reports, the lines probably don’t make it worthwhile. Final Thoughts I’d rate this experience as being above Carnival, but not as high end as Holland America. I think the Repo Cruise is good value for money, but be warned that you will hear the phrase “It’s a short cruise, so we’re not doing that” for certain things (such as the chocoholic – midnight buffet). The galleria (on board shop) had starting putting out all of their Alaska souvenirs, so you get the feeling that you’re on a transition trip. I assume Mexican souvenirs will be available when they do the trip back in the Fall! Overall, a nice getaway on a beautiful ship. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
Booked our cruise about 3 months ago for a sale price, took a mini-suite as it was quite reasonable. Found people on board who booked at the last minute and got on for about $135 for the three nights. Nice ship which was well run by the ... Read More
Booked our cruise about 3 months ago for a sale price, took a mini-suite as it was quite reasonable. Found people on board who booked at the last minute and got on for about $135 for the three nights. Nice ship which was well run by the crew. Boarding in San Pedro could not have been smoother. We were on the ship by noon. Bags arrived about 4pm at cabin. Mini-suite very nice but only two usable 110 plugs and one was in the bathroom. Nice to have a balcony which we used often. The couch was hard as a rock and not very comfortable if you wanted to watch the small tv. Beds very comfortable and there was adequate storage. Nice bathroom with privacy door on toilet and nice deep tub. Ship was not full and suite next to ours was vacant unless used by the staff to make phone calls etc. Sounded like we were right under a running track the first night as there was constant pounding from above. Would have been very upset if we had been paying regular price. Food was fair compared to other ships we have been on but for the price we could not complain. Specialty restaurants sometimes had extra charges for some things on the menu so watch that. Entertainment was poor but again that was likely because of the short duration(3 day) cruise. Wife not too impressed with the fake flowers throughout the ship. This was a great bargain if you did not spend anything else on the ship. Anyone thinking of a repositioning cruise might watch for last minute deals on this line as they almost give them away at the end. We were one of four ships that came into Vancouver the same day and the customs could not handle the 8000 people all trying to get off. Some apparently had to wait 2-4 hours for a taxi because of the numbers. We had booked a scheduled bus and had no problems. Norweigian allows you to take your own bags off to speed things up but it did not matter as Customs would only let a few people off each ship at a time. Some upset people but it was not the Cruise Lines fault. I suspect the Customs people will be better prepared as their summer students gain experience. We would consider a repositioning cruise again but would not expect too much other than the low price. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
We were a party of 21 going on a 3 day Pacific Coastal cruise on board Norwegian Sun. Most of us had not cruised with Norwegian before. We had 2 sets of grandparents in their early seventies, 3 sets of middle aged parents with 3 University ... Read More
We were a party of 21 going on a 3 day Pacific Coastal cruise on board Norwegian Sun. Most of us had not cruised with Norwegian before. We had 2 sets of grandparents in their early seventies, 3 sets of middle aged parents with 3 University students, one 15 yr old High school daughter and a 7 year old who had not cruised before. The other members of our group were female, travelling without their respective families and spouses. Most of us had been on cruises before with other cruise lines. Ship Details: 935 crew, 1936 guests, 78,309 Gross tonnage 11 restaurants, 11 bars and Lounges, Body Waves spa and Beauty Salon, Sports court, fitness Centre, Stardust Lounge, Sun Club Casino, Internet cafe, Lifestyle room(gym- open 24 hours), Kid's Korner, Dazzles Nightclub, 2 Swimming pools, Kid's pool and 5 Hot Tubs. Embarkation: This was extremely slow as the computers were not running. They sat most of us down and offered juice, cookies and banana bread. Once the computers were up and running, it was another slow wait as most of the crew checking us in were trainees, who were confused and unsure of what they were doing. We found it a complete waste of time for us to have completed our advance guest registration information with our credit card information etc. as they asked for the same information all over again. NCL needs to improve on this. Cabins: We received a complimentary upgrade from oceanview to Balcony for our family of 4. It was adequate and well laid out. We liked the ample pull out drawers and basketlike shelves in our closet. Bathroom was slightly bigger than what we had previously experienced on Princess. We had a queen size bed and a pull out sofa bed The queen size bed was more comfortable than the sofa bed. Our comforters were light and comfortable. But our pillows were too small and soft. Most of us had to ask for extra pillows. Places to Eat- Garden Cafe on Deck 11- This buffet eating area was small compared to other Princess and Celebrity ships we had been on. Most people were able to sit in the deck area in the aft section or towards midship where the pool was located. But this would only work if the weather was favorable. The menu choice was better than what we were accustomed to. We had Tilipia, Vegetarian Indian curries, standard choice of salads, roast beef, fried chicken, cold cuts, fruit, soups, coffee, ice tea, tea, milk. Our kids were disappointed that there was no punch or any other drinks available. Dinner - We made reservations for 18 of us on the 1st night relatively easily at the reservation desk on Deck 5 at one of the main dining rooms - Four Seasons Main Restaurant located on Deck 5 Midship Menu selection was okay. There were 2 different kinds of salads available - Caesar salad or Garden salad with your choice of standard dressing. There was a choice of hot or chilled soup. My husband enjoyed his chilled peach soup. Main entree comprised of fish, chicken, beef and vegetarian curry (somewhat similar to what we had at lunch). Dessert selection was adequate. Pacific Heights - On deck 11- Light cooking meals offered here. My parents went there with their friends for dinner on their last night . They had Boston clam chowder, perch and mussels for dinner. All booth seats were located along the window, giving everyone an ocean view. They enjoyed their dinner here. Again, would recommend making reservations here as the sitting area is cosy. No cover charge here. During lunch , you will find the pasta and pizza station here. Seven Seas Main Restaurant: Located on Deck 5 Aft - A larger dining area than Four Seasons. We had lunch twice here and dinner on our last night. This place presented the food in a more traditional way than Four Seasons. We preferred the service and food here than Four Seasons. On our last night most of us had Prime rib. I had tilapia with light Thai coconut curry sauce and Jasmine rice. We also ordered Veal. For soup, we had the choice of Tomato bisque or chilled avocado with shrimp. Dessert was sherbet, light apple pie or kiwi pie. Sandwich station - Sorry, cannot recall where it was located - either on Deck 11 or Deck 12. There were signs posted by the elevators giving people Lunch station options. I thought this was an excellent idea. Other eating places: With cover charge: iL Adagio restaurant located on Deck 5 - Italian dinner. This was one of the best dinner! 7 of us had reserved this place as our dinner choice for our second night. It cost $10 per person, but we found out after we had booked that if you booked between 5:30 pm and 6:00 pm, it was 50% off. So, we lucked out as our reservations had been made for 6:00 pm. We had 2 really efficient and friendly waitress. Sri was from Indonesia and the other lady was from Romania. They sat us in booth like seats - 4 in one booth and the other 3 in a booth right beside us. All booths faced the window, thereby giving us oceanview at all times. It was a spectacular way to dine. Our Caesar salad came with 4 huge prawns. Our table had grilled Swordfish, Rack of Lamb and Chicken Parmesan. We also had smoked salmon bowtie pasta and mushrooms as a side dish. For dessert we had a very light cheesecake made from Ricotta cheese with raspberry sauce on the side, Tiramisu and decadent chocolate ball. Our evening was topped off by a cup of Cappuccino. We highly recommend you make reservations here when you first get onto the ship as it was difficult to get reservations for subsequent nights at any hour. East Meets West Steakhouse- Located on Deck 12 - We did not eat here, but my best friend ate here with her 2 girlfriends. They preferred our Italian dinner the night before. Le Bistro French Restaurant - Deck 12 - Las ramblas Tapas Bar and Restaurant - Deck 12 Ginza - Deck 12 Teppanyaki - Deck 12 Sushi bar - Deck 12 Breakfast: Buffet at Garden cafe on Deck 11 - this is where we had our breakfast. omelette station at Las ramblas Tapas - deck 12 - 3 families went here on the day we were at Astoria. They enjoyed their choice of omelettes. Sit down at Seven Seas restaurant Waffle station at Le Bistro - on Deck 12 Bars and Lounges - We hung out mainly at Dazzles nightclub (Deck 6)- watched Comedian shows, the Newly wed and not so newly wed show, Adult only Humour show, DJ disco dancing, Motown night with a band, 70's groovy night with Village people look alike, Austin Power look alike. They had smoking section and non smoking section - which we did not enjoy as even though we sat in the non smoking area, we could still smell the smoke. NCL should have non smoking at all public places and perhaps have a designated smoking room or corner of a deck for smokers. We also went to the Observation Lounge on Deck 12 - where they had a tribute to Celine Dion and mainly ballroom dancing kind of music. Stardust Lounge - Located on Deck 5 and 6 Aft - First night's show was an assortment of the different performers on board the ship. Second night was a juggling comedian and the final night was a Broadway musical type of show featuring Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Cats. Recommend you skip the first 2 nights and head only to the final show. Galleria Shops - Deck 7 - Good selection of jewelry, gift items and Duty free alcohol and cigarettes. Casino - Tacky colors, hot and could smell smoke as they allowed smoking in certain areas. Sports- Deck 12 - Golf Driving Net, Batting cages, Shuffle board, Basketball/Volleyball court - NCL should replace basketball and Volleyballs. Hot Tub - in them middle of the regular pool. Splash Kid's pool was located in a quiet corner with kid size colorful deck chairs. Gym- Deck 11 - Loved the idea of a 24 hour gym. Good selection of exercise equipment. Went to a stretching class from 7:30 am to 8:00 am and then joined the low impact Aerobic class from 8:00 am to 8:30 am. Jogging/ Walking track: Deck 6 - This was a good place to go jogging or to walk around the ship several times after a meal. We enjoyed doing this several times around the ship. Teen Club- For 13 - 17 year olds. Teen registration began at 5 Pm on Deck 7, Fwd on the first day. Activities for the first night - Ultimate teen scavenger Hunt, Showtime in the theatre, Battle of the Sexes - Guys vs . Girls and Teen club hangout. On the second day, while at sea, there was Ping pong Tournament, Casino Craze Poker, Roulette, Horse racing - played just for fun, no gambling involved. Man Hunt -Can you find him, Smoothie tasting, Teen only Hot Tubbing, Hunt it Down and Wear it Well, Wii Tournament. Final day - after our return from Astoria - Gong Karaoke, Matrix Hunt, Survivor Challenge and Farewell Fun. Our 15 year old enjoyed herself even though there not too many teens on board. She came back to our cabin with several door prizes - towels, back back, non alcoholic cocktail drink coupons. Kid's Korner - Deck 7 - For the younger kids. Registration also began at 5 Pm on our first day. Good assortment of activities to keep the younger kids occupied. Astoria - We had reserved 2 compacts and 1 van so that we could drive to Seaside, which is about a 20 minute drive. There is also an outlet factory with Niki, Van Huesen, Liz Claiborne, Eddy Bauer, Paper factory, Jones of New York - located just before you turn into Seaside. Seaside is also worth visiting as you can walk along the promenade and the shops as well as along the beach. Disappointment was that we had to tender in , so we ended up arriving on the Maritime museum side, while our rental cars were waiting on the pier side where Holland America had docked. We tried calling Enterprise car rental several times, but no one answered. We found out later, they offered our reserved vehicles to passengers from HAL as they said they were on a first come first served basis. Why bother taking reservations then? Guess when you are the only car rental agency in town, customer service and customer loyalty means absolutely nothing. Will never rent from Enterprise again. We ended up taking 2 van taxis to Seaside. They also arranged to pick us up from Seaside or the outlet mall once we were ready to head back to our ship. Our taxi driver Zak - gave us a short drive through the main downtown shopping area of Astoria. Name of this taxi company is Coast shuttle - offering cheap reliable transportation , 24 hours a day. They charged us $30 each way. We were able to sit 6 passengers in one van and 7 in the other. All in all, we enjoyed our first experience with freestyle cruising with NCL. Although the food quality and menu selection was not as varied at what we had experienced with Celebrity and Princess, we found the ship to be a good size, easy to get around in and relatively friendly crew. There were a few female waitress on the buffet floor who could have smiled more, perhaps they were tired and needed more shore leave. The men in our group loved not having to dress up in their shirt and tie or Tuxedo. The ladies dressed up on our final night just to have our own formal night. We also thought it was very fitting that the final song at the Broadway show - Hey, Mr. Producer was "We are Family", by the group Sister Sledge, as we were truly " We are family" on board the Norwegian Sun and we exited the Stardust Lounge singing this song! Disembarkation: Very smooth - We had breakfast around 7:45 am, left our cabin at 8:40 am and made our way to Deck 5 where the Atrium was located and walked off with our cabin luggage. Not much of a wait time at Canada Customs. It is truly amazing that Canada Customs is so much faster at Canada Place, considering we have at least 1900 passengers disembarking at staggered times. Vancouver Airport Customs could learn from Canada Place customs. We have always had huge line ups at the Airport. One slight snag was the lack of taxi service due to Vancouver Marathon which closed off many of the downtown streets, thereby diverting buses and taxis. We tried to wait for a taxi van, but was informed by NCL representatives that we would be better off walking up to Pan Pacific or any of the other downtown hotels to hail a cab. We opted for the 98B line(express bus service to Richmond) instead. We walked to the front of the Seabus terminal to catch the 98B line , but realized that there would be no buses running here either due to the Marathon, so had to go in full circle to catch the 98B line on Burrard street, infront of Hyatt Regency. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
This was my second cruise with NCL, I am a Platinum member with Princess (10 cruises). I much prefer NCL because of the outstanding service. If you are in the upper suite category you have a Butler, concierge and 2 stewards. I booked the ... Read More
This was my second cruise with NCL, I am a Platinum member with Princess (10 cruises). I much prefer NCL because of the outstanding service. If you are in the upper suite category you have a Butler, concierge and 2 stewards. I booked the coastal because I live in San Pedro-Los Angeles Harbor and only have to fly one way. This was perfect because I wanted To cruise on the brand new Pearl. Embarkation--Terrible but the cruise line is not at fault. Los Angeles does not do to much to promote and comfort cruise passengers. The facilities are BAD for such a big port. The Pearl had just come in from a 15 day Panama Canal cruise from Florida. The ship was here early AM and customs did not clear it until 2 PM So most of the passengers had to sit around for 2 hours before starting to board. The ship was scheduled to leave at 5 Pm but it left closer to 7 PM. Cabin--OUTSTANDING!!. We had a Garden Villa Suite. These suites are located on deck 14 where there is a total of 12 suites surrounding a private area that has a pool, jacuzzi, steam room, gym equipment, and an eating area where there are always snacks or you can give your butler an order from any of the restaurant menus and brought to this area. Your cruise card must be put into a slot in the elevator to get to this area. Very private and Beautiful. Dinning--Great pluses and minuses. The Premium restaurants Cagney's Steakhouse, Le Bistro.Tepenyaki etc have outstanding food. The Buffet is large with a good variety. Where NCL really fails-I made this same observation on the Norwegian Sun- their main dinning restaurants Indigo and Summer Palace. The food is average cafeteria quality. Main courses such as Beef Stroganoff low quality fish like tilapia. Itis if they have a $3.00 budget to feed the passengers forcing them to go to the premium restaurants to get quality. Entertainment---The normal cruise ship offerings. stage shows, bands by the pool, singers in the lounge. All very good, Activities---Bowling, rock climbing, basket ball, exercise equipment, jogging track, Bingo, Art auctions-something for everyone. Disembarkation--A breeze when in this category. The first escorted off the ship. A Beautiful ship with something for everyone. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
I just wanted to give you all a quick review of my phenomenal "Pacific Coastal" cruise on the simply irresistible Norwegian Pearl. I took the 1st flight with US Airways on sailing date morning from Charlotte to Los Angeles and ... Read More
I just wanted to give you all a quick review of my phenomenal "Pacific Coastal" cruise on the simply irresistible Norwegian Pearl. I took the 1st flight with US Airways on sailing date morning from Charlotte to Los Angeles and had 6 hours of the worst First Class flying experience ever! What is wrong with those flight attendants...they should work on a ship and see how wonderful everything works there! After arrival in LAX my good friend Laurel (flyingpirate) who lives in L.A. had organized a Limo and we drove together to the Pier in San Pedro, which was a quick & comfortable ride down. There she was...this absolutely wonderful ship...my favorite in the whole wide world...The Norwegian Pearl! The luggage was unloaded quickly and porters took care of the rest. The check-in facilities are actually very nice at the San Pedro Pier and it was a breeze to check in. I got one of the PINK Concierge slips and was shortly greeted by the Concierge in the Concierge Lounge, where refreshments have been waiting for us. The Concierge (more to him later) apologized for a delay in boarding, since US Customs (it had nothing to do with NCL) had not cleared the ship. It was not too bad waiting there, since I saw many familiar faces and chatted my way through the hours of wait. It was a big "HELLO and Welcome Home, again!" when the whole brigade of Butlers arrived (it was already my 5th cruise on the Pearl and many, many others on all the rest of the fleet) and everybody offered me their services, especially since I only was in a Mini Suite, since it was a last minute thing and all the Courtyard Suites had been already taken. Simon the Cruise Director came out and took Laurel, me and her friend 1st through Security screening and on to the ship, before even the Villas and Suites! That is what I call NCL Super VIP Service!!! On board I went to my Mini Suite and it was actually a nice room for myself and had nothing to complain about, especially since I got granted the same amenities as the Villa Guests. Afterwards I went straight to the pool and had to have a stiff drink! For sure the whole brigade of Bartenders have knowing me as well and asked me if I would like to have my usual. Many drinks, laughs and familiar faces later, we left Los Angeles in to the blue Pacific Ocean and a magic Sunset! That night I had prearranged before already, a table for us in Le Bistro and we indulged ourselves for hours over the Chef's Menu and good wine with excellent company! Even the waitresses remembered me and just said the "Chateaubriand" would have been excellent again and not as it was the last time you had it. Unbelievable, how they can remember just so small things! After dinner I went to Bliss Ultralounge to do the usual…have wonderful drinks and dance the night away. Next day I went for lunch to "Cagney's" with a slightly headache and made it then to the pool! After I had returned to my Suite I found an invitation for the VIP Party and afterwards to dine with the Captain and Hotel Director. The VIP Party (I do not normally even go there anymore) was the usual…flirting with the Hotel Director, Handshake with the Captain and Cocktails and Canapes and more flirting. Captains Table was held in Le Bistro and was as wonderful as usual! We actually had quiet interesting table mates…The Captain, Hotel Director, a VP of NCL in Miami, The Empress (flyingpirate), The King (me), a very high Officer from the US Navy and "Who are you" a friend of Laurel. After many laughs and great food I felt like dancing again in Bliss (to burn down the calories), where I met some wonderful people, who I met the night before. We made it until almost 4am until we sailed under the "Golden Gate" Bride watching it from the Courtyard Sun Deck 15! By the way the weather could have not been better the whole cruise! In San Francisco I laid lazy in the sun and swam in the wonderful Pool, had lunch in the Courtyard and went in the late afternoon to the Sauna, what a great day that was, just to do nothing! I had dinner in Indigo, which was superb (also the following night). On sea day up to Canada, The Hotel Director invited the whole Cruise Critic Gang to bowling and free drinks, which was very generous of him. Everybody had a great time. In Victoria I celebrated my 26 (again) Birthday and just indulged myself on the ship. In the evening the Concierge invited me for drinks to the Star Bar. There was where the nonsense begun! Shortly after me, the ships Doctor arrived as well with his nurses for a drink. The Concierge told us both, that the Cruise Critic Members had organized a meeting to congratulate me for my Birthday and if he would like to join in. I was like "OH MY GOD"…since I hate situations like that! There we went down, a door opened and a room was filled with people and 2 wonderful Birthday cakes, one for "King Marcus" and the other one for "Queen (?) Pieter"!!! Everybody I have seen or met on the ship/trip was there (except CC members), open bar and wonderful cake. What a great surprise party for the doctor and me!!! We both had no clue and have been surprised to the maximum! We both have been as well invited from the Hotel Director to invite people to our liking for dinner at "Cagney's" on his compliments! I hard core dining and drinking experience occurred that night in Cagney's and at Bliss! The next morning it was time to say “Good bye” in Vancouver! The Concierge met the Empress and me at 10:15a to be escorted privately off the ship, he even took care of the long lines at Vancouver pier and we just cut them all. There it was, a said good bye to my loved ship, it’s phenomenal crew and home away from home. We took from there the Quick Shuttle to Seattle (never again), where I stayed overnight at the Seattle Marriott Airport Hotel (wonderful) and took the next morning a horrible First Class flight on Useless Air back to Charlotte. Verdict: I had a brilliant cruise, better then excellent food and service! I need to thank again Michael the Hotel Director for his going over and beyond to please two of NCL’s most valued Guests and Friends (flyingpiate and me). Now to the Concierge Alexander Forbes: He is the most stylish, wonderful, great, simply gorgeous, distinguished and magic Concierge in the fleet, him and Lisa (NCL Spirit) are really the best Concierges NCL has to offer, where no request is too much and everything is dealt in a timely manner with a maximum in professionalism! It must be an Australian thing! I can not wait to be on a NCL ship again (god thanks 3 more are already booked for this year!!! King Marcus Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
This was my 12th NCL cruise in 18 months - my husband was supposed to come but broke a tooth three days before and couldn't make it. I booked an oceanview gty for my best friend and her 7 year old daughter at the last minute and they ... Read More
This was my 12th NCL cruise in 18 months - my husband was supposed to come but broke a tooth three days before and couldn't make it. I booked an oceanview gty for my best friend and her 7 year old daughter at the last minute and they were upgraded to a nice OV on 8! My partner in crime, King Marcus, arrived at LAX from NC, we picked him up and ran for San Pedro only to find that embarkation was delayed due to the need for a thorough detox because of Norovirus. We were delighted to find Alex Forbes and all of our butlers (we had both been on Pearl four times before this) in the concierge lounge, and the royal treatment began! The crowd was getting unruly, waving pitchforks and torches, as we were boarded first, even before the garden villa and deck 14 pax.  My bags were waiting at my door. Since this was a shortie cruise, we booked a disabled minisuite, a large lovely aft cabin. At 350 sf, it was larger than an AD penthouse. As I am not disabled, (DH is) I offered it up, in case it was needed but no one did....with Alex as concierge and with Platinum perks, and courtyard access, I found the services in a mini on Pearl to be superior to an owner's suite on Dawn! Our 7 year old, Evan, howled whenever we tried to take her out of the Kids Club! Her mom found herself planning the days around the open/close times! The activities are amazing and the care and love the counselors impart are truly awesome! We adults enjoyed daily trivia and arts and crafts as well as well deserved lazy NAPS! Marcus spent time on the sundeck "getting a healzy glow". Having been onboard before, I didn't go to any of the shows, but it was unanimous that we would have paid to silence the piano player/singer Terry Ayers in Bar City. We had had lunch in Summer Palace on embarkation day and it was antiheroic, so we took the balance of our breakfasts and lunches at Cagneys and dinners at Bistro, Cagney's, Mambo's. I even tried regular room service for the first time, and it wasn't bad! On the two port days, San Francisco and Victoria, I guided local travel agents around the ship and answered their questions, always the NCL ambassador ;) Alex got us off quickly and had us escorted through Canadian customs in a flash..we caught a "coach" to Seattle (NEVER AGAIN)and spent a night at the Edgewater Hotel, right on the waterfront, highly recommended! All in all, a good time was had by all- dinner with Captain Sven, Michael, Susan and King Marcus....Marcus' surprise birthday party....another bridge tour...excellent, excellent hospitality from everyone. As expected from the exquisite Pearl. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
This was my 9th cruise, my first on NCL. We took a 3 day Pacific Coastal cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver, stopping in Astoria OR. Since we were flying back to the airport, we parked at the Radisson (closest to LAX) and took a car ... Read More
This was my 9th cruise, my first on NCL. We took a 3 day Pacific Coastal cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver, stopping in Astoria OR. Since we were flying back to the airport, we parked at the Radisson (closest to LAX) and took a car service to the pier ($58. in comfort at our convenience vs. the $20. per person transfer from the airport, shuttle, etc.). We arrived at the pier at about 2PM with only a confirmation number (no ticket or baggage tags) and were on the ship within 20 minutes. Smooth. We had a guarantee for a BC cabin and were beyond pleased when we found out we not only had a BA cabin, but one of the 6 BA cabins in the back. This was my third time with a balcony off the back - they rule. The balconies are always much larger, it's easy to pick your room out from the pier and there's something psychological about seeing the world in your wake. Really added a lot to our enjoyment. I read a lot of recent reviews about the ship and I must admit I was a little apprehensive about the 'Freestyle' dining concept, the flat tip fee, vibrating noises in the cabins and unfriendly crew. Surprisingly, all the negative things I read were false. The Freestyle dining was easy. I always go the reservations I wanted when I wanted them. When we didn't plan in advance, we had no problems. When we ate in the Versailles room the service was well paced and the food was hot. We only ate in a cover charge restaurant the first night, Le Bistro. It was delicious - especially the creme brulee, well worth the $15. per person. We ate in the free restaurants after that. Dispelling other myths. The service was great, the Romanian girls were delightful (as was everyone else). The fish and chips in the Blue Lagoon snack bar were as good as everything said. The fried rice was excellent as well. Nothing in our room creaked - and the ship went top speed (averaged 23.6 knots) the entire way. Excellent ride for a ship at top speed in the open ocean (gentle rolls, no great heaves or tipping). This was the most pleasant disembarkation I've ever experienced. Food was available until 9AM and if you wanted to carry your own bags, you could almost leave anytime. We ate and then hung out in our cabin until we were ready to go (enjoying our balcony until the very end). This disembarkation process was much more pleasant and 'humane' than others I have experience (cutting off the food at 7:30, telling everyone to get out of their room by 8:00 and standing in overcrowded public rooms until 9 or 10:00AM). It was a great deal - but even better, a great experience. Who knows, maybe my 10th cruise will be my 2nd on NCL? Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
I haven't cruised since '70s,on Carnival. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at 11:30, were given snacks in waiting area, boarded within 45 minutes. The ship had just come out of drydock. There were new carpets, furniture ... Read More
I haven't cruised since '70s,on Carnival. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at 11:30, were given snacks in waiting area, boarded within 45 minutes. The ship had just come out of drydock. There were new carpets, furniture redone, brand new state of the art exercise equipment, and much more. We experienced polite and helpful staff, our cabin was well cared for, animal towels, an eggcrate on our bed (without asking for it),and anything we needed was provided. The one glitch, the room keys had to be rekeyed. It took an hour or two. So what, where were we going? What was the hurry? It was freestyle cruising. I couldn't belive the bitchy people. NCL even had an open bar for two hours to compensate us. We felt the food in the main dinning room was wonderful. The breads were great. The choices were wonderful. I think I had a tough pork chop once, and I am not complaining. My husband ate three entrees, two soups and two appetizers every night. On lobster night we were offered as many as we wanted. Our waiters were all wonderful and accommodating. We ate twice at the buffet. Yes it was a bit bottlenecked as mentioned, but manageable. We never had a problem getting a table for two, anywhere. The food was what it was, A Buffet....(It amazes me when I read people critique a buffet). We only went to one show, the Juggler. He was great. We didn't take excursions, we chose to do our own thing. We loved our balcony room, we are spoiled now and don't think we could cruise any other way. There is just something about the door cracked open and the ocean breeze while you sleep, or a pot of coffee amongst the stars at port. Well , one more glitch, disembarking, strong currents caused the ship to take more time to pull into port.....my god, people crowded the halls, the elevators, bitchy people everywhere, thank god there wasn't a fire or we would have been trampled to death. However, the crew kept their cool, tried to encourage the passengers to do the same. We loved NCL, and look forward to cruising on all their ships. Happy cruising!!!! Read Less
Sail Date October 2005
We took 5-day the Pacific Coastal repositioning cruise from L.A. to Vancouver on 5/3/05. We have sailed on 25+ cruises on several different lines. This was our second recent cruise on NCL (went to Alaska on the Star last August/Sept.). ... Read More
We took 5-day the Pacific Coastal repositioning cruise from L.A. to Vancouver on 5/3/05. We have sailed on 25+ cruises on several different lines. This was our second recent cruise on NCL (went to Alaska on the Star last August/Sept.). Embarkation in L.A. was smooth with no wait. We arrived at about 3 p.m. to avoid the rush. Staff greeted us pleasantly and gave directions to our cabin. (Not like the Star, where we were met by a staff member who carried our carry-ons to our cabin.) There were plenty of elevators available on the ship, and we easily found our cabin. It was a Category BB balcony cabin, very clean, with a comfortable Queen (plus) mattress and four pillows, sofa, and plenty of storage space for two. It also had a refrigerator that kept our beverages really cold, and a safe. The only negative about the cabin was the size of the bathroom/shower. I have sailed on a lot of ships over the years and this was definitely the smallest shower ever! I would say 1/4th the size of the shower in our ocean view (non-balcony) cabin on the Star last summer. In addition, the chairs on the balcony were tiny---almost children's size. My husband brought out the desk chair to be comfortable. We enjoyed the itinerary. The first two days at sea were relaxing, and Seattle and Victoria are familiar but very enjoyable ports. I found it odd that the cruise staff didn't give the usual "port lectures" and did not have maps of either port available on board. We found maps in the terminal in Seattle, and Victoria had their lovely "greeters" in period dress handing out maps on shore. This was OK for us since we had been to these cities several times before, but for new visitors there was very little advance information available. Food: We love Freestyle, and that is one of the reasons we have tried NCL twice lately. However, the quality of food was our one major problem with this cruise. The quality of food in both the main dining rooms and buffet has declined noticeably on NCL in recent years. This time there were only two of the five nights where there was an entree even remotely of interest in the main dining rooms, and the buffet food at lunch and dinner was unappetizing. (The buffet breakfasts were fine, with a wide array of choices.) NCL's effort to cut food costs and steer passengers to the "alternative" (fee) restaurants is obvious. At main dining room dinners, both the combination of foods and seasonings/sauces were strange, there was no beef option some nights, the typical cruise fare of shrimp entrees, rack of lamb, prime rib or even roast turkey/dressing were nowhere to be seen. Fish was dry and I could swear that the "Mahi Mahi" was some other, cheaper type of fish (it bore no taste resemblance to any other Mahi Mahi I have ever eaten---I could only swallow a few bites), appetizers and soups were few and low in quality. Service was inconsistent---wrong appetizer delivered one night, one appetizer forgotten the next. The buffet dinner offerings the nights we looked it over were fried, overcooked, soggy, or strange combinations again. My expectations were realistic. I have been a convention/meeting planner and know what to expect in banquet-quality food. This was many steps below. We tried two alternative restaurants. The sushi bar was excellent and the whole staff in the Ginza area was wonderful. We also had the Teppanyaki one night---again, the food and service were outstanding. We also tried the East Meets West steakhouse. The appetizers and desserts were outstanding, service very professional and friendly, steak was good. Entertainment: We enjoyed the Jean Ann Ryan dancers and singers. They are a step above the dancers/singers on other lines. We also enjoyed the musicians in several smaller venues. The variety and types of music offered were very much to our taste. Internet access: The ship's personnel promoted it actively throughout the cruise, but when I went to sign up for a time package in order to check in to our return flights, service was down and not expected to be restored any time during my cruise. I guess that message never got to the promoters. Staff: In general the staff members at all levels were professional, friendly, and courteous. The reception desk ("pursers" on most ships) staff we encountered were the only exception---but that is typical of many ships. They remind me of those credit card commercials where the staff is trained to say "no" in all situations. Can you exchange U.S. for Canadian dollars---no. Do you have any one-dollar bills---no. Do you have a map of Seattle---no. Do you have a Seattle yellow pages---no. Do you have a copy of the menu for tonight in the Seven Seas---no.......... Conclusions: Despite the very nice ships and staff, I don't think we will choose NCL again due to the poor food quality. In fact, we had been considering whether to do a land-based vacation or a cruise on NCLA to Hawaii next year, and this cruise caused us to choose the land-based option. Read Less
Sail Date May 2005
We decided on this 3 day Pacific Coastal cruise for several reasons, one was to try NCL, and, another was to have a quick vacation. We enjoyed the line and had a great vacation, including a 3 day post cruise stay in beautiful Vancouver. ... Read More
We decided on this 3 day Pacific Coastal cruise for several reasons, one was to try NCL, and, another was to have a quick vacation. We enjoyed the line and had a great vacation, including a 3 day post cruise stay in beautiful Vancouver. This was our fifth cruise, the previous four on RCI, in which we like a lot, and, look forward to sailing with them again. We are not high maintenance, are very understanding and don't expect a Crystal or a Radisson type cruise on lines who aren't advertised as such. However, we do expect above average service, accommodations and perks, when, and if, arranged. We were a little skeptical about freestyle as we have enjoyed assigned dinning room seating and the formality of it all. We've always had nice table mates and typically do late seating. As for NCL, I was happy with the freestyle dinning choices, and, we had one meal in Maxims. I felt Maxims' food was just average with average to poor service. I was expecting extraordinary food and superior service, neither was fulfilled. However, the space was beautiful, and, sharing the table with our 3 friends made up for the food and service inadequacies. Food in the dinning rooms was tasty and service was good to excellent. The buffet, Raffles, had decent choices, but was definitely a steam tray buffet with some foods needing often over looked attention. We really enjoy good entertainment and certainly didn't experience anything close to that in the Moulin Rouge. A few of the production members needed more vocal training, others were good, just cast in the wrong numbers, and, accompanied by uncomplimentary backups. Other ship entertainment was OK with a decent contemporary quartet playing over the three days in several different venues. The ship was clean and had some nicely designed / decorated areas. However, I felt like a Hamster in a Habitrail running into dead ends and having to go up or down a deck, then down or up to continue on that same deck, more often than desired. Our cabin was clean and nicely planned. We enjoyed the glass shower door as you'd imagine, and, bathroom counter space and shelving was more than adequate. Our cabin steward was pleasant, attentive and accommodating. A majority of the ship's staff was nice and friendly often going out of their way to assist with various requests, or, just to be helpful. Our cruise was enjoyed thoroughly. Except for Maxim's and Moulin Rouge experiences, everything exceeded our expectations. And, we look forward to sailing other NCL ships in the near future. Read Less
Sail Date May 2005
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