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28 Norwegian (NCL) British Columbia Cruise Reviews

THE SHIP:  My wife and I and 2 friends of ours cruised on the Pearl from Los Angeles to Vancouver, BC....stopping in San Francisco and Victoria, BC along the way. We got on the ship about 1.5 hours before it sailed, so we were literally ... Read More
THE SHIP:  My wife and I and 2 friends of ours cruised on the Pearl from Los Angeles to Vancouver, BC....stopping in San Francisco and Victoria, BC along the way. We got on the ship about 1.5 hours before it sailed, so we were literally the only people in line. So obviously, that all went fast. When we got on, we immediately noticed this ship was SO much nicer than any of the Carnival ships we had been on in the past. I have cruised Celebrity and Carnival, but my wife had only been on Carnival. She was extremely happy about the obvious difference. The ship itself was EXTREMELY clean and we did not meet a rude employee the entire cruise. The layout of the decks were great. We did not need a ship map and never got lost. All of the elevators had informative deck plan placards, and there were occasional placards posted on the walls throughout the ship. The pool area had 4 hot tubs and 2 pools. 1 pool was for kids and 1 was for adults. They were both labeled and enforced. Each pool had 2 hot tubs connected to them. The pools were small, but no smaller than other ships. Who really swims in cruise ship pools anyway? CABIN: Our cabin (9132) was a balcony room which had plenty of space, a couch and a good sized balcony. The only complaint about the room was the limited drawer space. A nice surprise was a pay mini bar in the room and the selections were the same prices as up on deck. Our Room Steward (Cristian) was attentive and friendly. SPA: The spa had everything you need; hot tubs, sauna, steam bath, heated loungers, relaxation area and locker rooms. The spa employees were very nice. My wife gets cold easily, so she spent a lot of time in the warm spa. DINING: The food in all of the restaurants was amazing, except the sushi which was dry and obviously not freshly made. We ate in 3 specialty restaurants; La Cucina (Italian), Moderno Churrascaria (Brazilian Steakhouse) and Lotus Garden (Teppanyaki). All were add charge restaurants, but Lotus Garden had additional charges for certain items. I did not realize this until our bill of $80 was presented at the end. My wife saw the additional charges on the menu, but I did not....so my bad there. La Cucina was the best of the three. We ate in the regular dining rooms as well, which had as good or better food than the specialty restaurants. When we cruise NCL again, we will probably just eat in the regular dining rooms. ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment on Pearl was focused at an older crowd. Most of the cruisers appeared to be in their 60's, 70's and 80's. We are in our mid 40's, so the music was not to our liking. However, there was a very entertaining juggler in the main auditorium (Stardust). One night we went to the Spinnaker Lounge to watch a comedian who was horrible beyond belief. Even though the crowd was older, we enjoyed their company throughout the cruise. Everyone was having such a great time that the age gap was not always noticeable. The casino was awesome! Baccarat, Blackjack, Craps and plenty of slot machines. My wife actually hit the jackpot on a quarter slot and took home $600. I enjoyed hours of $5 Craps and $5 Blackjack on just $40. SHORE EXCURSIONS: Prior to cruising, we booked Alcatraz tours directly through the Alcatraz people. We paid $35 per person instead of the higher rate through NCL Shore Excursions. This turned out great because the Alcatraz tours left from the dock right beside where Pearl docked. I would recommend this for future cruisers. As for Victoria, the four of us couldn't agree on a shore excursion so we took a cab into town ($5.50) and walked around the Legislative Building, Empress Hotel and the adjacent shopping district. The Canadian people were so nice. From the shop employees, to the food servers and bartenders. It was such a breath of fresh air to talk to nice people. Not Los Angeles people (aka: Angelenos) who are so bitter and nasty. Unfortunately, the nastiness becomes normal when you live there and nice people stand out when traveling. We stopped for a couple drinks in a little place called "The Local" and highly recommend the bar to anyone looking to relax and enjoy a few drinks with friendly bartenders. The experience was so nice that we gave a 100% tip. CLOSING: We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise! The Freestyle Cruising concept fit us well, the ship was immaculate and the employees were top notch. The tipping system was a bit of a confusion for us because you have no set waiter and such, except your Room Steward. We were unsure of what cut Cristian got of the $12 per day, so we left a little in the room for him. I almost wish NCL would go to a percentage tip for each meal as you eat, and a set amount for the Room Steward. This would be more clear for cruisers who want to make sure their Room Steward is taken care of. I have seen bad reviews of NCL, but we did not experience any problems and look forward to our next cruise with them. We have a Caribbean cruise planned on RCCL, but had so much fun on Pearl that we are thinking of switching it to NCL. Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
We left Los Angeles on a cold and dreary day (highly unusual for us). We were in a Balcony Room 9618.. The room was very clean and our cabin steward was always there to make sure everything was just as we liked it. DH and I are very ... Read More
We left Los Angeles on a cold and dreary day (highly unusual for us). We were in a Balcony Room 9618.. The room was very clean and our cabin steward was always there to make sure everything was just as we liked it. DH and I are very relaxed cruisers and we just take life as it comes - never been on a cruise we did not enjoy. Sure issues come up - but heck that's life...and I don't have to cook or clean (always a plus). Towel Animals are back - we did not have them on our last few cruises (note- not on NCL) and our cabin steward always surprised us with different animals. My personal favorite was the monkey swinging from the middle of the cabin. We enjoyed the Free Style Dining - we never made reservations and always got right in except for one time, and that was our fault for going right at the main dinning time. At which time we decided to try one of the Pay for Restaurants - La Cucina.. again we did not have reservations and at first we were told there were no tables available, would we like to make a reservation for later - we declined and stated that it was no problem we would just try another restaurant - at which time the lady at the front desk said she would try and squeeze us in - and yes you guest it - we got in.. Excellent service and great Food. In addition we also tried the Teppanyaki dinner with our new friends from Roll Call. Thanks Cecilia for setting it all up. Good food and good new friends. The main dining room had great food. I don't understand why some people complain that there is never enough different dishes on the menu. Each night there were at least 5-6 different dishes on the menu plus different appetizers and desserts. What do people expect? Buffet - lot's of different dishes and in order to try them all you would have to be on at least a 30 day cruise (oh please let me try)...Again don't understand the complainers that state the Breakfast Buffet does not have everything that they want. I would love to know what is actually missing? Casino - yes folks there is smoke in the casino, it is after all a casino and if you go to Vegas there is also smoke in the casino. My DH and I are non-smokers but do like to play the slots so we just move away from the machines that have the heavy smokers on them - we really did not find it that bad. Thanks to Lori, our group of Cruise Critic Members had a Slot Pull - I think maybe 50 people (guessing here) showed up and we had a great time - did not win the main prize but had a blast. Again thanks Lori for setting it up. Oh and I also played the slots the following night - $10 bucks into playing I won $231 and walked away... Yeah for me.... Meeting people on a cruise is always fun but it was even more fun because we got to have a Meet and Greet with about 100 people - already we had a head start with meeting folks and when walking around the ship got to see these nice folks and talk to them. Cecilia did an excellent job in setting this meeting up and fun was had by all. Of course having the top brass coming by to meet us was the highlight of the meeting and the Captain offering us a private Bridge Tour... Awesome. The ship was very clean and folks were always cleaning away to make sure it stayed that way. (wish I could have brought some of them home to take care of our home). Our favorite place to hang out before dinner and also after dinner was the Martini Bar.. The Bartender Romeo was terrific and so were all the other folks at the bar. We met up with a couple of Cruise Critic folks - thanks Deb and Tammy for making this some of our best times. A small observation - folks complain about the pricing of bar drinks but I really found that the price is about the same as nice restaurants or bar prices in Los Angeles. Services was awesome by everyone - no complaints here. We usually do not go to many shows - we only saw one which was ok... and we went to two game shows which where hysterical...The Newly Wed Game and the Perfect Couple... If you plan to go and see something go see these - they are sure to make you laugh. DH and I had been to most of our ports before but managed to get off on all of them for at least a walk around. Disembarkation was the best we have ever had in Vancouver. We chose to walk off with our luggage and did just that at 9 A.M. Walking off and going thru customs took us all of 5 minutes... Easy, Easy Easy... We had a wonderful cruise and were reluctant to get off but there is always next time. So if you are trying to decide on whether to cruise on the Pearl, my recommendation is Definitely do it... Great Ship, Great Crew and Great Food... Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
This was our first NCL cruise, and we had a wonderful time. I have found that the most useful reviews give more information and less opinions, although is it hard to sometimes separate these, but I will try my best here. We arrived ... Read More
This was our first NCL cruise, and we had a wonderful time. I have found that the most useful reviews give more information and less opinions, although is it hard to sometimes separate these, but I will try my best here. We arrived at the port of Los Angeles at 11:00. By 11:30 we had been checked in and were waiting in the departure lounge. It was very smooth and well organized. There was plenty of seating in the lounge, even though we had received several automated phone calls from NCL over multiple days preceding departure, that we should not arrive before 13:00 due to limited seating. Seating did not appear to be an issue. We had arrived early, so we were part of boarding group 1 and we were on the ship by 13:30. We had a 10th deck balcony cabin (first time for a balcony for us). The cabin was adequate in size but had lots of nooks and cubby holes for our things, so it made the cabin seem larger during our trip, since luggage, clothes and souvenirs were never in the way. We found where our cabin was, took a brief look around the ship and ate lunch in the Summer Palace dining room. We spent some time after lunch exploring the ship. In the Crystal Atrium, they were selling an "all you could drink" soda package. This was well worth it for us, as we did not care for the flavor of the Iced Tea on board. Since this was a 7 night cruise with 2 days at sea and visits to ports were had previously visited, we decided that on this cruise we were going to take advantage of the spa... something we have not done on previous cruises. The spa is clean, bright, and has many features. There is a charge to use the spa facilities. While some reviewers have complained about the fee, we found that the $125 fee for use of the spa for a full week was well worth it. We visited the spa at least once if not twice every day (1-2 hours per average visit). Over the course of the week, we each had several massages, the wife had a facial, and also got her hair styled. They run a special called 10-20-30, where if you sign up for 3 treatments, each one gets a progressively larger discount (10%, 20%, then 30%), so make sure you choose the most expensive treatment as your third one so the largest discount applies. As with all ship board services, the spa treatments were not cheap , but we felt like we got our money's worth with each one . We booked our first massage (hot stones) for the day of departure, and they threw in an extra 15 min (from 60 min to 75 min), and did this for the two of us in a couples massage room at no extra charge. Our only complaint with the spa was how often and how forcefully products were being pushed at us (if you liked the massage you just had, then you should buy this year long supply of massage oil that is the same oil we just used. And it's very special oil that you can only get from us.) Once we discovered that every treatment came with a pitch, we were able to adjust our attitudes. We had many treatments, and did not buy any of the products we were pitched. We just kept saying that we would think about it. Over the course of the week, we saw many of the shows, and participated in many ship board events. Overall we found the entertainment to be superb. The shows were divided into 2 categories... professional entertainers, and ship staff entertainers. The saw Sharkbait (comedy jugglers), Les Lankhorst (Sinatra style singer) and several of the Second City shows (Improv comedy). These were all top notch professionals. We also saw 2 shows with ship staff entertainers (singers and dancers). We have found many of these shows on other ships to be cheap and cheesy, but not this time. The productions were much better than what we have seen in the past, and we enjoyed all of them. We also spent time in the Crystal Atrium listening to Arvin and Emily (lounge singers), whose shows we enjoyed. We also participated in Bingo twice and an audience participation version of Deal or No Deal. We never won, but we had fun. Bingo on 2 of the sessions was at a discounted rate, due to low attendance (days in port). Another event we attended was the White Hot Party. This didnt have very good attendance, and seemed to break up early we didnt stay long. During our trip, we had planned to mostly eat in the main dining rooms. But as the trip progressed, we soon found that the food quality jumps significantly in the specialty restaurants. In the main dining rooms, the right side of the menu never changes with 5-6 starters, entries and desserts. The left side of the menu changes daily where they add echefs selections¦ 3-4 starters, entries and desserts. The food quality in the main dining rooms was very good, but we found that many of the offerings were uninspired . Fish and chips, Classic turkey dinner with dressing, grilled fish, steak and baked potato... these are items I can find at the local caf in my neighborhood. The offerings would be improved with a little creativity (special sauces, spice options, creative side dishes, etc.). Again, the quality of the food was very good its just the variety that was uninspired. The service in both of the main dining rooms was very slow. We had 1 lunch and 2 dinners where service took over 90 minutes from the time we sat down until we were done eating, and on one of the dinners, we waited almost 30 min between when they took away our plates and when dessert was served. We joked at our table that maybe our waiter fell overboard. As for specialty restaurants, we ate in the Teppanyaki restaurant, the Churrascaria, and twice in the Italian restaurant. The offerings are greatly improved over those in the main dining rooms (many more upscale ingredients like scallops, jumbo shrimp, lobster, Angus steak, etc.). We had shrimp and scallops in the Teppanyaki restaurant, Lobster Fettuccini in the Italian restaurant, and wonderful cuts of meat in the Churrascaria. Each specialty restaurant has a different fee. By coincidence, not by design, we mostly ate at those with lower fees. The Italian and Churrascaria restaurants always seems to have little to no wait, so they are good options if you do not have a reservation. We also never saw a wait in the Asian restaurant either. Teppanyaki fills up fast due to limited seating, so it is best to make a reservation here. We also ate several breakfasts and lunches in the Garden cafe (Buffet). In general, the food was just okay. We only ate here when we were limited on time or wanted to eat at a time that the main dining room wasnt serving. For both breakfast and lunch, the menu is mostly the same every day. The Breakfast menu was adequate, but again, uninspired. Scrambled eggs, breakfast meats, breads, cereals and fruit make up the majority of this buffet. You can have an omelet cooked to order, but the filling options are plain (onions, sausage, bacon bits, cheese, tomatoes). There is also a station where you can get fresh juices for a fee, but we did not take advantage of this. The lunch choices left something to be desired. Clearly geared for families with teens and kids, (lots of finger foods, pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers), this was our least favorite option for lunch. This was also the only venue where some of the food didnt look all that appealing. Our biggest food disappointment by far was the Chocolate Buffet. This is the first cruise we were on, where this was held in the buffet restaurant and not in the main dining room. On all other cruises we have been on, this has been an upscale event with fruit and vegetable carvings, ice carvings, and added decor. Here there were only 7-8 types of desserts (repeated at 5-6 stations). And the presentation was sorely lacking. NCL didnt do much to dress up the venue. This event has always been a highlight for us, but NCL really let us down on this one. Disembarkation was very smooth. We placed our luggage in the hallway the night before departure as instructed. We were part of the Purple tagged group which had a departure time of 10:00, but they actually called the purple group about 15 minutes early. By the time we walked down to the luggage storage area on the dock, our bags were already there. Overall we had a great trip. The ships crew was wonderful, we liked how the ship was laid out, and we felt like we got a great vacation and good value for the cost. This was our first NCL cruise, but Im sure it will not be our last. It is easy in a review to dwell on the negatives, and that is not my intent here. I hope you will take the negative items in this review as lessons learned by us so that if cruising on the Pearl or with NCL, you can use our experience to better prepare yourself for what you might expect. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
I have cruised many times and this cruise tied for last place. I traveled with my adult daughter on this 7 night repositioning cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver with stops in San Francisco, Astoria, Victoria, Nainamo, and Vancouver on ... Read More
I have cruised many times and this cruise tied for last place. I traveled with my adult daughter on this 7 night repositioning cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver with stops in San Francisco, Astoria, Victoria, Nainamo, and Vancouver on the Norwegian Jewel, rated 4.5 stars by my travel agency. We made our own travel arrangements and they were fine. The ship, in my opinion, was highly overrated. It had few amenities and what amenities it offered were generally an additional fee. The ship had two central, open air pools and hot tubs, all of which were generally filled with families with children. The only option was the spa facilities which cost an additional $30 per day per person and were only available if you booked a spa appointment. Our stateroom (balcony category BD on deck 10) was tiny. It had a refrigerator but was filled with expensive "mini bar" products so it was really of no use. To its credit, it had the best bathroom I have ever seen on a cruise ship with separate toilet and shower facilities with sliding glass doors. Activities were generally fee based and expensive. There were a few dance classes and deck games, but everything else was costly. We ended up spending a lot of time in our cabin watching very limited television. Service was generally poor and we found guest services staff to be particularly rude and dishonest. The ports and excursions were the highlight of the cruise though not without drawbacks. Tour guides were excellent and we enjoyed a bus tour of Cannon Beach and Seaside in Oregon and a winery excursion on Vancouver Island. Unfortunately, the Oregon tours were on school buses. Dining was a real problem. The free dining rooms had waits of 40+ minutes (no reservations accepted for parties of 2) and service was very poor. I received my food in a free dining room more than 10 minutes before my daughter's arrived and when we complained the server didn't seem to understand that the dishes should be served at the same time. Service in the fancy dining room was not much better. We avoided the buffet after being greeted by loud music and door guards with hand sanitizor spray chirping "happy happy washy washy." Entertainment was very mediocre except for one comedian who was excellent. The production cast was set to disembark in Vancouver, so perhaps that explains their performance, but the musicians were not much better. The embarkation and debarkation process were good and ahead of schedule. No criticism there. In sum, I will avoid Norwegian in the future and do more research on the ship I am selecting. I ended up with sticker shock and a sense that my week's vacation could have been spent much more happily elsewhere. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
We travelled on the Jewel from New York to Vancouver. The cruise was 24 nights. We chose this cruise because of the Panama Canal transit. Our longest cruise to date had been 14 nights and we were interested how we would manage with so many ... Read More
We travelled on the Jewel from New York to Vancouver. The cruise was 24 nights. We chose this cruise because of the Panama Canal transit. Our longest cruise to date had been 14 nights and we were interested how we would manage with so many sea days. We really enjoyed this cruise but have decided that shorter cruises/less sea days are more appropriate for us. We enjoyed all the ports except Puerto Chiapas where we took our only ship booked tour, Mangroves. It was very disappointing. Everywhere else we either booked tours privately or took taxis. Our balcony cabin was on deck 10 forward. The motion of the ship was not a problem even when we had rough seas. The cabin was fine and there was plenty of storage. Having travelled on the Star last year where I hadn't really enjoyed the food I was concerned that the same issues would apply but I found the food to be good. We usually ate in the main dining room and while sometimes we had a pager we found the wait was usually less than 20 minutes. Service was usually good, our only issue was with the lady at the entrance of the dining room who was brusque and failed to acknowledge us on many occasions. We also ate in the Garden Cafe and while it was certainly crowded we always found a table towards the back of the ship or in the Great Outdoors. The food was varied and everything we tried was good. We never found the pools to be crowded, there were so few children on the ship we rarely saw them. There were always loungers available by the pools whenever we needed them. We didn't go to many shows but enjoyed the live music playing around the ship. Reading previous reviews proves that the same cruise can be different for different people. We had a lovely time and never felt pressured to spend, spend, spend. I would certainly travel with NCL again if the itinerary was right for us. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
We have been regular cruisers, having cruised about 10-15 times. We are in our mid-sixties and really don't participate in a lot of activities. We are just happy sitting out on the balcony; reading and watching the world go by. Being ... Read More
We have been regular cruisers, having cruised about 10-15 times. We are in our mid-sixties and really don't participate in a lot of activities. We are just happy sitting out on the balcony; reading and watching the world go by. Being in customer service fields, we look forward to cruising to see examples of good customer service. Over the past few cruises with Celebrity, we have seen a decline in the quality of service and were looking for something more. The Haven concept on NCL intrigued us, and we booked a four-day repositioning cruise (Pacific coastal) on the Jewel as a short getaway. The ship was in A-1 condition throughout. Very little wear and tear. As expected, NCL quality (but not service) was a step downward from the other lines that we have cruised on recently. Everyone was smiling and greeted us throughout the ship, something like Crystal does. Some even learned our names. Prior to the cruise, we stayed at the Renaissance Hotel in Long Beach, which was very nice. We noted that almost all the cabs in the area seemed to be Prius' and we were concerned about fitting all our bags in one cab. We asked Eric, the bellhop to arrange a town car to drive us to the cruise ship terminal. It worked well and we arrived curbside at the terminal in 15 minutes for $30. Our bags picked up, we headed inside at 11 AM. After some computer glitches (this was the embarkation crew from San Diego as NCL doesn't usually go out of the Port of Los Angeles), we were escorted to the holding room for suite passengers. Unfortunately, the incoming cruise had some immigration issues and boarding was delayed about two hours. Ruth, our concierge, did her best to keep us comfortable and informed. Once the ship was cleared, we went right on and were escorted to Cagney's for lunch. While in the restaurant, the announcement was made that the rooms were ready. We chose a two-bedroom suite in the Haven, one of the nicest laid-out rooms that I have seen in over 20 years of cruising. The decor was a little kitschy, but was not overtly obnoxious. Teodoro, our butler, came in shortly to introduce himself. He turned out to be great -- never missed a request, always wishing he could do more (we're pretty self-sufficient). Later our room steward, Edgardo, came in. Quietly efficient and always smiling. He kept the room in tremendous condition. Kudos to a great team! Since the weather was cloudy and windy most of the time, we abandoned our plan of vegging out on the balcony and instead spent most of our days in the Haven. They kept the roof closed all days but one when they cracked it open about 10 feet. Lovely and peaceful. Got more reading done than on most seven day cruises. Thanks to Teodoro, Edgardo and Ruth, we got into "cruise mode" quickly and relaxed as much on this cruise as on longer ones. We had been concerned about interlopers sneaking into the Haven and interrupting the serenity there. There were three couples that came up a few times from non-suite cabins, to join with a friend who had a suite. They were mildly loud but usually left in an hour anyway. Still, there was plenty of space for all of us. The bar menu seemed a little limited, consisting of name brands mostly. I drink straight, high-quality vodka and my wife drinks gin. The offerings were mostly only well-known brands with nothing unusual or special to try. Some other cruises offer one or two boutique brands, making interesting choices. After reading several Cruise Critic reviews about the mediocre food in the regular dining venues, we made advance reservations in Cagney's and once we found a server we liked, we stayed with her throughout the cruise. Heidi gave us very refined, unobtrusive service. She was terrific! We only ate at the main dining room once and were served warmed-over eggs that were gelatinous and rather unpalatable. The server there was very attentive. Disembarkation in Vancouver was flawless. With three other cruise ships at Canada Place, we had to use the alternate pier, Ballentyne. Things moved without a hitch. We left our room around 9 and were in a cab by 9:30 (not a Prius). Our hotel (another Renaissance) room wasn't ready, so we strolled the city and met some old friends in the interim. All in all, a great cruise. Would gladly sail with NCL again! Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
This repositioning cruise on the Norwegian Pearl was literally all over the map. It started in sunny, 86-degree Los Angeles and ended in cloudy, 50-degree Vancouver. Inbetween we hit the bigger cities of San Francisco and Victoria and the ... Read More
This repositioning cruise on the Norwegian Pearl was literally all over the map. It started in sunny, 86-degree Los Angeles and ended in cloudy, 50-degree Vancouver. Inbetween we hit the bigger cities of San Francisco and Victoria and the small towns of Astoria and Nanaimo. Our shore excursions ranged from dim sum in Chinatown to a visit to a cranberry farm on Vancouver Island. Mom played lots of bridge, and I had lots of two-for-one drink specials in Star Bar with the other "Friends of Dorothy." But the one consistency in our cruise was the friendliness of the Pearl crew and the virtues of NCL's popular Jewel-class ship.Embarkation in Los Angeles was a nightmare. Everyone thought so, novice and frequent cruiser alike. It took two hours of standing in line to get on the ship, but it was a small price to pay to get aboard.Our interior stateroom was comfortable and clean. The bed was set up as a queen rather than two singles, but our stewards reset it while we were at dinner. Once we unpacked, there was plenty of room. This cabin had the largest cruise-ship shower I've ever been in, and it had as much hot water as I could use.We dined entirely in the "free" dining rooms, including the Summer Palace, Indigo, and Blue Lagoon. The food was very good, and the service was excellent. We ate fairly early, so we never had to wait, but there was often a short line for the Summer Palace when we left. We also frequented the champagne bar to listen to the piano player, who was very good. I'd recommend the bellini.Most evenings I went to Star Bar for their two-for-one Svedka vodka special. Pia Amanda, Star Bar's excellent bartender, is an perfect example of the friendliness of NCL staff. She remembered my name after the first night, what I drank, and how many I drank! I'll remember Pia for a long time. The Pearl hosted an event for LGBT passengers almost every night, and these were well attended. No NCL staff attended, but it's nice that they actually thought to include us on the schedule.The entertainment was fun. The Pearl Production Company put together two nights of Vegas-like dance numbers. Oh What A Night was a four-man singing act similar to Jersey Boys, and they were just as popular. Second City Comedy was more cerebral than bust-out-laughing funny, but I enjoyed them. And the jugglers of Sharkbait were suprisingly entertaining.The shore excursions ran the gammut. The San Francisco city tour and dim sum lunch was a 6-hour value for the money. Tea at the Empress in Victoria was an elegant experience that exceeded expectations. However, the tour in Nanaimo, which included a visit to a rural art gallery/garden and cranberry farm was a disappointment. Nanaimo looked like a very nice town, but there was no excursion focusing on the town.The ship-board experience was comfortable and fun. The ship was essentially full, but it never felt crowded. I met lots of new friends in my two hours a day in the hot tub. Mom and I only shared a table once, but we struck up many conversations with folks and neighboring tables. And all the folks who hung out in Star Bar, gay and straight, were super friendly. A middle-aged mom from Nanaimo talked me into going down the water slide. I went down head first, and it was a blast.I really wanted to do a Carribean itinerary so I could get some sun, but this was my 70-year-old mom's first cruise and she wanted to stay close to home. This was also my first non-RSVP Vacations cruise, and I expected it to be a lot less fun. Thankfully, I can say I had a blast, I met a lot of nice people, and I'd do the whole cruise all over again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
About UsDH and I are in our early 40s, have two sons (11 & 15) and live in Oregon. This cruise was to celebrate my 40th birthday. We've cruised twice before on HAL (Mexico in 2008 and Alaska in 2010) - both times with my ... Read More
About UsDH and I are in our early 40s, have two sons (11 & 15) and live in Oregon. This cruise was to celebrate my 40th birthday. We've cruised twice before on HAL (Mexico in 2008 and Alaska in 2010) - both times with my parents, my sister and her DH. This was the first time we've ever taken a week-long vacation ALONE: no kids, no parents, no other family. ALONE!! We chose the Pacific Coastal Repositioning because of the lower rates, the ease of travel and especially the chance to spend a day in San Francisco. We also were able to get the last aft-facing balcony cabin, which clinched it for us when we booked last August. We're much more about the ship than the ports.Pre-Cruise Travel and EmbarkationWe flew down to Los Angeles early Sunday morning and caught a Super Shuttle to San Pedro Harbor. We checked our luggage with the NCL porter and wandered around the waterfront until a little before noon. The various check-in lines were long and didn't move too fast, but we were in no real hurry. It took about 45 minutes to get our key cards and move into the...HOLDING PEN! As others have mentioned in their reviews, there was a lengthy delay in boarding the ship due to customs and immigration issues. We also heard a rumor that some passengers wouldn't leave their cabins. Who knows? Again, we were in no hurry, and we had a deck of cards. Many hands of gin later they started letting us board. It was highly amusing to see the hordes of people huddled like refugees in front of the bathrooms, clutching their boarding numbers, just waiting...and of course ignoring the repeated requests from the crew that the area remain clear. Once boarding commenced it was very swift and easy, and we were on board a little before 2:00 p.m.The ShipIsn't she lovely?! I'd heard the Pearl was beautiful, and it's true. Very bright and clean. We made it our mission right from the start to explore the Pearl stem to stern, which we did while everyone else was having lunch. We wanted to see the various bars and eating venues and get a general feeling for where things were. Very quickly we were acclimated with the layout and knew how to get around. I really loved that there were so many public areas - and people took advantage of them! You could always find something going on. The pool deck was a fun place and, despite the sometimes cloudy weather, was always in use. We only went in the hot tub once, but we saw kids and adults alike on the water slide every day, and there were even some brave souls in the pool one night when the ship was rocking and sloshing the water all over the deck. The muster drill was different from what we've experienced in the past. Rather than go to lifeboat stations we reported to assembly areas (assigned on the key card) and checked in with crew members. The drill itself was conducted much like an airplane safely demonstration, with instructions issued over the loudspeaker while crew members showed how to put on life vests. The drill itself didn't take very long - maybe 10 minutes - but waiting for all the passengers to make their way to the various assembly areas and check in took a LOOOOONG time. Once it was over we checked back to our cabin and found the luggage had all arrived.The CabinWe've only sailed on HAL's Dam ships,so we don't have much with which to compare. Our cabin on the Pearl definitely had fewer drawers, shelves and closet space. We were able to fit our things in no problem, but there's no way we would have managed if the boys had been with us. I really liked the layout of the bathroom. Yes, the toilet closet is smallish, but neither of us had issues fitting in. I especially liked the sliding glass shower door. Genius! The bed was ridiculously comfortable; we slept great every night, lulled to sleep by the ship's rocking. The balcony was plenty big and completely covered. We spent a lot of time out there. Even when it was drizzling we stayed dry, and there were no issues of any debris falling on us. I'd read that the aft cabins on 8 get a lot of noise from Bliss Ultra Lounge directly below. Yes, we could hear music - mostly the bass - on some nights, but it wasn't intrusive and didn't interfere with our sleep at all. Just as the ship's rocking was soothing at bedtime, the bass line's thud-thud-thud proved conducive to sleep as well.The Food (and Drink!)Isn't this what everyone wants to know about? I've heard and read so many different opinions about cruiseline food. HAL's is supposed to be some of the best, and I will admit we thoroughly enjoyed the food on the two previous cruises, but we didn't approach NCL with any preconceived notions. The Garden Cafe (buffet) food was plentiful, and there was a nice variety of offerings. We normally had breakfast there and never starved. We only ate one lunch in there and no dinners. We had chicken wings at Blue Lagoon twice (heck, it was on our deck - we had to!), and they were indeed delish, as I'd heard. On our first sea day the Sushi Bar was offering all you can eat sushi and sashimi for $10 per person from noon to 1:30 p.m., so we checked that out. The offerings were from a limited Ginza menu and were fine. But not stellar. Now that we've done it we don't need to do it again. With the exception of a special dinner at Cagney's (yum!), we had all our dinners at Indigo. We tend to eat later, and we never had a problem walking in at 8:30 p.m. or so and getting a table. The food ranged from wonderful (duck!) to just so-so (mahi-mahi...meh). We love to try different things and would usually order a couple of appetizers to taste. For those wondering about the difference between food in the MDR and surcharge venues, here is an example: the crab cakes at Indigo were made with Blue Crab lump meat, were mushy and not overly seasoned. That didn't stop us from enjoying them! Meanwhile, the crab cakes at Cagney's were larger, made from Dungeness and had a wonderful flavor to them. So there were hits and misses - which happens everywhere - but we were more than satisfied. The one icky incident was on embarkation day, when I went to the poolside grill to get a burger. The buns were all moldy, and I had to point it out to the crew member who was putting them on the buffet. Now I understand the Pearl had just come through the Panama Canal, and it's possible that the heat and humidity caused the bread to spoil quickly, but moldy buns are NOT an appetizing way to start a cruise.So the bars - we hit 'em all. And enjoyed ourselves. Very quickly we were know among the bar staff as that couple who likes to play cribbage, have afternoon cocktails and peels off singles with each round. Permod and Tiger in the Spinnaker Lounge were especially wonderful, and Shem was a friendly youngster who liked to chat with us. Pia in the Star Bar (Tiger's girlfriend!) took good care of us in the evenings when we'd come in to listen to the string quartet. The drink prices were the same (and sometimes even less) than on HAL. My only issue was sometimes we'd ask for well vodka or gin and end up with a call. True, it was only ever a difference of 25 or 50 cents, but it happened enough times to become irksome.Entertainment and ActivitiesWe went to Encore in the showroom (I like musicals) and especially enjoyed the dancing. Three of the four singers were wonderful. The fourth was excessively shrill. We watched part of Sharkbait one night but didn't stay for the whole show. What we did catch was great. On the last day Sean and Max from Sharkbait conducted a juggling workshop. What a hoot! We bought a set of their juggling balls, and I've been practicing every day. I guess I'm getting a little better. We'd hear (and see) Tino in the Atrium as we passed through, but we never stayed for his show. Likewise with the pianists. The quartet was very talented and were able to take requests (go Dvorak!). Cruise Director Julie and her staff were fantastic. We participated in Trivia, Karaoke and The Quest and had a ball watching dance classes, Bingo and other programs, plus we spent some time at the White Hot Party. The on board band was very talented too, and we liked the music selections throughout the ship. We did frequent the casino most nights and didn't do too badly. Little wins here and there plus a nice streak at Three Card Poker kept us pretty even. Even though we didn't have the boys with us we checked out the Kids' Club and had a nice conversation with one of the directors. We saw lots of kids on board having a great time in various activities One counselor even took a group of youngsters for lunch at Blue Lagoon. We were very impressed with how she and the children carried on a long conversation during the meal in a very civilized manner.The CrewFriendly! Wonderful! Helpful! Patient! Shall I rave some more? Every crew member was always smiling and exchanging a hearty salutation. We loved Captain Lars and his humor. Every time we heard the gongs and his voice we'd stop what we were doing to listen. We got to meet Mattius and some other senior staff at the CC Meet & Greet our first sea day. We really appreciated Mattius' presentation and no-nonsense approach to how he and the crew want to make each cruise experience special. We didn't interact with our cabin steward very much, but any requests were quickly taken care of (may we please have robes, for instance), and the ice bucket was constantly replenished.The PortsAs I mentioned, we're more into the ship than the ports, but San Francisco was special. We hit Fisherman's Wharf and Ghiradelli Square, took the Cable Car to Chinatown for a tea tasting and out of this world Dim Sum (Great Eastern - check it out!) then a walk through the Financial District - past a protest! - to the Ferry Terminal. Talk about a Foodie's Paradise! Lots of shopping then a nice walk along the Embarcadero back to the ship at Pier 35. We had plenty of time to sit on our balcony and look out at Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge since there was a two hour delay in leaving port. Apparently a crew member went AWOL onshore, causing a sizable immigration/customs snafu. Captain Lars kept us updated and entertained the entire time. Sail away under the bridge was magnificent. Since we're from Oregon the stop in Astoria wasn't a big deal. We did go ashore and visited the Maritime Museum to see the Naval Tattoo exhibit - very interesting. The friendly volunteers in Astoria made us very proud of our fellow Oregonians. Sail away was made very thrilling by the helicopter retrieval of the bar pilot. In Victoria we simply walked into town for a little souvenir shopping and pub hopping. And in Nanaimo we were honored to be the first ship through their brand new cruise terminal. I'm pleased to say that despite Oregon's reputation as being so wet, the only real rain we encountered was in British Columbia!DisembarkationAnd then we were docked in Vancouver, BC and had to leave our beloved cabin. We chose to carry our own bags off, so we had a nice (albeit sad) final breakfast then disembarked. We caught the Translink train to the airport and then sat around with our luggage until noon to check it through (our flight wasn't until 3:00 p.m., and you can't check bags too far in advance). No worries - out came the cribbage board again.OverallSo did we have a great time? I think that's obvious. We went ahead and put deposits down for a future cruise so we can take the boys on a trip. We found NCL to be more our style than HAL. Yes, there was still a large demographic of older cruisers (we were one of the youngest couples on board without children along), but there was an energy on the Pearl that we hadn't felt on either of the Dam ships. It may have been the larger cruise staff, or the additional dining venues. Or just the Freestyle attitude. Whatever it was, we liked it a lot and are looking forward to the next NCL adventure. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
We had originally booked our much anticipated cruise around Alaska on Celebrity and were arriving 10 days before. The cruise was leaving from Seattle and we were wondering what we should do while making our way from LA. Instead of catching ... Read More
We had originally booked our much anticipated cruise around Alaska on Celebrity and were arriving 10 days before. The cruise was leaving from Seattle and we were wondering what we should do while making our way from LA. Instead of catching a few domestic flights we thought "why not cruise our way along the coast." What a wonderful idea this turned out to be. We found an NCL Pacific Coastal cruise on the Pearl that departed LA the day after we arrived from Melbourne and finished in Vancouver 2 days before our next cruise started. The 7 day cruise included the ports San Francisco, Astoria Oregon, Nainamo BC, Victoria BC and Vancouver. We thought the embarkation at LA went smoothly with only a short wait however the Americans must expect a quicker process as they seemed disappointed and a bit upset that they had to wait a couple of hours. We later heard from the Captain that the authorities would not let the passengers onboard from the Panama Cruise leave. The only other cruise we had been on was Dawn Princess in May 2009 at the height of the Swine Flu and we didn't board until midnight, so this time seemed a breeze. As the prices are absolutely fantastic, we had a balcony stateroom 9080 which was midship. The room was lovely, very clean and modern. The bathroom was also modern with sliding screens dividing the toilet, vanity and shower. No shower curtains was a smart idea. Another good idea was the coffee maker in the cabin. As serious tea drinkers who had brought their own teabags from Australia we had boiling water whenever we needed. All we had to do was call Room Service and they would send up a couple of cartons of skim milk. A tip to have more space on the clothes line in the shower, use bobby pins as pegs. Our stateroom attendants were very approachable, quick and always around when needed. We ate in the dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner almost everyday. Freestyle dining was wonderful. It was very easy to get a table for two and if the dining room was full, they would give us a a pager and we would be called within 20 minutes. Even though we didn't have the same dining staff every night, we got to know most of the dining staff by name and viceversa. The menu was delicious and came very quick. Amazingly quick. The only thing we didn't like was the photographer that came around every night, even when you had a mouth full of food. A quick "no thanks" was all that was needed. We didn't attend the evening entertainment, so I can't comment on that. We would sometimes have a snack in the Blue Lagoon cafe which was opened 24 hours and listen to the comedian/music/lectures in the atrium and they all seemed good. The Pearl was very modern and clean with no signs of obvious wear. We found the staff to be friendly and helpful all the time. They have a laundry special halfway through the cruise. $20.00 for a large bag. They lost one of my items worth 40.00 but then didn't charge us for the laundry and took 20.00 off our account, so we came our even. Being a bra they knew I would have to replace it. I don't know if the cold coastal weather deterred most people venturing onto the upper decks at night or if they all ate later than us but we would often go up to the hot spas (x4) on the pool deck and sit in their for a couple of hours. We didn't book any shore excursions through the ship. We loved exploring all of the ports ourselves and found it easy to get around. I had read to expect rough seas going up the coast but we never felt any movement. We had prepared by taking Kwells every night but honestly it was so smooth. The Captain Lars Bengtsson was so funny, we loved his announcements that would come at anytime. He is a real character and had everyone laughing. You could tell he loved his job. Disembarkation was a breeze. No waiting for your number to be called. Everything about Freestyle cruising seemed to work on this cruise. We booked this cruise mainly to get from LA to Vancouver (then train to Seattle) so having such fantastic ports was definitely an added bonus. We loved every one of them, especially San Fransisco. This cruise definitely exceeded our expectations and we would highly recommend both the Cruise line/ship and itinerary to anyone looking for a reasonably price holiday in the US. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Just some background on us as a family: this was a family cruise, two of our daughters, our son in law and our other daughters partner plus us. We have cruised over 20 times. our daughter and son in law about 15 and our other daughter, is ... Read More
Just some background on us as a family: this was a family cruise, two of our daughters, our son in law and our other daughters partner plus us. We have cruised over 20 times. our daughter and son in law about 15 and our other daughter, is a virgin cruiser, so we have all levels of comparison. Those of us who are veterans have sailed most mass marketed lines and a few that are now in ship heaven or should be. We come from all areas of the country, us from Arkansas, our daughter from Texas and our other daughter from Portland, but we met in Los Angeles. We spent 2 days in the L.A. area prior to sailing as we were originally from Los Angeles and wanted to visit friends, family and see the sights we hadn't seen for many years. We choose the Holiday Inn Express at the airport. It wasn't upscale but comfortable, inexpensive and offered a great location for those who have a rental car and want to do some driving around. the staff was friendly and helpful, the location was near Westchester, which is good for dining and any last minute shopping and the beds were as good as they come. Like all Holiday Inn Expresses breakfast was included though it wasn't much. Saturday we returned our rental car and took the rental car company's shuttle to the airport where we met with a few others on our cruise and shared the Super Shuttle to the pier. This was a great way to get to know a few cruisers. I set the shuttle up ahead of time, because we had a full 9 passengers the cost was only $11 per person including gratuities. Arriving at the pier all 3 couples went their own way for a while, our one daughter, who hadn't cruised got into the main line, our other daughter the latitude line and we had VIP service (don't know why, but who is asking)? We were escorted to Cagney's for lunch, the other 4 ate in the Summer Place main dining room, all of us were impressed with the food and service. Just prior to 2pm the cabins were ready for occupancy, before that, you could drop off your carry on luggage and enjoy touring the ship. After unpacking, reading the freestyle daily and going to the muster drill we were on our way to the Star bar for a meet and greet that had been set up. About 30 people attended. This was the start of our fun with new friends. After a couple of glasses of vino it was off to La Cucina where we had reservations at 6:45pm. Dinner was all we had hoped for the the service was outstanding. We started with antipasto, followed by salad and our entree. I choose Salmon that was cooked to perfection. It was moist, tender, tasty and served with Italian beans (those I could do without) what Italian dinner would be complete without tiramisu? Dinner lasted too long for us to do a show so we split with some going to listen to music which was being offered in several locations and the rest of us headed for the casino. The casino was clean, a great size and I was impressed with the circulation. You could not smell the smoke like in some casino. We smelled it for the first few minutes, that was it. There is a great selection of penny, 2 cent, 5 cent and higher slots, poker machines, plus Texas holdem, poker, blackjack and craps..at 11am we had our official meet and greet with several staff members including Andy, the cruise director. About 60 people attended. Sunday was a sea day so we were free to do whatever. I did think the choice of activities has gone down some but there still were things to do: trivia, card games, tournaments with the staff, exercise equipment, and a few other activities, all are free, there are other things with a slight charge and don't forget the beer, wine, martini and whiskey tasting throughout the week. early in the afternoon was the first latitude party followed by a game show, similar to jeopardy. Hubby came in second, that was fun. When all that was over it was time for progressive trivia. That night we all split for dinner. We decided to eat in the buffet (I think in 20 plus cruises we have only done this two or three times, but there was a long wait at the main dining rooms and we wanted to see the show. Monday we ventured into San Francisco on our own. All of us did our own thing, but met some old friends for lunch at Aliotos. Aliotos isn't the greatest place to eat or the cheapest, but it brought back memories. After that we walked around and eventually headed back to the ship for martini hour. At 6pm martinis were 2 for 1 in the Star bar. We did not find the cost of drinks expensive at all. 2 for 1 marities were from $7.50 to $8.75, standard low ball drinks ranged from $5.75 to $7.75 and fru fru drinks, higher of course, but there were daily specials. House wine was $6.25 a glass. Tues was another sea day, with the usual, we hit the casino, did some reading, played trivia, would have gone to the pool but it was quite nippy so we choose to stay inside. We did catch up on reading like on most cruises. In the early afternoon some of our group choose to see the movie. There was a new one offered just about every day and they were first run. That night 4 of us ate in Indago dining room. The food and service left nothing to be desired. Everynight there are 6 "always available" entrees, plus 2 or 3 specials of the day. Lobster and grouper were one choice that night. After dinner it was off to the show and time for bed. One of our favorite ports a call was Astoria, Or, though it was raining a little and a bit cool we were able to catch the shuttle bus that was an on again, off again coach so we were able to see the sights of this delightful and friendly little town with its victorian houses, beautiful flowers and delightful downtown district.. Thursday we docked in Victoria. Though we didn't do much except venture into town (we had been there before) our daughter and her partner toured Bouchant Gardens which is a must. Another fun tour is the high tea and the Empress hotel. Friday we tendered into Nanaimo in British Columbia. This was the Pearls first time visiting the seaside village. Some, who did tours like the cranberry farm loved it, most of us thought it wasn't a place we would return to, but at least it wasn't windy like Vitoria. I reflect back on the week that has past, the service with the exception of one night in the MDR was as good as we have even had. Our cabin stewards could not have been more accommodating,even calling us by name. The food was almost perfect. Of course we managed to eat one dinner in Le Bistro which is never to be missed. We were lucky to have access to Cagney's for breakfast and lunch, but we did eat in the buffet a few times. Most of our dinners were in the MDR, we preferred Summer Place to Indigo as it is smaller and more hassle free. One night the wait was quoted at up to 45 minutes but if you had a beeper you could go to bar city and get a drink for 20% off. We did just that and the wait was only about 20 minutes. The rest of the nights we had no wait or not more than maybe, 5 minutes. So don't let those words "up to" scare you off. We managed to see 3 shows, all were top rate, no, they are not Vegas quality, but the entertainers are not paid Vegas wages either. We didn't stay up for any of the late night entertainment though we heard it was all fun and worth missing sleep. I can honestly say, this was one of the best cruises we have had in the past 5 years or so, clean, beautiful ship, wonderful crew (in fact a few times I wanted to say, stop smiling, it can't be that good) and the food was better than we had expected. The biggest disappointment was Blue Lagoon, the service was very slow. Of course both times we ate there were rush times and the kitchen is quite small, really not able to handle a full house. Now, we are home, we have to finish the laundry, I have to go back to cooking and dreaming of our next cruise. Our daughter, who hadn't cruised before wants to go again next month if not sooner, we said, how about next year? Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
Norwegian Pearl - Cruise Critic Review - April, 2010 Four of us took a week-long repositioning cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver BC. I have done the US West Coast repositioning cruise a couple of times, including trips on the ... Read More
Norwegian Pearl - Cruise Critic Review - April, 2010 Four of us took a week-long repositioning cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver BC. I have done the US West Coast repositioning cruise a couple of times, including trips on the Norwegian Sun and the Coral Princess. NCL cruises, and especially the repositioning trips, are often lower cost than similar length on other lines. However, this means that there are more charges on board and also that there will be more attempts to sell you things (like drinks). Overall, I would say this a very good value. Our Trip: Our trip was one of the best cruises I have experienced. This was due to a number of factors. One was the wonderful travelling friends, another was the truly great work of the crew. We were lucky in having more contact with the ship's officers, and also in being upgraded to VIP status, but even crew members who did not know of our status were polite, efficient and knowledgeable. I would like to especially acknowledge the work of the Hotel Director Dennis Prguda, and Restaurant Manager Jorge Martinho. Both were outstanding examples of staff members who truly were enthusiastic about their jobs, and who wanted to get the job done right. This was evident not only in their interactions with us, but also in the way they treated their staff, and the genuinely happy responses they received from their staff members. Cabin We had a BB class balcony stateroom on deck 9. It was a bit smaller than some I've had, but there was enough storage room for both of us (bring bags which you can store under the bed). We really appreciated the sliding door for the shower, so there was no fights with shower curtains! Our room stewards were very helpful and efficient. I appreciate service when it is effective, but unobtrusive, and this is what I felt I received. The ship itself was clean, cheerful, and fun to be aboard. We particularly enjoyed dancing in the Spinnaker Lounge, and the different bar choices. Fellow Passengers: We had a variety of ages on board. Because schools were in session there were not too many children aboard, which was, quite honestly, nice for the adults who wanted more of a chance to relax. There were a fair number of retirees, and a mixture mostly of Americans, and Canadians. Restaurants and Food: We ate in a variety of the specialty restaurants (Teppenyaki was especially fun). We really enjoyed two dinners at Le Bistro. On our trip we found it very easy to get reservations at the specialty restaurants, and really enjoyed the extra-special experience. We had one dinner in the Summer Palace (main dining room), and found the food and service to be very good. NCL is known for it's flexibility in dress code. Although one "Formal or Not" evening was held, only a limited number of people dressed up. The only announcement which was made about the "Formal or Not" night was in the ship's paper. Some people did wear jeans to the restaurants (main dining room and specialty), but "Resort Casual" was probably the best description or what most people were wearing. NCL offers Freestyle dining. This means that you have the choice to dine when, where, and with whom, you like. Some people love the flexibility of this, while others miss the relationship you might develop with your wait staff on board a "traditional" dining ship where you dine with the same people, at the same time, each evening. Entertainment: There was a wide variety of entertainment, from live music in the atrium (very pleasant to listen to), to lively bands in the bars and more formal shows in the theater. Andy, the Cruise Director, was lots of fun and we enjoyed the tribute to the Four Seasons very much. Final Thoughts: If you're looking for a chance to get away for a week, and unwind aboard a beautiful ship, with some good time at sea, then the West Coast repositioning cruise is one you should seriously consider. It was wonderful to walk the decks in the early morning hours, enjoying the feeling of the ship steaming at a good pace northwards, enjoying the quiet sounds of the ocean and the smell of the sea. The seven day repositioning cruise has all of the amenities of the traditional cruise - including the chocolate buffet! :) - but with a much lower cost. However, you're not going to exotic ports of call, and do spend more time at sea. NCL has a style and approach that we enjoyed. The emphasis is on fun, and informal, while still providing very good service. Spend some time looking up hints and ideas on the CruiseCritic Boards. We learned some useful things: ask for robes and slippers (no longer automatically provided), check out the bridge viewing room on deck 11, and try the great ice cream in the Garden Cafe. Thanks to the crew of the Norwegian Pearl for a wonderful week! Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
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
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
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
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
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
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 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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