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9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
“‘Twas two weeks before Christmas and all through the Pearl; The seas were so rough that it made the CREW hurl…. The Shoppies & Steiners were snug in their beds, While visions of Revenue danced in their heads….” ... Read More
“‘Twas two weeks before Christmas and all through the Pearl; The seas were so rough that it made the CREW hurl…. The Shoppies & Steiners were snug in their beds, While visions of Revenue danced in their heads….” We sailed on the Pearl on the Dec. 9th sailing out of Tampa on a 2-week ‘Panama Canal’ cruise. This was our ‘retirement’ present to ourselves, having just sold our business (Restaurant/Bar) of 13 years and finally able to get away for more than a few days without the anticipation of a phone call from an employee or customer. First off, some background.. I am 53, live with my Wife (49) in Pennsylvania. This was my 33rd cruise. The last 17 have been on NCL, the first 16 were on RCCL, Carnival and Celebrity. We switched to NCL when they started the Freestyle concept and have stayed in Outside cabins, Balconies, Two-Bedroom suites, Owner’s Deluxe, and for the last 2, the Garden Villa. So this review may seem like it is coming from a spoiled, privileged cruiser, but since we have had very little ability to get away for the last 13 years, we spoiled ourselves when we could. Plus – the Casino has given us substantial discounts for the last 5 cruises. I have also been a (very small) part-time travel agent for 10 years, for family and friends as well as the small discount we get in commissions when booking our own trips. Even so, the Garden Villa cost the three of us (Myself, Wife and 23 year-old Daughter) about $25K. Hey, you only live once, right? Anyway, this review is from the perspective of a GV suite, 14500, so some of the experience will only relate to the Haven ‘class’ of cruising, although most of it will be the Pearl in general. The Garden Villa Experience The GV on the Port side of the ship was about 2/3 the size of the larger ones on the earlier-built class like the Dawn, where they have no Haven and you get the entire upper deck 15 to yourselves. Made not a whit of difference since the GV is HUGE on any ship, especially for just 3 people. Private hot tub (when it had water in it, they were working on the hot tubs for a few days and had it drained) was perfect in temperature and great to soak in during sea days and at night. Amenities were first class, from the bathrooms to the wet bar to the espresso machine to the SERVICE. OH, the service. The Butler, Peter Silva, was great. Any wish was his command. Snackies every day, continental breakfast laid out every morning by 7am, along with my favorite Laugen Rolls (Those pretzel things. I just LOVE ‘em) Gummies, M&Ms, cookies, etc. You get the picture. Chocolate Strawberries for my Daughter every afternoon was a big hit. Our Stateroom Attendant, Jeffrey and the Pool attendant were great as well, always smiling and greeting us by name, they kept things spotless and neat, despite rough weather and high winds that blew all kinds of debris around our deck for most of the trip. We had a couple of specialty restaurant deliveries/setups in the room, mostly from Lotus Garden, Breakfast from Moderno/Cagneys and the MDR menu. Food was always hot when delivered and it got there quickly. The best part of the Haven experience for us on this trip was, without a doubt, the Concierge. Anoop Bhanu had just signed on from his vacation after being on the (Getaway, maybe?) and despite the fact that he was as newly embarked as we were, got right into the swing of things. He became to us, the ‘Silent Ghost’. It almost became scary how whenever one of us mentioned his name, he appeared like magic. I kid you not. With almost 50 Haven cabins to handle (Can’t imagine how they do it with almost 100 on the bigger ships) Anoop was, without a doubt, the most attentive, friendly and professional individual I have ever known on an NCL ship (Sorry, Adrian Bica, love ya, man, but, wow…) We learned about Anoop, he learned about US, he really cared and became a friend to all 3 of us. He just could not do enough for us, whether making dinner plans, spa stuff for the girls, entertainment in the main showroom with reserved seats on the upper level, port debark, etc… Anoop was just amazing, 24/7. Despite being under the weather for the last day of the cruise, he made sure that we and the other Haven guests were taken care of at all times. We could not have asked for a better Concierge, he is our Cruise Hero. Well, that is the Good. Now, the other side of the Pearl Equation. (This is cruise CRITIC, after all) Time to be critical… The Good, The Not so Good, and the Kinda Ugly… The following experiences and/or critiques are based entirely on MY personal experience. Your mileage may vary. First off, what I did NOT utilize, nor shall I comment on them: Kids program. Sports. Deck Parties/Cruise staff events. Shore Excursions (we did our own). Art Auctions. Napkin Folding. Dance Classes. Not-So-Newlywed. Deal or No Deal. Hairy Legs competition. Many folks seem to have enjoyed them, some not so much. Entertainment- We went to the Piano Player show (although I forgot his name) He was quite talented, and the show was enjoyable. The Magician was very good, although being almost directly above him gave away a couple of his secrets. The Aerialist couple was very good as well. Their show was a mix of acrobatics, new-age trapeze and contortionism, with several video presentations thrown in about their personal origins as a couple and the development of their act. The lounge/bar/atrium/pool deck soloists and bands were all good, if not memorable. No big deal, as they change all the time and are pretty much standard fare on most of the fleet. Ports of Call – TAMPA- Embarkation was late due to Customs issues, supposedly only 2 CBP agents for the whole ship to get off. The ‘VIP’ Haven lounge was just a roped off segment of the main room with very lax checking for access. People that were not Haven guests were coming in and out, thinking it was a ‘snack bar’ for everyone. The port people seemed a bit overwhelmed by it all. Got on the ship around 12:30 Grand Cayman – The weather and seas were rough, so we could not tender in, as there are 2 ports in GC, one that accepts 2 ships and the other one that was closed. We were the 3rd ship to get there, so we could not get to that port and had an extra sea day. Ocho Rios – Grabbed a taxi outside the gates and did a 2 hour tour. Jack In the Bush, Fern Gully, etc… The usual local folks trying to sell weed. Hit the Taj Mahal shopping center to get Cuban Cigars before returning to the ship. Cigar store there had really good prices after haggling a bit. If you like Cigars, they have a great selection. Santa Marta & Cartagena Columbia – Seemed like the entire population tried to sell us something. Within 3 minutes of exiting the ship, I was offered weed, coke, ecstasy, hats, linens and magnets. When we took a taxi and asked to be brought to ‘Mr. Emerald’ , a ship-recommended store, the driver took us instead to one of ‘his’ stores which was ¼ mile away from the one we asked for. When I told him that we wanted Mr. Emerald, he pretended not to speak English and insisted in Spanish that we were where we had asked to go. Rather than argue in Spanish, we walked the rest of the way followed by persistant locals. Panama Canal & Colon, Panama – The ship went through the Gatun lock about 1.5 hours early so that half the ship was still in bed when we went through. The narrator did a fine job telling the history of the canal and describing the various stages of the passage. Once in Lake Gatun, the tenders took of shore-excursion booked guests and we anchored for a couple of hours before going back through the lock and docking in Colon, where there were a few shops & restaurants, a casino or two and a really neat ‘locals’ grocery store that had just about everything a scaled-down Walmart SuperCenter would offer. Puerto Limon, Costa Rica – Really beautiful country with few hard-sell approaches. All ship-sponsored shore excursions were cancelled due to a local tour operator work stoppage. (pretty sure it was THIS port, I might be incorrect) Negotiated with a local driver for a 3 hour tour. $60 got us a great driven tour around the area with a few stops, and he waited while we took a river boat rain forest ride that the ship was selling for $80 pp, we got it for $20 pp. He took us shopping, a Banana plantation (Del Monte) the HUGE container port that handles Dole, DelMonte & Chiquita fruit and a bunch (no pun intended) of other places. We were going to grab lunch at a locals place, but opted for the ship buffet instead. Harvest Caye – Wife & Daughter went to the beach and had lunch at the restaurant, they said that it was wonderful all around. I have read many mixed reviews of the island. Last cruise we took 2 years ago, they had just opened the island and it was quite rough around the edges. Apparently, they have gotten it together and it is quite enjoyable now. Santo Thomas De Castilla, Guatemala – We were supposed to tender here, but were able to dock. Nothing by the port except a huge warehouse with about 100 local vendors selling the usual stuff, as well as a ‘Jade Museum’ which was just an air-conditioned version of a usual stuff shop. Costa Maya, Mx – Best port of all, in my opinion. Over the last few years they have been developing this port into an almost ‘Disneyesque’ experience. Many shops, restaurants, pools, Dolphins and a really neat Aviary walkthrough with rope bridges and many tropical birds that you can feed and have them land all over you. We have 2 parrots at home, so this was particularly neat for us and well worth the $12 pp price. Restaurant was excellent as well. Safe, clean and friendly. Great merch to be had if you are able to haggle prices with the shopkeepers. Tampa, redux – We were late getting into the port, so disembarkation was a nightmare for most people, but we were lucky in that our Butler escorted us past all the lines right down to our luggage area and through to CBP and our waiting car to take us to the Airport. The Food - Here’s where it gets a bit dicey. I know that NCL is not Renaissance 7 Seas, Crystal or even HAL or Princess, so I don’t really expect 5-star cuisine. Having been in the restaurant biz for a long time, I believe I am qualified to review this part with some knowledge. The quality of the food, the portion size, the variety and the service has dropped dramatically in the last couple of years. I could write an entire review of just the food, but I will sum it up. No more lobster on the ship. Anywhere. No more smoked Salmon at the buffet. No more Tomahawk Chop in Cagney’s. Only 6 fish available at the Sushi Bar. Le Bistro and Cucina have improved dramatically. Basically, for the most part, the specialty restaurants were good to very good, nice presentations, good service (see caveat below). The free options, not so much. Pushing, shoving, arguing and rudeness were the order of the day at the buffet. Washy Washy, yes… Happy Happy, nope. Every meal began by someone telling us ‘You know, that is not included’ or ‘That is not part of the meal plan/beverage plan’ or ‘Water will be $6 a bottle extra’. It got to the point where I wanted to wear a button that said ‘I KNOW everything is extra, stop reminding me every 10 seconds’ One night we went to Teppanyaki and were not welcomed, but were immediately told (for the 5th time) that our Daughter was not included in the dining plan and would have to pay full price. I actually saw the Teppanyaki hostess, in front of the Concierge, ROLL HER EYES at us when I told her we KNOW she is not on the plan, we don’t need to be constantly reminded every meal of how everything is ‘not included’ or ‘extra’. I know it sounds like I am being a spoiled, petty, whining guest, but I tell you honestly, we were CONSTANTLY being made to feel like the proverbial ‘trailer trash’ by the staff on the ship. They used to welcome you FIRST, now they have been trained to tell you how much extra you will need to pay to prevent folks from complaining later. Which apparently some people do. It was just amazing how many slips you need to sign at each meal. For water bottles? Really? Casino – I ain’t gonna go there.. LOL Suffice to say it was verrrrry quiet for most of this 2 week cruise. But from G., the Manager, on down to the Pit Sups and Dealers, they were a great and friendly bunch of people. It was a true pleasure making my usual Donation. Service – I know that as a Garden Villa guest I was treated, on THAT end, extremely well and spoiled beyond compare, as I am sure the other Haven guests were/are. However, as far as the rest of the ship experience, from the Shoppies to the Spa to the Specialty dining it seemed like it was a constant push to generate revenue rather than enhance the guest experience. Apart from being nickel and dimed at every opportunity there was a constant feeling of the ‘hard sell’ going on. In the shops, if you stopped to look at something of high value, you were POUNCED upon and followed around the shop by someone trying to upsell something. In the spa, you could get a $40 service and then endure a 20 minute hard sell on $250 worth of products to take home. The Spa & Shop people were very dismissive of my 23-year-old Daughter, I believe because they did not see her as a ‘mark’ for potential revenue. She made one spa appointment herself, but when she showed up, they told her ‘someone’ called and cancelled it. No more, no less, no apology. So she did not GET that spa appointment. Until my WIFE called. THEN and ONLY then did they grant her the appointment. She was looking at a piece of jewelry in the shop one night in a virtually empty store and was not approached by a salesperson for 10 minutes, until I walked over to her and asked what she was looking at. 5 seconds later I had TWO shoppies practically run over to us and ask ME what I wanted to see or buy. Now, I am a realist. I understand that the ships departments must generate revenue as a whole in order to sustain a lower overall cruise cost for the consumer and be able to offer the ‘5 for free’ promotions, i.e. Unlimited drinks, Dining Packages, Internet, Friends and Family sail Free, and now Airfare. There is a great deal of competition out there for customers to choose from. But IMHO, NCL used to combine the lower price point with less focus on onboard revenue and more focus on guest satisfaction. It seems that is no longer the case. To sum it all up – While our experience was kind of unique as a Garden Villa group, while the Suite service was Sweet, the Itinerary, Food and other services were So-So. Ship Life, I suppose. Now that we have actual free time, we might give one of the Mega ships a try. Maybe Celebrity or HAL on one of the Nieuw ships, just to get a better perspective from a different brand standpoint. We still believe Cruising is the best way to Vacation. After all, there WAS a Christmas tree in our Garden Villa… And it wasn’t extra… Hope this review was helpful. Happy Holidays!! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
From a 6 time Norwegian cruiser, who will probably be looking more elsewhere. Biggest problems were getting on and especially getting off. Getting on, the boarding process was very unclear, and few knew. A sign explaining the order ... Read More
From a 6 time Norwegian cruiser, who will probably be looking more elsewhere. Biggest problems were getting on and especially getting off. Getting on, the boarding process was very unclear, and few knew. A sign explaining the order would have helped. Also put some bakery items, and drinks in the waiting area. Getting off was a total zoo, as wife not a US citizen. Told everyone to go ot the 13th and a huge line of hundreds, then told everyone immigration was on shore. Norwegian personnel in the area knew little, and a very bossy type form St. Lucia was handling most. Jodie needed to have this organized by time called. Some organization was needed. Food decently prepared but now many headliners on the menu (lobster, lamb, duck, prime rib, etc. were scarce or nonexistent). Service general very good. Would help if they would publish buffet headliners in advance so you can choose where to go. Rolls need help too. Did miss the special occasion cake that was asked for in preboarding. Room nice for the money, good service from housekeeping. Recreational activities (ahem cruise director) spotty, nice tennis court, but one day nets not up, second no tennis racquets, one day doing scaffolding, always no spare tennis balls. Also canceled a golf activity and a nightly movie without much explanation. Casino seemed to have few winners and little activity. Often about 10 tables open with fewer then 5 total players. TV sports generally lousy other than a bit of NFL, unless you like 24 hour a day soccer from a cheap international sports station. Norwegian also needs to have a few drink specials. No happy hour, killed the beer pitchers and wine carafe sales, as well as the O'Sheehan's special dinner of the day. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2018
Chose this cruise because we had not crossed the Panama Canal. The food was just ok the excursion were also just ok. The bar service in the Spinnaker lounge was mediocre. There are no real quiet public areas to sit. The is music blasting ... Read More
Chose this cruise because we had not crossed the Panama Canal. The food was just ok the excursion were also just ok. The bar service in the Spinnaker lounge was mediocre. There are no real quiet public areas to sit. The is music blasting everywhere. Not likely to cruise with NCL again. Our aft balcony stateroom was quite expensive and we later checked the cruise line to see the prices and saw the mini suite next to our room was less expensive so we contacted NCL to see if we could change room given our was more than the suite and they turned us down. NCL nickels and dimming was frustrating charging for water. We bought the ultimate beverage package. We only found out on the ship it did not cover water juices specialty coffees or soft drinks. NCL was offering a $500. For your flight so when we asked them about this they turned us down saying the major airlines they deal with do not operate out of Mexico City InternayAirport. Never again will we cruise with NCL there were more disappointments with the excursions but then this critic would go on forever Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
The ship was generally in good shape but the stairs were not solid and sagged at times when you went up or down the stairs. We had a nice balcony cabin for overlooking the Panama Canal. It was mid ship and we were able to see the other ... Read More
The ship was generally in good shape but the stairs were not solid and sagged at times when you went up or down the stairs. We had a nice balcony cabin for overlooking the Panama Canal. It was mid ship and we were able to see the other ships going in the opposite direction. For most of the cruise the bathroom smelled from sewage. We had the hotel director's staff come and look at the issue. They eventually fixed the problem. There was no reason for us to keep going to Guest Services to complain about the problem. The food service at the seven seas was awful. The food arrived cold and once the food was delivered, the server did not come back to check on us. We never saw the head waiter. In the four seasons, the waiters were very attentive, the hot food came hot. In the buffet it was hard for us to usually find food that we could eat. The Indian food is too spicy. Most of the other items had pork or pork products in it and we do not eat pork. This included bacon in the mac and cheese, ham in the sour kraut. various ham sandwiches and bacon in the salads. Towards the end of the cruise, they were running out of food and the milk was spoiled, same for the yogurt and you needed to find a manager to get the spoiled products removed. The cruise director was hard to find, he was hard to understand at the main theater and P A system announcements. The production shows were good. The cruise director staff provided us with good games and trivia challenges but they reused a number of the questions over and over again. Besides that there was not much to do on sea days. For some of the ports, the length of time in port was too short to really enjoy the port. I don't understand why we stopped at some of the ports. They barely even has a choice of shore excursions. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
To go thru the Panama Canal was the main reason but other ports we had never been to either. Started in Miami which we did a hop on hop off bus , great way to see the highlights of Miami , sailed for 2 days , we had sunny warm weather, ... Read More
To go thru the Panama Canal was the main reason but other ports we had never been to either. Started in Miami which we did a hop on hop off bus , great way to see the highlights of Miami , sailed for 2 days , we had sunny warm weather, pool area was nice but music most times too loud Games by the pool were fun to watch and sometimes even went into. First port Cartegena Columbia , took in the catamaran which was ok but would have been nice to have a free shuttle , the old town was lively and lots of history but beware lots of pushy people trying to be your tour guide. Did not stay long as felt too harassed Then next port punterinas Costa Rica , we did. Ship excursion - sky walk mangrove ride . Too many people on tour could not here guide when he was speaking . Going thru the canal was great especially as they brought on a commentator who was very knowledgeable and gave great info on the whole process. Best part of cruise for sure Next port Nicaragua walked into the little very poor village , took a local bike tour to the beach and bar on our own for 10.00 well worth it to see how the locals live. In Guatemala our next stop again we took the shuttle from the ship to the little shopping area there were lots of vendors plus people selling tours to Antigua which we did with 12 other people , each paying 45.00 US well worth it , on the way our tour guide gave us a great insight about the area and showed us the highlights of the area Then on to acalpoco, beautiful scenery and again we got off the ship and there were local tour guides ready to take people to tour the area guaranteed to get back to ship in plenty of time. Lots of armed police and military but did not feel unsafe at any time. Saw the highlights again and to the cliff divers for a price of 25.00 each. The. Restaurant where the divers are is a bit of a rip off for an extra 15.00 to sit in restaurant and get a drink. But oh well Then to cobos San Lucas , where we were tendered in which went very smoothly , first off at 730 am walked around the area and to the beaches , very modern and clean area , again look a local tour with a catamaran company for 25.00 each out on the ocean for 2 hours which they gave us drinks and buns . Saw whales , dolphins and seals, where the very rich live , where you could go Snorkling, lovers beach and divorce beach . Well worth the money Stopped at a local watering hole for very good seafood nachos and beers , would have been nice to stay here longer . Could not understand why they would stay so long in Nicaragua but not here. Sailed to San Pedro port where disembarking was very easy and again lots of transportation available if needed to airports. We were flying out of John Wayne airport and had arranged for Karmel shuttle , we were there in 35 min plenty of time to board our flight. Next time we will look at using Uber for half the price. As for the ship experience our balcony suite was the best thing about it. When we first started lots of confusion for the dining , thank goodness I had pre booked our dinners. We do not like to eat in the buffets, disgusting to watch how much food people take then just waste it. People you can go back and get more!!! Service in the main dining rooms were ok bit slow a times and other times felt very rushed. Osheehans was a pub style restaurant with great appys and pub style meals . The aqua main dining area was not our favorite , very loud because of the low ceiling and very dark , ate most of our meals at the Versailles The bars now these were disappointing poor service at most, was watered down drinks and bartenders not always the friendliest. We even saw a bartender Put something from a can into a bottle of rum We got the ultimate package we paid our gratuities and taxes upfront. But still gave tips to hope this would give us better service and better quality drinks NOT We have tried the other way of not getting the package and no different in quality of alcohol Not that we wanted to get drunk but at least to taste the drink not all mix. The entertainment on the most part was good , loved the acrobatic duo , and the magician. Comedian was great. Broadway singer not so much but then not a big fan of Broadway. The ships entertainers had lots of energy and choreography was well done. The entertainment team headed by Roberto were good but near the end you could see they were getting very tired and almost seemed like it was an effort to be there. The games they played have been the same for 3 of our cruises now, would be nice to see other activities Shore excursions way too expensive for what you get and usually very dull so we don't usually take them We bid for the upgrade to a balcony and got it like a said this was the best thing that could have happened So nice to sit and watch the outside all the time, would be good if they had lounge chairs , tv stations were ok but they should play not just basketball and nfl and soccer but what about NHL we asked someone and no one could give us an answer , sports bars in past cruise were able to get the games for us , this was disappointing Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
We chose this cruise to go through the Panama Canal. We found the ship and cabin to be ok but food was mediocre...entertainment was a big disappointment. There was only one day when they talked about the canal versus Princess who had ... Read More
We chose this cruise to go through the Panama Canal. We found the ship and cabin to be ok but food was mediocre...entertainment was a big disappointment. There was only one day when they talked about the canal versus Princess who had movies and documentaries along with a historian on for most of the cruise. The ports were ok but we just felt like there could have been much more to make thiscruise special. The food was very average. The salad bar never changed much. Desserts were tasteless. The theater was pitched very steeply and it was difficult to walk up and down. Entertainment was very poor. We were disappointed in the lack of guest speakers to talk about the canal. We have had documentaries and movies about the canal on other lines. We felt the ship excursionto Antigua was rushed and not worth the price. Our bus got a flat tire and we missed an hour of the excursion due to the flat. When we took the mangroves excursion we saw very little and the guide was hard to hear or understand. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
For me, not enough American music. Was on the Dawn and Breakaway, both had much better food (variation), music and entertainment was just OK. Comedians were pretty good. 80% of the guest on this cruise was 70 and older. Panama was ... Read More
For me, not enough American music. Was on the Dawn and Breakaway, both had much better food (variation), music and entertainment was just OK. Comedians were pretty good. 80% of the guest on this cruise was 70 and older. Panama was supposed to be 4hr and it was 7hrs. They showed us the same on Atlantic and Pacific sides. In Mexico we did salsa cooking and dancing was good, but when it was time to relax at the beach the natives were relentless with trying to get you to purchase items when you TRIED to relax at the beach so we took a taxi right back. Belize is beautiful pool/beach, crab bit my husbands chest! LOL but we loved the pool and pool bar!! The pool was only 4ft but the length of a lazy river, it was awesome! Shopping there was great, you didn't have people running up to you every other minute. Landshark Grill (0wned by Jimmy Buffet) had the BEST shrimp and chicken tenders!! Roatan was my favorite beach, clean, clear, could hang at the pool, see a miniature outside zoo with (all rescued) mainly, birds, two or three large cats, mountain lion and two others, monkeys, could walk to the other side and a ship wreck, beach had mini trampolines. Shopping was good! Our friends did the train, boat excursion and they didn't enjoy so do your research. I like the free style and don't have to dress up (I do enough for work) no set schedules. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
Of all the cruises I’ve taken, this was the least friendly experience. I’ll start with the positive aspects: - the process to get on the ship was smooth and efficient - the ship was very clean! Saw the staff continually ... Read More
Of all the cruises I’ve taken, this was the least friendly experience. I’ll start with the positive aspects: - the process to get on the ship was smooth and efficient - the ship was very clean! Saw the staff continually cleaning the entire trip. Very much appreciated. - the evening shows were all great! Truly enjoyed each show that we attended! Negative aspects: - rarely ever saw cruise director and when we did he seemed annoyed to interact with patrons - red ticket drawing for free cruise was good idea but the process for the drawing on the last day was awful. Why not allow people to drop their tickets into a secured location throughout the trip and then do the drawing. - coast to coast by train excursion was awful. Spent majority of time on a bus, not the train. The actual train ride was great! Rewrite the description so people are aware they’ll be on the bus for a long time. - apparently there was an “activity card” that you could get signed off on and receive a prize if all boxes signed off. Was on the ship two days, participating in various activities, before even hearing about it. Why not put them in the cabins for guests with the list of qualifying activities so they have them as soon as they check in. - was very sad to see there wasn’t one midnight buffet or dessert buffet. Have always enjoyed looking forward to that one special event to see ice sculptures, try unique food/treats Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
Overall, the cruise was pretty much nice. Most of the shore excursions, not so much. The package price and "Five for Free" and all that foofraw was intriguing until analyzed, and then not so much. Entertainment on ship was great, ... Read More
Overall, the cruise was pretty much nice. Most of the shore excursions, not so much. The package price and "Five for Free" and all that foofraw was intriguing until analyzed, and then not so much. Entertainment on ship was great, it was clean and well-maintained and had a smiling crew. The "suite" cabin was marginally better than a standard and nowhere close to my experience with other suites. Our reasons for choosing this particular cruise were that it was a two-week cruise, out of our home port Tampa, and visited some faraway places we can't see on a one-week from home. For the price, considering even the "Free at Sea", "Distinctive Voyages" and other so-called freebies, there were equivalent options, but not from our home port. So, we overpaid a bit for that advantage. I'm bothering to review mostly because the shore excursions left a lot to be desired. The cruise itself - on shipboard - was fine and certainly up to par. The shore excursions and package deals, not so much.If you book a similar cruise, be careful of those to items. The mini-suite, not so much. Details: Marketing Spin – We first signed on for this cruise based on the nearly all-inclusive nature of the offering, what with “Free at Sea” freebies and “Distinctive Voyages” and such. 120 days before departure, NCL requires final full payment (… ya gotta love how cruise lines have us over a barrel). It was after that – and this is on us – that we finally looked at the total package and compared this NCL trip with similar trips from HAL and RC. Theirs were a la carte for shore excursions subsidies, wifi, phone, beverage packs and such. We found out the other cruise prices were similar to lower, but selectable instead of a fixed package. An example: the beverage package, one of an oft-chosen (including us) “free” option in NCL’s marketing package. Turned out that NCL charges for the tips for the BevPak, though the drinks are included. If you calculate out the tips, it turns out to be about the equivalent of spending $88/day on drinks. Heavy drinkers – probably a deal. Casual drinks/sodas, not so much. We also got subsidies on NCL shore excursions – thereby encouraging us to book everything through the ship. Which we did – to mixed results. Some of them turned out to be net-$0 to us. However, as noted above, that subsidy seemed to be built in to the overall cruise cost. Moral: No matter how enticing the marketing freebies seem, NCL – and other lines, for that matter – don’t give nothin’ away. Embarkation - A disaster. Worst embark in my home port of Tampa that I've ever seen. An entry line at noon that wound around and down the block. People couldn't figure out how reiieve themselfves of bags and get in line too. Once into reception, it was quick. I’ve seen people take their own 24-packs of water onto their cruises. Not here. NCL security confiscated all my Bai flavored waters. We mused over where they went after we were at sea. Debarkation - Also a disaster. We had 2 1/4 bags each and had planned/rehearsed how to do a “walk-off” departure with the required one hand free (for the escalator, I guess). In spite of this my partner and I were shunted onto an elevator-only line along with all people with canes or wheelchairs. And additional wheelchairs always went to the front of the line. It took us an hour from the time we hit shore until we got down the one floor to passport and luggage. Activities: On board the Norwegian Pearl, we happily found that there indeed was a tennis court. And we played with new tennis friends on every sea day to our great enjoyment. Crew help getting the nets/equipment available to play was spotty. They also have two pairs of bowling lanes. Before you get visions of keeping your average up, the “house” balls were limited. More important, as a 40-year bowler, I was told that I couldn’t do anything to the surface or the left shoe so that one could slide on release of the ball. A bowler could get badly hurt expecting to be able to slide on the final step - and suddenly stopping like on a rubber mat. And $7/game – not a free activity. We enjoyed the trivia contests, except for the fact that there were no real prizes for winning – not even an NCL pin (like HAL does). We did a ring toss context in a lounge. Problem there was that there were no rules and the crewman seemed to make them up as we went along in an elimination competition. Again, no real prize, so I guess it didn’t matter. Food: Garden Café (equivalent of HAL’s Lido) – Wide selection, ready at hand. Often tepid to cool by the time you gather it all up and find an empty table somewhere within range of walking back multiple times to the service lines. Made me long for the old days when you could use a cafeteria tray instead of multiple trips. I made us stop eating breakfast here because of always having cold toast, muffins, pancakes, and eggs off of the serving lines. Instead, we went to O’Sheehan’s Irish pub restaurant, no extra charge, for most breakfasts and many lunches. Very convenient, uncrowded, generally warm and tasty food. Lotus Garden, no charge, oriental foods. Very good, very tasty. My favorite although my partner doesn’t have my taste for all foods oriental. Both main dining rooms – generally good service, fine restaurant style and atmosphere. What was wanting was tasty, interesting dishes. Everything was pleasant enough, just not eye-widening at all. We were doing a two-week cruise and there never was lobster! Are ships giving up on this? It used to be a highlight. We did get a record-setting prime rib on our last night! It was the thinnest-sliced prime rib dinner I’ve ever seen. I can say this, it was thicker than bologna. Maybe. Dress code of long pants for men and no tank-tops, tees, was mentioned in the Summer Palace MDR the first night, then, judging from what I saw, never brought up again subsequently. The Indigo MDR apparently did not have the same code. In later nights, I saw lots of “Drink Beer” type tees in both MDRs. Shore Excursions, all booked through NCL and with $50/person subsidy, part of our package: Grand Cayman – Reef & Wreck Snorkel. Large roomy boat, but few places to sit down to put gear on. (We brought our own snorkel packs.) As a long-time diver in younger years, Caymans were nirvana. Unfortunately, our boat stayed nearby in the harbor. The wreck was large and interesting, with few fish. The “reef” spot was all black and gray dead reef. A quarter mile away were a number of spots with living reefs and more fish, but I guess we were saving fuel cost. Without the shorex subsidy, we’d’ve booked on our own with a smaller boat that would go out to “real” reef. Conclusion: Mediocre. Jamaica – Bobsled Jamaica and Zipline. Only a mile from the dock and in the hills. The Good and the Bad. We took a high sit-on tram to the top of the mountain. Then got in line for the zip line. All five traverses of it. They had twelve, but were only using five on our day. It was pleasant, but with long lines at switchovers. Then on to the dry-track bobsled run. Except the wait was two hours. So we had the highlight of this shorex by buying our own lunch in the mountaintop and building-top restaurant. Fantastic views down the mountain and toward our cruise liner harbor. Even better with the view tower above the lunch spot. Once back to the bobsled run, the wait was now three hours. So, we bailed. Conclusion: Being worth it is being generous. Glad we didn’t pay the full $139 each. Santa Marta, Colombia – Quebrada Valencia Eco-Expedition. You understand when a shorex is described as “expedition” or “adventure” that it’s not the literal use of the term? The online description showed a beautiful view down a mountain valley. Not so much. Never did see that. Did get our shoes soaked by unexpectedly having to walk through a half-foot deep, 15-foot wide creek, SIX times on the way to seeing a little mountain waterfall. Where one could swim, if so inclined. Or wade, since our shoes were already water-logged. Conclusion: Full of water. Cartagena, Colombia – Exclusive Hop-on, Hop-off Bus. Took us around town and to the entry into old Cartagena. And back to the ship. Had no need to on-off since there was only one stop for old town. Got an including staring tour upon walk into old town district. Fifty bucks list price; zero with our subsidy. Worth the $50. Old Cartagena was one of the highlights of our shore diversions. Conclusion: One way or another, get into old town. Panama Canal – on-board viewing A second highlight of the trip. The Pearl goes into the first locks of the canal and then allows tenders to go ashore. Shore visitors re-connect with the Pearl later in the day when it’s gone back out of the canal and docked in Colon, Panama. Before that, seeing the locks in action, with another huge ship 100 feet away, is truly fascinating. No cost benefit and entertainment for this cruise. (Actually, based on info given us, we each probably paid about $200 of our cruise cost to Panama Canal Authority.) Panama – Shape of Panama bus tour We took advantage of the shore access tender and caught a shorex bus which took us from the Caribbean side locks down a super-highway to the Pacific shore in Panama City. Another highlight of the trip. A bus tour of 2mil-person PCity; tons of skyscrapers, lots to see; the Pacific Ocean; and then a walking tour of Old Panama City. A comfortable major highway trip back to the ship in Colon. Another highlight and worthwhile shorex. Puerto Limon, Costa Rica – Aerial Tram & Rainforest Adventure. There it is again, an “adventure.” Well, not so much. Two hours down a two-lane highway and then into a for-profit eco park “adjacent to a national park.” A lot of hoopla for flora and fauna. The tram ride was about an hour with a “naturalist” on board with a green laser point to show us the forest and animals. We did not see the grand mountain view and closed gondola that was in the shorex marketing materials online. We did see a lot of leaves. We saw one mountain far off on the horizon. We saw one spider. (Checkmark: fauna?) The included meal in the restaurant was tasty and nice. The two-plus hour ride back down the highway was cluttered with construction stops and pauses. We got to the ship a few minutes before departure. Conclusion: If you pay the whole $149, I hope you’re an optimist. We paid $99, and I’d like to time travel that decision. Santo Tomas de Castillo, Guatemala – Livingston Explorer Fortunately, our subsidized cost for this was $0 (instead of $50). You ride an open “panga” outboard up the coast for an hour to Livingston, a land-locked town. Apparently part of the fun is to sit in open sitting and get beat up by the pounding bow as it races through the waves. I feared for my fillings. The town itself is an interesting view of lives and neighborhood in a remote city. I don’t know what our 45-minute guided perambulation through town was supposed to show us. We almost missed the boat back to the Pearl when our panga was inexplicably ready to go from a different dock and time then our guide told us. But as our guide said at the start when he “lost” two of us, “I guess it’s going to be one of those kinds of days.” Conclusion: Visit Livingston, but not in a panga. Harvest Caye, Belize – Private Island for NCL. Monkey River Eco tour I think I’ve figured this one out. Other cruise lines do this, it’s not just NCL. Buy an island and make it a playground for just your ship for the day. Declare that it’s on shore, so even though it’s all NCL and you can use your passcard to pay for things, it’s all separate charges. If you have the BevPak, you have to pay for drinks on the island. NCL recreation there, you pay. Equipment, you rent. We took a shorex that went down a river. Another panga-type boat beating on top of the waves for an hour to get us down to the Monkey River entrance. Our guide then pointed out lots of bird species – I think, because his Belizean English was almost incomprehensible to me and others – and a couple of monkeys. Half the boat was open and presented excellent sunburn options. On the return, he also took us to his house which, unsurprisingly, had items and food for sale. (Most of these kinds of trips have some souvenir/rest stop side trip that will result in compensation to the guide.) Then, a wave-pounding trip back to the ship. Conclusion: Our subsidized net of $49 would have been too much. Costa Maya, Mexico – Beach Power Snorkel. Well, not really. Not the provider’s fault, the weather did not cooperate. We were offered a conversion to a “beach recline and stare” with the same provider, since he wanted to hold on to at least some of our money. It was an enjoyable couple of hours lazing around, mostly because we had free drinks and no crowds. So, a ship’s excursion in all nine ports with mixed-to-mediocre results. Altogether, an average cruise. We had good times and good days, but much of that was due to our deciding to roll with (sorry) things. We won't buy again based on freebies and marketing. And as far as this cruise and "wouldn't change a thing" thoughts? Not so much! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
We chose this cruise because we thought it would be fun and interesting. Traveling with four other people, two of which were in our suite. The suite was smaller than suites on other cruise lines but our cabin guy was very helpful and fun. ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we thought it would be fun and interesting. Traveling with four other people, two of which were in our suite. The suite was smaller than suites on other cruise lines but our cabin guy was very helpful and fun. Embarkation seemed slow but manageable, but disembarkation was ridiculous. It took us 2 1/2 to 3 hrs to clear customs. After all that a piece of our luggage was loaded into another vehicle and sent to Bradenton, Fl (we live in Ohio but were staying another two days nearby). It took another day to get a hold of someone to find what happened to our missing bag. They had to ship it to Ohio, we were not able to pick it up before we left. The food on the ship was adequate. The food in O'Sheehans was the best, while the main dining room had no exceptional food (very little seafood at all). Also had our best service there (O'Sheehans). Most all of the staff was extremely friendly and helpful. We ate in the buffet several times and most of the food was good. The entertainment was adequate but nothing spectacular. Two pools, four hot tubs and bowling you had to pay for. There was an exercise room and the girls at the spa were very nice and helpful. of course, the casino. The ports were shipyards, in at least 3 instances, not what we expected. We thought the beaches would be beautiful but the Grand Caymans beach was very rocky and on the beach in Jamaica you could go so far out before you ran into seaweed. The beach in Costa Rica was very nice and we loved Harvest Caye. Most people were upset that you had to pay for everything there but the beach and pool were beautiful We made our own fun and overall had a good time, but would not cruise on the Pearl. We did not realize that this cruise was a senior cruise but it seemed that it was. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
I went on this cruise with my 8 year old daughter. I choose this cruise because it was port intensive, 9 ports in 14 nights. This was our first time on a 14 night cruise and our first time on NCL. We took this cruise in late November so ... Read More
I went on this cruise with my 8 year old daughter. I choose this cruise because it was port intensive, 9 ports in 14 nights. This was our first time on a 14 night cruise and our first time on NCL. We took this cruise in late November so unfortunately there were not a lot of kids on the ship maybe 10-15 total out of 2300 people. SHIP This is an older ship and well-kept up. All the common areas are nice. The ship was decorated for Christmas while we were on the ship so that was nice. The lighting on the ship is poor except in the elevators. The mirrors and lighting are great in the elevators. This is where i had to constantly check my makeup :). The one thing that i was disappointed about was the pools. There were 2 swimming pools. One was adults only and the other one was for everyone. The issue was that they were 4.8 feet deep. Im only 5 feet and my daughter is 8 years old. So even though she can swim, she had to wear a life vest in the pool because she could not reach the bottom and she would tire out. These are also salt water pools which i do not like. The layout of the ship is dumb! There are restaurants everywhere in strange places that take forever to find. There are not ship maps on every floor so we would have to go to random floors to find a ship map to find things. However we were on the ship for 14 nights so by the 5th night we new how to get to the main places fairly easily. There were some restaurants that we never found. Jodi the cruise director was great and so was the entertainment host. The were both beautiful, young, vibrant, full of energy, funny, super sweet and very approachable!!! CABIN We had an interior room and it was tiny!!! I am used to Royal Caribbean rooms that have a sitting area and table. This room did not have that. However the bathroom was great. I loved the shower. The room worked for what we needed it for. DINING I will start by saying that I am vegetarian and my daughter eats like a typical 8 year old. We did not visit any of the speciality restaurants. People that i spoke with really enjoyed the speciality restaurants. The main dining was OK! We mainly ate in the buffet and that was great. The Indian food was always excellent. There was always a great variety of food. The deserts were great also. They even made fresh crepes every night. My daughters favorite was the ice cream. They had an impressive selection of about 8 flavors of ice cream that they will scoop for you. My daughters favorite flavor was lemon. They also had self serve soft serve from the machine. We did not get the drink package as I do not drink alcohol and neither me nor my daughter drink soda. The water tea and juice that they provided was good. No complaints on the food. ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment on this ship was exceptional!!! Every show was amazing!!!! However and this is a huge however. NCL did a poor job of promoting the entertainment. Prior to the cruise you only know that you will have a "variety" of entertainment. The shows are at 7pm and 7pm. Additionally, you only find out the entertainment for that night when you get your newsletter the previous evening. This was problematic with scheduling dinner, downtime after ports and getting to the theater. This upset me a bit because the entertainment was so good and I missed a few. I would rather have known all the entertainment and been able to schedule it out. They should really do a better job promoting the entertainers on the site or their app because they were truly exceptional. ACTIVITIES Origami was my favorite. The girl that taught it was so sweet, helpful and patient. She would show a couple folds then go around to EVERYONE to make sure they were getting it correctly. And we all needed so much help. :) I think i participated in origami about 4 times. We also did towel folding, napkin folding and trivia. They were great also. My daughter did the rock climbing a few times and enjoyed it. This cruise was port intensive so were off the ship a lot and exhausted when we got on. So our activities were limited. KIDS CLUB My daughter loved it. There weren't a lot of kids on this cruise so sometimes they were completely empty and my daughter would just opt to go to the pool instead. However this was not their fault. They were a great group of staff there. They did pirate parades, circus shows, arts and crafts, video games and education during the transit through the panama canal. SERVICE hmmm...So There were some very exceptional staff on the ship and then were were others. No one was rude but some just could care less. The staff that were great were really really great. They work very hard and i will leave it at that. EMBARKATION This was appalling. DO NOT SHOW UP BEFORE NOON to get on the ship. Holy cow. So first they board all of their VIPs and Haven Suites. I kind of understand this but it seemed like it took longer to get them together and onto the ship. Then they board by floor. We were on the 8th floor so it took forever. There was about 100-200 people in the port and it took about an hour for them to let me and my daughter start boarding. This makes no sense. We are not animals, we are not going to trample each other. Im fine with them letting the VIPs on first but then just let everyone free board. There was no point to that. I will say that by time we got on the ship our room was open and ready. This was nice because we had flown all night. So that is the soonest I had ever been able to get into my stateroom on any ship. DISEMBARKATION I do not have many nice things to say about this. Me and my daughter did a walk off the ship. As soon as you walked onto the ship deck you were in a looooooong line. Apparently there were only 3 customs agents and 1 was doing VIPs only. It took 2 hours to get out!!!!! Did i mention it was raining!!!!!!! A good portion of the time we were standing outside in the rain. When we got in we were SITTING in line. We were not moving. This was the worst disembarkation that i had ever experienced. I was told that there was 2 reasons. One was the VIP line that NCL does. It slows everything down for everyone. They don't move any faster so its pointless. And the fact that there were not enough customs agents. HONORABLE MENTION The TV channels and movies shown on tv were great! We watched The Meg, Ant man and the wasp, Mamma Mia, here we go again, Mission Impossible fallout, Skyscraper, Pick of the litter, Teen titans go to the movies, Pacific Rim Uprising, Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom, Oceans 8, Rampage, Ready Player One. Those are just the ones I could remember. We are making videos of our cruise and if you want to see them please view here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjyVKAz32N4-1Ere4B3GROw Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
I chose Norwegian because I have had nothing but great experiences on previous NCL cruises. This time, embarkation and debarkation were nightmares. It was like this was the first time they were doing this. For this reason alone I am ... Read More
I chose Norwegian because I have had nothing but great experiences on previous NCL cruises. This time, embarkation and debarkation were nightmares. It was like this was the first time they were doing this. For this reason alone I am reconsidering cruising out of Tampa on NCL again. The ship was clean, our cabin steward was pretty good, the food was not bad but not a great variety as in previous cruises. Also, the Summer Palace is the place to dine for complimentary meals. It is by far the nicest restaurant. Indigo is a dark hole and the buffet is not too bad but other cruisers are not as conscientious about handling food and being courteous. A lady dunked her chicken drumstick in the gravy instead of pouring it over her food. Another lady was unwrapping the silverware on the tables, touching them and then wrapping them again. What kind of crap is that? Also, the food did not stay at the right temperature unless you got there as they were putting it out. The entertainment was disappointing except for the comedians and Duo Quintessence. The staff was friendly and helpful. The ports were also disappointing. Unless you paid big money to do excursions, the areas around the ports were dirty, run down and the vendors hounded you nonstop. The few excursions that we did were way overpriced. It is always an experience to travel to other places but this is not a cruise I would want to do again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2018
My wife and I were on this cruise.We are both 71, this was our thirteenth cruise, fourth Norwegian. Four Carnival and five Disney. We typically cruise from Port Canaveral when cruising from Florida. Otherwise we have sailed from Honolulu, ... Read More
My wife and I were on this cruise.We are both 71, this was our thirteenth cruise, fourth Norwegian. Four Carnival and five Disney. We typically cruise from Port Canaveral when cruising from Florida. Otherwise we have sailed from Honolulu, Seattle and Seaward. Never had significant problems at any port except Tampa.Stood in line with my bad feet over two hours to embark (Coast Guard blah blah blah). Stood in line for two hours to disembark (CBP blah blah blah). Perhaps it was the fault of the Coast Guard and CBP, bit I believe it is the responsibility of Norwegian to provide adequate facilities to embark and disembark. The rest of the cruise was typical Norwegian, small cabins (O1), adequate food and good entertainment. Ate in Cagneys twice and Teppenyaki twice, they were both excellent.The production crew was great but they were under utilized, I think only 4 nights (I don't count the variety of embarkation night). Divas 3 was pretty good as well as the aerial gymnasts. The service was very good. Ports and excursions were usual. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
This was a much anticipated cruise by my husband and myself. I had always wanted to go to the Panama Canal and experience going through the locks. While that was a great experience the overall cruise was a disappointment. While we did have ... Read More
This was a much anticipated cruise by my husband and myself. I had always wanted to go to the Panama Canal and experience going through the locks. While that was a great experience the overall cruise was a disappointment. While we did have a few good times on the ship(Thank You Kathleen & Brian, Bruce & Kelly) the food and service were poor at best.The MDR was slow and I consistently had to ask for my glass of wine with dinner. I was never asked by my server if I wanted anything from the bar. Additionally one evening my wine didn't come till my entree was served and most times after my appetizer. The Garden Cafe food was always boring and mostly lukewarm, never hot. The highlight of the restaurants was the Lotus Garden, excellent food there. Sushi was really good but why must we have to pay extra for great food? Freestyle dining is not for us! The dining room always seemed chaotic! The entertainment was mediocre with a few exceptions, mainly Fred the comedian and the couple who were aerialists. They were very good. The cruise director's staff were a lot of fun, especially Irene and Sunny! Evenings in the Spinnaker were a blast! Go team 7! Our favorite bartender, Dr. Bombay in the Atrium was very personable and knew what we liked and kept us laughing while playing trivia! It's a real shame as the Pearl was a lovely ship, just the right size and the layout was perfect for us. We never felt like we were walking miles to get somewhere like you feel on some f the large ships! This is only our second cruise with NCL but it will be our last. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
I've been on 10 cruises and loved every one of them, mainly because of the ports and all you can see and learn in 2 weeks, give or take. The Pearl is a gorgeous ship. We stayed in the Haven which should be called the Heaven. Our ... Read More
I've been on 10 cruises and loved every one of them, mainly because of the ports and all you can see and learn in 2 weeks, give or take. The Pearl is a gorgeous ship. We stayed in the Haven which should be called the Heaven. Our steward, concierge, butler - everyone we came in contact with, were delightful people. The Haven itself was luxurious and comfortable and we felt like we had the ship to ourselves. Not a complaint about the room, room service, crew, food, everything was perfect. Worth the $8,000+ per person. The ports were another story. It was our first Caribbean cruise so maybe we were naive. Every other cruise has had wonderful ports that gave you a true taste of the country and city you were visiting. You are free to take a ship tour, get off the boat and roam, or take your own taxi and explore. We generally go off on our own. On this cruise, unless you took a ship tour - expensive, most of the ports were "fake". A few small newish buildings selling things that were for the most part inauthentic, no local food, no local people or culture. We were absolutely shocked by this. The only places where we could get off the ship and wander were the 2 stops in Colombia, Santa Marta and Cartegna. We got a good feel for the culture, people, music, food and crafts. In Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Belize, even Mexico, we disembarked and saw only the market that appeared to be owned by Norwegian. Very upsetting. These small countries need and depend on tourism. It is clear that Norwegian gets a cut of all the goods sold. There was no town, in facat, if you wanted to take a car to a nearby town there was nothing nearby. In Mexico our port was called "Costa Maya" which means to most people the beautiful coast south of Cancun on the Yucatan Pennisula. Norwegian's "Costa Maya" was a silly made up village with Mexicans dressed in outrageous costumes posing with people, horrible crafts not at all representative of the beautiful things the Mexican people are famous for making. Lots of gold, diamond, jewelry stores, Starbucks, no good restaurants. It was disappointing to say the least. Perhaps some people who are not interested in seeing actual cultures in other countries felt comfortable, but for people who love to travel and learn, it was a nightmare. Also, we embarked from Tampa and it took all day to get on board - people were waiting so long someone had to be taken away in an ambulance. Horrible experience after being promised priority boarding because of our Haven status - which did not kick in till we were on board 4 hours after waiting in Florida heat. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
Hours in line in the hot sun waiting to get on the ship without any communication from NCL was an unacceptable condition. Total confusion and chaos with 2300 people attempting to disembark based upon meanless time slots. Being directed to ... Read More
Hours in line in the hot sun waiting to get on the ship without any communication from NCL was an unacceptable condition. Total confusion and chaos with 2300 people attempting to disembark based upon meanless time slots. Being directed to lines that go nowhere. We went home with a bad taste in our mouth. The on and off process is difficult but this cruise had no communication and control of the process. After the fact we learned that boarding of the ship was delayed due to a cost guard inspection. When herded into a very long line to board the only people who would talk to us were the local baggage handlers. We never heard an apology or an explanation from a NCL official. This was our third cruise so we do not have the vast experience of the "professional" cruisers but my opinion of the food was there was not enough variations offered during the 14 day cruise. This was especially true in the main dining room. There we specials each day but the basics, 3/4 of the menu did not change. desserts were too exotic for my tastes. I link old favorites and these were few and far between. There was pie on the main dining room menus only 2 of the 6 dinners we had there. I was able to get ice cream in the buffet cafe but for the last 7 days they did not have vanilla. (I don't consider sugar free vanilla as ice cream.) These may be picky but they were on my person list. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
Avoid the NCL Bliss Spa at all costs. The manager of the spa is very rude. They quote you a price for a treatment and then charge you a much higher price. They are crooks. The observation lounge is usually a relaxing quiet retreat, however ... Read More
Avoid the NCL Bliss Spa at all costs. The manager of the spa is very rude. They quote you a price for a treatment and then charge you a much higher price. They are crooks. The observation lounge is usually a relaxing quiet retreat, however there was a day or two with ppl stretched out and sleeping on couches with all their belongings piled around them. Very tacky.. The food is okay, though not great and several of my travel mates got food poisoning. I witnessed some people throwing up in public areas. The ship is too large to dock where most other ships can so they dock in really ugly commercial container ports. Then they charge you money to transport you to town. Once there you see the other ships docked where the passengers can walk right off into town. I had major ship envy. The rooms and hallways are much narrower than other NCL ships and it’s difficult dodging all the cleaning carts. The gym is small and missing many of the machines other ships have. The go karts were fun but space needed for these new venues created cuts elsewhere and my favorite dueling pianos venue got the ax. I believe the bland boring food in the dining room is deliberate so you will spend lots of money eating in the specialty restaurants in order to get a good meal. Years ago the included dining venues served very good food, but no more. I expected to be blown away by this new ship. I was not. Had a great trip anyway because of the people I met and the fun we had. Special mention goes to the Mojito Bar bartenders. Unlike rude or indifferent staff in other bars, the staff at the Mojito Bar were all wonderful. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2018
We choose this cruise because it was a new ship going through the new locks of the Panama Canal. The crew were excellent and the majority were happy and helpful. The cabin was fine, we had a mini suite which had a nice sized bathroom. ... Read More
We choose this cruise because it was a new ship going through the new locks of the Panama Canal. The crew were excellent and the majority were happy and helpful. The cabin was fine, we had a mini suite which had a nice sized bathroom. The ship is too open and very loud. The free restaurants very noisy because they are so open. The entertainment was good when you could get a seat. Having to book for shows was inconvenient. If you didn't book weeks or months before the cruise you didn't get in or you could get in a standby line. Several of the smaller venues seat less than a hundred people and when the ship hold over 4,000 your chances of getting in is nil. The no pay lunch restaurants don't change the menu so that gets old after a few days. Breakfast at the buffet is a disaster with way too many people and not enough space. The ship had to dock in commercial ports due to it's size and getting from the ship to the towns required busses and once again 4,000 people on our ship . The lines were long and the buses not up to what we are used to. We ended up being bussed to one tour destination in groups of four in taxis which took overall two hours and therefore shortened our tour considerably as we were the last to get there. They didn't utilize the theatre for enough activities and over used the atrium where there were way too many people and too much noise. If you went to a customer service desk, shore excursion desk etc which were all in the atrium area you couldn't hear anyone trying to help you because of the noise of the activity going on. Very bad planning. All in all we saw what we wanted going through the Panama Canal but I doubt Ill ever go on Norwegian again and I won't go on any of the mega ships again. Too many people, and having to book for average meals and entertainment just doesn't make for a relaxing holiday. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
I just returned from the Bliss 14 day Panama Canal trip. The ship was very crowded. It was impossible to get a seat in the Garden Cafe and the staff did not assist. The elevator situation on the ship was a disaster. The size, shape, ... Read More
I just returned from the Bliss 14 day Panama Canal trip. The ship was very crowded. It was impossible to get a seat in the Garden Cafe and the staff did not assist. The elevator situation on the ship was a disaster. The size, shape, quantity and programming logic of the elevators is a disaster. You will wait forever and be packed in like sardines your whole cruise. Our balcony stateroom was fine, but seemed a bit on the smaller side. The closet was hard to access on the side of the bed. The bathroom was great. Shower was roomy with good pressure and hot water. I may have been in a noisy location, but I heard more noise on this cruise than in the past. It was hard sleep at times. Whether that has something to do with the construction of the ship or bad luck I am not sure. The food in all of the main dining rooms was universally bad with bad service. The speciality restaurants were hit or miss. La Cucina, Cagneys and Los Lobos were great. Q, Food Republic and Le Bistro were average. Ocean Blue was bad. The bars around the ship were fine but the bartenders were never friendly or engaging. Quite the opposite. The District was my favorite bar but the craft beer selection seems to have been selected by somebody who has no knowledge of craft beer, and they were out of half the items on the menu. The drinks at the mojito bar were not good. A real missed opportunity. Some of the worst mojitos I have ever had. The overall crew and service in the ship was well below average. Happy crew members were few and far between. The crew neither created a welcome feeling for the guests, nor did they provide good service. I don't blame the crew for this, I blame NCL. Both waterslides were fun, as were the go karts. We booked laser tag twice and they cancelled on us twice so that was disappointing. The entertainment on the ship was fine but not great. Havana was boring with no plot with nearly nude dancers being its saving grace. Jersey Boys was fine but completely devoid of innovation. Who hasn't seen Jersey Boys yet? The show debuted over 13 years ago! Not exactly new and fresh. Finally, I must comment on the lack of bottled water being included in the beverage package. How stupid is that? We prefer to drink sparkling water for dinner and had to pay $7 each time. On top of that, the only sparkling water on board was Pellegrino with a production date of nearly one year ago. I.e. very stale. We wasted a lot of alcohol to make up for lack of water options in the beverage package. Furthermore, it is absolutely disgusting that NCL does not let you bring waater on board the ship and makes you pour it out when returning from ports. It's a very bad look to be wasting so much fresh drinking water in sometimes very poor countries who often struggle with access to clean water. The water situation on board NCL shows a certain level of arrogance and disdain for passengers, as well as the ports to which NCL travels. Absolutely appalling and I would choose NOT to cruise NCL again for this reason alone. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
The Bliss will nickel and dime you to death, there is a service charge for everything, even at the Starbucks on board, never got to see a show, they were all sold out all the time. The Bliss should have left LA and went directly to the ... Read More
The Bliss will nickel and dime you to death, there is a service charge for everything, even at the Starbucks on board, never got to see a show, they were all sold out all the time. The Bliss should have left LA and went directly to the Panama Canal and did stops on the gulf side only, Mexico’s stops were really bad, will never do the Atlantic side again. The Bliss is the coldest ship I have ever been on, that being said the pay restaurants are really good, but it will cost you dearly, the casino has all the new style machines, and there is a line for everything, I felt like I was at the Magic Kindom at Disney, and the line to get off the ship, all I can say is WOW, one more thing, I am not a smoker but they should be ashamed of where they make the smokers smoke at on that ship, word of advice to the smokers, DONT GO ON THIS SHIP Read Less
Sail Date: October 2018
I always wanted to go through the Panama Canal, its history fascinates me. I also wanted an extended cruise for a bit of "R&R". The price point was good but the on-board costs were disappointing. I feel NCL was in my ... Read More
I always wanted to go through the Panama Canal, its history fascinates me. I also wanted an extended cruise for a bit of "R&R". The price point was good but the on-board costs were disappointing. I feel NCL was in my pocket for every little thing.... a 1 liter bottle of Dasani was $6.60!!! Yes, $6.60 - outrageous. Kids video arcade games are $1.30 per game. Food was okay in the complimentary restaurants and buffets but don't bother with the complimentary steak dinner - the meat quality is less than average which I think is done to encourage cruisers to use their "specialty" (for a charge) Cagney's Steakhouse. The entertainment was merely average. However, the staff couldn't have been nicer - pleasant, friendly, courteous... excellent all around. My major complaint is the embarkation/disembarkation process. Really this needs major attention. The boat left San Diego 2 hours late. I delivered my luggage at 11:15 BUT it was not delivered to my cabin until 8:15. NCL tenders were terrible and have too little capacity to handle excursions. First day, excursions were delayed two hours because of various NCL issues. Cruisers were truly annoyed. It got worse when disembarking at final port. The instructions from staff were contradictory; the bridge communications from Vincent, the cruise director, were just terrible. Very poor communication resulted in delays, misdirection and anger. I am unsure if I will cruise NCL again. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
ABOUT MY CRUISE: SHIP/NCL - PRE-BOOKING ITEMS - DON'T DO IT. As items you book are charged diectly to your card at time of booking the item(both excursions and fixed priced dining). I had thought it would all go thru my onboard ... Read More
ABOUT MY CRUISE: SHIP/NCL - PRE-BOOKING ITEMS - DON'T DO IT. As items you book are charged diectly to your card at time of booking the item(both excursions and fixed priced dining). I had thought it would all go thru my onboard account... WRONG. So it quicly got confusing when onboard I canceled my reservation for Moderno. They had no problem canceling. But only becaused I asked, did they refund (to my shipboard account) what I had pre-paid prior to trip on my charge card. Once again - I would recommend NOT PRE-BOOKING anything where you are prompted to input your charge card as this means you will have some charges on visible on your charge card statements while others show in you onboard account. As I had used multiple charge cards it got very confusing very quickley as to what I had already paid for and what I needed to do to get a refund. i had thought that many excursions and things were fully booked so I booked pre trip. But in reality, the day of the departure they open up all excursion/dining. So as long as you book day one you should be able to get what you want. SHIP FOOD ATTRIBUTES- Disappointing in lack of tast, quality, and variety. The main dinning set menu variety was limited and quite bland. Meats dry and medium temp. SHIP FOOD OPERATIONS: Very, very, limited hours/seating for sit down breakfast Very, Very, Very limited hours and available seating for sit-down lunch. To that extent I now call them flash breakfast and flash lunch. Lasting about only 1 to 1.5 hours meaning here and gone before you know it. . The main(free) sit down dining rooms: Note: both have the same menu as each other. The Indigo dining room is small seating around 150-200. Lacks spacionous and windows. More like a indoor mod cafe with no views. The summer palace is more like one would expect. Located out of the way in the back of the ship it was always available for walk up. It is well decorated, airy, and has big windows and floor to ceilng wall on windows on the back. BUFFETS: The Garden Buffet was below average in quality and taste and most importantly tempature. Most items looking well aged and dry. Greatly disappointing for grab and go items such as burgers or sandwhichs. Only hamburgers, dogs, and very limited selection of cold meats(typically a mince meat item-salami and swiss cheese) . Did not see cooked chicke breast or sliced turkey, ham. roast beef, american, or cheed sliced cheease.). I think that to control cost the cooks move at snails pace in reactivley restocking items rather than pro actively. For example, middle of luch rush out of sliced cheese... cook placing cheese one slice at a time on the buffet rather than having full plates of sliced cheese ready to go. Food management did not seem to attend to making sure items were stocked and fresh at all stations during meal times. Main meat carving station- very dispointing quality and selection of entree. Only had prime rib once. Had dry turky, dry pork... and even had meat loaf as a entree. i laughed.. meat loaf and an entree at a carving station!! COOKIES - VERY VERY LIMITED. Only avaible at great outdoors cafe during snack hours 3:30-5. SHIP ENTERTAINMENT: Below average in variety and quality, Some headline acts/performers where repeated over 3-5 days where as typically it is one day(2-3 shows) SHIP DRINK SERVICE: Not really attentive or soliciting drinks. Especially lacking indoors. One must hunt down a server to walk up to bar to really keep glass from being empty. TIPS: SUMMER PALACE FOR SIT DOWN MEALS - INCLUDING BREAKFAST AND LUCH. Seems most people did not know it was there. COOKIES: Bring a zip lock bag and grab a bunch for your for your room from great outdoors cafe snack hours. Be careful as they stop restocking around 4:30. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2018
Chose the cruise because we could see friends and relatives in the San Diego area, sail thru Panama Canal as I have always wanted to do, and then be back home in Florida. Came in a week early to see San Diego, but there was to much too ... Read More
Chose the cruise because we could see friends and relatives in the San Diego area, sail thru Panama Canal as I have always wanted to do, and then be back home in Florida. Came in a week early to see San Diego, but there was to much too see. Pacific Ocean was choppy, and so was the Caribbean, most than usual in Caribbean. Hurricane in Pacific prevented us from stopping at Cabo San Lucas. Embarkation was okay, felt like you were in a warehouse, not a "real" cruiseport. Ship was delayed because of the Dockworkers changing shifts. Norwegian did not care for San Diego port. Our cabin was dim, we like brighter lights. Also you had to get out of bed to turn off the overhead lights, there was not a turnoff at the beds. No place to sit except on the beds, no chair or sofa, really no room. I did have a shower chair which was great. Also like the shower door instead of the curtain. The TV was nice, but the channels were often weak or scrambled. Also it was several days before we even know who had won the World Series. College football was not carried on any sport or regular channels. Room service breakfast was fine, and early on most mornings, chocolate croissant were great. But they usually forgot something once it was our cereal. The Entertainment was good especially liked Duo Quincennesce, the aerialists, Michelle Murlin, the broad way singer, and especially Brenda Kaye the Hypnotist. The staff was also great. Room stewards, the wait staff were all good. My favorite was an African man from Zimbabwe who worked in Tides. He had the nicest smile and we a little each day. I wish I would have got his name, he was so good to talk to, we made some kind of connection. The food was mediocre, not hot when it should be, but lukewarm or cold, this was in the buffet and main dining room, the Summer Palace. But again the wait staff and esp., Annisha who was in charge of special diets tried to get my husband vegetarian meals. His favorite in the Summer Palace was two scoops or mashed potatoes and two little ears of corn on the cob. Some breads and desserts were good, I especially liked the bread pudding at the buffet. The carrot cake in the Summer Palace was esp. good. Over all an average cruise with not enough things to do on sea days. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2018
This was our fourth time travelling with Norwegian and for the first time we came back a little disappointed. Service, food and cabin were fine but we were particularly disappointed with the entertainment on the ship. We felt the groups ... Read More
This was our fourth time travelling with Norwegian and for the first time we came back a little disappointed. Service, food and cabin were fine but we were particularly disappointed with the entertainment on the ship. We felt the groups and singers round the ship were nowhere near as strong as others we've been on and while the "specialist" entertainers were mixed to say the least. Some were excellent - The Quintessence Aerial duo and The Barricade Boys - some were ok, and some just poor. In particular the woman singer was dreadful and I wasn't impressed with the comedian Tim whose act was very dated and consisted of making members of the audience do stupid things. Also a lot of the acts did two or even three shows during the cruise.The game shows seemed tired and ill thought out. And there were some odd things about the ship itself. Who thought it would be a good idea to put four lanes of bowling in the middle of a lounge?!!? And why was the trivia usually held in the Atrium where there were never enough seats and you had to compete with people visiting guest services etc.? We enjoyed the ports and most of the places visited - San Diego and Cartagena in Colombia especially but compared with the cruise we took with Norwegian to Hawaii last year on the Jewel, the Pearl was a disappointment. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
The ship is beautiful. Our cabin on the 8th floor was very nice. If you drink, the drink package is well worth it. Our ultimate wi-fi internet package was a bust. We canceled after 3 days as we could not get on.Still waiting for a FULL ... Read More
The ship is beautiful. Our cabin on the 8th floor was very nice. If you drink, the drink package is well worth it. Our ultimate wi-fi internet package was a bust. We canceled after 3 days as we could not get on.Still waiting for a FULL refund. The staff was great on the whole with just a few exceptions whom I am sure will be weeded out. Favorite restaurant La Cucina - veal marsal was great as was the pasta. Also Los Lobos - great tableside guacamole. Order the filet mignon at Cagney's Steakhouse. Teppanyaki was fun and a good way to meet people. Q, Le Bistro and Ocean can be missed. Missed out on the shows. Heard Happy Hour Prohibition was great. Make reservations as soon as you are able. Some of our favorite staff (not sure who picked who- them or us) were: At the Whisky bar Jelica Mihajlovic and Razvan Correa We stopped to visit them each night. During the day at the Wave Bar Glen Gomes made sure we were well hydrated. In the Manhattan Room Wine Stewart Efren Abarico was our guy. During the great piano playing by Jim Badger In the District, Engelbert Gutierrez kept us happy. Talk about happy, Cabin Stewart Christian Paz (who was taking care of guests down the hall) made us smile each time we saw him, which was 2-3 times a day.What a great attitude he had. If he did not make you happy to start your day you are a grump. I hope you get a chance to meet these great people. Bring clips for your pool towels and plenty of sun screen. The Observation Lounge is very relaxing. Lovely at the bar will keep your cocktail coming. Had a great massage but the attempt to upsell after took the zen out. Tried the accupunture seemed to have been some help but beware that a session is a side (I had thought a session was as it implied a full session). Since I had to do 2 sides it was double of what I expected. Luckily they did not try to upsell me, as they did some nice people we met on th boat. We nick named the cruise "upsell on the sea". Signed up for the spins classes and the PT, both good -avoided the upsell on that. If we did not have a large group going on the ship in October we would not cruise on this line again. It may have been that 15 days was too much for us. You can only eat, drink and be merry for so long. Maybe the shorter 7 day will change our mind. Read Less
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