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1,100 Norwegian (NCL) Tampa Cruise Reviews

We were on the 'fog delay" New Year's sailing. That was a very trying experience, but was of no fault to NCL or the Pearl crew. NCL sent us numerous updates via text and phone calls. I have read reviews negating that, ... Read More
We were on the 'fog delay" New Year's sailing. That was a very trying experience, but was of no fault to NCL or the Pearl crew. NCL sent us numerous updates via text and phone calls. I have read reviews negating that, but be advised that the cruise line can only communicate via the information you provide to them. Be sure to have accurate phone numbers tied to your reservation! Most of the port delays were due to port authority and coast guard--safety precautions can't be helped, and are a part of the cruise experience--especially during peak weather times. I booked knowing winter is "fog season" in Tampa. Only lesson I learned is to arrive later, rather than earlier, if port authority has delayed embarkation. Now to the Pearl! Staff did an amazing job turning the ship around. When we finally were able to board, our room was ready and immaculate. There were complimentary waters and treats awaiting us. Even though it was well passed midnight, several bars open as well as the buffets. I was impressed how many services they had open despite the crazy day. We were so impressed by the friendliness of the staff. EVERY crew member greeted us by name, and with a smile. It didn't matter if we were at a bar, at the buffet, in a main dining room, or specialty dining location, every one treated us like we were important and special. We especially loved the Sake bar, and spent time there chatting with the bar tender every night. The entertainment was great as well. We loved the variety at night especially. They had so many options, and it was all very good. The piano singer would great us each night, and chatted with us during his breaks. He was so personable! The food was the best we have ever experienced on NCL, which already had great food. Also, the main dining room service was great. We actually had such an amazing experience one night in Indigo, that we decided to cancel our Cagney's reservations to eat one more night in Indigo with the same servers. The ship take some getting used to in order to navigate. You just have to pay attention which end of the ship you need to get to, and then you walk to THAT end before taking the elevator. Sea days get a little hectic, like all cruises, but I was happy to see that they had crew members monitoring "reserved" chairs, and upholding the NCL policy of removing items which are left unattended for more than an hour. We never really had a problem finding lounge chairs though. As long as you are ok, going one deck up from the pools on sea days, you should be fine. Our cruise was sold out, and we always found chairs, and never really waited long for drinks, seating, or to disembark. We had an inside stateroom, and they are tight, but NCL does an amazing job utilizing space, and there is tons of storage. Our room steward did a fabulous job as well. He knew our schedule, and are room was always serviced twice a day. We had towel animals and ice waiting every evening. He greeted us in the hall every time we passed, and our room and bathroom were spotless. We booked all our excursions independently so I can't comment in the NCL excursion experience, but the excursion desk was always staffed and they had several live presentations on the schedule and broadcast them in the room as well. We really loved the Pearl, and decided to book her again for March. We can't wait for our next trip on her! Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
My Wife and I enjoyed the cruise with Norweigen Cruise Lines. I have only cruised on Carnival until this last cruise. I will from now on prefer Norweigen over Carnival. The food was a huge improvement and the staff were very good as well. ... Read More
My Wife and I enjoyed the cruise with Norweigen Cruise Lines. I have only cruised on Carnival until this last cruise. I will from now on prefer Norweigen over Carnival. The food was a huge improvement and the staff were very good as well. There were a lot of good things on the Pearl, just wished more pools we're available. The two pools they has we're always too crowded for my liking. Overall I was very pleased with our Cruise experience!! Thank You!! Washy, Washy!! LOL!!! The availability of Hand Sanitizer was AWESOME!! It made the cruise worry free. Before entering the dining facilities they actually had people there to spray everyone's hands with sanitizer to avoid the spreading of germs and disease on the cruise!! That was phenomenal!!! It put our mind at ease!!! The New Year's Eve party was a lot of fun and we also enjoyed White Night as well. The drink package was a great deal, and saved us money, I will purchase it going forward!!!!!!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Getting on to the ship was difficult. No real sense of order in the process. The ship itself was ok. The staff were generally nice and friendly. The food was generally decent. The rooms are regular cruise ship rooms, small and tight ... Read More
Getting on to the ship was difficult. No real sense of order in the process. The ship itself was ok. The staff were generally nice and friendly. The food was generally decent. The rooms are regular cruise ship rooms, small and tight but ok. There were never enough places to sit at the pool. My father in law took a spill and was taken to the medical bay. After a nearly $2000 bill for the ship "icu", he was sent back to his room. This occurred while rest of the family was gone on an excursion. When we returned, we were told that he would have to leave the ship because they did feel he was medically stable to continue. Most of our family was disembarked in Grand Cayman with very little time to prepare and no assistance with transportation or lodging. The ship then went on it's way back to Tampa and sat outside the bay for hours waiting for it to open. Very little communication was given to the people on board. Never again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
After contacting Norwegian via their website and mailing a letter to corporate with no response, I have decided to post my review: My husband and I are avid travelers, both nationally and internationally. We have utilized and booked ... Read More
After contacting Norwegian via their website and mailing a letter to corporate with no response, I have decided to post my review: My husband and I are avid travelers, both nationally and internationally. We have utilized and booked with numerous companies and establishments. Norwegian came highly recommended and we were extremely excited to try a new cruise line. The lack of communication, organization and customer service on the Norwegian Pearl was very disappointing and honestly ranked as the worst trip our family has embarked on. We have traveled to many countries and states and understand that there are always glitches while traveling. However, our experience on the Norwegian Pearl was inexcusable. Our family recently set sail on the Norwegian Pearl, with a departure date of 12/23/2018 to celebrate after a long journey that consisted of numerous spinal surgeries due to a car accident in August 2015. We thoroughly researched all cruise lines and held high expectations that Norwegian would provide us with a vacation experience with lasting memories and excellent customer service. Our expectations, regarding the hospitality provided by onboard restaurants and room stewards were met and even went above and beyond our expectations. O’Sheehan’s manager and employees were outstanding and provided us with top notch service, on a daily basis. Jose, our room steward took excellent care of us and our cabin was always clean and turned down in a timely manner each evening. Indigo’s service was exceptional, and the food quality was top notch, along with the wait staff. The rest of our vacation experience was disappointing, as there were numerous issues regarding communication, the customer service desk, and onboard entertainment. As we arrived in ports each day, there was little to no communication regarding arrival times. The Pearl was late arriving into each port, with the exception of the Grand Cayman Port of Call. We had booked excursions in each port and were disappointed in the process to disembark the ship at each location. There were long lines in the hallways each morning with no communication as to when the disembarkation process would begin. Once there was an announcement, the process was disorderly, with passengers pushing and forcing their way off the ship, due to time constraints. Norwegian overbooked the excursion we were on in Harvest Caye with an allotment of 33 people vs. the large crowd that had pre-booked. Our family was able to complete this excursion, while many others were left onshore with no option. The process to receive tender tickers in the Bliss Lounge was an absolute nightmare. The morning we were scheduled to arrive in Honduras, we were told to pick up tender tickets, if we had booked independent tours, at 7:30. Our family arrived early, to ensure we were in the first group. Passengers began lining up around 7:00 am. There were zero Norwegian employees in sight to help organize the line. The Norwegian employee did not show up to the Tender Ticket desk until 7:35. The absentness of an employee created anxiety and chaos for passengers, as individuals were aggravated and clearly angry. Once our tender tickets were secured, we once again lined up to disembark in Honduras, as that process should have begun at 8:00. There were zero announcements with updates regarding the boat arriving late or disembarking several hours later. Once the announcement was finally made for Group 1, around 10:30, there was a mass exodus of passengers. Norwegian employees did not collect the tender tickets and the process was disorderly. It made no difference what tender group number individuals were assigned to, as everyone was allowed to exit at the same time. We were told that the last tender back to the Pearl would be at 3:00 and were forced to cut our excursion in half. Imagine our disappointment when we arrived back to the ship, only to watch the tendering continue through 5:30. The next day (Grand Cayman), our family knew that we had to arrive to the Bliss Lounge early, to once again pick up our tender ticket. Once again, there was not an employee in sight upon our arrival in the lounge. However, there were passengers that were in a verbal altercation due to someone cutting in line. Once an employee arrived (earlier than the stated tender pick-up time), they began handing out the tender tickets, prior to the stated time. The Pearl arrived in Grand Cayman earlier than the stated time and once again, there was no communication. Once the announcement was made for Group One, there was again chaos, as all passengers, no matter what group number they were assigned to, were able to exit. Onboard entertainment options for our children was disappointing, as it was extremely limited. Shuffleboard sticks were broken, the bowling alley was only open limited times, and the arcade package was outrageously priced. We were unable to secure pool deck chairs, as towels were placed on the lounges with no monitoring. Prior to the cruise, I had researched the arcade and bowling alley and the prices advertised were completely different than what we were charged on board. Bowling was $7.00 per person and one lane was broken down the entire cruise. When I had called on pricing prior to the cruise, I was informed it was $5.00 per person for bowling. In order to purchase the arcade package, we were informed that every member of our family would have to buy the package, not just our children. We would have been forced to pay for the arcade for two adults, that had no interest in the package, and therefore decided not to purchase. The customer service desk was extremely disorganized and each time we visited, employees provided us with different answers as to why our onboard credit was not applying to our account balance. We literally had to visit the customer service desk after each onboard purchase we made, to have them manually apply it. This was extremely frustrating, as we spent hours waiting in line, just to have the onboard credit applied appropriately. Our first experience sailing with Norwegian Cruise Line was extremely disappointing. The lack of communication on the ship by the cruise director, Jodie and her assistant, Tiara caused confusion and chaos at the ports. The lack of updates regarding arrival times at the various ports and poor leadership in the disembarkation process at ports caused significant delays and anxiety among cruise passengers. Employees not being present at the tender ticket area in the Bliss Lounge created an environment of angst, where passengers proceeded to engage in verbal altercations. The lack of training at the customer service desk, caused an immeasurable loss of cruising time for our family, as we were forced to visit the desk numerous times, due to billing issues. This cruise should have been a once in a lifetime celebration for our family. Instead, it was memorable for its disorganization and lack of communication. There were far too many delays, that were not communicated, along with a highly chaotic scene for disembarkation at all ports of call. Leadership starts with the top and was lacking from the moment we boarded the ship, until we disembarked in Tampa. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
My husband and I decided to take a Christmas trip with my family and to celebrate our honeymoon. We have sailed multiple times before, but this was our worst experience to date. Check-in at the port terminal was total chaos and that ... Read More
My husband and I decided to take a Christmas trip with my family and to celebrate our honeymoon. We have sailed multiple times before, but this was our worst experience to date. Check-in at the port terminal was total chaos and that chaos continued for the entire week. Getting on and off of the ship for shore excursions was a fiasco. At one port, we tendered to shore, only to be shoved into lines with passengers of a Royal Caribbean ship. There were no signs, no Norwegian staff there to help....passengers were at a complete loss. At another port, you were supposed to get tender tickets to get to shore if you were not taking a shore excursion. After waiting in line for over a half hour, NCL ran out of tender tickets and told us we would just have to get off after everyone else with tickets. This meant getting off of the ship at 12:30, leaving only a few hours before we had to be back on the boat. A few hours is not enough time to explore much of anything. We were late into every port and late leaving every port. There was no sense of organization, especially with the activity staff. Even activities on the boat started late (the few that there were). One day a group was told they would be catching tenders in 2 minutes...25 minutes later, they were still sitting in the theater. After cruising with other companies, I found it hard to believe that NCL charged for absolutely everything, even many of the activities. They were charging for bowling ($7 per game per person!), for bingo, for Deal or No Deal, and various other activities. After trying a couple of activities, we quit going because we weren't going to pay for all of the entertainment. The shows were decent. The pools were not heated, making them uncomfortable. Lastly, this was a cruise during Christmas....other than a few decorations in the centrum and some gingerbread houses around the ship, there was no sense of festiveness or celebration. Food on the ship was ok, but the service was slow in the main dining rooms. With the Freestyle set-up, the wait staff is getting short-changed. Because you don't have the same waiters each meal, you don't get to know them and people tend not to tip. With no incentive to provide excellent service, no wonder it was suspect. Overall, I was extremely disappointed with my NCL experience. There wasn't much to do on the ship, the lack of organization made everyone irritable, and getting on and off the boat was a total nightmare. Unless there is a destination I really want to see and NCL is the only option, I won't be sailing Norwegian again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
The food on this ship was very poor. It was the same food every single day. And my father and I got severely sick from the food. I ended up in the hospital and the doctor said It was due to the food on the ship. I’ve been on many cruises ... Read More
The food on this ship was very poor. It was the same food every single day. And my father and I got severely sick from the food. I ended up in the hospital and the doctor said It was due to the food on the ship. I’ve been on many cruises before and never had an experience like this. The ports of call were very nice. Harvest caye was an island owned by Norwegian and was beautiful. Be sure to plan an excursion in Costa Maya due to the face that there is basically just shops in the port. In Roatan, Honduras the ship was delayed in letting people off the ship due to wind. We had to use our tender boats to get off the ship and apparently two tenders did not work. We were suppose to get off the ship at 8 am and didn’t get off until 12 and had to be back on the ship at 3. The overall communication from the Cruise Director was very very poor this day. Many did not know what was going on and how to exit the ship. We missed our excursion due to the fact that we could not get off the ship but we were refunded the full amount. We did an excursion in Grand Cayman which was amazing. We went on a catamaran and swimming with stingrays, which was very nice. We were also delayed 12 hours for disembarking the ship on the last day due to fog, which was understandable. But there was 4 phones working for the entire ship and WiFi that barely working. Many had to change their flight reservations and to do that was complete chaos. Also they charge to your stateroom 15 dollars each person each day for tips and gratuity. I did enjoy the cruise up until the point that I was very very sick. I have never experienced a sickness like this in my life and the quality of the food on this ship was very poor. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
This was our first time cruising with Norwegian. The free at sea offers stand out to us and we decided to try the Norwegian Pearl Christmas cruise to the western Caribbean from Tampa. My favorite part about this experience was the staff - ... Read More
This was our first time cruising with Norwegian. The free at sea offers stand out to us and we decided to try the Norwegian Pearl Christmas cruise to the western Caribbean from Tampa. My favorite part about this experience was the staff - particularly, room steward, pool and bar staff. Great service, always friendly and going above and beyond to exceed our expectations. The embarkation/disembarkation process was a bummer, though. Very disorganized, no communication, unclear instructions, crew seemed lost, the worst I've ever seen. Entertainment at the pool was also a bit under average based on our previous experience. In terms of food - although dinner was great at the main dininning rooms, the buffet was disapointing. Breakfast was the same thing every single day. And it was quite a challenge to find non-chicken options for lunch. And I am not a hard person to please at all in terms of food. The Pearl is also a smaller ship (around 2.3k guests, I think). We've only sailed bigger ships before this. We might give it another chance saliling a bigger ship next time because the free at sea is a very good deal for us. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
The ship was beautiful with a “titanic-ish” and Russian decor blend. Smaller ship, not a mega for sure, but decent sized. Good public areas that still felt private, but accommodating for all. Dinning: HIGHLIGHT Carney’s ... Read More
The ship was beautiful with a “titanic-ish” and Russian decor blend. Smaller ship, not a mega for sure, but decent sized. Good public areas that still felt private, but accommodating for all. Dinning: HIGHLIGHT Carney’s steak house was excellent and highly recommend if choosing premium dinning. The pace of food delivery was perfect, the waiter was charming and humorous. The wine was delivered timely and water glasses remained full. The food was spot on. There were four of us, each with a different dish, and everyone greatly enjoyed their food. Standout, even though a side dish was the Au Gratin potatoes... best We have ever had. Try to save room for dessert. It’s delicious! A delightful evening. HIGHLIGHT All the food we ate in Any venue from buffet to speciality restaurants was very good to excellent. LOWLIGHT Service in the main dinning room, Madero Brazilian and LaBistro French restaurants was sparse, slow and seem uninformed. Multiple times we went with infilled glasses, 15-30 minute waits between courses and even had a waiter that just disappeared from our table. We literally raised our arm for over 3 minutes before a bus boy noticed and sent over a manager. Multiple servers walked by but didn’t notice as they had their heads down constantly. We had excellent service for the remainder of this meal. HIGHLIGHT The shows that we did go to we’re fantastically preformed. I believe anyone would enjoy them regardless of age or interest. Cabin was always cleaned, but never received ice. We did not ever specifically request it so that was our error. LOWLIGHT Ship shore excursions were run poorly. Much time was wasted in the waiting area. For example: over an hour and a half before being released for the tender, then a 1/2 hour tender ride to the pier to wait around over an hour again before getting onto a boat to go for a 10 minute cruise to an island (Roatan). We could have easily went directly to the island, an estimated 20 minute tender ride, from the ship. Isn’t that the reason they hold The tour group together? Everyone on our tender was on the same ship sponsored tour. The island itself was wonderful with reduced and rehabilitating animals, georgous landscape and sea views, and an incredible reef for snorkeling. HIGHLIGHT snorkeling LOWLIGHT only 3 hours to explore the island and snorkel due to delays as discribed above, plus the late arrival of the ship. LOWLIGHT after discussing with the shore excursions desk, they offered and said they applied a credit, but we never received it. Many complaints for various excursions in all ports. LOWLIGHT. The ship tried a new technique out and it failed miserably. According to the shore excursions desk and customer service this was the first Cruise to use “ship time” and “island time” in lieu of changing your clock ahead or back to match your poet of calls time. You can’t image how confusing this was. Times were give to meet on shore excursion tickets, but they were sometimes listed in “island time” not “ship time” but never indicated which time they were using! Many people missed tours or waited an extra hour due to the confusion. Getting up an extra hour early while on vacation is never fun, especially when it was not necessary and on an already early departure time. I.E. 7:15am meeting time was really 8:15am, but it wasn’t communicated so you would arrive and wait one hour, then wait more, as the tenders were behind or ... this or that.... worst NCL shore excursions experience I’ve experienced. LOWLIGHT shore excursions would cancel, but after you waited over two hours and all other tours were gone. This happened to us two out of four ports. In Grand Cayman we tenderer in after the delayed cancellation, booked the same excursion for $40 vs the ship cost of $129. I guess this worked out to our advantage after all! All and all, had a nice vacation even though there was some weird vibe throughout the whole cruise. Something was just off...can’t say what. LOWLIGHT Tampa port doesn’t seem to be able to handle the amount of ships that embarked our day. We had valet parking, arrived at 1 pm and the line went around the block... almost to the only open restaurant in the area during the day-Hooters. We opted to have lunch and drinks there while waiting for the line to thin. At 2:30 we walked down the block to board by 3:00. We were some of the last to board, but we still waited in line over 1/2 an hour. HIGHLIGHT Fog closed the Tampa port on our return. NCL did a good job handling the delay. We didn’t dock until 6:30pm. We didn’t have a flight, so for us it wasn’t bad. I can’t speak for the people with flights that needed to be changed. NCL l did open the Internet cafe and telephone free of for these people. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
I had a good time on the cruise. The rooms and the restaurants (including the buffets and other restaurants) are very clean, and the people on the cruise were very nice. Food on ship was super great, especially the desserts. The ... Read More
I had a good time on the cruise. The rooms and the restaurants (including the buffets and other restaurants) are very clean, and the people on the cruise were very nice. Food on ship was super great, especially the desserts. The housekeeping services were very helpful and great. The islands we visited had great views, and we enjoyed the sunshine ashore as well as the nice weather. The bicycle tour we ordered on Grand Cayman Island was one of our best journey and memory throughout the cruise. Harvest Caye was our second most memorable tourist destination. The beaches had soft white sands and the wind was comfortable. Onboard theater provided us with impressive shows, and Guitar with Roxy was unforgettable. We also loved the camera machine which allowed us to take a picture everyday and received it in my email. Online Internet service was toooo slow, probably because we were on sea, not on land. However, there are no buildings or other construction sites as on land, and the satellites signals should arrive directly onto the ship, so the problem shouldn't have existed. Also, the Internet is too expensive so that we couldn't afford it. We just used the 250 min free and slow Wifi, which was not quite a good experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
We chose this cruise as a means of bringing together our group of 26 family members from around the world for a week of relaxed family fun. Bottom line: this cruise delivered. Our part of the family (six adults) arrived a day early in ... Read More
We chose this cruise as a means of bringing together our group of 26 family members from around the world for a week of relaxed family fun. Bottom line: this cruise delivered. Our part of the family (six adults) arrived a day early in Tampa to insure against any winter weather delays from up north. We had a couple of fun meals and walked around a lot, but Tampa is not a pedestrian-friendly city. Embarkation was chaotic and uncivilized - there has to be a better way to board the ship. Disembarkation at the end was not much better and the tender process at Roatan was just awful, with no reasonable attempt to prioritize guests with trip deadlines - most of us ended up with compromised shore trips. The Cruise Director's announcements for all these periods were poor and lacking empathy. But the rest of the experience was very enjoyable.The ship and cabins were fine, the dining was surprisingly good and the itinerary was excellent. Our group spanned the ages from 10 to 76 and all had a good time. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Family of five (parents and young adult kids) traveled over Christmas holiday. Inside cabins were better than expected, itinerary was great and lots of bars to sample with the included beverage package. Found the main dining room service ... Read More
Family of five (parents and young adult kids) traveled over Christmas holiday. Inside cabins were better than expected, itinerary was great and lots of bars to sample with the included beverage package. Found the main dining room service to be slow and a bit impersonal; food was on par with other lines we have cruised (Princess, Celebrity). Enjoyed speciality dining at Cagney’s (steakhouse) and Moderno (churrascaria); also enjoyed O’Sheehan’s and Lotus Garden, which were included. Thought the buffet was just OK — seemed to be the same every day, but we only ate breakfast and a couple of lunches there. Enjoyed the music and evening entertainment by Peter the piano player. By far the biggest letdown was the boarding and tendering process: Very disorganized and fraught with delays. It took us more than four hours to tender off the ship in Roatan, and we were not close to the last group. Even disembarking on the pier in Costa Maya involved an enormous line. Last but not least, we were more than 12 hours late returning to Tampa due to fog in the port. Not NCL’s fault by any means, but the WiFi was shut down and there were very limited phone connections for anyone who needed to rebook onward arrangements. Overall, we enjoyed the cruise and met some very nice people, but the lack of organization was trying at times. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
The Christmas cruise was fantastic. The ship was decorated with hundreds of Ginger Bread houses throughout the ship along with other decorations. The food, as always was above par in every restaurant we ate in and the crew seemed to be ... Read More
The Christmas cruise was fantastic. The ship was decorated with hundreds of Ginger Bread houses throughout the ship along with other decorations. The food, as always was above par in every restaurant we ate in and the crew seemed to be enjoying the season as much as the guest were. Not once did I see a crew member that was not smiling or interacting with the passengers in a positive way. The captain on this ship sets a high standard and the crew follow his lead. We have sailed on the Pearl five times and have never been disappointed in the ship, the food or the crew members. We have already booked our next cruise on the Pearl for the trans Atlantic passage in April/May of 2019 and are looking forward to seeing England, France and Ireland. We would recommend sailing on the Pearl this summer since it is the first time the ship has been in Europe. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Staff and servers were wonderful. Staterooms were very nice with plenty of room for 2 people. Attendant was very good. Ports were fun as long as we did our own thing. My biggest complaint is the pool deck ambience. Many patrons asked ... Read More
Staff and servers were wonderful. Staterooms were very nice with plenty of room for 2 people. Attendant was very good. Ports were fun as long as we did our own thing. My biggest complaint is the pool deck ambience. Many patrons asked for music but were refused over and over. Don't understand why a pool deck can't have music playing. Lots of cancelations of live music and activities. Food not good. Didnt realize all the dining rooms serve the same thing. Food never was changed up. Same entres over and over for 14 days. Desserts were awful. Only thing eatable was ice cream. Excursion desk was never open. When it was lines we extremely long. Agents new nothing about excurions except what they could read from the computer. Entertai ment was very poor. Not many activities worth doing. Many cancelled or just not happening. Embarking and disembarking was lines around the buildings and ships. Poor planning. We still had the trip of a lifetime and we made the best of it, but I didn't think the food and entertainment were going to be so disappointing. Read Less
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
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
Sail Date December 2018
I chose this cruise by the Ports that I have not seen yet. The price was good so I did some research of the ship and just winged it at the ports, all worked out well as it could possibly be. The ship is kept clean, as there are ... Read More
I chose this cruise by the Ports that I have not seen yet. The price was good so I did some research of the ship and just winged it at the ports, all worked out well as it could possibly be. The ship is kept clean, as there are always crew members working around the ship wiping, vacuuming and shining. the cabin was small but livable for the 2 week cruise. Cabin steward was good at keeping us happy and there was always a towel animal at nights turn down. Dining was good at both main dining rooms and the buffet as well. I have no complaints of the service there. There is an abundance of musical entertainment thought-out the ship going everyday. The latin band, Avalon, was great, but were mostly in the Atrium where there is rug, so dancing was a laborious effort. We found that we could dance on the deck above, deck 8 in front of the O'Sheehans restaurant on a Vinyl floor with no trouble to anyone. There is a dance floor on deck 13 in the Spinnaker lounge where bands are rotated in daily, so that was a nice change from the rug in the Atrium. The productions shows in the Theater were all good, as well as guest entertainers and the crew productions. The crew on NCL are a happy crew, always greeting you and respectful. The ports were interesting, with shuttles to get out of the container area of the port in Columbia then easy walk or taxi to see the city. Most of the other ports like Colon, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Jamaica, you could walk in to town or catch a taxi right in port. I was never wowed on this cruise, I have been wowed before with NCL but not this time. It was good but not a "wow"! Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Timing was good for this 2 week cruise, schools not out yet, Christmas holidays not started. I enjoyed the exercise we were able to get while walking the decks, climbing the stairs. There was so much food available all the time, instead of ... Read More
Timing was good for this 2 week cruise, schools not out yet, Christmas holidays not started. I enjoyed the exercise we were able to get while walking the decks, climbing the stairs. There was so much food available all the time, instead of pigging out we elected to eat at the Indigo Restaurant every night. Small Portions of delicious food were served to us by friendly waiters. It was a better experience than eating in the busy Garden cafe. The gym was very nice, I had a new experience while running on the treadmill in choppy seas, swaying side to side, recruits a lot more muscles! Every morning we had fresh coffee and continental breakfast delivered to our cabin, this is complimentary and was much appreciated.As long as one places the order card outside the cabin before 4am. Our main focus was to see the Panama Canal and visit Cartagena and Santa Marta in Colombia. We were blown away by the cruise ship passage through the Panama canal. So happy we had our own balcony to watch it all. Grand Cayman was cancelled due to bad weather, we were not bothered, we found the other ports in Ochos Rios, Puerto Limon and especially Costa Maya in Mexico to be tourist traps. One had to dodge a lot of touts and taxis, which we did, we had to walk quite far to try to find authentic areas. Costa Maya was a total tourist trap, so we chilled at a cafe in sight of the ship and enjoyed decent wifi for a change. We didn't do any of the shore excursions, preferring to explore on our own. Harvest Caye in Belize, is a man made island constructed by Norwegian cruise lines, for their exclusive use. So we never saw anything of the real Belize, but actually enjoyed a lovely day on a very nice beach with lots of comfortable beach chairs. It was good to escape from the ship for a while and get away from an abundance of mobility scooters on board. We enjoyed the Jacuzzi on the pool deck, we went in the evenings when everyone else was having dinner. Very relaxing for sore muscles. I appreciated that we had beach towels put in our cabin. The room stewardess was outstanding. Fresh towels and sheets and the place was spick and span every day. The wifi on board is terrible. Even though we bought the package. It is well worth it to buy the in house texting app they offer on board NCL for around $9.95. As you can communicate with all friends or family on board the ship, Texting and sending pix and also scroll through daily event calendar. We did not enjoy the ships entertainment much, except for an exceptional Latin band called Avalon, they were terrific. Everyone danced when they performed.We found a lot of the organized activities on offer a bit childish and uninteresting for us. Others may enjoy them. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Always wanted to go on the Pearl and to the Panama Canal. It was a great cruise other than the weather got kind of rough . The food was good but after the first week started looking all the same. Loved O'Sheehens Bar. Our ... Read More
Always wanted to go on the Pearl and to the Panama Canal. It was a great cruise other than the weather got kind of rough . The food was good but after the first week started looking all the same. Loved O'Sheehens Bar. Our bartender Will from China was the greatest and made the best drinks. There was a waitress there that was also great. I just can't remember her name Our cabin steward was always willing to help and was really good . Entertainment was also good just wish they had more of the shows with the dancers. Cabin was small but great for 2 people not anymore than that. We didn't get to go to Grand Cayman because of rough weather and in Cartegena the tour bus drivers went on strike so we missed that excursion, the others were really good. Even with some of the not so good things that happened I would go again on the Pearl , she is a very pretty ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 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
Sail Date November 2018
14-Day Panama Canal Round-trip from Tampa November 25-December 9  Norwegian Pearl Embarkation We stayed just outside Tampa the night before and drove in Sunday morning. We parked just across from the terminal and ... Read More
14-Day Panama Canal Round-trip from Tampa November 25-December 9  Norwegian Pearl Embarkation We stayed just outside Tampa the night before and drove in Sunday morning. We parked just across from the terminal and got to the check in point around 10:30. These steps were all painless. We did wait a while with a terminal full of people to board the ship. When we did board with our carryons with the first group we went straight to Summer Palace for lunch. We checked our cabin right after and it was ready so we dropped the bags there and went up top. Cabin Our cabin was 9610, a balcony cabin. We were glad to have upgraded to the balcony with such a long trip. Our room steward was fine. He was friendly the first couple of days then very cool after that. I have no idea if we offended him in some way. We had zero special requests and I always tidy up on my own as much as I can. We always had clean towels, a perfectly made bed and towel animals every night. We usually have a relationship with our steward so this was different. Internet I bought 250 minutes which I thought was a crazy amount of internet time. Latitudes Gold added 30 minutes so I thought I’d be online plenty. The WiFi is insanely slow and some days I couldn’t accomplish anything at all while the minutes burned. We have 2 kids and I thought 2 weeks was way too long to be out of touch. If I did this cruise again I would buy unlimited or none at all. Live and learn, I guess. App Communication Package I hadn’t given the app communication much thought. We ended up getting it at 9.95 each for two weeks and it was well worth the money. My husband and I are rarely in the same place during the day so this was most helpful. You can call or text, even send pictures. That’s what I did when I got the where are you message. I’d take a shot of what I was looking at and it worked. If you were on this trip I was the one who always had a book with me. I sat in the window seats down the hall, in the library, even before the show in Stardust. Laundry We sent out a very full bag around the halfway point to be washed and folded for 19.99. We got half off with Latitudes so it was around 10 dollars. Well worth the money in my opinion. Ports This was a port heavy cruise. Most ports we walked around if there was an area close by. We did the trolley tour in Cartagena. Our favorite day was in Harvest Caye. It was a beautiful and relaxing day. Dining In the interest of full disclosure I am the pickiest eater I’ve ever known. That being said we both thought the food was very good. We had breakfast mostly in Summer Palace. One morning we went to O’Sheehan’s and three mornings we went to the Garden Cafe. Lunch was where I ran into trouble and it wasn’t the food but variety. We had ten port days out of fourteen so those days we had a choice of the buffet or O’Sheehan’s. I really liked the open faced turkey sandwich but not every day. Buffets are always tricky. I like only a handful of things so I usually had pizza and salad. The chicken salad was excellent. We ate in Summer Palace every evening except one. That night we went to indigo. It was fine. It had the exact same menu but we much preferred the atmosphere in Summer Palace. As a side note, I called the Garden Cafe ‘Survival of the fittest’ because people acted like NCL was going to run out of food. I hate the pushing and shoving and line jumping. A couple of mornings we went up early and very much enjoyed being able to choose food items in a calm environment. I’m not built for wrestling for food. Spa/Fitness We got the thermal spa pass for my husband and he thought it was the best money we spent. He especially enjoyed the view as we went through the Panama Canal locks. I had three spa treatments and they were very helpful. I used the treadmill in the fitness center a few days but mostly I walked on 7. I did Latin Fitness with Yvette by the pool on three mornings and the class was great. Entertainment This area is subjective so I understand not everyone will agree with this assessment. My favorite show was the Legends concert with Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Elvis impersonators. We also really enjoyed the acrobatic duo. I can’t for the life of me remember their names. We thought the entertainment overall was good. I understand why young people wouldn’t be crazy about some of it. Staff We thought the staff was top notch. We especially appreciated the Summer Palace staff since we spent so much time there. Debarkation We carried our luggage off and were called around 8:00 am. The line to get off was long but all things come to an end. We finally cleared the terminal after 9:00 am. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
The ncl pearl has many varieties of activities for any age including bowling. At times multiple activities have been booked in the same venue at the same time. But the staff sorted it out and made applicable changes. The garden cafe has ... Read More
The ncl pearl has many varieties of activities for any age including bowling. At times multiple activities have been booked in the same venue at the same time. But the staff sorted it out and made applicable changes. The garden cafe has plenty of seating, however at peak times you may choose the italian restaurant for additional seating or choose the great outdoors. There seemed to be 6 hot tubs advertised, but 2 of the hot tubs are in the heaven suite area only and not accessible. However, for sun bathers there is plenty of room and many lounge chairs to choose from on deck 12, 13 or 14. The service is good, find your server in the main dining room you are happy with. We are thankful, that the main dining room (summer palace) had always the option available to have a table for two. We would have liked to find out more about this summer palace dining room "theme" as it resembled a touch of russia in 1905? We could not find details or missed that info on it. We have taken a fair amount of shore excursion and made ourself to mistakes. We do not drink, but booked the tour " a taste of caymen" which you will get many samples of beer and rum and some rum cake. Another excursion which we experienced was the "discover rio dulce" in santo tomas. If you like speed boating on the ocean sitting on a fibreglas bench than that tour would be for you. But than again a sore bum and some back pain come free. Our tour guide was a little bit to pushy as we came of the ship after lunch and he brought us within the hour to a restaurant in livingston were we supposed to have lunch; we guess he does not know some main features of taken a cruise. Again it still has been a positive experience, no complaints, but make sure you are in a fair physical shape to take the rio dulce excursion. we would almost say that the excursion in panama city " the shaping of panama" has been an eye opener. First you see all the very special architectural high rise buildings, but just around almost every corner you see the run down buildings or metal sheds which are inhabited by misfortunate panamanians either by choice or by the own outlook. However, they may be happy in their own way of life. So much for the differences we have in our lives. Coming back to the ncl pearl, as said before all was very well and we would go again on any regular sized ncl ship (we skip the very large once). Please one improvement needs to be done and should not be blamed on the hardworking custom officers at the disembarkation. It would have been appreciated, if jodie the cruise director would have come on the intercom to say that there is a delay of one hour or whatever applies. But instead we heard only around 11am the information that now all colours can disembark. As the fact stands: our time to get of the ship was 9.30am and we actual came off the ship almost at noon, just before the new boarding started. HAPPY CRUISING Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
The Panama Canal cruise was on our bucket list. We are into our 70s and both have some chronic health issues, so we wanted to get this off of our list. We chose the aft facing cabin so we had a 180 degree view when going through the ... Read More
The Panama Canal cruise was on our bucket list. We are into our 70s and both have some chronic health issues, so we wanted to get this off of our list. We chose the aft facing cabin so we had a 180 degree view when going through the canal. This was a great choice and we loved sitting on our balcony and enjoying the view. Even was nice in some of the ports. Embarkation had some issues. The lady who was keeping track of those who required wheel chairs overlooked my name and I was one of the last wheelchairs on board. The gentleman who took me on board whizzed us through the ship and down to lunch in the Summer Palace, dropped us off, and our lunch was great. We had easy access to our daily dining there. However, there was a "burp" on the second night of dining. I was wearing shorts (everyday on board) and we took the elevator from deck 11 down to deck 6, which is the handicapped entrance to the restaurant. Deck 7 is the regular entrance with two flights of stairs required to get in. Well, on this night, we walked in on the handicapped ramp and were met by the Maitre' D who pointed to my shorts and said I couldn't come in, since I wasn't wearing long pants. He was very adamant about it and immediately called The Indigo Dining Room and said he was bringing us down there (no dress code there) and he escorted us (very quickly) through the Atrium and down another elevator to the Indigo, taking us right in (ahead of about 30 people in line) and seated us and with a "sorry", he disappeared. Then, about 5 minutes or so later, in comes the ships Restaurant Manager shows up with (I believe) the Hotel Manager and they both were very apologetic about what had happened and offered us a complimentary bottle of wine. They were classy in the way they handled the apology and they made sure to speak to us whenever they saw us on board. They did point out that there was signage at the entry to the restaurant regarding dinner dress codes. But, I pointed out that we never entered the restaurant on Deck 7 and there was no signage on Deck 6 (the handicapped entrance) They apologized for that, later, and said signage would be put on that entrance too. They also pointed out that the dress codes were printed in the daily Freeystyle newsletter. It was in there, but buried. Anyway, I screwed up and they screwed up and we were happy during the cruise. Another incident occurred during the Cruise Critic Roll Call Meet and Greet which was held in the Bliss Nightclub at about 11am. We arrived and were sitting with some others near the entrance of the club. The Norwegian Captain and Management team arrived and suggested we all move to the stage area. Well, the lighting was dim to dark and I nailed my shin on one of those small bolted down cocktail tables. It hurt, I almost fell, but we moved on up with the others and sat through the meet and greet. When we left, we went back to our cabin to asses the damage and I had quite the abrasion to my left shin and had bled through my compression sock. We bandaged it up (since I had those supplies with us for another issue) and continued on with our day. We went to the service desk to see if a report needed to be made. The gentleman there said no. However, later on we met with the Customer Relations Manager and she said she saw me hit the table and was looking for me later. She said to go to Medical and they would do a report and take care of the injury. Well, Medical is open from 7:30am to 9am and 7:30pm to 9pm. We filled our a medical report and while waiting to see the doctor, two security officers came in and it was like the "Norwegian CSI" They took another report, took pictures of my leg, what shoes and braces I was wearing, and my cane. Then, one of the took my wife back to the Bliss (3 decks up and on the other end of the ship and going through the Atrium crowd on the ship while he carried my wife's purse, we guess so she wouldn't run away?) He looked at what my wife thought was the right area (in the dark) and then came back to Medical. By then I had seen the good doctor and one of the nurses was bandaging my leg. I was already on an antibiotic and they said to monitor it. The next day we had a bottle of wine and a cheese plate waiting for us in our cabin. This did not include a bottle of wine that the Restaurant Manager gave us earlier. By the way, we did see the Summer Palace Maitre' D on numerous occasions and I think he tried to avoid us. All in all, it was a memorable cruise (in more ways than one) and one we'd highly recommend to anyone wanting to transverse the Eastern Locks of the Panama Canal. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Loved there were 3 combinable promo's which made this cruise very cost effective. The NCL staff and entertainment was phenomenal and the food was generally very good with a few exceptions. Some excursions were not worth the time or ... Read More
Loved there were 3 combinable promo's which made this cruise very cost effective. The NCL staff and entertainment was phenomenal and the food was generally very good with a few exceptions. Some excursions were not worth the time or money but some were fantastic so it was a mix. It's always good to experience other countries and cultures so I'm glad we took this trip but we'd skip going back to a few. NCL's island, Harvest Caye, in Belize had an amazing beach and pool, as well as many shops and even a small zipline. The only down side was that you had no ship privileges even though NCL owns the island so food and drinks are on your own. We had an obstructed OV room and, although a bit small, it was laid out to make use of space very well. In fact, it had more drawer space than we needed and this was a 14 day cruise! The only complaint would be that there is absolutely no soundproofing and you can hear everything being said in the adjacent cabins. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
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