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209 Norwegian (NCL) Tampa Cruise Reviews

We never sailed Norwegian before but have been on all the other lines previously and this being our tenth cruise I will compare it to other experiences. We did not want a mega ship so we choose the Pearl for this reason and the ports it ... Read More
We never sailed Norwegian before but have been on all the other lines previously and this being our tenth cruise I will compare it to other experiences. We did not want a mega ship so we choose the Pearl for this reason and the ports it was stopping at and being 11 nights also appealed to us. The embarkation took about an hour we arrived at noon on their transfer service the lines were not too bad overall. First impressions of the Summer Palace dining room was that it seemed out of date with the décor however the service and the lunch were fine. We are not buffet people but utilized 2 times once for breakfast due to an early excursion and it served it's purpose nothing out of the ordinary. Lunch one time we had a 1.00pm departure from St. Thomas and the only option for lunch was the buffet what a disaster!!!! not enough seats for everyone and lots of confusion we ended up eating in separate tables because I wasn't facing that mob again!! We only had to eat the main dining room 3 times and specialty restaurants the remainder the dinners were uninspiring similar to Applebee's or Bob Evans quality in my opinion. The specialty restaurants were great we tried them all except Teppenyaki service and quality of the food was fine dining too bad it will cost you after tip roughly $100.00 for 2 people not counting drinks. This is where cruising has downgraded the last 20 years the food budget 10 years was cut 50% per passenger and further since there wasn't any specialty restaurants because the food in the main dining room was excellent! The ports were fine and getting back on the ship was painless I just wish that we did not leave at 1.00pm at 2 of the ports 5 hours limits your excursion choices. Norwegian's entertainment was lackluster and so repetitive the same 4 acts 5 times during our cruise really! The comic was good and the legends show were the best. The daily entertainment especially on sea days was a snooze fest activities with prizes takes away all incentive for people to participate. Norwegians upcharge fest was annoying by the end of the cruise I mean there is a fee for everything!! Wine tastings=fee Tequila Tastings=fee Deal or no deal=fee the list goes on and on. We had the ultimate beverage package as a promo which was nice but limited be sure what you order is covered before they pour or it's a upcharge! We had a good time and met some exceptional staff members and I filled our comment cards on all of them this is where Norwegian shines the staff and keeping everything clean and you will never be wanting for a drink!! We haven't cruised for 6 years and visited resorts instead we will cruise again but II think it will a more intimate experience that will be more like the golden age of cruising and all inclusive no surprises or upselling Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Being the first time on Norwegian we weren’t sure what to expect but we were quite underwhelmed overall. The ship was clean and easy to get around but there was no grandeur when you first step into the atrium as we had with any and ... Read More
Being the first time on Norwegian we weren’t sure what to expect but we were quite underwhelmed overall. The ship was clean and easy to get around but there was no grandeur when you first step into the atrium as we had with any and all of the seven Carnival ships we’ve cruised on. We ate in the both of the main dining rooms (same menu in both - disappointing as you had to dress a little more formal for summer palace) and we kept waiting for some real seafood which didn’t happen until the third or fourth night and then it was coconut fried shrimp... no Lobster EVER. On a 7+ day cruise Carnival still serves lobster! The Asian fusion restaurant did have a garlic lemon shrimp that was amazing this was our go to restaurant the remainder of the cruise although the menu is the exact same every night. The rooms were fine small but we always choose an interior for cost as we are rarely in the cabin. The shower however is wonderful and goes to Norwegian! Carnivals have a small corner shower with a curtain that tends to get stuck to you where Norwegian has a large sliding door! We did not participate in the drink package however this too goes to Norwegian as they are unlimited and you can get two at a time unlike Carnival where you get 1 every fifteen minutes and max out at 15. The entertainment was blah and the same old same old! Carnival has the comedy club which we love with different comedians and both family and adult shows nightly. Ports of call were amazing, my favorite itinerary to date! Grand Cayman - tender port and a little pricey. Aruba beautiful, friendly and welcoming. Bonaire - snorkeled here on Kline island and wow is all I can say. St. Lucia - toured the island and then to beach! All was great with exception of volcano...a little misleading as they say you go into the volcano but still interesting. St Kitts gorgeous beaches and island. St. Thomas Meghan’s bay is a must do! Embarking and disembarking was easy with no huge waits! Overall a great cruise with sunny weather but we will stick with Carnival! Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
This cruise would be perfect as a first cruise. It gives you a taste of everything cruise without being overwhelming. However, when comparing it to other cruise experiences, it was not one of my favorites. It tended to lean more towards ... Read More
This cruise would be perfect as a first cruise. It gives you a taste of everything cruise without being overwhelming. However, when comparing it to other cruise experiences, it was not one of my favorites. It tended to lean more towards an older population as did the activities. The best part was Cagny’s. It was wonderful. The most annoying part was the hard-sell personal trainers in the spa. I just wanted to use the thermal spa in peace but was aggressively approached by them several times when I went there. The cabins are fine. Small but well kept. The room steward was good. The layout of the cabin is nice and the furnishings were decent. The bed was very comfortable. The on-board entertainment was mediocre. There wasn’t much happening in the evenings that made us want to stay up late and party. We chose to book excursions on our own. We enjoyed what we did but we found them on trip advisor. They were more appealing and less than half the price. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
We chose this cruise because we joined a group of friends and family that had already booked. Getting on the ship was smooth. Our cabin was adequate but having a place to sit other than the bed would have been nice. The stateroom attendant ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we joined a group of friends and family that had already booked. Getting on the ship was smooth. Our cabin was adequate but having a place to sit other than the bed would have been nice. The stateroom attendant did a nice job but did not visit our room on the last night. We were not impressed with any of the food onboard and the service we received in any of the complimentary dining options was awful. The waiter in OSheehans made snide comments when we made any extra requests and we did not have a meal that was not served to the wrong person. Dining was very disappointing. Multiple times I was given somebody else’s ship card after ordering and our waiter could not keep track of what we ordered. The bar staff were all amazing and the piano guy was incredibly entertaining and engaged with the crowd. The entertainment in the theatre was great. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
Late docking at 3 of 4 ports. This cut into our vacation time! Setvice at the nain dining rooms was pretty bad. Service at the cadino bar wad careless. The room steward was great. The inside rooms are small but at least everything ... Read More
Late docking at 3 of 4 ports. This cut into our vacation time! Setvice at the nain dining rooms was pretty bad. Service at the cadino bar wad careless. The room steward was great. The inside rooms are small but at least everything fit. We left on St. Patrick's Day but there was little decoration or celebration.. One of the pools and two hot tubs were closed the entire time. The casino slots were old and tihht. The payouts werent n big. If you.lose more than #300 ,you won't make it back up. Walk away. The Harvest Kaye port is owned by NCL. Not very impressive and the shore excursions were pricey. Roatan Bay was kind of scary. Armed guards coeld be seen on the streets further into the island. The Chizen Iza tour has a sickening 45 mimute ferry ride to Playa Del Carmen. Costs Maya was actually fun. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
We are long time cruisers, but this was our first Norwegian Cruise. We were very underwhelmed; we liked the laid back cruising, but there were not enough activities.The Entertainment staff was severely lacking- they had a trivia on cheese ... Read More
We are long time cruisers, but this was our first Norwegian Cruise. We were very underwhelmed; we liked the laid back cruising, but there were not enough activities.The Entertainment staff was severely lacking- they had a trivia on cheese (yes, cheese). We happened to be in Schooners lounge while the cheese trivia was taking place; the staff person couldn't pronounce the cheeses and kept saying how they've never heard of those kinds of cheeses before. Tried to attend the deal or no- deal game to be told there systems were down. Stayed up late one night to watch the magic act, walked out after 10 minutes. We just did not understand the show at all, singing opera while performing magic is impressive, but not very captivating. We did enjoy the variety of food on-board there were plenty of options. Cagney's was a delight, Moderno was so good we ate there twice (the pineapple is delicious). My favorite dessert the whole trip was the brownie cheesecake from O'Sheehans Pub. We loved the spa and did not feel pressured by the up-sell after treatment. Enjoyed 4 very relaxing massages and a facial. We were not impressed with our Room Steward. Upon embarkation we were told our room was ready. When we arrived in our stateroom we found the previous occupants trash in the shelf of the closet. The trash was there for our entire trip. I even left a small sticky note with it indicating it was from the previous occupants and it needed to be removed. The steward never picked up empty glasses left on the shelf next to the door. We never received a room service menu- I called and ordered coffee for delivery the next morning and it never showed up. Loved the washy- washy and insistence that everyone washes their hands with sanitizer. The songs were catchy and I sometimes hear myself singing the phrase "I want to wash your hands" . With all of the hand sanitizer my cuticles were really dried out. We did not have any lotion so had to buy some at the spa. On all other cruises we have been on lotion is provided in our stateroom, not sure if it was a Steward issue or that Norwegian just doesn't provide lotion. Embarkation was a joke; we had to pick a time of arrival in the online check-in process, apparently everyone decided to show up at 11:00am we were backed up to the street and had to go through a maze of queue lines. Disembarkation was a mess; we were given zero information on Norwegian's process. Had we not been experienced cruisers we would have had no idea we needed to be out of our room at a certain time. Thankfully we always self assist. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
Very unmemorable cruise event. Overcrowded pool and hot tubs. We didn't;t get in pool or hot tubs as seemed at risk for germs with side by side throngs of people really-really drinking. Ship decor-tired; food in restaurants was ... Read More
Very unmemorable cruise event. Overcrowded pool and hot tubs. We didn't;t get in pool or hot tubs as seemed at risk for germs with side by side throngs of people really-really drinking. Ship decor-tired; food in restaurants was average but low quality in buffet dining room as was always cold (if supposed to be warm); desserts and breakfast rolls 100% pre-packeaged, dried-out, cardboard-like and high sugar-fat content. fresh fruits were good. Stopped at Freeport as was unsafe to ferry to original stop. Freeport was a dreadful, depressing collection of dirty shops desperate for tourists to buy any type of junk. There was nothing we wanted to buy and absolutely nothing to see in the tiny area in which we were let out in. Such a disappointment and cruise-line did nothing to make it better like a champagne toast or absolutely anything.Cruise-line very intent on selling anything and everything (art, jewels,casino...) Norwegian typically has really good entertainment but only one evening was really special-rest so-so. Do not recommend this ship at capacity; only recommend sit-down restaurants and really think not a memorable vacation experience. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
I spent 4 days on the Norwegian Pearl with a group of 11 other college students. We chose this cruise for its price, and because it would allow those in our group who were under 21 to cruise without their parents (we would have chosen ... Read More
I spent 4 days on the Norwegian Pearl with a group of 11 other college students. We chose this cruise for its price, and because it would allow those in our group who were under 21 to cruise without their parents (we would have chosen Carnival instead had they allowed it, I think). But this ended up being a really nice choice and despite some hurdles we all had a great time. The purchase and online check-in were pretty painless and straightforward. The cheapest option was to split our group into three groups of four in interior cabins. As Florida residents, we weren't interested in spending time in Tampa so we showed up close to departure. The check in process was pretty painless too, except for one member of our group who is in the US on a student visa. The check in desk bungled her process pretty badly and kept repeatedly telling her that her papers were expired even though she had everything together and it clearly said on the front of her papers that they weren't set to expire for quite a while. She spent a good half hour scared that she wasn't going to be allowed to get on the ship. When we got onboard we went straight to our cabins, which were a little cramped but still comfortable. Our room had two twin beds set up when we walked in and when we came back later our luggage had shown up and an attendant had set up a third bed in the middle and pulled a fourth bed down from the wall. Everyone had space to sleep but it was a little tricky managing four people plus four people's luggage in such a small area. It was a little disorienting to wake up at 10am and have your room be pitch black, but that comes with the territory of not having a window. The ship looks like it was decorated at least 20 years ago and some of the carpet is peeling but overall it was clean and nice to explore. The food is plentiful and pretty decent, and all the staff I met were very sweet. There are two pools on the top deck, and four hot tubs with a small covered stage in the middle. They blast music from there from 11 to 1 every day and it's a little obnoxious, but people have a pretty good time to it. The drinks are expensive and light. If you want a spot in a hot tub or a nice spot on the deck you have to get there early or fight for it. There are a lot of people who camp out in the hot tubs for hours and won't leave, and if there are too many in there a lifeguard will come over and tell you to clear out. They spend as much time doing that and patrolling the deck as they did watching the water, which peeved me a little as a lifeguard myself. There wasn't much going on in the pools, though, as they were pretty cold and the weather took a bit to warm up. Also, we didn't find out until we got onboard that this was supposed to be a Trailer Park Boys themed cruise that didn't sell out completely. That explained all the camo people were wearing. Probably about half the ship was there for that, a quarter were students on spring break, and the rest were families. The arcade was great fun and we played a lot of air hockey and guitar hero. We really enjoyed the rock wall too. Most of us only managed to attend one show on board - the magic show - which was cute but overall pretty mediocre. It felt a bit like we were just killing time. We showed up to the Spinnaker Lounge for a scavenger hunt event that seemingly never happened. The club is nice but the music is a bit iffy (a lot of Bruno Mars remixes, for some reason). So overall the entertainment provided was a bit scarce but we made our own fun. And there's plenty of room for it. The decks are great to explore and the ocean is really beautiful, plus you can play shuffleboard or giant chess while you're watching the horizon. The ship seems to shut down at night for cleaning so there are no chairs on deck or anything but the employees don't seem to mind if you're out there. As for the food, we had a dinner reservation at the Summer Palace dining room every night so we could all eat together. Every single night without fail they claimed that our reservation didn't exist. Luckily we had printed out papers that showed otherwise, but it was a bit annoying. We probably could have sat together on most nights without a reservation anyways since it seemed to be pretty empty. The food was pretty good but not great, but there was a lot of it and the staff were super sweet once we were sitting. We had lunch at Lotus Garden one day where the food was a bit disappointing, and had the rest of our meals at Summer Palace or the buffet. The soft serve machines sprinkled through the buffet were a big hit, as were the employees strumming a guitar at the entrance. We were supposed to hit Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian's private island but got diverted due to weather. They automatically refunded our excursion reservations and we didn't have to do anything but wait to arrive somewhere else. We ended up spending about three hours in Freeport instead, where we took a taxi to the beach and had a great time. Most people were angry with how long it took to get off the boat (an extra 4 hours to get to Freeport, plus another 1.5 to set up the gangway) but I'm sure a lot of that was logistical considerations. It would have been nice if it had gone a bit more smoothly, but what can you do? Overall it was a nice first cruise experience and a really good time, especially for the price. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
Disappointed that we didn’t receive any of our Platinum latitudes benefits except priority embarkation and dis embarkation. Would have been nice to get water bottles. The wine is unnecessary. Difficult to get drinks. Not enough waiters. ... Read More
Disappointed that we didn’t receive any of our Platinum latitudes benefits except priority embarkation and dis embarkation. Would have been nice to get water bottles. The wine is unnecessary. Difficult to get drinks. Not enough waiters. Long lines at the bars. Confusion on the part of NCL stafff as to what benefits we would get on a 4 days cruise. Cabin small but we expected that of an inside category. Entertainment poor. The welcome aboard show had no singers and dancers, just a lady singing was was just fair and some kind of trick by the magician. Service fair. All in all the most disappointing out of 10 NCL Cruises. For the third time we were not able to tender to Great Stirrup Cay. We will not take a 4 day cruise on Norwegian in the future. The Spinnaker lounge where we usually spend a lot of time was closed a lot due to the charter group on board which we had no idea about when we booked. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
We were looking for a relaxing getaway but couldn’t take a whole week off work so this was a good compromise. The check in was great. The agent was friendly and efficient. We bought the beer and wine package. I think it’s a decent deal ... Read More
We were looking for a relaxing getaway but couldn’t take a whole week off work so this was a good compromise. The check in was great. The agent was friendly and efficient. We bought the beer and wine package. I think it’s a decent deal if you plan to have a few beers during each day and a couple glasses of wine in the evening. I suggest you buy drink packages before getting on. We bought on board and then we were told to go stand in a long line to actually get our key cards replaced. Staff on board were ok overall. Most seemed uninterested in guests but were adequate. We found a couple bar tenders that were great so we spent most of the cruise at the bar in the atrium. The food in the main dining rooms was mediocre and service was the same. The ship is descent but nothing spectacular. The cabin was clean and a descent size for 2. We didn’t make it to our destination of their private island due to winds but they tried to make it up by going to Freeport. As anyone who has been there can tell you, there is nothing worth seeing there. We decided to stay on the ship. On the last night of the cruise I noticed they had charged me for cocktails at dining I didn’t have. I had drank wine. I went to the guest service desk and rang a bell as no one was there. A guy came out and said “what’s up?” I explained the situation. I found him rude and unhelpful. He Explained that he needed a manager’s approval and he would have it taken off. I asked to speak to the manager and then he said he was the manager. I said if you are the manager why did you just tell me that you had to have a managers approval? He said sir you need to sto explained that he needed a managers approval and he would have it taken off. I asked to speak to the manager and then he said he was the manager. I said if you are the manager why did you just tell me that you had to have a managers approval? He said sir you need to calm down or I am not going to help you. I said to him that I am calm But don’t understand why you lied. He continued to say you need to calm down. I then said to him OK we can end this conversation but you will take it off. He said yes. Of course the next morning we received our final bills and he of course did not take it off, so I had to go back to guest services and stand in another long line to have it taken off. I haven’t heard from friends that they had had the same problem in the past on Norwegian but I have traveled several times and this was the first time it happened to me. Overall the cruise was fine and I would say go on the pearl But have no high expectations. I have traveled on Norwegian Cruise lines and many other cruise lines extensively in the past and I have to say Norwegian has declined in service. I did not receive the benefits that are listed in the latitudes program. I would say that I will travel Norwegian Cruise lines again most likely but at this point I prefer Royal Caribbean cruise lines as the service is better and you receive the benefits they promise. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
Love NCL as a general rule. Did not want to go on large ship. Had sailed on Pearl previously .this cruise was not what we had hoped. Quality of food has significantly declined from previous cruises. Specialty restaurants are not up to par. ... Read More
Love NCL as a general rule. Did not want to go on large ship. Had sailed on Pearl previously .this cruise was not what we had hoped. Quality of food has significantly declined from previous cruises. Specialty restaurants are not up to par. Steakhouse was not equal to local chain, fillet was dry and tasteless. Took just shy of an hour to receive food with ghost of server who did not bother to appear or apologize. We tried to get change in order to tip above what was already included in our drink package. Was surprised to see small charge on tab for ordering what might have been specialty drink. They offer a Premium drink package, they must be attempting to upgrade for more bucks. Past cruises offered big sales on cruise merchandise, everyone loves a bargain. Lattitudss with gold standing offered discounts in NCL merchandise but guess what? They have taken pains to remove Norwegian from most merchandise. Now shirts say Sea something or other. Why tout this as big deal when there is not much to buy to take advantage of this perk. Daily itinerary stated hig sale including t-shirts but there weren't any, not a single shirt. Sale in gift shop was to include tshirts but once again, nine were on sale. Prices were inflated, $28 for ordinary shirt. Disembarking was a mess. Passengers ended up being traffic cops, telling passengers getting off elevators, go this way or that. One employee standing at dar end by door did not make for smooth exit. Sorry you see cut backs in quality, used to brag on food but can do so no longer. One couple traveling with us will not be back. Losing customers is never a good idea, especially if they've sailed with NCL 6 times. Smaller ship meant less entertainment. No real headline acts to draw people in. Entertainment was sub par. The ship has been refitted in last few years, we had no complaints as far as our cabin was concerned, mini-suite was perfect for two. Had a few small issues first day which were quickly resolved. I would prefer visiting foreign ports rather than Florida, Key West was nice but island would be better. I believe we will cruise again, on NCL, like the freestyle method, eat when anx where you want, no forced time of table assignments. If you have never cruised NCL dont be discouraged by this negative review, NCL offers lots of plans and freedom to choose, they actually do more right than wrong. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
Sailed 8 times with NCL before. Garden Cafe( cafeteria), food variety less than seen before. Sitting design frustrating clogging felt squeezed all the time.They have to improve the availibility and accessibility of gluten free and soya ... Read More
Sailed 8 times with NCL before. Garden Cafe( cafeteria), food variety less than seen before. Sitting design frustrating clogging felt squeezed all the time.They have to improve the availibility and accessibility of gluten free and soya products. Coffee is better than ever. Dinning room, good but small portions, have to order 2 apetizer to be satisfied. Speciality restaurant booking: always no availability beetween 6 to 9 but in fact the restaurant is empty. The food quality equal the dinning room so, not worth the price. Good shows of different style. Miss a bit of classical or lounge music. Very easy to find a quiet space on decks because the music is almost everywhere and loud. Staff friendly and kind. The ship is very clean, cabins and public rooms too. The shore excursions are too expensives. We found very easily tour on shore for less than half price they asked! They have a lot of different promotions and doing a lot of sollicitation for it: spa, photos, duty free shop, cruise next. It is too much, feel harassing. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
This was our 3rd time on the Pearl, one of our favorite ships. Our last cruise on the Pearl was 8 years ago. We like the recent renovations as it made the ship seem roomier with the neutral, less busy color scheme. Our cabin (5608 ... Read More
This was our 3rd time on the Pearl, one of our favorite ships. Our last cruise on the Pearl was 8 years ago. We like the recent renovations as it made the ship seem roomier with the neutral, less busy color scheme. Our cabin (5608 picture window oceanview aft) was our first so low in the ship and we were pleasantly surprised. The cabin was small but adequate with very little motion felt in the cabin. We could get to just about everywhere on the ship we wanted to go to very quickly. So deck 5 was good EXCEPT the cabin steward was barely average. We suspect Yong was new as he seemed to be flustered often, non-responsive at times and argumentative once or twice. This is not what we have experienced on any other NCL cruise and it surprised us. Needless to say, no extra tip for Yong was left at the end of the cruise. We dined exclusively at the specialty restaurants, Cagney's, Teppanyaki, Le Bistro and Moderno. Our first night at Cagney's was disappointing, my ribeye was way overcooked and tough. Service was VERY slow. Teppanyaki, Le Bistro and Moderno were excellent, as usual. We noticed the Garden Cafe has pared down its number of lunch choices but what was offered was good. We did use room service for coffee and fruit in the morning BUT, did not get it one morning. Again, poor service.... We purchased the Thermal Suite package and that was amazing, as usual, well worth every penny. The thalassotherapy pool was heaven, the heated, tiled loungers melted away aches and pains and the view from the loungers was blissful. However, be careful when walking as the new tile is extremely slippery when wet which is always. The floor was not only "wet," it was soaked most of the time. Also, due to the limited number of heated, tiled loungers, signs were posted limiting usage time to 20 minutes. Those signs were ignored by cruisers and not enforced by staff, even when the staff was asked to enforce the time limit due to excess abuse. Staff seem uninterested in making sure the disposable cups for water were replenished or the dirty towel bin was removed. More questionable service.... We saw several shows, all were good. We spent a bit of time at the pool which is a fun location and made better since the renovation. The pool deck no longer gets so hot by mid-day that you cannot walk on it with bare feet. The new surface is a huge improvement. However, NCL specifically states that deck chairs cannot be saved. And again, this is not enforced. By 7:30 am on a sea day, you could not find a deck chair without a striped towel on it and only a handful of chairs were occupied. Either enforce the rule or remove it. As already stated above, we were somewhat disappointed with the service. The attention to detail such as getting to know you by the cabin steward, for example, was missing. Not by all, as there are always amazing staff who go out of their way on each cruise. It seemed like the staff, in general, was doing the minimum required rather than trying to go above and beyond. Usually we feel "spoiled" at the end of our cruise on an NCL ship. Not this time....sigh...maybe next time.... We did not get off in Grand Cayman as it was tendered port due to the construction at the port. We did our own thing in Cozumel and had a blast. We had an issue with our UDP caused by NCL that was could have been handled better. I requested to speak to the Hotel Director on the last full day of the cruise (which is when the issue was discovered) and was told that he was only available at 6 pm which was when we had dinner reservations. I asked if he could meet us at the restaurant but that never happened. It is very disappointing when a passenger cannot speak to an officer about an issue that was handled very poorly resulting in the passenger losing 3 hours of time on vacation due to a screw-up by NCL. Not only were we embarrassed but we were aggravated and stressed out on vacation which was definitely NOT our goal. All we can hope is that NCL reads this and learns from this type of review to consider reviewing and revamping their procedures to avoid this type of situation again. Would we go on another NCL cruise again? Yes because we know how awesome it can be. Unfortunately, this time NCL fell short. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
The Norwegian Pearl has recently been refurbished and is a beautiful ship. The food in all the specialty restaurants and the main dining room was very good. Some of the staff were fantastic. Will, the bartender in the mid-ship 8th floor ... Read More
The Norwegian Pearl has recently been refurbished and is a beautiful ship. The food in all the specialty restaurants and the main dining room was very good. Some of the staff were fantastic. Will, the bartender in the mid-ship 8th floor lounge was the best; friendly, pleasant and fun! Most of the staff were polite, friendly and service-driven. One of the female excursion desk people was rude and sarcastic but she was the only person we encountered that wasn't pleasant. The spa staff were a bit disorganized but were mostly friendly. The Spinnaker Lounge was our favorite place because the band Innovation played great jazz and very danceable music which is important to us because we are ballroom dancers. So what should have been a great vacation was nearly ruined by a poorly managed embarkation process. Tampa Bay had been shut down by the Coast Guard due to fog and the Pearl had been stranded 10 miles off the coast waiting to come into port. At first, NCL seemed to be on top of it. We got text messages telling us that the boarding process would be delayed and not to come until 3pm, and then 6pm and finally 9pm. That's where communication stopped. We arrived at 9pm along with 2000 others who waited in a very long line for several hours. In fact, we finally boarded the Pearl at 1 AM! That's right, FOUR HOURS later...no communication by NCL, no one to direct people, no attempt to accommodate all these people waiting on the streets of Tampa. Further, the lanes to even drop of luggage were blocked off meaning that all those people waiting were crating along luggage for a seven day trip. I am a seasoned traveler. I've been to 48 of our states. I've been to Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and many countries in Asia. I've also taken SEVENTEEN cruises! I don't expect everything to go smoothly. Cruise lines CANNOT control the weather BUT they CAN control the way they respond to the weather. Whoever is responsible for managing embarkation should be fired. This was an unacceptable inconvenience for hundreds of passengers. So what should NCL have done? 1) communicated to passengers NOT to come to the terminal until after 11pm 2) NOT blocked off drop off lanes for luggage 3) provided water for those standing in line 4) provided staff to direct the queues and to keep people informed of what was going on 5) apologized immediately and profusely for their incompetence 6) provided financial compensation 7) taken the elderly, the handicapped and families with small children to a safe and comfortable environment to wait 8) provided a projected sailing time for local residents and allowed them to wait at home I know all of this takes time and resources. BUT this is NOT NCL's first year in the cruising business! Are we to assume that in all of their years of operation, they have never encountered fog before? Now, all that said...the cruise was STILL very special and a great experience EXCEPT for embarkation. 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
“‘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
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
We liked ease of leaving from our home port. This was a Thanksgiving Cruise. Aft balcony cabin on deck 11 was very large. There was a bathtub with sliding doors and a commode with a door. The balcony could hold a chaise lounge, two chairs ... Read More
We liked ease of leaving from our home port. This was a Thanksgiving Cruise. Aft balcony cabin on deck 11 was very large. There was a bathtub with sliding doors and a commode with a door. The balcony could hold a chaise lounge, two chairs and a table. The casino allowed smoking and that was a negative for us. The piano bar was lively. The shows were good but no large productions like those on Royal Caribbean. The real disappointment was the quality of the food. The food tasted very generic and lacked the wow of many other cruise lines. There was no escargot, lobster or baked Alaska. The servers in the dining room never brought over fresh black pepper or grated cheese. Only once in 7 days were we asked if we would like coffee after dinner. There was no music in the dining room yet there was a large piano. The ship was very clean and lots of washy-washy before entering the Garden cafe . The adult pool was very small and lots of kids in all the hot tubs. For the same prices, I will go back to Royal Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
This was a family cruise celebrating Thanksgiving and my husband and my 80th birthday. There were 10 of us. We choose Cagney’s Steak House for our Thanksgiving dinner. We had 5:30 reservations. It was 8:30 when the last bill was signed ... Read More
This was a family cruise celebrating Thanksgiving and my husband and my 80th birthday. There were 10 of us. We choose Cagney’s Steak House for our Thanksgiving dinner. We had 5:30 reservations. It was 8:30 when the last bill was signed and we could leave. 3 hours was pure torture to sit for dinner. It was obvious they were cooking for Moderno too. The waiters kept carrying large skewers of meat out of the place. Waiting forever between courses was not what we came for. This was our 4th time on the Pearl because we love that ship and have always enjoyed our cruise and the good service. It seems that ship has made new rules about where you can play cards. The 10 of us were at that fan tail restaurant about 3 pm the first sea day and some were eating and drinking and some of us were playing cards. We were told we could not play cards at those tables. We should go to the card room. We had been there and it was full. Asked where else on the ship we could go and play cards and there wasn't anyplace. We could sit at the table and eat and drink and visit but could not play cards. This was repeated a couple days later on deck 12 out by the swimming pool tables. Card room was full so we went there and were told “no playing cards”. This just does not make any sense to us. It’s our vacation and we aren’t bothering people or making a lot of noise so what is NCL thinking? I believe this was our 15th cruise with NCL and it will probably be our last. Read Less
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
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
Sail Date November 2018
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