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350 Norwegian (NCL) Tampa Cruise Reviews

Never having cruise NCL before and reading the reviews about freestyle cruising our expectations were set fairly low, but I have to admit now it was much much better than expected. This cruise left from Tampa and we stayed at the ... Read More
Never having cruise NCL before and reading the reviews about freestyle cruising our expectations were set fairly low, but I have to admit now it was much much better than expected. This cruise left from Tampa and we stayed at the Westin Waterside. You could almost walk to the terminal/ship from there. Lots to see and do in Tampa and we wish we had a little more time to do so. The Tampa embarkation terminal was fairly small and there was a bit of standing around, but on the whole it was pretty simple getting on the ship and our room was ready shortly after arriving onboard. Overall, the ship was clean and well maintained and we never felt crowded. We did our typical first day tour and one of the highlights was the fitness center, spa and thermal suite. It was light, bright and friendly. We ended up using the free morning stretch and ab classes nearly every day. We bought the thermal suite package too and it was a great addition to our daily routine. Our room layout was as expected, but the comfortable bed was a bonus. We put a little research into it's selection and chose a mini-suite near the rear of the ship. This particular room had a much larger than standard balcony and afforded us a lounger, two chairs and a table. We traveled with another couple that had the same room directly opposite ours on the port side of the ship and they had the same set up. We couldn't have been more pleased. Interestingly, there was a big pipe break/water leak in the room next to ours. It was bad enough to move the occupants. The crew spent a day making repairs and we had a blower and dehumidifier in the hall for a few days. Other than a little noise during the day it didn't really effect us. I guess because of the inconvenience the ship gave us a $100 OBC. It was a very nice move on there part. We ate at Cagney's Le Bistro and La Cucina - all were great and highly recommended. The food was really good in all three. We also ate twice in the complementary Chinese restaurant and it was also pretty good. If I had to do it all over again, I would not eat in the main dining room. The service/staff was fantastic, but frankly the food wasn't all that good. It wasn't what I would call restaurant quality. The food in the main dining room is really my only complaint and why I rated it the way I did, The entertainment was pretty good too. Comedy, juggiling and hypnotist along with a Legends show. As for the ports - we spent most of our time at beaches and the water was a little cooler than expected. But then it was the end of the season and maybe that should be expected. Other than that, it was the standard mall of the Caribbean in every port. The bottom line for us - NCL was great and we would certainly cruise with them again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Very relaxed, flexible dining options, times and location. Did not have to be scheduled ever day hence the term vacation. Many excursions to choose from. Sea days were welcomed as were the excursion days, good ratio. Crew were friendly ... Read More
Very relaxed, flexible dining options, times and location. Did not have to be scheduled ever day hence the term vacation. Many excursions to choose from. Sea days were welcomed as were the excursion days, good ratio. Crew were friendly including cabin crew.Would do it again. The entertainment was lovely, with 2 showing times for the theatre shows. Loved the female cuban singer as well as the De Luz guitarist. Theatre was full on two occasions, had to stand. Guess that means great response from cruisers. Casino entertainment was good, slots not too tight. The drink free drink options were not clear as to what was allowed. The night time allotted was late, past midnight which was good for those who enjoyed staying out at the slots late. Disembarking was smoother than embarking, seems that the time was cut in half but overall no hangups. Lines were long and sometimes confusing coming into the port building, had to get in another line. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We chose Norwegian based on a friends recommendation. He and his family had cruised on multiple different Norwegian ships and he had nothing but praise for all. We are cruise newbies and we trusted our friend and boy are we glad we did! We ... Read More
We chose Norwegian based on a friends recommendation. He and his family had cruised on multiple different Norwegian ships and he had nothing but praise for all. We are cruise newbies and we trusted our friend and boy are we glad we did! We picked this specific cruise as it checked a lot of boxes for us. The flight from Boston to Tampa was inexpensive and there was a one way flight that was timed perfectly. Once in Tampa, we were greeted at the baggage claim by Norwegian employees who directed us to our transport bus to the port. It was busy but we were comfortable and the trip was fairly short. The port in Tampa was extremely busy and we waited for a very long time. We were early and I do not think they were working to fully capacity when we arrived. Many people in line said that it was odd to have to wait for so long to do the embarkation process. Once we cleared the security check, we got our room keys and were directed to the ship itself. We were extremely overwhelmed as we did not know what to do (or expect). We decided to just go to our room and see if it was ready. Luckily for us it was so we settled in. Once we did, we went and grabbed the first of our incredible meals on the trip. One thing our travel agent did not tell us about (we found out 8 days into the trip) is that we had 4 specialty dining meals and the ultimate beverage package. Once we figured that out we certainly took fully advantage of it. In short, the food choices were many and all excellent. We never once had to wait for a meal except for one night when we made a late reservation at Le Bistro and they were extremely busy. Otherwise we walked up to the staff and were immediately seated. The wait staff was outstanding. They encouraged us many times to try anything we wanted. We are not big eaters but we definitely once again took advantage of this. The Freestyle Daily flyer handed out each night was excellent. We used it to plan our next days adventures. We did four short excursions as well. Our first stop was Grand Cayman which was very beautiful. We took a tender (the only port which we had to do so) and that was a bit of a pain but it is what it is. The excursion was out of this world! We swam with the sting rays and did the dolphin excursion. The next stop was Aruba and since this is a place we have visited over 30 times we knew exactly what to do. We rented a car and cruised the island for the day. Very nice! Next stop was Bonaire where we did a history excursion. All good for sure. St. Lucia was the "Green to Sand" excursion which was fun and refreshing (the water!). We did the scenic rail excursion in St. Kitts which was excellent. Maybe a little long but otherwise excellent. St. Thomas was just ok. Back to the ship! The entertainment options were all excellent! We met a lot of people including a couple from California who had done dozens of cruises. One of the shows we saw was Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Elvis Presley impersonators. They were outstanding and our friends from CA said it was the best show they had ever seen on any cruise before. The cruise director Pedro was extremely friendly, funny and approachable. He seemed to be everywhere and always smiling. We did other things like played bingo, Deal or No Deal, trivia, etc. All were outstanding. Every public area of the ship was well maintained, cleaned and well stocked (bathrooms). The service was absolutely outstanding everywhere! A stand out was at the Mojito bar where our bar tenders were just so engaging they kept us coming back for more. This trip was just myself and my fiance. We had a 10th deck balcony stateroom which was excellent. Only complaint would be the bathroom which we both felt was a bit on the small side, especially the toilet. It was however always clean, well stocked and quiet. We cruised to Manhattan and had arranged for a rental car to drive the 3 1/2 hours back home. The disembarkation was a bit of a cluster to be honest. People were a bit cranky and they were a definite lack of organization on the ship. And then there is the New York cruise terminal employees. What can I say? Well, we certainly had a fantastic voyage and have already booked another aboard the Norwegian Bliss next May....coming soon Alaska! Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We chose the 11 day cruise to the Southern Carribean mainly because it was a repositioning cruise back to NY. Last month we were on the Dawn & visited the majority of the islands offered on the Pearl. All the islands are beautiful, ... Read More
We chose the 11 day cruise to the Southern Carribean mainly because it was a repositioning cruise back to NY. Last month we were on the Dawn & visited the majority of the islands offered on the Pearl. All the islands are beautiful, & worth seeing again however on a repositioning cruise your time is quite limited on some of the islands. Cruise population were mainly east coast people because of the convenience of NYC end point. This is our 2nd time on the Pearl & we have an 11 day Panama Canal cruise booked for November 2019 on the Pearl. The Pearl was our 1st NCL ship & probably my favorite ship because of its staff/crew. A lot of the Pearl's employees are on a 2nd or 3rd contracts with that ship so it was wonderful to see people that remembered you from previous visits. The employees on this ship are probably the friendliest I have encountered on a whole on my 6 cruises with NCL. Embarkation in Tampa was effortless and despite the previous cruise being a charter cruise we were on the ship within 45 mins. Disembarkation in NYC was orderly & fast too. Food on the cruise was good although on a lengthier cruise you tend to get tired of the same daily menu. For the 1st time on a NCL cruise, we had a horrible cabin steward. We tend to stay up late in the casino & get up early for daily activities so we spend hardly any time in our cabin yet our cabin was hardly ever made up. We met our steward the 1st day & he seemed lovely. However, on a sea day he was very annoyed that my husband was sleeping in late because it was a "early" day for him. We had a towel animal once in 11 days & I laughed because I couldn't figure out if it was actually an animal or if he just dumped extra towels on the bed. I decided to call it a sting ray without a tail. I've read that NCL is limiting their towel animals so maybe our steward decided to implement that policy immediately. There was a new cruise director on this ship, Pedro & the assistant cruise director was Tiara. Both were good. However, all games & activities on NCL ships are scripted & the same on every ship, down to the jokes they tell. Some cruise directors do better with the material, others are just flat. As always, entertainment is variable. The show Legends was outstanding! The aerialists are always wonderful on every ship. The production staff was really good but the stand out show for me was a singer that got on the boat at St. Lucia & was doing 2 cruises back to back. Chris Burke was amazing! He had a beautiful voice & was so humbled to be performing to a crowd that clearly adored hm. He loves what he does & it was reflected in his performances. There was a comedian named Puck that people enjoyed. I intended to see his performances but when you're doing well in the casino it's hard to leave a winning table. There was also a hypnotist named Dale k that people enjoyed. He does 2 shows on the cruise; general admission to all & adults only. Casino was more busy, consistently then other boats I have been on. All the casino staff are outstanding! All the islands are beautiful. We got to Bonaire (1 of my favorite islands) are 7am & nothing opens in Bonaire until 9:30am. St. Lucia on a Saturday is market day so except it to be hectic & crowded. St. Kitts is a beautiful island & you'll love it if you want pictures with little monkeys or to see monkeys in the wild. Once it port, don't be surprised if you unexpectedly have a monkey in your arms & your camera is clicking pictures. For $10 you can exchange the monkey for your camera/cell phone. The monkey "owners" are very adapt at maneuvering their monkey & your camera in seconds. St. Thomas was also a short visit from 7am to 1pm. Probably the most memorable for me on this cruise was entering NYC. I've lived in NYC my whole life but to see the faces & emotions of the crew/staff seeing NYC for the 1st time was amazing! A lot of the crew were emotionally taken aback seeing NYC for the 1st time & sending pictures back to their families at home. There were a lot of tears & a lot of happiness & joy seeing a famous city for the 1st time & disbelief that they were actually looking at the statute of liberty or freedom tower. Overall, a great cruise. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We chose this cruise because it went to several islands we have never visited before. It also ended in New York City, which is a place we've wanted to revisit again. Plus, we had to use our "bonus" dollars before they ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it went to several islands we have never visited before. It also ended in New York City, which is a place we've wanted to revisit again. Plus, we had to use our "bonus" dollars before they expired, so the timing, places and events were perfect. We really enjoyed the nightly entertainment in the Theater and the extra planned evenings. I think Pedro and Tiara were the BEST Ship Hosts we have ever had - and hope they will continue on as a team in the future! We also loved eating in the Summer Palace every evening with our friendly and competent table servers. They are exceptionally well-trained. The hostesses were also very accomodating. We made friends at our tables every evening. The food was also varied and well planned. We chose the Dining hall due to the smaller portions. Fred, the comedian was hilarious - but were disappointed in his Adult show. The Crew and Staff and musicians were excellent. We spent every evening Dancing in the Starlight Lounge, as well as listening to the fun songs with Patricia. Thank you for keeping the entertainment decent and family-oriented. Thank you, too, for the bottle of champagne for our 50th anniversary!! Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
The itinerary caught my eye, embark Tampa , visit 6 Caribbean ports, disembark NYC.We arrived the evening before the cruise, ate locally and got a good night's sleep at the Quality Inn. Arrived on Sunday at the port with everyone else ... Read More
The itinerary caught my eye, embark Tampa , visit 6 Caribbean ports, disembark NYC.We arrived the evening before the cruise, ate locally and got a good night's sleep at the Quality Inn. Arrived on Sunday at the port with everyone else going on the cruise ( or so it seemed) ,boarded about 1 hour 15 minutes after arriving. The Pearl is an older, smaller ship but in my opinion a nice ship to spend 11 days aboard. An adult pool as well as a children's pool is always a nice touch. The chair hogs were out in force & policing was near non existent which takes away from those fun in the sun sea days by the pool. We found ourselves hiking up to the sun deck to find chairs,ok but not easy to take a dip in the pool. The bars ,restaurants and public areas were all enjoyable.Getting reservations in the specialty restaurants was a challenge. We were forced to take an early evening dinner reservation toward the end of our cruise, either hat or a 9-10PM seating,no thanks. Indigo & Summer Palace were excellent food & service ,only one night were we made to wait for a table. The cabin was on deck 5,outside window, noise level, very quiet ( restaurant above so no noise at night).We saw several shows, all good, Stardust Theater seats were not comfortable for any length of time. The lounge entertainment was good. Casino , only one roulette table & it was always crowded.The service throughout the ship was exceptional, thank you to the crew for a great time aboard The Pearl.Loved the ports with the exception of St. Lucia ,nice Island but the excursion detoured us to a beach that was over run with locals in your face selling booze & trinkets,sometimes uncomfortably, almost threatening. Don't do the St,Lucia Beach break. We loved the other ports and the excursions chosen, all professionally run, We will sail with NCL again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
This was our eighth cruise with Norwegian, and I am happy to say they did not disappoint ! This was one of the most relaxing and fun trips I have been on. The staff was outstanding! I found them to be friendly and very helpful. Rachiel ... Read More
This was our eighth cruise with Norwegian, and I am happy to say they did not disappoint ! This was one of the most relaxing and fun trips I have been on. The staff was outstanding! I found them to be friendly and very helpful. Rachiel and Christina, both restaurant hostesses, were especially kind and helpful. They always greeted me by my name and a big smile every time they saw me. They never once forgot my name ! I found the food to be very good. My favorite, is the Le Bistro, a French cuisine restaurant. We ate there a couple times because we enjoyed it so much. Cagney's and Teppeyaki was also very good. The complimentary restaurants were just as good. The servers always made sure every meal was the way we wanted it. Our cabins were always well taken care of. No one had any complaints with them at all. We always get balconies and it is great to have your morning coffee on the balcony. You can get coffee and rolls and fruit delivered to your cabin free of charge. It is definitely worth the effort. We went to Grand Cayman, Aruba, Bonaire, St. Lucia, St. Kitt's and St. Thomas. The excursions to choose from were plentiful, We enjoyed the catamarans, snorkling and beaches. Just gorgeous ! I especially loved the BOSS Underwater Scooter Adventure in St. Thomas. It is just what it sounds like, an underwater scooter. It was the coolest thing I have done in quite awhile. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Everyone should look into this excursion. We were underwater for about a half an hour and saw all kinds of fish and sea life. We left from Tampa, but came back into New York City. It was pretty neat to pass the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island coming into port. Overall, it was a wonderful trip. We have already booked our next cruise on Norwegian. I am looking forward to our next trip! Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We recently cruised for 11 days to 6 different islands in the Southern Carribean on the Norwegian Pearl. Everything from beginning to end was absolutely wonderful! It was a repositioning cruise starting in Tampa, FL and ending in NYC! We ... Read More
We recently cruised for 11 days to 6 different islands in the Southern Carribean on the Norwegian Pearl. Everything from beginning to end was absolutely wonderful! It was a repositioning cruise starting in Tampa, FL and ending in NYC! We went to the Cayman Islands, Aruba, Bonaire, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Thomas and NYC. We took port exercusions to all these beautiful islands, each being a little different from each other making it special. We ended with a tour of NYC...always a fun time! On the ship we were treated like royalty. Every sincle crew person made us feel special. Loved our cabin steward who always would smile and ask us about our day, did an excellent job taking care of our cabin. We LOVED the beautiful Summer Palace dining room and spent every single dinner there. Our waiter Rocky was absolutely the best. We became good friends and he was an excellent waiter knowing what kind of beverages we liked and making our cruise extra special! The food on the ship was excellent. the french onion soup was the best Ive ever tasted. We were so pleased to see Kit Kat Guadalupe, Guest Services Director, and Pedro, Cruise Director who we had met on another NCL Cruise. They were warm and welcoming. We loved the shows on the ship (except for the juggler...didnt care for him...more of a childrens act), especially the Legends in Concert which included the singers and dancers on the ship...excellent! We enjoyed the dances in the Spinnaker Lounge nightly as well as the game shows (so much fun, I participated in one) and the trivia games. This was our 6th NCL cruise...already booked on another one...love NCL!!! Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
I was looking for a cruise that was low-key, relaxing, yet helped me check off some things on my bucket list. I was interested in the ports that this cruise took and I'll just say I was not disappointed! The ship itself was very ... Read More
I was looking for a cruise that was low-key, relaxing, yet helped me check off some things on my bucket list. I was interested in the ports that this cruise took and I'll just say I was not disappointed! The ship itself was very nice - the kids had a great time at the pool, they really liked the fun activities and the friendly people at the "Splash Academy" kids club. The food was great - the kids lived on ice cream and pizza while we were able to enjoy some very nice meals at the complimentary and paid restaurants. The shows were great, we always found something to do whether just walking the decks, watching a movie, bowling, shuffleboard, giant checkers. The only complaint I would have is that the pool deck was extremely crowded at all times, but that's to be expected on a sunny cruise. So many people saved their seats on deck and left for lunch or activities and you couldn't take their seats which we didn't think was fair, but that's how it works. Also - getting on the boat and off the boat wasn't great - we waited in line for a very long time (over an hour) to get both on and off the boat. I don't know if that had to do with the cruise line though, or the Tampa port itself, but I didn't remember having to wait that long when we went on our Alaskan cruise through another cruise line. Our shore excursions were definitely the highlight! The bought all of our excursions through the cruise line itself which was the way to go - one of our excursions ran long because our small boat had engine issues so we were late getting back, but we were with a big group from the ship so they waited for us. The staff was very friendly - we enjoyed the entire trip immensely! Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
Norwegian Pearl, March 10 to 17 2019. Room 8570. Obstructed ocean view. Was just like a regular ocean view room, but with a lifeboat obstructing most of the view. Plenty of light came in, and we could see the weather and a bit of ... Read More
Norwegian Pearl, March 10 to 17 2019. Room 8570. Obstructed ocean view. Was just like a regular ocean view room, but with a lifeboat obstructing most of the view. Plenty of light came in, and we could see the weather and a bit of ocean. The room was always very clean, the room steward was not very outgoing, but nice and attentive (perhaps he read me well, I am not very chatty). My favorite part of the ship is the Spinnaker Lounge. It has beautiful forward views, comfortable chairs and tables, plus they do a lot of trivia and games happen there. We are at La Cucina, Le Bistro, Moderno and Cagneys. We love Le Bistro best. La Cucina was a close second. Cagneys was excellent too. At Moderno, I liked the salad bar and sides better than the meat. If you value quantity over quality, you may like it better. Not that the meats were terrible, just not super tender like other restaurants. There WAS noticeable decline on food quality through out the week. For example, day 1, I got the burrata at La Cucino. It came with beautiful perfect heirloom tomatoes. By the 6th day when I got the same dish at the same restaurant, it came with less than ripe beefsteak tomatoes. The burrata itself was still excellent, as was the rest of the meal. I found the buffets very good right at opening, but a few thing (naan bread, eggs Benedict, pasteries) got stale as time passed. There was always coffee and tea available, and I heard the coffee is pretty good. At breakfast there is apple, orange and cranberry juice cocktail , at lunch and dinner there are flavored waters (tasted like koolaid to me) . There is a small bar if you want to purchase or use your beverage package. I did not eat in the main dining rooms much. At breakfast the eggs seemed well prepared, poached eggs had a nice runny yolk. Otherwise food quality was similar to the buffet in my opinion. I got stale waffle fries in summer palace just after boarding and that pretty much shaped my opinion. The entertainment was all very good. The evening shows 8n Stardust were exceptionally good, especially legends in concert and the comedian (both shows). The cruise director staff was fun, namely Vicky, Vaughn and Jorez. They were clear in instructions and made good jokes. The assistant cruise director Tiarra and director Ferdie were overly rehearsed, you can tell they have told the same jokes a million times, but they were decent. 8570 Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
This was a first time cruise and we enjoyed it very much. Ship was perfect size for first-timers. Staff and crew were very organized and efficient. Dining was very good, in the specialty restaurants. Dining package Great! Drinks, not so ... Read More
This was a first time cruise and we enjoyed it very much. Ship was perfect size for first-timers. Staff and crew were very organized and efficient. Dining was very good, in the specialty restaurants. Dining package Great! Drinks, not so much, we didn't drink nearly enough. The activities were very fun, cruise directors always cheerful, helpful and full of energy. The evening shows were delightful. We loved our room steward, he always kept our space clean and organized, and was available with his generous smile, always ready to help. It was amazing how hard the team in our wing worked. Our favorite port: Roatan. The zip-lines were absolutely amazing, walking distance to the port. Our guides there helped us truly enjoy the lines. it was a wonderful in every way. My daughter already made plans for another cruise. I'm undecided on taking another cruise, but I would definitely choose Norwegian again if I do. We loved the casual dress code and eating times. We could dress up when we wanted to and relax all the rest. The cruise was exactly as we hoped it would be. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
We love Norwegian because of the entertainment, food, and exceptional service. We loved the private island in Belize and especially the magicians Cassandra and Ben Nemzer, Angels, And the production shows. Our Cruise Director was ... Read More
We love Norwegian because of the entertainment, food, and exceptional service. We loved the private island in Belize and especially the magicians Cassandra and Ben Nemzer, Angels, And the production shows. Our Cruise Director was awesome. I can’t rememebr his name l, but he asked people to call him Jacky Chan because he looks like him. We have tried other cruise lines, but now we are hooked on NCL! We also really liked leaving out of the Tampa port, it was so convenient. We didn’t really like the buffet as much as the dining rooms but overall everything was great. We hope most NCL cruises are this good. Eacpeially the entertainment. (We are still talking about how they did all the tricks in the magic show and it was just beyond amazing! The music by the pool was also really nice. Getting towels was easy, and with a ship this size it never felt crowded or like I was waiting on a long line Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
My wife and i felt like a mini-vacation for some R&R was needed so a cruise popped into our head as a good idea-- we wanted something short so as not to miss too much work, that was not so expensive, and that was different (through ... Read More
My wife and i felt like a mini-vacation for some R&R was needed so a cruise popped into our head as a good idea-- we wanted something short so as not to miss too much work, that was not so expensive, and that was different (through we'd been on cruises occasionally in the past). This cruise perfectly fit the bill! This cruise was supposed to include a stop at Great Stirrup Cay (GSC), NCL's private Bahama lsland, for a day of beach and local activities with a cookout, drinks, and relaxation in general. We even got there after two days of sailing, dropped anchor, and prepared to exit the ship to board the tender. But the Captain announced there were swells east of the island that would cause difficulty and safety issues (make getting back to the ship from the tenders difficult). So at literally the last minute he canceled the visit and announced we would go to Freeport 5 hours away, dock, and have much more limited time on the ground there. Too bad, and a few hours in Freeport really wasn't worth it. Still, it was understandably the right thing to do in cancelling GSC. We got to Freeport about 1:30pm but sat in the harbour for more than 90 minutes waiting to dock, leaving a little over four hours on the ground Freeport. So this was a great cruise, but really one to no where--we got off (and got hassled and hustled) and did some straw market shopping and got right back on. Enough of that--nice try NCL...not your fault. The promotions offered by NCL were superb--and smart business. For example, we got 100 minutes internet, ultimate beverage package, shore excursion credit, and a free meal in a specialty restuarant. The 100 minutes is great to have if you don't need to keep much on contact with home but need to check in--setting the phone up for "wi-fi calling" made it snap and saved a lot of money. The wi-ft signal onboard was also awesome--I was suprised (though directions for getting on were spotty and incomplete). Needing to check in a couple times a day with home, we bought the unlimited wi-fi package and it was handy to have throughout the trip--and worked very well after toying with our phone settings for a while to get it to work. The drinks package; obviously this is what most people want to take advantage of. About $85 a day give or take, but you have to pay about 20% of up front gratuities. So my wife and I normally would maybe drink one or two drinks a day, if that, but we paid abotu $75 each over four days for the gratuities--yup, the package would normally be over $400 apiece...not worth it to us. So, they made money on us clearly by giving us the drinks package and making us pay the gratituity...made more money here had they not offered it "free." At the same time, we did come up with reasons to drink 3-5 drinks per day on average. So if you are in it to party, or to drink a lot of soda and juice along with beer, wine, and booze, the value of this promo goes way up. The package covered drinks up to $15, and one is allowed to get two at a time per plan. However, it does not cover specialty coffees like expressos or fraps or bottled water. Too bad. That would get more people to buy it. It also does not cover room service drinks or anything at all in the stateroom minibars. The "Specialty Dining Package" promo is only for one night, and while I may have missed it, this wasn't clear until I called a cruise rep. That said, we also added the 3-meal package for two and dined in Le Bistro, Moderno, Cagney's and La Cucina--a specialty restaurant each night. Maybe overkill, but from a past NCL cruise, we also like quality over the ever-present high quanities food offered in other on-board restaurants (although make no mistake, the portions are huge and short one one entree, they will bring you as much of anything else as you'd want). The food in the specialty restaurants was all very well presented, and very tasty, with great table service. As for what to do onboard other than eat and drink to excesses, I'll first offer some context on my wife and I, as this is important to address entertainment from our point of view and why we chose what we did, including the suite that we did. We are both professionals, upper middle income, in our 50s, with me also being retired military; we both have traveled extensively all over the world. We live in in the Tampa, Florida area, own a pool home, and pretty much like to get out and see and do all there is. Living in Tampa is already close to paradise, so we don't need pools, parties, and beaches on vacation. Also at our age, we like to chill with the option of doing so with or without the crowds the top deck cruise ship pools, and don't really need to be in the middle of a big party or pre-planned event to have a good time. But we do like having the opportunity to be in the mix now and then, as well as take in some other onboard activities or shows--and we did. Which gets to why picked the suite we did and why it was so perfect for us (i'll get to that later). As for onboard entertainment on this trip, there were a variety of shows, with "Angels" (acrobatic performers) being the best. I really wasn't extremely impressed with the music featured but it was okay. We know that Blue Man Group left NCL a while back, and had heard that Legends performed on the Pearl. Well, to our disappointment, not on this cruise and nothing was said about it. Nonetheless, there are plenty of classes and interest groups and theme parties and things to do. Oh yeah, we typically go to bed fairly early but are up at 5 am. So after the first night, I realized I'd forgotten to bring any ear plugs about the time the band two floors away started their finale at 1 am, or when whatever was happening the theater two floors below kicked off late in the pm. But the NCL staff was great in setting us up withearplugs for next nights. Of course, we enjoyed so much of the ship's amenties between 6am and 12pm while so many passengers were still in the rack from a good time the night before. So all worked out great. Most important we learnd is to check the "Freestyle Daily" that comes out the night before and offers all the activities and important announcments of the next day. They delivered it to our suite and left it on the bed at "room turndown" and about Day 3 it was clear to study it carefully to be best prepared for meals and shows and other events, many of which can change. it would be great if this were emailed to gain familiarity in the days before the cruise, and certainly the night before we set sail. Our most recent cruise was out of Barcelona and it was no surprise to us the ship's superb crew was comprised heavily of people from Asia and Europe. That is, all of their nametags had the Country where they from also listed; but no matter the origin they worked as a team to provide a very high level of service. So it was interesting to note this crew sailing out of Tampa was simimlar in composition, with a few folks we met being from Central and South America but again mostly Asia and Europe. For the officers, I noted the ship's Captain was from Italy, though there were some Australia and USA folks mixed in there too; the bottom line is this was a very diverse crew committed to what they are doing, and they all did it very professionally each day. The Norwegian Pearl is neither the largest nor among the smallest of ships, and of course, the amenities are named identically in many cases (i.e., restuarants and bars). However, compared to a larger ship like the Epic that holds more than thousand more passengers than the Pearl, most venues aboard are smaller. The breakfast buffet at the Garden Cafe with made-to-order omelets and a very wide variety of other hot and cold foods will suit anyone's tastes. Th Great Outdoors and Sky High Bar were great places for drinks. The Garden Cafe was a good choice for lunch--though I'd suggest they offer at least four pots stickers and two egg rolls as a starter. Yes we could order more if needed, but it did seem a bit little. We didn't care for the pizza in the Garden Cafe and the "Mexican Lunch" buffet was a disappointment, but the food overall in the complimentary eating places was just fine. The Moderno salad bar was excellent, but some of the meats seemed a little "recycled" or hanging around as there were not many guests when we went at 6pm. It is certainly "the place" if you are into eating large quanties of meat. Cagney's Steakhouse for dinner was good in most cases. However, we noted our ribeye steaks had less marbeling than normal, and were not as tender and expected and that we'd normally seen in the past. Le Bistro and La Cucina were both excellent, and the service in all places was outstanding. Mary Ann. The ship was clean (except around 9560 or so there were clearly a couple of staterooms close for sewage problems...bad smell walking through there every time). The entire crew was always pleasant...they were good at what they do and seemed to take great pride in their jobs. So what was best? The suite, and I'll explain that. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
This was our third cruise on The Pearl and again the ship and crew hit a home run. Even though this particular cruise was a half charter we didn't run into that group very often. The exception was in the hot tubs where the charter ... Read More
This was our third cruise on The Pearl and again the ship and crew hit a home run. Even though this particular cruise was a half charter we didn't run into that group very often. The exception was in the hot tubs where the charter members and spring breakers took over all of the hot tubs putting sometimes as many as 18 people in one at a time. However, to some extent this can be expected with the spring break group and was not the ship's fault. I did notice the crew monitoring and correcting the issues after day 1. The food was excellent as always I just wish they would mix up the menus more often. The food service staff was professional, personable and efficient. We were scheduled to stop at Great Stirrup Cay but were told that morning that weather would not let us tender in. Two items about this. First, NCL should seriously consider or expedite plans to build a pier at GSC. Second, why Freeport? That port maybe the worst port in the Caribbean to stop at. Again, these are not necessarily and relection on The Pearl but more so on NCL. We had a Meet and Mingle on the first day at sea at which all of the ship's key staff attended and welcomed us taking time away from what was already a busy schedule for the officers. There were plenty of refreshments and snacks provided by the ship which helped to make the Meet and Mingle a great success. It was our third trip on The Pearl, but not our last. We love this ship. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
This was a quick getaway for my husband & I. Having sailed on much larger ships before, we were slightly skeptical about this cruise. But then I read some really great reviews, & decided why not. It turned out to be everything ... Read More
This was a quick getaway for my husband & I. Having sailed on much larger ships before, we were slightly skeptical about this cruise. But then I read some really great reviews, & decided why not. It turned out to be everything we had hoped for & more! We met some really nice people; our cabin, though very small, was really well designed, we were not uncomfortable at all. The staff on the ship was friendly, cheerful, efficient, & hard working. Entertainment was good. We went to the theater 3 out of 4 nights, & we enjoyed ourselves. The Cruise Director’s staff were excellent! Very helpful, very encouraging. They drew us into lot of fun activities that we might not have otherwise participated in. The food could have been better. We ate at the Asian restaurant once, the food was really sub par. If the food was served at the right temperature, it may have tasted better. We did not go back. We ate lunch at the MDR once, it was excellent. The Indian food at the buffet, though quite good, can also be improved. There was a charter group (Trailor Park Boys) on the ship. There was initial concern about this on the boards, but as it turned out, there really wasn’t anything to be concerned about. The group was friendly & quite interesting. They were easy to spot because they kind of dressed alike! They had quite a lot of organized activities of their own. Whenever we did run into them, their enthusiasm was infectious! It was fun sharing the cruise with them. A side benefit was that the ship never felt crowded, even though it was 100% sold out. Embarkation was a breeze! The parking garage is just across the street from Terminal 3; we were parked, & checking in in no time. Disembarkation, on the other hand, was not so pleasant. No fault of NCL here, though. My husband said instead of dragging the luggage to the garage, why not have me wait at the port while he got the car. We saw other people getting picked up at the corner. But when my husband got there, the cops waved him off. I was told to cross the street where a lot of people were getting picked up. So I called my husband & told him I would meet him there. Then when I crossed the street, a cop told me he would write a citation if my husband stops the car there! So once again, I called him up, & this time I told him that I would be walking to the garage, & he can pick me up there. What???!! Things need to be more clear, & they can’t have different rules for different people! Perhaps, the Port Authority can have clear signage at the port, & NCL can guide cruisers, too. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
This was our 12th cruise with NCL and we had a great time. We spent a couple of days in Tampa ahead of our cruise and were able to check out the riverwalk, downtown and Ibor City. The ship was very clean and well maintained. Our room ... Read More
This was our 12th cruise with NCL and we had a great time. We spent a couple of days in Tampa ahead of our cruise and were able to check out the riverwalk, downtown and Ibor City. The ship was very clean and well maintained. Our room steward, Irwin, did a fabulous job and the room was always made up and ready for us. We breezed through embarkation and were on the ship in no time with drink in hand and relaxing. The weather in Tampa was a little on the cool side but once we got to Key West all was good. We did have bad weather (rain and cold) on the last sea day and when we disembarked in Tampa. I still noticed that people reserve pool loungers very early in the morning and if you aren't up there by 7:00 you may not get one, not right especially since they reserve the loungers and then don't show up until much later. I know that it says you can't but everyone does and noone enforces it. Enjoyed the entertainment especially Peter the Piano Man!!!! We had an excellent steak @ Cagney's and two fantastic meals at Teppenyaki along with all the other areas to eat on the ship. Most of the time we ate on the back of the ship having done the buffet. We enjoyed all the ports especially Key West which is my Wife's and my favorite. I already have cruises 13 & 14 booked and really looking forward to it. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
This cruise was a last moment decision to get some sun in the middle of January Weather in Minnesota. This was our 18th cruise on NCL and our 2nd time taking the Pearl to sea. We are currently Platinum Plus members on NCL's ... Read More
This cruise was a last moment decision to get some sun in the middle of January Weather in Minnesota. This was our 18th cruise on NCL and our 2nd time taking the Pearl to sea. We are currently Platinum Plus members on NCL's Latitudes Reward system. Tampa & the Barrymore Hotel: We flew into Tampa Wednesday morning, from Minnesota. We requested a taxi in the baggage claim area of the Tampa airport and it picked us up immediately and took us to the Barrymore Hotel. I gave the cab driver a $10.00 tip as he was of Moroccan decent and was a true delight during the ride. The Barrymore Hotel Tampa Riverwalk is a funky run down motel with an O.K room that served the purpose of being close to the cruise dock area cheaply. Restaurants are not in easy walking distance and the Hotel Restaurant breakfast service was very poor to non existent. So if you are walking challenged, staying at this Hotel may be a poor choice for you. The Hotel Shuttle to us to the Port at 11:00 AM on Thursday and we immediately checked in. *** People in the Embarkation waiting area need to understand that you will board the ship in a rotation determined by your Latitude level so it was chaos when individuals at lower levels were arguing with security about boarding first.*** The Pearl was: - Clean The Staff was; - Outgoing, - We had three favorite waiters/waitresses immediately. - Our Cabin Stewart (Rotessa), was very friendly, a hard worker and a delight to be around The Interior Cabin, 10105; - a Clean, Well Located, Regular sized inside cabin that made our routine on the Pearl convenient. Specialty Restaurants: - Cagney's 5 stars. (Service and food was impeccable). (2 evening meals) - La Cucina 4 Stars. (Service by "Francis", (our Waiter), is always the best). Menu is less desirable than Cagney's in my opinion. (1 Evening meal). - Le Bristro 5 Stars. Menu was extensive, Food was prepared and served flawlessly my Mary Jane and the meal was a delight. (1 evening meal) Regular Resturants: - Summer Palace. A great breakfast place. Sit and watch the sea go by and you wake up with a good cup of coffee. - Indigo was our choice in the evening. It was adequate. - O'Sheehan's; Needs a more extensive menu and add more waiters. The Menu is limited and it took over an hour to get served at lunch time. - Garden Cafe Buffet; I would recommend staying away from eating in the Buffet unless you are ready to be run over by a starving passenger that just needs to get to those french fries before you do. Food is adequate. Table cleaners are friendly, though seating capacity is limited so a table for two is at times hard to find. Casino: - Staff is very friendly and the machines, while not giving back large jackpots, kept my wife and her allotted limit in the game until Day 9. Shows: Entertainment was very limited on this cruise. Ports of Call: - Key West: Antigua: Tortola: ST Maartin: San Juan, Porto Rico: All of the ports were non eventful. No excursions were taken as I been there-Done That on [previous cruises. Did several long walks in the different Ports. Most of last years Hurricane damage has been fixed in the tourist areas. Disembarkation: - Orderly, Efficient and Well Managed. Used NCL to shuttle us back to the Tampa Airport and I was through security at the airport by 9:45 AM. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We did a good amount of research before booking our cruise, and we were pretty sure we wanted to go with Norwegian. When a great deal showed up in our email, we grabbed it. 5 night Western Caribbean with stops in Grand Cayman and ... Read More
We did a good amount of research before booking our cruise, and we were pretty sure we wanted to go with Norwegian. When a great deal showed up in our email, we grabbed it. 5 night Western Caribbean with stops in Grand Cayman and Cozumel, for 299.00. We deliberately chose the second week of January in hopes of missing a lot of 'family vacations with children'. Don't get me wrong, I love kids, mostly mine. Ha ha. But for a relaxing romantic time, I was hoping there wouldn't be an abundance of children on board, and we were right! As first time cruisers we had no real expectations other that what we gleaned from our research on various sites. First of all we booked through Cruise Direct and I was more than satisfied with the customer service and follow through. Great people over there! Secondly, every interaction with Norwegian was superb. Things ran like clockwork. Smooth and easy. Though the line was long in the terminal on embarkation day, everything was handled like a well-run machine. I was also pleasantly surprised by our inside stateroom. It didn't feel too cramped at all. Every inch of space well thought out and we had more than enough room for all of our things. Shout out to our steward ( Louie) who was a doll. The ship ( newly renovated at the end of 2017) was lovely. Sparkling clean. But more importantly, the entire staff was friendly. Everyone seemed to be genuinely enjoying their jobs, smiling, singing and making it their mission that you enjoy your time on board There were plenty of fun activities to amuse oneself... but for us, this was a romantic cruise and we didn't really partake in the activities or shows. We sat in our lounge chairs either by the pool, or on the promenade deck and watched the ocean rolling by. That's all I needed to decompress from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. One of the biggest perks of cruising is the food. I was not impressed with the food in the Garden Cafe, buffet. It was cafeteria food, with all that that implies. I was disappointed because everything LOOKED so beautiful. But it was as if all the effort went into looks and not flavor. While I'm at it... let me mention the apple pie. I've never seen anything like it, it had a gelatinous center with a few apples thrown in for good measure. Heed my warning and skip it entirely. I was expecting the food to be a little better, actually. We quickly learned to eat in the dining rooms where the food was excellent and the service impeccable. We also ate at Le Bistro ( the French Restaurant) VERY GOOD! We ate at O'Sheehans a couple of times and found everything there to be good quality. Drinks: So glad we purchased the drink package. I think it more than pays for itself,plus you don't have to concern yourself with keeping track of spending. Because without the drink package you are being charged for every soda, juice, etc. By the way...one little annoyance ... there was no COKE on board. Pepsi only. That exclusivity stuff is annoying, give people a choice. Ha ha. We loved all the live music on board. A band played at the pool every afternoon, mixing up the playlist. Loved the White Hot party. Tunes of every sort to found in the various bars and lounges. Our day in Grand Cayman was too short. No complaints other than that. Then on to Cozumel. I LOVED it. The Mexican people were so nice and welcoming. We took a taxi to Paradise Beach where we were treated like kings. I don't think I've every had a more beautiful day. And the end of the day there were even rickshaw drivers waiting to drive you back down the long pier to the gangplank if so desired. And yes, I desired. I happily paid the young lad 10.00 to carry my exhausted body back to the ship. Disembarkation ran with military precision. We opted for the paid transfer from the ship. Set out bags by Midnight the night before and cruised out of there without lugging baggage along with us. Once in the terminal, pay a porter a small fee to retrieve your bags and take them to the bus for you. Why hassle with bags and stress when you can be stress free for 5.00? The bus delivered us in air conditioned comfort to the airport where the Airlines took over and promptly ruined the rest of the trip! Ha ha We are already making our plans to return to the seas, and return to Norwegian. I happily recommend this cruise line and this ship in particular. Can't wait to book another cruise. Sold!!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We wanted a winter getaway, to a destination that we've never visited. The Price was perfect and comfortable for a party of 4. The amount of days we sailed out was perfect as well 5 days is just the right amount of days, and for sure ... Read More
We wanted a winter getaway, to a destination that we've never visited. The Price was perfect and comfortable for a party of 4. The amount of days we sailed out was perfect as well 5 days is just the right amount of days, and for sure the destination was perfect, both the Cayman Island and Cozumel were beautiful. The embarking and disembarking was easy with fast services. The cabins were always clean, and the cabin stewards was always there quick and ready to make you happy with your request. The entire ship is updated and modern. You feel like you are in a modern environment and not in an outdated ship, where it smells funky. The activities were also just right. I definitely recommend the shows and games through the ship. he staff was so professional, very quick to attend to your needs. The food was excellent, the variety of food was just exactly what we expected. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
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
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
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
Wife and I had previously sailed on Pearl about 8 years ago and loved the ship. Found it just as nice now, if not better. Ten ports in 14 nights and sailing into Lake Gatun through the Panama Canal was a wonderful experience. Our balcony ... Read More
Wife and I had previously sailed on Pearl about 8 years ago and loved the ship. Found it just as nice now, if not better. Ten ports in 14 nights and sailing into Lake Gatun through the Panama Canal was a wonderful experience. Our balcony stateroom (Deck 9) was clean and comfortable but lacked a little in storage for a 14 night cruise. We had the Ultimate Booze Package and a 4 meal Ultimate Dining Package. Drinks were excellent. We ate 3 times in Cagney's (Outstanding) and once in Le Bistro (Excellent.) The entire shipboard experience was beyond expectations. Some ports, especially Columbia, had too many locals in your face to buy something or to give them money. We succumbed several times! There were very few young adults or children, which was fine. Average age possibly 50 to 60. Many singles and lots of planned activities in the Freestyle Daily newspaper. Great value for the money and we would definitely do it all over again! Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
My husband and I took this cruise with his grandparents with the intent of having a lot of quality family time together. This was our fourth cruise, second with Norwegian. We had previously sailed on Norwegian Jade and actually came ... Read More
My husband and I took this cruise with his grandparents with the intent of having a lot of quality family time together. This was our fourth cruise, second with Norwegian. We had previously sailed on Norwegian Jade and actually came away quite disappointed, but we were willing to give NCL a second chance, and we are VERY happy that we did! This has been our favourite cruise of the four we've taken (two now with NCL, one with RCI and one with Celebrity), and our favourite ship, as well. Knowing that Jade and Pearl are sister ships, we knew what to expect size-wise from Pearl. We were very happy with the size of the ship (we were told that all rooms were sold and we were at about 2300 guests on board). It's not too big that it feels daunting if you need to get from fore to aft Very rarely did we feel crowded or have to wait at a bar or restaurant. The refurb to the Pearl (in comparison to our experience on the non-refurbed Jade) is GORGEOUS. The room decor is beautiful, clean and modern, and the public spaces are generally stunning. Service across the board was generally excellent. Drinks were the best we've been served on a cruise line -- very high quality bar-tending! Loved the bar area at Magnums/Shakers/Maltings, great atmosphere and a lot of fun. We also spent a lot of late afternoons at the bar in The Great Outdoors, nice to be in the shade but still enjoy the weather! It was rarely busy at all up there, and my husband enjoyed watching football and soccer on their TVs. Overall the food and service in the MDRs, Specialty Dining, and O'Sheehan's was very good (with the exception of the spinach dip at O'Sheehan's.... just don't bother). We are not very much buffet people, but we did grab a plate of snacks now and then to eat at the Great Outdoors bar. Buffet food looked varied and quite tasty. We had one poor wait staff experience in Moderno, where we felt very ignored by our waitress, but we didn't let that ruin the evening. Wait staff in O'Sheehan's seem the least well-trained -- any time you go off-menu or make special requests, it seems like it is very difficult for them to process. For example: I prefer milk over cream or half-n-half for my coffee. Twice when I asked for milk, I was brought warm milk, which is.... weird? I learned to clarify after that! We also visited Teppanyaki (delicious and fun, definitely get the steak!), Cagney's (SO GOOD, an the giant chocolate cake is 100% worth saving room for!) and Le Bistro (very tasty, with excellent service!). I definitely wish there was some kind of "Brunch" option on sea days. I'm on vacation, I don't want to be up and dressed for breakfast before 9am, but a 10am-12pm sit-down brunch in one of the MDRs would be just perfect! We purchased the Thermal Suite pass for the two week cruise, and it was just WONDERFUL. Beautiful space to relax, rarely crowded. We especially loved the heated loungers and the Thalassotherapy pool, but I felt the sauna and steam room temperatures were a bit high. Really well located at the front of the ship, it was a great space to view our Panama Canal transit with it's panoramic windows and tons of loungers. We got mani-pedis at the spa, the nail technicians were great and we had a lot of fun. Embarkation in Tampa was a mess. Huge lines of traffic to get into the port. Lines everywhere with no clear signage or direction as to what the line was for. Not enough porters so huge mobs of people with baggage milling about trying to check their bags... Once we finally handed over our bags and got through the first round of security, things went more smoothly. Husband and I, being returning NCL cruisers, were able to check in to the Latitudes line, and were allowed to bring the grandparents with us, even though they didn't have Latitudes status, which was quite nice. Arrived at the port around 11am, were on board at around 1:30pm. Debarkation in Tampa was a total disaster. We had train tickets for 12:30pm departure (the train station is a 5 minute drive from the port) so we chose the latest debarkation time, 10:00am thinking we'd have plenty of time to collect our bags and get to the station. THIS WAS A HUGE MISTAKE. We spent over 1 hour in line ON THE SHIP before we could even swipe off the ship!!!. Poor grandma can't stand for this long, so at about the 45-minute mark we managed to flag down an NCL employee with a wheelchair for her. At this point, seeing the status of the lines, I spoke with several NCL and port employees about our train departure time, and asked could we be escorted through the lines quicker (as we had seen several other groups go!) but to no avail. We were told there were only two customs officials clearing our ship, which explained the long delays. Luckily the wheelchair got us into ADA lines which were shorter, and the gentleman pushing it for us just kept on pushing through! Another hour in line and we had cleared customs and were flagging a cab, and so made it to the train station with a few minutes to spare. I would allow a LARGE buffer of time for Embarkation and Debarkation in Tampa port, and pack your patience. It is a disorganized mess. Ports of call were generally wonderful. 1. George Town, Grand Cayman: We booked a beach cabana at Royal Palms beach club. Great beach, wonderful service. Did some jewellry shopping in the port and came away happy with the service and prices. 2. Ocho Rios, Jamaica: We took a private cab who drove us through Fern Gully, to a few local merchant malls, and to some scenic lookouts, then to a beach for a few hours. Very friendly cab driver, beautiful scenery. 3. Santa Marta, Colombia: Again, we took a private cab who drove us to a scenic overlook and through the old town for shopping and to view the local architecture. VERY hot, we elected to return to the ship quite early. 4. Cartagena, Colombia: Another private cab day, with obligatory stop at an emerald shop. Merchants in Cartagena are VERY aggressive, you couldn't walk 5 feet without jewelry, tablecloths and knock-off sunglasses being waved in your face. The aggression really took away from our visit, it was hard to enjoy the beautiful city. 5. Panama Canal: We elected to remain on board for the day. Spent time relaxing and enjoying the view of the passage through the canal. 6. Puerto Limon, Costa Rica: We booked a tour through NCL: Aerial Tram & Rainforest Adventure. It was PERFECT! 2h bus ride with a knowledgeable and entertaining guide teaching us all about life in Costa Rica. The tram ride through the rain forest was stunning, beautiful and wild and peaceful all at the same time. Lunch was delicious local fare, beans and rice and meats, with beer and desserts available to purchase. Bus ride home went WAY longer than expected due to construction and multiple accidents, but the ship waited about 30 minutes extra for our return. Would recommend this tour to anyone, and also recommend to take through the ship due to the distance to travel. 7. Santo Tomas, Guatemala: We had booked a tour through NCL: Discover Rio Dulce, but ended up cancelling it. Our excursion ticket came with a note describing the panga boats which we would travel in as being hard to get in and out of and not recommended for anyone with difficulty walking. Well... grandma can't handle that, so we cancelled. The description when we booked it called the difficulty level "1", but obviously this was inaccurate to the actual reality of the tour. All but one other excursion offered through the ship used these panga boats, so we elected to remain on board for the day. Watching other guests board the boats for their tours confirmed our decision, they looked very difficult to maneouver in and out of. Disappointing, but it was nice to have an extra day to relax! 8. Harvest Caye, Belize: BEAUTIFUL beach, great place to spend the day hopping in-and-out of the water. Obviously over-commercialized and expensive, but we expected that going in and just enjoyed relaxing in the sun for the day. 9. Costa Maya, Mexico: We booked a tour through NCL: Chacchoben Mayan Ruins & All Inclusive Blue Lagoon. Ruins are INCREDIBLE, but at all wheelchair-friendly. We struggled pushing grandma around. Unfortunately it poured rain the entire time we were at the Blue Lagoon; luckily there was a covered picnic area for lunch. The trip to the ruins was wonderful and worthwhile, but even in better weather I'm not sure how much value the Blue Lagoon added. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
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