11 Norwegian Pearl Spa Cruise Reviews

Top 5 BEST things about cruising Alaska on the NCL Pearl: 1. Alaska -- WOW! Amazing views of Glacier Bay, snow-capped mountains, temperate rain forests, and a little bit of tundra along the White Pass railway. Glimpsed a few whales, ... Read More
Top 5 BEST things about cruising Alaska on the NCL Pearl: 1. Alaska -- WOW! Amazing views of Glacier Bay, snow-capped mountains, temperate rain forests, and a little bit of tundra along the White Pass railway. Glimpsed a few whales, porpoises and seals from the ship. Then during port excursions we saw orcas and humpbacks up close, sea lions and dozens of eagles. 2. Bayardo the room steward was awesome! He greeted us by name every day, kept our cabin clean and well stocked, surprised us with a variety of adorable animal towel sculptures, and was consistently the most friendly and polite crew member on board. He truly made us feel special and well taken care of. 3. The thermal suite was our haven 6 out of 7 days. For about the cost of one spa treatment we each purchased a pass for access to hot tubs, steam bath, sauna, and heated tile loungers. No more than 84 passes were sold during the cruise and people came and went so the spa was thankfully never crowded. The views from the spa were incredible, perhaps the best on the ship. No kids allowed. Pure bliss. 4. The variety of activities listed in the daily newsletter offered something for every type of traveler… art auctions, bowling, dance parties, comedy shows, dining and beverage specials, fitness classes, internet access, karaoke, kids clubs, library loans, live musical entertainment, magic shows, port shopping tips, spa services, trivia games, and more. The four string trio and Second City comedy shows were among my favorites. Anyone who says they get bored during an ocean cruise has probably never cruised like a Norwegian aboard a Freestyle NCL ship. I managed to sample about half the activities of interest to me. Would have done others but opted for a more relaxed, less scheduled vacation experience. 5. The quality of the food was consistently above average in terms of flavor, freshness, presentation and taste. Service was excellent most of the time, though not always. Summer Palace and Indigo complimentary restaurants were equally enjoyable in different ways. Preferred Le Bistro over Cagney’s; didn’t try any of the other cover charge specialty restaurants. Garden Café buffet was yummy though crowds of grabby passengers led us to choose table service restaurants for most of our meals. The few times we went to the buffet, we enjoyed dining in the Great Outdoors and La Cucina seating areas. The Blue Lagoon 24 hour café came in handy for an early breakfast one morning, as did room service. However, the scrambled eggs smelled odd and didn’t taste quite right, perhaps powdered instead of fresh, so we ate them only once. Genuinely appreciated the smiling crew with bottles of hand sanitizer greeting passengers as we boarded the ship and/or entered dining areas. Would definitely have purchased a “happy happy, washy washy” T-shirt or tote bag in the gift shop if those items had been available. Top 5 WORST things about cruising Alaska on the NCL Pearl: 1. Too many people; Most of the fellow travelers we met were pleasant, truly. But more than a few were unbelievably rude and self-entitled. Some pushed their way through crowded areas of the ship, talked loudly in otherwise quiet spaces, and allowed their offspring to run wild. With NCL Freestyle cruising, there’s no dress code. Even in the specialty restaurants where smart casual is suggested, some folks wore T-shirts, sweat pants and ball caps. Can’t imagine cruising on a larger ship with even more passengers. 2. Tiny stateroom was a challenge for 2 people to share. The balcony and mirrors helped open up the space visually yet 200 square feet still felt confining. Except for occasional hallway noise the room was quiet. Bedding was crisp, clean and comfortable. Artwork was ideal for a Caribbean cruise but didn’t fit the Alaska itinerary. The design of the bathroom supposedly allowed for concurrent uses though we took turns because it would have been difficult for two people to get in and out of the lavatory at the same time. Though I applaud the efficient cabin design with a place for everything and everything in its place, I would have appreciated a little more square footage as well as an updated neutral décor. 3. NCL boasts the newest fleet of ships sailing to Alaska. The Pearl, which launched in 2006, appeared a bit dated and worn in some areas which made me wonder how other ships compare. Overall the vessel seemed well maintained; no major concerns. Noticed minor repairs were taken care of quickly with minimal down time. Still, NCL should consider scheduling a renovation, or at least strategic aesthetic updates. 4. I would have preferred a more tranquil environment instead of the cruise director’s failed attempt to cultivate a party atmosphere. Based on noticeably lackluster passenger participation in certain activities, apparently other travelers felt the same way. Perhaps part of the reason was interest in the World Cup which was projected on the big screen in the crystal atrium. Another factor could have been the sheer number of programs offered because it was impossible to do everything since multiple activities overlapped. Timing was rarely sensible. Karaoke was scheduled sporadically but only for an hour at a time so not everyone who signed up to sing had the opportunity. Library hours were frustratingly limited. And productions usually had only one showing so acts were easily missed. 5. The little things, lots of little things. No robes in the cabin; only in the spa. No afternoon tea. Shopping guides and a few videotaped activities looped endlessly on the tv but none of the entertainment acts were broadcast so there was no opportunity to watch a show in your cabin if you didn’t go into the Stardust Theatre. Art auctioneer Eugene was likeable but beware of his staff’s upsell pitches which are relentless. Although gratuities were pre-paid, we happily tipped extra when service was impressive. While 80% of the crew was fantastic, 20% were condescending and contemptuous toward passengers, including cruise director Archie and his assistant Richard (Rick). Jefferson (Jeff) and others were much nicer. The Trade Winds gift shop staff lacked customer service skills, especially the blonde woman who spoke with a European accent. When we saw the weather forecast for Glacier Bay listed as 80 degrees, it was clear the newsletter editor mistakenly Googled Glacier National Park in Montana, not Alaska. Bless his/her heart. Overall it was an enjoyable vacation. No regrets. One lesson learned is that 7 days is a long time to spend on a floating resort with other travelers and their children. Next time we’ll likely cruise for a shorter duration on a smaller ship with fewer passengers and hopefully fewer young families. Willing to cruise NCL again. Also want to try other cruise lines to see how they compare.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
This was our second cruise on the Pearl....identical cruise...one year later...because we liked the first one so much. We prefer the smaller ship although it's easy to get lost on this one too. The entertainment was fantastic as ... Read More
This was our second cruise on the Pearl....identical cruise...one year later...because we liked the first one so much. We prefer the smaller ship although it's easy to get lost on this one too. The entertainment was fantastic as usual... Our Steward Arlan (Cabin 5036) was amazing...the food was terrific. My husband and I usually eat in the Palace Garden because it is beautiful, relaxed and served beautifully. I particularly like having my tea served in the lovely ceramic teapots that hold about 3 cups of tea v/s the little metal ones that drip (Carnival) or a small mug as at the self serve NCL stations. We both love to lounge and read on the Spinnaker loungers as well as exploring to find other little spots to sun, or read without facing hoards of people. The theatre is welcoming and comfortable,except the front row seats which probably should be replaced. We enjoy the casino when it is quiet because I am allergic to smoke and cannot be there when it is busy. WHY ON EARTH IS IT STILL ALLOWED IN A CLOSED ENVIRONMENT?!!! The best part of this cruise for me was finding out about the spa pass to the thermal suite! It has spoiled me now...I will not be able to enjoy a cruise ever as much without it. The pass allows access to the spa for the full week to enjoy the thermal jacuzzi pools, hot tubs, aromatherapy room. sauna and warm tile loungers. Towels and robes and water, tea and fruit juice is always available in the lounging area. LUXURY, LUXURY!!! The passes are limited to about 84 passengers and thus it is seldom "busy" and almost always zen like. I didn't know about it our first time on the Pearl, so I dropped the ball on that one. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
I booked this cruise about a year ago as a way to celebrate my wife's 35th birthday this September. She had always said that she "wanted to see the ice before it melts", so a trip to Alaska on the Norwegian Pearl seemed like ... Read More
I booked this cruise about a year ago as a way to celebrate my wife's 35th birthday this September. She had always said that she "wanted to see the ice before it melts", so a trip to Alaska on the Norwegian Pearl seemed like a great idea at the time. Flash forward to this year, and I'm sitting here a week and a couple days after returning from this cruise, wishing we were still on it. Sure, there were unbelievably rough seas on day 6 causing us to miss our Port of Call in Ketchikan, but this truly was the trip of a lifetime! The Suite: We had a forward facing port-side corner Owner's Suite on Deck 10. The suite itself was amazing: large bedroom with the forward balcony; one full double-vanity bathroom; a half-bathroom; living area; mini-bar area with a espresso machine and 3 bottles of liquor; dining area; and large side balcony. We had the usual suite perks with a butler, concierge, etc. The suite perfectly suited this trip. Half the awesomeness of cruising Alaska is seeing the views from the ship, and this suite gave us the best vantage points as we pulled into each port and particularly on the day we cruised Glacier Bay. The Itinerary: As we had never been to Alaska before, we were very pleased with the itinerary - although, I suspect, we would've been pleased with any Alaskan itinerary. The key was in the excursions we booked in each port. Missing Ketchikan gives us another reason to go back sooner rather than later; but, with the dangerous weather conditions we encountered, I think NCL made the right call skipping the port. The itinerary included stops in Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria BC in addition to a cruise through Glacier Bay. I will write reviews of each excursion later; however, we booked the Whale Watching and Mendenhall Glacier excursion in Juneau and the White Pass Railway and Laughton Glacier in Skagway. We hiked onto a glacier, and it was awesome. Can't recommend these two excursions enough! The Food: As with most NCL cruises, the food was decent. We skipped the Chef's table yet again because silly NCL has the same menu on each ship for Chef's table. This being our third NCL cruise in 13 months, it just wouldn't have been worth the almost $90 per head to do the same menu again. We ate at Cagney's for breakfast most days (a suite perk) and ate their for dinner, which was quite good. We really enjoyed our dinners at Le Bistro and La Cucina. The meals in the regular dining rooms and buffet were certainly reasonable. But, with the buffets and main dining rooms being so overly crowded, it was worth it to us to spend the extra dollars on the specialty restaurants just to have a more intimate setting. The Service: Overall, the service was excellent. We were fortunate enough to have Monica as our concierge again. She is fantastic, always checking on us and seeing how we were doing. I wish we had been able to see her on our last day to thank her again; but for some reason, we did not. The Entertainment: We love The Second City...just love them! As a treat, we did the Presumed Murdered Luncheon Theater and had a great time. The meal was so-so, but the entertainment made it worth it. The rest of the entertainment was high-quality but just didn't appeal to us. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons? Not. For. Us. While the ship was fantastic, the reason you go to Alaska ''" and what makes this trip ''" is Alaska! What an overwhelmingly gorgeous state! The air quality; the landscapes; the glaciers; it was all unbelievable. My wife and I made so many new and wonderful memories in Alaska. I can't recommend the Norwegian Pearl enough to get you to this beautiful state. This is a trip everyone should do :) Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
Our Stateroom: We stayed in the Forward penthouse with extra large balcony (9500). The view was incredible and our balcony was used even on sea days. It was quite breezy on days when we were underway, but still quite doable. There is a ... Read More
Our Stateroom: We stayed in the Forward penthouse with extra large balcony (9500). The view was incredible and our balcony was used even on sea days. It was quite breezy on days when we were underway, but still quite doable. There is a very thick, sturdy metal door that seems to airlock when closed. There is a sign that said for safety purposes to keep it locked when underway. For the record we did not, and neither did our neighbors. Also important to note is that after sunset, your curtains have to be closed to the window to block any light going out on the front of the ship. We did not mind. Our stateroom was well equipped with a sitting area, a table and 4 chairs, king-size bed and full bathroom with tub and shower. A separate vanity for putting on make-up, doing hair etc was also included. The drawer space was more than adequate and the closet was very roomy. There were two safes in the room. We had a fancy coffee maker and nice bar set up. The balcony held two full lounge chairs, two regular chairs and a small table. There was plenty of room on top of that. We also had a refrigerator and a DVD player. A doorbell to the suite is a nice touch. The bed was very comfortable. We had pre-ordered three different types of pillows and they were brought to the stateroom the first night. We also had two bottles of champagne waiting for us with chocolate covered strawberries. Also a box of Godiva chocolates which was a very nice touch. I had also ordered a bon voyage basket including wine and fruit. That was not delivered to the stateroom until late, well after sail away. We had two Latitudes pins and received chocolates at turn down. We also had snacks brought to our room daily. We also requested a pitcher of water be put in our suite and it took an extra day to get it straight, but Carlos finally came to understand my husband's expectations and he offered us complimentary water and kept it on ice. I think our butler, Carlos was stretched a bit thin; he seemed a bit rattled at times. We saw him at the most one time per day. Very nice, but our butler on the Epic was better. Our concierge, Monica, on the other hand was quite lovely!!! She helped us with shore excursion reservations and dining reservations. I waited until I was on board to book everything and there was no problem. We received everything we asked for. I was surprised that they did not have the interactive tv showing you your reservations like on the Epic. I missed that feature. Embarkation: The process was very smooth and we were on the ship by 12:00 noon. We were eating in Cagneys when they announced that our staterooms were already accessible. Cagneys is a great perk for Suite and Haven passengers. We ate breakfast and lunch there several times. After lunch, we dropped our carry-on bags in the stateroom, met our stateroom steward Jovell, (he was the best I have ever had on NCL) and headed up to the Mandara Spa. We took the spa tour and signed up for the week-long pass for the hydrotherapy suite. There is a limited number of them so go early if you want one. (Price is $119.00 per person) The hydrotherapy pool , Jacuzzi and heated ceramic chairs are all found in the unisex portion and then there are separate men and women's steam rooms, saunas, hydrotherapy tubs and cold plunge pools as well. The new electronic locks on the lockers were a constant annoyance and did not work correctly. Next we signed up for shore excursions; just to let you know there are some excursions offered on board that were not offered on the NCL website. Next came the lifeboat drill, our station was Stardust Lounge and next the sailaway party. The seas were rough and it was very windy. It was amazing that I was never once asked if I wanted to order a drink!!! Unheard of on NCL. I purchased a bucket of beer from Topsiders and we enjoyed the DJ and all the people dancing. I particularly loved the re-mix of the NCL "LET's GO" song and we heard it several more times throughout the week. You would hear people singing and humming it including passengers and staff. Our first night dinner was at Cagney's and we used our facebook coupon for a free bottle of wine. I had prime rib, and David had the filet! Excellent dinner!!!! We saw the welcome aboard show at 9:30 which showcases the talent you will see throughout the cruise. The seas were rough and in the front of the ship you do feel the motion much more. David had to take Dramamine, so we called it a night soon after. Day 2: Great Stirrup Cay (private island) Room service was on time and Carlos, our butler brought breakfast. In the suites you get a full breakfast menu and we always take advantage of eating our breakfast on the balcony. We used priority tending with Monica. The seas were very rough and tendering was a bit difficult. This is the first time I have been to GSC since the improvements. The negative is that there has been a lot of clear cutting and vegetation destroyed from the original state. It has lost some of its charm. The island was very crowded. We found chairs and used them all day. Rafts could not be rented as it was way to windy. Many people swam but it was a bit cool for us, so we worshipped the sun all day. Live band played reggae music and we picked chairs in close proximity so we could hear. We walked the island to some of the more secluded places and it was beautiful. Noticed that the cabanas are way out of the way from the main areas so be ready for a bit of a walk if you have reserved them. The buffet lunch was lacking in fruit and drinks. Later, we found out that the ship was having difficulty keeping the island stocked for its guests. We bought a bucket of beer; tendering back was even rougher than when we came over to the island. We returned to our room and no shore excursion tickets had been delivered or no ice water in a pitcher per our request. I called Monica who told me the shore excursion tickets had been printed and delivered to our room; after I told her that was not the case, she ordered a re-print and told me they would be delivered shortly. Finally David called Carlos who arrived at our cabin at 6:45 p.m. with excursion tickets, VIP captain party invitation and treats. He apologized that he was supposed to have delivered these much earlier. That is why I believe he was stretched thin. We also went to the spa and it was lovely as always. Dinner that night was Le Bistro. It was complimentary from Latitudes and included a free bottle of wine. Food and venue was perfection! I had the onion soup, escargot, beef tenderloin and crème brulee ( orgasm in a cup). We booked spa treatments for Thursday; they were normally priced at $269pp marked down to $139 pp. 75 minutes included full body massage, moisturizing facial, scalp massage and feet and ankle reflexology. Went and saw the show "That's Entertainment" and it was average. Day 3 Sea Day We started our day eating at Cagneys. We went to the gym afterwards; David worked out and I attended a health and wellness seminar on Detoxification of the body. After that we got changed and went to the general Latitudes party. This party has certainly cut back in what it offers. A few snacks and quantity and quality of drinks have lessened. It was also scheduled at the same time as the bar hop. Wish we had done that instead at 1:00 in the afternoon. Next, it was up on deck for some sun worshipping and listening to the band. Then on to the Blue Lagoon for a quick lunch about 3:00...then on to the spa and back to the cabin to get ready for the Captain's VIP party. Also it was formal night. The captain's vip party was in the Bliss Lounge and we met some very nice people! Quality of drinks was superb and musical entertainment was provided. Next was our dinner at Teppinyaki! First time I had tried this restaurant and it was very good! That night we attended the show "Oh what a night" a tribute to Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons....it was an awesome show!!! I highly suggest attending this one! We then went to the 70's disco party and enjoyed the crazy antics up there. Called it a night about 12 Day 4 Jamaica No tendering today! YAY!!! Our shore excursion was early so we had early room service breakfast and was on the dock by 9:00 am. We did the Bamboo Beach Break shore excursion. It was simply going to a local beach, where there was an open bar and lunch was served as well. Our guides were very sweet Jamaican girls, Tiffia and Teniqua, and they promised to be our mommas for the day. The beach was very nice with comfy chairs and there were bathroom facilities. Also a dj who played a variety of music. We drank beer all day , Red Stripe! After a while, I decided to go for a swim. WORD OF CAUTION!!! Wear water shoes because once you drop off the sandy beach it is all sharp coral and you cannot stand. I let the waves crash me back on to the beach where I managed to get back up on my feet and return to my chair. More beer and I was feeling no pain...everything was IRIE mon! Our girls served us several different courses to our chairs. We wanted for nothing! I had jerk chicken, a must in Jamaica. Finally, I did a little dancing, Cupid Shuffle and The wobble. GOOD TIMES!!! We got back to the port by 2:00...did a little shopping and then stopped at the small bar on the waterfront. More Red Stripe and reggae music. The locals were quite nice. Back on the ship, we went to the spa and then back to our stateroom for sailaway and wine and treats on our balcony. We went to Summer Palace for dinner and it was good, but service was slow. We were on vacation so no problems! After that we strolled the outer promenade deck and skipped the show. Overall very nice day.Day 5 Grand Cayman (Thanksgiving) It was a rough night on the ship! We rocked and rolled and had an early shore excursion at 8:00 am. We went to The Garden Cafe for breakfast! Yummy and not crowded. Made to order omelets, smoked salmon and crème cheese, along with fresh fruit! Washy Washy, Happy Happy!!! Tendering was again very rough and when we got on shore we found out that the Port Authority had ordered the reefs to be closed due to heavy seas and gale force winds. No excursions for us as we were supposed to go snorkeling and then Tiki Beach. We were never charged for the excursions so no problem with having to get refunds. So...change of plans....we shopped for a while and by 10:30 found ourselves in Margaritaville drinking strong margaritas and watching The Macy Day Thanksgiving parade from NYC...LOL!!! I think I have started a new tradition. Got a good buzz then decided to head back to the ship and eat lunch at Cagneys. We had our spa treatments that afternoon and they were wonderful! Then on to the hydrotherapy suite. Finally back to our cabin to chill and lay on our balcony. We had the second Latitudes party that night in Bliss Lounge for Silver, Gold and Plaitinum members. Great drinks and entertainment! We ate Thanksgiving Dinner at Indigo (main restaurant) and it served a great Thanksgiving dinner with pumpkin cheesecake to end it off. I had two Mojitos and they were served with lots of love!!! We both went and crashed at 9:30 and missed the White Hot party. Oh well... Day 6 Cozumel Wow what a day! It was beautiful sailing in to Cozumel . We started our day at Cagneys and I had steak and eggs. I mention this because it filled me up so much I did not want to eat for the rest of the day. Service was somewhat slow, so after eating, we went returned to our balcony to watch the arrival into Cozumel. Our arrival was scheduled for 11:00 and we had a shore excursion at 12:00. There were numerous ships already there including the NCL Star and NCL Dawn. I was more than excited to know there were three NCL ships in port; how cool. There were two other RCCL ships and three Carnival. It was a packed port. We docked alongside the Star. The camaraderie between the two ships was obvious from the beginning! How much fun was this day going to be? Our excursion took us to PlayaMia...it was a huge beach with many different activities to choose from. It had lunch included and an open domestic bar. It was really crowded at first but as other tours that had been there from earlier hours began to leave, it became much more pleasant. We found some chairs directly waterside, the music played from the DJ and the beer began to flow. Then it changed over to pina coladas and they were made with lots of love!!! David ate lunch; I wasn't hungry but I continued to drink pina coladas. They were awesome. We went swimming and the water was beautiful!!! It was a glorious day! Met lots of really nice people as well. By the time we boarded the buses to return back to the ship, I was feeling no pain to put it nicely. The walk back to the ship was extremely festive, a real party atmosphere. Cruise director Julie was up on stilts and the rest was just a crazy blur. We made it back to our stateroom to watch the sunset and the Star sailaway. Remember how I said I had not eaten since breakfast? Well it caught up with me and I took a very long nap that extended 12 hours into the next morning. We missed our reservations at Moderno Churrascaria and the Chocoholic Buffet...oh well...It was a great day!!! Day 7 -- Last sea day After my 12 hours of sleep, I awoke to the sunrise off of the coast of Cuba. This is one thing I love about cruising...always something new! We went to the Garden Cafe for breakfast and custom made omelets along with smoked salmon and crème cheese with fresh fruit. There really is something for everyone! It was extremely windy so we decided to hang out on our balcony. For some reason, the force of the wind was not as bad there as other places on deck. I had a few errands to do like buying my next cruise reward so off I went to the cruise consultant's office. While there, I think I sold two couples on booking Breakaway and convinced another couple to move to South Carolina. LOL!! Stopped at the shops to enter a raffle on the way back to the cabin. Then we spent from 10:00 until 2:00 on our balcony. It was glorious and we ordered room service for lunch and had lunch with champagne. We decided to go up top afterward to listen to the band one more time but it was very windy so we opted to go to the spa for one last time instead. The only thing that irritates me about the spa btw is the people who camp out for an hour on the heated ceramic chairs....Ughhh!!! One last time to the gym to have our basic metabolic rates tested and a health/wellness program assessment for us to follow at home. I loved Ryan who was a personal trainer! Great information from him and he gave me his e-mail to follow up. He is from England and should be back home as his contract was up on the Pearl the following week. Back to the room to start to pack and get ready for our final dinner on board. We chose Le Bistro because is it my favorite. NCL was generous enough to provide us with another complimentary dinner with wine. Of course I had to have crème brulee one last time. We went to the final show which showcased the talent of "Oh what a night" The final farewell from the staff was great. Time to leave: We do walk off with our luggage so we don't have to worry about luggage tags and putting our luggage outside the door at 12:00 a.m. We had a flight leaving from Fort Lauderdale at 11:20 am so we were off the ship first thing. We had priority disembarkation with our concierge Monica and were off the ship by 7:50 am, through customs and on the pier to wait for SAS transportation. Easy as pie! FINAL THOUGHTS: The Pearl has aged a bit since the last time we sailed her in 2008. The decor in the suites need updating and having the interactive tv channel should be a must for post drydock. There was an overwhelming odor of sewage in the hallway going from the front of the ship to the front elevators. It wasn't there all the time, but more than enough to get noticed. Unfortunately, we were unable to use the casino due to the heavy fog of cigarette smoke. It literally makes my husband ill and ventilation needs to be improved. This was our first time in a front balcony and for those who get motion sickness, the front of the ship does move significantly more than the middle. I loved the large front balcony which made up for the excessive motion. I thought the food in both the specialty and included venues was top notch. Our room steward Jovell was stellar in the service he provided and I tipped him extra and above the regular service charges we had applied to our account. I always tip the butler and concierge extra as well. The trip was fun, relaxing, entertaining and made me feel like I was home for the holidays. I would highly recommend the Norwegian Pearl and I can only imagine what she will be like after her drydock and facelift!!!!! She is my second favorite in the fleet only behind the Epic! Make sure to include her on your list of ships to try out!!! Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
We last took a cruise with NCL a bit over 2 years ago on the Jewel and we liked the experience a lot. Last year we took a cruise on Royal Caribbean and at the time we thought we would always choose Royal Caribbean over NCL in the future. ... Read More
We last took a cruise with NCL a bit over 2 years ago on the Jewel and we liked the experience a lot. Last year we took a cruise on Royal Caribbean and at the time we thought we would always choose Royal Caribbean over NCL in the future. But, time passed and we found an NCL ship / itinerary / price we were happy with and we jumped on it. After the first day the difference was obvious and we were disappointed we hadn't stuck to our previous decision not to return to NCL. Worse - NCL has actually dropped substantially in our estimation from our experience 2 years ago. The ship is very nice although the decor is a bit psychedelic - shouldn't be a surprise if you've been on NCL before but we had forgotten just how bright the colours were - not a terrible thing, just different. The biggest surprises came in the areas of food and service. Now Freestyle sounds like a no brainer great thing but it never really lives up to its marketing hype. We actually loved the designated seating on our last Royal Caribbean cruise (much to our surprise coming off previous cruises on NCL and a bit brainwashed at the time to the benefits of "Freestyle"). Having a fixed time and known table where you meet other couples and bond for the duration ended up being a good thing. Having the same waiter and service staff was fantastic since they quickly grew to know what we liked and had things waiting for us every night. The kids appetizers were often on the table when we arrived since the kids wanted to eat fast so they could get picked up by kids club staff early. Anyway - I digress - the NCL Freestyle promise is that they offer it all better and with more options. This does not turn out to be the case. The Buffet is Freestyle - but you have to hunt for a table a peak hours. The two free dinning rooms often had a 30 minute wait at busy times. The food in the free dinning rooms was below our expectations and memory from just a couple of years ago. Beyond those free options - you have a number of premium restaurants you can reserve in but they are now all at additional cost and a premium of $20 or $25 dollars per person (plus in some cases other premiums for some menu options) starts to defeat the premise of food being included. If the premium restaurants were really extraordinary then maybe but we ended up paying premiums most nights because we were disappointed with the free dining options. The service in all the restaurants - free and premium, was very poor with a couple of notable exceptions but surprisingly the two really attentive servers that we had were both in the free dining rooms - which was a big surprise. NCL has now gone to Auto Staff Gratuity which means that instead of the guests getting to tip cabin stewards, service staff, etc that really deserve a tip, guests now get charged an automatic $12 per day per person (even for young children over the age of 3) and this gets distributed to the whole service staff. I hate this model - tips are for people that provide great service to me - not so that I can pay part of the NCL payroll. The net result of this policy is that the staff is no longer motivated to go out of their way and that was very obvious vs. past NCL cruises and the last Royal Caribbean cruise we were on. We hardly eve saw our cabin steward and although our cabin was cleaned and serviced properly, in the past we got to know the cabin steward and they went out of their way to earn their merit tip - now that is not the case. I actually heard the waiter at the table next to us tell the family there that the tip was not included on their dinner tab and when they noticed that there is an "Auto Gratuity" included on drinks etc - the waiter told them that yes there is an auto gratuity but the tip is not included - OK enough about my pet peeve "Auto Gratuity". My daughters have always loved the kids club on every cruise we have taken but something happened on this one to turn them completely off the kids club staff - my 7 year old was in tears and assured us that nothing bad had happened to her but the staff was not nice and one of the female staff had been really mean to 2 other girls in her group and she didn't want to return. This is a huge surprise and while I was tempted to complain - one of the best staff members we came in contact with did see her crying about this at a n evening snack and came over to console her later telling us that she was lodging a complaint through her boss. My girls didn't return to kids club and that was fine by me but knowing how they had always loved kids club on other cruises I was disappointed that they didn't get to enjoy one of their favourite activities. We travelled with my mom who was using a walker and in this area we did find the staff very helpful and accomodating. The stop in the Bahamas at NCL's private island retreat of Great Stirrup Cay was excellent - NCL has improved their facilities here a lot and the weather was great for a relaxing beach day. Unfortunately, at the very end the disembarkation process is still a nightmare that stains most cruises but it was even harder with my mom in a walker - the process kept being halted by customs over several hours due to congestion in the terminal and the line up just to get off the ship and into the next line up in the terminal was a nightmare. This isn't NCL's issue I guess but it sure does close the cruise off on a sour note. In the end we did have a great holiday (we always do) but we will not take another NCL cruise any time soon, opting instead to go back to Royal Caribbean which we feel is several notches above NCL and not much if any more expensive (or maybe we'll try Princess or Holland America). Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This was my second sailing on the Pearl and she was as lovely as before, with a very attentive crew. It was definitely a different type of cruise than the Carib. This cruise was more relaxed and laid back. Even the crew seemed more laid ... Read More
This was my second sailing on the Pearl and she was as lovely as before, with a very attentive crew. It was definitely a different type of cruise than the Carib. This cruise was more relaxed and laid back. Even the crew seemed more laid back. As usual, our every need was met and our every expectation was exceeded. This trip was with 5 dear friends that were brave enough to take me to cold weather!! Yes indeed it was cold and wet, but how could you really notice with the amazing scenery and things that we saw! To experience the Inside Passage with American Eagles flying by leaves me without words to express. The ships high standard of cleanliness was as evident as ever. Everywhere you go are crew members diligently attending to every detail. We arrived at the pier in Seattle about 12:30 and with our pre-registration in hand we sailed so quickly thru check-in I hardly remember stopping for the picture! As I've said before in my reviews, the key really is to come as early as you can. The lines are shorter and things move quickly. As the day passes and more people arrive, it will require a bit of a wait, but not a long one. Suite and above folks have a private check-in, and Latitudes members can process quickly as well. Be sure to PRE REGISTER online and that will save you some time at the counter. Our room was ready and spotless. We chose a mini-suite to be able to take in the Alaskan vistas right from our cabin. Even the lifeboat drill seemed relaxed this time, especially since the new rule of not having to tote those bulky life preservers with you! Making dinner reservations are very easy. In cruises past I could only book a day or two in advance, but this cruise allowed me to book my entire weeks worth of reservations in on shot! That is a dream when you are making dinner plans for a group of 6. Reservations were available most everywhere with the exception of Le Bistro and Teppenyaki. Those two places filled up fast. So make your selections for those early. Sometimes we had to juggle our times here and there, but the crew bends over backwards to accommodate you. I can't say enough about the food. We did the Garden Cafe for breakfast (free) and some lunches (free) but most dinners we dined at the specialty restaurants. WELL worth the added fee. Don't let those fees scare you off, it's TOTALLY worth it. I will say this, since this is an Alaskan cruise most folks won't venture out to the poolside buffet or the Grill Buffet in the back as they are outside. This fact makes the inside Garden Cafe Buffet PACKED. So plan on a bit more time to eat if you are dining there, and be patient for a table. The crew is vigilant about cleaning tables quickly and finding you a seat. Things you MUST eat: BBQ Pork Ribs, Dirty Noodles, Lamb Medallions - Lotus Garden Restaurant Escargo, and anything on the menu - Le Bistro Lobster, monster shrimp cocktail - Cagney's Chocolate Buffet - Watch your FreeStyle Daily The spa prices are pricey as always. But watch your Freestyle Daily for specials. Also physically GO to the spa and talk to the spa crew. They will work special combo deals for you that are listed on the menu of services. Best Spa Deals: the 10/20/30 plan - 10% off first treatment, 20% of 2nd, 30% off third...combine those with bartering at the counter for a freebie. The other thing I would HIGHLY recommend is the Spa Pass. You pay a flat rate (was $119 per person for the 7 day cruise) and you have access to the mineral baths, hydrotherapy pools, sauna, steam room, stone therapy lounges, cold plunge and the private locker area for the entire cruise. You also have access to the very restful lounge area that sits at the very FRONT of the ship with full glass panoramic views out the bow. Likely my only complaint this cruise was that there was some paint peeling in the hydrotherapy pool. The entertainment was fun, but I sure miss the Jean Ann Ryan Company. It seems the Pearl is handling it's own "stage show" performances now and they simply don't have the edge that the JARCo did. This is not to say its a bad show...it was enjoyable, but just not the Vegas quality that I've enjoyed in the past. SharkBait Duo was outstanding! The Bliss Ultra Lounge is amazing, be sure to see it. Not to mention you can go bowling ($5 per person, per game). I have to say I'm not thrilled now that the Spinnaker Lounge is "family" til all hours now. Before underage kids were allowed til 10pm then asked to leave the club to the adults. Now they are allowed until closing at midnight. From there the party would move to Bliss until their closing at 2am. However, since the Spinnaker is at the front of the ship and the Bliss is at the back, most folks seem to simply call it a night and find their cabins. Watch your Freestyle Daily for specials in the Duty Free Shop. Great deals on liquor on certain days, plus free tastings! Always, always, ALWAYS mention you are a Latitudes member and get an additional 10-20% off anything you purchase in the shopping area. Just cuz it says Latitudes on your card, doesn't mean you'll get the discount. So ASK for it! Most favorite crew members: Annalissa in the Lotus Garden and Gede in the Java City Cafe (ask to see the 7 ball juggling act). Another all time favorite is Carlos the Concierge. Even though we weren't in suites, he always took the time to say hello. The highlight had to be the cruise of Glacier Bay National Park. The captain gave us plenty of time on both sides of the ship to view the Glaciers. We saw otters, seals, porpoises and WHALES! We even saw a large chunk of glacier fall into the bay with a thunderous crash!! One thing we did this cruise that I've never done before was to take advantage of the BAGS program. It is AWESOME! You pay $20 per person to enroll in BAGS. The night before, just like everyone else you put your luggage outside your cabin. Now, in the morning as you are leaving, everyone else will have to wait their turn in line to get off the ship, go wait in line at customs, and fetch their luggage. Then drag them to a cab, drag them to check-in at the airport ,and FINALLY your hours as a pack mule are over! BUT if you enrolled in BAGS you can get off the ship anytime you want, walk past the customs line and right out to the taxi stand. You simply walk to your gate at the airport and get on the plane. For your $20 the BAGS folks will automatically take your luggage to the airport, check it for you, and you won't see it again until you arrive home. They will even print your boarding passes off for you, and deliver them to your cabin the night before. Well worth the $20 and made NCL's usual disembarkation day even more care free! I had been saying before this cruise that it was a "once in a lifetime" cruise for me. A "bucket list" item so to speak, as it was something I wished to experience but would never choose to do a second time. How wrong I was! I would cruise to Alaska again! The whole experience was awesome. If you want to know anything specific, I'm happy to answer questions! Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
My husband and I had been looking forward to cruising on the Pearl every since we docked next to her a few years ago while cruising on a different line and it was well worth the wait. From the moment we entered the terminal, we were ... Read More
My husband and I had been looking forward to cruising on the Pearl every since we docked next to her a few years ago while cruising on a different line and it was well worth the wait. From the moment we entered the terminal, we were treated like with extra care and consideration. The staff in VIP check-in greeted every passenger with smiles and exceptional service. On board the ship, we met our concierge, Ana Marie, who was our personal guide to an extraordinarily relaxing and stress-free vacation. Since we had sailed previously on Jewel (awesome), we choose to book the same suite as before because of the amazing view. With ample space, our suite had fresh flowers, surprise treats delivered by our butler, Denny, a large walk-through closet and over-sized bathtub in a separate compartment from the sink and commode. There is nothing like watching a peaceful sunset on the corner balcony while relaxing on comfy chaise loungers. We tried four of the specialty restaurants: Cagney's, Mambos, La Cucina and Lotus Garden. Outstanding meals every time. Bought the VIP spa package and loved the separate tranquil space for men and women. Tried acupuncture, got my first pedicure and just melted away in the Jacuzzi baths. Second City was funny but I was sorry I missed the opportunity to participate in their mystery luncheon. Needed more reservations slots. Their late night Improv show was fresh and very audience interactive. I learned to Latin dance, partied with the white hot angel dancers and enjoyed closing out the days at the Great Outdoors. There were a couple on negative such as some of the waitstaff at Indigo and Summer Palace seemed as if they did not want to serve us, the temperature in those restaurants were always too cold to enjoy your meal. The pillows were a little lumpy, unlike those on the Jewel which were heavenly and last, some of the items in the gift shops need to be changed out. Seems like the same stuff was there when we sailed in 2009 on Jewel. All-in-all, it was worth the money, definitely worth the wait and we look forward to sailing Epic in 2013. This time we are taking our families with us. Experiences like these, needs to be share. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
I will start off by saying my sailing on the Norwegian Pearl was my 6th cruise. My first with NCL. In the past I have sailed once with Carnival, once with Cunard and three times with Royal Caribbean. I chose this particular cruise ... Read More
I will start off by saying my sailing on the Norwegian Pearl was my 6th cruise. My first with NCL. In the past I have sailed once with Carnival, once with Cunard and three times with Royal Caribbean. I chose this particular cruise for the itinerary (Miami-Roatan-Belize City-Costa Maya-Key West-Miami). I had never been to any of the ports. BOOKING When planning this trip I had it narrowed down to two different cruises. To help me decide I called NCL's 800 number to ask a few questions. I was immediately asked for my name & phone number ("incase we get disconnected"), not wanting to be hassled should I decide not to book with NCL I made up a name and phone number. Little did that matter. Apparently NCL uses some sort of system that captures phone numbers and stores them. I didn't know this until after I booked my sailing online. From then on, every day some NCL representative would call me to try and sell me a cruise. My home phone, my cel phone and even my Mom's phone which I had used once to call and ask a few questions. I was not happy. I had to waste my own time to call and track down a manager to insist these daily calls (sometimes up to 3 times a day) stop. Things were not starting out so well. EMBARKATION Quick and easy. The moment my shuttle van pull to the curb luggage porters were there to take our bags. And they didn't stand around with their hand open waiting for a tip, they took the bags and off they went. We had to chase them down to hand over a tip. Security went quickly. Check-in went quickly. I handed over my credit card, signed a piece of paper, our pictures were taken and off we went. We had arrived at the Port of Miami about 11am (due to having to check out of our hotel by 10am). We were too early to board the ship so after checking in we were placed in a holding room. They offered coffee, tea and water to those waiting. It wasn't bad. Once allowed onboard, shortly before noon, we tried to go to our cabin to drop off a carry-on bag and change into a swimsuit. We were not allowed to. We were told everyone had to wait until 2pm to get into their cabins. Had I been told this before check-in I would have sent my carry-on bag with my checked luggage. Luckily NCL was offering passengers a place (Lotus Garden) to store their carry-on bags until 2pm. Unfortunately I still had to carry around a bag with my valuables (wallet, passport, camera, phone, computer). It would have been nice to have had access to my cabin so I could store these items in the safe. CABIN We wanted a balcony cabin and didn't really care where it was on the ship so we decided to go with a "Balcony Guarantee" (purchase the least expensive balcony cabin and a few weeks before sailing you will receive your cabin assignment. You are guaranteed a balcony cabin or better). The NCL website states the balcony cabins are 205 sq ft, I figured I can't go wrong with that. How I wish I had brought my tape measure. It sure felt small. My 184 sq ft cabin on RCCL Mariner of the Seas felt much bigger than what I had on the Pearl. Perhaps it was the layout? The bed was right at the end of the hallway. One bed was against the wall. The bedside table was literally wedged between the two twin beds. Then the sofa was wedged up against the other bed and that was against the balcony slider. It all felt very crammed. Plenty of closet space. Too few hangers and they are those awful detachable ones. Three drawers. Shelves. A few hooks outside the bathroom. You certainly have room to store things. And large luggage even fits under the beds. The bed was short, but the most comfortable I have had on a cruise ship. The vanity area is small. We were never able to use the vanity since the corner of the bed was in the way of where the stool would go.We had a coffeepot which was great. The sofa was comfortable. The tv was tiny. There was a table and chair under where the tv was on a shelf. I'd have preferred to not have the table and chair and just had space. It was very difficult to find a spot to dress without bumping a wall or a bed. The balcony was spacious. Enough for two chairs and a small table. Plenty of room to move around. The bathroom was wonderful. I wouldn't have minded a smaller bathroom to give the cabin more space. Large sink with plenty of counter space. Three small shelves for personal items. Two towel racks. 4 hooks. The shower was large enough for two people. It wasn't the typical cruise line shower that looks like a capsule. It even had a clothesline. The toilet area had a gliding door you could close. Before booking I had read that the room had a mini fridge. HA. It was a mini bar that was crammed with items to sell, no room for my own items. SHIP Beautiful and spacious. I never once felt crowded..... Dining - lots of options ..... Two Main Dining Rooms. The Buffet (lots of choices so one would never go hungry). I even managed to find outdoor seating near the buffet at the back of the ship each morning. What a great way to start the day. Don't expect any free beverages such as lemonade. I was able to find milk or water. In the morning OJ and often it was warm. Speaking of warm, the plates offered at the buffet were piping hot. Good to know they were cleaned, but not so good if you wanted a nice cold salad or fruit. As for the other options .... Italian. Mexican. French. Japanese. Steakhouse. All had a surcharge. Food everywhere was edible. Nothing great. Food was also served by the pool. Late nite dining was minimal, sometimes you just want a cookie or a slice of pizza, not to be found on NCL. We had to go to Blue Lagoon, located near the lobby, to place an order for a meal/sandwich. Bars - plenty of bars to choose from and one for every personality.... Beer. Champagne. Martini. The Bliss Lounge for the late nite dance crowd. Shows - I don't have much of an opinion on them since I didn't go to many. I like to return to the ship, shower, relax, have a drink before dinner. The show times didn't match up to my plans (7:15pm & 9:15pm). I did attend the late nite adult shows and they were funny, not well run, but entertaining enough. Pool - Two pools, located side by side. Not much seating around the pool. Blaring music. A water slide (adults can participate too). One pool is an "adult only" pool. Plenty of hot tubs. It would have been nice if the "adult only" pool were located separate and perhaps indoors, not everyone wants the hot sun and blaring music. Spa - second best spa I have ever been too. They offer a VIP Spa Pass for $99.00/week. Well worth it. I spent so many hours here relaxing. Each individual male and female room had a steam room, sauna, individual soaking tubs, rain shower, cold plunge, lockers, showers and relaxation chairs. The unisex area had a hydro pool, hot tub, mosaic lounge chairs and relaxation lounge chairs. The spa is located at the front of the ship I had amazing views of the ocean as I was relaxing on a lounge chair. Also, the saunas has ocean views. Best deal on the ship! I did NOT have a spa treatment on the ship, I waited until we were in port. I had beach side massages in Roatan ($25 for 45 mins) and Costa Maya ($15 for 60 mins). Casino - good size. Plenty of tables and slots. Only negative, smoking was allowed. Misc. - The ship offers plenty to do for anyone ..... Rock climbing wall. Basketball/tennis court/soccer. Shuffleboard. Bowling ($5.00 pp surcharge). Bingo. Art auctions. Video arcade (small). Liquor tasting events. Located side by side were the library (which was beautiful and large) and the card game room (which offered plenty of board games). Unfortunately they were located near the pool and all you could hear was the blaring music. Not very relaxing. Cigar room. A few shops. Shows. Fitness center/jogging track. CREW/STAFF Since there is so much crew/staff I will break it down .... Front Desk - Bland. Not much personality. Hardly ever a smile. Cabin Steward - Fantastic. Friendly. Smiling. Always asking how my day was, where I was off to, do I need anything. Excursions Desk - Terrible. Very uninformed. They just wanted to make a sale. I inquired about a beach excursion in Roatan and the next thing I knew tickets were printed and handed to me (this happened to others onboard too). Had the woman just waited I would have purchased a more expensive excursion I was also planning to ask about. They pretty much told you anything to get you to book an excursion. Advice, research before going and then book on your own. Spa Staff - Wonderful. Always cheerful and smiling. Made me feel welcome. Dining room Staff - Awful. There is no other word. I guess when gratuities are automatically billed to your stateroom and they know they are guaranteed a tip at the end of the week, why work for it? Never once a smile. Never once a "how are you this evening?". Never once were we told the specials. Never once did the waiter return to see how our meal was or if we needed anything else. God forbid you veer off menu and ask for something not listed (like iceberg lettuce and tomato slices), you get strange looks and mumbles. Bartenders - Mostly friendly. Specialty Restaurants - the waiters were okay. They did their job. Somewhat pleasant, at least friendlier than the Main Dining room staff. Casino Staff - Always friendly and cheerful. CRUISE DIRECTOR (RAY) - I don't even know where to begin other than to say I have no clue why NCL employs this man. I can only describe him as a character Jon Lovitz would play (and this is not meant as a compliment). At many times he was just crass. I am not a prude, but there are just some things you don't say. The first of two examples that really sticks out in my mind is the "Dancing with the Stars of the Pearl Game Show". It was a later show, but I also wouldn't consider it an adult show and taking teenagers to a dance show I would think would be okay. I suppose not once the Cruise Director starts making comments about contestants crotches smelling. The next example that still has me absolutely horrified that I would never enroll my child in the kids program onboard was what I watched on the tv in my cabin. It started out cute, the Cruise Director interviewing kids (8-12 yrs old I believe) asking their name and where they are from. He then took them on a tour of the ship. Stopping by alcohol tasting. Then a stroll through a bar. And next up was the casino where he was talking about his days in Vegas and how not to split 10's. These are CHILDREN. They should not be exposed to these things. What ever happened to showing them innocent things like the kitchen, the bridge, the library or sports area. If I had had a child onboard that participated in this I would have been down at the desk raising hell! Totally inappropriate behavior. Certainly not a family friendly Cruise Director. INCIDENTS I have two to report ... Upon entering our cabin for the first time, after I got over the initial shock of the crammed space I noticed dust everywhere! If we were allowed in our cabins until 2pm, I am very curious what the staff was doing if they weren't cleaning. This wasn't just a little dust that I could wipe away with my hand, this was a coating on every surface available. Some spots were thick. It was gross. I suffer severe asthma and I was not happy about what I found. I called the front desk to report it. I received an apology and was told it would be taken care of. When I returned to my cabin a few hours later it had indeed been taken care of. And furthermore, one staff member with authority personally came by the cabin to apologize and see if things were cleaned. I very much appreciated it. The second incident is somewhat our fault. My luggage arrived no problem. My Mom's didn't. Hours later we received a notice stating her luggage was being held because an x-ray had shown items that were not allowed. Turns out she had packed a bottle of liquor for making drinks in the room. Having cruised before she should have known this was a no-no, but in her defense she has cruised before and been allowed to actually bring a bottle on with no problem. The notice stated to go to a certain area at a certain time where her bag would be opened in her presence. I went with her. Lots of people were here so I guess we weren't the only naughty ones. My Mom apologized and told the man she knew what he was looking for and stated she thought she could bring in since she had been allowed in the past on other cruise ships. She was asked what it was and to show it. The crew member then told her for $20 USD she could keep it. Seriously! I couldn't believe my ears! A shakedown so she could keep her bottle of booze! She was standing there in her swimsuit and cover up, she didn't have any cash with her (no one has cash with them on a cruise ship). At this point he couldn't exactly take the bottle away from her, what if she reported him? In the end he allowed her to keep it. We should have reported him but we didn't want to make trouble on day 1. DISEMBARATION We decided to walk off with our own luggage on our last day. The other choice is to check your luggage the nite before and have a set departure time. We left our cabin at 7:50am and we were off the ship waiting for our shuttle van by 8:05am. Smooth as can be. Very impressed. I think in the future I will always walk off with my own luggage, it is much more relaxing that sitting around waiting to be called off and then searching a sea of bags for my own. Unfortunately my shuttle van was running very late and I had to wait 45 minutes. During that 45 minutes I had to listen to and ingest fumes from the 15 or so idling buses waiting for passengers who were coming off the ship after the walk offs. It was awful. No idea why the buses had to remain idling since the next group of passengers weren't coming for quite a while. As if that wasn't bad enough the luggage porters were setting up for the new arrivals and kept shoving those waiting for cabs/vans to move out of their way. I was shoved to the point I was literally standing on the edge of a curb. I suppose once the cruise is over they are done with you and you should just get out of their way! In the end, when it comes down to it, would I sail NCL again? Sure, if the price was right and the itinerary intrigued me. I am glad I tried NCL. The ship was beautiful. The dining options were fantastic. The service was minimal at best. The crew/staff was mostly unfriendly. The cruise director was awful. The cruise wasn't horrible, the staff just didn't bring any service to make it memorable. I suppose if I sailed NCL again I would just go with the low expectations. Truthfully, anyone would be better off to pay a little more, sail RCCL/Cunard/Carnival and walk away saying they had a wonderful time and fantastic service. One final note, don't allow NCL to force you into the $12.00/day pp gratuity. I come from a family who has all worked in the service industry. Tipping 20% is normal for us. If deserved. My last evening I went to the desk and asked that the automatic gratuities be removed from my bill. With a little attitude from the desk clerk it was done. I tipped in the speciality restaurants when I dined there. I left a tip for my Cabin Steward who was fantastic. Three times I dined in the Main Dining rooms and not once did any of the servers deserve a tip. As I said earlier, I suppose they don't need to actually provide you a service since they know they are receiving a tip since it is automatically billed to your cabin. Don't let NCL do this to you. Have it removed, tip at your own discretion, perhaps then the crew will start to provide service if they have to earn their tip! Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
This was not my first cruise with NCL and not my first to Alaska, my most favorite destination. But it was my first cruise with mobility issues. Several months before the cruise, arthritis started in my left knee and then on to my right ... Read More
This was not my first cruise with NCL and not my first to Alaska, my most favorite destination. But it was my first cruise with mobility issues. Several months before the cruise, arthritis started in my left knee and then on to my right knee. Never had this much trouble with arthritis before, but this time it came with a vengeance. Got a shot of Cortisone in the left knee prior to the cruise, but I thought the right knee was due to favoring it too much, so I didn't get a shot for that knee. So I knew I was going to have problems getting around mostly because of the right knee. With this, the thought of a getting a week's pass for the thermal suite on the ship was sounding really good but I wondered if we could board early enough to get a couple of those coveted passes. Luckily, I had my cane with me because both knees were wobbly and when they announced that people with mobility problems could board first, I grabbed my sister EL and daughter AD and we headed for the ship. We were the first group of people to board and the first thing we did was sign up for the thermal suite! Our "girls" cruise was off to a good start. We had our first lunch at the Summer Palace by the large window with a glorious view of the Seattle skyline in front of us on a lovely, Sunday morning. Couldn't ask for anything better. By the time we finished our lunch our cabin was ready. Our balcony cabin seemed smaller than I remember, but then the last cabin we had was a mini-suite, so in comparison, the space seemed very small. And with a third person in the room, it seemed even smaller. But we found plenty of storage and closet space. Then it was time for the emergency drill. I was afraid about standing for a long time during the drill because of my bad knees. But it was different this time, we didn't have to put on our life jackets and our drill station was at the Summer Palace. That was way too easy but what a relief. We relaxed for a while and then stepped out on our balcony as the ship left the pier. We had our first dinner at Le Bistro. It's half-price on the first night of the cruise. We then saw the "Oh What a Night" Frankie Valley tribute show which was very entertaining. After that we decided to go to bed early so that we could try out the thermal suite first thing in the morning. The thermal suite was wonderful. It's definitely well worth the extra $99 for an opportunity to just relax and pamper oneself. However, for short people take caution entering the large thermal pool. Your feet won't touch the bottom and the bubbling current can easily make it seem like your in the rapids with your body bobbing around like a cork. Hold on to a bar and don't let go! Plus - there are two personal whirlpool baths but unfortunately one was out of order. But there were so few people there it didn't take very long for it to be available again. Now going back to the fact that my knees were in bad shape, this is what I experienced for the first time as someone with mobility problems. The Summer Palace entrance is on the 7th floor and you have to go down the stairs to the 6th floor to the dining hall. Anyone having trouble with stairs can take the elevator that goes down to the 6th floor and only one of 4 elevators in front of the Summer Palace goes there. Once you're down on the 6th floor, there is no access to the rest of the ship other than by that one elevator or the stairs. When we got down to the 7th floor for dinner at the Summer Palace, I stood there in front of the elevator that goes down to the 6th floor while EL and AD checked in for a table. I waited forever, but no 6th floor elevator arrived. Since EL and AD were already below waiting for me, I decided to try the stairs. I made it down, but almost lost my balance on the way down. Then after dinner, I waited at the 6th floor elevator, this time with EL and AD. No elevator arrived. There was another lady with a cane also waiting. The elevator never came. So we all made our way up the stairs, which was painful for me but even more painful for the other lady. By the time we made it up to the 7th floor, the gal at the restaurant registration desk said, "Sorry that you had to walk up the stairs, the elevator's not working." These things happen I suppose - but why weren't we informed before going down to the 6th floor? Why wasn't there a sign saying the elevator was out of order? Why did they allow us to go downstairs to the dining hall without a word of warning about a broken elevator? It was a puzzle. I wondered what might have happened for someone in a wheelchair. Perhaps they were informed, but I guess they thought people with canes could handle the stairs just fine. It could be there was another elevator that could be used, but no one bothered to tell us. We reserved tickets to see the Lumberjack show at Ketchikan. Our ship was closer to where the show was located the first time I was in Ketchikan but this time it was much further away. I asked someone at the excursion desk if there was a shuttle that would take us to the show. I was told that when I got to the meeting place outside of the ship they would have a shuttle there for folks with mobility problems. We got off the ship early and I asked about the shuttle and the person guiding people to where the show was didn't know what we were talking about. So she called the excursion desk and she was told the show would have a taxi take us there at their expense. Good. However, when the show was over, there were no arrangements made to pick us up after the show. So we walked slowly back to the ship. It was uncomfortable, but I made it. So, back on the ship we had lunch and I soaked my achy knees in one of the thermal suite's personal whirlpool bath. Ahhh.... I would suggest to anyone having trouble getting around, don't be afraid to tell crewmembers that you'll need special accommodations for boarding or de-boarding. Being new at this, I wasn't proactive and I paid dearly for it. In previous cruises with NCL, disembarking was always so smooth and usually didn't take very long at all. The only time it took longer was in New York, which is a very busy port. I didn't realize Vancouver is also a very busy port and we stood in line forever going through customs and then it was another lengthy wait just to get in a taxi. I could have kicked myself when I saw a row of people in wheelchairs being wheeled directly to where they needed to go. So don't be proud, ask for assistance. My poor knees ached for days after waiting in all those long lines. All in all, it was another great Alaskan cruise and I intend to get my knees replaced before taking another trip. P.S. - Another suggestion -- Try the chicken wings at the Blue Lagoon. I've never seen so many peopleat one time chomping on wings. Chicken bones were flying everywhere! There hot like they just came out of the fryer! They're super-crispy on the outside and juicy and tender inside. They're delicious and you can get them hot or mild. If you get it mild, you can just dip the wings in as much hot sauce as you want rather than having the wings smothered in sauce. It's not as messy to eat. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
This was the most wonderful relaxing vacation we have taken to date. This was the 1st ship out and we were the only ship at all the ports we went to until our last stop in Victoria. We flew into SEA and took Amtrak to Vancouver. It was a ... Read More
This was the most wonderful relaxing vacation we have taken to date. This was the 1st ship out and we were the only ship at all the ports we went to until our last stop in Victoria. We flew into SEA and took Amtrak to Vancouver. It was a long trip, and disembarking off the train took a long time as it was full and we had to wait for customs. But, I would do it again, it was nice. We stayed in the Ramada limited in Vancouver, just a few blocks from Canada Place. This was a small, nice hotel with very good service. We were on the street side, and it was loud all night from the people in the streets. I would ask for a different part of the hotel next time. We intended to do more in Vancouver. But, were content with just walking around our part of town and checking things out. We went to China town and had dim sum,then went to Canada Place and checked things out. The next morning...we walked around some more...then took a cab to the pier around 12. The porters took our luggage right off the cab and we were in line. It took about 30-45 min. to get through security, then customs, then check in. We did not get rained on at all...the weather was perfecto. We are two women in our forties, and our 3rd cruise to Alaska. We were on the Pearl her first year in 2007. We chose her again because we love the spa. We loved our balcony room, and would never want anything less on the Alaska cruise. There is always something to be looking at or for. We like to get the spa pass and relax in there everyday as we watch Alaska go by....ahhhhhhhh. I think the Pearl has one of the best spas on the water. We had the best cruise critic group, ever. We ended up having a very large gathering...probably 60 people. Then a cabin crawl and a poker run. It was great, as we had just about every category cabin to view. The one thing that we did that was truly amazing that was not a port was we cruised Tracys Arm. This was the best day of the whole cruise. I felt I was going to miss Glacier bay....but I was not disappointed....AWESOME We do not do much with the activities. Went to one comedy show...it was OK. I went to the Quest and had fun with some fellow cruisers. I did make it to the chocolate buffet for the 1st time and it was pretty tasty. Other then that....we pretty much cruise for the sights, spa and food. About the food.....we enjoyed the buffet, both the main dining rooms and Lotus Garden. We were not crazy about the food in Cagneys or Blue Lagoon. For the most part....the food was very salty in all the restaurants. But, we did find things we enjoyed. The service was awesome....everywhere. We did get a room that was smoked in previously. It was very bad...even in the bathroom and the closet. Our stewards and their boss handled this as well as expected. They removed everything from the room....curtains, couch covers...all the pillows, and cleaned the carpet. Unfortunately they could not move us to another room as the ship was full. It was so bad, I could not stay in the room the 1st night. I spent the night hanging out around the ship, and met some very interesting people. They brought in an ionizer for 4 days, as well. The smell was pretty well gone after a couple days. Disembarkation was a breeze. We were the 4th group to be called, and we walked right off. Our luggage was right there and we grabbed a cab. We went to the car rental place in Seattle and took off for Whistler for another week. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Norwegian Pearl October 24th - 31st Day One - Driving to Ocala Florida Believe it or not we have decided to start our road trip to Miami right after work. So I picked my DH up and off we went - headed to Ocala, FL. I have never been to ... Read More
Norwegian Pearl October 24th - 31st Day One - Driving to Ocala Florida Believe it or not we have decided to start our road trip to Miami right after work. So I picked my DH up and off we went - headed to Ocala, FL. I have never been to Ocala and since by the time we arrived it was dark (around 9pm) we really did not see much. We stayed at the Holiday Inn and Suites in Downtown Ocala. First impression - we loved the hotel! Not like your typical Holiday Inn; it was very trendy and the front desk staff was very welcoming. Side Note: If you know me, you know I'm a Priceline fanatic and while I surely don't expect to receive the best room in the hotel, I also do not expect to end up in the basement with no windows. Sometimes we book rooms just to get away, rooms that if we had to pay rack rate we'd be unable to afford and so we wouldn't stay. I think Priceline actually provides more business to hotels that otherwise might not have as much on a particular day. Unfortunately I've been to some hotels where I hear, "oh you booked through Priceline" and end up with what I perceive is a lesser room. Now at the Holiday Inn the room they gave us was on the 2nd floor and it had two double beds. I was somewhat annoyed that after telling the front desk person that it was our anniversary (it truthfully was) that she would give us a room with two beds. The hotel was not full by any means, but whatever. The room was totally cute and I liked it. I opened up the curtains and saw nothing but the hotels air-conditioning unit. Still this wasn't a big deal, we were passing though and the bed was big enough for two and comfy. So we both finally get under the covers to go to sleep and BEEP BEEP!! The fire alarm battery has decided to die and beep warning tones at us to let us know it was time to replace. So we called down to the front desk (it's a little after 12am) and they say they will need to move us to another room because no one is here that can replace the battery. To make up for our troubles (their words) they put us in a 1 bedroom suite that has a king size bed. We drag all of our stuff down the hall into the new room, barely have time to look at it because we are so tired and just fall asleep. The following morning we have more time to examine the room and notice questionable stains on the walls and when my DH came back to the bed and put his knee in the middle of the mattress to get on it, THE BED BROKE!! It's wonderful to be married to someone with such a great sense of humor because we laughed and laughed. Instead of having to humiliate ourselves by telling the front desk, we took the entire bed apart, down to the frame, fixed it (kinda) and put it back together. I truly believe the bed was already broken because some of the screws were missing - Whatever. So I go into the bathroom to take my shower and smell this really strong scent of lye. On the floor of the shower is some weird blue/gray liquid that neither of us can figure out where it came from. It smelled horrible!!! Gross! Since we still have our key from the 1st room, I walk back down the hall in my night clothes to the old room and shower there. Time to check out, submitted an issue report to the hotel and hit the highway. Oh yeah - forgot, we ate dinner that night at Cracker Barrel...it was ok... Day Two - Miami or Barton G's The drive to Miami was nice, they are building sound proofing (?) walls on the highway and I love the fact that they have imprints of birds and flowers in the concrete. It adds some visual interest to what otherwise could be a boring drive. We did also see huge swarms of birds (crows?) around what I believe are trash dumps along the hwy. You don't actually see the landfills, but there are sooooooo many birds flying around that I can only imagine what it must look like. It was kinda freaky and gross... We are from Atlanta but I would drive on 285 Friday at 5:30pm and never complain before I would want to move to Miami and deal with that traffic. Maybe it's because like true tourist we did not know where we were going and the street signs could sometimes be confusing. I'm sure if we were seasoned Miamians we would have no problems jumping in and out of traffic like the locals. As avid watchers of The Food Network, my DH insisted that we go to Primanti Brothers for one of their big a$$ sandwiches. I got the tuna (added a fried egg) and DH got the Italian sausage. All sandwiches come with fries (yes, fries on the actual sandwich), cole slaw, provolone cheese and tomatoes. The sandwiches were really great but neither of us can completely finish them. We arrive at the Hyatt Regency- Coral Gables. I FREAKING LOVE THIS HOTEL!! Valet is the only way to go primarily because I couldn't figure out where the regular parking was - we were on vacation, so hey! Our room was on the top floor and it was perfect. Again, we Pricelined it and even then it was not cheap, but it was worth every penny. We ended up having a very romantic evening. That evening my DH took me out to dinner at Barton G's to celebrate our anniversary since we were too tired to go out the night before. Barton G's is an experience to be had. The food arrives in some of the most creative dishes I've ever seen at a restaurant. My lobster pop-tarts were delish, and they arrived in a retro toaster! We had chicken served in a chicken and mac and cheese served in a mouse trap. Our cheesecake, chocolate cake brownie thing arrived with sparklers in it! I really enjoyed this experience, the food was pretty good, however I must say DO NOT ORDER THE CHICKEN! It was not seasoned well and was awful! Again our good sense of humor came in and we decided just to let it go. Everything else was delicious, the $32.00 mac and cheese and everything else is totally worth it. When the bill comes it's properly referred to as "the damage". We're still paying for it... Day Three - 1st day on the Norwegian Pearl Embarkation - We arrived around 11:30 ish and drove around trying to figure out where the parking deck for terminal F was. We saw the deck for G, but not for F. Turns out they are all in the same deck - so just an FYI. We dropped our luggage off for the porters and I was a little worried because there were people who still had not picked up their luggage from the previous sailing and I was concerned it would get mixed up with those passengers getting on. They did not immediately put our baggage on a cart, but by the time we parked in the garage and walked back to the terminal, all of our baggage was gone (thankfully it was indeed being loaded onto the Pearl). Embarkation was pretty much smooth; the lines seemed to move well etc. However I did have a bad experience being a guest with disabilities, but I will not go into that here. All I will say is that the staff in the port could do a better job of asking and not assuming when it comes to identifying passengers with disabilities. Once we boarded the ship we received our glass of champ...orange juice. DH and I do not drink so I was happy they had an alternative. We immediately went to check out the spa and get our weekly spa pass. It was $198 for the both of us, best money we spent on the entire cruise! After getting our pass we went to the Garden Cafe buffet for lunch. This was one of the few times we actually sat to eat in the buffet because seating was sometimes hard to come by. The food was great! No, it wasn't top of line, but it's a buffet and the options were plentiful and they tasted pretty good. Definitely a positive for NCL. Room: At the last minute we were able to move from an accessible inside to an accessible balcony cabin. This was our first balcony and it was wonderful! The room was spacious, however for those in wheelchairs there is a pole in the center of the walkway when you first come in that could pose a problem with trying to turn around. The bathroom had plenty of grab bars, a roll under sink and a pull down bench in the shower. The balcony - wheelchairs would only be able to roll straight out and not turn left or right to move down the balcony. The balcony is long, but not very wide, you could not turn around outside. I know I might be mentioning things that seem odd, but these were important to me so I'm sharing. The beds are on metal (steel) frames and were very sturdy. There are tons of plugs beside the bed, at the vanity and behind the TV above the drawers. Our room had two plush chairs that were too low for my taste so I never used them. Also the pull down bed was above them and my DH hit his head on it when getting up from the chair. Service: This is where NCL could use some serious work. My DH and I had Pepsi cards and getting service was hard enough, but after you ordered the servers would actually not bring your drink back! In places where we could just walk up to the actual bar, we would and service was good. However in places like the Starlight Theater, servers would "forget" to bring our drinks or as the days passed, totally ignore us all together. I realized they do not get additional gratuity for sodas when using the card, but the damn card isn't free and when you pay 60 bucks for $10 worth of soda I'd say the gratuity was built in! This is something that NCL needs to work on, if you're going to sell the card, then give the servers some kind of credit against the cost of the card for every soda that they fill up. We also had an issue in the Summer Palace dining room where the assistant server rolled his eyes at me because I mentioned that we would like tea instead of water. An exception to this was at the Java Cafe!! JOAQUIN was Fantastic!! He was the star of our entire cruise. He was always pleasant, talked with us and did not look down his nose when I wanted a Pespi with my sticker J We filled out a Star performer card on Joaquin because he really was great! Ports: St. Thomas I realize today that my idea of a vacation and that of my husband is somewhat different. I want to lie around doing nothing but eating and sitting out on the balcony, he wants to sightsee and take pictures and buy stuff. Today we are in St. Thomas and after sleeping in a bit we decided to get off the ship and go on the sky ride to paradise point. I did not remember the shore excursions list stating that there would be about forty steps up and then back down to take this ride. It's for the best because if I had, I would not have gone. It was hot and a bit confusing about how to get to the sky ride once we got off of the boat. Luckily the towns people are nice and helpful at pointing out the way. I was sweating by the time we got to the ride and when greeted by the steps I was worried if I'd be about to do this. I have a fear of steps (fell years ago, badly) and an arthritic knee, so steep steps are not my friend. Needless to say the steps were broken up, 20 before we got on the ride, 20 after we got off at the top, then the same thing over again on the way back down. (Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but it seemed like a lot of steps!) Great Stir-up Cay: Too many people in one place. I do not like crowds so this was not my idea of fun. DH had fun hanging with some of the people we met from CC snorkeling. I actually brought my own chair from home, which was good because all of the beach chairs were taken. You think chair hogging is bad on the boat? Expect to experience the same thing at GSC. The water was beautiful and clear and nice to look at. The side we were on was a bit rocky; I believe if you go to the left when you get off the tender the ocean floor is smoother. They had food and drinks; however I did not attend the buffet so I can't say much about it. Seemed like a pretty nice beach day, however expect a long line when it's time to go home. We left about 2-hours before we had to be back and the line was pretty long to get back onto the tender. Side note: I am sitting out on the balcony as I type this.. I think I could live like this. I'm happy. As a diehard Carnival cruiser it saddens me to say that I think I like NCL better. The food is better, the accommodations are nicer and there seems to be more to do. On the flipside the staff is less friendly (before they knew I was a cruise critic poster) and the entertainment (wayyyyyyy off broad way shows) was lack luster at best. Entertainment: Last night we went to see a show called "insert name" and I was excited because it was going to have some of Justin Timberlake and Beyonce's songs in it. Totally the music of my generation-so I was happy to hear that. The show was horrible! I could lie and say I could have done a better show, but there is a reason I am a passenger and not the main attraction in the starlight theater. The female lead singer sounded lovely, her voice was strong and I enjoyed listening to her. Her male counterpart sounded generic and bored me to tears. During his rendition of "sexy back" by Justin, I think he spoke more of the words than actually sang them. I've never heard anyone perform a Frank Sinatra song so blandly. I wish I could think of better words to describe his singling, it was just flat - as in soulless. The stage is set up with a very large staircase covering most of the floor area, I felt it was too large and I couldn't help but notice the metal staircase the whole night. One of the ladies tripped while coming down the stairs; thank-fully no one was hurt. Food: We mostly ate in the buffet and Blue Lagoon. The food choices in the buffet were pretty good, but on a 7-day cruise can get to be repetitive. The BL was great for some late night munchies and mostly everything was pretty good - the fish a bit greasy, but still good. Our favorite was the pound cake with the strawberry topping. Very simple, but perfectly moist - a great treat! We went to two of the fee restaurant, Mambos and The Lotus Garden. All I can say for Mambos is save your money. I ordered the chicken tortilla soup and lobster tacos, the soup was just tomato soup and the tacos had more cheese in them than anything. It was the worst meal I had on the entire cruise. It was so bad that when the matri'd came over to ask how things were, I busted out laughing uncontrollably! I was so embarrassed! It was so horrible I could not even begin to intelligently express how bad it was so I just started laughing. I felt so bad for the matri'd and my DH because I made a fool out of myself, it was awful! I do appreciate that NCL actually took the time to ask what I thought of the food; too bad I could not articulate anything meaningful at the time. The Lotus Garden was ok, DH seemed to enjoy it. Breakfast was my favorite meal on the Pearl and we always ate at the Garden Buffet. One note - they only offer extremely sweet orange juice and apple juice during breakfast, so if you can't drink these, bring some sugar-free juice packets from home and just mix them with the water. They do not offer un-sweet tea during breakfast. Oh, and the drink glasses are the size of a child's sippy cup, expect to get up for additional beverages if you usually like a full glass of drink with your meal. Lastly: I have to give NCL credit because several times throughout this trip I have been asked how things were going and even if there were any areas I felt NCL could improve on. I believe this is what's going to keep NCL going in the future, and certainly is part of the reason that I will be back, hopefully soon. ....I started this post on January 3rd, today is September 5th.... I'm going to go ahead and post it, unfinished, otherwise no one will ever see it....... Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Norwegian Pearl Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 3.0 3.8
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 1.0 3.4
Service 4.0 4.1
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.0

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