Bahamas, bingo, bowling, buffet, Cozumel, Cruise, cruise ship review, freestyle cruising, George Town, Grand Cayman, Great Outdoors, Great Stirrup Cay, Gym, Jamaica, Le Bistro, Mexico, Miami, NCL, Norwegian Pearl, Ocho Rios, Spa, Spinnaker Lounge, Star Bar, Teppanyaki
Norwegian Pearl Review
This review is on a seven day sailing from Miami to Great Stirrup Cay, Ocho Rios, George Town, and San Miguel de Cozumel that took place 16th December 2012.
It is always nice to know what background a reviewer has had so let me say I’ve cruised on Carnival, Holland, Royal, Costa and Norwegian and completed 18 cruises to give you some sense of where I’m coming from.
The ship was first and foremost immaculate. All sorts of nooks and crannies to discover and plenty of outdoor space. Any day on a cruise ship is a great one. People often have different expectations when cruising but one of the most common expectations is good and available food included in the fare. I don’t expect great food and am always very happy with the food. This ship, however, seemed to have a problem accommodating people at the restaurants included in the fare – especially on the first two nights and all I could think of was how I was missing the routine and structure of dining times on Holland America.
By the third night people were generally sick of waiting and were booking the premium restaurants which also were filling up. The waiting times were long enough that they were handing out those vibrating things to let you know when your table was ready. One time we were sent to a different restaurant only to be told we had to wait there. The staff at the Indigo desk were not very helpful and tended to be what you would expect at a high end art gallery. We tried to eat there three times. We never did after three efforts. We ate in Le Bistro, which is excellent and also Teppanyaki which was also entertaining and the food was excellent. Le Bistro is $20 and Teppanyaki is $25.
One surprise was the really excellent pizza that we got several times in one of the restaurants that converts to another restaurant at night. Every ship has its pizza, but this was exceptionally good. There was another place to get casual food, the Blue Lagoon Cafe, that had “comfort” food which was really quite good – we had wings and fish and chips there once.
The spa and gym were both outstanding. We took a one day thermal suite pass on one of the sea days and thoroughly enjoyed that. It was well worth the $30 charge for the pass and I would highly suggest doing it at the least once! The gym, of course, was included and there was a very small steam room and a very small locker room for use by guests. The thermal suite was incredibly comfortable and the staff excellent. The ceramic heated loungers and the other lounge chairs were perfect. Despite signs that say silence is golden, some people don’t understand or have common courtesy and have loud conversations – I remember one woman yapping away loudly about “this is the life.” Of course it is sweetie, now shut up.
Room stewards are unique and in no way indicative of an entire ship, however, we never knew the name of ours and he was seldom around. First time for me in probably 20 cruises. However the schedule went, we figured that our room must have been last on the list or on the route as it was not unusual for him to be there at 2 in the afternoon wanting to make up the room. One time he told us to phone housekeeping to have the towels exchanged because he was going off duty.
We enjoyed the intimacy of the happy hour bar – which was the Star Bar. We went there several times and it was relaxing though loud when busy. It was a very comfortable spot and was easy to meet people and chat if you wanted to. As for the more adventurous stuff, we didn’t do the rock climbing wall or the bowling. We went down for the two for one bowling which was promoted in the Freestyle Daily one day and there was an art auction going on at the same time and we were told we couldn’t bowl. The bowling and art auction were both in the schedule too. Not great planning.
We did Bingo one day – won’t do that again. Three games of bingo took well over an hour – mostly not playing bingo. It was in the Spinnaker Lounger which was an excellent space and really well designed – as was most of the ship.
The number calling was not amusing at Bingo and I found myself getting annoyed. A woman near me brought a kit complete with bowl to soak her fingers in and she gave herself a manicure – including clipping her nails. Yuck.
Overall, of course we would recommend the ship and the cruise. We had a great time. There were areas though that were clearly not up to expectations and little things compounded on little things seemed to be the norm. We had just been on the Norwegian Sun the month before and found not one single thing to even make a suggestion about on a ten day cruise. Not one. And our review of that was highly complimentary of the staff and the ship.
The Norwegian Pearl, oddly enough, was said by our NCL cruise consultant, to be one of the highest rated ships for its staff and service. Like all cruises, everyone has a different experience. We had an excellent experience. We were spoiled on the NCL Sun apparently because our expectation was that this ship would be even better. It was not. But it was very good. Keep your expectations a bit lower than normal and you’ll be doing wonderfully.