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Old July 29th, 2007, 03:49 PM
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Default Pearl Review, 7/15/07

I've posted this in reviews but sometimes it takes a while so here it is.

The Norwegian Pearl
Alaska - Glacier Bay
7/15/07

Magnolia Blossom (Georgia)

About us 54/59 year old semi-retired professional. Our 30th cruise, 8th with NCL. First on the Jewel class of ships. Travelling with us our 30’ish daughter and fiance - their first cruise.

Embarkation: We had registered on line so from locking the car to unlocking the cabin was 20 minutes. Our daughter parked in the garage ($15/day) and we walked over the skybridge to the port. There were separate lines for Latituteds members, mini-suite and villa passengers. The welcome aboard photos were done aboard the ship rather than in the terminal. I think this helped speed up boarding and was easy to bypass for those not inclined to photos.

Cabin: We were in cabin 8542 a BD balcony. The cabin was typical of balcony cabins with NCL or RCCL except for the bathroom. There is an almost normal sized shower with a ceiling to floor sliding door!!! There is also a sliding door on the toilet area, but using it was a bit awkward. There was ample storage in the bath and cabin for DH and I. We are not huge packers but we had room to spare.

In the bath there is a razor outlet only. In the cabin there was one outlet. There is a 4 cup coffee maker, equipped with Folgers coffee, and a blowdryer. Furnishing were bright (more on that later) as was the rest of the ship. Bedding was high quality and comfortable. The balcony had two comfortable (for a change) chairs and a small table. The cabin had a fold out loveseat. The curtains were surprisingly light blocking and closed well.

So you don’t have to ask - there is no DVD player or iron.

Public areas: well . . . if your cat ate a pint of rainbow sherbert, a box of fruity pebbles and a glow stick, then threw up - that pretty well describes the color scheme of the ship.. The colors are hideous. NCL must have kidnapped the Carnival designer, fed him psychodelic mushrooms and turned him loose with a paint palet. Lots of wild shades and swirly designs. To me it was very jarring. The visual version of nails on a blackboard. There is also some very unusually shaped furniture. I felt as though the Cheshire Cat might appear at any moment. But having said that the very ugly W-shaped lounge chairs in the Spinnaker Lounge were terrific for lounging while reading or whale watching. It somewhat amazes me that they place a stage in the very front of the lounge, which otherwise would afford a 300+ degree view from the front of the ship.

The crystal atrium. The reception desk, excursion desk, etc is here. The reception area has no queing ropes so it was crazy at busy times. The excursion desk could teach them a few things about organization. But zaniest of all is this humongous two-story video screen against the wall. Various forms of video are shown here- shopping talks, jewelry seminars and a video game known as WII. Guess I’m showing my age, but I found it irritating to have that degree of electronic stimulation in your face. Especially since it was visible from Mambos and the Blue Lagoon restaurants.


The Bliss Lounge (home of the bowling alley (($5 per person per game)) ) has two areas for private reservation. The alcoves of the lounge can be reserved for $20/hour and include some food and beverage perks. Karaoke was held there nightly and there are several double bed sized chaises. The areas like everywhere else is quite decadent. Lots of velvet textures, tassels and glitz.

The theatre is fine (especially if you like purple) and there did not seem to be any blind spots. There are air vents on the back of the chairs so ventilation is ample.

The Summer Palace is one of the public dining rooms. It is done on a Catherine’s Palace theme and very interesting. It is the larger of the two dining areas and jeans are not allowed for dinner, even the first night. It is noisier than the Indigo but has better views.

There are multiple specialty restaurants and all are very attractive places. Screens around the ship show waiting times at all the restaurants.

Okay - enough of that. The ship was immaculate and well laid out.

Food Service: The buffet has the usual bottlenecks and for the life of me I don’t know why they only put 2 ice machines in a buffet that size. One was always out of order as well. The food areas are pretty spacious and several items repeat so there is not much pile up (once people learn that). The biggy is the omelet station. Always a long line. If you are a real omlet fan go up to the Blue Lagoon and get one there. The menu is limited but for breakfast without fanfare it is a nice quiet place. The ice cream station is usually crowded and offered 6-8 different varieties of ice cream or sherbert (not soft serve). It however backs up to one of the ice machines and beverage area so it’s a bottleneck. The designers of this buffet could have taken a few lessons from the Norwegian Sun.

Straight through the buffet is a children’s buffet area with hot dogs, burgers and mac anc cheese and little tables. Nice touch for the little ones. It opens onto the Great Outdoor buffet which is open air and has an abbreviated version of the big buffet. Usually less crowded and a nice place to dine, weather permitting.

We dined one night at La Cocina, the Italian restaurant and enjoyed it very much. Reservations are necessary but there is no fee. We also ate at Teppanyaki, the Japanese steak house, (reservations necessary and $20/person) and found it mediocre. There are 8 people per table and 4 tables in the restaurant. The “show? done by the cooks is not comparable to Benihana’s (sp?) but the food was pretty good. There is a huge range hood over the area that makes it quite noisy.
We tried to make reservations for several other restaurants but were not able to. Our kids ate sushi ($15/person) several times and enjoyed it.

I felt the food quality and service was much improved over our last NCL cruise (2/07) and may actually have been some of the best we’ve had in many years.

There was a wine program that was never advertised until the last day. If you bought 6 bottles of wine you received 1 free. You had to bring all your tickets to any restaurant or bar and they gave you a bottle of your preferred wine. Don’t know what they would do if you requested a bottle more expensive than your usual order, but we are boring people and drank the same wine most nights.
Dress code: “Nice? jeans are allowed in all venues for dinner except Summer Palace. No jeans are permitted there, even on the first night. It was stri ctly, but nicely enforced. You may not wear your swim suit in the buffet, although if you are passing through the buffet to get the Great Outdoors it’s okay.

Smoking has been limited to an increasingly fewer place (yeh!) which made some decks entirely smoke free.

The casino has the usual assortment of games and slots. There was a poker tournament but I do not believe it was a regular table game. There was a good variety of slots from penny to $100. Payout seemed to be pretty good, as those things go. Go, being the operative word. DH did well at blackjack although they have automatic shuffler except at the $25 table. There is a blackjack table poolside when the weather permitted. Likewise, there are four slot machines in the Bliss Lounge.
My only complaint about the casino was the short hours. At several ports they would not open for 2 hours or so after sailing. On the final day the casino closed at 1:30 in the afternoon as we entered Washington state waters. We did not dock in Victoria until 6:00 p.m. so it made for a long afternoon for those of us who like to while away time in the casino.

Entertainment: The comedy group Second City performed twice and were enjoyable. The Jean Ann Ryan dancers new show, “Sea Legs? was just awful. The worst entertainment on the seas I’ve ever seen. We did not bother going to their second show, as seemed to be the case with many others. Our daughter (who is a theater person) went and said it was better but still lacking. The dancers were talented young people who were not challenged in the least by the choreography. There were two airialists who saved the show.

Other entertainment around the ship was quite nice. A nice dance band, show band, pianist, guitarist. All top notch. Of course there was the usual assortment of games and bingo. The late night game in the Spinnaker Louge was pretty wild and the younger folks especially seemed to enjoy it.

Spa: The spa area is delightful, but to use the really nice part, known as the Thermal Suite, there is a $15/day fee. You can get a reduced weekly rate but I do not remember exactly what it was. $65, I think. It included warm tile loungers, steam and sauna, and several jacuzzi’s., all looking out on the ocean. I did not use this area but as I toured it I noticed signs requesting you to limit usage to 20 minutes. There never seemed to be anyone in there when I was around. For no charge you can use the steam room (no sauna) in the changing areas. Lockers are available as well as towels. But if you want a wash cloth you will need to bring one from your cabin. (my husban’ds pet peeve). All the usual services are available at inflated prices now including accupuncture.

Gym: Nice assortment of various machines, looking out to sea. Pilates, Yoga, and spin classes were available for a fee. The walking track is very nice. Good texture and padding on the shaded boat deck. Approx. 3 laps/mile.

Pool: Two pools. One for the kiddies with a water slide and two jacuzzis, and one for adults with two jacuzzis. The adult pool had a waterfall which added nice ambiance and helped drown out some background noise (like the kids pool). Both pools were salt water.

In the pool area, beneath the upper pool deck were double sized, wicker chaise lounges. These were great for gazing out to sea, reading and just chillin’ out. Very nice touch. The regular lounge chairs are of a fabric mesh rather than the nylon straps. Much more comfortable.

There is an area available to look down into the bridge for those inclined to do so.

Itinerary: We docked at all locations, no tendering.
Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. This was our third trip to all of these so we enjoyed chatting with locals, strolling about and having a local brew or two. I would gladly have exchanged any of these days for a chance to cruise additional glaciers but they didn’t ask me.

Glacier Bay: 3 naturalists from the Forestry Service were onboard to narrate our passage in Glacier Bay and one did a slide show in the afternoon. They were available on the deck to answer questions. We did not get as close to the Johns Hopkins glacier as the Margerie and Great Pacific because of the baby seal population. Still quite nice. In both places the captain turned the ship completely around so you had a good view from all spots on the ship.

Victoria: since the Pearl sails from a US port and visits all US ports it is ncecessary to make a foreign call, so Victoria fills the bill. We did an excursion to Butchart Gardens that would have been fabulous had it not been pouring down rain. But that’s what we get for having great weather in all the other ports. This port of call is only from 6P til midnight so it seemed a bit odd not to be toasting the cruise at our table on the final night at sea and made for a short night since we did not get back on board until 11:30.

Crew: Multinational with the majority from the Phillipines or eastern Europe. All very friendly and helpful.

Passenger makeup: Middle aged to ol.der Americans although there was a surprising number of childen on board. There was a large charter from Hawaii of what appeared to be Samoans.
A fair number of europeans, particularly Brits, and Canadians. A well behaved crowd.

Disembarkation: We chose self-dearking, as usual, but were not allowed off the ship until 8:15 or so. There appeared to be a problem of some sort clearing all the crew through immigration.
They brought the drug dogs through the hallways, which some folks found odd, obviously, they’ve not cruised Aruba! Clearing customs was just a wave-through procedure and once they opened the cattle gates we were in our car within a very few minutes.

Odds and Ends: Sanitation stations were manned and you were nicely reminded to cleanse your hands. Security was present and quite visible, no problems. Photography: very few this trip, which is okay with me. They were at each port for disembarking photos with the eagle, the whate, etc, but not in your face every time you put a fork in your mouth. Who needs evidence of that - I have my thighs!

Drink prices seemed to be about average for a good restaurant onshore but still, $5.75 for a scotch and soda gets steep after a while. Beverage cards are up to a whopping $60.38 (who makes up these numbers?), so you would have to drink a lot of soda to justify that.

There is an onboard cruise consultant but they do not do onboard bookings any longer. There was a special that if you paid a $250 deposit against any cruise to be booked within the next 12 months they would give you an immedite OBC of $100.

As has been the case for a while now, there is no Captain’s party since there is no formal night.
There was a Latitudes Party on the first sea day at 1:00 p.m. There were also the usual meetings available for friends of Bob and Dorothy. There was a VWF gathering one afternoon and a service club meeting..

There is a nice little chapel which probably seats about 18 people. Sabbath services were held on Friday but no services for other faiths was published.

There was a wedding onboard mid-week and it was lovely to see the wedding party around the ship.

The internet cafe has about 10 stations and packages are available or per minute (.75) usage.
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Old July 29th, 2007, 04:03 PM
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thanks for the in depth review..one question..did you really love your cruise ?
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Old July 29th, 2007, 04:32 PM
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thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed review.
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Old July 29th, 2007, 04:35 PM
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Hi and welcome back: You did a great job reviewing the cruise.

As for the Japanesse restaurant, I felt the same on the Sun. It was ok, not great but not bad. As for the chefs entertainment, nothing like Kobe's or Bennys.

I will have to admit, I don't think the Jean Ryan company is as good as years gone by. Maybe we have just seen them too much. It is time for something new.

Colors on the ship: it sounds like the same as the Jewel :I actually liked them. I didn't like the pictures, but when we were on board they seemed so energetic, yes, a little like Carnival and gaudy in some ways, but I thought well done.

Now the question already asked? Did you enjoy the cruise?

Later,

Nita
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Old July 29th, 2007, 09:28 PM
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Oh yeh - I enjoyed the trip. We saw a lot of whales and some really close to the ship, much closer than I'd seen them on our previous Alaskan cruises. Also, it was mid-July rather than early June so the flowers and wildlife were different.

Being a visual person, I found the colors really irritating. It was hard for me to relax with visual heavy metal rock music in my eyes.

I read somewhere that the Pearl was to be identical in furnishings to the Jewel and then management decided to "spice things up". Woh, baby, you need to cut back on the Tabasco!

And I forgot to mention the goofy photos in the stairwells. They've got a zillion dollar Monet original behind the reception desk (where you can't really see it) and very simple animal photos that looked like posters from the craft store in the stair wells. Just didn't seem like NCL to me. But, I've not been on this class of ship before.

We are to be on the Carnival Freedom in 43 days (but who's counting) and from what I've read it should make the Pearl look drab.

Ya' know, I was really kinda' worried about NCL's restaurnant quality and service after our last cruise on the Sun and from some others' postings but this restored my faith. There are a few quirks that would make things more user friendly but all in all it was great.
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Old July 29th, 2007, 11:26 PM
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Nice review, Magnolia Blossom. I remember how disappointed you were with the food the last time you sailed on NCL, so it's nice to hear that you thought the menus were improved. We weren't quite as unhappy as you were the last time, but between on cruise on the Jewel in November and the Pearl in May, we were much more impressed this time around.

I too, found some of the furnishing on the Pearl a little "over the top". I wasn't bothered too much, except in Bliss. I didn't care for that venue at all, but the rest of the ship is definitely colorful 8) .

I actually enjoyed the theater -- but I could have described it as turqoise, or teal. By the way, it's identical to the Jewel's theater. If I woke up in that room, I'd have no idea which ship I was on.
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Old July 30th, 2007, 08:00 AM
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ok, if the decor was brighter and vibrant than the Jewel, I too would probably go bonkers!!! As for Carnival, the last time I even toured a Carnival ship was the Glory about 2 plus years ago. I found the art work, the colors, the cabins, all of it, gaudy and totally lacking in class.

That being said, the Liberty is similar or more so I gather, but it will have nothing to do with your overall cruise experience.

Have a good one,

Nita
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Old July 30th, 2007, 03:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nmnita
ok, if the decor was brighter and vibrant than the Jewel, I too would probably go bonkers!!! As for Carnival, the last time I even toured a Carnival ship was the Glory about 2 plus years ago. I found the art work, the colors, the cabins, all of it, gaudy and totally lacking in class.

That being said, the Liberty is similar or more so I gather, but it will have nothing to do with your overall cruise experience.

Have a good one,

Nita
It is funny - I found the Peeal not as harsh as the Jewel. Softer fabrics mellowed the color.

The Jewel



The Pearl

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Old July 30th, 2007, 05:59 PM
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I actually like the bright colors, at first they kind of hit me in the face, I started out tame on Spirit, but compared to others, who seem ever so boring now, I love the NCL bright colours!
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Old July 30th, 2007, 06:09 PM
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Ya' know, now that I think about it, maybe the theatre was tealish. I had OD'ed on color by the time I got there, so nothing much was registering.

Yep, I was certainly glad to have my faith restored in the dining room food and service. Now if they could just designn a buffet . . .
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Old July 30th, 2007, 06:31 PM
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Those colors are a bit on the bright side, even though I still think they are energitic. That's sounds better than gaudy.

I am anxious to see how you like your Carnival cruise. Knowing how you approach everything with a positive attitude I am sure you are going to have a blast.

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Old July 30th, 2007, 07:35 PM
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I've been on both the Pearl and the Jewel. I really liked the "beds" or whatever they're called on the Pearl -- both the ones by the pool, and the ones up in Spinnakers. I just didn't care at all for Bliss -- thought it looked like what I imagine an old-time bordello would have looked like . Other than that, the colors didn't bother me.

I liked the big screen TV on the Pearl, too. In my house, thanks to my DH, however, there's always a TV on, so it didn't even occur to me that it was any more obnoxious than a real TV would be. I thought the Wii looked fun -- but couldn't convince the DH to try it out.

I hadn't tried uploading pictures here, but Shoreguy's look like fun. Here's the Pearl's atrium, with the huge TV:

And here's one of the loungers in Spinnaker that have been discussed:
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Old July 31st, 2007, 05:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Magnolia Blossom
Ya' know, now that I think about it, maybe the theatre was tealish. I had OD'ed on color by the time I got there, so nothing much was registering.

Yep, I was certainly glad to have my faith restored in the dining room food and service. Now if they could just designn a buffet . . .
Wow I thought they did did that on the pearl. The buffet concept of action stations with almost cooked to order food. No long lines of people with trys picking thru the food and dining room like seating. You want a bad buffet try the Dream

Garden Action Station Casual Dining Cafe



Action stations

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Old July 31st, 2007, 09:28 PM
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The food on the buffet was great, thanks to the action stations, but the lines, especially for omelets in the morning snaked all over the place and obstructed the door.

There were only two ice makers and one didn't work the entire week. The working ice maker was opposite the ice cream stand and those two lines merged and formed a road block.

Many of the items on the buffet were not marked, although the "bread display" always was (kinda' struck me weird, actually).

Of course there were no trays, as there never have been on recent NCL ships but at least they used to have large oval platters that were tray-like, if you weren't a big eater. Now the plates are on the smallish size and it takes a few trips to the buffet to get the job done.

Also, the silverware is situated in two places, the obstructed entryway
and the bottleneck ice cream station. And let's not forget that they never put spoons in the pack so someone at the table always had to go fetch a spoon. Roving waiters with coffee and juice were absent, which made the beverage situation all the worse.

And as always there are the table hogs who at the peak hours decide to paint their nails, write postcards, fill out excursion forms and gaze endlessly at the sea. Meanwhile, others are making their third lap around the area for a vacant seat.

Yeh, I've been on the Dream (twice) and their buffet area is a disaster, but it wasn't built for Freestyle, either. There at least the supervisotrs patrolled the area and politely asked loiterers to give their seats to diners.

This certainly was not the worst buffet I've seen, but it just seems to me that a little common sense (trays, silverware, ice) would go a long way to reducing irritation of diners and the length of time they were occupying space.
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Old July 31st, 2007, 10:16 PM
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I seem to remember Shoreguy saying after he'd sailed the Pearl that the buffet was going to lead to "buffet chair" hogs instead of pool hogs in Alaska. With the nice views from the buffet area, I guess it's not surprising that some passengers staked out those chairs for their Alaska viewing. Sounds like he called that one right!
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Old August 1st, 2007, 03:06 AM
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As I understand it, you didn´t really liked to have the Victoria stop the last evening, right?

I think it´s bad that they have it the last evening because that make the final evening on the cruise much shorter! Of course it´s possible to stay aboard but it´s not the same thing to eat the last dinner when the ship is in port!

Could they have the stop the first day instead of the last? If they can, I hope that they will change it! I understand that Victorias location make it hard to change day for that stop but for me a quick stop in the middle of the night would be better than a stop the last evening!
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Old August 1st, 2007, 10:06 AM
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Yep, Shoreguy hit the nail on the head. It's a shame in that there is no shortage of places with nice vistas on the Pearl. People just need to be directed to them.

But it is a continuation of the ongoing theme in our society - "it's all about me". A little consideration would go a long way to make many things in life better.

Erik, you're correct in that I did not care for the timing of the Victoria stop. I'm a real garden freak so I dearly wanted to visit Butchart Gardens, but it was so awkward to be off the ship the final evening. I realize it's probably the only time it could be done but it was odd. We had considered staying onboard and having a farewell meal with the kids but they wanted to see Victoria. Mistake on our part as both the kids had developed colds by then and would have been better served by staying inside but . . .

What I would really like to see is a more imaginative itinerary with either a 7 or 9 day that skips a town or two but is able to take in the College Fjords. We saw them on the Island Princess two years ago and it was magnificent. If we could do a "cruise of the glaciers" I think that would be superb.

All in all, I'd still do this ship and itinerary again. Just nit picking at this point.
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Old August 1st, 2007, 10:43 AM
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I think that one week is to short on a cruise so for me it should be better if they made the Alaskacruises longer, I should like more seadays or even better more "glaciercruising" days!
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Old August 1st, 2007, 11:43 AM
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I am sure getting a seat in the buffet was difficult. It was almost imposible on the Sun in Alaska with everyone camped out for the day. Both ships do better in warmer waters when the Great Outdoors can used for outdoor dining.

If I were NCL I would consider the Dawn for Alaska in the future since like the Star the ship has almost 2X the inside buffet space. Not as good as the action stations even with the shortfalls pointed out here but not dependent on the Great Outdoor seating to handle the passenger load.
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Old August 4th, 2007, 01:50 AM
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Default lets get talkin peeps!

so we got back from our alaska cruise last month. thanks again to all of you who gave advice regarding excursions. bottom line, you dont have to book ahead if you dont want to.

we went to juneau, skagway, ketchikan and victoria. in none of them did we book an excursion with ncl and we got the tours we wanted in every port. whale watching is too much hype. we live in l.a. and so we can see that anytime. not gonna pay 100 bucks a pop- forget about it! that was a big attraction in juneau though. it was raining-which sucked, and so juneau wasnt as good as it could've been- you could hardly see mendenhall glacier! the other ports made up for this though the weather was lame in all of them when we went. seattle was still the most exciting place though (where we picked the cruise up from)!anyway, just do your own thing. you save a little (surprising not a lot) but the nice thing is you're not pressured to meet groups (several ncl bookings were canceled) and you can go at your own pace.

now the ship. sucked compared to the star. we were on the star last year to mexico and it was our first cruise. maybe because we has "stars" in our eyes we were real seduced by the ship. second time around its like, "ok, been there, done that." problem was the ships are basically the same. they make a big deal out of the pearl cuz its bigger and newer, but the star had a place to get free popcorn and a movie theater. also the cruise director, an aussie named simon, was a character. our guy clint was a whitebread game show host. anyone know how much these guys get paid and if their jobs are real?

also, why are the ships the same? they even have the same names for some of the spaces (the spinnaker lounge, blue lagoon, etc.)? another way the star beats the pearl is that the pearl's atrium was screwed up by whoever the fools were who decided to put a giant video screen in it. the star has a beautiful glass elevator and curving steps surrounding by flowers. whats up with that? also blue lagoon was fancier and sitdown style on pearl, but the one on star allows you to literally take food from the counter 24/7 w/out having to wait for a server.

pearl brags that its got a bowling alley. so what? its 5 bucks a game. should be free if i'm paying so much dough for the cruise. lastly, the entertainment on star was better. unfortunately both ships and probably all of ncl depends on this jean ann ryan dance group things which is a family-oriented cheezy showtune group. at least this time they had a sexy chick doing a cirque du soleil knock off trapeze act!

you reviewers for that trip who were on ship with us please speak up. cant find a way on this thing to respond to your reviews!

lastly, how the heck do these people come on these cruises with like, 50 people, or 3 other couples or whatever? dudes, its hard enough coordinating a trip for your own family. how do these yahoos coordinate something expensive and hard to do with 10-50 people with conflicting interests, schedules and financial options?

weird...
thanks for your input. the choco buffet was NOT listed in the daily- thats the point! in fact we asked several employees about it and they would respond that the choc was a routine on every cruise. then we'd refer them to the daily where they'd quizzically look at it wondering why choc wasnt listed. this fool clint comes on the mic constantly talking about bingo and "crackers" -whatever that is, and never says anything about buffet. apparently the idiot hadnt gotten the memo! so how did 3,000 people know to get in line at 11 sharp!?
and i have to disagree about the choc being quality. it wasnt a ques of lite or dark. it was just bland. 70% of the stuff was moussy mushy junk. the fruits were probably the best, but i didnt get that sensuous choc feel. maybe i was too full, too disgusted with the huge mass of people and the bum rush, or it was because the coffee on board sucked (anyone else notice that)? but yes, the employees are awesome. interesting international economic situations you learn about when you talk to these hard-working employees, all of who were awesome!!!

oh yeah- another way the star was better than pearl. indoor pool in spa was free! you could get away from rugrats and noone came in there. on pearl you had to pay to use spa pool, which wasnt really a pool. the adult pool was outside, but how does that work in friggin alaska!!!
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Old August 6th, 2007, 08:38 PM
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Default Re: Pearl Review, 7/15/07

Quote:
Originally Posted by Magnolia Blossom
I've posted this in reviews but sometimes it takes a while so here it is.

The Norwegian Pearl
Alaska - Glacier Bay
7/15/07

Magnolia Blossom (Georgia)

About us 54/59 year old semi-retired professional. Our 30th cruise, 8th with NCL. First on the Jewel class of ships. Travelling with us our 30’ish daughter and fiance - their first cruise.

Embarkation: We had registered on line so from locking the car to unlocking the cabin was 20 minutes. Our daughter parked in the garage ($15/day) and we walked over the skybridge to the port. There were separate lines for Latituteds members, mini-suite and villa passengers. The welcome aboard photos were done aboard the ship rather than in the terminal. I think this helped speed up boarding and was easy to bypass for those not inclined to photos.

Cabin: We were in cabin 8542 a BD balcony. The cabin was typical of balcony cabins with NCL or RCCL except for the bathroom. There is an almost normal sized shower with a ceiling to floor sliding door!!! There is also a sliding door on the toilet area, but using it was a bit awkward. There was ample storage in the bath and cabin for DH and I. We are not huge packers but we had room to spare.

In the bath there is a razor outlet only. In the cabin there was one outlet. There is a 4 cup coffee maker, equipped with Folgers coffee, and a blowdryer. Furnishing were bright (more on that later) as was the rest of the ship. Bedding was high quality and comfortable. The balcony had two comfortable (for a change) chairs and a small table. The cabin had a fold out loveseat. The curtains were surprisingly light blocking and closed well.

So you don’t have to ask - there is no DVD player or iron.

Public areas: well . . . if your cat ate a pint of rainbow sherbert, a box of fruity pebbles and a glow stick, then threw up - that pretty well describes the color scheme of the ship.. The colors are hideous. NCL must have kidnapped the Carnival designer, fed him psychodelic mushrooms and turned him loose with a paint palet. Lots of wild shades and swirly designs. To me it was very jarring. The visual version of nails on a blackboard. There is also some very unusually shaped furniture. I felt as though the Cheshire Cat might appear at any moment. But having said that the very ugly W-shaped lounge chairs in the Spinnaker Lounge were terrific for lounging while reading or whale watching. It somewhat amazes me that they place a stage in the very front of the lounge, which otherwise would afford a 300+ degree view from the front of the ship.

The crystal atrium. The reception desk, excursion desk, etc is here. The reception area has no queing ropes so it was crazy at busy times. The excursion desk could teach them a few things about organization. But zaniest of all is this humongous two-story video screen against the wall. Various forms of video are shown here- shopping talks, jewelry seminars and a video game known as WII. Guess I’m showing my age, but I found it irritating to have that degree of electronic stimulation in your face. Especially since it was visible from Mambos and the Blue Lagoon restaurants.


The Bliss Lounge (home of the bowling alley (($5 per person per game)) ) has two areas for private reservation. The alcoves of the lounge can be reserved for $20/hour and include some food and beverage perks. Karaoke was held there nightly and there are several double bed sized chaises. The areas like everywhere else is quite decadent. Lots of velvet textures, tassels and glitz.

The theatre is fine (especially if you like purple) and there did not seem to be any blind spots. There are air vents on the back of the chairs so ventilation is ample.

The Summer Palace is one of the public dining rooms. It is done on a Catherine’s Palace theme and very interesting. It is the larger of the two dining areas and jeans are not allowed for dinner, even the first night. It is noisier than the Indigo but has better views.

There are multiple specialty restaurants and all are very attractive places. Screens around the ship show waiting times at all the restaurants.

Okay - enough of that. The ship was immaculate and well laid out.

Food Service: The buffet has the usual bottlenecks and for the life of me I don’t know why they only put 2 ice machines in a buffet that size. One was always out of order as well. The food areas are pretty spacious and several items repeat so there is not much pile up (once people learn that). The biggy is the omelet station. Always a long line. If you are a real omlet fan go up to the Blue Lagoon and get one there. The menu is limited but for breakfast without fanfare it is a nice quiet place. The ice cream station is usually crowded and offered 6-8 different varieties of ice cream or sherbert (not soft serve). It however backs up to one of the ice machines and beverage area so it’s a bottleneck. The designers of this buffet could have taken a few lessons from the Norwegian Sun.

Straight through the buffet is a children’s buffet area with hot dogs, burgers and mac anc cheese and little tables. Nice touch for the little ones. It opens onto the Great Outdoor buffet which is open air and has an abbreviated version of the big buffet. Usually less crowded and a nice place to dine, weather permitting.

We dined one night at La Cocina, the Italian restaurant and enjoyed it very much. Reservations are necessary but there is no fee. We also ate at Teppanyaki, the Japanese steak house, (reservations necessary and $20/person) and found it mediocre. There are 8 people per table and 4 tables in the restaurant. The “show? done by the cooks is not comparable to Benihana’s (sp?) but the food was pretty good. There is a huge range hood over the area that makes it quite noisy.
We tried to make reservations for several other restaurants but were not able to. Our kids ate sushi ($15/person) several times and enjoyed it.

I felt the food quality and service was much improved over our last NCL cruise (2/07) and may actually have been some of the best we’ve had in many years.

There was a wine program that was never advertised until the last day. If you bought 6 bottles of wine you received 1 free. You had to bring all your tickets to any restaurant or bar and they gave you a bottle of your preferred wine. Don’t know what they would do if you requested a bottle more expensive than your usual order, but we are boring people and drank the same wine most nights.
Dress code: “Nice? jeans are allowed in all venues for dinner except Summer Palace. No jeans are permitted there, even on the first night. It was stri ctly, but nicely enforced. You may not wear your swim suit in the buffet, although if you are passing through the buffet to get the Great Outdoors it’s okay.

Smoking has been limited to an increasingly fewer place (yeh!) which made some decks entirely smoke free.

The casino has the usual assortment of games and slots. There was a poker tournament but I do not believe it was a regular table game. There was a good variety of slots from penny to $100. Payout seemed to be pretty good, as those things go. Go, being the operative word. DH did well at blackjack although they have automatic shuffler except at the $25 table. There is a blackjack table poolside when the weather permitted. Likewise, there are four slot machines in the Bliss Lounge.
My only complaint about the casino was the short hours. At several ports they would not open for 2 hours or so after sailing. On the final day the casino closed at 1:30 in the afternoon as we entered Washington state waters. We did not dock in Victoria until 6:00 p.m. so it made for a long afternoon for those of us who like to while away time in the casino.

Entertainment: The comedy group Second City performed twice and were enjoyable. The Jean Ann Ryan dancers new show, “Sea Legs? was just awful. The worst entertainment on the seas I’ve ever seen. We did not bother going to their second show, as seemed to be the case with many others. Our daughter (who is a theater person) went and said it was better but still lacking. The dancers were talented young people who were not challenged in the least by the choreography. There were two airialists who saved the show.

Other entertainment around the ship was quite nice. A nice dance band, show band, pianist, guitarist. All top notch. Of course there was the usual assortment of games and bingo. The late night game in the Spinnaker Louge was pretty wild and the younger folks especially seemed to enjoy it.

Spa: The spa area is delightful, but to use the really nice part, known as the Thermal Suite, there is a $15/day fee. You can get a reduced weekly rate but I do not remember exactly what it was. $65, I think. It included warm tile loungers, steam and sauna, and several jacuzzi’s., all looking out on the ocean. I did not use this area but as I toured it I noticed signs requesting you to limit usage to 20 minutes. There never seemed to be anyone in there when I was around. For no charge you can use the steam room (no sauna) in the changing areas. Lockers are available as well as towels. But if you want a wash cloth you will need to bring one from your cabin. (my husban’ds pet peeve). All the usual services are available at inflated prices now including accupuncture.

Gym: Nice assortment of various machines, looking out to sea. Pilates, Yoga, and spin classes were available for a fee. The walking track is very nice. Good texture and padding on the shaded boat deck. Approx. 3 laps/mile.

Pool: Two pools. One for the kiddies with a water slide and two jacuzzis, and one for adults with two jacuzzis. The adult pool had a waterfall which added nice ambiance and helped drown out some background noise (like the kids pool). Both pools were salt water.

In the pool area, beneath the upper pool deck were double sized, wicker chaise lounges. These were great for gazing out to sea, reading and just chillin’ out. Very nice touch. The regular lounge chairs are of a fabric mesh rather than the nylon straps. Much more comfortable.

There is an area available to look down into the bridge for those inclined to do so.

Itinerary: We docked at all locations, no tendering.
Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. This was our third trip to all of these so we enjoyed chatting with locals, strolling about and having a local brew or two. I would gladly have exchanged any of these days for a chance to cruise additional glaciers but they didn’t ask me.

Glacier Bay: 3 naturalists from the Forestry Service were onboard to narrate our passage in Glacier Bay and one did a slide show in the afternoon. They were available on the deck to answer questions. We did not get as close to the Johns Hopkins glacier as the Margerie and Great Pacific because of the baby seal population. Still quite nice. In both places the captain turned the ship completely around so you had a good view from all spots on the ship.

Victoria: since the Pearl sails from a US port and visits all US ports it is ncecessary to make a foreign call, so Victoria fills the bill. We did an excursion to Butchart Gardens that would have been fabulous had it not been pouring down rain. But that’s what we get for having great weather in all the other ports. This port of call is only from 6P til midnight so it seemed a bit odd not to be toasting the cruise at our table on the final night at sea and made for a short night since we did not get back on board until 11:30.

Crew: Multinational with the majority from the Phillipines or eastern Europe. All very friendly and helpful.

Passenger makeup: Middle aged to ol.der Americans although there was a surprising number of childen on board. There was a large charter from Hawaii of what appeared to be Samoans.
A fair number of europeans, particularly Brits, and Canadians. A well behaved crowd.

Disembarkation: We chose self-dearking, as usual, but were not allowed off the ship until 8:15 or so. There appeared to be a problem of some sort clearing all the crew through immigration.
They brought the drug dogs through the hallways, which some folks found odd, obviously, they’ve not cruised Aruba! Clearing customs was just a wave-through procedure and once they opened the cattle gates we were in our car within a very few minutes.

Odds and Ends: Sanitation stations were manned and you were nicely reminded to cleanse your hands. Security was present and quite visible, no problems. Photography: very few this trip, which is okay with me. They were at each port for disembarking photos with the eagle, the whate, etc, but not in your face every time you put a fork in your mouth. Who needs evidence of that - I have my thighs!

Drink prices seemed to be about average for a good restaurant onshore but still, $5.75 for a scotch and soda gets steep after a while. Beverage cards are up to a whopping $60.38 (who makes up these numbers?), so you would have to drink a lot of soda to justify that.

There is an onboard cruise consultant but they do not do onboard bookings any longer. There was a special that if you paid a $250 deposit against any cruise to be booked within the next 12 months they would give you an immedite OBC of $100.

As has been the case for a while now, there is no Captain’s party since there is no formal night.
There was a Latitudes Party on the first sea day at 1:00 p.m. There were also the usual meetings available for friends of Bob and Dorothy. There was a VWF gathering one afternoon and a service club meeting..

There is a nice little chapel which probably seats about 18 people. Sabbath services were held on Friday but no services for other faiths was published.

There was a wedding onboard mid-week and it was lovely to see the wedding party around the ship.

The internet cafe has about 10 stations and packages are available or per minute (.75) usage.
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  #22 (permalink)  
Old August 7th, 2007, 06:54 PM
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Default we already read that

yep
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Old August 8th, 2007, 04:03 PM
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aghajanian2000, we also have already read your review in your thread, possibly that is what nmnita was implying
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