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Nola26

Review: Pearl Christmas cruise 2018, aka Fog Cruise

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I will start by saying I had a wonderful week aboard the Pearl, my fist time sailing on the ship. I sailed solo which I do about half the time with NCL.

 

The Tampa port was a bit of a mess as the Pearl arrived late due to, fog. But  I think it was just a couple of hours late, not the 10 hour fog delay we had on the return. I arrived by a van service. The driver was not allowed to pull into the terminal lanes, he was directed to a parking lot, dropped me there and I had to pull my bag through the lot, across the street, into the terminal, up to the check in level and eventually onto the ship as I never got to the porters at the terminal. Thankfully NCL had a drop zone in the Lotus Garden (Deck 7 where we boarded) so I was able to drop my bag with ease once onboard. Check in was a bit crazy, the further lane from the entry point was for those needing special assistance/disabled, really Tampa? The CAS line was crazy long, but the Priority Latitudes line was pretty empty, I moved to that line since I'm also Silver now. Check in with the agent was pleasant and quick, I loved that I'd already linked a credit card during my online check in, so step skipped at the terminal. This is my fist time sailing with the new boarding process, they use your Latitude status for boarding (After Haven of course). 

 

As we boarded we were immediately welcomed with the site of Christmas tree and decorations in the atrium, nicely done, though overall I'd say Dawn 2016 Christmas decor was better. After dropping my suitcase I headed to the Summer Palace for lunch and was seated by the window overlooking the terminal entry and Aquarium. Lunch was good, fantastic shrimp and arugula salad and the salmon pattie sandwich which wasn't as good.I didn't care for the key lime dessert, the texture wasn't for me. I took a self guided tour of the ship including a stop at the Spa to get my sticker for the Thermal Suite which I'd purchased online prior to the cruise at a stated $20 discount. Turns out the onboard price was more like $70 more, ouch! I had rude encounter with a spa attendant. I was second inline and she decided to call on the folks that were 3rd in line. I indicated that I was next, but she ignored me. After I was waited on and received my sticker by another attendant I asked her why she did that. She was a bit dumbfounded at first but eventually claimed she thought I was with the couple being waited on ahead of me, huh? She apologized, but it wasn't exactly sincere. She later asked me if I'd bought my package online, like it was a lesser pass as a result, sigh. I refused to let that sour my vacation.

 

When cabins were ready I went, unpacked my backpack and continued my exploration. I discovered my bag was still sitting in the Lotus Garden so I grabbed it and brought it to the cabin and finished my unpacking. Our muster drill was delayed due to the late departure (maybe an hour or so late), but that was my next event. I went to the solo meet up at 5:30 but I was the only attendee, a theme for the week so the solo meet up was a bust on this cruise. I had dinner in Indigo and sat between two couples and we had great conversation during the meal.

 

Shows:

I attended the All Aboard show which was a nice sneak preview of the things to come for the week. The web site indicated two shows: Legends and Pure Variety, there were others:

Christmas show, Queens of Rhythm (R&B) were wonderful and did different shows on two nights, Duo Quintessence acrobats brought the house down. I was less impressed with the crew talent show, but that is always going to be hit or miss. There were 3 bands that entertained around the ship for the week, a solo vocalist/guitarist and vocalist/pianist all were entertaining. That variety is one of my favorite things about NCL and the Pearl didn't disappoint.

Bud Anderson was the comedian, he's clean I laughed, but apparently not everyone liked him, women maybe more than men?

 

Meals: all complimentary Indigo, Summer Palace and Lotus Garden once with sushi which is an extra charge item. I ate lunch or late lunches at the buffet. The late lunches which were post excursion meals were a disappointment because the buffet closed at 3pm, before we returned from shore and we were directed to the Great Outdoors buffet which is really limited and even more so if you don't eat meat. I never had dinner or breakfast at the buffet. Breakfast was either at a MDR, O'Sheehan's or once I had a continental room service meal prior to an early excursion day. 

 

Spa & Fitness: I did a paid yoga class on Day 2, but never used the fitness center again. I used the Thermal suite 4 or 5 days out of the 7 with the ceramic loungers remaining my favorite feature. I think the suite on the Dawn is nicer, but I enjoyed my time there on the Pearl. The loungers on the Dawn face the aft of the ship and look out onto the ocean on the Pearl they face the opposite wall with the tea/water set up. The non ceramic loungers look out the aft. The Dawn also seemed to have a more social atmosphere, the Pearl felt sterile.

 

Pool deck: I only spent time here on the final sea day, but the band was fun and I danced like no one was looking, lol. I never used the pool onboard

 

Excursions:

Harvest Caye - Did the Pedalboard Manatee option, loved the board (first time) but came in early due to rain and the fact that I'd experienced the board and didn't need to keep exploring. I walked through the bird area on the way back to the shopping area. I bought a couple for the bracelets that let you snap in the medallions, fun. By then the rain stopped I dipped into the pool followed by a dip in the ocean before heading back to the ship for shower, change and food.

Costa Maya - Salsa, Salsa and beach: made 3 salsas, tasted Tequila, danced Salsa, enjoyed the beach and bought a trinket or two from vendors

Roatan - Best of the West: visited the West End for a chocolate factory, shopping, tackled 7 suspensions bridges at an adventure park in the jungle and went to the beach at the fabulous resort (Paradise Bay Hotel?).

Grand Cayman - Biking: took bus to bike location: 7 mile beach, Turtle farm, rum cake/punch sample, HELL and back to starting point, air conditioned motorcoach brought us back to port with time for shopping, etc. before taking tender back to ship

Tampa - city tour and transfer cancelled due to late arrival

 

NCL did an abysmal job moving passengers off the ship to shore each day. I cannot tell you why it was so bad on this ship, but I've never experienced such poor operations with NCL.

 

Casino: I won, I lost, I had fun, staff isn't especially warm, but they didn't detract from my experience

 

Renovated room is nice, inside cabin this trip, but I really enjoyed the upgraded TV and it seems there were better movie/programming options. I found that I took naps the first 3 days of the cruise, somewhat unusual for me, but oh so pleasant and apparently necessary.

 

Talks: Mega ships, Future cruise; I skipped the shopping and Cruise Next talks, but you never completely escape those commercials.

 

Favorite places onboard:

  1. Bar Alley on 6 easy to have dinner at Indigo, catch entertainment in Magnums, play in the casino or see the theater show all on one stretch
  2. Indigo for dinners, O'Sheehan's for breakfast (quick, custom, tasty, comfy)
  3. Magnum's for live musical performances
  4. Spinnaker - the views
  5. Bliss for old school slot machines and just awful karaoke performances, lol

 

Final notes - I've commented on Fog Day (end of cruise) in another thread, so I won't beat a dead horse here. I will say weather related things happen and passengers and crew have to adjust. I actually think NCL did a pretty good job, but the passengers made things worse than needed. No need to sit in lobby/hallways/ stairways with luggage once NCL told us it would be 6hrs before getting to the dock and your rooms were still available.

 

The Pearl was my first Jewel Class ship experience, I liked the ship. I will consider the class for future sailings. This crew needs some work, but hopefully some things will improve soon.

 

This was my second Norwegian Edge renovated ship experience. I think the program is a success and look forward to other ships that are in the program. My biggest thumbs up on this ship is moving the cigar room to the corner next to Le Bistro and opening up Deck 6 for Bar Alley and lots of seating. My thumbs down is the buffet it seems small, not repeating stations like I've seen on other NCL ships.

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Thanks for the review.  Getting ready to set sail on the 17th!  Do you by any chance have the officer listing?

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Thanks for the review, I'm 2 weeks from my voyage on the Pearl!

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Posted (edited)
31 minutes ago, Jonslola said:

Thanks for the review, I'm 2 weeks from my voyage on the Pearl!

If you haven't joined the roll call - please do so - there's a good size group or the meet and greet!

Edited by Lcar66

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16 minutes ago, LD Silver said:

Thanks for the review...I sail on January 17!

LD Silver - If you haven't joined the roll call - please do so - there's a good size group for the meet and greet!

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21 minutes ago, Lcar66 said:

If you haven't joined the roll call - please do so - there's a good size group or the meet and greet!

 I have and I am also in the Facebook group! See you soon!

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Lcar66 said:

LD Silver - If you haven't joined the roll call - please do so - there's a good size group for the meet and greet!

 

I have joined....in fact I am the admin of the FB group. 

 

I'll see you at the meet n greet!

Edited by LD Silver

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3 hours ago, Lcar66 said:

Thanks for the review.  Getting ready to set sail on the 17th!  Do you by any chance have the officer listing?

Unless it's in the Daily, no. Jodie and Tiara are CD/ ACD. Cary is hotel Director 

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Just realized how easy it is to include photos. 

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1 minute ago, Nola26 said:

Just realized how easy it is to include photos. 

Well not so easy 

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Thanks for the review! I can't wait to set sail on the Pearl on the 12th! 

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We too were on this Christmas Cruise - we had a great time.  There was some problems boarding - long lines, and confusion outside the port, but we still were on board in less than 2 hours from being dropped off.

 

There was some difficulty in tendering in Roatan, but there were some waves, and we were a bit late getting in.

 

As for the fog - we called this our "bonus day at sea!"  We planned on spending an additional day in Tampa, so our flights weren't effected and we weren't worried about rebooking transportation.  There were numerous announcements during the morning to leave your luggage in you cabins and to go our and have breakfast.  We knew we were outside the bay and clearly hours away from docking, so we ate, attended a trivia session and started to make use of the additional day of our beverage package.  As the day went on, with more announcements that we wouldn't dock until at least 6pm, we made our way to the pool deck and enjoyed the sun, music and more drinks!  We ate lunch in Summer Palace.  After docking, we got in the long, long line and weaved our way through the ship to get off.  It took about 1 1/2 hours to get off and get through customs.  There were some staff trying to direct us off, but truthfully, many were rude and not following directions.  I don't blame the staff, because if everyone would have listened, followed the directions for disembarkation we would have all moved faster.

 

We enjoyed all the shows as listed above, also Peter James on the piano in Magnums was a blast!  Weather was great, and drinks plentiful.  Food was fine, and great in Mondero, Cagneys and LaCucina.  

 

It was a great way to spend Christmas away from home!

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