NCL Pearl Review– 14 Panama Canal WOW!
Embarkation: From the airport booked a shuttle and shared with other couples(big savings), check-in was simple you drop off your luggage at the terminal building entrance had the pre cruise registration ready and you are good to go.
Cabins: Booked an Inside Cabin on deck #10(aft), a tad small at 146 sq ft but well laid out and quiet; the bed mattress was very comfortable. Cabin was equipped with a small fridge, a combined his/her’s closet, room safe and TV (not able to view your room bill and the daily dinning menu). The bathroom “Commode” layout will be a problem if you are over 6ft tall as it sits at an odd angle. In the shower you are supplied dispenser soap and shampoo but NO other amenities.
Dining/Food: The ship offers a variety of restaurants but the only free (no extra charge) ones are the two main dining rooms (Indigo & Summer Place) the buffet and the small light menu “Blue Lagoon”. Let me start with breakfast; Blue Lagoon is the place to go for a quite cup of coffee but has a limited menu, I loved eating BK there and watching the ocean. The buffet for lunch is filled with many choices but you will need to hunt hard for a table. For dinner I opted for the “FREE” MDRs and rotated between the two, the food was average some nights better than others. For a special treat I ate at “Le Bistro-French” and paid the $20PP charge, it well worth the price for a special meal and it was the best meal I had on the cruise. I also tried the Italian (can not recall the name) “FOR A FEE” fare but it was average. Be aware that drink prices are very high so look for the daily special or ask for the house vintage. Overall food was average perhaps a little weaker than other lines (except for La Bistro). The wine package is pricey.
Public Rooms: This ship is very well laid out and is just the right size (in terms of passengers) but does need a facelift. I never felt crowded even with a full ship, the ship is designed with the 6th and 7th decks as the main hubs of activity, i.e. shops (located in the aft area), lounges (loved bar city), reception, etc. Walking through the casino had the standard smoke smell but not strong. The gym was not open 24hrs, and the spa etc came with a price. The usual classes for a fee were offered. Note: internet service prices are – $.75 per minute with three packages offered.
Entertainment: Most excellent, in the evening, you have three areas to hangout and listen to music, a piano player (bar city), a guitar player in the atrium and he rotated to the piano bar and a very good band at the Spinnaker (deck 13). I enjoyed all the music venues and the ship seemed to offer a lot of variety. The evening’s shows were SUPERB! For the hilarious magician to the four seasons show I attended every show and was very pleased (I usually never go to every show). “Karaoke” is alive and well and offered at different times along with other fun shows to include the wildly popular “dance with the staff” contest.
Activities: A variety of activities are offered throughout the cruise. From the very popular trivia which is offered at different times and a very interesting visual game is also offered to Bingo, the not-so-new marriage game and many more. A number of athletic activates were offered such as; volleyball, 3 on 3 hoops, table tennis, rock climbing this ship will keep you going and going. The entire activities staff was very accommodating and Julie the cruise director was marvelous.
Excursions: I did all the excursions on my own and go into great lengths so look search for my blog. There was one MAJOR snafu in a port, NCL had listed that the stop at Huatulco from 8am-5pm, this was reflected on the NCL website and our tickets, the night before we arrived Huatulco it was noted that the stop was from 8am-1pm, this was a huge shock to me and many other passengers as we had received no warnings, apparently the stop was always scheduled from 8 – 1:00, lack of communication at a large scale continues to prevail everywhere. Look at the blog for more details.
Disembarkation: The was my only unpleasant experience, initially the ship computers failed which caused a huge delay then it was followed by another issue at US customs which seemed to be more of a nuisance than anything else, standing in line for over 2 hrs is unacceptable regardless.
Overall Thoughts: The cruise exceeded my expectations in every way. The ports are great, the staff on the ship was wonderful and seeing the Panama Canal and experiencing the marvels of engineering was a memorable experience. Great ship start packing now!