Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review by scottmeredith
- Sail Date: April 2018
- Destination: Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Garden Villa
A little about us: We are a multi-generational family of 5. My parents (in their 70s), my wife (age undisclosed for my safety), my 16 year old son, and myself (pudgy 50 year old male clinging desperately to the thoughts of his youth).
This is the second cruise for my wife and I; the first cruise for everyone else.
We sailed on the NCL Jewel in 2015 in a non-Haven aft penthouse suite.
For this cruise we booked a Garden Villa (14500).
We are not fancy people, but we needed at least two suites because of the multi-generation..maybe three cabins if my wife and I wanted some alone time, so the three bedroom Garden Villa made sense from the standpoint of space, and was not crazy financially when you consider two or three suites as the alternative.
If you have specific questions about the Garden Villas, I would be glad to answer any questions I can. They are really fantastic and come with many perks..many of which are service related don’t show well on a chart..If you are in a garden villa and you need/want something..you get it.
Arrived at port around 10:30. We were immediately directed to Suite Waiting room. We received a briefing from the concierge (Yahira), and were escorted to Cagney’s for lunch around 11:30. Lunch was excellent, and by the time we were finished, the rooms were ready for us (12:30ish).
We were met at the suite by Roberto, our butler. Roberto was fantastic and noticed our room cards had been keyed incorrectly. He quickly had our cards re-programmed while we explored Garden Villa 14500- The Horizon Suite. He returned about 10 minutes later with the cards programmed correctly, and proceeded to show us how to use the stereo and various buttons in the suite (lights, blinds, etc..) as well as inquired which 6 liquors we would like for our room bar setup.
The refrigerator was stocked with water and various soft drinks for the duration of the cruise at no additional charge. Roberto also asked if we would like to have “mixers”- Juices, etc. to mix with the liquors, and promptly brought orange and cranberry juices in pitchers for us to mix with the Vodka…and he brought new pitchers of juice daily to insure we never ran out.
We milled around the suite for the afternoon getting settled, checking out the hot tub, and unpacking. The room was amazing. Large. Clean. Well stocked with everything you could need..and the view of the pool deck is amazing.
During the course of the afternoon, Roberto checked on us to insure everything was satisfactory, and the concierge (Yahira), and our room Stewardess (Alma) also came by to introduce themselves and insure we were comfortable and had everything we needed.
The level of service in the Garden Villa was much better than the penthouse suite we stayed in on the Jewel a few years ago..much better. Which is something that should be mentioned. We saw Roberto and Yahira several times a day, and Alma came to clean the suite and perform turndown service (which takes a while in a three bedroom suite). There is also a courtyard attendant assigned to the suite, so, while you were relaxing in the room, it is common to have one of them “pop in” unexpectedly..this took some getting used to on my part.
We decided not to go to the preview show in the evening, and spent our time unpacking and preparing for dinner at Moderno’s at 6:30.
Moderno’s in a carnivore’s dream. The service was excellent, and the food was outstanding. We truly enjoyed everything about the meal, and eventually staggered back to the suite after dinner to sit in the hot tub and watch the scenery on the Mississippi river pass by. It was an extremely enjoyable evening.
Roberto did stop in and ask if we would like to have anything delivered before breakfast. We settled on sliced fruit, Danish, and coffee-which he brought promptly at 7:00 AM every morning…He was amazing.
In the morning, we woke to the pre-breakfast items that Roberto had brought. He also had taken the liberty to open all of the curtains in the living/dining room to present a bright and cheery room to begin the morning. After pre-breakfast (don’t judge), we managed to muster enough strength to scamper down one floor to Moderno’s for breakfast..which is a fixed menu that doesn’t change during the week..but has plenty of choices that are all excellent. Service was fantastic all week.
We explored the ship most of the morning, and returned in the afternoon to find that Roberto had brought snacks, and Alma had been in to service the suite. Yahira had come by to insure our dining and excursions were in order and confirm times. She was very efficient, but a little hard for us to warm up to..just a personality thing..your mileage may vary.
My 16 year old son had decided he was going to put Roberto to the test, and ordered the first of many desserts and room service orders of the cruise..I have never seen that kid eat so much..I am not sure if I should be impressed.. or concerned that he may have a tapeworm or something. In any case, he kept Roberto busy every day, but they quickly developed a camaraderie that was fun to watch.
We ate at LeBistro this evening, and it was delicious as usual. The service was great (I found the service to be slow on the Jewel a few years before-but no problem on the Pearl).
After dinner, we relaxed in the suite for a bit, and then headed out to the variety show for the evening. They were entertaining, and we enjoyed the show. After the show we had a couple of drinks and then headed back to the suite to sit in the hot tub and enjoy the sea air before bed (We are not much for the party scene, and the suite is a little captivating-I wanted to spend time there).
Cozumel. I really am not a fan of this port. A little too commercial for me. We stopped here on the Jewel in 2015. We didn’t have excursions booked because of the ferry issue on the mainland. There were 6 ships in port, so it was very busy. We took a small tour of the island with a local vendor and then returned back to the ship to relax in the suite and catch some sun on the private sun deck.
The afternoon passed with relaxation, and we prepared to eat dinner. With no specific dinner plans, we sort of ventured out in the evening to catch some music and ended up at O’sheehans for a quick bite to eat and a couple of drinks before the show..which was Dan Bennet (comedian/Juggler). He was funny and talented. We returned to the suite in good humor and relaxed for a while before I struck out to find the casino. An hour in the casino netted me a substantial winnings of $.75 (yes, that is a decimal point). I considered that a success, and returned to the suite to relax with my family and celebrate my new found wealth.
We followed our usual pre-breakfast/breakfast routine, and then headed to our excursions in Roatan. My son and I had decided to go scuba diving, while my wife, mom, and Dad went on an island excursion.
The diving was fantastic with 100 foot visibility. There was a lot to see- including two sea turtles and a large sea ray- a majestic sight to see.
After the excursion, we returned back to the suite to find Roberto had set out sandwiches for us..much appreciated.
After we ate (again), we showered and relaxed in the hot tub while exchanging stories of the day and prepared for dinner-which was room service from Cagney’s for my wife, son and I. My parent’s went to the buffet, and enjoyed it quite a bit. Dinner was great, and we prepared for the show that evening- the acrobats. They were amazing, and I would recommend attending this show if at all possible.
The rest of the group relaxed in the room, and I went out with some friends I met while diving. It was a great night that grew along the way and ended up with about 8 couples and several stragglers dancing until midnight in Spinnaker lounge. Thank goodness for the unlimited drink package (although I was cursing the unlimited drink package for the headache the next morning). I stumbled into bed and watched the back of my eyelids until 7:00 AM..Time for pre-breakfast.
Pre-breakfast and breakfast out of the way, we prepared for a beach day at Harvest Caye, Belize. This is a very beautiful private island owned by NCL. We hit the beach and pool for hours before walking around a bit..and then back to the ship for lunch at Moderno’s.
As others have mentioned, you cannot use your ship card for anything on the island, so be sure to bring cash or credit cards for ANYTHING you may want…drinks, food, etc..
The afternoon was spent relaxing in the hot tub and suite. Dinner was at Lotus Garden and it was delicious and well served.
The show for the evening was a comedian (Kavon). He was really funny. After the show, I made a quick appearance at the White Hot party and then it was time for bed (still recovering from the drink inspired dancing the night before).
Our frenzied pre-breakfast/breakfast itinerary was followed by preparations for excursions. My wife, son, and I went to the Mayan Kingdom- A water/adventure park, while my parents took another island tour.
The Mayan Kingdom was a blast. It is a series of zip lines and water slides that had something for all ages. We rode all of the zip lines and water rides (almost no lines at any of the rides) and then settled at the relaxing pool while my son did the zip lines again. We felt this excursion was a great value, and we all enjoyed it.
We returned to the room for snacks and then sun/swimming in the Haven lounge- the first (only) time we had visited the Haven all cruise. We were alone in the Haven, and enjoyed the warm swimming pool. The Haven butler was quick with drinks. It was really quiet and relaxing. Nice.
The evening show was “Legends in Concert”. It is a high energy show that featured impersonators of Elton John, Tina Turner, and Elvis.
Elton John was not that great, Tina Turner was pretty decent, and Elvis was incredible. Just like in the late 60s and early 70s, Elvis stole the show.
After the show, I stopped by the casino for an hour or so and walked away with a cool $5.00 in profit..another successful outing.
Time for the hot tub and bed.
Yep, eating again. Our usual eating pattern went something like this: Pre-breakfast, breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack…It was exhausting, and I feel I lost 3-4 pounds just from the effort of eating it all. Eating is a form of exercise, isn’t it?
Day 7 is a sea day, and we spent a lot of the day as a family just talking, people watching, catching some sun on the private deck, and playing games in the suite.
My wife and I did the behind the scenes tour of the ship, which was interesting and recommended if you would like to understand what it takes to keep this small city running.
Because we liked the tour, Yahira arranged for a private tour of the bridge for my family. It was a short 15-20 minutes, but very interesting and informative…Nice touch Yahira.
My wife and I had reservations at Cagney’s for dinner, my parents hit the buffet again, and my son begged me for a reservation to Moderno’s. Which Yahira handled for us. Where does he put all of that food?…even the waiters at Moderno’s were impressed..or scared..I am not sure which.
The show was sort of a recap of the comedians and was alright…but not spectacular.
Time to pack and prepare to leave the ship in the morning.
One last pre-breakfast/breakfast. Roberto was meeting us in our suite at 8:45 to escort us off of the ship. At the gangway, He and Yahira handed us off to someone from the port who literally parted the sea of people like some sort of gruff Moses, and walked us through lines of people straight to customs (barely broke stride at customs). This is a serious perk, and one that wasn’t unnoticed by the sea of people we passed. They were not celebrating our good fortune. The whole process took about 15 minutes from leaving our suite to arriving at a private mini-bus that NCL had reserved for us to take us to the airport. I feel this saved us about an hour or so of waiting in line, and was much appreciated
A quick drive to the airport, and we were heading back to Illinois by 10:00 AM (rented a car at the airport to drive home).
It is difficult to not love the Garden Villa. You are really treated special from the first moment you arrive to the last. Everything is done to insure you are not waiting in line for anything. There were several times that Yahira would meet us at our suite and walk us to where we were going. Using her elevator key to insure the elevator was not stopped at floors along the way…and that is what I mean by service that you will not necessarily see on a chart. It is special service that no one else on the ship has. It makes you feel special, and protects you from spending time on things that are not enjoyable.
The suite itself is amazing, and will definitely spoil you. Even with 5 of us sharing the suite, it never felt crowded..ever. In fact, it always felt spacious. Plenty of space for everyone to do their own thing..and plenty of space to spend time together comfortably. As frequent cruisers can attest, space is a luxury on a cruise ship. This suite has a lot of space. It is also well positioned mid ship, so you are pretty close to wherever you need to go.
As I have mentioned before, the service is incredible. It is hard to quantify the value of the service with this suite. It definitely has a positive impact on the quality and quantity of relaxation.
The Pearl itself is in great shape, and very clean. Nice ship. During port days, we saw many ships. I have to say the Pearl looked better than all of them..except the Disney Magic.
The staff in general seem happy, but are not “all smiles”. They are very efficient, however, and we found service to be much better than we did on the Jewel several years ago.
Negatives? There were a few, but they were minor. So minor, in fact, that I feel petty mentioning them, but here they are:
• The binoculars in the suite would not work properly
• I could not figure out how to use the player piano in the suite
• We once had to wait about 10 minutes to be seated for breakfast (no one at the check in counter)
• The windows could use a good cleaning
• I gained 4 pounds
• My body is older than my mind
Really minor issues that didn’t affect the enjoyment of our cruise-especially considering all of the surprises and fantastic service.
In conclusion, if you are considering a Garden Villa. Book it. You will not regret it. We didn’t
Would you like to know anything else? Please ask. I will be glad to help were I can.
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