The Pearl is another move towards NCL
having the youngest fleet in the cruise industry

Norwegian Cruise Line celebrated its 40 Anniversary in the cruise business with the launch of the Norwegian Pearl, the ninth Freestyle Class ship. The Pearl introduces an industry-first bowling alley; and has adopted other popular features such as an onboard climbing wall and top-of-the-ship owner’s suites.

A major aspect of cruising is that guests have the opportunity to live in a fantasy world – like an adult version of Disneyland. The Pearl delivers on that expectation with the ship and the crew creates the ambiance for your holiday.

With each new ship in the Freestyle class, NCL makes improvements in the design and service offerings to the guests. The 94,000 ton Norwegian Pearl is a lovely ship with a guest capacity of 2400 and a crew of approximately 1100. The crew is assembled from over 60 different nationalities, all working together in good humour and co-operation.

The officers and crew are justifiably proud of the international comradeship that is a feature of their daily working life.

The Pearl has the distinctive exterior bold graphic design flowing back from the bow that NCL has used on all of their new ships. As you might expect given her name, the design features multicoloured stylized pearls. It’s quite different from traditional cruise ships, and very much in keeping with the Freestyle Cruising concept that the company introduced in 2000. Freestyle is a concept that lets guests dine when and where they want. It also features a resort casual dress code in the evenings, although there is still a formal evening on 7 day cruises and 2 elegant evenings on longer sailings. However, the option is yours – and you won’t feel out of place in a suit or elegant sparkly gown.

Dining Food is always a major part of any cruise experience and The Pearl has 10 restaurants, with a menu to cater to every preference. A major aspect of Freestyle Dining is that every meal is cooked to order, instead of the production line system of the traditional first and second seating. We particularly enjoyed the elegant Summer Palace main dining room decorated with an opulence befitting Russian Tzars.

Deep maroon, emerald green, an abundance of gold leaf, white and gold ceilings, and 24 Carat gold chandeliers transport you into a completely different world – far from our daily routines. As one of our fellow guests noted while descending the marble staircase to the Summer Palace; “It’s like being rich for a week!”

Indigo is the other main dining room, and has a modern Manhattan décor. It offers the same menu as the Summer Palace, but is a more intimate room. La Cucina features outstanding Italian food, served in a Trattoria style décor. Everything from pizza to succulent veal dishes, served with Italian style and panache.

With so many dining rooms available, NCL has developed a series of intimate speciality restaurants. Here there is a modest extra charge, but we agree that the value is well worth the extra $12.50 to $20 per person, depending on the restaurant. Reservations are required, and it’s interesting that seating fills up very early on in the cruise, confirming the popularity of the speciality restaurants.

One of our favourites is Le Bistro, which has become an NCL signature restaurant. The continental cuisine is prepared in a separate kitchen and features a menu that is unique to Le Bistro. We always enjoy a visit to Le Bistro as one of our special evenings. The special Chef’s Tasting for Two includes Rack of Lamb or Chateaubriand with a le Bistro Soufflé for dessert.

Cagney’s Steak house and its adjoining Star Bar is also an outstanding dining experience. The kitchen is open to the restaurant and that in itself is part of the fun. It’s a steak lover’s paradise, although they also serve lobster, Alaskan King Crab leg; corn fed chicken and a grilled tuna steak. However, when in Rome… For dessert, try the house speciality – Bananas Foster Flambé. I’d recommend Cagney’s on an evening when the Chocoholic Buffet is not being served!

“The buffet” has taken on a whole new level of sophistication on the Pearl. Forget any notions of a cafeteria that you may have. The Garden Café is decorated in much the same way as the other restaurants, including carpet in the smaller dining areas, but still with enough space to accommodate larger numbers of people. There are a variety of stations, and no trays – eliminating the “cafeteria feel”.

There are plenty of service people on hand to help you to your table if you need a little assistance, and they quickly remove your plates so that you can try something different or go back for dessert.

The Pearl has a Freestyle Dining information system that has proven to be popular on other NCL ships. All of the restaurants are posted on television screens located in various locations throughout the ship. Indicators show whether the restaurants have seating available, are moderately full, or are full, and also provide the approximate wait times. If a restaurant is full, the hostess will take your name, and issue a pager that has a range throughout the ship. We tried this and it gave us time to go for a pre-dinner drink in another part of the ship without worrying about losing our place in line – very civilized!

In addition to the 10 restaurants, The Pearl has 13 bars and lounges; including everything from a sports bar to the elegant Corona Cigar Club. Bar Central is what it sounds like – a variety of themed bars all located in the same part of the ship, and sharing the continuous piano stylings of two performers in the evenings. You can enjoy your pleasure at Shakers Martini and Cocktail Bar, Magnum’s Champagne and Wine Bar, or across the room at Maltings Beer and Whiskey Bar.

The Stardust Theatre is home to the ship’s big production Broadway-style shows and featured entertainers. The sound and light equipment rivals the quality of any land-based theatre, all seats have an excellent view – and they even have loge style seating. However it’s the outstanding quality of the performances that brings the audiences to their feet in standing ovations.

The big production shows have it all: golden-throated singers, dancers (who are all a minimum of 6’ tall and legs up to here), gymnasts, and fabulous costumes.

The Second City comedy performers had the audience roaring with laughter in performances that included really clever sketches and their signature improv routines.

When was the last time you danced together? You can remedy that situation on the dance floor of Spinnakers Lounge on deck 12, with The Norwegian Pearl Showband playing the big band tunes that make it difficult to sit still. A few turns around the floor and you’re both young and in love.

The Pearl is the first ship to feature an onboard bowling alley. Located in the Bliss Lounge which is decorated a little this side of – well you have to see it. Let’s just say that opulence is the operative word, and restraint is over the side. There are two 10 pin lanes on each side of the bar. The lanes are on gyros – so that if there’s a little movement with the ship, the lanes stay flat so that your ball stays straight. Part of the fun is in the good natured humour passing between yourselves and the adjacent bowlers. Everything you need is supplied; shoes, balls of varying weights, and an automatic scoring system. Now – if we could just keep the balls out of the gutter… A good time, a fun photo op and a great story for the folks back home.

The Body Waves Fitness Centre has all the latest equipment; and knowledgeable staff to take you through a good variety of aerobic, yoga and step classes, and Pilates sessions.
The South Pacific Health Spa and Beauty Salon is a full service facility with everything you’ve dreamed of enjoying – and a cruise is the time. Massages, wraps, detoxification, and facials – they’re all available.

There are a wide variety of shore excursions available. From an air conditioned motor coach tour, to snorkelling and zip-lining across through the jungle treetops.

The Pearl Club Casino, with its Circus theme has something for every budget. Try your luck in amounts as small as one cent. You’ll also find Texas Hold’em games amongst the black jack, roulette, and craps tables.

Accommodation: There is accommodation for just about every budget aboard The Pearl, from pleasant inside staterooms to the deluxe penthouse suites. The 10 Courtyard Villas have gained popularity with NCL guests. They share a private courtyard area and pool, a sauna, gym equipment and a private deck. Eight of the ten suites have an adjoining children’s bedroom. In fact, there are a good number of adjoining cabins designed for family travel; and we saw several groups of several generations. All cabins are equipped with coffee makers, small refrigerators, and in-room safes. Balconies have become a favourite with many cruisers, and The Pearl has balconies on 360 ocean view staterooms, 134 Mini suites, 24 Penthouse suites, 4 Romance suites, 10 Courtyard Villas, 5 Owner’s Suites, and 2 Deluxe Owner’s Suites. As we said…something for everyone’s budget.

Special Needs: The Pearl has 27 wheel chair accessible cabins and suites, featuring collapsible shower stools, toilets with collapsible arm guards and lowered wash basins. The Stardust Theatre has dedicated wheelchair positions. Visually impaired and hearing-impaired guests have services to accommodate their needs. Service animals such as seeing-eye dogs are welcomed on board, and their doggy-box is changed daily by NCL staff.

If you’re traveling with children or teenagers, there are excellent programmes spanning four different age groups 2-5; 6-8; 9-12 and teenagers 13-17. We’ve travelled with our kids when they were younger and they thoroughly enjoyed the programs and the new friends they made.

Sailing from Miami, The Pearl is offering alternating 5 day Western Caribbean and 9 day Southern Caribbean cruises. Many of the guests we spoke with were taking advantage of the different itineraries to stay on for the two cruises. The five day cruise is ideal for people who have never cruised, and would like to try a shorter cruise. We left Miami on Sunday evening, enjoyed a day at sea before arriving in Cozumel for a full day; followed by another full day in Belize; and then another day at sea as we sailed back to Miami for a Friday morning debarkation. (Grand Cayman will replace Belize in the fall of 2007.)

The nine day cruise departs late Friday afternoon for the Southern Caribbean. After two relaxing days at sea, The Pearl visits Dominica, Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, and Tortola before another sea day and a return to Miami on Sunday. By using both weekends, guests have the option of a 9 day cruise and only using one holiday week.

The Pearl will make a 14 day repositioning cruise through the Panama Canal on April 22 to Los Angeles as she makes her way up to a season of Alaska cruises.

So whether you’re considering a Caribbean cruise, a Panama Canal Cruise, or an Alaskan itinerary, we think you’ll find that The Norwegian Pearl will provide you with a magical home-away-from-home. For more information, please visit the NCL website at:
Bon Voyage!

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