August 2015 - Norwegian Pearl to Alaska - Inside Passage
I won't spend time reviewing Alaska since Alaska and the ports of call will be the same no matter what cruise line you chose.
Food: We have been on several cruises and we have learned that the food in the main dining areas is the same quality as the main ships buffet so we don't dine in the main dining areas any longer since that dining style is time consuming and less convenient for us. So ignoring the main dining areas, the main buffet on the ship is called the Garden Buffet. Breakfast at the Garden was good to very good. The fruit was of excellent quality and they had a very good variety of breakfast food. Lunch at the Garden was average to good. Dinner meals were hit or miss on quality: some dishes were poor, some average and a few were excellent but they always had a good variety of meals for dinner.
About the third day we tried one of the asian restaurants called the Lotus Garden. All the food at the Lotus Garden from the hors dourves to the deserts were excellent! Don't tell anyone but sometimes we would eat a light meal at the Lotus and then mosey on up the the Garden buffet to sample one of the daily specials. One night they had baby back ribs that were excellent.
The last thing I will mention about food is that when the weather was decent, they would serve a special (BBQ style) lunch (not burgers) out on the pool deck and I would rate this food as good to very good.
Entertainment: The shows were pretty good - on par with other cruise lines we have experienced. We don’t spend much time at the casinos on cruise ships but I would say the casino on the Pearl was better than most that I have seen on other cruise lines. What I mean by “better” is that the casino is large enough, they plenty of tables and machines for the slot crowd, and they have real dealers at the card tables (some lines don’t).
Cabin: The cabin was small but very nice. Our daily room service was excellent - thank you Wayne.
Staff: The entire staff on the pearl was excellent - 5 of 5 stars.
Our overall Norwegian Pearl experience was good but I must mention the negatives with this cruise line so that new cruisers will not get ripped off. First and worst was our experience with medical on the ship (not the medical staff specifically but the price gouging). Here is the story; our 20 year old daughter developed swollen lymph nodes in her neck the day before we left on the cruise. I knew that this is not that uncommon with young people when they are very busy and don’t get enough sleep and since the cruise was giving her the opportunity to rest up I wasn’t too concerned. However, 3 days into the cruise, she developed another firmer lump under her chin. So for peace of mind, I took her to visit the ship physician so I could get another opinion. We were told an exam from the physician would cost $149. I was fine with that fee. However, they added a strep swab (even though we told the staff that our daughter did not have strep) and then the physician examined her for about 5 to 10 minutes (this is not a complaint as this was appropriate for her condition) and he agreed that she had swollen lymph nodes and there was nothing to worry about but handed us 2, 4 tablets boxes of Azithromycin. The next day our bill for the exam was left in our room - the bill was over $500. The strep swab (normal cost of about $25) was billed at $138 and we were charged $182 for 8 tablets of the antibiotics. I can buy a Z-pack (6 tablets) for about $10 ($1.66/tab) at Safeway so $22 per tablet for a med that normally costs less than $2/tab is simply unacceptable price gouging in my opinion.
The next issue is their Ultimate Beverage Package. The charge for the week was over $400 per person and you are required to purchase the package for everyone in your group if you want this option. My wife and daughter do not drink alcoholic beverages or soda. So for me to purchase that option would have cost over $1200 for the week. Obviously that makes no sense so we did not buy this option and I also did not purchase even one alcoholic drink or soda while on this cruise. So the result was that the cruise ship actually made less money from my family than they could have if they had offered a fairer option.
Lastly, do not buy any shore excursions before hand or while on the ship. You will always get a better deal walking off the ship and purchasing them from the local proprietors.
Final thoughts; This was a great cruise overall - we experienced one of the most beautiful places in America including the spectacular Margerie Glacier, we ate good to great food, saw some good entertainment, and we had both a relaxing and exciting (shore excursions) vacation. I would recommend this cruise as long as you avoid the extreme price gouging that is common on this (and others) cruise lines. If you need medical attention, try to wait to see a physician at one of the ports if at all possible. Do not get sucked into any of the beverage packages that they offer since they all seem to be designed in such a way that they will make more money than if you were to purchase beverages individually. Now remember that you will get price gouged when you buy any alcoholic beverage or soda while on a cruise ship so why buy a "package" that gouges you even more?