Pearl turns out to be quite the polished gem
Let me begin by staying that this was a chartered cruise, part of the "Grammy At Sea" series promoted by Sixthman. The theme for this cruise was "Women of Rock" and included performances by Indigo Girls, Heart and Emmylou Harris. I saw them around the ship.
I booked this cruise because the price my NCL sales rep gave me made it impossible to refuse. AND this ship NEVER makes midweek 4-night Bahamas runs out of Miami.
I had more fun as a solo male than I ever had on any cruise I've taken on any line before. Honestly. I went from being a bit leery to having a truly superb time. I sang the praises of my NCL sales rep who never told me this was a charter, in every relevant conversation about how I wound up on that ship at that time.
Entertainment, music in particular, was everywhere! On this cruise a lot of the guests were also members of the bands that were playing for the people who paid for the onboard concert series. Naturally this made for a truly fun four days and some folks lit up the karaoke stage. The comic, Rex Haven, was pretty funny, much of his humor centered on the “battle of the sexes” theme accompanied by an interesting projected slide show.
Although claimed to be full, the ship was not crowded. There were no lines to get food, something I abhor. The Summer Palace was almost empty every time I ate there which was every dinner and one lunch. The food I was served was good to very good, some dishes were notable like the shrimp and the churrasco salad, others were inedible like the pork patty. I discovered that the best food on the ship is actually the Indian cooking, like the chole masala, found in the main buffet. I never understood why the cream cheese is portion-control-served on thin slices of cucumber. Weird.
I was given a wheelchair-accessible inside cabin and it was perfect for me. Huge well-planned bathroom, comfortable bed, with separate vanity, mini-fridge, flat-screen TV, it was larger than the equivalent cabin on Carnival. Somewhat isolated, exceedingly quiet yet easy access to restaurants, clubs, elevators. I did use wheelchair assistance to get all the way forward and aft from stateroom to spa, and it was always prompt (except once) and cheerfully provided.
One thing that distinguishes lines (and ships) from each other is what I call the “Jack Factor,” named after my friend Jack who can never hear his name spoken by the crew enough times. (As in, “Yes, Mr. Jack” and “Right away, Captain Jack.”) I was impressed with the service I received from every crew member with whom I came in contact, and their name-recognition abilities. I am always praising Carnival for the memory training their crew and staff receive--which is impressive as a guest. On this ship, at this time, on this cruise I can honestly say I was surprised at the number of times I was referred to by name by everyone from assistant waiters to the ship's doctor. I give this cruise line (and ship) a high “Jack Factor.”
The exceptionally well-equipped spa with thermal pool, whirlpools and even a Japanese plunge pool, where I spent four hours a day rehabbing my surgically-repaired ankle, is staffed with some of the finest professionals at sea. I am grateful for the help they provided. The improvement in my walking is visible.
The only negative, and it was kind of a fluke, was the distance from the ship to the car and taxi pickup point at disembarkation. For me it wasn't as bad since I had a wheelchair ride to that point. If I'd had to walk it would have been miserable.
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
Cabin / Stateroom
FOOD TIP: Amazingly, the best food on the ship are the Indian dishes presented in the main buffet, the Garden Cafe. The curried chicken is exceptional.