Our Last Norwegian Cruise

Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review to Panama Canal, Central America

Cruises: 7+ cruises
Reviews: 13
Helpful Votes: 179

Overall rating:

2.2 out of 5
Norwegian Pearl

14 Night Panama Canal Partial Transit (Tampa Roundtrip)

Sail date: November 04, 2018

Ship: Norwegian Pearl

Cabin type: Balcony

Cabin number: 10604

Traveled as: Large Group

Reviewed: 3 years ago

Review summary

We've decided that Norwegian is not for us. I'd probably try a different ship ten years from now, but in the competitive environment of cruising in Florida, maybe not even then. We have friends who cruised with us who say it's their favorite cruise line, despite what made us unhappy. I'm glad the line has such friends, but we aren't going to be among them.


2 out of 5
The cruise terminal in Tampa is inadequate for this size ship. We were told to go have lunch and come back after 2pm. It was too early; with some passengers not getting on board until after the lifeboat drill.

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

3 out of 5
Food in the Summer Palace and Le Cuchina were good, but some dishes I make better at home. Lotus Garden was particularly good, as was le Bistro. Cagney's was a disappointment.

Indigo Main Dining Room

2 out of 5

The room was crowded, very noise, and staff seemed to take a committee-of-the-whole approach to service. We never did understand who was our waiter, and it took over 20 minutes to get a second glass of wine.That said, the Assistant Manager very graciously listened to my wife complain about the food, chair, restaurant, entertainment, and even our cabin. He then arranged for a plate of chocolates and a table to be deliverd to our cabin, for which our sincere thanks.

Lotus Garden Asian Restaurant

5 out of 5

We dined here four times on our 14-night cruise. Yes, my wife is a big fan of oriental food, but also because staff was prompt, understanding, and the menu had enough variety to keep us returning. Okay, the fried pot stickers were a bit overdone, but all else was great.

Le Bistro

5 out of 5

Very nice French restaurant. Quite, attentive servers (who understood English much better than others on board), and excellent food.

Cagney's Steakhouse

1 out of 5

Disappointing. We had to have them get another chair, as my wife could not sit in their standard model. Service was slow and the steak was tough. I'm not a big fan of steakhouses anyway, but this fell well below my expectations.

Onboard Activities

2 out of 5
Most were just uninteresting. Not really a criticism, just a recognition that we weren'e a good match to this cruise line.

Art Gallery and Internet Cafe

5 out of 5

Staff were competent, fast, accurate, and took time to explain some weirdness about the system and how they were going to work around it. Best I've met at sea.

Bridge Viewing Room

5 out of 5

A surprisingly good view of the bridge, the room also includes several monitors that echo data available to the bridge crew. Not as good as a bridge tour, but very interesting.


1 out of 5
One great comedian, one terrible (we walked out); excellent strength ballet from a pair of acrobats. Otherwise, not worth our time. Again, not a good match of cruise line to our interests.

Stardust Theater

4 out of 5

We need accessible seating, and this theater had more than most. Unfortunately, the seating on deck 7 was hard to find and hard to get to. Lighting was a problem in many shows, with brights shining in our eyes, but given the hall, I don't fault the technical crew for this.

Service and Staff

3 out of 5
Invariably polite, but not always able to understand requests due to language challenges. Some were clearly untrained, such as a Sommalier who, when asked for a wine recommendation, said, "Sorry, I can't help you."

Ship Quality

2 out of 5
Cleanliness was okay, but the design of the ship was bad. Having to use a flight of stairs (or a special elevator) to access one of the main dining rooms -- especially given the 70+ demographics of the passengers -- was a very poor design decision. Two dining rooms had chairs so uncomfortable that we had to ask for replacements in order to eat there.

Cabin / Stateroom

1 out of 5
Our tiny cabin had no table or chair, and the bathroom compartment was so small I almost had to step out into the hall to finish my business. Far and away the smallest and least convenient cabin I've every occupied.

Ship tip

Unless you're young and flexible, recondisder your choice.

Ports of call

George Town, Grand Cayman

2 out of 5

Falmouth, Jamaica

2 out of 5

Santa Marta, Colombia

2 out of 5

Cartagena, Colombia

2 out of 5

Colon, Panama

5 out of 5
Our excursion included a viewing of the new locks, a transcontinental train ride, and a bus tour (including a worthless shopping stop). Good narration on bus and train, and a nice alternative to staying on board.

Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

5 out of 5
A decent bus, train, & boat excursion with lots of wild animals on view. A very entertaining tour guide made a large and positive impact. Best tour of the cruise.

Santo Tomas De Castilla, Guatemala

1 out of 5
We took the "Eco and Cultural Cruise", which involved climbing into a tiny boat and doing some very hard bouncing on rough water while our guide told us almost nothign about the ecology and culture of the area. Those who took bus tours had bad things to say about the roads.

Belize City, Belize Did not visit port

We went to Harvest Cay, Norwegian's private outpost instead. Not at all clear why they list this stop as being in Belize City.

Costa Maya (Mahahual), Mexico

2 out of 5
We were in port at the same time as two 5000+ passenger megaships. The half-mile long dock was crowded all day, and those who ventured out said the facilities were terribly overcrowded.


1 out of 5
Slow. Despite admonitions that we had to be off the ship by 9:30, it took us until noon to get to customs, and another hour for all of our group to make it out. Part of this is due to low staffing by customs, but the lack of information from the ship and the demand that we wait standing on the deck made it worse than it had to be.
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