Amazing Experience

Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review to Panama Canal, Central America

Cruises: 2-3 cruises
Review: 1
Helpful Votes: 24

Overall rating:

4.6 out of 5
Norwegian Pearl

11 Night Panama Canal - Partial Transit (Miami Roundtrip)

Sail date: November 11, 2019

Ship: Norwegian Pearl

Cabin type: Oceanview

Cabin number: 5000

Traveled as: Couple

Reviewed: 2 years ago

Review summary

One of the best trips of my life, and definitely has me sold on returning to many Central American destinations.

Embarkation

5 out of 5
We were there early, as we flew into Miami day of. We had to wait in the port for about an hour until they allowed passengers aboard so once we were all checked in it was smooth to get on and get started. Long lines to check in but that’s unavoidable.

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

5 out of 5
Mainly ate at O’Sheehan’s and the Summer Palace, both of which had fantastic food. Breakfast from the buffet and the Great Outdoors was also great. I had the unlimited drink package so drinks were plentiful, and I rarely had to wait more than a minute for a drink anywhere I went, especially if I went to a bartender I made friends with.

Topsiders Bar and Grill

5 out of 5

Pool bar with friendly staff, they also have waiters who come and take orders if you don’t want to walk to the bar yourself.

Summer Palace (Main Dining Room)

5 out of 5

No complaints, had a great meal here most nights

Shaker's Martini & Cocktails Bar

5 out of 5

Very knowledgeable staff who make fancy cocktails and martinis.

O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill

5 out of 5

Great bar food open 24/7

Great Outdoors

5 out of 5

Great views of most ports, awesome spot to eat breakfast.

Onboard Activities

5 out of 5
Pool deck was crowded, but always had somewhere to set up camp, and at least one hot tub always had room. The bowling alley was fun. The Bliss Lounge on this ship is not a nightclub like on most other NCL ships, but is more of a bar and lounge.

Jogging / Walking Track

2 out of 5

Crowded with people walking or lingering about, very skinny in places between the walls and railings. Not really a good spot for any actual running or jogging.

Hot Tubs

5 out of 5

4 hot tubs on board, always room in at least one of them.

Body Waves Fitness Center

4 out of 5

Decent gym for a ship this size. No barbells though.

Entertainment

5 out of 5
The comedian and acrobatics show were fantastic, really amazing to see. The musical shows were also really well done.

Bliss Ultra Lounge

5 out of 5

Great chill spot on the ship, at night there’s a bartender here named Roy Vilcapoma who was one of the friendliest, most knowledgeable bartenders I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. They have karaoke in here most nights, followed by one musical act or another until midnight when this bar closes.

Children's Programs

No children

Service and Staff

5 out of 5
My room steward Ferdinand turned down the room twice a day without me asking him to and was really pleasant. I had great service everywhere on the ship and had no issues throughout. Highlight of the staff though was definitely one of the bartenders, Roy Vilcapoma, who worked the pool deck bar during the day and Bliss Lounge at night. Roy was extremely friendly and we enjoyed talking with him most nights whether we stayed in Bliss Lounge for the night or went there for a bit before dinner, show, nightly party, etc. Roy knows his drinks and I often told him to surprise me with drinks, as I enjoy everything, and he always made me fancy drinks that were always amazing. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting him aboard an NCL ship, consider yourself lucky.

Ship Quality

4 out of 5
The ship was always clean, but the hallways were somewhat labyrinthine as hallways that should connect front to back don’t, or sometimes hallways are on the port side but not starboard, and took some getting used to the layout to get around.

Cabin / Stateroom

4 out of 5
Small porthole window room but it got the job done. Was rocky in the room during sea days, and extremely loud in the early AM hours due to the location, but that was expected.

Ports of call

Miami, Florida

5 out of 5
Our departure and arrival port, but definitely beautiful to see and fun to explore. Friends we made live near the port of Miami so we were able to watch the ships come and go.

Cartagena, Colombia

5 out of 5
Cartagena city itself looks a lot like Miami from a distance, but what you’re probably here to see is the “Old Town” or “Walled City” however your cruise describes it. This is a short 10-15 minute drive away from the port, and while it is mobbed with street vendors and hustlers, is very beautiful to see. We did an open air sightseeing party bus, and got to see the Fortress, an open air market, and walk on the walls themselves all while getting hammered for most of the day. It was also about an 85 degree Fahrenheit day in November. Would definitely return.

Panama Canal (Cruise Into Canal)

5 out of 5
We rode through the old locks into Gatun Lake on the NCL Pearl, which took about 3 hours each way. The canal was fascinating to see, and we had a great vantage point from the top sun deck as well as on the bow area, which they opened up for the canal crossing. They had a speaker from the canal board the ship and give history lessons and talk about the canal, which was great but he often rambled off on tangents about seemingly unrelated stuff. The Canal is definitely something everyone who is into cruising should see at one point or another.

Colon, Panama

1 out of 5
We stopped here for 3 hours, mainly to pick up people who went on excursions after the canal, and were advised by the cruise ship not to go far. A group of 6 of us wanted to see the city, however, so we left the ship and stuck together. The city itself once you left the port looked like a war zone, and we made it 5 blocks from the port before we were stopped by the police who told us that we should go back to the cruise ship, as the city wasn’t safe. On our way back, a local older woman also told us that people selling “taxi rides” either take you to a shopping mall which is run down and 45 minutes away so you will definitely miss the ship leaving, or sometimes straight up kidnap people so definitely do not get into ANYONE’S car if you leave the port.

Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

5 out of 5
Great for the wildlife, very beautiful once you leave the city itself, but our excursion itself was lackluster. I’d definitely return to see more of the country but do something else instead.

Harvest Caye, Belize

5 out of 5
NCL “owns” this island in that it’s their private island but every business there is owned and operated by native Belizians. This was apparently part of the agreement between NCL and Belize in order for them to have the private island here. The island itself is beautiful, and it has a nice beach, a massive pool with swim-up bar, a Landshark Bar & Grill, two other open air bars that are more “local” feeling, and many many places to get drinks and to go shopping. We did the zip lining out of the lighthouse which was great, then walked around through the wildlife sanctuary and spent the day drinking on the beach.

Coxen Hole, Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras

5 out of 5
Probably my favorite port I’ve been to, Roatán itself is beautiful. The port is under construction to accommodate more ships, but once you’re off the pier the port is beautiful, with multiple shops and bars. The sights you can see from your ship are fantastic, with mountains rising way up into the sky not too far from the port, and beautiful homes on the side of and on top of the mountains. If you do an excursion, you get to drive through a lot of towns and you can see that they’re really trying to build Roatán up into a top tier tourist destination. Any excursion booked with Anthony’s Key Resort, or if you’re staying there not on a cruise, is guaranteed to be wonderful and the scenery can’t be beat.

Costa Maya (Mahahual), Mexico

5 out of 5
The port itself is made to essentially be a water park, and isn’t an “authentic” port. Once you leave the port on your own or with an excursion, there’s not much around besides dirt roads and jungles. However, this worked to our advantage because we did a jungle/beach ATV tour that ended at Beach Escape private beach resort in Mahahual, where from the tour we were given free entry, open bar, snorkeling, kayaking, and a taxi ride back to the port, all complimentary. I ended up not spending much time in the port itself, but I’d definitely return.

Disembarkation

5 out of 5
Quick easy and painless

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