Polished Pearl pleases passengers
Ship Review by Michael Coleman, December 2009
Above the dive-friendly, turquoise waters of the Caribbean, a playground of another kind beckons.
The 2,394-passenger Norwegian Pearl is a world unto itself, epitomizing Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) “Freestyle Cruising’’ concept where passengers enjoy a myriad of onboard entertainment and dining choices yet with no set schedules, dining times or even dress codes to adhere to.
As such, seven-night Caribbean itineraries to ports ranging from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. Virgin Islands, seem almost secondary.
Pearl features a spa, fitness center, sports court (basketball, volleyball and tennis), four hot tubs, two swimming pools, a kid’s pool, internet cafe, casino, library, card room, jogging/walking track, shuffleboard court and movie theater.
The biggest onboard wow factor — clearly — is Bliss, a sports bar by day and a high-energy lounge at night complete with the industry’s first four-lane bowling alley at sea.
The biggest culinary fan aboard Norwegian Pearl may also be the most disappointed passenger on disembarkation day.
With 12 restaurants and 11 bars and lounges to choose from, it’s next to impossible to sample all of the ship’s culinary venues on a typical, seven-day Caribbean voyage.
Pearl features locales which run the gamut from complimentary (as part of your cruise fare) to reservations-only, nominal fee, specialty restaurants from among French inspired cuisine in Le Bistro, steak and seafood in Cagney’s, and even a Japanese/Thai/Chinese complex complete with a teppanyaki dining area.
Dining options are a big factor today within the cruise industry as more ships than ever before offer alternative onboard venues for their passengers to enjoy. At NCL, however, it’s the very premise of their “Freestyle Cruising’’ concept where one is offered a host of outstanding dining choices and the freedom to dine with whom you want, when you want at a locale that’s right for you on the evening of your choosing.
Aboard Pearl, the operation is virtually flawless.
Le Bistro, on Deck 6, is a warm, art nouveau restaurant reflecting all things French. Wine displays surround the entrance and the artwork celebrates famous icons throughout French history. It’s also the scene for jazz brunch, hosted once each cruise.
The Lotus Garden Asian Restaurant, on Deck 7, is the ship’s Japanese/Thai/Chinese restaurant complex featuring sushi, sashimi and a teppanyaki room where chefs treat passengers to both a culinary show and excellent fare.
Cagney’s Steakhouse on Deck 13, meanwhile, is a traditional steakhouse albeit with a 1930s ambiance. Look for a choice of beef, lobster, veal, lamb, seafood and grilled chicken.
La Cucina Italian Restaurant, on Deck 12, is Pearl’s casual Italian eatery reflecting a village Trattoria or traditional farmhouse kitchen.
The ship, of course, still offers casual buffet fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner in both the Garden Cafe/The Great Outdoors venue on Deck 12. Look for omelets, waffles, fruit, soups, ethnic specialties, salads, pasta and carving stations.
Bar Central, on Deck 6, may be the nicest way to start or end your evening as it features a martini bar, a champagne and wine bar, and a beer and whisky pub all within a few feet of each other.
On the Web: www.ncl.com
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