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I had the opportunity to attend a conference aboard the Norwegian Pearl for her 5 day Western Caribbean sailing from Miami to Cozumel and Grand Cayman. The ships alternates a 5 night Sunday to Friday sailing with a 9 night Southern Caribbean sailing. This new ship had just arrived from a repositioning cruise from Alaska to Miami, and this was the first sailing for Pearl from Miami. They were assigned a former Carnival terminal, the most seaward of the berths at the Port of Miami. Perhaps because it was the first sailing, the embarkation lines were long, extending out the door and down the steps by 2pm.
The cabin, a category BA, 10058 midships starboard side, was ready and spotless. The balcony has two chairs and a small table, but no reclining chairs. The room has a stocked refrigerator, a coffee maker, flat screen TV, and the new beds with duvets. The bathroom was just as large as in the minisuites, with a toilet with a sliding door separating it from the washroom, and the shower, with its own sliding door. The room steward, whom I saw only three times the whole cruise, kept the cabin spotless.
With Freestyle dining, there are 10 dining venues, including two main restaurants, the Summer Palace and the smaller Indigo. I ate in the Summer Palace twice and once in Indigo. In addition, they have four specialty restaurants that require reservations, three of which have a service charge: Cagney?s Steakhouse, Lotus Garden Asian Restaurant and Teppanyaki, and Le Bistro French restaurant. There is also an Italian Trattoria, where I ate one night, which has no service charge but does require reservations. The Lotus Garden and Teppanyaki seemed to be the ones fully booked every night. I did enjoy the Lotus Garden one night. It is wise to pick the ones you want to reserve as soon as you get aboard and book them that afternoon, or you may be eating very early or very late. They serve from 5:30pm till 10:30pm. The Garden Buffet is spacious, many food stations so you don?t have to stand in long lines. There were three different eggs to order/omelet stations, for example. There is no charge for ice cream, and it wasn?t just soft serve ice cream. Many people don?t realize that there is also a food station at the rear of the buffet that is outside on the deck. Mango?s served Mexican food and the Blue Lagoon was more of a short order fast, food place, with table seating. I tried both of those for snacks, including nachos in the Mexican restaurant.
There are, of course, many bars and lounges. My favorite is the Star Bar on deck 12 aft. It is not frequented much, has superb personalized service, windows, and music in the background. The Star is my favorite on every NCL ship I have sailed on. The Atrium area had a WII set up and every day, all day, people were playing tennis or golf on a screen several stories high. This is the same area where portrait photographs were taken several nights and musicians played occasionally in the evening. The purser?s desk is in this area too.
There were two evening shows by the Jean Ann Ryan Company, at 7:30 and 9pm, comedy improve acts, and a comedic juggler. The production shows, Broadway style, were excellent.
The new item on this ship is the Bliss Lounge where there are four bowling alleys divided by a disco and bar with sofas, loungers, stools, and many video screens. The disco is busy well into the morning. Bowling was $5 per line.
The best part of Freestyle in my opinion is Debarkation. While they still distribute colored luggage tags and ask that your luggage be outside the door by 1am the last night, they don?t require you to vacate your cabin until 10am. You can leave your carry on luggage in the room instead of dragging it to breakfast, and then you can leave either when your color tag is called or when you like, as long as it is by 10am. The customs/immigration lines were lengthy, three stations with two inspectors each.
The two ports, which I had visited many times before, were Cozumel and Grand Cayman. The last time I was scheduled for Cozumel it was hit by hurricane Wilma and the visit was scheduled. I was eager to see how the refurbishment has gone. We berthed at the pier at Playa Langouste, across the street from Sr Frog?s and Carlos and Charlie?s. We visited Playa Mia for a beach excursion, and noticed the still denuded trees on the way there. Playa Mia, we found, was the old Play del Sol revitalized after the hurricane but essentially the same place. The water is too murky to snorkel. While they are still rebuilding the destroyed international pier, it was in use by Enchantment of the Seas. There were only three ships there when we were there. The downtown shows no signs of the storm anymore.
Grand Cayman was especially pleasant because they have rebuilt the tendering piers, use large commercial tenders, and the process was seamless. In addition the Pearl was the only ship in port that day, so there was no congestion.
In all, this was an excellent experience on an absolutely spotless new ship.