Norwegian Pearl Review
If you’re reading this review, then you know I received permission from my loving wife, Tammy, to experience a new adventure without her by my side. This vacation was a stray from my more frequent Disney vacations with Tammy and the family but I was up for the challenge. My best friend Justin had introduced me to the Outlaw Country themed cruise on the Norwegian Pearl that he had experienced himself one year earlier. For a few months leading up to the cruise I would spend time tuning into Outlaw Country to familiarize myself with the genre that would fill four of my days in January. I’ll admit, it was a struggle; some of the songs reminded me of story tellers long ago (think Merl Haggard, Johnny Cash, and George Jones), and others, well, there lyrics were just bizarre. Nonetheless, I was looking forward to hanging out with best bud and experiencing awesome music from cruise favorites like Blackberry Smoke, The Mavericks, Jesse Dayton, Nikki Lane, Steve Earl, Elizabeth Cook, and Ray Wylie Hubbard. For more highlights from the Outlaw Country Cruise, see my trip report here.
Let’s get back to the Norwegian Pearl. A beautiful ship, built in 2006 and refurbished in 2017, with capacity for 2,394 passengers, this ship is the perfect size for a themed cruise. In comparison, the Pearl is similar to the Disney Wonder which entered service in 1999, re-imagineered in 2016, and has capacity for 2,400 passengers. The Norwegian Pearl is home to 16 dining options, 15 bars/lounges, a casino, and a quaint, relaxing spa.
Because it was a themed cruise with several artists and bands on board, The Indigo main dining room, was reserved for the musicians, and beautifully designed Le Bistro Restaurant was reserved for use by the Sixthman Production team, but there were plenty of other food options available. Also, the La Cucina Italian Restaurant was not serving meals during this cruise but it was available for cruisers eating the Garden Café buffet and wanted a quiet environment to eat.
The Garden Café Buffet and The Great Outdoors dining areas were the main restaurants for most passengers (did I mention that I never felt crowded on this cruise?). Breakfast offered plentiful options for passengers wanting to eat healthy with oatmeal, bagels, yogurt, and fruit; or for passengers who threw caution to the wind and wanted to enjoy vacation with omelet stations, sausage, crisp bacon, waffles, and even biscuits and gravy! We would always grab our plates and head aft to the Great Outdoors tables to eat on the back deck. The fresh air and views were hard to beat.
Lunch offered delicious ballpark options of hamburgers, hot dogs, and French fries. There was always grilled fish, grilled chicken, daily soups, and even an Asian wok bar that provided a variety of options. Another great lunch location or late evening munchie option was O’Sheehan’s that felt like a neighborhood sports bar and had some of the best wings and nacho’s I’ve ever had. I tried one of the specialty hot dogs one day but was left disappointed.
Our favorite dinner option every evening was the Summer Palace, themed to resemble a Russian Palace. There was a standard menu for dinner but every evening there were daily specials. The food was delicious every evening. We had fantastic options like crab cakes, grilled pork chop, seared tilapia, and the most delicious spaghetti bolognaise I’ve ever tasted! Hint, we received faster service the two evening we sat closer to the kitchen.
The Norwegian Pearl is also home to the Mandara Spa. We paid around $145 for a Thermal Suite Pass that allowed us access to the spa each day of the cruise. The Spa was well outfitted with several spa treatment rooms, and several amenities in the men’s locker room including a steam room, sauna, single whirlpool, and chilly plunge pool (for those of you who are into shocking your body). The Co-ed area had several lounger chairs that faced the front of the ship, a 4-person hot tub, warm mosaic tile lounges, and a large relaxation pool with several features.
Once you’ve had plenty of time to relax, there’s a casino and Bar City area that is great for staying active afterhours:
The one area on the ship that provided the most surreal experience was the Bliss Lounge. Decorated in lush purple and maroon colors, heavy drapes, and plush furniture, including a four-post bed (yes, you read that correctly), and a couple of side VIP-style rooms.
If you are into staying fit during your cruise, the fitness was well-equipped with plenty of cardio pieces of equipment, new nautilus-style machines, and free weights. Healthy food options on board included plenty of fresh fruit, grilled chicken, fish, vegetable, oatmeal, and protein packed omelets.
If you have children traveling with you on the Norwegian Pearl, keeping them entertained will be a challenge. There is an Entourage Arcade, a small childcare area, and the smallest kid’s splash pad area I’ve ever seen on a ship, almost as if it was an afterthought or obligatory nod to the one or two families who may have decided to bring their small children onboard.
We had one port of call during the cruise, Costa Maya, Mexico, which was promoted as a destination built specifically for tourists. If you’re familiar with the commercialization of Myrtle Beach, SC and the variety of Tanger Outlet Malls, imagine if they had a baby. There were some authentic Mexican vendors but the NFL blazoned items that decorated their shops was puzzling. If you want to visit the Mayan Ruins, there’s an excursion for that. If you want to swim with the dolphins, there’s a small man-made lagoon for that, but it pales in comparison to the awesome and educational dolphin experience available at Discovery Cove in Orlando, FL. You can read our trip report about Discovery Cove here.
One of the coolest areas in Coast Maya was the open pool area. You could grab a lounge chair, relax, or swim and float in the pool. There was also a snorkeling area for those interested, but I didn’t see anyone taking advantage of that opportunity during our visit.
In all, the Norwegian Pearl was a very pleasant surprise. It was colorful, clean, and the food was excellent. The updated furnishing and airy common space areas were a visible indicator that the ship had recently come out of dry dock for refreshing. It’s hard to compare any cruise line to Disney’s Cruise Line for kid friendly options and activities, and with the Pearl’s tiny kid’s splash pad area, this ship is probably better suited for adult only cruises.