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.

Norwegian Pearl Review
Of course this is a repeat picture from my Outlaw Country Cruise Blog but Justin is the reason I was on The Pearl, and hey, it’s a good picture!

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.

Norwegian Pearl Review

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. 

Norwegian Pearl Review
La Cucina has a beautiful, rustic environment with a row of external window to the left (not shown in picture) that allow for wonderful views and plenty of natural light

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.

Norwegian Pearl Review
Garden Café – very bright, clean, and great food
Norwegian Pearl Review
Garden Café Indoor seating area
Norweigan Pearl Review
My usual breakfast from the Garden Café, with an occasional bowl of oatmeal
Norwegian Pearl Review
There is an identical breakfast buffet in the Great Outdoors, just steps away from the Garden Café

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.

Norwegian Pearl Review
O’Shennan’s surrounds the Atrium area. Seating is available on both side of the Atrium with a bar in the middle, which is behind me in this picture
Norwegian Pearl Review
Awesome Chicken Fajitas in O’Shennan’s
Norwegian Pearl review
The Asian Wok bar and grilled fish provided a healthy option for lunch in the Garden Café

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.

Norwegian Pearl Review
Summer Place – a beautiful entrance before entering a Russian Palace
Norwegian Pearl Review
Summer Place Dining Room – Available for dinner every evening
Norwegian Pearl Review
Faberge and Decorated Eggs decorated the staircases and rails
Norwegian Pearl Review
The Tilapia was light, fluffy, and flavorful
Norwegian Pearl Review
I am not lying, this was the BEST spaghetti with meat sauce that I have ever tasted…and my mother’s side of the family is Italian…Shhhh
Norwegian Pearl Review
Let’s just say that Justin and I ate dinner every night in Summer Place – Chocolate Lava Cake

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.

Norwegian Pearl Review

Norwegian Pearl Review
This is co-ed area of the spa. There were several jets that would activate the water in this jet/hot pool. The lounge chairs in the background faced forward, so you could relax and see exactly where the ship was headed

Norwegian Pearl Review

Norwegian Pearl Review
Men’s Locker Room, complete with a sauna, steam room, individual hot tub, and an icy plunge pool, if you’re into that kind of thing

Once you’ve had plenty of time to relax, there’s a casino and Bar City area that is great for staying active afterhours:

Norwegian Pearl Review

Norwegian Pearl Review
Bar City Lounge. The Magnum Champagne Wine Bar is in the foreground

Norwegian Pearl Review

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.

Norwegian Pearl Review
Notice the four-post bed in the background to the right – none of the cruisers knew what this was for)

 

Norwegian Pearl
Bliss Lounge has four bowling lanes

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.

Norwegian Pearl Review

Norwegian Pearl Review

Norwegian Pearl Review

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.

Norwegian Pearl Review
Yep, this is the splash area for kids on the 12th deck if I remember correctly, so it’s not close to the large adult pool area on deck 11
Norwegian Pearl Review
Entourage Arcade – small but adequate

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.  

Norwegian Pearl Review
Costa Maya – View from the ship
Norwegian Pearl Review
The pier looks long but it’s a nice, easy walk…a lot better than being tendered onto shore
Norwegian Pearl Review
Costa Maya Plaza Area

Norwegian Pearl Review

Norwegian Pearl Review
Commercialization to American tourist was front and center as soon as you walked into the shopping area

Norwegian Pearl Review

Norwegian Pearl Review
There were several quaint restaurants and eating areas away from the crowded shopping district

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.

Norwegian Pearl Review
Pool area in the middle of the shopping area. Notice the Norwegian Pearl in the distance
Norwegian Pearl Review
Just another view of the pool area

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.

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