Cruise Ship: Norwegian Pearl
Cruise Destination: Western Caribbean
Cruise Dates: January 4 - January 11, 2009
Guest Contributors: Mary & Vincent Finelli
In December 1966 the Norwegian M/S Sunward sailed into the newly constructed Miami Port. All 8,600 tons of her carried 558 passengers and her itinerary was biweekly round trips to the Bahamas. The Sunward was the first ship of the new Norwegian Caribbean Lines (NCL). Now, after 40 years the burgeoning cruise industry is graced with the Norwegian Pearl, 93,000 tons and carrying 2,732 passengers this cruise, with an average age of 58 years: there were a lot of young people, both single and with families consisting of both youngsters and grandparents --- a wonderful mix! NCL has a high ratio of crew members to passengers. On the Norwegian Pearl there are 1,154 crew headed by the nicest gentleman sailor: Captain Lars Bengtsson.
The Pearl was launched in 2006 and has Emmy Award winning TV personality Rosie O'Donnell as her Godmother. On board there are 12 Restaurants, 11 Bars & Lounges, a 4-lane Bowling Alley, A Rock Climbing Wall, plus Basketball, Volley Ball, and Tennis courts. There are Courtyard Villas and two 4,390 sq. ft. Garden Villas. NCL has introduced "Freestyle Cruising" to the industry, which frees passengers from strict schedules to dining anytime, anywhere on the ship. Cruisers can be as formal or as informal as they like; make reservations in one of the specialty restaurants or just go to the buffet. Choices include the following: Cagney's Steakhouse, Le Bistro (French cuisine), Lotus Garden (Asian fare) & Sushi Bar, Teppanyaki (Japanese), La Cucina (Italian), etc. Dress up, dress down, it's whatever "your" lifestyle dictates!
The Hotel Director Dallas Easterly (yes, he was born in Dallas, Texas) is very knowledgeable and acquainted with all 13 decks in detail. He told us that the Pearl runs not only on fuel, but also on rice --- these are the two most used commodities on board. By way of explanation, the crew is mostly Philippine and rice is their staple food. We should all eat more rice, because we noticed the polite manners and happy faces of all the crew around us.
Norwegian Pearl Embarkation
Sunday, driving from our house in Boca Raton to Miami is painless because traffic is light. We arrived at the Port at 12:30pm, and after a wait for someone to push Vincent's wheelchair we were on by 1:00pm. We had lunch at the Indigo Restaurant and avoided the crowd at the Buffet, and were in our mini suite by 1:30pm. Rooms are not ready for passengers until 1:00pm, so unless you want to carry hand luggage around, try not to get to port too early. We had no need to check on our dinner seating arrangements, since they would change daily. Boat Drill was at 3:30pm, a bit too early for those flying in who hadn't had time to eat. Our muster station was in the Summer Palace Main Restaurant Deck 6 Aft. We saw this as a potential problem, since there is only one elevator to Deck 7 Promenade, where the life boats are located. After the drill there was a bottle neck, and a long wait for handicapped passengers. In case of a real emergency, it would be better to put the muster station for the handicapped directly on Deck 7 and thus avoid having to transfer them up one deck. We were told that four crew members were assigned to each wheelchair passenger and that we needn't worry.
As we boarded, we met our old friend Concierge Carlos Zarate, with whom we sailed around the Horn in South America in 2002. What a warm welcome we got on our arrival! Carlos made our cruise terrific.
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