Cruising the Norwegian Pearl Review: Our Favorite Ship Yet

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Are you planning a cruise on the Norwegian Pearl? This Norwegian Pearl review will reveal why it’s become one of our favorite ships thus far.

After enjoying our Norwegian Getaway Haven cruise, we were eager to see how the smaller, recently refurbished Norwegian Pearl would compare. With fewer activities and half the passengers, we wondered if we’d miss the luxurious Haven suite or the more intimate setting would enhance our experience.

In this Norwegian Pearl review, we highlight what we loved about our nine-day itinerary, which included six ports and only two sea days. This sailing allowed us to revisit Roatan under better weather conditions and explore three new destinations.

featured blog image features the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship prominently in the background, with the title "Cruising the Norwegian Pearl" overlaid in a bold font. The ship's unique hull art, showcasing playful swirls and starburst designs in shades of blue and orange, is clearly visible. Pin

Note: This cruise was taken and reviewed in 2017. It remains one of our favorite sailings. Updates made to this post are for formatting purposes.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we earn a commission at no extra cost. Please refer to our full disclosure for details.

9-Day Norwegian Pearl Western Caribbean Itinerary

Day 1 – Depart New Orleans, LA
Day 2 – Sea Day
Day 3 – Cozumel, Mexico
Day 4 – George Town, Cayman Islands
Day 5 – Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras
Day 6 – Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala
Day 7 – Harvest Caye, Belize
Day 8 – Costa Maya, Mexico
Day 9 – Sea Day
Day 10 – Disembark in New Orleans, LA

Norwegian Pearl Review

Norwegian Cruise Ship docked in Harvest Caye, BelizePin

Before starting the detailed part of our Norwegian Pearl review, I’ll share that we had a fabulous time! We’ve learned that nine days is perfect for us—seven days feels too short, while anything longer might be too much.

The first few days featured intermittent rain, but the weather improved halfway through, providing some wonderfully warm days. We met amazing people at a Cruise Critic meet-up, during excursions, and around the ship.

Our days were filled with delicious food, dancing, laughter, and exploration on and off the ship. It was a memorable nine-day adventure. In addition, we spent a few days in New Orleans before embarking. It was our first visit, and while two and a half days weren’t enough to see everything, we had a great time exploring the French Quarter and enjoying beignets.

Embarkation at Port of New Orleans

Embarkation day proved to be a bit disorganized. We arrived around 11:30 AM and immediately met with a lengthy security line. After checking in, we faced another extended wait to board the ship.

The delay was partly because the Norwegian Pearl had been chartered by the band KISS and their fans just five days earlier, and their disembarkation took longer than expected. Additionally, the port authority chose to conduct a full ship check that day.

It wasn’t until around 1 PM that they began calling groups to board, and we didn’t get on the ship until about 2 PM. Seasoned cruisers we chatted with mentioned that this was unusual.

Remember, patience is essential on embarkation day. Once aboard, grabbing your first cocktail can be a sweet start to your vacation. If you have a drink package, it’s the perfect time to start making the most of it.

Sail Away from New Orleans Cruise Port

Our departure was delayed, so we missed the opportunity to sail down the Mississippi River in daylight as we had hoped. Instead, we left port at sunset. Fortunately, the stunning sunset over the New Orleans skyline was a breathtaking consolation, beautifully offsetting the earlier delay.

Enclosed Balcony Cabin on Norwegian Pearl

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We booked a balcony guarantee and were assigned to cabin #10008 on the starboard forward side, featuring an enclosed balcony. This was my first experience with this type of balcony, and I found it wonderfully private compared to regular balconies. With no visual obstructions, a quick lean to the left provides a clear view of the ship’s bridge.

The cabin offered my husband and me a comfortable setup, though it might feel snug for more than two people. Here are some key features:

  • Bed: Comfortably sized and positioned.
  • TV and USB Ports: It includes a new flat-screen TV with one USB port under it and additional ports under each bedside light fixture.
  • Storage: Ample closet space with a hidden light switch in the back.
  • Bathroom: The space felt a bit cramped and dark due to wood paneling, with no lighting in the shower area, which could be challenging for taller guests.

The Norwegian Pearl’s recent refurbishments seem to include updates to the cabins. As this was my first time aboard this ship, I noticed that modern amenities like the updated TV area and USB ports contributed to the cabin’s fresh and maintained appearance.

Service on the Norwegian Pearl

Service on the first day was somewhat slow as the waitstaff adjusted to a new set of passengers. However, they quickly found their rhythm, and the service improved significantly for the remainder of the cruise.

Our steward, Albert, did a fantastic job. He was always polite, remembered to use our first names, and kept our cabin in excellent condition. He cleaned our room every morning, provided turn-down service in the evening, and ensured our ice bucket was always filled. Each night, starting from the second day, we were greeted by a different towel animal, which was a fun touch (unfortunately, towel animals have gone away since then).

My only small critique would be regarding the bath towels. Initially, Albert provided more than two bath towels, which was great since I had a lot of hair. However, as the days passed, he sometimes forgot to maintain that number. Despite this, it was not a significant issue as long as the room remained clean.

Dining on the Norwegian Pearl

O’Sheehan’s

This pub-style restaurant offers room service and is open 24/7, making it perfect for late-night snacks like wings and beer. Our first meal here on embarkation day had slow service, but it improved significantly as the cruise went on.

Moderno

At this churrascaria, we indulged in an excellent antipasto buffet, perhaps a bit too much before enjoying the meats like bacon-wrapped chicken, garlic filet mignon, and beef ribs. The roasted pineapple and coconut flan were highlights.

Le Bistro

Our best dining experience on the cruise. I ventured to try escargot for the first time, and the roasted duck and filet mignon were exceptional. We topped off the meal with fantastic desserts; the crème brûlée was a reminder of our time in Paris, and the chef even visited our table to ensure we enjoyed our meal.

Cagney’s Steakhouse

Compared to our experience on the Norwegian Getaway, Cagney’s on the Pearl was a letdown. The crowded seating near a busy pathway and a lackluster menu made the experience less enjoyable. The filet mignon was notably inferior to Le Bistro’s, though the apple crumb dessert was good.

Lotus Garden

This venue offers standard fast-food Chinese fare similar to Panda Express. It’s decent for a quick meal but not for those seeking authentic cuisine.

Indigo

As one of the main dining rooms, Indigo impressed us with dishes like spaghetti carbonara, BBQ ribs, prime rib, and basil chicken. The desserts, particularly the opera cake and apple pie, were also memorable.

Garden Cafe

Norwegian Pearl After Garden CafePin

The buffet area was often crowded, especially at the omelet stations during breakfast. However, walking past the buffet to the aft of the ship reveals a smaller section with outdoor seating and less congestion. We frequented this spot for breakfast and snacks up until 11:30 PM. The crepe station and hand-scooped ice cream were our favorites, although the dessert options could be improved.

Entertainment on the Norwegian Pearl Cruise Ship

The entertainment on the Norwegian Pearl offered a mix of performances, although it felt like the lineup was assembled just for our 9-day cruise. Not all acts seemed to be regulars, and the variety might differ for future passengers.

Shows and Performances

  • Legends in Concert: This is a staple on the Norwegian Pearl, but we missed it due to time spent in the casino.
  • Michael Bublé Tribute: A standout performance by a cast member, which, if not already a regular feature, certainly deserves to be.
  • Broadway-Type Shows: It appears that full-scale Broadway shows are reserved for Norwegian’s larger ships.

Nightlife

  • Karaoke and Dancing: The Bliss Lounge offers nightly karaoke, and the Spinnaker Lounge is perfect for those looking to dance.
  • Themed Dance Parties: True to Norwegian Cruise Line’s reputation, each night features a themed dance party, ranging from 80s and 90s hits to music video parties.

Casino

  • The casino is smaller and suffers from poor ventilation, making the smoke quite noticeable. It could benefit from more varied slot machine options, particularly Wheel-of-Fortune games with smaller denominations than $1.
  • Coffee and pastries are available on sea day mornings for early gamblers, with late-night snacks offered most nights.

Overall, while the entertainment was enjoyable, the quieter and more subdued atmosphere compared to our cruise on the Norwegian Getaway last year was noticeable. Depending on your preference, this could be either a positive or a negative aspect of the cruising experience.

Other Observations from Norwegian Pearl

Norwegian Pearl corridor with the fish carpet

Tip: Follow the fish on the carpet. They will tell you if you’re going forward. The random red fish warns you you’re heading towards the ship’s AFT.

  • Ship Layout: Initially, the layout of the Norwegian Pearl can be confusing, but it becomes more navigable with time.
  • Staff: The crew was exceptional, always ready to assist with a smile. Their efforts greatly enhanced our experience, ensuring it was both flawless and memorable.
  • Maintenance: Maintenance was a constant sight; the crew was diligent about cleaning and upkeep, paying particular attention to details. For example, they refreshed our balcony with new paint while in port, maintaining the ship’s pristine condition.
  • $10 Bazaar: Held on the last sea day in Le Bistro, this event was overwhelmingly crowded and poorly organized. The aggressive shopping environment and long checkout lines deterred from the experience. Better organization is needed for future bazaars.
  • Beverage Package: Surprisingly, Maker’s Mark bourbon was not included in the beverage package, despite being a relatively inexpensive option. This was a disappointing aspect of the beverage offerings.
  • Hotel Director: The hotel director was notably outstanding, showing genuine interest in the passengers’ experiences and actively seeking feedback about the highs and lows of our cruise.

Disembarkation

Our arrival back in New Orleans was delayed due to a barge on the Mississippi River, which disrupted the ship’s speed and schedule. As a result, the port authority conducted a check before allowing anyone to disembark. Fortunately, our flight wasn’t scheduled until early afternoon, so we weren’t particularly rushed.

We enjoyed a relaxing breakfast at the buffet and waited comfortably until they started to call groups for disembarkation. Norwegian offers two options: self-disembarkation or assigned times via color-coded luggage tags. We opted for the latter, choosing to disembark with the last group.

Exiting the ship and passing through customs went smoothly—they simply waved us through. However, the line to exit the port and reach the taxi stand was chaotic. The confusion was exacerbated by incoming passengers for the next cruise, who inadvertently merged into our line.

Overall, while disembarking the ship itself was straightforward, the port area could benefit from better organization to streamline the process for both arriving and departing guests.

Final Thoughts on the Norwegian Pearl

Close up of Norwegian Pearl's colorful hull artPin

The Norwegian Pearl may lack some of the flashy features found on the larger mega-ships of its fleet, but it stands out due to its exceptional crew. Throughout our cruise, the crew demonstrated a genuine care for both the ship and its passengers, fostering a warm sense of family and pride.

We particularly appreciate Norwegian Cruise Line’s FREESTYLE cruising approach and the appealing “Free at Sea” perks available at booking. Our positive experience on the Norwegian Pearl was so memorable that we purchased Cruise Next vouchers and plan to book another voyage with Norwegian. Should the itinerary align with our preferences, we would happily choose to cruise on the Norwegian Pearl again.

🚢 Book a cruise on the Norwegian pearl cruise


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Kathy Ava

Meet Kathy Ava, a food, travel, and cruise writer based in Los Angeles/Pasadena, and the owner and main writer of Tasty Itinerary. With over 20 years of experience planning trips and logistics at her full-time job and for herself, she's become a pro at crafting unforgettable tasty itineraries. She's always on the hunt for delicious, fun travel destinations and cruise itineraries. She firmly believes that life is short and we must make the most of it, so always say yes to dessert.

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2 Comments

  1. I was on the Norwegian Bliss recently and our embarkation was a nightmare…but overall the Gokarts and food made up for that….imagine embarking at 9pm….

    1. Wow, 9 hours?! That is insane! I honestly do not enjoy the embarkation and debarkation process. Thankfully you forget about it once you’re on the ship.

      Happy to hear that you had a great time on the Bliss. I booked its sister ship the Joy for 2021.