Norwegian Pearl’s Summer Palace restaurant
was inspired by imperial Russia.
When invoking the image of a pearl, one usually conjures up the
image of an ordinary grain of sand transformed into something
gleaming and beautiful. In the case of NCL’s Norwegian Pearl, I had
trouble finding anything ordinary and much to be admired.
My seven-day Alaska itinerary on the Jewel-class ship sailed
roundtrip from Seattle and included calls in Juneau, Skagway,
Ketchikan and Victoria. The vessel, decked out in cool Caribbean
teals and pinks, was lively enough to fit its tropical itineraries,
but subtle enough not to feel over-the-top for the Alaska
New shore excursions exemplify the line’s freestyle motto. In
addition to the typical wide range of Alaska onshore offerings, the
cruise line also features NCL Freestyle Private Tours to give
cruisers the option to customize their time ashore. Available in
Juneau and Ketchikan, these personalized tours are priced per tour,
not per person, so guests can include only those with whom they
wish to travel.
In Juneau, clients can jump into a chauffeur-driven Hummer H2
for a four-hour tour with available activity options like kayaking
or a salmon bake. Ketchikan’s private tours include transport
options like a SUV limousine, Alaskan skiff, floatplane or Hummer
H2. All tours are recommended for families and there are few
restrictions as to activities the group can pick. Prices range from
$575 to $1,595 per tour.
Lotus Garden is one of many
alternative dining venues.
If your clients would rather relax onboard, the Pearl won’t
disappoint. The ship houses the industry’s first bowling alley at
sea. The four-lane 10-pin alley, part of the entertainment and
nightclub complex known as the Bliss Ultra Lounge, is one of the
most popular spots on the ship. Even non-bowlers enjoyed the venue,
which also featured flat-screen televisions playing music videos
and arcade games all with a view of the Alaskan scenery floating
by. An added bonus of bowling on the high seas: Gutter balls can be
blamed on the rocking of the ship. Bowling charges, including
shoes, are $5 per person, per game.
Those who would rather participate in virtual bowling can head
to the Pearl’s atrium and sample the Nintendo Wii video game system
on a floor-to-ceiling video screen. Adults and kids alike can join
in a tournament to compete in tennis, golf, baseball, boxing and
bowling. The ship’s Kid’s Crew facility also features a Wii system,
so children can partake in the fun at any time.
Even the ship’s outdoor features didn’t go unused. For those
bold enough to brave the brisk Alaskan weather, the rock-climbing
wall provided an exceptional vantage point for the passing scenery.
And in the outdoor pool, children happily slipped down the water
slide, while parents and staff looked on, bundled up in parkas.
Dining options aboard the Pearl are equally impressive. The
ship’s popular Garden Cafe offers a large international buffet with
ethnic specialties and the best bacon I’ve ever tasted. The cafe
opens onto the Great Outdoors, an outdoor eatery with similar
offerings where I ate most of my meals while watching the whales
spout in the distance.
Another spot to enjoy lunch with incredible views is Summer
Palace with floor-to-ceiling windows and a decor inspired by
Russian palaces. I was surprised to find no cover charge for the
multi-course service. Make sure to tell clients to get there early
for the cruise through Glacier Bay, as the windowed restaurant is
one of the best viewing locations on the vessel.
Restaurants that do require a small cover charge are well worth
it. Cagney’s Steakhouse served up sizzling steaks and delicious
truffle-oil French fries. The warm goat cheese tart at Le Bistro
alone made the $15 charge seem like an understatement, and
Teppanyaki in the Lotus Garden was fun and filling.
As part of NCL’s Freestyle Cruising, the Pearl offers a
restaurant reservation system to allow guests to check the
availability of each restaurant on large flat-screen TVs located
around the ship. Pagers are issued to guests who want to dine at a
busy restaurant, allowing them to stroll at leisure throughout the
ship until a table becomes available.
For those looking for luxury, the Garden Villas, Deluxe Owner’s
Suites and Courtyard Villas on the upper decks offer amenities
usually reserved for luxury vessels, such as a private courtyard
complete with hot tub, steam rooms, small gym and private
The two Garden Villas each span 4,400 square feet with three
bedrooms, living room, dining room and private garden. Garden Villa
guests also receive complimentary limousine from the pier to the
airport and butler and concierge service.
Two Deluxe Owner’s Suites, the Black Pearl and the Golden Pearl,
feature a private courtyard as well as butler service. The 10
Courtyard Villas, also found on Norwegian Jewel and Pride of
Hawaii, feature a living and dining area, private balcony, separate
bedroom and share a courtyard. All proof positive that this Pearl
isn’t lacking in luster.