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Norwegian Pearl
December 16, 2006
Christening Preview

by Linda Coffman

From Oyster to Irresistible
It wasn't exactly a Chamber of Commerce kind of day in Miami. Truthfully, a persistent drizzle early on turned to a steady rain. Norwegian Cruise Line couldn't have chosen a more dreary evening to christen the latest gem in their string of Freestyle Cruising ships; however, those aboard Norwegian Pearl didn't seem to mind that festivities planned to take place pier side were moved indoors. It wasn't difficult to get into the mood as Robert Palmer's "Simply Irresistible" music video got things underway. Norwegian Pearl is indeed irresistible. And, as for starting just a tad late, as Colin Veitch, President & CEO of NCL, reminded us—NCL is all about Freestyle and time is well, whatever...

Colin Veitch, Ms. O'Donnell, and 
Captain Trond Kildal

With the ship ready, guests seated, and godmother Rosie O'Donnell at hand, Veitch introduced Reverend Kevin Johnson ("the most high-energy Freestyle holy man in the country") to offer an invocation. O'Donnell took the podium to promise that as godmother, she would raise the ship as well as her four children and, in typical "Rosie" fashion, added that she loves Freestyle Cruising because, "for a woman like me there is nothing better than food at my beck and call." She also confided that she practiced for her duties as Godmotherpulling the lever to send a champagne bottle crashing into the ship's bowby spending time in the casino the previous night. We hope she was more successful in the casino, since it took a couple tries before the pesky bottle let loose.

Purpose-built for NCL's Freestyle Cruising concept, at 93,530 tons Norwegian Pearl is one the "next generation" of sparkling Jewel-class ships in NCL's string of ultra-modern ships. She has numerous dining options, a variety of entertainment selections, a spa equal to any on land or at sea, and expanded facilities for children and teens. All of this, plus the most family-friendly accommodation configurations can be found on a ship dedicated to the freedom of choice. Oh, and we can't overlook two new-to-NCL features: a rock-climbing wall and a four lane 10-pin bowling alley set to bowl you over in the striking Bliss Ultra Lounge. Norwegian Jewel's 2,394 passengers will find they can tailor a cruise vacation to fit their personal tastes, not someone else's. That's simply irresistible.

Norwegian Pearl's array of traditional and exotic eateries are ready to tempt even the least adventurous palate to sample a variety of international cuisines. With ten restaurants, guests never have to dine in the same place more than once.

  • Summer Palace—One of two main restaurants with an opulent St. Petersburg-style decor inspired by the grandeur of Catherine's Palace and traditional multi-course menus created by master chefs, members of the international gourmet society, Chaîne des Rôisseurs. Exquisite faux Faberge Eggs top the balustrades where guests descend to dine in French shipboard fashion.
  • Indigo—The second main restaurant serving contemporary cuisine in a modern "boutique hotel" atmosphere
  • Cagney's Steak House—Aged Angus beef, seared to perfection, just the way you like it, served in a 1930s style steakhouse 
  • Le Bistro—NCL's signature upscale French Mediterranean restaurant features modern and classic French cuisine.
  • Lotus Garden—Upscale Asian dining featuring Japanese-Thai-Chinese cuisine and a sushi and sashimi bar and shabu-shabu for two
  • Mambo's Tapas & Latin Restaurant—Overlooking the Crystal Atrium, an authentic tapas bar offering a taste of Spain and Mexico with a menu of hot and spicy Latin/tapas food
  • La Cucina Italian Kitchen—A trattoria-inspired restaurant where pasta and pizza are served any way you like them and authentic Italian desserts are squisito
  • Garden Café/Kid's Café—Buffet style indoor/outdoor eatery with special kid-sized serving buffet and tables. For sun worshipers, The Great Outdoors features tables overlooking the stern.
  • The Grill has burgers and the trimmings poolside. 
  • Blue Lagoon—A casual eatery offering snacks and fast-food around the clock (try the macaroni and cheese from the children's offerings!)

For hot or cold specialty coffees and pastries, head for Java Café in the Crystal Atrium, or satisfy your sweet tooth with ice cream, sherbets, and sundaes at the Ice Cream Bar. Room service never closes.

Le Bistro

An innovative state-of-the-art restaurant reservation system allows passengers to make reservations for a single night or every night of their cruise. Screens strategically placed in public rooms show each restaurant's availability status, the size tables available, and estimated waiting time. If a restaurant is full, pagers are issued and passengers are invited to enjoy other activities until their table is ready.

While there is a charge for some of the alternative restaurants, no one is pressured to dine in them. Colin Veitch, President & CEO of NCL, explains the dining fees are levied for capacity control, not exclusivity.

Freestyle Cruising means passengers can choose resort casual attire every night or dress up for a special dinner. Formal attire during one evening is optional with one or more restaurants set aside for those who don't want to forgo this shipboard tradition. The only "dress code" caveat is that no jeans, t-shirts, shorts, cut-offs, tank tops are allowed in any of the restaurants at dinner. Most of my fellow passengers opted for an array of "country club casual" outfits, ranging from pant-and-top ensembles to cocktail dresses. Pack light and think mix 'n match with various accessories. Without assigned dinner partners, it's unlikely that anyone will notice a "repeated" garment.

The flexibility of dining when you wish and with whom you choose is another aspect of Freestyle Cruising. What a concept... eating when you're actually hungry! However, cruise traditionalists who prefer the same table and waiter every night at a certain time can simply inform the Maitre d' and those  arrangements will be made. For parents who wish to share a romantic dinner for two, the Kid's Crew program and group babysitting solves the problem of child care.

While there are a dizzying array of fare categories listed in the brochures, Norwegian Pearl's accommodations range from Standard Inside and Oceanview Staterooms to Oceanview staterooms with Balconies, Mini-Suites, Penthouses, Owner's suites, and the fantastic Courtyard Villas and Garden Villas. More than 70% of all staterooms are outside. (Follow this link to representative Stateroom Photos.)

Owner's Suite Living Room

Owner's Suite Bedroom

All accommodations have gleaming cherry wood cabinetry and paneling accents, a small refrigerator and personal safe for valuables, as well as in-cabin coffee service to heat water for tea or coffee. A professional-style hairdryer with real power is provided at each dressing table. Bathroom amenities include shampoo and soap dispensers and hold your hats... most bathrooms are split into sections. Yes, the toilet is separated from the sink area by a wall and sliding glass door. The shower is roomy and also has a sliding glass door. No more clinging shower curtain or problem retrieving dropped soap.

At approximately 172 square feet, the standard Oceanview Staterooms are generous. Even Inside Staterooms are cheery and the  clever use of primary colors and strategically placed mirrors achieves an open feeling. One of the most desirable of all stateroom amenities is a balcony and more than half of Norwegian Pearl's outside staterooms have them. Book yours fast—Oceanview Staterooms with Balconies are a hot seller. Mini-Suites with a balcony are even more desirable with additional square footage, generous storage, and bathtubs. Stepping up to more space, Penthouses and Owner's Suites are some of the chicest digs at sea. We were particularly fond of the decor in the aft-facing Romance Suites on Deck 10.

The pièce de résistance are the two Garden Villas. High atop the Norwegian Pearl, they are the ultimate in opulence. At 4,390 square feet, with living room, dining room, three bedrooms with luxury baths, and more toys than I could count, they are fantasies afloat. Occupants need only step outside to enjoy a relaxing soak in their hot tub or al fresco dining in their private garden. Have the butler serve cocktails while I slip into my specially-designed robe. Okay... I'm through daydreaming, but it is a lovely wish. Mr. Veitch confided they are not at a loss for occupants, even at rates that make my gold card shudder.

As on her earlier Jewel-class sister ships, Norwegian Pearl has ten Courtyard Villas. At 572 square feet, they are essentially identical to the Penthouse categories (eight have "children's bedrooms" and sleep up to five; two do not). All share a private courtyard with pool, whirlpool, and gym. Balinese-style sunbeds, lounge chairs, hammocks, and ocean views are found on private rooftop sun spaces one deck above. They are ideal for families or groups traveling together; however, the  possibility of a problem exists if a group doesn't book them all, though. Couples who anticipate a serene atmosphere could find their relaxation disturbed by such a group (including small children, although Colin Veitch feels they will be more attracted to the waterslide at the Lido pool than the smaller Courtyard pool.)

With theses deluxe digs comes the services of a butler and concierge. The private amenities and ability to order meals from any restaurant onboard create almost a "ship within a ship" for those who can afford the best. 

For large families, interconnecting standard staterooms and suites can create a two to five bedroom area and passengers with disabilities haven't been overlooked—twenty-seven cabins of various types have been designed for their special needs.

Continued --> Norwegian Pearl Preview (Part 2)

More --> Norwegian Pearl Stateroom Photos

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Photos © Linda Coffman

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