Monday, January 2, 2012

The Norwegian Experience - Part I

Despite what you may initially think, this post is not about our recent travels in Norway. I wrote about that beautiful, but very expensive, country in a previous post. This post is one of three about our week-long cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines' Norwegian Pearl.

After shuttling from our hotel to the Port of Miami, we were deposited directly in front of the Norwegian cruise terminal. There was no clearly marked area for dropping our luggage, nor did anyone offer any assistance, so we hand-carried it into the building. Security spotted our two wine bottles when they x-rayed our bags so we had to pay $15 per bottle to carry them on with us (otherwise we could have checked them for the duration of the cruise and they would have been returned to us when we disembarked at the end of the week). Next we entered a large open room with five or six very long check-in lines. We stood in line for over 30 minutes before reaching the desk where they took our headshots, our credit card was swiped for any onboard purchases and we were handed our room keys and boarding passes. Finally we proceeded upstairs to a waiting area where we sat for another 20 minutes before our group number was called to board. Upon boarding the ship we were told that the cabins would not be ready until 2pm so we checked our luggage (we were still carrying everything) with a concierge and went to the main dining room (Summer Palace) for lunch.
docked at the Port of Miami
Service was a bit sporadic -- to be expected on a busy turnaround day. We waited almost 10 minutes for someone to take our order. Our appetizers and entrees, which took another 10 minutes to be served, were okay but not great. Plus I had to flag someone down to refill my water glass. By the time we finished eating it was already 2:00 so we picked up our bags and proceeded to our room. It was still not ready and I quickly realized that the two twin beds pushed together took up almost the entire room so there was only space for one of us to get in from the side of the bed; the other would have to climb in or out from the end. I located our cabin attendant down the hall and asked him to separate the beds so we would have more room. Then we decided to occupy some time by exploring the ship.
our stateroom 8613 with the beds separated
our bathroom
The Pearl is a much different ship than the Rotterdam, not that we were expecting them to be the same. It is almost twice as large, with 2,380 passengers & 1,154 crew capacity (versus 1,316 + 593). There are 12 restaurants, 11 bars & lounges, 2 swimming pools, 4 hot tubs and lots of extras: a water slide, sports court, climbing wall and bowling alley to name a few. Our standard inside stateroom (Category J) on Deck 8 measured only 143 square feet (versus 182 sq ft for a comparable Category K cabin on the Rotterdam). Our cramped room even had a pull down bed on one side so it could technically sleep three adults. Yikes!
overlooking the Tahitian Pool, water slide & hot tubs on Deck 12
After thoroughly exploring the ship, we made our way to the Sky High Bar on Deck 13 to meet some of our fellow Cruise Critics for a SailAway party. If you're not already familiar with the website, Cruise Critic is a great way to get information on and reviews of almost every cruise ship currently sailing and many ports of call, plus the opportunity to "meet" other people who have booked the same cruise as you in advance. We hung out with our new friends for awhile, amused by the all out dance party & barbecue in progress by the pool below (quite a different scene than on the Rotterdam!), and watched the Miami cityscape fade into the horizon.
sailing away from downtown Miami
As I still wasn't feeling 100% after battling a stomach virus for the past three days and Greg was starting to have similar symptoms, we had a very quiet first evening on board the Pearl. After sailaway, we browsed in the small library and each checked out a book (Greg's selection was On Rocky Top by Clay Travis about the 2008 University of Tennessee Volunteers football season; I chose Monica Ali's Brick Lane about London's Bangladeshi community). We then retired to our stateroom to read and watch football. I did venture up to the buffet later for a simple dinner of cooked-to-order pasta, but that was the extent of my efforts. I hoped that I could get a good night's sleep so I would be able to enjoy our first port of call the next day!
Greg weighs himself in the ship's gym on Day 1 of the cruise
I will use the next two posts to discuss the ports of call and our overall cruise experience.
The link to my cruise photos is embedded in this post's title.

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