We loved our stateroom aboard the Norwegian Pearl. We had a mid-ship balcony stateroom on deck 10. Our room was setup with two single beds pushed together and made up as a queen bed. There was a sofa that pulled out into a single bed and another single bed that pulled down from our ceiling. My husband and I decided that when we cruise again, we’ll pay for at least an oceanview and preferably a balcony. We enjoyed watching our port departures from our balcony. Something interesting that we witnessed was that a port pilot boat comes alongside the ship when arriving and departing at port. Someone from that boat actually climbs aboard the cruise ship, while moving!, to help navigate the cruise ship in and out of the port. Very fun to watch!
Dining is always a big part of cruising for most people. On this trip we took advantage of muliple dining options offered aboard. One of the major perks of cruising aboard Norwegian is the “Freestyle Dining”. You aren’t locked into a specific dining time. You pick when and where you want to eat. I have to say that it’s the best experience we’ve ever had dining about a cruise ship and a big reason we’d choose Norwegian again.
Summer Palace Main Dining Room
We dined in the main dining room (Summer Palace) on our first evening aboard. They didn’t require the dress code rule on the first night. It was a beautiful, ornate room at the stern of the ship. We also enjoyed meals at the other main dining room, Indigo, which had a casual dress code. Both offered excellent food options, including varying daily specials. The service was somewhat slow in both and you really have to be ready to order and notify your server if you’re trying to catch the first show (a necessity for most families with young kids). Sometimes we ate with our extended family and having a larger group (9+) always took us much longer to eat, even when we split into two tables.
La Cucina Italian Restaurant
One of our favorite eating experiences was kid-free at the La Cucina Italian Restaurant. This is one of the “extra” restaurants aboard that requires an additional surcharge ($15 per person). We were very happy and felt the $30 was well worth it. The food was delicious — the best chicken parmigiana I’ve ever had. They also had fresh baked bread and dipping oil options that were SO yummy!
We went to another surcharge restaurant, Teppanyaki, as a family. Adults are $25 and kids are half price. This is a Japanese Hibachi restaurant where the food is prepared in front of you on a large steel grill. It is a small restaurant seating for 8 at each “grill table” with 4 grills in the restaurant (32 max people). While it was a great experience, the food was good but not amazing. If you’ve experienced a Japanese Hibachi restaurant before or have access to one locally, I’d probably save my money and pass on going. $75 is a lot for dinner when you can have even better food for free at one of the main dining rooms. The price here would be all about the experience.
We also took regular advantage of the Garden Cafe buffet, especially for breakfast. I will admit I am NOT a buffet person, but had no problems eating at the Garden Cafe. I found the food presentation well-done and clean. The food was actually pretty good for a buffet (there were some hits and misses). Whenever you enter the cafe you’re greeted by a staff member with an antibacterial spray bottle for your hands. I’ll just say “washy-washy happy-happy” and leave it for you to be surprised if you ever take a Norwegian cruise.
Feel free to comment if you have any questions or thoughts. Check out my previous post, “Our Family Caribbean Cruise on Norwegian – Part 1: Car Rental & Arrival” and next up Part 3: Ports of Call, Part 4: Activities Aboard.
TOP TAKEAWAY TIPS:
- The balcony was really worth the extra expense. If you think you’d enjoy watching the port arrival/departure or perhaps enjoy drinking coffee in your pajamas, I highly recommend booking a balcony cabin.
- Freestyle Dining is a fabulous perk of cruising aboard Norwegian Cruise Line. You pick when and where you want to eat. With kids, this really is a bonus so you can attempt to maximize shore time and show times!
- Aboard the Pearl, the dress code wasn’t required/enforced on the first night.
- Surcharge restaurants can offer a great experience as well as great food. You should decide if that experience and unique food is worth the cost for your family.