This is the second day of our 11-night cruise to South and Central America aboard the Norwegian Pearl for Christmas 2021 and New Year 2022.
Sailing at 30 knots toward South America aboard the Norwegian Pearl, the weather was perfect, the ship was only at 50% capacity, and the staff and crew were so excited to be back to work after 18 months of unemployment during the worst of the pandemic when cruises were being canceled left and right. We had seven Norwegian cruises canceled on us between March of 2020 and June of 2021. By the time all the credits were added up and rolled forward to this cruise and another five NCL cruises booked out through May of 2023, this cruise was practically free. Or rather “fully paid for”, counting deposits and CruiseNext credits purchased years ago. We were thankful to have our personal Norwegian Cruise Consultant, Andrew Souto, to help us navigate all the cancellations, rebookings and the associated credits and costs.
It was smooth sailing due south overnight from Miami and throughout the day Friday. There were great views of the eastern end of the mountains on the island of Cuba 🇨🇺 at sunrise off the starboard side the the ship.
We enjoyed the saltwater pool on Deck 12 and got our exercise for the day, Suzy treading water and me doing modified laps. The pool was very salty and somewhat cool, at 77° F, and it was uncrowded.
At 9:00 AM a member of the entertainment staff held a “Fun Fitness” class on the pool deck under the gazebo. Suzy and I participated along with one other passenger. We did some stretches and some light aerobics for about half an hour to warm up our muscles a bit, then went back into the pool to cool off.
Latitudes Exclusive Gathering
We always look forward to the “exclusive gathering” event held on each cruise for members of Latitudes, Norwegian’s loyalty program. Usually there is a cocktail party with hors d’oeuvres and champagne, plus a meet and greet with the officers and executive staff hosted by the CruiseNext manager. This time, due to COVID-19 the “gathering” was just that, an event where the members and staff gathered in the Spinnaker Lounge (Deck 13 Forward) with live music by Tropical Fusion but no food or drink. The safety protocols prohibited serving it at the party, but instead we were given a freshly baked box of Christmas cookies from the onboard bakery.
The CruiseNext staff, Corina from Germany, CruiseNext Manager, and Ronel from South Africa, CruiseNext Consultant, hosted the event and had the general manager introduce himself and the executive staff, from the hotel manager to the food and beverage manager to the cruise director. There was also a slideshow about the newest NCL ships being built and coming into service in the next few years. The Pr1ma looks pretty cool, coming Summer 2022.
Christmas Eve Specialty Dining and Live Music
For Christmas Eve, we had scheduled another specialty dining experience, this time at Le Bistro, the French restaurant onboard almost every Norwegian ship and one of our all-timefavorites.
As Platinum-level Latitudes members, we get two specialty dining options on each cruise lasting five nights or more. The first is either a choice of Le Bistro or Cagney’s Steakhouse and the second is either La Cucina (Italian cuisine) or Moderno Churrascaria, the Brazilian-style steakhouse with “unlimited meat” and a 43-item salad bar. Red or green? You put the coaster to green (green means “go”) for more meat, and flip it to red when you want to pause the flow of steak, chicken, lamb, pork, sausage, and grilled pineapple. Then back to green if you can…
We usually do seven-night cruises with Norwegian and choose Le Bistro and Moderno for our Platinum perks, but NCL ran a “Free at Sea” special and included a 4-dinner specialty dining package in our cruise fare, so we would get to go to all the specialty restaurants. Plus since this was an 11-night cruise we could spread it out and go out for a fancy dinner on the “sea days” as our onboard activity for the days we didn’t have shore excursions.
While the main dining rooms, Summer Palace and Indigo are high-quality restaurants with excellent service and gourmet food, the specialty restaurants are just a touch higher in formality and specialization. Le Bistro will actually match the cloth napkins to whatever you are wearing, white for light-colored slacks or pants and black for dark-colored trousers. Of course there is also a dress code called “cruise casual” that requires long pants and close-toed shoes for men, no tank tops, no ripped jeans, etc. Basically don’t walk in straight from the beach or pool. (Summer Palace has the same dress code, but only for dinner. The hostess will very politely inform you of the dress code and send you off to change, or you can select another restaurant. I got busted once… should have known.)
Our dinner at Le Bistro was absolutely fabulous. From the presentation to the service to the deliciousness of each dish, it was tops. I highly recommend Le Bistro for specialty dining, even if you just go once and pay à la carte.
After dinner, we stepped outside into Magnums Wine Bar to listen to music by Tropical Fusion, a duo specializing in Latin cover tunes with live keyboards over rhythm tracks. The band played often in Magnums as well as other lounges across the ship at various times.
Overall it was another fantastic day at sea with a memorable evening together with family enjoying a fabulous dinner as well as the Christmas decorations all around the ship.