Cruise to Alaska: Embarkation Day
(Just landed on this page out of nowhere? You’ll want to start with Cruise to Alaska: Before We Begin.)

This was our first time to check luggage on a cruise. To porter or not to porter? We got into the fast-moving queue to check our own bags. Maybe if we were breezing directly onto the ship with priority boarding we would’ve wanted to add another layer of luggage-loss possibility plus the opportunity to tip, but it wasn’t any big deal to get in line. (I thought I took photos, but the lines was probably moving too quickly.)

Time? Around noonish, I guess?

Bags dropped off at the X-ray belt, we wandered back outside and into the queue next door, which was sluggish by comparison but still not bad. I made sure to get a coupon book from one of the women handing them out to each party; people always say to be sure to get one, so I did. (Verdict: the book has some good deals and maps that are worth skimming before going to port.)

Although we’ve tried to time our Carnival embarkations to avoid crowds, in both Long Beach and San Diego we’ve always experienced a bunch of “hurry up and wait,” even when we had VIP boarding priority. (Ah, we’ll not see the like of those swine flu prices again!)

In front of the check-in station lines were some rows of chairs, but I never saw big waiting areas like we’ve had in California. Thumbs up to the Port of Seattle, Pier 66, and possibly to Norwegian as well. (I have to give credit where it’s due, if only to soften the criticism to come.)

Photo of check-in area taken when we disembarked a week later:

Norwegian Check-In Area in Seattle

Despite the maze pictured above, we only had to wait in a line of a few people. The check-in clerk took our pictures right there as she prepared our key cards, which was brilliant. It didn’t seem to cause any delay, and of course it meant we weren’t going to have to queue up once again, so another point to Norwegian.

(Carnival, I missed you so much on this cruise, particularly whenever I was hungry, but I didn’t miss standing in line while your clearly miserable dancers herded everyone around for their key card photos. I’ve heard them complain on the Behind the Fun Tour about these non-dance duties, and their disinterest in the last pre-boarding activity has always been evident. On the last cruise, I think it was, we had our pics taken by a regular staff member, and it was amazing how much more positive such a seemingly meaningless part of the trip was. But Norwegian still gets the point for making it all part of the check-in service.)

Norwegian does need a catchy name like “Sail ‘n Sign” card, though. I kept calling mine that then always feeling a bit emptier when I corrected myself. Just calling it a “cabin key card” is dull. (Again, it’s funny how the little things matter.)

But, speaking of little things, the red carpet at embarkation is a nice touch.

Embarkation Down the Red Carpet

Things got a little crazy (read: competitive) around the elevators as we stepped inside, and we had to separate from Carol and Phil and almost from each other to eventually catch an elevator. On the plus side, Norwegian doesn’t commandeer the passenger elevators in order to deliver luggage, so there’s that. I did miss stepping into an atrium with a wonderfully high ceiling upon boarding, though. But shuffling in through a cramped little hallway kind of raised the anticipation a bit.

On Deck 10 (if any of the decks had names, we never saw them), we found our way to room 10548.

Norwegian Pearl Cabin - Spot the Coffee Machine

Norwegian Pearl Cabin - Blurry Mike

I call the first pic above “Spot the Coffee Machine.” Can you?

Our first reaction to the cabin was, “Ah, it’s a bit, er... smaller... eh?” Throughout this trip report I’m going to criticize Norwegian Pearl, but I do recognize that some things are absolutely a matter of taste. I know there are people who would trade a nice long shelf and a room service-sized table like we always get on Carnival for a coffee maker in the room.

Not us. The coffee maker ended up wedged into the corner on the floor under the table by the balcony door, where I accidentally kicked it whenever sitting at the little table. Even with this solution, we still felt like we were constantly shuffling objects to work with the space we had.

You will note my positive attitude in that I haven’t said a word about the television. Again, not everyone watches TV on their cruise. We usually like to catch a few movies, and we’re used to catching them on a screen bigger than our computer monitors.... were ten years ago.

One thing I’m always big on doing is unpacking as soon as possible, so we got busy two-manning that. It truly did take teamwork since the reduced size of the cabin meant that only one of us could move around the wardrobes at a time.

Alas, I forgot that Phil and Carol didn’t have much of their own unpacking to do (not having clothes in their small luggage like we did), so I felt bad when they said they were going exploring, and I realized they’d been waiting on us. D’oh. Traveling with others - achievement still locked.

Soon enough we were all set and were going to go find them, but first the spa!

It’s been three years since I wrote a gushy-long post about it, but I still get people writing to me about our cruises on Carnival Splendor in the spa cabins. The short version is that we are NOT spa people. Mike hates any kind of cream/lotion, and if you pointed an axe at my throat (just for variety) and made me choose between getting a massage and eating a very tiny dead spider that may or may not have been pregnant, I would have to sit down and have a think. I wish I were exaggerating.

Even so, we lurve the Carnival thermal suite, with the thalassotherapy pool and aromatherapy steam room. (Living in Las Vegas, the sauna and heated tile chairs hold little interest for me.) So, when we narrowed down the choices for an Alaskan cruise, we looked for ships with a thermal suite. Holland America was at the top of the short list until Mike’s Dad discovered that HAL charges substantially higher prices (even factoring in the slight exchange difference) when booking via the Australian site. Since he’d just done a big European cruise on HAL’s newest ship at an Australian price tag, this smarted, and we went to the next choice: Norwegian.

So, here we were, off to the spa to see about passes.

It’s hard to type about the spa because - as content as we were with the spa on this first day - my favourite shirt was ruined because of something thoughtless the spa people did later in the week.... which I guess we’ll get to later, and I should stop jumping ahead.

Going to the spa was great because people were so friendly. I was amused that all of the women giving tours were black. (Yes, I just said “black.” No, they weren’t African-American.) On our Carnival cruises, the spa personnel were exclusively white, as in UK-white most of the time. Also, usually they’re a bit snobby and aloof, but these women were very welcoming. Suddenly we were having a good time.

The spa looked brilliant. I was uploading pics to Facebook before our tour was over, it looked so appealing. True, we were bummed that we couldn’t share a co-ed steam room, but we’d braced ourselves for that before boarding. The big picture window looking over the sea was neat, and we’d have a hot tub to share as well as the thalassotherapy pool.

Norwegian Pearl - Jennette in Ladies' Spa

Here’s Jennette, our chipper tour guide, in the ladies’ area. Note the loungers looking out to sea and the private hot tubs. Not pictured: lockers, showers, toilets, towels, steam room, sauna, icy plunge pool.

I forget the exact price, but it was one price (~$115 each) for the spa, and another price for the spa with.... “smoothie scrubs”!

I have a near-fetish with bath products, and here was this altar set up these beautifully fragrant, silky, oily, crunchy bath salts. You can see it in front of the thalasso pool below:

Norwegian Pearl - Main Spa Area

See? And for (price I choose not to remember, because of what happened with the scrubs later), you got three pots of these scrubs. So of course I talked Mike into upgrading both of us so I’d get to have six pots of scrubs. Rule all the scrubs!

The system for Norwegian’s spa is different from the current method on Carnival. Instead of wrist bands (originally) and special keys (now), you turn in your card and get assigned a locker. Since the gym is located elsewhere, there isn’t the problem Carnival was having of people just moseying into the thermal suite. Mike never needed a locker, so he just flashed his card. Since our cabin was on the opposite end of the ship and two floors down, I only tried walking to the spa in double layers of clothes then back to the room damp once. At first I was disappointed that we didn’t have a room around the corner from the spa for easy nipping to and fro, as we would in a Carnival spa cabin, but by the end of the week, I had no interest in even going to their so-called thermal suite, but as always, we’re not to that part of the story yet.

One of the women by the door hugged me when I mentioned we’d just signed up for spa passes. I’m not a hugger (see “massage issues” above), but even I was laughing from her excitement. Later that day I would point out that the reason we were so upbeat after the spa tour was because it was the only time that day that we felt like a member of the cruise staff was happy to see us. (Or willing to act happy enough to put the “hospitality” in “hospitality industry.”)

We explored the ship a little, somewhat confused by either outdated information on the deck plan (the Mexican/Latin restaurant was now Moderno’s, a churruscaria) or different labels used in the daily newsletter (good luck finding “Bar City” on any map), but mostly doing fine.

Norwegian Pearl - Bowling Lanes

The bowling area/lounge looked neat. We kept an eye out for Phil and Carol, but our destination was the other end of the ship to try the Summer Palace dining room. Being huge fans of (but not always making time for) lunch in the MDR, we were really excited that Norwegian ships have an MDR open and serving lunch every day, even embarkation day and port days. This is a really nice change from Carnival’s policy.

Norwegian Pearl - Mike in Summer Palace

There’s Mike, not long after ordering. The place was pretty dead, true to what experienced NCL cruisers said on Cruise Critic about people not realizing the MDR is open. We checked the menu outside, decided it was fine, and approached the hostess stand.

The woman looked at us, as if we were lost and she were busy. “Can I help you?”

”Uh, yes, we’d like a table for two for lunch.”

”Room number? Okay, stand down there.” She gestured to the bottom of the lovely little staircase then turned away from us.

We stood there, taking in the Romanovan imagery. They may have disproved the Whole Anastasia Thing, but my childhood was one where the whereabouts of both the Titanic and the Imperial Russian family were unknown. Nostalgia is inevitable. (Especially since I wasn’t a starving farmer in 1915 St. Petersburg.) Neat-o.

Another woman led us to a table by the window overlooking the Seattle port. Nice. I admired the back windows of the dining room and all of the paintings of the royal family.

Norwegian Pearl - Summer Palace Back Windows

We decided to start with a shared appetizer of pita chips and roasted eggplant dip and olive tapenade.

Norwegian Pearl - Eggplant Dip and Olive Tapenade

First Impressions:

  • That’s really ugly.
  • I know it’s an appetizer for one, but the chip/dip ratio seems really wrong here.
  • It’s not just the food that’s ugly. What the hell at the plating?

Second Impressions:

  • “Meh.”
  • “Yeah, it doesn’t really matter that there’s too much dip or not enough chip. I’m not eating any more.”

But our food was taking awhile, so we did eat a bit more, and then were sorry, and then picked at it some more (all of this with only four chips between us), and then again came the regret.

Mike doesn’t like mushroom-anything, so he ordered a NY Strip without the sauce. Therefore, he’s willing to take some of the blame for his plain-looking dish:

Norwegian Pearl - Grilled NY Strip

I realize that we’re probably now coming across as terrible snobs. I should clarify that plating is something we notice and appreciate when it’s done well, but it’s not a dealbreaker. In fact, one of our best meals was one that looked awful. But still, we were used to a certain standard of MDR care, and between our brusque server and the ugly appetizer, we hadn’t yet said, “Oooo.”

I had the veggie burger:

Norwegian Pearl - Veggie Burger

It was kind of dry. (No condiments were offered, and I didn’t want to hunt down our server who clearly wanted to be elsewhere.) It also tasted kind of funky, and I’m pretty open-minded about veggie burgers. I can enjoy the mudpie ones of falling-apart smushed things, the spicy bean ones, the earnest whole-grain ones, and the ones that try to make people think a cow was involved. At home I’m often lazy and eat them nearly plain, so it’s not like I ask for much... just not a sort of “it’s brown and round and that’s enough, right?” taste of slightly burnt offness.

Oh well. It was pleasant sitting by the window, relaxing, knowing we had a week of cruising ahead. And now dessert was coming: chocolate mousse with lemon syrup! That sounded really interesting; one reason (amongst others) that we were giving Carnival a miss was because we like to try new dishes, and the menus had become very samey for us. So, finally we were getting into some new territory. Alright!

Norwegian Pearl - Choc Mousse with Invis Lemon Syrup

”Well, it’s chocolate. It’s hard to go wrong with chocolate.” That’s the nicest thing I could say about the bland mousse with zero lemon taste. It seems ours were made without the syrup. We could’ve sent them back, but honestly, the mousse was so lackluster and the service so begruding, we just wanted to leave and shake off such a subpar start to the cruise.

Norwegian Pearl - Summer Palace Statue and Egg

Points for the stylized Faberge eggs, though.

We resumed our wandering and found our way to the other end of the ship and the Stardust Theatre. Who wouldn’t love that peacock curtain?

Norwegian Pearl - Stardust Theatre Curtain

See? See how I try to say nice things? And then I have to say stuff like this: What a pity that the seating is strict side-by-side movie theatre-style seats. Carnival has these in the upper rows, but the floor is pleasant cushioned arcs of benches with convenient little tables positioned in front every few feet. Not only does it make it easy for people to come and go, but the extra space lends itself to other activities.

Norwegian Pearl - Stardust Theatre Seats

The seating is even worse if you’re disabled. These seats are nice if you aren’t in a chair but need to avoid the stairs. But if you are in a chair? Then you’re at the very top of the theatre, behind the last row of seats and on the same level as those seats, so your eyes have to be able to look over the people in front of you then over all the rows staggered beneath you then down to the little stage. Your line of sight must magically take the form of an arc. I couldn’t believe it. Hopefully the other Norwegian ships aren’t like this, and to this day I tell myself there must be wheelchair access somewhere on the main floor and I somehow overlooked it, so take my criticism with the caveat that I feel I must be mistaken; surely no modern cruise line would be so thoughtless.

Back in the room we checked for Phil and Carol (not at home), and I hung up our Alaska map (with painter’s tape so it wouldn’t leave marks):

Norwegian Pearl Cabin - Map Up

One thing people seemed to regard as a Universal Truth is that you can’t go wrong with bringing Upton’s “Mile by Mile” guide on the cruise, which is where we got the map.

I liked the map. It amped the “Woohoo! Alaska!” factor a bit, and that was good. I even consulted the map now and then during the week.

The book, on the other hand, was extra packing weight we could’ve done without. It’s a good book, and if you’re on a cruise where someone is referencing the mile numbers (Who? No one on our cruise.), “they” say it’s very helpful. I just didn’t find it useful during the cruise itself. Maybe I did enough research into the history of the ports beforehand? Maybe because we were on a (relatively) large ship? I honestly found the sailing out of Seattle chapter to be the best, and I read that before we left home.

So, that pro tip didn’t work out for us, but the map was nice to have to liven up the room a bit. Also, later in the week the tape started wearing out, so sometimes the map would fall down without warning and attack Mike in his sleep. Good times.

Neither of us had finished any part of our lunch, so we decided to go check out the buffet. Despite having the layout all in one place, it didn’t feel as wretchedly crowded as Carnival’s buffet always seems on the first day. We spotted Phil and Carol, but not before we spotted the Indian station.

Indian foooooood! And it’s paneer butter masala! Paneer butter masala! I could already tell that, for this vegetarian, Norwegian was going to beat the pants off the dry, acrid paneer cakes that Carnival Splendor offers as its daily (and often lone) vegetarian option.

I forgave and even ignored that the sauce was like water. And then I took a bite.

Norwegian Pearl - 'Paneer' Butter Masala

”Does this paneer have any taste to you?” “Hmmm, no. Is it...” “I think it is...”

Tofu. It tasted like tofu. Darn. They must have mislabeled. We pushed our plates aside. The sauce was just a soup of pitiful wet tomato. No point punishing ourselves with tasteless tofu as well. (And we both like tofu when prepared nicely, e.g., with some flavour.)

The next day paneer was on the buffet again. It tasted like tofu again. We put it aside again.

I think it was on the third day that Mike spoke with someone in a chef hat. “It says paneer, but it tastes like tofu. Is it tofu?” “Yes.” “Oh, the sign says paneer.” “Yes.” “Is it supposed to be paneer?” “Yes, it is paneer.” “But it’s tofu.” “Yes, it’s paneer.” “But paneer is cheese. This is tofu.” “Yes, it’s paneer.” “But it’s not paneer. It’s tofu.” “Tofu is paneer on this ship.”

And a meme was born. “Dusty is clean on this ship.” “Nasty is tasty on this ship.” “Rude is friendly on this ship.” Oh Norwegian, you made it too easy.

I should just be grateful that “tofu = cheese” was limited to the Indian station on the buffet.

The muster drill was postponed, but when it did happen, it had to be the easiest and fastest one ever. No standing in hot sardine rows for ages while the last person is rounded up. Thumbs up to Norwegian here.

We deduced that “Bar City” was the area with three names for bars (that were pretty much just three sides of the same bar) and met with Phil and Carol there for trivia. This was our first time to see one of the entertainment staff, and I thought it was nice the way they wear suits or demure polos instead of the unfortunate pizza delivery uniforms you see on Carnival. (I hear that’s changing or perhaps has already changed.)

But speaking of unfortunate, the guy in charge of the trivia (and one of the senior staff members), while very nice, was almost impossible to understand. He was asked to repeat words over and over to the point that I felt a bit bad for him, but it was a drawn-out headache, and he seemed to host almost all of the trivia games. I could tell others felt bad because they’d start asking other tables rather than embarrass the host, and everyone felt frustrated. At the end, when he asked if anyone wanted the questions repeated, we basically started all over from the beginning as he repeated each one. Once would have been funny. By the end of the cruise, it was hard to look away from the incredible wreckage.

I was tired by now and off my game, and that’s my excuse for failing our team when writing out an answer requiring Roman numerals. (I love Roman numerals! I translate them in movie credits all the time! I write them on the classroom whiteboard just in case kids haven’t learned them elsewhere! I spend way too much time noticing how eight is sometimes IIX and sometimes VIII - certain rogue tarot decks be blamed!) But despite my DUHHHHH moment, we “AmAussies” won for 19/22. (Then I left the paper on the table instead of pocketing it for scrapbooking. DUH.)

Phil and Carol like trivia as much as we do, so having a team of four was novel and felt a bit cheaty, even though of course it wasn’t. When Mike and I play together against teams of four (or even when we play solo against them), we never feel like it’s unfair, so I guess I shouldn’t have felt guilty.

What did we win? A ship on a stick? A medallion? A souvenir?

No, we won initials on a scrap of paper!

Norwegian Pearl - Activity Cards

Everyone gets initials for participating, and winners get extra initials. At the end of the cruise, the gift shop by the bowling alley is open for a couple of hours for prize redemption. (Note that during the week your questions about prizes are answered with a gesture to the glass case and the instruction to come back on Saturday. On Saturday, they reveal the prize exchange sheet and get fussy if you take a photo of it. But ah, ahead of myself again.)

I think this is the point where we checked the corridors for luggage. Yep, there was ours! It made it! No horror stories. The last “what if?” gone. We took it inside to make short work of unpacking before heading off with our neighbours (being Phil and Carol) to the next event.

The ship was sailing along, and the wind was wild up on Deck 12, which was our first-and-last shortcut to the Spinnaker Lounge for “Sing It If You Know It.” We had no idea what this would entail, but since Mike likes karaoke and since Phil and Carol have an entire professional karaoke setup, it sounded like something they’d like to do and I’d like to watch.

(I like to sing, but I can’t carry a tune. That doesn’t stop me at home - poor Mike - but if I sing even just a couple of notes in public, I have to deal with the two-punch of other people’s panic+pity. Thus, I put up with looking like a world-class, rhythmless downer with restrained head bobs so others won’t suffer. “Screw others,” you might say, but then I’d be guessing that you’re one of those people who think “can’t sing” is like “can’t accessorize.” If we go with a fashion metaphor, my singing is not like dressing poorly, but more like showing up naked with slashes of seeping, infected wounds across the body, some of which have a gristly crust and most of which smell. Better to wrap up in a Febreze’d blanket and bob your head.)

Here’s the premise of the game: First, every group gets a team number. (We were Team 2.)

Norwegian Pearl - Sing It If You Know It

As soon as the music starts, if you know the song, you run up to one of the microphones and name it. (While holding up your team number, they had to keep reminding everyone.) Then they play a bit more and you start singing. Extra points for dance moves. Other teams can join in at the other microphones for points. More than one person per team can go up. Every song ends with a huge circle of people singing.

Yeah, even me. The blanket slipped a little, and Carol and I did some “oooo” backups to Mike’s “Billie Jean.” Oooo! Oooo! (I even busted out some moves, but luckily no known footage exists, so you can just imagine the sight as breathtaking.)

Mike refused to go up for “I Will Survive” (he’s a funny lad sometimes), but otherwise the rest of Team 2 made a very solid showing, especially for “Proud Mary,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” and “Thriller.”

Norwegian Pearl - Sing It If You Know It (Phil, Mike, Carol)

Left-to-right: Phil, Mike, Carol, stranger, another stranger.

The event ended with “New York, New York,” so Carol and I started a kickline that eventually spread all around the circle.

Whew! That was fun. It was great to be going to some new events! Now what? Was something else on?

I looked over at the bar but didn’t see any Freestyle Dailies. Hmm. Well, Carol and Phil were going to eat, and we weren’t hungry yet (plus Mike had no interest in tonight’s MDR menu), so maybe we’d wander around and look for a copy of today’s FD somewhere.

We looked high. We looked low. We looked in all the places the Carnival Fun Times would go - every bar and the casino. No luck.

Finally, not wanting to go back to the room, we queued up at the front desk. When it was our turn, we asked if could get another copy. Yes, no problem. Where could we get another copy other than the desk? Nowhere.

Okay, I’m guessing it’s a paper-saving measure, and that’s good. I applaud that... but I don’t know how many times on the cruise I wanted to check the Freestyle Daily and couldn’t. Carnival spoils you by having them all around the ship. (And the newer ships have info kiosks with the same information.) Norwegian Pearl doesn’t even post a master copy somewhere. You have to carry it with you or queue up at the desk. No jogging up to the bar to quickly look at it and put it back, like I’ve done a million times on Carnival. Norwegian really ought to think about posting copies in a few places.

Of course, now that we had a copy, we saw there was nothing we wanted to do. Time to pick a place for dinner. What should we get?

”The Asian place,” I said decisively.

Mike was surprised, and no wonder. As much as I can enjoy Thai, for the most part I don’t like Asian food. What do you expect from someone who expects bread or cheese (or both! pleeeease let it be both!) at every meal? I wish I liked it, but no matter how Americanized or allegedly authentic, I find the vegetarian dishes to be disgusting and greasy, especially Chinese food. Even the stuff I like is only good for about three bites.

I know this is my quirk and my loss. Especially since Mike loooooves Asian cuisine of all varieties and depths of traditional/fusion/etc. (Well, except for Yum Cha. He hates Yum Cha, while all his cousins and his Dad love it and go on about it. “Welcome to my world,” I snort.)

Not long ago I found a photo from Mike’s first visit to the United States - me, with chopsticks, eating Chinese food. I dimly recall there was a time when I didn’t have any strong feelings about going out for Chinese. I guess I became scarred after years of marriage to someone who would do backflips for Asian, and the more I ate it the more I thought about all the other palatable things (Indian, Mexican, Italian, French, a nice sandwich) I could have been eating instead. Oh marriage. It changes a person.

So, for me to suggest that we eat at Lotus Garden is kind of on par with a wife suggesting to her husband that they have a three-way with her and her best friend (the pin-up model). Mike was right to suspect a trap, or at least a plan on my part to stockpile martyr points.

The fact was, Lotus Garden was empty. Quiet appealed. Also, if we didn’t go tonight, it would be hanging over our heads for the whole cruise. Oh, Mike will claim that he wouldn’t have brought it up, but I’m not such an insensitive ogre that I wouldn’t have felt it looming there, his pining. How bad could it be? Get it out of the way and enjoy the other restaurants on the rest of the cruise.

A few “Are You Sure?”s later, we were seated by a friendly hostess. (Someone being cheerful! That’s twice today!)

Norwegian Pearl - Lotus Garden Interior

Norwegian Pearl - More Lotus Garden

LIke I said, pretty empty.

The waiter was named... you know, names don’t matter. Suffice to say that he behaved like it was his first night on a Norwegian ship and he was uncomfortable, which made us uncomfortable. It was our first time eating in a for-fee restaurant on a cruise ship that wasn’t a Carnival steakhouse. On Carnival, the steakhouse has a “pick one from each section” approach. (Although, depending on your ship and server, they can be more flexible.) Anyway, it’s easy to see how the meal is meant to flow.

Asian food, of course, is not so much soup-salad-main-dessert. How many items does one choose? We were used to smooth waiters making us feel like all questions were valid, and instead we had this odd guy who hovered a few feet away when we ate but sort of backed off and avoided answering questions when we tried to order. It was just... weird.

Norwegian Pearl - Lotus Garden - Ribs

Mike started with ribs. We were glad to see that the plating was much more professional here than our lunch at the MDR. (Spoiler: this was the case throughout the cruise. MDR = ugly/no presentation, unremarkable food. Specialty restaurants = nice presentation and food ranging from “okay” in one case to “amazing” in all other cases. Guess when the “okay” case was?)

Norwegian Pearl - Lotus Garden - Spring Rolls

I had the spring rolls. They were.... okay. At best. I didn’t finish them.

Norwegian Pearl - Lotus Garden - Vegetable Dumplings

I didn’t finish the vegetable dumplings, either. (Well, there were four!) Meh. BUT, remember that Asian rarely turns me on. So that’s probably me. They look alright, don’t they?

Norwegian Pearl - Lotus Garden - Veg Noodles

Vegetable noodles. You can probably tell by the glistening and my earlier remarks how I felt about these and how many bites I had of them.

I don’t know what happened to the photos of Mike’s food, which he pronounced “okay.” (See? Not just me.) He said that if he were reviewing for Yelp, he’d give it three stars. However, he had a much higher opinion of his dessert:

Norwegian Pearl - Lotus Garden - Spiced Chocolate Cake

Spiced chocolate cake. Looks gorgeous. Tasted good, too. I, however, ordered the flight of creme brulee:

Norwegian Pearl - Lotus Garden - Flight of Creme Brulee

Red bean, matcha, and ginger. The tops didn’t crack, and I only liked the ginger one, but again, I think I’m just not wired for these flavours, so I can’t dock any points.

Getting the check was just more weirdness with Awkward Serverbot. He never cleared the plates at all during the meal, so when he asked if we were finished, we thought that was going to happen, maybe with an offer of coffee or the presentation of or mention of the check. Nope, instead he stood there, clearly uncomfortable, us boggling, until finally he said, “So, uh, could I have your key card?”

Oh. It came back with the receipt and a comment card.... already filled out by a previous customer. Time to move on.

Unfortunately, reaffirming my dislike of Asian cuisine just made me hungry for an antidote. We were on a cruise! No rules! Freestyle! Let’s go to the buffet - we still have 30 minutes before it closes!

When I lived in a small Texas city (read: limited dining options), it became a joke that you could walk in the doors at 9 p.m. of an establishment that closed at 10 p.m., but you couldn’t expect to order anything. “Oh, that’s put away for the day.” “Oh, that’s being cleaned.” “Oh, that ran out hours ago.” (We’re talking mainstream fast food places here.)

The Norwegian Pearl buffet is a little like that. It may say it closes at 10:30 p.m., but when we arrived before 10, it was down to just a few items, and by 10:15 those were being roped off. Look what I was lucky enough to score:

Norwegian Pearl - Last-Dash Pizza

(I don’t know why I took two pieces. Desperate spite. I don’t think I even ate two bites. I may be fat, but I’m not a garbage can. Awful congealed crap.)

”Oh Shari,” you experienced Norwegian cruisers say. “You should’ve gone to the Blue Lagoon! They’re open after 10 p.m. with sit-down service!”

And I would say, “Oh, you think it’s that easy to feed a vegetarian after 10 p.m. on a Norwegian ship? Just wait...”

And then there would be some evil house of mirror sound effects to build a sense of suspenseful insanity.

We said good night to Phil and Carol (who were moseying past the buffet after a noisy meal in the midship MDR), went back to the cabin, reminded ourselves that we don’t always get towel animals on the first night on Carnival, either, and went to bed.

09 December 2012 |






Carnival Elation (2009)
Carnival Splendor (2009)
Carnival Spirit (2010)
Carnival Spirit (2011)
Carnival Splendor (2011)
Norwegian Pearl to Alaska (2012)