Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mission Alaska: Life Onboard the Norwegian Pearl

I don't have a lot of pictures but the Norwegian Pearl was a lovely ship with a great crew, run by a company obsessed with protecting us all from noroviruses.  There are hand sanitizer dispensers outside every restaurant, the casino, near the shops, by the shuffleboard court -- you name it.  However, since noroviruses are spread by people who touch contaminated surfaces and then touch their mouths, the ship wanted to prevent all possibly surfaces from becoming contaminated in the first place.  I think they also didn't completely trust the passengers to disinfect themselves.  So, outside every restaurant they positioned crew members armed with spray bottles who constantly reminded us to "Washy washy".  After spraying, they reminded us to be, "Smiley smiley, happy happy."  This procedure was also followed when we arrived back on board after a shore excursion.

In less than two days, the "Washy Washy" refrain was a common humor point throughout the ship.  During the improv show, the actors asked the crowd to shout out something they'd heard on the ship.  More than half of the audience yelled, "Washy Washy."

I'm happy to say that thanks to our own attention to cleanliness and the diligent spray crew, my friend Janet and I remained disease free for the entire trip.  This made us happy happy.

The crew and the passengers represented all nations so we heard a good number of different accents throughout the week.  Janet and I went to a game run by the cruise entertainment staff called Majority Rule.  They asked a series of questions and each team had to submit our answers.  We earned points when our answer matched that of the majority of other teams.  For one question the host asked, "What do men have to do to be attractive to women?"  Most of us said, "Smile!"

The host next asked, "What do women have to do to be attractive to men?"  Accessing our smart ass sides, we wrote down, "Breathe."   That answer became even funnier when the host, in his Phillipine-accented English said, "Breed."

We also played team trivia one afternoon.  We were doing pretty well, we thought.  Then we found out that Big Ben isn't the clock or the clock tower in London -- it's the bell inside the clock tower.  How well do you know the American flag?  The red stripes represent the original 13 colonies.  The stars stand for the states.  What about the blue behind the stars?  Nah, we didn't know either.  According to the ship, it stands for loyalty.

Cruise ships are big on serving delicious cocktails and food.  We were happy to celebrate the start of our vacation with a drink at the Bliss Lounge.  That's a Pear Pleasure.  Pretty and delicious.

Speaking of martinis, every afternoon the ship held a "tasting" of some family of cocktails.  We went to the Martini tasting on Tuesday.  Hands down, or bottoms up, this was the best drink value on the ship.  $15.00 entitled us to taste each of five different drinks.  These were not just tastes as in a small splash of cocktail.  Oh no.  They served us a healthy belt, easily the equivalent of a full shot and a half.  I'd like to be all virtuous and say that I did not finish the classic martini or the melon-tini, but I probably made up for it by drinking the rest of Janet's Cosmopolitan sample.

Whoever decorated the ship seemed to pay homage to different cultures.  The lounges were particularly interesting.  The Bliss Lounge resembled nothing closer than a Turkish seraglio.  Lots of crushed velvet upholstery, opulent drapery and beds.  Yes, big queen, or sheik-sized beds.  I guess if someone's going to get falling down drunk, the handy beds make it a comfortable landing.

The bed motif was continued in the Spinnaker Lounge.  I'm not sure how it fit with the nautical look, but why let realism interfere with comfort?

Yep, kind of interesting.  Speaking of the Spinnaker, the decorator was so obsessed with beds that he/she didn't give much thought to the other seating.  Going to that lounge made us feel a little like Goldilocks.  The individual chairs were so low our knees came up to our chins.  The stools were so high that you couldn't get comfortable unless you were at least 6 feet tall.  Janet and I adopted the strategy of arriving super early to shows we wanted to see so we could snag a "just right" booth.
There were other beautiful spots on the Pearl.  The Crystal Atrium, appropriately named as you can see, boasted a beautiful glass sculpture by artist Dale Chihuly.

There are a number of restaurants aboard the Pearl.  The bigger of the two main dining rooms is the Summer Palace.  The ship's decorator was clearly inspired by the opulence of Imperial Russia.  The newel posts were all topped with giant Faberge-inspired eggs.  The chair backs displayed the Romanov coat of arms.    Nicholas and Alexandra's pictures indicated the mens and ladies restrooms.  The walls were lined with portraits of Czar Nicholas, Czarina Alexandra and their children.  The only person of note missing was Rasputin.  I gotta tell you, after awhile, the portraits bummed me out.  Nobody's smiling, for one thing.  For another, I know that they're all fated to be brutally murdered. 

Every night in the Summer Palace, we were entertainment by the melodious renditions of the Manila Trio.  They blended flute, guitar and violin beautifully as they performed Broadway standards, Sinatra hits and that hit of all hits, Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.  I looked at the musicians, sure that they were pulling our legs, but their facial expressions were as serious on that song as any other in their repetoire.

We laughed about that all the way back to our cabin.  Our very, um, compact cabin.  Janet and I were really okay in it, once we realized we could shove most of our suitcases under the beds so we had at least a yard of wriggle room.  I don't know how three or four people could share one of these staterooms without killing someone by the end of the week.  I know I'm a big woman, but the bathroom was tiny by anyone's measure.  Clark Kent couldn't have spun in it fast enough to change into his Superman tights. 

Still, the stateroom steward kept it clean and on some nights when he came in to do the turn down service, he left us with a little friend.

All joking aside, I really liked the ship and the Norwegian experience.  I'd sail them again, particularly if they're going back to Alaska.  There's still so much more to see! 

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