As travel agents, we are often invited onboard a ship for a ‘ship inspection.’ This consists of a tour of the ship, which includes seeing the suites and prime cabins as well as regular cabins. We also get to see the public spaces and have lunch onboard. The hopes are that we will be impressed with the ship and better able to sell the ship, as well as the cruise line.
In 2013, we did one of these ship inspections on the Norwegian Pearl. The Pearl is one of four NCL ships in the Jewel class, which also includes the Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Jade. These four ships were built in the 2005-2007 time frame and hold between 2350- 2466 passengers, depending on the ship.
Since the cost of building a ship is in the multi-millions of dollars, wisely, the cruise lines typically build a number of ships with the same ‘basic’ deck plan in order to save money on the overall ship design. Then they decorate them in different color schemes and fabrics in order to give a completely different ‘look’ to each of the ships. This is done to make sure a guest that sails on a sister ship would not ‘feel’ as if they were on the same ship, even though it is essentially the same design.
As time goes by and they build new ships with newer features, the cruise lines do their best to refit the older ships and try to replicate the newer features on the newer ships, but sometimes there’s only so much they can do, but it’s still WAY cheaper than building a whole new ship! Celebrity calls that “Solsticizing.”
The Haven is an exclusive area on NCL ships with a private courtyard, pool, exercise area, restaurant and lounge that you can only access with a Haven key card. The Haven level also has other amenities, such as butler service, priority boarding and disembarkation (which can be a GREAT amenity in a busy port!).
On the Breakaway, there are 42 cabins (suites) in the Haven area, but on the Pearl, there are only 14 cabins. However, if you’re looking for exclusivity, the Pearl might be a BETTER option as there would be less people in the exclusive area.
On the Breakaway, you would never have to leave the Haven area for dining as the dining room and lounge are all a part of the Haven area, whereas on the Pearl, you have to go down a deck to access the Cagney Dining room for the exclusive breakfast and lunch. What the other agents and I thought interesting was that even if you were at the Haven level, you would still have to pay the surcharge at dinner for any of the specialty dining rooms.
The nice thing was that there were suites as well as family cabins available in the non-Haven area of the ship so a guest would NOT have to opt for the Haven area if you just wanted to book a suite.
The other thing I find interesting about the Norwegian ships is that their main lobby is somewhat understated, when compared to same space to say the Princess, Royal Caribbean or Carnival ships, which usually feature a truly GRAND, open lobby area spanning multiple decks with a huge “wow” factor.
Carpeting on NCL ships also features fish swimming forward, so you always know where the front of the ship is!