I love cruising, so when I saw that Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com) was offering a 13-day sailing, leaving from my home port of New York City and ending up in Amsterdam with prices starting under $500 per person, I leapt at the chance and booked the trip. Ports of call included: Ireland, France, England, Belgium, and the Netherlands. With as many meals per day as you desired, entertainment every night, and a plethora of activities to take part in, it was cheaper per day to sail to Europe than stay home!
Having traveled with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) previously, I was part of their “Latitudes Rewards” program, and with that privilege come perks: room upgrades, free dining in specialty restaurants, deals on WiFi, discounts in the ship’s spa, and in my case, even an open bar for the entire trip. Trust me, that saves you a wine bucket full of money.
So, I asked my friend, Bud, if he wanted to join me and we jumped into a cab and headed to the cruise port in New York City located at 55th Street and the Hudson River. How convenient is that?
The Norwegian Pearl was built in 2005 but completely refurbished in 2017, which made the ship feel brand new. All 1,179 staterooms had an upgrade, which included new carpeting, new televisions, new furniture, new beds, and USB outlets.
Throughout the ship, over 2,220 pieces of artwork were installed, including a stunning Chihuly sculpture sitting proudly in the main atrium.
When it comes to food, there are so many venues to choose from: eight complementary restaurants plus room service, six specialty restaurants with additional fees, plus 15 bars and lounges.
NCL’s biggest claim to fame is their “Free-Style” cruising. On many other lines you must sign up for a certain times to dine and you are given a specific table to sit at in the evening, and on designated nights you must dress up in formal attire. On NCL, dress is casual, you can dine any time you like and sit anywhere you prefer. The last thing I wanted to lug around on this long trip was a business suit and a tuxedo. But if one desires, you’re more than welcome to dress up.
For LGBTQ travelers, the ship’s Freestyle Daily pamphlet appears in your cabin with a list of everything available to do on the ship for the next day. For years, Friends of Dorothy, was listed and indicated where and when people could meet. But on this trip, something simple but very powerful happened. Friends of Dorothy was gone and LGBTQ+ Informal Get Together showed up instead. In my mind, this is a true indicator that we, as gay travelers, have been welcomed openly and with respect. This was my 6th cruise with NCL, and not once have I felt slighted or experienced any sort of homophobia from either the staff or other cruisers. In fact, on this trip, a 72-year-old gay couple appeared onboard holding hands and dressed in matching baby doll sailor suits with full make-up and wigs. Even my jaw dropped, but with a smile. And they maintained baby doll characters for the entire trip, changing costumes every day. Many befriended the couple and even the Captain requested a photo with them. As one straight traveler shared with me, “I observed people treating them with respect rather than ridicule. Totally refreshing.”