NCL’s Young Fleet: NCL touts their fleet of 15 ships as the “youngest” on the seas. The Norwegian Pearl, carrying up to 2,394 passengers, is the 7th ship built specifically for”Freestyle Cruising,” a signature of NCL that sets it apart from other cruise lines. Emphasizing a “do whatever” attitude, NCL sees their passengers as individualists and who don’t want to be regimented on vacation and may wish to go with the flow, or not. I loved the brilliant, new television commercials that make the clear point that NCL passengers don’t have to deal with dress codes, dining times, or table assignments. If a picture is worth a thousand words, NCL has also created a fantastic graphic: a school of blue fish, with one white fish swimming the other way. Each NCL passenger is a “white fish!” You’ll see the “fish” on everything from print advertising, to the glass doors leading to the pool deck!
Among the Norwegian Pearl’s unique features is the Bliss Ultra Lounge and Night Club, a fantasy room that gives passengers a unique mix of family fun and later night entertainment options. It features the cruise industry’s first four-lane ten-pin bowling alley at sea. The lounge and bar areas, surrounding the bowling lanes, has reclining double couches that look like they’ve been lifted out of a genie’s bottle. On one side, there is also an area with interactive video rides. The back, behind the lanes, has a dance floor, and the entire room features a disco with DJ later at night. The Norwegian Pearl also has the first rock-climbing wall on any NCL ship (constructed on the back of the ships’ funnel), and a pair of ultra luxurious Garden Villas and Deluxe Owner’s Suites, plus 10 restaurants, 13 bars and lounges, two swimming pools and a casino. There is truly something for everyone, regardless of age or interests!
The Christening Ceremony: On December 16th, as scattered showers moistened the Miami air, forcing a shore-side ceremony inside the opulent show lounge (the Stardust Theater), the Norwegian Pearl was officially named and christened by the Emmy-award-winning entertainer and talk show host (and now, Godmother to the Norwegian Pearl), Rosie O’Donnell. NCL is a very family-friendly line, and Ms. O’Donnell and her partner Kelli O’Donnell have a strong connection to NCL not just through their personal love of cruising, but by their association with R Family Vacations, http://www.rfamilyvacations.com/. Founded in 2004 by Kelli and Gregg Kaminisky, this vacation company and NCL made history, when R. Family vacations chartered the NCL Norwegian Dawn for the industry’s first ever gay family cruise. This concept was so unique that HBO made it the subject of a documentary: “All Aboard! Rosie’s Family Cruise,” which was subsequently nominated for three Emmy awards. R Family Vacations, has chartered four ships for gay and lesbian family-friendly cruises from NCL. The cruise line has also been generous in it’s support Rosie’s For All Kids Foundation, http://www.forallkids.org/site.php , a non-profit organizations serving economically disadvantaged and at-risk children and their families (see below).
As we sipped champagne, members of the Miami Philharmonic Miami provided the accompaniment for a local Miami chamber choir, singing holiday songs. Then the celebration really got going. As the Robert Palmer song “Simply Irresistable” boomed over loud speakers and the iconic girls in the Palmer video strutted their stuff on a video screen, four sexy dancers from the Norwegian Pearl’s dance troupe, dressed in glittery, bright blue mini-dresses, appeared onstage, holding guitars and swaying to the music in the video.
A christening celebration wouldn’t be proper without some serious ritual, of course. The Norwegian Pearl’s Cruise Director Matthew introduced a color guard from the Miami sector of the United States Coast Guard who marched to the front of the stage as “The Star Spangled Banner” was played. Reverend Kevin Johnson blessed the ship. The handsome, charismatic President and CEO of NCL Corporation, Colin Veitch took the microphone, made a few remarks and introduced Star Cruises Chairman Tan Sri KT Lim. We later learned that Mr. Lim was actually onboard not just for the 2-night inaugural sailing, but for the 5-day sailing (on which my husband and I were passengers) that followed. Acknowledged were employees who have been with NCL for over 18 years (quite a few of them sitting in the first half dozen rows) along some key personnel, dignitaries, family members, and Rosie O’Donnell’s partner, Kelli Carpenter O’Donnell.
Rosie The Godmother: Rose O’Donnell might have a few differences with celebrities such as Donald Trump, but she was greeted with applause and cheers as she walked up to the stage. Dressed dressed casually for NCL’s signature (no dress code) “Freestyle Cruising,” Rosie wore in black pants, and a pink and blue-striped shirt. A”video cam” had been rigged up so we could see Rosie pull the level that would send the traditional bottle of champagne hurling against the hull to christen the ship. When Rosie pulled the lever, however, nothing happened! We did see the bottle smash successfully on her second try. Just for laughs, Rosie yanked the lever a few more times, and streamers fell from the ceiling in the Stardust Theater as if it was New Years’ Eve.
Happy 40th Birthday, NCL: After the official festivities, CEO Colin Veitch took the microphone, and reflected on Norwegian Cruise Line’s 40-year history, as the line marked it’s 40th anniversary the same weeks as this inaugural. He also treated us to a visual trip down NCL’s memory lane, showing the former ships in the line, to the present day. To close the festivities, we were treated to a lighthearted corporate video featuring NCL employees, including Veitch and Executive Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Passenger Services Andy Stuart. Carrying electric guitars, they hammed their way throughout the ship, lip-synching and dancing (along with members of the crew), to Robert Palmer’s video (you guessed it) “Simply Irresistible.”
We hadn’t even left the dock, but the Stardust Theater pulsed with excitement, people talking, laughing, and making new friends. It is the people on the ship that make it come alive. I definitely felt the pulse of the pearl, stirring! *watch for my personal comments and review of the Norwegian Pearl, shortly.
Helping Children, Helping Families, Building Community: Rosie and Kelli O’Donnell are parents to four children, and they are dedicated to helping children in need throughout the United States. Since 1977, the O’Donnell’s charity, Rosie’s For All Kids Foundation, http://www.forallkids.org/site.php, has awarded more than $15 million in early childhood care and education program grants to over 1,100 non-profit organizations serving economically disadvantaged and at-risk children and their families. The foundation has also helped to build 27 day care centers (aka. “Cutie Patootie Centers”) in low income areas throughout the United States and has created “Project Katrina,” to help provide child care and other services to Louisiana children and families who have been affected by Hurricane Katrina. Norwegian Cruise Lines has been a generous supporter of Rosie’s For All Kids Foundation, too. The cruise line donated the Norwegian Pearl to Rosie’s For All Kids Foundation, for a one-night charity event that raised a whopping $600,000.
2007 Cruise Itineraries and Information: NCL ships sail just about everyone you’d ever want to visit. For more information on NCL cruises visit their web site: http://www.ncl.com/nclweb/home.html