Snapshot: Pearl Seas Cruises is a newish (2014) subsidiary of the firm that owns American Cruise Lines with its large and ever-growing fleet of coastal and river ships. Its one ship, the 210-passenger PEARL MIST, shares many of the characteristics of the U.S. flag fleet yet it is an ocean-going vessel, registered in the Marshall Islands and operates with a largely non-American crew. With this new ship, the firm’s cruise itineraries have expanded to New England, Eastern Canada, the Great Lakes, and from January 2017, the start of a program of circumnavigations of Cuba. The ship is stabilized.
Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers: PEARL MIST (built 2014 & 210 passengers)
Passenger Profile: Mostly Americans and some Canadians, largely 50+ and many will be loyal American Cruise Lines’ passengers. Unlike the US-flag ACL, this ship is registered in the Marshall Islands and operates with a largely foreign national crew.
Passenger Decks: 6; an elevator connects all decks.
Price: $$$ Very Pricey
Included Features: Internet/WiFi; a daily cocktail hour before dinner, wine with lunch and dinner, open bar with hors d’oeuvres in the evening.
- The inaugural Cuba cruise season began on January 17, 2017 and ran to the April 27, 2017 departure, resuming again on November 10, 2017 through to the March 29, 2018 departure. After a pause, cruises resume November 4, 2018 and operate to December 29, 2018. Embarkation is Fort Lauderdale for 11-night circumnavigations of Cuba, calling at 6 ports, including 2 days in Havana and 3 sea days.
Then in spring 2018 the ship works its way north from Fort Lauderdale to England and Canada, along the St. Lawrence River and Seaway to the Great Lakes.
- May and September, 11 and 15-day cruises sees the ship operating between Portland, Maine and Toronto calling at Canadian Maritimes ports, plying the St. Lawrence River (Quebec City & Montreal), St. Lawrence Seaway and into Lake Ontario for Toronto.
- 11-day cruises, June to September, sail between Toronto and Chicago passing through four Great Lakes and Georgian Bay and stopping at Mackinac Island and Sault Ste. Marie, and shorter 7-day itineraries operate in August between Toronto and Chicago.
- Leaving the Great Lakes in September, the ship takes advantage of the fall foliage season in Canadian Maritimes and New England with 10- and 14-day trips between Quebec City and Boston.
- Following the New England and Canada season, the ship returns down the U.S. East Coast to Fort Lauderdale to resume the Cuban circumnavigations.
Why Go? The PEARL MIST is the first ship for some time to make regular multi-year cruises in the Great Lakes, and sail the entire length of the St. Lawrence River. While other ships cruise Eastern Canada and New England, the PEARL MIST is the most comfortable truly small ship to do so, and she is a major step-down in size compared to the Caribbean mega-ships. The circumnavigations of the island of Cuba are nothing short of pace-setting.
When to Go? The PEARL MIST cruises in different regions at the best times to visit.
Cabins: All accommodations, arranged over four of six decks, are outside with balconies and measure a roomy 302 to 580 square feet, and come with flat-screen TVs, DVD players and free wireless Internet. 12 cabins are balconied singles, positioned on all four cabin decks. The single rates, for example, are priced about 45% higher than the lowest double occupancy rate for a 7-night cruise and drop down to about 10% higher at the highest double-occupancy suite rate.
Public Rooms: The two largest lounges are the Atlantic and Pacific lounges facing forward and located below and above the navigating bridge. Unlike the sister-company ACL ships, a single lounge cannot comfortably accommodate all passengers at one time for enrichment lectures. Three smaller midships lounges with balconies are quiet retreats for games and reading, with one housing a library (films to borrow). A Lido Lounge opens onto an aft deck.
Dining: As with all American Cruise Lines’ coastal ships, the dining room is aft on the lowest deck above the engine room, but noise is negligible. Seating is open at shared tables with breakfast a buffet as well as menu items; and lunch and dinner are served. Food is very good American fare with regional dishes such as lobster in Maine and crab further south. Passengers are asked to choose their lunch and dinner entrees at breakfast, to help the galley prepare the number of selections in advance. However, one can still change one’s mind later. Conviviality rather than a quiet table for two is the thrust. A complimentary cocktail hour precedes dinner. Dress is always casual, but never sloppy with these passengers.
Activities & Entertainment: Cruises carry a guest speaker who may give a talk when the ship is on the move or after dinner. Local knowledge experts come aboard in some ports. Shore excursions are at an extra charge. There is a small sym and spa treatments.
Special Notes: While Pearl Seas is presently a one-ship operation, it is very much linked in style and execution to American Cruise Lines’ smaller version coastal fleet and the river ships on the Mississippi River system, and Columbia and Snake in the Pacific Northwest.
Along the Same Lines: Blount Small Ship Adventures also operate similar itineraries, with fewer amenities and at a lower cost to Cuba, along the U.S. East Coast and the St. Lawrence River and on the Great Lakes.
Contact: Pearl Seas Cruises, 741 Boston Post Road, Suite 250, Guilford, CT 06437; www.pearlseascruises.com; 800-981-9146.