Pearl Seas Cruises offers wonderful Great Lakes and New England small ship cruises to unique ports in the US and Canada. Read on for our Pearl Seas Cruises tips, FAQ, and information to determine if the Pearl Mist fits your travel style, budget, and preferences.
Whether you are new to cruising, or a cruise regular, it is often difficult to evaluate an unfamiliar brand or new itinerary. Every cruise is an investment in your valuable time and money. You’ll get the most from your trip by choosing a cruise that matches your travel style.
We have sampled a variety of cruise styles, from very small ship to large cruise ship—including Princess Cruises, Viking Ocean and Viking River Cruises, UnCruise Adventures, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, and Maine Windjammer. The following information will help you decide if a Pearl Seas cruise is right for you and your travel companions.
Pearl Seas Cruises hosted our Great Lakes cruise so we could share our experiences with the McCool Travel network. All opinions, text, and photos are our own, and we did not receive any direct compensation.
Pearl Seas Cruises Basics
A few basics will help you understand how Pearl Seas Cruises differs from other cruise lines.
- Pearl Seas Cruises is a premium small ship cruise line brand that currently explores US and Canada in the Great Lakes and New England regions.
- Pearl Seas Cruises is affiliated with American Cruise Lines but operates as a separate cruise line.
- Currently, Pearl Seas Cruises operates one small ship, Pearl Mist, which was completely redesigned and refreshed for the 2023 season.
- The typical Pearl Seas Cruises guest is affluent, well-traveled, and mature.
Enjoy our 8 Great Reasons to Travel on Pearl Seas Cruises followed by our Pearl Mist tips and FAQ.
Small Ship Cruising
There is nothing like small ship cruising. Pearl Mist can stop at small docks, allowing quick and easy access to interesting, unique, and fun places. Passengers can easily get off the ship as often as they want. Larger ships either cannot stop in these smaller ports or have to anchor in the harbor and tender passengers to shore (more time consuming and inconvenient).
Small ship cruising fans love the immersive and slow paced aspects of the sailings. On Pearl Mist, you can easily meet interesting people, make new friends, eat local elegant cuisine, and see fascinating lesser known destinations.
Pearl Mist is the only fully-stabilized all-balcony small ship on the Great Lakes and surrounding US/Canada area and features a maximum capacity of 210 passengers and 70 crew members. It is a modern small ship, built in 2014 with a complete interior refresh in early 2023.
Pearl Mist Staterooms
Pearl Seas Cruises 104 staterooms are spacious and comfortable. Every Pearl Mist stateroom has a private balcony. Yippee! Your balcony will be wonderfully convenient for relaxing while sailing, star gazing or catching sunset, enjoying a secluded happy hour, reading, or otherwise being in your own space.
Besides balconies, all Pearl Mist staterooms have spacious bathrooms (with excellent showers), floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, king bed (or two double beds), and ample closet and storage space. We loved the pillows, perhaps the best we have experienced on any cruise line.
Standard staterooms are a generous 275 to 300 square feet while Pearl Mist suites are over 450 square feet.
A half dozen cabins are reserved for solo travelers and are an impressive 200 square feet.
Amenities for every Pearl Mist stateroom includes luxury bathroom products, twice daily service, hair dryer, flat screen TV, and excellent visibility. Our stateroom was generally very quiet but see our below tip about adjoining staterooms.
Pearl Seas Cruises Public Spaces
While your Pearl Seas stateroom will be your home away from home for a week (or more if you choose!), the ship’s public spaces will also figure prominently in your Pearl Seas Cruises experience.
Here is a brief run down of the Pearl Mist public spaces.
- Dining room. The large dining room accommodates all passengers at once. It is set up so that you can choose when to dine and where (and with whom) to sit. The Pearl Seas Cruises dining room is on deck 1. See our notes below about Pearl Mist’s dining and beverages.
- Lounges. Two main Pearl Mist lounges are the Atlantic Lounge on deck 2 forward and Pacific Lounge on deck 4 forward. Most entertainment and lecture sessions are in Atlantic. Pacific has better panoramic views. Both are great spots for happy hour. Other nice lounge spaces include the library (deck 4 mid), game/puzzle area (deck 2 mid), and Coral Lounge (computers and books on deck 5 forward). See our notes below about Pearl Mist entertainment.
- Sun Decks. Find outside lounges on decks 4 (aft), 5 (forward and aft), and 6 (entire deck). The deck chairs are very comfortable but the engine noise is a little loud in the aft lounge areas. A row of rocking chairs offers a beautiful, relaxing spot on the top deck. We loved watching sunsets, scenic sailing periods, and pulling into ports from deck 6 and sometimes deck 4.
- Fitness Center. Fitness equipment can be found on the Pearl Mist sun deck area outside the Coral Lounge, deck 5 forward.
Unique Itineraries and Ports
A major reason to sail with Pearl Seas Cruises is the unique itineraries and ports that Pearl Mist visits. Pear Mist currently sails through the Great Lakes, New England, and eastern Canada.
On our Great Lakes cruise we sailed from Milwaukee, stopped at Muskegon and Mackinac Island (in Michigan) and Sault Ste. Marie, Little Current, Parry Sound, and Midland (in Ontario, Canada). These smaller port destinations are places we would likely never get to on our own. All were fun, interesting, and enlightening to visit.
In past years, Pearl Mist offered a popular Cuba cruise. Check the Pearl Seas Cruises website for current and future itineraries.
Pearl Seas Cruises Shore Excursions
A favorite aspect of cruising is enjoying adventures (shore excursions) at ports of call. Pearl Seas Cruises offers really unique excursions to complement their unique ports and itineraries.
You can research and note your favorite excursions on the Pearl Seas Cruises website before your departure date. Because of the paradigm of small ship cruising and unique destinations, registering for excursions prior to sailing is not necessary. I loved this because it removes the stress of popular excursions selling out.
On the first day onboard, the cruise director will describe all the excursions and the process. Passengers receive a form to fill out, choosing their excursions for the entire cruise itinerary. Pearl Mist staff reserves the requested spots with excursion vendors.
Our favorite excursions included a sand dune buggy ride, sea plane scenic flight, and walking food tour. We also enjoyed kayaking with an indigenous guide, horse carriage rides, and boat cruises around Georgian Bay and through the Sault Ste. Marie locks.
Pearl Seas Cruises offers many complimentary excursions and some at an extra fee. Premium excursions cost up to $100 per person and select Signature excursions (like the sea plane) cost more.
It is not mandatory to do excursions. Some guests prefer to explore a destination on their own, spend more time shopping, relax on board, or meet with family or friends. Some guests enjoy the relative peace and quiet while most of the ship is empty.
We really enjoy walking around destinations on our own, visiting local craft breweries, and shopping for souvenirs or clothing. Sometimes we do that instead of an excursion and sometimes we do that in addition to enjoying excursions.
Food and Drink on Pearl Seas Cruises
We loved the excellent food served on Pearl Mist. The following section summarizes Pearl Seas Cruises dining options to help you get the most out of your cruise experience.
Because Pearl Mist is a small ship, there is only one dining room with set opening hours. The open seating plan means no seating assignments or reserved times. Decide whether to sit with the same people, with no one, or with different people. And choose whether to eat early, late, or in the middle of the time frame.
We liked to vary our dining paradigm—we sometimes sat with new friends we met earlier on the cruise, picked someone we have not yet met, picked a large empty table to allow others to sit with us, or even a table for just two people so we can eat alone. A few times, Pearl Mist staff even opted to sit with us and we loved hearing their stories and experiences.
The Daily Explorer newsletter lists operating hours and offerings for dining activities.
But more important is what to eat!
Pearl Seas Cruises Meal Service
A breakfast buffet station is stocked with fresh fruit, lox, cheeses, and pastries. I loved starting every morning with a plate of fresh watermelon, pineapple, and berries. In addition, order a prepared item (or two) from the breakfast menu, which includes different French Toast, pancakes, and omelettes each day. Or create your own entree. I usually ordered a veggie omelette and add a lot of spinach (and sometimes shrimp).
The robust lunch menu includes daily specials for appetizers, a soup, entrees, and desserts, along with always available items. My first lunch selections were a scallops appetizer, cauliflower soup, trout entree, and chocolate eclair. See, every meal is amazing on Pearl Mist.
Many lunches I went off menu and requested a spinach salad and it really hit the spot. One lunch featured the chef manning a pasta station in the middle of the dining room. The linguini featured the largest shrimp served on the entire cruise and I was glad I ordered it.
Lunch is a more casual experience than dinner since most days featured a port stop. In fact, we missed a Pearl Mist lunch or two because of excursions. The Midland Ontario walking food tour was outstanding, for instance, and I really suggest signing up for it.
The even-more-robust dinner menu is similar to the lunch menu. But robuster (yes, it is a word). One night featured entrees of halibut, pappardelle, and chateaubriand. Another dinner was steamed whole lobster night—and it may have been the best lobster I have had on a cruise ship. The last night was lobster tail night. Yes, I requested (and was granted two of them).
Every dinner menu included seafood, beef, chicken, and pasta entree options. And during the week there were duck, lamb, and other choices. Order two entrees if you cannot decide or just want to. You can also order half portions of some entrees. I had a half order of mushroom ravioli with my two lobster tails which was over-the-top indulgence.
And the friendly servers will accommodate special requests. Cannot decide between several dessert choices? They will bring all of them for the table to share. I think I had a special request every meal; usually, though, it was just to request extra vegetables.
Wine and beer are located in the dining room but feel free to order a cocktail (to be delivered from the bar). All drinks are complimentary at all times on Pearl Seas Cruises, including wine, top shelf cocktails, and beer. Several dinners, we sat near (but not with) a couple of women we affectionately called the “Lemon Drop Gals.” Once they received their drinks, they would lift their glasses toward us and we did a distant CHEERS.
It was difficult to adjust back to the real world after a week of Pearl Mist dinners (and breakfasts and lunches).
More Pearl Seas Cruises Food and Beverage Options
If you wake before the dining room opens for breakfast, early risers breakfast is available in the two main lounges. Fresh fruit, pastries, snacks, and hot beverages will hold you over until second breakfast!
Fresh baked cookies magically appear in the two main lounges around 10am. Unfortunately, I did not discover this until late in the cruise so I missed a few. So I will have to do another Pearl Mist cruise and pay attention. I had an incredible fresh, soft chocolate chip cookie one day. After the cruise, another passenger said she had the best oatmeal cookie of her life. Everyone wanted to go back on the Pearl Mist and get one.
Between lunch and happy hour, finger sandwiches are available in the two main lounges. I prioritized my big meals so never tried these but the egg salad sandwiches looked amazing.
Happy hours in the lounges are popular, with complimentary cocktails and fantastic handheld snacks. Enjoy deviled eggs, shrimp on toast, chicken and beef bites, and much more while discussing your fun excursions and explorations that day with others.
Snacks and beverages (tea, coffee, hot chocolate, water) are available 24 hours a day in the two main lounges. We loved the jalapeño and salt/pepper chips, and went through way too many of them during talks and shows.
Pearl Seas Cruises Entertainment
Even though Pearl Mist does not have the entertainment options of a big cruise ship, there are still plenty of options to keep you busy and hold your interest.
Live music was a focus every evening in the Atlantic Lounge—except one night featured a superb magic/comedy act. Two nights, the music was provided by local artists while a fabulous and popular musician, Carl Wishneusky, performed the other nights. Carl also played piano tunes during happy hour gatherings.
Each day, usually late afternoon, also featured information sessions with a long-time specialist. Richard provided destination previews, discussing the next port’s history, features, and highlights.
The cruise directors also covered docking, embarkation process, excursions, and event highlights every day. Much of the information is in the Daily Explorer newsletter but the personal advice, tips, and information—like favorite fudge shops on Mackinac Island—are often really helpful.
McCool Travel tip: the cruise director talk precedes the evening entertainment and on popular entertainment nights arrive for the talk to guarantee a seat for the show.
Daily art classes were a highlight with many passengers. During the final evening happy hour, completed art works from the participants were displayed.
“Two Truths and a Lie” was a voluntary game midway through the cruise. We discussed entries with several people during meals. Passengers loved this game.
Also popular were jigsaw puzzles in the Library Lounge and the second floor midship area. The puzzles were of the Great Lakes and people loved adding to their sailing experience by participating.
Plenty of board games and books are available in the Coral Lounge, Library Lounge, and puzzle area.
All activities are complimentary and do not require reservations. If you choose to do them all, some, or none, that is perfectly acceptable.
One of our favorite forms of entertainment is catching sunsets from the outside decks.
Pearl Seas Cruises Vibe
I was really impressed to learn that much of the Pearl Mist crew has worked together since the ship first operated. That includes the main leaders—including the captain, hotel manager, chef, and restaurant manager. The familiarity and loyalty of the staff results in a seamless experience for passengers and that is so nice and refreshing.
And the passengers impressed me, also. It was enlightening and fun chatting with so many seasoned and experienced travelers. Pearl Mist passengers choose and create the environment. A Pearl Seas Cruises sailing is more immersive and thoughtful than big ship cruising.
Although the target Pearl Mist audience is over 60 years of age, younger passengers were indeed onboard. One accompanied her grandmother and others traveled with parents or other family members. Pearl Mist is great for multi-generation vacations.
Finally, Pearl Seas Cruises is part of the American Cruise Lines family. Most of the Pearl Mist passengers seemed to have done several American Cruise Lines sailings. So, if you have enjoyed an American Cruise Lines sailing, you will surely enjoy Pearl Seas Cruises.
Phew, thank you for reading our 8 great reasons to travel on Pearl Seas Cruises. The rest of this article lists our Pearl Mist tips and some Pearl Seas Cruises FAQ. Let us know if you have other questions or if you have sailed on Pearl Mist.
Our Pearl Seas Cruises tips:
- staterooms have a Keurig maker with coffee and chamomile tea pods. Find more beverage options in the lounges (second and fourth decks) and dining room.
- an elevator stops on all decks except 6
- Pearl Mist crew will mail post cards for passengers. And affix the proper postage. So convenient.
- there are a few adjoining staterooms. Book them when traveling with others. Avoid them if you are noise sensitive.
- if you like quiet, avoid rooms right next to lounges, especially the second deck lounge
- Oyster Society is for repeat Pearl Seas Cruises guests. Members receive complimentary excursions, upgrades, dedicated promos and savings, and a free cruise after sailing ten times. American Cruise Lines has a separate loyalty program called Eagle Society.
- staterooms have no fridge or safe
Pearl Seas Cruises FAQ
What is the difference between Pearl Seas Cruises and American Cruise Lines?
Pearl Seas Cruises is part of the American Cruise Lines family. They call themselves sisters. Pearl Seas Cruises operates only one ship, Pearl Mist, while American Cruise Lines has a dozen and a half ships. American Cruise Lines staff and crew are all US citizens. Pearl Mist crew are from all over the world.
Can I bring snacks on Pearl Seas Cruises?
Yes, you can bring snacks on Pearl Seas Cruises but you really do not have to. Meals are generous and you can order seconds if you want. I must admit I do that too often, especially on lobster nights. The lounges on the second and fourth levels always have snacks—like chips, granola bars, and cookies. If you crave something specific, you can certainly bring it along and keep it in your room.
Can I bring wine onboard Pearl Seas Cruises?
Alcoholic drinks are included in the Pearl Seas Cruises base price so there is no need to bring your own wine, beer, or spirits on board. But if you have a favorite wine or spirit, you can bring your own.
What is included in Pearl Seas Cruises fares?
Pearl Seas Cruises’ per person fare includes passage, dining service, snacks, alcoholic beverages, complimentary cocktail parties, some excursions, and entertainment aboard the ship. Fares do not include some excursions, port charges and fees or gratuities.
How much should I tip on Pearl Seas Cruises?
Suggested gratuity, pooled among all staff, is $125 per person, per week. It is customary to tip tour guides on excursions. Phenomenal and memorable service by crew certainly can be rewarded with an individual tip at your discretion.
What is Pearl Seas Cruises dress code?
The Pearl Seas dress code was comfortable and casual but still elegant and classy. Country club casual was the suggested dress code for dinner. Formal wear is not necessary on Pearl Mist.
Is Smoking Allowed on Pearl Seas Cruises?
No smoking is allowed on Pearl Seas Cruises.
So is Pearl Seas Cruises right for you?
If a relaxed voyage on a small sailing ship with great crew, gourmet food, and stunning views appeals to you, then the answer is yes.
Do you have a Pearl Seas Cruises question that we didn’t answer here, or a tip to share? Please share your questions, feedback, and tips in the comments below.
See also our Tips for Selecting a Cruise.