The Pearl (and her staff) was Awesome (Mar 18th to 25th)
The ship and crew- We took the seven day cruise out of Miami to Western Caribbean and loved it. The ship was very festive, clean and up to date which made for a perfect week. Our mini suite was very comfortable with a great view and a nice size balcony. The Pearl's crew was awarded best staff of the fleet and we could see why. We were in good hands with Captain Rune Myre, he was just chosen to speak to the U.S. Congress representing the entire cruise industry. Cruise director Julie (really her name) were great and her staff was everywhere with a kind word and friendly face. They made it about you, we will never forget the welcome back party in Cozumel! Our cabin steward Michael always had a friendly word and every request was met with a smile.
The food -- NCL has made an effort to upgrade the Freestyle dining. They added a destination themed Chef's special, I really enjoyed the Jamaican flavored pork chop. We ate in the main dining rooms (Summer Palace and Indigo) several nights and just happened to get a window table for two every night. We enjoyed great food and even better service. We tried two specialty restaurants and they may have had a little better food, but sadly our service was actually worse. We had breakfast in Garden Cafe on excursion days and a sit down breakfast in the Summer Palace on sea days, they were both good. The Chocoholic Buffet is always fun on the final evening of the cruise. Lunch was had all over the ship and always plenty good. I greatly enjoyed the Bavarian themed meal in the back of the ship our last sea day.
The entertainment - Oh What a Night and comedy juggler Charles Peachock received standing ovations. Comedian Darrell Joyce had the crowd roaring. Second City improv was pretty much the same as last time. The Pearl Production Cast's That's Entertainment and Encore are high energy singing and dancing. The final Farewell Variety Show was very, very good; it was a great celebration and send off. The two days at sea were filled with activities, but we mostly relaxed on the decks.
The excursions -- Great Stirrup Cay: NCL changed the way you board the tenders and it's much better. So much has been added to the private island since our last visit, it was fun to explore. We did the Eco-tour and really enjoyed it. Jamaica: We had booked an excursion with NCL, Jamaican Bobsled and Dunn's River Falls. The bobsled was fun and Dunn's River Falls is beautiful (but challenging). I heard so much about going through all the local vendor shops and being harassed, but we just said no thank you and kept moving. Cayman Islands: I had always wanted to visit the famous 7 mile beach and the Tiki Beach break was a perfect way to do that. It is truly beautiful, but not very swimmer friendly. Cozumel: We took a taxi to Chankanaab National Park. I snorkeled and my wife enjoyed the beautiful sandy beach, we definitely would recommend.
Disembarkation - We chose to walk off with our luggage at 10:00 and it was easy.
Cruise Critic Meet and Greet: NCL really did a nice job of hosting in Cagney's; furnishing complimentary beverages and pastries. We were surprised when cruise director Julie showed up with 11 department heads. And after they leave, who shows up but Kevin Sheehan the president of NCL!! He spent about 10 minutes talking with our small group and then had his picture taken with us. What a nice, down to earth guy who is obviously very passionate about NCL. It was truly a pleasure. Thanks to Mitzgurly for setting it up.