I am a Gold Latitudes Member and really love a lot of what NCL has to offer: great service, Freestyle Cruising, nice cabins, fantastic entertainment,etc.
My husband and I cruised out of Los Angeles to Vancouver on the April 29, 2012 sailing of the Pearl. We were extremely pleased with our balcony mini-suite stateroom and the overall layout of the ship. We sailed previously on the NCL Epic which we majorly disliked due to the fact that it doesn't feel like a ship. The Pearl has an old-time ship feel to it, and we liked that you can walk around the entire ship. (The Epic doesn't have this and feels like a Las Vegas carnival) The ship needs updating, the artwork is not up to NCL standards, but this was minor for us.
What doesn't make sense is the poor quality and presentation of the food. It is almost like no one has given thought to the menus and doesn't care about how the food is presented. We were appalled that the afternoon "snack" in the back of the ship was macaroni and cheese, potato salad, and some bready sandwich. Much of the food doesn't taste fresh. The service is lovely and accommodating, but the wait staff should not be blamed for the food.
The entertainment on this cruise was superb, especially the Tribute singers for Frankie Valli. We bought the extra spa package that allowed us use of the indoor pool and Jacuzzis, this was a real plus. However, it is true that on NCL you have to pay for everything extra, and this package was $119.00 per person.
In summary, it is possible to have a wonderful time on NCL if you do not care about food as much as the service, prots, entertainment, and relaxed atmosphere of this type of vacation.