We had an exceptionally great experience on the Norwegian Pearl. We sailed roundtrip from Seattle to Alaska.
We originally chose the Pearl based on the itinerary and the fact that it is the newest ship to sail to Alaska of any cruiseline (though there are some recently reburbished ships from other lines). I will acknowledge that we were hesitant to book NCL after reading several negative reviews from several internet souces on NCL and the Pearl itself. However we kept coming back to the Pearl because of its itinerary which includes Glacier Bay National Park and that there were not as many "sea" days as other cruise lines.
Let me start off by saying that the ship itself is truly a beautiful ship that is clean, fresh and very colorful (but not tacky). I would consider it a modern-style elegance. The ship crew were constantly cleaning railings, banisters and
walls. There was great pride amongst the staff to keep the ship clean. We did notice some wear and tear issues but nothing to indicate the ship was in need of a refurbishment. While we were on board the crew was replacing a bench seating in buffet and painting railings that were chipped which is a sign that the cruiseline is aware of wear and tear issues and repairs them as needed. Some carpet on the stairs and many hallways was in need of some replacement but based on our observation of what appeared to be recently replaced (or at least shampooed carpet) it other areas, we were comfortbable knowing that they weren't letting the ship run downhill.
Other pro's included the wonderful dining. We did not go to any specialty restaurants. We ate mostly in the buffet or at Summer Palace. We ate once at Indigo. The service was exceptional and beyond what we could have asked at the restaurants (with the exception of non-attentive wait staff at Indigo). The food was great and far better than our experience on a Royal Caribbean cruise last year. The theater is also a big plus on this ship. It is proabably one of the most beautiful and large theaters on most cruise ships today.
The main con of this sailing for us was the entertainment. We had read other reviews of how poor the Pearl Production Cast was. We went objectively thinking others may have been too harsh. However, we soon found out that the Pearl needs to get rid of their own production cast and either revamp it with a new cast or contract some other acts in. Their singing was not the greatest and we felt like they were trying to prove themselves on stage that they were the best (almost as if we were watching American Idol). What disgusted us the most is that almost every song (regardless of genre) they had to turn into some risque dance with the female dancers acting as if they were strippers. Songs with no innuendos still for some reason made the singers and dancers think we came to see them with barely no clothes on shaking their chests all the time! On a positive note, we did see "Oh What a Night" which is by far the top production on the ship (not suprising that it isn't produced or directed by the ship entertainment director). Our other concern was the though the buffet was good, it was far too congested and would have preferred a more open-air buffet feeling.
Now that we've settled down after the cruise I can understand why some traditional cruisers may not be happy with NCL. First, the main gathering area is not a grand centrum with glass elevators like you would find on many other cruises. It's a nice two story lobby area. It's beautiful, but rather small and doesn't present itself as an elegant open area for the cruise ship or make one think you are on a "grand" ship. The other issue is the freestyle dining. We enjoyed the fact that you didnt' have to dress up and you could go to eat whenever you wanted and that there were several 2 person tables. For those that like to have the same seat, same waiter, same time, then this cruise is not for you. On our first dining experience we overheard at least two tables grumbling and confused with the waiters regarding the dining procedures. This was not a issue for us and we actually liked experiencing the different wait staff.
Overall the cruise was fantastic. The weather was great (though the cruiseline can neither be faulted nor applauded for weather!). What made this cruise stand out was the friendliness of the staff and the very clean ship. We would definitely cruise with NCL and the Pearl again.