My Hubby, and I (previously sailed on the NL Dawn, and an RCI ship) took my 70 year old Mother in law on her first cruise, and our first vacation together. We had experienced a little stress the preceding 2 weeks, first with Hurricane Sandy, and then my husband being in the hospital, and actually canceled our original cruise on Nov 4th and re booked a week later on the Nov 11th sailing. We visited GSC, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel.
Arrived Miami via Delta from NY on Sat afternoon, and stayed at the JW Marquise; we got a really good rate via AAA, and an upgrade via Marriott Rewards to a fantastic Bay View corner room. This hotel is absolutely fantastic, and we would not hesitate to stay here again! We had 2 rooms one for myself, and my husband, and one for my Mother Inlaw. Spent the afternoon at the Bayside Market place, and had dinner back at the hotel.
Arrived at the pier at 12:30pm, there was already a line around the outside of the building, but it moved really fast & NCL seemed really organized. After completing our health questionare, and going through check in we were on the ship by 1:00pm.
As we boarded in the Deck 7 Atrium we parked the parental and visited the shore excursion desk to book clamshells for Great Stirrup Cay. And the restaurant reservations desk to book dinner later in the week at Le Bistro, & Cagney's. We then went up to the pool deck where we enjoyed lunch before going to our room at 2:00pm.
Mini Suite 11122:
We decided to share a room with the parental, and booked a Mini Suite for the extra space. The room worked out well in terms of size, storage, and sleeping arrangements. My inlaw had the fold out sofa, and my hubby and me had the bed. There is a curtain that divides the bed area from the sitting area which was great for privacy. When we arrived the room smelt like someone had been smoking, we immediately called guest services and they sent our room steward over to freshen up the room and clean the carpet. This was the only problem we had with the room, and it was addressed and fixed very promptly by NCL. This cabin was in a great location, right across from the aft stairs/elevators we had easy access to the buffet, and pool. We heard absolutely no noise either from above or from the stairwell/elevator bank.
The Pearl is a really nice ship with a great layout; the ship was full but never felt crowded, and we never experienced lines or long waits for anything. The only oddity was the Atrium, which is a little different to the Dawn, and RCI ships we have been on. In that the atrium is only one level, and there are no glass elevators. This was not an issue just something we noticed. Our favorite spot on the ship was the Great Outdoors, this is an outdoor buffet area at the very back of the ship. As it was only one deck up from our cabin we could easily walk up the stairs and be right at the Great Outdoors for breakfast within 1 min. It was never crowded, as I don't think a lot of people knew it was there. We had breakfast here everyday, and lunch on sea days.
We thought that the food on the Pearl is the best we have experienced on a cruise ship. My Mother Inlaws favorite spot was the Buffet. We found it to be good quality, with a good range of selections for each meal but my hubby and I got tired of it pretty quick...We did like the Pool BBQ's where they grilled steak, hot dogs and corn out by the Pool.
As well as the Buffet we ate at Le Bistro, Cagneys, Blue Lagoon, and Summer Palace. We tried to get into Indigo but the wait for 3 people was always 45 mins no matter what time you went.
Le Bistro: I love French food, and the food at Le Bistro was probably the best on the ship. I had fantastic Escargot, and Duck. The only negative is the location of Le Bistro really detracts from the restaurant ambiance. Its right in the middle of Bar Central, where all the noise from the bar areas. The ambiance in Le Bistro on the Dawn was much nicer.
Cagneys: All the staff on the ship were excellent, and friendly but the service in Cagneys exceeded the service experienced anywhere else on the ship. I had the Fillet Mignon, and my hubby the NY Strip. Having easy access to NY steak houses the food was good but nothing to write home about! However I don't know anywhere else you can get a multi course, steak dinner for only $25pp. It was definitely good value.
Summer Palace: We ate here once to get a break from the Buffet (the only place the inlaw wanted to eat) I actually had one of the best meals on the ship here, the Lamb Shank was superb. However the service was the worst we experienced on the entire ship.
We all purchased Spa passes for the week, which gave us access to the Spa Thermal suite. I liked the Spa, and fitness area on the Dawn better but the Pearl was still nice, and defiantly worth it. We used the Spa on Sea Days, and when we got back to the ship early a few times. I got my nails done, and my Mother InLaw her hair at the Spa. The service was fine but a little pricy.
We gave Bowling a try, and played Air Hockey in the Bliss Lounge which was fun. We took the parental to all the shows, we liked the Pearl Players, and the comic Bud Dearborn but the magician was lame. Overall the quality was good. We also caught the not so newlywed game, this was not done as well as on RCI but was mildly entertaining. We went to the Casino only once as the smoke was to much for us and won $100 on Roulette. There seemed to be plenty to do on the Pearl, and we were never board.
We had 12:00pm flights so got up early, had breakfast and carried our own bags off as we were worried about making our flight. We had heard that it can take an hour to get off and go through immigration; In hindsight we did not need to rush so much, we were off the ship and through customs/immigration in 5 mins and at the airport by 9:00am. We could not get on an earlier flight to had to sit around the airport for 3 hours.