OK, so about us: We are experienced cruisers - have been on 5 previous cruises with Carnival, MSC, Royal and Celebrity. We are not brand loyal. Late 20's, early 30's couple.
1st time on Norwegian was great. We will definitely be coming back, we loved the Pearl! Put a deposit down on a future cruise with NCL in fact. Things that stood out to us:
Embarkation took about 25 mins, extremely easy and well organized as was debarkation.
We had an Inside Stateroom, which we usually choose (so we can cruise more often). It was nice. Enjoyed the fact that they had glass doors in showers, much better than those curtains (Carnival) that stick to you. It was very clean and our room steward was great.
This ship was about to go into dry dock, and really it didn't show to us. On a cruise last year, we were in the same situation with a Celebrity ship (Millenium), but that one really seemed to have some wear and tear not to mention people tearing the ship apart during the cruise and apathetic crew. Didn't notice any of those problems on the Pearl.
Crew was extremely smiley and friendly. Really enjoyed all of them. Also, we had a Meet N Greet with other Cruise Critic folks and they did an outstanding job of bringing out their top staff to meet us (including Captain), and gave us a free approx 1 hour tour of the bridge. It was really interesting as we have never done that before. They also sent some little desserts to our room afterwards, so we really appreciated them acknowledging us, I thought they went over and above.
Food: We really thought alot of the main dining rooms. Although service was hit or miss depending on who you got, we never had to wait even a minute to get seated for Anytime dining. We thought food quality was good - I had steak, lobster, gnocci, etc. Wife is basically vegan. This creates issues most everywhere we eat! But, the Maitre D in the Indigo (Jorge) was SO accomodating. He would have the chef whip up something special for her every time with a smile - and kept an eye out for her when she walked in! When Eggplant parmesan was on the menu, he would have them take the eggplant and mix it with other vegetables and have a noodle dish created for her. We really appreciated that. They have a fixed menu in the MDR on one side and then the other side of the menu changes daily. Although she could always eat spaghettic in tomato sauce on the main menu, we did wish that vegetarian, vegan options would be available on the other side of the menu, but Jorge took care of us, so how can you complain? Also, great vegetarian Indian was always upsairs in the buffet.
We tried Lotus Garden, which is a charge restauraunt one night with friends, but we weren't wowed by it (either the food or service) and so we stayed in the MDR the rest of the time, as it was comparable. I did love the buffet in the mornings as it seemed, there were tons of stations where they will make you a self order omelet. On other ships, I would usually bypass this option because I didn't want to wait 30 minutes, but no problems or wait times on the Pearl!
We bought the wine package which was reasonable and the wines were pretty decent, it ended up being $25/bottle when gratuity was included. We went to both Martini tastings on board for $15/person and shared as they were very strong! But, it was great learning how to make different drinks and try them out, you get to sample 5 different martini's.
Thought the entertainment was great. Loved the comedy they had on board, as well as some of the singing (Oh What a Night), and various acts. I thought the entertainment was better than other ships we've been on, but did find it odd that this was the 1st ship where we didn't really see their 'own' productions - ie NCL dancers and singers as everything seemed to be farmed out to professionals. But, whatever, it was still really good - I wasn't too impressed with 1 act, but 6 of 7 isn't bad!
OK, my wife love Karaoke and she was disappointed that they didn't have a great playlist. Room for improvement there, but the staff said that this will be upgraded during the dry dock.
Loved the freestyle concept and not having to dress up unless you want to and eat when you want. Really enjoyed the new people/couples we met on the ship and the crew. This was our first time having a tender, and tendering twice in one cruise (Grand Cayman and private island) is probably too much for me, but it was well organized. Also, little touches that NCL does that others haven't -having cold towels and water ready for you when coming back from port on a hot day was great, as was having a party in cozumel dancing and playing music when you come back to the ship was a nice touch.
In short, NCL made us feel special and we had a great trip and great memories. Pearl is a great ship with a great crew and we are sure we will be seen on another NCL cruise again soon! Thanks again!