LOVED LOVED LOVED the Pearl!!! We sailed 9/22/13. Cruising in our party was my Grandmother (75), my son (11), my husband (35) an myself (33).
There were only a few negatives...
1. Dinner in any of the sit down restaurants took a little too long for our liking. It took about 90 mins to eat in these restaurants. WHich is fine if you like that sort of thing, but we felt like we were missing other fun things.
2. Inside Rooms are a little small but livable.
I think that's it for negatives.
Embarkation: Was easy breezy!! We were in line at noon, on the ship by 2 and our cabin was already ready for us. The line was a little long at check-in but kind of expected it.
Rooms: We had a mini suite and an inside room. The inside room is really only comfortable for about 2 people. While we fit our son in there also, it was kind of tight. THe mini suite that my grandmother was in was fabulous!!! Plenty of room for 4 people. We were located Forward Port and only felt movement while there was a storm.
Kids Club: My son was just on the border of it being too young for him, but he still had a blast. He was old enough that he could sign himself in and out and loved that freedom.
Restaurants: We ate mostly at the Garden Buffet, they had a good selection, and it was quick. The only complaint was sometimes it was hard to get a seat.
We also ate at the Great Outdoors, which is really just an extension of the Garden Buffet, but still good. It would probably be my #1 choice if I were on a Caribbean cruise.
We loved the Blue Lagoon, just wish we would have found it earlier in the cruise.
We ate at 2 specialty restaurants: 1. the Brazilian Steakhouse, which was really good. 2. Cagney's not worth the money in my opinion. The specialty restaurants seemed to fill up during the first half of the trip. They were wide open during the second half with the exception of the Japanese steak house which was full the entire trip, so if you want to eat there make reservations as soon as you can.
Entertainment: There was sooooo much to do on this cruise. We did a lot of trivia. I LOVED the Wine tasting...so worth it even if you don't like wine. My husband did the beer tasting and was disappointed in the selection of beer but liked that he got to meet people. He said it was all fairly common beers nothing really interesting. We loved the Second City performances. We liked all of the shows in the Stardust. The murder mystery was okay, I could have done without doing it.
Spa: Very nice!! A little over-priced but still nice. I paid $90 for a 50 min massage and that was the "at port" price. The regular price was like $130ish??
Pools: We couldn't really use the pools, it was too cold. Hot tubs are very nice, but weren't used as much as I thought they'd be. I think the pool area would be amazing on a Caribbean cruise.
Bars: All nice, our favs were Bar City, Spinnaker, and Bliss Lounge.
Don't miss the Bridge viewing room, the game room and the library...all very cute little areas!
Disembarkation: Even easier then embarking. We carried our luggage off because we were trying to make our very tight flight time of 11:40! We were late getting in because of a storm and we were still off the boat and to the airport in Vancouver by 9:30am. There were all kinds of transportation options right outside of the boat: limos, taxis and buses.
For those of you who are curious about packing for Alaska, as I had a hard time with this. I over packed so much it isn't even funny. We brought 50 pounds of clean clothes HOME with us, lol. This is not including my grandmother's packing. We packed 3 suit cases and came home with one clean. Even though the Pearl doesn't have self service laundry, their laundry services were priced very reasonably. I should have planned on using this service and saving money and energy on luggage. I ended up dressing up 3 nights, but the rest of the nights for dinner we wore jeans and changed into a fresh dressier shirt than what we wore during the day. The first day they have a "pressing" special, half priced pressing. We jumped on this, it was so nice to have all of our dressy stuff professionally pressed for only $12.00!!! We missed the fill the laundry bag for $24, but we still put in some garments to be washed mid-way through the cruise and everything came back perfect...no shrinkage. So, the point is DON'T OVER PACK!!!
Lastly, I will briefly talk about ports. Even though I enjoyed the cruise I knew going in that I am a beach person and I would not LOVE Alaska.
Juneau: The sail into the river/channel that Juneau is located in is probably the most beautiful part of the entire trip, make sure you get outside for this. It is the most peaceful place I have ever been! This city is kind of dirty! The shops were mostly jewelry shops and OVERPRICED! There was a cute little soap shop that was nice. We originally signed up for the Mendenahl excursion through NCL. However, I read someone else's review right before we left and canceled it. Instead of paying the $200 for the 4 of us to go to Medenhal, we reserved a renal car through AVIS, and drove the short 20 min 2 road drive ourselves. The car was $50, and the entrance cost to Mendenhal was $3.00. You don't even have to pay the $3.00, as this is just the price to go inside the Visitor center. We had the rest of the afternoon to use the car to shop or we could have went to the Salmon Hatchery or the Tram for just a few dollars. Avis picked us up from the ship and dropped us back off....PERFECT!!!!!
Skagway: We did the train ride through NCL. It was really nice!!!
Glacier Bay: BEAUTIFUL!!!! During the 2ish hours that we were circling in Glacier Bay the upper outside decks fill up FAST. It's hard to get any good pics and also hard to hear the "white thunder". This is where our balcony room came in handy the most!!! Deck 7 would be a good back up place to go if you don't have a balcony.
Ketchikan: We didn't have anything planned here. But it was a cute little town. Very clean, it is what I expected the other cities to look like.
Victoria: We did the horse and carriage ride , well worth the money!
I can't even begin to imagine how ships can get any better! This ship was large and majestic! Beautifully decorated. A good smooth layout, not choppy like the Carnival Paradise. There is so much more to do than I even mentioned above. The only reason I wouldn't go on the Pearl again is because I did her Carribean itinerary through Carnival and I obviously did her Alaskan run already. I would LOVE to do her sister ships itinerary through Europe soon!!!
Obviously there is always going to be something you'd change or do differently. No matter where you go on vacation or how you get there, you will have some negative things to say. But I don't know how anyone would give this ship an overall bad report. It was as perfect as it could possibly be!!!!!