This is my 3rd cruise on NCL - the previous 2 were on the Dawn and Jewel. My husband and I (both in our early 30's) booked this cruise as a last minute vacation. Silly us, we thought the fact that it left on Easter would mean the end of the Spring Break crowd...
We flew into Fort Lauderdale a couple of days in advance of the April 8th departure. We decided to go back to the airport on the 8th to get NCL's transfers down to Miami for $20/pp. This was fair considering a "shared" van service would have cost us just as much but, this way we did not have to deal with our luggage when we arrived at the port.
Since we arrived at 1:30 and boarding did not begin until 2, we had a short 30 minute wait. However, the terminal was air conditioned and NCL put out cookies, juice and water. As soon as it was 2pm, the doors opened and we were in our cabin within minutes.
We booked a category H cabin guarantee (the lowest outside cabin) and were upgraded to an G obstructed cabin on the 8th deck. Many people complain that they cannot see outside in these cabins but we must have been lucky since we had two windows with a clear view between the lifeboats to the beautiful Caribbean Sea. Overall, the cabin was very nice and kept clean. The bedding was very comfortable. The cabin had a coffee maker, safe, flat screen tv, a small desk, and a hair dryer. There was plenty of storage space for the two of us and our suitcases fit underneath the bed so they were not in our way. The cabins on the Pearl are basically identical to those on the Dawn and Jewel.
Our only complaint of the entire cruise was the noise on the first night. Our original cabin was located by the elevator/stairwell. I am certain that this would not be a problem except on Spring Break cruises. There were so many drunk teens/college age people shouting in the hallway and by the elevator outside our cabin at 1am that we had to call the front desk. My husband waited for security but they never came. We called again at 1:30 and again, nothing happened. Finally, at 2:15am, I got out of bed and went into the hallway and yelled at them to go away. The funny thing is - their (drunk) parents came yelling down the hall looking for them. First thing in the morning, I went to the front desk and told them about the situation. They apologized over and over and said that the cruise was sold out and that they did not know if they would be able to move us. Thankfully, Jenny, the front office manager, did some kind of magic and moved us further down the hall. After that - we slept like babies and did not hear a peep from anyone!
We found plenty of lounge chairs available by the pool the first and last days at sea. There were also plenty of activities while on board during these days to keep one occupied. The fitness room is very nice and has plenty of new cardio equipment as well as some weight machines.
Cozumel - we decided to walk into town instead of taking a shore excursion. We did some shopping and then headed back on board to a quiet ship.
Belize City - we took the Xunantunich: The Castle shore excursion. The tender boats we rode out and back were very fast and got us to shore in about 15 minutes. While there were few windows on the boat coming back to the ship, the windows they did have were all open and there was a nice breeze coming in when we were moving. Let me begin by saying this - this tour was great. We really got to see the Belize countryside as well as learn about its history from our tourguide. The ruins themselves were fantastic - some of the best I have ever seen. Lunch at a local hotel was also included in the price of the excursion. I read one review that said people complained about the bus not being air conditioned. I am uncertain if they were referring to our tour or another Mayan ruin tour. NCL made it very clear that this tour is a 2 hour bus ride in each direction to the ruins. There were a group of people on our tour who complained quite loudly from about 20 minutes into the tour that it was too long and too hot. Belize is in a tropical climate - of course it is going to be hot. It was 96 degrees and 99% humidity the day we were there. Their group complained about everything from how they wanted to go back to the ship to get a beer to they could not believe that people live the way they do in Belize to the fact that our bus was too old and the air conditioning was not cold enough for them. They really ruined a great excursion for many people.
The restaurants - fantastic as always! We ate dinner in the Summer Palace two evenings and the food was wonderful. My husband loved the desserts there so we went back late each evening after the shows to get dessert and each one was great. We also ate at Mambos Tex/Mex and the service and food were excellent! La Cucina was equally good. We made reservations for the latter two a day ahead and had no trouble at all getting the time we requested. We ate breakfast each day in Summer Palace and the service was phenomenal although a couple of days it was quite slow. I am not much of a breakfast person but my husband is and he said everything he ordered was wonderful. A must try is the waffles with banana compote and cream! Blue Lagoon was our daily choice for lunch. Service was somewhat slow but the fast-food fare was very good.
Entertainment - the Jean Ann Ryan shows were good but personally, I did not think they were quite as good as the ones on the Jewel. Second City was very amusing and entertaining. The magician was also quite good.
Disembarkation - we chose the "express" option and stayed on board until 10am. It was much nicer to eat at our own leisure and pack up in the morning than to wake up at 6am and rush off of the ship.
Overall - great trip, great ship but we would never cruise over Spring Break again.