Previously I have sailed DCL 4 times and I did a Carnival cruise without kids. Embarkation wasn't a problem. It was hectic, like usual, but it only took about 20 minutes. The first impression was EXCELLENT. This is a beautiful ship from top to bottom. There are nooks and crannies all over the ship to curl up on loungers and watch the seas. The colors are bright, but somehow still classy. I LOVED the look of this ship.
The shows were good. I saw the Second City improv team, and they were fun. The jugglers were a riot. The Jamaican band on the pool deck were gracious enough to let my kids come up and play. I have 2 daughters, and they are in a band with my two nephews that were traveling with us. Watching my kids play through that awesome sound system and get hundreds of people on their feet dancing was an AMAZING experience that I will never ever forget!!! They felt like little celebrities for the rest of cruise because everybody told them that they did a great job. They call themselves Monkeyjuice and people remembered! They were beaming!
The staff was wonderful, except for one nasty woman in the finance department. There was a small snaffoo with my bill and it should have been an easy correction, but this woman was actually raising her voice trying to explain something that was clearly incorrect. It was resolved though. The wait staff was so attentive and everybody was great.
The only disappointment I have with Pearl is the food. I read negative food reviews about Pearl but disregarded them since food is so subjective. But after being spoiled by Disney and even Carnival's budget ship, NCL is lacking. I traveled with a party of 11 and we all agreed. In fact, the other passengers on the ship that I spoke with agreed as well. If this is your fist cruise experience, you may not notice, but in comparison, they failed miserably. On Disney they make such a major production out of the dinners. The desserts were so incredible that I could never pick just one. On Pearl I could only find 1 single dessert that I even liked. It was the crepes at the buffet. All of the others were little gelatin and cream type desserts that all tasted the same. I ate at Cagney's on the first night and it was the best dinner for me. But not over the top. The buffet wasn't that good. They had a lot of choices, but everything was bland and luke warm. The Asian restaurant was good, not great. The Italian restaurant was the best "free" restaurant. Summer Palace (main dining) had cheap cuts of meat, and it wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. Just so-so. Which was a let down. Even the chocolate buffet was disappointing. I thought it would be in the main dining room with ice sculptures and chocolate fountains. I was snapping pictures left and right on Disney's. In fact, there were waiters in tuxedos waiting to carry your plates to the table and offer coffee. Pearl had it in the buffet area and it was just rows of cakes that you grabbed. No big deal. The pool was freezing cold. And we sailed on hot days. They really should heat that! The gym is too small, so get there early if you want a machine!
We had two cabins, an inside and a mini-suite. The inside was TINY. I mean SMALL! Amd there was very poor lighting. Take an alarm clock with you. There is no clock in the room, and in an inside cabin, there is no way of telling the time unless you look on the telephone and remember to do math because it's in military time. But we made it work. My son loved the upper bunk. The mini-suite was beautiful, well designed and very comfy.
All in all, I really liked the ships activities. The bigger than life TV in the main atrium was great for Monday night football and Wii. There was plenty to do. The price of Pearl is so affordable. I would do it again, but next time I would budget the pay restaurants and hope for better food. I think I'm going to try RCCL next.