Our extended family, a party of 12, took the Christmas week cruise on the Pearl. The ship is awesome to look at and has many fine features. Some are difficult to take advantage of, however. Some highlights and lowlights: We booked an outside cabin and it was quite small. I don't think it was thoroughly cleaned before our occupancy, as we found previous guests' paperwork on the dresser/desk, cigarette lighters, and old candy under the beds. We nicely asked them to re-vacuum, which they did. The cabin smelled like it had smokers in it, so if allowing smokers, they should designate non-smoking cabins. We had the option of booking a balcony room for more money from our travel agent but declined due to having 2 young children with us. The Garden Cafe every morning for breakfast was quite a zoo. My suggestion for NCL would be to have a host/hostess seat your party, and for them to offer beverage service at your table. The lines for water, coffee, milk were really bad! Finding tables was More
tough. The biggest pet peeve is the "Freestyle Dining" needs work--not once did our family get a reservation in the restaurant we wanted at our desired time! I think NCL favors their frequent cruisers and those booking staterooms. We would start calling at 7:30AM 24 hours in advance and they were always booked.
NCL's pool is quite scary for young ones--at its most shallow part, it's 5 feet, and when the ship was moving, the water was well over that. No life guard on duty. I suggest a lifeguard and another pool. One is not enough to serve the whole ship. Guests would "hog" the chairs by putting towels and books down early every morning and you'd see them vacant for quite some time. The bowling alley charged you to play and the Nintendo WII was only open a few hours a day with long wait lists. My massage was fair, but for 50 mins it was $150 with gratuity--pricey for mediocre service. We did 1 excursion, the 7 mile beach break in Grand Cayman. It was disorganized, with not enough busses to transport guests, so we waited about 35 mins for a bus in poor condition to get us there. It cut into our beach time, and those who took taxi's on their own did much better. The resort they took us to was very crowded and offered poor food.
The help on the ship was very pleasant and accommodating. Overall the food was good. The gym was nice, but had a very limited class schedule--7:30A and 8:30A--one of which you had to pay extra for, a Yoga class! Those are the positive aspects. I am a seasoned cruiser (7 cruises) and I would not choose "freestyle" again until a better system is in place for the restaurant reservations! Less