Just got back from a 5 night cruise on the NCL Pearl - the cruise exceeded all expectations. Airport - we flew into Ft. Lauderdale the morning of the cruise. We arranged prior for a shuttle to take us to Miami - after getting our luggage, we learned that the shuttle had just left for Miami. However, this wasn't a problem, as the next shuttle came about 20 minutes later. We arrived in Miami with no problems. There was a short line that moved quickly, and before we knew it we were on the Pearl. Restaurants - the food was excellent. We ate at the main dining halls (Summer Palace & Indigo Room) several times. I really enjoyed the Indigo room - beautifully decorated, smaller & quieter. Each course was presented beautifully on the plate, and was always delicious. Out of the specialty restaurants, we tried La Cucina & Mambos - both were very good. While the menus change, La Cucina consistently has a 'make your own' pasta dish where you choose the pasta & sauce. Blue Lagoon is opened 24 hours a day and has delicious greasy fun foods - chicken wings, cheese fries, etc. The Garden Cafe Buffet also excellent and has many many choices. The staff was always extremely gracious - service was always fantastic. Shore Excursions: Cozumel - we chose to do the deluxe beach break at Playa Mia. I wasn't sure if that was the best idea after reading reviews, but it turned out to be wonderful. I had read that it tends to be extremely crowded, however that was not the case, and many many beach chairs were not even used. We had open bar all day, and the margaritas were fantastic. The buffet was good - clean & many choices - not the best food, but it was fine. I was slightly disappointed with the actual beach itself - the sand in the ocean was extremely!! rocky - very hard to walk around in it. The water was also very rough when we were there - we took out the kayaks, but it was impossible to stay in the roped area as the tide kept strongly taking us beyond the ropes. We took the kayak back, and that was the last time we used the boats that day. All in all, the staff was great and had activities such as volleyball and water balloon contests - fun day for all. Grand Cayman - we didn't dock here, but instead tendered. If you're not doing an excursion, you get a tender number and time to leave the boat - apparently that was slightly a disaster. Because we had booked an excursion, we met in a room with everyone else on the boat, and then got to leave the boat right away with no line - definitely a perk!! We did the "Rays & Reefs" excursion which we loved. The boat was run by two brothers originally from New York (where we're from) and were great - first we went to Sting Ray city. This is a sandbar with about 3-4 feet of water and you are surrounded by enormous stingrays. Slightly terrifying at first, but then you get used to it. They take pictures of you holding and kissing (7 years good luck!!) the sting ray and then give you option of buying the pictures. We bought a picture (although definitely a rip off ---- 20 dollars for one picture given to you on a CD - but we decided to just buy it anyway because we saw on their laptop it had come out great - and just in case it didn't come out as great on our water camera...). We then got back on the boat and went out to the reef for snorkeling - they gave us about an hour to snorkel, and the reefs and fish were beautiful!! Great excursion!!!! They then brought us back ---- we decided to get food and ate at a restaurant called HammerHeads - its about a block down from where the touristy shopping area is and where you get on the boat to get back to the ship - not many tourists eating there, mostly locals (we decided to go there after speaking to the guys who owned the boat). Great choice - right on the water - great food, great drinks. Price was about 1.00CaymanIsland = 1.50US. Disembarkation - we chose express walkoff and it was a great decision. Express walkoff means you keep your luggage with you (instead of turning it in the night before). You can then walk off the boat anywhere from 7:15-10am. We walked off around 8:45 - no line to walk off, we just went right off the boat to go through customs - lines moved quickly and waited only about 5 minutes. We then walked outside, and the shuttle we had previously paid for was waiting right there - we handed them the voucher, walked on the bus - and was at Ft. Lauderdale airport before we knew it.
All in all, amazing amazing first time on NCL - will definitely cruise with them again!!