This was our fifth cruise and our first cruise with Norwegian.
Pros: Ports, Excursions, Ship, the Great Outdoors, hand sanitizers, embarkation and debarkation
Cons: Food, "freestyle cruising", kids program, dining room service, room steward.
Embarkation and Debarkation were all smooth and amazingly quick!
This ship is absolutely beautiful and is easy to navigate. We chose an inside cabin and expected it to be somewhat cramped. However, it was smaller than what I expected. The room size would not have been an issue except that when we left the room, the service almost everywhere lacked. Service in the dining room was slow and the dining room staff seemed lacksadaisical. We rarely were asked for a drink order in the dining room - or anyone else for that matter. The room steward did little except make the beds and I found us short on towels often -- and had to use the pool towels in a pinch. The overall staff seemed to not really care about providing good (or any) service. The only place that I found to have friendly people with good service was in the casino.
Restaurants/Food: We were with friends and found it quite difficult to get reservations for restaurants. In addition, for the three reservation that we did get - we found the extra charge to be not worth it. The food quality was not anything to brag about and the service was poor. We were always ready to go and "escape" before they managed to offer us desert. We found it easier (and less frustrating) to eat at the buffet (which was quite efficient), but did not offer any exceptional food and no service. Our favorite "hang-out" was the Great Outdoors. This was a great place to go to with your drink or food and enjoy the scenery. It really seemed that not very many people knew about this area of the boat!
Excursions: We found our excursions to be wonderful! We did Hike Bike and Kayak in Samana, Zip Lining in Antigua, Beach/surfing (on our own) in Barbados, Virgin Gorda in Tortola, and Catamaran/volcano/and beach in St. Lucia. We did find five days in a row to be exhausting -- but FUN.
The kids program was very limited. On port days (5 days in this case) they had no day programs -- but only a pay service. On the remaining sea days, they took the kids for an hour in the afternoon and a few hours in the evening. We have cruised Carnival before and they have programs every day - and only charge after 10 pm or so.
Overall thoughts: We took this cruise because of the ports and the "spring break" time frame. We could not have asked for a better itinerary. Although there wasn't any specific thing that happened on the Pearl, the nine days of bad service had a cumulative effect of souring my feelings toward Norwegian. I don't think there is any way to have a "bad" cruise. We dealt with Norwegians' shortcomings but I don't plan on paying for another cruise on Norwegian and being disappointed by the food and service when I know there are other cruise lines that are wonderful in those areas. Carnival.... here I come!