We took a family 1 week Eastern Catribbean trip on the Pearl leaving Miami on 1/29/10. If you're looking for a cruise is excessive drinking and smoking, this is the ship for you. This was our first and probably last time on an NCL ship and we saw more smoking (in non smoking areas like next to the children's slide) and more excessive drinking (alcohol is continually being pushed 24 hrs a day) than on any of our previous dozen cruises.
Free style cruising, despite NCL's marketing, means horrific dining room food, long waits for a table, staff that has trouble with English, food that is served piecemeal if at all, extremely limited menus, and dining with people in shorts, tshirts and baseball caps (despite NCL's dress code). The buffet had a great variety of items, but was also of very low quality. Eggs and omelets in the morning were great but took three times longer to get than other ships. Guest services were unable to resolve any issues that arose and tried to defer all problems to individual departments. Room service sometimes took well over an hour to arrive. The seating in the main theater was the most uncomfortable we've seen, and the sound system the worst we've heard. Everything was broadcast at twice the normal volume. TV movie selection was poor, and the on board musicians uninspired.
Three of the four ports required tendering, which after the the first disorganized one, atleas became better controlled. The ship had many positives, but not enough to offset all the negatives. The rooms had great storage, and the beds were the most comfortable we've seen. The room stewards were great and very accomodating. The kids club staff was A1. The elevators were fast and roomy. The showers were great (but had poor quality pump soap and shampoo) with good pressure, temperature control and were especially roomy. The bathroom had an exhaust fan that prevented the mirrors from fogging up and the sink actually had cold water as well as hot. The room doors opened easily, unlike the heavy doors on many other ships. The entertainment was first rate, among the best we've seen. The Second City Revue, the comedian, and the cirque de soleil take off were among the best acts anywhere. The speciality restaurants were fantastic (9 or 10 rating) and better than those on most other lines. This was despite the extremely poor quality of the free dining rooms and the buffet. None of these positives, however, offset the number of drunks staggering around the ship and the way too excessive pushing of booze by the staff. NCL - find some other way to increase your profits.