I'm always confused when I read a negative review because, for us, we feel very priviledged to have any type of holiday -especially a cruise. We go with a positive attitude and fully appreciate all that we have the blessing to experience.
I spend many hours planning and anticipating our cruise reading dozens of reviews so I do feel obligated to offer our experience for others.
We flew into Fort Lauderdale the day before which is always a good plan and enjoyed the afternoon at Hollywood Beach along the broadwalk. We had rented a car at the airport, drove to the Beach, to Hotel and then the next day back to the airport to catch shuttle (SAS) to POM. Stayed at the Sheraton in Plantation b/c we got a really inexpensive rate. It wasn't far at all from beach or airport and the hotel was quite nice. Enjoyed dinner at the Olive Garden just down the road.
Embarkation - Always easy and quick. We were on Board by noon enjoying lunch at the Summer Palace. After a brief walk about the ship, our rooms were ready as promised at 2pm. The Pearl is very clean, beautiful and easy to get around. All week, the staff and service was excellent....whereever and whenever...
Cabins - We had a mini suite with balcony mid ship on deck 11 - great! My Mom and cousin had an inside cabin right across from ours and that worked quite well. We all enjoyed the balcony for sun sets most evenings and watching 'sail aways' and docking.
Dining - The Garden Buffet was very good - lots of variety. We ate there two dinners, a couple of lunch's and all Breakfasts. We loved breakfast and enjoyed sitting outside at the Outdoor Cafe. The Grill by the pool was also enjoyable for snacks anytime. We enjoyed a lobster dinner at the Summer Palace one evening but preferred the Indigo as it was smaller and quieter. The waitresses and waiters there were exceptional. We also ate a couple of times at the Blue Lagoon. The wings were the best! We didn't feel the need to pay a surcharge to eat at the other restaurants.
Entertainment - We went to the Stardust every night for the shows and they were excellent... especially SharkBait & Oh What a Night. We also really enjoyed Second City and saw them a second time in the Stardust. There is so much to do and so many choices around the Ship - something for everyone. Also enjoyed listening to Jana ( acoustic guitar) and the piano player.
Ports of Call -
Roatan -We were excited to go back to Roatan and did an NCL excursion to Gumbalimba Park & Tabyana Beach. Walking around Gumbalimba was relaxing and fun to play with the monkey's there. A good lunch was provided at Tabyana Beach. It was relaxing and not crowded. I brought my own snorkeling eqipment and found some very good snorkeling right from the Beach. We could choose to take a van back to the Ship anytime during the afteroon. Good value for cost. The Port area has a new small shopping area and location for tour operators and their van/buses to pick up guests.
Belize City - Again, we chose an NCL excursion 'shark ray alley'. It was very neat to snorkel on the Reef and with the manta rays. Good lunch at the 'Crazy Canucks' and pleasant stroll along beach and town of San Pedro. The boat that we went on was the dissapointing part as it was over crowded and not comfortable for the hour long ride. Not a great value for the cost.
Costa Maya - This had to be our favourite port of call. We had booked ahead with Tropicante Bar and Steve had four lounge chairs and umbrella's ready for us at the water's edge. Mulahul is a short shuttle ride from the Port area. There are many people trying to get you to their place and to buy/ check out what they have for sale. Sharpen your bargaining skills if you plan to shop. Food was excellent at Tropicante, drinks inexpensive and the service great. I went out snorkeling with just one other person with one of the locals and he personally guided us through an interesting area. Hubby had a massage on the beach $20/hour. Good time for everyone. It's a $2 taxi back to the Port.
Key West - We walked to the Southern Most point and checked out Duval St. There's lots to do here if you choose and many did the train tours. Great key lime pie at the 'pie outlet'. Lots of shopping, but since we're not shoppers we preferred going to NCL's Island - Stirrup Cay on the last day as we did on the last cruises for a relaxing beach day..... maybe next time. Key West may be better visited on it's own rather than a port of call. The problem with Key West is you have to go through a long process to meet immigration officials. But now we can say we were there as so many people talk about it.
Disembarking - We were surprised at the long line and time this took...different from other two cruises where we just easily walked off. I think everyone was trying to stay as long as possible and then all getting off around the same time?
Overall - We would recommend NCL and the Pearl and can't wait until our next Cruise. I love going to different ports and only unpacking once!