This was our second cruise on the Pearl with children (all teenagers). I love freestyle cruising and don't think I could do anything else again. When we go on vacation with or without kids it is to relax and get away from it all. I personally love being able to eat when I want to and with whom I want to, vs. a set dinner time with complete strangers. Don't get me wrong, I love to meet new people but making small talk on my vacation is not my idea of fun. If you enjoy getting dressed up for dinner each night at 6pm this is not the cruise line for you.
The Pearl is great for families and even though we went during spring break it did not seem to be to be out of control with college kids as I have read on other posts. Lots of activities to keep the kids busy and many nights they preferred to eat in the buffet or Blue Lagoon and we would meet up later for the show.
We found the main dining room service to be good, nothing wrong, just not outstanding service as we experienced last year in Alaska. You cannot go wrong with either the service or food at Cagney's or Teppanyaki's-simply spectacular. The buffet set up is much better on the Jewel. The Pearl buffet area is more enclosed and rather chaotic during busy times. Finding a seat can be a challenge as well but not so much that it wrecked our vacation.
Shore Excursion were great. Cayo Levantado was beautiful and would highly recommend, only thing that needs improvement is the tender process, simply horrible. Had to wait in line for a tender ticket only to have people cut in front of you and then find people who did not wait in line get on the same tender-Would highly recommend NCL get this process figured out-very frustrating.
Overall great ship and staff and plan to cruise to Alaska again in 2012!