Our second cruise on the Pearl was equally as rewarding as the first.
Travel to Port & Embarkation
We had stayed the night before in South Beach, so the cab-ride was maybe 20 minutes and cost around $20 to the port. Embarkation was easy as well, with perhaps a thirty-minute wait on line followed by efficient security and check-in.
We were on an aft-facing mini-suite on Deck Eleven, 11152. (This particular cabin is apparently 10 square feet smaller than most mini-suites; we did not feel squeezed for space, but when booking the next time, I'd try for the standard size). The mini-suite layout works well for us (two adults), with a generous bathroom (full size tub/shower), excellent storage, and an additional seating area. Because the seating area can be curtained off, it's great if one cabin-mate wants to stay up late or rise early -- it's possible to read or watch the small TV without disturbing the other person. We loved the aft location and will always book it in the future if possible. We never heard anything from the Great Outdoors Cafe above us on Deck Twelve. People looking down from the Great Outdoors cannot see the Deck Eleven balconies at all, and just a bit of the Deck Ten and Deck Nine balconies, so there's plenty of privacy. Did I mention the queen-size bed is extremely comfortable?
With 2400 passengers and over 1000 crew members, of course the ship is large, but we never felt part of a crowd. Three staircases, aft, mid-ship, and forward, made it very easy to get around (of course elevators are located alongside the stairs, too.) We quickly got our bearings and never got lost. The public spaces are very well laid-out. The Stardust Lounge (main theater) seats 1000+, but even the back rows have great sightlines. The Spinnaker seats around 300 -- our favorite space, designed to feel like a nightclub -- great venue for music. On Deck Seven you can promenade or power-walk completely around the ship, and there's a shorter "running track" up on Thirteen. (We did not investigate the gym, but it looked extremely well-equipped.) The ship is kept immaculately clean, and amazingly does not show the wear of so many passengers.
The Garden Cafe is where we ate almost all our meals -- very good food. Excellent breakfast choices, and plenty of options for other meals. The Carvery (assorted roasted meats) and the Vegetarian Indian stations were consistently excellent. The last night we ate at Cagney's Steakhouse, and thought the ambience, food, and service worth the surcharge. Our one lunch in the Summer Palace was a bit disappointing, only because the choices are limited compared to the Garden Cafe. It is quieter, however -- a good place for conversation.
We enjoyed the pool and taking the sun. There seemed to be plenty of chaises.
We can't say enough about the staff. Everyone was efficient, warm, and professional. Our cabin steward was terrific and indulged us with towel animals each night. All the staff exceeded expectations.
We were on a themed cruise -- Cayamo, with fantastic musicians,-- so cannot comment on the regular entertainment, except to note the ship has great venues and excellent acoustics.
Port & Shore Excursions
We stopped at Cayo Levantado, St. Maarten's and St. Barth's. We did not get off at Cayo Levantado. St. Maarten's is quite pretty. A harbor ferry (free) zips you across from where's you're docked to the main shopping area. Many shops to explore. We also went on an expedition, the Golden Eagle Sail-Away, which was really pleasurable -- you sail on a catamaran to a lovely beach area near a pretty ritzy resort, for swimming, snorkeling, beach-walking, and on the return trip, the crew opens the bar, serves sandwiches (excellent) and cranks up the tunes. Excellent excursion. St. Barth's is expensive, yes, but dreamy for sure. We had a cabbie drive us out to Governor's Beach (Anse Gouverneur) for a really splendid time, and then he picked us up again two hours later. Delicious seafood lunch in Gustavia before returning to the ship. Hope to return soon.
We chose the Easy Walk-Off option, and it was a breeze.
Very high standards of service, a beautiful ship, and a warm, efficient crew will keep us coming back to Norwegian.