I'll start with the positives. We have cruised with NCL before but this was our first time on the Pearl. The ship was clean and well maintained and easy to get around. The entertainment was very good. Service was mostly very good.
Unfortunately, there were a few negatives starting with a very bad embarkation process. We stood in a long line, then had to sit in a chair, only to be herded to another long line. Our next unpleasant surprise was our stateroom. First, the caveat. Our last two cruises were in balcony staterooms on Celebrity We were on a tighter budget with this cruise so we booked an inside cabin and tried to keep an open mind. While we were expecting small (like our previous inside cabin on the Norwegian Sun), we did not expect minuscule. The cabin is advertised as big enough to sleep three but for the life of me, I don't know where you would put a third person. That being said, the storage space was good and the bathroom was quite nice, with a good sized glass enclosed shower.
Our second mistake was inadvertently booking a cruise during Spring Break. Not having young kids, we don't keep track of school schedules. We will not make that mistake again. There were a lot of kids onboard and the ship was very crowded. While they were generally well-behaved, trying to fight a bunch of high school boys all jostling for breakfast in the Garden Cafe was not fun. Once we did manage to get food, there was rarely anyplace to sit. We often just ended up taking our plates back to our cabin. The biggest problem was that the buffet is very poorly laid out and terribly inefficient. There are two Main Dining Rooms, Summer Palace and Indigo. The one night we tried Indigo, the noise level was awful, mostly due to low ceilings, loud young kids and oblivious parents. We just went to Summer Palace after that and never had to wait for a table no matter when we showed up. The service was mostly good but at times indifferent. The food was OK but not great. One night the "Chef's Special" was a burrito! There were a few very good items (mostly the fish dishes)but I really think NCL is trying to steer more discriminating diners to the specialty restaurants. We did not try them but heard from fellow passengers that they were very good. Bartenders were generally friendly but the drinks are weak.
While we had a good time and got in a lot of snorkeling and beach time, the overall experience could have been better.