We have just arrived home from our first cruise on the Pearl. We traveled with two teens (14 & 15), husband and I (40's), mother in law and two married friends. What an awesome week we had. We had connecting balcony rooms (recommend for families) and our friends had a mini-suite. Our rooms were clean, well cared for and maintained by great staff (thanks Carlos). The bed was very comfortable and we enjoyed the towel animals Carlos left for us. We found our cabins and bathroom/shower to be large enough for both of us (husband is 6'4"). We really loved room service morning coffee on the balcony watching the sunrise. We expected the ship to be chaotic due to spring break and were very pleasantly surprised. We found the majority of kids to be mannered. Our teens spent alot of time in the teen center and loved the activities and the staff.
We found the food to be good overall. We spent a great deal of time in the Great Outdoors (aft deck 12) We preferred breakfast, lunch, and late night coffee here. The buffet had great selections with lots of fresh fruit and freshly baked goodies. We ate in both Indigo and Summer Palace dining rooms. Food and staff were excellent. We celebrated two birthdays on board, choosing Cagney's and La Cucina to do so. The food was good and the service was excellent. We did not wait long at any time, in any restaurant , Garden Cafe included.
We enjoyed all the ports, some more than others. We loved the Cayman Islands.
This was the only port we did a paid excursion. We did the dolphin swim/stingray swim through NCL. We thoroughly enjoyed the dolphin swim, and our friends did the dolphin encounter. There really isn't much difference - except in price. Save yourself the extra money and do the encounter. Swimming with the stingrays 30 minutes off shore on a sandbar reef was a surreal and wonderful experience.
We did not particularly enjoy the ridiculously drunk college kids cursing, etc., in the tender line in the Caymans, or the aggressive cabbies in Ocho Rios but it wasn't going to cloud our trip. One highlight was the kindness of a stranger in Jamaica. Our daughter left her brand new video camera on a stoop in front one of the town shops. A washroom attendant, who had noticed us earlier, found the camera and then sought us out to return it to us. We were very grateful and insisted he take a reward.
As for entertainment, the nightly performances in the Stardust theater were "O What a Night" review, Broadway hits, and the juggler was excellent. The solo performers in the atrium and whiskey bar were very good too.
We found the drink prices to be a bit high however there were specials to be had. We enjoyed the nightly margarita specials for $5.95.
The staff was diligent with the cleanliness of the garden buffet and great outdoors, as well as ensuring everyone was doing the "washy washy, happy happy."
Embarkation and disembarkation were a bit long but lets be realistic - You can't empty 2800 people in an hour. You are also entirely at the mercy of the US Customs.