For our very first cruise, we wanted something short. I had heard about cave tubing in Belize and thought that sounded fun, so we chose the NCL Pearl's 5 day from Miami to Cozumel and Belize City. We left Miami on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2007. We arrived at the very busy Port of Miami around 1:30p.m., and spent about 45 minutes in a bumper to bumper line of cars waiting to park and/or drop off. As we live in the area, we chose to leave our car in the port parking lot - which cost $75.00 ($15.00 per day). The CASH-ONLY lot was directly in front of the Pearl's terminal; you pay upon arrival. Once we were parked, we got into the check-in line inside the terminal - which took about another 30 minutes. Apparently, we got there at the height of check-in. I would recommend arriving earlier in the day if possible. Although our documents said embarkation started at 3:00 p.m., we noted that other passengers boarded earlier (I believe noon) and were fed a buffet luncheon onboard.
The ship is new and beautiful. The decor is bold and vibrant - very tropical. I am not sure I would enjoy the tropical theme on an Alaskan cruise, but it was perfect for the Caribbean. We had a balcony stateroom, which was roomy and quite comfortable. The bathroom was small, but sufficient. The television was flat screen. We never watched the television channels or any of the movies, but we did watch the ship announcements, replays of some shipboard events and the excursion information in our limited down-time.
We enjoyed the free-style dining. We dined at the price included Garden Cafe (cafeteria style variety), Indigo (main dining - more intimate), Summer Palace (main dining), Blue Lagoon Cafe' (Lite Bites/fast wok dishes), La Cucina (Italian) and The Grill (poolside hot dogs, burgers, fish, fruits, etc.). We also dined at the specialty restaurants: Cagney's Steakhouse (cover charge is $30 per person for specialty items such as Surf & Turf) and Teppanyaki ($20.00 per person coverage charge). We never had a bad meal or bad service and we definitely gained some weight on this cruise!!! Reservations are recommended but are really REQUIRED (we had them, but saw many people without them get turned away). Make your first and second night reservations upon boarding. Then you can call each morning, starting at 7 a.m., for the next evening. La Cucina and Teppanyaki seemed to fill up the fastest.