First Look: Pride of Hawaii

| Aug. 16, 2006

The Pride of Hawaii At 93,500 tons, the largest and most expensive cruise ship to ever sail under the U.S. flag -- recently joined the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet. This ship also completes the NCL program of new builds purposely built to sail the Hawaiian waters.

The Ship The Pride of Hawaii is vibrant in its interior design -- luxurious in some areas, whimsical in others, and daring in some. As a package, it comes together beautifully to establish a comfortable and welcoming "Aloha Spirit" for the ship. The colors of Hawaii are everywhere: fuschia, sea blues, greens, yellows and vivid reds abound and surround, in everything from carpet and wall treatments to elaborate glass ceilings and light fixtures. While one won't be wowed with understated elegance on this ship, it does somehow exude an energy, a feeling of coming to life.

The complete set of inaugural and ship interior photos: Photo Gallery 1       Photo Gallery 2

My favorite spot on the ship is the Waikiki Beach Pool area, which wraps you in a feeling of whimsy, with "big top" tent-like structures covering the whirlpools and central bandstand. It makes you feel like you're in an amusement park, yet there are no midway rides, only colorful tabletops and chairs well-suited to al fresco dining, or for socializing with friends; and wicker-like sun loungers with thick, luxurious pads. Though the Sun Deck above has fewer luxurious loungers, they are still of high quality. One of the swimming pools even features a Hawaiian-like waterfall.

Lobby Ceiling   Spinnaker Lounge

Dining The key to taking full enjoyment from your NCL cruise is Freestyle Dining. The Pride of Hawaii has 10 restaurants, and passengers may dine when and with whom they want. It's the intent of the cruise line to take this even further, to a "Freestyle Lifestyle" onboard, offering many choices from entertainment to relaxation. This will be better defined in the last quarter of 2006 with the re-launch of the brand and a newly developed web site.

The restaurants operate much like land-based restaurants, where one can make reservations or wait for space to open in the more popular venues. On Pride of Hawaii this process is aided by the use of display screens located throughout the ship listing which restaurants currently have space available. In the near future, with the upcoming redesign of the NCL web site, guests will be able to book dinner reservations in advance.

The two main dining rooms are the Grand Pacific and the Alizar. Then there's the French restaurant, Le Bistro; the Asian Restaurant, Jasmine Garden; the Steakhouse, Cagney's; a casual Italian trattoria, Papa's Italian Kitchen; a tapas and salsa restaurant, Paniolo; the buffet restaurant, Aloha Nui Café; and the outdoor portion, the Aloha Nui Lanai; as well as a 24-hour restaurant featuring American comfort foods, the Blue Lagoon.

Aloha Nui Lanai   Aloha Nui Cafe

In two days, I sampled the offerings at Aloha Nui Café, the Grand Pacific main restaurant, Papa's Italian Kitchen, and NCL's signature restaurant, Le Bistro. I found the taste of the food at Papa's Italian Kitchen to be average, but the dishes at Le Bistro were delicious. We also enjoyed the food during our lunch at the Grand Pacific, and most of the buffet offerings at the Aloha Nui Café;.

Service throughout the ship was enthusiastic; the servers seem genuinely friendly and the service good, though unpolished. The Pride of Hawaii is staffed by an American crew, with many service staffers new to the cruise industry. NCL's effort to run its own training facilities is already showing results, with greater dedication from better-trained employees who stay with the company longer. This trend will no doubt continue, because along with the training, new employees are coming onboard with a better understanding of what to expect once they set out to sea.

Deck Party 1   Deck Party 2

Lounges The Pride of Hawaii also has 12 exciting bars and lounges. Bar City is a conglomerate of bars located adjacent to each other, featuring Magnum's Champagne and Wine Bar, Mixer's Martinis and Cocktail Bar, and Tankards Beer and Whiskey Bar. Bar City has a very "uptown" atmosphere, and will no doubt serve as a central drawing point for passengers looking to enjoy late-evening nightlife. Medusa's Nightclub is the spot for karaoke enthusiasts; it even has three private rooms equipped with karaoke equipment for small groups who prefer to sing and party in more private surroundings.

The complete set of inaugural and ship interior photos: Photo Gallery 1       Photo Gallery 2

Above on Deck 13, passengers will find the high-energy Spinnaker Lounge, with floor-to-ceiling windows, a large dance floor and stage, and some of the most unusual furnishings on any ship. Some may find the styles and colors a touch bizarre, but they were just an extension of the whimsical designs on display in other areas of the ship. Bizarre, maybe, but in a fun way.

Suites For upscale luxury, check out the ship's two Garden Villas. Each villa offers more than 4,390 sq. ft. of luxury living, complete with butler and concierge service. Each villa has three bedrooms, each with a king or queen-size bed and private luxury bath, and access to a private courtyard with pool, hot tub and sundeck.

Garden Villa Sofa   Garden Villa Courtyard

There are also a pair of Owner's Suites and 10 Courtyard Villas, where you have to settle for sharing a beautiful courtyard area with pool, hot tub and sundeck with other passengers.

Garden Villa Master Bedroom   Garden Villa Bathroom

Also available are Penthouse Suites, Romance Suites, Mini-suites with private balconies, Ocean View cabins with balconies, standard Ocean View staterooms, and inside staterooms. The ship also offers 27 state-of-the-art wheelchair and handicapped-accessible cabins.The top suites come with their own espresso machines, and all staterooms have in-cabin coffee makers with Kona coffee packets.

The ship has a large onboard boutique area. Because the ship flies an American flag, and the goods sold onboard are neither duty-free nor tax-free like those other on other cruise lines, the shops are allowed to remain open while the vessel is in port.

Also, because this ship sails only in Hawaiian waters, there is no casino. Hawaiian law prohibits gambling of any kind in the state, and that applies to ships sailing its waters.

The Pride of Hawaii will be home-porting in Honolulu, offering seven-day sailings (leaving on Mondays) through the Hawaiian Islands. The ship's itinerary allows for rather unique overnight stays in both Kauai and Maui.

The complete set of inaugural and ship interior photos: Photo Gallery 1       Photo Gallery 2

More info on the U.S. cruise fleet: Complete report on NCL-America's exemption to maritime law:

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