Wife and I are 37. This was our 9th cruise including a 12 day transatlantic and a 14 day southern Caribbean. We've cruised Holland America, Celebrity, Carnival and RCL, finding the first two the best. Last cruise was on the Carnival Glory and before that the RCL Mariner. These ships are just too big. There's no customer service. We were glad to see a ship that only had 2000 guests.
I initially wrote a huge long review because we'd learned so many things that weren't in the reviews, but it's really long, so I cut it down to this (still long). If you want the unedited version, email me, firstname.lastname@example.org with cruise review in the title.
Here we go. The Fodor's Hawaii book is better than the frommers. Library didn't have revealed, but you need to research before you go, especially if you've never been to Hawaii, like us. We planned to take the robertshawaii.com official airport shuttle listed in the Fodor's guide. Unless you want to get to your hotel 2 hours later, take a cab. It'll cost you about $25 with a tip, but you'll save at least anhour.
The problem is this isn't really a shuttle, it's a bus. A big bus. We came out from the baggage claim and after 20 minutes a rep showed up and said the “shuttle" was on the way. 10 minutes later it drove by us, completely full of people. 20 minutes later, another one came and we got on. 14 stops later, it was our turn to get off the bus. It was still half full. It's easy to imagine that the last person would have been on the bus for more than an hour for a hotel no more than 10 miles away. If it was during the day, it would have been even longer as Honolulu's traffic is as bad as LA's.
The ship doesn't leave until 8pm and you can get there early and leave again. We did this and saw Waikiki, diamond head, some huge mall and all of the aloha towers attached to the pier. You just need to get on by 730. Enjoy your day, don't just sit on the ship. We didn't even get there until 5, breezed through security and put our stuff in our room and went back off to a bar in the towers.
It rains a lot on Hilo and it did our day. Couldn't see the crater at all so we did the chain of craters road and good thing, it was packed on our way out. Go to the end where the lava blocks the road. There's no parking lot, so getting there early helps as cars parked along the road went back about a quarter mile by the time we left – on top of the walking you need to do to see the lava on the road. Live lava was closer than ever too, but the wife didn't want to hike 2.5 miles to see it.
Hilo actually has a lot to see besides the crater park. Get your guide book or the rental car book and see everything you can. We saw so much I can't believe it, and it rained nearly the whole time. Rent from whoever you want. Thrifty was slammed at every port and the blue chip line was longer than the regular line. We did mostly Alamo since we get SWA points with them. Never more than a 15 minute wait at the counter, though the vans to get you could be very frustrating. They were nearly always taking only the driver, meaning you needed to come back and get your passenger. If there was just two of you, this would suck. In Hilo, we took a cab because the airport was close and someone said we just missed the Alamo van.
Be done eating by 9 because the ship goes south to sail by the live lava flow pouring in the ocean. You'll see it from both sides of the ship. You can't get a good picture but binoculars make it really spectacular. Awesome nightcap.
Maui the next day puts you on the east side of the island. Rent a car here for sure. If you want to do hana, do it first thing. We drove it all the way to the end, the seven pools (can't go further, huge rocks block the road). The $10 fee for the seven pools state park is also good for the crater park, you can do both in the time you're there.
This trip is about the landscape and for the car guys, an awesome road. There's nothing in hana and there are side trips everywhere. There are also tour buses that can take you if you don't want to drive and that's acceptable as it's an old road, every bridge is a one lane and it gets so crowded later in the day. Driving this road with an average speed of 20mph at night – scary considering half the people couldn't stay in their lanes during the day.
There's not enough free parking by the ship, so get there early or you'll be parking far away. We got there at 530 and watched the kite-boarders and the sunset. There's nothing to do in the town, though a grocery store and mall with a free shuttle is close if you need something.
Forget BYOB as they were shaking every container, even opened the lid and sniffed my wife's fountain drink! Security is through 3rd party, not the ship. They look through everything you have. They have metal detectors so all I can guess is they're looking for booze. Wouldn't want anyone to miss the highest priced drinks in the cruise industry.
Book any of your tours in Maui when you get there, tons of operators and way cheaper than the ship. We did a Molokini and turtle watching thing and still had time for the crater later in the day. Be sure you see the west side, this is where the Maui everyone talks about is.
Kona is the only tender port and it will eat a lot of your time. Long story short, don't rent a car here. It was a pain in the butt because the airport is far and its road is under construction. Reportedly there's good shopping and whatnot, just plan on that. But if you want to do a beach, Honokaope bay or Hapuna beach state park are incredible.
Kauai is everything you've heard and read. Do your helicopter tour here. We did it first thing and it was great because we previewed everything and the pilot gave us a great agenda where to go in the rental car. This also worked out as we got the car about noon after the helicopter and returning it at noon was spot-on for a 2pm departure the next day.
You must see the north shore. The beaches there were awesome. Everywhere we stopped had great snorkeling and beautiful beaches. Don't be afraid to just go down a road that looks like it goes to the water.
The ship leaves at 2 so it can cruise by the Na Pali coast which is only accessible by water. Around 4pm on the port side, the ship will come around and get very close. It's a shame to leave such a beautiful place early, but this, combined with the sunset that came later, made for an incredible close to an incredible trip.
So what about the ship? It's really nice, clean everywhere except our cabin and the crew was usually pretty good. Never saw our cabin guy the whole time, our bathroom was absolutely gross and was only partly cleaned up after we left a huge note he couldn't miss on the 3rd day. Never cleaned it again after that either.
Freestyle is the biggest crock ever. Because of the reviews, everyone runs on to the ship to make reservations. Duh, isn't that what you'd do on a non freestyle?! NCL must have acknowledged that it wasn't working because you couldn't book more than 36 hours in advance for our trip. This did get us in the sushi bar, which was well worth it, others weren't so happy with the other pay places.
We did the main dining room only one night because of waits. By the second night you either needed to eat by 8 at the buffet or sign up early as possible for Mexican or pasta because they were better food than the main rooms. At 9 the buffet closes, there's only the main rooms and Mexican or pasta with a long wait. The whole feeding thing was a complete mess and can really piss you off. Better have one or two of their $5 beers and wait for the Denny's quality food.
The gym was great with TVs for each cardio machine and dumbbells up to 85 pounds. The pool area was nice, band was way too loud as always and had NO service, especially cleanup service. This area appeared to be the least manned with food stuff everywhere in the afternoons.
By day 3, there were enough people sick that there was no self service on the food, everything had to be served to you, no touching (even salt and pepper shakers were removed!). That makes lines even longer and was probably due to gross cabin bathrooms like ours as the ship was mostly clean. Getting water, iced tea or coffee now has to come from a bar because they locked up the buffet area when it wasn't open. The bartenders were real happy about serving you too. No tip in it.
Last are the $10 a day tips. Came to find out on the last day when I went to adjust them because of the cabin and lack of main dining room use, that low and behold, they're not adjustable. It's now a service charge, not tipping. Obviously, everyone was doing what I was doing and NCL just put a stop to it because their overworked, demoralized crew were working 14 hours a day for nearly nothing. This really did piss me off because I had left tips everywhere and I felt like I paid twice. All this after waiting nearly an hour in line because there were only 2 people at the desk.
For departure, the easiest way to go is to carry your own bags and go when you want. NCL lets you get off as early as 730, but you can also go when you're ready. If you have a late flight, and the earliest we heard of was 1pm, take your time. The airport won't check you until 2.5 hours before so you'll be babysitting your bags if you get there too early. The Easy Fly service will handle this for you at $20 a person but if you have more than one bag, you pay even more. Overall, getting off was really easy.
Overall, our expectations were low going in and that's the reality. I think maybe this is isolated to the Pride ships and the American crew requirements. We've never done NCL before and a friend swears by them. They'll likely never get it right unless the prices go WAY up so they can hire enough crew and keep them. Our inside cabin was $499 before tax and we got what we paid for. Those paying more really didn't get what they paid for and a better cabin here just makes no sense with the ship docked everyday.
Would we go again, yah, now we really know what to expect and how to work around it. Would we recommend it to someone? Only if we knew they had a really high tolerance. Parents, older people and families, no. The cabins must be the smallest ever (you can't even sit straight on the toilet!) and the service level is really lacking. But can you imagine what it would cost to see 4 islands in 8 days without NCL's monopoly?!
My husband and I have cruised 7 times, and I have never written a letter of criticism or complaint....until this cruise. We booked this cruise because it is a great way to see all of the islands, and we did get a great price.
The good part of the cruise is that you do stop off at 5 different islands and get a much better overall view of Hawaii. I had read a few negative critiques, but came aboard with optimism anyway. However, my husband and I were rather disappointed overall. I have listed many of the concerns below. I also submitted them to the front desk on the ship along with the comment card when we disembarked.
Because of the poor service, I also deducted half of the "mandatory tipping charges" because you are paying for "service", and there was so little, paying even half was too much in my opinion. I have never done that before, but really feel that this "mandatory" tipping is pushing it. Why should they go out of their way, when they know that they are going to get the tips anyway? There is no incentiveto do anything extra.
1. In booking our cruise we were promised an onboard credit if we booked "that day". However, it was not on our record, and I spoke to 3 different people, giving them all the details. They said they "would look into it". Six days later, nothing was done.....sorry was the reply. I was not impressed about their lack of concern. On the last day, when checking our account, they finally said that it was there, unbeknownst to us. They didn't even bother to let us know. However, giving it on the last day? Not good.
2. Re Dining service, expecially in the Nui Café –(Deck 12) This is the only buffet cafeteria that I have ever seen where there are NO TRAYS! Trying to juggle a bowl of cereal, a plate, juice and a cup of coffee is impossible! Why no trays?? So, you go to sit down, and leave your meal to go back and get more coffee, juice, or whatever, and you might not have your breakfast (lunch or supper) when you get back, because your space was "cleared". Everyone was bewildered by this, and I even asked the assistant manager of the café (who I met on one of the ship's shuttles), why didn't they have trays? She said that she is constantly asked this question and to please write the complaint on the comment card!!
3. There was no service at the table at all in the café which is a HUGE difference from other cruise lines, such as checking to see if you needed more coffee or juice. Not on this ship! If you wanted a refill, you just had to hope that your meal was not cleaned off the table before you got back.
4. The coffee and juice machines were OFTEN not working properly..... signs with "work in progress" or "cleaning" were on the machines at peak times. There was milk at only one station, and by the afternoon, it was sometimes empty.
5. No spoons were in the "cutlery napkin wrap", so you were always looking for a spoon – for cereal, soup, dessert, and then you were trying to juggle everything with no tray. Quite absurd. And, if you forgot the spoon, you had to run around trying to find one, and again hope that your meal didn't disappear before you got back.
6. My experience with Freestyle Dining? I thought I would like it, as I really don't want to bother with the formal nights. Been there, done that. However, trying to get a reservation was frustrating. We did the waiting in line a couple of times with the pager, but when we finally got seated in the Pacific" dining room, the service was slow, and I have to say the meals were not that great. The lobster night?.....we got a teeny piece of lobster, no steak or roast beef....just the teeny, weenie lobster. And, it wasn't that good.
So, we simply ate in the café most nights because the hassle wasn't worth it. And then, the "no trays", juggling plates and cups began. There were MANY other couples that felt the same way. We were not alone in our assessment.
7. I have to say that the food selection fares very poorly compared to Princess, Holland America and Royal Caribbean. Even the way it is presented in the café.....very low-end cafeteria style.
8. This may be a very small issue, but their soft ice-cream in the cafe is the only choice of ice cream, and it is a very poor quality, with a grainy texture.
9. We discovered that there was no "top sheet" on the bed....just a comforter! What's with that?? I asked out steward abut it, and he said that is the was it is, but, from then on,he did give us a top sheet. I thought it just happened to us, but after comparing notes with other passengers, we heard the same story about "no top sheet". That is very weird.
Friends we met said that they left a note for the room steward to "PLEASE GIVE US A TOP SHEET".
10. Our T.V. for the first 3 days the TV screen had a message that"there are no guests registered for this cabin." Hmmmmm. We had only a limited number of channels. I spoke to the front desk twice until it partially got corrected. I realized that there were other channels while in the Fitness Centre, so if I wanted to watch "Oprah" as an example, I would have to go to the Fitness Centre and exercise. Not a big deal, but why have channels in the fitness centre and not in your cabin?
Thankfully, I had my own earphones, because the fitness centre "charges" for theirs. You can buy earphones at the airport for $2.99 so why not sell them for $2.99 instead of ‘renting' them for every use? Chintzy nickel and diming.
Also, our cabin TV remote did not work very well, but because I was so frustrated with several other issues, I didn't bother to complain about it.
11. I found your newsletter gave VERY POOR INFORMATION about anything, especially about the next day at port.....very poor compared to other cruises I have been on. Even the cruise "talks" were insufficient. I got more information from other passengers and crew members who had been to the various ports before.
Most cruise excursions, on any line, are way overpriced, and savvy travelers know that, so you are no different in that regard. Your enticement to book 5 excursions to save $25.00 is no bargain (average cost would be about $500 per person) Your cost to go to Lahaina - $50.00 for 2 people at $25.00 each.
Our cost to go to Lahaina - $2.00 for 2 people at $1.00 each. We saved $48.00 on one excursion!!!
Entertainment? - the 2 nights where they had the singers and dancers were very good! The comedian in the Spinnaker Lounge was excellent. However, the rest of the nights, we were not impressed.
I'm not going to say that everything was below par, but the difference in service WAS clearly noticeable. There were lots of other issues, but this just gives you an example of the service on the Norwegian Cruise Line.
The staff is not at all as friendly or "service oriented". When you said good morning to some staff members, they would barely acknowledge you.
However, I do want to pay compliments to Rosemarie (poolside)....very personable at all times, and to John in the Mexican restaurant. He was so friendly, always smiling, such good service. That was rare.
Smiles are definitely missing on the Pride of Hawaii.
Would we travel NCL again? Because of this negative experience, the answer is no.
We had mixed expectations for our Hawaii cruise because we had read so many negatives about NCL service. The lure of Hawaii at Christmas won and we took the plunge. We were very surprised. The crew were friendly and pleasent at every turn.
Our balcony cabin was comfortable and clean. Our steward Jeffery kept up with things. The ship was nicely decorated with lots to do. The wait staff was eager to please, if sometimes clueless on just what was the right answer.
The food was good and we ate in the main dining rooms, the buffet and the specialty restaurants. We are not really fans of the freestyle cruising compared to the fun of meeting others consistantly at a designated table and time.
The entertainment was excellent as we had heard. What a really talented group of musicians, dancers, comics and magicians. Bravo.
Trying to communicate with the NCL customer services was the downside. After repeated attempts over weeks, we finally arranged our shore excursions through our travel agent. Hawaii was beautiful and all we had hoped. One excursion we do not recommend (all the others we did or heard of were great)was the kayak trip upriver to the hidden falls. To make a long story short, they put a unscheduled group ahead of ours, ignored safety requirements, and were very senior unfriendly. I reported this to the excursion desk and they refunded 20% of the cost.
We ended back in Honolulu on Christmas day and took the Big Island Circle tour that was a wonderful end to our trip. The people of Hawaii were so gracious and friendly, even those working during the Christmas holiday. It was a great cruise.
I benefited greatly from perusing the available reviews before our cruise so I wanted to give back and hope it will be equally useful for others.
First, I've learned it is all important to distinguish between cruise veterans & newbies in these matters. We were newbies - definitely not cruise snobs who may have an entirely different experience and review from our own.
Secondly, I've learned it is crucial to set expectations appropriately for a vacation like this so that when the inevitable negatives occur they are either expected or at least can be adjusted to without much upset. These reviews helped us do that.
The net right up front is that we found we had set our expectations appropriately and we had a great time.
We sailed on NCL's 4 month old Pride of Hawaii 9/25-10/2. We had a starboard mini-suite stateroom which was more than adequate for us with a nice balcony which we made of which we made a lot of use. This cruise was one of their non-standard itineraries in that the 2 Maui days were split between Lahaina & Kahalui as opposed to the normal 2 days in Kahalui.There has also been a permanent change in the final day in Nawilliwilli Kauai whereby the ship sails at 2 PM so as to sail around the whole island to view the Na Pali coast. The literature & even the NCL website did not reflect that prior to our cruise. The NCL Freestyle model fit us very well. The flexibility of eating when/where/with whom we wanted outweighed higher quality cuisine in our case.
I will rate various aspects of the cruise:
Embarkation: Our original plan was to arrive at the pier soon after noon. We didn't make it until 1 because of the terrible Honolulu traffic coming over from the Arizona Memorial and by then there was a 30 yard line to check luggage and then another longer slower line to get your id card. We then walked onto the ship and our stateroom was ready. Our luggage showed up within an hour of our boarding. The whole thing took about 1 hour. So all in all a satisfactory experience. There was someone selling leis at the foot of the escalator in the pier but as soon as you get to the top and turn the corner there are the complimentary leis mentioned in the NCL literature.
Service: despite several critical reviews we had no real complaints about the service. Our stateroom was ready when we embarked and was cleaned and replenished every day while we were out. We had no occasion to complain or have to request anything. Service in the restaurants was a little inconsistent but overall not anything to complain about and was very good on several occasions as mentioned below. Lots of college kids in the crew and they work them hard and they do multiple & diverse things. For example my waiter at Le Bistro one night was stocking the buffet with glasses the next morning and my Teppanyaki chef one night was my omelet chef the next breakfast. Many good and helpful attitudes and a few poor ones. I found that if I courteously persisted I more often than not got satisfaction.
Restaurants: Because of our perusal of these reviews we had decided on dining in the theme restaurants all week. Very soon after we boarded we sought out the dining reservations folks which for us were located in Paniolo's restaurant with wireless computers and made all our reservations for the week. We also found that for the up charge restaurants except for Teppanyaki, if you ate before 6:30 I believe the cover charge was half price. Since we were on eastern time, we tried to eat early every night so we also took advantage of the half price cover. Also, anything other than water or tea is at additional cost. Here is our take:
Papas: Italian themed. Service was not great but certainly acceptable. Food overall was not great but okâ?¦maybe equal or slightly above an Olive Garden. The Caesar salad made at the table was very good. No up charge.
Cagney's: Steak house. Did twice. Service was good both times. 1st night we both got steaks. My rib eye had good flavor but lots of waste. Wife's filet was very chewy and was sent back whereupon they cooked her another which was good. Unfortunately they offered nothing as compensation and we basically waited 15-20 minutes while they grilled the 2nd one. Sides were very good. On the 2nd visit we tried the tuna steak & mahi mahi which were both very good. The sides are good here and the desserts - especially the cheesecake were good. Normally $15 per person cover.
Paniolo's: Hawaiian cowboy/Mexican themed. Not very good on either service or food. We decided not to return even though we had reservations for a 2nd night. No cover.
Teppenyaki: Japanese steak house in the Jasmine Garden restaurant. We got the filet & shrimp which was good. The chef was a newbie but with a good attitude. Not a great show but the food was good. $20 per person cover.
Le Bistro: French themed. Our best dining experience. We dined with 2 couples we befriended on the cruise including one celebrating their 50th anniversary. Both the service and the food were very good. They made a big deal over the 50th couple. I believe they had bought some kind of anniversary special add-on which entitled them to champagne, special leis and covered their dinner. I believe this was a $15 per person cover.
One night we ate at Alizars, one of the regular restaurants. Food was fine but nothing memorable.
Every morning we hit the Ali Nue breakfast buffet before we headed out for the day. Great selection of fruit, cereals, eggs, meat, waffles & an omelet bar which I hit every day.
Never did lunch on the ship as we were out seeing the island we were at.
After our research we elected to not do the ship excursions but go it alone since I had been to all the islands but Kauai before. So, we rented a car at every port except for Lahaina and did our own thing. Hilo: Spent a half day touring Volcano Natl Park including the chain of craters drive down to the sea - definitely a do not miss. We then went to Akaka Falls which was ok but not worth the drive - about 30 mins north of Hilo.
Lahaina: Tendered port. Been there before so we just tendered in and walked around town. The tender line to get back was 45 minutes - one of the only real aggravations of the cruise.
Kahalui: Went up to Haleakala which we had done before but glad we did it again. Didn't do the sunrise there as we had done that previously. Then, since we were on our own we did the road to Hana which was also our 2nd time. We did it however in a loop - to Hana from the south and then back to Kahului the normal north way. You are not supposed to the south road - especially with rental cars. It is narrow and rough in places and should not be tried if it has recently rained or is raining as there will be impassable places. It's all locals and ranches out there and rather desolate - very much like being in west Texas or Wyoming. I'm told if you need help it will cost several hundreds of $ for assistance or towing so know what you're getting into. Funny thing is we saw dozens of other rental cars doing the same thing we did. Hana is beautiful. The 7 pools are lovely but we were cleared out right after we got there because of possible flash flooding from rain up Haleakala. The other don't miss is the black sand beach just north of Hana which is lovely. Not a great place to swim and dangerous because of currents. On the right, facing the ocean is a neat lava tube you can walk into that we missed our first time there.
Kona: Tendered port. Terrible traffic. We did a Kona Historical society tour of an old Japanese coffee farm that was very interesting. We then drove up north to Hapuna St Park beach which was lovely and spent 1.5 hours swimming. Great fun and the best swimming beach we saw the whole cruise. Allow time to get back to the port from the airport which is where the rental cars are. Took us 30 minutes for 8 miles.
Nawilliwilli: 2 days. We did the Na Pali explorer cruise which offered some snorkeling & a cruise up the Na Pali coast from the south. Same excursion NCL offered but we did it ourselves for the flexibility of having a car and combining it with a tour of Waimea canyon afterwards. Snorkeling was so-so. Had good deli sandwiches, chips & soft drinks for lunch. Beautiful view of Na Pali coast. Definitely one of our top things we did. Waimea canyon was also nice. We did a little bit of hiking at the top. 2nd day we went north all the way to Kee St Park (end of the road) & beach and did 3 miles of the Kalalau trail which is 11 miles long 1 way. I really enjoyed this as you gain altitude fast and see some very pretty scenery. It is a moderately rough and strenuous hike so be in ok condition to do it. We then toured the Natl Botanical garden just down the road towards Hanalie which was interesting. Lots of trees and plants with explanations and history but no flowers. $10 per person. A quick stop and view of Hanalie & beach and then we made a brief stop at the Princeville Resort Hotel which has a lovely setting. Would like to go there maybe someday. The whole island of Kauai is not very commercially developed and the north part, other than Princeville is not at all. We wanted to stop at the Kilauea lighthouse but ran out of time to get back for our 2 PM departure.
For rental cars, the Aloha Center mkt which is about 200 yards from the port sells $10 overnight parking passes.
Disembarkation: We did the online bill review in our stateroom the day before and found a discrepancy that we got corrected at the reception desk. If you arrange the day before to review and sign-off on your bill then you are spared the hassle the morning of departure. We did the express walk-off to get an early start on our last day in Oahu and that worked fine for us.
Honolulu: Came in a day before the cruise and stayed on Waikiki and did the Arizona memorial the morning before boarding. Doing it over we would come in 2-3 days early. We got to the AZ memorial at 8:30 and there was a 70 minute wait to ferry over to the memorial. Took almost that time to go through the museum with the rented audio headsets - $5 per.
After the cruise we went to Diamond Head and did the trail to the top which was short, strenuous and fun. We then toured the N shore with the obligatory but beautiful stop at Sunset Beach. They have these eating places called shrimp trucks in N Oahu - old panel vans that serve grilled shrimp and rice out of the truck and then you eat at an outdoor picnic table. Local color and good food - lots of locals eating thereâ?¦.along with lots of wild chickens which can be found all over the Hawaiian islands. We ate shrimp scampi at Giovanni's for $12 per which was very good. Then back to Honolulu for a quick stop at a Walmart for our Macadamia nuts & Kona coffee before hitting the airport and out.
If you're thinking of doing some rental cars I advise booking them in advance as they will run out possibly - especially on the islands other than Honolulu.
Disembarkation: We did the express walk-off to get an early start on our last day in Oahu and that worked fine for us.
They have photographers taking lots of pictures during the week - boarding, dinner, excursions, walk by portraits which are all then posted for viewing and purchase if desired. Unfortunately none of our 3-4 sets of pics came out very well so we left them all behind.
The entertainment on ship was ok. Nothing spectacular and we didn't avail ourselves every night of it. Some of it is provided by NCL employees.
To correct some bad info in some other reviews: at least in the mini-suites there are no coffee makers. There are some laundromats we found but ended up not using. You can't make restaurant reservations onlineâ?¦.must call or go through the desk at the reception center. You can check your bill online anytime.
There is a bridge observation room forward on deck 11 which is very interesting.
It was our 25th anniversary and we had a wonderful time both on the ship and on the islands. Hope this is as helpful to some as other reviews were for us. Aloha.
I had read very critical reviews about NCL America before I booked. As a result, I was somewhat apprehensive and concerned. Notwithstanding my disappointment with food quality and some other matters that I address below, I was pleasantly surprised. My cruise on the Pride of Hawaii was enjoyable. It was a very civilized and relaxed way to see the Hawaiian Islands. Do not expect a flawless, deluxe cruise experience; but certainly I would not rate my cruise at the bottom of the pack as some reviews did.
We sailed on the Pride of Hawaii on August 28, 2006.
We made our own air transportation arrangements. We flew business class on Air Canada to and from Honolulu via Vancouver, with smooth flights and attentive service.
We were a group of nine -- my wife, my 21-year-old daughter and I formed one party. My brother-in-law, sister-in-law and my nieces and nephew, age 13 to 21, formed the other. We are regular travelers and have visited several parts of the world. It was our first time in Hawaii.
Pre-Cruise We stayed five days at the Hilton Hawaiian Village prior to the cruise. This was plenty oftime to adjust to the six-hour time difference, absorb the Hawaiian spirit and enjoy Waikiki and the surrounding area, with its beautiful beach, nearby shopping and parks. We rented a passenger van and visited the west and north coast of Oahu all the way to Turtle Bay. We visited Pearl Harbor (I am a history buff: a respectful memorial, touching in its humble simplicity), the Dole Pineapple Plantation (the mini-train tour in the fields is somewhat deceiving), the northern beaches and the Hawaiian Cultural Center.
We made our way to the Aloha Tower pier around 1 p.m. Embarkation was smooth despite an already long line. The lady at the reception desk was professional, friendly and attentive. We were on board in about 30 minutes. That's all very acceptable considering the number of passengers checking in and the documentation to submit, verify and receive.
The Ship The Pride of Hawaii is a big, modern ship with an air of relatively well-appointed elegance. The decor is contemporary and the use of striking - at times shocking or aggressive - colors prevails throughout the ship. I did not feel like I was among a big crowd (more than 2,500 passengers and 1,500 crew) since public rooms, restaurants, bars and lounges are dispersed throughout the ship on a few decks. However, I was not impressed by the non-imaginative interior architecture of the ship. (By contrast, I was in awe when I saw the multi-deck Centrum concept on recent RCL ships like Navigator of the Seas.) Most public rooms are on a single deck and, save for a tiny mezzanine on Deck 4, you may end up walking deck after deck from the stern to the bow with no particular magic feeling, since the ceiling is just a few feet above your head.
The Cabins Our staterooms were not ready when we embarked, so we were invited to the Aloha Nui Café for a cafeteria-style lunch, or to a special lounge (Cagney's). Around 3 p.m., an announcement said we could proceed to our rooms. My brother-in-law had booked two adjacent deluxe balcony staterooms on Deck 9, mid-ship. The rooms were clean but not that roomy for six persons when converted into sleeping quarters. We had a penthouse suite on Deck 11. My daughter had her own sleeping quarters and bathroom. My wife and I had a separate bedroom with a magnificent marble en-suite and a full window overlooking the ocean. A sizeable living room completed the suite. The decor was colorful and elegant. These were certainly most comfortable and roomy accommodations!
Housekeeping service by the attendant, René, was excellent. He was courteous, discreet and efficient. He made sure that a couple of minor issues with the TV and the safe were resolved in no time. His attitude made us feel welcome and contributed to a pleasant experience with our accommodations.
We had access to a butler and the concierge. We met the concierge only once at a reception and had to leave messages on his cellular phone on the two occasions we tried to contact him. We never heard back. We contacted the butler once to make reservations at a restaurant. He was not able to satisfy our preferences.
The Service We found the staff everywhere, in particular in the restaurants and dining rooms, to be smiling, helpful, courteous, attentive and professional. In the dining areas, the finesse and standards of Asian or European service offered by some other cruise lines may not always be what the staff strives for, but overall we found the quality and efficiency of service by the all-American staff to be commendable. It is comparable if not superior to what you would expect in first class hotels and resorts in North America.
The Restaurants Food quality needs improvement. Judging from our collective experience, there was little consistency in the level of cuisine. Selecting from the limited menu offerings was a hit-or-miss proposition. We had a couple of excellent dinners worth the gourmet label, and some terrible ones that were barely edible. We had cruised eight times before on different lines and dinner was an occasion to seek out and experiment with good cuisine. Not this time. On several occasions, the food had no taste, was weirdly spiced, or was just odd in terms of taste and flavor combinations. This was clearly a disappointment, as we quite enjoy good cuisine and are not afraid to experiment and taste new things. Breakfasts and lunches, which we usually ate in the Aloha Nui Café, were acceptable -- no more, no less. On two occasions my wife and I ate breakfast and lunch at Cagney's, with no particular lasting memory.
Although I did not experience much difficulty with Freestyle Cruising, I remain lukewarm about the concept. You have to plan and reserve in advance, pay extra at most restaurants, and most of the time you might not secure a booking at a time and date you want -- if you can get a booking at all. I understand the logistical difficulties here, but I saw many people complaining and staff trying to keep their cool while incurring the wrath of dissatisfied passengers. It is regrettable that some people will always be insistent, rude, short-tempered and impolite in these circumstances, but this inconvenient situation is unnecessarily irritating. Throughout the week, I saw too many maitre d's arbitrating conflicts and trying to accommodate parties who had come into a particular restaurant as their fourth or fifth choice for the evening. Perhaps the concept promises more flexibility than it can deliver.
On Shore Since we were a party of nine, we rented a car or a van most of the time. The excursions offered by NCL appeared pricey. In Maui and Kauai, it is easy to get around. There is always a beach nearby and the scenery is beautiful everywhere. The road to Hana in Maui is worth taking your time, and do not forget that you have to come back on the same road! The resorts on the other side of the island are beautiful if you want a day at the beach near landscaped gardens. Be careful about the undertow in some areas. Lahaina is worth a visit: Stroll down the main street bordering the ocean. In Kona, you will be tendered from ship to shore, where you can take a leisurely walk, go on various excursions or visit historical sites. In Kauai, the Marriott Hotel Resort is on a beach with a most beautiful view. The Waimea Canyon is worth the drive and the view. The cruise along the Na Pali Coast shortly after leaving Nawiliwili is picturesque. And cruising past the erupting volcano on the Island of Hawaii in the darkness is a magic moment.
The ship's entertainment was acceptable. The variety shows, dancing and singing were average. The magician/illusionist was interesting and spectacular. The two comedians were boring and terrible. No one seemed to laugh or enjoy their sense (lack) of humor.
As I said above, I had read damaging reviews about NCL America before I booked. As a result, I was somewhat apprehensive and concerned. Notwithstanding my criticism about food quality, cruising on the Pride of Hawaii was enjoyable. It was a relaxing way to see the Hawaiian Islands. Our nine-person party has fond memories of our good time there and aboard the ship.
Before I set sail for Hawaii I checked all of the reviews for NCL Pride of Hawaii. I was surprised at how many bad reviews the ship had I thought to my self damm complainers!!! Thhe bad reviews are due to it being a new ship they certainly have the bugs worked out right WRONG!! Well here goes I just returned from my sailing on Pride of Hawaii on Aug 25- Sep 4. I now understand why people are complaining!!!
Since I had read all of the reviews I knew I had to make dinner reservations ASAP.
We were one of the first people to board the ship we boarded about 12:00PM. As soon as I boarded I asked about making my dinner reservations. I was told just go to any restaurant and you can make your reservations. Well first restaurant said no you have to go to jasmine's to make reservations. I got to Jasmine's and they said oh no if you have 7 in your party you have to make reservations at the information desk. The information desk said oh no they don't make any reservations you have togo to the Blue Lagoon upstairs. I get to blue Lagoon and they give me a pager??? I said I don't want a pager I am just trying to make dinner reservations. They then informed me that you have to wait to get an appointment to set up your dinner reservations just go and find your state room and relax we will call you when your appointment is ready. No one seems to know what is going on.
Great I now go to my stateroom and surprise none of the keys for neither of the 2 staterooms will work. Now I am back to the information desk to get new keys. All this time we are carrying our carry-ons all around the ship.
I then go back to the blue Lagoon to check on my Appointment to make my dinner reservations. They tell me it will be a few more minutes. I finally get to talk to the reservation person. I pick my reservation for Monday night she tells me no its all booked the earliest available is 8:30 or 9:00 PM ok now Tuesday oh that is booked also What??? Ok how about Wednesday yes you guessed it booked also!!!! I then asked how can it be booked up if I am one of the first people on the ship? Then she told me if you have a large party 6or more (we had 7) you are restricted to reservations before 6PM of After 8:30PM. What happened to Freestyle Cruising® have freedom dine when you want that's BS. I had to tell my self to relax because I was getting real upset you are not supposed to go through this stress during a vacation.
Our first night at dinner at 8:30 PM we went to Grand Pacific Dinner. We sat down and ordered our dinner 9:00 PM and still no appetizers no bread, no salad. Finaly I asked and the bread came around 9:30. 10:00PM 1½ hr later still no dinner. By this time the kids had fallen asleep at 10:15PM we decided to leave it had been almost 2 hrs and no dinner. I spoke to the materde he apologized and said he would look into it. He told us there was the 24 hr café Blue Lagoon. I arrived at the blue lagoon and I was informed oh no our party was too large and they could not accommodate us they only had tables for 4. I said ok then give me 2 tables for 4 she said oh we can't do that. I tried to explain our situation that we have not had dinner her response was IT IS NOT MY PROBLEM! What kind of response is that? I insisted on getting the 2 tables and finally was able to get the 2 tables when I refused to leave. By the way both tables were side by side they could have been easily joined together. But they were not we ordered from 2 different waiters. One table got there food and the other one did not. We had to reorder food from the first waiter. It is now 12:00AM this is not what I had in mind about Freestyle Cruising.
Second night we went to the steak house Cagney's ($15-$25 Cover charge per person) 9:00 PM Reservation. Again it took almost 11/2 hr to get our food. The food was good but the kids fell asleep before dinner arrived at 10:30PM.
Third night we went to Jasmine's this is the Asian restaurant ($10 Cover charge per person) food was good, service was OK.
Fourth night we went to Grand Pacific Dinner I guess I did not learn the first time however we got food this time lousy food but we got it.
Fifth night we went to the Teppanyaki restaurant 9:00PM reservations($20 Cover charge per person) Food was good service was marginal at best.
Sixth night Papa's Italian food service was horrible food was ok nothing special. This is my 24th cruise therefore I am not new to cruising.
This was a very bad experience. My recommendation is stay away from this cruise ship especially if you have a large party of more than 4 persons hell just stay away period.
This is supposed to be a vacation and this Freestyle Cruising® is an absolute joke “dine when you want” yea right!!
By the way we missed most of the on board shows because they were mostly at 9:30 PM during our extended 2-3 Hr dinners.
This is a spectacular itinerary of the Hawaiian Islands beautiful landscape volcanoes at night. However, there are many good people working on this ship then there are a whole lot more who don't have a clue or simply just don't care! I don't know if it is because it is an American ship with an American crew? This is the first ship I have sailed with an American crew. I think this ship needs to be reregistered in a foreign country and hire a new workforce. Sorry to say that but the service is not there most of the crew simply did not care. Maybe if they started to fire the bad apples it may get better. I However did not appreciate being NCL's Ginny pig. Especially when I am paying the bill!!!!
The Pride of Hawaii is a great new ship and represents a wonderfully efficient way to see much of the Hawaiian Islands in minimal time with the added advantage of not having to pack and unpack at a variety of hotels, airports, etc. But, this comes at a price that exceeds what you pay for the cruise ticket and shore excursions. NCL who owns the ship supposedly stands for Norwegian Cruise Lines—may I suggest it possibly stands for "No one Cares Less." My wife and I took the cruise of August 14-21 from Honolulu with a penthouse suite that included butler service.
In the course of the week the two butlers we had (getting a mid-week change) failed to execute even minimal requests such as getting diet Cokes for the refrig or putting decaf coffee instead of regular in the coffee machine. He did not even get my complete laundry returned until two phone calls, but he was certainly ever present the night he expected a tip, even to the point of tracking us down at the Japanese specialty restaurant for no apparent reason other than to be sure we leftor gave him his tip.
Food service and quality made the pathetic butler service seem to be a joy. Room service breakfasts were cold as was dinner food in main dining and three of the premium specialty restaurants. We got good service and food at Mexican Paiolo and Japanese Teppanyaki Jasmine. In the others service was both slow and even incompetent with incorrect items being brought, and many items would still not have been tasty even if they had been hot and timely. In the French Bistro it was one hour thirty five minutes before we got our second course. Upon giving a major complaint to the head waiter we did get our main course about 15 minutes later, but even then, it was not up to most main dining cruise quality let alone an extra fee specialty restaurant.
Entertainment was also mediocre. The two production shows were acceptable but used no sets and limited costumes. The magician was so bad that even our grandkids saw the flowers under the cloth from which they were to "magically" appear. The comedian was about what most ship comedians produce and was entertaining. Three nights they had abbreviated performances or the newly wed game.
For a new ship it was not clean. Our cabin did not get vacuumed for days and never dusted. You could spell your name in the dust on the silk flower arrangement and the ship is only three months old. Coffee cups and glasses did not get replaced at turn down time so even with a nice coffeemaker there were not cups by which to use it upon arising some mornings.
The itinerary is wonderful. We enjoyed seeing so many different parts of Hawaii in such a short time. The shore excursions, while pricey, offered lots of variety for all tastes and were well run.
I think our bottom line would be this: with so much airport hassle and the logistics of changing hotels, packing and unpacking, then finding the right tours, etc. I would say go ahead and sail with "No one Cares Less" just being aware that food and service are going to be several levels below what you get on the mainstream lines like Princess, HAL and RCCL.
Our trip started at the Marriott Waikiki beach. The hotel was very nice. In the lobby of the hotel, NCL has a hospitality desk. The day of arrival, we had to go there to get our hotel room tickets and check in for the ship. They instructed us that on our sailing day, Monday, 7/24/2006, we were to meet outside their door at 12:15 pm on Monday. Hotel check out was 11:00am so we got down around 11:30 and asked again, “Where do we wait?” We were told to have a seat outside their door and they would call us when the bus was ready. Well, about 12:20pm, we were still waiting. So I went around back to see what was going on and the bus is getting ready to leave. So we ran and got on it. We were never told anything but wait. This was our first bad experience with Polynesian Adventure Tours.
We got to the ship around 1:15 got right on. Nice! Oh, wait! We can’t go to our room, #10153, yet. Finally, at 4:15pm, we can go to our room. We walk in. The bedwas made with dirty sheets. They had big yellow stains on them. Uneaten food was in the fridge, medical trash was in the bathroom, and the carpet was not vacuumed. I was in shock. Got on the phone and called downstairs. The purser said someone would be sent up right away. So we still cant UNpack or touch anything. The bathroom was so bad, my wife went to one of the public restrooms on deck. After an hour no one showed up! So I went to the halls. Down the hall working was a room Steward. She said they were way behind and need help and I need to keep calling. She told me that our room steward blew through our cabin, hauled ass and she was tired of doing his job. Finally, I found a floor manger and told him about our room. He jerked me around for about an hour. Then I found his boss. He came with to our room and could not believe what he was seeing. He had two crew members drop what they were doing and get to our room so it was finally clean around 6:30pm. At this time I told the floor manger I did not want our cabin Steward in our room because I lost all trust in him. So we used pool towels all week. So Day 1 sucked pretty much.
Day 2-Hilo. We signed up for ITO-601 Volcanoes National Park Odyssey 4-3/4 hours. Halfway there, we found out that we were put with the park and city tour that was 6-1/2 hours. We had a private charter with Blue Hawaii helicopter at 2:15pm. Now I am pissed off and nobody really cares. The driver said, “I will try to get you back by 2:00pm. So this tour is a waste because I am so mad! We get back at 2:05. Then the driver would not let me off to grab a cab that was leaving. When we got over to Blue Hawaii, we were late. We had to ride with someone they already booked. NCL made day two suck.
Day 3-Maui. We signed up for OGG630-Turtle reef scuba departs 10:30am. We had to take a 1-hr bus ride to get there. That was okay. We got back to bus pickup point at 3:15 PM only to find out that the bus would not pick us up till 5:30 pm. Okay. We have all our own dive gear so we can’t just walk around town. So we waited for 2 hrs. Then a bus pulls up to PICK UP PASSENGERS FOR THE LUAU (not back to the ship). Well, 5 people would not fit on this bus. SO THEY CALLED UP THE 5:30 (back to ship bus), our BUS, and put 5 passengers on it and sent it to the Luau. We were told another bus would be there 15 min ...IT got there at 7:05 pm! We got back to the ship at 8:15pm. I had a melt down. I cancelled ALL excursions and told them I wanted off the ship. All they could say was we are sorry and don't know way the five extra people were not put in a cab instead of our bus. The refunded all my excursion money, cancelled the future excursions without saying a word, and tried to calm me down.
Day 4-Maui. I tried to calm down. My wife cried the entire morning. The excursion desk got me a cab for my inconvenience and we went to the Maui Ocean Center. I paid for the tickets at the Maui Ocean Center.
Day 5-Kona. I got my own cab. We went to Turtle Beach-snorkeling. I had my first good day. I recommend this for everyone. This was on Kona.
Day 6-Kauai. We rented our own car and drove all over the island . Good day.
Day 7-Kauai. Same as day 6.
Day 8-Debarkation. We were told by the excursion desk that the ONLY guaranteed way to get on the Arizona Memorial was to take their tour-HNL602d Tour Pearl Harbor &USS Missouri…so we tried one last time. On the way to Pearl Harbor we found out that there was no guarantee; we get in line like everyone else. I was pissed again as this was a 78.00 bus ride per person. So when we got to Pearl Harbor we got all our stuff off the bus and put it in our sons car and left the tour. I also had to pay for that.
I am 47 years old and I have traveled the world. We always try to make the best out of every vacation even if they’re not going the way we like. As for this cruise there was no way to make it fun. I could not wait to get off your ship.
The Pride of Haawai'i is NCL's latest ship to travel the hawaiian route. There were 5 of us in our group, and 3 of us haared on outside cabin with a balcony. The room was generous for NCL standards, and our bathroom was large enough to have a bath and shower included. My wife's parents had an outside cabin that while vomfortable, was significantly smaller then ours.
We had flown to Honolulu a day early to avouid the normal transportation frustrations of flying and getting on a ship the same day. we were booked at the Marriott which was a nice hotel, and had a NCL office on the first floor where we could avoid the lines at normal check in at the ship. If you can fly a day or so earlier to Hawaii and de-compress fromthe travel, I highly recommend this action.
I had read a few reviews of the ship [previously to our sail date, and several of the rewiers were quite accurate. We found out 3 days into the cruise from one of our waiters that our particular week there was 160 staff short, which accounted forseveral of the minor problems we faced during our cruise. To name one of our repeat problems, whenever we got to eat after 8 am, we noticed that there was a shortage of clean coffee cups! Even the on-board commedian talked about it in his routine! I think that 'Frreestyle'eating is OK, but we had problems getting into one of 8 restaurants simply because they were full or simply not open that evening. The staff that were in the various restaurants were pleasant but not what we've comt to expect after going on 10+ cruises. I know the work is hard, and several waiters had to do double duty in serving more then one meal, but we were not there to hear complaints from the staff (which we heard more then once).
On the positive side of the trip, the islands were gorgeous and unique in their qualities. To see lava flow at night is unforgetable, and we cruised on the side of Kauai where King Kong was filmed, which was spectacular. We rented cars in two islands, which was convenient, and took the cruise tours on two islands, which were fun.
We enjoyed the week in general, but I really hope that NCL will figure out how to improve the service on the ship. I know it's only been in service 5 weeks, but I thought that by now the management would have tried to solve staff shortages by now. I really tried to enjoy the ship experience, but 'the devil's in the details' kept me from giving high marks to the ship.
I do hope that future cruisers will have better on board experience then we did. There are really no competiting cruise line that does the ilands as extensivly as NCL, and I do hope they take the cruise reviews seriously.
Go to the islands to experience the beauty, the coffee, and e specially the sunsets, which are spectacular.
My wife and I just back to backed two seven day cruises on NCL, Pride of Hawaii(July 17 and July 24). With 14 cruises on all the major lines let me tell you that the Pride of Hawaii is one big, bold and beautiful ship; longer than 3 football fields and a mile high. Papa's Italian Kitchen serves some of the best Italian food this side of Rome with a staff to match; knowledgeable and friendly. The gym is well equiped with everything you need to keep fit.
Some good entertainment including Hawaii's Butch O'Sullivan. The ship is new and has so much to offer - - - - - -BUT - - - - - - don't be fooled, it is not freestyle cruising. You must make resevations early in the cruise or many restaurants are booked solid all week. Even the main Grand Pacific Dining Room required a reservation or a long wait in line; definitly not free style. - - - - - - -BUT - - - - - - more surcharges than ever at the restaurants, ten to fifteen dollars per person. Bring back thedays when you paid once for your cruise. - - - - - - -BUT - - - - - - the Aloha Nui Buffet is busy and the food served is very average. - - - - - -BUT - - - - - - -so many of the staff have not tweaked into service; marginal at best. - - - - - -BUT - - - - - - -management could not move us to an equivalent room as we were told that we would have to live with a high pitched squeak that required wearing ear plugs to sleep. - - - - - - -BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT - - - - - - - too many small things to take time posting.
It may just be growing pains for this new hip, I certainly hope so, as cruising the Hawaiian Islands is a wonderful experience. Other cruisers please post. What was you experience???