American crew anxious to please,and all went well on embark/disembarkation.
Two overnights (Kauai and Maui) allow time to rent a car and see parts of these islands unseen by many tourists. Bought air from NCL and had UA over and DL back without a hitch.
Found excursions EXPENSIVE so rented from Thrifty at every port for far less $$ and saw MUCH, MUCH more than passengers who booked onboard.
This was truly a bargain cruise.
I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
My husband, mother and cousin sailed on Norwegian Cruise Lines Pride of America, setting sail on August 19th and returning August 26th 2006. I am prompted to write this review because my experience with Norwegian was not pleasant. I've sailed 3 other lines, a smaller ship called SeaWind, Carnival and Royal Caribbean and this was by far, the worst line I've been on.
When we first got on the ship, after flying from the east coast to Honolulu for 12 hours, we were told all bars & restaurants were closed for the 1½ hours for the Muster Drill. That was a little annoying since we were thirsty and hungry from traveling so long – it was not a good first impression.
From that point, it was downhill. In my opinion, the "Freestyle cruising" does not work and just ended up aggravating us. We could only get dinner reservations for 2 of the surcharge restaurants (one at 9:30 at night which we ended up canceling) because everything was booked by the second day. What made that even more aggravating was that when you walked by these so called "booked" restaurants, they were alwaysonly half full. That being said we spent much of our meal time in the Aloha Café (the buffet) since if we wanted to dine in the "free" main dinning rooms the wait could up to an hour. In the two or three reservation-only restaurants, you had to pay an extra $10 or $15 just for the pleasure of eating there and if you want something on the "premier" menu, that cost extra too – in addition to the surcharge.
There are flat screen monitors by the elevators, apparently to let you know what restaurants currently had a wait, and they were wrong all the time. They would state a certain restaurant was empty, with no wait at all; we would get there and there would be a 45 minute wait. They were completely unreliable.
The one time we did manage to get into one the main dining rooms, the service was horrible and the food just as bad.
The staff in general was disinterested and did not cater to passengers at all. In fact, it seemed the all-American crew wanted to go out of their way to argue with us. The front desk was completely unhelpful and seemed not to have a clue on what to do about anything. No one on the ship knew any information on the islands and in fact, for the few that we managed to engage in conversation, they had all started working there "two weeks ago." We attempted to book a car with the front desk for the last day in Honolulu and were told we had to call on our own from the cabin (it was $5 a call just to connect) and after arguing we gave up and walked way. We called the front desk later and found out, after speaking with a different person, we could book a rental car through the excursion desk. None of the crew provided any information on what was going on in the ports. There was no information provided as to free shuttles to shopping or beaches and no "talks" as I've seen on other cruises to discuss things to do at the next port. The excursion desk was a nightmare (our own fault for not booking excursions ahead of time); we waited over an hour to book one excursion.
We had problems getting clean towels and glasses from our cabin steward. She did not remove dirty glasses from anywhere in the room. She did make the bed and cleaned the bathroom . We actually found someone else's left behind clothing in our closet.
NCL gives each cruise passenger an email address that can be accessed via wireless internet service in each cabin. We gave our family and friends the addresses to reach us in case of emergency or just to keep in touch. The internet addresses were useless and never worked. Any emails sent to us from home were "undeliverable."
We had formal photographs taken by the ship's photographers, only to have them lose the pictures and tell us to come back another night and do it all again.
There was barely any entertainment on the ship. Once, there was a live band (and I use that term loosely, it was two guys on a guitar) on the pool deck but never any kind of Lulau or party as I would expect from other cruises I've been on. There were a few lame trivia contests but that's about all they did to attempt to entertain you (even for the ½ day at sea), with great prizes such as luggage tags, beach balls and frisbees. I didn't check out much of the evening entertainment but heard from other passengers it was horrible. I think I saw the cruise director once. There was no bingo, a putting contest was cancelled for lack of interest, and the art auction was cancelled "until further notice."
That being said, the few good things I could mention were the painless embarking and disembarking experience. No wait at all, we just got right on and right off the ship. Some of the bar staff was pleasant and one fun thing we did do was the "Pub Crawl," which enabled us to meet some other people & find a bar no one else seemed to know about. On that point, if you do take this cruise, make sure you check out the Lanai bar on the 13th deck (well hidden!). They had a fantastic acoustic guitar player, Mark Obitz, who played every night; he was by far the best entertainment on the ship.
All in all, I would only recommend this cruise for the ports of call. You can not find a cruise that does a similar itinerary by far, but if you are looking for the ultimate cruise experience, you will not get it on this ship.
Our group of 37 people arrived in Hawaii two days prior to our cruise. We flew from Charlotte, NC with Delta Airlines to Atlanta and then on to Honolulu. The flights went very smooth and the flight attendants were very courteous. They actually fed us two meals on the long flight. We stayed at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani hotel at Waikiki Beach. This hotel is in a perfect location! We were just steps away from many shops, restaurants, the beach, and the International market. Our room was neat and clean and we had no problems at all.
We arrived around 4pm Honolulu time and just spent the evening walking around the beach and hotel area. We went to bed early and woke up the next morning and walked down the street to Denny's for breakfast. It was a good breakfast and reasonably priced. This morning we took the Circle Island Tour with Roberts Hawaii. Our guide was Koko from Samoa. He taught us the “Hang Loose” song. It was a full day of sight seeing. We had a buffet lunch at the Helemano Plantation right beside the Dole Plantation. My husband &I did not care for the food here. This was a nice tour to see the highlights of Oahu.
After the tour we returned to our hotel to freshen up before we went to Germaine's Luau. The luau was fun and the food was pretty good. They take a really nice picture of you when you arrive (for a small fee of course).
The next morning we were up early because the bus to Pearl Harbor was picking us up at 7:30 am. My husband & I walked down the beach and ate breakfast at McDonald's. Then we loaded the bus and went to Pearl Harbor. Our tour guide had pre-arranged our visit to Pearl Harbor and we had tickets for Tour #6. We didn't have to wait long at all. The film they show is very moving and the mood at the memorial is very somber. I felt privileged to get to see this historical site. We left Pearl Harbor and drove around Honolulu as the bus driver pointed out several significant sites. We also drove through the Punchbowl cemetery before we went to the pier to board the ship.
Embarkation: We arrived at the pier around 1:00 pm. Embarkation went very smoothly. We had just a little bit of a line in front of us but it didn't take long at all. They gave each of us a beautiful flower lei and took our picture. Our cabin was clean and ready. We put our stuff down and headed to the Aloha Café for a bite to eat. The food was fine. Everyone seemed to find something that they liked to eat. After we ate, we went to explore this big, beautiful ship. It was very clean and all of the staff that we encountered was friendly and helpful. At 3:00pm we took a tour of the ship with a girl named Emily. She was from Texas. It was a good way to get to know the ship. We didn't leave Honolulu until 8:00pm. The ship really rocked the first & second night. The rest of the time it was fairly smooth sailing.
Cabin: We had an inside cabin on deck 11 at the front of the ship. There is a lot of storage in the closet and the luggage fit under the bed just fine. The bed was very comfortable. The shower is small but it works. The bathroom has storage behind the mirror on the right and there is a shelf underneath the sink that had plenty of storage space. I had taken a power strip, but I didn't need it. There is a great little hair dryer in the cabin and a small refrigerator that is perfect for the soft drinks or water you can buy when in port. Our cabin steward was Joe Castillo from Hilo. He did a terrific job all week. There is a dial outside the door that you turn to let him know your cabin is ready to be made up or turned down.
Shops: The shops on the ship are nice and I think the prices are not out of line. I purchased a beautiful pink coral ring on the ship. The jewelry store is Maui Divers and the prices were exactly the same as the stores in port because I checked every one of them.
Spa & Gym: I never used them, but both are look very nice. The gym had excellent equipment... .had flat screen TV's on the treadmills.
Food: We did not eat at any of the specialty restaurants. We ate at mostly at the Aloha Café, the Skyline once, the Liberty three times, and the Cadillac Diner once. We usually eat @ 6pm so were in and out in an hour... never had to wait. The food and service was good each time although there is not a great variety each night. I had the steak a least 3 times because I didn't care for the other selections. We also ordered room service once and it was there in less than 10 minutes! The Fudge Brownie Sunday at the Cadillac Diner was great as was the ice cream machine in the Aloha Café. We didn't go to the Chocolate Buffet and there are no midnight buffets either. We also had the chicken wings at the Key West Bar & Grill on one afternoon and they were pretty good.
Entertainment: The entertainment on the ship is not like other cruises. There was a juggler/comedian on two of the nights. He was amazing. There was also comedian/impressionist on the last night. He was good too. I missed the show with the duck, but others said it was funny. The one production show was done on the next to last night. It was pretty good... a lot of singing and dancing. After the show, Shona, the cruise director, introduced the faculty and staff, including the Captain and officers. Shona is a very cute girl and has a great personality. She has a lot of energy. We enjoyed the Not-so-Newlywed and other games she hosted. The crew talent showcase was okay but the ending they called "Fountains" was so funny! There is also a passenger talent show and the winner gets a free cruise!
Hilo: I booked a tour with Green Travel & Tours. They were at the pier when we docked. There were 12 of us in a 15 passenger van. We took the Volcanoes National Park Tour with Rainbow Falls and Akaka Falls. We also went to Island Candies and an Orchid Garden. There were also several other sites that our guide, Lee, drove through. There was a light rain for most of the day. I enjoyed the tour very much. It was about $20 less than the ship tour and we got to see a lot more. We were back on the ship by 4:30pm.
Maui: The first day in Maui we had reserved a car with Thrifty. We had to wait about 10 minutes for the shuttle, but we were in and out with the minivan in less than 15 minutes. My husband & I, along with two other couples, shared the cost. The car was $35, gas $15, and parking in Lahaina $5; so it only cost us $20 per couple. We went to Lahaina Town and walked around and did a little shopping. This is a neat little town. I enjoyed it very much. Then we went to Whaler's Village at Kaanapali Beach. Parking is free if you spend $10 which was no problem since we ate lunch here at the Hula Grill. The food was great and what a view! After lunch we went to the Whaler's Village museum. It was free and had some interesting things to see from the whaling era.
We headed back towards the ship and stopped in at the Maui Ocean Center. They had a lot of sea life there that I had never seen before. The unicorn fish was the funniest looking thing! We left there and stopped at an overlook on the highway. It was beautiful. I had planned to do the Maui Tropical Plantation and Iao Valley but we ran out of time. We got back to the ship at 5:00pm. We rested for a couple of hours and then we returned the car. The Krispy Crème was near the Thrifty drop off and the HOT DONUTS NOW sign was on! We just had to stop! We bought our daughter a cute shirt here.
Maui Day Two: I booked the Hana Skytrek Tour with Temptation Tours. They picked us up at the pier at 6:45am in a luxury van. We drove to the Heliport where we had to weigh in and watch a brief safety video. There were 6 of us on the tour. Our guide was Kelly. He was very nice. He drove to the little town of Paia where we stopped so he could pick up our lunch. They had juice and muffins for us there also. We drove the Road to Hana and stopped at several places along the way. The road is very curvy and has many one lane bridges. None of us got car sick though. We saw several waterfalls and made a stop at a beautiful garden. When we reached Hana, Kelly set up our lunch on a picnic table underneath a shelter right on the beach. The lunch was terrific! We even had a white tablecloth and real dishes! We had smoked chicken, tossed salad, pasta salad, fruit, rolls, spinach dip and crackers, and cookies. It was very nice. After lunch, he drove us to a couple of other places and we got out at a nice park and walked around. Then we drove on to the Heliport where we flew back to Kahuli with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. This was our first time in a helicopter and it was awesome! I was a little disappointed that we couldn't fly over Haleakala Crater due to the clouds. We were back by 1:30 PM. We purchased the DVD of our flight for $25. The tour was a bit pricey, but with the road tour, lunch and flight, I think it was worth the money. Plus they give you a VHS tape called Hana and Beyond. We called cab to take us back to the ship where we sat around the pool and rested.
Kona: We did the Historic Kona tour through the ship. We were on the second tender out for this 8am tour. The tour only lasted 3.5 hours. We visited the Place of Refuge, The Painted Church, and a coffee plantation where we sampled nuts, coffee and cake. The samples of the Macadamia Nut Rum Cake were out of this world! I wish I had bought one of the cakes. We went back to the pier and walked around for a little bit. There is a small beach right near the pier where you can rent snorkel equipment for $10 for the day. I was going to snorkel, but the water was cool and I didn't want to do it by myself. We walked down the pier to take a picture of the ship. I asked the crazy guys from the Captain Zodiac Snorkel Tour if they would take our picture and they did after they took a picture of themselves. They seemed like they would be a lot of fun. One of them even knew where our hometown was because he was in the service and stationed nearby. We went back to the ship, had lunch and sat around the pool.
Kauai, Day One: We had planned to rent a car here but after all the heavy rains and flooding they had in March and April; we decided to do a ship tour instead. We did the Waimea Canyon, Fern Grotto, Waliua River Cruise. However, the Fern Grotto was closed due to damage from the rains, so they substituted a tour of the Paradise Gardens instead. This was a nice tour, very organized. Our driver/guide, Juan was a native of Kauia, but of Mexican heritage. We drove to the canyon and he talked the entire way, telling us stories and history of the area and talking about his family. It was a bit hazy, but the canyon is beautiful. There are wild chickens everywhere! We made a stop at the Spouting Horn. This blow hole is a must see! It was one of our favorite things. We also went to a scenic overlook where we saw 'Opaeka'a Falls and drove by the old Coco Palms where Elvis liked to stay. It is now under renovation. We had lunch on the grounds of a Marriott Hotel. After lunch we went to Smith's Tropical Paradise where we took a tram ride through a lovely garden. We saw the most beautiful peacocks there. After the garden tour we boarded a river boat and cruised down the Wailua River. There was a young man onboard who told us stories and history of the area. We reached the Fern Grotto, which was closed due to damage, and picked up performers. They sang and one girl did a few dances for us. They tried to teach us all how to hula... I'm not so sure we got it! Then we went back to the ship. It was a nice tour, but I really would have preferred to have a car and do it on my own. I think we could have seen a lot more of the Island that way.
Kauai, Day Two: We had nothing planned for today. We just caught one of the free shuttles and walked around at the shops in port. I was disappointed that we missed the last shuttle to the Coconut Grove Market place. It left at 10:15am. I really wanted to go there. We went back to the ship and started to pack. The ship left at 2:00pm. We reached the Na Pali coastline @ 5:00pm. It was very hazy but the coastline s spectacular. I can only imagine what it must look like on a clear day.
The next morning we were back on Honolulu. We were off the ship at 9:30am. The cruise line lost one lady's bag, but she got it back the next week. It was sent to the Marriott by mistake. We had chartered a bus from Roberts Hawaii because our flight didn't leave until 6pm. After one final stop at Hilo Hattie's, we shopped and had lunch at the International Market, and then we went to the Dole Plantation and had Pineapple ice cream. It was so good! We arrived at the airport @ 4pm. The flight home was long but we got home safe and sound around noon the next day.
All said, I really enjoyed the cruise and Hawaii is beautiful. This was a great way to get a good overview of each of the Islands. My tip would be to rent a car as much as possible and do your own thing. The organized tours are nice, but after a while you start to hear the same stories over and over. Maui and Hilo ports are in an industrial area so there is nothing to do unless you have transportation. There is more to do around the ports of Kona, Kauai, and Honolulu.
I did a lot of online research about the Pride of America, and there were a few holes in the information that's out there (the NCL site leaves a lot to be desired), so I vowed to write a review on my return to help others plan.
I really enjoyed the cruise -- even more than I thought I might. I went with my parents, who both have a hard time getting around, and my three-year-old son. So I had my hands full. They all enjoyed the trip and it turned out to be the perfect thing for this diverse group. The food was terrific. The service was above average. The staff was terrific and the boat is beautiful. Except for the last day, I never had a problem getting a lounge chair at the pool.
I could never find good information about the Kids Crew program from the NCL site. I even tried the reservations line and the NCL desk at the Marriott. So if you are planning on using the ship's children's activity program, here's the skinny.
It is absolutely terrific. My son would wake up earlyand ask me what time the kids club was opening up; then he'd run down the halls until he got there. They have group activities every day from 9 a.m. to noon and from 7-10 p.m. You can drop off the kids and they have a great time until you get back! There is no charge during this time.
From noon to 5 p.m. (and from 10 p.m.-1 a.m.) they have group babysitting for $5 an hour. One day I was scheduled on a dive trip and couldn't get back to get my son by 5 p.m.; but since I was on a shore excursion booked through the ship, the staff made special arrangements for me and took my son to eat; then I met them after hours.
Other writers have covered the restaurants well, so I'll leave that alone.
The gym on Pride of America is extensive, with great equipment; plus there is a walking/jogging track on Deck 5 that is great too.
If you are splurging on a balcony room, go with a port side room: That side of the ship gets the Kaanapali Coast view, and it was great fun to sit there and watch the cliffs go by. The captain goes by the volcano out of Hilo in both directions, so you get that view no matter which side you are on.
A few other things I wish I had known or was glad to discover, in no particular order:
Except for the specialty dining venues like the Jefferson, Steakhouse, Italian or Japanese restaurant, reservations weren't really required. And I will say, skip the sushi...it's not good.
There are NCL pick-ups in Oahu at several hotels, but the Marriott Waikiki is the only one with an NCL desk that checks people in for the ship. However, they had some odd policy that they don't check you in after 8:30 a.m. or something like that on your sailing day. I got in from LA pretty late the day prior, and it was a fluke that I went there early enough to check in. This Marriott ship check-in is really nice. Without it, you are potentially waiting in a long line to do it in the cruise ship terminal, which didn't look like much fun.
When you check in at the Marriott NCL desk, they give you a timed boarding pass for a bus to take you to the boat. But your luggage has to be packed and ready for pickup inside your room by 8 a.m. the day you are boarding. They know which rooms have been booked by NCL and they pick everything up pretty early.
As soon as you get on the ship, the buffet is open and ready to go. If you are a soda drinker - and I am - ask for the $35 soda sticker for your ID card; then you can have a soda anytime and almost anywhere without incurring charges or signing anything.
The ship uses key cards just like the hotels -- electronic keys, so a lanyard with a card sleeve on it comes in handy.
Only in Kona do you tender into the port. Everywhere else you can just walk off the ship. Right off the tender pier is the Atlantis Sub office; I also saw Jack's Diving Locker (a well-respected dive operation) there.
In Kona and Kauai there were nice little beaches right near the ports so you can pop off the ship and enjoy a real sandy beach if you care to.
The dive operations used when I was there were Lahaina Divers in Maui, Big Island Ocean Sports in Kona and Seasport Divers in Kauai. I don't know why they don't tell you this in advance. I like to look at the web sites to plan properly. I guess they don't want you to book on your own. I considered doing just that, but I'm glad I used the ship's shore excursion desk. It made for easy boat departures, and nothing too early. The diving at Kona was the best (a turtle cleaning station was on the itinerary). All three operations were really fine...each with their own advantages and disadvantages. It's quite a long trip in Maui because you have to take the bus to Lahaina, but if you don't care about that, go early because Lahaina is a cool little village.
My parents did the 'Luau & the Volcanos National Park Tour'. Both of them have a hard time getting around so I don't think they really liked it. My mom couldn't really get off the bus on the volcano tour because the walk to anything was just too far for her.
NCL has a timed disembarkation schedule. If you carry your own luggage off, you can go just about any time. Otherwise they do it by ship levels and flight times, starting early and running until 10 a.m. We were headed back to the Marriott for the night so we ate breakfast on the ship and just leisurely strolled off when we wanted to. We weren't rushed at all. They do have buses back to the Marriott but there is a taxi stand right there too, and this time we opted for a taxi back, which was about $30.
That's all I can think of for now. Hope it helps someone else in the planning stages..which can be a big part of the fun!
This is the most difficult review that I have ever had to write. Based upon time limitations, this was one of the few cruises that fit into our schedule and the only one our extended group could agree on, so we decided to give it a chance. This was our 10th cruise - our first and our last with NCL.
Embarkation: Went fairly smooth in the terminal. We were able to start boarding the ship around noon. What they don’t tell you is that once on board most of the cabins are not ready. They send you to a public room and invite you to lunch at the Aloha Café. It is a real pleasant experience to obtain food in a buffet while carrying both your tray and all your carry on baggage.
Cabin: We reserved a category BE cabin. This was the smallest and most poorly laid out cabin of any ship we were ever on. At this point let me add that we are two adults traveling with two kids (3 & 6) in the same cabin. This is the first time we ever had difficulty fitting all ourclothing in the closets. (We have gone on voyages as long as 11 days without any problems). The irony here is that we did not even have any formal clothes thanks to NCL’s Freestyle dining.
The cabin was the filthiest cabin we ever occupied. As you brushed against the walls the dirt just transferred onto you. There were remnants of previous occupants on the floor and in the dresser drawers. The cabin was just disgusting. Not what you would expect in a new ship. There was no soap or shampoo in the bathroom. It took two days and multiple visits to the Guest Relations desk to get this resolved. Simply unacceptable.
NCL provides a dial on the outside of each cabin to indicate to the steward. During the week, it was a rare occurrence for our cabin to be made up before 4pm. Maybe this is an NCL cost cutting move: make-up and turn down the cabin at the same time.
Ports/Excursions: This was Hawaii. The ports were simply perfect. We did use NCL’s excursion desk and, other than being overpriced, the excursions went off without a hitch.
Tender service was among the worst we ever experienced. In Lahina we had to wait over an hour to catch a tender to get off the ship. The wait was the same to get back onboard. When you are in port for only a few hours, it is very disappointing to waste over two hours of a short day just on transportation. We were assured by the Cruise Director that in Kona the situation would be better. It was not. We had to stand in the hot sun in line for over 90 minute for a tender. For every Pride of America tender, we saw three Island Princess tenders. There was one additional POA tender in the water “practicing” and other tenders that were not even lowered into the water. Maybe this is NCL’s way of conserving fuel?
Security: NCL had contracted with Akal Security to provide their pre-boarding screening. Needless to say I did not feel safe. While they were very good at catching food and beverage items being brought on board, people were just walking around the agents wanding other passengers and getting right on the tenders. This level of incompetence is just unacceptable in the post 9/11 world. Once onboard, on one occasion the security personnel failed to check one member of our party back onto the ship, even though all four key cards were presented. We did not find out about this until the party member was paged over the ships PA. This is really reassuring that NCL knows who is on the ship.
Kids Program: Perhaps, this is the one part of the ship where we met the most devoted crew members. Overall our kids thoroughly enjoyed the program. Unfortunately, unlike other lines, the hours are extremely limited for the free program.
Dining: Due to a severe food allergy in the family, we made special arrangements in the Skyline dining room for a fixed table and wait staff. Because of this, we did not experience any long waits for seating and overall the wait staff was helpful. Unfortunately, dinner was still a two hour ordeal and the food (both preparation and selection) was barely acceptable. Food selection in the Aloha Café was also only fair.
In my prior cruise experience, I have never seen a cruise line run out of food. That was until this cruise. Over the course of the week, they ran out of garlic, mozzarella sticks, bananas, onion rings, grapefruit, cream cheese, lox, and assorted boxed cereals. During the week, no attempt was made to replenish these items, even though we were in port every day. They did however have plenty of mahi-mahi as it was the only fish on the dinner menu for the entire week.
The biggest problem was in the handling of a food allergy. My child is allergic to nuts. NCL Corporate was first notified (both orally & written) at the time of booking about this severe allergy. Upon initial embarkation, both Maitre’D‘s (Skyline & Aloha) were informed of the allergy. In Skyline, we were assigned an experienced wait staff. We met with the head chef in Aloha and were briefed on NCL’s policy regarding treatment of passengers with food allergies. In Aloha, we were told that all wait staff in the buffet stations are aware of the ingredients in the food that they are serving and if they are in doubt to always consult a chef. This is important since most of the food in the Aloha Café was never labeled.
Unfortunately, their procedures did not work and were not followed. My 6 year old was almost KILLED by crew negligence. She was given a cake with peanut butter icing (which did not look like peanut butter) and almost immediately went into shock. The crew member working the dessert station assured us that there were no nut products in any of the cakes being served at that time. Medical attention was necessary and provided, but the damage was already done.
Disembarkation: This was fine as well. We were given the opportunity of carrying our luggage off the boat and leaving at any time. We took advantage of this opportunity. The sooner NCL & us parted company, the better.
Prior to taking this cruise we consulted many of the online cruise review sites and read many negative reviews about this ship and her crew. We decided to take these reviews with a grain of salt and make the best of it. We were wrong. We should have listened to the reviews and gone elsewhere. Based upon these reviews and our personal experience both on the ship and dealing with NCL corporate, we have come to the conclusion that they just don’t care. Even if the nut incident hadn’t occurred, we probably would never cruise with NCL gain. That just sealed the deal.
To see Hawaii, our opinion is that this is one destination best seen by staying on land. If one really wants to cruise the islands, there are much better options available. We will sleep better at night knowing that we are hopefully helping prevent someone else’s misery.
Note that this review was not written directly after the cruise. Prior to posting this review we attempted to get some satisfaction from the cruise line or at least some answers and an apology. Our main concern was not compensation, but to make sure that their policies & procedures are updated so that someone else with food allergies does not go through what we did or worse. Apparently they were not even interested in talking to us as written correspondence was ignored and calls to the Executive Customer Relations team in Miami have gone unreturned.
Having read a few other reviews, we were a bit apprehensive that we may be disappointed. Thankfully, that was absolutely NOT the case. We loved it! The service was wonderful, food as well, and yes there were plenty of towels in our cabin as well as at the pool. From what we could tell, most of the complaints early must have been from start-up glitches.
Transfers to/from the ship were easy to do, only one port (Kona) requires a tender. We were in a suite which allowed us a VIP pass to the tender..basically you go to the front of the line. Below suites accomodations,you have a preset time to do this. Was everything perfect, no. Our dinner reservations were misplaced and we lost my sons shoes, but staff went out of their way to accomodate us. It isn't just the service that makes a place great, but how they handle the problems that shows their character.
Several of the shore excursions were pricey, but we comparison shopped ahead of time and booked our own. But then you have to get yourself there, either by rental car or taxi. It justdepends what it is you want to do and when. If you need to pay for someone else to do the planning and the transportation arrangements etc. then it is worth the cost. We would go again in a heartbeat.
First I will say that I have read many bad reviews about this ship so I was really looking for some of the things that I had read about and many of them were non-existant.
We flew to Hawaii a day early and stayed at the Marriott Waikiki Beach. The cruise line met us at the airport and took care of our luggage and transprotation to the hotel. This went suprisingly quickly. We were already checked into the hotel and room keys were distributed as soon as we arrived. This was very quick and easy. Next we went to the cruise office at the hotel and checked in for our cruise the next day. I will say that Norwegian needs to do something here to make this a little more efficient and help the line to move a little faster. But all in all it was not a bad experience but it could have been more organized.
The next day we were picked up at the hotel by the cruise line and taken to the ship. We then proceded thru security, next on to the photographer and get our picturetaken. This went really quickly and is the first time I have had a cruise line take that first picture before you recieve your room key. They had 2 or 3 photographers there so there was not a back up. You did not have to wait more than a minute or 2 to move on to the next step. We then proceeded to the check in desk to recieve our room keys. There is a separate desk for those who stayed at the Marriott Waikiki Beach and all we had to do was show our ID and we were given our room keys and we were off to board the ship. Because we were on a bus whose driver got lost and actually took us to the wrong ship we arrived at the same time as the bus that left the hotel 1/2 an hour after us (we all told the bus driver which ship we were on but he tried to tell us we were on the other ship in port not a very bright man I actually think they fired him when we got to the correct pier at least his supervisor met us there). so we were in a longer than normal line but it still only took a few minutes.
The ship is acutally very beautiful. We went to our cabin and dropped off our carry on luggage and our checked luggage was already there. Very quick never have I gotten luggage that quickly on a cruise ship. We then went up to the buffet restaurant. The food here was very good. There were several stations and it was organized so that there were 2 of every station one on each side of the restaurant. We went outside to eat and both the inside and outside areas of the ship were very clean and had many waiters ready to help. (There could have been a few more smiles on their faces but they were very friendly and took the time to talk to you if you asked a question or greeted them in a friendly way).
That first evening we went to the Liberty Restaurant, this was the prettiest of the 2 main restaurants (it also is the smallest of the 2), our waiter and assistant waiter were the best. Both very friendly and the service was outstanding. We were late leaving Honolulu as a snow storm had hit in Cincinnatti and some of the passengers were delayed. The captain came on and told us we would be departing later than scheduled and why. We actully pulled out of port almost 2 hours late and still did not have all of our passengers. Some of them met us in Maui the next morning.
The second and third days of our cruise were in Maui. We had a wonderful time here. We ate both evenings in the Skyline restaurant. We had a window table and the view was excellent, that is the best thing I can say about that restaurant. The service here is friendly but not as good as in the Liberty Restaurant. We did try the Skyline Restaurant one more time later in the week and the service had not improved. I will say the waiter we had the first time we tried this restaurant was the best they had to offer.
We did not get the opportunity to try any of the speciality restaurants except for the Cadillac Diner one afternoon for lunch. The service was slightly slow but they were packed and short staffed.
Now I will also say that to give the cruise line credit many of the crew were down with a 48 hour bug. I only know this because a couple of the people in our group also got this bug and one of them had to go to the ships doctor. While she was there at least 50 of the ships crew were also there for the same reason she was. The doctor said that one of the passengers on this sailing had brought it with them.
Our cabin was not made up until 2pm most days but I will also say that our origional cabin steward was one of the crew members out sick and the person making up our cabin was doing 22+ cabins a day.
The shows were excellent. The crew talent night was wonderful. The juggler/comic a must see. The 2 musicals/plays put on by the ships preformers were ok. I liked them both but they were nothing to write home about.
It rained almost everyday of our cruise and we were still able to have a great time. We arrived in Kauai the day after the dam burst and many of the roads were washed out. Almost all of the shore excrusions were canceled. The last day there we were advised not to leave the ship as the local athoriteis were afraid of another dam bursting and we would be stranded unable to return to the ship. The cruise line added many activities to this days schedule as we were unable to leave the ship.
So I will say in closing. We had a great time despite the rain (which the cruise line could do nothing about anyway). The ship was clean, the crew was friendly, the shows were great and the food was very good. I did not see any of the crew standing around talking on their cell phones (most were not even carring cell phones).
When we left many of the crew that I had talked to gave me a hug as I left.
My wife and I decided to take this cruise to celebrate her birthday. It was to be her first trip to Hawaii and my first in 36 years. We flew in two days before the cruise to visit Oahu, and rented a car at the airport. Despite the 13-hour trip from Virginia, we attended a luau the first evening, and on the second day we drove to Haunama Bay, where I had done my first snorkeling in 1967, and then to the Polynesian Cultural Center on the north shore, almost a two-hour drive. Roads are not well marked. We spent four hours visiting the villages representing each of the various areas of Polynesia, sampling foods like taro root and tapioca, and attending shows.
On Feb. 25, we checked out of the hotel (the Hilton Hawaiian Village) and returned our Avis rental to a downtown location, where we caught a taxi to the pier for $25. We arrived about noon. There were no porters. Once we were inside the terminal, the check-in process, through the Latitudes line, was about five minutes. We were presented with leis and shell necklaces, photographed, and we wereon our way aboard.
The Cabin We booked a category BD balcony cabin, 9678, aft on the port side of Deck 9. The balcony was very private, with no one able to look down from above. It was equipped with two chaise lounges and a table. The cabin was fully ready, except for a missing TV remote and the packages of Kona coffee for the in-room coffee maker, which our stewardess provided promptly. The large refrigerator accommodated a champagne bottle easily. We had ordered the NCL romance package, which includes champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, dinner in the Bistro with a bottle of wine of your choice, canapes one evening on formal evening, a 5x7 photo, and for those interested, a cake and champagne party -- well worth the $79 price.
We spent the early afternoon exploring the ship and taking photos of the dining rooms and meeting facilities before the ship was crowded. When sailing full, it does not depart until 8 p.m. due to the later-day arrival of flights from the mainland. The ship was spotless, and in excellent shape. At lunch in the Aloha buffet, due to the less than positive reviews we had seen, I watched carefully to observe the staff behavior and general conditions. While the food selections are unlabeled, they are plentiful, with a selection of hot items, pizza, sandwiches, salads, desserts, and free soft ice cream. Staff appeared constantly to clear and wipe empty tables. It was no different than any other line I have been on in my 26 prior cruises.
The Crew I made a point of speaking to staff throughout the cruise, asking where they were from. The assistant hotel director told me that 75% must be U.S. employees, and the rest U.S. visa employees. They had just gone into the third six-month contract period, and had major turnover in the dining room staff in December as a result. However, by February, it was not noticeable.
Dining We made reservations on arrival for two specialty restaurant dinners, the Lazy J Steakhouse (with a group we were accompanying), and Jefferson's Bistro. We ate in the Liberty Main Dining Room five nights, as we preferred the decor there to the Skylight Main Dining Room. The wait-staff in each was exceptional. I noted that the ship attempted to accommodate large parties at some tables, and saw groups of 12 to 24 frequently, even in specialty restaurants, something I have never seen on other ships. However, comments I heard indicated that the service was not as good/prompt for large parties as it was for small tables.
We got tables for two on the six nights we requested them, without reservations, and with a short wait only on the optional formal night. Twice we were seated at window tables. The staff was very friendly, and gave us excellent service. I even ordered a bottle of Hawaiian produced wine which, after tasting, I declined, and they provided me an alternative with no fuss. On another night, when they were out of the wine I ordered, they provided me a higher priced bottle at no extra charge. I had notified NCL that my wife was celebrating a birthday, and that night they sang to her and presented a large whipped cream covered cake, with no surcharge. It was excellent. My only comment -- there were only three entrees on the menu each night, a meat, fish and vegetarian choice. However, always available was steak, salmon (a different presentation each night), and pasta. A lamb lover, I was a little disappointed that it never appeared on the menu.
The Japanese and Italian restaurants were kept busy, although my wife commented that the Italian restaurant looked, at least by daylight, more like an ice cream parlor than an Italian restaurant. The Jefferson's Bistro was by far the most attractive and comfortable of the three NCL Bistro restaurants we have eaten in. Unfortunately, the menu is always the same, and less than imaginative in French offerings. In the Lazy J Steakhouse we ate with a group of 14 others, and they served the vegetables family style, on plates to be passed. One of the party (all from England) was celebrating a birthday, and one of the waitresses, on request, sang several songs for the group. The group of Englishmen and women observed, from their viewpoint, that the food was not served hot enough, and the wine not cold enough. Personally, I thought it was fine.
Entertainment The two productions shows featured some of the best talent and performances I have seen at sea, drawing a standing ovation on the night of the second show. They offered two performances each night. Other nights there were juggler/comedians and game shows. The day activities were lighter, as the ship is in port every day, but in Kauai, where it rained much of the two-day stay, they revised the schedule of day activities to accommodate those staying aboard. There were opportunities to dance, and on Feb. 28, Shrove Tuesday, they had a Mardi Gras party in (where else) the Mardi Gras Disco, where my wife even won a bottle of champagne. Two comfortable stops were the Pink Champagne Bar, where a pianist entertained in the evenings; and the Lanai Bar and Lounge on Deck 13, where a guitarist/singer entertained. This bar was closed for private functions the first two nights.
On the optional formal night I was one of maybe a dozen men wearing a tuxedo or dinner jacket. The schedule included one Hawaiian night, one Polynesian night, one optional formal night on Tuesday, and the rest listed as Resort Casual. In fact, it was Hawaiian night every night.
While NCL and NCL America are very strict about x-raying and confiscating any liquor or wine even in checked baggage, they will sell a bottle of wine at the bar for consumption in the cabin. I didn't try to purchase other alcohol for the cabin. Drink prices, in my opinion, are higher than on other ships, which may be due to Hawaiian taxes, and gratuities are not automatically added, causing me to have to calculate between martinis! I would prefer they automatically add the gratuity, as I suspect may servers get stiffed on drinks, and I wouldn't have to calculate every time.
The Itinerary The itinerary included a day berthed in Hilo, followed by a narrated sail at night past the coast where Kilauea Volcano is dumping fiery hot lava into the sea. Visibility was excellent. The next two days were spent pier-side in Kahului, Maui, including an overnight. In a rented car we drove to Hana, then continued around the southern end of the island, stopping at the Tedeschi Vineyards before returning to Kahului.
Early the next morning we drove the short distance to Maalaea harbor for a snorkeling excursion to Molokini, a rim of an eroded volcano six miles offshore. On the way to and from the site we stopped numerous times to view humpback whales surfacing, and occasionally breaching, sometimes less than 200 feet away. After a stop to visit Lahaina, where Island Princess was anchored, we returned to the ship for our sail-away to Kona.
Kona/Kailua was the only port where we anchored and required tendering, as did the HAL Amsterdam. Feeling that the Kona strip was like the Lahaina strip, which is like most other cruise ports, we rented a car and drove 26 miles south to a lava-covered beach touted as one of the best snorkeling spots in the area. Indeed it was, with absolutely beautiful coral in water of moderate depth, complete with moray eels and a variety of fish. But this harbor, adjacent to the City of Refuge State Park, is where spinner dolphins congregate. In deeper water, at one time I saw 37 dolphins below me, and on occasion they rose and swam within yards of me -- a thrilling experience.
From Kona we sailed to Nawiliwili Harbor in Kauai were we were pier-side for a day and a half, including an overnight. The first day was occasionally rainy and the visibility of the higher mountains was occluded by clouds and fog. However, we enjoyed the drive to Princeville and Hanalei Bay, stopping in Hanalei for lunch to enjoy marlin and tuna. The next morning we drove to Waimea Canyon, again partially obscured by clouds, and then back along the southern coast of Kauai, seeing features like blowholes and the beaches at Koloa and Poipu. Then, with a 2 p.m. sailing, the ship proceeded north around Kauai and past the NaPali coast, inaccessible except by sea. Our view was partially obstructed by fog, but the captain brought the ship quite close to the cliffs. We saw whales, again, during this passage. In fact, we saw more whales on this cruise in Hawaii than we did in Alaska.
Heading Home The ship returned to Honolulu at 7 a.m. on the last day. Because of Freestyle debarkation, we were able to leave our carry-on luggage in our cabin and enjoy breakfast in the dining room, which was open until 9 a.m. Our flight home was not scheduled until 6 p.m., so we debarked about 9:30 a.m. and took a taxi to the airport to rent a car. We placed all our luggage in the car and drove to Pearl Harbor to tour the museum and the Memorial. The 80-minute wait for our tour was spent inspecting the museum. The parking lot is patrolled by security, so we were not worried about the luggage in the car. After the visit, we drove around Diamond Head, and back into Waikiki for an early dinner, as there would be none on the plane. We returned the car at the airport and began our 11-hour flight home.
It was a memorable trip, on a beautiful ship, and a voyage we thoroughly enjoyed. While we left home with some misgivings due to the unfavorable reviews we had read, we experienced none of the problems they described -- and I was looking for them. One might keep in mind that when a cruise line brings out a new ship, they take experienced crew from other ships to man it. NCL America has a limitation. They cannot draw much from the rest of the NCL fleet, as the crew of each new ship must be at least 75 percent U.S. citizens. When Pride of Aloha was introduced, they had service problems, which mostly were eliminated by the time of the crew's second six-month contracts.
When they introduced Pride of America, they had to take half the Pride of Aloha crew to staff Pride of America, with 50 percent new hires. With this Pride of America staff into their third contract period, they will now be affected by the need to staff Pride of Hawaii with 50 percent drawn from Pride of Aloha and Pride of America. As with any line, I would not want to sail on a new ship until it had been operating six months to a year, to smooth out the systems, problems and staffing issues. Pride of America has been sailing 10 months now, and is an excellent operation, in my opinion. But remember, opinions are like noses -- everyone has one, but they are all different.
I just returned from my "vacation of a lifetime," with four dear friends -- I have to say it was disaster! I had been looking forward to taking a cruise since I had never been on one before -- even with the assurances of those who are seasoned veterans this trip has soured me on cruises.
Food: The food in the buffet and the Liberty/Skyline were either overcooked or undercooked. Choices were very limited and never in my life have I been served "white salmon" with barbequed sauce! It seemed that it was an obvious attempt to push you to the restaurants with the cover charges (which were always "reserved"). When we were able to get a reservation in the Lazy J Steakhouse the food was delicious. I expected to have delicious meals all of the time but this was not the case at all. The food in the buffet was picked over, cold, and unidentifiable. We continually ran out of the basics, coffee, diet coke, clean spoons, glasses, etc.
Staff: The staff was overworked, tired, untrained, and unprofessional -- with the exeception of our Stateroom steward,Monica, who tried very hard tokeep our room tip-top (even with a bruised ankle). We had a very good experience with one of the Shore Excusion staff personnel - Michael. He was courteous and professional at all times. However, most of the staff seemed to be very frustrated and short tempered. We had an occasion in one of the Cadillac Diner of the waitress slamming a drink down on our table and walking away. We were herded like cattle everywhere we went and it seemed as if most of the staff did not understand or know what they were doing!
Entertainment: There was a singer in the piano bar, WT Greer, that was very good, but again he was there only a short time and had to leave before the cruise was over. There was no real entertainment on board. We suffered rain most of the time so we were looking for onboard type activities that were not available. Of course, there was no casinos since this ship was not in international waters and gambling is not allowed in Hawaii.
Excursions:The excursions for the prices were awful -- we went from gift shop to gift shop (as if the ship was getting a cut on what was sold to us)! I felt as if I was nickled and dimed to death on this cruise-- of course, after I received the final bill I wish it was nickels and dimes instead of hundreds of dollars! You are charged and recharged for everything!
Don't do the Luau -- again over 1000 people attended the Luau and they only proved a 2-stall bathroom for the women. The buffet food was sub-par and by the time you received it -- it was cold! The entertainment for the Luau was not authentic and with the number of people there you could not see it!
Stateroom cleaniliness: We had to pull out the couch in the stateroom to look for a lost earring, and it was disgusting with dirt and other passengers lost items! Had not been cleaned in a while.
I will not recommend or travel NCL again!
This was our fourth cruise experience but our first, and last, on an NCL ship. Our party of 6, all experienced cruisers, were together to celebrate the 25th wedding anniversary of my wife and I. A celebration impacted in many ways by this negative cruise experience. Instead of pleasant memories of good times, good food and great service, we are left with feelings of being short changed.
There is one piece of good news. Hawaii is a beautiful place and whenever we left the ship our experiences were more positive. I only wish there had been more time in each port to explore the natural beauty of Hawaii. I also wish we had done more research before our trip to pick the best excursions and places to tour. Although we saw some beautiful, breathtaking sights, we could have avoided some snoozers. I take full responsibility for this shortcoming of our trip.
A Few Positives & Some Suggestions: For most everyone, getting to and from this cruise involves a very long plane ride. I urge you to get to Honolulu at least one day early and I would recommend staying an extra day afterthe cruise. We arrived in Honolulu on Thursday afternoon for a Saturday afternoon sail and this was just about right. On the return however, we disembarked at about 9:30 AM on Saturday and our flight did not depart Honolulu until after 10:00 PM that evening. We are from the East Coast of the US so, with time zone changes and flight delays, we did not get home until 10:30 PM Sunday evening.
If you stay in Honolulu before or after the cruise, I strongly recommend the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Most guests with rooms booked through NCL will stay at the Marriott instead. Luckily, our cruise was booked during a time when NCL and Marriott were in a contract dispute so we were put up at the Hilton. This was truly fortunate for us. The Marriott is clearly an inferior property, at least as compared to the Hilton. The Hilton is a HUGE facility sitting directly on the beach and it has every amenity imaginable. If I return to Honolulu for any reason I would stay at the Hilton.
Embarkation and disembarkation were reasonably smooth. We pre-registered at the NCL office located at the Marriott in Honolulu the day after our arrival in Hawaii. We also signed up for most of our shore excursions at this time. I strongly urge anyone going on this cruise to take this step. You can avoid the long lines at the excursion desk onboard and it makes the embarkation process a breeze.
Back to the cruise ship and its positivesâ?¦â?¦.wellâ?¦â?¦there aren't many. I guess that explains why the Cruise Director asked us all to say positive things when completing our cruise evaluation forms. I thought Jesse White in another review you can find on this website put it best; "You will be given the opportunity to evaluate the cruise. The cruise director asked that we mark everything "excellent." He asked that guests not let any "one thing" effect their overall evaluation of the cruise. This seems to epitomize the overall service on the cruise. Guests should consider "good enough" to be "excellent." â?" Perfectly stated Jesse!
Well, I never had the chance to fill in that cruise evaluation form because, each of the 3 cabins in our group were left a "crew" evaluation form (Do you like your job? Is NCL a good company to work for; Do we pay you enough?, etc.). One person in our group even went to the reception desk to ask for a proper evaluation form and they were given one copy. When they asked for three copies to satisfy the needs of the rest of our group they were told, in a terse and derogatory tone, that there were none left. Sorry, I just realized this is supposed to be the "positive" section of my feedback. Let me get back on track.
Of the specialty restaurants, the one with the best food and service is the Lazy J Steakhouse. Our waitress, Tiffany, by far provided the best overall service of anyone on this cruise ship. She was professional yet fun, prompt, efficient and caring, traits severely lacking on this ship. The food at the Lazy J is a 7 on a 10 point scale. Is 7 on a 10 point scale the best this ship had to offer you say? Yes, sad but true.
I give NCL kudos for fully refunding two excursions that were cancelled due to weather. One was for a helicopter tour for two members of our group and the other was for a luau that all 6 of us were scheduled to attend. Both events were cancelled due to rain, which of course NCL had no control over, yet they provided full refunds totaling over $600 just for our small group. Refunds were provided to literally hundreds of guests scheduled for the luau.
The entertainer in the Champagne Bar was phenomenal. I believe his name was WT Greer. He had a voice I could listen to for hours on end. Unfortunately we did not discover him until two days before our cruise ended. If he is still on board when you cruise on this ship; do NOT miss him! The comedian in the Hollywood Theater is rather funny and the Newlywed Not So Newlywed game was a hoot.
We also enjoyed a couple's massage in the spa which is a very nicely appointed facility. This 50 minute massage was a pricey though at over $300 with the included tips. Sorry to say that my second visit to the spa was not so pleasant. We returned one afternoon to inquire about getting a broken nail fixed for my sister-in-law and to ask about getting pedicures for my wife and I. We were told, in a terse and condescending tone, that the spa was booked for the rest of the day and there was a clear inference that a broken nail was the least of their worries. Based on the tone of the person behind the desk we simply left without scheduling our pedicure and no one in our group ever returned to the spa for the rest of our cruise.
I give the on-board photographers an "A" for effort and a "C" for results. Of the two dozen or more shots we had taken during the week, the only photos we fell in love with were shots taken with a flag in the backdrop (the Pride of America logo), which took away from the photo.
The remaining positives about this cruise really have nothing to do with NCL; we'll credit the good Lord. The views of the Na Pali coast are to die for. It is difficult to describe this breathtaking experience as you cruise slowly and closely along this expansive and dramatic coastline. During this portion of the cruise we also saw literally dozens of whales playfully meandering around the ship. I even got to experience a full breech. What an awesome sight! There was one thing that took away from this experience though. While the 2,000 guests were enjoying the magical view and the whales passing ever so closely, you could hear a pin drop. That is, until several crew members decided they wanted to play basketball in the open court on deck 14. Couldn't they have picked a different time?
The nighttime cruise past the glowing red lava of the Mount Kilauea Volcano was also a sight I will never forget. Hearing the sounds of steam being created as the lava hit the waters of the coastline was simply awesome.
Excursions: We had four excursions planned including the luau that was cancelled due to rain as I mentioned earlier. I only wish we had done more excursions or ventured out on our own in rental cars as there is so much natural beauty to experience in Hawaii and I was left with the feeling that, although we experienced some beautiful sights, much was left to see.
My strongest recommendation for an excursion is the Valley Waterfall Hiking Adventure in Kona. This is a MUST DO! You will experience sights and remote beauty unseen by even many of the locals. Do not let the word "hike" scare you away. It is basically a flat ground walk with only gentle slopes easily walked by people of most abilities. Only if you have a raw fear of heights should you avoid this excursion. Colleen was our tour guide and she was caring, truly knowledgeable of the island, its history and all the vegetation. This tour operation as a whole was extremely professional. They had every detail covered including sufficient bathroom stops (sometimes porta-potties but clean ones), walking sticks, fanny packs, ponchos in case of rain, bug spray if needed, plenty of bottled water and a fresh and tasty boxed lunch. Every detail was covered including offering wet wipes to remove any bug spray from your hands so would not ingest any or get any in your eyes. All of this was included in the price. WOW!
I also recommend the Maui Downhill Bike excursion on Mount Haleakala. We did the 22 mile midday tour. There is also a 38 mile morning sunrise tour that I was told on a clear day is an incredible trip. Now, 22 and 38 miles may sound like a looonnngggg bike ride but, these bikes are very comfortable and you are simply sitting and coasting down the mountain. On our ride there was only one spot about Â¼ mile long that required some easy pedaling. The rest of the trip was simply coasting. Driving up the mountain in our transport van we experienced some incredible views. Unfortunately, during the rainy season in Hawaii, the weather can change at a moments notice. When we reached the mountain top there was a light snow on the ground â?" yes, I said snow. It began to rain as we suited up and it rained for our entire ride. In fact, it even hailed for a time. The tour operator I would rate as a C minus. Their base camp operation was run down and tacky, the rain gear was old and less than effective and they provided nothing other than the van ride, bike, guide and rain gear. It is a long day and they do not provide water or lunch. Regardless, I highly recommend this tour but watch the weather closely. Also, there are several operators doing very similar downhill bicycle tours. I suggest you check out some of the others not tied to NCL.
Our last excursion was the Waimea Canyon, Wailua River and Fern Grotto trip. This trip is mostly a boring, long, long; did I say long (?), bus ride. The 3 major stops were a must see but, rent a car and do these stops on your own and you will be much better off. This tour lasted nearly 9 hours and cost the 6 of us $500+ in total. We could have accomplished the same trip in 4 hours with a rental car at a total cost of approximately $200.The Negatives:
Let me highlight some of the negatives.
- None of our documents such as cruise tickets, hotel reservations and flight reservations arrived until a week before our trip. We booked this trip at least 6 months in advance so the late arrival of these documents did not make any sense. These should arrive at least two weeks in advance if not 30 days.
- The process at the Honolulu airport was unclear. I am a very experienced traveler having done business travel for 30 years and yet I found the process confusing and harried.
- The toilet in our cabin was dirty on arrival; and I mean dirty.
- Cleaning supplies had been left in our bathroom on arrival.
- Shoes from the prior guest had been left under the bed and were not found by the cabin steward. This happened in two of the three cabins our group was occupying.
- The carpets in all of our cabins were dirty and looked as though they had not been fully vacuumed to the corners in weeks. This may be why shoes left behind were not found.
- One party in our group needed to ask for towels on more than one occasion. One of our cabins asked about getting face cloths as none had been left â?" they never arrived.
- One cabin in our party was left without toilet paper.
- Each cabin is outfitted with coffee and creamer. I am a coffee lover. The problem is that the coffee maker was missing from our cabin. I pointed this out to our cabin steward on the second morning of our trip. A week later â?" still no coffee maker.
- In all of my prior cruise experiences I had been in awe at the efficiency of the cabin stewards. It always seemed as though my room was cleaned or picked up every time I left the cabin, even if only for an hour. Not so, on this cruise line. One cabin in our group actually went two days without being cleaned. We would return from day long excursions to find that at 3:00 pm our cabin was still not made up. In fact, one day someone in our group returned at 4:00 pm and their cabin was not clean so they asked the cabin steward to get it done so they could prepare themselves for dinner. The cabin steward said that it would need to wait as she was going on break and would not return until 6:30 pm. That would NEVER happen on other cruise lines.
- We had laundry done and all of the clothes were returned with a stiff starchy feeling. This was not dry cleaning, it was laundry.
- My wife needed a zipper replaced on a nice pair of slacks that were part of a suit. We were pleased to learn that they had a tailor on board â?" great! The next morning the laundry room called to say they could not replace the zipper. I was ok with that as I understand that their supplies and capabilities were probably limited. The issue was when it took two requests to our cabin steward and a trip to the reception desk, and I will admit to not being pleasant about it, in order to get the slacks back. All in all, a three day process. And, when they were returned they were rolled up in a laundry bag. Speaking of laundry bags, there were none in our cabin. I requested that our cabin steward provide some, to no avail. I ended up going to the supply closet later that day to get some myself.
- Each cabin has a $4.50 bottle of Evian water and a bottle of Pellegrino. They are tagged with a note indicating the price and suggesting that if you use up the supply to simply fill out a slip to request more. On day three of our trip we used up the water bottle. I was never left a slip to ask for more nor did I ever get anymore.
- Each cabin is outfitted with a nicely designed welcome sign that can be rotated to indicate do not disturb, to request turn down service or to request that the cabin be made up. Don't bother using these signs as they are completely disregarded by your cabin steward. They clean cabins in sequence and only in sequence.
- The very first person I spoke with upon embarking could not answer any, none, nada of my questions. Now, if I was managing this ship and I assigned four or five greeters to work in the gangway during embarkation, I would be certain they were some of the most knowledgeable crew onboard. Not so, this person told me he had been here only one month! Why was he a greeter?
- Smoking is acceptable, or at least condoned, in several public areas on this ship. For example, every public restroom has ash trays in the stalls.
- Ahh...the Aloha Cafe. It could best be described as the worst possible hospital food served buffet style. My food quality expectations whenever I go to a buffet are not very high. This buffet could not even come close to my lowest expectations. For example, the eggs are simply not palatable. If you had time you could wait in line and have eggs prepared for you but there was always a line. Each and every day the bacon was like wood paneling. The coffee was terrible and fully half of the latte machines were broken and stayed that way all week. Finding a spoon to stir your coffee was always difficult. They would only put out about 100 spoons at a time and with over 2,000 people feeding themselves every morning they always seemed to be out of spoons. The coffee cups are disgusting. At least every other cup one touched was coffee stained. They saved money by buying plastic coffee cups and the dishwashers will simply not remove the stains. There were never any utensils at the fruit bar. You could pick up a plate and some nicely done fresh fruit but needed to go elsewhere to get utensils. Fruit, salads and desserts were the only edible foods in the Aloha CafÃ©. Forget trying any of the hot foods.
- If you must use the Aloha Cafe, I urge you to use the area at the aft of the ship. It is outdoors and offers some pleasant seating. The outside buffet is not as crowded and has all the offerings as the inside cafe.
- To avoid the hospital quality buffet in the Aloha Cafe we took to having breakfast and lunch in the Skyline restaurant. The problem was this. Breakfast took from 1-2 hours and lunch was always well over an hour. In fact, on the last day of our cruise breakfast took over 2 Â½ hours. That is simply unacceptable.
- Jefferson's Bistro; sounds upscale doesn't it? This is where we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary dinner and a sad evening it was as we were expecting a fine dining experience. It was not to be. Our evening began with an assistant to the Maitre d' ignoring our arrival and simply looking down at the computer screen of table assignments. He eventually walked away without ever acknowledging our presence. When the Maitre d' arrived sometime later she ignored us and carried on a conversation with a waiter. Whatever he whispered to her was upsetting and she huffed and sighed loudly while looking at the group seated at one of the tables. She eventually acknowledged our presence in a "you're bothering me" tone. When making our reservation we were told that the ONLY available table for six was 6:00 pm, much earlier than we wanted to eat, yet, more than 50% of the restaurant remained empty throughout our 3.5 hour dining ordeal.
Next we met our waiter. I would describe him as arrogant, ornery and condescending. He was frustrated with every question we asked during the ordering process. I could write several paragraphs about this one part of our dining experience however, two events say it all. First, the chef's special that evening was a petite filet mignon and lobster tail (at a $15/person additional surcharge by the way). We asked if the lobster was Maine lobster or something else. He said he didn't know and seemed rather irritated by the question. He stood there looking at us so we asked if he could find out the origin of the lobster. His response, again in an irritated tone was, "Why, does it make a difference". When we indicated that it did in fact make a difference he proceeded to tell us it was "probably from Indonesia". Again he stood there. We then asked him directly to ask the kitchen. He left in a huff. He returned a few minutes later and announced to the table that it was in fact Maine lobster. Great, five of the six in our party ordered the filet and lobster tail special.
When our entree's arrived it was clear that the lobster was not from Maine. You see, we are all from New Hampshire and we are very familiar with the appearance, taste and texture of Maine lobster and, yes, it does make a difference. So, basically the waiter lied to us to appease the group. There was another issue with this waiter that we were so upset by that we nearly walked out in the middle of the meal. We had entered the restaurant with our drinks from the adjacent John Adams bar. This is an accepted practice when cruising. One member of our party was not consuming alcohol that evening so he had a glass of Coke with him as well as the remainder from the can when we arrived. When he ordered another Coke the waiter said "I suppose you want that in a can". He said this in the most condescending tone you could imagine. All of us were both insulted and embarrassed.
- One evening we had a 5:00 pm reservation in the East Meets West restaurant, specifically in the Teppanyaki room. This was again the "only available" seating. Well, the restaurant did not open until 5:10 pm. By now even simple things like a restaurant opening late irritated me. And, as was so often the case on this cruise, only about 50% of the seats in the restaurant were used during our dinner. Why is it we can only get a five o'clock reservation but seats go unfilled all evening? This seemed to happen in every specialty restaurant. I will give credit to our Teppanyaki chef. He was funny, flexible and he made the meal enjoyable. These Teppanyaki tables are designed to seat 10 per table. The staff put eight Japanese speaking guests at one table, our English speaking party of six at another table and they seated a young couple with us that was also Japanese speaking. In fact, they knew hardly any English. If the restaurant had customer service in mind, they would have seated those of similar language together. After all, there were only 16 of us in the entire Teppanyaki room and the issue was very obvious.
- One night in the Liberty Restaurant, one of the more nicely appointed facilities on this ship, our waitress had a few concerns. She told us how she hated her work, how she had this job only as a way of trying to become one of the entertainers, how she was jealous of the high pay and treatment of the entertainers and how tired she was of working so hard. Now there's good customer service for you. And, it gets better. We asked about the specific preparation of the Osso Bucco veal shank. The waitress proceeded to tell us, in complete disgust, how veal was actually baby lamb. Oh my!
- "Free"style dinning simply means you fight for a reservation at some time other than when you want to eat and you pay more. Did you know that the $10-15/person cover charge is just the beginning? Most of these theme restaurants also charge you even more for their better entrees? Supposedly you can dial extension 50 to make dinner reservations. Most times this was a waste as no one would answer the phone. This left you walking from restaurant to restaurant trying to find a reservation that worked for your party.
- Let's talk about sewage. This ship either has a design flaw or a system malfunction which causes strong smells of raw sewage to be prevalent at different times and at different locations around the ship. You can be standing on deck 11 aft and suddenly you are met with strong sewage smells. Later you might be on the walking area of deck 6 about midship and the same smell is pervasive. Whenever you tender to shore, the sewage smells in the area of the gangway are particularly strong. The worst was one evening when I was returning to my cabin on deck 4. That evening the sewage smell had permeated the entire cabin area in the ships aft to midship. It was strong enough to make one sick to their stomach.
- Pool deck; too small for this sized ship. I'm guessing that a maximum of 50 guests could sit in the sun at pool level. That is a pretty small percentage of the 2,000 people on board. I recommend that you go to the small pool at the back of the ship. It was quiet and the bar service was better. Fumes from the engines were a negative back here though.
- The John Adams Bar is conveniently located at midship near the main gangway doors. This was a convenient meeting location for our group prior to any events or meals. Sadly though, this bar had the worst customer service of any on the ship. It was nearly impossible to get served if you sat anywhere but at the bar. The waitress was always off roaming the ship and didn't seem to care that people were waiting to be served. Further, with only one bartender, whenever the waitress did wait on tables she became frustrated because the bartender would always wait on bar patron after bar patron before addressing her order needs. Several times during the week she would need to go behind the bar to make her own drinks. Now that is team work for you!
- The staff at the reception desk was generally pleasant (not always as noted above) but they lacked knowledge of many things relative to the ship and they lacked a "can do" attitude. Excuses as opposed to solutions seemed to be the norm. As an example, we needed to check on a possible change to our airport transfers. The reception desk acted as though this was the first time they had ever heard such a question. They eventually gave us an extension number onboard ship of someone who could help us. We called that number, several times, and the phone was never answered. Having gone back to reception, we were given a number to call in Miami. Making that call was a waste of time. They were completely uncaring and unhelpful. Maybe the Miami office at NCL needs customer sensitivity training also.
- STOP..STOP.. the forced or automatic tipping. This degrades customer service at all levels. I believe it is one of the greatest mistakes cruise lines are making today. Forced tipping is an industry wide trend and is not NCL's problem alone. I do propose however, that NCL could dramatically improve its customer service very rapidly if they were to reinstitute the recommended tipping versus forced tipping program. Poor service performers would quickly be weeded out through attrition.
- The design of the Hollywood Theater is simply bad. One must remember that the Pride of America is a smaller ship and as such there are many design constraints. One area where design was comprised is in the theater. The elevation change from one row to the next is insufficient to stop the person in the row in front of you from blocking your view. Other than the first few rows, all the seats shared this problem. I've already bloviated extensively in this review and rest assured I could go on and on, in particular with the negatives. Simply put, most every customer service experience onboard the ship was poor. Only about 20% or less of the crew was caring and professional. It was hard to even get acknowledged when passing a crew member in the hallway â?" something you would never find on other cruise lines. Most crew members never smiled. I am going to step out on a ledge a little and give my opinion of what is going on with this ship as compared to other cruise lines. What I am about to say may not be politically correct, but it deserves to be said.
This is one of the few ships sailing from US ports that has a primarily American crew. Sadly, that fact is a real negative for this ship. Crews on ships have a demanding job working seven days a week for weeks and months on end. Most Americans are simply not accustomed to this schedule and many of the crew seemed to resent their treatment or found the routine too difficult. Generally speaking, foreign crew members on other ships are glad to be there, they appreciate their jobs. That was not true of the crew on the Pride of America. In a mere seven days, I was directly told by three different crew members that they hated their jobs. In a fourth case I overheard two crew members going on and on about their hatred for their work and NCL. I also experienced a supervisor disciplining a bus boy for not cleaning up some dishes brought into the Aloha CafÃ© by the poolside bar. This was essentially a "turf" debate about who should clean up after whom. This discussion took place in public. When it was over, the supervisor left and the bus boy sputtered loudly enough for all to hear about how he felt while clearing away the dishes from the poolside bar. Every member of our six person party on multiple occasions during the week heard crew members complaining about their jobs. Just what I am looking for when I vacation!
How much of these crew quality issues are the direct fault of NCL due to poor hiring and training and or poor working conditions is not clear to me. I propose, however, that a clean sweep of 80% of this crew must be accomplished and strong consideration should be given to the source of new hires.
Overall Summary: This could be such a wonderful cruise as the ports of call are exceptionally beautiful. But, NCL's poor crew selection and training and the overall lack of customer service as well as the "freestyle" experience ruin an otherwise incredible cruise. Unless a high quality cruise line comes to Hawaii, I strongly urge all comers to avoid NCL and island hop via airplane instead.