We were very disappointed with our cruise on Pride of America. This was our 3rd cruise, and probably the last with NCL. The all American staff was friendly, but not as service oriented as the international staffs we were accustomed to. The ship is understaffed, reservations for dinner in any of the restuarants were filled for the entire week by the end of the 2nd day, only to see many tables empty. It appeared only half of the tables were used because of staff shortage. Spa services were not available either after the 2nd day, except for nails.
We had several problems with billing, which got to be a pain. Staff keep telling us that the services were slow/bad because of such large number of passengers onboard. However, didn't NCL know that when they sold the tickets? And on the last day, we were told not to worry about disembarking, that we could have a leisurely breakfast, etc., but the housekeeping staff came up & down the halls before 7:00 am banging on the doors to wake everyone up.
Hawaii was wonderful, but the cruise was a major disappointment. I wish Ihad known about this web page before we sailed.
I have never before been on a cruise and I was very excited to visit the different Hawaiian Islands. I had heard from friends who loved the food, service and wonderful mixture of relaxation and fun-packed activities from their various cruises.
I purchased my cruise online based entirely on the itinerary. In the months leading up to the cruise I read very mixed reviews of the NCL Pride of America. It seems that the reviews fell into two distinct categories: Those who had been on cruises before and felt the service and food fell far short of other lines and those who didn't seem to mind the food and service they experienced. They definitely saw the glass as half full. I was determined to be one of those folks. After all, I had already paid and there was no turning back. Why not just enjoy all there was to enjoy and forget the rest?
This proved to be harder than I thought.
12:40pm Embarkation: The pier in Honolulu where you embark has almost no parking near the ship. If you are dropping off the rest of your party with the luggage andwant check in with them, this will be a problem. There were no signs listing where to bring your luggage. There were just piles of luggage all over the place. After carrying our luggage way out of the way, we noticed, we were the only people in line waiting with luggage. Finally, we asked someone who had checked our Ids where to go. They directed us to an unmarked table somewhere "out there." We had walked right by it. The person working the table quickly tagged our luggage and we were on our way. Unfortunately, they tagged it with the correct cabin number but used the wrong tag, which stated that our cabin was in the forward section of the ship. We were in the rear (or Aft Section).
This would result in the luggage not getting to the room until 8pm.
Next we went to a cashier of sorts who checked our IDs, swiped our credit card and issued our ship IDs. Some of us were given leis and we were herded before a photographer who snapped our photo. Next, up the escalator and we entered the 5th floor where the main lobby and ship's staff greeted us and informed us that our cabin (and indeed the entire 10th floor) was not yet ready for guests. They suggested we visit the Aloha cafe for a bite and wait.
We did and this is where things began to deteriorate.
Food This cafeteria-style "cafe" features food best described as "Casino buffet meets Hospital Cafeteria." It is as though they took the bland food of a hospital kitchen and combined it with the presentation and the occasional fryerlaytor of a second rate casino buffet. This tasteless mess is then made to sit under hot lights until it expires. And then you are meant to eat it.
Having read the online reviews and cruise website, I knew that it would be important to get reservations at the "specialty restaurants". I left my family and began the frantic rush to literally run from restaurant to restaurant to secure dinner reservations so that we would never again have to visit the Aloha CafÃ©. I thought part of the allure of taking a cruise was that you would not HAVE to rush around.
As the cruise progressed, we tried almost every restaurant. I am sorry to report that although none were as dreadful as the Aloha Cafe, they never rose very high above it either.
East Meets West is the Asian-inspired eatery just off the main lobby. I live in New York, so I am used to good Chinese food and a bit weary of a place that features, Chinese, Japanese and Indian. To dine here, you will pay $10 per person and you will automatically get edamame, (1/2 cup to share for 3 people) and dim sum dumplings (3 dumplings and 1 small pork bun) for 3 people to share. Even though there is a limited menu, they will still be out of at least 2 items, even if you are there when it opens at 5:30pm. When your main course arrives, it will be approximately one cup of food and one cup of steamed or fried rice. You may also choose a soup or salad and dessert. My family found the food here the best with the chicken salad particularly good.
There are constant flashes of light bursting into the East Meets West dining room because the eatier's interior windows face the ship's lobby where a photographer's studio is set up. It will surely test the medications of any epileptic in your party as well as your own patience.
Lazy J's Steakhouse charges a $15 per person charge and features steaks that taste better when served on airplanes. The dining room is nice and the service was prompt and efficient.
Little Italy has no per person charge but does require reservations. We enjoyed our 5 rings of calamari and cup of pasta. Pass on the mozzarella on tomato slices and basil. It was a tasteless affair with colorless tomato and a quarter teaspoon of basil chiffonade.
The chocoholic buffet was widely touted by the servers as a wonderful experience. Wonderful is a strong word. Crowds are corralled into the waiters' stations, which have been configured to force you into a long line. Once in this line, you must walk all the way though with escape only at the end. You will be met at the end of the line by a server who politely suggests that you take your plate back to your room. Servers do not want to have to clean and reset tables that are set for dinner. The buffet features many repeating items except chocolate -dipped fruit. Servers will ask you which piece of fruit you would like dipped in white or milk chocolate.
Lobster night was even more hyped by the staff. It is served in the Liberty and Skyline restaurants (different levels of basically the same restaurant). You may think "Lobster Night" would feature an all you can eat lobsterfest or even a menu with a few different lobster dishes. You would be wrong. On Thursday night, the menu featured one lobster dish - small warm-water lobster tails. The meal that warranted this hype is 1/2 cup of saffron risotto, 2 spears of asparagus and 1 1/2 half lobster tails (approximately 4 ounces of lobster). My family found the lobster bland and tasteless "a butter delivery system" as they are used to Maine Lobsters. I enjoyed it. Chocolate decadence is a strange dessert that resembles a hostess Ring Ding but it is filled with so many hazelnuts, it has an odd mouth feel, part cake, and part brittle. I can't tell if it was a good idea executed badly or just a bad idea.
Drinks: I do not drink so I purchased the "soda program." It cost $35 plus tip for the week and you will get a sticker on your ship ID. In theory, you just have to flash your ID whenever you want a soda and there is no charge. In the Aloha Cafe, a lonely person stands with an improvised beverage cart of sorts. If you ask that person for a can of soda, they will tell you that you can't have a whole can. You will have to come back for another cup of soda when you want it. The reasons given for this ranged from: "Well, you are supposed to only have fountain soda." To "I'll get in trouble if I give you the whole can." I also do not drink coffee but one of the most disgusting things I saw on the ship were scores of dirty cups presented as clean. Early on, diners at the Aloha cafe knew to look into the coffee cups. Some featured lipstick, coffee rings or general food stains. I would say that 100% of the time, I had to pick up at least 3 cups before I found one to be clean. When I explained that there were tons of dirty cups mixed in with the clean ones, I was met with a staff member displaying what can only be described at the John F. Kennedy autopsy stare.
Cabin: We had 3 people sharing a balcony cabin which we found to be in good condition and pretty new and nice. The pullout sofa was very comfortable. There is a room safe that is easy to use and a fridge and coffeemaker in the room. Within the first 5 minutes in our cabin we killed a roach, but never saw another one.
Housekeeping was a bit of a challenge. Despite the fact that we had 3 people in the room, the room attendant would only leave 2 towels. The first day, I just called down and someone came up with some. They apologized and mentioned they would leave a note for the housekeeper so she would leave more towels. That day, I left a tip on the bed along with my laundry. When I returned, the tip was on the dresser and there were still only two towels. Day in and out, I would call down and ask for another towel. When I would see the attendant in the hall, I would explain there are 3 people in the room. She would apologize and then the next day it would happen again. You wouldn't think that something like this would be a big deal, but you'd be surprised how something so simple could become so irritating. One day it took 2 hours to get another towel. On the last day of the seven-day cruise, she again left two towels.
Laundry: You will not be allowed to bring an iron on the ship. The ship does offer laundry and dry-cleaning services. I found this to be very bad. I had to go to the front desk to get a laundry bag and ticket as none was left in my room. I left my laundry on my bed at 8am as directed for express service to be back by 6pm that same night. When it was not back at 8pm, I called housekeeping and they explained it was not done and "hopefully", it would be done by noon the next day. The following day at 6pm, it was still not back. I called and 2 hours later a gentleman came to my room with my laundry unironed but on hangers and apologized. As I placed it in the closet, I noticed it contained items that did not belong to me and were even labeled with a different cabin number on it. During my stay I overheard other guest complaining about lost laundry at the front desk.
Television: My room had access to 15 television channels. Three have broadcast programs, the rest are commercials and reruns of old movies. They are: #21 Ship info, explaining what is on each deck, #22: ship travel info: seas, sunrise and sunset, next port, report from bridge, time, date, etc. # 23 commercials for shore excursions, 24: commercials for cruises, port shops, etc. # 25 a live bow cam showing the bow of the ship, # 26: ESPN, #27: CNN International, # 28: Cable Network TNT, # 29 Favorite Show: reruns of series, #30: Reruns of movies (like Sound of Music, Batman Begins) #32: Activity channel, which rebroadcasts whatever the cruise director staff did last night in the "Hollywood Theatre" on the ship, #33: Safety channel, safety information about the ship, #34: reruns of old movies, #35: Commercials for ship's restaurants.
My Cabin had wired access to high-speed Internet service using a satellite. It was expensive but worth it. $.75 a minute or packages of 100 minutes for $55 or 250 minutes for $100. The ship also has an Internet lounge that offered the same services you can get in your room and is staffed by a friendly, knowledgeable person. There is an extra charge for printing and an even bigger charge to send an email using an email account they set up for you. This $3.95 charge is per email sent.
Sales: I was the least prepared for all the sales activity that I would be subject to while I was on the ship. It is one thing to get a call from a telemarketer. It is another thing to trapped on a ship with a team of them. Every time you exit the ship, you will be herded into a picture. At the ship's restaurants, you will be accosted by a photographer who asks you to stop eating and gather close together so he can photograph you. In Kauai, my Mom was jostled and pushed down the gangway by someone dressed as Uncle Sam who was frantically trying to beat the crowd off the ship so he could assume his position for the photographer. I had to politely tell a person dressed as an American Eagle that I was not interested which I did by saying: "Sorry, I'm in a relationship."
Once your photograph has been taken, it is placed in display cases for your purchase. Ironically, the really bad photos do not get purchased so as the cruise progresses the photo gallery gets filled with more and more hideous photos. It is good for a laugh when you get sick of the 3 TV stations in your room (unless you happened to be in one of the photos I suppose).
There are many shore excursions to choose from and I have to admit I did not do any. I found it just as easy to rent a car and drive wherever we wanted. We could go at our own pace and stay longer or shorter as our interests dictated. We always rented from Avis but I would advise anyone except Avis as sometimes they had a shuttle, sometimes they didn't. I noticed Hertz, Thrifty, and Budget all had much better shuttle service to and from the pier. The Road to Hanna was thrilling; Volcano National Park and Wimea Canyon are must-sees. All of these are nearly free and require only a rental car and a map. If going on the Road to Hana bring food and best to drive a small car. The Blue Hawaiian Helicopter ride in Maui was terrific. We rented a car everywhere except Kona where you will not need one.
Entertainment: I enjoyed playing cards with my family in Shuffles Card room and I enjoyed the "Not So Newlywed Game" which features onboard patrons answering embarrassing questions for token prices. The professional entertainment very mixed. We found the juggler and Chris Alpine (the comedian) to be polished and funny. The America-themed review was the most dreadful thing I have seen in a very long time. Take 4 talented singers and 9 reasonably talented dancers and have them sing a mixture of "America-themed" songs. Despite modern stage facilities, picture recorded music, lip-syncing dancers, lights that don't appear to be focused on anything in particular. Most times the person singing is in the dark. One particularly odd number had a background saying "TIMES SQUARE" and company members in church robes singing about love while a haze machine pumped so much smoke, one wondered if the ship was on fire. What any of those things has to do with one another is anyone's guess. In fact, much of the review is like that. It is so badly conceived and directed, it makes one long to be at a high-school band concert.
The next night, there was a review featuring native dancers from Kauai. This show made the America-themed review look like Broadway. There was nothing redeeming whatsoever. If STOMP can make banging on trashcans entertaining, surely someone can make the rhythmic moves and chats of Hawaii more fun than this!
As I said early in my review of the cruise, my glass is half-full. Whether searching for a clean cup, begging for a towel, enjoying my cup of spaghetti, or running away from the ship photographers, I was determined to keep my sense of humor and enjoy myself.
Spa: My mother and sister enjoyed the La Therapie Hydralift facials at the spa. Each cost $117 plus a $17.55 tip, which was automatically added to the service. They also bought product and came back from the spa like giddy school girls.Evaluation: You will be given the opportunity to evaluate the cruise. On Wednesday night, you will get an evaluation form. 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." And maybe it is in the cruise line business. I have never been on a cruise before. It's disappointing when essentially a floating hotel can't get the simple things right: Towels, food, and laundry.
This was a "Family Group" cruise consisting of 11 Family members, celebrating the inlaws' 60th anniversary. The anniversary was nice but the cruise was a DISASTER!
First off it was the ship itself. This is supposed to be a "New" ship but it won't be new very long at this rate. As an experienced cruiser (15 cruises) we found this to be the smallest cabin of any I've ever experienced. The bathrooms are extremly tiny. The toliets continully malfunctioned almost daily. The water was turned off without warning almost daily. The A/C system has no useable in-room controls and the room was ALWAYS too warm no matter how much we complained.
The service of the cabin steward was marginal at best. He tried hard but he had TOO many rooms to clean and not enough hours in the day to do a Good job. Some rooms had coffemakers and some did not. It was always a guessing game as to if you would have coffee supplied daily or not.
Overall, the ship is VERY understaffed and overworked. The all-american crew will readily show their frustration, irritation and fatigue. The result is uniformily POORservice and attitudes.
This carries over to the food. Some of it was unedible. Only OK at best. Often it was served cold or late or incomplete. (bread without butter, coffee without cream, etc) It became a running joke among our family and other passengers about what was ALWAYS missing on the menu. The kitchen NEVER had all the items listed. Before you ordered you first asked what they DID NOT have. The "Freestyle" cruising thing sounds like a great idea but simply does not work. Too many people wanting to eat at the same time resulted in long lines and short tempers.
The entertainment was almost non-existent. No live music, only recordings. The amatuer performers also doubled as waiters and cabin stewards! No other activites at all happening on the ship during the day. Hawaii is beautiful and the excursions were great but very expensive. Bring your wallet! We love cruising and it was sad to hear several "first-time" cruisers say this would be their last. Overall this was the worst cruise I have ever had. NCL needs to make some MAJOR changes here in order to survive very long in this market.
I wrote a letter to Norwegian Cruise Line outlining our easily verifiable difficulties on the Pride of America. The letter was mailed on September 12, 2005 after our return. We recieved no response so I sent a copy of the letter to corporate headquarters and a copy to Latitudes Customer Service on January 12, 2006. There has been so response at all. That tells you a little bit about how much they care about customer service.
The letter follows:
Norwegian Cruise Line 7665 Corporate Center Drive Miami, Florida 33126
We got off of Norwegian Cruise Lines brand new ship, the Pride of America on September 9, 2005. My husband and I have been on about 15 or so cruises. Some were on budget cruise lines that no longer exist. We have never had such an unhappy experience. I have never been so glad for a vacation to end.
12 hours before we were to leave home, the cruise line left a message on our home phone that the Radisson Hotel, where we were to stay, was overbooked and we were being moved to a much cheaper budget hotel some distance away thatis due to be renovated this year for the precruise part of our package on Oahu for 2 days. It was nowhere close to being a comparable hotel.
On Saturday, September 3, we boarded and there was a buffet awaiting. It included large shrimp with cocktail sauce. We expected to settle in and enjoy paradise. We got to our high priced balcony cabin on deck 10 and discovered that we could only see straight out. The balcony had a large overhang of about 10 feet past the rail and walls that came down from the roof that kept it dry in the rain but also prevented us from seeing to either side at all. We could only see straight out. It was much like having blinders on. By the second day, the chairs and rail were salt encrusted and stayed that way the remainder of the cruise.
We were handed a schedule for the day as we boarded. Inside was a letter saying that we would not be sailing past the volcano on Sunday evening. That was the chief reason for booking this particular cruise. We were supposed to sail past the erupting volcano on the big island after dark and turn around and come back so that it could be viewed from either side of the ship. Within an hour of reading the letter, we happened to run into the Captain on deck and asked him why were losing a part of our trip that was so important to us. He first told us that there was an engine problem that prevented us from reaching top speed and we would have been late arriving in port on schedule. After pressing him a bit, the Captain, who has now left the ship, told us that it was too costly to sail up the coast and back, a distance of about 30 miles. We all know what has happened to the cost of fuel but it was the biggest reason to book this particular cruise and was a MAJOR event on the cruise. You should continue to do it until you have notified all passengers of the change and allowed them to cancel their cruise without penalty.
The shore excursions are very overpriced. Keep in mind that we are seasoned sailors and have taken many cruise line shore excursions in the past and have enjoyed most of them. NCL passengers can't buy reasonably priced tours on the islands from local operators. You need a hotel key to get the normal, reasonable price. If you are on the ship, you pay double or even triple the advertised price. These vendors are not about to risk their contract with the cruise lines by selling you the tour at the price hotel guests pay. We found this out when we tried to buy a tour at the advertised price. I don't think that is legal but it is the way it worked.
This ship has no casino to generate revenue as the international ships do. A single photograph is $13. Photos were taken regularly as most ships do. We usually buy several for $6-8. We bought none. The price is a bit high and we already felt gouged. This ship is staffed by Americans. Unfortunately, instead of tips, we were billed a service charge of $10 per person per day. We are good tippers and have always had wonderful service on every single ship we have sailed on in the past. On this ship, we were charged the service charge but didn't get the service.
Our cabin was filthy. It had not been vacuumed before our arrival and there was a dirty paper napkin and toothpick on the floor when we arrived that was still there on Tuesday afternoon when I had the Assistant Executive Housekeeper, Diane Clark, come to our cabin to see the condition it was in. Our mirrors were splattered, the dust was several weeks old on every surface, the glasses were dirty and one was broken at the rim and would have cut us if we had not noticed it. It took us two days to get ice in our room. We suspect that the bedding was not changed from the PREVIOUS passengers before our arrival. It took until Tuesday to get it taken care of. Diane Clark had our room completely cleaned under her direct supervision at dinner time on Tuesday but our room was NEVER cleaned again after that and our bedding was never changed again. The service to our room after our contact with Diane Clark, was limited to clean towels and ice. WE GAVE UP. The cabin stewardess and HER BOSS were called on the carpet for the condition of our room and IT MADE NO DIFFERENCE. That's pretty typical of the attitude on this ship.
Ours was not an isolated incident. Passengers from every area of the ship were complaining long an loud about the condition of their cabins on this ship that was on its 7th or 8th cruise. I was in line behind about 8 or 10 people at the front desk complaining about their rooms to no avail when I asked to see the Hotel Manager and Diane Clark was summoned. The others never did get their problems resolved.
The doors of the elevators look as though food was thrown at them and they never were cleaned while we were on board and I did take Diane Clark to see them. She notified the department in charge of them but they were never cleaned before we left 4 days later.
The brownies and robes that Diane Clark left in our room could never make up for the condition of our cabin before and after she had it cleaned and the effort it took to get it taken care of. I took pictures of the ship to send to the corporate office and was told by previous NCL passengers that were on board that corporate would not care. I am sending them anyway. I can't imagine sailing again on a line that didn't care about the kind of conditions that exist on this ship that I will provide you evidence of. These previous passengers said that they continued to tolerate the conditions because no one else offers "Freestyle Cruising". Take my word for it, it isn't worth not getting dressed up to put up with these conditions. Every ship we have ever been on has some alternative to eating in the main dining room at set times at set tables. Buffets are available at all meal times and most offer room service as well.
The Dining Room staff is poorly trained overall but we found one excellent waiter, Greg, and stuck with him throughout the cruise. Stephanie and Ian were also very good and were working with Greg. He was the bright spot in our cruise and he was tipped in addition to the "service charge" that was billed to us and every other passenger who got lousy service. The food is adequate, at best. We had veal that was so tough, it was hard to chew. Our Prime Rib, the first night out, was overcooked. Our expectations dropped after that and we let Greg advise us on what was the best offering. Menus at each meal were meaningless. There was always at least one item that was not available. They didn't run out of it, there simply wasn't any. All fish is frozen in this seafood paradise. To get wonderful fresh fish, we ate ashore. Papaya grows wild in Hawaii and I was really looking forward to eating my fill. We saw papaya offered one time as an appetizer at dinner in the dining room. For two days, there was no pineapple in Hawaii. They ran short of butter and put only margarine on the tables. I really enjoy yogurt and it is usually readily available. I enjoy a large variety of flavors. I had never had watermelon or green apple and that was all that was available. I skipped the yogurt.
Upon leaving the ship, my husband approached an NCL employee on the pier to ask a question and she turned to him and told him in a very nasty tone that they don't answer questions. We had found this to be true of the shore excursion people on the ship as well. We had had enough and skipped our prepaid transfer to the airport and took a cab.
I will never sail on NCL again but my husband said never is along time so I guess he may go again with his next wife.
This was our 11th cruise, first with NCL, and we expected a first class cruise. We were in for many suprises. NCL arranged airport transportation but they were difficult to find once we arrived. They were very disorganized and mixed people going on the Norweigen Wind and the Pride of America. The adventure had begun. Embarkation at the pier was good and fairly fast. Luggage delivery to your stateroom was a different story. The first of four bags arrived within three hours, the next two 4 hours later, and the last one arrived three hours later. Balcony Cabin:Tiny is an over-statement. Room service - expect your room to be made up once late in the day and turned down sometime between 10 and midnight. If you retire early you'll need to call Housekeeping BUT you can only reach them by dialing the Reception Desk. It seemed like there was one cabin steward per 40 staterooms so don't expect much especially if you've cruised before, prepare to be disappointed.
Bathroom - One of the flourescent bulbs was burned out and you needed to wait 3-5 minutes for the flickering to stop before you wentinside. The bathroom drain in shower clogged. 4th day mechanical problems no one could flush toilets for 4-5 hours. 6th day there was a power outage during the night so no hot water in morning. Elevators: Like the cabins, small and usually crowded so expect to use the stairs alot. Ship overall: Made in the old style, cramped and retro - no comparison to modern Grand class ships. Freestyle dining - Great if you don't mind spending 2-3 hours for a meal with long waiting for food and drinks. Hot food is usually cold or lukewarm. Food rating: poor. The waiters and servers are all rushing but they are seriously understaffed. Optional restaurants - Nice to have a guaranteed seat but again service was very slow. Food rating: below average. Entertainment: After 9pm it's only the Mardi Gras room with 60-80's music or one of the smaller smoking lounges. Overall rating: Poor Activities on board - limited SPA: Excellent. Excursions: All excursions were great, food was excellent and the crew went out of their way to make sure everyone was having a great time. Speakers inside cabins not working so you had to open cabin door to hear them. Transportation from pier to Airport: There are no carts or porters inside the terminal so you have to move your own bags outside to the buses (but security won't let you back in the same door for you other bags). At the Airport: No one tells you you must go through Agricultural inspection, then ticket counter, then x-ray inspection while moving through crowds, with your baggage. Flights home (arranged by NCL): Wife and I were given two different seats (not even close together) on a full flight. Overall: NCL needs to understand service by sailing on other cruise lines and offer "freestyle dining" as an option to regular early or late seating. General comments from everyone we talked to on this cruise was the same: they were disappointed and complaining about service and waiting a long time for everything. If you want to see Hawaii and have a great time try Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Holland or Pleasant Hawaiian or SunTrips but do not cruise with NCL.