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.
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.
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.