Tanks to everyone who has previously posted reviews about the PoA. The positive comments made me feel better about having booked this trip…and the negative comments helped me plan ahead to make the most out of my vacation. I had a BLAST on this cruise, but I should mention that this was my first cruise, I love Hawaii, and I hadn't taken a full week off of work in 18 months!
My travel agent did a separate air/land package for my post cruise stay. I flew in same day, with my flight arriving just under 7 hours prior to sailing. However, when the recent issues cropped up with airport security, I was concerned I was cutting it too close for me and my luggage to make it on the ship. It worked out fine, but next time, I will probably book air through NCLA for the piece of mind -- but pay the premium to choose my own flight.
Both were a breeze. It's definitely worth the 20 extra minutes to attend the debarkation briefing.
Turnaround times must be improving, as my room was ready when I checked in, and myluggage arrived quickly. The room *was* very small, with limited storage space, but it was fine for a solo traveler.
Because of excursion schedules, I only dined in the main dining rooms once for lunch and twice for breakfast. I had a great experience twice, but breakfast in the Crossings was very slow on Maui embarkation day. The food was delivered in piecemeal fashion, which seemed odd. We finally got the last of our food, but no one had received the juice they had ordered at the beginning. Someone reminded our server, who replied, "We only have so many hands!" Someone at another table asked if they could get their food all at once, and the same server replied that they had to wait for the kitchen to prepare it. If this really was a logistical issue, perhaps NCLA should set up breakfast in "courses" like they do with dinner.
Most mornings, I grabbed breakfast early from the buffet and ate on the lanai. I never ran into crowds early in the morning, although I can see how things would get congested later in the day. The buffet line needs to be re-engineered to put logical items next to each other: coffee/cream, bread/butter, etc..
I'm not sure if it was the motion of the ship – or the fact that I got up early every morning to watch the sunrise and wasn't quite awake yet…but I managed to end up wearing my coffee every single morning.
I dined every night at the specialty restaurants. The food was good and the servers were all excellent, especially Shannon (Kahili and Royal Palms) and Hensley (Kahili). For the Aug. 20-27 dates, the cover charge was half price every day for early (5:30 or 6:00) or late (9:00 or 9:30) seatings. I've read other reviews/messages where the half price cover charge was offered at different days/times – or not at all. Check the Freestyle Daily each day for updates.
Definitely reserve the specialty restaurants ahead of time. The one time I thought I could make a same-day reservation (the night of the ship's luau), seating was limited.
I did hear complaints about 45-60 minute waits in the main dining rooms for dinner. Either they need more staff – or they need to re-word the marketing material that implies dinnertime with freestyle cruising is "whenever you want it to be." It's not unusual to wait 45 to 60 minutes at a land restaurant. However, I think that what's causing the frustration for passengers is the disconnect between the marketing materials and reality. I think most folks would be OK if the materials said, "What time is dinner? What time do you want it to be? Just let us know an hour ahead of time, and we'll have your table ready to go."
I can see that the overall level of service from room stewards isn't what would be expected from veteran cruisers. I never even met my room steward the entire week! Housekeeping service was completely skipped one day -- I had an excursion that started at 6:15 a.m., and the room wasn't done when I returned at noon. I was taking a much-needed nap when housekeeping did arrive, so I didn't get up and answer the door...and they never came back. Not a deal-breaker, but a little annoying. Another day, I didn't get any washcloths…although housekeeping was quick to correct the situation when I called.
Since I had been forewarned about some of the service issues from reading reviews and message boards, I was able to head off some potential problems by packing a few extra items. I brought a travel size of "wet wipes", air freshener, my own pillowcase, and throwaway beach and bath towels. The towels were pretty bulky to pack, but it was nice to have them in "reserve" on days when housekeeping wasn't up to par – and leaving them behind at the end of my vacation freed up a bunch of room for souveniers.
Another note on towels: I had read complaints that beach towels were difficult to find for folks who were heading out on early morning excursions. On this latest trip, beach towels were available at the passenger gangway.
ITINERARY / EXCURSIONS:
Since I was traveling solo, I decided to book all of my excursions through NCL, even though it was more expensive.
Kauai – I did the helicopter tour on the first day, which was a great experience. I'd never been in a helicopter, but our pilot was excellent and the flight was very smooth. I picked the first flight of the day, since I'd read that visibility is usually better in the morning, with more cloud cover in the afternoon. Of course, it turned out to be exactly the opposite the day I went! There was a lot of cloud cover first thing in the morning (which cleared up later in the day), and we were unable to get into Mt. Wai'ale'ale. The good news is that there were only 3 of us booked…so everyone got a window seat on a 6-seater plane. Interesting aside for those planning to take pictures: the videographer mentioned that light colored clothing will reflect off the glass if you are trying to take pictures. I'm sure he says that to sell videos, but after I heard that, I put on the black jacket I was carrying and zipped it all the way up…and ended up with some great photos. The second day, I did the Hollywood Movie Tour, which was a little pricey compared to other tours, but was a good way to hit the highlights of Kauai.
There is a nice beach area (and an ABC store!) within walking distance off the pier. It took 10-15 minutes to walk, but I believe there is shuttle service available as well.
Do not miss the sail-by of the Napali Coast…this was one of the highlights of the week for me!
Hilo – I did the hike through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – NOT the lava viewing adventure, but the other tour. With this tour, they will take you out to the lava flows if possible – but we weren't able to see flowing lava that day, because it was too far out. Our guide said he wouldn't be able to get us back to the ship in time. Dress in layers for this tour – and bring a hat. I'd heard it was often cold and rainy, but it was actually pretty hot the day we were out there.
Kona – This was the only tender port and a lovely little town. I booked the Captain Zodiac snorkeling excursion, which was excellent. As an added bonus, we saw dolphins both on the journey out to the bay and on the return trip! I read a good piece of advice prior to the trip, which was to ask for a kickboard to keep from getting too tired while snorkeling. One other thing: remember the name/number of your boat. I needed to jump back in to trade out my underwater camera for another one, and had a hard time figuring out which boat had my captain on it (and my stuff!)
I had lunch at Huggo's on the Beach, which turned out to be a much farther walk than I expected. Great view, though…and excellent food. For dessert, I stopped by Scandinavian Shave Ice – have them add frozen yogurt to your order for a really excellent treat.
Maui – On Day 1, I did the Beach Day at Kaanapali, which was beautiful…but it was a very hot day, and I lugged far too much stuff around! (Book, CD player, towel, sunscreen, change of clothes, etc.) I wish I'd traveled a little lighter that day.
On Day 2, I did the Haleakala & Maui Ocean Center tour. The ocean center was enjoyable, but Haleakala was a bit of a bust. The weather was extremely cloudy, and views were limited. I'm sure this would be spectacular on the right day – however, be sure to dress VERY warmly – even if you are not doing a sunrise tour. The brochure says that temps are 10-15 degrees cooler, and recommends bringing a "light jacket". Our driver had a thermometer on the bus, and he said it was just over 50 degrees. That was without the wind chill factor…and the wind was absolutely howling that day! Our driver did make the trip worthwhile…Duane was very funny and was a wealth of knowledge about all things Hawaiian: history, agriculture, music, you name it.
HEALTH ISSUES:I didn't see or hear of any problems with illness following the "sick" sailings in June and July. Automatic
sanitizing dispensers had been installed at the entrances to the ship and to the restaurants. Sometimes the supply ran out, which staff needs to be more diligent about. I started carrying a bottle of sanitizing solution in my purse to make sure I always had some.
I don't care for the tipping policy on NCLA. In the outside world, if I receive service from a waiter or a cab driver, we speak a common language in terms of the appropriate amount to tip. I know – AND my service provider knows – if I am leaving a standard tip, an excellent tip to acknowledge exceptional service, or a less than standard tip for poor service. With NCLA, while the literature says that tips above and beyond the standard service charge are not "necessary" – my guess is that they are *expected*. I would rather NCLA instead provide a "suggested" tip by staff responsibility – perhaps with different suggested amounts for waitstaff depending on the meal and the location. This would have given me a better feel for whether I was tipping appropriately for the level of service provided…and it would be good feedback for the staff as well.
A couple of issues caused some confusion. First, you can't walk all the way across Deck 5. You have to go up a level, walk across, and then go back down. Also, passengers enter and exit the ship from Deck 5 in Honolulu, but from Deck 3 in the other ports.
I wasted quite a bit of suitcase space packing sundry items (Dramamine, cortisone, etc.) that I never used. The ship does have these items for sale in the gift shop, although they were expensive – and the gift shop is only open for a limited number of hours.
Would I take this trip again? YES!! What I wanted out of this cruise was a way to get a "sampling" of the Hawaiian Islands, so I could pick one or two islands for a more extended visit later. As it turned out, I loved them all! I will probably do this cruise again and will pick all different excursions for a completely new experience.
Feel free to contact me with questions: LunaTEKKE@cox.net.
The original post had the wrong date of our sailing. We sailed August 13-20th., 2006
Where do I begin!!! What started out as a "Dream" vacation, turned into the vacation fomr "H---"!! This was the WORSE cruise I have been on. There were 11 in our group and 1 toddler.
Cabin was the size of a shoebox, when we paid for a larger one. 3 adults and a toddler shared the cabin and we could not be in the cabin at the same time due to the size. Took 4 calls to housekeeping to get "pack-n-play" for the baby. Room had not been cleaned before we boarded and we called 3 times to housekeeping before they came to clean it.
Service on boared was terrible. Food lines very long at the buffets, restaurants took 2 hours to get served and then the food was cold. The Crossing restaurant was the only decent one on board.
Entertainment was very limited and only lasted about 30 minutes. Nothing to do all day on board. Totally bored if no excursions were planned for the day.
Crew very slow and inexperienced. I sat one day on thepool deck for over 5 hrs. and not one person came up to me to see if I would want something to drink. This happened more than once.
Hardly had any clean linens, room was never vacuumed the entire cruise.
The $10 per day,per person, service charge is a joke, when no service is provided.
I could go on and on, but there isn't enought room to type everything. This was the worse cruise ever!!!! Anyone going on the pride of Aloha, re-consider. We will never, never cruise on NCL again!!!
Well........FIrst off this ship was amazing.
For all the people who love to write and complain. They need to either just go to nj/fla/or mrytle beach.
This is hawaii. THe ship was made for your to enjoy the magical island's and what the represent to us and the hawaiian people.
The people on the ship even though short staffed were great. The room's were clean. Sea spray you will get on your window's this is not the bahama's it's the middle of the pacific ocean. People who write into these only have someting to complain about.
The food was amazing. The freestyle diining was GREAT!!!! all 3 resturants were worth the money. The buffet was a buffet. So people get over it.
The pool areas and common areas were always clean and very quiet. EVERY one goes to bead early on the ship even the bars. YOU are again in HAWAII
This was my 8 th trip to hawaii and will be onthe pride of america in october
WAY to go NCL
My 13-year-old daughter and I were on Pride of Aloha from July 7th through July 14th. Just prior to our cruise, I had been reading on the boards at this site about all the problems this ship has been experiencing, and I was prepared for a less-than-optimal experience. I don't think I would have booked on this ship at all if I had read the reviews and comments here before booking. I was particularly concerned because Aloha reportedly had a couple of "sick sailings" in June, with numerous sick passengers and crew members jumping ship right and left (see "sickness on Aloha" on the message boards). As our sailing date approached I was feeling more anxiety than pleasant anticipation.
My fears were mostly unjustified. The good news: things are looking up on Pride of Aloha, at least in terms of service. As far as I know our cruise had a full complement of staff and we never had any complaints about our cabin steward, Roderick, or any of the waiters. I overheard random comments about poor service, but never experienced it myself. Keep in mind, however, that this was my first cruise,and I'm not accustomed to four- and five-star hotels on land. Pride of Aloha's service is comparable to what I'm used to at two- and three-star hotels. Our "superior" inside cabin was perfectly comfortable and of adequate size for the two of us, but I don't think I would have liked having a whole family in there. It would have been pretty tight with two adults and two kids. More drawers would be nice but the closet is big enough and the mini-safe is a nice touch.
For me, the highlight of the cruise was the Hawaiian cultural center and related activities. I really enjoyed Kawika, the Hawaiian ambassador on our cruise. He taught us to hula and to make various kinds of leis. I found him kind and funny, and my love of the Hawaiian islands and people increased steadily during this trip. Hula dancing was a revelation to me: it is calming and centering in a way that reminds me of yoga and tai chi. It's impossible to hula without ending up peaceful and happy. I commented on this to Kawika and he said "Hula is a great unifier."
The food was okay. I found the main restaurants to be better than the Hukilau Café and we didn't try the specialty restaurants. The main restaurants don't cater to kids and my daughter was a bit bored waiting for her main dish, as she didn't order any appetizer, soup or salad. The second time we ate in a main restaurant, I encouraged her to try the chilled soup, which was kind of like a smoothie you eat with a spoon. She liked that. I was disappointed by the quality of the tomatoes in the tomato and mozzarella appetizer: a caprese should be not be made unless with red-ripe tomatoes. The seafood pot-au-feu was wonderful if you like shellfish. It had mussels, clams and shrimp in a delicious saffron broth. Wait times were not bad for the restaurants. The only time we had a long wait was when we requested a table for two. They gave us a beeper, so we were free to move around the ship and didn't have to stand in line. It went off in about 40 minutes, as they had promised.
The Hukilau café was OK for cafeteria food, but I overheard comments that it was disappointing. Maybe to people who have experienced buffets on other cruise lines? We loved the breakfasts in the Hukilau: wonderful waffles, delicious blintzes, tiny apple and cherry turnovers, minature cinnamon rolls. But we were puzzled by how often cream cheese appeared but no bagels. I guess the bagels ran out first? We didn't discover until mid-cruise that there were two additional buffet lines in the Hukilau Lanai at the stern of the ship. Tip: the port line was always the shortest as you have to go through the Longboard sports bar to get to it. At lunch and dinner the Lanai lines had different food, burgers and hotdogs and chili and such, but at breakfast it was the same food, with the addition of waffles.
There was only one shipboard barbecue on our cruise. The food was delicious and nicely presented, better than the Hukilau, I thought. We had one dinner from room service; my chicken caesar salad was very good, better than the Hukilau's, and my daughter's hot dog came with a fruit cup that contained mango, something I never saw anywhere else on the ship.
My concerns about sickness were not realized. A crew member sprayed our hands with disinfectant every time we boarded, and we made use of the ship's hand sanitizer dispensers on a regular basis. We didn't hear about anyone being ill, although there were some people who got seasick on our cruise. The inter-island crossings were extremely windy and unusually rough for July. I wasn't bothered by the ship's motion, as my first trip to Hawaii was aboard a 34-foot sailboat. By comparison, the ship's motion was kind of ponderous and slow; it was hard to walk a straight line but it didn't make me ill. (I didn't get my land legs back until I'd been home for four full days.) It didn't bother my daughter either, but we saw a number of people with a little patch behind one ear, which we found out was medication for motion sickness. It amazed me that the ship's performers were able to keep their balance while dancing and doing acrobatics. The "Sea Legs Cirque" show was most impressive in that regard.
There was one thing about Pride of Aloha that really bothered me and that was the smell. Especially in the stairwells around the restaurants, there was a sour stink that I never got used to. It reminded me of vomit. If a lot of crew members were sick a couple of weeks earlier, maybe they hadn't gotten things fully cleaned up in the crew quarters yet. However, that's just speculation, and I should add that my daughter didn't notice the smell at all, and I didn't hear anyone else remark on it. Maybe I just have an over-sensitive nose.
Shore excursions: We went to the Maui Ocean Center and thought it compared favorably with the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It's smaller but the tropical reef exhibits are first-rate. We took a Captain Zodiac snorkel cruise from Kona to Kealakekua Bay. Our guides were outstanding and very helpful when my daughter's mask didn't fit right. We were booked for a helicopter tour on Kauai, which unfortunately had to be cut short when the helicopter developed a problem; our money was refunded. I was deeply disappointed but my daughter was not, so I guess I saved a lot of money on a flight that would have been wasted on her. The main reason I wanted to go on the helicopter was to revisit the Na Pali coast, where I went hiking 25 years ago. I didn't know until after booking the flight, that the ship actually cruises past the Na Pali coast after leaving Nawiliwili harbor. The ship also cruises past the lava floes on the south shore of the big island, at night, on the way from Hilo to Kona. That's an awesome sight. Both "cruise-by" events were narrated by Kawika the Hawaiian ambassador.
As a consolation for the lost helicopter tour, I took the Waipi'o valley tour out of Hilo. Our guide was a 74-year-old Hawaiian patriarch named Kele, who was born and raised in the valley. He showed us his taro field and his family's summer house in the valley, showed us where he was for each of the two tsunamis and picked flowers and noni fruits for us out of the windows of the 4WD van. It was an amazing cultural experience, all in all. We skipped the Luau on Maui; I don't drink, and $95 a person seems like a lot of money to subsidize someone else's drinks. I think the Luau to do, if you're going to do one, is at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu, but this itinerary doesn't allow for that; you'd have to board in Honolulu and book a pre- or post-cruise stay on Oahu. We rented cars and did our own thing on Kauai, and on our last day on Maui (our flight out was a red-eye, ugh!).
A few final tips and comments: being a non-drinker saved me a lot of money on the cruise. We picked up sodas when ashore and brought them aboard to store in our mini-fridge, and that was another huge money saver. $35 for a kid's drink discount sticker on the ship card is not worth it; don't buy it. The security people search everyone's bags for weapons (and booze) every time you come back to the ship and you have to go through a metal detector. It's a drag but I guess it's necessary in a post-9/11 world. I had a hard time remembering to bring both my ship card and photo ID whenever I left the ship. I saw people with clear plastic ID holders on lanyards; that would have been a good thing for me. Shuttles for the car rental companies are present when the ship docks at Hilo, Nawiliwili and Kahului. I didn't see them at Honolulu or Kona.
All in all, we had a very positive first-time cruising experience. I was struck by people's openness and friendliness and I learned a tremendous amount about Hawaii and Hawaiian culture. My advice is don't let the complainers scare you away from this ship. It has a lot to offer.
Just returned today from Hawaii. We stayed two days before cruise and two days after cruise. Sure glad that we did. This was my 20th cruise and fourth on NCL. The worst cruise of my life. I had 6 other people with me on this trip and all had cruised before. My husband and I will continue to cruise but not with NCL. The other five state they will never cruise again. The first day of the cruise - no toilet paper in public restrooms. My daughter did not have pillow cases until the fourth day of the cruise. You were lucky if you received one wash cloth must less two for the people in your cabin. The dining room service left a lot to be desired and the food was not the best I had ever had.
The crew was young and very inexperienced, not a happy group. I blame management. Also, the crew was very short staffed and over worked. I call NCL on Thursday of my cruise because I had tried for four days to speak to the hotel manager on board to be told that sinceI was on the cruise they could not help me that it would have to be dealt with on the ship and I could contact them again after returning home. I have made four calls since returning and have yet to speak with anyone.
I would not cruise NCL ever again and will let everyone one know what to expect if they plan to go with this ship. We made our trip a success with planning excursions on our own and had vehicles rented in each port. We did not let this ruin our trip.
This cruise was my dream vacation I was expecting so much. I have cruised NCL 3 other times and they were rated my #1 cruiseline. However after this cruise they have gone down to the bottom of the list.
I am a pretty easy going person so for me to complain it was bad! Our stateroom was dirty (one day we did not have bed made or clean towels), service in the dining area was terrible (waited 1 1/2 hours for breakfast and had to leave without eating or miss our excursion), food was cold, staff was disorganized and unprofessional and evening entertainment was just about zero (2 nights they offered movies). Complaints from numerous passengers were the same as mine.
In the long run we came home disappointed with the cruise. Excursions were great which helped offset the trip but with the cost of this cruise I certainly did not receive the service I expected.
I would recommend anyone considering this ship to look to an alternative to avoid disappointment and money wasted.
First off, let me say that if you've cruised on other lines, and are trying NCL's freestyle persona for the first time, then you may be greatly dissapointed, but if your open minded enough for a change in venue, the Pride of Aloha gives you just that.
This was my wifes and I second cruise on the POAloha, first time being when this ship was the Norweigen Sky cruising Alaska. We were well aware of freestyle cruising, so for us it was great. Since we were celebrating our 25th anniversary we wanted to really do it right, so through a travel agent we booked first class air through NCL with Aloha airlines and a penthouse suite on the 9th floor Fjord deck room 9075, through the TA our friends had booked an inside cabin, rm 9076 next to us, but for whatever reasons NCL had decided without their input, to upgrade them to an outside balcony on the 10th floor and near the front of the ship, so this caused a major inconvience for us until contacting NCL and the TA who finally got them on the same floor asus but still near the front in room 9020. so my suggestion is know what room you want before booking and let your TA or NCL know not to be upgraded if you've got friends you want close to your cabin.
My sugesstions for booking your flight through NCL is not to do it, I think its best and probably a bit cheaper to book flights yourself. We had a direct first class flight through Aloha airlines from Sacramento CA to Kahalui Maui, which put us there at about 2 p.m. Friday, Our friends flew out of Sacto in coach seats at noon with a transfer through John Wayne/burbank airport on United airlines and did'nt reach the ship until 9 p.m. that evening, thus doing it yourself or plan for an overnighter on Maui or Honolulu to ease the stresses of flight times. BTW NCL as of February 2007 will only be embarking/Disembarking the Pride of Aloha out of Honolulu, so keep that in mind if you start planning for the coming year.
After arriving in Kahului, Maui we were greeted by NCL plaque carrying airport stewards that helped with our luggage and reach the Hertz rental shuttle, with our prebooked rental car we easily found the ship and the long walk with our baggage through port security and boarded promptly with our security/charge cards in hand, security is what I'd consider tight so be prepared for removal again, "besides the airport screening" of everything attached to you, belts included. we made it to our room and were very impressed with our penthouse, a large living room, and a typically smaller bedroom, with about 12" between walls and sliding doors and the bed, but with more than plenty of closet and shelf space for your clothes and luggage storage. a small fridge ,mini bar, medium large T.V. and a smaller one in the bedroom, the bathroom was spacious with a decent shower,adjustable shower head and a jaccuzi bath. The outside balcony with 2 chaise lounges and a round table and 2 chairs, with the 2 sliding doors between the living room and bedroom, made for a spectacular view of Kahului, the ocean, and the other ports of call. The penthouse comes with the amenities of a concierge, butlers am/pm, and a house keeper, all of them were very very good at treating us like royality, cleaning, and room service were prompt, and Robb our concierge was excellent taking care of reservations for the speciality restaurants, and evening treats and champagne, the butlers Darwin & Edward are seasoned professionals, that made this trip extra special for us and all were rewarded for their efforts in making us feel like VIP's, in fact all of the staff including waiters buspersons and other staff members always smiled and made you feel comfortable. So needless to say I strongly suggest spending a few extra dollars for a penthouse, you won't be dissapointed. P.S. beds seem to be a bit hard so request "egg crate cushions" as soon as you get on board, they go very fast by the 2nd day.
The speciality restuarants are all worth trying even with the cover charge of $10.00, but if you book your reservations between 5:30-6:30 p.m. the cover is just $5.00 pp. the Le Bistro has a french menu with dinners for 2 rangeing from Chateaubriand to rack of Lamb for an additional $10.00 to filet mignon and fish dinners.deffinitly the best restaurant on the ship. Pacific Heights restaurant serves asian food, it was good, but service seemed slower, and the quantity of food is noticbly less than the rest of the restaurants. The Kahili restaurant serves Italian cusine, it was excellent, and the servers do a wonderful job, its a long and very narrow room for a restaurant, and can only accomodate groups of 4 per party. Monday night while in Kauai the Lobster and prime rib dinner is serverd in both the Crossings and Palace restaurants, so again I suggest making your reservations early for that night, the lobster is a small spiney pacific breed, but is good with the butter, it took my wife and I 2 of them to get our fill.
The ships entertainment in the Stardust theater was good by my standards, the magician and comic were enjoyable, and the broadway review was excellent with wonderful singers and dancers, and as usual get there early for the best seats
Since we had a rental car on both Maui and Kauai, we only booked 2 shore excursions. we took the waves and waterfalls ih Hilo, which features the tsunami museum and a ride through some of the beautiful coastal features of the island, and an inland waterfall viewing, and a final stop at a macadamia nut factory/store..the other excursion in Kona consisted of the Tiki hula cruise with an open bar and excellent hawaiian dancers,singers performing dance rituals from hawaiian and polynesian culture, I strongly suggest this one.
Disembakation I felt was easy as long as your luggage was outside your cabin by the time specified based on your stateroom and floor, by the time we left the ship at 9:30am friday morning in Kahului our luggage was easy to find amongst all others and there are porters there to help you get to the bus transfers to the airport or car rentals if your leaving later in the day or taxi's available if youve booked a longer stay in maui
This was my wife and I's third cruise together and was as far as we're both concerned the best trip of our lives, granted we had a penthouse so the service level of the staff was probably higher than that of an inside/outside stateroom, but we deffinitly got what we paid for. a top notch room with the level of professional service one would expect to have on any cruise ship, but as others have said, you go on a cruise to enjoy the islands and sites and the rooms may, by some want to be a secondary concern, either way the Pride of Aloha has made a complete turn around to being the ship of choice to see the Hawaiian islands.
Aloha and Mahalo
We sailed on NCL America's Pride of Aloha during Thanksgiving week 2006. We were apprehensive because we had heard both good and bad things about NCLA's US-flagged ships. This trip was a family reunion consisting of a total of twelve family members.
Pre-cruise and boarding: We stayed one night at the Marriott Waikiki before boarding the Pride of Aloha. NCL maintains an office in the lobby and lets you pre-register lots of details before getting to the pier. We handled all credit card information and other formalities at the lobby office and were given tickets for a pre-arranged bus transfer time to the ship (12:15 pm). We had our bags ready to go in our hotel room at the prescribed time (8:00 am I think). When we came back from breakfast, the bags had been picked up as advertised. At 12:15, the bus loaded and we were off to the pier without incident. Since we had completed registration, we proceeded to a Marriott pick up desk at the pier where our stateroom keys were ready and we were on-board by 1:15 pm. It could not have gone any smoother.
Staterooms: All butone of our parties were on deck nine with balcony staterooms. The rooms are small but perfectly adequate. Storage space is limited, and we kept some stuff in our suitcases which fit neatly under the double bed, a nice touch The balcony is small (as you would expect) but has plenty room to sit and sip champagne using the two chairs and small table. I found the bed to be comfortable. The bathroom is more than adequate and the shower worked well. Our cabin housekeeper was outstanding. The room was always done up when we returned from breakfast. (We always put the "make up room" marker on the door when we left for breakfast.)
The lead couple (and trip organizers) upgraded to a Penthouse Suite so we could all gather for cocktails and other get-togethers. The suite was very nice although smaller than I had expected. The balcony was large and had a hot tub. It was great using the suite as a gathering point, and it got plenty of use.
Dining: The main large public dining rooms (The Crossings and the Palace) were OK. We never had to wait to be seated more than a few minutes. The food was OK, nothing great. Thanksgiving dinner in the Palace was quite good. Service was sometimes a bit slower than you would like but nothing terrible.
The buffet open for all meals on deck nine was plentiful and offered lots of choices. The food was OK. We used this mainly for breakfast, usually utilizing the smaller buffet located on the stern on deck nine. There was a "prepare to order" egg and omelet station that was never very crowded when we ate (usually between 7:15 and 8:00 am). The burgers for lunch in the buffet were very good.
The specialty restaurants provided the best dining experiences. There is a $10 per person surcharge for using them, added directly to your ship account. The fee is reduced to $5 for the earliest and latest sittings. I recommend making reservations as soon as you board for the nights that you want, because the restaurants are fairly small and very popular. The best two meals were had on-board were at the Pacific Heights (Chinese) and at the Royal Palm Bistro (French). Both evenings were very enjoyable in all respects, one where just the two of us ate alone and one where we had a reservation for all twelve. The only negative was the temperature in the Pacific Heights restaurant – bring a sweater!
Bars: Needless to say, they are everywhere. Drinks are not cheap. Even the specialty drinks seemed expensive to me. Tips are not included in bar tabs, so you have to add them each time they run your shipboard account card. Bar tenders seemed very competent and friendly at all times.
Soft drinks are not free at any time. A soda will always cost you $1.75 (plus tip). They have a deal where you can pay $35 on your first day and get a sticker for your shipboard charge card. With that you can get a soft drink from any bar or restaurant at any time with no further charge just by showing the card. You are limited to one at a time. While I'm sure they discourage misuse, we had no problem handing the card to someone else in our party and letting them fetch a drink with it when he/she wanted one.
Our favorite bars were the Longboard (deck nine) and the Plantation Club (deck ten). The Longboard is a sports bar with lots of TV's so you can always check out the latest game or get scores. Free popcorn in the Longboard as well. The Plantation Club is much more serene and is the best place to have a quiet drink and discussion.
We also went to the Outrigger Bar a few times after dinner for the shows and a few drinks. It was never overcrowded. The entertainment was enjoyable.
Shore Excursions: Shore excursions are always one of my pet peeves. Historically I have found them to be overpriced and less than enjoyable on all cruise lines. I have gone many a cruise without taking any shore excursions. NCL owns the major shore excursion provider in Hawaii. We took several tours on this trip. Reaction: overpriced but well planned and executed.
My wife did a kayak trip on Kauai with some of her sisters and enjoyed it very. A bunch of us did the Maui Ocean Center and Iao Valley on Maui. It's a nice but not world-class aquarium. The Iao Valley was pleasant but underwhelming. Four of us did a 6 hour volcano hike at Hilo that involves a mildly strenuous 4.3 mile hike down into a cooled crater. Good exercise and a very informative guide, but all cooled lava looks petty much the same and I am not sure I needed such a long hike to enjoy it. And all twelve us did the Maui Luau (along with 500 other cruisers). Given the large crowd and multiple buses, they executed it about as well as anyone could expect. The luau was enjoyable with good food and good entertainment but surely not worth $98 per person. If you must do a luau, it works, but in the future I would look for alternative luau options.
Ports: Honolulu is, of course, Honolulu. Many years ago I was amazed at the hubbub that is Waikiki. Well, it's even busier these days, and yet it's still enjoyable. My favorite moments were sitting at the beach bar in the Sheraton Moana Surfrider sipping gin and tonics. We had previously seen much of what Oahu has to offer so we did no touring here pre or post cruise. We waited for the other islands to explore as we had never been to any of them.
Kauai was a winner. Everyone voted it "favorite cruise stop". The ship docks in Nawiliwili at an industrial port. There is, however, a delightful beach that is only a ten minute walk from the ship (at Anchor Cove). We usually walked, but the little Anchor Cove mall runs a continual shuttle every fifteen minutes as well. The mall has numerous little independent shops, all very friendly or not overbearing. I bought a Hawaiian shirt at one of the stores. The beach is very nice – all nice white sand, no rocks (save for a large outcrop at the center of the beach), and ideal for swimming. We didn't see much in the way of good snorkeling here. (By the way, the ship provides beach towels for you as you disembark at each port stop.) We had pina coladas at Duke's Canoe Club. We spent part of both days at this beach. While my wife was kayaking the first morning, I walked to the Anchor Cove mall and found an independent tour company selling tours. I took the 4 hour Kauai highlight tour with two other people from the ship in a minivan, and we all enjoyed it.
After disembarking from Kauai, be sure to be on deck to see the beautiful Na Pali coast as the ship sails past this very deserted area. Wonderful picture taking opportunities abound.
Hilo was next. I can't tell you anything about Hilo as our entire time was spent on our volcano hike. By the way, the six hour volcano hike that we took includes no red flowing lava. It was described above. There is a ten hour forced march hike excursion offered that gets to see red flowing lava, but time restrictions mean that there is little time for rest along on the way of the ten mile hike. According to our guide, many people never make it to see the red lava as they find it too exhausting.
After Hilo the ship sailed past red lava flowing into the sea, one of the highlights of the cruise. This came at 10:00 PM and everyone was on their balconies or on deck to see it. As the ship goes by, it actually stops and does a 360-degree turn so you can see the lava from either side of the ship.
Kona was next where the ship anchors and tenders provide access to shore. I was told by several people on board that "everything is within walking distance at Kona." Well, everything means shopping and eating and drinking. There is a snorkeling area right where the tender docks that was very busy but not very appealing. There were no other beaches within walking distance. We quickly grabbed a free rental car shuttle from the dock to the airport and rented a car for the day. The airport is 7-8 miles from the dock and a taxi to there is very expensive. From there we drove 18 miles further north and spent the day at Waikoloa Beach. The beach is public and there was a large public parking lot as you approach after the turnoff from the main road. A Marriott dominates the area, and there are concessions available for snacks and snorkeling gear rental. The beach is very pleasant, great for snorkeling, not so great for swimming as there is a fairly solid bed of rocks underfoot once you get out 3-4 feet. You can stand on the rocks but I find it discomforting not to find sand with my feet. The snack concession was out of sandwiches by 11:30, so the four of us took the short walk up to the Marriott pool area and had a delightful lunch at the poolside restaurant. Be sure to have your rental car back to the airport before the last shuttle back to the pier (they only run hourly and if you miss it, you're in for a very expensive taxi ride.). The car was almost $55 not including gas.
Maui was next. On our first morning we did the Ocean Center tour mentioned above. Then we went to the airport (just a mile or two away) in a rental car shuttle and rented a car for the remainder of the afternoon and the next day, incurring only a $37 charge for the car before turning it back in by 3 PM the next day. That first afternoon we drove to Lahaina, an old whaling village now a tourist mecca of shops and restaurants (block after block after block). Touring the shops was enjoyable for awhile, but we are not shoppers. We had a couple of beers in a nice bar with a view over the water. There is a dock here with a wealth of ocean type excursions you can take. It's a pleasant town.
Back at the ship dock the small parking lot available across from the pier was full. Don't despair. Just outside the gate (to the right of the ship as you face it), there is a turnoff that leads to a sea wall area with plenty of parking, only a five minute walk back to the ship.
On the second day we drove back in the same direction past Lahaina and stopped for a day on the beach at Kaanapali Bay. This is a wonderful beach. It's all sand so it's great for swimming. At the far end there is a rock outcrop that provides safe and wonderful snorkeling, like being in a tropical fish tank. We camped near the far end in front of the Sheraton. Again there are concessions that will rent you snorkeling gear. For lunch we walked down the beach about ten minutes to the mall where there are restaurants and fast food places for any kind of lunch you would want as well as lots of shopping. Kaanapali Bay was our single favorite spot of the trip. Free public parking is limited at Kaanapali. In the garage near the Sheraton there is a small section of free public parking, and we were there early enough (8:30) to get one. Paying for parking wouldn't have been the end of the world, but it was nice to find a free spot.
The second night in Maui was Luau night as described above. And then we sailed for Honolulu for disembarkation the next day. Disembarking was well arranged. NCL offers some good options such as:
1) Express check in for your flight where they print out your boarding passes and send your luggage right to the flight so you don't see it again until you get home if you are on a participating airline. 2) Excursions to various Honolulu sights where your luggage goes on the tour bus and when the tour is complete, the bus drops you and your luggage at the airport.
We had our own arrangements and didn't use NCL's options. Our luggage was on the pier at the advertised hour (8:30 AM) and we were off to our hotel for a day room to relax in before flying home that night.
I traveled on the Pride of America in October 2006. Needless to say we did not read many reviews prior to booking and then were VERY nervous after we booked and started to browse reviews. We read only one or two decent reviews, the rest were scary to say the least. I would like to cover a few points.
Biggest complaint: During our departure the first day of our cruise our captain ran over a buoy. 1st problem - they did not communicate this incident to the guests until the 3rd day of travel. 2nd problem - the captain was less than truthful about the time the incident occurred. He stated it happened upon arriving to port, a guest had video documentation to the contrary, showing it happened leaving the first days port. 3rd problem - The processes to repair the ship was a complete joke. We were delayed so long that we missed an entire Island listed on our itinerary and we had an entire day at sea that was unplanned. And last but not least, 4th problem – The damage to the ship caused us to run on fewerpropellers than normal, delaying our travel time to every port. This caused us to be delayed on all of our excursions and. NCL's answer to all of these, how did they word it, oh yeah “slight inconveniences” was to give a $100 credit PER CABIN. They didn't even do per guest. This was an insult! I understand that the unexpected can happen but they handled every issue in the poorest method possible.
On to the other parts of the cruise:
FOOD – Due to our unexpected delays we had PLENTY of time to eat, so believe me I can tell you about the food. The free style eating was great with the exception of the difficulty to book reservations at the specialty restaurants after the first day. If you choose to go to the specialty restaurants plan in advance and book them all the first or second day. As for the cost of the specialty restaurants, I would say that it was excessive. The food while good was not worth the cover charge. If you do like to eat early and are able to book soon enough, they did offer a ½ price cover between 5pm-5:30pm. At the half price cost I would say to try a different restaurant every night. The Cadillac Diner is my recommendation to get sit down service without a charge. As for the buffet, it was decent but they had the same choices every day so breakfast and lunch got a little boring.
STATE ROOMS – I had a balcony state room on the 7th floor. Although smaller than other cruise lines I found the room to be cozy and had TONS of storage. Two people had to share space to move around but that didn't bother me. We had a problem with the shower draining the first day but they resolved it soon after we called. After that we had no issues and there was plenty of hot water. We did have the room service one time. The free items were limited and small but hey, they were free! It did take about 20 minutes to get the room service.
STAFF – It was a typical American staff, some were helpful and pleasant while others were not. The shore excursion manager Tim was awesome. He did everything he could to help fix issues caused by delays. In general no complaints.
SAFETY – I was somewhat concerned upon arrival when we were told by crew that the “mandatory” safety drill was not really mandatory if you had previous cruise experience. We asked two different crew members and they both said “if you have cruised before you don't have to worry about it… just don't say we told you that” I don't think that is really allowed by the coast guard? We did not test the coast guard and went to the evacuation drill. Not sure what happened to those who did not go?
SUMMARY - Had the buoy incident not happened I would say it was an average cruise with the high point being the “freestyle” dress and dining? However, I will NEVER cruise NCL again due to their poor communication and problem resolution skills displayed due to the buoy issue. I warn everyone that most of the reviews I read had something about a ship malfunction in them, so I would think twice about using NCL if you want a no “mechanical issues” cruise.
I just returned from a Hawaiian vacation on NCL's Pride of Aloha. This was my first time on this ship, but I've been to the islands many times. I'll start by listing the Pros and cons, then expound on each and private my recommendations.
EMBARKATION: My family boarded the Pride of Aloha in Kahului, Maui (Ka-hoo-loo-ee). This is Maui's main shipping port. As such, the port is isn't exactly scenic. However, it's only 2 miles from the airport, rental cars, and is easy to.
This ship also picks up passengers in Honolulu, where I believe they pick up the majority of passengers. The ship stays overnight in Maui, and there is parking at the port. Literally, we parked, flagged a porter, walked to the ad-hoc customer service desk, got our SAIL/SIGN cards, waked through security, and got our picture taken all in less than 10 minutes. For those that have taken Caribbean sailing from Miami, where it can take hours, this is a blessing.
One discouraging note is that there isn't any cruise staff to "welcome" you onboard the Pride of Aloha. I was in room 00335, having been upgraded to a balcony,but was unsure if deck "00" was deck 10. I led my party to deck 10, got off the elevator and saw a Pride of Aloha employee standing there. When I asked him if we were on the right deck, his response was "I have no idea". He then turned to walk away. Just then another young gentleman in officer's clothing strolls by and we ask him. He says he things it's "down that way". I don't know about you, but I get nervous when the ship's crew doesn't even know where they are going.
Disembarkation was a breeze. We got off around 9:30am, got our luggage and went to our rental car bus. Again, 10 minutes. The Pride Daily activities sheet said that they would call our colors (based on your cabin) starting at 6:30am the morning of debarkation, but they never broadcast any announcements in our room the entire trip. We were up at 6:30am (I live in Atlanta), but we never heard ANY colors being called, either on deck or in the Hukilau (buffet) restaurant.
I can't imagine those getting off in Honolulu had it this easy. For those who haven't cruised, imagine 2000 people trying to get luggage from a carousel. If you are going to take this ship, opt for the Maui departure if you can just to save luggage and crowd headaches.
ITINERARY:The Pride of Aloha has a great Hawaiian itinerary. For us, two days on Maui, (not leaving until 10pm) then Honolulu, Kauai for 1 1/2 days, then Hilo, then we cruised past Kilauea volcano at night to see the lava oozing into the ocean. It was quite a sight. Then on to Kona, then back to Maui. I won't go into to much detail about the ports; there are great resources for finding out what to do in Hawaii.
Because we had some first timers, we did the obvious things at each port. Here's a note people... Other than Oahu, if you want to see anything in Hawaii, you'll need a car. Rental companies all pick up at the cruise ship pier. It's worth it, and not difficult to navigate the islands at all. Most only have two main highways or roads. On Maui, we drove over to Lahaina and eat lunch at the Lahaina Fish Company. The next day, we took a trek up Haleakala volcano to the nearly 11,000 foot summit. Bring warm clothes if you go. There is a Haleakala weather page. When we went, it was raining ice and high winds at the visitor’s center, 10 miles from the summit, and clear at the summit. If we'd taken this trip through a tour company or the ship Shore Excursion desk, it would have cost us at least $50 each. By renting our own car, which cost 28.99 + the Tri - Park pass for Haleakala and Volcanoes National Park (25 per car). And we came and went as we pleased.
Honolulu was all about Pearl Harbor. We'd previously flown into Honolulu from the mainland days earlier, so we'd done Dole Plantation, Haliewa town, Diamond Head, and the Polynesian Cultural Center.
NOTE: Pearl Harbor is free! There are no tickets that a company can get for you; they issue the tickets when you get there. Any Pearl Harbor tour is just a cab ride.
Kauai. Our group included seniors, so we took it easy in Kauai. We took a trek to Waimea Canyon (again renting our car - $35.99). Afterwards, we drove out to Hanelei and saw the sights. There is a very nice beach in sight and easy walking distance to the ship, even though we didn't go. Hilo. Hilo is all about Volcanoes national park. Car rental at airport 1 mile from port, then straight shot (about 40 minutes) to the park. Either pay $10 per car one time admission, or get an annual pass for $25 that covers all three Hawaii National Parks. If you're reasonably fit, take the Devastation Trail in Volcanoes National Park. Very cool. If you've got time, drive past Hilo to the east to look over scenic cliffs on your way to Waimea.
Even though it will void your rental car agreement just to go on this road, some will take the saddle road that goes between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa to try and reach the summit of Mauna Kea (14,000 feet). The rod past the visitor’s center isn't paved, and you WILL NOT make it without a 4-wheel drive. The roads to the visitor's center are steep also, and you'll hear the strain on your engine.
Kona. All about the beach, water sports, coffee and beer. For those who've been to the Caribbean, this resembles most Caribbean ship ports. Many restaurants, bars, gold and art sellers.
Pride of Aloha/the Ship: Pride of Aloha, in my opinion is overall, an unimpressive ship. She doesn’t flow well. Room are hidden, like areas don’t seem to be together, etc. There are some lovely spaces, most notably the Outrigger Lounge, which is all the way forward on deck 11. Great views from the front of the ship also. However, this room was hardly used during our cruise. Most things happened in the crowded, noisy, Blue Hawaii room. While the Blue Hawaii room is nicely done, it suffers from foot traffic going around the sides to get to the cigar bar or photo gallery. The bar is also extremely noisy. Most times if you sat over there, you couldn’t hear at all.
Cruise ship standards like the Newly-Wed, Not-so Newly-Wed game was done in the Blue Hawaii. There was a nice hula show put on by the Hawaiian Cultural Ambassador and his all passenger hula class there, but they put it on at the same time as the passenger Talent show!
By the way, I never heard or read one announcement about the show until I saw it on the day's activities.
The Crew. Think fast food level service. Many of the crew are young, and while I'm not knocking young people, many in service related jobs aren’t the best at customer service. There were some truly helpful people among them, but most seemed to care less. The service IS better on the NCL ships crewed by an international crew. I don't know if it's our non-servile "American attitude, but there is a palpable mood that many in the crew didn’t want to be there, or were just watching the clock until their shift was over.
Dining Room(s). We ate in the Palace restaurant twice. The first time, we had a very nice female waitress who did her best to serve us and check on us while our dinner took forever to come out. The second time we had a young man who endeavored to look and act the part of a 5 star level waiter, but couldn’t remember to bring our drinks, bring butter, or a steak knife for steak.
Neither night we went was crowded, actually the second night our waiter only had two tables. Hukilau Buffet: The food ranged from dry to decent. People, this is a buffet. So don't expect the greatest. If you want your steak tips just so, then you can’t get them here.
There is a Sprinkles Ice Cream bar in the buffet, but it's in the worst location. Right at the start of the buffet line. I did like the fact that unlike some other cruise lines, it was real dipped ice cream and not soft serve. However, none of the flavors was frozen. There must be a problem with the freezer, because I saw the server bring new gallons from the freezer, dip into them and bring up nearly melted ice cream.
One high point about the Hukilau Buffet and all over the ship was the friendliness and honesty of the crew. Many would ask where you were from, and then tell you where they were from, how long they'd been on the ship, etc. If asked, most said they didn’t like shipboard life.
Long board Sports Bar. After about 10:30pm, this is the only place to get food (other than room service). Typical bar food, no extra charge.
Cruise Director, staff and entertainment. The Cruise Director, Fith Fithian, is at the low end of the totem pole as far as abilities go, in my opinion. I've been on some ships where the Cruise Director IS the entertainment (John Heald - Carnival), to some where you never saw him or her. The issue I have is that the entertainment staff, as well as the paid entertainment (we had two magicians, two comedians and two production shows), wasn’t up to par. Our first comedian was incredibly boring. The second was quite a bit better, but that was really do to one bit where he took a long t-shirt, put it over his knees and pretended they were breasts. The magicians, the same. One was awful, the other comedy magician was much better.
As far as the production shows, I only saw one. It was a Cirque du Soleil type show. It was the worst performance I've ever seen on a cruise ship. The singers were awful and the dancers acted like they wanted to be somewhere else. People were constantly walking out. There was a Hawaiian/ jazz quartet that was good, as well as a husband wife piano/singing duo that were good.
All in all, I'd only recommend this ship to my clients who really only use the ship as a mode of transport. If you are looking to have a great time ON the ship, this isn’t for you. But if you want a ship that gets into port early so you can get out on the islands, then come back on, eat and hit the sack in preparation for the next day, it's for you.