We were on the Pride of America two years ago and I'm glad to see it's getting a much overdo refurbishment as it was starting to look a little tired.
We've been on several NCL cruises and they definitely have their huge fans and big critics. It really is a love/hate relationship; people either love them or hate them - there's just not alot of people in the middle of the road with them. So I'm probably one of the few as I can take them or leave them.
While they're not my personal favorite, I've never had a bad cruise and have always enjoyed my time on NCL. The only thing I don't like is the food - to us it's just okay. In fact, I had a very long 1-1/2 hour conversation with one of their head chefs once and he explained that he is trained Master Chef, yet they won't let him do what he is trained to do. Like alot of cruise lines are doing, they don't prepare alot of things onboard like they use to, preferring instead to bring on alot of pre-prepared foods, so it's more of a heat-&-eat than actual preparing the food from scratch.
Because of this, I always tell clients to plan and spend at least another $100 onboard because they're going to want to do several of the specialty restaurants.
With that said, we found the POA to be a wonderful cruise. The food was definitely nothing special at all, but the staff was awesome! When the ship first started in Hawaii, the staff got VERY bad reviews - they were terrible. But they've gotten all the bugs worked out of the system and now the staff is fantastic. They made some great strides in this area.
The itinerary is very good, spending more time in port and going to more ports than any other Hawaiian cruise option. Gives you plenty of time to explore the islands.
We pre-reserved rental cars in each port and did our own thing, which was a great decision as we got to go places, see things, and do things we would not have otherwise been able to do. While there are some very good shore excursions, I definitely suggest not booking any and do your own thing. You'll save ALOT of money and get to do more. We rented a car in one port for $25 a day! And in another port, we paid $35 and they gave us a brand new Mustang Convertible!!
But I highly suggest going over at least a day or two before the cruise, especially if you're leaving from the East Coast. And of course, one of the mandatory 'must see' places is Pearl Harbor. You can now go online and reserve ahead of time - definitely suggest using this because the lines can be quite long and the wait to do the tour even longer. But well worth it!
Very magical place to visit. We spent 3 weeks there - a week on Oahu, a week on the cruise, and then at week on Maui. We absolutely loved it and would love to live there.