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Old May 25th, 2005, 01:29 PM
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Default Re: Re: Pride Of Aloha Crew Moved to Pride Of America

Having just returned from the Pride of Aloha I have a lot of comments and will be writing an article soon.

I can tell you this, based on what I had read here, it was not nearly as bad as many people here would have you believe - as if it is some kind of a nightmare or cruise from H. E. -double hockey sticks.

Are there glitches? yes. Are they enough to ruin your vacation - only if you are a curmudgeon with nothing better to do than walk around looking for things to complain about.

The food, which people have said here was inedible is anything but - the food is very good, even excellent at times, and I am talking about the main dining room with no surcharge. I will swear to this on a bible, and will have pictures of the fresh lobster I had in there to prove it. We never waited more than 5 minutes for a table, even at peak dining times - but we were willing to share a table. Our wait staff was average to very good in the main restaurant, but an A+ in the specialty restaurants as was the food.

Even the buffet food is very good with a big variety of fresh fruits, carved meats, hamburgers, hot dogs, hot entrees, seafood salads, a big salad bar, etc. There are dedicated stations for getting waffles, omelettes and even freshly cut fruit a la minute.

Seating in the buffet area is a problem (or I should say that staff could be more efficient when cleaning tables - something they are working on). The hotel manager confirmed that more tables are on order and will reach the ship soon. Many now are four-tops with only two people sitting at them. One simple option is to simply ask a couple if you may join them -- we were always cordially accepted.

The rooms are comfortable, but housekeeping could be better (I would say this was our biggest complaint). Some things take time and this is an all-US crew who doesn't have years of housekeeping experience behind it. Efficiency being the keyword, not everyone can change a bed dressing in 3 minutes - it takes some practice. Things were forgotten or not cleaned properly. Once again, a little disappointing but not enough to ruin your vacation. We left note for our housekeeper or called the front desk when we needed something and it was taken care of.

Entertainment is good. I am not a big fan of many cruise line production shows, but these were as good as you will see on most ships. I enjoyed the close-up magician and the local Polynesian acts a lot.

The main thing about this cruise is time in port. You are in port every day including two overnights. This was the most action-filled one-week cruise I have ever taken. My wife & I both said it felt like were away for 2 weeks instead of one - we did so much. The shorex staff is very good and tour options are extensive. Or you can go on your own if you want as every pier is filled with local merchants and tour offerings.

All in all, I believe I can see this ship exactly as it is and I can say that it is a fine vacation for most people, especially active people who want to see Hawaii. It is not for someone who has been on many luxury cruises and is only interested in being on a ship for the food and service. You are in port every day and often at night, and the ship is run accordingly.

I do know there were big problems when the ship was first re-flagged as NCLA (NCL has never denied this) but that the crew is has been weeded out and is improving every week. The original crew was hired and put on board with very little training, and they had little idea of what they were in for. In addition, according to eye-witnesses on board, the first group of passengers were not kind to this new crew at all and the situation escalated to something close to a passenger/crew rebellion. Certainly not a good situation. I was not there so I won't make any further comments.

NCLA now has a crew training center at Piney Point MD where applicants spend 3 weeks learning their jobs before they get on board. Some 10% of applicants are weeded out before they even get to the ship. In addition, there are disciplinary procedures on board to deal with crew members including dismissal. Firings do occur after a seaman's union authorized procedure.

I doubt if the moving of some crew to Pride of America will have as much impact as some people want you to believe because their replacements are already on board and learning their jobs. As a former crew member, I can tell you 2 months is about what it takes to get oriented to ship life and a new job. That means by July you shouldn't notice a difference.

I can honestly say, the vast majority of people we saw were having an excellent time and we heard very little complaining. They were experiencing Hawaii and the ship is a convenient and comfortable way to do that. The first-time cruisers we met were all having a fabulous time, said they loved the ship and cruising and would do it again in a heartbeat. The only real complainers we heard were a couple who had been on several cruises and knew exactly how to nit-pick a cruise ship. Their complaints were on target (mostly about housekeeping), but of the type that would never occur to a first-time cruiser.

I have said it before and will say it again, this ship is not for people going solely for the cruise experience (meaning you do not care about the destination, you just want to be on a ship). There are better deals out there closer to home.

I also believe this ship will get better, and as NCLA grows and expands it pool of employees it will become a very good ship. It has a good start already: good food, very nice decor, a great itinerary and a management who is dedicated to making their staff better. They really do care what people think (comment cards are taken very seriously), and they realize they have a duty to bring the ship up to the standards of even the most experienced cruisers. That is their goal.

So, in conclusion, I think anyone reading this can see this isn't rocket science. I will say that to judge this ship today based on its rocky start is not a fair thing to do, it has changed and its comment card rankings are as high now as they have ever been, even with the partial crew move to Pride of America (which the Hotel Manager told me was actually only around 10% of the existing crew) -- they have not gone down.

Use this ship to see Hawaii, make it your base for an active vacation and you will not be disappointed. And the real key to make it a great vacation is to take a little responsibility for yourself - make sure you get a tour form and book excursions early. If your room steward forgets to give you a daily program pick one up.

If you have an inconvenience on board tell the staff, they will try to help you, or make the best of it like we did (share a table, for example). Everyone is friendly, the "problems" are in most cases simply minor inconveniences, and the solutions are not hard to find. Don't walk around looking for things that are wrong, not say or do anything about them, and let that ruin your vacation. And don't spend your whole vacation beefing about problems - trying to get refunds, or whatever. That isn't a vacation.

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