Just experienced a wonderful cruise to Greece aboard the Jade. I can't say enough good things about the Staff our accomadations and Food this Ship offered. I would recommend Norwegian Cruise Line to anyone looking for a first class experience.
This was our first short, 5-nights, cruise with NCL. We have done three long, 11-nights, cruises with them before on the Wind, the Dawn and the Jewel.
Pre-Cruise Since this was a short vacation and we have been in London many times before, it was my 10th visit there, we decided to stay there for just one night before the cruise. We stayed at Park Plaza Victoria Hotel close to Victoria Station and that was a very nice hotel.
On the day of the cruise we took a National Express bus from Victoria Coach Station at 7.15. A little early but the next bus would get us to Southampton later than we wanted so it was the choice we had!
We came to Southampton 9:25 and had some breakfast at McDonalds before we walked to the terminal, arrived there at 10.30. It was definitely walking distance between the coach station and the terminal but with more luggage we would have taken a cab. (We took a cab after the cruise and paid £5+tip, around $8+tip.)
Embarkation They started the embarkation at 11:05 so we had to wait for a while before we couldcheck in. Since there were no lines everything went very fast. We were the first to get to one of the Latitudes desks where we checked in. The lady at the desk then took us to the concierge, Ruth Hagger, where we got our keys. I didn't see any VIP-check in, maybe because we were so early and there were no lines anyway? Ruth took us to the VIP waiting area where we waited for just a few minutes before we got escorted onto the ship around 11:30. We got our glass of sparkling wine and then we left our luggage in our cabin which was almost ready. When the luggage was left we went to Magnum's for our traditional first glass of Champagne, Taittinger!
Our Cabin We stayed in AE Penthouse 8634 which is located aft. The cabin was definitely big enough for us and there was lots of space for the luggage. We had a bathtub instead of a shower and I think that a shower had been better because I felt too close to the roof every time I took a shower!
There was a nice, but small, dining area which we didn't use because the cruise was so short. On a longer cruise it might be nice to have dinner in the cabin one night and then stay in bed and watch DVD's on the rather large flat screen TV for the rest of the evening!
The balcony was nice and equipped with one sun chair and two other chairs with cushions. We didn't really like the aft view but know that many do like it. The cheapest cabin with suite perks and side view but without a second bedroom, which I won't use and therefore don't want to pay for, is the A4 Courtyard Villa so if I feel like paying for that for our next cruise I might do that, if not I will be back in an aft Penthouse or Romance Suite and I will be happy with that too.
The Restaurants and the Food Since the cruise was short we didn't have time to eat at many of the restaurants. We had all our breakfasts in the concierge lounge (Star Bar-Cagney's) and most of our lunches too, we had lunch at Blue Lagoon once. For dinner we went to Grand Pacific twice, Paniolo twice and Le Bistro.
The breakfast in the concierge lounge was VERY good and one of the best suite perks. They had a buffet for cold items and a very nice menu for hot items. We really liked their omelettes, pancakes and egg Benedictines with lobster.
The lunches there were also excellent and they even had a few dishes from the dinner menu. Those dishes took some time to prepare so we didn't try any of them, we probably will on a longer cruise. They had really nice crab cakes and I can absolutely recommend their fettuccini with mushroom and cheese sauce.
We had lunch in Blue Lagoon on our port day in Dublin because we wanted to get off the ship. We ate fish & chips there and that was very nice, but not like in a real English pub! One bad thing was that we asked if they had any Irish lager, since we were in Ireland and a stout (=Guinness!) isn't the best beverage with fish & chips, and was told, NO. Later we saw that they had Harp, which is an Irish lager.
The dinners in Grand Pacific were also very nice. The lines were very short both times (the second time we went there we had a reservation but there was no line at all so that really wasn't necessary, we made the reservation just to be sure we shouldn't have to stand in a line the last evening on the ship!) and the service was good. The menus in the main restaurants didn't have many dishes that attracted us but one nice main course is enough and all food we ate tasted well.
Le Bistro has great French food, probably not as good as a real French luxurious bistro but then the price is completely different too. The $15 extra charge is NOT too much. I can only think of one bad thing with Le Bistro and that is that they serve Foie Gras and the animals are not well treated when that is produced. I had Moules(?) Anisette (steamed clams), grilled swordfish and crepe Suzette and everything was very good.
Paniolo has great Mexican food, definitely worth the extra $10. Later in the evening the first night we went to Paniolo we sat in the bar outside Paniolo and drank a Marguerita when someone passed the bar with a tray with food which smelled so good so we decided to go to Paniolo the next day too! The second day I had Cheese Quesadillas, Sizzling Fajitas (the great smelling dish) and strawberry ice cream.
The Bars and the Beverages The Star Bar was very nice on the Jade, for some reason it wasn't that nice on the Jewel. Bali Hai is probably very nice on a warm cruise but this time it was a little too cold there in the evenings but we had some drinks there overlooking the pool area and that was nice. Bali Hai is also located on the deck outside Spinnaker Lounge so when the bar inside isn't open yet, it's perfect to buy the drinks at Bali Hai and drink them at Spinnaker. We didn't really liked the "bar city" when we cruised on the Jewel and it's the same on the Jade. It's nice to sit there with a drink but too many people are passing all the time so it's not relaxing at all! Especially the Champagne bar, Magnums, should be separated from the other bars and located in a calmer area.
Paniolos bar was, in our opinion, the best bar on the Jade. They made very nice Margueritas and the staff was very nice too. Since our cabin was located aft on deck 8 it was also very convenient to go there and buy a drink to drink in the cabin, we could have called room service or our butler but the bar was so close so it was easier to go and buy them ourselves.
All drinks we had were well made and tasted good. The drink prices were in my opinion decent, drinks on a cruise ship are never cheap but a drink at a bar in Sweden cost even more so I see no reason to complain on high prices. A Gin & Tonic costs around $6.50 with the gratuity added.
I don't know if they still try to sell souvenir drinks at a high price because I always asked for a regular sized drink when I bought something fancy.
The wine list was okay and for me it seems like the selection of cheaper wines is bigger then it was when we cruised a few years ago. This cruise we drank more Champagne then we have done before and the prices on that were decent too. Champagne always cost much but is always worth much too!
The Rest of the Ship All public areas are "colourful," if I shall say it nice! It was better than the Jewel but I really can't understand why they need so many different colours everywhere. The atrium was very nice, and very red.
On this rather cold cruise the pool area seemed big enough but I guess it was very crowded when the ship cruised around Hawaii. The quiet zone in the front of deck 14 seems like a nice place to spend time on a sunny day at sea in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean but this time it was too cold and too windy there.
We were in the casino for maybe one minute and that was more than enough! In my opinion a casino shall be a luxurious and glamorous place filled with tuxedos and nice dresses but a casino where the most casual dressed, if I shall be nice to them, people sit and smoke and just push a button for hours is just tragic to me. Others don't have to agree but my opinion is that people who think that the casino on a cruise ship is a good place to be in might need help. Note that I wrote "might," I don't say that everyone who likes a cruise ship casino has a problem, but some probably have.
As Penthouse guests we also had the opportunity to see the courtyard area. It was very nice but much smaller than I thought it would be. The private sundeck on deck 15 looked great for a warmer cruise.
The Ports We stopped in Dublin and in Cobh, outside Cork. In Dublin they docked rather far from the central parts of the town but a free shuttle was provided. (I'm sure that the city of Dublin provided the shuttle, NCL should probably have charged for it!)
Since we had been in Dublin before we decided to just walk around by ourselves for awhile. We had lunch at Blue Lagoon before we went to town and there we just had some Guinness before we took the shuttle back to the ship.
The ship docked very central in Cobh. We docked right by the train station so those who wanted to go to Cork could do so by train. We had booked an excursion because we wanted to see some of the Irish countryside. NCL had some interesting excursions in Cobh but unfortunately most of them were in the afternoon and we really prefer to go on an excursion before lunch and be back for lunch instead of leaving after lunch. The best excursion we could find before lunch was to Blarney Castle so we booked that. It was nice and we got to see some Irish countryside so we were happy with it, but it was probably not the most interesting excursion they had.
The Suite Life The best thing with staying in a "suite" (I know it's not really a suite unless the bedroom is in a separate room but everyone calls it a suite so I call it a suite too) isn't the suite itself, it's the perks you get. The suite was very nice and the extra space would have been great on a longer cruise. Since this cruise was so short we didn't have very much luggage. In my opinion the aft view made the suite itself less attractive. The pillow menu in the suite is a great idea and on a longer and warmer cruise I should have ordered a Climarelle: "Stay cool and comfortable with this super-scientific-body-temperature-regulating-pillow"!
The best thing with having a suite was the breakfasts and lunches in the concierge lounge, a very relaxing experience and great food! We walked through the Garden Café once and couldn't believe how much noise there was there, have we really eaten there on previous cruises!? I doubt that we ever can go back to a standard balcony cabin again!
It was also nice to be able to ask the concierge to make dinner reservations but is it really harder to do it yourself? Priority tender tickets must also be a good perk but not needed on this cruise. The butler service can also be nice but how many "normal" persons really need a butler? I liked the treats we got every afternoon and dinner in the suite one night can be great on a longer cruise but for other things than that, I don't really need a butler.
Priority embarkation was also nice but even better was the priority debarkation. We waited in Le Bistro until it was time to go and then we just cut the line and were off the ship in less than a minute, how nice was that!? I understand that people standing in that long line don't appreciate that some people don't have to wait in the line, but we have paid more so why should I be sorry and feel bad for it?
Debarkation and Post-Cruise Debarkation was as I just said -- very quick and easy. After we had left the ship we took a cab to the coach station and waited there for a short while before our bus to Heathrow departed. We came to Heathrow at 12:10 and then we went to terminal 5. Our plane wasn't to depart until 4:50 but since we should fly in Club Europe (British Airways business class within Europe) we could spend all that time in the lounge where they had some excellent wine. Our plane landed in Stockholm at 8:15 and we were back at home just before 11:00.
What Could Have Been Better I don't really like to try to find bad things when the overall experience was so good but I know that even the bad things are important to mention and by doing that, all the good things I have written about the cruise get more credibility.
I have already mentioned our aft view. Yes, it's only my opinion that the aft view isn't as good as a side view and I know that many love the aft view. My question then is: if the aft view is so good, why aren't the Courtyard Villas, Owner Suites and Garden Villas located aft? I think that NCL could have some Penthouses on the side of the ship too so that those who prefer the side view could book one of those. For me it feels wrong that the standard balcony cabins cost much less and have a much better view than the Penthouses!
The coffee maker in our cabin was broke, really not a problem but still something bad! We told our butler and she took it with her, no replacement.
Sometimes there were kids in the adults only hot tubs and no one told them to leave. That wasn't really a problem either but a rule is a rule. Some late evenings there were also lots of teenagers running around on the deck outside the Star Bar and they were very loud. There were more teenagers on this cruise than on our previous cruises (because it was shorter?) and most of the time that was no problem but I can't understand why they have to sit on the stairs? Is there really no other place for them to be in?
According to NCL's brochure we should get a bottle of "Moet & Chandon White Star Champagne on arrival," but we got a bottle of cheap sparkling wine. Not a big problem but still annoying because if I pay for Champagne, I want Champagne! I asked the concierge about it and she said that was changed fleet wide a few months ago. The brochure also mentions a "Daily choice from special hors d'oeuvre menu" and we never had the chance to choose anything. All we got was very good, but it was not up to us to choose what we wanted.
On the last evening of the cruise, just before dinner, the whole bar city was filled with people who participated in a quiz. Couldn't they have chosen another area for that? In my opinion a bar is a place for people who want to have a drink, in this case a pre-dinner drink before the last dinner on a cruise, and the bar city is filled with people not drinking! How good business is that for NCL? It was no problem for us to go up to the Star Bar instead, but what was NCL thinking?
Conclusion This was a really great cruise! Does anyone doubt that I recommend cruising with NCL on the Norwegian Jade?
We just returned from 12 days Eastern Med cruise with Norwegian Jade. It was a FABULOUS trip, but I wanted to pass on a few pointers before the details fade. We are from the U.S., and this is our 4th European cruise and 10th cruise overall (we have also cruised Princess, Celebrity and Carnival). We tend toward doing most of the ports ourselves, and hiring private guides if necessary because we enjoy researching the ports and like the flexibility and efficiency of a private tour (we have found it to be cheaper than the ship's tours as well).
FLIGHTS AND PRE-CRUISE STAY IN BARCELONA If possible, plan to arrive in Barcelona a day or two early. We stayed at the Regencia De Colon hotel. It is a sister hotel to the Colon, both which sit at the foot of the Cathedral and a 2 minute walk from La Rambla. The room was small, but well appointed in a great location. We had to go to the Colon to get ice for our drinks. We had dinner at Neya's. A small tapas bar 1 1/2 blocks from the hotel. The foodwas great -- tapas and paella -- and very inexpensive.
We really enjoyed the city. La Rambla is maybe 6 blocks long and activity abounds! We spent much of the time just watching the street mimes. They get dressed up in amazing costumes and hold perfectly still til you come up to have your picture taken. Then they go into action! Quite a site to see. La Rambla is also lined with plenty of street vendors, artists etc. But they even have street vendors that are pet shops along with the normal florists and trinket sellers. We had sangria at a street side cafe. Ugh. It was thick and really sweet and reminded us more of childrens cough syrup than a cocktail.
On the day of embarkation we took the hop off/hop on bus. We took the north route to catch all of the architecture and it really was a beautiful ride. It did, however, take the entire morning as the traffic in the city was really bad. We bought a one day ticket that would have allowed us to take the south route if we had the time. Two day tickets are also available. Cash only, but you purchase the tickets at the boarding stops. We thought Barcelona was beautiful, we were pleasantly surprised. It is a very easy city to do on your own. Cabs are very easy to get either in the city or at the pier. It is about 10-15 E from the pier to the close end of La Rambla. Make sure and negotiate price before you get in.
DINING We had late seating, traditional dining. We love traditional dining, however, due to the lateness of some of the tours we ate every night at 8:45 pm. That's pretty late even for folks who like to have prolonged cocktail hours! We were rarely finished with dinner by 11pm. I won't comment too much on food, but all of the soups were absolutely fantastic. We never had a bad one. Many of the nights I had a hard time choosing which entree to select as none of them completely excited me, but they were all good.
THE SHIP It's not as fancy or as laden with goodies as some of its sisters, but the Jade is a very nice ship. The crew is attentive and there are many, many activities planned.
Downsides: It is short on public spaces; smoking is allowed in the one lounge where a lot of activities are scheduled, so you can't really escape it (the high percentage of Europeans adds to the smoking population too); and the rooms are small even for cruise ship standards (no drop down bunk, so kids sleep together on a pull-out couch).
Upsides: I thought the food in the Windjammer was a step above the usual (don't miss the Asian and Greek nights, the pastries at breakfast, the desserts and the fresh melon), and there is an excellent "salad bar" with unusual ingredients at lunch in the dining room; the bartender at the Champagne Bar makes a killer Chocolate Mint martini (skip the frozen drinks at the pool bars -- they are WEAK); there are a ton of fitness and game activities planned if you're interested. Do go to the port talks -- they are very informative. I'm impressed with how NCL aids the independent traveler and does not solely push their excursions.
THE PORTS Rome/Civitavecchia: After much consideration, we decided to book a private full day tour in Rome visiting some of the familiar places and including a few new ones. After researching companies to use, we decided on LimoinRome -- Claudio Caponera (www.limoinrome.com) as our driver/guide for the day. We shared this tour with 3 couples from our roll call. Our itinerary included The Roman Forum, Coliseum, Mouth of Truth, Circus Maximums, the Key Hole (Sov Mil Ordine Di Malta), Palatine Hill, Baths of Caracalla, The Catacombs, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Capitol Hill, and Gianicolo (great views of Rome from this spot) and Borghese Gallery. Claudio arranged for our lunch stop at Ristorante Massenzio. Good meal. If we could have eliminated one thing in the itinerary it would, in our opinion, have been the Borghese Gallery. After a full day of sightseeing, I for one was on "information overload". I would suggest that the Borghese Gallery be done by itself or perhaps along with a walk through the garden areas.
Athens: We hired a taxi driver from Spiros at firstname.lastname@example.org for the day (8:30-2:00). This ended up being a boon -- it costs 25 euro each way from Piraeus on the meter anyway, and saved us hundreds of steps in the heat. He parked at the back side of the Acropolis (it is not necessary to climb the hundreds of steps from the Plaka) and waited for us, then took us to the old Olympic stadium (actually pretty impressive), the Temple of Zeus, to the President's house in time for the changing of the guard (actually worth the stop), the Parliament building, the Roman Agora, and then the Greek Agora and Plaka. We zipped through it all -- again because we got out early I think, and were driving instead of walking -- and were back on board by 2, exhausted.
Ephesus: We hired a private tour guide for this port -- Denizhan at email@example.com. We combined with another family I met on our Roll Call. I join the list of Cruise Critic people that highly recommend him. He was knowledgeable, personable, proud of his country, and completely professional. We started early and were through most of Ephesus by the time the first tour bus arrived. Since it reached 105 degrees that day, we were EXTREMELY grateful to have gotten to see it before the hottest part of the day. Be sure to also see the ruins of St. John's Basilica. Denizhan also took us inside a local and historic mosque and explained a lot about Islam and Turkish politics. Lunch was the best of the trip. We also visited the museum in Selcuk, which was fine, although it is hard to compete with the Vatican, the Egyptian Museum, and others on this trip. Definitely try apple tea if you can -- hot or cold, it's delicious. All in all, a great stop.
Alexandria/Giza: You definitely need a guide/tour for this stop. Most passengers ponied up for an NCL tour of some sort, and I was a little nervous not to, reading all the postings about police convoys. But having a private tour guide (we used Rasha El Ashmawy at www.egyptdailytours.com) worked out great, and we were very happy with the day. We didn't have to wait for the convoy (and I felt safer, being less obviously a tourist in a small vehicle), we lingered at things that interested us, and went quicker through things that did not. Price for a family of four was $100 for adults and $90 for kids; a group of seven was $80 for adults and $70 for kids (solar boat museum, going inside the pyramids and mummy room at the Egyptian museum extra, but lunch included). Keys to this day are FLEXIBILITY and HUMOR, and you should realize that even if you do it with NCL there might be glitches -- for example, the entire bus that took the NCL Nile trip got sick, and cartouches ordered on a different tour turned black when they were worn into the pool back on the ship. However, on the whole we heard that the NCL tours were pretty good. Our tour included the Giza plateau, where we walked around near all three pyramids, drove to a vista, drove back to go inside the medium sized pyramid (Kefern) and then visited the Sphinx. Lunch was a quick falafel sandwich, and then we went to the Egyptian Museum (including mummy room) and back out to shop at the Khan Al Khalili bazaar in Islamic Cairo. We left the bazaar at 6:00 sharp, and pulled up to the ship at 9:25 (had to be back onboard by 9:30, so you really do have to watch your time). Rasha did not travel with us, but checked in with us all the way back to make sure that we made it back on board.
Tips about this particular Giza/museum/bazaar itinerary: 1) change money before you get off the ship if possible because Euros/dollars are not accepted until you are at the bazaar; 2) take toilet paper in your bag -- bathrooms are often bare; 3) take small change for the bathrooms; 4) resist resist resist people offering you anything (even people that claim to work for the sites you are visiting) -- you will suspect it is a scam, but then you will not want to offend them, so you will go along, but it will end up being a scam at the end. We had a number of people flat out lie to us -- "I work for the government, not a tour guide, come see, I don't want to take your money" -- and then demand "baksheesh;" 5) take water and umbrellas -- Giza plateau is really exposed; 6) at the bazaar, decide what you are willing to pay and stick to your guns -- as a rule of thumb, Rasha told us to chop their asking price in half or more -- if you can't settle with the first guy, you will probably see the same thing a few stores away; 7) about going inside the pyramids -- a claustrophobic, hot, crowded, and stinky experience -- but my family was glad they did it. The middle pyramid (Kefern) offers much the same experience as the largest pyramid (Khufu), but priced at about $6 instead of $20. The experience takes ten to fifteen minutes at either pyramid; 8) The Museum -- so many treasures crammed right next to each other, it's overwhelming -- read a little before you go so you can sort out the experience before you're there. There are actually two mummy rooms to see for the additional admission price of $20 -- if you've seen a mummy before, you can honestly give this a miss, but if you haven't, it is fairly interesting. If the line is long, see the rest of the museum and check back in later -- it fluctuates depending on tour groups; 9) Get to Islamic and/or Coptic Cairo if you can -- much more atmosphere than downtown where the Museum is; 10) Do NOT eat at the bazaar -- most expensive (and worst) "snack" of the trip; 11) DO try the mint tea mmmmmm.
Valetta: This is the one port where we decided to do one of the ship's organized excursions, a "jeep adventure" tour of the island. Having just recovered from a pinched nerve in my back, I don't know what possessed me to book this excursion. The ride is VERY bumpy and rough, especially around the limestone quarries, so if you have any back or neck problems, you should opt for a different tour. That being said, the "Malta Jeep Adventure" is a good way to see a lot of the island. Each vehicle is an open-air jeep with seating for four people. There is a recorded guided tour playing in English to explain the various monuments or sights as you pass them. The last stop was at Golden Bay where we had free time to swim or lounge on the beach. Again, we are not big on organized tours, but this one was a good value for the money. Something that we found surprising was that all the signs were in English.
Overall this is one of the best cruises we've done and we highly recommend others to give it a try if you like to visit many ports with less sea days. Weather was great throughout the trip and we're glad we choose early October to do this cruise. The members of our roll call were a pleasure to meet and share tours with. We have great memories of this adventure. Would definitely do this trip again.
This was our fourth cruise line and, thanks to Freestyle dining, it is the best.
We were able to spend hours on deck enjoying the sea lochs of Ireland and Scotland without rushing to dress for dinner or being missed by our table companions.
Irish or Scottish music and dance groups came onboard at three of the ports, and the two sea days were packed with events, including local legend lectures and even a gospel choir on Sunday.
Freestyle meant seeing the gannets on bass rock, the sea lock at Amsterdam and the friendly dolphin in Moray Loch.
It was absolute magic!
Norwegian Cruise Line Pride of Hawaii by Chris Hawaii November 26, 2007
Consider yourself warned. Never travel on an American crewed cruise ship.
The Pride of Hawaii was the absolute worst travel experience I have ever had cruising, and I have been on six cruise ships.
The American crew is the worst. They don't care about passengers, the service is better in a taco shop, and the overall attitude of the crew was untolerable.
This trip that I was on was to be the last Hawaii cruise by this particular ship and I think that is why the crew did not care.
We complained several times and were never helped by the supervisors.
Only travel on cruise lines with foreign workers as they will work to death for you.
Norwegian Cruise Line Pride of Hawaii by pilotguy71 Hawaii October 8, 2007
Background Info My wife and I cruise yearly and try to select new ports of call each time. We live in Bluffton, SC (near Hilton Head) and planned this cruise since May of this year. After deciding that we really wanted to see Hawaii this year, I did some research and found a great deal. I booked through Hawaii Aloha Travel and Abby was my agent. Talk about service! She was great and I would recommend her to everyone!
Hotel Info We decided to go a couple of days early to see Honolulu. We purchased a hotel package through NCL. We stayed 2 nights at the Marriott Waikiki. Check in was a breeze and they had our room keys waiting for us at the special NCL counter upon arrival at the hotel. The hotel even has a NCL pre-cruise registration office so we checked in for our cruise 2 days early. All we did at the port was go to the Marriott/Latitudes check in counter and we were given our stateroom key. The accommodations were grand! We would definitely staythere again in the future.
Ship Info All I can say is wow! Huge ship. We didn't even get a chance to see it all. Very clean and it is decorated nicely. Bring your walking shoes!
Activities Since we were in port everyday, we didn't get a chance to check out all the activities on the ship. We did see a show one night which was okay, but not up to par with some of the other ships we have been on.
Service (A) I have read a few people say the service on board the ship was awful since it was an all American crew. Not so! The crew went out of their way to provide the best service possible. I even remember one gentleman named Jan that went out of his way to chat with various passengers as they sat down at the buffet area.
Shore Excursions Basically, the only hiccup we had on our cruise was in this department. We had booked our excursions online 5 months prior to sailing. We received our tickets upon entering our stateroom on Day 1. The morning of Day 3, we received a letter that our Day 4 excursion was cancelled due to lack of participation. After going through the brochure we received when we first got on the boat, the excursion in question WAS NEVER OFFERED. My gripe to NCL is why didn't they notify us on Day 1 (or sooner) if they knew the excursion was not offered?; plus, we had a ticket for it that was delivered to our stateroom! I thought that was poor service.
The excursions we did were as follows:
Circle of Fire Helicopter -- Hilo (A+): Outstanding! Highly recommend this. The view was incredible and seeing the lava flow from Kilauea was a treat. The tour operator was Sunshine Helicopters and our pilot was as smooth with the controls as they come. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. I was hoping to fly with Blue Hawaii. Our group was split between the two and we had no choice. I wanted to buy the DVD of the flight but Sunshine charged double of what Blue Hawaiian did so I opted not to get it.
Volcanoes National Park -- Hilo (A+): Fantastic! The tour included a stop at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory.
Tubing the Ditch -- Kauai (A+): An amazing 2 mile long journey floating on an inner tube. The highlight was that 70% of the trip was underground.
Journey to Waimea Canyon -- (C-): Had high hopes for this excursion and was let down. Our driver had the most monotone voice ever! He provided lots of information but the trip to Waimea took forever with several stops at local shopping establishments. When we got to Waimea, it was gorgeous, but we only had 25 minutes.
Molokini Crater Snorkel -- Maui (B): Okay, the excursion waiting area in Maui is the pits! Most unorganized port of them all. 2 boatloads of folks onto two buses. Problem was, 1 excursion was 7 hours, the other only 5. Needless to say, NCL did a horrible job of separating the 2 groups. That was done on the snorkeling boats. Half had to get off the boat, causing the other half of us to be late. Once everything was sorted out, the excursion was good.
Haleakala Crater and Sunset -- Maui (A+): Amazing! Highly recommend and bring a jacket. It's chilly up there!
Rented a Car -- Maui (A): Since our excursion was cancelled, we rented a car. Got a chance to see the west coast of Maui! Simply beautiful. If you get a chance to dine at the Rusty Harpoon, I highly recommend it. Whalers Village 2435 Kaanapali Pkwy. Lahaina, Maui, HI, 96761
Transfers (A) Highly recommend purchasing them. The airport to hotel, the hotel to port, as well as the port to airport transfers went very smoothly. My only complaint is this. We purchased our air arrangements thru NCL and they booked us on an early departure (1230pm local time). We were one of the first ones off the ship and were transported promptly to the airport. We were dropped off outside the Delta Airlines ticket counter at 830am. Agriculture as well as the Delta check in counter does not open until 930am. Basically, we had to wait outside of the airport with all of our bags for an hour.
Stateroom (A) We had a great balcony on the port side of the ship. Our cabin steward did a great job. The room was always clean and fresh towels were provided as needed. Even got those towel animals we all enjoy. The bathroom area was larger than I remember from previous ships so our stateroom experience was above average.
Dining (C) I am a huge fan of freestyle dining, however, it is my opinion that it does not work well on this boat. To me, freestyle dining is eating WHEN you want, WHERE you want to. Nope! If you do not make a reservation at least 24 hours in advance, you will be waiting for over an hour. Yes, the buffet is available, but when you pay a pretty penny for a cruise like this, you don't want to dine in the buffet every night. The buffet does not offer the foods that the other places do, plus the food is luke warm.
Summary (B) Overall, a great experience. Hawaii was beautiful. The price of the cruise did not match the value, however.
Norwegian Cruise Line Pride of Hawaii by Topspin4854 Hawaii August 6, 2007
Wow! I had a vacation of a lifetime. Thank you soo much CruiseMates for making my vacation the best ever. Half my fun was reading about my trip and preparing.
I knew I had to set my expectations realistically, (thanks to CruiseMates) so the more I researched the more I became realistic in my expectations. Many of my expectations were exceeded and some were a bit disappointing, but that was expected too!
First, let me try to give back a little to pre-cruisers to Hawaii. I'm from Florida so the time change was 6 hours. I was so glad that I booked a package on Lanai with the Four Seasons that included the 5th night free if you stayed at both FS on the Island. That gave us 5 days to go through jetlag and we really needed that to enjoy the cruise. It was really relaxing, fun and got us into the Aloha spirit before boarding.
We booked a room on POH on the 14th floor. A mini suite on the courtyard. We were offered an upgrade to anowners suite for $1,000. Much to my delight, my DH jumped at the chance. I was definately not expecting that one!
Our room was amazing, big, 3 balconies with one of them at the front of the ship.
I'm glad I knew the color scheme before boarding because purple, pink and lime green aren't really my colors if you know what I mean.
Wally was our butler. How easy is that to get used to? He was awsome. It was really his pleasure to make our vacation as great as possible.
We were able to make reservations at special restaurants by calling directly from our phone or using a concierge. No lines. We were treated with real VIP service.
We ate at Cagney's the first night, and it was obvious they sat us with the best waiter in the restaurant. Qwok was fantastic! We made sure to sit in his station whenever we enjoyed the luxury of eating on that floor. I did eat in the buffet a few times and totally understand why I read about so many complaints. It was very crowded and people had to share tables. One woman sat down with me during breakfast one morning and complained the entire time. I had to finally interrupt her to be excused and exit, stage right!
My DH has never eaten Sushi and I never expected him to, but he came with me to the Sushi Bar and I ordered him some of the Tempura fried (I can't remember the name now) dishes. He loved it! So did I.
There have been many complaints about service on POH. The reason I read for this was because POH is an American ship and can only find Americans to hire. But now that I have been there, I disagree with this theory because the hotels can only hire Americans and we had awsome service in them. I think that the reason POH has trouble with service is their "no tipping" policies. Your account is charged $10.00/person daily to cover tips. This leaves the wait staff unmotivated to give the customers the best service. They know the ship is going to give them a set amount weather they smile or not. You are encouraged to tip those who go over and above, but this is very vague and I can assure you that the complaining breakfast friend of mine did not tip anything extra, just complained about the $10.00 auto tip.
I know that smoking was a big issue too. I don't smoke but did notice that smoking was allowed in your room.
The private courtyard was a big letdown for me. When you look at the pictures of it, you see beautiful flowers and a soft breeze blowing through the many covered sun chairs. Totally not the way it really is. The flowers are all fading silk plants and the courtyard is really an indoor swimming pool. It feels like an indoor pool, smells like an indoor pool and there isn't a breeze at all. They must have set up fans for the picture on the ncl website. I think it would make a great green house so I don't see why they couldn't use real flowers, but anyway.
We are not night people so I can't tell you much about the entertainment but we loved visiting each Island and our excursions were fantatic. We did the Turtle snorkel in Hilo. (I think the snorkeling is better in the Caribbean, fire coral in VI really adds so much color) But is it was great. We saw a huge, I mean HUGE turtle. Very cute. We also did the Captain Zodiac snorkle and that was really fun too. We took a heli over Volcanoe National Park and saw glowing lava flowing, AMAZING! We also did a heli over Kuai and could just imagine all the Dinosaurs roaming around in Jurasic Park.
We rounded the trip out with a real splurge at Kahala Resort in Ohau. We paid for two nights in advance, and when we got there, they upgraded us to the best room in the Hotel! Wow what a great surprise that was. We were booked for an ocean room w/ balcony and they moved us in the exclusive suite, NO CHARGE!!! AMAZING. Three balconies, two bathrooms, two refridges, closets, kitchen, living room, we were in total bliss.
I hope you all have as much fun as we did, and thank you again, friends at CruiseMates for making it all happen!
geocities.com/topspin4854/ecouple.jpg Old Lahaina Luau
Luckily we were off the ship before the Hurricane and Earthquake! Just in the nick of time. We did get stuck in Houston with Erin, but finally made it home safely.
Norwegian Cruise Line Pride of Hawaii by DL Hawaii June 11, 2007
We booked our cruise through an agent. Shortly after, I received an email from Norwegian recommending that we book excursions on-line. I did that and paid with credit card. Months later when we boarded the ship, there were no tickets for our excursions. The on-line system didn't work and we were not the only ones affected. The people onboard did nothing to correct the situation and we were left with no excursions.
After coming home, my credit card bill showed I had been charged for the excursions I never received. I still have not gotten my refund. We ended up getting excursions from dock-side vendors. But I've paid twice for what I got. Norwegian just didn't care.
Also, the Freestyle Dining is a rip off. You stand in line for hours waiting to be fed. With other cruise lines, you have a standing reservation to eat. With Norwegian, they just make you wait and wait for average food.
The entertainment is also below average.
All in all, the whole trip was a disaster. Steer clear of Norwegian Cruise Line.
Norwegian Cruise Line Pride of Hawaii by Ken Hawaii March 12, 2007
Having taken several cruises over the past few years, including NCL we looked into the new ships NCL has for Hawaii cruising. We read several reviews which had negative comments about the POH and the other NCL Hawaii ships. With that in mind we went in with lower expectations and thought we'd use the ship as our floating hotel room.
When we arrived in Honolulu at the dock the wait line was a good hour to check in. Baggage handlers were very busy so it took while for them to get to us.
We got on board ship, did a quick tour and then went to our room. I have to say that this huge ship is very impressive and state of the art. The decoration is beautiful with all the modern ammenities. As far as all this goes, it's one of the best ships we've ever been on.
When we got to our room, at first site everything looked very nice. The problem was in the details. Dusty shelves, carpet needed vacuuming, toilet obviously not cleaned from previous guests and bathroomgenerally not cleaned well.
As we got into the cruise, room service diminished. First it was no bath mat, then no towels. After a few days the top bed sheet disappeared. We had left notes then asked then called and finally got someone to bring us towels. The carpet never got vacuumed while we were there despite our asking that it be done. I would expect at this price point that we would at least have the equivalent of a Best Western grade of service. Not even close!
The freestyle restaurant reservation system is a high tech mess. The many flat screen monitors showing reservation status are for the most part inaccurate. If you don't reserve at least the day ahead for one of the 10 restaurants you might not get in when you want or have to wait long times. The service in the Alazar is disorganized and slow. The service in the Jade room is better and in Cagneys on par with a good land restaurant.
The food in all the restaurants and buffet is generally quite good. Once again the big problem in most of them is poor service. As I said before the ship is very nice. We particularly liked the upper sun/pool deck. It has swimming pools, hot tubs, big water slide, a gazebo for the band and two bars and a snack bar. The band music was smoking hot and it was a great party atmosphere. Booze is expensive but they do have frequent 2for specials and happy hours. They have all the fancy umbrella drinks and aren't stingy with the pour. The better restaurants have extensive wine lists too.
Would we go again? Well, If they work out the bugs with the American crews these would be great cruises. We heard many first timers who really enjoyed it...but they had nothing to compare it to. Our biggest gripe was the stateroom cleanliness and service. Hopefully NCL will listen to the many complaints and take action.
Wife and I are 37. This was our 9th cruise including a 12 day transatlantic and a 14 day southern Caribbean. We've cruised Holland America, Celebrity, Carnival and RCL, finding the first two the best. Last cruise was on the Carnival Glory and before that the RCL Mariner. These ships are just too big. There's no customer service. We were glad to see a ship that only had 2000 guests.
I initially wrote a huge long review because we'd learned so many things that weren't in the reviews, but it's really long, so I cut it down to this (still long). If you want the unedited version, email me, firstname.lastname@example.org with cruise review in the title.
Here we go. The Fodor's Hawaii book is better than the frommers. Library didn't have revealed, but you need to research before you go, especially if you've never been to Hawaii, like us. We planned to take the robertshawaii.com official airport shuttle listed in the Fodor's guide. Unless you want to get to your hotel 2 hours later, take a cab. It'll cost you about $25 with a tip, but you'll save at least anhour.
The problem is this isn't really a shuttle, it's a bus. A big bus. We came out from the baggage claim and after 20 minutes a rep showed up and said the “shuttle" was on the way. 10 minutes later it drove by us, completely full of people. 20 minutes later, another one came and we got on. 14 stops later, it was our turn to get off the bus. It was still half full. It's easy to imagine that the last person would have been on the bus for more than an hour for a hotel no more than 10 miles away. If it was during the day, it would have been even longer as Honolulu's traffic is as bad as LA's.
The ship doesn't leave until 8pm and you can get there early and leave again. We did this and saw Waikiki, diamond head, some huge mall and all of the aloha towers attached to the pier. You just need to get on by 730. Enjoy your day, don't just sit on the ship. We didn't even get there until 5, breezed through security and put our stuff in our room and went back off to a bar in the towers.
It rains a lot on Hilo and it did our day. Couldn't see the crater at all so we did the chain of craters road and good thing, it was packed on our way out. Go to the end where the lava blocks the road. There's no parking lot, so getting there early helps as cars parked along the road went back about a quarter mile by the time we left – on top of the walking you need to do to see the lava on the road. Live lava was closer than ever too, but the wife didn't want to hike 2.5 miles to see it.
Hilo actually has a lot to see besides the crater park. Get your guide book or the rental car book and see everything you can. We saw so much I can't believe it, and it rained nearly the whole time. Rent from whoever you want. Thrifty was slammed at every port and the blue chip line was longer than the regular line. We did mostly Alamo since we get SWA points with them. Never more than a 15 minute wait at the counter, though the vans to get you could be very frustrating. They were nearly always taking only the driver, meaning you needed to come back and get your passenger. If there was just two of you, this would suck. In Hilo, we took a cab because the airport was close and someone said we just missed the Alamo van.
Be done eating by 9 because the ship goes south to sail by the live lava flow pouring in the ocean. You'll see it from both sides of the ship. You can't get a good picture but binoculars make it really spectacular. Awesome nightcap.
Maui the next day puts you on the east side of the island. Rent a car here for sure. If you want to do hana, do it first thing. We drove it all the way to the end, the seven pools (can't go further, huge rocks block the road). The $10 fee for the seven pools state park is also good for the crater park, you can do both in the time you're there.
This trip is about the landscape and for the car guys, an awesome road. There's nothing in hana and there are side trips everywhere. There are also tour buses that can take you if you don't want to drive and that's acceptable as it's an old road, every bridge is a one lane and it gets so crowded later in the day. Driving this road with an average speed of 20mph at night – scary considering half the people couldn't stay in their lanes during the day.
There's not enough free parking by the ship, so get there early or you'll be parking far away. We got there at 530 and watched the kite-boarders and the sunset. There's nothing to do in the town, though a grocery store and mall with a free shuttle is close if you need something.
Forget BYOB as they were shaking every container, even opened the lid and sniffed my wife's fountain drink! Security is through 3rd party, not the ship. They look through everything you have. They have metal detectors so all I can guess is they're looking for booze. Wouldn't want anyone to miss the highest priced drinks in the cruise industry.
Book any of your tours in Maui when you get there, tons of operators and way cheaper than the ship. We did a Molokini and turtle watching thing and still had time for the crater later in the day. Be sure you see the west side, this is where the Maui everyone talks about is.
Kona is the only tender port and it will eat a lot of your time. Long story short, don't rent a car here. It was a pain in the butt because the airport is far and its road is under construction. Reportedly there's good shopping and whatnot, just plan on that. But if you want to do a beach, Honokaope bay or Hapuna beach state park are incredible.
Kauai is everything you've heard and read. Do your helicopter tour here. We did it first thing and it was great because we previewed everything and the pilot gave us a great agenda where to go in the rental car. This also worked out as we got the car about noon after the helicopter and returning it at noon was spot-on for a 2pm departure the next day.
You must see the north shore. The beaches there were awesome. Everywhere we stopped had great snorkeling and beautiful beaches. Don't be afraid to just go down a road that looks like it goes to the water.
The ship leaves at 2 so it can cruise by the Na Pali coast which is only accessible by water. Around 4pm on the port side, the ship will come around and get very close. It's a shame to leave such a beautiful place early, but this, combined with the sunset that came later, made for an incredible close to an incredible trip.
So what about the ship? It's really nice, clean everywhere except our cabin and the crew was usually pretty good. Never saw our cabin guy the whole time, our bathroom was absolutely gross and was only partly cleaned up after we left a huge note he couldn't miss on the 3rd day. Never cleaned it again after that either.
Freestyle is the biggest crock ever. Because of the reviews, everyone runs on to the ship to make reservations. Duh, isn't that what you'd do on a non freestyle?! NCL must have acknowledged that it wasn't working because you couldn't book more than 36 hours in advance for our trip. This did get us in the sushi bar, which was well worth it, others weren't so happy with the other pay places.
We did the main dining room only one night because of waits. By the second night you either needed to eat by 8 at the buffet or sign up early as possible for Mexican or pasta because they were better food than the main rooms. At 9 the buffet closes, there's only the main rooms and Mexican or pasta with a long wait. The whole feeding thing was a complete mess and can really piss you off. Better have one or two of their $5 beers and wait for the Denny's quality food.
The gym was great with TVs for each cardio machine and dumbbells up to 85 pounds. The pool area was nice, band was way too loud as always and had NO service, especially cleanup service. This area appeared to be the least manned with food stuff everywhere in the afternoons.
By day 3, there were enough people sick that there was no self service on the food, everything had to be served to you, no touching (even salt and pepper shakers were removed!). That makes lines even longer and was probably due to gross cabin bathrooms like ours as the ship was mostly clean. Getting water, iced tea or coffee now has to come from a bar because they locked up the buffet area when it wasn't open. The bartenders were real happy about serving you too. No tip in it.
Last are the $10 a day tips. Came to find out on the last day when I went to adjust them because of the cabin and lack of main dining room use, that low and behold, they're not adjustable. It's now a service charge, not tipping. Obviously, everyone was doing what I was doing and NCL just put a stop to it because their overworked, demoralized crew were working 14 hours a day for nearly nothing. This really did piss me off because I had left tips everywhere and I felt like I paid twice. All this after waiting nearly an hour in line because there were only 2 people at the desk.
For departure, the easiest way to go is to carry your own bags and go when you want. NCL lets you get off as early as 730, but you can also go when you're ready. If you have a late flight, and the earliest we heard of was 1pm, take your time. The airport won't check you until 2.5 hours before so you'll be babysitting your bags if you get there too early. The Easy Fly service will handle this for you at $20 a person but if you have more than one bag, you pay even more. Overall, getting off was really easy.
Overall, our expectations were low going in and that's the reality. I think maybe this is isolated to the Pride ships and the American crew requirements. We've never done NCL before and a friend swears by them. They'll likely never get it right unless the prices go WAY up so they can hire enough crew and keep them. Our inside cabin was $499 before tax and we got what we paid for. Those paying more really didn't get what they paid for and a better cabin here just makes no sense with the ship docked everyday.
Would we go again, yah, now we really know what to expect and how to work around it. Would we recommend it to someone? Only if we knew they had a really high tolerance. Parents, older people and families, no. The cabins must be the smallest ever (you can't even sit straight on the toilet!) and the service level is really lacking. But can you imagine what it would cost to see 4 islands in 8 days without NCL's monopoly?!