Norwegian Cruise Line Pride of Aloha by Dalwhitt Hawaii August 8, 2004
This may surprise many of you who have read my postings over the last few months but . I enjoyed this vacation.
Why would I say that after mostly nothing but negative things to say about Pride of Aloha? It's because my wife and I traveled with friends - new and old - that we love dearly. Plus we have traveled with this charter group before and thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment and other activities planned exclusively by the travel agency. So we endured the problems on POA, made the most of a bad situation and adjusted when we had to in order to save this vacation.
This cruise also showed me that the American spirit is alive, well, and living in our young people. This crew is NOT made up of the lazy Americans that I heard about so frequently on these boards, just a group of people who have been given an impossible task. You could see the fatigue in the eyes of the staff, but they continue to give it their all against the odds created by acompany that is abusing them. There HAS to be labor law violations on this ship, and they will come to light in time.
I would never do another Hawaiian cruise, on Norwegian Cruise Line, in particular, or on a cruise ship, in general. Hawaii was not made for cruising. There is simply too much to see in port to be restricted to the usual 10-11 hours you spend there. A Hawaiian cruise is best suited for those who have never been to the islands and want to get a taste of each port. I want more than that.
For those of you who are diehard NCL fans let me get to the point and save you from reading the rest of this very lengthy review. I don't like NCL, I didn't like Pride of Aloha and I feel like NCL ripped me off with a second rate cruise.
I suggest that if you are booked on this ship and haven't reached the penalty period then cancel out. If you haven't booked yet . then take your business elsewhere. If you're stuck with this cruise . well . you can make the most of it if you lower your expectations and realize this will not be like any cruise you've ever been on.
Our group of 8 people included a family of four from Chicago, a couple from Phoenix, and us, from Connecticut. The adults are all in their 50s, the "kids" are 21 and 19.
This was our third trip to Hawaii, so we were well aware of the impact of that six-hour time difference coming from the east coast. We came in three days early to avoid jetlag, and I suggest that others cruising on POA do the same because that time difference can be murder. The couple with the family came in a week before we did (without the kids) to do a little golfing on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island. Many on this particular cruise flew in the same day - including some from Boston - and paid for it.
My wife and I flew into Honolulu on August 5, and a short inter-island flight later we were on Kauai and driving to Marriott's Waiohai Beach Club on Kauai. What a way to start a vacation . three days . in paradise . on the island of paradise. This is one of Marriott's newest (and most breathtaking) timeshare properties. Don't belong to the Marriott timeshare family? You can rent a two-bedroom unit for about $330 a night (including tax and fees), We had two two-bedroom units, each overlooking a beautifully landscaped garden area that included a couple of picturesque ponds, palm trees, golf course putting green-like grass, and twin waterfalls. Instead of the "superpool" you see at most big hotels, there were three individual pools, and three relatively secluded hot tubs. And of course, right beyond the biggest pool is a gorgeous beach. Wow! And best of all, Internet access was free so that I would stay in contact with my message board buddies.
Over the next three days, we drove as far north as possible (including a stop at the Princeville Hotel), lunched at Zelo's Beach House in Hanalei, and took in the grandeur of the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon. NOTE: Wherever you go in Hawaii, take your camera. Photo opts are just around the corner.
On Sunday, we headed back to the airport in Lihue for the flight back to Honolulu .. ready for the challenges ahead.
Four of us took a cab to the ship for a total of $36 including tip. As we closed in on the pier I finally got my first glimpse of the Pride of Aloha. My first thought? This ship sure is small, especially after sailing on the 142,000-ton Adventure of the Seas in mid-july.
But this isn't a bad ship, just not what we expected when we signed on for the brand spanking new Pride of America. And with exceptional service people probably wouldn't be so upset that POA is an older, smaller ship. Unfortunately, the lack of service only makes the ship shortcomings more obvious. Except for the dining rooms, the new furnishings look rather cheesy. The carpet is already beginning to bead up in high traffic areas, and the burlap strings along the edge of the carpet on Deck 6 outside of the jewelry store are already coming up. I never really got use to the bright furnishings, especially the blue carpeting. Particularly garish is the Blue Hawaii Lounge, with more colors than the rainbow, none of them matching.
The ship is easy to negotiate. I did hear complaints about having to walk up the stairs from the Crossings dining room on Deck 5 up to Deck 6, and then back down to Deck 5 to get to the Palace dining room. But there are maps of the ship posted at every elevator and in other areas, so you should never get lost. Then again, the ship is so small ...
Every day I found toilets in pubic areas that were not working. Either the bathroom floors were covered wall to wall with water (at least I think it was water) . or else the suction wasn't working and the toilets were overflowing with urine and the other stuff. Totally disgusting. If you don't want to take a chance, just go back to your room each time you need to go .. But I'm told that some of those toilets didn't always work either.
The cabins . they were just as small as everyone had said. Fortunately I was prepared and it really didn't bother me much. We always bring a few extra hangers so we were able to put most of our clothes in the closet, including my shorts. We left nothing in the suitcases except for things we would not use on this cruise. Everything else found a place either in the three drawers, two shelves and the closet. Our four suitcases fit nicely under the bed, as did my laptop computer case.
But if my wife was sitting at the vanity getting gorgeous, it was tough to get by her and into the bathroom. I would always have to tell her to move the chair closer to the desk. How four adults could stay in a room this size for an entire week is beyond me. By the way, balcony cabins and suites get a coffee maker . we did not. Fortunately, the Arizona couple had a balcony, did not drink coffee and loaned us their coffee maker for our nightly tea.
SERVICE / DINING
I don't have to say much here . but I will.
The staff shortage impacts everything on this ship and is the most glaring problem. The ship is suppose to have a crew of 950 people. On our cruise, that number was somewhere between 650-to-700, and that number fluctuated each day depending on how many quit and how many day workers they brought on in each port. If POA loses any more people this will soon become a self-serve cruise.
Because of the staff shortage, things just didn't get fixed or cleaned in a timely manner. Can't really blame the staff on this one . you can't be in two places at once.
On the first day our keycard didn't work. It took them four hours to get it taken care of because they have a limited amount of people to fix a myriad of problems. That won't change until NCL is able to get more staff and keep them, and that won't happen until NCL stops abusing and lying to staff. And the only reason my keycard problem was fixed the same day was because I pestered the guy at the reception desk three times and he finally got tired of seeing my face.
This ship was never totally clean the entire time we were onboard, even though the day staff boarded the ship at each port. You'll notice people with "visitor" passes pinned to their shirts from the time you board, but not while at sea.
Throughout the week the day workers did many of the tasks that didn't require a lot of brainpower or skill . like cleaning tables at the disgusting buffet. This eliminated some problems talked about on previous cruises, such as passengers bussing their own tables . at least at lunchtime. Now if they could eliminate the buffet all together .
We saw our room attendant just once the entire cruise, another flaw of freestyle cruising. Because they don't really have to impress you, they don't. However, she did clean our room once a day and turned back the bed covers each night . just like on a real cruise. Fortunately we were in port most of every day so we have no idea when she cleaned the room. Only thing I cared about was that it was done when returned to the ship. But I did miss the attendant calling me by name like on other ships. That's what makes cruising special . at least for me.
The crew would talk openly with you about the problems onboard the ship. I can't tell you how many crews members told me that they were finished once their contracts were up. They would look around to make sure management wasn't around and start talking. And because of the stress of being overworked, and taking it from angry passengers daily, you often hear crew members arguing with one another. The more you see the more upset you get at NCL for putting these people in this situation.
However, the really smart ones figure out a way to get it done. Take Amber, a waitress. We got her the second day, and even though we were angry after being bounced from the Palace, to Crossings and back to the Palace, she endured, gave us great service, and invited us to sit in her area the rest of the cruise. I noticed that she did this with another group of 8 people. This was smart because she was able to learn what both groups wanted and not have to adjust on a nightly basis. This also meant that we got superior service every night.
So much for freestyle.
By the way if you find a waiter that you like and want to dine with him/her every night, that can happen. If you can put together a group of seven or more, you can make reservations for 5:30 p.m. or 9 p.m. But we made 5:30 p.m. reservations with Amber, and never showed until 6:30 p.m. That gives you flexibility of one hour . with no wait in line.
Otherwise, expect a wait to get in, and in most situations, a wait to be served.
The easiest night to get into any restaurant is while you're on Maui because of the overnight stay. There are so many things to do it this port that many people will not return to the ship until the wee hours. This may be the situation when the regular cruise overnights in Kauai (we didn't), but probably not because this port closes up early.
As far as the specialty restaurants go, we only ate at Le Bistro. Pacific Heights was closed, which is no surprise since it had the cheapest cover charge. The food at Le Bistro was the best we had onboard, but did not compare with Carnival's supper clubs, or Royal Caribbean's Chops or Portifino. And service was even slower than in the main dining room. My wife and I both had the filet mignon/lobster special for $20 apiece. The lobster was much better than the crappy version served in the main dining room.
Too often I sat in the Palace restaurant wondering if I would ever get a truly good meal. When all else failed I would get the sirloin strip steak, and that was often. Someone commented that the beef Wellington tasted like it was made by Alpo. The Caribbean lobster tails were extremely salty and didn't taste like lobster at all.
And the menus stay the same the entire week, changing three items each day. By the fourth day we were tired of seeing the menu. However, two appetizers in particular were very good: crabmeat fritters and a soup with sausage (can't think of the name).
OK, I will say this one more time . THE BUFFET IS THE WORST FOOD I HAVE EVER EATEN. The beef stroganoff was so bad that the taste lingered in my mouth after just one disgusting bite. I tried to hang on, but I had to eat something else to get the taste out of my mouth and brushed my teeth right away.
Finally I couldn't take it anymore, so I called the reception desk and asked to speak to a chef. I was on hold forever, but when someone returned to the line I told him that I would wait as long as necessary. He tried to persuade me that the buffet was the problem of the travel agency that booked this charter. I cut him off immediately and informed him that the travel agency doesn't cook the food. So he got the hint and got me to the chef in charge of the buffet. Of course, he tried to pass the buck, and swore that he did not know who was in charge of the menu or quality of the food. So it was back to the reception desk, and then passed on to the assistant hotel manager. Holly said the ship was in the process of getting a new distributor for the food onboard. She acknowledged plenty of problems onboard the ship and although she didn't say it she knew the buffet food was horrible.
In fact, I didn't find a single crew member who would admit eating there. So not only are they not lazy Americans, they aren't stupid American either.
I only ate lunch at the buffet, never dinner, but I didn't see the lines that many had talked about. Perhaps the other passengers were smart enough not to eat this swill. I was dumb enough to eat here three times.
One other little thing that I need to point out. The reason service improved slightly while we were onboard is because, 1) one day an NCL corporate executive was onboard investigating the many complaints; 2) Transportation secretary Norman Mineta and Hawaiian political types were onboard checking out their "investment." Of course service was going to be stepped up while these folks were onboard. If we could keep them onboard maybe us common folks could get a decent cruise.
Lastly, for you Internet junkies like me, the Internet service onboard may be fast, but your money will go even faster. It cost me $28 for 32 minutes on the ship at 70 cents a minute. In port, I paid $3.00 for 15 minutes at a bookstore at Harbor Mall (free buses from the ship), $2.25 for 15 minutes right off the ship (walking distance) in Kono, and the best bargain, 10 cents a minute at an Internet Café in Lahaina across the street from the Banyon tree.
Another reason this cruise wasn't a total disaster is that Hawaii is magnificent. How anyone could ever be stressed in this place (unless you work on POA) is beyond me. Of course, if the Pride of Aloha was based in the Caribbean, then passengers would have staged a mutiny by now. Being in Hawaii is no reason for NCL to place an inferior, second-rate cruise here . and that's what Pride of Aloha is.
We didn't use any of the NCL excursions this time, and I suggest others do the same. Either make plans in advance, or else wait until you get off the ship and make them in port. You will save a lot of money this way, up to $50 per excursion. You can go jet skiing in Lahaina for as little at $29.
Then again, you can do like we did and rent a car in port and discover each island on your own. We had cars on Kaui, Oahu, Maui and Hilo. We did not rent a car in Kona - the only tender port - and just walked around, did a little shopping and used an Internet café. By the way, the tender was the easiest and quickest I've ever experienced. We were on and off the tender in 5 minutes, coming and going.
Because this was a charter, we were able to alter the itinerary to give us more time in Honolulu, where we overnighted on Sunday. We then had day stops on Kauai, in Kona & Hilo, and then an overnight on Maui.
Monday on Oahu we drove along the western coast of the island for magnificent views, past Sandy Beach all the way up to Turtle Bay resort, and then back down to the Dole Plantation for a tour through their beautiful gardens. It was easy to get back to Honolulu from there, and it was back to the ship so we could set sail that night.
Since we had already spent three days on Kauai, we just took the free Hilo Hattie's shuttle to their store for a little shopping and purchase of bottled water from Wal-Mart.
On the Big Island, we checked out Volcano National Park south of Hilo, an awesome display of nature's ferocity. The park is easy to get around, and the lava crater is awesome, but I like a little green in my national parks so the Grand Canyon and Yosemite are more my taste.
After the park we checked out Akaka Falls, but if you go here plan on doing a little walking - up and down. But it is worth the hike . and a good opportunity to walk off that bad buffet food.
My favorite place in Hawaii will always be Maui because there is so much to do here. You can be a regular tourist hitting all the popular spots, or you can explore some really magnificent parts of this island that mostly only the natives know about.
Unfortunately, this time we only made it to Lahaina, Kaanapoli and Kapalua because the women wanted to shop. On the second day we made it to Iao Neddle & Valley State Park for the magnificent views they offer. It was only 5 minutes from the ship. But alas, we had to turn the car in. At just $49 a day total, we probably should have kept the car for the rest of the day and did a little more exploring. After all, we still had another 6 hours on this island. Lahaina was the highlight the day before. If you go, you have to check out the Banyon Tree. And if you're hungry I suggest you check out the Cool Cat Café, directly across the street from the tree, for the best food we ate all week. You can get a covered outdoor table and check out the people as they walk along the street. The 10 cents-a-minute Internet café is on the same floor. There are plenty of other restaurants in Lahaina so you won't go hungry here, and the women will have a field day shopping.
There is so much more to see on this island that you would need at least a week. So if you really want to experience this island I suggest a land vacation.
I went into this cruise with low expectations and NCL lived up to them. I'm done with this cruise line, despite today's announcement that I can cruise next year on Pride of America for the same price I would have paid last year, plus 20 percent off that amount if I choose to. I could also use that 20 percent off any NCL cruise I want over the next year. But I choose to bid NCL farewell . and move on to RCCL's Jewel of the Seas in January, and then Sapphire Princess in November '05. Who knows where my cruise adventures will take me after that . it just won't be on NCL.
So I'll try my best to forget about NCL . and I hope I have more luck than I've had in getting the taste of that beef stroganoff out of my mouth.
The Pride of Aloha is a refurbished ship being advertised as a new ship that sails the Hawaiian Islands. The itinerary is amazing. It starts in Honolulu and proceeds to Kaui, Hilo, Kona, and Maui. The tours are well organized and well worth the money
The ship and crew itself is a disaster. We will start with the fact it took over 9 hours before we got our luggage. Also the rooms were not cleaned before we got on the ship. When we complained, the beds were simply maid but there were still dirty glasses on the counter, the carpet was not vaccuumed and there were no towels. These problems continued when at midnight we asked for clean sheets and changed them ourselves. The next sheets complete with blood stain were put on the bed and it took a complaint to the head of housekeeping before the cabin steward would admit that they were not clean. The carpeting in the hallway was coming up in several places. The ship was quite dirty, something I would not expect to see on a two week old vessel.
The service and dining on thisship were also far from acceptable. The crew was unwilling to do anything that was not their specific job. There was no coffee at the buffet for several days. IF something ran out and you asked for it, the crew replied sorry we must be out.
The dining experience was awful. There was an average of an hour wait to be seated for dinner. The food was not up to typical standards, and only three main dish items and 3 desserts changed every night. Service was slow. There were many many empty tables that needed to be cleared and sat for at least 30 minutes at a time while people waited. We even watched the waiters drink on the job. They hid alcaholic drinks in their stations and were drinking when the maitre d' turned their backs.
The entertainment was good, at least the production shows. There was a real lack of anything to do on board at most times. I have never watched so much tv on a cruise before.
Overall this cruise is not worth the money and I will not be cruising on any NCL vessel in the future.
We cruised the inaugural cruise on the Pride of Aloha on July 4, 2004 which spent 1 1/2 days in Kauai, 1 day in Hilo, Hawaii, 1 day in Kona, Hawaii, and 2 days in Maui. The Hawaiian islands are fabulous and the cruise was worth every penny if for no other reason than just the beauty of the islands we visited.
Embarkation was chaos for most. We waited about 1 1/2 hours in the hot sun to get on the ship. People were already extremely frustrated, but I was going to see Hawaii so I was in a good frame of mind. This did not bother me too much.
The ship was beautiful. Beautiful glass elevator in the lobby and picturesque setting. I knew our room was going to be small and I was not disappointed. We did not get on the cruise to stay in our room so this did not matter.
I suggest you book your excursions before you get on the ship. I made a call two weeks ahead of the sailing date and booked my excursions on the phone. This saved me a huge hassle.The lines to book the excursions on the first day were hours long. People were furious, but they should have done their homework before getting on board.
The first breakfast was absolute disaster. Nobody knew where the lines were and everybody seemed to get in the same line so people were lined up clear past the pool to go to the breakfast buffet on the first morning in Kauai. Some of us had early excursions so we had to skip breakfast in order to make it to the excursion on time.
The excursions were fantastic that I chose. Some of them I booked through NCL and some of them I booked on my own to save money. NCL charged quite a bit more for each excursion (sometimes $50.00 more). Do you research ahead of time and try to save money, keeping in mind that you must be back on the ship in time for boarding as NCL will not wait for you if you book your excursion on your own.
Each night we had a barbeque buffet by the pool. The food was good, not great, but edible. I chose this cruise because of the itinerary and not because of the food so I was not disappointed. If you want 5* food and great service, this is probably not the cruise for you. The specialty restaurants had better food but you had a $12.00 to $15.00 extra charge per person to eat in these, and the service was very slow, especially if you went between the hours of 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. Many people missed the 8:00 p.m. shows because they did not receive their food in time. We ate the cafeteria or pool buffet every night so we did not have a problem with waiting and we never went hungry although we did not eat quality food either.
The fitness room was fantastic. There was a nice jogging track. The internet charges were exhorbitant and too costly to even use.
Every night (except maybe 1) there was a show in the Stardust Lounge. Most of them were excellent, with the exception of the last one entitled "Mr. Producer" which was far from family entertainment. The last 15 minutes of the show was disappointing as girls were running around on the stage in the bras and slinky panties doing dirty-dancing type moves. The male singer was singing a song about "party from hell" and talking about prostitution and ladies' "tits". If I was not blocked in on the second row, I would have walked out. Most the crowd was as disappointed as we were because only about 7 or 8 people stood for the standing ovation at the end which was sad since the singers did have a great talent. Their choice of songs was poor, and the cruise director, Pati, should rethink that show.
All in all, I enjoyed my cruise experience because I was in the Hawaiian islands and off on shore as much as possible, seeing and adventuring the islands as much as I could. How could I be disappointed in Hawaii? Would I sale Norwegian Cruise Lines again? Probably not. Hopefully NCL can get their act together and make this a great cruise as the itinerary could not be beat.
Norwegian Cruise Line Pride of Aloha by JEConk Hawaii June 20, 2004
We were on the Pride of Aloha's (POA) 12 day Repositioning cruise from San Francisco to Hawaii. We had originally been booked on the Pride of America but, of course, was shifted like everyone else to the Aloha. We were fearful that we would lose our connecting balcony cabins in the shift since we had only booked a week before the sinking, but were quite surprised get our reassignment to connecting balconies (same catagory) that we had before. A balcony room is the only way to go in my opinion. Some of my favorite times on board the ship were spent sitting on that balcony reading. (and with four sea days, that was nice) I was also quite excited to find a $200 on board credit waiting for us when we arrived compliments of NCL due to the stress of the re-book.
As for the Entertainment and Activities, they were great. The Jean Ann Ryan Company presented three nice shows, although the Cirque show was a little boring and the costumes in some of the other shows were a littlerevealing for shows with lots of kids attending. With four sea days, one would think it would be hard for the Cruise Director and staff to keep everyone busy, but C.D. Patty Honecki and her staff did a fantastic job. I actually heard "complaints" from people that there was so much to do that it was hard to choose!! (a good problem!)
As far as the cabins are concerned, yes they are small, but functional. There is nothing NCL can do to change cabin sizes. I do wish that they could find someway to install additional drawer space. Another item I wish they would change is the placement of the electrical outlets. Several of the items that we brought were unusable because the plugs are placed at the bottom of the vanity and bathroom counter. This placement prohibts the use of any plug that is "large" or has base. (i.e. some hairdryer plugs.) Our cabin stewards (0204)were very good. They learned our schedules and always took care of our room when it was most conveinent for us. A word of caution: be careful when you put items in the mini fridge in your room. If you put it all the way to the back against the coil, it freezes the food. (frozen peanut butter and jelly is quite good however.)
Embarkation was smooth and easy. We took the NCL air package and were met at the airport. The only complaint is that the greeter took most of the people before all of us had retrieved our luggage and about 20 of us had to find the loading area on our own. When we got to the ship, we were processed and onboard in less than 15 minutes. (being Lattitude Members helped). Debarkation was also ok. Having an NCL booked post cruise stay was a benefit, we got to be one of the last groups off the ship allowing for a leisurely last morning. There was some confusion on the pier as to what busses we were to take, but there were many people in that predictament as well. My only complaint with the disembarkation procedure was that I wished that we had gotten our luggage tags and comment card earlier in the week. Spending my last night writing out tags was not enjoyable. We also found (through luck) that we had the wrong tags and so I had to change colors and write out another set. As far as the bill goes, I had caught a mistake earlier in the week and it took me three days to get it corrected. I urge you to get a preliminary copy of your bill about 3 days before your cruise ends. Your shore excursions should all be listed. It is helpful. Many other people had problems with their bills as evidenced by the long line the last morning at the credit desk. I also don't like the idea of being forced to pay the service charge. It is just another way for NCL to nickel and dime you. They say it goes to the crew, but the crew I talked to say that it doesn't. If it is help pay their salaries, then it needs to be on the overall cost of the trip not an add on.
The shore excursions were severly overpriced. We rented a car in Maui and caught many of the same sights offered on one of the tours. It saved us about 60% by doing it on our own. I urge you to not use NCL's shore excursions. When you do use NCL's shore excursions, you will find that you are "herded" like cattle through the ship to the loading points on shore from the other end of the ship. By the end of the week, we found that we could skip the meeting point on board and just go to shore and look for the numbered sign for our tour. (tour #) We would beat the crowd and usually be one of the first ones on the busses.
Now for the worst part of the cruise: the food and service. The problems here are huge. The wait times were unacceptable.(three hours after sitting down is ridiculous) We found that we could arrive at the main dining rooms 15 minutes before the opened and be seated right when they opened. But if you wait more than 15 minutes after they opened, it would be an hour or more wait for a table. (and then two to three hours to eat!) Missed several shows as a result of the dining fiasco. The food itself wasn't that good and don't even think about a special order, it would add at least an hour to your meal. My mother asked one night for no seasoning on her meat (she is allergic to it) and it took three times for them to get the right food out. One night, she sat there for four hours. The Maitre'd and waiter even said that the cooks were holding the order up because they were mad at having to re-make the meal. I also refuse to pay extra for food on board a ship because that too should be included in the price and not used to nickel and dime you to death like NCL is famous for. One night I asked if I could get a Filet Mignon in the main dining room. (a dish offered in one of the specialty restaurants for a charge.) No problem I was told and both my father and I enjoyed one of the specialty restaurants meals for free right there in the Palace Restaurant. As for the waiters/waitresses in the restaurants: there are some good ones and some bad ones. Some won't make it. If you find a good server one night, make sure to request that person each time. They get to know you and you tend to get better service. We did! (If they are still there, I reccommend Sandra, Mary, Christian and Gerald in Palace and Gereldine in Crossings.) As far as the Buffet (Hukilau): the food is of very low quality and actually quite disgutsting. The beverage machines tend to run out of product and it takes several requests to get them filled. I also heard from a crew member in the buffet that they have been told to water down the tea and juices in the buffet in order to make it last longer. There is no Lobster night or Chocoholic buffet on this ship and the dining hours are very limited. It is often difficult in the mornings to get a good meal if you have an early tour since the buffet does not open until 7. Basically the problems with the food is that it appears NCL is trying to cut costs by cutting the quality of the food. They are also severly understaffed. I urge you to get to know some of the crew, they are great, and once you get to know them, they will give you all the chilling details about the behind the scenes fiasco's on board the ship!
Overall the ship itself is very pretty and of course Hawaii is fantastic. I strongly reccommend the Outrigger Lounge on Deck 11 forward....nice view of the scenery. Since our family does not drink alcohol, I cannot give a review of that area. The problems with this ship, and they are glaring, center around the lack of crew and NCL's apparent desire to keep costs as low as possible by cutting corners. This could be a great product, but won't be until the staffing issues are resolved. I can't reccommend this ship until that issue is solved.
I just returned from the POA and it was a nightmare. Cabins too small, sheets stained, beach towels stained, food cold, long waits at the buffet...I could go on and on. We complained about the stained sheets so many times the Stateroom supervisor had to come with a stack of sheets and go through them one at a time to find clean ones. We finally went to WalMart and bought our own. We gave up the dinning rooms because the waits were too long even though half the tables were empty. They were short 250+ crew so nobody was around to serve meals.
Each port temps were hired to help for the day. At the buffet the food was cold, fountain drinks did not work, and by the end of the week we were given paper plates, a fork, and a soup spoon (they were out of knives) at the buffet for breakfast. Tables were filled with dirty trays of food, we had to "bus" tables to have a place to eat. The crew is miserable and overwhelmed....all our complaints fell on deaf ears. We even called the corporate officefrom the ship and they were no help either. I couldn't even enjoy the people on the ship because everyone was in a bad mood. This was the most stressful vacation I have ever had.
First off let me say I am not an experienced cruiser. This was only my second cruise.
Ok now for the information. The ship was in very good shape. I read lots of reports of missing bags, unclean rooms, no towels, etc.. Our bags where in our rooms by 2pm, everything was clean in the room, no complaints at all. I had already filled out my entire excursion packet, so I skipped the line for that when boarding. That was the initial boarding of the ship, no problems.
Now for the food. The buffets were easy to get to and I never waited for more than 5 or 6 people in front of me to get food. There was usually a problem with seating however but there were always seats outside. I didn't mind the 20 step walk to the outside tables. The buffet food was not top quality, but not bad either. It sorta reminded me of wedding buffets. OK food but something you wouldnt go back for seconds. The sit down dinners were very good. Usually a wait at the start of the night for about 15 mins.Keep in mind I always ate early so I could catch the 8pm show. This turned out the best anyway because we got extremely tired and usually fell asleep early. I am 25 and my wife is 23 and doing an excursion everyday was hard but worth it. We are both also in shape and fit, so plan for that. So I would say the food was average. Another note the breakfast was the same every single day at the buffet. We never got a chance to try our the pay restaraunts so I can't commint on that. The bars where nice especially the piano bar on the 12th floor.
The excursions were very good. Thats why I choose to come to hawaii. NCL had a great book with descriptions, the head girl in charge of the excursions was very nice and helped us change a few that she said younger people would like. I was very very pleased with thier excursions, however, If you can plan everything book them yourself, as most tours are at least 40 bucks more through NCL. With NCL you do get transportation and the peace of mind that the boat won't leave you.
The Spa was another area that was very good on this boat. My wife loved her treatment, and so did I. I also got a haircut while on board I to my knowledge it was my best haircut ever. I was really happy about that since I usually hate haircuts. Thing to note about the Spa. They have a spa charge and a gratuity charge. The spa charge is the gratutity. But after talking to and getting to know a few of the staffers who are all my age. I learnt several things. The spa people work entirely on tips. And they don't make much at all. Everyone who we talked to who worked in the spa wanted to quit. No Money. My rating of the spa was very good.
That brings me to the Staff. They are way under staffed, and it shows. When you go to have a nice dinner, you wait becuase there are not enough waiters to take care of everyone, not becuase there are not enough tables. I will say that everyone on the ship works very very hard. I saw lots of workers doing way more than they were ever expected to do. I heard lots of people while on board say they were not pleased with the service and that many things went wrong. I experienced none of that. My trip was very good.
The entertainment for the boat was great. Much better than my last cruise. There was a broadway musical, a circ acrobat show, and a magician, who all performed very well. We had a great time at all the shows. I usually fall asleep at stuff like this but It was entertaining.
On a last note, the museum was very boring, and I did miss the casino very much, but since thsi cruise really didn't have long times on the water it really never bothered me to much. Oh I didn't mind the charge of 2.50 but they should tell you about it.
When leaving the boat we did the express walkoff at 7:30am and took our own bags. It was great. No line, no waiting, just off the boat and on to the rental car.
From my personal experince I would definatly go again. There are lots of things I wanted to do but time wouldnt allow it. From what I heard on board, I would be weary. Lots of people said they would never come back and were very upset. Maybe since this was my second cruise I really don't know what to expect, but I had no service issues at all. Have fun.
We sailed July 25, 2004 on Pride of Aloha. My wife and I are frequent cruisers and first and probably last timers to NCL. We were fully aware that the Pride was only on its third island voyage and expected some hiccups.however, not as bad as we experienced. We later heard a "rumor" that on the first voyage, ½ of the crew quit. We definitely paid the price in short crews. Check in: we arrived at 12:30 PM (check in started at 1) and waited in line about an hour before being processed. No too bad compared to other cruise embarkation processes.
Excursions: We booked ahead of time on the Internet - yes, they are pricey, but we have no complaints. All were enjoyable. We especially enjoyed the lava viewing tour out of Hilo. We had to walk 7 miles round trip climbing slippery lava rocks and a 50- foot high hill. Wear long pants, hat, old sneakers and bring Band-Aids. Leather gloves should be mandatory. Fourteen tours were booked for the lava viewing, 13 went to watch it dump into the sea. Our guide took our tour up to themountain and got us within 5 feet of real lava flow - amazing and hot! - well worth the money.
Room service: We never learned the name of our room steward. No towel animals. Said hello, but never introduced himself. Room kept clean - bed turndowns and mints at night.
Food and restaurant service: Lines were so long at the Crossings free restaurant that we simply gave up on NCL restaurants. They say they have 10 - two are free (one is never opened), three are pay extra and we never found nor could anyone tell us where the remaining 5 were located - unless they count buffet lines! They were quite a few of them. Tables were never available and NEVER cleaned. They buss the tables one plate at a time and we never seen one table wiped clean the whole trip. The food quality was well below average. Ran out of plates and silverware often - never seen so many paper plates and plastic utensils - so much for the environment. The lobster tail buffet was the worst dried up lobster I have ever tasted. It was cooked and then thrown on a Lido deck BBQ. The barbecue night was good, however, it appeared that rib leftovers were put out on the buffet several times during the week. Everyone complained about the food and the service. We did find one or two really good people that worked very hard and tried to accommodate their specific areas. There was always a long line that started at 5:30 p.m. along a narrow area that include bumping elbows with people coming back for drink refills (logistics issue - move the drink machines to a different area). Breakfasts were the usual buffet stuff and reasonable quality. I wonder why the wait until 7:00 a.m. to open the breakfast line, many more people could have been accommodated if the line opened at 6:00 a.m. The waffle and omelet table opened ½ hour after the buffet line. For lunch and dinner, they throw about 3 or 4 slices of pizza on the table at the carving station. No burgers, hot dogs, or pizza after hours. Ice cream was available two hours each day and long lines. The last day, they actually offered ice cream scoops at the dessert bar. Sorry, Freestyle is not for me.
Entertainment: We enjoyed all the shows - just might be the best entertainment we have experienced. My only concern is the seating in the Starlight Lounge. I have already sent a note to the Coast Guard. As an ex-firefighter, I am appalled they way they stuck two rows of movable, rotating tub chairs between there usual theater couches. This is a major fire hazard. Six inches of aisle will never cut it in an emergency. Once you sat in the middle for the show, you were stuck there. Waiters, if you could find the one that worked the theater, could not service anything but the aisles and front rows. No gambling allowed in Hawaii, not even Bingo.
Museum: Don't see it fitting in and taking up precious ship space. Put that in the port to view as you wait on line. This museum was where the casino would have been - at least I didn't loose money. Good movie on Hawaii volcanoes.
Lifeboat drill: A joke - lasted all of 10 minutes. People showed up without life preservers and many never made it at all. I sure wish they would have taking this more seriously. No crew to direct personnel except on main stairs and outside deck. Checked our names to a list - wrong name on cabin - they did not care or correct.
Exercise: Good gym and walking/jogging track (deck 6). Took days to find walking track - usually upper deck. Its on deck 6. The best upper deck (large area) is reserved for crew only - what's up with that?
Service: Mandatory $10/person/day fee non-negotiable for tips is applied to the bill. This may be part of the reason crewmembers are so uninterested in pleasing the vacationers. I have to admit it, as an American myself, we just don't perform the same way foreign workers bust their buts to please cruise passengers. So many complaints were made about the service that all bills were adjusted to $5/person/day.
NCL better fix things and fix the fast or NCL America's days will be numbered. Right now, the ship is just a good way to get around the islands. The islands are fantastic.
Norwegian Cruise Line Pride of Aloha by Steve Demarest Hawaii July 18, 2004
I enjoy the freestyle cruising and feel the Norwegian Cruise line is one of the best of the major cruise lines. I am a member of the Norwegian Cruise line latitudes program for frequent cruisers.
The ship is very attractive although an older ship, the cabins are somewhat small by the standards of the newer mega ships. The Hawaiian Islands are a wonderful Cruise destination.
When I got to the ship I found that the cabin had not been made up and was not completed until about 7 p.m. that day. Apparently a number of the housekeeping staff had quit the ship at the end of the previous Cruise. Also the regular dining rooms and the bars were also understaffed. However that was not the case with the premium dining rooms they were well staffed food and service was superb.
I got the impression that the American workers were finding the work to demanding and the pay too low. It's a sad commentary that the Norwegian Cruise lines is having a difficulty finding American workers to staff this ship especially whenwe are told so many jobs are going overseas.
I also heard that they were having trouble getting foreign workers because foreign workers could not pass the strict Coast Guard security requirements.
The rest of my cruise experience was excellent and up to the standards that have come to expect from Norwegian Cruise lines. I'm sure that in time the company will be able to overcome their staffing problems.
What was good - NCL Golf Hawaii - Golf professionals David and Shannon did a wonderful job with the golf excursions and club rentals. The spa services were among the best we've experienced as compared to 5-star resorts. Overnights in Kauai and Maui. ----------- What was bad - We boarded at 5pm and our bags were delivered to the room after 11pm. Others in our party waited as long for their room to be cleaned. Cabin size - made worse by the fact that we had a Penthouse Suite on Pride of America and when the ship was damaged and replaced with Pride of Aloha we were downgraded to an outside cabin with a small balcony and two small lawn chairs. It took 4 days before our cabin had hot water.
We never met our room steward. The crew is vastly understaffed and overworked. Our dining experiences were hit and miss. We learned quickly to plan our meals off the ship. Freestyle dining requires that you wait 1-2 hours before you are seated and then 2-3 hours for your meal - all while you are surrounded by empty tables. Food wasnothing to speak of - don't have to worry about gaining weight on this cruise. Difficult to secure a reservation in the "specialty" restaurants which also charge up to $15.00 per person for long waits and cold food. We will not sail with NCL again.
This was our fourth cruise and our first on Norwegian Cruise Lines. We were originally booked on the Pride of America on an upper deck with a balcony. All passengers booked on that ship were moved to the Pride of Aloha. We were put in a cabin on the fourth deck with a large porthole. We had some problems getting our refund for the different room charges from NCL. Had this been our first cruise we would never have taken another. There was very little to recommend the ship and the service. The itinerary of this cruise was perfect and was the reason most of the passengers booked it.
Embarkation and disembarkation went very smoothly. When we arrived at our cabin, it had not been cleaned, there were no towels and the bed was unmade. There appeared to be a lot of confusion and frustration among the stewards. Our steward never introduced himself. By day three he was giving acceptable service, although the toilet never really smelled clean.
We then proceeded to the food court, the 'Hukilau café'. There we found long lines, lack of service, and bad food presented poorly. They werealready out of food and beverages (we were among the first who boarded the ship). We tried this café one more time the next day and found the same conditions. Another day we tried the on deck Bar-b-que, located just outside the café: the food was cold (hamburgers, chicken, etc.) and the presentation was truly pathetic.
The ship boasted eight restaurants but in truth there was very little choice. After eliminating the café and anything associated with it (ice cream bar, etc.) that left three restaurants that had cover charges of about $12 to $15. We heard later that the view was great but the food was no better than anywhere else on the ship. The two open restaurants or dining rooms served exactly the same menu. The food was very average, the rolls always cold, the selection limited, and the service painfully slow. The waiter's uniforms were stained and dirty.
We used room service twice. The selection was very limited and food very average. However the service was excellent and the food arrived exactly when we requested it. Most amazing of all was that it was delivered with a smile. Most of the service people ignored you or were rude.
After trying a couple of the 'drinks of the day' we gave up on mixed drinks. There wasn't a bar tender on board that knew what he was doing. In addition, there were very few waiters roaming the deck by the pool or in the various lounge areas. You could sit in one of these areas for hours and no one would ask if you would like a drink. Clean up in these areas was exceptionally poor as well. Dirty glasses and plates sat for hours. This was particularly offensive in the pool area.
Shopping on board was very disappointing. There was a limited selection; most of that was very high end. Jewelry was mostly $500+ and watches were $200+. There was a pro shop and clothing store that only offered Tommy Bahama's clothes. You rarely saw any passengers in these stores after the first two days.
The excursions offered were many and varied. They were well managed and the highlight of the trip. The Luau on Maui was outstanding: food, entertainment, and location. The one day we had to use tenders the ship only appeared to be using two of them and we found the experience disorganized and unsafe.
There were some serious issues of safety raised. A woman ended up on crutches after the gangplank disconnected from the ship and she and her son fell about three feet. I also heard second hand rumors of another injury. There was a woman traveling with her eighty-year-old mother whose cabin toilet and sink backed up. When they reported the problem they were rudely told that they could use the bathrooms on deck eleven.
Many extended families were traveling together. They had issues we did not: their cabins were spread all over the ship and they couldn't get tables together at dinner.
The on board entertainment was good: very professional and enjoyable. The additional activities such an Hawaiian crafts and Hula lessons were always scheduled in such a way that they conflicted with shore excursions or early dinners. Eating early was the only way to get a table and decent service in the main dining rooms.
I would not recommend this cruise to anyone until NCL corrects it's many problems. The itinerary they offer is perfect. Many people would take it because of location and the seven-day length.