Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Pride of Aloha
Sailing Date: October 29th, 2005
Norwegian Cruise Line
Pride of Aloha
7 Day Hawaiian Cruise
I do a lot of traveling, but this was my first cruise. My wife has made several cruises, but never visited Hawaii, so this was a couple of firsts for us. Three, actually, because it was also our first anniversary. We read all the reviews and went with the attitude that we were going to make our own good time and nothing short of a hurricane would dampen our spirits. We were not disappointed.
We started our cruise preparations months ahead through NCL’s website. It was very informative and we used it to complete all the necessary forms and book our shore excursions. It couldn’t have been easier. We arranged our own flights, arriving two days early and staying an extra day after so we could tour Oahu at our leisure. Before the cruise, we stayed at the Royal Hawaiian, watched the surfers, climbed Diamondhead, toured the Bishop Museum and had a shave ice at Matsumoto’s grocery. Traffic was pretty hectic, but manageable on weekends. After the cruise, we rented another car and set out on our own to tour Pearl Harbor. We planned to see the Polynesian Cultural Center, but it is closed on Sundays so it was back to Matsumoto’s for more shave ice. Our last night’s stay in Honolulu was at the Surfrider, the oldest hotel on Waikiki (and our favorite).
After two days in Honolulu it was time to embark. Boarding was quick. It was there I found out my dear wife upgraded our room to a penthouse suite. That put us in the short line so the whole process only took about ten minutes. From reading various reviews we knew not to bring any booze or a travel iron, so no issues there. We were also told about the new tipping procedure which I think simplifies things (though we were reminded several times by crew members that they “don’t see very much of it”).
Our first stop was a visit to our concierge, Eric, who explained the ship’s amenities, routines and made our restaurant reservations. He introduced our butlers, Sam and James, who were always available, but we’re so low maintenance we only called them twice. The crew was friendly, polite and did a great job of making our trip enjoyable.
Our suite was large, beautifully appointed and the balcony was huge. We didn’t spend much time in the suite, but the extra room and daily gift trays certainly added to the ambiance. Our excursion tickets and dinner reservations were delivered a few minutes after we unpacked and we were ready to explore the ship.
The Pride of Aloha is an impressive ship. We got turned around a few times until a crewmember pointed to the carpet design and told us “fish face forward”. After an hour or so we were well oriented and the ship was about to get underway. We had a rough idea of what we wanted to do each night and since we love to cook (and eat) we tried all the specialty restaurants. Service was always good; however, the food got mixed reviews. The grouper special at the Pacific Heights was rubbery, as was the replacement, so it was probably the fish, not the chef. We went to the Kahili restaurant twice because Eric raved about their veal chops. The first time there were none to be had, though it was on the menu. We went with newfound friends a couple of nights later and surprise—no veal. When we ate at the Bistro we mentioned this to our server and a few minutes later the head chef stopped by our table and explained that the veal chops were not up to his standards and then went to great lengths to describe his favorite dishes. His standards must be pretty high because what was served was outstanding (except the grouper).
We only ate once in the Crossings and had several breakfasts in the Palace. Service was OK, but not to the level of the specialty restaurants. The best part of breakfast was sharing a table with fellow travelers. The Hukilau buffet was fast, the food OK, but sometimes finding a table was a challenge. We also had great fun at the bars and cleaned up on trivia and urban legends contests. The Plantation Room and Captain Cook’s were our favorite watering holes. The entertainers, Alain and Roger, kept the mood upbeat. There were so many onboard events and activities we didn’t do, but there are only so many hours in a day and we usually went to bed early to be ready for our daily shore activities.
The shore excursions kept us busy and made every day different and exciting. On Kauai we took the Waimea Canyon/Fern Grotto tour on day one and the river kayak on day two. Next time I’ll rent a car rather than take the long bus ride. In Hilo, we toured Volcanoes Nat’l Park (bring warm clothes and a poncho) and at Kona we took a sailing/snorkeling trip (try this in the morning because it gets cloudy most afternoons). We preferred these small group activities to the long bus rides. On Maui we did the bike ride down Mt. Haleakala, the luau and, to wind down, went shopping in Lahaina. The luau was a bit of a disappointment. It had all of the right pieces—the torches, cooking pit, drinks and entertainment; but with over 600 people it was more like a Las Vegas show. I was told Maui offers a number of smaller, more authentic luaus that capture more of the essence of these feasts. These are easily booked through local tour companies who have booths at various locations around the island.
If you want to see a lot of Hawaii in a little time and with minimal hassle, the Pride of Aloha is a great way to do it. We liked it so much that we booked NCL’s Mediterranean cruise for next year.