Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Pride of Aloha
Sailing Date: December 25th, 2005
Norwegian Cruise Line
NCL's Pride of Aloha Cruise Review
7 Day Hawaii
My entire family, fifteen people in total, just arrived home from a 7-day cruise on the Pride of Aloha. Having read other reviews for the past year about this ship, we were leery going into it, but were very pleasantly surprised and relieved with our experiences.
Eight of us flew in two days before the cruise left in order to see Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial, & the USS Missouri. We booked our own airfare and hotel instead of going through NCL America. This was cheaper and worked fine since we were arriving so much before the cruise. We stayed at the Waikiki Sand Villa hotel. It is cheap – but not that great of a hotel. They have no airport shuttle, nor any suggestions on how to get there from the airport. When we arrived at approximately 10 p.m. Honolulu time (it was 2 a.m. to our jet lagged minds and bodies,) we found out that half the hotel did not have electricity! The power had been off for about an hour and a half and they didn’t know when they would gain full power again. The kicker was that they “didn’t know” which half the hotel had power and which half didn’t!! They suggested we buy a drink at the bar and wait a half hour because then they might have enough power to run the elevators and get our luggage to us on the third floor. We had my 72 & 76-year-old grandparents with us, and explained that there was no way they could wait that long. The management was unwilling to find someone to carry the bags up to the third floor for them. My husband and my room was the only one with power, so we all just took a carry-on up. My 7o year-old grandparents and my mother had to take showers in complete darkness. My uncle and my husband waited up for another hour until the power came on the elevators worked. When we telephoned the front desk to ask if our luggage would be delivered soon, they answered maybe. My husband and uncle then went down, found the manager, and had to force the manager to bring up the luggage himself because the bell boy went home. The next day and nights’ stays were much better. The rooms are clean and had nice amenities, such as mini fridges and lanais which were much appreciated. The hotel claim to have a free continental breakfast, but it is merely dry mini-doughnuts, orange juice drink (not actual orange juice!) and coffee. The pool is very nice – beautiful and warm. The only problem with the pool is the hours. It doesn’t open until 9 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. The hotel also has free high-speed Internet access for hotel guests. There is a hospitality room with 5 computers in it for guests’ use.
We took a Pearl Harbor, USS Missouri, & city tour on Christmas Eve. This was a wonderful tour. It was arranged through the concierge at our hotel. We arrived at Pearl Harbor early, toured the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Missouri, & then were given a bus tour around Honolulu. It was well worth the money.
We embarked the Pride of Aloha at 1 p.m. on Christmas Day. The embarkation process could not have been easier. Even though our travel agent had screwed up our reservations and not gotten us the required travel and embarkation documents, NCL and the Pride of Aloha staff took care of us like we were guests of honor. It took less than a hour from the time we got out of the cabs until we got into our rooms – and our luggage beat us to our rooms!
We all had inside, K-class staterooms – which means they were small. However, my husband and I (both over 6-feet tall) had no trouble in getting around the space. We were able to unpack and store the suitcases under the bed. We did have to stack clothing on the safe in the closet, but that was fine with us. One nice thing was the mini fridges in the rooms; this allowed us to keep refreshments and snacks cold and at hand.
We ate mainly in the Crossings dining room. This is one of the two main dining rooms. We found that *usually* the service was faster here than in the Palace dining room. However, this was not always the case. On the second to last night, it took an hour and a half to make it through all the courses, and we were frequently waiting 10-15 minutes for the next course to arrive. However, the two times we ate in the Palace dining room dinner took two hours both times. I have hypoglycemia and one night was forced into a low blood sugar attack due to the slow service in the Palace dining room. On the whole, the food is wonderful. I preferred the chilled fruit soups (even the Watermelon-Avocado – I’m not joking, really), but my husband equally enjoyed the warm soups. Even my grandfather who has gout was able to find something appetizing to eat every night.
We did eat in one specialty restaurant the Pacific Heights restaurant. It has a pacific rim, Asian flair. The entrees mainly focus on fish; however, my father ordered the lamb shank and we were shocked when it came. It was nearly an entire lamb leg! There was so much meat we all shared it. There is a $10 cover charge for this restaurant, and the food isn’t necessarily any better than the main dining rooms. The upside is if you are craving sushi, you can get it here.
There are two swimming pools and four hot tubs. We found the best time to get in both was between 8 and 10 p.m. The small children were all in bed, the teenagers were at their club, and many people were still eating dinner. This left the pools and hot tubs relatively empty. Additionally it is nice to take a swim under the stars.
There are numerous bars aboard – only one of which we visited. We had champagne cocktails in the Plantation Club one night. There was a live singer who talked more than sang. We left soon after.
The Hawaiian Cultural Center on board is very nice. It has displays chronicling the various epochs in Hawaiian culture. There is also a Hawaiian Ambassador on board who leads hula classes and teaches native crafts. The hula lessons are a fun one hour a few days during the week. The one craft that was worth while ended up costing $5-10, which I thought was inappropriate. We had the option of making Kukui Nut leis. It cost $5 for the plain nuts and $10 for the more decorative beads. I thought this was a rip-off since we had all already paid to be on the cruise; needless to say, I didn’t participate.
On the whole, the crew was nice, but overly friendly. They almost always said aloha when you walked by, but I never saw a deliberate push to be overly friendly or officious. There are a few notable exceptions. Dave and Lark in the Crossing dining room were always excessively friendly and willing to be of service. Dave brought my family cheese plates one night because he thought we might like them!
The one main complainant with the ship and its crew was the HUGE screw-up in shore excursions. Luckily my husband and I received all our shore excursions as booked. However, the rest of my family had to fight and demand to be put on the shore excursions they had previously booked. We all booked our shore excursions at least two weeks before the cruise online through the NCL site. When we got on board we found out that NCL had not accurately or completely downloaded the shore excursion request information to the ship, thus the ship had no record of their bookings. My mother, father, husband and I are all NCL Latitudes members since we have been on NCL cruises before. For this reason alone the shore excursion manager pushed our bookings through. This happened not just to my family, but to EVERYONE on board. My aunt who arrived in Honolulu with her three small children two hour before the ship left got none of her excursions until she demanded to speak with the head crew manager. He then only got her on her excursions because he did not want her three small children drawing anymore attention to the ship’s blatant mistake than they already were. They was a HUGE ERROR on NCL’s part, and it MUST be fixed as soon as possible. In addition, we cruised over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, so there were some limitations on excursions, namely what was open on the actual holidays of Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.
When we went on our excursions, they were wonderful!! They tour guides were highly knowledgeable of Hawaiian culture, history, and geography. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves on these excursions. Everyone in my party loved their excursions; some favorites were the zip-line adventure & the Fern Grotto/Waimea Canyon tour in Kauai, the Volcanoes National Park tour in Hilo, the Kona cultural & snorkel in Kona, and the Road to Hana tour & the Molokini Crater snorkel in Maui. My personal favorite was the Rod to Hana – yes it’s a bus tour, but you see more of the Hawaiian islands that on any other tour. We took more pictures in this one 9-hour day than the rest of the trips combined. You see rain forests, jungle water falls, black sand beaches, waves crashing on sands, lush rolling landscapes, mountainous peaks, arid grasslands – everything. We also did the Kiluea lava viewing adventure – do this ONLY if you are in peak physical condition. It claims to be a strenuous activity, but it does not tell you are hiking over HIGHLY unstable and unleveled ground. No one step is flat or directly in front of another. Also they do not tell you that the ground you are walking on and the environment surrounding it is at least 110 degrees!!! I got heat stroke and turned back when my vision got dizzy. It is at least a 6 mile hike. My husband, mother, and father made it to the red flowing lava; however, it was not that impressive and you actually had to look relatively closely to see anything at all. In their opinion it was not worth the $100 it cost.
Over all, we loved the cruise. Even my tightwad, curmudgeon of a grandfather had to admit he enjoyed himself. Things have definitely improved on the Pride of Aloha. Cruise without fear – just check your shore excursions first.