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Age: 37


Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Pride of Aloha

Sailing Date: August 8th, 2004

Itinerary: Hawaiian Islands

Carla Richardson

This is being written to document the terrible conditions of the cruise that my sister and I traveled on the Pride of Aloha, owned and operated by Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), during the dates of Aug.8-15, 2004.

Although my sister, Cheryl, and I had gone through pre-check in at the Waikiki Beach Marriott, we still had to stand in line again to retake pictures for our shipboard card. I would soon learn that lines were something that accompanied everything on the ship.

When we finally completed check-in at about 2pm on August 8th, we proceeded to go up to our cabin (8042). We found the door closed. We stepped in to find out that the beds had been made with soiled sheets, the bathroom had not been cleaned, the refrigerator had things in it from previous occupants, the pillow cases were smelly and dirty, and the floor had not been vacuumed. We informed a uniformed female crew member who said she did not know where our room steward was and would get someone else to clean it. This was at about 2:30pm.

My sister and I took our carry-on bags with us (so that the steward wouldn’t have to clean around them) and went upstairs to the pool deck to eat lunch buffet style, which was the only food available. The lunch consisted of fried chicken, greens, macaroni and cheese, and other items. I’m not entirely sure if this fare was chosen because this was a charter cruise that consisted almost entirely of African-Americans or not, but it was not very good.

After eating, we went back to our cabin to find it in the same condition as when we left it. This time when my sister approached the same uniformed female crew member, she snapped at my sister and said, “I can only do one thing at a time!”

The afternoon went on with no one stopping by to clean our room, despite our repeated requests. When our room steward finally arrived at about 7:30pm (6 hours after our arrival), he made the comment that he had paid 2 friends $100 each to clean 15 rooms (his responsibility) and that they had not done so. Our room was not cleaned by the steward until 8:30pm on August 8th.

While other passengers took part in the barbecue up on the pool deck, my sister and I ate in one of the two main dining rooms. These dining rooms served almost exactly the same food every night. The appetizers and salads never changed throughout the entire week. The entrees and desserts remained the same except for the “Special of the day” and 1 or 2 different choices each night to round out their selection of 6.

Although the Freestyle Daily, the ship’s newsletter, informed 2400 passengers to allow 2.5 hours for their dining experience, the restaurants were only open between the hours of 7-9am (breakfast), 11:30am-1:30pm (lunch) and 6-9pm (dinner), with the occasional opening at 5:30pm. These were also the times for the pool deck buffet.

Virtually limitless dining opportunities we had come to expect from previous cruises did not exist on this ship. In addition to the times listed above for the main dining rooms, there was also a buffet later in the evening from 10pm-11:30pm. The advertised 24-hour pizza bar was never open 24 hours, and I never received a meal on the ship that was served to me hot.

We learned from other ship staff that about 300 crew members had quit during the last week’s cruise and had not been replaced. The Pride of Aloha claims that they employ a staff of 800 to service 2000-2400 passengers, maintaining a ratio of about 1 to 3. In comparison, Carnival Cruise lines maintains a staff to passenger ratio of 1 to 2 for a 7-day cruise. Since our ship had already lost 300 crew members, we were sailing with less than the number of qualified, trained crew members necessary for safety and comfort. This put the ratio of staff to passengers at 1 to 4-5.

Later that evening, the ship’s captain greeting the passengers by berating the previous week’s chartered African-American guests and referring to us as “you people” before various statements. He wasn’t the first nor last crew member to refer to us as “you people”.

The breakfast buffet the next morning consisted of bins of half-cooked eggs and bacon, and long lines for omelets and waffles. While standing in the waffle line, the cook (who was wearing rubber gloves) stopped cooking to pick up and empty dirty dishes, trays, and empty bins into the garbage. He then proceeded to wipe the gloves off with a paper towel, although a full box of new gloves were nearby. When I saw that he was not going to change them after he had been handling garbage, I told him that he need to change his gloves immediately before touching my food. He gave me a sneer before finally complying with my request. The lady behind me thanked me for making him do so.

After a day in Honolulu, we arrived early for dinner and were faced with a 30 minute wait to be seated. The attire for the evening was Cool White, and I had been looking forward to wearing my new dress that I had kept in a garment bag to avoid anything ruining it. When we were finally escorted to our table, which we were asked to share with four other ladies, we noticed that more than half the tables were empty! And if waiting for a table for so long wasn’t bad enough, our inexperienced waiter opened a can of Coke over the table of ladies dressed in white and splattered my white dress! The dress that had survived 3 weeks of packing/storage and endured 2500 miles of travel had now been ruined by one clumsy waiter! I asked to speak to someone in charge, and Fernando, one of the two very pleasant dining managers, instructed the waiter to rush and get some club soda and promised me that he would take care of the cleaning costs. He was also gracious enough to treat our table to a bottle of champagne, and he returned before the end of the dinner to give me paperwork for a complimentary cleaning of my dress. My dress was picked up on Tuesday morning, but it wasn’t returned to me until Wednesday afternoon. And although it was returned draped in paper, it had not been touched. The stains from the Coke were still apparent and noticeable. I had to take it down to the reception desk to complain, and my dress was not cleaned and returned until Friday.

Tuesday’s excursion in Kauai (a tour of the Waimea Canyon, River and Fern Grotto) was excellent. It was well planned and guided, with several planned restroom breaks, great information about the area, and the chance to shop.

Tuesday dining, however, brought more half-cooked, poorly handled food, and the anticipation of the ship’s Formal night, which was to include lobster tails in the main dining rooms. However, when mine arrived, 1 of the 3 lobster tails was spoiled and the smell of it on my plate ruined my appetite to even try to consume the half-baked potato.

I am happy that at least our room had been serviced, and my formal gown was not stained by food or drink. And we were entertained at dinner by the crescendo of falling flatware and glasses by the wait staff.

Wednesday’s Barefoot Tiki Boat party was very entertaining, and a lot of fun. Dining had become a dreaded experience on the boat, however, and my sister and I watched as yet another inexperienced waiter was too overwhelmed to provide us with decent service. Thankfully, I was able to make eye contact with another waiter who brought us what we needed. Even he questioned, “Where is your waiter?” Also, unfortunately, this would be the night that every toilet on the ship broke down and would not be fixed for 2 hours. So much for those free mai tais from the party boat. The Hawaiian Luau that was planned for the pool deck had to be cancelled due to the windy conditions. Oh, well, you can’t control the weather. This was also the night that I watched in a panic that a group of passengers got stuck in one of the panoramic elevators.

My anticipation for our Thursday excursion in Hilo was overwhelming. We chose the Kilauea Lava Hike because we were assured by the excursion desk that it was our best chance to see flowing lava. The chance to see flowing lava is the reason my sister picked this cruise.

We dressed in long pants and tennis shoes as instructed by the excursion description. We were prepared for a 2-6 miles hike over lava beds (uneven ground is the way it was described in the write-up) to be conducted at a reasonable pace and scheduled to last from 9:30am-3:30pm.

We were greeted by a tour guide who was, at best, unprepared to conduct an excursion. We were told that our tour was the first time it had been attempted. This was a fact that the excursion desk had neglected to tell us when we persuaded us to take this tour instead of the Deluxe Lava Tour.

Our tour guide boarded the bus, and we were driven through a Hilo neighborhood to a small house attached to another smaller house. A full busload of passengers (43) got off and were instructed to take our shoes off and sit on the floor in a small room of the tour guide’s friend and teacher. My first thought was that this was some type of friendly favor that our guide was doing in including his teacher to try to make a little money for both of them. His teacher employed his two children, who he dressed in white t-shirts and thin yellow skirts (with shorts underneath), to dance for us. We then had to listen for over an hour while he ranted about the bad white people and how Americans were raping the islands, thus causing him to be unable to make a suitable living.

It was almost 11:30am before we re-boarded the bus and given a brown paper bag with a lone sandwich in it. Our choice of ham, turkey, and roast beef. My turkey sandwich, which I’m sure was supposed to be cold, already had melting cheese inside of it. Needless to say, I did not eat it, because it was apparent that it had been in the heat already.

Our tour guide left us on the bus with his friend/teacher, while he rode to the volcano in a van that went ahead of us. This meant that we had to listen to another 2 hours of this man telling us about the bad Americans. The bus driver, was more knowledgeable and pointed out more things than our tour guide, but unable to maneuver the bus which she drove through a red-lighted intersection because she was unable to stop.

Because there were o scheduled restroom breaks, we had to ask if there were any restrooms around when we stopped at a sulfur-laden spot that caused us to cough within a few minutes of de-boarding the bus. A small van drove us back to a spot where we could use the restroom facilities. When we returned, the other passengers had been standing in this spot for 20 minutes, and were coughing. Our bus took us another short way, before we all had to ride in 12-seat vans (only 2, so the vans had to take more than 1 trip) to be taken to the hike start. We arrived at the starting point for the hike at 1:30pm (4 hours after the start of the tour). The guide asked us what time we were supposed to be back at the ship, because he saw how late he was in getting started. Some members of the group told him that the ship left at 6:30pm, and he took this to mean that he had that much time with us. He wasn’t even aware of how long this excursion was supposed to take!

With barely a word, the guide took off running over a lava bed where you had to watch every step you took or deal with the likelihood of injuries. He was wearing hiking boots, something the description had failed to mention would be recommended, and he was the only guide for the 21 people who had opted for this part of the hike.

After an hour trek, where we found ourselves about 15 minutes behind the guide and the first 5 people, we got to a stopping point and waited for everyone to catch up. The guide then announced that to see lava, we would have to hike another 45 minutes across more dangerous terrain (which I could not imagine, since their description of ‘uneven ground’ included steps/gaps greater than a foot onto sections of lava that could and did break underneath your feet) and up two hills. When we went on with the group for about 20 minutes, the guide and the first part of the group were nowhere to be seen. About 6 of us decided to turn back and try to find our way back alone with no guide and no trail to follow. The guide didn’t even notice or care that everyone could not keep up with his race against his own lack of planning.

Now, my sister and I are in good shape. We work out between 5-6 times weekly and would not tire over a 6-mile hike performed at a reasonable pace and/or with the proper gear. And although the excursion was described to provide us with any additional supplies that we needed, such as a walking stick to avoid falling and getting lava rock embedded in our hands or shredding a shinbone, we were given none.

We made it out of the volcano on our own wits and directions. To give you a description of what being inside a volcano is like, imagine a desolate, remote planet in space where every step could either surround you with rock formations so high that you can’t see someone six-feet tall standing right beside it or through unstable 600 year-old glass that will cut you if you touch it. Our shoes were ruined, and what upset me the most is that the tour had not been properly described, tested, or executed, and that our tour guide left us! We had wasted 4 hours of our excursion on chants/songs that were supposed to happen at the end of the hike, it time allowed.

So, we never got to see any flowing lava, and we didn’t make it back to the ship until 6pm. And if the terrible excursion weren’t bad enough, when we did make it back to the ship after being away all day, our cabin had not been cleaned. When I went down to the reception desk to complain, I was told that the crew had been off of work all day and didn’t return until 6:15pm. I wondered how the crew could be given the day off when there was work to be done. He told me that the staff was now in a meeting and that he would get someone to clean our room immediately. Well, that answer was a different one than my sister received. She was told that the staff had changed the starting time for their shift to 9:30am, instead of the typical 7:30am. Now, my sister and I had tickets for a 10pm show, and needed to get into a cleaned room to take a shower and dress for the evening. It took 4 more requests, including me leaving the restaurant and making another trip to the reception desk to complain before anything happened. Our room steward didn’t arrive to clean our room until 8:30pm. The room steward’s excuse? He said to my sister, “I asked you this morning if there was anything that you needed.” Anything that we needed? My sister said, “I thought you meant anything special. Cleaning my room is basic!” And although he hadn’t been around to clean all the rooms he was responsible for, I did notice and remark that he had gotten a fresh hair cut and color that day. This was also the night that the light in our bathroom decided to go out. It would be Friday morning before we got it replaced.

Friday greeted us with the same food that was being served all week. We were told that they had run out of some food because “you people” eat the equivalent of 3 week’s worth of cruise food”. My sister and I spent the day in Maui. Although most cruise ship’s allow you to purchase excursion tickets up until the tour departs, we were told that we had to purchase up to 24 hours in advance for any and all tours. This meant that every night, you had to stand in a long line being serviced by 2 crew members to try to book an excursion. We had attempted to purchase a $13 excursion ticket to Lahaina to do some shopping. The man at the tour desk said that we needed to have booked it the day before and that the only way to get to Lahaina now was to pay $120/round trip for a taxi.

Good thing we didn’t listen to him, because instead we took a $5 shuttle to the mall, along with a $3 shuttle that not only took us to Lahaina, but provided us with better return times than the ship’s excursion.

When we arrived back to the ship, at least our room had been cleaned (thankfully), but we still needed to rush to dinner, because we had tickets for a 7:30pm show. At no time during the week had the ship attempted to adjust its’ dining times to accommodate the ship’s activities. I’m aware that this Freestyle Dining is a new concept for them, but they have a boatload of kinks to work out of it. A normal cruise provides its’ passengers 2 separate dining times (each block 2 hours) to serve all the people. This means that the total time needed to serve an entire ship full of passengers should be 4 hours minimum. The Pride of Aloha had dining times of 6-9pm. Add this shortened dining time to the long lines they could never seem to seat in a timely manner, and you end up with frustrated passengers who are either left hungry or caused to miss nightly shows and activities in an attempt to eat.

This night, when I stepped on one of the elevators and the doors closed, I was greeted by a light that said, “PLEASE GET OUT”. When the doors opened, I complied with the elevator’s request and took the stairs from that point on.

This trip was by far the worst I have ever experienced. My first cruise was on a Carnival ship that was over 15 years old, but it was better staffed and maintained than this ship of 5 years. I felt that all I could do was try to endure this torture until we got back to Honolulu.


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