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Bill Ray

Age: 66


Number of Cruises: 5

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Pride of America

Sailing Date: November 25th, 2006

Itinerary: Hawaii

We cruised on the Pride of America during the week following Thanksgiving 2006. We had not read the comments posted on this web site prior to our cruise. Had we done so, we would not have taken this cruise.

Having said that, we found that SOME of the problems found by earlier cruise passengers on the Pride of America had apparently been corrected prior to our cruise. Regrettably, however, many of the problems remained.

To begin on a positive note, the embarkation and debarkation procedures in Honolulu were excellent. Enough embarkation check-in windows were provided to handle the 2,000+ passengers quickly and efficiently. There was only a short walk to the ship, and boarding was quick and easy.

Our cabin was not ready when we boarded around noontime, but we had no problem with this because boarding was supposed to begin at 1:00 P.M.. However, NCL accommodated our early arrival and processed us onto the ship without delay. Once on board, we went to the Aloha Café (the buffet) and ate lunch, and the ship's intercom announced that our cabin was ready before we finished lunch.

Likewise, the debarkation procedures were faultless. We were issued colored luggage tags the night before arriving in Honolulu, and groups of passengers were allowed to disembark as each particular color was called on Saturday morning. Once again, we went to the Aloha Café and had breakfast while awaiting our debarkation call. The call came at the time indicated by our color, and we left the ship. Everything was very smooth without any problems.

To continue on a positive note, the ship was spectacular in size and appearance. We found the public areas to be clean and well-kept, although NCL needs to do some touch-up painting to railings, bulkheads, etc., that are beginning to show rust. Our balcony cabin was clean and remained so throughout the week. Our cabin steward, Yolanda, checked with us several times per day, inquiring if we needed anything, and took care of us in a friendly and efficient manner. Yolanda tries hard to please, and does!

Now, to list the negatives. The two main dining rooms are large with grossly insufficient numbers of wait staff. Their attitudes are hurried and harried, and we felt that they provided as much service as they were able to do, considering there were lots of dinner guests and not many waiters. The food selections are adequate, but the serving sizes are minuscule. We dealt with this by ordering two entrees and two appetizers each.

The food quality in the dining rooms was atrocious. On two separate nights and two separate dining rooms, the meal made me ill. We grew so distrustful of the food quality in the Skyline and Liberty dining rooms that we ate thereafter at the Aloha Café, the buffet restaurant. Regarding the buffet restaurant, the food quality and selection were far inferior to the average Las Vegas buffet, and silverware and dishes were often lacking and one had to embark on a treasure hunt to locate them. Oftentimes, staff would be standing around idly while silverware and dishes were no where to be found.

Another disappointment was the coffee served aboard ship. When one considers that Hawaiian coffee is generally regarded as the best in the world by many, how come the Pride of America served coffee that tasted like a cheap generic brand served in a mainland greasy spoon? Also, for most of the week, two of the four coffee machines in the Aloha Café were out of order!

We did not eat at the specialty restaurants which charged "cover charges" in addition to what we had paid for the cruise. We resented the fact that we were expected to pay extra for these restaurants when our meals were presumably included in our cruise price. However, toward the end of the week after we experienced the bad food in the main dining rooms, and the mediocre food in the Aloha Café, we figured out that NCL makes little attempt to offer positive dining experiences in these venues so that passengers will be forced to eat in the extra-cost specialty restaurants in order to avoid food poisoning!!

The shore excursions that we took were well-organized and informative, although credit there should be directed at the tour companies since NCL's responsibility ended when we got off the ship to take the excursion. We made one inquiry at the on-board shore excursion desk regarding a tour that we had purchased when we made our cruise reservations. Since we live in Hawaii, we were aware that a major earthquake on October 15 had damaged roads on Maui leading to the tour destination. We asked about the effect on our tour and found that the person staffing the shore excursion counter had no information whatever about it. How can one sell tours without knowing the first thing about them? In addition, she had the attitude that we found common among the ship's crew -- a mixture of hostility, rudeness, indifference, and laziness. We have never encountered poor staff attitude on previous cruises compared to that which we encountered on Pride of America. These people act like they don't want to be there, and that they intend to do as little as possible while they are there.

When licensing NCL to operate US-flagged vessels in Hawaiian waters, the government required that NCL utilize American citizens as vessel crew. Since the three Pride vessels - the Pride of Aloha, the Pride of Hawaii, and the Pride of America - began operating, there have been several newspaper articles regarding NCL's difficulties in recruiting and retaining employees aboard the three ships. Our experience reflects this. Apparently, NCL has recruited primarily young people who are working on a cruise ship for "fun" and have no real intention of rendering service and doing the job for which they are being paid. In fact, one of our waiters in the Liberty dining room told us that he was working to earn money for recording studio equipment and that he would quit when he reached his financial goal! The irony here is that he was the best waiter, by far, that we encountered on the ship, and he plans to leave!

We had a balcony stateroom on the 8th deck which was an example of a modern-day blivet - that is, ten pounds of potatoes in a five-pound bag. It was reminiscent of a camping trailer -- lots of engineering to figure how to put the necessary furniture into such a small space. There was barely enough room to walk between the end of the bed and the wall, there was nowhere to put our luggage except under the bed, there were only two small dresser drawers to store small garments, and the shower was so small that it was difficult to wash one's hair without banging elbows into the shower wall.

In addition, NCL does not furnish irons or ironing boards in the staterooms so that one is forced to send one's clothes to the ship's laundry for pressing (at outrageous fees). Also, the coffee pot furnished in our stateroom was out of order, and it took three days and as many requests for it to be replaced. Once again, an example of the complete lack of customer service that we expected and that we were paying for!

The entertainment on board the Pride of America was simply awful! One guest comic, Chris Alpine, was great and we saw all three off his performances on board. He was the sole bright spot. Other "entertainment" consisted of the crew members performing a Karaoke -style variety show. What a thrill -- we got to see cabin stewards and one of the buffet waiters, along with other employees such as the ship's seamstress, singing to "track" music in the main showroom at night!

The other nights were re-created game shows like "Newlywed Game" and "Who Wants to be A Gazillion-aire" hosted by our Cruise Director, Shona Blair, whose manner was offensive and annoying until one realized that the girl is a total twit and totally lacks common sense! She has the same phony manner and fake enthusiasm as an activity director at a nursing home! For a cruise experience costing what this one cost, to be subjected to this so-called "entertainment" was an insult and a rip-off. In this one area, alone, we were sufficiently disappointed that we would never recommend this ship to anyone, regardless of its other shortcomings. We have been on cruises that offered this type of activity in the afternoon, but not as feature entertainment in the main showroom.

At the end of the cruise, we dutifully filled out the NCL comment cards and turned them in before disembarking. We attempted to evaluate the cruise and our impressions of it in an honest manner, assigning criticism where warranted and praise for the features discussed above. Needless to say, we have not received any feedback from NCL even though we requested on the cards that we be contacted. I guess the "don't give a darn" attitude encountered among the ship's employees carries over to NCL management!

To summarize, this was, by far, the worst cruise we have ever encountered. Based on our experience on the Pride of America, we will not utilize NCL for any future cruises, and we most definitely would not recommend either the cruise or the cruise line to anyone that we care about. Why take a chance when there are other cruise lines out there with far better reputations?

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