Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Pride of America
Sailing Date: June 16th, 2007
Food – the food at the buffet and sit down restaurants was great but it would help if trays were available to take food back to your room. Wednesday’s lobster dinner was okay but the lobster didn’t taste particularly fresh. The fresh fruit was delicious – papaya, lychee and the tastiest pineapple ever.
Room – water pressure in the shower was excellent. The room seemed a bit smaller than the one we had on Norwegian Sun. The bed was bigger but the couch and desk were smaller. The format of the balcony meant less privacy (as the balcony dividers stopped at the railing). Our room was also at the indent so the balcony on the left could look into our balcony and room, and we didn’t have an unobstructed view like our Alaska cruise.
Staff – the staff seemed less friendly and attentive than the staff on Norwegian Sun. A few of the staff members were friendly and attentive, while most of the others were pretty dismissive eg. when asking about the usually-late Freestyle Daily newsletter or when our pre-booked shore excursions didn’t register on the ship’s itinerary. The reception staff were very helpful when we requested an adjustment to our service charge because of the Day 1 room condition.
Sailing – most of the sailing was done at night, which was a shame as we enjoy this aspect of a cruise. Sailing past the Kilauea lava flow was good, as was the Napali Coast. We were port-side for the overnight Maui stay, which was very noisy. Being on the non-port side on the overnight stay in Kauai was much nicer.
Onboard Expenses – It would be easy to get carried away with onboard expenses especially since you charge everything to your room key. There is a purchase plan for soft drinks (all-you-can-drink card) but the biggest rip off is the photos – $20 for a 5x7 is highway robbery. We did not purchase any photos. Pricing at the gift ship was very reasonable.
Onboard Entertainment – mostly magic shows.
Shore Excursions – we could have rented a car and visited the same locations for much lower cost than the shore excursions. There are many tour booklets available at each port with maps and suggestions for places to visit. The benefit of doing the shore excursions is the knowledgeable tour guides, but other than that, renting a car in Hawaii seems easy enough and none of the locations are for tours only. We expected to see more of the stereotypical Hawaii that you see in movies, and of course lava which we didn’t see (except when the ship sailed past the ocean lava flow at night). Here is a list of what we did and what we recommend based on what we heard others say about their excursions …
Sat 6/16 – Leave Honolulu.
Sun 6/17 – Hilo, Hawaii.
WE DID: Volcanoes National Park. There were 150 earthquakes in this area on the day, so the lava tubes at the park were closed. All we saw at the National Park was Kilauea Caldera, which is essentially a big hole in the ground. At the Jagger Museum we saw the seismographs showing the earthquakes in the area. We stopped at the Akatsuka Orchid Farm and Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory which were both good. We also stopped at the steam bluffs, but after seeing the geysers at Yellowstone, these were little puffs in comparison. The tour guide (Jane) was great.
WE RECOMMEND: Ring of Fire Helicopter. This tour was particularly spectacular that day. The earthquakes opened up fissures which released pressure from the volcano. With less steam at the summit, the helicopters were able to fly directly over the crater to see the bubbling lava. It costs $219 for about 45 minutes of flying time but sounds well worth it.
Mon 6/18 – Kahului, Maui.
WE DID: Free shuttle to Hilo Hattie. This store is heavily publicized as having the best selection of souvenirs, but I found it rather overpriced and uninspiring (with many of the clothes being made in Asia and not Hawaii). You can find the same merchandise at a lower cost at the little stores closer to the pier at each port.
Tue 6/19 – Kahului, Maui.
WE DID: Haleakala Crater at Sunrise. We went to bed early, woke up at 12:30am, had dinner at the Cadillac Diner and then went on the tour that started at 3.15am. I slept for most of the 1 hour drive to the crater, but my husband was awake and said the winding roads were quite sickening. Seeing the sunrise over the clouds was pretty spectacular, but the crater itself seemed pretty ordinary until we saw the cinder cones at the Kalahaku Overlook.
Wed 6/20 – Kona, Hawaii.
We had pre-booked a rental car here but our reservation had not come through to the ship, and the Excursion Desk onboard does not book rental cars. The ship docks at sea (which is lovely, picturesque and peaceful) and uses tender boats to get passengers to shore. There are plenty of shops and historic sites to spend time at, but limited beach within walking distance to swim at.
Thu 6/21 – Nawiliwili, Kauai.
Took a shuttle bus to the nearby shops and beach, then walked back as it was all within a 10 minute walk away. This was the first nice beach within walking distance of the ship. The shuttle bus driver gave us a good tip to visit the Marriott, which had a botanical garden within the property, which also had some nice geese and swans. This was also the day for the weekly crew emergency drill which was very loud for anyone (like my husband!) who decided to stay on the ship to sleep in.
WE DID: Luau Kalamaku (and so did about 2000 of the ship’s passengers!) The luau is at a plantation property and the pre-dinner activities and demonstrations were enjoyable. Table assignments were distributed before taking the bus to the plantation. Even though the excursion ticket says to meet at the theater at 5pm, it was obvious that the seat assignments started much earlier, as we were assigned one of the very back tables. We had a family of 6, and another couple at our table and they were all very nice company. The buffet dinner was organized well, with a minimal wait for food. We were very early in the buffet line and got enough to eat, but we heard the food ran out and others weren’t so lucky. The 45 minute show was good – the higher energy dancing and the fire dancers were great, but the middle section did get a bit boring. Our table was quite far back but we could still see the show if we stood up. Boarding the buses (to get back to the ship) was not organized at all. We were toward the front of the line so we got one of the earlier buses out, but others were probably waiting a lot longer.
Fri 6/22 – Nawiliwili, Kauai.
WE DID: East Kauai & Hanalei Lookout. This stops at the Opeakaa Falls (apparently the falls used in the opening scene of Fantasy Island, which is also claimed by a couple other waterfalls on the island), Guava Kai Plantation, and Hanelei Lookout. On this 3.5 hour tour, we spent less than an hour off the bus. The tour guide was well intentioned with his attempt at getting passengers to interact and to show/teach us about trees and other flora, but if he didn’t do this we could have easily had another 30 minutes off the bus to explore the nature walk at the Guava Plantation or to enjoy the scenery at the other stops.
Sat 6/23 – Return to Honolulu.
Disembarking the ship was no trouble at all. The line for the airport transfer buses moved quickly. We rented a car from Honolulu airport and drove around Oahu, and watched a gorgeous sunset from Maili Beach. We stayed at the Best Western near the airport. This was the cheapest and most convenient accommodation for the night, but still pricey in comparison to other Best Westerns we have stayed at.
Overall – in general the cruise was fine, but we found in comparison that Norwegian Sun is run better.
* Shore excursions were pre-booked but didn’t register on the ship
* Reception staff knew little about each port
* Photos were extremely over priced
* Getting our room on Day 1 took too long and the room needed to be re-cleaned
* Pillows were uncomfortable (soft & lumpy)
* Tables & cutlery in the dining areas need to be cleaned better
* Ship’s temperature was freezing cold, but not cold enough in the staterooms.
* Day 1 food was excellent. Food during the week was of good quality and variety.
* Flat screens around the ship showing restaurant seating availability.
* Luau Kalamaku
* Sailing past the lava flow at night, and the sailing past the Napali Coast of Kauai during the day.
Overall we like the Freestyle approach to cruises because our eating times vary from one day to the next. We overheard others saying they preferred the more traditional eating arrangement, but fixed times and eating with a table of people just doesn't sound appealing to us!