Our Group of 9 booked the San Francisco, Monterey, Hilo,Kona,Maui,Kaui Cruise.
First off the Tipping fiasco was insanty. The crew did their best but the Management of the Pride of Aloha (Food Services) is **** **** poor. We were told initially before boarding that we could have a $10 a day automatic tipping service and not worry about tips. It was a sales point for the ship. Then we got on the ship and found out their was a $10 a day added fee to make up for Salaries for the American Crew. This was a total bait and switch. Basically after they told us the cost of the cruise they raised it by $240 for our cabin. Then we had to tip on top of that! This is outright robbery and the management of NCL should be ashamed of themselves!!!!! We didn't tip the first two days because we thought it was automatic, then we discovered that it wasn't and then we finally realized why the crew was so ****ed off at us! Thanks a lot NCL management, you basically ruined our first two days of the Cruise. This is not a "new crew" issue that will be ironed out ... this is just general stupidity by Food Services Management. (NCL says they will Iron out the problems. Read the reviews ... does it sound like they are yet getting Ironed Out to you?)
Second, service at restraunts was slower then I have ever ever had. It took three hours to eat dinner every single night. There were huge lines of angry hungry crabby people waiting to get a table. Nearly half the tables were empty as there was not enough crew to staff the tables. We were told that a lot of crew had quit. We were also told that a lot of the crew had not gotten their coast guard certification and were not allowed to work. Apparently NCL assumed that the coast guard would be leniant for the first American Crew in 50 years, but instead the Coast Guard decided to be sticklers as it was the first American Crew in 50 years. Good call NCL Management!!!!! I am reading that lack of staff is still a problem on Pride of Aloha. This is a management problem that should have been "ironed out" after our ship docked at the first port.
Third, don't signup for the soda sticker, it's a waste of money. Your better off paying the full price and getting a whole can instead of a thimble of coke. Trust me the sticker is a rip off. Just pay full price on your room tab and you will be much much happier. We ended up paying for cokes even though we had purchased the drink sticker because we wanted to get a full can drink instead of a tiny freaken drink. If you just buy the can you can enjoy it while the suckers who get the drink sticker are spending all their time hunting for enough drink to get satisfied ... and you don't want to spend all your time hunting for open bars and then getting told to go to another bar only to find out they aren't open yet and you need to go to yet a third bar and then get a small cup and your not allowed to get two, you scum sucker for even asking. I was ****ed after all this! The bars are slow and it's hard to find an open one so get the can and go off and enjoy it rather then hassle with the freaken sticker. And don't forget to tip, or not, I'm not sure ... neither is the ships managment.
The Buffet sucked. They ran out of stuff by the end of the cruise. The scrambled eggs were sometimes uncooked and could not be eaten. Your in Hawaii and you expect some tropical fruit, but NO, you get canned crappy fruit. Come on NCL!!!! I felt like I was at J.J. Norths Buffet fighting the fat ladies. It was a BIG let down. Actually J.J. North's is better if you can believe that.
I read that the next cruise after ours was just as bad as far as the waiting for food and quality of Buffet goes, so this stuff about it getting better .... ya right. I have to believe that the food services management is pretty bad and unless they replace the management of this area ... it will continue to have problems.
The quality of food in the restraunts was very good. Service was slow slow slow and sometimes things didn't arrive in the right order and such but when it came it was very very good. We did eat in an extra cost restraunts a couple of times and it is definately worth it. Do it at least once. You won't be sorry. Order the chocolate fondue early on the cruise ... before it runs out ... it is heavenly.
My recommendation is to get a big group so you can get a set time for dinner and eat early so you can make the late show. The shows where enjoyed by my group.
This "freestyle" plan is a scam. You are much better off with a set time to eat. Freestyle seems to mean, wait an incredible amount of time for a "free" table. The only way it could work is if they had extra staff to handle the big crowds at "normal" dinner times. They don't have enough staff to make it work and I doubt they ever will. Tons of tables stood empty with people lined up outside waiting for one. Our group of 9 got a set time and we walked past all the people waiting. I felt sorry for those folks. Make sure you get a big group and get a set time.
One dinning room (not the crossings at the back of the boat but the other large dinning room) had a table we sat at that was, for some reason, under the only air vent that cool the whole room. We nearly froze to death that night and never ate in the dinning room again. We felt like it was some kinda of North Pole challenge or maybe a big gag on our group.
At one point we decided to embrace the mayhem on board and went with the flow and even started a few nasty rumors of our own, since the ship was rampant with nasty rumors about crew defections and unhappy workers.
We got a regular table at a set time and had two waiters who were a ton of fun and we really enjoyed the rest of the trip for the most part. Stuff was still excedingly slow but we learned to adapt by getting an early eating time (6pm). We caught the late shows ... they were pretty good.
Hawaii is an incredibly beautiful place and tons of fun with stuff to do. Ship sponsored tours seemed to be good with good folks leading them. We Kayaked a couple of times and did hikes on our own a couple of times. Being in Hawaii made up for a lot of the ships mismanagement. This cruise will probably be popular because of Hawaii. I think the management figures they can be sloppy because it's Hawaii. Sorry, I won't be back on NCL if these food service problems aren't turned around 360 degrees.
Room maids/stewards were very good. Room were well made up and seemed clean to me. They were very friendly and always had nice stuff to say as you passed them in the halls. The management of the Hotel seems to know what they are doing. Rooms are small but we were ok with it. We had a balcony, which was nice.
The captain of the ship knew how to park that huge boat even without tugs to help. Kudos to him for a great job at pulling in/out of ports. It was amazing.
Getting on and off the ship seemed well organized to me. Boarding with luggage went smoothly and getting off and getting our luggege was well organized.
The Good: Hawaii, the sights, Napili coast is fantastic as we cruised slowly by on the last day. Tours are great. Room maid staff is great. Boarding/deboarding is easy. Entertainment is good. Restraunt food was great. Deserts great.
The Bad: It would be good to actually cook the buffet scrambled eggs ... not just scramble them. More variety of fruit and better quality of fruit is absolutely called for ... you are in hawaii for dang sake. Canned Pineapple seems a big letdown. Maybe some mango?????? Restraunt service is way way too slow and not enough workers to man the tables while people wait for ever to get a table. What happened to the midnight buffets and the chocoholics midnight buffet ... not to be found on this ship!
FIRE THE FOOD SERVICES MANAGERS. PROMOTE THE HOTEL MANAGEMENT PEOPLE IN THEIR PLACE.
It's pretty clear that the problem is not that it's a new crew. The problems were caused by bad management decisions and that will not get fixed as time goes on without some personal changes in that management. If you go just be prepared for restraunt/buffet mayhem ... you have been warned and remember it's not the crews fault ... they are working their asses off.