My wife & I are going on an Hawaiian cruise for first time on Feb. 10, 2007 on NCL Wind with norwegian-cruise-lines.net.
Since we did not want to take the 4-5 days to cruise from the west coast before getting to Hawaii, we were pretty much limited to NCL, which seems to "own" Hawaii.
My concern is this: Since NCL is the only cruise line that does just Hawaii, would that mean that they have less incentive to give good service? Having no competition from other cruise lines is a concern.
We have been on two cruises before, both in the Caribbean. There, many cruise lines "battle" for the market. Not certain why the same is not true for Hawaii?
Please let me know if the "lack" of competition for the Hawaii cruise is valid as a concern?
I would first say that I disagree with your assessment that NCL "owns" Hawaii. Carnival, Princess, Radison and others do Hawaii. The other lines may not have the package you want but they do go there. We flew to Hawaii early for three days of relaxation before getting on the Carnival Spirit, we then hit Oahu (2 days), Kauai, Maui (2 days), Hilo, Kona. We then had 5 days of beautiful calm relaxing sea days going back to Vancouver. We really enjoy the sea days at the end of the cruise to rest up before we have to go back to work. Of course we try to cram as much activity into our port visits as possible. By staying in Maui for two days we were able to do the bike ride down the volcano, drive to Hana, drive around the entire island, and snorkel to the Malikia (misspelled)crater. In Oahu we got to climb diamond head, go to Pearl Harbor for over 5 hours to really soak up the experience, Dole pineapple plantation, coffee plantation, snorkel in Humakui bay (misspelled), tour the orchid farms, and visit the best beaches on the island. Unless, you are staying for more than one day you can't do most of these things due to the time or the fact that the facilities have a limit on the number of people they let in every day.
Back to your question - Will the service suffer. I would suggest you read some of the older posts about NCL and their experience with trying to serve the Hawaiian islands. They have had lots of problems. People demanding full refunds, People getting off early, etc. etc. I will just say that they have had a lot of personel issues. Maybe they have them fixed by now. I don't know but knowing how small their rooms are, and that I don't like their itinerary I would not book a cruise with them for Hawaii, maybe the Caribbean but not something as special as Hawaii. Sorry this is not what you wanted to hear. Hope you enjoy Hawaii as much as we did.
Go to ports of call and under "cruise to Hawaii" with topic starter my Mandi, I reponded, Kim Lilley. I enjoyed the ship because I was mainly here for the Hawiian Islands. Never have cruised before, I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it. As nothing is ever perfect, it was a pleasant experince for me. I went in the mindset the Islands cmae first, then the ship. I am hyper and get bored easy, so I think if I was ever to go back on ship it would only be a 3 to 4 nite cruise, unless it was an Alaska cruise, then I would get a balcony. You will love the Hawaiian islands, I am planning to go back with NCL because of it's itinerary of being on the port more than on the ship.
NCL doesn't own Hawaii, other cruise lines sail to Hawaii. But none of the others can offer the 7 day itinerary with almost half the time ashore. Since passengers must get some sleep, half of the time aboard the ship is sleeping. The other half of the half of the time aboard th e ship, everyone is rushing to get fed and entertained.
NCL's "Pride of" ships are American flagged, and have a loophole in the Passenger Services Act for three foreign built cruise ships that allows them to sail from one Hawaiian port to another without having to stop once in a foreign port. None of the other cruise lines are so fortunate.
The Norwegian Wind is not American flagged, and is not one of the three ships covered by the loophole, which is why it is scheduled to sail to Fanning Island on every cruise.
The half the time ashore cruise experence is why I believe so many passengers are unhappy with the service, more than anything else.
Here's my theory:
Everyone is in a rush to go ashore in the morning, with eveyone packing the restaurants that are open, and the buffet early.
If you waited to go ashore, and ate breakfast later, you'll probably get decent service.
Likewise, in the late afternoon, everyone arrives back as late as possible, and pack the restaurants all at once again. You'll get better srevice if you dined earlier, or later.
No cruise ship in the world is capable of sitting everyone in the restaurants at once. Even traditional dining ships have two sittings. And that's why there's so many bad reviews. Most of those writing bad reviews are trying to spend as much time ashore as possible, departing the ship very early and arriving back at the ship very late. Also note, there's no at sea days to just relax aboard the ship, with some passengers sleeping in late, or staying up to the wee hours late.
It's difficult to serve everyone at once, no matter how well trained the staff is.
Very interesting theory on the dining Ron. Makes sense to me and is probably very accurate. I do know that your state about having to stop in a foreign port is accurate because I discussed this with the crew on the Carnival Spirit.
Ron is right about having better service if you ate dinner earlier or later and breakfast later. We went to eat breakfast between 6:30 to 7:00 and the lines were not bad and could still get seating. At 7:30 it gets crowed. For dinner we ate 7 pm and I learned quickly to make reservations early, and not a problem getting in the time you aksed. It was almost a 2hour dining experience, but for me personally that was fine as I like to eat slow and unwind and relax after a very busy day on land. The service was good as well as the food, maybe I was one of the lucky ones but I had no problems. I wuld go on this ship again because I like to be on the go alot when on land and rest when back on ship. My friend took the ncl wind and loved it, she had more of a rest because it took several days to sail to the Fanning Islands. Have fun!!