I would love to hear from anyone that has been on a recent cruise, since January 2008 on the Pride of America. We are considering going to Hawaii and taking this cruise. I have read a lot of negative reviews. Can anybody tell me about their recent cruise experience on Pride of America?
Hi Bucher, welcome to Cruise-Chat. Don't believe everything you read. There are a lot of negative reviews that stem from someone not getting exactly what they want. There are as many good reviews of the Pride as there are bad. There are other lines that do the Hawaiian route, but they sail from California. NCL has a unique niche, some people love it, some don't. I hope you won't pass up an opportunity for a great way to see the islands. Best wishes and once again, welcome aboard!
I'd also like to welcome you to cruise-chat! POA is unique in the industry now. There were once three ships that were US flagged, doing the Hawaii routes from Honolulu. All were NCL, or NCLA in this case a division of NCL devoted to this market and the US vessels. What makes them unique also is what most of the negative reviews are based on. They have a contractual obligation on these ships to employ, majority US crew members. Turnover has been high since the outset and their costs are higher in taxes and training (due to the turnover) and other areas than other ships. It created some problems that they've tried multiple solutions for. The latest being, pulling the other two ships and re-flagging them, moving them to other markets. The issues of poorer service onboard these vessels has improved since their latest steps and turnover has improved. Still there is a higher than average complaint ratio on POA than other ships in the industry.
Hawaii is a great vacation destination and NCLA is your only option for a one week cruise there. If you're wanting to see the islands and not considering the ships doing two week itins from the west coast I'd simply set my expectations accordingly and go have a great cruise. It may not be up to the standards you've been used to from other cruises but a week in Hawaii has some benefits beyond great food and service onboard the ship.
I sailed on Pride of America June 14-22, 2008. 3 adults, 2 teens in our group. We really enjoyed the experience. On boarding, we were handed glasses of champagne and sent to our cabins which were ready when we boarded.
Both cabins were great. One was a family suite with had an enormous wrap around balcony – it was about 45 feet long with views to both starboard and stern, lots of furniture and privacy. We spent a good portion of the cruise sitting there and enjoying the views.
The kids complained a bit about their beds – the fold out couches were not true mattresses – they were stiff, firm cushions – but we piled up a bunch of pillows to soften things and they slept just fine all week. Other than that, the family suite was wonderful.
We had no trouble with cell phone or internet service. I tethered my laptop to the internet through my Blackberry (via Verizon) and had no problems. We had good cell service for nearly the entire trip.
There is a wheel outside each cabin on the door that you have to spin for “make up cabin”, “turn down beds” or “do not disturb”. A lot of folks didn’t catch on to that so they might have had trouble getting their cabins cleaned up, but we had no trouble at all and had plenty of maid/steward service all week. They provided tons of towels and pillows and also changed our sheets when we left a note.
We signed up for one excursion once we were on the ship the first night. The line was about 30 minutes, but it went smoothly and people were having fun in line. Signing up in advance for excursions was really the way to go – the ship was full, many trips were sold out and some people were disappointed.
All our NCL excursions were really great. The Jungle Kayak on Kauai was the best – we kayaked, swam in a huge waterfall and hiked through the dense jungle. The Road to Hana and Helicopter return was amazing, too – especially with just the four of us in the van and the helicopter. The Waimea Canyon on Kauai was beautiful, but it was a long drive. And, our scuba day in Kona was by far the best thing we did. (That wasn’t an NCL excursion.)
The meal the first night in the buffet was pretty awful. I don’t think they had cleaned their grill and things were burned and tasted nasty.
So, after that we avoided the dinner buffet and had good meals every single night. Service was reasonably quick (1.5 hours for 3 course dinner or so) and the food was pretty good. We especially liked the Jefferson (French) restaurant and the East Meets West restaurant. Both of those cost a little extra but were well worth it. And, the kids stopped for snacks at the Cadillac Grill a lot – a little sit-down place with burgers, fries and shakes. They served from the Cadillac out on the promenade deck so the view was often great.
They’ve changed the dinner reservation system and we found it easy. You can only reserve up to one day ahead. That means there is no longer a mad dash on the first day to make reservations all week. And, only about half of each restaurant is reserved, so they have plenty of room for walk-ins and the waits were not too long (30 mins max.) Also, they’ve put up a Disney-style message board near the elevators and outside the main restaurants showing how full each restaurant is on the ship, so you can decide where to go at the last minute. That makes it easy to pick a restaurant because they are all listed and you can see which ones have no waiting. We made reservations for every meal after the first day and had no problems.
Breakfasts were all good – we ate in the Aloha buffet every day. There was a great espresso/cappuccino maker in the buffet that made fabulous coffee. We really liked that. We ate lunch off the ship, so I don’t know about those.
We didn’t really do much on the ship, so I can’t tell you how the shows or pools are. We got a pedicure one day which was fun but lengthy and expensive ($65 each and 2 hours long).
When we disembarked, they offered an Easy-Fly service for $25 each where they checked-in luggage on your flight for you and printed your boarding pass. My mom (in her 70s) liked that a lot. She set her luggage outside her door Friday night just like we did, and picked it up on the luggage carousel when she arrived home the next day. She got her boarding pass and luggage tag Friday night with her bill.
The rest of us thought Easy-Fly was overpriced, so we didn’t do it. I checked us in on my cell phone, printed boarding passes at the airport, and we rolled our luggage from the pick-up area at the port to the bus (about 100 yards) and again from the bus to the airport desk (about 10 yards) and saved $100.
We just returned from Pride of america cruise 8/9/08 and found many of the reviews/comments found on this site to be accurate. Hawaii is beautiful and cruising is a great way to see many islands. NCL does a great job with showing you the lava flow at night and the Napali coast afternoon cruise was awesome. That said, service is very different from other cruise lines. I cant't help but think that the fact that they are not working for individual tips hurts performance. Also, communication is very poor. There were other wine and beverage packages available other than the soda package, but the information seemed to be given out randonly. The main dining rooms seemed very disorganized, wait times were unreliable, reservations difficult to obtain, childrens NEW menu had none of the dessert items printed.
wait staff would repeatedly say "I don't know why the menu says that, we don't have it".
Food in main dining rooms ok, Aloha buffet though was better than expected. There was a good mix of foods offered everyday and special for the day. Also breakfast was fast and good. Cadillac diner was my favorite.
Another aspect that is different is that your cabin steward does not make an effort to meet you, or appear to go out of their way to make sure you have any needs. Room was clean, but couch and bunk would not be closed without asking. Also each room is supposed to have pool towels
. It took 2 days to get them, by taking them off the cart ourselves. It seems trival but, in order to have towels we had to charge $25 per towel to our room, which was refundable upon return of towels. Problem is getting to towel
booth when its open!
Also my husbands golf excursion was cancelled on our last day due to lack of participants. That is understandable, but he didn't find out until the night before, when he finally found the golf desk opened and was informed "I being trying to reach you all week". No note in the door or phone message? He was really disappointed.
Highlights of our cruise were Molikini snorkel thru NCL. Kona beach blast was great for kids, I would try to do Kohala beach and snorkel because you get the A-Bay experience and snorkeling. The Luau Kalamaku on Kauai was fun and the performance was very different then expectated. Poipu beach is absolutley the best, especially if you have kids in the group. Snorkeling from the beach is the greatest, clearst water. The excursion through NCL is very overpriced. We did rent cars which was great for us, being able to get away from the crowd and do some exploring. We used Thrifty on Maui, Hilo, and Kauai and Hertz in Honolulu with no problems.
The best part of NCL itinerary was being able to stay within Hawaii with no foriegn port, and no days at sea.
lal-One of the things we have learned to do prior to cruising to a new and unfamiliar port has been -purchase a good travel guide about that location and read up on it in advance. It eliminates the need to purchase some expensive shore tours and it gives you a greater understanding of the things to see and do in port!
Thanks so very much for all of your comments. We have decided to take the cruise. We will make the best of the conditions on the ship and certainly not let it ruin our trip. We will be staying on the islands an additional week after the cruise so I am sure that will mae up for any inconveniences on the ship! We just decided it was the most cost effective way to see all of the islands!