Two weeks ago a friend and I traveled on the Pride of America around Hawaii. I had very low expectations of the cruise, but it was better than I expected, because of the specialty restaurants and the shore excursions. I thought the cruise was expensive for what you got, but it is the only cruise around Hawaii, so we had to book it.
The ship was very clean. Service was spotty on the ship. Cris, our cabin steward, couldn't have been any better. Ben Adams, bartender, Jeffrey and the entire staff in Cagney's were great. My friend had to wait ages to get her wine bottle at several of the restaurants. The saloon service was almost nonexistent when we ate breakfast and lunch there. We were desperate to avoid the crowds in the Aloha Cafe.
The biggest negative of the ship was that they charged for water and wouldn't let you bring any liquids on the ship. Water was $3.25 a bottle. A 12 pack of one liter bottles was $27.95. They don't want you to refill water bottles on the ship. I think charging for water and banning people from bringing water onboard is a ridiculous policy and that alone would keep me from booking another NCL cruise. I can think of no reason why anyone would charge for water. They also charge for soft drinks. The soda program was $7.50 a day, plus 18% gratuity and a service charge. I only drink Diet Coke and they didn't have it on the ship, so I waited until I went ashore to get one.
We purchased five nights at a specialty restaurant which is a necessity. The food included in the cruise price wasn't very good. Buffet Breakfast is served in the Aloha Cafe and that food was good, but I felt like I was running with the bulls in Pamplona at breakfast time. Cafe Moderna opens later for breakfast, but when you have an early tour you have to brave the crowds and it isn't something we enjoyed at all. The lunch buffet in the Aloha Cafe was the weakest meal presentation. Food just wasn't good. It was low end institutional food.
We had dinner at Cagney's twice and it was excellent. La Cucina, the Italian restaurant was fair. My veal had congealed Marsala sauce on it. Jefferson's Bistro, the French restaurant was good. Moderna was a Brazilian restaurant and the salad bar and grilled pineapple were great. One night we ate in the Liberty restaurant that is included in the cruise price and the food was fair. They served the smallest salad I have ever seen. We opted to try the Cadillac Diner one night and the food was horrible. My friend ordered chicken wings that weren't edible and the fries weren't hot. There were only four other people in the diner, so the food should at least been hot. I would avoid this restaurant at all costs. I can't imagine sailing on this ship without going to the specialty restaurants every night.
The shore excursions we took were very good. We went to Haleakala Crater, whale watching and Lahaina in Maui. The whale watching tour was very rough and I needed more than Bonine on the boat ride. On the Big Island, we took the Doors Off Helicopter ride over Kilauea and it was great. In Kauai, we took the Mokihana Helicopter tour and it was beautiful. Although I was in the number 7 seat, so I didn't get as good an opportunity for photos of the Napali Coast as other people did. The unexpected highlight of the shore excursions was our Jewels of Hawaii-Waterfall and Tropical Gardens tour. It was a very interesting tour and Bob, our tour guide was very knowledgeable.
The fitness center was very nice, but I need water when I work out and having to get off the elliptical and go to the water fountain isn't something a guest should have to do. Give the guests complimentary water bottles.
We disliked the multiple photo opportunities the ship offered. We avoided them like the plague.
The shower in the cabin was extremely small. I don't know how they expect females to shave their legs. I would have appreciated having a separate hair conditioner in the shower. I have to use sulfate free shampoo because of a Keratin treatment, so I always bring my own shampoo, but I expected to have conditioner available.
The ship charges extra for gelato and special desserts. I don't like a cruise that nickels and dimes you and this one certainly did.
I drank a lot of tea, iced tea and water. The cups and glasses were very small and you constantly had to get up for a refill. I would encourage them to have bigger cups and glasses.
I did not go to any entertainment, movies or to the pool. It is hard to get excited about the Men's Sexiest Leg Contest, the Perfect Couple contest, Star Wars and King Kong type movies. It would have been nice to have had a DVD in the room and a DVD lending library. Fortunately, I had a long book to read.
The biggest plus of this cruise was that it was an efficient way to see the islands and the above average shore excursions. I highly recommend dining in a specialty restaurant every night though.
NCL has to change their policy of charging for water. It is a deal breaker for me on booking another NCL cruise.