Having been to Hawaii more than 20 times during our working life, we thought seeing it from a ship would be an interesting way to go. We flew to Honolulu the Thursday before departure and stayed at the Best Western Plus Coconut Waikiki Hotel, small and convenient to the Waikiki area,
We left the hotel at noon for embarkation on the Pride of America. The process went very smoothly as the space is much larger than seen at other ports. Documents and ID are checked, luggage is then dropped off on conveyor belts, person and hand luggage security takes place, then the welcome photo is taken prior to check-in (a good idea in my opinion). Check-in begins at noon, so there are a lot of people in line but the line moved very quickly. The ship's comedian was there talking to the people as they waited which kept everyone happy and not cranky...
After check in, boarding was immediate onto Deck 5 which is quite expansive. We were directed to the Aloha Cafe on Deck 11 for lunch. We first found a seat in the Gold Rush Saloon which is next to the Aloha Cafe. We found it to be much quieter and always tried to sit there when we went to the Aloha Cafe for breakfast and lunch. We found the food in the Aloha Cafe to be quite good and we liked the multiple station set up they have.
The staterooms were available between 2 and 2:30. Our balcony cabin was on Deck 8. The cabin was small but had adequate storage for 7 days once I figured out where the various drawers were. We did not meet our steward Roberto until the second day but the cabin service was very good and our cabin was always clean and made up upon our return from our daily shore activities.
We ate all our dinners in the Liberty Dining Room. Service, with one exception, was outstanding. Since we eat early, we always had a nice window table for two; this was especially nice the last night as we sailed along the coast of Kauai. The food was generally very good. In my case, the kitchen fell down on the beef as the nights I had prime rib and steak, it was dry and tough. The fish dishes were excellent as were the appetizers and desserts. The menu is set up as a three course meal but I noticed some people ordered 4 courses. The other non-charge Dining Room is the Skyline and I was told by one server the difference is the Liberty has a dress code and a different menu.
We were with another couple so rented a car on Maui and Kauai to see the sights we wanted to. All of us had been to the islands in the past. We did take the ship's tour in Hilo called Flowers and Coffee with two delightful men in a 24 passenger van. It was definitely the best ship's tour I have ever taken and I have been on almost 50 cruises.
The ship is lovely, vibrant colors and spacious public areas on Decks 5 and 6. I especially liked exhibits of the history of Hawaii and cruising Hawaii in the past on Deck 6. The Library is also a treasure. But one really does not have much time to explore these areas as this is a destination cruise. We did not attend any activities or shows but there was a lot to do on the ship from reading the Freestyle Daily.
Easy walk off disembarkation was a breeze. The fastest I have experienced on any ship. The lobby area on Deck 5 is so large, it makes leaving easy. There were three stations to swipe your card. We went down there as soon as the announcement was made for Easy walk off passengers and there was no one ahead of us. We spent the day in Honolulu as our flight to Los Angeles did not leave until 8:45PM.
Overall I think sailing on the Pride of America is the best way to really experience the Hawaiian Islands since you have two whole days on each of Maui, Hawaii, and Kauai. I went on this ship with some trepidation and low expectations due to the negative reviews on Cruise Critic but I came away extremely satisfied and pleased with the Pride of America, the ship, the service, and the friendliness of the crew.