We had wanted to cruise around Hawaii for some time but did not fancy the 4 days sailing there and back necessary with most cruise lines. For that reason we elected to book on NCL's Pride of America. As it is a very long trip from the UK we decided to break it up by staying in San Francisco for 3 days and had a great time there. We then enjoyed 3 days in the Hilton on Waikiki Beach prior to our cruise. We loved the Waikiki Beach area although it is generally quite expensive. We made good use of the ABC stores and bought sandwiches etc there for our lunches to save on costs. We had a great meal out at the Shore Bird where you order your meal and it is brought to your table raw and you then cook it yourself on the huge BBQ - you can also help yourself to as much salad as you want. Look out for the booklets at the airport and in many public places as these contain lots of money off vouchers and we got a good reduction using these. On our last evening we had booked on line to go to Germaine's Luau. The coach picked us up outside our hotel and took us to a lovely location on the beach where we watched the unearthing of the pig from the imu. We enjoyed watching the show which was done with lots of humour. We each had 3 free alcoholic drinks and I can vouch for the fact that the Mai Thais were very strong! The food was plentiful and OK. The location on the beach really made this and it was one of the cheaper Luaus I found and well worth it. The coach trip back to our hotel was good fun as the driver had us all singing along with him.
On the Saturday morning we took a taxi to the cruise port and walked through the easiest booking in we have ever had. The ladies were all given a fresh flower lei and the gents received a shell one. Our cabins were not ready so we had lunch in the Aloha buffet. There was plenty of room and in fact we never had a problem finding a table there throughout the cruise. The food in there was very good with a good selection every day. I am a Coeliac so need a gluten free diet. I spoke to one of the chefs who could not do enough to help and told me he would tell me every day what I could or could not eat. He even had packets of cookies ready for me. We then went to find our cabin 7668. This is the first time we had treated ourselves to a balcony and I was so glad we did. The cabin was quite small and it was a little awkward moving around when 2 of us were there. Most afternoons my husband took himself off to the gym and had his shower there to leave me free to use the cabin. There were no little goody bottles in the bathroom but dispensers in the shower provide shampoo and shower gel. The bed was very comfortable and there was plenty of storage space. We asked for the contents of our mini bar to be removed so that we could make use of the fridge and this was done straight away. There is coffee making facilities in the cabin and fresh supplies are left daily but never very much so we usually had to ask for more.
This ship is not quite the same as the other cruise ships we have been on but I expected that as this cruise is all about the itinerary and very port intensive. There was not quite the same glitz and glamour such as the huge atrium but everything was clean and more than adequate. For dinner we used Skyliners and Liberty which were the 2 main dining rooms. We found that Liberty was slightly better - they do enforce the dress code in there so no shorts etc were allowed and we prefer that in the evenings. We were on freedom dining so just turned up when we wanted to and never had to wait more than 10 minutes for a table. We did have one big problem on the ship and that was with the food. We are not complainers and the food was always delicious but never hot enough. Most nights my husband sent his back to the kitchen to go in the microwave and this is not honestly something that should happen. After completing the comment cards and asking for someone to contact me about the problem with no success we decided to ask to speak to the manager. He did acknowledge the problem and was very apologetic and gave us a complimentary meal in one of the speciality restaurants. We elected to go to Jeffersons Bistro on our last night and did enjoy a lovely meal in there. We also received cookies and strawberries dipped in chocolate delivered to our cabin. This was welcome as an apology but the underlying problem does need to be sorted. We did feel that there was a shortage of staff in general on the ship as the serving staff in the restaurants were very harassed and did not seem to really engage with passengers in the way we have usually seen. We also had problems getting served in the bars and often had to go to the bar ourselves to get drinks.
In terms of entertainment - we did not see a lot of it as to be honest most evenings we were so tired after a busy day that we needed an early night. We did go into the Hollywood theatre a couple of times but thought the shows were OK but not great. However there was a Four Seasons tribute group on and they were brilliant - hilariously funny as well as good singers. There was also a comedian called Tim Kaminski but unfortunately we missed most of his show due to talking to the dining room manager but from what we did see he seemed to have a great act. There was also a very good group who performed by the pool -they were Jimmy Mac and the Kool Cats and they involved everyone and were great fun.
I had taken my iPad with me so wanted to make use of the wifi on board. I elected to use pay as you go which worked out at 0.75 cents per minute plus 3.75 activation fee - it was very easy to use and great to be able to send photos home.
The cabin we had was an aft balcony and this proved well worth the cost if only for the fantastic experience of sailing past the Na Pali coast which is just spectacular. It was so lovely to do this in the comfort of our own balcony and I would definitely recommend this.
I did find the daily paper a little disappointing as it did not seem to give quite as much information as I have usually seen but that is a minor point.
Everyone has their favourite cruise lines and I do still prefer P & O. I think it may be a mistake to judge NCL purely on the basis of the POA because it is a different type of ship used for a specific purpose and it works well for that.
One thing I will recommend is doing research and booking trips independently. I was a little nervous about doing this but both Roberts and Valley Isle are companies you can be confident in using when you visit the Hawaiian islands. You will see from the trips that we did that we are not into water sports which is obviously very popular on cruises like this. Our ages and heart and back problems preclude these for us so we opt for the more sedate activities.