Since most of my information about cruising comes from this site I want to provide a detailed review for others who also use this site to get information about this cruise.
This was our 2nd cruise and thus everything was compared to the first which was last year at the same time. It was the Adventure of the Seas in the Southern Caribbean.
Embarkation in Honolulu was a breeze, there were no lines and we were on the ship within 15 minutes after being dropped off. The other process in San Juan last year was also smooth for us because we had a suite however guests without a suite who had to stand in that line were probably there for hours. Again, no line in Honolulu for any cruise ship passenger.
The ship was as mentioned, as expected. It was not that exciting. It is older and could use an update which I understand it will be getting in the sprint. We had an aft balcony and upon entering we immediately noticed there was dust everywhere, the mirror was not clean in the main cabin area. There were hairs everywhere, sink, shower, bed. Also someone had left a pair socks in one of the drawers so obviously the room was not cleaned very well or those would have been found. There was plenty of storage and the suitcases fit neatly under the bed. The balcony was nice and about the same size as on the Adventure of the Seas however these balconies were not at all private. There were openings at the top, bottom, sides. On Royal Caribbean's ship the balconies were extremely private with the partitions going from the floor to the ceiling. There were no marking on the dispenser in the shower as to what was in them and the person on the phone at reception had no idea but said he thought the one on the left was shampoo. We never once met our stateroom attendant. Perhaps NCL doesn't do that? Our room was made up however each day that wanted it to be.
The TV was very small, 9" maybe...perhaps a little bigger and very old school. Don't go on a cruise to watch TV so for us this didn't matter. However on Royal Caribbean you could use your TV to check your balance and do a lot of cool stuff, not here. I called down to guest services to get our room balance and was told we had to actually come down to the desk for security reasons. Why is getting a balance a security issue in the first place? You can obviously see what room I'm calling from so chances are, if i'm in the room...it's ok to tell me the balance...this policy seemed very strange to me.
Luckily we did not go to Hawaii for the ship, we went to visit all the Islands with hopes of determining which we liked best. This was our first trip to Hawaii.
The food was not good. I do not go on cruises for the food or to expect fine dining however I found several things on the ship inedible. Comparing it to Royal Caribbean, well there is just no comparison. The food on Royal Caribbean was amazing. All the buffets, restaurants, snack bars, etc. The breakfast buffet on the Pride of America was the worst food I have ever tried to eat. Nothing was good, and I'm not being overly picky I don't think...it was just bad. We ate in both Liberty and Skyline and the portions were tiny and the food was just ok. It was better than the breakfast buffet but still, wasn't that great. The food on Royal Caribbean was restaurant quality, on this ship it wasn't at all. We didn't eat lunch on the ship ever. I realize you can order as much food as you want but that's not the point, portions were small, food didn't have taste.
Service was just ok as well. There was one bartender at one of the bars, can't remember the name but (excuse the language) was a down right bitch. We avoided going to her at all costs. She was rude to the guests, other employees, etc. This was the bar that had the evening happy hours, it was on the back of the ship on the same level as the buffet.
Not much to do on the ship in the evening that was our style entertainment. Didn't see the comedian so can't comment on that. The tribute to Frankie Vallie was pretty good, the broadway show was horrendous. There were some things going on that we didn't do so I'm not saying it was all bad, perhaps some of it was good. I found the timing of some of the shows/activities to be odd. For example the bar crawl that they do on the first day started I believe at 5. I don't really want to do a bar crawl at 5, would have been better if it were later in the night but I guess they may do that for crowd control.
Not a complaint per se but I found it interesting that during the overnight stops, hardly anything was open on the ship. Bars especially. It was a challenge to find a bar open to get a drink, and none were anywhere close to the pools/hot tubs. I guess most people stay out on the Islands late? I would think you would want to server the guests that decide to come back early?
The best entertainment was in Pink's Champagne bar, David on the piano was very entertaining. Most nights he had a theme, broadway, elton john, etc. Some night he just played and sang. We spend every evening here listening to him.
We decided we prefer the bigger ships with more options. Again though we didn't go for the food, entertainment. There were some tributes that weren't really our thing but were younger than most on the ship (32 and 28) so most of the shows/activities were geared toward an older crowd.
side note: the beer was never cold, I tried getting it from several bars and it was always the same temperature.
We enjoyed the happy hour at one of the bars each evening, they had mai tais and sangraia on happy hours, again can't remember the name of the bar but its on the very back of the ship at the end of the buffet, just walk through the buffet and head all the way back to the very back of the ship. This is also a great place to take your food to eat, there are plenty of tables and it's generally less crowded than the buffet.
We were going to upgrade to a suite or better room but there was a sign at guest services indicating there would be no room changes due to the occupancy of the ship. I found this interesting because in my opinion this ship couldn't have been sold out. There were many evening that we would be the only people out on deck and we never had to wait for dinner. Just didn't seem like the ship had 2000+ people on it...maybe i'm wrong
There is a $5 fee to get pizza delivered to your room. It was one of the many things on the cruise that go on the list of "one of the worst things i've ever eaten in my life"
There is no adults only area which is annoying, luckily there weren't many kids on the ship. The main pool is rather small and we didn't spend much time there. There is another pool (very small, looks like a hot tub) on the back on the ship and a hot tub with bar close so we spend most of the time back there. It was a small area but never crowded. Although in the main hot tubs by the main pool there are servers that come to ask if you want anything...in the hot tub on the back of the ship, even though it's right next to 2 bars, no service...don't understand this
The ship serves its purpose for a floating hotel to see Hawaii. I don't think I would want to be on this ship again for a week however. Next time will just go to Hawaii for a week and pick an island. I will do individual port reviews instead of doing those here.
We had decided we probably wouldn't do NCL again however we spoke with someone on one of the shuttle buses who said she did the Epic last year and had done NCL many years previously and doing the Pride of America was like doing another cruise line. She told us to not judge NCL by this ship because all her other experiences were far superior. So we will most likely do the Mediterranean on the Epic next year.
Also, I realize there probably isn't anything anyone can do about this but the first, second, and next to last night at sea was extremely rocky. The ship rolled so much it was hard to sleep. We were near the back so i'm sure that didn't help and people mentioned that because it was November the waves were higher. I don't get seasick but the rolling around was a little uneasy at times. I imagine for people who are sensitive to motion sickness that this would be a problem. I don't want to make anyone unease about taking the cruise but for people who are concerned I thought I'd mention it. Perhaps it was the location of our stateroom or the time of year.
In summary, I would recommend this cruise for anyone who wants to see Hawaii and perhaps who have never been. I will say to anyone who has never cruised before that this cruise should not be what you use to compare to other cruises. Again, I'm not an expert and have only cruised one other time but I can say without a doubt there are better ships and cruises out there. I will reserve my final judgement about NCL after we cruse the Epic next year. I would be happy to answer any specific questions about this cruise/ship, etc. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org