Preface: Let me start by saying we have cruised 8 plus times with all but one being on Royal Caribbean. Like a lot of people Norwegian was chosen for this cruise not for the line but for the itinerary of starting, staying, and ending entirely in the Hawaiian islands. Since the ports are great and their are many reviews on them (they are great) I will instead review the Norwegian Pride of American product versus Royal Caribbean in key areas. One additional notation is the last cruise on Royal Caribbean was in 2010 so any significant changes since then is not reflected.
Embarkation: After flying in from Atlanta Georgia two days a before the cruise and spending a day driving around Oahu we arrive at the port via rental shuttle at around noon. Security and checking in was a breeze. We had to sit for about 30 minutes before being allowed on the ship but there was entertainment to keep us pacified.
Score: Norwegian POA-A
Ship-While the POA does not have the wow factor of some of RCCL's ships it is a beautiful ship in its own right. Even though it is scheduled to go to dry dock in a few months the ship was in excellent shape. Layout was very easy to navigate and a lot of outdoor spaces are available for very good crowd control. Never felt crowded at all and the elevators were the fastest and least crowded we have ever experienced. Also enjoyed the fact that there not smoky casino you had to walk through to get to key areas.
Score: Norwegian POA- A
Crew: If you are worried about the mostly American crew don't be. We found them to be friendly and hard working without being intrusive. My wife and I particularly liked the fact the bar waiters would kindly ask you if wanted anything including soft drinks or water. Completely non pushy which
was great. Also very little pushing of jewelry, clothing etc. A very pleasant change.
Note: we never formally met our cabin steward but he did a great job keeping our cabin clean.
Score: Norwegian POA- A
Cabin: Obstructed ocean view - comparable in size to other ocean views we have had with great storage, layout and large bathroom then most. Location was on the 7th deck aft. Good location with the exception of having a crew access door across the hall which made for a noisy environment early in the morning.
Score: Norwegian POA- a
RCC L -- A
Entertainment: We did not attend most of the major production shows but several of the crew sponsored shows such as not so newlywed game, Quest and crew talent show. The ones attended were very good but I could tell that the facilities would not support the type of major entertainment you see on the larger RCCL'S ships.
Score- Norwegian POA- B
Food- Buffet- Ate most breakfast and at least three dinners here. The selection was pretty good and the food was pretty varied and overall good. There however was noticeably fewer selections in the desert category and in the salad topping area. One big plus is the outdoor buffet serving and seating area at the back of the ship. This is very nice.
Score: Norwegian POA- B
Main dining room- Here was the main problem area. Two of the three nights we ate there the staff did not seem to have a clue. From not knowing the proper table to take you to, to waiting for over 30 minutes between appetizers and the main course. The food itself was not very good and presentation was non-existent. It is very apparent they are trying to push you to extra fee restaurants. If this is the case either do away with the free restaurants or charge more the cruise for decent food. On a positive note we did enjoy the ability to just walk up to any of the restaurants and basically walk in.
Score: Norwegian POA- C
Debarkation: Chose to walk off the ship on our own with luggage. This was very efficient.
Conclusion: The POA is a wonderful ship with a good friendly crew and an unbeatable itinerary for A sampling of Hawaii. Would I chose another Norwegian cruise in the future? If the price and itinerary were good I certainly would.