Geez, from all the negativity you'd think the Pride of America was doomed! I was very skeptical, thank to everyone's reviews, prior to getting on the ship. While some of the concerns were true, I feel some balance needs to be voiced.
We just arrived home yesterday. We did NOT book our flight through NCL because we decided we'd prefer to travel direct from Chicago. No problems with that. I must say, though, that in anticipation of our trip, the "customer service" that NCL offered was very poor. Mainly because they operate on Hawaii time, which, in the Midwest, is difficult to manage. If there was a 24-hour customer service line, it was kept a secret from us.
This was our 5th cruise. We've cruised Carnival 3 times, and Celebrity (truly our favorite) once. What we have learned is that you have to make your own fun, and take certain things in stride. We anticipated a lower service level once we learned it was an all-American crew. Sorry, but Americans are just not as service-oriented as are international crews. The crew here was, for the most part young, and not used to working 7-days a week. Many seemed dour-faced and unhappy.
We didn't like the casualness of the "Americanized" experience. Got sick of the "Howdys" and "Hey Guys" greetings. I think it downgraded the ship experience, personally. Though the housekeeping staff in our case was terrific, our complaints were mostly with the bartenders (slow, inattentive) and a couple of wait staff in the main dining rooms. In many cases, they did not know what they were serving, had not tried the food, nor could they offer suggestions at dinner. We asked a deck waiter what the drink of the day was and his response, "Hmmn, good question!" To us, that's just inexplicably bad training on someone's part.
The ship is beautifully decorated, especially the restaurants and the Napa Wine Bar. We decided not to get into the reservations game, and ate in the Liberty or Skyline all but one evening, and we were not disappointed! The food was wonderful in all cases, and never did we spend more than an hour dining. It just didn't make sense to us to spend up to $25.00 more per person to eat at a specialty restaurant.
As you can tell, we were not at all fans of the Freestyle dining. Our reasons? The expense, the stress of having to wait in line in hopes of getting the time/night you want. Phooey! We can do that at home. No thanks! Besides that, we really missed the camaraderie from past cruises when you're assigned to the same table at the same time every night. That was always the highlight of our day, and we've met the most wonderful people doing so. With freestyle dining, you're on your own, and we never really got to know anyone new.
We opted for an inside room on this cruise, only because we knew we wouldn't be in our room much, and we used the savings to spend on shore excursions, etc. Glad we did. We've had balconies in the past, but did not at all regret our decision. Our room was small, but adequate. I just don't understand why people seem to think that rooms should be large on a cruise ship! It's not the Love Boat! Deal with it!
This isn't a party ship. Entertainment can't compare with Carnival, there's not a lot to do at night, but that was okay with us, as we were raring to go each morning. Excursions (zipline, hiking, snorkeling)were terrific though expensive, but everything was. Everyone has their opinions, but in our minds, we were in Hawaii for 7 days for goodness sake! How bad could it really be??!! We loved it!