We had a very nice cruise on the Pride of America Feb 23-Mar 2, 2013. 2nd cruise, 1st with Norwegian. We booked a balcony (regretted not doing this on our first cruise). Were offered an upgrade a couple of weeks before the cruise to a penthouse unit, and took it at a great price. Large balcony and a quiet cabin and great individual service with a butler (George) and concierge (James) at our service. Besides the fantastic cabin, we also received breakfast and lunch at Lazy J's Steakhouse -- Filet Mignon and different eggs benedict for breakfast gave us lots of energy to thoroughly enjoy the busy itinerary of this cruise.
Service -- Due to the upgrade, it is quite possible the service we received everywhere on the ship, was improved over what we may have experienced from our original cabin. Our TV stopped working a day or two into the cruise, George (butler) had it looked at and replaced within 12 hours. Larry, our cabin steward was very attentive to us, and fulfilled our every need. Reading all of the previous posts, I wonder what the nationality is of those who complain that an "American" crew has a negative effect on quality or care of service (we're Canadian). NCL should hire Americans for this cruise, and I hope it's not American's complaining. We quite enjoyed all of the crew who served us (excursion desk, guest services, stores, bars and restaurants, embarkation and disembarkation). Friendly is, as friendly does -- maybe it was our approach, but for the most part, we had terrific service everywhere. If you are experiencing problems, you should contact guest services, just like you would in a hotel. Or, in the dining rooms, talk to the white sailor suit people, the bosses, and they will fix your problem quickly. Just like any cruise, or hotel, even though you prepay services, you should tip your cabin steward -- sooner the better -- pop a $20 in a towel animal and thank him/her. You will have towels and soaps for the rest of your cruise.
Itinerary -- This is the second cruise and the second time we chose a cruise that sailed at night to a new port almost every day. We pre-booked a snorkel/turtle cruise through NCL with Pacific Whale Foundation in Maui -- saw whales on the way there and back and became educated along the way about the whales and turtles we saw. Turtle Town is just off Wailea beach in Maui -- so, if you are staying there sometime after your cruise, this will give you the exact location to snorkel off your beach to see turtles.. many fabulous huge turtles. Pre-booked a Blue Hawaiian Helicopter tour over the volcano lava, very interesting, the pilot was very helpful with information during the excursion, as was the bus driver to the airport. Cruise sailed past the lava tubes at night on the way to Kona, no extra money? This was nice too. We wandered Kona Town then took a shuttle to snorkel in Turtle Bay - beach is awful there, but snorkelling OK. I think if I were to go there again, I'd rent a car in this port. Ziplined in Kaua'i with Just Live Zipline tours (booked through NCL). Matt and Doug were fantastic guides through the trees here, made us feel safe and really enjoy the experience. Don't bring your camera -- pay for the pictures after. It didn't cost much, and we split the cost with another cruisee and shared the photos -- bring a usb and do this too -- I had a laptop, but you could use the computer centre on board if you need. We really enjoyed our ziplining group of Americans and Canadians. Shuttle driver was very nice here too. We did a luau that they were heavily marketing on board in Kaua'i. If you've never done one, and like free mai tai's, go. Food was good. Entertainment told the story of Hawaii, so it was educational. Again, we had a very nice group of people at our table, so the evening was enjoyable, not a waste of time or money, but if money is tight, you could miss this type of excursion. Sailing past the Napali coast was a bonus the afternoon we left there. We were blessed with good weather for most of our cruise, and rainbows when the weather was a little dreary.
Ship, Food and Drink -- Our penthouse room was terrific, due to the upgrade I'm sure. All of the areas that we used, the theatres and lounges for entertainment, the main concourse with shops, library, internet room, were all in good condition. This is the first cruise we have seen with restaurants that charge a cover charge. Due to the upgrade, we ate at Lazy J's steakhouse 1 or 2x a day, so we avoided the restaurants with a cover for dinner, went to the Liberty dining room a few nights and had good service and hot food most nights. It's a busy place. One night there was a bit of a wait and they gave us champagne as we waited -- very very nice. We ate upstairs in the buffet area - many crew eat here too. Lots of variety. They had some very good hot meat dishes there (pork loin comes to mind), the taste of the prepared food (like rice or taco dishes) was not outstanding in the buffet, but that is probably typical of all mass meal buffets. Chocolate on this cruise was particularly tasteless. If NCL is using American chocolate, they should stop. The fruit and salads were very fresh and tasty in the buffet. The service crew and food in Cadillac Diner was a disappointment. This crew is not as professional as they are in the other restaurants -- almost like it is the training restaurant. We had great bar service on the pool deck. Husband bought a pop pass early in the cruise -- DON'T DO THIS ! NCL allows you to bring water and pop onto the cruise from the ports. I enjoyed the drinks of the day and much of the musical entertainment on the pool deck. The bar drinks were no more expensive than on our last cruise with Carnival, and were sometimes cheaper than on the Hawaiian mainland, where I found them to be double the price on the cruise sometimes. Happy Hour -- Pupu - is your friend if you want to save some money on drink. The newsletter you receive each day will tell you when and where to find one. There are many many lounge chairs and deck spots to enjoy the sun from. Explore your ship to find a quiet lounge chair if you are not enjoying the music. It's loud, but Yellow Bird is always nice to hear when you are escaping -20C weather at home. We had a large nice patio in our cabin that we used too, but we also enjoyed the pool deck very much. We enjoyed the entertainment at the Hollywood Theatre each night -- the jersey boy act, the comedian, the Hawaiian cultural show, the newlywed game, all very very well done. The cruise director was visible and friendly throughout the cruise.
Embarkation and Disembarkation when you upgrade to a penthouse or are a latitudes member is a wonderful way to go! We started our cruise boarding with a small group of people, a glass of champagne, a quick meeting with the excursion leader, then a wonderful lunch at Lazy J's Steakhouse. The Kona tender, when you don't dock at a dock but take a lifeboat to port, is taken care of by your concierge, no waiting, no lineups. Our concierge, James Lines, met with us every morning at breakfast to make sure we were covered with plans for the day. If we weren't, he offered ideas. He took care of booking anything we weren't prepared for. He really made us feel like we were important NCL customers. All of the Lazy J's servers, including the hostess, who quickly learned that we always wanted a window seat, were very attentive to our needs and helped us start our days off well with a fantastic breakfast and very good professional service.
We are animal lovers, and seeing whales from the boat every day was a particular highlight for us. Bring your binoculars. I barely read the book I brought because I spent so much time looking out at the ocean, watching the whales. My eyes are still tired.
I have no hesitation recommending this NCL Hawaiian cruise to anyone who wants to see much of Hawaii in a short amount of time, and to anyone who loves an excursion cruise.