A number of years ago my husband and I sailed on the P of A and while the boat and staff was just ok, we loved Hawaii. His cousin and husband had never been and wanted to go so we decided to give it another go. What a great decision !! This time the boat was such a better match to the paradise that is Hawaii. We had a truly wonderful cruise.
We landed in Honolulu the night before (the way this winter's been going, you just never know). We stayed at the Hale Koa, which is the hotel owned by the US armed services. The cousin got us all in (and yes, we did salute her at least once...). It was terrific. I left my kindle in our room and it waiting all clean and ready for me when we returned the following Saturday.
So from the army hotel to the Pride of America - USA all the way! Checking in and waiting for the boat to board was easy. They had some entertainers out ther trying to keep us all occupied. Frankly we were all so happy and excited, they could have brought out a cook's 3rd grade flute player and we would have been happy.
Bags were delivered to the room before the estimated time the room was fine with storage everywhere. No wasted space on a cruise ship!
The first night was a bit of a disappointment as our shower and sink had no hot water. Or warm water for that matter. After my H stopped shivering and called housekeeping, they responded immediately and fixed everything promptly, while we were at dinner.
And that's when we started seeing what had changed on P of A. Prompt service was just the beginning. At dinner in the Liberty (one of 2 main dining rooms) the service was terrific. The staff is all American. Our last trip, the service was slow and given indifferent to us, the customer. This time the servers were jolly, prompt, friendly without being too friendly, and just overall wonderful.
And this held up through the entire cruise. Stop at the bottom of the stair with a puzzled look on your face? A staff member comes over with a smile to help. Ask for a different sauce they don't have at the lunch buffet? I kid you not - I walked by the station a few minutes later, and the server called out to me that they'd gotten that sauce from the kitchen for me.
I just cannot say enough about the service. It was as if each and everyone was in a competition to out-nice the one before. Shout outs to Vanessa, Annie, Patrick, Ritz, Cody and Hailey!
I won't go through each port. But I will make a few comments. First, getting off the boat Kahului -what a pain. A dolphin and a pineapple blocked everyone getting off the gangway. I don't mind photographers at the gangway, and have no trouble bypassing them. However when they have the exit completely blocked such that we stood on the ramp as they insisted on taking each Preston's picture that's just too much. When our turn came and we started to walk through, the dolphin actually grabbed my arm. That was totally uncalled for. I actually called the ship and complained.
When we docked in Maui, we rented a car to drive to Lahaina. To see whales when your boat is at Kahului, you need to drive to Lahaina for the best whale watching. Be careful with this drive. We left at 9 on a Sunday morning and the drive took us about 30 minutes. No pro elms - although parking is very tough. However when we left the cars to Lahaina were a parking lot. So when posters on cruise rigid say to give it an hour or more, there're accurate. The traffic to Lahaina was bad, at least when we were leaving at 3pm.
Whale watching at Maui was great - you are absolutely guaranteed to see multiple tails and fins. We went with Pacific Whale Foundation. The boat was very large, about 140. I would have preferred a small boat. Any time you get on a boat and the first thing they do is introduce the bar tender, you know you're a tourist. But the narration was fine and helpful. Don't worry about seating. You're free to wander around so no problems.
Side note: do you like decent shampoo that feels like shampoo and not thick water? Then bring your own. Ditto the soap.
I had worried about not being on the side of the ship to see the lava. Not really an issue, since to get the best view you really need to be as high as possible as it was on the the top of the cliffs. I suggest (unless you're lucky enough to have a top deck suite on the starboard side) your best view is then11th deck starboard. Best seats were taken by 45 minutes in advance. The tell you well in advance when you should expect to pass it. For us that was around 10:30pm on the day after Hilo on the way to Kona.
Many posters have commented that the Fern Grotto is not worth seeing. We decided to see it, just to check it out for ourselves. Guess what - they're all right. It's really boring. And the boat trip out to see it isn't much of anything either. The Canyon is a must-see though. Really unexpected to find a canyon like that in Hawaii but it was much better than a mere surprise. Beautiful.
Hate to end on a down note, but the drinks. Really? Those were drinks? People were sending them back right and left. At one point the server brought my husband's drink - or whatever it was. An inch of liquid in a tall glass full og bare ice cubes - and the man sitting nearby said in a strong Australian accent "You call that a drink, mate? That's no drink" and the server just took it back without a word. It was pretty funny. But not if we'd paid $7.50 for it. Unfortunately we hate to rate the bartender a 1. We felt bad about that. But a drink you pay that kind of money for should not taste like a) cool aid; or b) nothing.
The P of A is in dry dock now getting refurbished. But I hope they keep the staff and the itinerary. Just stellar. Happy sailing!