We've cruised with a couple of the other international lines, really enjoyed the Pride of Aloha, and would definitely do it again. You should read the dozens of positive reviews below for more details on how to create the best possible experience aboard this ship, which is what we did before the cruise. With a little research you can avoid all the potential pitfalls which could spoil your fun. Face it -- nobody wants to listen to fellow passengers whining about their petty complaints, most of which are the result of poor planning. DO YOUR RESEARCH!
We heard a variety of (secondhand, questionable) horror stories from one lady, and of course we were familiar with the ship's teething problems thanks to the reviews below, but in the end we concluded that this cruise was every bit as good as the others we'd tried. BTW, I mentioned this to the maitre de of the buffet, and he was quick to state that they were still working hard to improve their standards and deal with the staff More
turnover problem. I told him management should consider upping their wages if they were that concerned, and he got a good laugh out of that concept! Not gonna happen!
Here are a few random thoughts:
Yes, the cabins are tiny, especially the inside ones like we had, but who cares? The steward did a great job, and we tipped him well. We also tipped at all the dining room meals, BTW, although I doubt that the crew will keelhaul you if you choose not to.
Lots of excursions to pick from, but we usually just walked out on Deck 12 after breakfast at the buffet (you can get a great omelet custom made to your specifications at two locations), identified a beach we could get to easily, then visited it for a little tanning and (on some beaches) swimming. We tried for the Old Lahaina Lu'au, which seems to be highly recommended, but we discovered (too late) that you must make reservations at least a month ahead of time (not an NCL excursion, BTW).
We tried every restaurant (except for the Palace) and they were all good, even the extra charge ones. The buffet (inside and outside) was perfect for breakfast and lunch, and we went to dinner there once (prime and short rib night) and thought the food was generally excellent. No complaints here about the quality, or quantity of the food on this ship!
Other reviewers noted the problem with bringing liquor aboard. Don't bother. I had a small Swiss Army knife in my luggage, which showed up on the X-ray machine, so while waiting to retrieve my bag the first evening I got to watch while numerous people complained bitterly as their liquor was confiscated by security until the end of the cruise. You can bring a bottle of wine aboard, after obtaining permission, but there's a $15 corkage charge!!! The security staff pretty much conceded that this policy was all about (surprise, surprise) money, but there's nothing they can do about it. My advice? Bite the bullet and expect a healthy bar bill on your door the last night of the cruise. I had to rip my luggage apart so security could seize my dangerous little 2" blade for the remainder of the trip, which I'm sure made my fellow passengers sleep better at night! Of course later that evening I went up to the buffet and was handed a knife with a 6" serrated blade and sharpened point that looked a bit like a Bowie knife, so I had to wonder which genius came up with NCL's brilliant jackknife policy. Rethink this please, NCL.
The entertainment was generally pretty good, and we particularly enjoyed Dave Morgan who plays guitar and sings most nights in the Plantation lounge. Unbelievably talented guitar player if you're into that sort of thing (and we are!) and the perfect way to finish off a fine cruising evening. The comedians and magicians were quite good, and well worth watching. If you pick the early dinners and show up promptly at 5:30, you can get to the early shows no problem. Again, read the other reviews below to check out your options.
All in all, I'd say NCL has done a fabulous job of solving their teething problems. It's a great way to see the different islands, and we found our trip to be very relaxing. Some minor problems we encountered:
We had to travel Xmas week, and couldn't commit until a couple of months before the cruise, so we couldn't get flights direct from Vancouver to Hawaii. Consequently, thanks to NCL, we ended up flying many unnecessary extra hours to get there, especially on the way home, which lasted all night and the next morning and seemed like an eternity. Book ahead!
One nitpick I had, as someone who compensates for excessive food consumption by walking around Deck 12 at the end of the evening, concerns the waist high ship's railings at the aft end of Deck 12 on each side of the restaurant/Plantation bar. The railings are not high enough to restrain tall people who happen to fall in that direction, say when the seas get a little rough. You notice little things like this while dodging oblivious/obliterated fellow passengers on that narrow stretch of deck. It's a long way down. Sooner or later NCL is going to have to address this safety issue, preferably before an unfortunate mishap occurs.
Would I recommend this cruise to friends? Yep, although I'd force them to wade through these reviews first so they knew what they were getting into. Less