I went with my family (husband, mother, and three year old daughter) on our first cruise ever on the Pride of America from December 16-23 and we had a fabulous time. I thought the ship was beautiful. My husband says it was one of the best vacations he's been on. We had two balcony cabins, which provided us the opportunity to step outside our rooms and watch red lava flowing from Mt. Kilauea into the ocean at night, and to view the Napali Coast on our last evening at sea. I'll review some key items point by point.
Embarkation/Disembarkation: It all went very smoothly. We went to board the ship around noon. There were no lines and we were checked in and on the ship very quickly. On disembarkation day, we lingered over breakfast and waited a bit after our color was called before we got off. We were in no hurry to leave -- we were joking about stowing away for another journey! It just took a few minutes to walk off the ship and collect our bags.
Service: We found the service, with a few minor flaws, to be exceptional. We were really impressed with how terrific most of the staff on the ship was. They genuinely seemed to care about doing a good job. One of the few areas service fell short that is worth mentioning has to do with flickering lighting in the bathroom of my mother's cabin. She telephoned once to report the problem and later went to the reception desk to report it in person, and after that simply gave up. I think, even if the maintenance staff were unable to fix the lighting at the time, they should have explained that to her. But I also need to stress that my mother never even mentions the lighting when she talks about our vacation -- it's all about what a wonderful time she had and how indulged we were on the ship. And as an example at the other extreme - on our evening in Maui, we were driving our rental car in the area by the ship, unsure of where to park, when we saw an NCLA crew member (identified by his name tag) walking away from the ship. We asked him where we should park, and he said he didn't know, but would find out. He actually ran all the way back to the security guards at the entrance of the ship to ask where we should park, as opposed to telling us to ask them ourselves! Talk about going the extra mile!
Food: We all thought the food was great. The ship has so many restaurants and choices, it's hard not to find something to please everyone. We ate once at the Jefferson's Bistro once at Little Italy, and once at the Cadillac Diner. Quite a variety, and all good. My daughter loved the ice cream machines at the Aloha Cafe. My mother and I preferred being waited on in the Liberty or Skyline dining room(buffets seem too frenetic to me)while my husband really enjoyed all of the choices and the ability to help himself at the buffet in the Aloha Cafe. We compromised and did both at alternate times.
Entertainment: We went to most of the shows in the Hollywood Lounge, and found them entertaining enough. The singers have very good voices. My husband and I really enjoyed one of the comedians - I think his name was Chris Alpine, so we made a point of going to his second show for adults. My mother and I really enjoyed the pianist from Louisiana in Pink's Champagne bar. He was really good. My husband and I enjoyed dancing in the Mardi Gras lounge on a couple nights -- it's been awhile since we took the time to go out dancing!
Pools/Hot Tubs: The pool area had a festive atmosphere, with live music often being played and drinks in pineapples available at the bars. The temperature of the four hot tubs is set in progressive order from low to high, according to my husband who spoke with one of the workers about it. So if one hot tub doesn't seem hot enough, try another! There actually is a little children's splash pool outside the kid's club on the Pride of America -- when I checked the NCL website it first appeared there wasn't a children's pool, but in fact there is.
Kids Club: It was great having the kid's club available, especially when my daughter got fidgety during meal times and I could whisk her off to a place where she could do fun kid stuff. I'd have preferred a larger play area with windows for the two-five year olds, but it seemed the kids were rotated out periodically into the larger room with play structures and even the teen center. It also seemed the counselors were way outnumbered by kids at times and could have used some help, but this is undoubtedly due to the fact we were sailing around Christmas time.
The important thing is, my daughter enjoyed the kids club. She especially enjoyed dressing up as a pirate and hunting for treasure. They had other fun theme nights as well, such as a pajama party night and a prince and princess night. The Kids club hours are 9:00 - 12:00, 2:00 - 5:00 (only open in the afternoon when the ship is at sea) and 7:00 - 10:00 in the evening. kids club also offered babysitting for $5.00 an hour when the ship was in port, which we took advantage of to go on an excursion. The kids club staff were very good. In fact, many of the crew members in general. went out of their way to be friendly with our daughter, which was really nice. Some of the passengers, too!
Excursions: My husband and I went on one ship-sponsored excursion, the Captain Zodiac snorkeling tour. The snorkeling was incredible -- lots of beautiful tropical fish, some of which you'll find nowhere else. We were really glad we did this. Other than that, the rest of the time we rented cars and explored the islands on our own. The downside to me about doing this was, in the back of my mind I'd feel worry that we'd be delayed and wouldn't make it back to the ship in time.
For example, in Hilo, the ship pulled into port a little late, and there was a long line at the Thrifty rental car counter, and even though I was a Blue Chip member and could take advantage of express service at the Blue Chip counter, I had to deal with a lady telling me it wasn't fair and daggers in my back. And then, on the way back to the ship, there was a long line of people waiting for the Thrifty shuttles, and they were coming slowly. We were supposed to be on the ship at 5:30, and at 5:10 were still waiting for a shuttle. At that point we jumped on an Alamo shuttle -- there seemed to be plenty of those! We had visited Volcano National Park and it was an amazing place, but if I were to do it again, I'd arrange a tour through the ship! It was just stressful. In fact, this aspect of the trip made me think of the benefits of vacations at all-inclusive resorts, where you can really relax (although, of course, you don't see as much!)
Other trips we took besides Volcano National Park in Hilo -- on Maui, we went to Kanapali Beach by the Whaler's Village shopping center to go snorkeling by the black rock. The snorkeling there was excellent -- lots of beautiful fish to see, and we saw a sea turtle as well. We also went to Iao Valley state park, which is a really beautiful place, just a short distance from where the ship docks. In Kauai we went on a hike -- it was raining and muddy and the footing on the trail was a bit treacherous, but it was an adventure.
All in all, we had a memorable time. The thing I liked about this cruise is that it had something to offer for each one of us. I especially enjoyed the opportunity to go dancing, my mother liked sipping a drink and listening to the pianist in Pink's Champagne bar, my husband enjoyed sitting out on our balcony in the evening while we were at sea, and my daughter loved the pools. We're ready to do it again someday!