Preface: This is the absolute best way to see Hawaii for the first time. You get quality time to spend on each of the 4 islands and depending on what excursions you take get to see quite a bit. The Hawaiian Islands are all markedly different from each other in lots of ways. We accomplished our goal of scoping out areas for an extended island stay at some point in the future. If you are an experienced cruiser, I would suggest that you lower your expectations as far as the ship is concerned as you will find below.
We opted to fly to Honolulu 3 days before the cruise. While 3 days in Honolulu is way too much, it did allow us to relax a bit before the cruise and also visit Pearl Harbor. We stayed at the Waikiki Marriott Resort and Spa which is an average hotel. This hotel also has the Norwegian Customer Service desk which was a huge help in getting pre-checked in and booking pre-cruise excursions.
This process was not very organized. Due to our pre-cruise hotel stay, we did have the quick check in option and we were checked in inside of 15 minutes after arrival at the port. Then we just had to join the regular cattle herd and wait for our section to be called for boarding. We struggled the whole time with where to be as there was no direction from any staff. We were also constantly being pushed aside and told to wait to allow ‘Priority’ passengers to pass and board. This whole process could be improved. We WERE presented with the dreaded Noro letter at check in as the ship had 50-100 cases of Noro on the previous weeks sailing. We were allowed on the ship, but had to wait about 2 hours before our cabin was ready due to the Noro special cleaning that was going on.
Pride of America is your average cruise ship. Moderate cleanliness, fairly nicely decorated, and fairly up to date. Sufficient public area space and deck space to accommodate all passengers. The ship doesn't flow well when trying to get from one place to the other so it took us a few days to get the hang of it. I think the recent ship upgrade had something to do with this.
The mostly American crew was mostly helpful, but noticeably lazy and unenthusiastic on average. I can't say that everyone was like this, but it was certainly noticeable. The ship is also understaffed in some areas like bartenders (long waits for drinks) and Aloha cafe table stewards (non-existent). So basically, service was not up to expectations on this ship.
We were under Noro lockdown for the first 4 days so there was no self service in the buffet and no salt and pepper shakers on the tables.
We only ate in the Skyline Dining Room 3 times (Lunch and Dinner on embark day and breakfast on disembark day) so I can’t give a lot of detail about the main dining rooms. That being said, the food quality was average compared to other cruises we have been on. For this cruise we opted to try most of the Specialty restaurants which we booked and paid for 45 days before getting on the ship.
Teppanyaki: Very good with a fun show by the chefs. Recommend.
Cagney’s: A first rate experience. Service, food, wine list, etc were all done very well. The steak was one of the best we had had in a while and we. We felt like we were in one of our favorite American steak houses. Highly recommend.
Jefferson’s Bistro: Another first rate experience. Excellent French inspired menu. Food was awesome, wine list was awesome, service was awesome. Great ambience. Highly recommend.
Moderno: Pretty good representation of a Churriscaria. Meats were presented on the traditional skewer tableside and sides were available buffet style. Recommend.
La Cucina: Fair. Food was good, service was adequate, atmosphere disappointing. You can tell this space was previously a hallway and was added during the latest ship upgrade. Would not recommend.
Cadillac Diner (no surcharge): Disappointing. Food was average and service was horrible. Would not recommend.
The Aloha Buffet was typical of any cruise ship. Very crowded at meal time but had lots of stations serving the same thing so that helped with the lines. There was lots of seating available if you were willing to walk a little bit to some of the satellite seating areas. There were no table stewards carting drink refills. The food was pretty good though and some of the presentations were quite creative. Again, we were on Noro lockdown most of the week, so there was no self service.
Lots to choose from and I would recommend booking them as soon as you can after booking your cruise as they fill up fast. I would also recommend booking the ’Deluxe’ versions of the excursions if they are offered. These include a meal and are given to the top rated tour companies. We had good experiences with all of these. We booked all of our excursions through Norwegian and we booked tours that would show us as much of the islands as possible.
This was the most organized disembark that we have experienced. You can walk off yourself or chose from 4-5 time slots at your own discretion. Luggage tags are obtained from the pursers desk. We waited in our cabin until they called our color and we were off the ship in short order. The luggage was organized well and easy to find and there was ample staff directing you to the proper exit line (transfers, tours, etc.).