Despite, the less the stellar reviews my girlfriend and I decided to book on the Pride of Aloha. We expected the islands to be the highlight of the trip; therefore we were looking for a floating hotel rather then a cruise experience.
Upon receiving our cruise package, we immediately set about planning our shore excursions. We chose an excursion that was listed in the package but not available on the website so I faxed our excursion form to NCL. I waited several days for a confirmation before calling NCL. They claimed to not have received my fax, but were able to quickly and easily book my excursions over the phone and email me a confirmation.
We began our trip with two days at the Waikiki Marriott. Although, NCL provided a greeter and a transfer from the airport we had a rental car and proceeded to the hotel on our own. NCL has their own office, across the lobby from the Front Desk. We were able to check in to the hotel and the cruise ship at the same time and all in a matter of minutes.
For those staying on Oahu I can highly recommend Germaine’s Luau. We had a great time and there was a free shuttle to/from the hotel. If you book online they also provide a free gift bag.
If you enjoy snorkeling I felt that Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve was the best place we went. The bay is a volcanic crater that collapsed allowing the ocean in. It is packed with fish and because it is largely shallow you’re right on there level. Arrive early, we went Sunday morning before the cruise and by 10:30am the parking lots were full and they were turning people away.
After snorkeling we arrived at the ship about 1:00pm. Having checked in at the Marriott embarkation was a breeze. We were aboard ship within 15 minutes and our cabin was clean and ready for us, although our luggage would not arrive for a few more hours.
We found our cabin to be entirely adequate. There was sufficient space for our two large suitcases under the bed and plenty of hangers available. Our room was always clean when we returned from our shore excursions and our steward was very helpful. However, there was only one electrical outlet in the entire cabin therefore be sure to bring a power strip if you plan on plugging in more then one thing at a time. Also, note that there is no self-service laundry on the ship. You can have clothes laundered through your steward but it is pricey and there’s a 36-hour turn around time.
During our cruise we ate at every restaurant except the Royal Palm. All were adequate, but now were particularly great. I thought the food and service at Pacific Heights (Asian-Fee) the best. I was disappointed the “40 Cloves of Garlic” shrimp scampi was not on the menu the night we went to Kahili (Italian-Fee); I had heard such great things about it.
At Crossings and the Palace (Main dining rooms) we never had to wait more then 30 minutes to get in. A beeper system is used so that you may roam the ship while you wait.
By far the worst thing on the whole ship was the Hukilau Café (Buffet). For the first four days of the cruise all food and drinks in the buffet was served by a crew member. This caused two problems. First, you had to wait 10-15 minutes in line to get a cup of coffee after waiting 10-15 minutes in line to get your food. Second, a crew member had to be assigned to each buffet station. This meant that fewer stations were opened and lines were longer. For the most part the food was good; however the pizza is truly horrible.
On our last night we went to the Longboard (Sports Bar). The service and food was good. Judging by the goodbyes exchanged between the crew and guests, many passengers were going to miss the Longboard and I wished that we had visited it earlier. Be forewarned that the Longboard is the place to be for smokers and teenagers.
Except for a limited room service menu, there’s not much available after 10pm. So if you enjoy a late night snack bring it on board with you.
The islands themselves were great. POA docks in every port except for Kona where tenders are used. We were lucky with the weather and were able to make it to every port. (I had heard that the day before we arrived in Kona that the Pride of America had to cancel due to high wind).
In Kauai we did the Mudbug and Waterfall Safari which was great fun. In Kona we enjoyed the Ocean Kayak and Snorkeling excursion, a ride on the Atlantis Submarine, and still had time in port for shopping. In Kauhaui we went on the Molokini Crater snorkel. Snorkeling with the green sea turtles was one of the highlights of the trip for me. We rented cards in Kauai, Hilo, and Kauhaui and enjoyed touring the islands and visiting the two National Parks. If you plan, on keeping a rental car overnight in Kauhaui there is limited parking available, and it fills up quick.
Between disembarkation and our long plane ride home we took the Pearl Harbor and Honolulu City tour. Our bags were picked up the night before and waiting on the dock the next morning. We were responsible for bringing them from the dock to the bus and from the bus to the airport ourselves, and did so without any difficulties. The Honolulu City tour involves a short drive through the city with the driver pointing out the highlights as you buzz by; there are no stops except Pearl Harbor. At Pearl Harbor we had about two free hours to explore the museum and shops before the ferry took us out to the USS Arizona memorial. The memorial itself was very moving.
In all we had a great time. I find that I am not a fan of Freestyle dining, but this is purely a matter of personal opinion. Overall, I found that the crew was friendly, the service was good, and ship clean and well maintained. I thought this cruise was a great way to see four islands in a week. If you’re looking for ship board pampering you may want to look elsewhere.