While it may seem odd for someone who lives in Hawaii to take a circle Hawaii cruise it is actually done by a lot of us "locals" as a very cost effective way to travel between islands. I took the Pride Of Aloha because it offered a great schedule... hitting all the islands, including 4 days at sea, sailing 1200 miles south of Hilo to the tropical atolls of Kiribati... Now, I have read a lot of reviews on this , and other, sites all about the troubles of this ship and its poor rating. Could it be that bad I asked myself?
The following is what I observed, and as a cruiser of over 30 years experience sailing on short 4 days to longer 34 days, on lines from NCL to Regent ( Radisson); from inside cabins to Penthouses with butlers. I will also add you can add another 10 years on Navy time. I am a foodie and have a Cordon Bleu certificate. I list these so as to give you the reader a base line of my opinions
Check in: NCL lets you check in on line and uses E-tickets.. I arrived in Honolulu and took the $5.00 bus direct to the checkin counter. It picks up at baggage claim at each terminal. It was a breeze and beat the $30 cab ride . Ship: At 856 ft it was the largest I had ever sailed on.. I normally like to sail on ships of under 1000, and this ship held 2300 ! I was a bit nervous of what the excess people might do to the experience. Maintenance of the ship was excellent, paint,metalwork,fixtures,elevators. Decks were covered with a dry-decking that reduced slipping and kept your feet cool... In short very high quality Maintenance and I experienced no flaws or glitches in the 11 days I was aboard. I was amused to listen to a man, on his first cruise explained to me that this ship was ready for the scrap yard. Why do you think so I queried politely, Look he pointed to several areas of rust around an outside speaker, about the size of a nail head, " its rusting away...its terrible".
Crew: is almost all american and is very service oriented, happy, outgoing and eager to help...I saw no lack of work ethic..The crew was the equal of many of the best I have sailed on.There are some slow times because of the crew to passenger ratio.....not the desire ethic.
Food: I found the selection and quality of the buffet at all meals with the exception of the roast meats, to be great..soups and side dishes very good. Specialty restaurants were a mix bag I and I don't think worth it except for the Bistro. Because this is a mass-market ship with low fares don't expect lavish seafood, lobster etc. For that you need to take Ships that charge 3 to 5 times the fare NCL charges! Because of the casual nature and very high quality and choice we ate 90% of the time in the buffet.... Breakfast was flat outstanding from omelettes to lox. As good as or better than my last Regent cruise...yes you read that right better than Regent. After reading the complaints on the food from others.. I found as both a foodie and classic trained chef, to be totally without merit. The meats get over done because of the fears of bacteria...not incompetence. Considering the hugh number of passengers of varying cultures spice was mild but well done. I would say over all the food to be good to very good... the majority being very good. The food is as good as or better than 90% of the restaurants in Hawaii ,Australia, England,Canada and the USA......and an outstanding value to me. Bars: Each has an atmosphere and draws its similar clients. I will say that the NCL pour of liquor is a little light...If however you become a regular at a specific bar and tip in cash...that can improve greatly. Drinks run $6 . Wine $5.75
Entertainment: Was for kids to adults but there was less of the Party-Party-party type...There were a surprising number of enrichment lectures of very high quality by historians,Naturalists,locals.... Nights were more relaxed and slower paced than other ships... I liked the quiet.
Shore excursions: In a word, and knowing the local prices are very fairly priced...and NCL, has, hands down the best selection of activities..better than you can get on shore.. As a local I was impressed at what was offered... very good value...
Disembarking: easier than getting on....took 15 min from cabin to bags on the dock.........very smooth, again $5.00 to the airport.
Summary: Ok, after reading all the horror stories, lousy american crew, food so bad you cant eat it, broken everything, crummy cabins, poor ship condition, care less know nothing attitude. During My 11 days... I have to say I saw nothing, other than good things. I felt like I was paying Mc Donalds prices for a much higher quality product. The persons who seemed to be complaining were the ones who paid the lowest prices and expected the Ritz or Four Seasons for the price with Lobster and Caviar. I paid under $200 a day for 2. To get the luxury services that some expect costs between $600 and $1200 a day. I found this cruise to be in some ways more enjoyable than many of my star trips because of the warmer and more personable passengers from Millionaires to Bikers... I did hear complaints.. but you know I heard the same sort of complaints on 6 star ships line the Mariner...To complain to some is power and gives a sense of importance...they never will be pleased To NCL I say well done.. for a modest price you delivered way more than I expected in every way. To you the reader, if you take this trip have realistic expectations and enjoy the best cruise in Hawaii .. the trip to Kiribati is an adventure only done once every 6 weeks.. do it .