Getting onto the cruise ship was quite smooth and pain-free. The agents made sure they processed your info and that you were on your way onto the ship fairly quickly. HOWEVER, while walking through the promenade to get to the ship, you will have a few people standing there ready to sell you stuff already. The most notable one was the Coca-Cola bottle. They want you to pay $70 for this bottle with the idea that you can have it filled with soda pop for free throughout your cruise, whether it's from the bar or restaurant. Unless you plan on drinking a LOT of soda pop...don't waste your money. Or, if you want more time to think about it...you can purchase it from the pool level after you're on the ship. Don't let them pressure you into thinking this is your one and only chance to get this "deal."
Staterooms - we had an inside state room but weren't allowed to access it until the afternoon. We didn't get our luggage until 7pm and when More
we finally got to go into our cabin and began to unpack, we found garbage, sand and items left over from the previous guests in our room. The duvet cover had a blood stain on it and when we pulled back our linen, the bed liner had a huge yellow stain. The two single beds were not attached together properly and during the night, would separate to the point where there would be a 2 inch gap between our beds. The "mattresses" were very thin and the support underneath was just plain old wood! Very hard on the back.
Restaurants - let's start with the Hukilau Buffet. Horrible food! Long line-ups! Horrible service! On top of that, they ran out of food starting on the 7th day into the cruise...such as milk, yogurt, bananas to name a few. When I tried to order room service milk, I was told they only had chocolate milk left. I'm sure the kids wouldn't mind! On the first two nights, we went to the Crossings Restaurant where the service was atrocious, the servers themselves had absolutely no personalities, and the food was cold when it was finally served. We were sailing past a point where you could see the lava flowing into the water and the captain made an announcement over the PA system, well all the passengers went to the side windows to look out along with half the servers, meanwhile, we had been waiting for our food for over 2 hours, so we all just got up and walked out of the restaurant and never returned there again! To their credit, we complained to Scott (one of the managers in a white uniform) and he made arrangements for our group of 6 people to go to the Kahili Restaurant (one of the $10 cover charge restaurants) for free the next night.
After day 4 on the cruise ship, there was a strong smell of sewage that emanated from the Crossings restaurant and could be smelled while on the stairs 2-3 flights up from this restaurant. It was extremely disgusting!
So the Kahili Restaurant had really good food but the problem was that none of the menus ever changed in these restaurants. So for 7 of the 11 nights that we were stuck on this floating contraption, we ate at the Kahili. By the end of the cruise, we were sick of the menu but to his credit, our server Dennis always made sure we had some new and unique dessert.
Room service food was good but there was a very limited menu to choose from and it usually took 35-55 minutes for it to arrive.
Service - the people who worked on this cruise ship were all Americans. This was due to the fact their main port was in Honolulu. They were mostly young kids who were more interested in making the most out of this cruise for themselves than for you! When we were sitting up on the pool level eating our breakfast, we would literally have to pile all of our silverware on top of our plates / cereal boxes / milk boxes / yogurt containers to prevent them from being blown off by the wind, because it took the servers an extremely long time to come by and clean off the table.
The staff were not very friendly and a few of them came off as quite arrogant. The housekeeping staff were nice, but they didn't change our linen once during our whole cruise. The sand never got vacuumed from the floor. Our shower curtain had mold on it and was finally changed on our second to last day on the cruise ship. We had 3 light bulbs burn out and had to wait 10 hours for someone to come and change them.
I have travelled on a Mediterranean cruise before this one and the service was amazing. The staff were all friendly, helpful and would bend over backwards to ensure you had the time of your life. Not the case with the NCL Hawaiian staff!!
Entertainment - they had a comedian named Bud Andersen that was pretty funny. They also had a musical group called Toby Beau that had a single hit back in the 70's...and then for the rest of the trip, they did "tributes" to country music, the beatles and the eagles. Enough said there! The rest of the entertainment was pretty sub-par and not worth the time to go see, unless you are extremely bored with nothing else to do!
Shore Excursions - we only did one shore excursion in Kauai called Tubing the Ditch. We were picked up from the warehouse and driven for 30 minutes to their headquarters, where we received bike helmets with lights on them, gloves and water shoes. We then drove for another 30 minutes to some view point where they talked about movies that had been made in the area. One of our guides, Stephanie, hates awkward silence so she talked on the van's PA system the entire time. After 1 1/2 hrs of driving, we finally made it to the "ditch" where we were all loaded into our tubes and with one guide at the front and one at the end, we floated down this ditch. For 70% of the time, we were underground going through tunnels. It was pretty fascinating, but the actual time spent floating in the water was a maximum of 45 minutes. When we were at the end, they picked us up in the same van and drove another 10 minutes to our lunch campsite. The package said it included lunch...so we were expecting some hot food. Turns out their version of lunch was a package of two macadamia nut shortbread cookies, one small bag of Maui Chips and one can of juice. For $145 dollars per person for this excursion, I expected better food than that!
Because we were in a group of 10 people, we were able to rent our own vehicles to drive ourselves around to the tourist hot spots. I would highly recommend doing this if you are able to as it will save you money, you can go where you choose to go and you aren't stuck being herded around on tour buses on a set schedule. We rented a vehicle in Hilo and drove ourselves up to the Volcano National Park and had a great time.
We rented mopeds in Kauai on our second day there and rode to a scenic waterfall where you could go swimming. That was the best time ever and the mopeds cost $45 for two hours. Definitely worth the money!
Tendering - this is what they do when there isn't a dock/port big enough to handle a large cruise ship, so they anchor the ship out in the water and "tender" you on lifeboats to the land. The problem is, if you don't have a shore excursion booked, you have to line up in the Blue Hawaii room to get tickets that will determine what time you are allowed to leave the ship. After 2 days at sea, everyone wanted to get off at Fanning Island and there was a lineup that was extremely long as people jostled to get these tickets. There was only 1 person handing out these tickets and it took a long time for them to process people in a non-orderly way. Make sure you get there early to get off as soon as you can.
Ports - this was an 11 day cruise that travelled to Fanning Island. We stopped at Hilo then travelled 2 days at sea to get to Fanning Island (Republic of Kiribati). Fanning Island was neat (great little straw market where we bought a lot of our souvenirs) and you can walk or bike around the island where every 10 feet, you will see people begging for money by dressing up their little kids in "warrior" outfits. It is classified as a 5th world country as there is no electricity, no phones, no food (they exist on coconuts, wild pigs and dogs and fish) and no other form of income other than a few that grow seaweed for european makeup companies and the tourists. If you do decide to go on this trip, take some extra stuff for the kids (ie, crayons, coloring books, clothing, toys). You can walk right to the school and give it to the kids yourself. This stuff will be more useful to them than the american money that they beg for because there is no where on that island for them to use this money.
There was a "Code Alpha" on the ship which means a medical emergency so instead of sailing back to Maui, we ended up sailing to Christmas Island to drop two people off, then sailing for 3 days directly to Kona. We missed the Maui stop and there were a LOT of upset people that had to deal with the not-so-nice staff at the service desk. We then continued to Kauai were we stayed overnight. I would highly recommend you visit a restaurant called Dukes, the bottom restaurant on the beach, as their food was amazing, the service was fast and amazing and the views of the beach were amazing. Also, visit the Kai'ai Marriott Hotel as the building is extremely impressive and the gift shop had some great items in them that were NOT expensive whatsoever. We were able to buy items cheaper at this gift shop than at the markets back in Waikiki.
Gratuity - you are forced to pay a $10 gratuity (what they refer to as a service charge) per person, per day. So before this cruise even started, they had already dipped their hands into our pockets and taken $220. THEN...when you order from the bar, they add another gratuity to that. I ordered virgin pina colada's that cost $3.50 and they would add $0.53 to each bill and on top of that, leave a blank spot for you to add an even bigger tip. If you ordered a drink from a server walking around the pool deck, then they automatically added another $1 to your bill. I went to the service desk to complain about the horrible service we had and told them I did not want to pay that $10 per day gratuity charge as I would rather tip people directly who provided me with good service. The lady wouldn't allow me to remove the service charge but did provide us with two free dinners and a bottle of wine (which was very thoughtful considering I was 6 months pregnant!!)
The problem with this autogratuity is the staff know they are already making this tip from you and so they don't have to work any harder in order to make more than their minimum wage pay check.
Pool - there were two main saltwater pools and 5 hot tubs. The pools on this cruise ship were extremely small and were closed most of the time as the ship movement caused the water to move too violently for someone to swim safely. I did see a staff member check the chemical levels in them quite often so that was good to see, but since they were closed most of the time, it didn't mean much in the end.
Basketball / Volleyball court - this was the only saving grace we had on this ship. The basketballs were old and worn out (some were permanently deformed) but we were still able to have a good time playing since 90% of the passengers were over the age of 60 and were not interested in being physically active.
Gym - the gym equipment was pretty good but you were left to your own devices to figure out how to use the equipment as no one was ever there to help you out. The scale was broken so you couldn't weigh yourself to see how much weight you lost due to the bad food.
Running track - they call it a running track but what it really is is just a deck (Level 6) that has a painted line through the middle that shows that people can run on the right and walk on the left. This would be a good level to go and watch when the whales or dolphins are swimming outside the ship, as it isn't much good for running around on.
Public Washrooms - these washrooms were absolutely unclean, they had no toilet paper in the stalls, they didn't refill the paper towels and there was no soap to wash your hands. This was on day 2 of the cruise.
To sum it all up, this cruise with NCL Pride of Aloha was absolutely terrible and I would never ever ever recommend anyone take this cruise line.
*Horrible service *Horrible food *Unclean and disgusting ship *Wallet-gouging Less