Pride of America Cruise Review by dukeblue1: better than expected
Member Since 2008
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better than expected
There's something consistently bright about NCL ships. Having cruised this itinerary twice before on the Pride of Aloha, one of my favorite all-time ships, I expected to be disappointed by the Pride of America. America's a beautiful country and I am a proud American, but American-themed decor can be tacky and has never been my cup of tea. Not so on this ship! Every stairwell has a different panoramic mural ranging from scenes from New England to the Grand Canyon. Even the red and blue carpet was nice. Overall, this is a very attractive ship and that adds to the experience.
The cabin, though nice, had its issues. Cruisers who book suites need to do careful research. As a group of five adults, we had some minor challenges with the deluxe family suite. The suite appears to have two separate bedrooms and a living room, but in fact there are only two bedrooms. The living room is an extension of the main bedroom, and the only privacy afforded is a curtain. The second bedroom has More two single beds and one pull down single bed. This may work for a family with three kids, but it is not so great for five adults of different sexes. Also, the espresso machine, while a great touch, did not work after the first day. The balcony is somewhat cramped and uncomfortable for more than two or three people at a time.
Food was overall very good to excellent and choices abound. Jefferson's Bistro was the consensus favorite. Ironically, at least some of the wait staff in the Bistro came over from the Kahili restaurant on the Pride of Aloha. Service was absolutely top notch from start to finish. The Asian restaurant (actually four restaurants within a restaurant) was also excellent. We were less impressed with the steakhouse-in fact, I cannot even recall the name of it. For breakfast, there are the normal choices (buffet or dining room), but also a specialty restaurant, the Cadillac Grill, serving diner fare like waffles and biscuits with gravy. We never had difficulty getting a seat anywhere, with the exception of the Italian restaurant, which was free of additional surcharge (the food was very good, but not great. I think its popularity stems from the lack of a surcharge).
One minor disappointment was the quality of the bartenders. I asked for a French Martini which was not on the pre-printed list of cocktails. I explained to the bartender how I wanted it made but was abruptly told I would get it however he made it. Fortunately, a bar manager was standing nearby and told the server to make it as I ordered it. The same bartender showed up later in the casino and managed to botch a basic Mojito. I quickly learned who to avoid and who could be trusted with the cocktails (hint: if the bartender has a British accent, stay away or order at your own risk).
This is definitely a cruise where you are better off to plan on getting a rental car in each port and doing your own excursions. All the major rental car companies pick up and deliver you to and from the ship--but you need to reserve well in advance, especially if you need a minivan. On the Big Island, it is an easy drive to Volcanoes National Park (Hilo). Save time for the Hawaii Tropical Botanical garden just north of Hilo (by far the most beautiful in Hawaii imho). The west coast also has a lot to do by rental car (Kona), though if you book any excursion, a snorkel trip will prove to be a good choice. In Maui, pick up your rental car and drive the Road to Hana. You'll be happy you did. Lahaina is also a nice drive for day two, but only drive the north shore route to Lahaina is you are brave. The Road to Hana is easy compared to this more difficult, but equally rewarding drive. On Kuaui, make you own helicopter tour reservations and spend the remainder of the time finding beaches or visiting the canyon.
I don't have much to say about embarking or debarking. Both went smoothly and were uneventful. It is easy to get around Honolulu and easy to get from the cruise terminal to Waikiki.
Overall, this is an excellent ship, an excellent itinerary and well worth it. I have cruised on Norwegian before, as well as RCCL, Celebrity, Holland America and Princess. All have their pros and cons. I've never understood why Norwegian has been criticized for customer service on the Hawaii cruises. With the exception of the bartender, who was clearly not American, I found the American staff to be extremely pleasant, helpful and upbeat. You owe it to yourself to do this cruise. Less
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