I had done my share of research before setting sail on the Pride of America and had chalked up the bad reviews of the food, etc. to upscale people. However, being an average person from the Midwest (from a town of less then 500 people) I find myself agreeing with the less then favorable reviews. This was our first cruise, and I think I can honestly say our only expectations were cleaning services we receive when we stay at "local" hotel services (Holiday Inn, American, etc) and services we receive at local restaurants (Applebee's, Whiskey Creek, Pizza Hut, etc).
We flew non-stop from Denver to Honolulu on United the day before we set sail. I had not flown in the last 10 years and would highly recommend upgrading to the extra legroom if not to first class. Very uncomfortable. We stayed at the Hilton and did not have any trouble boarding the ship. We had a Family Suite (7178) with an adjoining room with my in-laws (I didn't want the kids running back in forth in the hallway and for babysitting purposes if we wanted to go out). This was located at the back of the ship on the end so we had a very large deck area. The room was okay space wise but not the spacious layout with two bathrooms that the brochure advertised.
The first night our group of 10 decided to eat at the Skyline restaurant. We arrived and asked if we had reservations...we had only been on the ship for 3 hours - that is when I knew the "freestyle dining" was out the window. We were seated and things went downhill from there. We ordered after a long wait and waited some more to receive the appetizers/salads. Some in our group received appetizers/salads that they did not order nor did anyone at the table order, and some did not receive what they had ordered until after the main course. I ordered the chicken breast that said it came with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. Although it was an assumption on my part I thought I would be getting a boneless, skinless chicken breast, I received a bone-in, skin still attached chicken breast with the wing, no mashed potatoes and 4 slices/slivers of carrots strategically placed around the plate with jalapeños on top. The others in our group except for the children had the same experience.
The Aloha Cafe, the large buffet area is very hectic at "normal" hours and somewhat hard to navigate as everyone seems to be going every which way. The food was just average and was basically the same everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Also, they advertise you eat when you want - except the Cadillac Dinner is closed for 2 hours a day - 5 a.m. - 7 a.m. the Aloha Cafe does not start serving breakfast until 6 (continental) 6:30 -10:30 for full breakfast and the restaurants that you pay to eat at are only open in the evening. Given that anyone traveling to Hawaii is probably suffering from major jetlag (oursIn addition, when you pay to eat at one of the restaurants please note there are some items marked on the menu that are an additional charge. (Steakhouse - $20 per person, if you order surf and turf it is an additional $15). Now - this is not bad for this type of meal - but it just seemed to always be exceptions to free dinning. The night we ate at Lazy J's Steakhouse the food was very good, but the service between ordering and receiving food was slow even though most of the tables were empty. The waiter did not charge us for our two kids because they ordered off the kids menu, which was not expected and very nice.
Our room was clean upon arrival and things started out well, but as the week continued the housekeeping declined. They stopped making up the second bed in the cabin, vacuuming, filing the ice bucket, etc.
Overall, I believe that NCL's automatic tipping works against them. Staff seemed to be on the rude side and only half doing their job. (That is not meant to include all staff as some did do their job well and we recognized that/tipped them appropriately). With NCL policy, guaranteeing staff their tip there is not much of an incentive to do anything beyond the bare minimum. We also found out from talking to the staff that they are hired for 5 months at a time and then receive 5 weeks of vacation. This would seem to play into the problem as well.
Room Service was very good. We went to ordering breakfast though room service and skipping the crowds in the morning.
Highly recommend going to the spa! Very nice!
Kids Club - Our kids BEGGED us to let them go every night! They were excellent with the kids, did lots of fun activities and the kids had a blast! (At night, it was free of charge. During the day, it cost.)
The Suite we stayed in had a bedroom and a closing door. It was a GOD SENT! It also had very comfortable beds!
We went to the comedy show and were very glad we did! It was very funny and we needed the laugh!
All in All - I can now see why there is such a wide discrepancy in reviews as I think a lot of it depends on the people that are assigned to work with you. I would not take this cruise again.