My dear mother-in-law wanted to see Hawaii "before I die" so three weeks before she turned 91 she took my husband, myself and our son on NCL Pride of America. We sailed January 3rd, 2009. The embarkation was very smooth; we were able to obtain a wheelchair curbside for Mom, personnel were polite and helpful. Our rooms were small, but ready for us. We have all cruised before, so were expecting great food, great service and great times. So far so good. By the end of the cruise we were disgusted. Our room had been vacuumed down the middle every day; there was dirt and garbage under the bed from previous passengers, and along the edges of the carpet. Because one of our pillow cases was turned seam-side-out the second day, we knew the linens were not changed after day two. Also by day three, our towels in the bathroom were stained with yellow streaks (probably sunscreen - just guessing but ya'all know how sunscreen stains show up on whites after washing and drying)and black spots but come on - stained towels should not be hung in guest rooms!; the bathmat the last day had holes in it so big that you could not have dried a dog with it. I took pictures of the towels and bathmat and took them to the help desk; she was "appalled" but nothing was done. So I lowered the mandatory $12 fee per day per person. She was NOT happy about that! "Should you punish the other employees who gave you good service?" Many guests were talking about the cute towel critters that showed up on the beds at night...what critters? We had none. Not a big deal,I know, at least we got the chocolates!(there would have been fur flying if he forgot the chocolates, too!!!) On the plus side, our steward did let us have some ice for our little cooler when we left the ship each day.
Now the food...we were impressed the first day by the Aloha Cafe. We ate there the first evening and then for breakfast the next day. It was good, it was hot, we were impressed with the variety for the first few days. All the coffee/juice machines were up and running. Even the outside buffet was up and running. The second evening we ate in the main dining room. Now, we were told there was a dress code. So we all got gussied up and headed out - only to see many diners in jeans, shorts and T-shirts - some men in the longer bathing suits and tank tops. Okay, we are pretty laid back folks, so we figured the rules were only suggestions. It took forever for our food to come. Mom eats very slow, and the waitstaff were not happy about that. They all seemed to disappear if we needed something. The food was so-so, not great. Mom preferred the Aloha Cafe as she could take as much time as she needed to eat and choose what she wanted. By the 4th day we realized the menu never varied, and each day the freshness was worse. Some of the pastries could have been used as hockey pucks (go Red Wings!)...the outside buffet was down to a few items for breakfast and the beverage machines out there were "out-of-order". The juice dispensers two days in a row were dispensing mostly water. When we complained, nothing was done. That is another thing - complaints were never worth the trouble or time. Each day the food and service were worse. When I mentioned it to an employee in another area of the ship I was told they do that on purpose so we would start eating at the restaurants we had to pay extra for!We did eat at Teppanyaki for our son's 21st birthday. We had arranged for a birthday cake but they acted like they never heard of doing that. It finally came, partially frozen. It was fun to watch the chef, but the food wasn't all that great. It was okay, but the steak wasn't as tender as we expected. On a side note, the other group at the table were told the extra cost was $15 per person not $25 per person. They raised a real ruckus when the bill came, which was uncomfortable for everyone else; not that I blamed them. We had reservations and still had to stand around for almost 30 minutes. I finally asked for a chair for Mom and suddenly our table was ready. We had two waitstaff - who were not the friendliest. The waitress turned out to be the same one we had a problem with at the Cadillac Diner the day before - she forgot to bill us for our shakes and when we realized that as we were walking away, we came back but were told by the manager the shakes were on them. We could see her getting a talking to as we left.
I saved up my pennies for months to splurge on myself at the spa. I was not disappointed. It was incredibly expensive, but I felt so pampered. Hey, every gal should do that at least once in her life! The facial was wonderful and I got a pedicure, too. When the cheapy flip-flop broke, flipped up and smeared all the polish on my left foot, the woman was very gracious and redid the polish. She was professional all the way and I felt so relaxed and pampered. Kudos to her! She was the assistant manager.
The shore excursions were expensive. Because Mom had trouble with steps, we rented vehicles four times. We wanted to go snorkeling but didn't want to pay $100 per person for about an hour in the water. So we found a Boss Frog Surf Shop on Maui, rented our gear for under $30 total(including Rx mask);the owner directed us to an awesome snorkeling beach where we waddled into the water (how else would you describe trying to enter the water with fins on? We laughed ourselves silly!)and the reef was 20 feet from shore with so many colorful fish, sea urchins, coral and other critters. We did do the ship excursion Luau;so-so food but the show was great. Someone else mentioned the long, long wait for the bus back but we lucked out and got on one within 20 minutes. We drove the road to Hana on Maui and it was so awesome! Would do that again! Just be careful about buying food from the side of the road...we asked at one spot to use the restroom and were told they didn't have one, not even running water. On the way over to check out the BBQ, I noticed the "chef" putting raw chicken on the grill then dishing cooked chicken up...and I didn't see him clean his hands in between...gag. Also, there are very few restrooms the whole way so when you see one, use it!
One serious flaw we experienced - doesn't this ship have stabilizers? The waves out at sea were reported at 5-7 feet but that ship rocked back and forth so much even the staff were staggering. With Mom being nearly 91, we were having to hold on to her all the time. We have cruised Royal Caribbean with much bigger waves and you could hardly feel the waves on that cruise. Mom was afraid to take a shower unless we were in port. So if you are elderly, beware.
All in all, I doubt we will ever cruise NCL again. Very disappointed in food, service and cabin cleanliness. As a "traveling hotel" it was one expensive hotel. Even though we complained, on the ship and to the cruise line when we returned home, I felt that not one employee really cared. Save your money and just go to Maui or Kauai or both. We loved those two islands the most and will return to them - but not to NCL no matter where they go!I am wondering if adding the mandatory $12 charge per passenger per day has anything to do with the poor service. Why should they make any effort, extra or normally, if they are guaranteed their portion of that money? Hmm, just a thought.