We sailed July 18, 2004 on Pride of Aloha. This was the eighth cruise for us, having previously cruised Royal Caribbean, Princess and Carnival.
Check in: we arrived at 12:30 PM (check in started at 12) and waited in line about an hour before being processed. There was an additional wait of about 15 minutes as everyone was in line for photographs which was not apparent until the last 5 minutes as we rounded the corner and saw what the hold-up was. We would have bypassed this had we known. Our room was ready (BB category balcony) with the door propped open when we got there. A champagne bucket (stand) with ice but no champagne) was in the room. Our kid's room (also BB balcony) had the bucket, ice , AND champagne. We never did figure out if ours was swiped from the door being open. We asked and no one had any idea. Our luggage arrived within 2 hours of our check in.
So did our shore excursion tickets. There were several errors on these ( I had booked them online prior to the cruise and fortunately had my printed receipts). So we went down to the shore excursion desk and waited 2 whole hours in line to rectify the errors. Just as it was our turn after this 2 hour wait, an employee brought three cruisers to the front of the line who apparently decided they didn't want to spend their time waiting in line like we had (the line was still very very long), to the front of the line. I pulled him aside and protested that we had been waiting patiently for 2 hours and did not appreciate this line intrusion. He told me that these ladies had booked online and they had errors! I told him that I, too, had booked online and had waited for 2 hours like everyone else and didn't appreciate how this was being handled. He apologized profusely but the 3 ladies were still allowed to be helped first. By the time we did get help, we could not arrange it so we could get some of the excursions we had originally booked because by then, they were already unavailable.
Room service: We never learned the name of our room steward. In all fairness, he seemed friendly enough but I think spread terribly thin. Three of the seven nights we did not have our beds turned down even though we had been out of our rooms for many hours trying to have dinner. Our safe didn't work and it took three calls and finally the second day, someone fixed this for us.
Food and restaurant service: we ate in the Crossings the first night. There were two "main dining areas" of this sort but the other was closed on this first night and other nights as well during the week long cruise. The service was slow and the waiters looked bored, tired or uninterested, I couldn't figure out which. The food was mediocre (bread was not the fresh baked variety and souffles were very soggy and doughy in the middle) and although we did not have to wait in line to get in, the dinner took over one and one half hours to complete. We ate in the specialty restaurants for the next four nights. Pacific Heights was cordial and the service very good as well as the food. Cover was $12/person. We liked it well enough to go back for a second night later in the week and had a similar experience. The Royal Palm Bistro was the French specialty restaurant with a cover of $15 /person with $5 extra for surf and turf (three SMALL lobster tails). The service was very, very, very slow and the meal took over 2 whole hours from start to finish. We noticed that other patrons were also experiencing very long waits between courses. The food was not worth the cover. The lobster tails ( very small...think large shrimp) were tough. The Italian specialty restaurant $12/person was fairly good but we did not think it was worth the extra money. The service was friendly but also a little slow. The Hukilau Cafe ( buffet food) was a major disappointment in all ways: the food was below average with not enough variety. There was always a long line along a narrow area to get in and due to the layout, it was inconvenient to walk in and look at the offerings. The drink machines were along the same wall where the line to get in was, meaning that people coming back for more drinks had to struggle past the people waiting in line to get more drinks. There was an additional buffet line outside on the deck area. Breakfasts were boring and the same every day. Help was slow bussing the tables to keep people moving and getting them seated. No one ever came by to ask if we needed anything.
The mystery about this area is this: each day we received two menus in the ship news about the Hukilau and another area they called the "Garden Cafe Buffet" which I looked for all week and never found. The interesting thing was this: the Garden Cafe Buffet had the most exotic and interesting looking menu! Wow!! I even asked several employees and they said that Hukilau used to be called the Garden Cafe Buffet. I asked where these other foods on the menu were served and never could find out from anyone! Obviously didn't exist or was a very closely held secret! Another major complaint was: this area didn't open until 7AM for breakfast! Some of the tours LEFT at 7AM. It also closed after breakfast until 11:30 AM for lunch although one day we arrived to have lunch to find that it wasn't going to open until 12 noon! This was just impossibly rigid when you consider the number of people coming and going who needed much more flexibility in their eating schedules factoring the shore excursions, etc. After lunch, it closed yet again until dinnertime. Ice cream was available in this area for two hours each day only. I couldn't get any skimmed milk on the first night, even though I asked several places (including room service). The next day it appeared and I stocked up for about three days. When my stash ran out, there was no more to be had for the rest of the cruise.
Shore Excursions: these all appeared to be very overpriced on the brochures we received ahead of time. But we decided to book daily excursions anyhow. I only wish to critique one which was really appalling to everyone who participated and was much talked about by all for the rest of the week. I hope there are enough complaints to get this excursion REMOVED from the list of possibilities. This was the Captain Zodiac NaPali Coast tour including snorkeling and hiking. It sounded fantastic and we were so looking forward to this 6 hour excursion along the famed NaPali Coast. This was the most expensive tour we took at about $180/person for 6 hours. What the brochure failed to mention (suggested age groups 5 and up) (not advised if anyone had back or neck problems or was pregnant) was the fact that we were going to be subjected to a 23 mile ride (in a rigid Capt. Zodiac inflatable raft) which involved 1 hour and 45 minutes of bone crunching, teeth jarring, white knuckle hanging on (lest we fall overboard) to get to our lunch stop. Everyone on that ride was so disgusted by the cavalier attitudes of the two guides....."YeeHaw" was frequently heard coming from them as we smashed into wave after wave. We all felt like we missed what we came for. There was no opportunity to take photos, we were all so busy holding on. I am serious, here. They passed out gloves for us to hold on with better traction. The snorkeling was poor because we were snorkeling where everyone slogged through the water to get off the boats. Half of us didn't bother to put on the gear. The brochure talked about the fact that we would be "amazed" by the stories our guide would share on the hike. The "2 1/2 mile" hike that was mentioned was really about a 1/4th mile walking back through the woods and the guide didn't amaze anyone because he didn't have any amazing info at his disposal. And we were all dreading the treck back because we knew what we were in for. Lunch was OK. For three days afterward, we were sore all over. We talked with others all week who had been with us and they shared the same fate. And we are in shape and work out all the time. One couple was around 80 years old and the wife had been operated on for a hip procedure the previous year. I thought this violated any sense of fair play and they should have paid US for the torture they put us through.
We thought the shows were fabulous! Top notch, in fact.
The last day: Errors on our bill (they charged us for one too many shore excursions) entailed a 45 minute line to rectify. There were only two employees handling these things. Also there was a $5/room charge for the museum which , although the amount is small, we felt in no way obliged to pay. They removed it. I wonder how many people noticed it was there. Incidentally, the mandatory $10/person/day fee which is non-negotiable is not for tips for the various members of the team. We feel that this might be the reason why some of the employees are so uninterested in pleasing the vacationers. They get paid the same thing whether they do it well or just barely perform. It shows.
Final salute: people were heard cheering as they exited the ship. I have never seen this happen before. They made us wait in one last line: we had to swipe our ship card as we left so there was even a slow line to exit. Norwegian Cruise Lines = Norwegian Conga Line,???