Since we have a close-knit group of friends who all enjoy cruising, we decided to find a cruise similar to the American-Hawaiian cruise we took in 2000. Anxiously we booked the NCL Pride of Aloha cruise almost a year in advance, with anticipation we envisioned paradise; instead we got the following:
Sunday-Oahu Embarkation: After boarding, my wife, Val, and I decided to join our friends at the pool. I went to the bar to turn in my order as the limited floor help was quite busy. I went to a large area at the side of the bar where I waited some time for service. Finally, I was able to get the attendants attention only to be told that I was in a service area, even though there were no service people in this area, and he was not going to serve me in this area. I shared my frustration with him, left and never went to that bar again the entire cruise.
Needing to check on our golf packages we proceeded to the ship golf shop. The two golf shop attendants, Shannon and Dan were very accommodating, not only on Sunday but the entire cruise.
At the pool they were cooking ribs and serving pizza so we decided to have our dinner in the dinning room. Because most people had eaten around the pool, Sunday evening dinning room service was good. Our server was Molly and as it turned out, she provided the best dinning service we were going to have for the next week.
We were lucky with the fact our luggage was in the room within a reasonable time and our cabin had been made. Most of the couples traveling with us had to wait until late night to get their room made and their luggage.
Monday-Kauai: Val and I had breakfast in the dinning room with a wait of approximately ½ hour to be seated and service was very poor. They sat us by a door that went to some kind of storage room. It seemed everyone was going in and out and the door banged every time it closed. Little did we know that was only the beginning of many more unpleasant events.
We played a beautiful golf course that day and, as I mentioned, the golf staff was on the ball having our clubs on the dock and the transportation was on time. When we completed golf, transportation was ready to take us back to the ship. Shannon and Dan were on the dock to greet us and receive our clubs upon our return.
For dinner 10 of us were going to eat together in the dinning room. An hour after putting our name on the list to be seated, we were still cooling our heels waiting to be seated. The entire center section of the dinning room was unoccupied as we continued to wait. I had even asked if we split up into 6, 4, or even 2 would it be quicker and the answer was "no". When we finally got our table, 4 of our people had left for one of the up-charge restaurants. We easily found 4 others to take their place. The food was fair, but the service was again very slow and poor. We heard about a show we wanted to see in the Outrigger Lounge from 9:15 - 10:00, but because of the long wait to be seated and the slow service, we didn't arrive at the lounge until 10:30. The show was not only over but the lounge had already closed. This would have been a great lounge for everyone to meet, but was very rarely open even though it had hours of operation from 4:00 - close each day.
Tuesday: We again had breakfast in the dinning room with another ½ hour wait and slow, poor service even though there were many empty tables. I wasn't planning on eating in any of the up-charge restaurants, but with Monday evening's long wait and poor service in the dinning room, 8 of us decided to take in the Kahili. When we arrived at the restaurant we found that we would not be seated together as the tables are booths and would not seat 8 people. The food was good but not any better than food we had experienced on other cruises we had taken without an up-charge. One of the ladies in our group was served a drink and she felt the contents were not what she had ordered and asked the waiter to please have it re-made. At first the waiter argued with the lady, but then conceded to have the drink re-made. Later, the lady was returning from the ladies room and overheard our waiter telling a co-worker that a Jackass was making him redo her drink. All together we were there for over 2 ½ hours, so again the up-charge didn't provide any better service than the dinning room. We wanted to see the show in the Stardust but because of the poor service we had again missed the entertainment.
Val and I had appointments in the spa this day. Val had a facial, which she enjoyed very much, and I had a 50 minute massage, which was cut a little short, but I was overall satisfied enough to make an 80 minute appointment for another day. The second massage ended up being about 60 minutes so it was cut short as well. My wife and I were both told that the 15% spa charge on the ticket was not a service charge, but a spa usage fee so we added tips on each of our tickets. We later read that the SPA fee was a service charge and went to the service provider. This made us feel as though we had been purposely deceived by NCL employees.
That evening, while at sea, the ship made a medical emergency detour to Honolulu. We were very pleased that the ship's medical personnel were that interested in the well-being of the passengers. However, this evening we heard from one of the crew that after the first voyage, 250 of the crew members had quit. Now we begin to understand why the entire service and crew attitude was so bad.
Wednesday-Hilo: Because we had to make the detour the ship was late arriving in Hilo. Passengers hadn't been able to leave the ship for excursions so there were many more than usual that decided to have breakfast in the dinning room. The wait to be seated was well over an hour and the service was even slower than it had been.
This evening 6 of us decided to try the dinning room again. I put our name on the list and we went to Captain Crooks Lounge for cocktails and wait for our table. About an hour later I checked and the table was ready. I thought to myself this is going to be a great night! One of our other friends that had already eaten decided to sit and visit with us. After some time our waiter came by the table to take our drink orders. We asked how he was doing and he didn't hesitate to let us know that, in a nut shell, things were real bad. I thought he could have kept that to himself but I let it go. We were reviewing the menu and visiting when the waiter returned with our drinks. For some reason the waiter leaned over the table and spilled two glasses of red wine on the head of our visiting friend. He was drenched from head to foot, silk shirt, slacks, and shoes. The other couple also had wine all over them. Val and I were the lucky ones and came away dry. I then requested the head waiter to help get everyone dried off and do something about their cloths. Again, we wanted to see the show in the Stardust but with all that happened we were unable to enjoy the ship entertainment.
One couple got their cloths back the next day and her shirt was ruined, but her husbands slacks we acceptable. However, the friend that was visiting our table wasn't so lucky. The next day he was told they had lost his cloths, but then the following day he was told they were found but couldn't be cleaned. Our friend had numerous conversations at the purser's desk about NCL replacing his cloths. Keeping in mind the shirt was silk, our friend made a very conservative offer to NCL to settle the issue for $80. The NCL ship representative balked and wouldn't agree to that figure. Our friend then had to explain the he owed NCL $2,000 in ship charges and NCL only owed him $80 ...amazingly, they agreed to pay him the $80. He had to spend quite a bit of time from his vacation to get this issue resolved when someone form NCL should have taken care of it when it first happened.
Thursday-Kona: We had breakfast in the dinning room with a shorter wait as many of the people were getting their shore tickets for the tender. After breakfast we attempted to go ashore, over an hour after the first tender had left the ship we found out that everyone was waiting for it's return. We later found out that NCL had neglected to notify Kona security that the ship would be unloading passengers. Some of our friends were on the first tender and said they puttered around for over ½ hour while waiting for Kona to get security in place to receive them.
This evening we had dinner in the dinning room, again by putting our name on the list and going to the lounge the wait didn't seem too bad. After dinner we went to the Plantation Lounge with 2 other couples. With the freestyle type dining, we didn't get much time to visit with some of out friends so we were looking forward to this opportunity. It was about 10:30 when we got the lounge and turned in our order. When we were served our order, we were also given last call as they were closing. I have never been on a cruise that was so difficult to find a lounge that was open and available to sell you something no matter what time of day it was.
One of the couples in our group had the large suite with a bar in it. I'm not quite sure why it had a bar because they couldn't get any alcohol to stock it because of NCL rules. Another couple in the group had purchased some wine in Hilo to bring aboard. NCL literature clearly stated that you could bring your own wine on the ship and pay a corkage fee. They were required to leave the wine at security when they were getting back onto the ship and were to call for it to be brought to their cabin. It took them 3 days to finally get the wine and they had to get very angry to make it happen. The person they were talking to wasn't trained in how to make this happen, so kept telling our friends he would call them back but never did. Another case of poor service.
Friday-Maui: Val and I had breakfast in the dinning room where service was again better as many people were going ashore. We had been notified that for some reason our golf excursion departure was delayed an hour. There were 12 couples playing the Wailea Golf Club of which 6 couples were part of our group. All 12 couples were taken to Wailea in a large coach bus but were told that two smaller busses would be bringing us back to the ship. Wailea has two golf courses and one was more difficult causing slower play. When the first 2 couples completed their round, one of the busses was there, picked them up and left. When the remaining 10 couples finished, there was no transportation waiting. Our excursion tickets had no phone number to call and the golf course wasn't sure how to get in touch with NCL either. The people at Wailea were very helpful and finally contacted the shuttle company that was responsible for our transportation. After she contacted them, she provided me with their phone number in case they still didn't show. All total, we had to wait an additional 1 ½ hours for transportation. Fortunately this was the only glitch we had with excursions.
For the evening I tried to convince our group to have dinner in the dinning room. I felt that as angry as the passengers were about the service and we were in Maui overnight, most passengers would be eating off the ship, so the ship would have better service. Because our friends were frustrated as well, they all went ashore for dinner. Val and I ate alone in the dinning room and, fortunately, had guessed correctly as the food and service was much better. After dinner Val and I went to the Crossland Lounge where we did finally find a lounge server, Rhonda, who was courteous and pleasant.
Saturday Maui: Again Breakfast in the dinning room was back to a long wait to be seated and poor service. One of the couples in our group had made reservations in the Bistro for the evening. On Friday while she was making the reservations she witnessed another confrontation between crew and passenger. The rule was that reservations would begin at 8:00 a.m. the day prior to the reservation being made. The first person in line at 8:00 a.m. on Friday to make reservations for Saturday was told that the earliest available was 9:30 p.m. How could that be as she was the first in line and no reservations were to have been taken prior to 8:00 a.m.? The crew member explained that someone had "goofed". That response was not taken well and it almost came to blows. Anyway, as our friend paid over $7,000 for their cabin she was able to make the reservations for 8:00 in the Bistro. We had 4 couples for dinning and one of the couples had already had a bad experience in the Bistro and preferred to do something else. As we had not tried the Bistro, we talked them into joining us in hopes it would be better.
One of the reasons Val and I put this cruise group together was to celebrate our 25th anniversary and decided this night would be a good time to do that: eat a nice dinner, have a toast, visit with good friends.
We arrived at 8:00 and were asked to wait in the bar that someone had messed up and they would try to get us in as soon as possible. We had just been served our drinks in the lounge when we were escorted to our table in the Bistro. While ordering dinner, the couple with us that had previously had the bad experience didn't care for any of the appetizers or salads so they just ordered an entrEe. We had a bottle of wine served, but one of the ladies had ordered a glass of different wine. After we ordered and our salads had been served, I realized that it had been over ½ hour and our friend had not yet received her glass of wine. When the waiter finally came back by I had already gone to the lounge and gotten her one myself. 2 ½ hours into the event, the couple that had not wanted to eat there anyway and had only ordered the entrEe, decided to leave un-served. Our event went on for another hour before the remaining 3 couples had finally received and eaten our dinner, AND FOR THIS EXPERIENCE WE ONLY HAD TO PAY A $15.00 PER PERSON UP-CHARGE. We declined desert and left the Bistro at 11:30 (3 ½ hours after we were seated). Needless to say we did not stir the pot and try to celebrate our anniversary.
We were told later that the couple that left dinner early without being served called room service and ordered four slices of pizza when they got back to their room. They were told by the staff that they could not deliver more than two slices at a time. Let's just say that after the evening's events, this response did not sit well!
Our room steward, Jessica, was pleasant and tried very hard but was not trained on detail as our toilet paper was out and never replaced. We left a note that our shower soap dispenser was empty and needed to be filled. She later left us a squeeze bottle of soap. Several of the couples in our group never met their room stewards and encountered many difficulties getting service.
While we stuck mainly to the dining rooms for our meals, many of our group subjected themselves to the buffet area on several occasions...especially on mornings when the ship was in port as this was the only place to try and get a quick meal. It was repeatedly noted that the food was not adequately prepared (the fake scrambled eggs were never done), the area was always dirty (people had to bus tables to have some place to sit) and the drink machines were constantly either empty or broken.
In conclusion I don't feel that I was provided the quality vacation and service that I had paid for. It seems that NCL would be offering all of the passengers some form of restitution as a result of the bad experience. Personally I feel cash reimbursement rather than future NCL credit is in order. In my case I believe that a reasonable settlement to Val and me would be for NCL to reimburse 20% of the cruise price, 50% of the mandatory service tips, both of our restaurant up-charges, and the additional tips for our SPA visits. The result would be an NCL cash reimbursement to us for $600 and Val and I will have still paid NCL about $4,000 for a bad vacation.