We just got back from a week in paradise on the Pride of Aloha. Embarkation was very smooth. We got to our cabin and it was clean and tidy (even clean sheets)- which is the way it was throughout the week. Our cabin steward, Marietta, took care of all our requests and was very efficient.
At my request, the crew on POA arranged a get-together for all of the Cruise Critics on board. It was fun to meet everyone we had been emailing through Cruise Critic.
The only thing that wasn't up to paradise standards on the POA was the food. POA has a lot to address on the quality of the food offered. Freestyle dining is not for us. On a cruise, we expect good service and delicious food. You won't get either on the POA. The buffets started out great; Prime Rib, Prawns, and even lobster! Then after the 3rd day it went downhill. Even the $2.99 buffets in Las Vegas were better than the buffets on days 4-6. The Crossings Restaurant was okay, but if you eat later in the evening (8 p.m.) be prepared to eat food that was prepared for those eating at 6 p.m. The service was slow, but where else do you have to go? So we just enjoyed our server, Crystal. If you go to the Crossings, request her table and tell her the California group recommended her. You'll have a great time. We did not go to the pay restaurants. We do not agree with this policy as you pay enough to cruise without paying for your meals too.
We rented a car on each island. Thrifty had the lowest prices, but their service wasn't very prompt. If you do rent a car don't leave anything in it. Theft is very popular among the island people. Our cameras got stolen in Oahu so we learned the hard way. We only took one shore excursion - Kona Rafting & Snorkeling. Take it if you like to snorkel - it was a blast.
We didn't have to pay the $10 a day per person service fee. That was nice but it made tipping a little difficult. It seems awkward to tip a server or crew member who helps you, a couple of dollars - I prefer the traditional tipping process. It was obvious that all the crew was instructed to be polite and helpful - everyone had a smile and a friendly hello. It was hard to find a cocktail server - don't understand that one!
Disembarkation was a breeze. It was so pleasant not to have to wait in a lounge or waiting area. We sat on the balcony and waited for our color to be called. Would I recommend the POA? I really don't think so. Only because of the Freestyle Dining concept. The itinerary is good, the ship is nice and the islands are wonderful. But food and service is one of the most important parts of cruising and POA missed the boat on both of these! If you are sailing on the POA - go because you will have a great time - just don't expect too much in the food and the service departments. Aloha.