This was our first time on a cruise and my wife and I both really enjoyed ourselves. We were following the Pride of Aloha story as it has been getting lots of press coverage here in Hawaii (both of us are locals, born and raised)- we also both took the time to read the reviews here on Cruise Critic before we left for our trip... this was probably the best thing we could have done as we knew what to expect, and the different problems past guests on the ship experienced. The following is a breakdown of our 7 day cruise:
THE GOOD: BOARDING was a snap... my wife and I waited until about 2pm to check in and board. According to one of the workers, we had missed the rush. the boarding process took about an hour BUT that included paying a visit to the shore excursions desk, booking a dinner reservation, and stopping to snap a few pictures. When we arrived at our room, our bags were already there waiting for us.
FREE MOVIES! Yes, I know that we had no business lounging around in our rooms watching free movies but, we were doped up on Dramamine for the first night. There was a bunch of new movies playing all the time... no dialing or ordering, just turn on the TV and enjoy! This was a real plus and one of the very few free things found on the ship.
THE DECOR - Even though the ship isn't "brand new", it certainly is very well appointed. The lounges and bars all have a unique theme to them, the hallways and decks are kept neat and clean, and the Aloha Atrium is bright and welcoming. My wife and I enjoyed walking around and exploring the ship.
THE SERVICE - Guests that we met while on board said that they had much better service on other cruises but, we found the service to be excellent. I really liked that NCL hired as many local people as they could... Aloha is definitely spoken aboard - all of them were very friendly and often would stop and talk with us. They went out of their way to make the guests happy.
If you are on board the Pride of Aloha and aren't sure what to do while docked in one of the ports, just look around and find one of the workers from that island! They are MUCH more knowledgeable then the cruise consultants on board.
THE FOOD - That's right! My wife and I enjoyed eating on board. Although the menus did not change much, we really liked the quality and presentation in The Crossings, Kahili, and Royal Palm bistro. The wait could get pretty long, especially at The Crossings... just put your name down on the list and grab yourself a drink and relax. Once seated, our meals did take a little long (like an hour or two) but, my wife and I really enjoyed spending the time together as the restaurants had a pleasant and formal atmosphere... CAUTION - the good review for the food is not all inclusive- see Hukilau buffet in the bad section.
THE ENTERTAINMENT - Watch the shows that are in the Stardust Lounge. All of them were very good.
OUR CABIN could have been put in both the good AND in the bad. It's really small! Just big enough to fit a bed and little couch in there but, we used our cabin for sleeping and getting ready to go out. The safe, hairdryer, and refrigerator were all unexpected but welcome amenities! My wife and I were also impressed at how clean the room was kept and appreciated the fact that it was cleaned twice a day. Turning down the bed and the mints on our pillow was a very nice touch!
THE BAD THEY CHARGE FOR EVERYTHING! This cruise wasn't cheap- so why do they charge us for our drinks? Even the soda wasn't free!
HUKILAU BUFFET - the only thing Hukilau about it is the name. My wife and I ate lunch there a few times by default as nothing else was open at the time. The food was just okay... very cafeteria like. On the positive however, the fruits were very tasty as were the desserts. We felt a bit rushed in there - kind of like the many meals we ate at the dorms in college.
OUR TOILET - It broke twice during our trip. A quick call to the front desk got the problem resolved. They even called us back the next day to follow up and make sure everything was still okay.
SHOPPING LADY - I'm not sure what her title was but, she is the one who does the "informative" talk about where to go to shop. As stated above, talk to the locals who are working on the ship, don't waste your time attending this "informative session." It seems that Hilo Hatties pays for her to rant and rave about their store. She couldn't pronounce most of the Hawaiian names, and really mangled the history of Hawaii with the talk she gave. REMEMBER: there are so many more places to shop other than Hilo Hatties. Check out the farmers market in Hilo, visit Sig Zane Designs down the road for real authentic aloha wear... ASK THE LOCALS aboard, they'll tell you.
BURRRR.... it gets pretty cold in the ship. make sure you bring a light jacket.
THE UGLY. This may have been just bad luck on our part... we had booked 3 shore excursions when we boarded the ship on Sunday. One was an ATV adventure in Kauai, another was the Kanikapila sunset sail in Lahaina, and the third was a sporting clays activity also in Lahaina. our ATV adventure was a blast! Very fun and staffed by professional and friendly people (we highly recommend doing this in Kauai). unfortunately, we never got to go on our sunset sail. The bus that was supposed to pick us up showed up a half an hour late and by the time we got to the docks at Lahaina, the boat had already set sail. The manager at the shore excursion desk comped us a dinner at the Royal Palm bistro... The next day, we were supposed to go on our sporting clays trip. 5 minutes before the bus was to arrive, we were informed that the trip was cancelled due to some kind of emergency. A gentlemen who was also booked for this excursion said that the sporting clays excursion was cancelled yesterday at the last minute also. One of the workers on shore said she'll look into some kind of compensation for us and that she had our room numbers... she never got back to us.
THE OVERALL EXPERIENCE. All in all, it was very good. my wife and I really enjoyed ourselves as it was a fun way to see the islands. Would we recommend this to our friends? Yes! but, we'd tell them to wait a few months before booking as the quality of the cruise gets better with every trip (at least that's what one of the workers told us). If you are looking for a cruise with lots of opportunity for adventure and activity off shore, then this is really the cruise for you... As mentioned above, the local employees on the ship are the real hidden asset. Make sure you take advantage of their knowledge of the islands as it'll make your trips to shore much more enjoyable.