My husband and I just returned from the 10/03 sailing of Pride of Aloha, and had a wonderful time. Most of the problems that we were concerned about appear to have been resolved. The staff is very helpful, friendly, and eager to please. The itinerary absolutely incredible, and the views from the ship while entering and leaving ports and circling the islands make this a really tremendous cruise.
Itinerary: We learned as we were boarding that our itinerary had changed. On Monday, we had a sea day rather than docking at Nawiliwili in the morning. We cruised the Na Pali coastline during the day, and got to port at 6 PM, due to another ship on a repositioning cruise that had bumped us. Therefore, we only had 1 day on Kauai. The other itinerary change was that rather than overnighting in Kahului, Maui, we left that port at 10:30 PM to go to Lahaina. There we tendered beginning at 8 AM, and did not have to return to the ship until 10 PM. The Kauai change was unwelcome, but the Maui change was most welcome! Many people had to scramble to rearrange rental cars and excursions, and the lines at the excursion desk were very long indeed!
Embarkation: We decided to board at about 4 PM departure day in order to avoid lines and waiting. At about 2 PM we dropped our luggage off at the pier, and had lunch at Don Ho's Island Grill using an Entertainment Book Buy One Get One Free offer. Although the scenery is nice at this harbor view restaurant, we were seated in the bar and waited on by the bartender. The food was OK, not spectacular, and the service should have been much better. I had Coconut Shrimp ($17), and my husband had a Lobster Rice ($19). I would not return there. We had our parking ticket validated, proceeded to the airport to return our rental car, then took The bus from the airport back downtown for $2.00 each, and walked about 3 blocks south to the pier. This was inexpensive and efficient for us. We were accompanied by a couple of crew who had also taken the bus, and this is where we learned about our itinerary change!! When we arrived at the pier, we proceeded straight through and boarded the ship. Our bags were waiting for us at our door. The cabin was completely clean and ready. We quickly grabbed our life preservers and headed out to our muster station for our required drill, making it just in time. Afterward, we toured the ship to get oriented. The Haikalu had quite a spread going: shrimp cocktail and prime rib were the highlights, along with poolside barbecue with ribs and other grilled items. These options were tempting, and many people appeared to be enjoying the offerings, but we decided to try Crossings.
The Cabin: We had an inside cabin, Category K on Deck 8 (Viking). It was about 10 by 12, and had just enough room for the queen bed and about a foot to get around each side. There was a small desk and a corner shelving unit which accommodated the TV, ice, glasses, and refrigerator. The closet and drawers were adequate for our needs, as we pack light. The decorating was simple with a woven floral bedspread and framed floral prints on each wall. It was not especially Hawaiian, but it was pleasant. The room lighting was more than sufficient and well thought out, with switches by the bed and numerous options and combinations. The bathroom was small but efficient, with adequate shelves for our toiletries. It was spotless. We did bring some suction cup hooks to help with hanging up wet items (helpful), and an air freshener just in case (unnecessary). The best thing about the room was that it was VERY quiet and you could never detect noise from adjacent cabins, above, below, or from the hallway. Our cabin steward was efficient, and things were kept very nicely.
The Ship: The ship was very festive and colorful, and everything seemed to be in very good to perfect condition. Continual cleaning was in progress. The lounges were lovely, especially the Outrigger Lounge, which we enjoyed on numerous occasions and to view the Na Pali coastline. We also liked the Longboard Lounge near the buffet area. The Atrium was vibrant, and the carpets and textiles were whimsical and made me smile! I am not sure how many passengers were on board, but the ship never seemed crowded, except for the buffet areas.
Breakfasts and Lunches: The most efficient option for breakfast was the buffet, which began serving at 6 AM in the aft Hukilau Lanai area. The offerings were basically sausage and bacon, plain and cheesy scrambled eggs (OK and not runny), fresh fruits, yogurt, cereals, cheese blitzes, Danish and croissants, juices (often only one kind), coffee, tea, etc. Omelets, waffles, pancakes, cold meats, salmon, bagels, English muffins, toast, oatmeal with toppings, and other items were available at other stations as the morning progressed, but we had usually left the ship by the time they opened. A fresh fruit carving station was prominently located in the buffet area, where an attendant carved pineapple, melons of various types, papaya, mango, and other exotic fruits during most serving hours all day! There was a lot of fresh fruit available!! Back ups frequently occurred in the beverage areas, although not in the Lanai area. As you get off the elevator on Deck 11, go through the Longboard Lounge to the back to avoid lines.
Breakfast was also served on several mornings in the Palace Dining Room beginning at 7 AM. We were seated immediately each time we ate there. Beverages were served, and several a la carte items were offered, including Eggs Benedict, Eggs Sardou, Omelets, and eggs cooked to order. Of these, the Eggs Sardou was very good, and the Eggs Benedict was OK. Meats, side items, and fresh fruits were offered on an attractively arranged buffet line. The service here was nice and fairly quick, and much less frenzied than in the buffet area. The disappointment in the Palace was that the windows were frequently wet on the outside, obscuring the beautiful views.
We were off the ship most days at lunch time, so did not observe the buffet. The one sea day that we did have lunch on the ship, we ate at Palace, which had an attractive buffet with about 5 entrEe options. There were some small problems there: all four salad dressings were creamy, only 3 of the entrees were labeled, small things really. I made my suggestions to the maitre 'd, and he seemed receptive and thankful. The desserts were pretty good with at least 8 options, including Tirimasu!
The ship appeared to run out of cream for coffee on about Day 5.
Dinners: We ate primarily at Crossings, and did not try the specialty restaurants. We were always seated promptly, usually in the section that we requested. The hostesses there were delightful and very friendly. We typically ate at 5:30 when Crossings opened, were seated immediately, and were finished within 1 hour. Many of the wait staff that we observed and experienced were overly casual with passengers and desperately in need of training. One waitress commented to my husband that he had "slurped that soup right down"! We also overheard the waiter at an adjacent table telling the guests that they could order whatever they liked, because they were paying for it!! On our last evening, the service was very slow and quite inattentive, but that dinner was at 9 PM. Perhaps that made a difference. We encountered one waiter who was excellent, Rudolph in Crossings. He was speedy, friendly, professional, and efficient, and we cannot recommend him highly enough!
The appetizer and salad selections did not change from day to day: Pot Stickers, Crisp Veggie Rolls, Pate, Crab Fritters, Gazpacho, Maui Onion Soup, Lobster and Pumpkin Bisque, Mussel Chowder, Volcano Lettuce, Spinach Salad, Caesar Salad. Most were quite good, but another salad selection or two would have been welcome.
There were several fixed EntrEe selections each evening: Turkey Parmigiana with Marina and Alfredo Pastas (OK), Striploin Steak (did not try), Mahi Mahi (very good), and a couple of others. There was a daily Chef's Special, which featured a dish from one of the notable island chefs. Those that we tried were good. Three additional entrees were also offered on various evenings, including Prime Rib, Lobster Tails, Pork Loin, and others. None of the meals were exceptional, and most were very good. Desserts were a highlight. There was a soufflE offered nightly, along with cakes, pies, sherbets, and mousse.
The most important thing to do in the standard dining is to arrive early, find a waiter who has been recommended on these boards, sit in his or her section, and tip!
Tipping: The usual $10/day/person service fee was not charged on this cruise. No guidance was given regarding tips. I planned to tip up to the $140 level in total, but frankly did not find much service that truly warranted it. Service was not bad, but mostly just adequate. I tipped our room steward when we arrived, and when we received attentive service at dinner, I tipped generously. The tip recipients seemed very surprised to be getting something!
Excursions: We did not take any ship excursions, but instead opted to rent cars at each port. We booked everything online, using the various discounts available to us. We used Hertz, Thrifty, and Enterprise. We called the local rental office when ready to leave the ship, and all shuttles were very timely.
Tenders: We tendered in Kona and in Lahaina (unplanned port). Tenders were very efficient, but were quite warm when full. Sit by a window if you can. We were on one of the first few tenders at both ports.
Entertainment: Monday: Hula dancers from Kauai, only OK, seemed a little amateurish Tuesday: "Hey, Mr. Producer" (Broadway review), excellent Wednesday: John Shryock (magician) very good Thursday: Jean-Ann Ryan Company, "Sea Legs Cirque" (dance/acrobatic) excellent Saturday: Jean-Ann Ryan Company, "Runnin' Wild" (Bob Fosse type review), excellent.
The Stardust Lounge is attractive but chilly, so bring a wrap. The view is best from the Deck 6 lower level, and the chairs are more comfortable from sofas. Doors open 30 minutes before show. The Jean-Ann Ryan Company shows are truly excellent should not be missed; I didn't enjoy the others as much.
Debarkation: We opted to carry our luggage off the ship and depart at 7:30 AM. We got up at 5:30 AM, packed, and ate a quick buffet breakfast. This option was very fast and uncomplicated. We had arranged for a Thrifty Rental car, so we called at about 7 AM, and the shuttle arrived just as we were leaving the ship. Very easy.