Norwegian Sky Cruise Review by willysgrandma: Pride of Aloha - Hawaii
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Pride of Aloha - Hawaii
We sailed the Pride of Aloha on the 10/24 sailing. We did not book air or hotel through NCL. We arrived the day before, rented a car and stayed at the Ohana Maile Sky Court Hotel in Waikiki. We paid $58 for the room; it was small but very clean. We weren't looking for anything directly on the beach, as we did not have the time to enjoy it, so this hotel fit us just fine. My nephew is stationed in Oahu in the Marines so he met us and we all went to dinner and then to Pearl Harbor the next day.
We arrived at the ship pier at 1:40 PM. We dropped our bags, got on the security line and were on the ship and in our room by 2:10 PM. We were on deck 4 and we loved the deck - it was VERY quiet. When we arrived, though, there was a flood in the hallway to our room - apparently a pipe had broken. There were engineers running back and forth trying to get it fixed. None of our rooms got wet, only the carpeting and the leak was fixed within an hour of our arrival and a fan was run to dry More up the carpet. The crew moved quickly to get the repair finished.
Our room was clean when we arrived, but apparently, someone further down the halls was not - he found used condoms on the floor. My husband heard a supervisor later on loudly admonishing the cabin attendant who didn't notice this. But it was cleaned right away. (The big issue is who on earth would leave something like that? And how did someone get into the cabin after it was cleaned and the bed made to leave this mess?). We had a different cabin attendant for our room and she was great. The beds were made and the room cleaned by 9:30 AM every morning and the bed turned down at night before we came into the room.
The air conditioning in my brother-in-law's room didn't seem to be working properly. He called the front desk and by the time we came back after exploring the ship, it was fixed. A work order was placed and left in his room to be signed off on and a follow up call was made by NCL later to ensure the problem was corrected.
The rooms are very small, which didn't bother us too much since we were there to sleep only. However, there was a noticeable lack of drawer space - there were four small ones in the closet and that was it. We placed clothing in the bookcase "nightstands". We also had read to bring hangers and we did, but I wasn't about to hang t-shirts and bathing suits on hangers.
The mattress was rock hard. We also read on this review site to call and ask for those foam "egg crates" to be placed on top of the mattress and we did as soon as we arrived. Both of our rooms were able to get them placed on the bed while the supply lasted. I would urge everyone to do this as soon as they get on the ship.
Each room had a refrigerator. On the first island we went to, we bought plastic travel cups and filled them with iced tea at the Cafe and left them in the refrigerator so we had a cold drink available at all times. We later found out that they would allow us to bring bottled water or soda back onto the ship when we were in port, which made the fridge handy. There is a small couch and table, which we felt were wasted - you could not sit more than 1 person on the couch and the table ended up being in the way.
The bathroom was very small. Make sure you pull the shower curtain all the way closed or you will end up with water on the floor, as the lip around the shower is not deep enough. There was plenty of room for our toiletries in the bathroom and our attendant kept it clean. There were some small cracks in the plastic in some spots, but nothing that affected our view of the room. We could not imagine how anyone who is large would fit in the stall to shower. But the water pressure was great and there was plenty of hot water.
We then began to explore the ship. We were impressed with the renovations done in the public areas - it was elegant with beautiful wood. We particularly liked the Outrigger Lounge as it had a full glass view of the front of the ship with an outside deck. We spent our time there at night and the day the ship passed the Napali Coast. The Blue Hawaii Lounge, where a lot of the Karaoke and games were played, was colorful, with almost full sized statues of Elvis, and some others.
We were not impressed with the stores - they were mostly high end stores and impossible for most to afford. At no time were these shops crowded as I have seen on other cruise lines. I would have liked more POA branded items at reasonable prices to have taken home as souvenirs.
There were two pools on deck 11 and 5 hot tubs. The pools can not be accessed by those who are handicapped. There is a deck around the entire pool (to prevent water from splashing outside the area in severe weather, I assume) that you had to either step up on or sit on and swing your legs around to the other side to get to the pool area. My sister-in-law, who recently had back surgery, could not get into the pool either of those two ways. There should be a step up with a railing and a step down somewhere around the pool to allow people who have some form of physical disability to use the pool also.
There was also another small wading pool with a waterfall in the front of the ship for children. We found that there were not many children on this cruise (which was exactly what we were looking for) due to the time of year so if was a fairly quiet cruise the entire time. Children that were on board were well behaved - we did not see one child fighting with another, screaming, or running wild. The teens on the ship were all well behaved and polite - it was a pleasure. There were some newlyweds, but I would say the majority of cruisers on this ship were over the age of 50. Both my sister-in-law and I walk with canes and we did not feel out of place at all - there were more canes, walkers and wheelchairs than I have ever seen on this ship.
We ate frequently in the Hukilau Cafe on deck 11, where the buffet food was. The food was true buffet food - nothing to write home about. We found the service to be the poorest in that area. Any other cruise ship I have been on has had the buffet located on both the starboard and port sides of the ship, so there was plenty of room on both sides for people lining up for food. Not here. The buffet was located on the starboard side, with the only inside tables on the starboard side also. There were more tables around the pool area and on the back deck, but it was not enough to adequately seat everyone who wanted to eat at the Cafe. There was another buffet on the stern, but no one to direct people there, so if you didn't find this hidden treasure, the lines for food were very long. People in large groups also stayed at these tables well after they finished eating to socialize as there were not a lot of convenient places for large groups to sit together and shoot the breeze.
The port side of the ship housed another restaurant and two bars and would have been better served to use it for more of the buffet. We never found that restaurant to be crowded; the space could have been better used.
There was plenty of fresh fruit at a carving station daily (yes, fresh pineapple too). The only problem was the server who was cutting the fruit couldn't always keep up with the customers, so many times the selection of fruit was limited until more was prepared.
The eggs at breakfast were not runny as previously reported by many, they were cooked just fine. Outside around the pool in the mornings were stations where omelets and waffles were freshly made. The breakfast meal was the best served. Be very careful of the steam at the hot stations - I burned my hand trying to reach a serving spoon.
Arriving at the buffet, a server handed you a plate, fork, knife and napkin. No spoons, which were hard to find. There were spots to hold spoons near the coffee machines, but they were mostly empty. There were also 2 juice machines that never worked - a server came around with pitchers of juice to be served. They were finally fixed on the last day of the cruise, when the entire buffet was closed from 3:00 PM until 3:00 AM to service and repair machines.
At times we found no milk in containers for breakfast cereal, no brown sugar for oatmeal, and several times they ran out of ice cream. There was an Ice Cream Bar that was open daily from 3:00 to 5:00 PM. Since we were never on the ship at those times, we never had ice cream there.
The bigger problem with this Cafe was the lack of staff to clean the used dishes from the table. Cruisers were either emptying their own dishes or putting them on empty tables to make room. There were also no trays, so you could not get your meal, a drink and fruit at once and carry it to the table - you had to do one at a time because there was no way to carry it all.
One thing we did love at the buffet was the soup station. Every day there was a hot and cold soup, and the cold ones were all fruit soups. They were all delicious - it was like having dessert for dinner! And one morning there were crepes, which were terrific too. If you need a spoon, that was the one spot you could almost always find them.
Each night there was a different theme in the Cafe - one night it was Asian food, one night fish, etc. And none of the problems were cruise wreckers either - most of us simply found a work around.
There was also a vegetarian selection at the back of the Cafe near the pool. However, there were no plates or silverware to put the food on, so you had to go to the long buffet line to get a plate to put the food on.
We ate one night in the Crossings Main Restaurant and two nights in the Palace. Both served the same menu. There were three main dishes that changed at these restaurants daily, and then a few others that remained the same throughout the cruise. It was the same with appetizers and soups. The only appetizer that all in our party enjoyed were the crab cakes. All of the soups each night were good, as were the salads. But the main dishes, and the chef's special, were almost always bland. What was good each night was the steak - I'd recommend that, all of us enjoyed it. The desserts were also very good.
We arrived at dinner in these restaurants at 5:30 and there were no lines at all, we were seated immediately. Our server in the Palace, Sam, was excellent - dinner was finished in under an hour. Our server in the Crossings was fairly new - he was only on the ship for three weeks was a little slower, so the next night we went back to the Palace and requested Sam. The waiters on this ship have to bus their own tables, which takes up a lot of time for them. If they had enough staff to bus the tables, service would be quicker. When we left the restaurant only one night was there a line of people waiting to be seated and the estimated wait time was 15 - 20 minutes.
We also ordered room service to have coffee delivered in the morning. On the first cruise day, a menu was left to hang on the door to order. We used that, the order was delivered on time and the coffee was nice and hot. However, when we tried the next night to call the number listed in our room for room service to do the same, the phone number didn't work. So, when we knew the night before we would like coffee delivered, we went to the front desk and got the cards to hang on the door.
If you have any formal portraits taken, I would suggest getting your pictures taken on the staircase and not use the backgrounds. Many of the backgrounds had large scratches on them, particularly the tropical background and one of the formal backgrounds. The scratched backgrounds ruined the pictures and were absolutely noticeable. We had several conversations with others who were really annoyed when we pointed out the scratches in the pictures to them and had to have pictures retaken. It is beyond me how the photographer even uses the backgrounds, they should be replaced. Also, some of the pictures were blurry and out of focus.
We did not book any excursions through the ship - we rented cars at every port except Kona and we were happy we did. It saved a LOT of money and time. For instance, in Maui, we did the Road to Hana in 3-1/2 hours. The trip through the ship was 8 hours. After awhile, all those bridges and overlooks start looking the same - we were so thankful we didn't have to stop at every one to save time. In Hilo, we did the same when we visited the Volcanoes National Park - did it in 3 hours vs. 7 hours on the ship excursion. Reserve your car in advance and a shuttle will be waiting to take you to pick up the car when you get off the ship. We used Alamo, they had the best rates.
In Kauai, we visited the Waimea Canyon and Rainbow Falls. We also drove to the southern part of the island and visited a blow hole that had some little shops, an excursion not offered by the ship. The ship also cruised along the Napali Coast when going to Kona and it was a magnificent view!
In Kona, we did not rent a car. When we got to shore, a tour operator we found outside the pier gave us a tour 2 -1/2 hour driving tour of Kona for $25 per person. He took us to a coffee plantation, some churches, and gave us a lot of insight into the people living on the island. We then went back to the pier, and took a trolley to the Kona Inn Shops. Beware of this - the trolley took us there but never came back to pick anyone up! We walked back to the ship, a 10 minute walk, but with a cane it was a little tedious. We ate at a great restaurant in the shopping village and met up with some ship employees who showed us a video they taped that morning of another broken water pipe flooding deck 5 that happened that morning.
In Hilo, we visited the Volcanoes National Park, which was spectacular. At night as the ship cruised from Kona to Hilo, at 1:00 AM you could get up and see the active volcano pouring lava into the ocean as the shipped passed. We also explored some of the island before returning the car.
In Maui, we did the Road To Hana and found some surfers on the way back at a beach windsurfing, which was cool to watch. That evening, we had booked our own luau at the Old Lahaina Luau, which was fabulous and about $15 less per person than the ship's luau. It was beautiful, right on a beach and the dancers were great - I would highly recommend that luau. It featured a pig roast, large buffet and all you could drink - not just one drink as some of the other luaus did. We also loved Lahaina, which is a funky town similar to Key West that we went back to the next day and hung out. In Lahaina, you can book a fishing boat, submarine ride, glass bottom boat ride all on your own at savings over the ship. We also explored the entire island - we went to southwest Maui and saw the exclusive hotels and we went to the beach outside of Lahaina - you simply pull over and go swimming wherever you wanted.
The evening we stayed overnight in Maui, at 4:30 in the morning we were awakened by the smell of smoke. We were out in the hallway ready to run off the ship in our underwear and p.j.'s (forget about muster stations!!) when I called the front desk and we were told that they were burning sugar cane on the island. When we went to breakfast, the smell was still going strong and we found that we weren't the only ones in hallways in pajamas - most people on the ship were ready to flee also. But that did lead us to visit a Sugar Mill nearby and take a tour of their museum, where we learned all about how sugar is processed and that we did indeed smell the sugar cane burning and not the ship.
The shows at night on the ship were great. The first night was a Polynesian Review, the second night a Magician, Scott Alexander, who was great. At that show, we were sitting next to a woman from San Diego who was a cruise reviewer and was writing a review of the ship. She had been reviewing several NCL cruises within the month. She was not happy with the room- she said her beds were not made up until late in the day and she felt that the crew did not have enough training, which caused some of the problems in the restaurants that we noticed.
We talked to many of the employees about the previous reviews passengers had given and those who worked the ship from the beginning acknowledged them and stated that many of the problems have been resolved, which we felt was true. Not one of them bad mouthed the line, even the ones who showed us the video. We did ask the waiter who had been with the ship for 3 weeks how long it took to obtain his Coast Card certification - from his reply, it was our impression that certifications are now being rushed through and as long as the employee didn't have a criminal record, the process was expedited.
All crew were as attentive as possible and polite and did as much as possible to satisfy us. At a poolside BBQ buffet held the second day the ship was in Kauai, we saw a passenger walk by the buffet and grab a hot dog off a tray with his bare hands. He was admonished, rightly so, by the cook never to pick up food with his bare hands as it could contaminate all the food on the tray. We cheered for the NCL employee on that one.
Disembarkation was also smooth. We liked the fact that you could leave your luggage in your room until your tag colors were called to disembark. Once our color was called, we were out and had our luggage within 20 minutes.
Upon disembarkation, there is a place on the pier you can store your luggage for $5 per bag so you can do other excursions if you have a late flight home. We didn't have that luxury and had booked the Oahu Airport Shuttle two weeks before we left for the cruise. It cost only $25 for four of us and our luggage - the cheapest rate around. We did not book our air through the ship, and if we wanted the ship to book a shuttle for us to the airport they would have charged us $20 each ($80) for the service. I called the shuttle once we had our bags; they were there within 10 minutes and had us to the airport quickly.
All in all, for the price and the value we felt we got by being able to visit four islands and not having to stay on hotels on each of the islands and constantly packing and unpacking, we were pleased with the cruise. If you are a person who is ultra picky about a cruise and like white glove service and the best food - this may not be the one for you. But for the majority of cruisers who can make the most out of a great opportunity to see as much of Hawaii as possible and not get upset if things aren't perfect, this was a great deal. Less
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