First of all, allow me to start with some basic information. We were onboard the 8/22/04 sailing. There were four of us -- my wife, my 2 kids and I. We had a Category E Cabin, located on Deck 8 Forward.
Embarkation: Getting onboard was easy enough. There was a very long line when we first reached the pier, but once inside the terminal building things went smoothly enough, and there were people handing out cups of water. Soon enough we realized we were eligible for Lattitudes check-in, which was very nice considering we had only been on 1 NCL cruise prior to this! As you can imagine, this sped things up even more and we were soon on the ship without any problems to speak of.
Dining: Considering how many complaints there are about Pride of Aloha in this category, you might be surprised to find that I actually thought that it wasn't bad at all! The most difficult thing to deal with was the bottlenecking, as Pride of Aloha (Norwegian Sky) isn't particularly suited to Freestyle Dining. Normally after reaching the front of a long line you could make a reservation of sorts and enjoy activities elsewhere on the ship for a little while until you were ready to be seated. Once actually inside, things were a different story. Service was slightly slow at times, but it was always VERY friendly and adequate. The food is very good, though the menu doesn't change all that much from day to day, and surprisingly (considering she is American flagged) the ship does not offer "President's Night" in the main dining rooms like other NCL ships. Buffet areas were clean, and though lines were long on more than one occasion, I see no reason to blame the cruise line for so many people wanting to eat in one place at one time! Complaints of paper dishes and plastic utensils have no foundation whatsoever, and whoever claimed that they were used should be ashamed! It goes beyond whether your opinion of your cruise was positive or negative.
Service (Other Departments): The cabin steward did his job well, and we had to feel sorry for him! So many people were calling their cabin stewards "lazy Americans" and promising to stiff them for their tips! There was no need for that. We never experienced any dirty sheets or comforters, and everything else about the room was kept very clean. The bathroom was spotless and there were no foul odors to speak of. Bar service was always very friendly, and usually equally prompt.
Entertainment: Despite the strange lack of standup comedians throughout the entire cruise, the entertainment was very good. Production shows aren't usually my favorites, but some of them on the cruise were amazing! In addition there was also an illusionist with some comical magic tricks, and a "Learn How to Perform Magic" show later in the cruise. Also not to be missed are typical NCL game shows like the "Not So Newlywed" game. My daughter enjoyed the children's program, though my son did not attend. The biggest shame in terms of entertainment was the Talent Show! Out of the dozens of people that signed up, 1 showed up and one man performed an act at the last minute after finding out there were so few others! I can imagine, judging from the way these people ranted about the cruise, that they missed the show on purpose to spite the cruise line! The shame of it!
Cabin: The cabin was much smaller than any I've had since '91 on the Nordic Empress! Still, the bathroom was an adequate size, and the 4 of ous managed with our outside cabin just fine. The location was less than ideal, forward on an upper deck, but the motion didn't bother any of us during our short stints at sea. Besides that, NCL was not to blame for Pride of America sinking, as some "charming" passengers claimed. Ever heard of a shipyard? Anyone?
Public Areas: The public areas were spacious, clean and well decorated. They served their purposes well, and there was nothing to complain about here. Like I said, the decor is very bright and colorful, but the ship is tastefully decorated. surprisingly, looking at online photos of Pride of Aloha in her Norwegian Sky days, not much has changed. The Stardust Theatre was a bit odd because of the aluminum handrails which obstructed the view from the balconies -- albeit slightly. My personal favorite areas were the "Outrigger Lounge," with its great observation deck, and the "Blue Hawaii."
Destinations: Some of you may be shocked, and you may think I am crazy, but I do not think Hawaii is what it is made out to be. It is very nice, and the culture probably made it worthwhile to vacation there this time, but I found it not much better than some of the nicer Caribbean islands. Considering how much farther and more expensive it is, I would take the Caribbean Islands unless I wanted to see the ship that badly -- or wanted to take some different excursions in hopes of changing my mind about the Hawaiian Islands! As I have said, they are very nice but not what they are made out to be, which can be rather disappointing. The excursions provided by NCL America were very nice, with the exception of the one to Fern Grotto -- which really is not worth seeing at all in its current state.
Bottom Line: Though my review may seem very positive, there is room for improvement. Not that it was a subpar vacation experience, and if I ever wanted to go that far again I wouldn't hesitate to cruise with NCL America, but as of late August 2004 there are still some problems that I hope get ironed out. Hopefully, as some reports more recent indicate, they have been. :) Perhaps this ship is just not suited to Freestyle Dining, and traditional dining would be for the better in this case.
My biggest gripe was actually about the passengers. They complained endlessly about everything that went wrong! They created a petition to sue the cruise line! When one lady approached me asking to sign while waiting to be seated for the farewell dinner, I refused on the grounds it wasn't nearly as bad as some had claimed -- and she was shocked! I said the biggest problem was people like her complaining, and a good number of people around me agreed and also took a stand, including an older couple we met at the luau in Maui, citing the fact that this was a new venture. The woman tried to argue some more, but for the most part she was speechless! It was not an isolated incident. I was shocked at the behavior of my fellow passengers, particularly how they treated the crew! They had the nerve to call them "Lazy Americans" and some demanded the ship be reflagged to allow Filipinos to come on and "Bend over backwards for you"! One man went into the Purser's Lobby screaming "What kind of ship is this? The ship from Hell?! Go on Carnival -- The Fun Ships!!" It spread bad atmosphere, and made it harder for us to enjoy our cruise. Not only that, it was just disgraceful behavior! They were acting worse than children! So I would like to thank them for making my vacation that much worse. They were the worst part of the entire vacation. Nothing else was as "nightmarish" as they claimed. Period.