Pride of Aloha - Hawaii: Norwegian Sky Cruise Review by vega
Overall Member Rating
Pride of Aloha - Hawaii
This review will be broken down into several sections: Embarkation, Dining, Entertainment, Islands/Tours.
This was my husbands and I honeymoon and sixth cruise. Wed previously cruised with RCCL (Serenade and Majesty of the Seas), Princess (Golden), Carnival (Triumph) and Norwegian (Crown), so we have had a variety of experiences and have other lines to compare this cruise to.
We chose to book our own air More because wed heard booking through NCL could mean up to three connecting flights, large layovers, etc. It was also cheaper to book on our own and not buy the transfer from the airport to the pier and back. We flew with America West/US Airways and had a connecting flight in Phoenix. We got a taxi at the airport and paid less than $20 each way, tip included.
Embarkation onto the Aloha was one of the easiest we have ever had. Since we arrived at about 3 pm and most had boarded earlier, there was no line or wait to get on. I received a lei and my husband a shell necklace. We got our room cards from the Latitudes desk and were in our room in ten minutes. We had a balcony in the aft part of the ship and were pleased with the size of the room and balcony. However, we were disappointed with the minimal storage space and shocked to see our room was not fully made up when we first entered it. We had clean sheets on the bed but the pillows were lying on the divan, the bathroom seat was dirty I had to clean it. We were also short on towels. Our stateroom steward was nowhere to be found that first day and when we later spoke with reception they said that the stewards were off until 5 or 6 pm. I fully understand people having time off but on embarkation day for half the ship? I am used to being greeted by the steward, who welcomes us to the room and asks if we need anything. Not so here. We didnt see him until our third day on board, although he did make up the stateroom the following day. NCL, apparently in an effort to cut costs, also decided not to have cover/throw overs on any of the beds. We just thought our room steward had ours stashed somewhere in the room but we couldnt find it and later saw that none of the rooms had it. We did not mind not having the covers but it was just bizarre to see.
NCL advertises Freestyle cruising as being great because you can eat anywhere anytime. That is almost true. NCL forgot to mention the waits to get a table and the practice of handing out beepers that would alert you when your table was ready. Wow, I had thought I was on a cruise ship, not Applebees! Freestyle should not mean having to wait forty minutes for a table, while walking around with a beeper, or calling ahead of time to try and make a reservation. That seems to defeat the whole purpose.
Dinners took two hours on average. If you told the waiter you were in a hurry and trying to catch the show, they could get you in an out in just under 2 hours. However, if it was a busy night or the waiter/ress was preoccupied, dinner could easily take 2.5 hours. Food ranged from average to good. Every night they offered a steak. We ordered it twice and twice it was overcooked and dry, even though we ordered medium-well the first night and medium the second. My husband ordered the chicken teriyaki and did not enjoy that either. Shrimp cocktail was not on the menu every night but if you ask your waiter or waitress, they can get a couple to you.
My husband and I love fixed dining because of the consistency in the wait staff so as soon as we got on board we tried to find a good waitress and asked for her repeatedly as we dined at the Crossings. Josh seemed like a great waiter. He approached a family who he had served the previous night but was not serving that night just to find out how they were doing. We requested him several times but his tables were always booked. Our cabin neighbors recommended Kellie so we gave her a try, liked her, and asked for her every night for the rest of our cruise.
Overall, service was okay. Waiters were friendly, helpful, tried their best to make us happy, but things were slow. One evening it took an hour to get my hot tea. When asked what was going on, they said they couldnt find a kettle. Hmmm&. Another night we didnt get bread the whole evening, despite asking for it, twice. These are all minor things but they do affect the cruise experience.
The Specialty Restaurants Kahili, Palm Bistro, Pacific Heights, which charge $10 a person, and are half price on Sunday and Monday, had significantly better service. Your waiter/waitress was constantly present and helpful. We dined at both Kahili and Pacific Heights and enjoyed both the service and the food immensely. We didnt enjoy having to pay for this kind of service, as that is what we are used to getting in the dining rooms on both Royal Caribbean and Princess for free.
Word of advice book with these restaurants ahead of time. They fill up quickly. It is possible to book during the cruise but you will most likely only be able to get a reservation for the following day. The hours to book dinner at the specialty restaurants are 8 am to 5 pm. You can either do it by phone or just walk to the 7th floor, Cultural Center (its a little hard to find, as you have to walk out of the atrium to the shops and the computers). If you cannot find someone there and no one is picking up the phone, and its 4:45 pm (that happened to us several times), go directly to Pacific Heights. You can easily make reservations there for any of the three restaurants.
The entertainment on the Aloha was pretty good. We enjoyed the magician, the Jeanne Anne Ryan dance group did a great job, and we loved their version of the Cirque de Soleil, which they called Cirque Sea Legs. The cruise director and his staff were present and kept the crowd entertained. The comedian, who did two shows, was hilarious and had a large turnout.
NCL offers the best itinerary of all of the cruise lines for Hawaii, which is why many have said, and I would concur, that you are not sailing with NCL for their service but rather for the Hawaiian itinerary.
Hawaii in a word: wow, amazing, spectacular, and breathtaking. Oops, thats four words. I cant believe its part of the US. Its a whole different culture, a whole different language, astonishing land formations, beautiful colors, amazing smells that I wish I could bottle. It is like nothing else weve ever seen. We wanted to enjoy the islands to the fullest so we booked a number of excursions.
Kauai we booked the six hour Heaven and Earth expedition through NCL, which gave us a tour of Kauai, a chance to see the town of Princeville, learn about the red dirt that is found on every island, lunch at Hanalei Bay, and take a 30 minute helicopter ride over the NaPali coast and Waimea Canyon. We got to see where King Kong and South Pacific were filmed and the sheer beauty of the NaPali Cliffs. My husband never once turned off the video camera because each mountain, each ridge was unique. The waterfall was spectacular, and our pilot, Joe, was very smooth. I was terrified to fly and get sick but it was an easy flight and I could not have felt better. It was also beautiful to see the NaPali coast from water, as we cruised by it the following day.
Hilo Big Island, the newest island, the continually growing island. We booked a Circle of Fire Helicopter tour, also through NCL, and saw the smoke coming out of Vent Poooaaah (Im butchering the spelling, sorry), which is a part of Kilauea Volcano. We circled over the vent and saw the lava inside the craters. We saw the lava flowing down the side of the mountain and entering the ocean as smoke arose.
After the tour of the volcano, we headed to Old Richardsons beach, a small, rugged black sand beach that is about a 10-minute ride away from the cruise ship. It was lovely the water was warm and clear, there were lots of volcanic rocks, beautiful places to take pictures, and a picturesque beach in general.
Kona since we only had one day in Kona we wanted to make the most of it. Our cruise director recommended going to Turtle Beach, which actually has a number of other names, because it has the best snorkeling and turtles that swim up to shore. This beach also had black sand and was very rugged. Water shoes would have been helpful since there are a number of rocks in the water. The beach did have unbelievable snorkeling we saw a lot of different types of fish. I told my husband that I felt like I was in Finding Nemo because we saw nemo, we saw the puffer fish, and an assortment of other beauties.
Maui We booked two tours here Molokini and Turtle Arches snorkel and Haleakala Sunrise and Downhill Bike tour. Snorkeling at Molokini was fun the water was very clear, we got to see a lot of different fish and it was amazing to realize that we were snorkeling in a crater! Turtle arches was also nice we got to see a few turtles and some other nice fish around the corals.
The Haleakala sunrise and bike down was the highlight of our trip. It was the best tour we took. We booked it through NCL, who contracted with Maui Downhill. We were picked up at 2:30 am from the ship by Nikki and Adelia, driven 10-15 minutes to a location where we ate some breakfast (tea/coffee and muffins), were given our helmets, and windproof pants and jacket, and then taken up to Haleakala. Word of advice dress warmly, very warmly, particularly if you are not from the North and not used to a good cold winter. We were up there in late June and it felt like it was 40-50 degrees, which is not bad but the wind chill brought the temp down to about 30, plus there was no sun to warm you up, so it was cold. My husband and I had thermal underwear, pants, a tank top, a t-shirt, a light sweater, a warm sweater, a jacket, PLUS the windproof gear we got from the tour providers to keep us warm. The sunrise was spectacular. We have witnessed many beautiful sunrises but never from 10,000 feet up and from above the clouds. Once the sun finally came up, you were able to see the magnificent clouds and the crater all around us. Our pictures make Haleakala look like Mars! Everything is orange and beautiful. By 7 am we were biking 28 miles down the crater through a series of turns and switchbacks, 7 ecosystems, a temperature that kept elevating, scenery that kept changing, clouds that kept rising as we kept going downhill, and smells that were captivating. We had a blast and would definitely recommend it. If you are wary of riding a bike, afraid of heights (there are times when you look to the right and all you see is a precipice and clouds), you can hop in a van that follows the group and drive down in the van the rest of the way back.
And that concludes our cruise to the Hawaiian islands. Overall, we had a great time. Service in the restaurants needs to be improved. The idea is good eat anywhere, anytime. However, there should not be a half hour or hour-long wait associated with it. Numerous times, Id run down to the restaurant and make reservations for an hour later because it was either that or Id have to sit for an hour and wait for a table. Service was too slow once inside and food wasnt as sumptuous as it could and should be. Our room steward was invisible for the first two days. I had to fetch my own towels from other room stewards on several occasions. When we tried to complain to one of the women at the Reception desk, Janet, she was completely apathetic. She said shed note it in the system. That was it. No apology, nothing. When we asked her a question about when the dining room would close, she said 9 pm. We later went to the Maitre D' and he said they close at 11 pm or so. They take their last diner at 9:29 pm and close when they leave.
Additionally, on our first night in Maui we received an announcement that the cruise would be repositioned at 9 pm that night. We would stay in the same port but the ship would move a little to make room for another vessel. Well, the repositioning did not happen until later, around 11 pm, and lasted until 1 am. People were not allowed to get on or off the ship at that time and were told to wait outside in the howling wind, for what later turned out to be three hours while they moved the boat two or three times to different spots. There were elderly people who did not have a place to sit and had to stand, shivering. They were not even allowed into the embarkation area, which had room to sit and a roof and doors to keep the wind out. The security guards did nothing and were completely unhelpful. Our cabin neighbors paid a cab driver to let them sit in the car and stay warm while they waited. They were happy to get back onto the ship at 1 am, since they had to be outside at 2:30 am again for the Haleakala sunrise tour. Both passengers and crew were stuck outside, in the elements, and people were so angry that a fight broke out and police had to come, break it up, and wound up arresting a crew member.
Finally, while room service on board was generally good, it was unreliable at times. Both our neighbors and us ordered room service for 2 am the morning of our Haleakala adventures and neither came. I called, panicked at 2:20 am, asking where our hot tea and fruits were and was told they did not have such an order.
To conclude, the cruise ship has a lot of areas for improvement, particularly in the areas of dining and customer service. However, with a destination like Hawaii it is hard not to have an amazing time!! Bon voyage and aloha to you all.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me via email firstname.lastname@example.org. Less