Seven of us traveled aboard the Pride of America in March. Please note, we were the last cruise allowed before the 'Rona shut the world down, so keep that in mind, as for precautions were taken and new procedures were added hourly throughout the week.
We were lucky enough to book an obstructed view suite (Cabin 7094). Staying in a suite has some added benefits, like express check in at the port. When we arrived, we were met with Lei's and asked to fill out a questionnaire about our health, along with getting our temperature taken via infrared thermometer. Once in the building, the lines were long, but we were taken to another area with refreshments and some finger foods. We met our concierge (I believe his name was Steve) and I have to say, he seemed annoyed...and remained that way the entire week. 15 minutes of some computer work, and we were escorted aboard and to our room. Cabin 7094 has 2 rooms. One room has a queen bed, and a couch that opens up to fit 1-2 people. The other room is smaller, and has 2 single beds (that can be altered to be a queen) and 2 fold down beds. It's tight, but you are really never in this room except to shower and sleep. Each room has its own bathroom with shower.
Once inside, our Butler, Georgia arrived to introduce herself. She was amazing! She asked if we needed any help with reservations or excursions. We asked for a few things to be altered and she said she would take care of it. 20 minutes later, our concierge called the room and asked the same thing, we explained that we talked to Georgia about it and he replied "Well, thats not her job, it's mine, you need to talk to me, not her". Yeah, I was done with this guy.
We ate a fast dinner at the Cadilllac Diner, food wasn't the best, and service was very slow. Never offered any refills. The place is small, but they only had 2 waitress' working, so I can say they weren't working hard. By this time, it was 8pm local ( but we have been awake for nearly 21 hours, so we got to bed.
Let me say this, If you have been on a big, new ship in the Caribbean that sways a little....this is NOT those ships. This bad boy dips, sways, drops, and rolls. Since you really only sail at night, and have 2 nights you stay in port, its not too bad, and you do get use to it, but that first night was a bit crazy.
Day 2 Maui:
Rent a car! Budget has great rates, and has a shuttle that picks you up at the port. We did a lot that first day. We drove down to One'Lui beach, it's a small black sand beach. There was. a sign saying you needed to pay for parking, but the locals all said we didn't have to, no one actually ever checks.
Then we headed to our excursion through "Four Winds Maui Snorkel". We booked this directly through them, and it was great. Took the afternoon "Coral Gardens" trip in hopes of seeing sea turtles. We saw one when we arrived, but none during our snorkel. The crew was great, lunch and drinks were provided and also great.
Once back, we stopped at "Beach Street Shave Ice" for a little snack, then headed to the summit of Mt Haleakala'. We went at night and the stars you see are amazing. Google it.
Day 3 Maui:
We went on the "Maui Waterfall and Hiking" excursion. Book this through "Hike Maui"! This is the SAME excursion and company they offer via NCL for a lot less. They will pick you up right outside the Port (5 minute walk). Our guide was Steve, he was awesome..we had a blast. Jumped off 5 waterfalls, has some lunch, and walked through some beautiful tropical areas.
That evening, we ate at La Cucina (The 1st of 4 specially restaurants we ate at). This is where the saying "you get what you pay for" really has value. The food and service was superb. The Filet was mouthwatering.
Day 4: Hilo
This is the day the virus started showing its affect on the ship. We were no longer allowed to get our own food at the breakfast buffet, everything has to be placed on your plate, and all drinks had to be poured for you. Not a big deal, but added some time to lines.
Once off the ship, we rented a car and headed to Volcano National Park. We had booked an excursion with "Epic Lava". This tour is not offered via NCL, and the times they list on their website do not coincide with the NCL port times, but these guys are so good, that a few emails and they offered to alter their day and set up a special tour for us. These guys are a small, but very respected outfit on the island. Almost living legends. Learned more in 5 hours about the history of the island and volcanos than anyone could imagine. Look them up.
That evening, we ate at Cagney's Steakhouse. Wow...Worth every penny. Service was top notch...Food was delicious.
Day 5: Kona
You need to take a tender boat to the port. The Ship docks about a mile out in the bay. If you are a Suite guest, you will meet down in Cagny's Steakhouse. You will then be taken to the front of the line to get on the tender boat. That was worth every cent, we heard horror stories about the wait to get off the ship (more on this later).
We walked around town and in the shops for a while, grabbed some lunch. It's a really nice town. We then went on the "Captian Zodiac Snorkel Tour". We booked this through NCL, as for it was the same price as booking directly. This was the absolute best snorkeling we have ever done. The boat is a small zodiac. It's fast, and a bit bumpy, and lots of fun. They bring you to Kealakekua Bay. During the ride, we saw humpback whales, but couldn't get too close do to their safety. Once at the site, we saw numerous fish, octopus, and about 20 spinner dolphins. It was insane. On the ride back, the Capitan shows you amazing formations in the rocks and gets you up close and personal with them while telling you about the history of each. Definitely a gem!
That night, we ate at Tempinyaki, the sake was good, as were the drinks. The chefs put on a great show, and made some spectacular food. Waitress was once again, top notch.
Day 6: Kauai
This is the day things really started getting strange. We were to be in Port at 8:00am. At 7:50am, we couldn't see land. The Capitan made an announcement around 8:00am saying that in the middle of the night, we had to stop in Honolulu due to a medical emergency. We arrived in port close to 10:30am, and the lines to get off the ship were crazy, unorganized, and slow. There were people on every floor level crowding the stairwells, people cutting infant of people, and the crew didn't seem to even attempt to try to organize it.
Once off the ship, picked up the car we rented and headed to Wiamea Canyon National Park. NCL offers an excursion, but all you get to do it so to the scenic outlook for 20 minutes, along with stops at little shops to buy coffee. If you are into hiking and seeing some amazing scenery, google Wiamea hiking trails. Beautiful!
That evening we went to the Luau offered through NCL. You cannot book this directly, they have it blacked out the nights NCL is in port. We paid for preferred seating, and sat near the stage. They say there is an open bar, this is not true. You get 2 free drinks per person, additional drinks are at cost. Seems like a fair deal, but you are there for 4 hours, and its humid and muggy. Food was ok, its buffet style. The Luau show was more of a play then a Luau. It was interesting and entertaining. Once its over, everyone is going back to the ship on 2 huge charter busses. If you rented a car, bring it! We had time to take pictures with the cast, drove back, parked, walked to the ship, and were past security when the first bus arrived. We watched as port security boarded the bus and checked everyones key card and ID before they allowed anyone to get off the bus. If you do rent a car, you can safely park your car overnight. (I know this doesn't make any sense now) Once you leave the port, walk to the end of the access road. You will come to the main road. To your right, there is a small park. You can park in the street in front of that park.
Day 7: Kauai
Got in the car and drove down to Spouting Horn, fun to look at for 15 minutes. Then headed down the road to Poipu Beach. We were able to see huge sea turtles resting on the beach, and well as sea loins. Dropped off the car and headed back for 2:00pm
Get your cameras ready, grab a drink, and head up to the top deck to witness the Na Pali Coast. Pictures do not do it justice, you have to witness it for yourself.
That evening, we ate at Moderno Churrascaria....If you are a meat lover, you need to eat here. They have a huge salad bar (Corona made this a nightmare) but I say skip it, save your appetite for the meat. You will have a waiter, and he was great. He introduces you to your "server". Your server comes to your table with about 10 different meats on a rotisserie and slices you fresh meats. We are talking bacon wrapped filet, slow fired porks, chicken, and the very delicious brown sugar roasted pineapple. If anyone in your party is a vegetarian, they will get you something from any other restaurant on board. Spectacular service.
Some things to know:
Not much for kids to do on the ship. They have an arcade, and the usual activities (ping pong, shuffleboard) but, everything, including the pools, shut down at 6pm. Makes no sense when 99% of the passengers don't get back on the ship till 6pm.
If you get the "Free Hawaiian Beverage Package", this covers all drinks up to $15. You are allowed 2 drinks per person, per transaction. So if you are traveling with 4 people, you are covered. Even with 6 of us that were of age to drink, we were able to get drinks for us all, just tip them well and they keep making drinks. The drinks are free, but you are charged the tax per drink.
Water on the ship is expensive. We brought 2 Britta water bottles with filters build in with us. Filled them at night and they were ready for the next day. If you dont was to do that, you can buy water at the ABC convenient stores. They are everywhere you look on every island, but you cannot bring water back on to the ship.
We didn't do any nightlife on the ship, we were ready for sleep after dinner.
Cell service: The only time we didn't have service was on the nights that we were sailing. Otherwise, it was just like being in the mainland US.
Our Butler, Georgia, was great, aside from changing our reservations, we really never utilized her, but she made sure to check on us every morning and evening. She left us little gifts every day like chocolate covered strawberries, cookies, champagne, wine, or bottles of water.
Our housekeeper was also amazing, busted every day with a smile on his face.
In closing, it's a great way to sample the best islands Hawaii has to offer. Some staff seem annoyed and lazy, but the majority we encountered were pleasant and helpful. Do your research, rent a car and maximize your time. The week goes fast, take lots of pictures and enjoy the beauty Hawaii has to offer. Read Less