My wife and I are Honolulu residents and recent retirees. For our very first cruise experience, we decided to take the NCL Pride of America cruise around our home state because we expected it to be a safe and relaxing way to see the ... Read More
My wife and I are Honolulu residents and recent retirees. For our very first cruise experience, we decided to take the NCL Pride of America cruise around our home state because we expected it to be a safe and relaxing way to see the neighbor islands of Maui, Hawaii and Kauai; my wife had previous problems with seasickness when on smaller boats so we thought that if she got in trouble on this large and stable ocean liner, we would be close to home and medical facilities if needed; and really, what could go wrong?
Boarding takes place at Honolulu Harbor's Pier 2. My daughter and son-in-law dropped us off at 11:00 for our noon boarding. We waited in line for about a half hour, the quickly went through security and check-in. We finally boarded shortly after noon, but learned we could not go to our cabin until it was announced on the ship's PA system. Decks 13, 12, 11 and 9 were called before our deck, which meant we finally got into our cabin on deck 10 around 4:30 p.m. I noticed a letter by my door, which informed me that due to a computer problem, my 5:30 dinner reservation at the Teppanyaki restaurant was rescheduled to the last seating at 8:30. I should have been upset, but wasn't because until 4:30 we sat in the Aloha Cafe eating lunch, snacks and sipping drinks while we busied ourselves on the Internet service that would vanish when at sea.
We got mid-ship balcony cabin 10100, which turned out to great in terms of size, quietness and location. The stairway was just steps away. We rarely took the elevators. It was an easy walk from deck 10 to Aloha Cafe on deck 11, to the spa and fitness center on deck 12, and down to decks 6 and 5 for the main and specialty restaurants, as well as guest services and shore excursion desks.
Our cabin steward, Michael, was terrific. Whenever he saw us, he asked if he could do anything for us. We appreciated his asking.
Here's my take on the restaurants:
Aloha Cafe (complimentary): Our most frequently visited dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Most items stayed the same each day, with the main entree changing daily. Desserts were the biggest disappointment.
Cadillac Diner (complimentary): The only 24-hour dining option. Menu does not change. French toast breakfast was fine. Cheeseburger lunch was fine. Extra-cost milk shake was worth the money. Desserts were very good, but avoid the apple pie. You'll thank me.
Teppanyaki (extra cost): Not worth the money. Chef and hostess were personable and made the experience enjoyable. Food was very disappointing.
Cagney's Steakhouse (extra cost): Definitely worth the money. Service and entrees were very good. Desserts were very good, but the cheesecake was disappointing.
Skyline Main Dining Room (complimentary): All in all, the best in terms of food and service. They take reservations, but always had a table for my wife and I when we walked up.
Our shore excursions:
Maui Day 1: We had never visited Hana, so we took the all-day Hana bus tour. The process of leaving the ship was quick and easy. A short time later when our bus stopped at a traffic light, a motorcyclist told our driver that our brake lights were not working. The driver quickly stepped out and confirmed it. He called his dispatcher and arranged for a substitute bus to meet us at our first rest stop. We switched buses there and the driver immediately noticed the substitute bus had bad rear shocks. He apologized for the bumpy ride, but I didn't mind. The driver was fantastic, very personable and knowledgeable, and really was a highlight of the tour. After lunch at a small hotel (a decent buffet included in the cost) and a quick drive through tiny Hana town, we proceeded on a rough country road to return to the ship. About an hour short of the ship, our bus lost its coolant and we were stranded for two hours until a replacement bus reached us. So instead of returning at 4:30, we staggered in at 6:45. The ship's shore excursion director met us, offered bottled water and cookies, and asked us to fill our incident reports. He contacted me the next day and offered a 50 percent refund, which I gladly accepted. I praised the driver for his professionalism throughout the incident. Our comfort and safety were his top priorities throughout the ordeal. Even with all the problems we faced, I would recommend this tour for those who do not get motion sickness and can go long distances without a restroom break. But my wife and I would not do it again. Once was enough.
Maui Day 2: We took the bus tour to Haleakala Crater. We left at 8 a.m. and returned by 1:30 p.m. Some people went directly to their afternoon excursions, but I had decided we would board the ship, get lunch and relax in our cabin. We liked this tour and would recommend it.
Hilo Day 3: We took the half-day tour to Volcano National Park. We visited only two sites worthy of being called highlights: Halemaumau Crater and Thurston Lava Tube. My wife and I agreed the tour was skimpy and not worth the money. As the day before, we returned to the ship for lunch and rest.
Kona Day 4: We took the half-day tour to a coffee plantation/factory and chocolate plantation/factory. These are small enterprises, with each having less than 10 employees. Delicious samples plus interesting and educational information made this a tour I would highly recommend.
Kauai Day 5: We took the full-day Director's Tour of movie/television sites. Great driver and a really fun trip. The tour included lunch at a restaurant in Hanalei. Lunch choices limited to hamburger, fish burger or vegetarian. We crossed the street and bought delicious homemade ice cream at a small shop. We recommend this excursion.
Kauai Day 6: We scheduled a morning helicopter tour. A bus transported us to the heliport, where we checked in, were weighed and sat through a safety presentation. Then just minutes from boarding, we were told the flight was canceled because storm clouds had closed out Waimea Valley and the Napali Cliffs, two of the top highlights of the tour. We got a full refund, but were very disappointed. We returned to the ship and, to make up for our disappointment, scheduled an afternoon massage session. I am a veteran of massage services and I was slightly disappointed in what I received. However, I knew the therapist was doing the best she could and maybe a 50-minute session could not melt the knots and tension I had in my neck and back. A massage is a highly personal experience, so please try it if you feel like it. But it is very expensive.
Disembarking at Honolulu Harbor was quite efficient. We attached colored luggage tags to our bags the night before. We used the gray tags for an 8 a.m. disembarkation. We left the bags outside our door before midnight and, next morning, waited for the call to get off and find our luggage. If you're willing to carry your bags yourself, you can leave as early as 7:45. All in all, the disembarkation process was easy and smooth.
We did not participate in any onboard entertainment activities and events, so I cannot comment on them. The swimming pools were small and always crowded. The fitness center was warm (don't know what happened to the a/c) and well used. Lots of machines but not enough barbells and space to use them. Cleanliness was stressed throughout the cruise by staff with alcohol sprays and dispensers everywhere.
In summary, it was a once in a lifetime cruise for us around our home state. It was quite expensive, but something we expected so we had saved for it. I don't think we will do it again, but I would recommend it as a great way to see the best of Hawaii in a short time. Read Less