During a recent Preview Cruise for travel agents and press, I had the opportunity to cruise aboard the former Norwegian Sky (now re-born as the Pride of Aloha) for a 2 night cruise before beginning its revenue cruises to the public.
The Hawaiian transformation was done well...but in some places, it's as if they went overboard (pardon the punn) in some public areas. Perhaps being a preview cruise, the cruise line is still working out some of the kinks in the service. However, since this ship is a good four years old, it was hard to label my cruise experience as the typical "Shakedown" cruise.
Although the ship has 2 main dining rooms (The Palace Restaurant and Crossings Restaurant), and 3 alternative restaurants (Royal Palm Bistro, Pacific Heights, and Kahili Restaurant). Perhaps because on my shortened cruise, they were not accepting reserivations from passengers for any of the restaurants, but instead, implemented a "First-come, First-served" rule. Because it was obvious that the cruise line did NOT have a full compliment of wait staff in the restaurants during my voyage, this led to long wait times of anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour on any given night.
I made two attempts (1 for each night of my cruise) to dine in the upscale Italian cuisine Kahili Restaurant. Unless you were one of the first people to arrive at the restaurant when it opened at 5:30pm, those coming around 6-6:30pm were told that the restaurant was full for the next hour. That's because the standard dining experience for dinner on my voyage (due to the slow or newly-trained wait staff) was a minimum of an hour and a half to two hours. And when I presented myself on the second night of the cruise to the Kahili restaurant at around 8:00pm (thinking that I would have better luck than the night previously), I was told that the wait was a minimum of an hour...but was also told by the Maitre 'd that the Kahili Restaurant would not seat any new diners after 9:00pm. Therefore, I ran the risk of waiting for an hour to possibly eat in the restaurant, otherwise at 9:00pm I would have to go find another restaurant to have my dinner in. I wound up the 2nd night having dinner at the Crossings Main dining room. I was seated at 9:20pm (a short 15-20 minute wait, and I did not emerge from the dining room until close to 11:00pm. The service just seemed very slow...considering that the two dining room were NOT full, and the Maitre 'd was not utilizing all the tables in the restaurant anyway.
Lastly, I have some concerns about the all-American crew aboard the ship. I had heard complaints from a fellow passenger that her cabin stewardess would bang on her cabin door at 7:30am to want toclean the cabin. My awakened fellow passenger then told the stewardness that they were sleeping, and the cabin stewardness replied "Fine, then I'll be back in 20 minutes!"
I noticed a number of the wait staff in the dining rooms rolling their eyes in disgust and frustration when dealing with elderly or difficult passengers. I don't know if these American crew members can make it for the 5-7 month long contracts that they have aboard this ship. They already looked very bothered by the passengers already...and it was about 2 weeks before the ship is repositioned to Hawaii to begin her inaugural cruise season. Let's hope that NCL America will continue to do more in-house training regarding customer satisfaction and attitude towards passengers. If not, I feel that these relatively new (with most NOT coming from any formal hospitality industry job or recognized hospitality-based training program) American crew members will not make it for long, and passenger satisfaction levels will be less than what is likely anticipated by the inaugural season passengers.