Norwegian Cruise Line Pride of Aloha Hawaii June 20, 2004
We were on the Pride of Aloha's (POA) 12 day Repositioning cruise from San Francisco to Hawaii. We had originally been booked on the Pride of America but, of course, was shifted like everyone else to the Aloha. We were fearful that we would lose our connecting balcony cabins in the shift since we had only booked a week before the sinking, but were quite surprised get our reassignment to connecting balconies (same catagory) that we had before. A balcony room is the only way to go in my opinion. Some of my favorite times on board the ship were spent sitting on that balcony reading. (and with four sea days, that was nice) I was also quite excited to find a $200 on board credit waiting for us when we arrived compliments of NCL due to the stress of the re-book.
As for the Entertainment and Activities, they were great. The Jean Ann Ryan Company presented three nice shows, although the Cirque show was a little boring and the costumes in some of the other shows were a little revealing for shows with lots of kids attending. With four sea days, one would think it would be hard for the Cruise Director and staff to keep everyone busy, but C.D. Patty Honecki and her staff did a fantastic job. I actually heard "complaints" from people that there was so much to do that it was hard to choose!! (a good problem!)
As far as the cabins are concerned, yes they are small, but functional. There is nothing NCL can do to change cabin sizes. I do wish that they could find someway to install additional drawer space. Another item I wish they would change is the placement of the electrical outlets. Several of the items that we brought were unusable because the plugs are placed at the bottom of the vanity and bathroom counter. This placement prohibts the use of any plug that is "large" or has base. (i.e. some hairdryer plugs.) Our cabin stewards (0204)were very good. They learned our schedules and always took care of our room when it was most conveinent for us. A word of caution: be careful when you put items in the mini fridge in your room. If you put it all the way to the back against the coil, it freezes the food. (frozen peanut butter and jelly is quite good however.)
Embarkation was smooth and easy. We took the NCL air package and were met at the airport. The only complaint is that the greeter took most of the people before all of us had retrieved our luggage and about 20 of us had to find the loading area on our own. When we got to the ship, we were processed and onboard in less than 15 minutes. (being Lattitude Members helped). Debarkation was also ok. Having an NCL booked post cruise stay was a benefit, we got to be one of the last groups off the ship allowing for a leisurely last morning. There was some confusion on the pier as to what busses we were to take, but there were many people in that predictament as well. My only complaint with the disembarkation procedure was that I wished that we had gotten our luggage tags and comment card earlier in the week. Spending my last night writing out tags was not enjoyable. We also found (through luck) that we had the wrong tags and so I had to change colors and write out another set. As far as the bill goes, I had caught a mistake earlier in the week and it took me three days to get it corrected. I urge you to get a preliminary copy of your bill about 3 days before your cruise ends. Your shore excursions should all be listed. It is helpful. Many other people had problems with their bills as evidenced by the long line the last morning at the credit desk. I also don't like the idea of being forced to pay the service charge. It is just another way for NCL to nickel and dime you. They say it goes to the crew, but the crew I talked to say that it doesn't. If it is help pay their salaries, then it needs to be on the overall cost of the trip not an add on.
The shore excursions were severly overpriced. We rented a car in Maui and caught many of the same sights offered on one of the tours. It saved us about 60% by doing it on our own. I urge you to not use NCL's shore excursions. When you do use NCL's shore excursions, you will find that you are "herded" like cattle through the ship to the loading points on shore from the other end of the ship. By the end of the week, we found that we could skip the meeting point on board and just go to shore and look for the numbered sign for our tour. (tour #) We would beat the crowd and usually be one of the first ones on the busses.
Now for the worst part of the cruise: the food and service. The problems here are huge. The wait times were unacceptable.(three hours after sitting down is ridiculous) We found that we could arrive at the main dining rooms 15 minutes before the opened and be seated right when they opened. But if you wait more than 15 minutes after they opened, it would be an hour or more wait for a table. (and then two to three hours to eat!) Missed several shows as a result of the dining fiasco. The food itself wasn't that good and don't even think about a special order, it would add at least an hour to your meal. My mother asked one night for no seasoning on her meat (she is allergic to it) and it took three times for them to get the right food out. One night, she sat there for four hours. The Maitre'd and waiter even said that the cooks were holding the order up because they were mad at having to re-make the meal. I also refuse to pay extra for food on board a ship because that too should be included in the price and not used to nickel and dime you to death like NCL is famous for. One night I asked if I could get a Filet Mignon in the main dining room. (a dish offered in one of the specialty restaurants for a charge.) No problem I was told and both my father and I enjoyed one of the specialty restaurants meals for free right there in the Palace Restaurant. As for the waiters/waitresses in the restaurants: there are some good ones and some bad ones. Some won't make it. If you find a good server one night, make sure to request that person each time. They get to know you and you tend to get better service. We did! (If they are still there, I reccommend Sandra, Mary, Christian and Gerald in Palace and Gereldine in Crossings.) As far as the Buffet (Hukilau): the food is of very low quality and actually quite disgutsting. The beverage machines tend to run out of product and it takes several requests to get them filled. I also heard from a crew member in the buffet that they have been told to water down the tea and juices in the buffet in order to make it last longer. There is no Lobster night or Chocoholic buffet on this ship and the dining hours are very limited. It is often difficult in the mornings to get a good meal if you have an early tour since the buffet does not open until 7. Basically the problems with the food is that it appears NCL is trying to cut costs by cutting the quality of the food. They are also severly understaffed. I urge you to get to know some of the crew, they are great, and once you get to know them, they will give you all the chilling details about the behind the scenes fiasco's on board the ship!
Overall the ship itself is very pretty and of course Hawaii is fantastic. I strongly reccommend the Outrigger Lounge on Deck 11 forward....nice view of the scenery. Since our family does not drink alcohol, I cannot give a review of that area. The problems with this ship, and they are glaring, center around the lack of crew and NCL's apparent desire to keep costs as low as possible by cutting corners. This could be a great product, but won't be until the staffing issues are resolved. I can't reccommend this ship until that issue is solved.