Norwegian Cruise Line Pride of Aloha& Sharon Wood Hawaii September 5, 2004
We were on the Pride of Aloha cruise for the week of Sept. 5th. Let us start by saying that this cruise around the Hawaiian islands COULD be one of the most outstanding cruises available, IF NCL "gets their act together". The 96 hours of shore time is great & all the excursions we took were excellent, especially the luau. (We should say that NONE of the prebooked excursions we made online were made though - we had to wait in line to rebook them on the ship.) The evening entertainment / shows were absolutely fantastic, with a great group of singers & dancers, but get there early. All the staff were very friendly, but many were somewhat unable to answer many questions being asked & many seemed less than prepared to do their jobs efficiently. (Compared to other cruises, many of the Pride of Aloha employees seemed as if they had never been of a cruise themselves to realize what was expected of them.)
Now for the ship review - not really that good. Our stateroom was small, but nice. (We were able to get our two single beds put together, but the single sheets & bedspreads were just 'overlapped' - not covered with full-sized coverings.) The biggest disappointment was that the outside of our large porthole window was NEVER cleaned, even though I requested it 3 times. (There we are in one of the most beautiful areas of the world and we have a window we could barely see through - I was told they would be cleaned while in the various ports - they were not!) The ship itself was not maintained overly well - some trash here & there often left for days & lots of cigarette butts in corners & other places. This brings up a REAL complaint - smoking is permitted almos everywhere, except in the restaurants & the theater. On other ships, there are usually designated areas or one side (say the starbord side) for smoking; it's very frustrating to be relaxing on deck only to have someome come & sit upwind & light up a cigarette ... or even a cigar! Now to the food & food service; basically, most of the food in the buffets was average to poor - runny eggs, watery orange juice, frest but mostly unripe fruit (pineapples, mangos, etc., IN HAWAII!), overcooked vegetables & meats, etc. Another major frustration was that the coffee machines were frequently 'out' in the mornings - several times, of 6 dispensers, two on each end of the two buffets & one between them, only one was working! The same thing frequently happened with the tea & 'watery' orange juice, as occasionally with the ice dispensers, as well. Who is supposed to maintain / oversee this!? (Another side note about logistics - the buffet beverage areas are about 25' long & the aisle between the counter & the wall is about 6' wide.
Against the wall is the line for the buffet, so there is about 4' left for access. The coffee cups at the far left, coffee is in the middle, the creamer / milk is about 8' to the right of the coffee on the other side of the water & juice diepensers, & the sugar is at the far right end of the counter. Did I mention that the spoons (when available) were back with the cups at the left end? Who designed this arrangement!? And all the maintainance, restocking (when finally done) is from the front, where everyone is crowded in trying to get beverages. Food service, in general, was slow, unplanned as to where some thing were - butter out by the craemer, not by the rolls - etc., and the cleanup afterwards at the buffet areas seating areas , as everywhere, was slow. The food, while a little better in the 'free' dining rooms, was still very slow to arrive, and the wait for a table is terrible, unless you eat very early. The 'premium' dining was better quality, still very slow service, but not worth the extra $15 each for the 'experience', especially since this type food (actually better) is the normal fare on most other cruises, with MUCH better & faster service. NCL's 'Free-Style Dining' leave much to be desired. (Another point about the buffets, we saw and spoke to a number of older people who should not be forced to be standing in line to get their own food, some with walking difficulties. Their only other option would have been to accept a long wait for a table at the dining rooms. Oh, and in case you wanted to get a snack later - pizza, hamburger, etc. - forget it. There are no 24 hour food service areas open - only room service. We didn't even try that, as we had heard stories about that, too.
And a comment about the 'change' in the tipping policy AFTER boarding - we came aboard begrudgingly expecting to be charged $10 per day toward 'tips' or whatever NCL called the charge, only to be told that it had changed & to just tip waiters as we would elsewhere. Well, switching after the fact meant that we had not really planned for the extra cash for this. I'm sure many other people did NOT understand this; and, consequently, I'm sure tips were NOT received as the staff expected. Again, poor planning by NCL.
As a 'final' comment, NCL truly has a 'Gold Mine' and a monopoly with this cruise itinerary! I think they better not 'blow it' though. The Hawaiian Islands are beautiful, the excursions were great, the nightly shows were outstanding, and we enjoyed those & most other aspects of our cruise, but NCL need to rethink MANY aspects of the ship's personnel, logistics, cleanliness, services, etc., before the negatives overwhelm the reviews. Maybe NCL needs to alternate weeks of 'types of service'; maybe to serve the 'cruise-knowledgeable' / 'pampering-expected' customers every other week, & the younger / let-demanding passengers the next week. Maybe this is what NCL plans when both 'Aloha' & 'America' are in service? It's a thought though to serve two separate passenger types maybe. Would we do it again? Possibly 'yes', but with more 'open' eyes.