My family of four sailed on the Pride of Aloha's inaugural sailing from San Francisco to Los Angeles from June 7 through June 11. The ship stopped in Monterey, Santa Barbara, and San Diego.
My philosophy is that every cruise is a good cruise, but some are better than others. This was the worst cruise I have experienced, and I've cruised eight times on most of the major cruise lines. Still, it was better than being at work. The ship just came out of dry dock, where it was refurbished to give it a Hawaiian atmosphere; now it is a United States-flagged vessel.
Embarkation was terrible. The ship was supposed to begin boarding at 2:30 p.m., but didn't start boarding until after 3 p.m. We stood on the sidewalk in the sun and wind for almost three hours before we got inside the pier to register and board. No one at NCL seemed to know what was going on. Passengers were calling out groups so we would know it was our time to register.
The only bright spot was that the inside cabin we had booked was not finished, so we got upgraded to a balcony cabin. Carpet was still being laid in many cabins throughout the cruise.
Once we got on the ship, we headed for the Hukelau Café since we were starving. While we were eating, the muster drill went off, even though hundreds of passengers were still on the dock registering. The ship sailed about three hours late.
The excuse we kept hearing for the entire cruise was that the ship had come out of dry dock and things were being worked out.
The main problem with the Pride of Aloha is the service. All employees are U.S. citizens who do not give the excellent service I have experienced on all my other cruises. They have no incentive to provide excellent service, because you do not tip them personally.
There is, however, a $10 per person "resort charge" per day. I tried to lower my bill, but was told I could not do this because it is a resort charge, not a service charge or a gratuity. The employees will receive the same tip no matter how well they serve the passengers.
Dinner took at least two hours each night. The only area that I was satisfied with was the cabin attendant. She kept the small cabin clean and tidy like I've experienced on other cruises.
Food was average. Entertainment was good. Tenders were unsafe. The first day in Monterey the employees on the tenders looked like pirates. In Santa Barbara, NCL had them wear uniforms, but the results were the same. One inexperienced tender crew rammed their vessel into a parked boat in the harbor of Santa Barbara. They apparently didn't know how to tie the tender up to the ship properly, so it was dangerous to get on and off the tender.
I hope NCL can get its act together and make this idea work. They have a marketing advantage with the Hawaiian cruise market and a U.S.-flagged vessel. I hate to say it, but the U.S. employees are not hard workers and do not give the service that one would expect on a cruise. There was a lot of goofing around and talking that I've not seen before.
I would not cruise again on the Pride of Aloha unless I see that the service has improved.