We sailed July 25, 2004 on Pride of Aloha. My wife and I are frequent cruisers and first and probably last timers to NCL. We were fully aware that the Pride was only on its third island voyage and expected some hiccups.however, not as bad as we experienced. We later heard a "rumor" that on the first voyage, ½ of the crew quit. We definitely paid the price in short crews. Check in: we arrived at 12:30 PM (check in started at 1) and waited in line about an hour before being processed. No too bad compared to other cruise embarkation processes.
Excursions: We booked ahead of time on the Internet - yes, they are pricey, but we have no complaints. All were enjoyable. We especially enjoyed the lava viewing tour out of Hilo. We had to walk 7 miles round trip climbing slippery lava rocks and a 50- foot high hill. Wear long pants, hat, old sneakers and bring Band-Aids. Leather gloves should be mandatory. Fourteen tours were booked for the lava viewing, 13 went to watch it dump into the sea. Our guide took our tour up to the mountain and got us within 5 feet of real lava flow - amazing and hot! - well worth the money.
Room service: We never learned the name of our room steward. No towel animals. Said hello, but never introduced himself. Room kept clean - bed turndowns and mints at night.
Food and restaurant service: Lines were so long at the Crossings free restaurant that we simply gave up on NCL restaurants. They say they have 10 - two are free (one is never opened), three are pay extra and we never found nor could anyone tell us where the remaining 5 were located - unless they count buffet lines! They were quite a few of them. Tables were never available and NEVER cleaned. They buss the tables one plate at a time and we never seen one table wiped clean the whole trip. The food quality was well below average. Ran out of plates and silverware often - never seen so many paper plates and plastic utensils - so much for the environment. The lobster tail buffet was the worst dried up lobster I have ever tasted. It was cooked and then thrown on a Lido deck BBQ. The barbecue night was good, however, it appeared that rib leftovers were put out on the buffet several times during the week. Everyone complained about the food and the service. We did find one or two really good people that worked very hard and tried to accommodate their specific areas. There was always a long line that started at 5:30 p.m. along a narrow area that include bumping elbows with people coming back for drink refills (logistics issue - move the drink machines to a different area). Breakfasts were the usual buffet stuff and reasonable quality. I wonder why the wait until 7:00 a.m. to open the breakfast line, many more people could have been accommodated if the line opened at 6:00 a.m. The waffle and omelet table opened ½ hour after the buffet line. For lunch and dinner, they throw about 3 or 4 slices of pizza on the table at the carving station. No burgers, hot dogs, or pizza after hours. Ice cream was available two hours each day and long lines. The last day, they actually offered ice cream scoops at the dessert bar. Sorry, Freestyle is not for me.
Entertainment: We enjoyed all the shows - just might be the best entertainment we have experienced. My only concern is the seating in the Starlight Lounge. I have already sent a note to the Coast Guard. As an ex-firefighter, I am appalled they way they stuck two rows of movable, rotating tub chairs between there usual theater couches. This is a major fire hazard. Six inches of aisle will never cut it in an emergency. Once you sat in the middle for the show, you were stuck there. Waiters, if you could find the one that worked the theater, could not service anything but the aisles and front rows. No gambling allowed in Hawaii, not even Bingo.
Museum: Don't see it fitting in and taking up precious ship space. Put that in the port to view as you wait on line. This museum was where the casino would have been - at least I didn't loose money. Good movie on Hawaii volcanoes.
Lifeboat drill: A joke - lasted all of 10 minutes. People showed up without life preservers and many never made it at all. I sure wish they would have taking this more seriously. No crew to direct personnel except on main stairs and outside deck. Checked our names to a list - wrong name on cabin - they did not care or correct.
Exercise: Good gym and walking/jogging track (deck 6). Took days to find walking track - usually upper deck. Its on deck 6. The best upper deck (large area) is reserved for crew only - what's up with that?
Service: Mandatory $10/person/day fee non-negotiable for tips is applied to the bill. This may be part of the reason crewmembers are so uninterested in pleasing the vacationers. I have to admit it, as an American myself, we just don't perform the same way foreign workers bust their buts to please cruise passengers. So many complaints were made about the service that all bills were adjusted to $5/person/day.
NCL better fix things and fix the fast or NCL America's days will be numbered. Right now, the ship is just a good way to get around the islands. The islands are fantastic.