I did a lot of online research about the Pride of America, and there were a few holes in the information that's out there (the NCL site leaves a lot to be desired), so I vowed to write a review on my return to help others plan.
I really enjoyed the cruise -- even more than I thought I might. I went with my parents, who both have a hard time getting around, and my three-year-old son. So I had my hands full. They all enjoyed the trip and it turned out to be the perfect thing for this diverse group. The food was terrific. The service was above average. The staff was terrific and the boat is beautiful. Except for the last day, I never had a problem getting a lounge chair at the pool.
I could never find good information about the Kids Crew program from the NCL site. I even tried the reservations line and the NCL desk at the Marriott. So if you are planning on using the ship's children's activity program, here's the skinny.
It is absolutely terrific. My son would wake up early and ask me what time the kids club was opening up; then he'd run down the halls until he got there. They have group activities every day from 9 a.m. to noon and from 7-10 p.m. You can drop off the kids and they have a great time until you get back! There is no charge during this time.
From noon to 5 p.m. (and from 10 p.m.-1 a.m.) they have group babysitting for $5 an hour. One day I was scheduled on a dive trip and couldn't get back to get my son by 5 p.m.; but since I was on a shore excursion booked through the ship, the staff made special arrangements for me and took my son to eat; then I met them after hours.
Other writers have covered the restaurants well, so I'll leave that alone.
The gym on Pride of America is extensive, with great equipment; plus there is a walking/jogging track on Deck 5 that is great too.
If you are splurging on a balcony room, go with a port side room: That side of the ship gets the Kaanapali Coast view, and it was great fun to sit there and watch the cliffs go by. The captain goes by the volcano out of Hilo in both directions, so you get that view no matter which side you are on.
A few other things I wish I had known or was glad to discover, in no particular order:
- Except for the specialty dining venues like the Jefferson, Steakhouse, Italian or Japanese restaurant, reservations weren't really required. And I will say, skip the sushi...it's not good.
- There are NCL pick-ups in Oahu at several hotels, but the Marriott Waikiki is the only one with an NCL desk that checks people in for the ship. However, they had some odd policy that they don't check you in after 8:30 a.m. or something like that on your sailing day. I got in from LA pretty late the day prior, and it was a fluke that I went there early enough to check in. This Marriott ship check-in is really nice. Without it, you are potentially waiting in a long line to do it in the cruise ship terminal, which didn't look like much fun.
- When you check in at the Marriott NCL desk, they give you a timed boarding pass for a bus to take you to the boat. But your luggage has to be packed and ready for pickup inside your room by 8 a.m. the day you are boarding. They know which rooms have been booked by NCL and they pick everything up pretty early.
- As soon as you get on the ship, the buffet is open and ready to go. If you are a soda drinker - and I am - ask for the $35 soda sticker for your ID card; then you can have a soda anytime and almost anywhere without incurring charges or signing anything.
- The ship uses key cards just like the hotels -- electronic keys, so a lanyard with a card sleeve on it comes in handy.
- Only in Kona do you tender into the port. Everywhere else you can just walk off the ship. Right off the tender pier is the Atlantis Sub office; I also saw Jack's Diving Locker (a well-respected dive operation) there.
- In Kona and Kauai there were nice little beaches right near the ports so you can pop off the ship and enjoy a real sandy beach if you care to.
- The dive operations used when I was there were Lahaina Divers in Maui, Big Island Ocean Sports in Kona and Seasport Divers in Kauai. I don't know why they don't tell you this in advance. I like to look at the web sites to plan properly. I guess they don't want you to book on your own. I considered doing just that, but I'm glad I used the ship's shore excursion desk. It made for easy boat departures, and nothing too early. The diving at Kona was the best (a turtle cleaning station was on the itinerary). All three operations were really fine...each with their own advantages and disadvantages. It's quite a long trip in Maui because you have to take the bus to Lahaina, but if you don't care about that, go early because Lahaina is a cool little village.
- My parents did the 'Luau & the Volcanos National Park Tour'. Both of them have a hard time getting around so I don't think they really liked it. My mom couldn't really get off the bus on the volcano tour because the walk to anything was just too far for her.
- NCL has a timed disembarkation schedule. If you carry your own luggage off, you can go just about any time. Otherwise they do it by ship levels and flight times, starting early and running until 10 a.m. We were headed back to the Marriott for the night so we ate breakfast on the ship and just leisurely strolled off when we wanted to. We weren't rushed at all. They do have buses back to the Marriott but there is a taxi stand right there too, and this time we opted for a taxi back, which was about $30.
That's all I can think of for now. Hope it helps someone else in the planning stages..which can be a big part of the fun!