My husband, mother and cousin sailed on Norwegian Cruise Lines Pride of America, setting sail on August 19th and returning August 26th 2006. I am prompted to write this review because my experience with Norwegian was not pleasant. I've sailed 3 other lines, a smaller ship called SeaWind, Carnival and Royal Caribbean and this was by far, the worst line I've been on.
When we first got on the ship, after flying from the east coast to Honolulu for 12 hours, we were told all bars & restaurants were closed for the 1˝ hours for the Muster Drill. That was a little annoying since we were thirsty and hungry from traveling so long – it was not a good first impression.
From that point, it was downhill. In my opinion, the "Freestyle cruising" does not work and just ended up aggravating us. We could only get dinner reservations for 2 of the surcharge restaurants (one at 9:30 at night which we ended up canceling) because everything was booked by the second day. What made that even more aggravating was that when you walked by these so called "booked" restaurants, they were always only half full. That being said we spent much of our meal time in the Aloha Café (the buffet) since if we wanted to dine in the "free" main dinning rooms the wait could up to an hour. In the two or three reservation-only restaurants, you had to pay an extra $10 or $15 just for the pleasure of eating there and if you want something on the "premier" menu, that cost extra too – in addition to the surcharge.
There are flat screen monitors by the elevators, apparently to let you know what restaurants currently had a wait, and they were wrong all the time. They would state a certain restaurant was empty, with no wait at all; we would get there and there would be a 45 minute wait. They were completely unreliable.
The one time we did manage to get into one the main dining rooms, the service was horrible and the food just as bad.
The staff in general was disinterested and did not cater to passengers at all. In fact, it seemed the all-American crew wanted to go out of their way to argue with us. The front desk was completely unhelpful and seemed not to have a clue on what to do about anything. No one on the ship knew any information on the islands and in fact, for the few that we managed to engage in conversation, they had all started working there "two weeks ago." We attempted to book a car with the front desk for the last day in Honolulu and were told we had to call on our own from the cabin (it was $5 a call just to connect) and after arguing we gave up and walked way. We called the front desk later and found out, after speaking with a different person, we could book a rental car through the excursion desk. None of the crew provided any information on what was going on in the ports. There was no information provided as to free shuttles to shopping or beaches and no "talks" as I've seen on other cruises to discuss things to do at the next port. The excursion desk was a nightmare (our own fault for not booking excursions ahead of time); we waited over an hour to book one excursion.
We had problems getting clean towels and glasses from our cabin steward. She did not remove dirty glasses from anywhere in the room. She did make the bed and cleaned the bathroom . We actually found someone else's left behind clothing in our closet.
NCL gives each cruise passenger an email address that can be accessed via wireless internet service in each cabin. We gave our family and friends the addresses to reach us in case of emergency or just to keep in touch. The internet addresses were useless and never worked. Any emails sent to us from home were "undeliverable."
We had formal photographs taken by the ship's photographers, only to have them lose the pictures and tell us to come back another night and do it all again.
There was barely any entertainment on the ship. Once, there was a live band (and I use that term loosely, it was two guys on a guitar) on the pool deck but never any kind of Lulau or party as I would expect from other cruises I've been on. There were a few lame trivia contests but that's about all they did to attempt to entertain you (even for the ˝ day at sea), with great prizes such as luggage tags, beach balls and frisbees. I didn't check out much of the evening entertainment but heard from other passengers it was horrible. I think I saw the cruise director once. There was no bingo, a putting contest was cancelled for lack of interest, and the art auction was cancelled "until further notice."
That being said, the few good things I could mention were the painless embarking and disembarking experience. No wait at all, we just got right on and right off the ship. Some of the bar staff was pleasant and one fun thing we did do was the "Pub Crawl," which enabled us to meet some other people & find a bar no one else seemed to know about. On that point, if you do take this cruise, make sure you check out the Lanai bar on the 13th deck (well hidden!). They had a fantastic acoustic guitar player, Mark Obitz, who played every night; he was by far the best entertainment on the ship.
All in all, I would only recommend this cruise for the ports of call. You can not find a cruise that does a similar itinerary by far, but if you are looking for the ultimate cruise experience, you will not get it on this ship.