Pride of America nothing for NCL to be proud about.
We were warned to look at the PofA as only a hotel to sleep and eat. Good advice. The staff was not rude but they were uncaring and more interested in their own party as a crew then in passengers. There were a few exceptions (Rashid in the Skyline restaurant!) but overall no commitment to quality or customer satisfaction that we've had on other trips. Itinerary at end. Other suggestions:
Onboard food. Eat dinners in the specialty restaurants. $10-$25 per person but worth it, especially for the filet mignon in the Jefferson bistro. The free Aloha Café buffet is average (think MCL), chaotic and one of your group will have to stay at the table to keep it from being taken. But we never had a long wait for a table at Aloha. My youngest liked the free Cadillac Diner for milkshakes (great). The free Skyline was ok when we wanted peace but food was poor. The free Liberty serves the same menu as the Skyline but is dressy. The extra cost Teppanyaki Japanese steakhouse was fun and great food.
Excursions. Organize your own to save over 50%. NCL would have charged $4,200+ for all the shore excursions the 5 of us wanted. We did them on our own for $1,800 even with rental car and parking expenses. Plus we had freedom to leave the ship when we wanted and go where we wanted - missing a lot of the lines. Rental car shuttles (we used Avis) were convenient, picking us up right at the dock. (Note: I can see where you might want to do excursions through NCL if you don't have time to plan or only have 1 or 2 people.)
Parking. On Maui and Kauai there is limited overnight parking. But we found a space on the road to the ship in Maui with no problem - just had to leave it by 8:00 am the next morning which fit our schedule. On Kauai quickly go to the market you see when you leave the dock area right away and buy an overnight space for $20 from Kauai Scooter. If you get in a jam Avis will let you park overnight at their facility but shuttle times are limited at night.
Rooms. Make sure you know the EXACT layout of the room/balcony you are getting, especially if you are on the deck 10. We paid the highest price to get 2 rooms with "full balcony views", but got rooms with "partially obstructed views" (balcony walls on deck 10 extend out beyond the balcony on both sides to meet the wider deck 11). When we asked about it we got multiple excuses like blaming it on the booking, etc. We had to take our own time to call the original cruise coordinator to prove them false. Eventually PofA literally told us there was nothing they would do, including any onboard credit which is the norm. They even gave us bogus numbers to call at NCL. When we did get through to NCL they told us the ship desk would have to take care of it. A complete runaround while we stared at nothing but shipping containers in every port. A several thousand dollar mistake - but they didn't care. Our AVC cruise coordinator was fantastic and said she would follow-up with NCL but I have low expectations and will most likely not use NCL again.
Onboard entertainment. Campy - picture Don Knotts doing an impression of Bill Murray's Saturday Night Live skit as the lounge singer at the Airport Sheraton. But for mellow adults the piano player in Pink's champagne lounge was very good. Only 2 people showed up for ballroom dancing. The Second City comedy troop was great, and thankfully rated their later acts as PG-13 to protect kids. The Pub Crawl crowd was fun but too many desperate women, beer belly drunks and obnoxious hosts. One host even led the crowd through a version of the lord's prayer recast as a drinking oath. Kinda funny but questionable taste. The Farewell Show was laughable - really, people were laughing when the crew sang up the PofA as our "home away from home". Magician and comic on board were ok.
So, was it bad? No, but only because our expectations were set ahead of time. Don't expect much and the PofA will deliver just that. Not much. Hawaii takes care of what's really important.
Itineray (Get reservations online for everything you can before you go and make sure you can get back to the ship on time. All the companies know the PofA's schedule so just ask):
- Friday. Arrived in Honolulu and had dinner at Dukes at Wakiki. Good prices, great food and beach view. Stayed at Marriott but would choose Westin next time.
- Saturday. Sea Life Park for pool swim with Dolphins before boarding the ship. SLP is small so don't expect Sea World. The Dolphin swim was great and they pick you up at the hotel and bring you back. Then cab to ship.
- Sunday (Maui). Whale watching with Maui Adventure Cruises (BEST!) Experts with smaller, faster boats so your time is all spent with the whales. Then walk/shop old Lahaina before best sunset dinner at the Plantation House restaurant (country club - beautiful and they even let us use the club to change when we ran out of time to get back to the ship before dinner.
- Monday (Maui). Snorkel at Molokini and Turtle Bay on the Pride of Maui. Then beach time before boarding ship.
- Tuesday (Hilo). Rental car to Akaka Falls, Volcano National Park, Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Plantation and Candy Factory. Hilo is rainy side of island so no beach time planned.
- Wednesday (Kona). Beach and shopping time all right next to the dock in old Kona. Relax day. Great lunch at the FishHopper.
- Thursday (Kauai). Kayak and hike to Secret Falls with Kauai Kayak (Great). Bring own lunches. Then clean up right there at the marina shower house (rustic) in time for the Luau at Smith's Tropical Paradise which is next door. Smith's is MUCH better than PofA's excursion Luau.
- Friday (Kauai). Drive or helicopter to Waimea Canyon. Beautiful. Lunch at Shrimp Station and shaved ice at Jo-Jo's (both at base of Canyon) before boarding ship to get back to Honolulu to fly out Saturday.
Hope this is helpful. Aloha (couldn't resist).