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Age: 36


Number of Cruises: 6+

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Pride of Aloha

Sailing Date: August 20th, 2006

Itinerary: Hawaii

Norwegian Cruise Lines America
Pride of Aloha Cruise Review

Rebecca Ballinger

Personal Travel Benchmark:
My husband and I just returned from our 7-day cruise on the POA. We booked with his parents to celebrate their 40th anniversary. We (my husband and I ) take several leisure trips a year both inside and outside the U.S. I travel frequently with business. This was my husband’s first cruise and somewhere around my seventh. We prefer more luxury accommodations when we travel (Ritz, Fairmont), although we by no means choose the most luxurious.

Overall Review:
As many have said, this cruise has a great itinerary. You can see a lot of islands that I don’t think you could do via flights and hotels for the same price. The ship is a little rundown (think Holiday Inn) but overall pretty clean. In fact, the quality of work by the cabin housekeeper (Derek) was one of the highlights of the cruise. I can validate that the same issues that many reviewers mention are still a problem and impact your cruise experience. To what degree it impacts it depends on your attitude. My husband couldn’t get past them and will never cruise again. I know to take reviews (such as this site) seriously and ask questions.

Three Main Issues:
1) Staff Friendliness and Professionalism: think fast food restaurants. Almost all of the staff are in their early twenties. Those that aren’t seem even angrier than the twenty year olds. The standard for good service seems to be – if you get your food, drink, etc . . . that is all there is to it. If you had to wait to order, got your order snapped back to you, had to wait to actually receive it, or most often they didn’t have it at that bar/restaurant or ran out of it that really wasn’t their problem. There was one exception to this. Her name is Tristan and she works in the specialty restaurant Kahili. She genuinely took an interest in our table and making things right. My in-laws ate their three of the seven nights due to the horrible experience in the main dining room. The first night in Kahili was good. The second was a disaster (out of everything, drinks took 1 hour to get). The third night, Tristan went out of her way to make sure the experience was good.

A few bad examples:
• Shore excursion desk staff talked to each other about their new shoes while the line of people stood around waiting for them to finish
• Reception desk hung up on me three times while I was trying to determine our debarkation time. I finally went down there (30 sec elevator ride). I watched a girl (Kathy) pick up the phone, hit a button and put the phone down. When I told her I was one of the people she hung up on she just denied it.
• Bartender in the Plantation Club (Shane) was so preoccupied with flirting with four twelve year old girls that we watched restaurant drink orders back up (might explain the hour long wait). Not to mention, all the guests buying $10 drinks had to endure the girls screaming across the room and his responses equally loud. This bar had a guitar player that was exceptional but that was completely overshadowed by the bartenders’ antics. Same bartender got frustrated with his register and exclaimed obscenities at it. I’m not a prude but it speaks to his professionalism.
• Waitress in the main dining room asked us if we were going to the show. When we responded that we weren’t she told us that the couple at the other table was and so she needed to serve them. She told us that she didn’t know how long it would be but that she would get to us when she was finished with them.

There are others . . .

2) Food Quality: most of the food in the main dining room and buffet is similar to cafeteria food. It all has that same over-seasoned, over-cooked taste. They rarely restock for things like salad and lunch meats so you are stuck with heavier, drier fare like pork chops, mashed potatoes, etc . The buffet is the only restaurant open for off hours (in-between lunch and dinner, late night). Same food got old if you happen to have to eat during those hours due to shore excursions. Two of the specialty restaurants (we tried all three) were better and worth the $10 extra – but what is the point of going on a cruise if you have to pay extra for all of your food. Le Bistro had the best food and good service (Shannon). Kahili’s food was good and had great service (Tristan). Pacific Heights had bad food and bad service. Book your reservations early. Don’t get too excited about Lobster night or Prime Rib night. Although we didn’t attend these we didn’t hear any good things about them.

3) Value: you think this cruise is a value until you realize very little is included in the price. If you want sodas – they are extra. Good food – extra. Good service – extra. There is a $10 per person, per day “service fee” so you are rewarding all of this poor service whether you want to or not.

My suggestion is to skip this cruise. Take all of the money you would spend and research renting a house or staying in a nice hotel. At the total price you could stay in a very nice hotel each night and eat very well. I don’t know what it will take for NCL to change things as it seems like the same issues have been a problem for over a year.

Side notes on the Islands and Excursions:
Kuaui: we rented a car (shuttle to/from the cruise ship is free) and drove up the East and N sides to Princeville. Stopped at the state park (beautiful beach) and the waterfall. Came all the way back to the canyon (west side)– incredible views, very high and very winding roads for those prone to car sickness. We got there right before dusk and it was really breathtaking. We started at 1 pm and finished at 7 pm.

Hilo: we paid for a lava and cave tour. Very interesting and moderately exclusive. It was about $100 pp. The guides were great and I felt like we saw some things others wouldn’t (caves, gorgeous isolated black sand beach)
Kona: we paid for a kayak and snorkeling excursion. So worth it! Gorgeous views, moderate exercise, great guides (Mickey).

Maui: BEAUTIFUL. We rented a car and started on the road to Hana but only got as far as the Garden of Eden. Pay the $10 and spend some time. Great views. We went to the Feast at Le le (Lahenia). Definitely worth the $100 pp over the $95 for the ship’s excursion. We had a sit down meal that included an app, entrée and side for each of four different islands (Hawaii, New Zealand, Polynesia and Samoa). Really amazing. Food was great and dancers were beautiful. Not a bad seat. Book early. You will need a car as there is no shuttle. Taxi would be $45 - $50, so a car is about the same and you have it for other areas. The second day we went to Maneka state park (Big Beach) and WOW! Not that crowded, waves were mesmerizing and boogie boarders and surfers were great entertainment. The same day we played golf on the Blue Course at Waimea, again, amazing views and a pretty friendly course. I’m not a very experienced golfer and I thought it was fun. We booked w/ Hawaii Tee Times for a twilight rate and rented clubs. Compare their rates w/ the cruise. I think we ended up better off. The con was that due to some construction the gnats came out at 3:30 and they SWARMED.

If you go – just resign yourself to thinking that the cruise is only your base and expect it to be the quality of a fast food restaurant and a Holiday Inn. That way, you can’t be disappointed.


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