Our group consisted of five, two adults and three teenagers, and all of us arrived in Frisco on Saturday the 5th so we could get in some of the cool sights and sounds of this great city before we left for warmer Southern waters.
DAY 1-Monday June 7th
We began the day early by waking up at 7AM so that we could take a trip on the World Famous Cable Cars and grab a bite before heading over to Pier 35 to check-in for our four days aboard the POA. At 8AM I decided to give NCL a call, just to make sure that the ship was ready and we could board at the 2PM assigned time. The NCL representative was very friendly, and told me that â€śyes, the ship is all spruced up and ready for itâ€™s first passengers under its new POA nameâ€ť. They went on to even tell me that everything was going so well ahead of schedule that NCL reps at the Pier were going to let passengers on early, around 12 noon, so if I wanted to enjoy the ship for a little extra time I should be there to board by 12:30PM. Well, none of us could have been happier! We all got ready, grabbed a bite, headed off for a quick cable car ride, returned to check out of the Hyatt At Fishermanâ€™s Wharf, and headed over to â€śThe Prideâ€ť. It was a beautiful sunny day, the ship was docked at the Pier and looked great. We arrived around 12:50, and already there were around 150 passengers already in line. Our day so far had been a breeze, so we checked our bags in with a porter, took our place in line to await boarding-and this is where everything came to an abrupt halt!
After waiting about 15 minutes in line an NCL rep began handing out numbered tags that were to be used for boarding. She explained that there were 100 tags for 100 people per group, and then proceeded to give us tags with the number 5 on them. We asked if there is 100 tags per group, and obviously there was not 500 people in front of us, how was this going to work? She explained, in a way I still donâ€™t understand, that we werenâ€™t really in group 5, but that we would be the third group to board. So we proceeded to wait, and wait, and wait, standing along the sidewalk in the bright sun, with hundreds of others. At around 3PM, and only after numerous complaints from tired and hot passengers, NCL reps appeared again and explained that the reason for the hold up was that all the computers were down, and that the ship had been late earlier in the day. (The ship was late?? They need to let their 800 number customer service reps know about this so that donâ€™t encourage passengers to show up two hours early for boarding!) We continued to wait in line until 4:30PM, and although very tired from standing for multiple hours, we checked in. This was another example of the NCL staff not knowing just how to expedite passenger check-in. A 50 foot counter had been set up, with representatives lined up the length of it to check in passengers. Instead of waiting for one passenger group to be checked in and then calling the next in line, once someone was at the counter the reps would call the next in line and stack everyone at least two deep. This process was not only confusing but also led to a number of people being overlooked and then cut in front of in line. There was an elderly couple beside our group that stood in line at least 25 minutes, and when they asked when their turn in line would be were told to â€śjust wait and weâ€™ll let you knowâ€ť. They were still waiting when we left to board the ship.
Alright, we take the long walk up to the ship, got our welcome aboard picture made, entered the POA and were pleased with the new look. The lobby is tastefully decorated with Hawaiian themes, and there was even staff waiting to greet us with flower leis (which seemed to me should have been given out before the picture-but theyâ€™ll work that out later Iâ€™m sure). We were assisted to our room by very friendly staff, and found the room also very nicely done, with colorful Hawaiian prints and bold new carpeting. The cabin was great, as was the balcony, which I canâ€™t go on enough about its ample size. The five of us left our carry-ons in our cabins, and with anticipation left for the pool deck and the promised â€śBarbeque Feastâ€ť. Oh well, what can I say, at the least each of us were disappointed with what was on the spread. The barbeque was what appeared to be plain boiled beef ribs, which had no seasoning, and were cold on top of that. Also on the menu that evening were some very strange looking hot dogs, cold fries, rolls, and dry cookies.
The food ended up being alright, and since none of us had eaten anything since 9 that morning, we satisfied our appetites for the time being. One thing I must mention is that there was two gentleman singing Hawaiian songs and playing Hawaiian music-I donâ€™t remember their name, but their entertainment was very good.
We then decided to take a stroll around the ship and check out more of the new look. As we walked further along the pool deck we noticed several tiles that were either broken off, loose in pieces, or absent all together. This alarmed me because I could see someone slipping on the loose pieces, especially since the tiles were the same color as the deck was painted. We continued to walk around for a few minutes and were pleased to find the new â€śHawaiian Culturalâ€ť area (very nice), the ships stores, and one of the restaurants, â€śCrossingsâ€ť. At this point we were all a bit tired and decided to return to our rooms (via the atrium elevators-see pics of duct tape along elevators) and rest a bit until the ship set sail and headed out into the Pacific under The Golden Gate Bridge.
Well wait we didâ€¦one hour, two, three, three and a half (all due to late refueling we were told)-until it was now night and our planned photos of The Bridge would be less than planned. We headed out to the bow anyway, made the best of it, did our best to keep warm in the cold, hard wind, and enjoyed our view of both Frisco and The Bridge at night. All five of us decided that we could use a bite before bed, so we called room service and asked for a pizza-to which we were told that we could not get a whole pizza but only individual pieces-whatever-Iâ€™m tired and hungry, bring us 5 BIG pieces. Five were delivered in about 30 minutes, and it was pretty good, but the thing I didnâ€™t really get was that they loaded the tray up with mustard packets-I donâ€™t know about anyone else, but none of us like mustard on our pizza, so it was put out for pickup with the tray later that night. Itâ€™s now time to turn in, watch a little TV (very little unless you consider 3 episodes of Raymond, King Of Queens, and I Love Lucy running repeatedly over and over and over again throughout the cruise, along with CNN and various old movies), and rest up for our first stop: Monterey.
DAY 2-Tuesday June 8th: Monterey
We rose around 8AM, leisurely got ready for our day, and then three of us headed out for some breakfast. The stated hours for the buffet were from 6 to 10AM, and we took our place in line around 9:15. Many passengers were still a bit miffed from the check in snafu the day before, and the late rising crowd seemed to surge right before 9:30. I filled my plate (breakfast was the best meal of the day all week on the ship to me), sat down to eat, and right at 9:30 I noticed a supervisor going around to the food staff and telling them to close their stations-breakfast was over. Man oh man, at that point more and more people began arriving to eat, only to find that all the food was being put up. I overheard a number of passengers complain that the scheduled time was until 10, so where was the food?? At this point I decided to head back to my cabin and bypass all the drama-even though I didnâ€™t think that it was right for the kitchen to close early.
The five of us gathered our day-trip bags and left for the tender into Monterey. This was effortless and quick, and it was a beautiful day to be outside enjoying the sea air. We rented a car from Enterprise and received an upgrade to a convertible. After piling in we headed to the nearest burger place since two in our group had been stung by the breakfast bar closing early. After grabbing a bite we headed off on the beautiful 17-Mile Drive, visiting scenic spots along the shoreline, Pebble Beach, and Carmel. This was a great way to spend the first full day of our cruise. After returning the car we headed back to grab the tender and found a rather lengthy line waiting to board. Upon enquiring we found out that someone on the ship had taken ill and that we were waiting for the paramedics to use the tenders to get the person off the ship and to a hospital. This was not a problem in the least, and I never did hear what happened, I just hope the ill personâ€™s health improved. As we waited for tender service to begin again we noticed that a number of the â€śpassengersâ€ť around us were actually staff. This only came to light because many of those waiting (some of which were swigging on open beers and obviously buzzed), began to get very vocal about that they had to report to work in 30 minutes and needed to get back to the ship right away. Like the rest of us they had to wait, and the longer it took for the tenders to begin service the louder they became, not only about their concerns on getting to work but also their hopes on â€śhooking upâ€ť later that night after work. I didnâ€™t think that the behavior was appropriate, but I realized that the crew had been working on getting the ship ready for a number of weeks and just needed to relax and blow off some steam. Anyway, tender service resumed after about half an hour after the ill passenger was transferred to an ambulance. Our particular tender back to the ship was quick, but it appeared that the pilot was in training. We attempted for over ten minutes to line up with the ship so we could board. After many tries, and many, many times banging into the side of the POA, (during which the tender crew were yelling at the top of their lungs telling the pilot to â€śgun the motor, pull back on the motor, give us some slack, take up the slackâ€ť, and when he didnâ€™t do as they told they began rolling their eyes and shaking their heads), the pilot gunned the motor and all aboard the tender jumped onto the POA. Whew, home at last-weâ€™re hungry and ready for some good grub. We headed up top and guess what, boiled barbeque again!! We all decided weâ€™d had enough of that delicacy the previous evening, so we went to change clothes and try out Crossings.
Crossings is a very nice restaurant, tastefully decorated, with a grand two-story entrance. Our service was top notch, and the food I selected was great. My selection for the meal consisted of a Crab Salad appetizer, a bowl of Cream of Mushroom Soup (wonderful!), a delectable Beef Wellington, and a very tasty chocolate soufflĂ© (of which I had two servings!). The meal was topped off with a double cappuccino-which hit the spot and set me up for enjoying the evening show in the Stardust Theatre. In my opinion, this was the best evening spent on the ship-the food was very good and the entertainment well produced. The only drawback to the night was a small incident concerning the young lady selling â€śKrack-Itsâ€ť outside of the Stardust. The other adult in our group was interested in trying their luck with the scratch-off type lottery tickets, and we waited for over 10 minutes as the young lady manning the table waited on five ladies who were trying out their luck. No one else was waiting to take their turn after the group of ladies, so once they left my friend approached the table and picked up a couple of the Krack-It cards. The young lady running the table looked at my friend, said nothing, and then noticed a fellow staff member walking by. She turned around, totally ignoring her customer, and asked the young man walking by if they were going to â€śget together later tonightâ€ť. He replied by asking â€śwhat for?â€ť, to what she answered, â€śwho knows, anything-weâ€™ll just hang out and see what happensâ€ť-then begins laughing. At this point my friend just stares at her, drops the cards on the table and says to me rather loudly â€śletâ€™s goâ€ť. And go we did, and as we walked off she never once looked at us leaving, or acknowledged that we were even standing there, she just kept on trying to arrange a â€śdateâ€ť for later that evening. Her behavior irritated me, and after returning to the room and steaming about it a few minutes I phoned guest services and calmly but firmly explained to them what had taken place. The person on the other end of the line apologized sincerely, told me that it would be reported to the ships Cruise Director, and that I could expect a call from her that night or the next day. I said thank you for listening, hung up the phone and waited for the call from the Cruise Directorâ€¦it never came, the entire length of the cruise (which now does not surprise me). Oh well, since I was a bit tired, and there was nothing else planned on the ship besides the show I had already seen, and singers in the various clubs, I decided to hit the sack and get some rest for our next stop: Santa Barbara.
DAY 3-Wednesday June 9th: Santa Barbara
One by one we start rising and getting ready for the day beginning at 7:30AM. Keeping in mind the breakfast problem from the day before I make sure to get ready and get up top for some food by 9. Three of us once again ended up grabbing some food from the buffet, and I really had my eye on a waffle from the waffle bar, but decided that the line was too long-I wanted to eat and get into town. Breakfast once again was good, the food hot and the line quick-and this day the two members of our party who were still getting ready in their rooms requested that we bring them back a plate of food so that they would be sure to get some nourishment before heading out. Santa Barbara is another tender port, and like the day before our tender to shore was quick and painless, and the day was just as beautiful and sunny as the previous one.
Santa Barbara is a beautiful city, with wonderful architecture, friendly residents, and a great main street full of the coolest shops and a really neat outdoor mall. All of us spent the day strolling along, checking out the surf, skate, and souvenir shops-and buying a few things along the way. This shopping thoroughfare is quite lengthy, and offers a 25 cent shuttle that runs from one end to the other. When we reached the far end, and took a few photos of their incredible Courthouse, we decided to skip the walk back and just catch the shuttle. We boarded the shuttle close to the farthest end of the drag, and joined three other folks also taking a ride back to the shipâ€™s tenders. Our day up to this point had been great, and not that the following incident ruined the day-it didnâ€™t-but it did once again place in my mind a question about the hiring of few members of the ships crew.
As I mentioned, we boarded near the far end of the street, and the shuttle was empty except for three other passengers heading back to the ship. All along the way, as is normal, there are multiple stops for others to hop on board. At our first stop two men boarded, and were each wearing their â€śworkâ€ť shirts from the ship (which I later found out is against the rules). They asked the driver how fast he could get them to the tenders because they had to be back at work on the ship in 15 minutes. He replied that he would get them there as quickly as possible, but with all the stops it would take a few minutes. They didnâ€™t seem to mind, laughed it off and hung on for the ride. As we approached the next stop there was around five of the shipâ€™s crew waiting on the shuttle. The two guys who had just boarded obviously knew the ones waiting and humorously told the driver to not stop and pick them up because they were trouble makers. The two guys repeated the statement again as the shuttle stopped, and began laughing. One of the crew waiting to board overheard their comments and very loudly yelled at them â€śF*** You B****!!â€ť as they climbed aboard. The first two guys replied â€śyeah, whateverâ€ť, to which the yelling guy (who we now noticed had glazed eyes and was very drunk) repeated the same phrase two more times at the top of his lungs. Now these shuttles are open air, and folks all along the street could hear his obscenities, but with his buzz he was oblivious to others, including us on the shuttle. His ship-mate friends just laughed and egged him on. Twice more he yelled the same line at the two earlier riders, and at this point when the driver stopped at a traffic light he turned around and told the guy to â€ścut the cussingâ€ť. Well I guess hearing that from a father-figure worked, because he finally got quite. At the next stop two more passengers boarded the shuttle and all of the sudden he was an angel sent from heaven, asking the ladies if their cruise was a good one, and that it was not his or the rest of the crews fault that areas of the ship were â€śtorn upâ€ť. All they could do was ensure that everyone had a good time, and tell passengers to ignore the mess. I only wish they could have seen him acting like a kid on MTVâ€™s Spring Break just minutes before.
We finally made it back to the tenders, and again the boarding and the trip back was quick and painless. The only other winkle I encountered on the way back was yet another crew member talking real loud about his job and then asking those around him if anyone thought he could get â€śthisâ€ť on boardâ€¦â€ťthisâ€ť happened to be a super-sized can of Heineken inside a brown paper bag. This was a totally strange incident, and after we arrived back at the ship he hung back and talked to the tender guys, so I donâ€™t know if he got the beer onboard or not. One other thing, the tender pilot must have been getting the hang of things, because even though we still bumped into the side of the ship a number of times, we weâ€™rnt forced into jumping onto the POA.
We arrive back on board a bit tired and very hungry. After a quick discussion all of us agreed that we really didnâ€™t want to change and have dinner at one of the sit down restaurants, so instead we decided to hit the buffet and check out what was on the menu. Well, all I can say is what a mistake! This is one of those evenings where none of the food selections go with one another. Highlights included meatloaf, fried rice, jambalaya, and fish in some sort of gravy. Since we were there, we checked out the dessert bar, which had all the regular items, cakes, ice cream, cheesecake, ect. (all of which were actually ok), and right alongside the dessert attendant behind the bar was an empty Hoover vacuum box. Why this was not put away out of eyesight Iâ€™ll never know. About this time someone saw that they were serving hamburgers with the barbeque ribs around the pool. Now that sounded good to all of us so we headed out to the pool and took our place in line. Once again what a disappointment. The buns were cold and stale, and the hamburgers sat in a metal tray, which was floating on what was supposed to be hot water. The burgers were like they had just come out of the refrigerator, and actually the first one I picked up had congealed grease still on the patty. The side item was again nothing that made sense-new potatoes-why not fries, they had them out just two days before. We tried to eat the burgers, but none of us could, they were hard and ice cold. One of the wait staff came by our table and noticed that everyone had a plate with a burger that had one bite taken out. He stopped and asked if we were enjoying our meal. I replied no, that the food was cold like it was leftovers just out of the fridge, and then I asked if they could microwave the patties to warm them up. He told me sorry no, and that he was sorry they were cold, but they were putting hot water under the trays to warm the food. I told him it wasnâ€™t working, and maybe they should try some sterno. Oh well, we decided to head off to the 24 hour pizza bar and have that for dinner-which actually happened to be quite good (and later became a familiar alternative for each of us until the end of the cruise).
Following our pizza dinner we headed over to the Stardust to check out that evenings entertainment, a magician (whose name I donâ€™t recall) whose act was very entertaining. Following the show we returned to our respective rooms to turn in and watch some I Love Lucy again. After watching a couple of episodes three of our group decided to check out the 50â€™s night event in the Blue Hawaii. The lounge was quite full, and the contests were a bit cheesy, but in a fun way, and everyone was enjoying themselves-especially the ten buzzed crew members who were sitting in front of us. This is once again an incident that I donâ€™t believe is appropriate. The group of crew members were all feeling no pain, and partying down like they were on vacation. Although they were not being obscene (thank goodness), I still think that if they wanted to enjoy some quality time with their co-workers then they should have been enjoying their drinks in the staff break room/lounge. After hanging around for around 45 minutes we all decided to head to bed and get some rest before we tackled our next port: San Diego.
DAY 4-Thursday June 10th: San Diego
By now we had the routine down, so we rose around 7:30AM, got ready for our day, and headed up to grab some breakfast before we walked off the boat (yes walked-not tender in S.D!). Once again the breakfast bar was busy, but I had been eyeing the waffle bar all week, and as it just so happened there was only two other folks waiting in line. I decided that now was my chance, so two of us got in line to await the rather large and steaming hot waffles. As we waited our turn we watched the irons cooking, and also watched the food prep guy as he kept busy filling orders. It was at this point that I noticed him trying to get a fresh waffle to come loose from the waffle iron-he shook it, he closed and reopened the iron, he even tried to pry it loose with a fork-when none of these attempts worked he proceeded to just pull it off with his bare hands! Now if this is not bad enough, after he handed the waffle off, and poured the batter on the iron for the next order, he covered his mouth with the bare hand he had pulled the waffle off with and coughed repeatedly. Thatâ€™s it, enough seen-my appetite for waffles left me at once. I decided that I needed to head over to the omelet bar, which I did, and noticed first thing that both of the staff preparing omelets were wearing gloves-thank goodness. I ordered my omelet, picked up some bacon, grabbed a glass of O.J. and enjoyed another tasty way to start my day.
Around 9AM we all met and headed off the ship so that we could once again rent a vehicle from Enterprise. Just like in Monterey this was simple, quick and cheap-they came and picked us up and we rented a minivan for only $37 dollars for the day. The five of us piled in and headed over to the Mission Beach section of S.D. to visit Belmont Park and their world-famous rollercoaster: The Giant Dipper. If you like coasters, and happen to visit San Diego, this is a must do. This classic woodie was built in 1925, and fully restored in the early 90â€™s. It is a great ride, and it being painted Pepto Pink only makes the ride that more enjoyable. We hung out along the beach the rest of the morning, and that afternoon headed to Coronado Island to walk the grounds of that famous landmark: The Hotel Del Coronado. â€śThe Delâ€ť is a treasure, and a true sight to behold. Build in 1888, and made of rich dark wood throughout, it looks like a film set-possibly one of the reasons that Some Like It Hot was largely shot there. We easily returned our car around 4PM, received a ride back to the ship, and decided to walk over to the nearby Seaport Village and check out the shops. This shopping area is close by and very nice, and a great way to wind up the day before boarding the ship for our final night aboard the POA.
At just about 6PM we re-boarded the ship and decided to check out what offerings they were having for dinner at the buffet. Selections this evening included some type of seafood pasta in a red sauce, beef chunks in gravy (and no rice or mashed potatoes to go along with it), and a variety of other entrees that didnâ€™t look very appealing. We decided once again that it was to be a pizza night, so we headed off to the pizzeria, grabbed a few slices each, and then returned to our rooms to pack our bags and prepare for leaving in the morning at our last stop: L.A.
DAY 5-Friday June 11th: Los Angeles
We awoke early, around 6:30AM, and enjoyed the quiet ride in to San Pedro and the Port Of Los Angeles. After getting ready most of our group headed up for a final meal aboard the POA before we disembarked at 9:30AM. The buffet was busy, but not as crowed as on days past. We fixed our plates, enjoyed our meal, and then returned to our rooms for the announcement that it was our turn to leave. This stress less morning was pleasant, and the entire disembarkation process, from what I observed, went seamlessly.
In closing Iâ€™d like to make a few general comments about this cruise on The Pride Of Aloha. A few problems that NCLA needs to address include: the water in the shower turning from icy cold to scalding hot about every 30 seconds (this occurred in both our cabins), on the second day of the trip the bathroom in our cabin began to take on a septic-tank smell that came and went (our groupâ€™s other cabin did not have this problem), the room attendant not making sure that the room was thoroughly cleaned each day, the food quality and selection at the buffet, and most importantly the attitude and behavior of some (but not all) of the crew.
Looking back, all in all, we had a great week, visited great ports, and have some great memories. Did the negative aspects of the ship ruin the trip, or make me wish I hadnâ€™t gone?...NO. Iâ€™m glad I went, and have already related the good tales of the week to friends at home. Would I recommend NCL to others as a cruise line to take? Possibly, but I would also tell them to be sure and research their ship of choice carefully, and one way to do that is to check out both the pro and con reports here on Cruise Critic.
Ocean Princess-Alaska, 07/2002
Carnival Pride-Panama Canal, 09/2003
Pride Of Aloha-California, 06/2004
Until RCCL's Brilliance of the Seas