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Pride of America October 27 - November 3, 2018

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Including Our Own Pre Cruise Stay & Tips, (and how we did it) for 10 Days for $3,500

per person including Air from the East Coast


My wife and I are empty nesters both in our early sixties. We are pretty much just average folks who clip coupons, save our pennies, and squirrel away a little bit here and there so we can go on a vacation now and again. Hawaii has always been on our bucket list, but it seemed so far out of reach. So after a lot of research it did seem to be a possibility. Two years ago we purchased a NextCruise certificate, (we always do as we found it a useful and cost saving tool to cruise). Now we learned years ago on the in's and out's of being able to cruise on a budget. First of all if your never in your cabin other than to sleep and change, why spend all that money for a balcony when you can put the extra savings into the fun stuff.


The Pride of America is a great way to see the Hawaiian Islands. Each island is so different from the other. No two islands are the same. As I said we never thought we would get there but this is how we did it. We live in New England and flights are rather tough to get and expensive from Boston. Having to change planes, making connections, decisions of nonstop or stop over flights can complicate one's plans. However, there is hope on the horizon. Hawaiian Airlines will be starting nonstop service five days a week from Boston's Logan Intl, to Honolulu starting April of 2019. This will become the longest domestic flight in the US. The good thing is you leave at 8:00 am and arrive at 2:00 pm HST, still leaving you time to unwind on your first day. If you don't mind stopping, starting, and and changing planes a couple of times Southwest will soon be starting flying to Honolulu from the west coast and will eventually offer inter island flights to Hilo and Kona, (on the big island) as well as Maui and Kauai. We flew United out of Providence Rhode Island, connecting at Newark/NYC to Honolulu, as to the previous mentioned flights have not started as of yet.


We were unsure just how do this trip. We had originally thought about getting in the day before the cruise and spending a night in a hotel. Get up the next day and head to the ship, spend six and a half days and then after the cruise, head out to the airport and home. Well, it didn't take long to realize that our trip of a lifetime should be done right. We decided when we booked our Pride of America Cruise aboard, the NCL Dawn on a cruise to Bermuda that we would not take a vacation in 2017 and 2019 to pay for our little piece of paradise.

Our first recommendation is don't listen to anyone!...yet. People mean well, however, It will blow your budget and your vacation sky high. Not knowing where to stay…?, "Oh you have to have“....a minimum of a 3 star, or a 4 star hotel?... Where to eat?... How to get around?... You have to do this... go there...STOP! The whole idea is to destress not get stressed. One of the things I learned was NCL offers a four day pre-cruise stay at a hotel in Waikiki so I looked into it and found out that really adds to the cost, and not to your benefit. We scouted out a lot, and I mean a lot of hotels. I had days when I had a good find, and then days when there were a not so good find. I found myself going in a vicious circle. Well being the age that I am, I have trouble dealing with new thing's I just don't trust. I still feel more comfortable placing a file into a grey metal cabinet than I do putting it into a folder and clicking an X. Then I found this new thing.


It was midnight and I was just about to call it a day, (I should have about two hours earlier) when I came across a website for online vacation rental properties. I put in Waikiki and started looking. I couldn't believe what I was looking at. That was a game changer right then and there. I was able to get a full condo in Waikiki on the marina for five days for a price that was a little more than a day and a half at one of the major named hotels. Doing this it allowed us to extend our stay on Oahu by five days. Here's the kicker Honolulu greeted a lot of travelers with a Hotel Strike, leaving a lot of unhappy campers. Imagine 14 hours of travel only to have to lug your bags up to your room n the 21st floor. I am so glad that I came across that condo rental. I will never stay at a big name hotel resort again. Our condo was as good as any five star with NO resort fee. We made reservations to be picked up at the airport by Johnny Cab. They were there and waiting for us right outside the baggage claim. Johnny Cab charged $25 from the airport to the condo in Waikiki for the both of us. They even called to see how the trip went. We rented a car about a block away on Ala Moana and pre-paid for in and out parking for three days at a nearby parking garage. This allowed us to rent a car for 3 days and not have to return it to the airport, (we didn’t rent it for our first full day because we planned that as a beach day, again why pay for an extra day). All the pre planning we did worked out better than we thought. I wish I could take credit for the weather. The weather for our vacation left us with only a half a day of rain, (except for up in the mountains).


Another great tool for finding your way around if your going to a place you have never been before is Google Earth. Long before we ever set foot on Oahu we had an idea of just what the neighborhood was like. It was great for getting your bearings. One thing we noticed was there was a Red Lobster and an Outback Steakhouse nearby. Now some may say you are in Hawaii why go there? The last thing we wanted to do after flying for 12 hours is to go find a supermarket and do food shopping.  We had been up since 4:00 am east coast time. Time to sit down and regroup, no more, rushing through airports, you know the crash is coming. Across the Street was an ABC store. We picked up a few things for breakfast so we could get out and get going on Waikiki Beach our first day. That was what we did everyday a quick breakfast and off to somewhere. Some people start right in after landing and you can always spot them on the beach the next day, Zombies.


TIP: For Christmas and Birthdays friends and family would ask us what we would like. We would tell people we would like a gift certificate for Red Lobster and Outback. It was a great way of getting a sit down meal and a drink after a long travel day. It made it simple and easy. One note Red Lobster adds the tip into the bill so don't fall into the tip trap and over tip! Check your receipts.

Now sure you could do an Island tour, and there are many tour operators willing to take you to all the popular sites. We understand that some folks may prefer to take organized tours and that’s good. Shop around, prices can be very steep. The best way to see Oahu is by car. It also gives you more freedom to spend time at places, or find something off the beaten path.  For example: you may find something that is on the North Shore and you may want to re-visit. The Boyodo Temple in the Valley of the Temples is a place not to be missed, and you don't want to be rushed or herded like cattle to get to the the next stop on schedule. Pearl Harbor is really worth the visit. The USS Arizona was sobering. The National Park Service, and the US Navy has done an excellent job. Another place that should be seen is the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island. They still have bullet holes in the windows from the December 7th, 1941 attack.


TIP: If you are Handicapped and rent a car during your stay be sure to bring your handicapped placard with you. You will be entitled to all the privileges of your home state in Hawaii. On Maui and Kauai, your placard will allow you to park right at the port in the secure area where the ship is docked, Be sure you have your ship card, drivers license, and a photo ID for everyone in the vehicle when you approach the port security gate or you will be turned away.



This cruise was Our anniversary cruise. We learned long ago to work our way down from the very little extras that the cruise line offers when you have a suite or a balcony and put it into an inside cabin, (doing this little step allows us to cruise more often). This was our seventh cruise with NCL. Being from New England it used to mean if you wanted to cruise you had to cruise out of Miami for a caribbean cruise, or catch a cruise out of New York for Bermuda. As luck would have it NCL started doing seven day cruises to Bermuda out of Boston sometime around 2007.


We were bitten by the cruise bug on the first day of our first cruise. We enjoy cruising so much that we became latitudes members. Every cruise like clock work we know, and Norwegian Cruise Lines know,  yes a future next cruise will be added to our bill. Anyone who has ever cruised before surely knows that once you set foot on the deck, you are on vacation. There is nothing else you can do about it but relax. Don't worry about your luggage it will be delivered to your cabin.  Those who are new to cruising tend to have a quizzical look on their face as they explore the ship only to find people at the pool and with cocktails in hand, and wonder how is that possible when you can't get into your cabin. Don't worry about it...your on vacation.


TIP: Put your bathing suit on before heading out to the ship for embarkation. Women can wear a fashionable wrap and guys can wear shorts that double as a bathing suit. The bars on the pool deck will be open and all you need is your ships keycard.


On our first cruise in 2008 to Bermuda, all passengers were accosted by the obligatory pre-cruise picture with the guy in the dolphin suit as you made your way up the gangway. Only after setting foot on the promenade deck of the NCL Dream all passengers were greeted "Welcome Aboard" with a glass of champagne. On Wednesday night at 12:00 am in the main dining room did the chefs, sous-chefs and pastry chefs present their masterful epicurean delights of "The Midnight Chocolate Buffet". Much like the disappearing complimentary ships stationary and pen that once graced the desk top in your cabin, or the mint on your pillow, have all been banished to another place and time.

Then came the Pride of America….. However, this time it was a little… a lot  different.


We bid a farewell to Our beloved condo and into the cab for the short 10 minute ride to Honolulu’s Pier 2. Entering the terminal was the easiest arrival for an embarkation we ever had. Once we entered and were checked by TSA, guest services were quick and easy. While waiting to be called to board, we were treated to a traditional Hawaiian dancing and music performance. The ladies were adorned with orchid laie’s and the gentlemen were bestowed with a necklace made from seashells. After about 40 minutes we were able to board. Now the ship sails at 7:00 pm but, again we like to get on board early so we can relax. The first day started off like our other cruises had. Finding our way around the decks, where is this, where is that. Within a hour we were in our cabin and 10 minutes later our luggage arrived. Our cabin steward was fantastic and his service was over and above.


Tip: To save yourself from being in the center of a stampede. Find where your lifeboat (Muster) station is. During the Muster drill the elevators will not be working, so if your on a lower deck or an upper deck, you have may have a lot of stairs to climb. A half an hour prior to the muster drill all the bars and shops will close. We like to find a bar as close as possible to our lifeboat station so when the drill is called we are already there nursing our painkillers and avoiding the "Legions of the Lost". It's also very entertaining.


Just a little background on myself. As a kid I was brought up in a hospitality and restaurant household.  My father was a chef, who rose up through the ranks of being a pastry, sous, head chef to finally an executive chef. He worked for Country Clubs,and Classic Hotels. He could be very demanding yet fair. His motto that was drilled into me was: "If it is not right it doesn't leave here".  I could go on and on about presentations and service. I say this because you may find somethings to be negative in which you will hear about, but I will give praise where it is due.

The makeup of the passengers on the Pride  were quite diverse. I would guess about 50 % of passengers were from the US, 30 % Australians & New Zealanders, 10% Japanese and 10% German and other nationalities. We also made conversations with other passengers. One evening we met two other couples from Australia. We were making conversations about the Islands, and the cruise in general. The gentleman said that they were disappointed with the crusie. Overall the food and service was below par. That was exactly what had been going through Our minds too. They agreed with us that it was a great way to see the Islands, and the cabin staff were great but that's where it ended. He said: " I don't mean to be a Wegger", to which I had to ask him what  " a Wegger" was. After trying to find what American term is, (with much laughter) we came to the conclusion that a Wegger is Australian for a whiner. No one is whining. As our new found friend put it, “I haven’t had a hot meal yet on this cruise”. They had cruised several times on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity and they would do it again, but not with Norwegian. First and last time for the folks down under.


We joined the Latitudes program on our first cruise in 2008. The whole premise of the program is to continue to guarantee repeat business for Norwegian Cruise Line. In other words you get something, they get a lot.  On previous cruises the Latitudes Presentation begins with a private party for the members. Complimentary cocktails, and passed hor dourves are served. The house band plays there are door prizes to be had, and the Captain and staff officers are introduced. It is a mini version of buying a timeshare. When you purchase a NextCruise certificate you get an instant onboard $100-$500 dollar credit for the cruise you are currently on. On our 2016 cruise that was the first year that you could book a cruise for any NCL cruise directly on board. We did it on the NCL Dawn. It worked out as planned. We booked the Hawaiian Cruise. That stroke of marketing genius. Good presentation, boom....money right in the pocket of Norwegian Cruise line.


So why didn't we buy one. Why? The invitation came to our cabin on the second day of our cruise. We were looking forward to it 5:30pm on the aft deck Aloha Lanai Bar. We caught the tender back from Kona a little on the early side so we could grab a shower and change for the Latitudes Party.  We sat with a couple from Washington DC. They too were avid cruisers coming off their last cruise in the Mediterranean with Norwegian. So we had some small talk and the lady asked if they were offering any hor dorvs, we said we were wondering the same thing. The drinks were weak and served in soft sided plastic cups. As luck would have it the side gave way enough that it spilled all over my hand. I asked a waiter passing by for a napkin (of course why would you want a cocktail napkin to go with your drink) to wipe up the spilled drink. The response came swift and curt. "We don't have napkins on the outer decks they blow off" as he continued on his way. The whole table had the old "Deer in the Headlights " look. So what do I do wipe them on my pants? Can't figure this one out My wife and I have breakfast out on the Aloha Deck aft right where we are sitting every morning and we have a napkin. So didn't the Dream, The Spirit, and the other 5 times on the Dawn. So I excused myself and off to the Bar I went and I did get a linen napkin. The presentation on CruiseNext was a about as informative as "why is there air?". No live music, No Staff Officers, The CruiseNext agent gave a three minute talk on how NCL is now cruising to Tahiti,and told everyone to drop by her desk across from the front desk on deck 5. None of us heard anything about the $100 to $500 instant on board credit, (a selling point), We saw the NextCruise consultant sitting there over the next three days, but no takers that we could see.


NCL needs to look and remember where they are. Hawaii... the place can sell itself. Sell It! It's easy it's a lifestyle for someone for seven days. There is no reason why you can't have a 30% return rate on that cruise and every cruise. You don't know it but the goose that is laying the golden egg is headed for life support, and when you discover it, it will be too late. It is really too bad because the Pride of America is full of potential, but it is left by the wayside. There seems to be a case of bad service, or no service becoming the norm. We sat at a table waiting for drink service. Where was the waitress? sitting with a party having a good time and ignoring the other passengers. After 20 minutes we got our own cocktails. On the pool deck service was just as bad. Anyone who drinks a painkiller will tell you the garnish for the drink is pineapple. My wife brings the drink over to the table from the bar, (again no sense of urgency rather bad for the being in the hospitality business), I said where’s the pineapple I thought she was joking “ they’re all out...what do they mean they're all out...that’s what she said” off to the bar with painkiller in hand. Do you know what I got for an answer? Oh we’re all out. And I said…”We’re in Hawaii pineapple capital of the world. I know the ship isn’t out of pineapple”. The bar staff managed to find some. How does this happen?, good question for the Beverage Manager.  Midway through the cruise we bought a bottle of wine for dinner. We finished it the next night, the last night of our cruise my wife orders a glass of wine the same kind as the bottle we bought. Towards the end of dinner she ordered another glass, they brought her the wrong kind. I know it is not that way on other NCL ships. You don't have to go to far to see things that are not good.


Aloha cafe, dirty coffee cups in the racks, dirty silverware in the napkins, tables not cleared, there was a time when there wasn’t a washy washy girl at the entrance to the Aloha Cafe at peak breakfast time. This is a simple question, why?  Hand sanitizer globe empty at the aloha aft deck to the cafe, told the cafe Officer about it. Refilled but still didn’t work. Why wasn’t a portable unit brought in? Biggest problem of the whole cruise industry is Norovirus. It is cheaper to bring in a portable unit than to disinfect a whole ship.


So that’s the bad. Well what about the good? Our Cabin steward Owen did a great job. He was as good as any of the other stewards we have had over the many years. He works hard and is a real professional. Stacy was our waitress in the Liberty Dining Room. She was a gem who we always had a fun conversation with. She would always give us a good tip on what to see and what to do. In short a peach with a Boston accent. As I had mentioned this was Our anniversary and like all the other cruises we have been on we always celebrate our special day. This day was really made by Stacy who made it so. As we had our cake we were Serenaded to with Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” sung by Emilee. Immediately this was not just someone singing. It was divine. She had a voice as good as anything that ever came out of Julliard.The dining room was quiet.Toby Beau’s Show was great, don’t miss it.

The Pride of America is a great way to see the real Hawaii. It is beautiful. However, Norwegian Cruise Lines needs to seriously look within itself and make some changes. Will we go back, most definitely. We decided to put up a map and throw a dart, whichever Island it lands on we will go to. Will we ever cruise again yes, but there are other Lines to try. We feel let down in by Norwegian, and it’s just too bad.  

TIP: Rent a car on Maui it’s nice to drive. Road to Hana take a tour you won’t see anything because you need to pay attention. Renting a car on Kauai only rent it for one day. The Pride sails at 2:00 pm on the second day. The only parking near the ship is at the mall and it’s $20 overnite if your over 50 and have stuff to carry it’s a long walk. It doesn't leave too much drive time.What we did was pull out all the stops for one day rent a Mustang convertible. Nice for touring do the northside of the Island it’s dryer more top down time. Last Alamo Shuttle is 8:00pm

Hilo & Kona offers the Hoppa on Hoppa off trolley well worth it $20 pp. Pain in the neck to rent a car last tender in Kona is 5:00pm remember LAST TENDER IS NOT THE SAIL TIME. Don’t miss it. Drink Water, Water, Water dehydration can be a real problem.

The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau  offers free soft bound tour books or online edition on Oahu, Maui, Hawaii, and Kauai at gohawaii.com.


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Great review! We sailed Nov 3, so the week after you. First cruise so we didn't know what to expect and were pretty happy with it, but I also agree with your observations. I do think service could have been better at a lot of those bars and restaurants, though we did have some great conversations with our servers at Cagney's and Skyline dining room. We didn't rent a car at all and instead used the Hoppa on Hoppa Off bus and similar options (plus 2 NCL excursions), but I agree that Maui seemed like a great place to rent a car if you want to cover a lot of ground. I'm not sure if we'll do this cruise again, but this was a great way to see the main islands of Hawaii, and now we know our favorite spots for when we go back sometime in the future (hopefully with our kids!). We loved Kauai and the Big Island especially. So I'd recommend the POA for anyone who hasn't been to all the Hawaiian islands, and who can keep in mind that the ship is basically a floating hotel and doesn't have the best service. But the location definitely makes up for that!

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