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Last week I had the pleasure of cruising with NCL on Pride of America around the Hawaiian islands. I spent the week inspecting all areas of the ship and taking in all the beauty the islands have to offer. I was pleased to see NCL has changed quite a bit in the last couple years and in a very positive way.
Although they don’t brand themselves as the freestyle cruise anymore (my suspicion is because other cruise lines have copied this successful strategy) they are still very much a freestyle experience. This was my first time on NCL. I’m an old school cruiser and didn’t think I would like this aspect of the cruise. I love getting dressed up for dinner, having the same waiter each week, etc. However, I found the freestyle experience, especially for this itinerary, to be very convenient. It was wonderful not to have to rush back from port for a specific dining time. We did not experience any wait times at all whenever we went to the dining room. Disembarkation? Wow, by far the easiest and most convenient I’ve ever experienced. If you can carry your own luggage, you are free to walk off the ship whenever you want starting at 7am. If you don’t want to carry your own luggage, the night before, you select the luggage tag color of the time you want to disembark and put your luggage outside your door by midnight.
I took some opportunities while riding the elevator to casually ask other passengers, ‘so are you enjoying your cruise’? I knew how I felt about my experience, (hip hip hooray) but was curious was the masses thought. Just about everyone I asked said they were having a wonderful time. There were only a couple of times there was some hesitation. I found the issue to be more with the expectations the passenger had for the cruise. For example, one party was disappointed there wasn’t a casino. People, this is why you use a travel agent to book your vacations! Qualifying a client for the right fit for their vacation is the most important part of our job. Aside from the misguided expectations, I heard no complaints about the food or service or ship.
So, what would I tell clients that want to take this cruise? For starters, there is no casino. This ship never sails out of domestic waters and gambling is illegal in Hawaii. If you want to gamble in paradise, try the Dominican Republic. Another thing I would mention, this is a port intensive cruise. There are no days at sea. Two nights of the cruise you are docked over night in port. Although you are in complete control of your time, don’t expect to relax a lot on this cruise. Even if you are not tempted to go on shore by the beauty of the islands right in front of you, there are so many activities on board to choose from. The ship although detailed with some Hawaiian art, is themed ‘America’, and beautifully done at that. It is not themed for Hawaii. The common areas represent different areas of our country, such as New Orleans and New York. Because of how much time you spend in port, this is not what I would consider a typical cruise vacation. Some people referred to it as a floating hotel to get you from one island to another. Yes, it certainly did function this way, however to me, the Pride of Amercia is SO much more than just a floating hotel.
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Dominique Barba, CTIE, ECC, TAE