Pride of Americas decor true to its patriotic name

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Theres something unmistakable about the Pride of America. Maybe its NCL Americas decision to wrap the Pride of America in Old Glory. The ships exterior hull is painted with broad stripes and bright stars that stream out from the bow.

Maybe its the U.S. flag fluttering off the back of the ship, unfurling with its stars and stripes the differences between this all-American girl and its foreign-bannered kin (although Pride of America did spend some of its formative years in the company of German shipbuilders).

Maybe its the forward section, which juts upward as though the entire ship is putting up a stiff upper lip.

After all, this cruise ship, delivered last month, already has survived a battle for a federal loan; sat in Mississippi after its original owners went bankrupt; was towed across the ocean by its new owners to be reconfigured; was the subject of a Congressional battle over an exemption to fly the Stars and Stripes; and, in its most ignominious moment, sank to the bottom of its berth at the shipyard where it was being readied for a star-spangled debut.

The $400 million ship departed on its first cruise last month.

Now that you can see what weve created, I think youll agree it was worth the wait, NCLs CEO Colin Veitch said during the Americas christening ceremony during its maiden U.S. call in New York.

And God bless America, she looks pretty good.

Trevor Young, NCLs vice president of newbuilds and refurbishment, said the extra time the America spent in the dock gave interior architects and designers more time to outfit the ship.

The America, like other ships, was built based on a reference vessel -- in this case the Norwegian Sun. We had more architects [on the America] than on the Sun at the time, Young said.

Norwegian Cruise Line hadnt embraced heavy theming in its previous ships, but theyve relented for the NCL America fleet. The Pride of Aloha and the upcoming Pride of Hawaii pay homage to Hawaii; the Pride of America is decked out in American themes.

The Americana theme

The Pride of Americas focal point, of course, is the Capitol Atrium, which reflects various aspects of Washingtonian glory -- all red carpets, white columns and federal accents. Ensconced in the middle of the rotunda floor is a replica of the Great Seal of the U. S.

The American theme is revisited in the Liberty restaurant, which has blue-starred bunting for the curtains and red-and-white-striped chairs. The theme also is in Jeffersons Bistro, NCLs Le Bistro-turned-Monticello. On one end of the room is the library, although the books are fake. For the real thing, head down the hall to the S.S. America Library.

The other theme that gets play in more than one room is Hawaii, which makes sense since thats where the ship will sail. That includes Pinks Bar, which is based on the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu. The Aloha Cafe is the Lido buffet restaurant, the first NCL ship to make use of food islands to reduce long buffet lines.

Another Hawaiian area is the hideaway Lanai Bar and Lounge, a funky, 1970s-corporate take on the theme. The lounge is part of the massive, and impressive, meetings section of the America.

NCL is hoping to attract meetings business -- on a U.S.-flagged ship, its tax deductible. The focal point here is the theater-in-the-round auditorium, with flat-panel TVs hanging around the stage for Power Point or video presentations. (The second focal point is NCL Golf, where passengers, corporate or not, can rent clubs and shoes and play courses on each of the Hawaiian islands.)

The fun is in the details

Its clear that the Americas rooms were carefully planned and researched because each has detail -- skyscrapers etched into the glass in the Skyline restaurant and menus on wood slabs in the Lazy J Steakhouse.

Theres lots of outdoor seating at the Aloha Cafe. The Napa Wine Bar and Cadillac Diner also have al fresco tables on the Deck 5 Promenade, a smart idea that we have lauded before (on the Norwegian Spirit).

In the Gold Rush Saloon, passengers can gather around barrel tables and play darts next to a mounted bears head (fake). The Hollywood Theater requires you to walk the red carpet past a mural of paparazzi.

Crew uniforms are themed to the room, so servers in the Lazy J Steakhouse wear cowboy hats, and servers in the Liberty restaurant are smart in white suits with navy trim.

The details denote that the America has a distinct cruise-ship feel and is meant to be enjoyed as its own destination, not just as a floating hotel around the Hawaiian islands.

Theres attention to these things -- which assumes that passengers will be onboard long enough to notice them. The NCL America ships spend an unprecedented amount of time in port, 90-plus hours per seven-day cruise, which almost makes you wonder why the America is trying so hard with the onboard details.

Not that anyones complaining. NCLs top producers, who got a sneak preview of the America during a shipyard tour in Germany earlier this month, had nothing but praise for the ships designs.

Its not clinical, said Jeff Sturman, of Best Cruises in Edison, N.J. It has a warm feeling.

To contact reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].

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