Three years might sound like a long time
in terms of business cycles, but it seems like yesterday that NCLs
Pride of Aloha was getting off to a start in Hawaii.
christening of the Pride of Hawaii last month, NCLs Hawaii fleet is
complete. Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, Star Cruises chairman, said it was
a day I have looked forward to for four years.
Now NCL America
has three ships in Hawaii. All three homeport in Honolulu, spend
the better part of two days in Maui and call at Nawiliwili, Kona
and Hilo. They sail by Kauais Na Pali coastline and night-cruise
past Volcanos National Park on the Big Island. Passengers can hike,
sunbathe or surf on any voyage. And, most likely, the weather will
be the same, no matter the ship.
So, which ship to
pick? Each has its own personality and, most definitely, its own
decor. The Pride of Aloha is all Hawaii; its tall,
Polynesian-themed atrium is still one of my favorites.
For a dose of
Americana, no better place to go than the Pride of America, which
expends considerable onboard energy paying homage to the
The Pride of
Hawaii is the most NCL of the three, meaning that its most closely
tied, layout-wise, to other new Norwegian Cruise Line
The ships floor
plan isnt as distinct as that of the Pride of America, which is a
unique, one-off vessel. But from a branding perspective,
similarities among ships is not a bad thing. If you can walk on the
ship and know within the first five minutes where the coffee bar is
vis-a-vis the alternative restaurant, you feel at home.
The Pride of
Hawaii is nearly identical to the Norwegian Jewel in layout, so for
those who have seen the latter, yes, youll feel right at home on
the former. However, there are some specific touches that make the
ship Hawaiian, starting with a floral decor on the hull.
Here are a few
tips gleaned from an introductory trip from Los Angeles on the
Pride of Hawaii:
up: Say a client walks into the office and announces he
has upwards of $26,000 to spend on a family cruise in Hawaii. Help
him right into a three-bedroom Garden Villa, 5,750 square feet of
exclusive views, gardens, hot tubs and mod living spaces. No matter
how many times I see the villas, they never fail to impress.
Judging by the oohs and aahs of the travel agents around me on
walk-throughs, Im not alone.
There are other
ways to sell up, too. Theres a new cabin that doesnt show up on
NCLs online deck plans. Its a one-bedroom nest wedged above the
Garden Villas at the very top of the ship. Called the Black Diamond
Suite, its outfitted almost entirely in purple. (On the Norwegian
Jewel, this room is a dedicated concierge lounge for the Garden
Villas. On the Pride of Hawaii, the concierge is in the Star Bar,
one deck down.)
There are also 10
two-bedroom Courtyard Villas, which ring an exclusive outdoor
pool/lounge and have private balconies.
Still too pricey?
I spent two days in a minisuite outfitted in a circa-1970s, retro
People-watching vs. Na Pali: Get to know Bar Central, or,
as NCL Executive Vice President Andy Stuart called it on the intro
cruise, Bar City. Its basically one long bar, broken into three
themes: beer, cocktails and champagne. This is a prime meeting spot
and is great for people-watching, as several of the ships
restaurants are nearby.
Better yet, head
for the stern and the outdoor bar at the Aloha Nui Lanai buffet,
which affords amazing views of Hawaii. Its a perfect place to nurse
a beverage and drink in the Hawaiian landscape.
out: I ate in the teppenyaki room at Asian restaurant
Jasmine Garden. I love Asian-fusion cuisine, and the food was good;
the teppenyaki, where chefs grill food right in front of you, is
always fun. However, Ive heard that Papas Italian Kitchen makes
some great meals. Italian food in Hawaii? Sure, why not?
As for the best
views while eating (apart from the Aloha Nui Lanai), check out the
tables by the big windows at the Blue Lagoon restaurant and the
Paniolo Tapas and Salsa restaurant.
Service: One major difference between the Pride of Hawaii
and the Norwegian Jewel is the formers all-American
Crew training has
come a ways since NCL Americas early days. On our cruise, the crew
was very friendly and, as Stuart said, trying desperately hard to
please. Yet as nice as they were, the lunch/dinner stretched a
little long, and there were mix-ups with appetizers and long waits
training course and a pipeline of new crew ready to fill in gaps,
turnover is still high. Theres a good chance that some of the
people filling your water glass and profusely apologizing for the
delay will be new crew settling into routines. So relax and go with
it. Its Hawaii, after all.
To contact Rebecca Tobin, managing editor of the print
edition of Travel Weekly, send e-mail to [email protected].