When our guests are visiting “Paradise on Earth”
we want them to enjoy “paradise at sea”.
Scott Hamby, Pride of Hawaii Hotel Director

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I name this ship the Pride of Hawaii –God bless all who sail with her.” With these words, Senator Daniel K. Inouye christened the newest ship in the NCL America fleet, thus completing the company’s plan to have three American flagged cruise vessels sailing all year in the Hawaiian Islands.

Senator Inouye is well-respected by both side of the political spectrum, and represents the State of Hawaii in the U.S. Congress. He was instrumental in generating political support for the legislation that enabled NCL America to open up the Hawaiian Islands to cruise ships based in Hawaii.

The Pride of Hawaii is the fourth ship in the design class that includes the Norwegian Dawn, Star, and Jewel. While they employ the same basic architectural design, each ship has a different décor, and there are some variances in the restaurant configurations and other common areas. These ships have been specifically designed for the company’s signature Freestyle Cruising program, which involves many restaurants and more onboard staff than traditional cruise ships.

Let us tell you about this lovely ship. We were part of a group of travel writers invited to attend the inaugural two day sailing from Los Angeles to San Diego, and many of these folks travel almost constantly. The writers agreed that the company has hit a home run with the Pride of Hawaii.

Without assigned dining times and tables, these ships offer 10 restaurants ranging from the large and elegantly decorated dining rooms; to the smaller, more intimate specialty restaurants that offer everything from sushi to Tex-Mex. This requires more kitchens located throughout the ship. Every meal is prepared and served individually. The days of lining up hundreds of salads, soups and main courses are gone at NCL and NCL America. Because dining is spread out over an extended period, waiters have more time for individual attention; and each order is individually cooked and prepared.

Based on our first-hand interviews with kitchen personnel and waiters, the staff report that they prefer Freestyle, which allows them to space their work out over the length of their shift, giving them more time to enjoy providing service to their guests.

The two main dining rooms reflect two different versions of shipboard elegance. The Grand Pacific Main Dining Room replicates the first class elegance of The Matson Line, which cruised the Hawaiian Islands decades ago. The Grand Pacific is a lovely mixture of brilliant Hawaiian colours and rich wood panelling. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s a place to see and be seen. Alizar is the other large dining room, and has a modern elegance that relies more on colour and a simpler décor. Le Bistro, offering French and Continental cuisine has become a signature restaurant on board NCL ships. It is quite large on the Pride of Hawaii, reflecting its popularity with guests. Another favourite, Cagney’s Steakhouse, has also been expanded to answer popular demand.

In all, there are 10 different restaurants to choose from. Passengers may make reservations for a specific evening or the entire cruise. There is an interesting restaurant information system that involves 17 TV screens set outside the major dining rooms and in high traffic areas of the ship. Indicator bar graphs tell you the occupancy status of the restaurants; full, short wait, filling up, or empty. You’ll also be given an approximate wait time in each restaurant, depending on the table size. No wait at the Alizar – let’s go! If you want to wait for a table in a restaurant that is currently full, the hostess will give you a time, and issue you a pager. You’re free to go to another part of the ship for a cocktail or to see one of the entertainers. When your table is ready, the hostess will notify you – very civilized!

Many people enjoy casual dining in “the buffet”; and on the Pride of Hawaii this is called the Aloha Nui Café. A major design change has been to set up serving islands; including one for salads, another for hot dishes, a separate one for fish and seafood, cold cuts, desserts, and so on. The result is that there are no long line-ups. There are no trays, so again you don’t have folks loading up and holding others back. The feeling of being in a cafeteria is gone. Outside at the Bali Hai, guests can enjoy burgers, hot dogs, chicken and daily specials while being sheltered from the sun by a canopy.

In keeping with the Hawaiian motif, the décor mixes the brilliant floral colours of the islands with natural wood finishes and wall panelling. The cabins themselves – your home away from home – have the same rich colours complemented by rich cherry wood finishing. There are over 525 cabins with balconies, plus the Courtyard Villas and Garden Villas that have their own private decks and sunning areas.
In addition to the penthouse Garden Suites, there are now 10 Courtyard Villas, sharing a private sun deck and pool. In case of cool or inclement weather, a sliding glass roof is deployed to keep the elements at bay, and voila – let the good times roll!

Each villa suite is equipped with a separate living and dining area, a separate bedroom with a queen-sized bed, a luxury bath (with the emphasis on “luxury”) and a separate shower. If you’re travelling with children, there is a separate inside cabin as part of the suite. While NCL has always been popular as a family cruise line, the Pride of Hawaii offers even more Family Friendly accommodations, including connecting cabins, and suites. All cabins have mini-bar fridges and coffee makers.

If you’re travelling with kids under 17, there are a variety of age-related programs available. When our children were young, they thoroughly enjoyed the kid’s activities. When they were 16 and 17 year old teenagers, they still enjoyed meeting up with youth their own age. There is a complete range of supervised activities on board the Pride of Hawaii. There are family oriented shore excursions, such as a day at the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo; a tour of Pearl Harbour, the SS Missouri and The SS Arizona Memorial; whale watching in Maui; a tour of a real chocolate farm on Kona, a catamaran sail along Kaua’s coast; and even boogie boarding at the beach!

The library is named after the ocean liner, The S.S. United States. The library celebrates the world’s fastest cruise ship, which is also owned by NCL and now waiting refurbishment. The SS United States Library features original photography, vintage ads and original lithographs from marine artists. I found it very interesting to trace the history of this wonderful ocean liner through the library exhibits. You’ll find a good variety of fiction, biographies, and mystery novels. A great place to relax and savour your Hawaiian experience.

Entertainment In keeping with NCL and NCL America tradition, Pride of Hawaii has outstanding live entertainment, ranging from the pool deck band to the full production shows in the Stardust Theatre, a 3 storey European opera-house style theatre that seats over 1000 people.

In all, there are 12 bars and lounges, most featuring live entertainment. Another favourite is the Spinnaker Lounge, with panorama windows so that you can dance and enjoy the romance of a starlit night sky.

Golf Hawaii The Hawaiian Islands are famous as a golf destination, and with the Pride of Hawaii’s Golf Hawaii program, you can golf virtually every day of your cruise, if you like. There is secure club storage and Club Valet program if you bring your own clubs, or you may elect to rent from a selection of Callaway clubs and Adidas shoes. When organized through the onboard Pro Shop, your day includes advanced tee times at the championship courses offered, transportation for you and your clubs, and golf cart rental. Prices start at $95 U.S. per person, which is an excellent value for playing the outstanding courses of Ko’olau on Oahu, Poipu Bay and the Prince Course on Kaua’i, Mauna Lani Resort and Hapuna Golf Course on the Big Island of Hawaii, and Makena and Waila on Maui. Here’s a thought – why not stay onboard for two weeks – one for golf and one for sightseeing?

One of the aspects we always enjoy while cruising is the fitness centre. Pride of Hawaii has a fully equipped gym, with all of the treadmills, cycles, and step machines positioned so that you can take advantage of the floor-to-ceiling windows and enjoy the spectacular coastlines of the Hawaiian Islands. There are plenty of TV monitors if you want to keep up with CNN, movies, etc.

The Ying Yang Spa has everything to rejuvenate and pamper yourself. Shipboard spa services include a variety of massage styles, body wraps, an indoor pool, his and her saunas, steam rooms, and Japanese plunge pools. The Ying Yang Spa is designed to make you feel absolutely wonderful. And why not? After all – you’re sailing through paradise.

Special Needs There are 27 wheel chair accessible cabins, including suites. Special needs cabins have collapsible shower stools, collapsible arm guards for toilets, and lowered wash basins. Hearing impaired kits are also available. All staterooms and elevators have Braille text.

The main showroom, the Stardust Theatre has dedicated wheel chair positions. 11 wheel chair accessible public washrooms are located throughout the ship. Service animals such as seeing-eye dogs are welcome aboard the ship, and their needs are accommodated.

The Pride of Hawaii is making 7 day cruises, with Monday departures. This leaves some time for a few days in Hawaii before you sail. The company has prepared a very informative 144 page brochure for the sailings in Hawaii. You’ll find illustrated maps of each island, which makes it easy to get your bearings and locate the shore excursion activities. You may also want to visit the website: www.ncl.com or call toll free: 1-888-625-4292. Bon Voyage!

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