NCL's Pride of Hawaii - Now the Jade, cruising Europe

Pride of Hawaii - Hawaii
I was on the April 30 sailing of the Pride of Hawaii. In a word - Fabulous. We flew in the morning of the cruise, arriving in Honolulu at 11am. Went straight to the ship. Boarding was relatively painless, and we were on board by 12:30. The ship is beautiful in a kitschy-hawaiiana kind of way. We hung out in the Spinnaker Lounge, a riot of colors and shapes that even Carnival couldn't match. The giant W shaped double chaise loungers were actually very comfortable. We then went to get a bite to eat at the buffet. It was quite crowded, as it was the only food available, but the set up was fairly efficient, and the food was, well, as good as buffet food gets. We got into our room at about 3pm, and I was quite pleasantly surprised. I was a little leery of the "obstructed view" thing, but it was the only outside, accessible cabin available when I booked. The obstruction was the roof of a life boat at the level of the window bottom. So you could not see down to the water, but had a clear view, straight out, and plenty of light. The cabin was roomy enough for the wheelchair, and the bathroom layout was excellent. One odd note - from the Blue Lagoon restaurant, mid-ship, to the Cat G staterooms the hallway was narrow, with two sharp turns, both ramped, so its "push uphill, turn sharp left, push uphill, turn sharp right", and hope no one is coming the other way. Given that the four staterooms on that hall are "accessible" staterooms, it seems weird to make them so hard to get to. From the rear elevators, no problem. And other than that, the ship is very wheelchair friendly, with wide decks and minimal thresholds, etc. The first night we ate at the Alizar dining room. We got there at 6pm, waited less than 10 minutes to be seated, and were finished with dinner at 7:20. That was pretty typical of every night but "formal night" when we waited about 30 minutes to be seated. We sort of alternated between the Alizar and the Grand Pacific. Having read some real horror stories about Freestyle Dining, all I can say is, it never happened to us. Yes, the wait staff was more "Outback" than "Spago", but, frankly, so am I. They were uniformly friendly, energetic, helpful and never missed an order. The food was fine and well presented. I would say NCL is about average for cruise lines. I have had better, I have had worse. Most days for breakfast we ate at the buffet, or in the room. Again, pretty much average. Several days we had lunch at the Blue Lagoon, where we got some really good food, except the meat loaf, which was absolutely dreadful. Sorry, just had to say it. The only bad meal I had all week.
We stayed on board during our first port call in Kona, lazed around the pool, recovering from the jet lag. The pool area was great, again with vibrant colors and shapes. I heard a few negative comments, but I think some people just don't get it. If you are looking for understated elegance, this is entirely the wrong boat. If you are a fan of Hawaiiana you will love every bit of it. Our next port, Maui, started off great, til my brothers wheelchair had a blowout. Now, this is the kind of thing that can ruin your day, or your whole vacation. I called around, and found a place that could replace the tire. I was going to drop my brother off, then push the wheelchair a couple miles back to town. As we were boarding, one of the crew noticed the flat, and asked if I needed help. I told him my plan. He asked if it would be easier to take off the tire, and then tracked down the tools I needed, and brought them to the stateroom. It is hard to express the difference between lugging an empty wheelchair in and out of taxis and all around the city and carrying an 8 inch tire, but, trust me, it's HUGE. Needless to say, I got the names of everyone who helped, and made sure their supervisors heard how wonderful they were. So, we got back out in time to go to the beach, before sunset. Spent the second day walking around Lahaina. The next port was Hilo. We did a little shopping, and spent the rest of the day, again, by the pool. Finally, Kuaui. This was the only place we had never been before. We hired a van for the day, and drove all the way up to Hanalei Bay, then back around to Waimea Canyon. Our guide was a lovely lady from Mass who has lived in Kuaui for 20 years, and had an impressive knowledge of the geography, botany and history of the island. The final day, we went up on deck for the Na Pali Coast cruise-by. This is some of the most fantastic scenery ever, and worth the cost of the whole trip. And, so, back to Honolulu. We did the Easy-fly thing, and it is well worth the $20 pp. Schlepping bags from ship to taxi, taxi to plane is my least favorite part of travel. All in all, we had a great week, and would recommend this cruise to anyone who wants to see a good cross section of Hawaii in a limited time.