Friday, October 29, 2004
New Pride of Aloha Review
Dear Ms. King,
Last month, I mentioned that one of our managers, Bill Lester, would be sailing on Norwegian's Pride of Aloha with his extended family and would provide a firsthand report regarding the ship's widely reported service shortcomings. The ship has received more negative press since its launch in July than any
other vessel I can remember. Bill just returned from his Hawaii cruise, and he had this to say:
"On the positive side, the crew was friendly, the food was good and freestyle dining was convenient. We ate in the main dining room and never waited more than 5 minutes for a table. On the negative side, the timing for our port calls in Kauai and Maui was changed by several hours from the schedule, but no announcement was ever made to inform guests. Word spread by word-of-mouth among the passengers, and we had to confirm the actual port times at the front desk on both occasions. Also, availability of the ship's shore excursions was very limited for those who had not booked in advance of sailing."
I asked Bill about service levels onboard, and he described them as "mediocre". He added, "There was nothing outstanding about the ship, the onboard activities or crew. Our room steward took care of our room but did not add any kind of personal touch or have a presence in the vicinity of our room that would earn an above-average service rating."
Nevertheless, Bill states that his entire group--parents, aunts, uncles, significant other--enjoyed themselves thoroughly. And in contrast to the widespread grumbling from passengers on
earlier sailings--with good cause, from what I understand--Bill heard no negative comments from other passengers except for those related to the changed port times.
"I would recommend the Pride of Aloha as an excellent way to see the Hawaiian islands in one convenient trip, especially for first-time visitors to Hawaii," he said.
I want to point out that Bill was booked as a regular, paying passenger and his affiliation with Vacations To Go was not known by anyone on the ship.
It would appear that Norwegian has overcome most of the problems that plagued the early sailings of the Pride of Aloha, when passengers suffered long lines at restaurants and shortages of everything from plates to waiters and cabin
stewards. Norwegian has blamed those problems on staffing complications related to the requirement that this unique, US-flagged ship must sail with an all-American crew. This meant that the line was not allowed to transfer experienced international crew members from other ships in their fleet for the launch, which is common in the industry. High crew attrition has also hurt customer service, and Norwegian has reportedly replaced more than half of the 750 crew members in the past three months. Fortunately, the ship now appears to be fully staffed and the crew is performing adequately, if not admirably. Certainly the number of negative comments we have received has fallen sharply over the last 45 days, and we have begun to receive positive comments from returning guests as well.
Now the challenge for Norwegian is to rise above mediocrity and capture the true Aloha spirit onboard, and do justice to the magnificent Hawaiian islands.
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