Cruise Details

7-Night Hawaii

Honolulu Round-Trip

Ship: Pride of America

Prices starting from:

Pricing Info
Inside Oceanview Balcony Suite

$779

$111 per night

$859

$123 per night

$1,299

$186 per night

$1,799

$257 per night

Pride of America - Ship Review provided by Cruise Critic


Ship Review | Cruise Line Review

Overview

When NCL America's Pride of America finally made its way to U.S. waters from its German shipyard in 2005, the event marked the culmination of an arduous and heartbreaking couple of years. Pride of America, slated for launch in July 2004, had been swamped in a gale while being built, leaving a good portion of its hull under water. The unfortuante event caused NCL America, Norwegian Cruise Lines U.S.-flagged subsidiary, to rush another ship in its international fleet -- now known as Pride of Aloha -- into service. Now that Pride of America is in Hawaii, the cruise line has two fully-functional U.S.-based ships plying the waters around the islands, with a third, Pride of Hawaii, to debut in June 2006.

Pride of America's biggest distinction is its status as the first U.S.-flagged passenger cruise ship to be built in over 50 years. (Pride of Aloha was transformed from the Norwegian Sky.) Both ships, along with Pride of Hawaii, are distinctive in that the crews and officers are primarily American or citizens from U.S. territories. The advantage to both the U.S. registration and the staffing requirement is that the vessels can sail seven-night itineraries around the Hawaiian Islands without having to embark (or disembark) in Vancouver or Ensenada. Nor do they have to travel a couple of thousand miles out of the way to visit Fanning Island. That's because the Passenger Services Act, requiring a foreign-flagged cruise ship to stop at a foreign port when leaving or returning to U.S. waters, does not apply to these ships, creating itineraries chock full of port stops and overnights in the beautiful regions of the U.S.'s 50th state.

Unlike Pride of Aloha and Pride of Hawaii, both of which have largely Hawaiian themes, Pride of America is a paean to the United States. Everything onboard this ship celebrates American culture and history, from the kitsch of the Cadillac Diner to the sober statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Liberty Dining Room. You get a feel for the ship as soon as you board: stepping into the marble lobby, you are greeted with a huge seal of the United States embedded in the flooring. It almost feels irreverent to walk across it.

At 81,000 tons, and with 1,069 passenger cabins, the ship is big but not too big. It's easy to navigate, and having a largely American crew brings its own rewards to the ambiance. It's fun to hear "Mornin'!" or "How y'all doin'?" while walking the hallways or public spaces.

After some unanticipated and fairly disastrous staffing issues two years ago, NCL America has pretty much got it nailed. The staff is bright and cheerful, most love their jobs, and whether they are looking at short-term or long-term employment, they all seem dedicated to bringing the best cruise experience possible to their guests.

Does a staff and crew comprised mostly of U.S. citizens offer a different cruise experience? You bet it does. At once familiar and disorienting, it does take awhile to get used to being "served" by people from Plano, Texas, or Eugene, Oregon. And yes, there is less general fawning, which I found refreshing. The service was good, it was fun, and while not always perfect, it was just about right on a ship with such an island-intensive itinerary.

The way I see it, the cruise experience was less like going to Morton's or Ruth's Chris or Le Cirque every night, and more like going to Applebee's or TGI Friday's. It was an enjoyable change of pace, and as the week wore on, I appreciated it more and more.

Dining

NCL America shares NCL's innovative Freestyle Cruising concept, which basically means dine anytime you want, with whomever you choose. There are nine restaurants on the ship including two main dining rooms, the casual cafeteria and two no-charge alternative dining spots. The other four require a surcharge; reservations are nearly mandatory.

The main dining rooms, Liberty and Skyline, are located at the aft, one above the other. Both carry through the Americana themes, with Skyline -- a Deco-version of New York City -- and Liberty paying homage to American patriotism. Both restaurants offer the same hearty menus. Little Italy, one of the no-surcharge restaurants, runs alongside the Lido Deck cafeteria. Reservations are required even though there is no additional charge. The Cadillac Diner, a favorite for family lunching, early dining and late-night snacks, is located at the promenade level with access to the outside.

These five restaurants, and the Key West Grill (open during the day only), would be enough for most cruise lines, but Freestyle Dining offers more -- four more, to be precise. All carry a reasonable surcharge and all provide a first-class dining experience. My favorite, on all NCL ships, is the French-influenced Bistro. On Pride of America it's fittingly named the Jefferson Bistro and designed like a little slice of the library in Monticello. For $10, you can dine on scrumptious French-inspired cuisine, for $15 you can have Surf and Turf, and for $20 you can enjoy the unique Star Fire platter, a melange of meat chunks hung on an iron hook, flambeed in brandy and served with savory sauces. The Creme Brulee and Chocolate and Fruit Fondue are worth the price of admission alone.

Lazy J's Steak House is dedicated to the Paniolos, America's first cowboys, who continue their traditions today at the Parker Ranch on the Big Island. My friend Michael was in heaven over the butter-soft filet mignon and lobster tail, while I chose a New York cut. The surcharge here is only $15; if you get the lobster tail, it's $20, and well worth it.

East Meets West is a gathering place for several types of Asian-inspired cuisine, including Asian Fusion, sushi, shabu-shabu and teppanyaki. Teppanyaki is charged a la carte; the other dining options have a $5 surcharge. (You can get sushi a la carte too, with an average price of $2 per order).

The excellence of the surcharge restaurants takes nothing away from the standard restaurants, where the food is uniformly good, if not gourmet. The one thing that I noticed was that there seemed to be fewer choices for entrees in the traditional dining rooms, but considering that so many guests dine ashore, it actually makes sense. Plus, if you aren't entranced with the fare offered, you can order from the "always available" menu, which includes salmon, grilled chicken breast and New York steak. Vegetarian, low-carb, heart-healthy, Kosher and other special diets can be accommodated with advance notice.

The Aloha Cafe, Pride of America's Lido Deck restaurant, has gone to "pods," or kiosk-style self-serve stations. If you know what you want, you don't have to stand in long lines just to get to the one item you crave. At first it's confusing since the stations are spread out all over, but it's easy to learn that hot foods and cold cuts are in the middle' pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers and sandwiches at the long counter' and fruit, salads and desserts off to the sides. Breakfast served here (and out on the back deck overlooking the stern wake) is similarly set up, with the addition of fresh waffles and omelets.

On the starboard side of the Aloha Cafe is a small area created just for kids, with a junior-sized buffet table, small chairs and tables, and adult seating adjacent. It's great fun, and gives kids a place to call their own. Brilliant!

We loved the Cadillac Diner for family fun and great meals, too. Most of the booths are either in or surrounding a Caddy hood or rear end (complete with fins). Menu items run the gamut from Mom's meatloaf to gigantic burgers. The only charge is for a float or milkshake ($3.50 each) or other soft drinks.

Reservations are recommended for the specialty dining spots as soon as you board, but don't go to each restaurant: Check in, then call from your room. If by any chance you are told that a restaurant is full for the whole week, don't despair. Pride of America has nifty LCD-TV's strategically located in public spaces that tell you which restaurants have openings at any given time. If you're flexible, you'll more than likely get to dine where you want.

Room service is available at all hours, but the menu for guests in standard accommodations is limited. The pizza and children's grilled cheese sandwich are good, as is the chicken Caesar salad. Suite guests can choose menu items from the main restaurants during meal times; those in upper-level suites have a butler to deliver it.

For me, the crowning glory on this ship is the espresso/cappuccino/cafe au lait makers available to guests in both the Aloha Cafe and at the Aloha Cafe's aft stations. There is a coffee bar/patisserie, where you have to pay for cappuccino and espresso, but these machines are gratis, and so, so welcome!

Public Rooms

With a ship-wide theme as broad as the U.S., the public rooms have a range of subjects to display, some of them strictly sentimental, some Yankee Doodle Dandy patriotic, and some just kitschy, funky Americana.

I think my favorite spot onboard is the Chicago-style speakeasy Pink's Champagne Bar, partly because it's located so perfectly for people-watching and partly because the piano player/vocalist had me swooning. The Napa Wine Bar is elegant, coolly lined with faux limestone walls; the Hollywood Theatre features life-sized Oscar statuettes at the entrance, the Mardis Gras Nightclub is glittery and the Gold Rush Saloon is ... saloony.

If you're getting some idea of the themes here, beyond the obvious there are some brilliant turns. NCL America has recognized Hawaii's appeal for the meetings and incentive market. If groups can go to land-based resorts, why not to a ship? As a result, Pride of America has one of the best meeting and small convention facilities on the seas, with a circular auditorium and several conference rooms all at the front top portion of the vessel, easily separated for private use if the need arises, but also quite useful for larger lectures and lessons.

Its Hawaiian Cultural Center, basically a series of displays along one of the passageway walls, gives an overview of Hawaii's history through photos and artifacts. I loved looking at the iconic bobblehead hula dancer kewpie dolls from the 1950's; I never realized that they had a real place in popular culture.

The library is well stocked, especially with books about the region. It is open during very limited hours, so make sure to check the schedule if you want to access any reading material.

There's also a great Internet center; rates for both wireless (using your own laptop) and on-site connectivity are reasonable, starting at the standard .75 cents per minute with package buy-downs to as low as .50 cents per minute. I had my own laptop and was able to access the wireless network from my room.

NCL ships usually have fabulous shopping opportunities, but the shops on Pride of America are small and expensive. There is no duty-free option, and all of the local (Hawaiian) items carry hefty price tags. I did find, though, a lovely large bottle of White Ginger cologne at a most reasonable price -- about $15 -- and a Pride of America hat for around $10.

Smoking is allowed in limited areas onboard, but not in any restaurant nor in the showrooms. Even outside, smoking sections seem to be quite limited, and since there is no casino, there really wasn't any area that got particularly smoky during my cruise.

While it did seem a little odd to go from the John Adams Coffee Bar (overlooking the aforementioned seal of the United States and a silly-looking replica of the Washington Monument) to the Waikiki Bar -- or for that matter to dine under the New York skyline while moored in Maui -- the ship's public spaces celebrate all that America is, including Hawaii. It's fitting to have a ship that is American-flagged, -staffed, and -themed sailing the waters around one of America's most glorious states, and the overall effect -- with no pun intended -- is pride in America.

Cabins

I had toured this ship before and had seen the standard staterooms, so I warned my friend Michael to be prepared. "They're really small," I had mentioned to him. "We'll need to adapt ... "

What the cheerfully decorated cabins lack in space, however, they more than make up for in convenience and efficiency. Within minutes, we had our stuff put away and organized. The tiny space has so many drawers and cubbyholes, shelves and closets, that we had no problem arranging everything. My laptop went onto the small desk; Michael's cell phone was plugged in; books and lotion were placed on the small night stand; toiletries put in the bathroom, cupboard or under the sink; and clothes hung, put in drawers, or stored on shelves. And even after we had unloaded everything, there was still room aplenty for NCL America's standard room stuff too, including the tray with ice bucket and glasses, room book and other reference material, and especially NCL's signature -- not to mention much appreciated and well-used -- coffee maker with complimentary coffee, cream and two heavy ceramic mugs.

Standard rooms are decorated in colorful tones of turquoise, fuchsia, yellow, lime and orange. But rather than feeling garish, these hues exude tropical good cheer.

The addition of a balcony extends the "living space" to the outdoors, and since 62 percent of all cabin categories have balconies, even the smallest spaces expand into the Hawaiian atmosphere. There is nothing in the world like sitting on your own private verandah and watching the lava from Mt. Kiluaea flow into the Pacific at night, or, if your stateroom is on the other side of the ship, gliding past the breathtaking beauty of the NaPali Coast, with its jagged outline rising directly from the sea.

While this ship has neither NCL's celebrated Garden Villas nor the newest Courtyard Villas, there are a wide variety of suite accommodations, including several with verandah hot tubs. We love the cheery, breezy decor of the suites; no pretentiousness, just pure island fun.

There are a wide range of ADA-compliant staterooms in all configurations.

Entertainment

NCL has always been at the forefront of entertainment options, and while this ship is different (no Jean Ann Ryan troupe of singers and dancers, for example), the entertainment is still excellent. On several of the nights, Hawaiian entertainers are brought onboard. This does not imply that the onboard entertainers cannot hold their own. The house bands and musicians throughout the ship are top-notch.

The Hollywood Theatre is fairly small and just one story, with excellent sight lines for most guests. There is a bank of chairs set aside for wheelchair and other mobility-impaired guests as well, which we thought was a nice touch. Entertainment in the theater usually consists of a magician, a juggler and other individual performers, but there are a couple of Broadway or Vegas type shows as well.

Karaoke is hot onboard Pride of America, whether it's taking place in the Gold Rush Saloon late at night or in the Mardi Gras Nightclub just after the main entertainment. And the Mardi Gras is a great venue for all night dancing and for the funky parties it hosts: New Year's Eve Bash, Disco Night, and other various themed evenings.

Note: Kids are allowed in the Mardi Gras and can take part in the fun until 11 p.m., at which time it's over 18 only. Drinking alcohol is strictly limited to those over 21.

Hawaii allows no gambling, so there is no casino, and there is no bingo, either. There are plenty of art auctions, dance classes, and arts and crafts classes with Hawaiian themes (make a lei, make a hat, make a seed or shell necklace...).

When the weather is good, there's a deck-side luau.

The absolute best though, is the crew show. I love these on all ships, but I am, of course, accustomed to the multiple nationalities showing off their country's culture. Pride of America has one nationality, American, and the range of talent is astounding. An opera singer, a couple of crooners, a guy who does a fire dance with two glo-sticks, country singers ... and one production number, Fountains, that is so genuinely funny it brought tears of laughter to the entire audience.

I cannot and will not explain Fountains; however, let me just say that I will never again listen to Enya in the same passive way, and further, that I would take this cruise again just to see a repeat performance.

Fitness and Recreation

This ship (and this itinerary) is a fitness buff's dream. Not only is there the well-equipped Santa Fe Spa and Fitness Center, there are also plenty of spots for walking, jogging and sports.

The South Beach pool, located in the center of Deck 11, is appealing and active ... so much so that many people overlook the fact that there is a smaller, quieter pool, the Oasis, at the aft on Deck 12. Shhhhh! Perched above the Aloha Cafe's aft section, at the rear of the spa, this little pool is ideal for a quiet break. The main pool is surrounded by four hot tubs; the smaller Oasis pool area has one, off to the side.

There may not be rock-climbing walls or ice-skating rinks on this ship, but there is a bungee trampoline located on the pool deck, open during specified (and attended) hours.

One of the best fitness and recreation aspects of this cruise is the range of golf programs offered. Imagine golfing in paradise every day, sometimes more than once, at each of the islands visited. You can choose your courses from an array of municipal and private greens, from reasonably priced to outrageously expensive. You can even take a day trip to Lanai to play there. There is a full golf shop onboard, catering to even the most finicky of duffers.

Note: You can bring your own clubs or rent onboard, but you cannot take your clubs with you to your stateroom. There is a $40 charge for storage, but this also includes cleaning/conditioning and transport directly to and from the courses you choose to play.

The Santa Fe Spa, located at the aft of the ship, is big and elegant. Run by the Mandara division of Steiner Leisure, it offers the usual at-sea spa treatments, but the destination also allows it to creatively provide themed services like Hawaiian ginger and lime scrubs, or hot lava-stone massages. Port days (and there are a lot of them) mean discounts, on everything from manicures to teeth whitening.

Note: Almost all signage indicates that you have to use the aft stairs to get from Deck 11 to the spa, but non-mobile guests can access it by using one of the aft elevators.

There's a jogging track and sports court on Deck 14, Ping Pong available just outside the Aloha Cafe, and Pilates and yoga classes (at a surcharge) available at the fitness center.

Family

NCL is one of our absolute favorite lines for family cruising, and Pride of America is no exception. This ship has designed family staterooms in multiple configurations (some with two rooms, some with an alcove) to accommodate the family in comfort. There are also several adjoining cabins.

Rascal's Kid's Club is bright, cheery and well attended. Potty-trained kids from 3 years old are welcomed; there are age- and destination- appropriate activities available for children up to 12 years old. The Connections Teen Club, a "mom and dad-free zone" for the 13 to 17 year olds, is comfy and relaxing with its leopard-print couches and bean-bag chairs, music library, and computer stations. We saw young adults in there at all hours (parents might not be allowed but you can see into the space through the windows).

Pride of America also encourages family togetherness by way of family craft activities, pizza parties and the like. Programs for the kids are free of charge; some late nights are included. Other times, you can arrange for private child care through the front desk with advance notice; expect to spend about $6 to $8 per hour.

Fellow Passengers

NCL America's guests run the gamut from multi-generational family groups to honeymooners and everyone in between. This is a relaxed, destination-intensive cruise designed for people who want to experience Hawaii; while the ship offers everything you need and want, NCL America wisely knows that it plays second-fiddle to the islands' allure.

Dress Code

If you've been hoarding those Hilo Hattie Muu-Muus or surf shirts that were popular in the 60's, bring 'em along. Dress is tropical-casual, with one discretionary formal night (you are not required to dress up). There are several "Polynesian" and "Hawaiian" nights if you have the duds; otherwise, nighttime dress is resort casual. Shorts, bathing suits, tank tops and jeans are not allowed in the dining rooms after 5 p.m. For dining in the Jefferson Bistro or Lazy J's Steakhouse, cocktail attire is appropriate.

Gratuity

NCL has the most tortured gratuities program in the industry. First, it levies a "fixed service charge" on all onboard accounts; it's $10 a day for adults and $5 per day for kids ages 3 - 12. Folks unhappy with the charge should bring their issues to the reception desk for resolution. Beyond that, there's no recommended tipping. Except....

The line does not automatically charge a 15 percent gratuity on drinks so cruise passengers are encouraged to leave cash or add the tip to the receipt. As well, on NCL America many folks using the main dining rooms (where no extra service surcharge exists) say they leave cash tips after each meal.

Also confusing (and quite frankly tacky) is the spa's practice of charging a 10 percent service fee which is not the tip (and the treatment therapists receive not a penny of it) -- which meant I tipped an additional 20 percent, making my spa treatment somewhat more expensive than anticipated.

--by Cruise Critic contributor Jana Jones, who has also written for a variety of publications, including Vacation Agent, UK's Travel Holidays and Ocean Drive Magazine.

Gratuity

Pride of America has an automatic gratuity program that costs $12 per passenger, per day, and covers tips for all services -- including room stewards and restaurant wait and bar staff. Passengers can adjust this amount in either direction by asking at the reception desk.

There's a 15 percent auto-gratuity for bar bills and 18 percent for spa services.

--by Cruise Critic contributor Jana Jones, who has also written for a variety of publications, including Vacation Agent, UK's Travel Holidays and Ocean Drive Magazine.

Gratuity

NCL has the most tortured gratuities program in the industry. First, it levies a "fixed service charge" on all onboard accounts; it's $10 a day for adults and $5 per day for kids ages 3 - 12. Folks unhappy with the charge should bring their issues to the reception desk for resolution. Beyond that, there's no recommended tipping. Except....

The line does not automatically charge a 15 percent gratuity on drinks so cruise passengers are encouraged to leave cash or add the tip to the receipt. As well, on NCL America many folks using the main dining rooms (where no extra service surcharge exists) say they leave cash tips after each meal.

Also confusing (and quite frankly tacky) is the spa's practice of charging a 10 percent service fee which is not the tip (and the treatment therapists receive not a penny of it) -- which meant I tipped an additional 20 percent, making my spa treatment somewhat more expensive than anticipated.

--by Cruise Critic contributor Jana Jones, who has also written for a variety of publications, including Vacation Agent, UK's Travel Holidays and Ocean Drive Magazine.

Overview

When NCL America's Pride of America finally made its way to U.S. waters from its German shipyard in 2005, the event marked the culmination of an arduous and heartbreaking couple of years. Pride of America, slated for launch in July 2004, had been swamped in a gale while being built, leaving a good portion of its hull under water. The unfortunate event caused NCL America, Norwegian Cruise Lines' U.S.-flagged subsidiary, to rush another ship in its international fleet -- Pride of Aloha -- into service. Today, though, Pride of America is NCL's sole ship plying the waters around the islands.

Pride of America's biggest distinction is its status as the first U.S.-flagged passenger cruise ship to be built in more than 50 years. The ship is distinctive in another way: The crew and officers are primarily American or citizens from U.S. territories. The advantage to both the U.S. registration and the staffing requirement is that the vessels can sail seven-night itineraries around the Hawaiian Islands without having to embark (or disembark) in Vancouver or Ensenada. Nor do they have to travel a couple of thousand miles out of the way to visit Fanning Island. That's because the Passenger Services Act, requiring a foreign-flagged cruise ship to stop at a foreign port when leaving or returning to U.S. waters, does not apply to these ships, creating itineraries chock full of port stops and overnights in the beautiful regions of the U.S.'s 50th state.

Pride of America is a paean to the United States. Everything onboard this ship celebrates American culture and history, from the kitsch of the Cadillac Diner to the sober statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Liberty Dining Room. You get a feel for the ship as soon as you board: stepping into the marble lobby, you are greeted with a huge seal of the United States embedded in the flooring. It almost feels irreverent to walk across it.

At 81,000 tons, and with 1,069 passenger cabins, the ship is big but not too big. It's easy to navigate, and having a largely American crew brings its own rewards to the ambiance. It's fun to hear "Mornin'!" or "How y'all doin'?" while walking the hallways or public spaces.

Does a staff and crew comprising mostly of U.S. citizens offer a different cruise experience? You bet it does. At once familiar and disorienting, it does take awhile to get used to being "served" by people from Plano, Texas, or Eugene, Oregon. And yes, there is less general fawning, which I found refreshing. The service was good, it was fun, and while not always perfect, it was just about right on a ship with such an island-intensive itinerary.

The way I see it, the cruise experience was less like going to Morton's or Ruth's Chris or Le Cirque every night, and more like going to Applebee's or TGI Friday's. It was an enjoyable change of pace, and as the week wore on, I appreciated it more and more.

Gratuity

Pride of America has an automatic gratuity program that costs $12 per passenger, per day, and covers tips for all services -- including room stewards and restaurant wait and bar staff. Passengers can adjust this amount in either direction by asking at the reception desk.

There's a 15 percent auto-gratuity for bar bills and 18 percent for spa services.

Overview

Editor's note: Pride of America will enter dry dock in March 2013 and undergo a $30 million refurbishment over a 14-day period. Additions include new studio cabins, more suites and inside staterooms, a restaurant (Moderno Churrascaria, a Brazilian-style steakhouse), bow-to-stern Wi-Fi, and flat-screen TV's in cabins. Get the full details here.

Pride of America debuted in 2005 as the first U.S.-flagged passenger cruise ship to be built in more than 50 years. The ship is distinctive in another way: The crew and officers are primarily American or citizens from U.S. territories. The advantage to both the U.S. registration and the staffing requirement is that the vessels can sail seven-night itineraries around the Hawaiian Islands without having to embark (or disembark) in Vancouver or Ensenada. Nor do they have to travel a couple of thousand miles out of the way to visit Fanning Island. That's because the Passenger Services Act, requiring a foreign-flagged cruise ship to stop at a foreign port when leaving or returning to U.S. waters, does not apply to these ships, creating itineraries chock full of port stops and overnights in the beautiful regions of the U.S.'s 50th state.

Pride of America is a paean to the United States. Everything onboard this ship celebrates American culture and history, from the kitsch of the Cadillac Diner to the sober statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Liberty Dining Room. You get a feel for the ship as soon as you board: stepping into the marble lobby, you are greeted with a huge seal of the United States embedded in the flooring. It almost feels irreverent to walk across it.

At 81,000 tons, and with 1,069 passenger cabins, the ship is big but not too big. It's easy to navigate, and having a largely American crew brings its own rewards to the ambiance. It's fun to hear "Mornin'!" or "How y'all doin'?" while walking the hallways or public spaces.

Does a staff and crew comprising mostly of U.S. citizens offer a different cruise experience? You bet it does. At once familiar and disorienting, it does take awhile to get used to being "served" by people from Plano, Texas, or Eugene, Oregon. And yes, there is less general fawning, which I found refreshing. The service was good, it was fun, and while not always perfect, it was just about right on a ship with such an island-intensive itinerary.

The way I see it, the cruise experience was less like going to Morton's or Ruth's Chris or Le Cirque every night, and more like going to Applebee's or TGI Friday's. It was an enjoyable change of pace, and as the week wore on, I appreciated it more and more.

Dining

NCL America shares NCL's Freestyle Cruising concept, which basically means dine anytime you want, with whomever you choose. There are nine restaurants on the ship including two main dining rooms, the casual cafeteria and two no-charge alternative dining spots. The other four require a surcharge; reservations are nearly mandatory.

The main dining rooms, Liberty and Skyline, are located at the aft, one above the other. Both carry through the Americana themes, with Skyline -- a Deco-version of New York City -- and Liberty paying homage to American patriotism. Both restaurants offer the same hearty menus. Little Italy, one of the no-surcharge restaurants, runs alongside the Lido Deck cafeteria. Reservations are required even though there is no additional charge. The Cadillac Diner, a favorite for family lunching, early dining and late-night snacks, is located at the promenade level with access to the outside.

These five restaurants, and the Key West Grill (open during the day only), would be enough for most cruise lines, but Freestyle Dining offers more -- four more, to be precise. All carry a reasonable surcharge and all provide a first-class dining experience. My favorite, on all NCL ships, is the French-influenced Bistro. On Pride of America it's fittingly named the Jefferson Bistro and designed like a little slice of the library in Monticello. For $10, you can dine on scrumptious French-inspired cuisine, for $15 you can have Surf and Turf, and for $20 you can enjoy the unique Star Fire platter, a melange of meat chunks hung on an iron hook, flambeed in brandy and served with savory sauces. The Creme Brulee and Chocolate and Fruit Fondue are worth the price of admission alone.

Lazy J's Steak House is dedicated to the Paniolos, America's first cowboys, who continue their traditions today at the Parker Ranch on the Big Island. My friend Michael was in heaven over the butter-soft filet mignon and lobster tail, while I chose a New York cut. The surcharge here is only $15; if you get the lobster tail, it's $20, and well worth it.

East Meets West is a gathering place for several types of Asian-inspired cuisine, including Asian Fusion, sushi, shabu-shabu and teppanyaki. Teppanyaki is charged a la carte; the other dining options have a $5 surcharge. (You can get sushi a la carte too, with an average price of $2 per order).

The excellence of the surcharge restaurants takes nothing away from the standard restaurants, where the food is uniformly good, if not gourmet. The one thing that I noticed was that there seemed to be fewer choices for entrees in the traditional dining rooms, but considering that so many guests dine ashore, it actually makes sense. Plus, if you aren't entranced with the fare offered, you can order from the "always available" menu, which includes salmon, grilled chicken breast and New York steak. Vegetarian, low-carb, heart-healthy, Kosher and other special diets can be accommodated with advance notice.

The Aloha Cafe, Pride of America's Lido Deck restaurant, has gone to "pods," or kiosk-style self-serve stations. If you know what you want, you don't have to stand in long lines just to get to the one item you crave. At first it's confusing since the stations are spread out all over, but it's easy to learn that hot foods and cold cuts are in the middle' pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers and sandwiches at the long counter' and fruit, salads and desserts off to the sides. Breakfast served here (and out on the back deck overlooking the stern wake) is similarly set up, with the addition of fresh waffles and omelets.

On the starboard side of the Aloha Cafe is a small area created just for kids, with a junior-sized buffet table, small chairs and tables, and adult seating adjacent. It's great fun, and gives kids a place to call their own. Brilliant!

We loved the Cadillac Diner for family fun and great meals, too. Most of the booths are either in or surrounding a Caddy hood or rear end (complete with fins). Menu items run the gamut from Mom's meatloaf to gigantic burgers. The only charge is for a float or milkshake ($3.50 each) or other soft drinks.

Reservations are recommended for the specialty dining spots as soon as you board, but don't go to each restaurant: Check in, then call from your room. If by any chance you are told that a restaurant is full for the whole week, don't despair. Pride of America has nifty LCD-TV's strategically located in public spaces that tell you which restaurants have openings at any given time. If you're flexible, you'll more than likely get to dine where you want.

Room service is available at all hours, but the menu for guests in standard accommodations is limited. The pizza and children's grilled cheese sandwich are good, as is the chicken Caesar salad. Suite guests can choose menu items from the main restaurants during meal times; those in upper-level suites have a butler to deliver it.

For me, the crowning glory on this ship is the espresso/cappuccino/cafe au lait makers available to guests in both the Aloha Cafe and at the Aloha Cafe's aft stations. There is a coffee bar/patisserie, where you have to pay for cappuccino and espresso, but these machines are gratis, and so, so welcome!

Entertainment

NCL has always been at the forefront of entertainment options, and while this ship is different, the entertainment is still excellent. On several of the nights, Hawaiian entertainers are brought onboard. This does not imply that the onboard entertainers cannot hold their own. The house bands and musicians throughout the ship are top-notch.

The Hollywood Theatre is fairly small and just one story, with excellent sight lines for most guests. There is a bank of chairs set aside for wheelchair and other mobility-impaired guests as well, which we thought was a nice touch. Entertainment in the theater usually consists of a magician, a juggler and other individual performers, but there are a couple of Broadway or Vegas type shows as well.

Karaoke is hot onboard Pride of America, whether it's taking place in the Gold Rush Saloon late at night or in the Mardi Gras Nightclub just after the main entertainment. And the Mardi Gras is a great venue for all night dancing and for the funky parties it hosts: New Year's Eve Bash, Disco Night, and other various themed evenings.

Note: Kids are allowed in the Mardi Gras and can take part in the fun until 11 p.m., at which time it's over 18 only. Drinking alcohol is strictly limited to those over 21.

Hawaii allows no gambling, so there is no casino, and there is no bingo, either. There are plenty of art auctions, dance classes, and arts and crafts classes with Hawaiian themes (make a lei, make a hat, make a seed or shell necklace...).

When the weather is good, there's a deck-side luau.

The absolute best though, is the crew show. I love these on all ships, but I am, of course, accustomed to the multiple nationalities showing off their country's culture. Pride of America has one nationality, American, and the range of talent is astounding. An opera singer, a couple of crooners, a guy who does a fire dance with two glo-sticks, country singers ... and one production number, Fountains, that is so genuinely funny it brought tears of laughter to the entire audience.

I cannot and will not explain Fountains; however, let me just say that I will never again listen to Enya in the same passive way, and further, that I would take this cruise again just to see a repeat performance.

Overview

Editor's note: Pride of America will enter dry dock in March 2013 and undergo a $30 million refurbishment over a 14-day period. Additions include new studio cabins, more suites and inside staterooms, a restaurant (Moderno Churrascaria, a Brazilian-style steakhouse), bow-to-stern Wi-Fi and flat-screen TV's in cabins. Get the full details here.

Pride of America debuted in 2005 as the first U.S.-flagged passenger cruise ship to be built in more than 50 years. The ship is distinctive in another way: The crew and officers are primarily American or citizens from U.S. territories. The advantage to both the U.S. registration and the staffing requirement is that the vessel can sail seven-night itineraries around the Hawaiian Islands without having to embark (or disembark) in Vancouver or Ensenada. Nor do they have to travel a couple of thousand miles out of the way to visit Fanning Island. That's because the Passenger Services Act, requiring a foreign-flagged cruise ship to stop at a foreign port when leaving or returning to U.S. waters, does not apply to this ship, creating itineraries chock full of port stops and overnights in the beautiful regions of the U.S.'s 50th state.

Also notable, Pride of America today is the only ship to sail Hawaiian waters year-round. More often than not, it is the sole cruise ship in port, which makes for a far more relaxing visit for passengers.

Pride of America is a paean to the United States. Everything onboard this ship celebrates American culture and history, from the kitsch of the Cadillac Diner to the sober statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Liberty Dining Room. You get a feel for the ship as soon as you board: stepping into the marble lobby, you are greeted with a huge seal of the United States embedded in the flooring. It almost feels irreverent to walk across it.

At 81,000 tons and with 1,069 passenger cabins, the ship is big but not too big. It's easy to navigate, and having a largely American crew brings its own rewards to the ambience. It's fun to hear "Mornin'!" or "How y'all doin'?" while walking the hallways or public spaces.

Does a staff or crew comprising mostly U.S. citizens offer a different cruise experience? You bet it does. At once familiar but different, it does take awhile to get used to being served by people from Plano, Texas, or Eugene, Oregon, as opposed to the international staff that is typical on most ocean-going cruise ships. Overall, the service is good, it's fun, and while not always perfect, it's just about right on a ship with such an island-intensive itinerary.

The way we see it, the cruise experience is less like going to Morton's or Ruth's Chris or Le Cirque every night, and more like going to Applebee's or T.G.I. Friday's. It was an enjoyable change of pace, and as the week wore on, we appreciated it more and more.

Dining

Norwegian's signature Freestyle Cruising concept means you can dine anytime you want, with whomever you choose. To that end, the ship has eight restaurants, including two main dining rooms, the casual buffet-style Aloha Cafe and the no-charge Cadillac Diner. The four specialty restaurants levy a surcharge, and reservations are recommended.

The main dining rooms, Liberty and Skyline, are located at the aft, one above the other. Both carry through the Americana themes, with Skyline serving as a Deco-version of New York City and Liberty paying homage to American patriotism. Liberty is open for dinner only, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., though hours may vary slightly. Skyline serves breakfast from 7 to 9 a.m. and dinner from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Depending on the itinerary on any given day, Skyline also offers lunch. Service gets high marks, but plan on sitting with other passengers at large tables in the two dining rooms.

During the 2013 refurbishment, a dance floor will be added to Skyline to accommodate dinner dancing. Both restaurants offer basically the same menus. Core entrees include beef rib-eye or New York strip steak, pork tenderloin medallions, grilled chicken breast, braised lamb shank, filet of salmon and pasta.

Coming in 2013, due to customer demand, there will be more attention to lighter fare and indigenous foods. Low-carb, heart-healthy, Kosher and other special diets can be accommodated in the two main dining rooms with advance notice, but they are not, at present, part of the menu.

The Aloha Cafe, Pride of America's Lido Deck restaurant, is set up with self-serve stations for breakfast (6 to 11:30 a.m.), lunch (noon to 3 p.m.) and dinner (6 to 9 p.m.). A continental breakfast starts at 5:30 a.m.

The full breakfast includes French toast, waffles, pancakes, Eggs Benedict, made-to-order omelets, bacon, pork sausage, fresh fruit, hot and cold cereals, yogurt and pastries. Lunch and dinner feature hot entrees like Spanish chicken with chorizo, and shrimp and scallop paella; Asian fare like veggie stir-fry and Kung Pao chicken; and a selection of individually sized salads (Caprese, Cobb, calamari). There is usually a "carving board" with meats like prime rib, as well as a made-to-order pasta and a couple of soups. You'll find pizza, sandwiches, hot dogs and burgers at lunch. There's also a fruit and cheese buffet, an ice cream stand and a dessert bar that offers everything from Jell-o and no-sugar-added strawberry Napolean with raspberry coulis to ricotta cheesecake with lemon honey syrup and Italian casata cake.

On the starboard side of the Aloha Cafe is a small area created just for kids, with a junior-sized buffet table, small chairs and tables, and adult seating adjacent. It's great fun, and it gives kids a place to call their own. Brilliant!

For us, the crowning glory on this ship is the duo of espresso/cappuccino/cafe au lait makers available to passengers in both the Aloha Cafe and at the Aloha Cafe's aft stations. There is a coffee bar/patisserie, where you have to pay for cappuccino and espresso, but these machines are gratis -- and so welcome!

The no-charge Cadillac Diner -- a favorite for a basic breakfast, family lunching, early dining and late-night snacks -- is located on Deck 6 with access to limited outside seating. The diner's hallmark is comfort food, such as slow-roasted meatloaf, grilled burgers and English-style fish and chips. It also has a kids' menu, and it's open 24/7.

These restaurants, and the super-casual Key West Grill near the pool on Deck 12 (open during the day only), would be enough for most cruise lines, but Freestyle Dining offers more -- four more, to be precise. These additional venues carry a surcharge and all provide a first-class dining experience. They are open for dinner only, 6 to 9 p.m.

One of the most popular spots on all Norwegian's ships is the French-influenced Bistro, named the Jefferson Bistro on Pride of America and designed like a little slice of the library in Monticello. For $20, you can dine on scrumptious French-inspired cuisine, and, for $10 apiece more, you can add on "fruits de mer" in a puff pastry, a butter-roasted lobster tail or a 32-ounce premium black Angus rib-eye steak for two.

Lazy J's Steak House is dedicated to the Paniolos, America's first cowboys, who continue their traditions today at the Parker Ranch on the Big Island. Menu items include butter-soft filet mignon, double cut lamb chops, a 16 ounce T-bone, and half rotisserie kosher chicken. Also offered is an array of sauces: bearnaise, au poivre, cabernet demi-glace and mushroom. The surcharge there is $25. An add-on of $8 will get you a six-ounce lobster tail.

East Meets West is a gathering place for several types of Asian-inspired cuisine, including Asian fusion ($15), shabu-shabu ($15) and teppanyaki ($25). Teppanyaki is a selection of meat, poultry, fish and veggies prepared table-side by a slicing, dicing and juggling chef. "No clap, no food," our chef told us. We all clapped. The meal was fabulous, and the theater that accompanied it was worth the price of admission.

At $10, Little Italy, on the Lido Deck next to the Aloha Cafe, is the least expensive of the specialty restaurants. The menu features crowd favorites like fried calamari, spaghetti carbonara, pork saltimbocca and freshly prepared pizza.

Reservations are recommended for the specialty dining spots as soon as you board, but don't go to each restaurant. Check in, then call from your room. If, by any chance, you are told that a restaurant is full for the whole week, don't despair. Pride of America has nifty TV's strategically located in public spaces that tell you which restaurants have openings at any given time. If you're flexible, you'll more than likely get to dine where you want. Note: In the specialty restaurants, kids from ages 4 to 12 can eat for free from a children's menu or order from the full menu for one-half of the adult cover charge.

Room service is available at all hours, but the menu for passengers in standard accommodations is limited. The pizza and children's grilled cheese sandwich are good, as is the chicken Caesar salad. Suite passengers can choose menu items from the main restaurants during meal times; those in upper-level suites have a butler to deliver it. There is a charge for some room service items.

At one time, Pride of America hosted a deck-side luau during its cruises -- but no longer. Instead, it has added a shore excursion, Luau Kalamaku, in Kauai. Not surprisingly, the luau is wildly popular, although there is a fee.

Note: Pride of America does permit passengers to bring wine onboard, but it charges a $15 corkage fee per bottle, even if the wine is enjoyed in one's stateroom.

Public Rooms

With a shipwide theme as broad as the U.S., the public rooms have a range of subjects to display, some of them strictly sentimental, some Yankee Doodle Dandy patriotic, and some just kitschy, funky Americana. While it did seem a little odd to go from the John Adams Coffee Bar (overlooking the aforementioned seal of the United States and a silly-looking replica of the Washington Monument) to the Waikiki Bar -- or, for that matter, to dine under the New York skyline while moored in Maui -- the ship's public spaces celebrate all that America is, including Hawaii. It's fitting to have a ship that is American-flagged, -staffed, and -themed sailing the waters around one of America's most glorious states, and the overall effect -- with no pun intended -- is pride in America.

The ship's Hawaiian Cultural Center, basically a series of displays along one of the passageway walls, gives an overview of Hawaii's history through photos and artifacts (including iconic bobblehead hula dancer kewpie dolls from the 1950's).

The library, on Deck 6, is well stocked, especially with books about the region. It and the card room next door are popular places to take refuge. The library is open during very limited hours, so make sure to check the schedule if you want to access any reading material.

The small Internet center is also located on Deck 6; rates for both wireless (using your own laptop) and on-site connectivity (using the ship's computers) are the same, starting at the standard 75 cents per minute for the pay-as-you-go plan. Package buy-downs go as low as 40 cents per minute. On top of that, there is a one-time $3.95 activation fee.

The shore excursion and reception desks are located on Deck 5, just around the corner from the ship's shops. Norwegian ships usually have fabulous shopping opportunities, but the shops on Pride of America are small and a bit pricey. There is no duty-free option, and many of the local (Hawaiian) items carry hefty price tags. There are some good deals though -- $12 for a Norwegian Cruise Line T-shirt, $35 for a rain jacket and $22 for an Aloha shirt, as examples.

There is no self-service laundry.

Smoking is allowed in limited areas onboard, but not in any restaurant nor in the showrooms. Even outside, smoking sections seem to be quite limited, and since there is no casino, there really wasn't any area that got particularly smoky.

Pride of America will give up its business center on Deck 13 in 2013 in order to add 32 double-occupancy cabins, mostly suites, and four solo cabins. But it will still have some nicely appointed and private meeting spaces.

Cabins

Standard oceanview cabins on this ship, at 144 square feet, tend to be smaller than the industry standard. What the cheerfully decorated cabins lack in space, however, they more than make up for in convenience and efficiency. The staterooms have so many drawers and cubbyholes, shelves and closets, that you'll have no problem arranging everything, and you'll still find room for more.

Standard rooms are decorated in colorful tones of turquoise, fuchsia, yellow, lime and orange. But rather than feeling garish, these hues exude tropical good cheer. The cabins each have two single beds that can be converted to queen-size, a vanity that doubles as a desk and a shower-only bathroom. The oceanview rooms each feature a picture window, though some of the staterooms do have obstructed views.

Pride of America's standard cabins also include trays with ice buckets and glasses, room books and other reference materials. One nice touch is Norwegian's signature -- not to mention much-appreciated and well-used -- coffeemaker with complimentary coffee, cream and two heavy ceramic mugs. There is also a mini-fridge and an Internet connection.

Smaller still is the 132-square-foot inside stateroom. This shower-only cabin has two single beds (that can convert into a queen) and a small sitting area. There's also a refrigerator, TV, and tea and coffee maker.

The addition of a balcony extends the "living space" to the outdoors, and since 62 percent of all cabin categories have balconies, even the smallest spaces expand into the Hawaiian atmosphere. The 612 balcony staterooms range in size from 179 to 233 square feet, and each features two single beds that can convert to a queen, a sitting area and a floor-to-ceiling glass door that opens to a balcony. Each balcony has a small table and a couple of chairs. There is nothing in the world like sitting on your own private verandah and watching the lava from Mt. Kilauea flow into the Pacific at night, or, if your stateroom is on the other side of the ship, gliding past the breathtaking beauty of the Napali Coast, with its jagged outline rising directly from the sea.

There is a wide variety of suite accommodations, including several with verandah hot tubs. We love the cheery, breezy decor of the suites -- no pretentiousness, just pure island fun. All of the suites include Elemis bath products. The only suites that offer bathtubs in addition to showers are at the penthouse, deluxe family penthouse, deluxe penthouse, Owner's and Grand levels.

A dozen suites are outfitted for families. Eight, at 360 square feet, feature living rooms, separate dens and private bedrooms, each with two single beds that can be converted to a queen. Each living room has a double sofa bed and entertainment center, and the den houses a single sofa bed. There is also a balcony. The other four family suites have two interconnected staterooms, ranging in size from 330 to 356 square feet. The larger of the two staterooms is an outside cabin with two single beds that can be combined into a queen, a sitting area with a double sofa bed, and an interconnecting cabin that features two single beds and two upper berths.

The 28 penthouse suites, 494 to 598 square feet, each offer a king-size bed, separated from the sitting area by a privacy curtain. There is a walk-in closet; a bathroom with shower, tub and separate dressing area; and a living room with a Bang & Olufsen entertainment center and wet bar. The balcony has lounge chairs.

The two deluxe family penthouses, 607 to 650 square feet, offer everything the penthouse suites do and then some. Extra features include Jacuzzi baths and separate second bedrooms with their own bathrooms.

Add-ons at the deluxe penthouse suite level, which offers a private bedroom with king-size bed, include a spacious balcony with a private, outdoor Jacuzzi. These suites range in size from 676 to 697 square feet.

The six Owner's suites, 766 to 875 square feet, take it up a notch, with private verandahs and Jacuzzis, outdoor dining and lounge chairs. The one and only Grand Suite, 1,382 square feet, also has a separate dining area, featuring a baby grand piano and teak table with seating for six; a powder room for guests; and a full bathroom with a shower, Jacuzzi bath and double vanity sink.

Passengers at the deluxe family, deluxe penthouse, Owner's and Grand levels also have a dedicated butler and concierge, as well as an array of amenities that includes Tranquility mattresses from the Bliss Collection by Norwegian, Lavazza Espresso-makers and private dining for breakfast and lunch.

There is a wide range of ADA-compliant staterooms in all configurations.

Entertainment

Norwegian has always been at the forefront of entertainment options, and this ship is no different; the entertainment is excellent. The house bands and musicians throughout the ship are top-notch, and Pride of America passengers have also benefited from the recent re-introduction of two Broadway-style productions.

The Hollywood Theatre is fairly small and just one story, with excellent sight lines for most people. It also features life-sized Oscar statuettes at the entrance. A bank of chairs has been set aside for wheelchair and other mobility-impaired guests, which we thought was a nice touch. The two signature shows in the theater are the feel-good "Lights, Camera, Music" and the campy "Rock-A-Hula."

The Chicago-style speakeasy, Pink's Champagne Bar, is located perfectly for people-watching, and its piano player/vocalist will have you swooning. The Napa Wine Bar is elegant, coolly lined with faux limestone walls -- and it's a good spot for a quiet drink. The Gold Rush Saloon is a sports fan's delight, with multiple flat-screen TV's. There's nothing quite like watching an NFL game at 7 a.m. Hawaii time.

Karaoke is hot onboard Pride of America, whether it's taking place in the Gold Rush Saloon late at night or in the Mardi Gras Nightclub just after the main entertainment. The glittery Mardi Gras is a great venue for all-night dancing and for the funky themed parties it hosts, such as the New Year's Eve Bash and Disco Night.

Note: Kids are allowed in the Mardi Gras and can take part in the fun until 11 p.m., at which time it's 18 and older only. Drinking alcohol is strictly limited to those 21 and older.

Hawaii allows no gambling, so there is no casino, and no bingo. Onboard activities include art auctions, dance classes, and arts and crafts classes with Hawaiian themes (make a lei, make a hat, make a seed or shell necklace, etc.). The ship's three "Hawaiian ambassadors" also do a super job with port talks. During the cruise along Kauai's Napali coast, one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in all of Hawaii, they give a wonderful commentary about the passing scenery. That's it, though, in terms of any educational enrichment programming.

The absolute best entertainment is the crew show. On other Norwegian ships, the performance showcases the many cultures of the multiple nationalities represented by the crew. Pride of America has one nationality -- American -- but the range of talent is still astounding. We saw an opera singer, a couple of crooners, a guy who does a fire dance with two glow sticks, and country singers.

Given the exotic destination, shore excursions are a huge part of the Pride of America experience. Not surprisingly, many involve water sports (kayaking, snorkeling, parasailing, scuba-diving, tubing, a day at the beach). There are also biking trips, golf outings, zip-line adventures, and waterfall and rainforest hikes. After awhile, though, there is a sameness to the offerings. We preferred the excursions that highlighted the uniqueness of each island: Volcanoes National Park, with its active volcano on the Big Island, for example, as well as Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, which offers a spectacular glimpse of Old Hawaii. It, too, is on the Big Island.

Pricing is all over the map, ranging from $45 for a glass-bottom boat tour to $460 for a helicopter ride. There is discounted pricing for children 12 and younger. Note: The excursions in Oahu, including tours of must-see Pearl Harbor, take place on the day of disembarkation in Honolulu. The timing makes for tricky logistics. Passengers ought to consider booking return flights late in the day or arranging an overnight accommodation.

Fitness and Recreation

This ship (and this itinerary) is a fitness buff's dream. Not only is there the well-equipped Santa Fe Spa and Fitness Center, there are also plenty of spots for walking, jogging and sports onboard. The fitness center, remarkably, is open 24/7. It has more than 30 cardio machines (rowing, treadmill, elliptical and bikes) with their own TV screens. Fitness classes include yoga, indoor cycling and TRX-Suspension Training (for a surcharge). There's a jogging track on Deck 13 and a sports court with hoops on Deck 14. Ping-Pong is available just outside the Aloha cafe.

The South Beach pool, located in the center of Deck 11, is appealing and active ... so much so that many people overlook the fact that there is a smaller, quieter pool, the Oasis, at the aft on Deck 12. Shhhhh! Perched above the Aloha Cafe's aft section, at the rear of the spa, this little pool is ideal for a quiet break. The main pool is surrounded by four hot tubs; the smaller Oasis pool area has one, off to the side. There is a "Quiet Zone" on Deck 13 for folks looking for just that: quiet.

One of the best fitness and recreation aspects of this cruise is the range of golf programs offered. Imagine golfing in paradise every day, sometimes more than once, at each of the islands visited. You can choose your courses from an array of municipal and private greens, from reasonably priced to outrageously expensive. One of the most special courses on the itinerary is the 18-hole Kiele at Kauai Lagoons Golf Club, redesigned by Jack Nicklaus in 2011. A golf pro is always onboard, and you'll find a driving range and putting green on Deck 13.

Note: You can bring your own clubs or rent from a full line of Nike clubs onboard, but you cannot take your clubs with you to your stateroom. The pro onboard cleans and stores the clubs and delivers them to the gangway for pick-up on port days. There is a $20 storage fee.

The Santa Fe Spa, located at the aft of the ship, is big and elegant. Run by the Mandara division of Steiner Leisure, it offers the usual at-sea spa treatments, but the destination also allows it to creatively provide themed services like the traditional Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage, created for Hawaiian royalty and passed down through the generations. Port days (and there are a lot of them) mean discounts, on everything from manicures to teeth-whitening. There are also complimentary sauna and steam rooms.

Note: Almost all signage indicates that you have to use the aft stairs to get from Deck 11 to the spa, but mobility-impaired passengers can access it by using one of the aft elevators.

Family

Norwegian is one of our favorite lines for family cruising, and Pride of America is no exception. The ship's Rascal's Kid's Club is bright, cheery and well attended. Potty-trained kids from 3 years old are welcomed; there are age- and destination-appropriate activities available for children up to 12 years old. Kids younger than 3 are not allowed, even with a parent. For those younger than 3, Norwegian's 2 Zoo Program has been enhanced to include hosted activities, such as painting classes, sensory play, storytime and baby circus. The program requires a parent to participate. Activities vary, so it's best to check the schedule on embarkation day.

The Connections Teen Club, a "mom and dad-free zone" for the 13- to 17-year-olds, is comfy and relaxing with its leopard-print couches and beanbag chairs, music library and computer stations. We saw young adults in there at all hours. (Parents might not be allowed but, you can see into the space through the windows.)

Pride of America also encourages family togetherness by way of family craft activities, pizza parties and the like.

Programs for the kids are free of charge; some late nights are included. Norwegian doesn't offer private childcare, but it does have group sitting services on port days ($6 per child during mealtime slots) and nightly from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. ($6 per hour, per solo child, or $4 per hour, per child, if there are multiple siblings).

Children must be 6 months old in order to sail on Pride of America.

Fellow Passengers

Pride of America's passengers run the gamut from multigenerational family groups to honeymooners and everyone in between. There is also a nice international flavor to the passenger mix. On one recent cruise, 800 of the more than 2,000 passengers hailed from foreign countries, led by Australia, Canada, Japan and Germany. Taiwan and China are also picking up as passenger categories. This is a relaxed but destination-intensive cruise, designed for people -- no matter where they're from -- who want to experience Hawaii; while the ship offers everything you'll need or want, it's understood that it plays second-fiddle to the islands' allure.

Dress Code

If you've been hoarding those Hilo Hattie muumuus or surf shirts that were popular in the '60's, bring 'em along. Dress is tropical-casual, with one discretionary formal night (you are not required to dress up). On "Dress Up or Not Night," as it is called, passengers may have their photographs taken with the captain. Nighttime dress is cruise-casual, with the occasional "Polynesian" and "Hawaiian" theme night for dressing island-style. Beachwear, tank tops for men, ball caps or visors, flip-flops and overly faded or torn jeans are not allowed in the dining rooms. For dining in the Jefferson Bistro or Lazy J's Steakhouse, women may wear tops with slacks, jeans, dresses or skirts, and men are advised to wear slacks or jeans with collared shirts and closed-toe shoes. Kids younger than 12 are welcome with nice shorts in any dining room.

Gratuity

Pride of America has an automatic gratuity program that costs $12 per passenger, per day, and covers tips for all services -- including those provided by room stewards and restaurant waitstaff. Passengers can adjust this amount in either direction by asking at the reception desk.

There's a 15 percent auto-gratuity for bar bills and 18 percent for spa services and fitness center classes.

Overview

Pride of America debuted in 2005 as the first U.S.-flagged passenger cruise ship to be built in more than 50 years. The ship is distinctive in another way: The crew and officers are primarily American or citizens from U.S. territories. The advantage to both the U.S. registration and the staffing requirement is that the vessel can sail seven-night itineraries around the Hawaiian Islands without having to embark (or disembark) in Vancouver or Ensenada. Nor do they have to travel a couple of thousand miles out of the way to visit Fanning Island. That's because the Passenger Services Act, requiring a foreign-flagged cruise ship to stop at a foreign port when leaving or returning to U.S. waters, does not apply to this ship, creating itineraries chock full of port stops and overnights in the beautiful regions of the U.S.'s 50th state.

Also notable, Pride of America today is the only ship to sail Hawaiian waters year-round. More often than not, it is the sole cruise ship in port, which makes for a far more relaxing visit for passengers.

Pride of America is a paean to the United States. Everything onboard this ship celebrates American culture and history, from the kitsch of the Cadillac Diner to the sober statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Liberty Dining Room. You get a feel for the ship as soon as you board: stepping into the marble lobby, you are greeted with a huge seal of the United States embedded in the flooring. It almost feels irreverent to walk across it.

At 81,000 tons and with 1,069 passenger cabins, the ship is big but not too big. It's easy to navigate, and having a largely American crew brings its own rewards to the ambience. It's fun to hear "Mornin'!" or "How y'all doin'?" while walking the hallways or public spaces.

Does a staff or crew comprising mostly U.S. citizens offer a different cruise experience? You bet it does. At once familiar but different, it does take awhile to get used to being served by people from Plano, Texas, or Eugene, Oregon, as opposed to the international staff that is typical on most ocean-going cruise ships. Overall, the service is good, it's fun, and while not always perfect, it's just about right on a ship with such an island-intensive itinerary.

The way we see it, the cruise experience is less like going to Morton's or Ruth's Chris or Le Cirque every night, and more like going to Applebee's or T.G.I. Friday's. It was an enjoyable change of pace, and as the week wore on, we appreciated it more and more.

Family

Norwegian is one of our favorite lines for family cruising, and Pride of America is no exception. The ship's Rascal's Kid's Club is bright, cheery and well attended. Potty-trained kids from 3 years old are welcomed; there are age- and destination-appropriate activities available for children up to 12 years old. Kids younger than 3 are not allowed, even with a parent. For those younger than 3, Norwegian's 2 Zoo Program has been enhanced to include hosted activities, such as painting classes, sensory play, storytime and baby circus. The program requires a parent to participate. Activities vary, so it's best to check the schedule on embarkation day.

NCL's Splash Academy is currently divided into four age groups: Guppies (6 months to 3 years, with parent), Turtles (3 - 5), Seals (6 - 9) and Dolphins (10 - 12). The teen program, called Entourage, accommodates passengers 13 to 17.

The Connections Teen Club, a "mom and dad-free zone" for the 13- to 17-year-olds, is comfy and relaxing with its leopard-print couches and beanbag chairs, music library and computer stations. We saw young adults in there at all hours. (Parents might not be allowed but, you can see into the space through the windows.)

Pride of America also encourages family togetherness by way of family craft activities, pizza parties and the like.

Programs for the kids are free of charge; some late nights are included. Norwegian doesn't offer private childcare, but it does have group sitting services on port days ($6 per child, ages 3 -12, during mealtime slots) and nightly from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. ($6 per hour, per solo child, or $4 per hour, per child, if there are multiple siblings).

Children must be 6 months old in order to sail on Pride of America.

Overview

Pride of America debuted in 2005 as the first U.S.-flagged passenger cruise ship to be built in more than 50 years. The ship is distinctive in another way: The crew and officers are primarily American or citizens from U.S. territories. The advantage to the U.S. registration and the staffing requirement is that the vessel can sail seven-night itineraries around the Hawaiian Islands without having to stop in Vancouver or Ensenada. Nor does it have to travel thousands of miles out of the way to visit Fanning Island. That's because the Passenger Services Act, requiring foreign-flagged cruise ships to stop at foreign ports when leaving or returning to U.S. waters, does not apply to this ship. That means itineraries are chock full of port stops and overnights in the beautiful regions of the U.S.'s 50th state.

Also notable, Pride of America is currently the only ship to sail Hawaiian waters year-round. More often than not, it's the sole cruise ship in port, which makes for a far more relaxing visit for passengers.

Pride of America is a paean to the United States. Everything onboard the ship celebrates American culture and history, from the 1950s kitsch of the Cadillac Diner to the sober statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Liberty Dining Room. You get a feel for the ship as soon as you board: Stepping into the marble lobby, you're greeted with a huge seal of the United States embedded in the flooring. It almost feels irreverent to walk across it.

The ship is big but not too big. It's easy to navigate, with the exception of a few "you can't get there from here" spots, like the Deck 6 Liberty Dining Room (only accessible from an upper or lower deck) or the Deck 12 spa and fitness center (tucked away on a half deck at the aft of the ship).

Does a staff or crew comprising mostly U.S. citizens offer a different cruise experience? You bet it does. At once familiar but different, it does take a while to get used to being served by people from Plano, Texas, or Eugene, Oregon -- all who greet you with the Hawaiian "aloha!" -- as opposed to the international staff that is typical on most oceangoing cruise ships. Overall, the service is friendly but not always perfect. On a ship with such an island-intensive itinerary, it's unlikely to affect your vacation much.

The way we see it, the cruise experience is less like going to Morton's, Ruth's Chris or Le Cirque every night and more like going to Applebee's or T.G.I. Friday's. Food, service, cabins and entertainment are all perfectly fine, but it's the destination, rather than the ship, that will provide the "wow" factor.

Dining

Norwegian's signature Freestyle Cruising concept means you can dine anytime you want, with whomever you choose. To that end, the ship has nine restaurants, including two main dining rooms, the casual buffet-style Aloha Cafe and the no-charge Cadillac Diner. The five specialty restaurants levy a surcharge. Reservations are recommended if you have your heart set on dining at a certain venue at a specific time, but otherwise they aren't necessary. Wednesdays and Fridays tend to be the busiest nights in the extra-fee restaurants; Sunday is the slowest. Not all specialty venues are open on embarkation day.

The main dining rooms, Liberty and Skyline, are located at the aft, one above the other. Both carry through the Americana themes, with Skyline serving as a Deco-version of New York City and Liberty paying homage to American patriotism. Both have pianos, and occasionally a musician will provide background music for your dinner. Liberty is open for dinner only, 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., though hours might vary slightly. Skyline serves breakfast from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Skyline also offers lunch from noon to 2 p.m. on embarkation day and the final afternoon (Friday). Capacity has been increased in the main dining rooms, but couples will usually be asked if they'd like to sit with other passengers at a larger table, as a way to cut down wait times.

Both restaurants offer basically the same menu. One side of the menu changes daily, and this page is where you'll find more regional fare. On the other side, unchanging core entrees include beef rib-eye or New York strip steak, pork tenderloin medallions, grilled chicken breast, braised lamb shank, filet of salmon and pasta.

Menus indicate healthier choices and items that contain undercooked meat or fish (like salmon tartare). Low-carb, heart-healthy, Kosher and other special diets can be accommodated in the two main dining rooms with advance notice, but they are not, at present, part of the menu. Vegetarian items are always available, but are not marked as such, so be prepared to ask.

Service was hit or miss. We found waitstaff to either be very friendly (and a bit too familiar at times) or standoffish and confused by simple requests (like choosing an appetizer as a main course or ordering two starters).

The Aloha Cafe, Pride of America's Lido Deck restaurant, is set up with self-serve stations for breakfast (5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.), lunch (noon to 3 p.m.), snacks (3 p.m. to 5 p.m.) and dinner (6 p.m. to 9 p.m.). Additional no-fee buffet breakfast options are available in Moderno (buffet 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., continental 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.). One coffee and juice station is open around the clock.

The full breakfast includes French toast, waffles, pancakes, Eggs Benedict, made-to-order omelets, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit, hot and cold cereals, yogurt and pastries. Lunch and dinner feature hot entrees like Spanish chicken with chorizo, and shrimp and scallop paella; Asian fare like veggie stir-fry and Kung Pao chicken; and a selection of individually sized salads (Caprese, Cobb, calamari). There is usually a "carving board" with meats like prime rib, as well as a made-to-order pasta and a couple of soups. You'll find pizza, sandwiches, hot dogs and burgers at lunch. There's also a fruit and cheese buffet, an ice cream stand and a dessert bar that offers everything from Jell-o and no-sugar-added strawberry Napoleon with raspberry coulis to ricotta cheesecake with lemon honey syrup and Italian casata cake.

On the starboard side of the Aloha Cafe is a small area created just for kids, with a junior-sized buffet table and small chairs and tables. It's great fun, and it gives kids a place to call their own. Brilliant!

The no-charge Cadillac Diner -- a favorite for a basic breakfast, family lunching, early dining and late-night snacks -- is located on Deck 6 with access to limited outside seating. There, oldies play on the radio, pictures of Elvis adorn the walls, and the center booths are done up to look like a classic '50s car. The diner's hallmark is comfort food, such as slow-roasted meatloaf, grilled burgers and English-style fish and chips. It also has a kids menu, and milkshakes for all ages are available for an added fee. Cadillac is open 24/7 and can be quite hopping in the late evening after the shows let out. It also has an always-open coffee/tea/hot chocolate station in one corner -- help yourself.

The super-casual Key West Grill above the pool on Deck 12 serves steam-table burgers and dogs from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Occasionally, a barbecue is set up poolside.

The aforementioned restaurants are all included in your cruise fare; Pride of America offers five additional venues that carry a surcharge. These alternative restaurants, each with a culinary specialty, are open for dinner only from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

One of the most popular spots on all Norwegian's ships is the French-influenced Bistro, named the Jefferson Bistro on Pride of America and designed like a little slice of the library in Monticello. For $20, you can dine on scrumptious French-inspired cuisine, and, for $10 apiece more, you can add on "fruits de mer" in a puff pastry, a butter-roasted lobster tail or a 32-ounce premium black Angus rib-eye steak for two.

Cagney's Steakhouse is Norwegian's signature meat and seafood venue with an old Hollywood feel. Menu items include butter-soft filet mignon, double cut lamb chops, a 16 ounce ribeye and truffle chicken. Also offered is an array of sauces: bearnaise, green peppercorn, chimichurri and port wine jus. The surcharge is $30, with a $10 add-on for any additional entrees ordered.

East Meets West is a gathering place for several types of Asian-inspired cuisine, including Asian fusion (really just Chinese -- $15), sushi (a la carte), shabu-shabu (where you cook your own meat in boiling water -- $15) and teppanyaki ($25). Teppanyaki is a selection of meat, poultry, fish and veggies prepared table-side by a slicing, dicing and juggling chef. "No clap, no food," our chef told us. We all clapped. The meal was fabulous, and the theater that accompanied it was worth the price of admission. East Meets West and the sushi bar are open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., while Shabu-Shabu and Teppanyaki are set seatings (6 p.m. and 8 p.m. for the former and 5:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. for the latter). Teppanyaki is a huge crowd pleaser. We found the cuisine at East Meet Wests to be solidly mediocre, while the sushi was as good as you'd expect from a mid-range sushi joint on land.

La Cucina, on the Lido Deck behind the Aloha Cafe is the ship's Italian venue. At $15 per person, the menu evokes New York's Little Italy with crowd favorites like fried calamari, spaghetti carbonara, chicken parmesan and freshly prepared pizza.

Moderno Churrascaria is the ship's Brazilian steakhouse. For $20, you can eat all the veggies, soup, sliced meats and cheeses you want from a robust salad bar and all the beef, lamb, chicken and pork you can manage from skewers brought to your table from roving waiters. Oh, and did we mention the sides (like fried bananas and garlic mashed potatoes), the insanely addictive cheese bread, the brown sugar-coated pineapple and your choice of desserts? Eat a light lunch, and skip all snacks before dining there.

To make reservations for any of the specialty restaurants, you can call from your room or stop by the reception desk, where a dedicated staffer is available to find you a table. If, by any chance, you are told that a restaurant is full, don't despair. Pride of America has nifty TVs strategically located in public spaces that tell you which restaurants have openings at any given time. If you're flexible, you'll more than likely get to dine where you want. The ship's hotel director told us that waits are rarely long enough to warrant a pager; typically, a table is available, but you will simply have to wait for passengers with reservations to be seated before you can be assisted. Note: In the specialty restaurants, kids from ages 4 to 12 can eat for free from a children's menu or order from the full menu for one-half of the adult cover charge. Children younger than 4 always eat free.

Room service is available at all hours, but the menu for passengers in standard accommodations is limited. The pizza and children's grilled cheese sandwich are good, as is the chicken Caesar salad. Door hanger cards are available for continental breakfast. Suite passengers can choose menu items from the main restaurants during meal times; those in upper-level suites have a butler to deliver it. There's a charge for some room service items.

Note: Pride of America does permit passengers to bring wine onboard, but it charges a $15 corkage fee per bottle, even if the wine is enjoyed in passengers' staterooms.

Public Rooms

With a shipwide theme as broad as the U.S., the public rooms have a range of subjects to display, some of them strictly sentimental, some Yankee Doodle Dandy patriotic and some just kitschy, funky Americana. While it did seem a little odd to go from the John Adams Coffee Bar (overlooking the aforementioned seal of the United States and a silly-looking replica of the Washington Monument) to the Waikiki Bar -- or, for that matter, to dine under the New York skyline while moored in Maui -- the ship's public spaces celebrate all that America is, including Hawaii. It's fitting to have a ship that's American-flagged, -staffed and -themed sailing the waters around one of America's most glorious states, and the overall effect, no pun intended, is pride in America.

The ship's Hawaiian Cultural Center, basically a series of displays along one of the passageway walls, gives an overview of Hawaii's history through photos and artifacts (including iconic bobblehead hula dancer kewpie dolls from the 1950s).

The library, on Deck 6, is well stocked, especially with books about the region. It and the card room next door are popular places to take refuge. The library is always open, but shelves are unlocked and books available to take out during limited hours. Make sure to check the schedule if you want to access any reading material.

The small Internet center is also located on Deck 6; rates for wireless (using your own laptop) and on-site connectivity (using the ship's computers) are the same, starting at the standard 75 cents per minute for the pay-as-you-go plan. Two packages are available at $100 for 250 minutes and $55 for 100 minutes. On top of that, there is a one-time $3.95 activation fee and a $0.50 fee for each print job. We had great Wi-Fi access in our cabin; it's the slowest just before dinner, when everyone is back onboard.

In the same Deck 6 corridor, you'll also find a photo studio for anyone really serious about getting a family portrait done.

The shore excursion and reception desks are located on Deck 5, just around the corner from the ship's shops. The three shops -- a Hawaiian fine jewelry boutique, an alohawear and logowear shop, and a sundries store selling Hawaii souvenirs like coffee and macadamia nuts -- on Pride of America are small and a bit pricey. There is no duty-free option, and many of the local (Hawaiian) items carry hefty price tags. Across from the shop is the photo gallery, where you can browse (and purchase) photos of yourself posing with a giant, fluffy pineapple or the cruise director dressed as Uncle Sam.

There is no self-service laundry.

Smoking is allowed in limited areas onboard, namely your stateroom balcony and the Waikiki Bar on Deck 13 aft, but not in any restaurant nor in the showrooms.

Cabins

Standard cabins on this ship tend to be smaller than the industry standard. What the cheerfully decorated cabins lack in space, though, they more than make up for in convenience and efficiency. The staterooms have so many drawers, cubbyholes, shelves and closets that you'll have no problem arranging everything, and you'll still find room for more.

Standard rooms are decorated in colorful tones of turquoise, fuchsia, yellow, lime and orange. But rather than feeling garish, these hues exude tropical good cheer. The cabins each have two single beds that can be converted to "queen"; the singles are actually larger than standard twins, so when pushed together they're somewhere between the size of a queen and a king. They also have a vanity that doubles as a desk and a shower-only bathroom. Select outside and all balcony cabins each feature a sitting area with a sofa bed and table.

Each Pride of America standard cabin also includes a tray with an ice bucket and glasses, a minibar fridge, a safe and an Internet connection. One nice touch is Norwegian's signature -- not to mention much-appreciated and well-used -- coffeemaker with complimentary coffee, cream and two heavy ceramic mugs.

Inside staterooms are the smallest standard double-occupancy cabins at 132 square feet. They're tight on space and missing the sofa area found in the other cabins. Some have doors at one end of the cabin, while others have doors opening into the middle of the stateroom, with the bed on one side and closets and bathroom on the other.

Standard oceanview cabins on this ship are 144 square feet and feature picture windows, some with obstructed views. Select inside and oceanview cabins each have two beds that can be pulled down from the wall to form upper bunks to sleep third or fourth passengers.

The balcony staterooms range from 179 to 233 square feet. The addition of private verandahs extends the "living space" to the outdoors, and because nearly 63 percent of all cabin categories have balconies, even the smallest spaces expand into the Hawaiian atmosphere. Each balcony cabin features a floor-to-ceiling glass door that opens to a balcony, furnished with a small table and a couple of chairs. There is nothing in the world like sitting on your own private verandah and watching the lava from Mt. Kilauea flow into the Pacific at night or, if your cabin is on the other side of the ship, gliding past the breathtaking beauty of the Napali Coast, with its jagged outline rising directly from the sea.

There is a wide variety of suite accommodations, including several with verandah hot tubs. All of the suites include Elemis bath products. Most also offer bathtubs in addition to showers; the exceptions are the standard family suites. Definitely pay careful attention to deck plans when booking a suite. Cabin and balcony sizes vary, and the Deck 13 suites -- added during a 2013 refurbishment -- have the same category names as suites elsewhere on the ships but are laid out and sized differently.

Families have three types of suite options. Standard Family Suites, at 360 square feet, feature living rooms, separate dens and private bedrooms, each with two single beds that can be converted to a queen. Each living room has a double sofa bed and entertainment center, and the den houses a single sofa bed. There is also a balcony. Obstructed-view Family Suites have two interconnected staterooms, ranging in size from 330 to 356 square feet. The larger of the two staterooms is an outside cabin with two single beds that can be combined into a queen, a sitting area with a double sofa bed and an interconnecting cabin that features two single beds and two upper berths. These suites have the bonus of two bathrooms apiece but lack balconies.

Deluxe Family Penthouses, 607 to 650 square feet, offer everything the Penthouse Suites do (see below) and then some. Extra features include Jacuzzi baths and separate second bedrooms with their own bathrooms.

The regular Penthouse Suites, 494 to 598 square feet, each offer a king-size bed, separated from the sitting area by a privacy curtain. There's a walk-in closet; a bathroom with shower, tub and separate dressing area; and a living room with a Bang & Olufsen entertainment center and wet bar. The balcony has lounge chairs. The newer Penthouse Suites on Deck 13 are smaller, 363 to 416 square feet, but most can sleep six people and have huge, 245-square-foot balconies with lounge chairs and dining tables.

Add-ons at the Deluxe Penthouse Suite level, which offers a private bedroom with king-size bed, include a spacious balcony with a private outdoor Jacuzzi. These suites are 461 square feet and are also located on Deck 13.

The Owner's Suites on Decks 8 through 12 take it up a notch, at 766 to 875 square feet, with Hawaii-themed private bedrooms, king beds, private verandahs, Jacuzzis, outdoor dining and lounge chairs. They also have expansive living areas, bathrooms and walk-in closets like the other suites. Deck 13 Owner's Suites are only 570 square feet, but they can sleep four and have truly enormous 410-square-foot balconies. (Deck 13's outdoor lounge chairs and dining tables are provided, but these balconies don't have hot tubs, though there's plenty of room.) These also connect to adjacent Penthouse Suites to sleep a total of 10 passengers.

The only Deluxe Owner's Suite (formerly called Grand), 1,382 square feet, also has a separate dining area, featuring a baby grand piano and teak table with seating for six; a powder room for guests; and a full bathroom with a shower, Jacuzzi bath and double vanity sink.

Passengers at the Deluxe Family, Deluxe Penthouse and Owner's levels also have a dedicated butler and concierge, as well as an array of complimentary amenities that includes Lavazza Espresso-makers, a pillow menu, Champagne and bottled water on arrival (plus soda and three bottles of wine for Owner's Suite passengers) and private complimentary dining in Cagney's for breakfast and lunch. They also receive perks like priority check-in, boarding and tendering; DVD rentals; shoeshine services; and a luxurious bath menu.

On the other end of the spectrum, Pride of America has four studio cabins; at 107 square feet, they are designed for single occupancy. The cabins sport a mod look, done all in white with padded headboards, color-changing mood lighting, a porthole window with shades that looks out into the corridor, a small desk area with flat-screen TV above and clever storage solutions. The cabins do have Norwegian Epic's much-reviled split bathroom system with the sink in the main cabin and a shower and a toilet behind separate doors (meaning you step out of the shower into the main cabin). All four studios share a narrow living area with a larger flat-screen TV and comfy chairs. This Studio Lounge has five doors -- one to each studio cabin and one to the main corridor -- and is not a true bar/lounge.

There are 24 ADA-compliant staterooms with options in all configurations. Four of these are equipped for hearing-impaired passengers; 40 additional staterooms have equipment for hearing-impaired travelers, too.

Entertainment

Unlike on other lines' ships, nearly all of Pride of America's entertainment -- from the ship's singers and dancers to the "headliners" -- are under contract to Norwegian. You won't find B-list celebrities coming aboard for one or two cruises. Groups like Toby Beau (oldies duo) and Oh What a Night (Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons tribute band) are almost always onboard. Every Sunday, the ship also flies in a local Polynesian dance group from Oahu to perform. Mainstage and secondary shows are typically well attended and cater to a feel-good, Baby Boomers-heavy crowd.

The Hollywood Theatre, Deck 5 forward, is fairly small and just one story, with excellent sight lines for most people. A bank of chairs has been set aside for wheelchair and other mobility-impaired passengers, which we thought was a nice touch. The two signature shows in the theater are the Hollywood musical-inspired "Lights, Camera, Music" and the campy "Rock-A-Hula."

One deck above the theater, glittery Mardi Gras is the venue for smaller shows and the funky themed parties, such as the White Hot Party and Sock Hop. By day, it also shows movies or hosts dance classes, lectures and other events.

Note: Kids are allowed in Mardi Gras and can take part in the fun until 11 p.m., at which time it's 18 and older only. The drinking of alcohol is strictly limited to those 21 and older.

Pink's Champagne Bar evokes the classic Hawaiiana of Waikiki's Royal Palace Hotel. Its Deck 6 location between Mardi Gras and various dining venues is perfect for people-watching, and there's always a pianist or guitar player to draw the crowds and get people dancing. The Napa Wine Bar just beyond is elegant, coolly lined with faux limestone walls; it's a good spot for a quiet drink, especially before dinner at the adjacent Cagney's. A guitarist plays there most nights. The Deck 5 John Adams bar serves up specialty coffee, cocktails and a mix of the two (for a fee) and breakfast pastries and all-day sweets (for free). It's right in the atrium hub, and trivia and other ship competitions are held there during the day.

The Gold Rush Saloon is a sports fan's delight, with multiple flat-screen TVs. There's nothing quite like watching an NFL game at 7 a.m. Hawaii time. The western-themed bar is where you'll find movie trivia and karaoke nights, as well as buck hunter video games and a help-yourself popcorn machine. For more gaming, an arcade is located on Deck 13, midship.

Poolside, the Ocean Drive Bar is bucket-of-beer central, the Key West Bar on Deck 12 has a similar vibe, and the Waikiki Bar sits above the aft pool and blasts recorded tunes during sailaway and late a night. The aft end of Deck 11 has been transformed into the Aloha Lanai, with a bar, giant freestanding table lamps, faux wicker chairs and couches with padded cushions, as well as dining tables. It's popular at sailaway or as an alfresco dining venue for a buffet breakfast.

Hawaii allows no gambling, so there is no casino and no bingo. Onboard activities include art auctions, trivia, pool games, dance classes, and arts and crafts classes with Hawaiian themes (make a lei, make a hat, make a seed or shell necklace, etc.). The ship's "Hawaiian ambassadors" also do a super job with port talks. During the cruise along Kauai's Napali coast, one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in all of Hawaii, they give a wonderful commentary about the passing scenery. That's it in terms of any educational enrichment programming. It doesn't really matter, though, as you're rarely onboard to enjoy it.

The absolute best entertainment is the crew show. On other Norwegian ships, the performance showcases the many cultures of the multiple nationalities represented by the crew. Pride of America has one nationality -- American -- but the range of talent is still astounding. We saw an opera singer, a couple of crooners, a guy who does a fire dance with two glow sticks, and country singers.

Given the exotic destination, shore excursions are a huge part of the Pride of America experience. Not surprisingly, many involve water sports (kayaking, snorkeling, parasailing, Scuba diving, tubing, a day at the beach). There are also biking trips, golf outings, zip-line adventures, and waterfall and rainforest hikes. We preferred the excursions that highlighted the uniqueness of each island: Volcanoes National Park, with its active volcano on the Big Island, for example, as well as Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, which offers a spectacular glimpse of Old Hawaii. It, too, is on the Big Island.

Pricing is all over the map, ranging from $45 for a glass-bottom boat tour to $500 for a helicopter ride. There is discounted pricing for children 12 and younger; some tours might not incur a fee for tots younger than 3. Note: The excursions on Oahu, including tours of must-see Pearl Harbor, take place on the day of disembarkation in Honolulu. The timing makes for tricky logistics. Passengers ought to consider booking return flights late in the day or arranging overnight accommodations.

Fitness and Recreation

The South Beach pool, located in the center of Deck 11, is appealing and active ... so much so that many people overlook the fact that there is a smaller, quieter pool -- the Oasis -- at the aft on Deck 12. Shhhhh! Perched above the Aloha Lanai and behind the spa, this little pool is ideal for a quiet break (except for when the Waikiki Bar turns up the tunes). The main pool is surrounded by four hot tubs; the smaller Oasis pool area has one, off to the side. Onboard pools and hot tubs are supposedly open until 10 p.m., but we saw people in the hot tubs later than that. If you don't need to lounge by the pool, there are deck chairs scattered on Decks 12 through 14. Look for the giant rubber duck statue hidden away on Deck 14; it's sitting under a giant showerhead that actually works. There's also a special kid's pool adjacent to Splash Academy on Deck 12.

This ship (and this itinerary) is a fitness buff's dream. Not only is there the well-equipped Santa Fe Fitness Center on Deck 12, there are also plenty of spots for walking, jogging and sports onboard. The fitness center, remarkably, is open 24/7. It has more than 30 cardio machines (rowing, treadmill, elliptical and cycling) with their own TV screens, as well as resistance training machines. Fitness classes in an enclosed group class area include yoga, indoor cycling and TRX-suspension training (for a surcharge).

There's a jogging track on Deck 13, as well as shuffleboard. A sports court with hoops is on Deck 14, and giant chess and checkers are on Deck 12. Ping-Pong is available just outside the Aloha Cafe.

One of the best fitness and recreation aspects of this cruise is the range of golf programs offered. Imagine golfing in paradise every day, sometimes more than once, at each of the islands visited. Norwegian partners with Paradise Caye Golf to offer an onboard golf pro who holds complimentary group clinics and extra-fee private lessons, access to the V1 Digital Coaching system, gear rental and storage, and guided excursions with priority tee times. You can choose your courses from an array of municipal and private greens, from reasonably priced to outrageously expensive. One of the most special courses on the itinerary is the 18-hole Kiele at Kauai Lagoons Golf Club, redesigned by Jack Nicklaus in 2011. A driving range and putting green are on Deck 13.

Note: You can bring your own clubs or rent from a full line of Nike clubs onboard, but you can't take your clubs with you to your cabin. The pro onboard cleans and stores the clubs and delivers them to the gangway for pickup on port days.

The Mandara Spa, located at the aft of the ship next to the fitness center, is big and elegant. Run by the Mandara division of Steiner Leisure, it offers the usual at-sea spa treatments, but the destination also allows it to creatively provide themed services like the traditional Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage, created for Hawaiian royalty and passed down through the generations. Port days (and there are a lot of them) mean discounts on everything from manicures to teeth-whitening. There are also complimentary sauna and steam rooms.

Note: Almost all signage indicates that you have to use the aft stairs to get from Deck 11 to the spa, but mobility-impaired passengers can access it by using one of the aft elevators. We actually got quite lost looking for the spa and fitness center. The stairs/elevator are right by La Cucina, adjacent to the very end of the Aloha Cafe seating. (If you hit Moderno, you've gone too far.) There are also doors from the outside deck behind the Oasis Pool.

Family

Norwegian is one of our favorite lines for family cruising, and Pride of America is no exception. The ship's Splash Academy kids club on Deck 12 midship is bright and cheery, with a climbing maze, computer stations and plenty of play space. It also has a kiddie pool adjacent to the hangout space. Potty-trained kids from 3 years old are welcome; there are complimentary age- and destination-appropriate activities available for children up to 12 years old. The kids are divided into age groups: Turtles (3 to 5 years), Seals (6 to 9 years) and Dolphins (10 to 12 years). Free programming runs from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily, with activities like teddy bear adventures, pirate treasure hunts and wacky water games for Turtles; Hollywood Night, Mad Scientist's Lab and sports court play for Seals; and wacky dress dance parties, crazy ball games and Wii play for Dolphins.

Norwegian doesn't offer private childcare, but it does have group baby-sitting services nightly from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. ($6 per hour, per solo child, or $4 per hour, per child, if there are multiple siblings). In addition, kids can take their meals with the kids club for $6 per child; breakfast is from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., lunch from noon to 1 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Other youth activities do not take place during mealtimes.

Kids younger than 3 are not allowed in Splash Academy, even with a parent. The ship does accommodate this age range with its Guppies program (for ages 6 to 35 months), consisting of free play time with age-appropriate toys (most days from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and again from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.) and the occasional hosted program for music or art. These take place in a separate playroom between Splash Academy and the teen lounge, and parents must be in attendance. Children must be at least 6 months old to sail on Pride of America.

The Entourage Teen Club, a "mom- and dad-free zone" for the 13- to 17-year-olds, is comfy and relaxing with its leopard-print couches and beanbag chairs, music library and computer stations. We saw young adults in there at all hours. (Parents might not be allowed, but you can see into the space through the windows.) Because of the port-intensive itineraries, teen activities usually take place in the afternoons and evenings only, with the lounge closing at 1 a.m. Activities might include late-night pool parties; board games, video games and sports competitions; and scavenger hunts.

Pride of America also encourages family togetherness by way of family craft activities, pizza parties and the like.

Fellow Passengers

Pride of America's passengers run the gamut from multigenerational family groups to honeymooners and everyone in between. There is also a nice international flavor to the passenger mix. After Americans, Canadians and Australians are the biggest groups; our cruise had a significant number of Japanese travelers, as well. During school holidays, expect up to 500 kids onboard; a low-season cruise might have just 50. This is a relaxed but destination-intensive cruise, designed for people -- no matter where they're from -- who want to experience Hawaii. While the ship offers everything you'll need or want, it's understood that it plays second fiddle to the islands' allure.

Dress Code

If you've been hoarding those Hilo Hattie muumuus or surf shirts that were popular in the '60s, bring 'em along. Dress is tropical-casual day and night, with one discretionary formal night on which you're not required to dress up. The occasional "Polynesian" or "Hawaiian" theme night calls for dressing island-style, but many don their aloha-wear throughout the cruise. People also bring white duds for the "White Hot Party" and do go all out; we saw clingy white dresses and white suit jackets. Beachwear, tank tops for men, ball caps and visors, flip-flops and overly faded or torn jeans are not allowed in the dining rooms; swimwear is allowed in the buffet during the day. For dining in the Jefferson Bistro or Liberty Dining Room, women may wear tops with slacks, jeans, dresses or skirts, and men are advised to wear slacks or jeans with collared shirts and closed-toe shoes. Kids younger than 12 can wear nice shorts in any dining room.

Gratuity

Pride of America has an automatic gratuity program that costs $12 per passenger (3 years and older), per day, and covers tips for all services -- including those provided by room stewards and restaurant waitstaff. Passengers can adjust this amount in either direction by asking at the reception desk.

There's a 15 percent auto-gratuity for bar bills and 18 percent for spa services and fitness center classes.

Cruise Critic

Cruise reviews are provided by CruiseCritic.com, an award-winning cruise community and online resource for objective cruise information, published by The Independent Traveler. Copyright 1995-2009, The Independent Traveler, Inc. All rights reserved. Travelocity.com LP neither assumes any liability nor makes any representations with respect to cruise reviews and other content provided by CruiseCritic.com. Before relying on any information in a cruise review, we recommend that passengers confirm the information with the cruise line.


2. Now consider these offers:

Exclamation - April Shower of Cruise Savings! Receive up to $750 in Cruise Cash!
Exclamation - Receive up to $200 in On-board Credit!
Special - Get Your Next 7-Night Stay at a Resort Destination Free*
Sale - Receive $200 in On-Board Credits for booking a Balcony, Suite or The Haven stateroom on the Pride of America.
Exclamation - Receive up to $500 off if you are a Resident of Hawaii or California.  Watch the price drop!  Proof of residency required at time of booking.
Sale - Up to $300 On-Board Credit for booking a Suite or The Haven
Sale - AARP members receive a 5% discount + FREE Stateroom Upgrades + Save up to $250 on select sailings
Special Star - Ultimate Beverage Package (Ages 21+) Discounts!
Anchor - Save 10% with the Military Appreciation Program!
Special Star - Specialty Dining Discount!
Sale - Enjoy special savings if you live in a qualifying state.
Credit - Receive $75 Onboard Credit
Credit - Receive $50 On-board Credit from NORWEGIAN
Pay No Service Fees
No Booking Fees! Book online or call a Cruise Expert at 1.877.815.5446!

3. And now select your cruise dates:**


Apr-May-Jun 2014 Cruise Offers*** Inside Oceanview Balcony Suite
Apr 19 - 26, 2014 Credit - Receive $50 On-board Credit from NORWEGIANSale - Enjoy special savings if you live in a qualifying state.Anchor - Save 10% with the Military Appreciation Program!Sale - AARP members receive a 5% discount + FREE Stateroom Upgrades + Save up to $250 on select sailingsExclamation - Receive up to $500 off if you are a Resident of Hawaii or California.  Watch the price drop!  Proof of residency required at time of booking.Sale - Receive $200 in On-Board Credits for booking a Balcony, Suite or The Haven stateroom on the Pride of America.Special - Get Your Next 7-Night Stay at a Resort Destination Free*Exclamation - Receive up to $200 in On-board Credit!
$779lowest price $859lowest price $1,299lowest price

Call to Book 877-815-5446

Apr 26 - May 3, 2014 Credit - Receive $50 On-board Credit from NORWEGIANSale - Enjoy special savings if you live in a qualifying state.Anchor - Save 10% with the Military Appreciation Program!Sale - AARP members receive a 5% discount + FREE Stateroom Upgrades + Save up to $250 on select sailingsExclamation - Receive up to $500 off if you are a Resident of Hawaii or California.  Watch the price drop!  Proof of residency required at time of booking.Sale - Receive $200 in On-Board Credits for booking a Balcony, Suite or The Haven stateroom on the Pride of America.Special - Get Your Next 7-Night Stay at a Resort Destination Free*Exclamation - Receive up to $200 in On-board Credit!
$949
$1,049
$1,349

Call to Book 877-815-5446

May 3 - 10, 2014 Credit - Receive $50 On-board Credit from NORWEGIANSale - Enjoy special savings if you live in a qualifying state.Special Star - Specialty Dining Discount!Anchor - Save 10% with the Military Appreciation Program!Special Star - Ultimate Beverage Package (Ages 21+) Discounts!Sale - AARP members receive a 5% discount + FREE Stateroom Upgrades + Save up to $250 on select sailingsExclamation - Receive up to $500 off if you are a Resident of Hawaii or California.  Watch the price drop!  Proof of residency required at time of booking.Sale - Receive $200 in On-Board Credits for booking a Balcony, Suite or The Haven stateroom on the Pride of America.Special - Get Your Next 7-Night Stay at a Resort Destination Free*Exclamation - Receive up to $200 in On-board Credit!Exclamation - April Shower of Cruise Savings! Receive up to $750 in Cruise Cash!
$949
$999
$1,299lowest price $3,099
May 10 - 17, 2014 Credit - Receive $50 On-board Credit from NORWEGIANSale - Enjoy special savings if you live in a qualifying state.Special Star - Specialty Dining Discount!Anchor - Save 10% with the Military Appreciation Program!Special Star - Ultimate Beverage Package (Ages 21+) Discounts!Sale - AARP members receive a 5% discount + FREE Stateroom Upgrades + Save up to $250 on select sailingsExclamation - Receive up to $500 off if you are a Resident of Hawaii or California.  Watch the price drop!  Proof of residency required at time of booking.Sale - Receive $200 in On-Board Credits for booking a Balcony, Suite or The Haven stateroom on the Pride of America.Special - Get Your Next 7-Night Stay at a Resort Destination Free*Exclamation - Receive up to $200 in On-board Credit!Exclamation - April Shower of Cruise Savings! Receive up to $750 in Cruise Cash!
$999
$1,099
$1,399

Call to Book 877-815-5446

May 17 - 24, 2014 Credit - Receive $50 On-board Credit from NORWEGIANSale - Enjoy special savings if you live in a qualifying state.Special Star - Specialty Dining Discount!Anchor - Save 10% with the Military Appreciation Program!Special Star - Ultimate Beverage Package (Ages 21+) Discounts!Sale - AARP members receive a 5% discount + FREE Stateroom Upgrades + Save up to $250 on select sailingsExclamation - Receive up to $500 off if you are a Resident of Hawaii or California.  Watch the price drop!  Proof of residency required at time of booking.Sale - Receive $200 in On-Board Credits for booking a Balcony, Suite or The Haven stateroom on the Pride of America.Special - Get Your Next 7-Night Stay at a Resort Destination Free*Exclamation - Receive up to $200 in On-board Credit!Exclamation - April Shower of Cruise Savings! Receive up to $750 in Cruise Cash!
$999
$1,099
$1,399
$2,249
May 24 - 31, 2014 Credit - Receive $50 On-board Credit from NORWEGIANSale - Enjoy special savings if you live in a qualifying state.Special Star - Specialty Dining Discount!Anchor - Save 10% with the Military Appreciation Program!Special Star - Ultimate Beverage Package (Ages 21+) Discounts!Sale - AARP members receive a 5% discount + FREE Stateroom Upgrades + Save up to $250 on select sailingsExclamation - Receive up to $500 off if you are a Resident of Hawaii or California.  Watch the price drop!  Proof of residency required at time of booking.Sale - Receive $200 in On-Board Credits for booking a Balcony, Suite or The Haven stateroom on the Pride of America.Special - Get Your Next 7-Night Stay at a Resort Destination Free*Exclamation - Receive up to $200 in On-board Credit!Exclamation - April Shower of Cruise Savings! Receive up to $750 in Cruise Cash!
$1,049
$1,149
$1,379

Call to Book 877-815-5446

May 31 - Jun 7, 2014 Sale - Enjoy special savings if you live in a qualifying state.Special Star - Specialty Dining Discount!Anchor - Save 10% with the Military Appreciation Program!Special Star - Ultimate Beverage Package (Ages 21+) Discounts!Sale - AARP members receive a 5% discount + FREE Stateroom Upgrades + Save up to $250 on select sailingsExclamation - Receive up to $500 off if you are a Resident of Hawaii or California.  Watch the price drop!  Proof of residency required at time of booking.Sale - Receive $200 in On-Board Credits for booking a Balcony, Suite or The Haven stateroom on the Pride of America.Special - Get Your Next 7-Night Stay at a Resort Destination Free*Exclamation - Receive up to $200 in On-board Credit!Exclamation - April Shower of Cruise Savings! Receive up to $750 in Cruise Cash!
$949
$1,049
$1,299lowest price $1,799lowest price
Jun 7 - 14, 2014 Credit - Receive $50 On-board Credit from NORWEGIANSpecial Star - Specialty Dining Discount!Anchor - Save 10% with the Military Appreciation Program!Special Star - Ultimate Beverage Package (Ages 21+) Discounts!Sale - AARP members receive a 5% discount + FREE Stateroom Upgrades + Save up to $250 on select sailingsExclamation - Receive up to $500 off if you are a Resident of Hawaii or California.  Watch the price drop!  Proof of residency required at time of booking.Sale - Receive $200 in On-Board Credits for booking a Balcony, Suite or The Haven stateroom on the Pride of America.Special - Get Your Next 7-Night Stay at a Resort Destination Free*Exclamation - Receive up to $200 in On-board Credit!Exclamation - April Shower of Cruise Savings! Receive up to $750 in Cruise Cash!
$1,149
$1,249
$1,549
$2,399
Jun 14 - 21, 2014 Credit - Receive $50 On-board Credit from NORWEGIANSpecial Star - Specialty Dining Discount!Anchor - Save 10% with the Military Appreciation Program!Special Star - Ultimate Beverage Package (Ages 21+) Discounts!Sale - AARP members receive a 5% discount + FREE Stateroom Upgrades + Save up to $250 on select sailingsExclamation - Receive up to $500 off if you are a Resident of Hawaii or California.  Watch the price drop!  Proof of residency required at time of booking.Sale - Receive $200 in On-Board Credits for booking a Balcony, Suite or The Haven stateroom on the Pride of America.Special - Get Your Next 7-Night Stay at a Resort Destination Free*Exclamation - Receive up to $200 in On-board Credit!Exclamation - April Shower of Cruise Savings! Receive up to $750 in Cruise Cash!
$1,199
$1,299
$1,499
$2,699
Jun 21 - 28, 2014 Special Star - Specialty Dining Discount!Anchor - Save 10% with the Military Appreciation Program!Special Star - Ultimate Beverage Package (Ages 21+) Discounts!Sale - AARP members receive a 5% discount + FREE Stateroom Upgrades + Save up to $250 on select sailingsExclamation - Receive up to $500 off if you are a Resident of Hawaii or California.  Watch the price drop!  Proof of residency required at time of booking.Sale - Receive $200 in On-Board Credits for booking a Balcony, Suite or The Haven stateroom on the Pride of America.Special - Get Your Next 7-Night Stay at a Resort Destination Free*Exclamation - Receive up to $200 in On-board Credit!Exclamation - April Shower of Cruise Savings! Receive up to $750 in Cruise Cash!
$1,399
$1,399
$1,699
$3,299
Jun 28 - Jul 5, 2014 Credit - Receive $50 On-board Credit from NORWEGIANSpecial Star - Specialty Dining Discount!Anchor - Save 10% with the Military Appreciation Program!Special Star - Ultimate Beverage Package (Ages 21+) Discounts!Sale - AARP members receive a 5% discount + FREE Stateroom Upgrades + Save up to $250 on select sailingsExclamation - Receive up to $500 off if you are a Resident of Hawaii or California.  Watch the price drop!  Proof of residency required at time of booking.Sale - Receive $200 in On-Board Credits for booking a Balcony, Suite or The Haven stateroom on the Pride of America.Special - Get Your Next 7-Night Stay at a Resort Destination Free*Exclamation - Receive up to $200 in On-board Credit!Exclamation - April Shower of Cruise Savings! Receive up to $750 in Cruise Cash!
$1,249
$1,849
$1,999
$3,299

For planning or booking assistance, please call a Travelocity Cruise Expert at 877-815-5446.


Cruise Details

Included: Shipboard Accommodations, Meals, Some Beverages, Onboard Entertainment and Daily Activities, Port Charges, 24-Hour Room Service

Not Included: Shore Excursions, Personal Expenses, Gratuities, Alcoholic Beverages, Specialty Restaurants, Spa Treatments, Some Taxes

Optional Add-Ons: Flights, Hotels, Transfers, Insurance


N/A: This stateroom type does not exist on this ship.

*All itineraries are subject to change without notice.

**Prices are per person/double occupancy. Additional Taxes and Fees - opens in a new window will apply.

***Some Cruise Offers are dependent on the type of stateroom purchased.