The Owner’s Suite on the Pride of America includes a large balcony.
It’s been more than eight years since Norwegian Cruise Line’s 80,439-ton Pride of America launched on year-round service from Hawaii. But after a drydock earlier this year, the 2,186-passenger ship is fully refreshed with a major makeover. “We’ve recently invested over $30 million in the ship,” said Andy Stuart, Norwegian’s executive vice president of global sales and passenger services. “It’s a huge investment across the whole ship.” The ship now has new restaurants, new decor, refreshed staterooms, ship-wide Wi-Fi, fancy new suites, and solo and inside cabins.
Because Pride of America is American-flagged, it doesn’t have to abide by the strict requirements of the Jones Act, a U.S. law which requires all foreign-flagged vessels to include a foreign port call on every itinerary that calls in the U.S. Pride of America is the only big ship that meets that requirement, so it never has to leave the islands while operating a seven-night Hawaii cruise. Guests spend 100 hours ashore per cruise and visit all four major islands in Hawaii.
The ship embarks at Honolulu and then sails to Nawiliwili, Kauai; Maui for a two day visit on most itineraries; and calls at both Kona and Hilo on Hawaii (known to many as The Big Island), before a return to Hono-lulu. Every voyage includes one or two overnights in port. Guests might go whale watching, learn to surf on Waikiki Beach, witness Kilauea Volcano’s dramatic lava flow into the sea, enjoy Kauai’s tropical landscapes and view scenery along the Na Pali Coast.
Other foreign-flagged cruise vessels offering Hawaii itineraries typically spend only three or four days in Hawaii; those voyages have lots of sea days and typically may be 12 to 14 days in length, too long for some families or working professionals. Why are the voyages so long? Vessels must transit the Pacific Ocean to or from Canada, Mexico or the South Pacific, to name a few choices for the required foreign port call. For example, a common Hawaii big-ship itinerary might sail roundtrip from Los Angeles with a stop at Ensenada, Mexico.
Higher Fares, Improved Product
Hawaii as a region will represent six percent of Norwegian’s overall capacity in 2014. That compares to 33 percent in the Caribbean, 21 percent in Europe, 16 percent in Florida and the Bahamas, eight percent in Bermuda, seven percent in Alaska and nine percent elsewhere.
Cruise fares in Hawaii have edged higher, according to Norwegian, as the American-flagged Pride of America is attracting strong demand as the only major cruise ship sailing year-round from Honolulu. As a result, Norwegian raised pricing 10 percent on the ship’s sailings, effective January 1, 2013. “It’s getting very attractive pricing—really high pricing—which is good for us and it’s good for our travel partners,” said Stuart. “It’s great commission [for agents] in Hawaii.”
In addition, Stuart said, “The ship has been delivering very, very high satisfaction levels.” That’s significant, because in past years, some agents had received negative client feedback about service by the ship’s predominantly American crew, a requirement of the ship’s U.S. flag status. Experienced travel sellers Candie and Dick Steinman, owners of a CruiseOne agency in Fort Myers, FL, hadn’t previously sailed on the ship. But over the years, they’ve had returning clients unhappy with the American crew’s service.
So when the Steinmans boarded Pride of America for Norwegian’s “Seminar at Sea” sailing on August 31, “We were not expecting a beautiful ship, extremely friendly staff or great service—but this is what Norwegian delivered,” Candie Steinman says.
Approximately 75 agents have seen or will see the newly refreshed ship during two “Seminar at Sea” programs; half attended the August program with the Steinmans, while the rest will sail in December. “The service from the crew was the highlight of the whole trip,” said Dick Steinman. “We met Martha and Ellie our first day onboard and they delighted us with stories and their kindness throughout the week.”
People who like the thought of “sailing American” will appreciate the ship’s Americana theme. For example, onboard venues carry such names as Liberty Restaurant, Jefferson’s Bistro, Cadillac Diner, Gold Rush Saloon, Aloha Café, Hollywood Theater and the Capitol Atrium; the latter venue’s decor is inspired by the U.S. Capitol building and the White House, with a stone floor and backlit glass dome. Guests also might enjoy a drink at the New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Cabaret Lounge or Waikiki Bar.
But while the decor theme is down-home Americana, guests are still immersed in Norwegian’s Freestyle Cruising product, just as they would onboard any of Norwegian’s foreign-flagged vessels. Pride of America has 18 restaurants and nine bars and lounges. Newly added during the drydock earlier this year were Moderno Churrascaria, a Brazilian-style steakhouse, as well as the line’s signature Cagney’s Steakhouse. “Both steakhouses offered the traditional Norwegian [dining] experience in these new venues and [were] a wonderful alternative to dining onboard Pride of America,” said Candie Steinman. “We also dined in the Teppanyaki as well as La Cucina and enjoyed all.”
Staterooms and Suites
Accommodations range from family staterooms, spacious suites and more balconies than any other ship cruising Hawaii regularly. New suites and staterooms were added in this year’s drydock. On Deck 13, 24 new suites were outfitted with custom furnishings, fabrics, carpets and bathrooms. Two of the 24 suites are 566-square-foot Owner’s Suites. Sleeping up to four guests, the Owner’s Suites have a large bedroom, separate living area and bathroom with custom mosaic tiles.
The remaining suites are Penthouse Suites—including two Deluxe Penthouse Suites with Large Balcony—ranging from 363 to 459 square feet. Most sleep up to six guests. The two Owner’s Suites have connecting doors to the adjacent Penthouse Suites; those combined units can accommodate 10 guests. Guests in the new suites also have access to butlers and concierge services, as well as multiple exclusive amenities such as Tranquility mattresses from the Bliss Collection by Norwegian, Lavazza espresso makers, Elemis bath products, private dining for breakfast and lunch, and more.
The Steinmans, who stayed in a standard balcony stateroom during their cruise, toured the newly added suite area on Deck 13 with other agents. “The new suites were beautifully designed and offered special key card access to the area,” said Candie Steinman, noting that “several of the suites had balconies which overlooked the pool deck.” She also liked the decor: “The cabins are designed in soothing shades of tan and browns and are quite beautiful.”
For solo travelers, four new Studio staterooms await onboard Pride of America. Priced with one person in mind, these solo staterooms have a full-size bed along with a separate bathroom area. A recent check by Travel Agent showed the popularity of those; they are sold out for many upcoming voyages. Four new inside staterooms were also added on Deck 13.
More New Amenities
Pride of America now has ship-wide Wi-Fi; new carpeting; flat-screen TVs in all staterooms; updated decor; upgrades to the fitness center; new directional signage; renovations to the gift shop, photo gallery and art gallery; and more.
Onboard, the ship celebrates Hawaii’s culture. Guests taste local foods, watch native entertainers and participate in enrichment activities conducted by Hawaii Ambassadors. Interested clients might also choose to take hula and Tahitian dance lessons.
Other onboard diversions include stage and comedy shows, dance clubs, bars, lounges, piano bars and live music. Fitness buffs will find an onboard fitness center and sports court. Sun seekers can head for pools or relax in hot tubs. Kids, ages 3 to 17, may participate in supervised children’s activity programs.
The Steinmans described Norwegian’s Hawaii shore excursion program as varied and well run. In particular, “Norwegian boasts a wonderful seamless experience at the Mariott Waikiki,” said Candie Steinman. She also likes the line’s 2014 addition of new three-night, pre-cruise Oahu Explorer tours.
For clients who like a big-ship experience, lots of activities, Americana theme, Hawaii cultural programs and maximum Hawaii port time on a weeklong cruise, Pride of America offers much and is newly refreshed. With higher commission checks than in the past, now may be the time to say “Aloha” for 2014 and beyond.
Pool deck on the Pride of America
A Small Ship Hawaii Sailing?
Clients prefer a small ship experience in Hawaii? Un-Cruise Adventures operates an American-flagged small ship, Safari Explorer, during this winter season. Through April 2014, the “Hawaiian Seascapes” itinerary operates from Molokai to Hawaii (The Big Island) and in reverse. Safari Explorer calls at off-the-beaten path coves and destinations big ships can’t reach. Eco-experiences, history and Hawaiian culture are on tap.
Guests go snorkeling among coral gardens and at a sea turtle habitat as well as head out for night snorkeling with Giant Pacific Manta rays. They also search for marine life in the Humpback National Marine Sanctuary; enjoy an evening pa’ina (or feast) and Hawaiian jam session with Molokai locals; visit Molokai’s ancient Halawa Valley; learn about island history at the Lana’i Culture and Heritage Center; and spend time kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, beachcombing and exploring via skiffs. Un-Cruise Adventures also offers optional pre- or post-cruise hotel stays on both Molokai and The Big Island.
Hurtigruten Is Hunting for Northern Lights This Winter
The aurora borealis (northern lights) is a signature element of Hurtigruten’s Classic Winter Voyages between Bergen and the Norway/Russia border town of Kirkenes. Ships sail above the Arctic Circle during the peak viewing season when nights are longest. There will be onboard lectures about the phenomenon and photography tips will be offered.
‘American Queen’ to Participate In Riverboat Centennial Festival In 2014, the American Queen will attend the Centennial Festival of Riverboats, a historic gathering and celebration of U.S. riverboat heritage at Louisville’s Waterfront Park, October 14-19. The event, honoring the 100th birthday of the Belle of Louisville, will be marked by the presence of nine diverse riverboats from across the U.S.
New Scenic Cruises Ship Set to Sail the Seine Scenic Cruises has constructed a new ship that was made to navigate the tricky parts of the Seine, parts of which are inaccessible to standard river cruise ships. The Scenic Gem will sail from Paris to Honfleur on a new 11-day Gems of the Seine cruise, which can be combined with the Southern France itinerary.
American Queen stateroom