NCL Pride of America with coral and palm tree

NCL Hawaii Cruise on Pride of America

We share details from our NCL Hawaii Cruise. We recently sailed the Hawaiian Islands on the NCL Pride of America. This was a fantastic way to see sample the islands and get a taste of the best of Hawaii.

NCL Hawaii Cruise Overview

For years, we talked about going to Hawaii. It was a literally on our bucket list and yet there was always a reason not to go. Finally one day we looked at each other and said ‘book the trip’. It was among the best travel adventures we have experienced.

As we started the cruise part of this Hawaiian Island Adventure, we had a few questions.

  • Is a Hawaiian Cruise on the Pride of America worth it?
  • Is an NCL Pride of America cruise the best way to get a sample of the Hawaiian Islands?
  • Should we get a balcony stateroom?
  • Should we explore on our own or book shore excursions through the NCL?
  • If we book excursions, which ones would work best ones for us?
  • Would a port-heavy itinerary be relaxing?

We hope to answer as many of these questions as possible. However, there is too much to include in just one video or post. We are creating a series of posts and videos to share what we learned and help you plan your adventure.

NCL Pride of America with coral and palm tree

Since it is a long trip, we thought it might be good to have a little extra time to get used to the time difference before the cruise. So, we booked three nights at the Waikiki Beach Marriott (video review). Our stay in Waikiki was fantastic and we shared the highlights in our Waikiki Beach post.


NCL sails the Pride of America weekly departing each Saturday. The cruise starts in Honolulu. It is a port-heavy itinerary with no sea days. You’ll be in port every day which gives you more time to explore. When the ship does move, it does so at night.

First top is Maui where it stays overnight. Then, it visits two ports on the big island – Hilo and Kona – enabling you to more easily see things on both sides. The final destination is Kauai where it again stays overnight. After Kauai, the ship heads back to Honolulu. Every island is different and you get to see a good sample of what the Hawaiian Islands have to offer.

Waimea Canyon

We’ll cover the excursions we took in a future post. However, we loved our adventure and saw some amazing things including:

  • watching a sunset from above the clouds
  • walking on an active volcano
  • hiking along a canyon that is as amazing as the Grand Canyon
  • waling on a back sand beach
woman watching a sunset high in the mountains

To get the most out of your cruise, you’ll need to do some planning in advance. The ports are working ports. For most, you need to have a plan as you can’t just walk of the ship and find things to do. In that way, it is a bit different than a Caribbean cruise where you mind find shopping, dining, and fun activities just steps from your ship.

Check-in and Boarding

We did as much as possible before getting on the ship. We did on the online check in as soon as it was available. We watched the safety video at home before we departed. And, we were able to select a boarding time in advance.

Those steps led to a smooth boarding process. After taking a pre-arranged taxi from the hotel to the port, check in was fast and easy. We dropped our suitcases off, registered at the check-in station, and proceeded to board the ship.

Our muster station was on the way into the ship. They scanned our ship card and verified we had done the safety video. After just a few minutes, we were on our way.

Since our room wouldn’t be ready until 3 or 4, we had time to explore the ship. You might head to the pool, visit a bar, have lunch at one of the open restaurants, or find a quite place like the library to read. Don’t try to do it all – you’ll have all week to see and do everything. My recommendation is that you keep just the essentials with you in a small bag or backpack and pick just one thing to do until your room is available.

Pride of America – The Ship

NCL’s Pride of America is the only US flagged cruise ship in the world. She flies the American flag on her stern.

American flag flying off stern of NCL Pride of America

The American theme is carried throughout the ship, decorations, and venues. You’ll see Jefferson’s Bistro and the John Adams coffee bar. There are places like the Napa Wine Bar, Club Mardi Gras, and Gold Rush Saloon.

Pride of America launched in 2005 so it is a relatively old cruise ship. However, it has been refurbished several times including in 2022. The ship can accommodate up to 2,186 passengers and 950 crew. She is the only ship like her in the NCL fleet.

Pool area on the NCL Pride of America

The Pride of America is a traditional cruise ship. It has all the essential amenities like a pool, hot tubs, restaurants, and entertainment venues. What you won’t find are things like go karts, water slides, ice rinks or the other things that are being added to newer ships. The experience is more about vising the islands than about cruise ship features. You also won’t find a casino aboard. While there is some shopping on board, it was fairly limited.

Balcony Stateroom on NCL Pride of America

We opted for a port-side balcony stateroom. This was a first for us as we usually get an inside room. However, for Hawaii, the splurge seemed worth it. And, we absolutely loved having the balcony. It was nice to wake up in the morning to the view of an island emerging as we pulled into port.

View of island from balcony stateroom on NCL Hawaii Cruise

While cruise ship rooms are usually not large, the room was big enough for us. Everything was clean an comfortable. Our room steward did a good job keeping things nice.

Our stateroom had plenty of storage. We unpacked our bags at the start of the trip and stowed our luggage under the bed. There was plenty of room for everything.

We’ll have more on the room in an upcoming post and video.

Dining on Pride of America

One of the reasons people like to cruise is for the dining experience. How was the food on the Pride of America? Overall it was good.

There are two main dining rooms available; Skyline and Liberty. They are really just two floors of the same venue, each uniquely decorated. Skyline is themed to feel like New York.

Skyline dining room on the NCL Pride of America

We had several meals in the main dining rooms. Overall, the food and service were good.

Charcuterie appetizer in the main dining room on the Pride of America

For each meal, you can order an appetizer, entree, and dessert. Of course, you can actually order more if you are really hungry. Some menu items stay the same while there are some available only on select nights.

Another included option is the buffet which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We usually opted for the buffet for breakfast and there was a good variety of food. There are two sides that mirror each other so if one side feels busy, just try the other. Make sure you try the Bircher Muesli, which is a great start to the day.

Breakfast on the aft terrace of the Pride of America cruise ship

We enjoyed having our breakfast outside and enjoying the view. Just head from the buffet toward the back of the ship.

There are several specialty dining restaurants available on Pride of America. We really enjoyed Cagney’s Steakhouse. Fantastic food and service. We also tried the Italian restaurant La Cucina which was pretty good.

Shrimp dinner at Cagney's Steakhouse on the Pride of America cruise ship

One dining experience that was kind of a miss was the Cadillac Diner. We were really looking forward to a diner experience with burgers and milkshakes. Well, at least the rest of our dining on the Pride was great.

Bars on the Pride of America

There is a good bar selection on the Pride of America including pool bars, wine bars, and more. With the drink package included as part of Free at Sea, you’ll have the opportunity to try any drink you like, up to $15, which includes most beverages. We especially like the Mai Tai from the Aloha Lanai Bar.

Mai Tai held up with a sunset view

Pride of America Entertainment

While many newer cruise ships have fantastic Broadway show quality entertainment, the offerings on the Pride of America were a bit more basic. Each night, you’ll find solo performers or duets at each of the bars.

The Hollywood Theater shows a variety of entertainment such as movies, bands, or a comedian. We enjoyed the comedian on our cruise.

Inside view of the Hollywood Theater on NCL Pride of America

Some of the best entertainment were the events put on by the cruise staff including shows such as the Not So Newlywed Game or the Perfect Couple. These were in the Mardi Gras Theater, a nice multipurpose venue.

Was the NCL Hawaiian Island Cruise Worth It?

We really enjoyed our visit to the Hawaiian Islands on NCL’s Pride of America.

  • Was a cruise on the Pride of America worth it? Yes!
  • Would we do another NCL Hawaiian Island cruise? Yes, absolutely.
  • Was a balcony stateroom worth it? Yes. The views were fantastic.
  • With a port-heavy itinerary, did you still have time to relax and enjoy the Pride of America? Yes.
  • Was Free at Sea a good deal? Overall, yes. It’s nice to not have a surprise bill at the end.
  • Did we get a good sample of the Hawaiian Island experience? Yes. We saw many of the must do Hawaiian Island attractions.
  • What would you do differently next time? Our approach of using shore excursions worked well this time. Next time we might explore more on our own. And get fish tacos & pie in Kauai.

NCL Hawaii Cruise YouTube Video

Check out our NCL Hawaii Cruise YouTube video where we show the highlights of the Hawaiian Islands Cruise portion of our Hawaiian Islands adventure.

NCL Pride of America Hawaiian Islands Cruise YouTube video thumbnail showing the Pride of America

Leave a Comment

Have you sailed on NCL’s Pride of America? What was your experience like? Do you have tips to share? We’d love to hear all about it. Please leave us a comment.

If you like this, be sure to watch for our the rest of our Hawaiian Islands Adventure series.

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