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My wife, Audrey Newman, our grandson Gavin, and I, Howard Wallenstein, had been looking forward to this trip through the Panama Canal on NCL's newest ship Pride of America. Our first sight of her alongside the pier in Miami on June 25th was not a disappointment. Her gleaming white hull with the distinctive artwork was spectacular. Further, we were not disappointed in the beautiful public rooms and our staterooms. Unfortunately, the joy ended here. Our Experience: The ship layout appears to be of random design. It is not possible to access the Liberty Dining Room (the "upstairs" to the Skyline Dining Rooms' "downstairs") directly from anywhere else on the ship except from the aft elevators or through the Skyline Dining Room. On several occasions we had to go out onto the weather decks in the rain to get around either the Cadillac Diner or the Lazy J Steak House as opposed to going all the way forward and down to the fifth deck and then aft and through the Skyline Restaurant. Very annoying. The Pride of America was about 18 or 20 days out of the building yards in Bremerhaven when we boarded, and the air conditioning system was not under control. All the public rooms, the restaurants, main lobby, and the Hollywood theater were too cold to linger in without a warm sweater or jacket. Several rooms had no a/c at all. Tests were run almost daily on our staterooms "to determine the full load capacity" we were told. This required placing our a/c control in maximum cooling while locking the controls. We were told that "these tests were only for an hour". Four hours later they were still under "test," and repeated calls to reception produced no technician's appearance. Finally, five hours later a technician appeared, and I closely observed his procedure in unlocking our a/c control. During this "test" our room temperature dropped into the 50's, and the room became uninhabitable. Where could we go? All the public rooms were of the same temperature. Who brings cold weather clothing onto a cruise into the tropics? All further "tests" were limited by me to one hour, and then I unlocked the a/c control and put on the heat! The two rooms next to ours were occupied by our grandsons and dear friends. I stopped the "tests" in these rooms as well. The next most serious problem was in the dining rooms. These comments are for the Skyline and Liberty Dining rooms, Little Italy (until the last two days when the management changed - more later on this issue), Lazy J Steak House, and East Meets West. There are two major problems: food preparation and service. Food preparation first. I cannot comment on the layout or management of the galleys since we were unable to observe them first hand, however ongoing bottlenecks caused delays in food preparation all cruise long. The first night the appearance of the steak, which everyone ordered, was delayed over one hour. That's right, we sat on our hands for more than one hour after the appetizer, soup and salad were served. Has no one aboard operated a large dining room before? We had problems completing our meals in less than two and a half hours. We started initially planning to go to dinner at 7:30 planning on attending the 9:30 show in the Hollywood theater. We were forced to miss dessert and rush through the entrEe or miss the start of the entertainment. Eventually we started dinner at 6:45 with the request to our waiter to complete meal service by 9:00 p.m.. Late arrival at the show meant that our family of six could not sit together. Additionally the waiter and his assistant were reversed in their interaction from what we had observed, and enjoyed, on our prior 25 or so cruises. Aboard the Pride of America the waiters had the job of running to the galley to fetch the food, and the assistant cleared the table, set the bread service, and (sometimes, when he remembered) get the drink order. This forced the least experienced member of the table service crew to manage the meal experience. One evening at the start of the cruise Mr. Michael Landry, whose card has the title "Food and Beverage Director" stopped at our table and inquired "How are things going? Do you have any comments about the food experience?" We described the above observations to him. The only change from the pattern we have described was the next day when all the tables for two were clustered in the front of the room in response to complaints from several couples that the "fuss" caused by several small children was disturbing their meal, and the "romantic mood was spoiled". Of course this change had negative repercussions in that the waiters in the rest of the room now had to handle all the large tables which naturally slowed things down further. We had observed the senior ships' managers lounging in the specialty restaurants, smoking in groups in the common spaces and drinking a leisurely cup of coffee. In my 45 years experience as a Naval Officer and senior manager in the food industry I had learned to LEAD BY EXAMPLE. The lack of hands-on supervision was visible in all ship operations. The only exception to this ship wide problem was in the Cadillac Grill. The manager of this operation was David Verschoor. He closely managed the Grill. Service was prompt, the wait staff were attentive and appeared well trained and competent. The last two days of the cruise his talent must have been spotted and he was transferred to the Little Italy Restaurant. We had our last meal of the cruise in this dining room and the change from our first experience was like night and day. This proves my contention that management is severely lacking on the Pride of America. On the same subject: there is a serious fault somewhere in the food handling chain. My wife, myself, and our grandson had a severe case of "runny tummy". In the case of our grandson (13 years old) it required two trips to the ships' doctor. We found him caring and competent. He was very concerned that this might be a transmittable form, and quarantined Gavin to his room for 24 hours. He prescribed a bland diet which would be served to him in his room by Room Service. Room service could/would not comply. All attempts to order white rice and plain chicken failed. "It is not on the menu, we will not make something special". We coped by delivering food from the Aloha Buffet. An informal interviewing of all the people we came across during the last three days revealed that almost one person of each couple questioned reported a case of "runny tummy". By informal count we spoke to over 250 couples. This is a serious problem. One more fact on the subject of food preparation. The garbage handling system for the Aloha Grill was built too close to the Little Italy Dining Room forcing the Little Italy Dining Room which is directly next to the Aloha Grill to fetch its' food from the main dining rooms six decks away. Yet, under Mr. Verschoor's management the service and dining experience was excellent, and what we have learned to expect from a first class cruise ship. Lastly, and the most embarrassing to as an ex-Naval Officer was the total lack of seamanship on the Pride of America. Our last scheduled port visit was in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The absence of pier facilities required that shore visits must be made via tenders. We have visited this port on other ships and had experienced small boat operations before. My Naval experience was in USS Cambria (APA-36) an assault ship whose mission was landing Marines over the beach. We earned our pay by unloading, filling and dispatching landing craft. Our Pride of America schedule had us anchoring at 8:30 - 9:00 a.m. and starting tender operations by 10:00 a.m. With a scheduled ship departure at 3:00 p.m. (last boat departs shore at 2:30 p.m.) we could anticipate a brief, but tolerable four and a half hour visit. Short, but tolerable for our grandson to "taste" Mexico, and renew memories for us. Having drawn Tender #8, we anticipated a short wait, and decided to watch tender operations from the sixth deck. What I witnessed was complete chaos, and an increasingly dangerous operation. There were 3 to 4 (varying from time to time) seamen handling lines, and no visible supervision. The tenders were supplied by the port and were handled by experienced boat handlers. As I said the ship was anchored. In these conditions, there is no net current at slack tide, up to a few knots of current when the tide is running. Under all conditions the ships' head is into the source of current, as she is anchored. That is why ship designers install a bitt in the ships' hull forward of the tender platform. What is supposed to happen is that ships' sailors bend (attach) a line called a "painter" to this bitt, and it should be of sufficient length to run to the platform. As a small boat approaches, the deckhand seizes the painter, and bends it around the boats' forward cleat. This act stabilizes the boat alongside of the ship allowing the attachment of another line, and the discharge and loading of personnel. No painter was in use. Further, and adding to the dangerous situation, seamen on the platform ALWAYS bent the first line to the boat onto the aft cleat, assuring instability and the swinging of the boat at right angles to the platform causing the boat to cast off and try again. One more thing added to the chaos: when a seaman caught a line from the boat he did not know that his weight and strength was insufficient to keep the boat alongside, and he should immediately take a turn around the cleat in front of him to snub the line to keep it from running and allow its' further tightening. After watching this debacle for two hours, and listening to my fellow passengers' grumbling, I went to the Reception desk and asked to speak to the most senior officer available. The Assistant Front Desk Manager appeared. I described what I had observed and requested that this situation be made known to the responsible operating officer, and a decision made to extend the shore visit by several hours. He refused stating that the ships' schedule was unalterable. So, off I went with my grumbling shipmates. We hit shore at 12:30, had a wonderful (ha!) two hours visit, and was aboard at 2:45. Adding insult to injury during embarkation ship personnel had dispatched one of the their lifeboats to fetch supplies from the port. Loading tenders was interrupted for 35 precious minutes while the seamen attempted to bring the lifeboat alongside to receive several crew members. Then when it returned about 3:30 to unload these precious emergency supplies, four loaded tenders had to cast off and heave-to while these supplies were off loaded as a priority cargo more important that four boatloads of increasingly seasick passengers. And what was the emergency supplies? It was toilet paper and bananas! As it worked out, tender operations continued until 4:30 p.m. This delay could not be made up over the next 36 hours of cruising, and we arrived late in Los Angeles. Delays caused by the documentation of about 75 American citizen crew added to the final time we were able to debark. We used the NCL "Express Disembarkation", which means we hauled our own luggage and stood waiting in the sixth deck passageway with about 500 other guests who had elected the "Express Debarkation". Needless to say we missed our scheduled flight, and the next one we changed to, finally arriving at LAX at 12:15. Flight connections failed all day, and we arrived home exhausted the next day. All personal spirits and wine were confiscated from us upon boarding. They were returned when we arrived in LA, and this operation took over an hour. We had lots and lots of time waiting to get off. As a parting note, we found the lack of "work ethic" among the US crew as compared to foreign staffed ships. Our stateroom steward had to be reminded daily to fully replace the in-room coffee service, and wash out the pot and throw away the spent coffee filter. Our room was never dusted, and the balcony glass was not wiped to remove the salt deposits. I mention these petty items because they illustrate the condition, and many of our fellow passengers cited the same issues. Every port (even the Panama Canal) saw several crew members with their personal luggage leave the ship. Most were disenchanted by the requirements to work, and the rest were terminated for various reasons. We had heard through the "scuttlebutt" (ships' rumor mill) that 100 new crew members would be boarding in LA to take their places. Guess our answer to NCL's question: "Would you sail on an NCL ship again, and will you recommend it to a friend?"

Pride of America - Central America/Panama Canal

Pride of America Cruise Review by wally4973

Trip Details
My wife, Audrey Newman, our grandson Gavin, and I, Howard Wallenstein, had been looking forward to this trip through the Panama Canal on NCL's newest ship Pride of America. Our first sight of her alongside the pier in Miami on June 25th was not a disappointment. Her gleaming white hull with the distinctive artwork was spectacular. Further, we were not disappointed in the beautiful public rooms and our staterooms. Unfortunately, the joy ended here.
Our Experience: The ship layout appears to be of random design. It is not possible to access the Liberty Dining Room (the "upstairs" to the Skyline Dining Rooms' "downstairs") directly from anywhere else on the ship except from the aft elevators or through the Skyline Dining Room. On several occasions we had to go out onto the weather decks in the rain to get around either the Cadillac Diner or the Lazy J Steak House as opposed to going all the way forward and down to the fifth deck and then aft and through the Skyline Restaurant. Very annoying.
The Pride of America was about 18 or 20 days out of the building yards in Bremerhaven when we boarded, and the air conditioning system was not under control. All the public rooms, the restaurants, main lobby, and the Hollywood theater were too cold to linger in without a warm sweater or jacket. Several rooms had no a/c at all. Tests were run almost daily on our staterooms "to determine the full load capacity" we were told. This required placing our a/c control in maximum cooling while locking the controls. We were told that "these tests were only for an hour". Four hours later they were still under "test," and repeated calls to reception produced no technician's appearance. Finally, five hours later a technician appeared, and I closely observed his procedure in unlocking our a/c control. During this "test" our room temperature dropped into the 50's, and the room became uninhabitable. Where could we go? All the public rooms were of the same temperature. Who brings cold weather clothing onto a cruise into the tropics? All further "tests" were limited by me to one hour, and then I unlocked the a/c control and put on the heat! The two rooms next to ours were occupied by our grandsons and dear friends. I stopped the "tests" in these rooms as well.
The next most serious problem was in the dining rooms. These comments are for the Skyline and Liberty Dining rooms, Little Italy (until the last two days when the management changed - more later on this issue), Lazy J Steak House, and East Meets West. There are two major problems: food preparation and service. Food preparation first. I cannot comment on the layout or management of the galleys since we were unable to observe them first hand, however ongoing bottlenecks caused delays in food preparation all cruise long. The first night the appearance of the steak, which everyone ordered, was delayed over one hour. That's right, we sat on our hands for more than one hour after the appetizer, soup and salad were served. Has no one aboard operated a large dining room before? We had problems completing our meals in less than two and a half hours. We started initially planning to go to dinner at 7:30 planning on attending the 9:30 show in the Hollywood theater. We were forced to miss dessert and rush through the entrEe or miss the start of the entertainment. Eventually we started dinner at 6:45 with the request to our waiter to complete meal service by 9:00 p.m.. Late arrival at the show meant that our family of six could not sit together. Additionally the waiter and his assistant were reversed in their interaction from what we had observed, and enjoyed, on our prior 25 or so cruises. Aboard the Pride of America the waiters had the job of running to the galley to fetch the food, and the assistant cleared the table, set the bread service, and (sometimes, when he remembered) get the drink order. This forced the least experienced member of the table service crew to manage the meal experience. One evening at the start of the cruise Mr. Michael Landry, whose card has the title "Food and Beverage Director" stopped at our table and inquired "How are things going? Do you have any comments about the food experience?" We described the above observations to him. The only change from the pattern we have described was the next day when all the tables for two were clustered in the front of the room in response to complaints from several couples that the "fuss" caused by several small children was disturbing their meal, and the "romantic mood was spoiled". Of course this change had negative repercussions in that the waiters in the rest of the room now had to handle all the large tables which naturally slowed things down further. We had observed the senior ships' managers lounging in the specialty restaurants, smoking in groups in the common spaces and drinking a leisurely cup of coffee. In my 45 years experience as a Naval Officer and senior manager in the food industry I had learned to LEAD BY EXAMPLE.
The lack of hands-on supervision was visible in all ship operations. The only exception to this ship wide problem was in the Cadillac Grill. The manager of this operation was David Verschoor. He closely managed the Grill. Service was prompt, the wait staff were attentive and appeared well trained and competent. The last two days of the cruise his talent must have been spotted and he was transferred to the Little Italy Restaurant. We had our last meal of the cruise in this dining room and the change from our first experience was like night and day. This proves my contention that management is severely lacking on the Pride of America.
On the same subject: there is a serious fault somewhere in the food handling chain. My wife, myself, and our grandson had a severe case of "runny tummy". In the case of our grandson (13 years old) it required two trips to the ships' doctor. We found him caring and competent. He was very concerned that this might be a transmittable form, and quarantined Gavin to his room for 24 hours. He prescribed a bland diet which would be served to him in his room by Room Service. Room service could/would not comply. All attempts to order white rice and plain chicken failed. "It is not on the menu, we will not make something special". We coped by delivering food from the Aloha Buffet. An informal interviewing of all the people we came across during the last three days revealed that almost one person of each couple questioned reported a case of "runny tummy". By informal count we spoke to over 250 couples. This is a serious problem.
One more fact on the subject of food preparation. The garbage handling system for the Aloha Grill was built too close to the Little Italy Dining Room forcing the Little Italy Dining Room which is directly next to the Aloha Grill to fetch its' food from the main dining rooms six decks away. Yet, under Mr. Verschoor's management the service and dining experience was excellent, and what we have learned to expect from a first class cruise ship.
Lastly, and the most embarrassing to as an ex-Naval Officer was the total lack of seamanship on the Pride of America. Our last scheduled port visit was in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The absence of pier facilities required that shore visits must be made via tenders. We have visited this port on other ships and had experienced small boat operations before. My Naval experience was in USS Cambria (APA-36) an assault ship whose mission was landing Marines over the beach. We earned our pay by unloading, filling and dispatching landing craft. Our Pride of America schedule had us anchoring at 8:30 - 9:00 a.m. and starting tender operations by 10:00 a.m. With a scheduled ship departure at 3:00 p.m. (last boat departs shore at 2:30 p.m.) we could anticipate a brief, but tolerable four and a half hour visit. Short, but tolerable for our grandson to "taste" Mexico, and renew memories for us. Having drawn Tender #8, we anticipated a short wait, and decided to watch tender operations from the sixth deck. What I witnessed was complete chaos, and an increasingly dangerous operation. There were 3 to 4 (varying from time to time) seamen handling lines, and no visible supervision. The tenders were supplied by the port and were handled by experienced boat handlers. As I said the ship was anchored. In these conditions, there is no net current at slack tide, up to a few knots of current when the tide is running. Under all conditions the ships' head is into the source of current, as she is anchored. That is why ship designers install a bitt in the ships' hull forward of the tender platform. What is supposed to happen is that ships' sailors bend (attach) a line called a "painter" to this bitt, and it should be of sufficient length to run to the platform. As a small boat approaches, the deckhand seizes the painter, and bends it around the boats' forward cleat. This act stabilizes the boat alongside of the ship allowing the attachment of another line, and the discharge and loading of personnel. No painter was in use. Further, and adding to the dangerous situation, seamen on the platform ALWAYS bent the first line to the boat onto the aft cleat, assuring instability and the swinging of the boat at right angles to the platform causing the boat to cast off and try again. One more thing added to the chaos: when a seaman caught a line from the boat he did not know that his weight and strength was insufficient to keep the boat alongside, and he should immediately take a turn around the cleat in front of him to snub the line to keep it from running and allow its' further tightening. After watching this debacle for two hours, and listening to my fellow passengers' grumbling, I went to the Reception desk and asked to speak to the most senior officer available. The Assistant Front Desk Manager appeared. I described what I had observed and requested that this situation be made known to the responsible operating officer, and a decision made to extend the shore visit by several hours. He refused stating that the ships' schedule was unalterable. So, off I went with my grumbling shipmates. We hit shore at 12:30, had a wonderful (ha!) two hours visit, and was aboard at 2:45. Adding insult to injury during embarkation ship personnel had dispatched one of the their lifeboats to fetch supplies from the port. Loading tenders was interrupted for 35 precious minutes while the seamen attempted to bring the lifeboat alongside to receive several crew members. Then when it returned about 3:30 to unload these precious emergency supplies, four loaded tenders had to cast off and heave-to while these supplies were off loaded as a priority cargo more important that four boatloads of increasingly seasick passengers. And what was the emergency supplies? It was toilet paper and bananas! As it worked out, tender operations continued until 4:30 p.m. This delay could not be made up over the next 36 hours of cruising, and we arrived late in Los Angeles.
Delays caused by the documentation of about 75 American citizen crew added to the final time we were able to debark. We used the NCL "Express Disembarkation", which means we hauled our own luggage and stood waiting in the sixth deck passageway with about 500 other guests who had elected the "Express Debarkation". Needless to say we missed our scheduled flight, and the next one we changed to, finally arriving at LAX at 12:15. Flight connections failed all day, and we arrived home exhausted the next day. All personal spirits and wine were confiscated from us upon boarding. They were returned when we arrived in LA, and this operation took over an hour. We had lots and lots of time waiting to get off.
As a parting note, we found the lack of "work ethic" among the US crew as compared to foreign staffed ships. Our stateroom steward had to be reminded daily to fully replace the in-room coffee service, and wash out the pot and throw away the spent coffee filter. Our room was never dusted, and the balcony glass was not wiped to remove the salt deposits. I mention these petty items because they illustrate the condition, and many of our fellow passengers cited the same issues. Every port (even the Panama Canal) saw several crew members with their personal luggage leave the ship. Most were disenchanted by the requirements to work, and the rest were terminated for various reasons. We had heard through the "scuttlebutt" (ships' rumor mill) that 100 new crew members would be boarding in LA to take their places.
Guess our answer to NCL's question: "Would you sail on an NCL ship again, and will you recommend it to a friend?"
wally4973’s Full Rating Summary
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Ages 13 to 15
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