My husband Denni and I recently sailed around the Hawaiian islands on Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Pride of America, (or, as someone called her, the Gay Pride of America cruise ship, because there are so many openly gay people working onboard).
In a nutshell, I loved the Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) Pride of America (POA) experience. It wasn’t all perfect, but it was the closest thing to the experience TV’s Love Boat led me to believe cruising would be. Here are 10 things to know about cruising on this ship (note that options for Hawaii shore excursions are being written about separately).
- It is very, very American. (And I liked that fact a surprising lot).
What does that very American mean? Well, a number of things.
- Mostly it meant that 75% of the people working onboard are US citizens. If, like my husband and me, you were raised in the US or Canada, you’ll likely have an easy time relating to the staff and crew because there are far less linguistic and cultural barriers than on “international” ships. The bartender might actually become your friend and confidant, a la Isaac on the Love Boat. Ditto the purser. Ditto the cruise director staff. You might even become friends with staffers and stay connected back on land—something I’ve never felt was really an option with most staff/crew on other cruise ships.
- The American-ness also makes it easier for LGBT staff and crew to be open and out. We met several gay guys who work on the ship, in a wide variety of job types—not just the dancers, for a change!
- The American staff made Denni and I feel somewhat more at-ease in being our typical out gay selves, because they come from a country where LGBT topics are a part of the national dialog.
- The staff on POA provided service that matched the quality level of other ships I’ve experienced. While most guests seemed delighted with the staff, I did hear from one Australian guest who felt the American staff weren’t as service-oriented as traditional international staff. That was certainly not my experience.
- Before you call me xenophobic, I remind you that I also have great experiences on all kinds of ships, and have had amazing service and some nice, meaningful conversations with staff from around the globe. I simply found it really refreshing to be able to quickly, easily relate to so many staff members. On POA we also had a few international staffers, including our outstanding Indonesian cabin steward, and I was told there are a large number of Jamaicans among the 25% non-American staff.
- There is also the downside: the American staff are likely the biggest reason POA is often more expensive than most other NCL itineraries. The staff/crew are paid fair wages based at least on Hawaii state minimums, they work under OSHA regulations, and are unionized, all of which created (in my opinion) a happy, un-stressed, well-rested team.
- There is a lot of staff seniority on this ship, which helps it run very well.
Note: the author sailed on NCL Pride of America at a modestely discounted media rate, as is common in the travel journalism industry for purposes of product review. The trip was far-from free.