We love Hawaii and have been many times. We looked at spending a week or 2 on Maui or the Big Island in one of our favorite hotels with a partial ocean view. A week of this land-package cost more than 2 weeks on the Golden Princess in a mini-suite!
If a person has not been to Hawaii before, this cruise is merely an appetizer. One must spend at least a week on each island to get a real sense of Hawaii.
When we first took this cruise last year, we were concerned that it would not feel like a Hawaiian vacation. But thanks to Dave and Leialoha of Elua, we were learning and enjoying Hawaiian music and culture even during the 8 sea days! We love the music of Elua and now own all 3 of their CDs so we can extend our vacation each time we listen to their music. The scholarship@sea activities were outstanding. I personally appreciated learning to play the ukelele from Dave. He is an excellent teacher and if I had been exposed to his teaching when I was young, I would be much more of a musician today. Oh well, better late than never.
My wife enjoyed the hula lessons from Leialoha who was not only born and raised in Hawaii but is also of Hawaiian blood (the true definition of being Hawaiian). Her lessons taught the original hula and modern forms and she often referred to the teachings of her Hawaiian grandmother which helped cement the memories for all of us who loved our grandmothers.
We learned that Dave and Leialoha have been booked again on the Golden Princess and we have already signed up with friends for next year! As much as we enjoyed the excellent service, good food, and itenarary, we wouldn't have booked for a 3rd time if Elua were not booked for next year.
Some thanks to Princess Cruises in general:
(1) Thank you for giving us vets a break. As a Vietnam era vet, I remember how we were chided and spit on by war protesters. Princess has provided one of the very few thanks to those of us that were drafted and served in the 60's. I was delighted to get the email from Princess informing me of the benefit and I appreciate that each time we book with Princess, the Princess staff remind me of the discount.
(2) Kudos to Princess for removing smoking from most of the ship. I still look forward to the day when no smoking is allowed anywhere on the ships. I witnessed several passengers cheat by smoking in non-smoking areas and it is impossible for crew to monitor and enforce the rule.
(3) Thank you for not "Carnivaling-down" too much. We've been cruising for over 30 years. On our most recent cruise we thought the Golden Princess personnel were right at the top of any crew we've ever experienced. The service from all we encountered was just plain EXCELLENT.
(4) Thanks for maintaining good quality food (and actually down-sizing some of the portions over the years). When I wanted to be a glutton, all I had to do was ask for more.
(5) We noted a number of PAX that signed up for "anytime dining" and then seemed to all want to eat at the same time. Perhaps a more accurate description would be "anytime there is room dining." We tried the anytime dining only once and learned our lesson. We enjoy being served by the same dining staff each night and are amazed at how well they anticipate our desires and meet them without being asked.