My husband and I took this trip with our 2 girls, ages 7 and 11. We do a big trip each Spring Break, and this has to be one of our favorites. We loved the ship, all of the crew was very nice and helpful. We booked an inside cabin for all 4 of us because we aren't ever in the room very much. It was really small, but what we expected on a cruise ship. We loved the food in the Aloha Cafe. The girls really liked the Cadillac Diner. When we went to the nicer restaurants, I thought the food was just OK. We didn't eat in any of the restaurants you had to pay extra for. The girls went to the Kids Club every night and loved it. They wanted to get back from activities on the islands as soon as possible so they could go. All of the counselors were great.
In each port we rented a car from Budget. They, along with others, had a shuttle that would pick you up at each port and take you to the airport to get your car. The only place this wasn't true was in Kona. They don't have a shuttle there, so I would rent from somone else. In Maui you can park your car outside the boat - there is very limited parking. We kind of had to make our own space. In Kauai we parked in a shopping center for $20. They had a shuttle that would take you to the ship and back to the car that ran every 15 minutes.
I planned all of our own excursions. Most of my ideas came from Frommers Hawaii 2012. I would definitely recommend buying it before the cruise. This is what we did in each port:
Oahu - Our favorite thing to do in Oahu is go to the North Shore. We went and swam at Waimea Bay. It is fun for the kids to play in the waves. My husband and 11 year old also had fun jumping off a rock into the ocean. You definitely have to try the Shrimp Trucks. We like Giovanni's. Get the shrimp scampi - lots of garlic and butter - so good!!! They also let you write on the truck with a sharpie - our girls loved that. Matsumoto's Shave Ice is also in the North Shore - you don't want to miss that either. We didn't have a chance to do this before the cruise, but we love Hanauma Bay. They have the best snorkeling there, and it is a beautiful beach.
Maui - First we drove to Lahaina and walked around. There is a really old banyan tree there that is neat to see. After that we went to Kaanapali Beach. The waves are great for boogie boarding or body surfing. Then we went to Kapalua Beach. It is a beautiful beach lined with palm trees. It is a little hard to find - kind of behind the Ritz Carlton.
The second day in Maui we went on a snorkeling trip to Molokini crater with Trilogy. I would highly recommend the trip and using Trilogy. The crew was wonderful, and they gave you breakfast and a catered lunch. We saw tons of fish around the crater, then they took us to another location where we saw sea turtles. Lots of fun!!!
Hilo - We went to Hawaiian National Volcanoes Park. Hilo is one of the few places with an active volcano. When we went up to view it, it was smoking from the crater. Very cool! We then went and walked through Thurston Lava Tube. The kids loves it. This took most of the day. On the way back we drove to see Akaka Falls which was beautiful.
Kona - First we went to the Sea Horse Farm. It was very informative, and at the end you get to hold a sea horse - it will wrap it's tail around your finger. After that we went to Kahaluu Beach Park. There are beautiful views as you drive down to it. The beach is made from lava rocks, and there are large black lava rocks in the water you can snorkel around. It was not my girls favorite snorkel spot because it is kind of shallow around the rocks (plus I think they were spoiled from the trip to Molokini). There are lots of sea turtles in the area, and 2 came up on the rocks while we were there. It was neat to see them that close. After the beach we returned our car, and walked around the town of Kona - it is very near where you get on the ship. Be sure you get some Kona Coffee to take home. :)
Kauai - This, along with Oahu, was one of our favorite stops. The island is so green and beautiful! We drove to the North Shore to go to Kee Beach. Be warned - it takes at least an hour to get there - but it was worth it. It is beautiful beach surrounded by huge green cliffs. It was also a good place to snorkel. On the way to Kee Beach we stopped at Tunnels Beach. We didn't swim, because the waves were pretty big. Across from Tunnels is a dry cave you can walk through - very cool! Go up the road toward Kee Beach and there is a wet cave you can see. The girls were going to take surfing lessons in Poipu, but we missed them because of how long it took us to get back from Kee Beach. We had booked it through Margo Oberg, that Frommers recommended. I called them when we realized we were going to be late to see about rescheduling, but no one answered the phone. I left a message, but no one called back. When we got to Poipu, there was another surf company there, and they said they had never even showed up. They don't even have a shop they just meet in the parking lot. Not sure I would recommend. My girls went into the water at Poipu and had a good time boogie boarding in the waves.
On the 2nd day in Kauai we splurged and went on a helicopter tour to see Waimea Canyon and the Napali Coast. We used Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. I would highly recommend them, and our pilot Jimmy. We saw so much we would have never seen otherwise. Kauai is so beautiful, and even more so when you are seeing it in a helicopter. One of the highlights was at the beginning of the trip when we were flying toward Waimea Canyon, and there was a full rainbow right in front of us.
We had a great trip and were sad to get off the cruise today. It is a trip our family will never forget!