We just got back and I am still so excited about our trip.
We traveled from Vancouver, Canada direct on WestJet, and that was okay, a little boring as about 1 hour out of Vancouver, the satellite TV stops working. You had to purchase your food as well, which surprised me on a 6 hour flight, but I have not flown much lately, so maybe they are all like that now.
We had pre-booked Roberts shuttle bus to the pier, and that was great for $7 each. We didn't have to wait at all.
Embarkation was very easy, leis and pictures, with some Hawaiian live music to listen to. Our cabins were not quite ready, so we went up to the pool deck for a drink.
We had an outside stateroom for 4 (144 sq. feet) and found it plenty big enough for all of our stuff...one thing that made it easier was to actually keep the bottom bunks apart, so we had an aisle in the middle. The room was clean and the beds were very, very comfortable. There are no clocks in the rooms, other than on the phone, so you may want to bring one.
The ship was not as tacky as I was worried it might be. It was fairly easy to find your way around, and we enjoyed time on the pool deck and in the various lounges. Drink prices were reasonable. We did some shows - Aloha Polynesia which we enjoyed a lot, and the comedian, who I thought was hilarious. We have seen better shows on Celebrity, but it's not really why we were on the ship anyway. They offer a good variety of things to choose from for all ages and tastes. The man who closed out the crew talent show was amazing, he sang Frank Sinatra so well! One annoying thing was I guess they don't heat the pool, and it was Thursday before it was easy to get into. Also, they never operated the gyroscope, and we never even saw the bungee trampoline, both things my kids were very interested in. We enjoyed attending some of the Hawaiian classes like lei making, and found the port talks very helpful. I also enjoyed the FABBA party very much.
My kids choose to hang with us rather than do the kids activities, and as we never really adjusted to Hawaii time, they mostly slept through the evening ones, but all the kids we saw or talked to seemed to really enjoy them.
As others have stated, the food was maybe not up to the level of other ships, but it was sure better than how we eat at home. The buffet had a nice selection and seemed clean and fresh. I didn't like the freestyle concept, as we tried to eat in the main dining room each night and never got the same waiter twice, and I missed that interaction. I hear that you can reserve the same table every night if you want, we weren't sure what we wanted to do at first, so reserved day by day until Wednesday, when we reserved the Liberty for the rest of the week. The hostess, Kiara, was great at helping us out, and knew my name and preferences after meeting me twice; she worked in the Cadillac Diner as well. The Liberty had a raspberry chocolate truffle cake that was to die for, as was the chocolate fudge brownie sundae in the Cadillac Diner, which we enjoyed going to. The Cadillac Diner was a little more laid back than the buffet, and everything we tried there was great. It is also open 24 hours, and was a great place to get comfort food like wings, mozza sticks or chicken tenders. The buffet closes for a while (I think between 3 and 5) and it took us a while to discover the Bar and Grill above the pool deck was open then, as was Cadillac.
We didn't try any of the specialty restaurants that you had to pay extra for. I figured we had already paid. My kids discovered the free room service, and used that a lot when they craved some time alone.
The passengers were a wide cross section of ages, from about 300 kids (including 100 teens) and up. Lots of families. They were about 1/3 American, 1/3 Canadian, then Japanese and Australia/New Zealand compete for 3rd place, followed by people from all over the world. Everyone we talked to was nice.
We also found the crew very friendly. Only one surly guy, and he was having to flip burgers late at night and listen to the Karaoke next door, so we figured we could understand. We did hear from a few staff complaints about the amount of work, which kind of dragged me down a bit.
Our first port was Maui, and you are in a very industrial area. There is not much to walk to or even cab to easily. However, one of the cruise director staff told us to go off the ship, turn left on the road, and left into the parking lot, across to the beach, then climb to the right along the back and there is a spot that the sea turtles love. Took 7 minutes to find it, wand was so magical to see about 25 sea turtles swimming around right there. We told many other people about it. They are protected, so you need to stay 10 m away from them. We also did Haleakala by sunset, which was awesome, booked through Roberts, as it was cheaper. If I had planned ahead, I would have brought some baggies and ordered sandwiches at lunch time to take for dinner. The second day we were to snorkel at Molokini crater (through NCL)and then to turtle arches. Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate, so we had to go to one other location, Coconuts, but it was still a fun day. A humpback breached right near us, which was very cool. Maui has a good bus system, $2 for a day pass, and that can take you most places, so if you just want to travel around, I wouldn't bother booking the NCL transfers. Someone told us it coast them $39 to go to Lahaina and back and they could have saved $35 each.
Hilo was raining, which we don't mind, but many people did. I guess the ship docks there so you can go see the volcanoes; maybe next time we will do that. Instead we took in an amazing free, authentic, hula show as part of the Merrie Monarch festival, and walked around downtown and back to the ship. Note - bus service is shoddy here, and there are few taxis. We were told we would have to wait an hour to get one. The shuttle to downtown stops running at 11, so we had to walk back. It took about 1 hour, which again, was fine for us, but if you can't walk that far, I would pay attention to the shuttle schedules.
Kona was a tender port, which takes you right into the little village of Kailua. You can swim on the beaches, shop, tour around, etc, all within walking distance.
Kauai also has some shops (not as many) and a beach that is about a 10 min walk from the ship, or the two little "malls" have free shuttles. We swam at the Marriott which was great, also they have surf boards and other rentals right there if you want a beach day. We did zip-lining and tubing the ditch (more like a canal), both through NCL and both an absolute riot. One member of our party had some health issues so wanted to be flexible about excursions, so four of our party members were able to hire a cab for 1 1/2 hours here (<$100, plus tip) to take them around and show them the local sights, which they said was excellent and required no previous commitment.
Disembarking was very easy, no line ups at all, and you can stay in your cabins until 9. We ended up getting the last luggage tags left, which were called at 8:10, but we just ignored that, and our bags were still there when we got off later.
We had a few hours left before our flight, and didn't want to go to the airport and just sit, so we cabbed down to Waikiki and convinced a hotel to rent us a room for half a day. We shopped a bit, swam in the ocean and the hotel pool, and then had to room to store our stuff and change. Cost us less than $200 for cabs to Waikiki, the room, and a limo to the airport plus tips for 7 of us. (the limo was cheaper than two taxis.)
I miss the chocolate croissants, and hope some day I can do it again!