This was our 14th cruise, and our 3rd cruise to Hawaii. We sailed with our deaf son, age 44, and his deaf wife, age 35. We are in our mid 60's but we are pretty lively, personality wise.
We booked through our friend/TA, and all our shore excursions were ships tours.
I really want to commend PCL for their outstanding customer service with regards to assisting our deaf DS and DIL. Their stateroom was set up with the telephone and signaling devices prior to our arrival, and PCL provided sign language interpreters for them for some of their shipboard activities and the shore excursions. Outstanding.
We drove to San Pedro the day prior to the cruise and stayed at the Crown Plaza Hotel. Great place to stay. We left our car in their underground, secured parking for the cruise at $10 per day. The hotel provided a shuttle to and from the cruise terminal at no cost. They were waiting for us. We never had to wait for them.
We did arrive at the terminal early-at 11 AM, as we had to check out of the hotel then. I do have mobility issues. Sitting for long periods, alot of walking, or standing is a problem. I brought my DVM issued paper designating me as a disabled driver ( I can walk, and don't use a cane, walker or wheelchair for cruises). Don't use the blue placard, use the official paper from DMV.
This allowed me to get into boarding group 1. Wedding parties boarded first, then Elite and Suite passengers. After them, Group 1 boarded. We were called at 1PM.
Our staterooms were ready and our luggage arrived within 20-30 minutes after we boarded. Exceptionally fast !
We went up to Lido buffet for lunch, even though I had wanted to eat at Sapphire's new International Cafe. The IC was to become my favorite place to be.
We had a balcony cabin--category BD B701. Yes the Baja deck balconies are smaller, but I wanted a fully covered balcony in Hawaii due to a sun sensitivity. We did use the balcony alot even though this was the roughest crossing we have had, and some days very windy. We actually didn't think it was that bad, but others did, and there were some 'barf bags' by the elevators coming home.
B701 is near the aft elevators, which was great for dinner but most of our activity was near the bow. I would choose a mid-ship balcony next time. Also, there is a gap and some decks that don't go through which was confusing. We learned that deck 7 goes all the way through and used it mostly.
We had the queen bed confiquration. There was enough storage in the room and bathroom, and a nice closet between those 2 rooms. No sofa or loveseat, but a chair. Also a vanity/desk with a huge mirror and chair. Two night stands. The hairdryer was by the desk, but I didn't like it. I was happy I brought my own.
Bathroom was adequate, but small, and had enough space for us. PCL has tiny showers, and unlike HAL, no tub in the balcony cabins. It was good enough.
Bathroom amenities were shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and soap--pretty good stuff too.
Rolando was our cabin steward and he was great. Once our shower backed up and once we had no water in the toilet. He had those taken care of within an hour. Also, we never had that sewer smell in the bathroom that some ships have.
There were very few of those annoying ship announcements, and photographers were around at embarkation, formal nights and shore excursions.
One of the FEW issues I had was the lack of variety with the buffet meals, however the food was good. The buffet had the most awesome desserts !!!! My favorites were the bread pudding, the fruit tarts, and of course the chocolate chip cookies.
We opted for early traditional dining, which was at 5:30. That was a bit early, but we couldn't wait until 2nd seating which was at 8:30. We like traditional, so I can't comment on the any time dining.
Everyone in that dining room was great--from Rui the Maitre'D, Alice, the Food and Beverage Supervisor, to our fantastic waiter, Wanchai, from Thailand.
I selected the Gluten/Lactose free dining on my personalizer prior to the cruise. Alice was there every night to help me select things I could eat. On the couple of times I didn't find anything I wanted, she had something special made for me. She was awesome. Most of the GF food was very tasty. The plain white bread was ok, but the GF noodles taste pretty much like paste. I did know that, as I eat them at home. I was just hoping for a miracle. LOL.
Our tablemates agreed that the food was pretty good. They did serve Escargot for those who like it--not me--and there was lobster, shrimp, prime rib, lamb, and several fish dishes. We ate all of our dinners in the dining room, breakfast in the buffet, and lunch at the buffet, IC (International Cafe) of poolside pizza.
Like I said, the IC was my favorite place to hang out, eat a snack, go to Alfredos Pizza, or to hear entertainment. DH and DS bought coffee cards--$39 I think---and it was well worth it. PCL dining room coffee is pretty bad, but the brewed and speciality coffees and teas were really good. Love that place. Try the chicken salad. It's great.
This was our 3rd cruise to Hawaii and we had seen the 'must sees' before,so we opted for something different.
Hilo was our first port stop. Hilo is my least favorite port, although DH likes it there. Our tour guide in our small van was Pat. She is so much fun. We repeated our tour of VNP--Volcanoes National Park--which is always informational. The visitors center had been redone since our last trip, and has very nice displays. Part of that tour was the Thurston Lava Tube which we didn't get to see last time. This tour is listed as 'moderate activity' and I wasn't sure I could manage, but figured if I couldn't, I could wait for the others.
The Lava Tube is really interesting, but was difficult for me to manage. It is a bit dark with uneven walking surfaces, and water in places. There are some stairs to climb coming back up which were hard for me. DH had a hold of my pants waist and a kind lady was pushing my 'bum' helping me up the stairs. It was quite comical. All in all, this shore excursion is a good one.
Honolulu was next, and we took the Oahu North Shore excursion. Much easier for me than VNP although both tours were 6.5 hrs. Darvin was our tour guide, and like Pat in Hilo, he was great. At Turtle Beach, there was a huge green turtle on the beach, sunning herself. Great photo op although I ended up getting a shoe full of seawater. The Dole Pineapple Plantation stop was fun. I'm always down for shopping. Try the pineapple ice cream. Good stuff.
DS and DIL took the PCC excursion-Polynesian Cultural Center--and loved it. DS had been before. They had the luau which was great. Loved it.
Kauai was next. DH had made plans with our friend for a private golf day. Kauai Lagoons is nearby the terminal. They both brought their own clubs and got back to the ship in plenty of time. His wife and I took the Waimea Canyon tour. Beautiful. It's like looking at a lush green Grand Canyon. We stopped at the Blowhole and saw more huge green turtles in the cove. During our scenic drive, I realized that I really like this island more than I had before.
Maui was our last stop. Lahaina has always been a favorite of mine. Weather had been unusually cool this trip, but Lahaina was warm. We took the whale watching ships tour. We boarded our catamaran right from the ship instead of tendering in to the port. New experience for us. We did get to tender back to the ship, and that's always fun for us. Lucky us !!!! WE saw a mama Humpback with her newborn baby. It wasn't yet strong enough to make the trip up to Alaska, so she was hanging out here. There was also a male "escort" waiting around too. Orcas--killer whales--will attack other whales, which put the baby at risk, since most of the other whales had already gone to Alaska. Mama didn't do any big breaching as she was still recovering her strength from the birth.
Ensenada was the last stop. We only had 4 hrs there, and only 3 tours offered. We didn't take any as we have been there numerous times. It was cold and very windy, but most everyone got off the ship. We did too, but only stayed in the port shops for awhile and re boarded.
One other thing that bugged me, and it is SO SMALL--at our first port, PCL had these cool port photos with nice frames. All the other port photos were 2 crew members holding an anchor or something else. We like those photos for scrapbooks, so I wish they had them at all the ports. Like I said---SMALL !!
We all have decided to return to Hawaii in 2015. DS and DIL were a bit bored. Alot of older people. None of us are pool people, and they don't drink, which limits some things. And just for info--there were only 40 children on this cruise. They all looked happy the few times we saw them.
So~~the cruise was very enjoyable. The crew was fantastic. I only had 2 minor, petty, complaints. Sapphire is beautiful and very well maintained. Unlike some other cruisers, I only ran into 1 disagreeable lady. Most people I saw were pleasant. We will go back. I'm sure you will have a very good time.
Hope I haven't forgotten anything important. Aloha~