This was the first cruise for both myself and my wife. It was just the two of us as we were celebrating our 5th anniversary. We were a little unsure what to expect after reading mixed reviews. After our cruise was over, we both decided we'd better write a review since we aboslutely loved it. The other reason we wanted to write a review is I when I was reading the reviews most had a lot of information on excursions and restaurants, but not about the buffet, drinks and the pool, all things we enjoy.
We flew in on Friday morning and stayed at the Marriott Waikiki Beach. The hotel was beautiful and located right across the street from the beach. Couldn't ask for much more. Of course, for that price, it's what I would expect. Our first recommendation would be for anyone taking the cruise to book a night through the cruise line either at this hotel or another cheaper one. They handle your transfer to the ship, your luggage and you get to bypass the huge line of other people waiting to bored the ship. To us, that made it all worth it even if it was expensive. It made check-in/boarding a breeze.
We ate lunch in the buffet. As many other cruisers have stated, if eating at the buffet, get your food and take it out back to the lanai. For whatever reason, not a lot of people do this until the last day. We ate breakfast and dinner there there everyday and never had a problem finding a seat outside. Plus you have a full bar out there for those interested. The bartender makes one of the best Bloody Mary's I've ever had. For those interested in restaurant reviews, this isn't the one for you. The buffet had everything we wanted and we prefer the laid back atmosphere. We did hear some horror stories from the sit down restaurants, but we never went so can't confirm or deny any of them. For dinner, the specialty main course and sides they serve in the buffet are the exact same ones they serve in the Liberty and Skyline. We were going to go to the Skyline on Wednesday for prime rib until we realized it was the same everywhere. By the way the prime rib was delicious. I think we were only disappointed in the meal at the buffet one nightand even then we just ended up eating pizza which was usually good. The only other place we ate all week on the ship was the Cadillac Diner which had your typical american food and my wife loved the cheesecake. They also had awesome milkshakes that unfortunately you had to pay for.
Our room was ready by about 2 the first day. Our luggage didn't arrive until close to 5 though which kind of stunk and we wanted to get ready for the night. We had an inside room and it was plenty big for the two of us. It had plenty of storage. The beds were suprisingly comfortable. We hardly spent anytime in the room other to sleep and get ready. For this cruise specifically, I don't see the advantage of a balcony unless you have a larger family and just need a bigger room. We never saw one person on their balcony in all of our time off of the boat. And we almost always sailed at night except for the last day so there really wouldn't be much to see then either. We talked to many people who were disapponted they paid the extra money, but to each their own.
The first night is the pub hop. It's right after the safety drill. I would recommend it to anyone that likes to have a few drinks and doesn't mind making a fool of themselves. It was a good way to meet other like-minded cruisers. The people we met at the pub hop we ended up hanging out parts of every day the rest of the cruise. We also got tp know the cruise director's staff who we saw a lot of the rest of the week. Other activities/shows we did the rest of the week were the Newlywed Game which was hilarious, The Perfect Couple (so-so), The White-Hot Party which is a site to see even if you only stay for a few minutes as a lot of people did, and comedian Tim Kaminski who we saw twice. But by far the best show of the week was the Dancing with the Stars competition. The dancing was horrific, but funny and the judges comments only added to the humor of the dancing. I still think Ari should have won. We also did the beer tasting and the margarita tasting which turned crazy.
We also went to the tributes to Jimmy Buffet which was right after the pub hop, the Beetles tribute, Elton John tribute and the tribute to the Eagles on the last night. We were a little disappointed in Toby Beau, who did the Jimmy Buffet, Beetles and Eagles tributes. Good music, just not the best people performing.
As far as excursions, we only did 4. We did the Volcanoes National Park, Captain Zodiac, Luau Kalamaku and Pearl Harbor the last day. We did all of ours through NCL and were happy with all of them. Captain Zodiac was amazing. We saw hundreds of spinner dolphins doing tricks. It was like we were at Sea World. One recommendation would be to book a tour through NCL in Kona because you get first priority getting off the ship. It's only port that you have to take a tender and the people that didn't book through NCL had to wait. The other reason is Kona is such a cool little town and by doing our excursion early, it allowed us plenty of time to walk through the town. It's really the only port where you're right in town. It was our favorite port by far. Also, for anyone that does the Luau through the ship, as soon as the show ends I would head for the buses. We did that and got on the first bus. Some people ended up waiting over an hour. We made it back to watch the end of the Crew Talent Show. A lot of people were disappointed that they missed that show. It's strange they would have it on the same day. They had a small crowd and it was a good show. The other recommendation is if you're flying out the day of disembarkation, do a tour through NCL on the last day. That way they take care of getting you to the airport and your luggage. Made for a relaxing last day. I would suggest staying another night though and try to get some sleep before heading home. We took the red eye home and took three days to recover.
Our only complaints would be the cost of the drinks and not getting to spend more time in Kona. Kind of wish we somehow could have spent a night there. Don't know what could be changed though.
That's about it. I hope I remembered everything. Hopefully someone finds this useful. It was my first review.