I guess I should start by saying that I read every review possible for this cruise. My husband booked this cruise as a surprise for our 10th wedding anniversary. He's not very savvy when it comes to planning and researching, he just knew that I wanted to go to Hawaii and thought this would be the best option for me to see as much as possible.
Day 1: We had a long day of flying, starting on Thursday at 6AM from Harrisburg to Atlanta, a little under 2 hours. Then another 10 hours to Honolulu. I absolutely hate flying, but thanks to Xanax I got through it. A pleasant surprise was all the food that was offered from Atl to Hnl. I knew we got lunch, but also were given 2 rounds of snacks, three rounds of drinks, and sandwiches about an hour and a half before landing. Landed in Honolulu around 2PM. My father and step mother, who had arrived a day earlier, hired Hawaii23 to pick them up first, then us up at the airport. They took us on a custom tour of some of the sights we wanted to see. Top of my list was Dog the Bounty Hunters house. To my surprise, his driveway gate was open and I could see all the black SUVs in the driveway. Stuck around for a few minutes hoping to see someone, but no luck. On to Diamond Head, the Ionali Palace, and a couple of other historical places. We stopped at the Kona Brewery just south of Honolulu since our low beer lights were on. What a nice spot right on the Marina. Tons of beer on tap to try. Mark from Hawaii23 provided lots of historical information and was VERY nice. I would highly recommend even for just an airport transfer.
Mark dropped us off at our hotel, the Hilton Hawaiian Village, where we could change and drop off our bags. My dad had been to Hawaii before and couldn't wait to take us out on the town so no time to explore the hotel yet :( We spent our first evening walking the streets of Waikiki shopping and pub hopping. Waikiki almost reminds me of Miami. High end shopping, mixed with street vendors, street performers, and local crazies. Wouldn't want to spend a whole week there, but had fun that night.
Day 2-Friday: Woke up and rented a scooter from hawaiianstylerentals.com. Reserved ahead of time, showed up when they opened at 8:30, and were off in less than 15 minutes. It was about a 20 minute walk from our hotel. Not bad, and got to see some sights off the beaten Waikiki path. Headed to the North Shore. Once you get out of Honolulu highways, the ride really was beautiful. Lots of mountain views. Our first stop was swimming with sharks. I booked ahead of time with hawaiisharkencounters.com. Met the boat in the Marina in Haleiwa. There was 10 in our group, then the captain and his first mate (which I'm sorry I cannot remember their names). Both extremely nice guys. We had about a 15 minute boat ride three miles off the coast, during which the first mate gave us a safety briefing. The water was pretty choppy, which they said was normal. I would suggest Dramamine if you are prone to sea sickness. We immediately saw sharks when we anchored, about a dozen to 15. No babies in this bunch either! They curiously swam around the boat. A group of 4 jumped in the cage first. The tour company provided snorkels and masks. While that group was enjoying the sharks our first made gave the waiting group a very knowledgeable lesson on sharks. He talked about the types of sharks found in Hawaii, what they eat, and why they are important. He also started fishing off the back of the boat to try and show us some different marine life, but no luck. Then it was our turn. The water wasn't as chilly as I expected, but the choppiness made things a little chaotic at first. Once I got my bearings and a good hold on the cage bars, I was fine. This was probably the experience I most feared, aside from the plane ride. I will admit that it was scary. You are surrounded by sharks, most of them at least 15 feet long. However, it was an experience that is difficult to describe. They are powerful, beautiful and mesmerizing creatures. What I did not know at the time I was in the cage, was that our first mate again attempted to fish, this time successful. As I was underwater I saw the sharks gather at the back of the boat almost in an aggressive frenzy. Then a pretty large one started swimming circles, and his tail smacked into the cage right in front of my face. Scared the living daylight out of me, and I asked to get out of the cage. It's OK, you can call me a wuss. When I got out of the cage I learned that the first mate was successful in catching a fish, and it the way it was hooked caused a bloody mess, hence sending the sharks into a frenzy. Even though I was scared, at no point was I ever in any danger and I know that now that I can look at it rationally. During the boat ride back the first mate apologized, even though it was not necessary. He also provided a lot of historical information on the islands, including the Forbidden Island. All in all, a great experience that I'm glad my husband made me do. This was his bucket list item and he raved about how great it was.
Across the street from the Marina was a 76 gas station with a shrimp truck behind it. Hit this up for lunch and...WOW. $11 for a tray full of shrimp, salad, rice and a diet coke. Best shrimp I ever had. Don't miss this little dive. A few picnic tables there to sit and eat. From there we headed to Waimea Bay Beach Park for hubby's second bucket list item. He wanted to jump off the big rock. The beach was stunning itself, and had a few food vendors and nice restroom facilities. Parking was somewhat limited, so if you don't go early you may have to wait for a spot. When you think of a Hawaiian beach, chances are that Waimea Bay is what comes to mind. Beautiful water and sand. Very large black rock that attracts locals and tourists. I would say it's highest point is 35-40 feet. I can promise that from the top it looks much higher. My hubby and I stood at the top for what seemed like hours. Hubby, who is scared of heights, was having second thoughts. We watched person after person jump off. All laughing and coming back up to do it again. I figured if I jumped first, hubby would follow. Well I jumped, and had a great time doing it. But hubby didn't follow. He climbed back down. I have unlimited bragging rights now. Spent a couple of hours swimming and lying in the sand before heading back to Waikiki.
That night we had dinner with my dad and step mom at Bali by the Sea at the hotel. The reviews I read were pretty great, but I mostly booked this because they claim to have great views of the Friday night fireworks. Well, it is beachfront, and a nice open no window atmosphere. However, it's first floor, therefore not much of a fireworks view. The food was OK, but not for the price. Service was OK. I would suggest skipping this, grabbing a burger and spending the extra money at one of the hotel bars.
Day 3-Saturday: Packed our bags and checked out. The hotel stored our bags since we couldn't go to the ship yet. Spent the morning at the hotel beach, which was beautiful, and the pool, equally as beautiful. Lots of beach items available for rent from chairs to rafts and paddle boards. The cocktail waitresses at the pool were very attentive in bringing us lunch and drinks. Packed up around 1 and headed to pick up our bags from the front desk. Hotel staff grabbed us a taxi, and off we were to the Pride of America!
POA is an incredible sight as we pulled into the industrial pier. It was about 2PM by now, and we were able to walk right in, put our bags through a scanner, picture taken with individuals dressed in Hawaiian garb, and about a 10 minute wait to check in. Much faster than I expected. Check in went very fast and the next thing I knew we were on the boat. You enter on deck 5, the main deck. Very stunning with a white staircase lined with red carpet. Also, the Presidential seal on the floor at the front desk. Much different layout from other ships, but stunning in her own right. Our room was ready so we went to check it out. The room was nicer than I expected. The decor was bright Hawaiian colors and pictures. It was a midship balcony, so I expected tight quarters. I've sailed on the Carnival Pride in an equivalent room, and if I hadn't read the difference in room square footage, I probably wouldn't have even noticed. There were a couple of drawers under the TV for storage, a couple of shelves under the coffee maker, and maybe 5 or 6 shelves in the closet. The closet was plenty big and had ample hangers. The bathroom was standard for that cabin. Nothing notable either way. Shower gel and bar soap samples were in there, with a wall mount shampoo and shower gel dispenser in the shower. Our shower had 3 shelves for storage in it. Overall the room was clean, no complaints there. The balcony was standard size with two chairs and a table. The room included plenty of mirrors, a small desk, good working hair dryer, TV, safe and electrical outlets. We met our room steward, Corazon, immediately. She was very pleasant and was attentive to us all week.
From there we met my dad and step mom for lunch in the Aloha Cafe. They had standard buffet items to offer. I can say that everything was hot, and everything we all had was good. We headed to check out the main pool, and was greeted by the towel stand attendant, Avelino. This is kind of a funny story. My dad and step mom passed him first. Avelino gave them a very warm greeting, then gave my hubby and I a nice greeting as well. Only he stopped us, and starting talking about the Pub Hop later in the evening. My dad started joking with him about why he didn't mention the pub hop to them. It turned into a week long inside joke about them being the old people. Avelino energetically signed the four of us up for the pub hop. We ran into him several times throughout the week. Each time he remembered our names, joked with us, and always made sure we had everything we needed.
We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Waikiki bar, living the good life. Then it was time for the Pub Hop. Sign ups are in the Saloon starting at 5:30. We were all given special Pub Hop names that cruise staff wrote on a piece of tape and placed across our torso. My name for the evening was "Bubble Bee" and my husbands was "I'm a Giraffe." Other notable names I saw were "virgin?" "Pearl Necklace" "trust me" and so on. If you can't tell by some of the names, this is an adult event that can get pretty raunchy, which our group loved! Basically you pay $25. At each bar, and I think we stopped at 5 or 6, you get a full drink. The Saloon is the only bar they give you beer, the rest are mixed drinks. There are rules; you cannot call anyone by their real name, must use pub hop name, you cannot drink until the toast is given, and you must participate in activities if pick to do so by cruise staff. Again, some of the toast are raunchy, but funny. If you broke the rules you were forced to wear a silly hat or a boa, or whatever they could find to make you look ridicilous. Between bars you parade around the boat yelling "Pub Hop," no doubt annoying other guests. One of the games was balloon popping. They would pair younger females up with older males. The two would have to pop balloons in pretty compromising positions. What a great time! DO NOT go to this if you are easily offended, or if you're not a good enough sport to participate. There was also a toga party that night starting at 10, needless to say we didn't make it.
Day 4-Maui: We did the Waterfalls and Rainforest Hike through NCL. We signed up for this at the request of my dad. I'm really glad that I did. NCL contracts Hike Maui for this tour. Props to our guide, Nick. He was wonderful from the start. It's about a 30 minute van ride to private farming grounds. The hike is absolutely beautiful through the rainforest. Nick took his time explaining plants, trees, and any wildlife we came across. We waded through streams, pretty high since they had a heavy rain the night before. We made it to the first fall, and to our surprise, there was a film crew there with a pretty famous boy band making a music video. Those of you with teenage daughters may have heard of Big Time Rush. They had just wrapped up filming as we showed up. We passed each other while crossing the stream and my husband began recording them with his iphone for my 11 year old daughter. All the guys were nice as they passed, all saying hello. Pretty cool little extra. The waterfall was stunning. Very powerful after all the rain. Nick stripped down to his swimming trunks and immediately hopped in. I quickly followed with my hubby, dad and step mom. Some of the other group members waded in but didn't swim under the fall like we did. Hey, I was in Maui and there was a waterfall, no way I wasn't taking advantage of this opportunity. Another short hike to the second fall, which was actually a double fall. Not as tall, but just as impressive. More swimming and carrying on. On the way off the property there was a little fruit stand owned by locals. We all asked Nick to stop and he was happy to. I enjoyed a fresh coconut that they chopped off the top right in front of me! They also made smoothies from fresh coconut, sugar cane and bananas. Incredible! I would highly recommend this excursion, but with a couple of tips. If you have trouble hiking uphill, this may not be for you. If you're not comfortable wading through waist high streams, that may be running fast depending on how much rain they have gotten recently, this may not be for you. Wear your bathing suit under your clothes, and bring a towel. I would also wear water shoes. The tour guide provided bug spray and a lunch that consisted of a sandwich, chocolate chip cookie, chips and water.
Headed back to the ship. Us girls started showering for our Luau while the guys went to pick up a rental car. We rented from Thrifty, which did provide a continuous shuttle from the pier (most rental companies did). We opted to make the drive to Lahaina for the Old Lahaina Luau. It was maybe a 40 minute drive from the pier, but defiently worth it. FANTASTIC luau! We were greeted with fresh orchid leis, and Mai Tais. We also reserved the traditional seating, which was front row on the floor. Wouldn't recommend if you have back or mobility problems, but absolutely best seat in the house. We were immediately greeted by our server, who made sure we all had fresh drinks when needed. Before the show there is time to see the pig ceremony, as well as walk ocean front to see some of their craft displays. They had picture taking set up in a few spots also. Alcoholic drinks, a dinner buffet, and dessert were all included in the price and well worth it. The buffet was phenomenal. Traditional luau food as well as some extras. For dessert they delivered a tray of assorted desserts to our table. Performers and other staff were happy to pose for pictures with you, and we were thanked over and over by all staff for coming. I felt very welcomed the second I got there. A wonderful evening all around. A quick side note: this seems to be more authentic as far as dress for the performers than more commercialized luaus. What I mean by this is that some of the outfits are skimpy. The women wear legit coconuts and shells. The men, and ladies I am happy to report that there are plenty of men in the show, wear skimpy loin cloths. Again, my group appreciates this but this may make some uncomfortable. Parking at the pier for your rental was free and easy. My dad needed the rental for an independent excursion he booked the following day.
Day 5-Maui: Since dad and step mom took the rental my husband and I hailed a cab and went to Baldwin State Park. About 15 or 20 minutes down the road, and I think the cab fair might have been $30 after tip. Worth every penny. The beach is picturesque, and there were lifeguards. Around noon a couple of the lifeguards starting playing beach games with the kids. It was nice. The water was a little rough for me. I tend to be scared of the ocean and waves. My husband and I decided to wander down the beach, and came across a beautiful little cove that was not crowded at all. It was protected by a lava rock wall and wasn't getting waves. I could go out pretty far and still stand. It was wonderful. Coconuts everywhere at this beach and plenty of shade. If you're interested, when you walk onto the beach, head to the right when facing the ocean. You'll run into this little cove almost immediately. Only downside is that the bathrooms are port-o-johns. I guess they were as clean as a port-o-john gets. Headed back to the ship to get showered and had dinner at Skyline (I'll do an overview of dining at the end). The rest of the night we hung out at the Waikiki bar at the back of the boat and had a few drinks before heading to bed.
Day 6-Hilo: Rented a car and headed south. I really wanted to see Punalu'u Black sand beach, and my dad wanted to stop at Volcanoes National Park, but didn't want to take a day long tour to do it. It was our first stop. We stopped at the visitor's center and grabbed a map and headed up the road. Stopped to see the steam vents, which were pretty cool. Then headed up to the volcano overlook. Pretty impressive even though lava is not visible. It's basically a huge crater with smoke coming out. Got some cook pics. Checked out the Jaggar museum, which was pretty interesting. Drove down the road and headed to the tunnels, which was a pretty walk. All in all, if you're looking for adventure this probably isn't the site for you. I'm not sure what the cruise charges for this excursion, but I would think that in less you're a photography fanatic you may want to do this on your own. From here we headed south to the Punalu'u Bakery, the southernmost bakery in the U.S. Fantastic sandwiches made with fresh Hawaiian sweet break. Even more fantastic pasteries. It's located on absolutely beautiful grounds and well worth the hour trip from the pier. We headed back towards Hilo, about 10 minutes from the bakery, to Punalu'u Black sand beach. One of the highlights of my trip. Absolutely beautiful and got some great pics. There was about a dozen turtles sunbathing on shore, and we saw a couple more making their hard journey into shore. They move very slow, and you have to stay at least 15 feet from them, but still wonderful to watch. The water was a little rough, but there were some locals swimming. When the tide came up it provided a couple of swimming holes among the rocks. That's where I stayed. Bathroom facilities, life guard and refreshment facilities here.
We had a few minutes before we had to have the rental back so we decided to check out Banyan drive, right outside of the airport. The rental shuttle driver pointed this out to us on the way to pick up the car. It is basically a circle lined with banyan trees that were planed year and years ago by some pretty famous people. All the trees are labeled with who planted them. It was pretty interesting to walk around and read the names. Some would really surprise you! There a small local beach that provides a pretty good view of the ship for pics. A well worth it quick stop.
Back to the ship for dinner at Lazy J's Steakhouse. Afterwards we spent a couple of hours in Pink's Champagne Lounge listening to JD play piano. Even though we are a younger active couple, this was a nice way to spend the evening. A very talented pianist who could play any request you threw at him.
Day 7-Kona: Probably my favorite day of the trip. This is the tender port. I was a little worried about this because I heard it could take a long time to get off. We arrived at Pink's to get our tender ticket at 7AM. We were the second tender off, aside from NCL excursion tenders, and were on shore by 730. The process was far more organized that I was expecting. I booked a horseback ride and snorkel on our own through www.konacowboy.com. We took a taxi from the pier, about $40 each way, but totally worth it. We arrived at the stable an were greeted by the whole family. The mother takes the bookings, the father is now retired from trail guide, but oversees operations, and a son helps with the stable and grounds. We were also greeted by our guide Erik, another son, and the owner's granddaughter Kihanna, who was vacationing from the island of Oahu. Kihanna wanted to tag along for the ride. Suprisingly my husband and I were the only guests on this ride, making it a very memorable and intimate experience. They loaded our 4 horses up on the trailer, opened up the property gate for their 3 dogs to jump into the back of the truck, and we drive about 2 minutes down the road to the start of the trail. Erik explained that the dogs had a job, and that was to lead the way. And that is exactly what they did, and they took their jobs seriously. It was my husband's first time on a horse and he was quite nervous. They paired him up with Cleopatra, a very docile but hungry horse. I have a good bit of experience so they paired me up with Lucky. Pretty small compared to the others, but spunky and fun. Not at all hard to handle. Kihanna rode a one eyed horse named Patches, who was absolutely wonderful. Erik explained that they rescued him after being removed from an owner that did not take care of an eye injury. Erik rode Charlie, who was a very handsome leader down the trail. The trail was spectacular, over lava fields through more fruit and coffee trees than I could name. Once you hit the clearing there is a view like none other of the Kealakekua Bay. Erik talks the whole time explaining the plants and very rich history of this area. I don't want to spoil the story, but it is incredible. We ride all the way down the mountain to the bay, and tie up the horses. Just a short walk to the beach covered in lava rock and washed up coral. Unlike anything I've ever seen. This is a protected bay, so boats cannot anchor here. There was a couple of small catamarans and a couple of kayaks that had made their way into snorkel. However, the bay is huge and we were in no way crowded. Erik brought snorkel gear, and he and Kihanna, along with the dogs, hopped right in to snorkel with us. I've snorkeled several times before, but have never experience anything like this. Tons of fish everywhere and more beautiful coral than I have ever seen. I am not at all a strong swimmer, so Erik was sure to show me areas to stay away from because of current. He kept a watchful eye over us the whole time. He and Kihanna took time to point out a lot of interesting sights underwater, including a clam and eels. We were out there for a least an hour, then headed in for lunch. The dogs took this opportunity for a quick nap. A very fresh sandwich with fresh veggies, chips and water or juice. It was nice because the four of us ate together. It was not like my husband and I eating with our tour guides looking over us. We had great personal conversation that is refreshing when you're on vacation. We didn't feel at all like tourists or outsiders. The ride back up was a little faster, as I learned it's easier for horses to travel uphill than down. This is also where I learned that Lucky did not like to "walk" up the rocks, she liked to "jump" up the rocks, which was a blast! We even did some trotting on the way back which was fun too. We passed several hikers on the way back. Erik stopped and made sure that each one had water. He explained that he has come across several hikers that are often unprepared for the hike and dehydrated. A few hints for this trip: I would recommend shorts that go to at least your knees for comfort on the saddle, and close toed shoes are a must on a horse. Wear water shoes if you'd like, but I just took flip flops for at the bay. Overall great experience that I would love to do again. Even my husband, as scared as he was and as non-outdoorsy as he is, said that next to swimming with sharks this was the highlight of his trip. As a beginner he had no trouble at all.It was worth every penny for the tour and cab fair. Erik clearly loves his animals and takes incredible of them. He is also very proud of his heritage and very willing to share everything he knows, which is a lot. His family, among other locals, are constantly fighting to keep there area undeveloped. Side note: my father and step mom few to Kona for a few days after the cruise. After all of our raving they decided to book with this family as well, and share our exact feelings.
The cab picked us back up when we called. We had him drop us off a few blocks from the pier, as shops and markets lined the streets. Probably the most diverse and unique shopping at this port. We shopped as we made our way back. Found my dad and step mom at a little second floor Indian restaurant right across the street from the pier. Their excursion through the boat was over at noon and they had been there ever since (it was now almost 3). $2 draft beef and $4 Mai Tais, which was a wonderful find compared to boat prices. We stayed there and drank with a lovely Aussie couple, also on the POA, until we had to tender at 5. I wish I could remember the name of this little place, but if you get off the pier and cross the road, it sits on the second floor of a shopping plaza at about your 2o'clock when walking off the pier. It over looks the pier and had a really nice relaxed atmosphere. A quick stop at Samauri Coffee, located at in the shopping plaza under the Indian restaurant. I wanted to get my mom some authentic Kona coffee. Adorable and quaint shop with a great owner, Walter, who is a third generation coffee grower. Very proud of his family and took the opportunity to explain their story. Coffee was great and I ended up buying more than I should have LOL.
Back to the boat and ended up continuing our longggggg happy hour at the Waikiki bar. We had every intention of attending the White Hot Party at 10, but wasn't possible with drinking since 3. Oh well, from what I remember it was a great night anyways!
Day 8-Kauai: My dad and step mom did a kayak excursion through the boat. I've done a kayak before and vowed to never do it again. Hubby and I rented a car and headed north. We hit Lydgate State Beach Park first. Very beautiful! They had a man made protected snorkeling area, but we didn't have much luck. The water was pretty murky from the tree debris. We headed to the right of that lagoon for the open ocean beach. It was completely covered with tree limbs, logs, and whole trees. I've never seen anything quite like it. It was beautiful. No where to throw a towel safely, but still nice to walk through. There was a couple of people in the water, and my hubby took a dip, but it was too rough for me. The beach park had restrooms and lifeguards, but was quite crowded. We headed a little further north to Anahola Bay. This was much more calm water with a beautiful beach. Plenty of shade from coconut trees. This was for sure a locals spot. We appeared to be the only tourists, but no one there seemed to mind. We spent hours swimming, sunbathing, walking through the lava rocks and swimming holes, and reading in the shade. A perfect afternoon! Restrooms and lifeguard here too.
We headed back to the boat around 2, because we had something very important to get ready for. Car rental parking was a few blocks away from the pier, and cost $20 overnight, but they provided a free shuttle. My husband and I made plans to renew our vows this night. I got dressed, what I would consider a casual wedding dress (long and slender) on the boat. As I made my way through the boat just about every crew member stopped and complimented me, which I'm a sucker for flattery. I arranged for a 6PM ceremony at Wailua Bay with Rainbow Weddings. I first booked with KatRama from Rainbow Weddings about 6 months in advance. I told her the time I wanted, and the type of location we were looking for and she suggested Wailua Bay. She hit the nail on the head. Beautiful water, with lava rock for contrast,lots of surrounding vegetation and some tree debris on the beach. Absolutely beautiful and perfect. KatRama prepared a wonderful Hawaiian ceremony for us, and we chose to write our own vows. It was actually kind of funny, we both wrote our vows on our iphones and brought them along. We figured we would lose a slip of paper, but never go anywhere without our phones. Unconventional, but those who know us would not expect anything less. From the day I booked 6 months in advance, KatRama kept in constant contact with me. She emailed me pics of lei options and bouquet options. I ended up sending her a pick of a bouquet I found online, and I'll be darned if she didn't have it pretty much replicated. She even brought leis for my dad and step mom which was nice. My dad, who is a photographer by hobby, took some excellent pics. KatRama even had permission from a neighboring resort for us to take pictures on their grounds in beautiful gardens. It was an amazing evening that I will never forget. Disappointment came in the dinner I had arranged afterwards at Dukes Kauai. I had made the reservations for an outdoor table 3 months prior. When we showed up they had no note of the reservation. However, we were seated within 5 minutes, though not outside. After being seated for 10 minutes our server came and filled our waters and said she would be right back. 20 minutes later she came back and took drink orders. We tried to order then, but she said she would be right back with drinks. 10 minutes later she was no where to be found. My dad flagged down another server, who retreived our waitress. She spent the rest of the evening sucking up since she obviously knew we were unhappy. Now, we are by no way impatient or picky people, but 30 minutes for drinks and 40 minutes to order was a little excessive. The food itself was pretty good. The salad bar was included with all entrees and was pretty good too. All other staff was friendly and inquiring about the "wedding". We headed back to the ship and topped off our night at the Waikiki bar and had a fantastic time.
Day 9-Kauai: We decided to book the Canopy Zip Line tour through NCL. I think they offered zip line through 4 different companies. We booked the CANOPY ZIP LINE which was contracted to Kauai'i Backcountry Adventures. We were picked up at the pier by our 2 guides, Alohi and Pono, and our driver, Makihi. VERY friendly and wonderful crew. Very personable and gave great introductions on the way to their office where we got suited up. Then we hopped in an off road vehicle and headed up a very bumpy trail to the top of the mountain. Pono provided information on the area we were entering, and gave all 10 of us opportunity to introduce ourselves and say where we were from. Mikihi dropped us off at the top, and started to make his way to the bottom to meet us. Alohi gave us very detailed safety instruction, and she and Pono went to work double checking and triple checking our harnesses. We took a few minutes for pictures before we got started, and once you see the view for yourself you'll understand why. Breathtaking mountain and waterfall views once you're up there. The tour consisted of 7 zips to work your way to the bottom. I do know that the highest zip above ground was 250 feet. I think their longest zip was 800 feet. Not the longest in the world, but when you have 7 of them it sure makes up for it. This was another hubby bucket list that I got dragged along for. I will admit that the first zip was scary, until I got going. Then it was nothing but fun from there. I immediately felt safe. Alohi hooked you up, and Pono stopped you at the end. They are very high energy and hi-fived you the whole time. There was a couple in their 70s and a couple in their late 60s, a family of four with two teenage kids, along with my husband and myself. No one had any troubles with strenuous activity or anything of that sort. You're ziplining over tree tops and a stream the whole time. Pono also pointed out ripe guava along the way that I was delighted to try. Nothing like walking through the rainforest and picking fresh fruit off a tree to eat. At the bottom we were greeted with water and snacks while we took off our gear. We had about 20 minutes to explore and take a dip in a 10 foot deep fresh water swimming hole. Absolutely beautiful! Another perfect day!
Back on the ship we lounged around close to the Waikiki bar and enjoyed the sun upon departing Kauai'i. There was a "Nicest Legs" contest, only men can enter, that my step mom and I moseyed over to the main pool to watch. Quite entertaining and comical. Nothing like cocktails and a front row lounger for passing the Na'Pali coast. Narration started around 5:15 and it was nice to have so that you can understand and truly appreciate the significance of the coast. The views were stunning, and there really are not words to describe. Pictures do not do this place justice. Dinner tonight was at Teppanyaki, followed by cocktails at Pinks to listen to JD play the piano again. A perfect ending to a wonderful cruise!
Day 10-Honolulu: We decided to carry off our own luggage, so we really could disembark anytime between 7 and 10. We got up, packed, ate breakfast, and headed off around 9. Caught a cab to the airport, where my dad and step mom caught a flight to Kona, and we headed to the Thrifty rental. Note: the thrifty rental is not at the airport, it's about 2 blocks away. It's confusing since they advertise as being an "airport location." The cabbie dropped us off at the rental car terminals and we walked around until we finally asked at the Dollar rental calendar. I called the Thrifty number and they sent a shuttle for us. Only lost about 15 minutes, so no big deal. I called Aloha Baggage Storage to come get our bags for the day. They met us at Thrifty within We thought it 10 minutes, and charged me $20 to store our two large suitcases for the day. My husband and I thought it would be fun to have a jeep for the day. We rode, top down, to Pearl Harbor. I purchased a one day pass through the website that got us admission to the Arizona, Bowfin, Pacific Aviation Museum, and Missouri. I didn't realize how long all of this would take, but we got there around 10, and weren't finished until around 3. Well worth it though. This was the last of my husband's bucket list, though I think I ended up enjoying it as much as he did. How interesting to tour a once active battleship and submarine! For the Arizona, you must watch a 20 minute video depicting events leading up to the attack, then the attack itself. I personally was not knowledge about the events leading up to the attack, so I found this very helpful. Then you board you ferry and head to the site. I guess until I reached the memorial I really had not thought about what I was going to see. For a few moments I was almost speechless. You can see parts of the ship underwater, and yes there was oil trickling to the surface. There is also the wall of names, showing all men that sunk with the ship and still lie underneath the water. I think this is where it hit me. I was moved and teary. Parks staff was onsite to provide narration and ask questions if needed. From the memorial there is also great views of the entire harbor, and the markers they have out where other boats sank during the attack. Another somber and almost choking moment for me. Back on the tender and headed for the shuttle to Missouri and Pacific Aviation Museum. The Missouri was obviously impressive. My husband was like a kid in a candy store looking at all the "guns." First time all trip he asked me to take a picture of him with something. The aviation museum was awesome as well. Lots of different aircraft to view, and even some that you can sit in. A few tips: wear good walking shoes if you plan to make a day of it. I wore flip flops and they were not the most comfortable. Also, when touring the Arizona, the Navy escorts the trip to the memorial. They stress from the beginning that this is a place of remembrance and personal reflections, and should be treated as a memorial with low voices and respect. It disgusted me to see how many people disregarded this and had full volume, irrelevant conversation while at the memorial. It also was gut wrenching to see the majority of people not remove their hats when they entered, even after being asked to do so by the navy. I would like to also mention one other thing about the harbor in general that upset me. Upon entering each exhibit, boat, submarine, etc, there was people haggling you to take your picture. Then once you exit the exhibit they try to sell you a picture. I have a difficult time with this. I tend to view Pearl Harbor as a memorial, and not a tourist attraction, and felt this was very distasteful. My husband felt the same, and we refused to have our picture taken each time.
Once we left there my husband and I decided to spend our last couple of hours driving through Honolulu and Waikiki along the coast and enjoy the jeep. We ended up at the Kona Brewery again. The food, beer, and views were just took good to resist. We had ice cream in the attached shopping center, then headed back to return the car. The shuttle immediately took us to the Delta terminal, where Aloha Baggage and Storage was there waiting! Perfect!
It was bitter sweet leaving, though we missed our two kids and couldn't wait to get home to see them. When they are older and can appreciate it, we do plan to bring them Hawaii.
A few extras...
The POA itself...stunning ship and decor. Yes, she is an older ship, and probably could use a face lift. I personally did not experience any missing bathroom tiles or broken cabinet doors like I read about. I did notice maintenance paining and re-staining wood trim throughout the week, so I do think they are making an effort. She is laid out different from other ships, not that it is a bad thing. I was impressed.
Dining: We had breakfast every morning at the Aloha Cafe. It was fast and convenient for us. It wasn't until the third morning that we realized there was an extension of the Aloha Cafe at the rear of the boat with outdoor seating and it's own buffet. A little smaller then the main buffet inside, but still worked for us. This was less crowded than inside. In both places we had hot, fresh food each morning. Never saw where they were out of plates at either buffet. Only had one instance when our table did not have silverware. I grabbed a staff member and had clean silverware in just a couple of minutes. We had lunch at the Cadillac Diner a couple of times. I read pretty bad reviews of slow service and mediocre food. We could disagree. I think the first time we got there around 2PM, the second time around noon. We were seated both times right away, and had food within 15 minutes of being seated. The service wasn't as polished as what you would encounter in one of the dining rooms, but the staff was friendly and efficient. Also ate there one LATE night after a few drinks. From what I can remember great food and service then too. Great milkshakes! Ate at Skyline one evening and was pretty impressed. Arrived around 7:30PM and had a 10 minute wait. Our server, Mr. Lee, was a delightful older gentleman. A man of few words, but as attentive as any wait staff I've ever encountered on a cruise. I had the leg of lamb, and it was wonderful. Also the creme brule, and that was out of this world. Food was hot and service was very fast, even though they were busy. Lazy Js was your run of the mill steakhouse. A very nice, dimly-lit atmosphere. I would say my filet was above average, and everyone else seemed to be happy with their food. I would say worth the surcharge and would go back again. If you go, ask for Corrie. She was an excellent server. Also ate at Teppanyaki, and I cannot rave enough about this place. WELL worth the surcharge. I had the land and sea, steak and shrimp, and everything was cooked the way I requested. Everyone in our group repeatedly said how good their food was.
Smoking: smoking is only allowed at the Waikiki bar, which is why we spent most of our time there, and on the sides of deck 13 forward. You can also smoke on your balcony if you have one.
Bars: We only really spent time at the Saloon, Waikiki Bar, Key West Bar, and Pink's Champagne Lounge. The Saloon has karaoke every night and is good if you're a beer drinker. Only bar to get tap beer. Pinks is more upscale and has live piano music. Very relaxed atmosphere. Waikiki bar is the place to be late night. They have a DJ each night, which is probably the only complaint they have. I love a DJ, but they advertise this being a dancing spot late at night and he is playing Big Girls Don't Cry with laser lights on the canopy ceiling. The crowd up there tended to be 20s and 30s age range, and they wondered why no one danced. Otherwise, bartenders up there were great! Key West overlooks the main pool. It tended to be parents drinking at the bar and watching over their swimming kids, so you had kids running around. There is a much smaller, but quieter and kidless poll by the Waikiki bar.
Shows: The only one we caught was the Newleywed Game. It was pretty predictable if you are familiar with that show, but mildly entertaining if you have nothing better to do.
Staff: I've read the criticism of the American crew, and was pretty worried about it going into this cruise. Yes, the boat is made of of 70% American crew. However, this is not necessarily negative. At no point did I encounter an unpleasant crew member. Every morning we were greeted by each crew member we passed. Every time we walked the cabin hallway we were greeted by crew members. Bar staff and wait staff were just as friendly and attentive. What I will say is that there is less graveling, and in your face happiness often shown by foreign crew staff. Personally, we don't need or expect to have crew members from underdeveloped countries gravel and cater to our every need. That's not why we go on vacation. We are not the Kennedy's and would never expect to be treated as such. We were greeted with "Aloha" and "thank yous" by almost every staff member we came into contact with. Several times throughout the week we were approached by officers asking about our experience so far. If you want the graveling, I would suggest purchasing a condo on The World. If you want a great, active vacation, book the POA.
Weather: Hawaii was much more windy than what I had expected. I packed one pair of jeans and one sweatshirt, mostly to wear on the plane. I was very windy on the boat at night, even when we ported over night. Pack long pants and sweaters. From what the staff and locals told us, the wind is normal.
Ports: All of the ports are very industrial. Don't expect the long docks over crystal blue waters like in the Caribbean. The paradise comes only steps outside of the pier, so don't worry! All of the major car rental companies send shuttles to the piers to pick up those who have pre booked cars. More than enough Taxis are available at all ports as well.
I know this was long, but I also know that it took me a year and a half to plan for our trip. All the information you can get your hands on is valuable. I would go on this cruise again in a heartbeat!