This "review" is a bit long, but as I enjoyed other reviews that included lots of info and tips, so too will this review.
My wife and I sailed POA with our 2 sons (20, 18). We had 2 inside cabins on deck 4, midship, center. We experienced almost no motion. My youngest son is very prone to motion sickness and was queasy anytime the ship was moving except in his cabin.
TIP #1 Cabins 4063 - 4081 are great for motion sickness. They're also close to the midship stairwell down to the deck 3 gang ways or the stairwell up to deck 5 for customer service, the shops, and the Hollywood Theatre. Deck 4 is also the bottom floor for the elevators, so they're empty when they pick you up to go to deck 11 et al.
The cabins were fine. The drawers didn't slide very easily but otherwise we had no complaints. The drop down bed gave us more storage room for our scuba gear, which was nice.
Having sailed Princess in the Caribbean a couple of years ago, we were used to finding the purser more or less lurking in the halls anytime day or night. Not so on POA. About the only time we saw him was during turndown at night. However, he was very helpful with our next trick...
TIP #2 Take small collapsible coolers. We flew into Honolulu on Friday and stayed at the Aston Waikiki Beach. One of the perks of this hotel is that they give you personal coolers to load up from the breakfast bar. We took those aboard the ship and made sandwiches from the breakfast buffet each morning. We stopped at KMart in Kahului and picked up a case of water and some "blue ice" (plastic ice blocks that you refreeze). We gave the blue ice to the purser each night and had room service return them each morning. Perfect!
Its been mentioned before but I repeat it - take lots of plastic baggies, sandwich size and gallon size.
We ate all of our on-board meals at either the Aloha Cafe buffet or the Cadillac Diner. The food at the buffet was very good with usually 3-4 meat or fish entrees, cook-to-order stations, salad and dessert bars. Several people mentioned the chaos of have many stations. Actually, I thought this kept the lines short and there was usually fewer people at the port-side stations.
The food at the Cadillac Diner was disappointing EXCEPT for the wings, desserts, and shakes.
We decided in advance not to take nice clothes for the speciality restaurants. With scuba gear et al we were pushing the airline weight limit anyway. We had warm clothes for Haleakala, but these were sweats. What we did not know was that the 2 sit-down dining rooms (Liberty and Skyline) also require long pants. Oh well.
TIP #3 - get a table EARLY on the stern rail of the outside dining area Aloha Cafe. The buffet line opens at either 5:30 or 6:00 each evening. Go around 5:00 and get a table on the rail. Then you can eat and watch that day's port as you leave each evening. Also, they have a happy hour special on Mai Tais.
That's about all I'm going to say regarding the ship. We enjoyed the comedian's show and both music shows we went to. The "Fabba" show at the pool was just okay.
TIP #4 - Excursions... If you have a family of 3 or more, skip the on-board tour groups and rent a car on each island. discounthawaiicarrental.com gave us great rates and even changed a couple of my reservations when the rates went down. Renting a car saves a ton of money over the excursions and gives you the freedom to go where you want when you want. No stops at high-priced tourist traps. And you can usually beat the buses to the destinations like Haleakala on Maui, Volcanoes National Park in Hilo, and Waimea Canyon on Kauai. All the major rental car companies provide shuttles from the ship to the rental office and parking is provided free on Maui. Parking on Kauai was about half a mile away at a couple of small malls with free shuttles. Be sure, if you park there overnight, to get a permit for $10.
Well, if you've read this far, you must not be bored yet, so I'll tell you about our excursions. We flew into Honolulu on Friday and, as previously mentioned, stayed at the Aston Waikiki Beach.
TIP #5 - Call ahead to book your shuttle from the airport to your hotel or the ship. This will save you quite a bit and one less hassle at the airport. We used A8 shuttles. Our driver was prompt, very friendly, and we arranged with her to pick us up at the hotel and take us to the ship on Saturday.
On Saturday morning, we caught a shuttle from our hotel to Sea Life Park on the east side of Oahu. Nice little park. My youngest son had always dreamed of swimming with a dolphin, so we arranged that for him. The "Royal" package was far better than the other options. The shuttle took us back to the hotel at 3:30 which gave us just enough time to check in and board the ship by 5:00. No lines at that time either.
Sunday, we picked up our rental jeep and headed up to Haleakala. Even though it wasn't for sunrise, the views were still breathtaking. And it was still cool enough for a jacket, even at 10 am. Afterwards, we drove down to Paia and Baldwin beach. If the wind and surf have come up by that time, there's a nice protected area at the east end of the beach to snorkel.
Monday, the boys and I got up EARLY and drove across to Kihie (about 25 minutes) to catch our scuba dive boat at 5:45. This put us out at Molokini crater before 7:00, before the wind came up, and before any other boats arrived. The crew of B&B Scuba were great and the diving in the crater was spectacular. We finished and were back to the ship by 11:00. We planned to drive around the west side of the island to Lahaina, but after we got back to the boat and ate, we were too beat, so were returned the jeep and hung out on the boat.
Tuesday, in Hilo, we once again picked up our rental jeep and headed for Volcanoes National Park. Amazing place. We took the trail across the road from the Thurston Lava tube that takes you down onto the caldera floor. After that, we drove around to the observatory. The road around the rim was closed on the south side because of the steam plume.
Wednesday, we took the tender into Kono and caught our shuttle to Jack's Diving Locker. After check-in, they drove us out to their boat and we were off to a couple of nice dive sites. Keller was hysterical and the whole operation was well run.
Thursday, we picked up our rental jeep, popped the top, and headed around the north side of the island to Tunnels Beach. Best snorkeling I've ever done. The reef is very shallow then drops off into some deep trenches and caves. And its all protected by an outer reef. On the way back, one of several stops we made was Village Snack and Bakery Shop - great apple cobbler!
Thursday night, we went to Smith's Garden Luau. I've been to a couple of other luaus before, but this was far and away the best. The food is served from 6 buffet lines, so its quick. Drinks are included. And the food was very good. The show was well done and a little different than other shows.
Friday morning, we drove around the south side of the island to Waimea Canyon. Wow! Great views. On the way back, we stopped at a little bakery in Kalaheo right at the only stop light in town. I can't remember the name and can't find it on the internet, but I know it had "Cookie" in the name. Fantastic brownies and treats.
Friday afternoon, the ship sails around the north side of Kauai for a look at the Na Pali coast. Get a spot on the port rail EARLY.
Friday night, pick up your debarkation bag tags in the 5th floor atrium.
Saturday morning, we left the ship, picked up our bags, and caught the shuttle to the rental car place. Then it was off to Pearl Harbor.
TIP #6 - Get as late a flight on Saturday as possible. The Arizona Memorial and surrounding attractions close at 5:00pm. That's not enough time to really take in the sites. If you plan to see the Bowfin sub, the Missouri, and the Pacific Air Museum, buy the all-inclusive passport in advance.
When you get to the park, pick up your free tickets to the Arizona. You'll probably have time to see the Bowfin and the sub museum before your Arizona Memorial tour. Be forewarned - crawling through the Bowfin is a full pilates class, especially for "fluffy" people like me.
After the Arizona, catch the free shuttle over to Ford Island and the Missouri. Watch your time. It's easy to spend several hours wandering around the this ship. Leave at least 1 1/2 hours for the Pacific Air Museum - 2 hangers of warplanes and helicopters.
In summary, we had a great time on and off the ship. This is a great way to cover a lot of Hawaii.