I should start by saying that I read a TON of reviews before embarking on this trip. I was seriously nervous about the cruise after reading people's complaints about service and food - so nervous that I didn't want to share these things with my husband and chance ruining the perfect vacation he had in mind. I'm not usually one to write an online review but I feel like I should say something since my trip was so completely amazing and dramatically different than the negative things that have been posted on this site.
This was our first cruise and our first trip to Hawaii. We really didn't know where to begin with excursions so it took us a few days to get used to everything and really branch out and make the trip our own.
Before I give you a run down of our trip, let me tell you what we did and did not do.
Eat at the buffet (a lot)
Order free room service (a lot)
Eat at the super expensive steak house (once)
Drank at the Waikiki Bar (BEST STAFF ON THE SHIP)
3 shore excursions through NCL
Use the expensive WiFi (we are city kids and can't disconnect for that long)
Bought some of the photo packages on the boat(please, do yourself a favor and make funny poses - we have some awesome pics that we will cherish forever)
Go to any shows (too tired)
Go to any other specialty restaurants
Do anything on the boat other than eat, drink and sleep
ok here we go:
We flew in on Friday night and stayed really close to the ship. We began the check-in process around 2 - it was busy but didn't take us more than 20 mins to get through the entire process. We were on the ship and hit the Aloha Cafe for lunch and then had a drink on the aft deck and waited for our room to open. We signed up to do the bar hop, which was totally worth the $25 (I couldn't even finish all the drinks they lined up at each bar). The staff is really great at getting everyone to participate - we met a lot of people (staff and guests alike) right off the bat which always helps to make the trip more fun. We also later discovered that a video was made and it plays on the tv in the room. This made us laugh more than a few times. Such a great night.
I must admit, we were a little overwhelmed when we arrived at the first port. We had no clue what to do. We ended up taking a cab to the 4 Seasons Hotel and spent the day on the beach. It was awesome and relaxing and everything we wanted in the first day of our trip. The next day we did the Molokini Crater Snorkel. You really have to do this - it's pretty amazing. The gift shop has underwater cameras you can rent for like $30 - get one. All of the money supports a really great cause so you have fun and feel good about it. We swam INCHES away from multiple sea turtles - it was amazing. When we returned to the ship we decided to take a break from the buffet and went to Skyline. The food was terrible - think school cafeteria. We left and went back to the buffet which had super yummy food. (I HATE buffets in real life so I was surprised that I loved this one so much).
It rained in Hilo - which apparently always happens so bring a jacket or hoodie because it's cold. We did the NCL trip to Volcanoes National Park that included a stop at Rainbow Falls and a nut farm and an orchid store. This was the only mistake we made the entire trip. If you are under the age of 60, this tour is not for you. We should have just rented a car and done it ourselves. Nothing like being herded around a bunch of tourists traps to make you feel like cattle. Skip this or do it by yourself (or with friends from the ship). Seriously.
Kona was probably one of my favorite places the entire cruise. The port is right in the middle of town so you get off and can take the trolley for $2 down to "Turtle Beach". Wanna know why it's called Turtle Beach? There are sea turtles EVERYWHERE. I mean - everywhere. We rented snorkel equipment from the guy set up on the beach ($5) and passed probably 10 turtles on our way to the water. Amazing. There is a bar/restaurant at the resort next door to the beach - I had a fish sandwich that made my entire trip. I'm not even kidding. Just writing about it made my mouth water. Go get it - sit at a table with an ice cold drink and update your facebook status to let all of your friends know that you found paradise - because you just did. We left the beach and went shopping and hit up a little Indian Restaurant by the pier and enjoined $2 drinks while we waited for the "tender" line to die down.
We went to Lazy J's upon our return to the ship. The food was great and it better be because you just dropped $75 to eat there.
The next morning, I was telling my husband that I wasn't sure how anything could top the day we had in Kona. We looked over at the window from our table at the Aloha and saw our first glimpse of Kauai and I knew we were in for a treat. Kauai is amazing. We decided at that moment, over way too much fruit and yummy croissants, that we wanted to rent a car and do it ourselves. We used our iPhones (which amazingly got service almost the entire trip - even while sailing) and rented a car, which sent a shuttle to get us and we were on our way up to the North Shore in less than 45 mins. Seriously. So Fast! We spent a day on the North Shore at Tunnels and Hanalei Bay (seriously - AMAZING) and then woke up the next morning at 4am and hit the other side of the island. I should mention that there are literally only 2 roads so you can't get lost. DO IT! We also did the NCL excursion to the Luau. We had an awesome time - our seats were the worst seats in the house and we still had fun.
We were so sad to leave Kauai and all of it's chickens but were pleasantly surprised that the ship sails along the Napali Coast before heading back to Honolulu. Great photo opp and last chance to hang out with shipmates and swap stories.
We had a great trip. This was a WONDERFUL way for us to see Hawaii for the first time. We have actually already booked a trip back for next summer to go to Kona and Kauai and we are in the process of booking a NCL cruise to Alaska with people we met on this cruise. So exciting - what are you waiting for? Book your tickets and maybe I'll see you all there ...