We flew in a day early from New York. I would recommend if coming in from the east coast to plan on staying at least 2-3 days before the cruise as the jet-lag was a killer. Got our transfer from the cruise line and was met by one of their representatives upon landing. We stayed at the Marriott Waikiki which was very nice and right on Waikiki beach.
This was our 5th NCL cruise and it was definitely different from the previous ones (smaller rooms, small pool area, no casino, no duty free shops) but you have to remember this cruise is about seeing Hawaii. Read a lot of the reviews prior to sailing and was a little worried with some of the negative comments regarding the American crew but we found everyone to be extremely friendly and helpful. Wonderful cruise director named Silas....always with a smile and greeting guests.
We ate mostly in the Aloha Cafe, Liberty and Skyline Restaurant's. Most night menu selections were fine and food was satisfactory. We ate one night at "Little Italy" which is on par with the Olive Garden Breakfast buffet was ok. Wait staff was extremely nice and friendly. Book early at any of the specialty restaurant especially Teppanyaki, as they fill up fast.
Highly recommend the comedy of Bud Andersen, music of Toby Beau and Oh What a Night, a Four Season Tribute Band. A really nice nightly treat was at the Napa Wine Bay a singer named Randy Meyers...wonderful singer. Fun night at the game show "The Quest"! NCL show "Rock-a-Hula was horrible and walked out.
We book most of our tours through Roberts Tours. You save 15-20% off the NCL prices and they go to the exact same places.
As we didn't have to board the ship until later in the afternoon, booked a Pearl Harbor Tour with E Noa Tours. "Cousin Mark", was our tour guide, who was so knowledgeable about Pearl Harbor and really made this excursion such a wonderful experience. We returned to our hotel around 2:00 pm and missed the transfer to ship that we paid through NCL. Ended up taking a cab for $20 to take us to the ship.
Maui: Road to Hana: a long day but well worth the trip. Saw some beautiful waterfalls, beaches, parks, etc. Very bumpy roads so if you have back problems you might want to plan a different excursion.
Maui -- Didn't book any excursions, ended up taking the free trolley to the mall and met a group of women from our ship that were going to the mall to catch the No. 20 bus to Lahaina. Bus cost $2 each way and was a Â½ hr ride to Lahaiana (Cruise Line Excursion - $29.00) We had the most wonderful day walking along the pier, visiting the shops, and had a lovely lunch at "Cheeseburger in Paradise" Restaurant that had amazing views of the ocean. Just an enjoyable, relaxing day....well worth the $2.00 bus fare.
Hilo: Volcano National Park -- Amazing day, visiting Macadamia Nut Factory, the Kilauea crater, Thurston Lava tube...plus a wonderful tour guide who was knowledgeable and had a great sense of humor. A lightweight jacket and rain poncho's a must on this tour!
Kona -- No excursion but ended up taking the $2.00 trolley (P/U at the Banyon Tree across from the pier) to the Turtle Bay. The beach was very crowded and ended up walking up the road back to Magic Sand Beach which was just beautiful. Make sure you get the trolley schedule for the return trip as you don't want to miss the last tender of the day. Some wonderful shops and restaurant's within walking distance of the pier.
Kauii --Hawaiian Movie Tours -- Very nice tour showing us various spots where famous movies/TV shows were filmed. Included a nice lunch at Tahiti Nui where The Descendants was filmed.
Booked Luau Kalamaku through NCL. It is wonderful show, on beautiful plantation grounds, wonderful hula dancers, and flame throwers, a fun night.
Spent a nice day walking around the shops by the pier and at the Kauaii Marriott. Boarded the ship by 1:30pm as we set sail to view the Napali Coast which was breathtaking.
Overall this was such an enjoyable vacation that I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Hawaii for the first time.