I spent a few days in Honolulu in 1976 courtesy of the US Air Force and was "stranded" for a little longer stay than was planned. My wife, also stranded, at home with a newborn, has never believed me and for 36 years I have "owed her"! Well earlier this month I delivered. We made the trip with her 86 year old mother who is in great shape, and an 83 year old friend of hers who had been to Hawaii on an NCL inter-island cruise 6 years earlier.
We drove down from Nacogdoches 100 miles down to Houston Bush and stayed at a Sleep Inn right there by the airport. They kept our car at no extra charge for the entire time. The shuttle picked us up right after 4 am and delivered us to the terminal.
We departed Houston VERY early Thursday morning before the Saturday 8/42012 departure of POA and had uneventful flights thru LAX on United and landed in Honolulu around noon. Even security was a non issue.
When we landed and I turned my phone on, I had a message from the Outrigger Luana where I had made reservations MONTHS before. As I dialed I thought "Oh XXXX here we go". They had sold out our room category "Partial Ocean View Kitchen", and were offering a two room suite as compensation. Well, considering the age difference of the couples in our party, that would not do, so we finally agreed on two Partial Ocean View Room with no kitchen. Turns out the only difference was no microwave. All's well that ends well and we had a very nice stay there. Good parking, good service, very helpful staff! Their little store has some of the best Aloha Shirt and Mumu prices in Honolulu. There is an ABC Store right across the street, and in the next block and in the next and ...
We decided to rent cars in every port and do our own tours. This worked out very well most everywhere but learned very quickly that you do not drive in Waikiki. The traffic is insane! WE ended up walking everywhere we wanted to go in Waikiki and everything is so close to the Outrigger Luana that it worked out fine. What a nice walk to the beach thru Ft. DeRussey Park.
We had dinner the first night at Vit's Steakhouse and it was good enough that we went back for brunch Saturday morning on the way to the ship.
Friday morning we got up early again and did Pearl Harbor on our own. See my excursion notes below. No problems driving or finding our way. We stopped and had a "Local Favorite" breakfast of Spam, Eggs, and Rice at McDonald's. Way different but very good!
Friday afternoon we drove ourselves around the short, east, end of the island and saw the sights. Wow, the scenery is great! We came back over the mountains and I dropped the girls off at the International Marketplace. That was a bit of a disappointment due to it's rundown state. We had dinner at Jimmy Buffett's upstairs. Good food and atmosphere!
Saturday morning, (sailing day) we got up early again and went snorkeling at Hanuama Bay. Wow, what a treat. fish and coral everywhere. Spectacular! Get there early.
Back to the hotel to pack up and check out. We returned our Alamo car at the Honolulu location and it was a bit of a walk back down the ramps in the parking garage to catch the shuttle. Then we got one of our pleasant surprises of the trip, and it was an example of things to come. NO CROWDS! We walked right up to the luggage door, right up to security, right up to a check-in window and right on to the ship, and right up and forward to our cabins! The whole process took 30 minutes!
Another pleasant surprise, POA is beautiful, inside and out. After reading the reviews and blogs, we were expecting, rundown, tired, and poorly served. Well it is not! Inside, outside, public spaces, cabins, the ship is clean, bright, airy, and well maintained. The crew and staff were absolutely wonderful. Another pleasant surprise, the safety drill was a breeze. We were seated in the comfortably in the theater and everything was explained in clear detail and off we went! We departed right on time and started the process of taking the 1666 digital pictures we took between us.
Our cabin was just fine. It was out first inside cabin and although it was small, it was clean and bright and well appointed and there was plenty of storage for two or three over-packers. Plenty of plugs for all our electronic gear. The closet door fell off of the girl's room next door but was repaired right away. No other issues at all. Our Steward (Cora) was wonderful. We tipped her very well!
Dinner the first night and every morning and night thereafter was absolutely wonderful. The Skyline and Liberty Dining Rooms are both equally good with the Liberty just a bit upscale. The buffet on deck 11 was our "go to" place and never let us down. The food was always hot and good and plentiful. Don't hesitate to ask for something if you don't see it on the menu just exactly as you would like it. They met our every need.
The "excursions" are noted below so I won't go into a lot of detail here but I will say that every port was delightful. We arrived on time, the disembarkation was painless, the ground transportation and organization was mostly well done. Maui was a little hectic at first. The one thing I was unsure about went just fine also. When you rent a car and stay overnight at the same port, it is difficult to find enough information prior to departure to be completely sure of how it works but in both cases, Maui and Kauai, the Alamo Shuttle Bus driver was very informative. No problem. Alamo did a real good job everywhere except Hilo. No car at Alamo and they took me down to Avis and had to wait for a car there too. When they finally sent me out to a car, someone else was already in it and about yo drive off. Wrong car in the wrong slot! What a mess! Every other port worked like clockwork regarding rental cars.
The entertainment on board was just fine. It is not why I cruise but the two shows we saw were as good as any we had seen on a ship and as good as a couple we have seen in Vegas. The entertainers in the lounges were actually a step above the stage performers and were very professional. However, they have funny schedules. Nothing open in the afternoon.
After departing the Nawiliwili port, the ship sailed north past what must be one of the natural wonders of the world. The Na Pali Coast is simply unbelievable and indescribable! We took some very good pictures but none of them do it justice.
On the last day, we arrived in Honolulu right on time and since we were taking the Grand Circle Tour to kill the time till our flight at 10 pm, we met in the theater at 9:15 and walked right down off the ship and to our coach. Again no lines! Our bags were there and were loaded right on the coach and off we went. It was a very good tour and we were dropped off right at the terminal for our uneventful but reluctant trip back to Texas. We are joining "Over Packers Anonymous" before our next trip.
Summary? Wow, what a trip. We will be back, maybe with a little less planned next time around.
Richard, Jeanell, Julia, and Betty