First I would like to thank previous reviewers- without your tips my cruise would not be the success it was!
getting there - its really far from the East Coast- if i had to do it over again I would take the Hawaiian airlines non stop flight from JFK to Honolulu ( 11 hours) and spend the extra day in Honolulu.
flew United from CT to Los Angeles, stayed overnight, the onto Honolulu on Hawaiian airlines Booked Honolulu Airport Shuttle for a driver to come into baggage claim with a sign and take us directly to the ship. Despite having our flight info ( flight arrived 20 min late) there was NO ONE to greet us or even waiting outside - we had to call 3 times and wait over an hour to be picked up and taken to ship- all with out so much as an apology!
If you book Norwegian transportation from airport to ship then you get to bypass the long luggage line and proceed directly to check in and board the ship. IF you are a latitudes member then after you finish baggage screening and give up your luggage - look for the latitudes express line extreme left in the check in lounge for express embarkation.
cabins- although smaller than other balcony cabins I am used to - the cabin was clean and had ample storage space. Would recommend port side 9Th deck balcony cabin. DO NOT BOOK cabins 8646 or 8648- the life boats under these 2 cabins si the one used for tendering in Kona and we were awakened 3 days in a row at 6am for the lowering of this life boat! The other advantage to the port side is the sail by of the napili coast line. the captain sailed slow and close on the port side, and i got some beautiful pictures- when he turned around for the starboard side he went much faster and farther away and the light was not as good either. That being said - when docked in Maui you will have a view of the shipping operations - not so nice scenery, but i think the napili coast made it worthwhile
Food - ate in the main dining room the first night- service excellent- food mediocre at best. Ate in the specialty restaurants the rest of the week- Pre booked on line prior to cruise- I believe you get a discount if you book more than 3. Lazy J Steak house Little Italy and Jefferson's Bistro were all excellent- excellent food great service , quiet intimate atmosphere- Jefferson's was our favorite 0 ate there 3 times! Teppanyaki was not bad- but was mostly for the show of food prep and would not eat there again.
Gluten free- my daughter and I have to follow a gluten free diet. Spoke with Holly who is on charge of special diets on the first day- and she and her staff went above and beyond to make sure we had our needs met and beyond! ]
Thanks Holly and staff.
for breakfast and lunch highly recommend the aloha cafe- same food as main dining room for breakfast but a lot faster. We always went to deck 11 and go outside - they have all the same food as the inside aloha cafe and you ca eat outdoors under a large shaded area- never had trouble getting a table and ti was so nice to eat outdoors and enjoy the nice breeze
Found all the staff of the POA to be exceptional except for the young man in charge of the fitness center who had a bad attitude and was rude.
Photo studio- located outside of mardi gras lounge i think deck 5 or 6
had a wonderful family portrait taken at Kona- no sitting fee or obligation
took 1 1/2 hours off the ship-Beautiful photography on the beach at various locations. lifetime of memories- Thanks to the photographer Melissa! Well worth the time and expense!
booked all excursions through Norwegian and an glad I did!
Maui- Haleakala crater at sunset- NOT TO BE MISSED- our driver was Hawaiian and very informative and entertaining- got wonderful photos-
arrived back at ship at 8:30pm and had 9pm dinner reservations
Hilo- volcano national park- also excellent- except for the 60 min at the beginning at a candy factory - was meant to be a 30 min stop, but 2 people did not return to bus promptly. TO his credit the driver did not try to make up lost time- but still gave us ample time at all the stops- the crater, the visitor center, the rain forest, the lava tube- that being said we made it to ship 5 min before required all aboard time- but no worries - since we booked through Norwegian they would not have left without us!
Kauai sea fun beach snorkel- absolutely fantastic- picked us up at ship, took us to their offices where we were outfitted with wet suits snorkeled masks and fins. My son is very near sighted and they even had a mask with prescription lenses for his use! the onto the beach for snorkeling. One woman in our group did not even know hos to swim- they had modified a surf board and all she had to do was float faced down and hold onto the board and the guide moved the board over the reef so she could see all the beautiful fish. We even saw a sea turtle! they served snacks after the snorkeling was completed.
Kauai- surfing - my kids did this and lived it- it was the highlight of their trip- would recommend you bring your own rash guard- everyone in their group was successful in surfing! if you want to go along just to observe/take pictures you can book the excursion just as an observer
Honolulu- early bird pearl harbor and airport transfer - solved 2 problems - getting off the ship and getting to airport- tour was great had a 1:55pm flight and just made it- recommend you check your bags curbside then enter the out the door security line! ALL our carryons were safe on the locked bus while we toured pearl harbor
stuff- would definitely bring baggies along- the kids often took snacks from aloha cafe along on their excursions off the ship. also recommend a small back pack to take with you off the ship. In Maui there is a free shuttle to hilo Hattie's- if you spend > 40 $ and have your boarding pass form a Hawaiian airlines flight you get a free small soft sided cooler- perfect to take snacks off the ship from aloha cafe for the remainder of the week.
We booked this cruise to spend time with our adult children. for what may be our last opportunity to vacation together for a while, as they are starting our in their careers and may not have flexibility in the near future for us all to coordinate dates for a family vacation. I plan to take this cruise again with some German friends who have never been to Hawaii.
I would like to thank each and every Norwegian staff member for making the vacation memory one I will cherish for years! Ma halo Norwegian Cruise Lines
Happy to answer any and all questions from any future POA cruisers.