This was our 10th cruise, 5th with Norwegian, which has rapidly become our favorite cruise line -- though we'll certainly go on others when the itinerary, timing, price, etc., warrants. There were 14 of us who went on this cruise: our honeymooning daughter and her husband (married the morning of the cruise on Waimanalo Beach), our other daughter and her husband, my sister-in-law and her husband, their adult daughter and his 89-year old father, four grandkids (17, 5, 3, 3) and the two of us. One of our daughters and her family actually live in Mililani on Oahu, having moved their six months ago.
Prior to the wedding and cruise, we stayed two nights at the Hotel Mirimar on Waikiki. It was a decent hotel. Pretty good location though not "on" the beach. I'd stay there again if I was doing a pre-cruise stay. I probably would not stay in Waikik/Honolulu otherwise.
Because of the wedding, we were all transported to the port in a limousine. Our embarkation was very smooth but three of the four staterooms were suites so we got even more preferential treatment than we'd normally get as gold Latitudes members. It was pretty painless and we were escorted up to our suites area pretty quickly.
We had been on the Norway way back when, and then only on Gem-class ships so the Pride of America would be pretty new to us. We had read a few negative reviews about the ship, the staff and the cruise itself but we were pleasantly surprised that our experience was quite the opposite -- everything was very good to excellent!
We booked one of the obstructed view family suites (7594) because a) we needed to sleep eight people (four adults, a 17-year old, a 5 and two 3's) and b) we really didn't want a balcony with the young ones. We would normally get at least a balcony when it's the two of us. We were pleasantly surprised by the suite. It had a large room with a queen bed and a sleeper sofa, along with plenty of closet space and sitting space. It also had a second, separate room with two singles (could be made into a queen) and two pull-down bunks. Each sleeping area had its own bathroom. There wasn't an overabundance of space, but we never felt we were right on top of each other, either. It certainly met our needs well.
The first night, all the adults went to the Lazy J Steakhouse, having made reservations 45 days in advance. The food was quite good but the service was a little lacking. I wouldn't rush back there. That was the only specialty dining we went to. (One daughter did the Little Italy and found the opposite, great service with so-so food. The other daughter did Jefferson's Bistro and raved about it. We will do that one if we go again.) We did all breakfasts in the Aloha Cafe (buffet), even though we were in a suite, and we were quite happy with it. Any lunches we had on board were also there and they were quite good, also. We also did one dinner there (first time ever for us) and were pleasantly surprised at a) how good it was and b) how many people do the buffet for dinner!
Otherwise, when we had dinner on board, it was in the Liberty Main Dining room where we wound up asking for the same waiter, Gavin, and assistant, Chris, each time. We never had a wait, though we are late diners, usually 8:00 or later. But even with a wait, you just grab a beeper and head to some live music until the table is ready. Food was great, service was very good. Nothing but positives to say.
Another unusual thing for us is that we never got to see one show -- the grandkids kept us busy! But others who went said they were quite good. Even our 17-year old grandson raved about one. We also discovered Randy Meyers, a singer/guitarist, late in the cruise. We had met Randy on a Mediterranean cruise two years ago so we wish we had known sooner that he was on board. We really didn't have much chance to see any other entertainers. We didn't attend White Hot Night ourselves (bummer) but the younger adults did and enjoyed themselves. We also had a couple of evenings of fun karaoke (Ash was great leading the effort), and we were picked to be the elderly statesmen for the "Not So Newlywed Game" as our fellow passengers had put our name in. We did it and it was fun.
Prior to the cruise, we had told our 17-year old grandson about the Teen Connection and he pretty much dismissed the idea. When on board, we convinced him to give it a try -- if you don't like it, just leave. Well, we couldn't tear him away from the place once he tried it. Kudos to the counselor there.
Additionally, we availed ourselves of the Kids Rascals Club most evenings for the 5 and two 3-year olds and they loved it. They even went there for a while a couple of late afternoons. The staff there were outstanding, well-deserving of the hefty gratuity my daughter and son-in-law gave them! We never did the late-night babysitting service but might consider it in the future.
One other well-kept secret for kids is the small pool and hot tub area for kids right next to Rascals. We went in there with the little ones and they (and we) had a blast. Another well-kept secret that we never got a chance to avail ourselves of was the (very) quiet Oasis Pool area, aft on Deck 12. Only a handful of chairs and never seemed to be full.
The first port was Maui and the pier was on the windward side -- and was it windy! We had rented a van and just traveled the 8 miles over to Lihei where there were plenty of sun-drenched beaches and no wind! Four of us went that evening to the Feast at Lele in Lahaina -- NOT a shore excursion. If you do one "luau", do this one. It's really marvelous. It's more for adults. You have a five course meal. A given course is served (yes, served) and is of the foods that are common to the islands in question, followed by a little show about the cultures of those islands. So, you have Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti and Fiji for the four courses and four shows, followed by dessert. There is also a virtual open bar (some drinks are a dollar or so more).
The second day we drove up Mt. Haleakala but only got to the visitors center as it was very foggy and raining on the top. Fortunately, we had been up there before. All aboard for a 6PM departure after our overnight in Maui.
Next port was Hilo on the Big Island. My daughter had an extra ticket for a zip line tour so I went along. It was the ship shore excursion Rainforest Zip Line & Waterfall. This was a great excursion. It was my first time zip lining and I'd recommend this one to any beginners. You zip across some deep and pretty ravines, but you typically go from ground to ground, not up in the treetops (see later). It also afforded a little bit of travel on the Hilo side. We later drove over to a black sand beach not far from the ship.
At night, the ship leaves Hilo and heads for Kona. While cruising, the ship goes by the area where the active volcano has lava running out into the sea. Though not as active as a year or so ago, it was still quite a sight to see.
The next stop is Kona on the other side of the Big Island. You need to tender in at Kona so we had no specific plans. We hitched a taxi and went to Turtle Beach several miles up the coast. Nice -- and different! We spent the better part of the afternoon just lounging aboard before our departure for Kauai.
The Kauai port is Nawilili. We rented a van day one and took a trip up to Waimea Canyon. This is a must-see if you go to Kauai. It's not the Grand Canyon, but pretty close -- and the views going up there and back down are outstanding. That afternoon, we took our 17-year old grandson and headed to Port Allen to hop on a sailing catamaran (Captain Andy's) for a sunset dinner cruise of the NaPali coast. Unfortunately, it was too rough up that way so we just cruised the coast and saw a few whales. It turned out to be a great trip. This is NOT a ship excursion.
The second day I was roped into another ship excursion, Tree Top Zip Line Adventure. I was happy I had experienced zip-lining on the tamer tour in Hilo because this was truly treetop -- zipping from one platform to another up to 90' up. It was fun and exhilarating and we had two acrophobiacs who made it okay thanks to the fine guides there. I'd recommend it but be aware you are truly in the treetops for a couple of hours, solid.
Back to the ship for a 2PM departure so we can all get an afternoon view of the NaPali coast. This is the highlight of the cruise -- not to be missed. The coast is beautiful and we got relatively close to view it.
For disembarking, we normally just walk off with our luggage but, with 14 of us, we decided to have NCL take our luggage off. Disembarkation was about as smooth and painless as one can imagine. Helpful that there were no customs requirements, having stayed entirely in the USA.
All in all, we found this to be an outstanding cruise and the easiest and best way to see the four main islands of Hawaii.