A very pleasant cruise
The PoA is a nice ship with a lot of character. What I liked best about her was the library. It was huge, and a nice quiet place to relax with a book. I understand that this spring she's going into dry dock where they will replace the current conference rooms with some suites and solo cabins. Being a solo traveler, I think that's wonderful!
The majority of my experiences with the crew were outstanding. However, some of the younger crew didn't get the concept of a library being quiet, so there were some rambunctious conversations that were really annoying.
The food was good. Typical NCL quality on the buffet, though a bit monotonous. However, there was suckling pig on the last evening. Outstanding! The specialty restaurants were quite good and ran the spectrum of "meh" to exceptional; with the Lazy J on the "meh" end (I don't understand why it's the most expensive. I could have cooked a similar meal myself.) and Jefferson's Bistro on the exceptional end. I also More
attended the Chef's Table event, which was fantastic. The chef was very approachable and willing to share her recipes. The Cauliflower Flan in Asparagus Cream was to die for!
Because I'm an early riser/retirer, I didn't see a lot of the entertainment, so I can't comment on it.
Being an early person, I tend to eat dinner early, so I wish the happy hours were earlier than 5:30. If you are a martini fan, you must go to the Pink Champagne bar. They have 20+ infusions of vodka. Try the coffee bean flavored one; trust me, it's awesome.
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Port and Shore Excursions
Volcano National Park & Hilo Waterfall Tour
What waterfalls? I don't understand why they advertise this tour as "Volcano National Park and Rainbow Falls" if there are no falls to see. Not one single drop! Why do they advertise it and, if there is no water, why do they waste our time going there? They provided no water to drink, which I think is ridiculous in a tropical climate. We were supposed to be able to buy lunch, but we didn't get an opportunity until the last stop after 3:30! By then no one ate because we were headed back to the ship where we could eat for free. The driver spent too much time chatting with his local cronies and complaining about how the native islanders were screwed out of their land. The volcanoes were cool, though, and I really enjoyed the orchid nursery.
Hop On Hop Off Trolley
I use Gray Line's hop-on/off service just about everywhere I go. They always do a great job. It's economical (especially if you buy through Groupon like I did for this trip) and it's convenient. The bus stopped right in front of my hotel. We made stops at all of the interesting places in Honolulu, and also toured around Diamond Head. The people who worked the buses, especially the wonderful Auntie who sold tickets in front of the Duke statue, were all really friendly and knowledgable. Highly recommended.
I took this tour primarily because it was the only one that went to the Byodo In Temple. The temple is stunningly beautiful; great for photos. We stopped at the tourist trap that is the Dole pineapple plantation and we stopped at a family-run macadamia farm. The tour is basically a long bus ride, looking at the countryside and shore. We did get a bonus, though. We were there during the triple crown surfing championship, and our driver was accommodating enough to stop for a bit so we could watch. Really neat experience.
What a great way to see Kauai, which is a beautiful island. The pilot provided a decent narrative during our flight, which took about 70 minutes. The flight was smooth and everyone had a window, which was great for photos. Air Ventures is family-owned and run, so we were treated like ohana. I highly recommend this excursion.
If you want to see more than the typical tourist traps, get to know some locals, be provided with a narration of the rich history of the farming community, and partake of Maui's bounty, then take this tour. We watched surfers, visited a winery and a lavender farm, had a picnic lunch, plus other stops, all the while being provided with a narrative on the community's history. The local couple who run the tour, Marilyn and Rick, are warm and charming. It was a lovely, lovely day.