We sailed from Los Angeles to four Hawaiian islands, then to Ensenada in Mexico, and then back to LA. Four and a half days each way across the Pacific was a long time to be on the ship. Since it was winter, most of the time it was too cold to enjoy on-deck activities like the outdoor pools or deck chairs. Eight or nine days without any ports of call is also more than enough time to exhaust all of the entertainment on board and the various free movies and other TV programming offered by the ship. I was grateful to reach the Hawaii and get off the ship on the way out, and even more grateful to reach LA and get off the ship for good on the way back.
The food was surprisingly uneven - some days it was quite good, other days nearly inedible. The worst food was from the special holiday menus, which I found pretty surprising. The pizzas and hot dogs were the worst - completely disgusting. The first thing I did when disembarking in Hawaii was make a beeline for the nearest fast food. More
Normally I don't like fast food, but it was a refreshing treat after the fattening, repetitive fare on the boat. Also, because food quality was so variable, it was nice to know for a change what to expect in my meal. On the positive side, room service was 24 hours and at no additional charge for most items. It was nice to be able to get a club sandwich or PBJ any time of the day or night (especially after an unsatisfying meal in one of the main dining rooms). There is also a handy continental breakfast service - you can order several different items like pastries and juice in the evening, and it will show up at the time of your choice the next morning at your door.
Even though it was an "all inclusive" cruise, soft drinks and alcohol are billed separately. The way the ship handles this is really annoying - you have to present your ship card each time you order a drink, and sign a receipt each time too. With large groups at a bar or at dinner this can be very cumbersome and annoying. They should come up with better, less disruptive methods, like portable card or finger print readers. Paperless options would also be nice.
Service on board was all over the map. Most of the staff was very helpful and attentive, but sometimes it was impossible to get assistance, particularly in the early or late hours in the self-serve buffet. Also, our room steward never responded to pages and was seldom to be found. When he could be found, he was fairly unfriendly. (In contrast, some friend staying just down the hall had a different steward, and they claimed they've never received better attention or been better taken care of.) Some of the crew did not speak English very well and I had a few awkward misunderstandings as a result.
The ship had a modest sized gym / work out facility, but its hours were limited from 7AM to 10PM. Many guests complained about this and indicated that other ships or cruise lines have 24 hour gyms. Because a lot of people on the cruise were morning people and were from several time zones further east, the gym was always overcrowded in the morning. There were lines to get any cardio or workout equipment. The only way to ensure getting equipment was to go to the gym later in the evening, but at the cost of missing out on a dining slot or evening entertainment. Also, some of the cardio equipment was in poor repair.
I had a lot of fun hanging out with friends on the cruise and going on excursions, but overall this was not an experience I would want to repeat. I never felt any sort of luxury at all. Instead, I felt like I was staying in a second-rate hotel in the middle of nowhere. The long ocean crossing contributed to this feeling, and maybe I would have enjoyed the cruise more if it had less time at sea and more ports of call. Less
Depressing and dirty. We walked down the main tourist road and were pestered constantly by begging children and people trying to sell us drugs (legal and not). We ate in a local restaurant and were extremely disappointed by the slow service and crappy food. On the way back to the ship after dark the entire waterfront seemed very seedy. We should probably have stayed on the ship.
Hilo is depressing - it's small, dirty, spread out, and uninspired. It was basically a big, soggy strip mall. It was also extremely rainy. We rented a car (which was insanely expensive) and drove up to Volcano National Park. It was too cloudy and rainy to see much, so we drove further west through seemingly endless miles of scrubby wasteland before turning around, dropping off our car and heading back to the ship disappointed.
This was an interesting sampling of several parts of Kauai, including interior valleys, an abandoned sugar mill, a seldom-visited and very pretty beach, a long sugar truck tunnel, and some private range lands. Kauai is gorgeous. One disappointment was that there was a ton of beautiful scenery, but the van seldom stopped for photo ops or exploration. The tour still have a nice sampling of the island, however, and based on what I saw, I would want to come back and explore the island more.
This was a 7-line facility in the center of the island. The lines criss-crossed over a forested valley and river far below. Tons of fun! Also, the military-style 4WD vehicle was a lot of fun (maybe too bumpy for some) and we got a scenic tour of much of the center of the island on the way to and from the zipline site. The two tour guides were helpful, friendly and informative, and they helped make this a special experience. I would do this again in a heartbeat.
This excursion started and ended with a drive across half the island, which was interesting. Maui is beautiful and driving across the island you can see desert areas, farms, towns, huge crashing waves on the north shore beaches, and lush vegetation in the mountains. Once we reached the excursion site, we had a nice tour of some forested areas with lots of streams, waterfalls and irrigation canals. The tour started and ended in a private farm and we sampled some of the tropical fruits and plants growing there. The guide was friendly and helpful. The hike was muddier and dirtier than I expected, but also a lot of fun. Overall a very positive experience which made me want to come back and explore more.