My husband and I have been self employed for over 30 yrs. We hadn't taken a real vacation in about 22 years. We thought, how about Hawaii with a cruise. The affordability was a factor of course. Just getting to Hawaii when you live in Michigan is quite expensive and we were warned about the cost of everything in Hawaii once you get there. We booked our plane tickets, hotel, cruise and one excursion through a local travel agent. We started our trip by staying two nights in Waikiki at the Hilton Double Tree hotel. Nothing spectacular about the hotel. At $150.00 a night you have No view. But we figured we were going to see the ocean everyday for the next nine days anyway, so we opted for the cheaper hotel for the savings. Waikiki is a hustling bustling place. Lots of people and nightlife. Plenty of stores and restaruants. We heard lots about Waikiki beach but only got to the beach once for sunset. You get so busy sightseeing that you just don't have time to lay around all day. We wanted to see all that there was to see. ABC Stored everywhere to get whatever you need. Prices reasonable too.
We went to see Pearl Harbor and the USS Missouri. Both were nice. Touring the Missouri was the highlight of the day. You can actually walk through a large part of the ship right to the top. How massive! While we were on the Missouri 3 different submarines came into the harbor and one blackhawk helicopter. That was impressive in itself.
The day we were to get on the ship we called a taxi to pick us up at noon from our hotel. $20.00 will get you a taxi to the port which is about 10-15 minutes away depending on traffic.
The checking in process at the port was relatively easy. The lines moved quickly. The only downside was once you were checked in there was alot of waiting around in a large room with a LOT of people. Not enough chairs and they didn't let you board the ship for several hours. They did have some entertainment to enjoy, but by the time you got to this point it would have been nice to just get on board instead of sitting around for hours waiting.
Once we were able to embark, people were tired, hungry and not being able to go to your cabin for spell, most people gravitated to the buffet. This was totally chaotic. Everything on the buffet lines were wrapped in plastic. You couldn't self serve yourself for anything. That turned into a nightmare for the passengers and staff. Evidently the cruise before ours had a virus and they wrap all the food behind saran. You can't get your own plates, silverware, salt,pepper, nothing. This was the worst of the worst. The next day wasn't quite as bad and on the fourth day all the wrap came off the buffet lines and everything moved along quite nice and smoothly. The precaution we thought was necessary and for the protection of us. Minor inconvience to keep everyone from getting sick.
Off we sailed from Honolulu at 7pm toward Maui. The seas were really ruff between Honolulu and Maui. We weren't sure if it was always that way because it was our first cruise. But the next morning after talking to other cruisers they agreed, it usually wasn't like that. Never a problem with being sea sick either. That was one thing I was afraid of.
First Day Maui. We rented a car in advance (shuttles right off the ship to car rentals, shopping, excursions etc. very easy) and drove to Laihana for a whale watch tour which was very nice. I did take some dramamine for that excursion but I don't think I would have needed it afterall. We booked with Pacific Whale Watch Foundation on one of the bigger boats. I think if you were taking a raft the dramamine might come in handy. We seen many whales but none came real close. It was still a delight being out there and the water is sooooo blue. We did get sunburned, so be careful, wear the sunscreen. After our whale watch, we drove around Lahaina and went in some of the shops and had a bite to eat. Great shops. On our way back to the ship we stopped at a beach so my husband could go in the water. It was getting late and a little cool so it was short and sweet. We dropped our car back off at the rental place and they shuttled us back to our ship. Don't forget to tip. There was no fee for the shuttle, but the drivers do like to be tipped.
Day two in Maui- We went to Halekala Volcano. 10,000 elevation. Air is very thin up that high. Crazy! We did the bike excursion this day. They trailer the bikes up the mountain for you and once you come back down to an elevation of 6800 feet you get on your bikes. Its all downhill and breaking with the exception of two small hills that you can walk or try to pedal up. We booked our excursion through adventures in hawaii for this trip. Guys were friendly and informative. Fun ride down that ended biking through a little town and ending up right by a beautiful beach.
Day 3 Hilo- Hilo was a neat place too. Less people than Maui. Lots of Volcano Craters to view on the road to Craters drive in Volcano National Park. Our brother in law lives there so he rented a car, picked us up at the port and brought us sightseeing. Very tropical, rainforest type setting. I said, "only thing missing was the monkeys".
Day 4 Kona- Kona is the setting for massive lava flows from past years. Some look really recent. Again we had the rental car from brother in law that drove around the big Island from Hilo and spent the day sightseeing with us in Kona. Beautiful beaches here too. Most beaches they say in winter have so many rocks exposed its hard to swim. In the summer, the waves bring all that sand back in covering all them big rocks and the beaches are better. We did get to a beautiful beach in Kona though. It was about 30 miles away from our port but totally worth it. Sand beach and sand bottom in the water. No rocks. Clear water and just the right amount of waves to rent a boogie board and have alot of fun. Its too bad that the port times in Hilo and Kona are so short. It really doesn't give you much time to venture and really see much for these two days. We didn't do any shore excursions for Hilo or Kona due to exploring with brother in law and too short of port time.
Day 5 Kauai- Our fist day in Kauai we did the Wailema Canyon tour through Roberts in Hawaii. Which is a nice place to book excursions by the way. We did our first day Pearl Harbor with them also. Very good people. Again, don't forget to tip. Back to the Canyon. Very nice ride up to the canyon. Once you get to the top you can take many pictures from various overlooks and they also sell fresh mango, papaya and sugar cane if anyone is intested. Trip started at 9:30 and ended about 1:30. They pick you up and drop you off right at the port. At 3pm we had a helicopter excursion through Blue Hawaiian. Very good. Excellent pilot, Barett and you get to see much more of Kauai than you would ever be able to see otherwise. Much of Kauai is not driveable so its one of the only ways to see many of the hidden waterfalls Kauai has to offer. I was a little skepical about getting into a helicopter but after a couple minutes it was pretty fun indeed.
Day 6 Kauai- Our last day is a shorter day. Ship leaves at 2pm so you don't have alot of time. My husband chose to do a golf excursion through the ship for the morning which he totally enjoyed. Golf clubs and transportation were provided and that gave me time to go and get some shopping in for any last minute trinkets. Shops are within walking distance again from port. Always felt totally safe. There are many people walking to and from the ship to these shops as well. Good day, relaxed by the pool on top deck and caught some rays while waiting for sail time back to Honolulu.
About the ship- we were on deck nine. We had a balcony cabin which we LOVED. Its you own little place for peace away from everything and everyone when you want it. And at night listening to the water go by is priceless! We felt we had plenty of room. Lots of storage space. Luggage fit under the bed. The bed could have and should have been replaced a long time ago. Its two beds pushed together to form a king but the obvious hump in the middle which was totally uncomforable was the pits. If we weren't on the hump we were in a slump of a worn out mattress on both sides. Glad to hear the Pride of America renovation of the ship next month. I am sure they will have new beds as part of the remodel as well.
The pool and hot tubs were good. We spent some time up there for the BBQ's they have on the first and last night of the cruise which was very good and nice. Drinks are pricey which we totally expected but I do mix drinks and it was hard to know if they put any liquor in them. Next time I will order beer or wine. Then you know its not watered down unfortunately. I don't want to nit pick but when you pay $7.50 for a drink you should taste the liquor. We did a couple shows on the ship which we thought were very good. Again, we just didn't have the time to do everything. The ship offered classes for Lei making etc but you are out and about all day exploring and when you get back you just want to eat and sleep.
The crew working on the ship were all very pleasant and on the ball. Our room stewart, Ronnie was great. He cleaned our room twice a day. Alway fresh towels and anything you needed he was just a close holler away. Very hard working good people on this ship was our overall take.
On arrival back to Hololulu we were wondering what are we going to do with our luggage now? We arrived back to port at 7am and our flight back home didn't leave until MIDNIGHT!!! We booked an all day excursion through the ship NCL for this day also. The grand circle tour of Honolulu which was really nice. The bus takes you and all your luggage for the day around the whole island and drops you off at the airport at about 5:30. For us that was perfect. We had time to rearrange our luggage before we checked it in and change our clothes. After checking luggage we found a place to eat dinner and spent a little time browsing the shops and before you know it your flight is boarding. Worked out perfect. I know when we planned this trip One of my worries was our luggage the last day and late flight home. Roberts Hawaii also does these day excursions when your ship arrives too. They take your luggage right along.
Overall, we had a great vacation. Glad we took the ship to see all the Islands instead of just staying in Honolulu. Less people and less busy in Maui, then less in Hilo and Kona and by the time you get to Kauai, very peaceful. If I were to go back and stay at just one of the Islands it would probably be Maui. Temperatures in January were always 75 or above. Kind of cool at night, just for a sweater and the water, about 78 year round. Whats not to LOVE?