My Wife and I had a great time on this Cruise we did not experience any of the horrors that we have read in previous reviews. I would like to tell you a little about us we are both 34 middle class people who have done quite a bit of traveling. I felt that reading other reviews helped us to be prepared for the trip. I would like to add a few things to the reviews that I did not see anyone else mention.
When you get off the plane in Honolulu you will take a cab to the dock this will run you 20.00 dollars plus tip we saved some of this by sharing with another couple.
Also we did not really need a power strip like others have written but we would have loved to had a pair of binoculars they would have been great. Also it would have been nice to have a couple of pairs of swim goggles. You run into a lot of beautiful places to snorkel and swim goggles would have been nice.
About the Ship -- My wife and I have been on several cruises and found it to be similar with the older ships we have sailed on the food was very good the service was similar to that of a fine hotel or resort. These horror stories about waiting hours to eat and long buffet lines are crazy you do have to wait sometimes in the buffet lines but nothing like people said in some of these reviews.
The one thing I do want people to know is the rooms are very very small -- much smaller than we have ever had on other cruise ships so if you are planning to have more than two people to a cabin I would think hard on it. We had an inside cabin and it was tight with two people. The bed is very firm that part is true and we had a wall safe and small refrigerator. We did see the other cabins balcony and so on and they are just fractionally larger.
On this cruise you get 96 hours of shore time so we were very glad we didn't spend a lot on the cabin you just are there to sleep unlike other cruises we have been on where you have days at sea this cruise is one port after another you come in when it's time to go to dinner and then you are in bed, so give that some thought.
Also we are from Alabama and had a 10 hour flight be prepared for the time difference it takes two or three nights just to stay up late.
Tipping I followed what I read in these reviews and basically if I felt it was a hundred dollar meal I left 15.00 or 20.00 if the waiter was outstanding. We ate at several restaurants and found the free ones to have good service and you get some waiters that are better than others but they were all satisfactory to me. I did purchase the soda card don't really feel I got my money out of it due to the small amount of time on the ship. We did eat at one of the special restaurants it was worth the money and a nice experience. We found ourselves eating out for lunch most days so if on a budget plan for a 20.00 lunch at least 4 of the seven days.
Okay about the ports first you go to Kauai awesome place we did the river tour and Fern Grotto -- it was nice and worth the money the thing about the tours are depending on the person you may want to rent a car in each port and do them on your own. The only downside to this is that the bus drivers tell you all about the islands and the history and that is worth a lot. We also rented a little car at this place within walking distance from the ship and went to a waterfall called Kipu falls they have rope swings and it was an adventure cost for the rental was 69.00 you could also rent mopeds as well.
One other thing don't sweat transportation in any of the docks there is always a shuttle to take you to Wal-Mart or K mart or a place called Hilo Hatties which sells Hawaii souvenirs.
The next port we went to was Hilo this is a great place to rent a car. We went to the Volcanos park tour it was really good a little long for my taste we also on this trip went to the Mauna Loa Macadamia nut factory. This was a great tour and I would recommend it but on the same note you could rent a car and drive to the Volcanos park and the nut factory and see more in the time period so its kind of up to the person on that. If you like beaches and just want to hang out we went to a black sand beach in Hilo called Richardson's beach It was unbelievable cost was 20.00 by cab there and back the most beautiful beach and place I have ever seen you will love it I did not have goggles but people were snorkeling and said they saw a lot of fish and turtles.
The next port we went to was Kona this is the place to snorkel and see the turtles at Turtle Bay or shop not much else to do in this port you do not have to schedule any tours here if you want to swim with the turtles just get off the boat and cross the street to a shopping center. They run a shuttle to and from Turtle Bay Beach every hour on the hour and you can get the snorkeling equipment and transportation for 20.00 per person. We also saw a lot of people surfing at this beach as well and you can rent equipment there to.
The next port is Maui we rented a car here and glad we did when you get into the port they will have rental car companies there with shuttles to pick you up and take you to rent your car we went with National and found them to be reasonable a mid size car for two days ran us 100 with insurance the thing to do in Maui is to go to La haina and shop or eat or you can go to the Whalers Village and shop they have a really good free museum there all about whales and whaling. My wife shopped I went to the museum took about an hour to see it if you like that kind of thing I recommend it.
Okay the thing not to do in Maui is the road to hell or they call it Hana this is awful and a waste of time we went and regret doing it. Hana is a town about 52 miles from the ship but it takes 3 hours to get there and 3 hours to get back the road is awful you average about 15 to 25 miles per hour very narrow and scary. I would not recommend this. We also did the Luau in Maui through NCL I wasn't impressed. They closed the bar down an hour before we left and the food was just fair. You can go to La Haina and schedule a luau there it will be cheaper and probably just as good.
Next it was back to Honolulu we had a late flight back so we took our luggage and caught a shuttle to the Avis and rented a convertible -- cost was 100.00 included full coverage insurance. We went to the sea life park which is nothing more than a very small sea world then we went to the Dole pineapple plantation where you could buy pineapples to bring back. Two pineapples were 16.00 wrapped in a box. We also went to the beach at Waikiki and had a nice dinner before returning to the airport for our 9:00 flight.
We did not get to go to a lot of shows but were told they were good by other passengers.
I hope this helps you plan for your trip. Hawaii is more beautiful than my wife or I had ever imagined. The people are warm and helpful with a laid back genuine attitude the Crew on the ship are also friendly and helpful. You will hate to come back but what an adventure.