We are a couple in our late 50s that love nature and the out-of-doors and enjoy activities like skiing and camping. Traveling with us were my dad and step-mom who are active seniors. They have traveled in the past to Japan, Germany and England. My dad cruised with Norwegian in 1983 but my step-mom had never been on a cruise. My hubby and I took our first cruise in 2001, a Caribbean cruise on the NCL Sun and had a wonderful trip.
We had looked at Hawaiian cruises before and did not like the days at sea, we wanted to see Hawaii. This itinerary was perfect for us and we thought the price for the cruise was very affordable. I would recommend this cruise as a great way to sample the islands, we already want to go back to Hawaii, there is so much more we want to see.
In late January I booked directly with NCL for all of us and the arrangements went perfectly - no surprises. I chose inside cabins on deck 10 near the bow based on the cabin we had on the NCL Sun. We liked being close to the top decks and the cafe where we ate breakfast and we don't get seasick. We added a two night stay in the Waikiki Marriott before the cruise so we could see the sights on Oahu and because we could check into the ship early. Received our paperwork timely and the customer service folks were always helpful if we had questions. Tried to reserve our shore excursions on the internet and that did not go well, so I called them and the tickets were waiting for us. NCL did a good job with our arrangements.
Bought all four of the "Revealed" books from Amazon.com for around $10.00 apiece, read them cover to cover several times, they were invaluable in planning the trip. Also found a $4 Hawaii state map in our local Staples store that was very helpful when driving in Honolulu and Hilo. My best advise is do your homework, plan ahead and know what to expect.
We alternated days of renting a car and taking tours. That was perfect, we could be flexible and yet someone didn't have to drive every day. We reserved the cars on the internet; Hertz the first day in Honolulu because it was in the hotel, and Budget on Kauai, Hilo, Maui and at the airport in Honolulu the last day. Kauai was the best service, had a shuttle at the pier when we got off the ship the others were a little slower, but not too bad. I did not feel the ships tours were so expensive compared to what I found on the internet when you consider they picked you up at the ship and the ship wouldn't leave without us. We thought the quality of the tours we took was good.
PreCruise -- The hotel was very nice, the room was soothing after the long trip and you could see Waikiki beach from the balcony. The next morning we saw the Pride of America coming in to port and watched the surfers starting out at first light. Picked up the rental car right at the hotel and went on a tour around the island. Stopped at Hanauma Bay, it is better if you are snorkeling (which we were not) but still beautiful. At the Kualoa Nursery and Gardens we drank cold coconut milk in the shell (delicious) and ate the meat as a snack. Later we stopped at Giovanni's Shrimp Wagon and shared plates of delicious garlic flavored shrimp. Saw the turtles at Turtle Beach and the pineapples at Dole Plantation. Most of all we enjoyed the beautiful scenery and driving along the ocean. Hoping to miss the Honolulu traffic we drove back across the island on H-3 highway though the mountains then around the coast to come into Honolulu from the east. Stopped at the Halona Blowhole and had a great time trying to guess which wave would cause it to really go. Honolulu is tough to navigate, but we made it with good maps. A piece of advice for Honolulu on Saturday night, have reservations at a restaurant, eat early or eat at the hotel, places were packed!The next morning we took a shuttle to Pearl Harbor and toured the Arizona memorial and the Bowfin submarine. The Arizona memorial was very moving and the stories my dad told about the war and being at Pearl Harbor as a young Navy lieutenant in 1945 at the close of the war made it more personal. The Bowfin is beautifully maintained and very interesting to tour; we thought John Wayne might appear at any moment. I got a printed copy of the self-guided tour to put with my pictures.
We took the last shuttle to the ship at 2:00 PM. Embarkation was easy because we had already registered. The only hitch was that my dad left his miniature Swiss Army knife in his pocket. They tagged it and kept it until the end of the cruise then returned it. They are serious about security. The lei's they gave us on boarding made us feel like we were truly in Hawaii. Stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator my lei lasted all week and I wore it to dinner several times. The men got shell lei's.
Our cabins were very pleasant, clean and ready for us. The only thing not quite right was one of the nightstands was coming apart on one side; it looked like someone sat on it. But my handy hubby laid it on its side, lined it up, gave it a thump and it was good as new. The room and bathroom are compact but efficient. I think the trick is to have everything in its place so things are not cluttered. Handy items: a dozen extra wire hangers, a power strip, night light, suction hooks for swimsuits and battery travel alarm. The bathroom had four nice shelves on each side of the mirror for all your toiletries. We packed our undies in 2 gallon zipper bags (we're campers) which made extra storage. The suitcases went under the bed and we stored dirty clothes and souvenirs in them. The bed is pretty firm but we liked it that way and there were lots pillows. The cabin temperature was perfect at night. We had clean towels and a clean bathroom twice a day, and turn down service. It was so nice to come back to our tidy room.
The ship was configured like the NCL Sun, so we instantly knew our way around. Loved the ship with the bright colors and the fish swimming in the hall carpets; it was so like Hawaii. We ate in the Hukilau Cafe for breakfast. The singing waffle man was a fun fixture; however we heard he was leaving after our trip.
The food was good, lots of fruit and I liked the muesli, especially the day it had big raspberries in it. My hubby liked the omelets. They also had blintzes on the first and last day that were quite tasty. My dad's only wish was that they still had the big kippers he enjoyed on the 1983 cruise, but I don't think it would hot seller today. We always ate outside in the back of the ship under the awning; a wonderful start for the day. The tables were cleaned promptly when someone left and a server sometimes came around with a coffee cart to fill your cup. We only ate lunch on the ship once, and it was fine too.
We ate in the Crossings dining room except for the sail away BBQ and one night in the cafe. By going early, between 5:30 and 5:45 we always got a table by the window and were finished by 7:00 so we could go the early show. Our waiters were good; we had the same pair three times. The food was quite good, different items on the menu each night. We loved the crème brulee, and always had it for desert after we discovered how good it was. The purple sweet potatoes were very good and the seared Ahi appetizer was my adventure (I liked it). It was just so nice to be served an un-hurried dinner of several courses presented nicely.
We went each night to the shows and enjoyed them all. Bring your sweater - it's very cold in the theater. We had seen the Jean-Ann Ryan dancers on the NCL Sun and they were great here too. The Star Seekers talent show was fun and we wished we had not missed the crew show - we heard it was hysterical. Did not go to the luau, we decided we would get too tired, so dressed in our Hawaiian best, ate at the buffet, which was Hawaiian food (got more purple sweet potatoes!!) and had our own luau. Decided not go to the formal night because we didn't want to dress formally (or pack the extra clothes!). When we walked by the atrium after dinner there was still a big line for pictures with the captain. Later that night as we were outside our cabins discussing the next day's plans the captain came down our hallway and stopped to chat. What a treat, he is very personable and this was one of the highlights of our trip. HawaiiKauai – First day, rented a car and saw Waimea Canyon. It was so spectacular. Someone ask us if we saw wildlife on Hawaii, yes, chickens! Stopped for a good lunch at the Koke’e lodge and later for shave ice at Jo Jo’s, so good, what a hoot! Saw Wailua Falls and Opaeka’a Falls. Second day my hubby and I did the Hidden Valley Falls kayak trip – a great trip, fun guides. That afternoon the ship cruised by the Na Pali coast which was very scenic; we viewed it from the deck outside the outrigger bar.
Hilo – Rented a car and drove to Volcano National Park, got in free with my dad’s Golden Eagle pass. It was rainy and chilly, but we had a good lunch in the Volcano House and dried out in front of the fireplace. Decided not to drive the Chain of Craters road because it was too rainy but found out later it was clear and sunny towards the bottom of the road, we should have gone. Thurston Lava tube was in the rain forest and was so lush and beautiful. Drove into Hilo and in our quest to find poi ended up browsing around a grocery store with many ethnic foods. Their poi wasn’t sealed so couldn’t take it on the ship therefore we never had poi, had taro chips instead. Madame Pele was somewhat subdued that night for the volcano viewing, but it was still quite a sight to see the glow from the lava and the steam boiling up when it hit the ocean.
Kona – Took the Kona Cultural and Snorkel Adventure. The snorkeling was at Kahalu’u Beach Park and was excellent! We saw turtles and many colorful fish, it was great. We could rinse off and change into dry clothes before touring Pu’uhonua o Honaunau – Place of Refuge and the Bay View coffee farm. Good sampler tour, good guide. My dad and step-mom did a similar tour without the snorkeling but with the Painted Church. Ate at Hang Loose for a good lunch and then walked across the street to browse through the Kona farmers market after which we headed to the ship for the Chocoholic buffet, yumm!
Maui – Rented a car the first day and drove to Lahaina for a walking tour on our own. We had a good lunch at Café O’Lei overlooking the ocean with a cool breeze. Lahaina is an interesting town but got quite warm in the afternoon. Headed back to the valley and stopped at the immigrants’ park on the way to ‘Iao valley. It was cool and lovely to walk around in this park after the heat in Lahaina. Because we are into agriculture we enjoyed a tour of the Sugar Museum. The second day we did the Haleakala Crater & Maui Ocean Center tour. Haleakala is wonderful, like flying. Bring your jacket – it’s chilly. The Maui Ocean center is almost better than snorkeling, so many beautiful and interesting fish. Again, we had a good tour driver.
Disembarkation – We got the earliest disembarkation time – 8:15 AM, it was very easy to pick up our luggage at the pier, and then we headed to the airport on the shuttle. My dad and step mom were on an earlier flight so my hubby and I picked up the rental car while they waited to check in for their flight. The only hitch in our plan was the agricultural screening did not start until 10:00 AM, but they were finished by 10:15 and we headed to the Bishop Museum, which was not far away. Saw an excellent hula demonstration and viewed as much of the museum as we could before taking my dad and step-mom to the airport at 3:30 PM. We did not have a flight until 10:30 PM so we found the Tantalus drive which had stunning views of Diamondhead. It was a cool and relaxing drive. We also stopped at the Punchbowl cemetery, a serene garden-like area. At the airport gift shop we stopped to buy a box of three pineapples to take on the plane. The red-eye flight was really not so bad; we slept some and got home in pretty good shape.
Conclusion -- Still no $10.00 service charge and I sure wish they would start this again. We liked the way tips were handled on the NCL Sun, in fact it was one reason we chose Norwegian for that cruise. Figuring out how to tip this time was the biggest anxiety of the trip. We left a tip for the cabin stewardess and tipped every night at dinner. I knew about tipping ahead of time and we took cash along but it was still confusing. We did hear that there was a water leak in a few of the cabins one day but they moved those folks to dry cabins. I suppose that would be a bummer, (and a case for not storing things on the floor). Some of the sailing got a bit bouncy, but we don’t get seasick, the ship rocked us to sleep. They told us the passage between Kauai and Hilo would be the roughest, but we slept right through it.