Booked our own air & hotel. Arrived in Honolulu the day before & stayed at Radisson in lovely 35th floor room w/mountainview. We arrived at pier around 12:45, after a 15-minute cab ride, & were on board shortly after 1. Suggest you join Latitude Club - they have separate check-in for members that moves very fast. Found our cabin, met our cabin steward Musa and his supervisor Marta. Left our carry-on bags and went to Skyline Restaurant for sit down lunch (there is also buffet lunch in Aloha Cafe). After lunch we familiarized ourselves with ship layout and went back to our cabin to find our luggage had been delivered. Unpacked - plenty of storage. Suggest packing all your toiletries in ziploc bags which can then be placed on shelf beneath sink area to keep bathroom neat. A folding multicompartment bag that can be hung on bathroom door hook was also handy for cosmetics, small toiletries, Q-tips, pills, etc. Room safe a must for jewelry, money, wallets, cameras, etc.
Our cabin was kept clean in a timely fashion each day, towels left on floor replaced twice a day and bed turned down w/chocolates on pillows each evening (towel animal once). Just remember to use wheel outside cabin to let steward know to make up or turn down room or if you don't want to be disturbed. Musa did a superb job and we tipped him extra at end of the cruise. Also praised him on comment card. Our room was midship & we felt very little movement, but we often felt the ship rock when we were in main restaurants (aft) or theater or lounge (fore).
We ate breakfast in both Skyline and Aloha, and used room service once for breakfast and were satisfied with all three. We preferred Skyline over Liberty for dinner - service seemed to be slightly better, but food was the same - average. We ate once in Little Italy, but not impressed with decor or food. No long waits at main restaurants.
Production shows not as good as on other NCL cruises - perhaps because they're not produced by Jean Ann Rand. Comedian, singer & juggler were entertaining. Cruise director Rich Cleeson & his assistant Shona tried hard to keep passengers informed & entertained. Rich especially was tireless in his efforts. I'm not sure when or how much he slept. He was on the PA system first thing every morning and at events late each night. There was always something to do onboard even when the ship was in port - trivia, art auctions, demonstrations, lectures, games, etc. Or how about just relaxing by the pool, taking a nap, working out in the gym, or getting a massage (more about that later).
Each island is different from the others and you'll have your favorites I'm sure. Our first stop was Hilo, Hawaii where we took a tour off the pier for half of what the ship charged (and we saw twice as much). Went to Volcano National Park, Mauna Loa Nut Factory, Orchid Center, Chocolate Factory & Hilo Hatties. Our guide Hector was fun & informative. Don't miss seeing VNP. Monday we went on ship tour to the Road to Hana in Kahuolui, Maui. Merle, our guide, filled our 9-hour day with lots of stories and made some stops other tour guides don't - great photo ops. Long, tiring but not-to-be-missed day. We tendered in Lahaina, Maui but we, along with about half the ship's passengers, never made it off due to high winds hampering the tenders. We enjoyed a nice relaxing day. On Wednesday we tendered in Kona, Hawaii without problems. I recommend the small sandy beach right near the pier. Most of the other beaches (not within walking distance either) were black sand or salt & pepper and not good for swimming or sunbathing. In Nawilwili, Kuaui we had hoped to go on the Hollywood in Hawaii tour, but it was sold out a month before our cruise so we opted for Waimea Canyon - no tours available at the pier, so you can only book for this port through the ship. We were not disappointed. Our tour guide was not the best, but the scenery was breathtaking. Friday was a sea day and we sailed along the coastline, saw the Forbidden Island, and once again had a relaxing, fun-filled day at sea.
As you can see, each day was different. The great thing about cruises is you get to decide how busy you want to be. We got involved in Battle of the Sexes Trivia which met each day and was lots of fun (even if the guys did win in the end). It's a great way to meet other passengers. The Mardi Gras Lounge had various theme nights ('50s, Disco, Big Band) and late night comedy and game shows. We walked through the fitness center one morning and saw several people working out in what appeared to be a well-equipped state-of-the-art-facility. My one big negative is the Spa. In addition to the already high prices, a 15% service charge is tacked on (they made it very clear this was not a gratuity). When I asked what the service charge was for, the receptionist could not give me a reasonable answer, so I decided to skip the massage. Why don't they just raise the prices instead of adding a service charge - aren't you already paying for a service? I'm sure they are losing customers because of this idiotic pricing system. My other negative comment is location of photo gallery in corridor leading to Skyline Restaurant. It's ridiculous to have throngs of people standing about viewing pictures while others are trying to pass through. One suggestion would be to exchange location of Photo Gallery with Art Gallery off the reception area, near the stores. Equally inconvenient is location of Liberty Restaurant - it's only accessible in the evening from stairway area outside Skyline because the only other access is through Lazy J Restaurant.
We enjoyed Pink's Champagne Bar even though cigar smoking is allowed because our fellow cigar smoking cruisers were considerate enough to congregate in one corner allowing the rest of us to breathe easier and enjoy the piano singer (who I'm sure also appreciated their consideration). We only frequented John Adams Coffee Bar and Gold Rush Saloon during trivia. It took us until the last night of the cruise to discover a really nice bar on the 13th deck (Lanai Bar) with a fun crowd being entertained by a guitar player who somehow got everyone to sing along with him. Wish we had found it sooner. Never frequented the Napa Wine Bar and never saw anyone there - not sure why. The Waikiki Bar at the rear top deck was also fairly quiet. The bar at the pool and its service could have been better - I sometimes ended up getting my own drink because waiters were too few and far between. And remember to tell your waiter if you don't want your drink in the "special NCL glass" (more expensive) or you'll find yourself paying extra. And don't hesitate to tell them you don't want the special and for them to bring you a "regular" drink. Why pay for something you didn't order?
Debarkation was a breeze - you pretty much leave when you want and have a leisurely breakfast and relax until then.
THE BOTTOM LINE: This cruise is perfect if you want a 7-day cruise which stops at four beautiful and different Hawaiian Islands, if you're not a food snob (the food was good not great), if you don't need to be entertained every minute of every day, if you're not looking for Broadway productions as entertainment, if you're flexible with your time, if you don't let little things bother you. Regarding the crew - the good news is we found most of them friendly, helpful and trying hard to do a good job; the bad news is many of them were leaving the ship in the next few weeks either for vacation or for good. Do I think it was worth the money? Absolutely. It's a good introduction to Hawaii if you've never been there before, and a great planning tool if you'd like to do an extended land vacation on one or two islands in the future.