This was my first NCL experience and I had read all the horror stories about this ship so I was prepared for the worst. My intention on this cruise was to just use as floating Hotel, with food included, for the trip around the Islands. It was not perfect by RCL standards (I am a Platinum member there), but it really fit what I wanted and we were happy.
Embarkation-Arrived about 1 PM and was on the ship in 15-20 minutes...a breeze. I was a little nervous as I did not have the usual ticket in hand. This was a true e-ticket and all worked well.
Food-Average at best. The buffet choices were limited and repeatable. They did not label so some times what you had was a mystery. Main Dining room again was average. Little Italy was outstanding. Lazy J's got mixed reviews. Mine was excellent, but DW filet was cold and by the time we got condiments for potato, it was cold. Did not do the other pay restaurants. Make reservations early. If you like Italian do Little Italy a couple of nights. Be sure to book main dining room right away for Tuesday night (Lobster tail). Heard people who did not waited up to 1:45 for seating.
Service-The all-American crew was trying really hard and for the most part were OK. I was probably looking for issues due to earlier reviews. When we arrived, the crew on duty went out of there way to make us fill welcome. Only downer was crew not working was lounging around ship with shirts open, smoking, etc. Not what I am used to seeing. The room steward did a good job for the most part. Trash not emptied a couple of times and had to ask a few time for TP. Otherwise, she was mostly invisible which I like. The dining room service was below average. They always had changes to the menu and the waiter's usually struggled to describe what the alternatives where. Because of the forced tipping, there was little conversation or interaction Basically get em in and get em out. Bar's seemed understaffed with some waits. Ships was very clean.
Entertainment- Only saw comedian and the last crew show. They were both very good.
Itinerary-Absolutely perfect. This is the way to see the Island's for most bank for buck. We booked an inside guarantee and made the trip for under $800 per person. -Hilo, Did the Helicopter tour. Booked same company online for about $35 less per person, but by the time you paid the cab to airport, it only saved about $30 for the two of us. Cab $15 to and $13 from airport with tip. It was a well done and enjoyable tour. Maui-Did Haleakala crater, drive around Island, and Old Lahainia Luau booked online..all great. 2nd day did the road to Hana. Tough drive, but near the end go to the black sand beach. DW described as the most beautiful thing she had seen. Kono- Had snorkeling scheduled, but it was canceled for high winds Kuai'i-Did all the waterfalls and the north shore lighthouse. Then did Waimea Canyon. All absolutely wonderful. 2nd day just hung out in sun. ship leaves early for tour of Napoli coast and it will take you breath away.
Disembarkation--Best I have seen. Sure it helps that customs not involved.
Misc-Ship has no Casino which was a surprise for a lot of people. With a port intensive crew, I guess it makes sense. Not sure where I am parked on Freestyle cruising. Love the ability to pick eating time, but think service really suffers. Also seemed a little forced off the ship. Crew farewell was Thursday night (we didn't get off until Saturday). Also Saturday morning, the room stewards seemed to try to make sure they made as much noise as possible about 6 AM to make sure all were up
Final thoughts--No such thing as a bad cruise. This met our expectations and was fabulous overall vacation. If you go in expecting the perfection of Caribbean cruises, you might be disappointed, but the crew is learning and seem to be trying to get better. I will give NCL credit for providing a number of American jobs. I would not use NCL for any cruises anywhere except Hawaii.