Husband and I are in our early 30s from New England. We couldn't decide which island(s) to visit, so we decided on the POA. Great decision! We got a great deal for a balcony stateroom on Travelocity, and off we went! We flew into Honolulu 3 days pre-cruise (Hawaiian Airlines direct flight from JFK) and stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. We got a good deal through NCL.
Embarkation: Port transportation was included in the deal, so on Saturday a.m. we got our bags ready and the porter came to pick them up. We got on the bus at our assigned time and left a little early. Our baggage went separately, but was accounted for when we signed in for the bus. As soon as we got to the port, we got off the bus and went right into the terminal, bypassing the long luggage line. That was an added bonus. We filled out the health forms, showed our id, went through security, then we got our leis (orchids for me, shells for DH) and took embarkation pics. We then got in a long-ish line for our cruise cards, but it went by very quickly- maybe 20 mins. We had entertainment the whole time- hula dancing, music, palm weaving. After that, we went up the escalators, swiped our cards, and onto the boat! Very easy. My card had a problem, so I had to go to Guest Services immediately. Not a long wait, got my new card, and off to our room (ready upon arrival). Bags came about an hour later.
Comments: We got a Freestyle Daily when we got our cruise cards, but I wished they had given us a map of the boat. The first few days, we had no idea where we were going, but there are big maps next to every elevator.
Stateroom: We had a forward balcony stateroom. Room was very small, but had plenty of storage. There is more storage in the bathroom behind the mirror- I never would have known without reading cruisecritic! There was a strange sound coming from the shower, but we told our steward Victor and someone came to fix it that day. The balcony was a good size, with 2 chairs and a small table. Smoking is allowed on balconies, and as a non-smoker I did not always appreciate this.
Staff: The staff was very friendly and cheerful. We always got smiles and "alohas." If we ever stood in the hall looking confused, someone immediately asked if we needed help. We never had any problems. And as I mentioned before- our steward was awesome.
Dining: We only ate at Skyline (3 dinners, 1 lunch), Cadillac Diner (1 dinner), and the Aloha Buffet. Skyline was ok- the food the first and last nights were phenomenal, the other time it was just ok. The first night, we felt rushed- probably because it was lobster night and there were lots of people. The second night, the whole staff seemed disorganized and it took half the meal for me to get my drink. The last night, everything flowed smoothly. The one time we went for lunch, we were seated immediately at a table near the window, but the food was awful. I had calamari (didn't look like calamari) and DH had chicken soup (not good). We both had the salmon and shrimp sandwich (too fishy). We ate at Cadillac Diner once- not good at all. I had tomato soup (was more like heated up tomato sauce with croutons), we split mozzarella sticks (very good, but they gave us 3), and fish and chips (greasy). We ended up going to the buffet for pizza after that meal. Most of the time we ate at the buffet. The selection was good, but the food was just ok. It was just the easiest place to eat after a long day. We only ate the 1 lunch on the ship. Dessert was always good- crepe station and ice cream. We always had breakfast at the buffet- there is a second one set up on the lanai in the aft section just for breakfast. We really enjoyed that. It was never crowded, same food, and we loved starting our day sitting outside. We did do room service one day for breakfast- they were right on time and gave us a lot more food than I expected.
Entertainment: We didn't really go to any of the shows. On Maui sail-away, we sat on the aft deck and watched the ukelele/hula show which was very good.
Ports/excursions: We only did 2 excursions through NCL. The day in Kona we did Historic Kona which was very interesting. The last day (disembarkation) we did Early-bird Pearl Harbor before heading to the airport. That was great, since the luggage went on the bus with us. Also a great tour with plenty of time to see the USS Arizona. The other days we rented cars and did on our own.
For more info on the ports and a more detailed cruise review,please see my post at http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?p=37774332#post37774332
Overall: Great experience. I would do it again. There were a few very rocky nights (like hold-onto-the-chairs-as-you-walk rocky), but that is to be expected in the winter! We saw hundreds of whales- from the shore, from the boat. Only complaints: the food at some of the restaurants were mediocre or subpar, we had some onboard credits that were not properly explained to us so there was some confusion about that, and smoking on the balconies. But the staff was great, the cruise was great, and - of course- Hawaii was great!