4 prior NCL cruises and a great fondness for the Hawaiian Islands sealed the deal for this 21st anniversary present to ourselves, a trucker driver and an RN, ages 54 and 62. We started with a 5 1/2 hour flight to Honolulu 2 days before embarkation, staying at the Embassy Suites Beach Walk in the heart of Waikiki.
Embarkation Day we shared a van ride to Cruise Dock 2 with a friendly couple of Canadian ladies from our CC Roll Call and would have been among the first to board our ship around noon, except the wait for my wheelchair escort. As everyone must be off for disembark by 10:15, I am not sure what the hold up is on the WC, but one arrived shortly after noon and the remainder of the boarding process went very smoothly.
After a tasty lunch in Skyline MDR, our 8th deck Forward AC stateroom was ready, and we dropped off our carry-ons and inspected the premises and view before heading down for our M&G in Napa Wine Bar, 6 Midship. About 20 of our original 25 signed up were present and light refreshments, introductions and a short Q&A with ship's officers ensued.
Muster followed at 5, with Sailaway festivities at 7. By that time we were finishing up a delicious dinner at Cagney's Steakhouse, (20% off first night only), and found service throughout MDR and the various Specialty restaurants we sampled, to be good or better.
Piano music in Pink's Champagne Bar, Island music with hula in the Atrium or guitar stylings back in the Napa Wine Bar, there was plenty of entertainment we sampled on the fly, without an actual sit down experience at any of the production shows. We missed the new flat screen TVs featuring re-broadcasts of the Cruise Director-led game shows or the Navigation channel with ship's location, sea depth, wave action et al.
But just like the new Moderno, not everything was up and running in terms of the very recent Dry Dock. The new public area carpets, signage and spiffing up of Aloha Cafe (Buffet), were subtle but attractive improvements for this gracefully aging Lady.
We were impressed with the smoothness of the Security operations in the various ports of call. Even with a cane and wheelchair, NCL showed organization, team work and thoughtfulness. Except for 2 crew members, everyone worked hard to make this enjoyable and fun. From our room steward to Hotel Director, it was impressive to see so many smiles, cheerful Hellos and many inquires if everything was going well, was there anything they could do to improve, was our food tasty, cooked to our liking, the right temperature and so on.
We like the midsized ships in NCL's Jewel class and found POA likewise a good compromise between huge and small. Breakfast was usually very busy in Aloha Cafe, especially with the rear, Aloha Lanai closed while finishing touches being placed on the Brazilian Grill, but the selections were tasty, the fresh fruit and made-to-order omelets a special treat.
The only tender port, Kailua-Kona, was more problematic for wheelchair or scooter folk, as there was a half stairway down to the tender. If you can manage a few stairs, crew will assist you into the tender and collapsible WCs less than 100 pounds are allowed. Of note, the other ports had ramps with gentle grades until SE Alaska where tidal differences made for some steep inclines or lots of stairs.
Activities we tried including sampling Hawaiian Beers in the Gold Rush Saloon, Dine With An Officer Night, various triva and lei making in the Hollywood Theater. Because of the port intensive schedule, a good majority of the vacationers were off ship from aroun 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., except our last day in Kauai. We'd booked Blue Hawaiian Helicopter flightseeing in Kauai and we glad we moved it to the first rather than second day there. Best of Maui and the Kilohana Manor House & Luau Kalamaku were two other NCL sponsored excursions we sampled.
The POA was near capacity, about 2K pax the week we sailed, with about half as many crew members. Except for the buffet at peak breakfast times before excursions, or the usual crowds for embark and disembark, it never really felt crowded. The promenade deck, which wraps fully around the 900 plus feet length, is spacious and enjoyable.
And although sad, even disembark was simplicity itself. Some passengers elected to carry their own luggage and departed as soon as port clearance given, others affixed various colored luggage tags and chose a time between 8 and 9 to leave.
We needed to be out of our cabin by 9 but waited a bit for the wheelchair assist. Cheerful to the end, staff now prepared for a new week's worth of cruisers while we adjusted to a less pampering trip back to the airport then home.
Overall, I'd say this was very good value for the money spend, and NCL continues to offer excellent service, food of banquet caliber or above and the best way to checkout 4 islands from both land and sea. The overnights in Maui and Kauai were especially appreciated, and NCL staff are sensitive to disabled pax needs as well, with almost all areas of POA WC friendly. 4.5 stars/5 stars.