Depart from Honolulu -Rental car companies (at least Hertz did) had a free shuttle to the pier. We had pre-paid for the transfers through NCL but took the Hertz shuttle since it was, free, quick and easy and we were dropping a car off there anyway. Booking with Roberts seemed to be a good deal from what I heard from others, they unloaded your luggage from the bus and sent it through screening for you, saving 25 minutes on the long line to check luggage before you got on the line to check in. You could have also used the porter service to do this, but NCL employees were not much direction. The line for check in was long, but once you arrived at the counter they were fast and efficient. On the last day to get back to the airport, we used NCL transfers, it took us an hour from the time we got off of the boat until we got to the airport as we had to wait for a bus to fill up, almost 40 minutes of waiting to board the bus and since they took so long to board they filled up a second bus with the amount people waiting on line.
Maui- Port; There was not any shopping directly off of the ship, a few small stands in the terminal, we docked at an industrial/cargo pier. A 5-10 minute walk to some shops and a small mall. There were shuttles waiting at the pier to take you to Hilo Hatties and Walmart. The rental car companies also ran shuttles to take you to the airport to get a car. There were two parking lots near the dock for overnight parking. Both were free and we found them to be fine to walk from at night.
We rented a car for both days. The first day we drove the Road to Hanna, and then back up the middle of the island. It was scenic and had some roads so narrow one car barely fit let alone if there was one coming in the opposite direction. A few miles of the road were unpaved and winding up and down the mountain. We rented a 4 wheel drive jeep, (which had a nice removable top) which helped with the gravel road. It was a beautiful drive, saw lots of waterfalls, but it was long, took us 5 hours to drive the less than 60 miles. Hanna was cute. The remaining part of the drive after 7 pools was not really worth the views, we wished we had turned around and gone back the way we came as the unpaved road was narrow and cars coming the other way sometimes went too fast and did not slow down to yield.
The next day we booked the NCL tour to the top of Haleakala crater to see the sunrise. It was beautiful, but still wondering if it was worth having to leave for the tour at 3:30am… It did get us back early enough to take the car out exploring the West side of the island before returning the car. We went to the Surfing Goat dairy farm and got to see how they use the goats milk to make dairy products and sample a lot of different and excellent types of cheeses, great stop. Then we drove south and back up around the west side of the island back to the ship. We did get to see a humpback whale from the shore with her calf. This road was even narrower and more steep that the one for the Road to Hanna after Kapalua. Suggest that after Kapalua, you drive back the way you came, it would be quicker. There were some really nice views that way, but the road was windier and narrower. Lahaina was a good area to spend some time in.
Day 3- Hilo, on the Big Island. Port; In Hilo we docked at a working pier. Town is about 2 miles, but there are some shops a 10-15 minute walk around Banyan Drive. There is a beautiful garden there as well. The Walmart and Hilo Hattie shuttles were here. We did not rent a car, so I did not notice if they were there. There were plenty of taxis there as well as people to ask for help and directions/assistance.
The only issue we had was the ship gave us shopping maps and it looked like Big Island Candies was within walking distance of Hilo Hatties, we were disappointed when we took the Hilo Hattie shuttle to find that Big Island candies was closer to downtown and banyan Drove. You can not find them on the other islands.
We took the NCL tour to Mauna Kea where they have a large observatory used by many countries, it was raining in Hilo when we left but was awesome at the top above the clouds. It was over 13 thousand feet. On the way back, since we had some extra time, our guide, Ikaika stopped at a really nice Japanese garden, could have stayed there hours with a book just relaxing. The guide was great, he was funny, patient and kept us on a good time table. That night the ship cruised passed the lava flow so we could get a great look at it flowing into the ocean,
Day 4- Kona on the Big Island-Port; We had to tender from the boat to the dock for this stop. There was a beach right at the dock for those not wanting to drive to one or take a tour to one and a nice shopping area right across the street. It looked nice, people were snorkeling there. We saw shuttles for Walmart, KMart and Hilo Hatties here as well.
We took the HCL helicopter tour here. We got to see waterfalls and steam vents from lava tubes. We also got to see molten lava coming from one of their active volcanos, Kilauea. If you can book this on your on, I would recommend. The 4 ½ hour tour really took 6. We had to meet on the ship at 9:45 to wait to leave at 11 am for the tour. We tendered over and stood at the pier from 9:55 to 10:45 before they even loaded us on to the van. We left at 11 to head to the take off spot about 45 minutes away, then sat to watch the pre-flight video, get loaded up and wait for the helicopters to return for us from a tour. We got on at approximately 12:20 for 2 hours The flight was beautiful and our pilot Toshi was great about making sure each side of the helicopter got to see everything, but once we got back we sat around again forever while they worked out the DVD’s, and waited for people not on our boat to be ready to take the van back with us to drop them off at heir hotel. The company seemed very unorganized in the office and not efficient at all. The timing of this tour really does not allow for much time to do anything else. It could have started earlier or the routine should be better so you are not standing around waiting for so long. For what the tour cost I was disappointed in the handling of this tour. I would have rather booked myself and not have had to wait around for so long prior to and after the flight.
Day 5 & 6- Kauai -Port; can walk to shops, and restaurants and a beach, it is about a half mile walk. Free shuttles to Hilo Hatties, shopping, Coconut Marketplace and Walmart. Rental agencies were at the pier to pick up. There is parking near the pier for overnight.
The first day there we rented a convertible. We drove out to Waimea Canyon which was beautiful, we tried to drive up further to see the coast, but thick clouds rolled in and we could not see past the fog. Then we spent the rest of the day touring the island (which is not all that big, since we drove it all in one day-just one main road), swim, do a self guided tour of Kauai Coffee, and even snorkeled at a few spots; Salt Pond Park was nice as was the area by Hoai Beach. Saw lots of fish, even a giant sea turtle swam right past me. This island was much easier to drive on, just a lot more traffic. We had rented a convertible for the day, but the seats were so low, I would have preferred the jeep again. The second day in Kauai we took another NCL helicopter tour. This one also took us to many waterfalls, and valleys but also to the Na’Pali coast. Same Helicopter tour company and this one too seemed to have some coordination issues. The flight was shorter for this one and they loaded us up fairly quickly to go back. Once we got back we waited forever again for a glitch with the DVD’s. We wound up walking around, shopping. They were supposed to wait for everyone to take us back to the boat as a group, but they wound up leaving a bunch of us at the shop waiting. They had one poor girl doing all the DVDs and sales of merchandise while three others stood around waiting for people to come in for flights, she was very apologetic. We took the free shuttle back later on since it was right there, rather than wait for the next van from the heli-company. There are shops right around this area, so you can really stay and shop if you want and take the shuttle when ready, or walk back to the boat, it was not a far walk, maybe 5 minutes, the beach is across the street from here.
We saw a whale again on this island at Spouting Horn and then again that night on the boat, there was a calf not far from the boat playing in the water and kept breaching and coming right out of the water. Also saw a school of dolphins pass right by us as well on the boat.
We had a few days in Oahu on our own and stayed in Waimanalo. Having been to Waikiki once before we did not spend too much time there, and preferred the quiet of Waimanalo, spending most of our time on the West and North shore which to me are the best part of Hawaii. Lots of great beautiful beaches along that coast. We ate at a local restaurant- Sweet Home Waimanalo, the food was awesome and not unreasonable for Hawaii. Small place though and seems to be packed at lunch time. Pupukea beach was beautiful, Lake Beach Park nice as well, we got some good shaved ice over by the Historic Kahuku Sugar mill at the gas station/general store there. In Waikiki, Hula dog is a nice place to try for something different, not far from the International Market Place.
On the ship the food was good, we ate at the buffet most dinners, better variety of choices. The staff in the Liberty Diner seemed a little friendly and a waitress we had in the Aloha café was painfully slow and food was not cooked in the order it was placed. We waited 45 minutes for our appetizer, she had appetizer, dinner and desert served to customers who came in 15 minutes after us before we and the table next to us got our simple appetizers. The deserts I skipped as the few I tried were just ok. The fruit was fresh and wonderful. Our suitcases beat us to the room. The best show of the cruise was the “Dancing with the Pride of America staff”, followed by a cooking demonstration they had with a cook, a guest and the cruise director I always love the Newlywed game, but the dancing show topped it by far. Ship was clean, room stewards attentive, but the pool area was taken over by a few bafoons who ruined it for everyone else, so we tended to sit away from pool when possible. I would recommend this cruise again, just wish they would deal with some of the technical issues with waiting around and lastly, the leis they gave out at check in were beautiful, but I am allergic and they bothered me, fake ones with the same silk type flower would be a great alternative to those with allergies.