Hawaiian Honeymoon via POA
Background: My husband and I are in our 30s; we got engaged in May 2012 on board the Carnival Miracle. This was my 5th cruise and his first; we had an amazing time and he enjoyed cruising just as much as I do. When the time came around to plan our honeymoon, I immediately thought of going to Hawaii. I had been to Oahu a few years ago and I fell in love with Hawaii. My husband isn’t a beach person like I am, so I had to find a trip that he wouldn’t get totally bored on. He wanted to go on another cruise so the logical solution to accommodate both of our wants was a Hawaiian cruise.
I began my research by checking out different prices. Adding on airfare from the East Coast, hotels, car, and spending money – this trip was going to cost a pretty penny. I needed to look for the best rate at the best time and figure out how to stretch a dollar (keep in mind we also were paying for a wedding). Most cruise lines seemed to have too many days at sea with the exception of Pride of America. In the end, we agreed that spending time on the islands was more attractive than multiple sea days. So we booked this cruise in July 2012 through our local travel agent. We declined the airfare, hotel, and transfer through NCL as I knew I could get a better price booking those things on my own. We also set up a honeymoon registry through the travel agent in the instance someone didn’t want to buy us a set of towels or pots/pans, but instead would rather ‘donate’ to the honeymoon of our dreams. This is a new trend I’ve seen the last 5 years. Since many couples already live together and have the essential household items needed prior to getting married (like us), the honeymoon registry seemed like a great fit for us.
Since booking our cruise, my entire life has revolved around this honeymoon. Each day I would come home and tell DH something new that I found on Cruise Critic. He would just laugh and roll his eyes, asking “Don’t you work when you go to work??” Well yes I did but I always allotted spare time to do Hawaii research…problem?!? So as I dive into this review, I must firstly thank all of the previous CC posters for their invaluable feedback, experiences, and honesty. I’ve been on CC for a few years now, but by far the most information I’ve gotten from the boards/reviews has been for this trip. I loved reading everyone’s experiences and I truly hope that I can help someone from documenting mine.
Room Choice: One of the biggest selling points I gave to my DH about this itinerary was that this ship did the lava sail by at night. We specifically booked the location of our room based on the side of the ship that passed the lava – in hindsight it was probably the best occasion of forward thinking either of us has ever had! We booked balcony stateroom 9060 which is on the starboard side, forward – leaving Saturday May 4th 2013, just a little over a month after our wedding (03/30/2013).
Airfare: When it came to booking our airfare as I stated before, I knew I could get us a better deal than what NCL was offering ($1096.40 pp, $2192.80 total). I spent months looking at Orbitz and Travelocity to see what the price differences were each day. I read somewhere online (how reliable) that if you book on Sundays after 6pm, statistically you will be getting a cheaper price. I don’t know how true that is but I was able to find an amazing deal on a random Sunday night in September on Orbitz: United Airlines leaving Thursday 05/02/2013 from Newark, NJ to Honolulu, HI, via San Francisco, CA, return Monday 05/13/2013 via the same…$1216.80 total. In case you don’t have a calculator in front of you, that’s a $976.00 difference. Needless to say, I jumped on this deal! Over the next two months I received several emails from Orbitz notifying me of a change in our flight times, understandably so because they were trying to condense flights. After the fourth email I became concerned about finalizing our plans for transportation to the airport. My dad wanted me to inquire about an upgrade to first class so I called United Airlines directly and spoke to a lovely lady at customer service. I explained the issue with the multiple flight changes, inquired about first class. The upgrade was over $3600 but to make up for all of the confusion with the flight changes, she bumped us to economy plus and waived the normal $400 fee. This put us in the first row behind first class with no seats in front of us…and extra leg room! She also managed to put us on direct flights to/from without an extra charge. I was pretty happy about this as I didn’t want to be on multiple planes; I just wanted us to get out there.
Hotel: My father-in-law gave us enough reward points to cover our pre-cruise hotel stay at the Courtyard Waikiki Beach located on Royal Hawaiian Ave and Kuhio, about 3 blocks from the beach. Since we had our wedding/reception at a Marriott located outside of Philadelphia, we accumulated our own reward points. Our post-cruise hotel stay at the same hotel was covered using our points and an addition $25.00. Again we saved a ton of money as the price booking through NCL at the Marriott Waikiki Beach (which is admittedly nicer and right on the beach) was $338.00 per night, $1352.00 for 4 days. We stayed at the Courtyard for $25…it was a no brainer.
Car Rental: We rented cars in Oahu, Maui, Hilo, and Kauai. Based on CC feedback, I used the website Discount Hawaii Car Rental http://discounthawaiicarrental.com/ for all of my car rentals. No payment due at time of reservation and free shuttles to/from the ports – this is a reliable website and the deals were worth it. We brought our own Garmin GPS recently upgraded with Hawaii navigation and declined the additional insurance offered at all locations. We booked about 4 months out and opted for the compact car in most places; the cost was around $40 per day across the board. I checked the prices a month before our trip and on most islands the compacts were sold out and you had to take what was available. So book early and use the website if you don’t have the money to pay it off at time of booking. Really, it was so convenient. My husband is an awesome driver so he took the lead on all the rentals.
I have to share this story so that no one else makes the same mistake when booking their rental cars. In Kauai, the folks in front of us at Thrifty booked for dates May 10-11 instead of when the ship was there, May 9-10. The woman at the counter offered what was available but they didn’t have the car that the couple wanted and the price was higher. The conversation quickly became confrontational; the couple was cursing about how p*ssed off they were and why wouldn’t the woman give them a price break. The Thrify woman said if I give you a discount, then I need to give everyone a discount. Let this be a lesson to check and confirm all dates, times, and prices for all rentals before you leave!!
Excursions: Again thanks to CC, I found about some really cool places to see and some reliable companies to book through. We used Kipu Ranch Tours in Kauai for ATV and Paraside Helicopters in Hilo for our volcano tour. Everything else we did was by ourselves in our rental cars. We didn’t want to be stuck in a crowd; driving around in Hawaii was perfectly safe and easy to navigate with a GPS. Before we left home, I made an agenda of sorts in Excel with each day’s activities, prices, times, and addresses for everything we wanted to see. It wasn’t hard to put together and I’m willing to share with anyone who is interested. Not sure how much it is to get into Haleakala? Just Google it!! Google was my wing man when it came to trip planning – I got all of my information this way.
Drive from PA to EWR
Direct flight on United Airlines to HNL
Pick up rental car @ Avis (300 Rodgers Blvd across from airport)
Check into Courtyard Waikiki Beach (400 Royal Hawaiian Ave, Honolulu, HI)
8:30pm dinner reservations at Dukes (2335 Kalakaua Ave, Suite 116, Honolulu, HI)
My father in law had business in the northern New Jersey area on the day we were flying out, so he kindly drove my husband and I from our house in Montgomery County (45 mins outside of Philadelphia) to Newark airport in NJ. The flight check-in was fairly uneventful with the exception of meeting my fellow roll caller, Deedz!! I told her to look for the lone soldier wearing the green Phillies hoodie and she certainly did! Her and her hubby are lovely people, so nice of them to give us drink vouchers to start off our ‘happy honeymoon’. It was great getting to know them and as it turns out, we would see them in Oahu and experience Pearl Harbor together.
For any East Coasters out there, do yourself a favor and book a connection when heading out to Hawaii. We left at 1pm and it just made our day incredibly long. We were both regretting our decision to take the direct flight and also not having an earlier flight. It was a grueling 10 hours until we landed in beautiful Honolulu. We were greeted by the warm island breeze and sweet smells of plumeria and hibiscus flowers. It was such a breath of fresh air literally after breathing the same air for 10 hours. We rented our car (Chevy Cruze) at Avis right across from the airport. The man at the desk was very sweet and gave us a free upgrade when we told him we were in town for our honeymoon (SCORE!). We got in our car, put all of the windows down, put on some Hawaiian tunes and headed toward our hotel.
Navigating was fairly simple with a GPS, I would not recommend driving without one. Our hotel had valet for $32 a day which is a pretty common price for hotels around Waikiki. Hotel check-in was a breeze, another free upgrade! They put us in one bedroom king suite in the property across from the hotel. In all honestly, I expected more from a Courtyard as I’ve stayed in many over the years, but since this stay was paid for with reward points, I wasn’t complaining. The gal at the desk also gave DH and I both free breakfast tickets for the little restaurant inside the hotel for the next morning.
After unloading our bags in our room, a quick clothing and shoe change, we were off to Dukes for our 8:30pm dinner reservations. I’ve heard a lot of people complain about Dukes being too expensive and that the food is sub-par. I can’t say that I agree with that. We split the veggie rolls, DH had the swordfish and I had chicken and veggie kabobs; both came with the salad buffet. We had a few drinks and I think our bill came to about $70. Our waiter Nick was super impressive. He talked to DH about the different Hawaiian fish and even recommended another local place to have dinner the following night, which oddly enough I had on our itinerary already. After dinner we were both exhausted and kept thinking that at home, it was 3am and we were just eating dinner in Hawaii – too funny! We strolled back through the streets of Waikiki to our little hotel with the lit tiki torches surrounding the outside and called it a night. We had early morning plans for Pearl Harbor and driving the North Shore the next day!
Pearl Harbor visit, Arizona tickets for 9am (1 Arizona Memorial Road, Honolulu, HI)
Poke Stop (1840 Meheula Pkwy, Mililani Town, HI)
Dole Plantation (64-1550 Kamehameha Hgwy, Wahiawa, HI)
Disney’s Aulani Resort (92-1185 Ali'lnui Dr, Kapolei, HI)
Dinner at Nico’s Pier 38 (1133 N Nimitz Hwy, Honolulu, HI)
Fireworks at the Hilton
We woke up at 5am Friday morning rejuvenated and ready to explore. We showered, went to Spada for our free breakfast, and were on the road by 7am. Traffic out of Waikiki wasn’t very bad and we made it to Pearl Harbor by 7:45am. We parked our rental in the lot with no issues; there were ample parking spaces available at that time. We picked up our 9am tickets at the reservation desk and walked around exploring the site. Since this was my second time here, I had some idea of what things we should see. We did not do the tours for the Bowfin or Mighty Mo; we were just fine with looking at them and taking pictures. It was a beautiful Friday with lots of sun so we had our Phillies hats on and loaded up on the sun screen.
Before you take the ferry to the Arizona, there is a short 15 minute movie that you have to watch which gives you some background on the events at Pearl Harbor. When I was last here 3 years ago, the auditorium that the movie gets played in wasn’t built yet. The movie was played in an outdoor tent like structure, so it was nice to be inside and in the AC. As we were waiting to enter, guess who came strolling through the crowd? My new friend Deedz!! It was so nice to see her and her DH, we talked about our time thus far in Oahu and sat together during the movie.
The park ranger gave a nice intro before going into the auditorium. No food or drinks other than clear water, silence cell phones, and voices at a minimum. Once the movie is over, you exit to the bottom right (tip for anyone going there, get a seat toward the bottom right, then you can get on the ferry to the Arizona first!). The ferry ride over is quick and easy. We were instructed many times not to stand and take pictures from the boat or walkway and that there would be time afterwards on the ride back to take pictures. Also we were reminded to keep voices at a minimum, but like any place you visit you find that some people just don’t listen. The park ranger had to quiet down a group of tourists and scooch people along on the gangway who stopped to take pictures blocking traffic.
The Arizona Memorial is a very special place. DH and I walked around and looked out the window openings to view the water. We heard that survivors have the option to be cremated and a diver will swim the urn down with their ashes to the bow, place it inside so that he can be with his fellow comrades. The last time a ceremony was performed was in December 2012 and there are still 300+ survivors living. I can’t imagine what it would be like to participate in a ceremony like that – somber and unforgettable, I’m sure.
After our ferry ride back, we bid farewell to Deedz & hubby then headed on our journey to get some authentic Hawaiian grub!! DH is a huge Guy Fieri fan and we both watch Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. We had to make a trip to the Poke Stop for some fresh poke. The trip to Mililani Town took maybe 25 minutes. Lucky for us on Fridays they have pork lau lau as part of their Hawaiian plate lunch for $10.95. I can’t begin to tell you how much of a bargain that is for some dynamite food, cooked well, and cooked locally. Check it out if you get the opportunity!!
After lunch we continued on our road trip to the North Shore. We stopped at the Dole Plantation, we didn’t pay or participate in any activity but instead chose to walk around and take pictures of the gardens. We spent some time in the gift shop and bought some goodies for the folks back home. From there we continued on to Waimea Bay Beach to watch the surfers and waves, nothing too big since the monster waves happen more in the winter months. I was dying to see the Disney Aulani Resort so we stopped there, parked, and walked around the grounds. This resort was being built when I attended the Paradise Cove Luau (only 5 mins away). The property is incredible and definitely lives up to the Disney standard.
On the way home we stopped at an ice cream stand and had a little frozen treat. The drive back to Waikiki was uneventful; we didn’t make it to Big Wave Shrimp (another DDD spot) but the ice cream held us over till dinner. Once back at the hotel, we took a few hours nap and awoke in time for dinner at 5:30pm with our friends who live in Waikiki. We planned for dinner at Nico’s Pier 38 on Nimitz Hwy; this is the place that our waiter at Duke’s recommended to us. Free parking here with a fish market inside. DH had the fish & chips and I had the braised short ribs; both of us were happy with the meal. The entire table ate my truffle fries!! They are SO amazing – also try the spicy edamame. I didn’t know that you have to suck the beans out of the pod, so initially I just chucked the whole thing in my mouth. My girlfriend nearly choked laughing at me!!
After dinner I had mentioned to my friends that we wanted to see the fireworks. They are both US Navy and told us we would be able to see the fireworks from the beach at Fort Derussy. We actually sat on the same beach that the fireworks went off of! It was very cool to see!! Afterwards our friends dropped their daughter back at home and the four of us went out for adult time at the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai bar. The drinks were rather expensive but we justified the cost as we wouldn’t be on our honeymoon ever again. A few drinks and too many laughs later, we found ourselves on the familiar stroll back to our Courtyard with the tiki torches and the thoughts of embarkation the next day!
Embarkation Day Plan:
Hike Diamondhead (Diamond Head Road @ 18th Ave, Honolulu, HI)
Check out of the hotel, gas up car, drop off car at airport
Taxi to Pier 2
CC Meet & Greet
Cagney’s dinner reservations
The night before we had mentioned to our friends that we were planning on going to Diamondhead the following morning. Their 13yr old daughter told us she had never been there, so we invited her to come along. DH and I picked her up around 6am and the three of us drove the 15 minutes to Diamondhead. I had wanted to do this climb in the years prior but I didn’t take the initiative to really do it, mostly because I don’t like to exercise, but I was really determined to get to the top on this visit. How hard could it be, right??
Well – it was a lot harder than I had anticipated. Admittedly I am not in any shape other than round but I thought if I took my time and go at my own pace I would be alright. Well I made it to the point just before the 100 steps and I threw in the towel. I completely misjudged the incline and my legs were shaking like crazy. The other two went all the way up and gave me a full report when we met up at the rest point below the 100 steps. Even at that point the views were beautiful and you could see the city and ocean. We were there very early but the place was packed. The way down was faster than the walk up, but our legs were like jello and there were so many people coming up the same path. Looking back, I could have skipped this excursion based purely on the congestion and sweat factor, but there is part of me that is glad I attempted it and considered this my work out for the the remainder of our trip.
After breakfast, we went back to the hotel and showered, got our bags together. We our friend’s daughter her off, got gas at the local Tesoro (I budgeted $40 and we only needed $20 worth) with a stop at the nearby Jack in the Box (DH said he hasn’t eaten at one since he was a kid in Texas). Dropping off the car was uneventful, we paid cash $83 and Avis called us a taxi to the pier. $25 including tip and we were in front of Pier 2 around 12:30pm. This was prime time for boarding!! There were two lines to check in your bags and we got there right after 5 bus loads from Roberts Hawaii arrived. I can’t really complain about the line since we were in air conditioning and getting ready to board a beautiful cruise ship. Somehow throughout all of my planning I forgot to print our luggage tags! Some novice traveler I am, huh? Not to worry though - NCL staff gave us tags right at the dock and took care of our bags, no problem. Next up were two security lines and scanners; again no issues.
There must have been 15 folks at the check in desk and the line moved fairly fast. There was a gentleman from NCL who was directing guests to the open check in lines; he had Philadelphia as his hometown on his name tag. So I politely said that we were also from Philly and it was nice to see someone from home. His response? He gave me a cocky “I don’t care” kind of smile and then directed me to Desk 9. Luckily this was my first and ONLY experience with a staff member who was unfriendly and cold.
We boarded on Deck 5, midship and were greeted by cruise director Silas (who is wonderfully upbeat) and the rest of his staff informing us that: 1.) our rooms were ready and 2.) the lunch buffet in the Aloha café was open. What more did we need to know?? It was so nice to get on, go right to our room and start exploring. Our room was on Deck 9 and was quite adequate with lots of shelves for our personal items. Yes, the closet is small, but I was still able to fit all of our clothes inside with no problem. I didn’t expect a walk in. The bathroom was a cruise ship bathroom, nothing out of the norm – and can I just go on record and say that I hate shower curtains in a cruise ship bathroom? This isn’t against NCL in particular, but just as a side note can we get some sliding glass doors please?? When you are showering, the curtain is always cold and it’s an unpleasant feeling. Anyway…
Our balcony was really the highlight for us of the room. It kind of bumped out farther than the rest on the deck and instead of having two sides, we just had one wall on the left, and the railing went in a crescent shape. So we had a great view of the whole starboard side and back of the ship. I unpacked while DH checked out the TV and watched the ground crew load all the food and luggage onto the ship. Lunch in the Aloha was good, I had made to order pasta and DH ate a burger and some salad. We made it to our Meet and Greet at 4pm, wow what a turn out! Thanks to Puddles (Deb) for putting it all together! You did a great job and it was so nice to get to match names with faces. I think we could all tell that the crew was impressed with our turn out and I appreciated all of their concerns and hopes for us to have a great trip. We had to rush back to the room to get ready for our reservations at Cagney’s that night.
Cagney’s: I asked for a seat near the windows so we could watch Oahu as we sailed away and I was told that all of the tables near the windows were reserved. Throughout our dinner there were several empty tables so I’m hoping they were just for people that didn’t happen to show up…at any rate, we had a nice quiet table in the corner. Our waiter Thomas (with a long curly mustache) was a really charmer. I was stumped at what kind of drink to get and when I told him that I liked fruity drinks, he took it upon himself to create something for me. I have to admit he hooked me on a sparkling citrus wine spritzer for the entire cruise, so kudos to him! DH had two appetizers: the crab cakes that he said were dry with too much breading, and the clams. He said they were gritty and also dry. I had French onion soup and a salad – my appetizers were fine. The real stars at this place are the steaks. I opted for the 10oz filet mignon, my favorite cut – and it certainly didn’t disappoint. This steak was to die for! DH’s t-bone was outstanding and the sauces that came with both were very tasty. We thanked Thomas for his service and headed to the Gold Rush Saloon for a night cap that we took to our balcony. This quickly became our nightly routine as the bartender in Gold Rush (can’t remember her name but she was great!) was quick and made a good cocktail.
Maui Day 1 Plan:
Confirm our helicopter ride for Hilo
Thrifty rental car pick up (@ Kahului Airport, 1 Kahului Airport Road, Kahului, HI)
Avoid Road to Hana and go explore!!
DH and I are both early risers, so we were up at 6am watching Maui come into our sights. From our balcony we could look out and see the enormous mountains of the Iao Valley, and to the front of the ship we could make out Haleakala. We quickly got dressed and headed to Aloha Cafe for some breakfast. Getting off the ship was super easy and after a short walk through the hanger like building, we were on the dock. There were multiple lines for tours that were super crowded, then one empty line at the end for the shuttle to the airport for car pick up - that was our line (cheese!!!). The shuttle for Thrifty was already waiting and the drive to the airport was less than 10 minutes.
Kahului Airport is very small compare to the big hubs we see on the East Coast. I talked to the shuttle driver, a very nice young girl, about living in Maui and what was good to eat (looking out for my DH, of course). She gave us some recommendations for neighborhood places and said we should go to the black sand beach on the western side of the island if we were looking to see something different. I thanked her for the info and we departed the shuttle for the car rental. The line as 10 people deep but moved fast. We were given a Ford Fusion for our two day rental.
Our plan for the day was basically to explore Maui. I know the thing to do is the Road to Hana but I wasn’t really into it. I read so many reviews about how long the drive is, the high cost of a tour so that you don’t have to drive, and if you do drive, how tiring it can be. We really wanted to do our own thing and go at our own pace. So I decided we would go in the complete opposite direction of everyone and explore the NW side of the island. We started from the airport and drove 340 through Waihee. Loved the scenery here! The road kept climbing higher and higher as we drove going north towards Kahakuloa Bay. The road was insane: one lane, semi-paved, next to a 100+ foot drop off, with turns every few feet! DH did an incredible job navigating, pulling over and waving people on as we had to share the road. He had a smile on his face the whole time, he totally loved this! There were rolling hills and complete drop off cliffs with the ocean crashing below. There were about 12 miles of road like this and it took us about 2 hours, including some picture stops and pauses to allow other cars and bikers through. We could clearly see Molokai and Lanai from where we were driving.
We stopped at Fleming Beach to potty and get out to stretch. At this point the road became more paved and opened to multiple lanes. We drove past Kaanapali and saw the beautiful and huge resort there (something to look into for the future!). We stopped at Lulu’s Surf Club and Grill in Lahaina for a bite to eat. This place is probably bumping with party goers at night, but during the day it was very chill with open windows, a cool breeze, and very nice staff. DH had the Loco Moco (local fanfare) and I had a burger. Loco moco was super good (rice, hamburger patty, brown gravy with onions & mushrooms, and a fried egg) and filling!!
After we ate, we decided to explore Lahaina and walk around. On the way back to the ship, I took over driving. We were somewhere after Lahaina when we both spotted a black sand beach. I got so excited as this was something I really wanted to see. We pulled off the road and took our shoes off and just stood on the beach. The black sand was so soft/powdery and the water was so warm!! The waves came up a bit farther than we expected and ours shoes got a bit wet, but we had brought towels so we just dried off. Very cool experience!
Getting back to the ship we were able to secure a parking spot right at the dock. It was around 2pm at that point and the lot was half full. We got back inside and decided to shower and take a quick nap before an early dinner as we had plans for a Haleakala sunrise and I knew we would need to go to bed early. Unfortunately our quick ‘nap’ was not so quick. We both awoke 5 hours later at 7pm!! So much for overcoming jet lag! We got dressed and headed to Skyline for dinner around 9pm. It wasn’t very crowded and we were seated right away. My first experience with freestyle dining was going well so far. I choose the cesar salad and onion soup, which were very good, and the pesto pasta for my entrée. That had way too much pesto and wasn’t very good. Dessert was NY cheesecake – delicious with some strawberry compote. Our waiter was Jose, he was really personable and told us about the 32 oz steak available at Jefferson Bistro. He gave it a rave review and told us we should try it if we liked steak. After dinner we visited Gold Rush and had our drinks on the balcony of our stateroom, taking in the sea air and admiring the lights of Maui.
Maui Day 2 Plan:
Haleakala sunrise (State Highway 378 - Crater Road, Kula, HI 96790)
Makena Beach (Off of Wailea Alanui Drive, Kihei, HI)
Gas up car, drop of car
Our alarm went off at 2:45am for the early wakeup call to drive out to Haleakala for the sunrise. Only problem was that it was raining outside….a solid, constant rain. Hubby and I looked at each other and knew our sunrise was not going to happen. Back to bed!!
When we awoke a few hours later, the rain was still coming down though not as hard. The clear sky from yesterday was gone; clouds and rain had completely taken over. A few days later someone on the Big Island told me that rain like that in Maui is especially rare; I guess we had bad luck. There was no chance that I was going to get DH to the beach today with this weather. Since we still had our car we decided to drive to the Maui Ocean Center, a place we passed on our way home the previous afternoon, and try to make the best of our day. When we arrived it was clear that the rain was not going to stop. We paid $25 per ticket and walked around for about an hour. There were a few neat things to see, but with the rain and not being able to go outside, it was kind of a waste of $50. We were soaked, my shirt got stained from rusty water coming off the awning of the buildings, and it was beginning to get really crowded (we guessed some folks were also trying to beat the rain), so we decided to turn the car in early and get back to the ship for a ‘chill’ day. One bright point was that we were only charged for one day of the car, so instead of $80 the car only cost $40. That was a nice little bonus. No issues with the shuttle back to the boat or the rest of our day. We vegged in our room and watched the Big Bang Theory, ordered some room service and had lunch on our balcony. Dinner that night was in Skyline; no issues with service or the food.
Budget rental car check-in (Hilo Airport, 1 General Lyman Field, Hilo, HI)
Paradise Helicopter ride (Hilo International Airport lobby)
Volcano National Park (Highway 11)
Gas up and drop of car
Dinner reservations at 6pm Jefferson Bistro
We awoke Tuesday morning to a beautiful clear blue sky. We watched as the ship sailed closer to the Big Island and noticed how strange it was that the air around us changed and got thicker, kind of like a haze. We were a little nervous that maybe it would rain since it looked cloudy, but as I found out later in the day, most of the clouds you see in Hilo aren’t clouds, but steam and vog from the volcanos.
This was a big day for us. DH was amped up for the helicopter ride over the volcanos and I was anxious to visit Volcano National Park. Now I wasn’t big on this whole helicopter deal, but I love my hubby and it was something he really, really wanted to do. I was willing to go out of my comfort zone since our goal was to see these volcanos three ways: land, air, and sea. We ate breakfast and took the free Budget shuttle to Hilo airport to get our rental car. We decided today to ‘splurge’ and upgrade to a Jeep Wrangler (it was an extra $40 so we paid around $70 total). We left the car at the rental place as right across the street in the airport was the check-in for Paradise Helicopters. This tour was also a big splurge for us since we opted for the Doors Off experience, but I justified that since we lived in surburban southeastern Pennsylvania, we would most likely never see active volcanos again in our lives.
Check-in was super easy! We were weighed in but the gal there is nice and doesn’t make a big announcement or anything. They take you in the lounge area and put on a video. I love Discovery Channel type stuff but this video was boring. 20 minutes later the instructer came in and showed us the gear we had to wear, ran through a safety drill of sorts and then we headed out to the airfield. We were on the blue helicopter with Tom the pilot. DH and I were in the two back seats right next to each other. We had headphones, life vests (which I knew wouldn’t help me if we went down over land) and our sweatshirts as we were told it would feel like 50 degrees in flight. As the instructor strapped me in I couldn’t stop my nerves from taking over and I cried two little baby tears. DH looked at me, grabbed my hand, and mouthed to me that it was all going to be OK.
So up we went about 6 feet, turned in mid-air to the left, then we took off all the way up to 3500 feet. As we reached out altitude I could barely turn my face - the wind and suction were intense!! I thought my contacts were going to get sucked off of my eyeballs! I was able to cocoon my face enough with my hoodie so that I could look outside without the wind pulling at my face. DH wore sunglasses….why didn’t I think of that?! He handed his pair to me but I knew this was something he was looking forward to, so I declined and let him enjoy this experience.
DH took some amazing pictures with our new Nikon camera (bought specifically for this trip). We basically flew over Highway 11 all the way to Volcano National Park. We flew over Mauna Loa and the Kilauea Caldera, we saw the steam coming out of the Halema’uma’u crater. We circled several times around Pu’u’O’o and red lava flow.It was incredible and bright red even in the daylight. The pilot told us that the lava looks like glass in the sunlight, shiny and solid but that it was really fragile. Then we headed towards the shoreline, following what the pilot said was the path where the lava was flowing to pour out into the ocean. We saw the steam rising from two separate spots and as he circled around them you could clearly smell how close we were. Through all of the steam we were able to see the flow of lava and could tell how shallow the water surrounding the area was as new land was being formed. After circling for pictures, we headed back toward the airport. The pilot made a sidetrack over to the cruise ship so we could take some cool pictures of our floating home for the week. When we touched down on solid ground, I don’t think I could have been happier! DH was on a high and I was relieved to have made it back with both eyes in their sockets. It was a very memorable experience for both of us, one I don’t feel the need to ever to do again!!
After crossing the street and picking up our Jeep, we were hungry and knew we were on a time crunch to see as much as we could before the ship left at 6pm. We stopped by a Taco Bell on the way. Yes laugh and wince at the fact that we went all the way to Hawaii and ate at Taco Bell, but it was cheap and quick which was what we needed at that moment. Also, they have a Kalua pork burrito in Hawaii; we can’t get that at home!!
After Taco Bell ? we headed to Highway 11 straight to Volcano National Park. I honestly was surprised that there was no traffic heading this way; we were the only car for miles. I thought for sure this would have been a big stop for many people. Driving through we could see the vog through the tall trees in front and behind us. As we pulled up to the entrance, we paid the $10 car fee and got a great map of the park. We skipped the Volcano House and Jaggar Museum, headed straight to the Kilauea Overlook. We stopped at the Steam Vents along the way and here we found all of the tourists. They were herding around the vents, so we snapped some photos, got back in the Jeep and headed on toward the Overlook. Lucky for us we must have just missed the tour buses or they hadn’t been there yet because when we reached the parking lot, we were the only ones there. Standing there at the Overlook you can only imagine some past world where this whole caldera was filled with a sea of lava, bubbling and steaming. Now it’s dry and barren, save a few lonely trees and scarce bushel of prickly flowers.
From the Overlook, we decided to turn around and drive back towards the entrance. I wanted to take Crater Rim Drive down to the Chain of Craters Road. I heard that this something we absolutely could not miss. The road is like 20 miles and basically cuts through the Mauna Ulu eruption that began spewing lava in 1969. It created 230 acres of new land – and we were driving right on top of it! There were lots of places to stop and hike, or just get out of your car to walk around and take it all in. At the end of the road was the area where the lava pours out into the ocean – the very same site we saw from the air a few hours prior.
I couldn’t believe how uncrowded Chain of Craters Road was. There were maybe 6 cars parked along the side of the road as we drove past. At the bottom of the road, along the ocean cliffs the park service has closed the road to vehicles. You can walk/hike on foot a bit to get closer to the lava flow, but I was told they don’t like you getting very close for obvious reasons. During the day you can see the crisp white steam clouds rising into the air. The cliffs along the road are really spectacular. The ocean is so blue and clear. We took pictures looking up towards the lava flow, so the blue ocean was behind us. Then we turned around and faced the ocean and took pictures with the lava flow behind us. If I figure out how to load pictures, I’ll put them on here. It was very cool to see the contrast in landscape just from turning around!
The big buses can’t make it down this road because of how narrow it is and there is no place for them to turn around. Where the road is blocked, there was impromptu parking along the side of 20 cars, mostly folks who parked and walked to the lava flow.
We hit the visitor center on the way out to use the bathroom (flushing toilets, way nicer than the out houses in the park) and check out the store. We bought my sister a magnet with a volcano on it and one for us as well (yes we are those people who have a refrigerator covered in magnets from places we’ve been to). Volcano National Park was an amazing time for us, a place we could easily spend multiple days exploring. We condensed it into 5 hours including drive time. I sure wish we had more time here, it was truly a beautiful place.
We returned the car to Hilo airport and took the shuttle back to the ship around 4:30pm, very uneventful. That night we had 6pm reservations at Jefferson’s Bistro so we had to shower and get ready fairly quickly. The dinner was one of the best we have had….not just on a cruise, but ever! We split the escargot (which was really tasty), I had the quartet cones which were delicious and light. I also had the French onion soup (couldn’t pass that up!) and hubby convinced me into getting the 32-ounce premium black Angus rib-eye steak for two. There is an additional $20 charge, but it was worth it I think. The steak was just delicious and the table side service was very nice.
On the way back to our rooms, we stopped at the Gold Rush to get some drinks then returned to our room. Tonight was the lava sailby and we had purposely picked our stateroom for this. We hung out on the balcony and waited for the lava, took some test camera shots. At the CC Meet & Greet, Cruise Director Silas gave us all a tip about picture taking for the sailby which was to turn the flash off on our camera. Awesome tip!
As we approached the glowing red lava flows, you could see farther up above the ocean line that there was a cluster of distant red specs of light; this is the top of the flow from Pu’u’ O’o. The lava travels south down the lava shield until it hits the ocean – which is where the ship passes. There were two distinct spots where the lava was coming out into the water, both producing glowing red light and tall puffy plumes of steam. There is a story read aloud on the ship’s speaker, but honestly I couldn’t hear anything from the balcony except the wind, water, and chatter from the other guests. Once the ship turned off the lights, the lava REALLY came alive! You can see it spitting and bubbling, it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Also, make sure you look up because you will never see so many stars in the sky like you see at this place, it’s just breathtaking. The ship lingers in the water for about 20 minutes. We sat out on our deck after the lights came back on and everyone dissipated; we could see everything perfectly from where we were. So our goal was achieved: lava by air, land, and sea!!
Having already been impressed with one side of the Big Island, we were both looking forward to seeing Kona. This was a tender port and honestly, it was the most beautiful of all the stops. The other ports are so industrial but here, you arrive in the middle of two beaches with shops and walking right in front of you. We had no real plans for Kona except to walk around and check out some shopping.
Sadly, I feel like Norwegian kind of missed the ball on this whole tender process. We got up early and ate, had fruit on our balcony and watched the first few tenders go in. We went down and got our tickets around 9:30am; the lounge at this point was mobbed with people. The NCL folks that were calling out tickets (one was my unfriendly Philadelphian from embarkation day) read out the wrong tickets, twice!! After 25 minutes, our numbers were finally called. The boats were so stinking hot! It was a beautiful day in Kona but very dry and warm. We saw dolphins spinning in the water on the way in. “Captain Crash” was a really funny guy – he got us to the port safely.
They first thing DH and I did was walk the sea wall along all the shops and places to eat. We saw a ton of little crabs and fish swimming in the water. The beach there was so inviting because of how hot it was. We walked around some stores and found some gifts for people back home. Also we are Marriott members, so we walked over to the Marriott resort and looked around. If we come back to Hawaii, we are seriously considering staying here. The prices are unreal!!
We walked around for a few hours and decided to head back to the ship for lunch and the comfort of the pool. Tender back was empty and we got some amazing pictures of the ship from the water. Aloha buffet wasn’t crowded at all and neither was the pool deck. We totally burned our feet walking from our chairs to the tile around the pool; even the tile was on fire!! The pool was nice and cool though – and it was fresh water! No salt water, what a treat! Dinner that night in Skyline; it was nothing spectacular as I can’t recall what we ate, but it also wasn’t bad because I’m sure I would have remembered that!
Kauai Day 1 Plan:
Thrifty rental car pick up (Lihue Airport, 3273 Hoolimalima Pl, Lihue, HI)
ATV Tour at Kipu Ranch (235 Kipu Ranch, Lihue, HI)
Waking up to the views of the ocean and sky today was something really special. There was a storm in the distance at sea so the clouds were in a fan like pattern across the sky. The sun was rising behind the clouds and produced orange and purple light – it was so pretty and a great way to introduce us to Kauai.
Pulling into port, we immediately knew we were in for a great day seeing the staggering green mountains of Kauai. We sailed past a little light house on the harbor and greeted the familiar tug boat that assisted the ship through all of the ports. Disembarking the ship was simple and we waited for the free shuttle to the airport for about 10 minutes. On the shuttle, the driver pointed out to us where the overnight parking was located (for $25 it’s a good 10 minute walk from the pier). This was a little disappointing since in Maui, the parking was right in front of the pier. DH and I had decided we would try to condense our activities into one day and not worry about parking or an extra day charge for the rental car.
We picked up our Dodge Avenger at the airport and decided to head for the Waimea Canyon. I planned on doing this Day 2 in Kauai, but since we had 5 ½ hours until our ATV tour, I knew we had time. The drive to Waimea wasn’t long, maybe 45 minutes. Kauai is really beautiful and lush, lots of trees and greenery. The drive up to the canyon is interesting with lots of stops along the way for pictures. We found this really neat spot about 2 miles from the top where the ground was all red silt/sand and had a little water fall flowing.
Once we reached the canyon, we realized how scarce parking was. The lot isn’t very big so we waited a few minutes for someone to pull out so that we could pull in to a space. The lookout is right up a steep little path – and wow is it amazing!! The canyon is so deep and the colors are just incredible. We snapped some photos of ourselves and took in the fresh air. It wasn’t very hot but mild, being so high there was a nice breeze. We really enjoyed the views here. This is a fun stop for anyone who has a rental car; there’s no cost to get in and the road there is fully paved and safe.
We headed back towards Lihue as our ATV tour was here. We drove to Kipu Ranch just to see where it was and then stopped for a quick bite to eat at, you guessed it – Taco Bell!! I’m happy to report on the consistency of Taco Bell across the Hawaiian Islands! After our lunch, we headed over to Kipu Ranch for our 4 hour ATV Tour.
For anyone that is trying to decide on a tour in Kauai, I highly recommend Kipu Ranch!! The guides are incredibly friendly and very thorough in their demonstrations; they take safety seriously and reminded us several times about being respectful to the land we were about to journey though. DH and I opted for the 4 hour ATV tour with a side by side vehicle, so he drove and I was a copilot. We were told to pack sunblock and bug spray; the website also said that we would be getting dirty…very dirty!
The tour was just incredible – we saw many places where famous movies were filmed including: Jurassic Park, Outbreak, Indiana Jones, and The Descendants. We traveled all the way to the top of the mountain range to see the incredible view from The Descendants, where George Clooney shows his daughters the plot of land that their family owns (who knew that could be a real place?!?). We were able to swim in the river where the sea plane was waiting for Indiana Jones in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, but beware of the bugs here! I applied tons of bug spray and I was torn up; a month later I still have the welts!!
This tour measure high on the dirt factor; I was amazed at how dirty we actually got. I wore shorts because it was hot outside but I wish I had worn pants. The guides were joking with me saying I had a “Hawaiian spray tan”, very funny! The dust went through my shirt and socks; I had dust in places it should not be! It was fun wearing the helmets, goggles, and bandanas – I love the pictures of DH and I with our bandanas, dirty from head to toe, big smiles on our faces!!
The 4 hours went by so fast, and by time we knew it the tour was coming to an end. Since we had done all that we expected to do in Kauai, we decided to head back to the airport and return the rental car (saved an extra $40+). We got back to the ship late and decided to shower and head to a late dinner. This is when I realized that the dust literally got everywhere! I destroyed two clean white wash clothes just by taking a layer of Kauai off of my legs! I wouldn’t take it back though, it was one of the highlights of our trip!
I knew that the majority of guests would be going to luaus while in Maui and Kauai since the ship was docked overnight in both ports. On those nights, the ship was relatively quiet and dinner service – one would think – wouldn’t be as busy since there would be less guests to serve. In Maui we had great table service at the dining room (we also had that unfortunate 5 hour napping incident and ate very late), so on this night in Kauai I had anticipated the same turn out at the dining room. We were seated quickly at a nice table near the window and the server took our drink orders (just a diet pepsi for me), but that was where the service stopped. We had to ask different 3 people for my drink. After about 20 minutes we hadn’t even been asked what appetizers we wanted or had water filled in the glasses on our table. We were able to flag down our server and give her our order. We waited another 30 minutes for our appetizers to arrive. I looked around the room and there were maybe 20 tables occupied. I just didn’t understand the delay in service. Once we got our appetizers, we waited another 45 minutes for our entrees to come out. When they didn’t, we got up and left – something I’ve never done on a cruise ship. As we left our waitress said that our food would be right out and we politely said thank you but that we were going to head to the buffet.
Walking to the buffet, I told DH how strange it was that we got such poor service when I knew that so many people were at the luau. He didn’t seem to believe me until that night when we sat on our balcony with our drinks from Gold Rush. Around 11pm we counted 21 bus loads (mostly Polynesian Adventure and Roberts Hawaii) of people emptying into the port parking lot. My annoyed DH stubbornly counted 50 people per bus – that’s around 1050 people. At a capacity of 2138, that means nearly half of the ship wasn’t on board for dinner service. What the heck??
Kauai Day 2 Plan:
Since we had returned our rental car a day early, we decided to spend the day at the little shopping village Anchor Cove. There is a free shuttle that runs from the ship to the shops, which is as it turns out is located near a Marriott Hotel that has a free beach. Despite his grumblings, DH gave in and took me to the beach. It was breezy on this day and the water wasn’t as warm as it probably was in Kona. We floated in the water for about 30 minutes and then hung out on the sand just long enough to dry our suits. We walked around the shops of Anchor Cove and found souvenirs for our parents (and a few things for us too!).
We headed back to the ship for a late lunch, a quick nap in our room, and a view of the Napali Coast sailby. We had 5:30pm reservations for Teppanyaki, so once we were showered and dressed we headed outside for the sailby but it was rainy and foggy. It was so unfortunate that it was a beautiful day earlier and now it was raining. We headed to Teppanyaki and were seated facing the windows so that the coast was right in front of us. It was nice to be able to see the coast so closely without having to get wet or be on deck with the crowd. Teppanyaki dinner was about the same as it is at home; I had the chicken and filet, DH had the filet and lobster. Kudos to the chefs – they were very funny, especially the Pepsi bottle filled with soy sauce!
After dinner, DH and I took the familiar stroll to the Gold Rush for our after dinner drinks and headed to our balcony. At this point the ship was sailing away from Kauai, the sun was beginning to set, and the rain clouds had dissipated high enough so that we could make out all of the sharp corners of the coast. Beautiful sprays of oranges, yellows, and pinks were peeking out from behind the cliffs. We enjoyed this lovely sunset together and talked about which day/island was our favorite. We had really done everything we set out to do on this trip, mostly relax since the wedding had kept us so busy this last year. We spent some time that night packing our bags and cleaning up our room a bit before heading to bed.
Taxi to Courtyard Marriott
Spend two days recovering from cruise
We opted to carry off our own luggage from the ship as we had done on our Carnival cruise last year. This meant we got off early, avoided looking for bags amoungst the sea of luggage, and had no wait for a taxi outside the peir. If we were carrying our bags off then we had to disembark the ship by 8:30am. We had everything packed, said goodbye to our wonderful cabin stewart, Govind, and then headed to deck 5 midship. We had no problems carrying our own bags (we each had a large luggage and a smaller carry on backpack type of bag). On the way out we walked past the sea of luggage – it all looks the same! I’m so glad we could carry off honestly. Once outside we went straight to a taxi and drove off to our tiki torch Courtyard.
We were very early checking in at the Courtyard, but since we are reward members the manager said it would only be an hour or so until our room was ready. We left our bags with the front desk and took a leisurely stroll along Royal Hawaiian Blvd to Ala Moana, walking along the beach walk to Waikiki beach. The sand was cool and it was very breezy; we found a shady spot and watched the sufers out in the ocean riding the waves. We went to the Internation Marketplace to walk around and about an hour later, the hotel manager called saying our room was ready.
Back at the hotel, we decided to ask for a room in the main hotel, not the building across the parking lot – I’m glad we did because the rooms in the main hotel are way bigger and nicer! Wish I would have know this last week! They gave us a king bedroom suite with a balcony overlooking Kuhio Ave. We could see just a small part of the ocean, but that was good enough for me. We spent the rest of the morning relaxing, watching TV and vegging out.
For dinner, we set out to the streets of Waikiki to find a good spot. Dukes was over an hour wait, as were most of the places along the strip. Jimmy Buffet’s had a 15 minutes wait so we opted to go there. DH had the shrimp and I had boneless chicken bites. We split a piece of cheesecake, then headed back to the Courtyard for bed. The following day, our last full day in Hawaii, we both had a case of the post-cruise blues but instead of being home we were still in paradise so it felt a little strange! We spent the day walking around Waikiki. We discovered the dirtier side of the ABC store (I can’t believe they sell novelty condoms!) and I took my DH to dinner at Sensai Sushi Bar at the Waikiki Beach Marriott. The food here is superb and if you show up for their early bird special, most items on the menu are half off between 5:15pm-6pm. We had two or three sushi rolls, beef skewers, soup, and rice. After dinner our friends stopped by for a few drinks and we made a plan for our last day tomorrow.
We woke up Monday morning feeling good. We checked out of our hotel and our friends picked us up and took us to their apartment. We did some laundry and ate breakfast, then headed with to Fort Derussy. My girlfriend plays beach volleyball there a few times a week, so we sat under a tree with our beach chairs and watched everyone play. I got my DH into the water on the beach – it was really warm but the ground was so rocky! It was hard to walk and very uncomfortable, but I sucked it up knowing this was my last beach opportunity. The famous beachwalk runs right along this strip of beach so there are lots of people running, pushing strollers, and walking dogs. It’s a nice area and it was a beautiful day. I could tell DH was reaching his limit for beach time, so we decided to stand in the sun for a few minutes to dry our suits.
Standing out in the sun, I heard my hubby say something along the lines of “You have got to be kidding me…is that who I think it is??” As I looked over, there stood his fave, and I mean favorite Food Network star and Iron Chef America heavy hitter, Masaharu Morimoto! He was on the beachwalk and it looked like he just got done running 20 miles, he was all sweaty! I think my DH got star struck because he couldn’t talk, but being the loud mouth that I am, of course I had to say hello! He responded with a “Hi-ya!”…and just to make sure he was who we thought he was, I said “Excuse me, but are you Morimoto?” He replied with a “Yes-ah!” and a wave, then went on his way. Now I could tell the man was his zone working out, so I didn’t bother him more than that – but wow what are the odds?! My husband let me know that he would never give me a hard time about going to the beach ever again, haha!
After our celebrity run in, it was close to 1pm. We walked a few yards down the beach walk to the plate lunch shack. You can get chicken, steak, seafood, any kind of plate lunch with rice and a salad for $6.95. Can’t beat it! We chose a chicken plate and a steak plate – boy were they out of this world!! I didn’t think I was that hungry, but the steak tasted so good that I couldn’t put it down. Another culinary score for us ?
After leaving the beach, we picked up our friend’s daughter at school and headed back to their apartment. We both took showers and repacked our bags with the luggage scale handy so that we had nothing over 50lbs. They cooked us dinner and drove us to the airport. Did I mention they are awesome friends?? LOL! We are lucky to have them! The 8pm flight home was much easier than our arrival flight. We were very tired from the long day, so after being on the plane for about two hours, we both fell asleep for the remainder of the trip. We awoke around 9:30am EST and had another hour left. That couldn’t have gone any better for us!!
After landing, we went to baggage claim where my parents (my mother especially) were waiting anxiously to pick us up. The walk outside to the car was freezing, a frosty 50 degrees!!! We were so used to the warm island breeze so 50 really felt like 30! As a ‘thank you’ to my parents, we drove to Katz’s Deli in NYC and treated them to lunch. It took us about two hours to get back to our house in PA. We were home and our much anticipated honeymoon was sadly over. ?
A few things I would like to mention about NCL and POA in particular:
Sanitation: A lot of people are worried about going on a cruise and getting sick. Quite honestly I don’t see how anyone on this ship in particular could get sick. At every turn there is an NCL rep spraying you with sanitizer or there is a clearly marked machine mounted on the wall. It became a running joke with DH and I, that they should put the sanitizer into water guns and just shoot people’s hands at random. In all honestly though, I commend NCL for their efforts and would never seriously criticize them for trying to keep everyone healthy. Even in the buffet the food trays were covered with plastic encasing.
Staff: I had prepared to encounter rude, unfriendly NCL people on this trip. I couldn’t have been more wrong to assume the worst. Aside from my ‘friend’ on embarkation day, each and every NCL people we interacted with was happy, helpful, and courteous. The bartenders, waiters (like Thomas and Jose) helped upsell things on the ship, Silas and his crew – even the waitress in Skyline who we walked away from was friendly! I would like to mention our cabin attendant, Govind – he was a rockstar! He immediately introduced himself to us on day 1 and more than fulfilled our needs. Whenever we left our room, he was out in the hallway going through rooms. Govind told us the cool things to do in each port and gave us recommendations on where to eat. I enjoyed the little ‘love notes’ he would put with the towels animals each night also, “Happy honeymoon, my friends”. One night our safe got stuck and wouldn’t open so I called the manager from Guest Relations that we met at the CC Meet & Greet; he sent someone out within 10 minutes. It kinda made me feel like I had some clout!!
Room: Our balcony stateroom was more than sufficient. I mentioned before about the balcony shape and how nice it was. I think on the future cruises we are going to try and pick rooms with similar balconies because we enjoyed the space so much. Our room was very clean, the bed was super comfy, and the best part was that the door to the balcony was sliding glass, not a regular push/pull door like on Carnival. We slept with that door open every single night. We heard the breeze and the ocean waves, it was comfortable and peaceful. Kudos to NCL for their recent upgrades and refurbishment; it paid off because the rooms are in great shape.
Food: This is a definite trouble spot for NCL. I understand the business side of having multiple ‘pay per person’ restaurants, the quality of food in the dining rooms shouldn’t be as crappy as it was. Lunch was not impressive at all and looked like leftovers from the previous nights dinner. We paid a few thousand dollars for this cruise and I honestly expected better quality of food. On top of the quality, there is the disappointing experience we had while in Kauai at the Skyline. The only saving graces here were the fruit (you’re in Hawaii and the fruit should be incredible!) and the steaks served at Cagney’s and Jefferson Bistro.
Post cruise thoughts: Hawaii is so incredible and having this experience with my husband was exactly what I wanted for my honeymoon and the start of our marriage. We made some unforgettable memories together and we both felt like we got to experience authentic “ALOHA”! I will always look back on this cruise fondly. I hear people say that “this cruise isn’t about the ship, it’s about the islands…” and while the islands hold some stiff competition, I really feel as though NCL is trying to level out the playing field. I would go on this cruise again in a heartbeat and it’s not just because of the islands, it’s because of the service we experienced.