We sailed cabin 9644 on June 8, 2013. Had an amazing trip. We brought our two tween kids for a family vacation. Was nervous about the balcony cabin for 4 being big enough, but it worked out great. We had 4 reasonably packed luggages that we stored empty under the bed, 3 knap sacks and a brief case, and were able to unpack everything! Great shelf space in room for reasonable packers. Queen bed for us, daughter had twin sofa bed that cabin steward automatically opened and closed daily for us, while also leaving cute towel animals (even a hanging monkey one night!). Son's bed came out of ceiling. I tried it out and found it comfy, he liked his own clubhouse "cabin" up there. Staff were friendly, and kudos to the Nahoku jewelry store staff, waitress Mary Lou, ship's two Hawaiian cruise directors, and Megan (cruise shopping/shore info woman) who went out of their way to make our kids feel really welcome on the cruise. The nut lei-making class and ribbon-lei making classes I dragged my husband and kids to (rolling eyes came to) were surprisingly fun for all of us, and made great souvenir memories of our trip. Ship was well maintained and I would definitely go again.
We did lots of excursions thru the ship.... it was pricey but spectacular.
Here's what we did (and loved)....
1. Flew into Waikiki, cab ride to Marriot Waikiki (prestay thru NCL). Nice hotel in center of things, walk across street to Beach. Great casual café in lobby with courtyard seating and then off to private surfing lessons w/ Prosurf School Hawaii shop in lobby there. My kids who never surfed before were up surfing in no time. Tip: private lessons and follow with dinner at nearby Tiki restaurant w/ reasonable good Hawaiian food, band playing, and Frisbee souvenirs under kid's meals.
2. Woke up early for NCL prestay excursion to Pearl Harbor. I liked doing this memorable outing at the front end of our trip (not last thing on otherwise tropical, upbeat vacation). Tip: you must leave all purses/ knap sacks/sunscreen/food in locked bus, but there is a snack bar and restrooms inside the entrance.
3. Boarded ship with ease, no wait, happy we did the NCL prestay although honestly regular wait did not seem bad. Everyone got leis (lovely purple leis for women, souvenir shell leis for the guys), and I later purchased the photos of us with the Hawaiian-dressed welcome crew w/ ship in background (Tip: Buy photos on sale on Friday)
4. Our one excursion not thru NCL was Hana Sky Trek thru Temptation Tours. Waterfalls, flowers, lunch, black sand beach, and short swim followed by great helicopter ride past waterfalls and mountains back to airport. Having been to Hawaii once before, I preferred this to the longer version of going all around the Road to Hana (enough-already car trip... flying back was a great splurge but fun). (Tip: Buy banana bread at Halfway to Hana stand... famous hole in the wall stop and yummy!)
5. Molikini snorkel thru NCL was fun. Less fish than 15 years ago but nice staff, food, and prescription masks for eyeglass wearers. Sea turtles snorkeling spot was really fun. (Tip: have kids sit with naturalist on way back for lesson on sea-life while eating yummy cookies).
6. Captain Zodiac was the highlight of our trip. Raft was not rough, prescription masks, nice reef for snorkeling, but no bathrooms. We saw dolphins twice and pilot whales! Marine life was a nice surprise. As first time snorkelers, Molikini and Captain Zodiac worked fine for the kids (and mom who can swim but is not exactly a swimmer). (Tip: bring an underwater camera: kids had a blast taking photos. Also get crews to spray your snorkeling mask with the defogger: makes a difference).
7. We did Volcano National Park and Helicopter ride thru NCL. Kids loved walking on lava and then on second excursion flying over flowing lava, burning trees, and beautiful beach. (Tip: If you can afford it, the helicopter rides over Volcanos from Hilo and on Kauai are truly awesome).
8. Waimea Canyon-Fern Grotto: Waimea canyon was pretty (Tip: try sugar cane and mangoes from food stand there). Lunch was very tasty. Fern grotto was okay but the hula lessons during the boat trip were fun (we didn't do a luau and got enough Hawaii culture from ship's first night show, fern grotto,lei making classes and endless excursions... can do a luau at home in the summer).
9. Heaven and Earth Quest was a lovely drive, lunch on the beach, lighthouse overlooking the ocean, visit to see albatross birds, and great photo opportunities. Helicopter ride is one of the most breathtaking views of the world I've seen in all my travels...truly stunning!
10. Disembarking: easy... take your own luggage and it takes ten minutes. (Tip: Thursday thru Saturday check out discount racks in halls by gift shops... got kids t shirts for $5-9 and half-price cheap but nice souvenir bracelets for my daughter's friends.
11. We stayed one night at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. This a great place for kids, with beach, pools, and lagoon. We took 2hour snorkel cruise and swam with sea turtles, registered right at the hotel for the trip! Then, rented swim stuff for fun in the lagoon (paddle boats, paddle boarding, and kayaks... no experience necessary). (Tip: all of Hawaii seems to have no lifeguards, but at least the lagoon at the Hilton Hawaiian village was calm water and great for all ages. Swimming lessons for young kids are a good idea pre-Hawaii vacation. Hilton Hawaiian Village is a great place to stop prior to going back to the mainland, and we're thinking about taking another vacation there just for the fun kid-friendly atmosphere, great shops, and Friday night fireworks).
12. Dinner at Roy's in Waikiki rocked... artistic presentations and daring food combinations that were delicious... a great stop for foodies...make reservation in advance! The sushi, entrees, and chocolate soufflé desserts were fabulous, and the pricey meal was ironically complemented by the $12.95 kids meals which were really very tasty).
13: Dining: we enjoyed Liberty, Jefferson's Bistro, Skyline and Cadillac Diners. Waitress at Jefferson's Bistro was a trainer for other food servers, and was so awesome at hospitality that I can see why they used her. Jefferson's Bistro was worth the extra cost, and the escargot and lamb superb. Aloha café is yummy buffet pre-excursions for breakfast. Bring a pair or two of khakis for the guys and some light sundresses for the girls and enjoy sit down service for dinner. Service was very good, and kids really loved the food too!
14. Overall : Pride of America gave us a great opportunity to see and appreciate all the islands in a short time, and we all had a blast. However, on the islands themselves, I was surprised and disgusted to see the public restrooms in Hawaii at various tourist sites don't have soap. (Tip : bring hand sanitizer and join me in asking the cruise industry to put pressure on Hawaii to provide soap in public restrooms on the islands to reduce infection risk and just be sanitary). The cruise was very sanitary, but really needed laundry rooms (I refused to pay for the pricey laundry cleaning service,$4-5/item... maybe this is normal on cruises but shocking for moms with kids clothes). Everything else went very smoothly and I was really impressed with NCL. Cabin comfortable, balcony worth it, staff friendly, and excursions well planned (kudos to NCL for having a "secret" shopper from the excursion desk on one of our tours/helicopter ride, making sure tours are doing what they are supposed to). Hawaii is lovely!!! We have great photos and greater memories, and would love to go back someday! (Tip: bring binoculars for volcano sail-by, nice casual clothes for great family photo during gorgeous Napali coast sail-by, underwater camera for snorkeling, and buy chocolate covered macadamia nuts for a sweet treat for your coworkers back home).
15. Mahalo to NCL for a great cruise!!!!