This was my third cruise with NCL and the one that I liked the least. Don't get me wrong, the ship is beautiful having been refurbished in March. It was the service that I experienced that left a lot to be desired.
We arrived in Honolulu on Wednesday June 26. We stayed at Embassy Suites. I've written a trip report and hotel review over on Trip Advisor if you'd care to read it there.
We returned our rental car back to the airport and took a cab to board the POA. Taxi with tip was $32.00. We arrived at the pier around 1:30. I wanted to be sure to get on board for our cruise critic meet and greet which was scheduled for 3:45. Once we arrived we had to wait in a very long line to check our luggage. I forgot to print out our luggage tags at home so I had to wait extra long to get them at the pier. Once the luggage was checked and we went through the security line and then we entered the very spacious terminal. We had to stop to have our picture taken. I'm a photography buff so I really didn't mind. Once through that line we were then ushered to another line to get our key cards and finish some last minute paperwork. I've sailed NCL before so there is a special (shorter) line called Latitudes that we had to go to. We didn't have to wait very long and then it was time to board the ship. We also stopped to buy my 18 yr old son a soda card which I think was around 49.00 for the week.
My first impression of the ship, it was absolutely beautiful. I've sailed on the Pearl and the Dawn which are much, much smaller so this one seemed a lot bigger and everything was new. We were welcomed aboard which NCL does a great job in letting you know that they appreciate your business. We were able to go to our cabin right away. We had an inside cabin on the 10th deck.
We went to our cruise critic meet and greet up in the Shuffles card room for 3:45. We met a lot of the cruise staff (cruise director, head chef, head of housekeeping, etc) all very welcoming. They provided us with drinks and cookies. It was a nice way to catch up with fellow roll call members we've been chatting with for months. If you're not familiar with this process, each ship has a roll call where you can meet and chat with others sailing on your ship. It's a wonderful way to meet people from all over and once you get on the ship, you feel like you already know them. Find this under "community" on the forum page. Scroll to roll calls and then find your ship and sailing. If there isn't one there, start one. We did this last year on the Pearl. At first my family thought it was weird but then they thought it was great. That lasted about an hour so after that we walked around and went to the buffet to eat. There was a good variety of food. We set sail at 7:00 p.m. with an on board deck party. We went back to the cabin. I decided to book an inside cabin for this trip. It was really small and there were four of us staying in it but we didn't mind. We didn't spend a lot of time there. It was to sleep and shower.
Port 1 was Maui.
We woke up very early and went to the Aloha buffet for breakfast. Very crowded and the service was very poor. The employees in the buffet did not seem friendly. The tables were not cleared of dishes. People began piling their dishes onto another table right along the edge where you walk. My husband and I counted 13 employees walk by and look at that table and not one stopped to clear it off. Finally a gentleman in a white uniform started to clear it. My husband told him he was number 14. He apologized and my husband told him that he didn't care, it didn't effect us. This is the type of service this ship mostly had. We'd go to the pool and not one person would ask us if we wanted a drink. On the other ships they'd be knocking each other over to get you something. We'd mostly have to go to the bar to get it ourselves.
So, we left the ship and I booked a tour independently to do the Road to Hana. I originally booked a rental car but changed my mind after reading reviews about the road being sketchy. We went with Valley Isle Excursions and they picked us up right at the ship. It was a 10 hr tour in a bus with 12 people total. Our driver Barry was excellent. We stopped at a black sand beach, lava rock beach, the seven sacred pools, a flower farm, winery. We got to swim at the pools. It was nice to let someone drive for a change. We were then dropped off at Avis rent a car. I picked up my car and drove to the pier. Free parking here and a short walk to the pier.
We went to the Skyline restaurant for dinner. Service was very slow. They were nice and all but just very slow. Most of the entertainment was geared toward an older crowd. Hint, hint, NCL not everyone likes this type of thing. We did go see Willy K. He was amazing and I really enjoyed his singing. Don't miss him!
Day two in Maui.
Another breakfast in the buffet. We did this everyday. Just a quick way to eat and go. We walked back to the rental car and headed toward Lahaina. I wanted to see the one acre bayan tree. I drove right past Lahaina and couldn't find it. I asked the rental car lady the day before about going to the beach. She suggested going to Whalers Cove shopping complex, parking there and then going to the beach right near there. We bought something and got our parking ticket validated for three hours. I think the minimum to purchase was 15.00. We spent about 4 hours on the beach. beautiful, clear water. My boys went parasailing with UFO Parasail. It was around 85.00 per person. My husband and I just relaxed while they were gone. Once they came back we left and went to lunch at Maui Fish and Pasta right in the Whalers Cove plaza. Very good with beautiful water views. We left the plaza and had to pay an additional 9.00 plus the validated ticket. We drove to Lahaina. Found a place to park for 5.00 and walked around a little bit. We got a shaved ice and I bought a sweatshirt. We got to see the bayan tree. We dropped off the rental car off at 4:00 and took the shuttle back to the ship.
We boarded the ship, got cleaned up and headed to the Latitudes party. If you've sailed with NCL before, they throw you a welcome back party with free drinks and appetizers. We met the captain and other officers. It's nice that they appreciate your business.
After the party we went to Moderno for dinner. The service was fantastic!!! We gave the servers a cruise hero reward. They were the best servers we had the entire cruise. The whole ship should be like them. The food here was like a meat coma. All we had was 10 different kinds of meat. It was all good though and worth the 20.00 extra.
After dinner it was back to the cabin and we turned in early. Too much sun and sand today.
Day 3 Hilo
Another buffet breakfast for in the Aloha cafe and off the ship we went. This was a short port day so we wanted to get going right away. We booked another independent tour with Big Island Aina Tour. Our tour guide was Gil. He picked us up right at the ship. This was advertised as a small group, 6 to 7 hour tour of the island. Very small, very personal. My family of four traveled with a lovely couple from Australia. We chatted all day. Our first stop was to a macadamia nut far. It was basically a stop to buy something in their gift shop for lunch and a quick look around, nothing special. On to stop two, which was an orchid farm. They had a $20,000.00 orchid on display. Another look around their gift shop and on to stop three. Stop three was Punaluu black sand beach. It was really interesting to see black sand everywhere. I wanted to take some home but I believe you're not allowed to. I wish that I had but didn't want any bad luck for taking it. We also decided to have our lunch here by the ocean at a picnic table. Very enjoyable. We had about 30 to 45 minutes to enjoy this beach.
Stop 4 a 20 mile drive to Volcano National Park. We had to pay our own park admission here. It was $10.00 per person because we were in a commercial vehicle, otherwise, it's $10.00 per vehicle. This park was amazing, to actually see an active volcano steaming. It started to rain lightly and our tour guide gave us umbrellas. We also visited the museum that they have on site. There are letters from people that decided to take black lava rocks or black sand home only to have major bad luck. They mailed them back to Hilo asking them to return the rocks to where they took them. Pretty funny. We also got to stop at the Halema'uma'u Crater and some more steam vents. We were able to go and walk through a huge lava tube which was like a cave but lighted. We then drove on to Rainbow Falls and the Kamehameha statue. We returned to the ship at 3:30. All and all we liked this personal tour. Gil was really friendly and attentive, answering our questions and pointing out interesting facts. It was $85.00 per person which did not include the lunch you had to buy or the extra $10.00 park admission.
Back on the ship I went to the lei making class. This class was made with flowers and I really enjoyed it. There was also a nut and ribbon lei making classes but I never made it to them. Another dinner at Skyline with better service and then off to our friends cabin for the lava sail by. We did get to see lava flowing into the ocean. Not from the top of the volcano but mostly at the bottom. Bring binoculars. Absolutely amazing!!!!!!!!! I've seen calving of the glaciers in Alaska and this was equally amazing. This was almost the highlight of my trip. I was in awe.
Day 4 Kona
This day was a tender port and it was a real pain. I didn't have anything planned so we didn't hurry off of the ship. After breakfast we headed down to the atrium to get our number to be able to get off of the ship. We waited quite a while to get a tender boat. They take people with ship excursions first. They don't have to wait in line. We were boarded into the tender with 90 other people. It was quite hot. Once we were in Kona we didn't really have a plan. This is a walkable port. We just shopped in the stores. We went to a flea market/farmers market. It was really hot and I only wish that I knew there was a beach right there to swim. We would have brought our bathing suits but we didn't. Kona has beautiful blue water and is crystal clear. We went to Bongo Ben's for lunch and my son got a shaved ice from a stand on the street. Some more shopping and then back to the ship. We went kind of early because we didn't want to get caught in the masses trying to get back on the tender.
We went to La Cucina for dinner. Great Italian restaurant, great service. My husband got steak which he said was awful. I told him he should have had them take it back and bring him something else. For a 20.00 fee he should have been satisfied. We decided to go take some pictures in the atrium. My doing, not the family. They aren't fans of doing this but they know it makes me happy. Here's a tip, just buy one copy of your picture, then when you get home you can call NCL customer service and ask for a copyright letter. They will be happy to email it to you. You can then take your pictures to Walmart or wherever to copy them.
We went for a few drinks and then we went to the White Hot Party. It was at 10:00 pm in the Mardi Gras bar. I've been to two other WHP and this one really wasn't good. It was packed. We sat there for what seemed like forever and no one came by to ask us if we wanted a drink. My husband got impatient and went to the bar himself. He came back 15 minutes later saying what a joke it was, they only had one bartender on. We eventually got drinks and danced a little. We had to leave though because the music was terrible. They played techno, techno and more techno. They really should start out with slower music for the older people that go and eventually work up to that techno crap. The DJ just wasn't good. That was another thing about this ship, they'd advertise a dj every night at a certain bar and when you went there, they weren't even playing. This happened three times to us.
Day 5 Kauai
We booked a helicopter tour with Jack Harter Helicopter tours. They picked us up at the ship around 10:15 and took us to the airport and their office. Our flight was scheduled for 11:00 am. We had to go to the office first to make our payment and to get weighed. You basically stand on a scale in front of a girl that sits at a computer. She doesn't even tell you what you weigh and there are no numbers. After being on a cruise, you probably don't want to know anyway. We were then loaded in the van and off we went to the airport helicopter pads. While driving to the airport we went over some brief safety rules and once at the helicopter, we had to put on an inflatable life jacket which is in a small pouch you tie around your waist. It's similar to the life jackets they show you on every commercial jet. This particular outfit offers two types of helicopter rides. One helicopter doesn't have doors and holds 4 people, the other with doors and holds 6 people. We wanted doors off but none of us weigh under 150 lbs so we had to go with the doors on. We had another couple with us that sat in the front, we sat in the back. We got strapped in and were given noise canceling headphones and off we went. Our pilot was Jason and he did a great job explaining what we were seeing. We could talk to him and ask questions but none of us did. We just sat back and took in the amazing sites. We flew over our ship and we got up close to waterfalls, and the sites of famous movies. We also saw the waterfall they used to film Fantasy Island (1970's?)and the spectacular Napali coast. The water was so blue and clear. It just sparkled. We also flew over Waimea Canyon which is supposed to be the Grand Canyon of the pacific. This was the highlight of my trip. It was very surreal and I wasn't afraid one bit. It was my first helicopter ride.
After our ride we were driven over to Avis to pick up our rental car. We stopped off at a restaurant called the Brick Oven Pizza restaurant. Nothing special. We then decided to drive to Waimea Canyon to see it from the ground. In hindsight, I would not have done this. I should have gone to the other side of the island and the beaches. Anyway, we drove to the canyon and it was a little overcast. Our helicopter van driver told us to make sure that we went all the way to the top of the canyon, to just keep driving for a spectacular view. It took us an additional 1/2 hr to get there and when we did, it was all foggy and you couldn't see a thing. We left only to learn if you wait a little while it will clear out. Someone I know did wait, and it did clear. Oh well, not meant to be.
After we left the canyon we decided to head back to the ship. In this port you have to pay $20.00 to park at the nearby Anchor Cove shopping center. Very small area but the security guard assured me that there would be room to park later on. We decided not to take the chance and left our car there about 6:00 pm. There is a small beach near the shopping center to use if you wanted to.
Once back on the ship we decided to eat at the Cadillac Diner. The service here is terrible, very slow. We ate here three times and all three times it was the same service. The menus never vary either so it does get boring. After dinner we went to see the fireworks (July 4th) from a nearby soccer field. We could see them from the stern of the ship. Off to bed we went because we'd have an early day tomorrow before we turned the car in at noon.
We woke up very early at 6:00 am. Headed for breakfast and off of the ship by 7:00 am. We wanted to check out some beach and my son heard Lydgate State Park was very nice. We got to the park about 30 minutes away by 7:30. Very early for the beach and very few people there. This beach is a protected cove with a man made sea wall to keep the waves out. Great for small children. We stayed here until 10:00 am and we enjoyed the crystal clear water. There are bathrooms so you can change after your swim.
We still had a few hours to kill and decided to ride up the coast and see if we could find any other interesting sites. We saw a sign for Opaeka Falls. We decided to check it out. Huge waterfall, just beautiful. We took some pictures here and then continued on to Kapa'a. We stopped for the best shaved ice at Ono, Ono. It was the cheapest at 3.50 and it was huge. I couldn't finish it all. My son loved his. He agreed that it was the best he had.
We then drove on and stopped at a small plaza with stores and I bought a few things. By this time it was nearing 11:30 and we felt we should turn around and get the car back to the airport. We dropped the car at Avis and took the shuttle back to the ship. Very convenient. We were back on the ship by 12:30 and we again went to the Cadillac Diner for lunch. We sat outside on the deck and enjoyed our lunch. We were invited to go to the bow of ship to sail out of Kauai harbor. Another silver latitudes perk, free drinks, we're there! It was very windy on the bow so we were able to stay there about an hour in total. We decided to relax by the pool all afternoon. They had a Jimmy Buffet tribute party that was kind of fun. Plenty of drinks and food. We did find a very attentive server that kept us supplied with drinks all afternoon.
After the pool we went back to the cabin to freshen up before heading up to the deck at 5:00 pm to see the Napali coast. It was crowded but we did manage to find some space and eventually the crowd will thin out. It was so beautiful, we saw a rainbow over the cliffs.
We decided to go to the Skyline restaurant again. Same menu, same service. We went back to the cabin and packed up. Went to say goodbye to some friends we had made. We then went for a few drinks and called it a night.
Day 7-Back in Honolulu
Our cruise is over :( We had a good time, Hawaii was amazing. I don't know if I'd cruise here again. It was nice to see all of the islands but it really wasn't enough time in any of them. Next time, I'll concentrate on a couple islands. My favorite Kauai and then Maui. I hope service improves and their menu changes. We decided to walk off with our luggage and got a cab with no problem whatsoever. We headed to the airport with happy memories.