We chose this NCL Pride of America cruise because we were celebrating our 40th anniversary and haven't been to Hawaii since our honeymoon. Instead of "island-hopping" by plane and dealing with airports, TSA issues, and wasting time checking in and out of hotels, our travel agent suggested this cruise to see the islands. She said we don't need a passport since it was all in the USA, and we wouldn't get seasick since it just sailed the islands, not the rough Pacific. Totally true!
The ship was recently refurbished in April, the balcony we chose was deck 9 starboard (right side), which was perfect for cruising by the lava flow at 10PM Tuesday. The ship also sailed very close to the NaPali coastline on Friday afternoon. Both were narrated and hilites of the cruise. The food was good with the same menus in both dining rooms, and both were attractively decorated; Liberty upstairs in Americana, and below it NYC dEcor. We enjoyed both, however there was frequently a wait of 10-15 minutes at peak times. We did not eat in the specialty (extra charge) diningrooms.
The entertainment was very good. Loved the 2 Hawaiian ladies singing by the pool and frequently inside at the Champagne/martini piano bar. Also loved the Hawaiian show and the comedian in the main showroom, and our favorite was "The Jersey Boys" show.
Tip: Don't miss the $20 martini tasting and history demo at the Champagne bar. It's really a martini bar with over 20 infused vodkas to make anything you can imagine. One of you could do the event, and share the 4 LARGE martinis with your spouse sitting next to you. Another tip is for the breakfast buffet, go to the back of the ship at the Aloha lounge where an identical buffet is setup that is much less crowded.
Regarding excursions, we did several with our own tour (YMT Travel) including Maui - Haleakala crater (looks just like the moon up there and beautiful scenic busride to Iao Valley). Then lunch and free time at Lahaina; a fishing village with fun restaurants and ocean views of neighboring islands. We were told the "Road to Hana" tour was long and boring and not worth wasting a day going there. But Don't miss seeing Haleakala, and then on Hilo the Volcanos National Park tour with Lava Tube, Rainbow Falls and on Kauai don't miss Waimea Canyon tour. With Norwegian we took one excursion: the Capt. Zodiak adventure boat and snorkeling at Kona. That was fun and very adventurous and rough. Don't do it if you have a bad back, but otherwise if you are an active person who loves snorkeling this is the place to see coral and colorful fish just like swimming in an aquarium! The one excursion we would have loved to do is a helicopter tour of Kauai. But it was just TOO EXPENSIVE and would have cost about $600 for the 2 of us. We noticed everything in Hawaii is very expensive from the food and cocktails to excursions, to renting 2 lounge chairs with umbrella on a beach. (Not $10 a day like the Caribbean, but $40 a day or more.) Save some money by eating on the ship and enjoying their free entertainment and shows. We also went to "Smiths Luau" on Thursday evening on Kauai which we heard was much better than the luau offered as a ship excursion. Smiths has a beautiful botanical garden with peacocks and exotic plants and animals to enjoy before they unearth the pig in a ceremony for all to see, and a spectacular show afterwards featuring all Polynesian islands. Dinner was excellent too, unlike the luau offered by the ship. Go online for reservations or a bustour there.
Now for what we didn't like about the cruise: The all-American crew that were waiters and stewards were just not as diligent as we are used to on all the other 19 cruises we have taken. There was a trash pail in our cabin that was not emptied for 5 days, probably because it had a lid on it in the bathroom but that still is not an excuse. And we had to request the ice bucket be filled and little things like that. And one morning when we were on the breakfast buffet line and they ran out of plates, instead of getting more they told my husband to go over to the next line to get one. Royal Caribbean cruiseline would have immediately replaced the plates, not sent us to another station. Attention-to-detail is more evident with Foreign crewmembers.
We also didn't like the ports where the ship docks. Not very scenic, just industrial. We would have loved to go to more beaches such as Kanapali Beach in Maui but no tours were offered and it's at least an hour from the port. We did walk to a nearby beach at the Marriott in Kauai which was pretty and rented chairs with umbrella.
All-in-all, we enjoyed the cruise and also the 5 extra days we spent in Waikiki, 2 before the cruise and 3 after to chill-out and wind-down before heading home.