My sister and I gave our Mom a Hawaiian cruise for her 85th Birthday. We brought along her three 20-something grandchildren to make it a family vacation so there were six of us. We booked the Pride of America for its July 27th sailing. I will try to keep this short (since others have given incredible detail) and mostly about the ship and its service. Hawaii is incredibly beautiful and everyone should see it at least once!
We had booked the cruise before I found this site and after reading some of the reviews, I was a little apprehensive about how this trip would be since there were so many comments about surly/unfriendly/indifferent staff and lack of cleanliness of the cabins and the ship in general. However at 85 our mom has some difficulty walking (bad knee arthritis) and we thought this would be a good way for her to see more of Hawaii (she has been to Oahu) without having to walk too much if she wasnt feeling well. We were more than pleasantly surprised.
We flew into Honolulu from Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon and went directly to the pier. She truly is a beautiful ship! I had called NCL the day before and asked for a wheel chair for my mom so she wouldnt have to stand for so long since I had read that embarkation can take some time. The wheel chair was waiting for us right at the entrance and Tony (her driver) was wonderful!! He was full of information, very kind and patient especially full of information!! With Tony giving us tips and suggestions, embarkation went quickly not more than 25 minutes. He took us up to the Skyline Restaurant for a late lunch which was very tasty.
After lunch we took a short (relatively) walk around the ship then up to our cabins (7660 and 7662 port side). We splurged on cabins with a balcony and we were so happy we did. The rooms are small, but had enough space for three girls in one and three grandchildren next door and the balconies enhanced the space. There was even enough closet space, hangers, drawers, and shelves for all our stuff. They were very clean and comfortable and our steward, Armando kept them that way for the entire trip. Armando too was very helpful, always had a cheerful greeting and was happy to answer our questions or get us whatever we needed. He even made us a different towel animal sculpture for every day! Thanks Armando!
In fact, every one of the staff we came in contact with (and there were many) was cheerful, helpful, worked hard, asked after our day or if they could do anything for us. We never had a problem getting a drink no matter where we were from the bars and entertainment venues to the top sundeck, there was always someone happy to bring us a drink or even ice water. They did an especially good job dealing with the day we had to spend at sea due to tropical storm Flossie. Captain Chrostina and his staff made sure we were safe and little affected by the storm by keeping us at sea (instead of the second day on Maui). The ship rolled, but I only saw one person get sick. The staff made sure they kept 2000 plus people happy and entertained and we thought they did a great job. As you may have read, NCL adds a daily service charge for tips that it distributes to the stewards and waiters and others that were of service and you can certainly leave it at that. We gave additional cash tips to those who went above and beyond to show our appreciation.
We ate mostly at the restaurants that were included with the price of the cruise and all had tasty to really delicious selections. They even provided a birthday cake for my moms birthday! The grandkids and I tried Moderna (the Brazilian restaurant) and East Meets West. Both were excellent and definitely gave you your additional moneys worth. East Meets West was especially fun with Tonys help (yes, our driver from the first day) where he made delicious suggestions that we wouldnt have tried without him thanks, Tony!
The ship and its public areas are really beautiful!! There were lots of comfortable places to sit and read both inside and out including a well-stocked library. All the public areas and bathrooms were always very clean and accessible. The only exception was the more than 24 hours that we were at sea when the public bathrooms were heavily taxed. Cabin bathrooms all worked fine and were also very clean.
All in all this week was like a combination of Kellermans (from Dirty Dancing) and the Love Boat with great scenery. The shows could be a little corny but were really fun and enjoyable; bingo and lectures, lei making and trivia contests were all just good fun. My mom had a great time and so did my sister and I. The grandkids had hoped there would be more people their age (there really wasnt), but even they had a good time and stated they would love to do another cruise sometime. We highly recommend Norwegian and the Pride of America so disregard the reviews from those for whom the glass is always half empty. Enjoy!!
Since we didnt purchase any of the excursions from NCL (way too expensive) we found a private tour right at the pier for a very reasonable price. We had a wonderful 4 and hour tour of the area and were taken to the lava fields at Kalapana (site of the last lava flow in 2010 amazing); the black sand beach at Kaimu; Rainbow Falls and other points of interest around Hilo. This tour was perfect for my mom who has difficulty walking long distances.
We had a great time on this island. We were docked here for two days, but unfortunately the second day was a short day and we had to be back on ship by 1:30 pm. (We took a rest day the day before which was the long day should have reversed it.) There is free transport from the port to the little town of Lihue. The trolley lets you off at a small mall which has some nice little shops and places to eat including a Mexican Food restaurant which supposedly has great Margaritas - didn't get to try it. Facing the main street, there is a guy at a table selling tours at very reasonable prices. This is the place to do zip lines, snorkeling, helicopter tours and kayaking. NCLs excursions are very expensive so you should to find local companies who will give you a good tour for less.
We took a two hour tour that cost $140 for up to 6 people!! Had a really nice tour of Lihue and the area surrounding area. We saw, Wailua Falls and the Muanakapu mountains and river - beautiful!! Opaekaa Falls and the Alekoko Menehune fishpond were also lovely. Definitely go ashore on the first day and not the second day.
Kona was a tender port which means they use the life boats to take you from the ship to the landing, very cool. What wasnt cool was the weather very hot and muggy here and no breeze. We took the free shuttle to Hilo Hatties (there is one at every port so if you miss one, dont worry there will be another) then walked down to the Kona Brewery. This is a very popular place very close to the pier. There was a line and it took us about 30 minutes to get a table. There is no air-conditioning, only fans, but the food is good and according to my son, sister and niece, the beer was very good and it is reasonable. Unfortunately it was so hot and muggy; we stopped at the ABC Store on the way back to the pier and got back on the boat to get cool. I rated this port a 4 but mostly because of the muggy.
Maui was great and was one of the places we wish we had had one more day - we lost one day due to Tropical Storm Flossie. We took public transportation to Lahaina and enjoyed a 45 minute trip through the center of the island. Lahaina was a lovely little town with lots of shops and historical places to see.