Ever since I was a child, I longed to visit Hawaii. August 1959 -- I can still remember running up and down my street in Brooklyn waving the flag with the new state added to it. This year for our 25 Anniversary, my dream came true! My DH and I flew to Honolulu and cruised the Hawaiian Islands.
Searching the internet, I found many good reference sites: Cruise Critic became my bible.
After a grueling 11-hour trip from Nashville through LA, a representative of Roberts Hawaii met us at the airport holding up a sign with our name on it. She greeted us Aloha with smiles and sweet-smelling leis. Our luggage was magically whisked away as we were escorted to the shuttle. We finally arrived in Paradise!
Our package included a pre-cruise excursion for The City Tour, Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial, and a fabulous two-night stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Rainbow Tower. (HINT: Ask for an upgrade to a better hotel.) We had a gorgeous room with a large balcony overlooking their lagoon, Waikiki Beach, and Diamond Head. Totally awesome! Nothing like enjoying a fine bottle of wine from their Village ABC store along with scrumptious shrimp cocktail, fresh pineapple and, of course, chocolate-covered macadamia nuts for dessert! Needless to say, we had a front row seat for their Friday night fire dancing show and fireworks! The Hawaiian Village grounds were beautiful -- lush landscaping, waterfalls, neat shops, restaurants and pools. We hated to leave, but were looking forward to the Pride of America and seeing the other Hawaiian Islands.
Day 1: OAHU
On Embarkation Day, Roberts Hawaii promptly picked us up at noon and shuttled us to the POA by 12:30 p.m. We waited on a short line, dropped off our luggage, went through security, pictures, and check-in, and were on board the ship by 1:20 p.m. It was snappy! (HINT: Get there early to avoid long lines.) We made sure we had all documents requested by NCL printed and ready, luggage tags stapled, and I.D.s handy. (HINT: Bring a small stapler or use magnets to secure tags; otherwise, you will be pulled off the line and put on another one.) NO pocket knives/anything that can be construed as a weapon, and NO alcoholic beverages or soda. You WILL be pulled aside. (HINT: Bottled water is permitted; also, the ship offers bottled water and soda packages.)
Upon boarding Deck 5, we were met by lots of smiling faces, especially Megan, who told us our stateroom was ready on Deck 9. After lots of information garnered, we asked about signing up for the ship's wine package. Megan introduced us to Aveleno, the bartender at John Adams Coffee & Wine Bar. (HINT: Sign up for 6 or more bottles and get a 20% discount.) He provided us with an extensive wine list to choose from and promised to have a bottle ready for us that evening at dinner and the rest of the bottles delivered to our stateroom the next morning. (HINT: A fellow cruiser mentioned you could buy bottles of liquor on board.)
Our luggage was waiting for us even before we reached our stateroom! The room was adorable: comfy king bed, end tables, reading lights, a couch, coffee table, flat screen TV, a small table with a blow dryer by the beverage-stocked frig (HINT: NO freezer section for cold packs), coffee maker and mugs, ice bucket filled and glasses, a safe, and plenty of closet/drawer/shelf space. The bathroom was petite, but functional with shelves behind the mirror and dispensers for hand soap, shampoo and shower gel. (HINT: Inside the shower stall was a pull-out clothesline.) In addition, each stateroom had its own AC/Heat Control. Mirrors were everywhere to give the illusion that it was roomy. The sliding-glass door led to a large balcony, sporting two chaise lounges, two chairs and a small table. Plenty of room for a party!
We proceeded to explore the ship and ended up having a light lunch at the Key West Bar & Grill consisting of yummy sausage sandwiches, salads and fresh pineapple. After listening to music and people watching at the pool, we decided to go back to our stateroom to get settled in, unpack, and relax on our balcony. We planned to have dinner at Cagney's. (HINT: Take advantage of the first night 20% discount and avoid crowds at Skyline, Liberty and Aloha dining rooms. Many cruisers told us they wished they had gone to Cagney's.) Our reservations were for 7:00 p.m. and from our table we watched as the ship set sail and the sun set. Beautiful! My DH enjoyed his French onion soup and perfectly cooked filet mignon. My lettuce wedge had great blue cheese dressing and my sea bass was tasty, but overdone. (I'm not a steak lover.) We topped off the evening with cappuccino and cheesecake, then strolled to Pink's Champagne Bar and listened to Billy Joel tunes.
Day 2: MAUI
An early morning breakfast from Room Service of fruit, cereal and pastry started our day. We booked our excursion for The Road to Hana with Valley Isle. This tour was cheaper than NCL's and the 12 of us had luxury captains' seats and plenty of drinks. We thoroughly enjoyed the magnificent coastline, waterfalls, and state parks. A delicious lunch was provided for us at a tropical flower garden. At Wailua Falls, while everyone was purchasing banana bread, I fell in love with an original Laura Mango painting of Waianapanapa State Park, which I just had to buy! After the Seven Pools and Lindbergh's grave, our tour continued ... (BIG HINT: If you can, stop here and return on the Road to Hana for breathtaking scenery and AVOID the long, desert-like side of Maui!) ... and continued on a BUMPY back road around the barren side of the island with our last stop at the Tedeschi Vineyards. (HINT: As wine enthusiasts, the pineapple wine left much to be desired and the gift shop was costly.) After a long day, we were happy to return to the ship and dined that night at Skyline. The appetizers were delicious and both of us had the best Braised Lamb Shanks ever! We were delighted to meet the Head Chef and thank him personally! Afterwards, we took in a great show in the Hollywood Theater, "Aloha Polynesia!"
Day 3: MAUI
After a well-deserved sleep, we took our made-to-order omelets from Moderno out to the aft deck overlooking Maui. (HINT: If you miss the morning buffet at Aloha and still want breakfast, Moderno opens up after it with another buffet.) No excursions today; it was our day of leisure. We spent the day enjoying the ship, reading, lunching at Aloha, and napping. Since we had a great dinner at Skyline the night before, we returned. Once again, I enjoyed their mushroom Mexican appetizer followed by mushroom ravioli, Yum! DH is half Greek so he went for another favorite lamb dish. Being that we were wide-awake, we headed over to Club Mardi Gras for the 50's/60's Rock & Roll Party. What fun we had dancing! (HINT: If you are a Baby Boomer, this is a must!)
Day 4: HILO
We enjoyed Room Service and watched a gorgeous sunrise as Hilo came into view. We had booked Marylou's Big Island Guided Tours and were to share the mini-van with another couple that never showed. Marylou, herself, gave us a private tour of Hilo, Volcanos National Park, etc. At the Kilauea Visitors Center we were privileged with a rare showing of Hawaii's State Bird, the Nene - about a dozen of them! We also visited Akatsuka Orchid Gardens, Hilo Coffee Plantation, and the nut factory. At Rainbow Falls, we witnessed a traditional Hawaiian basket-weaving demonstration by a local woman, and of course, I purchased it for remembrance. Lastly, we watched sea turtles frolic at a beautiful black sand beach! That evening we relaxed in our cabin savoring a bottle of Old Vine Zin, a great vegetarian pizza, and a dessert of dark chocolate macadamia nuts. On our own balcony in the dark (in our PJ's), we witnessed Pele's lava flowing into the ocean. The fire and steam show was a sight to behold! (HINT: Book the STARBOARD side of the ship for the BEST viewing of flowing lava and the incoming coastline of each island. For the spectacular Napali Coast on Kauai, the ship does a turn-around loop for both sides to see.)
Day 5: KONA
An Aloha buffet breakfast powered us up for a day of shopping and sightseeing in the cute little village of Kona. Not to be missed is the fruit at the Farmer's Market, taking pictures on the bench outside Bubba Gump's, and eating fresh seafood. (HINT: If you want to swim, there are two small black sand beaches on either side of the dock.) Tendering back to the ship, we checked out the evening menus and decided to go to Teppanyaki. Unfortunately, they were all booked up. (HINT: If you are interested in dining at any of the Asian Restaurants, make reservations BEFORE or early in the cruise.) Back to Skyline for dinner once again and an enjoyable time with new friends!
Day 6: KAUAI
It was glorious sailing into this Garden of Eden in the morning! Early breakfast on our veranda was the fortification I needed! Today, I was to do what I swore I would never do -- a helicopter ride. My DH had reserved first class front seats on Safari Helicopter Tours. (HINT: They have lockers for storage.) Dressed in black (I was ready for death), we listened to the safety spiel and all the survival info before heading to the airport. Once inside the whirly-bird, I did not let go of my DH -- I hung onto his arm, his leg, or whatever I could grab! My fear of heights (I'm 5 foot even) kicked into high gear as we lifted off. Thankfully, the helicopter was all enclosed in glass and our pilot was not a daredevil. I was soon caught up in the absolute beauty of this island. We saw everything: Waimea Canyon, Wailua Falls, Jurassic Falls, and all the famous movie sites ... and The Napali Coast. But what took my breath away was the all-encompassing Mount Waialeale, known as The Wall of Tears. Eyes wide open, I took in waterfall after waterfall -- totally surrounding us as we hovered. Waterfalls everywhere ... cascading simultaneously down the lush mountainous landscape -- as were my tears of joy! I've never felt closer to God than at that very moment! I felt blessed to see His MOST beautiful handiwork!
Arriving back at the ship, we went straight to the bar where I ordered a top shelf margarita. (It had to be 5:00 somewhere!) I survived!! We lunched from Aloha outdoors overlooking Nawiliwili Harbor and Kawai Point. Afterwards, we checked which side of the ship had the best view for dinner and made reservations for Little Italy. (HINT: Choose Port side for dining while in Kauai.) We invited our balcony neighbors from the cabin next door to join us and we had a great time sampling appetizers, (the calamari was excellent) wine, and plenty of pasta. Our server was very attentive and made some great suggestions. We finished off the evening on our balcony viewing Hawaiian videos my DH had made using I Photo and Hawaiian music.
Day 7: KAUAI
After our al fresco buffet from Moderno, we boarded the shuttle to Hilo Hattie's. We did some last minute souvenir shopping and picked up our DVD, which was ready from the Safari Helicopter Tour the day before. Their DVD was the actual flight in detail including the pilot's narration and music. Honestly, my DH's pictures and video quality was much better, but we're glad we have Safari's original tour to refer to specific sights. Following lunch at Key West and a shake from Cadillac Grill, we re-packed our luggage to leave outside our door for the next days' disembarkation.
For our final night at sea, we dined at Jefferson's Bistro and celebrated our 25th Anniversary. We shared appetizers of escargot and steamed mussels in cream. Both were incredible! Our server offered to bring us more, so we had another order of escargot and four delicious salad cones. When our dinners arrived my DH's swordfish was overdone, and the Fruits de Mer (shellfish in puff pastry) contained a spice I did not care for. Our server offered to bring me something else, but at this point, I decided to save room for dessert. My meal had been a Chef's Specialty and was an additional up-charge from the Bistro itself. To NCL's credit, they did remove it from our bill, and our cappuccino was complimentary. The ambiance and service in the Bistro was most accommodating. To make this evening even more memorable, my husband and I renewed our marriage vows in a private ceremony.
Day 8: DISEMBARKATION
After breakfast and goodbyes to our next-door neighbors and new friends, with promises to keep in touch, we took our leave. Finding our luggage was quick and easy! A Roberts bus was waiting to transport us to the airport for our 12:30 p.m. flight home.
Hopefully, our review will help new cruisers make some good choices for their next trip. We would like to thank Cruise Critic and its members for all the valuable reviews, tips and information, which enabled us to enjoy our cruise to Hawaii to the fullest. Mahalo and Aloha till we meet again in Paradise!
Dawn & David