My (adult) daughter and I sailed on August 31, 2013. We booked way in advance through Norwegian including 2 nights prior to sailing in Honolulu at the Waikiki Beach Marriott (discounted rate!). The special cruise discount rooms are on the lower floors with city view (i.e., rear of the property with street noise). Of course an upgrade is possible for an additional $80/night. Also there's a $25/night resort fee. Original booking for 2 people 2 nights: $700. With upgrade and resort fee total was $908.52. We could have done much better booking on our own.
After thorough research we booked a few excursions: waterfall hike on Maui, Volcanoes National Park hike and Akaka Falls in Hilo, Captain Zodiac snorkeling in Kona, and Wiamea Canyon tour on Kauai. In addition we picked three helicopter tours: Honolulu, Maui, and Kauai. We originally booked a balcony mid-ship on deck 7 but were upgraded to a larger cabin on deck 11 about a month before sailing. We called Norwegian directly when rates went down. A week before sailing we got a call offering an upgrade to a penthouse (can't recall the exact amount) which was declined. After consideration, we called back but there were no penthouses available. Instead we were offered an upgrade to a balcony aft family suite starboard. As I recall we paid an additional $800 for cabin 7178, one of many last minute changes that made our trip!!!!
Along with the upgrade came a butler, priority boarding, and other perks like a fancy coffee maker. Momma like! Also, two separate sleeping areas and a seating area. The best feature was the huge balcony furnished with four chaise lounges, four chairs, and two cocktail tables that wraps around the side of the boat giving a sweeping view. We began each morning with coffee and ended each evening with wine on the balcony and instead of crowing up on a higher deck for views, we just sat back and watch them unfold before us.
We arrived early for priority boarding and were escorted off to the side to a private waiting area then escorted onto the ship right past the hundreds seated in the waiting area. Our group of about 20 were taken to the Napa Wine Bar where we had some crew introductions, champagne, and then moved into Cagney's for lunch. This would be our breakfast and lunch reserved restaurant for the duration. We were less then impressed and ending up eating here only one other time. Best early lesson: food is institutional similar to a hospital, school cafeteria, college dorm, etc. Do not expect gourmet or even quality ingredients (canned fruit in Hawaii really?), proper preparation, or good service. The buffet at least allows you to see what you're getting and be selective.
We went to our cabin and one of two suitcases had been delivered. Luckily our "Easy Traveler" pouches were intact. Read about them on these forums, and immediately ordered the "Spring Break" package. We easily packed two bottles of vodka, two bottles of wine, and a bottle of Bailey's.
If you are planning a cruise, stop reading now and go order some of these bags; they will save you literally $100s (google smuggle alcohol on cruise) in fact, they probably paid for the upgrade. No worries packing them in your checked baggage, purse or backpack (even where they were doing visual screening!), or even into your swimsuit. Hilariously Mom was able to get two pouches in the swimsuit and with the towel draped over, she was just another fat lady walking by!
Our butler came in and gave us a brief lesson on making coffee. Not only do you need a lesson, you will be lucky to get three cups made before it needs attention of some sort. We kept our butler busy just trying to get two people two cups of coffee in the morning. We waited and waited for the second suitcase and finally decided to give up and go explore. We we walked down the hall we spotted it in front of the wrong door despite being very clearly labeled. Second early lesson: lower your expectation of service personnel. We had several of them "school" us on how things work right off the bat. First night, we called for someone to come make up the fold-out bed in the second bedroom. After a good wait, two people showed up who had no idea what they were doing, leaving out a piece that actually made the bed adult-size! The next day it was mentioned that the bed was too short and our steward said bluntly that they could not read our minds and they we had to COMMUNICATE our needs from now on. We were told they intentionally left the bed short since belongings had been placed in the storage at the foot of the bed and they didn't want to restrict access. Given the choice between a comfortable sleep and access to a drawer, most would choose sleep, but from then on we were sure to call early and supervise carefully while the bed was made so an adult could sleep in it.
First morning we had planned to go to Cagney's but instead ordered room service. Because we had not gone through proper channels (ordering the night before by leaving a card on the door) we were told it would be a 45 min wait. No problem since we had changed plans and cancelled the excursion leaving at 8:45. When breakfast arrive it was cold and inedible. We never ordered room service again. Instead, the first morning in Maui we went to Whole Foods, a short walk, a stocked our fridge. We had to ask several times for it to be emptied, but we were able to eat quite well from then on.
We kept a constant supply of ice and a pitcher of pineapple juice which we mixed with coconut and pineapple vodka. Some ports have good restaurants in walking distance (Duke's in Kauai).
As for the excursions: do the helicopter tours, as many as you can afford. Really the best way to get to see the most. We loved the volcano hike, but the second portion (Akaka Falls) was too far away requiring too much driving time. As soon as we got back to the ship we cancelled the Waimea Canyon trip. Unless your idea of a good time is a lot of driving, avoid these excursions. Rent a car and get out to explore on your own. Remember, the ship is your hotel and transportation only. Make your own fun, explore, relax at the beach and you will fall in love with Hawaii like we did.
BTW, the final bill was only $151.
Loved the volcano hike, very tough terrane, 4 hours mostly in full sun. After hike group was taken to park headquarters for lunch. Turkey and cheese wraps were quite warm having been kept in a plastic bin in the hot van with no ice! With mayo and sprouts inside. Note to tour operator...proper food storage is more than just a good idea; it's potentially deadly. One bite then in the trash, leaving a bag of chips for lunch.
We stopped on the way back to Hilo (1 hour drive time) at Mauna Loa tourist trap, er....candy factory for a factory tour. Nothing to see there, operation is closed, so just shopping opportunity.
Once back in Hilo, Akaka Falls was another 1 hour drive north. All nine people groaned when we realized this. Sweaty and tired after a 4 hour hike, if I would have known 2 more hours in that van stuck to the plastic seat was ahead I would have bailed out in Hilo and taken a taxi back to the ship. This day was WAY too long and WAY too much drive time.
Especially since we essentially had a bag of chips to eat all day!
Loved this part. Not for the feeble.
Large and efficient facilty.
Captain Zodiak tour had major problems.