I read many reviews prior to our cruise and thank all the reviewers for their helpful tips. Here I repeat the tips we found invaluable, epecially regarding ports, plus add some tips of our own:
We sailed on the 28 September sailing and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the cruise. The ship is lovely and the cabin was big enough for the two of us, we had no trouble storing all our bits and pieces. We ate mostly in the Liberty for dinner (we preferred to tidy up for dinner and there was never a queue), had breakfast at the Aloha every morning and made sure we tried the yummy Chocolate Brownie Sundae from the Cadillac, which many reviewers highly recommended. We enjoyed pretty much everything we had.
Cabin choice: On booking we were offered a free upgrade to deck 10, but after Googling photos of the side of the ship, we could see that deck 10 cabins had less side to side visibility because of solid angled supports to the overhanging upper deck. Instead we booked cabin 9060 which is on a corner that juts out from the side of the ship and gives you a lovely wide view – on the ship deck plans this cabin appears to have a much smaller balcony but that is not the case, the balcony corner is gently rounded rather than sharply angled, with minimal loss of deck space. It was an excellent choice of cabin.
Port/starboard side: Starboard side generally has the better views when the ship is in port. The night viewing of the volcano is at around 10pm and is visible from the starboard side (unfortunately the lava flow had stopped and all we could see was a glow in the sky). The Na Pali coast sailby from about 5pm is visible first from the port side, then the ship turns around and it’s visible from the starboard side. It was a really hot afternoon and everyone who went up on deck and grabbed a spot by the rail just after sailing at 2pm abandoned their site and returned around 5pm, as did we, and still got a very good spot. After viewing from the port side we went down to our cabin to get ready for dinner. The starboard side sailby was just as close as the port side, just a little faster (which wasn’t a bad thing). People have said that you start to lose the light by this time, but that wasn’t our experience. All of us on the starboard side were also treated to a beautiful double rainbow over the cliffs as we sailed by.
Power outlets and voltage: Plenty of power outlets and for those of you used to 240V and with 240V appliances, there is also a 240V Euro power socket.
Checking in luggage: We used Roberts for our port shuttle. When we arrived at the port, our driver pulled up to the head of the long luggage queue and told us to give our bags straight to the Porters for them to load on their trolleys, rather than join the long luggage queue. He said there was no fee but you could tip if you wished. He said other drivers didn’t tell you about this service – it was a brilliant tip and advanced us straight past the luggage queue to the boarding queue and out of the hot Honolulu sun.
Cruise Critic Roll Call: Well worth visiting the Cruise Critic roll calls site – a meet and greet is set up and you get to meet the senior officers and ask any questions.
Muster drill – they take attendance, so you have to show up. Ours was on an outside deck, they queued people up as they arrived in lines about 5 or 6 deep, meaning short people were often at the back behind large people and they wouldn’t have seen a thing. Hearing was also difficult with extractor fans running right above our heads. Lucky then that we didn’t have an emergency on board.
Bathroom cabinet: As a recent reviewer said, there is a corner cupboard behind the mirror in the bathroom. The magnetic door was so stiff that had I (and the recent reviewer) not known the cupboard was there, we wouldn’t have persevered to discover it.
Lobster night: Lobster night is the first night, so don’t fill up too much at lunchtime. The lobster dish is Surf ‘n’ Turf and comprises steak and half a lobster tail – yummmmm.
Packed lunches: We took baggies (love that term) and lunch boxes and made sandwiches from bread, meats and cheeses for our day trips where lunch wasn’t provided – although ham and cheese sounds plain, they were delicious because the bread was so incredibly fresh.
Theatre: We enjoyed the shows, in particular The Four Seasons tribute was brilliant as was Soul Satisfaction with The Blast. The theatre is a good layout and you only need to arrive about 15 mins before a show starts to get a good seat.
Shore tours: We used Roberts for the entire trip (we booked their deluxe tour combo and chose Heavenly Hana Adventure, Volcanoes National Park & Rainbow Falls, Waimea Canyon, Wailua River & Grotto, and as an addition their Rafting and Snorkelling Adventure, which is run by Sea Hawaii Rafting). Apart from saving significantly over PoA shore tour costs, we found Roberts to be very professional, efficient and helpful. Their representatives were at each port, holding up a Roberts sign, to help get you on the right tour. Our Volcanoes National Park tour was cancelled suddenly because of the National Parks closure in the US, but the Roberts representative was on hand and offered either a refund or an alternative tour which he said he would make a good one, and would include walking on a lava flow and black sand beach. It was an excellent alternative in the circumstances. We were disappointed that the ship only left news alerts of the closure on the cabin doors of people who had booked tours through PoA, they could have been more gracious and notified everyone, since plenty of passengers would have made their own arrangements.
Other tips and hints:
Maui: Road to Hana - sit on the side of the bus behind the driver as this is the side that is next to the water and you’ll have the better view.
Day 2 we went to the mall and caught the number 20 bus to Lahaina, a quaint little seaside town on the other side of the island, with the second largest banyan tree in the world. It was $2 per person each way, the bus runs hourly on the half hour (ie, 9.30am, 10.30am, 11.30am etc) from both Kahului and Lahaina, and the journey is an hour long. The people on the first shuttle from the ship (it was 9am or 9.15am) got to the mall in time to catch the 9.30am bus that we caught (we walked there as we were off the ship early, it was only about 20 mins walk). I was a bit concerned that the buses only ran hourly but 2 or 3 hours in Lahaina will be plenty of time. The ship’s excursion returns at 3pm, and some people said the wait for the ship’s bus back was too long. The bus route follows the coast and is a very pretty journey, so again sit on the driver’s side for the best ocean views – we spotted a seal on a beach. The shuttle from the ship drops you off outside Starbucks, walk directly through the mall to the opposite side for the bus station (the mall is + shaped, so don’t turn to the right or left in the middle, just go straight through and exit to the right at the end).
When you get back to the ship make sure you wander out past the rocks to the left of the port exit. There are many turtles near the rocks – the tour bus and the shuttle drivers both guaranteed that we’d see turtles and they weren’t wrong (although they take a bit of recognising, as they look like algae covered white rocks at first, until they move or pop their heads up). We were very tired but made the effort and were pleased we did . There is also a beautiful, isolated beach just past these rocks.
Kona – the tender port on Big Island. Kona is a quaint seaside township, very pleasant to walk around and there’s also a small, safe beach by the pier. We did the Rafting and Snorkelling Adventure through Roberts and our meeting time on shore was 9am, so no problems with getting the tender in time – in fact we had time to walk around town before the assembly time. We did our research regarding the better snorkelling site, either Molokini Crater or Kona and Kona came up tops. The coral was very impressive and there was an abundance of colourful fish – people who did both snorkelling tours said Kona was much better.
Friday on Kauaui – everyone recommends going to the beach by the Marriott, which is about a 10 minute walk away. Free shuttles buses went to Anchor Cove and a free trolley bus shuttle to the Kalapaki shops – both shopping locations are very small and are a stone’s throw from each other, but are both right by the Marriott and the beach so you can happily catch either. We enjoyed walking around the Marriott gardens, the koi ponds (the staff kindly gave out food to everyone, including us, to feed the koi), and their lovely pool complex. We relaxed with a swim at the beach and a leisurely stroll back to the ship, what a lovely way to spend our last day ashore.