I just returned yesterday from POA cruise and looked forward to letting others know how it was. I was concerned because of the poor reviews but am happy to say we had a wonderful time.
Pre-cruise hotel - We stayed at the Waikiki Marriott. This was probably our worst experience of the entire trip. The line for hotel/cruise check in was huge and slow moving. We waited in line at the hotel check in first, which was not the right place to go but we didn't know. They sent us to the NCL line. After a long day of traveling we did not want to wait in this line but it did make checking in at the ship easier. The hotel was very nice but we did not get to spend much time there because we only stayed the night before our cruise. I would recommend at least two so you can enjoy the beach. The hotel had a shuttle to Arizona Memorial for $12.00 round trip. The Memorial is free to enter but you need to get there early.
Embarkation/Disembarkation - Both went smoothly and quickly.
Cabin - Very small but we didn't come to hang out in the cabin. There were four of us in an inside cabin. There was not enough storage. I brought extra hangers like someone at this site suggested and it was helpful. I think storage would be adequate for two people. I also brought the suggested power strip which came in handy to charge our camera, phones, and Ipods. When the sofa bed was pulled out we had to climb over my daughter to get to the bathroom, closet, or door. My son couldn't sleep in the sofa bed because his feet got caught in the springs at the foot of the bed. He is 6'3". Juan, our cabin steward, kept things clean and always seemed to be there if we needed anything. One time the toilet would not flush but it was fixed immediately. The water in the shower sometimes drained very slowly, but there was very good water pressure and hot water.
Ship - The ship was beautiful. We did not have problems with crowds in any certain area and the ship was full. They sometimes ran out of towels at the pool.
Service - Most staff was very friendly and said "hi" or "aloha" when they see you. Main dining rooms were sometimes slow so don't go there if you are in a hurry. Go to enjoy a nice dinner and conversation.
Dining - We ate at the buffet for breakfast and lunch and the main dining rooms for dinner. The buffet line is shorter out on the pool deck but the selection is smaller. We normally did not have to wait in lines for long. We did get a little tired of the same things on the buffet. I did like the waffles, omelets, and fresh fruit in the mornings. There is a snack menu at the Longboard Bar for late night munchies. I liked the freestyle dining so we can eat when we wanted. We ate dinner as soon as the dining room opened at 5:30 and never had to wait.
Entertainment - We really enjoyed the comedians and magician. A matter of fact, my son has developed a passion for magic ever since he saw the magician. We liked taking hula lessons from Lailane and we made kukui nut leis. I wish I would have made more for gifts. They are $5.00 to make and I saw identical ones in all the gift shops for a lot more.
Shore excursions - This was definitely the best part of the trip, seeing the islands. Since we had a limited time on the islands we chose to do the excursions rather than explore on our own. I am glad we did it that way, every trip had great guides and we had great times. Now that I have experienced the islands I would have a better idea of how to do it on my own next time. On Kauai we did the Kayak Jungle Falls. I'm not in very good physical condition and it got a little tough but I really enjoyed it. The 2nd day in Kauai we went to the Kalapaki Beach, within walking distance of the pier. It was nice. We saw a lot of whales out along the NaPali Coastline as the ship cruised by. We didn't do a shore excursion in Hilo, instead we took the free shuttle to Hilo Hatties for shopping. We were disappointed with it and instead did shopping at the Wal-mart across the street. That night the captain cruised by the lava flow. It was amazing. Kona was my favorite place. The color and clarity of the water was unbelievable. We did Captain Zodiak's Snorkel and a wonderful time, we saw whales again. Then we spent time walking around the town of Kona and ate pizza at Kona Brewery Company - YUM! The first day in Maui we went to the Pacific Paradise Luau. It was a good dinner and show. There were 600 people from the ship going to that but organization was very good and lines weren't too bad. The 2nd day at Maui we did the Beach Day at Kaanapali. We loved this beach. The water was warmer than anywhere else we had been. The snorkeling off the beach was wonderful. We saw sea turtles, manta rays, and an octopus. There is a huge black rock where people would cliff dive from. We ate lunch at the Whaler's Village close by. After we disembarked we went on the Grand Circle Island Tour because our flight didn't leave until late. We saw Hanuama Bay, Dole Pineapple Plantation, surfing at Sunset Beach and Bonzai Pipeline, ate lunch at Turtle Bay Resort, had samples at a macadamia nut farm, and saw a lot of movie/TV show locations. Our guide shared a lot of information about culture and tried to teach us some of the language.
I loved the cruise. In spite of the problems, it was a perfect way to see the islands. Instead of looking for things that are wrong, enjoy the scenery.