It's been several weeks since our Thanksgiving cruise... After reading many POA reviews prior to our cruise, I was almost not looking forward to it. Now that all is said and done, I have to say it was a great trip! But not because of POA.
First of all, American Airlines mistagged our luggage so it didn't arrive until our 3rd day. Not NCL fault, but when we told them about the situation, they did little to help us. After booking a flight that didn't get in until 2 hours prior to debarking, we just made the ship due to all the complications at the airport. POA gave my husband and I a small toiletry bag with items we already had in our carry-on. We got to our room tired and frustrated.
Our room was HUGE! We had a American Disability Act room due to an illness I have so our oceanview room was nearly twice the size of my parent's balcony room. When we saw theirs, we realized that we would have never survived in that room all week! My husband is a big guy and would have struggled to even use the shower it was so small and there was basically NO walking space. But, as I said, we had a great room. I read about the cabin service (or lack thereof), so at the beginning of the week I left a "pre-tip" for our steward... and got great service and cleaning all week! Small price to pay I guess.
Food - mostly horrible. NOTE-absolute first thing you do... make reservations at the specialty restaurants. Because of our late embarkment, by the time we called to make reservations that night... the desk was closed. Then when we called at 8am our first morning, most restaurants were booked. So we had to take whatever spots were left. We ate the first night it one of the main dining rooms. Service was good, but the food was only slightly better than that of the cafeteria at my job. Second night we ate at the other main dining room, for lobster night... it was not good. Nor was the service. We constantly had to ask for missing utensils or refills, etc. Our server did not know answers to menu questions and paid very little attention to us. Also, as arrived that night, the family in front of us asked for a table and was turned away because they did not have reservations. They were stunned. They thought that the main dining rooms were freestyle... come when you want. NO! Make reservations for those dining rooms too! Although they are large, they only seat a fraction of the tables. We went to the steak house which was great, Jefferson's bistro (european style food) and that was fabulous! The Italian restaurant was a waste for the surcharge. We ate at the cafe every morning for breakfast. That was one of the few things I enjoyed, just because of the croissants!! :) Packed every morning, but plenty of seating and food options. (Grab some fruit, etc and take for later in the day.) No midnight buffets like I've always heard about on cruises! :(
Excursions... we rented cars most days. We did one ship excursion... the morning volcano viewing and downhill biking. WOW! So worth getting up early! Breathtaking and organized well. If I had to do again, I would have spent the $ and done more excursions through the ship. With, basically 1 or 1.5 days on each island, by the time you get off the ship at 8am or so, wait in line for a shuttle to the rental office, wait in line at the rental office, finding directions, calculating time to get back to ship by 5pm, you've used up a lot of time. So if you go it your own, you can't do some of the more involved activities like snorkeling cruises or hikes deeper into the island. (We got the "Revealed..." book series which really helped us find some "gems" while driving. I still have them if anyone is interested.)
Entertainment-can't say we did much as we were busy nearly each day off the ship. But we didn't go to any evening events either because we heard from other cruisers that it was just laughable. My parents said the comedian was so bad they were embarrassed for him.
Service-okay. The crew usually looked like they slept in their clothes. They carried on in public areas and many were either hung-over during the day (we saw many of them coming back on ship at 3am as we were leaving for our volcano trip) or just not with-it. Our cabin steward was great, as was the guy my sister made friends with at Pink Cadillac bar. He said crew spirit is low, no motivation by managers to do better, they fit 3-4 crew in a 200 sq. foot room (or smaller), including bathroom... and many seem like young kids that don't know what else to do with themselves A few of our waiters in the speciality restaurants were excellent, especially in the Jefferson Bistro. Top notch!
Ship- kind of tacky. Small entry compared to other ships I've seen/heard about. Bars small. Pool area even smaller (and sort of dirty).
NCL knows that they have an excellent itinerary in a beautiful location with no passport requirements... both of which travelers want. And since most passengers are only on board in the evening, NCL takes advantage of all this. They think they can get away with poor services. I hope people will start spending their hard earned money on other Hawaii cruises so NCL will get the point.
BUT... this family trip was about the location. And POA was basically just a floating hotel-room. So if you can look past all of the above, and want a very cost efficient way to see a number of Hawaii's beautiful islands, especially for a family... this is the way to go. But if you are looking for beauty in the islands AND accommodations, this is not the way to go. If you used to other cruises with great activities, food and entertainment, adjust your expectations and enjoy the wonderful islands, or go elsewhere.