My husband and I sailed on POA March 8-15, 2014. This was our fourth cruise, previously sailing on Carnival and Princes and our last one with Norweigan in the Caribbean. Cruise reviews have always been very helpful to me, so it is my hope this review will help others as well. I found out a lot about what we like/dislike about cruising after having taken this cruise. We really missed the sea days, which are relaxing with time to enjoy the fitness center, lounge on a chair and soak up some sun, or enjoy some afternoon class etc. But having said that, we knew we would be busy on each Island trying to see as much as possible.
Overivew of Ship (Staff, Stateroom, Food, etc.)
We found the POA very clean and easy to navigate. All staff were very friendly and always helpful when needed. There was one girl (the A.M. hand santizer girl in the Aloha buffet) that never smiled and seemed very sad all the time. I just wanted to give her a hug and ask..."Why are you so sad." But that would be weird and maybe that's just her way. We had cabin 10654, aft, 10th level, which was wonderful and a great location. Our cabin steward (Wilford) did a great job. He was never seen much but always attended to our needs. They sure work hard. Regarding the food, it's hard for me to complain when so many are starving around the world and we have so plenty. But I will say this was our least favorite food on any cruise. My husband had three different cuts of beef in the Liberty dining room and he said they were not good. We also dined with other folks who had the special one night and didn't even eat it it was that bad. I don't like beef so I can't comment. We didn't try the specialty restaurants so I can't comment there. I really missed not having time to use the fitness center so I can't comment there but I've heard it's very nice.
Overview of Excursions/Islands
We did the Road to Hana on Maui on Sunday with Valley Isle Excursions. WONDERFUL! It's a very busy day but you will see such beautiful scenery with great photo opportunities. We had a scrumptious lunch by the Black Sand Beach, which is beautiful by the way. We took this excursion because I read the reviews on Cruise Critic and they were all so postive. That is when you know you've got a good thing. I highly recommend this trip. Our only other excursion was snorkeling off the coast of Kona with Seaquest. Again, highly recommended and excellent reviews on cruise critic. The only negative is they don't pick up at the cruise ship and you have to take a taxi, which was $30 one way. But this trip is cheaper than doing it with NCL so it balances out pretty much the same. You might also be able to share a taxi with someone and save money. This was by far the BEST snorkeling we've ever done. We've snorkled at many places in the Caribbean but this was the best. The water clarity and endless colors of beautiful fish make this trip a must. We also rented cars on the Big Island and went to Volcanoes National Park. This didn't do much for me and my hubby. We probably wouldn't do again. We rented a car on Kauai and drove to Waimea Canyon. That was beautiful. Also stopped at Kauai Coffee Shop. Whew! It was busy. After that we drove to the other side and almost made it to the end (by Turtle Beach) but it was getting late so decided to turn around. It was one of my favorite islands.
Closing Comments - Why we Prefer the Caribbean
My better half and I both decided we much prefer the Caribbean over Hawaii. Why? #1. We are sun and beach people and the color of the water and the sand is much prettier in the Caribbean. Many of the ports looked like Lake Michigan Port. And the sand was more brown, not that beautiful, white powdery sand you find in the Caribbean. Waikiki Beach was one example. Looks like the beach in Milwaukee where I live. I'm sure there are beautiful beaches in Hawaii but we didn't come across many. They don't look like the pictures. #2. The time change was a killer for us. It seemed just when we adjusted, it was time to turn around and head home. I knew that might be a problem as I don't adjust well to Daylight Savings Time but I didn't want that reason enough to stop me from seeing Hawaii. #3. The cost. Everything was very expensive. The Caribbean is several thousand dollars cheaper. #4. The rain! In all of our Caribbean travels (over 12 islands visited) we've come across about 5 minutes of rain total. When we arrived in Honolulu, it was pouring rain and the traffic was crazy busy. It took almost 1.5 hours to get to the hotel. Not a great way to start vacation. I know Hawaii is more tropical but plan on rain and more clouds because of the climate changes. #5. The flight time is extremely long but we all know that. I don't sit still well for long periods of time. I have the attention span of a 7-year old. Well that, and two back surgeries don't make for a comfortable flight.
#1 If you rent cars and tour the islands, call for room servicve in the morning and have them bring you sandwhiches, cookies, fruit etc. for your lunch. This was a money and time saver and they made some great sandwiches. Pack a cooler that collapes, fill it with ice from the buffet area and you're good to go.
#2 I've read in past reviews that only water and tea were available. They did also have juices but noticed all had high fructose corn syrup. If you don't like that, pack some Crystal Light drink mixes and mix at your leisure. They take little space in the suitcase and if you don't buy the soda card and tire of having water all the time, this is a great option.
#3 We found the shops on the islands very expensive. I've read on cruise critic that Wal-mart had good deals. We found this true as well. They had ample supply of Macadamia nuts and chocolates galore and other soveniers as well. I've made many a people happy with those gifts upon our return. The Macademic nuts are oh so yummy.
#4 If renting a car, sign up for special programs like the Blue Chip with Thrify. It takes a couple of minutes online to sign up and will save you much time when picking up your car.
Now that we've seen Hawaii I don't know if we'll return. I think we'll stick to the Atlantic side of the USA for the reasons mentioned above. I sincerely hope this review was helpful and that you enjoy your time on the Hawaiian islands.