Let me begin by saying that my husband and I have been on 3 other cruises with Carnival. My husband is 28 and I am 23. This was our first time in Hawaii, and not a honeymoon. We were a bit skeptical after reading all of the reviews, but went with an open mind. I feel that we are pretty relaxed and easy-going. We had an amazing time, and would do it again in a heartbeat. Sorry this is a long one. We booked through a travel agent. Our flights, pre-cruise hotel stay, and transfers were all lined up for us.
We flew Northwest out and United back. The NCL representative was waiting for us as we deplaned. We gathered our luggage and were taken to the Marriott on Waikiki. The hotel was absolutely beautiful. We registered and checked in for the ship at the Marriott. Our luggage was to be set inside our room door for pickup at 8:00 am.
We arranged a transfer from the hotel to Pearl Harbor for Sunday morning through the excursion desk at the Marriott. Very reasonable. The transfer then dropped us off at the pier after we were finished at Pearl.
Embarkation This was the smoothest embarkation I have ever experienced. We arrived at the pier around 12:30. There was a specific line for Marriott guests. I believe we were on the ship in less than 15 minutes. This was amazing. Our rooms were not ready yet, so we ate lunch in the Haukilau Cafe. We then got back off the ship and walked around.
Staterooms Our room was very clean. They are a little smaller than we are used to, but we spent so little time in there it didn't matter. Storage space for clothing was adequate for my husband and I. Our bathroom was perfect, no complaints. Our room steward was named Vincent. We met him right away. He was so kind. We saw him daily in the halls. He was always smiling and asking us how we were doing. Our bed was turned down nightly with a mint on our pillow.
Ship The ship in general was very nice. Kept clean, no complaints. I really appreciated all of the sanitation stations throughout the ship. The muster drill is done at 5:00 pm. Attend because they take names at each station. This does not take long at all. Another thing - don't blow on the whistle of you life jacket. YUCK! On deck 11, in front of the Outrigger Lounge, is the place to be. This is the front of the ship and a great place to see everything. Never crowded. Pools and deck area was very nice. Always a chairs available, even on the day we missed our port.
Service The staff was excellent. We met so many neat people and truly enjoyed their advice and company. All you have to do is treat them with respect and as a person. If you have a problem, please be cordial. If you treat them with respect the same will be returned to you. We saw so many rude people that I couldn't believe my eyes. It was sad to see and I was embarrassed. They are working hard and things are not always their fault, they just an employee. The staff in the Longboard was excellent, and where we spent most of our time. Joe the bartender was awesome and definitely gives you what you pay for. Minerva was one of the waitresses and such a sweetie. I really got to know her well. If anyone runs into her you will have to tell her that Lacy says hi. She is off in April. Kevin was the other waiter, but he is off on his break now. Neil was one of the cooks that just catered to us. He would come out just to see how the food was, and let us sample some of the new flavors for the wings. These people became great friends, ones that I would feel comfortable calling on the phone to see how they are doing.
Dining We ate at the Crossings and Palace nightly. There is a little sign that still says no jeans, but we wore jeans 4 nights and never had any problems. The service was excellent. Never waited for a table. Usually ate between 6 & 8. Food was wonderful, but was not as good as Carnival's. The Hukilau Cafe was small as everyone has said. Not a problem for us. Number one advice HAVE PATIENCE. I was appalled by all of the rude people huffing and puffing. Remember you can always grab most of the same food at the Lanai. The lines for the omelets are much shorter outside. The omelets and waffles are worth the wait. Extra seating is available in the Longboard. The Longboard was our favorite place to spend our time. The food in there is great. The wings are excellent, you have to make a point to try some. They have so many different flavors available. A little tip: onion rings and nachos are not on the menu, but if you ask they usually have them. Room service was very nice. Used it twice. Our food was on time and without mistakes. It is also very nice because they call you when they leave so you can prepare a little!
Entertainment We stopped for a couple of shows in the Stardust. The magician was very good. Comedian was okay. Broadway show - not as I expected. The crew talent show was awesome - very comical. I do not think that these shows were anywhere near the quality of Carnival's. Just my opinion. The shows in the Blue Hawaii were probably my favorite. The newly wed show was funny as well as the twisted karaoke (like American Idol). The comedian was also good, he was better in there than in the Stardust. Ship n Males was hilarious. I also feel that they did a great job getting activities lined up for the day that we missed our port in Kona.
Shore Excursions I will be placing a review in the Hawaii section on the boards. We had lots of windy days, which locals and staff said that this was very uncommon. To begin, we never had a problem getting off of the ship daily. They do not announce when you can get off but it is usually 30 min. after the ship docks. Never experienced a line. This was amazing because on Carnival we could potentially wait for an hour and deal with everyone fighting and complaining. I don't know what NCL does differently, but it is awesome! We missed our port in Kona as I stated earlier because of high winds. (Heard POAm missed Kauai and Kona so not going to complain.) It was also nice because we could get some extra sleep and lay out. We were exhausted from being so busy every day. Went whale watching (saw tons of whales) and cliff viewing. We cruised around the Molokini Crater numerous times. We even had dolphins swim next to the ship because it is like an "amusement park" for them. We were talking with another couple that said that is was better than their excursion in Maui before they got on the ship. The lava viewing was awesome. Missed the NaPali coast because it was too windy and rough. We had booked a shore excursion through NCL. Molokini Crater Snorkel and Turtle Town. We were unable to go because the original excursion was cancelled and they tried getting people on another. I guess we were the ones that didn't make it on the excursion, unfortunately. The only thing that disappointed me was that we were not notified of the situation. We would have tried to book it with another tour off the ship, if we had been notified. We were also charged double so make sure you check your bills. We improvised and rented a car that day and had a great time. All of the islands were beautiful and would return to each one.
Disembarkation We chose not to do the Easy Fly because we were renting a car in Honolulu. We decided to just carry our bags off. This was so nice because I had everything I needed that morning rather than our luggage already taken. You can get off anytime between 7:30 am and 9:30 am. Just grab your luggage and walk off. Easiest thing I have ever done.
Overall we loved our vacation. The ship is smaller than we are used to, but it was kind of nice. Loved seeing people we met daily rather than having such a large ship that you never see them. Very few young people on the ship, so don't expect anything different. Staff says that what we saw was very consistent. Everything was beautiful, and has exceeded all of our previous vacations.