This cruise was to celebrate my 50th Birthday at the end of May 2014, it was in the planning stages for over 18 months. We stayed 2 days pre-cruise at the Pacific Beach Hotel right on Waikiki beach - booked it ourselves.
Embarkation went swiftly for us because we were suite guests and did not have to stand in the monster of a check-in line.. otherwise, it would have been quite a wait.
This is a great cruise for someone who wants to see the Hawaiian Islands - because it is not your typical cruise. There are no sea days; there no casinos on board; everyone goes to bed early because they get up early to go play on shore. The staff is very friendly and warm. Loved our cabin steward Jonathan, we were never without tons and tons of fresh, clean towels and a squeaky clean cabin/suite. He was very polite and friendly and we felt like we made a new friend at the end of the cruise.
We stayed in a Deluxe Penthouse suite with large balcony, cabin 13502: Suite was nice size at 500' square feet, with another 490' for the balcony; but be aware that this room doesn't have 2 bedrooms, just a curtain that pulls around the king size bed. The double murphy bed, when down, blocked dresser drawers making it difficult to use them for much of anything. Not sure what size the sofa-bed was, we did not use it, but the murphy was just a double, making it questionable for "sleeping 6" (unless 3-4 of them are small children). The bathroom was huge.. with a double vanity, shower stall, toilet stall and fancy spa tub. All of the glass, however is clear and not frosted so get past any modesty, in a hurry, if 2 people need to be in the bathroom at the same time. 2 closets for clothes, but 1 is mostly filled with life vests... bath robes, slippers and other things we did not use. With that said.. it has a big, big deck with lots of patio furniture which was great, as this suite is port-side and you get a fabulous view of the Na'Pali coastline on Friday evening.
The only specialty dining we did is the Teppenyaki - which is a lot like the Benihana restaurants that folks are familiar with. The entertainment was 5 stars, but the food, while good, was 'too much' and if you like your meat well done, expect to eat it right before dessert is dropped in front of you. Still, at $25 + tax and tip, it was worth it just for the entertainment and to feel like you got to do something special.
We only attempted one show, Rock a hula, and walked out 1/4 of the way into it, as it was too much like "Glee" .. something no one in our party was interested in. There were things we were interested in doing, but were typically either eating dinner during them, or too tire. Generally, we were coming back to the ship in the afternoon, showering, having dinner, relaxing in our cabin while reading the next day's "FREESTYLE DAILY" ... and we'd go to bed early to start another fun filled day on the Islands.
The only shore excursion we did (through NCL) was the Seahorse Tour in Kona; we hired outside or private guides for Hilo and Kauai - and rented cars/jeeps in Honolulu and Maui... and self toured with Google Maps and a GPS. I am not sure if we'd change anything if we had it to do over again.
Disembarking in Honolulu...is a bit of a mess....and that is an understatement.. especially after you claim your luggage, as the area is just too small for the HUNDREDS of people waiting for taxis/cabs, airport and hotel shuttles, rental car shuttles etc etc. There's a 2 word description for it, but I can't use it here on a public forum. It's the worst kind of white hot mess I've ever seen. From the time we grabbed our luggage at the Pier/terminal, until we were sitting at the airport gate it was FOUR HOURS! So plan well ahead if you catching a flight home and make sure you leave yourself ample time. VIP Transport is very reasonable, but they run charter buses - like Robert's and they try to fill them. You sit & sit.. so if you are in a hurry, grab a cab back to the airport...don't rely on those shuttles from VIP or Roberts.
Overall a great. great vacation ! Can't wait to go back in a few years!