Great way to see the Hawaiian Isles with a group (7): Pride of America Cruise Review by EnjoyingLife!
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Great way to see the Hawaiian Isles with a group (7)
Did a lot of research and pricing and found that with seven of us, four adults and three grade school age children, this made the most sense and still allowed us to see a great deal in the two weeks plus that we were in the islands with the least travel effort. We reserved 7178 and 7180 which are adjoining and gave us nice space, especially the corner balcony, as well a the opportunity for lots of family time just us. A couple of notes about the balcony, it is an awesome place (Aft) to see the NaPali coast, sail aways, etc. no need to compete for space on upper decks unless you like that more crowded environment, it would be nice to have something other than a foot x foot table on the large balcony with four chairs and four chaise lounges, you do get some noise from below on the lower open deck and we dealt with loud, drunken groups a couple of More time being on deck seven, so the same room on deck eight might work a bit better, unless you have a noisy family like us below you as well!
If you are foodie, this is not the cruise for you. This cruise is about the beautiful Hawaiian Islands and did not disappoint. If you are a family looking for decent food, lots of fresh vegetables and fruits and a pleasant dining room atmosphere to expose young children to some opportunities for personal growth in dining, both food and table setting experiences, as well as please and thank you use, the Liberty dining room was perfect. The buffet also was ample and not the some times typical glutenous vulgarity you see elsewhere. Just consistent choices which work. We used the Aft area by the back of the ship most mornings. It does open later than the other buffet area and stays open later for breakfast. This is the area behind the Brazilian steak house. Eating outside was fun and something we tried to embrace as part of our experience.
Since we were in a suite, we were entitled to use Cagney's for breakfast and lunch. We had lunch as we boarded, but it was slow service, okay food (amazing garlic parmesan fries-sp) but when our wait person informed us that a group our size would take more time to seat and probably wouldn't find the next mornings breakfast to our liking because they would be very busy we decided not to bother, since it was nothing really special, and certainly tainted our interest in future restaurant and future suite bookings. Our butler, unlike others we have had, seemed to decide early on that we, as a family of seven, were not worth any extra effort so we saw very little of him and had very minimal service from him. For the first time we did not add an additional tip for this role because of this.We decided to let his self fulling prophecy come to realty. Our room steward was awesome and we did add significantly to his gratuity. The suite experience on POA is not what we have experienced both on NCL or other lines but the room set up, with the adjoining aft balcony and connecting door for our daughter and children worked very well for our needs and vacation style so would consider again. The one thing that does not work, and we were talking with another family who had the same room on another deck and mentioned it, is the bathroom. 7178 is purported to hold five people. We had four and the bathroom was the exact size and layout of the balcony room our daughter had that held just three. There was very little storage and it added stress to getting ready on this port intensive itinerary. I cannot imagine what an additional person would have meant to our significant need to plan for bath room use! Kept reminding ourselves of the beautiful islands we were headed out to explore!
We rented cars in Maui and Kauai. Renting is slick in Maui, as was free parking overnight. They pick up at the port, you just look for the company you have booked with and take their shuttle. Note: I have read here that others say to just take the first shuttle, regardless of who you booked with. We felt this was pretty lousy human being stuff, especially on vacation in a place of such serenity, with others waiting in line, so waited to do what we considered the ethical and moral thing, setting that example for the children, and use the resources provided by the company we were using our dollars at.
Kauai is a bit more challenging to rent at because of the over night parking ($20.) which fills up shortly after 10 p.m. Some parked on the street, but were ticketed so said the $20. fee would have been a better idea. You also have to compete with folks to get the shuttles (if they are not full they encourage you to get on regardless of company if there are no lines) for the early departure at 2 or 3 p.m. We chose to pack what we needed a car to see into the first day and return it after dinner -shuttle ran until 9 p.m. to airport for cars as we recall. We then took an early morning NCL shore excursion that got us back after lunch about 1:30 p.m
On Maui we spent the first day going up Halelauka (sp) which was fascinating. We have seen the Road to Hana on a previous visit and just didn;'t feel it was our best use of time for everyone else. Pretty but so much pretty to see why use up a whole day. We drove the coast as well and had lunch. The second day we snorkeled and swam in Lahaina. Lots to do there, also some nice places for lunch and shopping. There is a mall within easy walking distance of the dock with a Long's Drug and a bit further down the street a really nice mall for shopping if you need something or want to take a walk.
On Hilo we used NCL shore excursions to see Volcano National Park. Great stuff and interesting information. Kids loved the center, forget the name but not the one called visitor's center, and interactive things as well as the Thurston Lava Tubes. We were one of several buses and our driver had a health issue so we had to wait for another driver and bus, then had no AC on bus when we got to Park, so had another bus brought, then had a tire issue with the bus so that had to be changed at the visitor center. Driver was great and created a sense of calm. Showed us a couple of things she would have had a choice up but wanted to make up for the trouble. Was a great excursion but given how late we were could certainly have skipped the shopping stop at the end at Big Island Candies-good but extremely overpriced.
Kona is a tender port. Fortunately we were on a NCL excursion as we were not provided with our priority access information that other suite guests seemed to have. We went to the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm. This place was awesome! I cannot recommend this excursion highly enough for all ages and group content. Interesting, educational, entertaining and a good cause. Can't say that very often! Just do it as they say! That was the children's choice of shore excursions. Our college age son chose lunch at the Kona Brewing Company, a short walk from the pier we tendered to. That was nice and relaxing in an outdoor setting. Service was definitely on "hawaiian time" but so what, where else did we have to go! Some of us also walked the opposite direction later in the day and had a nice drink at Bubba Gumps, which has a walk up bar right on the water-literally! We were two feet from the water. Awesome!
Kauai was by far our favorite island (although we love Oahu and have visited many times so far~!). As stated above, we rented a car/van the first day. If you send a couple of folks to pick it up though, they have to park a ways out and you'll need to walk to meet them. They can park briefly inside the gated area but are subject to security screening again and the vehicle cannot be left unattended. We drove to Waimea Canyon park (a MUST do!), saw Spouting Horn, then drove the other direction (you cannot drive around the entire island because of the NaPali coastline) to Hanalei and had a late lunch at Bubba Burgers. Beautiful drive and wonderful day stopping where ever we felt/could and snorkeling, swimming etc. The majority of the ship, including photographers, go to local luaus that evening but we had one booked in Honolulu for time afterwards so passed as the cost seemed extreme and we could do elsewhere without spending cruise time. Instead we went to Duke's Canoe Club (several islands have them) at the Marriott, a short walk away. Made reservations directly with them a few months prior (they get busy when ship is in on Thursday evenings) since we had a birthday to celebrate. Great atmosphere (we had a sea view table), excellent seafood and salad bar and great children's menu which included fun non-alcoholic specialty drinks with umbrella for the kiddos. Since we had planned for a family photo, color coordination and all, to celebrate this special birthday, we were disappointed to find that our desire could not be accommodated on the ship. It worked out quite well though as we arrived early for our reservation and were waiting on the beautiful beach at the Marriott and decided to take some photos of the kiddos with the gorgeous clouds and water behind. A rainbow appeared on the horizon and a kind and thoughtful passerby offered to take one of us all. We got the best photo ever, with all the amazing elements included! Loved it!
Our second day in Kauai was an early one (on the pier as it was the second day-which we discovered after we went to the theater-our goof-6:30 a.m.) as we booked with NCL shore excursions since it was a short day and we wanted to see as much as possible. We took "The Director's Cut" tour which was great. Small bus with an informative guide. Saw a great deal of the island this way in a different and fun way. Stopped at a great restaurant in Hanalei, which was included in the cost. One of the more efficient ways we have seen this done as we were give a choice of three items first thing on the tour and it was called in ahead. Had a great mahi-mahi fillet sandwich at Calypso's (you could also purchase drinks other than iced tea or lemonade) and then some time to wander the town on your own. Beautiful drive on the coast back and safely on the ship about 30 minutes prior to all aboard.
We intended to order room service for fruit, cheese and veggies (while suite guests are purported to have an extended version of the room service menu, ours was identical to our daughter's in an aft balcony room) was the most limited we have seen in our eighteen cruises on five different cruise lines). There were no such options and the welcome fruit basket left in our room nearly a week prior was mostly gone or looking tired. Although we had been left a flyer offering to let us, as suite guests, purchase items for the "NaPali Coast Viewing" we declined and instead retrieved fruit, veggies and breads from the buffet, working around the lunch is done, afternoon snack is pretty limited and it is not time for dinner yet limitations. We had purchased some cheese and crackers, as well as grapes the day before and put into the mini fridges. Note; Have the fridge cleared the first day so there is no confusion for children as to what should and should not be eaten/drank.
We enjoyed the NaPali Coast viewing tremendously! It was truly a highlight for us all. The aft balconies offer tremendous views and while you have to "wait" for the ship to get there, it turns, affording those on the aft a spectacular experience. We enjoyed our personally designed buffet items on our wonderful balcony, sipping our favorite wines (see below) or Hawaiian sodas, taking photos and making amazing memories together. It seems like we all share this afternoon/evening when we are asked about our time in Hawaii.
We were blessed with good weather, experiencing only a few sprinkles throughout the week on two occasions. We had packed ponchos to just go with the flow if it did rain. So be prepared, including an umbrella or two and the right mindset. It is Hawaii and it is amazing, like nothing else you can see anywhere else, rain or shine. We experienced the NCL Pride of Hawaii cruise seven years ago with three out of seven days rainy and still loved it.
As stated above, we did bring some items on board on our own. We paid a helpful porter who facilitated the items being delivered. As those who enjoy our wine and are a bit particular about it, we had brought a case of our favorites on board (picked up easily in Honolulu prior to embarkation and strapped to a luggage cart with a case of bottled water and a case of fun Hawaiian soda for the kiddos-non carbonated) and paid the obligatory $15. a bottle "corkage" fee (although we opened more than half of it ourselves and had to work hard to get more than two wine glasses for our room!). We felt the fee was the price we paid for being able to enjoy what we liked so it was what it was. Had checked the POA wine list out ahead of time and felt it was limited for something we particularly enjoy, especially on vacation. Worked for us. You are escorted to the close by Vino Bar personnel, directly from security, who writes the charge slip up before you go any further. You keep the wine in your possession, which was important to us to protect from the summer heat.
Disembarking was fairly painless. Think all cruise lines (we have been on NCL now, Royal Carribean and Celebrity a few times, as well as one on Princess and in the last couple of years it seems they are trying to mitigate the "put your luggage in the hall before bed, we'll feed you what ever we have left over because you are no longer our focus-we are getting ready for some new tippers, I mean guests" attitude that prevailed previously, leaving many with a sour taste to carry off the ship with them. This is the traditional put your stuff out by midnight with the tags. POA leaves the tags, marked PRIORITY, for suite guests. Our daughter tried to retrieve tags and all but the very last time slot were gone within the first hours, so we just used the extra tags we had and put hers out too at the direction of the front desk. Suite guests can disembark at their leisure, prior to a set time they communicate, I believe ours was 9:30 or 10 a.m. Breakfast was available in several areas and the majority of the items we had become accustomed to in the prior days. It was especially crowded from 7:30 8:30 a.j. though so going early would probably be better. We had to beg for silverware and coffee in our usual setting and modify to eat sitting in a set of sofa cubes on end and coffee tables. Still better than a continental leftover breakfast and arrows painted to the door though that some cruise lines used to make part of your last morning!
We spent a few days prior to our cruise in Honolulu and loved it. Then followed with several more. Saw Pearl Harbor-simply a must, toured Kualoa Ranch-awesome and a variety of activities for all ages and interests, SeaLife Park-not what it used to be sadly but still interesting, North Shore drive was great, great zoo and any luau is pretty much an experience. Skip Polynesian Cultural Center-to commercial and pricey for what it is we thought. If you are on Waikiki on Friday evening just before/at sunset the fireworks from the Hilton Hawaiian Village are fun although folks do line up starting late evening, with a picnic, to view them. There is lots of room to view though so don't let that deter you-just take your own picnic and join them!
Now back to everyday life, richer for our memory making vacation! Aloha! Less
Cabin review: 7178
7178 has an amazing balcony, especially for days you are docked and the NaPali coast viewing as the ship turns around. We spent many hours enjoying it and wishing for a larger table to be able to eat meals out there it was so great! Five people would be tough with the tiny bathroom that is identical to average rooms and we are average sized people! We had seven of us, booking connecting 7180 and it worked great (with exception of four trying to use tiny bath room with little storage!) Second bedroom in this suite has a challenge when bed is made up as our six foot son could not sleep in it as it was not long enough and not wide enough to accommodate his height comfortable. Moved him to living area that was to sleep two and put a child in second bedroom. Note: when bed is made in second bedroom you cannot use drawers/desk area so get your toothbrush and pjs out before dinner! Suite experience on POA not your traditional, so don't expect but if you love balcony and plenty of room to enjoy-this is worth it!