After reading previous reviews, I worried that my hawaiian cruise would be a disappointment. I was pleasantly surprised with a very enjoyable vacation. I apologize for this long review, but since I hung on every word from this site so I could plan my trip, this review may help. I've cruised primarily with Carnival, so my previous experience is limited. As far as the cruise line, I don't have much to complain about. First, order the anniversary package for $79, it's well worth it. Went directly to the ship since we were meeting sister and brother in law coming in on another flight. The first day on the ship was a challenge because we found that our toilet didn't work, other people's food still in the fridge and generally not clean. We complained and everything was fixed by that evening. Dinner was in Skyline that night, the staff tries hard but the general seating arrangements make everything difficult, be prepared to wait. Watch the sun rise on the back of the ship behind the Aloha Buffet and have breakfast. Was never crowded outside but there were more food choices inside the buffet vs the outdoor buffet. Booked the Volcano tour for Hilo through the interactive tv in our room the day before and tickets were waiting for us at our room after breakfast. Fantastic tour, well worth the money. Dinner at the steak house (reservations at any specialty restaurant before 6pm 1/2 price cover charge) Surf & turf was good, not great. Next morning in Maui, rented car through Thrifty. So not worth what everyone is saying! Thrifty had the longest lines to get on the shuttle, long lines at the front desk and they didn't explain anything when we got the car (yes, I was a Blue Chip member and it didn't change a thing) Hertz offered the same type of member benefits and their lines were much shorter. Tip when renting a car-there is very limited parking when you get back to the ship-be prepared to walk after parking! Went on the road to Hana, get a book, a cd or something so you don't miss out on the sites. This is a difficult drive and not for the inexperienced driver - many narrow/one car only bridges. Have lunch in Hana, The Ranch House - Mai Tai's were the best. That night, Old Lahaina Luau was worth the money. This was the most entertaining and true to the culture that I could have ever expected, absolutely beautiful. Get a good map and call ahead for directions, no one on the ship will know what you're talking about.
Day 2 in Maui was driving to Tedeschi Vineyards http://www.mauiwine.com/index.html great drive and tour of the winery, bought a case and had it shipped. Visited a botanical garden on the road back, lunch at Grandmas, great home made foods. Returning the rental car was where we had the most problem. Long lines with more than a hour before the ship's final call and only one shuttle with 30+ people trying to get back on board made for a hostile crowd. Another shuttle came by three times and left empty because they wouldn't re-route from the airport to the ship. We complained and the shuttle driver just parked across from the crowd and avoided looking at us. Again, choose another company than Thrifty. Ate at Skyline again, food is just ok, nothing to write home about. Next day in Kona. Now this is the only port that you have to take a tender boat to shore and this is the only port that has nice shopping and things to see and do a short walk from the dock. Everything is there when you get off the tender, shopping, eating, bars, snorkeling right at the shore. We booked Capt. Zodiak weeks before through NCL's shore excursions. I don't know if the tour would be any different by booking direct www.captainzodiac.com since everyone boarded from the same place and direct would save some money. Great excursion but it's a bumpy ride, that's part of the fun. Lunch at the Cadillac Diner which had a great artichoke dip and of course the brownie desert was the best! Dinner at Jefferson's Bistro was good but we had trouble with a large family that surrounded us on three sides then decided to yell to each other from table to table. We walked out before desert and complained to the person in charge on our way out. The next day, we had a note of apology and a large box made of chocolate filled with choc dipped strawberries and our bill from the previous night was erased. Next day in Kauai - Take the shopping shuttle and walk across the street to get to Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. This was the best part of the entire trip. Worth every penny and the helicopter is a newer/safer design according to my brother in law that is a experienced flyer. Get the video! Had lunch at the Cadillac Diner. Dinner was at Skyline.
Second day in Kauai - we didn't have a plan this day. If I had it to do over again, I would have rented a car. This was an island that was better explored by air and by auto. We took a cab to the other side of the island and went to Poipu Beach. This was worth the $100 round trip cab ride. The beach was beautiful. Back on the ship, we had dinner at East Meets West where four restaurants are combined including Sushi. (all you can eat sushi $10) Viewing of the Napali Coastline was better on deck 6 outdoors. Eventhough it was windy, the view was spectacular. Trying to dine near a window was difficult to gain the best view of the coast. Dinner was great! They even brought me a plate of spicy tuna. The easy fly program works if you send 2 bags under 1 name. I made the mistake of sending 1 bag under my name and 1 under hubby's and was charged twice, my mistake. If you've chose easy fly or carry your bags off, don't bother with the color tags. You can leave when you want. We rented a car in Honolulu (Thrifty again, convertible was good choice) and drove to Pearl Harbor. Because of 9/11, there are no purses, no camera bags, no bags of any kind allowed in the memorial. We got our tickets for the Arizona then went and purchased our tickets for the Bowfin sub next door. The wait for the Arizona was more than two hours since we got there after 10am and the busses had already unloaded tourists. The Bowfin and the Maritime are just across the parking lot. Lesson learned - when touring the Bowfin submarine, take everything out of your pants/shorts pockets. We later determined at the airport that hubby had lost his drivers license in the sub crawling through compartment doors. Drove to North Shore, great to see. Here are a few tips. Don't believe everything you read. Either NCL is reading this site or some tourists like to whine. What the employees lacked with info they made up with their helpfulness. I never met an employee that didn't go out of their way to improve our experience. I can't comment much on the entertainment since I fell asleep during the comedian. I was told I didn't miss anything. After that we slept instead of seeing the shows. We were on the 7th floor rm 7050. If you want a better view upgrade to the 8th floor. We chose our room carefully. Where the ship expands, the rooms/balcony appear bigger. Room & storage good, bath tiny, balcony made a huge difference. Smokers - you can only smoke on your balcony (I was so grateful we upgraded to a balcony) and don't expect ash trays, we kept bringing one back to our room and the steward kept taking it away. Smoking is allowed outside on the port side of the ship only. So if you want to eat and smoke then choose outside at the Cadillac Diner. Smoking is allowed in two bars only - The bar on the 13 floor and the country western theme bar on the 6th floor. We were able to meet Mark the guitar player in the bar on the 13th floor - great place but so hard to find. We chose to rent a car to stow remaining luggage and travel rather than renting a room at the Waikiki Beach Hotel (more cost effective) but if I had it to do over, I would have arrived a few days earlier and explored Honolulu more. So much to see, so little time. Mahalo.