My wife, son, mother and I traveled from Seattle on 4/15/07 to Hawaii on the POA. This was my first cruise as well as my first visit to Hawaii. We arranged our Cruise tickets separately from our Airfare so that we could use air miles to cover the airfare. We arrived at the Honolulu airport at 1pm and made our way down to the taxi station to get a taxi to the Aloha Towers which is where the Ship is located. We were lucky enough to get a limousine to pick us up and take us to the Ship all at the cost of a taxi, appx. $20. What a great start! Of course when we returned to the airport after the cruise, we took a minivan taxi which was also nice and comfortable for the same price.
Upon arrival to the port, we were immediately greeted by some baggage handlers that took all our bags and instructed us on the documentation needed to get through the security check point. This was very helpful and we were able to check in with our tickets within 10 minutes. Not a lot of people were there at 1pm since the Ship did not sail until 8pm that night. I assume later in the day, more people showed up and probably took a little longer to check in. As we boarded the ship we were given brief instructions on the sanitization stations and helpful information to guide us through the cruise. Our baggage would be delivered to our stateroom at 8pm after we left the port so I recommend carrying on anything you need in the nearterm(medications, etc.) We checked out our staterooms(9128 & 9129) and to our surprise, the room was fairly big with ample space for storage in the closets and hangers for clothes. We kept a couple suitcases under the bed to save room. All in all, we were happy with the size of the rooms, plus these rooms were near the elevators which gave us easy access to the other parts of the Ship without the noise I might add.
There was a sail away barbeque but we had already partaken in the buffet since we had arrived so early. We found the buffet lacking as the typical foods were served and we spent most of our meals in the main restaurants with no extra charge. We usually ate dinner in the Palace and breakfast in the Crossings. Wait time was a little longer in these restaurants but the food was warm and higher quality. You get to choose from a menu everything you want to eat including appetizers, entree's and desserts. We generally had appetizers, salads, entree's and then desserts. Of course, a few nights we had a couple entree's especially lobster night. The specialty restaurant Royal Palm was good but you have to pay a fee of $15/pp. We did this once on the trip as we found the Palace restaurant to be satisfying to our needs. One tip is to eat at the restaurants as soon as they open which gives you the best opportunity to eat quicker as well as get a good table by a window. For some reason, we had to ask and ask and ask to get a table by the window sometimes asking 3 or 4 people to move us. It paid off and if they give you lip, remind them you are paying for that table by the window. Don't be shy in asking for what you want as most of the time they will accommodate.
As far as the onboard activities go, the magician(John Shyrock) and comedian were very good and funny. The theme nights in the Blue Hawaii were pretty lame(60's night, 70's night, etc). They would perform a skit or dance but all I wanted to do was dance to the music. Drinks were somewhat reasonably priced($6.00/tall mai tai), but alcohol in the drinks was kind of scarce. Needless to say, I drink more wine and beer than mixed drinks.
The Shore excursions are definitely the highlight of the cruise. Obviously, when you go to Hawaii you want to experience what it has to offer. We started in Kauai where we went to the Luau Kalamaku. This Luau was phenomenal and worth every penny. Not only did you get to see a show, it was open bar and the food was excellent. The production was only in its 4th week and they performed like it was their 30th week. The Luau started at 4:30 and lasted until about 8:30 so it was well worth the trip. I would even go as far as saying that this show will probably become the most sought after Luau in Hawaii in a few more weeks as the word gets out.
In Hilo, we went on the Volcanoes National Park tour and even though it rained the entire time, we got to see and do a lot. We would rather be doing something in the rain, then be sitting in our stateroom bumming about the rain. We toured the MAC nut plant and toured the Volcano at Mauna Loa as well as the Kilauea Crater which was spectacular to see. We also visited the Lava Tube which was in a rainforest much like you would see in Jurassic Park.
In Kona, we explored the town and bought all of our souvenirs here as they were reasonably priced(6 t-shirts for $20).
In Maui, we took the Lahaina on your own tour and it payed off($26/pp) and spent the day in Lahaina on the beaches and watched the surfers. This town is a typical ocean seaside town which plenty of shopping and restaurants to cater to the tourist. This is also home to the largest Banyan tree in the U.S., quite the site up close as this tree is as big as a city block(no joke).
All in all, we were very satisfied with this cruise and got to see just about everything we wanted to. If I had the opportunity to do more, I would have snorkeled in Maui and possibly played golf in Kauai, but it was a great vacation nonetheless.