I recently returned from this cruise with my mother (65) and daughter (11). The islands were beautiful and shouldn't be missed, but if there were any other cruise line with a similar itinerary, I would choose it over this one. We have sailed 2 times on Royal Caribbean and NCL didn't come close. The trip was filled with extreme wonders on the island but extreme boredom on the ship. See below for details.
Embarkation/Debarkation - about the only compliment I can give this ship - absolutely outstanding in both speed and ease. We had a post-cruise stay at the Marriott Waikiki and debarkation was wonderful (although they lost part of our luggage -- the only one with clean clothes in it!).
Food - Absolutely horrible! I, at least, expected reasonable edible food. This NEVER occurred in the main dining room (except for Steak and Lobster night). My mom and daughter are very picky but I'm pretty easy to please. There were no standard fares. The steak was tough as shoe More
leather. The service was so slow it was maddening. We finally decided to try the steakhouse (specialty restaurant $20 each) because we were starving at night. That was much better. Too bad by the time we found out the food was terrible in the "free" places, all the reservations were booked up in all the specialty restaurants. Apparently, that's the only place you can get even reasonable food. This was a complete disappointment after the excellent dining we have experienced on Royal Caribbean Voyager and Explorer of the Seas.
We ate at the Aloha Cafe for breakfast each day because it was close to our cabin and "relatively" fast. But they were always out of coffee. The eggs were horrendously slow. Everything was jumbled up (like the butter for toast was on the bacon table!?) Anyway, it was hard to find and everyone was scurrying around. Someone even stole my Mom's toast one morning and said to her, "It's mine now!". We prayed for that woman... Each time we ate here, we played "stalk a table" because there was never a clean table open -- a few we had to clean ourselves!
In short, I hated the whole dining experience. There was nothing relaxing about it whatsoever - I dreaded going and I couldn't wait to leave and starved the whole trip. Service - Extremely unpredictable. Some of the staff bent over backwards to accommodate the guests, while others were nasty as could be.
Maintenance - The first two days on the ship, we had no hot water in the shower. Apparently, we weren't the only ones and I got really tired of taking cold showers. Even after they fixed it, the water was tepid at best. We drew straws for who got the last shower in the morning because by the time the third person went for the shower, there was no hot water left!
Entertainment - LAME and virtually non-existent. Most nights were audience games or comedians. That was it. The kid's club was only open from 7pm-10pm at night and it was truly lame. Even most of the kids activities (trampoline, for example) were closed. My daughter said she didn't want to go after 2 attempts and roamed the ship herself (which, by the way was against the rules because no one under 12 is allowed to do that, but I was desperate!) The ship was empty at night but I think that's because everyone was starving or eating at 9 or 10 to try to get into the specialty restaurant to have some sort of meal and then went to bed. Definitely, nothing like Royal Caribbean, on which we actually had to choose between nighttime activities and never did get to see the whole ship. Excursions - We had an excursion at every port. These were the BEST! This is what you pay your money for. The ship is just a floating hotel but the excursions can't be beat!
Oahu - Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbor. We missed seeing the Pipeline but I've heard it's not to be missed.
Big Island - Hilo - Volcanoes National Park & Rainbow Falls tour incredible! Cruise past Kilaeua erupting -- Wow! The ship does a great job of narrating this and explaining the Hawaiian religious connotations associated with the volcano at the same time. They turn off the lights on the ship so you can see it better and it's not to be missed. Kona -- great coffee, my daughter got burned in Maui at the beach day so we had planned the Kona Bay Beach Blast and went on Atlantis submarine instead. Not really much to look at under the water. Not so much fish as in the Caribbean...
Maui -- best one was the sunrise on Haleakala Crater. It was so beautiful, colorful, peaceful and quiet (even though there were probably 200 people up there watching). But, COLD! We brought our bed blankets and needed them. We also did the beach day and went to Wailea Beach (which the ship had changed from Kaanapali Beach for who knows why and they weren't telling! but Wailea was also pretty).
Kauai - We did the luau. Fire show was great but the food was terrible (of course, that was "normal" for this trip!). Kauai was beautiful and the flowers were awesome. Waimea Canyon was really cool but we should have skipped the River trip and Fern Grotto (boring). Passing by the Na'Pali coast as we left Kauai was really neat. Those cliffs are gorgeous. And the ship does a great job of narrating the experience.
Kid's Program - again, in comparison to Royal Caribbean, not even near the same league. My daughter was quickly bored and didn't want to be there. I was just glad that she was old enough to go somewhere else (even though it was against the rules) because had she been 9 or less, I don't know what we would have done.
Overall, I would say that Hawaii is a awesome place to visit and a cruise is the perfect way to see multiple islands. But this cruise ship is simply a floating place to park your clothes and use it for transportation so get the best deal you can and don't expect anything else. Less