My DH and I went on this cruise for our 10th anniversary. This was our 4th cruise together, 2 on Carnival and 2 on NCL. We got married in Hawaii...so we were looking forward to going back and thought the cruise would be a good way to do this. And............we were right!!! We had a great cruise and vacation! We had a few minor glitches (minor electrical interruption on Monday-for about 20 mins) otherwise everything from air/cruise package to stateroom and car rental went relatively smooth....
Air/Cruise: We traveled on the day of the cruise (we had no choice since we had limited vacation days). Fortunately we had no weather issues and flew from CT/Chicago/Honolulu without any problems. Tip: Make sure you call your airlines as soon as you get your educes to get your seat assignments.
Embarkation: Great....got off the plane got on the bus for the NCL transfer and at the ship ½ hour after landing. Nobody in More
the latitudes lines and was on the ship within 5 mins. We were able to go right to our stateroom.
Stateroom: We had an inside stateroom (booked a gty) and ended up on the 10th floor. Location great...one floor below the Aloha Cafe. I was nervous about 2 things...being in an inside stateroom and being under the Aloha Cafe. Both were fine....room was clean and I didn't feel claustrophobic at all, despite the room was smaller then previous rooms. Our room steward was great (Erin) everything was in order, even had the famous towel animals most nights! We really didn't think we heard a lot of extra noise from the Aloha cafe.
Romance Package: We were very pleased with this package. Well worth the $79.00.
Overall ship: Pride of America is very nice, large and clean. EVERYBODY was very friendly and helpful. ALL staff said hi and how you doing! We went to the latitudes reception (never received an invitation but a quick call to reception fixed that!). Pool area appeared ok (never used pool...never had time). All bars and restaurants nicely decorated.
Restaurants: Overall we had a good experience. My DH and I don't totally agree on freestyle....he likes the standard seating...thinks you get better service because your waiter would get to know you. I like being able to eat when and where I want to. We had very slow service in the liberty. We also had to wait about 30 mins to get a table. We did have wonderful service in Skyline and ended up eating there 3 nights and requested the same servers (Julie and Jess) each time without a problem. Food was good and plentiful! We also had dinner in Jefferson Bistro and dinner and service was excellent. This dinner was part of our Romance package. Aloha buffet was very convenient for breakfast, ate outside mostly. They served the same food as the dinning rooms but we both felt the food in the dinning room was fresher. We also ate a Cadillac diner...food was good and were able to eat out side. Nice for a small snack/meal.
Disembarkation: Great....did the Easy Fly....well worth the 20 bucks! Walked off the ship around 8:00 without any lines or confusion!
Part 2....Hawaii...The Islands
We rented cars via Thrifty. We got great rates and signed up for Blue Chip program. Overall no major problems....but a few minor inconvenient problems. Mostly everybody get cars thru Thrifty so lines can be long. Biggest hassle was in Hilo....Line to wait for the shuttle was disorganized. It seems the blue chip didn't help here as regular customers got off first then blue chip members got driven to the airport itself. We had to wait about 15 mins. They didn't have any cars available. Other ports were no problems even got upgraded to convertible in Maui!! Tip: make sure you go back to the Aloha marketplace to pay for a parking place in Kauai. Your shuttle driver will point it out to you.
We had been there before so we wanted to see some different things except for Kauai.
Hilo: We started off viewing the Rainbow Falls (didn't see any rainbows) and then drove to Akaka Falls. Both falls pretty with Akaka making more of a visual impact. There is quite a hike on paved paths but worth the time. We then drove to Mauna Loa Macadamia nut factory. The store is open but the factory is closed on Sundays. Tip: buy your nuts and all souvenirs at Wal-Mart's...much cheaper. We did buy 2 bags of "seconds" chocolate nuts for $5.00 at the nut factory. We then proceeded to my favorite part of the Island (this trip). We went to the Ahalanui Warm Pond in the Puna district. See quote from Kapoho2's posting on the boards "The Ahalanui Warm Pond is now a beach park run by the county. There are lifeguards on duty, picnic tables and porta-potties. There are also stone steps into the pond with railings....so this a great swimming place for those needing a little assistance getting in and out of the water. This pond is large and is usually a comfortable 91 degrees. Only if the waves are big on the east side and are breaking over the wall to the pond does the temperature vary. It is quite an interesting experience....which we enjoy almost daily!! This was neat and very enjoyable, especially with the waves crashing over the walls. On the way back to the ship we stopped at Walmarts for some souvenir shopping.
Maui: We started our day one off with a ride on Road to Hana. We did do this before but decided to do again and made some stops we didn't last time. It is a great ride for a convertible. We followed the AAA guide book and it served us well. We drove all the way to the seven pools but turned around. You couldn't go swimming due to high water levels. So we turn around instead of paying the 10.00 fee. We did stop at Wai'anapanapa State Park...nice park with arches, lava tubes and blow holes. Well worth the visit. We took our time on the road to Hana and enjoyed it the second time around! Overnight parking is a little dicey...no spots left in the one area by the ship. We asked the guards and they told us we were ok to park on the right side of the road. It worked out fine....but we did worry! On day 2 to headed towards Lahaina...we tried the Maui Tropical Plantation but the 1st tour didn't started until 10:00 and we didn't want to wait for an hour. We stopped in Lahaina...went to the Jodo Mission and stopped by the banyon tree. We then headed out of Lahaina and ended up doing route 30 and the Kahekili highway which brought us back to the port. This was very pretty views but I thought more nerve-wracking then the Hana road. Road VERY narrow at times with just as many curves. Again...great road to do in a convertible. After we survived that road we headed to the Iao Needle.
Kona: We headed out to South Point, which is the southern most point in the US. It was 50 mile ride but the scenery is very unique with the lava flows. The road to south point was very isolated. Very windy with some locals fishing and a few tourist. It was a good day but would not recommend it if this was your 1st time to Kona. The town of Kona is nice. We considered just staying in town but glad we made the trip out to south point instead. Tip: You need to take a cab to the thrifty rental agency or make sure you rent your car from the Hotel. We did not know this was an option so we had to take a cab. We were able to split the cab fare (24.00) with another couple. Thrifty did let us drop the car off at the hotel...waiving the return fee.
Kauai: This was our 1st time. On day one we drove to the North Shore. Beaches and scenery very nice. We went swimming at Ke'e Beach...literally at the end of the road. Parking can be tight you may have to walk a bit. We viewed the wet and dry caves. This was a pretty beach with great views of the start of Napali Coastline. We left there and made our way to Poipu beach. This beach was rated a top 10 by travel channel....it was nice but didn't think it was that great of a beach. It is very rocky. Although it did have a great changing area and showers. Parking was easy at the pre-paid lot. Day 2: consisted of the going to Waimea Canyon. Nice pretty laid back ride for day 2. Tip: Make sure you go all the way to end of the road...great views of the blue,blue ocean! A bit of a bummer: We left late about 2 hours because they were repairing the previous electrical problems. So................we didn't get to Napali coast until sunset. Got to see some of it and I'm sure it would have been beautiful. BUT we did get see a beautiful sunset!
Oahu: Our return flight was at 4:15pm so we decided to rent a car. Again...easy disembarkation off the ship by 8:00. We drove to the North Shore...made few stops along the way. No big waves as it is wrong time of year for that. We stopped by Dole Plantation...wasn't impressed so we continued onto the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet. Not a bad deal for 2 bucks. Huge swap meet with lots souvenirs but multiple tents with the same things. We did get 8 tee shirts for $20.00. It was getting close to 2:00 so we dropped off the car and headed to the airport!
Final Impressions: We were very pleased with this trip. As many posters have said...keep an open mind, be kind and courteous and you will have a great trip! I hope this has been helpful and feel free to contact me if I can be of any help!
A lot of posters recommend the Revealed Books on HI...but we had just as much luck using the AAA guide book. So if you don't want the expense of buying the books and carrying 3-4 books go for the AAA guide book...free if you are a member.