We booked our own airfare which was cheaper than booking it through NCL. But we made the mistake of arriving the same day we were embarking on the cruise. I would highly recommend coming in a day earlier to adjust to the time change. We had planned on attending the embarkation festivities, but were so tired, we went to bed before the ship sailed.
We booked a room with a balcony, which was great. We spent a lot of time, especially pulling into or leaving ports, on the balcony enjoying the view. Our room was clean and neat when we arrived. We did have some problems with our room steward. Part way through the cruise we got a new steward, who never told us his name or how to reach him. The front desk didn't even know there had been a change. And the last 2 days of the cruise, the steward had not clean our room by the time we got back from our excursions around 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. All other NCL employees were very friendly and helpful.
I had pre-booked the anniversary package, which allowed us to eat in one of the specialty restaurants for free. We ate at Lazy J's Steakhouse. The food was wonderful. The filet was so moist it melted in my mouth! We also ate at the Cadillac Cafe, Aloha Cafe, and the Skyline and Italian restaurants. All were very good with good service.
I did pre-book the excursions prior to boarding, and I booked all of them through NCL. On Hilo, we did the Hawaiian Eco Safari. It was wonderful. Our guide, Tony, was great. He was very knowledgeable, friendly and took good care of us.
On Maui we did the Maui Ocean Center and Iao Valley tour. It was very nice. That night we did the Ulalena - Myth & Magic show. Visually, it is awesome and we did enjoy the play. On the second day on Maui, we did the beach day. We had great weather! It was a beautiful beach and it was really nice to just sit there and watch the waves roll in. We also were able to see whales right from the beach!
On Kona we did the Historic Kona. We were a little disappointed in this one - the coffee plantation was nothing more than a roadside store. We did enjoy the Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, but wished we had just rented a car to go there ourselves.
Kauai was our favorite island. It is absolutely beautiful. On the first day we did the Wailua River and Fern Grotto. We liked this excursion the least. I booked it because so many friends had raved about how beautiful the fern grotto was. Unfortunately, storms have destroyed most of the ferns, and you can no longer walk into the grotto. On the second day, we did the Sun Fun Beach Snorkel. The tour guides were absolutely wonderful. My husband and I had never snorkeled before, but the guides made us feel safe and secure. We got to see a lot of fish and a sea turtle swam right between us. It was great!
The sail around the Napali coast was spectacular! They came around and took photos of people on deck with the coast in the background. We did end up buying our photo, just because the background was so great!
On the ship, the only thing we did beside eat and sleep, was to renew our wedding vows. It was a spur of the moment decision after seeing that it was offered. It was a very nice ceremony performed by the ship's Hawaiian ambassador.
We had never cruised before, and I don't know whether we ever will again. But not because of poor service or anything, just not sure we are cruise people.