PRECRUISE: We stayed at the Beachcomber on Waikiki. It was great. We visited the Dole Pineapple Planation - yum yum. Went to the beautiful Mormon Temple Visitor Center and saw the Christus statue. Then spent the day at the Polynesian Cultural Center. We bought the Ambassador Package online, which includes a guide, a luau and the night show. It was fantastic. We learned all about Fiji, Samoa, Hawaii, Tahiti, Tonga and Marqeusas by visiting their little villages and participating in their shows. The Canoe Pageant was really fun to watch, as was the nightly polynesian dancing show. The luau food was good also, but the atmosphere was more like a huge cafeteria meal, then a luau. Now on to the cruiseship!
Embarkation was a breeze.
This was our 11th cruise. We love cruising. There were five adults, three inside cabins. We were bumped over to NCL's Pride of America from NCL's Aloha, when they repositioned that ship to the Caribbean. We were booked on the main deck on Aloha, but ended up on the bottom deck on the Pride of America. They did compensate us with a $200 per cabin shipboard credit. Although a little smaller than other ship cabins, ours was clean and decorated tropical. We had plenty of room for storage. We usually avoid the bottom deck, but didn't really have a choice in this situation. It vibrated loudly from about midnight to 3 am, like maybe the laundry room was under us. There was also a metal on metal scraping noise during the night, but we just put in earplugs and slept good. The beds felt great.
Our cute little room steward was from Guam and she was cheerful and worked hard. So did the other room stewards that we observed. No fun towel animals on this ship, though.
I don't like "freestyle", and don't think many on board cared for it either. NCL says freestyle is doing what you want, when you want. They forget to add ... and we (NCL) will too.
They tried to stay so free style, that their Latitudes daily paper lacked important information that you needed to know because they "didn't want any appearance of a schedule".
We ate in the Liberty Restaurant and/or the Skyline Restaurant on four nights. Like the reviews said, it took 2 1/2 hours for dinner each time. I guess we weren't too smart either, because we kept going there thinking this time would be different. One half hour between courses. The food was good, but the wait was ridiculous. You could tell the american help would rather be anywhere but waiting on people. Mostly, it was their demeanor - they weren't really rude. Here is just one example: We said, "hi, how are you?", to the gentleman seating us. He said, "I guess I'm okay considering this is a busy night". Then he walked off and forgot to give us the menus he was carrying. It took us 15 minutes to get the attention of a waitress - any waitress - to get menus. Then she brought us three and there were five of us. I would rather have a set time to go to dinner like on the other cruise ships. They know about how many of us will be there and the food comes right out. You also get an opportunity to get to know your waiters throughout the week, and it seems like they pamper you. On this ship, you have a different boring waiter every night. So no more "freestyle" with NCL for us. (unless we happen to go to Hawaii again) I have never been on a cruiseship before that didn't have at least 24 hour pizza or ice cream. Seriously, there are times on this ship when no food place is open. Your only choices of free drinks with your meal are coffee, ice tea or water. No fruit punch. We remedied the food problem by stocking up on cookies and fruit and taking it to our cabin for later when we wanted a snack and nothing was open.
Other than that, everything was great. The Aloha Buffet was delicious, although they don't have as big of selection as Royal Caribbean or Carnival.
We ate at the the Lazy J Steakhouse and the food and service was great. But we shouldn't have to pay $20 extra per person for good service on a cruise ship. There should be good service at all the eating places.
We saw two evening shows and they were entertaining, but nothing to write home about.
The Islands were beautiful. We rented a car through Thrifty on Maui. They pick you up at the pier and take you to their lot. It went smooth as clockwork. We went to the Ioa Needle, Maui Tropical Plantation and Lahaina the first day. Then we were able to find a parking place at the pier for the night. Security was good and also helpful. I felt very safe. The next day we went to the Maui Ocean Center and loved it. Since my brother-in-law is a columnist for a newspaper, we visited several old churches, museums and ancient burial grounds on all the islands, so he could get some human interest stories. We loved their culture.
In Hilo, we took the Volcanos and waterfall shore excursion through the ship. We lucked out and got a terrific tour guide named Sharon. She was so informative. Lunch was included and it was a delicious buffet at the Volcano House. We ended the day by walking through the Thurston Lava Tube.
We took another shore excursion through the ship in Kona. It was the Historic Kona Tour. Again we had a good tour guide named Wendy and learned a great deal about the history of the "Big Island".
Then on to Kauai, the Garden Island. It was beautiful and green. We rented a car from Thrifty. Again, they pick you up at the pier. We scheduled our own helicopter tour with Island Helicopters. We had flown with them before and they give a great tour back into the waterfalls/rainforest and then up the Napali Coast. They were considerably cheaper than booking the one on the ship. Go to their website. We drove up along the sea coast to the Kilauea Lighthouse. Beautiful scenic drive. Then did a little shopping at the many little shopping plazas along the way. We turned the car back in that night. The next morning we rode several different free shuttles that pick you up at the pier, to the nearby shopping areas.
Debarkation was also a breeze. We rolled our own luggage and walked off about 9:30 am after having breakfast in the Aloha Buffet.
POSTCRUISE: Stayed at the Outrigger on the Beach in Waikiki. We've stayed there before and we love it. We played in the ocean and the next day went to see Pearl Harbor before catching our flight home.