We decided to fly to Honolulu a day early to adjust to the time and to avoid being rushed during embarkation. Friday night when we got to the Hilton Hawaiian Village, they upgraded us to an amazing pair of rooms in the Rainbow Tower - one on the 24th floor with a spectacular view of Diamond Head and the other on the 19th facing the beach.
We watched the Hilton's big Friday night luau show from our balcony and enjoyed fireworks on the beach that night. We spent the next day at the hotel beach. Check out was at 11, but we stayed until about 3. They kept our luggage at the bell station and let us use a room for free to change after we were done on the beach, which was really nice. Their lagoon has been re-done and we had a lot of fun there. Waikiki beach is nice, too. We also got to feed penguins and koi, among other things at the hotel.
That afternoon, we had an easy cab ride to the pier, got on the ship with no trouble. They immediately handed us glasses of More
champagne and sent us to our cabins which were ready when we boarded.
Both cabins for our party of five were great. Ours was a family suite had an enormous wrap around balcony - it was about 45 feet long with views to both starboard and stern, lots of furniture and privacy. We spent a good portion of the cruise sitting there and enjoying the views.
Our kids complained a bit about their beds - the fold out couches were not true mattresses - they were stiff, firm cushions - but we piled up a bunch of pillows to soften things and they slept just fine all week. Other than that, the family suite was wonderful.
We had no trouble with cell phone or internet service. I tethered my laptop to the internet through my Blackberry (via Verizon) and had no problems. We had strong cell service for nearly the whole cruise.
There is a wheel outside each cabin on the door that you have to spin for "make up cabin" , "turn down beds" or "do not disturb". A lot of folks didn't catch on to that so they might have had trouble getting their cabins cleaned up, but we had no trouble at all and had plenty of maid/steward service all week. They provided tons of towels and pillows and also changed our sheets when we left a note.
We signed up for one excursion once we were on the ship. That was the first night. The line was about 30 minutes, but it went smoothly and people were having fun in line. Signing up in advance was really the way to go - the ship was full, many trips were sold out and some people were disappointed. We had signed up for a number of excursions beforehand and we were happy with all of them.
The Jungle Kayak on Kauai was the best - we kayaked, swam in a huge waterfall and hiked through the dense jungle. The Road to Hana and Helicopter return was amazing, too - especially with just four of us in the van and the helicopter. The Waimea Canyon on Kauai was beautiful, but it was a long drive. And, our scuba day in Kona was by far the best thing we did. (That wasn't a ship excursion.)
The meal the first night in the Aloha buffet was pretty awful. I don't think they had cleaned their grill and things were burned and tasted nasty.
So, after that we avoided the dinner buffet and had good meals every single night. Service was reasonably quick (1.5 hours for 3 course dinner or so) and the food was pretty good. We especially liked the Jefferson (French) restaurant and the East Meets West restaurant. Both of those cost a little extra but were well worth it. And, the kids stopped for snacks at the Cadillac Grill a lot - a little sit-down place with burgers, fries and shakes. They served from the Cadillac out on the promenade deck so the view was often great.
They've changed the dinner reservation system and we found it easy. You can only reserve up to one day ahead. That means there is no longer a mad dash on the first day to make reservations all week. And, only half of each restaurant is reserved, so they have plenty of room for walk-ins and the waits were not too long (30 mins max.) Also, they've put up a Disney-style message board near the elevators and outside the main restaurants showing how full each restaurant is on the ship, so you can decide where to go at the last minute. That makes it easy to pick a restaurant because they are all listed and you can see which ones have no waiting. We made reservations for every meal after the first day and had no problems.
Breakfasts were all good - we ate in the buffet every day. There was a great espresso/cappuccino maker in the buffet that made fabulous coffee. We really liked that. We ate lunch off the ship, so I don't know about those.
We didn't really do much on the ship, so I can't say how the shows or pools are. My daughter and I got a pedicure one day which was fun but lengthy and expensive ($65 each and 2 hours long).
When we disembarked, they offered an Easy-Fly service for $25 each where they checked-in luggage on your flight for you and printed your boarding pass. My mother (in her 70s liked that a lot). She set her luggage outside her door Friday night, just like we did, and picked it up on the luggage carousel when she arrived the next day. She got her boarding pass and luggage tag Friday night with her bill.
The rest of us thought Easy-Fly was overpriced, so we didn't do it. I checked us in on my cell phone, printed boarding passes at the airport, and we rolled our luggage from the pick-up area at the port to the bus (about 100 yards) and again from the bus to the airport desk (about 10 yards) and saved $100. So, I guess it depends on your point of view as to whether Easy-Fly is worthwhile. Less