This review is based on my personal experience of the June 20 escape to Hawaii cruise. Hawaii was great but I will not share my thoughts of the islands as so much is written about them already.
Boarding: Fastest ever. We arrived at 12 and were on the ship in 20 minutes. I could not get my documents ready quick enough for the check in staff.
The POA: The ship was decorated very nicely. I sailed on the ship as the Sky and the interior was nothing special. As the POA the ship really has character. Public rooms that seemed outstanding to me were the Plantation Club and the Observation lounge, (don't know that rooms new name). The carpets were really different and not bland like on so many ships. Some public rooms had not been redecorated but nothing looked worn or tired. The Cabins were completely redone and all categories that I saw looked really nice.
The Entertainment: Hats off to Patty and her 3 cruise staff members. As has been mentioned elsewhere there was no Assistant C/D. This meant that Patty had to do all social functions including Bingo. I have seen a lot of really good C/D's but nothing compared to Patty. After the 4 sea days it was obvious that Patty was tired but she never slowed down. I don't think that anyone expected Patty to be everywhere all the time except Patty. She was also a great singer and we enjoyed listening to her one evening. Interestingly, cruise staff helped load passengers on the tenders.
There were numerous activities on all four-sea days. You really had to study the freestyle daily and pick from many good choices. I wanted to just lay by the pool and read but the great activities never allowed for that.
The Jean Ann Ryan Company did their usual fine job entertaining us on three different evenings. The shows were of the same high quality that NCL regulars have come to expect. As an added note the JAR performers were exceptionally friendly when you saw them around the ship. This has not always been my experience on other cruises.
Charles Nahale played nightly in the Plantation club. He was very talented and a hell of a nice guy. We went to hear him play as often as we could.
The only entertainment that was not enjoyable to me was Sonny Rose. He was like a Las Vegas performer past his prime.
Food and lots of it:
There has been much said about dining onboard the POA. We never waited in line for a table at either of the main dining rooms, (we always made a reservation). Each night that we dined at one of the main restaurants we told our servers we like to be finished in an hour. We were always out in one hour or less. The food was always prepared as ordered and the soups were the best we had ever had onboard a ship. The main entrees were of the same standard as the rest of the NCL fleet. The deserts were exceptional and I always had at least 2, occasionally 3.
The specialty restaurants were very nice and the food and service a step above the main dining rooms. Le Bistro was unchanged from the Sky and Pacific Heights was totally new and much better then the restaurant it replaced. We never had a chance to eat at the other additional charge venue.
We ate all of our Breakfast and lunches in the buffet. As in restaurants onshore the buffet food was never great but usually acceptable. We did find the same great soups and desserts at the buffet that we experienced in the main dining rooms. There were also some of the best pastries I have ever eaten at the breakfast buffet. The scrambled eggs were awful and undercooked as is often the case at a Marriott or Hilton. There was never a line if you used the buffet on the aft of deck 11. Occasionally lines did form at the inside buffets. The buffet on the POA was much better then the Wind and as good as HAL, RCI and other NCL ships.
For whatever reason, it was obvious that the ship was understaffed. That being said, the crew that was onboard was very professional. I never saw a "Spring Break" atmosphere. I never heard anything about crewmembers sleeping together and there was not an ounce of American laziness to be found. These were some of the hardest working men/women that I had ever seen aboard a ship. I would put them up against an international crew any day. As we made our stops in Hawaii new crewmembers appeared by the dozens. You would see cabin stewards being trained, new faces at the bars and most importantly at the restaurants. I would say that a full crew was onboard for the 7-4 sailing.
What was the best:
The transformation from Sky to POA was a huge success. No it is not a new ship but it felt like one in most aspects.
Fewer loud announcements then most cruises.
The Caribbean just can't compare with the beauty of Hawaii.
Patty was without a doubt a tireless C/D who wants the POA to work very badly. NCL should make note of what they have in her.
Matt from Shore excursions/future sales was very knowledgeable and always they're to help.
Our butlers Ryan and Chris offered 5 star service and constantly anticipated our wants and needs. Always attitude free.
The crewmembers really were outgoing and friendly.
Our cabin steward Michael was great.
What was not the best:
The captain did not seem to be a real people person. He felt dry and Icy at the latitudes party and all other social functions.
Al the Concierge was not as personable and helpful as we have experienced on other NCL ships.
The Internet center billing was questionable and the connection speed was very slow.
The art auctioneer came off like a televangelist. I trusted him about as much as I would Jim Baker.
The $10 resort fee is always going to be questioned by experienced cruisers. It really should be added in to the cruise fare.
A lot of our fellow cruisers were constantly complaining about things as trivial as the type of muffins served at breakfast. Some paid as little as 1000. per person for 12 nights. Where else could they have gotten all we received for 83.33 per day?
Summing it up: Because of the previous postings we had read on CC we went with extremely low expectations. The POA crew gave us the vacation of a lifetime!!
I really enjoyed spending time with the CC members we met throughout the trip.