Stayed 4 nights on the north shore in a cottage just south of Sunset Beach. LOVED IT. biked to Teds Bakery to get their famed chocolate haupia pie, walked to our "secret" beach and to Sharkes Cove for some great snokeling. Short drive to Waimea bay, Turtle Beach (not its official name but there are a lot of turtles that live here) and Haleiwa city (Killer Taco was pretty good, matsumoto shave ice overrated in my opinion-its just a sno-cone...). Easy entry to the Arizonal memorial at Pearl Harbor on wednesday at 11am (weekends may be busier?). We rented a car from Hertz who has a pier shuttle and dropped us off at the ship on Sat.
Showed up around 3pm. Slight line to get our cards but only a couple mins. Were entertained by some hula dancers and given freshly shaved coconut. Hands were spray sanitinzed right before walking the gangplank onto the ship. Then it was champagne in hand and let the good times roll.
We were in 4503 (cat N - the lowest) forward. It was a small inside cabin, yet plenty of room for clothes storage and our bags under the bed, at least for just the 2 of us. All we did was sleep and shower in here. Never got introduced to the cabin steward, hit or miss turndown service but we always had 2 mints and the dailys. NCL "hides" the breakfast room service door hanger menu inside of a folder on the desk instead of leaving it on your pillow as i have experienced in the past. Did not see any laundry bags but we didn't need any either. Opened the fridge to find a half drank bottle of Dr Pepper and a rotting lei. Nice to see that was cleaned up before our arrival... TV had CNN, ESPN, bow cam (i could watch that all day), a couple movie channels (weekly program guide for movies delivered on first day) and some other odds and ends that i don't remember.
The nose/bow looks a little wonky but the rest is nice. Some logistic problems putting the photo gallery in a little hallway that is the only way to get to the main dining room (though im sure that was by "design"). Liked that there was no casino, that saved me a trip though a loud, smokey room every day. Walking/Jogging track on deck 6, a mile is 3 laps and there are 3 water fountains on the route to keep you hydrated.
Honestly as friendly as on any ship i have been on so far. No issues what so ever. Rarely did i pass a staff member onboard when they didn't smile and say aloha or good morning/evening. Was refreshing to be able to converse with all of them without resorting to a game of charades.
We ate every meal at the free restaurants: Liberty/Skyline, Cadillac Diner or Aloha Cafe. I thought the food was great, and certainly on par with the HAL and RCCL cruises i have taken, again no complaints. Tip: They have a crepe station at the Aloha Cafe in the evenings...right next to the chocolate fountain...YUM. If you are eating in Skyline ask for Levi, hands down the best server we had on our trip.
I thought the magician was good, especially his slight of hand at the end. The comedian was ok when he stuck to his standup routine, his habit of interacting with the audience and picking on their hometowns/occupations got old after the 3rd time... The improv troupe was good too. Didn't bother with the other shows as they didn't seem that interesting. We were pretty tired by the evening and kinda zonked out and didn't do anything into the latenight.
Rented from Thrifty, no issues. Went to first to Iao Needle, beautiful little valley, definitely worth the trip. Then drove down 30 around toward Lahaina to a few overlooks before turning around and heading to Haleakala where we planned to watch the sunset. Slow down and watch out for cows (i'm not kidding). Very cold up here, bring long pants, coats, gloves, arctic jackets, etc. Beautiful sunset, made even more so by the thought that i didn't wake up at 3am the next morning to essentially see the same view. Back to the ship and lucked into finding a parking spot at the pier. woohoo. Second day, drove the Road to Hana. Had the Revealed book and the Henderson CD so we just listened and stopped when we felt like it. Again i would plead, slow down - though instead of cows watch out for the locals as they are crazy and i swear were aiming at me. My favorite stop here was the Waianapanapa state park which had a nice black sand beach and some sea caves, blowhole and some hiking spots. Note, that was as far as we went. We didn't want to risk going too far since all aboard was 530p.
Rented from Thrifty, the location here is the smallest we saw, only 1 attendant at the airport, so make sure you are the first person off the shuttle or you will have a wait. Drove to VNP, which is about 50mins away. A good bit of the park was closed off due to sulfer emmissions. We drove to the end of Chain of Craters road (awesome drive), then made our way back up stopping at the petroglyphs (20 min walk over old lava, neat to see but a little hot on the day we were there), various pit craters, several overlooks, etc. Thurston Lava tube was really neat to see, i forgot to bring my flashlight so i could walk to the unlighted portion of it. Hint: If you want to see actual lava flowing, do NOT go to VNP. the lava is not inside the park but must be accessed by going down though Pahoa on HW 130. The lava sailby that night was neat. They shut all the lights on the ship off and we got a nice view of 2 different flows - also nice just to look up into the sky at the stars. I had my binoculars and got some good views of the lava sparking up.
This was our "sea day." We slept in and had a lazy brunch outside at the Cadillac Diner (get the hot brownie goodness at least once!!). One cool thing was a pack of dolphins were in the harbor this day and they kept us amused by chasing the tenders back and forth. We did go off the ship for a little while to pick up some souvenirs at Walmart (way cheaper than ABC or Hatties for the exact same stuff). Only reentry without an xray of your bags, only a visual inspection and hand wanding of your person before boarding the tender.
Rented again from Thrifty, Blue Chip saved us here as we again were in the back of a huge line but were the only BlueChip members so we were out in 5 mins (not only that but they upgraded us to a Jeep). WOOT. Drove to Wiamea canyon. Get here as early as possible and drive all the way to the end and the last overlook. By late morning the fog will roll in and you will see NOTHING. Then leisurely make your way back stopping at the various overlooks, pulloffs, etc. Coming back we stopped in Poipu and had a puka hot dog, definitely an interesting experience and highly recommended. Drove past Lihue and stopped at the Wailua falls (best falls i saw all trip - easy road access) and Opaekaa falls (not as nice but still good). We returned the car that evening. Second day we had a heli tour though Blue Hawaiian. Absolutely the awesomest thing i have ever done in my life. If you only splurge on one thing during your trip, let a heli tour on kauai be it. It is AMAZING!!!
We used Easy Fly to check our bags so those were no issue. Minor problem with our bill, they charged us $15 each for our bags, even though the airline waives the fee for first class passengers. Pursor blamed the airline and told us to take it up with Delta instead of fixing it on the spot. (You should have seen the blank stare i got at the airport from the airline rep when i explained i wanted my money back.) So i am still trying to resolve this issue. Breakfast was served in Liberty until 9am and that is what we did and walked off leisurly at 945am.
One think i think NCL does right where other cruises fail - the beverage steward. NCL has their servers also take your drink order. This basically ensures you get your drink before you get your meal. I think the "anytime dining" concept that other cruiselines are trying to duct tape onto their existing way of business gets confused. At least this was the case in my cruise with HAL where we frequently would not even see the beverage steward until after we had our appetizers and just started going to the bar before dinner and bringing our own in with us.
Make sure if you are renting cars to get the local numbers for the rental locations before you leave home. They stop running the shuttles a few hours after you dock so if you want to sleep in a little you have to call them for a pickup.
Ship never felt cramped even though i am pretty sure she was full. Only time we felt the crunch was disembarking when it seemed like everyone was in the main lobby waiting for their color to be called.
Loved the "progressive" happy hour specials. 430-530 at Gold Rush (beer and cocktails half price), 530-630 at Pinks (martinis), 630-730 Napa wine bar (selected wines). Nice hors d'oeurves (cheese, olives, nuts) at Napa btw.
Also loved the NCL "U" Drink classes. They had these at 330p every day (which is bad timing for those off exploring the island) but we made it to the Kona one which was making mojitos. They had a bunch of chopped fruit, mint, ice, soda and 4 different types of rum that they poured and let you "muddle up" your own concoction. It was a lot of fun and $20 for 4 drinks was a pretty good deal.
Art auctions were low key and out of the way, which is how i like them. Did find it curious though that one day they had the hallway blocked off with rope (as if the floor was wet - though i looked at it was not) and made us walk through the gallery rooms...
First announcements of the morning were usually at 830am and not piped into the rooms.
Love how NCL does muster. No standing on deck getting your toes trampled on. We just went and sat down in the main theater for 20 mins and watched a video then put on our life vests. Easy cheesy...
The hot tubs by the main pool are not very warm. The one on the back of the ship is much hotter if you actually like it steamy.
I don't remember what day, (though i think it was Friday) at 3pm they have dodgeball at the sports court. This mainly seems to be a crew event and they have a good time getting their aggressions out on eachother. It was kinda fun to watch (i didn't play as i was on vacation and it was too hot out there for such running around)
Towel animals only on 3 nights.
Trivia daily but usually at poor times (at least for us). Winners got a yellow NCL beach bag, other participants got a pen or a bag tag.
Spa prices were more expensive than any other cruise i have been on and was avoided.
that is about all i can remember for now. in all it was an excellent cruise and can't wait to do it again sometime in the future.