Aloha! We sailed on POA May 30th-June 6th, 2009. My husband & I traveled with my extended family. There were 9 of us total (ages 15-80). We had a wonderful time and will never forget all the beauty of Hawaii.
We arrived in Honolulu the Friday May 29th around 8:00 p.m.. We rented compact cars from Thrifty using www.hawaiicarrentals.netfor $30 a day + tax. We also downloaded the FREE UPGRADE coupons through the website for Thrifty & got a Mid-Size. We used Thrifty the entire trip they are the most reasonable and provide shuttle service to & from all the ports (except Kona). TIP: Become a BLUE CHIP CARD holder (totally free), book rental with card number and you will move up in the line at every rental site.
So, we picked up our cars in Honolulu and stayed at Aqua Palms Resort & Spa. We booked this hotel room directly through Aqua for ($108.00+tax per night). The hotel was perfect for our quick night of sleep: clean, convenient, affordable and great balconies overlooking the city of Honolulu. TIP: Make sure you request a room with a balcony and a view of Diamond Head & the ocean when making the reservation. We had a great view on floor 11.
Breakfast at IHOP took awhile (again a party of 9) but it was free from the hotel & tasted excellent! Then we drove to Pearl Harbor (took us about 15-20 min). We got there around 8:15 am & got a 9:00 tour spot...we beat the tour buses which was great! Then, took the tour through the USS Arizona (free of charge) and walked around the beautiful memorial. Other family members visited the USS Missouri, Bowfin Submarine & Aeronautical Aviation museum (runs about $16 pp). All the tours were excellent!
We had planned to go to the International Market in Waikiki, but a local told us to head to the Swap Meet Market instead. The Swap Meet was just passed Pearl Harbor at the Aloha Stadium on Saturdays. Admission is $1.00 per person and free parking. The market is by far the BEST place to get Hawaiian gifts, t-shirts, hats, bags, jewelry, swimsuits, & anything else you could imagine. The prices are VERY cheap (you can negotiate with the venders as well) and at every other port you will pay double the price.
After the market we boarded the ship. Check-in was easy, although my grandma was in a wheelchair so we got to move up in the line. We were greeted with champagne & mimosas. We went straight to the Aloha Cafe for lunch and waited for our rooms to be ready. Our rooms were ready by 3:00 but our bags didn't arrive until 4:45'ish.
In the early evening we attended the Cruise Critic meet & greet in the Lanai Bar. A small gathering but the Captain stopped by which was a real treat! I took the liberty of arranging a meet & greet myself by contacting email@example.com.
MAUI: Our first day in Hawaii we got off the ship early & got to Thrifty before the line got too long. We got our cars and drove to Ioa Valley State Park. The park was beautiful. We walked around took lots of photos of the Ioa Needle. We made a stop at K-Mart on the way back to the ship we bought cans of soda that you can bring back on the ship no problem (just can't bring alcohol) so we didn't have to pay the high ship prices. We had lunch and changed for our Luau. We drove about 30 min up the coast to the beautiful Royal Lahaina Resort for their Luau. The resort was beautiful and the Luau was great! The entertainment was better than the food but the experience as a whole was great! We booked our Luau through www.hawaiiactivityworld.comfor $65.00 pp for a 14 days in advance booking.
Our second day in Maui we drove the Road to Hana. We download the Road to Hana CD online & listened to that as we drove along. We also used our Former's Guide book to direct us to the Hanna Hot Spots! One of our favorite stops was the Twin Falls. Get yourself a fresh made smoothie and take the short hike to the falls...make sure you wear your swimsuits to take a swim or jump off the cliff to the far left of the waterfall. We spent the entire day driving the Road to Hana and make it back to the ship just in time. NOTE: the road is VERY curvy. Make sure you take medicine if you get easily car sick.
Hilo: We got off the ship early and made it to Thrifty to pick up our cars. We drove a short distance to Volcano National Park. We have a National Park pass for the year but it's only about $15 per car. We went straight to the visitor's center and talked to a park ranger and got all the "must sees" of the park. We loved the Lava Tube and all the Creator views. After the National Park we drove down the Puna Tour Drive where we found a natural hot spring pond. It was a local place (not many tourists) and right on the ocean...beautiful.
Kona: This was the only port we didn't rent a car. We had a leisurely morning on the ship and waited until it was open Tender time. We took the Tender over to Kona and boarded the free shuttle to the shopping market. This market wasn't all that great & was filled with overpriced shops. However, we purchased an iced coffee at the Kona Coffee Co. and took the shuttle back the Tender. At 2:00 we checked in with Captain Zodiac Snorkeling tour. Captain Zodiac is by far the best "bang for your buck." We LOVED the tour. The tour is about 4 hours and filled with Kona history, snorkeling, a great boat ride, snacks, drinks, and if you're lucky Dolphin sightings. We saw the most beautiful pack of Dolphins-breathtaking! I HIGHLY recommend this tour! We booked this through www.hawaiiactivityworld.comfor $72.00 pp.
Kauai: We got off the ship and picked up our cars at Thrifty and drove to Poipu Beach. My husband wanted a chance to surf in Hawaii so we found a beach shop and rented a board. We relaxed on the beach and he surfed the waves! After a lot of sun, we drove back to the ship (we parked a little ways away at the strip mall) and had lunch at the Aloha Cafe. We then took the short drive to Waimea Canyon. Waimea is considered the Grand Canyon of Hawaii. I would highly recommend seeing the canyon it is beautiful! We then drove back down near Poipu Beach and visited the Spouting Horn...took some great pics and headed back to Thrifty to return the car. There really isn't a place to park your car overnight in Kauai and the shift leaves the next day at 2:00 so we just returned the car.
Day two in Kauai we just walked to the strip mall near the boat (there is also a beach near the ship) and shopped around until we left at 2:00. Make sure you go out on the deck around 4:00 to see the sail by the Napali Coastline.
NCL: POA is a beautiful ship. The cabins are small, but clean and lots of space to store your belongings. TIP: the one side mirror in your bathroom actually opens like a medicine cabinet for extra storage.
FOOD: We didn't eat at any of the specialty restaurants that had an extra charge so I can't rate those restaurants. We didn't purchase any alcohol either, but there is happy hour on the ship from 4:00 to However, the food at the Aloha Cafe is great! There are LOTS of options and LOTS of food. The Liberty & Skyline Diner was a different story. The service is very poor. I have been in the restaurant business for a couple years and just can't stand poor service. So expect to wait for your drinks, food, dessert etc. The food was average as well. But it's included in your cruise so I couldn't complain that much. The Cadillac Diner was great for lunch and a quick snack.
Overall, we had a wonderful cruise and believe that cruise in Hawaii is the BEST way to see all Hawaii has to offer.