FOOD and DINING
The same comments about the food I would agree with. The food and service was inconsistent. The food in the Bistro was good. Unless you go early, we had a short wait. Our longest wait was about 30 minutes. Compared to what we had to pay in Hawaii post cruise for food that was very costly but not that good, the Bistro is an excellent value. We paid 80.00 for a two course meal twice on land and while is was good, it was not better than most nights in the dining room. They could use some lessons in seasonings though. Service overall was slow due to being so short staffed. Breakfast buffet was as good as many I have paid over 15.00 pp for but avoid the scrambled eggs. If they have the omelette station and the big Belgian waffles, you may like these. Good fruits unless they run out. I do not like their tea, but that is always a personal issue--some loved it because it was strong. I never had a problem with seating in the buffet that some others alluded to. I did NOT care for the food at dinner time in the buffet. It could definitely have been better. The barbeque hamburger meat was NOT good. The ribs were boiled I believe which is not barbeque to me, and the steaks were icky to me. They never had chicken when I got to the line. We "attended" two of their barbeques. Temper my opinion here though, because we go to barbeque competitions several times a year through the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and other charity and competitive barbeque events so our expectations may be high on this one. Another observation, while not a big deal, was that there were no ice or fruit carvings on this ship. They did not have enough cooks let alone ancillary personnel to do these extraneous things. Besides the pay for venues, the dining was the "weakest link" of this cruise, although still acceptable.
Overall very good. I would say NCL still has some of the best overall entertainment in the cruise industry and that is based on a very limited number of cruises (15) and 6 cruise lines. (8 cruises with NCL) Entertainment is personal people's passions and interests, but they had a very good variety including a talk by astronaut Buzz Aldrin and several talks regarding Hawaiian culture given by a very knowledgable Hawaiian man. These weren't "entertainment" in the traditional definition, but were certainly something that many did enjoy.
CABIN STEWARDSHIP AND SERVICE
Our two attendants were very friendly and always working extremely hard. Housekeeping, too, was understaffed and that is why some cabins did not get serviced until later than usual for a cruise. Once they have their full complement of stewards and dining room staff as well as back of house staff, these issues should resolve. The question de jour seems to be, "When will that happen?" Only the coast guard and NCL and maybe the hotel director may know for sure. Our cabins were cleaned as expected daily and bathrooms and towels replenished twice daily if needed. Always needed ice though. We were on for 12 days and our cabin was small at about 147 sq. ft. and we still had room for our clothes including a couple of formal nights. We did ask for more hangers the first night as well as more pillows, both of which were promptly and cheerfully delivered.
EMBARKATION AND DEBARKATION
Excellent--probably the best of 15 cruises I have been on.
We got a list of all the excursions, then booked our own. Three words....RENT A CAR! Excursions may be good but I did not take them as I was in the US and felt I would be happy doing my own thing---and I was! If you want to walk on the active volcano, NCL does not offer this. You will need to rent a car and drive to the end of Chain of Craters Road, and hike out from there. See the various websites for other information you will need. The night viewing of the lava-falls going into the ocean was a once in a lifetime experience. The Napali Coastline from the ship is even more magnificent. These are free, courtesy of nature and a slow sail-by.
CRUISE DIRECTOR AND STAFF
Patty H. was the CD and she was fabulous. She was short staffed too and didn't even have an assistant CD but did have three other staff members. She performed under pressure, probably got less than 6 hours sleep each night, was energetic and friendly, and deserves kudos. She was as good a CD as I have ever had. I think I had one on Princess that I liked as well. Most of the time, it really isn't that big of a deal to me. NCL has a keeper in her.
Kaviki (sp.) kept us busy many days making shell leis, ribbon leis, teaching us hula dancing, etc. He was very patient with the keikis and the adults as well. I enjoyed all of his activities very much. Not sure it they will be able to do as many of these activities on the 7 day trips though, as we had 4 sea days on our trip.
I have been to so many, that I skip them. Same general pieces and artists as on every other ship I have been on in the past 10 years. Go if you want some free champagne the first time. That's how they rope alot of people in. Thankfully, there were not as many PA announcements as some cruises.
We tendered in Monterey and in Kona and both times it was fine getting off the ship; however, getting back on in Monterey was a long wait. No one else will have this problem though.
This was the most zealous bunch of people I have ever seen. They are making darn sure you don't bring on any liquor or open foods. We had popcorn from one port (Maui) and they would not allow it on. I think they took up any "leftovers" people tried to bring back onto the ship as I saw doughnuts get taken (KK's) as well as leftovers from shoreside restaurants. I guess that they are doing the job they have been told to do, though. If you are coming back onto the ship during the last hour of a port's time, you may experience a bit of a wait to reboard.
We were able to book this 12 day cruise late, (6 weeks prior to sailing,and the deal was great.) We also did not have to pay airfare as we cashed in miles. Our post cruise hotel would have cost 500. but cost us nothing as we cashed in zillions of miles there too. Circumstances and situations do color our lives, and perhaps because we were able to spend a couple of weeks on vacation at a great value, it colored ours in very favorable hues. I had read reviews of the prior sailings before we left and many were negative so I braced myself to potentially be disappointed. We were not. A word about the resort fee. It is, for argument's sake, the same amount as the tip that they add on other ships, just not adjustable. That doesn't really bother me as I would leave at least that much regardless. I ended up tipping more though, because these aren't actually tips since "crew are paid a salary." I added tips for my cabin staff and matre'd and a few here and there as well. Overall, we had a wonderful time. I won't even elaborate on the great times/things we did in the islands as this is a review of the cruise and ship. We met wonderful and positive people and enjoyed ourselves. I have only taken one "bad" vacation and it involved a child in a hospital emergency room in a third world country. This trip exceeded my expectations with the noted areas of improvement listed above. A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes. I guess I am a "glass half full" person and found this to be an exciting and enjoyable trip overall. Know thyself, weigh the pros and cons, then decide if this is the trip for you.