I just returned from the 7/18 POA cruise and we had a marvelous time. I saw only two cases of staff members being abrupt and both of them were being harassed by angry passengers, to the breaking point. Many of the crew members were unhappy and looked anxious much of the time but we found their attitudes changed when they realized we weren't angry at them or the ship. One thing we noticed everywhere we went: passengers complained about everything and the more they compared notes the angrier they got. It was an infection of sorts. When we responded with our positive experiences, no one wanted to listen.
There is no question some passengers had cabin stewards who were hard to find or unresponsive but the ones we had both for our cabins and in other areas on our deck, were helpful, cheerful and excellent at their jobs. Our kids loved our cabin stewardess so much they bought her a bracelet from the gift shop on the last night!
We had a problem on formal night (Tuesday night) with a reservation at the Crossings. Dinner that night was complicated by a medical sea rescue the ship was involved in. It seems some of the emergency staff members come from the dining rooms and they were needed for an hour right at the beginning of dinner to help with a helicopter evacuation resulting from the ship's response to a mayday.
We were a party of 11 and booked our reservation the day before. We double checked it Tuesday morning but when we arrived Tuesday evening, the reservation was nowhere to be found. We had our reservation card so it was clear the error was not ours. We put our name on the list and were told it would be 45 minutes. An hour later, our name had been buried in the seating list and when it was uncovered, we weren't seated for another 25 minutes. By then our teenagers had given up on dinner and our party was down to 7 which created a longer delay. When we finally sat down, our waitress was nervous because she knew she was dealing with unhappy passengers. We did our best not to take our reservation problems out on her. She made every effort to provide good service and when we mentioned we wanted to get to the 9:45 show, she had us out of there in plenty of time.
We ate in all three of the specialty restaurants and had great food and great service. All of the meals took more than two hours but we expected that. My husband is a server at a fine dining restaurant on land and meals there routinely take two hours or more. Fine dining is supposed to be an experience to enjoy and savor.
We ate breakfast at the buffet every day. I grew tired of the same menu day after day but that was due to my own laziness. There was a waffle station and an omlette station on deck 11 but I went to the Hukilau Lanai out of habit.
My kids ate at the buffets almost exclusively and enjoyed what they had. My teenaged son especially enjoyed the late night pizza.
As far as shore excursions went, we did a combination of NCL excursions and our own. On Kauai we went on the river kayaking trip which was great for inexperienced kayakers and we booked the Tubing the Ditch independently. In Hilo we rented two vans and drove Volcanos National Park independently. In Kona we took the NCL, Captain Zodiak snorkeling which the kids enjoyed more than I because they loved bouncing around in the Zodiac. On Maui we rented cars for the two days and enjoyed the ability to come and go as we pleased.
I wish we'd had more time to explore the ship and take part in the activities put on by the "Hawaiian ambassador". We were on the run all the time and hardly had the energy to take part in any of the on-board entertainment.
The photo department has a package for $199 for any photos members of your group appear in. My kids had their pictures taken every chance they got and we certainly got our money's worth. We told them to stop and smile every time they saw a photographer and we have every picture that was taken.
This was not a first class cruise experience but we expected problems because the company, crew and ship are still new. The problems we saw others experiencing seemed to stem from management decisions and crew members did their best to overcome difficult situations. They all responded to encouragement and gratitude with friendliness and an extra effort.