Let me start out with a few disclosures: • We have never been anywhere alone as a couple-this was our first big vacation (10th anniversary!) • Neither of us had ever cruised before. • Neither of us had ever been to Hawaii. • We are fairly budget conscious but felt like we had just as much fun as the people that were dropping hundreds a day on shore excursions.
With that said, one could assume that we are fairly easy to please. I will break down our trip day by day.
Day 1-Arrival and Embarkation- We flew in the morning of embarkation. We arranged a shuttle through VIP to take us to the pier from the airport. DO NOT pay the cruise line to transfer you. We paid $18 and the cruise line wanted over $50. VIP does a straight shuttle to the pier so you don't have to stop at every hotel in Waikiki. Embarkation was easy. Waited in a 30 minute line but they have live music playing to pass the time. On board, our cabin wasn't quite ready but again, they were handing out drinks to pass the time. We wandered the ship for a bit until our room was ready. Thoughts on the room-Everyone had told us to beware how small the rooms are. I found them to be more than sufficient for two people. We had an inside cabin and had plenty of storage room. The bed was bigger than expected as well and oh, so comfy. I slept like a dream on the ship.
Day 2-Maui!- We arranged a rental car online prior to leaving for the trip. We used Dollar Rental in this port. As soon as you step off the ship, there are lines forming for the different shuttles. There are free shuttles for all of the major rental car companies as well as shuttles taking you to Kmart, Hilo Hatties, etc.. We picked up our car with ease and drove to the Iao Valley. Getting around was a breeze. After the Iao Valley, we drove to Lahaina. In Lahaina, we visited Ka'anapali beach and just took a romantic little walk. We visited the Whalers Village and had a couple of hours to blow before we went to the Old Lahaina Luau. The luau was awesome. Plentiful, good food and very entertaining dance and song. Lots of costume changes to keep it interesting. We don't drink, but the bar is open all night. When we got back to the pier, we had to park in a strange lot because the pier lot was full. All was good in the morning though, no tow.
Day 3-Maui!- We woke up at 3:30a.m. and were in our rental car by 4am. Off to Haleakala Crater for sunrise. The drive took about 1.5 hours. WARNING- there are no gas stations, grocery stores, etc. on the way there, so pack a few snacks and some water. We made the mistake of assuming we would see a gas station and were starving by 8am. Easy drive for us folks used to canyon driving. Sunrise was an amazing sight. Also, it was about 32 degrees on top so pack something warm if you plan on going there. We left Haleakala state park by 8am and headed to the Hana Highway. Mother Nature decided to pour rain for most of the Highway so we didn't get out much. It is a breathtaking drive and worth the trip. Again, the road is not as bad as people make it out to be. If you've ever driven on a winding canyon road, you will be fine. The one way bridges are clearly marked and people were very respectful. As previously mentioned, you will only see fruit stands and smoothie vendors so take some food or water!
Day 4- Hilo- We followed the same rental car procedure and got a car. First stop, Volcano National Park. Crater Rim road is 11 miles around the rim and it was COLD and rainy. People weren't getting out of the car much. We decided to take the Chain of Craters road. Don't stop unless you're going to see the Thurston Lava Tube until you get to the coast. Once we got down to the end of the road, you park your car and you can hike the rest of the road where the lava flow has covered the road. The coastline is AWESOME there and it was 80 degrees. Black lava as far as the eye can see. That night, we watched the lava from the ship as we passed the coast and that was a seriously cool thing. Day 5- Kona- You are tendered in from the cruise ship to the pier and renting a car is tricky on this island. We exited the pier area and crossed the street to find the Beach Shack. We paid them $20/person for round trip transportation and snorkel gear. They shuttled us to KAHALU'U beach. Disclosure: I am from the inland U.S. and have always been terrified of the ocean. It took me 20 minutes just to psych myself into the water. Once I got in, I was absolutely amazed at the fish on the reef. Every tropical fish you could imagine. We were swimming along, hand in hand, like Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah in Splash and came upon a huge sea turtle. We both ranked this among the top 10 things we have ever done. So glad we stumbled across this.
Day 6- Kuaui- We had a 10am flight scheduled on a six man airplane. We used Air Ventures and they were awesome. They picked us up at the pier. Their shuttle guy was the nicest. He even refused a tip. (believe me, you get so tip weary by the end of the trip) Took a one hour flight over the beautiful island. It is absolutely breathtaking. As part of our package, we got shuttled to the Wailea River for the Fern Grotto tour. If we had paid for that, I would be upset. They try to spice it up with 'live' entertainment on the ferry boat but it's still lame.
Day 7- Kuaui- This day you had to be back on the ship by 2pm, so we just took the free shuttle to the beach that a million other people are headed to. We rented some beach chairs and an umbrella and chilled that day. Back on the ship, they drive past the amazing NaPali Coast so get yourself a good seat.
Day 8- Oahu- Again, we rented a car. There were rental car shuttles for every company but Enterprise at the dock. Once we got our car, we headed to Pearl Harbor. It is well worth the trip to see this awesome site. It's also free to tour. It was under construction so the visitor center wasn't really open. Since we had such a good time on Kona, we thought we would try snorkeling again. We headed to Hanauma Bay this time. After an 8 minute video about the reef, you are free to go to the bay. It had beautiful blue water and white sand but not as much wildlife as our day on Kona. Beautiful place though...
Quick review on the ship service and food- People give the crew and the food some pretty harsh reviews. I really don't know how the crew could be any more friendly or accommodating. Everyone is always saying 'Aloha'. You almost get sick of it. My only complaint about the service was this...don't order room service, an iron, towels, etc and expect them to come quickly. Most things took over an hour. I would offer to pick things up from them if I needed something in a hurry. The food is very similar to most Vegas buffets. Not everything was my taste, but you can always find something good. Omelettes were yummy in the morning as well as plenty of fresh fruit and lots of healthy options. It does get busy but we found that if we ate breakfast out on the deck, there was a smaller buffet set up out there. For dinner, we never ate in the 'upgrade' restaurants. We ate in the Skyline Restaurant 3 or 4 nights and if we didn't like something, we would just order something else. Easy, breezy. Cadillac Diner was fun if we didn't want to get out of our swimsuits. Their menu never changes but you could get finger foods like buffalo wings, chicken strips and fish and chips. I would give the food an overall 7 out of 10.
So, everyone asks us, what was your favorite island? I honestly can't pick one island. Every port had something different and exciting so that is why I am so glad that we did the cruise. I would do it again in a heartbeat if I didn't have a hundred other vacations that I now want to take ;)If you're thinking about this cruise, do it! I guarantee that you will enjoy yourself!