We are probably not your typical cruise-goers. For one, thing we are considerably younger than the average person on this ship and this was our first cruise, other than one I took with my family when I was a bit younger. There was definitely a big range of age groups though. I won't comment too much on the ship activities and food too much because we don't really have a good basis for comparison. We did relatively enjoy some of the shows and the food in the restaurants was pretty good. I will say that the buffet food was not good though. We did not go in expecting great cuisine - we were in it for the ports. We did have a very nice couples massage in the spa!
We got off to a bit of a rocky start, actually. We picked the week to cruise on the same week that there was a record high surf and up to 50 foot waves on the north shore. As a result, they canceled our first day in Maui and changed the schedule to basically go in reverse order to all of the ports. As far as I know, if anyone booked trips at the various ports on their own, they were out of luck. Any tours we took, we booked through the ship, so we were not affected. I did lose a couple of non-refundable rental car reservations though. Needless to say, we were very bummed to lose the day in Maui, but that is the risk you take and by the time we got going and doing other things, we basically forgot about it.
So our first stop was Kauai. Here we did the "Discover Jungle Falls by Kayak" excursion first. It was fantastic. We got in a two-person kayak and paddled our way down a couple of miles down the river. The guide stopped at a few interesting spots to tell us about the historical significance of a few sites. It was a very scenic ride. We got out of the kayaks down towards the end of the river and embarked upon a hike through the woods. The guides provided bug spray, which was very helpful. They also were very knowledgeable about the surrounding wildlife and vegetation, which was nice. The hike took us down some somewhat steep and muddy trails to some very pretty and remote waterfalls. We were able to swim in the second one, which was the bigger one, but the water was very cold. Sandals that strap on securely are a must for this one. After our tour, we went back to the ship and prepared to go for the Luau. The Luau was very cool, but it also seemed a bit pricey. The food was good though and it was open bar. They also had a nice show, highlighted by a great flame thrower.
The next morning in Kauai, we rented a car and did some powered hang gliding! It was kind of like a flying motorcycle. It was incredibly fun and a great experience. I highly recommend it. For more info, check here: www.birdsinparadise.com. It was kind of expensive.
Next stop was Kona. Here we did the "Dolphin Snorkel Catamaran Sail" excursion. Overall, it was good, but not great. The boat was full and it felt it. It was difficult to maneuver around and was not the most comfortable for sailing around. It took us to a little bay area where there were several other boats. This was where we snorkeled, and it was really cool. The guides provided the snorkel gear, and some instructions before we jumped off into the water. The water in Kona was remarkably clear and surprisingly warm. You could see everything. The highlight was a large Manta Ray. We did not see any dolphins or whales, which was disappointing, but obviously you never know if you will be able to see them or not. There was another boat there with us called the Body Glove. It was a much bigger boat and there were a lot more people, but it looked like it was probably a bit nicer. If I were doing this again, I think I would try the Body Glove. Kona was definitely a great spot for snorkeling though.
After Kona, we went to Hilo. At Hilo, we did the "Kilauea Volcano Hike" excursion. Joe was fantastic as our guide. He was extremely knowledgeable about the entire area - the company he works for (Hawaiian Walkways) requires that he take courses at the University of Hawaii. This was just a very interesting and rewarding experience. We had a lot of fun and also worked off some of the calories from all the food on the ship! Some of the terrain might be a bit challenging for some. Definitely wear sneakers and shorts!
Our last stop was Maui, and only for the day. We had planned to rent a convertible for both days and we were planning to go up to see the sunrise on Haleakala. Since we were not there in time to see the sunrise, we rented a car and went to Wailea beach. A lot of people go to Lahaina, but we heard great things about the beach at Wailea. It really was amazing too. The sand was so soft and fine. The water was very clear and calm. We decided to rent snorkel gear and give the snorkeling another shot. We went towards the south end of the beach where the recommended and just swam right off the coast. The swimming was very easy. We saw so many fantastic sites while snorkeling here - it was amazing. There were lots of great tropical fish like angel fish and the humuhumunukunukuapua'a. We also saw a huge eel and two enormous sea turtles. We actually ended up swimming right alongside one of the sea turtles for at least a few minutes. It was amazing.
If we go back to Hawaii, it would definitely be to Maui and if at all possible, the Grand Wailea hotel, which was right on the beach. I hear it is very pricey, but the place looked incredible.
The cruise was perfect for what we wanted. It took us to several islands where I think we experienced the best of each one. I would highly recommend it for those looking to experience Hawaii. Like I said earlier, I can't comment too much on the ship itself, but it was certainly very nice from what we saw.