I am a 36 year old frequent traveler, and this cruise was my 10th overall, but first with NCL. For my aunt, this was her 4th cruise overall, and 1st on NCL as well. I had been planning the trip since last year and did most of the research myself. I was so lucky to find the CC website, as it was extremely helpful in the planning process. Based on what I read, I warned my aunt upfront not to have great expectations of this cruise, and to just consider it a means of transportation and a place to eat. I felt a little bad for her, considering that it was her birthday present and there was no guarantee that she would have an enjoyable vacation. Boy was I wrong!!
To cover the basics:
Inbound Flight and PreCruise - We flew from Detroit to Atlanta (go figure) and from Atlanta to Honolulu on the Friday before our 6/26/10 cruise. I had a local travel agent help me with the arrangements, which included a personalized lei greeting, transfers to and from the airport and a one night hotel stay at the Maile Skycourt. We arrived at approximately 2:30 HST and got to the hotel about 4:00 p.m. We were exhausted so after freshening up and grabbing a bite to eat, we decided to go to sleep early. Saturday morning we got up about 8:00 a.m. for the beach and a little bit of shopping before the cruise. My aunt has very sensitive skin, (I told her that she should have chosen Alaska as a destination), so unfortunately we could only spend about 90 minutes at the beach. We bought a few T-Shirts at the International Marketplace, went back to the hotel to gather our things and took the Roberts Shuttle to the cruise ship terminal around 3:00 p.m.
Embarkation and Room - With the exception of a few employees who were clueless when we asked a few questions that they should have been able to answer, embarkation was a breeze. Our room wasn't ready when we first boarded, and since we only had carry-on luggage, we decided to hang out in the lobby area while we waited for our room. Luckily for us, it was only about 20 minutes before they announced that our rooms were ready. We asked one of the crew members for directions and unfortunately for us, he sent us on wild goose chase :>} When we did finally find our room, we realized that we were located one floor down from the main lobby, and we could have just walked down one flight of stairs and our rooms were right around the corner from the elevators. Now, as I mentioned before, I had warned my aunt not to have high expectations of anything when it came to the cruise. When we opened the door to our cabin, she actually cried!!! At first, I thought something was wrong, so I quickly dropped my things and asked her what was wrong, to which she replied, "You tricked me, you had me thinking that things were going to be bad, and the ship was going to be awful. This is so beautiful, it's the nicest thing that anyone has ever done for me!". I was touched and that was the beginning of what would be a great cruise onboard the POA!!
Food - The food was fine. No complaints whatsoever. We ate at the Aloha Cafe for breakfast every morning and they had an awesome selection of food. The granola was great. For dinner we ate at the Aloha Cafe for the first three nights, Skyline and Liberty the next two nights, did a Luau on Thursday night and ate at teh Lazy J Steakhouse on Friday night. We also ate at the Cadillac Diner a few times for dessert and snacks.
Activities - We spent most of our time in the ports of call, but did have a chance to attend the Polynesian show, the White Hot Party, the Hawaiian craft activities with Chyna and enjoy the sounds of the lounge singer in Pink's Champagne Bar a few nights during the week.
Staff - Our room steward Robert was fantastic!!! He went above and beyond the call of duty and had the most pleasant attitude. The food service staff were pretty good overall. There were a few problems in the dining rooms, but they were corrected quickly, so I won't harp on those. The staff at the front desk were hit or miss, depending on who answered the telephone. All in all, the staff was a lot better than a lot of the reviews made them out to be.
Debarkation - No problem at all.
Overall - One of the best cruises I have taken and the highlight of my aunt's birthday celebration. I would highly recommend this cruise.
P.S. If a meet and greet is scheduled for you, try your best to attend. We did and had an opportunity to meet a lot of the management, which we found helpful later on during our week when we ran into a few minor problems.
Aloha and enjoy.