I have to say after reading the reviews I was not expecting that much from the pride of America.
I was pleasantly surprised once we got there. As soon as we stepped onboard it was just beautiful. I've been on many ships and this was one of my favorite cruises. The reviews said that the Americans didn't give as good of service as other cruise ships. I would say the only difference was the cabin service. We were fine with it but someone that wants their bed made 10 minutes after leaving for breakfast might get upset. The cabins were small but they are on most ships. The best thing was the beds and pillows were so comfortable. This is a big deal for me because of my neck problems. But, I slept just as good as at home.
I felt the atmosphere was awesome, just fun loving people who were trying as hard as they could. While by the pool it never failed that someone would ask us if we needed anything. And at the dining room they were so nice and we had great service. The food was as good as any other cruise I've been on. The buffet seemed to have more of a variety than other ships. The great thing about this ship of course is the itinerary. It was me and my friend only, so just two middle age women traveling. This is a perfect way to get a taste of Hawaii without spending a fortune. I always like traveling by ship to a location first to see if I'd like spending a whole 7 nights somewhere.
We flew in 3 days prior, stayed at the outrigger Waikiki on the Beach. As a past travel agent I would suggest nothing else. It was in the best location of any place I seen. It was right across from the International Market Place and right on the beach. Not to mention the famous Dukes Restaurant. This hotel was awesome, wouldn't have changed a thing. Beds were soft and comfortable. We had a partial ocean view with balcony which was just great. Unless you have unlimited funds I see no reason to spend on a total ocean view or suite unless you intend to spend lots of time in the room. There is so much to do it's hard to find time to spend at the hotel. We ate at Duke's twice and it was awesome... I have to say that Chuck's Restaurant is there also on the second floor and I think their steak was even better than Duke's. Sorry Duke's... but there's was great also!!
It was a very short walk to a food court, with pizza hut and other fast food. Just come out the front of the outrigger, cross the street, that'll put you right in front of the International Market Place. Go left for a block or so and you'll see the food court on the right.
Also I have to say that we rented a car. Which was awesome. I'm a do it myself kind of person and like to be on my time and not everyone else's. This made the outrigger even nicer. They ONLY have valet parking. Just pull up, get out and head to your room. They give you a valet card and when your ready for your car, give it to one of the guys and it only took a minute for our car to be ready. They suggested a dollar or two tip when they went to get your car.
Awesome service for not much money. The parking is $25 each day plus the tips but WOW was it worth it.
It was not fun trying to find anything in Waikiki, the one way roads are crazy. And everything almost looks the same. And, most streets start with a K, so if we asked for directions they would tell us and all K words sound alike.
Which after a while was actually so funny. We laughed and laughed, so even getting lost in Waikiki is not stressful. One thing I would recommend is don't try looking for a hotel sign. You don't see the outrigger sign until you've pulled up to it. You actually see the International market place on the left sign much quicker.... So look for that and the outrigger on the beach is on the right... One way street so on the right ?
Traffic was not great but never expected it to be, but once your away from Waikiki and downtown Honolulu it was a breeze. Tip, study the map, street names etc. and where your going. This will help. Also don't think you're going to drive down this strip where hotels are all lined up and you can see the beach from the road. It's not like that at all. You can only see the beach once you walk behind the hotel.
We drove to Pali lookout which was absolutely beautiful and the views were a must see. We were there like 7:30 am so no one else was there. Went onto Kailua Sailboards & Kayak rental on the other side of the island.
I would recommend this company but this is for people who are very active. You have to walk down to the beach, I'm guessing about ¼ mile.
Then kayak through a canal and who knows where the water will end, then you have to drag that kayak through sand to get it launched on the beach. And, it's a very long way to the twin islands. It took a little over an hour for us to get there. Keep in mind only one of us knew how to kayak (being me). Once we were there, it was nice to look back at Oahu from a different angle. It was a nice beach, but no snorkeling what so ever. If you take a guided kayak tour, they took you on a trail to see the other side of the island. I personally did not see any reason too. There was also a bird sanctuary right there on the beach and you could see the birds in the holes. It was cool. We took some water and a biscuit (picked up at Burger King on the way) to eat once over there. You'll need some water no matter how long you stay. Food if you mean to stay a while. Kayaking back was much easier, not fighting the current. Once back to the beach, we drug the kayak back to the canal. Remember I said who knows where it will be. Well we had to drag about 100 more feet from that morning, so be aware. Once we got to the water, it's easy, just kayak back to drop it off.
We did this on our own in about 4 hours and had a blast. On the way to the twin islands we saw a few sea turtles and that was it. The rental was something around $70 for the both of us.
We always take our own life jacket and snorkel gear which you can attach to the kayak.
Make sure you rent the seat for the kayak, it makes for a much easier trip and if you don't, you'll wish you had ? From experience...
After we left Kailua we took the scenic route to hanauma bay, it was so beautiful. We stopped for some photos on the way. Drive slow so you'll be able to pull off the road when you need too. The roads are very curvy from Kailua to Hanauma Bay on the scenic route. It's not too far, so you should do it.
I love to snorkel but for some reason I was thinking this place would not be for me. I was very wrong. It was one of my favorite places on the trip. It's $1 to park and $7.50 entry pp.
You have to watch a VERY short video before going down to the beach. Just telling you about what you might see and not to touch the coral.
How this bay was formed, etc.
We walked down the hill, but you could take a tram for .75 cents down and $1 back up.
We used the tram going back up.
This beach was beautiful; Ton's of area's to snorkel. It was coming up a little storm while we were there but we had a great time. Saw all kinds of fish and an octopus. For me, since I'm a water person, this is at least a half day to a full day trip to enjoy it all and to snorkel it all.
Back at the hotel it was so fun walking around the international market place. Things are not expensive at all.
T-shirts were 7/$20 and on the way home we found on store that was 8/$20... And they were nice quality t-shirts.
A big tip... USE VIP TOURS for transfers...
We paid upfront, online for coming and going and they were so accommodating.
We had rented a car, so needed transfers from rental car location to ship. Then after the cruise we had about 10 hours to shop before our flight, so booked them to pick us up at the ship, drop us off at the international market place then back to the airport at 4pm.
I had their phone numbers for my records and just gave them a call when we were ready.
All these transfers for two people were $55.
A taxi from the airport to your hotel can be $50 one way.
So check this company out. They impressed me!!
Already spoke of the ship itself, now to itinerary.
First stop Maui, we rented a car to do the road to hana. Mercy me, they are not exaggerating about being curvy. I was driving and actually got a little sick to my stomach. But I'm glad we did it but would never do it again. You cannot see everything unless you have days to spend there. We thought once we drove the road to hana we could take another route back that was quicker once we saw the sites. WRONG, after driving 4 hrs or so we finally made it to a police station and we asked what was the quickest way back to the ship. We thought we'd die when she said the way you came. It makes for a long day, but it is pretty. Just research what stops you really want to see and stop at those mile markers.
Second day in Maui we booked Four Winds II Charter out to Molokini Crater. We kept our rental car over night and parked right beside the ship. No charge and had no trouble finding a parking place. So we drove to the dock for the tour, it took about 15 minutes.
We had a blast doing this tour, it was so relaxing. The boat ride was great, plenty of food, the tour company was awesome. I'd actually do this again. We turned around backwards in our seats and watching the beautiful scenery as we went to Molokini Crater.
You could snorkel, snuba, or just stay on the boat. Of course I'm in the water. There are not tons of fish here but enough to keep you busy for a while. The water is really cool so just jump in. Did I say cool, it's COLD. They have a person diving while your snorkeling taking pictures and video at the same time. You can purchase this on your way back. It was like $15 for one CD of picture's... Very much worth it to us. We split the cost.
On the way back they took us to a spot where many sea turtles were, that was so cool to see. Saw lots of them. This tour was about 4/5 hrs.
Next day was Hilo. We didn't want to see the volcano park so just took a free shuttle to Wal-Mart. There are lots of stores here, I spent tons at Ross. The bus runs about every 30 minutes back to the ship. We had been so busy and still had lots to do the rest of the week so really wanted to take advantage of resting this day.
The next day we were in Kona, one of my favorite stops.
You have to take a tender ride in due to no place to dock. Don't worry, very quick and actually pretty scenery on the way.
We booked the Captain Zodiac Tour online and saved a little from booking on the ship.
I LOVE this company. We boarded a raft for about 15 people. Of course, I'm upfront. Hehe... They said the more adventurous ones need to be up front so I jumped on that one. Hehe... Really all kidding aside, if you ride up there you will be tired and very sore. It's like riding a bull for about an hour. You have to sit sideways and hold onto a rope and put your foot under a rope so you don't fall out. I loved it, but if your into a more relaxed ride, get in the back. The water was beautiful there, prettier than most anywhere in Hawaii we had seen. We saw tons of spinner dolphins and the quide stopped for use to take picture's. Then took us to a snorkeling spot that was one of the best spots I've been to on my travels. It was a huge reef with tons of fish everywhere. Water was clear as could be. We had about two hours in the water. Then on the raft ride back they took us along the coast line and told stories of the island, seen blow holes and even people jumping off cliffs. No, they wouldn't let me ?
Once off the raft we walked to a few shops and then back to the ship.
Kauai was our last island to see. We rented a car and went to tunnels beach. You have to get a shuttle to the car rental place but no big deal. Kauai is easy to get around due to there is only about one main road, so one way or the other. It took us about an hour to get to tunnels beach but we drove slow due to so much beautiful scenery. We drove right next to the coast line and the water was nothing but breathtaking. There were a few caves you could explore on the way. Just a really relaxed place. Felt really safe the whole time. Once at tunnels beach we took tons of picture's and walked to the water. The beaches are huge. We laid out for a while and tried to snorkel some but the water was murky, we saw a few fish but not enough to bother with. I'm sure there were spots that would be great to snorkel but the water was rough that day and not clear. Not many people at all on the beach and when I say beach I mean miles of beaches. So, it's not crowded at all. At least not the day we were there. Spent the day exploring and back to the ship.
On the second day in Kauai we took the Island Helicopter Tour. This was the highlight of our trip. We got to ride up front and the views were more than you could ever imagine. They took us to the Jurassic park waterfall. They actually landed there and we got to walk up to the waterfall. This was the main reason I booked with this company. As far as I know they are the only company that does this. Jurassic Park is one of my favorite movies so I had to do this. They took us over the canyons, the napili shorelines, everything was beautiful. They told of where movies had been made, lots more than I ever thought. Also took us to where the Fantasy Island waterfall was. When I say took, I mean we flew over very close. The only stop was at the Jurassic Park Waterfall. This tour was pricey at about $325 each but worth every penny. We were with a couple who said they did the canyon by bus the day before but seen so much more by helicopter. You actually see the entire island, we saw tunnels beach where we had been the day before. I can't even describe how beautiful this place is by helicopter. But, I do recommend you do this or you'll regret it. Also recommend Island Helicopters, they were awesome!! Note: The ship actually takes it real slow while leaving Kauai taking you by the napili shoreline. So get your spot on the deck. They tell of the history over the speaker. Really beautiful place.
Back in Oahu, easy getting off and quick.
Some hints, pay the charge to have your luggage taken from the ship to the airport if your flying home that day. It was only about $25 each person for both pieces of luggage. And they told us they didn't weigh them at the airport due from it coming from the ship, it was weighed in bulk, etc. etc. I was very happy to hear this due to I had so much stuff in there I knew I'd be overweight. But nope, not using NCL to get our luggage to the airport. This made it great for us too because our flight was not until that night. So, we got VIP transfer to the international market place and shopped til we dropped. Yes, we had to buy extra luggage.
Also they have a WHITE party one night on NCL, so pack something white.
I've traveled to most places in the Caribbean and love it but this trip to Hawaii was the BEST trip of my life. I suppose it's what you make of it. Researching before hand is necessary due to so much to see. I had many people tell me they didn't like Hawaii so I was a little worried but once there I was in LOVE with HAWAII. I will definitely go back.
My friend and I have a Tahiti trip planned and had even thought about canceling Tahiti and doing Hawaii again. We had that much fun. Understand everyone is different and likes different things. But don't hesitate about this ship or Hawaii, just enjoy!!!