San Pedro embarkation went smoothly as we were a little early but not bad (no special boarding for us). Terminal area was nice, with clean restrooms and waiting area.
The Sapphire seemed to be in great shape for her age and about the only complaint I think we had was the construction work going on above the lotus spa for the new "sanctuary" area. There was some initial work on the deck above Skywalkers but they finished it up and it was a nice basketball/paddle tennis area.
Comments in earlier reviews of a floating "nursing home" were exaggerated as expected. While there was a strong contingent from the AARP crowd we found plenty of cruisers our age to hang out with. Initially, I thought the scooters parked in the hall way were going to be a problem but, somehow they magically disappeared to the scooter parking garage?? and it was never an issue. We had only one report of scooter rage(or really elevator hogging)the entire trip.
Food was average to above More
average and we always found stuff we liked. We never went hungry and the buffet while almost always busy never seemed to be crowded and I really dislike crowds. We chose anytime dinning but ended up eating at 5:45 almost every night as that was the last early reservation you could get in the anytime dinning rooms. Pacific Moon was ok, seemed a little slow on the first evening. Santa Fe was nice but we seemed to like the Savoy and ended up there with a standing reservation. We tried the Sterling Steak house on one of the formal nights and it was nice with a little extra personal service worthy of the 20.00 up charge. Did not try the Vivaldi or Sabatini's
We signed up for the Chef's Table for DW's birthday and we were not disappointed. We are not much of the "foodie" crowd but this was clearly an event for which we have never been apart of. It starts out with a special meeting with the Maitre'd Hotel(Jean Paul Musiu). On the appointed evening we were given special white coats to wear in the kitchen as other cruiser watched and wanted to know what was going on. A tour of the kitchen with special drinks and appetizers made just for us, were served. Then the seating. A small group of diners, with a select wine menu served by the ships Sommelier. The food was amazing as each dish that was served was more incredible then the last.
After the Chef's table we really needed the services of the Lotus Spa as we signed up for the Boot Camp workout routine. An excellent workout except that it was four days in a row, where we had hoped for a day off in between. Both instructors did a great job of pushing us and we really enjoyed it. On the way home we chose to just do our own thing as we had discovered walking/running on deck 7. The full body massage I had early in the cruise was pretty much standard cruise fare, not over the top but not the worst I have ever had, it did the job getting me relaxed for our cruise.
We like the Princess Cruise line's attitude toward alcohol and we did bring some "supplies" on board. The constant hounding to buy drinks we have experienced on other cruise lines was almost nonexistent. There were plenty of servers wondering around to which you could order a drink from but the lack of pressure to buy a drink, I think worked in PCL's favor as we ordered several drinks and had several bottles of wine with dinner even when we had our own stashed in our cabin.
Only improvement areas we could think of were, offering snacks or appetizers in Skywalkers for the World Series (some thought ahead and brought food from the buffet).
Towels at the pool (like most resorts do) and not in your room.
Maybe make reservations in the anytime dinning later then 5:45 but not as late as 8:00.
Wife either missed the Scrap Booking classes or there were none. RCCL had some nice classes.
Ribbon Lei making was not of interest to the wife, real flower Lei's would be, not sure if its a agriculture issue or not.
Ukulele lessons were a blast and my only suggestion would be if you think your interested in learning buy or bring your own. The units Doug Tann brought on board were 5.00$ units from Kmart which required constant turning. I ended buying one at a small store in the Aloha Tower. Doug did a great job with a bunch of beginners.
We will sail this line and this ship again. Less
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Cabin review: BAA255 Balcony
We were on the Aloha Deck below Lido and just forward of the stairs and elevators. We had a great balcony, with full overhead coverage (ie privacy). Not much traffic and only a deck away from the pool and food. Liked being up front as we spent a lot of time at the pool and near the lotus spa. Sometimes a hike at the end of the evening up to deck 12 from the entertainment downstairs but not bad and we needed the walk. Would do same or similar room again.
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Port and Shore Excursions
Hilo on day 5 of our 14 day trip. We had scheduled an excursion on our own with bikevolcano.com. While the port area seemed congested, our tour bus was out front waiting for us and only made one stop to pickup sandwiches on the way up to Volcano National Park. Our tour guide (Steve) was very informative and took the time to answer all our questions. Keoni our van driver, had all our equipment dialed in and was very patient with those in our group who needed more attention. After a short but interesting tour of the museum, Steve and Keoni had us up to speed on the proper biking etiquette and safety inside the park. Once we got going, it was blast haulin the mail down the road. Several stops were made (vent holes, historic residences, lava tube, vista points) so the group could catch up and everyone could rest. Snacks and water were provided. The tour ended down near the water with sandwiches and beautiful sites of arches and former lava flows. My DW and I had a great time and I would recommend this excursion to those looking for something on the adventurous side as there were some small hills to climb on the bike and some very light trail riding along with exhilarating down hill sections. In addition, this company provided a tagalong bike for a dad and his seven year old daughter who was a little to young to ride on her own. Riding inside the van was an option as well for those who did not feel like peddling up the hills.
Honolulu, day 6 out of 14. The ship docked at the Aloha Tower and we found the port to be very user friendly. Near by shops to grab those all important souvenirs and to stock up on anything that might be needed for the rest of the cruise. We signed up for the Diamond Head hike through Princess and just like clock work, two van were waiting for us when we hit the dock. Once again, very informative tour guides who seemed genuinely interested in our quality vacation experience. Several stops were made on our way up to the park to talk about the island and important sites. The hike up to the top of DH was listed as "strenuous" which is pretty accurate. The trial is well maintained but gets steep towards the end. The view at the top is unmatched from anywhere in Hawaii except maybe from a helicopter. The trip back down was uneventful and Dante (our guide) kept us on track and made sure everyone was safe. Rainbow flavored Hawaiian shaved ice was our reward for working so hard !!! Dante had us back to the ship in time for a shower a quick bite to eat and then on to our second adventure.
We booked an excursion with Girlswhosurf.com to teach DW to surf. David showed up right on time with all the gear we needed. David took us to his favorite lesson spot called "inbetweens" which is located out in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. David had a rental board for me and I headed out to the lineup while David worked with DW. I had signed DW up for a semi private 2hour lesson, which turned out to be a private lesson as the other party failed to show. While I was enjoying the warm water and great surf, Ryan from email@example.com showed up with his water camera. Priceless pictures of us in the surf with Diamond Head in the background.
Day 7 of 14. Docked in Nawiliwili harbor right down the road from the Outfitters Kauai Kayak shack, which I booked through islandgirlactivities.com. Once again what was suppose to be a group event turned out to be a semi private tour to the Hidden Falls, with only one other kayak. Our tour guide gave us the basic paddle lesson and then let us loose to figure it out. After a couple of circles we were good to go and ready to discover the Hawaiian wilderness. With a warm wind on our backs we paddled up river past the Menehune Fishponds I had heard about on the way over. After about an hour of easy paddling and several stories about the ancient Hawaiian legends, we reached the end of the river where we got out and walked through the rain forest. Lots of stops to discuss points of interest and special plants. A rope swing into a pond which was part of the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie and then more hiking to the "hidden falls". Photo ops and then back to down the trail to the waiting river boat to take us back to civilization. It was a perfect day with no crowds and lots of personal time with our tour guides. After a short walk into town for a relaxing taco lunch and then some quick shopping for more cruise supplies, another shaved ice and we were back "home" in plenty of time.
Day 8 of 14. After a short overnight sail to Maui we anchored off the coast and the tenders got busy. Rumor was there was a fatal traffic accident on the highway south of town blocking the highway. We had car rental reservations through Alamo and no one knew for sure how it would work with transportation from Lahaina. A quick phone call to the Alamo store and she had me check in over the phone. The actual vehicle rental location is about 5 miles north of the harbor across from the big Kaanapali resort.
There was a small amount of confusion with the rental company vans which took us to the rental location as there were not enough vans to take everyone except for the actual rental vehicle "drivers" (larger vans would eliminate this added stress). This must be an ongoing issues as the rental companies worked together and got me to the rental location with no additional problems. Because I had "pre" checked in on the phone, my vehicle and paper work were waiting for me when I walked in the door. I had reserved a two door jeep, but because of the fatal accident, Alamo had been unable to bring it from where ever it was they came from ??? Instead they gave me a sweet four door Mazda which worked out very nicely. A quick trip back to Lahania to get my crew and we were headed south to the Piiholo Ranch to zipline(piiholozipline.com). The Lahania Alamo rental crew were outstanding and I would rent from them again.
After a beautiful hour drive to the ranch located "upcounty" in Makawao we arrived. We checked in, got weighed and then received our "zipline" sliders and harnesses from our "tour guides". A working cattle ranch that has expanded into the adventure activities market, this place had something for everyone. Canopy Tours, Walking Tours, Tango Tower and of course the Ziplines. Having never ziplined before, we were not sure what to expect. The tour guides showed us how to go fast or how to slow down for the "landings". A very well put together facility with excellent equipment and crew. Of course they saved the best zipline for last. Something close to a quarter mile long and several hundred feet up, clearly all the adventure we could handle. Only complaint was that we all wanted more. Snacks, water and soda were provided during the tour.
A quick stop at Walmart on the way back to Lahania for more souvenirs and we headed back north. Turn in the rental car and lunch at Cheese Burgers in Paradise. More shopping in Lahania and then grab an ice cream and get in line for the tender. Our last day in the islands was beautiful and all we could wish for were more islands days.