For us, who had never cruised before, this was an ideal way to experience the Hawaiian islands. A friend had advised us to get a balcony and we were very happy we did. We were able not just to enjoy all the breath-taking scenery from our balcony, but also to watch all the activities in the various harbors as well as the lowering and raising of the lifeboats which were used to tender in and out of one of the ports. This was all very interesting to us. We also enjoyed the opportunity to meet other passengers on the different excursions as well as in the Gold Rush saloon where many of us gathered to watch the World Series. We might not have met so many diverse people if we were on our own in Hawaii with a rental car.
Embarkation: I had read reviews about how important it was to arrive early during the embarkation window to avoid a long wait in line, so we arrived at 1:00 PM. As it turned out, we still stood in line for nearly two hours. I guess it might be advisable to arrive right at noon when the embarkation period starts. It was exhausting standing in line for so long.
We thought the food at the buffet, the Aloha Cafe, was uniformly very good. The big surprise and disappointment was that the food in the two complimentary dining rooms, the Liberty and Starlite, was disappointing. We had always heard how delicious the food was on cruises and we expected the dining rooms to be better than the buffet, but every entree that I ordered, salmon, roast pork and a NY strip steak were overcooked and dry. The steak was like shoe leather--the worst steak I've had in years. The highlight, for me, of the dining room meals was the two soups. I can't think of any explanation for why the food was so consistently over-cooked. Had the food in the complimentary dining rooms been better, we might have considered trying one of the non-complimentary dining rooms which involved only a small cover charge. But it seemed there would be no guarantee that the food would be better, so we didn't want to incur the additional expense.
I also felt that the cruise line went overboard trying to get us to spend more money on things that were not included.
They went overboard with the hand-sanitizer, also, although I do understand the concerns about having something contagious spreading on the ship. The value of these hand sanitizers has been shown to be questionable at best and we were spritzed every time we boarded the ship and every time we approached the dining rooms.
For us these were mostly minor issues (except for the dining room cuisine, but we solved that by just having our meals at the buffet.) If I were to return to Hawaii I would definitely consider this cruise again because it goes to so many islands as your floating hotel. We would just do things a bit differently--sticking to the buffet and probably doing fewer excursions and renting a car on both Maui and Kauai. This time we rented a car only on Maui.