We sailed POA over this Christmas Holiday and had a lovely time. The ship is family friendly and, although clean and lovely, is definitely on the more casual side.
We booked owner's suite 8500 - a beautiful, private and spacious room. Separate living room and bar area with dining table/chair for 4 as well as couch and two armchairs had ample space for sofa bed to open and roll away bed for our two tween daughters. Balcony with private hot tub and two chaise lounges. The balcony view is somewhat obstructed by dividing and front walls, but once the ship was underway I understood the need for the walls. The wind on the front of the ship was quite strong (!!) and it was difficult to sleep with the very loud rattling of the two sliding doors. There are other staterooms of the same category that face the side of the ship and I would recommend those for that reason! The bedroom area was lovely and also had a sliding door to the balcony. The bathroom and closet areas were really More
fantastic. Double sink with large counter areas. Plenty of storage and hanging space. Large marbled walk-in shower and separate large jacuzzi bath. Well-stocked and maintained by our wonderful cabin steward who serviced the cabin twice daily and seemed to always be nearby and eager to help us.
The perks of booking suite level accommodations were numerous and included access to one of the specialty restaurants for a more quiet, private breakfast each morning. The concierge was present at breakfast each morning and was very helpful and informative about the days events. Lunch was also offered.
Also priority for tender in Kona as well as private area for arrival/check-in. Suites also come with daily water/soda service and three bottles of liquor for the cruise. We did not see our butler often. He did leave a little treat each afternoon when we returned from excursions and was available by phone but we did not really ask much either!
We chose to have dinners in the specialty restaurants. Extra cover was $15-25 per person. They were all good, especially East Meets West. Sushi was available in East Meets West (and Teppanyaki) at an additional charge and was good. My husband loved the sashimi. Teppanyaki was so-so. Jefferson Bistro was the most formal and the food was good but not over the top. They have one night when they offer whole Kona lobsters which were delicious. I would recommend reservations in advance and early seating for that. Cadillac Diner was a fun place for lunch with great smoothies! My parents tried Liberty (main dining room) one night and liked it. It is the more formal of the two main dining room - no flip flops or shorts! The buffet was crowded and noisy but the food was decent.... but honestly the ship is always in port during the day so we were exploring and doing excursions at lunch time.
The best thing about this cruise is the ability to easily visit and explore multiple islands. Embarkation is from Honolulu, overnight to Maui - Kahalui Harbor not Lahaina. The boat overnights in port. Maui is VERY easy to explore on your own. I would not bother with organized excursions here. There are free shuttles to the airport car rentals (5 minutes away). We spent one day relaxing on the beach at the Kea Lani in Wailea (30 minute drive) and the second in the upcountry on the slopes of Haleakala touring the winery, goat farm (really fun!), lavender fields and dinner at the Hailemaile General Store. It was gorgeous and easy driving. You can easily drive to the summit yourself. The road to Hana is more difficult and for that I would at least book a driver so that you can actually enjoy the scenery. Bear in mind that the port in Maui has no shopping or restaurants in the immediate vicinity, but you are staying overnight and a fun option is to go to one of the many great island restaurants instead of the ship.
Hilo is the first port on the Big Island. It is an industrial town and it rains a lot!! We booked the Crater Rim Hike and Akaka Falls. Hike at Volcano is about 4 miles and although not strenuous the footing is a little tricky. You see steam but not lava. Stop at the museum is interesting. The Akaka Falls were just gorgeous..Another short hike on paved trail with lots of steps. It poured which just added to the beautiful atmosphere. Also stopped at Mauna Loa macadamia nut farm/plant which was fun. That night when the ship pulls out you sail past the lava flow in the dark. We were extremely lucky and saw rivers of molten lava flowing clear from the top and streaming like waterfalls into the ocean. It was an amazing and unforgettable sight. You may want to tailor your dinner reservations to lava sighting time! The second port on the Big Island is Kona. It is dry and makes a good beach day. Miles and miles of old lava flows. Kona is a tender port.
Kauai is beautiful. Take the helicopter tour of the island which takes you over the Na Pali Coast. It was stunning. Probably one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Rainbows, waterfalls. Not to be missed. Boat docks within walking distance of resort (Hilton?)/beach/little shopping area with restaurants. Check out the chickens.
The ship offers much more than we had time to sample. There is a gym with exercises classes and the standard equipment. You can do personal training as well. Who had time? There were shows and evening entertainment which people seemed to like, but we didn't have time (or energy!) to get to. Never went to the pool area but it looked nice. They will deliver food to your stateroom day or night and there are several bar areas.
Overall this was a great vacation with enough variety of activities and accommodations to suit almost anyone. Our suite was pricey but worth it. The kids were worn out by the end of each day. My husband and I had a great time. The level of service was very good. My father-in-law has mobility issues and the staff were extremely helpful and prompt with wheelchair assistance.
See our review for more description of cabin 8500 on POA. It is beautiful and private with an unbelievable bath, but the wind noise is an issue as it faces directly forward. There are rooms of similar category that face side of ship!