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Nice Hawaii cruise on NCL
This is my 6th cruise, and 2nd on NCL. We previously took them to Alaska. To start, I would like to say that the American only crew did a great job. We have heard several stories about how they don't compare to the foreign port crew, but they really did well. Pride of America was similar to our last NCL ship, with most noticeable differences in the showrooms. Both aft showrooms were quite small and filled up quick, but then again this is a port intensive cruise. We had two inside cabins in the very front of the ship. For two people, they had nice room. Rocking seemed to be more noticeable up front. Acutally, I should say the bumps. We like the rocking when sleeping, but on a couple of nights the ship would occasionally hit some "bumps" that you can feel in our beds and made it hard to fall asleep.
Food on the ship was hit or miss. Most of it was good. We ate all our dinners in the main dining rooms, and breakfast in the buffet. The buffet is my least favorite More
spot, because of crowds, that weird cafeteria smell, and fact that most of my hot food cools off by the time I get to my table. My wife loved the fresh fruit and pineapple, though. The formal dining room was generally good, although plain in it's offerings. I pine for food on the cruises my family took me on in the 80's on RCCL, where it was exotic (Baked Alaska, Flaming Bamalu, Frogs Legs!) and dining was much more of an experience (waiter performances, parades, etc). I'm not sure if RCCL is that way anymore, but I would love to go on ship that still does it that way. I do appreciate the free style dining on busy mornings though, and the poolside grill was surprisingly good with tasty hot dogs, burgers, and fries.
The only real honest to goodness knock I have against Pride of America was they seemed to turn a blind eye to some cabins in our hallway that reeked of smoking guests. You would think the housekeeper would report them, since it is non-smoking ship, but it didn't seem like it. Feel bad for whoever gets those rooms next.
Two other bright spots to point out - Roberts of Hawaii and Sea Hawaii Rafting of Kona. Roberts was great to work with for aiport to pier transportation, and seemed to have great deals on excursions, even though we didn't do those. Sea Hawaii Rafting of Kona was by far our favorite excursion. Less
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Cabin review: IC9509 Inside
Cabin was perfect for two people, and we grabbed two that were at the very front of our floor, and not adjoining other cabins, kind of sticking out on their own. Plus side was we didn't worry about noise from next door cabins, but my wife said closing of cabin doors in hallway sometimes woke her up. Inside, so no view. Closet very roomy. Bathroom a little tight, but normal for basic staterooms. Location at front may have allowed for more bumps to be felt by waves in rough seas. Every so often the pleasant rolling motion of the ship would be interrupted by bumps that would literally shake your bed and make it tricky to fall asleep at times. Don't remember this when we had a mid ship cabin of our last cruise.
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Port and Shore Excursions
Hilo gets 5 stars because of Volcanoes National Park, and our ship taking the night route past the lava flows. We really didn't spend much time in Hilo, which lived up to it's reputation for rain. This is our second visit to Volcanoes and it was great. We rented a car and spent most of the day there, which is very limited due to the 5:30pm departure. Saw fresh lava rock, steam vents, lava tubes, and sulphur. Be sure to allow time to take the String of Craters drive where you see the ocean side of the park and the recent lava flows. Crew members said the lava just started flowing again in December, so we were in for a special treat as the ship sailed very close to the lava in the night hours. What a sight!
We actually booked our own rooms at the Disney Aulani in Oahu prior to sailing, and also did Pearl Harbor. Aulani was great and Disney at it's best (theming, cleanliness, friendly staff). It is worth the extra cost, if anything to escape the city crowds. Pearl Harbor was great and was a nicely laid out museum.
We rented a car in Kauai to primarily see Waimea Canyon and maybe some beaches. We were not happy with Hertz at this port because they only ran shuttles to the cruise ship up to 6pm, which really puts you on a tight time schedule. We were allowed until 10pm on Maui. Waimea Canyon was beautiful and worth the drive. Other than that, Kauai seems like an island best appreciated by hiking, which you need more time for. It seems less of a water sports port than Maui or Kona. I gave Kauai 4 stars instead of 5 due to lack of interesting excursions. At least tailored for cruise ship passengers, where you can be transported from the pier. Also for traffic being a larger factor in getting around the island. But the cruise ships afternoon sailing past the Na'Pali cliffs on the second day really makes up for a lot. Funny how they don't play that up prior to Kauai and make it sound like the expensive Helicopters are the ONLY way to see the cliffs =). Also, a perfect free thing to do on the last half day on Kauai is to visit the beach next to the ship at the Marriott. Nice sand and surf.
Our family's favorite port. Mainly due to our favorite excursion - Sea Hawaii Rafting zodiac tour to Kealakekua bay. Sea Hawaii Rafting was great, and much cheaper than NCL's choice Captain Zodiac. We got rates on line for $75 per person for a half day trip. The guides were great and zipped us into lava tubes and caves, allowed us as long as we wanted to snorkel wonderful Kealakekua bay, and showed us whales and dolphins on the way back. They provided sodas, fresh fruit, and chips for a brunch that everyone loved. They said they try to allow people to swim with the dolphins, but none showed up in their usual spot for that, even though we saw some close to the pier. Kona also has the only close to ship shopping area of all the Hawaii ports. No need for a rental car here.
Maui was beautiful to visit. We rented a car the first day and went to Polo Beach on the south side. The family loved swimming in the ocean and liked the soft sand beach. We then went to the Haleakala Crater national park in the afternoon. It was breathtaking.
On the second day we took NCL's Pacific Whale Foundatain morning snorkeling cruise to Molokini Crater and Turtle Town. I have to say Molokini Crater was our least favorite snorkeling spot. This may be due to the high swells that morning. They said they bypassed it the previous day due to the ocean. 1/3 of the guests got sea sick and were throwing up (our family was ok). The swells made it uncomfortable to snorkel and I had a hard time relaxing. Salt in the wound was that we only saw one species of fish there, not even close to the thousands they show you in the brochure. This could be due to us not getting anywhere near the shore due to rough waves. We won't be doing Molokini again. Turtle Town and the rest of the trip was another story. We saw a double breach by humpback whales and dolphins en route to Turtle Town. That was fantastic. Then saw much more fish, turtles, and better scenery at Turtle Town.