Pride of America - First Time on NCL
This was our first cruise on NCL. The balcony room was much smaller than we have experienced on other cruise lines but adequate for the amount of time one spends in a room. The balcony did provide some excellent views of the scenery and we thoroughly enjoyed having it.
The biggest thing we didn't especially care for was the much touted, "anytime dining". Several nights we spent more time waiting in line than would appear appropriate for being able to select the time to dine. We gave up one night and selected to go to the Steakhouse and pay the extra money. We had excellent service and a fantastic meal. (The steaks were among the best we have ever eaten.) Although you can select to share a table, there is something to be said for the way night meals are done on other ships - i.e. meeting the same folks each night....sharing stories and having a set time to help plan your day/night's activities. Meals in the main dining rooms at night left a lot to be desired....food was not as More
good as other ships we have been on.
I used Cruise Critic to find suggestions from other travelers on tours/excursions and as a result saved half of the price the ship wanted and got great tours. Valley Isle Excursions (Maui Rd to Hanna), Blue Hawaiian Helicopter, and Marylou's Tours (Hilo) were GREAT....provided the same or better tours and at a great savings!
On a positive note, the entertainment on the ship was wonderful and the shows were among the best we have seen on a ship. Most every night we were delighted with the offerings and variety of entertainers. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
We used Marylou's Tours and went in a van with another couple. Again, her fee was half of what NCL wanted and because there were just 4 of us we could pick and choose what to see. She was very knowlegeable and had lots of stops to select from. We saw volcano national park, snow covered Mauna Loa, black sand beaches, large turtles, lots of waterfalls, Macadamian Nut Factory, Flower Nursery, Winery, Coffee plantation, farmer's market, town area......etc., etc. Marylou was very accomodating to our interests and needs and even included a stop at a local Walgreens so we could purchase some items we needed before heading back to ship. And....gave each couple a box of chocolate macadmian nuts as a thank you for selecting her. A very excellent trip.
We were glad we arrived 2 days ahead of the cruise so we had time to explore a bit. NCL didn't tell us we could book Pearl Harbor Tour on our last day after the cruise returned to Honolulu....so we did it prior to cruise and it took one of our days. I found Discover Hawaii Tours online and booked the tour to Pearl Harbor....great tour. I would do that tour at the end if we were to do it again and let NCL take our bags to airport. We stayed at Aqua Palms....a moderate priced hotel next door to iHop which was very convenient for breakfast. As with most of Hawaii....meals were expensive, but at least we weren't wondering where to find a place to eat. We found the Hard Rock Cafe, Margariteville, International Market, Apple Store and other places to fill our time....but basically, the area is large city....not much different than others and not the Hawaii I envisioned.
We had heard that only 10% of Kaui is accessible by car/foot so we took advice of some travelers on Cruise Critic to do a helicopter tour. We selected Blue Hawaiian Helicopter and made the reservation online. The pilot was super...a native of Hawaii and we saw beautiful sights. A DVD of our actual flight with his narration was available for only $25 so we can relive our flight - certainly well worth the money. We have never been in a helicopter so I don't have anything to compare this experience with, but the flight was smooth, we had great views and we loved every minute of it.
We loved Maui. The ship docked overnight so we had 2 days. We took the Road to Hanna as everyone says this is a MUST. I booked Valley Isle Excursions after reading on Cruise Critic about them and got a great price....half of what NCL wanted....and we had a better tour, plus the guide served us a hot BBQ chicken lunch. Even though it was our one day in the rain, the tour was good and we got to see a lot. The next day we took the ship's transportation into Lahaina....a quaint town with lots of shopping and places to eat. Definitely a place you could spend more time. The Pacific Whale Foundation offers whale watching trips and there were other trips you could arrange on your own during time there.