We were a group of six (2 seniors, 2 adults, and 2 children ages 9 and 11) and thoroughly enjoyed our cruise on the Golden to Hawaii. My main impressions are:
(1) The ship is well maintained given its age; and the Pacific was very peaceful except for the two days close to LA that were a bit rocky; Embarkation was quick at the counter - but then we sat on the chairs for about an hour before boarding. Love the safety drill in the theater.
(2) Food is above average and a delight for seafood lovers, although sushi was at best average. We chose any time dining and were assigned Bernini. On formal nights, reservations are limited. We just went at around 5:30, which is when dinner opens. The formal dinners took 2 hours to finish but who was in a rush?
(3) Shows on board leave a lot to be desired, especially compared to HAL Oosterdam we sailed with in summer 2010. Simple stage, simple lighting, etc.
(4) On board activities were great - Hawaii-themed More
activities are not to be missed and there were plenty of them. The Elua team is a gem and does a wonderful job! Go early for the lei class tickets - there is usually a line before 9am (when they are supposed to start distributing them) and there is a 2 ticket/person limit. However, on the way back, the ribbon lei class ticket distribution was not as crowded.
(5) Great to have on board laudromat, but the dryers sucked!! Bring at least $10 worth of quarters with you if not more. The front desk is not of much help there. On the first day at sea back from Hawaii, many were asking for quarters but weren't getting what they wanted.
(6) You can go to the front desk and ask to be taken off the automatic tipping charges. There are envelopes you can pick up, but these are generic and nothing is printed on them.
(7) On board shops are average and the sale items ("everything $10" and the like) are of inferior quality in my mind.
The average age on the ship was definitely on the high side. Lots of walkers/wheelchair. There some "rude" behavior from the seniors, but I guess it could also be that they don't react as quickly or are as observant. My husband toasted bagels and came back watching some senior citizen picking them up. Oh well. Can't let that spoil the trip.
Hawaii was wonderful. See my port reviews below.
Overall we enjoyed the cruise very much and would recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat. Less
Hilo was our busy day. We used Mary Lou's tour service and could not say enough good things about it. We got to see the following for less than half the price the ship would charge: Banyan drive/vicinity, Volcano National Park (including Thurston lava tube), winery, orchid farm, nut factory and the garden behind it, rainbow trees, rainbow falls, black beaches and sea turtle!! It was a long day (from 9 to about 4) but totally worth it.
Pearl Harbor was a must. We got there around 9 (taxi) and Arizona was already selling tickets for 2pm. We skipped Arizona but toured USS Bowfin and the Mighty Mo. Surreal experience. Waikiki is nice, but not much different from Miami, etc.
Weinman canyon was worth the visit but perhaps not again. It's grand but still not the Grand Canyon. We took the ship's excursion and got a wonderful bus driver (Don), which made the trip very enjoyable.
We took the bus (#25 route I believe) from behind the movie theater. It cost $1 per person and runs between the port to Whaler's Village/Kaanapali beach (better have many $1 bills ready). Buses leave the port at half past the hour and leave the beach on the hour every hour. Beach was beautiful. With plain goggles you could observe plenty of marine life.