When we decided to book our Bucket List trip to Hawaii, we had no idea which island to pick in terms of the things we would like to do or see. After speaking with several people who took this cruise, we decided this would be the best way to sample 4 different islands and the top sites on each. We used directlinecruises.com and got a better deal than by going straight through Norwegian.
We live in NY, and one thing that worked out very well for us was visiting our son in CA for 5 days before flying to Honolulu. This got us adjusted to Pacific Time. We spent 3 days in Waikiki prior to the cruise (check out my reviews on Tripadvisor, dot13). We did the E Noa Company Grand Circle Tour, which was great. By then we could manage the 5 hour total time difference.
The ship was very similar to a Holland America ship (the Zaandam) we cruised on in Alaska several years ago. Our cabin was mid-ship ocean view - there were several times when I wished we had a balcony, but there was a big difference in cost and we elected to spend our money on shore excursions. I had done a lot of online research. One thing I saw written was that since the ship was staffed by Americans, we would not be treated as well as on some ships. This was emphatically NOT true - we loved talking to the kids, and they were friendly, attentive, and accommodating. There did turn out to be some foreign help as well, but everyone was great.
I would say overall that the quality of the ship and food were just maybe a half a step below what we had experienced on Holland America's Zaandam on a previous cruise. We did not go to any of the specialty restaurants because we really enjoyed the main dining room, which is mostly where we ate. The entertainment was comparable, we enjoyed quite a few shows in the evening.
Our cruise began in Honolulu, then on to Kuhuki (Maui), Hilo and Kona on the Big Island, and Nawiliwili on Kauai. We scheduled 5 shore excursions prior to the trip and added a 6th from the ship. We went with the ship shore excursions for Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, and Pearl Harbor after disembarking on the last day. These were great - see my reviews on Tripadvisor. We did the rest of our shore excursions with a company called Roberts (Haleakala Crater on Maui, Iao Valley/Maui Tropical Gardens, and Waimea Canyon on Kauai. Roberts is cheaper, they pick you up right at the pier and were very good too. We also took a helicopter ride over lava fields on the Big Island on the same day we went to VNP. Awesome!
We left 2 days unscheduled - the day at Kona, where you had to take a boat to shore from the ship, and which had a pleasant public beach that we enjoyed. The second unscheduled day was the last, on Kauai, which also had a close-by public beach (our American wait staff friends answered all our questions about good places to go and were very helpful.) We were glad we had this down time toward the end of the cruise.
There were just two things I could criticize. One is how expensive it is to access the internet on board the ship. This is the same for all cruise lines as far as I know. The other was that at dinner time the main dining rooms could have waits to get in for dinner. They actually had beepers. We never waited more than 15 minutes and we were early diners anyway, but at certain times there was a wait with beepers, which surprised us.
All in all, our trip exceeded our expectations, and we are very glad we chose the cruise. One thing I would recommend is doing lots of research so you have an idea of what you would like to do on the various islands. We were into the volcanoes and nature, and I know that may not be every body's cup of tea. There are many options at each port, including renting cars and doing things on your own. We did not go that route because we figured whoever was driving would not be getting all the full views, and it turned out the tour drivers did good narrations which we would have missed. But renting a car is another way to go.
Aloha and have a great trip!