For me and my wife a cruise is a time to relax at sea and do active excursions when in port. We are not into many of the things; sit down dining, entertainment and on board activities, that most cruisers seem to enjoy. Therefore I will confine my review to those things that are of interest to us.
Tied for the worst with a previous cruise from LA on NCL. We arrived at the cruise terminal at 1PM. It took more than an hour before we stepped into the ship. We waited in FIVE different lines before being free of check in requirements. Line 1 - to get our room card. Line 2 - to be assigned a group number to get in the next line. Line 3 - a security line. Line 4 - to take our embarkation picture. (Even though we didn't want a picture, it was located at a choke point and you couldn't just bypass the picture until it was your turn.
Line 5 - having our room card picture taken as they scanned our card for boarding. Worse than the DMV.j
The cabin was More
quite nice. Plenty of storage. The lighting switches were very conveniently located. The only complaint here would be the shower which was tied for the smallest we have ever encountered. It was also very nice that Princess no longer allows smoking on the balconies as it allows us to spend more time on it than in the past when we had to retreat inside when passengers upwind would start smoking upwind.We missed the coffee pot in the room.Public spaces:
All of the public spaces were well maintained and well designed. The promenade deck was especially appreciated by many of the passengers and wrapped completely around the ship. We aren't gamblers for the most part so the smokey casino was not an issue for us but for those of it who are you will have a couple of nights when the casino is non smoking. There is smoking allowed in a couple of places on board and are easily avoided except on the promenade deck where smoking is allowed on the port side only.
This was one of the disappointments. There did not seem to be enough equipment for the size of the ship. Also, for those of us who were early risers (this is pretty much a senior cruise and a large portion of the passengers were) the fitness center didn't open until 6AM. What seems odd is that you couldn't use the fitness center until 6 but the casino was open 24hrs a day when at sea. You could gamble to your hearts content but you couldn't use the fitness center.
The food in the horizon court was fine by our standards and we only did one sit down breakfast. We didn't bother with the other sit down or pay restaurants so I cannot comment on the quality of the food or service. The pizza was ok if you like thin crust and light cheese other than that it was so so. The paninis and other choices at the international cafe was outstanding and we ate there frequently for a light meal. The burgers, fries, grilled chicken sandwiches and hot dogs on the Lido deck were outstanding. If you like soft serve ice cream and don't want to settle for the little cone you get, bring a bowl from the buffet and they will be glad to put the ice cream in there. The cookies were outstanding and plentiful.
This is the first time in 9 cruises that the desserts tasted as good as they looked. In the past they looked good but tasted bland.
The salad bar had a good selection and I didn't hear any complaints about it from anyone.
All of the crew-members we had any contact with were pleasant and helpful. Our cabin attendant Angelina Belvin was outstanding and attended to all of our needs from day 1.
Odds and Ends:
We may avoid the cruise line transfers in the future if they all go as this one did. You could not do the early walk off if you had purchased your transfers from the cruise line. You had to be assigned a color tag to disembark. We really don't care for this and have been doing the early walk off with our own luggage in the past.
We didn't find the bar staff to be as pushy as on past cruises. They would only come around once or twice and after that leave you alone unless you were drinking and needed a refill in which case they kept you happy.
This was a mostly senior cruise. Of 3000 passengers I would have to guess that no more than 200 were under 50.
I have seen previous reviews that complained about the elevators but we found that we had no problem except at peak times (after shows and arrival at ports) which we have found is normal for any cruise.
The laundromats were fine except that the change machines did not seem to be filled often enough and you had to sometimes go to different ones to get the change you needed. Less
I'm only judging the port by the excursion that we took so keep that in mind as you read.
We took the Hilo Bay & Waterfall Kayaking Adventure.
We found that it did not live up the the expectations created by the description on the Princess web site. We spent most of the time Kayaking on the open waters of the bay. The waterfalls, if that is what you want to call them, consisted of 3 side by side falls that seemed to be no more than 40 feet tall as opposed to the giants that are pictured.
The black sand beach that was described could hardly be rated as a sight to see. It was very small and seemed more like a boat launch than a beach.
We really enjoyed just wandering around in this port.
We took the advice of a previous cruiser and walked a few blocks inland from the pier and caught the A express bus. We got off at Pearl Harbor and walked to the visitor center and purchased tickets ($24 each) for the USS Missouri. We chose to look around ourselves instead of a guided tour.
The bus ride was $4 round trip from near the pier.
You could also go to the Arizona Memorial but make sure you get there early. It's free but first come first served. We had done this in the past and felt we should leave the Arizona for those who have not.
There were many small shops and outdoor vendors near the pier and we found most of the things that we wanted at reasonable prices.
We took the "Tubing The Hanamaulu Ditch System" excursion.
Wow. It was worth every penny that we paid and would do it again if we had the opportunity.
We also took the free shuttle to Hilo Hatties for some fill in souvenirs. They had a great selection. But, watch what you buy. Some of the small things were a great bargain. Some of the bigger things were a little pricey.
We found the Hawaiian shirts were high, better bargains were to be had from smaller shops and street vendors.
Did the "Maui Snorkel Cruise". What a bargain. It was described as a strictly snorkel excursion but during the cruise to and from the snorkel sights I saw more whales in that time than I did in 3 Alaska cruises combined.
I counted 6 complete breaches, including one double breach (two whales side by side at the same time).