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Sail Date: May 2004
We just got home a few days ago from a two week Hawaii trip aboard Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas. Just to give you some insight, this review will be a very long, detailed review! I learned so much from the cruise critic ... Read More
We just got home a few days ago from a two week Hawaii trip aboard Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas. Just to give you some insight, this review will be a very long, detailed review! I learned so much from the cruise critic Hawaii board, that I feel I have to "pay it forward" to anyone else that is considering this cruise, and give as much information as I can to help answer anyone else's questions out there! We started planning this cruise over 2 years ago and put a lot of research and work into! Thursday, May 6th - Flying to Honolulu, Oahu We had a car pick us up at 4AM to take us to LGA for our 6AM flight. We had been up since before 3AM and were so excited that our trip was finally here after 2 years of planning and waiting!! When we arrived at LGA, we did curb side check in, hoping they would not weigh our luggage! (a 12 day trip requires a lot of clothes!!) We were right; the man just picked each one up and then said "ok" and gave us our boarding passes. As we had been planning this trip for over two years, we managed to save up enough airline miles to fly first class to Honolulu for FREE!!!! We then made it though security and waited to board our flight. We flew from LGA to ORD on a 6AM flight and then connected with an 8:55AM Flight from ORD to HNL. The flight from LGA to Chicago was quick and painless. We made it to Chicago with a little over an hour before they would start boarding our connecting flight. We walked around the terminal for awhile to stretch out our legs as we knew the next flight was going to be long. Soon it was time to board the plane and we were greeted with champagne and juice! We found out seats which were huge and reclined 180 degrees! We got settled in and soon it was time for take off!! The flight was a little over 9 ½ hours long. We were served lunch and a snack and watched 2 movies. We tried to sleep but even with those big seats it was still hard! We landed at 1PM in Honolulu and were one of the first off the plane. We were greeted by the car service that was taking us to the hotel and he helped us get our luggage. Within 20 minutes of landing, we were leaving the airport and on our way to the hotel for our 1 night pre-stay! Our hotel was the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Originally I had booked the Outrigger Reef, but every once in awhile I would check the rates at the HHV and eventually I found a rate that was cheaper then what we were booked in at the Outrigger, and for a few dollars more we even got the breakfast included! We arrived at the hotel and we checked in right away. The HHV had even upgraded our room to an ocean-view room in the Rainbow Tower! We then headed around the hotel to check out our room and it was awesome! We were on the end and had two balconies and a great view of the ocean! We then walked around the hotel some more and met up with two of our Cruise Critic friends Pat and Eileen (pkexton & ebk2795) from Philadelphia who were going to be sailing with us also. We checked out their room in the Tapa Tower and then got a cab over to the Ala Moana Shopping Center to have dinner at Bubba Gump's! There was no wait and we were starving since we a little jetlagged. I had the Mahi-Mahi and DH had the Coconut Shrimp! It was good! The restaurant was nice, but we felt that the one in Miami stuck the movie theme a little more. We walked around the mall a little more and then headed back to the hotel. Once we got back to the hotel, we walked around the beach admiring the view and stuck our feet in the Pacific Ocean! As it got dark, it then hit us that we had been up for almost 24 hours straight with the time distance and we decided to go to sleep! Friday, May 7th - Embarkation Day!! I woke up around 3AM and made myself sleep until 6:30AM! By then the sun was starting to come up and the view was amazing! We got up and showered and then headed over to the Tapa Tower to have breakfast with Pat & Eileen. The HHV had a really nice buffet breakfast that included everything from eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, French toast & fruit to having a lot of Japanese specialties like rice, sushi, miso soup and some other things that I did not recognize. We ate a leisurely breakfast and then headed over to the Harley-Davidson store that was within the HHV. We bought some t-shirts and souvenirs for our nieces and nephews back home (we buy them a Harley Shirt on every trip that we take!). We walked around and visited a few more stores that included a Honolulu Cookie Co., and ABC Store, and a Crazy Shirts store and took some pictures of the HHV. We then went back to the room and finish packing everything up. We had to check out of the hotel at 11AM and we needed to get all of our cruise documents ready! After we checked out, we took a cab from the hotel to the pier (a $15 ride). We arrived at the Aloha Tower Market Place Pier at 11:15 AM to find out that they were not ready for us to board yet. We had to stand on a line with all of our luggage by a gate to be x-rayed. We were 10th in line and within 15 minutes, the line was all the way out to the curb. We waited for a few minutes when we realized that 2 of our cruise critic friends were behind us inline. We introduced ourselves to Susan & Ray (Murphy) from Chicago and talked with them for a few minutes about their week in Kauai and then the line began to move. Everyone pushed their luggage up to the front where the X-ray machine was and we then got inline to go through security and check in. After waiting another 5 minutes in that line it began to move. We had to show passport & cruise documents at the door and then security allowed us to go through the security check point. We then headed over to the priority check-in for Platinum and Diamond members. We got a new girl who was a little slow and soon we had our documents handed in and our Sea Pass in hand?!!! I asked if there were upgrades available and she said yes to check with the pier coordinator. We were currently booked in cabin 7550, a category D, Balcony cabin mid-ship. When we got to the pier coordinator, we found out that there was a lot of category C, Junior Suites available, so we upgraded to Jr. Suite Cabin 8552! We then had our welcome aboard photo taken and our Sea Pass picture taken and we went up to find our cabin. All the fire doors to the hallways were closed to block access to the cabins. There was a sign posted stating "Your cabin will be ready at 1PM". We opened the door and found our cabin to put DH's Lactose Free milk in our refrigerator and the cabin attendant told us our cabin would not be ready until 1PM. We then headed up to the Windjammer for lunch and to check out the rest of the ship. We made spa appointments, found our table in the dining room and confirmed DH's special dietary needs and spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking because our luggage arrived very quickly, and before we knew it, it was time for dinner. We had early seating at the beginning of the cruise, but we switched to late seating 3 days into the cruise because we were so rushed to get back on the ship and always missed the sail away's. Dinner the first night was casual/Hawaiian but I don't remember what we had to eat. After dinner we walked around the pier looking at the small shops but didn't buy anything. We were still really tired & jetlagged and had to be up early the next morning, so we went to bed shortly after dinner. Saturday, May 8th - Honolulu, Oahu We were up early and had breakfast in the windjammer. We did the Arizona Memorial and Oahu sightseeing tour through the ship and had to be in the terminal by 7:15AM. We all lined up and boarded a coach bus and went straight to Pearl Harbor. We had an hour to wait for our group to be called for the movie so we walked around and took pictures and looked at the small museum that they had. Then at 9AM we were called into the theater to watch a 20 minute film about the events leading up to the attack in Pearl Harbor and actually footage from the attacks. We then boarded a small boat and were taken out to the memorial. You could still see the oil on top of the water. It was very emotional seeing the ship still there. We then boarded the small boat and headed back to the main building. From there we all meet our bus driver and re-boarded the bus. The driver then drove us around the island point out several things and making stops at the Napali Lookout, Ionali Place and the original statue of King Kamehameha. We also drove through Chinatown before getting off at the pier. Once we were back on the ship, we had lunch at the windjammer and took a nap. The muster drill was at 5:30 and everyone had to be onboard by 5PM. There was a sail away party on the pool deck as we left Honolulu and the ship gave everyone a real Hawaiian lei. They even had people in the dining rooms giving them out since the party started when the first dinner seating was. Dinner again was casual/Hawaiian. After dinner we had our first Cruise Critic get together. Because we did not have enough people for a M&M party, we had set a bunch of times for us all to meet up. Our first meeting was in the Schooner Bar between dinner seating and we meet up with CruisinTrish, HFP, and Pat and Eileen & Saltyswife. Our meeting overlapped with TV Tune Trivia so we formed a team together and one the first of several trivia games together! Sunday, May 9th - Nawiliwili, Kauai This morning we had breakfast delivered to our stateroom. As we pulled into the pier, it was clear and we could see far out into the mountains. We finished our breakfast and headed off the ship. We booked a helicopter tour of the island through Island Helicopters. It was recommended to us from friends who did it on their honeymoon and said it was the best way to see the entire island. They were so right! We signed up for the 9:15 tour and were greeted at the pier by a driver at 8:30. He drove us to the airport where we paid and were given a complimentary video of the tour. Two more people then joined us and we were off to the helicopter pad. Once there, we were strategically seated in a special order and given life vests and instructions on how to use them. Then two more people showed up and we boarded the helicopter. The tour took us all over the island through Poipu, Waimea Canyon, the Napali Cliffs, Hanalei, Lumahai Beach, the Princeville Resort, Mount Waialeale, and the Wailu Falls. It was absolutely breath taking and I don't think there is any other that you can see the entire island, then by helicopter. After the helicopter tour we returned to the ship. DH grabbed a quick burger from the Solarium and got ready to go golfing with friends. I had lunch in the windjammer and then meet up with Pat & Eileen. We caught the Wal-Mart shuttle from the pier and went over to Wal-Mart and then walked over to Hilo Hattie's. I had read on the boards that Wal-Mart was the best place to buy coffee and macadamia nuts, and souvenirs. After a little searching, I found that Wal-Mart and Hilo Hattie's had pretty much the same prices and I would think the quality and freshness would be better from Hilo Hattie's then Wal-Mart. We bought all of our postcards and a few other Hawaiian souvenirs from the stores and headed back to the ship. It had rained on and off the whole day after the helicopter tour so once we were back on board we spent some time writing out all those post cards and spent some time in the solarium with more cruise Critic friends Herb & Trish (HFP & CruisinTrish) before my massage at the spa. Tonight was the Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception and the first formal night. We missed the Captain's party because I was getting me massage and DH got back from golfing at 4:45. We also had to dress up because it was the first formal night. After dinner we check out the photos that had been taken of us and then wrote out more post cards! Monday, May 10th - Lahaina, Maui We booked the Lanai Wild Dolphin & Snorkel Excursion through the ship. Because we were tendered in Lahaina, we had to be in the theatre at 7:15 for our tour. So we were up early again and had breakfast in the Windjammer and then our group was led to the tenders together for our shore excursion. Once we got off the tender, we were lead to a large catamaran where we all boarded. Even though it was called a dolphin snorkel, we did not see any dolphins, but we did see a few whales, even though it was the end of whale season. The water was a little on the cold side compared to snorkeling in the Caribbean, but we did see a nice reef, sea turtles, and some fish. The crew was great and I really recommend this excursion! After the excursion we walked around Lahaina a little and visited a few souvenir shops and Hilo Hattie's again! Getting back on the ship took awhile because the tenders were very slow loading and unloading and it took almost an hour to get back on the ship. So we all changed quickly and got ready for the Luau because we did not know how long it would take to get off the ship again. So at 4:30 we all meet in Pat & Eileen's cabin for the luau and got off the ship together. Trish and Herb had rented a car and offered to drive us all there. We booked The Old Lahaina Luau and we seated at table 2. We had a great view of the stage. The food was buffet style was good, but by the time we got our food and sat down, we were eating in the dark. The show was great and explained the history of Hawaii and the Hula. However, afterwards, when we got back to the pier, the line was extremely long and took over an hour and ½ to reboard the ship. All of the luau's must have ended at the same time and we thought the ship would have been prepared and had enough tenders running, but that was not the case. Tuesday, May 11th - Lahaina, Maui We had originally booked the Maui Downhill Sunrise tour, but when we called to confirm the reservation, they told us the meeting time had been changed from 3:30AM to 2:25 AM. The tender schedule over night was just 1 tender every hour leaving the ship on the ½ hour and the pier on the hour. This meant that we would have had to have taken the 1:30 AM tender and sat on the pier for a good 45 minutes in the dark. We tried to cancel our reservations, but would have been charged the full amount because it was within 24 hours, so we opted for the 7:45 AM Tour. We met our driver at the Pioneer in at 7:45 AM and he drove us to the office where everyone got their gear. We were then driven to the top of Haleakala where we took some pictures and looked at the crater. It was a little chilly at the top, but soon everyone loaded up and started the tour downhill. I stayed in the can while DH did the bike part. It was very clear when started the trip up, but on the way back down it got very cloudy and started to rain and pour at times. By lunch everyone was wet & cold but they continued on down to the bottom. It was very well coordinated between the driver and the bike leader to make sure that everyone was inline and safe. But DH was not to happy with the quality of the bikes and felt that for the money we had paid, that they should have had better equipment for everyone to use. Once we returned to the ship, we found our Matire'd Yasa and asked to switch to late seating. While at the luau, we found out that Herb & Trish were at the same table at us and there were 4 empty seats, so we switched to late seating so we wouldn't have to worry about always rushing for dinner. And since we were seating at the same table, we had the same waiter Jose and assistant waiter Alex! We then hung out at the Solarium and rested before dinner! Dinner was Casual / Hawaiian again and afterwards, we all went to the Love & Marriage game show, of which our tablemates, Sharon & Ted won!!! Wednesday, May 12th - Hilo, Hawaii We did two excursions though the ship in Hilo. First was the Best of Hilo which included the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory, Nani Mau Gardens & Akaka Falls. The Nut factory was really just a gift shop, but the prices were the lowest that I had seen anywhere on any of the islands so we stocked up there. We then arrived at the Nani Mau Gardens for a 20 minute tram ride through their gardens. It was pretty, but it was as if there was just 1 of every plant planted in the ground with a sign. It felt as if it was more of landscaping then a tropical garden. The last stop was at the Akaka Falls. This required some walking on a paved trail to view the falls. It was well worth it to see the view, but some people, mostly the elderly, could not handle the walk or the heat. Afterwards, the bus dropped you off at either pier or Hilo Hattie's! We waited online to clear security and grabbed a quick lunch at the solarium before heading back out for our next tour, the Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Gardens. Several Vans met us at the pier and drove us along the coast to the gardens. We were each given a map of the gardens and told to meet back at the top in an hour & ½. This was more of what I was expecting. It was a tropical rainforest filled with all kinds of Hawaiian plants. We walked around the gardens for an hour taking pictures before heading back up to the top! We really enjoyed this tour, but don't forget your bug spray! After returning to the pier we spent some time in the solarium pool before dinner. Dinner tonight was Casual / Hawaiian again and afterwards we all went to Trish and Herb's Balcony to view the volcano as we sailed from Hilo to Kona! We could see the lava, but not that much and it did not come out in our pictures unfortunately. Thursday, May 13th - Kona, Hawaii We had no set plans for Kona, just that we wanted to see Pu'uhonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge). Herb & Trish had rented a car and said that we could go along with them for the day. The ride from the pier to the car rental place took about 15 minutes and there was a little line so we had to wait awhile to get the car. Once we had the car we headed south. We stopped at the Royal Kona Coffee Museum and store, but no one bought anything. The prices were much cheaper in Hilo Hattie's. We then arrived at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge) and we walked around and took pictures. The main building was under construction, but we got pictures of everything else. We even saw 2 Hawaiian Sea Turtles in the bay along with some fish. After walking around for an hour, we got back in the car and headed back into Kona. We had lunch at Bubba Gump's and had seats right on the water. We saw another turtle and tons of fish. We also had a great view of the ship! After lunch we stopped at Long's Drug store (right behind Hilo Hattie's). They have the best prices of anywhere on Macadamia Nuts, Maui Potato Chips, Kona Coffee, Pineapple Wine and any other Hawaiian food souvenir that you could think of. So we stocked up there before heading back to the ship. Once back on board, we spent another afternoon in the solarium before dinner. Dinner's theme was Smart Casual / Country Western. (We turned our clocks back 1 hour) Friday, May 14th - Monday, May 17th - At Sea The sea days were filled with a lot of activities to choose from. There was always Bingo twice a day, academy at sea which were classes where you could learn about certain things on the ship like how they run the shows or photography, hotel & restaurant management. But we pretty much spent most of our time in the solarium and participating in the trivia games that they had everyday. Friday night they had the Quest game and the Sock Hop. We participated in the Quest game, but were in the back of the room so we never made it up there in time. Dinner was casual / 50's&60's. (We turned our clocks back 1 hour) Saturday night they had The Coasters perform which was really good and it was the formal night and the Crown & Anchor Society Get together. They also had the Gala Buffet. Sunday night was smart casual and the show of Jump Jivin Swing which was good. (We turned our clocks back another hour) Monday night was casual with the farewell show. Our luggage had to be out in the hallway by 10PM. Tuesday, May 18th - Ensenada, Mexico Everyone was given color luggage tags and a sheet with where all the luggage tags were supposed to meet and at what time. We were up at 3:45 AM and had breakfast. We were white with green stripes and had to be in the theater by 5:30 AM to disembark at 5:45. We sat there until 6AM when they finally called us. They then walked us down through the ship to deck 1 where we were escorted to buses that matched our luggage tags. All of our luggage was already under the bus and we just got on the bus. There were only 27 of us on the bus, so we each had our own seat pretty much for the ride. We drove up the coastline which was very pretty. However, our driver Jesus did not speak a word of English. When we got to the boarder, we crossed into the US at the Otay Messa boarder. We only had to take our carry-on's with us and show them our passports and claim form. They then x-rayed our carry-on's. Our bus then came around to the other side where we reboarded. 20 minutes later at 9:40 we were at the San Diego airport. We then spent the next 5 hours at the airport for our flight home to JFK. The Ship Review Ship This was our first time sailing on a Vision Class Ship. We have sailed on the Nordic Empress (Empress of the Seas), Sovereign Class, Radiance Class & Voyager Class. We found the ship to be very much like Celebrity's Century in size and in amenities. We really enjoyed the Solarium where we spent most of our time. The lounges were nice, especially the Schooner Bar and the Viking Crown Lounge. The Ship was in excellent condition and the only places where we saw any signs of its age & wear, was in the cabin in our bathrooms where there was a lot of rust on the door frame, the wood floor in the entrance was badly scuffed and there was some rust on the balcony. Otherwise, the ship looked great! We did miss the signs in the elevator that told you what day of the week it was. You definitely could use them on an 11 day cruise!!! Cabin As I mentioned before, at the pier we upgraded from a D balcony cabin to a Category C Junior Suite cabin 8552 at the pier. It was well worth it for the 11 day cruise. We saw our original cabin because none of our stuff was transferred to our new cabin. So we had to find the cabin attendant to help us find DH's tux, our C&A coupon books and our shore excursion tickets. We saw how much smaller the D room was and were really glad we upgraded to the jr. suite! It also took 3 days for everything to get straightened out with our shore excursion tickets, out C&A packet, and to find DH's tux. The cabin had a regular sized couch that pulled out into a bed, 2 chairs, 2 ottoman's, a 20" Sony TV, a desk with 6 drawers, a full size closet, but it had no shelves in it. The bathroom had a large tub in it and lots of room to get around in. The balcony was the largest yet with 2 chairs, 2 lounge chairs and a table. And all this was kept nice and clean by our 2 cabin attendants Lincoln and Edison. I think that they cleaned all of the C cabins on the floor because we always saw them, no matter what side of the ship we were on. The only thing that I suggest they improve or invest in, are new mattresses. It was the worst! It felt like the springs were popping out! Dining Room and Food Service We were seated at table 123 located on the deck 5 of the ship. We had a great window table and our waiter Jose Tolentino was great, along with his assistant Alex Ani. They were very kind and friendly and got you anything you asked for. The food in my opinion has gone down a little since we cruised RCL in August. I am not saying that it is bad; I am just saying that I thought the quality was a little better on the last cruise. Some days there were 3 things that you wanted off the menu and other days there was nothing that you wanted. But overall, the dining room food was average. The windjammer food was the same as all the other ships, nothing special to write home about. But the Solarium Snack Bar was the best yet. They had a large menu from hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and hot dogs to rotisserie chicken, chicken fingers, fish tenders, pizza and the best French fries. Sometime there were more people getting food from there then the windjammer! Also, the menu for lunch and dinner was on a TV channel 24 hours a day. You could order anything on the menu for room service as long as it was during that time frame. I.e. Lunch was served from 11:30-1:30, so you could order anything off the lunch menu during that time frame to be delivered to you room. Overall We chose this cruise for the price and the itinerary. I would recommend sailing from Honolulu to Ensenada so you have the sea days at the end to rest. Believe me, you will need them!! I would also suggest spending 1 if not 2 says pre-stay, to get adjust to the time change! We loved all the islands and would do this cruise again in the future because there is so much to see on the islands. Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions and thank you to all those that helped me plan our vacation. Without all your reviews and answering my questions, I would have not known where to start! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
I just completed the 10 day Hawaiian Islands cruise on the Norwegian Wind, their first Island cruise of the season with this vessel. Overall, I enjoyed the experience, although there were definitely some areas for improvement. We were on ... Read More
I just completed the 10 day Hawaiian Islands cruise on the Norwegian Wind, their first Island cruise of the season with this vessel. Overall, I enjoyed the experience, although there were definitely some areas for improvement. We were on the lowest level, but had 2 portholes and good visibility from the cabin. It wasn't noisy, and the rocking motion of the boat was minimal, even though we were in rough seas a couple of nights. This trip went to Fanning Island, which involved 2 days at sea going there, one day on the Island (actually more like 7 hours) and 2 days coming back to Hawaii. It seemed like forever!! Fanning is a beautiful place, but not much to do unless you wanted to shop for trinkets or sunbathe, and it was HOT. The Hawaiian Islands were great, I think Maui was my favorite in a close race with Kauai. We did tours on Kauai, at Hilo and Kona. Tours were well run, although the signs on the dock directing us to the meeting places needed to be a lot larger so they could be seen better from a distance and in the crowds coming off the ship. We tendered to shore in Fanning, Kona, and Lahaina. Service on the ship was for the most part, good. The Freestyle option makes it a challenge to get to know your wait staff in the restaurant, since you eat at a different table every meal. We shared tables and found that a good way to meet other cruisers (we were travelling as a group of 4). The food was good but not incredibly good. Pretty typical cruise fare. The chocoholic buffet was probably the low point of the cruise--not because the food was bad, but because the logistics were a mess. We waited in line over an hour, the food was very picked over and only average in craveability. They also needed to find a more efficient way of keeping the trays cleared on the pool deck at lunchtimes,especially the days at sea. Sometimes it just got to looking trashy with all the dirty dishes sitting around after folks got done eating. Overall, it was a nice vacation, not a "wow" trip but pleasant and enjoyable. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
This is my review of our wonderful trip to Hawaii and cruise on the NCL Star 04-04-04. We are a 38 and 39 year-old couple and their daughter Kayla age 8, (going on 18).... It was our second cruise - our first was summer 2002 in Alaska on ... Read More
This is my review of our wonderful trip to Hawaii and cruise on the NCL Star 04-04-04. We are a 38 and 39 year-old couple and their daughter Kayla age 8, (going on 18).... It was our second cruise - our first was summer 2002 in Alaska on the RCCI Legend of the Seas. This was our third trip to Hawaii, and I thought the cruise was a wonderful new way to see our favorite places and some new ones, too. Throughout this review, I will probably do a lot of comparisons between the two cruises and cruiselines (NCL vs. RCCI). Many of you will tell me you can't compare - I know!!! I just want to say that I didn't spend the whole week comparing the two....... I am just thinking about it now so that people, like me, who have done a cruise on one might have a better idea of whether they would like the other.... We were in category BD (the cheapest balcony) on the Star, in room 8560. On the whole, all three of us preferred RCCI, but we had a wonderful cruise on the Star. I just want to say that we had a wonderful trip, but this review has several sharp criticisms of NCL in it. I admit that I didn't think much of NCL compared to our previous cruise, but also compared to a general standard in the tourism industry, but I think it's pretty hard to screw up a cruise in paradise. Also, we just made the most of things and enjoyed it at the time. I think my annoyance and even anger at some of NCLs shortcomings really only ripened after I got home and I starting realizing how poor some elements of NCL really are - they seem to be headed in the wrong direction on many elements of customer service. All the same, it was one of our very best vacations and I hope the NCL lovers of this site will not attack me too ferociously.... The good points in a nutshell.... Food: we loved Freestyle and thought the food on the Star was excellent. I didn't mind paying for the specialty restaurants - we enjoyed Ginza twice and le Bistro, but honestly we thought both Aqua and Versailles were excellent and if you are worried about paying extra, I suggest you can eat there plus Endless Summer happily every night. We never waited in a line (we eat early). Itinerary: We felt very lucky to stay in Hawaii - we probably would have loved Fanning Island, but we really appreciated Kona and Lahaina, our two favorite ports, too. The nicest things about this itinerary are the (for us) smooth seas and the slow speed of the ship keeping things calm. I thought NCL handled the itinerary change very well (we also had a change on RCCI and they were very defensive about it). Of course, we were pleased with this change, but many people weren't. Throughout the cruise, we asked crew members who uniformly said they hated going to Fanning Island - so believe what you will about "the engine problem." (LOL!) Ship, Captain Crew: (anybody ever play that old dice game?) We thought the ship itself was beautiful, and liked its size and layout. We really liked the captain - although we never met him in person, we thought his announcements were amusing and we appreciated the way he tried extra hard to make sure everyone got to see red lava at night, etc. The Hawaiian ambassador June made the cruise special. We met the F&B Manager at the CruiseCritic get together and he was great. My husband had nothing but good things to say about the gym - he used it daily and really liked the layout and equipment. We didn't use the spa, but it was beautiful. I thought the shopping was excellent on board - the choice was wide and there was a great range of products at all prices. We all liked the deck games like ping-pong, giant chess, golf, basketball and shuffleboard. My only criticism is that on port days, the crew's family and friends are allowed to come aboard. That's fine. But, we came back to the ship early a couple days and found the kids pool, ping-pong, etc. totally taken over by some very loud, pushy crew kids who didn't seem to understand that EVENTUALLY, it's nice to let someone else have a turn. We didn't attend any shows (we aren't show people) but the theater was lovely. We liked the cinema and I went to see two movies - Something's Gotta Give and Lost in Translation. Both full for the 7:30 show, by the way, so go early. Cabin: Although we much preferred our cabin on RCCI, which was the same class but seemed to be MUCH larger and better organized, we give NCCL credit for a really nice bathroom - WAY nicer than RCCI. More below on the cabin. On the downside, in a nutshell.... Kids Program: we really thought the kids program was a disaster...shockingly bad in attitude and hugely disappointing to Kayla. RCCI has a 100% better program so if that's important to you, choose them instead. I have posted extensively on this, so I won't belabor the point. Service and Crew: The service on the Star was VERY uneven, but overall, the crew seemed tired and unenthusiastic and not very friendly to us or to each other. We didn't like the emphasis on buying things all the time...it was really too much. Although we weren't that affected by it, you could see that people were really having a hard time with the shore excursion desk.....I had had so many problems pre-booking shore excursions before we ever got on, that I got fed up and cancelled and just rented cars in each port. It's hard to explain, but when we disembarked from the Legend of the Seas, we felt like the ship was part of us - we had made friends and we loved it so. This time, we just felt the experience was impersonal. Very nice, but not very friendly. We also had a really, really irritating experience with room service that irked me throughout the cruise and summed up the problem of the crew attitude for me. The evening before the first port day, I stuck the doorknob breakfast order thing on asking for our breakfast at 6 am, with a nice smiley face note on it asking for them to set the tray in the hallway and knock very softly. I didn't want them to wake Kayla. Next morning - No breakfast. At all. Never showed. We were in a hurry to get off so we just grabbed something at the Marketplace. Next night, I did the same. No breakfast. So, I pulled the phone out onto the balcony and called. No record of my order. Fine - I reordered breakfast and asked again VERY nicely if they could just tap lightly on the door - I would be listening. Fine. We hang up and five minutes later, the same guy calls the room, loud telephone rings, but Kayla miraculously sleeps. He tells me he found BOTH my previous doorknob order forms but that, basically, he cancelled the order because he cannot leave the tray in the hall and tap softly - that is too complicated. So, I cancel the order - he understands and but is pretty rude. Fine. Five minutes later, there is, and I am NOT exaggerating, a POUNDING on the door and it's the same guy with the incorrect order of my cancelled breakfast. I swear to god, he just grabbed some food and came to pound on my door to irritate me. The food bore no relationship to what I ordered. So, I asked him to be quiet and give me the tray. He refused, insisting on carrying the tray into the cabin. We ended up standing in the hallway arguing over the tray. It was just absurd. That was the end of room service for me. BTW, I thought RCCI had bad room service, too. Shore excursions: What a complete mess! I have already posted about all the problems I had pre-booking. We are not shore excursion people. As a general rule, I think you can always do better on your own, but I had been worried about getting to the Volcanoes from Hilo in the time of the original itinerary (7 am to 1 pm in port). So I tried to book the Kilauea Hiking Adventure on-line. When I called to check, NCL said to call back after 72 hrs. Called back, no record. Booked by phone and had to argue with the rep to get her to send me an email confirmation. Good thing I did as she had it completely wrong. Had to call again (all from IRELAND!!!!) and straightened it out and got the right confirmation showing two adults and one child. When we got to our cabin, we found the tickets - for THREE adults. What a pain, but with the new itinerary giving us til 6pm in Hilo, I just decided to cancel and rent a car. Here's a very tiny annoying thing about the Star vs. the RCCI. On RCCI, they put a locked box outside the shore excursion office which is there 24.hrs. On NCL, they have one, but you have to go into the office to see it. The office was closed most of the time and whenever it was open, the lines were so huge and the people inside seemed so irate, I didn't dare go cancel until the very last minute. Still, to give NCL credit, I didn't get charged. One morning I stood in the lobby and watched about 25 people in a row come out infuriated that they had booked on line but there was no record of their excursions - it seems our sailing was particularly bad because it was the first with the new reservation system. The moral of that story is to book by phone and CONFIRM at least twice. Our Trip: Complaints out of the way, let me tell you about our wonderful voyage. Anyway, we are Americans living in Northern Ireland, so our trip was a long one, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. We made it extra long by deciding to take our ten-month old puppy back to his breeder in Glasgow, Scotland so that added a day and a ferry ride to the trip. We went to Hawaii on United frequent flier miles after finding out it was the same number of miles to Hawaii as it was to DC (50,000) so Hawaii seemed like better value.... Anyway, we ended up flying from Glasgow Scotland to London (I hr.) then to Los Angeles (11 hrs.) and, after a five-hour layover, to Honolulu, arriving at 10:30 pm Hawaii time, 26 hrs. after we arrived at Glasgow airport. We took a cab straight to the Hawaiian Village, where we did our customary sticking our feet in the ocean and woo-hoo'ing. (It sounds silly but it's what we do) Oh, an aside. I am a real Type-A traveler - way over organized, blah, blah blah. I had a little notebook with all our confirmation numbers, etc. which I managed to leave on the plane. My husband Nick just laughed and laughed when we got to the HHV and I found out I was going to be forced to RELAX and enjoy Hawaii without my notebook. A real life lesson for me.... Anyway, back to Saturday night at the HHV. The time change between the UK and Hawaii is 11 hours. I was convinced that we would beat jetlag by going to sleep by 11:30 pm and then sleeping until nearly the 11 am check-out time, but.....oh no.... at 4:45 AM someone called my room by accident and woke us all up. He didn't speak English very well and was talking about bags and taxis, etc, and I was just disoriented enough that I didn't realize right away that it was a wrong number. Kayla, who had lost a tooth on the plane, discovered the Hawaiian tooth fairy gives double dollars, so the excitement proved so much no one could go back to sleep, so, just like in 2001, we ended up walking on the beach at 5 am waiting for the restaurants to open..... Thank God they open at 5:30 at the HHV. Hint: Even if you cannot imagine who might call you, put the "Do Not Disturb" on your hotel phone on the first night...... the jet lag should have been solved, but I ended up being tired for days as a result of the guy mis-dialing. Anyway, we checked out of the HHV at 11 and took a taxi to the Aloha Tower - we boarded almost right away - maybe after 5 minutes wait. We met very nice people in line, and happily ran into my CruiseCritic buddy LuckyFrog as we checked-in next to each other. Oh, just wanted to note that we had booked through cruisequick.com whom I love, but I did find that we were very slightly delayed by not having actual cruise documents or baggage tags. But maybe only delayed by 5 minutes because we were there so early. Later on, this might be a big problem, so I recommend actual (not virtual) cruise docs.... We were in our cabin by 11:30 am, but we got right back off the ship, after stopping to make the first two night's reservations at the Teppanyaki and Le Bistro. We had promised Kayla she could use her allowance to buy a Game Boy (so much cheaper in the USA than here in the UK) and she had spotted CompUSA a few blocks from the Aloha Tower. Also, as soon as I learned about the itinerary change, I wanted to leap off and reorganize my rental car reservations from a pay phone, which I did. We had a shave ice at Aloha Tower and reboarded about 2pm and the line was HUGE! We had no trouble reboarding - it took maybe 5 minutes. Our initial thoughts on our cabin: Although the same class as the RCCI cabin, it was much smaller. That's mainly because the Star's bathroom was so much bigger and nicer. It sticks out so far into the room that the bed/sofa are was crammed. On RCCI, we had the twins-turned-into a queen, with nice end tables with drawers on each side, plus a queen-sized sofa bed on one side and a large desk/vanity on the other. It felt spacious and we were never in each others' way. There was also a dividing curtain. We felt it would be easy to have two kids in the cabin. On the Star, we felt very cramped - there was no way we would have been able to stand having another kid. The closet was okay but there were very few drawers. The desk was in a goofy place, meaning that anyone was sitting at it, no one else could get by. With no end tables or space between me and the sofa bed, I had to crawl out of bed at the foot, which annoyed me. But like I said, every day in the big, nice bathroom, I got over it..... and by the end of the week we were navigating around each other pretty well. The balcony was very nice, with super comfy chairs. The bed was high enough off the ground for our large suitcases. I had brought my bungee cord, but the sailing was so smooth, we found the door stayed open by itself. BD cabins have weird balconies...if it's not much more, I suggest a higher category for a better view. For those considering a balcony, but not sure. I said the same thing after our Alaska cruise - I loved our balcony and thank goodness we could afford it, but if you can't or if it means not doing something else you want to do to afford it, don't believe all the hype about balconies. Book the best cabin you can and enjoy. You will have a lovely cruise with, or without the private balcony. If you don't have one, just go hang out somewhere else with a view....there are plenty of indoor and outdoor spaces with gorgeous views. Let me tell you, though, why we loved our balcony on this cruise. For whatever reason, Nick and I never fully recovered from jet-lag and never slept past 6 am. Kayla was fine off the bat and liked to sleep til 8. So, every morning Nick went up to the Marketplace Cafe with our thermal mugs and brought back coffee and a plate of Danish/croissant. Then he and I had a nice, easy morning watching as we pulled into ports and talking about the day. Romantic and relaxing and just plain nice. Our cabin attendant introduced herself immediately. A nice Romanian girl. I asked her about how she likes working on the ship and she instantly went into complaining mode about the pay, how much she misses her family, how hard she worked. I'm sorry for her...but I have also run a large customer service operation and rule one is that you don't complain about your own problems to the client.... She also blew off my requests for a child-sized life jacket. Her partner, a nice woman from the Philippines was much more professional and really was nice to us later in the week when my daughter was feeling badly after a (minor) sunburn. But, no towel animals...which was also a big disappointment to us. Our RCCI cabin steward was a really good guy and we got to know him well. I liked the little wheel on the door to indicate "make up room" or "do not disturb." We toured the ship and hit the pool. We liked the Teppanyaki, but felt the two cooks very disinterested and not nearly as fun as hoped. A tip - the Kobe Steakhouse just outside the HHV gate is MUCH better and there is a two-for-one coupon in the Entertainment book. I'd recommend doing this instead. We did both! That night Kayla was the only one with energy, but she dragged me around the entire ship on the kids' crew scavenger hunt. She thought this was the most fun ever - I thought it was a pretty clever way for the Kids' Crew staff to avoid doing any work for the evening. On Monday we wanted to make the most of our only sea day. We love all the pub quizzes, games, etc. on cruises. We did Coffee Morning Trivia (and won mugs!). Nick and I went to the Sushi demo, which was excellent. We picked up Kayla from Kids Crew (-- she'd spent the morning parked in front of cartoons. Blah!) and had all-you-can-eat sushi lunch. Next, flower lei making, napkin folding, and The Friendly Feud game. Later in the day, we did Kukui Nut lay (don't miss this one - June can literally talk for 30 entertaining minutes on the history and many uses of the kukui nut and it became a family joke.) The leis are beautiful, too. Every evening of the cruise, we did the 5:30 pub trivia in the Red Lion. What a hoot! After the first night, we teamed up with a really nice man, Steve and it became a really fun part of every day. It was nice to hear what he and his wife and two granddaughters did every day - it kind of replaced the dinner companions we missed from non-Freestyle cruising. (BTW, Steve had a terrible experience on the Halekula downhill bike trip. The teenage boy behind him went too fast and lost control, hitting Steve, who broke his collarbones and cracked some ribs. Luckily, it was near the bottom and they had a van standing by to take him to the hospital.) I have to brag that we won every night, even when we only got 8 questions right out of 20! We also enjoyed the CruiseCritic gathering Monday evening and I got to meet the wonderful Seawishes and Ms. Chicken of the Sea - such nice people and we found we had so much in common. All I can say Jeff is that Kayla wishes so badly she was in YOUR third grade class. Kayla had a quick meal at the Marketplace and Nick and I ate later in Le Bistro, which was lovely. This is getting long....sorry. ... maybe I'll just stick to highlights in each port! Hilo - rented a car for Volcanoes National Park. Did the Grater Rim Drive clockwise stopping for quick hikes through the Lava Tube, Devastation Trail, and the site of the big lava flows on the way to the Steam Vents. Kayla did the Junior Ranger program so we stopped back by the visitor center to turn in her book. The Ranger (Michael) was incredible - he spent about 15-20 minutes with her going over every page of her book and activity. The he got on the loud speaker and made everyone stop what they were doing while he awarded her junior ranger badge, poster, booklets, etc. So proud! We also went to Walmart (the dumpiest of the FOUR Walmarts we visited). It was gorgeous weather all morning but pouring in the afternoon, so we just went back to the ship. Just worth noting, too. Our rental car minivan (Thrifty) was NOT waiting at the pier. I was struggling to call them and the nice Hertz driver came over and told me he would be happy to give us a lift. Really kind and informative guy. Kayla, by this point, no longer wanted to go to Kids Club since all they did was plop the kids in front of movies she had already seen, so we were at a bit of a loss about dinner. We looked at the menus for Versailles and Aqua, but she didn't see anything she liked. I stupidly didn't realize they might also have a kid's menu, so we ended up eating at the Marketplace which I resented. (I just hate buffets - the Marketplace is actually nice) Kona - we didn't really know what to do with ourselves in this surprise port. We walked down to Snorkle Bob's and asked where to go. They recommended the SeaQuest boat trip to Kealakekua, which I thought was a great idea as I had a two-for-one Entertainment book coupon, but alas, no space left. Bob's staff recommended just taking a taxi to Kahaluu Beach, which we did. I gotta tell you, we arrived and saw the crowds and I almost told the driver to keep going, but it was great. We saw zillions of amazing fish and huge green sea turtles. Plus there was the nicest snack bar (with showers and bathrooms) with good food and a nice elderly couple playing ukulele and singing Hawaiian songs. A very pleasant place afterall. Nick and Kayla headed back to the ship while I dashed up by Walmart Shuttle to one of the nicest Walmart I've ever been in to buy the Easter Basket fixins in secret. I was sorry I waited, though because the line to get a tender was enormous, not helped by rough seas at the port. (By the way, the tenders are really, really hot inside - no air circulates....so try to get a seat near the entrance.) Kayla decided to try out kids club again (she really wanted to like it) so she did that while we tried Endless Summer. This one of our favorite meals - excellent service and nice background music. I had my favorite dish of the cruise - their macademia chocolate torte, which was just awesome. We felt guilty, though, when we picked up Kayla since that was the night the counselors made the kids sit completely silently for over 20 minutes as a "game" before turning on the video.... We had a gorgeous view of flowing lava from the ship. It was a bit far away so bring your binoculars. Lahaina: Our favorite Hawaiian town. I woke up early and could see with my binoculars a surfing school just to the left of the port, so we headed there - Outrageous Adventures. Kayla joined a kids surf class ($55 plus $20 for a CD with about 30 pictures of her) which was one of the highlights of her life. I cannot say enough could stuff about this place - the staff were incredible to her - they had my eight-year old and everyone else surfing well in about 20 minutes. There was a nice shady spot with lounge chairs for parents to sit and watch. Great stuff! We had prearranged to have lunch with some friends of ours from DC who happened to be in Maui, too. We love Cheeseburger in Paradise and it didn't disappoint. We did all our souvenir shopping in Lahaina (we buy the main stuff in Walmart, but the special stuff - aloha shirts, jewelry, etc. in Lahaina) Kayla started realizing she had gotten a bit sunburned and very blistered hands from surfing and started feeling badly so we headed back. We ended up bringing dinners from the Marketplace back to the balcony. I probably should have called room service, but I just couldn't take that again! Kahalui - this was kind of an admin day for us. We had every intention of going up Haleakula, but there were serious clouds up there. We toyed with going to Hana, but I don't like twisty, turny roads and Kayla doesn't like long car trips. (Seawishes later made us feel better by saying how tiring his trip there was - we'll save Hana for when we can fly there and spend a few days) Anyway, we ended up going to Wqalmart and dropping our film. Since we live overseas with the US Government, I have a US postal address - we realized it might be a good idea to mail home a lot of American goodies we can't get - like breakfast cereals, toiletries, and birthday decorations, etc. There's a post office just near Walmart so we mailed home this stuff, plus all our dirty laundry, giving us lots more room to collect souvenirs! My Walmart pictures were great quality, by the way. We have always had luck spotting whales from MacGregor point so we went down there for the afternoon. I saw one breach very well, so I was happy. Aqua had steak on the menu so Kayla wanted to go (that's when I found out that it and Versailles have nice kids menus - duh!) Had a wonderful meal with nice family from Pennsylvania. Nawiliwili - I had never been to Kauai and I just loved it. It was out only overcast day and we went up the North Coast in intermittent rain. But truthfully, I enjoyed having a rainy day. We stopped at Snorkle Bob's to pick up gear just in case, but never used it. We drove all the way to Lee Beach, stopping along the way to marvel at the incredible scenery. We spent a few hours in Hanalei, which I just loved, and had a nice Mexican lunch there. We got back on the Star early and played deck games s we were starting to panic about the cruise coming to an end. Everyone who went on helicopter trips just raved, as did the Tubing the Ditch folks. Maybe next time.... We had a terrific dinner with another family in Versailles. I would say I liked this meal best (so again, if you don't to pay extra fro Le Bistro, don't worry!) I had really incredible seared ahi and excellent cheesecake. Disembarking - we were doing our own thing, so didn't play to get off until 10 am. I agree with other posters that the "freestyle" final morning stuff telling you to "relax and stay in your cabin" is a crock. By 8:30, the cabin staff were knocking. We told them we would leave at 10. At 9, they came and asked for our sheets. We told them we'd leave at 10. At 9:15, they told us the :must" have towels right that second. We just gave up - went to the Market Cafe for some breakfast and then disembarked. We found our luggage with no problem, but getting a cab was nuts. If we didn't have a porter who knew a taxi driver, we would have been stuck. The plan was to pick up our car, go to Pearl Harbor and then the North Coast and head back to the HHV in the late afternoon after check-in time. Not what happened. Now, this is the only point when my missing notebook was a problem. I had written the address of National Rental Car in it. The taxi driver said he knew where it was, but after driving around Waikiki aimlessly, I noticed we were very close to the HHV anyway, so we just got out there. It worked out great. Our room (upgraded to concierge level because of my hubby's Hilton card) was ready and gorgeous. We decided we were way to late for Pearl Harbor anyway, so I cancelled National (no penalty) and we hung out at the HHV and on Waikiki beach all day. Kayla took another surf lesson (good, but not as good as Lahaina). We were supposed to have dinner with the family we met at Versailles the night before, but she called exhausted saying that they had gone on the NCL booked "duck" sightseeing trip all day and the bus/boat broke down and they were stuck most of the day in the hot sun waiting. We had a delicious and entertaining dinner at the Kobe steakhouse, which an extraordinary chef. The next day, I picked a rental car from Hertz right at the HHV (a much better idea and not any more expensive than national once you ad in taxi fares downtown) and headed to Hanauma Bay. We had a weird experience. When we arrived at 9:00 am (I know, way too late) the gates were closed with a big sign saying "Parking Lot Full" Everyone else just kept driving straight, but Nick made a sharp left down through some field to turn around. By the time we found a place to turn and came back up the gates were open. There was hardly anyone there, so who knows what happened before. We had a great time at the new improved Hanauma Bay. We were last there in April 2001, and it's much better IMHO. The new "buildings" are nice (they look like the Flintstones said Kayla) and although there was a lot of grumbling about having to watch the film before being allowed to go the beach, I enjoyed it. I think people act a lot better there now - we only saw one guy climbing on the reef and we yelled at him to stop and he did. We rented snorkeling stuff there - there were lockers, showers, nice bathrooms, etc. There were definitely more fish this time - we got excellent underwater photos. It was almost too cool, so we didn't stay very long, but really enjoyed it. We then went to the Sea Life Park where Kayla had a dolphin date at Splash U. I really liked SLP - it was nice and small with excellent, friendly staff and trainers. We still had stuff to buy so we went to the Ala Mouana Center and ended up just eating there. On Tuesday, we got up early (not as early as I wanted) to go to Pearl Harbor. The wait at 9 (stupid time to go, I know) was about 20 minutes to get a ticket, which told us to come back at 12:15. I was delighted as that gave us time to go up to the Dole Plantation. We went up, did the maze, and poked around the giftshop and had a nice cool Dole Whip. We got back just as they called our group. All of us, even Kayla were thoroughly moved by the film and the experience at Pearl Harbor. My great uncle actually survived the Arizona and he just doesn't talk about it, so I was happy to be able to learn so much. We took the car back after consider time looking for a gas station - tip - get gas on the outskirts of the city - it's hard to find a station in Waikiki and they always seem to be on the other side on a one-way street! On our last night, we made the pilgrimage back to Cheeseburger in Paradise, Waikiki at sunset. It was a delight. They had an excellent duo singing 60s-70's pop songs and everyone sang along. PERFECT! Our flight home was eventful and rather pleasant. Our only disappointment was that they were bumping people on the LA-London flight and offering to fly you the next day business class plus give each of you an $800 voucher with United. We immediately asked to be bumped, but were too far down the stampede who also volunteered. All six of our United flights were 100% full, but all took off and landed on time and were very comfortable with excellent, mature crews and great movies. Our puppy missed us, but had fun with his doggie relations. Our ferry ride back to Ireland was REALLY rough, making us long for - as if we didn't already the calm seas and beautiful sunsets of Hawaii. Sorry this is so long - I'm writing it as much for me and my scrapbook as anything. If anyone has questions, I'd be happy to answer. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
After a week-long stay with my mother during her surgical recovery, I flew home (Florida) from Maine April 28th, with precisely 30 hours before our departure for Hawaii. During that time, I had to work a full day and it was best if I ... Read More
After a week-long stay with my mother during her surgical recovery, I flew home (Florida) from Maine April 28th, with precisely 30 hours before our departure for Hawaii. During that time, I had to work a full day and it was best if I actually slept two nights. This left approximately 6 hours to unpack, do laundry, re-pack, pick up a few last minute items, and squeeze in a manicure and pedicure. The end result of my schedule challenges is that sleep was compromised. So we arrived at Orlando International Airport entirely too early in the morning of April 30th, desperately sleep deprived, but filled with excitement. This was only our second time flying with American Airlines. Since we booked coach flights, we would appreciate every millimeter of their touted "more leg room". We managed a few catnaps during our 12-hour flight and enjoyed a couple movies as our anticipation grew. Nearing arrival in Honolulu we wished for a means to slow the clock for the next 12 days. Embarkation was relatively painless, excluding luggage drop off. We located the pier and drove the area looking for a sign or any indication of porters. Finally I jumped out of the vehicle and asked. I was directed to the porters, but then instructed that we couldn't drive to their location. Huh? So we got as close as we could and proceeded to unload (too much) luggage from the car. The porters were chatting among themselves and not about to be bothered by (of all things) cruise guests. We managed to get their attention and finally passed custody of our bags onto them. We parked in the Aloha Towers parking lot and within 15 minutes, were actually inside our stateroom. (Note: if you park in the Aloha Towers lot during embarkation, stop in one of the stores to get your parking ticket validated prior to leaving the lot. A $5 box of tea saved us $10 in parking). We booked an 8I guarantee and were upgraded (slightly) to a 9A. Our stateroom is more spacious that those we've had with Carnival, not quite as large as our Category C suite on RCI. We visited the stateroom of a dinner companion (to see her birthday decorations) and were surprised at how much smaller it was than ours. The difference is about 30 sq ft, but makes our accommodations much more comfortable. The gold / orange tones are not my taste; I prefer cooler colors like blue / green. But the stateroom is very nice. I was disappointed, and very surprised, that we don't have a hair dryer! Fortunately, I brought my travel one. (**UPDATE** Just before the cruise's end, I learned that the hair dryer is in a drawer under the vanity...oops!) We have a mini-bar, but turned down the key. The bathroom is smaller than the one we had on the Victory - this too was a bit of a surprise. Our sink space is limited, so I use the vanity in the bedroom. Our showerhead is fabulous - I'd love to have it at home. We have wonderful water pressure and great temperature control. The shampoo and soap dispensers are convenient. The only problem is that our shower curtain won't stay inside the confines of the shower. There is a lip on the floor to keep the water from running out, but it does run off the curtain onto the bathroom floor, which is always wet. Our location behind the elevator has not been a problem - no noise issues, and we do enjoy the convenience. One serious drawback is that our stateroom has ONE outlet - yikes! With using my hair dryer & curling iron, plus trying to keep camera batteries and cell phones charged, one outlet was a problem. In future cruises, we will most definitely bring a power strip. In-room entertainment stinks! Carnival offered two or three movies each day; not a single movie was of any interest to us. My husband prepared a poster as our "door decoration"; he included some pictures & stickers, plus left space for neighbors to write a note. We've had wonderful feedback in response to it - and I'm sure we'll do it for our next cruise as well. We bought double-sided, removable tape (to hang it on the door) at Wal*Mart and it is working great. We were extremely pleased with the size of our balcony, about 6 ft x 15 ft. The glass wall needed a good cleaning - it annoyed us the first couple days, then Buddy used a couple towels to clean it. Ahhhh...much better. Our neighbors to the forward end of the ship (unfortunately) were smokers. Every time they stepped out onto their balcony, they lit up and we went inside. The first couple days they left their balcony light on, which kept us from being able to see the waves at night; we left a note on their door asking them to turn off the light when not using it, which they did. It was inconvenient to have smokers next to us, but they weren't on their balcony that much and we still had plenty of time to enjoy ours. Although this is our 12th cruise, it is a very unique experience for us. Never before have we booked a cruise simply because we wanted to visit the ports-of-call. In this case, we wanted to visit Hawaii and intended to do a land stay. Ultimately, because of sightseeing interests on several islands, we decided on the cruise. We were concerned, however, that splitting our time between the ship and the ports, would not allow us to thoroughly enjoy either. That has not been the case at all. We really enjoy our days in port and our evenings on board. As compared to a cruise where we casually get off the ship for a couple hours, we are making the most of every minute on this cruise. We may not get as much rest as we should, but that is the point of the five upcoming sea days. Dining assignments - this cruise had far more people wanting early seating than late. This comes as a surprise since we are in port the first seven days and shore experiences may be cut a bit short in order to make it back for early dinner. We were assigned a table for four, despite our request for a large table. I do wish Carnival would establish a means to record guest preferences so we will always be assigned a large table. Our first afternoon, the maitre'd did change us to a table for eight. Our dinner companions were a delightful assortment. Carole & Sy, retired X-ray technician and radiologist from California brought warmth and great sense of humor to the table. Two buddies from Chicago, Chester (heating & ventilation) and Billy (Southwest Airline ramp supervisor), were friendly, down-to-earth and pleasant companions. Lina (small business owner) and her teen-age daughter, Laura, also from California, rounded out our table of eight. Lina shared her experience as a captive of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 70s. The story of her escape and settling in the U.S. as a refugee stirred a profound respect. Laura is a sweet, quiet 15 year-old, who is probably not-so-quiet around her friends. We had a wonderful time at dinner with our new friends and enjoyed getting to know them all over the course of our 12 days. Dining room meals: We had wonderful service and except for a couple overcooked steaks, everything was well-prepared and always well-presented. Generally, we were disappointed with the menus offered on this cruise. On previous cruises, there were usually several entrees we'd enjoy, but we narrow our selection down to our first choice. On this cruise, we ended up with steak too many evenings because the other offerings were just too "weird" for our taste. While we are not gourmet diners (admittedly) we do like trying new things. But I'm not going to eat things I can't even bear to look at... Despite our disappointment with the menus, we did enjoy our meals, just not as much as those on earlier cruises. Casual Dining - We had breakfast and lunch on the Lido Deck most days; we enjoyed grazing over the options, the casual atmosphere and not worrying about timing. We also had dinner on the Lido Deck twice - once we were in port too late and missed our dinner and once we were too lazy or too tired to dress for dinner. Generally we found breakfast on the Lido Deck to be as good an option as the dining room. We could get as much fruit as we wanted and they make great omelets. I was disappointed that they ran out of grapefruit sections and mushrooms (for omelets) four or five days before the end of the cruise. Lunches were nicer in the dining room, but we settled for the Lido Deck. My favorite was the Reubens and I ate too many of them. We sampled many different dishes but never found anything worth going back for seconds. I missed the shrimp salad that was so common on our other cruises (saw it only one time.) What we did enjoy every day was the soft freeze ice cream. Unlike all of our other cruises, we never, not even one time, made it for the midnight buffet (called "late night" and usually served at 11pm on this cruise, because of its older demographic). Michael was the Spirit's Cruise Director for our sailing, assisted by his dynamic wife, Jeni. (Michael and Jeni left yesterday for their vacation; we don't what ship they will be assigned to afterward.) We had the pleasure of sailing with them two years ago on the Carnival Victory. Michael is a talented singer, extremely personable, and sincerely concerned about his guests' experience. Jeni is adorable, full of energy & personality. Together they are a very enjoyable team. We spoke with Michael several times (including his "up close & personal" scheduled each day at noon) and are just so impressed by the effort he puts into planning the entertainment. He told us about him and Jeni working to design the games and activities; the end result was a full schedule with more than enough options to keep everyone busy. On the last evening, Jeni amazed and thrilled us all as she danced to "All That Jazz"! Entertainment: 1 (poor) to 10 (incredible) rating (Main show lounge only). ** Comedian / Magician - Cameron was a strong 7 - significantly better than average, but I wouldn't go out of my way to see him in another venue. ** Musical Group - Tribute to the Temptations were a 10! I've never seen performers like that on Carnival. They sang, danced, even dressed like the Temptations and did a great job of it. (Disclaimer - this is MY kind of music.) ** Hypnotist - did not go - not interested and this was the evening before our sunrise trip. ** Fiddler - Billy - Buddy gave him a 5. He was a talented musician, but should not have attempted singing. Plus his choice of music was questionable. ** (1st Vegas-style) Singing with the Big Band - was a delightful 8. The dancers were wonderful and very high-energy. This was a review of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr hits - not exactly our favorite music, but a classic piece of Americana and very enjoyable. It was a bit unusual, featuring the vocal talents of just one performer. This show has been added to Carnival itineraries of more than 7 days; we are very pleased with the addition, having anticipated only two Vegas-style shows during this cruise. ** (2nd Vegas-style) Standing Room Only was an enthusiastic 9 1/2 (no particular reason that it isn't a 10 - just allowing room for the last show to be even better). Tonight's show was a wonderful, high-energy presentation of nearly two dozen show tunes. The singers / dancers / costumes were all excellent. ** Singer - Joni - was a 7. She was a talented singer and put on a pretty good show, but nothing to write home about. She did a nice variety of music and tried to keep the audience connected, but quite a few people left during the show. ** Comedian - Nipsy - We were finishing dinner the evening we left Kona when Nipsy walked into the dining room. We remember him from many years ago and looked forward to his performance. But minutes before our show time with Nipsy, there was an emergency "bright star" announcement, later followed by an explanation that Nipsy had collapsed on stage near the end of his earlier performance. (Updates the next couple days assured us that he was doing better, but remained in the infirmary). ** (3rd Vegas-style show) Spirit - was an 8. The dancers / singers did a great job and the costumes were wonderful. But the theme was disappointing (and not very clear). The show just didn't capture us like Standing Room Only did. ** Comedians - Kyle and Jimmy, Rated 5 and 7. Kyle was entertaining initially, but we grew weary of his ostrich / ventriloquism. Jimmy was much funnier and caught the attention of this cruise's older crowd with his references to how things were better in days past. ** Carnival Legends Show is the new name for the guest talent show, almost exclusively Karaoke. There was one act with a group doing the jitterbug, wearing poodle skirts, etc that was very entertaining. Unless the performers actually are talented, we do not enjoy Karaoke. I recognize that some see it differently (my daughter included - she thinks it is a great time), but I really don't care for it. So the Carnival Legends Show on our sailing IMHO was a total bust. There were many different performers in the smaller venues. We caught only glimpses of just a few, which seemed to be very good. There were always nice crowds enjoying each of the performers / groups. We wish we had had more time to check them out, since most lounges on the Spirit are now smoke-free giving us many more options. Team Waitstaff, Ivan & Adrianna were both wonderful. Both spoke English well enough that communication was not a problem. Ivan was attentive and conscientious, and had a wonderful sense of humor. He seemed to really enjoy performing in the dining staff presentations (and we enjoyed watching him). His smile was infectious. Adrianna was quiet and sweet, always remembering our preferences and taking such good care of us all. We will always remember them fondly. Stateroom attendant Alicia did a great job with our room. We requested an additional lounge chair for our balcony; she forgot it and we asked again a couple days later. She was very apologetic and delivered it promptly. Alicia was friendly, although English was a bit more of a challenge. When we'd leave a wine bottle by the ice bucket, she'd put it on ice for ice. She broke a near-empty bottle one day and replaced it with a new one. We asked her about it, concerned that she'd have to pay for it, but she assured us otherwise. Cell Phones: What a surprise!! We recently changed our cell phone plan to one that does not roam in the USA so we don't have to worry about staying in touch while traveling domestically. We inquired specifically about reception in Hawaii and were assured there would be no problem. But we were still amazed and thrilled at how good our service was! We received calls even while in our stateroom. One time, I (from our stateroom) called my husband who was inside the ship (on a lower level) and the phone worked perfectly. My phone doesn't even work inside my office building! PORTS OF CALL Honolulu offers an excellent bus system; use it. But if you prefer renting a vehicle, don't mind bumper-to-bumper traffic and have a great map (signage stinks) do NOT use Alamo. We waited for 45 minutes at Alamo check-in. The staff was definitely in an "Aloha state of mind" and in no hurry to get us on the road. It is a good thing that nobody in Honolulu is in a hurry because the city is in gridlock. We have been here before but chose not to remember the traffic problems. We did, however, find a great place to park overnight, for only $4. It is the Topa Financial building, right across the street from the pier. Because we've been here twice before, we had decided to just do our souvenir shopping (and recover from jet lag) in Honolulu, Which brings me to our hugely successful experience. Very close to Pearl Harbor, in the Aloha Stadium is a "swap meet". I highly recommend going there to purchase any Hawaiian outfits and silk flower leis on your souvenir list, as well as a multitude of other items. We also got excellent buys on several kinds of nuts, including macadamias. It is enormous. Prices are exactly the same from one vendor to another. Parking / admission is 50 cents per person. Kauai is spectacularly beautiful. This place actually looks like its postcards, no touch-up required. The rugged mountains, lush tropical foliage and inviting beaches just can't be surpassed. We enjoyed a scenic drive to Waimea Canyon State Park. The lookout area offers an amazing view of the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific"; it does resemble the Grand Canyon, on a somewhat smaller scale, and with the benefit of tropical rains Waimea Canyon is very green and very beautiful. We visited Kauai Coffee Company on our drive to Wailua State Park. In its vicinity we saw Opaeka Falls and Wailua Falls, though we really couldn't get close enough for us. We rented our car at Alamo, but this time they were very efficient - within 15 minutes of walking down the gangway, we were on our way. We also enjoyed our Kauai experience because drivers were actually courteous and the roads were well-marked. Maui was nearly as beautiful as Kauai, though more developed. Again roads were in great shape and well marked, with no traffic problems. Again, also, overnight parking was no problem - we simply asked at the gate for the Spirit and they directed us to a pier lot, just 200 yards away - at no charge. On the first day we visited friends in Lahaina and had a wonderful time! We got back to the ship and went to bed early that night, requesting a wake-up call for 2:50am. Room service did not pick up our breakfast order (perhaps they pick them up later than our requested delivery time.) So we had pepperoni pizza and coffee before heading to Haleakala. I was very apprehensive about the drive, but needn't have worried. It took about 1 hr 15 min - lots of hairpin turns, but even in the dark, it was not a problem. However, the weather was! It began to drizzle on our way up the 10,000 ft elevation. By the time we reached the summit, it was a "driving drizzle" in the strong, bitter cold wind. The skies were completely overcast as we were right in the clouds. We anxiously anticipated the sunrise, still hopeful of a great view. That was not to happen. It became daylight, but we had only glimpses of the sun. A huge crowd of disappointed (and frozen) tourists began the journey down Haleakala. We took our time, enjoying the amazing views and stopping several times for pictures. We decided to head toward Maui's Tedechi Winery, although it would not open for two more hours. We had a pleasant stop for coffee and bagels (no more pizza) at "Grandma's Coffee Shop". We enjoyed the wine tasting, purchased a couple bottles as gifts and returned to the ship. (Note: we found the same wine for only $7.19 per bottle at the KMart in Kuhului - this was rather annoying, but we bought another bottle. None of it was confiscated by security). Our last afternoon in Maui was enjoyed at a beach. Hilo wasn't as scenic as Kauai or Maui. It was fairly easy to get around, but not as much so as Maui or Kauai. We rented our car from Alamo, which has only one shuttle running between the airport and pier - it wasn't a long wait, but less convenient than Maui and Kauai. First we drove to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park ($10 admission charge). We visited the Information Center and the Jagger Museum, then we drove the scenic Crater Rim, with several stops at different craters. It was amazing to see the steam vents and massive areas covered with magma. We also stopped at a "lava tube" where a trail led to what looked like a huge cave - you could walk all the way through it and follow the trail back to the starting point. But in order to see lava flowing, we would have to hike five hours or take a helicopter. That was a bit of a disappointment. On the way back to Hilo, we stopped at the Moana Loa Macadamia Nut Welcome Center. They actually had a sign up that read "Welcome Carnival Spirit"! We enjoyed a few samples and bought some items to take home. Next we drove to Akaka Falls State Park. They have a well marked trail leading to two waterfalls. It was beautiful and we took lots of pictures. Kona was disappointing. We'd have preferred an overnight stop in Hilo. There were no shore excursions of particular interest to us and, because we had to tender, we decided to go into port late and return early to avoid lines. Having enjoyed the other ports so much, we didn't want our last day in Hawaii to end on a low note, but we just couldn't find anything we wanted to do. (Note: we did speak to a couple others for whom Kona was their favorite port-of-call.) We took Hilo Hattie's shuttle and did a little shopping, I got a manicure, then we took a shuttle to the beach. Living in Florida, surrounded by nice sand beaches, this black sand (with lots of lava rock) was interesting, but not pleasant. We stayed only a few minutes and returned to the ship. When the ship was preparing to set sail for Vancouver, we ceremoniously tossed our leis overboard to bid Hawaii "Mahalo". We made many new friends on this cruise and had some of the best times ever at sea. My guess is that the average age of the guests on this sailing was at least 10 years older than typical Caribbean cruises. At about 50, we were probably slightly less than average! That was a neat change! Show and buffet times were adjusted accordingly (per Michael). The atmosphere of this cruise was so much nicer than our other Carnival sailings. I'm guessing that the difference could be attributed to several factors: length of sailing, cost of sailing, and timing during school year. There were only a few children on board. One other unusual aspect of this cruise is that the Captain actually had a personality - no kidding! He was even accessible, seen on deck and at functions periodically, and gave regular announcements (including reports that "the weather is lousy".) He seemed to speak English better than other Captains which probably made him more comfortable having contact with the guests. Our days at sea are our personal favorite and this cruise was no exception. We love the trivia contests, dance lessons and activities - the schedule of activities on this cruise was the busiest I've ever seen. It was not possible for us to participate in everything that interested us. We enjoyed more variety in the games and activities offered on this cruise than any of our previous cruises (due to Michael's hard work). We tempered our participation with enjoyment of our balcony. Every day included some quiet time reading and relaxing - we actually rested on this vacation (during sea days only). The weather was good for our first two days at sea, then it really cooled off. Days three & four were cloudy and very cool, with periods of rain. Day five was very cool and windy, but sunny. The pools were not the "hot spots" for sea days on this cruise. Fortunately, the Spirit offered lots of entertainment options. Tipping - Gratuities were automatically posted to our Sail & Sign account on the first day - a total of $240 for the two of us for 12 days. But we had received such wonderful service and were so well cared for that we needed to show our appreciation. We went to the Purser's Desk to ask to have the amounts increased and they instructed us to use envelopes "if we want the additional amounts to go to specific people". Everyone at our table did the same, but I didn't notice anyone else handing out envelopes. Sadly the cruise came to an end and we wished many a fond farewell. This was probably our best cruise ever - sailing for 12 days is just so much nicer than a week long cruise. Also cruising to a place you actually want to visit was wonderful. This is only the second time we've left a port-of-call with a desire to return (Grand Cayman was the first). We will likely plan a land stay to Maui within the next couple years, with a couple days in Kauai also. Our #1 priority will be to see the sunrise at Haleakala. Debarkation - Carnival has this sad reality of cruising very well organized (at least for our sailing). Forms were completed a couple days prior to debarkation, which identified our method of travel and destination. New luggage tags were distributed, coordinating the debarkation process. We left with ship with a bus full of people who were also on our flight. We arrived at the airport and retrieved our bags there (no pick up on the pier!) However this process did take longer than previous debarkations and we did not leave the ship until 10am. Perhaps it was because our flights were later since the majority of guests did leave earlier than us. But we comfortably sat on the Lido Deck enjoying coffee and visiting with our new friends until our tags were called. The process was lengthy, but painless. Summary Highlights - The drive down Haleakala, Volcanoes and steam vents, Lava Tube, Michael & Jeni (and their new activities) Summary Disappointments - Stateroom television, menus, (wrong) beaches Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
After a week-long stay with my mother during her surgical recovery, I flew home (Florida) from Maine April 28th, with precisely 30 hours before our departure for Hawaii. During that time, I had to work a full day and it was best if I ... Read More
After a week-long stay with my mother during her surgical recovery, I flew home (Florida) from Maine April 28th, with precisely 30 hours before our departure for Hawaii. During that time, I had to work a full day and it was best if I actually slept two nights. This left approximately 6 hours to unpack, do laundry, re-pack, pick up a few last minute items, and squeeze in a manicure and pedicure. The end result of my schedule challenges is that sleep was compromised. So we arrived at Orlando International Airport entirely too early in the morning of April 30th, desperately sleep deprived, but filled with excitement. This was only our second time flying with American Airlines. Since we booked coach flights, we would appreciate every millimeter of their touted "more leg room". We also found AA to be extremely efficient in boarding and schedule adherence. We managed a few catnaps during our 12-hour flight and enjoyed a couple movies as our anticipation grew. Nearing arrival in Honolulu we wished for a means to slow the clock for the next 12 days. Embarkation was relatively painless, excluding luggage drop off. We located the pier and drove the area looking for a sign or any indication of porters. Finally I jumped out of the vehicle and asked. I was directed to the porters, but then instructed that we couldn't drive to their location. Huh? So we got as close as we could and proceeded to unload (too much) luggage from the car. The porters were chatting among themselves and not about to be bothered by (of all things) cruise guests. We managed to get their attention and finally passed custody of our bags onto them. We parked in the Aloha Towers parking lot and within 15 minutes, were actually inside our stateroom. (Note: if you park in the Aloha Towers lot during embarkation, stop in one of the stores to get your parking ticket validated prior to leaving the lot. A $5 box of tea saved us $10 in parking). We booked an 8I guarantee and were upgraded (slightly) to a 9A. Our stateroom is more spacious that those we've had with Carnival, not quite as large as our Category C suite on RCI. We visited the stateroom of a dinner companion (to see her birthday decorations) and were surprised at how much smaller it was than ours. The difference is about 30 sq ft, but makes our accommodations much more comfortable. The gold / orange tones are not my taste; I prefer cooler colors like blue / green. But the stateroom is very nice. I was disappointed, and very surprised, that we don't have a hair dryer! Fortunately, I brought my travel one. (**UPDATE** Just before the cruise's end, I learned that the hair dryer is in a drawer under the vanity...oops!) We have a mini-bar, but turned down the key. The bathroom is smaller than the one we had on the Victory - this too was a bit of a surprise. Our sink space is limited, so I use the vanity in the bedroom. Our showerhead is fabulous - I'd love to have it at home. We have wonderful water pressure and great temperature control. The shampoo and soap dispensers are convenient. The only problem is that our shower curtain won't stay inside the confines of the shower. There is a lip on the floor to keep the water from running out, but it does run off the curtain onto the bathroom floor, which is always wet. Our location behind the elevator has not been a problem - no noise issues, and we do enjoy the convenience. One serious drawback is that our stateroom has ONE outlet - yikes! With using my hair dryer & curling iron, plus trying to keep camera batteries and cell phones charged, one outlet was a problem. In future cruises, we will most definitely bring a power strip. In-room entertainment stinks! Carnival offered two or three movies each day; not a single movie was of any interest to us. My husband prepared a poster as our "door decoration"; he included some pictures & stickers, plus left space for neighbors to write a note. We've had wonderful feedback in response to it - and I'm sure we'll do it for our next cruise as well. We bought double-sided, removable tape (to hang it on the door) at Wal*Mart and it is working great. We were extremely pleased with the size of our balcony, about 6 ft x 15 ft. The glass wall needed a good cleaning - it annoyed us the first couple days, then Buddy used a couple towels to clean it. Ahhhh...much better. Our neighbors to the forward end of the ship (unfortunately) were smokers. Everytime they stepped out onto their balcony, they lit up and we went inside. The first couple days they left their balcony light on, which kept us from being able to see the waves at night; we left a note on their door asking them to turn off the light when not using it, which they did. It was inconvenient to have smokers next to us, but they weren't on their balcony that much and we still had plenty of time to enjoy ours. Although this is our 12th cruise, it is a very unique experience for us. Never before have we booked a cruise simply because we wanted to visit the ports-of-call. In this case, we wanted to visit Hawaii and intended to do a land stay. Ultimately, because of sightseeing interests on several islands, we decided on the cruise. We were concerned, however, that splitting our time between the ship and the ports, would not allow us to thoroughly enjoy either. That has not been the case at all. We really enjoy our days in port and our evenings on board. As compared to a cruise where we casually get off the ship for a couple hours, we are making the most of every minute on this cruise. We may not get as much rest as we should, but that is the point of the five upcoming seas days. Dining assignments - this cruise had far more people wanting early seating than late. This comes as a surprise since we are in port the first seven days and shore experiences may be cut a bit short in order to make it back for early dinner. We were assigned a table for four, despite our request for a large table. I do wish Carnival would establish a means to record guest preferences so we will always be assigned a large table. Our first afternoon, the maitre'd did change us to a table for eight. Our dinner companions were a delightful assortment. Carole & Sy, retired X-ray technician and radiologist from California brought warmth and great sense of humor to the table. Two buddies from Chicago, Chester (heating & ventilation) and Billy (Southwest Airline ramp supervisor), were friendly, down-to-earth and pleasant companions. Lina (small business owner) and her teen-age daughter, Laura, also from California, rounded out our table of eight. Lina shared her experience as a captive of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 70s. The story of her escape and settling in the U.S. as a refugee stirred a profound respect. Laura is a sweet, quiet 15 year-old, who is probably not-so-quiet around her friends. We had a wonderful time at dinner with our new friends and enjoyed getting to know them all over the course of our 12 days. Dining room meals: We had wonderful service and except for a couple overcooked steaks, everything was well-prepared and always well-presented. Generally, we were disappointed with the menus offered on this cruise. On previous cruises, there were usually several entrees we'd enjoy, but we narrow our selection down to our first choice. On this cruise, we ended up with steak too many evenings because the other offerings were just too "weird" for our taste. While we are not gourmet diners (admittedly) we do like trying new things. But I'm not going to eat things I can't even bear to look at... Despite our disappointment with the menus, we did enjoy our meals, just not as much as those on earlier cruises. Casual Dining - We had breakfast and lunch on the Lido Deck most days; we enjoyed grazing over the options, the casual atmosphere and not worrying about timing. We also had dinner on the Lido Deck twice - once we were in port too late and missed our dinner and once we were too lazy or too tired to dress for dinner. Generally we found breakfast on the Lido Deck to be as good an option as the dining room. We could get as much fruit as we wanted and they make great omelets. I was disappointed that they ran out of grapefruit sections and mushrooms (for omelets) four or five days before the end of the cruise. Lunches were nicer in the dining room, but we settled for the Lido Deck. My favorite were the Ruebens and I ate too many of them. We sampled many different dishes but never found anything worth going back for seconds. I missed the shrimp salad that was so common on our other cruises (saw it only one time.) What we did enjoy every day was the soft freeze ice cream. Unlike all of our other cruises, we never, not even one time, made it for the midnight buffet (called "late night" and usually served at 11pm on this cruise, because of its older demographic). Michael Mullane is the Spirit's Cruise Director, assisted by his dynamic wife, Jeni. We had the pleasure of sailing with them two years ago on the Carnival Victory. Michael is a talented singer, extremely personable, and sincerely concerned about his guests' experience. Jeni is adorable, full of energy & personality. Together they are a very enjoyable team. We spoke with Michael several times (including his "up close & personal" scheduled each day at noon) and are just so impressed by the effort he puts into planning the entertainment. He told us about him and Jeni working to design the games and activities; the end result was a full schedule with more than enough options to keep everyone busy. On the last evening, Jeni amazed and thrilled us all as she danced to "All That Jazz"! Entertainment: 1 (poor) to 10 (incredible) rating (Main show lounge only). ** Comedian / Magician - Cameron South was a strong 7 - significantly better than average, but I wouldn't go out of my way to see him in another venue. ** Musical Group - Tribute to the Temptations were a 10! I've never seen performers like that on Carnival. They sang, danced, even dressed like the Temptations and did a great job of it. (Disclaimer - this is MY kind of music.) ** Hypnotist - did not go - not interested and this was the evening before our sunrise trip. ** Fiddler - Billy Armstrong - Buddy gave him a 5. He was a talented musician, but should not have attempted singing. Plus his choice of music was questionable. ** (1st Vegas-style) Singing with the Big Band - was a delightful 8. The dancers were wonderful and very high-energy. This was a review of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr hits - not exactly our favorite music, but a classic piece of Americana and very enjoyable. It was a bit unusual, featuring the vocal talents of just one performer. This show has been added to Carnival itineraries of more than 7 days; we are very pleased with the addition, having anticipated only two Vegas-style shows during this cruise. ** (2nd Vegas-style) Standing Room Only was an enthusiastic 9 1/2 (no particular reason that it isn't a 10 - just allowing room for the last show to be even better). Tonight's show was a wonderful, high-energy presentation of nearly two dozen show tunes. The singers / dancers / costumes were all excellent. ** Singer - Joni Butler - was a 7. She was a talented singer and put on a pretty good show, but nothing to write home about. She did a nice variety of music and tried to keep the audience connected, but quite a few people left during the show. ** Comedian - Nipsy Russell - We were finishing dinner the evening we left Kona when Nipsy Russell walked into the dining room. We remember him from many years ago and looked forward to his performance. But minutes before our show time with Nipsy Russell, there was an emergency "bright star" announcement, later followed by an explanation that Nipsy had collapsed on stage near the end of his earlier performance. (Updates the next couple days assured us that he was doing better, but remained in the infirmary). ** (3rd Vegas-style show) Spirit - was an 8. The dancers / singers did a great job and the costumes were wonderful. But the theme was disappointing (and not very clear). The show just didn't capture us like Standing Room Only did. ** Comedians - Rated 5 and 7. The first one was entertaining initially, but we grew weary of his ostrich / ventriloquism. The second was much funnier and caught the attention of this cruise's older crowd with his references to how things were better in days past. ** Carnival Legends Show is the new name for the guest talent show, almost exclusively Karaoke. There was one act with a group doing the jitterbug, wearing poodle skirts, etc that was very entertaining. Unless the performers actually are talented, we do not enjoy Karaoke. I am embarrassed to watch others voluntarily participate in public humiliation and have never had enough to drink that I'd consider it myself. I recognize that some see it differently (my daughter included - she thinks it is a great time), but I really don't care for it. So the Carnival Legends Show on our sailing IMHO was a total bust. There were many different performers in the smaller venues. We caught only glimpses of just a few, which seemed to be very good. There were always nice crowds enjoying each of the performers / groups. We wish we had had more time to check them out, since most lounges on the Spirit are now smoke-free giving us many more options. Team Waitstaff, Ivan & Adrianna were both wonderful. Both spoke English well enough that communication was not a problem. Ivan was attentive and conscientious, and had a wonderful sense of humor. He seemed to really enjoy performing in the dining staff presentations (and we enjoyed watching him). His smile was infectious. Adrianna was quiet and sweet, always remembering our preferences and taking such good care of us all. We will always remember them fondly. Stateroom attendant Alicia did a great job with our room. We requested an additional lounge chair for our balcony; she forgot it and we asked again a couple days later. She was very apologetic and delivered it promptly. Alicia was friendly, although English was a bit more of a challenge. When we'd leave a wine bottle by the ice bucket, she'd put it on ice. She broke a near-empty bottle one day and replaced it with a new one. We asked her about it, concerned that she'd have to pay for it, but she assured us otherwise. Cell Phones: What a surprise!! Our cell phone service has been with Cingular for five years (originally under the name "Bell South). We recently changed to a plan that does not roam in the USA so we don't have to worry about staying in touch while traveling domestically. We inquired specifically about reception in Hawaii and were assured there would be no problem. But we were still amazed and thrilled at how good our service was! We received calls even while in our stateroom. One time, I (from our stateroom) called my husband who was inside the ship (on a lower level) and the phone worked perfectly. My phone doesn't even work inside my office building! PORTS OF CALL Honolulu offers an excellent bus system; use it. But if you prefer renting a vehicle, don't mind bumper-to-bumper traffic and have a great map (signage stinks) do NOT use Alamo. We waited for 45 minutes at Alamo check-in. The staff was definitely in an "Aloha state of mind" and in no hurry to get us on the road. It is a good thing that nobody in Honolulu is in a hurry because the city is in gridlock. We have been here before but chose not to remember the traffic problems. We did, however, find a great place to park overnight, for only $4. It is the Topa Financial building, right across the street from the pier. Because we've been here twice before, we had decided to just do our souvenir shopping (and recover from jet lag) in Honolulu, Which brings me to our hugely successful experience. Very close to Pearl Harbor, in the Aloha Stadium is a "swap meet". I highly recommend going there to purchase any Hawaiian outfits and silk flower leis on your souvenir list, as well as a multitude of other items. We also got excellent buys on several kinds of nuts, including macadamias. It is enormous. Prices are exactly the same from one vendor to another. Parking / admission is 50 cents per person. Kauai is spectacularly beautiful. This place actually looks like its postcards, no touch-up required. The rugged mountains, lush tropical foliage and inviting beaches just can't be surpassed. We enjoyed a scenic drive to Waimea Canyon State Park. The lookout area offers an amazing view of the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific"; it does resemble the Grand Canyon, on a somewhat smaller scale, and with the benefit of tropical rains Waimea Canyon is very green and very beautiful. We visited Kauai Coffee Company on our drive to Wailua State Park. In its vicinity we saw Opaeka Falls and Wailua Falls, though we really couldn't get close enough for us. We rented our car at Alamo, but this time they were very efficient - within 15 minutes of walking down the gangway, we were on our way. We also enjoyed our Kauai experience because drivers were actually courteous and the roads were well-marked. Maui was nearly as beautiful as Kauai, though more developed. Again roads were in great shape and well marked, with no traffic problems. Again, also, overnight parking was no problem - we simply asked at the gate for the Spirit and they directed us to a pier lot, just 200 yards away - at no charge. On the first day we visited friends in Lahaina and had a wonderful time! We got back to the ship and went to bed early that night, requesting a wake-up call for 2:50am. Room service did not pick up our breakfast order (perhaps they pick them up later than our requested delivery time.) So we had pepperoni pizza and coffee before heading to Haleakala. I was very apprehensive about the drive, but needn't have worried. It took about 1 hr 15 min - lots of hairpin turns, but even in the dark, it was not a problem. However, the weather was! It began to drizzle on our way up the 10,000 ft elevation. By the time we reached the summit, it was a "driving drizzle" in the strong, bitter cold wind. The skies were completely overcast as we were right in the clouds. We anxiously anticipated the sunrise, still hopeful of a great view. That was not to happen. It became daylight, but we had only glimpses of the sun. A huge crowd of disappointed (and frozen) tourists began the journey down Haleakala. We took our time, enjoying the amazing views and stopping several times for pictures. We decided to head toward Maui's Tedechi Winery, although it would not open for two more hours. We had a pleasant stop for coffee and bagels (no more pizza) at "Grandma's Coffee Shop". We enjoyed the wine tasting, purchased a couple bottles as gifts and returned to the ship. (Note: we found the same wine for only $7.19 per bottle at the KMart in Kuhului - this was rather annoying, but we bought another bottle. None of it was confiscated by security). Our last afternoon in Maui was enjoyed at a beach. Hilo wasn't as scenic as Kauai or Maui. It was fairly easy to get around, but not as much so as Maui or Kauai. We rented our car from Alamo, which has only one shuttle running between the airport and pier - it wasn't a long wait, but less convenient than Maui and Kauai. First we drove to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park ($10 admission charge). We visited the Information Center and the Jagger Museum, then we drove the scenic Crater Rim, with several stops at different craters. It was amazing to see the steam vents and massive areas covered with magma. We also stopped at a "lava tube" where a trail led to what looked like a huge cave - you could walk all the way through it and follow the trail back to the starting point. But in order to see lava flowing, we would have to hike five hours or take a helicopter. That was a bit of a disappointment. On the way back to Hilo, we stopped at the Moana Loa Macadamia Nut Welcome Center. They actually had a sign up that read "Welcome Carnival Spirit"! We enjoyed a few samples and bought some items to take home. Next we drove to Akaka Falls State Park. They have a well marked trail leading to two waterfalls. It was beautiful and we took lots of pictures. Kona was disappointing. We'd have preferred an overnight stop in Hilo. There were no shore excursions of particular interest to us and, because we had to tender, we decided to go into port late and return early to avoid lines. Having enjoyed the other ports so much, we didn't want our last day in Hawaii to end on a low note, but we just couldn't find anything we wanted to do. (Note: we did speak to a couple others for whom Kona was their favorite port-of-call.) We took Hilo Hattie's shuttle and did a little shopping, I got a manicure, then we took a shuttle to the beach. Living in Florida, surrounded by nice sand beaches, this black sand (with lots of lava rock) was interesting, but not pleasant. We stayed only a few minutes and returned to the ship. When the ship was preparing to set sail for Vancouver, we ceremoniously tossed our leis overboard to bid Hawaii "Mahalo". We made many new friends on this cruise and had some of the best times ever at sea. My guess is that the average age of the guests on this sailing was at least 10 years older than typical Caribbean cruises. At about 50, we were probably slightly less than average! That was a neat change! Show and buffet times were adjusted accordingly (per Michael Mullane). The atmosphere of this cruise was so much nicer than our other Carnival sailings. I'm guessing that the difference could be attributed to several factors: length of sailing, cost of sailing, and timing during school year. There were only a few children on board. One other unusual aspect of this cruise is that the Captain actually had a personality - no kidding! He was even accessible, seen on deck and at functions periodically, and gave regular announcements (including reports that "the weather is lousy".) He seemed to speak English better than other Captains which probably made him more comfortable having contact with the guests. Our days at sea are our personal favorite and this cruise was no exception. We love the trivia contests, dance lessons and activities - the schedule of activities on this cruise was the busiest I've ever seen. It was not possible for us to participate in everything that interested us. We enjoyed more variety in the games and activities offered on this cruise than any of our previous cruises (due to Michael's hard work). We tempered our participation with enjoyment of our balcony. Every day included some quiet time reading and relaxing - we actually rested on this vacation (during sea days only). The weather was good for our first two days at sea, then it really cooled off. Days three & four were cloudy and very cool, with periods of rain. Day five was very cool and windy, but sunny. The pools were not the "hot spots" for sea days on this cruise. Fortunately, the Spirit offered lots of entertainment options. Tipping - Gratuities were automatically posted to our Sail & Sign account on the first day - a total of $240 for the two of us for 12 days. But we had received such wonderful service and were so well cared for that we needed to show our appreciation. We went to the Purser's Desk to ask to have the amounts increased and they instructed us to use envelopes "if we want the additional amounts to go to specific people". Everyone at our table did the same, but I didn't notice anyone else handing out envelopes. Sadly the cruise came to an end and we wished many a fond farewell. This was probably our best cruise ever - sailing for 12 days is just so much nicer than a week long cruise. Also cruising to a place you actually want to visit was wonderful. This is only the second time we've left a port-of-call with a desire to return (Grand Cayman was the first). We will likely plan a land stay to Maui within the next couple years, with a couple days in Kauai also. Our #1 priority will be to see the sunrise at Haleakala. Debarkation - Carnival has this sad reality of cruising very well organized (at least for our sailing). Forms were completed a couple days prior to debarkation, which identified our method of travel and destination. New luggage tags were distributed, coordinating the debarkation process. We left with ship with a bus full of people who were also on our flight. We arrived at the airport and retrieved our bags there (no pick up on the pier!) However this process did take longer than previous debarkations and we did not leave the ship until 10am. Perhaps it was because our flights were later since the majority of guests did leave earlier than us. But we comfortably sat on the Lido Deck enjoying coffee and visiting with our new friends until our tags were called. The process was lengthy, but painless. Summary Highlights - The drive down Haleakala, Volcanoes and steam vents, Lava Tube, Michael & Jeni (and their new activities) Summary Disappointments - Stateroom television, menus, (wrong) beaches Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2004
The first thing was the cruise line changed the itinerary because of a problem they did not explain and were not going to Fanning Island but were offering two additional ports of call. Lahina and Kona. Great for me to start. We showed ... Read More
The first thing was the cruise line changed the itinerary because of a problem they did not explain and were not going to Fanning Island but were offering two additional ports of call. Lahina and Kona. Great for me to start. We showed our tickets and were directed to the first Kisok. We noticed the Latitudes line was not occupied and after traveling on the SS Norway, we were members but were not sent there. The clerk spent about 20 minutes and finally called the supervisor over because he could not figure out the code for my wife who was born in Germany traveling with an american passport. It was not until the second day that by chance we met our room steward and that was because I called the information desk. We had our bed turned back once during the entire cruise and it was usually not made up until about 1130. The food was at best similar to Ryan's or Golden Corral and I never met but one friendly waiter which I wrote up a card for superior service. The wine was probably my fault for discontent as I did not recognize any of the reds and the waiter recommended one. I tasted it (Should have refused it which I have never done) and figured although not good that evening with the dish would certainly be better the next evening with another dish. My mistake I and the wife both tried it with the filet mignon and came to the conclusion the waiter's assistant should drink it and see if they would still recommend it. We found out later in the cruise that the Captain's party had already taken place but according to a golfer at Poipou Bay Golf course I and my wife didn't miss anything. We were also lead to believe that they were going to have a luau on the deck and found that to also be misleading as well. $178 later we went to a luau at the old lahina which turned out to be absolutely outstanding. The high point out of the entire cruise was the lobster which was great but the waiter seemed perturbed when I asked for an additional one but he did bring it. Personal choice dining is not for us and we will not be doing it again. We like the traditional first sitting with the waiters sing and dancing with the baked alaskan with HOT, HOT< HOT or them doing the Macorana. We felt because the wait staff was going to get tipped at the end that they were obligated to serve you to get you out of the way. In the Market Cafe where we ate breakfast and lunch we never found a friendly waiter. Our orginal voyage was on the SS Norway and it set the standard for the next 13 cruises which were met or exceeded by Princess, Royal Carribean, Carnival, and Holland America but in our opinion this was the absolute worst. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
Other than the Carnival Paradise, this (our 19th cruise, the third on Carnival), was the poorest one we've been on. EMBARKATION To start off, when we got to the airport in Honolulu, there wasn't a Carnival person in sight. ... Read More
Other than the Carnival Paradise, this (our 19th cruise, the third on Carnival), was the poorest one we've been on. EMBARKATION To start off, when we got to the airport in Honolulu, there wasn't a Carnival person in sight. Finally, one woman had an airport information staff call Carnival to see where their greet staff were located. A large group of us were waiting at one of baggage carousels, as instructed, but the Carnival greeters were all waiting at the far end, outside the building! When we told them that everyone was waiting inside at the carousel as instructed, they just said, "Oh, that's where you all are." But no one that we saw, went back in to see if anyone else was in the terminal, still waiting. Once at the pier, things went smoothly. OUR BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS WERE THAT: 1) The Captain told us, personally, that he chose to sail the northern route from Hilo to Kona. There was a very large eruption the day before we arrived in Hilo. If we had sailed the southern route, we would have seen the lava flow into the ocean, a big attraction and something we really looked forward to seeing. By choosing the northern route we saw nothing! Among some other questionable reasons, the Captain's final excuse to us was that most people "wouldn't be up at 11:00 p.m. to see it." But they schedule shows, they still have the "midnight buffets," the casino and the lounges are all open past 11:00! If people were informed, they would have made sure they were up to see it! 2) By docking in Kahului, we were too far from any activities. Kahului is the closet city to the airport and is a container port. If you didn't rent a car, you couldn't see anything in Maui within walking distance except the local WalMart! Carnival apparently didn't think anything was worthwhile in the area since they didn't run any tours in and around Kahului! We understand that some people, especially those with disabilities, have a hard time with tendering. Carnival is, however, going back to tendering in Lahaina for next year's schedule, so that must not have been the real reason. Since it was their choice to dock so far away, Carnival should have provided free transportation to the other side of the island, and not charged $28 ($56/for two people) just in transportation. That's $112 per couple for the two days, plus the costs of what you want to see. The luau would have most likely been below $100, not $124/pp. had the longer distance not been a factor. Poor planning on Carnival's part. Not everyone wants the hassle of renting a car and the accompanying parking issues. SHORE EXCURSIONS: Carnival is the only cruise line that not only does not allow you to book your shore excursions ahead of time on their website, it doesn't even post the prices of the shore excursions on the excursion description pages. In addition, exact, or very similar, shore excursions turned out to be consistently higher priced than on any other ship lines, including their own Holland America Line. We took two ships tours (Historic Hilo and Historic Kona) and booked Island Helicopter for Kauai on our own. The ships tours were enjoyable and the helicopter ride was awesome. Hawaii is made up of a beautiful group of islands. It's our second time back after 33 years, and we still love it. But we didn't need to go see everything over again. It's a shame that the excursions were so expensive and that reasonable Cruise Line transportation was lacking. It wasn't easy if you just wanted to relax and enjoy the islands on your own. We definitely made use of the Hilo Hattie and Maui Diver shuttles, when available. DINING: Many people we talked to seemed to have gotten opposite seating times to what they requested. We requested late seating and got early. Others wanted early and got late. There didn't seem to be any trouble switching, so why wasn't the request honored in the first place? We were placed at a table for six, but we were the only two at the table for two nights. The same situation occurred at three different tables around us. We, the passengers, had to request that we join up. The wait staff in the dining room was only average. I never did get my salad one night. And the waiter was poorly trained. Crumbs were never cleaned off the table and the wait staff stretched over passengers to serve them. The Baked Alaska didn't come with the usual "presentation" either. I also don't appreciate being called "dear" and "honey" by the waiter. The menu was also strange. Venison for two nights?? We had the steaks almost every night. My husband loves salmon, and he said that the one time it was offered, it was only fair at best. The chilled soups were thin and watery. I love seafood. The shrimp and lobster were sometimes tough. One night the baked potatoes came hard and black to two people at our table, and the fish was so tough, our tablemate could hardly cut it with a knife! Those meals should never have left the kitchen. The chef was also called out several times to address complaints at other tables around us. The Maitre D' tried to make it right, but why should only those who complain get a better meal? The La Playa omelette station was quite good and we thought the La Playa Grille had more variety than the dining room. But going from station to station caused confusion and people kept bumping into one another. There were times when La Playa staff were standing talking and we had to ask them to clear the dishes from the previous diners. Some people played cards at the Grille's tables, which made it hard to find a table sometimes, even to share, but staff didn't ask them to play elsewhere. CREW: The crew was consistently friendly. But, if you didn't disembark at a port, there were no activities planned shipboard. During the five days at sea, there was really very little in the way of activities. We did like the game that had us trying to recognize famous people from old photos, but how many trivia games can you play? We've seen enough bony knees and hairy chests, thank you very much, and we've heard more than we wanted to know about guest's private lives in the Newlywed/Not So Newlywed games. What about more pool games (one pool is covered) or more demonstrations. What about having some speakers on-board to give lectures on the history and development of the islands with slides and/or power point presentations? How about creating some new and more imaginative activities. Teach us how to make a Hawaiian Lei. Teach us some Hawaiian songs and how to hula. Have a contest to see who did the best hula. Many ideas out there. Most games they had were "old." How about some first run movies? We played bridge a lot. ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment left a lot to be desired, we thought. We did like Michael, the cruise director, Malcom, the assistant cruise director and Jennie was as enthusiastic as the last time we saw her on the Paradise. The female comedienne was pretty good, although you had to be a woman to appreciate many of her jokes. We liked the Tribute to the Temptations, even though this was not one of our favorite groups back then. The dance troupe was OK, but we've seen better. They weren't always together and some weren't the most graceful. The costumes were great and the scenery was wonderful. Although we didn't think that the last number should have been last, the last production show was the quite good and very enjoyable. We don't like comedians and magicians that pull people from the audience. If people want to volunteer, then fine. But don't force people up there that don't want to go on stage. We really liked the idea of having some of the smaller lounges designated as no-smoking!! The male and female duo in one non-smoking lounge were wonderful! Now if they can divide the Casino into two parts - one for non-smoking! - it would be the great! Neither the cabins, nor the Versailles Lounge had any current, full-length movies, especially on the days at sea. There were only two or three old movies on the cabin TV for the full duration of the cruise, and some documentaries in the Lounge. Guess they wanted you to buy the movies. DEBARKATION: Debarkation was probably one of the best experiences we had when compared to other lines. It went smoothly. One thing they know how to do. Things were held up a little due to a fire on the dock for which Carnival had no control, but exiting the ship was not a problem. The "Direct to Bus" system seemed to work well. GENERAL COMMENTS: Although the Spirit is a beautiful ship, there was nothing "Hawaiian" about the cruise. No coconut, pineapple or Macadamia nut pancakes, no Hawaiian decorations/atmosphere, no Hawaiian music, ...nothing. The following are little things, but indicative of the class of cruise: 1) Once on board, there was no one to take our bag and show us to our cabin. No one even standing there directing you. 2) When was the last time that a ship ran out of the chocolates for your pillow? Don't they know how many people are on the cruise and how many days are involved in the cruise? 3) Trays from room service sat out in the hall on the floor for most of the day on our corridor. 4) And the art for auction was some of the most expensive we have seen compared to on other ships. 5) It was frustrating that they didn't enforce their own rules. Someone was smoking a cigar in a lounge that was not listed as a smoking lounge, but the purser said it was just a suggestion in the "Caper" and there wasn't anything they could do about it. A woman was walking by the purser's desk smoking a cigarette while we were waiting in line, but no one said anything to her, either. If you wants to take a "classy" but not elitist ship, try the Celebrity line or the Holland America line. They greet you when you board the ship, help carry your carry-ons, lead you to your room and show you have everything works. Although we made our own "fun," we would be hard pressed to take Carnival again. While waiting to debark, we've never overheard heard so many people grumbling and saying they would not take Carnival again since it seems to be going downhill. Guess you get what you pay for. A good price, but an inferior cruise, far inferior to the Celebrity Summit we took last September to Alaska. We're glad to be home. Of course, after I go through all the papers left on my desk at work in my absence, I'm ready for another vacation! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
We had a wonderful cruise on RC's Legend of the Seas. Our cruise began on Friday, April 16. There were 3 couples between 50 and 60, all from South Florida. We flew into Honolulu on the Tuesday before the cruise, and stayed at the ... Read More
We had a wonderful cruise on RC's Legend of the Seas. Our cruise began on Friday, April 16. There were 3 couples between 50 and 60, all from South Florida. We flew into Honolulu on the Tuesday before the cruise, and stayed at the Radisson Prince Hotel on Kuhio, courtesy of Cruisesonly.com, our travel agent. The hotel was ok, but I would not recommend it at this time. Renovations are going on, along with construction all around the hotel. Hard to get in and out. We asked for a room as high up as possible with a mountain view and were given rooms on the 26th floor. The view of the mountains was beautiful. The hotel was clean, check in was easy and the location was great. We did not eat any meals there, so can't comment on the food. We had arranged for a lei greeting at the airport, we used Honolulu Lei Greetings and they were right at the gate. $20. per person. After checking in at the hotel, we called Alamo and they sent a courtesy van to take us to Ala Mona Blvd (the Ilikai Hotel) where we had reserved our car. We chose not to rent the car at the airport for several reasons. One, we had a free transfer included from the travel agent. Secondly, we did not want to have to go to the airport to return it on Friday, and lastly, we were afraid that the 6 of us and all our luggage would not fit in one van. Alamo also agreed to take us back to the ship on Friday. After we got the car, we parked it at the hotel and walked down to Kuhio Beach (at Waikiki) and had a light dinner at Tiki's and then bed. It was only 8:30 pm, but for us it was 2:30 am and we had almost been up 24 hours! Tiki's was great for a first night, music, light food, and a beautiful view of the ocean. We slept in the next morning until 11am (our time). However, it was only 5am in Hawaii! Had a great breakfast at a place open all night called Egg and Things on Kalakaua Ave (parking is bad, had to drive around several times before we spotted a spot on the street). And right around the corner from the cafe, we found a laundry, on Ena Road, that we used on Friday (they do drop off real cheap!). Our first stop was Pearl Harbor. We did not get there till around 7:30. We had a little trouble finding the highway, due to the one way streets! Study the maps if you are driving. There is a lot of construction to make things even more confusing. There was a line at the memorial already but it moved very quickly as they were only giving out tickets. The tickets were all gone by 11am on the day we were there. They only allow you to bring a camera and bottled water with you. There are containers to lock your belongings in for a small fee. We also saw security in the parking lots, so we were very comfortable leaving our stuff in the van. We received tickets to the 10:40 trip and had time to wander around, visit the gift shop, and walk over and buy our tickets for the Missouri and Bowfin (used value coupon book). When your time is called you enter a theater for a movie about the bombing. There is no need to rush into the theater. All seats are fine, as are the seats on the ferry. I did not feel it mattered where you were, either in the theater, on the ferry, or at the Memorial. It was an incredible experience, and I would not advise trying to stress yourself to get a certain seat or spot on the ferry. There is time for everyone to see it all. We took our leis with us from the airport; the ranger cut the strings for us and allowed us to throw them into the water from the memorial. Very moving. The entire experience lasted 70 minutes. We then headed over to the Bowfin. You walk through this on your own. We also enjoyed walking through the museum, and grabbed a hot dog and coke at the patio by the submarine. Next we took the shuttle to the Missouri. We took the "Chiefs Tour", which was a guided tour. I felt it was a little too much background knowledge and I would have been just as happy walking through the ship on my own. It was very warm...very little shade, and we had to stand around a lot while our guide talked. It depends on how interested you are in the history of WW II and all the battles etc. Take hats and water. We were done with all three around 12:30. Next we drove to Hanauma Bay to snorkel. We were told that the parking lot is sometimes closed by 11am, so we decided to go in the afternoon. It was a good choice. There was plenty of parking ($1), and the bay was incredible and not very crowded at all. You must pay $5 per person, then see a short movie on how to preserve the coral, and then a short hike down into the bay (a shuttle is available for those who choose not to walk for $1). Snorkel gear was very reasonable and of good quality. No lockers, but changing areas are available with proper toilets. We spent over 3 hours there, leaving around 5pm. It was great, areas for young ones or beginners, and areas farther out for the adventuresome. We then traveled the loop around that end of the island, stopping at the Lanai Lookout, Sand Beach, the blow hole and coming back via the Pali Highway, stopping at the Pali Overlook. That was well worth the trip up there, great views, very windy. Not far to walk, all paved so no problems with wheelchairs. The next day we were again up early, walked down to the beach and had breakfast at Cheeseburger in Paradise. It was the only place open at 7am on the beach. We had a great breakfast, along with the best Bloody Marys and Mai Tai's we'd had yet. We then toured downtown with "Roberts of Hawaii". Tour was ok, free to us via our travel agent, but I would not buy this tour. It was 4 hours, and we did not get off the bus, just drove by all the downtown landmarks. We got off only at Hilo Hattie's, at our request, to use their restrooms. The tour dropped us off back at our hotel around noon. We then got our van and headed out H-3 and began our trip "around the island". We stopped several places and had lunch at a place called Punalau. We enjoyed all the beautiful beaches, the "pipeline" and finally we made it to Matsumoto's for an Icy. We headed back at Haieiwa. Unfortunately, by the time we drove past the Dole Plantation, it was closed, so no pineapple dole cone for us. We had stopped so many times, eating and drinking, that we skipped dinner and went straight to bed. Now Friday, the day we boarded the ship. We got up nice and early (very easy for us as we were still trying to get off east coast time) and drove to Diamond Head. We were there by 7:30, almost alone. We climbed the side of the crater; the only moderately difficult part was the many stairs. It was nice and cool on our way up, but on the way down it was already getting warm and crowded. I suggest this trip early, no flashlights were needed as they have installed lights, and although closed shoes are most definitely a help, my girlfriend and I did the hike in flip flops! I would take water and a cell phone...there is no one around to help you if you have any problems. We were done by 9:30 and went back to the Egg and Things for breakfast, but it had a 45 minute wait. We dropped off our laundry and wandered down Ena towards the ocean and found a small deli that was open for breakfast. It had a great breakfast and fast! The owner was a former pilot for Pan Am and sent us to the Marina next to the Hilton Hawaiian Village where there was FREE parking. We left the van there and walked through the hotel as well as several others along the beach. We then went back to the hotel, packed and drove to the port. We parked in an area for Aloha Towers and our husbands got the ticket stamped (free parking) by having a drink at Don Ho's bar. (So the parking actually cost us a $30 bar tab!) We walked right onto the ship, it was around 2:30 pm...it was handled very well with no waiting at all. Pictures and then on to the cabin. We checked out our cabins, our table for dinner, had a drink of the day, and then headed to Punchbowl. Left a lei there, as a member of our group had an uncle buried there. Beautiful place. Then back to Waikiki, where we had spent very little time. We planned to valet park at HHVillage and then walk up and down the beach. Valet was full, but we were able to park in HHV's parking garage without any difficulty. Stopped at Duke's for a lei and a drink. Fun place, very crowded. Then picked up our laundry, dropped off our car at Alamo and they drove us back to the ship. We made it in plenty of time for dinner at 8:30. The next morning, we walked from the ship to Aloha Towers (typical tourist type stores), around downtown, and to Chinatown. The guys bought us Lei's at Cindy's...prices from $3-$20. We stopped for water, soda, some extra alcohol, some flowers for the cabin, and then back to the ship in plenty of time for the 5:30 lifeboat drill. All in all a very nice time in Oahu. A few comments...the traffic was awful, roads being closed for construction, parades etc. Many one way streets. But I think the bus would have been much too time consuming for us. We would still advise a car rental if you have a couple of days to spend here. There are ABC stores on every block. Use them for water purchases, liquor, and even some souvenirs. They seem to be the cheapest on the Island. The Ship: The Legend of the Seas is a beautiful ship, not too large, easy to get around. The staff were all friendly to us and accommodated our every wish. We ate most of our breakfasts in our cabins. We had all dinners in the dining room, so can't comment on the buffet in the Windjammer for dinner. The menus were good, presentation excellent, food quality good to great, just IMO. We did have a few breakfasts and an occasional lunch there, and found the menu varied and quite adequate. I am just not fond of buffets, so my opinion may be a bit off. The indoor spa and pool area does serve hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and wings, and pizza every afternoon with GREAT French fries. None of us used the spa area except for some of the free classes the last 4 days that we found to be pretty lame. However, if you go behind the spa and the gym, you will find a great area with lounge chairs and bar service that is much less crowded than around the pool. Since it is in the stern of the ship, very little wind, which was nice since the 4 days back were cool and windy. We spent most of our late mornings and early afternoons there on the way back. The shows were pretty good, I was surprised. We had a couple of comics that were excellent and a husband and wife that had separate shows and were both great singers. The Quest is always great, not to be missed. We did miss a couple of shows, due to total exhaustion at the end of our day. The first 3 nights were casual Hawaiian. ( I noticed sundresses, capri's for women, long pants with Hawaiian shirts or collared shirts for men). The first formal night was on the forth night...many tux's, I was surprised. 5th and 6th nights were casual Hawaiian. 7th night was Smart Casual or Country Western 8th Casual, 9th Formal, 10th Smart Casual, 11th Casual. Hard to tell the difference between Casual and Smart Casual....some men wore jackets, but most did not. Some women dressed up a little more. We used the electric cord we brought, the coffee mugs, never used the flashlight or the clothes line. Glad to have the travel clock, used it as both a night light and a way to tell the time without having to turn on lights to check our watches. Did not need the shoe holder, plenty of space for all our belongings. The islands Our first stop was Maui. They announced that tender tickets would be given out starting at 7am, so a couple of us were there to get them. There was no line for the tickets at that time and we were on the first tender off the ship...around 7:30. We called Alamo and the shuttle was there to take us to the airport to pick up our reserved van. By 8:30 we were on our way to the "Road to Hana". We stopped in Pia, got drinks and sandwich lunches from a little "Box Lunch" place that also gave us a cooler for a $5 deposit. The road was incredible, we stopped many times to admire the scenery and the water falls. We had a picnic lunch at Kauanahina St Park, stopped at Puaakau to see the black beach and blowhole, to name just a few places. We had decided that we would probably only make part of the trip, but traffic was rather light and we had no trouble making it all the way to Hana. We had ice-cream cones and coffee at the Ranch Restaurant, and then headed back. We stopped a couple times on the way back, returned the cooler for our $5, and our last stop was at Baldwin Beach, where we had earlier decided to shower and change into our Luau duds so we would not waste any time going back to the ship. We had brought bathing suits, thinking we might be swimming, but it was windy and the waters were pretty cold to us south Florida folks, so we were not tempted to swim. Baldwin had outside showers that we did not use and proper toilets and a dressing area. I feel anyone can make this drive on their own, just go slow and be careful. We made the "Old Lahaina Luau" with ½ hour to spare! We had a great time there, the show was wonderful, the drinks continuous, the food fair to good. A great experience. We then drove back to the harbor, parked behind the Burger King for only $3.00. And then, believe it not, we were on the 3am tender the next morning. We headed to Mt Halakala for the sunrise. We took coffee in the mugs we brought with us and blankets from the ship. We were in sweat suits and still froze! We entered the park at 4:50am and made it to the top with 20 minutes to spare. We were amazed at the beauty of the sunrise. We were above the clouds (make sure you go to the top viewing area) and the sight was incredible. Unfortunately, 10 minutes or so after the sunrise, the clouds moved in. We drove back down the mountain, stopped at Kula Lodge for breakfast. Very good, service was good but VERY slow (Hawaiian time). The gardens behind the restaurant were worth the stop. Spent some time walking thru them, taking many pictures. It was about 11am when we finished breakfast and headed to the Iao Valley/Needle. According to the map it was practically on our way back, so we decided at the last minute to take the quick detour. It was well worth it. What a beautiful area, deep in the valley. Many easy trails to follow. We spent more time there than we thought we would. A quick stop at the Harley Dealer in Kahului (it's on the road we were traveling back to the port), then back to the ship. The road from Lahaina to Kahului was just beautiful, a treat in itself. We had a quick lunch, then onto the one of the 2 excursions that we booked through the ship. We took a 2 hour whale watching trip with the Pacific Whale Foundation. We were lucky enough to see at least 10-12 whales, including a mother, baby, and a whale that entertained us for several minutes flapping on his back. We were at the end of whale season, so we were very lucky. The ship left Maui at 6 pm, and we were all on one of our balconies, enjoying room service cheese and fruit, along with our own cocktails. We split up in time to shower and dress for supper. You can either bring alcohol aboard in your checked luggage, or buy it from the ship, pay an additional $9, and bring it to your room legally. We bought several bottles from the ship and they only made us pay the $9 once. Not a bad deal at all. Needless to say, this was one of the nights we skipped the show and went straight to bed! Next stop was Kauai. We booked an all day tour with "Movie Tours" on our own. They were at the dock to pick us up at 8:30 and we were returned to the dock around 4:30 - 5:00. The tour was great. It took us all around the Island in a small bus. We saw many of the highlights, the areas where movies were made, and we were then able to view the movie on TV screens in the bus. It was fun to see it on film, and then walk there in person! They fed us lunch at a lovely beach...and then dropped us off at Will Squire's Helicopters for our included helicopter flight. I must say that their staff was not nearly as friendly as our guide and driver from the Movie Tour. We were all a little nervous about the flight and they did not go out of there way to be pleasant or to make us feel comfortable. But once they drove us to the airport and we got on the helicopter, we were much more comfortable. Our pilot was very professional, and the flight was incredible. Probably the highlight of our trip and something not to be missed! Wait till we make our friends look through our hundreds and hundreds of pictures! Our flight lasted about 1 hour, and they took us back to the ship. Again, we all met on a balcony at 6pm and enjoyed cocktails and finger foods that we got from room service as we left the port. We woke up early in Kona, as we had our second and last excursion that we had booked through the ship. The Zodiac Trip at 8:15am to Kealakekua Bay. The price was the same either way, so we went with the ship so we would be off on the first tenders. The Zodiac ride was a treat in itself, very fast, very rough. Would not recommend for anyone with back or neck problems. The scenery was great, with a running commentary from our driver about what we were seeing. We spent a little over 1 hour snorkeling in the bay. Their equipment was very good. We had a couple of non-swimmers with us, and they did fine using life jackets and/or bogie boards to float on. The fish were plentiful. Well worth the price. We were back on the ship by around 12:30, had lunch and then wandered around the small town of Kona. We were told by our Zodiac guide to go to Wal-Mart if we wanted coffee or nuts, as they are very fresh there and much cheaper that the small stores in town. We felt bad for the small stores, as Wal-Mart had a free shuttle to their store that was busier that the wharf area. We did check out the prices in town and then got the shuttle. The items were identical, and cheaper at Wal-Mart. We loaded up with coffee, nuts and more water and took the shuttle back to the ship. Last day was Hilo. We rented a car from Alamo, shuttle was waiting for us at the port. The town of Hilo is a bit of a walk from the port. IMO a car is a must here. Have nothing but good things to say about Alamo. We drove to Volcano N'l Park. Did the Crater Rim Drive, Jaggar Museum, Rift Zone, Halemaumau Crater, Devastation Trail, Thurston Lava Tube and all the overlooks. If you have the time, you must do it all. Water and closed shoes are needed here, although one of us was still in flip flops and managed fine! The walk to the lava flow was 6 miles the day we were there, over very rough terrain, so we had to skip that. We did get to see the lave flow the night before, around midnight, from the ship as we went around the island from Kona to Hilo. When we left the park, we turned left instead of right and drove a short mile to the Volcano Winery. We sampled all their wines and spent an enjoyable hour there. We then stopped at the Volcano Golf Course on the way out, for lunch and to pick up a few golf shirts as souvenirs. From there the day went down hill according to our husbands. Shopping was a must as this was our last stop and we had spent very little time looking in stores. Hilo Hattie's came to our rescue. The store is on the way back to the ship, and near a large shopping area. We barely made it back to Alamo and the ship in time with all our bags. The last four days back were wonderful. I am so glad we chose to end the trip with the sea days. I am afraid if they were first, we would be so anxious to get to Hawaii that we would not have appreciated them as much. For us, the last four days were restful. We talked about the things we did, enjoyed the activities on the ship, looked at our video and digital pictures on the cabin TV (bring your cords, as the TV's have the outlet needed to view pictures and videos!), and with all that extra time on our hands, we booked our next cruise. The Mediterranean, June of 2005! The ship also took one hour away each night as we returned, helping us adapt to the time change. We were concerned about the border crossing, but it went very smooth. Everyone had to be off the ship by 8am in Ensenada. The departure started at 5:45 am! If your transfers were through the ship, you were given a color code and time (depending on your flight and/or travel plans). When it was your color/time, you simply left the ship and boarded the same "color" bus. NO lines or customs in Ensenada. Very easy... If you were traveling independent, you could leave any time after the ship cleared (around 5:30 am), but if you were still in the port by 8am, we were told you would be escorted out of the port area by Mexican security. We left the port in Ensenada at 6:30 am and were in the San Diego airport at 9:40am. At the American crossing, we left the bus, all the luggage was taken off the bus, we each claimed our luggage and walked into the building, put it through the scanners and then went out the back door where the bus was waiting. The luggage was put back into the bus and we were on our way. We were asked if we were American, when we said "yes", they never even asked to see ID or our custom card that we had filled out. Took our bus 20 minutes..I timed it. My understanding is that some buses had only to get out with their carry ons. I guess it was the luck of the draw. Our flight was at 3:30 because of the horror stories we had heard about the border crossing. We were told to allow 6 hours. As it was, our wait was longer at the airport than it took to get there!! Thanks to everyone on the boards...Spleen, Suebee, Sweetemi....for all your help and information. Our trip went like clockwork, due to all the information I gained on these boards. I guess I will start haunting the Europe boards now. After all, I only have 13 months to plan! Thanks again everyone! Anita Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2004
Well this was our 2nd cruise and 2nd with NCL. First 3 days spent on Oahu with off/on rain with sun breaks but still mid 70's to low 80's. Embarkation onto the NCL Star was a breeze as we are now Latitudes members, so got to ... Read More
Well this was our 2nd cruise and 2nd with NCL. First 3 days spent on Oahu with off/on rain with sun breaks but still mid 70's to low 80's. Embarkation onto the NCL Star was a breeze as we are now Latitudes members, so got to surpass long wait line. Then came the first in a series of "issues". Were informed of an itinerary change, no longer going to Fanning Island, which we (wife, 14 yr old son, and 16 yr old daughter) were looking forward to. Purser offered vague reasons for change (weather, currents, engine problems) but no offer of compensation of any sort. Then we checked out our cabin, which we were told by on-line travel agent would be the same configuration as last year on the Sky, an inside with 2 singles, a pull down, and a settee. But we found the 2 singles, pull down, and a roll under from one of the single beds that popped up between both singles. This configuration then completely filled all spaces and was very confining for four. But we made due. The first and most concerning thing for us as far as the crew/staff went was a very striking mood. It almost seemed as if the entire crew with few exceptions, was unhappy. Few smiles or greetings with exception of our very extraordinary cabin steward and stewardess who, quite frankly, may be what compels us to go NCL again or not. Many others we met felt much the same as us. Last year on the Sky, every single crew member, bar none, was smiling, happy, and greeted us at all times. We were never uneasy with going into main restaurants even in shorts after 5 pm. Not so on the Star, were my wife was verbally insulted by several guests and we were told by the crew we were not welcome unless "properly attired." (My wife hates to dress up or wear pants and is most at ease in shorts in warm weather). Again we bucked up and gave in even though we saw others in shorts. Food was very good in main restaurants (we did not pay the extra to dine in Le Bistro or others), and although service was much slower than on the Sky, we were still happy with quality of foods. Bar service was adequate though still with much fewer smiles. With itinerary change the ShoreEx desk was deluged with long lines to find things to do. We were unable to get what we wanted but Nicole went out of her way to help and still cannot thank her enough. 4 out of seven days were sunny for the most part with 2 days of much clouds and rain, but still warm. Kids enjoyed the pool and cinema. Shows were good as was the comedy act. Ship rode well in heavier swells than we encountered in the Caribbean. Ship was in generally good shape with few surprises. A medical emergency on last day was handled quickly and professionally. We disembarked with no hassles, on time, and all went well. In summary, we would have better feelings about this cruise had NCL staff been able to change rooms (full boat and unable so we were understanding) or had they offered something to offset the itinerary change (previous cruise also skipped Fanning Island so NCL knew in advance they would not be going), also we had to purchase passports due to Fanning Island at the tune of $400 which we didn't need. So many issues occurred that may sway us away from a cruise next year and back to a condo on the beach but will have to wait and see. Good luck if you plan on cruising the NCL Star in Hawaii. But we would sail again on the Sky in a heartbeat if it had a different itinerary such as a Western Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
NCL Star March 21 - 28 , 2004 After reading for months the reviews and observation others had on the NCL Star, I thought it only fair to voice my opinions. This was our eighth cruise, our first on NCL, so we have had some experiences in ... Read More
NCL Star March 21 - 28 , 2004 After reading for months the reviews and observation others had on the NCL Star, I thought it only fair to voice my opinions. This was our eighth cruise, our first on NCL, so we have had some experiences in cruising, most of which have been good. We arrived in Honolulu on Friday, to allow time to get over some of the jet lag, and of course to enjoy the city. Wonderful stay at the Royal Hawaiian, but how could it be a bad one. We had visited Honolulu several years earlier, and honestly not much has changed other than the traffic has become more congested. We arrived at the Aloha Tower, for embarkation at around noon on the 21st of March. We had a short wait outside as the process started around 12:30, on that day. The checked bags were processed outside in a very efficient manner, and the carryon bags were screened inside. We had obtained a bottle of wine, in Honolulu which was noted by security and was detained by NCL, until our departure from the ship. This was not totally a surprise as this is clearly their policy and after all we are subject to their rules. We were booked into a AF mini-suite, so we were allowed the use of the suite check in. It was smooth , quick and efficient. Within in minutes we were being escorted to our cabin by one of the Star's fine crew. The process of cleaning the ship was well underway, but the crew dealt wonderfully with early arrivals. The importance of packing the carryon with a change of casual clothes was rewarding, as our checked bags took several hours to arrive at the cabin. Plenty of time to explore the ship and find our way around before the ship began filling with other passengers. Of course the first Mia Tai at Topsiders was a must. This also gave us the chance to meet Rosemariee, a great bartender and a must get to know on this ship. At 5pm the normal emergency drill was conducted, where we had the chance to meet Scott. He was our tender commander and had just joined the cruise as one of the wonderful singer/ dancers. By the way, don't even think of missing the review to Andrew Lloyd Weber and the Friday night combined show. The shows were well done and the experience one to remember. This was our first experience with Free Style dining, as previous cruises had been on the RCL and Holland America lines. We all in all felt it a good experience and enjoyed the variety. We especially enjoyed La Bistro and Ginza. Be sure to asks for Harry Krishna (yes really his name) and Malvin in La Bistro. Making of reservation could be a little easier. The food was special, the added costs to go from good food to great food was not painful. I guess the difference is a dining experience rather than and eating experience. We attended the Cruise Critic meeting, which is always held on Monday at 6pm at the bar on the 13th floor, above the pool, forward. We met Douglas, the Hotel Director, Rob the Food and Wine director and Kiern, the Cruise Director. They were all very enjoyable gentlemen with the common goal of making our cruise a wonderful experience. Make sure you attend this meeting, it helps to know the leaders. Douglas and Rob have got to proud of their accomplishments on running a very efficient and happy organization. It was crystal clear as the week progressed that they have established a well working team. Kiern is by far the BEST cruises director we have ever experienced. His dry wit and sense of humor along with the programs he has arranged certainly add to the joy of this cruise. Our first stop was Hilo, on Monday morning. Raining as usual when we docked. We took the Hawaii Volcanoes Deluxe Nature Adventure with our guide Anila ( sp?) who did a great job. What an enjoyable excursion, natural beauty and lots to learn about volcanoes. The ship encountered a mechanical problem half way to Fanning, so we turned around and spent 2 days in Maui. This didn't seem to upset anyone in particular. We attended the Luau on Maui , which was good, but if you have been to one before, skip it. We also did the West Maui Helicopter excursion, which is well worth the money. Truly enjoyed the sighting of whales and their young. On the final day of our adventure, we visited the beautiful Kauai. This is truly our favorite of the islands. More natural beauty and less population. The Kauai Backroads Adventure is better than we expected and is great for those that have visited Kauai before. The final morning on most cruises is horrid. The Star and their crew smoothly handled this without any apparent hitch. The NCL policy of being able to remain in your cabin until your color is called or you desire to leave makes for a most civilized procedure. Clearly we had a wonderful adventure and have great memories of our 30th anniversary cruise. I believe the NCL Star has received some unfair criticism in the past. The ship was clean, the service efficient, the staff friendly, the food was good to great, the performances and activities were memorable. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
We sailed on the March 14, 2004 sailing of the Norwegian Star. There were 2 families--our has 1 child (11 years old), the other family has 3 children-- ages 7, 11, and 13. This is our 3rd year in a row doing a cruise for spring break. We ... Read More
We sailed on the March 14, 2004 sailing of the Norwegian Star. There were 2 families--our has 1 child (11 years old), the other family has 3 children-- ages 7, 11, and 13. This is our 3rd year in a row doing a cruise for spring break. We did Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas last year, and 1 week Disney Magic Cruise the year before. Our overall experience on the Norwegian Star was good, but there were some shortcomings on this cruise. First the cabin: We were in a "mini-suite" with a balcony. Although they call it a mini-suite, it is far from that. The outside cabin with balcony on Disney was slightly larger, so I would call this cabin a "deluxe" outside cabin w. balcony, rather than a "mini-suite". Although there are only 3 of us, this cabin was very tight. There are 2 twin beds pushed together and a sofa that opens up to a double bed at night. There is very walking around space in the cabin when the bed is open. Last year on Navigator, we had a Grand Suite (approx $1500.00 more than this cabin), but much, much more room. Also, the cabins on this ship creak so loudly when they is amy rolling of the ship, mainly because of the fact that there is so much teak wood in the mini-suite and suites. The bathroom is a nice concept with sliding doors between each area (bathtub, wash area, and toilet), but with the doors closed made for tight spaces. Our friends had a penthouse suite which was incredible. It had 2 full bathrooms, 2 sleeping areas, 4 televisions (including a plasma over the whirlpool tub), and slept 5 with no problem. It includes concierge service (with Julie, the best concierge we have ever had the pleasure to meet), and many other special amenities. If you have the chance to stay in one of these, they are well worth the difference in price. The food: The breakfast buffet was nowhere as nice as Royal Caribbean. They did not have the variety of foods like RCCL. There was an omelet person only every other day or so (and he was very slow). They give out the food (I guess for virus reasons), so if you wanted more or less of something, it was a pain in the neck to give it back or ask for more. They never had waffles as advertised, and not all the buffet areas were always open, so sometimes you had to walk around to 2 or 3 places to find what you wanted. For dinners, the food was excellent. We ate in most of the extra charge restaurants, and enjoyed every meal. It is well worth the difference for these places. You're on vacation, so splurge and spend a little extra. The best meal was in SOHO. Also, LeBistro had excellent filet mignon, with great desserts. The Japanese Tepanyaki was also very good, and worth the price. Activities: Although the cruise director Clint Wells is very personable and seems like a great guy, there was not a lot to do on the ship. I know we and our children were spoiled by Navigator and it's size (with Mini-Golf, Rock climbing, in-line skating, etc). But they just didn't do any exciting activities. The only daytime pool party was a day we were getting into Maui at 1pm. What a waste. Part of this lack of activities was possibly because this cruise attracts a much older crowd, who would prefer to do arts & crafts, rather than have a party. There was bingo, but NCL really needs to examine the cost of this. The first day was $39 to play with the bingo "computers", but after that it went to $59 per computer (person). For the 3 of us, it was $177 just for 1 day! I figures that during the cruise that bingo took in roughly $60,000 and paid out approx $14,000. Not bad, NCL!! Don't get me wrong, I am all for making money, but at least pay out half the take, not just 22%. Our children all got bored. Now, they did not do organized activities (except for the 13 year old, who had a great time). But unfortunately for the 11 years olds, they did not want to hang out with 6 year old kids and dress up like pirates and parade around the ship. I think it NCL wants to get families, they need to do more fun activities for the families as a group. Ports of call: The only real disappointment was Fanning Island. What a waste that was. The weather didn't help as it was overcast and drizzling. But there are no lounge chair to lay on, only small beach chairs that are very uncomfortable to sit on. There are dogs running around that some people were nervous around. We had no problem with them, they are just dirty. But this will all change in a few months when the US flagged ship no longer has to call on Fanning Island. I know this has helped these people, but they survived before NCL just fine. The shows: Everyone was raving about the shows on NCL. The Jean Ryan dancers were so-so, but the shows were boring. The only show that was really good was Charles Bach, the magician, but his time ends this week. He was very good and enjoyable. Overall, we had a good time. Cruising is a lot of fun, and I would highly recommend it to almost anyone. I am not saying we didn't have a great time. But we got very spoiled with Royal Caribbean and her Voyager class ships. There seems to be more to do and would recommend those to ships to families. NCL does have a great idea with freestyle cruising. That was the best part of the cruise. I never wore more than a shirt and pants (although some people wore tuxes). I wear a tie every day to work and did not miss it at all. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
I have just returned from a wonderful seven day cruise aboard the Norwegian Star. Our itinerary was changed: instead of cruising to Fanning Island, we added Kona (Hawaii) and Lahaina (Maui), still having one day at sea. What can I say? ... Read More
I have just returned from a wonderful seven day cruise aboard the Norwegian Star. Our itinerary was changed: instead of cruising to Fanning Island, we added Kona (Hawaii) and Lahaina (Maui), still having one day at sea. What can I say? Free-style cruising was great. We were able to eat when we wanted to, what we wanted to and where we wanted to. There was no pressure to dine at the added charge restaurants. The food was excellent and well-presented at all the restaurants. Our cabin (inside) had plenty of closet space and adequate room for my travelling companion and myself. Though slightly less than 150 square feet, the cabin was fine. (If we had wanted to have more cabin space, we could have paid more and reserved a larger cabin -- get my drift??) The entertainment onboard was fantastic. The "Broadway shows" were very well done with great performers. The Native Dance Group was unsurpassed (even by the dancers at the Luau at which we paid almost $100!). The Hawaii Lecturer (Wayne Chang) was thorough and well-read. The ships was comfortable and well-appointed. Upon embarkation, we boarded about noon, stored our luggage, had a buffet lunch (included) and then left the ship to do a walking tour through downtown Honolulu. We had plenty of time to see all the sights (close by) and then return to the ship. I highly recommend this ship/tour to anyone who has never toured the Hawaiian Islands in order to get an overview of the major islands. Once we unpacked, we were done: ready to relax and be pampered. Speaking of which, the fitness center and spa were fantastic -- besides a very complete work-out area and (mostly) free classes, the sauna and steam rooms (separate for men and women) were available (at no additional charge) to guests. Following the cruise, we spent a week on Maui which had been pre-arranged. It turned out to be the perfect combination: a night in Waikiki prior to the cruise, a week cruising the Hawaiian Islands and nearly a week on Maui. I only hope that when you take this cruise, you will be able to echo my compliments for the crew of the Norwegian Star. Maholo for reading my review and Aloha! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
NCL Star March 21 - 28 , 2004 After reading for months the reviews and observation other had on the NCL Star, I thought it only fair to voice my opinions. This was our eighth cruise, our first on NCL, so we have had some experiences in ... Read More
NCL Star March 21 - 28 , 2004 After reading for months the reviews and observation other had on the NCL Star, I thought it only fair to voice my opinions. This was our eighth cruise, our first on NCL, so we have had some experiences in cruising, most of which have been good. We arrived in Honolulu on Friday, to allow time to get over some of the jet lag, and of course to enjoy the city. Wonderful stay at the Royal Hawaiian , but how could it be a bad one. We had visited Honolulu several years earlier, and honestly not much has changed other than the traffic has become more congested. We arrived at the Aloha Tower, for embarkation at around noon on the 21st of March. We had a short wait outside as the process started around 12:30, on that day. The checked bags were processed outside in a very efficient manner, and the carryon bags were screened inside. We had obtained a bottle of wine, in Honolulu which was noted by security and was detained by NCL, until our departure from the ship. This was not totally a surprise as this is clearly their policy and after all we are subject to their rules. We were booked into a AF mini-suite, so we were allowed the use of the suite check in. It was smooth , quick and efficient. Within in minutes we were being escorted to our cabin by one of the Star's fine crew. The process of cleaning the ship was well underway, but the crew dealt wonderfully with early arrivals. The importance of packing the carryon with a change of casual clothes was rewarding, as our checked bags took several hours to arrive at the cabin. Plenty of time to explore the ship and find our way around before the ship began filling with other passengers. Of course the first Mai Tai at Topsiders was a must. This also gave us the chance to meet Rosemariee, a great bartender and a must get to know on this ship. At 5pm the normal emergency drill was conducted, where we had the chance to meet Scott. He was our tender commander and had just joined the cruise as one of the wonderful singer/ dancers. By the way, don't even think of missing the review to Andrew Lloyd Weber and the Friday night combined show. The shows were well done and the experience one to remember. This was our first experience with Free Style dining, as previous cruises had been on the RCL and Holland America lines. We all in all felt it a good experience and enjoyed the variety. We especially enjoyed La Bistro and Ginza. Be sure to asks for Harry Krishna (yes really his name) and Malvin in La Bistro. Making of reservation could be a little easier. The food was special, the added costs to go from good food to great food was not painful. I guess the difference is a dining experience rather than and eating experience. We attended the Cruise Critic meeting, which is always held on Monday at 6pm at the bar on the 13th floor, above the pool, forward. We met Douglas, the Hotel Director, Rob the Food and Wine director and Kiern, the Cruise Director. They were all very enjoyable gentlemen with the common goal of making our cruise a wonderful experience. Make sure you attend this meeting, it helps to know the leaders. Douglas and Rob have got to be proud of their accomplishments on running a very efficient and happy organization. It was crystal clear as the week progressed that they have established a well working team. Kiern is by far the BEST cruises director we have ever experienced. His dry wit and sense of humor along with the programs he has arranged certainly add to the joy of this cruise. Our first stop was Hilo, on Monday morning. Raining as usual when we docked. We took the Hawaii Volcanoes Deluxe Nature Adventure with our guide Anila who did a great job. What an enjoyable excursion, natural beauty and lots to learn about volcanoes. The ship encountered a mechanical problem half way to Fanning, so we turned around and spent 2 days in Maui. This didn't seem to upset anyone in particular. We attended the Luau on Maui , which was good, but if you have been to one before, skip it. We also did the West Maui Helicopter excursion, which is well worth the money. Truly enjoyed the sighting of whales and their young. On the final day of our adventure, we visited the beautiful Kauai. This is truly our favorite of the islands. More natural beauty and less population. The Kauai Backroads Adventure is better than we expected and is great for those that have visited Kauai before. The final morning on most cruises is horrid. The Star and their crew smoothly handled this without any apparent hitch. The NCL policy of being able to remain in your cabin until your color is called or you desire to leave makes for a most civilized procedure. Clearly we had a wonderful adventure and have great memories of our 30th anniversary cruise. I believe the NCL Star has received some unfair criticism in the past. The ship was clean, the service efficient, the staff friendly, the food was good to great, the performances and activities were memorable. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2004
From the time I began booking this cruise, I experienced nothing but argumentative, unhelpful service from the NCL staff. Once the cruise was booked, they messed up the reservation and then told me that if I wanted it altered to what I had ... Read More
From the time I began booking this cruise, I experienced nothing but argumentative, unhelpful service from the NCL staff. Once the cruise was booked, they messed up the reservation and then told me that if I wanted it altered to what I had originally requested, there would be additional charges. I ended up canceling the NCL flight portion and booking the flight myself. When I returned from my cruise, there still was no credit, $1,900, showing on my account for the flight portion. When I called NCL to inquire, I was basically dismissed and told they would 'get back to me.' Reminds me of the check's in the mail excuse. As far as the actual cruise, it was substandard. The sheets and comforters on our beds were stained and dirty. I found a bathroom towel in our suite that was dirty and had makeup on it. The ship was amazingly noisy so you never got a good nights rest. All night long, things were banging, creaking and making noise. The food was poor to average. If you wanted to eat in the nice restaurants, you had to make reservations, which most of the time you could not get due to them being booked . . . then there was an additional $12.50 per person charge to eat there each night if you could get reservations. In the restaurants you could eat in without the $12.50 charge, lobster and other high end selections were an additional cost. The Tappas 'Restaurant' is not a restaurant at all. It's a bar that serves the same three appetizers every, single night. The entertainment was worse than some high school plays I've seen and it never changed . . . the same three entertainers where featured the entire week - BORING. The extra activities were a joke. The staff at Blue Lagoon, the Market Cafe the Tappas Bar, the other bars and the food areas by the pool treated you like you were more of a bother than someone who had just spent thousands to be on the vacation. The only good thing I can say is that the shore excursions were nice. However, that has nothing to do with NCL as each excursion operator is an independent contractor. Overall, this cruise was a waste of money and time and a huge disappointment. I will spread the word to everyone I know to stay away from NCL. I can't express how much of a disappointment this cruise was. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
My husband and I thorougly enjoyed the cruise! Our mini suite with a balcony was large enough and nicely appointed. The ship seemed huge, and lots of people seemed lost lots of time. Carry the little map of the ship with you. We enjoyed ... Read More
My husband and I thorougly enjoyed the cruise! Our mini suite with a balcony was large enough and nicely appointed. The ship seemed huge, and lots of people seemed lost lots of time. Carry the little map of the ship with you. We enjoyed the freestyle dining and thought the food was good overall. We paid the surcharge and dined one evening in Le Bistro where the food and service were excellent. The chocolate fondue was to die for. However, my husband wasn't thrilled with the upcharges in the selected restaurants so we usually dined at Aqua which was fine. We dined one evening at La Trattoria where my pesto linguini was good but my husband's spaghetti was just so so. We didn't like the lack of atmosphere there because it's a section of the Market buffet area that they have attempted to separate with screens. We enjoyed Endless Summer one evening and liked the location above the Atrium. We enjoyed the free room service in the mornings so we didn't have to dress to go to breakfast to get coffee. The room service selection was limited, but we sometimes went to second breakfast like the Hobbits. My husband liked the ice cream every day from 2:00 to 4:00. I enjoyed the wine tasting for $10, $5 of which you got back if you bought a bottle of wine. It's neat that you can buy a bottle of wine any time, and they'll keep it in their cellar to use on future nights in any restaurant. We were fortunate to have good weather so we made it to every island. We were a few hours late getting to Maui because of a medical emergency during the night. (We understand that bad weather and emergencies can change a trip drastically.) We followed much of the advice of other cruisers on this website and rented a car (before we left for the trip via the internet, much cheaper than Norwegians' offer of a Budget car once you are onboard) in every port. We stuck with Dollar because it was cheaper. They had a convenient shuttle waiting for us in every port and shuttled us back to the ship at the end of the day. They provided maps and info at every location. We upgraded to a convertible when we could, and that was worth it in the beautiful weather. We took other cruisers' advice and did the helicopter tour on Kauai with Safari Helicopters (booked before we left via internet, much cheaper than the ship's helicopter excursion and cheaper than booking Safari when we docked). In each port, we hit the ground running and saw all we could, usually doing 2 or 3 things while people on the ship's excurions had time for 1. The lines to book excursions on the ship were often long, and we were glad we had done our homework beforehand. We made the best of the Fanning Isl. jaunt but agree that the cruise will be nicer in June 2004 when the Star will cruise only in the Hawaiian Islands. As I understand it, there will be a 7 day cruise on which you'll spend more than one day on each island. On the present cruise, we definitely ended each day wishing we could have spent more time ashore. Yet, this cruise was a great way to get a taste of Hawaii. We had 4 days in Honolulu (mostly in the rain) before we left for the cruise, and that was very nice. We had time to tour most of Oahu, hike Diamond Head, visit the Bishop Museum (very good!), and enjoy the beautiful island. We agree that Walmart is a great place to buy tacky souvenirs and any kind of Hawaiian wear you want. Also, we liked Longs Drugstore for jams and macadamia nuts. We never made it to Hilo Hatties, but the ship sure recommended it and people seemed to like shopping there. Onboard shopping was good, especially the day they pulled out a table full of sterling silver jewelry. I saw the exact same slipper (flipflop) and plumeria (flower) jewelry in shops in towns for twice the ship's price. Plus, there's no tax on the ship. My husband thought the cigars in the Galleria area were reasonably priced and fresh. I enjoyed the hula lessons and crafts with Cathy Foy, a former Miss Hawaii. She was a lovely person. The lectures about Hawaiian history and culture by Eddie Chang were very interesting. The Polynesian Patangi dancers were excellent and seemed very authentic, performing dances from vaious parts of Polynesia. (Whoever said they didn't learn anything about Hawaii and its history weren't paying attention!) The entertainment aboard ship was excellent. All the shows in the Stardust Theater (Andrew Lloyd Webber, It's Fame, Cirque Asia, the magician, and Roger Carr's cabaret show) were very good. Get there early for a seat. The Filipino group playing in the Atrium around happy hour every day were good. They play everything from the Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, and Neil Diamond to Patsy Cline and Hank Williams, Jr. Roger Carr in Gatsby's is entertaining and developed quite a fan following. My husband enjoyed the Havana cigar bar off Gatsby's, but you can't hear the music from there. The comedian in the lounge was funny, and there was quite a crowd there. I took one step class in the fitness center and thought the instructor from the Czech Republic was excellent. Wish I had taken advantage of more of the free classes there. Some classes, such spinning, have an upcharge. My husband had a long wait to use the free weights on one of our days at sea. We didn't take advantage of any of the spa's services. They were quite expensive. The deck and the jogging track are nice, but the wind can blow you away at times. Warning: people stake out deck chairs around the pool early in the day and it's hard to find a spot. We definitely would recommend this trip and this company. The staff were knowledgeable, professional, and helpful. Patti, the cruise director, does a super job and is very approachable. She really means it when she says she's there to answer any questions and to help in any way. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
The cruise itself was good. The ship was beautiful and we like the "Freestyle Cruising" concept. The service on the ship was "uneven". Our cabin stewards were very good. We arrived for embarkation around noon and ... Read More
The cruise itself was good. The ship was beautiful and we like the "Freestyle Cruising" concept. The service on the ship was "uneven". Our cabin stewards were very good. We arrived for embarkation around noon and sailed through the process. I understand that any earlier than that, and they're not ready to receive you and later than that, it tends to get crowded. Debarkation is at your leisure, within reason, so that's why you can't get on too early while they're resetting the ship from the last cruise. Spa service was poor (specifically, we had booked special combo offers, but were charged the a la carte full price which we never completely got straightened out but got tired of fighting with them...they were always late for appointments though they insist you be there 15 minutes early...spa staff attitudes were "aloof" to put it kindly). On the positive side, they provided their services well and were trained properly, though they used you as a captive audience to try to sell over-priced products during your "relaxing" sessions. They must receive a commission on what they sell. My wife had booked a total of 7 hours of services on 3 separate days, so these comments are not based on an isolated incident. Table service in the restaurants was good. The food was very good and we especially liked the variety. Either the main dining room or the "alternate" main dining room, Aqua, are outstanding in both food and service. If you choose to share a table with others, seating can be almost immediate. Entertainment was mediocre. I'm glad they're offering a future itinerary which does not include the 3-day excursion to Fanning Island. The ship was full, but we never suffered because it never felt crowded nor did service suffer. There were plenty of activities on board and we could not take advantage of them all, so we were never bored. A highlight was the Hawaiian Lectures provided by a Mr. Chang. He was knowledgeable, personable and I learned a lot which added to a Hawaiian themed cruise. I think we might have been not as pleased had the cruise been our entire vacation, but we had 3-days before the cruise on Oahu and 4 days on Kauai after. I would recommend that to anyone. My wife would not take this cruise again, but I would. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
Ok here it is... a positive review from two early 30-somethings without kids. Enjoy! Pre-cruise - We arrived in Honolulu on 1/1 it was raining and that coupled with the holiday left us with not a lot to do but shop. We spent some time at ... Read More
Ok here it is... a positive review from two early 30-somethings without kids. Enjoy! Pre-cruise - We arrived in Honolulu on 1/1 it was raining and that coupled with the holiday left us with not a lot to do but shop. We spent some time at the Ala Mohana center where we ate an excellent meal at The Pineapple Room, which is the more casual (and affordable) Alan Wong restaurant. Don't let its location inside a Macy's department store fool you - this was one heck of a meal!! That night we stayed at the Sheraton Mohana Surfrider, which we didn't really like. Maybe it was all the rain but it was very musty and or room was small and in desperate need of some updating. Before dawn the next morning we were on our way to Pearl Harbor during what appeared to be monsoon like weather. It was well worth the trip even though we returned soaking wet and cold. We then checked in to our final pre-cruise hotel - The Halekulani. We did not have a smooth start at this five star resort as it took three hours for our room to be ready and all we could do was sit in the lobby cold and wet. We ate that night at 3660 on the Rise - another fantastic meal. On our last pre-cruise day the sun was finally shining and we had a wonderful day driving all around the island - spending some time at Queen Emma's summer Palace, The Polynesian Cultural Center, and eating amazing shaved ice! Embarkation - We arrived at the pier at about 11 am. There was already a small line forming even though they weren't letting people in until 11:30. We told the gentleman who helped us with our luggage that we were in a suite and he kept us off to the side so we were among the first to go check in. The whole process was very quick and smooth and I was particularly impressed with all the security. We were escorted to our room and found that it was still in the process of being made up so we set out to explore the ship. Being among the first on the ship was awesome as it felt like the whole place was ours to explore! We quickly made our spa appointments (taking advantage of the embarkation special of saving $60 on a package of three massages), dinner reservations for the first two nights, and took a guided tour of the ship and the spa. Our Room - We were in Romance Suite 10726. It was a nice room of a decent size but we found the drawer space to be a little tight. It was, however, in the back of the ship and you really felt the motion of the ocean - especially at night. We had relatively calm seas for our voyage I can't even imagine how bad it was in previous weeks when the seas were really rough. Along with our suite came many amenities such as a DVD player and large TV, fresh flowers, goodies in our room almost daily (deviled eggs, cookies, chocolate covered strawberries, champagne, chocolate, fruit), the ability to make our dining reservations for the full week rather than two days at a time, VIP tender times, and a special cocktail party with the captain. We enjoyed the services our butler Rey who could bring us food from the main dining rooms in addition to the regular room service menu but didn't see much of our concierge Al (although it was his name on all the goodies). The Restaurants and Freestyle Dining - All in all I would say that freestyle was not for us. We are the type of people you like a schedule so we found we preferred the traditional cruise experience to Freestyle. Freestyle dress made for very underdressed people in the dining rooms even at dinner when a "resort casual" dress code was supposed to be enforced. Also overall we were disappointed in the food in comparison to the food on RCCL. We did get a chance to try many of the restaurants, however. On the first night we ate in Le Bistro, which we both enjoyed (chocolate fondue - Yum!!). We had the whole restaurant to ourselves as everyone was at the sail away BBQ. This was a good night to eat there, as it was often all booked the other nights. The second night we ate at La Trattoria, which was our favorite of the specialty restaurants. The food was great and there was no cover charge. We liked it so much that we went back three to eat on the final night of the cruise. We ate in Versailles on Tuesday for formal night and Aqua on Wednesday for lobster night. Both were good and if you ordered something you didn't like they would gladly bring you something else (one night I had three soups before I could one that I liked!). Thursday we ate at Ginza where I was a little disappointed when I was told that I couldn't order a dish that I wanted because it is really a dish for two people and my husband did not want to share it with me. My husband, however, was very excited to have Peking Duck at the mere price of the cover charge! For breakfast we found the Market Cafe to be the easiest option. We ate in Versailles on morning during the cruise and again on disembarkation day. We tried to order breakfast in our room on the Hilo morning but since they do not serve hot breakfasts in the room before 6:30 or 7:00 am, and we were supposed to be off the ship at 7:00 am for our excursion (we ended up with an extra 2 hours - see below), we could only get a cold continental breakfast - which disappointed us a bit. The Ports of Call - Due to a medical emergency we lost two hours of our already short time in Hilo. We had booked the Deluxe Volcano National Park tour, which was cut from 5 1/2 hours to 3 hours at a reduced rate (although not reduced enough in our opinion). The tour was great! We were in small group of 10 people so it was very personalized. There was no red lava to see while we were there. We didn't miss anything due to the shortened time frame; we just spent less time at each stop and ate our lunch on the bus. On Fanning Island we opted for the Napali Beach Break, which I can't recommend enough. We were the first off the ship (which makes a big difference), the beach was huge and beautiful (far better than the tiny beach on Fanning itself) and we had the use of floating beach mats (for free) as well as catamarans, kayaks, and bikes (for a small fee). After spending some relaxing time there we took the tender over to Fanning, got our passport stamped and ate at the BBQ. I think Fanning is an underrated stop. We really enjoyed it. In Maui we rented a car from Hertz and drove to the Maui tropical Plantation. It was beautiful and the tour was very informative. From there we drove to Lahiana and walked around the shops before heading to the Old Lahiana Luau. We did have to leave early in order to make it back to this ship on time but it was worth it to watch the sunset from a beautiful location while enjoying great food and entertainment. On Kauai we booked our own tour, which was the Hawaii Movie Tour. I highly recommend this informative and very fun tour of the island. We got to see many beautiful locations where many movies and TV shows were filmed and the highlight was our stop at the old Coco Palms resort. It was haunting to be on the grounds of this now closed resort with its rich and groundbreaking history as we retraced the steps of The King - Elvis - in Blue Hawaii. The Ship and Activities Onboard - The ship was very nice. The dEcor was not my style but it was not unattractive. The karaoke bar was a highlight for us as we made many friends (both fellow passengers and with the host staff - Summer is the best Hostess onboard!) singing there every night. The pool was small but the slides were a treat and you didn't have too difficult of a time securing a lounge chair even on at sea days. We spent a lot of time at the spa both getting incredible treatments as well as taking advantage of the free use of the facilities. Bingo is a favorite cruise activity of ours and we really liked the power bingo boxes (although being in the very front of the ship in the Spinnaker lounge - or as I liked to call it "Spin-your-head lounge" was sometimes not so much fun). The arts and crafts classes with Cathy, our Hawaiian Ambassador and former Miss Hawaii were great and we came in second place in Movie Theme Song Trivia. I also performed in the Star Seekers talent show, which was a highlight for me. Milt Able the comedian was fantastic. His second show was standing room only! The production shows started out great and then went downhill. Music of the Night is the only one worth attending in our opinion. And I have to give props to Patti, our enthusiastic Cruise Director, and her assistant Kawicka for keeping us entertained all week. The most disappointing part of the ship was the Galleria (shops). They seemed more like K-Mart that the upscale shops we are used to seeing on other cruise lines. Disembarkation - As a suite holder we were able to be the first to leave the ship but since we were not leaving till the red eye at 10:00 that night we opted to take an all day Deluxe Grand Circle Island tour of Oahu that did not leave until 10:30 am so we were the last off the ship. The tour, although exhausting, was a great way to spend the day while our luggage was being securely held under the bus. While we toured many of the places we had seen pre-cruise, it was nice to have a guide to tell us stories and the significance of many things we had passed along the way. Mahalo, Hilary Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
I'm submitting this review in hopes that what happened to my husband and I, will not happen to someone else. We have been on 3 cruises before this one and never have either one of us felt so lousy. The trip to Fanning Island was very ... Read More
I'm submitting this review in hopes that what happened to my husband and I, will not happen to someone else. We have been on 3 cruises before this one and never have either one of us felt so lousy. The trip to Fanning Island was very rough!! We had motion sickness pills and wristbands. They just kept you from going over the edge, but my husband was sick for 3 days straight which makes for a not-so-fun vacation. Our advice...if you have a tendency for motion sickness, take the pills a couple of days before you get on board. We were told this by a crew member 4 days after we were on the ship! We were very excited to go on this cruise. It was our first time to Hawaii and we looked forward to getting a little taste of each of the islands. We stayed overnite in Honolulu and then took the tour of Pearl Harbor the next day, which was an amazing thing to see. We boarded the ship around 2 p.m. and it was as easy as what everyone else has said. We were on board within 10 minutes. We were shown to our cabin (10186) which was a great cabin with a balcony. I would highly recommend a balcony especially if you are going to be doing the Fanning Island trip...it was a great to get some fresh air when the ship was rocking!! We chose to do our own excursion in Hilo, which was half the price of the ship's. There were several different vans waiting there to take you wherever you wanted to go for half the price (from Wal-Mart to the volcanic crater to waterfalls.) We just negotiated when we got off of the ship. As soon as we left Hilo headed for Fanning Island we knew it was going to be interesting. We had very rough seas for 3 days (a day and a half there and a day and a half back.) We knew it was a lot of days at sea, but never expected it to be so rough. Once we got to Fanning Island, it was wonderful!! We would highly recommend a walking tour with one of the locals. We went to the school and dropped off paper,pencils,crayons,markers,books,and some other misc. It is very true that they do not harass you like in Mexico or other places. The people are very quiet and shy. They always said "thank you" with a great big smile on their face! We had brought puzzles, yo-yo's, hair scrunchies and a few other misc. things that were an absolute joy to give to the kids. If you like a quiet beach, there is a great spot through the market on the dirt road and to the left. There were about 20 people on it, and it is beautiful. We tried to snorkel there, but it was way too windy and there is a very strong current. Rough seas plagued us on the way to Maui too. Once in Maui we did the downhill biking, which was a blast. We did book this through the ship only because we were with a group of 16 and wanted to all go together. It is very cold, and you go very fast!! We completed 22 miles in an hour and 5 minutes. The ship was late in to port and so we were rushed down the mountain before the sun set. We didn't get to take any photos on the way down, which was a let down since the views were breathtaking. We arrived in Kauai to an overcast day. We were a little worried because we had booked a helicopter tour for 8:30 that morning. We got off and talked to the driver for Island Helicopters. They were not going up until later and we rescheduled for 9:45. They dropped us off at the Anchor Cove shopping mall and then picked us up at 9:45. We were their first flight up that day and WOW was it awesome!! I'm not big on flying, but this truly was a once in a lifetime experience!! We would highly recommend Island Helicopters if you want to do a helicopter tour. We booked online and saved a lot of money by doing it that way. If you want to see all of the island...do a helicopter tour!! The Hawaiian waters are very calm and so our trip back to Honolulu was very nice(as was from Maui to Kauai.) Overall the ship was very nice and the food at the Soho and Le Bistro were our favorites. The cruise director and her crew were very energetic and probably the best we have seen so far. The only thing we would not do again would be three days at sea. It was a great experience to see Fanning Island, but you're only there for 6 hours which was not enough time for us after 1 1/2 days at sea. We went in to this cruise with the attitude that it would be a great experience, and with that it was!! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2003
We sailed the Star on December 7th, 2003. This was our second cruise. Formerly we sailed on Royal Caribbean which was a wonderful experience. Though very different in nature, overall, I would say this cruise was at least equally nice. We ... Read More
We sailed the Star on December 7th, 2003. This was our second cruise. Formerly we sailed on Royal Caribbean which was a wonderful experience. Though very different in nature, overall, I would say this cruise was at least equally nice. We loved the Freestyle dining and although initially I didn't like the idea of having to pay at some of the restaurants (weren't we paying enough already?) we soon discovered that it really wasn't an issue because the non-pay restaurants were just as good and never once did we have any trouble getting seated. I liked the idea that they would seat you by yourselves if you wanted but also gave you the option to sit with another couple if you wished. We always chose that option finding it fun to meet other people. The ship is gorgeous and other than the rocky experience we had coming back from Fanning Island and a little difficulty finding our way around the ship at first, we had no complaints. The entertainment was superb and our cruise director, Patti we found very personable and helpful (talented too!). For the record, I know some people find it obnoxious that the ship photographers are always in your face, but you have to remember recording those events is their job whether or not you buy their photographs. As professional photographers ourselves, we just decided to be friendly with them and spent alot of our time chatting with them and talking "shop." We even attended their little mini-class on "Photography 101" for those interested in getting better shots and think they did an excellent job with their presentation. And for what it's worth, do believe them when they tell you the airport officials are dead wrong when they tell you the xray machines won't hurt your film. They certainly can (especially after multiple xrays) and this crew had actually done an experiment to prove it! One very important thing to me I would like to express; that is the issue of going to Fanning Island. It seems to me that this is a very black and white issue - people either love going there or they hate it (mostly because it takes so much time out of their cruising schedule leaving too little time to spend on the other Hawaiian islands) While I can totally understand this opinion, personally, we found it an absolute delight - for the following reasons. Fanning Island, is like a Gilligan's Island out in the middle of nowhere, where if it weren't for the cruise you would never even hear of, let alone have the opportunity to see. Here out in the middle of nowhere are people who have almost nothing in terms of material comforts, yet are happy with what they've got. Yes, they sell their crafts (mostly bead jewelry for a pittance), but never once did they act pushy or "commercialized" The children absolutely beamed when you took their picture and my husband, feeling like a GI with a pocketful of Hershey bars, brought even more smiles to their face when he handed them a quarter after taking their picture. We got some great "National Geographic" like images of those women and little kids. If you take the cruise that is going there, I would definitely recommend choosing the option that takes you to the private side of the island, because the NCL beach there is absolutely stunning (one of the prettiest beaches we saw on our whole trip) and not nearly as crowded as on the other side. You can still take the tender back to the other side at any time you want for the NCL food fest and make sure you get good pictures of the natives dancing in their black hula skirts. My opinion regarding the complaint about going is this - You know well before you book this cruise that going to Fanning Island is going to take three days of you time so if you don't like it, don't book it. I am so glad we did because I think it's not only a little different diversion from the hurry and scurry of all the commercialized islands, but it's just a really good experience to be able to see first hand how the other half lives. I understand now there's a brand new American owned ship that won't be going there. But if do like the idea of going to Fanning (and I CERTAINLY HOPE NCL DOESN"T TOTALLY DISBAND THIS CRUISE ITINERARY) then do what we did - just add another couple days to your vacation and see whatever else you want to see on your own. We stayed two days on Oahu - seeing Waikiki, Diamond Head (beautiful and worth every "ouch" of walking up their steps), the North Shore and the Polynesian Cultural Center (another delightful place). The we flew over to Maui for another couple days where we did the Road to Hana (pretty much an all-day trip - very worth while) which you would not have the opportunity to do on the cruise routine. We did snorkeling at Molokini (next time I think I'd do it at one of the beaches), saw Tropical Plantation and the Iao Valley (a photographer's paradise) and best of all - the Old Lahaini Luau - much much better rated than any of the other luaus on any of the islands, especially the one the cruise offers you. As to the cruise excursions - we did mostly their tours - now that we know our way around more, I'd probably go for the cheaper way of renting the car - I understand it does work pretty smoothly but we saw the national Volcanoes Park in Hilo ( a wonderful tour - but it was hard to choose because so many of the tours there were good - wished we could have done more) Back on Maui we went to Haleakala NP which was nice but would have preferred doing it on our own since our bus driver gave us limited opportunities for some of the greatest photo ops - including a beautiful rainbow that we could only view out the window (bummer!) Kauai was the best. After taking a rather short trip to Hanalei (pretty but the same problem with the bus driver) we still had time after we got back from there so at the last minute were very fortunately able to book on our own a helicopter tour. I think this has to be one of the biggest highlights of our whole trip. Wow! What an amazing way to see this gorgeous island. We went with Safari and at the end they gave us a video of OUR trip. A little hesitant at first I calmed down immediately when my eyes feasted on the waterfalls coming at you from everywhere in those lush green mountains, the rugged shore and sea caves of the Napali coastline and the colorful walls of the Waimea Canyon - dipping down and up close was a view you will never forget. If money is an issue, forget it. It was worth every penny we paid (and going on your own, also made it cheaper) At the end of the cruise since we didn't fly till evening we had more time to spend in Honolulu. We chose this time to take the ship's excursion to Pearl Harbor. In spite of the cost, we thought this was a very good way of doing it - especially since we had luggage to deal with because the bus, who stayed with us the whole time, kept all of our belongings, including our purses which for security reasons you can't take into the PH area, locked up and safe. We didn't have to put them in the safe at the PH area. After seeing the Arizona, he took us to the USS Missouri and then down to Waikiki for lunch. Those who had early flights he took to the airport in the afternoon, and those of us with evening flights, he came back for at a later time. I thought that was very nice as it optimized everybody's time and didn't leave anyone having to wait at the airport too long. Our trip to Hawaii was an absolutely wonderful experience and the NCL cruise I think did an outstanding job in giving you an overall experience with these stunning islands. Of course, in one week it is impossible to see it all, but if life is good to us we surely will be back and I wouldn't hesitate for one moment to cruise NCL again. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2003
Fantastic Freestyle Hawaii on the Norwegian Star -- by Joe Leader If you've ever dreamed of feeling like you owned your own cruise ship, then the Norwegian Star Hawaii experience is for you. The ship brings cruising back to its ... Read More
Fantastic Freestyle Hawaii on the Norwegian Star -- by Joe Leader If you've ever dreamed of feeling like you owned your own cruise ship, then the Norwegian Star Hawaii experience is for you. The ship brings cruising back to its glory days with 10 restaurants, consistent service, above-and-beyond entertainment, and amazing ports of call. In Honolulu, the Norwegian Star features a late departure time of 8:00 p.m. to accommodate passengers arriving from the mainland US. That provides customers nearly eight hours to board the vessel and venture back on shore to Honolulu before departure. That leisurely, freestyle pace of boarding sets the pace for the remainder of the journey. In my estimating, freestyle cruising should be the only way to cruise. Rather than being herded into a table of 12, you can grab a table of any size on any night in any restaurant. The formal night is held as optional. The activities are non-stop on board the ship but they do not cajole you into activities that you do not want. Decadent chocolate buffets, professional musical acts from Andrew Lloyd Webber, comics that are actually funny, and even financial talks to increase your knowledge without making a pass at your wallet top off the itinerary. The ship and its staff are top notch with exemplary service. In addition, there are no worries for tips as they may be automatically charged to your room or you may instead opt to personally award staff for service. My Diet Coke addiction was satisfied with an unlimited Diet Coke card sticker for $25. Normally that would be the price for 12 soft drinks and the beverages were brought to me at my table, at the buffet, and even in my beach chair by the pool for free. Early the first morning after departing Honolulu, the ship docks in Hilo, Hawaii. Called the big island, Hawaii provides a volcanic backdrop for the opening of the journey. Absolutely make the effort to get to Volcano National Park with its active lava flows visible on most trips. I would recommend booking this shore excursion before boarding the Norwegian Star as many of the popular first day trips did sell out of seats. After viewing the moonscape of the big island, the ship departs early that afternoon to the Fanning Island in the Republic of Kiribati. After a relaxing day at sea, the ship journeys 1000 miles from Hawaii and docks for tenders to ferry you to Fanning. For the island, I would recommend the private beach excursion for $20 that affords you the luxury of being the first on to a beach that resembles Blue Lagoon. The inhabitants on the island of 1600 are remarkable and friendly. Gifts of all sorts can be purchased for a few dollars - but I recommend bringing single dollar bills as change may be a rarer commodity. While the people have no electricity or running water, they do have a remarkable sprit. Norwegian has also invested heavily into the infrastructure of the island to better the passenger experience while broadening the horizons of the people of Fanning Island. For lunch, head back to the main island to have a barbecue feast and shop at the main market. There will be dancing and for a tip of $1 a police officer will stamp your passport officially from the Republic of Kiribati. After a return day at sea, the islands of Maui and Kauai afford the ultimate reward upon return. In Maui, I highly recommend the Maui Downhill experience. So long as you can coast on a bicycle, then the journey will be your dreams come true as you descend from a 10,000 foot volcano down to the ocean. In Kauai, enjoy the garden isle and pray for a sunny day as we received on our cruise. The garden island stays green from rain, but all of the excursions are unforgettable. If you have a big budget, then this is the place to invest in the helicopter ride of a lifetime. For a smaller budget, take the snorkel and boat ride excursion, as it will provide on of the best tours of the island. After venturing toward the Forbidden Island where 160 people live the life of Hawaiians from hundreds of years ago, the ship will dart down the scenic Kauai coast affording you the views of mountain after mountain along the sea, several waterfalls, caves to venture into, and snorkeling with sea turtles. On our trip, a school of several dozen dolphins followed our boat for a mile leaping out of the water. On our return, we saw two male humpbacked whales thrashing their tales in a fight for dominancy. Upon returning to Honolulu, take advantage of the late departure of most flights by doing a final trip to parts of Oahu that you would most enjoy. My final favorite moment of Freestyle cruising was the departure. On most ships, you are corralled like cattle into public areas for hours before you are allowed off the ship. On Norwegian, you are afforded the luxury of leaving the ship whenever you like. We slept in, woke up at 9:00 a.m. to pack, and left our room at 10:30 a.m. I highly recommend the Norwegian Star and her upcoming sister ship NCL America featuring seven-day all Hawaiian cruises. NCL has perfected the freestyle cruise and I recommend jumping on-board before word spreads and prices increase. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2003
We just returned from the seven night cruise aboard the NCL Star. Just wanted everyone to know what an absolutely fantastic time this was for myself, my husband and two grown (21 and 22) year old daughters. We had cruised NCL 15 or so ... Read More
We just returned from the seven night cruise aboard the NCL Star. Just wanted everyone to know what an absolutely fantastic time this was for myself, my husband and two grown (21 and 22) year old daughters. We had cruised NCL 15 or so years ago and was not impressed by their ship or service but enjoyed the itinerary, sooooo decided to give another chance and glad we did! This is a very nice ship with very friendly staff, much nicer than the Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas, which we sailed last year and spent more money on. Iloved the Freestyle Dining plan as it gives you so much variety , there is absolutely no way to get bored with the food. And the food was great in all the restaurants (buffet was just ok but that is not one of the restaurants). I didn't mind spending the little bit extra on the surcharge, it was worth every penny. One complaint might be the wine selection, there was a bottle of Chardonney which goes for 7.87 at Sams Club and they were hawking it at 26.00 per bottle. needless to say, we didn't bite that one! The cabin was spotless and the most comfortable beds! Duvet covers instead of blankets, which I appreciated. The itinerary is great except for going to fanning island but that will not be an issue starting in 2004 as I think this ship will change registry,so it will be a perfect trip! We loved it and felt it was the best way to see the islands as you don't waste time getting on "puddle jumpers" and going island to island. Having done Hawaii both ways now, I highly prefer this cruise one! Take the helicopter excursion in Kauai, well worth the money for something you will never forget. If you go to the Haleakala Crater in Maui, be sure to ask if it is fogged in as we went and couldn't see a thing. I understand we could have checked on the internet cam from the ship beforehand. The Mauna Loa Volcano in Hilo is a must see for excursions also ( has vent holes with steams coming up and many "hot spots" on ground as lava is only 2 miles or so down). Wish I had extended my time in Honolulu for one day but did squeeze in the Arizona 'Monument, very very interesting. All in all a great time. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2003
Wow, reality check time... Woke up this morning and no balcony overlooking the entire Pacific Ocean. No sound of the water churning. No rocking of the ship. All of my new best friends scattered to the four winds. Bummer...Time to book a ... Read More
Wow, reality check time... Woke up this morning and no balcony overlooking the entire Pacific Ocean. No sound of the water churning. No rocking of the ship. All of my new best friends scattered to the four winds. Bummer...Time to book a new one, fast! Background Info Departure date: 10-8-2003 Ship: Radiance of the Seas Cabin: 9256-category D, aft corner balcony We initially booked this cruise back in September of 2002. The date was switched from November to October and we were given $300 onboard credit for the trouble. Not only was this now a month earlier and warmer, but also cabin 9256 was originally booked and it came available after the dates were switched! Pre Cruise Spoke online with about 30 of our newest friends on Cruise Critic and they talked us into coming out to Honolulu early, so we left San Diego on Friday, Oct. 3 via limo for the Crowne Plaza Irvine hotel. I booked this hotel via Priceline for $28 for the night and it was literally within ½ mile of the John Wayne Orange County Airport and we caught a free shuttle to the airport in the morning. Unlike some of our fellow travelers, we had no problems with the flight on Aloha Air. We left John Wayne at 9:15 am and arrived in Honolulu after an exceptionally smooth flight at a little after 11:30am. We took a shuttle for about $9 per person to our hotel, but they packed us in and dropped off at several hotels before ours, so it was more than an hour to get to our hotel. I think I might spend the extra $ to take a cab next time and not have to make all the other stops. Our hotel was the Sheraton Waikiki. I booked this on Priceline for $100 per night. I really wanted to get the Hilton Hawaiian Village as it looked like a nicer property (it is) and also we have heard stories about getting the 'Priceline' rooms at the Sheraton (ie: 'city view' rooms above the A/C condenser). Upon arrival, we found we had been 'upgraded' to the Royal Hawaiian next door. Now, although the Royal is a 5 star property, what we wanted in Waikiki was ocean view. We knew that at the Royal, there was no way we were going to get upgraded to an ocean view, so we told them that I was doing reviews for both Cruise Critic and Priceline (true) and asked to be switched back. They did this with no problem. However, there were no ocean view rooms available at either property, even when we offered to pay more to get one, so we ended up with the City View over the A/C for the first two nights. By this time, practically everyone there, including the managers knew who we were (we were nice, but persistent about trying to get an oceanview as soon as one came available), and we checked a couple times a day to see if one had opened up. The hotel was hosting American Idol that weekend so I guess that's why it was so crowded. At one point, Cindy whispered, 'look behind you'. I did but did not know what she was talking about. I said, 'what?' She said, 'That was Paula Abdul who just bumped into you!!!'. So? Anyway, on Monday morning we called down again to see if there were any ocean view rooms and the person said, no they were still sold out, then she looked at our room number and said, 'Oh, Mr. and Mrs. Ellis, I didn't realize it was you, yes, we will have your room available in a couple of hours'. Cool! So by 1pm we were moved into a wonderful ocean view room overlooking the pool area. This is a nice property, Cindy loved it, but I thought it was OK, and the service was VERY mediocre. The Hilton Hawaiian Village was a much nicer property with tremendous service. I would pay the extra $60 per night to stay there next time. Most of the time in Waikiki, we sat by the pool or exercised in preparation for the cruise. Since we were on West Coast time, we were up at 5am every morning and took long sunrise walks all around Waikiki. It was wonderful. I got a chance to work out at the fitness center every day (small, but never crowded). It was $8 per day, but for $16 you could use it for your whole stay and you also got to use the fitness center internet computer for free. Excellent deal. Cruise Critic Group Our awesome online group had arranged to meet at the Hilton Hawaiian Village for drinks and dinner on Tuesday night before the cruise. We were told the Shell Bar would be available for us to meet up, but when we got to town, we found it did not open until 7:30pm and we were meeting at 6:30. Quickly posted online we were moving to the Tapa Bar and HHV was kind enough to direct people from the concierge desk to the Tapa Bar for our group and also to pass out name badges. People started showing up right at 6:30 and the HHV staff had no problem with us basically taking over the bar and moving all the tables together for our get together. Again, wonderful staff there. We had a great time and got to put the faces with the names (and logon names). After that we moved to the Golden Dragon restaurant at the HHV and had a fantastic dinner (and used our Entertainment Hawaii coupon to buy one, get one free. I would highly recommend getting the Entertainment book if you are going to spend any time in Hawaii before the cruise). Embarkation We couldn't wait to get on the ship, so we took a taxi early on Wed. to the port. We arrived at around 11:45am and waited about 10 minutes to get our suitcases checked in (they were just setting up the x-ray machines). It's a good thing we were early. It literally took us 5 minutes to get through the security line where everyone else would later have to wait up to 3 hours in the sun. After that, we were about 15th in line at check in, and when they opened up at a few minutes after noon, it again took just 5 minutes for us to check in and get our sign and sail cards. By 12:15 we were on the ship and headed to our room. Important Note: By about 1:30pm, the line was VERY long and people were standing in the hot sun for most of their wait. Either arrive very early like we did or later in the afternoon (after 5pm). Cabin We had the legendary cabin 9256 on the port aft corner (back left for you landlubbers). The room itself is a standard D cabin with no bathtub and small closet, but the balcony is what this cabin is all about. A big size (not as large as I expecting, but plenty big enough for 2 lounge chairs, 2 regular chairs and a table. The balcony winds around toward the side of the ship, but you cannot see around the corner, but you still get a more than 180 degree view from the balcony. I was worried about the size of the cabin since we had only had a C cabin before and it was a good 100 sq. ft. larger than the D, and this was a 10 day cruise, but there was absolutely no problem. We never felt cramped, other than the small shower and the narrow closet. We had to have my dressed shirts pressed because the closet is not wide enough for clothes to hang directly perpendicular and they would get wrinkled. Other than that, we absolutely loved the cabin and for the 4 sea days, in October, the sun set DIRECTLY behind the ship, so we felt like it existed just for those of us with aft balconies. We will get this cabin or 1100 any time we sail on Radiance class. Nothing else will do. Just for comparison purposes, we also got the grand tour of cabin 1600, which was considered a B cabin (hi Celia and John!). This was a wonderfully appointed cabin, but really only the size of the C that we had on Explorer. The balcony is probably larger than ours and felt more spacious since it was a deck higher and it had MUCH more storage space than ours, but we felt that for the price of a D compared to a B, 9256 was a much better value for someone of our financial resources. Ship We had only been on Explorer before and this ship was some 1/3 smaller in size and felt much more intimate. The Schooner Bar/Colony Club on deck 6 was by far my favorite area. There is nothing like this on Explorer. Elegantly done in dark woods, this was a warm and inviting area of the ship and felt like cruising in the golden age might have been. We really missed the Promenade as a place to go for the meeting/gathering place. The Centrum area on deck 4 served this purpose on Radiance, but is a small space and was always rather crowded. There is still a lot to do on this ship. The solarium pool is where we thought we would be spending a lot of time, but since it was packed at all times, I actually never spent any time there at all. In comparison, the main pool was never really that crowded, even on sea days, and all the poolside activities always seemed to have the same group of people involved (Hi Nancy!!!), because the average age on this cruise was somewhere around 70. Those of us younger (in age or spirit!) were always doing things together while the majority of the passengers just sat in chairs or ate. The Starquest (Viking Crown) was a disco for adults and played the same music every night. It was fun but got old for me quickly. The Colony Club had some different music every night, but the best music on the ship was by the band Horizon in the Colony Club. They played a variety, but mostly rock and roll and was much more my kind of dancing spot. The walking/jogging track was too narrow and with all the slower moving folks on board, it was impossible to get a workout on it. Which was fine because the fitness center was fantastic. Completely modern machines and it was empty if you went early enough in the morning. The rock-climbing wall was shorter and easier than the one on Explorer (which I did not make it to the top on, even though I have rock-climbed quite a bit in my younger days). On Radiance though, both Cindy and I made the top with relative ease. The Adventure Ocean area looked like a fun area for kids, but there were probably less than a dozen kids 16 or younger on the whole ship, and two of them were the captain's kids. There is a very large casino on board (probably bigger than the one on Explorer) and there were 2 tournament days with one Slot and one Blackjack tournament each day. These were the opposite from Explorer; the Slot tournament on Radiance was much larger than the Blackjack (again, probably a function of the demographic of this cruise). I never once played the slot machines and played Blackjack only once. I broke even and Cindy won $20. She also won about $100 on the Wheel of Fortune slot machine. There are only 2 Wheel of Fortune slots on this ship and I know for a fact that they paid at least 4 $1000 jackpots on our sailing. Food Not as good as Explorer. The first four nights in the dining room were really not very good at all, especially the fish dishes. This improved drastically later in the cruise and I thought the lobster was excellent, both in the dining room and in Portofino's. The Windjammer food was good, not great, and I actually liked the food served during the 'Afternoon Tea' there much better than the lunch choices. Lunch was sandwiches, salads and light pastas, and burgers and hot dogs. The Tea had a taco station and heartier foods like Lasagna. The desserts were good, not great, except for my downfall, the flourless chocolate cake. As some other posters have stated, there were strange choices made for the dining room menus. There was neither Filet Mignon nor Lobster on either of the two formal nights. What's up with that? Room service lost our breakfast order twice so we just got coffee for our morning balcony repose and then walked up for breakfast in the Windjammer after that. There was also mention of the bread baskets not being left on the tables. One word to our headwaiter Mimi (the best customer service person on the seas), and we had hot bread baskets left on our table every night after that. On the other hand, Portofino's was spectacular. The service and food were impeccable. It also didn't hurt that Mimi had taken a liking to our table downstairs and was checking up on us. First he got us a reservation at a window table during sunset on a night when Portofino's was supposed to be sold out. Then, at one point the general manager of Portofino's came by and said, 'I don't know what your situation is, but Mimi is calling every 10 minutes to make sure we are taking care of you'. I would HIGHLY recommend doing at least one dinner here. I heard that the Seaview Cafe food was good, but rich (ie: greasy). The Solarium Cafe was nothing to speak of. Drink We don't drink soda, mostly just water (for non-alcoholic drinks), so I can't tell you about the pricing of that. However, one of the big negatives about this sailing compared to Explorer is that there are no longer drink cards for alcoholic beverages. That, plus the seemingly higher prices on Radiance meant that the minimum for a glass of wine (my preferred poison) went from $3.75 (with the drink card) on Explorer to $6.33 on Radiance. Ridiculous. Even doing the Wine and Dine card for dinners, we got hammered on drink costs at the end of the cruise. It's RCCL's fault, but they're going to drive me to do something I never have. Can you say smuggle? If they bring back the drink cards or have reasonable prices for a house wine, I may change my mind, but $6.33 per glass is just way too much. Ports Kauai By far the best tour we did was the helicopter tour on Kauai. It was absolutely incredible! We used a company called Bali Hai Tours, but for two reasons I would recommend Safari Tours instead. First, Bali Hai is out of Port Allen, which is about a 1/2 hour drive from the port at Nawiliwili. It would have been an $80 cab ride round trip for the two of us, so we just rented a car that morning ($35 for the day from Alamo and they pick you up and drop off right at the ship). Safari Helicopter Tours is located right at the airport, just 5 minutes from the port and they will pick you up at the ship. Second, Bali Hai does not do a tour video that you can buy. Some companies do the videos using stock footage and then add some audio and video from your tour. From talking to folks who used Safari, they do the entire video from footage and conversation on your specific tour. The tour itself was fantastic. The pilot said we had lucked out. It had rained all night the night before but cleared the day we were there, so we got to see all the waterfalls in their full glory. There were literally hundreds and hundreds of them everywhere. The Na'pali coast was awesome. Just get up the nerve and take one of these tours. You will never forget it. We spent a couple more hours driving around to some of the falls, and then we were getting pooped, so we headed back to the ship. As we did the sailaway, with the sunset directly off our aft balcony, it really felt like we were sailing away from Jurassic Park, with the fiery red sunset hanging over the jungle-laden cliffs of the island. Maui We had two days in Lahaina, my favorite of all the towns we visited in Hawaii. The first day we rented a car and drove part of the famous Hana Highway. We rented from Alamo at the Kapalua airport, about 10-15 minutes from the port. They told us they did not pick up at the port but that turned out to not be true. We caught free Alamo shuttles both directions. Just make a note of when the last shuttle from the rental location to the port leaves. The Hana Highway was wonderful, but we found an even better drive in Hilo a couple days later that is mentioned below. The road is not nearly as bad as described, but we stopped about 10 miles before Hana and I heard the road gets worse past Hana. There were numerous streams among the jungle, but they were all dry, so this part of the island must not have had much rain in recent days. I wanted to find a pool under a waterfall that I could swim in, but there were really none to do this in, but I did eventually get to do this, again with help from Hilo, as you will see below. On the way back, we stopped about 8 miles outside of Lahaina, where there is a snorkeling spot right off the main road. We saw many other snorkelers there, so we just pulled off the road and waded right in. There was great snorkeling right off the beach in clear waters, although the water was a bit cold. Great fun though. We later decided to just drop the car off that day and see about doing a snorkel tour the next day instead of just hanging around Lahaina as we had planned. We were VERY happy that we did the tour. The snorkel tour we did was on, I believe, the Lahaina Princess. It was about $59 per person and we just arranged it at one of the tour booths in Lahaina. We do not do tours through the ship at all. There are much better prices just booking online or at the pier. The Lahaina Princess is a big power cat, it made good time over to Lanai and the snorkeling was good. The way back to Lahaina is usually against the wind, which made for some fun wave jumping, but if you are prone to seasickness, avoid it. Also, since it is a power boat, it is not as conducive to seeing dolphins. Others in our group did the same tour but on a sail catamaran and they saw lots of dolphins. We had a great time bouncing over the waves and met some new friends that were on our ship. The women had a great time watching the guys try to negotiate the pitching deck carrying Maitais (which were free on this tour). Then it was back to the ship to watch another sunset sailaway from our balcony. Hilo In Hilo, we rented a car (also Alamo and also painless and quick and both checkout and checkin-we love Alamo) and went to the Volcanoes national park. I thought it would be boring, but it was really a lot of fun. The steaming ridge and all the other viewpoints of the Kilauea caldera are very neat. We did not walk out to see the flowing lava, it was about a 2-mile walk from the end of the road and we had other things we wanted to see in Hilo. Also in Hilo, in town, get the directions to the Rainbow Falls. As I said before, one of the things I wanted to check off my life list was to swim in a pool below a waterfall in Hawaii. Rainbow Falls is beautiful and literally right in town, but if you hike a short distance (100 yards or so) to the top of the falls, there is a big calm pool and some smaller pools under the cascades that you can swim in. The water was wonderfully refreshing (!) and I got to check that off my list. In addition, if you do get a rental car, if you head out of Hilo to the west on Highway 19, just at the edge of town you will see a sign for 'Scenic Route'. Take it and take your time on it. It is a series of tiny canyons full of tropical plants and flowers and cascading streams and waterfalls. It's like being in a ride at Disneyland except it's the real thing! It was absolutely amazing and we thought blew away the Hana Highway for sheer beauty. Kona In Kona, we did the Body Glove snorkel tour. Do the morning tour, again to avoid heavier seas that make snorkeling not as good. The Ironman Triathlon was in town and it made for tight movements for the tenders to get in. More on that below. Here's a tip: the Body Glove had a coupon in the Hawaii Entertainment book (which we bought before our cruise and it saved us hundreds of $$). We called and said we found them from their website and wanted to use the coupon. When they found out we were from the ship, they said that usually we would have to go through the ship tour, since they had a contract, but since we found them from the web, if we didn't say anything, they wouldn't either. We paid $42 per person with the coupon, would have been $89 per person through the ship. The trip out and back was fun and the snorkeling was fantastic! The ship also has a waterslide and a high dive for diving into the bay. The crew was a blast; they had a joke for everything and really know how to entertain their guests. The only problem was that we were supposed to be going on the morning tour with all the people from Radiance, but somehow our ship got bumped to the afternoon tour, so instead we were on a ship full of Infinity guests. Definitely not my type of crowd. Didn't seem very nice or fun, but oh well...We had a good time. Now for the tender situation. HUGE problem! This was the worst part of the cruise in my opinion. Celebrity Infinity was in Kona at the same time we were, as I said, and for most of the day there was only one berth for tenders. This meant long waits in the harbor and lines of 2-3 tenders waiting to drop off. Eventually Infinity was able to get a second berth that only they were using, so their lines in Kona to get back on the tenders were very short, while Radiance lines were very long and some people had to wait for 2 or 3 tenders before getting on (maybe 45 minutes to an hour in 95+ degree heat). I was even feeling light headed in the heat and we only had about a ½ hour wait. Also, Infinity had water and cold towels for their guests while Radiance had none. We actually rode back on our tender with the captain and he was on the radio trying to find a remedy, but I guess there just was not one. Anyway, we then had yet another beautiful sailaway and we were off on our 4 straight sea days. Now I love sea days and we had specifically planned our sailing to have the sea days at the end so we could recover from the GO-GO-GO of the island days. Good choice. Sea Days In contrast to another review, I felt that there was still so much to do on the sea days that I never even made it up to play miniature golf or to try out the golf simulator (which I really wanted to check out). I worked out in the gym every morning, sat by the pool for the first two days (it was cloudy and cooler the last two sea days, so not much pool action), did classes, played Bingo, bought a race horse—Go Cruisin Suzin!, did the rock wall, relaxed, ate and went out dancing with our friends every night. I just think sea days are so relaxing. There is no agenda, if you want to do something, you do, and if you want to do nothing, you do that too. The last evening, still trying to catch up on sleep from the night before, after staying up drinking and dancing all night, I went out onto our balcony in the mid-afternoon, laid a couple of towels on the lounger, pulled a pillow out of the cabin, laid down and covered up with a warm blanket (it was a bit chilly outside by this time). I proceeded to doze off to the soothing sound of the churning water below, and wake up every little while to a more a more beautiful sunset each time. I cannot think of any time in recent memory that I felt that peaceful and content. I never wanted it to end. But most good things do come to an end. Debarkation The last night was spent saying goodbye to all our new friends and exchanging cards and email addresses, assuring each other that we will stay in touch and hopefully someday get the chance to cruise together again. I walked the decks that night in the wind and said goodbye for now. The next morning we arrived in port in Ensenada at around 2 am. We had to have our checked bags packed and in the hall by 10pm the night before and we had everything else packed and ready to go as well, so we got up at 5:30am, 45 minutes before our bus was scheduled to leave. The debarkation by color and number was poorly designed, with many people arriving on time, only to have to wait for an hour + before their bus was finally called. We were scheduled for 6:15 and we actually got on our bus at 8am. For future cruisers. Just get some breakfast and then stay in your room until your number is actually called. There is no reason to show up before that time. Once your color and number are called, there is plenty of time for you to get to the theater and sign in before your group will leave. Once we did get called to go, it was relatively easy after that. We walked right onto the bus and then napped for the 2 ½ hour crossing of the border. Most of the time is consumed in the drive from the toll road to the Otay checkpoint. This drive is on city streets and takes forever. Just nap if you can and pretty soon you will reach the border. At the border, the cruise lines have clearly learned their lesson from past bad experiences. We went through a special bus line that took about 20-30 minutes to cross and we did not-I repeat-did not have to get off the bus at all! The customs agent came on the bus and checked identification and collected the customs declaration forms and that was it. We were all pleasantly surprised. From there it was another 20 minutes to the airport where we got off and got our baggage. Since we are from San Diego, we just caught a cab from there, but the bus will drop you right in front of your airline so you can check right in. Overall, what I can say is this: I'm looking at when I can book this itinerary again, since I loved it, and still have many, many things on the islands and the ship that I didn't have nearly enough time to do on this first pass! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2003
First of all, let me say that this was one of the most enjoyable cruises I have experienced. As a formerly loyal Crown and Anchor member, this ship, with its "Freestyle" atmosphere is surely the future of cruising. No more ... Read More
First of all, let me say that this was one of the most enjoyable cruises I have experienced. As a formerly loyal Crown and Anchor member, this ship, with its "Freestyle" atmosphere is surely the future of cruising. No more rushing to make an 8:00 p.m. second seating dinner. Sure you give up the busboy knowing how many ice cubes you like in your tea, but geez!!!! We flew in to HNL @ 2:00p.m. local time from Sacramento, CA. and arrived in time to see rather long lines for check-in. Opting not to start our "relaxing" vacation waiting in line it was a short stroll to "Hooters" on an adjacent pier. After a few brews and plenty of hot wings it was time to again attempt to board, especially after remarking in my outside voice that the place should be renamed "Cheeks" after our waitress. Oh well, I guess I still have a lot to learn, even @ 55 !!! Unfortunately, the line was as long as ever. But I was relaxed already. The goose egg on my right temple made sure of that. We joined the que, and were fortunate to meet Bill and Deirdre from Long Island, he a Port Authority police officer with many a tale of 911 and his involvement in the weeks after that tragedy, she a nursing supervisor with an equally affable personality. We were to be nearly constant companions for the remainder of our trip. This cruise, in my opinion, is less about Hawaii, and more about unabashed cruising. Which is afterall what we pay the big bucks for, right !! Forget the other reviewers complaints about the days at sea enroute to Fanning Island, how better to get to paradise ?? There are plenty of activities onboard to keep you busy, but just "cruising" was fine for me. I spent time charting our position with the help of the GPS on the T.V. (we made it to within 4 degrees of the equator !!). The one and only gripe I had about this trip was the "Barracuda Reef Snorkel" @ Fanning Island. this was an immunity challenge on "Survivor" gone mad. It was nothing more than a short tender ride...OUTSIDE THE REEF...into open ocean in 25-30 feet of murky water. Basically your "divemaster" orders everyone to jump out and "drift" until you are either hypothermic or sick, or both. There were some schools of fish, but I would save my snorkeling for Poipu on Kauai any day. Needless to say, my illusion of the Great Barrier Reef went away quickly, especially for the $79. each fare. I was looking forward to Maui, having never been there, and was advised not to miss Lahaina. Well, except for the giant Banyan tree that place is nothing but an over rated tee shirt shop in my opinion. The mad cacophony of powered catamarans positioning themselves to load passengers for a "moonlight cruise" was almost more than I could stomach. Get me to Kauai....fast. Saturday means Kauai for the Star, be sure to be on deck for the harbor entrance ballet. It's awesome from the ship, but even more amazing from shore if you get the opportunity. Here you can avail yourself of the free shuttle to the nearby shopping center, but walk a little way further and avail yourself of the luxurious Marriott Kauai Beach Club. We have a timeshare there and find it one of the most beautiful and relaxing places I have ever visited. If you tell them I sent you (just kidding...), they will give you a towel (not kidding..) to use while swimming in the largest pool on the islands. Of course the sheltered beach is right there too, if the Star didn't miss it's turn and run aground there. You'll see what I mean after you've been there. As far as recommendations, book a cabin on the starboard (right) side of the ship, it approaches most ports on that side. Try to book a balcony, it is a singular experience to read Jimmy Buffett's "A Pirate Looks at 50" from this perspective. All of the restaurants are first rate. The reservation thing is not too bad after you get the hang of it. I don't consider the Marketplace a restaurant by the way, it's just a quick place to get your breakfast and get out. Take your tray out by the pool, it's cool !! Overall, as I said at the outset, this was definitely the best cruise I have experienced and would recommend it to anyone who is truly needing some sea time, or an Island sampler, or both !! Ejn Read Less
Sail Date: August 2003
I arrived in Oahu early and took a limo taxi to the hotel for about $30. We took the Deluxe Grand Tour of the island one day and spent another day at the Polynesian Culture Center. We took a Limo Taxi to the pier and it cost $20. I sailed ... Read More
I arrived in Oahu early and took a limo taxi to the hotel for about $30. We took the Deluxe Grand Tour of the island one day and spent another day at the Polynesian Culture Center. We took a Limo Taxi to the pier and it cost $20. I sailed on the Norwegian Star on August 10, 2003. Although there were 2,500 guests on board, the ship never felt crowded. Only during the embarkation were there crowds. Once we were on the ship, it was never very crowded in one place. All the people just spread out through out the ship. The Cruise Director, Patti Honacki and her staff were friendly and wonderful. The Hotel Director, James Deering and his staff were accessible and very helpful. Each night we saw two great shows. The Matongi Polynesian Cast were fantastic. We were able to learn about the culture during the shows and Hawaiian Arts & Crafts classes with Cathy, the Hawaiian Ambassador on board. I took home many handmade crafts that I learned to make during the classes. (Coco Nut Lei, which sells for $6-10 in stores.) The Jean Ann Ryan Company is a very talented and entertaining group. I loved the show "It's Fame" because it was a top notch show. The band that played at the 50s?60s Sock Hop were phenomenal. Roger Carr had a marvelous show. The Cirque Asia show was extraordinary for a cruise show. The Magic and Illusions of Charles Bach and the comedy of Rex Havens were remarkable. The Stardust Theater is large and very comfortable. Just imagine how mush these show would cost at home. I chose only to eat at the free restaurants. Since I either ate early or late, I was able to avoid all the lines. My favorite restaurant was Versailles. The service was excellent and the food marvelous. I had rack of lamb, veal, beef ribs, lobster, etc. The desserts were all wonderful. I made reservations for Endless Summer and LaTrattoria for 9:00. We were able to get into Aqua without waiting. Don't miss the Chocoholic Buffet on Wednesday at the Versailles. Even if you don't like chocolate you will enjoy this. Remember to try the beef ribs from The Grill by the pool. Also look for the 2 for 1 drink specials on the ship. During Bingo they gave out a couple of free Norwegian Cruses for two away. Some of the other prizes were good also. One prize was an instant upgrade to a balcony cabin. The Freestyle Daily is your lifeline and connection to all the activities on the ship. Bring a high lighter pen to highlight the important events you wish to attend. Make sure you get your tender tickets the day before you get to the island. They will call your tender number and it will go quickly. Fanning Island was like one big flea market. All the merchandise is made by the natives. Most items are made from shells and cost a dollar. The food and stuff is brought from the ship. There are a few flies but it was not a bid problem. At each port there were free shuttle buses waiting for the passengers. I booked my shore excursions online and my tickets were on my bed, the first day. I avoided the long lines and disappointment of not getting on a fully booked tour. When we got back on the Star we went through a security check and x-ray equipment scanned our things. I felt safer doing this. Debarkation was really simple. We got colored coded tags and we were able to leave when they called my color. There was a short line at Versailles and I was able to enjoy a leisurely last breakfast before leaving the ship. The ship is almost brand new and has a beautiful Grand Atrium. I had an inside stateroom and it was comfortable. It had a good sized bathroom. The stewards kept it spotless. The shows are top notch and very enjoyable. Freestyle dining is great, but may not be for everyone. Shore excursions went smoothly and were wonderful. There is not one thing I was unhappy with. Yes, we had rough seas but you can't blame anyone for that. I had a FIVE STAR trip from beginning to end. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2003
I won't do a day by day or a play by play, but let me just say that Norwegian is the best. My husband and I, travelling with my husband's parents arrived in Honolulu on July 4, 2003. We did the usual things, check into the ... Read More
I won't do a day by day or a play by play, but let me just say that Norwegian is the best. My husband and I, travelling with my husband's parents arrived in Honolulu on July 4, 2003. We did the usual things, check into the hotel, walk around, have dinner, etc. My husband and I were bound and determined to see the fireworks in Waikiki, and did. It wasn't as good as we are used to seeing in Washington, DC, but that atmosphere was much better! We boarded the Star with no trouble, we used the Latitudes lines, and enjoyed the convenience, and shorter line. My inlaws had to wait in the other line, but weren't delayed that much behind us. Since we boarded on 7/6 - which was our first anniversary (honeymoon was spent on NCL Wind in Alaska's inside passage), we would have waited in line all day, just to be on the boat. The synopsis includes, getting to Hilo, taking the Volcano tour, and walking on lava that was flowing 3 months prior, taking pictures with the now famous speed limit signs almost covered in lava. While we were out about 3/4 of a mile on the lava flow, you could see a storm coming, and of course we got caught in it. Not exactly my favorite part of the trip, but memorable none the less. Fanning Island was truly a delight - if you could get past the commercialization that NCL has done there. We brought sun glasses, and toys for the kids. They were very friendly, and very much "hams" when you got your camera out. We enjoyed the visit very much. We did the obligatory playing bingo, and sitting by the pool. We were a little disappointed by the "marking your territory" of people putting towels on chairs, and leaving for hours. But, that's not NCL's fault. That's other people being rude. We enjoyed Lahaina and Kauai very much also. In Kauai we took a shuttle to Wal-Mart of all places. My husband and I like to go places like that to see what the cost of living is. $7 for a gallon of milk and we were floored!! While we were there, we bought some wine (sorry we didn't buy more since it is so wonderful). We brought it back on the ship, and it was never taken from us. We never experienced the alcohol policy. One thing we did experience, that most people don't is the medical center. Sadly, I began to miscarry after we left Fanning Island. It is a terrifying thought to be 1000 miles from the nearest ANYTHING, and facing such a situation. I have to say, the Dr. on board was very very kind and compassionate. Not that anyone takes that into account when they book their cruise, but it's good to know if you ever do need it. The only thing that we didn't really like was the Cruise Director, Patty. We felt that she was loud enough with the microphones!! Some people are just 'too' perky! Overall though, we loved Hawaii, and got to take a little bit of all the islands. We love NCL, and recommend them highly! Read Less

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