1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2018
I have cruised NCL many times and never have I experienced bad food until this one. First night on the cruise we ordered the Medallions and they were not cut-able or chew-able. Even people I didn't know sent them back. Another night ... Read More
I have cruised NCL many times and never have I experienced bad food until this one. First night on the cruise we ordered the Medallions and they were not cut-able or chew-able. Even people I didn't know sent them back. Another night we had some other beef special and it was worse and they were all sent back. I found th service with mostly american workers was not good. The best way to describe the cruise is CHEAP in so many ways Entertainment was horrible, they would give you no more than an hour show and then try to sell your their cd. I remember when shows were good. You would think on an Hawaiian cruise you would have at least one Hawaiian shoe No transportation help at the piers, long long walks just to get away from the ship This will be my last NCL cruise. I talked to may other who agree. Waste of Money. Trip cost me 10k with airfare. I would not recomend to any body Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
First off, the staff was great. Everyone I met was fantastic. That was the best thing going for Norwegian. However, the food was most disappointing. Food items such as the corn on the cob was chewy, fish / meats were over cooked, ... Read More
First off, the staff was great. Everyone I met was fantastic. That was the best thing going for Norwegian. However, the food was most disappointing. Food items such as the corn on the cob was chewy, fish / meats were over cooked, potatoes were dry & even deserts were unbearably sweet. I also didn't like that a lot of the places were a separate charge. I came on a cruise to not worry about charges not take on more. It's really annoying to have to ask if everything is charged. Also, I have been on Carnival & Royal Carribean (RC) so I was comparing Norwegian to them. Carnival is a cheap cruise so you get what you pay for but I thought their ship had much more livelier parties and events. It seems the events only catered to a small group (10 people or less) while the rest of the group just watched = not engaging. RC's food was the best. I had breakfast, lunch, & dinner and was completely satisfied every meal. The staff were friendly and we had the same people so they knew us well. I appreciate the flexibility of going to dinner at any time but there is no connection with the waitstaff. That equates to better service for the guests and better tips for the staff. Also, the ship didn't have as many ammenties as RC. I remember 2 large pools onboard so if one was packed then we can go to the other. Housekeeping staff needs work. I never saw my staff and they would clean at weird times and I only got 2 towel animals out of 7 days. I don't really care about the animals but if you are going to do it, do it right. There were some events but not as many as I would have liked. The shows were good but need more of them. Overall, I wasn't too impressed with the Pride of America. I really enjoyed Hawaii but if I could do the same cruise, I would probably do it with another cruise-liner. MVP Staff: Andre (event staff), Chelsea (butler), Roberto (Skyline Restaurant) & amazing African-American dancer with fade haircut Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
My wife and I had our first cruise with Norwegian and we will never cruise with them again. This trip was for our 25th wedding anniversary and we took the 10 hour flight each way from Sydney to Honolulu to get there. We found out from our ... Read More
My wife and I had our first cruise with Norwegian and we will never cruise with them again. This trip was for our 25th wedding anniversary and we took the 10 hour flight each way from Sydney to Honolulu to get there. We found out from our travel agent on the day we were leaving Australia that the ship would not go to Hilo on the Big Island due to the volcano and we spent the first 24 hours sitting in port at Honolulu. As we had already organised extra days at the end of the cruise to explore Oahu there was not much for us to do except stay onboard the ship. Then on the evening we were supposed to sail to Kona on the Big Island the Captain announced over the PA that we would not be stopping there either and would be spending a day at sea. Then the Cruise Director gets on the PA and tried to put a positive spin on the situation, which just came across as an insincere "snow job". So instead of stopping at four ports we only stopped at two - Kahului on Maui and Nawilili on Kauai. They were nice places to visit and I would have preferred an extra day on both Maui and Kauai instead of sitting in port or spending a day at sea. The volcano had been erupting since the 3rd of May so NCL could have made the decision not to go to the Big Island a lot earlier and arranged extra days on the other two islands to make up for it. The shore excursions we had booked from Australia at Hilo and Kona were cancelled and we were offered on board credit (but not a refund). When we tried to book other excursions we found that others had got in before us and most of the good excursions were booked out so we had to settle for the crumbs. The lady at the Shore Excursions desk was not very helpful and lacked empathy for the situation we were in. We had a mid-ship oceanview room, which was OK although the bathroom was very small and you had to be a contortionist to use the shower. Our cabin stewardess was very good and looked after us very well. The entertainment was very poor. Some of the singers couldn't stay in tune. The magician was poor. Toby Beau and Carre Stone were good. Fred Bevill the comedian was very good - at least my wife and I were able to have a laugh in spite of all the dissappointments. There was a strong smell of sewerage emanating from the rear of the ship near the corner with the starboard side which seemed comaptibel with the overall experience of our cruise. The windows of the ship were dirty and cloudy so I could not sit on the inside and enjoy the views. The only good thing I can say is that the food and the service in La Cucina, Jefferson's Bistro and Cagney's steakhouse was excellent. The food in the Aloha Cafe was OK but it was very busy and often difficult to get a table. Overall we had a terrible experience and wont be cruising with Norwegian again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2018
My wife and I chose this cruise because we wanted to see and experience all of the Hawaiian Islands. Everyday there was a new beautiful sight to see. This cruise was great and a true adventure... We booked shore excursions for everyday ... Read More
My wife and I chose this cruise because we wanted to see and experience all of the Hawaiian Islands. Everyday there was a new beautiful sight to see. This cruise was great and a true adventure... We booked shore excursions for everyday and once back on the ship we had top notch amenities... Our Cabin had a large King size bed and was well kept by the cabin staff... We had a balcony that provided us with new and ever changing spectacular scenic views for just her and I. At the end of the day we relaxed enjoying the ships Fine dining, Couples spa and the crews hospitality was unparalleled from any of the other cruise’s we have been on. If you are looking for a memorable adventure I highly recommend that you book this cruise. Make sure to book it early tho because the choice cabins go quickly. A Hui Hou!!! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2018
We are a family in our 40s that loves to cruise. We have been on Royal and Celebrity many times. Carnival only once. This was our first experience with NCL. We thought it would be a great way to see all the islands. The food was the ... Read More
We are a family in our 40s that loves to cruise. We have been on Royal and Celebrity many times. Carnival only once. This was our first experience with NCL. We thought it would be a great way to see all the islands. The food was the horrible and horrible is being nice. Service was worse than that!! There are not many "Free" places but the food was not good even when you paid for it. The average age of our ship had to be 70 and up. The kids club for 13-17 had 3 teens.... closed most of the time anyway. Entertainment was sub-standard. We paid extra for a larger balcony and it was larger; however, it was longer not wider and the length took away from the size of the cabin making it smaller than any other ship we have been on. The room was in the worse location too and very noisy. The spa was the best part. We went there first and bought the thermal suites access for 100.00 each. (adults only) For them to lower the price 2 hours later to 75.00. Other ships have the thermal suites with a view but this one has no view just a wall. I tried to get my hair done 3 separate times and gave up. We never saw anyone actually getting their hair done but the staff always said they were booked. After 10 eating is limited to one place (Cadillac diner) which the food was ok but 45 min to 1 hour for chicken tender or a burger. The Aloha buffet has no variety and the close at odd times (breakfast over at 10 am, close all together between 5pm and 6pm. We ordered a Mai Tai (traditional Hawaiian drink) it tasted like a screw driver so we asked to make sure and the managers response was that they get complaints all the time that the bartenders do not make it right??? what? So we paid 25.00 for two 8oz drinks that were terrible. Lesson learned we just bought the rest off the ship. Read Less
20 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
Summary This was a fun way to get a quick visit to each of the major islands, while having a constant home base. Food was good but not amazing. Staff was generally very friendly and helpful. Cabin was as expected. Pre-Cruise We ... Read More
Summary This was a fun way to get a quick visit to each of the major islands, while having a constant home base. Food was good but not amazing. Staff was generally very friendly and helpful. Cabin was as expected. Pre-Cruise We booked through Norwegian Directly, and they were very good about emailing with updates and things. One thing I didn't love was that I wasn't able to get an idea of the specific activities (White Hot Party, Fabba, etc) that would have been nice to know about when packing. Also, when I called Norwegian to ask a question about the cruise, the person at Norwegian didn't really have any information about our specific cruise (didn't even realize that two of the ports--Hilo and Kona--were on the same island). We booked air travel and pre-cruise hotel through Norwegian as well, but it was very difficult to get any information about the specific flights, and there was no way to change any aspects of the flights that they picked. I understand that it is part of them scheduling group rates, but the airfare seemed about what normal price would have been, but we had no flexibility in scheduling flights. The flights are made through a separate travel agency (not Norwegian) and they weren't very helpful or friendly when I was trying to get information about our specific flights, and the possibility of staying a few extra days. Also, had a hard time finding out from Norwegian about when the shuttle from the hotel to the ship would be leaving so we could plan the day in advance. Finally, when I called the hotel, they looked up some past times for the shuttle, and was able to get a ballpark idea. The flight itself was a good direct flight, and at a convenient time. Shuttle from airport to hotel was friendly and efficient. We stayed at the Aston Waikiki Beach hotel. It was a solid hotel, and we liked that it was one of the closest to Diamond Head, since we planned to hike Diamond Head early the next morning to watch the sunrise. That hike was AWESOME and I would completely recommend it to those who like hiking. We walked from the hotel to the crater (2.1 easy miles on sidewalk but with a definite uphill trend) then hiked to the summit (0.8 miles moderate to strenuous on a mix of sidewalk, and somewhat uneven trail with a significant elevation gain). Views along the way are very nice, and from the top are amazing. Start early to avoid the heat! It does cost $1 per person to enter the crater. Embarkation Luggage pickup was between 10 and noon and the shuttle left for us between noon and 1 PM. The shuttle process was very smooth, and it was nice not to have to mess with luggage. Check-in was efficient and friendly. They do have limitation on what liquids you can bring on, but we were able to bring snacks and other foods without problem. We were on board by about 2:30 and went to the Aloha Cafe buffet right away. Our rooms were ready by about 3:30. Cabin We had an inside cabin, and it was great for what we needed. The shower was smaller than what we had experienced on other cruises, but otherwise we found the room very consistent with other cruise lines. There was good closet and storage space, and plenty of lighting, including lights right by the bed for easy access. I did wish there was an alarm clock or something else to check the time quickly when waking up in the early morning, but we made do with our cell phones. In the future I will just bring a small clock. Our room steward was very friendly, and did a great job of keeping the room tidied, and providing us with the next day's itinerary. We didn't spend much time in the cabin, so it was actually the second to the last day of the cruise when I finally met him. Dining We mainly used the Aloha Cafe Buffet because of the convenience and time elements. The food was very good in my opinion with lots of options, including fresh fruit, and salad options. I am a vegetarian, and was pleased with the options available to me. The Indian, and Asian food part of the buffet was particularly good. We dined twice in the main dining halls, and once in the East Meets West specialty dining room. The food in the Skyline and Liberty were good, but nothing amazing. Options for vegetarians were very limited, and that was part of why we didn't use it more often. We also felt that the difference in the quality of the food wasn't really worth the extra time and hassle. The service was good but again, not amazing. East Meets West was the best dining experience we had. The food was very good, and the presentation was great. Dining staff was very friendly and helpful. Seating was quick and easy. We did take the advice of another cruise critic reviewer and made sandwiches for the day trips on multiple days. I would recommend that, just bring some ziploc bags if you plan on doing that. Overall, the food was good but nothing amazing. Entertainment We watched the opening preview show, and loved the comedian, and made sure to see his shows during the week. We felt like the general dance/singing crew was decent, but clearly more singers than dancers, and didn't make it to any of their later shows. The magician seemed good too, but we didn't feel like it was worth it to choose his shows over other activities. We did make it to several trivia challenges, game shows, and bingo. We loved each of these that we attended. The cruise staff was outstanding. They did a great job of having good energy, and were funny and friendly. The pool volleyball game with the officers was also a highlight. Fun activity to have. I was impressed with the fact that the cruise staff remembered people from the activities, and would chat with them and us later on the ship. We didn't make it to any of the dance parties, mainly because we were tired after fun days adventuring on the various islands. They seemed like fun though! As I mentioned earlier, it would have been nice if they had sent out an email or something about these beforehand so we could have packed for some of the special party nights. The comic was Michael Somerville, and he was fabulous. Extremely funny and topical without being crass or offensive. Even his 'adult' show was very tasteful, and didn't rely on dropping the F-bomb for humor. Just good solid comic content, and even had a great message. Liked it enough to buy his DVD, and will recommend him to others. Ports and Shore Excursions We didn't schedule any excursions through the cruise ship, since we have been to the islands a few times already. We did have an awesome time though! I will preface this with the following disclaimer. I love adventure type activities. Things that get me out into beautiful natural settings and let me use my own legs to get there are my preference. So, here is my take. Maui Loved the Road to Hana. We rented an SUV for 6 of us (there are shuttles to the airport rental places), and downloaded the Shaka Guide to my phone for the trip. I would say this is a MUST for anyone planning on doing this excursion. Everyone in our party loved it, and asked what other guides the company makes. It provided precise and accurate directions to cool stops on the way, including some less traveled ones that weren't on the commercial tours. Had info and recommendations for everything from bathrooms stops to food to waterfalls. The stories the guide has as you drive made the whole thing fun and even the background music was a plus. It was a great day. My only suggestion is to start EARLY! The Road to Hana is an all day adventure, and isn't something I would recommend driving back in the dark. If you can make it all the way to the 7 Sacred Pools and the lower portion of the Haleakala National Park, I would highly recommend it. If you are keeping the car overnight, there are a couple of options for parking. The safest option is to park overnight in the airport parking. That is $15 for overnight, but is monitored, and you are guaranteed not to get ticketed or towed. It does add 45 mins or so to the process though. You can also park in the shopping center parking lot close to the port. It has signs warning that there is no overnight parking, so there is a chance you could get ticketed and/or towed, but several people on the cruise did it and no one had any problems. The shopping center is within easy 5 minute walking distance of the port. We did Haleakala Summit the next day. The sunrise experience there is phenomenal, but you have to make reservations WELL in advance, so be sure to plan ahead. We used the Shaka Guide again, and loved the stories about the Hawaiian hero Maui, as well as tips for places along the way. Be sure to have warm clothing for the summit, since the temperatures are in the 30's and 40's typically. The summit is almost otherworldly in a barren, Martian planet kind of way. If you aren't into that, then it might not be worth the drive. Other people in our group did the Atlantis Submarine tour and a whale watching tour and said both were fantastic. So, if you are more into those things I would recommend that. Big Island We did this one a little differently to do something unique. We disembarked in Hilo and rented a car (again shuttles to the airport rental places), then stayed overnight on the island to see the lava glow at night. If you are going to do this you do need to let guest services know, and we also notified our room steward to save him the trouble on the room. This was really the highlight of the trip. You can find places to stay in Kalapana (the town that was wiped out by the flow in the 90’s) on Airbnb for anywhere from $70-300. Getting out to where the active flow is involves a fairly significant hike across open lava fields. It is tiring, but for me was indescribably worth it. We literally walked among the active flows, and could get as close as we wanted to it. We poked a stick in the moving lava and watched it instantly disappear. It was unbelievably cool, and physically very hot. We did part of the hike at night, but had headlamps and flashlights. If you want tips for this part of the trip I can give you some in a message. The next day we hiked out to the sea cliffs formed by the flows and saw that end of the process. Another amazing experience. We decided to drive around the north side of the Big Island and hit a few waterfalls along the way. Rainbow falls is super cool, and a very short side trip. Akaka falls is also a neat stop, and there are some cool little shops on the way to Akaka Falls State park ($1/person or $5 per car). The first part of the drive around the north-east side of the island is one beautiful valley with waterfalls after another. If you have the time get out and hike in some of these for some road less traveled fun. In Waimea we stopped at the bright blue food truck offering malasadas and roasted corn. Several locals said they were the best on the island and it did not disappoint! Delicious beyond words! If you have the option, the Kailua-Kona airport isn’t the easiest place to return or pick up a rental car, and there aren’t shuttles to the port. So, you will need a taxi or Uber (each about $20-30) if you use an airport location. In Kona you are also tendered on and off the ship, so leave a little extra time for that. The line gets quite long. Kauai We rented a car (shuttles to airport locations), and this time we made a quick trip to Kailua falls. It is a quick stop kind of thing with very limited parking and not a whole lot to do other than snap a quick photo or two, but it is beautiful. Next we did a group ATV tour with Kipu Ranch. It was a fun excursion, and we got to see several places where movies were filmed and a couple of small waterfalls. You can rope-swing into the river where Harrison Ford did it in Raiders of the Lost Ark. You get dusty or muddy, depending on how wet or dry the day is, but it was more fun than I expected (I prefer using my own two feet to get around generally), and the lunch provided was good. Our guides Kyle and Ryan had a fantastic dynamic, and made it lots more fun that it would otherwise have been. We then drove up to Waimea Canyon, which I would consider a must-see element. Amazing views regardless of whether or not you hike into the canyon itself. You can get spectacular pictures just from the road and the overlooks. If you are keeping a car overnight, there is some good parking close to the ship on the side of the road just after you turn right off of the road to the port. The spots on the road are free, but they do fill up if you are coming in late. You can also pay to park overnight in the shopping center closest to the port. It is $20 for that parking. Kauai day two is a short one, and you have to be back on board by 1:30, which meant dropping off the rental car around 1 pm. We opted to do a zipline tour through Outfitters Kauai. It was a fun time, and the Flyline was a particularly fun element. You lay face down as you zoom above the forest and grasses for over 4000 feet. Kind of a fun twist if you are into ziplines. There are other activities that you can do on the island, but you probably want to stay fairly close to Lihue since traffic can get pretty bad. Na Pali Coast cruise The reason for the early departure on Friday is so the ship can cruise past the Pali coast. This is really pretty spectacular. You get a chance to see the rugged cliffs and beaches of one of the most beautiful places on the planet. You can watch from the decks on the port side of the ship, or if you are lucky you can get a window table at one of the restaurants and watch while you eat. I think the direct view from the decks is better and you might get to see whales (we did), and then you can watch the sunset as you turn back toward Oahu. Disembark Process We had the added excitement of being at breakfast on board Saturday morning when the Incoming Missile warning hit everyone’s phones. There were some pretty freaked out people, and obviously the crew didn’t know any more about it than other people, so disembarkation was delayed until it was discovered that it was a false alarm. The crew did a great job of handling the situation, including bringing extra personnel into the common areas to help with the increased traffic caused by the delay. The disembark was pretty smooth, but it is kind of a hassle to get anywhere from the port if you haven’t arranged transportation beforehand. A taxi to the airport is about $30, and everyone will have all their luggage. There are some rental car places that will provide a shuttle to their location, but none of the airport car rental places have shuttles to the port. Final Notes Overall, we had a really good time, and the cruise really is kind of like a tasting menu of Hawaii. You get to sample each of the main islands, and use your sleep time for traveling. While some of the aspects of the ship itself weren’t quite as nice as other cruises we have done, I think this cruise is all about the time off the ship, and it does a great job of providing that. Parties you might want to pack special clothing for. Fabba-Celebration of Abba music, so bring your most fabulous 70’s digs. White Hot Dance party—all the crew are in all white, so if you want to be extra cool bring some whites. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2017
Just completed the October 2017 Solstice from Hawaii to Sydney. We had a fabulous time. The staff were friendly and the activities team led by Shawna had picked two terrific bands who provided lively dance music to suit lots of different ... Read More
Just completed the October 2017 Solstice from Hawaii to Sydney. We had a fabulous time. The staff were friendly and the activities team led by Shawna had picked two terrific bands who provided lively dance music to suit lots of different age groups at different times of the evening.This meant that our group of party-goers were able to have fun every single night dancing either in the grand foyer, Sky Lounge or the nightclub. The three silent discos were a blast especially the one up the lawn where we danced barefoot! The headphones provided had three choices of types of music to suit most tastes. Food in the buffet and the main dining room was delicious and the service was always attentive. An exercise dance class with Shawna on sea days helped us to keep fit and not put on weight either ( combined with always taking the stairs not the elevator). One suggestion though- please provide more seats around the foyer on all the levels including the bottom one as older people such as my mother cruising with me cannot endlessly stand up to watch the entertainment. Read Less
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Best think i did to plan for this vacation is to start planing and saving money a year in advance, its no need to go all the way to hawaii and say you didn't see something.the excursions are the best. Take one on ever island do not ... Read More
Best think i did to plan for this vacation is to start planing and saving money a year in advance, its no need to go all the way to hawaii and say you didn't see something.the excursions are the best. Take one on ever island do not leave out pearl harbor / no bags allowed. the ncl ship was great. But you only will use it as a taxi and meals, the balcony cabin is a must for pictures, which were great. But make it your business to only use your cabin to sleep. Where the best walking shoes you have. If you don't have any, invest in the 928 new balance, they will cost you but you will not regret it. Keep a rain poncho with you the whole time. The meals on the ship are great. Be sure to get the specialty dinning.the land and cruise package came in handy, be cause we were a pearl harbor from dust to dawn, and it was well worth it. Read Less
28 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
We chose this cruise because this was our first trip to Hawaii and we wanted to experience as much as we could in 7 days. We had done a 12-night Mediterranean cruise with NCL a couple years ago, and found it to be a great way to see a lot ... Read More
We chose this cruise because this was our first trip to Hawaii and we wanted to experience as much as we could in 7 days. We had done a 12-night Mediterranean cruise with NCL a couple years ago, and found it to be a great way to see a lot in little time. No need to spend time during the day travelling to your next destination when you can go by boat and travel by night, not have to change hotels, pay for extra transportation, etc. We flew from DFW to Honolulu non-stop and, leaving DFW about 11:30AM and arriving in Honolulu about 2:30PM. We had enough time to stop by Walmart on the way to the boat (which is about a half-mile off the track on the route from the airport to the cruise terminal) and pick up a case of water and sodas (saving a small fortune onboard). We saved the Honolulu excursions for the return trip. The embarkation was about as smooth as I've ever seen. There were no crowds at all and essentially no line to board. I was almost thinking the cruise was half-empty. The ship is about average size for a cruise ship. You can tell it's an older boat due to the size/amenities, but very well maintained. It's comparable to the NCL Spirit, which we were on for our Mediterranean cruise. There is no casino onboard due to Hawaiian gambling laws. The boat stays in US waters at all times, so there is no international water maritime law being applied that would allow for gambling. The boat appears to be about 75% balcony rooms, which seems to be significantly above the norm (and also why you can get a relatively good deal on a balcony room). We took 4 NCL-sponsored excursions, and 3 DIY excursions. The NCL excursions included the following: Maui: Molokini Crater & Turtle Snorkel - unfortunately the weather was lousy, so we had to go to an alternate destination. The snorkeling was OK, but not nearly as good as we expected at the advertised destination. I don't know how often the weather is lousy, but it's a bit of a risky proposition due to the price paid. Maui: Waterfalls & Rainforest Hike - this was nice, although again, I'm not sure if it was really worth the price. The location was Wailele Farm in Ho'olawa Valley. I think this is actually a free site to visit, so if you're paying that price for a guide and transportation for a dozen people, I think it's considerably over-priced, but it was nice nonetheless. Bring water shoes for this, as several parts of the footpaths are across shallow stream areas and there is plenty of mud as well. Hilo: Hilo Bay Waterfall & Kayak - this was also nice and probably better for relative value, though slightly overpriced. You essentially have a 10-minute van ride to Hilo bay, and use a two-man kayak to go across Hilo bay and up a short river tributary with falls. The ocean was at low-tide and was probably 1-2 ft lower than the river source. As such, there was a small area requiring portage to get to the upper part of the river containing the falls, and a subsequent rougher-than-normal ride back down the river. Although quite fun from my perspective, one of the 8 kayaks dumped it's crew on the way down the short drop. No injuries, but plenty wet. Honolulu: Pearl Harbor w/USS Missouri (Airport Dropoff) - This was probably the best value, because it included a full day at Pearl Harbor, admission to the USS Missouri and USS Arizona Memorial and they took care of your luggage all day and provided airport transportation. The USS Bowfin submarine was extra, but there was time for that if you desired. There was not enough time, however, to visit the Pacific Air museum. The trip to Pearl was followed by a short visit to the Punchbowl Crater Memorial. DIY excursions included the following: Kailua-Kona: We wanted to do the Kona brewery, but the tours are limited to 17 people. If you want to do this, book early. We walked around Kona, and stopped by Kona Canoe Club for a couple beverages. The view was great. This is probably the best location on the cruise for souvenir shopping. Kauai: Smiths Family Garden Luau - we had seen mixed reviews on the cruise-ship-recommended Luau Kalamaku, so we opted for Smith's Family Garden Luau. It was about half the price and was great! They even provide round-trip transportation to/from the cruise port for a nominal price. Kauai: Instead of using the cruise line's surfing excursion, I opted to wing it and go to the local Kalapaki beach and see what I could scrounge up. Turns out this was a great option. Free transportation using the Anchor Cove/Beach shuttle, and surfing lessons at Beach Boys for 1/2 the price. Ask for Marlo - he's great. Eveyone in our party got up on the board the first time. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
We (two couples traveling) wanted to see the other Hawaiian islands that we had not visited previously and we thought this would be a great way to do it. We have cruised in the Caribbean on various cruise lines but had never cruised with ... Read More
We (two couples traveling) wanted to see the other Hawaiian islands that we had not visited previously and we thought this would be a great way to do it. We have cruised in the Caribbean on various cruise lines but had never cruised with Norwegian. With all this being said, the only reason I did not rate this cruise line and ship as "terrible" was the location of the cruise and the excursions were pretty good. That's the only thing it did right! The ship needs to be updated, the service is very sub-par, the food is not good, entertainment is poor and the rooms are smaller than competitor's ships. If you do choose to cruise on this ship, do not waste any $$ on the specialty restaurants other than Cagney's. We tried the Jefferson Bistro (had to wait over an hour for our main course and no one seem to care! ..... unbelievable), Cagney's and East Meets West. Cagney's food was good and the service was great. Can't say that about the other two restaurants. The main dining room food was o.k.....we only ate there once. The general dining staff was not friendly at all .... bar staff was friendly and chatty as you would expect. The excursion staff was helpful and friendly. So bottom line, as another reviewer stated, if Norwegian had any competition in Hawaii they would be out of business in a heartbeat. In the future, I will plan my own itinerary in the Hawaiian islands and fly from island to island. I am sure I can plan something better and less expensive than what Norwegian charges for their poor service! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2015
Warning this is long but very complete/detailed. This was our second POA cruise in Hawaii, the last in 2010. The difference between the two cruises is substantial and that is what I want to concentrate on as well as provide some tips on ... Read More
Warning this is long but very complete/detailed. This was our second POA cruise in Hawaii, the last in 2010. The difference between the two cruises is substantial and that is what I want to concentrate on as well as provide some tips on things to do on this port intensive itinerary where managing your port visit time is important.. All the cruise lines have embarkation down to a science (debarkation not always so much!) but one thing worth commenting on here regarding POA: NCL has added a Hawaiian Ambassador. It's a nice touch. Aside from greeting us as a group in the Embarkation Lounge, I saw her many times throughout the cruise and her role is to enhance your Hawaiian experience with respect to the state's culture and history. She did a great job both aboard and on shore during embarkation. The entire embarkation process was very well organized. While you can get on the ship really early, like around 11a, don't expect your staterooms to be ready until after 1p and more likely after 2p. Send what you can with the baggage porters and board with as little as possible to enhance your ability to wander about the ship. If you arrive around 11a, there won’t be many there, it’s a breeze checking in, you get a card for your boarding group (we had group A, the first), guided to seats and listen to a nice Hawaiian band between explanations about the boarding process and cruise from the Hawaiian Ambassador. Boarded after sitting about 10—15 minutes. That was nice. Go to the Aloha Cafe (buffet) on deck 11 aft and enjoy its splendor before the crowds show up. Find a seat and eat outside on the expansive aft deck adjacent to the Aloha Café. Next walk around this beautiful ship and get to know her. POA was refurbished in late 2012 and into 2013. While the ship had an old feeling to it when we sailed with her in the summer of 2010 that was not the case on this cruise. Many upgrades including new or upgraded dining venues. In my opinion, the common areas of the ship were spotless. All in all, felt classy. There have been several reviews that are not particularly positive about the POA staff overall and that the experience aboard is like one would expect of a stay at a Holiday Inn. I would have agreed with that based on the last cruise we took aboard POA in 2010. No more. I was very impressed with all the crew members and staff I came in contact with. Historically, POA was manned and staffed primarily by American born, US citizens. As the story goes, when POA first started sailing this route in 2005 with an all-American crew, many of the housekeeping, restaurant and bar staff walked off the ship at its first and second port calls as none of them expected the work demands they experienced. Lots of disorganization ensued and POA got a terrible reputation for service that lingered for years until pay rates caught up with American standards and the make-up of the staff began to change. All of that seems to have been sorted out. In our area at least, most of the house-keeping staff were Asian like they are on most cruise ships. Overall, service was as good as I have experienced on 5 other lines that I am familiar with and in most cases, better. So, the "Holiday Inn" mantra that seemed to apply before is not even close to accurate this time around. This was a first class cruise in every respect. It fits with how competitive the NCL product has become in a very competitive cruise line industry. Cabins were fine. Maybe a little smaller than some of the newer cruise ships but they are exceptionally well laid out with plenty of hooks on doors. Something there is typically never enough of. Storage space was excellent as well. We booked a GTY Balcony (7674 was assigned about a month out) as part of one of the best deals with NCL I've ever had (four previous cruises with NCL out of 35 total). The package offered on this cruise date (January 17th) included Airport and Oahu port transfers, two nights at the Waikiki Marriot Hotel before the cruise, balcony accommodations aboard ship and RT air from Atlanta. The Marriot Waikiki was fabulous. One free Mai Tai cocktail each, both nights we were there. Nice pool bar. Food is expensive. Go down the street to Cheese Burger in Paradise or any number of much less expensive dining options around the hotel or within walking distance. We usually don't partake in cruise line provided transfers because I just want to get there and a cab is usually cheaper than a transfer. Since the transfers were part of the package, we grinned and went through with it. All the transfers were incredibly well organized, took no time at all and saved us a bundle in cab fares. Well done NCL. If you see these packages offered on POA by NCL (usually at low Hawaii travel times) jump on them. Great deal! If you stay at the Waikiki Marriot, there is an NCL office there by the front desk. You check in and out there. You don’t have to deal with the throngs of other guests at the front desk. This was a nice touch and NCL had 4 staff at their desk during set times to answer any questions you had about the cruise, transport, etc. Before this cruise, I had read that the buffet aboard POA was among the best at sea and compared to other dining venues aboard this ship, it was as good, if not better in terms of food quality and choices. I found that assessment to be accurate. We dined there routinely, only ate at Liberty once with other cruisers we met on an independent tour in Kona, Hawaii, and never dined at any of the specialty restaurants. The specialty restaurant have service charges but they are all reasonable, the highest priced at $25pp at Jefferson's Bistro. While this may not be fair because I did not dine there, I heard one comment that while the food was OK, in Jefferson's, the service was not. On our last cruise aboard POA, we did dine there and the service was, indeed, comparable to Waffle House or the likes of this famous corner restaurant chain ubiquitous in the South. That is too bad because the venue is beautiful and the menu looks inviting. I did hear positive comments about Cagney's (Steak and Lobster) and both Asian venues (one Tepenyaki spot adjoined with what amounts to a nice Chinese restaurant). Food choices, quality and service were very good in Liberty with the appearance that the staff was working very hard to overcome a historical perception of poor service in the two main dining rooms. Liberty is a little more formal with Skyline less so but keep in mind, nothing is really formal on any NCL ship as a result of the anytime dining theme they tout. And, by the way, I really liked that theme. Makes it nice; you can eat when you want, in any setting you want, wearing pretty much whatever you want. Something was always open. We like wine. I found the special deal POA offers to be particularly pleasing. You can get any 6 bottles (or more) at a 20% discount. The wine list is extensive and you can find most wines that you find in your local grocery store for under $15 priced at $24-32 on the wine list. If you want something fancy, there is that too. What is great about this deal is that the bottles you order get delivered to your stateroom with a nice towel, wine glasses and a cork screw; you can carry your wine anywhere on the ship, get a wine glass from a nearby bar or in a restaurant and drink to your heart's content. If you don't drink it all on a given night, you can cork it and bring it back to your stateroom or wait staff in any of the restaurants including the buffet, will keep it for you and deliver it to your table the next time you dine there. To my knowledge no other major cruise line does this or if they do offer it in some form, it has all kinds of restriction about where you can drink the bottle of wine you paid for. Nice touch, NCL! Obviously, this itinerary is port intensive. As usual and not particular to NCL, shore excursions are overpriced. However, I did find that the difference for using NCL's organized tours and those you can self-arrange in advance or at the pier were less than on other cruise lines I am familiar with. Keep in mind that during the off peak months (like January) you can rent a car at a very low price giving you the option, with a little pre-planning, to see whatever you like. We rented in every port except Kona (we had a pre-arranged tour there) and prices ranged from a low of $35 on Kauai to $65 on Oahu. Just don't try to rent around a major Holiday. A Thrifty agent told me they got $195/d for their cheapest rental during the Christmas to New Year's week. As an aside on this subject, we used Thrifty exclusively. Why? Because they are probably the cheapest rates compared to other majors and you can join the Blue Chip Club and avoid all the lines. While some lines had 10 to 12 people waiting I breezed right up to the Blue Chip desk and was on the road 5 minutes later. Sweet. Keep this in mind. I also have to mention that at every Thrifty agency we rented from, the staff was extremely pleasant and helpful. I’m sure Hertz, Avis and the rest are good too but I was very impressed with Thrifty’s customer service in the Hawaiian Islands. Good job! If you are new to sightseeing in the Hawaiian Islands, I recommend the "Revealed" series of guide books. You can get them used at Amazon for a song. Well worth it. On Ohau, if you can work it in (because it is an all-day thing) don't miss the Polynesian Cultural Center on the North Shore (about a 50 minute drive from Waikiki and go the southern route .... ask). One can spend a full day there. It is a non-profit operated by The Church of the Latter Day Saints (The Mormon Church) and staffed mostly by students who attend the extended BYU campus there. All the students who work there are on work/study programs and are authentic islanders form the various Polynesian countries. Very cool! You can spend an entire day there easily. I felt this was a highlight/don’t miss place to go (we went to Pearl last visit. This was way better). Tip: It seems expensive if you buy tickets in advance or from a hotel concierge for the Polynesian Cultural Center. A whole day trip including unlimited park access with the Luau and show included was quoted to me for $220pp. Wow! Think about a family of four spending $1000 to do that. Well, you can see the park just fine by doing it this way: First rent a car. Drive up there to arrive at 10:45a (just before the park opens). There is plenty of free parking early. Walk up to the entrance. There will be a sales person there before opening to explain to you how the pricing works. You can buy park admission and a very nice lunch for around $60 each. The lunch is a buffet and it starts at 11a when the park opens. You'll be guided to a table in a large open but covered area and, if you’re quick, you can get your food before the bus-loads of people show up. The place is huge and in 30 minutes it was full but we had the place and the buffet line to ourselves to start. Now, you won't get the show and while it is very good from what I hear, the country displays and very interesting activities associated with each of them are the heart of the park. Same with the Luau - you don't get it doing it the way we did it - but the buffet is pretty much the same thing. Enjoy. I have to admit, aside from the selling of these Luaus in Hawaii, they seem terribly expensive for light eaters. If you like to pound it down, great, go for one. But if not, this is something you can skip. It is too bad there isn’t some place that just does a show. Maybe there is and I just haven’t found it yet. Tip: On renting vehicles. Go as cheap as you can for your needs. Don't get convertibles and 4WD Jeeps. You don't need them! In Waikiki parking is expensive even at your hotel. If you can swing a one day rental there, rent for the day and return it (I did use Enterprise here, not Thrifty, because their location in Waikiki was close to where we stayed (The Waikiki Marriot) and was not in a hotel or at the airport where the prices for all the majors were quite high comparably). In addition, they had the latest return time (8pm) of all of them not at the airport (a 50 minute drive from Waikiki and longer at rush hour). At your other ports of call, Company specific shuttles run back and forth from the pier to the rental location all day long and usually till about 8p for overnight stays (Maui and Kauai). Parking should be figured out in advance if you keep the car overnight. It was available at Anchor Square in Lahaina, Maui. It's $20 and just down the street from the pier within walking distance if needed. A shopping center shuttle runs every 5-10 minutes when the stores open (around 9:30) until the stores close. Nice little place. Reportedly, it fills up early but that was not the case with us. You can stop buy and pick up a permit right after you get your rental car and a spot will be reserved for you. You have to drive back from the airport to near the pier. Not along ways. We didn't do that and it worked out fine. There is a lot at the pier in Nawiliwili, Kauai. It’s free but the closest lot is full by 5pm. There is an over-flow lot but I never saw it because we returned just in time to get the last one of two remaining spots right at the pier (about 4:35p). A car just behind us got the last one. Security at the pier gate told us when I asked, that if the pier lot was full, we'd be guided to the overflow lot and brought back to the pier. If you have a portable GPS, bring it. We have an old Garmin Nuvi. It worked fine. Seeing the Islands: We had some excellent, excellent guides on The Big Island in 2010 and Maui and Kauai last time and this time. My email is below. PM me and I’ll give you a list. You have two days in Maui. On our first day, we left Kahului port with the intention of driving to Haleakala National Park with a pre-stop at Grandma’s Coffee house (google this place for directions). It’s not a long day’s drive but be forewarned the drive up to Haleakala State Park takes 50 minutes to go about 12 miles. We decided not to do it as the VOG (haze from volcanic ash) was obscuring the views from the 10,000 foot park overlook. It is also cold up there. Bring a warm jacket (which we forgot to bring!). Grandma’s is fun. I recommend it. The Banana bread and coffee is the best. They also have good sandwiches, salads and usually a dinner special and all is reasonably priced (for Hawaii). On our second day, we did a Hike with the same guide we used in 2010. Fabulous. Clearly, the best way to see these two islands (Maui and Kauai) is by foot although I will tell you that a Door’s Off Helo Ride with Jack Harter in Kauai, something we did in 2010, is just spectacular. There are other Helo options. All of them are expensive (in the $250pp range) but if you are going to do one, do it on Kauai. There are some very nice hiking trails on both Maui and Kauai but especially on Kauai. On the Big Island, Hawaii, do not miss Volcano National Park (VNP) but take a pre-arranged, private guided tour unless you don't mid riding on a big bus with 85 of your closest friends. It’s more costly but the place is huge with lots of stuff. You will get your money’s worth with a good guide. We rented a car out of Hilo this time (had a guided tour of VNP last time) and drove off North bound up the eastern shore on Hwy 19 with no destination in mind. The drive is beautiful along the coastline. We turned around after we ate at a little road side restaurant called Tex Drive In in Honokaa. They had great food, priced well and the best pork and cabbage (a Hawaiian staple) and Teriyaki Hamburgers. The place is reportedly famous for Malasada (Portuguese fried doughnut). Yes, they were good, but so was all the other food we ate. A long drive will do that. Out of Kona on the Big Island, we took a pre-arranged tour. Again, PM me and I’ll tell you about this tour group. It was very good and inexpensive. You tender in Kona. I had read to go to the Pink Champaign Bar early to get tender tickets. I got there at 6:15a. Coffee was available. One other person was there. At 5 till 7, the tour lady showed up, made a brief statement about tours (???) and said the tender coordinator would be there shortly. About 7:15, she arrived and after several frantic phone calls from behind the bar said we could all go to the tender. No tickets necessary! So much for that. This was the only glitch from NCL staff on this cruise so, I’m not going to complain but I lost 30 minutes of sleep and breakfast over that little side show. But, it turned out great. Went back to the cabin, got my wife, went down to the tender, got right on and was ashore by about 7:30. Needless to say, don’t bother to go to the Champaign bar to get tender tickets. If you go as soon as the tenders are called ready (about 7:15a) just go to deck three and get on. If you don't hear the call or miss it, just go down around 7:15 to 7:30. Nobody will be there. When you get off the tender and exit the dock to your right, you’ll be looking at several appealing restaurants for Breakfast that have nice porches. Pick the one that no one is sitting in (Paradise Brewing Company). The other one that looks really busy offers a free breakfast for nearby hotel guests. It’s crowded. Paradise was a find. They serve Kona coffee. I had three cups. The stuff is addictive. The breakfast (I had a fruit plate based on a hollowed out very fresh and delicious Papaya, Ann had pancakes) was excellent and reasonably priced). We had a tour with an 8:30a meeting time/place about 100 feet away so this worked out perfectly. More on Kauai. Hired a great guide here. Just email and I’ll give you contact information. In 2010, like I said, we rode Jack Harter Helos. This time we hiked. Be careful with your abilities here. Kauai is a trekkers paradise with some very demanding trails. Our guide called these Ninja Hikes. First time her husband, an accomplished hiker, took her on one she admitted she cried. That was funny. We did a 3.5 mile RT hike into Waimea Canyon (Hawaii’s Grand Canyon). Moderate difficulty with spectacular views of the canyon. Our guide was also a private chef. Her ex-brother-in-law, formerly married to our guide’s sister, runs an Italian restaurant in Lihui (the town adjacent to Nawiliwili port in Kauai). Went there for a late lunch. Wow. Not cheap but nothing is in Hawaii. Still worth it. Finally! If you read this whole thing, you are a glutton for travel information. Back to Oahu. Tips: You’ll be able to disembark at 8a unless you walk your own bags off. Then it’s 7:30a. If you are a light traveler, this is a good idea because, like most returning to the east coast of the USA, you will have an evening flight out of Honolulu International. You can tour Honolulu for a full day if you plan carefully in advance. Disembarkation was very well organized. On NCL, you pick your disembarkation time by picking up luggage tags at guest services. If you want to leave the ship after 8, pick up your luggage tags as soon as they are available. When I went down the day before, 8a were the only tags left! Worked perfectly for us. We got off, picked up our bags and got in line for our pre-paid transfers. The line went quickly as we rode in big buses and we were at the airport about 8:40a. I left my wife at the departure area curbside with our bags and I proceeded to the lower level, departure area, caught the shuttle to Thrifty and was headed back to pick up my wife at 9a. We spent the rest of the day sightseeing in old, downtown Honolulu and then watched some surfing on Waikiki beach. It was a nice day. The cherry on top was another restaurant find. The place is on Nimitz Blvd, near the airport and is called Nico’s on pier 38. Noted for inexpensive, fresh seafood, the place was packed with locals. It’s not sit-down service. You order at a counter and you’re given one of those ringers that lights up. When it does light up, your food is ready, you pick it up in plastic containers with plastic knife and fork and carry it to your table. There’s a separate full bar with Kona beers on tap. Order here separately or pick-up fountain beverages, tea or coffee at another bar for that purpose. It was really fast. Waited maybe 15 minutes for our order. I had a fabulous Ahi Tuna plate (ridiculously fresh tuna) for $12.95. My wife had shrimp pesto for $11.95. You can’t touch those prices for really fresh, high quality seafood anywhere let alone in Honolulu. Turned our rental car in at the airport about 4:30p for a 7:30p departure to Dallas, hopped on the shuttle, hit Kona Brewing Company restaurant in the airport for one more Kona Beer and a carry aboard club sandwich and we were on our way back to Georgia. Late afternoon, the airport was empty, no lines, nothing. When we arrived at 8:40a on our paid for transfer, the place was a zoo. Do not go there early and spend all day in the airport if you have an afternoon or evening flight. Get a rental car and enjoy you last day. Sigh. I slept all the way back to Dallas on the first leg. On to ATL easily and on time. All our bags got there (Thanks American Airlines who I never fly and make an effort to avoid them if possible but it was part of the package).The end. Want to go back right now. jbuch002@gmail.com   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2014
Hawaii is to die for and don't let anyone tell you anything different! It was our first time. Although Honolulu was not the greatest, the Polynesian Cultural Center was terrific. The re-enactors were outstanding, food was great, and ... Read More
Hawaii is to die for and don't let anyone tell you anything different! It was our first time. Although Honolulu was not the greatest, the Polynesian Cultural Center was terrific. The re-enactors were outstanding, food was great, and price was right for an all day immersion into the Polynesian culture. Embarkation was a breeze compared to many other cruises we have been on. No photographers hounding you at every turn. Our room was a standard balcony - not the best or the least. Our cabin steward was outstanding! She went out of her way to make our vacation effortless. Ship entertainment was enjoyable - ship's band was great at big band sounds and dance music went on for hours. The illusionist was AMAZING!! He even did a program at the pool in front of everyone - in the water for 2.38 minutes in chains and came out unhurt! Excursions were a joy - a nature hike- we ate flowers, smelled different leaves, and waterfall jumping with Glory, surfing (!) with guys who treated us like their jobs depended on both of us getting up on the board, snorkeling with wetsuits (!) and a surfboard that allowed you to drift along and see as much as you possibly could - not exhausting as past experiences - the Atlantis submarine (!) --all were just outstanding. The pride and love of the Hawaiian peoples for their home was palpable. For those of you who are Catholic - mass on Sunday at 6pm on the island is just a 10 minute walk from the ship.The small church is lovely. The ship offered no worship services of any kind. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2013
Our first Celebrity cruise and we were delighted because we got such a great deal on the cruise itself and the airfare. So it was a no-brainer when we decided to visit beautiful Hawaii and check it off the old bucket list. We flew from New ... Read More
Our first Celebrity cruise and we were delighted because we got such a great deal on the cruise itself and the airfare. So it was a no-brainer when we decided to visit beautiful Hawaii and check it off the old bucket list. We flew from New York the day of the boarding (it was a good flight but long) we finally arrived at the port around 4:00 in the afternoon and we were aware of the issues the Solstice was having with NoroVirus (as they had sent us an email advising the boarding would be delayed until 2:00 so that they could sanitize the ship) We appreciated that and understood because let's face it no one wants to get the Norovirus. HOWEVER the check in was a mess, very unorganized it was almost like they had never used the Honolulu port before and you would think that they should know that most of the people boarding there had traveled a long way so they really should have provided a rest area and some light refreshments. There was nothing! We finally boarded around 4:30ish and our rooms were ready around 6:00. The ship was beautiful and we were very happy to see that the inside cabin we had booked was roomy and very comfortable (we have never stayed in an inside cabin before) and based on this experience I would definitely consider staying in an inside room again. Because of the virus everything was "served" by the crew for the first 7 days or so. This was necessary I am sure but really clogged up the buffet particularly at the coffee stations in the morning at breakfast. The food at the buffet was varied and plentiful but the scrambled eggs they served were most definitely of the powdered variety. Breakfast in the dining room was delicious though. The main dining room was very elegant and by and large the food was very good there but I did get a lobster tail that was most definitely "spoiled" it was rectified immediately when I brought it to the attention of the waiter. Our fellow passengers were decidedly much older I would say age 70 plus but we would much rather travel with older folks than kids. The shore excursions were great except when we tried to book Pearl Harbor pre cruise we were told there was only one ticket left on line and that we should just book that one ticket and MAYBE we would get another when we got on board the ship. Twice I called Celebrity customer service with questions pre cruise I must say for a cruise line that prides itself in being more upscale they were not very helpful or friendly (this after I held for a good 1/2 hour). The entertainment was excellent I particularly enjoyed Greg Bonham, David Klinkenberg, Kuba and the Cirque du Soleil type show called "SOLSTICE" was outstanding. The sea days were very relaxing that is of course until we got to Ensenada. We were assured that our luggage would travel on the same bus as us. It of course was not (actually 3 buses behind ours) fortunately we had a later flight so when it turned up we were relieved and had plenty of time to calm down we were not the only people missing luggage there were several people one poor woman was fairly certain she was going to miss her flight. Not very organized Celebrity. We did enjoy the ship and would consider cruising with Celebrity again but it would have to be a good deal because I didn't find it to be superior to any other cruise line we have sailed with. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
I read reviews of this cruise on different websites and was worried that I had made a mistake in choosing this one. However, it was a wonderful experience. If this is your first time to Hawaii or even if Hawaii is your home (we met ... Read More
I read reviews of this cruise on different websites and was worried that I had made a mistake in choosing this one. However, it was a wonderful experience. If this is your first time to Hawaii or even if Hawaii is your home (we met residents of Hawaii taking the cruise) this a a fantastic way to visit more than Oahu and Honolulu. Don't expect the ship to provide you with all your entertainment. The ship was primarily our hotel and transportation. Food: Food in the Aloha Cafe is quick, of great variety, and of average quality. We chose it for breakfast when we were in a hurry to make an early excursion or for a quick snack on returning from an excursion. The Liberty and Skyline Dining rooms are a quiet and relaxed way to dine with less variety and quality is above average. Jefferson's Bistro had the highest quality food of any of the restaurants that we tried. For sheer fun try the 50s style Cadillac Diner and be sure to have the brownie sundae for dessert. Room: We have almost always cruised with a balcony and it is well worth the money. Of the 3 cruise lines we've used, this ship had the largest balcony. A wonderful place to relax and be alone with my honey. Wonderful storage space and an extremely comfortable bed. Bathroom is of good size if your are an averaged sized person. No complaints about the room but then for us it was really just a place to sleep and hangout on the balcony. Excursions: We hate to ride around in a bus and chose more active excursions: Road to Hana: we rented a car and drove it ourselves. No problems except that it rained. I would have killed myself if I'd been stuck on a bus doing this excursion in the rain. It is a RAIN forest so expect rain. The drive does require the driver to concentrate so give them breaks. Whale watching and Lahaina: Saw lots of whales and wished we'd had more time to spend in Lahaina. Cute, if touristy little town. Kilauea Volcano Biking: Tied as best excursion. Andy and Justin took great care of us. If you can ride a bike, you can do this excursion. It was so much fun! And a great way to see Kilauea. It was an 8 mile trip with numerous stops, lots of nature interpretation, snacks, and FUN! Captain Zodiac Raft and Snorkel: Highly rated but the raft trip to the snorkel trip was more endurance than fun for us. Maybe at our age we really don't enjoy being bounced that much. However, the snorkeling is FANTASTIC and the boat ride should be endured just for the snorkeling. I understood that this is supposed to be the best snorkeling in the islands. Mokihana Helicopter Tour with Blue Hawaiian on Kauai: Tied as best excursion with our bike trip. This was such a gorgeous way to see Kauai and the Nepali Coast. Expensive, but absolutely worth every minute. At the end you have the option to buy the DVD of your actual flight with pictures of the people onboard in the video. Discover Jungle Falls by Kayak: This was our poorest excursion. The title is a little misleading as you actually hike (in thick slippery mud)not kayak to the Falls. The kayaking was the best part, but the scenery was not impressive. Very few views of the mountains and none of the falls from your kayak. The supplied a good lunch at the end and some of the young people chose to scale the rocks to stand under the falls, but it looked pretty dangerous to us and the water was cold. The bright spot was that it washed off the mud before your trekked back up the hill through the mud again. Was looking for some nature interpretation, but primarily a nice kayak trip (2 1/2 miles) followed by a VERY muddy hike. Kilohana Manor House Luau: I don't know that I can honestly say that this was worth the extra money. The food was at best average. You did receive sit down service not a buffet, but the food was not hot and of less than average quality. The performance was fantastic. We were given front row seats, but the stage is circular and raised and unless you are in the far back, everyone should have had a great view. Service: I can honestly say that everyone that we came in contact with on this trip gave us prompt and courteous service. You get as you give. I also understand that by our dining around 7 it is less hectic than earlier and probably provided us with better service. We did a post trip at Norwegian's partner the Marriott Waikiki. This hotel is an easy 5 min walk to the beach. The rooms we stayed in were large and comfortable. For a view of the beach you want the Kealohilani Tower. There is a very good breakfast buffet here, but not cheap. We found a great breakfast about .4 mi away at a Denny's at less than half the cost of the buffet. Great service and wonderful atmosphere at the Marriott. Very relaxing. Excursions on Oahu: We rented a car from Hertz that has a branch there at the Marriott Waikiki Resort and drove the 20-30 min to Pearl Harbor ourselves. This was the best way as we could spend as much or as little time as we wanted at each site and not be under pressure from a tour guide. We chose to see the Arizona, Bowfin Submarine, and the Missouri. I had purchased tickets/time in advance online to see the Arizona. No need to stand in line for this anymore. You must pick the tickets up at least an hour before your scheduled time, but that turned out to be a lifesaver for us. The high winds had cancelled the tours out to the Arizona for the 3 days previous to our trip, but they were running on our day. We arrived at 8:30 and the lady at the ticket counter recommended that we hurry and take the 9 AM tour as there was still space. Lucky that we did as our 10:30 reserved time and all times for the rest of that day were again cancelled due to high winds. The Bowfin submarine was a self guided tour, but like on the Arizona, we used the audio tour. You get lots of information (or not) and at your pace. The Missouri was very interesting inside as I've never seen the inside of a military ship. It was 3PM by the time we finished and we just didn't have the energy left to see the new Aviation Museum, but I understand it is great. Since we still had the car, we drove out to Diamond Head and walked up to the top to see a fantastic 360 view. You must start hiking up by 4:30 and the gates close at 6:00. The roundtrip hike is only 1.6 miles. If you are in reasonably good physical condition and take your time, it is not too strenuous and rewards you with one of the best views we saw the whole trip. On our 2nd day in Honolulu we again rented our car at the Hertz Marriott (we didn't keep it from the day before as parking at the hotel is almost $50/day) and drove to the North Shore by H1 and H2 stopping at the Dole Pineapple Plantation on the way. This is a touristy spot that is worth it for the Pineapple Whipped ice cream. Then we stopped at Waimea and Sunset beaches where there was a lot of wave action and surfing. Driving down King Kamehameha Hwy we stopped at Giovanni's shrimp bus for lunch. Delicious. The view of the ocean is gorgeous as you travel down the west side of Oahu. The Kualoa Regional Park is worth a stop to see Chinaman's Hat. Some folks may enjoy Kualoa Ranch, but we passed it and the Polynesian Cultural Center by. We then crossed the mountain to Honolulu by way of Pali Highway and enjoyed the fantastic view from Pali Overlook. Driving during this trip was much easier than Road to Hana, but still a long day for us--took about 7 hrs with all our stops. We purchased our own airfare as I don't like to be at the mercy of what the cruise lines choose. Be glad to answer any questions that I can. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2012
If you want to see a number of different islands in a short time from the comfort of a mobile hotel don't hesitate, especially as the realistic option is a number of inter-island flights and the time this takes out of your holiday. ... Read More
If you want to see a number of different islands in a short time from the comfort of a mobile hotel don't hesitate, especially as the realistic option is a number of inter-island flights and the time this takes out of your holiday. We're a married couple from the UK in our late 40's and have cruised with several different lines in a number of different parts of the world. Essentially we look to use the ship as a floating hotel to visit different places, so the port intensity and quality of stops is of far more importance to us than the ship. We flew out via a couple of great days in Vancouver -- having experienced the unpleasantness of US immigration on previous trips, clearing immigration before reaching America in Vancouver was a pleasure with friendly border staff and a reasonable flight. We'd pre-booked airport transfers to the Ramada Waikiki (hotel OK, breakfast poor) with Roberts Hawaii ($11 each) and they were very professional -- staff waiting before baggage collection with a list of customers they had booked off our flight -- there were plenty of Roberts staff around so if you had any problems I'm sure they would have sorted it out. Once they'd found everyone we went down to find the bags that were then passed to a Roberts porter with a luggage cart -- once everything was found they radioed for the van and we were away -- about 20 minutes. While the overall cost seems not much less than a taxi, the fixed price was an advantage as we were at the tail end of the rush hour and watching a taxi meter whirl round would not have been a good start to Hawaii! I use Hertz for business travel in Europe so am in their loyalty club -- it works very well, but more later. In Waikiki they have a concession inside the Hilton Village (about 5 mins from the Ramada) where we picked up a car for a couple of days before the cruise -- they keep them in the multi-story car park on site and so are easy to collect and drop off. On the Saturday afternoon we checked in for the cruise around 3-30 with no queues and went straight to our room, grabbed a quick bite in the Aloha buffet (all eateries close at 4pm ready for the safety briefing at 5pm). Before we got to the ship we had problems in finding the exact location the ship docks. It ties up (I think) on Pier 2 -- it's definitely the berth accessed via Channel Street off Ala Moana Bld -- the UK version of Google Earth has the ship moored up in the picture next to the large shed complex they use as an embarkation hall. Vehicles enter via Channel Street (one way) and leave via Forrest Ave. We saw a number of ship staff walking into Waikiki (guess about 50 mins?) and we walked over to the ship from the Aloha Tower -- about 20 minutes. Some cruise ships tie up directly next to the Aloha Tower -- the POA does not! To take advantage of the great itinery we booked two weeks back-to-back -- an option not really advertised; all the agents push you to a week on the ship plus a hotel stay. In fact it was simple -- the cost was effectively double that for one week. Half way through the first week we asked at reception what we needed to do and they simply swapped our existing cruise cards for ones with later dates. As we had pre-booked the same cabin for the two weeks there was no need to pack or do anything else -- we simply treated the turnaround day as a port day (Pearl Harbour - bus from across the main road outside the port straight there $2.50 each). Chatting to the ship officers (during a Latitudes party) they said the ship effectively sails full every week so the prices don't get big last minute cuts. This was very much our experience and so we eventually booked an inside cabin (for the first time). Other reviews have discussed the relative merits of balcony cabins verses inside -- all I can say is we couldn't justify the extra cost, though we were thrown by the lack of daylight to give a time clue. After a couple of days we took to leaving the TV on with the sound off and tuned to the bowcam channel! Also the inside cabins don't have facilities to make hot drinks -- but other than these two minor issues, the cabin was fine -- there was a safe and small fridge. As others have commented the ship spends lots of time in port and so if you're active you don't lose much by going for an inside cabin and you save a bundle. We did pick the location carefully (Deck 9 near the back) and this was ideal -- 2 flights of stairs up to the Aloha buffet (and on tap coffee) and 6 down to get off on Deck 3 -- to limit weight gain we have a policy of not using the lifts so getting back on at Deck 3 let us climb to Deck 6 via the midship stairwell, catch our breath walking through Deck 6 to the aft stairwell to cover the remaining stairs up to Deck 9! Noted a few people commenting on the expense/poor quality of the on board wifi. If you have your own remote IT device not needing a plug in connection, there's no problem in finding high quality free (or the cost of a coffee) wifi ashore -- I kept up with data heavy work emails and booked our week two cars on line from various cafes with no problem. Foodwise we ate in the Aloha buffet all the time and it was absolutely fine if slightly eclectic in options in the evenings. The Aloha restaurant covers a large part of the back of Deck 11 running right through to include an outside dining area. At breakfast time the main (inside) buffet opens about 7am with a smaller area (under a cover outside) duplicating the main buffet opening at 7.30. During evenings, only the inside buffet is opened (at 6pm), though you can easily carry food through to the outside dining area. Oddly no trays, but the plates are way oversized! We ate outside all the time and never had a problem finding a table. Plenty of veggie options inc soya milk if you asked. The food is laid out in island units that you wouldn't think would work but do -- they seem to minimise queues -- the only ones queues we saw were for the carvery and salad at peak times. Otherwise there was always pizza/burgers/pasta as well as Indian food if the main options did not appeal. Helpfully free coffee/tea/fruit tea/water/lemonade (or similar) plus ice was available all the time in the Aloha Buffet either in the main area or in the smaller buffet area on the outside deck. Can't comment on any of the other eating areas (or indeed the on board entertainment) as we never visited - except the Cadillac Diner we tried once -- you had to order and it was slow! Trip wise we hired cars at all the stops in the first week and some during the second. I'd strongly urge you do this and book in advance -- we got better prices on line and on a couple of occasions I heard people trying to book on the day being told there was no spare cars. This also worked out much much cheaper than taking ship trips. At all the ports the mains car hire companies were running automatic courtesy shuttles to and from the airport rental locations. Thrifty and Dollar seemed to be getting most of the business, but we were well served by Hertz. The only exception was Kona (the tender port) were we rang after waiting for an hour and they sent a shuttle -- evidently the airport is further away and lots of people don't bother with a car as the port itself is nice -- would have been helpful if they'd said this beforehand.. Port wise Kahului is an industrial area and while there are beaches you can walk to either way they aren't great and quite exposed -- you really need a car or trip to the other parts to the island. Hilo again is quite industrial, though the nearby beaches are nicer with some pretty coves and a shopping centre not too far away -- still a car is helpful as you can cover these areas on the way back. Kona is the tender day and the only time you get dropped right into the middle of a nice tourist area with a mix of beaches shopping and a historic area. Nawiliwili again is an industrial port, though with beaches and shops about a 10 minute walk away -- there are free shuttles. Just about enough entertainment for half a day. We struggled to find any ship specific info on disembarkation (to inform us in booking our own flights) so you may find the following useful; A few days before the end of the cruise they put colour coded labels out near reception -- they don't get delivered to your cabin. These are timed for disembarkation from 8am in 15 minute groups through to (I think) 9-30. You put these on your bags the night before disembarkation and the cases are ready batched inside the pier terminal ready to be collected according to colour when you get off. On the Saturday morning they announce the colour codes for you to get off -- in reality each time was called about 15 minutes early (8am called at 7-45 etc) -- this doesn't really matter as you can still get off when you want. They also have a self-walk off option where you carry off your own cases starting at 7-45 -- in fact they announced this was open from 7-30. Be aware if you choose this option you need to navigate the ship walkway and two sets of stairs (with lifts/escalators etc) before you pass the luggage collection point, so unless the 15 minutes is critical it's easier to let them take your bags off the ship for you. Getting off the ship was very slick with sufficient card scanning points for the queues to be small and fast moving -- the only delay was dodging round dawdling passengers. As the ship never leaves US waters there's no immigration, customs or Government formality -- once you leave the ship (and general Port security) you're back in Hawaii -- it's as quick as that. There are no walk up transfer points from the pier to the airport so we got a cab --well marshalled and as it's a weekly event plenty of cabs ready for your business - $30 (inc tip and as it's Saturday morning no real risk of traffic delay). We were at the airport easily by 9am (if pushed I think you could guarantee 8-30 for flight planning purposes.) We were booked with United and they use the modern method of a single queue for all flights meaning a long queue as there were earlier flights as well. Be warned that before you join the queue they have some scales and if any bags weigh more than 50 pounds you need to re-pack before they let you join the line -- about 1 in 10 passengers were caught out in this way - interestingly they never seemed to weigh hand luggage so any excess baggage just got shifted around -- but I can't guarantee! Finally the security check was very slow (about an hour) so don't cut it too fine! In conclusion if you want to visit a number of islands without the hassle of internal flights this is the option for you. Also the Pride of America (being US flagged) is the only ship allowed to have an interisland itinerary so if you want to avoid the multi-day sea transfer it's the only option. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2012
we enjoyed this cruise and we made friends with a good crowd which helped to make it enjoyable if we had been alone it may have been a bit disappointing especially the first week when everything seemed to finish early or every where we ... Read More
we enjoyed this cruise and we made friends with a good crowd which helped to make it enjoyable if we had been alone it may have been a bit disappointing especially the first week when everything seemed to finish early or every where we seemed to go to see a band we managed to get there when they were on a 15 min break with no music to fill in at least if the band isn't on we should have good music.The Schooner Bar is great but gets very full and Derek works very hard most nights. The other bands on the ships could take a lesson from him. The first ball was very disappointing we went after 2nd sitting dinner ,the band played a waltz followed by wait for it a polka in fact when this cleared the dance floor they played another polka at which one couple did venture to dance.They then played a Beatles medley lo and behold the dance floor was full several numbers later and everyone having fun the band said good night I complained to one of the band members and he agreed they should keep on playing whilst people are dancing especially as it wasn't even 11pm.Never mind we went to the centrum music there oh no they had gone on 15 min break!! The cruise ,food ,staff all great just need to get the music and entertainment a bit organised. The RC dancers and singers all great and they do work hard but perhaps could be rosters so there are always some of them to keep dancing going.The 2nd and 3rd weeks were a lot livelier and when we went to the disco had a good time cos there was a few of us to request music. Sitting Round the pool got to be repetitive when they promoted the signature restaurants neatly every day. Bar staff are all very good and the waiters are great enjoyed the waiters singing in the dining room. Overall a good cruise Read Less
Sail Date: January 2012
I discovered cruising in my fifties and loved it from the start, with 7 delightful journeys prior to this one: Holland American (1), Disney (1), NCL (2), Celebrity (3). I frequently travel solo, as I did on this trip. Hands down this was ... Read More
I discovered cruising in my fifties and loved it from the start, with 7 delightful journeys prior to this one: Holland American (1), Disney (1), NCL (2), Celebrity (3). I frequently travel solo, as I did on this trip. Hands down this was the best overall experience of all and a big part of that was the fabulous Ocean Princess, which has I fear has spoiled me forever. This small-ish ship (c. 600 passengers) feels more like a ship than a hotel (as the bigger ships do); it is elegant, intimate, friendly, easy to get around, uncrowded,and personal with every amenity that interests me and more dining choices than on any of the other lines I've been on, except for NCL. Embarkation and travel there: I had Princess arrange my air travel and was extremely pleased with the excellent price they got and the acceptable airline choices. I arrived in Honolulu 2 days before boarding and stayed in the Outrigger Reef Hotel on Waikiki Beach--an excellent, great value hotel, right on the beach with a small hotel feel. Boarding was amazingly easy...no waiting in line, just walking up an old-style gangway onto the ship. As best I could tell, we were the only cruise ship in the harbor. What a treat compared to the chaos of the big US ports (e.g., San Diego, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami). On-Board Activities and Amenities: People looking for rock-climbing, constant live-music at the pool,Broadway-style shows, and multiple lively late night venues will not find that on this ship. But everything I am interested in when cruising was fully available and well-done on this ship. I care about the fitness center (well-equipped with only one 10 minute wait for a treadmill the entire cruise; good daily programs, many for no extra charge), the enrichment program (outstanding lecturer, very knowledgeable), and the conduciveness of the ship to just walking about and/or sitting and reading or watching the sea. With respect to the last item, I was very pleased with this ship and surprised that despite its small size (even the stairs and the elevators are smallish), it felt less crowded than any other I've been on. I could always find a comfortable deck chair, by the pool or elsewhere, no matter the hour. The beautiful library is rightfully called (based on my experience) "the best at sea." Shore Excursions: Normally I book most of my on-shore activities myself, avoiding the typically high priced, crowded ship-organized tours. But this time I selected the Princess tours and was Maximally Happy! Only two tours I took (those on Boro Boro and on Morea) were more than 12 people. All the rest (and I took one at every port) were highly personal, with superior guides, and outstanding values. The Morea trip (half day on a motu ((small island)) with swimming, bar-b-cue, and music) was about 75 people but did not feel crowded and was a to-die-for day in Paradise. Kudos to Princess for offering outstanding options! Dining: Of the cruise lines I have previously sailed with, Celebrity had the best food by far in the main dining room, though I give NCL high points for the quality and variety of their alternative sites. But the Ocean Princess on my recent trip topped them all. I ate dinner in the main dining room about 75% of the time and never lacked for good choices. The lobster tails were actual whole lobster tails (I had seconds!) and not the disappointing tidbits served on Celebrity. The New Orleans styled crayfish etouffee was one this native New Orleanian would have been proud to have to prepared. The salads were composed of fresh, high quality ingredients. Breakfast and lunches I mostly ate in the Panorama buffet (which on sea days, turns into a table-service Bistro at night). I was astonished at the magnificent variety and food quality there as well. Every day there were, among other things, multiple excellent seafood choices including fresh mussels in the shell and huge bar-b-cued tiger shrimp. Desserts were varied and the pastry outstanding. Yum, yum all around!! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2011
Just a few, quick thoughts about our sailing on the "Pride of America" last week. This is not a standard cruise because the ports have pride of place over the cruise itself. Ship is adequate, if a bit cheesy with an American ... Read More
Just a few, quick thoughts about our sailing on the "Pride of America" last week. This is not a standard cruise because the ports have pride of place over the cruise itself. Ship is adequate, if a bit cheesy with an American history theme. Other reviewers mentioned poor food quality and sadly this is still true. The "Skyline" restaurant served the worst steak I ever tasted in my life. "East Meets West" offered up pathetic, slightly nauseating sushi. After those experiences we avoided the restaurants and ate entirely in the Aloha Buffet, which surprisingly was quite good as buffets go. Nice variety and we did not find a dish that was poorly prepared. Our cabin was the smallest available because we operate under the assumption that we went on the cruise to do something, not hang out in our cabin. It was fine, kept sparkling clean by our amazing room steward, but be warned that the shower was so small that raising both elbows above you waist will hit both walls of the shower and I am only 5' 7" tall! Larger folks will simply not fit without some creative yoga positions. Entertainment ranged from the good ("Second City Comedy") to appalling ("Rock-A-Hula") Rock-A-Hula deserves special scorn as a third-rate "Glee" ripoff. Really, really bad. Our sailing had an elderly demographic. Yes, I know cruises tend to cater to older people, but the ratio of over 65 to under 40 was probably three or four to one. This is just a guess, but we felt like teenagers and we are both 40! It made for slow going when you attended something crowded. We did not go on any excursions and took the rental car route instead. Second-hand reports indicated the cruise-organized excursions were uneven in quality. The Waimea Canyon bus tour took major heat for stopping at every opportunity to offer up more souvenir stands. We had a great time renting a car and driving to the various destinations. A caveat; renting a car in Kona is a bit confusing. If you make a reservation for a car, do not make it for the airport! It is a $30.00 cab ride to get the rental. Pick-up your car at the hotel in town instead. We used the Thrifty Blue Chip system for our rentals and had no issues. Also, an in car GPS saved us a couple of times and it was well worth the $12.00 per day. Hawaiin roads are confusing and use local names. It is a challenge to navigate. A suggestion for an excursion is the kayakwailua.com trip. You kayak up a lazy river, hike in a couple of miles and go swimming in a pool under a 112-foot waterfall. Amazing experience, but fair warning that the kayak does require some muscle to paddle for an hour and the trail to the waterfall is brutal. Ankle-deep, slimy, slippery mud on top of tree roots and often the trail has you traversing along a riverbank where slipping would result in a serious fall. That said, it was a bargain at $100.00 for two people. You do not need to be a jock to do this trip, but if you are not expect soreness the next day. As a final tidbit, we had the extra special experience of an on-board quarantine! We picked up some stomach bug on Saturday, got sick Saturday night and crawled into the sick bay Sunday Morning. The doctor gave us a kit of Gatorade, painkillers (not the fun kind, Tylenol) and some anti-nausea drugs to relieve the symptoms and told us that we were contagious and that we should stay in our cabin until 24-hours after our last symptom (eg puking up a vital organ). This trashed the two days on Maui, but we felt so miserable we did not care. Our room steward did some extra cleaning and precautions when cleaning our room, room service was free (even at night when there is a surcharge) and the crew called to check on us twice a day. Overall they were quite considerate. Even the visit to the doctor was free. I know this is because the cruise is terrified of a costly outbreak, but even so it was handled quite well. We recovered and salvaged our vacation. Overall, it was a fun cruise, so long as your reset your expectations and focus on the island and less on the cruise itself. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2011
We are used to expedition-style cruising on small ships with minuscule cabins, so our small cabin seemed roomy to us, and we were thrilled to have a separate shower in our somewhat seedy bathroom. We had a LOT of storage space and the ... Read More
We are used to expedition-style cruising on small ships with minuscule cabins, so our small cabin seemed roomy to us, and we were thrilled to have a separate shower in our somewhat seedy bathroom. We had a LOT of storage space and the closet had more hangers than we needed. (That was a first!) The cabin was dusty when we arrived, so before unpacking I dusted all hard surfaces with disinfectant wipes. Same for the balcony furniture. Not a good way to start out, but it didn't take long. We were very satisfied with our cabin except for the much overused mattresses. They were grooved down the center from too many voyagers. We did not sleep comfortably in our trough-style beds, which left us a bit tired and cranky. On disembarkation day, I observed that all the mattresses in cabins near ours were also visibly worn out down the center -- it was easy to see when the beds were stripped down. We found the ship to be attractive and especially enjoyed the enormous photos of American scenes at the stairwell landings/elevator entrances. The food in the large dining rooms was ordinary and the service was slow, so we mostly ate in the cafe/cafeteria. We thought the food there was quite good for cafeteria food, with lots of options, and we loved eating in the outside area. The one excellent meal that we had was at the French restaurant, the Jefferson Bistro, which was worth the surcharge. For us the trip was not about the food or other traditional ship amenities but the ports. And the ship is a great way to see several islands in a short amount of time. We wore ourselves out on shore, so I can't say much about the diversions available on the ship. Because of the beds, we will not use NCL again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2010
Our 12 day cruise started in Honolulu, toured the Hawaiian islands for 7 days, 5 days at sea and ended in Ensenada, Mexico. We had cruised often before but not for 12 years, we had retired young and moved to Mexico so always seemed to be ... Read More
Our 12 day cruise started in Honolulu, toured the Hawaiian islands for 7 days, 5 days at sea and ended in Ensenada, Mexico. We had cruised often before but not for 12 years, we had retired young and moved to Mexico so always seemed to be on holidays. Anyway after 10 years we decided to take a one month holiday, 2 weeks touring islands in Hawaii and end with this 12 day cruise on the Carnival ship called the Spirit. I can assure you we were both very excited about this trip and did a lot of planning for it. Unfortunately with the fond memories we had of past cruises, including Carnival, we automatically assumed the cruise would be fantastic. That was not the case and I honestly hope Carnival reads this. I have always admired how cruise lines can get their passengers aboard and into their cabins as fast as they do and on this ship it was the same, quick and efficient. Once aboard we went touring the ship to get a feel for our next 12 day surroundings, sadly that was when we began to wonder about our choice. The Spirit at some point may have been wonderful but today the ship seemed dated and incredibly gaudy, the best description I can come up with is Caesars Palace gone plastic. It was a bit sad since we had decided in advance to use all 5 star hotels which had been fabulous and now this, oops. Now to be fair we did have a fantastic room on the Spirit, we had a stateroom with a balcony which had plenty of room for all our things. The only negative was the totally old and out of date TV. The person we all see and hear from the most on any cruise would be the cruise director and always in the past I have found this person to be the individual who can truly make the cruise more fun and exciting with the planned events. I am sure everyone would agree this person and these events become so much more important when there are 5 sea days. Well on our cruise the events were almost non existent and very uninspiring and to us it seemed the cruise director had become this constant person on a loudspeaker trying to sell us drink specials, shore excursions, spa treatments, store merchandise, upgraded restaurant, bingo, photo's, etc. On previous trips we had always enjoyed the galley tour, well now there is a price for this, a high price with limited people. In general we would say the food was a high lite, there were so many great tasting meals and deserts. We would also add that on at least 3 nights the selections were very limited and not to our liking. We enjoyed the fact there was a 5 bottle special where we could buy wine and have it with our meal each night, this seemed so out of character for Carnival. Food on the Lido deck was as usual plentiful buffet style and was a great place for lunch and breakfast. It is impossible to complain about this part of the service and it was obvious many people enjoyed this area a lot. The food high lite had to be the visit to their steak house. Sadly it also was an additional expense for the quality of food they used to serve 12 years ago. However since Carnival is so determined to get more of our money this is an area that must be visited. Part of my fond memories of past cruises was the nightly entertainment which to me in those days seemed to rival the best Las Vegas shows and I can still remember laughing so hard it hurt when some of the comedians entertained us. Its not the same any more and even trying not to sound negative I have to say the singing and dancing was entertaining but amateur and the comedians weak. One comedian gave the same jokes 2 nights in a row. You have to give Carnival credit for one thing though, they found a way for us to supply the entertainment for them which eliminates their expense. Carnival uses the passengers as entertainment, one night karaoke and the other a passenger talent show. WOW that night we got to watch 3 amateurs, one danced, one sang and one related poetry to us. If you are a person who likes to stay in shape or even plan to do a little exercise while on this trip be warned. The gym is free but the gym equipment is super old and worn out. Of 8 treadmills they had 4 were broken and out of service. The staff in this gym were invisible so it was hard to get music or TV while trying to work out. Being used to newer equipment we have at home and in the other 5 star resorts we never thought of bringing an Ipod as the newer machines have built in TVs. On the commercial Carnival shows for this ship they too show newer model gym equipment. it is impossible not to notice how much effort is put into trying to get us to spend more money while on board the Carnival Spirit, the attempts come way too often. So with that in mind we have to mention the cost of using the Internet which is so out of line and computer users should be aware of. Its 75 cents a minute or a special with 250 minutes for $100 which then translates to 25 cents a minute. The service is satellite and there fore so slow this time will used up super fast. If Motel 6 or Starbucks can offer free Internet so can Carnival. The staff is something that is easy to forget when writing a review so I wanted to make sure to mention them. We found almost everyone on our trip both on board and on the Hawaiian islands to be super friendly and helpful. I think constant sun must make people happier. Our cabin staff were great, the waiters and hostess's great, the front desk staff exceptional. Weak were the cruise director, his staff and the gym personel. We did meet many people on board who loved Carnival, who loved the ship and had been on many Carnival ships and had plans for even more with the same cruise line. We saw people attend the future cruise meetings to plan more. So we know this is just our opinion and not every ones but in our opinion ONLY this cruise company is not for us and strongly suggest Carnival update their ship called The (Lost) Spirit. We also suggest Carnival uses their own slogan and tries to put the FUN back into these trips. Next year we plan to cruise again, next time in the Mediterranean and with more port stops but for sure with a different cruise line. Next time we will use websites like this to plan better. Happy cruising. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
Living on the west coast and traveling during the holidays, Hawaii was our choice. Somewhere warm and a direct flight to Honolulu on Hawaiian Air made it easy. We spent the night before our cruise at the newly renovated Outrigger Waikiki ... Read More
Living on the west coast and traveling during the holidays, Hawaii was our choice. Somewhere warm and a direct flight to Honolulu on Hawaiian Air made it easy. We spent the night before our cruise at the newly renovated Outrigger Waikiki Reef on the Beach. It has an open air feeling to it, is right on the beach, had breakfast buffet included, and friendly service. The accommodations were very nice as we had an oceanfront room. When we called for a taxi the next day to take us to the pier, they sent a limousine. My daughter was thrilled. The limo charges a flat fee that was comparable to a taxi. And because of the set price, he gets you there the shortest distance. So a very fun start. Embarkation was pretty smooth, considering our sailing was completely full,as usually they are at school break times. I worried how cramped our room would be as there were 4 of us (2 parents with 19 and 12 y/o). It was cozy, but better than expected. I thought our two kids would be squished onto a mini fold out couch, but they actually had a bed drop from the upper wall (murphy-type bed) that suited our daughter perfectly. We mainly ate at the Aloha Cafe, the buffet, and the kids sometimes went to the Cadillac Diner. We got dressed up and had dinner at the Liberty sit-down restaurant which was a disappointment. Portions were dainty, but the real downer was the service. We were trumped by two large parties our server had, and while waiting an eternity for dessert, we got up and left. The Freestyle buffet eating was what this ship did best, and maybe service would be better in the cover charge restaurants which we did not try. We really all enjoyed the entertainment on the ship, especially the magician/comedian, and other comedy acts. A good souvenir for the kids was the light up cups sold at the bars for $2.00. We enjoyed the lei making (both nut and flower) classes. I also enjoy staying in shape on vacation. They have a nice fitness center which I used mainly before dinner. There were some treadmills out of service at any one time, but usually the next day it looked like they tried to have them up and running. Ask for headphones in the spa if you don't see any in the basket.I enjoyed a couple of classes from the fitness instructor. The spinning class was too short at 45 minutes. The water aerobics was refreshing considering the humidity in Hawaii. On Christmas Eve, Santa made an appearance. He also was there Christmas morning for any children that might have missed him the night before. It was charming to see the Captain of the ship on stage read "The Night Before Christmas" with that authentic Norwegian accent. It was funny when he got a call notifying that Santa was on the ship, and the accompanying video of him stopping at the different locations around the ship sampling cookies etc. Santa's helpers had a typed listing of every kid on the ship and handed out wrapped age-appropriate gifts to each one. Very nice touch. Disembarkation was abit of a jammer, as we waited until the last call to get off because we were not in any hurry. Loved the ports of call and the fantastic weather. Loved the Hawaiian ambassadors on board and their narration and viewing of the volcano lava, and the Napali coastline. I would like to do this same cruise again. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
Ship Experience: NCL was my first cruise experience so I have nothing to compare it too. The ship was nice and up-to-date. My room was very small with twin beds, shower only bathroom and a balcony. If you get this size room don't ... Read More
Ship Experience: NCL was my first cruise experience so I have nothing to compare it too. The ship was nice and up-to-date. My room was very small with twin beds, shower only bathroom and a balcony. If you get this size room don't bring four suitcases as we did because you will not have much space to move around. We were cramped all the time in the room. The maid service on our floor (11-85 area) was terrible! She would remove towels and wash cloths and not replace them. This cycle would be repeated everyday. It was unbelievable that we would come back to the room from a long day of excursions only to find we had no towels or wash cloths. Was there a shortage of towels and wash cloths, I don't know but the experience was ridiculous. The food was good. I would equate the food to traditional hotel fare. I confirm what another reviewer wrote POA never had the fish on the menu so I always got beef or chicken. The Aloha Cafe was quick and to the point. Seating was limited but the staff's service was efficient and very friendly. Male staffer, Crisler was outgoing and knowledgeable about food selections, on-board activities and Hawaii tourist attractions. If you meet him, talk to him because he has a wealth of knowledge and he is pleasant. Moving on... the food in the Cadillac Restaurant was cold. Room service always forgot to bring something ordered but since it was inclusive, I never complained. The ship activities were interesting. Took a hula class or two. The hula instructors were very friendly. Attended most night time shows and they were all funny and entertaining. The club was dead every night except on Wednesday the "White Party." Pack a white outfit for the White Party. DJ Orlando was funny, friendly and he played great music. If you like to dance he will supply the music so where comfortable shoes. Ladies you can't bring a flat iron on the ship unless it has an automatic shut-off. Mine was confiscated by security. Go figure but I got it back at the end of the cruise. Hawaii Experience: Fantastic! We went to several islands so you really get to see Hawaii. Maui and Kona were my favorites. Maui has beautiful beaches with waves. Kona had beautiful ice blue water and the town of Kona was quaint similar to St. Augustine, Florida. While at Hilo it rained so that was a drag. The Big Island was beautiful as well. The beach near the port by the Mariott hotel was convenient and free! The water was blue, warm and the sand was hot! We did an excursion every island except Hilo but only because it rained. The Lua was worth the money so book the excursion. Rum bars are free a the Lua if you are a rum drinker. I am not but everyone looked like they were having a great time. I spent about 500 dollars on excursions, which wasn't too bad I suppose. If you want to leave the boat and explore Hawaii then you will probably want to do it through an excursion so budget accordingly. I am going to travel again to Hawaii but not sure if I will cruise again in Hawaii because I would only visit Maui or Kona. The time difference from the East Coast is 6 hours behind and the flight from the East Coast is 10 hours. Jet-lag both ways was tiring. It took me about 4 days to get back to normal. One final comment, I like the NCL Freestyle concept. Booked a cruise with Disney for February and my dinner seating is 8:15PM. Immediately I reflected that with Norweign I could eat anytime. If you take this cruise you should have a memorable experience if you remember not to sweat the small stuff. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
Food on the Prides' main restaurants the Skyline and Liberty was plentiful but ordinary as you would expect from a typical buffet but not the main restaurants; gourmet NCL would be an oxymoron. We did have ½ of a small 2 inch lobster ... Read More
Food on the Prides' main restaurants the Skyline and Liberty was plentiful but ordinary as you would expect from a typical buffet but not the main restaurants; gourmet NCL would be an oxymoron. We did have ½ of a small 2 inch lobster tail one night and a tough ¼ inch prime rib on another night (keeps the cost down and no one asking for seconds). The buffet food in the Aloha Cafe was almost as good. Our previous experience on Celebrity and Carnival cruise lines set the main restaurants dining expectations in 5 stars range. NCL experience was not nearly as elegant or delicious as the 5 star main (no extra charge) restaurants on Celebrity or Carnival cruise lines; I'd give NCL restaurants a charitable 3 stars. While we're on the subject, the elevators are very fating, take the stairs or gain weight. About half the entertainment was provided by the (less then armature) ships crew. Another example of how NCL is cutting costs. NCL tours are short and almost twice the price of tours offered at the dock or online. Smart seasoned travelers will rent car from Thrifty (in advance) and drive the tours themselves; spend much more time at their tour destination, see more interesting places. We did the Hawaii cruise twice in consecutive weeks; the first week we spent $2,000 on NCL tours and felt cheated, the second week we rented a car (never had the flat tire NCL promised) and saw the Islands up close. The second week we shopped in the stores along our route that looked interesting and not just the ones with a NCL kickback. Big savings! I had a blackberry with Google Maps, saved the location of the ship, destinations and car rental in the favorites and never had problem navigating. Thank you Google!!! Unfortunately, NCL is the only cruise line that offers a Hawaii only cruise. One other hint, get a starboard cabin if you want to view the islands from the ship. Port side cabins only see the sea except while docked and NCL only docks at industrial locations. If you want see NCL best prices, erase the NCL cookies on your computer Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
I traveled w/my husband celebrating our 27th anniversary. Let me begin by saying that you should take all of the reviews (positive and especially negative) with an open mind. Every one is different and has different expectations. ... Read More
I traveled w/my husband celebrating our 27th anniversary. Let me begin by saying that you should take all of the reviews (positive and especially negative) with an open mind. Every one is different and has different expectations. That being said we had a great time. I would definitely arrive at least one day before embarkation especially if you are flying from the east coast. We arrived on Friday and stayed at the Westin Moana Surfrider for one night. The hotel was gorgeous - on the beach and centrally located for shopping and restaurants. Everything was within walking distance. We used Roberts Hawaii for our transfers from the airport to the hotel and then from the hotel to the pier the next day. Just buy a round trip ticket ($15 round trip-$9 one-way) when you get on the bus at the airport. I did call them about a week before we left to reserve a time to be taken from the hotel to the pier. You don't need a reservation for the ride from the airport to the hotel. Efficient enough way to get around and much cheaper than a cab but you will have to be patient because they take everyone on a big bus and you have to sit through them dropping everyone else off if your hotel is last on the list. Embarkation - We got there around 1:30 and there was quite a line. You give them your luggage to be delivered to your stateroom. Fortunately for us, we are Latitudes members and were able to get in that line and our wait was only 5 minutes. We went directly to lunch and then sat by the pool to wait for them to call our floor when the cabin was ready. We took bathing suits out of our suitcases beforehand so we could swim and sit by the pool until our cabin was ready. Not sure what time our cabin ended up being ready as they never called deck #9. We wanted to stay by the pool all day anyway and when we left around 5:30 to go find our cabin, it was ready and 2 of our suitcases were there with a note to go to deck #3 because they were holding our 3rd suitcase. When we got to deck #3, they just said they saw that we had a travel iron in the suitcase and wanted to warn us to be very careful as someone on another cruise line left their iron on and it fell and started a fire that consumed 50 staterooms. I assured them I would be careful and we were on our way w/our suitcase. I will say that although the ship says you can borrow an iron for 1 hour, I heard many people complaining that irons were few and far between and they could never get one. Ship - The ship was very nice with a patriotic scheme. We had a balcony cabin on deck #9 and although it was small, it was certainly adequate for the amount of time you spend in the cabin. Keep in mind that this type of vacation is a way to see the Hawaiian Islands, not really a cruise. The ship is basically a floating hotel. We met people on our tours that were staying at hotels and flying from island to island and they indicated that it really wasn't the way to go if you want to go to all the islands. They all said they wasted an entire day each time they went from one island to another. By going on the POA, you unpack once and that's it. We were literally gone from sun-up to sun-down everyday. We used the cabin to shower and sleep. Why spend time on the ship when you can explore the Hawaiian Islands??? Food - We ate at Lazy J Steakhouse, Italian Restaurant, Skyline, Liberty, Cadillac Diner and Aloha Buffet. All were very good - not 5 star but good. If possible, avoid the Aloha Buffet. We only had lunch there a couple of times, but it was extremely chaotic and seemed worse for dinner. We ate all of our breakfasts and dinners in the sit down menu-driven restaurants and that worked out well. We were rarely on the ship for lunch. Tours - We only booked one tour through NCL and that was on the final day before we went to the airport to catch our flight home. This is what we did: Maui - 1st day - Road to Hana - used Valley Isle Tours. Great tour - they pick you up right at the pier. They go out on a small van in groups of 12. The vans are air-conditioned and have very large windows. It was excellent. Maui - 2nd day - Rented a car from Thrifty - I would highly suggest reserving any cars you need before the cruise. Many people who did not were out of luck as there were no cars to be had. We drove around the west side of the island to Lahaina and further to a blowhole. Beautiful scenery and a great day. Hilo - Volcanos National Park/Rainbow Falls tour. We did this tour through Roberts Hawaii (they pick you up right at the pier). We had originally booked this tour through the ship and then found out that Roberts had the same exact tour for $50 less - each!. Good tour and great service from Roberts. Kona - Historic Kona tour - We did this tour through Roberts Hawaii (they pick you up right at the pier). Again, we originally booked this tour through the ship and then found out that Roberts did the same exact tour for $20 less. Good tour - not the greatest but that was because we had a driver w/no personality. Kauai - 1st day - We went ziplining. We went through Princeville Ranch Adventures. Princeville is on the north side of the island so you have to rent a car to get there - about 45 min to 1 hr drive. We had reserved a car prior to the trip so that was not a problem. It's a beautiful drive. Ziplining was FANTASTIC! After ziplining, we drove further along the coast and hung out at Hanalei Bay Beach Park for a few hours. It's absolutely gorgeous and only about 10 minutes past Princeville. We also stopped at Kiluea Lighthouse and Wailea Falls on the way back. Kauai - 2nd day - We took a helicopter tour. We went thru Blue Hawaiian. The are located right in town so no need to rent a car. The trolley will take you there for free from the pier - only about a 5 minute drive. I would highly recommend Blue Hawaiian - this tour was the highlight of our trip! Disembarkation - NCL makes this very, very simple. Our flight back to the east coast was not until 10:30 p.m. so we chose to do the Circle Island Tour of Oahu. It leaves @ 9:15 a.m. and drops you @ the airport around 5:30 p.m. Great way to spend the day and see all of Oahu. One word of warning though, when they dropped us off @ 5:30, we did not realize that US Air ticket check-in did not open until 7:30. We had our boarding passes (printed them on the ship-very easy) but we had to check luggage and they also require you to go through FDA scanning machine. So we had to sit outside the airport for 2 hours. I would check with your airline to see if this would apply to you. One way around this would be to take the Grand Circle Island tour which includes Pearl Harbor. That tour doesn't drop you back the airport until about 7:30 p.m. If we had known that, we would've done that tour even though we already saw Pearl Harbor. Waiting for the ticket counter to open seemed endless! One other thing. I noticed in several reviews that people complained about the staff on the ship being rude. I have to say we did not run into one staff member that was rude. Everyone we dealt with was courteous, helpful, accommodating and had a smile on their face whenever they spoke to us. All in all, great trip and great way to see the islands. You definitely need more time on each island to really see everything there is to see but that's a great reason to go back! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2009
Hawaii on NCL Pride of America September 9-19,2009 This is a summary of the detailed review below of our cruise/land arrangements to Hawaii September 9-19, 2009. We flew through Denver per travel agent advice via United Air and the flight ... Read More
Hawaii on NCL Pride of America September 9-19,2009 This is a summary of the detailed review below of our cruise/land arrangements to Hawaii September 9-19, 2009. We flew through Denver per travel agent advice via United Air and the flight was uneventful. We spent the first two days on Oahu, staying at the Sheraton Waikiki, a wonderful hotel, perfectly located, (newly renovated/updated) in our opinion, an upgrade to our tour package, for a modest price. Our land arrangements those days were through Globus and could not have been better. We sailed NCL's Pride of America and, particularly, given the fact that it is the only ship now working the Hawaiian islands, the cruise was fantastic. The crew was courteous and responsive and in one instance, a crew member actually argued with us over an additional tip we wished to give. (This is an American flagged ship and I was led to believe the crew is union with full benefits, unlike some other flagged vessels, so that tipping is "discouraged".) You should note that a daily "tip" of about $10-11, if I remember correctly, is included in your bill and unfortunately labeled as "discretionary", which means that where it goes is up to NCL, not you, a fact that escaped some people on the boat who complained incessantly about it. (There were some nights I questioned the quality of the cruisers, not the crew!) The ports of call were awesome, the weather was perfect, and our tour selection worked out wonderfully. We would heartily recommend this cruise to anyone who wants to sample the Hawaiian islands without packing and unpacking. Our only regret is that we did not tack on an extra day or two at the end to spend a little more time on Oahu and in Honolulu. For more detail, read on. September 9, 2009 We booked this trip (land/cruise) through a travel agent. She recommended Globus to arrange the details on Oahu. Seven in our group, all adults, no children. Flew United Air through Denver to Honolulu. Flight was full. Met by Globus representative at Honolulu Intl. Airport. Friendly, courteous greeting. Everyone got a Lei. A Globus van (they use Roberts for all transportation) took us to the Sheraton Waikiki, (we upgraded from package to be on the beach and we were glad we did), still going through extensive exterior remodeling. Interior had been completed, together with new infinity pool (adults only but another bigger pool for families) which was wonderful. Working on exterior when we departed. Fast check in. Clipboarded assistants in spacious lobby to answer questions of the hotel. Assigned room 1158. Fabulous view of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach from our room and balcony. Rushed downstairs for warm weather and exploration of the beach. Walked over to legendary Duke's, right on the beach, for lunch and sat on the patio. Courteous and friendly staff. 3 piece combo played happy hour music. Food good but typical of a bar/restaurant setting. Evening stroll through downtown Honolulu. Lots of shopping. Plenty of ABC stores, like convenience stores, but more upscale. Stopped in Rum Fire bar on our return to the Hotel. (Rachel Ray just did a piece on it on Food Network.) Great, open air, bar with 101 rums. Music and drink ended our first wonderful day even with the travel. September 10, 2009 Breakfast buffet in Sheraton's Kai Restaurant was wonderful: eggs, cheeses, cereal, fruit, bacon, sausages - just everything. Our waitress, Moni (Linda) was terrific and we asked for her each morning. She would give us tips on things to do and what we could expect. We walked to the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, which you book if you don't upgrade, for our first tour. There we were met by Debbi, the Globus representative, who was just awesome. She went over our arrangements, gave us her cell phone number, told us things to do and what to avoid. I have never seen anything like it - she was just extremely knowledgeable and helpful. Travelled by bus from there to Pearl Harbor stopped several times for pick ups at other hotels. Bus driver, William, very knowledgeable. Got great exposure to greater Honolulu. At Pearl Harbor Debbi had warned us no bags, packages, purses etc allowed in. Must be able to fit items in pockets. Moving tour of Pearl. After video, launch takes you from shore to Memorial. You are asked to treat the area with the respect accorded a graveyard. Battleship Missouri is parked behind Memorial but not accessible from tour. Left Pearl and went to Ulani Palace, City Hall, Government offices. Returned to hotel for day at the pool/beach and some shopping in Honolulu by ladies. Evening dinner buffet at hotel, again wonderful selection, hot food. Walked over to Outrigger Waikiki Hotel to see Society of Seven cabaret show where Debbi met us. Entertaining show, but not very long, about an hour. Returned to our hotel and had a drink at the bar on the top floor. Another great day. September 11, 2009 Picked up a rental van through Budget with pick up within walking distance of our hotel to drive to Diamond Head and the country side. Got a nice Dodge van seating 7. We climbed Diamond Head. The climb is rigorous but non-experienced hikers can do it if they take it easy. Go early as it gets very hot during the climb. Trails form the initial part of the climb, mostly paved. Then you traverse about 280 steps. The access winds around at the top with a spiral staircase which is a little daunting. The observation areas at top are crowded. (We get 2 cell calls up here, one from a friend back home and the other a wrong number!) The wind up there that day was somewhat disconcerting/scary. The views are spectacular, especially that of Honolulu. After that we met Bridget, a cousin of one of our group, and headed to the Dole Plantation and the North Shore of Oahu. The Plantation is really nothing special and we could have skipped it. The Pineapple Express was a somewhat interesting tour of the plantation. However, pineapples are not grown on Hawaii to any large extent anymore and Dole does not use the plantation as a principal growth farm. The Plantation has a large gift shop so its mostly commercialized, tourist stuff. After Dole we continue toward the North Shore and stop at a small restaurant/shopping area. There are a couple of restaurants there and we opt for Breakers where we have a nice lunch of mostly mainland-style bar food. Then we head to Wiamea Valley Park. We get there just before the swimming is to end at Wiamea Falls and run/walk (kind of like Amazing Race) to get back to the Falls before closure at 5 p.m. There is a fee to get in but it was pretty modest due to the late hour. The vegetation is fabulous. The Park was used for several movies, including Jurassic Park. We brought our towels to swim at the Falls. We arrive to find the lifeguards still on duty and we ask if we can just have a quick swim. They are very friendly and say we have plenty of time another 20-30 minutes. Everyone grabs a "kick board" and in we go. A lot of fun swimming up to the Falls and standing under them. Friends who don't join us take pictures from the shore. We are very grateful toward the life guards for the opportunity. From there we drive to the North Shore to catch the sunset, going past the popular Jamison's which is right on the water. The North Shore waves are fabulous and we stop to stand on the beach to watch the sunset and take pictures. It's beautiful and a lot of locals are gathered around with us to watch the end of the day and finish up surfing in the twilight. We return to Honolulu and try to get into the Yard House to eat but it's an hour wait so we eat outside, which everyone liked better anyway, at the outdoor bar of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel next to the Sheraton, a great way to end another great day. September 12, 2009 We spent the morning at the Hotel pool. The Roberts bus came to the hotel to pick us up for transfer to the dock. Debbi was there to see us off and wish us well. The driver was a little goofy, trying to be funny, and had a language issue. After several stops we arrived at the pier. We took our bags over to a loading area and they were quickly taken away. Check in was very smooth, but the line was long. Disappointing that the embarkation pictures only allowed 4 at a time. We wanted our 7 but once we saw the cost, probably would not have gotten one anyway. The staff on the ship were friendly and courteous. When we get to our room's deck (Cabin 9518, portside, forward, balcony) the luggage was lined up in the hallway for all cabins in our area. We helped ourselves to our own. The cabin was very nice with much in the way of storage areas with a fridge, a small safe (big enough for some jewelry, wallets and small cameras) and small desk area and loveseat. The balcony was spacious with a regular deck chair with high back and a chaise lounge that I napped on one afternoon after an early tour. The room had some leftover trash in the can and a bottle opener that needed some cleaning but all else was very nicely made up. (We later learned that the staff has 2 hours to turn around all the cabins on the day of departure.) We ate in the more formal large dining room, the Liberty, which we found a little to "stuffy" for us. The food that first evening was fair to good. The wait staff was pleasant but a little overwhelmed. After dinner, we checked out the shopping, had a drink in the Key West Grill and then headed to our cabin to finish unpacking and to get some rest. September 13, 2009 The ship arrived in Maui and the approach to the dock was beautiful. We got a shuttle to the Alamo car rental facility. Were told at the desk that the last shuttle returned to the pier by 9 p.m. We had a date at the Old Lahaina Luau that might run over. But you can get a cab that will call for you from the nearby airport about 10 mins. away to take you back to the ship if you miss the shuttle. Things went well at Alamo. They offer a GPS for $11 but we brought our own from home (it's great as a handheld walking pathfinder). The drive to Lahaina was very nice. We stopped at the first scenic overlook and spoke to some "free divers" with spear guns. We also visited the Black Sand beach. In Lahaina we took in the shopping and ate at Lahaina Fish Co./Hammerheads Bar and had a great lunch. We next stopped at a nearby Black Beach and then went to Black Rock near the Sheraton just north of Lahaina. Did some ocean bathing on a beautiful day. Changing room there allowed all to change prior to Luau. We headed back to Lahaina and stopped at Whaler's Village so that the shoppers could shop. The guys found a place at the bar at Leilani's on the Beach, in Whaler's Village, which was beautiful and the bartenders great and had a few while watching the NFL games. Proceeded to Lahaina for the Old Lahaina Luau which was very nice. The wait staff was extremely pleasant and the food good (except for the poi which was the "runny-tourist version". Plenty of alcoholic drinks for the price. The show was very good. We got back to Alamo around 9:30 and the shuttle was still there and the driver promised he would wait for us. We quickly turned in our vehicle and were back on board the ship by 10 p.m. for a nightcap. September 14, 2009 Up at 2:15 a.m. for our tour to take us to Haleakala to see the sunrise. We are told by one couple that this is their third attempt to see it. Each time before the cloud cover was too great. Spouse takes her coat. I wear 100 weight fleece with wicking garment underneath and long pants. We both wear knit hats and gloves. Each of us has a flashlight. It's cold, but not too cold. Temp is around 50 degrees. Jim, our tour driver is very nice and informative. He really respects what we are about to see. Our tour bus holds about 20. We have 17. There are buns, coffee and hot chocolate on the bus if we want to wait until the last minute to get to observation area. DON'T WAIT - head right for the observation area if you can. We waited for 5:30 when the visitor center opened. We go through it to a spot outside the visitor center. People scramble for best observation/photography spot. Some are so rude. They want to stand right in front of us but we ask them to move away and most do so without saying anything. Predawn is awesome but at 6:06 a.m. the sun comes up and it is fabulous. It is only partly cloudy and in the crater below us float hundreds of clouds. It is a fantastic sight. Jim brings us back down the mountain and we stop at a couple of observation points and then a snack/souvenir stand. We get back to the ship at about 9:30 or 10 a.m. and get some breakfast and just chill for the ship is sailing in the afternoon. That night we eat in the Skyline dining room. It is the "free style" dining room and any reasonable attire is permitted. Things are busy and we have a good meal with good, courteous wait staff. We did not eat in any of the "cover" restaurants. We felt it unnecessary to pay additional money to have our meals and we enjoyed being together at a big table with good food, not gourmet or overly fancy. In the mornings we took our breakfast from the Aloha cafe on the fantail of the ship. You get your food inside and can enjoy the wonderful, bug free, weather sitting outside on Deck 12. September 15, 2009 We had some excitement. Two travelers were taken off our ship with "intestinal disorder". The ship went into its "service mode" which meant that all buffet food service areas are "masked" with plastic wrap and you may not serve yourself - only the staff may serve you. This is in response to the H1N1 threat. The possibility of a higher required response level from the ship was confirmed by one of our friends who travelled with us and worked for U.S. Health and Human Services. Although an inconvenience, we felt it better to be safe than sorry. Everyone still got the same amount of food and the servers were very, very pleasant. Today is the "Secrets of Puna" tour. We have made a lot of jokes about the name amongst ourselves but by the end of the day we will have taken one of the most fabulous tours of any we have ever been on. The tour is booked through the ship with Kapohokine Tours. When we get off the ship our 7 are together and ready to go. April claims us as her group and brings her Lincoln Navigator, which sat us all comfortably, around to pick us up and off we go. We immediately hit it off with her. She is knowledgeable, attractive and has a great personality. The women adore her, especially as the mother of 3. She says she lives on a ranch near Kilauea Volcano. She tells us we have the first clear, beautiful day in quite some time. We stop at the "painted church" which has beautiful interior painting. It's the church of Father Damian whose statute sits outside the state office building in Honolulu. A little odd in light of church/state separation but he is recognized as someone who helped everyone, no matter what their religious affiliation, belief or lack thereof. Across the street is the Noni Factory, a homeopathic remedy that we try but I don't care for. No one buys any. We next visit the Kapaluna lava flow area. Breathtaking with steam rising off in the distance from an active lava flow from Kilauea. In the car, April gives us something to read and we listen to a CD describing the devastation of the town that was once there when Kilauea erupted years ago. Walking on the cooled lava flow at Kapaluna is awesome. Next we head to Mackenzie Park for some fabulous views of the Ocean. Then on to Puna Girl Ranch to view the ranch's floral offerings and enjoy the view at a gazebo dedicated exclusively to our tour and lunch. Another tour group from the same company is there with us. We have Macadamia nuts (all you can eat, still in the shell) and a wonderful lunch of Huli chicken, beer, mimosas and vegetables all freshly cooked on the grill by our tour people and the ranch owner. We are taken next to a Black Sand beach where there is loose Peridot to be found. The women are fascinated as April helps them find the semi-precious gem bits. We tear ourselves away and proceed to a roadside stand that sells white pineapple and stopped to buy some. Then we travelled to Lava Tree State Park and saw some of the plant life that was affected by lava flows. We end the day with swimming and snorkeling (they supplied snorkels, masks and water shoes) in a lagoon not far from the ship's dock. It is fed by a spring and the ocean so the water was both warm in spots and chilly in others but it felt great. That night we established our "spot" at the Waikiki Bar, Deck 13, on the fantail of the ship, always our favorite spot, and Jennifer, our server, who was simply fabulous, made sure our drinks kept coming while we whiled away the evening prior to dinner. After dinner, the ship sailed past the Kilauea lava flow and it was fabulous (although pictures were hard to get because of the movement and the distance at night) but even better was when the Captain turned out the lights on deck and we could see all the stars. What a terrific experience. September 16, 2009 Our first tender port is Kona. The tendering over goes smoothly. At the dock I use my GPS to get our bearings and navigate a walk. (It is really hard to get a car rental in Kona, you have to book WAY in advance and the car rental area is not near the tender dock.) Really, there is not much opportunity to get lost. Getting off the tender and turning right from the dock onto the main street there is a small beach immediately next to the pier with no one on it. It is a nice beach but not fantastic. Certainly you could sun there if you wanted. The shopping along the main street is okay but nothing terribly fancy. There are a number of bars and restaurants. Some of the merchants seem anxious for customers. After walking through the downtown area we journey up a hill to Hilo Hatties (a big upscale souvenir chain in Hawaii) for some souvenirs and they are very gracious about the use of the bathrooms. They hand out some free shell necklaces which is a nice touch. After Hilo Hatties we walk over to Kona Brewing Co. to tour the brewery. You have to sign up when you arrive at the brewery as they won't take any more than 8 or 9 at a time. There is also a nice restaurant there. We get a sampler of some of the beers. All beer at that brewery stays on the islands according to Randy, our tour leader. Kona beers for the west coast and east coast are brewed in Oregon and New Hampshire, respectively, by recipe. This "contract brewing" goes on with many smaller brands of beer. Melissa, our waitress is very nice. After a filling lunch (the portions are huge) those of us who want to take the tour do so. Very interesting with some free samples at the end. No charge for the tour which takes about 45 minutes. The day is hot and we decide to return to the ship which will be leaving on an early departure. The tender line is somewhat long but moves very quickly and we are joking with some of the passengers so things move along nicely. The tender crew compliments everyone for cooperating to keep things moving. That afternoon we remain at the Waikiki Bar playing card games and enjoying the weather. That night we visit the Lanai Martini Bar, one of the favorite places for us on the boat, Deck 12 forward, I think. It is richly paneled like a New York establishment and that night they have half price "specials" on certain martinis. (This happened almost every night, during certain hours, in an attempt to get cruisers to use this "hidden gem".) September 17, 2009 Today's port is Kauai the scene of our Heaven and Earth tour through Sunshine Helicopters. The helo rides are seat assigned by weight and don't be offended because my spouse found they add ten pounds to everyone's "stated" weight. (You have to turn in a form at the excursion desk on the ship with that information on it.) Unfortunately, and to the dismay of my spouse, because we are lighter than most, we are separated from our friends and placed in another group with "Domi" as a tour leader. In the end, this worked for the best since it kept those who really needed to stay together, together. Our helo ride is set for first thing in the a.m. Our friends are doing the "earth" part of the tour first and flying later on. (The helo flights take place all day long.) In the end, we could have just settled for the helo ride, which was fabulous. The earth part was longer than we would have liked and somewhat unusual, but fun, thanks to Domi. Steve Schaefer is our pilot. (They operate two choppers and that day the other was flown by the company owner's son.) Boarding is by a set procedure they use and is easy. There are 8 of us. Steve advises that he has flown for and with many movie stars, was a Blackhawk pilot in Vietnam and the island's only ordained pilot/minister. He recently flew a couple in the reality show The Bachelorette, he says, and could have recently married a couple on the show (remember Reed, he says?) but the bachelor got jilted. Steve's voice is very smooth. He points out the camera in the helicopter which is recording us from the inside. (There is also at least one external camera.) Steve backs us off the landing pad for a just awesome flight covering almost the entire island: new Marriott development near the docks, Na Pali Coast, the valleys and falls and mountains (we can see the other chopper up ahead), Barking Sand Beach, all with running commentary (we can hear him through our headsets but cannot talk to him) about the island. The flight is just great and passes quickly and we are soon on the ground after about 45 minutes. From there Domi takes us to the "headquarters" of the tour operator where you can buy T shirts and other souvenirs as well as a DVD of the flight, which we bought and thoroughly enjoyed although my spouse and I laughed at the way we looked on the cockpit camera. (We sat right in front with Steve.) Domi then takes on the earth part of the island tour. We catch the Falls, the lighthouse, the Secret Beach (there is no one there and it is beautiful!) and the homes of Stallone and Willis (yes, the celebrities' Hawaiian villas, and we only pass by - no stopping). Domi also takes us to his home and shows us his pet pig "Omar". We have lunch with Subway sandwiches (so much for island cuisine) at park nearby the Stallone and Willis locations and then Domi makes us sing and shows us how to perform the hula. Our friends enjoyed their experience on their tour but may have seen less than us. We pass several golf courses on the way back to the ship. A warning that when the sun is out it is very hot and I would have not enjoyed a golf excursion, personally, unless it was very early in the morning. We are back to the ship in the late afternoon and get some dinner. Steve's (our pilot's) son is the bar tender at another Duke's located on the island about a 10-15 minute walk from the pier, just behind a small strip mall, next to the Marriott, (past Nawiliwili Park) and his son in law is the manager. We walk over to have a drink without our friends who are too tired. The walk is okay but somewhat dark but we have flashlights and no one bothers us going or coming even though we run into some young people hanging out. At Duke's we sit at the open air bar on the beach and enjoy the final moments of our day out. September 18 We went to the beach in front of Duke's and the Marriott today before our ship sailed. A nice sandy, hot beach. There was a rental stand there to get some chairs and, if you wanted two attached chaises with an umbrella in between. The beach chairs were great, practically brand new. The beach was clean, with a shaded grassy area behind it, and had a smooth bottom, no water shoes needed here. We stopped at the strip mall to do some shopping. Again the ubiquitous ABC store was encountered but there were some nicer shops as well. That evening the ship took us along the Na Pali Coast, turned around and sailed back down it to return to Oahu. What a sight of the cliffs in the setting sun! Just breathtaking. It was very windy on deck so we retreated for our nightcaps to the Lanai Martini Bar where our wonderful server, Valerie, took care of us. (By the way, the ship's officer in charge of all the ship's bars, stopped to visit with us one night and asked for some suggestions to get more travelers into the newly revamped Lanai. Following our conversation he "comped" us! What a charming guy!) September 19, 2009 We returned to Oahu this morning. Our plane is leaving late and we are very sad to have to go. The trip has been wonderful. Our agent suggested renting a van, touring the island somewhat, and then returning to an inexpensive room in a hotel near the car rental location where we could use the bathroom and freshen up. We used National Car Rental and took a room at the nearby Best Western, within walking distance of the car rental location, and that worked out great. Our van, again, was a very nice one, same as before, and off we went to explore the southeast coast of the island. First stop was Hanauma Bay. You had to pay to use the beach but the parking area is just a dollar and the paths provide a fabulous view of the Bay. The next stop was the Halona Blow Hole with great views of the coast. We drove up the coast for awhile looking for a place to eat and stumbled upon the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens. What a find! It's a little off the beaten track, you have to enter through a residential neighborhood, and the sign for the place is small and comes up quickly but it is absolutely gorgeous. With over 400 acres there is plenty to see. And there was a Hawaiian wedding there that day as well which was fascinating! We took H3 down to Park Ridge Center still in search of lunch, nothing appealed to us, when we realized there was an air show going on after one of the jets thundered right overhead. From there we jumped back on the causeway to our digs - deciding to get some snacks, beer and wine while we waited to leave for the airport. The hotel shuttle took us for the 10 min. ride to the airport and we were on our way back home via United Air. What a great, fabulous trip. We would recommend this cruise to anyone, but be sure you do your planning. Read Less

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise