We booked this cruise on somewhat of a whim, but are so glad we did. We had an absolute blast. Vacations are VERY MUCH WHAT YOU MAKE OF THEM. If you are an unhappy person, you will dislike any trip. If you enjoy life, you will find the ... Read More
We booked this cruise on somewhat of a whim, but are so glad we did. We had an absolute blast. Vacations are VERY MUCH WHAT YOU MAKE OF THEM. If you are an unhappy person, you will dislike any trip. If you enjoy life, you will find the good in anything. This trip was awesome for our family!
We spent a couple of days in Honolulu (Waikiki Beach) prior to departure. It is very important to call out... Uber while functional in HI, is not allowed to pick up passengers from the airport. You will need to arrange a taxi or hotel transfers. We stayed at Embassy Suites - Waikiki Beach. We loved this place. Breakfast in the AM and Drinks/Snacks in the evening... a great pool, lanai and bands 4 days a week. How can you go wrong with that!? Also, walking distance to everything.
We UberXL to the port at about 12:00pm. Embarkation was a breeze. The terminal was not crowded at all. The attendants greeted us with lays, bamboo crowns for the kids and flowers for the ladies hair. Pictures & paperwork, we were on the ship before we realized it. We had lunch in the Aloha Cafe (buffet) and explored the ship.
Our room(s) were on the 4th floor (which made me feel I was going to have a bad experience)... but it actually turned out very well. We had a great view from our window and it was very quiet. We were in an inside and outside guarantee rooms. We were able to get into our rooms about 3pm.
Dining overall was good. We really liked the flexibility of the mytime dining and casual nature of the Skyline restaurant. I can't say that I had anything that knocked my socks off from a food standpoint, but it kept my and my families bellies full and not complaining. We really enjoyed the barbecues by the pool and grill that always had burgers/hot-dogs/fries. The diner was a great go-to place too. We took special advantage of the deli meat and fruit in the AM and packed a cooler each day, with sandwichs, fruit, snacks and drinks.
Maui 1 - With our packed cooler in tow, rented a car from Budget. (Budget has a shuttle to the airport to pickup the car.) Explored the island for the day (waterfalls, beaches, snorkeling). Headed back to the ship before dinner to get cleaned up. Easy on/off the ship.
Maui 2 - Spent the day on the ship, taking advantage of day-time activities.
Hilo - With our packed cooler in tow, rented a car from Budget. (Budget has a shuttle to the airport to pickup the car.) Explored the island for the day (Volcano, Waterfalls, Swimming holes.) Headed back to the ship before dinner to get cleaned up. Easy on/off the ship.
Kona - Tender on/off the ship, requires a smaller boat on wavy seas, be prepared if you get sea sick easily. We visited the beach right there on the bay in the AM (snorkeling, beach). Back on the ship for the afternoon/evening.
Kauai 1 - With our packed cooler in tow, rented a car from Budget. (Budget has a shuttle to the airport to pickup the car.) Explored the island for the day (waimea canyon, spouting horn, queens bath). Headed back to the ship for a late dinner. We were filthy from queens bath, lots of mud.
Kauai 2 - Booked an excursion (outside of the cruise line) to go to Kipu Ranch (ATV Tour). We picked the 4 hour waterfall/UTV tour. It was very muddy and alot of fun. We were back on the ship by 1pm. We spent the afternoon doing cruise ship activities.
Entertainment was good. Activities were good. (We attended the barbecues, pool-time activities, pool deck bands, dance competitions - and won, glow-party, white-party, polynesian shows, magic shows, comedian, etc.)
Service was good. The service personnel are not bothersome. They are always around, and if you need something you can ask, but they are not in your face all day asking you if you want something. If you prefer that sort of vacation, you may be unhappy on this ship.
My kids loved the kids program (the instructors, activities and friends that they made). They spent most evenings there from 6pm-10pm. My teen liked the teen hangout room and the flexibility to come and go as she pleased.
Disembarkation went smoothly and took an Uber XL to the airport. With a flight 10 hours away, checked into the flight, handed off luggage and rented a car for the day to explore Oahu. Visited the North Shore & Pearl Harbor.
Will I go back to Hawaii? Probably sometime later in life. There is so many other places to see in this world.
Will I cruise with NCL again? Yes. We were pleasantly surprised with how much we loved the casual and flexible nature.
What would I recommend to someone reading this review? Google maps is a great way to 'build your own excursion'. Renting a car is a great economical way to see the islands and at a pace your family can handle. Bring a soft sided cooler & some ziploc bags. (At breakfast, pack your water bottles, some fruit, make a handful of sandwhichs, etc.)
In summary, do your homework. Most cruise lines charge gratuities. Most cruise lines now have specialty restaurants. Hawaii does not have a drink package. There is a cost associated with travel to/from the cruise ship, as is with most cruise-line / locations. Uber is limited by the airport. There is an 18% gratuity on every drink you purchase. If you are a wine drinker, look at the wine package - its the best bang for your buck. Set your expectations up front, and you will have a great time!
This is a fantastic way to see/explore all of the islands in an easy on / easy off fashion, and can effectively be done without breaking the bank. Read Less