First of all, let me say that this was one of the most enjoyable cruises I have experienced. As a formerly loyal Crown and Anchor member, this ship, with its "Freestyle" atmosphere is surely the future of cruising. No more rushing to make an 8:00 p.m. second seating dinner. Sure you give up the busboy knowing how many ice cubes you like in your tea, but geez!!!!
We flew in to HNL @ 2:00p.m. local time from Sacramento, CA. and arrived in time to see rather long lines for check-in. Opting not to start our "relaxing" vacation waiting in line it was a short stroll to "Hooters" on an adjacent pier. After a few brews and plenty of hot wings it was time to again attempt to board, especially after remarking in my outside voice that the place should be renamed "Cheeks" after our waitress. Oh well, I guess I still have a lot to learn, even @ 55 !!!
Unfortunately, the line was as long as ever. But I was relaxed already. The goose egg on my right temple made sure of that. We joined the que, and were fortunate to meet Bill and Deirdre from Long Island, he a Port Authority police officer with many a tale of 911 and his involvement in the weeks after that tragedy, she a nursing supervisor with an equally affable personality. We were to be nearly constant companions for the remainder of our trip.
This cruise, in my opinion, is less about Hawaii, and more about unabashed cruising. Which is afterall what we pay the big bucks for, right !! Forget the other reviewers complaints about the days at sea enroute to Fanning Island, how better to get to paradise ?? There are plenty of activities onboard to keep you busy, but just "cruising" was fine for me. I spent time charting our position with the help of the GPS on the T.V. (we made it to within 4 degrees of the equator !!).
The one and only gripe I had about this trip was the "Barracuda Reef Snorkel" @ Fanning Island. this was an immunity challenge on "Survivor" gone mad. It was nothing more than a short tender ride...OUTSIDE THE REEF...into open ocean in 25-30 feet of murky water. Basically your "divemaster" orders everyone to jump out and "drift" until you are either hypothermic or sick, or both. There were some schools of fish, but I would save my snorkeling for Poipu on Kauai any day. Needless to say, my illusion of the Great Barrier Reef went away quickly, especially for the $79. each fare.
I was looking forward to Maui, having never been there, and was advised not to miss Lahaina. Well, except for the giant Banyan tree that place is nothing but an over rated tee shirt shop in my opinion. The mad cacophony of powered catamarans positioning themselves to load passengers for a "moonlight cruise" was almost more than I could stomach. Get me to Kauai....fast.
Saturday means Kauai for the Star, be sure to be on deck for the harbor entrance ballet. It's awesome from the ship, but even more amazing from shore if you get the opportunity. Here you can avail yourself of the free shuttle to the nearby shopping center, but walk a little way further and avail yourself of the luxurious Marriott Kauai Beach Club. We have a timeshare there and find it one of the most beautiful and relaxing places I have ever visited. If you tell them I sent you (just kidding...), they will give you a towel (not kidding..) to use while swimming in the largest pool on the islands. Of course the sheltered beach is right there too, if the Star didn't miss it's turn and run aground there. You'll see what I mean after you've been there.
As far as recommendations, book a cabin on the starboard (right) side of the ship, it approaches most ports on that side. Try to book a balcony, it is a singular experience to read Jimmy Buffett's "A Pirate Looks at 50" from this perspective. All of the restaurants are first rate. The reservation thing is not too bad after you get the hang of it. I don't consider the Marketplace a restaurant by the way, it's just a quick place to get your breakfast and get out. Take your tray out by the pool, it's cool !!
Overall, as I said at the outset, this was definitely the best cruise I have experienced and would recommend it to anyone who is truly needing some sea time, or an Island sampler, or both !! Ejn