Our family of four decided to take this cruise from Honolulu to three neighboring islands over Spring Break. The Pride of America is a large ship, although not super-sized and we had a bit over 2,000 guests on our cruise. The ship is well maintained and clean throughout. Most of the employees take pride in their work and seemed happy to be on board.
The price of the cruise was a bit higher than anticipated, but overall the cruise was great and we had a fun time. We purchased our tickets using the ticket office on base as I am active duty military. We saved about $50 off the NCL price.
This seems to be a standard balcony cabin and was sold as such. However, once we got to the room, we found it had a partially obstructed view. There was nothing in front of the window, but the life boats were only two cabins forward of our room blocking any forward looking view. Also, a life saving equipment crane on deck 6 would be in any photo from the balcony as it rose up towards deck 7. I tried to change rooms once on board, but the cruise was sold out. Otherwise, this cabin was OK. Walking space was tight as the king sized bed was only 12 or 18 inches from the wall. The small shelves and cabinets did help with stowing gear, and the space under the bed was perfect for storing suitcases. The bathroom was sufficient and had a medicine cabinet behind one mirror. Before we embarked, I called NCL to inquire if the room had bathrobes…they told me it did not. Once we were in the room, I did not see any robes, but after dinner we had robes. I don’t know if this is because I complained about the view or because I called NCL. Cabin 7648 is located on the port side towards the aft of the ship. It is close to the aft elevators, which made accessing the main dining room and the Aloha Café easy. From our balcony, we had good views of the Napali Coast and picturesque views in every port…well, some were better than others.Our room steward was Andi. He always had the room made up or turned down as appropriate. He was friendly whenever he saw us, but we really only saw him a few times. He was not as omnipresent as stewards had been on previous cruises. This may be due to us spending more time on shore instead of on the ship.
Maui – Day 1 – I picked up the rental from Thrifty and returned to the pier to gather the family. We then started off to the Road to Hana…with a pit stop at Krispy Kreme! Little did we know, KK would be the highlight of the day as most of the family did not enjoy the drive. Motion sickness medication applies to this road trip as much as it does when at sea. The Road to Hana is an easy, safe drive if you are a confident driver. There are a few roadside waterfalls to stop at…you can even walk in and swim at one or two of them. There are also many exhilarating vistas up and down the coast. The free arboretum is a bit overrated…also looks like it is recovering from some recent storm damage. Food and restrooms are limited throughout this trip. If on Maui for several days, I can see this being a nice day trip, but with a short time on island, I would not recommend it.Before this trip, we purchased and downloaded the Gypsy Guide for Maui. It was quite informative and served us well, but sometimes the GPS was a little off and announcements too late for us to turn off. This guide worked on the RTH and also the next day doing to Haleakala.Maui – Day 2 – We woke at 0300 and left the ship by 0345. Our goal was to observe the sunrise from the peak of Haleakala. If you want coffee, gum, or other snacks for the drive, you either need to purchase the night before or stop at the gas stations heading towards the center of the island. There is a Starbucks in Volcano, but it doesn’t open until after 0500. The super market next door, though, was open.The drive up the mountain was not as twisty as the previous day’s adventure. The road was very well maintained with clear lane and shoulder markings up until entering the national park. Once in the park, the road was still safe, but markings were a bit faded. The drive in the dark can make you nervous as it appears as if you are driving on the edge of a cliff with nothing to stop you from falling thousands of feet to your doom. When we went down the hill after sunrise, we saw this wasn’t the case except in a few spots.We arrived at the peak’s parking lot at about 0545, an hour before sunrise. The temperature was a balmy 43 degrees Fahrenheit. We eventually got out and walked around in the dark and used the restrooms. The gift shop also has a viewing area, is heated, and opened at about 0630. We waited with a few hundred other people for sunrise and were greeted with a beautiful arrival of the sun over the clouds. I definitely recommend this trip. Once the sun came up, we realized we were not at the top of the hill. Instead, we had stopped at a large parking lot a few hundred feet short of the summit. There was a road leading up to the summit and the large shelter on it, but I do not remember seeing this road when we arrived…perhaps parking at that level was already full. Parking in the main lot did fill up…probably around 0630.We eventually returned to the ship for breakfast and a short nap. Then we headed out to find some Korean food to satisfy my wife’s need for kimchi. Yelp helped us find what we needed. There are a few Korean restaurants and groceries just north of Kahului. Instead, we decided to drive to Kihei and find the Korean BBQ, Isana, near the beach. We swam in the ocean a bit and then enjoyed Kalbi for lunch. Isana is a little expensive for Korean, but the food and service were good. Kihei is an easy drive from Kahului…taking only about 30 minutes.The overnight lot is currently being worked on so the only parking is about a 10-15 minute walk from the ship. Sunday night, it filled up by sunset time. I don’t know where other cars parked. If you are picking up or dropping off people, the guard will let you in closer to the pier. You simply explain what you want to do, show your card, and use the taxi drop off area.
We were still tired from the activities on Maui, so we got a late start in Hilo. We were still able to stop by Rainbow Falls and then visit Volcano National Park. VNP is a nice park and it would be a great place to stay several days and hike or bike the many established trails. We only spent an hour or so at VNP and then returned to Hilo. After once again finding some Korean food in Hilo we returned to the ship.
Kona is a tender port. The process to tender to shore is straight forward and well managed, but it did take about 30 minutes to get on shore. Rental cars are not available in Kona without taking a taxi to/from the airport. We didn’t need a car, though, as there is plenty to do in Kona. We rented stand up paddle boards and a kayak and enjoyed the water. We also took an undersea voyage in the Atlantis submarine. Of note, with a military discount, we paid $45 each for the sub tour. The rack rate was $115 and NCL charged something like $140. There is also plenty of shopping, dining, and drinking near the pier. Kona Brewing Company is a short 15 minute walk from the pier and this is where my son and I spent the afternoon. KBC has a brewery tour, but reservations are recommended as all tours were full by the time we arrived. Instead, we enjoyed beer samplers and some delicious kahlua pork-topped nachos.
Kauai – Day 1 – This was the easiest port to get a rental car. For some reason, Thrifty was not busy when I showed up. It was partly cloudy as we pulled into Nawiliwili, so we had to cancel plans to visit Waimea Canyon. We made same day reservations for zip lining in Poipu. Skyline Eco Adventures provided a couple of hours of fun and entertainment in the hills above Poipu. There was a short uphill hike involved and eight lines to zip down. The weather alternated between sunny and a light misting, but then turned into a light rain by the last zip line. We finished just in time to not get soaked! Although I anticipated the lines would be inside the forest, all 8 lines ran from hilltop to hilltop above any vegetation. Still, it was a good trip and we all had fun. Again, this outfit offered a military discount which was about half price off of anything NCL offered. Recommended! On the way back to the ship, we drove up the east coast a bit, passing the Wailua River and stopping at the heiau and waterfall just uphill from the Wailua River.Kauai – Day 2- As we had returned the car the day before, we stayed near the ship. Two local tourist shopping centers are within a 15-minute walk and both offer complimentary shuttles. We checked out the shops and hung out on the beach by the Marriot. Kalapakiu Beach was a beautiful beach, which is likely made possible by high room rates at the Marriot. The beach boys here had good prices for stand up paddle boards and other beach gear.