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Best way to see Hawaii! Veteran cruiser 3rd time on Pride of America Review (Dec 15, 2018) Background to review: This review will be slightly different than past reviews. I will concentrate more on tips for traveling the islands and excursions than on the cruise and the ship. This cruise is different than others since you are in port every day. It is like have a floating hotel room. You are there to see and visit the islands. There is NO down time or sea days to just relax. You really spend very little time on the ship other than eating dinner and sleeping. This was our third (3rd) cruise on Pride of America. Never disappointed. Just seems to get better. On this trip we had 8 of us, booked in 4 aft balcony rooms. We like the aft rooms for the views from our balcony especially if the volcano is active and for the view when we sail by of the Napali coast. For those looking for all the amenities of the newer ships, you may be disappointed in the POA with no rock walls, big slides, or casino. However, everything else on the ship was more than adequate and it is the BEST way to see the islands. Overall Evaluation: (more detail comments appear below) • Our rooms were typical balcony rooms but being in the aft of the ship was a huge bonus. • The staff aboard the ship provided excellent service and this is probably due to the excellent leadership and direction of Hotel Director Kaj Turunen. • Food quality was superb everywhere. We had the Ultimate Dining Package so we ate in the specialty restaurants most night. We ate two nights in Jefferson Bistro, once in La Cusina, Cagney’s, Moderno and Teppanyaki. • We rented cars on Maui, Hilo and Kauai. Doing this allowed us to take in much more of the islands on our own time. I learned this was a better way on our 2nd trip aboard POA. • Our excursions included snorkeling at Molokini, Smith Fern Grotto river ride and Sunshine Helicopter flyover of the Waimea Canyon on Kauai. DINING: Some people criticize anytime dining but I prefer it. It allows me to control when and where I eat based upon the day’s activities. Other people may prefer traditional dining because they are able to meet other cruisers and develop a relationship with them. All our dinner meals in the specialty restaurants were outstanding. Jefferson Bistro and Cagney’s are our favorites. I think we ONLY ate lunch two days on the ship. Breakfast was usually very early at the buffet and only two times could we sit and enjoy breakfast without the need to be somewhere. PORTS: The most important part of the trip. Since we had taken this twice before, we learned that the best way to see the islands is to tour on your own and book specific excursions after a lot of research. Maui: • IAO Valley • Lahaina, Kapalua, Kaanapali • Nakaleue Point • Ho’okipa Beach • Big Beach and Wailea • Snorkeling at Molokini Rental car shuttles are on the pier and the ride to the airport (our driver showed us the back road) took about 5 minutes. Parking overnight is at the Maui Beach Hotel, a short walk from the ship. Parking is $5 paid at the front desk. We DID NOT take the road to Hana. Tried that the first trip and found it to be a waste of time. All day trip with too much traffic. Instead, we visited Iao Valley and the needle. Short drive from the ship on route 32. After Iao Valley, we headed west along route 30 to Lahina and stopped on the side of the road to do some whale watching. Spent a couple of hours in this small “whaling” village and make sure we had our picture taken under the Banyon Tree which covers an entire block. We ate lunch at Cheeseburger in Paradise which I highly recommend. We left Lahina and continued our clockwise drive around the northwest shores of Maui. We toured the resorts in Kaanapali and Kapalau to view the golf courses which I hope to play on another trip. We stopped at Nakaleue Point to see the blow hole. At this point you can continue to complete the loop or turn back and reverse course. The rest of the drive is like the road to Hana but much shorter. There are many hairpin turns, very narrow and a couple of one lane bridges. To the dismay of my wife, we made the drive back to Kahului and the ship. On day 2, our kids were booked on a snorkeling adventure and visit to turtle town on the Malono to Molokini at 6:30 am at Maalaea Harbor a short ride from the ship. I booked this through www.hawaiidiscount.com. We booked the early morning tour because everyone says the snorkeling is much better than later in the day. Wendy and I chose to visit Wailea, see the golf course, and spend the morning at Big Beach. At noon, we picked up the rest of our party and visited Ho’okipa Beach about 8 miles from the ship on the road to Hana (but good highways here!!!). Tremendous views of the ocean from the cliffs. We returned the cars and boarded the ship so the girls could attend a Lei Making Class. Hilo: • Rainbow Falls • Kaumana Caves • Onomea Scenic Drive • Akaka Falls • Richardson Ocean Park (Black Sand Beach) • Walmart (for macadamia nuts)!! Once we obtained the rental car, we headed to Rainbow Falls and Boiling Pots. I would skip Boiling Pots and just visit Rainbow Falls. After visiting rainbow falls, we made the short drive to Kaumana Caves and went into the lava tube. Leaving Kaumana Caves, we headed to Akaka Falls along Highway 19, Hawaii Belt Road. At mile marker 11, we took the right hand turnoff for Onomea Bay which is called the Onomea Bay Scenic Drive. This is probably the most scenic drive on the Big Island. There is a spot on the road where you can park and walk down to the waterfront. We always do this. This area is on the backside of the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens. Great views and picture taking opportunities. Be careful, you will miss the turn off unless you have done your research. From Onomea, we made our way to Akaka Falls. We spent about an hour making the complete walk through the falls and then headed to Richardson Ocean Park. At Richardson Ocean Park, some of our party went swimming while the rest of us climbed the lava rocks to visit the green turtles swimming near the lava rocks. Since we were short on time and could not visit the Mauna Loa factory on this trip, we stopped at the local Walmart on our way back to the airport to buy macadamia nuts. Kona: • We love this small village and use this day as a resting or down day for shopping • On Wednesday’s, there is a Farmer’s Market in the center of town • Ate lunch at the Kona Inn with a fellow retired IBM engineer who lives on the Big Island now • Our adult kids visited the beach near the pier You will have to tender at Kona but it is very well organized and the trip is very short. We love the little village of Kona. This trip was special for us since a former IBM engineer I use to work with retired on the Big Island and we met him and his wife for lunch at the Kona Inn which was just across the street from the Farmer’s Market. After lunch, we returned to the town for some shopping then back to the ship for another Lei Making class but this one was with ribbons instead of flowers or kukula nuts. Kauai: • Rented cars toured the north to Princeville • Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Preserve • Ha’ena State Park and beach • Smith Fern Grotto Ride • Sunshine Helicopter ride • Visited Poipu and the Spouting Horn The most beautiful of all the islands. When we return to Hawaii, it will be a tough choice between Kauai and Maui where we will spend our two weeks or longer. The deciding factor might be the golf courses. This island was the highlight of our trip!!! Rented the car for two days. There is overnight parking in the shopping center just a couple of minutes walk from the ship. The cost is $20 payable at JJ’s restaurant. I noticed some people parked in the street where there was a few parking spots and I did not notice any signs prohibiting parking but I felt it was NOT worth the risk for $20. Since we were going to fly over Waimea canyon the next day, we decided to drive to the north side of the island and visit Princeville. I was a little selfish in this since I wanted to scout out the golf course since I played at Poipu last trip but had not seen Princeville. We made several stops along the way for sightseeing. First stop was Wailua Beach, followed by the stop at Kilauea Lighthouse and National Wildlife Reserve. It was great that I had my Senior National Park pass with me since it was good for 4 free admissions to the lighthouse and wildlife area. Next stop was the drive through Princeville and onto Ha’ena State Park. Enjoyed the drive through the golf course and everyone enjoyed our time at the beach before heading back to Wailua where we entered the Wailua State Park to view the river and waterfall. At 3:30 pm, we took our scheduled tour on the Smith’s Fern Grotto River tour. Little disappointed that at the grotto, we could not go into the cave since they had some evidence of rock slides due to all the rain and for safety, the cave was closed to visitors. Still, the tour was well worth the $25 per person. Day 2 is a short day because the POA would sail the Napali coast in the afternoon. We had scheduled the 8:00 early bird special with Sunshine Helicopter. Their office is next to JJ’s restaurant where we parked the car over night and just minutes walk from the ship. The 55 minute ride was too awesome for words. I can just reiterate that everyone in our party of 8 agreed it was the HIGHLIGHT of the trip. After the helicopter tour, we took a ride to Poipu, the Spouting Horn and stopped at some local shops for last minute shopping. The rest of the afternoon is spent on the ship viewing the famous Napali Coast of Kauai. amazing OAHU: Our flight did not leave until 6:00 pm and we left the ship at 8:00 and took a shuttle to the airport where we rented a van from Budget rental. Our original plan was to visit Pearl Harbor but with the Arizona Memorial still closed, we decide to go to Diamond Head and climb the mountain. I had previously visited both Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head on a previous trip. For the others, this was their first trip and maybe only trip to Hawaii so I felt bad that we could not get to the Arizona Memorial. The climb up Diamond Head was 1.5 hours total time. We did it around 11:00 in the morning and most people were already coming down so it was faster than normal. After Diamond Head, we drove past Waikiki Beach area and then had lunch with another former IBM peer of mine who happens to be from Honolulu. A great lunch and then we returned to the airport to catch our flight home.

Best way to see Hawaii! Veteran cruiser 3rd time on Pride of America Review

Pride of America Cruise Review by golfingfool

7 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: December 2018
  • Destination: Hawaii
  • Cabin Type: Aft-Facing Large Balcony
Best way to see Hawaii! Veteran cruiser 3rd time on Pride of America Review (Dec 15, 2018)

Background to review:

This review will be slightly different than past reviews. I will concentrate more on tips for traveling the islands and excursions than on the cruise and the ship. This cruise is different than others since you are in port every day. It is like have a floating hotel room. You are there to see and visit the islands. There is NO down time or sea days to just relax. You really spend very little time on the ship other than eating dinner and sleeping.

This was our third (3rd) cruise on Pride of America. Never disappointed. Just seems to get better. On this trip we had 8 of us, booked in 4 aft balcony rooms. We like the aft rooms for the views from our balcony especially if the volcano is active and for the view when we sail by of the Napali coast.

For those looking for all the amenities of the newer ships, you may be disappointed in the POA with no rock walls, big slides, or casino. However, everything else on the ship was more than adequate and it is the BEST way to see the islands.

Overall Evaluation: (more detail comments appear below)

• Our rooms were typical balcony rooms but being in the aft of the ship was a huge bonus.

• The staff aboard the ship provided excellent service and this is probably due to the excellent leadership and direction of Hotel Director Kaj Turunen.

• Food quality was superb everywhere. We had the Ultimate Dining Package so we ate in the specialty restaurants most night. We ate two nights in Jefferson Bistro, once in La Cusina, Cagney’s, Moderno and Teppanyaki.

• We rented cars on Maui, Hilo and Kauai. Doing this allowed us to take in much more of the islands on our own time. I learned this was a better way on our 2nd trip aboard POA.

• Our excursions included snorkeling at Molokini, Smith Fern Grotto river ride and Sunshine Helicopter flyover of the Waimea Canyon on Kauai.

DINING:

Some people criticize anytime dining but I prefer it. It allows me to control when and where I eat based upon the day’s activities. Other people may prefer traditional dining because they are able to meet other cruisers and develop a relationship with them.

All our dinner meals in the specialty restaurants were outstanding. Jefferson Bistro and Cagney’s are our favorites.

I think we ONLY ate lunch two days on the ship. Breakfast was usually very early at the buffet and only two times could we sit and enjoy breakfast without the need to be somewhere.



PORTS: The most important part of the trip.

Since we had taken this twice before, we learned that the best way to see the islands is to tour on your own and book specific excursions after a lot of research.

Maui:

• IAO Valley

• Lahaina, Kapalua, Kaanapali

• Nakaleue Point

• Ho’okipa Beach

• Big Beach and Wailea

• Snorkeling at Molokini

Rental car shuttles are on the pier and the ride to the airport (our driver showed us the back road) took about 5 minutes. Parking overnight is at the Maui Beach Hotel, a short walk from the ship. Parking is $5 paid at the front desk.

We DID NOT take the road to Hana. Tried that the first trip and found it to be a waste of time. All day trip with too much traffic. Instead, we visited Iao Valley and the needle. Short drive from the ship on route 32. After Iao Valley, we headed west along route 30 to Lahina and stopped on the side of the road to do some whale watching. Spent a couple of hours in this small “whaling” village and make sure we had our picture taken under the Banyon Tree which covers an entire block. We ate lunch at Cheeseburger in Paradise which I highly recommend.

We left Lahina and continued our clockwise drive around the northwest shores of Maui. We toured the resorts in Kaanapali and Kapalau to view the golf courses which I hope to play on another trip. We stopped at Nakaleue Point to see the blow hole.

At this point you can continue to complete the loop or turn back and reverse course. The rest of the drive is like the road to Hana but much shorter. There are many hairpin turns, very narrow and a couple of one lane bridges. To the dismay of my wife, we made the drive back to Kahului and the ship.

On day 2, our kids were booked on a snorkeling adventure and visit to turtle town on the Malono to Molokini at 6:30 am at Maalaea Harbor a short ride from the ship. I booked this through www.hawaiidiscount.com. We booked the early morning tour because everyone says the snorkeling is much better than later in the day.

Wendy and I chose to visit Wailea, see the golf course, and spend the morning at Big Beach. At noon, we picked up the rest of our party and visited Ho’okipa Beach about 8 miles from the ship on the road to Hana (but good highways here!!!). Tremendous views of the ocean from the cliffs.

We returned the cars and boarded the ship so the girls could attend a Lei Making Class.


Hilo:

• Rainbow Falls

• Kaumana Caves

• Onomea Scenic Drive

• Akaka Falls

• Richardson Ocean Park (Black Sand Beach)

• Walmart (for macadamia nuts)!!

Once we obtained the rental car, we headed to Rainbow Falls and Boiling Pots. I would skip Boiling Pots and just visit Rainbow Falls. After visiting rainbow falls, we made the short drive to Kaumana Caves and went into the lava tube.

Leaving Kaumana Caves, we headed to Akaka Falls along Highway 19, Hawaii Belt Road. At mile marker 11, we took the right hand turnoff for Onomea Bay which is called the Onomea Bay Scenic Drive. This is probably the most scenic drive on the Big Island. There is a spot on the road where you can park and walk down to the waterfront. We always do this. This area is on the backside of the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens. Great views and picture taking opportunities. Be careful, you will miss the turn off unless you have done your research.

From Onomea, we made our way to Akaka Falls. We spent about an hour making the complete walk through the falls and then headed to Richardson Ocean Park.

At Richardson Ocean Park, some of our party went swimming while the rest of us climbed the lava rocks to visit the green turtles swimming near the lava rocks.

Since we were short on time and could not visit the Mauna Loa factory on this trip, we stopped at the local Walmart on our way back to the airport to buy macadamia nuts.

Kona:

• We love this small village and use this day as a resting or down day for shopping

• On Wednesday’s, there is a Farmer’s Market in the center of town

• Ate lunch at the Kona Inn with a fellow retired IBM engineer who lives on the Big Island now

• Our adult kids visited the beach near the pier

You will have to tender at Kona but it is very well organized and the trip is very short. We love the little village of Kona. This trip was special for us since a former IBM engineer I use to work with retired on the Big Island and we met him and his wife for lunch at the Kona Inn which was just across the street from the Farmer’s Market. After lunch, we returned to the town for some shopping then back to the ship for another Lei Making class but this one was with ribbons instead of flowers or kukula nuts.

Kauai:

• Rented cars toured the north to Princeville

• Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Preserve

• Ha’ena State Park and beach

• Smith Fern Grotto Ride

• Sunshine Helicopter ride

• Visited Poipu and the Spouting Horn


The most beautiful of all the islands. When we return to Hawaii, it will be a tough choice between Kauai and Maui where we will spend our two weeks or longer. The deciding factor might be the golf courses.

This island was the highlight of our trip!!!

Rented the car for two days. There is overnight parking in the shopping center just a couple of minutes walk from the ship. The cost is $20 payable at JJ’s restaurant. I noticed some people parked in the street where there was a few parking spots and I did not notice any signs prohibiting parking but I felt it was NOT worth the risk for $20.

Since we were going to fly over Waimea canyon the next day, we decided to drive to the north side of the island and visit Princeville. I was a little selfish in this since I wanted to scout out the golf course since I played at Poipu last trip but had not seen Princeville.

We made several stops along the way for sightseeing. First stop was Wailua Beach, followed by the stop at Kilauea Lighthouse and National Wildlife Reserve. It was great that I had my Senior National Park pass with me since it was good for 4 free admissions to the lighthouse and wildlife area.

Next stop was the drive through Princeville and onto Ha’ena State Park. Enjoyed the drive through the golf course and everyone enjoyed our time at the beach before heading back to Wailua where we entered the Wailua State Park to view the river and waterfall. At 3:30 pm, we took our scheduled tour on the Smith’s Fern Grotto River tour. Little disappointed that at the grotto, we could not go into the cave since they had some evidence of rock slides due to all the rain and for safety, the cave was closed to visitors. Still, the tour was well worth the $25 per person.

Day 2 is a short day because the POA would sail the Napali coast in the afternoon. We had scheduled the 8:00 early bird special with Sunshine Helicopter. Their office is next to JJ’s restaurant where we parked the car over night and just minutes walk from the ship. The 55 minute ride was too awesome for words. I can just reiterate that everyone in our party of 8 agreed it was the HIGHLIGHT of the trip.

After the helicopter tour, we took a ride to Poipu, the Spouting Horn and stopped at some local shops for last minute shopping.

The rest of the afternoon is spent on the ship viewing the famous Napali Coast of Kauai. amazing

OAHU:

Our flight did not leave until 6:00 pm and we left the ship at 8:00 and took a shuttle to the airport where we rented a van from Budget rental. Our original plan was to visit Pearl Harbor but with the Arizona Memorial still closed, we decide to go to Diamond Head and climb the mountain.

I had previously visited both Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head on a previous trip. For the others, this was their first trip and maybe only trip to Hawaii so I felt bad that we could not get to the Arizona Memorial.

The climb up Diamond Head was 1.5 hours total time. We did it around 11:00 in the morning and most people were already coming down so it was faster than normal.

After Diamond Head, we drove past Waikiki Beach area and then had lunch with another former IBM peer of mine who happens to be from Honolulu. A great lunch and then we returned to the airport to catch our flight home.
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Cabin Review

Aft-Facing Large Balcony
Cabin B1 9200
Typical Balcony room but being in the AFT we had much better views and enjoyed the larger balcony.
Deck 10 Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Honolulu
    Our flight did not leave until 6:00 pm and we left the ship at 8:00 and took a shuttle to the airport where we rented a van from Budget rental. Our original plan was to visit Pearl Harbor but with the Arizona Memorial still closed, we decide to go to Diamond Head and climb the mountain.
    I had previously visited both Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head on a previous trip. For the others, this was their first trip and maybe only trip to Hawaii so I felt bad that we could not get to the Arizona Memorial.
    The climb up Diamond Head was 1.5 hours total time. We did it around 11:00 in the morning and most people were already coming down so it was faster than normal.
    After Diamond Head, we drove past Waikiki Beach area and then had lunch with another former IBM peer of mine who happens to be from Honolulu. A great lunch and then we returned to the airport to catch our flight home.
    View All 662 Honolulu Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Honolulu Cruise Port Review