I used Cruise Critice prior to booking our trip. This is long, but I am including information that I was looking for prior to our trip.
*Convenient and cost-efficient way to see all the islands.
*Only cruise that offers this week-long option
* You are mostly in port during this cruise, and there really is no “day at sea.” We enjoyed each stop. You spend two days in Maui and 1 ½ in Kauai. These two islands have the most excursion offerings, so you really do need two days if you want to see multiple things. If you don't have a planned excursion at least one of those days, the time in port may seem too long.
The Ship- This was our first Norwegian cruise. We have sailed Princess twice and Carnival once. Norwegian and Princess are very similar in ship design and offerings. Pros and cons to each, and it just boils down to personal preference. Both are great ships. The ship was clean, the staff was friendly and attentive, and we had a great experience on board.The ship is one of the smaller ships.I would sail Norwegian again.
Booking the Cruise- “Free at Sea”
We used a travel agent which was very helpful. Doesn't cost you a thing and they know the right questions to ask.
We did the “Free at Sea” option. Let’s be real, nothing was free, but they package it a way that makes it affordable. We chose 3 “free” options.
We chose air-fare, specialty dining and the “Hawaiian beverage” package. I would highly recommend choosing these 3.Purchsing wiifi is not really needed for this cruise if you are from the USA. Guest Wifi on board is fine and you are in a port most of the time, so your cellular is fine for basic calls and internet usage. If you have kids with you or have work wifi needs then you may need it.
1) Airfare- The cruise line books your flight. We did the $50/person additional fee that allows you to personalize your flight a bit. This caused me the most stress because the airline books your flight and they don’t let you know what your flight is until about a month prior. We were doing some connections in Seattle prior to the trip and the flight times made a difference. Our travel agent was able to request our flight times for us and they did honor that and booked our flight on Delta. If you need to change your flight, once it is booked then you can call the airline and make any changes. We asked if it would change the total price of the cruise if we chose not to include airfare. It didn’t, so it did not make sense for us to pay for it separately. It worked out fine.
Specialty Dining- Definitely do this! With our package we were able to dine at all the nicer restaurants and you don’t have to pay the upgrade fee or any charges. The food was great!
2) Hawaiian Beverage Package- This included all alcohol, sodas, bottled waters and drinks- anything under $15/drink. Note: when they ring your bill up, it will have the price of the drink and the tax. When you sign the ticket it scares you a bit because you are expecting free. You have to pay the tax on the drink, so it has to have something to tax. When it hits your account, you will only see charges like 80 cents, 50 cents, etc. You can also go up to any bar and ask for a bottled water at any time. You have to sign for it. They advertise on the ship for you to buy a case of water for your room for $30. You don’t need to do it if you have this package. Tips for you water drinkers: To prevent the spread of germs, none of the common areas on ship allow you to re-fill water bottles. We found a fountain on the ship's walking track, outside near the front of the boat. Best cold water. We are big water drinkers, and I was using a scopolamine patch, which makes you event thirstier.
3) Specialty Dining: Our favorites were La Cucina (Italian) and Moderna Churrascaria (Brazilian Steakhouse) Book these before you go. You can always change. Don’t book an early reservation on the final Friday because you will want to be on deck while cruising on the Napali Coast.
Complimentary Dining: Make reservations for everything at dinner. The Liberty Dining Room and Skyline were both great. Same dining room and menu. Liberty has the dress code, Skyline more casual. The breakfast at the Skyline was really good and better than the buffet in the Aloha Cafe. Aloha Café Buffet: I could always find something I enjoyed. We typically ate there for breakfast, and we only ate one lunch there. I am not a buffet fan, but considering the amount of food they are cooking for all of those folks on the ship, I give it a B+. We tried to choose something different each day, and were not disappointed on any night.
Embarkation: Best advice! Wait until around 3pm before getting on the ship!! We walked right in. No wait. That morning, we took an Uber to the ship's port in Honolulu, unloaded our luggage prior to 10am on embarkation day. They let our Uber wait on us. We went inside and asked for "Luggage Storage". They charge $5 a bag. That literally took 5 minutes. We then went to Pearl Harbor and took our time. We got back to the ship around 2:30/3pm. It was a dream to check in. Prior to that the crew said the lines were crazy. So unless you can't stand it and want to wait at the terminal for 3 hours in line, hold your horses and enjoy your day. (I would suggest flying in on the Friday before the ship leaves.)
Disembarkation: Of everything we did, I would probably rate this the lowest. They need some work on this area. On Princess, I was completely impressed with the way they handle disembarkation. Very organized. For POA, we chose to carry our own luggage out so we could leave at our own pace, and basically did the 'free-style get off the boat'. They had other scheduled times that people were leaving, but it seem to bottleneck. Long lines to get out of the port and on to our pre-arranged shuttles to the airport. It wasn't awful, and we weren't in a hurry, but I would suggest not scheduling your flight home until after 12pm. I think people who had scheduled excursions did not have have this issue.
Honolulu: Brief tutorial on Pearl Harbor. I spent more time planning this. It's confusing online and everyone offers a package. It makes sense once you are there. I hope this will save you several hours of your life! :)
Pearl Harbor- Do this yourself. Book your tour of the USS Arizona online 1 month prior. It's free but you have to have a ticket and they go fast. You just pay a $1-2 fee to book. Go to recreation.gov/tickets website to reserve these tickets. Keep checking to see when they open your date. They are working on the loading dock at the memorial so you can't get off the boat, but you cruise the harbor, take photos, and watch a movie prior. Re-opens in Fall 2019. You cannot take a bag in. You can check it for $5.
USS Missouri- You can purchase your tickets for the Missouri over at Pearl Harbor and they will shuttle you over. We just did the Mighty Mo pass. $29/each This was perfect for us and allows to you spend as much time touring as you would like after the initial tour.
Maui: Road to Hana: We rented our own car and drove it. (We had a free rental. )
You can book a tour through the cruise line, around $200 each. Choose to do this on the first day especially if you drive yourself. Hairpin turns and takes 2-3 hours to go 40 miles- 1-way. Beautiful scenery. Plan for all day. Take a swimsuit and go to Wai'anapanapa State Park(black sand beach)
Hakealea Crater at Sunrise- We booked through the ship- Beautiful! I would recommend. You have to be ready to go at 2:45 am so if you are not a morning person this is not for you. I wouldn’t suggest driving this yourself for the sunrise, no shoulders on the road and you are driving up a mountain to 10,000 ft. Take your camera and pack a heavy jacket. Temperature is 40 degrees at top. Pack a puffy ski -type jacket that you can roll tightly and squeeze in your luggage.
Kauai- We booked a helicopter tour through Blue Hawaiian (Lihue airport) Same company that the cruise line uses. You save by booking direct and they will send a shuttle to come pick you up. Request it in the comments when you book. Highlight of the trip! Walk to Nawilliwilli Beach from the port.
Hilo (Big Island) - Took an Uber to Carlsmith Beach. Fabulous! Not much around the port within walking distance. Take a taxi or Uber. Hilo Urgent Care and Hilo Medical Center ER were wonderful to us on an unplanned excursion to the ER. Hope you don't need to go there.
Kona- Lots of shops along the port. Ate at Kona Brewing Company**
Transportation at the ports: Each port was a little different, but the cruise line contracts with certain taxis and shuttles (in addition to booked excursions). If you want to use Uber, ask the crew what you need to do when you get off the ship. Most of the ports would require you to go beyond a certain point down the street to get picked up, but they would allow Uber drivers to drop you back off at the ship. I guess they don’t want every Uber driver jockeying for your business. Maui was the most difficult place to use Uber. Go for a taxi here.
Last thing: Download the NCL app. This was helpful to know the schedule of events, our booked excursions and dinner reservations, and for keeping up with our room tab.
We were at the back of the ship, port side. It was nice and quiet. We enjoyed the balcony, but didn't use it as much on this cruise because we were in port more than we were at sea. The bed was comfortable and nicely fits large luggage underneath. The room was very clean and comfortable, and our steward, Sandy, attended to anything we needed. The closet and room shelving has lots of cubbies and baskets to store your items during the week. Many other reviews had me worried about the room size. It is comparable to Princess balcony room sizes. I saw comments about this prior. Only one person can go between the bed and the wall at a time, especially if beds are pushed together to make a king size. It was fine for us. Larger people might have an issue with this. On the website it is unclear, but 'Family Balcony' just means that your room can adjoin to another one if you need it to.
Don't worry about being on the port side or starboard. About 50 percent of the time our boat had the better view in port while other times we didn't. It really didn't make a difference to the overall trip experience. On the one day we were facing the port building we were able to watch the hundreds of staff members do their safety drill and evacuate the boat. It made us appreciate how many folks it takes to make our time on the ship enjoyable. Thank you!
You can purchase your tickets for the Missouri over at Pearl Harbor and they will shuttle you over. No reservations needed. We just did the Mighty Mo pass. $29/each This was perfect for us and allows to you spend as much time touring as you would like after the initial tour. We did this on the morning of embarkation. The Mighty Mo is run by a non-profit, and is separate from Pearl Harbor, but they work together to give tourists a complete experience.View All 25 Mighty Mo Reviews
Pearl Harbor, USS Arizona and USS Missouri are all in the same area and not far from the ship's port. Going to Pearl Harbor is free. We did not tour the museums of Pearl Harbor, but you could spend the day touring all the different aspects. Most of this area is free as it is a government park, but you need reserved tickets to do the Arizona. There are some things that you can pay for. You cannot take a bag in. You can check it for $5.View All 212 Pearl Harbor Reviews
They are working on the loading dock at the memorial so you can't get off the boat, but you cruise the harbor, take photos, and watch a movie prior. Re-opens in Fall 2019. Very somber experience.Glad we did it.
Book this yourself online 1 month prior. It's free but you have to have a ticket and they go fast. You just pay a $1-2 fee to book. Go to the recreation.gov/tickets website to reserve Arizona tickets. Keep checking to see when they open your date around that 30-day mark. You can walk up and get tickets on the morning of but they open at 7:30 and they go fast. Easier to book online. Then pick up tickets when you arrive. If you miss your time then you have only lost a few dollars.View All 70 USS Arizona Reviews
Beautiful! I would recommend. You have to be ready to go at 2:45 am so if you are not a morning person this is not for you. I wouldn’t suggest driving this yourself for the sunrise, no shoulders on the road and you are driving up a mountain to 10,000 ft. Take your camera and pack a heavy jacket. Temperature is 40 degrees at top. Pack a puffy ski -type jacket that you can roll tightly and squeeze in your luggage.View All 108 Haleakala Crater Reviews
We took an Uber to Carlsmith Beach, per recommendation of locals. Fabulous if you just want to enjoy the scenery. Sea turtles! Public restrooms and changing area. Not crowded. Not much around the port within walking distance. I would suggest planning an excursion for this port so that you have a plan if the beach doesn't appeal to you. Hilo Urgent Care and Hilo Medical Center ER were wonderful to us on an unplanned excursion to the ER. Hope you don't need to go there.
They tender you in to the port, which was an excursion in itself. This was our favorite port for things to do within walking distance. They definitely appeal to tourists. Lots of shops and restaurants. Quaint port area. We ate at Kona Brewing Company. Enjoyed this!
Same company that the cruise line uses. Blue Hawaiian Tours. You save by booking direct and they will send a shuttle to come pick you up even though website says they won't. Call before to make sure. Request it in the comments when you book online. Highlight of the trip! They offer this other islands. I do believe Kauai is the island to do this. Jurassic Park Falls, Napali Coast. Definitely take something for motion sickness if you have issues. I have vertigo issues and I had a patch for trip, but it did bother my ears and make me feel a little ill toward the end. It was windy that day and that made the difference. I would still do it again!View All 69 Helicopter Tour Reviews