This was the second Hawaiian cruise after the pandemic shut down and there are some growing pains. The ship was at 40% capacity, about 1100 passengers, and only 40% staff. Only one MDR was open for dinner only. Buffet of course. Cadillac diner for 24/7 snacks, which my family didn't really think was that great. And only Cagney's and Jefferson's Bistro were available for specialty dining. Because we were suite guests we could have breakfast and lunch at Cagney's and it was fantastic. I didn't even try breakfast or lunch at the buffet at all. I did have one quick dinner at the buffet on seafood night (the grilled salmon was phenomenal anywhere on the ship!), but the food at the Skyline was much better. The Skyline struggled to keep up though with limited staff and it was always a 30-45 min wait for a table and about an hour or two to eat a full meal with starters and dessert. Most of the bars weren't open. Kenny the bartender at John Adams is a rock star though and boy did he work hard!
All the staff that we encountered were trying very hard. Many of them are brand new as we heard from some of the more experienced staff that NCL has been having a hard time getting previous employees to return. There was a lot of on the job training happening. And one time our dinner server told us he had been hired that very day! Several of the staff mentioned they were working very long hours (16 hours a day), but were looking forward to the overtime pay. I'm sure the service will only improve with time and experience and more staff.
The ship looks great. Fresh and clean and didn't encounter any problems with function, cleanliness, or safety.
We had one of the two Deluxe Penthouse with Large Balcony suites. Travelling with 2 teenage boys who don't like to touch each other when sleeping it was great that they each had their own bed, one in the murphy bed and one in the pull out sofa. They said the beds were comfy especially the bedding. The king bed was also super comfortable and we slept great. The boat does rock quite a bit when sailing at night, the first night seemed the roughest and I kept waking up expecting to roll out of bed. After that night I got used to it and it was never a problem and was more like being rocked to sleep.
There was tons of storage for all our stuff plus room under the king bed for the suitcases. The bathroom was enormous with 2 sinks, large shower that fit even our tallest 18 year old. No problems except the toilet wouldn't flush the very last morning, didn't even have time to do anything about it before going to breakfast, using one of the public restrooms and disembarking. The very large balcony was delightful, had room for all of us to enjoy. I get rashes from the sun so it was great to have a sheltered place to lounge and enjoy the view whenever I wanted. Plus we had a great view of the Na Pali coast on Friday afternoon. The butler, Jeffrey, was fantastic and went above and beyond to meet all our needs. The steward, Eston, kept the room clean and well stocked with towels and ice. It's a bit of a walk forward from the elevators but needed to burn off the extra calories. If it was very quiet we could sometimes hear voices through the connecting door to the next door suite but only when right next to it, I'm sure they heard my loud kids more than we heard them. I may be totally spoiled now and think I would enjoy the large suite even more without the kids!
Rented a car for the first day only. Shopping in Lahaina, then quick lunch back on the ship, then drove up Haleakala to watch the sunset. There's a bit of a walk from the pier to the street and it was hot. Easy to park at the mall for a little while though, we didn't attempt overnight parking. A Lyft from the airport rental drop off back to the ship was fairly easy and drove us right up to the check in point so didn't have the long walk from the mall.
Taxis were waiting right outside the port terminal so was easy to get one. Did some shopping and stopped at Big Island Candies for some yummy treats and could watch them making the chocolates through the big windows. Called the same taxi company from the business card we were given for the ride back to the boat. Got lucky with sunshine in the morning but it started raining afternoon.
Tender process was easy. We didn't rush so waited for the open tender times which probably happened quickly with only 40% passenger capacity. Lots to do close to the pier. Somewhat steep roads so my short legs got winded walking to the Kona Brewing Company for a tour we booked on our own last minute. Tour guide was brand new but hilarious. Our teen boys also enjoyed even though they couldn't sample the beer.
Spent time lounging on the beach right next to the pier. Beach chair and umbrella available for about $30. Water is refreshingly cool and very clear so could see the fish even without snorkel gear. Great wifi free on the beach as well.
Did not rush out in the morning again. There were no taxis waiting when we got out and only once we started walking down the road did we see one approach and flagged it down. Less taxis available since the pandemic and apparently the port would not allow pre arranged taxis to come into the port area so I think we got lucky. We had previously booked a river tubing excursion with Kauai Back Country Adventures and it was a blast. Bit cold and rainy so glad I wore an athletic shirt instead of just a bathing suit. Scenery was beautiful and got a great history overview from the guide Mason, who also played the ukelele and sang us songs while we floated through the tunnels. Called the same taxi driver after to get us back to the ship. He was telling us that prices have almost doubled from before the pandemic but tourism seems to be bouncing back nicely.
Just amazing. Breath taking. We viewed from our large balcony and if I stepped inside to refill my drink I would be awe struck all over again when stepping out. Almost no words and pictures don't do it justice.
We got a hotel for one night before and different (better) hotel for one night after. We stayed at Polynesian Residences the first night and were not very impressed. It was adequate, clean, but the beds were small and hard and there was a terrible smell in the bathroom which they tried to cover with air fresheners everywhere and clipped to the a/c vent. Maybe they pay people to give good reviews online.
We canceled what we had and then booked at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki for the last night after the cruise. Much better. Nice resort with lots to do. We saw the Soaring Over Hawaii cinema show. I expected better after seeing Soaring Over California and Canada shows previously but it was still enjoyable and got us into the cool for a break from the sun. Then the boys wanted to play the VR Escape rooms which was very fun for all of us.
Nice beach and pools but they try to sell you chairs and cabanas for a crazy price. We ate at CJ's New York Deli the last day and it was good food, large portions and reasonably priced. Bought the obligatory Honolulu cookies, sun dresses and hawaiian shirts.
Lyft to the airport for 4 of us plus luggage was going to be $80-100 so we called Charley's taxis for the flat $29+tax and tip which was fantastic and dropped us right at the Delta check-in area. The traffic in Honolulu is pretty busy so we didn't attempt a rental car and just walked areas near our hotel.