We took this cruise because it was highly recommended by my husbands parents who live on Oahu and have taken the cruise twice. The ships layout was easy to remember and get around. All the common areas and restrooms were kept clean and well maintained. We heard from a family member that while the ship was down due to Covid NCL did some updating/refreshing to the balcony cabins and the common area decor. During our cruise we noticed they were doing some sanding and staining of wood hand rails on the outside deck stairs and painting of several of the white metal poles on the decks outside. We enjoyed all the cruise ports and made the best of the limited offerings on the ship but we had many moments of boredom. My husband and I are both 56 and noticed that the majority of the passengers were close to our age or age 60 plus. We are not big drinkers or partyiers but we would have liked more entertainment and activity offerings. NCL knew they couldn’t offer a full ship experience but we paid for a fully staffed, fully open ship. I feel they should have sent out an email explaining the situation with the option to cancel and a full refund or take the partially limited cruise and offer some sort of a credit, maybe 25%, in the form of a future cruise credit. We like NCL and have another cruise booked to Alaska in September. Hopefully that ship doesn’t have the same staffing issues. Looking forward to a better experience on a larger and newer ship.
The whole check in process was quick and easy, took less than 30 minutes.
We decided to book a small group Road to Hana tour through Valley Isle Excursions. We booked in advance directly through their website. We considered booking the Road to Hana tour through NCL but didn’t know if it was a large or small group plus it was not available for the first day and we didn’t want to book on day 2 and be rushed getting back to the cruise port on time. Josh, our tour guide, picked us up at the shopping center across the street from the cruise port in a spacious air conditioned passenger van. He had already picked up 10 other passengers before the stop to get us. It was a very long day but we really enjoyed hearing all the interesting stories from Josh and the beautiful scenery and stops along the way. It was stress free and relaxing. They provided a tasty box lunch with a beverage. You have a couple options to choose from and we chose the caesar salad with chicken and it also included a cookie for dessert. We were glad we decided to book this tour through them and highly recommend to others.
We booked a small group Active Volcano, Lava Tube, Waterfall and Gardens tour through Mauka Makai Adventures. Travis, our tour guide, picked us up at the cruise port in a small air conditioned shuttle bus. There were only 10 people on this tour. One lady in the group didn’t get off the bus at all the stops and missed out on seeing several of the highlights that required extended walking. She did not wear the recommended proper shoes and appeared to have some mobility issues. We recommend you bring your own snacks. They supplied bottled water but no lunch. Our last stop was The Big Island Candy Company and they had a snack bar where you could purchase a variety of beverages, including smoothies, and a few food options. Before getting back on the bus at our last stop Josh gave everyone 2 small bags of hawaiian style chips, purple potato and taro. It was a long day but we really enjoyed all the sights and stops and would recommend to anyone that does not have mobility issues.
We decided not to book any excursions at this port. We purchased wristbands for the “Hop on Hop off” air conditioned bus and enjoyed seeing some of sites that were a little further out than we wanted to walk. The weather was much hotter and more humid than previous days so the bus was a great choice. There is a stop at a nice beach but we didn’t come prepared for beach time. This is a tendered port so going to the ship and back to the beach would have taken too much time. We enjoyed shopping at a couple outdoor markets and had a delicious lunch at the Papa Kona Restaurant and Bar.
We have enjoyed two vacations on Kauai so we had already visited many of the popular attractions. On this visit we booked the Mountain Tubing Adventure through Kauai Backcountry Adventures. Availability fills up quickly so we booked about 3 months before our cruise. Our tour bus driver was a hilarious character named Chad. Jayden, Marissa and Tyler were our tubing adventure guides and did a wonderful job. At the end of the tubing adventure a tasty lunch was provided at a small scenic picnic area. It was a build your own croissant sandwich and consisted of various deli meats, cheeses, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, various condiments, individually bagged chips, cookies and water. We really enjoyed the Mountain Tubing Adventure and highly recommend to others. The water is very “refreshing” and I recommend wearing swim shirt with your swimsuit and also water friendly shoes/sandals. We really enjoyed the Mountain Tubing Adventure and highly recommend to others.
We also wanted to go to our favorite beach, Poipu, and spend some time in Kapa’a so we decided to rent a car. Unfortunately, we did not consider where we would park the rental car until we came back from the tubing adventure. We discovered that you cannot park in or near the fenced in cruise port area. The cruise port security staff told us to park at the ABC store that’s not too far from the cruise port. We parked at the ABC store for a couple hours so we could get cleaned up and eat on the ship. When we went back to the car we asked the ABC store staff if it was ok to park there overnight but they told us they no longer allow overnight parking. They suggested we park along the street near the Nawiliwili park. We parked along the side of Nawiliwili Road near 2 businesses. I don’t recommend renting a car unless you have a group of 4 or more. We discovered it would have cost us about the same amount ($160) to use a taxi or uber and we wouldn’t have had to deal with the overnight parking issue. The taxi driver that took us to the car rental company at the airport said he would charge $20 - $30 per trip. We shared the taxi to the car rental company with another couple and the driver charged us $5 for each person.
This island is very over populated and commercialized. We have family that lives on Oahu so we have visited a few times and always stay with them. We really like the North Shore area, especially Haleiwa. If you like Hawaiian shave ice, the best on the island is Matsumoto’s in Haleiwa. There is always a line but worth the wait. Our favorite beach to relax and swim is Lanikai Beach on the windward coast in Kailua. The Hawaii Kai area has several good options for dining and shopping and even has a couple of decent beach parks. We have enjoyed several meals at the Kona Brewing Co. restaurant located in the Koko Marina in Hawaii Kai and always had great food and service. If you are physically able we recommend going to Diamond Head and making the hike to the summit for amazing views. We went a couple years ago in the morning and after we finished the hike we enjoyed the refreshing frozen pineapple treat from the food truck in the parking lot. As of May 2022 they now require you to get advanced reservations. On a previous visit, we went to Hanauma Bay for snorkeling and thought it was over crowded and over priced. The Waikiki area has a lot of shopping and dining options. We enjoyed walking around Waikiki at night and watching the variety of street entertainers.