Just returned from our second sailing to Hawaii on Pride of America January 21-Feb.1 We took this same trip 2 years ago and loved it. We were VERY skeptical the first time around after reading some negative reviews, but found ourselves more than happy with the food, staff and ports. If NCL did have any problems, they must have been corrected, but we found none and we are pretty picky.
Unless you have the time(14 days) and patience, NCL makes much more sense to fly to Honolulu, see all the islands in 7 days, than to cruise 4 days out and 4 days back like other cruise lines offer.
There is plenty of time to get a good feel of each island and still be back to the ship for more evening fun. The ship has so many activities, that we'd have to map out our strategy each day and try hard to fit dinner in.
There is no unpacking, no other flights to catch, no additional costs, other than what you want to do. We loved our balcony room and really enjoyed seeing the Napali coast from the privacy of our deck chairs.
Join NCL Latitudes program before you leave. They treated us so well and we were invited to some private events. Also before we left home, we signed in to the Cruise Critic Roll Call and had a special cocktail party on departure. Nice meeting some new folks and talk about their cruise experiences. We also put a $250 deposit down on a future cruise(can use within 4 years) and NCL immediately credited our account with $100.
We actually booked this cruise again because it seemed everyone went out of their way the first cruise to make us feel special. Each morning Malu(Jennifer) gives a talk on the port of the day. Very informative and she is very patient with all questions and has great tips. Not to be missed! She is also an awesome hula instructor, dancer and fount of Hawaiian culture and knowledge.
The comedian Tim K. had everyone in stitches each time he performed. My face hurt so much I had to hold my cheeks.
The two ukelele that played many evenings in the Napa Wine Bar, were fun and really made you feel like you were in the islands. Pamela Stanley(?)played piano and sang in Pink's most evenings and she is so talented and also so funny.
Cruise director Silas kept everyone motivated and going, but we really didn't stay up for the "late night" events.
The food - Buffet was constantly being refilled, cleaned, monitored. There are so many choices and yes, you can watch your weight and still eat tons of healthy food. (came home 2# lighter and ate double normal days even multiple deserts)
We ate in Skyline dining room (free) 3 or 4 nights and they had entertainment during dinner most nights. We felt special in that room as most people dressed nicely for dinner, but found the buffet food a bit more to our liking. It's very hard to serve that many dinners in Skyline and have the meat etc. come out tender. It was served beautifully, the setting was very nice, but most of our entrees were tough or cold. I would still recommend it tho to try.
Staff - our room steward Felix B. was a good guy always having ice in our bucket, calling us by names when he saw us, just friendly and always cleaning.
The whole ship seemed to be constantly cleaning in fact, inside and out - day or night!
I seem to be concentrating on the ship a lot, but everyone has their own idea of what they want to do in the ports. We rented a car in all ports through Thrifty (cheapest) join the Blue Chip before you leave to ship the line. Book early as most ports sell out of cars very fast months in advance. And for your own sake (they will not remind you or give you a check list slip) look over the car and note and scratches before you leave the lot. We did have an issue with someone keying our car, but thank goodness I signed up for American Express car rental protection before we left home. I strongly recommend getting insurance if you are renting a car. For $29 with AX we had peace of mind. If you have any accidents or problems, AX picks up the tab first, and not your personal insurance. All other Credit cards are secondary - meaning you take it up with your auto ins. co, then they come in.
We didn't book any excursions, and did what we wanted on our own in each island from sight seeing to snorkeling. Even Polynesian Cultural Center has a cheaper ticket for $69, includes buffet dinner and Ha show. They will try to sell you on the Ambassador package for around $130, but honestly, you will be stuck with a group of people and not on your own time. Get the map when you first walk in and they will write down times for each of the island shows. You can breeze through in 5 hours including dinner, canoe ride etc. With the package or group, you will be there all day. The Buffet dinner was more than fine instead of the Luau they offer. There are better luau meals and luaus elsewhere. And "Ha, Breath of Life" show - we ended up leaving after intermission, as the repetitive screaming and yelling was getting on both of our nerves. Not much better than high school talent show.
I guess in closing, if you are debating on taking this cruise on NCL, I think you would be more than pleased and have a good time, and it is money well spent. All of our needs were taken care of and we could relax. Lots easier than trying to get to each island on your own.