Year Started: 1966
Ships in Fleet: 13
Summary: With the recent introduction of new ships the third biggest cruise company in the world. Free-style cruising, elaborate dining options and surprisingly good entertainment.
Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. First-time Cruisers.
Regions:Bahamas, Caribbean, Eastern Seaboard
Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.
Good for: Value for Money. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Bahamas, Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Good for: Group. Singles. Families.
Good for: Value for Money. Overall Service. Disabled Travelers.
Regions:Bahamas, Bermuda, Caribbean, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Eastern Seaboard, Caribbean, Bermuda
Good for: Value for Money. Children`s Programs. Singles.
Regions:Alaska, Bahamas, Caribbean
Good for: First-time Cruisers. Value for Money. Teens.
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western, Mexico
Good for: Value for Money. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean, Inland Waterways, West Coast
Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.
Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Magnolia Blossom Mexico September 26, 2009
Norwegian Star, Mexican Riviera 9/26/09
Minisuite #11662, 11666 and 11668. One interior 10655
About us: 50's retired professionals, not too fussy. We were travelling with 3 other couples, all seasoned travellers.
Booked: through our Personal Planner at NCL
Status: DH and I are gold, one couple silver, the others have cruised 3 times with NCL. We have all cruised with other lines. This was the 35th cruise for us.
Arrival: We flew in the night before and stayed at the Holiday Inn LAX. We arranged with Super Shuttle to pick our group up at the hotel rather than returning to the airport. The additional cost was about $5/person. Transfer time was less than 30 minutes.
This was the Star's first sailing from LA since returning from Alaska. Two other ships were in port, including the Pearl, which created a fair amount of confusion for many travellers. The staff did not seem to have a good grasp of what procedure was and it seemed as though no on was in charge. We would be told to "go over there" only to be scoldedby the "over there" people and sent back to person number one, etc, etc. Computers were not cooperating and while my reservation was fine it seemed to take quite some time for them to find my husband's, even though we were in the same reservation number.
Having said all that we were allowed to board promptly at noon and after passing through the obligatory (can't get past them) photos we were welcomed aboard with a glass of bubbly. We entered into the lobby and were able to leave our bags in the Carousel Lounge until rooms were ready. We made our way to the main dining room for a relaxing lunch and found the staff there completely surprised to have clients. No one had told them the ship had begun boarding, so we chatted away 15 minutes or so until the dining room was open. Lunch was quite nice and the dining room is so much more pleasant than the craziness of the buffet. Our waitress came around signing up guests for the jazz brunch the next morning and we decided to partake.
Cabins: Rooms were ready around 2:00. The rooms are spacious with more than ample storage for our needs. In the minisuite there is a bathtub, so that is a treat, and unlike some of the other ships with the sliding door configuration, the toilet area could actually accomodate a normal sized adult without discomfort.
There is a shaver plug in the bathroom but no other outlet. There is hand gel by the sink and shampoo and bath gel in the shower. There is also hand lotion and a bar soap.
The vanity area has a hair dryer and the outlet is in the desk area close to the balcony doors. The entire mini bar is in the refrigerator, which we removed to have room for the ice bucket and water bottles. There is a combination style safe which was sufficient for our needs but would not hold a lap top. There is a flat screen TV and the movies for the week were quite nice. It however, only carries CNN for news. The couch in the minisuite is a double bed size and there is one side chair for the desk. The bed was comfortable and the linens a good quality. There is a wonderful curtain between the sleeping and sitting area that is terrific if one partner wants to sleep while the other reads, etc.
The balcony had 1 reclining lounge chair, two side chairs with arms and a small table. We opened the partitions between the three balconies which made for easy visiting and pranks with our friends. These balconies are just aft of the buffet outcropping which means you can stand in the aft corner of the buffet and look down on these balconies. Not a problem for us but it might bother others. The cabins forward of ours have an overhang from the balcony which shields them from direct sun at mid day.
Public areas: The ship has a pleasing decor and is in good repair. The atrium is not as grand as some ships and has a large screen for viewing presentations and playing wii. The forward bar, the Spinnaker, is spacious and multilevel. It is used in the day for bingo and various meetings. It has a nice sized dance floor but only hosts a short amount of dance music each evening, giving way to game show amusement, etc later. It is a nice place to watch for whales and spend some quiet time - assuming someone isn't calling bingo in your ear.
The martini bar is around the curved bar from the Carousel where karaoke is held, so forget having your peacefull pre-dinner martini in either of those places. The Star bar is the only bar we found where you can actually have nice conversation with a view of the ocean. So many of the others have so much going on that it is actually a bit stressful to just be there.
The spa is my pet peeve NCL has added a wonderful thermal suite, which is accessible for a fee. That is fine, but they have added the use of the steam and sauna rooms to the pay to play suite. They are still in the dressing rooms but the spa staff will quite rudely inform you that they are for paying passengers only. I have not been a fan of onboard spas for many years, pretty much since they began running the spa as a consignment areas to Mandara or whoever Spas. The staff is always snooty but the Star takes the cake for downright rudeness. When I nicely asked at the desk if I had understood correctly that the sauna was only available for "paying" customers she hautily told me that was correct and if I didn't like it the complaint desk was on deck seven. I did go to the reception desk and voice my displeasure with this new change. The very nice receptionist called the spa manager, whom I could hear, and it became glaringly apparent where the spa staff get their bad attitudes. It really is surprising that an industry who goes to great lengths to be gracious to the guests have an entire division who seemingly delight in being obnoxious. Anyway . . . the spa seems to be laid out well and offers a variety of services from hair care, massages, tooth whitening, and acupuncture.
The gym hosts a nice arrangement of equipment and while I don't use the gym, my fellow cruisers do and were well pleased with the equipment and service.
Entertainment: We did not take in any of the shows, preferring to visit with friends, dance and gamble. The musicians we heard were quite good and except that they played sporatically (never knew what bar to find a group in or at what time) and the sets were short and there was limited dance area, it was nice. We enjoyed listening to the group Melodious Jones but they spent as much time talking as they did playing, and then it was break time. aaarrgh. As soon as they wrapped it up for the night, rather than another band they would have some sort of game show in the only lounge with a dance floor. We wound up dancing in the hallway one deck above where we could hear a band playing in the atrium. No logical sense of where things happen on this ship.
But if bingo is you're thing, then you're in luck. It is hosted twice a day in the Spinnaker Lounge. I think it is way overpriced but people play it by the hordes, so what do I know. The big "jackpot" bingos everyday never really happened because you had to make a blackout in 46 numbers or less, so if it took more numbers then it reverted to the daily amount. Quite misleading.
Shops: the shop area is nicely arranged and merges into one big shopping area which is less claustrophobic than some ships. I am not a shopper so I didn't spend any time there but it appeared they must have had lots to buy, given the crowds there whenever I passed by. The usual inch of gold, watch sale and $10 sales abounded and were held in the atrium.
Excursions: We did excursions in Mazatlan and PV with Mazatlan Frank and they were wonderful. In PV we also did Rhythms of the Night through NCL and it was a terrific excursion. It was dreadfully hot but still a very nice evening. I would recommend that you wear your coolest clothes and bring a fan. The food was mediocre but the desserts were fabulous! Cruising back to the ship in the dark and passing under our bow was quite nice.
Latitudes: The onboard consultant had several gatherings. He also was functioning as concierge to non-suite gold members, which meant we didn't really have concierge service. But he was nice enough. The silver/gold/plat party was in the Star Bar and well attended by officers who mingled and seemed interested in passenger input. the regular Latitudes party was on sea day #2 at 12:30 or so in the afternoon. A little champagne and rum punch, nothng fancy.
Dining: Let me say that I am not a fussy eater so the food quality was fine, considering this is a mass marketed ship. Do not expect gourmet food, even in the premium restaurants. We ate in the MDR most evenings but dined in La Trattoria one night - probably the best meal of the week, in Cagney's one night - definately the WORST meal and service of the week and did the Jazz brunch Sunday morning which was great. Cagneys - the entire meal took 3 1/2 hours during which time we had a 1 hour 15 minute break between appetizer and salad. 4 of our people never got their soup/salad and of 8, only 6 people had the correct entree. No one got their side dishes. Believe it or not after 3 1/2 hours we actually left before dessert - we just couldn't take it any more and went to the buffet for cheesecake or whatever. The maitre'd was unable to manage the two talbes of drunk women seated on either side of us - who were not only drunk but outraged that we had gotten our meals before them - holy moley, they must have been there since lunch! It was just awful and the steaks all got could have been had from any Outback/Roadhouse/Bonanza style restaurant. We did meet with the Food Service Manager the next day and he kindly comped our group dinner in the Endless Summer that night. Food was very nice, and service superb - but they all KNEW about our night before so they went out of their way to make it a special nice. I do think their advertising the free margaritas is embarrassing since they bring you a little 4 ounce (maybe) cup of beverage.
Casino: DH is a blackjack player and did well inspite of the continuous shufflers. $5 tables also have a 6/5 BJ payout. The poolside tables do not have auto shufflers but are not open very often. The slots were tight and service slow. Even bar service was hard to come by. Pretty odd for the casino but that's how it was. There was the usual assortment of table games including 3 Texas Hold 'em tables. Slots ranged from pennies on up. Not many poker machines and no nickel machines.
Internet: The cafe is quite nice with quite a few computers that all worked! time is expensive and was the slowest I ever remember. Those who had booked an excursion were given an additional 15 minutes free, which is good because on the final day it took me 14 minutes to connect! The internet manager was delightful and tried to be helpful but slow is slow. He tried to tell me that when it takes you so long to connect it does not come off your time but I watched my minutes closely and that was not true.
Disembarkation: What a mess. First, the list of tags did not coincide with all the tag colors they had distributed so there was a lot of confusion. Especially for VIPs w/ gold tags - that color was not listed and on some ships there is a meeting place for a concierge escort off the ship. This did not happen and many "goldies" were miffed. I do carry off myself, even though I had gold tags, but there were lots of confused disgruntled people wandering about. Again, like boarding, there was no one who seemed to know where to direct people to. I laughed when one girl was emphatically telling us we could not go "that" way when her boss was directly behind her waving us through. A line of sorts, had formed for self-disembarkers that would have become pure bedlam had not one gutsy lady barred the way toward the front and pointed people to the back of the line. A few others joined in and before long we had the situation under control. Needless to say, no crew was around. When the ship was finally cleared the computers wouldn't work to allow you to "ding" off the ship so they had to write your name and cabin no. on a piece of paper.
We did not have to clear immigration as we had in other ports, we just handed our declaration to an uninterested customs officer and went to catch our Super Shuttle van to the airport.
Overall: Good thing we got a good deal on this cruise. It is not a cruise I would consider taking again unless it was a real steal and I had airmiles. It was not the quality I have come to expect in NCL. I understand some of this may have been due to the change in itinerary and possible change of staff, but there were just too many times when it seemed no one knew what was going on. Maybe the guy who stayed at our Holiday Inn really was drving the
This was the 3rd time that we sailed on this ship; the last time was to the Panama Canal in 2005. This was about the 4th time that we've been to the Mexican Riviera. Overall, it was a good cruise and we had a nice time.
However, with the advent of Freestyle cruising, this cruise was significantly more casual than any we have been on. Hubby took a suit for "formal night" but did not wear it because he felt that he would be seriously overdressed. I didn't wear the cocktail dress that I brought.
We previously liked Freestyle because it meant that we could share a dinner table with different people every night. That only happened once in 11 nights because so many passengers skipped the dining room in favor of the Garden Cafe (buffet). The dining room was never more than half full.
The ship was spotless and the staff were attentive to all of our requests. The entertainment as usual was good.
If you want a casual experience, this is the cruise line for you.
NCL Sky, Miami, Nassau, Great Stirrup Cay 09/11/09
Ship NCL advertises this ship as the newest in the Miami / Bahamas market. I agree..
This ship is more of the super ship design like the destiny class. If your not looking to go on a 90's era ship this is your cruise to the Bahamas.
Now I need to be critical of NCL. While this is a newer ship, NCL is in third place when it comes to attention to detail. Let me give you some examples.
The stateroom was clean and functional, and you did feel very clean and comfortable.
However.. the bathroom floor was not spotless as you will ALWAYS find it spotless on Carnival and RCCL.
There also were signs of wear and tear, like a scratched up table in the stateroom, oxidation on door locks, cracking in the bathroom sink basin where the water stopper is located, and oversized light bulbs stuffed in the ceiling light pins.
The wear is not major in most cases, but its also a sign that NCL has been ignoring these things.
Bottom line NCL, little things leave big impressions, if the other guys can getit done right so can you.
NCL will need to take her offline at some point to get these things fixed or they will become old ship issues quickly, tainting her newness image.
Especially since this ship has two cruises in every seven day stretch, which is allott of people using and breaking things in short periods of time.
Activities NCL offers a behind the scenes (how a cruise ship works) tour for anyone who wants to go, you don't need to be a frequent cruiser, HOWEVER, NCL charges $55 per person for the pleasure. Come on NCL, are you serious?? I paid my cruise fair, I spent $300 in your casino and $600 more in the spa and on drinks, maybe you could throw this in possibly?
I found this just absolutely chinsy NCL..
The Sky has all your usual ship fun, shuffle board, ping pong, spa, shows, music, comedy, photography, and dance lessons.
Ok so here NCL is exactly the same as its competition and its quality is no better or worse. SO don't base your decision on the activities.
To the good, and there is a lot of good here.
Food Let me be clear, NCL has the BEST food at sea when comparing the value cruise lines in my humble opinion.
I have been on all the major players many times and the food was great!
It was Fresh, different, and had well thought out menus.
I tasted the buffet, room service, and the main dining room and there were dishes I had never had before. Everything was full of flavor, the portions were great, and the service was excellent.
To add to this, what other cruise line has Wonton Soup at midnight? NCL has it. That's right! Wonton Soup. Check it out at the "Great Outdoors" bar. They actually have a full menu available until the very early hours of the night.
A+++++ NCL well done.
Sky, the concept.
I think NCL wants to be different, you can tell in just about everything they do.
The colors in the rooms and the public areas are different and not boring. The bars are set out in new and exciting ways, and the ship in general was thought out in a much different and exciting way then your usual mega ship way.
If you're bored with nornal, NCL is the way to go. I will say the ship is so different I got totally lost at first, not to fear though, they have clear, intelligible signs everywhere and by day two I was fine.
One great difference is this ship has an open terrace area aft called the "Great Outdoors", with a buffet and bar overlooking the water and sky, its a really nice place to eat or drink and have fun.
Costs There is value here, you can sail for as little as $199 per person in an inside cabin, or around $299 for a balcony, of course depending on the date the price will go up. Add $45 per person for port charges.
Premium Food This ship has three premium restaurants, of which I visited none, you see, I still think all food should be included, so I don't go for this gimmick.
However in fairness, you may want to try these out if your into French, Italian or a Steak House. There is a flat cover fee which includes all the food you can eat.
The Drinks As far as alcohol, drinks cost between $4 and $18, depending on what you like.
I ordered two red bull and Grey Goose drinks and it cost me $32. I almost fell out of my chair, so be warned, ask first before you order. NCL you think maybe that's a little too much??
Port Parking This ship is home ported in Miami.
Get ready to pay $20 per day to park your car at the port, so if you live in the area get a friend to drop you off or pick you up, or take a taxi because its outrageous. We can thank Dade County for this, as usual; they soak you when you have no alternatives.
Getting on and off Embarkation and disembarkation was smooth, we chose to carry our luggage out and we were off in 10 Minutes, 20 minutes if you count going thru customs.
Summary All in all, for a 3 or 4 day Bahamas cruise, this is a better deal than what RCCL and Carnival offer by a mile, for now anyways.
I sincerely hope the other carriers get a little more competitive with each other, a nice price war would be great for us cruisers ;-)
I will will be posting some pictures soon.
My husband and I booked this cruise for our 30th wedding anniversay. When we got to our room I checked the mini bar, it was missing half of the contents although it had been checked off as complete. We reported this and halfway through the cruise it was topped up. We checked our statement when we left the ship and everything was OK. One week after leaving the ship a $77 dollar amount was taken from my credit card. No paperwork was every sent to justify this amount being deducted. When we contacted NCL we were told that this was for the mini bar - we took nothing from this bar as it was horrendously expensive. Two months later we have now received a refund (slightly less because of the difference in exchange rate)
We just returned from our cruise. Overall it was great.
First a bit about the ship. The food was great. We put out the extra bucks and went to dinner in Cagney's Steak House and Il Adiago and they were both worth the extra money. The service was super and the food wonderful. The buffets were good also. When the inside buffet was busy, we just went outside without a wait.
We had a balcony cabin, as well as a handicapped room for a friend of ours. NCL took very good care of our friend. The room was huge, especially the bath. Perfect for a wheelchair. Our balcony room was perfect. I will never stay in an inside cabin again.
The shows were okay. We cruised Royal Caribbean five years ago and the adult games were similar. I would think by now things would change. The comedian was very funny. The broadway type shows were cheesy and a waste of time. The partying at the pool at night was fun. We always found something to do if we didn't care for the shows. There are so many things to doon the ship that if we didn't like what we saw in one place, we would just go someplace else.
Surprisingly we did well in the Casino. The machines go from $.01 on up. There were plenty of tables to choose from.
Our overall ship experience was good and we would cruise on the Sky again.
My only suggestion would be to do something about the entertainment. The cruise director as Austin Powers was a bit much. I think a dueling piano bar for adults would be great fun.
As for the ports, Freeport was pathetic. Where we docked was all industrial. Cargo containers, sand piles -- it was just awful. Nothing pretty about it at all.
We took the $39.00 NCL shore tour. Driving around was sad. They had lots of devastation from past hurricanes, and the homes are in very poor condition. These people are very poor. The first market was dirty and there was no paper in the toilets. Bring you own, I guess. It wasn't worth the stop as far as we were concerned. The second place was better. There were 86 shops and a casino across the street. Much nicer. The last stop was the beach. 20 minutes for picture taking and a drink.
The next day we went to Nassau. The port was much better. We decided to take a taxi on our own and went over to the Atlantis Resort. We shared a taxi and paid $4.00 per person. We were there in five minutes. It's a beautiful place. We walked around for about an hour. I'm sure we didn't see even half the place. We took a taxi back for $4.00 each again. Right across from the place where we docked there was a straw market. Lots and lots of stores. Something for everyone. We really enjoyed that.
The last day we went to NCL's island. It was very nice, although you need to get there early to get a lounge chair. Otherwise you'll have to sit on a sand chair. They had bar service, a BBQ, music, volleyball and you could also rent floats, snorkel equipment or take a parasail ride. The food is free, but of course everything else has a charge. We paid $18.99 for two foam floats for the day. The beach is nice and the water was crystal clear.
On the last day getting off the ship couldn't have gone more smoothly. We opted for the easy walk off. We took our own luggage, and went through Customs in about two seconds. It was perfect.
So overall, we had a blast. We would have hoped the ports would have been better, but didn't think about the hurricane damage. Shame on us being from SW Florida.
We are planning another cruise and will go with NCL again. But next time we'll do more research into the ports.
The cruise went to amazing ports and great scenery. The excursions were pricey at some ports but for the most part worth it. The St Petersburg excursions were fabulous but you were rushed through most of the exhibits because it takes so long to get through customs and we were running an hour behind.
The one of the problem we had is that we were booked in a Mini Suite on Deck 11 and the Kid Zone was directly above our room and all we heard from 8am to 11pm were the kids screaming, jumping and dropping things on the ceiling. It was so annoying that we complained but nothing was done - this was so not worth the extra money we spent. My suggestion is to double check the room you are booked in and make sure you are not below restaurants, pools and Kid Zones.
Another issue we had was the food was mediocre at best - the desserts were bland and the meals were that great.
The NCL Spirit is rated a 4 star but my experience puts it closer to a 3 star (this was my 4th cruise experience...first with NCL). Cruises are about services and food (primarily). What this cruise lacked was quality of food in their dining rooms. For example, the appetizers were barely a single mouthful and pre-cooked food (unfrozen). For the entrees, the quality simply was not there. Some items were so laden with butter and cream that you almost felt it went straight to your arteries. On lobster night they served half a tail in the entree. The added 1 shrimp a 2 mussels. Ridiculous. The dining service was slow and in one room (the Windows) the lady in charge "Jenny" didn't bother to greet you.
NCL promotes "freestyle" cruising. A great concept but totally mismanaged for dinner service. On three occasions we had to wait 45 minutes for a seating. They would not take any reservations in their dining rooms. It felt as if NCL made it somewhat uncomfortable to wait and hoped many would chose their specialty restos for added cost. Bar service seemed very pushy on selling you drinks. Theyjust did not stop asking you.
Sorry, I did not get my money's worth. I have been on other cruises and for the same money (and family vacation) thus far the Royal Caribbean is the best. Thank you.
Hi my name is Alki and this year I went on my first cruise to Bermuda with NCL Spirit. I am very satisfied from all my time on the ship. Crew memberes made sure for me to have a great time partying and they were very helpful. Definetely I will do it again in a couple of years. I like that Spirit leaves from Boston MA during the summer because I live in Boston.
My husband (75) and myself (65) just returned from the cruise to Alaska. Our cruise was terrible. The entertainment was a disaster. Not approriate for family oriented cruise. The service was not good. Our room attendent Sherton was very good and helpful and kept our room perfect. He is the only one that I can say was very attentive.
Children were running in the hall and I spoke to the personnel about this because they bumped into me three different times.
I have an artificial hip and if they had knocked me down I would be in a wheel chair because I cannot have any more surgery on my hip. The personnel told me they could not do anything about the running in the halls and in the resturant. We have travel with Norwegian before and had excellent service. We had planned to make this a yearly anniversary trip on their ships. Now we will never travel with Norwegian again and I will advise anyone else not to.Also too many hidden fees and having to buy our cokes all the time. This is rediculous.
My husband and I traveled to Hawaii this June to set sail on Pride of America. It was our first time in the islands and our first cruise. I had read many reviews of the ship ahead of time, and posted some questions on the message board here, which helped me to get ready for the experience. It was the trip of a lifetime!
We flew from Ohio on June 6 with Delta Airlines (with our second leg, a 9 1/2 hour flight from Atlanta to Honolulu). We arrived in Hawaii after 2 p.m. The flight wasn't too bad. I learned that the perfect seats on a 747 are the first row of two seats behind the threes, in the tail section. I had space beside my window seat that nearly equaled a seat width. We had extra storage under the seat in front of us and I was short enough (5'3) to be able to stand and stretch in the space beside our seat. I needed that, as my legs tend to swell when I fly. It was great.
When we got our luggage, we headed out to wherethe shuttles were. I had read that Roberts Hawaii offers $6 transfers to the pier. We couldn't see their bus, but saw another shuttle marked Waikiki and the driver said they were headed to the pier too. He said it would be $8 apiece. We took it.
Embarkation was smooth and easy. We were on the ship in no time (around 3 p.m.). Our room was ready when we got there. It seemed a little small to me, but my husband exclaimed, "It's huge!" when he saw it. I had been warning him that cabins were small on ships. The bed was two twins put together to form a king. There was a loveseat in the room and a small TV. There was ample storage. We unloaded our suitcases and had a couple of drawers in the closet we left empty. The suitcases easily fit under the bed.
The balcony was heavenly. If I had known better when I booked, I would have tried to get one without a lifeboat under it. We were on the 8th deck and the lifeboats were on the 7th. Actually our balcony was over a metal walkway between two lifeboats, which stuck out even further. It wasn't bad, and didn't obstruct our view, but it was in it, if that makes sense. My husband looked on the bright side of things and said if anything happened, at least we'd have an easy way down!
The bathroom was sufficient in size. The toilet and shower both worked well. There was shower gel and shampoo you could use at the push of a button. Soap was the same way at the sink. I took along my own shampoo in little containers, but my husband used the ship one and liked it. I had read there was no storage space by the sink, but there was enough for all of our little bottles of products. I have a travel bag that I hung on a hook on the door for my makeup, etc., which worked well.
The room had no alarm clock, but we just called for a wakeup call each day and they were always prompt with that. We left the balcony door open all night long, which was a wonderful way to listen to the sound of the waves when we were sailing, and to get some fresh air. One added bonus -- the sea air cleared my sinuses completely that week. Now that I am back home, I sure miss it!
We ran into our cabin steward several times in the hall during the week. She did a great job. She looked tired; they work such long days. But she kept the room clean and turned down our bed for us every night. She made four lovely towel animals for us during the week -- a dog, rabbit, elephant and snake. We delighted in them and tried to keep them as long as we could!
The ship was beautiful. We enjoyed the bright decor. The Mardi Gras Lounge was such a cozy place to be for a show and the Hollywood Theatre was elegant and seated so many. We saw many of the shows. We couldn't get enough of Second City, they were great. We went to their large show and both of their Mardi Gras improv shows and even attended a class to learn about improv with one of the comedians, Jeff Griggs. The magician, John Shyrock, was great too, as was the comedian, Chris Alpine. We went to a special show where the magician showed us how to perform some tricks, which was neat. We also went to the crew farewell show, which was really funny, especially their closing "Fountains" act. And we saw a local Maui band perform poolside one afternoon as well.
The food on the ship was good. We ate dinner two nights at the Aloha Cafe, and once each at the Skyline Main Dining Room, Liberty Main Dining Room, Jefferson's Bistro, Lazy J Steakhouse, and Cadillac Diner. We would have eaten at Little Italy instead of the steakhouse, due to the cover charge, but it was closed the night we planned on going (the night most of the ship was at the luau on Kuaui). Service was awesome at the Bisto, especially, but we had really friendly service at the Lazy J and Skyline as well. The food was delicious at the specialty restaurants, and good in the main dining rooms and buffets. I had read where the main dining rooms could take forever. We had two different experiences there. We were in and out of the Skyline in an hour, with good service, but the Liberty took about two hours and didn't impress us as much, service wise. But I know that can depend on the waiter/waitress at the time. The Cadillac Diner was a quiet, fun little place. I discovered I loved their macaroni and cheese. It's on the children's menu there, but I asked for it as a side with my sandwich. It was delicious! The best desserts I had all week were the chocolate chip cookies and the marshmallows we'd have dipped in chocolate for us from the fountains at the buffet. Yum! The buffet had a lot of food, and although it was packed, we never had too much trouble finding a place to sit. I like that they had antibacterial dispensers as you walked in.
We ate in the buffet for most of our breakfasts, but on the two days we had slightly later excursions, we went to the Skyline restaurant. Service was fast there for breakfast. They have an express menu. The fresh squeezed juice is free there too, but there is a charge at the buffet. However, there is regular OJ at the buffet that is no extra charge, in a dispenser. My favorite buffet breakfast dish was the Belgian waffle quarters. One day I tried to wait for an omelet, but it seemed to be taking too long so I just got other stuff. There was so much good food at the buffet that I didn't need to wait.
The pool was a cool place to hang out. It was a little hard finding some chairs together the one day we laid out, but we managed to on the deck overlooking the pool. We swam in the small adults only pool at the back of the ship one time (at least I thought it was an adults only pool), but another couple was in there with an infant and toddler at the same time. It didn't bother us, but I had read where no one in diapers was supposed to be in the pools. We tried out the hot tub at the back of the ship and it was nice and hot. We took walks on the Promenade deck a few times, and my husband jogged on it one morning. One night we played chess in the almost deserted card room. The room was stocked with lots of games. It was a neat place to get away for awhile. The library was such a cozy place too.
One of the two sailing highlights was the night we sailed by the lava flow on the starboard side. We watched on deck. It was amazing! No pictures turned out for me, though. Then, we got to see the Na Pali Coast from our portside balcony. Breathtaking, is all I can say about it. Pictures can't do it justice.
We took a shore excursion each day. The first day, we went on the Road to Hana tour. It was beautiful and we had ample stops to take pictures. I loved the black sand (lava rock) beach. Gorgeous! Lunch was pretty good, but just like the ship, it seemed all we had to drink on all our excursion lunches was tea and water. The road to the other half of the tour was closed, so we went back the way we had come, which was a little disappointing. I heard those who took the same excursion the next day went all the way around. One lady on our bus got sick, so be warned that if you get motion sickness, do not go on this tour.
The second day in Maui we did the Rainforest and Waterfall Hike. I learned I am not cut out for true hiking, but it wasn't too bad. Just be warned there's some climbing involved on steep and rough terrain, including climbing up tree roots on the side of a steep hill and using a rope to help lower yourself down an embankment. My husband took my backpack a couple of times to help me balance myself better. We loved swinging on the rope into one of the waterfalls we saw that day -- that was worth the hike for me.
In Hilo we took the Volcano and Rainbow Falls Deluxe tour, but the water from Rainbow Falls was diverted to the hydroelectric power plant due to a drought, so we went to a non-profit zoo instead. The zoo was neat, and the botanical gardens were gorgeous. The volcano was neat to see, all the steam coming out. And the walk through Thurston Lava Tube was great as well. The buffet lunch was good, as was the trip to the Macademia Nut Factory, where we bought some nuts for gifts.
We took the Captain Zodiac Rafting, Snorkeling and Dolphin Adventure in Kona. That was a lot of fun. We went really fast on the raft. We saw a lot of spinner dolphins jumping and spinning to entertain us. It was neat getting some good shots of the cruise ship in the background too. The snorkeling was good. The reef was in good shape there. There weren't a lot of fish, but the ones there were pretty colorful. Our favorite was the parrotfish. After the tour we walked around Kona. It's a charming town. We ate fish and chips at Quinn's Restaurant, and we found a neat little Internet place -- Beach Dog Internet Cafe -- where we could surf at a rate of $5 for 30 minutes. We stayed for an hour so I could get caught up on news from home. Crystal, who runs it with her husband, was so sweet. She gave us free ice cream samples while we were there. We bought some coffee in a shop near there as well as to take home. The line for tendering was a little long on the way back to the ship, and the rain didn't help, but there were awnings to cover most of the line.
Kauai was the most majestic of the islands. We went on the Waimea Canyon, Wailua River and Fern Grotto tour the first day there. The canyon was gorgeous. My husband didn't like that we stayed at a tourist trap for as long as we did at the canyon though! But some people like to shop. The riverboat ride was cool. I enjoyed seeing the Fern Grotto, but wish you could still go inside it. (You can't since it was damaged in a storm). There is a partially blind cat that lives at the Fern Grotto; it was resting under a large umbrella there. On the way back, they sang and entertained us on the riverboat and taught us how to do the hula. The buffet lunch that day was our best lunch of the entire trip.
Our second day in Kauai we went on the Heaven and Earth tour. We went on a helicopter ride over most of Kauai. It was fabulous! They seat you in the helicopter based on your weight. When it was over, they offer a DVD of your trip for sale. We bought one. The rest of the trip was by land. We saw a lot of beautiful coastline and ate lunch at a beach. The beaches were nearly deserted. They were gorgeous.
You have to put your suitcases out by midnight the night before the cruise ends. They give you color tags to put on them -- ours was black because we were taking an excursion. If you are leaving on your own, you can choose your time of departure the day before in increments of 15 minutes, and you are assigned a color accordingly. Disembarkation was as easy as going on our regular excursions.
We took the Best of Oahu Grand Finale tour. I loved getting the chance to see Pearl Harbor and visit the Arizona Memorial. It was such a moving experience. We then went to the Polynesian Cultural Center. On the way there, we stopped for lunch (on us) and somewhere to sample nuts. Everytime we went around a curve we saw a beautiful beach view, and I so wish we could have stopped for a picture. When I go back someday, I will definitely spend more time on Oahu. I felt like I didn't see enough. The Polynesian Cultural Center was really neat. The canoe pageant and Samoan shows were great, as was the luau, which was included in our cost. The food was delicious and everyone got a free fresh orchid lei. My husband and I went to all the villages in the time we had there, and tried to play all the games we could find. We threw spears at a target, swung poi balls, tossed sticks, balanced poles, learned to play a tune on the ukelele, and sampled poi. We also got some fake tattoos. We had a blast.
We got to the airport around 7:30. Our flight was at 9:50. We took a change of clothes and our toothbrushes in our carry-ons. The clean clothes were welcome after a hot day of touring in the sun. We slept little on our red eye flight back.
I loved every minute of our trip. Cruising was so much fun! We were pretty tired by the end of it, but I wouldn't have changed a thing because we wanted to see all we could of the islands while we were there. When we go back someday, we will know what we want to hit again, this way, and what else we'd like to see. I definitely want to return to Hawaii someday, and I'd love to sail on the Pride of America again. It was a terrific experience!