My husband and I celebrated our 20th anniversary by taking an Hawaiian cruise. This was not our first NCL cruise so we did have something to compare it to. Although it was out first NCL America Cruise and our last NCL America. The American staff is not up to par by any means, young and inexperienced, and there for any other reason but to serve the customers with a happy face minus the eye rolling. The food did not come even close to the food on the NCL Majesty of the Crown. We are already planning our next on the NCL-THe Pearl. We learned that if you want good service you must travel with an international crew. I will say that we did have a wonderful time seeing the Islands and taking great excursions.
I would like to thank NCL for showing me how to have the patience to endure a truly almost unendurable cruise on the Pride of Aloah.
I would like to thank the cruise line for showing me how to accept the worst service that I have ever experienced on any of our nine cruises, (six on NCL.)
I would like to thank the cruise line for showing me how to live in the world's smallest, dirtiest and smelliest cabin on the seven seas. (This after upgrading a few categories)
Why should I think that all closet doors should be attached to there hinges?
Why should I think that every time we close the door in our cabin the light in our hallway shorts out is a dangerous problem?
I would like to thank NCL for showing me that I am expecting too much to think that the wall surrounding the sink and holding the toilet paper in our New York subway smelling head should be screwed in and not falling off the wall. Part of this malady was taken care of after three days. Six screws had been put in the head wallbut not tightened down-- this was corrected after another three days. The closet wall will have to be taken care of on another cruise as it was never properly fixed.
I would like to thank NCL for trying to introduce us to the couple in the next cabin by leaving the door unlocked between the two cabins. This malady only took talking to three of the crew, the front desk, our house keeping person an engineer from the ship and an officer that I caught just in chance as he passed by our cabin to solve the issue.
I would like to apologize to NCL for thinking that the ship would be provisioned with enough food to last the cruise.
What was I thinking when, I expected that there would be avocado in an avocado, shrimp and bean appetizer. After all, we had been at sea for four days, and who in their right mind would think that in a warm climate there would be enough bananas to last the length of the cruise? I did understand running out of ketchup and imitation maple syrup --- I mean just how many of those imitation maple trees can you carry on a cruise ship.
I would like to thank NCL for once and for all for showing me that most American crewmembers simply don't want to work. At our first breakfast in the aft main dining room, the waiter brought me the wrong meal and said that he would be right back with the correct order – he never returned. Twenty minutes later, we left and joined the long lines at the breakfast buffet on Deck 11.
The only night we went to the Bistro, one of the specialty restaurants, our waiter stormed out of the restaurant, after the other couple we were with, kept trying to tell him that it did not matter if every time they ordered something other than the standard menu, it would be an extra charge. The maitre'de got another waiter for us (who was wonderful) and told us that the first waiter was having a BAD night! I told him that that was not our problem, and he agreed; but later he told us, that he was leaving the Pride of Aloha way before his contract was up because he was sick and tired of trying to work with these people.
I would like to thank NCL for way overcharging for shore excursions. It only showed us that we should have done far more homework before the cruise. The snorkel trip we booked through NCL was charged at $114.58, per person. On shore, it was offered at $48.00.for the same cruise. It was the same for every shore excursion. The Pacific Paradise Luau for $98.96 was tasteless and not a true Luau by any means; but then in all fairness, some of that bad taste might have been left in our mouths because we waited for forty minutes on a bus by the ship for the last two people going to the Luau.
We should have known better than to try the EASY FLY program. This program is offered by NCL America, which as we all know, is not directly responsible for anything that can go wrong with any shore excursions or offered programs like EASY FLY. This was a truly great sounding program. It is a service that takes your baggage from your cabin at midnight the last night of your cruise and transports it to the airport. The designated airline would then load it on to your flight home and you would never have to worry about your luggage until you picked it up at your destination. It gets better. EASY FLY, would also get your boarding pass and deliver all the paperwork to your cabin by seven PM the last night of your cruise even though your luggage might not have been picked up at that time.
What we got was a notice that my bags had been accepted by the program but not my wife's. She was going to have to take her own baggage to the airport and there were no boarding passes for either of us. This also happened to the other couple that was traveling with us. When we went to the front desk where we had handed in all the paper work for the program, we were told that is was not NCL's fault but it was the airline that rejected members of our party wishing to participate in this program. We had had our first class airline tickets since August 2006.
The desk man said that if we did not want to participate in the EASY FLY program, he would give us our money back, oh did I leave that part out. NCL was charging $19.95 for this service. The desk man told us that we were in the wrong line and we would have to step over to the next line to our left. There was no line to our left, but we stepped over to the nonexistent next line anyway. The same desk man stepped over to that position and helped us by taking our EASY FLY paper work from us and informing us that the refund would show up on our final bill. I would truly like to thank NCL for allowing me to see where Mell Brooks got his material.
Frank and I then went down to the Internet Café and logged on to the NorthWest Airlines web site, and got our boarding passes. I know that you all have heard that being a Latitude member has it's privileges. I think that fifteen minutes of free time on the computer is one of those privileges, but no, I was charged $16.20.
I think that NCL should feel very good about the fact that the crew has renamed, The Pride of Aloha the Love Boat. It seems that, as a member of the crew, who will remain unnamed, told us, shipboard romances between crew members are in full bloom all the time. These romances, as the story goes, will last for about two weeks. NCL does take some responsibility for these type of crew actions by providing a large box of free condoms in the crews quarters. Which is probably why most of the crew members looked so tired each morning. There are other activities that are going on aboard this ship that I can not mention, so I will leave that up to your imagination.
I would like to recommend to NCL that they immediately go to Alang India and pull the SS Norway off the ship wrecking beaches and leave the Pride of Aloha in it's place.
Last but not least, I would like to thank Hawaii for having the most beautiful Islands that I have ever seen. Every second spent on the Islands of Honolulu, Kauai, Hilo, Kona, and Maui were pure gold. I would recommend Hawaii to anyone- it truly is a trip of a lifetime. Just do your homework and save a bundle.
Nmnita, I know, I will hear from you, as you always stick up for the cruise lines, and someone has to. I also have photos of the closet door and the head wall. I took these knowing that you would not believe me.
We also just completed a 10-day cruise on Pride of Aloha. I can't believe that the last two reviews were for the same ship. We had the opposite experience.
Our cabin was very clean and we always had clean towels and wash cloths. Our room steward visited our room at least twice a day. Our bed was turned down every night. There was ample room for our clothes. As for storage we just put our bags under the bed, no problem there. I would suggest a port side balcony room for the best view of these magnificent islands.
The food was about the same quality as other cruise ships we've been on. In fact, the meal at the Bistro ($15 extra charge) was the best I've ever had on a cruise ship. I will agree that the service in the Crossings Dinning Room was sub par, but there are so many other choices of places to dine that we never had to go back. I think that the wait times will vary depending on the time you choose to dine. We enjoy a cocktail before dinner and would request a "beeper"from the hostess. We then would go to Captain Cook's Lounge. When our table was ready we would be paged. Sometimes I wished we had more time before being paged. Reservations can be made if you feel it is necessary. If your party is less than five people the only times are 5:30 and 8:00 PM for the main dining rooms. If your party is for five or more or at the "pay" dining rooms, reservations can be made for any time. It is best to make your reservations two days in advance. If you do this you will have no problems.
The nightlife on this cruise was almost non existent after 10PM. It's not that there was no entertainment, but with the average age of the passengers. I think "bed time" for most on this cruise was at or before that hour. We made our own entertainment and found that the bartenders and wait staff are very friendly, especially at Captain Cook's and the Plantation Club.
Alas, this ship will be leaving in June. For those who are going for a cruise on her before she leaves I say, don't worry. If your expectations are reasonable you will have good cruise. This is still the best and most economical way to see the Hawaiian Islands.
We just returned from a 10 day cruise of the Hawaiian Islands, where we cruised from January 23, 2008 to February 2, 2008. It was the worst ship I have ever been on.
There was no one to help at embarkation. Room small, nowhere to put anything. We were seated at a dirty table in the Crossings dining room the first night. The Maitre 'd was snotty. Poor service at all times, not much food choice, indifferently prepared. That was whether we ate in the dining rooms or the buffet. Really it was better to eat on shore, at least the food was edible.
The staff on this ship is poorly trained, careless, indifferent. They have no idea of customer service. The ship was dirty in all areas, except our room. Our steward took good care of us and was rewarded for it at the end of the trip.
Two girls in the back buffet played toss with my butter, like 3 yr. olds.
No entertainment to speak of, and some of it we were expected to pay for. Three speciality resturants that cost extra. Reservations were almost impossible to get anynight, and I am talking about the main dining rooms.
This was the most boring ship I have been on. Hard to get around anywhere. Again, dirty, poorly maintained, poorly staffed, poorly trained staff. Not even close to worth the money. Interestingly it was staffed by mostly Americans.
The tours were expensive and not worth what you paid. The luau, for example, was a dinner show and not at all what one would expect. Mostly it was the same tours from different angles. The islands were pretty, but wet and chilly, so bring long pants, jackets and sweats. Also bring lots of money, it is very expensive.
Our best time was at the Hilton, in Honolulu before the cruise.
We will never, never do an NCL cruise again.
My wife and I were very apprehensive about our 11 day Hawaiian cruise with NCL. This was because we've read a multitude of negative reviews about NCL and our ship, the Pride of Aloha.
We set sail on Sep-29-2007 and the cruise was great and we really experienced none of the problems we had read about. Yes, we had read about the ship being dirty, rooms not being clean, long lines to wait in for meals, not to mention the inefficiency and rudeness of the ship's crew. Well we either were lucky or the Pride of Aloha has begun fixing their problems because we didn't experience any of these things. Yes, the ship is old, but clean and was very impressive to us. The public restrooms we used were always clean and functional. Upon entering our stateroom, we found it to be clean and my wife, who is a clean freak, had no problems with it. Our room steward, LaTina, was very nice and attended to our every need. She visited our cabin at least twice daily to clean, turn back our beds or to just check for any problemsthat may have arisen.
Everyday we ate at least two meals on the ship and our longest wait in line was 12 minutes, but most of the time there was no wait at all because there was no line. Most of the time we ate at the buffet, but three nights we ate at one of the specialty restaurants and all three of those times we were seated immediately. No lines and we had no reservations. The waiters/waitresses could not have been nicer or more accommodating. They were always there to clean or provide us with our needs while eating.
On the last day at the reception desk we heard some people complaining about NCL, the poor service and how they would never cruise with NCL again. My wife and I look at each other and shrugged our shoulders because that just wasn't the case with us. We had a great time and would not hesitate to sail on this ship again.
As our long awaited cruise approached I was becoming more apprehensive about the ship and cruise after reading many of the reviews. We had been to Hawaii several times and had dreamed of cruising the islands for many years. This was to be a combination retirement and birthday celebration. Thankfully we are very happy and had a great cruise.
We arrived a day early for 2 reasons- losing luggage ( seems to always happen to us) and we wanted to be sure that we saw Pearl Harbor. Good idea as the luggage was delayed.
The transfer to the Marriott Resort was very smooth. Our room was ready and we were able to complete our cruise registration and confirm our shore excursions at the NCL Desk before we went for dinner and a walk. Watching the sunset across Waikiki Beach was beautiful.
Sunday we left our luggage in the room for transfer to the ship while we toured Pearl Harbor and saw Honolulu. Be sure you go to Pearl Harbor.
Since we were already registered we were able to board the ship immediately after our tour. We ate lunch at the buffet while we waitedfor our cabin to be prepared.
We had requested 2 beds and were surprised to find the bed made up as one bed. We requested the refrigerator be unloaded as we wanted to purchase soda and water to take with us on our excursions on the islands. A message left on the bed and a call to housekeeping solved our requests. Definitely request a balcony cabin when close to such beautiful scenery. We were able to relax on the balcony and watch the volcano flow. Port side is best if you want to see the NaPali coast from your cabin.
I was concerned about the cleanliness of the cabin and ship after reading the reviews. We had no complaints. The cabin was always ready when we returned to the ship. Luggage storage was not a problem, we just slid them under the bed.
I had read complaints about the food. The food was very good, especially on the lobster and prime rib night. We found the service in the Palace Dining Room much better than the Crossings. If you want slow service, go to the Crossings for breakfast. It was half empty but people were waiting for tables. For some reason they would not seat anyone in the middle section. We only ate at the Crossings the first night and the first and last breakfast. The buffet worked nicely for us and it was nice to sit on the open deck and enjoy the scenery while eating. If you want to sit inside for the buffet and the tables are full, go to the Longboard Bar after you have your tray. The Palace was very good. We were always greeted with a smile and usually had the same server.
The open seating on our schedule for meals is great. We were able to eat when we wanted and enjoyed the casual atmosphere. We requested a table for two after our first morning when we were seated with a “know-it-all” couple. The breakfast was not enjoyable between the couple and the service.
On Wednesday we noticed that suddenly we were not able to touch anything (including the beverage station) at the buffet. Apparently there had been a couple of illnesses treated and no chances were being taken by the crew from that point on. I'd rather they be cautious than become ill.
We ate lunch ashore the first day on Kauai, in Kona, and on Maui. The views were great. Although the meals were pricey , how often does a person get to have such beautiful open air views while eating? It was worth every penny we spent.
We rented a car on Kauai for the first day. I wanted to see Waimea Canyon and the Kilauea Lighthouse and Bird Sanctuary which are in opposite directions from where we docked. The Lighthouse was not included on any tours and was well worth the time.
Check with car rental companies for rates as we were able to rent a minivan for less than a compact on Maui with NCL.
The second day on Kauai we took the Backroads adventure. What an adventure!
We laughed the whole time and the ride in the back of the van was worse than the last car on a roller coaster. When it says rough roads- believe it! The scenery was beautiful and the off-the-path beach where we had a snack couldn't have been more pretty or peaceful. We really recommend the excursion. We'd do it again!
At Hilo we again rented a car through NCL. After waiting for a long time for a bus to the airport to pick-up the rental car, several groups, us included, rented taxis to get to the rental desk. It was $13 plus tip but we saved time. We had no problems when we were ready to return to the ship.
The Kona Historic Tour was very nice. We needed to tender into Kona. Thank heavens the water was fairly calm. This was a concern as we had tendered into St. Maarten when a hurricane was approaching and it was quite an experience. The trips to and from the ship were very smooth. I would rather dock in an industrial area than tender.
On Maui we drove to Lahaina and beyond to see some beautiful coastline. I'm glad we decided to go that direction instead of heading for Hana. A few miles of that road is enough!
The 2nd morning on Maui we took the tour to Haleakala Crater and the Maui Ocean Center. We felt like we had stepped onto the moon when we saw the crater. The view was awesome. I admire anyone who cycles down the road- certainly not me. I wouldn't even attempt to drive it. Since we love tropical fish we liked the Oceanic Center.
Unfortunately our adventure was finally over and ended on a sour note. We had been charged for pop missing from the refrigerator when it was checked. It was already missing when it was opened on the first day. The time to correct the mistake was long since NCL only had 2 people to settle accounts and they were very slow. I thought we needed to send a “search party“ for my clerk when she left to correct my account.
We highly recommend the Easy Fly for the luggage when returning home. We sat the luggage out the last night and we were suppose to next see it at our home destination. It saves having to handle it at the Honolulu airport. If you don't miss your flight, it works fine. Unfortunately we missed our flight in Chicago.
We really don't know who is at fault for our ticketing (NCL or United). We only had 41 minutes between flights in Chicagonand we needed to change terminals. Our flight was late arriving in Chicago and we made it to the connecting flight gate in 8 minutes ( a 22 minute walk on the way to Honolulu) to find that although we were at the gate with 5 minutes to spare, we were denied boarding as the gate closes 10 minutes before scheduled departures. We now know how the contestants on Amazing Race felt since we did the Amazing Race Run through O'Hare. Whose fault was the ticketing? We don't know, but avoid O'Hare if at all possible. Maybe it would be better to schedule your own flights.
Needless to say that when we made it to our home destination- no luggage! The story of our lives and no one knew where it was. It finally arrived 12 hours later.
Would we go on NCL cruise again? Yes! Except for our flight home we had a very good time. The ship isn't as fancy as other cruises we have been on but the food was good, the scenery beautiful, the cabin clean, and the crew very friendly. A big plus is the dining on your own schedule not the ship's. NCL just has to be cruising where we want to vacation on a cruise.
This is an attempt at a comprehensive review. I will be telling you the good and the bad things that can happen. Hopefully I will give you some tips you can use to get the most from a cruise on this ship. If you just want a grade, here it is: I would give this cruise a B to an A grade. It is probably one of the best ways to see a great deal of the Hawaiian Islands but it is not the best cruise I have ever been on. Now that that is out of the way, please allow me to explain how we were able to have such a good time without problems and how we stumbled upon great deals in excursions and other activities. This review will also give you details on where to find those good deals.
Basic overview- This was the fifth time for my wife and I to sail on a cruise.
This was like no other cruise we have been on. On the other cruises, the ship was part of the destination. There were always at least two sea days on allof the other cruises. On other cruises, the ship was there to entertain and pamper you. This ship was a hotel and a means of transportation. The islands are the destination. That is not to say that we weren't well taken care of. Over 98% of the staff, we encountered, was always friendly and seemed to try to do a very good job. We had one really bad experience in the dining room. That will be explained below. We did encounter a few people who did not like the cruise at all. Most of their complaints involved service. I suspect that these complaints were valid. We also heard full audiences applaud and cheer when the cruise director asked if everyone had enjoyed the cruise.
Getting on and off the ship was well organized and very easy.
Of all the ships we have sailed on, this was probably the cleanest of them all. The carpet looked new and the rooms and cabins were immaculate.
There are many things that the islands will promote as must see excursions, which the ship will provide for free. Two examples are the Na'Pali coast and the lava flows. These are both incredible and FREE.
The itinerary was basically: Two days on each of these three islands, Kauai, The Big Island (Hawaii) and Maui. The two days on The Big Island is divided between Hilo and Kona. I will talk about the ports separately.
I prepared for this trip by purchasing two books.: "Hawaii for Dummies" and "The Unofficial Guide to Hawaii". While neither of these books is written to help the cruise guest, I found them somewhat helpful. I also got some great insight from this website.
Dining - Food always seems to be an item that people focus on. The food was often very good. There are always things that one can find wrong with food choices. For example, I did not care for the pancakes. They were not to my liking at all. They tasted like your basic, tasteless, Bisquick pancakes. But it is probably fair to say that I have NEVER enjoyed the pancakes on a cruise. You might have been raised with these types of pancakes and would love them. They offer such a wide variety that you can probably always find something that you like.
On previous cruises we almost always ate our breakfast and evening meals in the main dining room and the buffet was used for lunch. On this cruise we ate only three evening meals and one breakfast in a dining room. To rate the service, for each night, in the dining room I would have to give it a "B" for two nights and an "A" for lobster night. I would, however, give the food an "A" for all three nights. The crab cake appetizer was great. I had to ask for a second one.
The one morning we ate in a dining room, did not go well. We simply did not get good service. Allow me to list the things that went wrong. (1) There was no sugar on our table for tea or coffee. It took forever to get the server to bring some. (2) A table that was seated after us was served long before us. (3) Our food came slowly and cold. (4) There was no salt and pepper on our table. I finally went to an empty table and retrieved some myself. (5) I asked for some salsa for my omelet. It took 20 minutes to get it. Needless to say, I was done with it by the time it arrived. This was even after I slowly ate my horrible, cold pancakes. The two people serving us just did not seem to have their act together. Perhaps the helper was brand new. We are all beginners at times. But it just did not go well. There were other little things that did not go well. The coffee was a little slow but that would have been OK had everything else been good.
The buffet in the Hukilau Café was usually pretty good. The fish they served was often excellent, (although some foodies may consider it "over cooked" I liked it.) A previous review mentioned that the Hukilau Lanai, just outside of the café, was a good place to check out. It is often much easier to get some more bread, drinks etc. here. While on the subject of the bread, I would say that they do a good job there. It was always fresh baked and there was always a good selection. I ate way too many of their cinnamon rolls and they seem to be popular. The Lanai served mostly fast food such as hamburgers, pizza, etc. If I had one big criticism it would be about my fellow travelers in line. Apparently many of them had NEVER seen a buffet line before. They took forever to pick up a piece of fish or spoonful of gravy. Good Grief!
There are several specialty restaurants on board. There are also a few places, such as the "Longboard" that are bars that serve some food. We probably should have tried these places but never got around to it.
The dessert bar was not the best, we have seen on a ship, but it was much better than most of the other cruises we have been on. (Carnival was horrible. Royal Caribbean was the best.)
One tip – The tea glasses were small and the tea is made from concentrate. I have experience with this concentrate. Without fail people make this too strong. When this happens, it does not taste like tea. To make it taste better, dilute it. I know that this sounds counter-intuitive, but try it. The other thing you can do is ask the bartender on the lanai for some large mugs. Perhaps buy a soft drink and ask for them with ice. We did this the second day and just took them back to our stateroom after each meal. These made much better tea glasses.
Ports – A previous reviewer criticized the fact that the ship usually docked in industrial, port areas. This is true. Get over it. It is difficult to find a place where you can park such a large ship right next to shore. These are very small ports. We are not talking about giant ports like LA. The exit from the ship was usually easy, even though you might have to walk 100 yards to be out of the pier area. There were always free shuttles and I much prefer this to a tender port. You can usually see places, within easy walking distances from the upper deck of the ship.
I should probably mention that we NEVER USE THE SHIP'S EXCURSIONS. We have always booked our own on shore and have never been disappointed. It is important to be careful about this. Don't be afraid to talk to several people before deciding upon whom to go with.
NOTE: All prices given in this review are without tax. Hawaii has a rather large tax for things such as hotel rooms and other tourist activities. Count on about 10% more with tax added.
I might also point out that there was a beach within walking distance of every port. You can see them from the upper deck of the ship. It might not be the best beach for what you have in mind, but you can always go for a swim without much trouble. All beaches are public in Hawaii. If in doubt, ask a bartender or other crewmember.
Oahu – Honolulu is the first and last port of the cruise. We chose to arrive the day before the cruise and stay a day after, in order to see some of Oahu. We are very glad we did. We also wanted to reduce the chance of missing the ship due to delayed flights.
One of the books I bought recommended a small hotel in Waikiki. The average room rate for Waikiki is about $225 a night. While it is possible to do better than this if you are AARP, AAA etc. we were able to get a room at the Breakers Hotel for $99 a night (with AAA). The "Breakers" is a pretty little, two story, oasis in the middle of giant high rise hotels. It was built in the 50's. There are only two of these hotels left and they are right next to each other on Beachwalk Street. The rooms are quaint and clean. The staff is friendly and available at the office by the pool, 24/7. The pool is sparkling clean and surrounded by tropical plants. Some of the palm trees must be 50 years old. It is only about 100 yards from the same beach all the fancy hotels use. The post office is right across the street, along with the bus stops. You are also only about a half block from the main shopping street in Waikiki. There you will fine restaurants and fancy stores such as Coach, Tiffany, Rolex, Eves St. Laurent and others. The Breakers has a Japanese feel, which goes along with the small, outdoor tempura and sushi bar near the pool. There is an Italian restaurant across the street, along with an ABC store. (But there are 43 ABC stores in Wakiki alone.) There are hotels with restaurants up and down the beach.
On the Sunday morning of the cruise we went to Diamond Head and hiked up to the top. This is a great trip with an amazing view. Don't attempt it without good shoes. (We wore our hiking boots.) We saw people trying to do it in flip-flops. Take water with you. It only takes about 30-45 minutes to reach the top. But it is a mental challenge in places. Don't stop. You will be rewarded. Among other things, you will see military structures that were built in 1908.
We were back at the hotel before 10:30. We checked out but they watched our bags while we went to lunch and explored some more. At about 3:00 we took a taxi to the ship.
The main reason we booked a night at the Breakers after the cruise was so we could visit Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial. We arrived back at Honolulu early on Sunday and spent most of that day on the beach and relaxing. We were going to snorkel some more but we were tired and chose to just relax.
The books touted the virtues of the Honolulu bus system. This is known simply as "The Bus". (http://www.thebus.org/) On Monday morning we got up early and went to the bus stop in front of the post office, across the street. By "early" I mean at 5:45 we were at the bus stop. We were told that people start lining up at the memorial as early as 6:30. We arrived at about 6:55 and there were people in line. If you want to see the Arizona and the USS Missouri, plan on a full day. We made prior arrangements with the hotel about a late checkout. While we rode taxis to and from the airport and to and from the ship, taking the bus was fun and easy. We would do it again. Buses number 20 and 42 go right to the memorial. You don't have to worry about missing the stop.
The audio self tour was $5 at the memorial. I can't imagine going without it. The lady who suggested it while we were in line said that we would miss much without the audio. It was the best $5 we spent.
IMPORTANT NOTE: There are NO bags, fanny packs, handbags, backpacks, or PURSES allowed at the Arizona memorial. Do yourself a favor, do not take them. There is some storage that is rentable nearby but that will only slowdown your entrance to the memorial.
Kauai – Our first port of call was Nawiliwili in Kauai. The ship docks by mountains on one side and a small port area on the other. The ship is literally in the mouth of a small creek. (Nawiliwili Creek).
From the 11th deck of the ship you can see two small shopping centers. One on the left just about 150 yards from the ship and one on the right about 400 yards away. The important one here is on the left. It is in a building where the rear is a lumber and hardware store. There you will find a "Discount Activities" desk in the very front. It is easy to find helicopter rides over this beautiful island for well over $200 a person. At this desk you can book a flight with "Air Ventures" for $89 a person. This is a fixed wing aircraft ride that rivals any helicopter tour. The pilots are very experienced and knowledgeable. I can't imagine a better way to see Kauai in the limited time you have there. See: http://www.airventurehawaii.com
From the same desk you can book a tour with Danny (an off duty firefighter) who will take you around the island to see historical places and waterfalls. His tour also included a stop at a beach for snorkeling. Bring your swimming gear with you. Just ask for Danny's tour at the discount activities desk. If you want this tour decide so early on your first day. Since he is a firefighter there is a good chance that he will not be available both of your days on Kauai. We chose to do this on the second day.
The shopping center up on the right has an ABC store and some other places. There is also a place where you can rent scooters and snorkeling gear. They want about $13 a day for a full set. You can buy everything from about $59. We took the free shuttle to Kmart and bought TWO sets of good snorkeling gear for about $50, including tax. You can also buy good gear at most ABC stores for under $30. ($11-13 for mask and snorkel and around $16 for fins.) The ABC store here was one of the few that did not have both masks and fins.
There are free shuttles, on all the islands to places like Walmart or Kmart, etc. There is always a free shuttle to the largest shopping mall too.
One of the big things to see on Kauai is the Na Pali coast. This is the rugged north coast. It is beautiful. The plane ride gave is a wonderful view. But the ship gave us an even better one. The ship departed Nawiliwili at 1:00 pm and sailed around the north coast before heading south. This gave us a wonderful view for the afternoon. Over the ship's speakers was a narration about the history of the area, as we passed.
While in port at Kauai, we had one night that we chose to over indulge in good food and wine. Since the ship would not be moving we thought that this might be the best time to do this. Unfortunately this was the same night that someone flushed a prohibited item down the toilet and stopped up the plumbing for dozens of staterooms. Ours was one of them. We found ourselves looking for a bathroom, which worked, between midnight and 1:00 am. Too much wine affects us both that way. By 1:00 we were ok and the plumbing was fixed. Most people probably never knew this had happened. Bad timing on our part.
The Big Island – We loved Kauai but The Big Island was probably our favorite. While the other islands had the ship parked in one place over night, we visited two ports here.
The first port was Hilo. This is on the north side of The Big Island. Here we walked off the ship to find several good tour companies waiting for us. Take your time to talk to them and decide what you want. The favorite activity here is to visit the volcanoes. Note: A tour of "the volcano" does not mean you will see flowing lava. That does not mean you can't go see the lava. You just have to choose. You can go look into the crater and see steam or smoke or you can go on a tour that requires you to hike over lava fields until you get to where some is oozing from under the rocks. We chose the fresh lava. It was amazing but not for those with sissy footwear or unable to trek over very uneven terrain for MILES. This is a rough hike. But if you do it you will be rewarded with views and sensations that are indescribable. You are required to take water with you but some of it is wasted by spitting it on the rocks around you to see it boil as though you were pouring it on a hot frying pan. And that is the lava that it older. We paid $50 a person for this tour. There were other people there who had paid $169 each. Our guide was a seven year army veteran who was a career soldier who was out recovering from a combat wound. It was a family run tour company with several vans. Everyone in the family was ex-military. It was J & W Tours.
The same tour guide made arrangements with some or our people to meet them at Kona for a tour the next day.
Kona was the only tender port on the cruise. In Kona the thing to do is snorkel. The beaches are full of the most beautiful fish in the world. You can see turtles and dolphins too. There are several great beaches for this. One of the best is called Kahaluu Beach but the local tour guides call it "Turtle Beach". It is located about 5 1/2 miles south of Kona. Other beautiful beaches are Hapuna and "A-Bay". Both are 18 to 27 miles north.
We went to Turtle Beach because it is easy to get to and considered one of the best. A shuttle will give you a round trip ride for $10 a person. If you have several people in your group you might save a few dollars by using a taxi. This was one of the best things we did. If you snorkel nowhere else, go here. There may be better places but you would have to travel great distances. You will not be disappointed.
As the ship sails from The Big Island the captain takes the ship right past the Pu`u `O`o - Kupaianaha Eruption of Kilauea Volcano. We saw red lava flowing down the mountain and pouring into the see. What a sight! The boat is stopped and turned 180 degrees to allow all decks to witness this. There was a good narration about the geology and the mythology as we sailed by. See: http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/kilauea/summary/Current_map.html
Maui – Maui was probably our least favorite island. After the past two days of hiking and snorkeling we needed a day off. We walked around some but mostly took the first day off. We even watched a movie on the ship. The second day, we rented a car and explored the island. All the books talk about the "Heavenly Road to Hana". This is supposedly a beautiful, 52 mile long, road along the Maui coast. It is nice. But all coastal roads are. The PCH in California or a coastal road in Maine are just two examples. We drove this road. There are over 50 one lane bridges, and (depending upon how you count them) between 200-600 twists and turns where you can only go 10-15 miles an hour. About 30 MPH is going to be your top speed and that is rare. This drive takes hours to do. We drove over half of it. I spoke with several people on the ship. It was the topic of discussion on elevators and at meals. The consensus was, as one man said, "It's a pretty road for the first mile or two, but then it all looks the same." See: roadtohana.html You will want the T-shirt that says, "I Survived the Hana Highway."
After the drive to Hana we set out for the northwest side of the island to look for a beach to snorkel at. The books mentioned several. This is the resort side of the island. While the beaches may be nice, the really good ones (for snorkeling) are by the resorts and they prohibit beach parking in their lots. What few beach parking places do exist, are always full.
I should point out that free beaches for surfing are everywhere along this coast. There are no facilities for most of them but you can just pull off the road and surf.
Renting a car in Maui was cheap and easy. We just called Budget from their dedicated phone in the terminal and a bus picked us up. The cost was only $38 for a midsize car. But listen to this! GAS WAS $3.75 ON THE ISLAND. If you pay for a full tank in ADVANCE, at the car rental place it was only $3.25. That is not a big deal unless you understand that if you bring the car back needing gas that they will charge you $1.50 a gallon service charge to put it in for you. This brings the total to over $5.00 a gal. You must set this up before you drive out. If you pay for the full tank in advance you are then credited back the gas you do not need. I don't know if the other car rentals have the same program or not. NOTE: It is possible to spend $100-200 a day if you want a convertible or some other fancy car.
Entertainment Aboard Ship There is no casino on the boat because it never leaves Hawaii waters. The singers and dancers were adequate but not great. The magician, Fred Becker provided two very entertaining and different shows. The two comedy shows, "Full Impact" and Mike McDonald were big hits. Each did two different shows. Sonny Rose sang some popular favorites. There were talented bar musicians all over the ship. The Aloha Band was very good.
Summary – All in all this was a great trip. The cruise is not what you might be used to, but that is a good thing. Consider this an opportunity to see more of the Hawaiian Islands than most people ever will. I know people who have gone to the islands more than once who have not been able to see what we did. This is not the best cruise but it is not a bad one. You can go to the best resorts in the world and the toilet might get stopped up or the steak might be too well done. One last caveat: Because we are 50+yo empty nesters, we can travel in the off or swing seasons. Our cruise had only about 20 children. We almost never saw one. In a couple of weeks there will be hundreds of children on this same ship. It might also have been easier to get a car or a tour because of the season. Things like this may make your cruise a completely different experience.
We had read many reviews before our cruise, so we were somewhat prepared. Our cabin was clean and well tended during our stay. We ate in the two main dining rooms mostly and thought the food was good, although the service semed a little slow. The buffet for breakfast was fast, as we left the ship at every opportunity. We rented a van at all the ports and toured on our own, much more economical than the tours through the ship. If you are a veteran cruiser, you may be disappointed, as you will not be taken care of to your desire. We went with the idea that we were using the ship as a hotel and a means of getting to all the main islands. Hawaii is beautiful and we would consider this cruise again.
Our P.O.A. Hawaii cruise was a great way to see five port cities and four islands in just a week. Sadly it was not a good cruise experience in many ways.
Our embarkation in Honolulu was a breeze as was our embarkation.We used NCL air and did not arrive by plane until 4:30 P.M.but all went very well. It was one of the easiest embarkations we have experienced.
Our cabin was a standard outside cabin on the 4th floor. Although our cabin had an okay layout, it was quite filthy and largely unfit for guests.There was a 36 inch splatter of blood on the walls. The carpet had huge (3 ft. diameter) red wine stains that had not been cleaned. The sofa was half covered in uncleaned red wine stains. There was no top sheet for the bed and we were given two single duvee covers on a queen bed, which did not work at all with no top sheet. The only sheet, a fitted bottom sheet,had questionable brown stains and many hairs on it. The knob on the thermostat was broken off which deemed it non-functional and made the cabin quitehot.The hallway carpet was sloppy wet the entire week.There were strange (not ours) pubic hairs on the toilet and sink upon check-in.
Some of the stateroom issues were fixed within two days but most were not addressed at all until the fifth day.Overall our cabin was a nightmare.
Our cabin steward left the ship after three days and things actually got worse. From that day forward for two more days, there was nobody to make-up our room or turn down our bed. We made-up our own room for two full days.We were able to get towels but only by request.
The food was very mixed and the service was inconsistant at best.The buffets were terrible.
Breakfasts were pretty good but the service was poor and it is unacceptible to wait over a half hour each day just to be seated. This was followed by being told we couldn't have tea because there were no teapots to be found.We were also told not to order an omlette because it would take an extra 40 minutes to prepare.The standard restaurants for lunch and dinner were fair but most entres was over-cooked. Salads were quite good. Desserts were so-so.Waits of 45 minutes to one hour for a table were the norm.
We ate at all three upscale restaurants. The Asian eatery was the best of the three but no Wasabi for the sushi really bugged me a lot.The Italian restaurant was terrible and our server was rude as well as largely untrained.We ate at the bistro twice. It was fairly good (not great) and had really great service.
The public spaces were clean and quite adequate but the lack of a casino was missed.Bar service was very good except that our two bottles of wine, for which we paid corkage upon arrival, were lost for three days.
Entertainment was largely poor in quality.
We loved the itinerary and rented cars in each port. We arranged our own excursions and had a great time in every port of call.We have been to Hawaii many times and had a grasp on what we wanted to see and do.
Debarkation was outstanding.
My wife and I along with another couple went on this cruise in January and were pleasantly surprised amid all the bad reviews I had read concerning this ship. We went into this vacation with an open mind despite the negative reviews and had a very enjoyable time and would do this cruise again. We did spend a couple extra days in Honolulu prior to our cruise but I would not recommend that unless you like the big city atmosphere.
BOARDING The boarding process was easy and painless. There were no lines and we were checked in very quickly. All our bags but one were delivered to our staterooms in about an hour from getting on the ship. My one bag was labeled “Suspicious” due to my laptop computer that I stupidly for got to pull out of my main bag before boarding. Later in the day I went looking for the bag and was referred to security where they quickly looked through my bag and released it to me.
STATE ROOMS We originally had booked an inside stateroom on our trip but were later upgraded at our request, as thecost of the cruise fare dropped on a special and we then were upgraded to a outside stateroom with a large porthole window. Our room was more spacious than on other cruises we had taken and found there to be plenty of room for our stuff. My wife took over the closets and drawers in the closets. I left most of my stuff in my duffel and rolled it under the bed. We had a small desk and chair along with a sitting area and when our traveling companions were in our room we did not feel crowded or cramped at all.
Our room staff was very pleasant and made up our room daily and turned down the sheets each night. We did not have any of the towel creatures that we have had on the other cruises in our rooms each night but we didn’t feel that that distracted from the stay or service at all. Our bathroom was clean and plenty of room for what was needed. I am a tall guy and the adjustable height showerhead was a pleasant surprise.
FOOD and RESTAURANTS We found the food to be very adequate on our ship. We ate at the buffets and at the sit down dinners in the Palace and Crossings restaurant. We also ate at the Royal Palm Bistro (French) one night. The Bistro charges an additional cover charge and requires reservations and we found the food good but we felt the food was the basically the same in the Palace and Crossings Restaurant. We also noticed that the buffets had the same food as the sit down restaurants as well each night. The buffet on the pool deck was always quite crowded and took several minutes to get to the food. Our only complaint on the buffet was that there was not enough seating around the buffet. (This was mostly due to the passengers sitting at the tables for hours at a time and drinking coffee, which was somewhat out of the staffs’ control.) We mostly ate at the buffets for breakfast and a few lunches and found the buffet on the “lanai” to be less crowded and more peaceful.
We also had a barbeque on the pool deck a couple of times during our cruise and found the food to be very good. The restaurant staff was always pleasant and helpful no matter where we ate.SHORE EXCURSIONS vs. CAR RENTALS
My wife and I rented cars on all but one day of our cruise and our traveling companions had shore excursions on most of the days.
We determined by comparing notes at the days end over supper that the car rental is the way to go. We paid far less for the car rental, gas and entrance fees (National Parks) than our traveling companions did for their shore excursions and on several days we saw them on their big bus and we cruised around in a convertible and we were able to see more. The shore excursions did have a “tour guide” typically but with a little planning a interpretive walk or program could be found at the destinations.
Each of the car rental companies on each island have shuttles that pick you up at the pier and take you to the car rental location, typically no more than 10 minutes away and get you into your car. They provided us with maps and directions to where ever we need to go. We rented from Thrifty, but also talked to several others who rented with other companies and they all provided the same services.
Several of the islands (not all) provided places to park a rental car near the ship when staying overnight in port. Kaui had several areas that charged $10.00 per night but on Maui they had lots of parking right on the pier for free.
We found that there was always plenty of time to pick up the rental car and see the sights and return the rental car in the time allotted in port.
SHIP’S ENTERTIANMENT We went to several of the shows on the ship and they were entertaining and on par with what we have seen on other cruises. Each of the bar/lounges typically had some type of musical entertainment in them each night.
Due to the age demographics on our cruise we found the pool and hot tubs to be virtually empty all the time. There were also daily yoga and aerobics classes and a “round the ship” jogging/walking track. Basketball court and golf nets were also onboard.
My wife had a massage on one day and found it to be a bit overpriced but from what we have seen, all cruise ship spas are overpriced. She said the service was good in the spa however. The ship has its own Luau on Maui and we talked to several couples that went to it and they said it was good but a bit crowded and overpriced.(600-900 people) We went to the Old Lahaina Luau on Maui and it was very nice but it was a commercial operation and overpriced. (500 or so People on our night) After talking to several people we determined that may of the different luau’s are very similar.PORTS
Kauai We enjoyed Kauai very much and would see this island again. We went up to the Waimea Canyon area and found it to be very beautiful. One word of caution on the roads in and around Waimea Canyon is that they are very narrow and lots of sharp turn so anyone who has a problem with motion sickness in a vehicle needs to take precautions. We also spent some time at the beach near the pier snorkeling at Nawiliwili Park. There was not much to see at this beach except a few fish and such but the water was nice and not to crowded.
Hilo- Big Island We went to Volcano’s National Park and spent several hours there and will take the entire time at Hilo to see it properly. Our travel mates went on a shore excursion to Volcano’s and they said they were at each stop for a short time and did not see the entire park.
Kona- Big Island If you like coffee you will be in seventh heaven in Kona. Everywhere you go in Kona are Coffee plantations and most have shops you can stop at and buy coffee and take tours of working coffee plantations.
We also went to a wonderful beach called Kahuluu Beach Park that is about 3-4 miles from the pier and snorkeled. This beach was absolutely wonderful as the fish were spectacular and we also saw several sea turtles. The water is clear and as long as you don’t go out too far the surf was not bad. This is a wonderful beach for kids as the water was not deep in most places and the fish would not try to get away from people. Ship staff told us about this beach and we were glad they did. Kona is the only place where you will be tendered ashore from the ship so plan time for it as it takes a little longer that pier side parking.
Maui Maui was our favorite place of the cruise and wished we could have been there longer. On the first of two days in Maui, My wife and I went up to Haleakala National Park.
This place was awesome, a little chilly but awesome as the temperature was in the mid to upper 50’s. Plan on sweatshirts and long pants on top of the mountain at about 10,000 feet. Again this road is windy and narrow and may cause motion sickness.
After driving to the summit of Haleakala Crater we went down to the road to Hana.
We traveled about half of the road to Hana and it to was awesome. The different terrain and vegetation you pass through was spectacular as well as the black sand beaches along the way. This road to is narrow and windy so plan accordingly. It also is not a fast drive so plan plenty of time. The road to Hana truly is one of the most spectacular drives I’ve ever experienced. This was also the night of our Luau in Lahaina.
The next day my wife and I went to Big Beach State Park and tried to snorkel but the rough water made it difficult. We did enjoy the beach as it is a very large beach and not very crowded. (a little note of caution—part of the beach is shielded by a bluff and beyond the bluff is a nude beach)
Honolulu We spent a couple of days in Honolulu prior to our cruise and I would not recommend that. We stayed downtown and it was active all night long. We did go and see Pearl Harbor which was a must see item when there. We also climbed Diamond Head and that was neat, but had lots of steps. (271 to be exact, I think it was!) On our last day of the cruise after disembarking form the ship we just camped out on the pier area and checked out the shops until we caught a cab to the airport for our flight home.
TIPS Rent cars and save money and see more stuff and operate on your schedule not the buses. Buy a snorkel set for $20 when you get there at any of the ABC stores that are all over, then you don’t have to rent ones that won’t work as well. Make sure you have swim shoes as most of the beaches are not entirely soft sand and the coral and lava rocks are hard on bare feet. Take a large beach towel along. The ship will let you grab towels to take but the sand is fine and the towel you use to sit on is rather abrasive to use to dry off with. (Some people had bamboo type mats)
Remember that Security on the ship and Security on the pier are not the same and their attitude shows it. When you play in the surf, you will get sand everywhere and I mean everywhere. (So don’t take you swim trunks off in the middle of your cabin floor, unless you want your own little beach there- )
Use the checked baggage service the ship offers…costs a little money but I think it would have been well worth it. (We lugged our bags around that last day and were kind of hampered by them.)
SUMMARY All in all we had a great time and did not experience any of the complaints I had read about. We would do this trip again someday especially if going with someone who has not been to Hawaii before. This was a great way to see several of the islands. If anyone has specific questions please feel free to e-mail me.