We arrived in Honolulu two days prior, which I highly recommendâ€¦ especially for us coming from Pittsburgh and there being a 6 hour time difference. It took us a good three to four days to get used to the time difference.
We stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Villageâ€¦ the resort property is fantastic with a wonderful beach area. I thought the room was average, but with the location and resort offerings, I would definitely stay there again. We were in a group and were able to negotiate the rate downâ€¦ we paid $160 per night and most of the group was upgraded to partial or ocean-view.
At 6:45 a.m. on Sunday we got the first glimpse of the NCL Star from our balcony at the Hilton Hawaiian Villageâ€¦ got us very excited.
The transfer to the ship (we used ABC Shuttle Hawaii and Lena, who were absolutely awesome!!!) was easy. We were dropped of and there was a line, but all went very smoothly and easily. We were booked in the ownerâ€™s suite and although they called the concierge (Julie) when we arrived, she was not ready to meet us after check-inâ€¦. they wanted us to wait for her 15-20 minutes so she can escort us to the cabin, but we said no big deal, we will find our way and she can meet up with us later, which she did.
Our cabin 10506, the Picasso Suite, was very spacious. You enter a small hall to the living room/dining area. There is a red Elvis type couch on the wall to the left, two chairs and another couch. The dining room table is large with four chairs, but you can fit six people around it comfortably (as we did later in the week when we had 11 people over for dinnerâ€¦. 60 plates of food from four different restaurantsâ€¦ it was awesome and our butler Anoop fantastic!) Thereâ€™s a small bar area (you get to order three complimentary bottles of liquor, Anoop took care of that and had delivered in under an hour of being in our cabin!... he also brings any mixers needed.) You get 6 sodas stocked every day for free as well as two bottles of Evian Water. There is also a coffee pot (makes real coffee in the suites, but only a hot pot in the regular cabins). There is a balcony off the living room with nice sized table and four chairs, it was wonderful. Thereâ€™s also a nice sized TV with built in DVD Glass doors and a curtain separate the living room/dining area from the bedroom area. When you walk in there is a settee on the left wall, a desk with laptop computer on the right (wonderful for hooking up to the internet without having to go to the cafĂ©). The bed is king sized with mirrors above. TV is built into the wall. There is another balcony off of the bedroom (this one faces front of the ship, just below the bridge) and has spectacular views. There are two lounge chairs on this balcony. There is a small hall with a mirror on the way to the bathroom/closet/dressing area. This is a nice sized area! The dressing area has two closets and two safes one on each side. The vanity is large with lots of drawer spaceâ€¦ but I still need my three way plug in to plug in everything I needed. There is also a pant press in this areaâ€¦ this area is like a large walk-in closet. The bathroom is awesome with flat screen TV over the jet tub. There is a separate shower stall and the toilet is also chambered off (glass door) and there is a phone in the toilet chamber (canâ€™t say we used it!) There are two sinks on the vanity and again plenty of space. There is a large porthole in the bathroom and then I donâ€™t know why, but a window above the tub (from the balcony) we put a towel over that so those hanging out our balcony could not see in.
Our friends had the adjoining balcony cabin to ours, cabin 10508. There were three of them in there and I must say it is extremely small. I donâ€™t think I could have made it the whole week with three people in there. There is limited storage and space and the vanity area is extremely small. They brought there hot pot and extra chair to our room, so they can have more room. The balcony was adequate, but small. When the couch was opened up it pretty much smacked up against the other bed (almost like bedding for three in one bed). You could not get to the balcony once the sofa bed was opened.
My sister and mom had a mini-suite, cabin 11002â€¦ it was larger than the balcony and had a tub instead of just shower stall and also had the real coffee pot versus hot pot. There was a curtain separating the real beds from the sofa bed. In this cabin though, the sofa bed does not open up, you sleep on the sofa! It is very small, thank goodness mom is very short and a good sport. I think you should be told that the sofa does not open up, you could not imagine this scenario unless you saw it! I would definitely book the mini-suite over the regular balcony cabins with three people.
Quick note on cabin 11616â€¦ friends in that cabin had a lot of problem with noise up above and had to be moved.
A quick note about the concierge, Julieâ€¦ in a nutshell she was useless. Anytime we called her it seemed as if we were bothering her (and we did not call very much, less than once a day). I called for restaurant reservation (in ownerâ€™s suite and supposed to get priority ones) and she could not get us in (there was 12 of us)â€¦ when I called her she immediately said, the restaurant is full without checking with them and calling me back (we wanted to eat around 7), maybe I can get you in at 10 (although thatâ€™s when they close)â€¦. I said no thanks. I then called the restaurant myself and was told they were wide open and we could come anytime, pick a time! We chose 7 p.m. and stopped by Julieâ€™s office on the way. After waiting for her to come out for about ten minutes she comes straight out and says oh there was just this big group cancellation and that is why we got in. I told her but you didnâ€™t even call themâ€¦ she said she had called just before I called for reservations for two people and couldnâ€™t get them in so she knew she couldnâ€™t get us in. I then said, if there was a just this group cancellation how does that make them wide open all night!!!! She blubbered on about miscommunication, but she was caught in a lieâ€¦ and boy was she. When I got to the restaurant where the rest of my group was waiting for me they said Julie had just called up there and they overhead the conversation and that she told them to tell me that a group canceled and that is the only way I got inâ€¦ she was having them lie to me to cover herself! Trust me this is only one snippet to my week with Julie, I could go on and on, but wonâ€™t!
Anoop, our butler, was fantastic and went above and beyond for all we needed, even helping our friends in the adjoining cabin (they tipped him too and he didnâ€™t even want to take it!).
The shipâ€¦ you could definitely tell it was heading to dry dock as many areas were lackingâ€¦ but I did expect that. Two hot tubs were broke the whole cruise and we were told they had been broke for the last three weeks. A sewage line broke and the smell was very bad in certain areas of the ship the first few days. They were running out of some things. I donâ€™t want to sound like a complainer, this is how it was, it did not make us mad or unruly or â€śruinâ€ť our vacation as I suspect some hot heads would say. Like I said we still had a great time, just want to point it all out. I donâ€™t know if they always do this (havenâ€™t seen it before) but one day by the pool they gave away free drinks! There was soda and mixed drinks as well as beer for free! They also had buy one get one drinks on the last day (wondering if it was to get rid of the alcohol for dry dock). We did hear the crew party started at 2 p.m. the day we got off and that they would have free open bar for three days too.
Freestyle dining is a great concept for a small party, but not easy when a group tries to dine together. The service is definitely not as good as fixed dining. I think it is not staffed well enough and understand it is hard for a waiter to be on appetizers with one table, main course another and dessert another. There was not always a bus person to get drinks, which made for some long waits. The best service and meals were in La Trattoria, I can not say enough about the staff and that restaurant. George was the best waiter ever and even made a banana split for one in our group upon request, even though it was not on the menu. Le Bistro was the worst serviceâ€¦ it took three hours to finish there and I find that unacceptableâ€¦ they messed up countless things, service was downright bad and although coffee was asked for upon us sitting down and several times throughout the meal, it was not brought until dessert was finishedâ€¦ I mean completely finished! We would not have stayed for coffee had they given us our bill. Dining at Aqua and Versailles was hit or miss. The food was great sometimes and not sometimes, but I donâ€™t judge my whole cruise on food nor do I let poor service ruin my time.
My niece attended the kids program, she is 6. There were very few kids on the ship so they forfeited their regular scheduled activities and also did not do the kids talent show (which she always does). She did still enjoy herself there though, but says she likes Camp Carnival the best.
I thought activities were lacking on the ship and targeted to the older generation (sorry Iâ€™m only 31!). We did do the golf putting contest and several trivia contests. We showed up for pool gamesâ€¦. It was just another trivia contest. Thatâ€™s okay we made our own fun and loved the slides in the pool areaâ€¦ it was great fun. The salsa and guacamole by the pool area each afternoon (mix them togetherâ€¦ trust me) were to die forâ€¦ luckily I did not discover this until two days left!
There was a TV call in game show one dayâ€¦ we caught it live in the pub and later on cabin TV, it was great fun! Those in the cabins would call in answers to questions and win prizes and they would take the prize to their cabin, really great fun.
The pool areas are nice, one large salt water, one smaller in between the two slides is freshwater. There is also a shallow area around each slide to sit in and cool offâ€¦ we spent most our time there. I think the pool area is one of the best Iâ€™ve seen. The kidsâ€™ pool area is also awesome, they have their own Jacuzzi and slides and water guns!
I did not go to the movie theater, others in the group did and enjoyed it. Cabin TV is very limited with NO local stations (first cruise I have encountered that!). There was CNN, ESPN (thank goodness) and TBS as well as some movie and stations showing on-board stuff.
As you know we did not make our stop in Fanning Island due to engine trouble and our itinerary was changed prior to departure. We got two days in Maui and two days in the big island of Hawaii, one day in Kauai and one day at sea. During the cruise and on the islands we heard though countless times that there really was no engine problem and that NCL just didnâ€™t want to go to Fanning (donâ€™t know how true that was) and also that they canceled the repositioning cruise because there were only like 40 cabins booked.
The only bad weather (and really not that bad) was first day in Hilo, started off great and then rainâ€¦ but no biggie. We went to the volcano and liked it, we went on the NCL tour, glad they took care of driving etcâ€¦ and thought it was a good tour overall. You can definitely do it on your own, but we like the â€śwe have no responsibility root.â€ť
My husband and I chose to stay on the ship in Kona and Lahaina (the two tender stops) and make our own relaxing sea days, which we enjoyed immensely! I know, youâ€™re in Hawaiiâ€¦ but we really loved staying on the ship while everyone else was off! My sister and mom loved Lahaina and the shopping area off the pier and told us it is the place to get all your souvenirs. There are free shuttles to Hilo Hattie and Wal Marts at many stops ( I can not fathom going to Wal Mart while on vacation though, sorry).
We did the Kaanapali Beach Break in Kahalui, Maui there were really rough waves that day (about 10 feet high)! The sign entering the beach area (they take you to the Sheraton) said: serous injury, paralysis or possible death likely due to high tidal conditions! I did not get in the water, but my husband and friends did and they had a blast, but were very beat up by the waves. My mom was knocked over and drank some saltwater, my sister lost her sunglasses. They were the biggest waves we ever saw! I liked the tour and would recommend it, sometimes itâ€™s just nice being driven and not having to worry about anything. The tour includes a beach chair and one drink. We rented an umbrella for $15 and bought nachos for $10 (but they were worth it and great!) This tour is available from both Lahaina and Kahalui (it is much closer to Lahaina).
Our catamaran tour in Kauai was canceled (they said due to lack of interest, but there was at least 25 of us plus Iâ€™m sure someone else had to book in on the ship and at $159 a person, youâ€™d think they have enough money to take it out, oh well). Instead we took two mini-van cabs (10 of us and two kids) to Poipu Beach ( I researched and heard it was much nicer than the beach the free shuttle takes you too). It cost us a total of $70 per van round trip and was worth it. It was a beautiful beach and had great snorkeling too. There were some waves, but pretty calm. There were picnic tables and covered areas and a snack store and restaurant and bathrooms. I highly recommend this beach! There were lots of wild chickens in the area here though, but they were not bothersome. By the way when we contacted our concierge Julie about what to do since our tour was canceled, she was less than helpful and after pestering if there were anyway she could get me some phone numbers to call around for other catamaran tours she offered a book (out of date by several years with many of the numbers not correct).
I hope my information helps. I would love to answer any questions you may have. Overall we had a great time, but have found other ships/cruise lines to be better overall.
Sorry I missed the cruise critic meeting Monday, but it was very hectic for me, we had a group cocktail party and other commitments; wish I would have made it though, hopefully on another cruise!