I am happy to see all of your posts and hope more people from the original roll call will follow suit when they've had a chance to rest up. Please everyone, I've heard you personally but others have not. Please post.
Zimmerjulie, you might very well be lucky. I don't know, I can only assume
that not all reviews that are submitted are published because, like you, several of mine have been published and one was not. You'll have to ask the Admin. I didn't use any bad language in it so I can only surmise that they just get too many to publish. Go to the source and never trust an ordinary CC member like me.
I think I've had a chance to sort out my thoughts about the 6/5 sailing, so here goes. If you've booked a future cruise on this ship or are an NCL employee or devotee, you might do well just to quit reading here because not all of it was good. Remember, its Cruise Critic and everyone has a right to do just that...critique. But I have tried to be fair.
Embarkation - wait in line, wait in line, wait in line, we endured two out of the three of them to be exact. We avoided the third line by having sprung several thousand for an AC Penthouse Suite. Embarkation all in all was not as bad as some, certainly not as good as others. After check in we were sent to a bench to sit until the Concierge from the ship came downstairs to usher us and two other guests to our staterooms. He grabbed the ladies' hand luggage and led us upstairs to the ninth deck where he dropped DH and myself off in the hallway, handed over my carry on luggage, pointed in the direction of our room and said he would be 'right over' while he took the other CC couple to their stateroom. We waited one hour. Eventually we lost patience and left to explore the ship on our own because there was no deck plan in the room and no ship information whatsoever. All telephone lines were busy and there was no pen in the room to make notes. Exasperation. There was nothing to do but set off on our own.
Later, we eventually got through to the Concierge's desk where his assistant said our guy was "at a party for VIP's". We left a message and asked that someone please get in touch with us later because there were some issues we wished to address. He did call about a half hour later and eventually came by the stateroom. He insisted he had come to our room right after he had left the other couple's stateroom, had knocked at our door and no one had answered. He has an internal cellphone clipped to his waist which interrupted our conversation with him more than once. There is voicemail in the stateroom. Why didn't he use it? We were in the room or on the deck with the door open waiting for his visit for one full hour. A very bad experience on the first day. We've never seen anything like it. We'd have been perfectly happy if a stateroom attendant or butler had been there to introduce and familiarize us with the nuances of our suite. This was a very bad first impression.
Itinerary - What's not to love about Hawaii? Great weather and it only rained once and then, after midnight on Kauai. Camelot, but I've got to say if I had it to do again, I'd not do it on NCL. Too many problems, too much money, too little satisfaction. But that's another story.
We particularly enjoyed Hilo. Drove all around Volcanoes National Park on our own in a racy red rented convertible with the top down and drove down to where the lava flows into the sea and the steam rises in huge clouds. Wow. What an awe inspiring sight those hardened expanses of lava are on that hillside above the current flows. It was amazing to see and ponder on what it must have been like to be there when the eruptions happened. It is positively humbling. We drove miles down a one lane road hoping to see the Nene but to no avail despite the cautionary signs all along the roadside. Eventually we gave in to hunger and lunched in Volcano Village at the Lava Rock Internet Cafe, a spectacularly ordinary looking local eatery that stunned us into submission with its Oriental salad with freshly grilled teriyaki chicken and somekind of a magnificent mango dressing. I had to bypass the freshly baked coconut cake and it broke my heart. I just didn't have the room for it. Be still my stomach, I can still see it now in that rotating dessert case. Later that evening after dark, the ship did the cruise past the same lava flows we had seen that afternoon. It was a great day, but I never saw the Nene which annoyed me muchly! If you don't know what a Nene is, then shame on you.
On Maui, the locals told me Kahului isn't the nicest place on the island and said it was a shame we had to dock there. It is mainly a business hub and presents two days of a lousy view of the ugly port facility if you happen to be on the wrong side of the ship (starboard), or forward as were we. I'm assuming other ports like Lahaina cannot accommodate ships of this size? I was so disappointed I got disillusioned about driving the road to Hana on the various CC boards. Friends who did it in a rental car said it was great and that it didn't take as long as people said it would, certainly not the nine and a half hours the ship sponsored tour takes to do this. I expect those of you who did this to tell us the gorey details. I promise to cry my way through reading it.
The first day on Maui we (DH/CH and myself) went to the Grand Wailea. DH/CH golfed at the Gold Course and said it was the finest course he had ever played (he's hacked his way through many, including The Old Course although he would not appreciate that terminology). I hitched a ride on the golfers' van for $50 which was a decent fare for roundtrip as Wailea is a fair poke down the coastline from the ship. I spent my day at The Spa at Grand Wailea being thoroughly bathed, scrubbed, massaged and oiled. I'm working a lot better now, thanks but basically still look the same. This is quite a hotel and the treatments were excellent and I thought quite reasonably priced. The Wailea area is where the really posh hotels are located (Four Seasons, etc.). It is beautiful and worth a trip before all that marble in the collective lobbies sinks the coastline beneath the sea.
The next day on Maui we rode around in a rental car like a couple of country bumpkins. Used the Revealed Guide to select where to go and failed miserably at putting a cohesive itinerary together. I really should have done my research in advance because I don't read well in a car bouncing around on a highway. Not to worry, I paid for it later with disgruntled looks from DH/CH.
But due to my on the site research we found the public parking lot near Wailea Beach (once voted number one in the US by Dr. Beach) and the adjacent paved walkway that wends its way through all of the high priced hotel and condominium beaches on that coastline. Fun, and the beaches and lounge chairs are free, but an umbrella will cost you a cool $30 for a day's use. We declined, found some temporary shade and rested and then followed the pathway back to the parking lot and took a ride south down the coast till we ran out of road and our stomachs sent us scrambling back up north to a better lunch.
We had two wonderful midday meals in Wailea, on successive days, mind you. I ate at the open air golf course grill at the Gold Course the first day and we lunched at Mulligans at the Blue Course on the second. The Gold Course is the more upscale of the two and I had a fabulous table just under the overhang in the shade with a view of the entire coastline and great food. The Blue Course is more casual and we ate there the second day at Mulligan's Irish Pub. Fresh mahi mahi fish and chips served with malt vinegar. Oh my. Forgot to mention the brewskis. Oh yum. By Maui, I was starved for a decent meal, but that's another story.
I don't know why, but Kona was not what I expected. Posts described it as filled with quaint little shops but I didn't see it that way. I should have taken the ship sponsored trip to "A Beach" while DH/CH golfed but I shopped in town for awhile and went back to the ship early. Ironically, DH/CH left the golf course before completing his round. Said the wind was hideous and the first nine took over 2 and a half hours due to slow play. We went aft together, hand in hand, to the Fantail Bar. Love, love, love those freshly made pina coladas with dark rum floaters (me, not he). See if my bartender with one brown eye and one blue eye is there if you go. He was my down and out favorite. He works several bars and is charming and funny and lifted my spirits when I wanted to mutiny or just simply abandon ship! That would be Joshua. But I digress...
Kauai was as beautiful as ever, strikingly green and lush after all the rainfall (floods) they had this year. Good shopping at Coconut Plantation and a free shuttle from the cruise ship dock. I found the best buys of the trip at this shopping center and had an unbelievably great Black Angus burger at a little open air restaurant there in the shopping center. It was piled so high with avacado, bacon, tomato, Maui onions and lettuce I had to remove the bun and lift the fork and knife. Saw multitudes of DH's ensconced on concrete benches waiting in disgruntled fashion for their DW's and was glad I sent mine elsewhere (the JN course at the Kauai Lagoons - Marriott) as I shopped until I couldn't do without another MaiTai. Also took the free shuttle the next day to Hilo Hatties where I found a lot of the same items I'd seen or bought the day before at Coconut Plantation, but all were more expensive at HH. Let the buyer beware. Hilo Hattie is probably as rich as, oh well nevermind. I bought more.
We ate off campus on Kauai. Everyone occasionally needs a break from the mundane. You can walk to several restaurants right off the ship, most notably Dukes. Unfortunately Dukes isn't open for breakfast (drat) until 11 AM so we opted for breakfast at the Marriott which is expensive and is filled with families with children, but the food was good. It has a great beach which is accessible and not private and is also walkable from the cruise ship. Did I say that the departure time on the second day in Kauai was altered from 6 AM to 2 PM? The fabulous end to our itinerary was our cruise up the Na Pali Coastline on the afternoon of our departure. A striking landscape you can see only by ship or by air. All pina coladas with dark rum floaters aside, you wouldn't catch me in a heli hovering over those cliffs. I'd need a change in knickers. Whew. By the way, bring your binoculars on this cruise or you'll kick yourself later for not doing it. Loads of waterfalls along the coast and a few nudies who've arrived via boat along the shoreline. Gosh folks, about two thousand peeps have just seen you in the buff. Nothing to be proud of that I could note here.
Stateroom - Gosh, I should have put this first! We were in an AC Penthouse, #9500 on the bow of the ship below the bridge. When I first saw the stateroom, I was stunned. I fervently believed that Elvis' decorator would have to be dead by now, but obviously I was in error. Lavish use of velvet in hues of ruby, royal purple and emerald accented by plastic walnut panelling and a wildly floriferous wall to wall carpet in bright green and red. Egads! Furniture, very retro fifties, black plastic and silver metallic and more of the plastic walnut panelling. Those of us who were actually around in the fifties will be either ecstatic or want to puke. I was in the latter group. Plastic plants. Heavy drapes hanging from ceiling tracks which could be drawn around the bed, just in case you had company??? When they weren't in use, which was basically every single second, they were always in the way. Everything very over the top, but oh so, not so elegantly so. What really perturbed me was that we had paid a lot for these digs. The second morning I heard my next door neighbor outside on her deck, phoning some friend back home, bragging about how they had been 'upgraded' to this fabulous suite for nothing. I buried my head beneath the covers and slept that information off. I didn't need to know it.
Okay the good stuff about the stateroom. Big, as in huge. Mucho balcony: about 14 x 17 if my feets are accurate. Two chaise lounges and a small drinks table. Note: could have been more well furnished as it looked a little bare being so large with so little furniture. Not much privacy mind you, either from above or from either side, but when the ship was underway, there were positively great views if you stood outside although there was nowhere to sit high enough to see over the railing. In port, not. See 'Maui'. Gosh everyone, I know we should have had a party. I would have felt much, much better about those great American dollars spent to acquire our luxury accommodations that weren't.
Oh, the room: big. Lots of closet space but big bulky wood hangers, not anything really suitable for hanging women's skirts, and I had brought several. By the way, do not overpack. I did. Apparel onboard is very informal. Bring shorts and tops and skirts for evenings and the usual bathing suit. Guys: shorts, pants and aloha shirts, one or two t shirts and a bathing suit. Do not bring a jacket. Two safes in these suites, but don't bring a lot of jewelry. Nobody cares. Plenty of drawers and cabinets but all very small and shallow and none of the drawers seemed to fit properly. Lovely bar area with glass cabinets above it housing stemware in a variety of sizes, not all of it clean and most of it rattling incessantly when the engines were emitting massive vibrations.
Espresso maker stationed on the bar was not the easiest thing to operate because they are just finicky by nature and no written instructions left in the room, but figured it out by the end of the week and used it mucho. Agree that a regular coffee maker should also be in these rooms. Nice vanity area with a magnifying mirror and a decent hairdryer but the vanity stool is right behind the bathroom door, which opens out and catches you right in the small of the back. Oh OUCH. Bathtub and shower are one and the same although NCL makes it look like you get one of each and somewhat difficult to get in and out of but impressive Grohe Euro fixtures, i.e. power shower. No whirlpool jets in the tub. Toilet has a sliding glass shower door (?!) between it and the sink and bath area.
My big wake up call came immediately on that first moment of walking into this suite. Big price tag, very little glass (i.e. view). Unless you are out on the balcony or in bed before dark there really isn't
a view. The wall that stretches across the bow end of the ship is about 14 feet wide, but surprisingly three quarters of that wall is solid. There is one stationary window (about 3.5' w x 5' h) off to one side of the wall. In the center is a solid door (not sliding glass) and behind that, a huge, heavy metal sea door. We were instructed by the Concierge that the sea door MUST be closed anytime we were at sea and that we must draw the heavy drapes in the cabin across the window anytime after dark as lights from our room would interfere with navigation on the bridge. I was so disappointed in this suite and said so. I had bought the upsell (and the farm and chickens) and I would be punished for it with face brute (ugly expressions) for the next several days by my CH (current husband, for the unaware). The Concierge was decidedly disinclined to do one thing about my dissatisfaction except offer excuses and tell us about his rich and varied background as an Army Ranger as he backed himself quickly out of the door. We saw little of "The Rennaissance Man" for the rest of the week which suited us just fine after our encounters of the first day.
Noise in our forward cabin was pretty bad. Worse on some days than others, and especially early in the morning. Also a great deal of motion. I have been raised around and on the sea most of my life and have never been seasick. I was as close to it on this cruise as ever. I couldnt believe it. Go midships as we should have. I would have to recommend port side based on observations. Lots of vibration forward too. When I say that the stemware rattled on the shelves I am serious, but that is nothing compared to the bone jarring banging of the sea doors both in the early hours of the morning and sometimes late at night because other occupants of these eight cabins across the bow did not bother to latch their sea doors properly or secure them when they were opened. They weigh about two hundred pounds and when not latched or secured outside they slam incessantly and could wake the dead, or me.
By day three I had had enough pathetic restaurant fare, cave dwellling and the inability to get things fixed to be secretly planning an escape by inter-island air. I'd heard there was an airfare war and airfares were as low as $39. I was certain I could alter my frequent flyer ticket on Delta back to Asheville and escape the islands to the comforts of my own kitchen and home with a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was disappointed and desperately needing a decent meal and feeling stupid for falling for the upsell deal, but I am an inveterate adventurer and love to travel and discover and by George, couldn't bypass the promise of future islands undiscovered for a sultry date with a salmon in bearnaise but I can tell you I was mad about the $$$ and the overheard information that someone else had received the same cabin as an upgrade. If it happens, don't let me find out about it. Cellphones are the undoing of the formerly sane.
Of note, being the nosy one, I did check out the regular balcony cabins on my way up and down the hall and also got a good look at the various balconies from the tender the day we were at Kona. Balcony cabins are quite a bit smaller than any we have seen on any cruise line and the balcony is barely big enough for two people in the regular balcony staterooms. Also avoid balcony cabins close to the front of the ship. There is a metal super structure around the balconies there that makes them seem even smaller. I did not see the mini-suites from the hallway as they are on 11 and we were on 9 but from the outside of the ship, I could see that the balconies on this ship are all considerably smaller than those I've seen elsewhere. The ship at 93,000 tons holds quite a few more passengers than ships of comparable size. They have to cut back somewhere.
Housekeeping - Sadly our stateroom attendant was so abyssmal that by mid-week, although I felt badly about it because she kept calling me 'sweetie', I had to go down to reception and vent about it. On day one, our mini-refrigerator had not been stocked on our arrival but did contain a previous guest's chocolate covered strawberries. There was a nice bowl of fruit in the room that was never restocked or refreshed the entire week and I eventually threw out three severely moldy strawberries myself. Second day, no bath towels at all and the espresso maker had quit working because either she didn't know or had forgotten to empty the used coffee grounds from it. The bottom of it had also filled up with water from the steam vent. Third day, ran out of toilet paper in the middle of the night, no spare. Fourth day, coffee stains appeared on the carpet in front of the espresso maker that we didn't put there. Butler later said housekeeping loves to do the rooms with espresso makers in them so they can have coffee. Carpet didn't get cleaned while we were there. Fifth day, discovered housekeeping had never emptied the refuse container provided for coffee grounds that is inside the bar cabinet. Final afternoon of the cruise, returned to the cabin to discover we'd been locked out of our mini-fridge. Had to call to have housekeeping send someone up as we had two full bottles of our wine and a liter of bottled water locked inside. To their credit, Reception was gracious and apologetic when they heard all of the above and removed $70 from the housekeeping portion of the tip from our bill on the last day. FYI, in order to do this, you must be willing to have complaints written up and be willing to sign the form. And note, $10 per person per day tip is added to your bill automatically and classified as a 'service charge' - half goes to housekeeping and half to restaurant waitstaff, nothing goes to the butler, if you have one so that would be additional. You would also have to tip the Concierge if you thought that appropriate, which we did not.
Shows - same as any other cruiseline. Okay, but it ain't NYC or Vegas. One male singer very off key the night we went. Comedian - insult comedy poking fun at cruise ship passengers and particularly older ones, i.e. us paying folk. Stupid. No, I'm not 70, but it annoyed me.
Kudos - The bartenders and poolside servers were the best I have seen anywhere. They were fun and funny and always willing to please. Note, it is apparently illegal to automatically
include a 15% tip in a bar bill in Hawaii so you have to add the tip to your bill yourself. We are used to the 15% being added to every beverage on a cruise. You should make a note of this.
Best bars during the day - we had a great first day at Bali Hai where we met most of the great CC people and had a fun get together that went on and on and on. Loved the bar at the poolside, Top Siders, especially bartender Chris, but the sun there in the afternoon can render one well done. Definitely try The Fantail Bar. This was our fav because there is shade and a constant breeze and usually a view plus they make blender drinks from scratch, not poured out of a machine. There is a great bar outside of Cagneys that looked wonderful for nightime but we were bummed out when we were invited to leave when we inadvertently walked in on the first day. Bartender said it was 'a private party for VIP's' before he even asked us if we were same such. We left without asking for clarification because it was a crummy way to get greeted on that first afternoon. Hey folks, get a "Private Party" sign and post it on the door. Not nice and we never went back.
Restaurants - Aloha Nui buffet never had a papaya or a mango on the fruit table and ran out of bananas before the end of the cruise, or so they said. Jeez, weren't we in Hawaii? It seemed a lot of the same stuff was on the buffet everyday. No theme buffets, but the fresh roasted meats were good.
In Teppanyaki our steak and shrimp were well prepared and you could see in advance the food was fresh and of good quality. Dennis, waiter, manager or whatever he was, was fantastic. Proved that American men can think on their feet. This guy was a gem.
On our night at Cagneys we had the prime rib and lamb chops - sorry nothing great to report about either, too much blue cheese melted on the lamb obscured the taste of the meat and not the best prime rib either. The service was terribly off although it was later in the week, incredibly slow (one full hour between appetizer and main course) and the two men working together simply weren't communicating well. Both inadvertently poured tap water into our glasses of San Pelligrino sparkling water and failed to offer a fresh bottle as compensation. Each thought the other was doing something and nobody was doing it at all. Red wine arrived halfway through the main course when DH had to ask the maitre d to please find out what had happened to his wine and the poor guy actually bussed our table because no one else had.
We had breakfast at Cagneys twice, one and a half hours for breakfast the first morning and an hour the next. We started using the buffet to avoid missing our rental car pick up times. Excuses flew around like crazy. We were tired of hearing them.
Paniolo's - nearly died when they served stale bagged chips and salsa right out of a jar the first evening. Our waiter admitted it to me. Decent pork taquitos and steak and shrimp fajitas and was impressed to see the chips were freshly deep fried later in the week and the salsa was freshly made as well. We returned only because the service had been so good. Loved the two waiters in this restaurant. They were the best we had all week, anywhere. Tall guy from Michigan, sorry I forgot your name, but you and your partner were the best. You should both be working Cagneys! Great service can often make up for borderline food, no pun intended.
Jasmine Garden was okay but the Kung Pao chicken had to be the hottest I have ever experienced. Whoooeee. Couldn't get into Papa's - booked up all week. Main dining room - okay food but no fanfare, no excellence, no panache, nothing but boring. Suggest eating off campus on Maui and Kauai overnights and whenever else you can to avoid stagnation of the stomachi.
Head's Up - Your stateroom charges will appear on your doorway after you go to sleep on the last night. I tried to find the accounting of ours on the flat screen earlier in the evening and didn't see that it was possible. If I missed it, correct me. If you've got a problem with a charge, better get downstairs to Guest Services before 8 AM on departure day which is when the folks who are supposed to discuss this with you leave for the day. Coincidence?
Summary(finally!)- Go cheap. Do not go for the upsell. Pick the stateroom that you feel you can deal with and easily afford because you will only be sleeping and dressing in it. If you are a first time cruiser, you'll be fine. If not, things might bother you. But remember, the islands are what its all about. You won't spend that much time in the room as there are no sea days and the islands beckon. Don't waste your money on the ship, butlers or concierges. You don't need them. Eat sensibly and consider the buffet or the free restaurants. Free restaurants are Papa's Italian Kitchen and Paniolo's and the main dining rooms. Make reservations for these early as they fill up and then you are forced to pay cover charges elsewhere for the crass and cruddy. Cover charges are $20 per person for Teppanyaki, $15 pp for Cagneys with additions for special fare such as lobster, $10 pp for Jasmine Grill and the Sushi Bar, $10 pp for The Bistro. I think Blue Lagoon is also free but people said food there was atrocious. These cover charges became really annoying when meal after meal proved to be disappointing, ordinary or worse. Freestyle ain't free. I'm happy some people like it. We didn't.
Well, this did turn into a review so I'm done here. Hope everyone else who made this sailing will log in and report their experiences and I realize not everyone will agree with me. Garry (Kahuna) had a great time and that's what its all about. Looking back on it, I'm not sorry we went...just sorry we went with NCL. It was a tremendous waste of money. We expected luxury and didn't even recieve the ordinary. We won't be cruising with NCL again, anywhere, but we might just return to Hawaii and the islands.