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cyndepet

Pride of America Picture Review May 23, 2015

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We are back from our wonderful POA cruise, and reality has finally sunk in. I actually had to make dinner tonight, and we go back to work tomorrow. But all is good...we have a Breakaway cruise booked for next March.

 

My husband and I both turned 50 this year, and he really wanted to go to Hawaii. Since we both like cruising, we thought that Pride of America would be a great way to sample Hawaii for our first time. We booked the trip as a package when we returned from our Breakaway cruise to Bermuda last May but cancelled and re-booked everything separately 4 months ago to take advantage of better rates. Initially we booked a balcony guarantee, but a few days before sailing we got a great up-sell to a penthouse suite, 13510. We were able to keep our Ultimate Dining Plan (UDP) and OBC. I was contacted a few times by email before sailing asking if we would switch our UDP for other amenities such as picture packages and excursion credits, but we kept what we had. I had made all of our dinner reservations!

 

We flew out of Philly through Phoenix to get to Honolulu. Our scheduled arrival time was 5:30, but we had a 6 hour delay in Phoenix which threw our dinner plans out the window! I had booked a transfer to our hotel in Waikiki with Johnny Cabs. He was great about the whole thing and still had a driver at the airport for us when we were ready just before midnight. Great service!

 

I had booked our hotel using a bidding site's name your own price feature. Based on our research, I knew which hotel I would get by choosing a 3.5 star, so I was happy with the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel. It's at the Diamond Head end of Waikiki Beach.

 

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We pretty much went right to sleep, but we woke up bright and early. This hotel has "breakfast on the beach" included with the price. You have a cooler in your room that you take down to the pool area where they have a continental breakfast set up. Standard stuff - yogurt, cereal, fruit, pastries, beverages etc. You could order eggs and waffles for an additional charge. We got our food and coffee and sat by the pool to eat. They have entertainment during breakfast.

 

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After that we walked up and down Waikiki Beach and browsed the many shops along the way. We also checked out Outrigger and some of the other hotels at the other end of Waikiki. We thought about heading back to Duke's later for lunch, but we were too relaxed by then (or rather, lazy). So we just hung out on the beach.

 

This is actually before our walk, but it's the area in front of the hotel.

 

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Folks were playing volleyball here.

 

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Another shot of Waikiki Beach.

 

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And one of the statues around Waikiki.

 

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We took a beach break to have lunch at Tiki's, which is located in the hotel and overlooks the beach. Good food and beer!

 

And that was how we pretty much spent the first day. Next up, our luau at Germaine's.

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Great start to your review! It's bringing back happy memories of our stay in Waikiki (we stayed at the Aston, too) and of our cruise. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this, can't wait to read more!:)

Edited by greatlakesgirl

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That evening, we had Germaine's luau booked. They picked us up at our hotel at 4:45. The bus ride over was fun, as our host kept us entertained during the ride. When we got off the freeway, we drove through an industrial area to get to the luau site. It seemed like an odd location, but it was all good once we got there.

 

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Since we had booked online, we got a discount plus a "free gift" at the gift shop. The gift was actually nice - a hot/cold shopping tote with a pen and a postcard pack. I actually used the totes today when I went grocery shopping. The beginning of the show.

 

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Then we went over and saw the pig ceremony which was interesting. I don't know how those guys don't completely burn their hands removing the hot rocks!

 

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The food was set up buffet style and they came to your table when it was time to go up. I thought it was pretty well organized. Oh, we sat at a table in front of the bar, so that was convenient. Admission included tickets for 3 drinks each, but you could buy more if you wanted to. Soft drinks were unlimited.

 

This is what I ate:

 

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The stuff in the little cup on the left is poi. I guess everyone has to try it at least once lol! I thought the food was all pretty good. I did not like the chicken long rice, which is the noodle-looking stuff on the lower left. It was a texture thing. But everything else was quite tasty.

 

We had a good view of the stage, but I didn't get any pics during the show. I will say that we were ready for it to be over, since the benches got a little uncomfortable after a couple hours.

 

We haven't been to any other luaus, so I don't know how this compares to others. But we thought it was a good time and a good choice!

 

After that, we went back to the hotel and called it a night.

 

Next up, Day 2 - embarkation.

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Great start to your review! It's bringing back happy memories of our stay in Waikiki (we stayed at the Aston, too) and of our cruise. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this, can't wait to read more!:)

 

Thanks so much. I have to tell you that I read your review at least 2 times and got so many great ideas from you. Great influence :-)

 

And thanks to Miicah to for her review, as well as some more recent reviews from Zimomiller, lithlith, bosnatis and BnAv10. I love reading others' reviews and getting ideas and tips!

Edited by cyndepet
typos

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We were up bright and early again, and we grabbed a bite to eat when they opened at 6:30. The plan was to take the Bus to Diamond Head for a hike, then come back to the hotel for showers and checkout. We decided instead to walk to Diamond Head. This was probably a mistake on our part. Well, my part at least. I had on new sneakers (mistake 1) designed to be worn without socks (mistake 2). By the time we got to the entrance at Diamond Head, I was sporting 2 really large blisters on the backs of my heels. The woman at the ticket booth ($1 per person) was very nice and gave me a few bandaids. They helped a little, but at that point they were pretty bad. DH kept trying to give me his socks (he was the smart one today lol). I finally relented after I saw blood all over the back of my shoes. He says I'm stubborn. Ha!

 

Anyway, it took us about 25 minutes to hike from the entrance where you pay to the very top. The first section is paved, then it becomes a bit rocky and uneven after a few minutes. I didn't particularly like the section where you go through the tunnel after walking up a number of stairs. I was a little winded, hot and panicky in that little space. But it didn't last long. Anyway, the views from the top were spectacular.

 

The beginning of the trail:

 

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The view from the bottom:

 

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Views from the top:

 

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When we got down to the bottom, we walk across to where the farmer's market is held at the community college. My feet were a little too fried at that point to walk any more, so we hopped on the bus there. You can ride the bus all over Oahu - it's only $2.50. Great deal!

 

So we got back to the hotel, showered and changed and checked out. We grabbed a cab and were at the ship shortly after 11. Cab ride cost $22. Easy.

 

We were directed to one area to drop off our bags then went right into the check-in area. They have a separate check-in area for various programs such as latitudes and some others I can't remember. We went to the suite area where we were the first ones there. They had snacks and beverages set up. We were on the ship by around 11:45, escorted by the concierge, James. He took us to the Napa Wine Bar and gave his briefing. We were having lunch in Cagney's by noon. Lunch was ok, I got the swordfish burger and DH had a regular burger. That is when we discovered that neither of us like truffle fries. Go figure. Everyone else raves about them. Just not us :) That was alright, we were saving room for dinner that night. Again at Cagney's. This time we knew not to order the fries. Although the server told us we could have plain fries if we wanted.

 

Well, that's all for now. I'll continue this tomorrow. If anybody has questions about the cruise, let me know! The only thing I don't have is copies of the Freestyle Dailies. We never looked at them, as we used the iConcierge app on our phones.

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Enjoying your review so far!! :cool:

 

Which website did you get the Germaine's discount and free gift? We are returning to Hawaii in September. It will be mun's first time, and I am thinking of taking her to the Germaine's luau. Thanks! :D

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Well, that's all for now. I'll continue this tomorrow. If anybody has questions about the cruise, let me know! The only thing I don't have is copies of the Freestyle Dailies. We never looked at them, as we used the iConcierge app on our phones.

 

Following along as well. We'll be going in May of 2016 and these reviews are such a great help in planning. I am glad to hear the iConcierge app is now available on POA.

 

How long did the Diamond Head hike take round-trip?

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We flew out of Philly through Phoenix to get to Honolulu. Our scheduled arrival time was 5:30, but we had a 6 hour delay in Phoenix which threw our dinner plans out the window!

 

We too had a delay out of Phoenix... but ours was only 3 hours. However, once we took off, the problem reoccurred and we were forced to land at LAX. Unfortunately, we had a full load of fuel and were too heavy to land, so we had to circle for 2 1/2 hours to burn some off.

 

After another two+ hours on the ground, the problem was fixed & we were on our way. Then... as we were climbing to cruising altitude, the problem was back and we needed to return to LAX... but not before burning off fuel once again.

 

2 1/2 hours later, we're back on the ground and our flight has been cancelled. We ended up getting out the following day, after spending the night at the LAX La Quinta.

 

At least we got vouchers for a return trip to Honolulu... we're going to try it again in August :eek: No cruise this time, just a week on Oahu.

 

Great review so far... we also enjoyed Germaine's Luau the night before embarkation. Love the Kahlua Pork!!!

Edited by azappraiser

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Enjoying your review so far!! :cool:

 

Which website did you get the Germaine's discount and free gift? We are returning to Hawaii in September. It will be mun's first time, and I am thinking of taking her to the Germaine's luau. Thanks! :D

 

Thanks! I'm pretty sure we booked this directly on Germaine's website!

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We too had a delay out of Phoenix... but ours was only 3 hours. However, once we took off, the problem reoccurred and we were forced to land at LAX. Unfortunately, we had a full load of fuel and were too heavy to land, so we had to circle for 2 1/2 hours to burn some off.

 

After another two+ hours on the ground, the problem was fixed & we were on our way. Then... as we were climbing to cruising altitude, the problem was back and we needed to return to LAX... but not before burning off fuel once again.

 

2 1/2 hours later, we're back on the ground and our flight has been cancelled. We ended up getting out the following day, after spending the night at the LAX La Quinta.

 

At least we got vouchers for a return trip to Honolulu... we're going to try it again in August :eek: No cruise this time, just a week on Oahu.

 

Great review so far... we also enjoyed Germaine's Luau the night before embarkation. Love the Kahlua Pork!!!

 

Oh my goodness, what a nightmare of a flight! But at least you got some vouchers for that trouble. And I loved the pork too - I think it was my favorite thing that night!

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Following along as well. We'll be going in May of 2016 and these reviews are such a great help in planning. I am glad to hear the iConcierge app is now available on POA.

 

How long did the Diamond Head hike take round-trip?

 

It took under an hour total, and that included our time enjoying the views at the top. But if you are walking in, factor some additional time from the tunnel into the park entrance. About 10 minutes or so.

 

I'm always so thankful when people post reviews after their cruise. It really does help with planning!

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Loving your review. Can't wait to read more.

 

Thanks! More coming tonight :-)

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Can't wait to read the rest. We have Germaine's booked on 6/12 and get on the POA on 6/13. Can't wait!

 

I hope to have this wrapped up within a couple of days, well before you leave :-) I'm excited for you!

 

Thanks for sharing your trip! Excited to read more. We sail January 2, 2016!

 

Oh, I think that's whale season? That's something I wish I had seen :-)

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After lunch, we spent some time walking around the ship. Then we stopped at one of the outside bars for a drink while we waited for our deck's cabins to be ready. I think every time we ordered a beer anywhere on the ship, they tried to sell us a bucket. They were also pushing the wine packages, but not as much as the buckets of beer! Here we are with our first drinks while still wearing our leis. You get a lei before boarding the ship - nice touch :-)

 

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They make announcements by deck when cabins are ready - I think ours on deck 13 was in the last group, around 2:30 or so. We made our way up to deck 13 (only the forward elevators get you to the cabins). Thanks to a review I read, I knew there was a side door from the outside deck to the cabin area.

 

Here are some pics of our suite. On the deck plans, it looked like it would have a much smaller balcony, but in reality the length of the balcony was longer than the actual length of the cabin. Very nice!

 

The main cabin. I swear, this was the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in on a cruise ship. It rivals my bed at home. I might even like it a little better!

 

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The bathroom had a jetted tub/shower combo, with one sink. The cabin steward, who we didn't meet until the second night, refilled the Elemis products after we asked. The shower had soap and shampoo dispensers as well. And the shower had super water pressure.

 

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And finally, the balcony. Notice that the loungers did not have pads on them. We asked our cabin steward about this, and he said they've been requesting new ones but they never get delivered. He ended up using twin mattress bed toppers encased in sheets as faux pads. Much nicer.

 

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The only thing I didn't like about the suite was the hair dryer. My gosh, the thing weighed about 5 pounds and you had to keep a button pressed in to make it work. Yikes. If I had known that, I probably would have brought my own. Although I don't know where I'd have packed it, since we only brought carry-ons with us for the trip!

 

Notice that there were 2 closets, but only one had a section that was full length. In any event, we only used a fraction of the storage space that was available. There were drawers and storage spaces everywhere!

 

There weren't all that many people at the 6:00 sail away party on the pool deck (Sail away is actually at 7). Maybe more people showed up after we left? We had reservations at Cagney's the first night at 6:30. We liked dinner much better than lunch. Our steaks were cooked perfectly medium rare and very flavorful. DH had ribeye and I had a NY strip. I don't remember what he had for sides, but I had the mac and cheese. And I had the baked potato soup as a starter. Everything was delish. For dessert I had the macadamia nut ice cream sandwich. Happiness! DH had the brownie dessert and wasn't a fan. They don't serve it warm like they do at lunch.

 

I don't think we really did anything else the first night that I remember. So that wraps up our first day on board. Next up, Maui.

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We hadn't planned on getting up at any particular time, since we had rented a car for our 2 days in Maui. But we were up bright and early again around 6, so we got ready and headed to Cagney's for breakfast. I think this is one of my favorite suite perks. They have the same breakfast menu as in the Haven restaurant on the Breakaway. I just love the french press coffee!

 

And speaking of coffee, when we met our butler (Jose) that we liked the regular coffee pods (not tea or decaf), we had a large bowl of coffee pods waiting for us when we got back to the cabin, along with containers of milk in the fridge. He also kept us stocked with milk and splenda for the week!

 

Anyway, back to breakfast. There is no way I will remember what we ate for breakfast every day, so I'll assume I had my standard 2 eggs over medium with bacon and toast, and DH probably had plain pancakes. Breakfast service in Cagney's was always quick throughout the week, and everyone who we encountered from the hosts to the servers was very friendly. I actually think the best servers all week were in Cagney's.

 

We were off the ship early and caught a shuttle to pick up our rental car. We used Thrifty in Maui and again in Hilo. Quick ride to the airport, and within 5 minutes we were in our car and on the road. Sign up for Thrifty's Blue Chip program for easier car rentals!

 

We didn't have any set plans, so we decided to head to Iao Valley first, then head out towards Lahaina and West Maui. But first we had to make a trip to Walmart, since I was in desperate need of footwear that didn't touch my heels! I picked up a very inexpensive pair of white slip on sneakers that I figured I'd just leave on the ship after the cruise. Let me tell you, that was the best $12 I spent all week lol. I don't think I've ever purchased any type of shoes in Walmart, but these things were a lifesaver! We also noticed they had a great selection of inexpensive souvenirs.

 

Iao Valley was a short ride from the airport. It wasn't nearly as "big" as I expected. There were a few short trails for walking, and of course the views of the "needle". But it was pretty and rain forest-y - worth the trip.

 

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From here, we plugged Lahaina into the Google maps app on our phone so we knew generally where to go. We found Google maps worked best for us everywhere, even when walking. We skipped Lahaina and went to Whaler's Village where we parked in their garage. I think it was $3 for half hour, but the shops will validate parking. We browsed the shops then walked back to Kaanapali beach. There are resort hotels everywhere along the beach. We parked ourselves in front of Duke's where we planned on eating lunch later.

 

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The waves were really breaking, so we didn't even attempt getting in the ocean. After some baking on the sand (I used SPF 50 for most of the cruise), we headed to Duke's where we had some beers and lunch. I got the fish tacos - yum. They validated our parking, and I think we spent about 3 hours total so that was decent.

 

We hit the road and headed towards Kapalua where we stopped at the Plantation golf course. Oh how I envied those who were golfing :-) We made some stops along the way to enjoy the views.

 

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Our last stop in this direction was at the Nakalele blow hole. We didn't walk all the way down (since that would involve walking back up lol) but we did enjoy the view!

 

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Finally, we decided to make our way back. We decided to stop in old town Lahaina on our return. I thought this was a really cute town - lots of shops and restaurants. And of course, this is where the famous Banyan tree is located. They had local artists set up under the tree, which they apparently do 2 or 3 times a month.

 

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We headed back to the ship - I think we were back around 5ish.

 

This night we had dinner at La Cucina. This is probably where we most noticed a difference in service between this ship and others we've been on. The food was very good and servers very friendly, but we felt like we were eating in the local diner. But everything came out as we ordered, so we were happy. I had calamari and DH had carpaccio for starters, and I had the shrimp and he got veal. I'm pretty sure I had tiramisu for dessert.

 

This evening the POA has the Polynesian show. Don't miss it if you're on the ship. They have shows at 7 and at 9. I thought it was just as good as the show at the luau, except they obviously don't have the fire stuff!

 

We decided to call it a night after the show. We planned on sleeping in a bit on Monday morning. After all, we didn't have our 2 yellow labs there to wake us bright and early for their breakfast.

 

Next up, day 2 in Maui (Monday).

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That was the treat our butler left for us on Sunday. It was my favorite of the week :-)

 

We were up early, again, on Monday morning. I was really hoping for a day we could sleep in, but I think the time change had us a little messed up. If memory serves, this is the morning we had ordered room service for breakfast. DH only wanted cereal and pastries, and I wanted scrambled eggs. So I checked off 2 eggs. I didn't realize this meant 2 orders of eggs lol. Oh well, the scrambled eggs weren't very good anyway. But the fruit and pastries were just fine. It was nice eating out on the balcony. This is the only time we did room service during the trip.

 

As we were researching things to do in Maui, the Road to Hana was always the first thing mentioned. However, DH gets motion sickness on twisty roads (and amusement park rides), so we decided this wouldn't be a good option. Instead we decided to take a ride up to Haleakala in the morning. Ha! I don't recall reading about anybody getting motion sickness on this ride. Going up, DH was starting to feel a little wonky. But he made it. We got to the top and decided to hike the Sliding Sands Trail. You really are above the clouds!

 

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This is what the top part of the trail looks like, going down into the crater. Really cool!

 

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Walking down was fairly easy. Walking back up...well, it was a little bit harder. I think the elevation made it a little tougher. But we took our time and enjoyed the views.

 

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After this, we decided to head back. We drove through the clouds going down and hit some rain, but it wasn't too bad. When we got near the bottom, DH was really feeling badly. We made a quick pull off for a couple minutes, then we were back on the road and he was feeling better. We decided to return the rental car and head back to the ship.

 

I believe this afternoon DH had a sports massage in the spa. He said it was awesome, and it really helped with his neck and upper back. No hard selling of products either.

 

While he was off doing this, I went to the kukui nut lei making class. I wasn't sure what to expect, but the Hawaiian ambassador spent the first part talking about history and the importance of the kukui nut. It was very interesting. Then the other woman came out and took us through putting our leis together. The nuts and other materials were all provided at no charge. Of course you could purchase additional kits on your way out of the theater. If you happen to be on the ship when they offer these classes - don't miss them! They had several of them throughout the week.

 

I think tonight was Tepanyaki. I didn't take notes through the week, so I might have some of the activities mixed up between days. But from what I can tell by looking at the dailies posted by others, they change up their entertainment from cruise to cruise. So many of the shows we had will likely not be the same as on other sailings.

 

Anyway, back to Tepanyaki. It was ok. The "show" seemed forced, and our table wasn't really into participating. Bonus - the couple we were seated on the corner with were super nice. We talked with them throughout the night, and we ended up running into them frequently for the rest of the cruise. For as much seasoning as they use when cooking, the food just tasted rather bland. This was our second time doing Tepanyaki (last was on Breakaway), and we felt the same then. But it was ok - we were quite full when we left!

 

I think this was the night we saw "the Beatles tribute" put on by a duo called Toby Beau. Maybe it just wasn't what we were expecting, but this duo is a guy and his wife who had a hit back in the 70s. It was just kind of weird to us, since my DH is a huge Beatles fan. They had life sized cardboard cutouts of the Beatles on the stage behind them. Kind of cheesy. We stayed until the end of the show, but we were both laughing. And it wasn't supposed to be funny.

 

That's all for Maui. Next up...Hilo.

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