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NCL’s Pride of America (POA) Hawaiian Cruise Review – June 10-17, 2017

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NCL’s Pride of America (POA) Hawaiian Cruise Review – June 10-17,2017

Pre-cruise:


  • Booked almost a year in advance to get a “good price” and ensure we got the cabins and sail date we wanted. I had been to Hawaii a few times, but my wife and 3 of our 4 boys: 18, 22, 29) who went with us, had not, so this was a bucket list trip for us. We wanted to unpack once and see a number of the major islands so the cruise fit the bill. We went is fully knowing that POA was a floating hotel and the islands were the focus, not the boat.
  • That said, we had an amazing trip and loved the boat and crew and the Hawaiian Island are simply beautiful. Keep in mind, this is NOT your normal cruise - no sea days, NCL has a monopoly, so you are paying a premium price for an older boat in order to see these islands. To think otherwise and complain about it, makes no sense. Go in with appropriate exceptions and you will have an amazing time.
  • We flew from Chicago to Oahu (Chicago->Phoenix->Honolulu the Thursday prior to the Saturday sailing to give us time to get adjusted to the Hawaii time *5 hours behind Chicago where we live) and also see some of the sites on the island
  • On the Friday prior to the cruise we went to Pearl Harbor (amazing and sobering — we booked directly on the US Park Service website 2 months prior to our tour date (the earliest you can book tickets and they ran ONLY $7 - best value on the island). They only do a limited number of tickets per day, so book early. We had the 8 am tour and there was a line of a few hundred people ahead of us to get in and we arrived at 6:40 am, but it moved fast. You do need to check all baggage prior to entrance (this is an active military base) and the lockers cost $4. We then went across to Ford Island (about 15 min via a free bus) and saw the USS Missouri (very cool. Took a private, guided tour that I booked via the Memorial Association website ($260) that took us to the “heart of the Missouri” saw the engine room and deep into the ship that other tours can’t go to. Highly recommend. Of note, they are doing work on the bridge structure e.g., painting, so it’s covered up.).
  • On Saturday morning, we headed out early to “climb” Diamond Head. The park opens up at 6am and costs $1 per person. Get there early (we took a hotel cab which was $20) as it gets hot and crowded. My wife did stairs as practice a few months prior and it really helped. This is a walk-up, but it is uneven and there are some steep stairs and switch-backs. Wear shorts, walking or running shoes and short sleeves. You will sweat, so bring water. The view from the top is amazing. A must do.

Oahu hotel and food:


  • I booked a room at the Embassy Suites (Hilton) Waikiki Beach for two nights about 9 months in advance and went direct to the hotel and got a very good rate for summer $300 a night. It’s 5 minutes from the beach and right by the main drag. The room was fine. As with all Embassy Suites they include breakfast and a manager’s reception each night. Breakfast in Hawaii is very expensive, so this is a huge benefit.
  • We ate the first night at a beer pub (Yard House) right next to the hotel. About a 30-minute wait as Waikiki is very busy, but beer and food were good. Ran $105 for 5.
  • We ate the second night at Duke’s..about a 15 minute walk from the hotel. This is a Hawaii institution and has some of the most amazing views as they are right on Waikiki beach next to the Sheraton. We had a very good meal. Ran about $260 for 5.

Getting around town:


  • I booked almost all of our pick-ups via Kings Airport Shuttle based on strong reviews on Trip Advisor. They came highly recommend and did not disappoint. The operate a cash model (but looks like you can charge, but that’s not preferred method of payment), and tips are not included in their stated cost. I did all my bookings via email and then followed-up with them directly via phone once we got on the islands to confirm times and pick-up locations. They were prompt, drivers and vans clean and courteous and reasonably priced.
  • Key point: Make sure before you get into any of van, that you confirm the name of the company. We made the mistake of not doing this once and it turned out to be a cab vs. our scheduled pick-up which led to some embarrassment and an apology back to Kings.

Embarkation:


  • We had booked two rooms on the boat - a balcony for my wife and I on 9 midship and an inside for our boys - on 9 as well. We had an 11:30 pick-up via Kings at our hotel scheduled to get us to the boat for noon (Hawaii traffic is bad), but turns out this was King Kamehameha Day so they closed off most of the roads along Waikiki...net net, we had to schlep our bags about 4 blocks outside of the parade route to get picked up; see note above about asking about the pick-up company…anyway, we ended up in a taxi, took about 20 minutes to get to Pier 2.
  • The boat does not depart until approx. 7pm (you have to be on for the lifeboat drill by 4:45pm), but we chose to get on the boat as early as possible to explore and get settled in and to enjoy this as a sea day which worked out great.
  • You get dropped off in the parking lot across from the Pier entrance and walk right in and then you’ll have to immediately drop your bags off to the handlers inside (there are no porters). Once you do this, you’ll need to fill out a health form saying your aren’t sick.
  • Once you have completed the form, you will head past security (have your License or Passport ready and sailing docs) and your carry ons and you will be scanned. Went pretty quick.
  • You are now in a big room and you line up to get your sea card. Have your ID and reservation handy. Here is where our “fun” started. Turns out NCL upgraded our sons’ room to an ocean view cabin from an inside (I had bid $250 a week prior, BUT we were never notified that our upgrade had been accepted and only confirmed after we saw the charge on our credit card). Moreover, no one among the check-in staff knew why their room had changed or it was even a better room – very frustrating. Key point to keep in mind – no one from the check-in staff is able to provide any information on rooms – they can only go by the very limited information in the computer. Given this last minute change, our luggage had the old tags for the old room (more on this below). Ultimately, we got one of the NCL officers to confirm the upgrade, and were issued our sea pass with the new room; our balcony never changed and was quick and easy. This could have all been handled so much better if NCL would have just told us in advance that we had a new room category and number or if the check-in staff had this info in their system.
  • Once we had our sea cards in hand, you’ll take a picture with two local Hawaiians and then we moved right to boarding the ship which took maybe 5 minutes as you’ll take another picture at the gangway and then clear security via your sea card. You then make your way onto the boat at deck 5. From arrival to being on board was about 40 minutes; without the hassle of the room change, would have been 15.
  • I knew I had to fix/update our specialty dinner reservations and purchase the wine package, so I immediately got in line to make these changes. This went pretty quick which was great, but the lines got long as more people boarded so recommend doing this right away.
  • The wine package has 3 levels (Enthusiast, Aficionado, Connoisseur). The Connoisseur is the most expensive and gives you access to all the wines in the other levels, but trust me, the better wines are at this level. We purchased 6 bottles for $250 plus an 18% gratuity that cannot be taken off. You can buy 4, 6 or 8 bottle packages. There is bar right by where you get on the ship on Deck 5 called the John Adams Coffee Bar (they also sell hot and cold coffees and lattes, in addition to booze, at very reasonable prices). They will scan your sea card and give you little white slips with the wines you picked out; you can have all bottles the same of mix and match. These are like cash, so don’t lose them. The recommendation I have for you is to take the wine you want for your meal and head to the restaurant you are going to each night about 1/2 hour prior to your reservation time to confirm they have you AND give them your wine slip and ask them to have it ready and waiting on your table when you sit down. This worked out great. The reason you want to do this is not all restaurants on the ship stock every wine, so there can be a delay in getting it if they don’t have it on hand and need to go find it. I was told they no longer off the option of having you keep the wine in your cabin. However, if you don’t finish it at your meal, you can take it with you; this was never a problem for us :) On the last day we opted to use one of the wines on the pool deck and took about 10 minutes for them to deliver it.
  • This boat sails full 52 weeks of the year as they are the only US flagged ship that sails the islands each and every week. Passengers were mostly US as you would expect, with a fair number of Aussies on board. Posts had suggested the age range was +55, but on ours it was mid 40s with a fair number of younger couples and families with kids; suspect this was due to it being summer and kids out of school.

Cabins:


  • As mentioned above, we booked two cabins (port balcony on deck 9 mid for us and with the upgrade, an ocean view for our sons on deck 4; originally, they had an inside cabin for the 3 of them - all of whom are 6 feet or taller, so this worked out well. I had bid $250 for the upgrade and it was accepted). One of the reasons for booking a much more expensive balcony room, port side, besides the feeling of more openness, was to be able to sit outside as the ship sailed by the Napali coast and it did not disappoint.
  • Great stateroom attendants. Kept the room clean, always around if we needed anything. Learned our names by day 2 and used it often. We got towel animals every day which we enjoy.
  • For the most part, the seas were calm and the boat handled it well. I had to take a sea sickness pill twice (at night before going to bed) and worked out great. No one else in our family seemed to be negatively affected by it.
  • One thing to keep in mind, on deck 9 there is an aluminum bar that runs the length of the ship, port side above your balcony ceiling (not sure what it’s for), which can make a rattling noise when the wind or seas are high and not much can be done about it…think garbage cans banging. I had to sleep with ear plugs in two nights as the noise bothered me.
  • Bar soap and hairdryer was in the room along with liquid shampoo, conditioner and body wash in the shower. Shower and bathroom are small, but serviceable - to be expected. Plenty of hot water which was nice.
  • Plenty of storage under the beds and enough nooks and crannies to put your stuff away in/out of the closet and drawers. This is an older boat, so don’t expect a huge amount of space, but for 2 people it was fine. The boys kept their 3 twin beds out, so was a bit tight, but manageable. You don’t spend much time in your room on this cruise other than to get ready, shower and enjoy a balcony, so wasn’t a big deal for us.
  • There were 3 plugs in the cabin for charging devices, but we never could find any USB ports. Keep in mind, NCL does not allow devices to be plugged in when you are not in the room and the room attendant will unplug these. Just need to manage your charging. We brought a strip, but did not use it for our devices, but wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring one along or a multi-charge device.

Pool Area:


  • The two pools are very small and we never got in them.
  • There are a couple of Jacuzzis that were very popular; they didn’t seem to be very hot, but then again you had the Hawaiian sun
  • Never had an issue finding a place to sit in the sun or in the shade
  • Plenty of bar people walking around so you could always get a drink
  • 11 is the most popular spot; 12 less so (but no shade). If you really want quiet, go up to decks 13 or 14 and you can have the deck almost to yourself and plenty of chairs and lounges and a few cabanas as well that are free of charge. You won’t get a lot of service up there, but you can just walk down and get a drink and take it back up. Great views from 13 and 14 as well.
  • There is a gelato shop (very good and reasonably priced), towels shop (you sign them out and then have to return them; there are towels in your room as well that you don’t have to sign out/return); also, two ping pong tables that were very busy and a lot of fun.

Bars:


  • We really enjoyed Pink’s Champagne bar which often had live entertainment at night.
  • My sons liked the John Adams Coffee bar for coffee, but they also serve drinks.
  • We had drinks in the Napa Wine bar a couple of times and it was a nice place to have a quiet drink before or after dinner. Wish we had spent more time here.
  • The Gold Rush Saloon is a sports bar. Had a nice view outside and easy way to get drink quick if the pool deck was busy. Also has self-serve popcorn – which we enjoyed.
  • The Key West Bar on deck 12 was easy to get a drink or a quick bite to eat if you didn’t want to use a server; they are always around on the pool deck.

Food - Complementary:


  • Aloha Cafe (deck 11) Buffet: Pretty good selection for breakfast and lunch (didn’t change much day to day), and the food was OK - basic buffet food. We never went here for dinner, but a lot of people did. They also have a 3-5pm snacks that were good. A few standouts: Portobello and blue cheese hamburgers and the Asian dishes. I thought some of the food was lukewarm; my wife thought the temperature was fine; I like my food very hot.
  • Poolside BBQ (deck 11): This is held on day 1 (burgers) and day 6 (bbq). It was OK.
  • Key West Bar and Grill (deck 12): A smaller version of the Aloha cafe with hamburgers, hotdogs, a few side dishes. Never crowded
  • Liberty (deck 6): This is the second of the two main dining rooms and is the more formal and requires collared shirt and pants after 6pm. Serves the same food as it’s more casual Skyline cousin. We had Dave as our dinner waiter and he came recommended for table 71. He’s very over the top (he sang opera to the entire room via our table), very good at what he does.
  • Skyline (deck 5): This is one of two main dining rooms. We had breakfast one day and lunch on embarkation day. It was OK to good. This is the less formal of the two dining rooms. You can’t wear a tank top, hat hats or bathing suit.
  • East meets West (deck 5): This is the Asian restaurant. We thought the food was just OK and not much of a selection - we felt this was the least enjoyable meal we had for dinner. This used to be a pay-for restaurant, but now is complementary. You do need to make reservations for this location and can’t do it in advance via NCL’s online system. As such, you’ll need to go to the dining reservation desk as you enter on Deck 5 (next to guest services) to get a time. Ask for Britney - she’s very helpful.

Food - Specialty either promotion or $:

· Wereceived 3 “free” specialty restaurants with our booking andthen added Teppanyaki afterwards. All of these can be madein advance. However, they only permitted bookings of 4 or 6 people when Irequested 5. Very odd system. I changed our count once I got on board. We ate all our dinners at 7:30 which worked out great from a tourstandpoint and having some time on the pool deck post the excursions todecompress and still plenty of time to get ready.


  • Jefferson’s Bistro (French, Deck 5). This was our first dinner and it was our best experience in terms of food, service and ambiance. I highly recommend this place for dinner.
  • Cagney’s (Steak, Deck 6). This was our second favorite dinner. SO much food. They had a few items off the menu that were much larger portions. We had so much food we could barely finish it all. Steaks were tender and cooked as we asked. Service was spot on. Highly recommend.
  • Moderno (Brazilian meat fest, Deck 11). Similar to any land-based Brazilian meat show…very good salad bar, good meat selection and service was good with just one exception where we didn’t get a second helping despite multiple requests. Our server was very friendly. Deserts were just OK. Would recommend.
  • Teppanyaki (Japanese, Deck 5). Pretty standard fare and entertainment if you have been to a Teppanyaki show before. Plenty of food and cooked as requested. The fried rice was excellent. The miso soup, not so much.

Entertainment:


  • The house band (the Wave) by the pool was just OK, compared to other house bands we have seen on RCL). The piano player was often given a chance to sing a few numbers, but she shouldn’t have.
  • In Maui they brought on board a local band (Jimmy Mac and the Kool Kats) and they were great. Definitely make your way to the pool deck on Day 3 to listen to them.
  • We really enjoyed Pink’s for drinks and made a point to see the piano player (Kevin Brando) who often played there at night. We also took in a few shows here and on the pool deck of the Hawaiian duo (Lei Aloha) who were very good as well.
  • My sons saw the Magician (Charles Bach) who also did some comedy and enjoyed his show
  • We thought the Oh What A Night performance in the theater featuring songs of Franki Valli and the Four Seasons was amazing. Don’t miss this show - it’s offered 2 times on two nights…7 and 9 pm. Note: The theater WAS NOT cold. I read numerous reviews that said it had been, but not on our trip. We were very comfortable in shorts and short sleeve shirt. At the close of this show, the Cruise Director (she’s going on maternity leave on at the end of June) thanked current and prior military veterans (of which I’m one), first responders and their families - which was very nice. Then the crew across most of the key departments came on stage and sang a song and thanked the audience for sailing with them; they got a standing ovation from the audience.
  • I also took in the Broadway show – Vegas! The Show with the crew singers and dancers and enjoyed this as well. They have a lot of talent.
  • We also popped into the White Hot Dance Party which was held inside on deck 6. We thought it was just OK, but if you like dancing, this could be your thing.
  • I went to the officers’ talk (How to run a floating hotel) and it was very instructional. They had 5 officers across the various departments and took questions from the audience ~50 people showed up. Highly recommend attending.
  • We went to the Star Wars trivia which was fun (we won!). Jami, the Ast. Cruise Director ran this (took maybe a half an hour) and she is great and full of energy. There is at least one trivia game each day.
  • My oldest son participated in the sexy legs contest - again hosted by Jami - and it was a lot of fun on the pool deck.

Ports/Excursions:


  • There are no sea days, so you should expect to get off the boat and do something. Not saying you can’t stay on the boat, but you are paying a premium to see the islands of Hawaii.
  • Book early as these do fill up. We chose to mix our excursions between NCL, private tours and Roberts. I know other people have spoken very highly of the cost savings of going just with Roberts, but I didn’t not find enough tours in their “combo pricing” to make it worth our while and didn’t want to settle on tours just to save a few bucks.
  • The ports where POA docks are, for the most part, cargo ports, so nothing really to see in these areas and nothing very close by.
  • You can take water off the boat in bottles, BUT you cannot bring water back on in any container. We bought metal water bottles and they worked out great. You can have them filled up in any bar or the buffet or your room water. Just need to dump all water out prior to security.
  • There is only one tender port - Kona - and they use the lifeboats to transfer you to and from the ship. Painless. We booked an NCL excursion for this port on purpose to ensure we would get priority boarding and did not have to get tickets. Highly recommend NCL for this port.
  • Maui.

    • On Sunday, we did a beach day. This was a disaster - partly NCL and partly bad luck. We were originally going to do the best of Maui tour, but after reading more recent reviews online, decided this wasn’t worth it and instead we would do a beach day at Wailea via NCL. When we got our tickets delivered to our room, they had two different departure times for our family - 2 of us leaving early and 3 later. Obviously, that wouldn’t work out, so I went down to the shore excursions deck and asked for a manager. We ended up speaking with Chris Ota, the ast. manager and to make a very long story short, there was screw up, no one knew why and not able to be remedied. We had two options - cancel and get our money back or keep the two times. We elected to keep the two times and just have a few hours of overlap (in hindsight, a poor decision..read on) and for our troubles Chris gave us 20% off our costs and sent over a few bottles of wine and chocolate covered pineapples to our staterooms. A nice gesture.
    • The beach day is a public beach (they all are in Hawaii) at Wailea between the Grand Wailea Resort and the Four Seasons Hotel. You get transportation, a beach chair and you can purchase an umbrella for $20 - a must have. Key point: You can go to the Four Seasons to get drink, but it is very very expensive ($34 for two drinks) and you aren’t allowed to have liquor on Hawaiian beaches.
    • Fast forward to an overcast day and an area that gets about 4 inches of rain a year, we had the bad luck to hit the one day where it was flash flood (we got all 4 inches and it washed out the beach; 15 minutes away, the sun was shining - welcome to Hawaii’s microclimates. The huge problem was that no one from NCL nor the driver were seemingly aware of the horrible weather and didn’t come to pick anyone up until their designated times. And since they only had one driver/bus, the latter group was forced to stay in the rain for hours and ended up calling cabs on their own dimes to get back to the boat. The company that ran the beach set-up were clueless and of absolutely no help when asked about how to protect ourselves from the storm when we were soaking wet, as was everything we took with us.
    • On Monday, we split up again and my wife and youngest son took a Roberts bus tour to the top of Haleakala Crater. They were the only two on this tour and had a great local guide and amazing views.
    • My two other sons and I also headed to the top of Haleakala to do the sunrise and bike tour via a private company - Haleakala Bike Company. This requires a wake up at 1:45 am and being at the Whole Foods for a pick up at 2:30 am (short 5-minute walk from the boat which was very safe). You get to the top of the crater after being outfitted first by around 5:20 to see the sun rise about 5:45 am. This was an incredible view / experience and not to be missed. As you might expect, at 10,000 feet and this time in the morning, it was a bit cool - 38 degrees, so you needed to be dressed warm - hat, gloves, warm shirt and coat and closed shoes. Following the sunrise, we took our van down from 10,000 ft to 8,000 ft, where we picked up our bikes and proceeded to ride down the mountain - approx. 22 miles or riding, 99% downhill back to the bike shop). This was our best tour of the trip and the views were simply breathtaking. We stopped part of the way down to peel off layers of clothing as it was 80 degrees at the bottom. The staff was great, the bikes were amazing (disc brakes are a must as you can pick up a lot of speed ~30mph). Keep in mind you are on active roads and cars will pass by you as you ride and there are drop-offs, so you need to be very careful as you ride.

    [*]Hilo (Big Island)


    • Tuesday. We took a private tour of this side of the Island which I booked 9 months in advance with Mary Lou’s Big Island Tours. Ken is one of the owners and was extremely responsive as we mapped out our day. Ken and his wife were on the mainland, so we ended up taking this tour with their son, Kyle, who runs his own tour company - Island Wide Family Tours with his wife; they handle overflow from Mary’s Lou. Kyle was very informative and personable and we highly recommend his services or those of his parents. We saw just about everything one could want to see on Hilo - turtles, black sand beach, beautiful gardens, Rainbow falls, a lava lube (where Kyle saved one of my son’s expensive sunglasses) a coffee farm, a stop at the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory (get the chocolate covered ones - to die for), etc. with Kyle providing a local perspective along the way. The highlights of the trip were: the lava flowing at Hawaii Volcano National Park! and lunch at a locally owned restaurant. The cost was $500 plus tip.

    [*]Kona (Big Island)


    • Wednesday. We booked an NCL 1/2-day snorkel with Big Island Tours. This is a tender port, so we got off right way without having to wait for tickets. NCL made a switch on the boat vendor (which is their option) and we ended up with Body Glove - similar boat (65 ft, slide, dive board), food (breakfast, lunch, drinks), snorkel gear, and amenities, just a different dive location. The weather started out cloudy, but by the time we got to the dive site (about 45 minutes of cruising) the sun came out and stayed out for the entire 2.5 hours we were in the water. We had a lot of fun, saw some amazing fish, dolphins, sea turtle, and scenery. This ran about $130 a person and I would highly recommend. One note: After we got off the tour we tried to go to Kona Brewing Company but they were jammed. They have a small bar and the wait was 45 minutes so weren’t able to stay. The boat does have beer from local brewers - Maui and Kona, so take advantage as they were good.

    [*]Kaua’i


    • Thursday. We booked an NCL tour - Journey to Waimea Canyon. The bus driver was a bit much in terms of his world views, but the views from the lookout were simply amazing and not to be missed - think the Grand Canyon with more color. If the tour was simply up and back, that would be sufficient. Unfortunately, they make 3 other stops: 1) A tourist store that lasted 35 minutes (15 for a bathroom break is more than sufficient) and then on the way back at 2) Kona coffee - which was fine and not too long, but we had already done one of these Hilo side and 3) a short stop along the coast to see a blowhole - which was pretty cool. I would still recommend this tour, just go in eyes wide open on the tourist store stop.
    • Friday. We booked a Roberts tour Wailua River and Luau at Smith’s - $139 per person. The river tour was pretty - lasted about 90 minutes; the sound system at the cave is terrible. Once this part is complete, the bus driver takes you over to the Luau. The luau was entertaining, the grounds beautiful, if a bit long. The food was good (liked the pork).
    • The sail by the NaPali coast is not to be missed. Simply some of the most breathtaking coastline anywhere.

Boat & Crew:


  • Bar none, the officers and the crew of POA were great. We NEVER had an issue with anyone. They always said Aloha, were quick with a smile and a good morning and went out of their way to make our vacation enjoyable. I have NO idea why so many of the review suggest otherwise. This is a US flagged ship and operates under the Jones Act which means 75% of the crew are American or have a green card and could not have been more pleasant and helpful.
  • The boat, having come out of dry dock not that long ago was in nice shape. A few areas that could use some care e.g., carpet and some rust on some of the balconies (keep in mind the climate and this is a never-ending effort to stay ahead of this and the crew did a nice job of doing maintenance every day - esp. on the lifeboats). People have long complained about a sewer smell in cabins and common areas and we only noticed this two times - both on Maui when we were docked in port and only in the common areas on decks 4 and 5.

Misc.


  • They don’t have a formal night per se as you might have on other lines where suits would work, as Aloha shirts are the primary mode of dress, but we did take pictures on deck 5 (by the main staircase) and was quite painless and the photographer was very nice and the pictures we bought turned out good.
  • The gift shop are small, but functional. Unlike RCL, there are only a few shops (clothes, sundries and jewelry).
  • The Library is one of the BEST I have ever seen. Quiet, great chairs, awesome selection of books. If you are looking for a great place to chill, this is it.
  • On deck 11, aft there is an outside area right past Moderno that you can sit outside and watch the boat wake. They have a bar there as well and sometimes entertainment e.g., guitar player. This is a very quiet area to relax and have your buffet from Aloha cafe. You can get up to a quiet area on deck 12 from here.
  • The jogging “track" in on deck 6 and goes all around the ship; 3 laps equals one mile. It wasn’t used a lot - esp. if you ran early. I ran around 6am and usually 1-2 runners and a few walkers. There were times when the crew was doing maintenance on this deck or above it and would close off the parts of the running area and no posted times for this to happen.
  • Bring a set of binoculars for watching the NaPali coastline

Disembarkation:


  • We elected to use self-assist where we left on our own with our bags. This was our first cruise doing this and it was great. We were off the ship around 8:20 and took 5 minutes from ship to parking lot and our driver to head to the airport - about 15 minutes away from the port. Since this is a US flagged ship, there is no customs and could not have been easier.

Post-cruise:


  • Flight from Honolulu to LA was fine. However, due to weather in Chicago (according to American Airlines) they cancelled our flight home and ended up rebooking us on United the next morning. Unfortunately, since this was weather-related, American would not pick up our hotel room, cab, etc. costs. I had trip insurance, but it only covered the cruise - and airline delays or cancellations not related to weather..lesson learned. We ended up filing a claim with our credit card company.

Things we found out we didn’t need:


  • No need for water shoes/aqua socks - need shoes that can get wet and work on rocky terrain
  • Didn’t need hand warmers for the top of Haleakala; just wasn’t that cold.

Areas for improvement:


  • Sea cards/room assignments. When we booked our reservations, we were able to get a discount on our fares due to AARP. However, this necessitated that my wife be assigned to one room with two of our boys and myself and my oldest son to the other room - regardless of where we slept. This meant that bags, shore trips, etc. were mismatched and my oldest son and my wife had to switch cards everytime we got off the boat. This really was a pain and I wouldn’t do this again.
  • Communication. 1) Upgrade room communication needs to be much better. 2) When the running deck on 6 would be closed for maintenance as you never knew if you could run or not; a simple sign or putting a note in the Freestyle Daily would suffice. 3) Keeping in touch with your excursions so if it does rain or something goes South, NCL is aware of it and can take appropriate action - like sending a bus for pick-up.
  • Dress code. It’s not real clear on when you have to wear pants and a collared shirt and when you don’t. They only mention Liberty in the Daily, but on the NCL website, the specialty restaurants call out this dress code.
  • Docking Ports. This may be out of their control due to ship size, contracts and availability, but the ports are for the most part cargo and nothing to look at; nor are their places to go to that are very close by.
  • Drinks. The price of the drinks is around $11 with included tip. Would like to see a bit more booze in each drink, as it didn’t seem like you ever got more than one shot in a drink.
  • House band. This could be vastly improved. Given all the bands in Hawaii, no reason to have a mediocre house band.

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Wow! Great review! I have been wanting to do this cruise for years- Just waiting to pull the trigger. After reading your review I just may have to go ahead and book for 2019. I already have my 2018 planned. Thanks for taking the time!!

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We are considering this cruise, so I really appreciate the thorough review... thanks for taking the time to post! Especially helpful to hear about your excursions.

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Thanks for your comprehensive review. My DD, DGD and myself will be going during the same time next year (off by a day of course). I love how you broke down the days and tours. Of course we are looking at tours which my DD is assigned due to the DGD since she will be the best judge of what she will enjoy the most. Last cruise around Hawaii was years ago on NCL Wind with the DH. It was such a great cruise I hesitated to do this again on a different ship. We are also on Deck 9 so we will prepare for noise though we sleep pretty hard so most likely we might not even hear the noise.

 

Question: How large was the balcony? Could it seat three comfortably. The large balconies are all sold out for our cruise which we booked over one year prior to our sail date. Keeping my eye out though.

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Linda - the balcony was pretty std size. Room for two chairs and a foot rest. You could have a third person standing.

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Thank you for your very comprehensive review. DH and I are booked for the 11/04/2017 cruise, our first trip to Hawaii to celebrate our 50th anniversary. We will have 3 days in Oahu pre-cruise. We plan to do Pearl Harbor...so if we have the 8 AM tour we would need to be at PH by 6:40? We plan to do it on the first day as we will be dealing with a 6 hour time difference and think we will be up early. We are thinking of doing Diamond Head on Saturday morning. Our other day we plan to drive to the Polynesian Cultural Center for the luau and we want to see the surf on the North Shore...thinking we might take your lead and do the ship snorkel at Kona...lots of decisions to make...

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Congrats on your anniversary! 6:40 for Pearl should be fine. Just be sure to have purchased your tickets 2 months in advance. Diamond Head was a lot of fun. Get there early and bring water. Have fun!

 

 

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Thank you for the detailed, informative review! We are doing this cruise in February 2018, and really appreciate your excursion advice, particularly since our excursions are not yet posted for reservation. We have only ever cruised with Princess and Royal Caribbean, so your dining and facilities information is particularly helpful-I will revisit this review several times before February!

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This is my favorite cruise out of all the ones that I have done.

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Timing couldn't have been better for your thorough review as my girlfriend and I leave next Friday for the 7/1 cruise.

 

Also appreciate the explanation of the wine packages and where to purchase.

 

Can you tell me the earliest time you can board?

 

Ron

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Thanks for the reviews. I put down a deposit for our 40th anniversary next June 24th and have a lot of "stuff" to figure out between now and then as far as what to do while we're there.

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Timing couldn't have been better for your thorough review as my girlfriend and I leave next Friday for the 7/1 cruise.

 

 

 

Also appreciate the explanation of the wine packages and where to purchase.

 

 

 

Can you tell me the earliest time you can board?

 

 

 

Ron

 

 

 

Ron - noon is the official boarding time, but depends on when the ship clears and is ready. We arrived at the port by 11:50 and a few people had already arrived and been processed. If you shoot for this time you should be fine.

 

 

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Hi thank you for detailed review. it was very helpful. Sounds like you booked your own air. How far in advance did you book? Right now we are booked on NCL air sea but may change it. We are flying out of New York and don't want more than one stop.

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Hi thank you for detailed review. it was very helpful. Sounds like you booked your own air. How far in advance did you book? Right now we are booked on NCL air sea but may change it. We are flying out of New York and don't want more than one stop.

 

 

 

Happy to help. I always book my own air and did so for this trip. I booked it about a year out as I wanted the exit rows for all legs - there and back - since this is a 9 hour trip for us from Chicago. American doesn't fly direct, so we stopped in Phoenix on the way out and LA on the way back. Going in at least a day or two early is a must. In general, the price variance is only a few hundred dollars for coach $860 vs $1100, so price was less of a factor.

 

 

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Thank you for the excellent review. I will also use it for reference when planning my Mar/18 cruise.

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Thank you for the detailed review. My DW and I sail next March and will use your tips and suggestions.

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Thank you for the review. Nice little trip down memory lane for me because I did this cruise nine years ago and am lurking on the NCL boards because my second NCL cruise is coming up next month. I had to go back and check my review after reading yours because I had the same reaction to the band that came on in Maui ... and sure enough, it was the same one. They seriously need to get Jimmy Mac on for a longer stretch. Those guys were great.

 

I'm actually booked to return to Hawaii in the middle of a transatlantic next spring, so I'm searching for different things to do on that next trip. But it won't be biking down Haleakala ... I've been up Haleakala and have a pretty healthy respect for the unsettling nature of that switchback road ... I admire your adventurous spirit in taking that bike ride down. I know I couldn't do it.

 

And I concur that this ship is all about the destination, but the Aloha spirit is an integral part of the on-board culture ... it is quite different from the Caribbean. We had a fabulous time.

 

I didn't do tours though ... I rented a car in each port because I wanted to pick my own path ... besides it's still the USA, so it's not intimidating ... no special rules of the road (or wrong side of the road) to deal with.

 

Granted, it's a really old review, but it's more about the island experience, so if anyone wants to consider the car rental option, the link to my review is below. I was posting under a different screen name for that cruise to avoid having my daughter find out about the trip. She thought I was planning a drive to a condo in Daytona for a week. I didn't tell her where we were going until the night before we left.

 

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=821097

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Great review! We agree that the POA cruise is waaay different than a Caribbean cruise on NCL. After many "bad" reviews about the mostly American crew, we had no issues what-so-ever. We also did the 8 a.m. Pearl Harbor tour (booked through the National Park site 2 months before) and it was so touching and amazing. Did Marylou's tour also, but had Ken (her husband) as our guide. We were re-visiting Hawaii 33 years after we honeymooned there, and took our 25/28 year olds with us. Great cruise, great times, great vacation. Thanks again for allowing us to re-live it through you.

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