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Pride of America Trip Report - Oct 19, 2019 - part 2


Firepath
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I'm not sure what happened (maybe I accidently did something against the rules?) but my original trip report somehow was completely lost in the process of my requesting it be moved from NCL to here, so rather than start all over, I'll just jump back in where I think I left off. For those who missed the first part, here's a brief synopsis. I'd been trying to get to Hawaii for the past 30 yrs. and my husband finally gave in to a cruise for our 30th anniversary. We flew in a day early, stayed at Aulani, then boarded the POA. I'd read may unflattering reviews about the POA before our trip, so expected not so good service and food, and a ship in rough condition. We were pleasantly surprised, as we thought the service was great, the food was good, and the ship, while not luxurious, was very nice. But this was our first cruise, so we really had nothing to compare it to. We aren't super adventurous, so we didn't do any water or flying-related excursions. We weren't on any drink or dining plans and had a simple obstructed ocean view cabin, so I guess you could say we did the economy version of this cruise. We ate in the two MDRs and Cadillac Diner mostly, which we really enjoyed. Our two attempts at the buffet were not good at all, except for the coffee, which was good. I'll post the first two days of Freestyle Daily. I can post the rest also if anyone is interested. I'm going to make sure this post sticks around and then will continue with our arrival in Maui.

 

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Day 2, Maui

We arrived early in port, which from our window, looked like an industrial area, in other words just another port, but we were in Maui! Today we had The Road to Hana scheduled through NCL. We had to meet early which meant getting up before anyplace was open for breakfast. I'm a big coffee drinker, so I headed to the buffet for coffee. I'm kind of fussy about coffee, and I found the coffee on board to be pretty good. Carrying 2 cups on the elevator and through heavy doors wasn't such a good idea, as I splashed it all over my hands in the process. I later discovered that room service would bring it to us for free, so we used that service after the first day.

 

We had read about the 24 hr. Cadillac Diner in another trip report so decided to give it a try. It was quite good and we ended up there most mornings and some afternoons when we got back late from excursions. We discovered that there is no seater early in the mornings, so everyone just seats themselves, and shortly someone would come by to take our order. We finished up just in time to meet our group in the theater at 7:50 for our 8:00 excursion.

 

We were split into several groups for the different excursions and headed off the ship to our small bus that was waiting just outside. We were able to get two seats on the driver's side as I had read there was more to see on that side. We both took Bonine because motion sickness was supposedly common with the windy road, and neither of us had the slightest problem. In fact, that was the last time we took it our entire trip. I also had read that the road is so scary and treacherous that you shouldn't drive it yourself. After the excursion was over, we both agreed that we could've easily driven ourselves. It wasn't much worse than the windy mountain roads that we've both driven off and on our entire lives. If you are used to driving only straight and level roads, it might be overwhelming.

 

We didn't stop at as many waterfalls as I was expecting as most of the parking areas were full or didn't have room for our bus. Our driver/guide pointed out all the best sights and there was plenty of opportunity to slow down for a good look. We did stop at some overlooks and roadside markets, and a couple of beaches. Once we actually got to Hana, we turned around and headed back the same way we had come, with a lunch stop at a black sand beach. We had one more beach stop to see turtles and wind surfers which was kind of cool.

 

We were both glad we took this excursion, but for us, it's a one and done. I'm not sure if anyone ever does it more than once. All told, it took about 9 hours and everyone in our group was pretty tired when we got back to port. 

 

Our driver/guide was very friendly and knowledgeable, as well as a safe driver, but he rarely took a break from talking. I like to sometimes just quietly look out the window, but there wasn't much quiet time. I think that made it a little more exhausting. 

 

Just a note about excursions. I'm not very adventurous. I don't really like anything involving water (except ships - ha!) and I'm not a fan of flying, so so helicopter rides or snorkeling for me. Our excursions were all pretty tame. There seemed to be a lot more variety of excursions in Maui than the other ports, or perhaps more people venturing out since it was our first port. I believe all of NCL's excursions were through Polynesian Adventure Tours.

 

We were still catching up on our sleep after the time difference, and the long day, so we had dinner at Liberty MDR (good) and decided to skip the evening activities. We went to deck 6 and listened to a guitarist for a while. He was good, but I was literally falling asleep in my chair, so we decided to call it a night.

 

 

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Day 3 - Maui. We were in port overnight but we didn't want to get up at 2 or 3 am to see the sunrise, so we opted to take NCL's daytime excursion to Haleakala which started around 8am. We had room-service coffee in our room while getting ready. We chose the earliest delivery time each day, 6:30-7am, and it arrived almost exactly at 6:30am daily. We went to the Cadillac Diner again for breakfast then headed out to meet our group at the pier. We had a slightly larger bus for this trip, but still not huge.

 

Again, I had read not to drive the road to Haleakala yourself, but it was absolutely fine. It was nice to have someone else drive so we could just enjoy the scenery. Our tour guide was originally from the islands and had a lot of interesting information and stories, but thankfully more in moderation than the day before. When we got to the visitor center our driver told us that only a certain number of buses were allowed to go all the way to the top on a given day, so she had to make a call to see if we would be allowed up and we were! 

 

The view from the top was great - we could even see the Big Island and some smaller islands off the coast, but then the clouds started rolling in and took away our view. The silver sword plants were very unique and a few of them were blooming. It was interesting to learn about them, that they are so fragile just walking next to them can kill the entire plant!

 

We headed back down and our guide played a video for us on Hawaiian Chanting, instead of talking. We got back to the ship around 12:30 pm and had lunch at the Cadillac Diner. I got to try one of their "famous" milkshakes. I had the PB&J and it was really good.

 

After lunch, I figured I'd better work off some of the extra calories, so I walked some laps around the jogging track which also happened to be on level 6. While I was out walking, and the following days, I saw the crew constantly working, painting, refinishing handrails, organizing life vests,  etc. We had heard that the ship is a bit worn, since it's older, so it was nice to see all the attention it was getting. It's probably not nearly as nice as the newer ships, but it has its charm. 

 

They also had an emergency drill for the crew on deck 6 that first day I was out walking, including that ear-splitting emergency whistle, and I had to cut my walk short so I wouldn't get in their way.

 

After my walk, we went to the "How to Run a Floating Hotel" event in the Atrium. We got to meet some of the hotel managers and we would see and recognize them off and on throughout the cruise. There was time for questions and answers where I learned some new things, like how they grind up the left over food and dump it out for the fish who follow the ship just waiting for it.

 

We had dinner again at Liberty MDR, which again was very good. We found out that each day the dinner menus are posted early in the day, and also that Liberty and Skyline MDRs have the same menus. We ended up just eating in whichever one looked less busy, or that we were dressed for (Liberty has a slightly more strict dress code).

 

We listened to a piano player until it was time for the Lights, Camera, Music! show by the POA Production Cast. They were quite talented and we really enjoyed the show. We were amazed how well they could dance even with the ship movement, as we headed on to Hilo for our next port.  

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Day 4 - Hilo

We knew from the itinerary that the ship would take the southern route around Big Island from Hilo to Kona if there was something to see with the volcano. The map in the Atrium showed it taking the northern route, so we assumed not much was happening there and decided to forego any excursions including the volcano. I know some of the areas had been closed and we've been to geo-thermal areas on the mainland, so hopefully we didn't miss too much.

 

We planned to rent a car and use the Shaka Guide to do our own touring around Hilo. Besides reviewing all the trip reports and reviews on CC, I used all four of the Hawaii Revealed books to help with my planning. From that, I knew we wanted to go to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, not to be confused with the free Japanese garden in Hilo town. This garden is just north of Hilo and right on the coast. We aren't big plant or flower people, but the book said it was not to be missed, so we figured we'd give it a try. 

 

We had a rental car reserved but my husband said he'd rather take an excursion if one was available. I checked at the Shore-Ex desk and they said they'd just added another one for the day at 2:30pm, so we signed up and cancelled our rental. This excursion is called Hilo Coast and Botanical Garden.

 

We had a leisurely lunch, walked around the ship to work off a few calories, and then headed off to meet our group. We got there a little early, so we were the first ones there. We waited and waited and were starting to worry that we were at the wrong place. Right at 2:30, our tour guide, who was born and raised in Hilo, greeted us. We waited a little while and finally realized there was no one else on the excursion.  

 

We went out to our little bus, just the three of us, and headed through town and up the coast. It took about a 10 minutes to get to the entrance of the garden and get checked in, then wow! For me, this excursion was one of the highlights of our trip. It had everything, and more, than what we experience in 9 hrs. going to Hana. It really was what I picture in my mind when I think of Hawaii. I felt like I was in the Garden of Eden, it was so gorgeous!

 

The variety of plant and flowers was just amazing. The first 100 yds. or so of the walkway is extremely steep and would be very difficult for someone with mobility problems. They do have a golf cart to transport those who little assistance. After the first short bit, the path is easy going. The very back of the garden property is ocean front, with a beautiful rocky beach. There is public access to the beach without going through the garden and we saw a couple of people fishing from the rocks. Their brochure say it's "A Garden in a Valley on the Ocean," and that's exactly what it is.

 

Most of the photos from our trip were taken in the garden, it was just so amazing. We spent about an hour there, but could've probably taken a couple of hours. It was a little warm and we wanted to get back to the ship to spend some time reading by the pool before dinner. On our way back, our guide took us on a mini-tour of Hilo town because we had a little extra time. 

 

We headed out to the pool, and I went to get some coffee at the John Adams Coffee Bar. This was one of my few disappointments with the ship. In reality, it is a regular bar, and other than first thing in the morning, it was quite an ordeal to get coffee there. This particular day, I ordered my coffee and a mixed drink for my husband. His drink was ready very quickly, but it was easily 15 minutes before my coffee was ready. The ice in my husband's drink was melting by that point. I tried it again the next day with the same result and the coffee wasn't all that good, so I stuck with the free stuff after that.

 

We had dinner at Skyline and then went to the main show, which was a magician this night. I'm not a huge fan of magicians, but I thought this one was better than most. The nice thing about the shows is that they were all only about an hour long, so there was still time to do other things on board if you chose to. We decided to get some sleep after the show as we had another early excursion the next day in Kona.

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On 11/18/2019 at 9:41 PM, Firepath said:

Day 3 - Maui.

Again, I had read not to drive the road to Haleakala yourself, but it was absolutely fine. It was nice to have someone else drive so we could just enjoy the scenery.

 

Your second sentence here says it all about the road to Hana and the drive up and down Haleakala.  While renting a car is great, it certainly is nice to let someone else do the driving instead of having someone in your party drive and miss the scenery because they have to keep their eyes on the road.

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Day 5 - Kona

I booked a short excursion with NCL at Kona because I didn't really know what to expect in the tendering process having not experienced it before. I thought it might take a really long time to disembark if we weren't on an excursion, but that wasn't the case. We got in the same line regardless and the process was very orderly and fairly quick. My original plan was to rent a car, drive north to Waimea and go horseback riding on a cattle ranch. The check in time for that was 9:30am and the drive I think was 50-60 minutes. Arriving in the port at 7am wouldn't give us enough time, so I'm glad we changed our plans. 

 

Of all the ports, I think Kona is the best for visiting without a car or taking an excursion, because the town and a nice beach is right there where you get off. We were booked for the Historic Kona excursion, which was about 1/2 day. This time we had a larger bus which was more comfortable for the longer, less scenic drive. Our first stop was the Mauna Loa coffee mill, which was kind of a farmers market. They had samples of many coffees and of course coffee for purchase, as well as macadamia nuts, and other touristy items. Not too far from the store is a small lava tube you can walk through.

 

Our next stop was the painted church which was up on a hill with a nice view of the coast. The painted murals in the historical wooden building were very nice, but other than that, the church itself wasn't much different than other old-time country churches I've seen on the mainland.

 

The stop I enjoyed most was last, the Place of Refuge, or Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, which is right on the ocean. A lot of the area to walk around on is uneven or sandy, so it could be a mobility problem for some. It has a very interesting story and was located in a very scenic area. It was really hot the day we went, so I thought I'd go in the gift shop to cool off - no, it was an open air gift shop. If I were returning to Kona, I'd probably rent a car to visit this again and then just walk around town and have my coffee there. We didn't try any of them, but it looked like there were some nice places to eat or get some drinks in town.

 

The show this night was our favorite, a vocal group called These Guys Worldwide. They were really good! They performed quite a bit of Earth, Wind, and Fire hits and a variety of other tunes, along with some dancing and just a very active show. They announced that this was their last show with POA. I checked their website and saw that they are performing in Las Vegas next and then back on the POA next Spring. If I were in Vegas, I would definitely go see them. 

 

We headed on to Kauai that evening. I'm not sure if we were travelling faster because it was a further distance or what exactly, but there was a lot more movement of the ship that night, as well as when we traveled back to Honolulu from the Napali Coast. I talked with a couple that night who had been on several cruises over the years and they said that this was the roughest of them all, while the sea was very calm. I had read a review here on CC that the ship was "wobbly," and that's exactly how I'd describe it. They seemed to think because the ship was older, it didn't have as good of stabilizers. It didn't bother my husband or I, but I can tell you that I went into public restrooms both those nights, and there were sick people in them both times. We heard quite a few people complaining about that and it looked like the bars were busier than normal. If you are sensitive to motion, you'd probably want to be prepared for this.

 

I was really excited to be headed to Kauai, as this was the island my two previously planned and then cancelled trips had been to. I'm glad we got to spend two days there.

 

 

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12 hours ago, Silver Sweethearts said:

 

Your second sentence here says it all about the road to Hana and the drive up and down Haleakala.  While renting a car is great, it certainly is nice to let someone else do the driving instead of having someone in your party drive and miss the scenery because they have to keep their eyes on the road.

 

That’s why we made the decision NOT to rent cars. Renting would mean my husband gets to drive while I relax and enjoy! Yes, it is going to cost us a lot more to book all independent tours (including some that are totally private), but I want DH to be able to enjoy too!

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Thank you for this part of your review.  We're going on POA next year.  We've been to Hawaii many times and I sailed on the SS Independence around this islands so this will be a good time to see things we haven't seen before.  We rented a car in Kona last time we were there and it's true.....only one person can sight see while the other person has to keep their eyes on the road.  We always go on shore excursions now rather than rent a car.  I screen printed your pages so I can remember what to see and what excursions to book, hope you don't mind. 

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Days 6 and 7- Kauai (Nawiliwili)

 

We arrived in port around 8am. We planned to rent a car and venture out on our own today. We rented from Alamo an waited about half an hour for a shuttle. All of the other ones were waiting when we disembarked or showed up shortly thereafter, but we must've missed just missed ours because it took a long time. Once it did arrive, we were taken quickly to the airport where we picked up our car with very little wait.

 

Tomorrow our excursion would cover the west and north sides of the island so me decided to head south to the Koloa area. I especially wanted to see the Lawai Beach Resort in Poipu as that is where we had our reservation last year, that we ended up cancelling. It was gorgeous and almost right on the beach. I would've love to stay there. We had the Shaka Guide to help us find some other scenic areas. It was really easy to follow and took us through Koloa, to Spouting Horn Beach Park, Shipwreck Beach, and a couple of Heiau sites.

 

We decided to head back and pick up some souvenirs for our "kids" back home in college. I also wanted to try the Haupia pie at McDonald's that I'd read about, so we had to find a McDonald's. It wasn't on their menu board so I asked about it and they brought it right out. Oh my, if you like coconut, you'll love this. I had read that Hawaii is the only state of all 50 that still has fried, not baked, pies, and of course the only one that has Haupia. They also seasonally have Taro pies but not while we were there.  

 

After returning our rental, we spent some time in the shops near the port and then walked the short distance back to the ship. There is also a small beach right near the port that we noticed several passengers were headed to. 

 

My husband took a nap and I went walking out on deck 6 again. I know others have mentioned odors on that deck, but I guess we were lucky because I never noticed a problem and I walked laps almost daily. After that I headed back inside and went to observe Disney Trivia. I thought I knew a fair amount, but it was really hard. Who knew the name of the owl in the Fox and the Hound was Big Mama?!   

 

We ate at Liberty MDR again and skipped the main show which was a comedian. Our excursion the next day began at 7am because of our early departure for the Napali Coast, so we decided to make it an early evening.

 

Our second day in Kauai is the only day we took a non-NCL excursion; this one was through Roberts, the Kauai Movie Tour. I had originally booked it through NCL as we were concerned about getting to the ship in time. I called Roberts about it and they assured me that they would not have been in business for as long as they have if they didn't get passengers back in time. So I cancelled the NCL and booked Roberts, and saved just under $100 for the two of us. 

 

We had a small bus which was about half full. There was a driver and a separate tour guide that showed film clips as we were going to the movie/show/commercial filming sites. This was one of our favorite excursions, we got to see so much of the island. 

 

We went to the site of one of my husband's favorite movies, Donovan's Reef, so he was really happy about that. Most of the movies were before my time, but I still found it very interesting and it has made me actually want to see some of those old films.

 

Robert's advertises that they are the only tour company that goes to Coco Palms, a famous old resort, site of several films, and a favorite of Elvis. It was destroyed by Hurricane Iniki and never rebuilt. Some people say it's no bit deal if you don't go there, but I'm really glad we got to. The original lead singer from the Hawaiian trio that performed there many years ago was actually there. He is 90- something years old. He played his ukuleli and sang for us, and he was really good!

 

The area where part of Jurassic Park was filmed was fun to see. We went all the way out to Hanalei where several other old movies that I didn't know about were filmed. Even though I didn't know a lot of the movies, they were all in beautiful locations, so I enjoyed all of them. Some were areas that were empty years ago when the filming was done, but now have homes built around them, but you could still get the feel of the area. This is an excursion I would definitely repeat. I feel like it would be somewhat different if we were to go again. We went places we absolutely couldn't have found or known of ourselves. 

 

On our way back we had a nice lunch in the restaurant at the Kauai Beach Resort, which is a really nice resort. We got back to the ship around 1:00pm so in plenty of time. We left at 1:30 and headed around the Napali Coast. That is quite a sight, so awe-inspiring. One thing I have to say, because I goofed here, is listen to the announcement and go to the right side of the ship! I know I heard starboard, so I have no idea why we ended up on the port side. No wonder there was hardly anyone there. By the time I realized our (my) error, it was so crowded at the rail on the starboard side, that we didn't have a clear view for photos. We waited until the boat swung around the other way, but by then it was starting to get dark, and it was a little harder to see. 

 

We watched the Hula Graduation Show by the pool. They must've all been practicing all week because they were really good. 

 

Once we left the Napali Coast and sped up to head back to Oahu it started to get really "wobbly" again and we observe a few sea sick passenger. I was really worrying how the performers for the night's show would be able to dance. Unfortunately they cancelled the show because a performer had an injury, but there was a replacement. One of the piano players filled in and was quite good. He played a lot of Elton John and Billy Joel numbers and sang too. It was an enjoyable show.

 

After the show they had several crew members come on stage by work groups. Then they went outside the theater exits to thank and meet the passengers. It was a nice end to the evening and a nice wrap up to our cruise. 

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Edited by Firepath
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I forgot to mention that on our Movie Tour we met a younger woman (20's) who had gone on a tubing excursion the day before which she really liked. I had done a lot of research on that excursion because it sounded fun to me, tubing in the old plantation canals, like a lazy river. I ultimately decided against it because my husband has a bad back which could be a problem. Our tour mate went solo and said it was quite fun but the water (fresh water) was a little chilly. That was through Kauai Adventures and they pick up at or near the port. 

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Day 8 - Honolulu - Disembarkation

 

Sadly our ship arrived back to the port of Honolulu a little early. Since we were new to all of this, we didn't know beforehand what to expect with regards to disembarking and how we would get to the airport, so I booked a final excursion, the Early Bird Pearl Harbor with Airport Drop Off. A couple of nights before, we received instructions in our cabin with our bag tags (we didn't have to pick them up). Disembarkation was very easy for us. We simply got off, claimed our bag, and headed to the bus which was waiting right outside for us. This time it was a full size bus. We had to wait a while until the bus was completely full, then we headed out.

 

Our driver gave us instructions on what the expect once we got to Pearl Harbor. We were able to leave our luggage and bags in the locked bus during our visit. After she checked us all in, we almost immediately entered the theater for the film, then took the boat to the Memorial and back. I've wanted to see the memorial for many years and was really glad we got to, it was a moving and very somber experience. After the boat ride back, we had maybe 45 minutes to look around before we had to meet back at the bus. Our total time at Pearl Harbor was maybe two hours. I would've liked to spend a little more time, but it was just the right amount of time for my husband. 

 

As we headed to the airport, we again were given instructions on what to expect at the airport. We got to the airport around 12:30 and had plenty of time before our 3:30 flight boarded. The TSA line was huge! We were so glad we have TSA pre-check as the line for that what almost non-existent. 

 

We had a few surprises during our trip, nothing really bad, but some disappointing. The food, service, and entertainment were much better than we were expecting. We had plumbing problems 2 or 3 days, but someone always came quickly to fix it. We heard neighbors from the cabins on both sides calling with plumbing problems too. I was surprised to see no children on board whatsoever, although my husband says he saw a few. The coffee bar is really just a regular bar that also has (mediocre) coffee; there was no mid-week laundry special (glad we brought enough clothes); and no prime rib in the MDR on the last day as expected from reading here on CC (maybe they used to). We were also surprised how economical cruising can be compared to land touring, since pretty much everything is included. 

 

Now I'm off to plan our next cruise - Alaska. Happy sailing everyone.

 

 

 

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  • 1 month later...
On 11/26/2019 at 7:06 AM, Firepath said:

Happy to share. I know the reviews here on CC were a big help to me when planning. Enjoy your trip! Aloha.

 

Thank you for your wonderful review.

May I ask two questions?

1) Could you tell us which ports used the tenders to go ashore?

2) If you don't take excursions in any of the ports - is there a town right there when you get to shore or do you need to take a taxi or shuttle to a town to "look around".

 

Thanks!

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The only tender port was Kona and you are immediately in town upon disembarking. No need to taxi unless you want to go further. It's actually a cute little town with lots of shops and places to eat. There is a beach right there as well.  All of the other ports would likely need a rental or taxi unless you really like to walk, as they are in more industrial areas with not a lot to see. We had excursions at each port, but maybe some others can give you a better idea of what to do on your own. Have fun!

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