Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Wind
Sailing Date: October 26th, 2005
Norwegian Cruise Lines
7 Day Hawaiian Cruise
Overall: This was my first cruise, other than a week on the Nile. Now I know why people go on cruise after cruise. It was a lot of fun, and very easy and relaxing (even though we spent very little time lying around reading or sun baking). I may be giving up backpacking for good…..I went with my mum who’s 82 and she also really enjoyed it and found it compared well with other cruises she’d been on.
Entertainment: Good to excellent. Talented duo Patty and Jose play most nights in the Observatory Lounge and are real entertainers and very nice people. Look out for David Swanson who played piano and sang in the Coffee Bar most nights and is hugely talented – his Ray Charles tribute was sensational. The dance troupe was very good (in the Stardust Lounge) but was leaving at the end of the cruise. The Polynesian troupe was great. The comedian Jeff Harms was very funny. Other shows were entertaining although the comedian was a bit lame. The ship’s dance band was very good and if you want to dance before dinner, they provided the right music. I didn’t get a chance to try the disco – and there didn’t seem to be too many there when I passed by — but the DJ is a real character.
Activities – fun. We did the craft classes (lei making – flowers, ribbons, kukui nuts) and it was all free. The cultural ambassador, Cathy, was a lovely gentle lady and introduced us to Hawaiian culture. In fact if you like a cultural component to your holidays, you won’t be disappointed both on the ship and ashore as you get plenty of information about and contact with the Polynesian culture of Hawaii.
There were bead crafts, palm frond weaving, moko tattoos…also you could learn how to make the towel animals the stewards leave on your beds occasionally – thrill your guests at home with a turtle or elephant made from towels!!! There were also hula classes, trivia sessions, open mic comedy nights, karaoke, etc etc – your daily newsletter has a host of things to do. Don’t bother with bingo, it’s a ripoff. The prizes are a disgrace when so many people are paying so much for cards. Go do something else. And the email is horribly expensive especially if anything goes wrong - I dropped out of my Yahoo account twice and ended up paying $60 Aus (about $48 US) to send just 2 shortish emails. I heard groans of dismay around me that indicated I wasn’t alone.
Accommodation: well for a habitual backpacker, it was luxurious, but for regular cruisegoers, probably ‘more than adequate’. The cabin was larger than I expected and the bathroom a decent size and well equipped. Expect a hair dryer, soap & shampoo dispenser, moisturiser & showercap. Hanging and drawer space for clothes was better than your average hotel room – it was great to unpack totally and put the empty bags away. Plenty of ice was provided. TV has movies, docos, news, and the ship news & nav charts.
Food – fantastic. Light and interesting. I eat out a lot and was very impressed with the standard. I was worried I’d put on weight – but I actually lost weight (there was a long way to walk from our cabin to the restaurant end of the ship, which may have contributed.) We mostly had breakfast in the Four Seasons, buffet style, then lunch a la carte in Four Seasons, sometimes buffet in the Sports Bar, then dinner a la carte in Four Seasons or Terraces or La Trattoria. We didn’t try Le Bistro but I heard it was superb. Service was generally very good and the portions quite small. Don’t rush to the chocolate buffet held on one afternoon – by that I mean do go, but don’t panic if you don’t arrive on time. If you arrive near the end of the hour you will find all the delicious desserts you could desire and no queues, as well as avoiding seeing some horrendously greedy displays and wastage. I chose the ‘low cal’ option and took mainly photographs.
Drinks: Tips are included when you order. Expect to pay a lot for basic drinks and don’t expect to take booze aboard – they confiscate any glass bottles as you board (both in Honolulu and at all other ports) and you get your booze back when you return to Honolulu – but we found plastic water bottles go just fine. Stock up on water & soft drinks (sodas) on shore – ship prices are steep (e.g. $6 Aus for a 1 litre bottle of Evian). Cocktails were very well made and fairly reasonably priced. If you order one in a souvenir glass, ask for a clean glass when you finish. There is an interesting wine list. Don’t bother with the house (i.e. NCL) bubbly – I found it was flat every time and the staff didn’t want to hear about it. However the sparkling served at the Captain’s reception was really good.
Crew – friendly, efficient, multi-talented. The cruise director (Sharon) is a ball of energy and her staff are amazing.
Shore excursions – the ship-booked tours are a complete ripoff, price-wise, but they get you places and get you back to the ship on time. We enjoyed the trip to the volcano crater on the big island, the Haleakala volcano and Maui ocean centre, the Kauai river trip and Waimea Canyon, the Refuge and Painted Church of St Benedict near Kona, and the luau on Maui. I thoroughly enjoyed the Luau– the Polynesian show and beachside setting are superb, the dress-up atmosphere is fun, but don’t go if you expect value for money with food & drinks - the food is very basic, the drinks watery, and getting back to the ship takes ages. You can do better elsewhere for half the price, but if this is your only chance to go to a luau or a Polynesian revue, do it. I didn’t get the chance to go snorkeling, kayaking, bushwalking etc but heard good reports. You can take the chance and book with other companies for much less. Quite a few people took taxis or hired cars and had a good time. Remember to allow time for the searches and security checks before getting back on ship.
Passengers – the freestyle dining experience means you aren’t stuck with dining companions you don’t click with for more than one meal. It also means if you do click with someone, make sure you arrange to meet again. On a ship of 1700 passengers, it is amazing how infrequently you will see particular people. We found some dining companions sat like limpets on a rock and said very little. There were about 1200 Americans, approx 120 Aussies, about 50 Canadians, quite a few German and French people, and a smattering of other nationalities. The different nationalities tend to stick together. The crew organized an Aussie party one night on the pool deck, but not all the Aussies heard about it – it seemed very ‘word of mouth’.
In the 1700 passengers there was every age from 4 months to 90, I’d say. Young families, honeymoon couples, people celebrating 50th wedding anniversaries, elderly parents with children looking after them, groups of ‘girls’ aged from 20 to 60 having a blast. But I guess most passengers were over 50.
General comfort – smooth sailing. I am prone to seasickness but was fine thanks to the stabilizers. Top decks can be very windy. Take a wrap or light jacket for evenings. Mum used her wheely-walker and was glad she’d brought it –especially if there were queues to get onto the boat as she could sit down. Crew helped her on and off the tenders and took care of her walker. There were lots of folks with wheelchairs, walkers and ‘gopher’ carts and the crew assisted them. The tenders were generally a very smooth way of getting ashore but the gangways posed a bit of a challenge for anyone with a mobility issue.
Fanning Island: Sensational. Don’t miss it. Lovely people, beautiful place. Buy some Kiribati stamps at the local store or send yourself a postcard. Hire a bike from the islanders for unlimited time for US $10 (don’t bother with the ‘official’ site in the NCL site) and pedal along the one sandy road that runs along the island. Take time to stop at the school and chat with the teachers and kids. Talk to the locals (English is spoken, but generally fairly limited) and watch the little kids dance by the side of the road. Make a donation towards their education. Swim in the beautiful lagoon and enjoy the NCL bbq lunch. I didn’t want to leave. By the way, don't try using Aussie dollars ashore - it might be the official tender there, and we were told it was fine to use, but any Aussie who tried to use $Aus found they were given some odd looks and had to whip out the US dollars. Take lots of small bills.
At the market by the jetty, the shell jeweler is gorgeous and at $1 US for a flower-shaped necklace, a great gift. And you can bring it back into Australia, just declare it at Quarantine. Also they had T shirts, sarongs, knives & other items.
Shopping at Hawaiian ports – there are shuttles to Hilo Hattie stores (good for Hawaiian shirts etc) and others, at most of the Hawaiian island shore stops. We heard about the ABC Stores before leaving home (Aussies – think ‘Crazy Clarks’ but with alcohol) and found them a great place to buy cheap gifts, leis for the luau, snacks, water, and soft drinks, and Revlon cosmetics at less than half the price you’d pay in Oz. There are literally dozens of them in Honolulu and you’ll find several at every port.
Whingers (whiners): ignore them. They wouldn’t know fun if it jumped up and bit them. Just go and have fun.
In a nutshell – it was a fun holiday for a very reasonable price. I wish we’d had more days in Honolulu (we stayed just one night at the Sheraton Moana Surfrider – brilliant); I wish I’d done some kayaking and snorkelling, and I wish I’d gone to the hula lessons…but there is always next time. And I’m happy I found the beautiful CD they play on the boat’s PA system so often – if you are looking for it, it’s Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's ‘Facing Future’ released in 1993.