As stated above NCL ships cruise the islands and leave from the island of Oahu. We are loyal NCL passengers, and the last 8 cruises were on NCL. We had the same dilema that you have in selecting a cruise to Hawaii. After 17+ cruises, and lots of research on each selection, we choose the Dec 3rd Diamond Princess 14 day cruise from LA and back. I did not want to fly to Hawaii as it is a very long trip, from the east coast even further. We will leave LA and have 4 days at sea,, which I love as they are super relaxing.....5 days at the islands with lots of time....then 4 days at sea back to LA. The price was great, have mini-suite on Dolphin Deck, and ship is about 3 years old, (have sailed her befoe to Mexican Riveria), and one of the largest in the Princess fleet. We will miss the "freestyle dining", and other major aspects of NCL treatment that we normally get. Although a difficult decision not to sail NCL, many comments here on this site and others certainly show that NCLA has problems in regards to service to the passenger. So you may want to look at other cruise lines that meet your needs.
I would think that all stops in port will give ample time for car rentals and sightseeing.
Have a great trip, I am sure that you will enjoy. Once again, I wish NCL had a LA to Hawaii and back, so we had to go elswhere.
Richard & Mary
Next cruise schedule:
Sept 24th, 2007 NCL Pearl repositioning Vancouver to LA
Dec 3rd, 2007 Diamond Princess LA to Hawaii to LA