Hi Captain Merky,
I am glad to offer my experience on the ship. WHen you think of the cost it would be if you independently booked hotel, airfare between 4 islands and food, this is quite a deal. A burger on my own was $9.00. That being said I didn't sweat the small stuff. Having never cruised before, and maybe ignorance is bliss, I can't compare to other ships service or food. The buffet I heard was like a plain all you can eat deal for lunch, but I was off the ship during lunch, so it did not matter. However, breakfast at the buffet had a lot of variety and a great omelette and waffle bar made on front of you. I found if I ate at 6:30 to & 7:00 am no problem getting a seat, after that it gets quite busy.
Having never cruised I was also nervous of missing the ship. I did a compromise, when at port overnight, we rented a car the first day and did things on our own and the second day we did the excursions so we too could relax and not worry about missing the ship. I did so much research on what to do so I could utilize my time well on such a short visit. I became a thrifty car member( for free) you can go online and sign up with them, or call them. I pre-rented all my cars before hand. The car rentals have free shuttles to the airport ( 5 to 10 minute drive). Just be sure to check what time the last free shuttle is back to the port. If you have a chance check out the Napali explorer in Kaui. It was breathtaking. THey take you out on a motorized rubber boat ( hold 30 people) and you snorkle there as well. If you have a bad back or prone to sea sickness, then avoid it. We went horseback riding in Wiapo valley in Hilo and then took our rental car for a quick stop by the Tropical Hawiian gardens. This is what you picture a true Hawaiian garden to look like, very natural and kept up nicely without looking to Disney like. They cancelled the helicopter ride because of bad weather. Again, I did extensive research and on the island of Kaui, only 2 companies never crashed. Will Squires ( the one I booked with) and Air Kaui. I am a nervous flyer, so I did my homework. I know you can't control everything, but it's nice to know they never had a crash in 22 years of business and I called them to ask them ethical questions about safety of going up. They were ethical and did cancel due to bad weather which I appreciated. Wasn't meant to be at that time, but will try them again next year. Maui, we did the road to Hana, very beautiful, was not too impressed with our guide called Meryl the Pearl. Wasn't too bad but had a rough side to him, regardless, the beauty takes your focus off him and on the islands. Very long however, 8.5 hours. If your a good driver and used to skinny and windy roads, there are about 615 hairpin turn and lots of one way bridges where only one car at a time can pass. If you decide to drive yourself you can pick up a cd from k-mart that guides and narrates the drive. Several people I spoke to said it wasn't a bad drive. Just pay close attention to the road. So many pretty waterfalls and mountains overlooking the ocean. It will take your breath away. If you have time I did research again, and booked my own luau with the "Old LAhaina LUau". It's traditioanl hawaiian. They sell out 3 to 6 months in advance. They were voted no 1 by the travelers channel, been on Emerils live and Macy day parade. No fire dancers however being that is Samoan and this is strictly traditional Hawwaiian. If your looking ro Polynesain revue of all the islands then book the luau somewhere else. Theay are online. Google was a great research engine. No matter what you do you can't go wrong, It's Hawaii, and you will fall in love with the Islands.
Please don't think the ship is without fault, but to me it was all minor, maybe I was lucky, but I went on thinking whatever was not right could be fixed. They even reimbursed for one of the land excursions with less than 24 hour cancelation notice when I told them one of my members was not feeling well enough to go on it.
I witnessed some verbal abuse of some cruisers to the crew that was uneccassary and was embarrassed for the cruisers verbal abuse and felt bad for the crew members. That's why I found if I was polite and asked nicley for things they really went out of their way to help. I know it is thier choice, but they work 5 months in a row with very little time off, and share a room with 3 others. So I was lenient with them if they looked tired and may have appeared indifferent. But really, the majority of the crew had smiles and were fun to talk with. It's hard to work with the public because you can't please everyone. Although there may be some indifferent crew members, you will find alot of them pleasant, even under stress.
Oh yeah, one word of waring dinner is a 2 hour experince, Prebook all your reservations this way you will not wait in line. But after a busy day in port I welcomed the down time to eat. I reminds me of being in Europe witha 5 curse dinner, with the pleasusre of good food, and good conversation instead of rushing through your meal. For solverniers (spelt wrong, sorry) Free shuttle at all port to K-mart or wal-mart are the cheapest ones you can get, Hilo hatties, ABC, and Longs' drugstore are not bad prices either for Kona coffe, and Macamedemia nuts. I am so excited for you for visiting HAwaii. I am currently working on booking my next trip with NCL for the Hawaiian Islands to do the things I didn't do the first time around. Let me know if you liked the Pride of America. Ad like your self I too was sceptical of cruising NCL because of the bad reviews, but I feel you have your priorities in order ad you will have a blast. Sorry so lengthy, I get excited talking about Hawaii.