Time: March 30-31 at Waikiki and then on the April 1 Pride of Aloha cruise.
This is intended to all as a general review of our Hawaii vacation from start to finish with a review of our cruise line as the main piece. As first time cruisers, we found the reviews from other people to be very useful. Remember, this is just our personal view point from the experiences we had … you can all make your own judgments. (I apologize in advance for sp. errors and sentence structure)
We traveled from Toronto Canada to San Francisco then to Honolulu… total approx 15hours. We arrived in Honolulu where we were greeted by my wife’s cousin who has lived there for 20years.
We booked 2 nights at the Sheraton Princess-Kaiulani in Waikiki before our cruise. We booked in an ‘ocean high partial view’ for $150 Canadian a night during one of their specials. Awesome staff, very clean, excellent view and the best location for price and amenities. We were at the beach in less than 2minutes! Every morning at 6am we watched the surfers from our balcony. We did not eat at the hotel as the breakfast buffet was a bit expensive. The dinner buffet looked very good but we opted for something a little more casual. The full buffet is available on their website with pricing.
We made our way to … on the beach at 7:30am on Friday. There are other places to go, but don’t! This was casual, professional with more time in the water for only $30 an hour and I had a private lesson because no one else was around. The place right next to them was $150 for 2 hours in a group setting. They have a deep history of being one of the originals on the beach- no advertising, just word of mouth- Aloha Beach Service (808) 922-3111, right beside Duke’s restaurant on the beach in Waikiki. I would highly recommend these guys and plan to go back to see them when I return for more lessons.
Got a huge tour of the entire island for the day and dinner on the north shore with her cousin- amazing scenery all over. My personal favorite spot was Waikiki beach and the hotel area. The hotel area is right beside the international market and in the heart of the area where all the street performers are … very loud at night. I would still book this hotel again and stay longer in Waikiki. We had breakfast Sunday morning at Duke’s on the ocean front. Wife went swimming while I watched the fisherman cast from shore. If you are in Waikiki or Honolulu during a Sunday or Wednesday, there is a swap meet outside of the University stadium. Everything you see in local stores, including the ABC shores is at least half off. It is the number spot for shopping and souvenir pick-ups that will not break your wallet. They also barter there quite a bit. If you have someone than plans to spend money and time shopping… this is a must to save you money and time wasted at each port looking for souvenirs.
Pride of Aloha Cruise on April 1
Sunday- Got aboard around 2-2:30pm with very minimal lines. You board from the dock on deck 5 into the atrium. We decided to book 3 nights in the specialty restaurants to avoid any busy nights. Our room as balcony 9213… first balcony category BE at the front right side of the boat (second balcony cabin). Room was kinda small, but exactly what we expected. The 2 single beds were pulled together with a mattress on top for the illusion of a king bed. You can not sleep directly in the middle of the bed… might fall thru. The room was clean and very adequate in amenities. There was a closet with safe and pull out drawers, fridge and ice bucket, TV (with limited channels) and bathroom with circular shower. We ventured around the ship before it got packed and made our way to the front hot tub on deck 11 where the ‘kiddie’ pool was. Waiter came around and I bought my first Mai Tai. Relaxed for hour and got ready for our first dinner at 6pm at the Pacific Heights restaurant. It was excellent food and atmosphere- nobody booked that night because of the barbeque happening on the pool deck for the send off. The specialty restaurants have 4-5 course meals. I had shrimp cocktail, wonton soup with pork and shrimp, half a lobster tail with a filet and then green tea ice cream… incredible food!! I tried korean beer and saki for the first time as well. Needless to say, I was knocked out pretty early and still had some jetlag.
Monday- Port was Nawiliwili in Kaua’i. This was the only day we booked an excursion on our own. We got off the book and made our way to the Alamo shuttle that took us to the airport for out car rental. We ended up going to see Wailua Falls and then to …. But our major event was the ATV Waterfall Tour at Kipu Ranch. This was my wife’s first time on an ATV and she loved it. We researched the other companies and found this one to offer a couple more options… and better safety record. They provide a quick training session in the beginning and another training session for hills and terrain early in the trip. Lunch was provided- sandwich, drink and kids… enough to tide you over. It was very fun for me. Red dirt shirts on made on this island, but I made my own. I went thru the big puddles the best I good and got completely drenched and made my own red dirt shirt. If you intend going on any ATV tour- DO NOT bring good clothing! You can limit your dirtiness a little, but what fun is that? We did have an accident that occurred right in front of me. She was in her early 20’s and first timer on a bike. She hit a root and over compensated/overcorrected the turn, was off balanced and tried to pull the break but pulled the gas instead. The bike flew from underneath her as she scraped her side leg and banged her head. The ATV proceeded down hill a short distance where it was abruptly stopped by a tree. There was damage to the ATV for sure. The staff is trained for first aid, but was advised not to really ‘touch’ you for legal reasons. She was hurt and got a ride back to the ranch with her man. We were advised that she was taken to the hospital because she felt dizzy. Accidents do happen, but do not let this deter you from an exciting time. You can go in many different vehicles where you do not have to do the driving. Swimming holes and scenery were wonderful. Recommend this excursion for anybody.
On the Tuesday, this would be a good island to book a car rental… traffic is slower than the other islands and you have to be back by 1pm next day. Tuesday morning we went shopping- (wife enjoyed it). You can easily walk to the beach and to shopping from this port. This is an internet café across the street for less than $5 for 20minutes. You can surf and snorkel at the beach. Sun will be up and heating the area by 7am. You have plenty of time to relax on the beach and shop at local places. Ship activities during the afternoon and comedy show at night with the ‘not so newlywed game’- very funny and we were tired.
Wednesday- Port was Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. We tried Crossings restaurant for sit down breakfast for the 2 and last time. 2 eggs over easy with toast… took 30minutes and was cold. We did not go back to this restaurant again for breakfast. Booked the Volcano and Rainbow Falls 2 weeks before via internet from the NCL website. Tour guide, Henry, was great. He was very informative and chatted a lot on the speaker system. Lunch was provided, but it is worth bringing extra food. It was a small buffet that did not fit our taste buds at all. I over heard the bus driver say that never is ‘the best quality’, but it is the only food up this high on the volcano. The volcano views are excellent and well worth seeing at least once. We traveled around the edge and drove in for about ½ to walk around. Rainbow falls is just a waterfall. It looks nice, but I would not pay any extra for this excursion. We had dinner in the Palace sit down restaurant. The staff was a bit better hear… special for the night was prime rib and lobster tail in all restaurants. Started to watch the magician, but we went and got our wedding vows renewed. At 9:45pm you get to see the lava flowing into the ocean from Mt. Kilaueu. Excellent view from our balcony room and any deck … the captain does a 360 turn for all to view.
Thursday- Port was Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. We went straight for the breakfast buffet in the back of the ship… with the open deck. Biggest tip, there is a second line that starts at 7pm at the entrance near the sports bar. No line ups there ever. Then take your breakfast and eat in the sports bar. It will be quieter with no smoking in the small area. We booked the Black Sand Snorkel & Beach 2 weeks in advance. We were on a smaller catarman, but it was wonderful. We saw some humpback whales surfacing many times. We got the site and started right away. Our first step in and we saw a ray about 50 down and then some sea turtles at a distance. The black sand is another term for small black pebbles that will eventually turn to sand over time. Once on the ship, they served prepared sandwiches, rink and chips. Beer for $2-$3 a can. There was only an extra ½ to spend on the beach so we did not get to enjoy the water toys. This is a trip that any notice or experienced person will have fun with. Additional floating devices are provided for all those who prefer to sink in the buoyant salt water. ½ drive to and from this excursion from port. We opted for the basic buffet for dinner on the ship… hot dogs, hamburger etc. Went to the magic show at night and then the comedian Chis Alpine… very funny.
Friday- Port was Kahului in Maui. Had breakfast in the back buffet again and then went on the Haleakala / Ocean Center excursion. Bus driver was crazy fast going up and down the mountain to get to Haleakala. If you get any motion sickness, this is not recommended. Beautiful view above the cloud lines when you are at the top. Ocean center is the aquarium. We did not have much time there. It was small, but I would have enjoyed more time there. I would definitely go the Ocean centre again… tons of different fish, tiger sharks, rays, hammer-head sharks, white tip reef sharks… but not mammals. No seals, dolphins or whales- just exhibits on them. There is also a marina and shopping area surrounding the ocean center without crossing any streets. I would consider renting a car, going early to the aquarium, lunch and shop and then watch the boats come in with the fish for the day. More than half the ship went on to the Pacific Paradise Lu’au. We ended up enjoying a quiet afternoon and evening on the ship relaxing. Had dinner in the specialty restaurant Royal Palm Bistro at 6pm… nobody there… excellent alone time. Watched the comedian Chris Alpine again and listened to a few country tunes before heading to bed.
Saturday- Still in Maui- Breakfast buffet at the back of the boat again… nobody in the second line. Booked the Molokini Crater Snorkel excursion 2 weeks in advance. This was one the highlights… big ship going out to the crater for the first snorkel and then another snorkel at Turtle Reef. We were up front and close to the turtles, swimming with them and taking underwater pictures. At least 8 turtles to view… 2 of them within 2 feet. You are supposed to give them room, but these two were curiously following us too closely. Back on the boat for a nice deli sandwich and salad lunch. Open bar for the journey back… again lots of humpback whales all over. This is a must pick for your excursion list. Booked our last night at the Royal Bistro again… excellent food and very good service. Put our suitcases in the hall over night as the staff had all the luggage ready for us when we landed.
Sunday- Back in Honolulu. Breakfast buffet earlier this time and relaxed for an hour before we departed. Our bill was all taken care of with 1 small mistake for $10.00 that we dealt with the night before.
TIPS for the Cruise:
1) Please DO NOT BRING YOUR CELL PHONES. This was widely rampid all over the ship… in the restaurants, on the sun deck, in the elevators. People, you are on vacation. Please respect the people around you.
2) The ship allows smoking in certain areas, but the smoke travels with the wind. We had to move several times because of the wind… Please smoke off your balconies or where there is no food around. Again, be respectful.
3) I would still book excursions from the NCL website for convenience and guarantee. We had no cancellations or problems. I would book ATV again on my own. We already seen the volcanoes and would opt for more beach time.
4) This ship is not meant to be an elegant cruising experience that some might be accustom to. This is the best way to see a lot of the islands for the cost. I would definitely cruise the islands again, but not on this particular ship.
5) The staff in the main dining rooms were not the best. They seemed to be young trainees that were slow. The food and staff in the specialty restaurants were well worth the extra $10-$15. I would highly recommend this option for a quiet night getting away from the cell phones and ‘louder’ atmosphere.