We began our vacation with a 10.5 hour non stop flight from Newark, NJ to Honolulu. We arrived 3 days before the cruise because we attended a wedding held in Paradise Cove on Oahu. We stayed at the Sheraton Moana Surfrider. What a beautiful hotel!!! I would recommend staying there any time you might be fortunate enough to do so. On to the cruise....Embarkation was fairly easy. We skipped the customary photo and went right on board. There was staff all over the ship to help with cabin location. Since I am an avid follower of opinions on this board, I was quite hestitant to even book this cruise. I wanted to avoid the problems like the tiny cabins, the long wait at the shore excursion desk, and the lines at the restaurants. I decided to book a Penthouse Suite. This was by far the best decision I made, although it was quite costly. The suite was lovely. Not extravagant by any means, but very comfortable.
We especially enjoyed the large balcony. Suite 8202. We had 2 butlers, Sam and James, and a concierge, Patrick, to fulfill any requests we had. To be truthful, we really didn't know what to do with them at first, but believe me you can get used to being spoiled. After the mandatory life boat drill, we went exploring. When we got closer to midship, we noticed a peculiar smell. It sort of smelled like cabbage cooking. Someone overheard us talking about the smell and said that it was sewer gas. My fears about the ship were coming true. As the smell was not throughout the ship I felt I could deal with it, but when we returned from the sail away buffet on deck, the smell was in the cabin and it seemed to be coming from the bathroom. So much for booking a suite. I knew from reading the comments on this board that I probably wouldn't get very far by complaining, so the next day when we got to Kauai we bought air fresheners. That seemed to help, and the day after that the smell seemed to disappear altogether all over the ship. Thank goodness. Our cabin was kept clean and neat. The room steward was friendly and accomodating to our crazy schedule. I did hear some comments from other passengers about the lack of upkeep of thier cabins. One man said that he strategically placed paper on the floor to see if they vacuumed. The paper was there all week!!! The public areas on the ship are very pretty. I did miss having a casino on board, though. I was wondering why we actually came home with spending money! Shore excursions...We took 2. Atlantis sub in Kona and a circle island tour of Oahu after the cruise. There is no need to book the sub from the ship. When you tender in Kona just walk over to the Atlantis tour place and you can book right there. Our sub was scheduled for 2:15. We found out later that this is the day that there is the chocolate buffet at 3:00. We were not told at the shore excursion desk when we booked the tour. I was a bit annoyed at this, so when we got into Kona, we went directly to Atlantis and asked if there was an earlier time and they booked us for 1:00. Perfect. The ship just offers 2 times, but there are many more to choose from. The Circle Island Tour on Oahu was great. It did not go to Pearl Harbor which was one of the reasons we chose this particular tour as we had gone there on our own before boarding. On Kauai, Hilo, and Maui we rented cars from Alamo. They were very efficient. The roads are quite tricky to drive on, so if you decide to rent a car, be careful. We went to the Old Lahaina Luau on Maui. It was wonderful. The ship offers a tour to a different luau exclusive to NCL passengers, but after doing some research, I discovered that the Old Lahaina Luau is the most authentic so we booked it way in advance. It sells out quickly so if you are fortunate enough to get a reservation, by all means do so. The islands are breathtaking. I especially enjoyed Kauai. The NaPali coast is unbelievable. Another highlight is sailing past the active volcano at night. We watched in awe from our balcony. Now on to a subject that has been discussed frequently on this board, Food....We felt the food was acceptable. In our opinion much better than other cruises we have been on. We ate at the buffet, Palace restaurant, Kahili, and the Royal Palm Bistro. All were fine. Actually, our butler delivered the dinner from the Bistro to our suite. What a treat! Tipping...There is no longer a $10 per person per day surcharge,so the tipping is very confusing to say the least. Since we had never had the priviledge of having a butler or concierge before, we were really confused. We just gave what we thought the service deserved. I know this is not very helpful and NCL should clarify this for their passengers once and for all. Just be sure to bring small bills with you. Disembarkation was a breeze. You could choose to just carry your bags and walk off. We had booked the tour so our bags were in a special place, very easy to find. The tour bus stored our luggage on board and dropped us off at the airport right at Continental. The flight home seemed better because wwe were able to sleep for a few hours. I still have jet lag, however. The 6 hour time difference is difficult to get used to.
Hawaii is beautiful, and I'm glad we decided to rent cars instead of doing the ship's tours which were very expensive.
I don't think I would go back. Once for me was enough.
The service was very good for us. I'm not sure if it was because we were suite passengers or not. I would hope the level of service was the same for all passengers.
NCL America could be an excellent cruise line. They really seem to try, but just seem to fall short.
Overall, we enjoyed the cruise and would suggest if could afford to do so, book a suite, the cabins are very small.
If you have any specific questions that I might be able to answer, please feel free to email me.