Our group of 37 people arrived in Hawaii two days prior to our cruise. We flew from Charlotte, NC with Delta Airlines to Atlanta and then on to Honolulu. The flights went very smooth and the flight attendants were very courteous. They actually fed us two meals on the long flight. We stayed at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani hotel at Waikiki Beach. This hotel is in a perfect location! We were just steps away from many shops, restaurants, the beach, and the International market. Our room was neat and clean and we had no problems at all.
We arrived around 4pm Honolulu time and just spent the evening walking around the beach and hotel area. We went to bed early and woke up the next morning and walked down the street to Denny's for breakfast. It was a good breakfast and reasonably priced. This morning we took the Circle Island Tour with Roberts Hawaii. Our guide was Koko from Samoa. He taught us the “Hang Loose” song. It was a full day of sight seeing. We had a buffet lunch at the Helemano Plantation right beside the Dole Plantation. My husband & I did not care for the food here. This was a nice tour to see the highlights of Oahu.
After the tour we returned to our hotel to freshen up before we went to Germaine's Luau. The luau was fun and the food was pretty good. They take a really nice picture of you when you arrive (for a small fee of course).
The next morning we were up early because the bus to Pearl Harbor was picking us up at 7:30 am. My husband & I walked down the beach and ate breakfast at McDonald's. Then we loaded the bus and went to Pearl Harbor. Our tour guide had pre-arranged our visit to Pearl Harbor and we had tickets for Tour #6. We didn't have to wait long at all. The film they show is very moving and the mood at the memorial is very somber. I felt privileged to get to see this historical site. We left Pearl Harbor and drove around Honolulu as the bus driver pointed out several significant sites. We also drove through the Punchbowl cemetery before we went to the pier to board the ship.
Embarkation: We arrived at the pier around 1:00 pm. Embarkation went very smoothly. We had just a little bit of a line in front of us but it didn't take long at all. They gave each of us a beautiful flower lei and took our picture. Our cabin was clean and ready. We put our stuff down and headed to the Aloha Café for a bite to eat. The food was fine. Everyone seemed to find something that they liked to eat. After we ate, we went to explore this big, beautiful ship. It was very clean and all of the staff that we encountered was friendly and helpful. At 3:00pm we took a tour of the ship with a girl named Emily. She was from Texas. It was a good way to get to know the ship. We didn't leave Honolulu until 8:00pm. The ship really rocked the first & second night. The rest of the time it was fairly smooth sailing.
Cabin: We had an inside cabin on deck 11 at the front of the ship. There is a lot of storage in the closet and the luggage fit under the bed just fine. The bed was very comfortable. The shower is small but it works. The bathroom has storage behind the mirror on the right and there is a shelf underneath the sink that had plenty of storage space. I had taken a power strip, but I didn't need it. There is a great little hair dryer in the cabin and a small refrigerator that is perfect for the soft drinks or water you can buy when in port. Our cabin steward was Joe Castillo from Hilo. He did a terrific job all week. There is a dial outside the door that you turn to let him know your cabin is ready to be made up or turned down.
Shops: The shops on the ship are nice and I think the prices are not out of line. I purchased a beautiful pink coral ring on the ship. The jewelry store is Maui Divers and the prices were exactly the same as the stores in port because I checked every one of them.
Spa & Gym: I never used them, but both are look very nice. The gym had excellent equipment... .had flat screen TV's on the treadmills.
Food: We did not eat at any of the specialty restaurants. We ate at mostly at the Aloha Café, the Skyline once, the Liberty three times, and the Cadillac Diner once. We usually eat @ 6pm so were in and out in an hour... never had to wait. The food and service was good each time although there is not a great variety each night. I had the steak a least 3 times because I didn't care for the other selections. We also ordered room service once and it was there in less than 10 minutes! The Fudge Brownie Sunday at the Cadillac Diner was great as was the ice cream machine in the Aloha Café. We didn't go to the Chocolate Buffet and there are no midnight buffets either. We also had the chicken wings at the Key West Bar & Grill on one afternoon and they were pretty good.
Entertainment: The entertainment on the ship is not like other cruises. There was a juggler/comedian on two of the nights. He was amazing. There was also comedian/impressionist on the last night. He was good too. I missed the show with the duck, but others said it was funny. The one production show was done on the next to last night. It was pretty good... a lot of singing and dancing. After the show, Shona, the cruise director, introduced the faculty and staff, including the Captain and officers. Shona is a very cute girl and has a great personality. She has a lot of energy. We enjoyed the Not-so-Newlywed and other games she hosted. The crew talent showcase was okay but the ending they called "Fountains" was so funny! There is also a passenger talent show and the winner gets a free cruise!
Hilo: I booked a tour with Green Travel & Tours. They were at the pier when we docked. There were 12 of us in a 15 passenger van. We took the Volcanoes National Park Tour with Rainbow Falls and Akaka Falls. We also went to Island Candies and an Orchid Garden. There were also several other sites that our guide, Lee, drove through. There was a light rain for most of the day. I enjoyed the tour very much. It was about $20 less than the ship tour and we got to see a lot more. We were back on the ship by 4:30pm.
Maui: The first day in Maui we had reserved a car with Thrifty. We had to wait about 10 minutes for the shuttle, but we were in and out with the minivan in less than 15 minutes. My husband & I, along with two other couples, shared the cost. The car was $35, gas $15, and parking in Lahaina $5; so it only cost us $20 per couple. We went to Lahaina Town and walked around and did a little shopping. This is a neat little town. I enjoyed it very much. Then we went to Whaler's Village at Kaanapali Beach. Parking is free if you spend $10 which was no problem since we ate lunch here at the Hula Grill. The food was great and what a view! After lunch we went to the Whaler's Village museum. It was free and had some interesting things to see from the whaling era.
We headed back towards the ship and stopped in at the Maui Ocean Center. They had a lot of sea life there that I had never seen before. The unicorn fish was the funniest looking thing! We left there and stopped at an overlook on the highway. It was beautiful. I had planned to do the Maui Tropical Plantation and Iao Valley but we ran out of time. We got back to the ship at 5:00pm. We rested for a couple of hours and then we returned the car. The Krispy Crème was near the Thrifty drop off and the HOT DONUTS NOW sign was on! We just had to stop! We bought our daughter a cute shirt here.
Maui Day Two: I booked the Hana Skytrek Tour with Temptation Tours. They picked us up at the pier at 6:45am in a luxury van. We drove to the Heliport where we had to weigh in and watch a brief safety video. There were 6 of us on the tour. Our guide was Kelly. He was very nice. He drove to the little town of Paia where we stopped so he could pick up our lunch. They had juice and muffins for us there also. We drove the Road to Hana and stopped at several places along the way. The road is very curvy and has many one lane bridges. None of us got car sick though. We saw several waterfalls and made a stop at a beautiful garden. When we reached Hana, Kelly set up our lunch on a picnic table underneath a shelter right on the beach. The lunch was terrific! We even had a white tablecloth and real dishes! We had smoked chicken, tossed salad, pasta salad, fruit, rolls, spinach dip and crackers, and cookies. It was very nice. After lunch, he drove us to a couple of other places and we got out at a nice park and walked around. Then we drove on to the Heliport where we flew back to Kahuli with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. This was our first time in a helicopter and it was awesome! I was a little disappointed that we couldn't fly over Haleakala Crater due to the clouds. We were back by 1:30 PM. We purchased the DVD of our flight for $25. The tour was a bit pricey, but with the road tour, lunch and flight, I think it was worth the money. Plus they give you a VHS tape called Hana and Beyond. We called cab to take us back to the ship where we sat around the pool and rested.
Kona: We did the Historic Kona tour through the ship. We were on the second tender out for this 8am tour. The tour only lasted 3.5 hours. We visited the Place of Refuge, The Painted Church, and a coffee plantation where we sampled nuts, coffee and cake. The samples of the Macadamia Nut Rum Cake were out of this world! I wish I had bought one of the cakes. We went back to the pier and walked around for a little bit. There is a small beach right near the pier where you can rent snorkel equipment for $10 for the day. I was going to snorkel, but the water was cool and I didn't want to do it by myself. We walked down the pier to take a picture of the ship. I asked the crazy guys from the Captain Zodiac Snorkel Tour if they would take our picture and they did after they took a picture of themselves. They seemed like they would be a lot of fun. One of them even knew where our hometown was because he was in the service and stationed nearby. We went back to the ship, had lunch and sat around the pool.
Kauai, Day One: We had planned to rent a car here but after all the heavy rains and flooding they had in March and April; we decided to do a ship tour instead. We did the Waimea Canyon, Fern Grotto, Waliua River Cruise. However, the Fern Grotto was closed due to damage from the rains, so they substituted a tour of the Paradise Gardens instead. This was a nice tour, very organized. Our driver/guide, Juan was a native of Kauia, but of Mexican heritage. We drove to the canyon and he talked the entire way, telling us stories and history of the area and talking about his family. It was a bit hazy, but the canyon is beautiful. There are wild chickens everywhere! We made a stop at the Spouting Horn. This blow hole is a must see! It was one of our favorite things. We also went to a scenic overlook where we saw 'Opaeka'a Falls and drove by the old Coco Palms where Elvis liked to stay. It is now under renovation. We had lunch on the grounds of a Marriott Hotel. After lunch we went to Smith's Tropical Paradise where we took a tram ride through a lovely garden. We saw the most beautiful peacocks there. After the garden tour we boarded a river boat and cruised down the Wailua River. There was a young man onboard who told us stories and history of the area. We reached the Fern Grotto, which was closed due to damage, and picked up performers. They sang and one girl did a few dances for us. They tried to teach us all how to hula... I'm not so sure we got it! Then we went back to the ship. It was a nice tour, but I really would have preferred to have a car and do it on my own. I think we could have seen a lot more of the Island that way.
Kauai, Day Two: We had nothing planned for today. We just caught one of the free shuttles and walked around at the shops in port. I was disappointed that we missed the last shuttle to the Coconut Grove Market place. It left at 10:15am. I really wanted to go there. We went back to the ship and started to pack. The ship left at 2:00pm. We reached the Na Pali coastline @ 5:00pm. It was very hazy but the coastline s spectacular. I can only imagine what it must look like on a clear day.
The next morning we were back on Honolulu. We were off the ship at 9:30am. The cruise line lost one lady's bag, but she got it back the next week. It was sent to the Marriott by mistake. We had chartered a bus from Roberts Hawaii because our flight didn't leave until 6pm. After one final stop at Hilo Hattie's, we shopped and had lunch at the International Market, and then we went to the Dole Plantation and had Pineapple ice cream. It was so good! We arrived at the airport @ 4pm. The flight home was long but we got home safe and sound around noon the next day.
All said, I really enjoyed the cruise and Hawaii is beautiful. This was a great way to get a good overview of each of the Islands. My tip would be to rent a car as much as possible and do your own thing. The organized tours are nice, but after a while you start to hear the same stories over and over. Maui and Hilo ports are in an industrial area so there is nothing to do unless you have transportation. There is more to do around the ports of Kona, Kauai, and Honolulu.