My husband and I traveled to Hawaii this June to set sail on Pride of America. It was our first time in the islands and our first cruise. I had read many reviews of the ship ahead of time, and posted some questions on the message board here, which helped me to get ready for the experience. It was the trip of a lifetime!
We flew from Ohio on June 6 with Delta Airlines (with our second leg, a 9 1/2 hour flight from Atlanta to Honolulu). We arrived in Hawaii after 2 p.m. The flight wasn't too bad. I learned that the perfect seats on a 747 are the first row of two seats behind the threes, in the tail section. I had space beside my window seat that nearly equaled a seat width. We had extra storage under the seat in front of us and I was short enough (5'3) to be able to stand and stretch in the space beside our seat. I needed that, as my legs tend to swell when I fly. It was great.
When we got our luggage, we headed out to where the shuttles were. I had read that Roberts Hawaii offers $6 transfers to the pier. We couldn't see their bus, but saw another shuttle marked Waikiki and the driver said they were headed to the pier too. He said it would be $8 apiece. We took it.
Embarkation was smooth and easy. We were on the ship in no time (around 3 p.m.). Our room was ready when we got there. It seemed a little small to me, but my husband exclaimed, "It's huge!" when he saw it. I had been warning him that cabins were small on ships. The bed was two twins put together to form a king. There was a loveseat in the room and a small TV. There was ample storage. We unloaded our suitcases and had a couple of drawers in the closet we left empty. The suitcases easily fit under the bed.
The balcony was heavenly. If I had known better when I booked, I would have tried to get one without a lifeboat under it. We were on the 8th deck and the lifeboats were on the 7th. Actually our balcony was over a metal walkway between two lifeboats, which stuck out even further. It wasn't bad, and didn't obstruct our view, but it was in it, if that makes sense. My husband looked on the bright side of things and said if anything happened, at least we'd have an easy way down!
The bathroom was sufficient in size. The toilet and shower both worked well. There was shower gel and shampoo you could use at the push of a button. Soap was the same way at the sink. I took along my own shampoo in little containers, but my husband used the ship one and liked it. I had read there was no storage space by the sink, but there was enough for all of our little bottles of products. I have a travel bag that I hung on a hook on the door for my makeup, etc., which worked well.
The room had no alarm clock, but we just called for a wakeup call each day and they were always prompt with that. We left the balcony door open all night long, which was a wonderful way to listen to the sound of the waves when we were sailing, and to get some fresh air. One added bonus -- the sea air cleared my sinuses completely that week. Now that I am back home, I sure miss it!
We ran into our cabin steward several times in the hall during the week. She did a great job. She looked tired; they work such long days. But she kept the room clean and turned down our bed for us every night. She made four lovely towel animals for us during the week -- a dog, rabbit, elephant and snake. We delighted in them and tried to keep them as long as we could!
The ship was beautiful. We enjoyed the bright decor. The Mardi Gras Lounge was such a cozy place to be for a show and the Hollywood Theatre was elegant and seated so many. We saw many of the shows. We couldn't get enough of Second City, they were great. We went to their large show and both of their Mardi Gras improv shows and even attended a class to learn about improv with one of the comedians, Jeff Griggs. The magician, John Shyrock, was great too, as was the comedian, Chris Alpine. We went to a special show where the magician showed us how to perform some tricks, which was neat. We also went to the crew farewell show, which was really funny, especially their closing "Fountains" act. And we saw a local Maui band perform poolside one afternoon as well.
The food on the ship was good. We ate dinner two nights at the Aloha Cafe, and once each at the Skyline Main Dining Room, Liberty Main Dining Room, Jefferson's Bistro, Lazy J Steakhouse, and Cadillac Diner. We would have eaten at Little Italy instead of the steakhouse, due to the cover charge, but it was closed the night we planned on going (the night most of the ship was at the luau on Kuaui). Service was awesome at the Bisto, especially, but we had really friendly service at the Lazy J and Skyline as well. The food was delicious at the specialty restaurants, and good in the main dining rooms and buffets. I had read where the main dining rooms could take forever. We had two different experiences there. We were in and out of the Skyline in an hour, with good service, but the Liberty took about two hours and didn't impress us as much, service wise. But I know that can depend on the waiter/waitress at the time. The Cadillac Diner was a quiet, fun little place. I discovered I loved their macaroni and cheese. It's on the children's menu there, but I asked for it as a side with my sandwich. It was delicious! The best desserts I had all week were the chocolate chip cookies and the marshmallows we'd have dipped in chocolate for us from the fountains at the buffet. Yum! The buffet had a lot of food, and although it was packed, we never had too much trouble finding a place to sit. I like that they had antibacterial dispensers as you walked in.
We ate in the buffet for most of our breakfasts, but on the two days we had slightly later excursions, we went to the Skyline restaurant. Service was fast there for breakfast. They have an express menu. The fresh squeezed juice is free there too, but there is a charge at the buffet. However, there is regular OJ at the buffet that is no extra charge, in a dispenser. My favorite buffet breakfast dish was the Belgian waffle quarters. One day I tried to wait for an omelet, but it seemed to be taking too long so I just got other stuff. There was so much good food at the buffet that I didn't need to wait.
The pool was a cool place to hang out. It was a little hard finding some chairs together the one day we laid out, but we managed to on the deck overlooking the pool. We swam in the small adults only pool at the back of the ship one time (at least I thought it was an adults only pool), but another couple was in there with an infant and toddler at the same time. It didn't bother us, but I had read where no one in diapers was supposed to be in the pools. We tried out the hot tub at the back of the ship and it was nice and hot. We took walks on the Promenade deck a few times, and my husband jogged on it one morning. One night we played chess in the almost deserted card room. The room was stocked with lots of games. It was a neat place to get away for awhile. The library was such a cozy place too.
One of the two sailing highlights was the night we sailed by the lava flow on the starboard side. We watched on deck. It was amazing! No pictures turned out for me, though. Then, we got to see the Na Pali Coast from our portside balcony. Breathtaking, is all I can say about it. Pictures can't do it justice.
We took a shore excursion each day. The first day, we went on the Road to Hana tour. It was beautiful and we had ample stops to take pictures. I loved the black sand (lava rock) beach. Gorgeous! Lunch was pretty good, but just like the ship, it seemed all we had to drink on all our excursion lunches was tea and water. The road to the other half of the tour was closed, so we went back the way we had come, which was a little disappointing. I heard those who took the same excursion the next day went all the way around. One lady on our bus got sick, so be warned that if you get motion sickness, do not go on this tour.
The second day in Maui we did the Rainforest and Waterfall Hike. I learned I am not cut out for true hiking, but it wasn't too bad. Just be warned there's some climbing involved on steep and rough terrain, including climbing up tree roots on the side of a steep hill and using a rope to help lower yourself down an embankment. My husband took my backpack a couple of times to help me balance myself better. We loved swinging on the rope into one of the waterfalls we saw that day -- that was worth the hike for me.
In Hilo we took the Volcano and Rainbow Falls Deluxe tour, but the water from Rainbow Falls was diverted to the hydroelectric power plant due to a drought, so we went to a non-profit zoo instead. The zoo was neat, and the botanical gardens were gorgeous. The volcano was neat to see, all the steam coming out. And the walk through Thurston Lava Tube was great as well. The buffet lunch was good, as was the trip to the Macademia Nut Factory, where we bought some nuts for gifts.
We took the Captain Zodiac Rafting, Snorkeling and Dolphin Adventure in Kona. That was a lot of fun. We went really fast on the raft. We saw a lot of spinner dolphins jumping and spinning to entertain us. It was neat getting some good shots of the cruise ship in the background too. The snorkeling was good. The reef was in good shape there. There weren't a lot of fish, but the ones there were pretty colorful. Our favorite was the parrotfish. After the tour we walked around Kona. It's a charming town. We ate fish and chips at Quinn's Restaurant, and we found a neat little Internet place -- Beach Dog Internet Cafe -- where we could surf at a rate of $5 for 30 minutes. We stayed for an hour so I could get caught up on news from home. Crystal, who runs it with her husband, was so sweet. She gave us free ice cream samples while we were there. We bought some coffee in a shop near there as well as to take home. The line for tendering was a little long on the way back to the ship, and the rain didn't help, but there were awnings to cover most of the line.
Kauai was the most majestic of the islands. We went on the Waimea Canyon, Wailua River and Fern Grotto tour the first day there. The canyon was gorgeous. My husband didn't like that we stayed at a tourist trap for as long as we did at the canyon though! But some people like to shop. The riverboat ride was cool. I enjoyed seeing the Fern Grotto, but wish you could still go inside it. (You can't since it was damaged in a storm). There is a partially blind cat that lives at the Fern Grotto; it was resting under a large umbrella there. On the way back, they sang and entertained us on the riverboat and taught us how to do the hula. The buffet lunch that day was our best lunch of the entire trip.
Our second day in Kauai we went on the Heaven and Earth tour. We went on a helicopter ride over most of Kauai. It was fabulous! They seat you in the helicopter based on your weight. When it was over, they offer a DVD of your trip for sale. We bought one. The rest of the trip was by land. We saw a lot of beautiful coastline and ate lunch at a beach. The beaches were nearly deserted. They were gorgeous.
You have to put your suitcases out by midnight the night before the cruise ends. They give you color tags to put on them -- ours was black because we were taking an excursion. If you are leaving on your own, you can choose your time of departure the day before in increments of 15 minutes, and you are assigned a color accordingly. Disembarkation was as easy as going on our regular excursions.
We took the Best of Oahu Grand Finale tour. I loved getting the chance to see Pearl Harbor and visit the Arizona Memorial. It was such a moving experience. We then went to the Polynesian Cultural Center. On the way there, we stopped for lunch (on us) and somewhere to sample nuts. Everytime we went around a curve we saw a beautiful beach view, and I so wish we could have stopped for a picture. When I go back someday, I will definitely spend more time on Oahu. I felt like I didn't see enough. The Polynesian Cultural Center was really neat. The canoe pageant and Samoan shows were great, as was the luau, which was included in our cost. The food was delicious and everyone got a free fresh orchid lei. My husband and I went to all the villages in the time we had there, and tried to play all the games we could find. We threw spears at a target, swung poi balls, tossed sticks, balanced poles, learned to play a tune on the ukelele, and sampled poi. We also got some fake tattoos. We had a blast.
We got to the airport around 7:30. Our flight was at 9:50. We took a change of clothes and our toothbrushes in our carry-ons. The clean clothes were welcome after a hot day of touring in the sun. We slept little on our red eye flight back.
I loved every minute of our trip. Cruising was so much fun! We were pretty tired by the end of it, but I wouldn't have changed a thing because we wanted to see all we could of the islands while we were there. When we go back someday, we will know what we want to hit again, this way, and what else we'd like to see. I definitely want to return to Hawaii someday, and I'd love to sail on the Pride of America again. It was a terrific experience!