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  1. Definitely, we were very fortunate to be able to go and complete our trip. We picked this date by chance--when we booked long ago, it happened to be less expensive by a few hundred dollars or so. Had we picked next week it would have been a different story. I feel for all those who were not so fortunate.
  2. The Corona Effect: So I am sure some of you are probably wondering about the effect of the top topic of the day. Check in was...interesting. I had read that check in was normally a breeze. Yeah, not this week. They took our temperature, no problem, we breezed through. Then we filled out a health form. All sharing pens, mind you. No problem. Then all of the passengers got in a huge line. We got there around 2 pm and waited in line for 2 hours to board. We did not use our passports, just our driver licenses so there was no history for them to check. I’m not sure what the delay was but it was ridiculous. They did not ask me any health or travel questions when I got up there besides what was on my travel form. Once we were on the ship, hand sanitizer and washy-washy sprayers were everywhere. This is fine, I understand it is for our own protection. I also noticed bathroom doors were propped open. We left Wed before the cruise, and it was interesting to see the change in the week and half--the timing was amazing. I saw the great TP panic of 2020 unfold on Facebook before my eyes. Around Tues or Wed the Captain came on and said they were going to enhanced sanitation procedures (I assume it is called Defcon 5 Washy Washy in the NCL Handbook) out of an “abundance of caution.” They roped off the drink stations, you could no longer get your own coffee or water and plates and silverware were handed to you. No self serve at the buffet for anything. Menus at the MDR were on a piece of paper that was thrown away after you read them. It was fine with us, I know they were trying to protect us and the staff so we rolled with it. I did not want to end up like the Princess ship. We did not see anyone ill, although we were two hours late docking in Kauai due to having to make an emergency stop in the middle of the night to disembark a very ill passenger in Honolulu. No word on why or what that passenger’s fate was. I hope she/he was okay. Final Thoughts: I don’t mean to sound harsh, we had a great time on the cruise, I think this is an amazing way to see Hawaii, especially for the first time. We packed so much into a week and still got to relax at night. And to do it all in a week and not have to waste time sailing back and forth from Seattle or LA is great. I think I had high expectations because I was excited to sail NCL and thought they were so tailored to a younger crowd. I think I will give the Jade or Pearl a try, we do enjoy mid-size ships and I know the Pride is a little different than most ships. That about sums it up, I think--any questions, please feel free to ask!
  3. Pride of America/NCL General Thoughts This was my first cruise with NCL, I have cruised with Royal Carribean and Holland America previously. I have to say, I was quite excited to try NCL, I like cruising and thought this would be my future cruise line. The commercials make it seem young and hip (as young and hip as cruising can be, ha ha). First, the bad--my biggest disappointment was with the food. I get the feeling NCL is really pushing the specialty restaurants. The MDR food was not great, and I am not expecting that much--just Olive Garden level quality. There was no shrimp cocktail--at all. Not once. None of the dishes had shrimp (my favorite, which is why I noticed). For some reason, all the fish options were ruby trout--did NCL buy a ruby trout farm? No mahi mahi? Hardly anything Hawaiian inspired on the menu either. We ate the buffet most mornings and that was pretty good, no complaints there. And East Meets West was good. We did not get to the Cadillac Diner, I wish we had. Second, the tv channels--terrible selection! Holland American had a nice on demand section and quite a few channels. In this day and age what NCL is offering is just not acceptable. We should at least get a hotel level of channel selection. People need to relax at night/while getting ready and all we could watch is bridge cam of the industrial port or CORONA VIRUS CORONA VIRUS CORONA VIRUS on the news channels. Or the Stars Wars movie they were playing for the hundredth time. Finally, I found the layout of the ship confusing. We ate in the Skyline for three nights until I finally found the fancy dining room. My husband was getting annoyed with me, he kept hissing at me, “Why am I in pants and a polo that guy is in shorts and flip flops!” Then we asked (I know, I should have asked earlier!) and it was explained to us about the two dining rooms. But the elevators where only one side goes to deck 3, the dining room where you can only access via one elevator at the back of the ship, it is just really confusing. We finally got the hang of it but then it was time to leave! Isn’t that how it always is. The good--I thought the staff were great--we met some amazing people and they work their tails off to ensure you have a great time. I also really enjoyed the drink package--this was the first cruise we had one and it was nice not having to worry about getting another lava flow. I know it wasn’t “free” but i liked having to not worry about it. Wifi was pretty good, we got a free 100 minutes but since were in port so much we only used it at night when we were out at sea.
  4. DAY TWO MAUI: We kept this as a low key beach day. We went to Kaanapali beach. Tried to park in Sheraton’s free spots, no luck, ended up paying at Whaler’s Village. Had a relaxing day on the beach. Afterwards went back to the ship to relax and watch sail away. DAY THREE: HILO: Here we booked a tour with Rob K via ToursbyLocals. (Thanks to Beachiekeen for the recommendation). We loved it so much, it was so much better than getting on those huge tour busses. He picked us up right from the pier in a Mercedes van and drink and snacks were included. We saw Volcano National Park and lots of other sights. It was really great. And more economical than the ship tours. I will definitely be using ToursbyLocals again. While we really loved Rob, I am sure there are great options in lots of ports, I would definitely recommend checking them out--you can read reviews to ensure you are getting a good guide. DAY FOUR: KONA: Rob was so kind to gave us a recommendation of an activity for this day as we did not have much planned. We went to a National Park and saw sea turtles. We also walked around Kona and ate at Holy Donuts. Tendering was kind of a mess getting off the ship--we got in line at 7:20 (tickets were not required until 7:45) and had to wait about 30 minutes. Maybe this is normal but it was hot as heck and not a pleasant experience. We got back on before noon with no problems. I really enjoyed Hilo's weather and wished we could have spent more time there. DAY FIVE: KAUAI: Another ToursbyLocals with Noah this time. He was excellent as well, driving us to several almost private lookout spots at Waimea Canyon. Finally he said, now this spot is usually the only spot the tour buses stop at--and when we pulled in, holy cow, there were a million people there. Made it so worthwhile to book with him. He even played a ukulele while we walked and told us historical Hawaiian storied while we drove. I would really encourage your to consider it as an option--once again, we were picked up right at the pier and dropped off with plenty of time. We could also skip things that did not interest us and add things that did--we picked our lunch place, a cool little microbrewery, and saw a little chocolate shop across the street and stopped over there for a quick treat on a whim. DAY SIX: KAUAI: We did the Kauai river tubing--amazing, awesome, loved it. Thanks to those on the board who recommended it. DAY SEVEN: DISEMBARK: Got off at 9 am with no problems.
  5. I’ll do a review of each port then of POA and NCL overall because that is how my mind works. For background info, we are forty something experienced travelers, traveling in a small group. Flight out--EWR to HNL Not much worth noting except just sharing that United has nonstop service from Newark to HNL. A nice alternative to Hawaiian, especially if you have status with United. We stayed at the Sheraton for a few days pre cruise, we had an ocean view room which was great, we enjoyed the infinity pool. We mainly booked the Sheraton for the pool and view, we also received a daily credit which sounded great until we got there and learned it could only be used at like three places. It was fine, we spent it on mai tais, the location of the Sheraton is great, right next to the Royal Hawaiian. Also had dinner at House without a Key, spendy but worth it for a big trip like this. We used Johnny Cab for all our transfers based on the board’s recommendation. Everything went smoothly. For some reason they did not pick us up from the cruise terminal to take us to the airport, but sent another company who called us to let us know and met us there promptly and knew my name so it was not a big deal. I figured they got held up or something but it was a little weird. DAY ONE MAUI--we rented a car from Avis at the Airport. Got off the ship, and wandered around a little confused about what line to get in for the shuttle--nothing was marked--until we asked and were told by the security guard to wait in line 7. We saw several people turned away who did not rent from Avis (and the other company who provides the shuttle, I can’t remember who) so make sure you double check). They said they would check for either a rental agreement or car keys to get on the shuttle but didn’t always. Driver was helpful and told us the best roads to take and when last shuttles back to ship were. We got our car with no problems and were off to Lahaina. After viewing the banyan tree and wandering around for a bit, we had a whale watch with Captain Steve. We enjoyed it, although we didn’t see a lot of whales. I think they were a little quiet that day from what the guide and captain were saying, but we did see some whales and babies and the scenery was beautiful. Still very enjoyable and loved the smaller boat. Next, we went and saw the sun set on Haleakala. This was amazing, I don’t know why more people don’t do it. We stopped for shaved ice first at Ululani’s, which in hindsight set us back and we barely made the sunset with minutes to spare. But still worth it. We missed the last shuttle and had to take a dodgy cab back to the ship for about $15.
  6. Great review and pictures, thank you for sharing! We will be on the POA in early March and I have started packing this weekend. Two questions for you: I know the dress code for this cruise is more relaxed, but am I correct in assuming that for the main dining room, polo shirts and khaki pants are acceptable but jeans and/or nice khaki shorts (not cargos) are not? (For our first cruise on RCI I made my husband wear a jacket and tie to the main dining room because I thought he had to and he was not happy!) Whoops. Also, how close to sailing did you bid for your cabin upgrade? We never received any offer to bid but we are first time NCL customers so perhaps that is why. We are in the northern Philly suburbs and are flying out of Newark, NJ (ugh, I know), but just wanted to let you know United has a non stop flight to Honolulu from Newark that you may want to check out if you travel to Hawaii again. It's about 9 hours there and 11 hours back--long but much better than one with connections.
  7. Just wanted to say thank you for a great informative review! I really enjoyed your pictures. We are traveling in March on POA with a group of five and all the information was really helpful. I wanted to ask, since you enjoyed your smaller private tours with Mauka Makai, did you consider them for other ports? I hate the big tours too, but it is a lot of work to keep renting minivans at each port and having someone drive the whole time (which will either be me or my husband).
  8. Thank you, that is good to know--I think we will be renting a car and going with Captain Steve's. I appreciate the advice!
  9. That was specific to the Pride of Maui, I had read in several reviews on Tripadvisor that their whale watch/snorkel excursion was focused more on the snorkeling aspect. Thank you all for the feedback. Perhaps we will rent a car, as we have an overnight in Maui. It seems like Lahaina is where a lot of the action is at so I guess we would end up there anyway. I had hoped to split up the days, one more relaxing near the ship with just whale watching and one with more active exploring but we will go with the flow. I'll keep researching.
  10. We will be on Pride of America in early March, docking in Kahului and would like to do a whale watching excursion, hopefully based in Kahului. I have searched the boards and most of the whale watching operators recommended on here such as Captain Steve's or Trilogy leave from Lahaina, which Google tells me is about an hour away from where the ship will be. I am not sure if we will rent a car, and even if we do I don't know if we want to drive two hours for the excursion. It seems there is a bus as an option but that worries me if it is crowded and no room, frequency of bus to return, etc. Do any of these places offer pick up for cruise passengers? Or is the really good whale watching out of Lahaina and we just need to accept it (and the ride out there)? I did find Pride of Maui tour operators that leave out of Maalea, which is 30 minutes away and they offer pick up for $30, but their whale watching excursion combines with snorkeling and reviews seem to indicate the whale watching is just on the way to the snorkel location. I would prefer a smaller boat than a huge tour but we are open to suggestions.
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