NCL Pride Of America Hawaii Cruise (2008)

We had a wonderful time on our Hawaii cruise!! It even made me forget about the Patriots loss in the Superbowl for a little while. If it wasn’t so very far away I know it would be one of our top vacation choices and we all agreed that we would love to go back but it will be a while. I have heard that Disney is building a resort there so we may wait for that!

by Jennifer (Family Travel Gurus Client)

The Marriott in Hawaii was beautiful and the view was awesome! The room worked out perfectly for what we needed. The location was right in the middle of Waikiki and perfect for easy access to the beach, stores and restaurants. I was a little surprised at how much traffic there is in Honolulu and would advise anyone to give themselves plenty of time to get around. We took taxis but I can see where it would be frustrating to rent a car.

The adjoining rooms on the ship worked out great for us for the money we spent. The cruise was the perfect way to introduce ourselves to Hawaii and get a taste of all of the islands. We took all of our shore excursions through NCL and the guides were so knowledgeable that we all learned a lot. It was all so fascinating and I couldn’t help but realize that if we did them on our own we would have saved some money but missed out on all kinds of things that they pointed out to us and information they told us along the way. I personally learned a ton about the history of Hawaii, its formation, people, vegetation, etc, etc from these guides.

Our first day we got there we did do Pearl Harbor on our own which was fine because my husband is a history fanatic and was all the tour guide we needed. We had our daughter read a couple of books “Early Sunday Morning” and “A Boys War” before we left which helped give her an idea of the significance of where we were going. It is hard for any 10 year old to appreciate it but I think we did a pretty good job. We were still on eastern time so we were all up at 4 am and got there very early which was good because I can’t remember if it was you or not but someone had told us that they typically run out of tickets by the early afternoon. There was a line formed already when we got there at 7. We did the Arizona, the Bowfin and the Missouri and spent over a half day there. Then we walked Waikiki beach area and had a great dinner at Duke’s.

On Saturday we did laundry at the hotel and hung out at the pool before we left for the ship after lunch. I was surprised to find out that they did their safety drill at 4:30 pm and the ship didn’t even leave until 8. If you weren’t there you had to do a make up one the next day. Not a problem for us but I was surprised. The laundry thing is always something I like to know too so it was good to do some before we left for the ship. Otherwise it was $1.50 just to have a pair of underwear done on the ship! That’s insane. I am now in the process of doing the three suitcases we brought home!

On Sunday we did the Volcano National Park tour in Hilo. It was ok but we were a little disappointed because the Jagger Museum was closed and we were not allowed to walk on the lava because it was emitting high levels of sulfuric acid and was dangerous. The rangers were all wearing gas masks! We did get to do the Thurston lava tube which was cool.

On Monday we went to Haleakala Crater. That was amazing. We were prepared with sweatshirts and all but it was beautiful even at 10,000 feet. In fact, it didn’t rain once the whole time we were in HI which we were told is very unusual. It had rained significantly before we got there, for two weeks. The downside of this was that some of the waterfalls weren’t flowing as much as usual, especially in Kauai where we did a helicopter tour. You could see where they typically were but weren’t flowing.

In Maui we did a rainforest and waterfall hike. This was the highlight for me! Our guide was wonderful. He gave us samples of koiku nuts, fern tips, mangos, papayas, guava and tons of other things along the way that normally I would never let my kids put in their mouths because I wouldn’t know if they were ok. He brought us to three different falls and was so great in taking tons of pictures for us as a family that I’m sure one of them will be our Christmas card next year. At the last one we went swimming and my daughter climbed 40 feet to jump into a swimming hole. It was amazing and I would highly recommend that one!!!

Another thing I was very pleased about was that we were there in the height of the humpback whale season and we got to see tons of them from our ship! I would have been disappointed if we had paid to do a whale watching tour because it wasn’t necessary at all at this time of year. The other thing I wasn’t aware of is that the ship makes a special loop around Kauai to view the Na Pali coast so I would have been disappointed if we booked a boat excursion to do that and then realized it afterwards. We were wondering why the boat left at 2 pm on that day and 6 on all the others and it wasn’t until we got the newsletter the night before that we figured it out. It might have said somewhere but we forgot.

In Kauai we also spent a day at the small beach that was within walking distance. One thing I was a little surprised at was the ports. I guess it was because we just did the Caribbean cruise last year where all of the ports are so built up with shops and such but most of these were just cargo ports. In most places you had to walk a little ways to get to shops, except for Kona which we tendered to. That one had lots of places that were easily accessible. I did like that they had shuttles to places like Wal Mart and K Mart in some ports in case you needed anything.

The other big one we did was the swimming with the dolphins at Sea Life Park in Honolulu. The dolphin part was great but the park itself was very small! I guess we are used to Sea World so we saw it all in a matter of a couple of hours. The tour was over at 2 pm and our flight didn’t leave until 11:30 pm. I couldn’t see sitting in an airport for 8 hours in Hawaii unnecessarily so we tried to sign up for Easy Fly on the ship. They take your luggage the night before disembarkation and you see it again at your home airport. The airlines have control over who gets accepted and who doesn’t and for some reason we didn’t so we were stuck with our bags all day on Saturday. When we asked the reception desk if there were any alternatives they told us we could pay a fee to store it at the terminal but it closed at 6 (not a big savings for us) or he also told us about a hotel on Waikiki that had rooms available for day rates. For $99 we were able to rent a room and stay there for the day, take showers, store luggage. We decided to do that and take a taxi from Sea Life Park to there when we were done but the shuttle driver offered to drop us off there after he dropped the rest of the group at the airport for only $20. It was well worth it (Easy Fly would have cost us $80 anyways, $20 each person). We were able to take showers after the dolphin swim which was a blessing since we would have gone straight to the airport and not even possibly see a shower until 7 pm the following evening. We left our luggage there and went back to Waikiki beach to do some final shopping, sightseeing and had a great dinner at the Yard House before we packed up to leave for the airport at 8 pm. Even at the airport you can’t check your luggage until 4 hours before your flight so we would have had it with us until at least 7:30. Everyone else on the shuttle was commenting that they wished they knew about that option as they all had late flights too and would have gladly done that instead. I don’t know why they don’t publicize it more but it was a much better alternative than having two kids run around the airport for 10 hours!

One thing that surprised me was the average age of the cruisers. I think we were only about 5% of people under 50! Not that that is a bad thing but it was surprising. I thought being a school vacation week there would be more families and kids, like at Disney World during that week. The kids club was only open from 9 to 12 am when were typically busy and 7 to 10 at night and by then my kids were wiped out from excursions. At the end of the week they wanted to go there every night and made some good friends. My daughter got emails and addresses and intends to keep in touch with a few. On the Disney cruise there were SO many kids they never really got to know any of them very well. That was a definite positive.

Thank you Tim so much for all of your help making this the trip of a lifetime! Your quick responses to all of our questions and willingness to help us is very much appreciated!!! We will definitely be in touch in the future for any of our future vacations. Thanks again.

Jen

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