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Norwegian Star Hawaiian Islands, November 14-23, 2003

 
Background

 

Doug - 41, Eric - 55

Previous cruises total approximately 16 on several different  line/ships including Dolphin Cruise Lines/Premier Cruise Lines  Seabreeze I, NCL Norwegian Dynasty, Carnival Tropical, Holland  America Noordam & Maasdam, Cunard QE2.

We just celebrated out 21st anniversary two days before the trip  started.  We booked this trip back in July when I found a package  that NCL was offering that included air, 2 nights hotel and the  cruise.  We focused on NCL for our next cruise because we had a  cruise credit from our aborted trip on the S/S Norway back in May  when the boiler accident happened.  We both wanted to see Hawaii and  this proved to be a great trip.

I've decided to organize this review by day because it's easier  for me to remember it that way!

Yellow Bird Travel Company
*** SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT ****

My wonderful travel agent, Linda Boerner atYellow Bird Travel Company booked this trip for us.  We've  known Linda and used her services for many years.  If you want  a trustworthy, hardworking travel agent, try Linda!
*** END OF SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT ***
Trip Itineray

Date


Details

Friday, 11/14/2003


Depart Tampa 8:40 am Arrive Honolulu 4:30 pm.   Check in at Radisson Prince Kuhio Waikiki hotel

Saturday, 11/15/2003


Honolulu

Sunday, 11/16/2003


Check out of hotel, board Norwegian Star

Monday, 11/17/2003


Hilo, Hawaii

Tuesday, 11/18/2003


At Sea

Wednesday, 11/19/2003


Fanning Island, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm

Thursday, 11/20/2003


At Sea

Friday, 11/21/2003


Kahului, Manu, Hawaii 1:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Saturday, 11/22/2003


Nawiliwili, Kauai, Hawaii 8:00 am - 6:30 pm

Sunday, 11/23/2003


Honolulu, Hawaii 7:00 am

Although this was the published itinerary, Friday and Saturday  were changed due to weather.  See the details for those days below.
 
Friday, 11/14/2003

 

We left the house by taxi to Tampa International Airport about  7:15 am for our Delta flight to Atlanta.  The flight left a few  minutes late but arrived early in Atlanta.  We delayed getting on  the plane until final boarding was called.  This was by accident but  still worked out.  The flight was about an hour long and we arrived  about 10:00 am

We had a grueling 9:40 minute direct flight from Atlanta to  Honolulu which we weren't looking forward to that left Atlanta at  11:50 am.  We were able to get a light breakfast in the airport  prior to boarding and some water to take along.  The plane was a 767  with 2-3-2 seating.  We had the center seating area with the center  seat between us empty.  This made for more room and a much nicer  flight. It was pretty much a full flight with quite a few cruise  passengers on it.  Many of the women were wearing leis, getting in  the mood for the trip to come!  We were served drinks, a hot lunch,  more drinks, and later on a light snake with drinks before landing.   There were three movies shown, The Hulk (really bad - how come his  purple underwear never ripped off like every other piece of clothing  - super spandex?), Legally Blonde 2 (enjoyed it!), and Uptown Girls  (didn't bother watching).  The flight was long but rather nice if a  bit bumpy.

We arrived on time and were greeting by NCL reps at the gate -  NCL's documentation said they would meet us at the luggage area.  We  were given tags to put on our luggage based on which hotel we were  booked into.  They escorted us to luggage where we got our luggage  and put on the new tags.  They then walked us out to the Roberts of  Hawaii bus.  Roberts of Hawaii is a very large, if not the largest,  tour company in the islands.  You see their busses everywhere.  The  driver gave us information about Waikiki on the way to the hotels.   He suggested to NOT go to the Arizona memorial on Sunday but go  Saturday instead since there are ship passengers there on Sunday by  the bus load.  He also suggested buying your trinkets at the swap  meet at the stadium across from the memorial as there were much  cheaper than in Waikiki.  Both tips were right on the money!

Upon arriving at the hotel, our luggage was taken for us.  We  checked in and the luggage arrived shortly thereafter.  The hotel,  Raddison Prince Kuhio, is on the Diamond Head end of Waikiki on  Kuhio street.  Waikiki has 2 main roads, Kalakaua which runs along  the beach and Kuhio which is about 2 short blocks north.  Everything  was within walking distance and a taxi or bus wasn't needed (at  least for us).  The hotel was very nice.  Our room was on the 10th  floor with a mountain view.  The balcony was scary!  It just jutted  out from the building with no other support - I went out once,  looked down and never went out again!  We had two double beds, TV,  fridge, coffee maker, bar sink, and a marble bathroom.  This hotel  is also where NCL has the hospitality desk.  You are told you can  get a free continental breakfast and tour talk on Saturday morning  at 7:00 am.  We chose not to and are glad we didn't!  This is just a  sales pitch and tour by Maui Diver's Jewelry store and would have  eaten up our morning.  You can also book other tours through NCL for  Honolulu here but the hotel has a tour desk in the lobby and can do  the same for less money.  We never made it to the hospitality desk -  they were open from 8 - 4 pm on Saturday.

We left the hotel after our luggage arrived, around 6:30 pm and  decided to walk around the area and find something to eat.  We were  tired from the flight but not enough to sleep and we wanted to stay  up until about 10:00 pm to try to get adjusted to the new time zone  (5 hours earlier than Tampa).  I'd read to set your watch to the  time of your destination when you get on the plane and try to eat  your meals as if you were on the new time schedule.  On the plane I  really didn't want the snack before landing but ate it telling  myself it was lunch (at 3:00 pm).  We walked around noting were  things were.  The ABC stores truly are on almost every corner, even  on the same short block!  One was across from our hotel.

Waikiki is built up and very much the tourist town.  Shopping and  dining are the major highlights in the evening.  There are people  handing you coupons for their restaurants and trying to get you to  eat there.  There were lots of tourists walking around, many with  children in tow.  I felt safe and wasn't harassed by the people with  the handouts.  The secret is to avoid their gaze before you get to  them - look across the street, up at the buildings, anywhere but at  them.  It's a good idea to get a map with some landmarks on it and  study it before venturing out. It gives you some reference points  when you're walking around that you tie other places to.  After  looking at many restaurants and stores, it was about 9:00 pm and  were getting very tired.  We needed to eat something and get to bed.

Many of the restaurants are sushi or surf & turf.  We ended up on  Kuhio and upon spying a Chili's, we ate there knowing I could get  just a salad or soup.  We were told by a taxi driver that the surf &  turf places are what the Japanese like which is why they are all  over.  We walked back to the hotel and off to bed!
 
Saturday, 11/15/2003

 

We woke up about 5:30 am.  We'd planned to see the Arizona  memorial and go to the swap meet as the major events today.  We  dressed and were at the Denny's down the street by 7:00 am.  From  there we caught the #20 bus to the Arizona memorial on Kuhio  street.  The buses in Honolulu are great - $2.00 per person each  time you get on and it will take you all the way around the entire  island!  If you plan to get off and on, a 4 day pass for $20 would  probably be a better deal.

We got off at the memorial stop (about 30 minute ride with time  to check out more of Waikiki) and crossed the street.  You cannot  take any kind of bag, backpack or large camera case into the  memorial.  These must be checked in the parking lot and retrieved  upon exiting.  We arrived before 10:00 am and got ticket #9.  We had  about 40 minutes to kill before the movie and boat ride out to the  memorial.  We looked around the museum and bookstore and it was time  to go into the movie.  After the movie we boarded the boat to the  memorial.  After getting to the memorial, we were able to look  around for about 10 minutes before they called everyone to board the  next boat.  It seems the water was getting very choppy and too  dangerous to operate the boats.  Turned out they stopped boat rides  to the memorial after our trip - people on our cruise were on ticket  #10 and couldn't get out to the memorial.

After leaving the memorial, we walked across the street and about  a 1/4 mile down to the left to the stadium and swap meet.  It seemed  to go on forever!  Admission was 50 cents per person but if you find  one of the small visitor guides called "The BEST of Oahu" in  Waikiki, there is a coupon in the back for free admission.  We  walked around for about 1 1/2 hours, buying trinkets here and  there.  The prices are much better here.  Magnets that were $2.50  each in Waikiki were 3 for $5 here.  I bought some polarized  sunglasses for $4.00 that worked just fine (beats $14.99+ at the ABC  stores).  There was cheap roll-on luggage for $8 that, had we known,  we would have bought - more on that later!  Deciding to leave and go  back to the bus stop, we saw in the parking lot a shuttle service  that went to Waikiki for $4 each.  We took this which dropped us off  at the Aloha Tower Marketplace (where the ship would be the next  day).

We had lunch at Gordon Biersch, eating outside.  Very nice.   After walking around the shops, we asked at the Information kiosk  about the trolley cars we saw all over.  These were $25 per person  per day and you get on and off as often as you wanted.  We then  asked about busses and they have a schedule and map for busses to  major points from that location.  We simply walked up to King &  Bishop street to catch one.  Before getting on the bus, we walked  around downtown for a little while.  The bus we boarded (19 or 20)  ended going up through the University area before going to Waikiki  so we had tour of an area we would not of seen otherwise.

We decided a nap was in order before dinner.  After getting  dressed, we walked around Waikiki to see where we wanted to eat.  It  had rained during our nap and was still spitting very lightly.  We  thought we'd go to Paradiso at the Royal Hawaiian but since it was  wet, we didn't want to eat outside.  We ended up at a restaurant  called Antonio's on the third floor the Royal Hawaiian Shopping  Center.  Not bad, not good, just average.  We walked around some  more then headed back to the hotel.  When we got back to our room,  the message light was flashing on the phone.  I feared some kind of  problem at home but it turned out to be a message from NCL that we  could pick up our transfer information at the desk.  I went down and  go it.  The information said to check out by noon and leave your  checked luggage in the room by the door.  The hotel would pick it up  and it would be transferred to the ship for you.  We were on the  2:00 pm bus and were asked to be in the lobby by 1:00 pm.
 
Sunday, 11/16/2003

 

We set the alarm for 6:00 am so we could see Diamond Head and the  Aquarium before going to the ship.  We decided we didn't want to eat  anything so we went downstairs.  The man  at the tour desk in the  lobby said to take the #20 bus to Diamond Head from the stop across  the street.  We were waiting for the bus when a limo taxi asked if  we wanted to go to Diamond Head for $4 per person.  After saying no  thanks, he dropped it to $3.  We got in and were glad.  The trip  took less than 15 minutes and would have taken about 45 minutes by  bus plus a long walk from the bus to the crater.  Rudy dropped us  off at the ticket office and said he'd be back for us in 1 1/2  hours.  We walked all the way up to the top and back down in about  an hour.  This was a great thing to do and we were glad we didn't do  it later - it would have been way too hot!  There were 20 or 30  people we met going up and coming down at that hour.  It was getting  busy by the time we came down.  Cost was $1 per person.  Be aware  that this is a hike that will give you a workout!  Take water if you  have it.  The view from the top is wonderful.  Click here to view the pictures we took.  When you get to the top, you  have climb out of pill box (gun turret used during the war) to get  to the very top.

Rudy arrived a couple of minutes after we got back to the parking  lot.  We asked to be dropped off at the Aquarium.  He charged  another $3 per person.  The Aquarium wouldn't open until 9:00 am and  we had about 15 minutes to kill.  We walked to the beach.  It was  just beautiful and exactly like what you image Hawaii to be.  We  were able to see all of Waikiki and decided the distance wasn't very  far to walk back to our hotel.  We spent about an hour in the  Aquarium then walked along the beach to Waikiki.  It took about 10  minutes to get to our hotel.  Since we hadn't eaten, we stopped at  the McDonald's at the end of the street our hotel is on and had  breakfast.  We usually don't eat at fast food places when on  vacation but this filled the bill with the time allowed.  We went  back to the hotel, showered, changed, and packed.  We were only  checking 2 bags.  We checked out just at noon.  We claimed a couple  seats in the lobby and waiting for our bus.  The first bus came and  took the 1:30 pm group.  Ours came at about 1:40 pm.  When you left  to get on the bus, they asked how many bags you left in your room.   They checked this off a list of the luggage that was already  gathered to make sure they had it (very good system!).  We boarded  the bus and were off to the ship!

We arrived at the pier and the line was out the door and down the  street!  We got in line and it only took about 20 minutes to get up  to security.  After going through the metal detectors, they had an  NCL rep directing you to either the regular check in lines or the  Latitudes line - you had to either have your card with you or your  Latitude numbers showing on your ticket.  We waited about 10 minutes  before we go to check in using the Latitudes line (the other lines  were extremely long and got to bypass all of that being Latitudes  members).  They take your picture, print out your key cards and off  you go up the escalators.  We didn't know what room we would have  since we were a guarantee but ended up with a 9 category upgrade  from an inside to outside with porthole (cabin 4630 on deck 4 - port  side just aft of amidships).  We had our picture taken then boarded  using the aft gangway.  We were escorted to our room by a steward.

Our room was the last one on the port side, just aft of  amidships.  Click here for some pictures.  The room had two beds, one of which had  a trundle bed beneath (explains why the luggage wouldn't fit!), plus  an upper so it would have slept 4.  We had the beds put together  (with king size sheet - very nice!) and it was very comfortable.   There were two refrigerators, one under the desk area and another on  a shelf.  The one on the shelf was much colder and we put the  champagne I ordered in it to keep cold.  There was one two door  closet with three shelves plus two fold down shelves.  An electronic  safe was next to the closet.  More shelves, a desk area, 3 drawers,  a mirror, the fridge under the desk and a shelf above.   To the  right when entering was the bathroom.  The toilet has a sliding  privacy door.  The shower was the best we've had - large and with a  sliding door.  Shampoo and soap are in a dispenser on the wall.   There was also another desk area on the other side of the room where  the bar set up was with 3 more drawers beneath.

We decided to get something to eat and went up to the Market Cafe  then walk around some.  We also made reservations at Le Bistro for  9:00 pm.  We checked back but no luggage so far.  Lifeboat drill was  at 5:00 pm.  Our station was in the Aqua restaurant.  When we  returned to our room, one of the bags had arrived.  We unpacked it  and by that time, the second arrived.  After unpacking all the bags,  we walked around some more then decided to dress for dinner.  I  wanted to be up on deck to see us sail out of Honolulu.  We got a  drink in the Spinnaker lounge then we out on deck, all the way  forward on deck 13.  Many others were there also.  Aloha Tower,  Waikiki and the surrounding hills were lit up   We began moving  promptly at 8:00 pm.  After backing up into a channel, 3 long blasts  of the ship's whistle and we were off!

We went down to Le Bistro and were seated at once.  There were  only a few tables with guests.  The tables were set with Versace Red  Medusa china plates - oh how I wanted to take them with me!  I had  the warm green asparagus, French onion soup, filet mignion with  b©arnaise and lemon tart for desert.  We also had a bottle of  Chateau Le Bourdieu which was very good.  Service and food was all  excellent.  We had San Pelligrino water and at one point, the  assistant waiter poured regular water into the glasses.  Our  waitress saw this, apologized, whisked the offending glasses away  and brought new glasses filled with San Pelligrino.  Now that's  service!

We walked around a little bit then turned in.  We had an early  day in Hilo!

 
Monday, 11/17/2003

 

We got up early as the ship docked in Hilo at 7:00 am and  we had a tour at 7:30 am.  We had breakfast in the Market Cafe  then went off the ship to the terminal building.  Hilo pier is  very industrial and there isn't anything to see unless you get  away from it.  Our tour guide was waiting for us in the  terminal building.  There were a total of 11 people in the  group for our tour, "ITO021 - Kilauea Volcano Hiking  Adventure".  Inside the terminal building are also some flower  and souvenir vendors.

Our guide, Leighton, was excellent.  He led us to the van  and off we went.  We had about a 45 minute drive to Volcanoes  National Park.

We were provided backpacks, water, a sandwich lunch, rain  ponchos and a walking stick.  After loading up, we were off.   We viewed Kilauea Iki before going across the parking lot to  the Thurston lava tube and through the grotto before beginning  the actual hike. Click here for pictures of where we went.  We hiked down  about 400 feet to the bottom of the crater, then across the  crater floor to the other side.  We had lunch then began the  climb back up the other side and around the side back to to  the parking lot.  It took about 4 hours in total plus driving  time and was estimated at 4.5 miles of walking/hiking.  The  wisps of steam are from rain seeping into the cracks in the  crust - not volcanic gasses.  After the eruption, a dome of  lava hardened and covered the crater at a height of 400 feet.  When the magma below receded, the dome collapsed the 400 feet  to the bottom of the crater.  The steam vents prove it's kind  of warm not too far from the surface!

After the hike we were taken to the site of the fissure  seen in the pictures.  It's a 'crack' that keeps getting wider  and deeper.  A park road crosses it and has to be continually  repaired.  It's expected the next eruption will be along this  line.  Not too far from the crack is the 'devil's throat',  kind of a volcanic sink hole.  It's hard to see from the  pictures, but it's very deep.  The park rangers used to throw  the marijuana plants then found nearby into the bottom of it  and at least for a time there was a nice crop!  The edge is  very dangerous and we couldn't get up right to the rim.

We next drove up to the Jagger Museum at the summit of  Kilauea.  A brief stop but much different than the crater we  had just walked across.  This had the sulfur smell you'd  expect and you could see the yellow sulfur on the ground.  The  area was desolate and looked like it was from another planet.

We headed back to the ship and arrived back at the terminal  building about 12:15pm.  All aboard was at 12:30, however,  EVERYONE appeared to be in line waiting to go through security  to get back on the ship.  We did some light shopping at the  vendors in the building and I picked up the gorgeous flowers  in our stateroom at Alika's for $10.  They lasted the entire  trip - a great value considering the ship wanted $40 for a  similar arrangement!

When we finally got back onboard, we decided to shower and  change before having lunch.  The ship left port about 20  minutes late but as soon as we got out to sea, it was full  steam ahead to Fanning Island!  At a couple of points during  the afternoon, while in the stateroom, the waves covered the  porthole - cool!

We had lunch then off to the Barong Spa for our massages!   I'd never had a massage before and it was nice but not quite  what I expected.  It wasn't worth a repeat visit!  A nice  feature of the spa onboard is that the pool, steam room and  sauna are free to use.  I have an aversion to public hot tubs,  saunas and steam rooms - they are breeding grounds for germs  and I ALWAYS get sick if I use them.  It took me several  cruises using the hot tubs before I figured that out!  I did  get a fairly bad cold, but I attribute that to 10 hours on an  airplane breathing recycled air.

After the massage, it was time for a nap.  We took LOTS of  naps in the afternoons!  We are not late night people to begin  with and it's nice to be able to relax and sleep when you can  without feeling like you should be doing something else.  We  got up, showed and dressed for dinner and went to have  champagne at Gatsby's.  Gatsby's is the champagne bar but has  liquor as well.  It's situated between the Soho Room and Le  Bistro with Ginza's one deck above.  A pianist was playing and  we relaxed, sipping champagne before our 8:30 pm reservation  at the Soho Room.

 
Hint about reservations in the specialty restaurants

You can go to the atrium on deck 7 and view the menus for the  different restaurants and make your reservations there.   However, if you know where you want to eat, you can call the main  reservation phone number and it connects to the same table in the  atrium - you don't have to leave your room!  We also noticed  that most restaurants were never 100% full.  We usually had an  8:30 pm reservation and there were always tables empty.  If you  can't get a reservation, try stopping by the restaurant after 8:00  pm or so and you can probably get seated - I'm not talking about a  group of 12 but 2 - 4 people should not be a problem.

 

Soho is a very nice restaurant with a modern look and  feel.  It has lots of Andy Warhol prints (or look-alikes).   The service was wonderful here but our waiter from India spoke  so softly it was difficult to hear him at times.  I ordered  the mesclun salad and the veal chop.  Eric had the tuna tartar  and the veal chop.  We chose a wine that was recommended for  the meal and had a very nice evening.  One dramatic  presentation that I'll have to try to replicate at a dinner  party some time - the tuna was served on the based of a large,  upside down martini glass.  A mix of salad greens was under  the glass.  There was a sauce dotted around the tuna stack and  it really looked wonderful.  They place that in front of you  then walk off.  A couple minutes later they reappear and ask  if you'd like them to plate it.  They lift the glass, take  your spoon and place it against the tuna.  The then rotate the  glass, tilting it so the tuna stack rests against the spoon  and gather up the sauce at the same time they maneuver the  tuna onto the spoon in one piece!  Very impressive.

We decided to check out the Internet Cafe.  Not busy at all  and I now know why!  IT IS VERY EXPENSIVE!  You first have to  activate your account for $3.95.  Then it's 75 cents per  minute.  You start accruing time as soon as you activate your  account.  So, while you're typing in addresses and composing  your message, your being charged.  I sent one e-mail and the  total bill was $24.95!  That's 28 minutes total.  I stated on  my comment card that I would never use the Internet Cafe on a  NCL ship again until they lower the prices or allow you to  compose your message offline to cut down on the cost.  On the  QE2, you can compose your message offline in Notepad (and also  type in your e-mail address list there too!), copy it to the  clipboard, log-in into your e-mail account, paste the  addresses and message and click send.  I think it only cost me  $1.25 to send a message on the QE2.

 
Tuesday, 11/18/2003

 

Tuesday was a day at sea.  Sleep in, breakfast, look around  the ship, attend the Fanning Island talk, lunch, nap, dinner  in Endless Summer.  Our waitress was Maria from eastern  Europe.  She was a mining engineer, now a waitress.  We both  had the shrimp cocktail (Eric ordered a second one!), Eric  also had the fish soup.  I ordered the short ribs which were  very good but rich.  Eric had a fish entree.  The food was  very good and the service was great.

We noticed that in the ships schedule was a 'Friends of  Dorothy' meeting at 7pm that evening.  For those that don't  know, it's a gathering for other gays and lesbians on board  that want to meet up with others on board.  This one met in  the Star bar on deck 13.  The cruise director put it together  and welcomed those that showed up.  There were about 8 of us  that came though we saw others on the ship that didn't.  We  chatted, had a drink then left for dinner.

 
Wednesday, 11/19/2003

 

Today we arrived at Fanning Island.  We got up fairly  early, had breakfast, stopped by the Dive-In shop near the  pool to pick up towels, fins, snorkel, mask and vest.  The  water was beautiful but still a bit rough.  The tenders  bounced around!  We met in Gatsby's for the Barracuda  Snorkeling tour.  The Dive-In team was great - lots of fun,  informative and you could tell they enjoyed their jobs.

Fanning Island is less than 5 degrees north of the equator  and the sun is very intense.  It was suggested that you keep a  T-shirt on while snorkeling or your back would get cooked,  even with sunscreen.  I would also suggest that you avoid  putting sunscreen on while snorkeling or it will get in your  eyes - not fun under a mask!

We boarded the tender and were taken to the pier on the  island, English Harbor, to drop off other passengers.  We then  boarded the tender again and headed out toward Grieg point to  snorkel.  The idea was to simply float with current over the  area and the tender would pick us up later.  The Dive-In team  had a chase boat following and one the team was in the water  with us.  We saw lots of tropical fish but no barracuda or  sharks.  The water temperature was about 80F which was a bit  chilly but it you got used to it soon.  It was also very  salty.  The Dive-In team member in the water with us went down  to the bottom and brought up a brittle starfish.  It's legs  break off easily (thus the brittle name) when attacked but  they grow back.  He said that he bet it would be eaten before  it reached the bottom and sure enough, it was.

It was tough getting back on the tender.  The waves kept  slamming you into the side of it while you tried to climb the  ladder.  We eventually made it back aboard.  We were told that  if there was room on Napali beach, they would drop off those  who wanted to go there for free ($20 tour from the ship).  We  went back to English Harbor and after hitting the bathroom,  decided to go back to the ship to shower and change then head  back to the island.

We got back to the island and had lunch - burgers, hot  dogs, BBQ chicken, fruit, etc.  Tasted good after snorkeling.   There was talk in other reviews about the 'swarms of flies' on  the island but we didn't see that - there were some flies but  no more than you would usually see at a picnic.

We then decided we wanted to do only two things on the  island - get our passports stamped and pick up stamps.  The  officials will stamp your passport for free but they have  large bowl on the table for 'tips'.  We left $1 each and it  was worth it for the novelty.

The post office was on the other side of the straw market.   The market is to the left when you get off the tenders.  It's  under the trees and they have lots of locally made souvenirs  but that sort thing doesn't appeal to us so we passed it by.   The post office is simply a room in the back of the building  to the left of the straw market.  They had first day covers  (an envelope with one or more stamps in a series when they are  first issued).  They varied in price and Eric picked up 3 or 4  for about $12.  Nice and a different souvenir!  Then it was  back to the ship for the 'Chocoholic Buffet'.

The buffet was held in the Versailles dining room and  featured two lines with the same items in the center of the  room on the raised portion.  Cookies, cakes, pastries, ice  cream, tortes, strawberries dipped in chocolate, etc.  We  selected a couple of items and sat at a table.  I couldn't  finish the 3 items I chose (small pastries) and couldn't  figure out how the vast number of people would possibly eat  the humongous piles of food they took - they literally had  mounds of chocolate this and that on their plates!  It was  GROSS.  The amount of waste left at the tables was  disgusting.  You would also see the same plates outside rooms  all over the ship with mounds of uneaten food on them.  People  should be ashamed of themselves for doing that.

We decided a nap was in order after the snorkeling and  chocolate so napped until late afternoon.  Eric went to the  sauna and I read in the room.  We then got dressed for dinner  in Versailles - lobster night all over the ship!

Maria, our waiter from Endless Summer,  was working during  the Chocoholic Buffet, saw us and said hello, by name, to both  of us.  I don't know how they do that!  The only name I can  think she would have known was Eric's since he used his card  to pay for the wine the night before.  However, she called us  by name (Mr. Douglas, Mr. Eric) and told us that tonight was  lobster night and the menus for Versailles were on the way out  and to look at them.  We didn't have reservations yet for  anywhere else so decided to eat in Versailles that night.

The Versailles restaurant is very beautiful if you like  Rocco furnishings and decor.  All gold and red with crystal  chandeliers and gilt all over!  While it was beautiful to look  at, it was very noisy and had a very bad vibration that made  us not want to eat there again - everything was shaking and  the chandeliers constantly tinkled.  The menu was fine and we  both ordered the lobster tails.  These are Caribbean lobster  tails and you got 3 halves which was more than enough for us.  You could order more if you liked.  After dinner, we walked  around for a while, looked through the Galleria shops then  went to bed.

We had a celebrity on board at dinner!  It was Cher! (More  like a wannabe that wasn't!).  She had this long black hair  that after each and every bite, she would toss back over her  shoulder!  I lost count of how many times she did this!  We  saw her again in Le Bistro on Saturday night doing the same  thing!  Very funny!

 
Thursday, 11/20/2003

 

Today was another day at sea.  Regular routine - eat,  sleep, eat, sleep!  Not a bad life, huh?

Dinner was in Ginza.  I didn't feel the greatest as I had  come down with a bad head cold.  It could have been me but the  waitress was very condescending.  When I didn't order an  alcoholic beverage, I got dismissed right away - Eric had  great service because he ordered a beer!  When she brought the  hot and sour soup, she 'had to tell me' that the large green  thing was a hot pepper and don't eat it!  Why she didn't tell  me about the large piece of lemon grass in there also I don't  know - maybe I didn't look THAT stupid!

We both ordered the Peking Duck which was very good.  I ate  about 3/4's of mine and Eric ate his then finished mine.  I  passed on dessert, and Eric had the green tea ice cream.

When we got back to the room, we noticed that the deadlight  had been closed.  The deadlight is the cover over the porthole  that is usually shut by the ship personnel when the weather  could get bad - they don't want the porthole glass to break in  a storm and flood the stateroom.  On the QE2, they said they  may have to cover the porthole if the weather got rough.  I  didn't think this was a good thing!  However, we opened the  deadlight the next morning and all was fine.  We didn't notice  any more movement that night than any other time.

The room, being just a little above the water line, was  quite noisy with the sound of the water whooshing by all the  time - it must have been very noisy in rooms in the bow of the  ship.  We got used to it and I enjoyed the 'white noise'  effect it had.  The sound was like water rushing through a  large pipe in the walls of your house only much louder.  The  area outside our porthole was lit up at night so we could see  the waves as they went by.

 
Friday, 11/21/2003

 

Today we arrive at Maui - or so we thought.  Arrival was  supposed be at 1pm on the north side of the island.  Around  10am, the captain made an announcement that the port on the  north side was closed due to high winds and large swells.  He  was trying to get permission from the port authority to anchor  off Lahania instead and thought there would be a good chance  of doing that.  Since all tours left from the north side and  went to Lahania, I could see no problem with this.  It saved  the 45 minute bus ride from a pier that was in an industrial  area anyway.  We had booked the Sunset Sail that left at  4:30pm from Lahania.  This would leave us with time to walk  around the town, shop then board for the sail and dinner.

The captain came on about an hour later to tell us that the  port of Lahania had also been closed as had all the ports on  all the other islands due to the swells (30 - 50 feet).   Because of this, we would not be going ashore in Maui.   Instead he would sail around the island for viewing and hope  we could get into Kuai the next day.  After a short while, he  came back on and said that Kaui was also closed and we were  instructed to head back to Honolulu by NCL in Miami since it  was the only port still open.  We would arrive Saturday  morning by 7:00am and have an extra day in Honolulu.  The  cruise director came on and said free rum punch around the  pool!  We missed two islands but that's just the excuse we  need to have to go back.  The ship was moving quite a bit and  the pool water was sloshing out of it - the sun was out and  the weather was beautiful however.  (The next morning, they  had posted in the lobby the newspaper article showing the  amount of damage that was sustained all over the islands due  to the winds and waves, thus justifying our return to  Honolulu.  Hawaii had the most damage with 50 homes destroyed  and all the islands had major beach erosion and some roads  washed out.)

We met up with friends and had lunch together then did the  usual - nap, dinner then bed!

Dinner tonight was back in SoHo.  Very good but we did have  to wait about 10 minutes for our table.  I had ordered a  bottle of Mums to be delivered to the room upon boarding the  first day, which it was, but we didn't drink it up to this  point and time was running out!  We took it with us to SoHo  and had it with dinner - there was no corkage fee since we  ordered it through the ship.

 
Saturday, 11/22/2003

 

We were back in Honolulu as promised.  We decided that since we  didn't have time before we sailed, we would walk up to China town  today.  We had breakfast, and walked to China town.  It is a few  blocks north and west of the ship and less than a mile away.  We  followed the walking tour in our guide book, stopping in several  markets to see what they had.  Lots of fish and other sea life, lots  of pork, including the head of one pig on the counter staring back  at you!

We did some light shopping and were heading back to the ship when  Eric spied an antique shop in the business area.  We were looking in  the window when the owner saw us, and opened up (she was there doing  inventory).  Now, I can stand shopping for antiques for about 30  minutes max before I want to end my life - we stayed there for over  an hour!  Cut glass glasses and silver were purchased to be shipped  back to us.  It was a good deal (she wanted to get rid some  inventory before leaving for Thanksgiving holiday) and Eric went  away happy - I barely survived!

We went back to the ship for lunch then decided to get more  souvenirs at Hilo Hatties.  When the ship is in port, they have a  bus that runs between their store and the pier all day.  We hopped  on and were there in a few minutes.  They greet you with a shell  necklace if you're from the ship (they don't check so you could say  yes and get one anyway!).  This store is ALL Hawaiian.  It's large  and full!  They had a Christmas section were we bought some cards  and a couple of ornaments.  After buying some other trinkets, it was  time to go back to the ship to pack most of our stuff.  We decided  to take our luggage off with us since we were renting a car.  While  packing, I looked out the porthole and it appeared the ship was  moving!  We weren't but I was fooled.  The bunker barge (fuel) was  pulling up outside our porthole to refuel the ship.  I was sans  clothes and when the workers on the barge drifted past, I quickly  dropped down and found some shorts to put on!  Quite startling!

We'd decided to rent a car through Budget via the ship and drive  around Ohau on Sunday.  Our flight didn't leave until 11:30pm Sunday  night and we wanted to see more of the island.  In addition, we  booked a day room at the Ala Moana hotel through the ship for $89  plus tax.  This, in our opinion, was absolutely necessary - we had a  10+ hour flight back home and I wasn't going to start it without a  shower and change of clothes after a day of sightseeing!

After packing, we were told by friends who've been to Hawaii many  times that we had to have a maitai at the Royal Hawaiian and watch  the sunset.  So, we took a bus from the business district into  Waikiki and went to the hotel.  We found a table at the Tiki bar and  ordered.  A wedding reception was going on so we saw that along with  Diamond Head and a beautiful sunset.  See the photo gallery section  for the pictures.  We then left and took the bus back to the ship.

Dinner tonight was back in Le Bistro.  While very good, I wasn't  looking forward to dinner again - we'd had too much food - but we  wanted to return there so we did.  I'd also come down with a pretty  bad cold and my nose was running all the time making eating a chore  -it's hard to eat and breath through your mouth at the same time  without making those around you sick at the sight!  Several trips to  the rest room were required to blow my nose.  (I find it disgusting  when people blow their nose in a restaurant - especially into their  napkin!  Yikes, where were these people brought up?).  We each had  the poached chicken breast, that while good, wasn't as good as the  filet.

We turned in knowing we were going to be up fairly early.

 
Sunday, 11/23/2003

 

We got up, showered and dressed, finished packing and decided to  leave.  I wanted some coffee but no food and Eric didn't want  anything.  I walked up to the buffet and got a cup and checked out  what was going on.  The coffee at the buffet was dreadful and I  could only drink a few sips before giving up.

We looked around the room one last time, took hold of our luggage  and off we went.  We left the ship about 8:45am.  The Budget people  were set up in the information booth near the Aloha tower and went  right there.  It was sprinkling a little but not bad.  Our keys were  there waiting for us.  We were upgraded to a SUV since all full  sized cars were taken.  We walked over to the vans across the  parking lot and they drove us to the far side of the Aloha  Marketplace to where the cars were parked.  We loaded up and headed  out.  I wanted to get through Waikiki before traffic picked up.  We  decided to drive around the island on Highway 1 heading east and  ending back at the hotel around 3pm.

I noticed that road signs were not plentiful.  Quite frequently,  the name of the road you were on was not present at all  intersections so checking to make sure you didn't get off course  could take several intersections to find out.  We did get off course  around Diamond Head but eventually got on HWY 1.  The max speed  limit anywhere was 45 so it made for easier driving.  We stopped at  Hanauma Bay and several places where the views of the ocean were  just beautiful.  The waves were still crashing all around the island  from the storm.  There were several places where the beach had been  washed way right up to the road!  We had a late breakfast at a  McDonalds in some very small town.  There is a Buddhist temple we  tried to find but missed the turn off - the guide book said it  wasn't well marked and it wasn't!

The drive was very nice and while we did make a couple wrong  turns, it was enjoyable.  We ended up getting back into Waikiki  around 2:30pm and decided to check in to the hotel then get some  lunch.

The Ala Moana is a descent hotel, but primarily a convention  hotel.  The room was fine and welcomed.  We left our luggage and  walked over to the Ala Moana Center mall next to the hotel for  lunch.  I wasn't hungry but Eric had something Oriental in the food  court.   The mall was busy and had every high end, name brand store  you could imagine - Tommy Hilfiger, Gucci, Versace - you name it,  they had it.  We needed two items: a cheap carry-on sized bag for  overflow and decongestant tablets.  We ended up at Sears for the bag  and Longs for the decongestant.  A nap was now in order!  After  that, a shower and change of clothes.

While driving around Waikiki, we noticed a place called  Restaurant Row that oddly enough had numerous restaurants in it!  It  was  between the Ala Moana hotel and the pier.  We decided to go  there.  We grabbed a taxi outside the hotel and ended up at the  Sunset Grill.  The food was very good but the portions were huge.   We could see the stack of the Norwegian Star through the tree tops  while eating outside.   Before we left the restaurant, it was  already leaving.  The taxi driver gave us his card so we asked to  have him called for the ride back.  We asked about getting gas  before returning the car and he recommended a gas station on the  way.

While checking out, a couple was behind me with NCL tags on their  luggage.  I asked how they enjoyed the trip and they told me they  missed the ship!  They arrived close to departure time at the  airport and the meet-and-greet people made them wait for their  luggage before going to the port.  They got there after the ship  left!  They were being put up at the hotel to be flown to Hilo the  next day.  They said that another group on the same flight just left  their luggage and rushed to the ship and made it.  They were mad a  NCL for making them wait for their luggage.  We were checking out  about 9:30pm and the ship left at 8:00pm.  Seems to me it could have  waited for them for 30 minutes or so - their flights were booked  through NCL so they knew where they were (their group had about 30  people in it - a short wait of the ship should be cheaper than  putting them all up and arranging flights the next day).  This is my  worst nightmare about ship travel and why we always arrive at least  the day before.

We stopped and filled up the car.  Gas prices in Hawaii were  between $2 and $2.10 depending where you bought it.  We paid $2.03.   We arrived at the Budget office, weren't out the car when they had  my receipt ready.  We waited about 10 minutes for the shuttle to the  terminal.  After checking our bags at the curb, we went through  agricultural inspection then security.  I was stopped and my  carry-on searched.  They found some blunt safety scissors that got  moved from checked to carry on luggage.  They didn't question the  electric toothbrush with the 2-inch piece of metal sticking out of  one end that would do a lot more damage than those stupid scissors!

The gate was a good walk away and when we arrived, it was already  pretty much full.  The flight was full, it was a 777 and had about  350 people waiting to board it!  It looked like some of them had  been there for a long time.  We finally boarded and left about on  time.  This time we got the isle and first inside seat of the center  section in the back - very cramped.  Eric told me the secret of how  to sleep on the plane - Valium!  We took some and waited (it didn't  put me to sleep though - I just can't sleep while sitting up in an  uncomfortable chair).  This plane didn't have individual TV's in the  seatbacks so I had to look at a monitor down the isle.  The  attendants made everyone pull down their shades since we would be  flying into the sunrise.  They also said to make sure that if you  covered yourself with a blanket, to buckle the belt over the  blanket.  If the Fasten Seatbelt light came on and they couldn't see  your belt, they'd have to wake you up - and they did!  The flight  was 6 hours to Denver and long, bumpy and boring - but it beats a  crash landing in the middle of the Pacific!

The temperature in Denver as in the low 30's with snow on the  ground.  We had about a 90 minute layover until we boarded our Tampa  bound flight.  This flight was about 4 hours long and uneventful.   All our luggage arrived in Tampa and we were glad to be home!

 
Summary

 

Overall, this was a very nice trip and very well done.  Would I  book an NCL cruise again - you bet!  This was our 2nd time with NCL  and both were well done.  The price was right, the flights we great,  the pre-cruise arrangements were good and the food and ship were  wonderful.

We both really enjoyed Freestyle cruising even though we were  prepared not to.  When we travel, we tend to enjoy being by  ourselves so Freestyle allowed us to eat when and where we wanted.

We left an additional tip for the room steward but otherwise, the  standard tip added to our account was welcomed and we think well  earned.

Since we missed two of the 4 islands we were scheduled to visit,  I think some kind of refund could have been given other than just  the tour refunds.  $25 per person would have been welcomed.  This is  nitpicky but other than an apology, nothing was offered (other that  that crappy rum punch!).  I'm not the type to try to get something  for nothing and I realize this was beyond their control and so  stated in the catalog, but a small gesture would have been  appreciated.

I found the front desk personnel to be very nice and  accommodating.  We locked ourselves out of the room one morning and  went to the front desk for a replacement card.  They readily issued  a temporary card which we promptly used and returned.

The Java Cafe coffee was very good.

 
 

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