Norwegian Star Hawaiian Islands, November 14-23, 2003
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 ***
Depart Tampa 8:40 am Arrive Honolulu 4:30 pm. Check in at Radisson Prince Kuhio Waikiki hotel
Check out of hotel, board Norwegian Star
Fanning Island, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Kahului, Manu, Hawaii 1:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Nawiliwili, Kauai, Hawaii 8:00 am - 6:30 pm
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.
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!
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.
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 bÃ©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!
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 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.
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 80°F 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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.