For several months now, my wife and I have been wanting to go on vacation. The problem was where, when, and what type of vacation would we like to go on. So, recently my parents called me and mentioned that we should all go on cruise. With my parents just coming from an NCL cruise to Alaska, they pitched the idea for us to take a cruise, which I have never been on. I agreed to the idea and set the ball in motion. Now, picking a vacation spot is not as easy as I thought it would be, since NCL offers so many destinations. With that said, I came to a conclusion that we should all go to Hawaii.
I have not been to Hawaii for over 20 years, in fact, it’s about time I should go back. We decided to go in January because we wanted to avoid the summer vacation crowds and high summer vacation fares. First, we booked on NCL’s Pride of America 7 Day Hawaii Cruise. This ship has the perfect itinerary for your “island hopping” adventure, not to mention you are at a port everyday rather than being at sea. And second, we booked 2 pre and two post nights in Honolulu. We really wanted to take advantage of the time we have in Hawaii, so we chose to do the pre and post nights with the cruise in between.
When our vacation officially started, we arrived in Honolulu with perfect weather. We were greeted at the airport with fresh lei’s and we were quickly transferred to our hotel, Outrigger Reef on the Beach. I really love where this hotel is located because it’s not on the strip directly, which is always busy. This hotel is located one block below Kalakaua Ave, which is known as the “Waikiki Strip”. A nice 3 minute walk will take you to the strip where all the action is. The evenings at the hotel are very quiet and all you hear are waves crashing in the background. Tiki torches give it the perfect ambiance. After a nice dinner with my family, my wife and I decided take a stroll on Waikiki beach to end our first night.
Good Morning! Our first full day of vacation began. Our first stop was the open air breakfast buffet downstairs at the hotel. It’s amazing to see the beach 5 yards away from our table. It couldn’t be a more perfect setting. While everyone was enjoying their breakfast, it started to rain, which I thought would ruin our day. I was wrong. The rain lasted for about 15 minutes and never rained again. I was even happy to catch a rainbow out of it.
After breakfast, we headed out to explore the strip, which is just a few minutes of walking from our hotel. Immediately you notice a lot of shops and restaurants. Along the way, you can see the International Marketplace, which is a must-stop for those in search of that special souvenir. For those of you who want to venture out into some international cuisine, this is the place for you as well. With several international restaurants all in one area, there’s a place just for you. We also took a small scenic drive on a bus to visit the outskirts of the the strip.
After our pre-nights were done, we got transferred to our cruise ship, the NCL Pride of America. Although there wasn’t really a lot of vacationers, there was still a pretty good sized line just for check-in. Once we got into the terminal and through security checkpoints, the excitement grew bigger and bigger. For those of you who have not been on a cruise, cash is not accepted on board. Everything is tied to your stateroom keycard. The keycard gives you access to purchase anything on board as well as entry to your stateroom. Also, a passport is not necessary (although we still brought ours just in case).
Welcome Aboard! We’re finally on board The Pride of America. Upon entering the lobby you will be stopped for a picture. The picture is tied with your stateroom card and for security purposes for when you board the ship again, after you visit the other ports. Anytime you leave the ship you must have your keycard with you for re-entry. In the lobby there is live entertainment as well as drinks being served. The lobby is the perfect location to meet up if you have big group like I did. Here you will find the Reception desk, Excursion Desk, and Main Elevators. My wife and I decided to venture out and explore the ship with my sisters to see what it had to offer. This ship has everything you need to make your vacation an enjoyable one. Everytime we walked by a crew member or even housekeeping, they always said “Aloha” with the biggest smile, like they were glad that you are there. Your housekeeper will be the person you will always be close to. These are the people that make your bed in the morning, clean your stateroom, and turn your bed over at night. They take pride in what they do and they do it exceptionally well.
My On Board Ship Experience – Dining
Our dining experience aboard the Pride of Hawaii was amazing. There were several places onboard to choose from. We normally headed to the Aloha Buffet for breakfast where they serve all types food to get your morning started right. For lunch, we were usually at one of the many restaurants, if we were on the ship. Depending on what you are craving, there is a place for you. For burgers and fries, I highly recommend the Cadillac Diner. Themed in the 50’s, this is a great place to get your eat on! For dinner, we would head out to the Skyline Dining Room where they serve different types of specialty food on a daily basis. The three course meals keeps you full for the night ahead. For more variety, I would also recommend Little Italy, Texas Steakhouse, and the Teppanyaki room. There is even a pizza parlor that’s open 24/7 for your midnight cravings, as well as room service. Reservations are highly recommended at the finer restaurants and there is a cover charge as well.
On Board Entertainment
Just when you thought the fun was over after dinner, it wasn’t! Actually, the night had only just begun. As you sail off to the next port, the ship becomes more lively. After dinner, we noticed several photographers taking pictures. They all had different backgrounds and settings. We took a traditional one with the whole family which turned out great. But my sisters and I were acting a little goofy so we decided to do an “Old West” session. They dress you up western attire, give you a toy rifle, and all the props to go with it. “Say Cheese!”, another memory captured.
After the pictures, we decided to catch a show at the Hollywood Theater. You would think that you were at a Las Vegas show when you see this. The shows are very entertaining and change every night. Shortly after the show, we did a little pub crawling. There are several bars and lounges on the ship where you can relax the night away, as well as nightclubs and coffee bars. By far, I fell in love with the Ocean Drive Bar. The atmosphere was just amazing with a view of the pool. I had a great time chatting it up with my wife and sisters. We even met some people there was well. Time goes real fast when you are having fun— so make the best of it!
Fun, Play, and Excursions
Every time you are at a port, you have an option to take an excursion. To take advantage of the excursions, you need to visit the excursion desk in the main lobby. There, they will take care of all your needs and help you with any questions you might have regarding that excursion. Be warned however, if it’s a popular excursion—it can sell out. The excursions that we went on always sold out, so plan ahead. There are lists of excursions at the desk for everyday you are at port. Booking in advance is highly recommended.
There were some days when my family and I were not on excursions, and some days were half days only. For the days that we stayed on the ship, you can still leave the ship and walk around the port. There is always something to do. Normally, there is some shopping and places to eat. If it interests you, speak to one of the local guides offering a tour of the port or the town you are visiting. Now, if you decide to stay on the ship, there are quite a few things you can do on board as well. Me for example, hit the golf driving range while my wife went to the spa. The spa offers different packages to suite your R&R needs.
Afterwards we headed out to the pool to catch a tan. We relaxed a little too much because we lost track of time. So we headed back inside and checked out the shops to pick up a few souvenirs. To bring even more memories home with you, a quick stop to the photo gallery is a must. Every time you exit the ship at a port, they take your picture. After they process it, it’s up on display at the Photo Gallery for you to see. You have the option to buy the photos or not.
Island Hopping At Its Best; Kahului, HI
Our first stop on the cruise, Kahului, HI; also known as Maui. Although we didn’t go on an excursion here, I met up with my cousin that I had not seen in years. She ended taking us out and showing us around. Maui is just simply beautiful. Although we got hit with thunderstorms, that didn’t stop us from venturing around. As soon as the thunderstorms let up, we made some stops at the beaches and local parks. After the outdoor activities were over, we were taken to a restaurant where we had delicious Hawaiian food. A lot of Spam came into play here. Spam is one of the main foods here and all popular fast food restaurants serve Spam, as well the finer restaurants.
My wife and I wanted to do some snorkeling and beach visits so we booked an excursion at this port. We were picked up from our ship and headed out to the beach with several other people from our cruise. As soon as we picked out our spot on the beach, we immediately started snorkeling. The water was crystal clear and in perfect temperature. Looking at all the sea-life under the ocean really is a sight to see. Hundreds of fish surround you as you make you way to some coral reefs. I had to look up several times because you lose track of where you are from keeping your head down most the time. At one point, I didn’t realize how far I was out in the ocean and I had to swim back to shore. We were at the beach for about 6 hours before we were dropped off at the ship again. I got some good relaxation making me ready for the next port.
The night before we arrived at Kona, my sisters and I were looking through the excursions for that port. None of the excursions really interested us, except one—Ocean Kayaking. None of us have ever been on a kayak, so we wanted to try it out. That morning as soon as we exited the ship, we were met with our instructor. A nice 15 minute drive to the beach and we were all set. As soon as I got out, I started hesitating a little bit. These waves were huge, but I still suited up. My wife and I were in one kayak and my 2 sisters on another. After a few minutes of instructions on what to do, we headed out to the open sea. We were in a follow-the-leader form with the instructor leading the way. He took us into a small creek with lush vegetation all over, similar to a rain forest. We continued to paddle through and discovered a breeding ground of small crabs.
As we continued paddling through this creek it opened up a little bit and we all met around our instructor. He informed us that there is a drop several yards in front of us and that it gets intense. I did not sign up for this and I was getting nervous. On top of that, he said he had to be last in case an emergency occurs, since it will be difficult to go upstream. Well at this point no one wanted to take the first plunge, so my wife and I did. As we paddled out and get closer to the drop, my heart rate kept rising. It was getting louder and before you knew it, the drop was in front of us. So we get our kayak aligned and took the plunge. I screamed, she screamed, we all screamed, and Voila! We made it. The instructor thought we didn’t make it because he couldn’t see us, but after paddling out some more we gave him the thumbs up. After that, one by one, everyone started coming down. Once we were all down we headed back to shore. But before that, we cruised a little bit in the ocean. This excursion lasted roughly 3-4 hours and was one of the best experiences I have ever had.
On our last night of the cruise we decided to attend a cultural luau. This is considered an excursion and should be booked as soon as you board the ship, as it sells out just in a few days. Here you will enjoy a one of a kind experience that you will always remember. Prior to the start of the luau, native Hawaiians are scattered all over the area. Some selling crafts and gifts, some posing for pictures, and some with workshop type of activities. This is the perfect time to be part of their culture and to see what the locals do. Shortly after, we all migrated to one of the pits where they revealed our dinner for the night. Buried underground, they started to dig what emerges as a roasted pig wrapped in banana leaves. As soon as they pulled out the roasted pig, the aroma just filled the entire area of smoky goodness. Then it was time to be seated and for the show to begin.
After we found our table and got situated, one of the performers came on stage, welcomed us to the luau and gave the rundown of what was in store for tonight. Starting off with dinner, we were escorted to the cooking stations where they served you with the entree of the night. Luau dishes normally include: Kalua Pua (pig), baked Mahi Mahi, and some rice. Side dishes include Poi, Poke, Potato or Macaroni Salad or, and baked sweet potatoes, while desserts normally consist of fresh local fruits, importantly pineapple. Our night had just begun.
Right after dinner, the lights began to dim and the show began. The place grew louder with noise as the performers made their way in. Fire, drums, and clapping got more intense the closer they got on stage. Once on stage they broke up into their smaller groups. There are several different performances that they do. From fire breathing stunts to just plain hula dancing, they all did a tremendous job. As soon as the party was over and the lights turned on, we got to meet all of them. They are the kindest people I ever came across. They wished us a safe trip back to Honolulu and back home. I couldn’t be more happier on how this turned out. It’s something to remember forever.
As we headed back to the Port of Honolulu to end our two post nights, we realized that there was never enough time to spend in Hawaii. Time is so limited when you are having fun, and one week is just not enough. Once we arrived back in Honolulu, we were transferred to our same hotel.
Our post nights pretty much consisted of just getting ready to come back home. We did all our final gift shopping for us and friends back in the mainland. To me, a good vacation is when you are tired towards the end, and yes I was tired, not to mention the rest of the family. But it’s a good tired feeling that you covered a lot of ground and had one of the best times of your life. Because Honolulu was not our primary destination on this trip, there were so many things that we were unable to do because the lack of time. But it’s ok because I will be there again in a few years rather than waiting another 20. I still have memories from when I was there the first time, and this last vacation just added more memories.
By: Kris SanMiguel
AffordableTours.com Content Editor