We recently returned to the Pride of America (POA) for another spin around the islands. We had sailed on her in 2007, about the same time of year, so the weather conditions were similar. We were once again greeted with an orchid flower lei for me and a shell lei for my husband. They had Hawaiian music playing and water available.
Since we were returning cruisers, we were ushered into the ‘short line,’ had our photos taken for our key card and were walking across the gangway in just a few minutes. Since our cabin was not yet available we went to the Skyline Dining Room for lunch rather than the buffet (for a change). We were ushered to Table 1, a great little table for two in the corner at the window. This room is done with a New York theme, with contemporary chairs, mirrors, and etched glass mimicking the skyline of New York. Very simple and elegant.
Announcements were made when cabins were ready, floor by floor. There didn’t seem to be any logic or reason to the order, as the first deck to be announced was Deck 4, then Deck 9, then us on 11 – I would have thought it would have been the deck with the suites, but apparently not.
We were in cabin 11536, so went up and checked it out. We had never been in a cabin that high, nor that far forward before, so we knew it was going to be a different kind of cruise experience. The interior of the cabin was the same as last time (with even the same foot protector!) but with new carpeting. I had forgotten how beautiful the woods are on the POA!
I also was relieved that the beautiful murals of various spots and landmarks around the country at the head of the stairs were still there. Apparently the refit was to add 4 studio cabins and more suite cabins and move some areas around to do so, but the rest of the ship was the same, which was good – it still is really a beautiful ship!
The one thing I really questioned about our cabin was the large overhang from Deck 12 that extended out about 10 feet farther than our balcony and obstructed the view upwards – it didn’t seem to be that much of a deal, but as the day progressed, it truly was.
At 4 p.m. we heard a VERY loud noise and realized that it was the Blue Angels doing their performance at Pearl Harbor! It was SUCH a delight to watch the Angels doing their amazing precision flying, but again, having that overhang REALLY made it hard to see them in the sky.
About the time they were finishing up, it was time for the Muster Drill, or as they call it Assembly Drill. I have never participated in a more organized, detailed, quick muster drill in my life! We were done in 15 minutes! They had even lowered one of the life boats down so folks could look inside. Very impressive!
Since we were there as a part of a group, there was a cocktail party at the Lanai on Deck 11, aft. It was nice to be out there as the sun set and we sailed away promptly at 7 p.m. We had hit it off with another couple, so all four of us went to dinner at the Liberty Dining Room.
This is an elegant room, done in rich navy and maroons with large paintings of presidents and other patriotic items as decor. I had the caesar salad and mahi mahi, which was served with couscous and mango salsa – it was very tasty!
On our way back to the cabin, there was a pianist, “Michael Masci,” playing at “Pinks,” the Champagne lounge on Deck 6, midship. He was exactly the type of pianist I enjoy – talented, with enough personality to be interesting, without being corny. He was delightful!
Maui – Day 1
We went for breakfast at the Aloha Cafe – TIP: We have learned to go ALL the way to the back where we can enjoy our breakfast outside (I’m actually always surprised that there is usually room out there, which for us, are the best seats in the house, ESPECIALLY in Hawaii!).
After breakfast we went down to catch the shuttle to the Queen Kaahumanu Shopping Center. On the way back we struck up a nice conversation with one of the many Australian passengers – apparently there were about 300 Aussies on this sailing. There were also a lot of Japanese as well as a handful of other folks speaking languages I didn’t recognize. There was probably an event at the theatre that told how many from the various countries, but we must have missed that. I love that on a cruise you get to intermingle with folks from MANY countries!
Once back on board we went up to the Aloha Cafe for lunch, where we again sat outside and enjoyed the warm, but humid, windy and cloudy day (Hawaii was going through a heat wave, so it was unusually warm). We went back to the cabin and relaxed, but then went and enjoyed the sauna and steam bath before our scheduled massages. After that we stumbled back to the cabin, ordered room service and called it a night!
Maui – Day 2
Since we had done this cruise before, we had already done the Sunrise at Mt. Haleakala excursion, which I would HIGLY recommend. It is truly a bucket list item that should be done at least once, but having someone else drive and the warmth of a bus is even better. If you do go, make SURE you take plenty of warm jackets as it is VERY, VERY cold at 10,000 feet!
After breakfast on the lanai, we went back to the cabin for a leisurely morning and watched truckload after truckload of sand being loaded onto a barge. Before we sailed, the barge had been filled and was being towed off. A good day’s work!
After the session with my group, we went down for dinner at the Skyline Dining room. We both had the mahi mahi special – it was FABULOUS! The service wasn’t so hot, but the food was GREAT!
Tonight’s entertainment was the “Not So Newlywed Game” which is one of my personal favorites on cruise ships. Usually there is one couple that is especially entertaining, but all four of these couples had a particularly entertaining answer at one point or the other, so it was especially good. Norwegian even stepped up a bit more than just congratulating the couples with a bottle of champagne – the winning couple got a gift certificate for a set of bamboo sheets at one of the bedding stores on Kauai! Good for Norwegian!
Hilo – Day 3
We were up early and had breakfast so we could do the Volcanos National Park excursion. John was our tour guide/driver and was FABULOUS! Not only was he good at his job, he had just returned after having taken 3 weeks off to move his 75 acre ranch, including family and animals, out of the way of the advancing lava flow. He was amazingly calm after having spent 3 weeks moving, but as he put it, you accept that when you live on Pele’s island.
The first stop was the Big Island Chocolate Factory, where we were able to watch workers make the chocolate. They also gave out plenty of samples and of course, there were lots of sales! We drove by a beautiful Japanese garden, the largest outside of Japan, and then up to the park.
Our first stop at the park was the Kilauea Iki Trailhead, where we were able to look down into the Kilauea Iki Crater, formed in 1959. From there we went to the Thurston Lava Tube, where we got out and were able to walk through the lava tube – what an amazing experience THAT was!
We then went on to the Kilauea Caldera, which is where the Halemaumau Crater was formed in 1974 when it erupted. This was also the site of the Jagger Museum, named after the first volcanoist who started collecting data and studying volcanos. It was a very good excursion but warranted a good nap back at the cabin upon our return!
Dinner was back at the Skyline Dinner with more friends from our group.
Kona – Day 4
At Kona, ships are unable to dock, so we anchored off the coast and tendered in. After breakfast we got our tender tickets and were shortly on our way to Kona. Generally speaking, Kona is a completely different climate than the rest of the islands and is usually VERY hot and humid. Today was no exception.
We caught the shuttle to Hilo Hatties and loaded up on Hawaiian shirts and macadamia nuts and returned to the pier. Lunch was at Paradise Cafe, upstairs overlooking the harbor (and ship). Dale had hot chicken wings and I had pulled pork with a mango salsa. It was quite good.
Tonight we splurged and paid the surcharge for the steakhouse, Cagney’s. Dale had the St. Louis ribs and I had the filet – both were excellent! For dessert, Dale had the raspberry creme brulee and I had the oreo cheesecake. So much for that diet!
From there we hopped into one of the hot tubs to warm up a little and then got dressed and went down to the Hollywood Theatre for a Tribute to Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons by the group,” Oh What A Night,” four guys that were VERY good, both vocally and in their performance.
Kauai – Day 5
Today was our excursion to Wiamea Canyon, so we met our group at the Hollywood Theatre and walked down to the busses – all four of them! A young Hawaiian lady was our tour guide/driver, but sadly, she was not as good as John. Our first stop was the Spouting Horn out at Poipu Beach. This is a natural formation of lava that spouts water when the waves rush in. It also hosts some local vendors with hand crafted items and rest rooms.
We then headed out to another store, which had a variety of refreshments and of course, another opportunity for shopping, before heading up to the canyon. The drive from the store to the canyon is a winding road with lots of S curves that takes about 20 minutes before you actually arrive at lookout point. I had forgotten how beautiful the canyon is. So many striated layers of earth, some waterfalls and of course, helicopters and planes doing tours of the canyon.
We got back to the ship and had a couple of hours before it would be time to meet to go to the luau.
We had the 4:30 meeting time for the Luau Kalamaku – apparently there was a 4, 4:15, 4:45 and 5 p.m. meeting time as well! We found out later that there were about 750 from the ship in attendance!!! WOW!
We had been to luaus before so figured it would be about the same – boy were we wrong! This was WAY more than your usual luau! This was a performance that included lights, costuming, make up, props and for lack of another explanation, would call it an opera, done in true Hawaiian style. They followed a story line depicting a father and his daughter that had fallen in love. The story followed the father and boyfriend as they went to find the new land and then returned, the couple married and then ended with the birth of the new generation. It was VERY well done – in ALL ways. HIGLY RECOMMENDED!!
Kauai – Day 6
My husband left early for his helicopter ride of Kauai – this was his third and his favorite thing to do on Kauai. NOTE: You can book this through the cruise line, but you can usually save some money by booking direct.
Since I was involved with my group the entire morning, I met my husband for lunch at the Cadillac Cafe, which is the 50s diner on Deck 6 midship – they had the usual diner menu, so he had a hot dog and I had a cheeseburger and fries, then we split a hot fudge brownie – it was all very tasty, although the service was a little odd.
As Platinum members of Norwegian Cruise Lines, we had been invited to a special event held out on the bow of the ship at 2 p.m. as we sailed from Kauai, so headed out with hats and sun glasses. Boy was it hot out there and the reflective light from the white of the ship seemed to make it worse. As you might expect, they were serving champagne and mimosas, so it was a very nice event. After the welcome speeches and actual sailing, it got a tad breezy, although that was welcomed as it did cool us down a little bit, but we lasted about 1/2 hour before it got just too hot.
We went back to the cabin and started packing so that we could enjoy sailing by the Napali Coastline, which would happen at about 5 p.m. Since we had already unzipped the expandable part of the main suitcase in order to come, we had to do some real organizing but we got it all into the suitcases and went back out to the balcony to enjoy the beautiful scenery!
Sadly, the wonderful narration of the coastline was only available through the public address system on open passenger decks, not through the Navigation channel, bridge channel or even through the loud speakers in the hall, so we missed out on that, but we were NOT going to move from our balcony to one of the crowded open passenger decks just to listen to the narration.
After the ship turned around and headed back, we went upstairs to the Skyline Dining Room for our last dinner. We noticed ‘Table 1’ was in the process of being cleared, we asked if we could sit there, knowing it would be a quiet table and were soon ushered to our table. The waiter had a bit of an attitude but we ordered and got through dinner and went upstairs to the Mardi Gras lounge for “The Perfect Couple” Game – since we had never seen this, we really didn’t know what to expect. It was not as good as the Not So Newlywed Game, but it was entertaining.
From there we went down a deck to the Hollywood Theatre for the ‘final show’ – the Variety Show. The magician (whom we had missed before) was back, as well as the Oh What A Night guys for some more Frankie Vallie tunes and then the crew did their thank you’s by bringing up on stage as many folks from the various areas of the ship to wave and say good-bye. This is always an emotional event.
Oahu – Day 7
We pulled into Honolulu Harbor and had our final breakfast. We met for the last time in the Hollywood Theatre and joined the rest of our group at 9 a.m. and disembarked for the last time and boarded the bus. Since our flight wasn’t until 11 p.m., we had the whole day to kill, so this tour would take us 140 miles around the island of Oahu, with a stop for lunch and various places along the way. Leo was our bus driver/tour guide and he was delightful and had 35, 40 and even 80 point questions throughout the day (of course no one was keeping score and the points were random, but it added a sense of fun to the day). It was well worth the money for the tour AND was very informative.