Still the best way to experience Hawaii the first time.
This was our first trip to Hawaii and we wanted to experience as much of it as possible. We took the cruise out of Honolulu after spending a few days on Waikiki Beach and spent another couple days on the north shore afterward to get a good feel for Oahu. Seeing the rest of the major islands without the need to pack/unpack is definitely a convenience. Our balcony cabin was clean and comfortable and the steward service was outstanding. We did a mix of tours both through the ship and on our own and pretty much enjoyed everything although I wouldn't do the bus tour to Waimea canyon through NCL again. Look for a small group tour that can get you to more places than their tour bus. The beautiful canyon itself wasn't the issue but we spent more time on this tour at gift shops. The entertainment on the cruise was pretty good and diverse although there is no casino on this ship due to Hawaii law I assume. The public areas of the ship were clean and well maintained if a bit too chilly for my wife's taste. I did hear of an incident where maintenance personnel were sanding a deck rail near the children's pool on a windy morning resulting in fine particulates spreading across the water while kids were in it. A complaint by a concerned parent immediately halted the work but that shouldn't have been needed.
My biggest disappointment was really about food and drink. Naturally, I expect to pay ball park prices for drinks and was not surprised in this regard. However, running out of their draft IPA halfway through the trip seemed like poor planning on their part. The increasing use of "specialty" extra charge restaurants is seemingly being encouraged by the cruise line through the declining quality of their overall food options. While a good burger could be had at the Cadillac Diner, a 24/7 no surcharge small restaurant with a limited menu, they were routinely overdone at the regular grilling stations. While no one is going to starve on a cruise, the buffet dining is mediocre at best whatever meal you choose. The restaurant food is better by a good bit, but service was only so so. This isn't my first NCL cruise and I have also experienced cruises with four other companies. This was by a good bit the worst I have yet experienced and was significantly worse than an NCL trip a few years back in the western Caribbean. Prior to this trip I would have said that a highlight of the cruise experience was dining. That wasn't the case on this trip. Unfortunately, it wasn't just the quality of the food which as I said wasn't bad in the restaurants. On a couple of occasions we sat in a less than half full bar for longer than 10 minutes while staff conversed waiting for attention. I guess when the 18% gratuity is automatic and the staff are predominantly American this is to be expected, but it is not what I have come to expect when cruising. The limited cruising options in Hawaii still make this a very desirable and enjoyable cruise the islands are beautiful. Just don't compare the on board experience to any other cruise you have taken and you won't be disappointed.
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
Cabin / Stateroom
Make a reservation for the East meets West surcharge free Asian restaurant upon arrival unless you like to eat really late.