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Copyright © 1995-2001 
Linda Coffman

 

Norwegian Star
April 7, 2002 ~ Hawaii

by Red Stripe (Val) & Einstein, aka "E" (Jim)

Overview: Being that this was the first time either of us had been to Hawaii we were really wet under the wings. Thanks to some tips from far too many people to mention, we felt like we accomplished as much as we possibly could in the time that we had in Honolulu. This lovely city has enough things to keep one occupied for a week no less 3 days. Do not just bypass this city without taking some time out of your schedule or you will be sorry you did.

Thursday – Day of Departure
Up early Thursday morning for the flights to Hawaii… I hate flying. Three flights and 16 hours later; stocked with a good stash of those little biscuits that Delta gives you we arrived in Hawaii. It was almost dark when we arrived at 7 PM Hawaii time. We caught a Roberts Bus at the terminal at a cost $8 per person and the bus was comfortable and clean. The trip to the hotel took about 20 minutes. We stayed at the Renaissance llikai Waikiki Hotel right by that yacht area where those first scenes from Gilligan's Island were filmed… rather fitting I thought. We had a real nice view, the room is on the side, but at the front so we can see the ocean, and the town and mountains. We dumped the bags and walked Waikiki beachfront where E bought me lei. During the walk we took note of an Internet café… and walked up past the Pink Palace (The Royal Hawaiian). As it was getting on toward 2 am our time we decided to head back to the hotel for some shuteye. E stopped off to get the bus passes for the next day at the ABC store across the street. They were $20 PP for a 4-day pass, which is a bargain as long as you are not in a hurry.

Friday
We were up early and did not feel like eating breakfast. We went just across the road from the hotel and got the bus to the Arizona Memorial. By the time we got there it was 9:15 and the first tour we could get on was 11:15. So it pays to be there early. We thought we would be in good shape, but should have got there at least by 8, if not sooner. The hours at the Memorial are 7:30 am to 5:00 pm with the first tour starting at 8 and the last one at 3.

While waiting we went over to the other exhibits in the area. Fortunately there is a lot to look at and time went quickly as we went around the museum. We bought an ice cream and sat on the steps waiting for the tour to begin. There were a lot of little birds all over the sidewalk, and I said that they looked a lot like the Inca doves that are in Houston Texas so I asked a man that worked there what they were and he said they were "sparrows" LOL. Everyone of these birds that sat there had their mouths open begging for a snack. I wandered into the gift shop and asked one of the girls there what type of birds they were and she said they were "doves" hahaha. So Bryan, if you see this, perhaps you actually know what type of doves they are?

Finally our number was called and we went into the theatre to see the movie of the attack. It had scenes that some people had not seen before. Then we got on the boat to go out to the memorial. It really hits home when you see it in the daylight, imagining the ship sitting there that morning, and then being attacked. The actual memorial area is nicely done, with a list of names of the fallen inscribed on the wall at the far end. We watched as the oil came up from the wreck. It is as if the blood still seeps out to remind us of those that died for our country. As you get on the memorial, the best place to see the oil is down near the end on the left hand side. After about 20 minutes we and everyone else boarded the shuttle and sailed away from there in a quiet mood.

We then went outside and caught the bus for the "Circle the Island" drive. It actually does not completely circle the Island, as the road does not go all the way around, but cuts back through the Pineapple fields half way around the Island. It was fun being on the bus, but extremely time consuming as the bus makes a LOT of stops. We finally got hungry, so we bailed off at the little town of Haleiwa on the North shore and ate pizza in Spaghettini’s. We sat there watching the world go by sipping on a cold one. I decided to head off to a few of the locale shops while E waited for the pizza. After a few stops I saw the pricing was about double what I would consider fair so I headed back to Spaghettini’s. The pizza was just being delivered and it was good and in fact E thought it might be as good as NY pizza.

Now with our tummies full we climbed back on the bus for the rest of the drive. You pass by some interesting places, and can get off whenever you want, but then will have to wait about 30 minutes between busses. The bus ride did give us an overview of the Island but was very time consuming because of all the stops. After about an hour ride we arrived back at the main bus exchange area at the Ala Moana Shopping Center where we were waiting for the bus to take us back to the hotel when a little guy stood up and went just behind me… in plain view. I heard water… turned around and he was stood a few feet away peeing. I guess when you gotta go you gotta go. LOL

We were back in our room before 7 and decided to soak in the hot tub. This hotel has a great pool area facing the beach. We were sat in the tub when suddenly the firework display started. The Hilton next door does this every Friday. So we were in the best place to watch it. After an hour soak we then went for a moonlight stroll up the beach again. We decided to stop in at the Royal Hawaiian and ordered an appetizer and a drink of local beer and sat outside to enjoy the sights. This is a great hotel, and well worth a visit for those of you that get a chance. It is especially good for that evening drink, or a breakfast out on the patio. After finishing our drink and food we walked through the hotel to the roadside and went across to the World market where we bought two leis of silk and puka??? Necklaces. Then wandered back to the hotel for some well deserved rest.

Saturday
E got up bright and early to take some pictures of the sunrise. On the way back to the room, a guest that was checking out handed him two passes for the breakfast brunch so we went down for it. That brunch costs $17 per person!!! We really enjoyed that meal. After stuffing ourselves full we went outside the hotel and caught the bus to Diamondhead. It was a long walk in from where the bus drops you, and you walk through a tunnel. When we finally got to where the trail goes to the top, it started to rain lightly at first, which worked out to our benefit as it kept us cool. This was definitely another sightseeing adventure that should be done in the morning, as we could already feel the heat and humidity building. The trail in Diamondhead is a mixture of paved path, uneven rock and steps. At the bottom of the first set of steps (99 of them) it really started to pour down. We gradually looked like drowned rats.

There were two more sets of stairs (43 and 56) so you need to be in reasonable shape for this. You also go through a tunnel, which is not lighted, and on a good day there is a guy there renting flashlights. But on this day he was home staying dry. I had brought one with me so we were the envy of those blundering through in the darkness. By the time we got to the top of the crater I was soaked and stained from the rust off the railings. We were about to give in and leave when the sky started to clear up and the sun came out. We got some great views and photo shots. It is not until you are up there that you really realize that Diamondhead is a volcano and although dormant it is not extinct. In spite of the weather and the steps it was well worth the exhausting hike. I will never forget it nor will E. When we started down we realized just how helpful that rain had been, as it was HOT & HUMID. I would have hated to do the climb at the time we were descending with no cooling rain. It is another place that it pays to be there very early. Also we were shocked at the people starting up there with sandals and even heels… that is one way to break an ankle.

We got a taxi back to the hotel to dry off and change clothes. We got a fun taxi driver with a small son and had a nice time talking all the way back to the hotel. We then caught the bus again heading for the Waimea falls park. We started talking to a couple (Chuck and his significant other) on the bus ride to the North Shore and Waimea Falls. Once we arrived at the bus stop outside the park we walked in and paid our admission of $22.00 PP and used the “ buy one, get one free” coupon out of the discount coupon books available at almost every street corner. After entering the park we took the little shuttle bus to the dive and falls area. After exiting the bus the sight of COLD Beer caught our eyes so we bought a couple and then I changed into my swimsuit and we all swam in the pool under the falls. The swim area is very clean but rather rocky and the water was definitely cool. The diving show was good, but one diver was as pale as a dead fish. He most assuredly could have used the fake and bake for sure.

The gardens were very pretty, and the four of us (our new friends from the bus) enjoyed it. We told them that we were going across the road to Waimea Bay to wait for the sunset. They said they would join us. It is a beautiful bay with a nice sand beach and nice surf. While waiting for the sunset we watched the kids jumping off the rock in the middle of the bay. They had to wait for a wave before they jumped. Better them than me. We watched the sunset and then headed back to catch the bus. Now these buses should have been every 30 minutes, but I think one must have got lost since we waited for a very long time (over an hour). Finally we got the first bus to come by and even though it was supposed to be the "slow" bus we said we ain’t waiting for the next one.

We were now tired and hungry so when we got back to the Ala Moana Shopping Center we headed off to find a place to eat. We were all beyond being fussy at that time. We entered this noodle place, but when we felt the A/C in there, we were out of there in a shot. I do not understand the system over there, but the busses have only an on/off switch for A/C and some of the drivers just wear “long johns” and leave the A/C on full time. We had frozen on the way home and even for the sake of good food we could not have stayed in the noodle icebox. So all that was left was a KFC! And it had to be the nastiest one I have ever eaten at, fat and greasy.

Back at the bus center while waiting for the bus to our hotels another man got up and went a few paces away and peed directly behind where I was seated. Must be my Luck! We finally arrived back at the hotel at around 10 PM and we hit the shower and fell into bed since we knew that tomorrow was the day we walked down the gangway to the NCL Star.

Sunday
We got up and walked along the beach to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel for breakfast brunch. It was $22 per person--not cheap at all. We sat right next to the railing on the beach, watching the ocean. I went for the pancakes with Macadamia nuts… WOW! That did my sugar intake for a month. In spite of the price I think that it is a great thing to do at least once if you get a chance. The view and atmosphere is absolutely breathtaking and what better way to finish off our stay in Honolulu than a breakfast buffet on the beach overlooking Diamondhead?

After breakfast we then walked out through the hotel and went across the way and into the outside lift on the Sheraton Hotel. When you get to the top you are in the bar/lounge that everyone said was a great place to watch the sunset. I am sorry that we never made it up there to catch one. The views of Diamondhead and Waikiki beach through the picture windows are the best. I would make a point to do it if there is a next time.

We walked through town, past the Hilton Hawaiian Village which is another place that I would want to see if I get back there again. After arriving back at the Hotel we gathered our belongings and headed for checkout. We got a taxi ($8 PP) to the terminal, which is at the Aloha Tower right in town. This concluded are land based portion of the vacation as we were now ready to walk down that lovely gangway all of us Cruise @ddicts dream about.

Land Based Conclusions: Although the bus pass is a good value, we would rent a car the next time and use the bus for just around the town. Once you get out of town there are too many stops. It wastes too much of your time and can get frustrating. If you are in a car then you can stop at that cute little places, but, when on the bus, you do not have that option. Even if the bus stops there you tend to weigh it by the thought of having to wait another 30+ minutes for the next bus. A stop at the Royal Hawaiian for at least a drink one evening, and also do watch a sunset from the Sheraton right behind. It should be at the top of your list to do. The city of Honolulu has so many sights to see that it requires a few days on its own to explore the town in depth, as there is so much to see and do. Driving to the North Shore with a rental car would also be high on our list of recommendations as there are so many things to see and do on that side of the Island.

Sunday
We arrived at the Aloha Tower at 11:45 am and paid the porter to check in our bags, which was well worth the expenditure. Since our baggage was already checked we bypassed all the others who were there in a line with their luggage waiting to check in. We then walked down to the other set of doors and checked in with the NCL Reps and went through our paperwork. In this building there are big murals all over the walls. Check In went smoothly and within 5 minutes we showed our passports, rode the escalators down, and headed through the gangway. So, all in all, I do not think it took any longer than 10 minutes from the moment our taxi dropped us off until we were setting foot on the ship. It was around noon when we boarded and there were very few people on her so we grabbed the camera and went off to take photos.

The first look at the NCL Sky blew us away; it is visually a beautiful ship. First stop was the excursion desk to make sure we had all our excursions for the cruise lined up. We then headed out and explored the ship from bottom to top we went into the spa area and found that it was well laid out. There is a hydrotherapy (thalassotherapy) pool, hot tub and shallow pool. A row of loungers face the picture windows lining the rear of the ship. We knew during the upcoming days that we would spend some time sitting in here.

Off we headed to get something to eat. I mean after all you gotta get the cruise started off on the right foot. Then we went up on deck to sunbathe. The ship has tiered decks at one end of the pool for sunbathing. It was HOT! E fell asleep in the chair and I went to the library to check out a few books. I read the two that I bought in the RDU airport while flying over. Then I went to the room and saw that the luggage had arrived and about that time E rumbled his way into the room so we unpacked together.

Now we had an inside room and it was plenty big enough for both of us. We did think that the closet could have been better laid out. There were shelves in one side of the closet and it would have been better if they were open to the front. Instead you had to move back the clothes to get anything. The shower was a plus as it was a good size and had a real shower door so NO sticking shower curtain. They had a pot to make tea or coffee in the room and a small fridge, which was a bit on the shallow side but okay. The hair dryer was mounted on the small vanity table. They have soap and shampoo dispensers in the shower but NO conditioner. So if you use it remember to take your own.

We met our room stewards (Karmy and Julie) and they were very nice people. We asked for ice each evening and I asked if I could get a robe. They delivered all that we asked for. As usual they were very hard working the whole cruise. They worked their tails off and received a well-deserved tip at the end of the cruise. So now that all the essentials were taken care of it was time to do what we all cruise for which is to sit back and enjoy.

We headed up on deck for the sail away and took the champagne that our Cackler friends had sent to us as a gift. Moet Chandon!! WOW!! After finding our perfect spot we pulled up a couple of chairs and waited for the ship to get underway. It is a beautiful view overlooking the Aloha Tower and its many shops. Usually the place a ship leaves from is less than picture perfect, but this place is wonderful as you are looking at the whole town right there. There were people calling out Bon Voyages to us and doing Hawaiian dances on the quay. What a sendoff.

After the sail away we went down to sample the freestyle dining in the Versailles dining room. This is one of the most stunning dining rooms either of us has seen on a cruise ship. We had no trouble being seated with just the two of us at a table. I forgot what I ate but it was good. There are 10 restaurants on this ship so there are plenty of places to choose your poison so to speak. There is a $10 PP cover charge in the Ginza and the SoHo room, and $12.50 in Le Bistro, plus Ala Carte pricing for sushi and Teppanyaki

Afterwards we went by the Karaoke lounge and it looked like fun so we stopped in and sampled a drink. Two of the singers were very good and the others; well what can you say… at least had the guts to get up on stage. After a couple of hours we took a stroll around the promenade deck and then called it a night.

Monday (Hilo on the BIG Island of Hawaii)
Today we were signed up for the Volcano National Park tour. We were supposed to go to the park first and then stop in at the Macadamia nut factory on the way back but we had a young woman on the bus that had an upset stomach and we were forever stopping for her to use the facilities. I was sorry she was sick but I think that she should have stayed on the ship. We ended up going to the nut factory first as she was in need of a pit stop as we passed. I think we all were gritting our teeth when she would walk down to the driver, as we knew that we would have another stop soon. The nut factory was OK but it is mostly a place to buy things. There was no demonstration or work going on. You can look through windows at the machines and watch a TV screen that tells you about the nuts.
Now it was off and up the steep winding road as we climbed up to the top of the volcano. The whole excursion the bus driver was telling us to be on the lookout for the Nay Nay bird and the entire day we saw everything but! We stopped at the Halemaumau fire pit and the Kilauea Iki Crater before heading for the Thurston Lava Tube. This place was amazing as you go from the moon to a rain forest in just a few minutes. You can see the steam vents everywhere. Even the one fenced off because a tourist got too close and fell in many years ago. They never recovered the body. We walked down a trail surrounded by vegetation and giant ferns. The size of this tube where lave once flowed is amazing. There is a picture of it in our Hawaiian photo album on this site. We walked all the way through it. This was a great tour and one I will remember for a long time.

Back on the ship we went to the Red Lion Pub to grab some food. Now I expected to really enjoy this pub but in fact it was my least favorite place on the ship. According to the menu it states that you can get fish and chips there. Well, we ordered fish and chips and it seemed to throw them into confusion. After much discussion they finally said they would have to get it from the Blue Lagoon Restaurant that was directly behind it. They shared the same kitchen space. I think the bartender thought of himself as a bar only. They wanted to push drinks and if you were not drinking all the time then you were not made to feel welcome. After a great production the fish and chips were brought out. Take this limey's word for it, they were not worth the wait. So that was the end of fish and chips.

We went to the spa area to recover from this stressful encounter. This place was almost undiscovered for the first part of a cruise. Everyone thinks of it as the beauty spa only and therefore they do not go into it. We spent a few hours here and E caught a couple of winks while I read my book. Then we spent the rest of the time enjoying the hydrotherapy pool.

Later that evening we got dressed and went to the Optional Formal Night.
Now this is where the problems with the freestyle dining hit home. First, The paperwork from NCL said that on this night the Versailles dining room would be Formal and the other 9 eating establishments would not be. We headed down at about 8.30 and ask to be seated at a big table. We are the first people sat there, and we wait for about 10 minutes, and finally another couple dressed in very casual clothes is seated with us. Then after a while another couple dressed formal, and then a woman dressed formal also were seated at the table.

It’s quite evident now from my glimpse around the room that it is a mix of formal and casual. Now I know this is freestyle but as they said the one room would be formal it should of remained formal. I fail to understand why they did not do just that. It is not as if there are not a bunch of other places to eat on this ship. In fact this ship is mainly restaurants so it is not fair to anyone. The two people in casual clothes at our table spent the entire evening explaining why they were not dressed. And the rest of us felt that the atmosphere was spoilt. Now that is not to say that anyone made the casual couple feel bad. We all bent over backwards to try to set them at ease. I think this was a real bad mistake on NCL's part.

After the meal we went to the show and saw Dave Heenan. He was very good and very funny. We ended up the evening at the karaoke lounge once again for a nightcap. This place was a hoot both evenings so far. After many laughs and a couple of glasses of wine we headed for a nightly stroll around the Promenade and then off to the land of zzzzz’s.

Tuesday

Today is a sea day so we slept late then got our tender tickets for the next day. E went looking for the sunrise and I went to yoga. We met up at the Java café for morning trivia. We won huggies and a beach ball as we finished 1st again. E thought that we would have an empty piece of luggage for the trip home. Little did he know that we would have more trouble packing for the way home then on the way out. After trivia we went for lunch and then headed out at the pool for a few frozen Thingees. E must have had more than a few as he got pulled into the pool games and won a cooler cup. It was very hot and after the pool games we finally figured that we had been cooked enough so went to the room and showered. At 5:30 we played sports trivia, and much to my surprise I was able to contribute. I knew what GOLF stood for and E did not. hahaha. So we won another prize. We drank a couple of beers and then went for our pre dinner walk.

We ate dinner in the Versailles Dining room again as this place seemed to be our main staple for evening dining. We were a twosome again as that really did not bother us as we knew at least that we would not have to wait for additional dining partners. The meal was not anything special but we certainly were not starving away and figured that there was always the midnight buffet. After dinner we went to the show and watched the famed magician Ed Alonzo. He is a very funny man but that guy must be shorter than me. He had the biggest built up shoes that I have ever seen. After the show we ended up the evening by sitting in a hot tub and then went to bed.

Wednesday - Fanning Island
For this little stop E had to pay nearly $200 to get a passport in a hurry. We found out at the last moment that you had to have one as the ship went to Fanning Island. (The Passenger Services Act again.) So E is ready to flash this $200 passport and GUESS WHAT? This is the one stop that they do not even require you to show anything but your ship ID let alone a passport. We went for our walk around the deck and found that a few birds had hitched a ride. They stayed with us most of the way back to Hawaii, people started feeding them bread.

It was raining so we were not in any hurry to get on the tender. We had been on deck for hours, and were laughing because you just could not see Fanning Island until the last moment. It is an island about 2,000 miles south of Hawaii and is part of the Kiribati Republic. It is an atoll, which is a circular ring of coral that is above the water. I think there are three parts to this one. And they are 10 miles long and ½ mile across and 10 foot above sea level. We were joking that you could run right over it at night if you were not careful.

This is a beautiful place; there are no phones, electric, cars, etc. The people there live simple lives. When we set foot on the shore they were in a big ring waiting to sell us the things they had made by hand. Most of it was baskets made of palm fronds and shells and some carvings done in coconut. They are fairly primitive since they do not have a lot of tools to aid in their handiwork. You can see however that they are learning fast the advantages of selling their merchandise to the cruise ships. So I expect the quality of their workmanship to go up as time goes on. I was happy to get what handiwork was done without modern tools. We bought a carving of a dolphin and I brought it home and oiled it.

We met a couple of guys from the states that were living there. They are making lamps and selling them on the Internet. They were quite a price. I think my dolphin done without the aid of a generator driven scroll blade and polisher is much better piece of memorabilia.

Now, NCL had advertised that for $5 you could be on your own private beach with just 200 other cruisers. Well we thought that was bad on a few counts. First I think it is cheap of them to charge for this, and secondly I think that perhaps all that you would see is their beach and not the people and the way they live so we did not do this. As we went into the bay you could see the private party on the other atoll. You could have swum across to it from the one that we landed at.

Although the island is pretty there was no place that you can swim from where we were. The natives also had all of their fishing stuff all over the beach and sticking up in the water. They have poles set to put their nets onto. I tried a coconut for $1 where the guy takes a machete and makes a few swings and you have the biggest drinking cup in the world. I did not care too much for the taste of it and that was just as well as I found out later that it is nature's draino juice.

We walked up the long dirt path until we came to the NCL School for the children. The cruise line built this for the island perhaps as payment for the "private beach" By now we were getting hot and the flies were out in force. In an effort to make a decision to either continue on or turn around; we saw some of the cruisers that rented bikes on the island coming towards and asked them what was ahead? They said they rode for miles and did not see anything more than the dirt path so that made our decision simple and we turned around.

After about 15 minutes we reached the tender area and we got back on the tender and went to the ship. We are glad that we saw this island as we figure that in a few years it will no longer be unspoilt. The people are charming and friendly and the children are sweet but already I saw signs of things to come. The little boy that came up and asked for money was only one, but it is signs of the future. I felt uncomfortable being there but it does make you realize that we have so much more than these people can ever imagine having.

To anyone that wants to see Hawaii thoroughly, I would recommend a land based trip, as long as the Passenger Services Act forces the cruise lines to go outside the US to Fanning Island. This ate up three whole days that could have been spent on the Islands. As we were told, it only takes 2 hours to see Fanning Island and that is the truth.

Once back onboard E went to the movie and I wanted a nap, but first I went to the Red Lion Pub where I knew they had free popcorn. Knowing E loves popcorn I filled up two bags and took them back to the movie theatre. E was surprised and burst out laughing because he knows how much I hate the stuff. Needless to say we must have started a trend because the next day the line at the Red Lion was out the door waiting for popcorn to haul up to the movie.

Tonight was the Presidents dinner where favorite dishes of past US presidents were prepared. Once again we ate at a table for two and enjoyed our dinner with each other. Then it was on to what was fast becoming our favorite hangout (the Karaoke lounge) for the evening's entertainment and some refreshments. There were a bunch of ladies there that were great fun and they were getting everyone up to sing while avoiding doing it themselves. We left to catch the late show in the Spinnaker Lounge. It was a comic show followed by a dance. We danced a few times after the show had ended then headed back to the Karaoke lounge and the ladies and their shenanigans. We all closed the place down and then went out for the promenade walk before hitting the bed.

Thursday - At Sea On our way back to Hawaii
To go the long distance to and from Fanning Island, the ship really moves, so both sea days were fairly rough. We had a restful day as we played trivia and racked up some more prizes. We came home with a few huggies, key chains, beach balls, bookmarks and 4 mugs. Obviously you can tell we like trivia. After trivia E went out on deck and I went to the Pareo tying. I can now make a swimsuit or evening dress out of my Pareo. We had enough the sun so we stayed in most of the day. We went to the Spa and sat in the tub and hydrotherapy pool for a while. Then we watched the not so newlywed game and walked the deck. I missed the fat burner class. Darn! E was back at the movies and this time the whole place had popcorn.

I went to lunch by myself, but only because I saw that they had Rhubarb pie and custard. I was seated at a table and then waited until it filled up. I ordered my pie. I said I was not with anyone so I did not want to wait for them to reach that stage. I waited! Lunch took two hours mostly waiting for people to fill the table, but I did order another piece to take to the room.

We went to dinner and then the variety show with the Star Chinese acrobats who were very good. Then we headed off to the disco for some dancing and a nightcap before heading off to la-la land.

Friday - Kahului, Maui
We did not get here until 1:30 pm so you can see just how much time it takes to get from Fanning Island back to the Hawaiian Islands. We spent the morning by playing trivia and racking up more stuff. I missed "fight the female fat cell"! Darn! We were booked for the Haleakala Crater tour.

We got off the ship early and walked to some stores that were nearby, and then went back for the bus. The drive through the small town and countryside was fun and interesting, our driver never stopped talking. As you climb up to the top of the volcano you pass through clouds. It is the first time I have been above the clouds and not in an airplane. The sky was clear blue, and the white clouds lay at our feet. The views are terrific. The driver was telling us to be on the lookout for the Hawaiian State Bird called the Nene (pronounced "nay-nay") or Hawaiian Goose (branta sandwicensis). We saw everything but I can see why it was nearly extinct! "Branta Sandwich"!

On the way back down, we were trying to delay the driver so that we could catch the sunset. We were talking minutes here and could not figure out why he would not stop for the 4 minutes left to sunset. So now it was our time to want a potty break. We did get some amazing shots though. It must have been 7 when we were dropped off at the ship.

We walked back to the stores and picked up a few things such as some cold medicine as I felt the nasty cold coming on. When we returned to the ship it was to find it in darkness. Apparently someone goofed while doing some work on one of the electrical panels so once again my flashlight came in handy. This counted out dining in the dining rooms so we headed up for the buffet. I was glad of the piece of Rhubarb pie that I still had.

The Guest talent search was postponed until the lights came up. Kudos to the captain who constantly kept us informed even when there was really nothing to say. Eventually the lights came on around 9:00 PM and we trooped into the show room to watch the talent show. It was very good as we had some talented people on this cruise. Some of them were better than some of the entertainers.

The rest of this night is a blur. I think this is the night that I was beginning to come down with bronchitis and we went to the hot tub in the front of the ship with a bottle of bubbly. E emptied the hot tub of people by telling them that I was coming down with a head cold so we had it to ourselves. After a relaxing dip and a few glasses of the bubbly we were well on our way to a very restful night.

Saturday - Nawiliwili, Kauai 8 am to 6 pm
We are going on the Waimea canyon tour at 8.45, a 5-hour tour. So we get some breakfast and get on the bus. We go through some real pretty places, and a stop light way out in the middle of nowhere. We stopped at far too many stores on this excursion. This bus driver must be getting one heck of a kickback. One of the stops is at a shop that sells the necklaces made out of tiny Ni’ihau shells. When you consider that a dozen shells would fit on your thumbnail, and the most prized are as small as the letter o on this page, you can begin to appreciate their beauty. These shells are only found on the forbidden island of Ni’ihau. It is owned by the Robinson family (since 1864) and is off limits. Only “true Hawaiian’s” live there. Hawaiian is the official language spoken there. They also sell RED Earth T shirts for $25. Further down the road they have them in a store window for $10… we do not stop there. Ditto the necklaces, as we see them later on for a better price. Then we stopped at the Protea flower shop where they grow and sell 1500 varieties of these flowers. I am tired of all the stops. I am beginning to see that this tour is really a three-hour tour with two hours added in for the shops.

Finally we get to the canyon. I saw this canyon in the John Wayne film "Donavan’s Reef" and always wanted to see it. It is called the "Grand Canyon" of Hawaii and, although it is a small version, it is beautiful, with all the colors that I saw at the Grand Canyon many years ago. The scenery is beautiful. We took many pictures. But guess what…? Remember the nay nay bird??? Well we pull up in the parking area and there one is waiting for everyone to take his picture.

This was a good tour, only spoilt by all the stops at shops. But I guess that some people live to shop. I was amazed at the people getting back on the ship with their Wal-mart bags. Once we returned to ship we took the free shuttle (Anchor Cove) to the Anchor Cove Shopping Center and then took a short walk across the bridge to the beach in back of the Marriott and spent an hour there. We then did a small amount of shopping and took the shuttle back to the ship.

If you wish you can also take the Plantation Market Shuttle at no charge for a scenic drive of approximately 20 minutes. There are also many other free shuttles to places such as Hilo Hatties and other shopping locales for those that which to venture out.

Once back on the ship we went on deck for the sail away party and ate a few things while drinking a few drinks. We packed the suitcases so that we were free for the evening. About now the bronchitis had a good grip on me… all that going up and down a few thousand feet packed it into my lungs. By now I felt as if I was wading through water. We ate and then went to the final show… Cirque Asia and it was very good. I know that I had to call a halt soon after that and take myself to bed.

E went to take a last walk around the ship and to check out the color code on our luggage and he found out that the NCL “freedom of disembark when you want” has a big fat catch… yes, you can do that, but only if you KEEP your entire luggage with you. If you put it outside the door then you get off when they say. So he exchanged our color for one that suited our schedule and us.

NCL Star Conclusions
At first we were blown away by the beauty of the ship and all the restaurants and how beautiful they were. It was only after a couple of days that it hits you that the reason that there are no long lines for eating is because there are a lot of restaurants. This is necessary to make Freestyle work and it does work. The downside to this is many of the places that would be nice lounges to sit on other ships are restaurants on this one. We often wandered through the “Endless Summer” restaurant which was this beautiful room with great picture windows looking out to sea on both sides that looked down into the atrium and it was not in use! Many of these restaurants were only open for 4 hours a day and sat idle the remainder of the time.

In fact that was the problem with the whole atrium. It is pretty, but except for the small Java Café and one small shop that sells everything from postcards to toothpaste there was nothing to keep you in the area. On other ships this is the heart of the ship. A place to watch people, to sit and have a drink and watch for friends. Here on this ship you have the purser’s desk and a bunch of restaurants that do not open until evening. The end result is that this beautiful ship is a floating restaurant.

As for the shops, they have put them all in one open room down at the stern, with big doors that are closed a lot of the time. No windows… I wonder just how busy they get, as most people did not even find them for days. And the Columbian Emerald store has most of the space. There was not too much there at all.

This ship is filled with beautiful artwork, every set of stairs is a delight, and the placement of mirrors at each end of the landings adds to the enjoyment. All around the promenade deck there are murals on the walls, so at a glance you can see what is inside the doors. The other problem with the promenade deck is that on most ships there are nice loungers around the deck where people gather and chat or read a book. On this ship they had these flimsy aluminum chairs with nylon fabric and no foot rest. Many times we saw people using two chairs, one as a foot rest and the other to sit in.

We thought the pool area would be great when we first saw that tiered effect. But we thought it would be on at least two sides of the pool. Instead it is only on one end and there is a large orange dual waterslide on the other end. We did not think it got enough use to warrant it. It was an eyesore and it cut down on the pool area so that it would have been impossible to have an island night party there. It also meant that there was room for only two sets or stairs going to the upper deck and they were both down one end. They have a great Internet café onboard. We never used that one either

As for Freestyle Dining
Here is our take on it and we are all different so take our version for what its worth. We wanted to sit with others, but if you ask for a big table then be prepared to wait until the table is at least half full before they take your order. Remember how on other ships you sit down and your waiter comes over right away and gives you a menu? Forget it. Even when we were sitting on our own we had to wait for some time before being handed a menu. One night I did not have a bread plate because for some reason the waiter removed it, so I put a roll on the table. He ignored it, so I cut it and buttered it… he never brought me a plate. There is no real attention to detail here. Most of the time we were seated on our own, because if they have started taking orders at a table then they will not place you there, so this works both ways. I miss the traditional seating where you can ask to be with a group. Where when you walk in your waiter knows you and has your drink etc waiting. Where you are handed a menu at once and your order taken shortly after and if you wish something can be substituted (ex. Shrimp Cocktail, Key Lime Pie, Mashed Potatoes). With Freestyle forget any substitutions or alterations to the menu as what you see is what you get. Where you get to know the people that you are sitting with. Want to know what the conversation is at the table on freestyle?

Monday ... Hi, I am Jane this is Al, where are you from?
Tuesday ... Hi, I am Pat this is Mike, where are you from?
Wednesday ... Hi, I am Fred this is Mary, where are you from?

Freestyle Dining may be the wave of the future for some people, but for us it’s just not our cup of tea.

Sunday Morning
We headed up to get our last meal, and then wandered the decks for a while before heading off to retrieve our luggage. This went smoothly and much too soon we were on our way to the airport. About Honolulu airport… there are some beautiful gardens in it. As we had some time before our flight, we headed down there and stretched out on a bench in a pagoda and took a nap. We watched the koi swimming around and a heron catching his lunch. Do not stay in the waiting areas when you can be outside enjoying these gardens. All too soon we were winging our way from Hawaii, my last look out the plane window showed me our hotel, the great mural on the side of the Hilton and the Diamondhead crater. This was a really great trip. We tried to be honest here with the review, but please do not think that we did not enjoy either the ship or the cruise. It was the trip of a lifetime.

Overall Ship Ratings

Service: "C" -- Got knocked down a notch due to lack of personal attention in dining areas.

Entertainment: "A" -- The BEST entertainment either of us have seen at sea.

Shore Excursions: "B+" -- The shopping frenzy on the last excursion knocked it down a notch.

Food Quality: "C" -- Lacked variety and was rather bland. Granted, we did not try the specialty dining options.

Photo Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line


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