What’s it really like on a POA cruise with My Cruises?
Known as The Hawaii Admirer, Ashlee Galea is an Aussie living in Hawaii who enjoys sharing Hawaii insider knowledge and travel advice on her blog. After a recent voyage with My Cruises, Ashlee documented her experience and hit us with the real deal when it comes to exploring Hawaii on a My Cruises trip. Read on to find out how it went!
DAY 1: DEPARTING HONOLULU, OAHU
- Diamond Head hike
- Oceanview stateroom with private balcony
- Get-to-know Pride of America cruise ship
- This Is Aloha presentation and Sail Away Celebration
- La Cucina (Italian) dinner
My partner and I were eagerly awaiting our dream My Cruises holiday, a 7-night journey around the Hawaiian Islands on Pride of America (POA). With cruise boarding beginning at noon, we maximised our morning by hiking Diamond Head. Lēʻahi, as it’s known in Hawaiian, is an extinct volcano crater with a panoramic lookout over Honolulu. It’s close to Waikiki and comfortably experienced in 2-3 hours round-trip.
Checking into POA was a breeze! From the moment you arrive at the pier you can feel the aloha, NCL staff are smiling, Hawaiian music is playing, and a flower lei greeting welcomes you. We went straight to our Oceanview stateroom, wow! Our cabin was the perfect size for 2. A huge bed, bigger-than-expected bathroom and private balcony. I was already envisioning the morning coffees and evening sunsets gazing out to sea. To kick off the cruise “officially” we attended the This Is Aloha presentation. It’s an excellent overview of Hawaii’s intriguing history, culture and breadth of island activities. Staff were ready to serve beverages, and we clinked our first glasses of champagne! One drink led to the next and before we knew it the Sail Away Celebration was underway. We mixed and mingled with guests and found fellow My Cruises passengers, easily identifiable by the My Cruises branded lanyards! We eventually snuck away for a romantic first-night feast at La Cucina, a classic Italian restaurant. The freshly baked artisan farm bread was to-die-for, the burrata caprese and wild mushroom risotto was delicious and the tiramisu, perfezionare!
DAY 2: KAHULUI, MAUI
- Skyline Restaurant breakfast and dinner
- Explore West Maui by convertible
- Kaanapali Beach shopping, swimming and oceanfront lunch
- Sunset at The Point at Merriman’s Maui
- POA entertainment
Woke up in Maui, woohoo! After soaking up a 360-degree view of Kahului Harbor atop POA, we weighed up brekkie options. We chose Skyline Restaurant, a beautiful venue reminiscent of The Great Gatsby era. The menu covers all bases from fruits, yoghurt and cereals, to bakery treats, pancakes, eggs and sides (hello, crispy bacon). The cruise down Front Street in Lahaina is a must-do. We ventured past the enormous banyan tree, which can’t be missed because it’s as large as a street block! Next, we travelled along the harborfront dotted with bars, restaurants and boutiques. After a quick stop for shave ice we continued to Whalers Village. This outdoor mall is home to a Whale Museum, 90 shops, free Hawaiian cultural activities and easy parking. Whalers Village branches out onto the white sands of Kaanapali Beach. Refresh with a swim here, or snorkel at nearby Black Rock for a chance to see green sea turtles. With incredible oceanfront eateries, this spot is ideal for lunch. We dined at Leilani’s on the Beach and quenched our thirst with a Tropical Itch, backscratcher included.
Later that evening we were back on POA enjoying a Thai-inspired meal at Skyline Restaurant. With the Drink of the Day in hand, we wandered the decks in search of entertainment. You don’t have to look far, the cruise is overflowing with fun things to do. We bounced between an Eric Clapton tribute, Neil Diamond concert, Karaoke sing-a-long and ended up at the Rock’N’Roll to Soul live dance party.
DAY 3: KAHULUI, MAUI
- Aloha Cafe all-you-can-eat
- Waterfall Rappel Shore Excursion
- Art Auction at Pink’s Champagne Bar
- Lights, Camera, Action! show
- Cagney’s Steakhouse dinner
It wouldn’t be a cruise without an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord! We set off on a mission to fuel up at Aloha Cafe, POA’s casual buffet restaurant. It’s the heartbeat of the ship, there’s endless food (and soft serve) and it’s constantly busy. With window seats and tables that spill onto the outdoor deck dining here guarantees top views.
Within an hour of being picked up at the port, we were meandering the tropical road to Hana and into Maui’s Garden of Eden. This activity takes place in a private area of this gorgeous arboretum, accessible only to Rappel Maui guests. What a pleasant change of scenery to be deep within a jungle immersed in natural beauty. This small group tour incorporates hiking, abseiling and swimming and is great for beginners. We warmed up by rappelling down a small hill. Next, we scaled a cliff next to a waterfall and dipped into its freshwater pool. By this stage we were psyched up and ready for the grand finale, abseiling a rockface inside a flowing waterfall. What a thrill! We ended with a swim in paradise and a short hike back to base. Our reward? Homemade sangas, chocolate chip cookies and Maui Gold pineapple. Mmm mmm.
After the sun went down, we channelled our Hollywood glam watching the Lights, Camera, Action! show, a tribute to great musical moments. With a late meal booked for Cagney’s Steakhouse, we got our pre-drink on at Napa Wine Bar. This intimate setting is famous for hosting Wine Tastings. Cagney’s Steakhouse lived up to its reputation, a sophisticated fine dining establishment. Think oysters, steaks cooked perfectly to our medium-rare preference and moreish truffle fries!
DAY 4: HILO, HAWAII ISLAND
- Morning Trivia at John Adams Coffee Bar
- Hoppa-On Hoppa-Off Hilo Tour Bus
- Sports Court antics
- Teppanyaki (Japanese) dinner
- Wonders! A Magical Experience
A superb morning to wake up and watch the sunrise as the ship approaches Hilo Bay. Located on the lush east side of the island of Hawaii, Hilo is Hawaii’s second largest town. It’s quirky in a charming way and flanked by botanical gardens and waterfalls. Still satisfied from our surf-and-turf last night we settled on a liquid breakfast at John Adams Coffee Bar. Serendipitously the Are You Awake Morning Trivia was just starting, we happily participated (and lost, LOL). NCL staff host a raft of activities all over the ship, they’re great opportunities to smile, laugh and make new friends.
Seats at POA’s Teppanyaki tables are limited, so make sure to book early. It’s a Japanese cooking sensation where your choice of meat/seafood and vegetables are creatively grilled on an iron plate in front of awestruck patrons. Stoked from such a cool dinner, we wandered to the wild Waikiki Bar for more good times involving Lava Flow cocktails. As a fan of all things magic, I was really looking forward to ending the night at the Wonders! A Magical Experience. The magic show was intriguing especially the final trick which left me, and the rest of the audience, with jaws on the floor. Seriously. I’m still lying awake at night trying to figure out how the heck he did it!
DAY 5: KONA, HAWAII ISLAND
- Tender Boat transfers
- Local eats including 100% Kona coffee, Kona beer, fresh ahi poke and pork lau lau
- Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park
- POA Hawaiian cultural classes
- Bamboo Massage at Mandara Spa
POA docks out to sea in Kona and cruise passengers board tender boats to take them ashore. One of Kona’s most striking features is the mesmerising colour of the ocean, a royal blue that turns to an azure green as you get closer to land. Water activities, such as snorkelling, scuba diving and deep-sea fishing, are a prime activity here.
We explored the sacred grounds of Puuhonua, a place representative of ancient Hawaiian civilisation. It features an inside look at heiau (temples), hale (thatched structures), kii (wooden statues) and fishponds. Honu (green sea turtles) stopped by to say hi, bobbing their heads above the shallow water. Back on POA Hawaiian culture continued to be the theme of the day with a Lei Making Class. There are ample ways to learn about Hawaii’s beautiful native culture onboard from Hula Dancing and Hawaiian Music to Cultural Talks and Hawaiian Language 101. Sadly we had to miss the White Hot Dance Party (heard it was a blast!) for our 90-minute Bamboo Massage at Mandara Spa. Imagine warm bamboo stalks and essential oils kneading your muscles into heavenly relaxation. Pure. Bliss. Feeling completely relaxed and without any tension, we barely made it back to our cabin before falling fast asleep. Zzzzzz.
DAY 6: LIHUE, KAUAI
- Moderno breakfast
- Mokihana Helicopter Shore Excursion
- Waimea Canyon and Na Pali Coast from the air!
- Island Treasures, Newbury Street Shops and Na Hoku retail therapy
- Luau Kalamaku Shore Excursion
An invitation popped up in our cabin to try Moderno, we happily obliged. By night this specialty restaurant is a Churrascaria (Brazilian steakhouse) with the best salad bar onboard, by day it’s an a la carte selection of speciality dishes like eggs benedict, frittata and omelette with a backup buffet of fruits, yoghurts and cheeses. With a morning helicopter flight locked-in, we were careful not to overeat. During this tour, the large helicopter windows provided expansive views of Kauai’s natural landscapes. Highlights included Jurassic Park Falls, Waimea Canyon (AKA the Grand Canyon of the Pacific), the Napali Coast sea cliffs, Princeville and Hanalei Bay. We were lucky enough to see the cruise ship from the air docked at Nawiliwili Harbor next to Kalapaki Beach. And I will never forget the cascading waterfalls, at one point I counted at least 20 of them etched along a mountain ridge!
The highs continued with another Shore Excursion, Luau Kalamaku. Historic Kilohana Plantation is the backdrop for this Hawaiian celebration and feast. It begins with a traditional flower lei greeting and the opportunity to peruse stalls showcasing local goods. Drink tickets are handed out and are quickly exchanged for Mai Tai’s! Soon a lavish buffet is unveiled, and guests waste no time filling up their plates with Hawaiian food. Luau Kalamaku sets itself apart with its mystical stage performance, a unique form of Polynesian storytelling that ends with a fiery display! This was the biggest event of the entire cruise, a special night to remember.
DAY 7: LIHUE, KAUAI
- Hawaiian monk seals at Poipu Beach
- Poolside Burger Bar
- Gold Rush Saloon pre-dinner drinks
- Le Bistro (French) farewell dinner
- Vegas! The Show
Chocolate croissants on the Aloha Cafe buffet got us out of bed early this morning. With our My Cruises beach bag packed, we hailed the free Alamo shuttle from outside the port to pick up our Ford Expedition SUV. With high seats our sports utility vehicle turned out great for sightseeing! With 4 hours to spare we followed directions to Kauai’s south shore via fields of green and the famed Tunnel of Trees.
We were back onboard just in time to catch the Officers vs Guests Water Volleyball match in South Beach Pool. Crowds gathered on the sidelines to cheer on players, guests won! Key West Bar overlooks this pool area and was a top choice for lunch thanks to it’s all-American Burger Bar where we created our own bangin’ burgers. With our final departure from port only hours away, we changed into swimmers, wrapped ourselves up in our NCL robes and settled into the deckchairs by the adults-only Oasis Pool. As we left Nawiliwili Harbor at sunset we cheers-ed to our wonderful week, a once-in-a-lifetime experience onboard Pride of America.
DAY 8: RETURNING HONOLULU, OAHU
A detailed brochure was dropped to our cabin last night outlining everything we needed to know about our departure. This made checking out of POA easy-peasy. We felt bitter-sweet about returning to Honolulu, we had to leave the ship but knew deep in our hearts the cruise would stay with us forever!