Cruising the Hawaiian Islands | Go Hawaii

Cruising the Hawaiian Islands

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Many cruises begin, stop or end in Hawaii, but only one encompasses the Hawaiian Islands from start to finish, the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Pride of America. This cruise makes visiting four islands in eight days a breeze! No flights are required and unpacking only happens once. 

Departing from Oahu every Saturday, the itinerary visits Maui for two days, the island of Hawaii for two days, and Kauai for one and a half days before returning. Read on for a day-by-day example of the Hawaii cruise experience.

Day 1: Departing Honolulu, Oahu

The spirit of aloha is felt at the pier where friendly crew greets guests with flower lei garlands, and live Hawaiian music fills the air. Don’t miss the Aloha welcome presentation. It’s an opportunity to learn about Hawaii’s history, culture, and island activities.

Day 2: Kahului, Maui

Wake up on Kahului Harbor, Maui. Hiring a convertible is a top way to see this island. One of the more relaxed road trips is Kahului to Kapalua via the scenic Honoapiilani Highway. Pick-up a rental car and admire the mountain and beach park views along the way to Lahaina. Between Dec-Apr humpback whales frolic off the coastline.

Venture down Lahaina’s Front Street, past the giant banyan tree. Pit stop for shave ice, eat on the harborfront, and shop. Move onto Kaanapali Beach for a refreshing swim, or snorkel for a better chance of seeing Hawaiian green sea turtles. As dusk settles in, head north to Merriman’s in Kapalua for sunset cocktails on the point.
Return to the ship and dine at the Skyline Restaurant for a fancy meal. With a Drink of the Day in hand, seek out the best ship entertainment. Every night is different, it could be an Eric Clapton tribute, a Karaoke sing-a-long or Rock’N’Roll to Soul party.

Day 3: Kahului, Maui

Fuel up for an active day ahead. Maui’s popular tours are snorkelling Molokini and sunrise atop Haleakala, but why not try waterfall rappelling.

The tour transports guests from the port to Maui’s Garden of Eden arboretum via the tropical Hana Highway. It’s here, deep within the jungle and immersed by natural beauty, that the hiking, abseiling three rockfaces (one down a flowing waterfall) and swimming takes place. The group’s courage is rewarded with cookies, homemade sandwiches, and slices of sweet Maui Gold pineapple.

This is the night Pink’s Champagne Bar turns into an art show, and anyone signing up to the art auction gets a complimentary glass of champagne. Continue the fun at the Lights, Camera, Action! show, a tribute to great musicals. Cagney’s Steakhouse is an excellent option for a late-night meal, enjoy pre-drinks at Napa Wine Bar.

Day 4: Hilo, Hawaii Island (East)

Watch the sunrise as the ship approaches Hilo Bay on the Island of Hawaii. After a caffeine hit hop off the ship for a full-day discovering Hilo, Hawaii’s second-largest town. Skip the free shuttles to Target and Walmart and opt for the US$20 Hoppa-On Hoppa-Off Hilo Tour Bus. It’s a convenient way to see Hilo’s attractions, including Queen Liliuokalani Gardens, Rainbow Falls, Downtown Hilo, Pacific Tsunami Museum, Hilo Farms Market, the King Kamehameha Statue, Richardson Black Sand Beach and Big Island Candies.

Another favoured tour from Hilo is a trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. As a volcanic landscape, park conditions always change. Check nps.gov/havo for updates.

Tonight is a good night for Teppanyaki. It’s a Japanese cooking experience where meals are creatively grilled on an iron plate in front of patrons. Wander over to the Waikiki Bar for a Lava Flow cocktail, followed by The Wonders! A Magical Experience.

Day 5: Kona Island (West)

The cruise ship anchors off the coast of Kona on the Island of Hawaii, and passengers are escorted to shore via tender boats. Kona is a walkable town featuring seaside restaurants, bars and boutiques, Hawaii’s first church, and a historic palace. Its waters are prime for water activities, including snorkelling, scuba diving, and stand-up paddleboarding.  

One of the coolest things to do is hire a buggy and travel south about 45-minutes to Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park (stop at the Coffee Shack en route for 100% Kona coffee). The Puuhonua highlights ancient Hawaiian life with heiau (temples), hale (thatched structures), kii (wooden statues), and fishponds. Look out for honu (green sea turtles) swimming in the shallow waters around the perimeter.  

Cultural activities continue on the ship, learn about Hawaii’s native culture in a lei making, hula, or Hawaiian music class. The smell of buttered popcorn beckons passengers to the Gold Rush Saloon, a Wild West-themed sports bar. It’s ideal for a casual meal, watching football or basketball, live music and belting out karaoke!

Day 6: Lihue, Kauai

Rise and shine in Nawiliwili Harbor, Kauai. The majority of Kauai’s island interior is rural and undeveloped. Helicopter aerial adventures are a fantastic choice for sightseeing. Witness Kauai’s striking natural landscapes, including Jurassic Park Falls, Waimea Canyon, and Napali Coast. Set time aside in the afternoon to ship shop. Get Hawaii gifts at Island Treasures, aloha wear at Newbury Street Shops, and fine island-lifestyle jewellery at Na Hoku.

Kauai hosts the biggest Shore Excursion during the cruise, Luau Kalamaku. This Hawaiian celebration, feast, and mystical stage performance take place at Kilohana Plantation, where guests can lap up mai tais, a Hawaiian food buffet and Polynesian storytelling.

 

Day 7: Lihue, Kauai

The ship departs at 2:30pm today, so it’s essential to maximise the morning. Pack a beach bag and pick-up a rental car to get-to-know Kauai’s South Shore. Drive towards Poipu Beach recreation area via the famed Tunnel of Trees. Sunbathe on golden sands, swim in ocean pools, and spot for Hawaiian monk seals. These endangered mammals are found only in Hawaii (observed from a safe distance).

The ship continually buzzes with activities. The Officers vs. Guests Water Volleyball match on the last day is one not-to-miss. Cheer on players from Key West Bar that overlooks the pool. It’s famous for all-American burgers, go on and sneak one in.

The excitement begins brewing for the finale, a journey past the Napali Coast en route from Kauai to Oahu. For those in Oceanview staterooms facing the sea cliffs, head back to the lanai (balcony) for a private viewing of these towering mountains. For everyone else, get comfortable in a deck chair or in a pool or bar that lines the applicable side of the ship.

As the sun sets over the Napali coastline, the glow is absolutely mesmerising. But the fun isn’t over just yet. There’s no better place for a farewell dinner than Le Bistro, the Parisian-style formal restaurant. Savor French cuisine and celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime experience on NCL Pride of America.

Day 8: Returning Honolulu, Oahu

Everything about checking out of the cruise is easy. It’s bittersweet to return to Honolulu, but cruising the Hawaiian Islands creates memories that last a lifetime.


This article is written by Ashlee Galea, an Aussie living in Hawaii who enjoys sharing Hawaii insider knowledge and travel advice on her blog Hawaii Admirer. Ashlee was a guest onboard NCL Pride of America thanks to MyCruises.com.au.