Most Hawaiian cruises are round-trips out of cities like Los Angeles. Others start or end in Hawaii, with the other port-of-call being someplace like Ensenada, Mexico or Vancouver, Canada. And then there are a few month-long cruises which include Hawaiian stops as part of a larger South Pacific itinerary. But what if you don't want to spend all that time at sea, or you just want a convenient way to see the best the islands have to offer once you're there?
Only Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) currently offers exclusively Hawaiian cruises. However, five of their ships regularly cruise the islands, so no matter when you want to visit you should be able to find what you're looking for. Most of their cruises last seven days, round-trip from Honolulu. Between September and February, seven-day round-trips from Kahului in Maui are also available. 10- and 11-day round-trips from Honolulu include a side trip to Fanning Island, a small island in Micronesia. Most of the extra days are at sea, so these cruises are best for those who enjoy ship time.
All of NCL's seven-day trips stop in the same ports: Honolulu (Oahu), Hilo (Hawaii), Kahului (Maui), Kona (Hawaii), and Nawilwili (Kauai). Most of the 10- and 11-day trips substitute Lahaina (Maui) for Kahului, though one 11-day trip includes both.
Travelers are free to explore on their own after getting off in the various ports, or they can choose to participate in one of NCL's special planned excursions, which cost extra. However, the cost can be worth it for activities like a helicopter ride over Waimea Canyon or snorkeling the reefs in Molokini marine preserve, led by a marine naturalist. One of the optional tours from Maui is a trip to nearby Lanai island.
To help you plan your cruise around Hawaii, here's some information about NCL's Hawaiian ships:
- Pride of Aloha - Seven-day cruises, round-trip from Honolulu year-round; round-trip from Maui between September and February. Hawaiian-themed ship featuring island décor and the Kumu Cultural Center, where visitors can learn about Hawaiian history and culture. Six restaurants, eight bars/lounges.
- Pride of America – Seven-day cruises, round-trip from Honolulu year-round. American-themed. Spacious staterooms, including family penthouses and suites, plus family-friendly connecting staterooms. Large conference room facilities available. 11 restaurants, nine bars/lounges.
- Pride of Hawaii – Seven-day cruises, round-trip from Honolulu year-round. NCL's largest, most luxurious ship. One deck includes Courtyard Villas, which share a private courtyard with a pool, sun-deck, hot tub, exercise room, and other amenities. The ship also boasts two Garden Villas, three-bedroom suites featuring a private garden with hot tub, plus access to a private courtyard with a pool. At 4,390 square feet, the Garden Villas have enough room to satisfy the most discriminating guests. 12 restaurants, 10 bars/lounges.
- Norwegian Sun – 10- and 11-day cruises round-trip from Honolulu between October and April. 11-day cruises make two stops in Maui, at Lahaina and Kahului. In addition to Hawaii, cruises stop at Fanning Island in Micronesia. All suites and penthouses include floor-to-ceiling glass doors leading to a private balcony. Two main pools, one pool for kids, and five hot tubs. 11 restaurants, 10 bars/lounges.
- Norwegian Wind – 10- and 11-day cruises round trip from Honolulu between October and April. Also stops at Fanning Island. Many staterooms include floor-to-ceiling windows for excellent views. Observatory Lounge provides amazing sunset vistas. Fitness center, basketball/volleyball courts, and other athletic pursuits. Six restaurants, 10 bars/lounges.
Although these cruises don't offer the flexibility to spend unlimited time on each island, they're a cost-effective and efficient way to see Hawaii's highlights. You won't have to island-hop by plane, and you won't have to keep packing and unpacking. Transportation, accommodation, entertainment, and meals are all included in your price. Of course, with these cruises, those who would like to stay longer can plan an extended vacation either before or after the cruise.
For more details on NCL's cruises, visit their website at www.ncl.com.
Another option small groups may wish to consider is chartering a private cruise. Aggressor Fleet specializes in diving cruises, but they also rent yachts to private clients. If you want to plan your own itinerary, prefer a more intimate environment, and don't need all the activities and amenities of a large cruise, chartering a private cruise could be a good option. You'll get to tailor your vacation to your needs, whether you're traveling with family or eco-touring. To learn more about Aggressor Fleet's services, see their website at www.aggressor.com.