Hawaii Heats Up

| February 2, 2005

Cruising around the Aloha State is becoming more popular, with ships of the major cruise lines spending time in Hawaii every year. Norwegian Cruise Line has stepped in creating the NCL America division devoted to year-round, inter-island cruising. In addition, there are several other options for cruising Hawaii.

Passengers on a Hawaii cruise can enjoy the natural beauty of the islands, Hawaiian history, Polynesian culture, and many adventure and sporting activities. A major attraction is Kilauea, the world's most active volcano on the "Big Island" of Hawaii, which has been continuously erupting since 1983. Cruise ships pass the coast at night so passengers can watch the molten lava flowing into the ocean. Whale watching is popular from mid-December to mid-April, when 2,000 to 3,000 humpback whales winter in Hawaiian waters, having migrated from summer feeding grounds in Alaska.

Cruising Hawaii lets you see up to four different islands while only unpacking once. Although the islands are volcanic in origin, the four main islands are very individual, each one offering its own distinct charm.

Oahu - Port of Honolulu: Oahu is the busiest island, known as "The Gathering Place". It is home of the state capital, Honolulu. Famous landmarks include Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head volcano, Pearl Harbor, Hanauma Bay and the scenic Nu'uanu Pali Pass.

Since 1926, ships have been greeted by the 10-story Aloha Tower, which stands at the port in downtown Honolulu.

Kauai - Port of Nawiliwili: Kauai is "The Garden Isle" and home of Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Fern Grotto on the Wailua River is a beautiful cave, popular for Hawaiian weddings. Valleys, caves, gardens and beaches, a spouting horn, museum and Russian fort are found here. Lumaha'I Beach was chosen as the setting for the nurses' beach in the movie 'South Pacific,' while the wedding scene in Elvis Presley's 'Blue Hawaii' was filmed at the coconut grove.

The dock at Nawiliwili is in an industrial area, but it's just a few tenths of a mile to dining, shopping and the beach.

Maui - Ports of Kahului and Lahaina: Maui is "The Valley Isle," formed by two dormant volcanoes, with 10,023-ft. Haleakala being the largest. Haleakala National Park, 'Iao Valley, Wailua lookout and numerous beaches and excellent golf courses are found here. Lahaina was an important provisioning stop for whalers in the mid-1800s, and today is a base for whale watching boats. Also historically significant as a missionary and plantation center, Lahaina is recorded on the National Registry of Historic Places.

In Lahaina, passengers tender to the marina at the center of town. Ships calling at Kahului dock at this commercial center, which is adjacent to Wailuku, 24 miles from Lahaina.

Hawaii - Ports of Hilo and Kailua, Kona: The "Big Island" of Hawaii is also "The Orchid Isle," known for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, established in 1916. With its volcanic formations, giant fern tree forests, lava tubes and museum, the park is one of the top visitor attractions in the state. It stretches from sea level to the summit of the earth's most massive volcano, Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet. The port of Hilo is closest to the park, and is also convenient to Akatsuka Orchid Garden, Rainbow Falls and Akaka Falls.

On the Kona coast, accessible from the port of Kailua, are the Kona coffee plantations, the historically significant Puuhonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge) built in the 12th century, the painted church, and Hulihe'e Palace, summer home of Hawaiian royalty. Kealakekua Bay marine sanctuary is popular for snorkeling. On the shore stands a monument to Captain James Cook, the first British explorer to visit the islands, who was killed here. The town of Kailua is the base for the Hawaiian Iron Man Triathlon competition.

Passengers tender to the marina at the center of Kailua, Kona. At Hilo, ships dock at the port.

Molokai - Port of Kaunakakai: The island of Molokai opened later than other Hawaiian Islands for tourism. The island was to receive her first cruise ship calls in 2003 when Holland America introduced Molokai as a port on several 16-night cruises, round-trip from San Diego, however high seas prevented the initial calls. Subsequent visits have been put on hold, while the impact of cruise ship visits to the island are investigated. Molokai will be added to some itineraries in the future pending a successful outcome to the talks. The plan is for passengers to tender ashore to visit the town. Tours would include whale watching, deep sea fishing, island drives to the tallest sea cliffs in the world and Kalaupapa National Historic Park where the former leper colony is located, famous for the work of Father Damian.


The most port-intensive Hawaii cruises sail round-trip from Honolulu or between Honolulu and the west coast. Note that foreign-flagged vessels cannot embark and disembark passengers in American ports without calling at a foreign port. That's why Ensenada, Mexico or Fanning Island in the Republic of Kiribati are included in many itineraries.

Longer, more exotic itineraries calling at Hawaii include transpacific voyages to Asia or Australia and segments of a world cruise.

For specific itinerary details see the links to CruiseMates' itinerary pages at the end of this article.

Round-trip from Honolulu:

Norwegian Cruise Line has re-introduced inter-island sailings with its NCL America division. Congress passed a bill in February, 2003 granting Norwegian Cruise Line exclusive rights to operate year-round, inter-island Hawaii service without having to call at a foreign port. In order to do this, the ships must sail under the U.S. Flag, with American crews and will be subject to all U.S. laws, including taxation and environmental regulations.

Pride of Aloha, the former Norwegian Sky, entered year-round Hawaii service on July 4, 2004 following a re-flagging ceremony which added her to the U.S. registry. Her seven-day Hawaiian itineraries sail round-trip from Honolulu year-round on Sundays. The port intensive route calls at Nawiliwili, Kauai (overnight); Hilo, Hawaii; Kona, Hawaii and Kahului, Maui (overnight). The ship is in port every day and offers scenic cruising on Tuesday afternoon and evening.

The design of Pride of Aloha embodies the history, art and culture of Hawaii and includes the first Hawaiian Cultural Center at Sea. Public rooms on board feature artwork and memorabilia from Hawaiian history and include the Kumu A`o Cultural Center, Blue Hawaii Night Club, Outrigger Lounge, Mark Twain Library, Captain Cook's Bar and Cigar Club, the Plantation Club and a sports bar inspired by Duke Kahanamoku, the four-time Olympic swimming winner and world renowned surfer. Hawaiian cuisine will be available in the Pacific Heights alternative restaurant, one of six restaurants on board.

The colorful art displayed on the hull of Pride of Aloha illustrates Hawaii's symbol of welcome, the Plumeria lei. It was designed by Hawaiian artist Linda Umstead.

Pride of Aloha has an intersting history. The vessel was rushed into service after Pride of America was delayed. Pride of America, the first 'Project America ship' taken over by NCL from now defunct United States Lines was, to be completed in Germany and enter service in Hawaii in July, 2004. However, Pride of America foundered in the ship yard during a major storm in January 2004 forcing the delay of her delivery. This delay prompted NCL to re-flag Norwegian Sky into the U.S. register ahead of schedule. She underwent a multi-million dollar remodeling in May and began sailing weekly cruises from Honolulu as the Pride of Aloha on July 4, 2004.

The sudden change of plans caused problems with staffing the vessel and numerous complaints about service brought the success of the venture into question. The line has been busy sorting out the problem and much improved service levels have been reported recently.

The 2,146-passenger Pride of America is now scheduled to enter year-round Hawaii service on July 23, 2005 sailing seven-night cruises from Honolulu on Sundays. (Plans for three and four-night sailings have been scrapped.) Ports of call are Hilo, Hawaii; Kahului, Maui (two days); Kona, Hawaii; Nawiliwili, Kauai (two days); Kona, Hawaii and Nawiliwili, Kaui (two days).

The 72,000-ton Pride of America will feature 660 balcony staterooms, extensive children's facilities, and several firsts for NCL - a Conservatory, Family Suites, a tennis court and an art gallery. Dining options are many with eight restaurants and nine different menus every night. The S.S. America Library will house memorabilia and artifacts from the historic ship. Pride of America will feature hull art depicting the Stars and Stripes combined with the United States' national bird - the Bald Eagle.

NCL's Norwegian Wind offers longer sailings round-trip from Honolulu year-round in Honolulu. The 10 and 11-night cruises sail to Fanning Island, Kona, Hilo, Lahaina and Nawiliwili with overnight on board in Lahaina on the 11-night itinerary.

The 50,764-ton Norwegian Wind carries 1,748 passengers. The ship entered service in 1993 as the Windward. In 1998 she was stretched with a 130-ft. midsection inserted, adding more cabins, suites, a restaurant and purser's lobby. This vessel always had some of the most interesting terraced dining rooms afloat. In 2001 Norwegian Wind was redesigned for NCL's freestyle cruising concept with its flexible dining options and resort casual dress code. There are five permanent full-service restaurants on board. Freshly baked pizza is always available at the Cafe and Pizzeria, and the 24-hour room service features an extensive menu with a section just for kids.

In summer, 2006, Pride of Hawaii, sister ship of Pride of America, is scheduled to enter service year-round in Hawaii. Itineraries are t.b.a.

Round-trip from San Diego or Los Angeles

This is the answer for those who'd rather not fly to fly to Hawaii. These longer cruises of around 15 to 18 days enable you to fully enjoy your floating resort and call at the major Hawaiian Islands. With eight relaxing days at sea, you have a chance to completely unwind. Ships today offer so many entertainment facilities it is impossible to appreciate them on a one-week cruise.

Holland America Line's Statendam and Celebrity Cruises' Infinity sail 14 to 16-night Hawaii cruises round-trip from San Diego while Princess Cruises' Island Princess and Celebrity's Summit sail round-trip from Los Angeles to Hawaii for 15 nights.

One-time sailings are made by other vessels including the Queen Mary 2 which will sail round-trip from Los Angeles for 11 nights, February 25, 2006 calling at the Hawaiian Islands of Maui, Honolulu and Kailua-Kona. Holland America Lines' Amsterdam sails round-trip from Seattle to Hawaii in May, 2005 while the Statendam positions from Vancouver to San Diego via Hawaii in September, 2005.

One Way To/From the West Coast

These nine- to 12-day cruises provide four to six sea days for enjoying what the ship has to offer, plus port calls in Hawaii. RCI, Celebrity and Carnival include overnight stays in Maui and, on some sailings, Honolulu as well, allowing more time to explore these ports. Passengers can fly to Honolulu to catch their ship, sail around the islands calling at several ports then sail to the west coast. Or, sail from the west coast and enjoy several relaxing sea days before calling at Hawaiian ports and disembarking in Honolulu for the flight home. These one-way sailings can be combined with a land stay in Hawaii pre or post cruise.

Hawaii and the South Pacific

The breathtaking beauty and tranquility of the South Pacific can be combined with the Hawaiian islands on a number of special cruises. These idyllic itineraries offer many sea days together with calls at some of the world's most magical islands. Positioning cruises may link Hawaii with Australia and New Zealand as ships head south for a season of sailings down under.

Pacific Princess, Tahitian Princess, Diamond Princess, Clipper Odyssey, Amsterdam and Crystal Symphony, will sail cruises that combine Hawaii with the islands of the South Pacific in 2005 and 2006.

Hawaii and Asia

Transpacific cruises fell out of use with the advent of the jumbo jet. Occasionally a ship does make this journey.

Pacific Princess sails from Honolulu to Osaka on a special "Islands of the Pacific Theater" cruise for 24 nights, May 29, 2005, calling at Midway, Majuro (Marshall Islands), Honiara (Solomon Islands), Guadalcanal (scenic cruising), Papua New Guinea, Guam, Saipan, Iwo Jima (scenic cruising), Okinawa and Hiroshima.

Crystal Harmony sails from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, February 24, 2005, calling at Honolulu for one day while Crystal Symphony sails from Honolulu to Yokohama in 2006. Amsterdam's 32-night sailing from Singapore to San Diego in November combines Asia, the South Pacific and Hawaii.

World Cruise Segments

World cruises are a unique experience. Generally they are not port intensive, focusing more on days at sea. Available in segments, the Pacific portion usually includes a call at Honolulu and perhaps another Hawaiian port. Cunard Line's Queen Elizabeth 2 includes Honolulu on her 2006 World Cruise.

LINKS: Trans-Pacific Cruises From Hawaii

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