Don't worry about booking late.... the prices are looking great right now!
We go in January and we booked in May.... wish we booked later, the airfare is much less now also.
You need to decide between 2 things. Take a cruise from the west coast and spend a total of 8 days on the sea. (Now that sounds like a lot of fun to me but I wanted to be able to spend as much time as possible in Hawaii) Flying directly to Honolulu or Maui is a very long flight. I'd recommend that you book a flight that has a stop so you can walk some.
I was hit with Jet Lag.... I would wake up at 2:00am and couldn't go back to sleep for 2 days. I was rested and my system was adjusted by the time we sailed. Made the cruise much more enjoyable So we were glad we flew in a week early and rented a condo. We went to Hawaii 2 years ago and flew into Honolulu, this time we are flying into Maui for a couple of days before we sail)
Our friends flew in 2 days before we sailed and then they stayed in Honolulu post cruise for a couple of days.
We have a limited budget and we knew we might not be able to get back to the islands again, so we wanted to experience as much as we could on our vacation. (We are lucky enought to be able to return in 2007 and can't wait