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Cruising the Hawaiian Islands

Cruising the Hawaiian Islands

Cruising has become popular in Hawaii. Cruises are a comparatively inexpensive way to see all of Hawaii, and you’ll save travel time by not having to check in at hotels and airports on each Island. The limited amount of time in each port can be an argument against cruising, but you can make reservations for tours, activities, rental cars, and more aboard the cruise ship. This will also give you more time for sightseeing and shopping at ports.

The larger cruise lines such as Carnival, Princess, and Holland America offer itineraries of 10–16 days departing from the West Coast of the United States, most with stops at the major Hawaiian Islands. Some lines, such as Crystal, Cunard, and Disney, include ports in Hawaii on around-the-world cruises. All have plenty on board to keep you busy during the four to five days that you are at sea between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii.

Cruise ships from the continental United States to Hawaii are floating resorts complete with pools, spas, rock-climbing walls, restaurants, nightclubs, shops, casinos, children’s programs, and more. Most hold thousands of passengers with an average staff-to-passenger ratio of three to one.

Prices for cruises are based on accommodation type: interior (no window, in an inside corridor); outside (includes a window or porthole); balcony (allows you to go outside without using a public deck); and suite (larger cabin, more amenities and perks). Passages start at about $1,000 per person for the lowest-class accommodation (interior) and include room, on-board entertainment, and food. Ocean-view, balcony, and suite accommodations can run up to $6,500 and beyond per person.

Cruising to Hawaii

Carnival Cruises is great for families, with plenty of kid-friendly activities. Departing from Los Angeles or Vancouver, Carnival’s "fun ships" show your family a good time (888/227–6482 www.carnival.com). The grand dame of cruise lines, Holland America has a reputation for service and elegance. Their 14-day Hawaii cruises leave from and return to San Diego, with a brief stop at Ensenada (877/932–4259 www.hollandamerica.com). More affordable luxury is what Princess Cruises offers. While their prices seem a little higher, you get more bells and whistles on your trip (more affordable balcony rooms, more restaurants to chose from, personalized service, 800/774–6237 www.princess.com).

Cruising within Hawaii

Norwegian Cruise Lines is the only major operator to begin and end cruises in Hawaii. Pride of Hawaii (vintage America theme, family focus with lots of connecting staterooms and suites) offers a seven-day itinerary that includes stops on Maui, Oahu, the Big Island, and Kauai. This is the only ship to cruise Hawaii that does not spend days at sea visiting a foreign port, allowing you more time to explore destinations (800/327–7030 www.ncl.com). Ocean conditions in the channels between islands can be a consideration when booking an interisland cruise on a smaller vessel such as Un-Cruise Adventures—a stately yacht accommodating only 36 passengers. This yacht's small size allows it to dock at less frequented islands such as Molokai and Lanai. The cruise is billed as "all inclusive"—your passage includes shore excursions, water activities, and a massage (888/862–8881 www.un-cruise.com).

Carnival Cruises. They call them "fun ships" for a reason—Carnival is all about keeping you busy and showing you a good time, both onboard and onshore. Great for families, Carnival always plans plenty of kid-friendly activities, and their children's program rates high with the little critics. Carnival offers itineraries starting in Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Honolulu. Their ships stop on Maui (Kahului), the Big Island (Kailua-Kona and Hilo), Oahu, and Kauai. 888/227–6482. www.carnival.com.

Holland America. The grande dame of cruise lines, Holland America has a reputation for service and elegance. Holland America's Hawaii cruises leave from and return to San Diego with a brief stop at Ensenada. In Hawaii, the ship ties up at port in Maui (Lahaina), the Big Island (Hilo and Kona), Oahu, and Kauai (Nawiliwili). Holland America also offers longer itineraries (30-plus days) that include Hawaii, Tahiti, and the Marquesas, and depart from or return to San Diego, Seattle, or Vancouver. 877/932–4259. www.hollandamerica.com.

Princess Cruises. Princess strives to offer affordable luxury. Their prices start out a little higher, but you get more bells and whistles (affordable balcony rooms, nicer decor, more restaurants to choose from, personalized service). It's not the best line for small children, but they do a great job of keeping teenagers occupied. Grand Princess, Sapphire Princess, and Star Princess sail from Los Angeles on a 14-day round-trip voyage with calls at Hilo on the Big Island, Honolulu, Kauai, and Lahaina on Maui, plus Ensenada, Mexico. There are also 15-day cruises out of San Francisco. In addition, the line offers longer cruises—up to 29 days—that include stops in Hawaii and the South Pacific. 800/774–6237. www.princess.com.

American Safari Cruises. Except for the summer months when its yachts cruise Alaska, American Safari Cruises offers round-trip, eight-day, seven-night interisland cruises departing from Lahaina, Maui. The Safari Explorer accommodates only 36 passengers; its smaller size allows it to dock at Molokai and Lanai in addition to a stop on the Big Island. The cruise is all-inclusive, with shore excursions, water activities, and even a massage included as part of the deal. More adventurous, less inclusive interisland cruises are offered on a 76-passenger boat. HI. www.innerseasdiscoveries.com.

Norwegian Cruise Lines. Norwegian is the only major operator to offer interisland cruises in Hawaii. Pride of America sails year-round and offers seven-day itineraries within the Islands stopping on Maui (overnight), Oahu, the Big Island (Hilo), and overnighting on Kauai. The ship has a vintage Americana theme and a big family focus with lots of connecting staterooms and suites. 800/327–7030. www.ncl.com.

Surrounded by palm and almond trees, this stretch of white-sand beach is a great spot for viewing sunsets or even the occasional sea lion.

Updated: 2014-06-23

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