Cruising Hawaii

OK, so you have a week to experience as much of Hawai’i as possible and are travelling with your family – in my case a 9 year old and a 7 year old. How best to tackle this conundrum?

Well, I settled on the 7 night cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines’ “Pride of America” that departs Honolulu all year round every Saturday. This cruise was fantastic, and I’d definitely recommend it as a very safe and very fun 4* Freestyle Cruising option for families. We sailed in a Balcony Stateroom on Deck 7 – there was enough space for a family of four in three beds and the bonus of a small balcony to enjoy a morning coffee and watch as we approached each new port.

The itinerary is the real star here however – from Honolulu you spend 2 full days and a night in Maui, before heading to Hawaii (the ‘Big Island’) for 2 days – one in Hilo on the East and one in Kona on the West, then nearly 2 days and a night in beautiful Kaua’i before returning to Honolulu.

The two overnights in port are the real attraction; we pre-booked a rental car (4 door Jeep Wrangler SUV’s) in both Maui and Kaua’i which was incredibly simple – the rental car shuttle buses pick up straight from the ship and take you just 5-10 mins to the nearby airports where the cars are waiting – you can even choose your own vehicle and the colour! We left our car overnight right at the dockside in Maui for easy collection the next day. These two islands are very compact – we were able to independently explore the highlights of both with our vehicle in comfort, including driving right to the top of Maui’s 10,000 foot volcano, and into Kaua’i’s amazing Waimea Canyon. The freedom of self-drive is ideal when you are travelling with children and need a little extra flexibility! Almost every ‘beach park’ in Hawaii is picture-postcard perfect (there are lots!), most with beautiful white sand and lovely warm waters for bathing.

Driving outside of Honolulu itself, and in the islands is easy – yes, you drive on the Right but almost all the cars are automatics which helps, traffic is light and roads are well signposted and no GPS is necessary.

Norwegian’s Pride of America is a very well run operation, it’s pretty unique in that the staff are predominantly American, and I’d liken the experience to a ‘slice of American Pie’ with US-themed restaurants, bars and entertainment. The staff were all excellent and engaging, service was always terrific. There’s the usual cruise ship array of pools, spas, state of the art gym, sports court, golf driving range, shops on a ship accommodating 2200 guests.

The highlights for me were the nightly entertainment which was a very high standard with two venues – the main Hollywood Theatre for headline shows and the smaller Mardi Gras lounge for shows/cabaret. The shows reflect the demographic of the guests, so we were treated to Eagles, ABBA, Elvis, Beatles, Franki Valli and Elton John tributes, but also signature Hollywood musical-themed shows and a side-splittingly brilliant stand-up routine by comedian Bud Andersen.

The food was fine in the grand US-themed main restaurants (“Skyline” and “Liberty”) and there were informal cafes (Aloha Cafe’s buffet & the 50’s themed “Cadillac Diner”) with plenty of choice, and a choice of speciality restaurants – a Steakhouse, Italian & Asian fusion for a small cover charge.

The kids club ‘Splash Academy’ (for 3-12yr olds) was frankly fantastic (there’s also a 13-17yrs Teen Club called ‘Entourage’) which looked very funky – and my 2 kids aged 9 & 7 years went in after dinner each evening for a well organised romp. I’m told that the ‘Wacky Night’ and ‘Pirate Night’ were particular highlights! In mid-September though they only had 50 children on board; during the US holidays in August they had 500 kids on board!

I should explain that the Pride of America is not entirely typical of an NCL cruise as the guests in Hawaii are typically aged 45+ and there’s less of a party atmosphere on board as with relatively small distances to cover, there’s lots of time spent in port and no sea days. Also, there’s no casino on board as you are always sailing in US waters. Nationalities on board were about 40{03e17260731feebda54b271abff347b773c0107003202e8eeba7d379e6644aef} US, 20{03e17260731feebda54b271abff347b773c0107003202e8eeba7d379e6644aef} Canadians, 20{03e17260731feebda54b271abff347b773c0107003202e8eeba7d379e6644aef} Aussies, 5{03e17260731feebda54b271abff347b773c0107003202e8eeba7d379e6644aef} Japanese and the rest a handful.

I only counted 2 Kiwi couples on board, so come on New Zealand, it’s the best way to see the Islands in a week, in great comfort and some style, and you’ll have a lot of fun in the process. Please talk to me know if you’d like more information!