Experience a Unique, Tropical Paradise – Cruise Hawaii!
With so many places in the world to choose from, how do you choose your next destination? It’s a little more difficult when deciding within a partnership. My husband didn’t want to leave the U.S, but I’m always on the lookout for something different. How did we compromise? We chose to cruise Hawaii..! Truth be told, I chose it with friends and he said ‘OK’ un-enthusiastically. Yes, of course, he loved it too!! That’s how we roll.
We decided to see the Hawaiian islands on Norwegian’s Pride of America. It offers the only 7 day – 4 island tour. One of the most alluring draws is the 100 hours of port time! The ship visits Oahu, Maui, Hilo, Kona and Kauai. In the ports of Maui and Kauai this lovely floating hotel docks overnight, allowing two days on each island to explore and enjoy some nightlife ashore!
Pride of America Overview
The ship, recently refurbished in early 2016, is beautiful. The staterooms are small, but well done. Everything has been updated but the bones are of an older ship. Not that big a deal. One thing you’ll find missing is the casino. Hawaii does not allow gambling of any kind.
The nightlife is limited which was fine since we were so busy all day. As far as entertainment, we saw the ending of “Oh What a Night”, a Jersey Boy type of tribute to Frankie Valli. They were really good and I was sorry we didn’t see the entire show. “Vegas. The Show” was done well. The shows are very short. We heard one of the comedians was fantastic, unfortunately not the one we saw. The White Hot Party was fun. A lot of dancing, crowds and noise. All good!
Norwegian boasts a ‘FreeStyle Dining’ experience. You can eat on your own schedule, but it’s important to note that if you’re with a group, reservations are a good idea. Once we got past the “you don’t have a reservation?!” situation, we ate in the Skyline restaurant. The food was very good, with a friendly and accommodating staff.
Important to note: Men must have pants, not shorts, to go to the Liberty Restaurant (main dining room) and some of the specialty restaurants. In shorts, you are banished to the Skyline (lower level of the main dining room) or you need to use the ‘my luggage was lost’ argument to go to the specialty restaurants. I did see a man in a kilt… I’m not sure how that went.
We purchased the ‘3 Night Specialty Restaurant’ package and dined in Moderno Churrascaria, a Brazilian steakhouse. Eh. It offered a salad bar for extras and the meat they brought around was okay, no pizzazz. Jefferson’s Bistro, their French restaurant was very good, my husband loved his steak there. The staff was a bit snooty (the long pants situation), but otherwise all was good. Cagney’s Steak House was incredible for most, although one friend had an awful experience with everything she ordered. It wasn’t her night.
The room service menu was short, with many add-ons to pricing if you wanted anything other than the small list of ‘free’ items. Free is also debatable as there is a convenience charge of $7.95 per order. We found that they ‘nickel and dime’ you quite a bit on the ship. You can get a muffin on the 12th floor free, but if you’d like it on the 5th floor, you have to pay for it. What?!
Know Before You Go
In lieu of having a cafeteria style breakfast in the crowded Aloha Café (the buffet restaurant on the 12th floor), there is an included breakfast available at Moderno Churrascaria. The food is about the same. The restaurant is nicer and less crowded then the Cafe. There is outdoor seating on the stern of the ship (back of the boat… for those like me who can never seem to get the whole bow vs. stern, starboard vs. port crap right).
East Meets West is a ‘free’ specialty restaurant. The appetizers were soooo good, but the dinner was a disappointment for several of us. I’d give it another try though.. that’s how good the apps were! Make a reservation right away as getting a reservation was not that easy. Thankfully one couple in our group had a suite, so ‘the butler’ got us in! The suite thing is sweet. If you can afford it, it’s the way to go! Their room was incredible! They were extremely sad to leave for home without their butler.
There are very strict liquor laws in Hawaii. Prior to arriving there were no alcoholic beverage packages available. Once we got on the ship, we were able to buy a wine package. This does save quite a bit since a glass of wine ranges from about $13-$20. You are also able to bring a few bottles of wine in your luggage. Any bottles bought while on shore are confiscated and returned the night before disembarkation. No other liquids are allowed on the ship.
Ports of Call
I found Waikiki more commercial than I expected. It’s virtually on overload with hotels, shopping and dining. There’s much within walking distance of the hotels. There are also shuttles available to take you to some of the attractions on the southeast coast but if you’d really like to see the island, you’ll need a car. We found the area of Ko ‘Olina to be spectacular!
A must do is the ‘Road to Hana’. This is a day long event and it’s best to start out as early as you can. We rented two jeeps for the eight of us, only about $50 per couple. Also, not far from the cruise port, in the town of Paia, Mama’s Fish House was an awesome experience!
We chose to do a hop-on/hop-off bus here with an added excursion to Volcano National Park. The Volcano Park is a must do since this is something you may never see again. Walking through the rain forest and through a lava tube was pretty interesting. Rainbow Falls was pretty, but otherwise the town of Hilo is old and blah…
A serene, pretty and colorful town. We visited the black sand beach and took a ride through town. Here we chose the Catamaran and Snorkeling excursion and really enjoyed it. I have a phobia of deep water and this was the first time I managed to snorkel for a long period of time without a panic attic! It was amazing.
My favorite island! We rented a jeep here too and drove to Waimea Canyon. Awesome experience. There is no landscape on this island that isn’t beautiful! The Kalamaku Luau had a great show! The cruise port is just outside of town and you can walk to the beach, shops and restaurants which is great since the last day is short, leaving port at 2 p.m.
Cruise ship excursions can be pricey, don’t forget to shop around before you go. Try viator.com and enter the city for local deals. If you’re visiting long enough to see a few attractions, look for a Go Card for that city!
All In All
Some nice touches I truly appreciated… the ship slows at about 9:45 p.m. to watch the volcano lava flow into the ocean on the south side of The Big Island. This was incredible to witness. Also, the ship heads out of Kauai at 2:00 p.m., for a view of the Napoli coast before nightfall. It was awesome! We were seriously fortunate with this one. As we cruised to the coast, it was raining and cloudy. For the 10-15 minutes we had to view the coastline, the sun shone with a beautiful rainbow. At the end, the clouds rolled back in to engulf the island. Wow!
Having done it, I’m happy to say that I think the best way to get the most of Hawaii in the least amount of time is to cruise Hawaii! Speaking with others who have done the island hopping via flights, it seems they would have preferred the same. Unpacking once and not having to take flights between the island is a huge perk. Given the chance, I would totally do it all over!
If you’ve enjoyed this post, please feel free to share!