This is a 10 day cruise itinerary that will take you to 4 out of the 8 Hawaiian Islands. I really enjoyed this cruise as it provided a wonderful overview and showcased the diversity of the islands, each unique in its own way. If you’re into cruising your choice of cruise lines in Hawaii is extremely limited and by that I mean you have a choice of one, unless you want to waste multiple days at sea. I cruised on “The Pride of America” with Norwegian Cruise Line that started and ended in Honolulu. The ship is very unique and was the first U.S. flagged cruise ship to be built in more than 50 years when it debuted in 2005. It is therefore the only ship that can cruise around the Hawaiian Island without having to stop in Vancouver or Ensenada. Hence why your options are limited to one.
While I am a huge fan of Royal Caribbean (RC) I was excited to try a difference cruise line. In many ways the Norwegian ship is very similar to a typical RC ship, however there are subtle differences. On this ship I was fortunate enough to secure a balcony room for a similar cost to a window room on RC, I also decided to get the dining package which allows you to eat at all the specialty restaurants on board, well worth the extra money trust me. The main thing that really affected my opinion of the cruise was the disorganization of Shore Excursions, I had booked a total of 4, 2 of which were cancelled without warning and with no offer of a substitution. This did put a slight dampener on things, however I was in Hawaii so any sadness was quickly washed away with tropical fruity cocktails.
Fun Facts about the Ship: It weighs in at a whopping 80,439 tones, it can carry 2,186 passengers and 917 crew, it is 920.3 ft in length and has a max beam of 119.8 ft.
Day 1 & 2 Honolulu, O’ahu
Even though the cruise is marketed as 9 days only 7 of those days are spent aboard The Pride of America. The other two days are spend at the Marriott Resort and Spa in Waikiki, Honolulu the cost of which is included in the price of the cruise. I really enjoyed my stay at the Marriott, the hotel is wonderful and situated in a perfect location, but let’s be honest not much time is spent in the room when the location looks like this.
If you are looking for somewhere along the beach to grab a cocktail I would highly recommend Dukes Waikiki. They have a cocktail called “Tropical Itch” which has passion fruit juice, orange, curacao, vodka and rum in it, it also comes with an actual back scratcher stuck inside the drink. The drinks are great however the food is pretty average, but if you go before sunset the view is pretty great.
Fun activities I would highly recommend doing while in Honolulu include:
Sky Diving in O'ahu
If you are up for a little adventure why not jump out of a perfectly good plane? This was the second time I have been Sky Diving and I must admit my favorite. The view of the mountains and ocean are breathtaking and the rush is well worth the $169. If you are interested in sky diving I would highly recommend going with Pacific Sky Diving Honolulu, not only are the staff fun and professional but they also guarantee a 14,000 ft jump or its free, with a fantastic safety record and no fatalities it’s a clear winner.
Pearl Harbor Tour
Visiting Honolulu wouldn’t be complete without a tour of Pearl Harbor where the attack by the Empire of Japan on December 7, 1941 was the immediate cause of the United States' entry into World War II.
I booked my tour through Robert’s Hawaii and I must admit I was not impressed. The tour is quite expensive at $88, and I am not sure what you get for that other than a bus ride to and from the location and your admittance fee. I looked into doing it myself but reviews said lines for tickets can sometimes be a 6 hour wait, however there was absolutely no line when I was there so I am not sure this is actually the case. I think my dislike of the tour was compounded by our bus driver who didn’t seem to know what he was doing and was terrible at narrating the tour. Pearl Harbor itself is very interesting you can visit the museum, the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Battleship Missouri which was my favorite part.
Fun Fact: The name Pearl Harbor is due to the large amounts of pearls that were found in the bay before it was developed.
While you are visiting Hawaii don’t miss out on attending a traditional lu’au. While the boat offers a variety of lu’au shore excursions nothing can compare to Big Chiefs in Honolulu. With a beautiful backdrop of Makapu’s Meadows, backed by sea cliffs and overlooking the ocean this lu’au is a one of kind experience.
The lu’au includes transportation to and from Waikiki, a three course meal (although the food is very average), 3 drinks, and lots of fun interactive activities. The show is simply spectacular and provides an overview into pacific island culture. The highlight of the night is the fire twirling by world champion knife dancer, be sure to get the expensive tickets so you can be close to the action, you won’t be disappointed.
It’s time to board your ship and officially set sail, boarding begins at 11.30am however I wouldn’t bother getting on the boat until after 3pm as the ship doesn’t depart until 5pm. Once you are settled onboard head up to the Aloha Café, there is bar at the back of the ship that offers wonderful views of Honolulu as you pull out of port. Keep your eye on the shoreline as there are fireworks almost every week.
Tip: Each day the ship offers 1-2 cocktails of the day which are priced at $6.95 rather than the usual $9.95, I have sampled them all and can attest they are all delicious.
Day 3 & 4 Kahului, Maui
Molokini Crater Snorkel, Maui
On my first day in Maui I booked the Molokini Crater and Turtle snorkel which I really enjoyed and highly recommend. Molokini Crater is the remnants from an eruption that occurred thousands of years ago and now serves as a home for marine life and birds.
The tour is conducted by the Pacific Whale Foundation a non-profit organization founded in 1980 to save whales from extinction. The crew aboard the large catamaran are very friendly and highly knowledgeable about the ocean and its residents. The adventure begins at Ma'alaea Harbor, where you'll board the Ocean Odyssey. It takes roughly an hour to get to the crater and a tasty continental breakfast is served onboard.
The boat stops at Molokini and allows you plenty of time to explore this remarkable mid-ocean oasis. Usually the boat will then stop at Turtle Arches known for its abundance of green sea turtles, however due to the conditions we were unable to stop here. Instead we spent more time at the crater. Lunch is served onboard before returning you to port around 3pm.
Waterfall Rappelling, Maui
If you are looking for a little adventure in Maui then look no further than this excursion. You will spend the day in the lush green jungle of East Maui and drop into paradise during an exhilarating decent down a waterfall. Never rappelled before? Not to worry neither had I, your guide will explain everything you need to know first and let you practice on dry land before descending down the beautiful waterfalls.
This six-hour excursion combines hiking, swimming and rappelling, all under the direction of trained canyoneering guides. You will rappel down a 30 and 50 foot waterfall and splash around in deserted pools. Lunch and all the gear you need including a harness, helmet, life vest and shoes are provided.
Fun Fact: After lunch you will get the chance to see the canyon where they filmed the open scene from the original Jurassic Park move in 1993.
Important: As the water you will be swimming in is fresh you need to be careful not to ingest too much of it. Maui is known for harboring many parasites and bacteria in its streams and rivers, unfortunately my husband was unlucky enough to catch one. My advice limit the time you spend in the water.
Day 5 Hilo, Hawai’i
Volcano National Park Bike Tour, Hawai’i
If like me you love National Parks and/or Volcanoes then this tour is a must. What better way to experience all the wonderful the things the park has to offer then by bike? The main advantage of doing this tour on a bike is the remote places you visit that are not accessible by car.
Your day will start at the Jagger Museum where you will get your first glimpse of the currently erupting Kilauea Caldera (you will not be able to see lava). Your guide will provide you with a detailed history of the Caldera and surrounding areas before you are fitted with your equipment for the day. The adventure will take you through the native Hawaiian rainforest section of the summit as well as the desert which makes for some pretty interesting views. Before the day ends you will visit the famous Thurston Lava tube where you will treck through a giant fern forest and walk through a lava tube. Lunch is not provided however ample snacks and drinks are.
If volcanoes aren’t your thing you can rent a car and head to one of my favorite places on the island Pololu Valley which boasts a beautiful black sand beach!
Day 6 Kona, Hawai’i
Kayaking in Kona, Hawai’i
The boat doesn’t actually dock in Kona as the port it too small to accommodate it, instead it anchors offshore and guests are tendered to the island. Originally I had booked a Kayaking tour through the boat, however it was cancelled at the last minute. The issue with this location is the proximity to the port, the best kayaking and snorkeling is located over 25 miles away and all the tours leave too early. I ended up renting a Kayak next to the port from Kona Boys Beach Shak and kayaked around the area. The large swells and general choppiness of the sea make it hard going but offer some nice views. There is snorkeling in the area and you may even spot a sea turtle, however after experiencing Molokini Crater you will be disappointed. Also be careful not to venture to far out as there are Man-O-War Jellyfish which really sting (trust me). The town of Kona is quite picturesque and there are plenty of places to grab lunch or a souvenir. I would recommend walking to the markets in town where you can sample White Pineapple (a very sweet version of pineapple) which is grown on the island but cannot be exported due to the lack of acid it rots too quickly.
Day 7 & 8 Nawiliwili, Kaua’i
I must admit Kaua’i is my favorite island between the diversity of the landscape and the amazing views you will also fall in love. In Kaua’i I rented a car from Enterprise which is located less than a mile from the port in the Marriott Hotel. I highly recommend renting a car and doing your own personalized tour of the island. Everything I saw was not available through any of the tour companies, and from what I understand from my fellow passengers the tours that were offered by the ship were quite lack luster, unless you like spending all day on a bus.
If you rent a car you must see the following:
Tunnels Beach, Kaua’i
Located 54 miles and approximately a 1.5 hour drive away is Tunnels Beach (Makua) the ultimate place for snorkeling and spotting sea turtles. At this beach you are almost guaranteed to spot a sea turtle feasting on the coral, but be careful, it’s illegal to harass them.
This beach is my favorite beach in Hawaii, big call I know, but where else can you see golden sand, crystal clear blue water against a backdrop of a lush tropical jungle and mountains. Parking for this beach is tricky, make sure you continue to Haena Beach Park as there is a large car park, you will see a man selling fresh coconuts if you are in need of a light refreshment.
Recommended: In need of snorkel gear? Head to Kauai Bound Snorkel Rental which is located next to the port and offers some excellent equipment at a very reasonable price www.kauaiboundstore.com Christopher Holmes the owner will be more than happy to give you the low down of the island and mark out key attractions on a map for you.
Ke’e Beach Hike, Kaua’i
After you have had your snorkeling fix, head over to Ke’e Beach and make your way up the Kalalau Trail. The trail is 11 miles long traverses 5 valleys and takes you across the Na Pali Coast line, offering stunning views along the way. I didn’t have the time or the appropriate footwear for an 11 mile hike, however the look out at 0.25 miles offers wonderful views of the bay and coast. I did it in flip flops so you can make it!
Waimea Canyon, Kaua’i
Today the boat pulls out of port earlier than usual with an onboard time of 1.30pm. If you are willing to get up early and get off the boat around 6am I highly recommend visiting Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Located on the western side of Kaua’i you won’t experience anything like this geological wonder anywhere else in Hawaii. The canyon lookout provides panoramic views of crested buttes, deep valleys and rugged crags.
The main road into the state park, Waimea Canyon Drive, leads you to a lower lookout point and the main Waimea Canyon Overlook, offering views of Kauai's dramatic interior. The road continues into the mountains and ends at Kokee State Park. There are numerous trails depending on your ability and time.
As you pull out of port today the boat will make a special trip up the Na Pali Coast line offering unbelievable views of the canyon. You do not want to miss this special treat.
Day 9 Honolulu, O’ahu
Today you will be required to disembark from the ship by 8.45am. If you are traveling back to the continental US you may find that your flight doesn’t leave until the early evening. I would suggest renting a car and driving around the island for the day. I caught an Uber (taxi) to the airport and rented a car from there, that way when I returned it I was already where I needed to be. If you do rent a car these are some of the sites you can see:
Hanauma Bay, O’ahu
Hanauma Bay is a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park. Formed within a volcanic cone the bay offers a pristine marine ecosystem. If you want to go swimming in the bay you have to book well in advance as the bay is protected and only a limited number of visitors are allowed in each day.
Blow Hole, O’ahu
The blowhole located on the islands South West Coast and is a natural occurrence formed by molten lava tubes from volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. When the surf is right, the blowhole shoot water up to 30 feet in the air. Next to the Halona Blowhole is the Halona Beach Cove which is sometimes referred to as “Peering Place”.
Fun Fact: The site is known for the famous love scene between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in the movie, From Here to Eternity filmed in 1953.
Manoa Falls, O’ahu
This short hike will take you to the 100 foot Manoa Waterfall. The trail can be quite muddy, so make sure to wear proper shoes (you will be sorry if you wear flip flops). The 0.8 mile trail gradually ascends through a lush rainforest ending at a viewing area set back from the base of the falls. Be warned you will get hot and sweaty but it’s totally worth it.
Fun Fact: Several scenes from the TV show LOST were filmed here, as were parts of Jurassic Park.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden Visitor Center
If you are looking for that perfect Instagram picture look no further than the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens this is where all those classic shots are taken. Be warned it doesn’t open until 8am and you are not supposed to stop on the road.
If you are looking for somewhere to get a late lunch before you hop on the plan I would recommend Liliha Bakery which serves up old fashioned favorites including pancakes, omelets, sandwiches etc. all day long. The pastry section of the bakery is unbelievable and will have everyone’s mouthwatering.
That concludes our activities in O’ahu so it’s time to head back to the airport. Be warned there are no public showers nor are there any showers in the United Lounge. I ended up using wet wipes to clean myself off before changing for the flight.
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