Princess Cruises puts clients in an aloha state of mind with such onboard activities as ukulele lessons. // © 2017 Princess Cruises
Feature image (above): With seven-day tours out of Honolulu, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America explores Hawaii’s most stunning natural treasures, such as the remote Napali Coast of Kauai. // © 2017 Norwegian Cruise Line
Lately, record numbers of passengers are heeding the call of a Hawaii cruise vacation. The first quarter of 2017 saw a 27.2 percent increase in total cruise visitors to the state, according to Hawaii Tourism Authority statistics.
What’s the advantage of exploring the Aloha State by ship? For starters, it eliminates the time and stress of flying from island to island. Then, there are those jaw-dropping views from the deck, such as glowing lava sliding down a volcano and remote coastlines of statuesque sea cliffs. Many cruise lines incorporate local culture into their onboard programs, too, whetting appetites for scores of Hawaii shore excursions.
Whether travelers are looking for tours that start on the west coast of the mainland or shorter sailings beginning and ending in Hawaii, the following six companies present alluring itineraries for interisland cruising.
Carnival Cruise Line
With trips to the islands from just Vancouver, B.C., or Long Beach, Calif., Carnival Cruise Line isn’t a huge player in Hawaii. However, its voyages feature a fun and festive environment in which to explore the picturesque archipelago.
Unique onboard activities, including cooking demonstrations with local chefs, are tailored to the destination. The 2,124-passenger Carnival Legend stops at the four major islands — Oahu, Hawaii Island, Kauai and Maui — for dozens of on-land adventures.
Sailing one-way to or from Vancouver, Celebrity Cruises’ Hawaii cruises offer a combination of island pastimes and relaxing days at sea, with overnights on Oahu and Maui.
Ten- or 12-night Hawaii cruises run once each spring and fall as the 2,850-passenger Celebrity Solstice repositions between Alaska and Australia. That means clients have the option of pairing Hawaii with another Celebrity sailing for consecutive cruises.
Holland America Line
From fall through spring, Holland America Line (HAL) tours Hawaii with its 2,104-passenger Eurodam, 1,916-passenger Westerdam and 1,964-passenger Oosterdam vessels. The 16- to 18-day itineraries depart from Seattle, Vancouver, or San Diego.
Throughout each journey, HAL brings Hawaii’s traditions, tastes and culture to life, with hands-on classes that teach lei making, ukulele and hula. Onboard Hawaii gurus share tips on the best tours, must-see sites and off-the-beaten-track gems.
Island culture takes center stage during Princess Cruises’ 15-day roundtrip Hawaii cruises from the U.S. West Coast. Onboard Grand Princess or Star Princess (both with a capacity of 2,600 passengers), guests join in on crafts, dance and language lessons. Local entertainers present a folkloric show at sea, and families watch films under the stars. Menus draw from the destination, and culinary demonstrations invite passengers to savor Hawaii flavors. All of these lay the groundwork for exciting day trips from island ports of call.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) 2,500-passenger Pride of America is the only large ship with itineraries that start and end in Honolulu. Year-round, it operates seven-day interisland cruises with 100 hours of port time — including 34 hours on Maui — and a wide variety of shore excursions, so clients can make the most of what the islands have to offer. Occasionally, NCL brings experts onboard for talks on destination-specific topics such as Pearl Harbor.
UnCruise Adventures’ 36-guest Safari Explorer yacht travels where the big ships can’t, resulting in an intimate look at the island chain. Each week from November through March, seven-night trips cover Molokai, Lanai, Maui and Hawaii Island. Excursions provide clients with rare opportunities to chat with locals. From poi-pounding lessons to night snorkeling with manta rays, activities focus on the destination’s culture, history and beauty. A 2-to-1 guest-to-crew ratio adds to the attentive nature of this singular Hawaii cruise.