All Afloat

Alii Kai Makahiki Dinner Cruise welcomes friends and family to party at sea

By: Dawna L. Robertson

This is the first Image
Alii Kai Catamaran coasts in front
of Diamond Head.
Cousin Kimo is a charismatic character with all the right moves. Whether sharing a story through an upbeat hula, twisting Chubby Checker style or electric sliding with those of us in his bus group, Kimo repeatedly sparked the gang into a cheering frenzy. And the revelry proved contagious all evening as we cruised the sparkling southern Oahu coastline aboard the Alii Kai Makahiki Dinner Cruise.

On my recent sail aboard the 170-foot triple-deck Polynesian-designed vessel, I noticed how quickly passengers evolved into a festive family bonding through music, dance and genuine Hawaiian hospitality. Roberts Hawaii has the floating luau concept nailed down with authentic touches and an interactive atmosphere where guests not only witness South Pacific culture and spirit, but live it as well.

This luau pulsed, with Alii Kai’s host concept serving at its core. Kimo and crew were a constant, even during bus transportation to and from Waikiki hotels. The convivial team continuously connected with us as our escorts, servers and entertainers.

“This is a fun cruise allowing passengers to truly interact,” explained Konrad Ikei, director of marketing for Roberts Hawaii. “Since each host stays with his bus group the entire time and eventually becomes part of the show, they form an attachment with passengers.”

Ikei defined the cruise as ideal for visitors seeking a more authentic South Pacific sensation.

“We pride ourselves in having a pure Polynesian experience at sea,” he remarked. “Our guests really get to know their host’s personality and abilities, which makes the cruise more friendly and fun.”

Kimo was proof of that.

Shortly after setting out, Alii Kai’s generous buffet was calling. Catering to varied tastes, the menu included local favorites, as well as more traditional fare. We grazed on fresh Nalo greens grown on Oahu, pasta salad, carved roast sirloin, grilled shoyu chicken with Oriental vegetables, sauteed mahimahi, mashed potatoes, steamed rice, tropical fruits, desserts and beverages. No one seemed shy to plate up seconds, as cuisine was just as ample as it was tasty. After dinner, I strolled to the third level observation deck to soak in a picture-perfect sunset edging the tip of the Waianae Mountains. Free from sound, aside from the wind, this quiet viewing area made me notice how Honolulu and Waikiki took on an entirely different feel from the water. It was sublime to scope the silenced cityscape from the Pacific with the majestic Koolau Mountains as a backdrop.

Since we were on the cusp of whale season, Ikei said these gentle giants might still make a cameo appearance as could dolphins, turtles, rainbows and a rare “green flash” when conditions are just right as the sun meets the horizon. While humpbacks were a no-show, we were graced with a radiant double rainbow that spanned across Nuuanu to Kalihi Valley.

As the sun sank, things were heating up inside. The buffet lines were cleared for a colorful staging area while everyone surrounded the action. A trio who had played during dinner took on a different tune, transporting us along a Polynesian mini-tour via song, chant and dance.

The Alii Kai hosts were center stage during the extravaganza. I was especially intrigued with the talent required for New Zealand poi-ball dancing.

Originally used as a coordination aid to prepare Maori men for battle, today these percussive implements are used to teach a variety of lessons. Kimo played traditional Tuele drums while lively Tahitian dancers shook things up in festively colored native attire.

Afterward, we were encouraged to enter the act, whether swaying our hips, performing bus cheers learned en route to the pier or hopping aboard the “Love Train” that chugged throughout the showroom. What was so refreshing was the interplay and laughter whether passengers were participating or watching from the sideline.

Ikei pointed out how authentic entertainment and venue sets Alii Kai’s sunset cruise apart from the pack. “We feel our cruise provides a true taste of Hawaii and the Polynesian culture,” he said. “And the most important thing our guests carry away is the feeling of ohana [family].”

Time flew by during the high-energy, two-hour cruise. Before I knew it, we were back at the pier.

“We say goodbye in every Polynesian tongue that’s showcased in the show,” commented Ikei.

Yet, what spoke loudest was Alii Kai’s aloha. As I disembarked, I left this enjoyable experience with a stronger sense of how ohana links strangers and cultures together as one.


Alii Kai Makahiki Dinner Cruise

Commission: 20 percent

Adults, $68.06; children 4-11, $37.07; under 4 free. Rates include roundtrip transportation from Waikiki hotels, buffet, one complimentary cocktail and dance show.