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Swaying palms, sandy beaches, dazzling coral reefs and fragrant flower gardens are some of the tropical temptations found in the South Pacific. But if lengthy international flights to the islands seem less alluring, consider trading jet lag for relaxing sea days.
This past October, I island-hopped the easy way, boarding Princess Cruises’ Emerald Princess in San Pedro, Calif. (port of Los Angeles), for a 28-night roundtrip adventure. Our cruise included nine islands scattered from Hawaii to Samoa to Tahiti. There were 18 sea days, each filled with games; lectures by a superb naturalist, plus a pair of Hawaiian cultural ambassadors; and laid-back “me-time” on my balcony and at the ship’s pools.
The ship’s first call was to Hilo, Hawaii, and we eventually made our way to three more Hawaiian islands: Oahu, Maui and Kauai. In Honolulu, a visit to Bishop Museum brought me up to speed on the history and customs of various Pacific islands. After that big-city excursion, it was time for nature lures such as Maui’s Haleakala Crater and Kauai’s color-splashed Waimea Canyon and tranquil Wailua River.
Before reaching Samoa, the ship crossed the equator with great frivolity. The captain presided over a traditional food fight on deck.
Passengers went native at an ava (similar to Fijian kava) drinking ceremony in Pago Pago, American Samoa. Tours in Apia, Samoa, offered visits to waterfalls, refreshing cave pools and author Robert Louis Stevenson’s historic home. Guides were eager to share tales of family chiefs and Polynesian tattoos.
For the final trio of tropical isles — the Society Islands in French Polynesia — encourage clients to plan ahead, especially for snorkeling in Bora Bora and picnicking on a motu (islet). In Tahiti, an island drive stops at an ancient marae (temple), a fern grotto and waterfalls. The more adventurous will enjoy a four-wheel drive ride over
Moorea’s bumpy dirt roads to see spectacular lookout points, a botanic garden, pineapple plantations and secluded beaches.
Onboard, the line boosts cruisers’ awareness of island life with classes in lei-making, ukulele strumming and hula dancing.
In Honolulu and Papeete, local folkloric groups dressed in colorful costumes entertain in the Princess Theater.
Emerald will feel familiar to Princess repeaters, thanks to the line’s signature venues. The Piazza, at the base of a three-story atrium, buzzes with activity, including live music, games, wine sampling at Vines or snacking at the International Cafe.
Since the 2015 refit, the ship features two new extra-charge dinner options. Share, which replaced Sabatini’s Italian restaurant, serves a six-course tasting menu overseen by Australian chef Curtis Stone. It blew me away; each dish was flavor-packed and visually delightful. The Salty Dog Gastropub, located in the Wheelhouse Bar, serves small plates, plus a loaded burger. The Crown Grill remains a steak lover’s favorite. For included dinners, three dining rooms offer a choice of open seating or traditional assigned seatings.
Roundtrip Los Angeles cruises to Hawaii, Tahiti and Samoa are scheduled onboard Star Princess in March 2019, Emerald in February 2020 and Island Princess in April 2020. Princess also offers one-way Pacific crossings from L.A. or San Francisco.
The DetailsPrincess Cruises www.princess.com