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The Aloha Spirit - Cruising Hawaii

Joanna Hall

The Hawaiian Islands are as diverse as they are beautiful, but if you’re finding it hard to choose which one to visit, why not take a cruise and get a snapshot of them all? 

It was approaching sunset as our inched towards the towering ramparts of Na Pali, its fluted sea cliffs rising like sentries for almost 1,000 metres from the green valleys and white-sand beaches below. As if on cue, a small pod of spinner dolphins appeared in the surf below, accompanying the ship as if to show off the spectacular environment in which they were living. Na Pali is a Coast State Park on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, stretching for over 35 kilometres, and it’s been a backdrop in memorable movies from Jurassic Park to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Although I’d seen photographs of this famous stretch of coastline before, they’d only hinted at its grandeur; the reality was much greener, and more jaw-dropping than I ever imagined. 

The Hawaiian Islands

The scenic meander was one of many alluring attractions of a voyage around the Hawaiian Islands. Cruising and Hawaii are a natural fit, the diversity of a dramatic archipelago coupled with a year-round tropical climate, making it a haven for adventurers, romantics and sun seekers alike. The fun starts from the moment your ship cruises out of Honolulu. Every preconceived image of the fiftieth US state comes to life on the frangipani-scented sea breeze; palm-lined beaches, lava-spewing volcanoes, lush tropical rainforests, and a kaleidoscope of tropical fish illuminating a cobalt ocean. It is also, however, one of the few places on earth where you can stand on the edge of an active volcano, snorkel with ancient turtles, and catch a wave on a secluded beach on the same trip.

Cruising Hawaii

Although the only permanently based cruise ship in Hawaii is Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America, there are a number of other lines sending ships there for a short season, such as Princess Cruises, or passing through on a repositioning cruise, such as Celebrity Solstice en route to Australia from Alaska. Luxury cruise ships also pass though from time to time on World Cruise segments. On a cruise of Hawaii, however, your ship is not solely the star attraction. Besides Honolulu on Oahu, popular Hawaiian ports of call include Maui, the “Big Island”, Kona and Kauai. Try arranging the same itinerary yourself without cruising, and you’ll not only be up for thousands of dollars on accommodation and inter-island flights, but you’ll also spend precious time packing and unpacking, and waiting in line at the airport. Here’s a snapshot of what’s on offer.

Maui, Hilo, Kona

Maui is an island named after a demigod, and famous for luxury resorts and palm-fringed beaches. A must-do here, is an excursion to the summit of Haleakala, the world’s largest dormant volcano dominating the island at over 3,000 metres, and boasting a massive crater stretching some 12-by-four kilometres. Hilo and Kona are ports of call on opposite sides of the “Big Island” of Hawaii. This island is arguably the most diverse in the archipelago with its deserts, rainforests, volcanoes and snowcapped mountains. Hilo is a historic town with buildings dating back to the turn of the century. A major drawcard just 48 kilometres away is Volcanoes National Park, and another major highlight is cruising past Kilauea to view glowing molten lava flowing from cracks in the rock and into the ocean. In contrast, Kona provides a quintessential Hawaiian experience, and is famous for sport fishing, snorkelling, sunsets and coffee. 


Another popular port of call is Kauai, the northernmost of the Hawaiian Islands which Captain James Cook is said to have stumbled upon while sailing from Tahiti to North America in 1778. Na Pali aside, top of your sightseeing list here should be the gaping gulch of Waimea Canyon. Dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, it’s just over a kilometre-and-a-half wide and 19 kilometres long, and ablaze with ever-changing colour. Hawaii is undeniably one of the most beautiful places on earth, described by Mark Twain as “a land which can so longingly and beseechingly haunt my sleeping and waking through half a lifetime”. Cruising its islands will undoubtedly leave an indelible impression; than again, you could spend a lifetime here and still never get your fill.


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