Island Hopping Bliss: A Guide to Hawaii Cruise Holidays

8 December, 2023

Discover Paradise in the Pacific

Hawaii, known for its lush landscapes, vibrant culture, and pristine beaches, is a dream destination for many travelers. While exploring each island individually is a fantastic adventure, there’s something truly magical about experiencing the beauty of multiple islands in one journey. And the perfect way to do this is by embarking on an island hopping cruise adventure in Hawaii. Seeing Hawaii by sea gives you the unparalleled opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the diverse wonders of this stunning archipelago.

Why Choose an Island Hopping Cruise?

For many, Hawaii is the ultimate bucket-list destination. The allure of this island paradise lies in its Aloha spirit, the warm sense of welcome enveloping every big wave, swaying palm, and volcano. But, why should you island hop Hawaii by cruise?

⚓ Ditch the Overwhelm

When planning a trip to Hawaii, it can be overwhelming to decide which islands to visit. Each island offers its own unique charm and attractions. The beauty of an island hopping cruise is that you don’t have to choose just one. You have the freedom to explore multiple islands without the hassle of planning different flights or accommodation for each stop. Imagine waking up each morning to the gentle swaying of the ship and opening your curtains to reveal a breathtaking new island on the horizon. It’s a daily occurrence on a Hawaii cruise, not just upon arrival.

⚓ It’s the Ultimate Convenience

One of the biggest advantages of cruising the Hawaiian islands is the convenience it offers. You unpack once and your floating hotel takes you from one magnificent island to another, allowing you to relax and truly indulge in each island stop.

⚓ It’s Cost-Effective

Cruising is a surprisingly cost-effective way to explore Hawaii. If you were to opt for a land holiday instead, and still wanted to see a number of Hawaiian islands, you’d have to factor in the cost of flights, hotels, and additional taxes for tourists. A cruise is by far the more budget-friendly way to island hop Hawaii because your accommodation, meals, and interisland transport is all taken care of with your cruise fare.

Pride of America pool deck

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America

⚓ So Much Variety

There are a number of different itinerary options to choose from when it comes to Hawaii cruises, including interisland cruises from Honolulu or mainland U.S. as well as repositioning and sector cruises that include the islands.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America offers week-long cruises exploring four of Hawaii’s islands on a sailing departing from Honolulu. Other cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruises and Princess Cruises offer longer cruises departing from other U.S. ports such as Long Beach, San Diego and San Francisco, while  Holland America Line (amongst others) includes Hawaiian port of calls on some of their repositioning itineraries. Each island, and each port of call has its own unique charm, from the bustling city life of Honolulu to the lush landscapes of Kauai and the volcanic wonders of the Big Island – you might find yourself returning again and again for new experiences each time.

Discover the Top Cruise Lines in Hawaii

Exploring the Islands

One of the highlights of an island hopping cruise is the ability to explore each destination at your own pace. Here is some insight into the best Hawaii cruise ports to help you decide which itinerary is right for you.

⚓ Honolulu, Oahu

Discover the vibrant city of Honolulu, located on the breathtaking island of Oahu. Immerse yourself in history and visit the renowned Pearl Harbor, home to remarkable attractions like the USS Arizona Memorial Museum, Battleship Missouri Memorial, and a submarine museum and aviation museum. For those seeking relaxation, bask under the warm sun at the iconic Waikiki Beach or embark on an exhilarating hike up the stunning Diamond Head crater.

Delve into Hawaiian heritage at the Mauna ‘Ala royal mausoleum and dive further into the past at the esteemed Iolani Palace. Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of Hawaiian culture through events like traditional luaus or a visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center. For adventure-seekers, a captivating tour of Oahu’s mesmerizing North Shore awaits. It’s also worth noting that Honolulu serves as the turn-around port for Pride of America, so if this is the cruise ship you’re considering, you might want to think about adding a pre- or post-cruise stay to your trip, to fully enjoy all the sights this vibrant location has to offer.

Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head resorts in Oahu, Hawaii

Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head Resorts in Oahu, Hawaii

⚓ Nawiliwili, Kauai

Kauai, a small yet mighty island, stands as one of the best ports in Hawaii for outdoor adventures. Whether you’re a fan of hiking or kayaking, Kauai offers the perfect playground. And if you simply want to unwind, there are plenty of stunning beaches just a stone’s throw away. You can immerse yourself in tranquility by embarking on a riverboat journey along the picturesque Wailua River, or hop on a tour bus to discover the iconic filming locations of your favorite movies. And if your ship allows, indulge in the lively and traditional Hawaiian feast of a luau right here in Kauai.

⚓ Hilo, Hawaii

The Big Island is the only island that offers two major ports for cruise ships: Hilo on the east coast and Kona on the west. Hilo serves as the perfect starting point to explore the awe-inspiring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Immerse yourself in the beauty of nature as you hike through a lava tube or witness the mesmerising sight of steam venting from the still-active volcano. This area also boasts an array of picturesque waterfalls waiting to be discovered, including the stunning Rainbow Falls and Akaka Falls. You can also bask in the unique charm of black-sand beaches. For those seeking adventure, a kayak or snorkeling expedition in Hilo Bay is an absolute must. And for a delightful deviation, embark on a visit to the Volcano Winery where you can indulge in the exquisite flavours of vintages crafted from both grapes and local fruits.

⚓ Kona, Hawaii

Kona, the second cruise port situated on the ‘Big Island’, is known for its delightful coffee plantations and exceptional local Hawaiian coffee. You can immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of ancient Polynesian history by exploring the mesmerising Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. This remarkable site, which once served as a city of refuge, is sure to captivate those with a keen interest in the past. For those seeking relaxation and tranquility, Kona boasts an abundance of breathtaking beaches, ideal for soaking up the sun and experiencing the beauty of the pristine waters.

In Kona, opportunities abound for both adventure-seekers and those desiring a more leisurely escape. Soak in the beauty, savour the flavours, and create cherished memories in this tropical paradise.

Alii Drive on the beach town of Kailua Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii

⚓Lahaina or Kahului, Maui

Maui also boasts two cruise ports, but both ports are situated in the same area  and serve the same attractions. But there are notable differences between them. The first port, Kahului, is nestled amidst an industrial zone near the airport. Although cruise ships dock there, exploring the sights requires embarking on a tour or utilising alternative transportation. On the other hand, Lahaina, is a premier tourist destination boasting an array of restaurants, charming shops, and splendid boat tours. However, anchored ships must transport passengers to the shore via tender boats.

In the realm of must-see destinations on Maui, you cannot overlook the legendary Haleakala, an extinct volcano. This majestic peak offers awe-inspiring experiences, including exhilarating bike rides down its steep slopes. Another unmissable highlight is the winding road to Hana, which rewards travellers with breathtaking views of mesmerising waterfalls and picturesque white-sand beaches. For those seeking adventure beneath the crystal-clear waters, Maui is the ultimate Hawaii cruise port. It promises unforgettable moments of whale watching during the season, as well as unparalleled snorkeling opportunities in its pristine, inviting waters.

The Aloha Spirit

From the moment you step foot in Hawaii, an indescribable feeling fills the air. It’s not just the anticipated excitement of a long-awaited holiday finally coming to life, it’s something deeper. In Hawaii, it is called the Aloha Spirit.

To a tourist, “Aloha” may simply be a greeting, used both to say hello and goodbye. But Aloha transcends mere words, far surpassing what any dictionary can define. At its core, Aloha is love. It is energy, a life force, an invitation into something greater. In Hawaii, the Aloha spirit is held in the highest regard, and every native Hawaiian understands that it is not merely spoken, but lived and breathed. When translated, “Aloha” means “Presence of Breath” or “Breath of Life,” and the ancient Hawaiians believed embodying this spirit was akin to reaching spiritual enlightenment.

Aloha is about the essence of the Hawaiian people, and their dedication to carrying this spirit in everything they do. So, when someone greets you with “Aloha” during your next visit to Hawaii, remember that it’s more than a simple hello. It’s a heartfelt welcome, an embrace that recognises your connection. All people are one and the same, finding joy in sharing a life energy, a breath of life, and the Aloha spirit.

Hawaiian Hula Dancer Dancing on the Beach of Kauai Hawaii

Hawaiian Hula Dancer Dancing on the Beach of Kauai Hawaii

When to Book a Hawaii cruise

Booking a Hawaii cruise early is a smart move. Unlike Caribbean and Bahamas cruises, the number of Hawaii sailings offered by cruise lines is relatively few.

Norwegian Cruise Line is the only cruise line with a ship based in the region year-round, as other lines sail to the islands only seasonally. By securing your booking early, not only will you be guaranteed your preferred stateroom type and sailing date, but you may also have the opportunity to enjoy the lower prices and early booking bonuses.

Additionally, it’s worth considering that a Hawaii cruise will involve a lengthy flight either to California or Honolulu, so giving yourself ample time to secure a great airfare deal or find an available award seat is essential.

Pride of America, Nawiliwili, Kauai, Hawaii

Pride of America Cruising to Nawiliwili, Kauai

What to Pack for a Hawaii Cruise

The essentials you should pack for your Hawaii island cruise depend on the type of cruise you’re embarking on. If you’ve opted for a laid-back adventure with Norwegian Cruise Line, you can leave your fancy attire behind and focus on a casual wardrobe that suits your beachy or sporty activities in Hawaii. Gear up with hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and water-friendly shoes! And of course, don’t forget your camera (or a waterproof case for your cellphone) along with binoculars for some incredible whale watching opportunities. If you’ve secured a longer sailing with the likes of Princess Cruises, you may want to bring some dressier outfits for onboard dinners, and for the intredpid explorers, it’s crucial to pack hiking boots, moisture-wicking athletic clothing, and an abundance of swimsuits.

Final View from The Deck

A cruise offers the perfect opportunity to explore the stunning Hawaiian islands all in one amazing trip, while also saving on expenses like multiple flights, hotel stays, and car rentals. However, it’s important to note that unlike other cruise regions, travellers have some limitations in terms of the itineraries and times of the year you can embark on a Hawaiian voyage.

If you’re after a casual and convenient week-long adventure, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America is an excellent option as it allows you to discover the islands in depth from its homeport in  Honolulu. On the other hand, if you prefer a more leisurely experience with plenty of relaxing sea days, consider looking into round-trip cruises departing from mainland U.S.

Once you’ve made up your mind about exploring Hawaii on a cruise, it’s time to find the best fares available and say “Aloha!” to the holiday of a lifetime.

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