Aloha & Welcome to Hawaii
By Cruising Specialist, Sandy Do Silva, Cruiseabout Rose Bay
Aloha! Hello! A greeting you would hear and say hundreds of times a day while in Hawaii.
Ever since I was a little girl I have always wanted to go to Hawaii. It was one of my dreams and believe me when I say Hawaii did not disappoint - if anything it was better than what I imagined. There’s no place on earth like Hawaii.
Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be one of the thousands of people that visit Hawaii every year and I discovered amazing beauty, diversity and culture. During my time the Hawaiian people endeared themselves to my heart with their warm Lei greetings, hospitality and generosity. The days were hot, the ocean water warm and refreshing, and the nights balmy. Hawaii will forever be etched in my mind as the warm tropical islands with breath taking sunsets. In a word - paradise!
My trip to Hawaii was sponsored by the Hawaiian Tourism Board, Hawaiian Airlines and Norwegian Cruise Lines and was led by the passionate people of the Hawaiian Tourism Board. During my time I got to explore and learn about Hawaii, its islands, history and culture in a way few people get to experience.
Flying with Hawaiian Airlines
My amazing adventure consisted of cruising for 7 days on Norwegian’s Pride of America and then staying two nights on O’ahu. I always believe that if you visit a destination, you should commence your immersion by flying whenever possible with their main carrier, so of course I flew in with Hawaiian Airlines.
Hawaiian Airlines is the largest airline in Hawaii. It is the 8th largest commercial airline in the US, and is based in Honolulu, Hawaii. They do daily non-stop flights to Hawaii and I love the fact they leave in the evening and arrive in the morning of the same day. I slept most of the way there and was refreshed and ready to shop on arrival. The service onboard was true Hawaiian style hospitality and although we only had one option for our meals, I found the food delicious. My favourite advantage flying with Hawaiian Airlines was the fact that all passengers can check in two bags of 32kgs each!
Hawaiian Airlines also offers a fabulous upgrade option to their new Comfort Class Seats, which are available for an additional US$100 per sector.
After landing I immediately indulged in a couple of hours at the Ala Moana Center, Hawai’i’s largest outdoor shopping mall featuring more than 290 stores and 80 dining options. HINT: Don’t forget to take your Hawaiian Airlines exclusive “Shopping Passport” and redeem it at the information desk for discount coupons.
Exhausted after shopping we were then transferred to begin our seven day cruise on Norwegian’s Pride of America.
Cruising on Pride of America
Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America boasts 18 restaurants (including 8 complimentary options) and 9 bars and lounges. Accommodation includes family staterooms, spacious suites, and more balconies than any ship that cruises Hawaii. Other inclusions are the fitness centre, sports court, pools, and hot tubs; youth programs for children ages 3-17 and complimentary room service. The ship decks are very wide and spacious.
There are all kinds of different spots to hideaway and read a book or socialise with others. Everything shuts down pretty early at night however the Waikiki bar located at the back of the ship on Deck 13 is left open until late. I found this cruise different from all other cruises as I have been on as you are at a new port every day and cruise between ports overnight. I would be tempted to describe it as the “cruise for non cruises.”
With its "freestyle dining" ethos, Pride of America has no set dining times. I found the food delicious and took full advantage of the Ultimate Dining Package which for around $120 allows you to dine at all the speciality dining restaurants onboard. My tip if you were interested in experiencing any of the restaurants is to book in early to the Teppanyaki restaurant as it books out very quickly. My favourite was Jefferson’s Bistro, an intimate, relaxed French restaurant where the food and the service were sublime. I also loved the Brazilian restaurant Moderno, an all-you-can-eat food extravaganza. Food, like chicken, beef, lamb, pineapple, is brought around on skewers and served to you. You are provided with a card that has a red side and a green side. You guessed it, red means stop and green means I want to keep eating. Warning! Overindulgence is a given, so skip lunch if you plan on eating here.
In my opinion, a cruise on Pride of America is the best way to explore the islands of Hawaii. Each island was different and there were so many different excursion options to choose from.
Our first stop was to the island of Maui where we spent two days exploring. For those of you that love shopping I would recommend a trip to the Lahaina township of West Maui. It is an historic town, which is nestled between the calm waters of the Au'au Channel facing Lanai island and the fertile peaks and valleys of Mauna Kahalawai (West Maui mountain range). Lahaina Town has been transformed into a Maui hotspot with dozens of art galleries and a variety of unique shops and restaurants.
My other recommendation would be to either do the sunrise or sunset tour to Haleakala Crater. This tour will give you the opportunity to visit the majestic Mount Haleakala and witness one of the best sunset vantage points in Hawaii. The Molokini Crater and Turtle Snorkel is also a favourite as this area is known as one of the top snorkel sites in the world. The snorkel sites however are weather dependent.
Our next island was to Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. Here you can discover all but two of the world’s 13 climate zones and Hawaii’s only active volcano, Kilauea, and one of the world’s most active volcanoes. On your Volcanoes National Park tour will be able to visit the Jaggar Museum, Thurston Lava Tube, Crater Overlooks and Steam vents. A must for volcano lovers.
Our next stop was on the other side of the big island of Hawaii and one of my favourite stops, Kailua-Kona. There is so much to see and do, from Helicopter tours, Seahorse farms to zodiac raft and snorkel at Kealakekua Bay.
Our last stop took us to the island of Kaua’i, where we spent a day and a half. Kaua’i is an island of immense natural beauty. Hawaii’s island of Discovery is green, tropical and wild with rainforest covered cliffs, cascading waterfalls and lush vegetation and home to the magnificent Ka na pali coastline. It is also holiday home to movie stars such as Pierce Brosnan and Julia Roberts and movie sites like Jurrasic Park, Indiana Jones and the Descendants to name but a few. There is so much on offer here including kayaking, riding on ATVS, ziplining, horseback riding, tubing adventures and of course Helicopter tours. Minimum ages are applicable and vary from tour to tour.
After saying goodbye to the incredible staff on Pride of America, I spent two days on the island of Oahu. Oahu is home to the state’s capital city of Honolulu and the world-famous Waikiki Beach. Known affectionately as The Heart of Hawaii, Oahu has so much to offer and tourists are spoilt for choice for accommodation, activities and views.
During my trip I was able to inspect 6 amazing hotels, all of which I would happily recommend, but the one I stayed in - and loved - was The Hilton Hawaii Village Waikiki Beach Resort.
Set on 22 lushly landscaped ocean-front acres, woven among tropical gardens and waterfalls, this hotel is simply stunning. Daily activities are on offer, along with easy access to activities and recreation of every kind, including snorkelling, surfing and Atlantis submarine excursions. My favourite, apart from my spectacular oceanview room in the Rainbow Tower, were all the shops and dining options located at the resort. The resort has 5 swimming pools, a lagoon and 6 towers which hosts over 3000 guest rooms. Accommodation varies from standard to condominium style suites and from resort to ocean-front views. It also has a children’s program called Camp Penguin that caters for children from ages 5 to 12 years of age, at a cost.
No one could possibly go to Hawaii and not take part in something they have never done before! It brings out the adventurer in everyone. So in keeping with the spirit of Hawaii I decided to try my hand at surfing on the world famous Waikiki Beach with one of the oldest Surfing companies in Waikiki, Waikiki Beach Services! My group and I had a quick 10 minute lesson on the beach before our instructors, Sean and Russell, deemed us ready to hit the waves. It was with great trepidation and mistrust of their high hopes for us that we hit the water. The water was surprisingly warm and the waves manageable. To my great delight I got up first time and although I wobbled like a bowl of jelly, I surfed my first wave in Hawaii! If you have ever wanted to learn how to surf, young or old, this is the best place in the world to learn.
All too soon it was with great sadness that I said “Mahalo” (Thankyou) and “A hui hou”(Goodbye, until we meet again) to Hawaii and flew back with Hawaiian Airlines to Sydney. It may have been my first time to Hawaii, but there is no doubt in my mind that I will be going back again and again and next time I will be introducing my family to the paradise that is Hawaii.
If Hawaii is on your bucket list, Sandy has a lot more stories and handy tips to share, and will be able to help you put together the perfect holiday itinerary. Just call her on 1300 837 969 or visit her in store at Cruiseabout Rose Bay.