What better way to explore Hawaii than on the Pride of America, the only cruise ship that sails around the islands year-round. Our Cruise Expert Tiffany Turchak shares her experience sailing around this paradise on earth and how to properly view the active Kilauea Volcano (hint: it's onboard and on deck six, the starboard side).
Norwegian Cruise Line's seven-day Hawaii itinerary visits four islands - Oahu, Maui, the Big Island, and Kauai - docking overnight in Maui and Kauai. The cruise starts and ends in Honolulu, so it's easy to add on a few extra days in Honolulu before and after the cruise. My group and I arrived two days prior to our cruise, relaxed at the beach in Waikiki, took a shot at outriggering, and hiked up Diamond Head.
Boarding our ship, the Pride of America, we were greeted with a beautiful fresh flower lei and welcomed by Polynesian dancers. Our first stop was the dining room for lunch. This is where we met our waiter for the week. David. He sang "Happy Birthday" Italian opera-style to another guest at our table and shared so much interesting information on the Islands. He was just a pleasure to be around! Every time we came to the restaurant and saw that David was working we requested to be in his section. That's the great thing with Norwegian, no set timings and no need for reservations in the main dining room, and if you like a waiter you can request them.
The Pride of America
After lunch, it was time to explore the ship. Earlier this year, the Pride of America went through a grand refurbishment. Four single staterooms were added, rooms that are meant to accommodate one solo traveller, which voids payment of the single supplement fee. One thing to note about this ship is that because they do leave U.S. waters, the Pride of America can't have a casino on board nor sell duty-free. But with over 100 hours in port you have no time for that, anyway! We set sail and sailed past Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head.
The next morning, we woke up in Maui, where we would be stationed for a full day-and-a-half. We went snorkelling in the Molikini Crater and learned how to hula. We even got certificates of completion with our Hawaiian name. (Mine was Kepani.) We tried out one of the complimentary dining rooms, East Meets West, which offers a variety of food from Asia. We went to the theatre for a coconut opening demonstration and a show by Polynesian dancers, a show I would highly recommend seeing if you stay on board in Maui.
Our next port was Hilo, which is on the east side of the Big Island. We rented a car and explored the island, an absolute must. Our first stop was at Richardson Beach Park, well known for its black sand and turtles. Depending on the tides, the turtles are not often seen until later in the afternoon. We were there fairly early, but after searching around we did manage to see one sleeping turtle in the bay. On our drive up to the Kilauea Volcano, we stopped at Kona Coffee and tried pineapple coffee... yum.
At the volcano, we walked through lava tubes and an observation area where you could see actual lava flowing. We ended our day at the Akaka waterfalls and had a nice scenic drive back to the ship. We packed in a lot and really enjoyed our day in Hilo.
That evening we tried the Teppanyaki dinner and show which was amazing. My favourite specialty dining experience on board was at Moderno Churrascaria, a Brazilian steakhouse. The host brings out 11 different types of meat on skewers and slices it at your table. They also bring out sweet fried pineapple - which is to die for! You can also choose from Italian and French restaurants, an upscale steakhouse.
After dinner, we sailed past an active volcano and saw its dark lava flow, from a distance. The best area to view this from the ship was on deck six - starboard side (on the right).
Kona was our next stop. Kona is a cute little town with shops, restaurants, and a beach nearby. We wandered around the shops, enjoyed an amazing donut at Holy Donuts. We walked to a small market where we bought a few items before heading to Magic Sands beach for a few hours. This beach had huge waves, not a beach for swimming but fun to body surf and watch others try. This beach was on the trolley route which was only USD$2 and took us right back into town. A quick stop at an ABC to buy macadamia nuts, souvenirs, and coffee, then we were back on board.
My favourite island was our last part - Kauai. We spent a day-and-a-half there. I went tubing through sugar canes and tunnels in Waimea before our evening luau at the historic Kilohana Plantation. The buffet at the luau was full of lots of traditional Hawaiian dishes, like the kalua pork - a whole pig roasted underground in an imu (Hawaiian earth oven) and wrapped in banana leaves, salt, liquid smoke. Boy, did it smell wonderful.
We travelled through Poipu's beautiful beaches, past the Sprouting Horn, and then stopped for coffee at the Kauai Coffee House. I thought pineapple coffee was amazing - this place had 15 different types of coffee to sample including banana nut and chocolate macadamia nut coffee. We took our coffee to go and headed up the windy roads to Waimea Canyon, also known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" and I believe it really is. With a mix of red dust and green grass climbing the canyon, the site was spectacular. We stopped at the canyon lookout and then to Paco's Authentic Tacos, a small bright green and red taco stand before heading back to the ship. If you can spot the taco stand, it is definitely worth the stop - delicious!
The last night
We got back to the ship with just a few minutes to spare and enjoyed our final sail away party. Before dinner, we headed to our staterooms to start packing. Since we had a portside balcony stateroom, we had the luxury of relaxing on our balcony while drinking champagne, and took in the incredible scenery as we sailed past the Na Pali Coast, another thing of beauty.
The last dinner on the ship was a bit sad. We had to face the idea of leaving our new friends behind after a fantastic week and not wanting to leave Hawaii. We took in the last show in the main theatre. At the end of the show, about 100 employees came up on stage to thank us for sharing the week together with ohana (family).
Cruising is truly a wonderful way to travel; to see and learn so much. Without Norwegian Cruise Line and the Pride of America I could not have done all of this in seven days! The Pride of America is the only cruise ship that sails roundtrip Honolulu year-round. Whether this is your first or twentieth, I highly suggest this cruise.