The islands of Hawaii are utterly matched to a cruise-based vacay. These select cruise lines do the destination best. When visiting a multi-island locale, there’s no denying the attractiveness of a seamless cruise-based vacay. Sailings provide easy logistics, convenience, and affordability that you’d be hard put to duplicate when traveling by land and air.
Tropical Hawaii is the quintessential island-hopper vacay destination, with its eight major islands, which include the tourist hubs at Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island. Enjoy sun-soaked, palm-fringed beaches; sparkling blue waters swarming with surfers, marine life (like large manta rays and humpback whales), and coral reefs; and dramatic rain forest–blanketed landscapes, pocked by volcanic peaks and cascading waterfalls. Plus, there is lots of Polynesian-flavored culture, like the touristy-yet-transporting luaus, complete with pig roasts, ukulele jams, and hula dancers.
Exotic, and altogether American, the archipelago may be handily explored by cruise ship, either on immersive week-long itineraries running round-trip from Hawaii itself, or with ample days spent at sea on lengthier voyages that primarily run between Hawaii and the western U.S. and Canadian coast. Note that while many luxury cruise lines feature Hawaii on rarer one-off re-positioning sailings or as segments of longer world cruises or grand voyages, the major cruise players within the region tend to skew more mainstream. With that in mind, here are the five best cruise bets for saying aloha to the 50th state in the Union.
Celebrity Cruises Vancouver-Honolulu Routes on Plush Sister Ships
Two of Celebrity’s sleek Solstice-class ships, the 2,850-passenger Celebrity Solstice and 2,852-passenger Celebrity Eclipse, run a couple of 10- to 13-night spring and fall Hawaii voyages between Vancouver and Honolulu. Itineraries vary slightly, however typically include stops at Hilo and Kailua-Kona on the Big Island and Lahaina in Maui; many additionally factor in scenic cruising past the Kilauea volcano and one or two overnight calls in port, too.
Opt in for excursions like a tasty coffee, chocolate, and brew tour in Kailua-Kona, or a hike to the Haleakala crater, the highest point in Maui. Back on the ship, itineraries incorporate a minimum of 5 full days at sea while in transit between the islands. Sit back and relax at the top-deck lawn Club, that includes a half-acre of real grass, or luxuriate at the top-rated Canyon Ranch Spa.
Norwegian Offers Seven-Night Voyages year-round From Honolulu
Norwegian Cruise Line is the only big-ship cruise company to port in Hawaii, touting a year-round schedule of inter-island sailings. The seven-night itineraries, that embark each Saturday, sail round-trip from Honolulu (on Oahu), covering four islands—Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island—with 2 long stays in Maui and Kauai, as well as scenic sailing along the Na Pali Coast.
Unlike most other Hawaiian cruises, that run routes between Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast or western Canada that require a decent amount of sea days, the 2,186-passenger Pride of America focuses solely on Hawaii, permitting one of the foremost immersive itineraries on the market where guests can expect some one hundred hours in port. Port tour choices include helicopter rides over Hawaii’s legendary landscapes, a sunrise cycling tour down the switchbacks of the Haleakala volcano, or a rappelling excursion past 50-foot-high waterfalls in Maui.
The mid-range mega-ship was extensively refurbished in 2016 and features nearly eighty suites that are upgraded with VIP perks like priority embarkation and disembarkation, concierge services, and a personal captain- and senior officer-hosted cocktail party.
Royal Caribbean Runs Re-positioning Cruises on Quantum-Class Ship
Known for its bigger-is-better, embrace-all-the-bells-and-whistles ethos, Royal Caribbean offers a select variety of Hawaiian sailings every year, as a part of its re-positioning routes. Its trio of Quantum-class ships are among the largest, boldest, and newest of the amenity-packed cruise line’s 26-ship fleet. However 2 of these 3, Quantum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas, have been serving the Asian and Australian markets since their debut, with solely the New Jersey based Anthem of the Seas targeting U.S. based travelers.
That changes this year once the 4,180-passenger Ovation of the Seas re-positions from Sydney to Alaska for the summer 2019 season. En route, cruisers can sign on for an 11-night voyage from Honolulu to Vancouver; embarking May 2nd, 2019, it includes an overnight stay in both Oahu Island and Maui, scenic cruising past the active Mount Kilauea volcano, and a call in Victoria, British Columbia. Several ocean days afford ample time to explore the mega-ship, with its FlowRider surf simulator, RipCord by iFly indoor skydiving experience, and SeaPlex entertainment center with a trapeze school, roller-skating rink, and bumper cars.
The Ovation runs a similar return route from Vancouver to Honolulu, embarking September 20th, 2019 with repeat Hawaii-inclusive re-positioning voyages scheduled in May and September of 2020, as well.
Princess Sails distinctive Round-Trip Itineraries From San Francisco and L.A.
Skip the flight and sail directly from the U.S. mainland to Hawaii as Princess makes the journey, round-trip, from destinations like San Francisco and Los Angeles. Princess Cruises maintains an ongoing portfolio of Hawaii-focused cruises, with over twenty such voyages scheduled aboard four ships through 2020. Not only is it the sole cruise line to run a full season of round-trip voyages from the U.S. mainland to Hawaii but it additionally stands out from the pack for its rare round-trip itineraries out of San Francisco (on the 2,600-passenger Grand Princess) and Los Angeles (on the 3,080-passenger Emerald Princess, the 3,080-guest Ruby Princess, or the 2,600-guest Star Princess). These 15-night sailings include stops at Oahu Island, Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island, with a late-night stay in Honolulu, as well as a call in Ensenada, Mexico.
Guests can choose from a range of excursions, including an Animal Planet–branded (thanks to an exclusive princess partnership) shark cage encounter in Honolulu. However keep in mind that these lengthier voyages factor in a walloping 9 days spent at sea, time where you’ll be able to revive on the ships’ signature adults-only Sanctuary relaxation deck and partake in Hawaii immersion while mingling with the Hawaiian ambassadors on-board or enjoying “Aloha Spirit” programming, like lei-making workshops, hula dance lessons, Polynesian language classes, and a menu dedicated to Hawaiian dishes, as well as a farewell luau on deck.
Holland America Cruises Round-Trip From San Diego
Holland America features a few sixteen to eighteen-night voyages in 2019 and 2020 that run round-trip from sunny San Diego, aboard the 1,964-passenger Oosterdam or 2,104-passenger Eurodam. Itineraries vary slightly however usually incorporate stops in Oahu Island (with a late-night call in Honolulu), Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island, along with scenic cruising past the Kilauea volcano and a dip into Ensenada, Mexico.
Excursion highlights include a farm-to-fork, Food & Wine magazine branded cooking tour of the Big Island, or a visit to the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” at Kauai’s 2,857 foot deep Waimea canyon. Note that these lengthier voyages include up to ten days at sea.
Pass some of that time away within the ships’ various music venues, including BB King’s Blues Club, Lincoln Center Stage (featuring classical music, in partnership with NYC’s Lincoln Center), and dueling-piano venue billboard On-board.