I recently spent some time visiting most of the major islands that make up Hawaii. This was my first trip to the 50th State, and I had a hard time deciding where to stay when I got there. I have spent countless hours scouring the internet and various forums to get a scoop on which island I would enjoy the most. What I found is that each island has a lot to offer, and my ideal vacation would be spent watching them all. This is where the pride of Norwegian America came to the rescue.
Norwegian cruise lines – Pride of America set sail in 2005, and it is the first American-flagged vessel built in nearly 50 years. A look at this glorious ship; and you can say that the name "Pride of America" goes further than just the outer letters. Everywhere on this ship you are reminded of what a great country the United States is, and most salons, restaurants etc … have an American theme. Some reviewers have commented that they thought this was too tidy, however, I beg to differ, to some extent, these boats are all clumsy, and that seemed to fit
the bill, however, the decor was tastefully done, and the layout of the ship itself was very functional.
One major change on this ship is that most of the staff are American Citizens. Online forums are filled with mixed comments on the level of customer service they received while on board. Many attribute this to staff who are American; however, I find this to be too narrow a thought process. I have found certain instances where service was missing, however, you are on vacation, try to ignore these limited cases and enjoy yourself. For the price you are paying for what you are experiencing, it can be overlooked.
Here is a breakdown of the Cruise from Honolulu flight to landing day.
Take it with you
· Sun cream
· Beach towel
· IPhone (sorry I'm impartial)
· USB cable and charger (USB can be used with iPhone in many rental cars)
· Check to see if your Auto Insurance Policy covers rental liability (this will save you about $ 20 each time you rent a car)
· Urbanspoon – Find places to eat based on Users who have gone before you
· TripAdvisor – Find things to do near you, Read User Reviews etc …
· Orbitz.Com – Use this book Rental Cars ahead of time, and if you book your flight through Orbitz, it will send you text messages on flight status, etc …
· GPS drive – Paid app that can replace your need for a GPS
· Threesome deck – Application that can save all your itineraries, flight numbers, confirmations etc. in one application.
· My radar – Weather app that gives you almost real-time weather maps
· Open Table – Reservations for busy restaurants
PORET OF CALL CS
Day 1 – My group and I flew to Honolulu International Airport and collected luggage on the carousel. Immediately outside the terminal is a taxi station with an employee who will assist you and your party with transportation to and from your hotel and / or port. The fare from Waikiki Airport was $ 35. I chose to fly in the day before I allowed myself time to tune in to change the weather off the East Coast of the United States.
I was looking for a safe, clean and cheap hotel in the Waikiki area within walking distance of the beach. I found this at Waikiki Miramar. The hotel was booked for about $ 145 on Hotels.com, and it really exceeded my expectations.
We all got upgraded to an Oceanview room with a balcony on the 15th floor. This hotel is close to many shops and restaurants, and within a couple of blocks to the beach. There's a Denny's right outside the hotel for breakfast, and the International Market place for shopping outside the hotel doors. I found a fantastic Pho Vietnamese place in this market, and it was the best meal I had while in Hawaii.
You can also travel down to the Ala Moana mall and shop for hours at this gigantic mall, with one of the best Asian food courts I've ever seen.
Day 2 – boarding .
We left the Miramar Hotel around noon and took a taxi to Port. (A $ 22 fee) Upon arrival, you are instructed to tag the luggage and take a short walk to the luggage holders scanning the luggage. Once they receive the luggage, you are required to register and place your account on board with Norwegian. This is your only source of buying power when on board, cash is nowhere accepted on board. Now that the techniques are completed, you are ready in 7 days to see some of the most beautiful islands in the world.
If you notice I've gone on board around lunch. The boat can board early in the morning although it does not sail until later in the afternoon. Aloha coffee is available for lunch, and we took full advantage. I was struck by the fact that along with the standard American fare, there was an Asian and Indian section of the buffet daily. After lunch, we waited approximately 30 minutes and they began announcing the number of rooms available. This proved to be enough time for my wife and I to settle into our balcony room and take a nap before dinner. We booked a balcony stateroom (7158) and as we entered the room we were a little surprised by the size of the stateroom. It was smaller than the other balcony rooms we have booked in the past, with less storage and a smaller TV. It should also be noted that the bathroom didn't come with the complimentary toiletries I've seen on board other boats. Size etc … it's not a deal break, and once we got used to it, it became a non-issue. The balconies are sufficient in size, with 2 chairs and a small table.
DAYS 3 & 4 – CAN
The ship arrived at the port of Kahului (Maui) at 7am and would board there by 6am the next day. As this was a night stop, passengers are allowed to come and go as they wish, no matter the time of night. The area we bonded in is an industrial warehouse area, and once you leave the boat, many car rental agencies offer transfers to rent cars. I recommend renting your car in each of the islands, with the possible exception of Kona, and will describe this later. Also, you must book your car before arrival to ensure availability. The rates are really reasonable on all islands.
Our other decision was: Where do we go and what do we see? I am sure that any guidebook you will ever read in Maui will order you to direct the Road to Hana. I was dead doing this before I got here, but I tend to look for signs that point me in certain directions. One such sign came to me during a Grand Slam Breakfast … Our waiter at Denny & # 39; s in Oahu was a Hawaiian native, and as it turns out, a guided sage! Her advice to me was that I definitely had to make my way to Hana if I wanted to get stressed out, stuck in traffic for 4 hours, just to get to a city with very little to do. She advised us to look at the Haleakala Crater and travel the road leading to Lahaina and see the same sights. I know I will have some who will disagree with me, but I'm glad I went with my gut. So …
After getting our rental car, we decided to hop into Haleakala National Park to see the Haleakala Crater. The cruise line offers both sunrise and a bike ride through the crater. I'm sure this would be a site to look at; however, we decided to simply see the island at our leisure and did not want to be on a set schedule. Promoting to the park is very simple (using a GPS), and before entering the park, look for Lodge Kula. There is a small shop near the restaurant that is your last chance to get food and snack before you enter the park.
I was a little worried about visibility into the crater as it was so late in the morning as this could be an issue; however we had 100% visibility and were amazed at the summit views. The climb up was great as you actually pass through the clouds on your way to 10,000+ feet in the air. I would warn anyone with any health condition affected by altitude to consult a doctor. I personally have asthma, and I can feel my chest tightening and my heartbeat going up, but it wasn't that bad that I couldn't enjoy myself. After leaving the park, it was lunch time and headed back to Kula Lodge for lunch. The food here was somewhat pricey at lunch, but we grabbed a pizza, and enjoyed the phenomenal view from off the deck.
After lunch, we traveled to the Maui Ocean Center, a large multi-exhibit aquarium located about 25 minutes from the cruise port. The exhibits were great, admission was around $ 22, and you can see most of the footage in about 2 hours. After our visit, we returned to the boat to relax and have dinner. You are allowed to park your rental car overnight at a walking distance to the boat. On our second day in Maui, we decided to travel up the coast to Lahaina to see some sights and do some shopping. The road leading to Lahaina is filled with beautiful beaches, mountains and it becomes increasingly difficult to paddle when you really just want to retreat and stay on the beach all day. If you feel so inclined, I'm sure you won't regret it. I should point out that once you enter Lahaina, you will want to look for the Old Lahaina Front Street Here is the shopping place. It's another route, but there aren't many purchases.
Lahaina shopping consists of many chain stores, local artisans, many restaurants, and you are right on the water, so it is a very relaxing environment. There is a Gubs Bubba, Kimos and some other multi-value restaurants. However, when I'm out of town, I enjoy eating what locals eat. So we headed to Aloha Plate Mixed. The Aloha mixed dish is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. They have a great outdoor seating area close to the water, and have ample supplies of cold drinks, and their mixed dishes were the best I had on the islands. The Kalua Pork was tremendous! The service was a little slow; however, a waitress in our area was doing her best to please everyone. After lunch, we returned to the agency for rent.
You should plan to do this no later than 30 minutes to an hour before you plan to return to the board. You leave your car, and then catch a transfer to the port.
Day 5 – Hilo, 8am – 6pm
Hilo – Same Exercise …. Got out of the boat, grabbed a transfer to my booked rental agency and boarded the Volcano National Park. This area of Hilo has many shops and gas stations to stop the journey to the snacks bathroom etc … Since we only had one day in Hilo, the weather was essential. We entered the park (at a nominal fee) and found that all the attractions were clearly marked, and could be easily directed on your own. We first stopped at the steam channels, an area where heat from the volcano causes steam when it comes into contact with water.
A few steps away from this you have a picturesque view and after coming out here head straight to the Jagger Museum. Here you will find information on Kilauea, and the best views of the volcano. The loop around the volcano is currently closed due to volcanic fumes, but the areas that are open are spectacular. When leaving the park, be sure to take a stroll through the lava tubes.
This is an underground tunnel that formed through the flow of lava. It's very interesting and a very easy walk for most people. The whole walk takes about 15-20 minutes.
After leaving the Volcano National Park, write to Mauna Loa Macadamia Farm on the old GPS and take a self-guided tour of this great Macadamia Plantation. The tour itself is not all fun, but the trees are something new to people's eyes, and you can stop by the gift shop for free samples, and buy some snacks for the road.
This whole process should not take more than 30 minutes from the time you travel, until you leave. The next stop is one of my favorites from this whole trip: Akaka Falls. Once again, we found this area by typing the name only on our Garmin GPS. This destination takes you a bit off the beaten path through a small town and through some cow pastures, but the falls themselves are worth every minute of it! You'll know when you're approaching when you see the cars lined up on the side of the road. These cars are parked here because there is a fee to park in the park area. I suggest you pay the price and park here. Revenue from parking fees is used to maintain these areas. Once you arrive, you will see a walkway, and after about a 15 minute walk downhill you will see the beautiful Akaka Waters.
After leaving the falls, it was time for a late lunch, so we headed downtown Hilo. I highly recommend Café Pesto in the old town area. The setting of this place is that of 1950s Hawaii. The food is excellent, and affordable, and a view of the old city area; and the ocean makes you want to stay up for dinner!
If you have done all of the above, it will only be time to return the car and head back to the ship. On your return, be sure to stop and see the Banyan Trees planted by movers and shakers at that time on Banyan Tree Drive. But wait: No trip to Hilo would be complete without a trip to Hilo Hatties! On your way to turning into rental car agencies, stop by and pay homage to one of the biggest gift shop chains in the
Hawaii: Hilo Hatties.
The store is loaded with every type of Hawaiian sovunier you can imagine, browsing Hawaiian shirts, coconut syrup, jewels, etc … but be prepared to pay. This store has a great selection, but if shopping is what you're looking for, go downtown or expect to get that gift for Uncle Tony in Kona. He returned the car and took the boat back to the ship.
Day 6 Kona – 7am - 6pm
Kona is a port of call on this trip that I would consider NOT to rent a car. Since you are only in port for the day, (this is also a tender port) you can lose a few hours just bidding, go to the rental agency, rent your car and allow as much time to return the car, and tender back to the boat. If you decide to rent a car, you can visit various attractions on the island such as the Refugee City, or the Kona Coffee Plantation. If you're just looking for some R&R, Hapuna Beach State Park is your favorite beach access area on this island. Hapuna Beach is about 30 minutes from the cruise port by car. We chose to spend the day shopping in many shops along the main road in Kona, and for lunch at the Kona Inn. The Kona Inn opens at 11:30 am, and offers a fantastic view of the ocean as you eat.
Meals at lunch are much more than sandwich tickets, but the ambiance makes up for any food shortages. After the purchase, we took a taxi to a local beach, where many of the cruise ship staff and some locals were hanging out. Here you can get shaved ice, and swim and snorkel with native sea turtles.
Day 7 – Kauai (Nawilliwilli) 8am to 2pm the next day
Kauai is my favorite island in Hawaii. This island is much more laid back than the others, the scenery is gorgeous, and there are chickens everywhere! Yes, chickens … According to locals, these chickens spread like crazy during a storm a few years ago. Hawaii law protects all native birds, and these chickens are no exception. You will see them everywhere you go, they pose no threat and add violence to this picturesque island.
It should also be noted that since Hawaii has no indigenous predators, the chicken population does not diminish … unless they roam a local property, at which point they may
Once again, rent the car and take your trip. You would be having a big problem if you didn't rent a car on this island.
The biggest drawback of car rental on this island is the parking situation. The overnight main parking area is quite far from the boat near the Anchor Cove shopping center. if you are planning to leave by 9pm, plan to walk with a group. Latest shipping by
Anchor Cove Shopping Center runs at 9pm. Since the boat is parked in an industrial area, the surroundings are somewhat dizzying. I wouldn't say you have to fear for your safety at night walking back, however, my wife and I did the last walk 9, and while we were not afraid for our safety, it was a bit of a sketch.
I believe Norway should either provide parking closer to the port, or reach some agreement with shipping companies. Some of the older guests on our trip didn't want to make the trip, so we were able to go close to the port and drop them off. That said, the shuttle service is very convenient and will take you to many of the nearby shopping centers.
The first thing on our to-do list upon arrival was seeing the Waimea Canyon. Waimea Canyon is the island's version of the Grand Canyon. Once you approach the road that leads you to the canyon, stop at the last refueling station you see and catch a few batches of steam filled with Shoyu chicken for the ride. In Waimea Canyon, you have a picturesque (many) view to enjoy the canyon, and there is also a fruit stand to buy fresh fruit. Helicopter tours are also available to view the canyon and the island as a whole. If you have the money, I think this would be the island that would be used to take that helicopter ride.
You can leave Waimea Canyon and see Kokee Park, but by the time we got there the fog made visibility nearly 0%. After leaving these areas, we headed towards the tourist area in Poipu Beach. On the way, you can stop at the Kauai Coffee Plantation. This plantation provides free samples of some of the best coffee in the world. It's available for purchase, and I recommend you do so.
We arrived in Poipu Beach area and stopped at Broiler Beach in Brenneke. Brenneke's has great, fresh seafood, and it's exactly the kind of beach restaurant I love. You bypass Poipu Beach Park; this was my favorite place throughout the trip. If you are looking to spend the day at a beach in Kauai, I would recommend you come here, you will not regret it.
To celebrate the conclusion of our Hawaii adventure, we chose to do it in the "Hawaiian" way and planned to attend Luau. Although we all know that Luau on the island can be quite a tourist and not a representative of the islands, I chose to book with one that has been operating in Kauai for decades. Many of you will find it difficult to defend the Luau offered by the NCL, but trust me, save your money and go to the Smith Luau Family.
The Smith Luau family is located near the Wailua River and is family owned and operated, and has been for decades. You can tell from the opening ceremony that the Elder of this family is very proud of the business he has built and his family. The grounds are beautiful, the food is exceptional, and all drinks are included in the price of admission, and plentiful.
The show itself is great, the performers are great and there is not a bad place in the house. One very important note: P USER YOUR GPS, AND TYPE N. SMITHS TROPICAL PARADISE. The only time we missed out on the trip was using the address given to us on our tickets for this luau. Also, on this road to allow some time for traffic, as you will travel the main road.
The next day we got into some last minute shopping and boarded the boat early, as we were asked to board during lunch time.
DAY 8 – Download
The Norwegian landing procedures were very well organized, not a hassle. The only excursion we booked through the boat was a Pearl Harbor and USS Missouri tour, so we were scheduled to meet in the main auditorium to leave the boat. The main advantage I found while booking this tour is that we had a late flight, and this 8 hour tour allowed us to see the sights, and not wait in line to make it.
We left the boat and boarded our bus to see Pearl Harbor. The excursion information didn't tell us this, but this tour also gave us a tour of the city of Honolulu, where you get to see the city (as well as the office of Dog The Bounty Hunter!) The tour takes you over to Punchbowl Cemetery, then to Pearl Harbor & The Mighty Mo (USS Missouri). This tour is one of the best I have ever taken. Time flies even if you are not a history buff. I would recommend this tour to anyone over the age of 6. It's a very solemn and sobering tour, but something that everyone should see. It drives home the point that war is real, and greed, hatred and ignorance in whatever form have devastating consequences.
After that, we headed to the airport and took the heavy flight back to the East Coast of the United States.
This cruise is the best way to see all of the islands of Hawaii in such a short time, and for the price. It is a very intense harbor cruise, so do not take days off at sea as some cruises offer. Accommodations were adequate, generally the boat itself if it was nice. I'd recommend taking breakfast by boat every day, but if you have the money, go out to the islands and eat what the locals eat and support these small businesses. What I believe the ship should focus on in future cruises is the quality and flavor of the food they serve, and the level of customer service has to be taken on several levels.
This is not to say that some onboard did not exceed my expectations, however, other cruise lines have far exceeded my expectations in this area.
I would recommend this boat to anyone and I think the positives outweigh the negatives. You will not be disappointed.
PS Learn two words before you go, Aloha
& Mahalo, use them every chance you get!