Overview of Hawaii Cruising
Cruising in the Hawaiian Islands … an industry that has a rich heritage dating back to the days when airline travel from the West Coast of the USA to the Hawaiian Islands wasn’t yet possible. Times have changed! While there are many different internationally-flagged cruise ships that pass through Hawaiian waters to and from the mainland, the vast majority of cruise ship passengers who enjoy a Hawaii vacation are not using the ship as a means of transportation to get to the islands. They are flying to and from Hawaii, and taking the NCL Pride of America, a US flagged ship that does weekly itineraries around the Hawaiian Islands that starts and ends in Honolulu. Because it is a US flagged ship it doesn’t require a two-day detour to Fanning Island or a stop somewhere in Mexico at the beginning or ending of the cruise.
We have mixed feelings about some cruise vacations to Hawaii. You hop from island to island and get to see and do it all while you are here, right? Well, not exactly. Some cruise ship itineraries are so bad that you barely have a chance to see anything at all. The time in port can be so limited that your only choice for optional tours is to get on one of the cruise line’s busses when you hit port and ride around with 70 other cruisers looking out the window. We don’t call that “Getting to see and do it all.”
Read this sentence over and over and let it sink in. Ready???
ENJOY your cruise ship when you are at sea … GET AS FAR AWAY FROM IT AS POSSIBLE when you are on shore.
People who get off the ship and spend their time pointlessly walking around looking like a flightless dodo bird do not see and experience Hawaii. PERIOD. The shore excursions that the cruise ships offer tend to be mass-transit-oriented tours that move at the slowest pace of the oldest person in your group of 70. Get away from that crowd and make the most of your time in the islands!
The other thing you will find about shore excursions that the ships offer is that they are overpriced. The cruise ships often MARK UP the activities and tours well over the list price. This is typically done with the justification that the price includes transportation. It is not uncommon for a tour that we sell for $70 to cost $100 or more if purchased through your cruise line. Sometimes our $70 rate already includes transportation! Other times that rate may require a 5 minute cab ride, and you still save $25 or so per person. At the bottom of this page we make specific recommendations for tours, activities, and shore excursions for each port of call.
We have notes at the bottom of each activity listed to let you know what tours are possible with your cruise ship itinerary and what transportation requirements are. Don’t let the cruise line box you into the tours that they sell … transportation and tours are easily arranged independently and you’ll save a lot of money and improve your vacation experience considerably.