Less than two weeks after returning from a
seven-day cruise on NCL's Pride of Hawaii, I learned that the ship
would leave the islands and be redeployed to Europe next January.
I began to wonder
how to write about a voyage on a ship that would be taken out of
the Hawaii rotation so soon. I decided it didn't matter, because
NCL's interisland Hawaii itineraries are not about the ships, they
are about Hawaii. And two NCL America vessels will continue to sail
One of cruising's
biggest drawbacks is that it's difficult to experience a country
during a nine-hour stopover. On a recent western Caribbean cruise
that stopped in four nations, I left with little sense of those
countries' cultures or people.
But after a
seven-day sailing on the Pride of Hawaii that called in five
Hawaiian ports with two overnights, I genuinely felt that I had
And that is what is often lost
in stories about NCL America and the multitude of problems the
company has had running a U.S.-flagged cruise line with a U.S.
crew. For experiencing Hawaii, these cruises can't be
The NCL itinerary
gives passengers time to explore the islands. The sailing offers 96
hours in port with overnights in Maui and Kauai.
An NCL seven-day
Caribbean cruise from Miami on the Norwegian Sun includes 37 hours
in port, far less than half the time over the same number of
cruise lines in the Islands, which must include a five-day journey
to or from a foreign port, simply can't offer that much time in
On the Pride of
Hawaii, for example, Capt. Evans Hoyt spent an evening sailing
slowly off the coast of Hilo, so guests could watch red-hot lava
from the Kilauea volcano make its way to the coast, where it met
the waves in a breathtaking show of sparks and fire.
There was even
time to turn the boat around so guests on both the starboard and
port sides of the ship could view the spectacle without leaving
their dinner table or balcony.
On the last
afternoon, en route to Honolulu, Hoyt took the ship around Kauai
and cruised along the island's Na Pali Coast, where 22 miles of
craggy, lush, green cliffs rose from the blue waters below,
exposing valleys dotted with occasional waterfalls, and stained by
Kauai's famous red mud.
The islands offer
a diversity of landscape that begs to be seen. In Hilo, after spending a day
trekking over newly formed lava fields, some still dangerously hot,
to view fresh-flowing lava, our guide drove us to a deserted beach
with black, volcanic sand.
Only days later,
on the lush island of Kauai, we lounged at the popular, brown
sugar-sand beach of Poipu, where a monk seal dozed for hours among
sunning tourists and local surfers.
The cruise also
demonstrated the value of the continuation of culture.
Even if I never
again want to eat poi, it was nice to know that it was served at
every port along the way, and that "mahalo" meant "thank you"
everywhere I went.
Plus, the dollar
would always be the currency in Hawaii, and my cell phone would
NCL does its best
to make the Hawaiian culture as much a part of the cruise here as
its freestyle dining. It is actively recruiting locals to work on
its ships, a difficult proposition in a state with one of the
lowest unemployment rates in the country.
It begins the
cruises with a hula dancing show in one of the lounges,
demonstrating different hula styles from the various islands. An
NCL employee and native Hawaiian told me that the voluptuous bodies
of those Hawaiian men and women were typical Hawaiian bodies. They
did not bring on skinny Hollywood-types only to appeal to the
tastes of mainland Americans.
That was not true
of NCL's new Lu'au Kalamaku. NCL replaced the luau it offered in
Maui with one they created themselves.
The crowd enjoyed
the energetic dancing in traditional costumes and an impressive
display of fire-spinning and -throwing as the dancers told the
story of Polynesian migration to Hawaii.
But the show
seemed too geared to mainland tastes. With one exception, the women
and men all had lean, chiseled bodies, and at one point, a dancer
broke into a Broadway-style love song that was out of place with
the grass skirts and leis.
The show is put
on at a Kauai plantation and can begin with optional rides through
the plantation via a railway car or horse-drawn
dinner includes dishes such as lomi lomi salmon, kalua pork cooked
in an imu (underground oven) and, of course, poi.
To contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].
For more details on this article, see "First-time cruiser offers pros and cons of her maiden