Im sitting here at my desk in the office, and I swear I can still smell plumeria, the distinctively sweet-scented flower used to make Hawaiian leis. If scents evoke memories, perhaps the memory of a scent will, too, as I write this review of Norwegian Cruise Lines first intra-Hawaii cruise.

NCL is into Hawaii in a major way, and parent company Star Cruises has spent $1.3 billion on NCLs Hawaii-bound vessels.

The line received an exemption from a federal law that prohibits foreign-built ships from cruising an itinerary that doesnt include a foreign port.

This itinerary is an all-Hawaii affair thats unlike anything else in the big-ship cruise market -- in several different ways.

The seven days I spent on the Pride of Aloha seemed less like a cruise in the traditional sense and more like a stay in a moveable hotel. The Pride of Aloha spends more than 90 hours in port each week, two-thirds more time ashore than the lines previous Hawaii-based ship, the Norwegian Star.

The nature of the vacation is somewhat changed.

The major attraction here is the four islands and the myriad excursions passengers can choose from, either by paging through NCLs hefty tour brochure or by planning their own days (and nights).

There are no sea days for sunbathing by the pool or playing bingo. Most of the action takes place off the ship -- and in any case, bingo, and any other type of gambling, is not allowed in Hawaiian waters.

That doesnt mean the ship isnt of interest. The Pride of Aloha, a five-year-old vessel that has been refurbished to reflect the spirit of the islands, practically shouts, Aloha! (or the more visitor-friendly version, which sounds more like Aloooha!).

Theres no mistaking its cultural focus.

The carpeting alone gives the ship a unique personality: pine-apple designs in the Plantation Club, palm fronds in the Royal Palm Bistro and flower leis on the floor in the Blue Hawaii nightclub.

Each room has Polynesian-themed furnishings. The Blue Hawaii, for example, is all about funky, Hawaii-style fun. Pink and purple chairs, lime-green banquettes and a tiki-hut bar ring the dance floor.

Although every ship has a forward observation lounge, this ships Outrigger Lounge is one of the few Ive seen put to use during the day. Kawika, the cultural ambassador, held court here in the afternoons to teach passengers how to hula or make leis. But come to class early. I showed up five minutes late and couldnt find a spot on the dance floor. 

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