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
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.
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
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
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