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Cruising the Hawai’ian Islands – An Aussie’s First Time
Boarding a cruise ship is always a crowded affair. Such was the case in Honolulu. To our surprise, we had to unlock our suitcases before boarding. The Norwegian “Pride of America” was similar to the Princess ships we cruised around Australia. So after boarding the ship we expected to go to our stateroom. We boarded around 12.30pm only to enter our stateroom at 5.30pm. We later learned that the crew were all American citizens, which meant they had to pay a higher rate than crew on other cruise lines. Norwegian was the only cruise line allowed by American law to cruise only around the islands. Other cruise lines had to call at least one foreign port. This means fewer crew members to work with.
We found that the free restaurant selection was not as extensive as Princess. We ate mostly at their buffet restaurant and a couple of times at their East-West restaurant. It was fine. By Australian standards, the coffee on board leaves a lot to be desired.
We found our stateroom to be one of the best designed we’ve seen with good bed arrangements; More closet space and well-designed bathrooms and showers.
The theater was more spacious and it was easier to get to your seat. People can walk past you without having to stand up. However the Mardi Gras Cabaret showroom was smaller than the Princess and the rear view was not as good. Still, as cruises go, performance in these two areas was top notch.
For those who like to walk or run to reduce the impact of excessive food, the length of the Promenade Deck was 546 meters. About three times a mile (over 1.6 kilometers). The aisles were much wider than those we had previously seen on other ships.
The purpose of the cruise was to see the Hawaiian Islands. As a result, during the day, there was a dearth of things to do on board if you returned early from a tour. There was only one port where tenders were required to take us ashore. We were impressed with how easy it was to get on and off the tender, and how spacious it was compared to others we had seen.
We arranged a tour at each port we visited, six in total. We found Roberts Tours on an internet search. Turns out they were the largest tour operator in America in their green buses. We found them to be better priced than the tours organized by Norwegian Cruise Lines. In fact, we saved at least $100 each by booking multiple tours through them as “combo tours”. Their service was excellent, always a great driver/guide who could go to extra places on time. We found the guide very knowledgeable and didn’t talk too much. He gave clear instructions about departure times and good suggestions about food etc.
Security was a big issue. We had to show photo ID as well as our cruise card when returning to the ship and pier, to get off the pier or tender or bus when returning from a tour.
One of the things that surprised me most about the islands on the cruise was that the buses boarded without realizing that we were high up. I found that I would look out the bus window and see the 2400 foot elevation sign. We never felt so high. Not what you see in Australia. We of course took a tour to the highest volcano on the islands. It is known as the highest on earth because it is a mountain that rises from the depths of the ocean. It was 10000 feet above sea level. Our bus could only take us to 9500 feet where we saw its huge craters and walked to a minor peak of about 400 meters. Lack of oxygen at that altitude makes walking very difficult.
We saw an active volcano. From the viewing platform, it is possible to see lava bubbling over the surface of the crater. Later that evening, the ship passed another lava flow. It was huge and the lava flowed into the sea. It was more spectacular.
While touring the island, you can see plenty of coffee and macadamia plantations. There were many activities in a plantation, we found pineapple ice cream. Unfailing happiness is. The coffee plantations we visited had permission to taste the coffee. We saw famous surfing beaches where pro tournaments are held. We saw the start and finish of the famous Hawaiian Iron Man triathlon.
All the islands were very green and had very rugged mountains. Each island had a wet and a dry side with great variation in rainfall. One side of each island was the windward side and the other side was protected from the wind by high mountains. The weather was great for us. We only needed jumpers on the ship where the air conditioning was very cold at times.
Each island had a highway that went around the island, usually near the beach. We found on our bus tour to get the best view of the seats you need on the right side of the bus.
If you’re only going to visit Hawaii once in your life, you should include a cruise as well as a tour of Honolulu, Waikiki, Pearl Harbor, and Honolulu Island as part of your vacation.
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