On our recent trip to Hawaii, we wanted to be able to visit all 4 of the major islands: Oahu, Maui, The Island of Hawaii and Kauai. We decided that instead of packing and unpacking every few days to instead take a cruise that visited all 4 islands. The Norwegian Cruise Line Pride of America departs from Oahu and then visits each of the other islands for 2 days each. We would get to enjoy the stunning beaches, lush rainforests and majestic volcanoes during this 7-day cruise. This would also help us budget better as most of our meals were included. We decided that the Pride of America NCL Cruise would be the perfect way to experience the best of Hawaii.
A cruise can be a very efficient and economical way to take in the Hawaiian Islands. After staying on Oahu for a few nights before the cruise we packed up and boarded the ship. The crew took on our larger suitcases so we just had to carry on our smaller bags and our stateroom was actually ready when we boarded (this is not always the case) so we dropped off our bags in the stateroom. Then we did not have to pack and unpack for the next seven days but we still got to see Maui, the Island of Hawaii and Kauai. Because the Pride of America Cruise is more expensive than your traditional NCL cruise, we chose an inside stateroom when we typically get balcony staterooms. The cruise is more expensive for a few reasons. It is the only cruise that departs from the Hawaiian Islands (all other cruises leave from the mainland USA). Secondly, the crew is mostly American or people who have work permits in the USA and has to follow US labor laws which also increase the price. However, it is worth it because you are still getting your meals included (as well as some drinks if you choose the included drink package).
The Pride of America is an older ship and does not have all the activities found on most newer ships. We found the staterooms to be well kept up and normal size (for cruise ships) but there was a lot of creaking and groaning at night. There is no casino (because it is a US based ship). There are no waterslides, rock walls or mini golf. One of the most popular spots to hang out was the card room which offered games and cards to play. We found both adults and kids hanging out there. There were pools and hot tubs but they often had to be closed due to large swells. The kids club was great but was only open for drop off when we were out of port (so very limited hours). And adults could hang out at the many bars or lounges throughout the ship.
After departing Oahu, our first 2 days were in Maui. We took an excursion through Roberts Hawaii for the road to Hana. It was well worth it. While we would have liked to have more time in places like Waianapanapa State Park, taking a tour allowed me to see the views and sights overall. Also, our guide knew the road and was able to use extra caution around narrow bends and sharp drop offs. Our second day we took a beach break excursion through NCL to the beautiful beaches in Wailea for some relaxing, jumping in the waves, and sandcastle making. The cruise was a great way to see some of the island of Maui. However, we did not have time to experience sunrise on Haleakala or visit Lahaina both of which I would have liked to do as well.
Next, we visited the Island of Hawaii (also known as the Big Island). This was our biggest disappointment of having very limited time while visiting on a cruise. My daughter’s number one experience that she wanted to have in Hawaii was see the active volcano. We were only in Hilo one day and the weather did not cooperate. We took a tour with Roberts Hawaii and it was rainy and foggy and while we went to Volcanoes National Park, we could not see any lava. The second day we stayed at the Kona side of the island and we loved the cute beach town of Kona. We explored the town, ate a shave ice (compulsory in Hawaii) and took a glass bottom boat tour.
The last island that we visited on our cruise was Kauai. Our first day we did a full day tour through NCL that included waterfalls, Spouting Horn Blowhole, Poipu, and Waimea Canyon before ending with a spectacular luau. Waimea Canyon was one of our favorite sights in all of Hawaii with its beautiful orange and red hues contrasting with the greenery of the island. The luau was spectacular with various dancers telling a story of the past. We would have loved to explore Kauai more but the next day we were so tired from 5 full days of sightseeing that we decided to stay on the ship. In the afternoon the Pride of America sailed along the Napali Coast just before sunset. It was beautiful but the large ship could not get close enough to see the coast in detail without binoculars. I would love to re-visit and take a small boat tour of the coast so we can enter the caves and land on the secluded beaches.
The NCL Cruise on Pride of America is a great way for someone with limited time to visit all 4 major Hawaiian Islands. To get to explore each island in more detail, more time is needed on each island. People who can visit often may be better off staying on each individual island. However, it is a great introduction for first timers (who then can decide where they want to go back to), people who will only visit Hawaii once, and people who want to see all 4 major islands.