Here's Why a Cruise Is the Best Way to Visit Hawaii

Norwegian Cruise Line ship in Hawaii waters with two people paddle boarding
Photo: Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

For many, Hawaii is the ultimate bucket-list destination. The allure of the Pacific Ocean paradise lies in its island spirit, the warm sense of aloha enveloping every big wave, swaying palm, and volcano. But actually planning a trip to Hawaii can be daunting: There are over 100 islands in the Hawaiian archipelago, and at least six of them are major destinations.

So, how can a savvy traveler ensure their once-in-a-lifetime journey to Hawaii covers all the bases, making a dream trip well spent? The answer may surprise you: Book a cruise. Seeing the Hawaiian islands by ship is a travel hack of sorts — the kind of adventure reserved for visitors who have done their homework.

There are a lot of perks to exploring Hawaii by ship. One of the main benefits — and part of the reason cruising has such a devoted fan base around the world — is that the planning and hassle involved is negligible. Find an itinerary that hits your main points of interest, then book. From there, you don’t have to worry about anything other than packing your favorite flip-flops and picking out excursions.

On a Hawaiian cruise, transportation between islands is (obviously) included, allowing you to cover more “ground” during your trip — with no extra work (nor unpacking) on your part. Instead of visiting just one island because hopping between them sounds like a logistical headache, booking a cruise allows you to hit multiple, thereby maximizing your vacation time.

“Exploring the islands by ship allows travelers the opportunity to visit multiple destinations while only ever having to unpack once,” explains Harry Sommer, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line.

Plus, when cruising Hawaii, you can check off another bucket-list destination or two if you plan it right. Norwegian Cruise Line offers a seven-day round-trip cruise out of Honolulu that docks in Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island of Hawaii. Or, if you opt for their 14-day cruise, you can combine Hawaii with French Polynesia and visit only-in-your-daydreams destinations like Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Moorea — all on one ship.

“Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America ship — the only vessel sailing the Hawaiian islands — offers weekly, seven-day round-trip voyages from Honolulu, providing guests nearly 100 hours of port time and the benefit of exploring four islands in a week’s span in a beautiful port every day of the week,” shares Sommer. “Travelers can also enjoy more time on Maui and Kauai, with overnights in each port, allowing for more immersive experiences on land. Pride of America also features an onboard cultural ambassador that provides guests the opportunity to learn more about the native Polynesian culture of Hawaii.”

And believe it or not, cruising is a surprisingly cost-effective way to explore Hawaii. Norwegian’s 14-day Hawaii cruise (yes, the one that also includes a jaunt to the French Polynesian islands) starts at $846 per person.

Another point for seeing Hawaii by ship? You’ll always have an ocean view. Even if you book an inside cabin with no porthole, cruise ships have a plethora of public spaces and decks where anyone can go to take in uninterrupted views of the Pacific. The views of Hawaii’s volcano-dotted islands from sea, especially along the Nā Pali Coast, are spectacular — a perspective you’d miss if you only explored Hawaii by land.

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