WELCOME TO THE FAMILY
Everyone is ‘ohana’ on a cruise around the Hawaiian isles
It’s easy to forget that Hawaii is more than the beaches, stores and skyscrapers of its capital, Honolulu, and its main island Oahu. With eight main islands to get lost in (and around), there is no better way than cruising to see the beauty of this 50th state of the US.
There are three words you will quickly come to know in Hawaii – the first is aloha (used as a greeting but its true meaning is more akin to “love” and “affection”), the second is mahalo (thank you) and the third is ohana (family). “Aloha, and welcome on board the
Vincent, the evereffusive cruise director booms over the intercom.
Vincent is easy to spot over the coming days – he’s tall, lean and dressed in the most delightful array of colourful suits. “While you are with us, you are our ohana, and we are happy to have you. Mahalo, and I’ll see ya when I see ya!”
For this (very excited) first-time cruiser, learning how to navigate the 281-metre Norwegian Cruise Line ship is not easy.
There are 10 floors, not including the crew’s quarters, 10 elevators, 15 decks, 11 restaurants, 940 crew, 2450 guests, and miles and miles of ocean.
My advice is to use the maps on the walls religiously, know your ship language (aft, forward, port, starboard) and, most importantly, be OK with getting lost. It’s all part of the fun of cruising.
Besides, getting lost just means you’ll find yourself at either the library, the shops, the Mandara Spa or the Pink Champagne bar.
While the liner is impressive, it is Hawaii that makes this an unforgettable trip.
The first stop on the seven-night cruise is stunning Maui, one of Hawaii’s eight main islands.
From there, we travel to Hilo and Kona on the volcanic Big Island, then onwards to lush Kauai.
The locals like to say that each island has its own personality and it is entirely true. Maui is adventurous, Hilo is sleepy, Kona is vibrant, and Kauai – my favourite – is the most unspoilt and green.
The one similarity between the islands is the glorious heat. And perhaps the presence of pineapples.
THINGS TO DO ON-BOARD
If sitting around the pool or a quiet deck with food, drink and a good book isn’t your cup of tea, fret not, there is an abundance of things you can try.
Most cruises are made for families and this is no exception. There are onboard activities almost every day for Guppies (ages 3 and under), Splash Academy (ages 3-12) and Entourage (ages 13-17). While the kids are playing with toys, fighting dragons and saving princesses, and having pyjama parties, the adults can learn to make Kukui nut bracelets, leis, strawberry shortcake with pastry chefs, and learn the hula. Sure, you might look a bit silly doing the hula but don’t let that deter you. As one sage cruiser tells me, “just think like a washing machine and shake those hips!”
At night, the Hollywood Theatre puts on a great show, be it the superb song stylings of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons (highly recommended) or the comedic genius of Jeff Harms.
Beyond the on-board activities, the tours and activities on the islands are, hands-down, the best time I’ve ever
AS ONE SAGE CRUISER TELLS ME, ‘JUST THINK LIKE A WASHING MACHINE AND SHAKE THOSE HIPS!’
had on a holiday in my whole life (that’s 35 years – nothing to scoff at). No, the tours are not included in the price of the cruise but even so, they are not to be missed. There’s a tour to suit everyone, from the young and energetic to the older, less mobile.
I go on a pleasant “Best of Maui” tour to check out the agriculture, eat (more) pineapples, get shown how to husk a coconut in under a minute and visit the sugar museum.
The next day I’m hiking through the rainforest and swimming in the clear pools with waterfalls overhead. I meet a wonderful Cuban-American family who let me become a pseudomember for the day.
In Hilo, I forego the tours (although I’m told the volcano excursion is spectacular) for a hop-on, hop-off bus trip through the town.
I happily spend a few hours at the charming farmers’ market, buy some anti-vog tablets (vog is a form of air pollution that sometimes occurs on volcanic islands) and take too many pictures of turtles swimming in rock pools.
My love of coffee leads me to the Mocha tour in Kona, which is exactly as its name suggests – we go to Kona Joe’s coffee plantation to see how the local brew is made, followed by a chocolate tour at the only chocolate factory in Hawaii. My obvious tip: eat and drink all the samples and then buy the products so you can eat and drink them some more.
While in Kona, you must try the shaved ice. It’s a favourite treat of former US president Barack Obama and when you try, you’ll see why.
The feral chickens run rife in Kauai – don’t be alarmed, they’re harmless.
I meet a whole bunch of them while on my “Jungle Falls” tour – a kayaking and hiking adventure through the Huleia National Wildlife Refuge. We kayak 4km downriver before a van takes us to a jungle trail where our hike begins. Ever had a picnic by a