Ahoy and aloha

Fun in the sun on a voy­age around the Hawai­ian is­lands

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AFLOAT - SUSAN KURO­SAWA

The name is un­am­bigu­ous and it de­liv­ers, as they say, what’s on the la­bel. Pride of Amer­ica is a cruise ship that does week-long cir­cle voy­ages from Honolulu of three of the so-called Neigh­bour Isles — Maui, Hawaii (or the Big Is­land) and Kauai.

You know you’re on a US-flagged ship when stars and stripes dom­i­nate the decor, there’s a che­quer­board­floored Happy Days- style Cadil­lac Diner with Elvis movie clips, 1950s vinyl seats and burg­ers and the fine-din­ing restau­rant goes by the name of Jef­fer­son Bistro, com­plete with solemn decor de­voted to the third pres­i­dent, in­clud­ing mock leather-bound vol­umes that echo those in his li­brary at his his­toric home, Mon­ti­cello in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia. When I ask a waiter why the restau­rant is themed, he seems per­plexed. “I guess Jef­fer­son liked French food … you know, duck a l’or­ange,” he ven­tures. And the John Adams Cof­fee Bar? Was the sec­ond pres­i­dent not a tea-drinker, then? “Um …”

This is not so­phis­ti­cated, ul­tra-lux­u­ri­ous cruis­ing, with tux-and-taf­feta oc­ca­sions and le­gions of those trim and tan cou­ples you see in hol­i­day brochures. You know the pair — he’s the Mark Har­mon sil­ver fox looka­like and she’s slightly younger, all swing­ing ash-blonde bob and un­fea­si­bly toned arms. Those shiny pas­sen­gers are not on board, but off strolling the decks of Sil­versea, Crys­tal and Seabourn lin­ers, where they be­long. The clien­tele on the 2186-pas­sen­ger Pride of Amer­ica is here to wear aloha shirts and fake flo­ral leis and eat big and drink large and have a good time. And so am I.

“Let’s party into your va­ca­tion!” is the an­nounce­ment from cruise di­rec­tor Malu, sig­nalling we are set­ting sail from the Port of Honolulu on Hawaii’s gate­way is­land of Oahu. As the fa­mous 1920s Aloha Tower bea­con clock by the pier re­cedes into the twi­light, out come tiny club sand­wiches and coloured drinks for the Sail Away Party. “Dance away your Hawai­ian sun­set!” calls Malu.

This Nor­we­gian Cruise Line ship, built in 2004 and re­fur­bished in 2013, has been a re­sound­ing suc­cess with its year-round plain-sail­ing itin­er­ary that has you mov­ing by night and then, hello, there’s a new port vir­tu­ally ev­ery morn­ing. The an­nounce­ments claim “al­most 100 sunny hours in port” so this is des­ti­na­tion cruis­ing of the best kind, with two overnight stays, on Maui and Kauai, to en­able din­ner and fur­ther tour­ing ashore, al­though most Pride of Amer­ica hol­i­day­mak­ers seem keen to get back on board and head to the likes of the Gold Rush Sa­loon or the Mardi Gras Cabaret.

On the is­lands of Hawaii and Kauai, the ship skirts the coast to give pas­sen­ger two sides, as it were, of the land­scape and at­trac­tions. On the for­mer isle, we dock at quiet lit­tle Hilo, with its tim­ber build­ings and banyan trees planted by celebri­ties (Babe Ruth, Ce­cil B DeMille), and Kona, fa­mous for cof­fee plan­ta­tions, wa­ter­falls and snorkelling ad­ven­tures. It is out of Kona, on a Zo­diac tour or­gan­ised by Sea Quest Hawaii, that we snorkel around Kealakekua Bay, where a well-main­tained white obelisk marks the spot where James Cook was killed by na­tive Hawai­ians in 1779, a year af­ter he had charted the Hawai­ian isles.

On this same ex­cur­sion, close to Keauhou Bay, with Pride of Amer­ica an­chored in the dis­tance, we slide from the side of the Zo­diac to swim with spin­ner dol­phins. Or, more specif­i­cally, to glide; we float on clear aqua­ma­rine wa­ter and through fil­tered, gauzy sun­light watch the tor­pedo-like shapes be­low. Then one pirou­ettes up and breaks the sur­faces, mer­rily spins like a top and plops down with what we imag­ine to be a con­tented sigh. It is sud­den, cir­cus-like and so en­ter­tain­ing that for days we talk of lit­tle else.

Plenty of or­gan­ised tours are of­fered at ex­tra cost and, at each port, there are cour­tesy shut­tle boxes and rows of con­vert­ible Mus­tangs in jolly colours lined up wait­ing to be rented and driven mostly on belt roads that cir­cle the is­lands. Some teenagers dis­em­bark with skate­boards un­der their arms. Keen golfers lug off their gear to tackle well-re­garded re­sort greens. Ded­i­cated shop­pers keen to hit the re­tail out­lets at the for­mer whal­ing vil­lage of La­haina on Maui get off at Kahu­lui Har­bour with an arse­nal of empty car­ri­ers ready to fill with half-price Coach hand­bags and dis­count Calvin Klein and Tommy Hil­figer cloth­ing.

It is not ex­actly cul­tural tour­ing, but I don’t see one per­son not hav­ing a good time, ashore or aboard, in­clud­ing se­nior staff who get into the Dance Like a Nor­we­gian par­ties, and even prim-look­ing grand­moth­ers scooting about the deck with a plas­tic “trav­eller’s cup” of Sailor Jerry’s mai tai in hand. Multi-gen­er­a­tional fam­i­lies ap­pear to be hav­ing a hoot and I meet Aus­tralians, Hong Kong Chi­nese, Ja­panese and Scan­di­na­vian pas­sen­gers who claim this is the eas­i­est and best-value way to “do” the Hawai­ian chain. The Aus­tralians are easy to iden­tify.

The Na Pali Coast on Kauai, top; MS Pride of Amer­ica, above; Limahuli Gar­den on Kauai, left

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