Pride of America sevenday circle voyages depart Honolulu and visit Maui, Hawaii (Big Island) and Kauai. Tips are added to passengers’ bills each day; these vary according to accommodation category, but typically are $US13.50 ($12.55) a person a day. A 15 per cent surcharge is applied to all beverage orders. On January 16, 2017, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Star will depart Sydney for New Zealand on a 12-day itinerary, continuing on a 19-day sailing of Australian and Asian ports. More: 1800 077 823; norwegiancruiseline. com.au. • gohawaii.com/au • seaquesthawaii.com • islandhelicopters.com They’re clustered on stools around the John Adams Coffee Bar ordering Lavazza espressos. “Vanilla essence with that, sir?” asks the server. “Heck, no, I’m from Melbourne, mate,” says the chap in the Collingwood jersey.
I am with three female friends and we are more into nature tours and snorkelling than lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, “extreme ginger” ice cream cones or discount Gap jeans. We rarely disembark without bathers under our clothes, just in case we spy a good swimming spot, which invariably we do. At Hookipa Beach on Maui, we walk between sea turtles basking on the sand. On Kauai, swimming gets the flick in favour of a chopper ride along the Na Pali Coast. A tour with Island Helicopters swoops us into deep canyons, through tunnels of trees and lands us for about 25 minutes at Manawaiopuna Falls, where scenes of Jurassic Park were filmed. We trek through a jungle pathway and the crash of the falling water is tremendous; we get comprehensively sprayed as butterflies dance through a rainbow and the greenery glows as if freshly painted. Whoosh, now we are in the crater of Mt Waialeale volcano, our Eurocopter hovering like a giant dragonfly. I’ve heard it said that visiting Kauai, the most primeval of the islands, and not seeing it from the air would be like going to the Sistine Chapel and failing to look up. As we land, I ask the youngish pilot, Isaac, if he has been flying long. “Got my pilot’s stripes before I learned how to drive,” he laughs, his eyes no doubt twinkling behind Top Gun mirrored shades.
By night, Pride of America is a convivial base. From the Rock-a-Hula and 1980s Neon parties to the Mr Sexy Legs Competition, this is a ship that understands fun. There are Billy Joel and Beatles tributes, waiters circulating with trays of devilishly more-ish Big Kahuna Rum Runner cocktails garnished with cinnamon sticks, and Gift Shop Madness sales of palm-tree magnets and that most handy of cruise garments, the muu-muu. Because the ship sails in US waters, there are no duty-free stores and no cash prizes for gaming activities such as Bonkers for Bingo. No matter. Assistant cruise director Jasper conducts Couple Game Shows; there are water volleyball playoffs between passengers and crew and Country Boot Scootin’ Hootenanny socials. The lost arts of towel folding and sarong tying are tutored and celebrated. Or maybe just lie back in the Mandara Spa for a blissful AromaFlex massage. Children are well catered for with teen clubs, video arcade, movie room and activities. Add pools, hot tubs, sun decks and a sports court.
The Freestyle dining concept means passengers aren’t tied to first or second sitting timetables in the Liberty or Skyline main restaurants or fixed-table assignments. It’s all very easy and convivial, whether you like the formality of big dining rooms or prefer to go casual. There are 14 dining options, and nine bars and lounges; best of the bunch is Teppanyaki, where Japanese and Filipino chefs juggle eggs and pepper grinders over hotplates, and a South American-influenced churrascaria for skewered meats. Some dining options attract a surcharge and are therefore quieter and with more formal service. There’s cabin service, too, although for each order a $US7.95 ($11.28) “convenience charge” is added to your bill. Even