Now’s the time to cruise Hawaii

Is­lands re­turn­ing to nor­mal af­ter Ki­lauea.

USA TODAY US Edition - - LIFE - 3D

HILO, Hawaii – Is this the year to fi­nally take that Hawaii cruise? You’d be for­given for be­ing skit­tish about the idea. The erup­tion of the Ki­lauea vol­cano on the is­land of Hawaii over the sum­mer ini­tially made a mess of Hawaii cruise itin­er­ar­ies. With lava flow­ing and vol­canic fumes blow­ing, nearly half a dozen lines can­celed calls at the is­land and rerouted ships. The erup­tion also closed Hawaii’s top tourist at­trac­tion, Hawaii Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park, for more than four months.

But the heavy vol­canic ac­tiv­ity around Ki­lauea sub­sided weeks ago, Hawaii cruise rout­ings are back to nor­mal and, as of late Septem­ber, Hawaii Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park is back open. Now would-be Hawaii cruis­ers have the chance to be among the first to see the new vol­canic land­scape that the erup­tion has cre­ated. Plus, with at least one cruise line rolling out a sig­nif­i­cant pro­mo­tion to lure peo­ple back, they’ll find the value of Hawaii cruises as good as it has been in quite a few years.

“Now may be the best time ever to come,” says Is­land of Hawaii Visi­tors Bureau ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Ross Birch, not­ing that visi­tors in the next few months will get a first-hand look at the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of a ma­jor ge­o­log­i­cal event. “What hap­pened over the last three months is some­thing we haven’t seen in over 100 years.”

Here, a guide to what you need to know:

Is the vol­cano still erupt­ing?

Ki­lauea has been erupt­ing pretty much con­tin­u­ously since 1983, with the strength of the erup­tion ebbing and flow­ing. But in re­cent weeks, vol­canic ac­tiv­ity has sub­sided sig­nif­i­cantly. For the first time in a long time, there is no molten lava to see at Hawaii Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park. Still, the fis­sures that were the source of much of the lava that flowed this sum­mer are still steam­ing with smoke that can be seen dur­ing he­li­copter tours over the vol­cano.

Is every­thing back open?

For the most part, yes. Hawaii Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park, which nor­mally draws 2 mil­lion visi­tors a year, re­opened on Sept 22 af­ter a 134-day clo­sure. But there has been wide­spread dam­age to park in­fra­struc­ture as well as dra­matic changes to the land­scape. Visi­tors still can drive the park’s Chain of Craters Road through lava fields. Ki­lauea Visi­tors Cen­ter near the Ki­lauea Caldera also is open as are most of the fa­cil­i­ties at the Vol­cano House lodge. But the Jag­gar Mu­seum and ad­ja­cent over­look of the Halema’uma’u Crater, high­lights of park tours, are closed, as is the pop­u­lar Thurston Lava Tube.

Why go now?

Visi­tors will be among the first to see the dra­matic ef­fects of Hawaii’s big­gest vol­canic erup­tion in mem­ory. In ad­di­tion to de­stroy­ing more than 700 dwellings and 30 miles of road, flow­ing lava added more than 850 acres to the south of the is­land, which now can be seen dur­ing a he­li­copter tour. Birch says the world’s new­est land will be­come more ac­ces­si­ble in the com­ing weeks when the is­land opens an ac­cess point out­side of the Hawaii Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park bound­ary. Visi­tors will be able to walk onto the lava as part of es­corted groups.

Within the park, visi­tors will find “an in­cred­i­ble land­scape,” park su­per­in­ten­dent Cindy Or­lando says. Among the new al­lures is a vol­canic hole – more than 1,500 feet deep – that has formed at Halema’uma’u Crater where once there was a lake of red-hot lava.

Would-be Hawaii cruis­ers also will find some un­usual pro­mo­tions avail­able if they book soon. On Oct. 4, Nor­we­gian Cruise Line kicked off a rare “free air” of­fer on Hawaii cruises. The pro­mo­tion in­cludes free flights to reach Nor­we­gian’s Hawaii-based ship from five West Coast cities and re­duced-cost flights from more than 30 other cities. Some re­stric­tions ap­ply.

Which lines go there?

Nor­we­gian is the only ma­jor line with a ship based in Hawaii year-round and by far the dom­i­nant player in the mar­ket. The com­pany’s 2,186-pas­sen­ger Pride of Amer­ica sails out of Honolulu ev­ery Satur­day on week-long, all-Hawaii itin­er­ar­ies that fea­ture stops on the is­lands of Maui, Kauai and Hawaii.

Nor­we­gian’s big­gest com­peti­tor in Hawaii is Princess Cruises, which op­er­ates length­ier voy­ages to the is­land chain from its home ports on the West Coast in the fall and win­ter. Princess typ­i­cally of­fers about two dozen Hawaii cruises a year, mostly from Los An­ge­les and San Fran­cisco. In a ma­jor dif­fer­ence to Nor­we­gian’s Hawaii voy­ages, Princess’s trips in­clude a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of sea days due to the long dis­tances its ships must travel be­tween its West Coast hubs and Hawaii. A typ­i­cal Princess cruise to Hawaii will in­clude nine sea days and just four days of calls.

Most other ma­jor lines in­clud­ing Hol­land Amer­ica, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Car­ni­val of­fer at least a few voy­ages to Hawaii dur­ing the fall or win­ter. Like Princess, they use ships based on the West Coast, and the trips in­clude a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of sea days.

Hawaii also is the win­ter home of one of the small­est cruise ships based in the Pa­cific, UnCruise Ad­ven­tures’ 36-pas­sen­ger Sa­fari Ex­plorer. The ves­sel op­er­ates ad­ven­ture-fo­cused, seven-night trips be­tween the lit­tle-vis­ited is­land of Molokai and the is­land of Hawaii from Novem­ber and April. The sail­ings in­clude stops at Lanai and Maui.

What does it cost?

As of this week, soon-to-de­part Oc­to­ber sail­ings of Nor­we­gian’s Pride of Amer­ica started at

$899 per per­son, with Novem­ber and De­cem­ber priced from $1,099. Up­com­ing Princess and Hol­land Amer­ica trips start at $1,096 and $1,199 per per­son, re­spec­tively. UnCruise sail­ings in Hawaii, which are more all-in­clu­sive, start at

$3,995 per per­son.

©DANNY LEHMAN

Based in Honolulu, Nor­we­gian’s Pride of Amer­ica de­parts ev­ery Satur­day on seven-night voy­ages to Maui, Hawaii and Kauai.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.