Hawaii: Say aloha to adventure on a luxury liner

By Peter Hamling

Peter Hamling spends a week cruising the Hawaiian islands.

Pride of America provides week-long cruises around the state of Hawaii. Photo / Supplied
Pride of America provides week-long cruises around the state of Hawaii. Photo / Supplied

Today is Tuesday, so you can be sure that Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America will be in the port of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii.

On Saturdays, the 81,000-tonne liner will be at her dock in Honolulu, with her crew farewelling about 2000 passengers and welcoming another 2000 for the week-long passage around the island state.

That's all this unique ship does - transits the state every week, 52 weeks a year. When built in 2005, Pride of America was hailed as the first passenger liner to be built in the United States for about 50 years. Today she's the only large cruise ship sailing under the US flag.

Early next year, though, she will have a 14-day break in her home port of Honolulu for a US$30 million ($36 million) refurbishment that will include the addition of studio cabins for solo travellers, 24 new suites, a Brazilian-style steakhouse, plus renovations to the Aloha buffet restaurant.

On this cruise you are actually in a port every day, so you may think you don't need many shipboard facilities. But there aren't any sacrifices here - except for those for whom the lack of a casino (Hawaiian state laws don't permit this indulgence) might be seen as a shortcoming.

What there is - and this is a slightly abbreviated list - are 10 restaurants, nine bars and lounges, the usual pools and hot-tubs, a library, conservatory and a full-scale theatre. A fitness centre, spa, a walking or jogging circuit, a small array of shops, art gallery and photo centre all add to the guest experience.

The ports are used to greeting cruisers - when ashore you can expect to be asked at least once a day in stores and restaurants if you are visiting on "The Boat".

Retail therapy is one thing, adventure is another. Pride of America itself markets more than 80 tours across the four ports; there are as many available from shore-based operators.

On each island there are opportunities for scuba diving, snorkelling and golf alongside excursions to features such as the Waimea Canyon (Kauai) and the dormant Haleakala Crater (Maui), shooting locations of Hollywood films, ranch visits, helicopter sightseeing and (in season) whale watching.

Hilo has one attraction that's not matched elsewhere in the state - the volcanic activity of Mt Kilauea that's been continuous since the mid-1980s. Helicopter flights over the most recent eruption sites are an awesome experience - not cheap at about US$250 a person, but hey, it's a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Air NZ flies between Auckland and Honolulu three times a week. In March, Hawaiian Airlines is to begin three return services a week between Honolulu and Auckland.

Peter Hamling cruised on Pride of America as a paying passenger.

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