For a great many people, a cruise around the beautiful series of islands that collectively constitute Hawaii seems like the stuff of dreams. And why not? Majestic mountain, scenery, stunning Pacific sunsets and, of course, that all pervasive spirit of aloha makes these islands among the most compelling holiday destinations anywhere on earth.
Of course, few would dispute that a cruise is the easiest, most cost effective way to see this mid ocean string of pearls. The ease, relative economy and sheer convenience of a floating hotel is impossible to deny. And, if it were just about boarding a ship and going there, then I suspect that many, many more of us would do it in a heartbeat.
However, from the UK and mainland Europe, even getting to the embarkation port is quite a stretch. Most ships sail from the port of Los Angeles, which means a minimum twelve hours’ flight from the UK alone. Of course, if time (and money) are no object, you can add in a few days in California proper both before and after your cruise. But, any way you slice it, getting there is a long slog indeed.
But let’s assume that you have done just that. Now you’ve got four full days to relax at sea, en route to Paradise. Then, like one frantic, hectic merry go round, those beautiful islands come and go, one after another, vying for your attention over the course of four full days, before another four day sail back to the west coast. Wow, that was fun. is everyone OK back there?
Typically, these cruises sail in April and October, and most spend no overnights in Honolulu, which for me would be an absolute deal breaker, I’m afraid. Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, and of course, the poignant memorials at Pearl Harbour cannot be truly absorbed in eight hours. I would always want at least an overnight stay in Honolulu.
There is one alternative; you can fly straight to Honolulu itself, five hours’ west of LA, and board the Pride Of America for a week long circuit of the islands. With a couple of overnight stops en route, this is easily the most ‘up close and personal’ way to cruise the Hawaiian Islands. It really does allow you to get under the skin of the main sites. And, of course, you could fly in a few days early, and really enjoy some quality personal time in Honolulu prior to setting sail.
The downside is the minimum of around twenty hours’ flying time to achieve Honolulu. And, while the cruise experience is sublime, it is also very expensive.
For single travellers, cruise only in a studio cabin (and there really are only a handful compared to the rest of the ships in the Norwegian fleet) is typically double that of a week in a similar cabin to, say, the Caribbean, or even famously pricey Bermuda. A typical, nine night fly cruise package from the UK in a studio cabin will lighten your bank balance by a full three thousand pounds. And, if you want a few extra days beforehand in Honolulu, then the fund factor goes upwards by quite a way.
So, there you have the pros and cons of cruising to and from Hawaii. None of the options available are perfect; largely a consequence of the remote geographical locations of the islands themselves, if truth be told.
But, that said, I venture to say that any cruise out to or, indeed, around those islands, will yield a priceless return on your investment of time, cash and sheer stamina. It’s axiomatic that the places most worth achieving on this earth are the ones that are often the hardest to reach. And, if the Hawaiian islands were easy to reach, they would long since have lost much of their patina of wonder and mystery.
For anyone that disagrees, I have one word as an answer; Nassau.
Originally one of the most exclusive and sought after resorts on the planet, the capital of the once hugely top drawer Bahamas has become a byword for tacky, over rated and over priced hype; any pretensions to real style went south- quite literally- many decades ago.
The relative remoteness of the Hawaiian islands acts as a force field against that kind of creeping degradation, but the flip side of that same coin is high prices and an island group that is hard to reach comfortably. But there is no other way around it.
So, should you still go? Absolutely. If the urge to go is too much to resist, then you cannot put a true price on going. And, in my book, the price tag attached to a missed opportunity, regretted over the course of a lifetime, is incalculable.