Best Cruises to See Hawaii

Jason Leppert, one of our cruise vacation experts, gives travelers a list of the best cruise lines to see Hawaii and surrounding islands, including Kauai and Maui.

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Photo by: Holland America Line

Holland America Line

Thinking of a trip to the Aloha State? Cruising is an exceptional way to explore Hawaii’s island chain. A cruise provides a relaxing option for visiting a good majority of Hawaii’s tropical ports without all the arduous island-hopping via plane. Plus, there’s nothing quite like sailing around Hawaii’s islands and soaking in dramatic coastal vistas by day and glimpses of lava flow by night. Travelers dreaming of a cruise to Hawaii will find plenty of options, too. Take your pick: From weeklong inter-island sailings to longer roundtrips from the mainland, these cruise lines to Hawaii match itinerary options with your individual travel style.

Norwegian Cruise Line: 4 Islands, 7 Days
Norwegian Cruise Line offers the only year-round Hawaiian cruise to sail to Hawaii’s 4 largest islands -- all in a single week. All of which makes Norwegian’s Pride of America the most convenient choice for travelers with limited vacation time. The 81,000-ton ship sails roundtrip from Honolulu on the island of Oahu, with day stops in Hilo and Kona on the Big Island, and overnight stays in Kahului on Maui and Nawiliwili on Kauai.

This year is also a great time to book, with Pride of America slated for impressive renovations in 2013. Modified accommodations include 24 new suites and 4 new Studio staterooms -- an expanding feature of the Norwegian fleet that caters to solo passengers. New dining experiences also await, with Moderno Churrascaria, NCL’s Brazilian-style steakhouse, and Cagney’s, the cruise line’s other signature steakhouse.

Norwegian Cruise Lines
Norwegian Cruises
Roundtrip From the Mainland: Take Your Pick
If you can spare 14 days or longer, a roundtrip cruise to Hawaii from America’s mainland or Canada’s West Coast is incredibly relaxing. After all, this option eliminates the stress of air travel entirely.

However, even if you do have to fly to reach a departure port, such trans-Pacific roundtrip cruises feature a uniquely tranquil itinerary -- one that is bookended by extended periods at sea. This option affords the chance to ease into cruise life leisurely, tour the islands in-depth and then ease out with another round of restful ocean sailing.

Roundtrip Hawaiian cruises from continental America are offered by most of the cruise lines and frequent the ports of Nawiliwili on Kauai, Honolulu on Oahu, Lahaina and Kahului on Maui, as well as Kona and Hilo on the Big Island.

Carnival Cruise Lines: Fun Ships for Fun Islands  
The 2,124-passenger Carnival Miracle heads to Hawaii on periodic 15-day circle tours from Los Angeles. Leaving from the port of Long Beach, CA, in between runs to Mexico, this Carnival Cruise Lines’ self-described “fun ship” -- one in a fleet of playful vessels that doesn’t take cruise life too seriously -- also makes stops at the island chain as part of the ship’s repositioning to and from Alaska in the summertime, should you desire to add on a different itinerary before or afterward.

Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Cruises: 3 Unique Ship Choices  
Fans of Celebrity Cruises‘ upscale experience get to choose from the line’s 3 distinct ship classes -- different vessel designs and sizes with unique features -- when traveling to Hawaii’s volcanic islands. The Celebrity Century, Celebrity Millennium and Celebrity Solstice -- each the introductory ship in and namesake of their respective classes -- all sail to Hawaii. The 1,814- guest Century features fairly regular roundtrips from either San Diego or Los Angeles, and the 1,950-passenger Millennium and 2,852-person Solstice offer occasional 1-way jaunts to or from the islands beginning or ending in Ensenada, Mexico.

Holland America Line: Hawaii Plus
With 4 of its trademark “Signature of Excellence” ships -- a self-proclaimed title to denote an upgraded quality -- cruising from San Diego and one rarely from Vancouver, Holland America Line presents quite the combination of full-circle itineraries to the island chain. Selecting from the 1,266-person Statendam or Veendam sister ships, the 1,440-passenger Zaandam or the larger 1,916-guest Westerdam will take you sailing roundtrip from 14 days to Hawaii alone up to an extraordinary 61 days to the islands, bundled with extra itineraries to Tahiti, Mexico or Peru.

Princess Cruises: California Departure Options
With both Northern and Southern California departures, Princess brings Hawaiian sailings conveniently closer to more people. From the 688-passenger Pacific Princess to the 2,674-person Sapphire Princess, the ships that Princess Cruises sends to Hawaii also run the gamut in size. However, the line leaves the heavy lifting to the larger vessels, with the Pacific Princess only scheduled for repositioning purposes, transitioning between itineraries in other regions. Grand Princess circles from San Francisco, and Golden Princess, Sapphire Princess and Star Princess cycle from Los Angeles.

Royal Caribbean International: More Island Time
Royal Caribbean International only schedules a handful of Hawaiian cruises each year -- before and after its Alaskan sailings. But if you’re fond of the line, they’re certainly worth looking into. The 2,146-passenger Radiance of the Seas and 2,000-person Rhapsody of the Seas navigate only one way to or from the islands but often spend more days in port as a result.

The Luxury Lines: Lush Scenery, Plush Cruises
Like Royal Caribbean, the luxury lines of Crystal Cruises, Cunard Cruise Line, Seabourn Cruise Line and Silversea Cruises make it to the islands infrequently. For these, it’s best to verify availability with a travel agent at least a year ahead and book as soon as possible because they often fill up quickly.

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