Porthole Cruise Magazine, the world’s leading cruise magazine, rates NCL America as having the best Hawaiian itineraries of any cruise line. Everything you’d imagine in a dream holiday – and more

A vacation in Hawaii is considered a “dream holiday” or the “trip of a lifetime” – often saved for special anniversaries and occasions. Movies such as South Pacific, Blue Hawaii, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and even M.A.S.H were filmed in Hawaii, drawing on the natural beauty of the islands. Perhaps Hollywood is responsible in part for our attraction to this tropical paradise. However, there’s another Hawaii; one with a rich history of a people travelling from Tahiti, of Kings and Queens ruling the islands, mythical deities and folk legends. We recently sailed aboard NCL America’s Pride of America, and discovered this seven day cruise is a wonderful way to experience both sides of Hawaii; living up to the expectations for that special vacation.

Hotel Director Cary Turecamo told me; “We recognize that Hawaii is a special cruise, and we are all committed to making sure the expectations of our passengers are met and exceeded. We want them to go home happy, tell their friends about their great cruise, and come back to sail with us again.”

Before joining NCL America, Cary had a successful career in hotel management with the upscale Intercontinental Hotels, and has brought his knowledge and sense of savoir faire to the staff on The Pride of America. “You know – sometimes it’s the little gestures and extra acts of kindness that can make someone’s day – and we encourage our staff to put in that extra effort.”

Like many of our fellow guests, we arrived in Honolulu before we sailed. NCL America offers several pre- and post-cruise hotel packages, which include transfers to and from the ship. While the hotel area is dominated by high-rise hotels; the magical quality of the world-famous Waikiki Beach and the looming Diamond Head are undiminished. About a hundred yards offshore – those are real surfers astride their boards, waiting to catch a wave for an exhilarating ride. As one instructor noted, “Surfing is a bit like skiing – except the surface you’re riding on is also moving!”

Looking out towards the harbour area on Saturday morning we could see that our ship, The Pride of America was docked and that we’d soon be transferring from Waikiki Beach to our shipboard home for the next week. Our voyage would be a combination of nature’s splendid beauty and the comforts of a first class hotel – with the advantage that the hotel travels with you.

Four wonderful Hawaiian Islands, one hotel, no repeat packing –it’s all good!

Every day brought new sights and extra-special experiences; including the night-time sail past the Kilauea Volcano, where one of the volcano’s newer vents is currently pouring 2,100 degree molten lava into the ocean – a spectacular site from the ship. It was made even more dramatic when the Captain extinguished the outside lights on the ship. Sailing past Kauai’s dramatic Na Pali Coast a few days later, guests stared in near silence at the cliffs rising 4,000 feet almost straight up from the sea. A trip to Hawaii wouldn’t be complete without experiencing a Hawaiian Luau, and the NCL Shore Excursion folks have an outstanding early evening Laua in Kauai.

Our first port of call was Maui, where we would spend two wonderful days. In addition to participating in excursions offered by the Excursion Desk, many guests also rented cars on Maui. The roads are excellent, the drivers courteous, and the speed limit is a moderate 45 mph. The scenery on Maui is a combination of emerald-green gentle mountainside slopes, the deep gorge of the Maui Botanical Park, and miles and miles of beautiful beaches, especially along the Lahaina coastline. Four Seasons and The Ritz Carleton Resorts have built hotel and condominium communities in the Lahaina area because of the spectacular beauty of the coastline. The Maui Ocean Center is home to the largest aquarium in the Pacific, and is included in several ship tours.

After two magical days in Maui, we arrived in Hilo, our first of two ports on the Big Island of Hawaii, which has 11 of our planet’s 13 climate zones; from tropical jungles to a snow-covered mountain. At over 13,796 feet, Mauna Kea is one of the world’s highest mountains. Kilauea Volcano Park (a United Nations Heritage Park) has the world’s most volcanic activity, and guests have a variety of tour options, including helicopter rides, which were quickly sold out. (Consider booking popular tours with limited capacity before departing for your cruise.) We opted for a tour of the Hawaii’s Tropical Botanical Garden. Walkways lead visitors through a jungle canopy, past waterfalls, hillside lagoons and finally down to where the ocean pounds against the black volcanic rock shore. A magnificent contrast with the jungle greens, the clear blue pacific and the phosphorescent surf. Golf carts are available to transport visitors down and back up the steepest part of the incline. The flowers are exotic, bountiful, and their vibrant colours are almost electric in their brightness.

After a full day in Hilo, The Pride of America sailed towards Kona on the other side of the island.
En route, the captain took us close to shore for a night-time viewing of red hot lava pouring into the ocean giving off clouds of steam that reflected the lava’s glow. As we neared the volcano’s vent, the Captain extinguished all of the ship’s exterior lights – enabling not only a fantastic view of the lava flow – but also a terrific show of the thousands of stars in the sky.

A happy occasion took place on the aft deck during these magical moments. A young man got down on one knee, and offered his girlfriend an engagement ring. We all guessed that the ensuing hugs and kisses meant she said ‘Yes!”. It was that kind of special moment…we all cheered; remembering our own special times together – including this cruise.

The next morning we arrived in Kona (leeward) where the sun shines 350 days a year. We transferred to land by ship’s tender, and joined our group headed for a sail aboard a catamaran to enjoy some fine snorkelling. Along the way a pod of spinner dolphins joined us, including an enthusiastic newborn. The multicoloured tropical fish were plentiful, the water a comfortable 28 degrees (82 Fahrenheit). Just outside Kona, the landscape is dominated by fantastic expanse of black lava rock. Almost nothing grows, with the exception of the occasional tuft of grass. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen – even in the desert.

Another night of leisurely sailing brought us to Kauai, where we had one and a half days to explore the island. Because of our overnight stay, many guests rented cars for their island explorations. However, one of the advantages of an NCL Shore Excursion is the information you receive from your guide/driver along the way. Try to visit the spectacular Waimea Canyon; ten miles long, a mile across and 3,500 deep; dubbed ‘The Grand Canyon’ of the Pacific by Mark Twain.

The Luau is a unique Hawaiian custom, and is the ship’s most popular shore excursion. It takes place at Kilohana, formerly a sugar plantation and now serving as a living museum with a showcase for large-scale luaus. We enjoyed an estate tour by railroad (plantations had their own railways to transport the sugar cane back to the refinery); a visit through the Wilcox Mansion (plenty of shopping opportunities here), then into a huge permanent tent designed especially for the luau and show. A band plays Hawaiian music; their beautiful voices soaring and lifting your spirits. An all-you-can eat buffet is included; or for a little extra, you can enjoy a white linen and sterling service a-la-carte dinner on the Wilcox Mansion covered terrace. You’ll then be ushered to your reserved tables directly adjacent to the stage.

The show is the story of how a tribal chief and a group of young men set out from Tahiti, and eventually came to Hawaii. Of course, there’s a love interest involved, and the chief’s daughter eventually is reunited with her father – and the young man who is her true love .

It’s an excellent presentation that involves hula dancing, narration, fantastic costumes, and an outstanding fire dance for the grand finale. It’s a dramatic presentation of the ‘real’ Hawaii. The audience of a thousand stood as one to give the performers a resounding ovation; and then lingered to have souvenir photos taken with the performers. A definite “feel good” event.

We set sail from Kauai the next afternoon to cruise along magnificent Na Pali coast on the north side of the island. Accessible only by boat, the rugged coastline rises 4,000 feet straight up from the sea. Malu, the onboard Hawaiian Ambassador gave a description of the coastline and the history as we sailed within a half mile of the coast. As the afternoon shadows began to lengthen, the Captain turned the ship and we began our journey back to Honolulu.

The Pride of America is your first class hotel accompanying you on your voyage of the Hawaiian Islands. And what a hotel – she’s a beauty! As the name suggests, the Pride of America is decorated in a variety of Americana themes; beginning with the stylized Stars and Stripes graphic design flowing along the side of the ship.

The urban Art Deco of the Skyline Dining Room gives way one deck up to the pomp and circumstance of the Liberty Dining Room. American Classic Revival is the décor of The Jefferson Bistro and 1950’s diner for the Cadillac Diner. Iconic place names are used throughout the ship to express a sense of place; The Hollywood Theatre, The Mardi Gras Lounge, The Santa Fe Spa and Fitness Centre, Gold Rush Saloon, Key West Bar, and The Napa Wine Bar adjacent to the Lazy J Steakhouse for the best beef this side of Texas. And since your sailing in the Hawaiian Islands, you’ll probably stop by the Aloha Café for a breakfast or lunch buffet – and maybe later a cocktail at the Waikiki Bar.

The Pride of America is a comfortable medium-sized ship by today’s standards, with a passenger capacity of approximately 2,500. While the majority of staterooms have balconies, there are accommodations for every budget, from inside cabins to spacious suites. Designed and built to accommodate NCL’s signature Freestyle Cruising, the ship offers guests a choice of 11 different restaurants where they can dine without a predetermined schedule. If you do prefer to dine at a specific time, especially if you’re travelling with other people, you can make reservations for a specific table and time.

Freestyle dining requires that each meal is prepared to order. Unlike most ships where one kitchen supplies the dining rooms, NCL Freestyle ships have kitchens built to service a specific adjacent restaurant. Little Italy on Deck 11 has it’s own kitchen, as does Jefferson’s Bistro on Deck 5 and the Lazy J Steakhouse on Deck 6. This attention to individual service and food preparation garnered high praise from Porthole Cruise Magazine, whose editors gave their best rating to NCL’s Alternative Dining Room Cuisine.

We enjoyed the Jefferson Bistro and Little Italy alternative restaurants, and the Liberty Dining Room. The Jefferson Bistro is decorated in the American Classic style of Thomas Jefferson’s mansion – Monticello; where guests enjoy continental cuisine and French-style service. A Friday Jazz Brunch combines fine food and excellent live jazz music played by talented and enthusiastic musicians, who were obviously enjoying the appreciative audience.

To help guests with their dining selection, wall-mounted monitors throughout the ship enable guests to check on the seating availability in the 11 restaurants, which also include Sushi, Mongolian Hot Pots, Teppanyaki, and the new favourite – East Meets West.

NCL is a cruise industry leader in providing high quality entertainment; and the tradition continues with an interesting combination of music, magic, and comedy; the latter being provided by a permanent troupe from Second City, and complemented by visiting performers. Main stage shows (including an exciting Tahitian Dance presentation) take place in the Hollywood Theatre.

In the more intimate Mardi Gras Lounge, Cruise Director Douglas Dunnell gave some fine performances of Broadway Favourites and selections from The American Songbook. A favourite meeting place for many guests is Pink’s Champagne Bar, located adjacent to sweeping antebellum staircases of the Atrium; dominated by a huge replica of the Jefferson Memorial. Wine connoisseurs found satisfaction in the Napa Wine Bar.

If you feel that you’re not getting enough exercise exploring the islands, The Santa Fe Fitness Centre has all the latest equipment. Group classes are offered, as are individual assessments and personalized exercise programs. Across the hall, you can indulge yourself with a massage, a facial, a visit to the hair dresser, and a complete range of treatments at The Santa Fe Spa.

It’s easy to agree with Porthole Magazine that this cruise is a wonderful way to discover the Hawaiian Islands and enjoy the enthusiastic hospitality of the Pride of America staff and crew. We recommend that you arrive in Honolulu a day or two in advance of your sailing. It’s a wonderful trip, one that you’ll want to savour and enjoy to the fullest. Hotel Director Carey Turecamo and his 900 person staff will do their best to make your cruise truly “the trip of a lifetime”. Bon Voyage!

Travel Planner

NCL America has partner hotels and resorts, and can include pre and/or post-cruise stays in your pre-paid ticket, which also includes transfers to the ship and in some cases, express check-in at the pier. You’ll want to visit the world-famous Waikiki Beach, see Diamond Head, and perhaps take in the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbour and the Polynesian Cultural Centre. For more information about a Hawaiian cruise aboard the Pride of America, call your travel agent or visit the NCL website: www.ncl.com or call toll free: 1-866-234-7350. Bon Voyage!

Superb Hawaiian golf days

Hawaii is a golfer’s paradise, with temperate weather, a gentle cooling breeze, and absolutely stunning scenery set against the blue Pacific Ocean. A guest from Connecticut told me; “The view from the first tee at Wailea Golf Club was terrific, and then it was even better from the second. By the time we got to the ninth, we were on top of the mountain and the golf course, beaches and ocean were spread out like a panorama in front of us. We just stood there and looked…”

The folks at NCL make it very easy to enjoy a memorable day or days of golf during your Hawaiian cruise. Golf packages are available every day, and range in price depending on whether you are playing on the course. Rates include green fees, use of a cart, return transportation for you and your clubs. The NCL golf team also takes care of storing your clubs on the ship.

Callaway Clubs are offered for rent, from Standard, Pro and Premium, which are available in steel or graphite. They’ll even rent you a pair of golf shoes. NCL is the Official Cruise Line for the PGA Tour and Champions Tour. The onboard golf personnel know the courses well, and can help you make an informed selection; whether it’s for that Special Day – or an entire week Hawaiian golf. Fore!

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