- Advertisement - Get our app on Google play
TravelThe 8 best Hawaii cruises in 2024 and 2025

The 8 best Hawaii cruises in 2024 and 2025


Cruising the Hawaiian Islands offers U.S. travelers an immersive South Pacific escape with all the comforts of home. In fact, the Aloha State is in many ways an ideal cruise destination. It has year-round sunny weather, four main islands featuring varied topographies — including sandy beaches, cascading waterfalls, volcanic mountains and vibrant green valleys — and a wide array of land- and water-based activities.

The main caveat? Hawaii cruise options are somewhat limited — just a fraction of what’s available in the Caribbean — and many itineraries involve multiday crossings from the West Coast. Only one cruise line offers Hawaii itineraries throughout the year; most others visit during specific months or when repositioning ships in spring and fall.

For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG’s cruise newsletter.

Looking for the Hawaiian Islands sailing that’s right for you? Here’s a look at the eight best Hawaii cruises for every type of traveler.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s 7-night Inter-island Hawaii

Pride of America in Kauai. DANNY LEHMAN/NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE

For travelers who want more aloha time than the typical eight-hour port call allows, Norwegian Cruise Line has a solution. Its 2,186-passenger Pride of America lets vacationers sample four Hawaiian islands over seven days, with overnights in Maui and Kauai, plus port calls on both Hilo and Kona on the island of Hawaii. In total, this itinerary offers nearly 100 hours of shore time.

Pride of America sails round-trip from Honolulu every Saturday year-round. As a U.S.-flagged ship, it’s the only large vessel permitted to sail this way. Not only do you skip the long Pacific crossing that most cruise ships do to reach Hawaii, but passports are not required for U.S. citizens, and you can tack on pre- or post-cruise stays on Oahu.

The overnights on Maui and Kauai also mean it’s possible to try several of Hawaii’s signature experiences that most port calls don’t allow. Passengers can catch dusk or dawn from atop Maui’s massive 10,023-foot dormant volcano with sunrise and sunset excursions to the Haleakala Crater. And with the ship in port all night on Kauai, guests who want to enjoy traditional Hawaiian cuisine, music and hula performances can book the Luau Kalamaku for a fun evening out.

Pride of America, which has been cruising Hawaii since 2005, doesn’t have the onboard thrills (race track, virtual-reality gaming, waterslides) of Norwegian’s newer ships, but that’s okay because the islands, not the ship, are your main destination. Its American-themed decor celebrates U.S. cities in a vibrant, and at times, kitschy way, but a 2021 refurbishment left its cabins and public spaces feeling refreshed.

Many of Norwegian’s specialty dining venues (which incur a surcharge) are on board, including Cagney’s Steakhouse, Le Bistro (here, it’s Jefferson’s Bistro), Moderno Churrascaria and Teppanyaki.

Daily Newsletter

Reward your inbox with the TPG Daily newsletter

Join over 700,000 readers for breaking news, in-depth guides and exclusive deals from TPG’s experts

Who should go: Anyone seeking a convenient way to island-hop — and see a lot of Hawaii — by making the most of the generous shore time with a combination of independent exploration and shore excursions. Most sailings attract couples ages 50 and older, although summer and holiday sailings have plenty of families on board.

Related: Best time to cruise Hawaii

UnCruise Adventures’ 7-night Hawaiian Seascapes

Safari Explorer off the coast of Maui. UNCRUISE ADVENTURES

Cruisers seeking a less traditional, more carefree Hawaii experience can have it from November to April aboard UnCruise Adventures’ 36-passenger Safari Explorer. The seven-night Hawaiian Seascapes itinerary, which begins either on Molokai or the island of Hawaii, is an unconventional one designed for those who enjoy going off the beaten path in an intimate and more authentic setting. U.S. passports aren’t required to sail.

UnCruise visits four islands — Maui and Lanai plus Molokai and Hawaii — and focuses on not only their striking landscapes and underwater beauty but also the cultural traditions, cuisine and music of the Hawaiian people. On Molokai, where there’s not a single traffic light and the lifestyle is slow-paced, passengers get a chance to “talk story” with locals and enjoy a pa’ina (feast) and evening jam session. Lanai activities range from snorkel, paddleboard and kayak excursions to off-road adventures exploring the privately owned island’s dramatic sea cliffs, red rock formations and vast fields once filled with Dole pineapples.

Most UnCruise sailings are during Maui’s humpback whale season, so sightings while cruising off the coast of Maui are possible. You might also catch glimpses of dolphins and sea turtles. A “Captain’s Choice” day is a wild card determined by the weather, marine life in the area and other factors, while the final two days are spent exploring the Big Island of Hawaii — including a hike up Hualalai volcano and a skiff ride along the rugged coast.

Constructed in 1998, Safari Explorer was designed with adventure itineraries in mind (in summer the U.S.-flagged ship repositions to Alaska). Its size allows it to navigate areas larger ships can’t reach, which in Hawaii means bays and coves ideal for snorkeling or watersports.

With such a small number of passengers aboard, guests get to know each other — and Safari Explorer’s friendly and knowledgeable crew — quite well. Passengers come together over meals featuring locally sourced ingredients, and as all UnCruise fares include unlimited wines, spirits and microbrews, shipmates can raise a glass without worrying who’s buying a round. It all lends itself to an exclusive yet utterly relaxed week of cruising.

Who should go: The ship’s laid-back onboard vibe paired with its land- and water-based activities make the Hawaiian Seascapes itinerary ideal for active travelers seeking a nature-focused itinerary — although cruise fares (which start around $5,900 per person) are among the priciest for a Hawaii cruise.

Related: Why it’s easier to meet new people on a smaller cruise ship

Holland America’s 17-night Circle Hawaii

Koningsdam in Vancouver. HOLLAND AMERICA

Travelers who have more than two weeks to spare and who prefer to arrive in Hawaii via ship rather than an airplane can do so on Holland America’s 17-night Circle Hawaii itinerary. They’d better also love sea days because crossing the Pacific from San Diego or Vancouver to Honolulu and back requires 10 days.

That means passengers enjoy five or six days in Hawaii on Kauai, Oahu, Maui and the island of Hawaii. Some itineraries stay in select ports overnight. Cruises departing from San Diego also call on Ensenada, Mexico. With either departure port, passports will be required.

The itinerary is offered in 2024 and 2025 on the 2,650-passenger Koningsdam and 1,432-passenger Zaandam.

Travelers with more time on their hands can also visit Hawaii as part of longer Pacific island cruises with Holland America. Koningsdam will sail a 35-night Hawaii, Tahiti & Marquesas itinerary in 2025 that combines visits to four Hawaiian islands with calls on five islands in French Polynesia and Fanning Island, Kiribati (and 20 sea days).

Related: Holland America unveils epic cruise to Hawaii and Alaska for 2025

Zaandam will also sail 51- to 56-night Tales of the South Pacific itineraries that visit multiple islands in Hawaii and French Polynesia along with ports in the Cook Islands, American Samoa and Fiji.

Holland America is popular with cruisers ages 60 and older, many of them retired, who have time to enjoy longer itineraries on ships that offer good value with a focus on culinary and musical enjoyment. Two of Koningsdam’s most popular venues are its live entertainment area with three venues — B.B. King’s Blues Club (for Memphis-style rhythm and blues), Billboard Onboard (for chart-topping hits played by a live pianist) and Rolling Stone Rock Room (for a live band playing classic rock), and World Stage, a theater with a 270-degree screen used for both special BBC Earth in Concert and theatrical productions.

Onboard specialty dining options (at an added cost) include Pinnacle Grill for steaks and seafood, Tamarind for Pan-Asian cuisine and Rudi’s Sel de Mer for French Brasserie specialties and seafood.

Who should go: Mature travelers who prefer not to fly and who enjoy a more traditional cruise experience. They should also love sea days as much (or even more so) than port exploration.

Related: 16 mistakes cruisers make on cruise ship sea days

Princess Cruises’ 15- or 16-night Hawaiian Islands

Princess cruise ship in Hawaii. PRINCESS CRUISES

Princess Cruises is also a good option for longer sailings. The cruise line offers numerous round-trip itineraries to Hawaii from Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego in the fall and winter.

The majority of sailings are aboard the 3,080-passenger Crown Princess and Ruby Princess from San Francisco, and the 2,600-passenger Grand Princess and 3,080-passenger Emerald Princess from Los Angeles.

Ships are in port for nine to 11 hours in Hawaii (Hilo), Kauai and Maui and for 16 hours in Oahu. Itineraries include a stop in Ensenada, Mexico (so passports are required), plus nine or 10 sea days.

The ships feature many of Princess’ popular dining venues, including Alfredo’s Pizzeria (a sit-down venue serving personal-size pizzas), Crown Grill for steaks and Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria. There’s plenty of outdoor space for soaking up the sun — including an adults-only sun deck — and a dazzling Piazza for enjoying cocktails, gelato and pop-up street performers.

Fans of Princess’ Movies Under the Stars poolside screenings (with free popcorn) and Discovery at SEA enrichment programming will have ample time to enjoy these perks on a Hawaii sailing.

Who should go: These sailings will appeal to couples or groups of friends who prefer to have a wide choice of sailing dates, can take the time to enjoy a leisurely Pacific crossing and appreciate Princess’ focus on quality cuisine and a sun deck designed for relaxation rather than thrills.

Related: Best Hawaii cruise shore excursions

Celebrity’s 9- to 12-night Hawaii Cruise

Waikiki beach and diamond head crater in Honolulu, Hawaii. M SWEET PRODUCTIONS/GETTY IMAGES

Travelers seeking modern interior decor on a ship designed with couples in mind can visit Hawaii aboard Celebrity Cruises’ 2,852-passenger Celebrity Solstice or 2,918-passenger Celebrity Edge on itineraries ranging from nine to 13 nights — but only if the timing is right. That’s because the line offers only two sailings per ship each year (in spring and fall) as the ships reposition between Alaska and destinations in the Pacific. The itineraries are one-way (Vancouver to Honolulu or vice versa) with passports required.

These cruises call on three ports on two islands: Honolulu (Oahu) and Hilo and Kona (Hawaii), with one or two overnights in port and 10 hours ashore on one-day visits. All include five days in a row at sea. Since the itineraries either begin or end in Honolulu, there’s also a chance for some pre- or post-cruise exploration.

Sea days offer opportunities to enjoy the chic, grown-up ambience and amenities aboard these ships. Each vessel offers multiple complimentary and extra-fee specialty restaurants. Celebrity Solstice features Tuscan Grille for Italian specialties and steak and Murano for modern French cuisine, while Celebrity Edge offers the whimsical Le Petit Chef and the international Eden Restaurant.

Celebrity’s signature Martini Bar and many other onboard watering holes keep the grown-up vibe going day and night. Choose cruise fares that include alcohol and Wi-Fi, or pay a lower rate and pay for your drinks as you go.

Who should go: The slightly shorter one-way sailings and the ships’ contemporary ambience make these itineraries ideal for couples and groups of friends seeking a relaxing escape — especially Gen Xers in their 40s and 50s, who are Celebrity’s target market.

Related: 6 national parks you can reach by cruise ship (and 2 are in Hawaii)

Carnival’s 14- or 15-night Hawaii from Los Angeles

Carnival cruise ship off the coast of Maui. CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE

If fun is your cruise mantra, the “Fun Ship” brand Carnival Cruise Line offers a handful of round-trip sailings to Hawaii from Los Angeles (Long Beach) aboard the 2,984-passenger Carnival Radiance. Like other roundtrips from the West Coast, these itineraries spend just five days in Hawaii, offering eight to 14 hours of shore time in ports on four islands: Maui, Kauai, Oahu and Hawaii. Along with enjoying eight sea days, guests will also call on Ensenada, Mexico, so passports are required.

Carnival Radiance first sailed under that name in 2021, but it’s not a new ship. Before an epic makeover, it sailed for the cruise line as Carnival Victory. Ship features include many of Carnival’s signature complimentary and extra-fee dining venues, including Guy’s Burger Joint and Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse, BlueIguana Cantina, Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse and Bonsai Sushi Express.

Additional guest favorite destinations on board include the RedFrog Pub, Alchemy Bar and WaterWorks aquapark. Expect high-voltage theater shows from Playlist Productions at night and poolside interactive contests by day.

Who should go: Socially inclined cruisers who love Carnival’s emphasis on onboard fun and can appreciate a colorful ship with a lively ambience and lots of day and evening activities.

Related: Best Hawaii cruise tips for getting the most from your island-hopping trip

Royal Caribbean’s 9- to 13-night Hawaii Cruises

North Star viewing pod on Quantum of the Seas. ROY RILEY/ROYAL CARIBBEAN

A megaship cruise experience to Hawaii is available, too — with pricing that’s quite affordable. Royal Caribbean cruises there on two vessels in one of its newer classes of ships: the 4,180-passenger Quantum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas.

All are one-way cruises just before or after the Alaska cruise season (so late April or early October) between Oahu and Vancouver (or vice versa). The ships call on two Hawaiian islands and spend four or five days in a row at sea. Passports are required since these itineraries begin or end in Vancouver.

Ovation of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas feature a mix of thrills for all ages. These include RipCord by iFly simulated sky diving, FlowRider simulated surfing, bumper car racing in the SeaPlex indoor activity complex and the North Star sightseeing capsule, which ascends 300 feet above the top deck for 360-degree views.

Both ships also offer 14 dining venues, including the innovative Wonderland, Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver and kid-favorite Dog House, as well as bar options that include Schooner Bar for by-request piano tunes, Boleros for mojitos and merengue and Bionic Bar for drinks poured by robotic bartenders. Entertainment includes live cover bands in the Music Hall and multimedia music and dance performances in Two70.

Who should go: Cruisers who love a big ship with a wide array of dining choices, all kinds of evening entertainment and plenty of exciting activities to pass the time on sea days. Quantum-class ships are great for families, but the sail dates might not work for those with school-age kids.

Related: Do you need a passport for a cruise?

Viking’s 16-night Hawaiian Islands Sojourn

Rainbow Falls, Hawaii. PRAVEEN PN/GETTY IMAGES

For a guaranteed adults-only sailing in a relaxed, boutique-style setting, upscale cruise line Viking also offers round-trip Hawaii cruises from Los Angeles in late 2024 and early 2025 on its 930-passenger Viking Neptune.

What sets Viking apart from most of the other lines offering Hawaii cruises is that it includes a free shore excursion in every port. These include a highlights tour of Honolulu and Pearl Harbor on Oahu and a visit to a scenic waterfall and the Kilohana sugar plantation on Kauai. Additional excursions can be booked at an extra charge.

The 16-night Hawaiian Islands Sojourn sailings visit four islands — Hawaii (Hilo), Oahu, Kauai and Maui — and like other round-trip sailings from the West Coast include 10 sea days and a call on Ensenada, Mexico, so passports are required.

Viking Neptune will also do 32-night Grand Hawaii and Polynesia sailings round-trip from Los Angeles in late 2024 and early 2025 that visit four islands in Hawaii and four in French Polynesia.

The ship, which debuted in 2022, features sleek Scandinavian-inspired decor, a soothing spa with a complimentary thermal area, an aft infinity pool and hot tub, a panoramic Explorer’s Lounge and five onboard restaurants. Specialty restaurant Manfredi’s serves an extensive menu of Italian specialties, while The Chef’s Table offers rotating five-course themed menus, including Asian, French and California-inspired.

In addition to the free shore excursions, pricing includes complimentary wine or beer with lunch and dinner, specialty dining at no extra charge, crew gratuities and transfers.

Who should go: Couples who prefer the quieter ambience of a ship that doesn’t allow anyone under 18 onboard, doesn’t have a casino and offers presentations by regional experts that enhance immersion into local culture. Viking cruisers are generally over age 55.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:



Source link

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Subscribe Today

GET EXCLUSIVE FULL ACCESS TO PREMIUM CONTENT

SUPPORT NONPROFIT JOURNALISM

EXPERT ANALYSIS OF AND EMERGING TRENDS IN CHILD WELFARE AND JUVENILE JUSTICE

TOPICAL VIDEO WEBINARS

Get unlimited access to our EXCLUSIVE Content and our archive of subscriber stories.

Exclusive content

Latest article

More article