Is there one cruise for a first-time cruiser that can be singled out as the best? You bet there is. It’s the one-week cruise Norwegian Cruise Line does around the Hawaiian Islands. This first-time cruise makes more sense than a Caribbean cruise for a lot of reasons.
Norwegian’s Pride of America is one of the only ocean cruise ships in the world that is all American. It’s an American flagship with an all American crew plying the waters of America’s most scenic state. Passengers have oodles of time ashore to be fascinated, educated; to shop, swim, snorkel; to eat exquisitely, and be entertained. It’s being at home overseas.
Everyone speaks English both on the ship and ashore. Your U.S. cell phone works fine. Why shouldn’t it? The U.S. greenback is the only money you’ll need. If you need more it’s available at U.S. banks and ATMs. And most of all you have the safety of knowing that you are under the protection of U.S. law and U.S. customs every day of the trip.
There’s another special perk that virtually no other cruise can offer. You travel with the medical benefits you have at home. Many insurers don’t pay medical bills from foreign countries.
Perhaps the biggest plus for this cruise is the ship itself. Norwegian has a different concept of cruising from others. They call it freestyle, where you decide your own approach to a vacation. There are flexible dress codes to allow you to do a nonchalant cruise or a dressy one.
If you want to be super casual you can eat every meal in shorts at the Aloha deck buffet. Or you can get dressed to the nines for one of the seven specialty restaurants. No matter where you eat aboard, you choose what time you want to do it. You aren’t locked at a set table at a set time.
Time ashore also is freestyle. The Pride of America sails round trip out of Honolulu. The first two days are spent on Maui. That’s followed by the Big Island, a day each at Hilo and Kona. Then, it’s two days on Kauai. A wide choice of shore excursions is offered by the ship or you can go off on your own.
What to do? Charming is the word for a tour of the sea horse ranch in Kona. The loveliest boutique zoo in the world is located in Hilo. Awesome only begins to describe the thrill of a helicopter trip over the dramatically wild and lush Kauai terrain. On Maui, there are tours available for a wide range of activities and experiences.
Hawaii is a nonstop photo-op. The scenery is spectacular on each of the four Islands. The weather is warm and beautiful. Going off on your own at all ports also is simple. Close to the gangway are free nonstop shuttle buses. They take you to malls, shopping centers or Hilo Hattie’s big stores, all of which are everywhere on these islands.
What you don’t get on this cruise is gambling. There’s no casino on the ship, which operates under strict U.S. law. All the rest of the amenities of ocean cruising are there. Fine entertainment and production shows are a daily occurrence as are swimming in the pools or soaking in the hot tubs. There are games and contests for all ages plus an elegant spa and fitness exercise area.
Ed Arnow can be reached at BrentwoodBuzz@aol.com.