When is the best time to go?
Most years, Hawaiian cruises aren’t offered year-round. Princess cruises, for instance, sometimes offers their 15-day itineraries from LA during the late fall/winter until early spring. This is because they move their summer Alaska fleet southward during those months (as it’s impossible to sail Alaska in the winter) to sail the warmer climates of Hawaii and Baja Peninsula/Central/South America.
Winter time is actually an ideal time to go to Hawaii. The winds kicked up over the pacific create Big surf season on Oahu. Be sure to check out the north shore! Also, winter is calving season for Humpback whales in Hawaii. You’ll see them breaching all around the islands. It is truly majestic. Be sure to go whale watching while on Maui – amazing!
Cruising Hawaii is expensive. You’re either paying for a 15-day international cruise, or a 7-day American-based cruise (see section below on 7-day cruises). Either way, expect to pay a bare minimum of $1200 per person (as of the time this was written). That’s for an inside cabin, based on double-occupancy.
Don’t forget to factor in your airfare. If you’re from the US, round-trip flights are cheaper than multi-leg flights, and flights to LA or San Francisco are going to cost MUCH less than flights to Vancouver (Canada) or Honolulu. All together unless you live in the Hawaiian islands (and if you do, why go on a Hawaiian cruise to begin with?), a 15-day Hawaiian cruise from LA or San Francisco will cost much less than a 7-day cruise from Honolulu. I know, weird, right?
Why so many 15-day Hawaiian Cruises?
Cruising Hawaii is unlike cruising anywhere else for a plethora of very technical, legal reasons.
Let me explain. Sometime in the 1500’s a maritime law was enacted that stated that a ship must visit at least one foreign country before returning to it’s port of origin, unless the port of origin is the ship’s registered home country. Elsewhere in the world, this is not really an issue, but along the Pacific coast of the US, finding a nearby foreign country to make port in means visiting Canada or Mexico – both trips of no insubstantial distance.
So as a result of that law, there are two or three types of cruises offered to Hawaii:
–15-day dual crossing cruises, typically embark in LA, cross the pacific (5 sea days), spend 4-5 days in Hawaii and then cross the pacific again (5 more sea-days), stopping in Ensenada Mexico for three to four hours to fulfill that crazy law. (Princess most consistently offers cruises of this type, and from time to time I’ve seen Celebrity offer similar itineraries.)
–7-day cruises departing Honolulu, Hawaii. One cruise line currently runs these cruises – Norwegian. Norwegian registered a couple of their ships in the US several years back in order to sail the Hawaiian Islands without needing to cross the Pacific. One of the stipulations for ships operating under the American flag is that a certain percentage of the crew must be American. This is problematic for cruise lines as Americans cost (much) more to pay and are used to working (much) less than many of the nationalities cruise lines typically hire. Having American-registered ships actually cost Norwegian quite a lot of money until they ironed out their operating costs. The result, after a few years, is that it costs as much to sail for seven days on an NCL cruise among the Hawaiian islands as it does to sail 15-days RT from LA. (I don’t know about you, but I’d take the longer cruise any day…)
-Every so often you’ll see an itinerary sailing from Vancouver or Victoria to Honolulu. (Royal Caribbean)
–World cruises and Tahiti itineraries also sometimes stop in Hawaii. (Various cruise lines)
If you’re going to sail trans-pac (across the Pacific), be aware that the waters are rough! I’ve sailed trans-pac for months at a time and there is always at least one point in each crossing where the boat starts tossing and turning like crazy. The waves are huge. I always enjoyed it. But if you get sea-sick, be sure to sail on a larger boat, the bigger the better! And pick a cabin centered (horizontally and vertically) in the ship. If you enjoy the crazy rocking, like me, pick a cabin at either end, as far forward or aft as is available and as high up as available. Fun!!
-Ten sea-days is a LOT of sea-days. There are typically a ton of activities to participate in on boats, but if you bore easily, again, be sure to pick a larger (newer) boat as it will have more things to do onboard.
Have any questions for Christy? I love helping people find the perfect cruise! Leave me a comment below.