Guide to Cruising Hawaii 

Blissful beaches, spectacular volcanoes and sapphire waters- it isn’t hard to see why Hawaii is such a popular holiday destination. And what better way to appreciate these fabulous islands than with a Hawaii cruise?   

What is the best time of year to cruise to Hawaii? 

The best time of year for cruising Hawaii all depends on what you’re looking for. 

Are you an animal enthusiast? Cruising Hawaii between November and May is probably best for you, as this is Hawaiian whale watching season.

Hawaii’s wet season is November-March, but don’t let that put you off too much. Showers tend to be brief, and temperatures are often still in the mid-twenties.  

It’s also worth mentioning that from December to March is when Hawaii’s seas tend to be roughest, with waves up to forty feet tall – so those prone to seasickness should perhaps avoid cruising Hawaii during these months.  

If you’re dreaming of a Hawaiian summer holiday, be aware that your choices can be limited as fewer cruise lines tend to visit during the height of summer.  

What Cruise Lines go to Hawaii? 

Norwegian Cruise Line 

Thanks to passenger shipping laws, foreign-flagged cruise ships cannot sail an entirely USA based itinerary and must call at one foreign port first. This can be annoying if you only really want to cruise to Hawaii. Luckily, NCL found a way around this by launching their US-flagged cruise ship Pride of America. This ship cruises to Hawaii exclusively all year round, with no need to call at any foreign port. It’s also worth mentioning that Norwegian Cruise Line is the only major cruise line to do this.  

Their ship Norwegian Spirit also visits Hawaii, but as it does not fly a USA flag it must call at foreign ports before doing so. 

Princess Cruises  

Princess Cruises’ ships offer so many wonderful amenities to enjoy in-between your days exploring Hawaii’s shores including destination immersion on-board. Relax and unwind sipping coffee and watching street performers at the European-style Piazza or Italian style Atrium. Or perhaps you’d rather spend your days on-board admiring the paintings at the art gallery. Then, spend your evenings playing blackjack at the Vegas style casino or cuddling up for Movies Under the Stars.  

The following Princess ships visit Hawaii:  

  • Grand Princess 
  • Majestic Princess  
  • Island Princess

Holland America Line 

Make the most of your Hawaii cruise with Explorations Central destination programming, designed to give you a true feel of each location’s culture. Once you’ve enjoyed each port to the fullest, relax on-board at the Greenhouse spa and salon. Music lovers will also love sailing with Holland America line, with great musical venues on-board, including BB King’s blues club, the Rolling Stone rock club and Billboard Onboard, a piano club playing top chart hits.  

The Holland America Line ships that sail to Hawaii include: 

  • Zuiderdam 
  • Westerdam 
  • Noordam 
  • Konningsdam 

Celebrity Cruises 

Play your favourite outdoor games at Celebrity Eclipse’s lawn club and beat the Hawaiian heat with an icy cocktail from Slush. In the evenings, chill out in style with a tipple from the World Class Cocktail Bar.  

Carnival Cruise Line 

Cruise to Hawaii on Carnival Miracle for a wonderfully whacky experience. Lovers of all things spooky will adore dancing at Dr. Frankenstein’s Lab or watching a show at the Phantom Lounge. And if you’re a fan of the whimsical world of Alice in Wonderland, you’ll have a fabulous time enjoying karaoke and comedy shows at the Mad Hatter’s Ball Lounge.  

Those with a sweet tooth will be in heaven at the Cherry on Top candy store, whilst cocktail connoisseurs will love the artistic creations of the alchemy bar.  

Royal Caribbean 

Take in Hawaii’s sensational views from Quantum of the Seas’ North Star viewing platform. Afterwards, head to the Bionic Bar for a yummy drink made by a robot. Then finish your day by watching the hi-tech live performance Starwater. 


Travellers to Hawaii aboard Cunard’s Queen Victoria can spend sea days relaxing in the winter gardens, or enjoying sporting activities such as fencing. And astrology enthusiasts will love sipping on the Zodiac themed cocktails in the Chart Room.  

What ports will I visit on a Cruise to Hawaii? 


This gorgeous port really has something for everyone. Sunbathers can relax on the warm sands of Waikiki beach whilst animal lovers can swim with dolphins at Dolphin Quest Oahu. World War Two buffs, on the other hand, should visit the USS Arizona memorial, as well as the other memorials and museums, at Pearl Harbour.  

Those interested in the history of Hawaii before its time as a US state should visit the magnificent Iolani Palace, once home to the Hawaiian royal family in its time as the Kingdom of Hawaii.  

Honolulu is also blessed with a number of scenic hiking opportunities. Try the two-mile hike to majestic Manoa Falls. Or if you’re keen for a challenge, take on the rugged trail to Diamondhead Crater. 

For a fabulous family day out, try the Polynesian Cultural Centre. This living theme park offers fun activities for all ages, including hula dancing, spear throwing and canoe paddling.  


Kona is an incredible port for those intrigued by Hawaii’s history. Explore Puuhonua O Honaunau, the City of Refuge, with its ancient temples and fishponds. Or visit the Kealakekua Bay historical park, site of the first interaction between Hawaiians and westerners in the 1700’s. Here you will find the Captain Cook monument, as well as the Hikiau Heiua temple to the god Lono- an ancient site of human sacrifice.  

If you’re keen to enjoy Hawaii’s excellent snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities, head to Kealakekua bay, Hawaii’s largest marine life conservation site.  

However you decide to spend your day in Kona, make sure you grab a cup of Kona coffee at some point. The beans are grown in plantations around the port. 


Hilo is a port of phenomenal natural beauty. It is perhaps best known for Kaumana Caves National Park, an enormous 25-mile-long lava tube carved by the eruption of Mauna Loa. Hilo is also home to the Volcanoes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve.   

Hilo’s natural beauty isn’t simply limited to its volcanic wonders though- it’s also home to the magnificent 422-foot-tall Akaka falls. And it’s sure to be a hit with budding botanists, as it’s known as the orchid capital of the world. 


Visit the spectacular Haleakeala National Park to see the Haleakala crater where the demigod Maui supposedly lassoed the sun. Children familiar with the legendary figure through Disney’s Moana will find this especially exciting. Afterwards, swim in the glorious waters of the Seven Sacred Pools, surrounded by rainforests and waterfalls.  

Or, if you’re more interested in history, try the Lahaina historic trail. This trail begins at the Baldwin Home Museum and finishes at a humongous 60 foot tall, 16 trunked Banyan tree- the largest in the United States. 


This island is fabulous for cruisers wanting to be active. At Wailua River state park you can enjoy hiking, tubing and even water-skiing to get your adrenaline pumping. Kokee state park is also a brilliant hiking location, with stunning views of the Kalalau valley. Or perhaps you’d rather hike the Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.  

Kauai is also rich in gorgeous botanical gardens – the most famous of which is perhaps Allerton Garden, a filming location for the Jurassic Park movies.  

Coffee lovers should head to the Kauai coffee plantation, the largest in the USA. Here you can see how the beans are grown and even sample a cup of the local java yourself.  

What to eat on a cruise to Hawaii 

There is a wide array of wonderful places to eat on each of the Hawaiian Islands, but if you’re looking for recommendations, here are a few of our favourites: 

Leonard’s Bakery, Honolulu: Swing by Leonard’s bakery for yummy Malsadas – a type of Hawaiian donut. 

Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice, Maui: Hawaii is hot, and what better way to cool down than with a refreshing bowl of shaved ice? 

Joey’s Kitchen, Maui: This is a great spot to try the classic Hawaiian dish of Loco Moco, white rice topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg and gravy. 

Fish Express, Kauai: Here you can sample Poke, a delicious traditional Hawaiian dish made of chopped and marinated raw fish- perfect for sushi lovers.  

Island Ona Loa Grill, Kona: This is a great place to eat roast pig Hawaiian style, known as Kalua Pua’a.  

What to pack for a Hawaiian Cruise 

  • Flip Flops 
  • Suncream 
  • Insect repellent 
  • Lightweight clothes that can be layered if needed 
  • Hiking shoes and clothes 
  • Swimwear and swim shoes 
  • Beach towels 
  • Beach supplies (e.g. beach ball) 
  • Raincoats 
  • Snorkels 
  • Sandals 
  • Lightweight backpack for excursions 
  • Toiletries 
  • Formal wear and accompanying shoes 
  • Underwater camera 

How to prepare for a cruise to Hawaii 

Before your Hawaii cruise, you must ensure that you have the correct documents. This includes: 

If you are a permanent UK resident and have an e-passport, we recommend opting for the Visa Waiver Program. You can find the appropriate program for you via the US state department website.  

Once you’ve arranged all necessary documentation, we recommend reading up on all of the ports you will be visiting and booking any activities and excursions in advance. You should also check what attractions will cost at the time you will be visiting.  

If you’re keen to visit ancient temples, hike humongous volcanoes and sip Mai Tais whilst watching grass-skirted hula dancers, then just take a look at our amazing Hawaii cruise deals to find the island hopping holiday for you. 

Charlotte Richards

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