A Hawaiian cruise was the whole reason for this family trip. Wendy (Stephanie’s sister) really wanted to see as much of Hawaii in a short time as she could. Given that we’d spent time in Hawaii previously, we were content to let Wendy direct this show. Now – we love to cruise (some of my faves were our trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific crossings), and we love Hawaii, but honestly, we would not have thought to combine these two things. There is so much to see and do on the islands, and with a cruise, you simply don’t have enough time. (We call most cruises “sampler platters.”) That being said, it’s pretty hard not to have a great time on a Hawaiian cruise!
So after our great week in Maui, we hopped an early morning flight to Honolulu where we met up with Wendy, her wife Linda, and four of our nieces: Emily, Allie, Rachel and Ellie; all six of whom will hereafter be referred to as “The New Jersey Contingent.” Our first day, we took it easy exploring the ship and relaxing in the pool. Dinner the first night was at the buffet. What?! No formal dinner in the dining room in my tux with ballroom dancing to follow? How ever was I going to survive? No problem. Being the smooth, advanced traveler that I am, I downshifted into casual mode, and prepared to have a nice understated cruise.
Our first full day brought us right back to Kahului, Maui from where we had just departed less than 24 hours prior. (We joked that we could have stayed on Maui and picked up the ship the next day, but once I pointed out that we would have missed several buffets, we agreed we had made the right choice.) Barry and Ann decided to stay on board, while the rest of us piled into two rental cars to tackle the famous Road to Hana.
The Hana Highway is a twisty, 52-mile road that is considered one of the most beautiful drives in the U.S. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places since many of the bridges date back over a century. This wonderful drive used to be extremely narrow often forcing cars to negotiate around each other with a cliff walls on one side, and a nasty drop on the other. We were excited to show it all to the rest of our family. Who cares that it was raining? Who cares that it was raining?
Our first stop was at a waterfall called Haipuena Falls. The name doesn’t matter as much as the fact that this is just one of the many gorgeous waterfalls, surrounded by lush tropical foliage, for which the Road to Hana is famous. And the fact that this is one in which you can swim! At first everyone declared the water to be too cold, but after climbing upstream a bit, Emily and I decided to double back and take the plunge. Pretty soon all of us were in the pool at the base of the falls. Since our last visit, someone had hung a rope ladder over the pool, and we took turns trying to climb up it with varying degrees of success.
We stopped at the Ke’anae Arboretum for a short hike through tons of nature. It’s a state-owned place that’s free, and the plants are varied and well-marked, so we really enjoyed finding lots of new flora.
We continued on to the Ke’anae peninsula, and we drove to the end of the road that travels down it. Here, the rainy day was making for some huge surf which sent football-sized lava rocks rolling and tumbling with each breaking wave.
VIDEO: Big waves and rolling rocks
A few more waterfall-viewing stops along the way, and we were at Waianapanapa State Park. This is the home of Maui’s famous black sand beach, and the girls were fascinated with it.
In keeping with the colored sand theme, our next stop was the red sand beach. To get to this one, you have to take a 15 minute hike along the shore around a mountain. Your reward is a secluded beach made of red, volcanic sand, towering cliff walls above you, and a protected cove to swim in. Stunning!
We had two days on Maui, which left us with an interesting problem: What would we do with our rental cars overnight? Even if we wanted to pay exorbitant cruise-port prices, there’s no parking to be had at Maui’s cruise port, and all the shopping plazas in walking distance warn that they will tow if you leave your car overnight. Luckily, however, there is an open lot on the faaaaaar side of the cruise harbor, about a half-mile away. We rolled the dice, left our cars there, and walked back to the ship. (Both cars were perfectly fine when we returned the next morning. Yay!)
For dinner that night, we went to the formal dining room, but the best they could do for us walk-ins was two tables for four. The girls all ran to get a table together, which gave us an opportunity to have a nice dinner with Wendy and Linda. (Barry and Ann had eaten much earlier while we were on shore). We knew we didn’t want to sit separately again, so after dinner, we all converged on Barry and Ann’s stateroom to make a plan. If you think cruise ship cabins are tight when there’s only two of you, try stuffing ten people into one room.
For our second day on Maui, we hit the beaches. First up, our favorite turtle-spotting beach: Po’olenalena. We’ve written about this beach before, and we were hoping to introduce our family to our friends the sea turtles (Honu in Hawaiian). There were four Green Sea Turtles there, and they completely ignored us as they swam round and round some rocks looking for tasty algae. After snorkeling with the honus, we changed beaches to Maluaka beach. There were more turtles, followed by frolicking in the waves, having chicken fights and stacking nieces on top of ourselves.
Back on board, NCL actually advertised a ballroom dancing event. Stephanie and I got all dressed up and headed over to check it out. The bad news was that the dance floor was maybe 12 feet across. The good news was that we had it pretty much to ourselves. Very good news, actually, since it could only hold about three couples. This being our most formal night, we had a formal cruise photo taken of our whole gang.
Our next day was at Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. Since we would be spending a week on the Big Island soon, we opted for a leisurely day rather than run all over trying to see the volcano with too little time. We went into town with Barry and Ann, checked out Hilo’s famous craft market, and even saw some live music. The market is usually a weekend thing, but they open up when the cruise ship is in port.
Back on board, we learned how to make fresh flower leis, and then experienced the most amazing part of the entire cruise so far. THE POPCORN MACHINE! (No photos sadly.)
OK, that was #2. The highlight was sailing past the point where lava from Kilauea cascades into the ocean. The ship turned off her lights so we could really appreciate the glowing lava in the darkness. Neither the photos, nor our video do it justice.
VIDEO: Kilauea at Night
We’ll leave you with this photo until next time.