Tidewater Traveler - March 2007

Cruise Five-O


George Sellers

     I am often asked, “What is the best time to go to Hawaii?” That is an easy one to answer. “Anytime!”
      For a trip to Hawaii, seasonal variation is not a consideration as it is when planning a trip to Alaska or Europe. Because Hawaii is located in the Earth’s Tropical Zone – those latitudes that are between 23½ degrees north of the equator and 23½ degrees south of the equator – the length of day and average temperature are relatively uniform throughout the year.
      Hawaii is more that 2,000 miles from the nearest continent or large land mass, so that air moves across the Hawaiian Islands, it has been tempered and moderated by passing over vast areas of open ocean waters. Unlike DelMarVa, where air temperature and precipitation vary dramatically throughout the year because of where the air has been before it reaches the region, Hawaii boasts a consistent, mild climate year round.
Though the general climate is mild and consistent, one can experience dramatic variation within the islands. In just a few miles one can travel from a beach at sea level to an altitude of nearly 14,000 feet and in doing so experience mini-climatic changes.
      First timers to Hawaii might want to consider an early Friday morning flight from BWI, Philadelphia or Dulles, with a stop in Dallas, Chicago or Los Angeles. Such a flight would place you in Honolulu on the island of Oahu in the late afternoon or early evening of the same day. Following a limo ride to the Waikiki Beach area for hotel check-in, there is still enough time to stroll the International Market Place, the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center or Waikiki Beach, and have a relaxing dinner before retiring for the evening. Depending upon your interests, Saturday can be a day on Waikiki Beach, or a tour of Pearl Harbor, the Arizona Memorial and even the Battleship Missouri. A ride to Punch Bowl to overlook the city from the rim of the dormant volcano can be an afternoon event.
      After a leisurely start on Sunday, take a late afternoon cab to the Honolulu pier and board a cruise ship for a 7-night cruise throughout the Islands of Hawaii. Cruising from island to island is an incredibly convenient way to see the best of several islands in a short time. Once you board the ship, you will unpack and repack your suitcase one time during the week. Your ‘hotel room’ will travel from port to port overnight while you relax and rest up for the next day’s adventure. Compare this convenience to what is commonly referred to as ‘island-hopping’ by air. Though the actual flight times from island to island are relatively short, one can spend most of the day packing, checking out, transferring to the airport, waiting in line for check-in and security, claiming luggage, transferring to the next hotel, checking in and unpacking. So much better it is to sleep while your bed is transported overnight to the next port.
      On our most recent island visit, I fondly remember being seated by the teak rail of the ship’s aft patio café, having just filled my plate with fresh fruits and buns from the tropical breakfast buffet. The ship was just making its way past the harbor jetty leading into one of the Maui ports of call. I was sipping Kona coffee and listening to the fascinating Kumu (Hawaiian historian/culturalist) as she spoke of this island’s myths, legends and lore. By the time we had finished breakfast, I felt that I had a better appreciation for what we would be experiencing that day.
      Before disembarking we had been given the choice of several on-shore activities and excursions. These included such offerings as biking (coasting) from the 10,000 foot crest of the dormant Haleakala back to its base; or mini-tour buses to the famous Hana Highway of some 600 curves past dozens of cascading waterfalls and through rain forest. Other tour possibilities included SCUBA, snorkeling, visits to beaches, a pineapple plantation, a macadamia nut farm, and many other possibilities.
      On this island, Maui, we chose to rent a mid-size convertible and head out on our own. Having taken some time to study the lay of the land and make a list of things we would like to see and do, this turned out to be a very enjoyable and efficient way for us to see a lot of Maui.
      Over the past few years, the cruise industry in Hawaii has undergone some changes, but cruising the Islands of Hawaii remains the best way for first-time visitors to gain a broad sampling of what our Fiftieth State has to offer. On a typical cruise, one can expect to visit Honolulu on the Island of Oahu; Kona or Hilo on the ‘Big Island of Hawaii’; Lahaina or Kahului on the Island of Maui; and Nawiliwili on the Island of Kauai.
      In addition, because the rules of navigation prohibit non-U.S. Flagged ships to have 100% of their ports of call in the United States, nearly all of the intra-Hawaii cruise itineraries include a visit to Fanning Island in the Republic of Kiribati; an interesting twist, but necessary to comply with U.S. navigational law. A couple of years ago, Norwegian Cruise Line, long one of the lines to provide inter-island cruises, established a new cruise company registered in the United States (It is very rare for a cruise line to be U.S. Registered). Because their ships are now U.S. Flagged vessels, the need to spend a couple of days cruising to and from Fanning Island has been eliminated and more of Hawaii can be visited on a 7-night cruise.
      Hawaii cruises also depart and return to the west coast of the USA, thus eliminating the need for trans-Pacific flights. Using this pattern one can fly to the west coast, say for example to San Diego or Los Angles, and then be transported by motorcoach to board a cruise ship sailing from Los Angeles, San Diego, or Ensenada, Mexico. It can then take four to five days to reach Hawaii, at which time you will visit some of the Hawaiian ports of call named above. Return to the mainland can be by air or another four to five days on the ship.
      What’s the best time of year to go to Hawaii? Anytime. All year long Hawaii is a pleasant and welcoming destination. Aloha!
      May all of your travels be happy and safe!

     George Sellers and his wife Priscilla are Certified Travel Counselors and Accredited Cruise Counselors who own Travel Selections by Priscilla and George, Inc. and the popular travel Web site www.sellerstravel.com