Even the most beautiful cruise ship with all the amenities you could want can't beat the beauty you'll find in Hawaii. Cruises to Hawaii usually visit Oahu, Maui, the Big Island and Kauai. Voyages from the West Coast also stop at Fanning Island in the Republic of Kiribati -- a necessity for ships not registered to the U.S. in order to comply with passenger shipping laws. Fanning Island is known for its beaches. Lanai and Molokai are also available as shore excursions. Repositioning cruises are often longer, with more days at sea. Ports of call usually stop only at Oahu and Maui, while venturing further west to places like Fiji and Tahiti. These trips occur only once or twice a year, so there is only a narrow section of dates available.
Shore excursions can be a bit pricey, as Hawaii's main business is tourism. Still, many find the alluring activities worth the money. Families can snorkel the coral reefs, peruse the local shopping, witness active volcanoes or learn about cultural rituals. Oahu is home to Pearl Harbor -- a magnet for tourists. The attractions are best suited to kids who enjoy war history. Even school-age kids have a good time at the USS Arizona Memorial. Families can pick up a Junior Ranger Booklet that features KOA, a cartoon dolphin, who explains the memorial in a way kids can grasp. When kids complete the booklet, they receive a Junior Ranger badge. With extra time to spare, visitors can take a submarine tour of the USS Bowfin or scope out the Mighty Mo (USS Missouri) battleship. Oahu also offers a laid-back vibe, charming restaurants and beaches that go on for miles.
Big Island is big enough for two ports -- Kona and Hilo. Near Kona, families can explore the small village town and nearby historical attractions via self-guided tour. The main sites are King Kamehameha's Mokuaikaua Church and Hulihee Palace. These offer a glance into the rich cultural history of the area. Hilo is set in Volcanoes National Park, offering proximity to beautiful natural wonders. Families can get up close and personal with steam vents and observe lava flowing into the sea. Day trips feature tours of the Dole Pineapple Plantation are available on the Big Island, too. This excursion is popular with kids, as it offers the largest maze in the world, rides on the Pineapple Express train ride and of course, tasty samples of the fruit.
Maui's two ports are Lahaina and Kahului. Haleakala Crater is the most popular natural attraction on this island. It is accessible from either port, though at three hours roundtrip it's a bit of a drive for young children. Lahaina is close to Kaanapali Beach, offering an artsy, historical feel. Baby Beach is in Lahaina, offering mild and calm waves for young children. Visitors can also find surf lessons, hula shows and luaus. Kahului, as the financial center of the island, is less distinctive without the shops and beaches, but provides a larger docking facility. Also known as one of the world's best whale-watching spots, families can keep a lookout on the waters for humpback whales. Every fall hundreds migrate to the island in order to give birth and care for their young.
Kauai is another family favorite in Hawaii. Waimea Canyon, often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, makes for a rewarding day trip. On the drive up to the canyon, notice the sugar cane fields and the beautiful flora of Koloa. Hikes are easy enough for children to walk while exploring caves, waterfalls and beaches. There are different species of wildlife to discover on land and when snorkeling underwater. The main town of Lihue is a good place to stop and look around, too. Families can also combine the canyon tour with a sail up the Wailua River to Fern Grotto. Smith's Family Garden Luau is known as one of the best on the island. Luau guests will have a chance to make leis, sample local delicacies and witness cultural dances.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line offers itineraries that travel for seven days among the islands. It is the only line to offer cruises that begin and end in Hawaii. Often, the only downside of a Hawaiian cruise is physically getting to Hawaii, which can be a long flight (or two) for little ones. Other cruise lines sail from the U.S.'s west coast, Mexico or Canada. While these trips eradicate the need for air travel, they also add on at least eight days to travel from the mainland. Christmas and summer are the high-seasons, so prices are significantly higher. Low season is between Thanksgiving and mid-December and typically brings with it bargains.
Need more information on Hawaii? Check out our Hawaii destination page. Planning a cruise for your family? Read our Family Cruises article. For more information on Hawaii cruises, visit our sister site Cruise Critic.