Cruising the Hawai’ian Islands – An Aussie’s First Time

Boarding a cruise ship is always a crowded affair. It was so in Honolulu. What surprised us was that we had to take the locks off our suitcases before boarding. The ship, Norwegian “Pride of America”, was a similar size to the Princess ships that we had cruised in around Australia. So we expected to get to our stateroom after boarding the ship. We boarded around 12.30pm only to enter our stateroom at 5.30pm. We found out later that the crew was all American citizens, meaning they had to be paid at higher rates than the crews on other cruise lines. Norwegian were the only cruise line allowed by American law just to cruise around the islands. Other cruise lines had to visit at least one foreign port. This meant there were fewer crew members to do the work.

We found that the selection of free restaurants was not as extensive as with Princess. We dined mostly in their buffet restaurant and a couple of times in their East-West restaurant. These were fine. By Australian standards, the coffee on board ship leaves much to be desired.

We found our stateroom was the best designed one we had seen with a better arrangement of the bed; more cupboards space and better designed bathroom and shower.

The theatre was more spacious and it was easier to move to and from your seat. People could move past you without the need for you to stand. However the Mardi Gras cabaret showroom was smaller than in Princess and the view from the rear not as good. Still, as the cruise went on, the performances in these two areas were of a high quality.

For those that liked to walk or run to wear off the effects of too much food, the promenade deck had a walkway of length 546 metres. Three times around was a mile (over 1.6 kilometres). The walkway was much wider than those we had seen previously on other ships.

The purpose of the cruise was to see the islands of Hawaii. Consequently, during the day, there was a lack of things to do on the ship if you arrived back early from a tour. There was only one port where tenders were required to take us ashore. We were impressed at how easy it was to get on and off the tender and how spacious they were compared to others we had been on.

We arranged to do a tour at each port we visited, six in all. We discovered Roberts Tours on an internet search. It turned out that they were the biggest tour operators in America in their green busses. We found them better priced than the tours organised through Norwegian Cruises Lines. In fact, by booking several tours through them as what they called “Combo Tours” we saved at least $100 each. Their service was excellent, always on time with great driver/guides who were able to go extra places when the time permitted. We found the guides very knowledgeable and didn’t talk too much. They gave clear instructions with regard to departure times and made good suggestions about food and so on.

Security was a very big issue. On returning to ship and pier, we had to show photo I. D. as well as our cruise card to even get on the pier or the tender or off the bus on returning from the tour.

The thing that surprised me the most about the islands on the cruise was the altitude that buses climbed without our realising that we were at a high altitude. I found I would look out the window of the bus and see an altitude sign like 2400 feet. We never seemed to be so high. It is not something you see in Australia. We, of course, took the tour to the highest volcano on the islands. It was reputed to be the highest on the earth because it is a mountain that rises from depths of the sea. It was over 10000 feet above sea level. Our bus was only able to take us to 9500 feet where we were able to see its huge crater and walk up to a minor peak some 400 metres. It was quite a demanding walk because of the lack of oxygen at that height.

We did see an active volcano. From the viewing platform, it was possible to see lava bubbling to the surface of the crater. Later that evening, the ship cruised past another lava flow. This was bigger and the lava was flowing into the sea. This was much more spectacular.

On the island tours, you see lots of coffee and macadamia plantations. On one plantation which had quite a variety of activities, we found pineapple ice cream. It is a pleasure not to be missed. The coffee plantations we visited allowed coffee tasting. We saw the famous surfing beaches where the Pro tournaments are held. Another spot we saw was the start and finish of the famous Hawaiian Iron Man triathlon.

All the islands were very green with very steep rugged mountains. There was wet and a dry side of each island with a great variation in rainfall. One side of each island tended to be the windy side with the other side protected from the wind by the high mountains. For us the weather was great. The only time we needed a jumper was on board the ship where the air conditioning was sometimes too cold.

Each island had a highway which circumnavigated the island, usually close to the beach. We found on our bus tours to get the best view you needed seats on the right hand side of the bus.

If you only going to visit Hawaii once in your lifetime, you must include the cruise as part of your holiday as well as Honolulu, Waikiki, Pearl Harbour and tour around the island from Honolulu.

Cruise Vacations – An Overview For First Time Cruisers

All aboard! You’re going on your very first cruise. Lucky you! This is an exciting time. Huge adventure awaits you, but before you go, there are some things you need to know. Here is an overview of cruise vacations for first time cruisers.

Costs

Many first-timers are confused about what’s included in your cruise price. As a general rule, meals, snacks, onboard activities and entertainment are included in the stateroom prices. Here’s some great news that might surprise you: even room service is included! Beverages such as water, juice, tea and coffee are typically included, as well. Other beverages, such as those from the bar – soda, beer, wine and cocktails – are an additional cost. You’ll also have to pay extra for babysitting, salon and spa services, gambling and purchases from the gift shop. Fortunately, all these expenses are charged to your room, alleviating the worry of carrying cash everywhere onboard.

There are other activities that you’ll have to budget for, namely, shore excursions. There are many options available, from simply shopping forays to extensive guided tours. Most cruise lines have specialists that can help you book your offshore activities. It’s typically wise to utilize this service, as the cruise experts have loads of experience and know which companies are reputable, and which to avoid. Many activities book up quickly, so plan ahead. It’s also a good idea to book spa and salon appointments well in advance.

Gratuity

Many cruise lines factor gratuities into your final bill when the cruise ends. Others leave this amount up to you. If you’re in charge of the tip, follow this rule of thumb: $3 per person, per day for your cabin steward, busboy and cabin steward. All gratuities should be paid in cash when the cruise comes to an end. When it comes to bar beverages, you’ll have to pay at the time of service. Your servers are there for one reason: to serve you and make sure you have the best cruise experience ever. Treat them well.

Dining

Nothing says great food like a cruise. Everybody knows that cruises are notorious for exceptionally delicious cuisine and abundant dining options. Buffets, niche restaurants with high-end specialties, elegant dining rooms, cozy room service, on-the-go snack bars – they’re all yours. Try them all! Room service is usually available 24 hours a day while other options have limited hours, some serving late into the night or early in the morning. Main dining hall times frequently begin around 6:30 p.m., and permit seating through 8:30 p.m. Submit your preferred times in advance whenever possible.

Special dietary needs? No problem. Cruise lines employ top chefs who are well-versed in all kinds of dietary specialties. Vegetarian, kosher and low-fat diets being the most common special needs, these dishes are abundantly available. More specialized needs can easily be accommodated, as well. Be sure to consult your vacation cruise specialist in advance and speak to them about your dietary restrictions. That way, you can be sure to secure a perfect culinary experience.

Wardrobe

Not sure what to pack? You’re not alone. Most cruises are seaside-casual during the day, and more formal at night. When packing formal attire, men can’t go wrong with a nice, dark suit. Ladies: pack your lovely cocktail dresses. Make sure all your fabrics are appropriate for the climate in which you’re sailing.

Check with your vacation expert to determine the level of formality aboard your ship. Some lines are far more formal than others, and require tuxedos and gowns. Don’t have a tux? Check to see if rentals are available on board. Many offer this amenity. If dressing up isn’t your thing, don’t worry; most every cruise line offers exclusively casual dining options.

If you’re a water person, don’t forget to pack plenty of swimwear. Those who bring only one or two bathing suits will likely have to buy more onboard. The same goes for basic toiletries.

Motion Sickness

Afraid you might fall prey to the dreaded motion sickness? If you’ve suffered from motion sickness before, there’s a strong chance it could happen again. Some people don’t realize they’re prone to motion sickness until the ship departs. By that time, there’s no turning back, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Though all modern ships have top-notch stabilizers to reduce excess movement, it’s a great idea to bring along medication or other remedies if you’re concerned you might get seasick. Also, stick to the lower decks, as you’re more likely to feel motion at higher levels.

Now that you’re familiar with first-time cruise basics, you’re ready to embark on a journey you’ll never forget. Chances are, it will be the first of many cruises. Ahoy, and enjoy!

What to Expect Your First Time on a Cruise

A cruise is very different from any other type of vacation. If you’ve never been on one before, you’ll want to know what to expect and what to be prepared for. With a little knowledge on how to avoid hassles, a cruise can be the getaway of a lifetime.

The most important thing you should familiarize yourself with is every level of expenses. What is included with the basic charge and what isn’t. Some cruise lines will include free room service and other luxuries for free, so make sure you’re not missing out on anything. Also know what isn’t included, so you’ll know how much extra money to bring. All cruises have different policies so be sure to do your homework.

Another big thing to be ready for is sea sickness. This is especially true if you’ve never been on a ship before and don’t know whether or not you’re affected by sea sickness. There are many medicines for this and you can ask your doctor what would be best for you. One of the more popular options is a sea sickness pill, but one of the major side effects is drowsiness so be careful when you take it. Patches are also popular.

The weather will play a huge role in your cruise experience. This will depend entirely on where you cruise is chartered and what time of year it is. Most Caribbean cruises will be fairly warm year-round. Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and a pair of sunglasses. But a cruise to Alaska will be cool and sometimes downright cold. So pack accordingly.

Consider what kind of events you will be going to on the cruise when packing your clothing. Some cruises will have formal events, others won’t. You’ll want to know this in advance and be prepared for it.

Remember that cruise ships can be extremely crowded sometimes. Have designated times and locations where you and your group will meet-up later in the event that you get separated. Avoid areas that can become overcrowded easily, like elevators. Some cruise lines will have elevators that you can use to get from one level of the ship to another, but these are often so over-used that they take forever and should be saved for the older passengers.

Some cruise ships can be a pretty intense party experience, especially if you don’t have children in your group. Be sure to pace yourself when drinking. Getting drunk on a rocking ship can be a bad combo. Also, on the subject of drinking, be sure to check to see if your cruise line does automatic tips on the bill. Some cruises charge you a 15% tip automatically with alcoholic drinks, so don’t pay the tip twice by mistake.

Another important expense to note is phone calls. Your best option is to wrap up all your business, both professional and personal before you head off on your cruise, so you’ll have no need to call back and check-up on things very often. Cells phones will not work on some cruise lines. You will likely have a phone in your room, but it can actually cost up to fifteen dollars per minute to talk to someone back on land. If you must make phone calls, make them when the ship stops to make port.

When the cruise is over, have your things packed and ready to go at the specified time. The staff of cruise ships are typically very friendly, but they have to be insistent when it comes to departing guests. They need plenty of time to get the room ready for the next passengers and won’t want to wait on you. Get to bed early and try to avoid hangovers on your last night.

By planning ahead and knowing what’s available on your ship; you can assure that you and your family have the trip of lifetime.

First Time Cruising Tips: Getting From The Airport To The Ship Port

When you are going on your first cruise, it can be a little overwhelming trying to plan all of the small details of your trip. One of the details that often falls through the cracks is this: planning transportation from the airport to the cruise port, and then back again when the trip is over. This article is going to help you explore your options for transfers.

1. Cruise Ship Transportation

Many cruise lines offer buses and shuttles from the airport to the cruise port. These prices usually range from $20-$40 each way. The nice thing about booking through the cruise ship is the fact that you know you will get to the right cruise in time. You don’t want to miss the boat!

2. Private Shuttles

There are private companies that can be booked through the airport that offer shuttles to the cruise ports. These shuttles vary in price, and you will need to check their schedule ahead of time to be sure that you will get to the cruise ship in time.

3. Taxis

You can always find a taxi at the airport, and this is a great option to get you where you need to go. Before you get in the taxi, make sure to negotiate a price so that you don’t spend too much on the trip.

4. Private Car Services

There are many private car services that will drive you where you need to go. These services can sometimes be cheaper than taking a taxi, and the cars are much nicer. Ask around at the airport (or look online ahead of time) to find a good reliable car service that can drive you to the port

All of these transportation options are good choices, they will get you where you need to go. But, make sure that you schedule a little bit of extra time to be sure that you aren’t late… because the cruise ship won’t wait!