Honeymooners flock here for a reason: The place is gorgeous and culturally vibrant. Even The Brady Bunch schlepped Alice and the six kids to Hawaii (you didn’t see them going to Disney World, did you?). However, it’s not all about surfer boys and hula girls. The diverse landscape on this cluster of islands in the Pacific ranges from fuming volcanoes to crashing surf, serene beaches, and lush jungles. In a place where the weather really is perfect all the time, it’s no surprise that the locals are so mellow. Learn to surf, go to a luau, snooze on the sand, float in warm water surrounded by rainbow-colored tropical fish, enjoy the local coffee, or check out the native Hawaiian culture, of which the locals are fiercely proud. The past survives alongside the modern world in a vibrant arts scene, which includes traditional Polynesian dance and music, as well as painting, sculpture, and crafts. You’ll also likely get a glimpse of age-old customs such as outrigger canoe races, the most popular sport in all of Hawaii, and, of course, the ubiquitous ukulele playing.

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has one year-round ship that cruises among the islands round-trip from Honolulu (down from a high of four ships, which NCL realized was too many for the mar­ket). Thanks to some intense lobbying in Congress a few years back, NCL’s Hawaii vessel sails under the U. S. flag, which means the ship can concentrate solely on
the islands and doesn’t have to throw in a call to a foreign port (a requirement for foreign-flagged vessels). In isolated Hawaii, this is a real advantage and no other competing line currently has it (see NCL review on p. 197 for details).

Aside from NCL’s cruises, other ships typically stop in the islands in April, May, September, and October. The four main ports here are Oahu, where you’ll find the famous Waikiki Beach; Maui, home of the historic town of Lahaina; Kauai, the most natural and undeveloped of the four; and Kona and Hilo on the Big Island, home of the state’s famous volca­noes, including Mauna Kea and the still – active Kilauea.

HOME PORTS FOR THIS REGION Honolulu, on Oahu, is the main hub for inter-island cruises. Foreign-flagged ves­sels generally sail from the mainland— from ports such as Ensenada (Mexico), San Diego, Seattle, and/or Vancouver— hitting the Hawaiian Islands as they cruise between seasons in the Caribbean and Alaska.

LANGUAGE & CURRENCY While English is the official language, it is infused with a few native Hawaiian words, including the customary greeting, aloha. (Contrary to what you may believe, “Book ’em, Danno” is not actu­ally a native phrase.) The U. S. dollar is the official currency.