Top 5 Best Cruise Lines for Hawaii

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best cruise lines hawaii

A cruise to Hawaii is a dream for many. It’s considered a premium destination because it offers a unique blend of adventure, relaxation, and natural beauty.

Cobalt blue waters, stunning coral reefs, and golden sandy beaches are just some of the things you will find there.

Choosing the right cruise line is crucial if you really want to enjoy your vacation.

In selecting the top 5 cruise lines for Hawaii, I’ve considered several factors:

  • Service Quality: exceptional service with attention to every detail.
  • Routes: itineraries that cover the most beautiful and iconic locations across the Hawaiian Islands.
  • Amenities: onboard amenities that cater to all ages and interests, from spas to activities and entertainment.
  • Value for Money: offers that provide the best experience for your budget, ensuring you get the most out of every dollar spent.
  • Unique Offerings: each cruise line has something special, whether it’s cultural immersion programs, exclusive shore excursions, or onboard entertainment that captures the spirit of Hawaii.

Following the factors that I’ve mentioned above, I’ve created a list of the top 5 cruise lines.

Let’s see what they are and why they stand out from the others.

1. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)

Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America

In my opinion, and based on reviews, Norwegian Cruise Line is the best cruise line for visiting Hawaii. It specifically uses its Pride of America ship for this route.

The reason behind that choice is that NCL’s Pride of America is the only major cruise ship US-flagged.

This designation allows it to travel directly between U.S. ports without needing to stop in a foreign port.

In fact, according to the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886, foreign-flagged cruise ships, which most major cruise lines are, must include a foreign port in their itinerary to comply with U.S. maritime law if they start and end in a U.S. port and visit other U.S. ports in between.

This is why cruises from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii often include stops in Canada or Mexico.

This requirement extends the length of the cruise and limits the time available to explore Hawaii for other cruise lines.

Other reasons why I love NCL? The Pride of America is not excessively big, it has a capacity of over 2,100 passengers, so you can really focus on the place you’re going to visit and not the ship itself.

Plus, NCL offers a freestyle type of cruising. You will have a lot of flexibility in choosing dining times, entertainment, and experiences.

Hawaiian Show on NCL
Hawaiian Show on NCL

Moreover, NCL is the only cruise line that offers year-round cruises exclusively within Hawaii, allowing guests to visit four islands in seven days without the need for inter-island flights.

This unique route offers a comprehensive Hawaiian experience, from Oahu to Kauai.

I have to admit that it costs a little more than others, and you have to fly to Honolulu, but it is absolutely worth it.

2. Royal Caribbean International

Brilliance of the Seas sailing to Hawaii
Brilliance of the Seas Sailing to Hawaii

Royal Caribbean offers an 8-night Hawaii Cruise departing from Honolulu with stops at several key destinations. I would consider that as the second-best choice for a cruise to Hawaii.

The thing that I really like about Royal Caribbean is the onboard experience, the entertainment, and the activities. Did you know that its ships have some of the biggest water slides on cruises?

On every ship, I’ve always found a relaxing and family-friendly atmosphere. Moreover, RCI is known for its high standard of service.

Hawaii show by Royal Caribbean
Hawaii show by Royal Caribbean

The itineraries often include Hawaii among their destinations. These cruises often feature transpacific journeys that combine visits to the Hawaiian Islands with other Pacific locations.

I would say this is the perfect choice if you are planning a cruise to Hawaii with your family or with kids. If you are traveling with family don’t forget to include drinks packages!

3. Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises Hawaii
Princess Cruises Hawaii

Princess offers a 16-night Hawaii cruise departing from Vancouver.

This cruise line is famous for its exceptional service and fine dining. A very positive thing is that it also offers extensive shore excursion programs designed to explore the depth of Hawaiian culture and natural beauty.

Onboard amenities include multiple dining venues, expansive spa and fitness facilities, and a variety of entertainment options. Princess also offers its unique Movies Under the Stars outdoor cinema.

I also know that sometimes they partner up with local experts and chefs to bring the authentic Hawaiian culture onboard.

Princess Cruise Hawaiian Show
Princess Cruise Hawaiian Show

4. Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line offers Hawaii cruises from the West Coast on ships like Carnival Legend, Miracle, Radiance, and Spirit which are some of their smallest ships.

The itineraries are usually 14 days from Long Beach or 15 days from Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles.

The thing that I like about Carnival is that it focuses on offering immersive Hawaiian cultural experiences and breathtaking natural sights.

View of a Hawaiian island from the ship
View of a Hawaiian island from the ship

Carnival itineraries to Hawaii often include extensive port calls so that guests can deeply explore the islands’ natural beauty, culture, and history. The only negative thing is that the line’s cruises to Hawaii are typically part of larger Pacific itineraries.

So it will not be a cruise focused exclusively on Hawaii islands.

What can I say about the quality and the services on their ships? Well, I’m pretty sure many of you already know or have already traveled with Carnival.

hawaii waterfall
Hawaii waterfall

They are renowned for their premium service and attention to detail. The line prioritizes guest experience, offering personalized service that caters to individual preferences.

I really like the entertainment on their ships and in this regard, I advise you to take a look at their theme nights to arrive prepared on board.

5. Holland America

View of Holland America's Zuiderdam
View of Holland America’s Zuiderdam

I really wanted to include Holland America in this list because it can be the right choice for a more relaxed and refined cruising experience.

Holland America Line offers a 17-night Circle Hawaii cruise departing from Vancouver.

This cruise line is known for its classic cruising experience with a focus on elegance, great dining, and impeccable service.

Like many of the other cruise lines we saw, this one also combines Hawaiian cruises with other Pacific destinations.

Holland America ship from the Hawaiian coast
Holland America ship from the Hawaiian coast

It offers a premium experience but the prices are also a bit higher if compared to the previous ones.

Moreover, this cruise line caters to a more mature audience, I wouldn’t recommend it for young couples or families with kids.

Conclusion and recap

Hawaiian Parrot
Hawaiian Parrot

I just wanna briefly recap what we’ve seen to avoid confusion.

We have seen that for those looking to explore Hawaii by sea, five cruise lines offer very distinct experiences:

Norwegian Cruise Line stands out with its U.S.-flagged “Pride of America”, offering extensive Hawaiian island visits without requiring international stops.

Royal Caribbean International is known for its innovative ships and diverse activities, it’s perfect for families and adventure-seekers.

Princess Cruises offers enriching programs and scenic cruising, ideal for those interested in cultural and natural explorations.

Carnival Cruise Line is known for its value, offering affordable pricing without compromising on service quality.

Holland America provides longer itineraries from the West Coast, featuring a mix of Hawaiian ports and a mandatory international stop, suitable for adults or those looking for a more relaxed vacation.

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