The 8 Best Hawaii Cruises of 2019

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The Rundown

Best Overall: See Norwegian Cruise Line Rates "Two paradise destinations — Hawaii and French Polynesia — in one cruise."

Runner-up, Best Overall: See Royal Caribbean Rates "A plethora of theme-park like attractions."

Best Dining Experience: See Princess Cruise Rates "Specialty dishes from award-winning Chef Curtis Stone."

Best Amenities: See Norwegian Cruise Line Rates "NCL’s Pride of America is Hawaii’s cruise ship."

Best Excursions: See Celebrity Cruises Rates "Experience Volcanoes National Park, Rainbow Falls, or Mauna Kea Summit."

Best for Activities: See Carnival Rates "Jam-packed with competitions, trivia, dance lessons, lip sync battles, karaoke, and more."

Best Small Ship: See UnCruise Rates "A refreshing alternative to the mainstream ships sailing to Hawaii."

Best Music-Themed Cruise: See Holland America Rates "There are instrumental concerts at “Lincoln Center Stage,” at the BB King Blues Club."

Our Top Picks

01 of 08

Best Overall: Norwegian Cruise Lines

Norwegian Jewel

NCL

  • Sails from: Honolulu 
  • Duration: 13 nights
  • Ship Name: Norwegian Jewel
  • Itinerary: Kahului, Maui; Hilo, Big Island; Nāwiliwili, Kaua`i Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia; Moorea, French Polynesia; Bora Bora, French Polynesia; Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

NCL combines two paradise destinations into one cruise aboard Norwegian Jewel with five days spent island-hopping in Hawaii followed by four different ports in French Polynesia. Following an extensive dry dock in 2018, the 2,376-passenger Jewel has a fresh new look from top to bottom, with new additions like a sizzling dance club, Bliss Ultra Lounge, and Pit Stop, a 50s-style American diner. Guests can relax in several types of cabins including the Haven, a premier area of the ship with 24-hour butler service, concierge service, and private sundeck. The ship will also spend an overnight in beautiful Nāwiliwili, Kaua`I (the “Garden Island”) for an opportunity to experience a traditional Hawaiian luau. 

02 of 08

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Ovation of the Seas, berthed in Sydney Harbour.

James D. Morgan / Getty Images

  • Sails from: Vancouver
  • Duration: 10 nights
  • Ship Name: Ovation of the Seas
  • Itinerary: Seattle, Washington; Kona, Big Island; Lahaina, Maui; Honolulu, Oahu

If you’re looking for a plethora of theme park-like attractions to keep you entertained while sailing to the Hawaiian Islands, then the Ovation of the Seas will not disappoint. Built in 2016, Ovation is currently ranked as one of the 10 largest cruise ships in the world with onboard features like a skydiving simulator, a cocktail bar tended by robots, aerial performances in the theater, and the North Star, a moving observation “pod” with surreal views. Or, dine at specialty restaurants like Chops Grille, Royal Caribbean’s iconic steakhouse, Wonderland, or Giovanni’s table, a favorite Italian restaurant. After departing from Vancouver, passengers are also treated to a stop in Seattle plus an overnight in Maui. 

03 of 08

Best Dining Experience: Princess Cruises

Star Princess cruise ship

Richard Cummins/ Getty Images

  • Sails from: Los Angeles
  • Duration: 14 nights
  • Ship Name: Star Princess
  • Itinerary: Hilo, Big Island; Honolulu, Oahu; Nawiliwili, Lahaina, Maui; Ensenada, Mexico; Los Angeles, California

If you enjoy days at sea and are interested in cruising round-trip from the mainland U.S., the two-week voyage on the 2,600-passenger Star Princess is a top choice. Meals in the main dining rooms are a cut above those of other mainstream vessels, with specialty dishes from award-winning Chef Curtis Stone gracing the menu. Stroll the ship’s central atrium, a lovely Piazza with European flair that’s home to lively street performers, elegant shops, a wine bar, and café. In the evenings, soak in movies under the stars, dance the night away, or take in an original theater production. The ship spends a total of nine days at sea and also calls on Ensenada, Mexico before returning to Los Angeles. 

04 of 08

Best Amenities: Norwegian Cruise Line

NCL Pride of America

NCL

  • Sails from: Honolulu
  • Duration: 7 nights
  • Ship Name: Pride of America
  • Itinerary: Kahului, Maui; Hilo, Big Island, Kona, Big Island; Nāwiliwili, Kaua`i

NCL’s Pride of America is Hawaii’s cruise ship. Stationed year-round in Hawaii, Pride of America has a regular schedule of week-long, round-trip cruises from Honolulu. The 2,186-passenger ship has more than 15 restaurants and 12 bars and lounges, plus a range of cabins including solo passenger staterooms, family cabins, and balconies to soak in gorgeous island views. Unwind in the full-service spa or explore onboard shops offering clothing made in Hawaii. Every seven-night cruise includes two overnight stays (in Maui and Kauai) for a whopping 100 hours in port – more than most week-long cruises. There’s also a day spent cruising the breathtaking Napali Coast of Kauai. 

Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08

Best Excursions: Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Eclipse Cruise Ship

Celebrity Cruises

  • Sails from: Honolulu
  • Duration: 10-nights
  • Ship Name: Celebrity Eclipse
  • Itinerary: Lahaina, Maui; Kailua Kona; Big Island; Hilo; Big island

During the 10-night cruise to Vancouver aboard Celebrity Eclipse, passengers can choose from several staterooms, including the AquaClass, located near the spa, which comes with exclusive access to Blu specialty restaurant as well as unlimited use of the spa’s thermal suite. Or, book a cabin in Suite class and enjoy butler service and dining at Luminae, an elegant international restaurant. Other highlights onboard Eclipse range from the luxurious Canyon Ranch Spa to the outdoor lawn club – a living, breathing space at sea. The voyage includes an overnight in Hilo for two full days to experience Volcanoes National Park, Rainbow Falls, or Mauna Kea Summit for sunset and stargazing.

06 of 08

Best for Activities: Carnival

Water slide on the Carnival Freedom cruise ship
Carnival Cruise Lines
  • Sails from: Honolulu 
  • Duration: 14 nights
  • Ship Name: Carnival Miracle
  • Itinerary: Kahului, Maui; Honolulu, Oahu; Nāwiliwili, Kaua`I; Kona, Big Island; Hilo, Big Island; Ensenada, Mexico; San Diego, California

If you’re looking for a festive atmosphere while cruising to Hawaii, Carnival Miracle delivers non-stop excitement. The daily activity program is jam-packed with competitions, trivia, dance lessons, lip sync battles, karaoke, and more. Popular game shows come to life with “Hasbro, the Game Show,” plus there’s a roster of musical performances in the theater. Passengers can try some unusual drink concoctions at the Alchemy Bar or sip craft beer at the Red Frog Pub while listening to live music. When it comes to dining, enjoy a leisurely Sunday brunch, or, for a special night out, reserve a seat at the Steakhouse or Chef’s Table. When you need a break from the action, there’s the Cloud 9 spa or Serenity Adult-Only retreat.

07 of 08

Best Small Ship: UnCruise

UnCruise

UnCruise

  • Sails from: Molakai
  • Duration: 7 nights
  • Ship Name: Safari Explorer
  • Itinerary: Kuanakakai, Molokai; Lanaʻi; Olowalu, Maui; Honomalino Bay; Kailua-Kona, Big Island; Kawaihae Harbor, Big Island

If you’re a cruiser who prefers smaller ships and all-inclusive pricing, UnCruise can be a refreshing alternative to the mainstream ships sailing to Hawaii. With just 36 passengers and 15 crew members aboard boutique vessel Safari Explorer, travelers can easily develop a sense of comradery while visiting several Hawaiian ports of call that the larger ships don’t stop in. Plus, some truly unique activities are included in the price, like a night snorkel with Giant Pacific Manta Rays, a visit with a local Kahuna in Molokai’s ancient Halawa Valley, and wildlife searching in the Humpback National Marine Sanctuary. Passengers cruise in comfort with a sun lounge, library, and well-appointed cabins fitted with Tempur-Pedic mattresses and heated tile floors in bathrooms. 

08 of 08

Best Music-Themed Cruise: Holland America

Lido swimming pool on the Holland America Koningsdam cruise ship
Koningsdam (c) Linda Garrison
  • Sails from: San Diego
  • Duration: 16 nights
  • Ship Name: MS Koningsdam
  • Itinerary: Honolulu, Oahu; Lahaina, Maui; Kona, Big Island; Hilo, Big Island; Ensenada, Mexico

Holland America’s mid-sized fleet offers a more sophisticated cruise experience than most mainstream vessels, and those cruising to Hawaii on the MS Koningsdam can experience a musically-themed cruise voyage. In the evening, there are instrumental concerts at “Lincoln Center Stage,” at the BB King Blues Club, the two-story World Stage to Music Walk, Rolling Stone Rock Room, and Billboard Onboard — an interactive setting for rock music. The ship also focuses on food and drink with live cooking demonstrations in America’s Test Kitchen and Blend, a hands-on cocktail class. The cruise's round-trip voyage from San Diego spans a lengthy 16 nights and includes an overnight in Honolulu. 

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