Cruise ship embodies the pride of the islands
Cruising is all about options. When you're at sea, you're several hours, sometimes several days, from the next port, and it's on-board diversions that'll stop you from going stir-crazy.
Pride of Hawaii
Tours: Seven-day interisland cruises aboard Pride of Hawaii depart on Mondays from Piers 10-11 at Aloha Tower Marketplace, Honolulu Harbor, Oahu. Board any time between noon and 7 p.m. The ship departs at 8 p.m.
Fares: Start at $699 per person, double occupancy. Rates for third and fourth guests in a stateroom start at $349 per person. Free for infants under the age of 2 at the time of the cruise, but port fees and government taxes apply. When booking a cruise with an infant, inquire about the availability of crib-accommodating cabins. Also inquire about kamaaina discounts.
Web site: www.ncl.com
Spas, libraries, fitness centers, Internet cafes, video arcades, sports decks, Broadway-caliber shows, and kids' and teens' clubs are standard on liners these days, even for NCL America's fleet, which sails relatively short distances between the Hawaiian Islands.
Pride of Aloha, Pride of America and Pride of Hawaii make stops at Honolulu; Kahului; Nawiliwili, Kauai; Hilo; and Kona during their week-long interisland voyages.
"All three ships (have) an identity and personality of their own," says Robert Kritzman, executive vice president and managing director of NCL America.
"Pride of Hawaii is the largest and most luxurious of the three ships. I like the fact that she is the Pride of Hawaii, which says it all.
"She is the last of our three U.S.-flagged ships and really reflects the beauty and excitement of an exotic destination through her decor and themes. She is bright and powerful in color -- a 'wow' experience."
Adding to Pride of Hawaii's "wow" experience are accommodations, facilities and amenities that aren't available on her sister ships.
Here's a glimpse:
SS United States Library
Pride of Hawaii's SS United States Library exhibits photography, vintage advertisements, annotations and original lithographs from renowned marine artists to educate passengers about the vessel's significance in maritime history.
The library's namesake, the SS United States (ss-united-states.com, ssunitedstates.org) is the largest cruise ship ever built in the U.S. At 990 feet she could accommodate 2,000 passengers and 1,000 crew. Her ability to attain speeds of nearly 50 mph also earned her the distinction of being the world's fastest ocean liner.
World War II ended just four years before work on the "Big U" began, and for most of the time she was under construction, from 1949 to 1952, America was embroiled in the Korean War.
To address the country's concerns about being battle-ready, the Big U was built as a "wolf in sheep's clothing." Within 24 hours she could be converted to a troop ship capable of carrying 15,000 soldiers and steaming 10,000 miles without stopping for fuel or supplies.
Proudly displaying red, white and blue on her smokestacks, the Big U never was called to military duty, but she has become a symbol of patriotism that's on the National Register of Historic Places.
Norwegian Cruise Line purchased her in 2003 with the intention of placing her in service under the NCL America brand of U.S.-flagged vessels. The company is currently conducting a feasibility study that will determine the nature and timing of the rebuilding of the ship, which currently is berthed at Philadelphia's waterfront.
COURTESY NCL AMERICA
Pride of Hawaii is the largest and most luxurious of NCL America's three U.S.-flagged ships sailing between the Hawaiian islands.
Garden Villas, Courtyard Villas and Romance Suites
Measuring 4,390 square feet, the two three-bedroom Garden Villas open to panoramic views of the ocean. Each has its own garden with a hot tub and relaxation and al fresco dining areas, plus access to a private courtyard with a lap pool, hot tub and sun deck.
Other amenities include a Bose entertainment center, CD/DVD library, grand piano, refrigerator, wet bar, and butler and concierge services. At $33,000 per voyage, they're the most expensive accommodations on Pride of Hawaii.
Ten Courtyard Villas offer a living room with sitting area, dining area, minibar, separate bedroom, CD/DVD library, luxury bath and separate shower, butler and concierge services, and access to the private courtyard. Eight of the villas have a children's bedroom.
Sweethearts can hide away in one of four Romance Suites with floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open to a private balcony. These rooms also offer a full bath with tub and shower; living, dining and sitting areas; minibar; and CD/DVD library. Book early.
It's a martini bar. No, a champagne and wine bar. No, a beer and whisky bar. Actually, Bar Central is all of the above, a great gathering spot that has three connected but distinct personalities.
Tankards Beer & Whiskey Bar is a casual pub with low seating and tables. Its eye-catching artwork depicts bottles of famous whiskeys from around the world.
James Bond would love Mixers Martini & Cocktail Bar; it's stylish and sophisticated like the superspy himself. Just for fun, order your martini shaken, not stirred.
The decor in Magnum's Champagne & Wine Bar is French art deco, with clever water features set in the bar and the wall behind it that are reminiscent of effervescent champagne bubbles. Savor caviar and pâté de foie gras with the very best wines and champagnes.
COURTESY NCL AMERICA
A champagne bar shows one facet of Pride of Hawaii's Bar Central, also home to martinis, beer, whiskey, wine and cocktails.
Bridge observation deck
Since Sept. 11, 2001, passengers are no longer allowed to visit the bridge of cruise ships for security reasons. You can at least get a good look at Pride of Hawaii's bridge from this deck.
When the ship is in port, blinds over a large glass window are drawn, revealing the entire room, navigational crew and state-of-the-art equipment. Even though you aren't able to see this area while the vessel in motion (a distraction for the crew), you'll get an idea of the teamwork required to maneuver a ship that weighs 93,500 GRT (gross register tonnage), stands 15 stories high and is longer than three football fields.
Take the mike and belt out "My Way," "Cabaret," "My Heart Will Go On" or your choice of 800 other pop, rock, folk, Top 40 and Broadway tunes in a private room that seats up to 10 people. Lyrics are available in English, Spanish, Japanese, German, Chinese and French.
There's no fee to reserve the Orange, Lime and Lavender rooms, and you're welcome to enjoy cocktails and appetizers while there. The staff determines how long you can stay in a room based on the number of reservations received. If there's no demand, you and your chums can warble way into the wee hours.
While all of NCL America's vessels have Sports Decks, Pride of Hawaii is the only one with a 124-seat stadium. Sign up for open-play paddle tennis contests, three-on-three and four-on-four soccer competitions, and three-on-three and free-throw basketball tournaments, or enjoy the action as a spectator.
Pride of Hawaii also is the only NCL America ship with a water slide. At 98 feet long and 23 feet high, it's easy to find at the Waikiki Beach Pool area; just listen for the delighted squeals.
The 8,000-square-foot Mandara-operated Ying & Yang Health Spa & Beauty Salon is the largest spa in NCL America's fleet. What's special here are the men's and women's Thermal Suites -- 1,800 square feet of pure pleasure featuring plunge pools; whirlpools; saunas and steam rooms; and "rain showers" with therapeutic red, blue and green lights.
Also of note: six heated ergonomic tile lounge chairs facing a bank of glass windows in a unisex relaxation area. Reclined in one, soothed to the threshold of slumber, you'll be gazing at the ocean but thinking you're in heaven.
Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based free-lance writer and Society of American Travel Writers award winner.