“E Hoomau Maua Kealoha”: Hawaiʻi Cruise for Two

“E Hoomau Maua Kealoha”: Hawaiʻi Cruise for Two

“I have crossed the horizon to find you. / I know your name. / They have stolen the heart from inside you. / But this does not define you. / This is not who you are. / You know who you are… who you truly are.”

– Auli’i Cravalho (Moana) from Moana

It isn’t easy to answer when people inquire about where my wife Corinne and I vacationed for our honeymoon. You see, we married in Hyannis, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, yet lived in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. Therefore, we left Hawaiʻi to wed, only to return several weeks later, continuing our everyday academic lives. Usually, it’s the opposite, right? As Jason Segel, as Peter Bretter, screams, with ironic anger, in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, “Oh, wedding in Hawaiʻi! Real original!” Yes, we skedaddled from Hawaiʻi to get married. How does someone plan a honeymoon when they live in a tropical paradise? Thus, came into fruition an NCL Hawaiian Islands cruise that served as our honeymoon getaway. Sure, it took two years to go on it, but our first cruise was memorable and filled with love, adventure, and Kona coffee!

Another Hawaiʻi Adventure

“It’s call Wayfinding, Princess. It’s not just sails and knots, It’s seeing where you’re going in your mind. Knowing where you are, by knowing where you’ve been.”

– Dwayne Johnson (Maui) from Moana

Yes, I am going to discuss Hawaiʻi; again. Once one has lived in paradise, as I did, you wait for the moment, then drop that fact into a conversation. Someone at a party could be complimenting the charcuterie board or wine selection, and I am like, “wow, this weather is garbage. I wish I had never stopped living in Hawaiʻi.” Alright, maybe it’s not that obvious; or is it? Still, spending a few years on an island in the Pacific provided me some stellar experiences. Some of these were with friends, others with family. As a gift to each other, Corinne and I booked a Norwegian Cruise Line voyage on the Pride of America, the only Hawaiʻi cruise starting and ending in Honolulu.

I have spoken of my growing up near the sea and an active fishing port, studies on maritime history and, visits to museums dedicated to America’s nautical supremacy. Still, I had never had the luxury of voyaging where there was no land in sight, other than Martha’s Vinyard, of course. It was exciting, but it made me think of movies like The Poseidon Adventure or Titanic, each illustrating the grandeur of cruising, but with added attention to the calamities that could occur, both true-to-life and imagined. The history of the Titanic always fascinated me. I remember my mom buying me a 4-part VHS box set produced in 1994 by the A&E Network. The documentary covered major and minor details about the voyage. The story was enthralling, and I remember thinking I wish I could build a model of the Titanic, especially when I observed a replica at the Maritime Museum at Battleship Cove in Fall River, MA.

LEGO recently released a massive, over 9,000-piece Titanic LEGO set. My nerd alert immediately started buzzing. Something I dreamed of doing as a child, building a LEGO Titanic, I now can. I haven’t yet, mainly because it’s too expensive, around $700, but if a LEGO representative reads this, hit me up. I will gladly accept a free set! Cruise ships and voyaging, and sure building LEGO ship models, is deeply satisfying for the part of me that seeks to read, research, write, and emotionally experience the oceanic world. Because of nautical tragedies, like the Titanic and the fictional Poseidon, I studied older maritime survivor stories, which made up a large part of my dissertation at the University of Hawaiʻi. It was incredible describing the various fates of sailors who sought an oceanic opportunity.

I never saw a similar life for myself, but living near the ocean most of my life, I understand the ocean’s majesty. It’s beautiful, and I have always felt connected to its blue hue and seemingly unending length. Those who boarded sailing vessels in times of war and peace, and patrons seeking luxury accommodations on massive steel ships, must have shared some component of that complex emotional connection. Maybe it was to finally experience some voyage, while nothing like those in my research, but still on a vessel moving amongst the waves, that brought me to confer with my wife about a Hawaiian cruise. It helped that, as a result of living in Hawaiʻi, we needn’t worry about flying to and from a port of call.

Once Corinne and I decided to cruise around the Hawaiian Islands, we researched our options. We discovered that the primary cruise line sailing from Honolulu was the Norwegian Cruise Line, and the cost was within our budget. Giddy about the itinerary, we reserved our stateroom, an adequate interior room, and began selecting adventurous yet straightforward excursions. Sure, we wanted to spend time on the ship, but we planned to leave the boat when docked at islands we hadn’t visited. It was exciting. Finally planning our honeymoon, roughly two years after our wedding. Even so, Corinne and I took this trip when ready, which was complimentary to our travel character.

With a little less than a month before we moved home to the Northeast for good, Corinne and I enjoyed our final, yet oceanic, Hawaiian adventure. As someone who minored in Pacific Islands history during my doctoral tenure, I understand the immense importance of the ocean to those living in Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia. I have read hundreds of books and scholarly articles about those who call the Pacific Islands and atolls home and how they see the ocean as a “major economic, social, and cultural lifeline. Its coastal and marine environments sustain a multitude of important activities that fuel local, national, and international economies and provide livelihoods and food security for millions of islanders.” Life on land requires a healthy respect for and deeply seeded spiritual connection to the ocean.

This belief is no different in Hawaiʻi, my temporary home in the Pacific, where “moana,” meaning ocean, maintains a stronghold over Native Hawaiians and their customs, values, and beliefs. As three-year residents of Hawaiʻi, Corinne and I respected that indigenous culture and heritage. As cruise passengers, we sought to experience floating on Hawaiian waters while paying homage and appreciation to the islands and those who voyaged from island to island in the Pacific centuries before, using the stars solely as a form of navigation. I think this is why I enjoyed Disney’s Moana. Years ago, Disney failed to explore, respectfully and truthfully, the reality of those peoples, and cultures, who they focused on or ignored.

In Moana, the “wayfinding” spirit of Polynesians and other Pacific Islanders is visually stunning and illustrated in beautifully crafted ways. The music, the dialogue, and the plot were far better than any other Disney film, at least for me. I thought indigenous island culture and topics like sailing, tattooing, “gender,” language, and familial bonds were respectfully displayed, even if supported with elements of animated comedy and drama. Like my nieces and nephews, who knew nothing about Pacific Island culture, children could, happily and eagerly, gain a snippet of cursory knowledge from Moana and, like Encanto and Coco, see the world for its beauty, diversity, and wonderful uniqueness. Maybe if I had seen Moana as a child, I would have had a little extra knowledge about that part of the world before moving to Honolulu in 2010.

Honeymoon Backed by an Ocean Breeze

“You’re measuring the stars, not giving the sky a high five.”

– Dwayne Johnson (Maui) from Moana

Anthony Bourdain said, “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. The journey changes you… It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” That is how I travel, how I experienced Hawaiʻi, and why, when push came to shove, I chose to accept my journey on land and by sea, and the result was a life lived with respect, admiration, and Aloha. So, that is how it was, in November of 2012, Thanksgiving week, and shortly after completing my comprehensive exams, with our honeymoon overdo, Corinne and I celebrated our marriage with the spirit of Aloha.

With bags packed and a seven-day itinerary both structured and fluid, Corinne and I arrived at the Pier 2 Cruise Terminal, adjacent to Ala Moana Blvd. Our arrival was in perfect “Zach & Corinne” fashion; we were early, prepared, and thoroughly antsy with a smile. We had tons of Hawaiʻi adventures, many I discussed in posts on this blog, but this was the first time we were doing something truly “new.” As I said before, we traveled with family and friends, but it was solely Corinne and me this time. It was exciting, and once we passed through security, dropped off our larger suitcases, took a glorious staged photo, which we refrained from purchasing, we boarded the Pride of America. We may not have had excursions for each island, but we had energy, appreciation, and an eagerness that would electrify our entire trip.

No one could go to their staterooms, but we were allowed onto the ship and top deck to enjoy some cocktails, a buffet, and views of beautiful Honolulu. The vessel didn’t depart for a few hours, but we enjoyed a firework send-off when we pushed off. In the meantime, Corinne and I explored the ship and located the gym, main theater, and restaurants. Once crew staff dropped off our bags at our stateroom, we finally got to see our cabin. Our room was simple. It was an interior room, which meant; no windows, small, but a Queen-size bed, storage for our clothing, an adequate bathroom, and the ability to control the temperature with perfection. Corinne and I loved the fact that when it was time to doze off, it was pitch black, with no light pollution of any kind.

Maui

“Do you know who Maui is? Only the greatest demi-god of all the Pacific Islands, with his magical fish hook he slowed down the sun, pulled islands out of the sea, battled monsters! And I should know, because I’m Maui.”

– Dwayne Johnson (Maui) from Moana

We departed Honolulu, officially at 7 PM on Saturday, and scheduled to arrive in Kahului, Maui, on Sunday at 8 AM. Our first night included drinks, the sunset from the forward section of the top deck of the Pride of America, the “Sail Away Celebration” party poolside and aft, a delicious meal at the Aloha Cafe buffet, and the opening show in the main “Hollywood” theater. We concluded our night with coffee and a chocolate chip cookie beside a large floor-to-ceiling window with darkness in abundance, but the white caps of the waves danced against the ship as we powered towards Maui. We woke up the following day in Maui. While we planned to get off the ship and explore, we needed coffee. We visited the Aloha Cafe buffet and got a serving of our favorite breakfast staples and a cup of 100% pure Kona coffee.

After breakfast, Corinne and I disembarked, strolling around the port area after taking a photo with someone dressed as a parrot, and then headed to Lahaina. We joined an “excursion,” which meant we purchased a ticket from an NCL representative who helped us arrange transportation to Lahaina from Kahului Harbor, where Pride of America anchored. The trip took roughly 38 minutes/23 miles. The bus crossed the island on Highway 380, or Kuihelani Highway, passing through the Waikapu Valley. Eventually, it turned right on Highway 30, or Honoapi’ilani Highway, which hugged the west coast and offered fantastic scenery for the remainder of our drive to Lahaina. Progressing by McGregor Point and Lighthouse, Coral Gardens, Lāhainā Pali Trailhead, Olowalu Petroglyphs, and, finally, the Tunnel of Koa Trees, the route offered incredible sightseeing.

We arrived in Lahaina shortly after the last leg of the drive awarded us an opportunity to see some of the town’s buildings. Once off the bus, we walked to Lahaina Beach, put down a couple of towels, applied some sunscreen, and enjoyed the Hawaiian sun, beautiful ocean, and smooth sand. It was such a glorious day to observe neighboring islands Lanai and Moloka’i with perfect clarity. Corinne and I spent several hours doing what most do on a tropical vacation; swimming and falling asleep to the sounds of waves crashing and gusts of wind pelting us with sand. After nearly three years of constant reading and researching, in preparation for my doctoral exams, this was the first time I had been able to travel without “work” hovering over my head. Swimming in the waters of Maui with Corinne was perfect.

After swimming and sunbathing, Corinne and I walked into Lahaina center and visited Cool Cat Cafe, where we ate well. Cool Cat Cafe is a retro 1950s-diner-style cafe that is home to “the ‘best burger on Maui.’” The eatery is large and has cozy and numerous booths. It was perfect for “people watching,” as we were on the second floor and directly next to the railing overlooking famous Front Street below. We had a view of Lāhainā Banyan Court, home of the oldest living banyan tree on Maui and a historic courthouse. The breeze was wonderful as we sat, chatted, and watched over those walking and snapping pictures below us. When our food arrived, we were not disappointed. Known for their burgers, I couldn’t resist ordering one and the highly-rated fries, both of which were, not surprisingly, fantastic.

I thoroughly enjoyed the establishment’s vibe, atmosphere, and energy. There was live music, an amiable staff, and, as I illustrated, fantastic food. Corinne tried the burger, too, and agreed that it was terrific. She is very picky about her fries, and her seal of approval on the quality, crunchiness, and flavor is an example of how good they were. Yes, I could go on about Cool Cat Cafe, but we had a great meal. Once done, we took in the area, going into a couple of the local shops, and getting coffee at Maui Island Coffee. Soon after, Corinne and I boarded the bus back to Kahului and Pride of America. That evening we watched live entertainment and had dinner in the Aloha Cafe, our go-to dining destination. We spent time walking around the vessel, sitting on the top deck, observing the lights of our port city, and listening to Hawaiian music. Corinne and I enjoy adventures, but we equally savor quiet, the calmness of a vacation.

The next day, Monday, “Day 3” of the cruise and our second day on Maui, Corinne and I had breakfast and, with Kona Coffees to go, vacated the ship to stroll around Kahului. We had until 5:45 PM till we were required to be back on the ship. Then our cruise would take us, overnight, to Kailua-Kona, our first of two stops on the Big Island of Hawai’i. When we finally disembarked, it was around 11 AM. We shopped and walked along the coast for a couple of miles to Kanaha Beach. As we headed back to town, I took note of the Kanahā Pond Wildlife Sanctuary and then suggested a moment at Kahului Beach, which offers views of the harbor. As we continued back, I observed the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College, and we concluded our time with a walk through Ho’aloha Park.

Once we returned to the vessel, we headed to Aloha Cafe, enjoyed lunch, and rested in our cabin for a couple of hours. We ended up getting dressed up later that evening, took pictures in the main concourse, and had dinner at one of the complimentary sit-down restaurants. We tried the Key West Bar & Grill and thought it was perfectly adequate. Corinne preferred the Aloha Cafe, as it allowed us to eat when we wanted, we served ourselves, and came and went as we pleased. Even so, we did, on a few occasions, enjoy the sit-down, complimentary eateries. After dinner, we took in the “Newlyweds, Not So Newlywed Game.” Although we were newly married, we are not the kind of people to go up on stage, so we purely observed the comedy show before calling it a night.

Kailua-Kona & Hilo

“Te Ka can’t follow us into the water. We make it past the barrier islands… we make it to Te Fiti. None of which you understand… because you are a chicken.”

– Auli’i Cravalho (Moana) from Moana

The following day, Tuesday or “Day 4,” we awoke and found the ship anchored off the coast of Kailua-Kona. While anyone who wanted to go ashore had to use a “tender,” Corinne and I did not plan on visiting since we had a fabulous trip to The Big Island of Hawaiʻi merely a month or two earlier. Our first day in Kailua-Kona was our first full-day solely on Pride of America, and we did the same the following day when we docked in Hilo. The cruise offered the best of both worlds; enjoyable time on the ship and land excursions to places we had not seen before. We stayed on the ship in Kailua-Kona and Hilo and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Most people did get off, so we felt as if we had the boat to ourselves, and it was exciting. For the next two days, we enjoyed our breakfasts with Kona Coffee and sat in the hot tub, as we looked out over Kailua-Kona, and then Hilo, as the rain fell on our heads.

I know some may reprimand us for not getting off the ship those days, but Corinne and I were as excited to enjoy the cruise as we were the landed portion. We wanted to do things that included activities in Maui and Kauaʻi, but in Kailua-Kona and Hilo, we knew those days were our chance to appreciate the ship. So, we ate when we wanted, and I visited the onboard fitness center, which was fabulous. Corinne participated in a Zumba class and relished the spa. Together, we engaged in fun, leisurely entertainment, like a lahalua ribbon lei weaving class, as well as a fresh flower lei class. We enjoyed early lunches at the Cadillac Diner, and yes, early dinners at Aloha Cafe. We didn’t complain once. We didn’t get off the ship those two days, but Corinne and I savored every moment.

Kauaʻi & The Nā Pali Coast

“But one day, the Heart will be found by someone who will journey beyond our reef, find Maui, deliver him across the great ocean to restore Te Fiti’s Heart and save us all.”

– Rachel House (Gramma Tala) from Moana

After two days in Kailua-Kona and Hilo, Pride of America arrived at Nāwiliwili, Kauaʻi on “Day 6,” a Thursday, and Thanksgiving! Corinne and I were excited. We had been looking forward to this stop for the entire week, let alone since we booked our trip. The ship remained docked in Nāwiliwili overnight, ensuring plenty of time to see what we wanted on Kauaʻi. Sure, we couldn’t do a ton, but we gave great thought to doing something that would allow us to see a good portion of the island. With breakfast eaten, Kona Coffee in our hands, and waking shoes tied tight, on Thanksgiving morning, Corine and I disembarked around 8 AM and boarded a coach bus, but not before taking a photo with someone dressed as a hammerhead shark. Our destination, Waimea Canyon State Park, with stops along the way.

While Waimea Canyon was over an hour away, about 35 miles, it was a sightseeing tour, so the excursion added several stops along the way. One of the first detours was departing from our linear drive on Highway 50, or Kaumualiʻi Highway, and exploring the Tree Tunnel. These are the most popular trees in Kauaʻi and stretch for one mile as you proceed onto Maluhia Road, or Highway 520, and head south to Koloa Town and Poipu Beach. According to locals, the Tree Tunnel “marks the entrance to the island’s most appreciated tourist attraction – The Koloa Heritage Trail,” or Holo Koloa Scenic Byway and is “represented by… stops that are of historical importance.” These sites “depict the island’s rich history and geology, such as the ancient places of worship, the early sugar plantation days, or natural wonders like the Spouting Horn and Kauaʻi’s iconic beaches like Waiohai at Poipu, Shipwrecks, and Salt Ponds.”

The eucalyptus trees occupying the Tree Tunnel are sacred, survived two hurricanes, and were initially planted in “1911 as a gift to the community from Pineapple Baron Walter McBryde.” Overall, it was gorgeous to drive through this canopy and a beautiful natural gateway to the southern side of Kauaʻi. We eventually went through Poipu, observing the quaint magnificence of the area on an incredible weather day. Ultimately, our bus took us back to the main road and, once again, journeyed to Waimea Canyon. Along the way, we stopped a few more times. Twice we stopped at local craft stores like Hawaiian Trading Post and Warehouse 3540. Another time the bus stopped to offer us a chance to observe the Kauaʻi landscape from Hanapepe Valley Lookout, Kekaha Lookout, and Stream and Canyon Lookout with views of Hawaiʻi’s red sands.

After a long drive, we made it to Waimea Canyon, which Mark Twain once called “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Waimea Canyon is the largest canyon in the Pacific and offers a truly dramatic sight. It is fourteen miles long, one mile wide, and 3,600 feet deep. According to LoveBigIsland.com, the “spectacular gorge… formed not only by the steady process of erosion by the Waimea river which, fueled by prodigious annual rainfall, deeply cut into the island’s extensive lava and basalt fields but also by a catastrophic collapse of the volcano [Mount Waialeale] that created Kaua‘i. Waimea, which translates from Hawaiian to English to mean ‘reddish waters,’ gets its moniker because when it rains, the red rock runs off into the water, turning it slightly red as it flows down and out of the canyon towards the sea.” Corinne and I spent over an hour at Waimea Canyon Lookout, the main viewing area for the canyon.

After some time, we returned to the bus, and over an hour later, we were back at Nāwiliwili and ready to board Pride of America. It had been an exciting day, but it wasn’t over. It was Thanksgiving, so we dressed up and had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at the Skyline Restaurant, which offered staples to expect on this American holiday. Even so, Corinne and I were hungry after our meal. Maybe it was because of our day of activity and the more petite lunch we had along the road to Waimea Canyon. We ended up in Aloha Cafe, sampling some of the evenings’ specials and chatting about the beauty of Kauaʻi. We didn’t make it a late-night, although we did catch one of the shows in the Hollywood Theater. We eventually grabbed a Kona Coffee, which we drank on the top deck as we took in the Hawaiʻi air, observed the lights of the local hotels, and listened to the ocean.

The following day was our last full day. The ship planned to depart Nāwiliwili around 1:30 PM, so we explored the area around Nāwiliwili, something we did not do the day before. We walked around Nāwiliwili Park and along Kalapaki Beach, using a shoreline access path that took us to the nearby Marriott’s Kauaʻi Beach Club. We strolled around the property with vast harbor views to our west and Kuki’i Point Lighthouse further in the distance. On our way back to Nāwiliwili Park, we took a detour to Harbor Mall, filled with locally-owned boutiques, offering wonderfully diverse local flavors. Corinne and I spent a couple of hours off the ship before returning, getting lunch, and sitting on the top deck to watch as we departed the harbor.

The Pride of America pulled anchor and departed from Nāwiliwili around 2:30 PM. Leaving the harbor was wild. The ship did a 180-degree turn, and the top deck was full of passengers having cocktails and taking in the spectacle. As the boat traversed the narrow harbor, we caught a glimpse of the Ocean Golf Course at Hokuala, which runs adjacent to Kuki’i Point Lighthouse. We observed Ninini Point Lighthouse from the vessel’s starboard side upon exiting the port. The ship navigated north, with Kauaʻi to our west, and we marveled at the beaches, hotels, state parks, and the glorious mountains. We sailed by Anahola Beach Park, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, the tide pool of Queens Bath, the tropical oasis that is Tunnels Beach, and in so doing, hugged the northern coast of Kauaʻi, and gently floated along the pristine Pacific waters to our destination, Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park.

Of course, we could not disembark. This stop was purely an opportunity to observe the beauty of the Nā Pali Coast from one of only two types of vantage points; the sea. “Spanning 17 miles along Kauaʻi’s North Shore, the Nā Pali Coast is a sacred place defined by extraordinary natural beauty.” According to GoHawaii.com, “These emerald-hued cliffs with razor-sharp ridges tower above the Pacific Ocean, revealing beautiful beaches and waterfalls that plummet to the lush valley floor. The rugged terrain appears much as it did centuries ago when Hawaiian settlements flourished in these deep, narrow valleys.” Seeing these famous cliffs from a massive cruise ship was breathtaking. Corinne and I stood towards the aft on the starboard side without anyone jostling for a view. 

Observing the Nā Pali Coast was one of the main draws of the cruise. We are not hikers, nor will we ever get in a helicopter voluntarily. So, by sea was our only option, and Pride of America offered us that in spades, and in so doing, offer passengers a once in a lifetime vantage point of Kauaʻi’s landscape treasure. It was emotional, and I won’t lie; this was the culmination of three years of vigorous and intense Ph.D. work. It was the end of our time living in Hawaiʻi, as we were preparing to return to the Northeast. As I observed the Nā Pali Coast, I felt complete and as if I had achieved something I never thought would come to fruition. Those cliffs illustrated the grandeur of the world and rewards for those who push forward in the face of uncertainty and doubt.

Time to Disembark

“Hey! Hey!… Did you like the song?”

– Jemaine Clement (Tamatoa) from Moana

We relaxed that evening after seeing the Nā Pali Coast. However, we did join the Sail Away Party, which acted as a thank you and goodbye from the crew. It was nice, but Corinne and I spent most of the evening in the Aloha Cafe, and we walked the deck taking in the smell of the sea and the feel of the ocean breeze as the ship navigated back to Honolulu. We slept well that night and had to pack our bags and prepare to disembark for good the following day. I can say, without a doubt, we had a marvelous time. It felt remarkable and emotionally freeing and was a perfect honeymoon for two newlyweds who married in Cape Cod but lived in Hawaiʻi.

Since 2012, I have boarded two more cruises on the Norwegian Cruise Line and the ship Breakaway, randomly making me think of Kelly Clarkson’s first hit song. Those cruises hailed from New York City and were with Corinne’s family. Maybe one day, I will explore those cruises in a lengthy post. Of course, it’s 2022, not 2015, and admittedly, the thought of cruising is not currently a possibility, simply a sad byproduct of a global pandemic. When Corinne and I moved to Hawaiʻi, we did so sight unseen and when our future was undetermined. We returned home after observing the Nā Pali Coast, but a little piece of Hawaiʻi has remained with us.

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