My wife and I and my brother and his wife sailed from San Diego to Hawaii return leaving March 4, 2013 on the Celebrity Century. We each had an oceanview stateroom on deck 4. Normally I book a balcony on a high level but was very pleasantly surprised at how the lower decks allow you to 'interact' with the ocean rather than just looking waaay down on it. We even saw dolphins playing in the bow wave out of our picture window, seemingly just a few feet away. I might do the lower levels more often now. (The lower decks experience much less movement in rough seas than do the leveraged higher decks.)
The Century is an older and a small ship but the entire crew meets your eye and greets you everytime you pass - very impressive compared to some not so friendly experiences on other ships.
Our first couple of nights out of San Diego were a bit rough but the ship mostly rocked rather than the more troublesome to landlubbers rolling. But the rest of the trip, including the entire return was almost smooth sailing.
It was pouring rain in Honolulu but we had reserved a car (book through "Discount Hawaii Car Rentals" - you'll save a huge amount over booking directly with the car rental company.)We drove to Waikiki where it was still raining but we'd all 'been there done that' several times so continued on and discovered the entrance to the Diamond Head Crater. I'd driven by Diamond Head several times before but hadn't heard of the crater inside the mountain - it's worth driving in.
At the Haunama scenic overlook the rain stopped while we enjoyed this spectacular view. Something similar occurred as we stopped at the blow hole and other places on the road to Laie. The Polynesian Cultural Center is closed on Sundays but we'd all been there before. (That's a must if you've never been there.)
We learned later that it rained the whole day in Honolulu but the North Shore was sunny and beautiful with huge waves crashing in and brave surfers out doing their thing.
Overnight to Maui where we docked at Lahaina and again rented a car. We'd already driven the road to Hana so we mainly just tooled around the roads and beaches near Lahaina.
We did stumble upon a Thai restaurant with some of the best tasting Thai curry dishes I've ever tasted. I'll copy the address below but you'll have to park your car and walk a bit to discover this literally hidden gem in the mall.
Royal Thai Cuisine
AZEKA SHOPPING CENTER
1280 South Kihei Road #24
Kihei, Maui, Hawaii 96753
Especially around Maui we saw a lot of humpback whales which are in Hawaii waters during the winter until May each year to give birth to the next generation, then they go to Alaska.
We were back on the ship for dinner and as we sat down near a window two humpbacks came real close to the ship and put on a magnificent display for us as if Celebrity had orchestrated it, couldn't have been better timing.
While we slept, Celebrity effortlessly moved the 1700 or so of us to Kailua Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. There, three of us took the ship excursion on Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. It was a 40 minute shuttle to the aircraft then a 45 minute flight. My brother and his wife had never flown on a helicopter before so it was a double pleasure for them. I must say right out, if you can, take this Blue Hawaiian helicopter tour out of Kona. It's absolutely out of this world!
We took off from the dry side flying over brown and black lava fields with deep gouges. Then we came through a light cloud cover on the green side of the island and floated into paradise. Beautiful music (Enigma etc.) playing in our headphones, no other noise, and slowly settling into green valleys and craters with long waterfalls, deep pools, and the sides of the crater seeming only a few feet away. It's impossible to describe in words - go to their website for videos - absolutely incredible...
Oh, we also hovered over a mother humpback whale with her baby - that's the only way to view whales, from a helicopter!
The midnight cruise along Mount Kilauea was disappointing. We never did get close to the lave flowing into the ocean as the Celebrity cruise description caused us to think we would, but the bright red glow and steam was easily seen with the naked eye and especially with telescopic lens or binoculars in quite a few places.
At Hilo on the other side of the Big Island we again rented a car.(If there are more than two people in your party that's usually much less expensive than the ship excursions and with a GPS you can probably get to most excursion stops during the day, all on your own timing. The rental car companies provide free shuttle service from and to the ship.)
Of course we headed for Hawaii Volcano National Park (use your senior pass) only about 30 miles from Hilo and spent some time there. Make sure you also take the walk through a lava tube on the way out of the park, watch for the signs. Great photo ops and a pleasant walk in the rain forest on the way back from walking the tube.
Several days on the ocean and we were at Ensenada, Mexico for the compulsory foreign stop (4 hours). You needn't go outside security, just shop right on the dock.
Then back to San Diego, a very enjoyable 15 day cruise on the Celebrity Century.