This is a trip we are glad we took, but probably wouldn’t take again. On the plus side, it is a relatively inexpensive way to visit Hawaii, which is hideously expensive. Room and food cost us about $180 per person per day on the boat. Comparable accommodations and meals would probably cost at least twice as much on land. Not to mention we saved some on air fare. Flights to Vancouver are much less than flights to Hawaii. In addition, we got to visit three islands, one with two stops.
On the downside, tendering at Kona and Lahaina limit how much time you have to visit these ports. There are some sights we would like to see, especially on Maui, that would better be done while staying there. The first day in Lahaina the sea was pretty rough and getting on and off the tenders was challenging, especially for people with mobility issues.
We were on the Solstice in June to Alaska and liked it so much we booked onboard for Hawaii. Many of the same crew members were still on board and some remembered us. The ship is very well run, and the crew were all accommodating. We never ventured into the specialty restaurants since the food in the main dining room is excellent. Naturalist Brent Nixon was onboard on both cruises. He brought a lot of expertise to explain the natural world we would be experiencing. We took advantage of the adults only Solarium many times. The pool was the perfect temperature and it seldom felt crowded.
The Alaska cruise was out of Seattle, most of the guests were Americans and there were 315 children. The Hawaii trip began in Vancouver, and at least half the passengers, perhaps as many as two thirds, were Canadians. Many were from British Columbia. Alberta and Saskatchewan were also well represented. There were also several Aussies traveling all the way through to Sidney. Most of the Americans seemed to be from the Pacific Northwest. We enjoyed meeting and sharing experiences with people from all over. This is definitely an older crowd. Most were retired. We probably had fewer than 20 children.
For those of you wondering about the weather, it was 58° and raining when we left Vancouver. The first sea day it was 60°, the next 65, the 3rd sea day it hit 70, the 4th it was 75 and finally the last sea day as we neared Hawaii it hit 78°. Of course in Hilo it was about 85° and humid. The first two days the swells were running about six feet and people who were prone to motion sickness experienced some problems. After that, the ride was pretty smooth.
Hilo – We rented a car for $48. The car rental shuttle will pick you up from the pier and take you to the airport, about three miles away, where you can rent a car. Couldn’t have been easier. We met a couple at Kilauea who hired a car and driver for $325. They said they wish they had talked to us first. Perhaps they should just read Cruise Critic. The first stop was Akaka Falls. Do this one in the morning because the falls face east. The sun will illuminate the falls perfectly in the morning. If you do it in the afternoon, the sun will be behind the falls and your pictures will be backlit.
Next stop was Kilauea. While Akaka Falls was sunny and hot, Kilauea was rainy and cold. We wish we had our sweatshirts, but when it’s 85°and sunny, how do you know? This was kind of a good news bad news experience. The rain and mist kept me from getting really sharp pictures of the caldera, but the steam vents certainly stood out. I leaned over one to see how hot the steam actually was. Take my advice and don’t try this yourself. Steam is hot. We stayed at Kilauea about two hours and headed back to Hilo. I would have stayed longer, but the rain showed no signs of letting up and we had done all we could do without getting soaked.
Kona – Here we took the ship’s excursion. It was billed as the snorkeling and dolphin adventure, but they apparently forgot to tell the dolphins, who didn’t show up. The cruise on the catamaran south along the Kona coast was picturesque. The excursion includes equipment rental, but we take our own. The rental equipment looked to be first class if you are interested. The spot they picked for the day had good coral and lots of fish. Three-foot swells made snorkeling and getting back on the boat more of a chore than you want, but overall it was a fun trip.
Maui – Renting a car on Maui is substantially more difficult than on the Big Island, and more expensive. The nearest car rental outlet to Lahaina harbor is Hertz at the Hyatt. They claim they have a shuttle, but it runs just once between 8:30 and 9:30 and we never saw it. So it’s a $30 cab ride to rent a car. The car was $98 a day versus $48 on Hawaii and $53 on Oahu.
We went south the first day looking for a beach to snorkel. The conditions were terrible. Because of the height and direction of the swells, waves were breaking right on shore and the water was churned up. We should have checked the daily report https://thesnorkelstore.com/maui-snorkeling-conditions-reports/. Then we would have known that.
The next day we went to Honolua Bay. This is a terrific snorkeling spot and it’s always calm. It’s surrounded by land on three sides and facing Molokai, so no swells can get in. The shore itself is very rocky, so it’s strictly for snorkeling. Also, parking is very limited and it’s at least a 300 yd. walk from the road to the water. Hawaii is not California where they have large paved parking lots at all the state parks. Most of the fish and coral formations are on the eastern side of the bay. Turtles are found on the western side. Dolphins also made an appearance. Honolua Bay is a must stop for snorkelers.
We would like to spend some more time on Maui. Some of the sights like the road to Hana and Haleakalā are too time consuming to be done from a ship while tendering.
The cruise finished up in Honolulu. This was the smoothest disembarkation ever. We go off sooner than advertised, found our luggage immediately and got a cab to the airport to pick up our rental car. Hertz says they have a location the pier, but when I checked online, they said there were no cars of any kind available. Very suspicious. The cab to the airport was about $35.
It is only 3.7 miles from the airport to Pearl Harbor. I was impressed by what the National Park Service and the Navy have done there. It’s a very solemn experience and well done. One very important note…they do not let you bring bags in through the gates, not even ladies’ pocketbooks. You can check them for a $5 fee. My wife took hers back to the car while I stood in line for tickets.
I have to say I was not impressed by the Honolulu airport. Much of it is open air (not air conditioned) until you get to your gate. We had showered just prior to leaving the hotel and didn’t want to work up a sweat turning in the car and getting our bags through the agricultural inspection and airline check-in. Some on our cruise got off the ship in Maui, one day early. They then spent several days on Maui and flew home from there. I didn’t realize that was an option. If I took this cruise again, I would probably do that.
Easy to get around. Good to visit for a day but wouldn't stay here longer because it rains too much.
Very well organized place. Also expensive.
Don't like tendering. Rental car was expensive plus a $30 cab ride to pick it up.
Here we took the ship’s excursion. It was billed as the snorkeling and dolphin adventure, but they apparently forgot to tell the dolphins, who didn't show up. The cruise on the catamaran south along the Kona coast was picturesque. The excursion includes equipment rental, but we take our own. The rental equipment looked to be first class if you are interested. The spot they picked for the day had good coral and lots of fish. Three-foot swells made snorkeling and getting back on the boat more of a chore than you want, but overall it was a fun trip.View All 84 Snorkeling Reviews