Hawaiian Cruise

9 Things You Need to Know Before Taking a Hawaiian Cruise

There may be no better way to visit the various islands of Hawaii than on a cruise. You can explore all day, then come home to the predictable comfort and amenities of your stateroom for the duration of the trip. If you are thinking of cruising to the 50th state, there are a few things you should know. Having just returned from a cruise visiting many of the islands, we have come up with 9 things you need to know before taking a Hawaiian cruise.

9 Things You Need to Know Before Taking a Hawaiian Cruise

Add a Few Pre-Cruise Days

Before you even board the vessel, you should plan to spend at least a few pre-cruise days in your disembarkation port, which is most likely Honolulu. We actually spent three full days on the island and are glad we did. With the six-hour time difference, it took quite a while to get adjusted. We made use of our pre-cruise days to explore Oahu but also to reset our internal clocks.

Hawaiian Cruise

Entrance to the Dole Plantation in Oahu, one of most popular attractions on the island with over 1 million visitors a year | Photo: EatSleepCruise

This is a Cruise for Everyone

We were surprised to find more families traveling on this off-season cruise than we expected. Hawaiian cruises really do appeal to all types of travelers. While still a popular honeymoon destination, cruisers of all ages want to visit Hawaii. So, when reviewing ships and itineraries, be sure to pick the best match for your travel party.

Prepare to Tender

At virtually every port, your ship will have to tender. For those new to cruising, tendering is when passengers board smaller boats, typically life boats, to be escorted ashore. Your ship will not be docking at many of the stops, so you will need to budget in extra time to get ashore when planning excursions. If you get seasick, be sure to pack your Dramamine, as some of our tendering experiences were quite rocky.

Hawaiian Cruise

Aerial view of the east coast of the “Big Island” as part of helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours | Photo: EatSleepCruise

Hawaiian Cruises Are Port Intensive

There are 8 islands in Hawaii, seven of which are inhabited. Depending on your cruise itinerary, you will probably visit 3 or 4 islands, possibly even some overnight stops. This does mean that your cruise will stop at an island virtually every day. So, be prepared for some long days and nights, if you want to do and see everything on your bucket list. Luckily, you can find some delicious Kona coffee at almost any of the restaurants ashore to get your caffeine fix.

Hawaiian Cruise

Waterfalls from the north coast of Big Island as part of helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours | Photo: EatSleepCruise

Hawaiian Shirts Are a Must

You will feel left out if you do NOT bring a Hawaiian shirt. If fact, you should bring a couple or purchase some while in port ahead of your cruise. If you want to be “that couple”, you can even find matching Hawaiian print sets for your family. Believe us, you will not look out of place on the ship!

Hawaiian Cruise

Hanauma Bay Lookout– Once a recreational area of the Hawaiian nobility, today this sheltered bay is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the Island on Oahu | Photo: EatSleepCruise

Learn Some Basic Hawaiian Phrases

We all know the ubiquitous greeting, Aloha, but you should brush up on some other popular phrases that you are sure to hear during your voyage. Among the ones we heard most often was Mahalo, which means “Thank You”. After amazing performances, you can request an “encore” by proclaiming Hana hou!

If you spend any extended time with native Hawaiians, they might refer to you as Ohana, which means “family”. Also, you can refer to your elders as “uncle” or “auntie”, these are terms of respect and endearment. Don’t be surprised to see signs that say Wahine (“women”) and Kane (“men”) adorning the restroom doors.

Hawaiian Cruise

Richardson’s Black Sand Beach in Hilo on the Big Island | Photo: EatSleepCruise

Locate the Nearest ABC Stores

Frequent travelers to Hawaii will know the omnipresent souvenir shops, the ABC stores. These stores are virtually everywhere on the islands. If you need any supplies, from Tylenol, to a t-shirt, to a beverage, or some macadamia nuts, just locate the nearest ABC Store. Odds are, you are never far away from one of these locations.

Budget More for Shore Excursions

If you are cruising to Hawaii, you probably have dreams of volcanoes, luaus, long drives along scenic highways, and several other unforgettable moments. You can have all these Instagramable moments and more, but it will cost quite a bit. Tours and sightseeing activities on many of the islands are expensive when compared to cruises in the Caribbean and Bahamas. We easily doubled our normal shore excursion budget.

Hawaiian Cruise

Blue Helicopter Tours on Big Island | Photo: EatSleepCruise

Pack the Sunscreen, Bottled Water, and Raincoat

If there is a cruise destination where a properly pack day bag is crucial, it is Hawaii. Depending what side of an island you are exploring, the weather can be drastically different. So, ensure you have a water-resistant day bag strategically loaded with all of the essentials. In the same day, we experienced 80 degree sunny skies, cloudy skies with 40 MPH winds, and a rain storm! Remember, it can get hot, so staying hydrated and keeping your skin protected is very important also.

Hawaiian Cruise

Kailua-Kona harbor on the Big Island | Photo: EatSleepCruise

Don and Heidi Bucolo are the husband and wife team behind EatSleepCruise. Fellow travelers have come to know and love their cruise reviews, cruise tips and planning advice, and social media posts for the latest updates in the world of cruising. 

Don and Heidi Bucolo are the husband and wife team behind EatSleepCruise.com. Their love for cruising began after taking their first cruise together back in 2007. Having spent over 180 days at sea on more than 30 cruises with various cruise brands, they have learned a thing or two about planning and executing the perfect cruise vacation. The couple was voted as one Porthole Cruise and Travel's Top 10 Cruise Influencers and is featured in the newest book, Cruising Interrupted. You can find them on the web and social media sharing detailed cruise ship reviews, port guides, packing tips, and planning tips to help travelers "sea the world, one port at a time".