What are the best cruise lines to travel to Hawaii?

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Cruise Lines in HawaiiGreat question! Since most all of the large-ship cruise lines do travel to Hawaii now, a better question might actually be, what is the best cruise line for my tastes? Let's start with a quick overview of the available lines.
There is one cruise line that cruises Hawaii only, embarking and debarking in a Hawaiian port of call: Norwegian Cruise Line America (NCLA), which is a subsidiary of Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL). The Pride of America is registered in the U.S. and is allowed to both embark and debark from a U.S. port of call without visiting a foreign port of call in between. The rule invoked here is called the Passenger Services Act and the U.S. government imposed it to deter large-ship cruise lines from registering their ships in other countries, thus avoiding having to pay wages commensurate with our minimum wage laws. What is means to you is that if you take another ship on a Hawaiian cruise, you'll end up spending several days at sea as your vessel travels to or from a port such as Ensenada (near San Diego) in Mexico or Vancouver (near Seattle) in Canada.

Otherwise, all the major lines travel to and from the North American west coast to the Hawaiian islands, some year round, some only in the spring and fall as their ships reposition to and from the lucrative summer Alaskan market. So, if you decide NCL or NCLA are not the line for you, the next determining factors would be time of year traveled, amount of time you can allot for the trip, and your vacation budget.
The different lines sailing the seas today do not provide the same product. They differ widely in quality and theme, so it is important to consider the sort of experience you will have on this vacation. You'll be spending a substantial amount of cash and you'll want to have the best value for your budget. We'll take a look at the different lines and compare in a list presented in order of cost, from least to highest, of the major lines.
NCL: 3 Stars. Your least expensive choice. Very casual - there is no dressing for dinner, no formal dining. Meals are of average quality with the emphasis on quantity. The staff is friendly, but not polished. The intent is a fun cruise at a budget price. NCL offers a unique cruising experience called "Freestyle Cruising". It's not for everyone. This format allows for dining when and where you want (no set meal times or dining rooms), No set dress codes (formal nights are optional) and a leisurely disembarkation program among other benefits.
Carnival: 4 Stars. Good, solid, fun. Dining is offered in both formal and casual settings. Staff is well-trained and professional. Very mass-market and the intent here is to please the largest common denominator of guests for a reasonable cost, but they do a marvelous job. The typical Carnival passenger likes to have fun, let loose a little and keep going all night long. Cabins are the largest at sea for mid-range, mass-market large-ship lines and are quite comfortable. Passengers range in age from the 20's to the 80's, but they all enjoy having a great time. Compare to Applebee's, Target, or Holiday Inn Sunspree Resorts.
Royal Caribbean: 4 Stars. Carnival's closest competitor in price. Dining is offered in both formal and casual settings, but the quality suffers in favor of quantity. Very average meals. The staff is very friendly and casual with the guests - not polished. This line shines in it's presentation. The ships are amazing feasts for the eye with every imaginable activity available on-board. For the passenger who wants to do it all, Royal Caribbean offers everything. A major hit with families that include teens and young adults. Active couples love this line. The typical passenger will be a young to middle-aged professional with teens who keeps up on the latest trends and likes designer products. Royal Caribbean is hot right now! Compare to Rain Forest Cafe, Trader Joe's, Pier One or Disney Caribbean Beach Hotel.
Princess: 4 - 5 stars. Princess is upscale mass-market. Dining is offered in both formal and casual settings, with average quality and presentation. Staff is distant. Princess boasts an extremely loyal clientele, though. Princess passengers rarely sail other lines. The itineraries are quite good. The activities on-board are excellent and the shows are stunning. A Princess passenger usually loves Las Vegas, shows, nightlife, and is about 65 years old on average. Compare to Harrah's Casino Hotels anywhere.
Celebrity: 5 Stars. Celebrity is Royal Caribbean's upscale line. Here, the dining is formal or casual, but always elegant 5-star gourmet. The staff is superb; well-trained, polished, and always perfectly appropriate. The theme is an understated modern luxury with an emphasis on the personal experience. Spas, spa cuisine, self-enrichment courses, jazz, coffee-bars... these are the sort of things you'll find on Celebrity. The typical Celebrity passenger is forty to sixty years old, professional, avid reader, technologically adept and enjoys opportunities to learn something new (maybe a pottery class at the local college). Compare to any upscale martini bar in NY or San Francisco, a quiet bistro with a great chef around the corner from the theater, Sheraton's W Hotels, Radisson and Marriott.
Holland America: 5 stars. Holland America is one of Carnival Corp.'s upscale lines. The style is traditional seafaring vessels with dark woods, fresh flowers, 5-star gourmet dining and an extremely professional staff. The pace is slow and stately, with an emphasis on the traditional. Nightlife tends to wrap up around midnight. Cabins are the most comfortable in the 5-star large-ship market. The average passenger is between 55 and 85, thrives on a personal experience in a luxury setting, and enjoys a slower pace. The pampering, appointments and service on a Holland America vessel are superb! Compare to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, Nieman-Marcus, Ritz-Carlton Hotels.
There are a few 6-star lines that will each provide a unique experience; Regent Seven Seas (formerly Radisson), Crystal, Seabourne and Silversea are a few. They are not always sailing in Hawaii so check itineraries (Regent Seven Seas sails Tahiti). Prices start at about the level of a suite on a five star line, but if you are looking to take your experience into a truly personal and exquisitely comfortable one, I highly recommend taking a look at one of these lines. The value, for the price, is astounding.
Other lines might find themselves in Hawaii on an occasional basis, so do investigate well.
There are marvelous sites out there, such as cruisecritic.com, where people present their candid views of different lines as well. Peruse them, talk to your friends and neighbors who have cruised, enlist the aid of an experienced, well-respected travel agent, and you'll end up with a good choice.
Bon Voyage!
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