My family is going on the Star in Hawaii during the Christmas week this year! We are very excited and have been reading the cruise reviews to plan ahead. We have never been to Hawaii before and look forward to enjoying the islands. In the reviews, I found that most people rented cars and went off on their own to discover the islands. My question is, does anyone recommend the NCL excursion tours? In reading through them on the NCL website, it looks like there are some great tours. But would it be easier and cheaper to rent a car and do some of these same things on our own? Also, we really want to take a helicopter tour. Any recommendations on which island to do it on, and if we should go through NCL or through the heli company direct? Thanks!
Hawaii sounds wonderful, especially at Christmas. We've been there 3 times, the first being an the old America-Hawaii Cruise line. We rented cars through the ship, but ran into a situation on the Big Island when going to see a lava flow. Some of these roads can be very desolate, and a very "beaten up" car pulled up, with the "creapiest" looking guy that you have ever seen. Luckily, we're here to talk aabout it, and speaking to a policeman afterwards, we found out that crime does exist, especially in the situation we were in. As far as helicopters, we've never taken one, but I can tell you about the maintenance. 2 of the trips have been extensive stays, where we could drive around to see helicopters in peoples back yard. ALWAYS book your helicopter trip through a ship, as they go with safer companies, and helicopters that run from the airports, rather than someones back yard. I would recommend 2 places to do your trip, the first being Kauai, and make sure it includes Waimea Canyon. This in our opinion, is probably the most underestimated place on the islands. We've driven up by bus on 1 occassion, and I drove it myself on another. The colors are magnificent, and could only imagine how it would look from above. The other is the obvious, fly over the volcano on the big Island, but you can always see that on TV, movies, etc. Whatever you decide, you can't go wrong, but do it through a ship. Have fun, and wish we were with you.
Driving around the islands is easy enough. We did it when we went to Hawaii several years ago, (though not on a cruise). One caution: if you do your own touring around, by rental car, taxi or whatever, you need to be careful you watch your time. If you miss the ship's departure from the port, it will be up to you to get to the next one at your expense. If you book a shore excursion through the ship they will wait for you if your group is late.
I don't recommend a rental car on Oahu unless you are staying there several days before or after the cruise and you want to see the rest of the island away from Honolulu. HOwever, if you have the chance to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu, don't miss it! You can do it by rental car or by bus trip.
And definitely check out a Hilo Hattie's shop somewhere in the islands. Lots of great souvenirs & gifts.