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Cruise Itinerary - review please?

Southlake, Texas
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Cruise Itinerary - review please?

Aloha! My husband and I are taking the Pride of America for our 10th anniversary (treating it as a floating hotel so expectations set there ;) and just wanted to float our plans by the experts! ;) We are healthy, active, young 30s and while yes, we want to see the big highlights we hate the cheesy huge group canned touristy stuff.

Tues Jan 13th - arrive Hilo at 8am, disembark and then we have booked a small (10 or less) group VNP tour with Lavaland. Depending on time they might hit Akaka or mac nut farm, just depends on the group. They had rave tripadvisor reviews and so far have had great customer service. I also heard great things about MaryLou's so if anyone has any insight as to which might be better and why that would be great to know! I also know there are some local guides that do private tours, if that would be better I'd love suggestions. Ship departs 6pm.

Wed Jan 14th - arrive Kona 7am, tender in and then take a cab south to check in with SeaQuest for their 5 hour Expedition South Kona snorkeling tour to Kealakekua, Honaunau and "bonus 3rd site" inc lunch and then cab it back to the cruise ship - maybe stop at a coffee plantation on the way? It was between SeaQuest and WHOA, latter was about $65 more per person but they pickup at the ship so I could go either way. SeaQuest had great reviews, small groups, etc would love to hear opinions on that. Ship departs 530pm (remember tender port).

I promise to post full trip report after, thanks TA experts as always! :)

1. Re: Cruise Itinerary - review please?

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Removed on: 30 July 2014, 15:34
Southlake, Texas
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2. Re: Cruise Itinerary - review please?

Which is interesting because reading the reviews a couple folks said WHOA seemed to stalk them and others said SeaQuest made it very clear to their guests not to get close and wouldn't chase them which was part of the reason I chose them over WHOA originally...

Island of Hawaii...
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3. Re: Cruise Itinerary - review please?

What about Sea Paradise?

I would stick to reviews made by TA members with a good amount of contributions, to weed out shills.

I have not heard of Lavaland tours, but any tour that goes to the Mauna Loa Mac nut factory is going to the worst of the cheesy, canned stops in that instance. It's basically a shopping stop at an overpriced low aloha gift shop selling the same products that cost much less at Walmart or Target.

There's no need to take a tour on the east side. It's extremely easy to self tour, and a bunch of narration is not needed.

Volcano Discovery and Native Guide Hawaii tours with Warren Costa provide quality educational tours.

Renting a car for the day is a good idea. Cabs will likely cost as much or more.

There are no coffee farms between Kailua Kona pier and Keauhou where most boat tours depart. Coffee farms would be south and out of town. Keauhou is basically the south end of town.

If you put either cruise or one day into the search for the Hilo forum and probably the Kailua Kona forum, you should be able to pick up a lot of oast topics with specific advice on self-touring.

Island of Hawaii...
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4. Re: Cruise Itinerary - review please?

Honestly, I don't see this cruise as a young 30's kind of deal. The cruise passengers I see mostly seem to be 50's and up. When the cruise ship arrives, it floods the popular spots and tours on whichever side it goes to, and changes the whole feel. In fact the residents and many regular visitors to into cruise ship passenger avoidance mode.

I don't want to discourage you in something you can't change, but it sure doesn't seem like a good fit for you given your preferences for a more authentic style exploration. I would have suggested a land based vacation doing an island in depth. You miss a lot needing to be back on the boat before sunset'too, and all your days will by necessity be fairly superficial glimpses of each island.

Just a thought. I'm over 50 myself, but what I see a good many of the cruise passengers is enough to tell me I would not want to share a ship with them for a week. Of course there are plenty of exceptions as I know from the nice people who bother to come here and plan.

Edited: 23 July 2014, 22:44
Big Island, Hawaii
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5. Re: Cruise Itinerary - review please?

WHOA are indeed dolphin chasers/swimmers. Their recent reviews mention them also putting people in the water to snorkel with pilot whales which has become a new thing and is very distressing.

Sea Quest has fairly recently moved into aggressive promotion of swimming with dolphins and has this (relatively) new tour they're promoting - "Blue Ocean Dolphin Encounter" that advertises swim with wild dolphins and has video.

If you want to avoid cheesy and touristy, I wouldn't do any tours (except perhaps the ones KK mentions like Warren Costa and VDT). Both in Hilo and Kailua Kona I would rent a car and self drive. I would self-tour VNP and on the west side I would go visit Pu'uhonua O Honaunau, snorkel in the adjacent Honaunau Bay from shore, and then you could stop at a coffee plantation on your way back. You could also visit some of the South Kohala beaches in the north if those interest you and possibly snorkel as well depending on ocean conditions or else just stay closer in town and visit Kaloko-Honokohau national historic park.

Southlake, Texas
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6. Re: Cruise Itinerary - review please?

KamaainaK I appreciate your candor and yes, we really pondered if we should take the cruise or not but after a lot of thought (never been to Hawaii, couldn't decide which island, got an amazing deal, its our 10th and our honeymoon was on a cruise too so thats kind of cute - hey I didn't say they were all sound reasons) we are giving it a go. Definitely our intention to return in the future and focus but figured this would give a taste of the islands to help guide future trips so that is set but yes, I plan to try to offset the cruise by being picky about what we do and who we do it with, trying local eats, being respectful and getting out on our own, etc. :)

SheaG - great insight and suggestions, I had hoped to avoid renting a car in Kona just because its a PITA (rent from King Kam Hotel at pier for a lot more $ or cab to airport to get rental plus its our shortest day in port due to the tenders each way) but I guess we gotta do what we gotta do and that might be the better option. I will look into it again thank you!

Big Island, Hawaii
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7. Re: Cruise Itinerary - review please?

I've wondered about that - how much do they charge for a one day rental at the Kailua pier?

I can tell you a cab to and from the KOA airport is going to be way more than any rental for the day. You might want to check with the in- town Enterprise location. You could actually walk to it from the pier but it's a couple miles and uphill - not a good use of time for a short stop - but they may have a shuttle or pickup service for cruisers or you could even cab there for much less, depending on how much of a premium the pier rentals are going for.

8. Re: Cruise Itinerary - review please?

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Edited: 30 July 2014, 15:34
Southlake, Texas
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9. Re: Cruise Itinerary - review please?

Yeah theres no way we could make that check in because they also tender the NCL excursion people before us regular self planning folks. ;) And yes, cab to airport kills car rental $$ which is why I was trying to rule that out. You can rent from King Kam but their hours are shorter so you have to worry about that plus its 3-4 times more than renting anywhere else depending on what/when I look plus its time spent so I just figured better to hop in a cab and conserve time in our shortest stop.

We are advanced swimmers so I will definitely look at Hula Kai - thank you for that recommendation. Sidenote - to be fair i emailed quite a bit with the SeaQuest folks and they were adamant that they won't chase or infringe on dolphins/whales etc. I didn't ask them outright, just fished (pun intended) to see what expectations they would set but they did not at all take the bait, if anything they pushed back on me about it which I appreciated.

Southlake, Texas
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10. Re: Cruise Itinerary - review please?

Hula Kai gets back too late. :( Could do regular morning snorkel on the FairWinds but kind of liked the idea of going on a smaller boat/group trip - am I crazy?