I’m starting to feel a bit overwhelmed.
“Surfing, sailing and jumping waterfalls – these are my favorite activities”, says my guide Marko.
And there, I thought I had signed up to admire the most beautiful waterfalls on the Hawaiian island of Maui during a hike in the rainforest.
True to his word, at the first two waterfalls, he’s straight in the water, clothes and all, scrambling over rocks and jumping into the plunge pool below.
Not me. My feet stay on solid ground.
When he’s not causing a stir, Marko is a wealth of information about the plants around us.
Exotic breadfruit trees, mangoes and tapioca plants, a rather scary lipstick ginger that you can’t eat, and something called taro that you can.
Its roots are used here in Hawaii to make an unappetizing starchy paste called poi. “You have to try it,” says Marko. There are many things I have to do here but I decide that this is not one.
Hawaii has its fair share of hotels and you can fly between the islands if you want a change of scenery. But why make life so difficult?
Far better to do what I did – land in Honolulu, hop on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America ship, unpack and sit back while the captain takes you island hopping.
Getting here was quite a test of endurance. A ten hour flight from London to Seattle with British Airways, a five hour layover, six hours with Alaska Airlines in Honolulu, then the whole thing in reverse at the end.
But what a brilliant route. We’re packing volcanoes, ziplines, surfing, movies and more on calls in Maui, Big Island – officially called Hawaii, where we have two stops, in Kona and Hilo – and Kauai.
I also go to Pearl Harbor at the end of the cruise, to see the USS Missouri, aka Mighty Mo, the battleship the Japanese surrendered on in 1945.
Not only that, but we’re staying overnight in Maui and Kauai because there are two things you really need to do while on the islands.
First, see the sun rise 10,000 feet over Maui and second, go to a luau – a traditional Hawaiian party – in Kauai.
That’s how I find myself on a winding road to Haleakala Volcano at 3.30am, staring out into pitch black but wide awake as I’m still on UK time, 11 hours before the islands.
It takes almost two hours to reach the summit, which our guide Preston proclaims to be the most remote place of the most remote islands in the world.
He can still say it. Hawaii may be the 50th state of the United States, but it’s in the Pacific, nearly 2,400 miles from the continental United States one way and 3,900 miles from Japan the other way.
Not that we are alone here. I think half the population of Maui is here waiting, cameras ready, to capture the magical moment when the sun appears on the horizon.
And that’s it ! Mission accomplished. Time to head back to Pride of America for breakfast.
The ship is a sanctuary for all things United States. The crew and most of the passengers are American – I have lunch at the Cadillac Restaurant, dine at the Jefferson Bistro, drink at the Ocean Drive Bar, and watch live bands in the Mardi Gras Lounge.
And in a nod to Hawaii, there are hula dancers on board, local food at Aloha Café and Big Wave beer behind the bar.
Hilo, our next stop, turns out to be the unluckiest of places.
It was hit by a tsunami in 1960 that killed 61 people and a volcanic eruption in 2018 that sent ash and lava 11,000 feet into the air, destroying more than 700 homes.
I visit Volcanoes National Park, where Kilauea is still smoldering after the explosion.
“If anyone needs a bathroom, there’s one there. We call it a lava-tory,” jokes guide Lili.
She tells me that 20 miles away, deep under the ocean, a new island is being created by volcanic activity. My excitement is tempered when I learn that it will be hundreds of years before she returns.
Kona turns out to be a tender port, where we are taken ashore in the ship’s lifeboats as the Pride of America is too large to dock. At least that’s plan A.
Unfortunately, we wake up to find that there is too much swell to bring us back to shore safely.
Cue a day at sea.
It’s disappointing, but hastily organized quizzes, water aerobics, line dancing, movies and more keep us entertained.
Kauai is the Hollywood of Hawaii, home to celebrities such as Pierce Brosnan, Bruce Willis, Bette Midler, and Julia Roberts, and movie sets for Jurassic Park, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, King Kong, and countless other blockbusters.
I go to the luau – a fun night with a free bar and hula dancers, singers and a fire juggler who perform how Polynesians came to Hawaii centuries ago.
The next day, I continue with a boat ride on the Wailua River to Fern Grotto, a secluded spot popular with couples getting married.
There are more hula and carols, this time a local wedding song. “You’re all married Hawaiian style now,” our host proclaims as we start to leave.
I decide not to tell the husband.
GETTING THERE: Flights to Honolulu in January via LA with British Airways and Alaska Airways are from £339 return. See skyscanner.net.
NAVIGATING THERE: A seven-night all-inclusive cruise around Hawaii departing Honolulu on NCL’s Pride Of America on January 14, 2023 calls at Maui, Big Island and Kauai.
Pricing is from £2,089 pp, including drinks and wifi, select specialty restaurants and a $50 shore excursion credit per person per port. Call 0333 241 2319 or visit ncl.com.