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Get ready to experience a whole lot of Aloha when you cruise with your kids in Hawaii. Instead of flying between the different islands, our family of three decided it would be easier and more cost effective to cruise around Hawaii instead. We cruised with Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America. If you aren’t sure if cruising is for you, this seven night trip is ideal as the ship sails mostly at night so the majority of your time is spent in port. However, if you would prefer a longer trip keep an eye out for repositioning cruises which include time in the Hawaiian islands.

See all the famous sights such as the beautiful coastline of Kauai
See all the famous sights such as the beautiful coastline of Kauai

There were a lot of port days on our seven-night cruise which we really enjoyed. Making our own arrangements worked better than joining the ship’s shore excursions as these tended to be aimed at adults. With so many exciting things to do, there was no danger of getting bored and it was easy to get around once we were on land. We pre-arranged car hire for several stops so we could explore at our own pace. Pick up and drop off was easy thanks to the courtesy shuttles which did regular runs to and from the ship and we enjoyed having the flexibility to go as we pleased.

It is easy to make your own fun on this cruise
It is easy to make your own fun on this cruise

Courtesy car hire shuttles are not something we usually get at cruise ports in Australia so this was a treat for us. If there is no car hire office within walking distance of an Australian port, we have to pay for a taxi or an Uber to take us to pick up our hire car. During our first stop in Maui we drove through sugarcane fields to the old plantation town of Pa’ia with its picturesque wooden shopfronts then took a pretty ten kilometre drive to the tiny cowboy town of Makawao. Shops stocking cute gunslinger memorabilia shared the single main street with art galleries where cheerful local artists were happy to chat. Smiles and good humour followed us throughout the trip.

Exploring the pretty town of Paia
Exploring the pretty town of Paia

Hilo on Hawaii’s Big Island had us getting hot, hot, hot at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where huge craters sent clouds of steam high into the sky. After all this excitement we opted for a relaxing 24 hours on the ship the following day, soaking up the sun and enjoying a meal at one of the many restaurants. One thing this seven night cruise isn’t particularly good for is relaxing as there are so many ports. We ended up skipping one as we were getting so tired from all our on-shore adventures. If you are travelling with older family members or young children, you might want to set aside a port day as a rest day like we did or you could end up feeling exhausted.

Smoke rising from Halemaumau Crater
Smoke rising from Halemaumau Crater

My husband and I aren’t a fan of set dining times so the ‘Freestyle Dining’ option, which allows passengers to eat anywhere, anytime, suited us very well. With everything from casual buffets to fine dining on offer, there is something for everyone. Our favourite restaurant was the teppanyaki grill closely followed by Cagney’s Steakhouse which had a glamorous atmosphere and served melt-in-the-mouth steaks. We also enjoyed sitting on our balcony and enjoying room service as a family at no extra charge. When we got back to Waikiki we had to explain to our rapidly growing young son why he could no longer order room service or he would have broken the bank.

Room service on the balcony did not cost any extra
Room service on the balcony did not cost any extra

Our final port was the garden island of Kauai, a stop which saw us perched on giant inner tubes, floating down the historic irrigation system of a former sugarcane plantation. Splashing and laughing we drifted through tunnels hand dug by plantation workers over a century ago. If we angled our head lamps just right we could still see the marks of their picks on the roof of the tunnels, the biggest of which was almost a kilometre long. Sounds of everyone having fun gave way to silence as we turned off our head lamps and let the peace of this historic place surround us.

Spotted on our final afternoon in Waikiki
Spotted on our final afternoon in Waikiki

We spent the final night of our holiday at the Embassy Suites Waikiki Beach Walk, a family-friendly hotel with ocean views. A short walk down the beach we discovered the iconic Duke’s Canoe Club which is a firm favourite with locals and tourists alike. Gentle waves washed the shore and torch lights flickered romantically as we enjoyed a glass of something cool while the light slowly faded. With so much to see and do, our Hawaiian holiday seemed to have disappeared more quickly than one of Duke’s famous pina coladas.

Disclosure: The writers paid a reduced industry rate for this cruise.

Want some tips that save time, money and your sanity when you’re flying or at the airport? Check out our suggestions for how to pass the time at an airport with kids, how to access airline lounges (even if you’re not a member), and how to make the most of a stopover.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.