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Cruising the Hawaiian Islands

HawaiiWho hasn't dreamed of escaping to a tropical island paradise in the South Pacific? As it turns out, there are literally thousands of them, including some famous in legend, song and literature and the model for the fictional Bali Hai that still symbolizes this region of the world to many people.

Although these islands seem very far away, they're actually only a few hours away from the West Coast of North America by air, and with a number of cruise options available - including three-, four- and seven-night and longer sailings, it's actually possible to fit paradise into a week's vacation. Seven-day cruises among the Hawaiian Islands generally sail from Honolulu, but several lines offer longer itineraries calling in Hawaii from Ensenada, Mexico, and Vancouver, B.C., before and after the summer Alaska cruise season.

A number of Polynesian island cruises depart from Papeete, Tahiti, though some also operate from Raiatea and a few ships call here and in Hawaii on trans-Pacific and world cruise itineraries.

Ports of Call

Maui -

Of all the Hawaiian islands, Maui most embodies all the qualities that attracts tourists to the islands: lush tropical forests, steep mountains, great beaches, volcanic landscapes and seemingly endless choices of activities and entertainment. The island's major city and cruise port is Kahului, on the north shore.

Haleakala National Park -

The highlight of a full-day excursion to this vast volcanic park is the world's largest dormant volcano, Haleakala and its 21-mile circumference crater rising above the clouds.

Great Golf -

Hawaii is rightly famous for its golf courses, and cruises calling at Maui (as well as the other islands) almost always offer golf excursions to a notable course.

Whale Watching -

The annual migration of the humpback whales through Hawaii's coastal waters offers ample opportunities for whale watching from December through May each year.

Bora Bora -

An island that epitomizes everything people imagine a South Pacific paradise to be, Bora Bora served as the model for James A. Michener's fictional Bali Hai in "Tales of the South Pacific."

Underwater Explorations -

Bora Bora's clear lagoon and abundant marine life offer nearly perfect conditions for scuba diving and snorkeling excursions.

Native Culture -

A visit to the village of Vaitape gives cruise visitors an opportunity to experience Polynesian culture, traditions, art and cuisine first-hand.

Great Beaches -

Bora Bora's beaches live up to the island's reputation as a nearly perfect tropical getaway. Sun lovers can easily while away a day in the sun and the water, and even enjoy a barbecue on the beach to cap off the day.

Papeete, Tahiti -

Principal city and cruise port for the legendary island of Tahiti, this tourist magnet serves also as the starting point for many cruises among the Polynesian Pacific islands.

Take A Hike -

Those looking for some exercise and great views of the island take a hiking excursion up to the summit of Aorai near Papeete. There's even a French restaurant at the start of the roughly six-mile-long trail.

Water Sports -

Water skiing, scuba diving, surfing and other water sports are popular diversions in Papeete and among cruise passengers visiting there.

Polynesian Entertainment -

A cruise call at Papeete offers opportunities to experience one of the island's excellent Polynesian dance and music shows and sample the local cuisine.

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