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Saturday, November 22, 2014

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Hawaii cruise caters to whole family

Tags: Travel
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The Oosterdam has 924 staterooms. [Kathryn Kates photo]

One of the best ways to see beautiful blue Hawaii is to arrive by sea. Cruise companies such as Holland America Line offer voyages of a lifetime to this Pacific Ocean paradise, including a 17-day sailing from Vancouver and back to Seattle aboard the Oosterdam, one of HAL’s midsize Vista-class ships carrying up to 1,884 passengers.

Onboard are a variety of activities that go a long way to ensure a fun time is had by cruisers of all ages.

It takes approximately six days to cross the Pacific before reaching the shores of Hawaii, leaving plenty of time to unwind at sea or enjoy all that Oosterdam has to offer. About five days into the cruise, choppy waters and cool breezes are replaced by sunshine and warmer winds, and sweaters come off and bathing suits are donned.

Holland America offers shore excursions, including sightseeing, attractions and adventures. A recent sailing included ports visits to Lahaina and Hilo and two days in Honolulu and Kauai.

 Lahaina, the port in Maui, is known for its humpback whales. The compact streets boast great eateries and boutiques, especially along Front Street. Shore excursions available are seasonal whale watching, a visit to Haleakala Crater and Iao Valley or Maui Tropical Plantation and Ocean Centre.

 Hilo is on Hawaii’s east coast of the island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island. It’s chockful of lush gardens, waterfalls and volcanoes. Sights to see include Akaka Falls and Rainbow Falls, or experience the “Circle of Fire” Volcano Helicopter Experience.

Honolulu, the state capital of Hawaii, is located on the third-biggest island, Oahu, in this most isolated archipelago in the world. The city of Honolulu is home to the famous Waikiki Beach. A favourite attraction includes the dormant volcano of Diamond Head. A must-see for most visitors to the island is Pearl Harbor, the military base bombed by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941. Oosterdam’s shore tours include the Diamond Head Crater Hike, An Evening at the Polynesian Cultural Center and the Pearl Harbour VIP Military Base Experience.

Kauai, the last stop on Oosterdam’s voyage before heading back across the Pacific, is on the north coast. It is an emerald wonderland with breathtaking cliffs, endless waterfalls and lovely, pristine beaches. While there, cruise passengers can select excursions such as Tubing the Ditch or the Waialua River Cruise and Fern Grotto, where you will be serenaded with Hawaiian music on the ukulele, and local dancers teach passengers the hula while cruising down the river – not an easy task even on dry land.

Things to do while onboard the Oosterdam include the Greenhouse Spa & Salon, offering advanced esthetic and beauty services and hair treatments – especially popular on formal nights, so book ahead or when you arrive. The most relaxing place to be is the spa’s Thermal Room, where passengers unwind on heated tile beds that shape the body while they take in the sea view, or partake of the aromatic steam rooms.

While Mom and Dad relax, those travelling with children will appreciate the extensive program for kids at Club HAL, with its computer learning centre and video arcade. The ship has two large pools, one with a retractable dome – great for sunny but windy days at sea. Nearby is a fitness centre. There’s also WiFi for those who want to share their voyage experience with those stuck at home.

There are a number of cafés, bars and restaurants onboard. Kosher meals can be ordered ahead of time. For those who want to cap off their evening with some Vegas-like entertainment, check out the Vista Showroom.

Other activities onboard include fine-art auctions, bingo, games, and classes on everything from flower arranging to digital photography. There are lectures, movies, shopping, and Shabbat Eve gatherings.

The Oosterdam has 924 staterooms within 26 different categories of cabins, which are constantly being improved to what Holland America calls their “signature of excellence upgrades.” About 60 per cent of the Oosterdam staterooms have verandas. Their “signature treatment” includes cabins with pillow-top European mattresses topped with Egyptian-cotton bed sheets and down comforters. The suites have DVD players and flat screen televisions.

For more info on Holland America Line cruises, visit www.hollandamerica.com.

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