A week-long Hawaiian cruise, two nights in Honolulu, and roundtrip airfare all together costs just $1,399 from dozens of cities
Perhaps you'd love to take a cruise--a week at sea with nothing to do but have fun. Then again, it might be nice for a few days just to veg on the beach--not just any beach, but Waikiki, sipping a mai tai under the palm trees. OK, do you'd like to do both--but not pay too much for either...oh, and get some cheap airfare thrown in to cover it all. Would you believe it actually can be done?
United Airlines has a branch of the frequent flier program called Cruise4Miles (888-666-8120, cruise4miles.com/ )--you can earn miles by buying cruises, or redeem airlines miles earned for a cruise. Anyone who signs up for the frequent flyer program (which is free) can get in on these deals.
The logistical (and economic) problem with most cruises is that airfare is rarely included in the base price, and can often be pretty expensive. Same goes for the land portion of your trip, by which I mean landlubbing lodgings. Most folks arrive in the port of embarkation a day or two before the ship sets sail, and/or sometimes choose not to return home until the day after the cruise puts into port, which means you're stuck finding a night's hotel accommodations on either end of your cruise. Well, with a cruise shop run by an airline, one that is also adept at putting together air/hotel packages, that problem is niftily solved.
Everything but the kitchen sink
And boy, how niftily. Rather than charge everyone from each gateway a different rate, the base price--which covers roundtrip airfare, the seven-day cruise, and two nights lodging in Honolulu before or after the trip--is $1,399 from dozens of cities on the East Coast, Midwest, and Southwest. (That in of itself is a bit unusual--a cheap Hawaii deal not from the West Coast).
The list of possible departure cities includes Atlanta, Albuquerque, Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, Colorado Springs, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Grand Rapids, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Orlando, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New Orleans, Newark, New York (LaGuardia), Omaha, Philadelphia, Tampa, and Washington, DC.
The ship sails pretty much weekly from Sept 14 through Jan 4, but the cheapest rate--that $1,399--is available on the following sail dates: Oct 26, Nov 16, Dec 7, Dec 14, and Jan 4. You pick which end of the cruise you want to spend your two free nights in Honolulu at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani (princess-kaiulani.com/) or a similar property. (Sadly, you cannot split them up for one before and one after. Ah, well.)
The cruise itself aboard the Norwegian Star (ncl.com/ ) has restaurants, 14 bars and lounges, swimming pool and gym, etc.--lasts seven days. You leave Honolulu at 8pm to arrive at Hilo by 6am. You have seven hours to enjoy the Big Island before steaming off again at 1pm to spend a day and a half at sea en route to a 9am docking just across the International Date Line on Fanning Island in the Republic of Kiribati (one island up from Christmas Island; a silly US law forces foreign-flagged ships to hit at least one foreign port before returning to US soil).
At 3pm it's time to head back Hawaii-way, arriving 46 hours later at Kahului on Maui, where you hang for the entire afternoon. At 10pm you set of again to steam overnight toward Nawiliwili, where you arrive at 8am for an eight-hour day on Kauai. Then at 4pm it's back on the boat for the final leg back to Honolulu, where you get in at 7am.
Once again, go to Cruise4Miles (888-666-8120, cruise4miles.com/) to learn more about this offer.