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Lava in Halemaumau Crater in Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park,  Great American Cruises

Heeb Photos/eStock Photo

Lava simmering inside the Halemaumau Crater in Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park

"So here we are, two hot babes and one hot crater," I posted on my Facebook page on Day 3 of the seven-day cruise I took last fall with my friend of more than 40 years, Lena Sherrod. As we took that arresting photo about 100 feet away from the Halemaumau Crater in Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii, Lena and I were feeling both energized and overwhelmed by the awesome beauty of these islands.

Lena lost her mother in August "at age 99 and a half," she likes to say. I suggested we do a girlfriend getaway to honor her mother and mine. My mom died 10 years ago at age 89, and I still miss her. Mother loss is profound, and I couldn't think of a better place to celebrate the maternal life force than on enchanted islands created in the dust-to-dust and ashes-to-ashes of erupting, life-giving volcanoes. Besides, I knew a little something about Hawaii's magical charms. Though I've since divorced, my husband and I had eloped there 30 years before. 

This time, however, I chose to see the Hawaiian Islands from a Norwegian Cruise Line voyage on its Pride of America ship. It departs from Honolulu every Saturday, docking in ports of call on four of Hawaii's eight main islands: Maui, the Big Island, Kauai and Oahu. 

The Big Island is the one that offers spectacular volcano tours in its national park, a 45-minute car ride into the island's interior from the port town of Hilo. The park's black ground consists of hardened lava, and lush vegetation grows alongside massive, withering vines. That night we watched from the ship's top deck as roaring fires from the Kilauea volcano lit up the sky. We anchored that evening off Kailua-Kona, on the coast that is known for majestic coral reefs. We're not snorkelers, but we were game the next day for a ride on a glass-bottomed boat so we could get a closer — and stunning — view of exquisite fish life. 

On the most-visited island, Maui, we took a $4 bus tour, jumping off in busy Lahaina, where, in the middle of town, grows one of the largest banyan trees in the U.S. We posed for pictures beneath its drooping vines. "Here's to roots and moms," I said afterward, as we raised mai tais in a nearby pub.

Pride of America incorporates Hawaiian culture in ship activities, and we indulged in a few. I was pretty good in hula class. Lena quickly learned to do the intricate weave taught in the class on ribbon braiding. And both of us loved the ship's 10 restaurants, with cuisine ranging from Asian fusion to American. 

By the time we returned to Oahu, my BFF and I had not only commemorated our mothers but reaffirmed our long-running friendship. We'd managed to spend seven days together, up close and personal, in tight ship quarters with little fuss or drama. I couldn't think of anyone else I could have done that with. Not even a husband. 

Know Before You Go

  • Excursion packages may carry extra fees. We found that a local bus ride to the same points of interest was a fraction of the cost.
  • Wi-Fi is available all over the ship, but you must purchase an internet package to access it. You might want to email or Facebook-post in ports.

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