We traveled in May, so what I have to say here may or may not be applicable to you. Whether or not your weather will be similar depends on when you travel.

I was surprised that the temperature was so temperate.  I expected South-Florida hot, which it was not.  One of us found it a bit cool from time to time, especially when it got windy.  Many islands are frequently rainy.  But the most surprising thing is how much the weather could change from moment to moment, island to island, elevation to elevation, and spot to spot.

As far as the water, I was expecting something between bathwater and Jacuzzi.  In reality, what I got was something the snorkleboat captain insisted that we call "refreshing".  I would suggest consulting one of the guide books I reference, or click on the Weather Channel graphic at the right to get an idea of current, future, or average weather conditions.

If we could do it over again... and we will....

What would we do differently?

We were hard pressed to find any regrets that we had.  But, the following are our ideas about how to have the perfect vacation:

  • Know which cabin you are getting to know if you will have the amount of space you need and want. Most of the (very few) complaints about the cruise that I have read or overheard were from people who did not do their research.  You know what they say about ASSUME.
  • Buy the guidebooks ahead of time, to read up and prepare for the fun ahead.
  • Bring a rain-shell and some sweats (that way you will be dry when it rains, and warm and wind-proof enough to see the sunrise on Haleakala).
  • We were disappointed by the Polynesian Cultural Center.
  • Invent the 36 hour day, so that you will have enough time to do even half of what you want to do on your vacation.
  • Consider renting snorkeling equipment for a week, especially if you have kids, and avail yourselves of the numerous free, superior snorkeling activities within easy distance of the piers.
American Hawaii Cruises went bankrupt on 10/19/2001

Because this page is part of diary of my cruise in May, 2001, the information on this page has not been updated and may no longer be accurate.
Useful Telephone Numbers
(Area Code 808) Maui Hilo Kona Honolulu Kauai
SS Independence 877-0284 961-6961 531-6094 246-8882
Alamo 871-6235 961-3343 329-8896 833-4585 246-0645
Hertz 877-5167 935-2896
831-3500 245-3356
831-3800 245-5636
834-5536 245-3512
Budget 871-8811
838-1111 245-1901
831-2331 952-4242
831-2277 246-6252


We are value-conscious travelers, if you haven't already figured that out.  We tried to get the best prices for the best vacation we could.  But we aren't stingy or cheap.

Having worked as a bartender in college, I know just how hard service work can be.  We felt that all the staff aboard the SS Independence went out of their ways to provide excellent service, with a smile and great attitude.  If ANYONE aboard that ship was having a bad day, we certainly couldn't tell.

For these reasons, we tipped liberally.  The waiter and cabin attendant each received MORE than the suggested amount (I believe it was $3.50 pp/day, which we rounded up to the nearest $10 at the end of the cruise).

We followed the same procedure for the assistant waiter ($40 or so) and the wine steward ($20 or so).  I also did not hesitate to tip the maitre d', Tim, his couple of bucks even though all he did was say "hi" and chat with us a couple of times.

So what does that work out to?  Well, consider that you're in Hawaii, where rooms and meals are NOTORIOUSLY expensive.  If you figure about $15pp for breakfast, $20pp for lunch, and $30pp for dinner (which are not unreasonable estimates),  you can see that your tip works out to a bit over 5%, which is almost an insult.  Likewise for the rooms, which can be about $350 a night in Hawaii.

As a group, we were aghast, astonished, and annoyed that some people did not leave any tip whatsoever, or tipped an amount that definitely did not reflect the level of service they received.  From what we overheard, their reasoning was that they had already spent enough on the flight, the cruise, and excursions. 

This is NOT a justification for not tipping.  In my job as a bartender/waiter, I often had customers who were trying for a Ritz experience on a McDonald's budget, and guess who got stiffed?

In my opinion, if you can't afford to tip appropriately, you probably shouldn't be going out in the first place.

On a positive note, we overheard one couple with 3 children agree to tip their cabin attendant $20 per day for doing such a good job keeping the kids room neat as a pin whenever they got back to their cabin.