We arrived at the pier well ahead of the 1:00 pm check-in time.  To be honest, I found this to be the low point of the cruise (aside from our complete disappointment with the Polynesian Cultural Center).

I got yelled at by some very belligerent longshoremen and pier-functionaries (they worked for the Matson Shipping Company and wouldn't give their names) for (1) parking in the wrong place, (2) walking in the wrong place, and (3) being a "#&@#@ tourist".  (Bear in mind that there were absolutely no indications of where the RIGHT places were.) The upside was that I learned some very colorful phrases in the local patois.

I think that part of the problem is that (at this stage) the cruise really catered to the people who bought complete air/land/sea packages, NOT to do-it-yourselfers like me.

Incidentally, American Hawaii charges $15 per person for the 2 mile trip from the airport to the pier, the taxi cost $10 ($13 with tip) for all of us, plus we got to learn about the island from a real Hawaiian.  I guess on the one hand you get taken for a ride, and on the other hand... well... you get taken for a ride.

Check in was also a bit confused.  I'm sure most of the other passengers got the information they needed on the bus, but I ended up waiting in the wrong line.  FYI, at the time of writing you have to check in at the desks at the FAR END of the hall, where they will take an imprint of your credit card, ask for ID and signature for each member in your party, and stamp your tickets with your boarding number (the order in which you board).  They also take your heavier bags, which will be brought to your room.  People who have cruised with American Hawaii before get a special line (I'll let you know how that goes on my next trip).

Boarding was by priority number (we got #49-51).  The cruise director would call out about 10 numbers at a time.  While we waited we were entertained by live Hawaiian music and dancers.

Once our number was called, we received orchid leis and had an obligatory photo taken before we ascended the gangplank. 

You must save your lei until the end of the trip when you will toss it into the ocean (legend says if it reaches shore, you will return to Hawaii).

Of note to the frail or elderly readers, the plank is quite long but they do have burly crew members to wheel you up in a chair if you need assistance. 

Also of note to frail or elderly passengers: at some ports of call (Hilo, for example) tenders (smaller boats) are used to transfer passengers to shore.  This process seemed precarious, but the crew was WELL AWARE of the hazards and VERY ATTENTIVE to those in need of assistance. 
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.