Question: I need to travel from Oahu to Los Angeles or something close to Los Angeles for business reasons, and I can no longer fly. I know there are lots of cruises that go from California to Hawaii, but I don’t see any that go from Hawaii to California. Can you help me? — Carly Ferrin, Honolulu
Answer: Passenger service between the west coast and Hawaii began to take off in the 1930s as the islands became a popular vacation destination.
For many Americans, vacation in the olden days often involved “taking the waters,” sometimes involving mineral waters in a spa-like setting. Better health would result, it was thought.
But others took to the waters, striking out for Hawaii, first on Matson Navigation Co. passenger ships, then, after disembarkation from the five-day cruise, on the abundant pristine beaches.
Matson is credited with popularizing Hawaii, thanks to its passenger service and the hotels it owned. The Moana Surfrider and the Royal Hawaiian are still going strong.
CruiseCritic provided these sailings, Honolulu to Vancouver; prices based on double occupancy:
>> Celebrity Solstice: 12 nights, departs April 29, from $934
>> Holland America’s Noordam: Eight nights, departs April 28, from $979
>> Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas: 10 nights, departs May 3, from $1,099
For return trips, visit lat.ms/returntohawaii.
Not so passenger ship service. It started to fall apart when jet travel got travelers to Hawaii in a matter of hours.
By the early 1970s, passenger service to and from the islands joined the Chevy Corvair, the Twist and granny glasses on the scrapheap of history.
Sure, there were (and are) people who preferred that method of travel, but their hopes were (and are) held in check thanks to U.S. legislation from the 1880s that sought (and seeks) to protect American shipping companies.
The Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 decreed that ships from foreign countries could not carry passengers between two U.S. ports.
The law is still on the books, which makes life interesting because most cruise ships are foreign-flagged.
That means “non-U.S. flagged ships are unable to cruise from one U.S. port to another without first stopping in a foreign port, so cruises from the U.S. (mainland) to Hawaii will first stop in Mexico, and cruises from Hawaii to the west coast will sail directly to Canada,” said Chris Gray Faust, senior editor at CruiseCritic.com.
Although some ships do sail round trip, Hawaii-L.A., “At this time, no cruise lines allow you to take just one leg” of that itinerary, Gray Faust wrote in an email.
“For this particular traveler, the best bet would be a cruise from Honolulu to Vancouver, Canada,” Gray Faust said. “The options available are eight- to 12-day sailings, depending on the cruise line you choose.”
And the bad news?
“These are repositioning cruises,” she said. “Ships sailing one way from Hawaii to Canada are being redeployed to cruise to Alaska in the spring and summer months, so (departure) dates are limited to April/May.”
This fits the reader’s timeline for getting to the mainland, but she will need to be prepared for a long stay: “There won’t be return trips to Hawaii until September, when the ships return for Pacific sailings,” Gray Faust said.