Should we hire a car on a cruise to Hawaii?

Tunnels Beach and reef system on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai. Photo: 123
Tunnels Beach and reef system on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai. Photo: 123

MY FAMILY OF FIVE (AGES 55, 49, 21, 21, 18) ARE SAILING TO HAWAII FOR A WEEK OVER CHRISTMAS. THE SHIP STOPS AT MAUI AND KAUAI FOR TWO NIGHTS AND FOR ONE NIGHT AT HILO AND KONA. THE SHIP OFFERS EXCURSIONS BUT IT MIGHT BE MORE ECONOMICAL TO HIRE A CAR AND DO SOME OF THE TRIPS OURSELVES, OR WITH A LOCAL OPERATOR. CAN YOU ALSO RECOMMEND SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR NEW YEAR'S EVE IN HONOLULU?

J. EYNAUD, TURRAMURRA

Hiring a car and driving yourselves around is a great idea. Car hire rates are modest throughout most of the Hawaiian islands, driving is easy and with that many people, you'll save heaps over a guided tour. You can also tailor your travels exactly to your own interests.

Since the ship is on the Big Island for two nights, in Hilo and Kona, you might be better off driving from one side of the island to the other rather than sailing.

Hawaii is a no-fault state, and you need collision-damage insurance or you will be required to pay for all damages before you leave the state in the event of an accident, whether or not you are at fault. This insurance will add $US12-20 to your daily hire cost.

On New Year's Eve, Waikiki is the place to be in Honolulu. Waikiki Beach hosts a midnight fireworks show from a barge. The show is free, but there are also plenty of pay-for events, such as the "Party of the Year" (nyehawaii.com) at Kaka'ako Waterfront Park, which offers live music and DJs, at a moderate price. Or you could go upmarket with the Pink Party at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel (royal-hawaiian.com). The legal age for drinking is 21.

I HAVE FRIENDS IN THEIR 60S, BOTH HARD WORKERS. SHE NEEDS A HOLIDAY, HE ISN'T INTERESTED. CAN YOU SUGGEST SOMETHING WHERE SHE CAN RELAX BUT THERE WILL BE THINGS TO DO TO KEEP HIM BUSY? TWO OR THREE WEEKS JUST TO PROVE THAT TAKING A BREAK ISN'T SUCH A BAD THING, WITH VALUE FOR MONEY AS A PRIORITY.

J. HUDSON, SYDNEY

A cruise would be perfect. Most cruise ships offer heaps of activities. You get to see some amazing places without having to unpack more than once, relaxation is easy since you don't have to make too many decisions and prices are low. Princess Cruises are offering 12-14 day New Zealand cruises at a starting price of $1499 a person. For that you get live shows, dancing, karaoke, bars, nightclubs, zumba classes, a casino, theme night parties, fitness centre, swimming pool, spa and a look at both the North and South islands. Or perhaps the 14-day round trip from Sydney to New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu aboard the Sun Princess, starting from $1599 a person. Pick up some cruise brochures from your nearest travel agent to get your friends interested.

After they have sampled life in cruise control, you can bet there'll be no stopping them.

I'VE PAID IN ADVANCE FOR A CRUISE FROM ST PETERSBURG TO MOSCOW. A CAR FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE PORT WILL COST $266 WITH DRIVER AND ENGLISH-SPEAKING GUIDE. A CAR WITHOUT THE GUIDE WOULD BE $120. WHAT ABOUT OBTAINING CURRENCY? WILL TRAVEL INSURANCE BE DIFFICULT?

K. WHITTLES, BROOKVALE

The car fee does seem expensive but according to Jayne Thomas of Sydney's Eastern Europe Travel (eetbtravel.com), the pricier option means you'll be met at the airport by an English-speaking guide, who will ensure the driver will take you directly to the vessel on which you are booked. The cheaper option means you will be dropped off at the port by your non-English-speaking driver, but not necessarily right at your vessel. You can also take a taxi for a much lower price but this is not something I'd recommend. You can safely use ATMs to access whatever cash you need. Most cards will charge a currency conversion fee, which is usually about 2-3 per cent. You would only find it difficult to obtain travel insurance if visiting Ukraine.

SEND US YOUR TRAVEL QUESTIONS

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CONVERSATION OVER TO YOU . . .

THE QUESTION WAS "WHAT'S YOUR RISKIEST TRAVEL EXPERIENCE EVER?"

From C. Galbraith, "Staying at the campsite at Purnululu, WA, recently I thought I would take a helicopter flight over the Bungle Bungles. Excitement turned to fear when I realised there were no doors and only a car seat belt. I was unable to speak for the entire 30 minutes and although I did manage to take some stunning shots of the Beehive Domes, I was shaking when we landed."

H. Anderson writes "En route to Leh, in India's Himalayas, the hairpin road was a nightmare. On one of the steepest curves we faced another bus with space for one. Our driver began reversing. In a row at the back, Tibetan monks were kneeling on the floor and clutching prayer beads, I went to jump out and walk but there was no step, the bus overhung the edge with a valley 1000 metres below."

G. Morgan writes "A mate and I were looking to travel from Mombasa to Moshi in Tanzania. I am not sure which of us named our driver Gelignite Jack, but he earned the name early. Luggage from the overhead racks fell down; one piece concussed a baby. About a week later, a bus crash on that same route killed 35 passengers. Not sure if Jack was driving."

From P. Roberts, "In 2008 when my wife Liz and I were staying in Guatemala, our trip to the Pacaya volcano could almost have been our last. Injuries were many, including blistering burned feet when somebody broke through the thin crust, but the pictures were fantastic!"

Next question: Casablanca or Lord of the Rings? Has a film inspired you to travel, and did it live up to expectations?

Send response to tripologist@fairfaxmedia.com.au. The best response will win a Lonely Planet guidebook.

This story Should we hire a car on a cruise to Hawaii? first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.