Welcome to another edition of our ultimate world cruise itinerary series. We are exploring the requested destinations of our growing community of global citizens on board Storylines MV Narrative private residence ship.
So far in the series, we have covered:
- Western Mediterranean
- Middle East
- Southeast Asia
- Australia & New Zealand
- South Pacific Islands
In this leg of the itinerary, we will be venturing around North America, Central America, and through the Panama Canal; all destinations specifically requested by our residents. The complete list of North American destinations includes:
- Hawaiian Islands
- Vancouver Canada
- Panama Canal
- New Orleans
- New York City
Coming from the South Pacific islands, we will begin with Hawaii.
Hawaii is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean but we have decided to include it in this post since it’s a state in the United States. The requested islands are:
- Hawaii (The Big Island)
There's a good chance we’ll visit the other islands as well considering we have plenty of time to explore as part of our three year circumnavigation. However, we are just going to explore the requested 'Maui' (great choice!) and 'Hawaii' (the port of Hilo on The Big Island). We have also chosen a destination in Kauai where we can anchor and take zodiacs ashore to accommodate the request for off the beaten path destinations.
We will also likely sail along the Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park on Kauai. You will recognize it from postcard photos of the dramatic tropical mountain ranges dropping into the sea. If we're lucky, we may even dock in Nawiliwili Harbor so you can hike one of the best walks in the world in Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park.
Note: For non-US residents, tipping is widely expected in Hawaii, just like on the mainland. Aim for 15-20% depending on the level of service for restaurants and bars, and select other situations including transportation.
The Big Island - Hawaii
As the name suggests, the Big Island is the biggest of the four main Hawaiian islands. It is famous for Volcanoes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. At the time of writing, the Kilauea volcano is still active and erupting. If we are fortunate enough, we might be able to safely witness steam vents or even possibly lava flowing into the sea. We highly recommend a helicopter tour over the volcano during your world cruise.
Ships dock at Hilo Port, just a few minutes from the town. Passengers are greeted by traditional Hawaiian music and dances, with floral leis hung around your neck to get you into that aloha state of mind. This sets the tone for Hilo, a town of friendly locals amongst a kaleidoscope of a colorful Hawaiian landscape.
The town center is worth strolling around to view the most historic buildings in Hawaii, dating back to the turn of the century. Another highlight is exploring the beautiful and lush Nani Mau Gardens. But the star of the show is the home of the Hawaiian Fire Goddess, Pele, and the world's most active volcano, the Kilauea Crater.
- Nani Mau Gardens: Come here to experience a beautiful kaleidoscope of color in the flora and fauna that Hawaii is known for.
- Lyman Museum: Come here for a bite-sized lesson on the history and culture of Hawaii.
- Rainforest Zoo: The only naturally-occurring tropical zoo in the United States is worth visiting. It's free, however donations go toward caring for the rainforest animals, including endangered Hawaiian species.
- Hilo Hula Days: This free event runs everyday from 11am - 1pm and features Hawaiian music, hula dancing, and crafts in the Mooheau Bandstand.
- Akaka Falls: You can do a short hike to these most famous falls on The Big Island through the Akaka Falls State Park.
- Coffee & Chocolate Farm Tours: Organize an excursion to the local farms, which typically lasts 1 - 2 hours and include tastings.
- Coconut Island: This tiny island is connected to the mainland by a bridge, not far from port. It has two little white sand beaches and a 20-foot tower for jumping off into the water, which the kids will love.
- Hamakua Coast Scenic Drive: It's worth renting a car for this drive. The incredibly scenic 40-mile stretch of land connects Hilo to Waipi’o Valley. It features tropical rainforests, the most extensive waterfall system and black sand beaches.
- Volcanoes National Park Tours: Although you can rent a car and drive, we recommend taking a Volcanoes National Park guided tour. The local guides take you to the best spots to see lava tubes and steam vents and teach you about the fascinating ancient history of these phenomenal forces of destruction and creation.
- Helicopter Tour: For the ultimate volcano experience, splurge on a helicopter tour to view the active lava fields and flows. An unforgettable experience.
Maui is Hawaii's second largest island and it has been claimed the "Best Island in the US" by readers of Condé Nast Traveler for over 20 years. Maui is famous for its beaches, the sacred Iao Valley, and farm-to-table cuisine. There are a few cruise ports, but the one that offers the most is Lahaina Harbor on the northwest of the island. Once the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii and the whaling industry worldwide, Lahaina now boasts incredible natural beauty, rich culture, and a thriving nightlife scene.
Lahaina Harbor is a tender port, so MV Narrative would anchor, and residents would tender to the dock of this historic whaling town. You can walk from the port to restaurants, shops, and the Lahaina Visitors Center, where you can arrange shore excursions. Lahaina, nestled between the calm waters of Auau Channel and West Maui Mountain Range, has been home to many cultures over the centuries since the first Polynesians well over 1000 years ago. As such, the town is steeped in history with distinct cultures.
For those looking to explore the island, we suggest renting a car. It's a lovely, accessible island to drive around and the best way to find Maui's amazing beaches.
Lahaina Harbor and Maui must-see:
- Lahaina Front Street: You must walk down this famous street and take in the restaurants, bars, and authentic atmosphere. Excellent people-watching by day and a fun night out if you're in the mood.
- Banyan Tree Park: This massive Banyan tree was a gift from Indian missionaries and was planted in 1873. It now stands 60 feet tall and is the largest banyan tree in Hawaii.
- Hike the Kapalua Coastal Trail: The 1.6 mile walk runs along the ocean's edge and boasts breathtaking views of black lava rock formations, pristine white sand beaches, and lush tropical jungle.
- Ka’anapali Beach: Drive to one of the most popular beaches in Maui, where water sports are the play of the day with windsurfing, paddle boarding, and surfing, to name a few.
- Napili Beach: Another famous beach yet way more laid back than Ka’anapali. Napili is a crescent-shaped cove that offers excellent snorkeling with plentiful Hawaiian sea turtles.
- Haleakalā Sliding Sands Trail: For the resident hikers, this trail through Haleakalā National Park offers sweeping volcanic landscapes that are out of this world. Experienced hikers only.
- Makena Cove: Find this hidden gem of a beach where black volcanic rock meets the sea, and there's a good chance you will have the place all to yourself.
- Pipiwai Trail: This remote trail cuts through bamboo forest and leads to two magnificent waterfalls. Take time to listen to nothing but the sound of the bamboo trees clicking against each other for a connecting-with-nature experience.
- Wailea Golf Club: For the resident golfers, enjoy one of the world's breathtaking wonders of golf courses. Three courses offer varying challenges, terrains and views of the ocean, mountains, and even the island's largest dormant volcano.
Hanalei Bay, Kauai - off the beaten path
Hanalei Bay is a large, protected bay on the island of Kauai and one of the most picturesque in Hawaii. It has a beautiful two-mile beach lined with palm trees and surrounded by lush majestic mountains. The water is ideal for swimming, paddle boarding and kayaking. If the conditions are right, MV Narrative can anchor near the bay. Hawaii has a 72-hour rule of anchoring in one spot before moving on to another. As such, you could find several idyllic locations like Hanalei Bay to enjoy from the onboard marina and explore the coastline places by small watercraft.
Moving on to something completely different: Alaska. America's last frontier was requested twice by our residents. It is probably due to its incredible natural beauty, including national parks bigger than some countries, snow-capped mountains, and icebergs taller than skyscrapers. It's not surprising that Alaska is one of the world's most popular cruise destinations, with over a million people sailing there every year. As no specific ports were requested, we’re featuring Sitka and Juneau. Glacier Bay would also be amazing if we can venture there.
Be sure to be up on deck when approaching Sitka as the views of the picturesque fishing village with the snow-capped mountains in the background are magnificent. Sitka has a floating dock about 6 miles from town. Free shuttle buses take you into the village center; a charming place with Russian influence revealed through the restored Bishop's House and the domed St. Michael's Cathedral.
You may be lucky enough to receive a warm welcome from the New Archangel Dancers. They perform authentic Russian folk dances when a new cruise line is in town. Sitka has a fascinating history of three distinct cultures; Tlingit Indian, Russian and American. Explore and you will find relics of all three cultures and marvel at the natural beauty of Sitka Sound and Mount Edgecomb.
- Historic center: Wander around the historical center and admire the most important landmarks and fascinating architecture.
- St. Michael's Cathedral: One of these landmarks includes St. Michael's Cathedral, evidence of Russian settlement in Alaska for over 100 years.
- Russian Bishop's House: A former Russian headquarters of their 19th-Century missionary efforts, you can take a free guided tour to learn about the architecture and view the home's historical artifacts and art.
- Tlingit Clan House: Before the Russians were here, the Tlingit Clan ruled the land. This exciting museum teaches about their culture and how they survived off the land.
- Sitka National Historical Park: The oldest national park in Alaska commemorates the 1804 Battle of Sitka between the Russian settlers and the native Tlingit Clan. There are 20 hand-carved totem poles along the nature trails in remembrance of the battle.
- Fortress of the Bear: This grizzly bear orphanage is a great way to give back. Set deep in Tongass National Forest, you can watch the bears in their natural habitat from observation decks. Your donation goes toward their conservation.
- Baranof Castle State Historic Site: A fascinating slice of history; this fortification was built by the Tlingit, then taken over by the Russians, before being handed over to the Americans when Alaska became a US State. The first Alaskan flag flew on what is now known as Castle Hill in 1867.
- Sea Kayaking in Sitka Bay: Perhaps one of the best ways to appreciate the natural beauty of Sitka is by kayaking Sitka Bay. Tours are available, or just take a kayak out MV Narrative’s marina.
Juneau is a little-known gem of Alaska, and easily accessible by our ship. It takes roughly half a day to cruise from Sitka to Juneau. This quaint little mountain village is the capital of the state of Alaska. It is known as the most scenic capital city in the USA. It has a reputation for people coming to visit and never leaving. It's easy to see why. Flanked by mountains and forests, Juneau is an outdoor enthusiasts' paradise. It's also steeped in rich history and native heritage and has a thriving art and music scene.
Juneau cruise port can accommodate three ships, including two new floating cruise ship berths. The port is within walking distance to town and easily explored on foot. However, this port city is for our resident outdoor enthusiasts, so prepare to get active out in nature. Juneau is also the gateway to Tracy Arm Fjord, Mendenhall Glacier, and the world-famous Glacier Bay.
- The Alaska State Museum: This museum is over a century old and displays artifacts of clothing, tools and weapons from Alaskan native inhabitants, as well as memorabilia from the Russian-American era.
- Mendenhall Glacier: Hike out to one of the city's main attractions, the Mendenhall Glacier, a challenging 3.5-mile loop trail. Or the less inclined can do the shorter and more leisurely jaunt to Photo Point.
- Canoe tour: For an even closer look, you must go on a Mendenhall Glacier canoe tour. The sheer size of these ice blocks up close is awe-inspiring.
- Dog sledding: Looking for a when-in-Rome moment? Then undertake a Juneau dog sledding tour.
- Whale watching: Southeast Alaska is one of the primary feeding grounds for orcas and humpback whales. If you don’t spot any from the ship, there are several boat tours that can take you out, where you are guaranteed whale sightings.
- Mount Juneau: This 3-mile hike is a local favorite that takes you over multiple creeks on its way to the summit of Mount Juneau.
- Mount Roberts tramway: You can also climb Mount Roberts, albeit somewhat more difficult. Luckily, you have the option of the cable car taking you to the summit of 3800 ft elevation, offering breath-taking views over Juneau.
- Helicopter glacier flightseeing: For a birds-eye view of this incredible landscape, including landing on a glacier, consider a Juneau heli-tour.
- Grizzly Bears: Take a 30-minute seaplane flight to bear country and witness these massive creatures fishing for salmon in the creek.
- Skiing & Snowboarding: An excellent opportunity for our resident skiers to hit the slopes: visit Eaglecrest Ski Area on Douglas Island, across Gastineau Channel from Juneau. There are runs to suit all difficulty levels, from beginner to advanced.
- Glacier Bay: MV Narrative could venture into Glacier Bay and possibly anchor...as long as there are no icebergs.
- Huna Tribal House: Participate in workshops, including native Alaskan woodwork, weaving, song and dance.
Vancouver is one of those impossibly beautiful cities that balances nature and urbanization. It's also one of those cities and harbors that are made for cruises. Think Hong Kong, Sydney, and New York. The Port Metro Vancouver is right on the doorstep of downtown, making the city easy to explore, and there's plenty to see. Whether you explore by the hop-on, hop-off bus, on foot, or even by horse-drawn carriage, Vancouver will no doubt charm you.
Take the time to explore Chinatown, the second biggest in North America behind San Francisco. Also, Stanley Park is an evergreen oasis of over 400 hectares and is considered one of the world's great city parks. The city also boasts the Seawall Water Walk, one of the best city walks worldwide. If you yearn for more nature immersion, world-class hiking trails are on Vancouver's doorstep.
Vancouver must see:
- Seawall Walk: Take the time to walk the seawall and take in the beautiful city and harbor.
- Chinatown: Come here if you're a foodie or in need of some traditional Chinese herbal medicine. Be sure to check out Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
- Stanley Park: The park is an island oasis right next to downtown. Enjoy the natural west coast rainforest while admiring views of the harbor, mountains and majestic trees.
- Capilano Suspension Bridge: The famous Capilano Suspension Bridge is a wood and rope bridge crossing dense evergreen treetops 110 ft above the forest floor.
- Whale watching: We highly recommend the Prince of Wales tour, a conservation-focused look at British Columbia's marine life. Besides orca and humpbacks, expect to see Pacific white-sided dolphins, sea lions, elephant seals and more.
- Grouse Mountain: Catch the cable car to "the peak of Vancouver." What you do at the top depends on the season. You can hike, mountain bike, or zip line in the summer. In winter, you can ski, snowboard, or ice skate. Either season, you will have incredible views over the city, the Gulf Islands and the Ocean.
- Museum of Anthropology: The city's most beloved museum features totem poles, indigenous masks and over 50,000 ethnographic objects, as well as 535,000 archaeological objects.
- Queen Elizabeth Park: The highest vantage point in Vancouver has extraordinary views of the North Shore Mountains and beyond. But the main draw is the gardens, impeccably manicured lawns, evergreens, and flowering plant beds.
While Central America consists of incredible destinations, including Mexico's ancient Mayan civilization, Belize's Blue Lagoon, and Costa Rica's amazing jungles, only the Panama Canal has been requested thus far. There are also spectacular volcanoes and nature experiences in Northern Guatemala and parts of El Salvador.
Many of the requested destinations of North, Central and South America run along the west coast so it’s entirely possible that we might skip the canal and cruise around Cape Horn and back up the east coast of the Americas toward Rio de Janeiro.That remains to be seen…
After cruising down Southern Mexico and Costa Rica, we come across one of the world's engineering wonders, the Panama Canal, arguably the most extraordinary feat of marine engineering in history. However, it came at a cost…the 77km-long canal first began construction by the French in the 1880s, but after some 20,000 lives were lost, they gave up.
After learning from France’s efforts, the Americans took over and completed and opened the canal in 1914, but not before another 5,609 lives were lost, primarily contract laborers from the Caribbean.
The result was that the canal saved ships from sailing around the entire continent of South America, equating to about 8,000 miles and five months of travel. Despite the tragedy involved in constructing the Panama Canal, it remains on many a cruiser's bucket list. It must be experienced (especially for the engineering geeks among us) if only to appreciate the thousands of human lives sacrificed while connecting the two great oceans.
We list a few potential stops and shore excursion options along the way. There is also a popular option for rail enthusiasts…the newly refurbished Panama Railway runs parallel to the canal from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic, offering great views from luxury carriages. As the expedition begins so close to Panama City, there's a good chance the ship will dock there first (although that destination has not been specifically requested yet).
Panama Canal must see:
- Cementerio Francés: Come here to pay your respects. Although there are only 300 crosses, the site contains the remains of over 22,000 French, Spanish, Chinese, Indian, and Central Americans who perished during France's early efforts to construct the canal.
- Lake Gatún: The lake was formed by flooding caused by the canal's construction. It is massive and, when created, was the largest manmade lake in the world.
- Gamboa: This popular port stop halfway through the canal is the access point to Gamboa Rainforest and Soberania National Park. You can also find excellent street food in town.
- Rainforest trek: You can do tours or excursions of the world's most impenetrable rainforest. The easy one-hour twenty-minute trek features dense rainforest wildlife.
- Rainforest aerial tram: For those who prefer to be up in the treetops, this 600 meter cable car takes you through the rainforest canopy. Expect to see monkeys, sloths and other wildlife.
- Embera Indian Village: Experience distinct cultures of the indigenous groups who inhabit the isthmus of Panama, the Embera, and Wuanaan. They teach you their customs, lifestyle, and an unparalleled culture going back before Spanish Colonization.
- Soberania National Park: This nature reserve offers some of the best bird watching on the planet, with toucans, trogons, woodpeckers, crested eagles, ground cuckoos, the endangered harpy eagle and many more wonders.
Volunteer Opportunity near Panama Canal
There are great ways you can give back in Panama, including in and around Panama City and the canal. One local organization specializing in meaningful projects where you can have a real impact is Habla Ya Panama. You can help at public schools, orphanages, animal rescue centers, and environmental conservation. They also have literacy projects, including teaching English to Panamanians, or you can work with disabled children and adults.
It's great to see New Orleans get a shout-out as one of the most distinct and culturally rich cities in North America. From its beginnings, New Orleans has fostered an environment of acceptance, inclusion and tolerance. The city's rich heritage of Native American, European and African cultures have commingled here for centuries, each impacting the spirit of the new world city. It is also the birthplace of jazz, which you should definitely experience live.
The Port of New Orleans is the sixth largest cruise port in the USA and is conveniently located in the heart of downtown on the Mississippi River. Ships the size of MV Narrative can dock here. Wear comfortable walking shoes as the city is best explored on foot, and carry cash as many bars are surprisingly cash-only establishments.
Note: Remain vigilant when in crowded areas for pickpockets. Keep your phone and wallet secure.
New Orleans must see:
- Bourbon Street: Whether you do a pub crawl or a guided walking tour, you must explore one of America's most famous streets including its iconic bars.
- French Quarter: Soak up the historic French Quarter and its distinctive architecture. See St. Louis Cathedral, Royal Street, and Jackson Square.
- Cafe du Monde: Head to this historic cafe for their famous French donuts, called beignets (pronounced ben-yays).
- Carousel Bar & Lounge: Have a drink at this famous bar which has a decorated Merry Go Round with bartenders in the middle shaking up top-shelf cocktails.
- Listen to live music: Whether it be in one of the many jazz bars or watching folk performance on the street, you must (when in Rome) listen to live music in New Orleans.
- French market: Stock up on fresh produce or come for a drink or something to eat in this eclectic market.
- Catch a streetcar: From the edge of the French Quarter, hop on the historic St. Charles Avenue line and take in the antebellum mansions and ancient oak trees on the 40-minute journey.
- Paddle steamer river ride: Take a ride on the Mississippi River on one of the iconic paddle steamer boats.
- City Park: Take time out to chill and explore City Park along with its botanical garden, carousels, statues, and storyland section.
New York City
What a way to finish off this leg of the journey with one of the world's great cities: New York City. The most populous city in the United States has almost 9 million people over 300 square miles and a whopping 23.5 million in greater New York. The city comprises five boroughs; Queens, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the iconic Manhattan. New York City is a global financial, commercial and cultural center with many famous sites, including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and the neon-lit Times Square.
New York also has one of the largest natural harbors in the world, which will allow for an excellent view of the Statue of Liberty upon arrival. Be sure you are up on deck to get a look at this magnificent structure, a gift from the French. The passenger ship terminals are conveniently located on the west side of Manhattan, about a 15-minute walk from midtown. We will not list all of the city's attractions, as there is simply too much to see.
New York must see:
- Empire State Building: Climb to the iconic open-air observation deck on the 86th floor of this historic building for the best views of Manhattan. Book tickets ahead online to skip the queue, and there's always a queue!
- Chrysler Building: Another iconic building, Chrysler is a fantastic work of architecture that needs to be admired up close. You can explore the lobby and the art deco design of the interior.
- Times Square: Better experienced at night when it's lit up by all the neon lights and digital advertising; the place is buzz-full of energy and activity.
- Broadway show: If time permits and you can get a ticket, take in a theater show on Broadway. Again, book ahead to ensure you secure a ticket. There are plenty of shows to choose from!
- Central Park: One of the world's great urban parks, Central Park covers an incredible 840 acres and offers the perfect escape from the concrete jungle.
- The High Line: The High Line is an old railway line elevated above Manhattan's west side streets. Converted into a public walkway with gardens along the path, it makes for a pleasant walk above the bustling city below.
- The Guggenheim Museum: Lovers of architecture must visit the Guggenheim Museum, designed by the legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
- 9/11 Memorial & One World Trade Center: Visit the site of the old World Trade Center towers, now a memorial for those who perished. One World Trade Center is the new impressive building built south of the memorial and stands as the 7th tallest building in the world.
Storylines is a luxury lifestyle ship with a like-minded community of globally-conscious citizens traveling the world. We seek unique experiences, cultural events, and community participation while practicing and promoting sustainable travel. To learn more, visit our website.
Disclaimer: The ultimate world cruise itinerary blog post series explores some of the requested destinations of our community of global citizens on board Storylines MV Narrative. It is for inspiration only at this time and the final itinerary has not yet been set. Further information in our FAQ.