Tips for Shore Stops on a Cruise That Includes Kauai

KAUAI — This is called research. Wouldn't you come to Kauai to dig up, along with some sand, information for a blog? Wouldn't you make a special trip down the road a few miles just to have a look at Pride of America, which would be called Hawaii's cruise ship if it didn't belong to Norwegian? Wouldn't you try to find a good shore excursion or two for cruise passengers who spend as much as a day and a half on The Garden Island, as it's known to locals and tourists alike?

We would. So we did.

And today and tomorrow, you'll read about two of the many things to do on the oldest of the Hawaiian islands, which specialize in things to do. Both are within reasonable reach of where Pride of America docks 52 weeks a year, although just about everything is within reasonable reach on Kauai, an island that measures 562 square miles…think 56 miles by 10 miles.

Today, it's the Plantation Railway. This is right on Hawaii Highway 50, just over three miles from Nawiliwli Harbor, an eight-minute drive so it's not an expensive cab ride. 

The Plantation (called Kilohana) is a flashback to the days when sugar cane was the island's biggest business, which it hasn't been for more than a quarter century. Plantation railways were used to transfer workers and products to and from the fields, and this is the last of them. Powered by a 66-year-old engine, the trainKauai trainnow hauls customers through a mini tropical forest that features the variety of fruits and vegetables among assorted plants and trees. While the train ride is the feature attraction, there's also a mansion to be explored, a luau to be consumed, and various rums to be tasted.

The 40-minute, professionally narrated ride is interrupted once…to feed the animals. This is especially popular with kids (and old kids), who are armed with bread to satisfy the appetites of goats, sheep and wild pigs whose body clocks seemed timed for the visit. The pigs were innovative additions. They used to be a nuisance on the plantation, so rather than get rid of them the pigs were corralled in the enclosed farmyard where they now flourish…and multiply. Now more than 50 in number, the wild pigs are a fraction of the more than 300,000 that inhabit this island, six for every man, woman and child.

The tour costs $18. More elaborate options are a four-and-a-half-hour adventure that includes a hike and lunch for $75, or the "Train & Luau" tour for $117. If either is close to being as good a value as the 40-minute tour — and the many tourist books often have discount coupons — it's money well spent.

Tomorrow: Coffee, anyone?

Carnival Freedom
4 nights
December 5, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): NassauFreeport
Inside: $169
Cost per day: $42
www.carnival.com

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