by Suzanne G.
The Star of Honolulu is the area’s biggest and most well-known dinner cruise. They offer a variety of dining options (with entertainment) for different budgets, plus stunning views of the south Oahu shoreline, Diamond Head Crater, and the beaches of Waikiki. Operating seven days a week from Honolulu Harbor, it is a great option for travelers looking for an evening sightseeing cruise. The Star is often promoted as a ‘luau at sea’, which seems impossible, so I had to see for myself.
The Star of Honolulu is docked at Pier 8 in Honolulu Harbor, next to the Aloha Tower Marketplace. This is about three to four miles from most Waikiki hotels. There are several ways to get there. The easiest option would be to add the Star’s shuttle service. Currently, it is $18 per person and will pick you up at or near your Waikiki hotel. Taxis, rideshares, and public transportation will also get you there though, possibly quicker and for less money. You can also drive yourself there. If you do, be aware that the public parking lots near the harbor and Aloha Tower are expensive. You will pay (at minimum) $18 for three hours of parking and the Star does not validate.
When I went, I took the Waikiki Trolley’s Red Line there. This is a hop-on-hop-off style tour of the historic and cultural sites of downtown Honolulu. One of the last stops in Honolulu is the Aloha Tower. Of course, I would not recommend that as a transportation option unless you are interested in taking that tour on its own merits. But if you are interested in touring Honolulu, this is a great daytime tour that pairs very nicely with either the Star dinner cruise or the Ka Moana Luau (also held at the Aloha Tower).
The Star of Honolulu is a large ship so it is easy to locate. At four stories tall it is quite hard to miss it! The teeny-tiny check-in desk located next to it on the pier was hard to spot though, but I zoomed in on where people were congregating and eventually found where I needed to go. After check-in, we waited on the dock for embarkation while enjoying some pier-side hula dancing and live music.
The Star offers several meal packages, each served on a different floor of the ship. There’s a buffet option, a casual meal, a deluxe option, and a signature option that is only available on the weekends. I chose the deluxe option, served on the third floor of the ship. We were lined up by floor/meal type, and boarded by floor. I climbed the stairs to the third floor and then was seated at a cozy little window booth with a great view of the stage. (Window seats aren’t guaranteed unless you upgrade to a celebration package, I just got lucky.)
The Deluxe Three-star package includes a five-course meal and two complimentary drinks.
The complimentary drink menu was surprisingly generous and free of stipulations, it seemed like you really could order anything for free. I ordered a Lava Flow, which is a rum-based tropical drink, which is half pina colada and half strawberry daiquiri. It was fantastic, but very filling, which I would regret later. All passengers were also given a glass of non-alcoholic champagne to toast as we set sail.
The first course was a charcuterie table we were invited to help ourselves with after receiving our drinks. It had a generous section of cheeses, crackers, fruit, and toppings to pair with the cheese. Next was an endive salad with a housemade lilikoi vinaigrette, which was fresh and light. The third course was a whole Maine lobster, split, and served in the shell. It was cooked perfectly and served with clarified butter. This was followed by beef tenderloin served with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. You don’t get to choose the degree of doneness, but I was still happy with it, very tender and delicious. The final course was a mango mousse cake, which I found waiting at my table for me when I returned from watching the sunset from the observation deck. It also was delicious, though I could barely finish it.
Overall, I found the food and beverages to be quite good. Every course was a winner, the hot food was hot, the timing was spot on, and the plates looked beautiful when they arrived. I did not expect meal service on a boat to be quite this good and I was pleasantly surprised.
Entertainment varied throughout the night. It started with live Hawaiian music during most of the dinner service. Then it switched over to a jazz combo later on, and then the “65 Years of Aloha” started after the sunset. I wasn’t too interested in the jazz music, but that was fine because I spent most of their act on the observation deck watching the sunset and enjoying the scenery anyway. The view was stunning, I took some amazing photographs of Diamond Head Crater and Waikiki’s shoreline and just enjoyed some cool breezes. I returned inside just in time for dessert and the Aloha show, which was a cute story that featured hula and Tahitian dancing. The view is the star of this cruise, though, despite many talented performers giving their best.
Overall, I found the service on the Star of Honolulu to be exceptional. My server was especially helpful and attentive. She let me know right away that I could go outside and walk around at any point during the meal. I appreciated this because the observation deck was calling my name and it was nice to space out the meal courses a bit. Even though I took several mini-breaks to walk around outside, her timing was impeccable. The hot food was always hot, my water glass was always full, and I never wanted for anything. All the servers seemed to get their timing just right, even with people coming and going, which I found very impressive. Good service extends far beyond the wait staff though. From check-in to disembarkation, everyone that I interacted with was friendly, professional, and attentive.
After the cruise ended, a line of taxis was waiting for passengers at the pier. Unfortunately, I had already ordered a rideshare as we were waiting to disembark. Had I known, I would have just jumped in a cab and given the taxi drivers the business. My Lyft arrived in just a few minutes, though, and I only paid $12.11 (before tip) for a ride back to Waikiki.
Final Thoughts about the Star of Honolulu Dinner Cruise:
Overall, I enjoyed this experience and would do it again. I thought the meal and the service were exceptional, despite the challenges of serving hundreds of people on a boat. The entertainment was good, though I was more interested in being on the open water. The scenery and the sunset were stunning, and everything else about this cruise was just icing on the cake.
I had some concerns about eating a heavy meal at sea, but it was a smooth voyage and motion sickness was not an issue. The boat is quite large and stable, and I rarely felt like I needed to hold on to a railing when I was walking around.
Don’t take this cruise because you are into jazz or because you want to see a hula show, there are much better ways to do that in Honolulu. The entertainment is overshadowed by the scenery and this is not a great way to learn about Hawaiian culture.
If you want to take a ride on a boat have a fancy meal and see some amazing scenery then absolutely this is for you. The price is steep, currently $172 each, but it is comparable to what you would pay for a sightseeing cruise and decent meal in Waikiki separately. It is a perfect way to celebrate a special occasion or a relaxing way to end your Hawaiian vacation.
What surprised me most about the Star of Honolulu Dinner Cruise
I thought I was going to be cruising with a bunch of retired couples celebrating their golden anniversaries. However, I was very wrong. I was surprised by how many people were in their 20s, 30s, 40’s, etc. And it was not exclusively couples, but many friend groups and families aboard as well. I was the only solo traveler, but I never felt out of place or uncomfortable and I met a lot of friendly folks during the cruise. The Star is still a great date cruise, but it is not designed exclusively for couples. Almost anyone would enjoy this cruise, though I would not recommend it for families traveling with small children.
What I loved about the Star of Honolulu Dinner Cruise:
- Easy to get to and find.
- Phenomenal views of the Oahu coastline.
- The meal and service was excellent.
What I didn’t love about the Star of Honolulu Dinner Cruise:
- Everything seemed a bit dated, time for a refresh.
- The price.