Golf Cruises: Tee'd off on a Cruise

Kuki the duffer I'm a golfer. Not a good golfer, just a hacker, but a golfer nonetheless. My philosophy is simple. If I can't play like a professional, I can still go on a golf cruise look like one. I came to the Hawaiian Islands in full regalia....Tiger Wood's Nike swish on my golf shirt, logo's on every possible piece of equipment and clothing. I was set to play some of the world's most scenic courses, traveling with enough golf balls that looking for lost ones wouldn't even momentarily detract from my enjoyment.

Royal Caribbean International's brochure says it is the "official cruise line to the PGA." Armed with this knowledge, and finding they offered the "Golf Ahoy" Excursion Program on our recent Hawaiian Island cruise aboard Rhapsody of the Seas, who better to trust when deciding which of the 100's of gorgeous courses to play throughout the islands.

At least in the cas e of the Hawaiian Islands, I found that Royal Caribbean that does not live up to that trust. Their Golf Ahoy offerings were so poor, I made a formal written complaint with the shore excursion desk. Given the vast choice among the world's top courses, the assortment in the Golf Ahoy program were an embarrassment both to them and the PGA for lending its name to this program.

The cruise line charged a premium-commission for connecting the passenger to the tour operator/ golf club-I deemed it a fair exchange for their expertise in guiding me to the best courses. I was irate when I began to feel that quality of the facilities did not enter into the selection process. Other golfers were easy to identify at the piers. No one we talked with was happy with any of the courses they booked through RCI.

Fortunately, on Kauai we booked a helicopter tour in the morning, conflicting with the Golf Ahoy Excursion. So, we arranged our own afternoon golf at a fabulous course with holes running near the Pacific Ocean. Just the image a golfer has of Hawaii.

We had pre-booked the Golf Ahoy excursion for Maui, and I was very tempted to cancel and find something on our own. But I was naive... I'd been to Maui before, and knew there had to be 50 great golf courses. I thought, even if they didn't use the best, anything they came up with had to be good. Wrong!! It was as if they went out of their way to find the worst courses.

The next day in Honolulu I got a recommendation from a hotel concierge and played the Ko'olau Golf Club for 2/3 of the price of any of the courses Royal Caribbean used on any of the other islands. It may be the toughest and most scenic golf course I have ever played. It was a pleasure to hand them my money, and shoot a ridiculously high score. I was a happy golfer.

Maybe RCI should solicit the recommendations of hotel concierge desks in the islands, or inform passengers that booking golf outings is not their strength--they 're definitely much better at activities afloat. I recommend checking out the courses Royal Caribbean uses in its "Golf Ahoy" program before plunking down money and winding up at a course that's below par. Remember, it's not all that difficult to search out the best course on an island and arrange it yourself, whether you're in Hawaii, the Caribbean or Mexico.

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