Archive for March, 2012

Embarkation – Day 2

Posted in Travel on March 30, 2012 by needlefingers

Saturday, we were ready to board the ship.  After yet another wonderful breakfast buffet, we returned to our room to wait until time for our shuttle.  What should we see heading for the pier?

POA heading for the pier

Of course, we still had a few hours (getting 2100 people off a ship and putting it back to rights takes a while), so we just enjoyed the breezes from our balcony.  We had two visitors, dubbed George and Gracie by Ramblin.

George and Gracie

Finally, it was time to meet for the shuttle.  The shuttle was a bit late (chalk it up to ‘island time’) which only made the anticipation increase.  Finally it arrived, and we were on our way.  Despite having sailed before, seeing the ship for the first time was still exciting.  If you haven’t been on a cruise ship, you just can’t imagine the magnitude.  Unlike our Alaskan cruise, dropping off the luggage, going through security, and completing check-in went fairly quick.  We were soon aboard and heading to the Aloha Cafe for the lunch buffet.

After we were through with lunch, we had planned to wander the ship a bit.  Cabins are not typically ready until after 2pm, and they had started announcing the decks that were done.  Just as we were walking through the pool area, our deck was announced.  Same as in
Alaska, we had reserved a balcony cabin.  Is a balcony necessary?  No.  Is it nice?  Oh so very.  While the cabin was ready, our luggage had not yet arrived (which is standard as well), but we did lounge in the room until it was time for our muster drill at 5pm.

A little before 5, we headed to our muster station.  Conveniently, our luggage had appeared outside our door, so we stashed it until later.  The muster was five decks down, and there were already several fellow cruisers there.  In very little time, we were briefed about the safety procedures and were free to roam about.  We returned to the room, unpacked, grabbed the cameras, and headed for the upper decks.

The ship was scheduled to sail at 7pm, so we headed up to the top deck to watch the sunset and take some last pictures of Honolulu.  We were even graced with another rainbow.

Embarkation rainbow

That evening, we went to the opening show.  There was information from the cruise director and a number from the production staff.  Then the comedian, Tim Kaminski, came to the stage.  Oh my word.  I can’t describe what happened that evening, but here’s just a sample of what it was like.

They replayed that show the rest of the week, and it was just as funny the seventh time of watching it.

After that, we were tired little pups, so off to bed we went.

POA Lei

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Hawaii – Day 1

Posted in Uncategorized on March 27, 2012 by needlefingers

Our first full day in Hawaii got an early start, though not by midwest standards.  It began at 5:30am local time, or 10:30am central.  Yes, pity us and our early rising.  We started off with a breakfast buffet in our hotel.  Really good stuff and bacon cooked just the way I like it – breakable.  We convened with our group and waited for the tour bus to arrive.  Our tour guide was Cousin Mario, an authentic Sicilian Hawaiian.  (In Hawaii, everyone is o’hana, or family.)  First up was a tour of Pearl Harbor.  The tour company had a representative at the harbor to pick up tickets as soon as they opened.  Cousin Mario explained we might have an 8:30 tour or 8:45 or 9:00.  When he got the tickets, they were for 10:45.  It was currently 7:45.  Mario, like the rest of the Hawaiian people, had a good outlook.  It was a beautiful day in paradise, whattayagonnado?

While we waited, there were plenty of things to look at.  You could tour the USS Missouri, the battleship where the WWII peace treaty was signed.  There was also the Pacific Aviation Museum.  However, as those two things required riding a shuttle, we opted to tour the USS Bowfin submarine.  The Bowfin was built after the Pearl Harbor attack and was designated the “Pearl Harbor Avenger”.  After making my way through the sub, all I can hope is tall people were not stationed on them.
USS Bowfin

Soon it was time for our tour.  We watched a 25 minute film on the history leading up to the attack as well as footage from the attack.  Then we boarded a ferry to take us to the memorial.  What can you say?  It’s a beautiful, sad tribute.

USS Arizona Memorial

Since the ship has been untouched from the time of the sinking, all the fuels are still in it.  A phenomenon referred to as “Tears of the Arizona” is when bits of oil drift up to the surface.  I didn’t know how frequently this occurred, but the park ranger explained it was not a constant happening.  This told me the odds of us seeing it were not great, as you only have 15 minutes at the memorial.  Just then Ramblin said, “Look.”  There was a bit of oil, iridescent on the water.  And then suddenly, there was a lot.  I have never seen pictures of the like.  To a cynic, it’s essentially slow-motion, gradual pollution, but being there, it was quite touching.

Tears of the Arizona

Iridescent Tears of the Arizona

After waiting on some adults whom couldn’t tell time, we were back on the road.  We drove through Punchbowl Cemetery, past various sights of Honolulu, and stopped at the King Kamehameha statue.  Mario said 10-15 minutes.  One woman took that to mean she was free to do whatever, and her husband ended up having to track her down in a nearby museum.  At this time, I would like to make a general announcement to certain members of my gender:  You are not the only person in the Universe.  Stop acting like it.  Your actions impact others, and you give the rest of us a bad name.  If I could vote you off the island, I would.

Due to the delay at the start of our day, we made it back to the hotel about an hour and a half later than scheduled.  We had planned to hike the Diamond Head Crater, but after the extra time walking around Pearl Harbor, we opted instead to track down food.

The one restaurant in Waikiki that kept getting mentioned in the cruising forums was Duke’s, specifically for the fish tacos and hula pie.  We took a pleasant walk from our hotel to Duke’s and promptly ordered the fish tacos.  Our waitress offered us the market fish (meaning it was fresh fish, instead of fresh frozen) for a few dollars more, and we agreed.  She said the market fish was opah, and it was her favorite.  It was awesome.  And then the hula pie.  Oh my. Best meal of the vacation.

Hula Pie

After we ate, we walked to the beach and with shoes in hand, wandered along the shore, letting the surf rush over our feet.  We wandered through a few of the shops and picked up a few souvenirs.  In the International Marketplace, I found the world-famous treat of Dole Whip.  Granted, I can get it from a semi-local place occasionally, but it tastes even better in paradise.  We came back to the hotel to rest a bit, then went back to the beach for sunset.  Unfortunately, it was overcast just where the sun was, so no vibrant sky for us.

Here are a few random pictures from the day.

Bird of Paradise
Bird of Paradise

Banyan Tree
Banyan Tree - Oahu

Wizard Stones of Waikiki
Wizard Stones at Waikiki

Alo-ha!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 27, 2012 by needlefingers

As you can hopefully deduce from the title, we’ve been to Hawaii.

Prologue

After this many vacations, you would think I would be a pro at this.  I’m not sure what went haywire, but I had zero focus and left many of the small details until the last day.  Maybe it was because we had this booked so far in advance.  Anyway, Ramblin’ arrived home early, we grabbed whatever we thought we needed and headed to Indy for our traditional park-not-sleep-a-wink-and-fly.  Dinner, also the usual, was at Kazablankas, with an excellent salmon salad for myself and Ramblin opted for the catfish dinner.  (for those of you used to my travelogues, you know food is important)

Day One – Travel

Despite booking an 8:30 flight, this still meant we had to be up by 5:30 Indy time.  Better, but still not great.  After being treated to some charming breakfast conversation from the next table over, we boarded the shuttle to the airport.  Our first leg took us to Salt Lake City.  It was about a 3 1/2 hour flight, not too bad.  I napped a bit which helped.  After our layover that included lunch at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Diner (almond crusted chicken tender salad for me, bbq chicken salad for Ramblin), we boarded our flight to Honolulu.  Or as the pilot put it, “Our short 6 hour 15 minute flight to Honolulu.”   Due to the extended flight, we were on a larger jet which had media screens in each of the seat backs.  I left mine mostly on the flight info, which in addition to the time remaining, would also pop up a map so that you could see exactly where you were.  Awesome.
Display of progress on the airplane

When it hit the four hours remaining, my spirit nearly died.  But once it got to 3 hours 30 minutes, it got a lot better.  Don’t ask me why half an hour made that much difference, but it did.  I had never flown over that much water, and I casually wondered if it might bother me, but with the screens to keep everyone entertained (sounds like the aviation sector has picked up some strategies from parents), the windows mostly stayed shuttered to knock down glare.  Add in cloud cover, and it felt like we were simply on a bus.

It was very exciting to see Mauna Loa as we flew in.  Even more exciting when we flew past Pearl Harbor.  Once we got off the plane, we got ‘leied’ and gathered into our shuttle group.  An hour and a half later, we were at our hotel, the Waikiki Resort Hotel. (It’s actually about a block from the beach.)  One of the things I found amazing is that the hotels do not have doors to the lobbies. It’s simply open air, tucked well back under the covered drive. When we checked in, the desk clerk told us we had been upgraded to an ocean view.  Now, there are lots of very tall buildings in downtown Honolulu.  I figured we might have a sliver of the water from our window.  Oh no – balcony, baby!  I might have squeed with delight.

We had a nice view of the water.

Sunset at Waikiki from our balcony

And of Diamond Head Crater as well.

Diamond Head Crater from our balcony

This marked about 17 hours from the alarm going off and over nine hours since our last food, peanuts notwithstanding.  We wandered down the street to Blazin’ Steaks.  At first, we were the only ones there.  The building was nothing spectacular to look at, but the food was excellent.  Ramblin had the steak and shrimp, and I had the garlic steak.  Both were accompanied by fried rice and mixed greens.  We then wandered around Honolulu.  There was a wonderful outdoor marketplace where we found Dole Whip!  Straight from the source!  I also bought some fresh pineapple, as it is my goal to eat my weight in pineapple this trip.  We made our way back to the hotel, ending the day a full 20 hours after it began.  Of course, it was only 8pm here.

Oh yes, how could I forget the weather – a breezy, balmy 80 degrees.