Sep 13

Photo of the Week: Hawaii

From Hawaii this is a flower.  I would love to tell you what type, but my guide spoke about so many flowers that I can’t remember which is which, but I thought it was quite lovely.  If you do know, please feel free to post in the comments section.

Jun 22

Pearl Harbor and the last day in Hawaii

This was the last day of Tara and I’s cruise as well as the day we were visiting Pearl Harbor and flying home.

We were up at 6:15 to get all of our stuff together and make sure nothing was getting left behind. Despite not liking the Aloha Cafe we decided to go back, but we had a plan. We were going to grab a table and then take turns getting food. This worked out OK and we were done with breakfast with plenty of time to get to the Hollywood Theatre, which was our tour meeting place. Departure was fine, though one of the escalators was broken which slowed things down.

We boarded our bus and our driver was good, he explained that we would not be able to go to the cemetery, which was closed for the Memorial Day weekend for only family of military. We were dropped off at 9:15 and had a 10:45 tour of the Arizona Memorial. We decided to first go to the area with the rockets by the Bowfin. I got some pictures of the rockets and there was an area with little monuments for all the ships lost at sea with their story and a list of the lives lost, it was really nice. Next we walked back over to the main museum.

For a $5 donation you can get the audio tour. I recommend this for 2 reasons – first, you hear good info about the museum and the events surrounding December 7, but even better is that you are making a donation to the museum. The museum did seem a bit crowded at times and in different spots, but they are building a new one which should be ready next year. There are a lot of good displays and I enjoyed the tour. On the tour for the Arizona you first see a movie, which was very good, and got me a bit misty eyed. You are reminded to be quiet on the tour which now takes a boat to the site of the Arizona and the Memorial there. I was surprised at how quiet people actually are. I’ve been to a lot of places where you should be quiet and peoples ability to do that varies greatly, until the end when we were boarding our boat back everyone was very quiet. The memorial was really nice. From the sides you can see parts of the Arizona that are near the surface. In the middle there are diagrams of the ship as it sits today. In the middle there is a cut out where you can see the oil that is seeping out of the Arizona. In the back is a wall with a list of the names of all those lost, and a list of those who survived but were later buried at the Arizona. I really liked it and the experience.

Next we took a shuttle over to the Missouri Battleship, where the armistice was signed. This was pretty good too, though not nearly as good as the Arizona Memorial. If you’re not into looking at military ships then this might not be the best use of time, but it’s still interesting. Tara seemed to find this a form of torture, and it was quite hot and it’s not really something I’m that interested in, so we did a more abbreviated tour. It would have been nice to do a tour just to hear about the armistice, but as for looking at the mock ups of what crew areas looked like, not so much. But then, I have seen several military boats in the past so I know some of what would be said. On the Missouri they do have the US and Japanese copies of the armistice, which was really neat to see. After we looked around the ship we had lunch, shopped, and then waited to leave. I felt like we had a little more time here then we needed, but that’s better then not enough time.

After the Missouri we did a little tour of Honolulu. We visited the downtown area with the Palace and the oldest church in Hawaii, which Tara and I had already seen. We also took a ride through China Town which apparently isn’t a safe place to visit after dark. Since we couldn’t go to the cemetery we made a stop at Nuuanu Pali Park which had more beautiful scenery.

We were dropped off at the airport a little after 4 and had to kill 4 hours before out flights back home.

Jun 12

Waikiki Marriott

When I was in Honolulu Tara and I had a free night before the cruise and I chose the Waikiki Marriott. When I was choosing the hotel I wanted something nice and with a view of the beach. I figured for only 1 night that we both wanted something nice and didn’t worry about the price too much. The Marriott is on Waikiki beach and with the name Marriott I knew it would be good. There were also several Hiltons and Sheratons I considered, but the prices were more and I wasn’t convinced there was much more behind the cost. The biggest downside was that it was at the far end of Waikiki beach which added to the cost of our taxi to and from the hotel.

Things started out very well, when I checked in we were given a complementary upgrade to junior suite with an ocean view. Our room had a huge bathroom, tons of closet space, two beds, a couch, flat screen tv and 2 balconies. I’m sorry we didn’t have more time here! We both enjoyed the one balcony which had a fantastic view of the ocean, I enjoyed watching the surfers in the morning. The beds were also really comfortable. We did not eat at any of the restaurants here since we actually weren’t hungry the night we arrived. The next morning we opted against spending $15 a person for breakfast and went to Burger King for food but ate it on the beach. We found that to be a good way to save a couple dollars while still enjoying the environment. It’s not like the locals go to $15 buffet breakfasts either.

In the evening and in the morning we took a walk around Waikiki and I thought it was a nice beach area. Different spots of the water had a different set up to allow for different water conditions. There was a variety of shops within our hotel and if you can’t find it there you can probably find it in within a block or two’s walk. Overall the Waikiki Marriott and it’s location met our expectations and with the upgrade we were both really happy with the hotel. Actually, my experience with hotels is fairly limited (i.e. I’m not an expert), but this was probably the nicest I’ve been to and would definitely consider staying here in the future.

Jun 01

Wailua River and Fern Grotto

On our last day of the cruise Tara and I did an excursion to Wailua River and Fern Grotto, I would say that this was my least favorite excursion, though I did still enjoy it. It was a group of around 90 people and we were picked up from the ship and taken on 2 different buses. Our driver/guide was really good and had a fun personality. I ended up talking to him quite a bit about my camera.

Opaekaa Falls

Our first stop was at Opaekaa Falls for a photo stop. The falls were nice and there were a bunch of chickens around. There are chickens running free all around the island and are quite a nuisance to the residents.

After that we met our boat that would take the whole group down the Wailua River. The boat was large enough to hold us all, but we didn’t have a good view of the river from our seats. I think it would have been nicer with a smaller group on one of the smaller boats. But sailing on the river was relaxing. Once docked we walked a bit to the Grotto which was pretty to look at, though not up to the beauty of some of the other things we had seen on the trip. While there, we had a couple local performers who played and danced to the Hawaiian Wedding Song. Then we went back to the boat to sail back, this time we had entertainment from the local performers who showed us some of the Hawaiian dances and taught us how to hula. After that we went back to the ship with a quick photo stop at a coastal area.

Fern Grotto

Overall it was an enjoyable excursion, but the group was too big and the sites weren’t as cool as the other things we had seen.

May 29

Helicopter Tour of Kauai

On the first day in Kauai Tara and I took a helicopter tour of the island and it was fantastic. At times during the trip I wondered if Hawaii was the most beautiful place I had ever been to, I was able to say it was towards the top of the list, but I couldn’t say it was the most beautiful. Kauai changed that, it’s the most beautiful place. It was so beautiful that I almost cried. Our friends from the Hana tour had a woman actually cry when they did their helicopter tour. It’s that beautiful.

I was looking at pictures today from the tour and it’s even more beautiful then I remembered. I’ve been to the Grand Canyon and on this tour we visited the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon. Waimea Canyon was created by lava, but the the caynon is much more lush and green then the Grand Canyon. It’s not nearly as large, but I thought it was prettier. Then we moved onto the Na Pali coast… Tall cliffs leading to beautiful blue water, it’s even more beautiful because of how difficult it is to get to – helicopter, boat and in some areas LONG hikes. Or you could watch it in a movie, though it’s not the same as being there. We also visited the wettest place on earth, Mt. Waialeale.

If you go to Kauai you MUST do a helicopter tour, it’s the only way to see some of these places. Tara was scared to go on the helicopter, but overcame the fear because I told her it was worth it. She LOVED the helicopter and wanted to go back up once we got back.


May 27

Kona, Hawaii

On the 5th day of my cruise we visited Kona on the Big Island. Although we had to tender at this port I still loved this place. Once off the tender the town of Kona is a block away and the beach is even closer. The beach isn’t the best the island has to offer, but if you’re not looking for a full beach day the beach here was very convenient. As and added bonus there were several girls who worked on the ship that was laying out there so I got to hear some of the cruise ship gossip. I didn’t learn anything about the waiter I had at dinner the night before, but got a glimpse of what life is like for the staff. They make more money and work harder in Hawaii then in Europe, and working during dry dock is fun and has short days.

After Tara and I visited the beach we took a walk down the main street of Kona. This part of the port reminded me of some of the Caribbean islands I’ve been to like St. Maarten. Lots of touristy shops and places to eat. While that doesn’t seem riveting it does have a nice feel, especially when there is nothing near you at other ports. Tara and I did have an afternoon glass bottom boat excursion. While it wasn’t a highlight like Hana was, it was nice and relaxing and since it was the last boat of the day it wasn’t crowded.

The other thing worth mentioning about Kona is that it is the “nicer” side of the Big Island. The weather is better, the port area is much nicer and this is the stop where you get to do several different types of water activities – snorkeling, Atlantis Submarine, Snuba, Catamaran sailing, para sailing, and more.

May 26

Back From Hawaii

I’ve now returned from Hawaii and am reimersing myself in everyday life, I’d rather be in Hawaii. I plan to do more posts on my trip and talk about the rest of my stops, and Norwegian Cruise Line. I thought though I would give an overall impression of Hawaii. I don’t know if words can fully express the beauty of Hawaii, and part of the problem is that the beauty is in so many different forms – from beaches to mountains to cliffs to plants and trees.

When I was in Norway on the drive to Gerainger Fjord there was this gorgeous lake, beyond words. I was looking at it in awe when my Tour Manager came up to me and we were discussing how lovely it was there, and he made an ignorant comment about how there was nothing as beautiful in the US as was this, keep in mind he had never been to the US. I’ve been to some beautiful places in the US – Yosemite and the Grand Canyon come to mind, but I know there are several more that I still need to visit. I’m not sure that any one place that I’ve been to is as picturesque as this little lake was, or Gerainger Fjord for that matter. But for the concentration of land that Hawaii is and the vast types of landscapes, I think Hawaii would be the most beautiful place I’ve been. In particular, it was Kauai that won my heart.

Hawaii though wasn’t as relaxed as I thought it might be. Perhaps my expectations were too high with the “hang loose” and surfer representation that we get from TV and movies. Or maybe it was because I only had a little time in each place and was trying to make the most of my time, without killing myself. Or maybe being on a cruise with other overworked, overstressed people separated us from the Hawaiian culture too much.

May 23

The Big Island: Volcanos National Park and stuff

On Tuesday I had my first stop on the Big Island in Hilo. We rented a car from Hertz and drove to Volcano’s National Park. I rented a convertible for the day, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but it turned out to be a bit of a waste. We drove to the park with the top down and while it was a little chilly out it was fun. Once we got there though the air quality was low so we had to close the top. Then when it was time to leave it started to rain. I had a Mustang and I have to say I wasn’t impressed with the thing, I wouldn’t buy one for myself. I now know that Hilo is the rainy side of the island so it’s not the best place to have a convertible in.

But the park was nice and I’m glad I did it. We got great views of the steam/smoke coming up from the volcano and saw a lava tube, overall it was a nice place and the staff there was very helpful in deciding what to do and how to do it. It’s a pretty place, too bad the weather wasn’t a little better. If you want to see lava though it’s a 6 mile hike each way over hard and sharp volcanic rock, not for the casual visitor.

On the way back we had extra time so we took a drive on Banyan Drive, which offered great views of our ship. After we found out we should have seen Rainbow falls, but I didn’t realize it, I guess I have a reason to return one day.

Overall Hilo is a nice spot, but I’m not sure it’s the best destination in Hawaii.

That night our ship sailed by flowing lava which was really cool even though it was really cloudy and a bit rainy out. But you’ll need a good camera with a good zoom lens if you want pictures of this.