We just completed our spate of four sea days heading towards the Islands of Hawaii. They were very relaxing which is important, considering we’ll need lots of energy to enjoy the six days that we will spend here in the islands. Most of these days will be full, as I have tours booked – but some will have lots of down time built in – time to eat onshore and to engage in one of my favorite activities – shopping!
I’ve been very lax so far this cruise in buying gifts for friends and family back home. Generally, I just buy refrigerator magnets for most people, but this time I want to get something special for a couple of people. I haven’t even begun to look and I have to buy these gift items in Hawaii since shopping in the South Pacific – at least for anything of any substance – is cost-prohibitive.
On our last sea day before reaching Hawaii, Trisha and Virgil and I were privileged to be invited to attend a “Cocktails with the Officers” party. This party, formerly known as the ‘VIP Party’ is by invitation only and while a lot of people like it for the free drinks, I personally think its outstanding feature is the chance to get to sit down one-on-one with some of the officers and have a chat with them. Just about everyone, including the deck cadets, attend – and this party is a great time to meet them all. We also capitalized on the opportunity to set up some really great interviews – so stay tuned to CruiseMates for these.
Another true pleasure I’ve been treated to on this cruise is finally getting to hear Trisha sing. I knew that Trisha was a professional singer in her youth, but had never gotten to hear a recording of one of her performances. Modesty prevented her from singing for me in the past. She claimed that her voice was no longer what it once was due to damage to her vocal chords from a surgery of a couple of years back. Well, one of the features of this cruise is karaoke which takes place maybe about twice a week in the Crow’s Nest, and after a bit of liquid courage, Trisha treated me to a couple of songs the other night. While her voice may not be in peak performance condition, I can truthfully say that if she wanted to, she could re-enter the professional arena tomorrow. Judging by the resounding ovation she got, I think most of the other folks in attendance felt the same way.
As for special talents of my own being discovered on this cruise, sadly I have to say that my fortay seems to be drinking. I’m on my third cocktail card already and the trip is barely a third over. It’s not that I’m a lush; it’s just that I think I associate “cocktail hour” with relaxing and being totally at ease. I never get into that zone at home, but here it’s all around me. So, I drink more than I ever would at home. In fact, at home I rarely drink at all.
Of course, my body is not used to alcohol, and so three cocktails can have me swearing that the ship is really rocking and that’s why I’m banging into the walls. I can’t understand why others aren’t having the same problem!
But, hey – there’s no harm in it and it’s not like I’m driving – though I did tell Theo (our Hotel Manager) that I’d be more than happy to drive the ship and give everyone a nice “extreme” ride. Since I don’t even have a driver’s license, I could promise an interesting time would be had by all – think of a ride similar to the “Tilt-a-Whirl.’ Needless to say, he didn’t even offer to approach the Captain with my ‘kind’ offer.
I had a chance to visit the spa yesterday. I wanted a “new look” and decided getting my hair styled would be the best way to achieve that. Stylist (I should actually say artist) Shaheda Isaacs spent several hours with me and the results have been the talk of our little band of online cruisers. Everyone we meet up with does a double-take. They can’t believe it’s me. I was certainly very happy with the results, but had no idea my new style would go over so big with others. I thought it was nice, but nothing ‘special.’ Apparently I was wrong. Everyone we’ve met has raved about it, so I guess it’s much better than I originally thought. Trisha claims it has taken at least five years off my age. Ummmmm, so I’m only looking about 80 now?
Shaheda and I got a chance for an in-depth talk while she cut and styled my hair, as well as adding blonde highlights to it. This is her first shipboard contract and while she loves being onboard, she did say that she misses her family very much. She’s single, but has lots of family back home in South Africa – family that she really misses seeing on a regular basis. But she loves her work, and she said one of her favorite things is shopping for gifts for her family and friends – visiting the Walmart in each port to get great deals. Like me, she said she can’t see the sense in spending an inordinate sum of money for clothes, and she loves hunting for bargains so that she can send a lot of neat things home to her family.
Shaheda told me that when he port she will often have half a day off, so she certainly has more than enough time to see the sights and highlights of the different places the ship visits. She enjoyed the previous three months or so in Alaska, but is glad to be headed to the warmer climates of Hawaii.
As for her future working onboard ships, Shaheda told me for now it suits her, but she honestly didn’t know how she would feel, say, five years from now. I asked her if a job such as her’s wasn’t really something more suited to younger folks because of the stamina required, and she told me about a fitness instructor they had onboard until fairly recently who was 61 years old. She said that really anyone could work onboard a ship if they wanted to, as long as they were in reasonably good health. Age has nothing to do with it. This 61-year-old woman, Shaheda told me, had only left because her contract had ended. She is expected to return at some point. That may be all well and good, I told Shaheda, but at 52 I guess I’ve gotten lazy. I’d rather enjoy the cruise ship life as a passenger, where annoying things such as work won’t get in the way of a quality afternoon nap.
The weather thus far this trip has been a bit of a disappointment. While it has warmed up significantly since our time in Vancouver and San Francisco, it is still not “Hawaii warm” and we are now in the Islands. The viewing of the Kilauea Volcano last night on the outside decks was pretty much a bust. There was a heavy layer of fog that made seeing anything extremely difficult. I did not hang around for very long. I had had a full day in Hilo and needed to take something for the pain in my legs.
Yes, pain in my legs – did I ever tell you how stupid I can be? When one has hardware in both legs, wouldn’t you think climbing dozens of steps to reach the viewing area of Akaka Falls was a bit dumb? Well, folks, I did it and I paid the price last night when I could barely walk. But, I have to say it was worth it as the view of these majestic falls was absolutely breathtaking. The tour I took was called Discover Hilo: Waves and Waterfalls, and it was a smattering of both – and then some. The “waves” portion was covered in a visit to the Pacific Tsunami Museum, while the Waterfalls involved viewing the Akaka Falls and thus climbing the steps to get there.
Upon arrival at the Museum, we were treated to a presentation by a docent, which even included the showing of videos of the 1946 tsunami that devastated the islands. The docent described the effect tsunamis have on the residents of Hawaii and how today they have built up a rather complicated advance warning system that they test out on the first working day of every month. She told us not to be concerned if we hear warning horns while in Kona tomorrow, as that’s the day designated for testing the warning horns.
After our visit to the Museum, we headed to the Akaka Falls. For those who have never been to Hawaii, viewing the many waterfalls that make up these islands is a wonderful treat. Some of them span for hundreds of feet and they are absolutely breathtaking to view. For the more hearty, routes have been designed so that these various Falls, and the pools into which they flow, can be hiked. As a reward for all the work, a refreshing swim below the falls awaits. The Akaka Falls is a freefalling waterfall that is 442 feet tall, that spills over a cliff of the now dormant Mauna Kea Volcano. Not just the Falls themselves, but the amazing array of foliage and some smaller ponds and waterfalls, make this entire experience one not to be missed – despite the struggle to get there.
Of course, hiking the falls is a bit beyond my comfort range, but getting to then via a series of concrete pathways with hand rails was doable. What I didn’t anticipate was the uphill walking and the about 100 steps required to get there. So if you have mobility challenges, be forewarned. It would be very difficult to do this tour on a walker, and absolutely impossible in a wheelchair. If you have mere “difficulties,” such as I do – the tour is certainly possible, as long as you take your time and don’t let anyone rush you.
After about 45 minutes at the Falls, our tour guide from Roberts Hawaii had a special treat for us. He gave us a short stop at a local bakery where we could partake of a snack if we so chose, including a variety of home-baked pastries and other Hawaiian treats.
Next, our driver took us to view the beautiful Shinmachi Memorial, which was erected to honor the many residents of Hilo who lost their lives to the devastating tsunami of 1946. We also saw the historic King Kamehameha statue (one of four in the U.S. – two in Hilo, one in Kona, and the remaining one in Washington, D.C.) and enjoyed a scenic drive through Lili’uokalani Gardens and the famous Banyan Drive. Generous amounts of time were allotted for touring these various sights, as well as taking advantage of photo ops along the way.
Our last stop on the tour was at Big Island Candies. Here we could purchase a variety of chocolates, including chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, as well as a variety of dark and milk chocolate delicacies. The store also stocks a full line of varieties of authentic Kona Coffees as well. Samples were available for tasting, and there was a working factory where visitors could view the chocolate treats in their various stages of preparation. It would appear that this factory is not automated to any great extent, as there were people at just about every workstation along the process doing much of their work by hand.
After our stop at Big Island Candies, we finally made our way back to the Statendam. We all definitely felt that we had gotten our money’s worth on this tour, which was billed as a 3.5 hour excursion. We had easily been gone for over 4.5 hours and unlike a lot of other tours I’ve been on, the people getting off the bus all seemed to be happy.
As we re-entered the cruise terminal at the pier, we stopped at a row of vendors who always make that warehouse area their home when a cruise ship is in port. Today, there were two – us and the Rapsody of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean vessel. The particular vendor we had come to visit makes beautiful Hawaiian leis, including hand crafted shell leis. These beautiful works of art rarely run more than $10 each, and there is also a wide selection of very low priced Hawaiian costume jewelry to choose from as well. Another table (sadly that wasn’t open when we got there) sells beautiful Hawaiian flower arrangements that people can purchase and have delivered to the ship. While the flowers can’t be taken off the ship at the completion of the cruise, they can certainly be enjoyed for the rest of the cruise, as the smell will linger in one’s cabin for days after Hilo is but a distant memory. Well, because we were so late getting back to the pier area, that table was closed down for the day, but I’ll bet there are a lot of cabins with the aroma of wonderfully-scented Hawaiian flowers on the Statendam tonight.
Despite it being a port day, there were plenty of things going on aboard ship. The highlight was a local Hawaiian show called “Leo Nahenaheo Pohai Kealoha” that was held in the Van Gogh Lounge at 4:30. Sadly, we missed this as we were just about getting back onto the ship at this time. Hula Dancing Lessons were also offered earlier in the day by a group of local Hawaiian “aunties” who were brought onboard the ship for specifically this purpose. I was sad to miss both of these events, but feel I made a wise choice in going to the Falls instead.
I will ask around the ship today if anyone got good views of the Kilauea Volcano last evening. Hopefully the fog lifted enough for those diehards who decided to stick it out to finally get to see some amazing sights.
For now, though, I will end this entry. It is early on Wednesday morning and we are scheduled to spend our day in Kona. For today, I have a special treat. I’ll be taking an approximately two-hour helicopter tour of the island billed as the Big Island Helicopter Spectacular. For what I paid for this tour, it had better be spectacular! The description in HAL’s tour brochure reads “Discover all the Big Island’s beauty and volcanic fury on this aerial tour – the deep and immense tropical valleys of the Kohala Mountains with dozens of cascading waterfalls, the rain forest of the Hamakua Coast, and the lava flows of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – the most geologically active environment in the world. Kilauea has been erupting continuously for 17 years!” At least this tour promises not to be too strenuous on my legs – a good thing. I’ll let you know how it was tomorrow.