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Old January 13th, 2006, 03:10 AM
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Default Jan . 11 LAND HO!

Jan.11 – Land Ho!

After 4 sea days the Island Princess arrived this morning at Kona, on the Big Island, in Hawaii. Six of us had booked a golf outing at the Kona Country Club through the ship’s onboard golf professional.

We met early this morning with all the other golfers, and were in the first tender over to Kona. This turned out to be a very good idea because the beginning of the tendering process was delayed this morning by about a half hour. We heard later that those waiting to tender after us suffered through some very long delays. Mrs. Kuki and the “golf widows?, who didn’t have an excursion booked, weren’t able to get on a tender until 11:30 AM.

Their original plan was to rent a vehicle, which we had pre-booked, and tour the island a bit. However, after getting to the island so late, they cancelled the car and just stuck fairly close the pier area, and took a shuttle to a newly opened market area as well.

The Big Island is a volcanic island, and the black volcanic rock seemingly everywhere compromises most of its scenery. All of the beaches are black sand as well because of the base of volcanic rock, and therefore the beaches on the entire island are not the fine grain sandy beaches one might be used to.

There are some truly fantastic and luxurious resorts on Kona that you can visit for the day, but with the need to tender at this port, an organized ship excursion is probably a good idea to make the most of the short visit the ship makes to this port of call. Because of the late start of many tours today our departure from Kona was also delayed.

The Kona Golf & Country Club has two 18 hole golf courses, and we chose to play the Ocean Course. The Ocean Course has some spectacular views, with a half dozen holes running right along the ocean, and the cruise ships sitting at anchor in the bay are in view on more than half the holes. The striking difference on the golf courses here is the natural black volcanic rock formations in the rough off many of the fairways.

This course features wide, forgiving fairways, like many “resort style? golf courses, but some very tricky rolling greens.

The ship’s golf professional, Patrick Hanley, did an excellent organizational job. There were several vans waiting at the pier to load the golfers and equipment, and take us over to the golf course.

Princess has a very comprehensive golf program, with onboard golf simulators, and private lessons available. For some reason the golf excursions listings on the Princess web site shore excursion area are not complete. I did look for golf excursions on the web site prior to sailing, but only one golf outing was posted, on Oahu. As it turns out, they offer golf excursions in Kona, Oahu, Maui, and Kauai.

Tonight, once again, there was a pre-dinner show scheduled for late seating diners; featuring comedic juggler Jonathan Stamp. I enjoy comedy, and would have liked to see the show. However, after a long day in the sun on the golf course the need to relax won out, and I passed on the show. There is a repeat of the show scheduled for early diners, at 8:45 PM, but we’d still be in the dining room, so couldn’t attend.

Mrs. Kuki and some of the other cruisemates did go to the show at 7 P.M., and said it was quite entertaining.

An oddity, on these Hawaiian itineraries, that many people may not expect…. The casino is closed from the time the ship reaches Hawaii, until an hour after the ship departs the last of the Hawaiian ports of call. The end result; for the next 4 ½ days there is no gambling at all on the ship.

We have previously sailed on repositioning cruises to or from Vancouver, and the casinos have been open in the evenings, while traveling between islands. I’m honestly not sure if that’s still the case, but it’s something I’ll have to check out when we return from this cruise.

One other oddity we’ve noticed on this ship is the shops onboard have been closing very early every evening. Generally by the time we’re leaving the dining room, the shops are already closed.

Now the ship is sailing towards our next port, Honolulu. Four of us have golf booked again, this time at the Ko’olau Golf Club, which bills itself as one of the toughest golf courses in the world. We’ve played this course before, and know to take along lots of golf balls, because it does live up to its billing. I’m just hoping the course is in better shape than it was two years ago when we played it. The golf pro assured us it is excellent condition, and that’s what convinced us to try it again.

Many cruisemates have rental cars reserved in Honolulu, to tour the island on their own, and that’s my personal recommendation as the best way to see Ohau.

Tomorrow evening, we’ve arranged a cruisemates get together for drinks/dinner at the House Without A Key, at the Halekalani Hotel on Waikiki Beach. This is a casual restaurant in a gorgeous setting, with Hawaiian entertainment that we learned about from cruisemates on our last visit to the Hawaiian Islands. We had a wonderful time here on our last visit, and no doubt this cruisemates gang will enjoy it as much as we did then.

By the way, this evening at dinner Elena and Marius sang Happy Birthday to me again, and tonight I got a gift from them as well. A small baby’s bib, with a star on it, that Elena had spotted earlier in the day while on the crew’s Walmart shopping trip. I guess she’s seen the stains on my shirt when I finish dinner each night.

Because the ship remains in Honolulu until 11 P.M tomorrow night, and the dining room will most likely be relatively empty for dinner, we asked the head waiter if Elena and Marius could have the evening off to join our group at the House Without A Key. He told us it was alright with him, but we’d have to get them permission from the Maitre D, who was unfortunately not available this evening.

Tomorrow morning, before I leave the ship for our golf outing, I’ll try to see the Maitre D and make our request to get our dining room team a few extra hours off to spend some time with us in a more social setting. I do hope it can be worked out, because they seemed to be quite excited by the prospect.
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