Day 7 – Hilo Hattie’s

On our last day, essentially, of the cruise we decided to do a little souvenir shopping.  We hadn’t booked any excursions because we were on Kauai and most of the excursions were very expensive.  This is the garden island and a lot of the excursions are helicopter rides, translate that as big bucks.  And the departure time was early afternoon.

We took one of the shuttles that Hilo Hattie’s provides to the store.  That should have been my first clue right there!  Anyway, upon arrival in the store we were each handed a key and told to try to unlock the treasure chest on the counter.  The keys didn’t unlock a thing.  BUT!  We had a consolation prize in the form of a discount ticket to pick an oyster and win a pearl.  The oysters cost something like $15 to purchase.  My second clue.  I received 50 % off and my husband got 30% off, I think.  But, of course, all I saw was the 50% off and my brain clicked into bargain time.  Wrong.  We followed the lovely young sales person back to the jewelry counter where they kept the oysters and I picked out my oyster.  There is this horrible little ceremony they make you go through that lets everyone in the store know you are buying an oyster and therefore a pearl.  After which they open the oyster for you and dig out the pearl.  Every oyster has a pearl. And then the real fun begins.

After she cleans the pearl she wants to mount the pearl.  Of course she does.  So, she pulls out some mountings starting with $300 mountings for my less than $15 pearl.  That was a no from me with a sideways glance at my husband trying to mentally transmit to him that he needed to step in here and get me out of this.  So, she goes down to the $200 mountings.  I gave in at the $100 mountings and let her mount my pearl.  Whew, I thought.  That’s over.  Oh, no it wasn’t.  Complimenting my husband on his patience and how much he loved me to let me chose such a lovely mounting for my pearl (which unbeknownst to her was coming strictly out of my pocket) she offers him a “free” pearl.  Are you kidding me?  These people have got this down to an absolute science.

He picks his oyster and she opens it to find, surprise!, another pearl.  He then promptly turns to me and gives me the pearl.  If looks could kill.  Anyway, we start the process over.  By this time I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my two daughters are going to some day inherit solitaire pearl necklaces and I go forth with the second mounting.  They are very pretty, lovely as a matter of fact.  And she may be right I might have paid a lot more to have them mounted back home.  My point being I didn’t intend to buy any more pearls.  I had bought a pearl twice the size with a very simple mounting for under $45 on another island.  At least I hope it is a real pearl.  I am assuming it is.  However, I had a pearl from Hawaii.  And secondly, I have only the pearl.  Now I will, someday, have to come up with necklaces, gold necklaces or chains for the pearl pendants, which I just priced.  That will cost me at this time in history around $400 a chain.  So, my wonderful 50% off that got me my wonderful $7.50 pearl and a “free” pearl is going to end up costing me around $500 each necklace by the time all is said and done.  Oh, how I wish I had taken advantage of the offer that lovely lady where I bought the first pearl gave me.  She said they were moving the shop and make her an offer on anything in the store.  She had some really nice, big smokey grey pearls, or pink or white that I probably could have picked up for a real bargain.  But I didn’t think the captain would make the trip back so I could take advantage of her sale.

After our pearl adventure we finished our shopping.  I in stunned silence.  My husband in his usual jovial, chatty mood.  For the rest of the day I meditated on what had happened… and not in a happy way.  The next morning after breakfast my husband says, “Are you happy with your purchases yet?”  He knows me too well.  Yes, begrudgingly, I’m happy.  I’ll say this, I’m not likely to forget it.

Hawaii – Day 6, Kona and the Glass Bottom Boat

We had originally scheduled a snorkel trip, but after being on several islands and being a little chilly every time we canceled the snorkel trip.  Given that it would have been on a day that we had to be back at the ship by 1:00 p.m., I’m glad we did.  That is really not enough time.  Which, I think I should mention, if you are going to plan this trip by yourself pay attention to when the ship is leaving while choosing your excursions.  All the excursions are, of course, planned around the ships sailing times, but if you’re like us you don’t want to feel the pressure of being there on time or getting left.  We have been on our own on other cruises and never really felt like we were in charge of where to be when, particularly if ship time is different from the time on land.  Anyhoo, we rescheduled our excursion to be on a glass bottomed boat in Kona, our stop for the day.

The Kona stop has the ship out in the water so you take an excursion boat, which is also the life raft, to the shore.  The seas were a little choppy that day so that was a little bit of excitement.  But getting from the ship to the glass bottom boat was nothing.  They dropped us off at the only pier, I’m assuming, in Kona and we walked across the pier to the glass bottomed boat.  This is an option of you don’t want to go snorkeling, but I have a feeling snorkeling would have been better, maybe.  I’m not that conversant on the sea life in Hawaii.  The only other place I’ve snorkeled is in the Virgin Islands, so that is my only comparison.

Once again the people leading the excursion were very informative.  They knew all about the reef around the island and the fish inhabiting the reef.  I was just a little disappointed in the lack of diversity of fish.  There were lots and lots of Tang and some other fish, but as you have probably surmised, the only one I can remember is the Tang.  They are yellow, they kind of stick out.  And trying to catch the little buggers on film is almost impossible because you have to do it as the window passes over them. I snapped 16 pictures and this is the only one with a fish in it.

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What I remember the most about the trip was the people getting seasick on the boat.  Yep, throwing up, right there in front of God and everyone.  The staff on the boat warned us about this before we left the shore so this must happen on a regular basis.  The combination of going under power and sitting with your head hanging over a glass window in the bottom must do a lot of people in.  I feel very fortunate that I have never been seasick, mildly nauseous, but not seasick.  I am aware though that being below and under power can have that affect on you.  The solution is to get up on deck and in the wind.  That usually solves it for most people.  However, doing that means you don’t get to look though the bottom which is why you came in the first place.

So, I’ll be real honest and say this was my least favorite excursion, but it did get us off the boat.  Afterwards, we walked around Kona for a bit and shopped and then went back to the ship.  An easy, relaxing day.  And by this time we were so relaxed it would have been hard to get us excited about a fire on-board or the ship blowing up or any number of things.

Hawaii – Day 5, Hilo and Volcanoes

The ship travels at night.  This actually works out very well because the rocking of the ship makes for superior sleep.  We arrived bright and early in Hilo.  This is where we had decided to see a volcano.  There is one on Maui I hear, but Volcanoes National Park  is near Hilo.  And for sheer duration and information I think this is the time to see the volcanoes.  The bus takes you up into the park and you have several stops each timed perfectly.  If there’s anything else to know about volcanoes I can’t imagine what it would be.  Our first stop was at the top of the mountain to view the crater of Kilauea.  This particular volcano is not active right now, but supposedly is the most active.  There was steam coming out of it.  In the visitor’s center you learn all about Pele, the mythical goddess of volcanoes.  One of the things I found the most interesting in the center was the various forms lava takes.  I had no idea it was as diverse as it is.  And I could see after looking at the display why the natives of Hawaii thought there was a being behind all that violence.  Lava can appear in a form that looks like hair and then in another form that looks like tears.  It’s not just rough or smooth.

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After you learn about volcanoes you are taken to a place where there is steam rising out of the ground all over the place.  I guess if I’d thought about that more while I was there I might have found that stop a little disturbing.  Obviously something very hot is right beneath my feet.  But, instead, I just enjoyed the steam facial and got back on the bus.  And on we went to the next stop.  This one was lower down and you looked down into the crater of a volcano.  We noticed that there were people walking across the crater so we asked our guide about that.  He told us that you can get an excursion that leads you down there.  It takes almost the whole day and it is a long hike.  At first I had wished we had known about that, but upon further consideration maybe it’s just a well we didn’t.  We probably got to see a lot more with the one we were on. This stop took us to the most recent lava flow and the damage it had done.  There was nothing there!  Literally, just rocks.  The lava had taken it all away or burned it off.

Following that we got to see what I considered the best part of the journey, a lava tube.  Now, this was news to me.  I didn’t even know that anything like this existed.  You only see a portion of it, but what you see is remarkable when you consider it was made by lava flowing, cooling on the outside to form the tube and flowing on out leaving the tube hollow.  They have installed lighting in the tube so you can walk through it.  The portion you go through is around 400 feet long.  Just amazing.

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This tour, for the most part, would be accessible to anyone except for the lava tube.  You go down a steep flight of stairs and a steep walkway to get to the entrance.  Then you hike back up on a path back to the parking lot.

Our final stop was a chocolate factory.  It was surreal to me that we made this stop after so much natural violence.  But there we were in the midst of hundreds of boxes of candy.  A little non sequitur in many ways.  The Japanese people on the trip seemed to enjoy it.  They bought bags of the chocolate.

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That night the ship moved from Hilo to Kona going around what the Hawaiians call “The Big Island” or Hawai’i.  As it moves there was an active volcano flow that could be seen around 10:00 p.m. Hawaii time, which is 3:oo a.m. at home for us.  I slept through it.  I didn’t want to sleep through it, but rocking boat, time change and a day of hiking through the park had taken its toll and I was dead to the world when that happened.

Hawaii – Day 4, Maui and Laundry

We were in Maui for two days.  We didn’t book an excursion on the second day, but I haven’t finished telling you about the excursion we did book.  The second part of that was “On Your Own in Lahaina.”  After the whale watching we went to get a bite to eat right across from the beach/pier/dock.  Lahaina is very reminiscent of Key West in Florida.  And it is an older town, so everything has that wonderful sense of age to it.  Again, with the birds.  Our table was right next to an open (as in no glass) window and the dove were having a great time napping in the sun and browsing through the crumbs in the restaurant.

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The people there must be extra diligent about this sort of thing because I never saw one dropping.  Or the birds know that if they want a free breakfast/lunch/dinner they better behave while inside.  At any rate, they provided a lot of just plain delight for me.

The one thing that stood out the most and was mentioned by almost every tour bus driver was the HUGE banyan tree that is in Lahaina.  It takes up a full city block.  It is truly amazing and I’m glad I got to marvel at it.

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But we had chosen this day to do our laundry since we pack light so we can carry on.  Well, that wasn’t a good idea.  Not this time anyway.  Norwegian, or at least Pride of America, does not offer a self-serve laundry like Carnival does.  Ooops.  Our helpful steward gave us a bag to use for getting our laundry done, but after we read through the prices and figured out it would cost us about $100 to have our laundry done we decided to take the free shuttle to KMart and buy soap.  Our wonderful balcony had to serve the dual purpose of being a clothes line for our wet clothes.  However, if you travel enough with Norwegian you can get this service free with your Latitudes membership.  I don’t know that that alone would keep me booking with Norwegian, but good to know.

Just in case you missed it, there is a free shuttle to KMart.  There are free shuttles in most of the ports that take you to various shopping sites.  I saw one for Walmart at a later stop and one that took you to a mall and one that just took you into town.  Most of the ports are not right at the town, you have to get there somehow and so they provide you with these shuttles.  So, if you don’t want to book excursions at every stop you’ve got the option of just going into town and exploring on your own.  You’ll have to book an excursion to go to Lahaina and shop though because ships don’t dock at Lahaina, it’s on the other side of the island.  And we got the best information from the shuttle drivers who appear to be mostly retired people that just want something to do.  Ours had lived on the islands for years if not decades and were quite informative.

So, just in case you like to research before you go, here’s a link to Go Hawaii – Maui.



Hawaii – Day 3, Maui Wow-wee

Day three found us docked in Maui.  Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I remember this as a surfers paradise, but that is beyond what I could do with it.  We wanted to watch the whales.  And this is the place to do it.

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See our lovely view of the dock.  What did I tell you?  Port side, dock.  Starboard side, island.  We booked the Maui Whale Watch and Lahaina On Your Own excursion.  This is only available December through April because that’s the only time the whales are there.  But it is fantastic.  And the biggest reason I wanted to go to Hawaii was to see the whales.  This adventure leaves out of Lahaina.  You go out with marine naturalists that are working with a non-profit organization to save the whales.  They do a marvelous job of giving you all kinds of information on whales.  The whales come to Hawaii and mostly Maui to have their calves.  We saw two mothers and two babies.  And several male escorts.  According to the guide on the boat the females come here to get away from the Orca found in Alaskan waters and to have their calves in safety and the males come here because the females came here.

The tour guides are going out almost every hour so they know where the whale are.  I’m assuming the whales are pretty much in the same area all the time they are there anyway.  They don’t promise you will see them, but the chances are very good you will.  There is nothing quite like seeing that first spout.  As you get closer you begin to see the familiar black hump going up and then down and all of a sudden you might see a smaller (there’s nothing really small about a whale ever) tail fin pop up.  Baby whale!  It’s so exciting.  The whole boat comes alive and cameras are clicking all around you.  However, I am going to suggest that if you want to photograph the whales get a camera with the ability to shoot rapidly and fire off several shots every time.  I just have a little Cannon and by the time I pressed the button to take the shot the whale had gone back down.  I have a lot of pictures of foam though if you want one.  I did capture one fin wave from a calf.

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We were out there for quite a while.  I don’t know how long they stay out, but I was very satisfied by the time we headed back and felt like I had definitely gotten my money’s worth.

Hawaii – Day 2, Boarding the Ship

This was seamless for us.  As I mentioned before we stayed at the Marriott Beach in Waikiki.  The shuttle to the ship leaves from there.  Norwegian gives you a loading time when you check in and we had received 12:00 noon.  In the morning we walked down to the restaurant that is in the hotel complex and had a very good, very expensive (this IS Hawaii) breakfast.  Afterwards we walked along the beach.  Now, this is where the sadness comes in.  There are a lot of people living on the beach right across the street from the hotel we stayed at.  I don’t imagine it is much different anywhere else though.  There was an encampment of about 20 homeless people occupying one of the covered shelters on the beach.  And I saw several homeless people just wandering around.  I noticed later that every day on the daily news sheet the ship hands out you are warned to watch your belongings and be vigilant of your surroundings.  We didn’t have any trouble with the homeless people.  They didn’t beg or even approach us.  It just makes you feel sad and kind of, well, ashamed that you have spent so much on your vacation and they are living with nothing.  Honolulu is the most populous city in Hawaii.  And that makes it just what it is, a city with all the foibles of any city.

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Anyway, we arrived safe and sound back at the hotel, collected our luggage and headed to the lobby to await our shuttle.  And to enjoy the pigeons that were enjoying us in their lobby!  Norwegian takes a full bus to the pier so we actually were allowed to board an earlier bus.  Arriving at the pier we found ourselves inspected, photographed and standing in line.  Then I noticed that we had priority boarding because I had joined the Norwegian Latitudes Reward program when I booked the cruise.  We skipped over to that line, bam, we were done checking in and onto the ship.

This was our first time to have a balcony.  We’ve gone from an inside cabin with no windows to twice taking a cabin with a “seaview” and now we have moved up to the balcony suites.  Ah-h-h-h-h, yes.  Moving in the right direction.  However, the smaller suites are really small!  I didn’t realize, but should have, that they take your balcony out of the space you would of had in a cabin with just a window.  Regardless, we considered it one of the best things we did.  However, and this is another tip for you, most of the disembarkations on Pride of America are done on the port side.  That means usually your view is of a dock, a working dock with all kinds of shipments coming and going.  If you want the view of the islands instead book the starboard side.  You won’t miss a thing and you’ll have something pretty to look at all the time.  Not only that as hard as I had tried to figure out which way the ship was going to circle the islands, I didn’t guess right.  The starboard side had the traveling view too.  Now, we did occasionally see a whale on our side, but you have to go at the right time for that to be a factor.  I will discuss this when we get to Maui.

Stepping upon the Pride of America is like having a huge party for being an American.  The main lobby is done in Colonial America decor.  They have the John Adams coffee bar and the Thomas Jefferson Bistro.  Having been raised in Virginia that made me homesick every time I walked through it.  So, silly.  Now, I’m planning a trip to Williamsburg to get a fix.  Dastardly cruise ship!  Match that with the hula dancers swaying away on the steps up to the sixth floor and you’ve got quite a combination.

We were soon settled in our cabin and ready for a little refreshment.  We didn’t sail until later that evening so we had plenty of time to explore the ship.  And then we said good-bye to Honolulu and headed for Maui.

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Hawaii – Day 1, The Flight Over

Aloha!  We have been to Hawaii and back.  As promised earlier I will share our trip with all the information that I think would help someone else.  We decided to fly to Hawaii and sail from there then fly back.  That may have been our first mistake or it might have been the best thing we ever did.  I don’t know, maybe someone else can share their experience.  Our cruise ship was Pride of America from the Norwegian Cruise Line.  More on that later.

We did a lay-over in Los Angeles.  That allowed us to stretch our legs and get a bite to eat before proceeding to Hawaii.  However, that put us arriving in Hawaii after 8:00 p.m. which was more like 1:00 a.m. at home.  That being said getting the shuttle to the hotel was a bit tedious.  So, if you fly American to Hawaii and you want to take a shuttle to your hotel, assuming you spend the night before boarding, here is how you get to the shuttle!  Amazing what being exhausted and on your last nerve can do to you at 1:00 a.m. your time.  We did actually stop and ask the guy sitting at the information desk how to get to the shuttle, but that was almost no help at all.  I noticed when we went back there was no one sitting there so I don’t know what you do in that case.  Unless!  Of course, you have read this blog.  Then you’ll know what to do.  So, American dumps you off at the end of a long concourse.  You go down that concourse toward the baggage claim area.  Go to baggage claim “D” and you will pick up your shuttle outside the terminal at “D.”

The shuttle takes you on a mini-tour of Honolulu.  We stayed in a hotel in Waikiki which is the beach area.  Very nice hotel.  I was amazed that it had no front door nor windows.  It is open to the atmosphere and everyone else all the time.  The elevators have a lock out though.  If you don’t have a room key you aren’t going up in the elevator.

Orchard Lei

Orchard Lei

We stayed at the Marriott Beach because Norwegian has an office there and they run their shuttle to the ship from there.  We checked in early and received an orchard lei.  Sorry to say the real flower leis made me itch.  So I just took a picture and called it all good.

Since the hotel sits open to the skies the birds take advantage of that.  This became a fascination with me while we were there because I’ve never eaten a meal in a building with birds walking around my feet.  Not that I minded.  I thought it was pretty cool.

Pigeon on the Approach - in the lobby of the hotel!

Pigeon on the Approach – in the lobby of the hotel!

 Mahalo — until tomorrow.