Reflections on Hawaiian cruise Sept 2009

Hi friends, family and travellers!!!!

I can’t express really in words how delightful the cruise was!!  But I will try to describe some of the highlights for you ……………. 

For anyone who takes a cruise from Vancouver (or San Diego, Los Angeles or just sails around the Hawaiian islands on a cruise ship) you won’t be disappointed.  Whether you take the trip with an inside cabin (which I did once) or a beautiful balcony (this last trip) the cruise stateroom is only one part of this journey.   Let’s face it, all staterooms are like very nice hotel rooms, with someone providing personal service several times a day – bringing ice, making your bed, cleaning up towels in the bathroom, leaving towel animals and chocolates on your pillow.  I don’t know about you, but this is NOT how I live at home!!!!!

With a balcony, I loved the sun shining in the morning to wake me up.  I loved the sound of the ocean.  I enjoyed sitting out with a cup of tea and reading a book or checking email on my little net book lap top.  I even got to chat with my sweetie with Skype!  I loved to watch the ship go into port – I loved the sea days, feeling the air get warmer and warmer as we gained further distance from Canada in the fall.  Wherever you sleep on the ship,  you can always go up on deck and grab a coffee and hang out with the sun!!  You are always welcome to walk around the deck and enjoy the salty sea air and watch the flying fish!  The air is so clean and the water never tires.  The waves, the sun rises and sets.  It is all so beautiful and provides a lovely back drop to whatever the day has in store.

Activities, food, tea and coffee,  unlimited ice cream any time of the day or night, drinks with little umbrellas, food, meeting new and interesting people, getting your picture taken and taking as many as you can, food, checking your email, attending talks on nature topics and activities you want to enjoy when we reach the islands, food, dressing up for theme evenings, attending an art auction (even if only for the free champagne!!), finding your way around the deck, checking out the shopping on board ………… and let’s not forget the food!!  Meal times, between meals and late night buffets.  This trip is about wearing comfy clothes that adjust as you “grow”.  Oh sure, you can go to the gym and walk the stairs, that helps too!!

If you are travelling to Hawaii on a cruise ship, make sure you take something “Hawaiian” to wear on theme nights in the dining room and or for photo opportunities with great  back drops – to show all your friends when you get home, and to keep as special memories of those wonderful sea days.  Remember to limit your time in the sun each time, and keep in the shade when falling asleep or enjoying a good book. 

The time zones are gentle, just one hour at a time, on the ship as you sail further and further from land.  You get to sleep in with “extra hours of sleep” 3 times on a cruise from Vancouver.  And with all the food and fabulous service, I just can’t see how life gets any better than that <smile>.  It is decadent, it is restful, it is away from everything you wanted to get away from.  You (and however many hundreds of people on board) are together.  Like it or not.  You dress up just to entertain and please yourself.  You have time to read those books you have been waiting to read.  You can write travel journals, like me!  And most importantly, in my opinion, you get to meet the most wonderful people.  You meet them mostly while eating, but also when you sit to watch a trivia game or enjoy the festivities in the evenings, sticking around to see who wins the “big one” at Bingo.  Seeing a familiar face as you wander through the casino or on the Lido deck.  People on cruise ships are happy people.  People on holidays are happy people.  At home you would not just sit down to dinner with total strangers and strike up a conversation ……. on cruise ships that is a daily event and one to enjoy and reflect on.  I met some wonderful people and some will be in my life and hearts forever.  (especially my dining companions Donna and Linda — and in particular my new good friends Joan and Patti).  

Having sit down breakfast and lunch on sea days in the dining room is great – you will meet all kinds of wonderful people and if they are less than cheerful, you won’t ever have to see them again <smile> but if you have a great conversation, you may make life time friends!  It is so much more relaxed than the lido.  The lido deck is great for those shore days when you want to get out there in a hurry …….. and maybe come back on the ship for a late lunch … and then a rest before dinner <grin>  After all, it is ALL about the food!!!!

And then the day arrives, when the sea joins once again with the land.  The people on shore jumping to activity and welcoming the travellers to shore.  It is exciting and you are rested.  Having been at sea a while, you are ready to shop!!!!  Anywhere, anything ……… just to get out there!!!  The first step on to solid land …. ahhhhhhhhh!  The fragrance of the Hawaiian Islands greets your sinuses.  The scent of exotic flowers has only just begun….  This is going to be a GREAT day!
Although not the first port we met, Kauai is the favorite . The beach is right there.  The shopping is fun, but we could not get enough of the beach.  We walked up and down and up and down the length of the beach.  You could see the surf off in the distance crashing up on the shore line …. breathtaking really.  That was my favorite moment, my favorite day and my favorite Hawaii memory from both of my Hawaiian cruises.  Personally I would not do an excursion that day ……….  it is just so wonderful to just be there!  There is outdoor seating for local pub fare right on the beach and wild chickens nesting in the shrubs.  How delightful!!  This cruise we walked and ate and talked with our new friends, Patti and Joan.  We decided to spend the day together in Kauai and it was magic.  That is Hawaii at its absolute finest.  Something for everyone and yet still at a slow pace.  The waves welcome and beckon.  They are seductive to kick off the shoes and enter the soft beautiful golden sand.  Let the undertow of the sea pull the sand out from under your feet.  I felt like a child, enjoying the feelings that come when exploring the magic of a beach.  This is a MUST DO  on a cruise to Hawaii.
In Hilo and Kona, both on the big island of Hawaii, it is more industrial, one for sugar cane the other for coffee.  There are Hilo Hatties free shuttles wherever you go, and that is all my mom and I did — we just went to those and walked around, got pics of the flowers – we shuttled here and there ….  When I went 5 years ago, we had a snorkelling excursion in one of those places and I think that was wise.  The sand is black and of course the island is a volcano.  There are some really reasonably priced excursions on that island that would be worthwhile … in my view.  Kona had a tender and we walked the city and enjoyed the shopping.  There was a brief sighting of a sea turtle – quite large and swimming close enough to shore to get a good look at him / her.  That was magical.
As for Maui – I enjoyed Lahaina.  If your ship goes to Lahaina, you will have a tender.  Ours docked on the other side of Maui and we took an island bus for $1 to the other side!!  another dollar to come back.  Lahaina is a day ….. and oh what a day!!  We found the beach right away and got our toes in that water.   Walking the fun city street that is all great shopping, and beach on the side.  Women making lei’s on the side of the road selling for $4 or $5 dollars.  Some places you can even make your own! 
We did not rent a car, again we just took free shuttles everywhere.  There is a nice mall in the town we were in (Queen K or H something ……. a ???) and we took the island bus from there.  It is a good way to see the island for cheap.  Lots of folks rented cars.  The car rental places (like Dollar) pull right up at the dock and will shuttle you to the car place and back.  It would be good to get travel car insurance before you go if you plan to do that (I sell it with RBC for your information).   There is also a great luau in Maui which would be a nice excursion for something different from the lovely dinner on the ship. 
Honolulu is fun to see for one day and that is lots.  I noticed the warm water is more turquoise in color, like the Caribbean.  I can see why it is so popular …….. but very very crowded.  No place to just sit and enjoy the surf.  No place to just relax …. but you can walk on the beach and dodge the young folks and it is great to see the sights.  Wear short pants and carry the Crocs …..  beautiful trees line the walking trail along the beach.  It is really lovely.  International Marketplace is still fun to walk down so we did that too.
Bargains and souvenirs are there, you just have to search and be willing to negotiate (I am not good at that).  There is a Starbucks in every port so it is fun to search them out and pick up some mugs with the places we have been!  They also sell a great unsweetened ice tea for a reasonable price and very refreshing …. and passion ice tea is even better!  I think we had iced coffee as well which really hit the spot.
For shopping, my favorite place was in Maui – Lahaina – and in particular a specific store where we bought jewellery and clothing 1/2 price and it was a real nice store.  Wish we would have taken longer there.  Market shopping is a bit more fun in Kauai.  Found quilt stores in lots of ports and that is one of my favorite things to do as well.
In Kona there is some good shopping off the path.  King Kamehameha Mall in Kona is just back a bit (you can walk – is about a block up) and the owner of the quilt store (Karen of Quilt Passions) also sells Hawaiian quilts and has a show room.  Prices are very reasonable and even just to look – the quality is really exceptional.  I hope to organize a quilt cruise there one day and she promises to have a class for us when I do!  Lots of fabric specific to Hawaii and ideas for making quilts as souvenirs when you get home.
I wore my Crocs sandals every day and my feet were very comfy.  Lots of stores sell them from about $25 and up ………  good price, light weight and there are Crocs specialty stores even!!!  It was fun shopping for Crocs and seeing the little decorations people put on them.  You can walk in and out of the water in them – be careful they don’t float away.  I recommend them for Hawaiian footwear on the beach anyway!  (I left my worn leather sandals in Hawaii in favor of my new favorite Crocs footwear).
There is nothing to do at the Honolulu airport all day until you can get rid of your luggage and go through security.  Just a Starbucks.  If you chose to spend a day at the airport, take a deck of cards and book to read and some snacks … nobody will bring you food or ask if you want one or two desserts <grin>.  No creme brulee to be found anywhere! <sigh>.  People watching in an airport has always been a favorite past time of mine, I got my fill in Honolulu!!!    And for those folks who spend more than a day in Honolulu, you might want to take advantage of an excursion.  It is a massive city and really hard to find your way around once you leave the beach.  City buses are plentiful and you can ask the bus drivers of The Bus and they are very helpful and informative.  I think each person was $2.25 and then ask for a transfer and you can ride back on the same fare!!  Very cool.  The Bus even goes out to the pier and down to the beach ………..  it also goes all around the island of Oahu and out to Hanauma Bay for those who want to take in a day snorkelling at the beach.
If you are planning to cruise to Hawaii, you are going to be so relaxed and enjoy your trip so much ……… all the fuss and bother at this end will all be forgotten. You will have memorable moments that will be worth all the worry. Lucky you for having this to look forward to and someday to look back on. All those glorious days at sea ………… followed by warm days in paradise …………………. ahhhhhhhh
Good bye for now,  
till next time

 PS. Did you check out my Facebook pics??  What a great time we had 
 ……. fabulous actually and it just reconfirmed Hawaii (particularly Maui
 and Kauai) as my favorite destinations for cruising. I don’t think
 I would mind a condo on either of those islands but not likely to happen in my lifetime. 

Too many places to go and cruises to experience!!!
Pamela MacDonald
Cruise and Vacation Consultant

Expedia CruiseShipCenters, Victoria
170 – 911 Yates St.
Victoria, BC, V8V 4X3