Monday, August 19, 2013

Hawaiian Vacation, Part 3

The seventh and final day, Friday, was a bit low key. It was our second day at port in Nawiliwili and Mom and I stayed on the ship. I went to the second art auction put on by Park West. This time I had more champagne and, perhaps because of the champagne, I actually purchased some art! :-) Here's what I should be receiving in a few weeks (anyone wanna help me choose frames for them?):
  • Regal I by Peter Nixon
  • Athena II by Peter Nixon
  • Dove in Flight by Zamy Steynovitz (sorry, the link was taken down from the website)
The auctioneer gave away prizes throughout the event. He also promised a piece of art and a bottle of champagne to the loudest/most enthusiastic participant (he did this at the first auction as well). I decided to try to win this time around and I clapped and yelled for everything. Unfortunately, the auctioneer thought it was the people next to me making that noise and they won the competition (they hardly made any sounds at all!). There is a happy ending to this story, though--I had befriended a young lady from that group and she told me when she won that she doesn't drink. I jokingly said "I'll gladly take the champagne off your hands!" So after she went to claim her prize, she walked over to me and handed me to huge bottle of champagne. How nice!

After the auction, the ship made a pass of Nā Pali; first on the port side and then on the starboard side. I got some good shots, fortunately.

I had a yellow notepad on which I'd been taking notes for the whole cruise. At the end of Friday, I wrote "Three glasses of champagne, 1 glass of wine, and 3 works of art." :-D

One other thing of note from the cruise: Our steward, Gerry, was a really helpful guy. He also made towel animals for us every day. Be sure to check out my photo album on Facebook to see them all!

On Saturday, we docked at Honolulu again and disembarked. I was sad to leave but happy to have had such a wonderful experience with my mom. Thankfully the fun wasn't all over just yet! We had to disembark that morning but our planes didn't leave until after 10 that night. So we took one last excursion--the Grand Circle Island Tour. It took us all the way around the island of Oahu. The picture to the left is a couple of volcanic rock islands off the coast. Here are some interesting things I learned on the tour:
  • Waikiki Beach is man-made. They bring in sand every 6 years.
  • Most of the palm trees are non-native (like these fishtail palm trees to the right).
  • When taking this tour, you should sit on the right side of the bus, so you can get pictures of the beautiful water and not just the mountains. :-p
  • Billboards are illegal and RVs are not allowed in parks.
At the end of that excursion we were taken to the airport. We arrived somewhere around 5:30. Then Mom and I had dinner and wasted time until it was time to go to our separate gates. This is where things got even more interesting (but not in a good way).

My flight was to depart at 10:15. We boarded around 9:50. We taxied to the runway and I thought we'd be leaving soon. Then the captian announced that there was a sensor on the front of the plane that wasn't working properly and that we had taxied back to the gate to have the problem looked at. A few moments later he said it would take about 40 minutes to look into and that we could leave the plane if we wanted to. Since it was only 40 minutes, I decided to stay put. Two hours later, the captain announced that the problem couldn't be fixed and that the flight was cancelled (sound familiar?). Then the gate agent told us that there was a convention in Honolulu and that all the hotels in town were full (also sound familiar?). So I got to spend the night in the Honolulu airport. Being stranded in Hawaii might not be such a bad thing, but being stuck in the airport makes it a bit less enjoyable.

I called the number they gave us to rebook my itinerary. The soonest they could get me off the island was 12:30 Sunday afternoon, and that's if I was willing to change airlines (which I'd vowed I'd never do again after the trip to Honolulu). I was desperate so I took it. Then I tried to figure out what I was going to do for the next 11 hours. I decided that sleep was a good start. I put my suitcase behind me and my new Hawaii bag under my head and attempted to sleep on the floor. It was cold and very hard. Eventually I gave up on the floor and went to a chair. The armrests were in the way and I couldn't get comfortable. Next I tried this weird-looking plastic chair on the end of the regular chairs:

I put my suitcase beside the chair, put my Hawaii bag on top of it for a pillow, and put my legs over the arm of the first black chair. Still not very comfortable, so I took some shirts out of my suitcase and used them as cushions under my head and my hipbone. I slept this way for about two hours, which is surprising considering that the airport was piping in Hawaiian music the whole time (nothing against Hawaiian music...hearing music ad nauseum will turn me off of anything, except Muse).

After that couple of hours of non-restful sleep, I decided I couldn't stand it anymore. I got up and chatted with another couple who'd been on the canceled flight. The wife said "I used to enjoy Hawaiian music. Now I think I hate it." I wholeheartedly agreed with her. She and her husband then went upstairs to try their luck with getting back into a gate. I played on my Kindle for a while, then decided I'd go upstairs as well. I put my bag through the agriculture screening (for a second time) and checked in at the United counter. Then I went to my gate. It took a while to get to the gate because the Honolulu airport is very spread out. I guess the one good thing about that is that since the food and shop areas were so far from the gate, it wasted time walking back and forth.

We were each given $20 in meal vouchers because of the canceled flight. As if that made up for it. We should've been given travel vouchers as well. But that's beside the point... Around 7 am I decided I'd use one of the vouchers to get some breakfast. I went to Starbucks (one of the few places open) and got a chai latte and a cinnamon twist. When I returned to the gate, I wasn't allowed to enter. There was an international flight coming in and because of customs or something, no one was allowed inside the gate. I was told the gate would open at 9. So I found a seat outside the gate, plugged my phone in to charge, and called my dad.

After 9, I went into the gate and played with my Kindle some more. It really helped the time to pass, thankfully. Somewhere around 10:30 or so I went to one of the lobby stores and tried to purchase a Sudoku book and some macadamia nuts with a voucher. The clerk told me that I couldn't use my voucher there, despite the fact that the gate agent told me I could use the vouchers "anywhere in the airport." I already had my heart set on the items, so I put them on my credit card. Then I went to Burger King and spent the rest of the vouchers on lunch. I got a kid's meal and a little Cinnabon even though I wasn't that hungry. I wanted to use as much of the voucher as possible, you know? I ate the hamburger and fries slowly and then had the Cinnabon closer to time to board.

I can thankfully say that there were no more catastrophes after that. We boarded the plane for the 12:30 flight and there were no instrument malfunctions. Even though I was now going to San Francisco instead of Phoenix for the first leg of my trip, I didn't get to see my mom (who had flown to San Francisco and then spent the night at a hotel before finishing her trip home). But I made it safely home on Monday morning instead of Sunday evening, and then immediately went back to bed. I spent the entire day catching up on sleep, resumed life on Tuesday, then went on another trip Wednesday (that's another story for another day!)...

Despite that adventure at the end, my overall Hawaiian trip was a success. I definitely want to go back to Hawaii, and maybe just visit one island this time. So, to the beautiful state of Hawaii, I say "Ahui ho!" (Until we meet again!)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hawaiian Vacation, Part 2

Now to continue with my Hawaiian adventure!

The fourth day, Tuesday, was spent in Hilo (the north side of Hawaii, the Big Island). We didn't have an excursion planned but we wanted to get off the ship after a long day at sea the day before, so we took a bus to downtown Hilo. A young lady at Guest Services on the ship said there wasn't much to do, and she was right! We walked around a bit and stopped by a farmer's market, and then walked around some more.

Farmer's Market

We also stopped by a place called Cafe Pesto. Mom had lemonade and I had some passion fruit sorbet. It was soooo good. Later, while Mom was resting in the stateroom, I took a bus by myself to a more populated part of Hilo. I needed some astringent since the airport people had inspected mine and left it open for it to spill inside my suitcase (at least my suitcase smelled nice and was properly exfoliated). So I went to WalMart to get the astringent. I also bought a bathing suit, which I then proceeded to not wear for the rest of the cruise. I tried to get back to the ship for a Thomas Kinkade seminar given by Park West but I missed the 3:00 bus and had to wait 30 minutes for the next one (the seminar was at 4:00). I missed the seminar, but I did get to talk to a nice Australian couple while waiting for the 3:30 bus. Also, I heard about another auction on Friday so I decided to attend that.

On the fifth day, Wednesday, we arrived at Kona, Hawaii (the southern side of the Big Island). There was no dock this time, so they used tender boats to get us to and from the shore. They were wobbly to say the least...
Tender boat

Mom and I had an excursion planned--a bus tour. I felt it was a little disappointing because there were only three stops (Kona Coffee, the Painted Church, and Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park). But we got to see a lot of the island inbetween the stops. I was able to take lots of notes on this one (couldn't take notes while riding the Segway on Sunday). A few of the things I learned:
  • The Big Island has never had a hurricane or tropical storm because of protection from the two large mountains.
  • All the flowers and trees on the Big Island are non-native except for one pitiful looking tree (I didn't get the name).
  • There are no sand beaches on the Big Island.
I took a lot of photos at Puuhonua so be sure to check Facebook for all of those: Hawaiian Vacation Pics

One thing I've neglected to mention so far is that Mom and I had a bit of a problem with our stateroom. The bathroom started smelling like sewage after a couple of days, and it got worse every day. Our steward, Gerry, and one of the Guest Services workers, David, worked diligently to get it taken care of. By Wednesday it was gone, though it did get worse again. We just decided we'd have to live with it. Thankfully it wasn't as bad the second time through. But the head of Guest Services called Tuesday night and said that to make up for the inconvenience they were treating us to free dinner and a bottle of wine at any of the restaurants. So Wednesday night we went to Moderno Churrascaria, a Brazilian-style steakhouse (one of the specialty restaurants on the ship, which usually has a cover charge).

Moderno was beautiful and the food was excellent. They give you a menu full of meats but you don't choose just one. Once you turn over your place card from red to green, a passador comes to your table with the different meats on huge skewers, and cuts off whatever you want. When you're done with the main course and ready for dessert, you turn the place card back over to red.

My favorite food was the grilled pineapple with cinnamon and something else. I got two servings of that, even though I'm slightly allergic to pineapple. O:-) It was too good to pass up--it smelled amazing and tasted even better!

Unfortunately the boat was high-tailing it to Kauai that evening and was rocking quite a bit. It caused both Mom and me to lose our appetites. So we turned our place card back to red after only a few rounds of meat. Our passador came to the table and lamented "Red? Red!!" Mom was so queasy that she ordered some Ginger Ale, which helped thankfully. We got a couple of desserts to go and headed back to the room. Oh, and I chose my favorite wine--Chateau St. Michelle Riesling. I didn't finish it all that evening, so I nursed it for the next couple of days (Mom doesn't drink so it was all mine).

Thursday (day six) is the day I'd been looking forward to all week. We were docked in Nawiliwili, Kauai and our excursion was a plantation train ride and a luau (also at the plantation)! Mom said she couldn't go to Hawaii without experiencing a luau. The luau was that evening so during the day we took a trip to the UPS store to mail some things that wouldn't fit in our suitcases.

At Kilohana Plantation we got to see a lot of plants. I took a ton of pictures, but didn't get to write down what each one was! So if anyone knows the plants in my FB photos, please comment and fill me in. :-)

The luau was AMAZING. The food was okay; I did not try poi but I did try a couple of new drinks: the Mai Tai and the Blue Hawaii. Both were good, despite the fact that I don't really like rum or coconut. I also tried papaya (it was okay, nothing stellar) and purple sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes were good but had a strange aftertaste. Here's my dinner plate (yes, I had rice and noodles):

The entertainment They had storytelling, then regular dancing and Samoan fire dancing. I didn't get many good pictures but my new friend Jennifer (we met Jennifer and her husband Cameron at the luau, as they were sitting next to us) might have. Check Facebook. Here are a couple decent shots of the dancers from before the sun went down:

That's all for this part of the trip. Tune in soon for the final installment of my Hawaiian vacation retelling!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hawaiian Vacation, Part 1

Well, here we go! It's time to recount the tale of my week-long Hawaiian cruise with my mom. I will post some pictures here on the blog but for all the pics, check out my Facebook page: Hawaiian Pics Preview and Hawaiian Vacation Pics

First things first. I had to fly to Hawaii, and then the cruise was around the Hawaiian islands. We stopped at four of the main islands: Oahu, Maui, The Big Island, and Kauai:

Getting to Hawaii took quite a long time since I was coming from the East Coast of the US. I began my trip on Friday. I flew Chicago-Phoenix-Honolulu. The flights got progressively longer...ugh. Once I got to Honolulu I spent the night at the Miramar at Waikiki. My mom was supposed to join me that evening... Unfortunately the plane for her flight from San Francisco to Honolulu (she had a slightly different route from mine) had some kind of mechanical failure and, after they took a while to realize that it couldn't be fixed, the flight was canceled. While I was sleeping comfortably in the hotel room, my poor mother was sleeping in an uncomfortable chair in the San Francisco airport because all the hotels were full.

Thankfully we finally met up the following day, Saturday, at the dock. I got there first, however. We (separately) went through security, got our free leis, and had our photos taken with some good-looking Hawaiians...

Once together, we then stood in a long line to check in and embark. I think the first thing we did once we got on the ship and into our stateroom was sleep. Poor mom was exhausted after not getting much sleep in the airport the night before and I was still adjusting to the time zone difference (Hawaii is 6 hours behind Eastern Daylight Time).

After resting, we went to eat at the Aloha Cafe, one of the complimentary restaurants on the ship. Then there was a mandatory, ship-wide safety drill. Everyone had to evacuate their staterooms and report to their designated areas to listen to safety instructions in the case of an emergency. It was a thrill a minute, lemme tell you.

So our first day, at the Honolulu port, was uneventful. Our second day (Sunday) was in Maui (port at Kahului). Mom and I went on our first of four excursions, a Segway tour of Lahaina. The tickets said that we must wear closed-toe shoes and Mom hadn't packed we bought some funny-looking water shoes at one of the ship gift stores the day before. Then the morning of the tour, Mom couldn't find her drivers license (which you need any time you re-board the ship). We made ourselves late looking for it and were afraid we'd missed the bus, but once the license was found we rushed down to the gangway. "Segway tour?" an excited women shouted to us. "Yes!" we answered emphatically. She quickly ushered us to the bus, which was still waiting for us (thank God)!

Upon arriving at Segway Maui Tours, we signed our lives away (stating that SMT would not be held responsible if we hurt ourselves/died while operating a Segway) and then watched a terrifying safety video which showed us all the ways we could hurt ourselves/die while operating a Segway. Despite all of that, Mom and I decided we still wanted to continue with the tour. We were given helmets and neon "Don't Hit Me" vests, then we went outside to practice driving our Segways. It was a little weird at first, but we quickly got the hang of it. Teresa, our tour guide, mused that Mom and I had the most priceless looks on our faces as we watched the safety video. She then later remarked that we seemed to have the most fun of everyone on the tour (which was true). While training to drive the Segways, Mom was going around and around the parking area and Teresa exclaimed "Look at your mom go!" When we were done, I decided that one day I will have a Segway. My feet were killing me from all the maneuvering, but it was a TON of fun. Here we are underneath a beautiful banyan tree:

After our Segway fun was over, we decided it was time to eat. We wanted to go somewhere that wasn't too far from Hilo Hattie's, which is where the bus would be picking us up to take us back to the ship. Teresa, being the awesome person that she was, gave us a ride to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Good food, and I got a cool glass that lights up (if you're nice, I might let you play with it)!

That evening I heard about an art auction that was going on. I'd never been to one, so I decided to check it out. Also, there was free champagne and everyone who stayed to the end would get a free piece of art. Everybody wins, right? The auction was hosted by Park West. It was a lot of fun and I learned a little bit about some old and new artists (old: Picasso, new: Peter Max). I didn't bid on anything, though I was tempted to bid on some works featuring the Peanuts characters. They were only $80!! I was so shocked at the price (most things were from $2000 to over $90,000) that I assumed I'd heard the auctioneer incorrectly and didn't bid.

Another artist I discovered and fell in love with was Emile Bellet. He has a beautiful style and some of his works featured musicians (a woman playing the violin, a woman standing by a piano). I can't display the works here because of copyright, but I've linked the descriptions to the paintings' pages on West Park's website. Please check them out! Also, if you'd like to purchase one for me, my birthday is this month...they're only $2450 each. :-)

I stayed all the way to the end so I got my free piece of art. I actually ended up with two somehow. They were both the same print so I gave one to Mom. And guess what? It was a work by Bellet! It's titled Delicatesse:

So that was the second day. The third day, Monday, was a bit uneventful because of Hurricane/Tropical Depression Flossie. We were supposed to be at port in Maui two days but the captain said it was safer to be at sea when Flossie hit. So we spent Wednesday at sea. Mom and I didn't do much that day besides eat and explore the ship a bit.

That's all for the first part of the trip! Tune in soon for the second part.