We are Aruba, on the way home (finally). This second cruise that we took isn’t half or even a quarter as much fun as the Grand Voyage! I can’t wait to get home (wherever that might be!)
Once we get back (in a couple of days) I hope to post a couple of posts on this part of the cruise (Panama Canal cruise) but won’t do it till we are home.. Hope that’s OK with everyone!
The ship is decorated for Christmas already and Eddy and his wife (never did get her name) has outdone themselves as you will see later.
Be well and Happy Holidays to all!!!
I am dumping all the islands we visited in Hawaii together since there isn’t that much to say.
Hilo/the big island
We were basically done by then and all I wanted to do was chill and relax so we only toured Maui with Ken and Ellen, more about that later.
OHAU – Honolulu
View of Honolulu from the ship at daybreak.
Honolulu was our first stop and since we had been to Honolulu a number of times. Actually, one of the best excursions I have ever taken had been to Pearl Harbour, the sunken USS Arizona Memorial, the battleship USS Missouri AKA ”Mighty Mo” and the Punchbowl Memorial Military Cemetery. Pearl Harbour is definitely a sacred site and standing above the USS Arizona is one of the most humbling moments of my life, knowing how many lives were taken that day and that so many were still trapped within the ship was very sobering. When and if you ever get the chance to go to the island it should be your first stop!!! And of course it is the place of Waikiki Beach.. One of the most famous of all beaches.. Not to worry, if you haven’t been but have been to Miami and South Beach it’s pretty similar.. miles of white sandy beaches with waves for all the surfer dudes and dudets We didn’t go… wanted wi-fi..
The other side:
But since we hadn’t been on the net for so long we decided to spend the day online at “Hilo Hatties” a huge Hawaiian souvenir shop that had free wi-fi and great Kona coffee.. but first we had to get to Costco to exchange something and get some macadamia nuts. It was like Nirvana.. seeing the red strip around the building.. felt like home!!!! Now we knew we were back in the States!!!
I believe we were finally done with touring and quite exhausted and after wi-fi we just got back on the ship which was having a Hawaiian Luau around the pool.
Eli, one of the great crew members dressed for the luau.
As night descended I went back off the ship to check out the Aloha Towers shopping center which was right by the pier where we were docked.
The Mall at Aloha Tower has a couple of sculptures, one doing a Hawaiian Dance, I am assuming.
Anyone know what type of bird this is??? It was just on the side of the road.. never saw one like it before.. any bird lovers out there???
The next day, September 28th, our shipped dropped anchor in Lahaina Bay on the island of Maui, where we were tendered in to the Lahaina docks. (If I didn’t say so already, “tendering in” means that the port is too shallow for the ship to pull in alongside the shore, so it drops anchor in the bay, lowers the life boats, and takes passengers aboard from the ship and into the lifeboats, and the lifeboats take the passengers ashore; reboarding the ship is done in the same way, going in the other direction.)
Lahaina is shaped kind of like a figure-8 laying on its side, with one half of the figure 8 smaller than the other. Lahaina is located on the smaller section of the island. We had arranged to rent a car with Ken and Ellen, and together the four of us began the drive from Lahaina to the summit at the center of the larger half of the island, located in the Haleakala National Park. (Our US National Park Cards came in handy here, as we got in for free.) we had been to Haleakala (pronounced hah-lay-ah-KAH-lah) on our last trip to Maui, but the landscape is so interesting we didn’t mind going again.
You can see the shape of the island from above ..
The first part of the drive from Lahaina to the “neck” between the two parts of the island, is right along the coastline. We were very surprised to see so many people (and cars) parked among the low trees along the beaches, who were clearly there to surf. It was a weekday, and one could only wonder whether visitors would rent cars just to go to surfing spots, or whether there was anyone who lived on Maui who was actually working, since there were so many surfers in the water. Through a tunnel and into and through the “neck” of the island and we found ourselves driving along miles of sugar cane, which is still processed here (the large sugar cane processing plant is in or very near to Lahaina. Does anyone remember one of the old commercials from my youth for “C & H Cane Sugar – Pure Cane Sugar from Hawaii”?).
Turning near the airport in the direction of Haleakala (AKA following the road signs) we passed through more lush sugar cane plantations and gradually began an ascent that would eventually take us over 10,000 feet high to the summit in Haleakala National Park. As we went higher the foliage changed from tropical lush to forests of eucalyptus trees to some pine and finally, above the tree line, to scrub brush and the natural habitat of Hawaii’s state bird, the Ne’ne (pronounced NAY-NAY) or Hawaiian goose, which is supposedly related to the Canadian goose, is a protected species and which lives only on the islands of Maui and Hawaii, as I recall.
Is it this one???
Or this one????
Another interesting inhabitant of the scrub brush is a plant called Silver Sword because when light hits the leaves of the plant (which has thick projectile leaves that slant upward, like fingers pointing toward the sky), the leaf color looks not white but actually silver, something I do not recall having ever seen in another plant. These plants are also a protected species because in spite of their name, they are delicate; apparently they have a very shallow root system that is adversely affected by people walking on ground near the plant. They appear to be related to blooming cactuses, although they don’t have thorns, the plants grow a long stem that blooms before the plant “dies”. I don’t recall how long their life cycle is; I do recall seeing some blooming cacti in Arizona and having been told that they live for about 100 years, and the year that they bloom is the year they are going to die. I don’t know if the same thing applies to Silver Swords, but they are remarkably beautiful for plants that have no flowers for most of their lives.
As we continued our climb to Haleakala, the road became steeper and we saw a few bikers trying to peddle uphill. Downhill looked easier!
The distance from the turnoff to Haleakala to its summit is about 28 miles, but this part of the drive takes about an hour because of the steep inclines along the entire route and the many, many switchbacks and hairpin turns along the road.
There were many beautiful flowers adorning the gardens of private homes all along the way uphill until we arrived at the entrance to the National Park and hit the scrub brush area, which was above the tree line.
On the final portion of the ascent to the summit was the reason why we had come here: Haleakala sits on an area containing many ancient volcanoes and volcanic runoffs, where the calderas (rims) of the volcanoes had broken off while the volcanoes were still active and where spewing lava had run over the broken rims of the caldera and formed runoff stream beds of molten lava that later cooled and hardened – something of great interest to geologists and volcanologists, but of interest to me only in order to understand the phenomenon of what happened in order to give the area its unique look.
Because the area had been a source of great volcanic activity, the entire surrounding area that was not part of the crater basin was comprised of a reddish brown lava rock, much of which had been smoothed and worn by the elements over the eons, and looked like a moonscape or a Mars landscape.
In fact, NASA used this area as part of its work in training astronauts and nearby at the top of an adjacent summit, although closed to the public, are a number of telescopes shared by the US Department of Defense (USDOD), the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) and the University of Hawaii in projects used to track man-made objects in space (mainly satellites of all kinds from countries all over the world) and for purely astronomy research. We spent nearly an hour at the summit taking photos of the silver swords, the moonscape and the craters to the extent that they were visible (the drive from Lahaina to the summit took just under 2 hours, although it was only perhaps 50-60 miles away).
It turned out that we were lucky that day – first thing in the morning we went to Haleakala (sunrise at the top would have been beautiful as you could see the Pacific Ocean from the top), which at the summit is well above the clouds, so the views looking down from the summit, for the most part unobstructed by clouds, were just spectacular and very clear (there was what looked like a small smog cloud in the distance). By around noon or shortly thereafter, as the weather warmed the clouds had rolled in from the sea and covered almost all of what just an hour earlier had been a marvelous view. We had expected it would be cold at the top of the summit, and each of us brought some kind of jacket or windbreaker, but it turned out that even at the top the temperature was only 57 degrees Farenheit (the last time I was there it was much cooler – probably in the high 40’s, and windy as I recall – so the nice weather was an added plus), so there was no weather issue at all. When we returned to our car to descend from the summit, we passed right through the ethereal “cloud belt”, which we could barely notice until we got below the “cloud line” and looked up, only then to see that we were now below the clouds.
Haleakala we descended back to the floor of the island,
From stopped for a quick bite to eat and proceeded to our next stop, one we had not visited before, the Iao Needle, located in the Iao Valley. (“Iao” is pronounced “ee-AH-oh”.) The Iao Needle rises out of the ground in a lush valley surrounded by high mountains and looks like a giant phallus, and apparently it was considered a symbol of the area’s fertility by the ancient inhabitants of the area.
The Iao Valley is a lush area on the island where 4 or 5 rivers apparently run and bring mountain waters to the valley, which the ancient natives diverted by means of canals in order to water their field crops. The Iao Valley was important in Hawaiian history because it was here that the Hawaiian warrior Kamehameha defeated the troops of the Maui king in a battle in the late 1700’s, I believe, and after securing an agreement with one of the other islands (Lanai, I believe), became the first Hawaiian king, Kamehameha I, who is seen as the ruler who united the disparate tribes on the islands into one nation, and whose descendants ruled Hawaii until, I believe, close to the end of the 19th century. The Ioa Needle is a Hawaiian State Park and also contains what is called there a rain forest. However, when we looked down on the supposed rain forest area, it looked as if a lot of human hands had been at work “developing” the trails in the area, including benches for sitting next to the stream that flowed through it. Since we have been to untouched and pristine areas of the Amazon rainforest, Hawaii’s “rain forest” held no interest for us and we decided to “pass”.
After finishing our visit to the Iao Needle we left and headed back to Lahaina via a different route for part of the way, passing through more fields of sugar cane and – UGH – NEW SUBDIVISIONS of homes that looked like California builders had put them up – all constructed of sideboard, all looked alike, all in HOAs, all with next to no space between the houses, nearly zero lot lines and nearly zero back yards. What a shame! We drove past Lahaina to the Ka’anapali coast and the Maui Sheraton, where the Enterprise Car Rental office was, dropped the car off and got a guy from Enterprise to drive us back to the Wharf area at the Lahaina docks.
We spent perhaps a half-hour browsing but not buying in the many there-for-tourists shops along both side the Wharf (which actually appears to be built on dry land abutting the water but still referred to as the Wharf) before returning to the tender area and returning to the ship at the last “All Aboard” at 4:30 P.M.
HILO: We took the shuttle to the original Hilo Hattie’s (this was Hilo, after all), which was located just across the street from a large shopping area that held a Wal-Mart.
After nearly 75 days away it was time to get a couple of new things, including a new large, drinking bottle which we had traded away to one of the vendors on Komodo Island for two pearl bracelets.
Shortly after our arrival in Hilo yesterday morning the Sapphire Princess pulled up behind us and docked for the day. Our ship, the Amsterdam, a Holland-America ship, holds 1280 passengers at full capacity, but as this was near the end of our voyage (we had discharged large numbers of passengers in Sydney, Auckland and Honolulu) we now had only 600-700 passengers remaining on board. The Sapphire Princess, on the other hand, from Princess Cruises, held 3600 passengers and was in port on one of those 15-day LA-Hawaii-LA trips I described earlier, and the way the Port of Hilo is laid out required that the Amsterdam passengers had to walk to the part of the port where Princess passengers were disembarking in order to catch shuttles into Hilo proper. Talk about a zoo….. so many people it was impossible to pass by another person without bumping shoulders, and so forth. Especially coming from a ship where gracious, friendly service creates a feeling of camaraderie between passengers and staff, hitting head-on the Princess’ disembarking floating mass of humanity was not so much a sardine-can episode as a cattle-car experience.
K’s thoughts and closing to a very special cruise!
I am happy that every-so-often we have this kind of experience, because just as I am about to forget how lucky we are to have the opportunity to sail in the gracious manner to which we have become accustomed, an experience such as this offers a timely wake-up call to remind me that there are less gracious, less elegant and less appealing ways we could be cruising. And this, in turn, makes me thankful and grateful for the wonderful opportunities we have had over the years to visit so many places around the world which otherwise we would never have the opportunity to see (if for no other reason than that they are so off the beaten path and so difficult to get to except by ship – Robinson Crusoe Island, anyone?) and so many others where by ship is the most practical way – and sometimes, the ONLY practical way – to get to them and to get to see them (think Antarctica, the river communities along the thousand miles up the Amazon River coastline to Manaus, and Manaus itself, or the Straits of Magellan, or the Kingdom of Tonga and many more I could mention). We are now 5 sailing days out from San Diego and, on December 5th, the end of this Grand Voyage to Asia (Japan, China, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Viet Nam and Indonesia), Australia, New Zealand, the South Seas (Fiji and Samoa) and Hawaii, and it has been grand indeed – new cultures I never experienced, particularly in Asia, many of which have left me with the taste in my mouth of wanting “more” (which is always a good thing).
But as if to illustrate that every end is also a new beginning, at the same time we end our Grand Voyage in San Diego on December 5th, we will be starting another 17-day cruise from San Diego and along the Pacific coast of Mexico and Central America, through the Panama Canal and to several Caribbean islands, eventually ending on December 22nd in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.