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Erica Schultz Yakovetz

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Hawaii, 2013

In April 2013, my mom had a certain milestone birthday, so she and I made arrangements to celebrate it by fulfilling her lifelong dream... of a trip to Hawaii.

Wednesday, April 24:

Worked a 15-hour day, came home and scrambled around (packing) until well after midnight.

Thursday, April 25:

Got up at 4:45am, got out the door at around 6am to take the M60 bus to LaGuardia. Made it in plenty of time, had a nice coffee and hardboiled eggs at Au Bon Pain before boarding. Changed in O'Hare; only about 20 minutes' delay on the connecting flight. Uneventful flight to Sacramento, got a chili lime chicken salad at the Mexican place in the food court, then picked up my rental car (Advantage) and drove to Lodi. I only got a little turned around once I got into Lodi, and managed to get to Mom's house just in time to call my boyfriend before he boarded *his* flight (home to New York) at LAX. My stepfather and I went to pick Mom up from work, and then we came home and I lay down for half an hour before we had pre-birthday dinner (steak and asparagus, yum). Then I had to do an emergency work thing requiring installing WinSCP on Mom's computer and fixing a broken web form on the school server. Then we went to bed around 10:15pm.

Friday, April 26:

The jet engine auto-grinding coffee maker went off at 5:30am, the alarm clock at 5:35am. Got up, showered, fried some eggs, and packed off in the rental car back to SMF. (Stopped for gas on the way into the airport, whereupon Mom's credit card apparently got compromised, but that's another story.) Uneventful flight to HNL on which they showed Life of Pi (Mom watched, I didn't) and served out complimentary rum punch about an hour before arrival. :-) We took a cab over to the Hilton Hawaiian Village and Aunt Cindy met us in the lobby; she'd already checked us in but our room wasn't ready, so we went over to the beachfront Tropics Bar where Uncle Jim was hanging out, and we got some lunch. They all had salads and the biggest Mai Tai I've ever seen (incredibly tasty); I just had an order of poke, which was fantastic. I am hopeful there will be more poke in store for me this week.

Cindy took us up to see their room (in the Ali'i tower, which means "royalty", and thus is naturally the elite wing closest to the beach) and then across to our room in the Tapa Tower. We had a couple hours before our pickup for the luau, so we changed and went down to the beach for a little while. We sat down in two empty lounge chairs under a beach umbrella, and had a nice 5 minutes... until the kid from the beach service came over to inform us that they were rentals only, by the day only, and it would run us a mere $64 if we would care to sign on? Ahahaha no. We went and sat on the wall at the edge of the beach until there were too many smokers and Mom went inside. I went and lay in the actual sand for a while, got in the actual ocean a couple times, and then took a walk down the beach as far as... the Ohana Surfrider? toward Diamond Head, before I turned around and came back.

I got showered and dressed and we went down to get our bus for our chosen luau experience, at Germaine's, which is way over near Barker's Point behind an industrial park. It took fully TWO HOURS to drive there because the traffic was so horrendous. But our host (bus escort) was cute, and the site once we got there was extremely beautiful: right on the ocean, tucked away in a little grove overlooking the crashing surf. The food was only decent: standard-issue cheap industrial fare, other than the kalua-pig-from-underground-oven; and they had lomilomi salmon, which is sort of a ceviche with chopped tomatoes, but no poke, which I'd been counting on! I actually think this is part of what the reviews mean when they say that Germaine's is "the most authentic" (i.e., in terms of how mainstream Hawaiians actually throw parties). But the show was fun, and the Mai Tais were very good -- they gave us three drink tickets and we really only needed two apiece, everyone at our (apparently lightweight) table was offering their extra tickets up by the end of dinner (and then they closed the bar anyway). We all zonked out on the ride home.

Saturday, April 27:

I woke up at about 5:45am, so I went and sat on our private balcony for a while, puttering around on the Internet (yay Hilton Honors free wifi!). The coffee in the room was pretty disappointing (maybe our unit was failing?) but we went out to breakfast at the Wailana Coffee House around the block, which was just right and Mom got her favorite blueberry pancakes. We came back and hung out with Jim and Cindy at the gorgeous roofdeck pool in their tower, until it was time to clean up and check out. We all took a cab over to Longhi's in the Ala Moana shopping center, for an equally gorgeous lunch, and then they put us and our luggage in a cab to the cruise terminal!

We got in, went through the security and check-in process, got our flower leis and "embarkation photos" taken with the cruise cast, and then walked right up onto the boat. We're in stateroom 7060: deck 7, starboard, forward. We unpacked and walked around until the 5pm mandatory lifeboat drill assembly, then went up to the pool deck for the "sail away" barbeque and dance party. At 7:45 we went to the shore-excursion presentation in the "Hollywood Theater" main auditorium, and then came back for the comedy show at 8:45. It's freezing in that theater, and I was falling asleep by the end of the show, so we came back to the cabin at that point and passed out.

Sunday, April 28:

Docking in Maui! We both slept soundly through from 10:15pm to 6am when the alarm went off -- maybe it's the motion of the ship? We had to be off the ship by 8am sharp in order to get our Road to Hana tour bus (pre-booked through Valley Isle Excursions, not through the ship), so we got ready quickly and went to the buffet breakfast in the Aloha Cafe before heading down to Deck 3. We found our bus (or rather, van) with minimal headache and met our driver, Debra, a smiling Hawaiian tomboy of a grandmother with an earthy sense of humor. We spent about 7 of the next 10 hours actually driving around the Road to Hana, a giant loop that took us basically all the way around the eastern side of the island. Stops included a couple of state parks, a black sand beach, a flower farm (our lunch stop), a red sand beach, and the Seven Pools of the Ohe'o Gulch (where I actually got in the water), as well as a final stop at the Tedeschi Winery. (We bought a bottle of their Ulupalakau Red blend, which was then confiscated from us and we had to pay a $15 ransom corkage fee in order to have it on board. But they delivered it to the "wine cage" in the dining room so we could have it served at dinner the next night.)

We got back just after 6pm, zoomed up to the Waikiki Bar (13 aft) to claim the tail end of the Mai Tai happy hour ($3.95 special, although they were actually kind of crappy), stopped off in the Jacuzzi on the pool deck, then went to dinner in the Skyline Restaurant (the slightly-less-formal formal dining room). We left before dessert in order to go see the 9pm show (Aloha Polynesia), and then froze some more in the auditorium, so we went to warm up with dessert and coffee in the 24-hour '50s-style Cadillac Diner before packing off to bed.

Monday, April 29:

Tried to sleep in, but woke up by about 5:45 anyway. We'd decided not to take any early expeditions, so we went and had a more leisurely served breakfast in the Skyline Restaurant, first stopping by the Shore Excursions desk to book our tour of Volcanoes National Park for the following day. But then I got up in the middle of breakfast to go back and also book the roundtrip bus transportation to Lahaina for today, which was departing at 9:30am. The bus ride cut across the "neck" of Maui and then up the eastern coastline until we got to Lahaina... which is basically the Rockport (MA) of Hawaii, a bit more tropical and upscale/commercial, but with a pretty similar feel in general. Art galleries (national caliber, not local artists) and jewelry stores and surf shops and gelato shops and a bazillion t-shirt and souvenir outlets. We actually found a "where to eat" guidebook and trekked a couple blocks inland to go to Maui Tacos, which turned out to be just a counter-service place in a strip mall, but was decent food. We got back down to Front Street and continued working our way down the street, found some birthday presents for Eva, got macadamia-nut ice cream, and saw the celebrated Banyan Tree in the middle of the town square before we got picked up outside the Old Lahaina Courthouse at 3pm.

We got back just before 4, hit the hot tub again, socialized with some folks there, and came back to change for dinner. I had meant for us to go see the 7pm show (shows are at 7 and 9) and then head to the dining room, but as we were getting ready, Mom turned on the TV and they were showing Les Misérables, which I had never managed to see! We missed the beginning, but they were only up to "Master of the House". So instead of going to the show, we sat down and watched that until 8pm. (This means I missed both Anne Hathaway and Colm Wilkinson completely, so I realize I'm really going to have to watch it again at some point.)

Then we went off to try the Liberty Restaurant, which is the more formal of the formal dining rooms. They were busy, so they asked us if we wanted to share a table with another couple, so we said sure, and ended up with this lovely older black couple, King and Irene. We had such a fun time that they ended up coming along with us to karaoke in the Gold Rush Saloon, and I got to do one song ("Me and Bobby McGee") before they closed at 10:30pm and we went off to bed.

Tuesday, April 30:

Docking in Hilo! After buffet breakfast (where I discovered the automatic Caffe Americano dispenser next to the regular coffee machine -- cue choirs of angels...), we had to meet in the Hollywood Theater to get onto our tour buses. They had fully 10 busloads of passengers going to Volcanoes National Park, either directly or (as we did) on the combo tour by way of the Rainbow Falls on the Wailua River in Hilo. We actually only spent about 20 minutes at the falls, which was too bad because I was actually more excited about that than about the volcanoes (especially as I'd been to the volcano park on my last trip and all you see is craters and a zillion miles of lava-rock landscape). But it was still worth seeing, and we also went to the Thurston Lava Tube which I did *not* visit last time. Of course, since Hilo is the Seattle of Hawaii (chilly and overcast, with something like 180 inches of rain per year, because the clouds come up and get trapped by the mountains), the rain started coming down in earnest as soon as we got to the lava tube, and I of course had forgotten to bring my spiffy new packable rain jacket, on the ONE day I was actually going to need it! And I really was sorry not to have it, because I was pretty cold and wet by the time we got through the tube. But the rainforest setting was still amazing and worth seeing. Anyway, so we made a couple additional stops at craters and overlooks, and ate our boxed lunches, and eventually the sun came out again as we made our last stop -- the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory.

Back to the ship, and I went and sat out on the pool deck for a couple hours while Mom rested in the cabin. I had my pina colada and my hot tub time, so I feel like I got some actual vacation in. And then we changed and went back to the Skyline for dinner. We shared with two other couples this time, both Florida dwellers, so they had more to say to each other than to us, but it was OK. Then we went to the game room and played Scrabble for half an hour, until it was time for the lava viewing! At around 10pm we were rounding the section of coastline where you could see the actual active lava flow, so everyone gathered on the starboard side and they actually turned off the lights on deck and let everyone see and take pictures. Then we went back and finished our Scrabble game, and stopped into the piano bar for just a few minutes before heading up to bed.

Wednesday, May 1:

Docking in... well, today we didn't dock per se, because the Kona harbor is too small to allow for it, so we had to "tender" -- use the lifeboats as little shuttle boats to take us ashore to the tendering pier. We got up and went to the "port talk" up on the pool deck at 7:30am, then stopped in for buffet breakfast. We booked a 1:30pm glass-bottomed boat tour, and after that we made our leisurely way down to the tender boats. (From 7:30-10:30am, they issue timed "tickets" for crowd control, so that everyone isn't pushing in line down in the gangway all at once. We were in the last group of timed tickets; after that, they just let people line up.)

The minute we got onto the dock in Kona, we were accosted by a guy named Alex who runs a tour company in Kauai (Anytime IsLand EXcursions) and offered us a 4.5-hour 4-stop tour for the next day for $45, no obligation, just put your names down. Since we'd been waffling on scheduling any tours in Kauai, this sounded like just the thing, so he put our names on his list. From there we walked over to the Hulihe'e Palace and the church across the street from it, which are the two main sights to see in downtown Kona, and then shopped our way down the road to the Kona Inn, where we had a very nice oceanfront lunch (poke!).

From there we shopped our way back toward the pier to get in line for our glass-bottomed boat tour (leaving me singing, "Glass-bottomed boats, you make the rockin' world go round"), run by the Kailua Bay Charter Company. The boat held about 20 passengers and three crew members, including our super cute narrator/naturalist, Captain Jon, who reminded me strongly of my friend FilkerDave (if, y'know, he sailed tourists in Hawaii for a living). We saw pods of spinner dolphins all around us in the bay, and then we got a little further out and saw (through the glass) tons of coral and sea urchins and yellow tangs (so named because they are bright yellow but have two little sharp white prongs at the base of their tail fins) and a dozen other things I have no idea what they were, but it was beautiful.

We shopped some more and then headed back to the ship. Hot tub for me; dinner in the Skyline; at 9pm the night's showtime offering, a Jersey Boysknockoff Frankie Valli tribute entitled "Oh What A Night!", which was cute, if not brilliant. At 10pm was the much-vaunted "NCL signature White Hot Party", for which Mom had actually bought the souvenir t-shirt the night before, but then she ended up being too tired to go! so I went by myself and danced for an hour or so before heading home to bed.

Thursday, May 2:

Docking in Kauai! After breakfast in the Skyline, we showed up for ALEX's half-day bus tour. He had said show up by 8:30 for a 9am departure, only when we got there (about 8:35?) they had already shipped out the two large-windowed tour vans, and we got the stragglers' group of 5 people in a regular passenger van. This was OK but I think not optimal, as you really couldn't take the same kinds of photographs we got on the Road to Hana. But it was generally good. The driver (Mary) was an aging white ex-hippie in a pink muumuu, a straw cowboy hat, and a long grey braid down her back; she's lived on Kauai for most of the last 45 years. We visited the twin Wailua River Falls (as featured, she told us several times, in the opening sequence to Fantasy Island); the Kauai Coffee Plantation (where we only had 20 minutes to stop, so although we got some free tasting samples, we didn't have time even to take the self-guided walking tour!), Waimea Canyon ("the Grand Canyon of Hawaii"); and the Spouting Horn, which is a spot inside the posh resort area of Po'ipu (itself worth seeing) where the surf pops up in enormous geyser-like spouts through some interior holes in the rock wall. It was a pretty good, cost-effective way to see a lot of the main sights in a short time -- maybe too short, but at least we were back by 1:30pm, and got to have lunch on the ship for the first time (at the Cadillac Diner).

After lunch Mom wanted to lie down, and I changed and went ahead down to the beach. There are free shuttles right from the cruise pier to beach and shopping areas, so I took the one marked Anchor Cove, which was actually walking distance from the ship, but I needed to scout out the shuttle path so that Mom could come down after me. I walked across the strip mall to the beach in front of the Kauai Marriott and Duke's Canoe Club, and there was this utterly perfect little stretch of sandy beach, on a cove sheltered by a stone sea wall a few hundred yards out. Windsurfers, stand-up paddle boards. I sat out for about 2 hours (of which the sun was behind a mass of clouds about half the time), made some phonecalls home, and Mom finally came down, and *she* made a phonecall home, by which time I had cooled off sufficiently that we got up and took the shuttle home.

For dinner we finally tried out the Aloha Cafe dinner buffet, which was actually great -- I had more vegetables than I'd had all week. From there we went to the show of the night ("Rock-a-Hula", an Elvis-themed swing-choir romance) and then took the Scrabble board into the piano bar and played another round before bed (over a glass of wine and a dirty martini).

Friday, May 3:

Day 2 (really half a day) in Kauai. We were scheduled to depart at 2pm so had to be back on the ship by 1:30pm, so I said that, rather than try to take any shore excursions, the main thing I really wanted to do was hang out on the beach. After breakfast (in the Aloha Cafe buffet, where we sat with a charming young Asian couple from Santa Clara), Mom said she wasn't actually all that keen on going to the beach, and did I mind if she stayed home? So I went and changed and picked up the shuttle for the Coconut Marketplace, which all it said was that it was beaches and shops about 20 minutes away from the cruise ship pier. It turned out to be an incredibly beautiful little resort area, so after I'd knocked around the shops there for about 20 minutes and then made my way down to the beach, I called Mom and said "You have to take the 11am shuttle, it's so pretty here, you would love it!" And then I played in the ocean and lay on the beach for about an hour and a half until she turned up, It was perfect. Once she arrived, we poked around the shops a little more, walked back through the Kauai Club(?) Resort hotel gardens, and sat out for 20 minutes in reclining chairs on the lovely manicured grounds overlooking the beach, until it was time to catch the last shuttle. I went and got a Hawaiian shave ice (flavors: pineapple plus Maui Wowee = strawberry-lime) for the bus ride back, and we got in right around 1pm, plenty of time for the 1:30pm curfew.

We went to the Skyline for a nice sitdown lunch, and then up to the pool deck to see the Sail-Away Party... as well as the "Mr. Sexy Legs" contest at 2:30. I wasn't sure how I felt about this; it was kind of fun, but also kind of creepy, especially considering how much worse it would have been if it were *women* being judged instead of the role-reversal here. Anyway, but it seemed to be all in good fun. We went up to the spa to see if they had any openings for pedicures (no dice, totally booked up); eventually we went back to the room and lay down for "just a few minutes", which turned out to be over an hour, as Mom woke me up in time to go see the Na Pali coastline drive-by at 5pm.

We watched from the port side as the ship sailed the length of the coastline, then got happy-hour Mai Tais at the Waikiki Bar around 5:30 and brought them back to the pool deck to watch out the starboard side as the ship doubled back. When that was over, we went back to the piano bar and completed the Happy Hour circuit by having a drink there (a Lemon Drop "martini" for me, a Kahlua & cream for her) with our final Scrabble game of the trip, BEFORE heading to the Liberty for dinner. -- At which we had one more glass of wine. The theme for the evening was apparently "last chance to par-tay!". We joked, as we had been all week, about going to the "solo travelers' social" and trying to pick up single guys, but we didn't in fact do it.

We wanted cookies for dessert, so when we went back to the cabin to get packed, I picked up the phone and sensibly called the free 24-hour room service to request that they very sweetly bring us coffee and cookies, and within 10 minutes there was a pot of decaf and a whole plate of six or eight cookies, of which I finally broke down and ate three before bed. :-)

Saturday, May 4:

Our final arrival back in Honolulu at 7am. We were carrying all our own luggage off, so we had breakfast first and then just wandered off whenever we felt like it (around 9?). Goodbye, cabin! Goodbye, ship!

I wanted to do something with our morning beyond just kill time, and the cruise terminal comes in right near the downtown area (as distinct from, say, Waikiki), so I suggested that we head over to the Iolani Palace, which is right in the middle of the downtown -- basically the financial district. We left our luggage in the cruise terminal, took a cab to the Palace, and arrived before they even opened, or certainly in plenty of time for the first tour of the day -- it was pretty deserted. It was definitely interesting and worth having-seen, from a historical perspective, although I don't know if I would bother to trade it for another half-day at the beach, under any other circumstances. :-)

There was very little in the way of food service or even car traffic in the area, but the girl in the gift shop gave us Google map directions over to the Aloha Tower cruise terminal area, so we just walked. Easy walk for me, a little harder for Mom, but from there we were able to pick up a cab and head over a few docks to retrieve our luggage, and then another cab to the airport itself.

And then we got lunch, and our flight back to Sacramento was at 1:55pm.


4120 words
Originally published May 6, 2013, on Dreamwidth.org.
Accompanying photos may be viewed on Flickr.