After our whirlwind week in the Hawaiian Islands, it was now time to slow down as the ship navigated us to Vancouver. The voyage took 5 days so we planned to relax and enjoy the activities on the ship.
We were actually quite surprised with the weather on our return. Starting with the first day, it was quite overcast, making it cooler almost right away. By the second day at sea, the air was also colder and by the third day we had to wear long pants and sweaters. This was a big surprise as we had left perfect blue skies and 30-degree celsius weather in Maui. Turns out the middle of the Pacific ocean is a very cold place. It was amazing at some points that the sea depth was more than 5000 metres deep!
The seas were also rough in some parts. Laura had a difficult time during this part of the sailing as she is the most sensitive to the movement of the ship. One day we had large waves that even made walking tricky. We toughed it out the best we could and on some days took sea sickness medication.
For the most part, our days involved reading, playing cards and catching up on homework with Laura. Each day we did fun things such as: trivia sessions, jewelry making workshops & charades. There were many contests and competitions including a belly flop competition, egg dropping contest, celebrity look alike contest and sing that lyric games. We also attended different events including a behind the scenes tour at the theatre, a crew talent show, Love & Marriage Game Show, a Hollywood movie in the theatre, listening to live music and going to the evening shows. Royal Caribbean does a very good job of providing numerous activities to choose from each day. The activity staff is always busy – especially on 5 long sea days.
One headliner Rick Novell was an incredible action comedian who rode a unicycle on the stage – which we couldn’t believe considering the waves that evening. He did tricks and stunts that take immense strength and we were thoroughly impressed with his talent.
The last Headliner on the ship was a comedian called Etta May. This was an 18+ show that was absolutely hysterical. The performer is dressed as an old, frumpy, southern woman and she talks about her family, kids, marriage and so many other topics that were all relatable. Her jokes were so funny and the delivery deadpan with a southern drawl that just makes you giggle each time she talks. We couldn’t stop laughing.
One of the main focuses on a ship is of course the food. The food on the Radiance of the Seas was very good. We most often ate breakfast in the Windjammer but also tried out the dining room one morning. Lunches were typically casual – sometimes at the Windjammer, other times at the Solarium Café where they had yummy roast beef sandwiches. Our dinners continued to be terrific. We ate like kings each night and of course the lobster dinner evening was a highlight. Surprisingly they limited the number of lobsters to one per person but allowed any other menu item to be ordered in conjunction with the lobster. Our server told us that some voyages they have had people order 10 lobsters so now they have to put limits in place to avoid these situations. We couldn’t believe when he told us people were eating that many.
Our server duo continued to be an endless source of entertainment during our dinner time. Our head waiter was a wiry, little guy with lots of stories of his life back in India - sharing pictures of his lovely wife and new baby. He was knowledgeable and did a tremendous job with our service.
On the last evening of the cruise we booked dinner at a Specialty restaurant called Giovannis. This is an Italian restaurant and the food was excellent. Appetizers and antipasto are served family style so everyone can try it followed by a main course. We ordered beef carpaccio, focaccia, risotto, papparadelle and grilled beef tenderloin. Everything was fantastic! It was a slower pace and lovely atmosphere in the smaller, peaceful setting. Highly recommended.
One of the last afternoons onboard Ian participated in the guest talent show. He did a great job. This is probably the largest audience he had every performed for and he didn’t hesitate – just gave it his all. There were several good singers and it was a great event.
Overall the cruise was really great. We loved the Hawaiian Islands and would certainly visit them again. The extended time onboard was nice – just wish the weather had been better. Unfortunately, you can’t determine what Mother Nature may provide.
We took advantage of the booking onboard bonus and created a booking for the British Isles for 2018. It always makes sense to put down a reduced deposit to hold a cabin on a future cruise since Royal Caribbean will give you free onboard credit. Deposits are fully refundable or can be moved to another sailing so there is no risk by taking advantage of this opportunity.
Our disembarkation in Vancouver was the smoothest we have ever had. There was one queue that wound around the terminal to collect luggage, however it was consistently moving and once through that, we walked right out of the building to the taxi. We don’t know if it was because we were Canadian and our names were pre-cleared on a manifest but we didn’t even go through customs upon our arrival. It certainly made for the easiest and quickest disembarkation ever. Always welcome when you are planning to make a flight the same day.
Our flight home on WestJet was an uneventful and easy direct flight to Pearson where we headed home to start thinking about our next holiday.
Click here for a review of the Radiance of the Seas Ship
This would be our final port day and we wanted to make the most of our last day in Maui.
We made plans to meet the kids in Lahaina around 10:00am and we took some time to stroll through the downtown, do a little souvenir shopping and check emails at a coffee shop with internet access.
While we were wandering around we came across a surf shop – Outrageous Surf. Laura had expressed interest in Kona about surfing so after talking with the owner, we booked the kids for a 2-hour surf lesson.
Once they arrived and found out the news they were surprised we weren’t also participating. One thing led to another and the next thing we knew we were all suiting up for some time in the water.
We had a quick lesson on land before hitting the waves. The instructor was patient (thank goodness) as it took Denis and I many tries before we were able to get up on the waves and then actually stay up on the board. The kids got it quite quickly and before long we were all riding the waves on the coast of Maui! I was surprised at just how difficult it is to stand up on the board and then stay balanced while maneuvering the roll of the water. The surfers you see on the big waves make it look so easy. But it most certainly is not!
After the 2 hours, we were sore and thoroughly exhausted (well the adults were...) so we packed up the boards, got changed and headed up to Napili beach on recommendation of our instructor. It was a long, sandy beach with beautiful, blue water. Perfect for our last day in Hawaii.
We first had lunch at the Sea House restaurant overlooking the beach and then spent the remainder of the afternoon lounging on the beach and playing in the waves. There were big, wonderful waves that we let drag us back and forth across the shore. What a fun time! We waited until the last possible minute before dragging ourselves out of the water and heading back to the airport to return the rental car.
We were quiet as we took the tender back to the ship and waved goodbye to Lahaina – the last land we would see now for 5 more days.
Our evening dinner in the dining room was chicken cordon bleu and shell pasta with tomato sauce.
Afterwards we first enjoyed karaoke followed by the Headliner show – ventriloquist Kevin Johnson. He was very talented and also quite funny. The act included various puppets and they sang and interacted with the audience quite a bit. During part of the show we were wondering how he was actually doing some of the bits. It was one of the best shows that we saw on the ship.
We headed off to bed knowing that tomorrow would be a day to sleep in and all we had planned was a lazy day at sea.
Continue to Day 8 - click here
Our next port was Lahaina in Maui. This was another port with an overnight stay and we planned to make the most of our time while there. Since we had the evening in Maui, we planned our drive to Hana for the first day in case we ran late. The port of Lahaina requires a tender so again we rose early to have breakfast and then board one of the first boats to the main land. The boats did not start as early as we had hoped but the ride was quick and we were in Lahaina by 8:00am.
The rental car situation in Lahaina is not very organized. We found the pick-up area and saw there was a bus loading for Budget but it was close to full and the driver said another would be by very shortly. Well the wait was over 45 minutes before the next shuttle bus came by and the driver told us at that time they would only pick up the driver. This meant that the kids and I would have to wait while Denis was taken to the airport, did the paperwork and then circled back around to get us at the port. By the time he arrived back it was close to 10:00am. This was not an ideal situation but we decided to head off to Hana anyway.
The first part of the drive to the start of the Road to Hana is quite easy. We navigated using a map since the power outlet in the car wasn’t working rendering our GPS unusable. Our first stop was in the town of Paia at the Hana Picnic Lunch Company. Here we picked up boxed lunches with huge sandwiches, chips and a cookie, as well as some drinks for the road. The next part of the drive is only 72 kms but it becomes trickier as you get further along.
Before leaving home, I had purchased the Gypsy Guide app that provides a colourful commentary while driving to Hana. This app is designed to give you tips about interesting places to visit along the route and provide background facts about what we were seeing. The app also advised you whether to make a stop based on the time of the day and how much time you had for the journey. It was a great little purchase.
Our first location was Twin Falls. This was a lovely area where we walked down to see some waterfalls. It was peaceful and the falls were easily accessible from the road. Some people were even swimming in the lower pools – enjoying the gorgeous surroundings.
Along the route were many spots to pull over and take in the views. Sometimes it was a valley or a waterfall or even just fascinating trees. There was so much to look at we stopped frequently. The drive became slower the further we went due to the hundreds of hairpin turns and one lane bridges (59 in total). There was also a large construction project that held us up for over an hour while the crews were blasting the overhanging rock.
One of the main highlights was Wai’anapanapa State Park. This area was stunningly beautiful with black beaches, a massive blow hole, caves and an incredible sea arch. We spent a considerable amount of time here exploring the beauty. Just as we arrived it started to rain so we took cover in one of the caves and waited it out until the shower passed. But once the rain had moved through it seemed even more vibrant and fresh. I think we all agreed that this was the favourite place for the day.
Another beautiful waterfall was Wailua Falls. The falls are over 80 feet high and spill down into a gorgeous pond of crystal blue-green water. We couldn’t believe there were so many lovely places within such a short distance of each other.
We eventually came to the actual town of Hana but decided to bypass it in hopes of reaching the Ohe’o Gulch also known as the Seven Sacred Pools. This section of the road is particularly winding and by this time it had started to rain. When we reached the park entrance we were disappointed to find that the pools were not open for swimming. This had been one of the main reasons for making our way to this area so we could swim and cool off before starting the drive back to the ship.
At this point it was getting later in the afternoon so we turned back to start the long drive in the opposite direction.
By the time we found parking in Lahaina, walked back to tender and made it onto the ship it was close to 8:00pm.
We went to the dining room to see if we could find a table for the late seating and were sat with two nice couples. It was a great evening of relaxed dining and easy conversation. Our dinner included scampi and lasagna.
This evening we enjoyed watching the Friendly Feud game show in the Colony Club.
Continue to Day 7 - click here
We wanted to take full advantage of being in port early from our overnight stay so Denis and I rose early in order to take him to Puakea Golf Course for his 7:30am tee time. We walked to the shopping mall to pick up the car and navigated our way to the golf course. It was only about 15 minutes from the pier and an easy drive through the downtown of Lihue.
Once I dropped him off I headed back to the ship to get Ian and Laura going. After reading some blogs about swimming in waterfalls, we decided we were going to visit Wailua Falls (otherwise known as the Fantasy Island falls from the popular TV show) and see if we could find a way down to swim in the pool at the bottom.
We arrived at the falls and had a great view from the top (over 100 feet down) but could not see an easy way to navigate to the pool. Ian spoke to a local lady and while she wouldn’t tell him exactly where there was a path, she did point him in the general direction. We eventually came across a portion of the fence that had been cut and could see somewhat of a path leading down the cliff into the forested area. We met up with a woman and her two daughters who were contemplating the trek so we watched them begin their descent at which point Ian had decided he was also going to go. The girls then informed us there were ropes along the path that you could use to keep yourself from sliding down the side of the cliff so I decided I would also go. Laura opted to stay at the top rather than plummet to her death (her words).
The downward climb was tricky and required carefully picking your way through the trees, brush, rocks and mud. However, after about 20 minutes of walking/sliding, we made it to the bottom. The pool was cool and refreshing and swimming so close to the waterfall was truly fantastic. It was another wonderful experience and I was glad we had chosen to attempt the walk.
Climbing up was a little harder only because more people were starting to come down and the path was becoming more slippery. But we made it back up – sweaty and full of mud.
At this point it was approaching lunch time so we stopped at McDonald’s and picked up some lunch and then went to the golf course to pick up Denis. He had a terrific round playing with a man who lived in Kauai but was originally from California. The golf course was very different from the ocean coarse he played in Kona. The Puakea Golf Course consists of pristine fairways, groomed sand bunkers and rolling hills surrounded by vistas of the surrounding mountains. The mountain views change as you make your way around the course and add to the challenge and experience of playing this course.
We had decided that we would spend the afternoon at the beach and drove to the southern part of the island to Poipu beach. The first section we set up at was a very sandy beach but when you went in the water it was quite shallow and not really great for swimming. The area underwater on this part of the beach was made up of black lava rock making it quite tricky to walk.
We spent some time lying on the beach and then I walked around to the other end of the point only to find a second beach with huge crashing waves. We moved our things to this side and spent the next hour and a half playing in the cresting waves. It was so much fun and when we finally dragged ourselves out of the water, we were sufficiently exhausted.
On our way back to the car we stopped to get some Hawaiian shaved ice. This is a specialty of the Hawaiian islands and is a cool treat. You receive a cup filled with ice and then you choose the specific flavour of concentrated syrup you would like – there are many tropical options including coconut, pineapple, strawberry, passionfruit, etc. You can also choose more than one flavour and have a multilayered ice. It was a good treat after our extended swimming session.
At this point it was getting later in the day and we decided to start heading back to Lihue. We had heard about the gardens that were located at the Kauai Marriott back in town so we decided to visit and see what the property was like. In the centre courtyard is a huge open-air garden with water features, bridges and tropical plants. It was a beautiful spot to walk around and essentially no one was there. We walked through the hotel to the onsite beach and saw a really beautiful spot that we would love to come back and stay at one time. Always good to be planning ahead for a future vacation.
Denis and I dropped the kids at the cruise terminal and headed back to the airport to return the car. We caught a shuttle back to the ship and came onboard just as they were beginning to close down the security lines. We had loved every moment spent in Kauai and vowed we would be back again.
Our dinner this evening was a tasty calamari salad, tenderloin and a tomato pasta dish.
This evening we watched the Headliner Show – Piano Man in the Aurora Theatre. The show included a choreographed show with music and dancers highlighting music from Billy Joel, Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Barry Manilow. It was entertaining.
Continue to Day 6 - click here
After a few busy days, the kids opted to stay on the ship for the morning when we had arrived at the port of Nawiliwili in Kauai. Denis and I had breakfast and then Ian came down with us to the terminal so we could determine a location for meeting later. We were looking forward to this overnight stop so we could enjoy the island of Kauai during the evening.
The line up for the shuttle buses was very long and it seemed that the buses weren’t picking up very often so we went over to where the taxi line up was located. It was very frustrating since many of the taxis were only willing to pick up people wanting a tour, not for a single destination ride. They also wanted a minimum number of people so it made getting a driver difficult. After talking to some people in the line up we found 2 people who were also going to the Lihue airport to get a car rental and 2 others that were going to a golf course that was in the same general direction. We decided to take the taxi together so we could get going. After a quick 10 minute ride, we arrived at the airport rental depot. The wait at (Dollar Rental Car) was pretty long but eventually we were on our way.
Our destination was the Waimea Canyon State Park. The ride took us about 1 hour. We knew that Kauai was the rainforest island but we weren’t really prepared for exactly how mountainous and green it would be. There was intermittent rain but for the most part the dark clouds seemed to stay ahead of us. We drove along the main road that took us through small towns spread out along the way but more of the drive was through green, lush hills. Once we started up towards the Canyon, the views were spectacular. The scenery started to look similar to the Grand Canyon but was far more colourful.
We stopped a few times to take photos but the road became more twisty and there weren’t many pull offs as we ascended higher. When we entered the park, there was a large parking area where you could leave the car and walk out to the edge of the look out. Immediately after exiting the car we were greeted by many roosters. We had seen them all along the road but here they were very interested in the loads of tourists coming to see the canyon. The rooster is a signature of the island of Kauai as we would come to learn – they are absolutely everywhere.
The views of the Canyon were incredible. Shades of green, orange and red were breathtaking even with clouds looming over the peaks. We walked around taking both photos and video to try to capture the beauty around us.
Back in the parking lot was a booth where a local man was selling Hawaiian treats. We purchased some fresh pineapple and fried banana fritters that his mother had made that morning. He told us about even more views of the Napali Cliffs if we continued driving up the road about 30 minutes.
We decided to drive the extra distance as this would be the only way for us to see Napali since the only other option is by boat. It was a windy road and was slow going. And as we went higher in altitude, it became even more cloudy and rainy. Unfortunately by the time we got to the viewing area it was a blanket of fog. You couldn’t see anything! This was of course disappointing but you never know what the weather will do when in the rainforest.
It was getting quite late for us so we started to head back down to the ship to get the kids. They met us in the terminal and we were off to explore the eastern side of the Island.
Our first stop was Opaekaa waterfall – the name means rolling shrimp. This is a very tall waterfall (150 feet) located back from the road in a forested area. The falls cascade into a pool that you cannot see due to the numerous trees. Again, the views were gorgeous with most including a look at the Wailua river.
We had a reservation for 3:30pm to go take a river cruise on the Wailua river to see the Fern Grotto. The company we chose is the Smith Family who have been offering tours for many years. It was a delightful ride down the river where they described the area, vegetation and animals. They also played Hawaiian music and attempted to teach us how to do the hula. We were pretty uncoordinated but it was fun to try. The professional dancer on the ship was graceful and made it look so simple!
Upon our arrival at the Fern Grotto it started raining but we proceeded with the walk on a path bordered by plants and flowers and were kept relatively dry under a canopy of trees. The base is a lava cave and covered in ferns that grow upside down from the roof. The grotto was formed millions of years ago and was so pretty. Once we got to the Grotto, the family played music that sounded fantastic due to the incredible acoustics of the area. In the past many people have chosen this spot for their wedding ceremonies.
After our tour, we boarded the river boat once again and were serenaded by the band with beautiful Hawaiian music all the way back to the pier. Thankfully by the time we arrived back it had stopped raining.
Our last activity for the day was a planned Luau at the Smith’s Tropical Paradise. We were there right when the doors opened at 5:00pm so we had plenty of time to wander the spectacular grounds. The 30-acre botanical garden with bamboo forests, tropical birds, bridges and statuary made for a stunning place to experience this Hawaiian tradition. After receiving our shell lei, we started with a ride on the tram where the driver pointed out the plants that were from all over the world. Following the ride, we walked around on our own looking at all the lovely flowers and taking photos of the surrounding beauty.
The Luau dinner is set up under a covered area with long family style tables. We chose our seats and then went to the imu ceremony. This is a special Hawaiian underground cooking process where the pig is roasted in an earthen imu oven for the entire day. There is quite a lengthy process involving chants and singing as the pig is raised from the ground. We were excited to try it for our dinner.
The Luau included all the drinks as well as the meals and entertainment so we leisurely made our way back to the table with mai tai drinks to start. We met a very nice couple from California who was just finishing up a 2-week vacation on the Island. They were fun and interesting to talk with during the evening.
The buffet dinner was expansive with traditional Hawaiian dishes such as kalua pork, beef teriyaki, chicken adobo, sweet & sour mahi mahi, lomi salmon, fresh poi, namasu salad and tropical desserts including fruit, rice pudding and pastries. There was so much food, it was incredible. Everything was very tasty and it was great to try some local dishes from the region.
The highlight of the evening was of course the Rhythm of Aloha Show. Everyone moved to find seats in the wonderful open-air lagoon amphitheatre that was lit by torches. The show highlighted the numerous dances within the region since Hawaii has so many different nationalities that have influenced the culture over the years. We watched traditional dances from Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, Philippines, New Zealand, China and Japan. All were unique in their own way. The costumes, music and stage production was top notch. They even had lasers and an erupting volcano – it kept us entertained the entire time.
After an exhilarating evening, we drive back down to the pier and found a local shopping plaza (Anchor Cove Mall) that offered overnight parking for $20.00. From there it was about a 10-minute walk back to the ship.
It had been a fantastic day & evening and we were all ready for bed!
Continue to Day 5 - click here
This morning we had an early start. Unfortunately the weather was quite overcast and a little drizzly. After a quick breakfast, we left the ship and once through the terminal found the line for the car rental shuttle bus. We only had maybe a 10 minute wait before the shuttle came to take us to the car depot at the Hilo airport.
Once we received the car (actually a van), we were off to see Rainbow Falls in the town of Hilo. The GPS took us through many back streets where we observed, this side of the Big Island was not as lush as the area around Kona and certainly far more populated.
Rainbow Falls are very easy to access from the road. There is a good sized parking lot alongside the road and an easy walk to the lookout where you have a terrific view of the falls. There is also a set of stairs that lead up to an area located above the waterfall so you can have a wonderful view of the falls from the top. Unfortunately, the rain became heavier while we were on the top so it was a quick visit.
From here we were going to make the drive to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The drive is quite a distance inland and took us approximately 45 minutes to reach the Visitors Centre. Along the way, the road was narrow and windy with occasional (but magnificent) vistas of the ocean at some of the hairpin turns. Fortunately for us it was not raining in this area.
The entrance to the Park is well marked and we easily found the Visitor’s Centre. The park ranger provided us with a detailed map and suggested that we could listen to a series of audio recordings by calling a dedicated phone number provided by the State.
We first drove to the area where the steam vents are located. You park in a lot and then walk towards a flattened area down below what is a portion of land leading to the crater. You can see a lot of steam vents with the smoke billowing from cracks in the earth. It is hard to imagine that we were actually walking on top of where an active volcano resides and amazing how much heat is captured underneath the ground. It was very interesting to see.
We then drove to the observation area of the Halema’uma’u crater. We could see the steam rising from within but unfortunately from this vantage point, the lava level was too low for us to see. Apparently, the levels change regularly but we didn’t catch it on a day where it was visible.
Also within the Park is the Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube where we were able to walk through an incredible rainforest with lush vegetation. The steps up into the forest were numerous but it was a great walk where we saw flowers, trees, vines and so many types of different vegetation, it was hard to take it all in. Eventually we came to the enormous lava tube (600 foot cave) that has a path cut right through it. The walls drip with condensation and vines and moss hang down from the top. It is lit from within with electric lights and in some areas the ceiling is more than 20 feet high. It was an amazing sight – especially when you think that this was originally created by coursing lava dating back 500 years.
After our trek through the forest, we were starting to get hungry. We stopped at a small café in Kurtistown and ordered hamburgers to go. After a short stop we were on our way again to find the Ahalanui County Beach Park to swim in a thermal hot pond. We started off in what seemed like the right direction only to realize after our GPS delivered us to a small village on the coast, that we weren’t in the right spot. A lovely lady at one of the local food stands told us to continue along the coast for another 25 minutes until we came to a stop sign and then proceed another 10 minutes until we saw a park with beaches on our right. We kept going in that direction but seemed like we were driving for a very long time. Along the way we came across a stretch of the road that has trees growing overtop making a canopy that was gorgeous. We got out of the car to take a picture and noticed the sweeping coastline with crashing waves and craggy, black rocks framed by incredible greenery. The sea was so loud we couldn’t even hear each other talking. It was a stunning area that we were so glad we stumbled upon.
Just as we were beginning to give up on finding the hot pond, we finally came to the clearing where the parking lot was located. We went directly into the water and found that it was mostly locals swimming and playing in the huge natural pool. The water was so warm – almost like a bath. We found out the water is fed by an underground thermal spring that keeps the water super warm year round. At the edge of the pond was a natural breakwater of boulders where waves regularly crashed over from the sea. For just a moment you would have the cooler water of the open ocean flood into the pond in a refreshing stream. The local children were having an amazing time sitting up on the breakwater and having the waves push them down into the pond. It was a magical place and we were so glad we didn’t miss it.
After a wonderful swim, we started on our way towards the Hilo airport to drop off the car. Along the way we stopped at several state park beaches in search of sea turtles since someone had told us they were plentiful in these areas. We only saw a couple of turtles that were in the water – unfortunately not up on the sand like we were expecting.
We were now very tight for time but just made it to the car rental depot to catch the last shuttle to the port.
Upon our arrival to the ship, we got ready for dinner (our first formal night) and met our fellow dinner companions to compare notes from the day. The food was terrific while we enjoyed prime rib and stuffed ravioli.
This evening we first took part in the Captain’s reception, followed by trivia and then one of the Headliner’s Craig Dahn, who was a terrific pianist. A very full day but all in all, our adventures in Hilo had made for a really great day.
Continue to Day 4 - click here
Our second morning we woke up to find the bright blue skies of the Big Island. We had arrived in Kona.
Denis got up early and went to secure us tender tickets so we would be one of the first groups off the ship. After breakfast in the Solarium, we proceeded to the tender deck, boarded the boat and took the quick trip into Kailua Village. Immediately at the end of the pier was the King Kamehameha Hotel where we had pre-arranged a car rental from Thrifty Car Rental. We were glad that we had pre-booked since they had no available cars aside from the reservations made in advance.
We were ready to go earlier than expected and decided to head to the snorkel gear shop first. We found Snorkel Bob’s right off the main road on Kahakai Street. It was very close to the pier. There was a wonderful woman who rented us the necessary gear and gave great advice about where to find good snorkeling and a spot to purchase authentic Kona coffee. We immediately headed up the road to Green Flash Coffee where Denis ordered Kona coffee and we had super flavourful smoothies. Great start to the day.
From there we drove down the coast to the Kona Country Club where Denis had booked a tee time. It wasn’t busy and he was playing by himself so he took his time and thoroughly enjoyed the surroundings. The grounds had lush greens, gorgeous flowers and views of the sea that were all spectacular. He had a terrific day playing golf and enjoying a lunchtime meal at the club house.
After dropping off Denis, the kids and I headed off to a recommended spot further down the coast to snorkel at a place the locals call Two Step. The coast line along this area is made up of large black volcanic rock. While this makes for wonderful snorkeling – it can prove challenging to enter the water. You don’t walk in like you would on a beach but instead, you pick your way along the rocks, look for an area that has shelf like steps where you can sit and then jump from them to get into the water. Once in the water, it was an incredible sight. The water was so clear you could see all the sea life underneath as if you were looking in an aquarium. Tropical fish, colourful coral and so much plant life it was stunning. We circled around for 1 ½ hours enjoying the warm water and pointing out all the incredible fish to each other. This was a fantastic experience.
While heading back to our towels and bags, we noticed up on the rocks were crevices where water collects and in one of them there was a sea turtle swimming. He was drawing quite a crowd so we sat and watched him for some time.
Afterwards I rested on the rocks and watched the numerous butterflies flying all over the area. Laura spent more time with the turtle and Ian recorded a little tune on the uke. See his performance by clicking here.
Eventually we decided to start the trek back. Along the way we stopped to take pictures of the lush surroundings including gorgeous road side fruit stands and properties that were abundant with flowers. We also went to a few other beaches to see if we could find more turtles but unfortunately didn’t have any success.
We came back into the charming little town of Kona that looks like a California hippie town from the 1960s. The shops and restaurants that line the main street are really cute and we loved the laid back feeling of each person we met. We stopped at the restaurant Lava Java and enjoyed a meal where we had a wonderful view of the sea. Everything was simple and fresh – Ian and I had avocado and chicken sandwiches and Laura had a hamburger. It filled us after a busy morning at the beach.
We continued our drive along the coast and realized we were back at the hotel. I decided to leave the kids here so they could enjoy the air conditioning and wi-fi in the hotel lobby. I then made my way back down the coast to go and pick up Denis. After exchanging stories of our great experiences, we made a stop at a local market to purchase Kona coffee beans to take home.
With our shopping complete, it was time to head back to the ship. We picked up the kids at the hotel, dropped off the car and made our way back down the pier to the tender. We boarded at 4:00pm on one of the last scheduled boats for the day and by this time there was a light drizzle starting. This we would find is the norm is Hawaii.
Upon our arrival at the ship, we showered, had some wine and then headed off to dinner. Again we loved our meal of lamb, stuffed pasta and a white fish.
We didn’t go to see the show this evening but instead opted for the Karaoke night at the Quill & Compass Pub. Always fun to watch amateur singers and of course we enjoyed Ian when he was at the mike.
We also went to the evening Abba Tribute in an effort to stay up until 11:30pm. That was when the captain navigated the ship around the southern part of the Big Island for us to see the molten lava spewing into the sea. The captain brought the ship quite close and since it was so dark, we could see the steady stream coming from a break in the side of the volcano. This was quite a treat to see from the water and definitely made the late night worth it.
Continue to Day 3 - click here
We flew WestJet through Vancouver departing at 1:55pm from Toronto for the standard 5-hour flight. We arrived in Vancouver with enough time to have a quick bite to eat and then proceed on our next 6-hour flight to arrive in Honolulu on time at 9:30pm. Stepping off the airplane and walking through the open-air terminal was a wonderful welcome to the warm, tropical breezes of Hawaii. Denis left myself and the children to watch for the luggage while he went to secure the rental car from Dollar Car Rental. It is an offsite lot so once we collected the luggage we took the shuttle over to meet him, where he was waiting and ready to go.
The ride from the airport to our hotel in downtown Waikiki took approximately 25 minutes. We had pre-booked a night at Coconut Waikiki Hotel on Lewers Street. Parking is quite difficult in Waikiki and after circling around trying to find a spot on the street, we opted for the valet parking offered by the hotel.
We had an easy check in, brought our bags up to the room and after a quick clean up, fell into bed. We were all pretty exhausted after a long day of travel and a time change of 6 hours.
The next morning Denis and I were up early at 6:00am to have a quick breakfast at the hotel and then we were off to visit Pearl Harbour. Ian and Laura chose to stay at the hotel to sleep and eat leisurely. Afterwards Ian took a long walk around the area to check it out and take some photos.
Our drive from Waikiki to Pearl Harbor was uneventful. There was some traffic as people made their way to work but we arrived around 7:15am and joined the line of people wanting to see the Arizona Memorial. The first 1300 people are issued free tickets and we needed to be on one of the first tours in order to see everything and make it back to Waikiki. We received our tour ticket for the 8:00am tour so we walked around the grounds and read the signs and viewed some of the monuments placed around the Harbor edge.
The tour of the Arizona Memorial begins with a 20-minute movie narrated by Sigourney Weaver and it was a very well-produced piece detailing the history, the failed U.S military strategies and the ultimate devastation of the Harbor and nearby Airfield. The movie included real life footage and was very forthcoming about the horrible tragedies that took place, taking the lives of so many. It was quite emotional and also gave us insight that we didn’t have prior to our visit.
After the film, we boarded a boat that took us to the actual memorial. We were incredibly impressed by the structure. It was very tastefully created with a platform and partially covered structure that is secured overtop of the sunken U.S.S Arizona. There are many plaques detailing the different parts of the ship, describing how it was hit and caught fire, eventually leading to the ship sinking in the Harbor. At one end of the memorial, there is a large white wall that holds the names of all of the men that went down with the ship and still remain inside. It was a sobering display and we found it to be an emotional experience that was also affecting all of the people around as they whispered to each other and showed a tremendous amount of respect for this amazing piece of history. Incredibly you can still smell the fuel that continues to rise from the ship in the water.
There were military personnel who explained that of the survivors have passed away, many have had their ashes brought down into the ship to be laid to rest with their colleagues. Pretty incredible.
Once we were taken back to the land, we reflected on what a well run attraction the memorial had been. Very minimal wait time, an easy boarding process and a well thought out display of something that is a very disturbing wreckage. We were definitely impressed.
Our next stop was on a bus where we visited the U.S.S Missouri. This ship was the same class as the Arizona however it was only commissioned in 1944. The ship was active in World War II fighting battles in Japan. And then was the actual site where the Japanese surrendered and the war came to an end. The Missouri was decommissioned shortly after the end of the war but in 1984 was modernized and provided support during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Since that time the ship has been decommissioned again and now resides as a museum ship.
We started with a fascinating tour of the upper decks of the ship hearing about the history including the battle stories and intriguing people who had attacked the ship. As well as the immense cannons, anti-aircraft guns and missile launchers. They even have a whole area dedicated to where the signing happened with the Japanese.
After our tour, we started downward to see the underbelly of the ship. It was amazing to see the barracks, the kitchens and all the offices and utility areas that are required to run this small city at sea of 2700 men. The ship is an engineering marvel.
Once we were finished discovering the ship, we took the shuttle bus back to the main entrance after we passed by the U.S.S Bowfin – a U.S Navy submarine that is also on display as a museum. Will have to see this one next time.
Back at the hotel, we packed up our luggage and left it down at the front desk. The hotel provided us with towels and beach chairs and we headed towards the beach area for lunch. Under recommendation from the hotel we ate at Duke’s. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch right beside the ocean that included nachos, shrimp tacos and the fish special of the day. Everything was tasty and you couldn’t beat the view.
Our afternoon was spent lounging on Waikiki beach enjoying the sun and surf. The water there is so clear and blue and we had a great time riding the waves. We were looking forward to many more beaches in the coming days. Alas, we eventually had to make our way back to the resort to pick up the car and make our way to the ship.
The car rental location had a shuttle bus that took us directly to the ship terminal. Upon our arrival (close to 4:30pm) we found the counters and security to have absolutely no one around and our embarkation was a breeze. We later found out that just two hours prior the terminal had been jammed with people as the ship was delayed due to multiple inspections upon its return to the U.S. We had timed it perfectly!
Of course, we were right on time for our emergency drill and then went for dinner. The first night of the cruise is very casual since not everyone has their luggage so we joined the guests at our table wearing our shorts and suits directly from the beach. Our servers were both from India and provided a wonderful meal – fettucine, seafood pasta and prime rib. All perfectly prepared and thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Afterwards we listened to some music in the piano bar and then went off to an early bedtime. We were looking forward to our first port of Kona on the Big Island.
Continue to Day 2 - click here
Sharing Our Travel Dreams
Sharing our personal experiences onboard and on the road, along with tips and insight for creating memorable vacations.