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.