Saturday, February 4, 2012


OK here we go! It's been a few weeks since Christmas but we wouldn't know it by the weather. It's been in the 70's and 80's at home in California and then we hopped on a ship out of San Diego to Hawaii where it was, of course, sunny and warm. 

One morning a few weeks ago I was out for my daily morning run and when I got back Ron said "get in the shower, we're going to Hawaii!" Holland America has called while I was out and said that if we could make it to the San Diego pier before sail away, we could go on our free cruise. We hurriedly cleaned and packed and rushed to the airport to return our rental car and bit our nails as my dad rushed us to the Irvine train station to catch the Amtrak. We barely made it!

We were the last people to board the ms Oosterdam (say: Oh-ster-dam) before it sailed off into the Pacific. Most free cruises allow for only a small inside cabin but this time we really lucked out with a deluxe veranda! We were amused to find a bottle of kosher Manischewitz wine that was sent to our room for the person who had canceled. 

I love having my own veranda - nobody to bug me as I enjoy the view
 After four long sea days we sailed into our first port of call - Maui. We were on the lookout for whales and were excited to see a few swimming not too far from our ship.
A Tail of a Whale
 Maui was a tendered port and we got stuck with one of the last tender tickets so we had a long wait before we could leave. We weren't quite sure what to do in Maui so we hopped a shuttle to Hilo Hattie and browsed the store for a bit. We were hungry and started browsing for something to eat and Ron found the Maui Brewing Company Tasting Room which was just across the street. We were lucky to be on the island during the short time they are open each week. We sipped some yummy craft beer for a couple hours and then walked down the main street in Lahaina popping in and out of shops, stopping for a snack, and marveling over Banyan Tree Park.
Maui Sunset

Banyan Tree Park 
 It was finally time to go back to the ship and we had to wait in line for a tender. The dock there on Maui is regulated by the port authority on the island and they will only allow one tender in at a time for safety reasons. No matter how many times you explain this to the passengers, they will tell you that you are wrong and will continue to complain while they wait for what appeared to us to be a perfectly efficient tender operation. We found this very annoying. Me more than Ron. So I tried to distract myself by messing around with my camera.

Ron waiting for tender, silently judging everyone around us for their whining
This is the "I think you're an idiot and I don't care if you know it" face

 The next day we arrived in Oahu very early. Both Ron & I had been to Oahu separately many years ago but I had such fond memories of my spring break there that I was really excited to go back. The first thing we did is hop on a bus to Diamond Head Crater for a hike. Ron has always loved to hike and I love anything active so it was a great choice for us. I had hiked it before in 2001 but Ron never had.  

 We were blessed with a ton of sunshine and a beautiful, breezy day, the hike was pleasant and the view was breathtaking.
Made it to the top!

Keep Off!

Isn't it just gorgeous!?!
 After our hike we thought we deserved a delicious lunch, and that is just what we got. We were too hot and hungry to take pictures of the place that we went and this makes me very sad because I'm certain my words will not come close to doing it justice. We chose a place called The Pioneer Saloon in a not-so-touristy part of town. We had to walk about two miles from the base of Diamond Head to get there and it was so worth it. This little kitschy hole in the wall was a hodge podge of weird tables, an old bar, a thrift shop, and Japanese food. It was neither pioneer-y nor was it saloon-y at all. In fact they had limited drink options altogether none of which included alcohol.  We ordered two meals - seared ahi with rice and salad and eel with rice and salad. We took one bite of the eel and lost our minds. it was SO GOOD. Everything there was delicious but I am telling you that eel was nearly, if not, the best thing I have ever eaten. Ever. I think Ron would agree.

After lunch we caught the bus back to the ship, showered, changed and headed back to yet another bus to Honolulu. We stopped at a store called Sand People which Jen Wade claims is her favorite store ever. I can see why. It took a ton of restraint not to buy everything in there. Ron was bored. Poor guy. We made our way to the beach and watched as the sun set and the lights on the shore lit up. 

Ron on Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head in the background
 Then we split an appetizer of Crab and Macadamia Nut Won Tons at Duke's Barefoot Bar on the beach. Those things are also to-die-for and I will attest that they are oh so much better in Honolulu than Huntington. I can't explain it. They just are. We also indulged in a Mai Tai which I continue to claim to be the only Mai Tai that I can drink without feeling sick. They are magic.
Duke's Mai Tai - Yummy!
The next day we were in Lihue, Kauai. There is nothing to do there unless you want to take a plane or helicopter tour. That was not going to happen. Those things crash and kill people. So we opted for the slightly less exciting adventure of going to Costco and the supermarket. Anyone who has been to either of those places will tell you that half the fun is in the fact that there are chickens running around everywhere. Kinda funny. Later we walked down the beach and just kinda hung out.  
Lihue Lighthouse 
Kauai Sunset
The last day in Hawaii, we were on the Big Island. We took a shore excursion to a black sand beach, Hawaii Volcano National Park  and the Thurston  Lava Tubes.  The black sand beach was a little underwhelming. I had higher hopes. C'est la vie. 
View of the volcano from a black sand beach.

The view of the volcano from the Kilauea Overlook  at the Thomas A Jaggar Museum was really amazing though!

Ron was excited to get a new stamp in his National Park Passport

Onward to the Thurston Lava Tube! This was a really cool experience. We got to hike down into a valley and walk right through a lava tube.

 Sail away was very bright and pretty as we left the Big Island. We'd love to come back there to do some camping, more hiking, and exploring.

Then we had four more sea days back to the main land with a quick stop in Ensenada, Mexico. I will never understand why Holland America thought it was a good idea to dump a bunch of passengers off in Mexico at 8pm at night. I was scared most of the time we were outside the cruise terminal. 

Here are a few of our favorite towel animals from the trip. Ron thinks we should learn how to make them so that when we (finally) settle down in a real house on land, we can make them for our guests. 

A favorite activity on sea days on Holland America is the Ship Building Contest. We have seen some amazing ships built over the course of our cruising and we were excited to get to be a contestant this time. We built our ship out of a Styrofoam cooler, empty gallon jugs, empty beer cans and a lot of tape. I thought it would be hilarious to design the ship to float on it's side and name it the Concordia. We also attached a little life boat so our captain could safely escape it if the sea trials didn't go well. Our ship floated nicely on it's side and received acclaim from the crew who found our rendering of the recent Costa shipwreck as hilarious as we did, but the old farts *ahem* fellow passengers did not get quite the same kick out of it and we lost the contest by a landslide. The cruise director had an appreciation for our brilliance and gave us a snazzy Holland America duffle bag and the six pack of beer that was used as "cargo" in the sea trials as a prize anyhow.

All in all it was a great cruise. The highs where the veranda, visiting Kristen Klar (a former Sight & Sound co-worker who left PA for Holland America as well), meeting some new friends, and the whole day in Oahu. The only low for us was our interaction with our fellow passengers. We have never felt so unwelcome by a group of people in our lives. When we were sat at a table in the dining room you could feel the tension and reluctance to be seated with "the children" and any time we entered an elevator, the guests would look at us and say "oh, you're so young!" We felt like we were being stared at (and sometimes glared at) everywhere we went. While we had fun and enjoyed each other's company, we agree that a Holland America cruise over 10-days is not for us. (the shorter ones draw a younger crowd) We're glad we did it and it whet our appetites for ship life. We're looking forward to a great upcoming contract on the Noordam!

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