Chambers on the Boat
In December 2018, we took a long awaited (23 months to be exact) cruise to Hawaii. Bargain hunters that we are, we purchased this cruise for a base price of $1250 per person (for a 2 week cruise!) We also did our research in advance and did not purchase any ship excursions. A couple weeks before the cruise, we were offered an upgrade to a room with an ocean view for a total of $68. This was well worth the additional cost. The ocean view rooms provide a view and have additional space in the cabin. This was our first cruise without a balcony, and we felt the ocean view room was just right. With much of the cruise being too cold, we would not have gotten our money's worth with the cost of a balcony room.
My purpose in writing these travel blogs is 1) to capture the memories for us 2) to share our adventures with family and friends who care to read and 3) to offer insight for those who may be making similar trips/adventures in the future. As noted above, if you cruise to Hawaii in December, don't bother with a balcony - too cold most of the time! We also found the Pacific to be much more choppy than the Caribbean, but that's not a choice on a cruise to Hawaii.
We flew to Long Beach, CA on 11/28. Southwest, of course, and the tickets were bought during a sale. At the airport, we weren't successful getting an Uber. Lyft seems to be much more prevalent there, so we used Lyft the entire time we were in California. Our hotel was the Super 8 Wyndham Long Beach. It was about $100 per night with breakfast, and it was just fine. We spent 2 days in Long Beach. (I wanted to be sure I was on that boat when it left!) Our first day, from our hotel, we walked to Bluff Park, at the ocean. Our second day, we walked to Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden - which was small but quaint. While the website said it was free, when we got there, they had changed to a nominal entrance fee. From there, we traveled to Hilltop Park - Dan on a rented bike and me on an electric scooter. While on the scooter, I stayed on the sidewalk; although, I think it would have been better to ride on the bike lane on the road. That scooter went pretty fast, so it was a bit tense ride for me. Dan had a junky bike, so after about 45 minutes and several expletives, we upgraded to Lyft to finish our route to Hilltop Park. Hilltop Park had a beautiful view. We had planned to play Scrabble there, but it was way too windy and chilly. As a side note, I was pleasantly surprised how friendly people were in Long Beach.
We boarded our ship on Saturday, December 1, and we were at sea until our arrival in Maui on Thursday, 12/6. For 4 days, the ship's navigation display was a simply a blue square with a red line to the middle. In Maui, we docked at Kahului Bay which is about 21 miles from Lahaina. We took a Lyft to the nearby airport where we picked up our rental car. We had arranged this ahead of time through Costco. Once there, we upgraded to a larger car. Then, we were told if the car was damaged during our rental, our liability would include the days the car was out of service as per the law in Hawaii. Wanting to enjoy our time and not to worry, we purchased the additional insurance. So our bargain on the rental of $35 turned into $135. In hindsight, I would either Lyft to Ride Smart Maui or take the bus one or both ways. You could walk to the bus stops from the ship, and many people did.
As a side note, the ship offered lectures by a naturalist about each port and all it offered. We attended 2 of these; Well Worth It! These talks were not about what stores to shop at - which doesn't appeal to me. These talks by the naturalist were very informative about what to see and do as well as giving you bearings about where things are on the islands. I tried to catch the other 2 lectures on the ship's channel, but without a set time, I wasn't able to catch the shows. For future cruises, like Alaska, I want to be sure to attend these type of lectures if offered.
Lahaina is described as a fishing village, but it sure didn't seam a village to me. Traffic, many resorts, and shopping malls. In Lahaina, we rented electric bikes with Ride Smart Maui. We rode through the resorts and a ocean side park on a trail, and it was absolutely beautiful. We ate lunch at a DQ with a very limited menu. We spent about 4 hours on the bikes and loved it. The bikes were most comfortable. I did a review of Ride Smart Maui on TripAdvisor, if you want to read more.
After our bike ride, we drove to Iao Valley State Monument, just in time to see the ranger closing the gate. I had read there were several pretty shorter hikes there, but that will have to be another day. In hindsight, I would have tried to get there 30 minutes earlier, but we did get to see the surrounding area which was very green, lush and hilly.
Maui also has the Road to Hana (we didn't want to spend all day in a car) as well as Haleakala National Park. With only 1 long day at port, choices have to be made. The good thing is I don't think you can make a bad one ! And you have a reason to return.
Pearl Harbor Day landed us in Pearl Harbor - which we did not visit. We had a delightful day with Dan's niece, Abigail and later in the day, with her husband, Jake. The 3 of us hiked to Diamond Head State Monument, and I made it all the way to the top! I think it took about an hour each way, and it was beautiful - both the weather and the view. It wasn't easy, but I pushed myself thinking if I didn't hike this now, I may never. Later, we saw their home on the military base and did a bit of shopping at the stores there. While we had to be back on ship by 10:30, we went back at 9. We don't want the stress of cutting things too close.
Besides Pearl Harbor, Honolulu is also home to Waikiki Beach - which you can walk to from the port. The Pearl Harbor sites are also fairly close to the port. Honolulu is very much a big city. Thanks to Abigail for driving us all around!
Our 3rd port was Kona which is on the west side of the big island - Hawaii. Here we had to tender in, a tedious process, so you might as well be patient. On Kona, we walked around, shopped at some outdoor markets, saw Hawaii's first church, went to the library's book sale, played some Scrabble at a park, and I went swimming at a little beach near the dock. The water was wonderful. Near the port, there was a free bus to Walmart. We didn't take it, but apparently, enough people do! At the end of the day, the ship left port late due to the long process of getting everyone back on board. Our table mates did not show for dinner - they were stuck in the line at 6 pm waiting for the tender.
Kona was very picturesque, kind of like the village I imagined Lahaina to be. When we got off the ship, there was a man selling tours for the next day at Hilo - which is on the other side of the big island. He had a very nice van - a new BMW, and we only had to give our name to reserve our spot. The cost was about $70 each, I think, about half the price of the ship's excursions. Since this seemed to be a very well established business, I was confident they would have us back in time, so the ship wouldn't leave without us! Since we had no real plans for Hilo, we signed up. It was a good decision. I was unaware that while at Kona, we would be offered tours of the Hilo area for the next day, so if you are going, just be aware of this opportunity.
The next day, we met our guide and our fellow tourists at 8:15, and our day was jam packed with site seeing. We went to Volcanoes National Park and saw what was left of the volcano which had erupted months before. Several areas of the park were closed due to damage from the eruptions. After the park, we also saw black sand beaches, giant turtles, a beautiful waterfall, an orchid farm, and a macadamia nut farm. Mauna Loa (the Macadamia nut farm) offered free samples. They offered the nuts with several different coatings - oh, so good. As part of our tour package, our guide took many photos of our day and later sent them to us electronically. They sent about 400 pictures! The tour lasted about 6 hours; we were easily back in time. This company's website is bigislandvip.com.
Hilo was our last Hawaiian port. While there is so much more to see and do in Hawaii, we felt lucky we got to do what we did. Each day we had beautiful weather, and we were blessed with the friendliest of table mates, Paul and Kris, who were from Canada. We enjoyed our 14 days at sea, and Dan enjoyed his fame as the winner of the knobby knee contest. We also met the man who is in the Guinness Book of World Records for tying cherry stems with his tongue. (You read that right.) Very nice couple who RV full time. It's surprising to me how many people we talked to on the ship who also have an RV. But maybe it shouldn't - they love to travel after all.
Our entire trip (18 days) ended up costing $5700. That's everything, even the cost of cat sitting. I keep track, so I know how much we need before we can go again.
The ship did stop at Ensanada, Mexico on the way home. We enjoyed walking the pier which was quite long. Back on ship, we headed back to Long Beach and to the Christmas holidays in our Midwest home and to whatever travels await us in 2019.