Hawaii Cruise and visit
Wednesday January 29, 2014
We drove into San Diego on January 17, we stayed at the Surfer Beach hotel. It's an older hotel, but right on Surfer beach. There is a restaurant attached to the hotel that served very good food:
We took a flight on Alaska Airlines (very good!) on the 18th and we boarded the Norwegian cruise lines ship "Pride of America" for a 7 day cruise around the islands.
The cruise was a good way to see the islands without island hopping on an aircraft and packing and unpacking in hotels.
I will try to separate the trip into days and tours, we took many pictures to record the trip. If we had reliable internet service (and the laptop!) the trip would have been described better, oh well!
As you can see from the map above, we launched from Honolulu and spent 2 days on Maui at Kahului. We then cruised to the big island and spent 2 days (one day at Hilo and the other at Kona on the other side of the island). We then went to Kauai for a 2 day stay (departing in the early afternoon) and we then returned to Honolulu on January 25 to disembark in the morning.The distances between islands wasn't that great but the boat speed must have been slow as we left around 8:00 pm each day and arrived at the next port around 7 or 8 am.
That's the view from the dock, with the embarkation gangplank in-place, We had a balcony on the right side of the ship towards the front, Al remembers the word "fore"!
The cabin was tight but comfortable:
It was nice to have a balcony of our own:
We took a total of 4 tours over the 7 day cruise, the one on Maui was called the best of Maui where we saw some great scenery:
We visited a plantation on Maui that grows all natural crops including these coffee plants:
There was also a aquarium where local fish (including sharks!) were shown, this is the best picture we took (hard to shoot good pictures through glass!):
The crew did a practice drill by launching the life boats (at least on our side of the ship) when we were on the dock at Hilo. The boat at the center top of the picture doubles as a ship tender (there are three of these larger boats). At Kona we were tendered in as there is no deep water port on that side of the island. The boat closest to the ship is a rescue boat, looks like it has radar for navigation as well. There are more lifeboat spaces than passengers and crew on the ship.
This tour (Volcanoes National Park) was one of the highlights of the cruise. Our tour bus is in the background and we got to walk over lava floes (cold of course!)
One of the features on this area is Lava tubes, tunnels through the lava that are created when the molten lava contracts back towards the volcano eruption site. This tunnel was a couple of hundred yards long:
This is a dramatic picture, the 2D shot can't show the size. The light coloured strip in the center is a path the hikers take to the crater (at 8 hours we didn't take it!), the white dots are people taking that hike, it's a massive crater!
To be continued, Suzette asked Al to refill the hummingbird feeder at our campsite, it's empty and the hummers are hungry! Back soon!
The hummers are now looked after, back to the blog!
This is a photo with the picture zoomed a bit:
The picture was taken from the visitor's center, the volcano is still erupting, the smoke also turned to a brown colour when some parts of the edge drops into the lava:
Near the visitor's center there are also steam vents. These are caused when rain water enters the rock cracks and hits the magma underneath. I asked the tour guide about geothermal power, about 20% of the electric power is generated that way on Hawaii, with a plan to be 100% geothermal in a few years. The rest of power is generated by diesel (with a little solar and wind) but at diesel fuel at $5.20 per gallon it's expensive, the power costs about $0.40 per KWH, very expensive even by Ontario standards!
This is box canyon, kind of reminds us of Ouimet Canyon in northern Ontario:
Another Lava tube:
We did a tour through the cloud forest when we tendered into Kona on January 22nd, this is the only picture we took as we got drenched. It was at a coffee plantation and roasting facility where we toured the facility and got some great white chocolate covered coffee beans, a great way to get your caffeine in the morning!:
On January 23 we took our final tour on Kauai, to the Waimea Canyon. We also went to the sea to check out some surf:
One of the things we noticed in Hawaii is the number of free range chickens wandering around. Our tour guide told us about a breed of native chicken, the rooster and the hen mate for life and raise their brood together, the rooster is very protective of the chicks. Not sure if this guy is one of them or not:
A shot taken on the boat, this is the pool area:
After the cruise we stayed for 2 days in Honolulu at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki Beach. This is a 22 acre complex with 4 hotel towers, we were on the 25th floor of the Taupa Tower. They have a couple of resident penguins at the resort, feeding time is very popular and as you note, they are well fed!:
This is a shot of Waikiki beach in front of the hotel complex:
The view of Waikiki from our hotel room balcony:
Before talking about the trip we need to make a couple of comments.
First, we are spoiled being RVers, we don't travel to any schedule, if we don't like the place we stop we move on. We haven't worn watches since retirement and we dine when we feel like it, not when we are dictated by a schedule. When we get really relaxed we ask our selves "what day is it??"
Secondly, the remarks below are absolutely no reflection on our travel agent Lori who did a great job putting the trip together for us, thanks for looking after us again Lori! And, it was us who decided on the trip and cruise venue!
About halfway through the cruise we were sitting on our cabin balcony enjoying a glass of wine and we asked each other a couple of questions, the first being "would we take another cruise" with the answer being "No". The second question was "would we visit Hawaii again?", again the answer was "No". Those responses will probably be moderated over time to "probably not".
First the comments on the cruise. As indicated above, we are spoiled by the RV and also by the all inclusive vacations to the Caribbean, Costa Rico and Mexico. We found the cruise to be confining, with people in our personal space (kind of like being in the crowds in Beijing China), combined with the incessant lining up for food whether at a buffet or sit down venues on the ship. And we really never got a hot meal, it seems the meals are prepared well in advance and kept until served. Even a steak served at a sit down restaurant was barely above room temperature.
The other thing that bugged us was the constant "nickel and dimeing", additional charges. For example, bottled water was $4.50 each. A bottle of $12 wine cost $30 on board, and just in case you bought that $12 bottle on a shore excursion there was a $15 corkage charge if they caught the bottle during the security check upon re-boarding, so that bottle ends up costing $27. And no, we didn't buy on-shore, not worth the hassle. The cost of the cruise exceeded the cost of an all inclusive, not taking into account that the all-inclusives we've taken included airfare from Toronto to the sun destinations, on this trip our airfare to Hawaii was on top. The extras billed by Norwegian exceeded $800 with another $800 or so for the shore tours. We can certainly afford these costs, but we felt that we were being taken.
Regarding Hawaii, we are glad we visited but it's not a place that we have any desire to return to. The place seemed too busy for our liking, the tour areas were packed with people and not set up to accommodate the numerous tour buses that showed up all at the same time. It's also an expensive place because everything is imported, $50 per couple buffet breakfasts are the normal. We feel sorry for the locals, it must be tough to make ends meet with the prices we saw.