Hawaiian Dream


Beautiful Topical Kauai

By Andrew Johnson
Photos by Lisa Johnson

The First Course: Oahu
What better way to celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary than to have our two children book us on a trip to Hawaii! As was the case on our Alaskan trip last year, this too was similar to a three course dinner . . . appetizer: the North Shore of Oahu with a stay at the lovely Turtle Bay Resort, main course: a seven day cruise to some of the other Hawaiian Islands aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America, and dessert: a stay at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach, Honolulu. A fascinating seventeen days of exploration, learning, and sheer enjoyment.

We flew Hawaiian Airlines’ new direct flight from JFK, NYC to Honolulu. Service and cordiality were outstanding on a new and clean A330 airbus. With a six hour time difference on our eleven hour flight, we left at 10 a.m. Eastern time and arrived at 3 p.m. Honolulu time. (It was a novelty for a baseball game starting at 1 p.m. in New York to be seen live on TV at 7 a.m.) We had use of a Dodge Ram SUV (included in the booking) all through our “first course” stay; this was a necessity not only to get from the airport to the resort an hour away, but to go to any attractions or restaurants outside of Turtle Bay.

We found the resort, with its beach and pool and lovely rooms to be tranquil and relaxing. Having a balcony overlooking the beach was a treat for the senses; not only was the view stunning, but the waves sang us to sleep each night. The only drawback was that we found the resort’s restaurants to be pricey when it came to food or even snacks. However, about ten miles away is Haleiwa Town, where one can find excellent, nominally priced restaurants. It’s an even shorter drive to the renowned Ted’s Bakery, which affords a moderately priced breakfast and lunch of superb quality. Their chocolate haupia pie is “to die for.” What a business they take in! They’re not open for supper . . . they don’t need to be.

A day at the Polynesian Cultural Center is definitely a highlight of the trip and a must-see. What knowledge is imparted on the history and traditions of the seven Island Nations of Polynesia: Aotearoa, Fiji, Hawaii, Marquesas, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga. Our tour supervisor, Tina Taleni, introduced us to our personal tour guide for the day, Haley McCaw from Aotearoa (New Zealand). The insights and personal perspective of this remarkable student gave us a true understanding of the cultures of these peoples. The students who come from the South Pacific to attend Brigham Young University (located nearby) work at the Center as tour guides, dancers, and personnel and do not have to pay for their college education or room and board, a rather nice arrangement I might say.

At the Center, we took a canoe ride through the various villages, took ukulele, hula dancing, and palm weaving lessons, and were taught the art of spear throwing and fire-making. We also attended many historical, musical, and dance presentations. The exhibits are so authentic that when the actual queen of one of the islands visited the Center, she was so impressed with what she saw that she sent over workers from her country to construct another exhibit.
The “Rainbows of Paradise” Canoe Pageant was colorful and eye-popping, with one Polynesian Island represented on each canoe.

Yes, there was a luau dinner, a buffet of excellence. The evening show which followed the meal “Ha: Breath of Life” was outstanding. Featuring over 100 Polynesian natives, the story of one family’s journey is presented through music and dance. Included were fire dancers doing extraordinary things with the live flame, including actually sitting on it. Educational and terrific, this was truly a full day’s experience to remember.

 


The mouth of an active volcano on The Big Island of Hawaii

Second Course: The Cruise to the Islands

The NCL cruise ship, Pride of America, is one of a kind, with American registry and a crew that is 80% American.

Our balcony stateroom was the smallest I’ve ever experienced on a cruise ship. The balcony was almost as large as the room itself with two chairs and two lounge chairs and ample space. A balcony is always a nice place to have your coffee in the morning and breathe in the fresh ocean air, as well as see sights and landings of the cruise ship. We didn’t spend as much time as we would have wanted on the balcony, as we were on tour a great deal of the time.

The specialty restaurants, Lazy J Steakhouse, Little Italy (Italian), and East Meets West (Asian), were outstanding (I’ve used that word again).
The big difference between this cruise and others is that there are no sailing days; on Pride of America you are at a port every day. In fact, one practically spends more time touring off the ship than on board. And the quality of the ship’s tours was fantastic: educational, fascinating, and insightful with unparalleled scenic beauty.

1. In Maui, we explored the famous Road to Hana in an 8-person SUV with Russ of Temptation Tours as our driver-guide. He was excellent, friendly, and originally from Brooklyn, New York! The road was something else with its roundtrip 1234 hairpin curves, 108 one-lane bridges, and ever winding roads. The tour began at 8 AM and concluded at 4 PM. What a feat of driving! Something I’d never attempt to do.

2. On our second day in Maui, we visited the town of Lahaina with the Hilo Hatties store. Here is located one of the largest banyan trees in America, almost 2/3 of an acre! Its connecting roots above ground make it appear like multiple trees are growing rather than only one.


The Banyan Tree in Lahaina
3. The Gourmet Volcano Tour in Hilo (The Big Island) provided us with another excellent tour guide, Monique of Nui Pohaku Tours. She seemed to know quite a bit about all we viewed and took us to places I never imagined. We first went to a hillside coffee mill with a demonstration of how coffee is grown and cultivated, picked by hand, and processed over the 24 acre plantation facility. Next . . . to be right smack on top of an active volcano replete with its steam vents and the walk through Thurston Lava Tube where lava actually flowed. . . awesome! I could not believe that I was standing right at the mouth of the volcano and looking into it. Lunch was included at the Volcano Arts Center with host, owner, founder, and director Ira Ono. Native artist wood carvings and trinkets were reasonably priced. Free samples abounded at the Island Candy Factory where workers are to be seen hand dipping the macadamia nuts in melted chocolate. What a chocolate lover’s dream!

4. On Kauai, we visited the Kilohana Plantation and Mansion. We took a train ride through the plantation grounds, shopped for local crafts, had drinks, and then attended Luau Kalamaku, a culinary feast followed by a special show spectacular.

5. Day Two in Kauai found us on a tour of Waimea Canyon Lookout, reminiscent of the Grand Canyon in splendor and color, a feast for the eyes. The island of Kauai is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world; everywhere you look is a photo. And sailing by the breathtaking Na Pali Coast on the cruise ship was a photographer’s dream.

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Kauai’s spectacular Na Pali Coast

The wonderful cruise experience was almost, but not quite, enough to erase the memories of the booking process; while planning for the cruise, there was mishap after mishap. NCL should get its act together to avoid imparting misinformation; the staff manning the phones needs to be knowledgeable as to the workings and procedures of the company and ship itself. The catch-all phrase, “I don’t have access to that computer screen—that’s a different department” was consistently used. My daughter had to make numerous phone calls to different departments to get the answers to basic questions such as whether the door between balconies could be opened, when and how to book a specialty restaurant for the night of our 50th Anniversary, and why my baggage tags never arrived (a question that we were given three different answers to but never received the tags prior to embarkation).

Mistakes in accounting were made as well. We were honest enough to point out a huge billing mistake which resulted in a substantial credit in our favor. After 5 days of phone calls, the thanks that we received for our honesty? The correction was made without even a thank you for our finding the error, and a supervisor refused to call us back. What kind of staff is this to hire? Everything aboard ship was fine but it was a bit of a nightmare in the planning stages. It just should not have been that difficult to book a cruise.

We journeyed to another hotel, the Mad’inat Jumer’irah, to have supper one evening. To get to the many restaurants from the hotel lobby, one boards a small boat that goes through canals, connecting the numerous sections of the spread-out hotel. Fascinating, intriguing, and straight out of the Arabian Nights, one must keep in mind that all is created, man-made from the desert almost a Venice in the United Arab Emirates.  The malls include mammoth supermarkets selling all you desire, including el

 

Third Course: Waikiki

The USS Arizona Memorial
Our “dessert” was a stay in Waikiki at the legendary Royal Hawaiian Hotel with its beautiful beach and historic “pinkness,” the color of this abode. We were disappointed with this highly touted historical hotel. The rooms were not cleaned that well before we entered and during the stay things did not get better. Although beautiful and in the perfect location, housekeeping was simply not up to par. A number of complaints had to be voiced in this supposedly 5-star hotel.

We visited the vast flea market located in the parking lot surrounding Aloha Stadium where the Pro Football All-Star Game is played. It was truly a day of walking and shopping bargains.

No trip to Hawaii would be complete without a visit to Pearl Harbor and going to the USS Arizona Memorial. A 28 minute documentary was first shown which depicts the events leading up to and including the December 7th attack in 1941. A Navy boat then takes you to the Memorial, a moving and heartbreaking experience. At the bookstore, there were even two individuals signing autographs, men who had actually served during that “day of infamy” as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt termed the dastardly deed.

We were then taken on a walking tour of the battleship Missouri, where General Douglas MacArthur signed the Japanese Empire’s surrender ending World War II. This ship was reactivated and modernized in 1984 and was part of Operation Desert Storm in 1991. She truly served her country well.

All in all, with its spectacular scenery, beautiful beaches, and fascinating history, Hawaii is truly a paradise that offers something for everyone. This trip in celebration of our 50th Wedding Anniversary is something that we will always remember.


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