Hawaii Cruise on the Celebrity Century - Part 2

11/4/12 to 11/19/12

 

Page 1 - Pre-cruise in San Diego, CA; Ship; Dining; Entertainment; Activities

Page 2 - Ports of Kona, HI; Kailua Kona, HI; Maui, HI and Honolulu, HI; Ensenada, Mexico

 

Cruising to and from Hawaii

With almost five full days cruising to Hawaii and five and a half coming back, I wanted to put a separate section in the review for the sea days.  At first, I had reservations about having so many sea days.  Carol was looking forward to them, but I have always preferred to tour as much as possible and only slow down when I have to.  With my retirement only a few months away, I thought that this cruise might be a good way to see if I could adapt to a different pace.  Well I’m not sure that I found out about slowing down, since there were a lot of activities to get involved in; but at least I did find out that I could enjoy multiple days at sea. 

The first two days out of San Diego were cooler than the rest of the trip; but every day closer to Hawaii seemed to get warmer.  It wasn’t cold but probably in the upper 60’s or low 70’s in the daytime at first.  Since I live in Florida, this temperature coupled with the wind made it too cool for me to sit out by the pool for those two days to read.  Others didn’t find it cool at all, and it was warm enough for a lot of them to fill up most of the lounge chairs.  The seas were also a bit rockier for the first couple of days; but by no means uncomfortable.  The rest of the trip it was closer to 80 and quite comfortable outside.

I found that I would spend much of the time I wasn’t doing activities out by the pool on deck 11 in the shade reading books on my iPad while relaxing on the padded loungers.  It was rather pleasant and for the first time in my life, I actually read three books in two weeks.  It normally takes me months just to read one.

We got into a routine very quickly and thoroughly enjoyed all the sea days.  We were a bit early for whale watching; but one was sighted on the way to Hilo.  We didn’t get to see the whale, but a lot of people did.  On a few occasions we did see some other ships; but they were few and far between.  I would not want to have a medical emergency on a cruise that was so far from land.

Ports of Call

Hilo, Hawaii

After cruising at sea for almost five days, we were very pleased to finally see some land as we approached Hilo just before lunch. The Big Island of Hawaii is relatively flat other than for the giant Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes that cover much of the island.  So arriving in Hilo felt very much like arriving in one of the flatter islands in the Caribbean, since we couldn’t see those massive volcanoes from the port. 

    

Jim had rented a van on each of the islands for us to tour in.  Our main destination for the day was Volcanoes National Park.  Since we arrived at 1:00 PM and had to be back on the boat at 7:00 PM, we didn’t have a lot of time to explore.  The drive to the park took around an hour.  Our first stop was at the Kilauea Visitors Center to get oriented and decide where we wanted to go.  We looked at some displays inside the building and got the park maps.  We then got back in the van to see the Kilauea Caldera. 

    

There was a nice facility right at the caldera with a shop containing numerous volcano related souvenirs.  But the highlight was the caldera itself.  It was a massive hole in the earth with smoke coming out of one section.  We were lucky that the wind was blowing the sulfur fumes away from us.  From what I remember from my first visit to the caldera, they can get pretty strong. 

    

   

We walked to the other side of the facility to get a different view of the caldera.  After getting our fill of photos, we got back in the van to do more exploring.  We passed by an area with some steam vents.  This is where rain water has seeped down to the hot rocks and comes back up as steam.

    

Our next stop was at the Thurston Lava Tube.  The tube is where there had been a lava flow and the outside of the flow cooled while the remaining lava flowed out of the tube.  The path down to the tube was through a lush fern forest.

    

The entrance to the tube looks like and entrance into a cave.

 

It was quite an interesting walk.   It was very dark inside with a few dim lights on one side of the tube.  It did make it difficult to get photos without a flash; but the ones without provide a better feel for the experience itself.

    

We then drove a little further into the park and stopped at a lava flow area.  The lava certainly covered everything up and gave it a very barren look.

 

Our last stop at the park appeared to be another caldera.  The bottom looked like a lava lake.  The combination of the lake and the steep foliage covered sides was quite a sight.  I was impressed.  I was told that there were people hiking on the lava lake; but I couldn’t see them.  I guess I was too awed by the view.

    

We left the park and headed back to the ship.  On the way we decided to stop at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center.  I wish we had gotten there early enough to take the tour of the factory; but as it was we arrived right before the visitor center closed at 5:00 PM.  Fortunately some ship busses arrived, which kept it open longer.  We tried some samples of their treats and everyone had to buy a few souvenir bags of the tasty treats.

 

   

One of the items we purchased was the macadamia Hershey Kisses.  They can only be bought in Hawaii.  We thought that it was cute in that the white strip to open the foil covering the kiss said Aloha on it.  Needless to say they were just delicious.

 

Since we knew that we wouldn’t be back to the ship on time for our 5:30 PM dinner, Jim arranged beforehand with his butler Walter, to have the evening’s dinner delivered to his cabin and served on his veranda for the six of us.  We had placed our orders in the morning before we had arrived in Hilo.  Walter, with the help of the other two butlers, did a super job of setting up tables and chairs from other verandas to accommodate the dinner. 

    

Walter served our meals and we were enjoying our awesome outside dinner on the veranda as we left the port of Hilo.  This was cruising at its finest!

The itinerary had us cruising from Hilo to Kailua Kona passing by the lava flow from Kilauea at 11:00 PM.  We were very fortunate that the flow had moved to within a half mile of the ocean, so that we could actually see it.  However, it was not a sight that could be easily photographed while on a moving ship with my camera equipment.  The below photos will give you an idea of what it looked like; but we were too far away to get a decent photo.

 

Kailua Kona, Hawaii

After cruising from the northeast side of the Big Island to the western side overnight, we arrived in Kailua Kona, normally just referred to as Kona, at 8:00 AM.  Once again the weather was gorgeous and it looked like a great day for touring.  With Kona being a tender port, we knew there would be a delay in getting on land to get our van.  Since we were in suites, we had priority tendering tickets which normally allow passengers to go directly to the tenders.  Not so this time.  People with priority tickets had to go sit in the Martini Bar until the attendant told us we could go to the tender level.  She was only letting a few people go at a time.  We understood that everyone couldn’t go at one time; but she was trying to remember who arrived earliest when she told people they could go to the tenders.  It didn’t work very well and there were some ruffled feathers by people who had to wait as later arrivals went first. 

The tender ride was very short; but since we were using the ship life boats as tenders, it took a long time to load everyone in.  The combination of the rocking and the warm stuffy conditions made it rather uncomfortable.  We finally got on shore at 9:30AM.

This was quite a different looking terrain than Hilo with Mauna Kea in the background along with a lovely beach. 

    

Additionally, black volcanic rock was everywhere.   This place felt like Hawaii with a straw hut type Hawaiian temple and water boarders right next to the tender dock. 

    

We didn’t have a lot planned for this port stop.  We had a couple OF sites we wanted to see and then would just drive around until we were ready to return to the ship.  The first stop was to Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park, which is commonly known as the City of Refuge.  It was considered royal grounds and a place where lawbreakers could go to evade pursuers.  Once there, they could receive absolution for their crimes and eventually return to society.   It was an important place, since the punishment for breaking the Kapu or sacred law was death. 

The main area of the park is considered a sacred site and according to the National Park Service, “No commercial filming, nudity, beach chairs, towels, mats, beach umbrellas, coolers, picnicking, pets, weddings or wedding photos, smoking and recreational activities such as Frisbee throwing, football tossing, etc. are permitted.”  Fortunately photos were permitted of the lovely area. 

   

   

We first went to the black lava rock beach on the park grounds.  It was quite striking with the beautiful deep blue water crashing into the rocks.

    

There was one area that did allow picnicking, and it had some tables there. It would be a great place for a family picnic.

 

We then drove back over to the main tourist area.  The visitor center had some native artwork on the outside walls.

    

The main area is surrounded by a massive 1,000 foot long, 10 foot tall stone wall that is 17 feet wide.  It was built almost 500 years ago.  At the edge of that wall is the main temple and mausoleum that once held the bones of 23 noble chiefs. 

    

The area was reconstructed to preserve the heritage of old Hawaii.  The various statues are popular photo subjects.

    

   

Once we had gotten enough photos, we packed back into the van to visit the other site we had on our schedule, St. Benedict’s Painted Church.  It was a short drive from the City of Refuge.  It was a small quaint church with a nice view of the ocean, way down the hill beyond the cemetery. There was one particularly interesting grave marker near the church.

  

 

On the grounds were some breadfruit trees.

 

The inside of the church was painted in bright pastels with religious and Hawaiian images.  It was certainly a unique way to decorate a church.

    

Since this area was the home of Kona Coffee, we had also planned to visit a coffee plantation if possible.  We found a plantation that offered tours to the public, but they were closed that day.  Since it was getting close to noon, everyone was getting hungry, so we decided not to look for another plantation.

We stopped at a place that advertised Kona Coffee for sale, but after seeing that it would cost over $30 per pound, we passed on that idea.  But it proved to be a very good stop, since right across the street was Big Jake’s Island BBQ.  It didn’t look like much from the street; but since we hadn’t seen a lot of restaurants on the way down, we decided to have lunch there.  It was an excellent choice.  They had many humorous signs posted on the walls.  I got a kick out of the one below.

  

 

Everyone got Big Jake’s most popular item, the pulled pork sandwich.  We ate outside at the picnic tables, since that was the only option.  It was some very delicious barbecue, and we were all pleasantly surprised.  We talked about Big Jake’s for the rest of the cruise; and hoped to find another treasure like it in our travels. Looking online after returning from the cruise, I found that it was very highly rated on many websites. 

After lunch we decided to go back into town, return the van and just shop and piddle around until we returned to the ship.  I walked around and went into one of the churches, but, since it was just a traditional church, it seemed kind of plain compared to the Painted Church.

 

I then walked over to an area by the water to get some photos of the Century.

    

One of the things that I wanted to try while in Hawaii was the shaved ice I had heard so much about.  I had been told that it was quite different from the old fashioned snow cones we had as children.  So I asked someone which of the many shaved ice stores I should go to and got a great recommendation.  I went to Scandinavian Shave Ice (www.scandinavianshaveice.com). 

It was interesting to watch how the cones were molded.  Although the girl packed the ice down, the consistency was like eating fluffy snow rather than ice.  I didn’t know what flavor to get, so I got a rainbow one that had four different flavors.  Oh my gosh, it was so good!  I think the flavors were banana, cocoanut, pineapple and strawberry.  I couldn’t believe how large the portion was.  I didn’t think there was any way I could eat it by myself.  I was wishing that Carol had been with me rather than shopping on her own.  However, I found that it was no problem since the ice was very light and disappeared quite quickly.  I sure hoped that I could find some more shaved ice like this on Maui and Oahu when we stopped there.

As I walked back toward the tender dock, I admired the many various colors of bougainvilleas.  Kailua Kona was a very nice little town and our day in port had been most enjoyable.

    

Lahaina, Hawaii

As we approached Maui, the mountainous terrain welcomed us.  Our port stop in Lahaina would also be a tender port.  The Cruise Director had told us that in addition to using the Century’s life boats, a local tender would also be used.  It did make the process go faster, since it was a larger boat.  Unfortunately, due to the luck of the draw, we still got stuck in one of the hot crowded life boats. 

    

As we had done on the other islands, Jim and Bob got off earlier to go to the airport to pick up the van and then met the rest of us near the tender port.  Meanwhile, since the tender port was right next to the large banyan tree in the center of town, it gave us time to shop around at the numerous local artisans stands that were set up under the tree. 

Both Carol and I fell in love with the works of a local Maui artisan named John Lindquist (www.glassartists.org/JohnLindquistMauiGreenstone and (www.kaipua.com).  He made beautiful glass pendant necklaces.  I got one with a jellyfish in it and Carol got one with a plumeria flower in hers.

    

Once Jim and Bob arrived with the van, we headed over to pick up our Gypsy Guide (www.gypsyguide.com).  It is a GPS type of device that is attached to your windshield and plugged into your sound system.  By doing so, everyone in the van is able to hear exactly what is being said.  As you are driving along the route, it gives you options.  Then by using its GPS feature, it determines which way you have chosen and tells you what you will be seeing on the route you have taken.  It then tells you what you are passing and/or how to get to various places on the island.  This device was such a wonderful way to tour Maui.  It was like having our own personal guide in the van with us.  It provided lots of information and history, but it didn’t overload us with worthless information. 

It was also humorous during the trip.  One thing that everyone got a good laugh from was when we came to an intersection and the Gypsy said, “If you turn left at the intersection, you will be headed toward the Iao Needle.  If you turn right you will be headed to the Road to Hana.  If you go straight, you will go nowhere.”  After using it in Maui, we were very glad we had also ordered one for Oahu.

Bob and Judy wanted to be dropped off at Kaanapali Beach to enjoy the best beach area on Maui, while Jim, Kathleen, Carol and I continued to tour the island.  As we were driving to our first destination, we stopped at a scenic overlook.  We could look over to the east side of the island where Mount Haleakala dominated the area.

    

The first stop was at the Iao Valley to see the Iao Needle.  It is one of the wettest places on earth with the valley averaging 386 inches of rain per year.  The valley was quite lush and of course with all the rain, there was a river running through it.  We were very fortunate that it was not raining and that there was sunshine.

  

 

The Needle itself is 1,200 feet tall from the valley floor and is 150 feet taller than the Eiffel Tower.  It was quite a sight.  We climbed up the stairs to get closer to the needle for photos.  We were so glad we were able to visit this beautiful spot without rain.

        

     

Our next destination would be to travel a part of the Road to Hana.  Since it would take about 3.5 hours to go each way to get to Hana, we knew didn’t want to go all the way.  We didn’t want to spend that much time in the car, plus it was getting close to lunch time, so there wouldn’t have been enough time anyway.   So we stopped at Paia, the last main town on the road to Hana, to get some lunch.  Our Gypsy had told us that Paia was the last place to get lunch on the road to Hana.  It also told us where to look for a parking spot.  It was proving to be a very useful tool.  While walking through town looking for a place, we asked a tourist who had been there for awhile for a recommendation.  He told us to go to Charley’s.  They had very good sandwiches, but it wasn’t as special as Big Jake’s BBQ that we had the previous day.

 

As we drove down the Road to Hana, the Gypsy Guide told us to stop at the Ho'okipa Beach lookout to watch the windsurfers.  It is the most renowned windsurfing site in the world.  Plus it was just a gorgeous location.

    

   

There were so many windsurfers speeding around over the waves.  We couldn’t believe how fast they were going.  It was obvious why this place was so popular. 

    

After leaving we drove further toward Hana.  We stopped at a place where there was a path to a waterfall.  We talked to some people who were returning from the waterfall.  They said it wasn’t worth the long walk to the falls, so we decided to pass on it.  We drove a little while further and then turned around to go back to Lahaina.  On the ride back, I enjoyed the mountainous terrain.  It was so different from what we are used to in South Florida.

 

When we returned to the tender dock, we wanted to go back to the banyan tree to check out some more of the crafts we had seen in the morning.  Carol had found a necklace that she wanted, but we didn’t have time to buy it when we were there earlier.  It is made out of a material called dichroic glass, and is very colorful.  The necklace on the artist in the photo below is made of dichroic glass; but a different style.

 

While she made her purchase, I had to take a panorama photo with my iPhone to show how massive the banyan tree is.  This one banyan tree shades over one acre of the park.

 

We found a shaved ice shop in Lahaina and I shared one with Carol.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as good as the Scandinavian Shaved Ice we had in Kona.  After this disappointment, I didn’t even think about shaved ice the next day in Honolulu. 

The view of Maui from the ship provided a final memory of an enjoyable touring day.

    

 

Honolulu, Hawaii

Our first view of Honolulu was a special one.  Even though it wasn’t raining at the port, a double rainbow covered the whole sky.  It looked like a good omen to us. 

 

   

We were so glad to finally have a dock rather than having to tender in.  Jim had told us to meet him near the Aloha Tower.  We had a fairly long walk to get to our meeting place.  It didn’t look that far from the ship; but there wasn’t a direct route, so we had our early morning exercise. 

Once again we met the people from Gypsy Guide so they could install the device in the van.   Unlike the one we had used in Maui, this one only gave us a choice between two routes.  We decided to go with the shorter Volcanoes and Beaches Tour first which would show us the southern part of the island.  The other choice was the Island Circle Tour going to the north shore, but it would take much longer.  Although we had wanted to see the surf at the north shore, the southern route was probably a better choice due to the time constraint.  The traffic was very heavy and large crowds were at all of the tourist attractions since it was the Veteran’s Day holiday.

Our first destination on our chosen route was to go to Diamond Head, which is an inactive volcano crater.  It is the image that I always think of when I think of Honolulu.  It didn’t look quite the same driving toward it in the van as it does from Waikiki Beach.

 

When we finally got there, it looked totally different from inside the crater itself.  We drove through a very narrow tunnel that passes through the crater wall.  When I visited there many years ago, I climbed to the top of Diamond Head.  This time, due to the large crowds, there weren’t even any parking spots for us to use; so we just stopped to take some photos and left.  With the walk to the top taking quite a while, it was probably just as well.  There really wasn’t much else to do there anyway.

    

The next destination was to stop at Hanauma Bay.  This is a very nice place to go snorkeling.  Carol and I thoroughly enjoyed it when we visited twenty years ago.  Since we hadn’t planned on actually snorkeling this trip, it was not as disappointing when we saw the signs from the highway that said “Parking Lot Full”.  So we passed it up, drove a little further and stopped at a popular scenic overlook area.

    

As we continued our drive, we could see the beach area where we would be heading.  It was going to be one pretty drive.

    

The Gypsy Guide had told us to stop to see the Halona Blow Hole.  It also said that conditions have to be right for it to actually blow up the spray.  When we first got out of the van, we couldn’t see where the blow hole was, since we were distracted by the beauty of the waves crashing onto the rocks below. 

    

I finally got around to looking for the blow hole.  It was blowing some; but not as good as it can.

 

There was even a small beach nearby.  It was truly a beautiful area.  It was one of those places you could stay at for a long time just taking in the beauty.

    

We drove by Lanakai Beach.  The water was so inviting; but we didn’t have time to stop and enjoy it, since we had other places we needed to see.  We just didn’t have enough time to savor the beauty of Oahu.

    

Continuing our drive, we pulled over to another scenic overlook and were greeted by parachutes floating on the winds.  They floated around the whole time we were there.  The thermals kept helping them to climb so they could sail back down.

  

 

What a gorgeous area, with mountains, islands and beaches.  We took advantage of the beautiful photo opp.

   

Our next stop was the Pali Lookout.  On the drive there, we got a preview of the view of the Koolau Mountain Range on the north side of the valley.  The previous two times I had been there, the wind was so strong that it was difficult to even walk up the trail to the lookout.  But this time the wind was much milder.

    

This viewpoint is perched 1,000 feet above the coastline.  The view was just awesome.

    

By the time we left the lookout, it was well past our normal lunchtime, and we were anxious to find a restaurant.  Rather than trying to take the trip to the north shore, since we just didn’t have enough time, we decided on a few other things to do in Honolulu. 

We were having a difficult time deciding on which restaurant we wanted, so Bob and Judy said that they had toured enough for the day and would go back to the ship for lunch.  The rest of us ended up at the huge Ala Moana Center Mall, since we also needed to find some things in real stores that just aren’t available at souvenir shops.  We ate there, did the required shopping, and continued our trek afterwards. 

One place that we all wanted to go was the Crazy Shirt Outlet (www.crazyshirts.com).  The only outlet they have is in Honolulu.  In addition to a large selection from all their stores, they also have seconds and discontinued items.  Jim and I both got quite a few shirts.

We then drove over to an area that we had seen earlier on the tour; but had not been able to find a parking spot at the time, so we tried again.  This time we found a spot right in front of the Iolani Palace.  It is the only official residence of royalty in the United States. 

   

Right across the street from the palace is Aliiolani Hale, which is the Hawaii State Supreme Court building.  In front of it is the famous statue of King Kamehameha.   The king was responsible for unifying all the islands and was the first King of Hawaii. 

    

   

It was getting close to our 5:30 dinner time, so we went back to the ship.  From the Century, we could get a nice view of Diamond Head in the distance.  It was a good way to remember the beautiful Hawaiian Islands we had visited.

 

Ensenada, Mexico

Even though we were finished with seeing the Hawaiian ports, we still had six days left in the cruise including a short stop at Ensenada, Mexico.  The stop in Ensenada was only made to meet the US government’s requirements to have a port stop in a foreign country.  We were only there from 7:00 PM till midnight.  Most people stayed on the ship, including our group.  Walking out on our veranda, we were able to get a view of Ensenada with a huge Mexican flag blowing in the wind.

 

Disembarkation

Our least favorite part of a cruise is the disembarkation.  It is never fun to leave a cruise, especially with the added stress to make airline flights on time.  Based on reviews of previous cruises, as well as observations we had made during our previous embarkation day, people were normally able to get off around 8:30 AM.  Our flight had been rescheduled earlier to 11:00 AM, so we weren’t too worried; but Jim, Kathleen, Bob and Judy’s flight was at 10:00 AM.  It was a tight schedule.  They would have to move quickly. 

Our disembarkation instructions had said to be in the Rendez-Vous Lounge no later than 8:30 AM.  We were there by 8:00 AM as were many others.  There were no seats, but our buddies had gotten there earlier and saved us a couple.  By the time 8:30 AM arrived, the crowds were building and the aisles and exit area were all totally packed with people.  An announcement was made that the customs people who had entered the ship at 6:00 AM had not yet cleared the ship.  As the minutes passed, the stress level was increasing.  Finally at 8:55 AM, we were allowed to disembark. 

Our luggage was very easy to find.  Since the customs people had performed all the immigration clearing on the ship, we only had to hand our customs form to an agent as we left.  It was extremely easy.  Plus, there were cabs and vans right outside the terminal ready to take us to the airport; which was very close to the port.  We got on a van of eight people that only cost $6.00 per person, or $12 for both of us. 

Some friends we saw at the airport had gotten there even quicker by taking a cab that cost $12 for just the two of them.  As it turned out, we had plenty of time before our departure; but our friends barely made their 10:00 AM flight.  Celebrity recommends not making a flight reservation before 12:30 PM; but I would think 11:00AM was quite adequate, at least when there is only one ship in port.

 

Recap

Visiting any of the Hawaiian Islands for just a few hours on a port stop, in my opinion, is just not the way to enjoy the beauty of Hawaii.  It really needs a land based vacation, where several days can be spent on each island taking in and really spending a lot of quality time in this tropical paradise.  Even though we had been able to enjoy Hawaii previously on a land based vacation; this cruise made me want to return that much more to see the many things that we had missed. 

Even with the limited time in Hawaii, we had an absolutely wonderful cruise and thoroughly enjoyed our many sea days with our friends.  We laughed so much over the 15 days and got to meet some really nice new friends. Plus, I was able to find out that I could enjoy a relaxing cruise rather than a bunch of hectic port stops.  I did find that the end of the cruise was a bit more painful than normal, since we did enjoy so much about this cruise.  We will really miss seeing our friends daily and being with the awesome crew of the Century.  I think that is a sign that it really was a great cruise.

   

 

 

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