I know, I know, it’s been a while since I wrote. Randy had bronchitis but other than a lingering cough and always being cold—Aside: this may not seem like a big problem but when you share a room and one person is huddling under a blanket with a sweater and long pants on and the other (ME) is in shorts and a T-shirt, tempers get a bit frayed!—is doing ok.
Since Sydney we have been to New Zealand, Fiji, and American Samoa (Pago Pago). I posted a bunch of photos from New Zealand on Facebook but haven’t had the energy to write much. Auckland was awesome, thanks largely to Auckland Scenic Tours. David, the owner, escorted the four of us (Randy and me and Al and Maggie with whom we have done several tours) all around the city (never technically left the city limits but it is a HUGE city!). Up hill and down dale, from Maori totem poles to wine tastings to the tops of (extinct) volcanoes to gardens, we had a lovely time with lovely weather.
Then off to Fiji where we tried out snorkeling gear and GoPro. Snorkeling was great, don’t quite have the knack of the GoPro. Didn’t help that we didn’t see a lot of fish! Dravuni was a tender port (have I mentioned that I hate tenders?) and we’ll have one more tender port in Lahaina.
In Pago Pago we again went to Tisa’s Barefoot Bar and snorkeled and ate a traditional meal (if turkey is traditional!) cooked by hot rocks on top of the ground and covered with banana leaves. This is different from other cultures who dig pits to cook (still using hot rocks and banana or other big leaves). The snorkeling was ok, not great. We saw a few fish, not many. We’ve pretty much decided that we are not the south-Pacific-island-type tourist, we’re more the mainland-type tourists.
The passengers on the Amsterdam are not happy campers because Holland America has reneged on it’s promise that if you are a “FourStar Mariner” (at least 200 days cruising) or a “FiveStar Mariner” (at least 500 days [!] cruising) you will have priority getting on the tenders. Nope! They (Holland) changed the rules and only Suite passengers (approximately 120 of us) get priority in boarding tenders. That means that it may be two hours or more before you can leave the ship if you are not on a Holland tour, and only after all the Holland tour passengers and all the Suite passengers. Can’t say as I blame especially the FiveStar Mariners who have spent mega-$ cruising with Holland and now Holland takes back its promise? On Holland’s side, there are over 800 Four- and FiveStar Mariners on board a ship that holds about 1400 passengers So it’s kind of hard to give them all priority boarding the tenders. (Aside [December 12, 2017]—the stop in Lahaina was cancelled due to the forecast of heavy seas so there are no more tender ports after Dravuni.)
December 15, 2017
So we spent two days and a night in Honolulu (HNL, the three-letter designator for the airport for those who don’t speak airline). I was looking forward to spending the day (including up to 10:30pm) in Lahaina. It was not to be. Unfortunately and for reasons I don’t understand, we had to leave HNL at 1900 rather than the planned 2230 in Lahaina.
Randy and I rented a car. Not a pleasant experience (the actual renting thereof, not the driving thereof). The taxi driver (driving a HelloTaxi parked outside the ship terminal) didn’t know where the Enterprise office we rented from was. And we had no way of knowing he didn’t know. He insisted on taking us to the airport. He insisted that was the correct office. We didn’t know until we got to the desk—the taxi having already departed with us paying over $40 for the pleasure of a wrong destination—that the airport was not where we had rented from. At first Enterprise insisted that they wouldn’t honor the price the other (Enterprise) office had guaranteed. We had a price of $40 a day for two days; the airport wanted $80 a day for two days plus a $50 drop fee. They finally relented and honored our reservation. After insisting that all they had were SUVs and luxury cars, they suddenly found a small car for us. Of course we discovered after putting all our stuff in that they hadn’t cleaned it. Sand was everywhere and the windshield was quite dirty. But it had wheels and an engine so off we went.
Day one we went to the North Shore to see the little town of Halie’wa and the big waves. The waves weren’t the gigantic ones you see when they have the surfing competition but neither were they anything I’d like to be in the water with! And the weather was fantastic (both days): mostly clear with some puffy little clouds AKA “fair weather Q” [cumulous], slightly warm, and not too humid.
We drove to the end of the road on the northwest corner of Oahu, watched the waves and some intrepid gliders flying from Dillingham Field, and then drove back to HNL, about a two-hour drive. We stopped for lunch at the Beach House in Halie’wa and watched the waves some more, drove past traffic jams at the Banzai Pipeline and other surfing beaches.
Back in HNL, we had another problem to solve. Where to park the car overnight? There was a very convenient parking lot right next to the pier. “No overnight parking.” OK, we did a search (we’re back on US soil so we had our phone (Aside: note the use of the singular “phone” not “phones.” Randy’s phone, for reasons unknown to us has decided it is to be used for emergencies only. I am not a fan of AT&T.) We found a few parking structures but the ones who allowed overnight parking charged upwards of $47 per day, no matter how long you parked. Finally we pulled next to the structure across the street from the ship’s pier, I asked the parking lot lady about where we could park overnight. She looked at me, looked at our little car, asked when we would leave, I said, “When do you want us to leave?” She said we could park on the roof and to ask for Lydia in the morning. So we did. And we only paid $20. It pays to ask!
The next morning we headed to the North Shore again but this time to the Waimea Valley Botanic Gardens (I could go into a discussion of the difference between botanic and botanical but you can google it!) and Waterfall. We didn’t make it to the Falls (almost a mile walk) but we had not only a lovely stroll through the historic gardens (not much in bloom, unfortunately) but a wonderful encounter with an artist who was selling hand carvings of ancient weapons (shark teeth in local wood) and some jewelry. I bought a beautiful necklace of native wood and bone. We also had a wonderful discussion with him about his carvings and discovered that we have both been married for 55 years and are the same age. Doesn’t sound like a very scintillating conversation, but it was. Probably the highlight of our time on Oahu.
So now we have five sea days and (as I write this on the second sea day) four sleeps to go. We’re going to be glad to get home! Note to self: don’t ever join a cruise that is already mostly through its journey.