April 7, 2002 ~
by Red Stripe (Val) &
Einstein, aka "E" (Jim)
Overview: Being that this
was the first time either of us had been to Hawaii we were really wet under the
wings. Thanks to some tips from far too many people to mention, we felt like we
accomplished as much as we possibly could in the time that we had in Honolulu.
This lovely city has enough things to keep one occupied for a week no less 3
days. Do not just bypass this city without taking some time out of your schedule
or you will be sorry you did.
Thursday – Day of Departure
Up early Thursday morning for the flights to Hawaii… I hate flying. Three
flights and 16 hours later; stocked with a good stash of those little biscuits
that Delta gives you we arrived in Hawaii. It was almost dark when we arrived at
7 PM Hawaii time. We caught a Roberts Bus at the terminal at a cost $8 per
person and the bus was comfortable and clean. The trip to the hotel took about
20 minutes. We stayed at the Renaissance llikai Waikiki Hotel right by that
yacht area where those first scenes from Gilligan's Island were filmed… rather
fitting I thought. We had a real nice view, the room is on the side, but at the
front so we can see the ocean, and the town and mountains. We dumped the bags
and walked Waikiki beachfront where E bought me lei. During the walk we took
note of an Internet café… and walked up past the Pink Palace (The Royal
Hawaiian). As it was getting on toward 2 am our time we decided to head back to
the hotel for some shuteye. E stopped off to get the bus passes for the next day
at the ABC store across the street. They were $20 PP for a 4-day pass, which is
a bargain as long as you are not in a hurry.
We were up early and did not feel like eating breakfast. We went just across the
road from the hotel and got the bus to the Arizona Memorial. By the time we got
there it was 9:15 and the first tour we could get on was 11:15. So it pays to be
there early. We thought we would be in good shape, but should have got there at
least by 8, if not sooner. The hours at the Memorial are 7:30 am to 5:00 pm with
the first tour starting at 8 and the last one at 3.
While waiting we went over to the other exhibits in the area. Fortunately there
is a lot to look at and time went quickly as we went around the museum. We
bought an ice cream and sat on the steps waiting for the tour to begin. There
were a lot of little birds all over the sidewalk, and I said that they looked a
lot like the Inca doves that are in Houston Texas so I asked a man that worked
there what they were and he said they were "sparrows" LOL. Everyone of
these birds that sat there had their mouths open begging for a snack. I wandered
into the gift shop and asked one of the girls there what type of birds they were
and she said they were "doves" hahaha. So Bryan, if you see this,
perhaps you actually know what type of doves they are?
Finally our number was called and we went into the theatre to see the movie of
the attack. It had scenes that some people had not seen before. Then we got on
the boat to go out to the memorial. It really hits home when you see it in the
daylight, imagining the ship sitting there that morning, and then being
attacked. The actual memorial area is nicely done, with a list of names of the
fallen inscribed on the wall at the far end. We watched as the oil came up from
the wreck. It is as if the blood still seeps out to remind us of those that died
for our country. As you get on the memorial, the best place to see the oil is
down near the end on the left hand side. After about 20 minutes we and everyone
else boarded the shuttle and sailed away from there in a quiet mood.
We then went outside and caught the bus for the "Circle the Island"
drive. It actually does not completely circle the Island, as the road does not
go all the way around, but cuts back through the Pineapple fields half way
around the Island. It was fun being on the bus, but extremely time consuming as
the bus makes a LOT of stops. We finally got hungry, so we bailed off at the
little town of Haleiwa on the North shore and ate pizza in Spaghettini’s. We
sat there watching the world go by sipping on a cold one. I decided to head off
to a few of the locale shops while E waited for the pizza. After a few stops I
saw the pricing was about double what I would consider fair so I headed back to
Spaghettini’s. The pizza was just being delivered and it was good and in fact
E thought it might be as good as NY pizza.
Now with our tummies full we climbed back on the bus for the rest of the drive.
You pass by some interesting places, and can get off whenever you want, but then
will have to wait about 30 minutes between busses. The bus ride did give us an
overview of the Island but was very time consuming because of all the stops.
After about an hour ride we arrived back at the main bus exchange area at the
Ala Moana Shopping Center where we were waiting for the bus to take us back to
the hotel when a little guy stood up and went just behind me… in plain view. I
heard water… turned around and he was stood a few feet away peeing. I guess
when you gotta go you gotta go. LOL
We were back in our room before 7 and decided to soak in the hot tub. This hotel
has a great pool area facing the beach. We were sat in the tub when suddenly the
firework display started. The Hilton next door does this every Friday. So we
were in the best place to watch it. After an hour soak we then went for a
moonlight stroll up the beach again. We decided to stop in at the Royal Hawaiian
and ordered an appetizer and a drink of local beer and sat outside to enjoy the
sights. This is a great hotel, and well worth a visit for those of you that get
a chance. It is especially good for that evening drink, or a breakfast out on
the patio. After finishing our drink and food we walked through the hotel to the
roadside and went across to the World market where we bought two leis of silk
and puka??? Necklaces. Then wandered back to the hotel for some well deserved
E got up bright and early to take some pictures of the sunrise. On the
way back to the room, a guest that was checking out handed him two passes for
the breakfast brunch so we went down for it. That brunch costs $17 per person!!! We
really enjoyed that meal. After stuffing ourselves full we went outside the
hotel and caught the bus to Diamondhead. It was a long walk in from where the
bus drops you, and you walk through a tunnel. When we finally got to where the
trail goes to the top, it started to rain lightly at first, which worked out to
our benefit as it kept us cool. This was definitely another sightseeing
adventure that should be done in the morning, as we could already feel the heat
and humidity building. The trail in Diamondhead is a mixture of paved path,
uneven rock and steps. At the bottom of the first set of steps (99 of them) it
really started to pour down. We gradually looked like drowned rats.
There were two more sets of stairs (43 and 56) so you need to be in reasonable
shape for this. You also go through a tunnel, which is not lighted, and on a
good day there is a guy there renting flashlights. But on this day he was home
staying dry. I had brought one with me so we were the envy of those blundering
through in the darkness. By the time we got to the top of the crater I was
soaked and stained from the rust off the railings. We were about to give in and
leave when the sky started to clear up and the sun came out. We got some great
views and photo shots. It is not until you are up there that you really realize
that Diamondhead is a volcano and although dormant it is not extinct. In spite
of the weather and the steps it was well worth the exhausting hike. I will never
forget it nor will E. When we started down we realized just how helpful that
rain had been, as it was HOT & HUMID. I would have hated to do the climb at
the time we were descending with no cooling rain. It is another place that it
pays to be there very early. Also we were shocked at the people starting up
there with sandals and even heels… that is one way to break an ankle.
We got a taxi back to the hotel to dry off and change clothes. We got a fun taxi
driver with a small son and had a nice time talking all the way back to the
hotel. We then caught the bus again heading for the Waimea falls park. We
started talking to a couple (Chuck and his significant other) on the bus ride to
the North Shore and Waimea Falls. Once we arrived at the bus stop outside the
park we walked in and paid our admission of $22.00 PP and used the “ buy one,
get one free” coupon out of the discount coupon books available at almost
every street corner. After entering the park we took the little shuttle bus to
the dive and falls area. After exiting the bus the sight of COLD Beer caught our
eyes so we bought a couple and then I changed into my swimsuit and we all swam
in the pool under the falls. The swim area is very clean but rather rocky and
the water was definitely cool. The diving show was good, but one diver was as
pale as a dead fish. He most assuredly could have used the fake and bake for
The gardens were very pretty, and the four of us (our new friends from the bus)
enjoyed it. We told them that we were going across the road to Waimea Bay to
wait for the sunset. They said they would join us. It is a beautiful bay with a
nice sand beach and nice surf. While waiting for the sunset we watched the kids
jumping off the rock in the middle of the bay. They had to wait for a wave
before they jumped. Better them than me. We watched the sunset and then headed
back to catch the bus. Now these buses should have been every 30 minutes, but I
think one must have got lost since we waited for a very long time (over an
hour). Finally we got the first bus to come by and even though it was supposed
to be the "slow" bus we said we ain’t waiting for the next one.
We were now tired and hungry so when we got back to the Ala Moana Shopping
Center we headed off to find a place to eat. We were all beyond being fussy at
that time. We entered this noodle place, but when we felt the A/C in there, we
were out of there in a shot. I do not understand the system over there, but the
busses have only an on/off switch for A/C and some of the drivers just wear
“long johns” and leave the A/C on full time. We had frozen on the way home
and even for the sake of good food we could not have stayed in the noodle
icebox. So all that was left was a KFC! And it had to be the nastiest one I have
ever eaten at, fat and greasy.
Back at the bus center while waiting for the bus to our hotels another man got
up and went a few paces away and peed directly behind where I was seated. Must
be my Luck! We finally arrived back at the hotel at around 10 PM and we hit
the shower and fell into bed since we knew that tomorrow was the day we walked
down the gangway to the NCL Star.
We got up and walked along the beach to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel for breakfast
brunch. It was $22 per person--not cheap at all. We sat right next to the railing on
the beach, watching the ocean. I went for the pancakes with Macadamia nuts…
WOW! That did my sugar intake for a month. In spite of the price I think that it
is a great thing to do at least once if you get a chance. The view and
atmosphere is absolutely breathtaking and what better way to finish off our stay
in Honolulu than a breakfast buffet on the beach overlooking Diamondhead?
After breakfast we then walked out through the hotel and went across the way and
into the outside lift on the Sheraton Hotel. When you get to the top you are in
the bar/lounge that everyone said was a great place to watch the sunset. I am
sorry that we never made it up there to catch one. The views of Diamondhead and
Waikiki beach through the picture windows are the best. I would make a point to
do it if there is a next time.
We walked through town, past the Hilton Hawaiian Village which is another place
that I would want to see if I get back there again. After arriving back at the
Hotel we gathered our belongings and headed for checkout. We got a taxi ($8 PP)
to the terminal, which is at the Aloha Tower right in town. This concluded are
land based portion of the vacation as we were now ready to walk down that lovely
gangway all of us Cruise @ddicts dream about.
Land Based Conclusions:
Although the bus pass is a good value, we would rent a car the next time and
use the bus for just around the town. Once you get out of town there are too
many stops. It wastes too much of your time and can get frustrating. If you are
in a car then you can stop at that cute little places, but, when on the bus, you
do not have that option. Even if the bus stops there you tend to weigh it by the
thought of having to wait another 30+ minutes for the next bus. A stop at the
Royal Hawaiian for at least a drink one evening, and also do watch a sunset from
the Sheraton right behind. It should be at the top of your list to do. The city
of Honolulu has so many sights to see that it requires a few days on its own to
explore the town in depth, as there is so much to see and do. Driving to the North Shore
with a rental car would also be high on our list of recommendations
as there are so many things to see and do on that side of the Island.
We arrived at the Aloha Tower at 11:45 am and paid the porter to check in our
bags, which was well worth the expenditure. Since our baggage was already
checked we bypassed all the others who were there in a line with their luggage
waiting to check in. We then walked down to the other set of doors and checked
in with the NCL Reps and went through our paperwork. In this building there are
big murals all over the walls. Check In went smoothly and within 5 minutes we
showed our passports, rode the escalators down, and headed through the gangway. So, all in all, I do not think it
took any longer than 10 minutes from the moment our taxi dropped us off until we
were setting foot on the ship. It was around noon when we boarded and there
were very few people on her so we grabbed the camera and went off to take
The first look at the NCL Sky blew us away; it is visually a beautiful ship.
stop was the excursion desk to make sure we had all our excursions for the
cruise lined up. We then headed out and explored the ship from bottom to top we
went into the spa area and found that it was well laid out. There is a
hydrotherapy (thalassotherapy) pool, hot tub and shallow pool. A row of loungers
face the picture windows lining the rear of the ship. We knew during the
upcoming days that we would spend some time sitting in here.
Off we headed to get something to eat. I mean after all you gotta get the cruise
started off on the right foot. Then we went up on deck to sunbathe. The ship
has tiered decks at one end of the pool for sunbathing. It was HOT! E
fell asleep in the chair and I went to the library to check out a few books. I read the two that I bought in the RDU airport while flying over. Then I went
to the room and saw that the luggage had arrived and about that time E rumbled
his way into the room so we unpacked together.
Now we had an inside room and it was plenty big enough for both of us. We did
think that the closet could have been better laid out. There were shelves in one
side of the closet and it would have been better if they were open to the front.
Instead you had to move back the clothes to get anything. The shower was a plus
as it was a good size and had a real shower door so NO sticking shower curtain.
They had a pot to make tea or coffee in the room and a small fridge, which was a
bit on the shallow side but okay. The hair dryer was mounted on the small vanity
table. They have soap and shampoo dispensers in the shower but NO conditioner.
So if you use it remember to take your own.
We met our room stewards (Karmy and Julie) and they were very nice people. We
asked for ice each evening and I asked if I could get a robe. They delivered all
that we asked for. As usual they were very hard working the whole cruise. They
worked their tails off and received a well-deserved tip at the end of the
cruise. So now that all the essentials were taken care of it was time to do what
we all cruise for which is to sit back and enjoy.
We headed up on deck for the sail away and took the champagne that our Cackler
friends had sent to us as a gift. Moet Chandon!! WOW!! After
finding our perfect spot we pulled up a couple of chairs and waited for the ship
to get underway. It is a beautiful view overlooking the Aloha Tower and its many
shops. Usually the place a ship leaves from is less than picture perfect, but
this place is wonderful as you are looking at the whole town right there. There
were people calling out Bon Voyages to us and doing Hawaiian dances on the quay.
What a sendoff.
After the sail away we went down to sample the freestyle dining in the
Versailles dining room. This is one of the most stunning dining rooms either of
us has seen on a cruise ship. We had no trouble being seated with just the two
of us at a table. I forgot what I ate but it was good. There are 10
restaurants on this ship so there are plenty of places to choose your poison so
to speak. There is a $10 PP cover charge in the Ginza and the SoHo room, and
$12.50 in Le Bistro, plus Ala Carte pricing for sushi and Teppanyaki
Afterwards we went by the Karaoke lounge and it looked like fun so we stopped in
and sampled a drink. Two of the singers were very good and the others; well what
can you say… at least had the guts to get up on stage. After a couple of
hours we took a stroll around the promenade deck and then called it a night.
Monday (Hilo on the BIG Island of Hawaii)
Today we were signed up for the Volcano National Park tour. We were supposed to
go to the park first and then stop in at the Macadamia nut factory on the way
back but we had a young woman on the bus that had an upset stomach and we were
forever stopping for her to use the facilities. I was sorry she was sick but I
think that she should have stayed on the ship. We ended up going to the nut
factory first as she was in need of a pit stop as we passed. I think we all were
gritting our teeth when she would walk down to the driver, as we knew that we
would have another stop soon. The nut factory was OK but it is mostly a place to
buy things. There was no demonstration or work going on. You can look through
windows at the machines and watch a TV screen that tells you about the nuts.
Now it was off and up the steep winding road as we climbed up to the top of the
volcano. The whole excursion the bus driver was telling us to be on the lookout
for the Nay Nay bird and the entire day we saw everything but! We stopped at the
Halemaumau fire pit and the Kilauea Iki Crater before heading for the Thurston
Lava Tube. This place was amazing as you go from the moon to a rain forest in
just a few minutes. You can see the steam vents everywhere. Even the one fenced
off because a tourist got too close and fell in many years ago. They never
recovered the body. We walked down a trail surrounded by vegetation and giant
ferns. The size of this tube where lave once flowed is amazing. There is a
picture of it in our Hawaiian photo album on this site. We walked all the way
through it. This was a great tour and one I will remember for a long time.
Back on the ship we went to the Red Lion Pub to grab some food. Now I expected
to really enjoy this pub but in fact it was my least favorite place on the ship.
According to the menu it states that you can get fish and chips there. Well, we
ordered fish and chips and it seemed to throw them into confusion. After much
discussion they finally said they would have to get it from the Blue Lagoon
Restaurant that was directly behind it. They shared the same kitchen space. I
think the bartender thought of himself as a bar only. They wanted to push
drinks and if you were not drinking all the time then you were not made to feel
welcome. After a great production the fish and chips were brought out. Take this
limey's word for it, they were not worth the wait. So that was the end of
fish and chips.
We went to the spa area to recover from this stressful encounter. This
place was almost undiscovered for the first part of a cruise. Everyone thinks of
it as the beauty spa only and therefore they do not go into it. We spent a few
hours here and E caught a couple of winks while I read my book. Then we spent
the rest of the time enjoying the hydrotherapy pool.
Later that evening we got dressed and went to the Optional Formal Night.
Now this is where the problems with the freestyle dining hit home. First, The
paperwork from NCL said that on this night the Versailles dining room would be
Formal and the other 9 eating establishments would not be. We headed down at
about 8.30 and ask to be seated at a big table. We are the first people sat
there, and we wait for about 10 minutes, and finally another couple dressed in
very casual clothes is seated with us. Then after a while another couple dressed
formal, and then a woman dressed formal also were seated at the table.
It’s quite evident now from my glimpse around the room that it is a mix of
formal and casual. Now I know this is freestyle but as they said the one room
would be formal it should of remained formal. I fail to understand why they did
not do just that. It is not as if there are not a bunch of other places to eat
on this ship. In fact this ship is mainly restaurants so it is not fair to
anyone. The two people in casual clothes at our table spent the entire evening
explaining why they were not dressed. And the rest of us felt that the
atmosphere was spoilt. Now that is not to say that anyone made the casual couple
feel bad. We all bent over backwards to try to set them at ease. I think this
was a real bad mistake on NCL's part.
After the meal we went to the show and saw Dave Heenan. He was very good and
very funny. We ended up the evening at the karaoke lounge once again for a
nightcap. This place was a hoot both evenings so far. After many laughs and a
couple of glasses of wine we headed for a nightly stroll around the Promenade
and then off to the land of zzzzz’s.
Today is a sea day so we slept late then got our tender tickets for the next
day. E went looking for the sunrise and I went to yoga. We met up at the Java
café for morning trivia. We won huggies and a beach ball as we finished 1st
again. E thought that we would have an empty piece of luggage for the trip home.
Little did he know that we would have more trouble packing for the way home then
on the way out. After trivia we went for lunch and then headed out at the pool
for a few frozen Thingees. E must have had more than a few as he got
pulled into the pool games and won a cooler cup. It was very hot and after the
pool games we finally figured that we had been cooked enough so went to the room
and showered. At 5:30 we played sports trivia, and much to my surprise I was
able to contribute. I knew what GOLF stood for and E did not. hahaha. So we won
another prize. We drank a couple of beers and then went for our pre dinner walk.
We ate dinner in the Versailles Dining room again as this place seemed to be our
main staple for evening dining. We were a twosome again as that really did not
bother us as we knew at least that we would not have to wait for additional
dining partners. The meal was not anything special but we certainly were not
starving away and figured that there was always the midnight buffet. After
dinner we went to the show and watched the famed magician Ed Alonzo. He is a
very funny man but that guy must be shorter than me. He had the biggest built up
shoes that I have ever seen. After the show we ended up the evening by sitting
in a hot tub and then went to bed.
Wednesday - Fanning Island
For this little stop E had to pay nearly $200 to get a passport in a hurry. We found out
at the last moment that you had to have one as the ship went to Fanning Island.
(The Passenger Services Act again.) So E is ready to flash this $200 passport and GUESS WHAT?
This is the one stop that they do not even require you to show anything but your
ship ID let alone a passport. We went for our walk around the deck and
found that a few birds had hitched a ride. They stayed with us most of the way
back to Hawaii, people started feeding them bread.
It was raining so we were not in any hurry to get on the tender. We had been on
deck for hours, and were laughing because you just could not see Fanning Island
until the last moment. It is an island about 2,000 miles south of Hawaii and is
part of the Kiribati Republic. It is an atoll, which is a circular ring of coral
that is above the water. I think there are three parts to this one. And they are
10 miles long and ½ mile across and 10 foot above sea level. We were joking
that you could run right over it at night if you were not careful.
This is a beautiful place; there are no phones, electric, cars, etc. The people
there live simple lives. When we set foot on the shore they were in a big ring
waiting to sell us the things they had made by hand. Most of it was baskets made
of palm fronds and shells and some carvings done in coconut. They are fairly
primitive since they do not have a lot of tools to aid in their handiwork. You
can see however that they are learning fast the advantages of selling their
merchandise to the cruise ships. So I expect the quality of their workmanship to
go up as time goes on. I was happy to get what handiwork was done without modern
tools. We bought a carving of a dolphin and I brought it home and oiled it.
We met a couple of guys from the states that were living there. They are making
lamps and selling them on the Internet. They were quite a price. I think my
dolphin done without the aid of a generator driven scroll blade and polisher is
much better piece of memorabilia.
Now, NCL had advertised that for $5 you could be on your own private beach with
just 200 other cruisers. Well we thought that was bad on a few counts. First I
think it is cheap of them to charge for this, and secondly I think that perhaps
all that you would see is their beach and not the people and the way they live
so we did not do this. As we went into the bay you could see the private party
on the other atoll. You could have swum across to it from the one that we landed
Although the island is pretty there was no place that you can swim from where we
were. The natives also had all of their fishing stuff all over the beach and
sticking up in the water. They have poles set to put their nets onto. I tried a
coconut for $1 where the guy takes a machete and makes a few swings and you have
the biggest drinking cup in the world. I did not care too much for the
taste of it and that was just as well as I found out later that it is nature's draino
We walked up the long dirt path until we came to the NCL School for the
children. The cruise line built this for the island perhaps as payment for the
"private beach" By now we were getting hot and the flies were out in
force. In an effort to make a decision to either continue on or turn around; we
saw some of the cruisers that rented bikes on the island coming towards and
asked them what was ahead? They said they rode for miles and did not see
anything more than the dirt path so that made our decision simple and we turned
After about 15 minutes we reached the tender area and we got back on the tender
and went to the ship. We are glad that we saw this island as we figure that in a
few years it will no
longer be unspoilt. The people are charming and friendly and the children are
sweet but already I saw signs of things to come. The little boy that came up and
asked for money was only one, but it is signs of the future. I felt
uncomfortable being there but it does make you realize that we have so much more
than these people can ever imagine having.
To anyone that wants to see Hawaii thoroughly, I would recommend a land based
trip, as long as the Passenger Services Act forces the cruise lines to go outside the US to
Fanning Island. This ate up three whole days that could have been spent on the
Islands. As we were told, it only takes 2 hours to see Fanning Island and that
is the truth.
Once back onboard E went to the movie and I wanted a nap, but first I went
to the Red Lion Pub where I knew they had free popcorn. Knowing E loves
popcorn I filled up two bags and took them back to the movie theatre. E was
surprised and burst out laughing because he knows how much I hate the stuff.
Needless to say we must have started a trend because the next day the line at
the Red Lion was out the door waiting for popcorn to haul up to the movie.
Tonight was the Presidents dinner where favorite dishes of past US presidents
were prepared. Once again we ate at a table for two and enjoyed our dinner with
each other. Then it was on to what was fast becoming our favorite hangout (the
Karaoke lounge) for the evening's entertainment and some refreshments. There
were a bunch of ladies there that were great fun and they were getting everyone
up to sing while avoiding doing it themselves. We left to catch the late
show in the Spinnaker Lounge. It was a comic show followed by a dance. We danced
a few times after the show had ended then headed back to the Karaoke lounge and
the ladies and their shenanigans. We all closed the place down and then went out
for the promenade walk before hitting the bed.
Thursday - At Sea On our way back to Hawaii
To go the long distance to and from Fanning Island, the ship really moves, so
both sea days were fairly rough. We had a restful day as we played trivia and
racked up some more prizes. We came home with a few huggies, key chains, beach
balls, bookmarks and 4 mugs. Obviously you can tell we like trivia. After trivia
E went out on deck and I went to the Pareo tying. I can now make a swimsuit or
evening dress out of my Pareo. We had enough the sun so we stayed in
most of the day. We went to the Spa and sat in the tub and hydrotherapy pool for
a while. Then we watched the not so newlywed game and walked the deck. I missed
the fat burner class. Darn! E was back at the movies and this time the whole
place had popcorn.
I went to lunch by myself, but only because I saw that they had Rhubarb pie
and custard. I was seated at a table and then waited until it filled up. I
ordered my pie. I said I was not with anyone so I did not want to
wait for them to reach that stage. I waited! Lunch took two hours mostly waiting
for people to fill the table, but I did order another piece to take to the
We went to dinner and then the variety show with the Star Chinese acrobats who
very good. Then we headed off to the disco for some dancing and a nightcap
before heading off to la-la land.
Friday - Kahului, Maui
We did not get here until 1:30 pm so you can see just how much time it takes to
Fanning Island back to the Hawaiian Islands. We spent the morning by playing
trivia and racking up more stuff. I missed "fight the female fat cell"!
Darn! We were booked for the Haleakala Crater tour.
We got off the ship early and walked to some stores that were nearby, and then
went back for the bus. The drive through the small town and countryside was fun
and interesting, our driver never stopped talking. As you climb up to the
top of the volcano you pass through clouds. It is the first time I have been
above the clouds and not in an airplane. The sky was clear blue, and the white
clouds lay at our feet. The views are terrific. The driver was telling us to be
on the lookout for the Hawaiian State Bird called the Nene (pronounced
"nay-nay") or Hawaiian Goose (branta sandwicensis). We saw
everything but I can see why it was nearly extinct! "Branta Sandwich"!
On the way back down, we were trying to delay the driver so that we could catch
the sunset. We were talking minutes here and could not figure out why he would
not stop for the 4 minutes left to sunset. So now it was our time to want a
potty break. We did get some amazing shots though. It must have been 7 when
we were dropped off at the ship.
We walked back to the stores and picked up a few things such as some cold
medicine as I felt the nasty cold coming on. When we returned to the ship it was
to find it in darkness. Apparently someone goofed while doing some work on one
of the electrical panels so once again my flashlight came in handy. This counted
out dining in the dining rooms so we headed up for the buffet. I was glad of the
piece of Rhubarb pie that I still had.
The Guest talent search was postponed until the lights came up.
Kudos to the
captain who constantly kept us informed even when there was really nothing to
Eventually the lights came on around 9:00 PM and we trooped into the show room
to watch the talent show. It was very good as we had some talented people on
this cruise. Some of them were better than some of the entertainers.
The rest of this night is a blur. I think this is the night that I was beginning
to come down with bronchitis and we went to the hot tub in the front of the
ship with a bottle of bubbly. E emptied the hot tub of people by telling them
that I was coming down with a head cold so we had it to ourselves. After a
relaxing dip and a few glasses of the bubbly we were well on our way to a very
Saturday - Nawiliwili, Kauai 8 am to 6 pm
are going on the Waimea canyon tour at 8.45, a 5-hour tour. So we get some
breakfast and get on the bus. We go through some real pretty places, and a stop
light way out in the middle of nowhere. We stopped at far too many stores on
this excursion. This bus driver must be getting one heck of a kickback. One of
the stops is at a shop that sells the necklaces made out of tiny Ni’ihau
shells. When you consider that a dozen shells would fit on your thumbnail, and
the most prized are as small as the letter o on this page, you can begin to
appreciate their beauty. These shells are only found on the forbidden island of
Ni’ihau. It is owned by the Robinson family (since 1864) and is off limits.
Only “true Hawaiian’s” live there. Hawaiian is the official language
spoken there. They also sell RED Earth T shirts for $25. Further down the
road they have them in a store window for $10… we do not stop there. Ditto the necklaces, as we see them later on for a better price.
Then we stopped at the Protea flower shop where they grow and sell 1500
varieties of these flowers. I am tired of all the stops. I am beginning to see
that this tour is really a three-hour tour with two hours added in for the
Finally we get to the canyon. I saw this canyon in the John Wayne film "Donavan’s
Reef" and always wanted to see it. It is called the "Grand
Canyon" of Hawaii and, although it is a small version, it is beautiful,
all the colors that I saw at the Grand Canyon many years ago. The scenery is
beautiful. We took many pictures. But guess what…? Remember the nay nay
bird??? Well we pull up in the parking area and there one is waiting for
everyone to take his picture.
This was a good tour, only spoilt by all the stops at shops. But I guess that
some people live to shop. I was amazed at the people getting back on the ship
with their Wal-mart bags. Once we returned to ship we took the free shuttle
(Anchor Cove) to the Anchor Cove Shopping Center and then took a short walk
across the bridge to the beach in back of the Marriott and spent an hour there.
We then did a small amount of shopping and took the shuttle back to the ship.
If you wish you can also take the Plantation Market Shuttle at no charge for a
scenic drive of approximately 20 minutes. There are also many other free shuttles to
places such as Hilo Hatties and other shopping locales for those that which to
Once back on the ship we went on deck for the sail away party and ate a few
things while drinking a few drinks. We packed the suitcases so that we were free
for the evening. About now the bronchitis had a good grip on me… all that
going up and down a few thousand feet packed it into my lungs. By now I felt as
if I was wading through water. We ate and then went to the final show… Cirque Asia and
it was very good. I know that I had to call a halt soon after that
and take myself to bed.
E went to take a last walk around the ship and to check out the color
code on our luggage and he found out that the NCL “freedom of disembark when
you want” has a big fat catch… yes, you can do that, but only if you KEEP
your entire luggage with you. If you put it outside the door then you get off
when they say. So he exchanged our color for one that suited our schedule and
NCL Star Conclusions
At first we were blown away by the beauty of the ship and all the restaurants
and how beautiful they were. It was only after a couple of days that it hits you
that the reason that there are no long lines for eating is because there are a
lot of restaurants. This is necessary to make Freestyle work and it does work.
The downside to this is many of the places that would be nice lounges to sit on
other ships are restaurants on this one. We often wandered through the
“Endless Summer” restaurant which was this beautiful room with great picture
windows looking out to sea on both sides that looked down into the atrium and it
was not in use! Many of these restaurants were only open for 4 hours a day and
sat idle the remainder of the time.
In fact that was the problem with the whole atrium. It is pretty, but except for
the small Java Café and one small shop that sells everything from postcards to
toothpaste there was nothing to keep you in the area. On other ships this is the
heart of the ship. A place to watch people, to sit and have a drink and watch
for friends. Here on this ship you have the purser’s desk and a bunch of
restaurants that do not open until evening. The end result is that this
beautiful ship is a floating restaurant.
As for the shops, they have put them all in one open room down at the stern,
with big doors that are closed a lot of the time. No windows… I wonder just
how busy they get, as most people did not even find them for days. And the
Columbian Emerald store has most of the space. There was not too much there at
This ship is filled with beautiful artwork, every set of stairs is a delight,
and the placement of mirrors at each end of the landings adds to the enjoyment.
All around the promenade deck there are murals on the walls, so at a glance you
can see what is inside the doors. The other problem with the promenade deck is
that on most ships there are nice loungers around the deck where people gather
and chat or read a book. On this ship they had these flimsy aluminum chairs with
nylon fabric and no foot rest. Many times we saw people using two chairs, one as
a foot rest and the other to sit in.
We thought the pool area would be great when we first saw that tiered effect.
But we thought it would be on at least two sides of the pool. Instead it is only
on one end and there is a large orange dual waterslide on the other end. We did
not think it got enough use to warrant it. It was an eyesore and it cut down on
the pool area so that it would have been impossible to have an island night
party there. It also meant that there was room for only two sets or stairs going
to the upper deck and they were both down one end. They have a great Internet
café onboard. We never used that one either
As for Freestyle Dining
Here is our take on it and we are all different so take our version for what its
worth. We wanted to sit with others, but if you ask for a big table then be
prepared to wait until the table is at least half full before they take your
order. Remember how on other ships you sit down and your waiter comes over right
away and gives you a menu? Forget it. Even when we were sitting on our own we
had to wait for some time before being handed a menu. One night I did not have a
bread plate because for some reason the waiter removed it, so I put a roll on
the table. He ignored it, so I cut it and buttered it… he never brought me a
plate. There is no real attention to detail here. Most of the time we were
seated on our own, because if they have started taking orders at a table then
they will not place you there, so this works both ways. I miss the traditional
seating where you can ask to be with a group. Where when you walk in your waiter
knows you and has your drink etc waiting. Where you are handed a menu at once
and your order taken shortly after and if you wish something can be substituted
(ex. Shrimp Cocktail, Key Lime Pie, Mashed Potatoes). With Freestyle forget any
substitutions or alterations to the menu as what you see is what you get. Where
you get to know the people that you are sitting with. Want to know what the
conversation is at the table on freestyle?
Monday ... Hi, I am Jane this is Al, where are you from?
Tuesday ... Hi, I am Pat this is Mike, where are you from?
Wednesday ... Hi, I am Fred this is Mary, where are you from?
Freestyle Dining may be the wave of the future for some people, but for us
it’s just not our cup of tea.
We headed up to get our last meal, and then wandered the decks for a while
before heading off to retrieve our luggage. This went smoothly and much too soon
we were on our way to the airport. About Honolulu airport… there are some
beautiful gardens in it. As we had some time before our flight, we headed down
there and stretched out on a bench in a pagoda and took a nap. We watched the
koi swimming around and a heron catching his lunch. Do not stay in the waiting
areas when you can be outside enjoying these gardens. All too soon we were
winging our way from Hawaii, my last look out the plane window showed me our
hotel, the great mural on the side of the Hilton and the Diamondhead crater.
This was a really great trip. We tried to be honest here with the review, but
please do not think that we did not enjoy either the ship or the cruise. It was
the trip of a lifetime.
Overall Ship Ratings
Service: "C" -- Got knocked down a notch due to lack of personal attention in
Entertainment: "A" -- The BEST entertainment either of us have seen at sea.
Shore Excursions: "B+" -- The shopping frenzy on the last excursion knocked it
down a notch.
Food Quality: "C" -- Lacked variety and was rather bland. Granted, we did not try
the specialty dining options.