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Copyright © 1995-2001 
Linda Coffman

m/s Patriot - United States Lines  
August 17-25, 2001
Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Hawaii

By Diana Goggin

Friday, August 17, 2001 – Honolulu, Oahu
Upon arriving at the Honolulu Airport in the late morning, I was delighted to see there was a United States Lines representative right at the gate, holding a sign that said “Patriot”. The cruise line
does have the “meet and greet” process down well. The rep took me and a couple straight to the van that would take us right to our hotel. She said that our luggage would be claimed and sent to the hotel and put directly in our rooms without any of us having to be there. Then began a series of problems with the line. The rep said that we would have to catch a shuttle at 6:30 in the morning to be taken to Maui Divers (an expensive coral and other jewelry factory store) for an orientation breakfast and pre-check-in for the cruise. I was shocked! I blurted out to her, “You must be kidding!”; however, she wasn’t. The literature I had received from US Lines said that pre-check-in and pre-selection of shore excursions would be at their service desk on the second floor of the hotel. After I checked in to the Radisson Prince Kuhio and settled into my room, I went to the service desk to make sure I wouldn’t be able to pre-check-in for the cruise without having to go to Maui Divers at 6:30 a.m. Well, there was a sign on the desk saying it was closed due to an emergency!

I then went on a walk of Waikiki and stopped at my usual haunts:  the ABC stores, International Marketplace, Liberty House, the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Mall, the “Pink Lady” herself (the Royal Hawaiian Hotel); then out onto the beach and a walk through the surf. Along the way, I had Korean barbeque at the International Marketplace, and then a McDonald’s chocolate sundae on the way back to the hotel. There wasn’t time to go everywhere I wanted to along Kalakaua, including Kapiolani Park at one end of Waikiki and the Hilton Hawaiian Village at the other end, but I did quite a bit that afternoon and early evening. At Liberty House I found a lovely long Hawaiian dress with white orchids on it, and I bought it to wear on the evening of the White Orchid dinner on the ship.

After I got back to my hotel room, I watched TV for a bit, but then fell asleep at 8:30 p.m. (11:30 p.m. in San Diego, and I had been up since 4:45 a.m.). 

Saturday, August 18, 2001 – Ship Day!
I woke up this morning before 5 a.m., so I had plenty of time to get ready for the 6:30 a.m. pickup. The shuttle did fill with other people in the hotel going on the cruise.

The breakfast at the orientation was good.  I had juice, a  blueberry & macadamia nut muffin, and an apple banana. I love apple bananas, and you can only get them in the islands. They are forbidden to be taken off Hawaii, so I can only have them there (I will tell about my incident at the airport later). They are a small banana, a bit sweeter, and I’m not allergic to them like I am to the large yellow bananas we get here on the mainland.

During breakfast, we were given a talk on the shore excursions for Oahu, and we were checked in for the ship. Unfortunately, the only shore excursions they would allow to be signed up for were the ones on this island for this morning and afternoon. That explains why they had the breakfast so early. Those going on the morning tours left from Maui Divers, and the afternoon tours left from the hotel. Those of us not going on a tour, went back to the hotel after a tour of the factory and showroom.

Since there was plenty of time before the 12:10 shuttle would arrive at the hotel to take me to the ship, I walked around Waikiki some more.

Upon arriving at Pier 11, I entered the cruise terminal to look for the desk for those passengers already checked in. I had not been told where it was located, and the terminal was mobbed with passengers waiting in long lines to check in. No one could tell me where the desk was, not even the two men passing out juice and water. I found an office with an officer in it, and I asked him. He pointed over the heads of the crowd to the back of the terminal and a tiny blue sign which could hardly be seen, especially by someone short like I am. I had to fight my way through all the people and just guess I was going the right way, as I couldn’t see the sign nor the desk until I got to the back of the terminal. There it was, with the tiny, short sign that said that desk was for pre-checked-in passengers. (I cannot understand why they don’t have that desk at the front of the terminal where it can be seen, or at least have a tall, larger sign which can be easily seen over the heads of the passengers waiting to check in.) There was only one person ahead of me, so I quickly got my passenger card. By this time it was 12:50 p.m., and embarkation wasn’t until 2 p.m. The other end of the terminal was very quiet compared to the checking-in end, and I sat there in one of the chairs set up in front of a small stage where Hawaiian entertainers were playing musical instruments, doing Hawaiian dances, and singing Hawaiian songs. The entire back wall of the terminal and the side wall at the quiet end are covered with beautiful murals of the old ship days with Matson Lines. They were really lovely, and I took photos at that end of the terminal.

Embarkation went smoothly, beginning shortly after 1:30 p.m. There was a long escalator to go up, and then the gangway from the upper level to the ship. I was impressed with US Lines service here – as soon as I stepped onto the Patriot, there was a crew member in Hawaiian attire who stepped up to me, took my carry-on, and then went with me in an elevator to my deck and thence my cabin. I saw several of these crew members at the entrance to the ship, so I’m sure most, if not all, of the passengers got this same service. I was very impressed, as I usually have to find my own cabin on a cruise ship. 

I had paid for the cheapest cabin (a small inside on the lowest deck at one end) on a special Singles Exclusive rate for this cruise (about $1,200 including air fare, which is great for a single), but the ship had upgraded me 3 levels to a larger outside cabin, on the same deck, but closer to mid-ship.  When I stepped into my cabin, it wasn’t at all what I had expected from prior reviews I had read. It was the largest cabin I’ve ever had on a cruise ship–-about the size of a small hotel room--and the porthole was larger than I thought it would be. The room was very clean and didn’t smell at all musty, and I had tons of closet space. I only had to use one of the two closets, and I brought a lot of clothes. There were also sufficient dresser drawers, and they had a neat feature--the top two drawers had keys in them for locking. You could put your valuables in them, lock the drawer, and take the key with you. Very secure, and no need for a safe.

Since I was on the lowest passenger deck, my porthole was just a very short distance above the water line, which I really liked. I still had a view, and when the ship was moving (mostly at night), the waves splashed against it. I almost felt like I was Captain Nemo on his futuristic submarine. The one unfortunate thing was that at 2 ports (2 days each) my view was blocked.

After unpacking my carry-on and looking at the ship information literature in my cabin, I went to the Outrigger Café to eat lunch. The Outrigger is like the Windjammer on RCI ships, but this one had a small pool deck at the stern. Many events were held on this deck, and there was a grill where you could get food for most of the day. They grilled chicken breasts, hot dogs, and hamburgers, with great fixings and Maui potato chips, as well as French fries. Just inside the door of the Outrigger at the deck end was an ice cream counter set up all the time, too. The ice cream was very good, and you could get vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry; plus, there were several toppings if you wanted to make a sundae – chocolate, caramel, and coconut syrup, as well as sprinkles and whipped cream.  

That first welcoming buffet lunch was fantastic and superior to the buffets on the other days, except for the little French pastries they had at every buffet – little chocolate éclairs with crème inside, fruit tarts, frosted brownies, little cakes (carrot, strawberry, etc.), large pieces of pie, etc. At this first buffet, they had a large number of hot entrees, and I had a delicious fillet of salmon and a teriyaki chicken breast. I also chose a wonderful salad made with chunks of ham, bean sprouts, cherry tomatoes, and sliced black olives. I also tried the German potato salad, which was very good. There were many hot side dishes, too (even at the other buffets).  

After lunch, I went to the Excursions Desk to sign up for my shore excursions on Kauai and Maui. By the way, it is very easy to find your way around on this ship. Most everything is on Deck 6 (Broadway) – Outrigger Café, outdoor pool, an activity deck, Stars and Stripes Showroom (where the live shows were held – I learned that a trade cruise magazine gave the Patriot top rating for its entertainment), gift shops (5th Avenue), Excursions Desk, a lounge and bar, the Princess Kaiulani Theater (where new movies were shown all day and evening and where talks were given), and then at the bow end were the conference and computer rooms. 

Deck 5 (Main) has the Manhattan Dining Room and the Purser’s Desk. 

Deck 7 (Promenade) has a wrap-around wide wood deck with lounge chairs that do not get in the way at all of people “promenading” around the deck. Deck 7 has the most beautiful part of the ship – the Destination Learning Center and Lanai, and the Kumu Study. These areas are done in “elegant Hawaiian” with lots of plants, and very comfortable deep-cushioned furniture to lounge around on. The Learning Center has all sorts of board games you can play on a large rectangular beautiful wood table, and it also is where the kumu (teacher) gave talks on ancient Hawaii and the different islands. She also taught Hawaiian arts and crafts. A kumu is an older Hawaiian who has learned the ancient culture of Hawaii from elders who have passed it down to those who want to be a kumu. Ours was a very lovely lady.

My cabin was in a great location for most everything. I was in a separate little hallway with just one other cabin, and this was near the aft passenger stairs. I could just walk 3 flights up to enter the Manhattan dining room by the back door (kept unlocked) and then 1 more flight up to enter the Outrigger Café and the rest of the stuff on Broadway Deck. The exercise did me good, as I never used the elevator and did the stairs several times a day. I also kept pretty active, so I only gained 3 pounds on this cruise, compared to the 1 pound a day I normally gain.

Anyway, at the Excursions Desk to sign up for my shore excursions, I found a mad house. There were so many people milling around and standing in line in that small area. I am used to either pre-paying for excursions and mailing my requests to the cruise line ahead of time, or having a shore excursion form sitting on my bed the first day. So I was not prepared for the procedure on the Patriot. Again, because of the mob of people, I could not readily reach the forms that needed to be filled out – one for each excursion (!) (instead of having them all on one sheet). I finally found the different colored forms for each excursion I wanted to go on. Due to the crowd, I could not see the small sign saying you only stand in line if you have questions, and that you drop your request forms into a small wood box with a slot in the top. Neither could I see the box with all the people hiding it. Finally, the next day I saw they had put a large whiteboard on an easel at the entrance to the Excursions area. Someone had written on it that the lines were just for questions. You would think that after 36 cruises (this was the 37th cruise for the Patriot) that someone would have thought of this before.

After all this, I was able to get off the ship around 3 p.m. I took a free trolley ride  to the Hilo Hattie’s factory and store, as I always like to go there on my trips to the islands. I started going there on my very first trip 30 years ago. (Incidentally, this was my 25th trip to the islands.)

After I returned to the ship, I saw my large suitcase was in my cabin, and I unpacked. Since the first night’s dinner in the dining room was open sitting and was at 6:30 p.m., I opted not to go there, as that was too early to eat again after the big buffet lunch around 2 p.m. Instead, around 8 p.m. I went to the Outrigger Café and dined on fish, shrimp salad, carrots with pearl onions, cantaloupe, and 2 of the little French pastries.

The lifeboat drill was at 8:30 p.m., so I went back to my cabin to get my life vest. This is the first drill I’ve been in where the crew members were included. I couldn’t believe how many crew members were assigned to my muster station (20). After the drill, I went back to my cabin and finished unpacking (I told you I brought a lot of clothes <g>). Then I went to the Stars and Stripes showroom for the Welcome Show. This was so different than the luxurious theaters that are on the new cruise ships. The 50’s décor showroom was reminiscent of my cruise on the Independence 16 years ago – cocktail tables and chairs set around a small, short stage. In spite of this, the entertainers were excellent. 

When I got back to my cabin, I saw we were underway (never felt the ship leave, as was to be the case at every port). In fact, waves were splashing up against my porthole. Reminded me of looking at a windowed washing machine with suds and water hitting the circular window. It was really neat, and I enjoyed it, as you don’t have scenery at night anyway. (This ship sails only at night, with every day in port.)

Sunday, August 19, 2001 – Kauai (Day One)
I woke up very early this morning – 5 a.m.  At 7 a.m. I noticed we were already docking at Nawiliwili Harbor! The ship wasn’t due to dock until 4 p.m., and this was supposed to be the one day at sea. (I found out later that on the cruise the week before, high waves caused some passengers to get seasick as the ship circuited the island. So this week the captain decided not to give the day at sea, in favor of docking early.) As the ship docked, I noticed it getting darker and darker in my cabin. My outside cabin was turning into an inside one! Then I saw that my porthole was right up against a big tire below the edge of the pier. Of course, I had to be on the side (port) where the ship is tied up against the pier! 

After breakfast in the Outrigger, I went to the Computer Room to e-mail my daughter, as we had been playing phone tag while I was on Oahu the day before. The charge is 75 cents a minute, vs. 50 cents a minute on RCI ships. When I got to the attendant desk outside the room, I saw she was gone. So I went into the room with its numerous computer terminals, and saw that only two were working. I sat at one and read the instructions for logging in. I followed the instructions to the letter, and my password was invalid. This meant I had to wait for the attendant. I left the area and checked back two more times during the morning. I finally saw her at the desk, and approached her with a big smile on my face while saying, “I’m so glad you’re here!” She glared at me like I was an intruder. I told her that I had tried to e-mail my daughter earlier and that my password wasn’t being accepted. She told me in a surly manner that there were only two terminals working (and it remained that way throughout the cruise) and both were being used. I asked her when they would be available, and she just shrugged her shoulders. In the meantime, I asked her if she would assign me a password, as the one I was told to use wasn’t being accepted. Again, she just shrugged her shoulders. So then I told her I would have to wait until a terminal was free as I needed to contact my daughter.

I sat at one of the non-working terminals, and waited and waited and waited. Both men at the working terminals had heard my exchange with the attendant, but neither one said anything. Finally, I asked them if they could give me an estimate as to when they would be done. One man didn’t answer, and finally the second one spit out, “5 minutes!” I thanked him, and then he turned around and started shouting at me, saying it was people like me who made things rough for other people! At this point, my Irish temper flared up, and I shouted back at him to not start in with me as I could give back as much as he could give. I am normally a polite, friendly person, but when I’m pushed too far (and this was the last straw along with all the other problems I’d been having with the cruise line and ship), I turn into a female version of the Hulk <g>. However, I do cool off quickly. At this point, the attendant came to the door of the room and scolded me saying, “Ma’m, you should be talking that way.” I looked at her in astonishment and said that this man had started the whole thing and had begun shouting at me for no reason. She just glared at me and left. At that point, the man also left, and I sat at his terminal. I still needed a valid password, and she finally gave me one that worked. I checked through the subject lines of my Yahoo! e-mail and deleted ones that were spam or that I didn’t want to read. Then I wrote a message to my daughter and one to my son.  I was online less than a half-hour, and the bill came to $22! I didn’t go on until 2 days later and e-mailed my kids that would be my last time writing them, as the cost was too high. I spent just a short time online, but this second bill was $18.  A total of $40 for less than an hour online!

After I finished up in the computer room, I went to the dining room to find the maitre’d for a dining assignment (I learned that other singles weren’t given dining assignments ahead of time either; they must have planned to fit us in one-by-one wherever there was space at a table. This is a bad way to do it and, as another single said to me, they can tell which people are traveling alone or with a different last name than their cabin mate, and they should try to put these single people with each other at the same tables.)  The maitre d’ had no idea who was at the table of 8 he assigned me to. I did get the main seating I had asked for, though. The time wasn’t too bad – 8:15 p.m. vs. 5:45 p.m. for early seating.

After that I went to the shore excursion talk and then back to my cabin to get ready for lunch and leaving the ship. I planned to walk the 10 minutes to the ritzy Marriott Resort nearby. It had been a Westin until Hurricane Iniki hit and devastated Kauai 9 years ago. The Westin had been a real showplace with many art treasures, a zoo, carriage rides through the grounds, a huge pool with columns and fountains, and a gorgeous beach. I had visited there before when I sailed on the Independence 16 years ago and one other time after that. Marriott has made many changes to the main structure of the resort. Gone is the large decorative pool/fountain with large statues of horses “racing” through the water. Instead, there is a more natural scene with a large pond and tropical foliage and a small waterfall. The zoo and carriage rides are gone, but the beach is just as beautiful. The enormous, elaborate pool was kept the same, and I sat on the terrace level above it, just like my daughter and I did so long ago.

This evening I went to the Captain’s Cocktail Party. It started at 7 p.m. for Main Seating, but I was late, as usual for these things, not arriving until 7:40 p.m. I totally assumed I would miss the receiving line again, and be just in time in the Stars & Stripes showroom for a cocktail and hors d’oeuvre and to hear the captain’s speech. On the contrary! I was very surprised to see Captain Zarnoff was still greeting people and having his picture taken with them. After I passed through the line, I went into the showroom and found a seat near the stage (it’s always easy to find a good seat when you’re alone!). Shortly after that, the captain came in, and he had us laughing our heads off during his speech. He could be a standup comic – he’s that good – and it’s not that it’s a canned speech; he can improvise, too. His speech was running into dinner time (8:15 p.m.), and a few people got up to leave. He stopped talking, watched them going out in the direction of the dining room, and he said to their backs, “You know, they won’t start dinner until I say so.” Then he turned to the rest of us and said that he could order the dinner to be brought into where we were seating, and they wouldn’t get any food at all. Of course, that brought more laughs. He talked about the Patriot and the new ships that are being built for U.S. Lines, and he said that they are very proud of being all Americans on the ship. (The ship is so patriotic, in fact, that every morning at 8, an announcement comes over the public speaker reaching even into the cabins. We are told, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand for the national anthem,” and then the Star Spangled Banner is played. The words are even on a sheet of paper in each cabin. One morning I was still in bed at 8, and I wasn’t about to get up <g>. Another morning I was in the Outrigger for breakfast, and everyone stopped eating, and we stood up with our hands over our hearts until the music ended. I think it’s really special that they do that.)

After the captain finished his speech, we all headed to the dining room. My table was for 8, and there were 3 couples already sitting there, so I was put at the end. They were nice people, but they were only interested in including me in the conversation after they found out I had been coming to the islands for 30 years and could give them some tips on where to go and what to see. After dinner, I went right back to my cabin, as I had to get up early.

Monday, August 18, 2001 – Kauai (Day Two)
I awoke to a flooded bathroom. Luckily, there’s a high lip to the bathroom door entrance to prevent water from entering the remainder of the cabin. As soon as I stepped over the threshold, I was in water. I had to go, though, so I sat on the toilet seat – right into more cold water that was up to the seat!  After I finished, I called the Purser’s Office to report the problem. They said there had been plumbing problems during the night. (I found out later that some people had been
without water beginning about 3 a.m.  I guess it all went to my bathroom <g>.)  After all this, I was left with only 30 minutes to get ready for breakfast and my Hanalei Coast tour. I ate in the Outrigger and then headed right to the Stars & Stripes where the tours were meeting.

Because Hanalei has several one-lane bridges, we went in a van rather than a large bus, thank goodness. I dislike going on large tour buses with many people. This was a great tour, and the tour driver was very knowledgeable. I even learned some new things. She said that August is a rainy month, and it did rain off and on, but not too much. In the islands, the rain comes and goes. Wait a few minutes, and you get the sun again. I also asked the driver about Dole on Oahu. She said the company is completely gone from that island (I knew they had closed the cannery and store and that the large pineapple replica water tower had been torn down, but I didn’t know that the pineapple fields and the store there were also gone. So sad.

The Hanalei coast is very beautiful. We headed north up the coast from the port and visited several lovely spots along the way, including a view of the Opaeaka’a Falls used in the opening shot of Fantasy Island. We passed through Princeville (my favorite spot on Kauai), and then over the first one-lane bridge through the little funky town of Hanalei. Princeville and Hanalei are on cliffs overlooking Hanalei Bay, where most of “South Pacific” was filmed. At one end of the bay, you can see the mountain  outcropping that was used for the island of Bali Hai in the movie. After leaving Hanalei, we continued on to where the road ends at Haena Beach – very isolated and quiet.

On the way back, we stopped at the Hanalei Valley lookout and took photos of the beautifully green valley with it’s taro fields and mountains. There was a fruit stand there, and I got some of the apple bananas I love. This was a morning tour, and I returned to the ship at 12:45 p.m. I had lunch at the Outrigger, and then took a free shuttle over to the K-Mart store. (At every port on this cruise, there were free shuttles waiting to take passengers to various places.) I needed to replace the socks I had left behind in the hotel room, and I wanted to get a fanny pack to replace the one I had traveled with and that I discovered had a defective zipper. This K-Mart had all sorts of Hawaiian stuff, too, and I got a pretty Hawaiian design fanny pack for just $5.99. I also got a solid black one for $6.99. They are both really well made and hold a lot. I also got two Hawaiian t-shirts for just $3.32 apiece, and a really pretty Hawaiian sundress for $20.

After returning to the ship, I looked for my photos in the Photo Gallery and bought one (5 x 7) for $8.95! Geez, these things are getting expensive now! I then got an ice cream sundae at the back of the Outrigger and sat out on the deck to eat it and watch the hula show being put on at the stern beyond the pool. While I was sitting alone, a couple I had made friends with at Maui Divers in Honolulu, called me over to sit with them at an umbrella table they were sharing with a couple of other people. They said some spots had opened up at their table and invited me to get my table changed to theirs (which I did later). 

After the show, I returned to my cabin to rest before dinner. I was surprised that the ship was already underway (it leaves and docks so quietly) and that I had waves hitting against my porthole instead of a tire.

I went to my changed table at dinner, and enjoyed being with my new friends, but--again-–it was all couples at the table, and I felt a bit out of place. We are all very disappointed about the lack of service in the dining room. And, unlike the other ships I’ve been on, dessert was ordered at the same time as your other items. Not many people know what they want for dessert before they’ve eaten. And I missed having the actual desserts presented on a tray at the end of the meal, with the waiter explaining each one so that you know better what to order. There were so many things lacking, including having to ask for my beverage every evening instead of it being brought automatically. When I asked for tea, I was brought the cup and tea bag, but no hot water. I would get it about a half hour later! Entrees and desserts were often mixed up, and the waiter or assistant would have to go back for the right item. We hardly ever saw the waiter, and the assistant waiter (or waitress) was gone quite a bit of the time, too. And this was at all three tables I eventually sat at. Also, the dining room is set up strangely. It’s left open all the time, even the back door, through which I mostly entered, as the stairs by my cabin led directly there. The walkway is right through the service area, as the stations line each side of a narrow walkway. The service people and the passengers have to put up with almost running into each other. And I would have to walk through the dining room to get to the Purser’s Desk!

Tuesday, August 19, 2001 – Maui (Day One)
I awoke early this morning, but didn’t get up until 9 a.m. We docked at Kahului at 8 a.m., and--again--I had a big tire against my porthole. This time, however, it’s a much fatter tire, so the ship is out a little further from the pier, and I have a little bit of light. The toilet is still not working right, and has been running all the time, with no water in the bowl. It’s flushed by pushing a button in the wall, which works some of the time, and at other times it waits several minutes to flush. I was startled at times when this happened and I forgot I had pushed the button earlier. 

At breakfast in the dining room, I talked with a couple who said their toilet was the same way, and they heard that another cabin had gotten completely flooded and ruined, so of course the people had to be moved to another one. The couple I talked with were on their first cruise, and they had paid $4,000 total for their cabin and airfare (vs. my $1,200 as a single)! They were really disappointed with the ship after paying that much money for an ordinary cabin. They had been told by others, though, that this experience is not typical of cruising. We veteran cruisers have all been telling the first-timers this. And I’ve had people tell me they knew this wouldn’t be a good ship but they came on it in order to see Hawaii at a low price (we’re the ones that got the bargains). The couple at breakfast said they knew of another couple who had paid $5,700 total for an ordinary cabin! They also said that dining assignments were very disorganized (my favorite word to describe the way things were handled by many of the crew and the cruise line). When the assignments were originally made, they did such things as splitting up families to different tables and even to different seating times!

(By the way, there is no casino on the ship due to gaming laws in Hawaii.)

At 10:55 this morning the power went out. I was in my cabin, and luckily I had a little outside light coming in. Thank goodness I hadn’t ended up with an inside cabin! The captain announced shortly after, that the power loss was due to a voltage surge. (This poor, old ship!) Luckily, the outage was only for a few minutes. However, I had planned to send a second e-mail to my daughter and son, and when I got to the Computer Room, I found that the two working terminals had automatically shut down during the power loss, and the attendant was nowhere around (as usual) to turn them back on. Other people waiting to use them were very upset, too.

After lunch, I left the ship to meet my Iao Valley tour on the pier. I thought I had signed up for the Iao Valley and Needle/Plantation tour, which views the valley from above, followed by a visit to a plantation. However, I had mistakenly signed up for the Iao Valley Rainforest “Walk,” which wasn’t even listed for the day I had picked for the tour. So I blame part of this on the Excursions Desk. Anyway, I knew something was different when only 7 of us were on the mini-bus, and the driver left after dropping us off at a Heritage Nature Center in the valley. When I found out what I had gotten myself into (I’m a walker, not a hiker), I almost panicked, as the driver had left and there was nothing else around there. I had no choice but to go on the hike, and a couple of the women said they would help me. Anne, from my first dining table, was there and another woman – Carol – both said they would help me. Carol said she would stay behind me and push me over the rocky inclines if necessary. There were just two men in our group, as the guide was a woman, too. Carol is 54 and Anne is 67 (I saw their ages when I signed a waiver form (yikes!) where our age is required, and I was glad to know there was someone older than I – if Anne could do it, then I could certainly try. We were also provided with walking sticks, which was in some way both scary and reassuring.

I was so glad I had worn my Reebok “Survivor” sandals, as they have a lot of tread and proved to have good traction on the slippery rocks. With the help of my friends, I made it over the steeper rocky inclines and declines along the very narrow ancient Hawaiian trail through part of the valley.  Everyone was so proud of me for having done it. This is a nature preserve owned by the State of Hawaii, and protected from trespassers. Only those who hire a guide from the Heritage Center are allowed onto the property. It was very beautiful, and there were times we had rest stops and could look around at the beauty. Besides rocks, there were tree roots, and – in some places – large, round, hard kukui nuts strewn on the path, so walking was quite difficult – even to the others. In fact, at one place everyone had to be helped over a very steep and narrow rocky incline. The guide stood on a rock on one side, and a man in the group stood on the other side to help all of us up and over. We hiked beside and over the raging river in the valley, and at one point where there was a calm spot, we saw two men skinny dipping! I got a photo of that <g>. Many of the plants and trees in the valley are native Hawaiian and in danger of becoming extinct.

Even though I stressed over this hike, I was glad I had done it, or I would have missed the quiet beauty of Iao Valley. Also, I wouldn’t have met Carol, and her friend, Karin – both single teachers from Santa Rosa, Calif. Carol and I became good friends – first because we both helped each other:  Carol helping me over the rocks, and me helping her over the high narrow bridge over the river (she has a latent fear of heights). But then we found we had so much in common – even the same astrological sign, Pisces. We are planning to stay in touch and perhaps travel together in the future.

Both Karin and Carol wanted me to switch to their dining table and said that there were all single women at it, so of course I said “yes,” as I had more in common with them than the couples I was sitting with. When we got back to the ship, I anxiously found the maitre d’, hoping he wouldn’t kill me for switching tables again, but he was very nice about it. So I ended up sitting at 3 different tables (the first time ever) on this cruise. The only drawback was that I wasn’t sure of the table number (14), and he didn’t know the names of the people at the table. So he showed me where that table was, and I asked the waiter. He couldn’t remember any names (surprise! Heh heh), but he did remember it was all women at the table. The maitre d’ said he would take me to the table at dinner so that I could see if it was the right table. Well, I knew Carol and Karin wouldn’t be there, as they were going off the ship for an evening Hawaiian show. They had said Ginger, a travel agent, should be there, as well as the other ladies at the table – two sisters who are both R.N. educators at the same school. Since I just retired from a university, I could see this was going to be an academic table <g>. And, since my daughter is a travel agent, I knew I would have something in common with Ginger, too. Alas, no one else showed up, and I finally gave my order to the assistant waitress. While I was halfway through the main course, Carole and Erma, the two nurses, showed up at the table and looked very surprised to see me. I explained that Karin and Carol had invited me, and they were happy about it. We had a great time chatting through the rest of the meal.

Wednesday, August 20, 2001 – Maui (Day Two)
This morning I took the tour bus to Lahaina at 9 a.m., about an hour away from Kahului. The driver was giving information on the island, and then he started asking some general Hawaii questions of us. I was the only one yelling out the answers, and he was amazed I knew all that information. He announced that I was “akamai” (smart) and that he was going to turn the microphone over to me to finish the ride. He also said they are hiring tour drivers for Roberts of Hawaii if I wanted to apply <g>. 

Lahaina is a small, old whaling town and very pretty. It runs along the waterfront with many little shops. I did some shopping and took some pictures, and then took the return bus at 2 p.m. When I got back to the ship, it was too late for lunch in the Outrigger or the dining room, so I went to the grill on the pool deck for the first time. The food was very good, and I had an ice cream sundae for dessert.

Everyone was at the table this evening for dinner, and they all agreed that it was meant to be for me to go on the hike the day before. We chatted a lot and laughed a lot and had a great time. As usual, service was poor, and there were a lot of mistakes in the food orders, but we just laughed about it. This certainly isn’t a polished crew. It was becoming the rule rather than the exception for errors to happen, and I just accepted it and called it a comedy of errors. It became hilarious after a while.

Thursday, August 21, 2001 – Hilo, Hawaii
I woke up this morning to daylight. Yay! No tire against my porthole--this time, the ship is docked on the starboard side. I have a very pretty view across the water to another part of the Big Island. 

After breakfast I took the free shuttle to the Prince Kuhio Shopping Mall. The mall is all by itself in a beautiful scenic area, and has all kinds of stores – Liberty House, Sears, J. C. Penney, Longs Drug Store, Blockbuster, Safeway, Borders, and lots of smaller stores. It’s a very modern, large mall – most of it indoors. I shopped ‘til I dropped, and came back to the ship too late for lunch. So back to the grill again. I first stopped by my cabin to drop off my bags, and I saw there were crew members in their life vests stationed along the corridor. When I left to go up the stairs to the Outrigger, there were two crew members almost blocking the stairs, along with another man from the Coast Guard. He was yelling questions at them, like a panicked passenger would do, and he told them they had to know the answers, as the passengers would be panicked and don’t know the ship like they do. When I got up to the grill, I learned that there was a major Coast Guard safety drill going on. It’s held every 3 months, and the crew spends 2 weeks training for it. Because of the drill, the ice cream station was closed, but I did have a special treat:  As I was sitting just inside the Outrigger with my grill food, I was startled to see through the large window by my table that a lifeboat was being lowered with crew members in it. And then I saw more lifeboats being lowered, also with crew members. Abandon ship! Of course, I had realized by then that it was part of the Coast Guard drill. The lifeboats circled around in the harbor, and it was great to watch. I took photos, of course.

Since this was the next to the last day of the cruise, and I would be busy tomorrow, I did most of my packing after I returned to my cabin. Under my door I had found an envelope. When I opened it, I saw it was from the captain. He was giving a $50 credit to each cabin for the “inconvenience caused by unexpected maintenance problems” that had occurred on the ship. That certainly helped me think better of the cruise <g>. I then rested before dinner. Tonight was the White Orchid Dinner – formal Hawaiian. I wore the white orchid dress I bought at Liberty House, along with a beautiful shell necklace and a flower wreath around my head. I got a lot of compliments on how I looked, and even my cabin steward Robert was taken aback when I came out of my cabin. He said I looked beautiful and like an angel. And he did say he wasn’t “jiving” – he really meant it, so I felt very flattered.

At dinner I had a whole lobster, and then Cherries Jubilee for dessert. It was a surprise, and amusing, when the assistant waitress came with lobster bibs for all of us and then proceeded to tie them on us. She and the waiter came around to each of us when we had our lobsters, and removed the meat from the shells. So they did do right with that. 

After dinner, I went out on the deck above to watch the captain renewing the wedding vows for several couples on the pool deck. It was very beautiful under the stars, with the Hawaiian Wedding Song being played. Then, as had been announced, I went to the starboard side to see the lava flow from Kilauea Volcano as we sailed by the that side of the island. It glowed orange in the dark of the island, and was spectacular to see.

Friday, August 24, 2001 – Kona, Hawaii
This is the one port we had to tender in. Kona keeps a 450-passenger size tender at the port for all the cruise ships that anchor in the harbor. It would be unusual for more than one ship to be there at the same time, so it worked out well. The problem is that the tender runs only once an hour, so you need to keep an eye on the time or you could miss it and have to wait an hour for it to come back. After I got on the tender and sat down, I saw Karin, Carol, and Ginger coming on, too, so I called them over. They were going to spend some time shopping in Kona and then head over in a taxi to a beach 10 minutes away where you can snorkel and see sea turtles. Since I was meeting an old classmate from high school who now lives in Kona, I couldn’t spend much time with them. We walked over to a nearby hotel (King Kamehameha), where I called my friend, and then we found a couple of really good shops to browse in – very good prices for quality merchandise. 

At noon I met Mary Ann at the Kona Inn Restaurant up Alii Drive. She was there with two guests who were leaving that evening. The food was very good, and we had a beautiful view of the beach and ocean and of the ship.  After lunch, Mary Ann drove us to her house up on a hill – about a 5- or 10-minute drive from town. Her house is very beautiful – on ½ acre and a view of the ocean. She has all kinds of fruit and nut bearing trees – coffee, papaya, huge avocados, etc. It is a very beautiful setting, and the living room and master bedroom overlook this view across a long lanai that stretches along that side of the house and around at one end. Mary Ann and I reminisced about our high school days and what had happened to various people. Sadly, I learned that the three most popular kids in my class – Student Body president, homecoming queen, etc. – are all now gone. It was such a shock to me, as I had really looked up to these kids, and I never pictured them as not existing any more.

Mary Ann drove me to the tender dock to catch the 4:30 p.m. tender. As I was waiting in line, I saw Carol and Ginger walking towards me, so they got in line with me. Somehow they lost Karin, and we assumed she went back on an earlier tender or would be on the last one at 5:30. (Another example of disorganization with this ship was that the activity schedule for the day said that the ship was leaving at 5:30, and the last tender back from shore would be at 5:30! As it turned out, the ship wasn’t leaving until 6 p.m., but that’s still cutting it close. Every other cruise I’ve been on has wanted all the passengers to be back an hour before the ship sails.)

Ginger and Carol were hungry, as they hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I went up to the Outrigger with them to have an ice cream sundae, as I was still full from lunch at the restaurant.

I then went back to my cabin to finish packing, and I noticed at 7:30 p.m., the ship still hadn’t lifted the anchors to leave the harbor.  Then the captain announced that the two anchors were tangled, and they couldn’t get them loose!  Evidently, it had happened when the ship had lowered the anchors upon arrival in Kona’s harbor. I was told they had been trying all day to get the anchors separated from each other. The captain announced that they were continuing to work on the anchors and that he didn’t think it would affect our arrival time in Honolulu the next morning (!). 

At dinner, the anchors were still tangled, and as we ate, we noticed that the lights on shore started shifting. At first, we thought we were moving out of the harbor, but after a short time we realized that the ship was moving around trying to get the anchors loose. We kept kidding each other that we would be on the ship for days, stuck in Kona Harbor, and we told the servers that we would see them at dinner the next night <g>.

When I went back to my cabin at 10:20 p.m., we were still stuck in Kona Harbor! After a while, they got the anchors loose, and we were finally on our way. 

Saturday, August 25, 2001 -- Honolulu
I was so surprised when I woke up at 7:15 in the morning to find that we were already docked in Honolulu! The captain must have known a shortcut or something. In fact, I heard we got there at 4 a.m.! That shows how much time is spent at sea that isn’t necessary, as the islands are fairly close together. Of course, I like time at sea, but it’s not necessary in Hawaii.

Disembarking was done differently than on other cruises I’ve been on, but it went smoothly. We all had to vacate our cabins by 9 a.m., and the ship by 9:30 a.m. What was the same is that we had different colored luggage tags for when we would be picked up by a bus to take each of us to the airport, on a shore excursion, or to a hotel. My flight was fairly early – 1:30 p.m. – so my group was being picked up at 11 a.m. All the check-in luggage had been taken directly to the airport (no claiming of luggage on the dock). Luckily, the Aloha Tower and Marketplace are right by the ship, so I took my carry-on and wandered around that area. The bus to the airport came on time, and then the wonderful experience of getting the luggage and getting checked in. Those of us flying on American had to go through two inspections, the first one where we had to open our check-in luggage and declare that it didn’t look any differently than when we had packed (no smugglers had touched it) and then we went through the usual agricultural inspection, and here’s where I almost got into trouble. I packed an apple banana in my carry-on to eat in the airport while I was waiting for the plane. I had forgotten about it, and when that piece of luggage went through the inspection x-ray, I was asked if I was carrying bananas. I said “no”, but the inspector took the case with him to inspect it again. When he came back, he looked at me very suspiciously and asked again if I was carrying bananas. I told him I just had one apple banana which I was planning to eat in the airport. He was so angry with me and asked why I didn’t admit it when he first asked me, and that I couldn’t carry it beyond that point. So I got it out and ate it there in front of him. He was going to make me go back out of the inspection area and then pass through again after I was done with the banana. I looked at him in disbelief, so he just let me eat it there. They really protect those bananas. Remember, I mentioned previously that they won’t let any apple bananas leave the islands.

Well, after that hurdle, everything went amazingly smoothly. I’m used to flights leaving Honolulu late and just missing the last flight to San Diego from LAX. Usually, I have to bussed down to San Diego, which is a horrible experience concerning all that is involved in that.  However, in fact, we arrived at LAX a few minutes early, and I was at the gate in plenty of time.  After I was sitting on the plane, I realized  - with astonishment - that I was actually going to be flying down to San Diego.  And there was my daughter waiting at the gate for me. It was so nice to be home!

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