We arrive in Nawiliwili harbour at 7AM this morning. I am taking an early snorkel excursion to Poipu Beach, but I have time to grab a cappuccino in the Explorer’s Cafe and some scrambled eggs from the Lido before clearing the ship and finding my snorkel tour group in the terminal building. We are soon off in two 9-passenger vans to the assembly point where we are given fins, a wet suit, and snorkel and mask for those who need it (I always bring my own snorkel and mask)). We are then driven to Poipu Beach, but after some serious discussion by the tour leaders, they decide to cancel the snorkel. The water is too rough and the waves breaking onto the beach are too aggressive for our group to safely enter the water.
Actually, I’m relieved, since even before they told everyone about the cancellation, I was concerned about the wave action. In any case, if we had gone in, there would be nothing to see with all the sand being stirred up from the bottom by the big waves.
I peal off my wetsuit and pull on some shorts and a shirt so I’m more comfortable. Apparently this is the first time in four years they have had to cancel a snorkel tour. We help ourselves to the soft drinks and snacks they provide before we are taken on a scenic drive, and then back to the ship to say our goodbyes to the good folks at Sea Fun Kauai. There’s always next time!
My friends and I have dinner in the Lido this evening. Two of us have the Filet Mignon and another has thick-cut roast beef. It was all very good…perhaps one of our best meals on this cruise. Despite being a casual, buffet-style restaurant, the Lido serves excellent food, which is especially appreciated when you want to skip the formal table service available in the other restaurants aboard ship.
We go ashore to walk along Front Street on Lahaina’s shoreline. The tenders take a long time to move people ashore…in fact, we initially give up on it, but eventually take a number and wait almost an hour to leave the ship. Returning to the ship just before noon presents no problems. We are glad to leave the hot and crowded Lahaina street for the air conditioned ship.
After having our afternoon beer, we have dinner in the main dining room. I have Kauai-Style Poke, which is raw tuna and salmon marinated in sesame, tomatoes, ginger, avocado with a sesame kalbi dressing – very good! My friends find the Macademia Crusted Lamb Leg is also very tasty.
The glitzy production on the main stage tonight is called One World, featuring Eurodam’s singers and dancers. It doesn’t appeal to me much, despite being well-performed with some aerial spinning. The concussion sounds they use finally drive me out of the theatre. Back in my cabin, I pull out my snorkel and mask, and prepare my GoPro camera for underwater use, since tomorrow morning I’m taking a snorkel excursion on Kaua’i.
I go to the Explorations Cafe this morning for a cappuccino, muesli, and blueberry cake, and then I disembark the ship early. I walk a few blocks to Kaka’ako Waterfront Park, however I really have to screw up my courage to walk through this park, since there are so many homeless people camped out. The shoreline is beautiful, and when I get to Panic Point, I’m rewarded with a beautiful view of the Honolulu boat basin, Waikiki Beach, and Diamond Head in the distance (see above banner image). A local guy tells me the park will be closed this evening at 10PM by the city until further notice while they evict the squatters and clean up the park. I see the eviction signs as I leave the park and head back along Ala Moana Boulevard to the ship, which is only a few blocks away.
I have brunch in the Lido after returning to the ship, and then go for a swim in the Sea View Pool. I buy a dozen beer from the bar on my way back to my cabin, since they are selling some pretty good beer from Alaska 2 for 1, although at $6/bottle, it is still expensive! I toss the lei I received upon landing in Hilo into the harbour. It floats, which tradition tells us means I will return to Hawai’i some day – a pretty sure thing!
My friends and I have dinner at Canaletto Italian restaurant aboard ship this evening. I have the Melanzane Ripiene – eggplant roulade as a starter, and Banzino al Fiere – grilled Sea Bass as a main course.My friends share some antipasto and Mozzarella Bufala – buffalo mozzarella with salad for starters, and Costoletto alla Griglia – lamb cutlets and arugula salad. They also have a carafe of Montepulciano D’Abbruzzio.
After dinner, I go to see the main stage show : This is Hawaii – a show troupe from Maui. It is a pretty good modern song and dance showcase of the islands.
Monday, Oct 9, 2017 – Honolulu
This morning, we walk the few blocks to see the Iolani Palace, which is quite spectacular inside. Last time I cruised to Honolulu, the palace was closed because it was a Sunday, so I”m glad I have lots of time to see it this time. We also walk around in the vicinity, seeing the outside of the State Legislature, the Mission Houses and Kawaiahao Church.
We are beat by the time we return to the ship just before noon. The heat and humidity are building, so I am glad for the air conditioning aboard ship. I’m turning into quite the wimp! My friends and I have a beer before we go to the main dining room for dinner. It is Canadian Thanksgiving today, so we order turkey dinner and pumpkin pie along with our other Canadian table mates from Quadra Island, West Vancouver, and Brandon, Manitoba.
We don’t leave port until late this evening, bound for Maui.
I luck out this morning, since I’m facing northwest as the Eurodam enters Hilo Bay early this morning. I have a perfect view of Mauna Kea as the Sun lights it up from the top down to sea level. The bonus is a Full Moon shining brightly above the sacred mountain with so many telescopes at the summit. Despite the early hour, I call my friends to come over to my verandah to share in the wonder. I setup my GoPro to capture a 4k time lapse video of the sublime view while I take still photos with my dSLR. The Eurodam slips into the dock and ties up while many are still asleep, however the Sun has risen and the day is warming.
A mutual friend who lives on the Big Island picks us up at 11AM just outside the gate to the wharves, and gives us a beautiful lei to welcome us to Hawai’i in the traditional manner. Our first stop is to have lunch at the Hilo Bay Cafe. Our table on the patio gives us a wonderful view of the bay while we have a beer and fish and chips as we catch up with each others’ lives.
After lunch, we walk along the shoreline by the Lili’uokalani Gardens and over the foot bridge to have a look at Coconut Island. Since it is Saturday, there are lots of families enjoying picnics and swimming and paddling in the bay. We have a look at the tsunami flood levels marked on a coconut tree, which illustrates just how high the water level has risen in past years within the shallow bay.
We decide to go see the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, which is along the coast just outside Hilo. It is quite a hike down to sea level and then back up the hill to the parking lot, however the foliage, spectacular flowers along the walls of the gulley are breathtaking. I remember this spot from my previous visits, however I used the public access to the shoreline, so missed the best parts.
We return to the ship by 4PM and sail out of Hilo Bay at 6PM, on our way to Honolulu tomorrow.
Cruising from Hawaii to Fanning Island aboard ms Statendam
February 25, 2014 – Tuesday – Hawaii to Fanning Island – Day 1 at sea
We have cloudy skies this morning but a tropical rain shower comes down while I’m having breakfast in the Rotterdam Dining Room. By the afternoon, the skies mostly clear, with a few clouds along the horizon. This is our first day at sea after leaving Hawaii, so we have a full slate of speakers to choose from today, all presenting in the large Showroom at Sea:
10AM – South Pacific Highlights – Kainoa & Sophie (Excursions) – I follow along with Sophie to get any tips for the excursions I have already booked for French Polynesia.
11AM – Animal Communication and Language – Clive Catchpole – It is often said that language is the difference between us and other animals. Clive presents many ways animals communicate and yet they don’t use ‘language’, as we know it. As usual, it is a superb presentation.
2PM – The “Stories” of Mutiny on The Bounty – Charlie Urbanowicz – Charlie describes the events leading up to the “Mutiny on the Bounty” and what became of the crew after the 1789 mutiny. I hadn’t realized that the Bounty failed to sail around Cape Horn due to extremely bad weather, and ended up sailing to South Africa and the Cape of Good Hope, and onward through the Indian Ocean, around the southern shore of Australia, and then to Tahiti. No wonder the crew mutinied, since it took them well over a year to sail “the long way” from England to Tahiti!
I received my certificate from the captain for crossing the International Date Line. At midnight tonight, the ship’s clock jumps ahead 24 hours, so tomorrow will be February 27. We lose Wednesday, February 26. After we leave Kiribati and head to French Polynesia, we sail back across the International Date Line, so we will get to live February 28 twice!
February 27, 2014 – Thursday – Hawaii to Fanning Island – Day 2 at sea
The Republic of Kiribati modified the International Date Line eastward to include all their islands in one time zone (and day) in the mid-1990s. We crossed the International Date Line last night on our way to Fanning Island so we lost February 26th (arriving tomorrow).
The captain announces that we are currently in the Inter-tropical Conversion Zone, which means grey skies and showers. He says that our arrival at Fanning Island tomorrow will be challenging, since the charts in the area are out-of-date, and there will be 1.5 metre swells, so he plans to seek shelter to make tendering possible. He cautions us that it might take awhile to start transferring passengers ashore.
I have just spent the last half hour taking photos of the rain clouds surrounding us, mainly using my in-camera HDR with the Canon 6D to catch the subtleties of the scene (see banner image above). I return to my cabin at 5:00PM and observe a Frigate bird heading straight for the ship, and then the rainstorm begins! Kainoa just finished telling us in his Fanning Island presentation today that Frigates will fall out of the sky if they get wet, because they lack the oils in their feathers to repel water. I assume the Frigate bird found a place to roost on the ship.
I go to the Showroom this evening to see Band Artistique, two performers from Montreal who have performed with Cirque de Soleil. The man (Emile) and woman (Marie-Claude) combine comedy, juggling, magic, and physical humour in a superb way. It is very funny, and quite amazing too! France’s Got Talent 2014 video
February 24, 2014 – Monday – Kailua-Kona, the Big Island of Hawaii
My excursion this morning leaves early. I have to be at the assembly point at 7:50AM, and when I show up five minutes early, my group has already left for the tender, so I quickly follow. Our bus is waiting for us on the pier, but we end up waiting for a few people who obviously showed up on time or a little late. This inexpensive tour ($40) is called Kona Highlights, which is really just a nice drive south of Kailua-Kona (and back). We stop to sample some coffee at the little town of Captain Cook, where I get to sample some Kona Peaberry coffee – very nice, but I’m not paying $50 for a bag of it!
We then proceed onward to my favourite place, Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, or Place of Refuge down on the shoreline. It is volcanic down here, as is most of the Big Island. I take a few photos and just relax under the shade of the palm trees and take in the sound of the ocean swells crashing against the black volcanic shoreline and surging into the bay.
There are no turtles today in the Ali’i landing bay, but the place still feels wonderful – I can feel the good mana here, and I’m not one to normally believe in superstitions. We only have an hour, but I enjoy it immensely. Next, we drive to the nearby Painted Church in the community of Captain Cook. This little Catholic Church is a popular stop for sightseers. I get to try out my new fisheye lens inside the church, taking a photo of the alter, the whole ceiling, and part of the walls.
After we return to Kailua-Kona, I find a little general store, where I buy some supplies before returning to the tender dock. As we approach the ship anchored in the bay, the tender has a terrible time trying to tie up, since there is quite a bit of wave action. Once the tender ties up, it beats against the gangway, wreaking the landing platform. Passengers are unloaded when there is a lull in the wave action, so the unloading process takes over 20 minutes. This isn’t the roughest tender landing I have experienced, but the tender was certainly bucking against the gangway landing in an energetic fashion.
As always, I’m glad to be back aboard ship and in my comfortable cabin. I toss my dirty clothes into the self-serve laundry, while I try to take advantage of the high speed Internet access I have with my cellphone connection to the Rogers/AT&T LTE. Since we are anchored offshore, I sit out on the Promenade Deck facing the shoreline to get a decent signal. This convenience will end once we sail away from the Big Island of Hawaii across the Pacific Ocean enroute to Fanning Island and French Polynesia. I will then be back to using the slow, unreliable, and expensive satellite connection aboard the ship.
The ms Statendam arrives early in Hilo, and docks at the pier in the harbour. I have some breakfast and gather up my cold weather gear for my big trip up to the summit of Mauna Kea. I disembark, find the shuttle to Harper’s Car & Truck Rental. and rent a 4×4 Ford Ranger truck, which Harper’s allow on the Mauna Kea access roads.
Once I’m off in my little truck, I work my way out of Hilo and drive up the Puainko Street Extension, which becomes the H200/H2000 Saddle Road. I stop to pick up some refreshments from a corner store, since I will skip lunch. I’m glad I brought along my vehicle GPS from home, which guides me through several complicated twists and turns until I get out of the city. The first half of the 45-mile drive to the summit takes me along the Saddle Road Highway (2000), a paved 3-lane road all the way to the Mauna Kea Access Road turn-off, and then up to the Visitors Information Station (VIS) on a good (but steep) 2-lane paved road all the way through ranch country.
I stay at the VIS for 45 minutes in order to acclimatize myself to the elevation change (sea level to 9,000′), and then put the vehicle into 4-wheel drive and start up the gravel road to the summit. The road surface is washboard, so having 4WD is great to keep traction and stability. A few miles before the summit, the road returns to a paved surface, since dust control is a big factor with these expensive observatories.
There is snow on top, and the air is clear and cold. I pull on my winter coat, which I have been dragging around with me on this trip just for today’s adventure. It is wonderful to finally see all these observatories in person, especially the ones Canada is involved with. The Canada-France-Hawaii (CFHT) observatory has a prime location on the end of the north ridge, and is a beautiful, brilliant white structure. The Gemini North observatory is next to CFHT, and is a silver structure with bulging air vents all around the lower part of the dome…again, a very beautiful design.
I drive around to see all the observatories up close, but unfortunately I can’t stay for the VIS’ tours inside some of the facilities. The sky is a deep blue and crystal clear, and the observatories are stark white or silver, so I use the High Dynamic Range feature of my Canon 6D dSLR. This allows me to capture the scenes much more successfully. I shoot lots of photos, since I probably won’t return to Mauna Kea again. I can see the summit of the mountain and the trail leading to it from Gemini North, but I have to be careful to not exert myself too much while at 4,205 metres (13,792′) elevation, since the amount of oxygen available up here is less than half than at sea level.
Reluctantly, I have to return to my cruise ship, so I start the drive down the mountain, with my vehicle in low range 4WD and in 2nd gear as well. I barely touch the brakes for the whole way down the mountain until I shift out of 4WD at the VIS before returning to paved roads. The return trip to Hilo and sea level goes without a hitch. I return the vehicle to the rental company, and I’m back on board the ship a couple of hours before departure time.
February 22, 2014 – Saturday – Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
The ship anchors offshore from Lahaina, and tenders are used to transport passengers ashore. Early this morning, I see Humpback whales from the ship, and I manage to take some pretty decent photos of them “flipper flapping”, blowing and breaching (see banner image above).
I am on an excursion today – the West Maui Snorkel Cruise, which uses Trilogy Elua an excursion catamaran sailboat. As it turns out, the whale watching as we motor to our snorkel location is the highlight of the trip, since we see a mother, baby and escort Humpback whale perhaps 10 to 20 metres from the boat. The bonus is that I shoot video of this encounter! The crew deploy an underwater speaker so we can hear the whales communicating, which is very cool!
The snorkelling is also wonderful in nearby Olowalu Bay, where I swim with a turtle for awhile. After returning to Lahaina, I give the tacky little town about 10 minutes of my time before returning to the comfort of the ship!
Elika Santos is a young Hawaiian male singer who gives a terrific performance in the Showroom At Sea this evening. He is trained in opera, so has a very powerful voice. He sings pop, opera and Hawaiian songs. I’m going to look him up when I get back home, so I can buy some of his music to listen to.
February 20, 2014 – Thursday – The North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii
We arrive in Honolulu harbour on time this morning. The early morning approach offers some superb views of Diamond Head and the south shore of Waikiki and Honolulu before we slip into our dock at Pier 2.
I am on an excursion today, our first of two days in Honolulu. The Explore and Taste Oahu’s North Shore tour is a 6.5 hour all day affair run by Roberts Hawaii, which visits the tranquil Byodu Temple after we travel over the H3 freeway through the Koolau Mountains to Kaneohe. The temple is quite beautiful and tranquil despite the groups from the numerous tour buses wandering the grounds.
We then stop at Chinaman’s Hat Rock, which is a rock sticking out of Kaneohe Bay. We drive by the Crouching Lion restaurant (now closed), which my friends and I stopped at for lunch the last time I visited Oahu. Our stop at Malaekahana State Recreation Area offers a great view of the ocean and a spectacular beach, not often visited by tourists or locals. (It looks like Malaekahana is now operating as a campground and retreat.) As we pass the Polynesian Cultural Center, our guide explains how the students study at the Brigham Young University and the adjacent Latter Day Saints temple in Laie, and also work at the Polynesian Cultural Center to pay for their education.
Our destination for lunch is just up the road: Fumis Kahuku Shrimp (Yelp reviews), where we have a pre-ordered lunch of shrimp, cod, or chicken. Most people order the shrimp, which is a large portion that comes in a Styrofoam plate along with some salad and rice and a soft drink. I find the Lemon Pepper Shrimp to be very tasty. There is a washbasin to get the grease off after the meal is finished. Shave Ice can be purchased for dessert, for those so inclined. This is very casual dining, but the food is very good! The James Campbell Wildlife Refuge is visible out by the coastline from here, and the shrimp ponds where the shrimp are raised are right beside this roadside stop.
We carry on to see Sunset Beach for a quick 10-minute stop, then pass by Tunnel Beach, both of which are world-famous for surfing (see banner image above). There are lots of surfers riding the waves.
Waimea Bay Beach Park is the next stop to see the turtles in the bay feeding on the algae. We spot one turtle. We then turn away from the coastline, driving through the little town of Haeliwa, and make our final stop at the Dole Plantation. This is the typical tourist trap if ever I saw one, but thankfully it is only a 20-minute stop before we carry on back to Honolulu over the H2 and H1 freeways, passing Pearl Harbor along the way.
The ship stays at the dock overnight, so we sleep aboard.
February 21, 2014 – Friday – Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
I don’t have any excursions booked for today, so I get up and have a leisurely breakfast in the Rotterdam Dining Room. I go ashore from Pier 2, walking a few blocks up South Street as far as the Mission Houses, the Kawaiaha’o Church, and then cross South King Street to see the State Capital and Iolani Palace.
I return to the Mission Houses for their tour of the inside, paying the $10 admission. It was very interesting hearing how the missionaries from Boston sailed around Cape Horn, to live and work in Hawaii. They supported themselves by printing and selling (or bartering) books and documents. They gave the Hawaiians their written language, introduced them to western music melody, and of course as missionaries, converted many of them to Christianity. I don’t have time to go into the Iolani Palace before it closes, so I return to the ship to freshen up and have some lunch.
I spend the afternoon aboard ship, swimming in the Ocean View Pool and generally relaxing. I am also taking advantage of the roaming package I purchased from Rogers, my cellular provider in Canada. The roaming package includes 15 minutes for voice calls, and also includes 200Mb of data. Since I have high speed LTE connectivity here, I can ignore the ship’s slow and expensive satellite Internet connection, and get a few things done online. I also call Harper’s Car Rentals to change my arrangements on the Big Island of Hawaii to a one-day rental with no drop off in Kona, which they happily do for me.
We were scheduled to go ashore today, and had planned to drive a rental car down to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau – Place of Refuge. Unfortunately the tendering process takes far too long this morning because of choppy seas, so we cancel our plans and stay on board the ship. I go for a swim in the Sea View Pool in the stern, which is very nice – a salt water pool with very few people around.
We have lunch in the Lido, which is the only restaurant open when the ship is in port. I have Indonesian chicken on rice, which was spiced just right. I listen to an e-book while reclining on the Promenade Deck, and take a few photos of the tenders and the Kailua-Kona shoreline. We depart on time and sail around the Big Island to see the volcanic flow off the coast by Kilauea, however no lava was visible this evening. I’m glad I had such good success seeing the lava flow last October when I visited the Big Island and the Kilauea Volcano.
Linguini Fruitti di Mare (seafood linguini) in Canaletto aboard Volendam
Linguini Fruitti di Marein the Canaletto restaurant, aboard VolendamWe dine at the Canaletto Italian restaurant again this evening. The pasta is simply superb. I have the Linguini Fruitti di Mare (seafood linguini) which was mostly seafood and excellent.
For dessert, I have my favourite: Three flavour Tiramisu (espresso, lemon & Amaretto). We all agree we are going to be so shocked when we return home – when we have to prepare our own meals and clean up after ourselves!