March 23 - April 2, 2006

Thursday, March 23, 2006 - Home to Hawai'i

            Up at 3:30 a.m. to get to Nashville for an 8:15 flight to Denver.  We had dropped off our check-in baggage at the curb-side check-in when Tommy thought better of his packing and pulled out the sip-lock bag that had his billfold in it (he had pulled out the important items so he could check it through then changed his mind at the last minute.  As we got into the LONG security line, he realized he had also put his knife in the bag (because he wanted it to be in the checked bags since you can’t take it on the plane with you).  So he now had to knife with him instead of in the check-in bags as we had planned.
            We thought maybe they had relaxed the restrictions on pocket knives, but found we were wrong – AT the security gate.  SO . . . I wound up with our 2 hats, two backpacks, camera (and case), and other carry-on bag while Tommy went back to the car to take his knife (repeat of the scenario in November!).  My security check-in would have made a good Charlie Chaplin movie:  the computer (for downloading photos from the camera on the trip) had to come out of the case and go into a bin, as did the camera.  Then each bag had to have a bin (4 more) and the hats and my jacket shared a bin (7 bins in all) – and other people were putting their things in line between mine.  Then my shoes set off the alarm, so they had to go up on the belt, then my belt buckle set off the alarm, so I had to do the personal scan thing (while our “stuff” was piling up on the belt!).  Then I had to collect and repack everything at the other end.  What a scene it must have been!
            I then waited a little, but Tommy didn’t come, so I called to tell him I was heading for the gate; he had not even gotten on the shuttle at that time.  At the gate, I had only a few minutes to wait before they started boarding – and Tommy was not in sight!  I went back to the gate – with all four bags and 2 hats! – and told the lady our situation.  She said did I know how long the security line was? [like I hadn’t just come from that carnage] (I did not feel very comfortable with her attitude!)  There were about 12 passengers that had not showed up, though, so there was time.  I called Tommy and told him our status.
            When the last person besides us had boarded, the lady told me Tommy had 5 minutes to get there.  I called him to tell him that and he said he was going through security at the time.  The lady was not sympathetic, even though I point out we were connecting in Denver to a flight to Honolulu – she just made a “pained look” kind of face.  I began watching the hall for Tommy and when I saw him, I told her.  She told me to take my bags and go and he could get the others and follow.  We had made the flight (minus the pocket knife, again)!
            For Tommy’s part, he said the line was still long when he got to security and there were several wheelchairs that were being checked through on one side.  He looked up and the man on the other line seemed to be open and  so Tommy motioned to him to see if he could go through.  Luckily the man was very nice and let Tommy come through or we might have missed the flight.
            26o in Nashville when we left.  We had to climb through clouds to gt to the cruising altitude, so that part was bumpy.  The plane was an “express,” so there were 2 seats on either side of the aisle and it was not designed for a lot of comfort:  not much padding in the seats.  We were glad to change planes when we got to Denver.
            As we were getting ready to land, the pilot told us there had been freezing fog and we were going to circle to wait for it to clear.  He said we had 20 minutes of fuel to circle and if it didn’t clear by then, we would have to land at Colorado Springs and then they would get us to Denver from there (so much for our connection to Honolulu – the day was beginning to look even more sketchy than it had at security in Nashville!  But we “lucked out” and the fog cleared and we landed on time at Denver.  Snow was on the ground, but the runways were clear.  The de-icing trucks were out along the runways, but by the time we got there, they were not having to work on the planes.  Again we were going through the clouds coming down and going up.  In Denver we had to change planes and had a short wait, so we took that time to eat our “lunch” which we had brought with us (since United had started charging extra for their lunches).
            Our flight to Honolulu took about 7½ hours because of a headwind.  That was a LONG flight!  I worked puzzles most of the way and Tommy watched the movie and other video stuff.  We were seated about mid-way of the plane right in front of the big screen TV (no seats in front of us).  We still had our “supper” sandwiches which we had brought on the plane with us as well as snacks, and United served water and soft drinks.

Amazingly we still encountered turbulence a few times at our cruising altitude, but for the most part, it was a smooth flight.  Landing was a different matter.  As we approached Honolulu, we began to encounter clouds.  Tommy was listening on the cockpit channel on the seat headphones and said our pilot found a small break in the storm and landed through it; another plane on the ground decided to delay takeoff based on what our pilot said of the conditions we had come through.  Just as our plan slowed to taxi speed, “the bottom fell out” and rain really started coming down; but by the time we got to the terminal, it had slowed greatly.  Luckily the ramp was covered, so it really didn’t matter (except for dodging the leaks!).  Just a hint of things to come . . .
           We were met by Norwegian Cruise Lines people who took our check-in baggage and saw to it that it made it to our hotel room.  Then we got on a bus for a LONG ride from the airport to our Marriott Hotel on Waikiki Beach – during rush hour!
            When we finally got here, NCL had our room keys and real leis for us!  We went to the room and set down our packs, freshened up, and then went out to find supper before our meeting with our square dance caller, Jerry Rash, at 8:00.  We went for a walk along Waikiki Beach as the sun set and the tiki torches provided light along the walk.  Sunset, palm trees, banyan trees, tiki torches – how Hawaiian!  It was late and we were tired, so for supper we found a “sushi bar” nearby that had a really good Teriyaki chicken dish.  (Sushi was EVERYWHERE in Hawai’i and at every meal on the boat, but then it seemed that almost half the tourists we saw there Japanese.)
            At our meeting with Jerry, we learned that the dances were at 10:00 A.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!  Oops!  We had signed up for shore tours!  Well, we may get in one dance, but we quickly learned that dancing was NOT the FOCUS of the cruise; the cruise is a group of people who share a love of square dancing and take an opportunity to travel together to places they could not afford otherwise. 

Friday, March 24, 2006 - Honolulu, O'ahu
            We had checked with NCL when we got to the hotel to see if we could get the Deluxe circle island tour that had been full when we set up our shore tours before leaving home.  They got us on one at 8:15 on Friday, so we left a wake-up call for 6:30, afraid we would oversleep because we were so tired.  Silly us – jet lag kicked in and we were awake by 6:00!
            So we were up in plenty of time for the cruise and got a sandwich at the ABC store in the hotel (ABC stores are like the mini-Wal-Marts of Hawai’i – there are at least 2 per block on all the main drags, one in each major hotel and a variety of little “hole-in-the-wall” sites everywhere).  We proceeded to the tour door to await our tour.  8:30 came, and no bus.  Tommy went to the NCL office in the hotel to check.  They assured us that traffic was bad and the bus would be there in 5 minutes.  Try 25 minutes, and it was NOT the tour bus but was one that was to TAKE us to the tour bus which had stopped at the side of the street to wait for us.  So we were about an hour late starting the tour.
            The tour was great, though.  We got to see a variety of communities around the island of Oahu, and a real variety of land – mountains inland and, in some areas, with houses all the way up the sides of the mountains – multi-million-dollar houses in some instances.
            We got to see Diamond Head, but did not get to go into the crater [*sigh*].  We also saw Sunset Beach – actually walked on it – where surfing competitions are held.  The waves were really huge!  Our last stop was Dole Pineapple Plantation where we took a ride on the “Pineapple Express” – a little train that took us through some fields showing the various steps in the process of growing pineapples (and of course it rained, so we had the clear plastic rain curtains down to restrict viewing).   The plantation was started by J. D. Dole who began the Dole fruit canning process with this pineapple plantation.           

Saturday, March 25, 2006 - Honolulu, O'ahu
            We did not have to leave the hotel until 12:00 and would not be in our rooms on the ship until 1:30.  So we took a leisurely stroll up Ala Moana Blvd. which goes along the shore at Waikiki Beach.  It has all the expensive shops (and an ABC store about every block it seemed!), and several places to eat, though none serving breakfast.  We finally found a restaurant that served breakfast in a fast-food manner and took our food outside and ate at a table there – very pleasant if you ignored the sounds of traffic out front.
            Back at the hotel, we took pictures of ourselves in our leis, rested a while, and then packed our carry-on bags and went downstairs to checked out and catch a shuttle to the ship (we had already put the heavy bags out the night before and NCL took care of getting them on board).  It was just a short trip to the ship.  Once on the ship, we went to deck 11 which had the buffet and had lunch about 12:30.  We had already done the “pre-board” formalities at the NCL office in the hotel, so getting on the ship was just a matter of walking on with our “sail-and-sign” card and photo ID.
            When we got to our room, we unpacked the carry-on (our checked bags were delivered later in the afternoon) and checked the TV to see about the tours we had booked.  Our room was an interior room – no porthole to look out of to find the horizon – but I did amazingly well on this trip:  no real disorientation except for one day.  The room was compact – as all these rooms always are – but had a refrigerator which was very convenient for us and kept our leis in excellent condition for the entire trip.
            Some mention needs to be made about the buffet.  The food was good; each day was a different cultural focus.  There was always the hamburger/hot dog line, and in one area was the children’s buffet with “kid food” on a serving table down at their level – a really nice touch for families.
            The glasses were the first thing to catch our eye:  they were almost all little 6-oz. Juice glasses.  When we asked about this, the explanation was that the parent company of the cruise line was European based, and that was their version of a “water glass.”  So we went down to the ship’s store and bought Tommy a nice 16-oz insulated “travel” cup (I already had my large cup for my tea); so – WHEN we remembered to take it – he had plenty to drink without having to take 3 or 4 cups to the table or go back several times for a refill.
            The other thing was plates and silverware:  if you went to the buffet at peak time (which on the first day it was one of only two places serving), you had trouble getting a large plate and silverware.  Later, as people went to other places to eat, there was not so much of a problem, but we did have several meals when we were scrounging for plates or taking several “dessert” plates and putting one or two items on a plate.  We were disappointed to find that there was not a hot chocolate machine as we had found on Carnival:  here you mixed the powered mix with hot water.  But – of course – they had the ice cream machines (my downfall) and we located those right away!
            The ship pulled out at 8:00 that night, heading for “the big island” of Hawaii, our first stop.           

Sunday, March 26, 2006 - Hilo, Hawai'i

            We went to the buffet for breakfast, but – as with Carnival – for some reason breakfast is the only meal when you can’t find cheese on the bar (I like my scrambled eggs with cheese); they have it in the omelet line, but not out on the bar.  So I have to get my eggs then get in the omelet line and wait to get cheese on the (by then, cold) eggs.  And, since we were still on “mainland time”, we were up early and the omelet line had not opened; the “fixins” were there, but in covered bowls.  Tommy pointed out the ship’s officer who was evidently in charge of the buffet (if not all the food), and said he could probably get into the cheese for me.  So I went to him and asked if I could get some of the cheese and he was very nice and opened the bowl and got some for me – very, very nice about it.  Of course the eggs were still cold when I got back to them, but – hey – I had cheese!
            Our tour was the Lava Viewing Hike.  This went by bus through Hilo to Mt. Kilauea, the most active volcano on Earth.  We saw several dormant calderas and finally got to the ranger station at the lava site (or close to it, anyway).  (I got my passport book stamped there).  Due to the nature of the eruptions, the Park Service had closed the area that would have put us close to the flowing lava:  the lava creates a “shelf” as the lava cools coming from the vents and hitting the cold ocean water (it is actually coming through along lava tube from the heart of the volcano).  Since there is nothing to support the shelf, when it gets enough weight on it, it breaks off.  The last shelf to form had been about 25 feet long; the one formed when we were there was already over 40 feet long, so it was overdue for breaking off.  We did get to hike pretty close to the steam cloud – over some very rough pahoe-hoe lava (they issue light-weight gloves to you before you go, in case you have to use your hands to balance or in case you fall), some of which was only a year or so old – newest land on Earth.  The lava we walked over had covered a road and was really beautiful in a stark way – the colors of the lava were incredibly varied; the textures varied also – from smooth to ropey with cracks and breaks everywhere.  Such power and force are hard to imagine happening.
            We also stopped at the rim of the caldera where there were steam vents all around us – you could go right up to them, knowing that the hole lead somehow down to the magma chamber.  It was very barren – just volcanic rock and sulfur patches everywhere.  There are really three “walls” of the caldera, each wider than the previous one.  ON the rim of the second one is the Jaggar Museum which we visited briefly.  It has some VERY informative displays about volcanoes and about Kilauea in particular.
            After our day with “Madame Pele,” we stopped briefly at a macadamia nut farm and saw the plant where the nuts are processed and packaged.  Tommy bought some nuts there, but later decided that the ones he had gotten at a previous stop on the tour were better than the ones from the farm.
            About 10:00 tonight we went out on the deck to watch as we passed by the lava vent that we had hiked toward during the day.  What a light show!  There were at least 4 distinct places where the lava came out into the ocean with a brilliant red glow.  One vent especially was highly explosive, sending geysers of red-to-white hot lava high into the air.  Incredibly beautiful!
            We then got some ice cream and came back to our room where – my grandchildren will be glad to know – the movie The Incredibles was showing, so I finally got to see it!  Had to go to Hawai’i to do it, but now I’ve seen it. 

Monday, March 27, 2006 - Maui

            My last “official” day of employment with Henry County School System.
            Figured out breakfast:  don’t go to the buffet as you can’t get large plates and silverware; food is good, just no way to consume it.  Our solution?  Go to Cadillac Diner.  Food is limited in choice, but for breakfast has all we want (and you don’t pay extra).  Also has LARGE glasses – which they refill!  Of course it comes at a little price of inconvenience:  the line is always long and it takes “Forever” to get seated since they are very slow at busing tables and even slower at seating people once tables are available.  But once you are seated, service is great and food is good.
            So, after a great breakfast, we went out on deck – had an hour to wait before we could square dance and then another 45 min. after the dance till we left to go whale watching.  We spent the time looking out over the water and were rewarded with seeing some whales “spouting” and one “breaching” in the distance; apparently they had been alongside the ship earlier as the ship was docking.
            At 10:00 we went to the Mardi Gras Ballroom for the square dance.  Jerry was having to wait for a technician to get his turntable set up with the stage sound.  So we actually got started about 10:15.  Then we stepped on the floor and it was AWFUL!  Our shoes stuck to the floor which is terrible for dancing!  First tip was really hard on our ankles and knees (which were a little worn out from yesterday’s lava hike!), so second tip we took our shoes off.  That was MUCH better! And not the first time we’ve ever had to do that.  Some of the other dancers tried it and agreed it was better – as long as you were not barefooted.
            We left a little early to be sure we got to our whale watching tour on time (had to go by the room and get our “gear”).  There was no one to direct us on the dock, but we figured that was because we were early.  So we went on out onto the shore and stood for a while in the rain (we had umbrellas and ponchos because we had known the weather would be rainy at least through tomorrow.  Finally we asked someone where we needed to be for the whale watching tour and learned that the tour had been CANCELED!!!!!  We then had to go back through security (just like airport security only with more sensitive scanners) and then back through the ship check-in.  When we got to our room, Tommy called the front desk and asked why there was no sign or something at the gangway to tell us – and they said they didn’t know it had been canceled (the TOURS desk knew, but not the front desk and for some reason it never occurred to anyone to put a sign up as we left the ship).  So now we are sitting here thinking of things we can do besides go shopping (at some very expensive places) or play Pictionary on board the ship later today (they have organized some “rainy day” activities).  Yeah, right, sure; just our thing.
            Well, we opted for a thrilling afternoon of watching two tugs bring a “car hauler” ship in and dock it right behind our ship.  It became rather interesting when they pushed it into the dock:  since it was apparently empty, the bottom corner of the ship actually went up over the dock and caught on some concrete parking blocks, apparently making some sort of hole in the corner of the ship as we then saw something dripping from the corner of the ship.  And we then got to watch them attach the hawsers to the dock – and watch a variety of guys get down on the tires on the dock (which buffer between ships and dock) and look up under the edge of the ship at the damage.  The last one came in with a camera.  We then had our view obstructed by the ramp they were lowering to allow vehicles to drive into the hold of the ship.  We later determined they had unloaded a few vehicles which were lined up on the dock when our ship left port.
            After this exciting afternoon activity, we got ice cream (what else?) and went to our room (Shrek II was on) and took a nap.  We got up about 7:00 and went to the buffet for supper.  Then Tommy steered me to the Mardis Gras room and we watched the ballroom dancing (really just enjoyed the music as we are not very good without cues to follow).  Then there was line dancing, and I got on the floor for that (which was what Tommy had in mind when he steered us in there).  We did several dances, last and hardest was “Slapping Leather” done to “Chattahoochie” – a real workout!  They had several young crew members who got out to help the others learn the dances (and so there would be a good number of dancers on the floor). 

Tuesday, March 28, 2006 - Maui

        HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MOTHER AND ME!  AND . . . HAPPY RETIREMENT TO ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  My first day of retirement!  (This is also Jerry Rash’s birthday, the caller who organized the cruise).  We went on a tour to Haleakala Crater, over 10,000 feet high.  Beautiful views of Maui as we climbed a switchback road up the face of the mountain.  Maui is actually two dormant volcanoes with a low “isthmus” between them where the city of Kahului spreads out.  Maui is more agricultural with one pineapple plantation – not large – which may be headed for closure soon, and sugar cane plantations – the last in Hawai’i.  Sugar cane is also on its “last legs.”  The big industry here is cattle – the beef is exported however, not much locally processed.  And – an interesting note - chickens were imported into Hawai’i years ago to help with insect problems with some of the crops, and so they have become wild; we saw them on every island.
            The climate on Maui ranges from tropical at sea level to sub-alpine/Aeolian closer to the top of the mountain.  When we reached the top, the temperature was in the low 40’s with a wind – it was COLD!  And – of course – there were clouds.  When we got to the top, the driver explained why there had been a “sunrise” tour:  sunrise is the only time the sky is clear; after that the clouds begin to form and it is hard (and in our case impossible) to see the crater, even though the ranger station sits right on the rim; it was rim/cloud – nothing in between and no visibility beyond the rim.
            There was a great variety of plants.  IN the national park, the grounds have been dedicated to preserving the native plants.  This is the only place on the island where the “silver sword” plants can grow; the only other place they grow is the upper elevations of Hawai’i.  They grow only at the high elevations and have shallow root systems and hairy leaves to conserve moisture; they may live 50 years before blooming, then once they bloom, they die.  I did manage to get pictures of some.
            Our tour driver was very interesting and well informed about the plants and animals of the area.  He had humorous stories to tell about growing up and things he learned from his grandparents – things of native culture that many people would not get today.  He named a couple of Hawaiian kings and said there would be a “test” later.  When it came to the “test” – one of them – Tommy and another man tied for coming closest to the correct pronunciation.  The driver was going to give the winner a CD of Hawaiian music.  He only had one CD, so he said they had to play “Junk-an-po” (I have no idea of how to spell it) which we call “Rock, Scissors, Paper.”  The other guy did scissors and Tommy did paper (so the other guy got the CD).
            As a preface to the next story, I had gotten a beautiful pink coral ring on O’ahu which had the coral carved in a rosebud shape sitting on top of the ring.  Apparently it was not attached very well because the day after I got it, I noticed the coral was missing.  We looked and looked where we were standing (in the Hertz car rental shop in the hotel), but didn’t see it; so we went back to the room and found it there – apparently it had come off when I put my hand into my jeans pocket.  Now, back to the story . . . When we got back to the ship from our tour, we called the company where I had gotten my coral ring and asked where their Maui store was.  They said about 2 miles, but they were closing.  So we decided to mail the ring to them as they said they would fix it and return it to us at no charge.  So we got directions to the post office and went ashore.  After mailing it, we went into a store and got some Aloha shirts and a “mumu” for me.  Then on the way back to the ship, going through a little mall area, I saw a jewelry store and HAD to stop in; there was a beautiful piece of lavender jade the I got – it was almost translucent, very pretty.
            When we finally got back on the ship, we had heard from Jerry that there was a birthday message on his tv that morning.  Since our tv had not been turned off the night before (as usual) there was no message that morning.  So we went to the room and turned the tv on (it automatically comes up to the ship's menu page) and there was a happy birthday message from the ship's crew!  Neat!  We then went to supper and then later went up for late night ice cream and  - what else? - hot chocolate!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 - Kona Coast, Hawai'i

            Our tour started at 10:45 ASHORE, so we had to get a tender from the ship to the shore since the harbor was too shallow for the ship.  We went to the Cadillac Diner for breakfast since we had time, and they can fix what we like.  We got on shore early and had an hour to walk through some of the shops on shore.  Tommy found a beautiful piece of pink coral carved like a pineapple at Maui Divers (their pink coral comes from the southern tip of Maui at about 1200 feet).  We also got some other souvenirs and left them at the shop – saying we’d pick them up later; we left my business card with our cell phone # in case the lady wanted to call us about something.
            FINALLY we left on the sea part of our Kona by Land and Sea tour which took us down the coast to a small cove where we had a lunch of sandwiches, fruit, and chips.  We spent some time looking for whales and saw three at a distance.  Then the driver took us where they had seen some “Spinner” dolphins on an earlier tour.  They are called “Spinner” because of their way of jumping out of the water and spinning in the air before falling back to the water.  We didn’t see any going out, but saw some on our way back from the cove – and one did “spin” for us.  Really awesome!
            While on the boat, there was “entertainment” by a “hula girl.”  She went around the boat talking to various people, asking where we were from and making general “small talk” though she had a microphone on and everyone heard what she said.  When she got to us Tommy said we were celebrating my retirement and that my birthday was yesterday; two other people had birthdays tomorrow, so she taught everyone hot to sing “Happy Birthday” to us in Hawaiian!
            Once back at the dock, we got on a bus for the land part of our tour.  We saw a lot of beautiful plants, and stopped at a peninsula area called Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park.  This was the location of two important Hawaiian sites:  a residence of the Ali’i (Hawaiian royalty) and, separated by a stone wall, the “place of refuge” (actually one of two such places on the island of Hawai’i; each island had one, but Hawai’i being so large, had two).  A “place of refuge” was a place where a spiritual “Kahuna” (expert – in this case a priest) was located.  Anyone who was accused of a crime and could escape before being caught and executed, and could reach the “place of refuge,” could be “cleansed” and taught by the priests there and then could return to society.  The place was remote, and the last part of reaching it was a mile across the water.  Not an easy place to reach when everyone in the village was looking for you.
            Also at this place was a building and several “totems” – the actual “place of refuge,” and, it is also a Green Sea Turtle refuge.  We saw several turtles which come up in the shallows there to feed.  There were beautiful palm trees, lava rocks, and a gravelly beach.  It was really quite beautiful; I can see why the royalty would have liked it.
            From there we went to the “Painted Church” which is a church built by missionaries.  The inside has paintings on the walls and ceiling done by a priest there who had no formal training in painting.  The paintings were used to instruct the natives in Christianity when there was no written language to use.
            Then it was back to the dock.  Tommy retrieved our package (the lady had already called and said she would send it to the ship if we didn’t make it there by 4:30 or so (when she had to start closing the shop up).  Then it was through security and back to the ship by way of the shuttle. 

Thursday, March 30, 2006 - Kaua'i

            Well, our 2nd attempt at a zipline tour was almost a complete zip.  There was overbooking on the Haleakala Zipline that we wanted to take Tuesday, so they changed up our Waimea Canyon tour today and gave us a morning Zipline tour on Kauai.  However . . . it was storming as the ship landed at 7:00 and our tour was scheduled to leave at 7:45.  The first storm went over, and it was barely sprinkling when we got to the zipline tour site – then it began to come down a little more and then more.  We waited to start, hoping it would lighten up.  Of course it didn’t.  We had our ponchos on and our harnesses and hard hats on, so we started out – in the rain.  We got to our second stop (end of the first zip) and there was thunder with a storm that was coming over.  Due to the fact that we were on metal cables using metal carabiners and zip rollers, they were very conscious of thunder because of the possibility of lightning.  There was much discussion back and forth between the guides; our group was all for waiting it out and continuing (the thunder had been progressively moving toward us and was now right over us, so logic said it would be moving away); we were already soaked, so we really wanted to finish the tour for all the trouble we had been through.  But – in the end -  we wound up “abandoning ship.”  Our group was at the first platform which was also the last platform, so we took the last zip and made our way back to the base camp.  The other group which was ahead of us (they had crossed the rope-and-board “bridge” from the first station to the second one) had to be repelled down from their station (which was no problem – something they are set up to do from every station in case of emergency).  They called for our bus and then we got out of our harnesses and rode in the pickup back to the main road where the bus was waiting.
            Though the tour was cut short, what we got to do was GREAT!  We had a harness on with carabiners that let us hook onto our pulley.  The pulley was clamped to the cable (heavy-duty aircraft carrier cable) and you steered by putting your fingers through the carabiners on the pulley and turning them either left or right, depending on which way you wanted to go to keep facing the way you wanted to fact.  To start, you gave a push off from the platform and gravity did the rest.  A tour guide was on the other end to help you stop.  They ran us through a carabiner “training” session before we started up to be sure we could move them and open and close the snaps.  We were supposed to have to move during the course from one wire to another, but we had to stop before we had to do it more than the one time to move around the platform to the other line to go down.  When we stopped, we were about to cross a “suspension bridge:”  it was ropes hanging down from two wires with boards at the bottom – only the boards were not attached to each other; each looked like a child’s swing; overhead was a wire on which, I assume, we were going to put our pulley – we just never got that far on the course.  We did get a refund of our money for the tour, and all other zipline tours were canceled for the day.
              After lunch we went back to the dock for our afternoon tour:  our shortened tour of Weiameia Canyon (the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”).  Guess what?  Yep – rock slide from all the rain yesterday had closed the canyon road; we were now going to “beautiful” Hanapepe Valley.  I guess it was beautiful:  we had one stop with a grand view of the valley and the rest of the time we saw more sugar and coffee plantations and Eucalyptus and other flowers in yards.  We did stop at a “blowhole” called the Spouting Horn – it was really fantastic!  (Especially since our other tour that was to go by THE premier blow hole of the islands didn’t go there).  The water went in through a lava tube that had two holes in the top:  the water shot 15-20 feet in the air through the first hole, but the
SOUND came through the second hole!  Awesome!  The guide said there used to be one that went 50-100 ft. in the air, but there was a sugar plantation in the area and the salt spray from the blow hole was affecting the cane, so they dynamited the blow hole!  Of course tourism wasn’t the money business then that it is now. 

Friday, March 31, 2006 - At Sea

            At sea!  All day!  What joy!  Breakfast at Cadillac’s for the last time.  Then we had a square dance at 10:00 in the Mardi Gras room, and had a good audience for our last tip because they were going to have Bingo in there at 11:15.  Jerry called a really good tip – plus tip – on the last one to show us off, I think.  Then he put in a plug for square dancing when we finished.  We went from there to deck 6 to watch the Na Pali coastline of Kauai go by.  This is the most rugged part of the island, and perhaps of all of Hawai’i.  It is highly eroded mountains, some over 4000 ft. above sea level.  This is where there are huge waterfalls (still working on eroding the mountains) and high surf against the sheer cliffs at sea level.  Also some beautiful beaches in  between – in the valleys at sea level; only time I’ve ever wanted to have a sail boat.  This area can only be reached by air, sea, or by hiking over some really difficult trails.
            We also got to see some whales!  Between us and the island (Tommy saw one early this morning right beside the ship – he had gone out to watch the ship leave port and the whale came up right under him.  He didn’t get a good picture as he couldn’t get the camera adjusted quickly enough.
            Rough seas!  First day I had to take meclazine.  We ate lunch and then I “crashed” – slept from about 3:00 to 7:30 (down side of the Meclazine).  We had missed the farewell party for Jerry’s group, so went straight to deck 11 for supper at Aloha Café (buffet).  We went back to the room, but of course I couldn’t sleep (having slept earlier) so got to watch “National Treasure” (yes, Chris, I finally got to see it) and then “Under Tuscan Skies.”  I finally went to get ice cream at some ridiculous hour of the morning and after that finally got to sleep. 

Saturday,  April 1, 2006 - O'ahu

            We had our check-in bags outside our cabin last night, so they are already going through security.  We packed everything else up in the backpacks and carry-on bag and then went ashore for the last time.  Our flight didn’t leave until 10:10 p.m., so we rented a car and drove around Oahu to do some of the things we wanted to do before but did not get to do.
            It took a while for our bags to get out, but once they were out, we called the Dollar car rental people and they sent a shuttle bus for us.  As the bus driver took us back across town to Waikiki – which is where our car was – she told us things we were seeing.  At one point as she passed by the Hula Bowl, she said there was a “swap meet” there.  That rang a bell:  the concierge at the hotel had said (in response to my question of where would she shop for souvenirs) that she would go to a “swap meet;” I had seen signs for swap meets in various places, but always they were for days when we were not in that port.  Well – here was one we could go to.  I had no idea what a swap meet was, but we were going to go to one.
            But first things first – got our car, got a book with maps, and found the way to the Arizona Memorial.  We had been told that we needed to go there early because you had to get a time to go in.  So went there first – and the line was LONG.  While we were standing there, a lady came by with tickets and said we could have hers, they did not have time to wait.  When we got inside the building, we found that she had done us a real favor:  Our group was group D and the ones we were in line with were getting tickets marked group I!
            I got my passport book stamped and we shopped for magnets, then our group was called.  We boarded a shuttle boat that took us out to the memorial.  It is really interesting:  they have the places marked where all the ships were moored at the time of the attack.  The shell that hit the Arizona hit on the forward deck and plunged straight down to the magazine hold and of course it exploded and sank immediately, trapping any who were below decks.  You can still see the ship under the water as you cross the center part of the memorial building.  There is still an oil slick there and they said it leaks about a quart of oil a day.  Inside there is a wall with the names of all the men who died on the ship.  It is really very beautiful with flags along the walls from all the states who had men who died there.  When you look from the memorial to the pass through which the planes came, you can see why they did not see them coming:  the mountains were a perfect barrier and the pass put the planes at the perfect level for coming in low and fast.
            After the Arizona, we walked a short distance to where they now have the Battleship Missouri moored.  It is currently privately owned, so there was an entrance fee to get in.  But they have most of the ship open and have it set up as a self-guided tour (you could also get an audio tour – as you could with the Arizona – but we opted to do our own looking and reading.  A video inside said that the Missouri was decommissioned after Vietnam and then recommissioned for Desert Storm, so she had big guns and also had tomahawk missiles – a variety of armament all on one vessel.  After she was decommissioned the second time, she was take over by the group that has her now and refurbished and set up for tours.  Having her docked right next to the Arizona is great – gives the beginning of our entry into World War II and the end of it right together.  The place on the deck where the peace was signed with Japan is roped off and marked with a metal plaque.  We spent a lot of time on the Missouri and even saw the place on the side of the ship where a kamikaze plane had just missed crashing into the deck.
            By the time we finished there it was almost 2:00 and we headed for the Hula Bowl and our “swap meet.”  When we got there, we found out it only went till 3:00.  I told Tommy what I wanted specifically and then we just browsed.  Turns out a “swap meet” is what we call a “flea market:”  all kind of stalls with people with everything you could think of in all price ranges.           
            We found what we wanted – and the prices were BETTER than we had seen at other places, and also found a luggage dealer with some nice looking bags for a good price (the lady made VERY  SURE that we knew that they were at least $5.00 less than any other luggage dealer at the meet!), so we got one to make it easier to pack our souvenirs and odd items which we did not need on the plane going home.

            From there we wanted to go to Diamond Head:  we had been around it on our bus tour the first day, but had not gotten to go to the top.  Map out, route determined, and entrance found:  of course the park was CLOSED today!  Don’t know, maybe it was all the sunshine we had that day that jinxed us (not a bit of rain all day long!); there had been rain every day except this one – it was a BEAUTIFUL day to be going to the top of the mountain so naturally they closed the park.  Makes perfect sense.
            Hunger reminded us we had not eaten since breakfast, so we found a restaurant and got supper, then found a gas station and put gas in the car, and  then headed for the airport to turn the car in and wait for our plane.  We checked our (now 4) check-in bags which had to go through the agriculture check before they went into the airport building (they are VERY picky about plants and fresh food stuffs coming into and leaving the islands); our leis were not a problem, though. 

Saturday, April 1 – Sunday, April 2, 2006 - Hawai'i to Home

We were early and had some time to wait.  Tommy fell into conversation with a man from Dickson, TN and they talked most of the time till the plane came.  The flight back to Denver took a little over 6 hours - an hour less than going over due to the tail wind (that had been a head wind going over).  We had to put the shades down on the plan as we were heading toward sunrise and all of us were ready to sleep.  So when we got close to Denver, the stewardesses started bringing coffee around and people gradually began waking up.  Tommy slept a little, and I slept pretty well for a time, but eventually couldn’t sleep and tried working my puzzles by the light from the restroom area which was just a few rows behind us (my individual light seemed rather bright and focused more between Tommy and me than just on me), then was just up and down to keep my legs from developing their usual jumpiness.
            Landing in Denver was through high clouds, but the weather was ok when we got down.  Landing in Nashville was another matter:  there were some really bad storms between Denver and Nashville and so some of the ride was rather bumpy.  When we landed, it was between showers, but by the time we got to our car, several showers had come and gone.  Luckily as we were loading our bags into the car, the rain had stopped.  It started again, heavy, as we left the airport.  As it turned out, when we got home about 6:00 p.m. our time, there were storm warnings going off and we wound up with storm damage from straight-line winds.  There were tornadoes in counties all around us, but none in Henry County.  This was the storm system that killed so many people in Dyer County and other areas as it went through (and left a scrap of paper under our apple tree with a Newbern address on it!).
            Did we have a good time?  YES!!!!!!!!!  Would we like to go again?  Probably, but not on a cruise.  The cruise we did was great because we spent all of our time going from one island to another and only had to unpack our clothes once; it is a good way to get an overall picture of the islands.  But there are things we want to see, but we’d like to go at our pace to the places we want to go and not be rushed to get back somewhere.  Don’t know if we will ever make it for that, but it is something to look forward to.           

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