September 20, 2006
Wednesday Sept 20th. - Awoke at 5:00a.m. We a signed up for Carnival's Fly Aweigh program, meaning we left our flight booking to them. Arrived at the airport at 6:30a.m. By our request, security checkpoint workers hand-checked all of our film. It took them a while as we had 5 Super 8 Movie Film cartridges and 20 or more rolls of 35mm film. They were unfamiliar with Super 8 Movie film cartridges and insisted upon removing them from the boxes and wrappers. They did a VERY thorough check on the film. They also confiscated a very small tube of toothpaste that I had l left in my carry on pack. Three and a half hour plane ride was smooth for the most part and we landed in Vancouver International Airport at about 11:05a.m. (15 minutes late). During our flight, Northwest offered complimentary beverages and small snack boxes for about $5 each. Do all the airlines charge for meals now?
Immigration/customs line and bag retrieval took about one and a half hours. At immigration we were asked, "How long will you be in Canada," "Where is your cruise going to," "How long is your cruise," and a couple other questions like that. Once we had our luggage we found a Carnival representative and handed it over to them to transport it to the ship. We heard other people on the flight say that we didn't need to claim our luggage at the airport and that Carnival would do it for us. That was the first we heard of that and it just didn't sound right. We boarded a motor coach to transport us to the pier, but we had to wait for the bus to fill up to leave, which took about a half hour.
The bus ride to the pier took 45 minutes. Vancouver didn't look a whole lot different from other big cities we'd been to. I was studying how the trolley cars travelled on a BIG mess of wires suspended above the streets. It looked very complex. Weather in Vancouver was 50's, overcast, and rainy. Traffic was slow and heavy with many, many stops at traffic lights.
The line for U.S. immigration at the pier went very quickly. The officers, looking very tired, said little and wasted no time in stamping our passports to send us onward. Carnival's computers were down for the embarkation process, but it went still went surprisingly quick, taking about a half hour. I'm guessing that they did not sell many of the pictures taken during embarkation as they did not even use any background. Their backdrop was just a plain empty concrete terminal.
Once aboard, at about 2:30 or 3, we got food right away at the La Playa Grille on the Lido deck. There were four different buffet lines but we were very hungry and picked the shortest one. It was very crowded and took at least 5 five minutes for us to find a table. Most of the other cruise guests were older, retired folks. Not many kids, and only 21 honeymooners including us. During this first day on the ship we were constantly solicited for drinks and it got a little annoying after a while. Their daily drink specials were $7.00 with a souvenir cup, or $3.50 without the cup.
The lifeboat drill alarm was very shrill and deafening.. Did it really need to be that loud? Muster stations were moved to alternate indoor locations due to the bad weather. Ours was in the Pharaoh's Palace. It's not every day that you sit in a large auditorium filled with other people wearing bright orange life jackets. The ship left about 2 hours late at 7p.m. We were way, way too tired to go up on deck to see the ship pull out of the harbor. It was too dark and foggy, so not much to see anyway. It was smooth sailing for the next few hours. Our bags were delivered to our door before we went to our late seated dinner at 8:15pm. Seated with us was a young couple, Maurice and Karen, from Vancouver.
They said Carnival upgraded their interior room to a balcony room. They were excited until they found out that a lifeboat blocked about 85% of their ocean view. I ordered the Indian Vegetarian Dinner. It was delicious with rice, homemade cottage cheese, a curled tortilla, and some other stuff. Went to bed right after dinner at about 10:30 or 11. I awoke to the sound of my night stand's drawer sliding open. Sailing became very rough overnight. The cabin walls and fixtures squeaked and creaked as the boat rocked from side to side.
Thursday Sept. 21 - We slept until about 9:30a.m. The ship was still rocking quite a bit. My wife took Dramamine and I wore the Travel-eze motion sickness bracelets which sell for about 9.99 a pair at pharmacies like Walgreens. I'm not sure if I really needed them, but it was more of a preventative measure. Upper decks 10 and 11 (topless deck) were still closed due to the bad weather. Wind speeds ranged from 30-40mph, The water-slide was closed and "under renovation" for the duration of the cruise. The water in the pools on the Lido deck was really sloshing around. They remained empty for the day and I imagine swimming in them would be the equivalent of being in a giant washing machine.
The magician we saw, Bobby Borgia, was good. He did a neat trick which involved sliding cards off the top of a deck using his shadow. The late night "R" rated comedian, Carl Faulkenberry, was ok and the best out of all four that we saw.
I tried the exercise room but felt queazy there because it was on the top deck on the front of the ship. Some free weights rolled around the floor a little. Yeech! We went to dinner and the other couple at our table decided to leave us to ourselves since it was our honeymoon. We later saw them at a table by themselves. I am hoping they didn't move because we offended them somehow. After all, I did get kind of sweaty when I ate that spicy Indian food the previous night. Winds and waves seemed to calm down a little bit later in the day. We could hear a loud rumbling underneath the dining room. It sounded like someone was bowling with a boulder. Maybe it was the ship's stabilizers? I've heard it in the dining room on other cruises we've taken. And it was always when we were on rough seas.
Friday, Sept 22. - Wind and waves had calmed down quite a bit. Wind was 10-20mph. The sun came out a little bit here and there, but it remained mostly cloudy. People were starting to layout on the Lido deck in sunbathing attire. It was becoming warm enough for that. Pool Olympics were hilarious, especially the two guys teamed together in the synchronized swimming contest. Later that evening we went to the Captain's Cocktail Party in a very packed Pharaoh's Palace where I drank a couple of free whiskey Sours. The drink servers didn't seem to be giving equal amount of attention to everyone there. Most everyone arrived at the same time, and we watched some people get served 2 or 3 rounds of drinks before we even had our first. They seemed to be frequenting through the right and left thirds of the theater a lot more than the middle, where we were. It was also a formal night in the dining room, so we dressed accordingly. Lobster Tail was among the many dishes they offered. It's my wife's favorite. We attended Karaoke again.
Saturday, Sept 23. - We didn't sleep very well. The bed is rock hard and realized that we must be under a laundry room because we were awoken by a washing machine pounding and going bonkers. Weather was still cool and cloudy for the most part. We saw "Survivor" on the Lido deck. A female contestant's shirt accidentally came off during one the challenges leaving her a little embarrassed in her bra. And if that wasn't enough, she later gave up her bra when it came to the scavenger hunt challenge and her team had trouble finding a bikini top. She did have her shirt back at the time she gave up the bra, but it was white and very wet. Very funny. We also attended a game called "Battle of the Sexes" where you're almost guaranteed to be called on to participate if you come with a mate. The losers of this challenge get bopped over the head with a big inflated rubber doll. We also went to horse-racing which was fun but the Carnival staff member who hosted it was loud and obnoxious. I tried to avoid future activities which that staff member was a part of. We skipped dinner in the Empire restaurant because of fatigue and nothing on the menu looked great. Dinner on the Lido deck took a lot less time and was a nice change of pace. The hot tub was empty when I used it between 7 and 7:30p.m.. Our air conditioner seemed to shut off in the middle of the night and our room became hot and stuffy.
Sunday, Sept 24. - Sailing was smooth and the weather was cloudy with patches of sun. Winds were 10-20mph. We watched the second half of "Survivor" after spending all morning at a table on the Lido deck. A game we attended in the Pharaoh's Palace called, "It's In The Bag," was a blast. I won't say too much about it except that it involves ship guests, wanting to participate, to come with the biggest bag they can possibly find and stuff it with anything and everything. You never know what item the game's host might ask for. Guys, be wary of how you participate in this game. You may just end up as one of three drag queen contestants!! Later on that night we saw old-fashioned comedian Norm Crosby. He was well received by some of the older folks but failed to strike our funny bones.
Monday, Sept 25. - The weather was warmer with partly cloudy skies. Wind was 10-20mph. We saw the ice carving demo and men's hairy chest competition. The men in the competition lacked the enthusiasm and zaniness we've seen in past Carnival men's hairy chest competitions. We had some yummy Blackberry and Raspberry Margaritas at the Margarita Fiesta in the Spirit Atrium. One of the lines for lunch in the La Playa Grill on the Lido deck was super long all day. They must have been serving something very good there but we didn't want to bother with it. It's not like you can't easily find great food elsewhere at anytime. For dinner in the Empire restaurant, I ordered the Baked Herb Polenta, which was good. Their vegetarian dishes, which they offer every night, are usually a safe choice. Kristi ordered a chicken dish in which they served her half a chicken with mashed potatoes. Given that they also serve you an appetizer and salad beforehand, this is way, way too much food for the average person to eat. Carnival's food proportions are usually reasonable, but this was ridiculous. The guest talent show was okay but didn't offer much of anything new for us. It featured mostly singers who we'd seen numerous times before in the karaoke lounge. The show ended with a hilarious skit put on by the Carnival Cruise staff which made it all worth while. Without a doubt, it was the highlight of the show.
Tuesday, Sept 26. - The ship arrives in Lahaina, Maui after five days at sea on we anxious to be in on land in Hawaii. The tendering process was a hassle to get ashore. People booked on the ship's shore excursions were tendered in first. Everyone else had to go up to the Lido deck to get tender boat stickers. Carnival should have organized a line or another system for passing out the stickers because hundreds of people were just crowding around the stage fighting to get a sticker from one of the three representatives distributing them. Eventually some lines were formed but they were still disorganized with the ends not clearly defined. It was a huge mess with a lot of annoyed people pushing to get to the front. Some of them were angry and shouting at the Carnival staff. Luckily we got out of the whole mess with tender sticker #7. I felt sorry for the poor guests that I saw with tender boat sticker #20 and 21. I wonder if they made it ashore before 11a.m.? They used a couple of the ship's life boats for the tendering boats which had a capacity for 150 people each. But Carnival decided to fill them up half way because the boats would be too stuffy and cramped otherwise. This probably created a much more pleasant (if you can call it that) tendering trip but severely slowed everyone getting ashore in a timely manner. Tendering started at 8a.m. and they called our tender sticker # at about 9a.m.
We got ashore at about 9:30a.m. We had to rush to get to the location of our rental car courtesy shuttle pickup for 9:30a.m. If we missed it, we were told the next pickup wouldn't be until 10:30a.m.. All that rushing was for nothing as the driver arrived late at about 9:45 or 9:50a.m.. The distance between the pier and all the car rental agency near the airport was about 10 miles. With the exception of Kona on the Big Island, I haven't found any places to rent a car on any of the islands where you don't have to be shuttled to the airport. By the time we had our car it was a little after 10a.m. That didn't leave us much time to do stuff, plus the rental agency had to further cut into our fun time by making their last shuttle run to the pier at 4p.m.. They also asked that the rental car passengers be dropped off at the pier before the drivers came back to return the cars. This made sense as it saved room in the courtesy shuttle but it still created further inconvenience for us. Maybe Dollar should get a BIGGER shuttle or have two shuttles operating at a time! So that left us with about 4 hours to do something.
We had a scenic drive from the Western to Northern end or West Maui. The road is a bit narrow and very winding. Most of the time the speed limit was 35mph or under. We got a great view of the Northern coastline and bluffs. One of the two stops we made was at a blowhole on a rock shelf by the shoreline. The tide goes under the shelf and spits water through the hole about 20 or 30 feet into the air. A little further up the road we stopped at Olivine Pools, a great place to sit still and watch tidal pool life or to take a refreshing dip or snorkel in one of the larger tidal pools.
The walk up and down the bluff to both of these stops was a bit strenuous. Also, the trails were difficult to follow as they often split into other trails. This became frustrating as I didn't want to waste too much of our precious time hiking down trails to nowhere. We saw a lot of stacks of small rocks all over. I still don't know the significance of those. We didn't have time to do anything else so we just returned the car and got in the long line to tender back to shore. On the rental car agency's courtesy shuttle ride back to the pier I overheard one cruise guest say that he paid $50.00 to rent a car and then his family and he ended up going snorkeling right across the street from where they rented the car. Later when back on the ship, a couple in the hot tub told me that Carnival's 38 mile bike tour down the mountain got rained and HAILED on. And they paid $154.00 a person for that! What's even crazier is that there were supposedly some people, not on the tour, biking uphill. We just got a few sprinkles for about 20 minutes during our whole time on the island. The ship departed Lahaina at around 6p.m.
Wednesday, Sept 27th - The boat docked in Kahului, Maui around 8a.m. and wasn't scheduled to leave until 10:30p.m., so we planned a lot of activities for this day. We had another car rental through Dollar. The courtesy shuttle ride from the pier was only about five minutes to the rental car agency at the airport. We got a white Nissan Sentra. The courtesy shuttle bus driver was a sweet little old guy named Uncle John. On the way to Hana we stopped at a small natural foods hippie grocery store, Mana's, in the town of Pa'ia where they have reasonably priced delicious packaged vegetable wraps; two for $5.75. We were advised by Uncle John to stop in this town to get something to eat as there aren't really any opportunities to get food for many, many miles onward. The road to Hana twisted and winded a lot through narrow mountain roads. The speed limit was about 25 mph most of the way. We stopped at a couple of small waterfalls along the roadside. It took us about two and a half hours to drive three miles from Hana. At this point we checked out some wet caves at Waianapanapa State Park.
Regretfully, we only had about twenty minutes to explore this beautiful area which also had a very nice volcanic sand beach nestled in a cove with some other caves we saw people walking in and out of. I wish we could have spent all day there. We spent too much time driving and not enough time to walk around enjoying the sights at the many different roadside pull offs. We felt extremely rushed and would have had a lot more time had we not booked a luau excursion for 4:15p.m.. We returned the rental car at 3p.m., took the courtesy shuttle back with "Uncle John," and then boarded the bus for the Luau. It was in Lahaina, where the ship was the previous day on the southern end of West Maui, and took about 45 minutes to get to.
The Luau was at the Hyatt and I think was called "Drums of the Pacific." It consisted of an all you can eat buffet (Hawaiian style food), open bar, and a show that lasted for about one and a half hours. Each guest was greeted, had a necklace made of tiny seashells placed around their neck, and had their choice of watered-down Mai-Tais or Fruit Punch when we arrived. A waiter served us drinks until the show started. From then on we were allowed to go and get our own drinks at the open bar which not many people took advantage of. That made it extremely easy to walk up to the bar and get a drink whenever. The bartender was all smiles. The food was also very good. We didn't try any the steak but we heard a couple raving about it later. The luau began at 5:15p.m. and we were told it would last until 8:15p.m. It ended about a half hour early at 7:45p.m.. Right away people made a mad-dash for the buses because there were only half as many to bring us back as there were to bring us there. This meant that many people had to wait at the hotel for about one and a half hours while the buses dropped off the first load of people. We were fortunate to have been seated near the exit at the luau which made it easy for us to be on one of the first buses back to the ship.
If you're going to take full advantage of the open bar at this luau, I would strongly advise taking a bathroom break before boarding the bus back to the ship. I failed to do this and began to really regret it about ten minutes into the bus trip back. And of course the stupid bathroom on the bus was out of order. So I squirmed in my seat for the last half hour of the bus trip. Once the bus arrived near the pier, security had to come aboard and thoroughly check everyone's ID before any of us could get off the bus. That seemed to take forever. Eventually we made it off and luckily there was a porta-potty about fifty feet from the bus. Once aboard the ship I went to a very dead karaoke lounge and sang "Have You Ever Seen The Rain." It probably wasn't very good. The karaoke lounge closed about two hours early that night due to lack of interest/attendance. I saw fewer and fewer people going to karaoke as the cruise progressed. I think people were growing tired of seeing the same singers every night.
Thursday, Sept. 28 - We arrived in Nawiliwili, Kaui a little bit late. Like Kahului, the town was not very impressive. For some reason Carnival decided to cut an hour off our time at this port. That required that we be back on board at 4:30 instead of 5:30p.m.. It didn't leave us much time and again we felt very rushed. Our rental car shuttle was there shortly after we stepped off. The staff at the Dollar Car Rental agency at Lihue airport was extremely S-L-O-W. Our time was cut further by having to return the car by 3 or 3:30 in order to catch Dollar's courtesy shuttle back to the ship.
We drove up to Opaeka Falls and had trouble finding a parking spot, so we went further down the road to Keahua Forestry Arboretum. A lot of cars were parked there but we did not see where everyone was at. What was the big attraction here? An outdated (2001) Fodor's book said that there was a nice pond with a tarzan swing here but we failed to find it. I was really bummed out about that. Anyways, it was a nice quiet little secluded park with a lot of trees, a river, and chickens roaming freely. We then went back to Opaeka Falls, shot some photos, spending only about ten minutes there. I don't think you can hike to the bottom of the falls but you can see them from a distance on a roadside pull off. Then we took about an hour long drive up to the north coast to see Waikapala'e and Waikanaloa Wet Caves and Maniniholo Dry Cave. The first half of the drive was very easy. The second half was on very twisty, narrow roads with a lot of one lane bridges and no shoulder. We averaged only about 15 - 30 mph on this stretch.
There was a beach right across from Maniniholo Dry Cave and parking was a little bit of a problem. The road ended further up by the Wet Caves where the parking lots were extremely full and cramped. Driving into this parking lot, if you can call it that, was a nightmare and we had a difficult time just turning around to get out as I had tons of other people behind me looking for a spot to park. They didn't leave me enough room to turn around at the end of road. There was also a beach here. We eventually turned around and drove back down the road to find a small 20 minute limit parking spot by one of the probably less spectacular wet caves. You could walk a little ways into the entrance of the cave but couldn't swim in it due to loads of bacteria in the water. The caves were cool to see but I probably would have chosen to do something else if I had known that it was going to consume most of the day driving there.
Friday, Sept. 29th - The ship arrived in a rainy, overcast Hilo, Hawaii at 9a.m. just as scheduled. For some reason edition of Carnival Capers for that day showed the ship's arrival time as 8a.m. in Hilo. Our official cruise documents showed an arrival time of 9a.m. so that created a little confusion. The pier in Hilo was just another ugly cargo port. We took a courtesy shuttle to the rental car agency at the airport which was a mile or two from the pier. The service counter for Dollar rent-a-car was surprisingly minimal. It consisted of three younger girls working under a tent with a few fold-up chairs and a fold-up table. No computers even. The check in line moved very quick considering what they had to work with. We drove to Walmart and picked up some Macadema Nuts which we had been seeing at gift shops all over. They are a bit cheaper at Walmart, so I would advise buying them there. I didn't go inside but my wife told me that they had a whole aisle devoted to Hawaiian gifts for tourists.
While she was inside I used a pay phone to set-up a car rental for our next day in Kona, Hawaii. That was the only port where I hadn't reserved a car rental before we left. It was a major hassle because none of the agencies we called offered pier pick-up except Dollar but only if you reserved 48 hours ahead of time which we were too late for. Thrifty had a rental cars at a location right by the pier but they were all reserved. So make a reservation well ahead of time if you're planning on renting a car in Hawaii. It shouldn't require giving them a card credit number so there won't be any penalty if you decide to cancel the car rental. The drive to Volcanoes National Park was an easy half hour drive and the weather was starting to clear up a bit. Once we arrived it was still cloudy but not raining. The entrance fee was $10.00 a car for seven days. We had enough time to take a short hike through a lava tube, and a 36 mile round trip drive down Chain of Craters Road.
For my wife, what was at the end of that road turned out to be the highlight of our whole cruise. From there the road was closed to cars and we had to hike about a mile down to where the lava field had covered the road. We could still see a "No Parking" sign standing which was almost fully covered in the solidified lava. Large flumes were coming from about two miles further down the road where the lava field was still active pouring into the ocean. We could have hiked closer to it, but didn't have time for it. The smoke was so thick that we probably wouldn't have been able to see better details anyway. We overheard people that took the Volcano National Park tour with Carnival expressing disappointment. They were only given the opportunity to hike through the short lava tube and stop at one lookout point. The rest of their tour was spent on the bus with their guides talking about some of the park's noteworthy features as they zipped past them. It sounds like they were rushed through. Later that night, on the cruise ship's way to Kona, the captain gave us a real treat by sailing close to where the active lava was pouring into the ocean. It was a beautiful orange glow in the distant darkness. The captain even turned the ship around for awhile so the passengers on the other side could see to. A great way to end a terrific day!
Saturday, Sept. 30th. - We decided to cancel our car rental that we made yesterday after hearing that there were nice beaches and snorkeling sites right off the pier that we tendering into at Kona. We slept in avoiding that we imagined would be on deck two in the fight to get a tender sticker. The process was so ugly and disorganized in at our first stop in Lahaina, Maui and I didn't feel like dealing with it again. By 9:30a.m., an hour and a half after shore tendering had began, most guests were tendered ashore and you didn't need a tender sticker anymore.
About fifty feet from the pier there really was a nice beach, snorkeling site, and shopping galore. We decided to go to Kahalu'u Beach, which I had read about being a decent snorkeling site, but needed transportation there. A guy at a booth marked "Information" was quick to approach us and tell us about a shuttle that would take us there for $5 a person, each way. So that would have been $20.00 round trip. Luckily we decided not to take it because we soon after discovered a cute wood paneled trolley to take us there for FREE. The driver was very cheery like a lot of other Hawaiians we had met. We gave her a little tip upon stepping off. The beach was very hot and sunny. There wasn't much shade and the sand was absolutely scorching under our bare feet. So we quickly dropped off our stuff with someone there who kept it secure in a mini-trailer for $5.00 and went snorkeling with our own gear.
The snorkeling was okay but was nothing like the calm, uncrowded, gorgeously colorful cove in Dominican Republic we were at six years ago. The snorkeling there was excellent. We ended up going too far out to where the surfers and body surfers were and had a very difficult time fighting the current back to shore. It scared the crap out of my wife who then decided that to stay out of the ocean for the remainder of our cruise. We took it easy on the beach where a bunch of sea turtles were swimming close to shore. Some people wading were startled when the tide threw the turtles at their feet. But they were harmless.
We took the trolley back and I snorkeled at the beach close to the pier where we had been tendered into. We also shopped a little and ate a deliciously breaded and fried seafood lunch at "Splashers Grill." We passed a place that served gigantic slushies, but were too full for one. A very relaxing, inexpensive day for a change. I don't regret not renting a car in this port at all.
Later that night we saw the "Carnival Legends" show. It was most of the karaoke lounge regular performers from the cruise dressed up and performing as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Gloria Estefan, Madonna, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Frank Sinatra, Ricky Martin, Britney Spears, Sonny and Cher, Elvis Presley, and Elton John. Some of the staff from Carnival played the parts of the celebrities of who they couldn't get any of the guests to audition for. Auditions took place in the karaoke lounge on the earlier sea days. So if you have any desire to dress up like any of the fore-mentioned celebrities and sing in front of hundreds of people, you may want to give these auditions a shot. Not many people competed in the auditions so a good singing voice isn't required. Maybe just tolerable one. The show was worth seeing but a bit tiring at times as we had seen most of these guests perform on the karaoke stage two or three times every night.
Sunday: October 1st - We permanently docked (until the next cruise) in Honolulu and caught the car rental courtesy shuttle for Dollar. The waiting area for the rental shuttle was hard to find at the pier. Weather in Honolulu was hot and mostly cloudy with small patches of rain which we drove into going from the southern to northern end of the island. The inner mountainous area of Oahu is green and gorgeous. Driving around Honolulu wasn't too hard. The city wasn't as ugly as I thought it would be. Not being a fan of big cities, we quickly drove out of Honolulu and up to Waimea Bay on the north end. That drive took about an hour as we took Hwy 83 on the eastern coast. The tide at Waimea Bay was disappointingly low and nobody was surfing. The tour group that Carnival took to watch the surfers here must have been a little ticked. Our cruise director really hyped this tour up when she said something like "your jaw will drop to the floor when you see the size of some of these waves the surfers challenge in Waimea Bay."
We snorkeled at a small marine preserve a couple miles down the road. The water here was very calm and sheltered but too shallow in many areas. It was difficult to step around the numerous spiny sea urchins. We stopped at one of the many roadside shrimp booths on the way back. It was called Romy's, I think. The steamed prawns were good. We also checked Halona Blowhole which was not very active at the time. I kind of wish we would have tried snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, but we were reluctant to drive there since numerous sources said that the parking lot fills up very early. I didn't feel like dealing with a disappointment like that today. When we got back to the ship we organized the mess in our cabin, packed our bags, and ate our last gourmet dinner in the Empire Restaurant. Our bags were outside our door by 10:00p.m. and we went to bed shortly after.
Monday: October 2nd - We awoke and ate breakfast in the Empire Restaurant for the first and last time. The food wasn't much different from what you would get at the Lido deck breakfast buffet. It was just a little bit of a change being seated and served for breakfast. Everybody was given tags the night before which signified what order they would be allowed off the ship. Our tag was called at about 9:00a.m. or a little after that. Since our flight was at 5:00p.m. we were in no rush to get off the ship. We decided to get off anyway so we weren't in staff's way as they cleaned the cabins and other areas of the ship for the next cruise guests arriving that afternoon. We didn't have to settle a bill because they already had our credit card info. An itemized bill was sent to our room the previous night holding no surprises. All we had to do to exit the ship was swipe our "Sail and Sign" card for the last time.
A few people had actually disembarked yesterday, skipping their last night on the ship. And there were other people that were taking the cruise again, leaving out of Honolulu and sailing back to Vancouver. That would be a 24 day cruise. Once we were off the boat we had to track down where the porters put our luggage in the terminal. After I saw what was going on with the luggage, I was glad that we didn't wait to get off the ship. People were either not paying attention or in too much of a rush because they were walking out with other people's luggage. I think most of it got sorted out before anyone actually left the terminal with the wrong bags, but I'm still glad we claimed ours quickly. On the bus ride to the airport we noticed solar panels on many of the homes in Honolulu. What a great example to set! I hope to start seeing more of those around the U.S..
My wife was not happy with the heat that day in Honolulu so she really hated the airport which was not fully enclosed from the outdoors. The check-in and security check point lines were very long and there were only a few large fans to blow hot air on everyone. We had an extremely long wait sitting at the gate from about noon to 5:00p.m.. The airplane ride was seven hours long and very uncomfortable. They screened a movie, "Lake House" but I had two tall people with fat heads sitting in front of me making it hard to watch. We arrived in Minneapolis at about 12:30a.m. Hawaii time or 5:30a.m. our time. Being back home wasn't bad, but it took more than a week for that nasty jet lag to wear off.
Food was always available somewhere on this cruise. The 24 hour pizzeria was okay but not outstanding. Chocolate and vanilla ice cream was also available 24 hours. It was hard to resist the sundae bar, filled with diced candy toppings and gooey syrups, which was set-up for two hours a day on our days at sea. The food at the La Playa Grille on the lido deck, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, was served buffet style and always good. The lines were usually not too bad, taking only a few minutes to get to the food. Getting a table to sit at could sometimes be a minor hassle. Everyday they offered some different ethnic foods such as Mexican, Italian, or Indian. A salad bar, dessert bar, fruit bar, build-your-own burger bar, and deli were always good alternatives here. Tables are set-up inside and outside. Most people ate dinner in the more formal Empire Restaurant. Meals consisted of dinner rolls, a small appetizer and salad, main entree, and dessert.
Plan for dinner here to take about an hour or an hour and a half. You are assigned a table before you board and in most cases it will be at a table with other people. But they do a good job of seating you with people your age/marital status. You can also request a table move at any time. The menu changes daily, has a good variety and ethnic diversity, and always offers at least one meat, pasta, seafood, vegetarian, and weight watchers dish every night. With a few exceptions, we loved everything we ordered and our waiter was very cheery. If you order a dish and don't like it, no problem, they will take it away and let you choose something else from the menu. If a person wanted to, I think one could order every dish on the menu to sample at once. Extremely wasteful and unnecessary, in my opinion, but a person could probably do it. Although these dishes are considered gourmet, sometimes the same dishes can be found served simultaneously in the less formal La Playa Grille. All of the fore mentioned food is inclusive in your boarding price. You can reserve a table at the Nouveau Supper Club, which is not inclusive and apparently a bit pricey, as an alternative to the La Playa Grille and Empire Restaurant. We haven't tried it so I can't write anything about it.
Drinks such as apple juice, orange juice, fruit punch, coffee, and tea were also inclusive and always available from a dispenser on the Lido deck. There were also small milk cartons. Soda cards were available but had to be purchased for the whole duration of the cruise. The overall purchase price amounted to costing $5.50 a day. Since sodas cost $1.75 a can, the cards were not a good deal unless you drank more than three sodas a day. Daily specials were about $7 with a souvenir cup, or $4 without. Prices, including gratuity, for drinks I purchased were as follows: $4.00 for whiskey sour, $6.00 for a Guinness, $6 or 7 for a Pina Colada. I'm not sure how much regular domestic beer was but I think I remember hearing that you could buy 4 bottles in a bucket of ice for $11.00.
Our interior cabin was small but very clean and well-kept. The room consisted of a queen-sized bed, a desk, a very small table and two chairs, two night stands, a few drawers, a closet with shelves, two other closets to hang clothes in, and a television. The bathroom was very small but adequate enough for one person to move around in. There was a shower stall but no bathtub. Our cabin steward kept a kleenex over a loud vent with EXTREMELY powerful suction. There was no switch to shut it off.
The ship's nighttime entertainment -
Carnival Guest Performances:
Stunts: The Incredible Balancing of Pepper
Hypnosis: Hypnotic Showtime starring the Hypnotic Powers of Jac Rene
Magic: Comedy Variety Showtime starring the The Magical Comedy of Bobby Borgia (RECOMMENDED)
Games: Bingo, Deck Party Fun & Games, Carnival Colors Conga Line Competition
The ship's daytime entertainment and activities -
Informative: Towel Folding Demonstration, Adult Arts and Crafts
Dancing: Dance Classes, Austin Powers Dance Class,
Word of warning about the activities; Carnival seems to plan a lot of activities for the sea days and not much for when in port somewhere. So there isn't much to do on board while the ship is docked. Why would you not want to make the most of Hawaii anyway!?!
Carnival's shore excursion prices for 2006 -
Will we only did one of the ship's excursions, which turned out to be a lot of fun by the way, I still believe that renting a car is the best way to see the island. In all my online research of comments made by people who have visited the islands, I have yet to find someone who disagrees.
Carnival videotaped a lot of the deck activities and shore excursions and then later aired them throughout the day on the ship's cable system. You could later buy everything they recorded on dvd at the end of the cruise. I suppose you could make your own dvd if you brought your own dvd recorder and hooked it up to the cabin's television set. We had fun watching these and the two channels with the ship's live stationary cameras which showed the conditions outside beyond the ship's bow and stern. There was another channel that continuously aired the talk given about shore tours. Another channel displayed the current wind speed, ship's speed, time, and map of the ship's location. Then there was another channel which continuously aired historical documentaries on the Hawaiian Islands. The other channels were CBS, NBC, ABC, Discover, CNN, TNT, Fox News, Cartoon Network, TBS, Music Videos, and Three Channels with free movies. The free movies included: The Ringer, Tristan and Isolde, Robots, Big Momma's House 2, The Blue Butterfly, Cheaper By the Dozen 2, Paradise Sought, Ask the Dust, The Arrangement, Sandlot 2, Rumor Has It, The Chronicles of Narnia, Hawaii's Vengeful Goddess, Like Mike 2, Aquamarine, The Extra, Hawaiian Paradise, A & E Best of Both Worlds: Hawaii, America's Deadliest Volcanoes, Haunted Hawaii, Battleline: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii's Last Queen. Most of these movies we had never heard of or had no interest in. The only ones we watched were the documentaries about Hawaii. There were also pay movies for the rip-off price of $9.00 which we also declined on. I'm certainly not paying more to see a movie once on a small tv than I would in a full size theater.
Summary - The overall quality of this cruise was great. The staff was friendly, our cabin and public areas were clean, the ship's design and artwork was attractive for the most part, service was mostly good and prompt, the entertainment that we saw ranged from fair to excellent, and there was no shortage of tasty food. The Islands were all gorgeous and it was EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to choose what we wanted to do on each one. I could spend a week on each one in order to see everything I want. My favorite is Maui and I would love to spend more time on the road to Hana. My wife's favorite is the Big Island mainly because of Volcanoes National Park.
It is hard for me to recommend this cruise since we felt so rushed on all the stops. It's not Carnival's fault, it's more that there's just too much to see on each island. In that respect, it was hard to plan what to do in the few hours that we had on each island especially when what we really want to do is on the other side of the island of where we're docked. That is why I really appreciated our stop in Kona, Hawaii where everything we wanted to do was right off the pier. A land vacation would be a much better way to do it. In no way was it a bad cruise or a waste of money. We probably would have felt the same had it been another cruise line. In fact, we plan on taking the Spirit again sometime to Alaska.