We arrived in Oahu after 12 hours of flying (luckily we had a short layover in Dallas), but it was only around 5 PM in Hawaii, so too early to go sleep. We just managed to get a quick bite and then a small walk around the shopping area and beach in Waikiki. It is a very busy place with lots to do. The next day we slept late then did our souvenir shopping to get it out of the way and visited the lovely beaches. The plan was to parasail but the winds were very high so we skipped that this week as every day the surf and winds were high. We also decided to send our Christmas cards from Hawaii, and went in search of Hawaiian types, then we met our friends for dinner and drove around a little after dinner. We ate dinner at the Aloha Towers and watched a few ships sail away. Santa was also there and he greeted all of us. The next day was out big outing, we hiked up Diamond Head, what a walk. But we managed to survive and nothing hurt afterwards (what a surprise). The view is spectacular, well worth the effort. If you have a hard time, you can go slow, but there are points when it extremely steep. Anyone afraid of heights should think twice! Then we drove to the other side of the island and had lunch at the Crouching Lion Inn and bought some lovely prints in the gallery.
The next morning we sent out the Christmas cards and sent the gifts home by priority mail to save luggage space.We found a Cheesecake factory and had a wonderful lunch along with cheesecake of course! We did some more driving around and saw the pipeline and all sorts of interesting sights. . We had dinner in the Ko Olina. We also had drinks at the famous pink Hotel, quite a lavish old style hotel. The next day we did the Arizona memorial drove up to Pali. And around some more to see different sights like the blowhole and various beaches.Then we ate lunch in small shop and went off the Hilo Hatties when of course I have to buy a little something for myself In the evening we went to the Luau at paradise cove. That was lots of fun as they had a number of exhibits, games and crafting workshops before the dinner. We made bracelets and headwreaths adorned with flowers the dinner was proceeded by the royal court parade and the digging up of the pig. The food was excellent, but I decided that the poi tasted like wallpaper paste after a taste. The last day we drove to the pier but when we saw the long line decide to go off and come back later. We went to the Dole plantation, and then back to eat at the crouching Lion. When we got back there was no line so we walked right onto the ship. But if we had arrived 10 minutes later we would have missed the muster. Not that we really minded, but the rental car was still sitting out on the pier and had to be brought back. but one of the porters had watched it for us. I was happily surprised when we got on the ship. After doing the Radiance and the Adventure I was sure this would look old by comparison. But I was very wrong, the ship was lovely and airy and a very pleasant place to spend the next 10 days. The ship is very well laid out and very easy to navigate. In a few hours I could find anything on the ship quite easily. The ship was decorated so beautiful for the holidays, the cenrtrum was awash with garlands and lights and festive decorations with the centerpiece being a village made out of gingerbread; it was very welcoming. After the first dinner which was very good, I watched as the ship pulled out of port, a wonderful sight. The first stop was Maui and we rented a car and we traveled all over the island taking in as many sights as possible. We drove to the North side of the island where rental cars a re not supposed to go and carefully eked our way along the steep and narrow single lane roads which were precariously perched in the cliffs. Maui is a very lush island and a very beautiful island. We also went into a lovely valley with a rock formation that looked like Kennedy, and then on to the falls where we hiked around a little bit. Then we headed back to the ship. We were dressed in shorts and hiking things so I wanted to eat in the Windjammer, but the men in the group wanted to eat in the dining room because they only had open seating that night due to the overnight stay. I am still annoyed, because I do not feel comfortable dining in a restaurant dressed like that. Some people may find that relaxing, but I am uncomfortable feeling like a sloppy, but that is my personal preference. I was not dirty per se, but would have preferred to take a shower and dress decently, but the dining room was closing at 8:30. I will never be talked into that again! The next day we drove up to Mount Haleakala. This was a breathtaking ride up into the clouds. The crater looked like something from a moon landing and was big enough to put Manhattan inside of it. The height was literally breath taking as it took a few moments for your lungs to get used to the thinner air. We drove around and explored as many roads as we possibly could and even found a section called Christmas Lane where very house was lavishly decorated for the holidays. When we returned to port, we walked around had a late lunch a Bubba Gump's Shrimp Factory, a very pleasant eating experience. We did a little more browsing in the shops and then back to the ship. Then the next Island was Kauai. The first thing we did after getting our rental car was to go on a helicopter flight thru the canyons. It was a 60 minute flight and every minute was exciting. We took pictures and videos and very sight was more beautiful than the last. We did some driving and ate dinner at a plantation and walked on a few beaches before heading back to the ship for the first formal night. Our next stop was Kona where we went on a waterfall hike up in the mountains on the North side. The ledges were quite narrow but the hike was very exhilarating and afterwards we were treated to lunch on the beach. The waves were extraordinarily high this week and the winds whipped up some amazing surf. Our friend Jim had befriended some of the crew and the had done some fishing and came back to the ship with a 40 pound Ono. They also had sightings of whales that just rolled over and sun bathed and turtles and dolphins galore. Ordinarily you cannot bring your catch onboard but since the head of the restaurant services (who does the food buying for the ship along with cooking) was with them they brought it onboard cooked it for us and served it to us in the Windjammer along with fine china, tablecloths, candles and wine. Because the staff members are rarely invited to go on such outings, they were really grateful and treated us like Kings and Queens all week. We made some lifelong friends. On Hilo we did the Valley of the Kings excursion, and while it was very nice, I think I would have preferred to go up to the volcano. We were taken by van down into a step valley where the natives lived and toured real homes and tarot farms. Our next four sea days were very relaxing, but the most fun was had when we entered and won the Quest! This game is not to be missed. During the sea days it was quite cool and windy so rock climbing and mini golf were out of the question. We did manage to get to some of the midnight buffets on the pool deck. We did however skip the midnight buffet as we have seen many of them before and were not hungry. there was so much to do inside the ship on sea days, you could not be bored. Santa arrived to give the kiddies gifts and we also received a very nice gift, a large duffel type piece of luggage on wheels and a tote/cosmetics bag. We were happily surprised there were a number of Holiday shows and a religious observations that were quite lovely. They also had a caroling session. All of the entertainment was very good, I am not sure we saw any that we did not like. The trip back from Ensenda to San Diego was quick and uneventful, but one piece of our luggage was put on the wrong green bus and we had to go to one of the other terminals to retrieve it. But since we had a few hours to kill, it just gave us something to do. Coming home the flight was smooth and fast, but as we flew into JFK, I was feeling sad that the trip was over. Even though we were away fro 15 days, I could have stayed for more. This was a wonderful vacation that was probably the best I have ever been on. My hawaii pics can be seen on: http://community.webshots.com/user/abridalmaven