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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Pretty quiet day today - Mom and I woke up at 9ish and called the Kualoa ranch to see if there was any chance of getting on a ride today or tomorrow - they said they were all booked up, but we could call them at ten to see if they'd had a cancellation. We went out for a quick Mcbreakfast, avoiding the spam platters(!), and then tried to phone again at ten, but there was still no room at the ranch, so we decided to just have a quiet day around Waikiki.

Mom and I headed to the beach by the Hilton Hawaiian Village to read for awhile while the boys ate breakfast and got organized to go. Mom, Grampa, and in the end Peter all headed to the Bishop museum which they all seemed to really enjoy. I didn't really want to go to a museum today, so I struck out on my own, walking down through Waikiki, into the International Marketplace, along the beach, etc. I ended up buying a huge rolling duffel bag to cram in all the crap I seem to have acquired, including a bunch of workbooks and stuff to use for teaching in the New Year. Bringing only one, overstuffed to begin with, backpack on this trip was probably always going to be a mistake!

After I dropped the bag off at the hotel, I walked to Walmart, about 20 a minute walk away, and got a few photos printed, and then framed them for Mom, Grampa, and Peter as mini end of vacay pressies. Since they weren't allowed to be 'Christmas' presents, we'll call them oshogatsu (sp?) presents, or just because presents, or something - I couldn't resist anyway ;) I wanted to have them wrapped by the time I got back to the hotel in case they beat me back, so I wrapped them on the patio tables outside the Walmart-framing and wrapping photos outside doesn't get you weird looks or anything :p

It turned out we all arrived back at the hotel simultaneously, just after six, and then split back up again - Peter finally got in touch with his friend Yuki, and they went off for dinner, while Grampa and Mom watched hockey and I halfheartedly packed in our room. A bit later on, Mom decided she wanted a bag like mine, so we walked back down to the International Marketplace to procure and even (!) larger one...

As we were packing, we watched a bizarre show about people who are Chimeras - in this case, they have two different sets of DNA... It was weird, because just before we left, I listened to an All in the Mind podcast about chimeras and then to hear about them again in three weeks was probably not too likely!...interesting show and topic though!

At about 11:45, Peter and Yuki swung by the hotel and picked me up and we took Yuki to her first ever Honolulu Walmart experience, I hope she enjoyed it :) We got our cereal, peanut butter, baking soda, etc. to bring back into Japan, the requisite Macadamia products, and then Peter also got a pay and talk cell phone, so next time he comes over here he'll have a Hawaiian keitai number...I'm shocked and disappointed that you can't get Stoned Wheat Thins here! Who would have known those are a Canadian thing-I didn't think we had anything individually on our own like that...well other than ketchup chips and timmy's donuts, but anyways... weird!

Back to the hotel at about 1:15, and just basically heading to bed now - tomorrow we're doing the North Shore again, a Kualoa ranch and movie set tour, and then Peter and I are dropping off Mom and Grampa at the airport :( before heading out for some New Year's celebrations :)


Friday, December 29, 2006

Breakfast in the Wailana Coffee Shop again today, and then middayish we headed up to the North Shore to check out the bigger surf up there. It was pretty amazing! The surf wasn’t super huge but it was the biggest we’ve seen and there were a few people attempting to surf in what looked like pretty messy surf.

We went to Waimea Beach park and watched a few people do a lot of waiting for surf but not so much surfing, and then drove back to Haleiwa which is a really cute little town! We went to this little shopping area and looked in at the free surf museum which was pretty cute, and entertaining because just about everything was for sale! I bought a ring which was part of the ‘recycled jewelry’ display – everything they had for sale was found in and around the beaches of Oahu, which is a bit weird but a bit cool all at once. I really want to know some of the stories behind some of the jewelry!

They also had some pretty interesting articles, surfboards, photos, etc. They had one surfboard that had a motor built into it – it was first used as a rescue board and was a precursor to the jet ski. Incidentally, we saw a jetski rescue truck racing down the highway when we were at the beach, but it continued past us so we don’t know what happened – hopefully they managed to rescue whomever was having issue in the (crazy powerful) surf.

We didn’t have time for lunch up there, as we were trying to get photos of cows before we lots the light for Mom’s ‘Behind the Scenes at the Ranch’ book, so we just grabbed coffees at this funky little coffee shop. My ‘milkyway mocha’ was delicious, but they were sooo ineffiecnt it was funny – two 15 ish year old girls who were having tons of fun but not getting too much done, it was a bit ridiculous!

We stopped at another lookout to get some more surf photos and found a guy who has this crazy contraption – a 1968 VW bug which is being pulled around the US by a big motor bike. The whole thing is painted with the American flag, and he’s taken it to all fifty states, over one year and nine months. I got my picture taken sitting on it- it’s pretty comfortable!

We headed back to Waikiki stopping at the Kualoa ranch for a little bit just before they closed – I think Mom and I might be trying to go for a ride there before we go so that she can get photos for her book (I’m just the hanger on cum assistant). We got back to the hotel around 6:30, and just hung out for awhile. I got to say hi to Britt on MSN – congratulations to them for their new horse purchase! Danny is a Halflinger formerly owned by some people that I vaguely know through vaulting, and he himself can be used for vaulting (I’m so jealous! He’s a total cutie too!)

At 7:30 we were shocked by the loud booming noises, which turned out to be the Hilton Hawaiian Village’s weekly fireworks next door, so we looked out our big sliding glass doors to watch them, and then walked down to Koa’s for some amazing Thai food – very very good! We walked back along the beach and through the Hilton Hawaiian Village which is a 22 acre resort that’s pretty impressive! Back to the hotel at 11:30, and just blogging/watching ellen/reading etc... Just two more days with all of us here, so we have to b efficient in the next couple of days, and need our sleep to prepare!

This morning was a bit grey and cloudy, but by the time we dragged ourselves out the door for breakfast at the Wailana coffee shop at 10ish, it had turned sunny again, so that was nice. The big shocking news of the morning was that someone from my class in middle/high school was the first person my age I know to get married! I guess we're all actually growing up!

Anyways... back to Hawaii, after breakfast we decided to head up to the Polynesian Cultural Centre near the North Shore. Its a 43 acre complex which has seven villages representing the different Polynesian nations, a canoe pageant, canoe tours, imax, a luau, show, etc. It's somewhat like a Disney-esque slice of the islands.

We got there at two fifteenish, and headed straight to the canoe pageant, where they have about eight big flat pontoon type canoes being poled down the central river thing by one pole boy, and then there were six-eight dancers in traditional dance showing off something from each of the islands - it was pretty interesting!

We walked up to the Marquesses Islands (sp?) for a snack, and then Peter and I jumped on the canoe tour while Mom and Grampa went to Tahiti and the Marquesses. The canoe tour we took was a ten minute, one way ride down the river and back to the other end of the park - it was a good way to get an idea of the park's layout, and we saw some pretty cool buildings along the river banks. We jumped off the canoe at 3:59 and then raced into see the 4:00 IMAX showing about Coral Reefs. It was amazing!

The reefs were so gorgeous, and it was also shocking to see some of the dead reefs. We saw one scientist/diver, who after observing how a huge potato cod fish got its mouth cleaned by these funny looking insecty type creatures which ate the parasites in its mouth, decided to whip out her ventilator and get her own mouth hoovered! It was crazy!! She was just floating there with her mouth wide open and these two creatures cleaning her out. She was like 'well, I was worried that I was going to inhale him, but it turned out OK'. I was thinking it wasn't a great idea to open your mouth underwater, invite some creatures in, and not be able to breathe without the ventilator thingy, but I'm the one completely freaked out by snorkeling, so there you go!

We met back up with Mom and Grampa, and slowly headed over to the buffet, before heading to Horizons, the big show everyone seems to go to at the end of the night. It was a pretty impressive 1.5 hour production, with singing and dancing from all the regions, and then a pretty spectacular set of fire dancing/fire walking/sitting in fire/setting grass skirts on fire, etc. The set was pretty cool, and the exploding volcanoes at the end were great!

We didn't really have time to see any of the islands, but we get reentry once in the next three days with our tickets, so I think we're going to combine a trip to the North Shore with a look through the islands which would be cool - I want to try spear throwing!

Back to the hotel relatively early, at about 10:30, and I think everyone is just collapsing for an earlyish night - our quiet vacation week hasn't exactly been slow and I think we're all ready for a good sleep!


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Well today was exciting! It started out innocently enough with mom insisting on going to the beach - no surprise there! I wanted her to take the shopping trolley with me to Borders so I could buy something to read at said beach, but she was insistent that she wanted to go to Waikiki Beach and do some body boarding. We compromised with going to the bookstore in the Hilton Hawaiian Village across the street together, and then she kept going to the beach, I came back to get some stuff organized at the hotel, and then met her at the beach a bit later on.

It was pretty miraculous that we found each other in the first place - I got off on the wrong stop, and then had to hike down the beach, which was FULL! Luckily she spotted me from the water and came to meet me. Then we decided to meet up again in a couple of minutes, so I only left her for a second, to see if the Billabong store across the street had the rash guard I'd been looking for, (it didn't, I think I'm not meant to have it!), but when I got back to her, she was kind of limping, and her foot was wrapped in a good half inch of gauze.

"What did you do?"
"Oh, you know, nothing that a few stitches won't fix"

Good god! Turns out she'd found the only piece of coral at Waikiki Beach, and had a fight with it, ripping off her fin and gashing her foot in the process. I never saw the cut, but I gather its long, deep, and yucky! Poor girl! We ended up taking a city bus which was faster back to our hotel, and then going across the street to the medical clinic, where she did indeed get three stitches - this is why you get travel insurance! Unfortunately, it means no more time in the water which sucks for her since she was well on her way to becoming a beach bum on this trip! Condolence bouquets can be sent to... Haha just kidding - she'll be fine! A couple of Tylenols and Grampa's newly procured cane, and she was ready to salvage the day.

We axed the trip to the North Shore, since we were three hours behind schedule by this point anyway, and went back to the Kohala hotel to check out the dolphins during the day. They are so cool! There's around eight of them, and a couple of them were flirting with us - staying above the water and posing for the camera. We were really lucky to catch them before the last feeding time, so we got to see a couple of tandem flips as they worked for their fish - awesome! We stayed for coffees and then headed back to the massive Ala Moana shopping centre for some gauze and the such. We parked Mom in a coffee shop and then grabbed a few things before heading up to Bubba Gump's for dinner. I have to watch Forrest Gump again! I can't really remember much about it - just the part about the box of chocolates, and 'run Forrest, run!' which is probably about what everyone remembers. The restaurant is pretty fun and themed, and good food - I had a fantastic salad and everyone else seemed to enjoy theirs as well.

After that we headed back to the $1.00 cinema to check out the late showing of 'Employee of the Month'. It was well worth the $1.00, but probably not a whole lot more :) Honestly it was a fun movie, but not exactly thick on the plot or art! Although, with the basic premise being: Jessica Simpson's character comes to work at the local Coscto impostor, and two guys fight for her affections by competing for employee of the month honors, you shouldn't really expect too much I feel. The grandmother was hilarious though, and it all ended up the way you want it to, so I'm happy :)

One weird thing tho - when we got to the movie theatre, I got stopped by the ticket taker who didn't want me to take my backpack in. It was empty except for basically my wallet and a book because I'd been dumping stuff out of it all day, but she was adamant that I not take it in until I went to get special permission from the manager, who told me it was fine as long as I went straight into the movie (which was starting by then). Honestly, what did they think I was going to do, steal something? I should mention that the weirdest part of this was that the sign also says you can't bring in large shopping bags, but Mom had no problem bringing in her absolutely massive/overflowing beach bag/shoulder bag which was FULL of crap. (err I mean important belongings). Ageism? Feeling sorry for the woman with the cane? Not sure, but it was interesting though!

Anyway, after that just headed back to the hotel and set mom up with her 'sitcom ice bag' (the funny blue bags with the top on them that they always use in the movie) and then blogging. We don't really know what's going on tomorrow - it really depends on how well Mom can get around...

Hope everyone else is staying out of the clinic/ER!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Since today was boxing day, after a relaxing morning of crappy VH1 TV (the True Hollywood Story about the Sex and the City girls), Peter, Grampa and I headed off to the Ala Moana Shopping centre for some boxing day shopping. Mom opted out of the shopping and headed for a walk around Waikiki and along the beach, etc. Just before we left we also got to chat with Sascha for a few minutes which was great, Happy Belated Birthday! (I think I forgot to mention on the phone!) I also said hi to Toby briefly - he got a Wii for Christmas, lucky boy, and it sounds like they are as cool as they look!

On our way to the mall, we stopped at Best Buy, and Peter bought TiVo to hook up to the Victoria cable, program through his Internet, shoot across the ocean, pull down through his sling box, and timeshiftingly enjoy TV through his laptop. If that confused you, don't worry - it makes even less sense in real life! Nevertheless, it's pretty exciting - we set Gilmore Girls as a season's pass, so I won't miss any more episodes this season :) Also very exciting is that 'Hockey Night in Canada' on Saturday nights, no longer needs to be 'Hockey day in Oyama-cho' all day on Sunday - we can now leave the house before 4:30 since the second game of the day can be time shifted to another evening during the week.

Anyway, after Best Buy, we went to the Ala Moana Shopping Centre, which is a HUGE mall! It's pretty cool because it isn't fully enclosed - you can enjoy this amazing Hawaii weather while you shop! We stopped for a chaotic lunch in the crazy food court first - that really did feel like a Christmas meal in Metrotown! Then we headed out into the nuttiness for a few hours. They didn't really have the same kind of Boxing Day sales as in Canada, but it was still pretty packed, espcially in Hollister! We spent a couple of hours there, but its way too big a mall to cover in one day! I got a few things at American Eagle and Hollister, and Peter and Grampa picked up a couple of things as well...

Headed back to the hotel to meet up with Mom at about 5:30, and Peter promptly re wired the hotel (who brings a cable splitter on vacation, anyway?) to test out the new TiVo - it all seems to be working which is great - it's already sucking down the Shaw Cable info via the internet here, but recording what's being played here, so we tried out the 'rewinding to catch the missed sentence' feature.

It's pretty entertaining, because although TiVo now works in Canada, they don't sell it there, so you have to bring your own box there, and once you get it, you have to set it up by telling it you live in Leo, Wyoming. If you do that, it knows you are Canadian and you're good to go. One wonders how that might screw over any of the legitimate Leo-onians who are trying to get TiVo (I guess it's probably not a major issue since the entire state only has 493 000 odd residents).

I jumped online now that Mom can get online through an Ethernet cable again thanks to Pete's network adaptor USB present to her, and chatted with Navina (any game plans formulated yet?);) and Andee before heading to Outback Steakhouse for dinner. I had the same salad as in Shibuya, and it was just as tasty - probably not what you go to Outback for generally, but still yummy! Mom loved her steak salad and claims its one of the best salads she's had.

Walking back to the hotel, we stopped in at Crazy Shirts, which does NOT sell three armed shirts (though that would be funny, and I would probably buy one, and apparently gullability runs in the Wellsview arm of the family!) and then jumped in the car to head out to Borat(wikipedia). We managed to find it playing at a $1.00 cinema just past the Ala Moana Centre - it's a great deal, they have nine screens playing just past first run movies for a buck, all day, any movie.

Anyway, Borat was um interesting... I haven't seen much Ali G, but I hear that is hilarious and Borat was less so, which I would probably agree with - some of it was funny, but a lot of it was let's laugh at the asshole being crappy about people. I was expecting it to be a lot more clever- there's certainly enough about North America to spoof and be cynical about, but he went a little far with some of the jokes, imo. That wrestling scene was fairly spectacular for lack of a better word though! It had it's own coordinator according to the credits (incidentally, there was a 'Borat Feces Producer' credited as well). One review I saw a quote from compared it to Spinal Tap, but I think that's a bit generous! Anyway, I didn't hate it or anything, and it was probably worth our $4.00 investment ;)

Back to the hotel just after midnight to blog and get ready to check out the big waves of the North Shore tomorrow.


Monday, December 25, 2006

Mmm Christmas Day at the beach! We slept in this morning until 9:30 (you know it's been a busy vacation when sleeping in equals 9:30! I don't think Peter's been up this early so many consecutive days since high school!) We met up for breakfast in the boys room, and then just after eleven, headed off for a day at the beach.

We drove about 40 minutes out of Waikiki to Lanikai Beach, which was fantastic! Gorgeous white sandy beach, crystal clear aquamarine water, no waves, etc. We scored a great shady spot under a palm tree, and hung out for most of the afternoon. There was even the opportunity to do a bit of snorkeling right near the beach. I did a tiny bit using my boogie board with the viewing hole in it, but I really don't like not knowing how far away the coral is/not being able to kick my feet down (it's not the depth that freaks me out, its feeling like I can't swim properly without disturbing everything, neurotic, I know!) so I didn't last too long, but Mom and Peter enjoyed it I think. I did see some cool coral and black and yellow fish which were pretty cute.

After we had our fill of time at the beach (including a turkey sandwich picnic in honor of Christmas), we drove around through the little town near the beach, though just about everything was closed, and then headed about another twenty minutes up the road to look an interesting island called Chinaman's hat, because of it's shape. I got the gymnastics urge because of all the great grass (I really am still 7!), so all of the pictures of me here are with my feet in the air-typical! I did get my handstand full turn back fairly quickly, which seemed important at the time!

We headed back to Waikiki, and stopped at the Christmas Lights at the Honolulu City Hall, as suggested by Hitomi - very cool! It was a great display, and the trees inside the city hall were very cool as well - at lot like the ones in the Empress every year. We had enough time to quickly look at everything, but since we'd left Grampa in the car, and had to get back to the hotel, we didn't see it all - we'll probably end up back there at some point before we go.

Back to the hotel around 7ish, and just enough time to change before we went out again, this time to Christmas dinner at the Kahala Hotel and Resort (formerly a Mandarin Oriental Hotel until earlier this year), which was very, very nice! We'll definitely be going back here in the daylight for lunch - they have a dolphin lagoon, tropical fish pond, turtles, etc. which we must photograph during the day. We saw the dolphins a little bit, but it was a bit hard to see with it being almost totally dark-you can get really close to them though! I'm torn between not liking them in captivity, and being selfishly excited about the photo opportunities (see, there you go Andee, you'll get your dolphin shots ;) )

We ended up sitting outside on a terrace fairly close to the ocean for dinner, which was very pleasant except for being a bit chilly for those of us who thought we were eating inside and didn't dress for spending two hours by the ocean breeze! It wasn't bad at all though, some warm tea did the trick! It wasn't a super traditional buffet, although there was turkey and stuffing (key!), but we also ate sushi, rice, sashimi (well some of us), other sea foods, etc. It was very tasty! Peter and I were also excited to see the candy bowl with rockets and mini Reese's pieces to go with the super tasty strawberries and whipped cream, yum!

Had a quick walk through the hotel, they have a very impressive 35+ft. real Christmas tree in their massive lobby, and we also checked out the wall of fame, where many of the famous people of have stayed there (everyone from Konishki to Jerry Bruckheimer, to Drew Barrymore, Adam Sandler, Mr. Solheim (of the Solheim cup), to Elton John, and to the President of Tonga, etc) have photos and signed quotes lining one rather length hallway. It reminded me of the staircase at Sassafraz, the restaurant I went to with Chuck in Toronto last year, which shockingly burnt down a few weeks ago - I gather it was quite the Toronto institution, and I hope they are able to revive as they hope to do!

Back to the hotel around 11, very happy and full! I was hoping to be able to post photos today, but my bags are still mostly packed from the cruise, and the memory card reader is buried in one of them, so unless it comes out in the next little bit and I come back downstairs, I think that will be a long term tomorrow type project - there are hundreds to sort through just on my keitai!

Tomorrow Pete and I will be boxing day shopping (TIVO, anyone?), Mom is going for a walk/beach (she's turning into a complete beach bum on this trip!), and we're not quite sure what Grampa has planned for the day... fun in the sun I'm sure!

Male kalikimaka!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

We're back to having regular Internet access since the hotel lobby has wireless, so should be back to daily blogging. Merry Christmas to everyone! I hope it's a great holidays for you all!

We woke up this morning at about 7, and Mom and I had time to go to Crossings for breakfast, eat one last meal on the ship, and say goodbye to Anna before we had to get off at 8:30. I can't believe it's over already, it was a great week though! Peter seems to have also discovered that five days worth of Sudafed does wonders to get rid of a mild cold, and luckily he's completely recovered from the trip he sent himself on yesterday!

We got off the ship and Peter and Grampa went to get the rental car while Mom and I guarded the mountain of luggage - we were in our rental car (lucky we got an SUV, we barely fit as it was!) by 9:30, and I was asleep by 10:30 in the hotel - the Aqua Palms Waikiki. Mom briefly woke me up to tell me they were going to get some food at about 11:30, but I rolled over and went back to sleep until about 12:30 - they didn't get back until 2ish because of a walk around the neighbourhood, so I just hung out at the hotel, and then got Subway for lunch before we all piled into the car and headed to Walmart to buy a few things... Ha! We went a little bit beach toy crazy, and should be able to snorkel and body surf our way all the way through the next week! We also stocked up on snacks and towels and the such. I was trying on bathing suits while the rest of them had quite the scare - they managed to all leave the cart unattended, also leaving Mom's purse in the cart. When they all realised simultaneously what had happened, they raced back there to find the cart, and Mom's purse, missing.

Thinking it had been stolen, they called security to look up the tapes, and Mom went to guard the entrance. Luckily, it had been found by a stock person, so it all turned out OK - Mom just got a stern reprimanding for leaving her purse unattended but other than that, everything was all still in the cart (plus some faulty merchandise tossed in there by someone who mistook it for the restocking cart), so we got lucky there!

Headed back to the hotel to dump the perishables in the fridges and then jumped back in the car and headed up past Diamond Head a little ways, stopping at a small beach/pull in just in time to watch a really nice sunset. It's a gorgeous area! After that, we headed back into Waikiki to see Casino Royale, the current Bond flick, about which Don Morton says: "This could be one of the best action flicks of all time" (incidentally, I say I must be a bit desperate for links!) It was pretty good (opening title sequence fantastic!) but given that I'm not really a Bond/action fan, I'm probably not a good person to be reviewing it! I was jumping around like a flea dodging bullets as Mom so kindly puts it, but I did appreciate the more character/story based side of the whole thing, I won't ruin the plot, but there were some lovely romantic bits (yes, I'm the hopeless romantic over here, I think we all know that!), before it all went a bit wrong. I love Judi Dench, and even though I'm in no way qualified to judge given I've maybe only watched two or three other Bond movies all the way through, I thought Daniel Craig did a pretty good job.

After that we just headed back to the hotel, I think we're just going to hang out for awhile in the boys room before crashing... It seems very weird that it's Christmas today. I know I've been saying that all week, but it really does tonight, now that its here! I'm obviously having a great time, but I miss having everyone together, having a tree, making tons of food for everybody, dressing Elli-blot up in his Santa suit, baking Christmas cookies, shopping for presents, proxy shopping, hoping for the unlikely white Christmas - the whole bit. It's been less stressful, but just not quite the same! Hopefully we can get in touch with everyone tomorrow, and I'm sure a day at the beach will cheer me right up!


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006 – Maui Day Two
This morning Mom and I had a fairly leisurely start – our shore ex didn’t leave until 9:30, and since Grampa and Peter had an early trip (Road to Hana) leaving at like 7:30, it was just Mom and me for breakfast this morning. We decided to go to Crossings, and even though Anna was off (good for her, not for us!), we had a pleasant breakfast before getting off the ship and meeting up with our ‘Catch a Wave’ group.

While waiting for the bus, we saw one of our fellow surfers, who was um, brazen to put it mildly – she was wearing a shirt with a silk-screened picture of a bikini and a ‘bush’ in the slangy-est sense of the word with ‘good bush’ written under it, and then beside it, a silkscreened picture of President Bush with ‘bad bush’, printed under it. I felt a bit bad for the kids (her nieces and nephews) she was with - a time and place for everything and all that – it was a ballsy shirt, but um yea... Anyway – I tried to take a picture with my keitai, so if it turned out, I’ll post it. Oddly enough, I heard her tell someone that she lives in Japan (I would have guessed Saltspring to be honest), so when we were both bobbing around waiting for a wave, I asked her where in Japan she lives – turns out she’s an English teacher in Saitama... She seemed fairly shocked that I live in Shibuya, which I guess is fair enough! It’s so exciting to actually have a job to tell people about now-much less slackertastic!

So, surfing – it was interesting! It was pretty fun actually, but I’m way too competitive about sports to really enjoy something I’m not good at (let’s be honest here!), and since I really wasn’t great at surfing, I have to be honest and say I’d give it a mixed review. In terms of the teachers and lessons and everything, they were all great – it’s just kind of tricky! I’d say my canter stands were actually easier which surprised me! I was able to stand up, but not at the same time as catching the waves – every time I made it up, I’d run out of wave (they were super baby waves), and like basically start sinking. Mom had the opposite issue to me (she was out in the bigger waves) and was able to go zipping around, but only kneeling and semi crouching. I think, since we’re both determined to get sorted out, we’ll try it again in Waikiki. The actually zipping around in the waves was pretty sweet, when the instructors pushed us off, we got going fairly quickly, and I can see how this could become addictive! I also definitely want to try snowboarding now!

Anyway, after the lesson, we had about half an hour in Lahaina which seems like a great little town, but we basically just walked a block or two and grabbed a snack before heading onto the bus – it’s about half an hour back to the ship, along a coastal road with amazing scenery.

Got back to the ship at 2:30ish, had our requisite lunch buffet stop, and then went back to our cabins to pack a little bit as tonight is the last night on board *tear* Then we headed up for some relaxing/reading on the pool deck and waited for the boys to get back. Grampa turned up at about 6, but Peter wasn’t feeling so good with a cold, so he stayed down in the cabin to rest before our 8pm dinner reservations.

Dinner was quite an adventure tonight! First, Grampa and Mom disappeared off the deck where I was, right as I dozed off, and then got sidetracked, so I was waiting for them for like 20 minutes, before finally meeting them down at the dining room right at 8 – turns out that Peter mixed his cold meds and ended up overdosing on Sudafed, leaving him fairly high, plastered to the ceiling, and unable to make it for dinner – our table for ‘five’ was now down to a table for 3. When we checked in with the hostess (who has been great all week trying to accommodate our section requests!) she said that we couldn’t have a table in Anna’s section, and tried to seat us elsewhere, but Mom and I were firm, and we held out for Anna, which I’m really glad we did! It took us forty-five minutes to get into her section, but completely worth the wait! (I think we sound like we’re really picky here, but it just happened that we really got along with her, and besides that, we had a Christmas card to deliver ;). We also all love the freestyle concept, which might not come through with this, but honestly if we hadn’t hit it off with her that first night, we really wouldn’t have cared where they put us! With the exception of Ned when Oma was sick, I don’t think we’ve ever gone to this much trouble for a specific person before!)

Anyway, with the meal itself, there’s also a bit of back story here, because on night one we were looking at all of the menus which were on display, and I happened to see Cheese Tortellini was on the menu for the last night, and since I love it I was looking forward to having it tonight, despite much teasing from everyone else about my over planning. So, of course, I ordered it, and then I was a little surprised when the cheese tortellini Mom and I had ordered came out as lobster ravioli (they’d run out while we were waiting stubbornly to be in that section, so it was my fault, really). If it had been nearly any other substitution, I would have had no problem with it, but since I don’t eat seafood (though I’ve tried a few bits the last few months that I have to admit have been OK), I was trying to decide what to re order when Anna stepped up in a big way for me.

She grabbed the plate and marched off to the kitchen (she knew about the weeklong anticipation thing), and promised to fix it. Five minutes later, she was back with a rather chastened looking chef in tow! (cue me being embarrassed about making a scene haha!) He was very apologetic, and since they were completely out of tortellini, he offered to make me a trio of pastas – I had some delicious risotto from the pork dish, and then he made me penne, and linguine with really really good tomato sauce that had lots of big fresh tomato chunks in it. I felt really bad for being picky about the whole thing, but they were so nice about it, and it was really delicious! Certainly service which was above and beyond, I could have easily had something on the menu, but he insisted on trying to make it as right as possible for me, which he certainly did!

Poor Grampa still had to pack and was pretty exhausted after the Road to Hana trip, so he bailed before dessert, but Anna got his cheese plate packed up to go, and then thoughtfully and spontaneously made one for Peter as well, to hopefully help him feel a bit better with his cold/Sudafed combi raging in the stateroom. Mom and I closed the restaurant again (oops!), and left in great moods – after our HAL cruise, I really didn’t know why people stayed in touch with their servers and stuff, because while our server was perfectly nice and friendly, we didn’t really have any kind of relationship with him, despite more nights at his table. After this week, I can really see how one person can make a big difference in your vacation (and I’m not just saying that because you have the URL to this blog, Anna!). If anyone from cruisecritic is reading this, after January 7th, you’ll have to go to one of the specialty restaurants to meet Anna, but it would be worth it!

We missed the shows and stuff (just karaoke and do it yourself adult standup, so I’m thinking it was potentially no huge loss!), and I’ve ended up in the Longboard (sports bar) to do this final from the ship blog. I can’t believe this week is over so soon! I’m very glad we’re not all flying home tomorrow!

I seem to have landed amongst the teen group having their last night, and I have to say that’s the one thing that I missed from our last cruise, I should have just fudged my age and gone to chill with them occasionally! They seem to have made the same kind of fast, intense friendships we all formed too...

I was so lucky with our group the last time – Alex, Aaron and Candice really helped add a lot to the experience, even though this was definitely awesome as well, nothing quite beats dying your hair in the sink of your miniscule cabin washroom, and quickly scrubbing not so un permanent un permanent hair dye out of the grout and sofa before the cabin steward sees it (we were successful on that front luckily!) That was a good last night, plus making friends I’ve kept in touch with, and seen since which is pretty cool!

If that’s my only complaint though, I’ve done pretty well for this week! I think we all know I’m a cruise addict, and hearing Anna say that she loves working on here makes me continue to consider this as a way to spend six months or so at some point after I turn 21...(I will be going back to school at some point, REALLY!) Anyway, I hope for anyone who found their way over from that this was vaguely helpful for some of you...(and I do apologize for the lengthiness of it for everyone reading!) If you have questions, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer them...

Happy Holidays!


Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006 – Maui Day One

This morning started pretty early, with a trip to the buffet en route to our 8:15 shore ex meeting point. It was my first trip to the fully stocked breakfast buffet, and it was pretty good – too many choices! Lots of nice fruit (which I’m definitely going to miss at the end of the week!)

Mom and I headed down to the Stardust Lounge at 8:10ish, and waited for our group to be called – at 8:15, we were sent downstairs to get off the boat, two members of the tour short... any guesses? Yup – Peter and Grampa were the last ones on the bus, about 5 minutes after the rest of us.... They did have a valid excuse though- Peter’s card stopped scanning and therefore he couldn’t get off the boat until he went up to the front desk and collected a new card.

We were doing our only shore ex with the four of us together, and were headed up to Haleakala Crater, which is a dormant shield volcano at one end of Maui, standing (is that how you describe it?) at about 10 000 feet. I was a little bit worried about the drive, because it wasn’t until after I booked it that I heard them say it was one of the windiest roads in the country on the in cabin TV. (As in twisty, not windy). Being a fairly car sick prone person, I was a little worried about it, but it turned out to be completely fine!

Our guide, a native Hawaiian was really good and kept us entertained for the 1.5 hour ride up to the crater. We had a brief stop at 7000 feet in a visitor center in order to get acclimatized to the altitude, before continuing up to the top. The scenery the whole way up there was pretty spectacular, including 8 miles of open range, which was SO green! As we were driving up, at about 9am, there was amazing light as well – like that afternoon golden hour light – gorgeous!

We were in a big comfy tour bus, and mom and I scored front seats, so we could see over our driver’s shoulder, plus out the huge picture windows beside us, which definitely helped us with the carsickness! That road is pretty amazing though – switchback after switchback, and a huge rise – It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest/highest climb by road in the world, and it WAS a pretty quick way to get up to 10 000 feet! There were also no guardrails, which on the way back down was a little bit worrying – there were some fairly sharp drops, and because of the way the bus is constructed, it looks like the bus is going off the edge of the road, even though all four wheels are still on the pavement. Luckily, the road was in fantastic shape, and Henry the driver (that’s his middle name, his Hawaiian name, which means ‘the king will never die’, escapes me) was really slow and careful – he also went off the mike for the worst part of the road coming back down in order to concentrate better.

We saw a ton of cyclists on the trip – you can go up to the top of the crater and then cycle down the road for 38 miles. Henry had tons of horror stories about it though – people seem to drive either off the road or across into the oncoming traffic on a fairly regular basis, which I can completely see, especially since the trip starts at 4am so you can be up at the crater for sunrise before you go flying down the mountain.
(crazy bikers about to start their trip)

The crater itself was pretty impressive – its 3000 feet deep and pretty wide as well, a very Martian landscape. There is a five hour horseback ride into the crater which would be pretty cool as well – the horses were pretty entertaining - they looked like coin operated horses for all intents and purposes, though I’m sure the people riding them, who didn’t look very horse experienced won’t be walking too well tomorrow – 5 hours up and down hills is a rough ride!
(above the tree line and clouds! approx 9000 feet)
(interesting yard art)
Came back down to the ship at just past noon, and Grampa and Peter continued on Peter’s goal of seeing as much of every island as possible. They rented a car and drove to the town of Lahaina on the other side of the island from where we dock. Since we’re going there after our surfing lessons tomorrow, Mom and I decided to relax, and just do what we wanted to even though it wasn’t so ‘vacation-y’.

We got back on the ship and had a snack in the buffet before Mom headed back to the cabin for a nap in the hopes of kicking some cold she has percolating through her system. I stayed up on the deck, but since I had nothing to read, I continued listening to my ‘This American Life’ podcast that I started on Anna’s beach, and, predictably, fell asleep for about 15 minutes, just long enough to completely lose the plot, since they switched acts on me while I was snoozing. Went back to the cabin, and sensibly set a wakeup call before settling in to ‘watch’ CNN for about an hour.

Thanks to the wake up call, we were up at about 3, and jumped on the free shuttle to the biggest shopping center on Maui, only about 5 blocks away. We finally got internet access at a Starbucks, and so I had a chance to back post the last four days of blogging (I stupidly didn’t bring the card reader, so no photos yet!), check my email (my email forwarding seems to be screwed, so I hope nothing too critical is sitting in Tokyo), and chat with Andee for a bit (get better soon and I hope Denver defrosts for you soon!). It was good to touch base with the world! I also went to Boarders and got a few magazines which was great –they’re one of the things that I really miss from home, I can’t justify paying 12-15$ for a magazine like AZURE, or even Cosmo – they’re so expensive in Tokyo, and I really love reading them, so I’m planning a stock up in Walmart here when we do our food shopping next week.

Headed back to the ship, via Longs to get a snorkeling film of Mom’s developed, and then went to Crossings for dinner again. Peter and Grampa got stuck dropping the car off at the rental place, so Mom and I ate alone tonight. We tried to get Anna again, but unfortunately for us (good for her though), she got closed early tonight so she could go rest up and sleep off her pain medication (broken tooth). We felt really bad for her, but we were in the section next to hers, so we got to chat with her a few times during the night as she finished her prep for tomorrow morning which was great – we have breakfast and dinner tomorrow to try and connect with her a last time before we get off the ship.

Our waiter was great though, and Mom and I took Freestyle dining to a whole new level tonight, eating dinner in reverse order. It was great, because we’ve been having issues having enough room for dessert, but we didn’t mind being too full to finish our appetizers. The dining room was nearly empty tonight, which was a bit odd – there are 2100 pax on board, and only 500 went to the Luau, so not sure where everyone else was. The entire ship has actually seemed fairly empty all day – guess there were lots of people out enjoying Maui!

Met Grampa and Mom for the crew talent show which was good fun – there are some very talented people on board! Highlights (err well entertainment wise moreso than talent wise) included Fith and Mike’s (cruise director and asst. cruise director) swan lake rendition, and ‘Fountains’, the disgustingly hilarious water spouting show involving most of the entertainment staff.

Grampa and Peter wanted food, so we headed up to the Longboard Café (the sports bar), which is where I am right now – they’ve finished their meals and headed to bed, and I’m just finishing up the blog. This thing is getting out of control on this trip! When I add photos its going to be ridiculous!

It seems very weird that it’s almost Christmas! For everyone traveling home in the next few days – which is probably a few of you since exams are finally finished for everyone, hope they went well, have a safe trip back, and enjoy the holidays!

Oh my goodness, finally back online! I won't post too much about today right now, because a) there is tons of new stuff to read, and b) that would get me all out of sync. Mom and I took the free shuttle to a big local mall (we needed a beach/tour break and tomorrow is another full on Maui day *surfing!!*), and are cooling off in a Starbucks with a Tmobile hotspot (its actually fairly crappy but that's ok, much better than the ship!) connection... Just posting the blog, checking emails, etc before heading back to the ship - most people are at the Luau tonight, so we're hopeful we can get into Anna's section without a reservation for five, especially since it may just be Mom and Me tonight - Grampa and Peter are partying it up in Lahaina, 11 miles from the ship.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Thursday December 21st, 2006 – Kona
Mom and Peter went off on a snorkeling adventure this morning, and I was sleeping in until Grampa called and woke me up at nine to get breakfast. Since he didn’t want to go to the buffet, and breakfast in Crossings ends at 9, we decided to tender into Kona in order to get breakfast. The tender ride was on a lifeboat and held 120 of us as well took the five minute trip over to the dock. It was pretty efficient and a fun ride over – I love being on the water, and its not like you really feel like you are on a boat on this ship!
(looking back at the town)
(always good advice!)
We found a slightly sketchy place on the water, with a non so enthusiastic guy working there, but we were hungry and didn’t really know what other options there were, so we went in there, and the macademia nut pancakes I had were actually really good. Grampa just had eggs and toast, but they couldn’t poach them because they didn’t have the water for that apperantly – makes you wonder!

After breakfast, we just spent about three hours wandering around the little town near the port – we checked out an old historical site (I would check the name, but that would require getting up), looked at the artifacts in a hotel lobby, checked out the beach, took photos of the ship, went inside a really nice stone church, checked out the outside of a summer palace, bought some books about Hawaii, and had macadamia nut ice cream (me), and Long board lager (Grampa) at the Canoe Club on the water. We saw a really cute and colorful lizard while we were eating, and Grampa got some good photos I think.
(Macademia nut icecream and Longboard Lager pitstop at the Canoe Club)
(Summer palace, we didn't go in, just looked at the outside)
(stone church from across the street)

Headed back to the ship and tendered over at about 1pm Mom and Peter were still away on their tour, so Grampa stayed in his cabin to rest, and I headed up to the buffet for lunch – they had good salad stuff today! Then I actually went to the Outrigger lounge, but they were having a crew training session, so I went to the sports bar, and read my Outpost magazine, and actually broke out the Genki textbooks for about 45 minutes. That got to be too unvacationish pretty quickly, so I headed to the pool deck and read my magazine until 3:45 when it was time for the pax vs. crew beach volleyball game.

I ended up making a complete fool out of myself at the beginning – I waited until one other woman got up and joined in the two crew guys who were playing with the volleyball on the deck before we started. Then, they started doing ridiculous aerobic/stretching on the deck, with the microphone, in front of everyone... The other woman (not wearing a name tag or anything) joined in, so I did as well. It wasn’t until they introduced all the crew, that I realized I was the only one not getting paid to bounce around like an idiot – it turns out she was the piano bar performer!

After the game (the pax won 2 games to 1), I headed back down to shower off the saltwater from the pool, and get changed – everyone was back by then, so we made a plan for the rest of the evening, and Peter, Grampa and I headed up to the buffet area to jump on the wifi – I was trying to upload the blog finally, but it didn’t work out too well... So far, this ‘live’ blog has only been live on this file – sorry!

At 6:45 we went to see the magician Matt Marcy again in the Blue Hawaii this time, doing close up sleight of hand magic – he was really good again! He also taught the audience how to do one trick, so I’ll have to try that out at some point... Then, it was time for the ‘On the Radio’ Pride of Aloha Crew Show in the Stardust theatre, which was pretty good – the dancers all know and perform an amazing amount of choreography between the two shoes, and the singers are all fairly good (though I’m not exactly the best judge!).Peter figures the music selection was a bit random (I didn’t even recognize about 1/3 of the songs, but I figured that was just me), but we all enjoyed it, and we’re a pretty varied audience in terms of music, for sure!

Then, it was time for our 8:30 dinner reservation – we’d reserved for five, in Anna’s section, on her suggestion – they won’t actually accept reservations for four or fewer. Unfortunatly, when we got there, Anna was sick, so not working – it’s much harder to play off the mystery fifth person when you’re missing your inside man! We figure our server (who was also nice) had seen this trick before, but since the dining room was basically empty, we didn’t feel bad about having an extra seat or two at our table.

Hopefully Anna will be back tomorrow so we can conquer this dining room malarkey! In anycase, my dinner was delicious – corn chowder and beef Wellington . I also tried a piece of tuna sashimi! And It was pretty good as well...

After dinner, we headed up the Blue Hawaii for Liars Club (who says that vacation is for relaxing?) and voted on which member of the celebrity panel was telling the truth in a balderdash type situation. After that show, Grampa and Peter bailed, and Mom and I stayed for the ladies night – ‘Ship ‘n Males’ show. There are some things best done with girlfriends and not mothers, and really, watching strip shows is probably one of them! I think we both expected a bit more of a caberet dance type thing, but really it was pretty full on stripping (down to skivvies). I wonder when they told the bartenders and waiters that they’d be strippers on the side? Before or after they signed their contract to pass out bread? Unfortunately we didn’t have any ones on us, and therefore couldn’t stuff money where the sun don’t shine, and besides that, who goes to a strip club with their mothers? We passed on the blow job shooters and headed back to the stateroom to sleep and blog. We have an early morning tomorrow (my first proper tour – the Haleakala crater, I’m really hoping I don’t get too carsick!) so I’m going to crash now too...


PS- how about that Rosie vs. Donald feud?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wednesday December 20, 2006 – Hilo
This morning we all went for breakfast in the dining room at about 8:00, and then got ready to get off the ship just about immediately after docking in Hilo at 9:00. We all had shore excursions leaving at 9 – Grampa and Peter went up to the top of Mauna Kea on a long day trip, while Mom and I rented bikes to ‘tour Hilo on our own’. We got the bikes (one speed ‘mama charees’ with back pedaling breaks instead of hand brakes (quite a challenge when I was trying to steer around a car with my foot and ended up running into the curb instead because I’d run out of feet to brake with!)

Following the map I’d been given by Tom, the guy who rents the bikes out, we cycled a couple of miles into downtown Hilo and checked out the farmers market, which had an amazing variety of fruits and vegetables and orchids, etc. It would have been great to be able to shop there on a regular basis! There was a cute choir of 8-12 year old kids singing Christmas carols there as well – it’s funny because it really doesn’t seem like Christmas at all until you hear Silent Night in some loudspeaker or something like that!

We walked down through some of the little shops on the main street, and went into a free ocean museum which was interesting, though we didn’t stay long at all... We were heading up to Rainbow Falls (the operative word being up!) It was a big, looooooong hill up to the falls, and by the time we got there, we were REALLY ready to cool off in some water! There were some sort of swimming holes, but there were also a lot of signs about undertow and drag and stuff, and since we didn’t want to get washed down the 80 foot falls, we just waded in up to our waists and then continued on. We headed past a HUGE, amazing banyan tree, and through a jungely forest which seemed like it was the kind of thing Disney would make! There was a nice lookout with a great view of the falls and big cave behind...
(Huuuge Disneyesque Banyan Tree)
(Rainbow Falls with large cave behind)
(part of the Rainbow Falls Park - where we went wading is just behind and to the left of the rocks in the middle of the photo)

We walked across the street and got some water from a very friendly woman with a snack shop – we also bought a local snack from her, a kind of flat bread cracker dipped in chocolate and macadamia nuts, very tasty! Then we headed back down the hill, much better than coming up! And stopped at Kosmic Kones for soft ice cream before cycling back towards the boat. We took the scenic route and drove past a nice looking park in the Shinto style, though we didn’t go in – we wanted to find the beach that Anna had told us about at dinner the night before. It was about a mile past the ship, in the opposite direction from Hilo, but we didn’t have too much trouble finding it. We did have one false start, where Mom claimed we were there, but I convinced her there was no way that was the beach Anna meant, so we kept going and found it – it was lucky she’d described it well, as it certainly is hidden away! There were just a few other people there (including Anna, but we didn’t recognize her so didn’t find that out till later!), but we hung out there for about 45 minutes, going in the water briefly, and then reading under an overhanging tree on the sand for awhile (well, if ‘This American Life’ on my ipod counts as reading anyway)...
(Anna's Beach (she's actually way down at the other side of the beach, we found out later. We thought we saw her, but weren't sure until we talked to her at dinner that night))
(Anna's Beach with Mauna Kea in the Background - Peter and Grampa went up to the top (the world's tallest mountain; possibly, for their shore ex - they saw snow!)

Headed back to the ship at about 2:45 to beat the crowds of busses getting back at 3, and then got showered and changed and headed to the buffet for a snack. Then, Mom headed back to the stateroom for a nap, and I stayed on deck to read a magazine, and yes, nap too. Just before six, I woke up and found Mom on the same deck as me, and we headed downstairs to the Canadian Trivia in the Captain Cook lounge. There were about 10 of us Canadians on board, and we played first to 10, with three teams competing. We ended up not winning, but having the next highest number of points after the game ended. I also ran into deekay from the cruisecritic role call which was fun, I didn’t think we were going to end up meeting anyone from our roll call on this cruise.

Then the four of us headed to the main theatre for the comedy of Ed Voss, which was OK, but not great – I didn’t think he was as good as the entertainers from the last two nights. There were certainly some good lines, but some not good ones as well!

Headed down to Crossings at about 8:30, and had to wait about 10 minutes for a table, which was fine, but unfortunately, we couldn’t get into Anna’s section, which was too bad, although she did make a point of coming over to say hi to us and see how our day had gone which was really nice of her! Even though we’ve found the service to be fine in the dining room (and really good in Anna’s section), it does seem like it’s a little bit inefficient – a lot of people milling around yet not accomplishing a whole lot. There are also often a lot of empty tables when they have lines out the door – I’m sure its just the time it takes to turn the tables when they have to deal with the people coming at so many different times for Freestyle, and it doesn’t bother me at all – I’m enjoying the cruise parts at least as much as the HAL cruise (with the exception of not making friends through the teen club this time around which is a product of my age not the line!), but I know some of you reading are curious about it, so I thought I’d put in my 2 yen.

We finished dinner just in time to see the lava flow. It was pretty cool, but a bit foggy and rainy, so I think it was probably harder to get a sense of the scale than it might have been otherwise. It was gorgeous though, and so powerful! Very cool – you could even smell the sulphur! Of course, photographs were nearly impossible, but that didn’t stop everyone from trying – I got one cool one, even though you can’t really tell what is going on, but most of mine, and everyone else’s are just blobs of orange blurring into the black background. Enjoy the view and buy a postcard!

After that, at about 1030, we just came up to the staterooms – Mom and Peter have an early snorkeling excursion, and Grampa and I will be doing some kind of chose your own adventure day – we wanted to go on the horse drawn wagon tour, but it isn’t running, so we have no plans as of right now. There’s also lots to do on the ship, as usual, so maybe I’ll check some of that out. Off to bed now, an early night tonight, it’s only 11:05!!


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tuesday December 19, 2006 Kauai Day Two
This morning Peter and Grampa headed off on their helicopter tour ridiculously early, and Mom and I slept in, relatively speaking, until 8. Today we decided to go to Crossings for breakfast, and had a different server from dinner (we hadn’t requested Anna). He was fine, and we enjoyed our breakfasts (I had the fruit plate and waffles, and mom had an omlette and toast). At about 9, we headed off the ship and walked to the nearby Marriott where we rented boogie boards and flippers (so ridiculous to walk in!) and went boogie boarding on their beach. It was so much fun!

The waves were about 6 feet at the roughest times, and around 4 feet the rest of the time it was rough enough that they weren’t letting anyone have surf lessons, and only experienced surfers were allowed to rent the boards. Mom quickly got the hang of catching the waves, but I didn’t have quite so much luck with it! Finally, on the last wave, even though it was only small, like around 2-3 feet, I got rocketed into shore, it was awesome! The comedian yesterday was pretty correct though when he said that boogie boarding is the equivalent of pile driving yourself into the shore, and getting sand everywhere! We filled our shower with sand even though we thought we’d basically rinsed off at the beach, it was nuts! The only bad thing about the boogie boarding was the board rash we got on our stomachs, and a little bit on our legs... When we do surfing lessons in Maui I think we’ll be wearing t-shirts for sure!

The most challenging part of the whole thing was trying to get past the first set of breaking waves, which could really pound you if you didn’t get through or over them sufficiently... Given that this was baby surf on the scheme of things, it must be an amazing amount of power when you get into the big 30 foot North Shore style waves! We’ll have to go watch them next week in Oahu I think!

We headed back to the ship via a stop for shampoo and conditioner at the ABC store (there is only 2 in 1, so pack accordingly!), and were back on the boat by around noon. By the time we finished showering, Grampa and Peter were back on board, so we all went for lunch together in the buffet, and ate on the aft lanai while we watched the sail away from Kauai.

We were getting completely windblown down there, so Grampa headed up for a nap, and Mom, Peter and I went to deck 12 and grabbed some lounge chairs to chillax for a couple of hours. I’m slowly starting to lose the ‘Yes, I’m a Canadian’ skin color I came out here with (and I had such a great Kabuki tan earlier this year L ). There was ‘scenic cruising’ with announcements explaining what we were seeing, but I only vaguely paid attention – I was too busy napping and reading, and Peter was catching up with his sleep from his early morning, so we loaded mom up with cameras and sent her to the railing to document the scenery – we’ll see it later! I did get up to check it out once, and it was gorgeous, but the lounge chair was more chillerific at the time...

At about 4:30, we were getting way too blown around, so we came back to the staterooms, and, um, napped a little bit more (its vacation after all!) At six, mom and I went to the necklace making class in the cultural center. We made a necklace and a bracelet each, and I also had enough nut and shell beads left to make a kind of zipper pull thing.

We came back to the cabin to dress for dinner – it was formal night, and Mom and I were opting in....The ship was generally dressed more formally than last night, but there was a huge variety! I don’t care what anyone else is wearing, but it’s fun to get dressed up occasionally, so that’s what we did!

We went to the Stardust theatre at 7:45 to watch Mark Marcy, the magician and comedian perform – he was very clever and a great performer! They’ve added an extra show we’ll be going to on Thursday if we have a chance, when magicians are good, they’re really good, and he definitely was! He had us laughing and impressed throughout most of the show – a pretty good combination of entertainment!

Straight after the show we headed back down to Crossings for dinner. True to her word, the hostess had held a table for us in Anna’s section (we tried to make a reservation this morning and found that they only do reservations for tables of more than six, which was fine, we weren’t that bothered, but would have liked to be in Anna’s section again, so we were happy to be seated there).

She was just as friendly as yesterday, despite having had a terrible evening – someone had yelled at her before she’d even gotten a chance to introduce herself, and they were really upset about the whole Freestyle concept, and mad about something to do with what table they were at. While they may have been upset, swearing at Anna was way over the line! We tried to cheer her up, and I think by the time we finally left (last ones in the dining room again, oops!) I think her night was looking up a bit – she even gave Mom and I some super secret instructions on how to get to a beach for on our ‘Tour Hilo on your own Bicycle’ tour we’re doing tomorrow while Peter and Grampa tour Mauna Kea, which may or may not be the world’s tallest mountain (see also: Kong, Odaiba dinner, dinner at Sohan’s for all the back story on this debate!)

After dinner, at about 10:45, we walked down to the photographers to see if there was a better picture of Mom (the one Peter bought was unfortunate, to say the least), and then Peter, Mom, and I went to the Blue Lagoon to bring in the ‘New Year’. We didn’t dance as much as yesterday even though there were more people, but we did participate in the Conga Line, throw the New Year’s streamers, learn a couple of dances, and make total fools our of ourselves for a couple of songs. There was a hilarious couple’s balloon popping game where you had to pop a balloon by hugging, and then the guy turned around and your popped it by squishing it between the girls stomach and his ass, and then finally put on the balloon on his lap and popped it by sitting on his lap – no hands allowed for any of this. There were a few surprisingly hard to pop balloons, I have to say!

Came back to the room around midnight again (New Year’s on the Pride of Aloha actually happens at 11:30 pm apperantly), ate our mint chocolates from the pillows (we also got a super cute towel elephant today!), and now I’m blogging while Mom gets her beauty sleep before the 7:40 am wake up call.

Seas are, I’d say, definitely mild! You can completely tell you are on a boat tonight which is nice, but it’s nothing more exciting than a slightly rough BC Ferries ride (ie: not rough at all). Occasionally you walk a bit sideways, and the dance floor was a bit disconcerting – sometimes we’d all be spinning left and it would be rocking right, it was the ‘everyone is now equally and instantly tipsy’ dance floor! We have a gentle side to side roll, but no noticeable front to back pitch.

At the shore excursion desk earlier though, when it was even more mild and you could only feel the motion every ten minutes or so, this one guy walked up and asked when we’d be getting to Hilo. The person told him at 8, and the guys goes: “So, like, its going to be going like this all that time then?” Gesturing wildly up and down with his hands. The poor shore ex. Staff member had to explain that yes, the small boat in the big ocean would probably continue to move for the duration of the journey. I’m not sure exactly what the guy was expecting to feel on this trip, but I guess he’s happier when we’re docked, which luckily for him is most of the time on this trip!

Time for bed I think!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Monday December 18, 2006 – Kauai

This morning saw Mom go off on her zipline adventure (she lived to tell the tale, and will be guest blogging about it) early this morning. I woke up when she was getting dressed at around quarter to seven, and then went back to sleep until 9:45 when Peter and Grampa called me to go get breakfast with them. Unfortunately, we missed breakfast in the main buffet, and the dining room, so we ended up in the buffet on the aft lanai, deck 11.

It was OK, but we’d managed to get there right in between them putting out food, so there was almost nothing left... Peter got an omlete made to order, and I ended up waiting for pancakes, and then going back for some bacon just before they closed at 11, so it worked out OK in the end, now we know we need to get organized a little bit faster in the mornings!

Peter and Grampa were originally planning to go on the Heaven and Earth Helicopter excursion today, but that got moved to tomorrow morning because of space issues, and I had nothing planned for today anyway, so we ended up going to a plantation I’d read about in a guidebook. The Kilohana Estate was an old sugar plantation owned by Gaylord somebody or other! It was at one time 26 000 acres, and when the main house was built in 1935, at 15 000 square feet and at a cost of 150 000 it was the largest and most expensive house on Kauai for quite some time!
(The plantation house from the back)

We took a lovely 20 minute carriage ride in a reproduction 19th century carriage pulled by Tuck, a 24 year old 17hh bay Clydesdale. He was lovely! He’s been doing this for twenty years, so to say that he knew his job would be a major understatement! We got to see the old gardens, go through a forest, around the grounds, and see lots of fruit trees, coffee plants, etc. It was very pleasant! Then, we stopped in at Gaylord’s Restaurant and had lunch on their covered patio. I had a chicken ceasar salad which was nice, and Peter had a fruit plate, with Grampa having fish and chips.
(our lovely horse - neither headed or tied as he waited for the next go around! He's a 24 yr. old clyde who has been doing this job since he was 4 - he knows the drill to be sure!)

The waitress suggested Koloa Town to us as a cute desination just about ten minutes away, so we asked the hostess to call us a taxi. When the taxi driver arrived, she slipped the host a twenty, and thus began the great ‘Kauai Kidnapping Kaper’! Jo, who worked for Sue’s taxi partially railroaded and partially convinced us (quite a bit more of the former!) Into a two and a half hour tour of the island, where, incidentally we never stopped at Koloa Town!

The first thing she did was get into her fairly beat up late 80’s van/taxi, and turn on the meter, while saying:
“Now I don’t want you folks to be looking at the meter, I just have it on incase any cops stop me. In fact, it’s too distracting like this”, at which point she picked up her napkin and covered the meter for the duration of the ride. She did point out to us that while there was a county mandated tour charge of $60/hr for the van, she’d been known to take a bit of time off at the end, which, she confided in us, her boss didn’t know, but since she ‘brings in so much money to her anyway, she’ll never care!’
(covered meter, the first sign of trouble on the Kuaui Kidnap Kaper)

We went to see a cool blowhole where the ocean pressurizes under the rocks and forces the water up in a dramatic spray, followed by a mandatory shopping stop at her friend’s stalls (we didn’t buy anything, though I think she did). Then we stopped at several beaches for photo ops (both rocky and sandy and both), and then continued on for a drive through Koloa Town, and then a twenty-minute drive up the coast to the Cocoa Palms Hotel, where Elvis got married in Blue Hawaii. It’s looking pretty run down though – it’s actually been closed since the hurricane in 1992. Then, we went up to some waterfalls and a big river canyon, and then back to the boat, with a brief stop at the Meneuhenue (sp??) Fish pond on our way.
(dramatic coastline and blowhole)
All of that was fine, except that it wasn’t really our choice. Granted, we could have put our feet down collectively and got dropped off somewhere, but we were fairly happy to be doing stuff and seeing the island, the main problem we were having was her constant running commentary. There were no stories about Kauai, or the history, or Hawaii, or anything, just her feelings on life in general.

For instance, we heard a forty five minute rant about the building going on down by Poipu Beach area, where they will developing some of the huge fields and turning them into million dollar homes, supposedly. She said she’d be all for it if they were low income houses, but she was very annoyed by the fact that ‘snobby rich people’ would be moving in, given that ‘there are enough of them around here anyway’. Looking at the big fence which has been constructed around the soon to be construction site, she bitched about how it blocked the mountain views several times (fair enough), but the classic comment came as follows:

Rant, rant, rant...”I mean, it’s not like that wall needs to be that high, and I should know, I’ve pretty much dated every construction worker on this here island.” Umm good to know? Looking back on it, it was pretty entertaining, but in the car, we kept shooting each other some ‘OMG what bus did we go on?’ looks. I did however pick up several tips I could have used to make waaaay more money driving Kabuki Kabs this summer ! For instance, don’t ask where your passengers want to go, continue to insist on adding more stops, continually add on ‘just this one last thing’, etc. I was just way too polite when I did my tours, obviously!

Finally, about an hour and forty five minutes into the ride, she asked the first question about us (after talking about the development (for a good solid hour), the practice of training rottweilers to hunt wild boar (she’s not a fan), how she wants to fence her backyard, how she’s rescued her Dalmatian from the neighbors, how she’s a fantastic cook who wants to turn her garage into a kitchen and feed her (unsuspecting I would imagine), guests some of her famous bbq chicken during their tours, etc.) The question she asked was ‘what do you all do?’ A simple enough question, until Peter revealed that we live in Tokyo. Well, that sparked off another one of her massive rants, based on her work with Japanese tourists, mostly during the bubble years I think, when she used to work at a restaurant.

For instance: “...and they were BIG! I mean, the women, they had like boobs and everything! I guess from all the hormones in the milk they drink and stuff now, because like, they’re grandparents would be these miniature people, but the newer generations, they were like tall, if they keep growing like that, they’re going to be big over there!”

I think safely, they have a LOT of catching up to do to get to US sizing standards! Its not like there are too many Japanese people you’d even want to classify as chubby, and given the massive industry based in the padded bra sector, the milk hormones have only been marginally successful!

She also told us about how one guy from the countryside went to pay for his beer by pulling down his pants and extracting his cash from his underwear (and she was surprised when the table started laughing at her face?), and also how she used to work at a golf course with some Yakusa clients “just the sweetest baby faced guy you’d ever want to meet! And a big spender too; obviously” Just don’t get on the wrong side of his non existent pinky finger I suppose!

Anyway, it was a bit trying while on the tour (probably not helped by me not being a huge fan of ‘scenic drives’ in general, but looking back at it during dinner, we realized how funny it had been!

We ended up back on the boat at around five, and met up with Mom for a quick snack of fruit and bread and salad in the buffet. I also had some yummy apricot sorbet. Then, we headed down to the Blue Lagoon Nightclub to see Chris Alpine perform. He’s a standup comic who has been on Comedy Central, according to the Freestyle Daily. We all agreed that he was pretty funny, but not great – we weren’t tempted to buy his CD or anything. In his defense though, it was an all ages, clean show, and he only had 40 minutes to try and put together a show to entertain the 8-80, crowd, which can’t be easy! Even though he spent a lot of time (entertainingly, but still), picking on various members of the audience, and we thought he could have maybe prepared a bit more of a set, we certainly laughed most of the way through it...

Then, we headed straight for the Broadway medley show put on by the NCLA cast in the Stardust Theatre. It was pretty good! They had lots of energy, good costumes, and decent choreography. Given, I’m so musically challenged that I’m impressed by just about anything, but I thought it was good. I love Broadway, so I was excited to go to the show, which featured medleys from Hairspray, Wicked, Mamma Mia, and more. I was sad to see there was no RENT involved, but that’s OK, the show was definitely enjoyable and a good hour or so of entertainment.

At this point, it was 8:45 or so, so we decided to head to Crossings, on of the main dining rooms (the one most at the aft) for dinner. Initally, when we got there, we were told there would be a thirty minute wait if we didn’t want to share a table, but it ended up only being about five minutes, ten at the absolute most. We were also the only one in our server, Anne’s, section, and she was great! Our table all hit it off with her right away, and had fun entertaining her with stories of our cab ride (and assuring her we’d be on shore ex the rest of the week).

She was from Texas, and couldn’t have been more friendly! She offered to combine the lobster and prime rib onto one plate if anybody wanted that, so Mom, Grampa, and Peter all had that, with a salad to start, while I had the Vermont Cheddar Soup to start and a red curry noodles with Shitake mushrooms. It was good, not so curryish, but that’s good because I don’t like super hot food! Then for dessert, we all got cappuccinos, and Mom and I split the crème brulee with chocolate covered Macadamia Nuts and the apple pie a la mode, which were both delicious! (I also tried some of Mom’s dinner and it was all good too, including the lobster, which for me to even try, is ummmm amazing!
We finished dinner at about 10:30 or so, and it was lovely to have the nice relaxed dinner, they didn’t rush us at all, even though we ended up being the last table in. It’s amazing how early everyone is eating, I guess I’ve gotten very used to eating later in Tokyo, but to see a restaurant THAT big, completely empty that early seems very weird!

I think we might be requesting her section in the future, which is pretty rare for us all around, we’re so go with the flow about stuff like that, but we all really liked her, so when Mom and I go for breakfast in the dining room tomorrow, we’re going to get reservations in her section seeing as it’s the optional formal night and we think more people may eat in the dining room because it’s the half sea day.

After dinner, we all came back to the staterooms, and Grampa and Peter went to bed in preperation for their super early morning tomorrow. Since we don’t have to be up so early, Mom and I ate our yummy mint chocolate pillow candy (our cabin steward has so far been great, though we haven’t me him yet), and headed back to the Blue Lagoon for the sock hop. What a difference from the HAL cruise!! There were actually quite a few people dancing, off all ages from mine up to about 65. At about 11:15, they announced that everyone under the age of eighteen had to leave (not that there were any kids in there anyway), and we all boogied away for about an hour. We requested a Grease medley which was quite a hit, and learned the hand jive, as well as doing the twist, dancing to Elvis songs, etc. The 50’s were so cute! And the music so completely danceable! It was good fun!!

At midnight, we finally came back up to our stateroom, worn out and ready for tomorrow! Mom and I are going to go to the Marriot hotel down the road and rent boogie boards for the morning, while Grampa and Peter are doing their helicopter tour. We have the half day at sea, so we’ll be finalizing and booking shore ex, watching the lava, dressing up for formal night, and generally having lots more fun! It’s now one am, and I’ve blogged 2300 words, which I’m sure is about 2000 more than you wanted to know! If I’m not going to die at the 8am wake up call, I better grab some sleep, so-