We got up at 7.00am to find the Celebrity Eclipse at anchor, with the first of the liberty boats ferrying its first lot of passengers ashore. Today we were booked to go on a half-day excursion, and we had to assemble in the Eclipse Theatre to await the call for our group, which was group #17.
Once the call came, we made our way down to Deck 2 and down the steps onto the pontoon to board the liberty boat. The weather was already hot and the sun beat down. This time, I’d come prepared with a litre bottle of Evian water. 😊
It was about a 15-20-minute ride across the choppy waves to the shoreside. I wanted to be able to get a good photograph of the Celebrity Eclipse for my web site but there wasn’t a good vantage point, so we hoped we’d be able to get some on return.
Disembarking the tender we met Tom, our driver and guide, on Bus #1. Then we all piled on and set off on our scenic tour of this part of the island (which is the same island as Hilo is on, but we were round the other side). As the bus made its way through the streets and lush green countryside, with many palms, breadfruit and banana trees, our driver told us about the famous Kona Coffee and how it was grown, processed and distributed. In fact, our first stop would be at one of the Kona Coffee plants where it had a shop where we would be able to try some free samples. 😊
Presently the coach pulled up outside the coffee place which luckily was not too crowded. We had about 45 minutes here, so we made our way to the back of the shop where there were several urns containing the different types of coffee; some with coconut or chocolate, some quite strong tasting and others fairly mild. The strong ones, which were made from the rare single unsplit coffee bean, were the most expensive.
Afterwards we browsed around the shop and saw a jewellery counter, where there was a lot of hand-made pearl necklaces, brooches, bracelets and rings. There was a large bowl of water containing oysters or other molluscs, and could you pay a reasonable price to have an oyster opened to get a pearl. The they would offer to mount the pearl in a gold ring (for example) that would cost you 395 dollars. In any case, I make my own freshwater pearl jewellery, so we didn’t buy anything.
Back on the bus we continued on our way, trying to look out of both sides of the bus at once. Eventually we arrived at the “Painted Church” that is, St Benedict’s Church, Kona, which was opened in 1900, “the year McKinley was president” as our guide said.
The wooden church was amazing. All the walls, pillars, ceilings and vaults were painted with biblical scenes, predominantly in pastel shades of orange, yellow and green. The pillars were painted to look like the trunks of palm trees, with their frondy leaves spreading up over the ceilings against a backdrop of blue sea and an orange and yellow sunset sky. It really was something very different, and the white-painted outside of the church was set in picturesque grounds, with the blue Pacific in the background.
We all set off once again for our next stop, which was called Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau and was a national historic park. It embraced spirit, power and safety and in the time of ancient Hawai’i, it possessed extraordinary mana (spiritual power). It came in part from 23 ali’I (chiefs), whose bones were protected in Hale o Keawe, in the heiau (temple). The Royal Grounds were a centre of power, open only to ali’i and those serving them. Beyond the Great Wall, which we could see along the shore line, the Pu’uhonua served as a place of refuge for those who broke the kapu, the sacred laws and beliefs by which all lived. These wahi pana (legendary places) and ancient Hawai’ian culture still endured here, and there were signs up advising visitors of a code of conduct when visiting what was still a sacred place.
The place was beautiful. We were ‘greeted’ by a couple of wooden statues called ki’i which were images of Hawai’ian gods to alert everyone to the great mana. There were a great many tall coconut palms, their gently-waving leaves outlined clearly against the flawless blue sky. The sea washed tirelessly against the rocky shoreline, the water a clear blue-green colour. This was the Hawai’i we’d imagine, absolutely idyllic, and I took lots of photos.
All too soon it was time to make our way back onto the coach for the return journey to the port, which took about 45 minutes along the picturesque coastline. Tom told us that the price for real estate was quite cheap here due to everything else being expensive and having to be imported.
We arrived back at the port around 12.30pm but we weren’t ready to go back to the ship yet. Instead, we wandered around the lively town and looked in the shops before making our way upstairs to a pleasant little bar, which had a laid-back, easy atmosphere. A live singer was playing a selection of low-key, background songs.
From our elevated position we could look across the bay at the Celebrity Eclipse anchored in the near distance. The bar menu consisted of a large selection of local crafts beers of various strengths, with such names as “White Mountain Porter” (6.7%ABV), “Overboard IPA” (6.9%ABV) and “Hoptopias” (7.5%ABV). Some were inevitably flavoured with coconut or pineapple and, as you can see, they were all pretty strong. 😊
We each enjoyed a pint of something and sat and watched the world go by, enjoying the atmosphere. Then it was time to make our way back to the tender port to get the liberty boat back to the Eclipse. Luckily one was there waiting when we arrived, and we noticed there were some available seats on the open-air top deck, so we went up there where I would be able to get some great photos of the Eclipse on the way back, and indeed I did. 😊
Back on board we found a bottle of Prosecco waiting for us, with a note from Guest Relations apologising for the “misunderstanding” regarding the fancy dress on Hallowe’en. We’d enjoy it on the balcony later on.
We had a fairly late lunch (around 2.00pm) so we decided we wouldn’t go to dinner tonight, preferring to eat later in the self-service buffet.
In the meantime, we returned to stateroom 8166 and had an hour’s power-nap, waking up in time for the afternoon trivia quiz. We didn’t think the rest of our team-mates would be there as they may have still been making the most of things ashore, but indeed everyone was present and we once again won! It had got to the stage now where we were hearing whispered “Hmmph… they always win!” and “Oh, it’s those arseholes in the corner again!” from the losing teams. 😊
Afterwards we spent the afternoon just pottering around and hand-washing some smalls and hanging them strung between our two balcony chairs to dry. Then we just read, relaxed and passed the time in the usual pleasant manner until we felt like going to eat. Around six ‘clock the Eclipse weighed anchor and we put to sea once more, en route to our next exciting port of call.
For dinner we went up to the Ocean View Café at 6.15pm and I just enjoyed some cold cuts and salad as I wasn’t terribly hungry. As a result, we were finished much earlier than usual and were able to go and see the 7.00pm showtime.
Tonight’s performance featured an ageing rocker called Domenick Allen, who had previously performed in Las Vegas, Broadway and London’s West End and had shared billing with Liberace and the soft-rock group Foreigner. Despite the guy’s long hair, spangled clothing and open shirt with medallions (aargh!) he was actually a very talented guitarist and a good entertainer, and we really enjoyed his show.
Afterwards we went along to the Entertainment Court where we took part/spectated in the game “Majority Rules”. This is the game where a question is asked, e.g. “Name a mountain in the Himalayas” and it’s not about getting the correct answer, it’s about deciding what most other people will say. Thus the answer could actually be incorrect. We didn’t win, but there were some really amusing answers and it passed a nice little interlude.
We then took part in the pub quiz in the Quasar Lounge which depicted “Superheroes or Supervillains”. We did appallingly as half of them we hadn’t heard of, so we just gave up halfway through.
The rest of the evening was spent in the usual way, meeting and chatting with fellow passengers (always interesting!), laughing, relaxing and drinking. The time always seems to fly by and soon we were sitting out on the balcony, enjoying a glass each of our complimentary fizz.
Sitting out in the balmy, sultry air, with only a hint of a sea breeze, listening to the mesmerising sounds of the sea, we gazed skywards at the vastness of space and the stars and constellations above us. I got my iPod and put on the appropriate album Paint The Sky With Stars by Enya. I love Enya; her music and singing are so ethereal and relaxing. I put my feet up on the balcony railings and laid back in my deck chair, breathing the sea air in deeply, and just feeling utterly content. This is what cruising is all about! 😊
Then it was time to settle down for the evening in excited anticipation of our next Hawai’ian port of call, this time Lahaina. After leaving our balcony door open slightly to enjoy the fresh salt air, we slept very well.