Hello from Honolulu

This morning we woke up as the ship was making her way into Honolulu.  This time we would be in port, rather than at anchor.  Got up around 7.15am as we were booked to go on a half-day excursion this morning.  Once again, the weather was hot and sunny.

We enjoyed our breakfast as usual in the Ocean View café, then went outside on deck as the Eclipse was being moored up, and got our first glimpse of Honolulu.  I was quite surprised to see so many skyscrapers and commercial buildings – think New York City with palm trees.

Honolulu is the capital and largest city of the U.S. state of Hawai’i. It is an unincorporated part of, and the county seat of, the City and County of Honolulu along the southeast coast of the island of O’ahu. The city is the main gateway to Hawai’i and a major portal into the United States. The city is also a major hub for international business and military defence, as well as being host to a diverse variety of east-west and Pacific cultures, cuisine, and traditions.

Honolulu is the remotest city of its size in the world, and is the westernmost and southernmost major U.S. city. We looked forward to exploring.  😊

Our tour tickets advised us that we had to meet our allocated guide and driver just outside the cruise terminal at 8.15am.  We therefore disembarked the Eclipse via Deck 3, meeting Kendal and Janet going the other way.  We explained we were going on an excursion and would therefore miss the trivia at half-nine.

After walking through the large terminal and being directed to the line of waiting coaches, we met our guide/driver Tommy Chong, and boarded the bus.  We were each handed a map on which was marked the route we would be taking, as well as the various places of interest we’d see along the way.

We set off through the bustling Monday-morning streets, Tommy providing a running commentary about what we were passing outside.  It was Sod’s Law that the most interesting things seemed to be on the right-hand side of the bus while Trevor and I were sitting on the left side.  Honolulu was interesting in that among all the big-city living there was also farms and plantations, growing everything from coconuts to bananas, breadfruits, olives and coffee.  We also passed the statue of King Kamehameha, one of several around the islands honouring the monarch who founded the Kingdom of Hawai’i.

After about 30 minutes or so we arrived at Waikiki and its world-famous beach.  It was certainly a very upmarket place and the elegant streets were lined with many designer stores; we saw Gucci, Versace, Hermès, Cartier and Tiffany & Co to name but a few – shops that mere mortals such as Trevor and I could never afford to shop in.  It was in keeping with this environment that a number of luxury cars were spotted as well.

The bus made its way slowly along the beach-front, which was crowded with sunbathers, swimmers and surfers.  Eventually the shops gave way to luxury dwellings, amazingly-large and unusual designed houses, many of them with large gated driveways.  This area was known as “Hawaii’s Beverly Hills” and it was certainly easy to believe.  A lot of the houses perched up high along the rocky cliff-tops, affording them a breathtaking view of the blue Pacific Ocean.  The view alone must have added several hundreds of thousands of dollars to the property price-tags.

We continued on our scenic tour until we arrived at Hahauma Bay, where the bus parked up and Tommy said we had a 45-minute stop here.  It was fantastic; we were up high, looking down at a picturesque natural bay which looked exactly how you’d imagine Hawai’i to look – sparkling turquoise sea edged with soft pale sand and fringed with palm trees.  Any softness was balanced by the rugged rocky backdrop outlining the shape of the bay; Tommy said it looked like a giant iguana with the head at the edge of the bay and the body and tail curving round (but I think you needed an awful lot of imagination to see this).  😊

We spent the time walking along, listening to the roar of the surf and taking lots of photos of this beautiful scenery.  As we continued on our way, following the coastal path, we came to Halona Cove and its rugged beach which contained many rocks around which the restless surf swirled.  Halona Cove was made famous by the 1953 film From Here To Eternity; this was the place where the iconic beach love scene between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr was filmed.

Back on the bus we continued to follow the picturesque coastline until we reached Kailua, where it was time for our second stop.  This was in a large emporium selling all sorts of Hawai’ian souvenirs, from wooden carvings and other handicrafts, the ubiquitous leis and hair-flowers, and a selection of t-shirts and tropical print shirts as well as surfing equipment.  At the rear of the shop was an area where we could get a free cup of coffee, which we did.  I bought a small roll-on bottle of Hawai’ian perfume in a passion flower and pineapple scent, which had a nice summery smell.

Back on the bus we made our way to the Pali Highway, otherwise known as route 61. This would take us back to the port via the mountainous region for a change of scenery.

We passed the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout at 1,168 feet above sea level.  From here we had a panoramic view of the windward (northeast) coast of Oʻahu.  We also had to go through the Nu’uanu Pali Tunnels.  These are a set of four highway tunnels (two in each direction) which pass through the Nuʻuanu Pali. These tunnels serve as one of three trans-Ko’olau routes between Honolulu (leeward O’ahu) and the communities of windward O’ahu. The tunnels also serve as a major transportation route from Kaneohe and Kailua over to Honolulu. These tunnels and the Pali Highway were built to provide a safer route through the mountain ridge, replacing a narrow, winding, and dangerous road over the mountain.

Our next visit was to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, situated at the Punchbowl Crater.  It serves as a memorial to honour those men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces, and those who have given their lives in doing so. The cemetery was different from most war graves we’ve visited in that, instead of the white headstones or crosses laid out in serried rows, there were granite plaques laid into the immaculate lawned areas instead.  This change took place in 1951, when the rows of crosses were replaced.

After our visit to the cemetery, the bus continued on its way back into Honolulu and the cruise terminal, arriving back around 12.30pm, in nice time for lunch.  We decided to go back on board and get something to eat, then go ashore again later, as the Eclipse was in port tonight until 11.00pm.

The ship was fairly quiet when we got back, no doubt because most of the passengers (and a lot of the crew, I would imagine) were making the most of the time ashore, in this, our last port of call.  We therefore managed to have a quick lunch, washed down with a welcome cold beer, before making our way back down the gangplank again to get the free shuttle bus into town.

The shuttle bus was a bit of a waste of time, however; we hadn’t realised it was one of those that had been laid on by a local store, “Hilo Hattie’s”, to bring passengers from the ship into their shop.  Therefore the bus pulled up at this large car park in a shopping precinct and, as the passengers alighted, each person was handed a lei by one of the Hilo Hattie’s staff; the lei acted as your “return ticket” to the ship.  Our allocated return time was 3.30pm, so we only had an hour or so.

We therefore just browsed the shops in the precinct, including Hilo Hattie’s that just sold the usual holiday ‘tat’ such as I’ve mentioned before.  We didn’t buy anything other than the usual bags of sweets to take back to work for our colleagues, and then we queued for the shuttle bus to go back.

Back on board the Celebrity Eclipse we got showered and changed and sorted out, then relaxed on the balcony for a short while or watched TV or read until it was time for dinner.  Several people were missing from table #350; there were only Randy and Donna and Gary and Nancy, as well as us.  In fact, there were a lot of empty tables in the Moonlight Sonata restaurant; many people were probably still making the most of it ashore, as the “all aboard” time was not until 10.30pm.

As a result of this, a local group of Hawai’ian folkloric singers and dancers would be performing for us later, so we made sure we were out of the restaurant in good time.  We then went to the Quasar Lounge for a post-prandial drink and some banter with Eka, the friendly barman.  Then we took our drinks into the theatre and procured some front-row seats for the performance at 8.30pm.

The show was called This is Aloha and, as expected, consisted of male and female traditional hula dancers in grass skirts, leis, ankle bracelets and hair-flowers, singing and moving to the background keyboard and guitars.  Some of the musicians also played the local hollowed-out gourds which made percussion instruments.  There was also a pretty good singer (an older woman, in traditional Hawai’ian dress) performing some local songs.  It was an unusual and good show, lasting about 45 minutes, and I took plenty of photos and made some video clips.

Afterwards we returned to the Quasar Lounge which was filling up with the usual suspects for tonight’s karaoke at 9.30pm.  I didn’t put my name down to do any songs as we were going to go into the main show later on.  The usual rowdy groups stood around at the bar making a hell of a racket, and Trevor and I were glad to get out of there and go back into the theatre to see tonight’s featured performer Chad Chesmark, who was billed a comedy magician.

The show was very good, with some clever tricks and amusing banter with the audience.  At some point we could feel the Eclipse’s bow-thrusters kicks into life as she prepared to set sail again.  We would spend the next five days at sea.

We enjoyed Chad’s performance a lot, and afterwards we decided to go back to the Quasar Lounge to have a drink and take a night-cap back to imbibe on our balcony, watching the lights of Hawai’i recede into the distance.  It had been an enjoyable four days with some great ports of call, and we were glad we had been.

It was around 12 midnight when we settled down for the evening in our comfortable stateroom and, as ever, we slept very well.

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