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.

Looking around Lahaina

Once again we were up early this morning, around 7.30am, and we went out onto the balcony to a bright and sunny morning, the air tropical and sultry.  We didn’t have any excursions booked today, preferring instead to explore on our own.

We went up to the Ocean View Café and enjoyed a hearty breakfast once again.  I really am going to have to diet once we get home! ☹  Then we went out on deck and watched as the first of the tenders made their way ashore, as the Celebrity Eclipse had now dropped anchor off Lahaina, in the island of Maui.

Altogether, there are eight main islands which make up Hawai’i, the 50th state of the USA.  They are:  Hawaii (the Big Island), Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau and Kahoolawe.

We had to go and collect a ticket for the liberty boat ashore, and wait until our group number was called, but first of all they were giving priority to those groups which had booked an excursion.  We therefore had time to do the 9.30am trivia quiz, which we won once again!  I don’t think we’ve won as many quizzes on any other cruise, ever!  😊

Around 10.30 we went down to Deck 2 and boarded the liberty boat to take us ashore.  The ride across took about 20 minutes.  We found ourselves at a pleasant little landing dock, complete with the usual souvenir stalls and one area where three older local ladies were dancing a slow hula and singing to a Hawai’ian guitar.

We crossed the road and walked along to the sea front, looking at the small pleasure boats bobbing gently, and listening to the happy seaside sounds.  There was a row of huts all along the shore, and every other one seemed to be advertising charter fishing trips or boat rides or other excursions.   As the Pacific rolled gently onto the sand, we could see the Celebrity Eclipse in the near distance, turning slowly on her anchor.  It was a delightful scene.

We spent some time walking along, looking in shop windows, some of which had their Christmas decorations up already!  It was hard to believe that Christmas is only next month; especially in the 28˚C tropical heat and sunshine.

The shops thinned out and we came to a small beach, what the locals call a ‘baby beach’.  There was a stretch of golden sand fringed by trees, and several surfers and swimmers had taken to the water.  Of course, I had to kick off my sandals, roll up my cropped jeans, and go in for a ‘plodge’.  It was lovely, and I wished we’d brought towels and our cossies.

We stood and gazed at the mesmeric sight of the waves rolling in, receding, rolling in, receding, and watched people of all ages enjoying themselves on this late Sunday morning.  A whole family had arrived and had erected a couple of gazebos, unfolded some portable chairs and were settling down.  Two kids, about 11-12, were hanging a large banner proclaiming “Happy Birthday” to some nearby mesh fencing, while the adults carried cool boxes and lined up surfboards and inflatables on the sand.  It was a happy family scene, everyone getting ready for a birthday beach party, and the children taking to the water on their inflatables and kickboards.  I couldn’t resist taking a photo!  😊

After rinsing the sand off my feet and legs the best I could, we took a gentle walk back along the shore until we came to the main drag once again.  We then decided to go and have a freezing cold beer, as the sun was very hot.  We found a bar/restaurant that seemed to be doing a roaring trade so we went in, perched on a couple of bar stools, and ordered a pint of the local beer each.

A guy on an adjacent stool, hearing our English accents, asked whereabouts we were from and how we were enjoying Hawaii.  We spent some time passing pleasantries whilst enjoying our cold beers, then decided to go and queue for the liberty boat, as it was now around 1.30pm.

Back on board the Eclipse we partook of a light lunch, then returned to 8166 four our swimsuits, as the pool looked very inviting and the decks were not crowded, as many people were still ashore.  We therefore went to the pool deck and bagged a couple of sun loungers before taking to the water, which was colder than I expected, but OK once you got used to it.

We swam a few leisurely lengths before wrapping ourselves in the large pool towels provided, then returning to our sun loungers via the Pool Bar.  I enjoyed an Aperol Spritz while Trevor had a cold bottle of Samuel Adams.  I couldn’t sit out too long in the hot sunshine (without sun protection) so I moved to a table and chair in the shade, where I had another drink.  It was great just passing the time doing what we wanted, when we wanted, and not having to live our life by the clock.

Around three o’clock we returned to our stateroom to get dried off and into our clothes in time for the trivia quiz at 3.30pm.  Not many teams were doing the quiz, although we had a full team, but we didn’t win this time, only missing out by a point.  😊

Back in our stateroom we enjoyed a half-hour power nap before sitting on the balcony for a while, enjoying the sunshine.  Then we got showered and changed, and just relaxed until it was time to go to dinner at 5.45pm.  I still think that is way too early to go to dinner, but the second sitting on this ship is at 8.15pm, and I actually find that a little too late to give your dinner time to get down.  Tonight, I wore a pink floral knee-length dress and my Irregular Choice “Hono Lulu” hula-girl-heeled shoes. 😊

As we arrived in the Moonlight Sonata restaurant the increased vibrations coming up through the floor told us that the Eclipse was on the move once again.  We enjoyed the usual scrumptious meal; there are always so many delicious dishes to choose from it is difficult to decide what to have.  Some of our table-mates did actually order more than one starter or dessert if they wanted.

After dinner we decided to go along to the Entertainment Court to watch the “Yes/No Challenge”.  This is a game in which rapid-fire questions are asked and the participant has to avoid using the words “yes” or “no” in their answer.  It’s much harder than it sounds!  As we were making our way there, I was stopped once again many times by people looking at my shoes, and even photographing them – no-one had ever seen anything like them.  😊

We watched the Yes/No game from the upper mezzanine floor before going into the Quasar Lounge where the quiz had already started, so we didn’t join in, just had a drink while speaking with the friendly Indonesian barman, Eka.  Then we went into the Eclipse Theatre to get a front-row seat for tonight’s show, which was called “Amade” and was based around the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The show was excellent and was very different – an imaginative display based on different arrangements of Mozart’s music.  The costumes were also superb.  So far we’ve enjoyed really unusual and very entertaining shows by a very talented cast, which even features acrobats and aerialists.

After the show we returned to the Quasar where it was karaoke time once again.  There was a really rowdy crowd of people at the bar who had clearly already enjoyed a few drinks tonight.  Many people were coming over and looking at my shoes once again, photographing them from all angles.  Even several men (many of whom were clearly gay) came over, and everyone was asking what brand it was and writing down the URL www.irregularchoice.com.  I should really be on commission from IC!  😊

One of the rowdy American women at the bar asked me to get up and sing It’s A Sin by the Pet Shop Boys again, so I did so.  Not that she took a blind bit of notice of my singing, however, as I could hear her shouts, shrieks and laughing over my singing.  One of her crowd, a gay woman called Linda, started being quite rude: when she asked where I was from and I said “England”, she said that the English were “stuffy” and “think they are better than everyone else.”  I refused to bite or get into an argument with her.  Afterwards, she got drunker and drunker until she was my and Trevor’s best friend, and she dragged me up to do Kiki Dee’s part in Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.  We were both really pleased when she left.

It was around 11.45pm when we returned to stateroom 8166, after getting a last drink from Eka.  We took our drinks back to the cabin, opened the balcony doors where the air was pleasantly sultry, and enjoyed our drinks sitting outside in the warm darkness, winding down at the end of another interesting day.

Landscapes and Leis

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.

Aloha from Hilo, Hawai’i!

Woke up around 6.30am to see “land ahoy” as the Eclipse slowly made her way into port in Hilo.  We went back to bed for an hour then got up and went out onto the balcony, to take in our immediate surroundings.  As the Eclipse is such a large ship (over 122,000 tons) we found ourselves in quite an industrial port full of containers, with a large warehouse-like building serving as the passenger terminal.

We didn’t have any excursions booked today, preferring to do our own thing and get our first impressions of Hawai’i.

After breakfast we returned to 8166 to collect our shipboard passes, passports, money, credit cards etc. and go ashore.  We were each attired in our touristy “Hawai’I” t-shirts and I wore my “Celebrity X Cruises” sunhat.  We then made our way to Deck 2 and down the gangplank for the short walk to the cruise terminal and the shuttle bus into town.

Inside the terminal we were greeted with the somewhat-contrived girls-in-grass-skirts-and-leis singing and dancing to ukulele music.  There was a number of stalls selling souvenirs and holiday tat, and one stall with tourist information, which we headed for.  As a result, we obtained the last two seats on the 9.30am shuttle bus, and we sat down to await its arrival.  😊

While we waited, we looked around with interest.  There was one queue waiting for the “Walmart” bus (why would you go all the way to Hawai’i just to go to Walmart?!) and another queue waiting for the “Hoppa-On-Hoppa-Off” [sic] bus.

Soon our bus arrived and we set off through the town.  We didn’t quite know what to expect regarding Hawai’i; somehow we’d imagined it to be like the Caribbean islands with palm trees, gorgeous beaches, turquoise water and little ramshackle buildings here and there.  However, while the beaches and palm trees bit was correct, it was really quite commercialised, and this shouldn’t really have come as much of a surprise when you stopped to think that, after all, this is America.

The bus dropped us off at the main stop in town, with a police station next door and some shops across the road.  The sun was already very hot and I realised we should have brought a bottle of water with us, so we went over the road to get one.  While we were there, was walked along and browsed the shops, many of which were selling brightly-coloured dresses and shirts, wooden carved “Tiki” figures, t-shirts, holiday souvenirs and the ubiquitous leis and hair flowers.

We strolled along, taking frequent sips of water, and looking around us.  Across the road we could see the sea, with the Celebrity Eclipse in the distance (about two miles away, we guessed), but a large sea-wall prevented us from going near the sea or the beach.

As we walked along we came across a park, named Kalakaua Park, which contained a huge banyan tree, its trunk writhing and twisting tortuously while many creepers hung down from its branches.  We saw lots of chickens wandering about, pecking at the ground, along with a huge, magnificent cockerel with his green tail feathers and proud, red coxcomb.

In front of the banyan tree was a statue of the former King of Hawaii, King David Kalākaua (after whom the park is named) and Trevor posed next to him for a photo.  In front of the statue was a plaque depicting a buried time capsule; the plaque declared:

Total Solar Eclipse – Island of Hawaii
July 11, 1991 7:28AM
Time Capsule Memento from 1991
To be opened at the next total solar eclipse
May 3, 2106

Lorraine R. Inouye, Mayor, County of Hawaii

After we’d seen enough in the park, we continued along the main street.  Browsing in the shops, I spotted a colourful pink cotton dress in a floral pattern with blue and yellow flowers. The bodice of the dress was shirred and could be worn on or off the shoulder.  It was only $24 so I decided to try it on; it was full length on me and looked very nice, so I bought it, along with a couple of postcards.  The guy at the checkout told us where we could find the post-office.

In the large, pillared United States Post Office (which also served as a court room) we bought the stamps and sat on some steps in the shade to write them out, then posted them.  We then set off in search of a bar for a cold beer.  😊

We found a lively pub/eaterie called “Pineapples” in which all of the stools at the bar were occupied by people from the ship!  We sat at a nearby table and each ordered a pint of the locally-brewed beer; Trevor had a dark beer while I had a lager which had quite a cloudy look about it.  The beer was good and cold and we enjoyed it a lot, while listening to the background music and people-watching.

After we’d spent some more time browsing around and checking out our surroundings, we decided to go back to the bus station and await the shuttle.  Several “hoppa-on-hoppa-off” buses pulled up as well as service buses, but there was no sign of ours and we didn’t know how long we’d have to wait.  I didn’t feel like walking a couple of miles in the 31 degree heat, so we contemplated getting a taxi. One of the hop-on-hop-off bus drivers agreed to take us, plus another couple, back to the ship for five bucks each; he was probably making a little cash on the side.  😊

We arrived back at the Eclipse in time for lunch.  The ship was fairly quiet as a lot of people were still ashore or on excursions, so there were no queues in the Ocean View café.  The shops and casino were also closed as we were in port.

After lunch we returned to 8166 for a power nap, then went up by the pool deck where we sat in the shade out of the hot tropical sunshine. I enjoyed a cold Aperol Spritz followed by a prosecco, while Trevor had a couple of bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale.

At 3.30pm we went up to the Sky Lounge for the General Knowledge Trivia (the progressive trivia only happened on sea days) and we didn’t expect to see any of our team members, but Kendal joined us on his own and, while we did quite well, we lost out by one point.  So no rubber bracelets for us this time!  😊

After pottering around the ship and spending the rest of the afternoon in the usual pleasant, leisurely way, we got showered and shampooed and ready for dinner.  At around five o’clock the Celebrity Eclipse gave a blast of her foghorn as we put to sea once more, next stop Kailua Kona, approximately 119 nautical miles away.

Down in the Moonlight Sonata restaurant we found several people missing from table #350; there was only Dick and Barb and Randy and Donna there, apart from Trevor and me.  Maybe the others were tired or were eating elsewhere, but nevertheless we all swapped stories about what we’d been up to today, discussed various topical news items (including the non-event that was Brexit, which should have happened yesterday, the 31st October) and enjoyed the lively conversation as well as the usual delicious meal, washed down with chilled rosé wine.

Afterwards we went into the Quasar Lounge and took part in the trivia pub quiz which was actually quite hard.  We only scored 9/15 but the winners got 13.  Ah well, you can’t win ‘em all.  😊

The main show tonight featured the orchestra and the Celebrity Eclipse vocalists.  It was called “An Intimate Broadway Cabaret” and I thought it was going to be a bit boring, but it was actually very good indeed.  So far in this cruise the entertainment has been excellent.  😊

I was quite tired afterwards; probably a combination of hot sun, cold booze and a lot of activity. At 10 o’clock Trevor went along to the Celebrity Central room to watch the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final, featuring England v South Africa, but I just decided to go back to 8166, sit out on the balcony for a while, and read.

I was fast asleep and didn’t hear Trevor return to the cabin at 1.00am, after England’s defeat of 32-12.  ☹

Fancy Dress or Not?

Got up at 7.30am and went out onto our balcony, where the weather was warm and sultry and the sun was already quite hot.  Today would be our last full day at sea before reaching our first port of call tomorrow.

As today was Hallowe’en, which is celebrated much more in the USA than it is at home, many passengers had adorned the doors of their cabins with paper decorations depicting ghosts, black cats, witches and pumpkins.  Before leaving home I’d assembled a great “Grim Reaper” costume consisting of skull mask, long black velvet hooded cloak and big scythe.

However, when we were reading the Celebrity Cruises “FAQs” and what-to-bring-on-your-voyage bumf on their web site, we came across a notice saying that there was a code of conduct in the interests of all passengers and, as such, strictly no fancy dress.  Its exact words say:

NOVELTY CLOTHING

We don’t want to dampen your spirit, but for the comfort and enjoyment of all guests, please leave any costumes, fancy dress, garments with potentially offensive language, and other novelty clothing at home. We reserve the right to deny embarkation to persons dressed inappropriately and to ask them to change if on board.

We thought this was a very strange thing to stipulate, particularly as some cruise lines encourage dressing up, and we’ve enjoyed some great themed parties in the past, such as 1920s themed parties, masquerade balls, British nights, nautical evenings and tropical nights to name but a few.  In light of this rule, then, I left my Grim Reaper costume behind.

At 9.30am we adjourned to the Sky Lounge to meet Kendal, Janet, Frank and Norm for the Brain Waker Trivia quiz, which we won once again, getting another wrist band to add to our collection!  We joked that the other teams would be starting to get suspicious of us!  😊

After the quiz we returned to 8166 where Trevor spent some time reading and relaxing on the balcony while I caught up with some of this blog.

We then went back out on deck where the weather was fantastic, hot and sunny just as we’d anticipated, with a tantalising sea breeze.  It was after 11.00am now, so time for a freezing cold beer.  😊

Back inside we wandered through the arcade and looked to see what “bargains” they had in the shops.  There was a $10 event where a selection of items were all reduced to ten bucks each, things like scarves, purses, bags, costume jewellery etc.  I spotted some nice little charms featuring Swarovski crystals which were half-price; one of them was a ship’s wheel and the other was a small medallion proclaiming “Live..Love..Cruise”.  I couldn’t resist them and bought them, hanging them onto my bracelet straight away.  😊

At lunchtime we grabbed ourselves a light meal of cold meats and salad and sat out at the stern to eat them, each washing our lunch down with a cold bottle of Samuel Adams beer.  Then we went and sat on bar stools by the pool bar; I was tempted to change into my cossie and got for a dip, but the pool was quite crowded and we enjoyed the people watching instead, especially as one couple kept getting up and dancing to the Latin music that was playing in the background.  😊

Thus we passed the time so pleasantly in the way I’ll never tire of; sitting on the decks, looking at the blue Pacific Ocean, feeling the sea breeze ruffling our hair and just feeling so privileged to be here and so glad to be alive.

At quarter past two we did the usual, and made our way to the Sky Lounge to take part in the Music trivia quiz.  Once again our team won!  😊

The music quiz was followed by the ballroom dance class and this time it featured the cha cha cha.  Trevor and I were quick onto the dance floor, right at the front where we had a good view of the instructors.  The dance class lasted for 30 minutes and was very lively, with lots of practice and lots of dancing, so we worked up a good thirst and got a drink each to last us through the next quiz, the Progressive Trivia, at 3.30pm.

When the quiz host put the leader board of all the teams taking part in the Progressive Trivia so far, we saw that “It’s Only A Game” was in the lead.  Yay!  😊

After the quiz we went along to the small cinema/lecture theatre on Deck 4 to listen to a presentation about Lord Horatio Nelson, England’s most famous admiral, and the various battles he participated in leading up to the Battle of Trafalgar.  I had to leave about 10 minutes before the end of the hour-long lecture to get washed and changed and ready for dinner at 5.45pm.

As we made our way to the restaurant, I was most surprised to see that, contrary to what was published on the Celebrity web site (see above) regarding fancy dress, many people we, in fact, dressed in Hallowe’en costumes, some of them quite elaborate.  I could have brought my Grim Reaper costume after all!  ☹

Instead, I just wore a black and red patterned dress and nude-coloured high-heel sling backs, and looked with envy at those in their fantastic costumes.

When we came out of the dining room we passed by the Guest Relations desk, and I determined to ask them for their definition of “fancy dress”, seeing as they said one thing on their web site but practised another.  Most of the people on the guest relations desk were surprised at my question, and weren’t aware of any notices on the web site advising not to bring fancy dress.  Eventually one of them apologised for the “misunderstanding” and said they’d send a bottle of prosecco to our cabin as a goodwill gesture.  So all was not lost.  😊

The show tonight was certainly something different; he was billed a Randy Cabral who “brings a highly interactive brand of comedy that is fast paced, funny and flexible”.  We would have called him a “juggler” but perhaps that alone wouldn’t have done him justice, because he was absolutely brilliant, very dexterous, funny and highly entertaining.  We’d certainly never seen anything like him on any other cruise.

After the show we went along to watch the Hallowe’en Costume Parade (in which I could have taken part!) but the place was crowded and nowhere could I get a good vantage point.  We therefore went to the casino bar and got a drink to take back to our stateroom to drink on the balcony.

It was lovely out on the balcony; the air was warm and sultry and the sounds of the sea, washing along the side of the Celebrity Eclipse, were hypnotic.  We sat outside for about half an hour then got washed and ready for bed, and settled down for the night.

Tomorrow we were due to reach Hilo, in the “Big Island” of Hawai’I, and we slept well.

Cruise, Booze and Fabulous Shoes

Got up at 7.30 this morning and were dismayed to see that the decks were wet, and it wasn’t because the deck-hands had been washing them.  ☹

After getting washed and dressed we made our way up to Deck 14 to take the route alongside the pool to the Ocean View café. There was a fine rain (what we called a ‘mizzle’, i.e. mist+drizzle) so we decided to take the slightly-longer way across, under the canopies for shelter.  As we did so, the skies opened and the rain came pelting down, thundering on the Perspex roof.  We hoped the downpour would clear the skies for some long-awaited sun later on.

We enjoyed our substantial breakfast, washed down with orange juice and coffee, before we ventured out on deck again, where we were pleased to see that the skies were showing a bit more blue.  😊

At 9.30am we joined the rest of our quiz team “It’s Only A Game” for the brain-waker trivia.  Before the quiz host, Shania, could give out the answers, Captain Leo’s voice came booming over the tannoy with the latest geographical and meteorological information, followed by cruise director Lauren’s voice, which went on and on and on, practically reading out the whole of the events programme to us.  That girl talks far too much!  Everyone cheered when she finally shut up, and Shania could continue with the results of the quiz.

We won once again, adding another rubber wrist band to our collection.  Considering we have been on some cruises where we’ve never won a single quiz, we were doing very well so far. 😊

After the quiz, we went back out on deck where – hooray! – the sun was out and there was a pleasant tropical sea breeze.  This was more like it, and certainly what we expected on a cruise to Hawaii.

We spent the morning just relaxing and pottering around the ship, not doing very much in particular but just enjoying being on holiday and not at work.  All around us we could see the sparkling blue of the Pacific Ocean as the Celebrity Eclipse glided through the waters, which were very calm with a barely-discernible ship’s motion.

We went up to the Lawn Club (grass! on a ship!) and enjoyed a pre-luncheon cocktail; I had a nice cold Aperol Spritz while Trevor had a chilled bottle of Samuel Adams beer.  By now, the sun was very hot, and it would have been far too easy to be lulled into a false sense of security by the cooling sea breeze, so we didn’t stay in the sun for more than half an hour before seeking shelter at the Sunset Bar.

After a light lunch we headed back to cabin 8166 to sit out on our balcony for a while; it was extremely pleasant watching the sea glide past and enjoying the fresh air – it is something we never tire of.

We then had a half-hour power nap before going up to the Sky Lounge to take part in the music trivia, which was all about pop divas.  Of our regular team-mates only Kendal put in an appearance, but we joined another group of three and made up another team that way.  It was good that we did, because we won again, so that was another wrist band!  The other teams will start to get suspicious!  😊

Once the quiz finished, it was time for a ballroom dancing class featuring the waltz.  Trevor and I went to join in, but the dance floor was packed and we couldn’t see the feet of the dance instructors, (also they were teaching it differently from the way we’ve been learning it at home) so we just gave up and went back to join Kendal and Janet and enjoyed a drink each from the bar. 😊

At 3.30p, Frank and Norm joined us for the progressive trivia; we seemed to do pretty well once again but we won’t know which team is the overall winner until near the end of the cruise, as this was a points accumulator.

The rest of the afternoon passed in its usual relaxed and pleasant way, and soon we had to go back to 8166 to get showered and changed and ready for dinner.  How the day goes by quickly when you’re having a good time!

Tonight I decided to wear some smart white jeans with a navy camisole with a blue and green mesh overlay top, along with a pair of Irregular Choice flats.  These ones were called “Fruity Bowl” and were a very colourful pair with a pale blue glittery background featuring bananas, grapes, peaches, strawberries, cherries and the accompanying green leaves.  As ever, loads of people commented on them as we made our way to the restaurant.  😊

Dinner was as good and as delicious as ever, and afterwards we went along to the Quasar Lounge and listened to the questions being read out for the nearby Friendly Feuds (Family Fortunes) game show.  Then, at half-eight, we took part in the Tribond Trivia, at which Kendal joined us.  We didn’t know what was meant by ‘tribond’, but it’s a game in which you have to find the common word between three seemingly-unrelated items.  For example, the words “eggs, eyes, laundry items” would have the word “whites” in common.

In this way we completed the quiz and scored 15/15, so another rubber wrist band each to add to our growing collection.  😊

It was then time to take our seats in the Eclipse Lounge for tonight’s show, which featured the Celebrity Singers, Dancers and Acrobatic Performers (i.e. the show company).  It was called “Topper” and the stage contained a large top hat from which several colourful characters emerged. As the daily programme described it: “The enigmatic Sir Peabody keeps his eccentric friends, both real and imaginary, locked away in his giant hat. Enjoy what happens when they yearn for life outside”.  We did indeed enjoy it and thought it was a very imaginative and unusual show.

It was then time to return to the Quasar Lounge and take our place on our ‘regular’ bar stools in time for the karaoke.  Several other people were in the lounge already and, judging by the volume of noise coming from a particular group at the bar, some of them had clearly been enjoying a drink (or three!) beforehand.

The karaoke was a packed and lively affair.  I got up and did two numbers, the first being Rose Garden by Lynn Anderson, and the second It’s a Heartache by Bonnie Tyler.  One guy who was dressed as a country yokel (quite appropriately) was an excellent country-style hill-billy singer with a large repertoire of songs; we were sure he had to be a professional and when we asked him, he said that was known to be paid occasionally for singing.  😊

It was quite late when we left the karaoke (after 11.45pm) and returned to stateroom 8166 after another great day.  We had to put our clocks back one more hour tonight, putting us 10 hours behind GMT and onto Hawaiian time, so we gained another hour in bed.  We slept very well, as the Celebrity Eclipse carried us ever-closer to our destination.

The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow

Got up at eight o’clock this morning and went out onto the balcony to see what the weather was like.  Once again, although dry, it was cooler than we’d expected and cloudy, but the Pacific Ocean was fairly calm as the Celebrity Eclipse glided through the waves, and we enjoyed the hypnotic shhhhh shhhhh of the sea washing against the side of the ship.

We went and had our breakfasts in the Ocean View café and had a wander out on deck.  Quite a few people were power-striding or jogging around the track above the pool deck, and one or two people were in the pool or the jacuzzi, but the sun loungers were mainly empty.

At half-nine we went up to the sky lounge where we were joined once again by Kendal, Janet, Frank and Norm for the morning trivia.  We scored 13/15 and were the winners once again, earning another wrist band each.  😊

Then, at 10 o’clock, we went into the Eclipse Theatre to listen to the music historian Bill Powell give a very interesting talk about Elvis Presley, interspersed with clips from his music.  It was a very interesting lecture, and quite sad at the end regarding Elvis’s untimely death in 1977 at the age of 42.

Afterwards we went and had a cup of coffee before going on the wander around the ship again.  We briefly watched a paper aeroplane challenge between officers and passengers in the central atrium, before taking one of the glass-sided lifts up to the top deck.  Those lifts would be no good for someone with a fear of heights, as they made you realise just how many decks and how tall this ship was, as we watched each level recede away from us.

We pottered around the ship in the usual pleasant way and enjoyed a light lunch before making our way to the Eclipse Lounge once again for a 1.30pm matinée performance by the Rave-Ons.  Their popularity was evident by the already-packed lounge when we arrived, and we were lucky to get decent seats down near the front

The show was enthusiastic and energetic, with the three excellent guitarists and singers, and the manic drummer in the background, who reminded me of ‘Animal’ out of the Muppet Show.  😊  It was a superb performance, and most of the audience stood up at the end.  Great stuff.

At half-three we returned to the Sky Lounge to meet up with the rest of our quiz team, and took part in Round 2 of the Progressive Trivia quiz.  After the first round we were joint leaders, so we had to ensure we maintained our position.  We did quit well once again, and handed our papers in so that the accumulative score could be calculated.  Then we sat and talked for a while before making our way back to cabin 8166 to relax, get showered and changed, and ready for dinner at 5.45pm.

Whilst Celebrity cruises don’t enforce a formal dress code, they do have ‘evening chic’ nights where passengers may dress up a little more, and wear dinner jackets if they wish.  Trevor had brought a smart pair of grey trousers with matching waistcoat, a crisp white shirt with red cufflinks which matched his red silk cravat – very elegant indeed.

I wore a yellow floral off-the-shoulder dress, but my pièce de résistance was my shoes – a pair of Irregular Choice colourful high-heeled sandals that depicted fake flowers at the front and a Hawaiian lei at the ankle strap, as well as a heel consisting of a hula girl in a grass skirt playing her ukulele!

hono-lulu-heels-multicolor-e3365437_l

Predictably, every few paces I walked, I was stopped by people passing by, marvelling at my shoes and examining them, “oohing” and “aahing” over them and asking where I got them.  No-one had ever seen anything like it, but the Irregular Choice brand is well-known for its concept heels which is something I like to collect.  😊

Eventually, after stopping many times, we arrived at the Moonlight Sonata restaurant, and took our seats at table #350.  We had a full house tonight, all 12 of us, and we enjoyed the usual delicious meal and wine and excellent conversation.

After dinner we made our way to the Quasar Lounge to take part in the trivia, which was Movie Posters.  We thought we were doing quite well, but we couldn’t finish the quiz (which had 25 questions) as we had to be in the Eclipse Lounge in good time for the Captain’s welcome.  It was a much watered-down welcome compared to those we usually experience on the Fred Olsen ships; there was no dancing or canapés or free cocktails or glasses of fizz, just Captain Leonardos Palaiokrassas (“Captain Leo”) who put in a five-minute token appearance and introduced his senior officers before the show started at nine o’clock.

Tonight’s performance featured a female singer called Jen Jayden.  She appeared in a pair of painted-on shiny trousers, and a leather corset, very rock-chick and she belted out her songs with much energy and gusto, accompanied by the superb ship’s orchestra.  She was a very good entertainer, even if she did seem to think a little highly of herself.

After the show we headed upstairs for the “Sounds of the 70s” disco followed by dancing and Abba Singalong, but the Sky Lounge was absolutely packed and the only available seats were at the periphery of the room near the windows (excellent for the sea views in the dark) but too far from the music and the main action.

We therefore decided to go elsewhere, and we made our way to the Martini Ice Bar where I enjoyed a martini made with watermelon juice and Grey Goose vodka amongst other things.  We then had one more drink before returning to cabin 8166 around 11.30pm, fairly early for us when we’re on holiday.

Once again, we’d had an enjoyable day – we just hoped the weather would improve.  We also stood to gain an extra hour in bed as the clocks went back once again; we are now nine hours behind GMT.