Saturday, November 19, 2011

Oahu: Sunset Beach; Cruise day

My day started at 7am. Man that came quickly. I guess when you go to bed at 2am, 7am comes in only hours. I’ll have to remember that for the next time I decide that I am going to stay up all night talking. Karran, Bena and I went to Waikiki beach for a walk around 7:30am with our cups of coffee each. We found a closer route to the beach that only took us 5 minutes through a couple of parks. There were a lot of people walking, running, jogging, swimming and surfing. We made less stops today and saw some beautiful pink orchids in some of the cork trees. It reminded me of the giant orchid we had in our genip tree in the backyard. We used to think that jumbies (ghosts) lived in the orchid bush.

We got back to the hotel and had some breakfast with some of the pineapple and coconut buns we bought yesterday along with some cheese and fruit and another cup of coffee. We then decided that we would drive up to Sunset Beach because we don’t have to be on the ship till sometime after 3pm. We saw several pineapple plantations along the way to Sunset. I was told that Hawaii doesn’t grow pineapple anymore because labour is so expensive but there is a huge Dole pineapple processing plant along the highway. There is one nice thing about the beaches here, most if not all of them have public showers so that people can get cleaned up after the beach. We checked one or two of them out for when we return on our last day and before going to the airport. We decided that we might go back to Sunset but after some discussion, we all agreed that we would stay in Waikiki for the day when we finish the cruise. We made our way back to Honolulu after stopping at a seaside food vendor (another suggestion from the Thrifty Car rental driver). The food was okay but I think we all wanted to get on to the cruise ship.

Trio enjoying Sunset Beach

An almost famous lunch truck
We finally boarded the vessel about 3:45pm and at 4:30pm, they had the emergency drill. In that time, I was trying to get a wheelchair for mom because her hip is still hurting and she is not really able to do much walking. After some time, one of the crew came and took her down to the muster station in a wheel chair. After the drill was over, I went to rent a wheel chair for the week and with the amount they charged for the week’s rental. I could have bought a wheel chair. I finally took it to Mom’s cabin (which is next door to ours and has a connecting door) and took her to the deck on the 11th floor (we’re on the 7th floor in a room with a balcony but very little space). The cabin is much smaller than I anticipated considering that I was on a cruise with Princess last year and the balcony suite was quite large; the cruise this year to Alaska with Celebrity was also, or at least, it felt larger even with two adults and two kids sharing the same space. So where was I? Did I mention that I got to the cabin but my room key was not working? Yes that’s true. I think I am having one of those weeks when you wish things are going to go smoothly but it doesn’t and every odd thing happens to you.

View of Honolulu from ship's balcony
I took Mom to the 11th floor and Karran, Bena and Sophie were there so I said that I was going back to the 5th floor to get my room key fixed and then go and have a nice hot shower. That should be pretty straightforward but was it? Noooo. I got the key fixed and went back to the cabin to have my nice long shower and what do I find but a note in Karran and Mom’s cabin (they are sharing a cabin) telling him that his luggage cannot be brought up to the room because the scanner found something in the suitcase that is not supposed to be in there so he’d have to go down to the 3rd floor to open the luggage so they could check it. This did not concern me. What concerned me was that I would have to go back to the 11th floor to give Karran the letter. I thought about leaving it in the door and pretending that I didn’t see it but my conscience wouldn’t let me do that so I walked up 4 flights of stairs to deliver the letter to Karran. Why didn’t I take the elevator like most normal people? First of all, I am not normal people and secondly, I probably could use the exercise. Neither of those were the reasons. The elevators were quite busy taking passengers to the 11th floor to eat so it wouldn’t stop at the other floors. That left me either to wait for a long time or mount the stairs by foot. I consoled myself that this is good for my heart.

I finally came back to the room to have my most desired shower but the suitcases were blocking most of the space in the cabin so instead of showering, I unpacked my stuff and no sooner was I done, than Bena arrived and started to do the same; then Sophie arrived and did the same. By the time we were done, Bena ended up in the shower before me and by the time we left our cabin for supper, the cabin steward – Onofre Doctolero (yes that’s his name) – was pacing outside because he wanted to make up the third bed for the night. We took off for dinner minus Mom who said she was not feeling so well so I ordered room service for her and she went to bed early.

The four of us, all dressed in various combinations of black and white, went off for dinner I had cream of mushroom soup, lobster and snapper and bread pudding. Sophie had polenta and steak and sorbet; Bena had same soup as me, mahi-mahi, and bread pudding and Karran had smoked salmon tartare, lamb skank, and bread pudding. I have to say that the servers were not very attentive tonight. I was expecting the same level of service as other cruise lines but I’m not yet impressed although the check-in was very smooth and fairly quick.

Bena wanted to go to see a tribute to Johnny Mathis show but that didn't happen. It’s now 10:20pm and everyone is fast asleep except me who is still blogging. Say Good night Sandra. Good night Sandra.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Oahu: Visit to the Polynesian Cultural Centre

This morning I woke up at 5am and finally got out of bed at 5:45, checked my mail, uploaded my blog entry and called my friend Georgie in Maryland. With a 4 hour time difference, my sleep is a bit messed up. I have to say that when my head landed on the pillow last night, I must have fallen asleep in a few seconds because I did not even hear Bena and Sophie after their shower.

Bena woke up a bit later and she, Karran and I went for a walk on Waikiki Beach (about 10 minutes to walk from the hotel) with our coffee. It was so warm and with just enough sun to make it feel like it was going to be a perfect day. We had a nice hour long walk which probably would have taken about 45 minutes had we not stopped several times on the way to and from the beach to admire bird feet prints in the sand, the many glorious colours of hibiscus and a number of other beautiful tropical plants that we used to find in Guyana. I guess you can take us out of Guyana but you can’t take Guyana out of us. While Ben and I were walking, Karran was busy videoing and after a while, we could hear him say “Wait for me. Wait for me.” Reminded me of the old days when we would try to run away from him and he would yell for us to wait for him.
View of Daimond Head from Waikiki
Bird footprints

Bougainvillaea flowers
We returned to the hotel and showered and then went downstairs and across the street for breakfast. Since we didn't have a wheelchair for Mom, we improvised.

Improvising a wheelchair
The meals are so large here that four of us ended up sharing two breakfasts. Mom had her own – pancakes and an egg with coconut syrup. I had about a ¼ of a teaspoon. It was good but not something I wanted to eat early in the morning.

After breakfast, we went to the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) in the North East part of the island but before doing that, we went to the grocery store and bought some deli stuff for a picnic lunch. Bena had been raving about pokey (raw tuna marinated in an assortment of marinades) so we bought some, as well as some baguettes, pineapple buns, coconut buns, fruits, spicy chicken wings and peppery Havarti cheese, and stuff to drink. We drove up to a park near the beach that was close to the PCC and had a feast. I wasn’t so crazy about the marinated raw tuna but I really like the marinated pepper and artichokes (which was another dish). I dipped my bread in the olive oil and it was so tasty. If I thought it wouldn’t look bad, I would have dropped right there and had a nap but instead we walked to the beach and took a pile of pictures.
Picnic at the park

Family bonding
Then it was off to the PCC to see several shows based on some of the Polynesian islands including Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa and a few others. The shows were a bit too cheesy for me but I watched them anyway. At the Tonga stage you won’t guess what the entertainment was - husking a coconut, grating it on a sit down grater (Guyanese would know about that), squeezing out the milk, starting a fire with the husk, and climbing a coconut tree. Now that’s entertainment. In the old days in Guyana, that was pure work!
Dancer in PCC

Polynesian hut

Tongo dancer

Tahiti dancer
Later in the evening, we had dinner but I have to say that it was not the most tasty meal I ever had. In fact, it was not tasty at all – except for the curried chicken. The evening show made up for all the day’s uninteresting activities. It was called Ha – Breath of Life and it was the story of a young man’s life from birth to becoming a father himself. The dance interpretation was very good but the show stealer was the fire act – basically a baton lit on both ends and spun and twirled until it looked like a lit wheel in the darkness. It was quite spectacular and the dancer who played the young man had such a fabulously toned body that we thought that he must spend several hours each day in the gym and practicing the twirling with the flaming batons. It was amazing. We then had a long drive back to Waikiki where our hotel is. That took us about an hour so we got back at 10:30pm. I started to write today’s blog entry but got only one paragraph completed before I gave up and decided that I needed a good sleep. I told this to Bena and she agreed that she was also tired and we both needed to go to bed. Well, I don’t know how it happened but by the time we stopped talking to each other and turned off the light, it was 2:02am. So much for an early night. Sophie must have thought to herself “I wish those two would shut up” but she didn’t actually say anything. Good night or better yet, good early morning. It’s now later today – Saturday – cruise day.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Oahu: On our way; finally arrived. Yeah! Aloha from Paradise!!

So we are on our way to Honolulu finally. Let me tell you about our little adventure at the start of the day.  I checked in online yesterday and I got boarding passes for everyone all the way through except for my leg of the journey from Vancouver to Honolulu. Apparently I had to get it at the airport.  When Mom and I went to check in, the agent was a bit cross with me for arriving late for my flight.  She said the flight was leaving at 6:30am and I arrived at 6am.  I said according to my boarding pass, the flight was leaving at 7am and asked her why I was not contacted with a schedule change.  She looked at her screen and said that the flight was leaving at 7 and begrudgingly said “my apologies” which sounded quite insincere.  She then took our passports and reprinted the boarding passes and gave them back to me.  I told her that I had requested a wheelchair for Mom so she went and got one and handed it over to me. I got mom seated in the chair and realized that the agent still had our passports so I asked her back for them.  She was total attitude. 
So there I was, trying to wheel Mom and two pieces of carry-on luggage and my handbag.  In the meantime I was looking for Karran and Sophie so that they could give me a hand.  I had no idea if they had checked in or not so after 10-15 minutes, I proceeded through security.   Did I mention that the luggage conveyor belt was also not working (at our new airport) so we had to stack the luggage on the floor and hope that it would arrive at our destination. We finally got through and proceeded to our gate where the flight was already boarding.  Karran and Sophie were already there so we proceeded to the plane and had a slightly late but otherwise relatively uneventful flight to Vancouver. The day had not started out too good.
When we arrived in Vancouver and Bena’s flight was 45 minutes late.  Apparently some birds got caught in the engine and fortunately for her, the pilot did not have to pull a Hudson (emergency landing on a river and passengers having to bail out of the plane) but that did delay her flight for 45 minutes. It arrived at 9:15 so I waited for her while Karran and Sophie went with Mom to the US departure gate.  We hurried to meet them and then proceeded to the security checks.  Karran, Bena, Mom and Sophie went through with no issues.  The problem was with me.  I had no boarding pass for Honolulu.
By this time the flight was already starting to board and we still had to get through US Immigration and the departure was at least another 6-7 minutes walk from there.  The security person told me to wait and she would get me a boarding pass so I had to remove all my stuff from the security line and stand off to the side while the other passengers passed and looked at me like I was a criminal or something (for holding up the line).
The boarding pass took another 15 minutes and it really should have taken a minute or two because there was a Westjet agent just on the other side of the security check point.  It was about 10am by the time we cleared US immigration.  Then I walked very fast (that marathon training came in useful today!) while Mom, Sophie and Karran got a ride on the airport golf cart. The agent at the gate looked harried and asked for the boarding passes and passports.  I practically threw them at him (not in anger but in haste) because they kept saying that the plane was waiting for us.  I could joke that I was so important that the plane waited for me but I think God was watching over me and knew that I deserved this break (although I may not think it was such a good thing when this is all over).   
We finally got settled in the plane and I took several deep breaths to catch my many breaths that I lost along the way. Okay, so how did I end up with no boarding pass for me?  Well here is what I think happened.  I checked in everyone and printed their boarding passes except for my Honolulu portion which I could not print for some reason.  I told Karran and Sophie that if they got to the airport and checked in before me, they could re-print theirs – which they did.  When I went to the airport, I reprinted mine and Mom’s but only got our Winnipeg/Vancouver portion.  The agent reprinted them with the luggage tags but I think she may have forgotten to give me the Vancouver/Honolulu as she had done with the passports.  I saw the passports on her desk but didn’t see the boarding passes or I would have asked her for them too.  She handed me back some documents but there were only two boarding passes instead of 4 and the US Immigration card.  The boarding pass that Mom got through with was the one I had printed for her yesterday.  Soooo, (that was me taking another deep breath!). 
After all the craziness, I settled in and pulled out my dissertation notes and started to do some work on it.  An hour into my notes, I was feeling extremely famished and  started calculating that I had only eaten about 3 hours prior but in fact it was about 5 ½ hours since I had something to. I forgot that I had turned back my watch to Vancouver time which is two hours behind Winnipeg. No wonder I was starving!! I bought a nice chicken and orzo salad and had that to eat. Now that I am satiated, I can speculate about whether Dad was telling us that we should be having a family vacation with him. So Dad if you are looking down, we know - we are not alone. You are with us.
Part way through all this, Karran said he doesn’t know how I do what I do. He agreed to buy me as many drinks that I want or that will make me drunk.  Two problems with that: 1) I am not a drinker, and 2) it would only take a few sips of alcohol or anything that will cause drowsiness (read cough syrup, Gravol, cold tablets, antihistamines, etc.) to make me fall into a sleep state that only 28 hours of sleep will cure. So I’ll just ask him instead for precious metals and/or precious stones (there is yet to be a precious metal or stone that I could not befriend). Which reminds me, on the plane Bena gave me a ring the size of which could easily cover two fingers . It’s a Just Because ring – I think. It doesn’t exactly go with my Goretex jacket but who cares? It’s fashionable and I am on vacation so I can dress any way I like – almost.
"Just Because.." ring
I am writing this on our transpacific flight Mom and Bena are sleeping. Karran and Sophie are playing cribbage. More to come. Later.

It's now past later and we just came back from the Rainbow Diner (recommended by the shuttle driver from the rental car company).  First time I think I was in a diner.  The ambiance was good but I am not sure that I can say the same for the food.  They were certainly HUGE portions which two of us could easily shared but we each got one order and ended up leaving more than half each. The weather is so perfect.  The sun set very quickly and we just sat and enjoyed the tropical breeze.  We came back to the hotel and Bena, Karran and Sophie said that they were going to buy some juice and stuff but they went into a liquor store.  Mom and I came back to our rooms (we have two rooms for the 5 of us). I have to say that the view from ours is gorgeous. I can see the ocean from the balcony and from Mom and Karran's room, they can see the mountains.  Beautiful. 
View of Waikiki Beach
It's now 11:30pm Winnipeg time so I am going to have a nice hot shower and sleep with my balcony door wide open to enjoy the breeze.  Makes me feel like I am in Guyana (except for the humidity, mosquitoes and heat).  Good night.