Friday, February 27, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015 – Honolulu, Hawaii – Sunny – 80F

It’s a beautiful day on the island of Oahu…

The last time we were in Honolulu it was Sunday and the entire city was closed.  I thought things would be better today since it is a Monday.  Only problem:  Today is Martin Luther King Day and lots of shops are closed.  Bad timing two cruises in a row. 

I had a different kind of breakfast today – a veggie omelet with a little jalapeno – a bit tangy but very good.  Of course, the excellent biscuits make everything better.

After breakfast, I spent a little time in the International Café – with my usual iced decaf mocha latte in hand.  We have all day here in Honolulu so there is no rush to get going.

20150119_Latte time (Small)

Since we are docked near the Aloha Tower pier, our plan is to walk around Chinatown (we figured some shops would be open here) and downtown Honolulu (right next to Chinatown). 

Chinatown was teeming with folks today – probably off for the holiday and some from the ship. 

20150119_Chinatown (Small)

Main Pedestrian Walkway – Chinatown

We picked up a few trinkets from the shops and then headed to the downtown area – actually the business district.  The entrance to Chinatown, which we saw on the way out, is guarded by a pair of mythical creatures (lions, maybe). 

20150119_Entrance Chinatown (Small)

Chinatown Gate

The downtown area has some very interesting sculpture installations.  One involved an archway and some children and included on cute live woman from Chicago.

20150119_wheres E (Small)    20150119_E and the kids (Small) 20150119_ E and the kids 1 (Small)

Ellen and the Sculpture

I also saw what I am sure was a radar evading car – I think it was a modified 350Z.  It was covered in a flat type of black paint, which might have had some stealthy properties.  The surfaces were rounded.  I’ve never seen anything like this – if it wasn’t stealth, it sure looked like it could be.  I regret that I didn’t take a picture of the car.  It was cool…

Surprisingly, we knew our way around the area and easily found the Iolani Palace.  This is the only royal palace in the United States.  Before going around the front of the palace, I stopped to get a picture of the statue commemorating the last Hawaiian Monarch, Queen Liliʻuokalani.  She was not treated well by the Unites States (a coup, imprisonment and house arrest) and a statue hardly makes up for what she went through.


20150119_shooting the queen (Small)20150119_Queen Lili Uokalani last Queen (Small)

Queen Liliʻuokalani – last monarch of Hawaii

The Iolani Palace looked a little more run down that the last time we saw it and there was some renovation going on.  The best shots are from the edge of the driveway and when there are few random people about.  I got lucky.

20150119_Iolona Palace (Small) 

Iolani Palace

Across the street from the Iolani Palace sits the statue of King Kamehameha I (similar to the one in Hilo).  The statue is on the lawn of the Aliʻiōlani Hale, home of the Hawaii State Supreme Court.

20150119_King Kamehameha I (Small)

King Kamehameha I

We returned to the ship to eat lunch in the Horizon Court.  The visibility from the ship’s decks was endless and I was able to get some great pictures of Honolulu (all directions) including the iconic Diamond Head.  Diamond Head is a volcanic cone and gets it name from British Sailors, who mistakenly thought that calcite crystals found nearby were diamonds.  Otherwise, the volcano would be known as Calcite Head.

20150119_ Aloha Tower Honolulu 1 (Small) 20150119_Aloha Tower Honolulu (Small)

Aloha Tower

20150119_Honolulu harbor (Small)

Honolulu Harbor

20150119_Diamond Head from ship (Small)

Diamond Head

20150119_Honolulu (Small) 

Downtown Honolulu

Our afternoon plan involved going to Waikiki Beach via the Hilo Hattie Free Shuttle.  To do that, you first have to go to Hilo Hattie and spend a little time there (to shop, of course).  This time, we did something different – we sat down with a sales person and all made bracelets from shells.  It was fun.

 20150119_making bracelets hilo hattie (1) (Small) 20150119_making bracelets Hilo Hattie (Small)

Making Bracelets at Hilo Hattie

From the shop, the shuttle took us to Waikiki Beach.  Once there, we decided that it was too hot and we had too little time to do much.  So we stayed on the bus and went back to the pier.

20150119_Waikiki Beach (Small)

Waikiki Beach Drive by

Before dinner, we sat on the back deck and did some reading.  But we were also treated to a terrific sunset.  The best picture that day was that of a plane taking off from Honolulu Airport passing over the setting Sun.

20150119_Sunset Honolulu (Small) 20150119_Plane Sunset Honolulu (Small)

Sunset in the Pacific

Tonight we had dinner in the Capri Dining Room – I had the Mahi Mahi (Hawaii of course) and pasta with broccoli and cream.  

As is generally the case, the ship brings on some local talent for Showtime. The last few times, we have seen a Hula Show put on by a local school (they were pretty good).  This time, we have the Nahoku Award (the local Grammies?) winning,  “Maunalua and their Lovely Hula Ladies”.  The show had a country western sound to it but the hula dancing was entertaining.

20150119_Local musicians (Small)

Maunalua and their Lovely Hula Ladies 

A long but fun day in Honolulu…

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sunday, January 18, 2015 – Hilo, Hawaii – Mostly Cloudy - 80F

A beautiful day on the Big Island…

The Big Island of Hawaii, while not as populated at Oahu, is the most volcanically active.  Mauna Loa, a shield volcano, is the largest active volcano in the world.  The lava it produces makes a long and concerted route to the sea and takes some homes and highways along with it.  The lava flow is slow and people have plenty of time to evacuate.  Mauna Kea is not active and is the home of the Observatory Complex.  Mount Kilauea is also an active volcano that abuts Mauna Loa.  It has been erupting for decades producing mostly gasses (some toxic) and also contributes lava flows that alter the island.  The ship will be docked in Hilo Town.

Ellen and I are on tour today - “City Drive and Volcanoes National Park”.  The other times we have been to Hilo, we have not been able to get to the National Park (once due to the US Government Shutdown).  Our tour guide is a woman originally from Alabama so she injects some Southern charm into her narrations.  And even though this is a standard tour bus, our guide is also our driver.  Really.

We are in the last bus so there are plenty of seats to stretch out.

20150118_departing Hilo port-1 (Small)

Departing the Port

Our first destination will be “Volcanoes National Park” and the Jagger Museum.  Kilauea is only about 4000 feet in altitude and it is difficult to know that you are on a volcano since the sides of the mountain are covered in heavy vegetation.  One of the ways you can tell is the presence of steam vents visible from the road (a little like Iceland but the vents are much smaller).

20150118_steam vents (Small)

Steam Vents Enroute to Kilauea

As we made our way to the National Park, I was trying to get a shot of Mauna Loa.  The other two times we were in Hilo, Mauna Loa has been shrouded in a heavy cloud cover.  Today, she is clear of the clouds so I take shots from the moving bus.  Not much peak since this is a shield volcano but this may be the best I can do.

20150118_Mauna Loa (Small)    

The Great Mauna Loa Volcano

Mauna Kea is also visible for short periods of time.  There is snow on that peak and the domes of the Observatory are also visible but I could not get a shot from the bus.

Just before arriving at the Park Entrance, we pass by the Kilauea Military Camp (below).  The camp, located within the National Park, is a Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) facility serving US Soldiers (active, reserve, and National Guard) and DOD employees.  There are several types of cottages in the camp.  During the war, the camp served as a detention center and POW camp.

20150118_Kilauea Military installation (Small)

Kilauea Military Camp

Our bus stopped at the Jagger Museum (Volcano Museum) which allows views of the entire Kilauea Caldera (some four miles across).  But the real star is the Halema’uma’u Crater, which today is cooperating by emitting steam and gasses.  There is no smell of sulfur dioxide at our location. (Note: the apostrophes in the name of the crater are actually Okinas, a letter in the Hawaiian alphabet).

20150118_ Halema'uma'u Crater 4 (Small) 

20150118_Halema'uma'u Crater (Small)

20150118_ET Halema'uma'u Crater (Small)

Three above – Halema’uma’u Crater

The bus left the Museum and headed for another spot that gave us a different view of the Kilauea Caldera.  As we walked to the viewpoint, we passed by several steam vents – again no sulfur dioxide but lots of steam.

20150118_Steam Vent (Small)

Steam Vent

The other view point was a distance away from the active crater but did give us a sense of the scope of the Kilauea Caldera.

20150118_Kilauea Caldera (Small) 20150118_ Kilauea Caldera 1 (Small)

Kilauea Caldera

As we headed to our next destination, the guide pointed out that a hill visible from the bus was made of volcanic ash that had been ejected from the volcano and fell back to the ground.  I had some trouble believing that since an ash cloud would be expected to cover an area uniformly.  The mound itself, was, nevertheless, interesting.

20150118_mound volcanic ash (Small)

Volcanic Ash Mound

Our next stop was a lava field that at one time originated at Kilauea.  Now cooled it consisted of sheets of rock.  The guide said it was as slippery as marble but I didn’t find that to be the case.  It was different in appearance from the lava we had seen in both South America and Iceland.  That could be due to the fact that the lava on the Hawaiian Volcanoes is very hot and not as viscous as other lava.

Some of the trees that had been singed along their root line had most likely toppled and now lay on their sides bleached and barren.

20150118_Lava field (Small)

20150118_ Lava field 2 (Small) 20150118_1974 lava flow (Small)

Above three – Lava Field and Trees

Our next stop was the Thurston Lava Tube, which sits on the end of the Kilauea Caldera.  Lava Tubes are left over when lava finishes flowing from the volcano to the sea.  This tube originally ran all the way to the Pacific Ocean.  Only part of the tube is accessible to the public. These tubes crisscross the island of Hawaii and make it difficult to build large structures since the tubes are structurally unstable.  Not a issue on Hawaii since the big island has a seven story limit restriction on buildings (there are some Grandfathered Hotels).

While the tube has lighting and a walking surface, overhanging lava remnants can still be hazardous.

20150118_Thurston Lava Tube (Small)

Entrance to the Thurston Lava Tube

20150118_vegetation lava tube (Small)

Vegetation Near the Tube Entrance

20150118_in lava tube (Small)

20150118_in lava tube 1 (Small)

 20150118_ET lava tube (Small)

Inside the Lava Tube

Finished with our tour of the Volcanoes National Park, the bus heads to our next stop – a quasi shopping stop at the Akatsuka Orchid Factory.  Lot of orchids for sale and also orchids to put in your hair –the location of the orchid is important in that it sends a message:  “left” – spoken for; “right” – available; two orchids – spoken for but looking to trade up (Alabama humor).

 20150118_orchid factory (Small)

20150118_ku'u'opi w orchid (Small)

Ain’t She Cute"?

The next portion of the tour is a mini tour of Hilo Town – there isn’t much to the town (we have walked it in the past) but the bus did take us to the statue of King Kamehameha I (below).

20150118_King Kamehameha (Small)

We also drove by the beautiful beach area which also gave us a good look at the Star Princess.

   20150118_Hilo town beach (Small) 

20150118_Star Princess Hilo Bay (Small) 

  20150118_Star Princess Hilo Bay 1 (Small)

After passing several hotels – some of which looked like they could use some work – we stopped at our lunch venue – The Hilo Hawaiian Hotel and the Queen’s Court Restaurant.  Since this was Sunday, we would be able to take advantage of the Sunday Brunch (for customers this cost was $33 per person) which, according to the hostess, had lots of veggie type items available.

20150118_ lobby Hilo Hawaiian Hotel (Small)

20150118_lunch venue (Small) 20150118_Queens Court (Small)

Hilo Hawaiian Hotel Lunch Venue (that’s Ellen in the bottom picture)

The lunch consisted of a huge buffet – even though it was a Sunday Brunch, there were very few breakfast type items (French Toast and some kind of eggs).  Instead, I tried the green salad (some odd dressings) and some of the specialty salads (the one I really liked was the macaroni salad), and Asian noodles (with a soy based sauce).  I went back for seconds for these items.  I also tried a sample of the various desserts.  There wasn’t a lot to eat for us but just enough to call it lunch.  The iced tea was good and the service was very good.

After lunch, I stepped out on the restaurant balcony and got some fantastic pictures of the lagoon and bay.

20150118_view Hilo Hawaiian Hotel (Small) 20150118_ view Hilo Hawaiian Hotel 1 (Small) 20150118_ view Hilo Hawaiian Hotel 2 (Small)

Above – View from the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

At one time, celebrities came to the islands and planted the Banyan Trees now found everywhere in Hawaii.  As we entered the hotel area, a tree planted by Amelia Earhart was pointed out (no pic).  However, in front of the hotel was a tree planted by Babe Ruth in 1930 (three years after the 60 homer year).  I did walk out and get a picture of that.

20150118_Babe Ruth banyan tree-1 (Small)

The Babe Plants Another

Our final stop after finishing lunch was a brief visit to Rainbow Falls – the falls (about 90 feet) have no rainbows attached to it but the name comes from an old Hawaiian Legend.

 20150118_Rainbow Falls (Small) 20150118_ Rainbow Falls 1 (Small)

Rainbow Falls

After the long tour and the late lunch, we ate a bit of dinner in the Horizon Court. 

The Princess Singers and Dancers put on a little show in the Piazza commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Cruise Line.

20150118_Princess 50th (Small) 20150118_ Princess 50th 1 (Small) 20150118_ Princess 50th 2 (Small)

50th Anniversary Tribute

While we had very nice weather on our tour, as the day progressed, the island clouded over making the sail away less than spectacular.

20150118_Hilo Sailaway (Small) 20150118_ Hilo Sailaway 1 (Small) 

Hilo Sail Away

Tomorrow – Honolulu, Hawaii