... a treatise on vacationing via cruise ships
Dinner on Board Cruise Ship
Hat trick, trifecta, field goal, three-pointer, triple and the BIG THREE, cruising Alaska, Hawaii, and the Panama Canal.
After cruising Alaska and the Panama Canal, we completed the BIG THREE, cruising Hawaii. The jury is still out on which we liked the best, but we DO agree that cruising is the only way to go anywhere. We were in Hawaii five years earlier, flying from Boston to Chicago and from there to Honolulu, and then flying to Maui, Kauai, and the big island (Hawaii). It seemed like we never got off the airplane, in and out of hotels all too frequently, and constant packing and unpacking.
This time we flew to San Diego, sailed to Hawaii from Ensenada, Mexico, cruised the same islands, had the same hotel room for nine days, and unpacked only once and packed only once. We ended our cruise in Honolulu, stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort for three nights, and flew home from there.
When we arrived in San Diego, we were met by cruise personnel and bussed to the Sheraton Harbor Island Hotel, where we checked in and received our cruise ID and other pertinent information. Transfer to Ensenada was scheduled for late afternoon, so we went on a tour of San Diego, for which we were hoping to have time.
The tour "Glimpses of San Diego and Old Town" brought us to Seaport Village, a waterfront entertainment and shopping complex -- Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego's hippest neighborhood -- Balboa Park, America's largest urban cultural park and home of the famous San Diego Zoo and Panda Bears where there are over 4000 animals -- and, finally, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park which commemorates the founding of the first European settlement and features quaint Spanish stucco style houses. We were surprised to learn that San Diego was once part of Mexico.
After our San Diego tour, the same bus took us to Ensenada and to our ship, the Crown Princess. At this point, for those who may not know, perhaps we should explain why we had to go to Mexico to catch our ship. There is a law called the Jones Act that requires any vessal not registered in the U.S., to embark or disembark from a foreign port before it can embark or disembark in a U.S. port. Most vessels are registered in foreign ports, apparently, to avoid U.S. taxes. Since our ship is registered in Bermuda and disembarked in Honolulu, it had to LEAVE from a foreign port, in this case, Mexico. Ironically, the Crown Princess was in San Diego harbor while we were there and sailed to Ensenada to pick us up. It is difficult to understand why the U.S. Government allows cruise lines to operate here if they avoid paying taxes. On the other hand, the cruise lines also make it inconvenient for the passengers, putting them on a bus for 2½ hours to catch the ship.
Even though the 2½ hour trip to Ensenada was long, the view along the Pacific coast line was spectacular, overlooking the cliffs and the breathtaking multiple colors of the sun setting on the horizon. We passed through the border at Tiajuana quickly with no check inside the bus, although, on the other side, vehicles were backed up quite a bit coming into the U.S. This makes sense, I guess, since no one is trying to smuggle or defect to Mexico, although the opposite can be true coming into the U.S.
We boarded the ship about 7 p.m., settled in at our stateroom, had a quick meal in the Café Cabana, went on deck to see the ship depart, and caught the on-board entertainment show before retiring for the night at about 11 p.m. Even though most of the passengers are arriving in the evening, there are many activities, several open lounges with entertainment, and plenty to eat and drink, until the wee hours.
Since it is now 2 a.m. on Monday Boston time and we awoke on Sunday at 2 a.m. Boston time, we have been awake for 24 hours. As we sailed toward Hawaii, we passed through two more time zones, gaining two more hours, making it five hours earlier in Hawaii than in Boston.
We were at sea for the next four days, enjoying all the amenities of the ship. Although we didn't see many people on deck the first couple of days because it was chilly, as we moved across the Pacific the lounge chairs gradually started to fill up and before long it was hard to find an empty spot. There was something different for everyone's interest on the ship, although some people played cards, read in the library, or slept. Now why would anyone spend that kind of money on a cruise to do things they can do at home at no cost.
We learned new dance techniques, taking the daily ballroom and line dance lessons offered, enjoyed the sunny warm days on deck, took in the nightly shows after dinner, and caught a few sunsets and sunrises. The voyage across was smooth and peaceful. When Magellan entered the Pacific in 1520, he found it placid for days of sailing and called it El Pacifico, the peaceful one. The Atlantic Ocean takes its name from either the lost kingdom of Atlantis or, more probably, the Atlas Mountains in northwest Africa.
We arrived at Hilo on the big island (Hawaii) and we were ready for shore leave after being at sea for so long. The big island is the youngest island, only 800,000 years old, and also the largest, over 4000 square miles. All the other Hawaiian Islands can fit on the big island, Hawaii.
Hilo is the gateway to Volcanoes National Park where the STILL active, Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes are located. Mauna Loa is the most massive mountain on earth, measuring 19,000 cubic miles and 56,000 feet high from its base on the seafloor, 27,000 feet higher than Mount Everest.
We visited the Jagger Museum (providing a history of volcanoes), traveled the Crater Rim Drive (the road around the Kilauea crater), and walked through the Thurston Lava tube (formed by an eruption and lava flow). From the ship, we watched Kilauea erupting at night with a clear view of lava flowing. Hawaiian folklore includes Pele, the explosive fire goddess who lives in the very heart of Kilauea volcano and is credited with creating volcanoes in all the Hawaiian Islands, looking for her permanent home.
Jim feeling heat from lava
Hilo averages 133 inches of rain, making it the wettest spot in the U.S., and natives adjust to it with their "no rain, no rainbow", response when asked to comment on it. It is known for its black beaches and its beautiful multicolored orchids.
Tree planted by Babe Ruth
We saw huge banyan trees planted many years ago by Babe Ruth, Amelia Earhart, Cecil B. DeMille, FDR, and King George V. Serious death and destruction occurred here as recently as 1946 and 1960 by Tsunamis (tidal waves), undersea volcanic eruptions, destroying hundreds of homes along the shore and inland. We visited the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden and its 2000 species, a jungle garden nestled in the valley edged by the Pacific Ocean.
Within this tropical rain forest with its waterfalls, meandering streams, and rugged ocean coast, there are many different environments from the groves of coconut, to huge mango and monkeypod trees, through palm jungles and giant tree fern forest, as well as a vast array of tropical flowers, fruits, and plants. The atmosphere is one of peace, quiet, and serenity. A must visit while in Hilo is the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory, to observe the processing of the famous nut and sample the many varieties.
After a day in Hilo, we sailed to the other side of the big island, arriving in Kona, known for its coffee, the Ironman Triathlon World Championship, and the famous explorer Captain Cook. There is a very different climate between Hilo and Kona. The big island has a varied climate, 11 of the worlds 13 climates, and it snows occasionally. We learned that Kona is the southernmost point in the U.S.. Hawaii always seemed to be due west from San Francisco.
The ship's Adventures Ashore program offers many activities at all of its stops, including snorkling, rafting, catamaran sailing, sportfishing, and whalewatching. On Kona, we opted for the glassbottom boat and the Atlantis Submarine. We looked through glass on the bottom of the boat, exploring the big island's rugged Kona coast, above and below the sea. We cruised within inches of the reef, viewing colorful tropical fish, awesome volcanic arches, and beautiful coral gardens and formations in pristine waters.
Fortunately, we took the glassbottom boat tour BEFORE the Atlantis Submarine because we experienced so much more on the sub. There were 50 people on board and we submerged 110 feet to the ocean floor. The breathtaking marine world and exotic tropical fish came alive with outstanding visibility in the Kona Reef. Interestingly, sea water filtered out the colors as we submerged. Red is the first color to break down and is gone at 60 feet, while yellow begins to appear green. At 90 feet, green begins to look blue which is the dominant color at the deepest.
You can read the second installment in next months' issue
May 3, 2002