Thursday, 20 October 2016

2016 Tahitian Treasures Cruise Diary Part 3 - Peal Harbour, Oahu.

On December 7th, 1941, hundreds of Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor and killed 2,403 and wounded over 1,000. This attack marked USA’s entry into WWII.
After breakfast we were picked up just after 10am by a black van from Hawaiian Limos and driven to the Historical Pearl Harbour Site, sadly the promised commentary on the way was not forthcoming.
However, the Pearl Harbour experience was a real time of reflection. Although we only had limited time, we walked around the outside displays before heading to the museums and movie.

We only had time to go through one of the museums before it was time to line up for the movie and the shuttle ferry to the USS Arizona Memorial. The movie told the history of Pearl Harbour and showed real footage of the attack. We then boarded the shuttle ferry to the memorial.
The memorial was built over the sunken battleship USS Arizona, where 1,177 lost their lives. It was built to honour not only those lost in the ship, but all who lost their lives during the attack.
One could spent 4 or more hours here looking at the displays and museums, and just taking it all in. It is a very moving and solemn place.

The only down side was the tour package. We purchased the tour via the Pearl Harbour Official webpage, thinking this would be the best way to visit. That couldn't be further from the truth. Date, time pick-up were all confirmed when thy took our money. Final tickets arrive with the wrong time. We requested 8.30am and they gave us 6.30am. Those of you that know us, know that we are not morning people, especially a day after traveling almost half way around the world. I quickly emailed their mistake, only to be told that the time we chose was all booked, YET their website still showed spaces. I requested a 12.30 tour which also displayed many vacancies. We ended up on a 10am (not offered tour) which was via a small packed van. We had delays getting into the historical site while having to wait for other passengers placing their bags into lockers (about 10 minutes, even though they should have been aware that no bags could be taken inside) and then had a 40 min delay waiting in the hot sun when 4 passengers didn't turn up at the assigned time for pick-up. Whinge not over yet. The downtown tour that was to include Punchbowl Cemetery, which it didn't. There was really no commentary going to Pearl Harbour, but the commentary of the downtown area was good, except we didn't go to all the places we were expecting to go to from the tour description.
TIP - look at the official Pearl Harbour Site, it is full of great information, but do the tour yourself. Public buses will drop you off and pick you up right at the site $2.50 per person each way - remember to ask for a transit ticket (included) if catching more than one bus from your accommodation. The site is free, one only pays extra if you want to visit the Missouri or the Submarine. You will probably have to wait for standby tickets to the Arizona, unless you can get to the site at 6.30am and line up for the free tickets. Much cheaper than a 'tour ticket' and you can spend a lot more time exploring the site.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

2016 Tahitian Treasures Cruise Diary Part 2 - Honolulu, Oahu.

 With only booking the cruise 14 days before departure, we were rushed to get accommodation and flights booked before we left. Both were booked by Sally at 'Helloworld' and although we could have got the flights (Hawaiian Airlines) and accommodation cheaper, it was worth the going through 'Helloworld' for both convenience and using our AMEX points. Bags are easy, we put the empty bags in the 'Star Trek' (spare) room and packed as we thought of what we would need. Darling daughter dropped us off at the airport at 7.45pm so we had plenty of time to check in. However, everyone else seemed to have the same idea, so we joined a queue. We ended up being one of the last to check-in, and only had 15 mins before boarding at 8.55pm. After checking the flight details we were scheduled to depart at 9.45pm, so I'm not sure why there was such a long boarding time. Anyway, Hawaiian Airlines check-in and flight were good, and we would recommend them. We boarded at 9.15pm and the plane left on time.
The seats were comfortable and there was plenty of space until one had been sitting in the seat for over 3 hours and the seat in front decided to recline - into my face!!!! The entertainment screen was so close I had to take off my glasses to see :) . I think we are getting old when a nine hour flight is just too much now. The flight staff were good and the food was fine. We were given a snack pack with a ham and cheese sandwich and a packet of BBQ, along with a double scotch for me and 2 beers for Peter. Off to a good start! If one wanted more snacks they needed to be purchased. We took muesli bars and jelly snakes and Pringles to see us through the flight (and the movies). The entertainment was ok. Breakfast was great - fruit, muffin, scrambled eggs, hash browns, tomatoe and bacon, water and juice and tea. Overall the flight was good and we would fly Hawaiian Airlines again - business class would be good for a long flight.
Aloha, arrival at Honolulu went smoothly. It was warm, sunny and there was a light mist of tropical rain. As the whole trip had been booked last minute I had researched airport shuttles and knew that it cost $15 each for a shuttle from airport to hotel and they were located outside the arrivals hall. However, once out of the arrivals hall it was all confusing. We went to a shuttle area and purchased return tickets to our hotel and back to the dock for the cruise a few days later. We waited 45 mins for a Speedy Shuttle bus, and once on board we drove past all the other shuttle companies waiting for passengers.  
TIP: walk past the first shuttle - Speedy Shuttle, which wasn't too speedy - to all the others to save time. Prices are the same, but other shuttles are much quicker.
In saying that, the Speedy Shuttle staff were friendly and helpful and talked us into a return ticket, which was fine as everything was now booked. We did meet a lovely couple from Virginia, George and Kim, who were on their way to a 7 night cruise around the islands. It was great to spend the long wait chatting to this lovely couple. Peter and I first visited Oahu for the first time in 1986 and stayed near Lewers Street at the Travelodge - we think - no longer there. We went with friends and hired a car and drove around the island, passing 'Magnum P.I' house and Sunset Beach. We did a lot of cultural things back then, and also did a sunset cruise that took us to Diamond Head and down to Pearl Harbour to view the Arizona Memorial - no longer allowed. The next time we went as a family in 1994 and stayed at the Embassy Suites, also near Lewers Street. With three young children, it was better to break up the flight to L.A. by having a few days stop over. I do remember Waikiki being a lot cheaper back then, relative to today.
This trip we are staying at The Imperial Hawaii Vacation Resort, before boarding our cruise back to Australia. It is located on Lewers Street, where we were familiar with, but the area has changed so much. Most of the old hotels are gone and new, very tall hotels have taken their place.
The Imperial Hawaii Resort Hotel is a time-share property. As preparation for this last minute trip I had looked at many different options for hotels. All were very expensive as we wanted to be near Waikiki Beach. The Imperial was reasonable at $US213.51 per night (including resort fee, room tax, and 2 lots of state tax) and, as I said, it was in an area we were familiar with.We knew the beach, the bus routes,the sights and shops near by, even 20 years on, we knew where we were, and except for a walkway, the beach has not changed. I read many travel blogs, and most that I have read stay at expensive resorts (some sponsored by that resort) that most people may not be able to afford.When we arrived the room was not ready, which we expected, so we checked our bags and went for a walk. The Imperial came up via Expedia, and although I may have chosen a different hotel, we were happy with this choice. We booked a double bed room and requested high up. We were in room 2005 on the 20th floor.

The room was clean and spacious, and had a separate bedroom, with a TV (big on Allie points), as well as a microwave, sink, fridge and FREE Wifi.
There was a small balcony with two chairs. We laughed because there was also a murphy bed (which we have never seen before) and that would have been Jonnie's bed - if he had wanted to come with us - as he often sleeps on a foldaway bed.
There was also a great pool area on the roof with spectacular views.

The afternoon was spent walking along the beach. The beach was the same as I remember, except for the public walkway, which has taken back the beach from the hotels and given it back to the public.
We walked along the walkway past all the big hotels up to the main street, Kalakaua Avenue, to the Cheesecake Factory. We had planned on having coffee / milkshake and afternoon tea at the Cheesecake Factory, but there was a queue already waiting, so we went further down the street, planning to go back the following day, but never did. Next time!
We also planned to go to Dukes for a drink, but Peter was tired from the flight and only want coffee, he even walked past the Apple Shop - he must have been tired. We found a Starbuck's around the corner from our hotel AND it had free wifi so Peter got his coffee. Of course there were at least another three coffee shops between Starbucks and our hotel, and Peter tried them all the next few days.
We had a nap, then went to the street party happening near us for Aloha Week. There were heaps of people, food, crafts and dancers. We were hoping to catch up with cousin Donna, who was also in Waikiki waiting for a Pacific cruise, but I guess our messages kept getting missed.
Many of the restaurants and cafes were expensive around our hotel. We did get some good snacks, chips, sandwiches and drinks in little places a little further away. We topped up with great salads and desserts from the ABC shop, next to our hotel, in the evenings.

Peter made me laugh when he tried to overfill his clam chowder soup, and couldn't work out why it was spilling LOL.

Breakfast was Denny's which is located in our hotel and was so huge neither one of us could finish it. TIP: Aussie's don't order a milkshake at Denny's - it is a super thick thick-shake, and not like we know it.
All of this, with juice, cost $US32!!! I do like Denny's.
 We also took the public bus to Walmart - I love Walmart. They have the cheapest fabric - $5-6 per yard. There were so many beautiful choices that I just couldn't decide. Then Peter went missing - although he said I went missing!!! (He wasn't where he told me he would be when I went to tell him I would be a while with the fabric). I did buy a pair of trousers, and some underwear, and some tops for 'gala' nights on the cruise. OH and of course some fat quarters $1.11 each - really!!!!!
This is the view from our room.
Our next day was Pearl Harbour and that will be in Part 3.
We would have loved to stay longer, but time and money are always a big factor - we now have the time, but not a lot of money, so this is like a 'budget' version of our travels.
Overseas travel can still be done on a budget.

Friday, 14 October 2016

2016 Pacific Tahitian Treasures Cruise Diary - Part one

We have just come back from a wonderful three and a half weeks away, including a 19 day cruise. We love cruising.
We were fortunate enough to go on a 11 day South Pacific cruise on P&O Pacific Sun some years ago, and this started our love of cruising. It is wonderful anticipating the time away in a luxurious stateroom with beds made each day and no cooking or cleaning - just relaxing or choosing to do what ever we want. And then there are the places one can visit .... This started our love for cruising.
Of course, there are lemon cruises. We did a short three night Christmas Markets cruise on the Rhine River in Germany, with a company that no longer exists. The cabin was clean, but very uninviting; the beds - single were so uncomfortable.
 The food was ok; the staff ok; everything cost extra, even water and tea at times other than meals. 
 The only plus was the spectacular scenery and the historic, pretty little villages we were able to visit.
Last year we did a 7 day Alaska Cruise on Celebrity Solstice - WOW!!! What a wonderful ship. We had a drinks package included, which was a bonus and we had booked a verandah cabin, which is a must for Alaska.
This adventure lead us to our recent cruise.
So..... how did this happen?
Back in June we were looking for a cruise and in doing so signed up for many cruise line emails. I mentioned to my sister that we were looking at a New Zealand Cruise, and she mentioned a cruise she had just booked - we looked, we liked, and we booked. In the meantime, emails started coming through - so many specials on so many lines - when one caught our eye - a relocating cross Pacific Tahitian Treasures Cruise. I spent days looking at all the different cruise ship lines and the specials available and chose Celebrity Solstice. We booked when the special prices starting going up again, supposedly as cabins became less. This was all 14 days before the cruise left. We had American Express Frequent Flyer points and these paid for most of the trip. We had to go to 'helloworld' to use the points and Sally at Albany Creek was a great help in organising the extra accommodation and flights.
So begins our most recent adventure.