Monday, November 30, 2009

Home Again Home Again

What a wonderful trip we had!! I'm glad to be home though. I was glad to see Keller and the dogs.

We loved most of the ports and what we did at each. I've tried to put the tours in order of the ones I like the best but end up with several number ones!! The first place winners have to be; Bora Bora with Patrick of, Jewel of Fiji in Suva with and in Auckland with Donna and Stu. These were all private tours arranged by friends we met through Cruise Critic. Each was very different from the other. We are not able to pick a clear favorite because each was so different. We would do them all again.

A close second to the tour winners were; the ships tours on The Train to Taiere Gorge in Dunedin, The Punt Tea and Tram Tour in Christchurch and the ride to the top of Mauna Kea in Hilo to almost 14000 feet to the observatory.

I also have to mention two other private tours we enjoyed. Those were the LOST tour in Honolulu at and Des Harris' of Indigenous Trails at in Auckland to the Maori village and geysers in Rotorua and then to the glowworms.

So, first, second and third place aren't easy to pick. They all seem to run together as wonderful experiences.

And we enjoyed the ship. I did miss having a balcony. And I think my table servers should have known and used our names after 60 days. The cabin stewards knew us from day one. But overall I can definitely recommend the experience. There was plenty of room on the ship for the 2600 or so passengers to not feel crowded. The entertainment was very very good, the food was OK, the Captain and Cruise Director excellent and the sailing not too rough.

We met delightful people. It was good to have been on Cruise Critic before the cruise because we knew many people at the beginning. More than I expected had been reading this blog and knew us very well. I wish I had had time to get to know them better. Thank you for identifying yourselves to us.

Our table companions at dinner were all entertaining. We were at a table for eight but had only four who showed up consistently. We miss Marion and John from the first 30 days and Mike and Elizabeth from the second 30 days. You will stay in our hearts with fond memories.

Thank you to all of you who have been following this blog. And thank you for the comments you left, We really did enjoy hearing from you. I wish I had had enough internet minutes to reply to each of you. As it was I spent 300.00 on the Internet. Ahhh I'll be Platinum next time and get it for free!!

When can I go again?

Thursday, November 26, 2009


It is good to be back in the USA. I wish now that I had booked a flight directly home instead of two days in Hollywood. We were tired and ready to see home.

Hollywood was fun though, I had never been before and we took all the tours. I liked the wax museum the best. Some of the statues looked like they would breath at any moment.

SanFernando Valley

Elton John's House

Canals in Venice Beach

Olivera Street / Original Settlement

Kodak Theater

Grauman's Theater

Elizabeth Taylor's Star

The Walk of Fame

Britany and Jack

Libby and a friend

Venice Beach


You have to have a prescription.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I wondered if I would be able to move my legs after all the walking we did yesterday. But we were up early and I even managed to walk the two flights up to the Horizon for coffee and juice. Miracles can happen!!

Weather caused our day in Maui to be cut short by two hours. The day was nice but the Captain worried about a front moving in at sail away time. Some of the ships tours were canceled because of time but not ours. We were on a ship's tour which left pretty much on time for a four hour tour to the “Secret Valley”. Our group of twenty was in two vans.

About an hour into the tour we stopped for the guide to scout out a creek that we had to cross through to get into the valley. He decided that the water was high and if it rose any more we wouldn't be able to get back out of the valley on time. With that our tour took a turn. No “Secret Valley” today.

We continued on to the gift shop stop and morning tea wondering what the alternative plan would be. The gift shop/art gallery was lovely and overlooked the valley we were missing. Tea was fresh fruit and muffins. As we sat munching on our muffins I asked the guide what was next, what was the alternative plan. He replied, “There is nothing else. Go back.”

We were an hour and a half into a four hour tour. “So. “ I said. “Then our tour is a drive to a gift shop and back for 148.00 each, what happens to the other hour and a half of our tour?” He replied, “You can shop at the pier.” I was livid!

The Port Lecturer was with us and she had the same feelings as I. We saw her around the corner having a discussion with the other guide. After their talk he came up with a plan. We were offered the option of going back to port or continuing around the island. They said the trip around the island would be more of the same scenery and take a half hour longer to get back to the ship. Most chose to go back to the ship, their feelings being they would see nothing new. They all piled in one van and went back. Seven of us continued on in the other van.

While it was correct that we saw “more of the same”, that would misrepresent the case. There were photo stops at overlooks and three different waterfalls, and driving through cane fields and villages a as we got into the occupied area of the north shore. When we got to Wailoa(?), we had enough extra time to go to see the Iao Valley which was very scenic. We stopped at the Ioa State Park to walk a loop around the park and view a big rock they call the needle. Then on through the “saddle” to get back to the leeward – dry – side and along the shore back to town.

Not the tour we signed on for and not worth the price we paid but not bad after all. Our guide made the best of it and gave an excellent comentary along the way.

Back at the ship at 2:00 to wait in the tender line. The line was about 200 yards long when we got in it but increased to maybe 300+ yards as it got closer to 2:30. The last tender was suspose to be at 2:30. I think the last tender finally left for the ship at 3:45. We sailed at 4:00. Just an hour late.

LOST Honolulu, Nov. 17, 2009

End cliffhanger.
Cut to black screen with word: LOST
Cue sound: {clang}
Go to commercial.

If you watch the TV show “Lost”, you will understand this segment. If not, then you will probably be lost. The TV show is filmed on Oahu, so we decided to take a tour of the scenery and locations for the show. This was an independent tour that we heard about after we were already on the ship, so we didn't do any advance research. Libby called son Keller and he set it up from home. We didn't know what to expect, except that we chose the one with 2 miles of walking rather than 4 miles. We were to meet at the Hula Dancer statue outside the Aloha Tower at 8:30 am.

Our time with Immigration and Border Patrol was to be from 7:30 to 8:30, so we got in line at 6:30 because we were worried about being able to make it on time, expecting long lines and bureaucratic delay. I was shocked. The process was fast, pleasant and professional! A Frenchman in line told me that Immigration has been using Disney-type training for customer service. Bank of America did that too, some time back, so I believe it. The results are a great improvement from the way it was in the “old days”. So, we got to the dancer statue about an hour early.

The tour van arrived exactly on time and off we went. That was when we discovered that it was to be us, just us, and Tom, the tour guide. We had a great private tour.

Much of the filming is in Honolulu and in the near environs. We didn't go to the north coast for the beach and camp scenes – that was on the longer tour that included 4 miles of walking. It was fascinating to see how they used ordinary scenes to simulate scenes in Seoul, London, Iraq, Thailand, etc. Perhaps the oddest was taking a street in Hawaii and filling it with shaved ice to simulate a snowy night in London.

At the end we were pretty well worn out. There was a 700 foot climb up a mountain, a walk through the rain forest and a trek through downtown. We saw a lot of the local scenery and a considerable part of the island. Even without the “Lost” connection, it was a really good tour. Keller did a wonderful job picking a tour to make a memorable day.

We were back on board just in time for dinner at 5:30. We missed all the night time entertainment as we were in bed fast asleep by 8:00 pm.