14 day Hawaiian Cruise via Golden Princess, April 25th -- May 9th, 2012.
A cruise for my wife and I begins with the anticipation and energy of planning, my wife attempts to cover every detail while I assume a more relaxed approach. After all, it is Princess and we have never been disappointed even after 20 plus cruises with them! This trip was special in that we managed to secure an aft suite very reasonably priced! Conversely, the one drawback was the suite's location and associated motion created when the ship would pitch as she rode the waves. My wife, a lite sleeper, didn't enjoy this location for that reason. We were in our room within an hour or so of boarding and enjoying the first of many adult libations of the cruise. Detracting somewhat from the happy occasion, the wind gusted very heavily as the ship let go her mooring lines. The wind did not let up and seas were pitching that afternoon and night. We passed through the Channel Islands of California looking at 4 days of open water between us and Hawaii.
Those who sail the seas frequently know full well preparation is everything. The "Princess Patter," just like your hometown newspaper, is very informative. Delivered to the cabins and staterooms overnight, a quick review of the many shipboard happenings will keep cruisers informed of all activities. One's mind and body can be as active as desired it all depends on attitude and motivation. Have you ever wanted to bring home a great photograph but didn't know which end of the camera to use? Most cruise lines offer basic and intermediate photography courses and Grand Princess was no exception! Also, the ship's library and internet lounge easily provides all sorts of material on that subject and lots of others. Being involved brings new acquaintances and experiences. Ukulele classes seemed to be full this trip, wonder why? I actually saw some of the "moving-in-time" passengers trying some pretty aggressive Ball-Room steps. What's that you ask? Oh, I'm sorry- "Moving-in-time" is a new acronym for senior citizens. The 4 days between Los Angeles and our first Hawaiian port seemed to be filled with more activities then was possible. Unfortunately, my wife says I'm a little too interested in eating and not enough toward physical activities.
Our first port of call was Hilo, Hawaii on April 30th, 2012. Known as the "Big Island" my wife & I tended to be somewhat adventurous and selected a private tour of Hilo's favorite spots. "Big Island Aina Tours" owned and operated by Tina and Gil Nelson offered a six passenger van visiting Volcano National Park, Akaka and Kahuna Falls. I enjoy smaller tours as they are often able to get in and out of spots a great deal more quickly than the larger tour buses. Additionally, the smaller groups enjoy one-on-one relationships with the tour guides often getting a better insight of the local scenes. We were able to squeeze in a last stop and had an opportunity to see Sea Turtles up close. During this last stop I met an afternoon swimmer whose Black Labrador Retriever enjoyed the water as much its owner. Gil, our van driver, was really great and took considerable time pointing out some areas of the volcanos and water falls, adding in local color of the communities we passed through during our tour! Big Island Aina Tours certainly provided more locations albeit somewhat more costly, then did Princess. Spend the money and really see "The Big Island."
Honolulu, Oahu was our next port on May 1st, 2012. First and foremost, this port appeals to most veterans regardless of service affiliations for obvious reasons linked to history and Pearl Harbor. As that was our goal this trip, my wife and I opted for a Princess tour so as to maximize our ship board credits. Our tour bus driver, "Sunshine" appeared to know his history of Honolulu and all things Hawaiian. He told stories from pre-colonization up to and including post World War II keeping all of us entertained through the tour. Somewhat detracting from "Sunshine's" informative guided tour was his repetition of the phrase, "Get a load of this." We did make it up to the "Punch Bowl" and also a quick city stop which now regretfully, should have been given more time. Our next visit to this area will be an extended one.
The 3rd port of call was Nawiliwili, Kauai on May 2nd, 2012. We decided on a Princess Tour for this location and were enchanted with our driver, Sam. Not only did Sam drive the bus, he sang and played the Ukulele quite well! NO, not while driving of course. In route to Waimea Canyon we stopped at an observation point along the highway viewing the canyon from afar. As our tour bus climbed up the winding road to the canyon I could not fathom riding a bicycle to the top but many cruisers do just that. Personally, I enjoy seeing the sights not looking out for wrong way drivers. Later, on the return portion of the trip we drove along a tree lined highway and past site locations for "Jurassic Park" and other notable movie areas. One of the last stops was the "Spouting Horn," interesting to see how the ocean forces water through old lava tubes and spraying it high into the air. Watch out for the chickens here, they are everywhere you step. Be sure to ask for Sam to drive your bus when you book this tour!
Our last port in Hawaii was Lahaina, Maui on May 3rd, 2012. The descriptors for this stop were not as inviting for us so we chose to stay close to the main street and visit with other tourist and local citizens. It was a bright sunny day with relatively calm breezes, the best for strolling through a tree lined street of a small community. Various shops that benefit from the tourist industry were present and open for business- there were after all, two ships in port this day. Surprisingly though, there were not masses of people milling about.
Our final port of call was Ensenada, Mexico on May 8th, 2012. We have lived close to Mexico for forty two plus years and as you who live in or near cruise terminals know, the location creates ease of access. We travel to Mexico frequently and felt this being the last day aboard ship, packing for home was the highest priority.
My wife has a few more cruises than I but it is safe to say we have at least 31 -- 33 cruises spread out on many of the lines. We may not have as many combined cruises as some out there. We keep coming back to Princess because we are treated well and they understand repeat passengers make up a large volume of their passengers. Princess must be pretty good- Santa Clause was on board for this trip!