Hawaii was wonderful and the cruise on the Radiance of the Seas was excellent. We had perfect weather and calm seas both going and coming, so it was like sailing on glass. We enjoyed Hawaii, but I think the Caribbean is just as good, and a heck of a lot closer to the east coast....but the cruising part was ideal and warm enough to be out at the pool every day except the first out of LA and then the day before we got back to LA.... Before we left LA on the cruise, we had two days in Venice Beach and had a ball visiting Hollywood, Santa Monica Pier and the beach attractions. We flew into LAX and rented a car from Enterprise at the airport. We paid a little extra to allow us to bring the car back to their agency by the port. Our cruise left from the San Pedro/Los Angels ship terminal and we dropped our rental car off right by the pier and then they drove us up to the ship to let us off.
We were traveling with a Special Needs person. Our son has Down Syndrome and he is a 25 year old male who is a delightful person, but he does have special needs. We were completely satisfied by the ship's attention to his needs, and the help they provided to us to make his trip enjoyable. When we reached the pier at 12:30 there was a huge line snaked around outside the terminal due to a glitch in the debarkation of the cruise before ours. Kevin, our son, has medical problems and cannot stand for long. We approached an official and explained the situation, and they provided us an escort right into the pier and made sure we were processes quickly. When we were ready to deboard, they also provided us with the same service. We were pleased that RCI recognized the rights provided by the Federal Government to the handicapped in providing special accommodations.
I must say that the food on the Radiance was wonderful....we never had anything we didn't like, and the waiters were sooooo friendly and took such good care of us. We had a D1 cabin and that size was just about right for the three of us. I think I had my coffee on the balcony just about every morning....and many days had room service deliver the full breakfast to eat outside. It also is so luxurious to have the cabin attendant clean the room everyday, make the beds, and deliver the clean towels and ice!
We participated in the activities that the ship offered, and really enjoyed the solarium pool. I have traveled on the Jewel, which is the sister ship to the Radiance, and I do believe that this is my favorite class of ships. The ship was in beautiful condition, and I would rate it as perfect. We also did not have any outbreaks of illness, which was a real stroke of good luck, and good hygiene.
In Hawaii we rented a car in every port and could drive all over by ourselves. That was wonderful to have the freedom to do what we wanted. Kevin stayed on the ship part of the days so we could go and snorkel in every port and the beaches were free and we had our own gear, so it was very cost efficient. In Maui we were there overnight and had to tender in, so we booked a hotel room at the last minute using the online services. We got a great deal for a room in a really nice resort, and when we got there to check in, instead of a one room garden efficiency, they put us in an ocean view one bedroom suite that was really nice. We were on a great beach, so we could just swim there, but it was a great swimming beach, but no fish. We got all of our tickets to things online before we left at discount rates and did the usual tourist things on all of the Islands....
In Kona, on Hawaii "The Big Island," we had the easiest car pick up because we got our car from a hotel right by the pier. We then went to the "House of Refuge" which is a Federal Park. Then we went by a coffee plantation to see how they worked over the coffee beans. From there we drove to a beach that was family rated for snorkeling and snorkeled. We took Kevin in the water with his snorkel gear, and he did see the fish, which were abundant, but he just didn't really enjoy it....He went back to the beach and talked to some other people from our ship while Kent and I went back in for some more fish viewing. It was a full day, and after all that we went to our early dinner and then were in bed at 8:30. During the night the ship sailed to the opposite side of the Island to Hilo.
In Hilo, and at the rest of the ports, we had to take the car shuttle that came to the pier and drove us to the airport where we could pick up the car. It wasn't too long a drive to get there, and well worth having the car. We went on the scenic drive and to the most beautiful Botanical Jungle Garden, then on to Akaka Falls, and then went snorkeling at a state park beach and got to swim with giant turtles!!! Kevin stayed on the ship the whole day and was perfectly happy doing the ship activities and ordering room service and watching the t.v.
On Maui we were in Lahaina and we spent the night at the resort and went to the Old Lahaina Luau, which was great, did a submarine ride, went to an Ocean Center, Plantation Center and the Iao Valley Nature Museum. We had two days to do this and had the car and drove all over the Island. This was my favorite Island.
In Honolulu we went to the Arizona/Pearl harbor Memorial and it was a very moving experience. Then we took Kevin back to the ship, had lunch, changed into bathing suits and picked up our gear and went to Hanuma Bay, which is a ocean preserve and probably the most beautiful I have seen. The water and fish were wonderful, and the scenery breathtaking...I hope my pictures turn out. Then on the drive back we had to go to Waikiki so I could see what that looked like. It was soooooo commercial! Even worse than south Miami Beach. We just did the drivebys and I didn't see anything that made me want to stop the car and get out.
When I compared what the ship would have charged us in each port to take these excursions run by the ship, compared to what we paid for the rental car and the reduced online purchased admission tickets, we saved a small fortune! Then we got off the ship and got hit by some very bad news...... Would you believe that when we got to the airport in LA that my husband left one of our suitcases sitting on the pier???? He insisted that he had them all and was having the skycap move out of the building before I could really look over everything. Then you know how crazy it is to load things curbside....anyway when we got to the airport I started to count, and we were one short. The good thing is that our daughter was coming to see us at the airport (my oldest daughter) and after seeing us, she went back to the pier and picked up the bag, but couldn't get it back in time to get it to us. At least she has it, and she is planning on coming east to visit and will bring it with her then. Just a lesson in taking the time to count up everything and not let the skycaps rush you out so that they can come back to pick up another load and tip.
On CC there is a thread about what to do with pets when you leave for a cruise. When we got home we found our house and dog in wonderful shape. Our friends, Bob and Phyllis from West VA, had taken wonderful care of everything, and Harley was very attached to Phyllis. We meet Bob and Phyllis on the Cruise Critic Board on our sailing website for the Galaxy two years ago and got to know them very well on the two week cruise, and then stayed in touch via e mails. So this worked out great for us, and just one more reason why Cruise Critic is such a wonderful site to be part of!
So, that is the saga of my adventures of going to Hawaii....I hope all is well with everyone reading this!!!