Carrie's Adventures

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tickets home

Drama, drama, drama. As you know, I tend to travel a LOT by the seat of my pants. This means I will fly into a country without a return ticket and 'figure it out' as I go. This does afford you a certain sense of freedom to modify and alter plans, but it can also be a source of distress when things don't quite come together.

So when I left San Diego, I knew I had 2 weeks to get the return flight home. This flight proved to be a bit problematic as I was hoping not to spend a fortune. Marc suggested that I look at using a points ticket with Alaska ~ he had it all mapped out, but unfortunately the ticket was for 10:15am and there was no way that I would be able to make sure I was off the ship and at the airport for then. So the hunt for the ticket began. As it turns out, I bought a ticket home on Alaska and it may be a good thing that it is a fully refundable ticket. The ship is currently heading back and is maxed out at 17 knots with the weather and the engines. Apparently we need 19 knots to make it back to San Diego in time. As such, it looks like a late arrival is going to be inevitable. The question is how late. Ah, as always, never a dull moment when travelling with Carrie. I just felt bad for those at Guest Relations who had to deal with all the guests and getting their tickets rearranged. Good thing I had advanced notice!

Final call for Hawaii ~ Honolulu

The final port was Honolulu. The extent of my Hawaiian experience prior to this cruise was flying though Honolulu on my way home from Melbourne and the 1 hour stop over in the airport. As expected from the capital of the state Honolulu was a much bigger city than the other 3 ports we had visited. This is very alluring for the shoppers. Akis was looking forward to making sure that he got in some shopping time, I was concerned about spending my time looking at a mall instead of the sites. We compromised and spent a few hours in the morning shopping.

So after we had made our purchases, Akis and I headed back to the ship ~ actually, I was grumpy not wanting to spend all the time in the mall, but we managed to make it out of the ship back towards the beach by 2pm. Akis took me to Waikiki Beach. We played in the water, took in some sun and enjoyed the scenery.

At the end of the afternoon we took a wander along the strip and checked out the shops. We found the second oldest hotel in Hawaii ~ and it looks stunning... The oldest one on the island is Pink ~ not sure about the colour but I guess you go with it.

Still on the hunt for the 'ring' we wandered through a number of stores and Akis was disappointed that we didn't find one. He had wanted me to go back to Vancouver/Southampton with a ring to be able to show everyone. Alas, we are still looking. Guess this is what I get for being picky!

We finished up having dinner at a restaurant on the pier. We were lucky that we had an 11pm departure which allowed us to make the most of the day. Good thing Vancouver is close to Hawaii ~ I think Akis and I will be back.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Island of Maui

In efforts to make the most of my time on the island, I decided that I would head into port first and have Akis join me when he was done. I wandered the streets with all the shops only to find that this part of town hasn't changed much in the past 20 years ~ or so said the lady I chatted with while waiting for Akis.
I did buy a couple of souvenirs on my travels and then a group of us headed out to Whalers Village. The first thing I noticed was that the sand was white, not black as found in Kona. The water was also quite cool, but it was refreshing so I am not going to complain. I had heard from Akis that the surf here can be quite strong, however this was not my day and I was not privy to a great spectacle of waves.

We wandered through the shops, and headed back into town. The early evening was nice ~ it wasn't too hot and the tiki torches came out. The stores remained open late, so we wandered the street, looked in Jewellery shops for rings and settled on buying 2 necklaces, dinner and some macadamia nuts with chocolate ~ yum.

I could see myself spending time just relaxing there. The difficult part about only being there for a day is that you only get a wee taste of what the place is like. Pity really as the people are very friendly and I would have loved to have gone to a Luau ~ I think that would be my one 'do over' for Maui.


Kona was a tender port and Akis managed to get off earlier in the day. As a result we walked the streets to get a feel for the small town and then attempted to flag a taxi to Turtle Beach. As experienced before, Taxis just don't seem to exist on the Big Island. We finally decided that we needed to ask where we could catch a cab and the store owner called a cab for us. We arrived at Turtle Beach and the look on Akis' face said it all ~ this did not look like a beach to the Greek. The sand was black, which makes sense from the lava and small, no chairs or umbrellas. Definitely a different feel than what we have experienced in Greece or the Caribbean.

This was all forgiven though as we took our first few steps over the lava rock into the beach to be greeted by the first of 2 Sea Turtles. We looked out to see the ocean was full of snorkellers. What did they know that we didn't? Well apparently a lot ~ one of Akis' co-workers was kind enough to loan him her snorkel and mask. This was the first time Akis had been snorkelling and seen fish like this. We splurged, each rented a mask and snorkel and took the underwater disposable camera and were off. I am a bit squeamish about swimming when there are things in the water. I guess what you don't know won't hurt you, cause I was fine swimming, that was until I realized just how MANY other things were swimming down there with me.

We headed back into town and had lunch and wandered the market ~ where the woman selling the necklaces told Akis that his shoulders were big and then his head swelled. Guess all of that time at the gym is starting to pay off for him.

The lava flow at night...

The photos aren't very good, but it gives you an idea of what you would see when the lava pours into the ocean. It is amazing to think that this is a continual release of the lava into the Ocean. Something I will have to go back and see again.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Hawaii here we come ~ First stop Hilo

We embarked on Sunday in San Diego and started the voyage across to Hawaii. In efforts to educate us all, there was a channel dedicated to just information on Hawaii. I must admit, I didn't know much about the 50th state and have learned a thing or two. I found it amazing to find that the time required to get to Hawaii is actually more than what it was for the Constellation to cross from Cork to Newfoundland. The Atlantic crossing had only 3 days while it took us 4 to reach our destination.

In addition to the learning, I did manage to take in a couple of things that I wouldn't be able to do as a crew member ~ the most notable being the wine pairing course that was offered by the Sommeliers. It was actually quite interesting as we were presented with 4 different wines, 2 white and 2 red, and we were then given various food items such as lemon, olives, chocolate and chicken to see how the taste of the wine changed depending on what we were eating. Who knew red wine goes with chocolate. That one was my favourite!

We had 4 ports in total, and those who have been here before have their favourites and those that are used mostly for shoppoing. I guess it was like the Baltic run where Helsinki became the 'errand' port.

The first stop was Hilo ~ on the Big Island. The Big Island, so named as it is the largest of all the islands and is in fact larger in area than all of the remaining islands combined. It is also home to the worlds most active volcano. To showcase the volcano, there is a National park and you are able to see the lava flows and travel the rim of the crater. Interesting fact, there is enough lava produced each day to pave 20 miles of road. That is a lot of molten rock. Most of the lava flows out to the sea and as a result, the island is increasing in size every day. In hind sight, I should have gone on the day long excursion to the Volcano National Park where you hike some of the lava fields. I find that sometimes I don't cease the moment as I always feel that there will be the opportunity when I return. Pity really, as I am sure it would have been really interesting. With our arrival into Hilo, after 4 sunny days at Sea, we arrived to have a crew drill and find the skies overcast and spitting rain. Nice. I waited for Akis and Nikos and headed out to 'run the errands'.

While we were out I made a stop at Hilo Haddies. This has to be the biggest 'Hawaii-ana' store. Everywhere you looked there were clothes made out of the loud Hawaiian print, statues of dancing Hula dolls, Macadamia nuts ~ yummm, and grass skirts everywhere. The day proved to be a bit challenging with our transportation where it seemed that there were only 4 taxis that were working that day and 2800 people from a cruise ship looking for one. As it turns out, there was a Hula competition going on at the stadium which has a huge draw and this is where all of our transportation had gone.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Happy Easter ~ Xronia Polla

For the past 3 years I have been onboard the ships during the Easter Holiday. With this I am treated to the traditional Greek Feast in the Dining Room. Only complaint, it started at 11:30pm. I don't get this late eating, but anyway... Everyone was pretty darn tired as they had just finished Embarkation and that in itself is enough to send you straight to bed.

The feast included starters such as Dalmades and Feta. We all enjoyed the wine and broke into the Eggs. I'm not sure of the significance of the 'Red Egg' but what you do is each person gets one Egg and you then turn to your neighbour, and you smack the 2 eggs together. Only one eggshell will crack. If yours survives, you continue around the table beating up other people's eggs until your shell cracks. Once cracked some folks will then eat the egg ~ I am not sure if this is the best idea with these particular eggs are you can tell the colour was a bit 'off'...

The next course was the Greek Salad and Meatballs followed up with a platter of lamb, potatoes and brocolli. This is one of the big family holidays for the Greeks and as such is hard for some of them to be away from home at this time. It is the only major holiday that I have experienced on the ship where we are gathering for a formal dinner and toasting to the holiday. Even Christmas doesn't get this type of treatment.

The following day we had the traditional lamb roast as well. As they carved up the lamb before your eyes, I couldn't help but remember my first Greek Easter experience at the Bouras household... Who would have thought that their culture would become part of mine?!?

Monday, April 09, 2007

San Diego ~ on an Easter Sunday

Have been to San Diego only with Mercury, and then it was on embarkation. As such, I have never really seen much of the city other than the terminal and on one or two occasions, the mall which is about 6 blocks away. With a whole day to spend, I had it mapped out since I wasn't going to be able to get my medical done here.

I had heard many good things about the San Diego Zoo, so that was definitely a stop. The mall to pick up some essentials was also in the plan as I was not able to find everything in Acapulco.

Akis woke at 6:30 to start his day, but alas, we had yet to arrive. The late arrival had us at the pier at 7:45 or so which pushed everything back. As I got up for breakfast by 8:30 I wandered to the gangway only to find that the ship was not cleared by Immigration yet and I was not able to get out. The halls and everywhere else on the ship was packed with waiting guests to leave so I returned to the safe haven of the cabin. 10am came, 10am went and the lines were HUGE. At this rate the plan for going to the Zoo first and then to shop was becoming seriously compromised. I had to be back at the ship by 3:30 at the latest and I would need at least 2 hrs or so to run the errands. That meant only 3 hrs at the Zoo if I left now. Revising the situation, I figured I would go shopping today and then hit the Zoo next San Diego before my flight back to Canada.

As the God's would have it, I got off the ship around 10:30 with the hoards of other people only to find getting a taxi a bit of a nightmare. I decided it would be best to hoof it to the mall. I arrived ~ CLOSED. What? Isn't this America where things are open 365? Yes, the stores were all closed for Easter Sunday. Even Starbucks was closed. Can you believe that?!?!

I decided to have a bite to eat and then revise the plan. I did check the website for the Zoo and they said that they were open 365. So the decision at noon was to head to the Zoo. I would have just over 3 hours, but that should do. I almost didn't go thinking that $33.00 plus cab fare there and back would be a bit much for entertainment for 3 hours, but I am glad that I went. The zoo was fantastic and I did learn a thing or two on the guided tour...

San Diego Zoo
It is 91 years old and when it first opened it was the only Zoo to have animal pens which were not completely enclosed. This was considered to be quite radical at the time and helped to distinguish this Zoo from others at the time. There are 4000 animals that are living there and to feed them all, there is a great diversity in the plant life that is found in the Zoo ~ so much so that the Zoo is also considered to be a botanical garden.

Horns vs Antlers
Horns are not bones, but are made of the same stuff you find in your ears and nose. The Horns are permanent features on the animal while Antlers are shed each season. Antlers are made of the same type of material found in your fingernails.

Polar Bears
They are not in fact white. Their skin is black and what makes them white is that each hair in their fur is hollow and filled with air. This is what is used to insulate them to keep them warm in the Arctic waters. Who knew that hair could be hollow.

These guys have over 1000 muscles in their trunk. I don't know if I have that many muscles in my whole body never mind in one appendage.

These are the only members of the cat family that like to swim. So if the plan to fend off the tiger is to squirt him with the hose, you may be out of luck.

These guys eat roughly once a week. So in efforts to conserve their energy between their feeds, they sleep up to 18 hours a day. Perhaps I am somehow related to the Lion family with all the napping I do, however that theory goes out the window when you consider that I eat more than once a week. Oh well.

The animals I did get a chance to see: Koalas ~ I love these guys
the Panda exhibit ~ very cool how they eat the bamboo and seem quite content to just munch
the Orangutan ~ what a sense of humour these guys have
The bear
The giraffes ~ who if you give $5, you can feed them biscuits from your mouth and check out their tongue. Hmm, not so sure about that one
the Chimps,
some Galapagos Turtles and the Flamingos ~ which do surprisingly enough look like their plastic lawn counterparts.

The other cool thing I found was this contraption ~ used to soothe the aching feet. I didn't get a chance to try it as I was rapidly checking out the exhibits, but for a quarter, I don't think you can go wrong.

I have also learned that I am not allowed to purchase shirts for Akis. On my way out of the Zoo at about 3pm, I stopped at the Gift Shop. I found a shirt for myself and figured I should get one for Akis. Needless to say, the TShirt with the San Diego Zoo logo and Panda on it did not strike his fancy. I still think it is a guy shirt, but needless to say, it is now looking for a home. Maybe I should have gone with the Gorilla. That might have been less 'girly'.

Even though the time was short, this was a definite 'Must See', and I'm glad I spent the time even if it was only a couple of hours. If you are ever in the neighbourhood ~ check it out.