From the Arizona memorial, we boarded our buses and rode up into the hills to another peaceful military cemetery called the a€?Punchbowl.a€? Here, amidst the bucolic rows of trees, shrubs and neatly trimmed grass, lie 39,000 military men and women who saw service in the pacific theaters, in various wars of our history. As we drove through Honolulu, the bus passed by several old churches and then by the Queen Iolani Palace.
We were tiring with the long and active day so we retreated to our cabin, We opened the balcony door and sat for a time in the fresh sea air admiring the moonshine of the ocean beneath us.
On the journey down the mountain, we could espy Nihau, the a€?forbidden islanda€? about 11 miles from Kauai. We walked down to deck five and boarded the motorized tender for the short ride to the Lahaina docks. The small basin between them is shallow and became an ideal breeding ground for the sperm whales from time immemorial. It was misting lightly as we stood outside the center and looked across the Caldera, or Volcanoa€™s mouth.
It was only 12 years ago that an enormous lava flow had slid down the mountain and destroyed 189 homes and virtually the entire town of Kalapena. We traversed the volcano on a ring road watching the lunar landscape created by the sulphur and old lava flows.
From the Volcano house, we rode a brief way to the a€?Akatsuka Orchid Gardensa€? to admire the many gorgeous varieties of colorful orchids that the island produces. From the Mona Loa Nut factory, Derek drove us to the ocean shore, at the afore-mentioned site of the unfortunate town of Kalapena.
After our late morning siestas, we stopped by the deck 14 trough to ingest the appropriate caloric overload. The waiters served up the usual five star extravaganzas as we sipped a nice bottle of Mondavi Merlot and got acquainted with this charming couple.
We were now some 800 miles South of Hilo and still had another 400 miles before we reached that small speck in the Pacific labeled Christmas Island. An art auction was taking place in the wheel house lounge, so we sat through that for a time enjoying the banter of the auctioneer and the lively patter about artists a€?not yet dead.a€? Then, we watched the delightful comedy a€?Analyze That,a€? with Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro.
Breakfast found us in the deck 14 Horizons court and then we sunned on the aft section of deck 12 for an hour or so before retreating to a€?Octogenarians row,a€? on covered deck 7, to read our books and enjoy the lazy motions of the ship. Even turtles get sunburned , so we packed it in and walked three miles (12 laps around deck 7) enjoying the vigor and the sweat that the walk produced. It was another a€?formal nighta€? for dinner, so we repaired to our cabin to dress in our a€?Cinderella Clothesa€? and venture forth once again down the grand promenade on deck 7.
In the dining room, Kevin and Laura shared a good Cabernet, sent by their travel agent, which we helped them enjoy. The Princess Lounge provided another interesting song and dance routine titled a€?Rhythms of the City.a€? We watched and appreciated the talent and energy these kids put forth. Just off the bow of the ship a jagged and erose peak, with a phallic shape, rose needle-nosed into the surrounding sky. The driver pulled along the side of the road and bade us look at the ubiquitous holes all along the roadside.
Near the end of the tour, the guide stopped by the most famous eatery on the island, a€?Bloody Marya€™s.a€? It is a grass roofed, sand- floored and quietly elegant restaurant made famous by James Michener and others. We were up early to watch the Dawn Princess sail into Opunohu Bay on the North Coast of Moorea, some 130 miles Southeast of Bora Bora. We assembled in the deck 7 Vista Lounge and then walked school fashion, through the ship, to the gangway on deck 3 for boarding the shipa€™s tenders.
The pier area is a simple jetty with a stone rest room and a nearby municipal building for the gendarmes. Along the sides of the road, our guide pointed out thin Mahogany trees, acacia, tulip, a€?lipsticka€? trees, guava, banana, teak, lice and Chinese chestnut trees along the roadside. Along the coast road, we could see the island of Tahiti rising up from the ocean, some 11 miles away. The Moorea Sheraton again has those delightful grass-hutted rondevals, with glass bottomed floors, sitting on piers looking into the bay.
We descended to deck 7, saw and talked with Laura and Kevin Hanley for a bit, before returning to the cabin to read and relax before surrendering to the welcome arrival of the sand man. We had arrived in Tahiti, a€?The Gathering Place.a€? Just the sound of the name brings up worldwide images of soft breezes, exotic women and an escape from the harsh realities of the Old World.
Most of us carry visions of Tahiti in our head from the various versions of a€?Mutiny on The Bounty.a€? The film, made from a James Norman Hall novel detailing a mutiny aboard Her Majestya€™s ship a€?Bounty,a€? captained by the now famous Captain Bligh and his first mate Fletcher Christian. Whalers, merchantmen and adventurers arrived in waves bringing new world gifts like STD and the moral standards of seamen who had been afloat for a year and away from leavening strictures of women and polite society. During the 1840a€™s, France consolidated its control of five of these small island chains into what we now call French Polynesia.
Tahiti, one of the larger islands in the group, is actually comprised of two extinct volcano mounts and the slopes surrounding them. After breakfast on deck 14, a wooden a€?Le Truka€? shuttled us into the Centre De Ville, on the waterfront. Next, we came upon the two-story version of the central marketplace in Tahiti, a€?Le Marche,a€? or the market.
It was nearing noon, so we decided to stop by one of the many portable a€?Les Roulettesa€? for a snack. We continued walking the small streets, enjoying the feel of a culture and language not our own.
We sunned for an hour, on deck 12, had a refreshing dip in the smaller spa pool and then retreated to our cabin to consider the logistics of packing for the trip home. We packed our clothes, kept some necessary toiletries and clothes for a carry on bag, and then put the bags outside the cabin for pickup. A Hawaiian woman gave us two flowered leis and then asked for $10 contributions for the local boy and Girl Scout troops. We walked along the world famous Waikiki beach, gazing down the beach to a€?Diamond Head.a€? The massive granite outcropping had been so named by Captain Cook, an early explorer who saw the crystallized volcanic material glinting in the noonday sun and thought the peak encrusted in diamonds. We stopped for some decent Kona coffee in the Outrigger and watched the moving tableau around us.
We managed that well enough and then had coffee and croissants in the lobby area of the Tapa tower. We were headed for the holiest of military shrines in the state, the Arizona memorial, commemorating the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941. He told us about the a€?Hawaiian Home Program.a€? Residents of Hawaiian descent are eligible to purchase homes and receive the land for $1. A large group of high school kids were passing the time like all kids, singing, joking and clowning around.
A graceful white arch of stone, with a series of open side vents and open roof area, house two smaller enclosed marble rooms at either end. They had launched from the Akagi, Kiryu and two other carriers sailing a short 220-mile to the Northeast. We had a nice Fiume Blanc for openers, then a shrimp appetizer, crA?me of mushroom soup, pastry filled with shrimp calamari and other seafood, in a lobster sauce.
Instead of molten rock, I could see the flow of electric lava as it slid down the mountains in the dark. We read for a time and then surrendered the hypnotic sway of the ship as we drifted off into the land of the great beyond. Our immediate impression of the islands is that it is lush and tropical, with a much smaller population (56,000) than the other isles in the chain.
The driver told us humorously that in the early 1960a€™s whole families would bring picnic food and camp out nearby to watch the light change colors. The growers, ironically, found that a€?burning the fieldsa€? lowered the molasses content in the plants and increased the sugar yield from the cane. There is a moral here someplace about pretending who you are not and the consequences of that action. In many ways, the Hawaiians resemble Native Americans with their preoccupation with superstition, mythology and colorful sagas transmitted orally throughout the generations. We ascended, in a series of gradual switchbacks, 2,800 feet to the top of the islanda€™s extinct Wai ali ali volcano. The Sinclairs, a family of Slave traders from Massachusetts, had purchased the island from King Kamehameha in the 1830a€™s. We boarded the vessel and had a nice lunch of fish, fruit and vegetables in the deck 14 buffet. After dinner, I was still reeling from a bad head cold, so we retreated to the room to read and retire. These a€?tendersa€? are wholly enclosed lifeboats that are capable of ocean sailing in an emergency. They spawn here from December through April and then in May, begin their swim up to the Aleutian Island chain. We walked the paved ocean path, along the beach, enjoying the swaying palms, the flowering hibiscus, the neatly manicured lawns of the huge hotels and the general aura of opulence. We met and talked with Marty and Tom Bleckstein, who live on Maui and were aboard for the cruise to Tahiti. Jon was our waiter again this evening and we exchanged a a€?Magandang Gabia€? (good evening) and a€?Mabuti, salamata€? (I am fine, Thanks) in Tagalog. It was cloudy and warm, with the promise of rain, something that happens often on this side of the island. Great white swaths of dried calcium and super heated sulphur remained from the flows of heated magma.(magma below ground, lava above) As the mist and rain seeped into the ground, steam rose as the water hit heated rock below. The fiery lava seeped into the ocean and created super heated mists that explodes the rocks and created the black sand beaches that we were to see in a few hours. We were stopping at the a€?Thurston Lava Tube.a€? The 360 yard, ten foot high tunnel had been carved out by heated lava. In a few hundred years, this newest portion of Hawaii will be a tropical beach and palm grove. We had a glass of the Merlot in the cabin as I wrote up my notes and we settled in to relax for a bit.
As we watched the big island settle into the Horizon, we met and talked again with Tom Bleckstein. The sky was studded with gray clouds, the air was warm and a brisk trade wind was quartering us from the northeast. Proper dress was required, so we cleaned up some and venture in to this now familiar place of gustatory titillation.
It is every bit as funny as a€?Analyze this.a€? The really is a wealth of things to do shipboard if you seek them out.
This was the a€?island tour.a€? We never did find Captain Cooka€™s Hotel or any other commercial establishment for that matter.
We enjoyed Lobster appetizers, pea and onion crA?me soup, filet of Halibut in peppercorn sauce and Macadamia nut ice cream, all accompanied by a Mondavi Merlot and good coffee. These kids might not be on Broadway, but they gave 150% in energy and we enjoyed their performances. We enjoyed the film and then made our way to deck 12 for Hagendaaz ice cream floats topside.
It was a€?Italian Nighta€? in the Florentine room and we were looking forward to the gustatory experience. This introduced crab and melon ball appetizers, a Greek Salad, Norwegian trout for me, all followed by an Austrian Sacher Torte and good coffee.
The Palm trees and the vegetation here are lush and green, a result of the 74 inches of annual rainfall.
It is a collection of those lovely, small grass-roofed huts that sit out on piers right over the ocean. The crabs are apparently nocturnal creatures and come forth at night o feed on the fallen fruit of the many trees I had noticed.
These were provided by the government, at a cost of $2,000, to any of the islanders whose homes are destroyed by the various hurricanes that sweep over the island. A large wooden gargoyle sits in front of the restaurant, near a wooden sign carved with the names of all of the a€?famousa€? people who had dined here.
Shrimp cocktails, lentil soup, Alaskan crab legs and a wonderful black forest cake made for an elegant and relaxing repast. Several tents had been put up by local vendors hawking jewelry and Moorean arts and crafts. The deep blue of the far ocean, azure sky, studded with white puffy clouds, all accented the deep emerald of the lush vegetation on the island.
These are limestone temple sites where yearly the islanders had sacrificed humans in a ritual to please the great god Oro.
The 4-masted Windjammer and the Paul Gauguin were sitting at anchor in turquoise Opunohu bay, the palm trees were swaying in the breeze, against the brilliant backdrop of multi hued sapphire sea, azure sky and emerald hills. A large car ferry and a smaller and swifter catamaran ferry made regular, daily trips to nearby Tahiti. The heat and humidity were intense, so we decided to hop the tender for the air-conditioned comfort of the Dawn Princess, sitting placidly at anchor in the bay.
Even a dip in the small pool couldna€™t revive us, so we headed to the cabin for a 2-hour nap. English Captain James Cook and French explorer Captain Louis Bouganville had first discovered these a€?Society Islandsa€? in the 1760a€™s. The backdrop images in the film are mostly taken from the lovely islands of Moorea and Bora Bora. The Protestant missionaries had come in the early 1800a€™s and banished most native cultural practices, including ritual sacrifice of humans.
Mount Orohena, at 6,700 feet, dominates the larger chunk of the island (Tahiti Nui) Mount Aurai, at 6,200 feet sits on most of the smaller portion of Tahiti (Tahiti a€“Iti). A small tourist pavilion, adjacent to a newly constructed town square, dominates the waterfront here. The offer of $120 for a cab ride, with a driver who knew little English, didna€™t seem too enticing to us.
The traffic is heavy and runs in twin ribbons of moving steel separating the town and the ocean.
The first floor of this open-air barn is filled with food vendors selling everything from fruits to fish and any number of sundries. We dodged the speedy traffic and visited another elegant Joualerie where we found a beautiful set of black pearl earrings to match the necklace pearl we had just purchased.
A small bronze bust of Louis Bouganville commemorates this eminent French explorer after whom had been named the colorful tropical flower a€?Bouganvillea.a€? We sat for a time in the shade and enjoyed the lush tropical foliage, the colorful flowers and the heat of a tropical isle and each othera€™s company. The next chore was to find a€?le box postal.a€? It isna€™t like our cities, where you can find a blue, US mailbox on every corner.
We walked back to the waterfront and caught a shuttle for the 15-minute ride to the commercial end of the port and the welcome air-conditioned bubble of the Dawn Princess.
The Northwest and later, the Pacific Ocean were clouded from view as a massive front roared beneath us.
Tiring, we headed back to the room to read, make some notes and surrender to the Hawaiian night. The a€?Don Hoa€? style preacher had everyone singing God Bless America and other group songs.
A list of the sailors and marines lost that day, in raise metal etchings, adorns one wall, with a plaque and several American and military flags. The sight of an entire fleet of attacking planes, on a warm Sunday morning, must have been surreal as the angry wasps spit fire and lead into the row of battleships at anchor. In the words of a prescient Japanese Admiral, with their surprise attack, they a€?had awoken a sleeping giant and filled it with a terrible resolve.a€? The conflict wasna€™t to end for four long years. The bus took us to a virtual a€?sea of luggagea€? and calmly suggested we a€?identify oursa€? for processing. Diamond Head, Waikiki beach and the other recognizable features of Oahu blended into the Ocean dark.
The informative bus driver gave us a running narration of the fauna and flora of the island as well as a cultural overlay that we found interesting.
I dona€™t know how true the story is, but it gave insight into the islanders endearing trait of not taking themselves too seriously. The stone foundations of a a€?Russian Forta€? gave rise to another tale of Colonial treachery and Hawaiian retribution, swift and sudden. It was a beautiful day and we decided to walk from the port area to the nearby Sheraton hotel and beach area. We sipped some passable Cabernet as the erose skyline of Nawiliwili harbor and Kauai faded into the setting sun.
They can seat almost 90 people and are a bit removed from the old a€?lifeboatsa€? that ships used to carry. One can only speculate at all of the events, legal and foul, that must have transpired under its shelter. Whale blubber and whale oil fueled the lamps of Europe and America during the 1800a€™s, until the advent of mass production of electricity. We had enjoyed this low-key, unhurried look at Maui, without the hustle and commotion of a guided tour.
His grasp of plate tectonics, the mechanics of volcanic eruption and a score of other disciplines, involving agriculture, local flora and fauna and marine biology were not just superficially acquired.
The actual volcano mouth was surrounded by succeedingly larger depressions that extended out further.
The lava had the consistency of brittle tar that had frozen in wildly flowing waves of super heated rock.
When the surface of a lava flow starts to cool, the molten lava often is still flowing beneath the surface.
We had a leisurely breakfast on the balcony, watching the white caps of the blue sea swell and flow around the big shipa€™s wake. We had brought our books with us and sat outside, on lounge chairs on the covered promenade deck. Four photographers were busy taking pictures of passengers in their tuxedos and evening wear. We breakfasted in the deck 14 Horizons Court and then sunned on the aft fantail of deck 12, enjoying the leisurely time to read, try a cooling dip in the small pool and generally laze about the deck.
After the movie, I sent some e-mails into cyber space enjoying the novelty of transmitting from the middle of the ocean via satellite, something that would have been near impossible only a few years before.
The performance was blocked some by clouds, but we watched it eagerly enjoying the light play of sun on water and sky as the day turned into night at sea in its daily magical performance.
We smiled at the co-incidence and enjoyed another meal with these charming young people from London.
Even better, across the bay at a now abandoned similar anchorage, the area had been named Paris.
After the show, Mary and I wandered topside to look at the full array of celestial beacons that adorned the heavens. Even the name conjured up visions of Polynesians in outrigger war canoes with the sound of drums resonating in the humid air.
I dona€™t usually like lounge singers, but this engaging performer gave convincing renditions of Neil Diamond, Frank Sinatra, Paul Anka, Elvis Presley and a bevy of others, in a toe-tapping medley that left you smiling. W returned to our cabin to read (a€?Backspina€? Harlan Coben ), write up my notes and retire.
The bay in which we were anchored, and most of the visible island, once were ensconced firmly in the center on an ancient caldera of a volcano that had risen some 13,000 feet into the Polynesian sky.
The sturdy vehicles were clean and comfortable with seat pads, not anywhere near as Spartan as the guides had warned us. We drove by and admired Papaya, Banana, coconut and the famous breadfruit trees for which the HMS Bounty had come to the Society Island looking in the 1800a€™s.
The tab was a respectable $500-$800 a night for those fortunate enough to be able to stay there.
Tongue in cheek, the guide explained that, like most social programs the program has those who used it unfairly. French is spoken on the island exclusively and French Polynesian Francs the currency of choice..
Rotui was already peaking out from the gray wisps of cloudy garlands capping its erose peak. The 53 square mile island, shaped like a butterfly, is a popular destination for upscale tourism.
It had rained heavily a few hours before and the small rain puddles made the walk through the open field interesting. The a€?lipsticka€? tree had small fuzzy buds that when rubbed on lips or fingers had the same effect as rouge.
Small bushes, with thin and wiry leaves, are carefully tended by laborers and then harvested for their sweet fruit.
All high school students have to commute daily to Tahiti as well as many workers who commute daily. Then, Lobsters tails and a light parfait, all washed down with a Mondavi Merlot and decent coffee completed this wonderful dinner.
We could watch half a dozen freighters lading cargo, the men and forklifts scurrying here and there, noisy and busy at work.
The accounts they brought back electrified Europe enticing artists like Gauguin and adventurers of every type.
The missionarya€™s razed the several Marae (sacrificial altars) and brought the European version of a straight-laced version of an unforgiving deity. A few hundred yards over sits the huge Ferry dock for the daily shuttles to Moorea, visible on the horizon, just 11 miles Northeast of Tahiti. The Tahitians are religious about stopping for pedestrians crossing the street, but it is still proved to be an adventure. We then walked down the main gallery of deck 7 and had some coffee in the small lounge outside of the restaurants.
Neon signs from the honk tonk clubs a€?Broadway,a€? a€?Manhattana€? and others vied for the club trade. Nieman Marcus, Nordstroma€™s, Macya€™s and many other toney shopping meccas lined the streets of the main boulevard. We also found out later that the sand had been imported from Australia due to a lack of white sand locally. You always think it will evaporate like some ephemeral bubble that will just go a€?popa€? and disappear.
A small park area looked out across the channel to Ford Island, where the graceful white arch of the monument sat atop the sunken remains of the Battleship USS Arizona. The rugged green mountains that split the island were just to the North of us, with gray garlands of fluffy clouds drifting across them. The channel from Ford Island to Oahu is narrow and an entire fleet of ships was berthed here. It was like an Arabian bazaar trying to search for our two black bags amidst a sea of hundreds of others. Ozzie Nelson was paging me and we returned to the stateroom for a long afternoon nap, my favorite activity in the tropics. It was to be the first of twelve such meals that would impress us greatly and expand us measurably. The bus passed through Poi Pu, with its alley of mahogany and Eucalyptus trees that met overhead. Some small shops and restaurants are clustered nearby, but the real attraction if the golden beach and the bright blue ocean.
We had enjoyed our visit to the island, though we thought that a goodly supply of books would be needed for an extended stay here. Radiating outward are collections of small commercial shops, hawking the usual tourist wares, and several streets of small, neat homes. It is a modern, tri-level shopping court of high priced shops like Versace, Ferragamo, Tiffany and Gucci.
The Marriott, Sheraton, Hyatt and Maui Ocean Shores are beautiful in their landscaped elegance.
It gave us a softer look at a place that deserves to be further explored on another occasion. It is these incidental meetings shipboard, either at dinner or casually, that much enhance the entire experience.
When you think of lava exploding all the way up through 31,000 feet of mountain, that makes for a degree of physical force that is hard for me to grasp. It was fascinating for me to look at this cone and realize that enough volcanic material had erupted from this aperture to create 4,000 sq.
Off to the Southeast, visitors were warned from walking because the sulphur fumes could be toxic. The top layer of the flow had that crystalline diamond effect as the molten surface rock cooled and crystallized. Our fellow park bears were munching at the sample a€?buffet linea€? like people who hadna€™t just consumed 1200 calories at the Volcano House.
It was geriatrics row, god bless them for the gumption to be still traveling at an advanced age. Tonight was the first a€?formal dinnera€? in the Florentine room and we wanted to be alert and enjoy the affair.
It is a life speed gear that I am not much familiar with, but would like to experience more of it. It was a€?French Night.a€? I had escargot, French Onion Soup, Orange roughie and an apple tart with ice cream for desert. We returned to our cabin to shower and prep for dinner, much appreciating the splendor of our surroundings in juxtaposition to those available on Christmas Island.
The Mondavi Merlot led us into squid and shrimp appetizers, Zuppa minestrone, swordfish griglia and then finally a delicate Tiremisu with good coffee.
It had been a long day in which we had witnessed the span of events from first light to twinkling evening.
We met Kevin and Laura Hanley in the deck 5 lounge, had coffee and got better acquainted, before entering the Florentine Room for another wonderful experience. The erose, emerald remains of an ancient volcano rose up in front of us, cloud shrouded, mysterious and tolkienesque in the early morning sun. I had recognized the craggy skyline from a modern painting by an Italian artist named Freshcetti, I think.
When Brigitte Bardot, the French actress, had visited the islands, she took up their cause. Almost instantly, a small army of these crabs crawled forth from their burrows and began dragging the fruit and peels back into their holes. The Bora Borans called these homes, the French equivalent of a€?re-election homesa€? for the propensity of mayors to award these homes to certain favored islanders during re-election years. We cooled off from the sun and then decided to walk the roads for a bit to see what local culture we could absorb.
For reasons, unknown to me, the sun sets earlier here, by some 45 minutes, than in the Northern climes. We walked topside to once again admire the stars emblazoned across the inky night of these former Society Island in French Polynesia, glad that we were here and together. A dozen or so of the huge, air-conditioned land cruisers were waiting their aging cargos for the daya€™s tours. Many of the island women wore it in place of costlier lipstick, hence the name of the tree. These sacrifices are laced through the Hawaiian legends as part of the reason the ancient Hawaiians had fled the harsher culture of Bora Bora and Moorea. This island is the most beautiful in the chain and the one we would most like to return to.
That was something we will long remember during the cold and snowy Winters of our home in the frosty northern climes. Then, we stood nearby eating our sandwiches under the protective shade of a large Monkey pod tree. Colorful cotton sarongs, flowered garlands and other bright pastels adorned these handsome people.
We had agreed to have dinner with Jazz and Janice, from London, this evening and met them in the lounge. The river of cars left a trail of red taillights flashing in the dark, as they rounded the bend towards the air port. We checked in at Continental Airlines and then went through the security screens to gate #22 to await our flight eastward, to Newark airport in New Jersey.
Over 1,200 men were still entombed in the sunken wreck and the site was treated respectfully as a burial ground.
Missouri, a€?Mighty Mo.a€? She and the submarine a€?Blowfina€? are anchored just around a bend in the lagoon and are available for boarding and viewing to the public. The driver noted several times the 1893 takeover of the Hawaiian republic by British and American military.
Nihau still lies in the hands of Mrs.a€™ Sinclaira€™s grandsons, the Gay and Robinson Company, who also own about one third of Kauai. We sat for a time under a shade tree and watched the ocean crash against the shore on a golden day in Kauai.
When the waves are choppy, the boat can rise and sink several feel, in an instant, making getting on and off interesting, especially for the older folks on board. We browsed some shops for a bit and then hopped a cab to nearby a€?Whalera€™s Villagea€? on Ka'anapali beach. We stopped at the Marriott for coffee on the ocean and watched the comings and goings of the many vacationers. It looked like Dantea€™s version of the nether regions and it held us spell bound at the raw power and energy contained in the process. The super heated gases, just above the molten rock, further molded and carved the area until a fairly smooth rock tunnel is created through which the lava can flow like tooth paste through a tube. We enjoyed the sea, sky and harsh lava for a time and then set off back across the fractured flow for our bus.
We wished them a good evening and returned to our cabin to read and finish yet another lazy and enjoyable day at sea. I wondered at the ancient mariners who had sailed these lonely seas for thousands of years using these same beacons as their maps. Dawn Princess had crossed the equator several hours before, so we were watching our first sunrise on the Pacific Ocean and in the Southern Hemisphere.
We were even treated to the fabled a€?green flasha€? as the sun sank beneath the waves and hissed as it hit the cool waters. I can die happily now, I have had everything wonderful that I ever wanted to eat on this cruise. We had enjoyed the day and each other to the fullest, in the South Pacific, enroute to Bora Bora and Tahiti. We had breakfast on the balcony and enjoyed the sea air, the azure blue sky and the rolling, royal blue waves around us, We were steaming south at 19 knots and fast approaching Polynesia. In the old days I think they used to throw first time crossers over board for the novelty of the rite. We would pay for these extravaganzas with a few zillion hours in the health club for the next few months.
From the high deck of the Dawn Princess, it looked like we were entering one of those mysterious isles that you see in King Kong or Jurassic Park.
This particular erose formation had probably fed the imagination of a thousand painters and artists over the centuries. Bora Bora has several large and very posh hotels that cater to the carriage trade form all over.
The women vendors gave demonstrations of how they dyed the colorful garments in a process similar to a€?Batika€? in the Caribbean.. The homes looked prosperous enough, with their stucco walls and tin roofs, used to catch the rainwater. Then we retired to our cabin to read for a time and fall into the arms of Morpheus at sea off Bora Bora. The temple area had fallen into disrepair, but a small grass-roofed hut and some printed information boards filled in the blanks. We had just last year seen a Gauguin collection at New Yorka€™s Metropolitan Museum and yet another small collection at the Art Gallery of Toronto. The second floor is filled with scores of small vendors peddling what we lovingly called a€?Le Jonk.a€? Sarongs, bead necklaces, carved figures of marine life, Tahitian gods and all manner of jewelry, tee shirts and other sundries, that gladden a shoppera€™s heart, are on display. They share that warm and gracious charm that we had experienced and enjoyed from their Hawaiian cousins. It is a custom we had much enjoyed in Paris and Firenze, walking about a crowded square with a sandwich and bottle of water, enjoying your busy surroundings. We watched for a time, admiring the pomp of the ceremony, whatever it was.a€? a€?Department de Francea€? shined out from a brass plaque on the lanai wall. We watched the huge car ferry and the smaller catamaran from Moorea glide by our ship for their mooring across the bay.
The surreal experience ended gradually as the tender ferried us back to the reception center.
The natives, in relating the destruction of the monarchy have that mildly pissed off attitude that you hear when native Americans talk about how their lands were stolen from them.
Then we walked them through a line to run them through a huge x-ray scanner for transport to the ship.
The hunger monster was calling so we ventured forth to the buffet lunch on deck 14, The Horizon court. It freed you from the fear of being stuck with morons and cretins for dinner during the entire cruise, an experience we had already suffered thorough on an earlier cruise. It was to be a medley of nationalities that had me speaking Polish, Tagalog, Spanish, French, Italian and mumbling bits of Rumanian and Hungarian. Here, the wave erosion had formed several a€?blow holesa€? where the seawater exploded from fissures in the rocks as each wave crashed upon them. Hard drinking, hard living and men who had been at sea for a year had their effect on the local populace both in terms of quality of life and gene pool additions.
We browsed the shops for a time and then discovered a small whaling museum on the second level. Inside are displays explaining measurement of earthquakes, pre volcanic expansion and scores of other details relating to volcanoes.
Grasses and scrub trees had already started to cover the rock, attesting to its rich mineral content. We walked the damp tunnel and were mindful of the heat and energy that had created this natural wonder. The lunch was middling to poor, a€?slop the hogsa€? variety, and the place was crowded to the gunnels with tourists from everywhere. We didna€™t want to waste the lethargy so we repaired to our cabin for a delicious one-hour conversation with Mr. A humorous Hungarian waiter gave a knowledgeable and entertaining lesson on appreciating and purchasing Pinot Grigio, Fiume Blanc, Shiraz, a Mondavi coastal Merlot and Korbel champagne. We put aside our glass slippers and magical robes and surrendered to the sandman, happy to be here and with each other, someplace at sea in the vast pacific. The Dawn Princess proceeded South at a brisk 19 knot pace and we could espy nothing around us except for sky, wind and wave. The dining experience was delicious and consistent with the other elegant repasts we had enjoyed aboard the Dawn Princess. They must have gazed in wonder, even as we now did, at the full array of twinkling beauty that we now admired. We saw and talked to Kevin and Laura Hanley, a couple from Maywood New Jersey, whom we had met on the ship. I would never have thought of myself on a cruise like this, growing up in a working class section of Buffalo, New York. But, it is worth it three-fold for the pleasure that we experienced in this 5 star dining emporium.
The scent, on the ocean breeze, was pregnant with the healthy rot of tropical jungle just tweaking our nostrils. The Southern Hemisphere star show rose on the horizon and we looked up at these strange constellations for a time before heading back to our cabin to shower and prepare for dinner. English seems to be spoken by workers in the tourist industry, but is neither known nor spoken by most of the populace. We were confirmed admirera€™s of this artista€™s brilliantly colored renditions of Tahiti and her people.
We browsed the shops, bought some bead necklaces for a few of the kids at home and enjoyed the color and commerce of a real market place. On the grounds of L'hotel de ville sits a large open-aired hut with a brown grass roof upon the large structure. You can still see the large circular bases of the massive gun turrets rising just above the surface. The Arizona, the West Virginia, the Oklahoma and the California all were caught in the initial barrage and either exploded or sunk.
But the memories have followed me home from that haunting place in the beautiful Hawaiian sun.
Maybe they too will discover the notion of gambling casinos and how they can fleece their lands back from us someday. We had a nice medley of shrimp, salmon and fruit for lunch as we took stock of our surroundings. First though, we headed for the Vista Lounge on deck 7 with our large orange life jackets for the mandatory lifeboat drill. If you were topside, you were at the furthest end of the pendulum and felt the full range of the sway.
This particular formation was called the a€?spouting horna€? for the noise and spray that exploded from it. Harpoons, scrimshaw (carved whale bone) abounded in small exhibits that told you everything you would ever want to know about whale blubber, whaling and the industry that surrounded it. Golf courses, shopping, trendy restaurants and the finest white sand, that California could supply, make Ka€™anapali beach a comfortable and elegant escape from the everyday grind. Kilauea about 11 miles from and below us, but it was too difficult to get us safely near enough to view the phenomenon. At the other end of the tunnel, we ascended a few sets of stairs and the hiked through the dense tropical rain forest to our bus, admiring the many varieties of plants and flowers everywhere around us. We finished quickly, browsed the cheap souvenir shops and then did a a€?Chevy Chasea€? outside looking at the scenery, before boarding the land cruiser to continue the tour. We chatted with Marty Bleckstein, the photographer from Maui, as we watched this spectacle and enjoyed her company.
We read for a bit before drifting off to the roll of the ship-plowing forward, ever forward, to our exotic destination.
It apparently has great medicinal effects but had a malodorous side effect that wrinkles the nose.
The traffic was both swift and steady as we walked the roads with their too narrow shoulders. Reportedly, the islander who owns the land you walk across to get there, charges a $2 levy on anyone crossing his land, capitalism in the tropics.
Moorea is a gorgeous arboretum and botanical gardens that is a pleasure just to ride through and enjoy.
We had also hoped to see the spectacular black sand beach and lighthouse at Point Venus, the Vaima Pearl Center and a few of the waterfalls cascading from Mt.
Most of the rest of the ship is an indefinite mass that lies below, a sepulcher to those who went down with her. Lastly, we walked through yet another line to pick up our cruise credentials and be scanned and have our carry ons searched yet again before walking up the gangway to the ship.
This ship was to be at sea for twelve days in stretches of the Pacific where even the birds didna€™t fly. We watched for a time as the frothy turquoise sea crashed upon the eroded black lava formation.
I sent some e-mails into cyber space from the 12th floor business center and Mary did some laundry in a small area near our room.
The surfers, divers and swimmers enjoyed their recreation while the sunbathers reveled in the warm hot Hawaiian sun.
The fissure here were more brittle, like shattered pottery in a huge black piles of hardened tar. We all posed for various pictures and decided to join each other for dinner in the Florentine room. We then sunned on the aft section of deck 11, enjoying the steaming morning sun on our bodies. The natives say that as a reminder, the soldiers had left behind 100 children of mixed parentage.
The guide pointed out that all islanders who pass on are buried under small, roofed tombs in their front yards. Small clumps of people would stand and talk animatedly under the shade of a tree or that of a buildinga€™s awning. A filet of salmon and baked Alaska for desert was all washed down with some decent cabernet.
An armor-piercing bomb, from a Japanese dive-bomber, had pierced her forward magazine.The ship virtually exploded and sank in minutes on that fiery Sunday morning 62 years ago.
We all paid attention to the crews explanation in the proper use of the jackets and tenders should an emergency arise.
We were tongue in cheek cautioned about removing lava samples, because Pele would bring us bad luck.
Luckily for us, the rains had stopped for a few minutes to allow us this walk through the lava.
It is these chance encounters with people from everywhere that make the cruise experience so enjoyable. I can now empathize with turtles and crocodiles for the languid pleasure of basking in the warm sun. They were an improbable pair that had been married for 26 years and they got along famously.
It was nearing the end of the steamy summer season here (Dec.-April) The Spring season is reportedly much cooler. They waved shyly back at us and returned our greeting with a soft a€?bonjoura€? before scurrying away. It had a walker, with a red line though it, apparently warning people from walking across lava that had not yet cooled and risk being burned alive.
A refreshing dip in the small pool, in the health spa, felt wonderfully cooling after the 88-degree heat.
We enjoyed chatting with the London kids this last time and were pleased that we had met them. Burning oil, smoke, noise and confusion reigned for several hours that day until the attack ended. I was enduring a bad head cold or I would have tried to mitigate the caloric onslaught as well.
This light wine immediately took on a much fruitier and fuller taste to some chemical transfer or other. We didna€™t think it odd to see the well-tended graves in the front yards of the prosperous looking homes. The local school had let out for lunch and the kids were walking the roads like kids everywhere.
They had an early flight out tomorrow morning and a lay over in Los Angeles, before the long flight back to Heathrow in London. We had shared the experience with Lynn and her father Peter from London and two Torontonians, Judy and Paul. We also neither saw nor encountered beggars or pan handlers of any kind during our stay on the island.
Inside, several bars and galleries led to the central three story, open well that extends from deck 5 to deck 8.
A huge waterfall, far in the distance, gave testimony to the force of the winds this high up. The shipa€™s two formal restaurants, several boutiques, the casino and other small cafes all opened off of this central court. It is resplendent in gleaming glass and shining brass with marble staircases and open glass elevators. We did our a€?Chevy Chasea€? and appreciated the beauty of the a€?Grand Canyon of the Pacifica€? as Mark Twain had once called it.
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