Friday, December 31, 2010

December 31, 2010

Another day of pretty clear weather, and one of inactivity for me as I have started to come down with a cold. Lots of liquid, a nap in the morning, watched a movie in the stateroom, off to lunch (great roast beef sandwich!!), and had a chance to talk to the ventriloquist on board for some of the entertainment. We talked for probably 15 minutes, so it was interesting to understand how he’ll do a performance. 
He uses an outline and he has a number of jokes from his life experiences that he can insert depending on the audience and how well things are going. He has a surprise character for tonight’s New Years Eve party. I wish I felt better because I would have liked to see it, but I have decided because of my cold, not to attend. Also, I am not in the mood for dressing up as tonight is one of the “formal” nights on the ship. Seeing in the new year has not been a high priority for me for as long as I can remember anyway. I’d just as soon go to bed early. 
What I am planning is to do laundry when the others are celebrating – I’m hoping I am the only one with this brilliant idea… No pictures today.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 30, 2010

Last night, during our transit to the Big Island, our captain informed us that we were making a brief detour to Honolulu for a medical emergency, so I got to see the skyline at night. We had to anchor a few miles offshore – it was easier and quicker to off-load and transport the individual than it would have been to dock (there may not have been space or there may have been security issues preventing us from getting closer). Anyway, the view was pretty awesome.
Today is our last day on the islands, and we finally the clouds parted. We saw the sun all day long. We are on the Big Island and our excursion was to the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut factory and to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
This was probably our best tour of all the ones we were on. Our guide was funny yet very knowledgeable about the geology, history, culture, flora, and fauna. Kilauea was spectacular and with the clear skies, we could easily see into the crater as well as the peaks of Mauna Loa, and Mauna Kea.
We also walked through a lava tube (600-800 years old). Lava tubes are how most of Kilauea’s lava is carried to the sea. The one we walked through was about 100 yards of its several mile length. There are others much longer. The one we were in was about 10 feet in diameter. It was in the middle of what is now a rain forest – thick vegetation because it is on the rainy side of the island (400 inches rain each year).
Kilauea crater is on the dry side (10 inches a year), just few miles away. We also made a stop where the lava flow of the 1974 eruption covered the road. The lava rocks were very rough and sharp.
With days like today, I can see why Hawaii is so popular, especially when you are on Hawaiian time. So much to see; each island is different. The downside is how expensive it is to live here. Tonight we leave the islands and spend the next four days at sea. We’ll have a brief 3 hour stop in Ensenada before returning to LA where I hear it is raining again.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December 29, 2010

Overcast skies again today. Our port is Nawiliwili, Kauai.
We actually saw a nawiliwili tree which the town is named after. Our excursion today was to Waimea Canyon which is supposedly a small version of Arizona’s Grand Canyon. We couldn’t really tell – when we got up there (3800’ above sea level) it was fogged in.
After about 15 minutes, the fog cleared up enough for about one good picture. Based on that picture, I am sure it is spectacular if it’s ever clear. I can believe why they call Kauai the Garden Island.
There is such an abundance of vegetation, it’s too much to describe. Our other stop was to Spouting Horn, a volcanic hole the becomes a geyser when the waves break on the shore. Thought I got some great video, but the camcorder didn’t show anything at all. Bummer…, but I did get some pictures.
Tonight is the Neptune Dinner aboard ship
– Filet Mignon & Lobster, drool, drool.
Tomorrow we head to our last port in Hawaii before heading back – Hilo on the Big Island.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December 28, 2010

The driver gave some insight to property ownership, and we saw the Iolani Palace from the outside only since this was a 15 minute stop. We also went up into the mountains to see the Punchbowl Cemetery, and Nuuanu Pali, before heading to the USS Arizona.
Due to the length of time waiting for the specific tour time at the Memorial, there was no time to see Waikiki, Diamond Head, or much of anything else
The Memorial had two interesting museums while waiting for your time to board the launch to the Memorial. One of the features is a scale model of the Arizona and the Memorial which was especially interesting since the water at the Memorial itself was murky.

There is still a sheen of oil and occasional bubbles of oil coming from the Arizona.
Hard to believe it was 69 years ago. The Memorial is simple and you are only allowed 15-20 minutes before heading back. Still it was very quiet and somber. Thanks to all our servicemen and women worldwide for their continued service.

Before returning to the ship, out tour bus drove through Chinatown, which appeared to me to be rather run down and dirty. The buildings are old and not well-kept. We got back to the ship too late to do anything else. Maybe next time we’ll see more…
The evening show was performed by a local hula dancing school for boys and girls, and was really enjoyable. Each dance was a story which was told first and you could follow the story through the movements. Very nice.
Tomorrow, we go to Kauai.

Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27, 2010

Arrived in Lahaina, Maui this morning. While waiting for clearance to leave the ship, we saw several whales breeching and playing near the ship as well as call our family. Our excursion was to the Iao Valley and the Maui Ocean Center.The sky was hazy due to the lack of trade winds and the constant eruption of Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island, and the threat of rain showers (which never happened).

Temperature was about 80F and fairly humid. Much better than the 40F and rain back home in Portland, Oregon. We could only go so far into the Iao Valley. Roads just don’t exist beyond where we were – it was a tropical jungle of all sorts of trees and vegetation and the mountain peaks went almost straight up. Whereas Lahaina might get 10” rain each year, the Iao Valley gets 400” (ie four hundred inches).
Our next stop was the Maui Ocean Center - an aquarium showing off the local tropical fish that live in the reefs around Maui. We also went through their underwater tube among larger fish and a variety of sharks and rays. One ray had a wingspan of nearly four feet and a tail at least ten feet long. We were able to do a bit of shopping and most things we bought were on sale.Back at the ship for dinner, I had a shrimp cocktail appetizer, pea soup, and swordfish AND prime rib (I actually liked the swordfish better). For dessert there was Bananas Foster.
Tomorrow we arrive in Oahu and an excursion to the USS Arizona Memorial.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

December 26, 2010

Today is a Jekyll & Hyde day for my morning walk. The Promenade Deck is open finally. The seas are a little choppy, but the big swells have diminished, so the ride is actually smoother. One side of the ship seems to be overcast and you can see rain squalls a few miles away. The other side is sunny and warm, and I even see the first bird since leaving Los Angeles. Walking another lap, I see a fantastic rainbow and take some pictures. The rainbow at times was single and then double and I could see both ends, but alas, no pot of gold.
At 10am we listen to a speaker discussing the Middle East, focusing on Iran going nuclear, and the concerns of other middle eastern countries and of course Israel. It’s a very complex problem.
I eased up on lunch and had a Captain’s Seafood Basket (calamari, shrimp, cod, clams), butmade up for it with dessert – Chocolate Nemesis Cake.
Claudia had a Monte Cristo sandwich and the Hawaiian Sunset for dessert.Tonight is a French themed dinner (escargot – yes!).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

December 25, 2010 Christmas Day

Even with another time zone change and gaining another hour, I get up late this morning. Again the Promenade deck is closed due to high winds, and the seas are still a bit rough, so off to the gym for my 2 mile walk. Buffet style breakfast, then to Claudia’s piano class and reading. I finished the Gert Boyle (Chairman of Columbia Sportswear) book One Tough Mother and began reading Jawbreaker.

The highlight of the day is the Grand Buffet at lunch. Table after table of all varieties of foods – meats, appetizers, sushi, fish, and desserts are set up in the main atrium. We were thinking about just going up to the Lido Deck for a burger or something because of a late breakfast and bistro snack that filled us up – and then I saw the chef carving the prime rib. So for lunch I have a custom made Cobb salad, prime rib, an oyster and some shrimp and lobster. I skip the dessert despite the opportunities. After lunch, Claudia heads off to see a lecture by Scott Bornstein, a memory training specialist. I figure the room will be packed, and since I can watch the replay on TV later, I head up to the Sun Deck to catch some rays, since it is mostly sunny today and the seas have calmed. Later we watch a TV program detailing the available excursions we can take in Hawaii.

Plans for tonight include the movie “Salt”, followed by the late stage show.

Friday, December 24, 2010

December 24, 2010

A smoother ride overnight so we slept well. Got up early to go for my morning walk around the Promenade Deck. As I opened the door, I was greeted by a soaking deck and a blast of 40mph drizzle in my face – I went to the gym and used a treadmill for the 2 miles. Would rather walk around the deck but was a little treacherous this morning. Later I noticed that the exits are roped off so the deck is closed. Wonder why…

Breakfast buffet on the Lido Deck – omelet, chicken sausage, hash browns, toast, grapefruit, salmon, papaya, mango (I like the mango!), and green tea.
Claudia’s piano class at 9am, so I did a couple of crosswords; afterward chatted with the golf pro (who played on the same course where my parents were members as I was growing up), and the pastor’s wife. We have a midnight Christmas service tonight.

Claudia has another class at 4:45pm today, but we’ll go to tea time at 3:30pm. We watched the rebroadcast of one of the speakers we missed yesterday (she was teaching), and we’ll watch again for this morning’s speaker.

Off to lunch. Artichoke & shrimp salad, Cioppini (shrimp, scallops, salmon, and white fish, in a stew). Outside the dining room is a display of Christmas desserts and a three foot high gingerbread house.

There’s not much going on outside as the seas are rough (20 foot?) and we are in and out of rain squalls. Next up – tea time, and then Claudia’s 4:45pm piano class.

Evening dinner (Caesar salad, roast duck, cherries jubilee) and show. Then rest for a bit before heading to the midnight Christmas church service. Then nighty-night time.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

December 23, 2010

The seas got lumpier throughout the night, so we were awakened a few times. It is still lumpy this morning (10-15 foot seas). I am up at 7am and do a 1 ½ mile walk around the ship (6 laps) before breakafast. The ship is still in lumpy seas so it is hard to walk a straight line, but the skies are mostly sunny and the sunrise is nearly as beautiful as I have seen. Breakfast in the buffet on the Lido Deck – scrambled eggs as I watch them cook in front of me, Canadian bacon, half a grapefruit (pre-sliced), salmon strip, and croissant.

Midday snack in the Bistro – bread, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, salmon strip (I love salmon). Lunch is leek soup, mixed grill (shrimp, scallops, salmon, red snapper). The seas have calmed, but the sky has a high overcast. Tea time is 3:30pm – tea, scones, cookies. Claudia’s first class is at 4:45pm – four students that are real beginners (one is a guitar player that wants to learn piano). Tonight is the first “ formal” night, so there are lots of tuxes, but my dark suit fits right in. Dinner companions have changed slightly. The one who was looking for a singles table found one with the priest, one of the Ambassador Hosts (single men who are solely dancing partners), and the one single gentleman who is 93 years old. We also lose the Protestant minister and his wife, but gain one of the computer instructors who we have sailed with before and a Finnish woman and her aunt. It’s a good table with lots of discussion – very interesting people. Since tonight is the first formal night, lobster is on the menu. I start off with an oyster appetizer, a salad, lobster with asparagus, and finishing with cookies and cream yogurt. Two of the others have caviar, and another two had steak. The rest of us went for the lobster. As you can see, we do not go hungry and we are never stuffed – always just the right amount.

After dinner entertainment was the stage show – Million Dollar Musicals, singers and dancers take you through a medley of music from famous musicals.
Earlier today we finally got set up with our account so we can have internet access.

My method of using the time wisely (since it is costly), is to do all my writing in Word, then copy and paste into the emails.
Anyway, we have our sea legs and are enjoying our time together. We cross a time zone tonight.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

December 22, 2010

Cruise Day has arrived. As we prepare to leave from our son’s house, we are in a torrential downpour that has hit southern California. All the way to San Pedro from Covina, it rains, just like it has for the last seven days we’ve been in LA. Then, as we approach the ship, the rain stops, and we see the sun and blue sky. We are so looking forward to getting underway. Our son and daughter-in-law joined us for lunch aboard the ship and we are able to give them a little tour before we depart. They leave as we approach the time for the life boat drill.

Such good food – my lunch today consisted of a seafood appetizer (shrimp, mussel, bay shrimp), filet mignon, and double Dutch chocolate yogurt. What a way to start! Dinner was a shrimp appetizer, iceberg lettuce salad with bacon bits and egg crumbles, rack of Wisconsin veal, and chocolate chip ice cream. Our dinner companions may change since this is only the first night and table assignments are not finalized. It was a ‘J;’ table – only two of the seven people at our table had a name that did NOT start with a ‘J’. Nice people including one of the clergy aboard the ship. His wife plays flute, so my wife and her are going to try to get together for a piano and flute duet for the Christmas Eve service.

So off we go with a slight rolling of the ship – even I do not quite have my full sea legs yet.

Friday, December 17, 2010

December 17, 2010

Departing Portland with Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier, and Mt Adams in the distance.
Mt Hood on our departure

This is Los Angeles???
On a bright sunny day in Portland (albeit 37 degrees), we fly to Los Angeles where it is 52 degrees and raining. What's with this? Portland's reputation for a winter forecast is high 45, low 35, and rain. On the other hand, Los Angeles seldom gets rain, and is usually 70-75 degrees.

Our departure was smooth with no body scans or pat downs. Flying out of Portland hasn't changed much with the exception that checked baggage does not need to be carried to a drop-off area (that $20/bag pays for the ticket agent to put it on a conveyor belt that they used to do for free). We got to the airport about three hours early since today is the beginning of the Christmas rush. We were ahead of the curve so no worries. Even the rain and traffic in LA didn't faze us (we weren't driving).
Now we get to visit with family for a few days before our cruise departs.
My next post will be on Wednesday the 22nd.