Monday, December 19, 2011

Hawaiian Islands Cruise

Crumpet Sr. has always wanted to go on a cruise. We wanted to be sure we see all of the main Hawaiian islands before Crumpet Sr. redeploys or the Navy decides it's time for us to move. Norwegian Cruise Line has a ship, the Pride of America, that travels from Oahu to Maui, the Big Island (Hawaii), and Kauai, so we decided to give it a try. We had a lot of fun, and we feel like we got a good overview of the islands.

We boarded in the mid-afternoon and did some exploring of the ship. Crumpet had a blast all week, just exploring. There are tons of restaurants (24 hour eating - great for a diet...sigh), a library that we borrowed books from, a game room, a movie theatre, pools and hot tubs, a video arcade, and a theatre where we saw some great shows. They do have a kid's club, where you can leave your kids to play, but Crumpet vetoed that on the first day...
They had some fun entertainment by the pool in the evenings. Crumpet enjoyed going to the "dance parties". He's a dancing fool - it's pretty funny to watch! Here is the main pool area:
Crumpet also loved the shows in the theatre. One night, a magician performed. There were also several musical events, including a selection of numbers from Broadway musicals and a tribute to Frankie Vallie, which Crumpet loved.
On deck, there is a giant chess board and a giant checkers board. Crumpet enjoyed creating huge battles with the chess pieces:
The youth counselors hosted a Lego hour in the game room. This was Crumpet's only access to Legos all week, and he was in heaven. Crumpet Sr. created a replica of the cruise ship, and he was very proud of it.
The ship was beautifully decorated for Christmas:Our cabin was really cute, and they do great things with hidden storage!
We decided to splurge and get a balcony room. We figured we'd need a little extra space. Also, the ship goes past 2 not-to-be-missed sights, and we wanted a comfy viewing area. From our room, we had a very good view of the life boats:
They were very clear about the fact that they had more than enough lifeboats for the people on board. This was good to hear, since we've read The Magic Tree House Titanic book and we know what can go wrong!So, we got unpacked and settled into cruise life. We pulled out of the Honolulu harbor as the sun was setting:
And arrived in Maui the next morning. Most of the places that the ship pulled into were industrial ports, so there was no walking around cute little towns and exploring. We decided to rent a car on Maui and see the last 2 sights that we missed during our visit last year. We had 2 days in port, so the first day we headed up to Haleakala National Park. This is an old volcano crater which rises 10,000 feet above sea level. Sunrise is meant to be phenomenal there, but we decided not to get up at 3 in the morning to see it. We saw it at midday and it was still a pretty view.
On the drive up, we saw lots of cows. This is actual cowboy country. We drove through the clouds on incredibly twisty roads. Maui is the only place Crumpet gets carsick... The roads are ridiculous.
The view at the top was very pretty.
It was amazing to be able to look down at the clouds.
It was also extremely chilly!!I might have announced that I have permanently adapted to the Hawaiian weather and will never move back to the Northeast... There is an observatory at the top of the crater because the skies are so clear up there.We were lucky enough to see several silversword plants. These are extremely rare. The only place on Earth that they grow is on top of this crater on Maui. This is one that flowered recently.And here's one without the blossom:When we returned to our room in the evening, we discovered that the room steward turned down the beds and left a very cute towel animal.
Much silliness ensued, with both boys wearing the critter on their heads... This became a nightly ritual.
We also discovered that Crumpet sleeps better on a cruise ship than anywhere else on Earth. Part of that was Dramamine induced (he was the only one of us who was seasick, and it wasn't too bad, fortunately), and part of it was sheer exhaustion.
On our second day in Maui, we went to see the Iao Needle. This is a cool land form in a very pretty state park.

The short hike up involved some nice resting spots.After we saw the Needle, we visited the Heritage Village nearby. This is a small park dedicated to to recognizing the people of many cultures that have immigrated to Hawaii over the years. It was a really neat place, and we learned a bit more about Hawaii and its history.


Portugal:This very cool spider was hanging out near the Portugese house:New England:
Next, we drove to our favorite lookout point on Maui to see if the whales had arrived for the season yet. They were there! I will never get tired of watching whales in Hawaii. So amazing...
Then we took the car back to the rental agency and returned to the ship for our trip to the Big Island.
We found this on our return:
And there was more of this:
The next morning we arrived in the town of Hilo, and we set off for a big adventure. We took a helicopter ride to the volcano! The only way to see active lava on Hawaii (the real name of the Big Island) is to take a helicopter to it, so we just had to go for it!
Here's our ride, getting some fuel:
I was afraid that Crumpet or I would freak out on this trip, but we did fine! There are noise canceling headphones so you don't hear the noise of the blades, and they play nice soothing music throughout the trip. The pilot can speak over the headphones, and we each had a microphone to ask any questions we might have. The rectangles below are full of macademia nut trees:The brown area below is an earlier lava trail that killed all of the trees in its path. It takes 200 years for the forest to regrow:Our first sighting of the active part of the volcano:
Our first lava:The current "big" flow of lava:
Apparently, the lava hasn't been flowing at all for about 8 months, and it had only started again a few days before we arrived. So we were lucky to see it!
Can you see the tiny red roof in the photo below? There used to be 200 houses in this area! In 1983, the volcano erupted and wiped out most of them. Over the last 30 years, more and more houses have been destroyed by lava flows and the resulting forest fires. This is the last house standing, and the owner walks four miles over lava fields every time he wants to go into town. The newest lava flow is 500 yards from his house...
There is lots of monitoring equipment on the edge of the volcano:

Crumpet rides in a helicopter:
Crumpet's mom rides in a helicopter:On the way back from the volcano, we saw this beautiful waterfall:
And our cruise ship:
We arrived home to this guy:
Overnight, the ship sailed to the other side of the Big Island. The cruise ship is supposed to travel past the volcano at night, so that passengers can see the lava hitting the sea. I've seen pictures of this, and it's amazing. Unfortunately, the current lava flow hasn't reached the ocean yet so we took a different route...
In the morning, we arrived in the cute town of Kona. The reef is too shallow near Kona to dock in the harbor, so we got to ride in the life boats to get to shore. I got a huge kick out of this.
Kona is a very cute town with lots of touristy shops and one of Hawaii's royal palaces:On the way back to the ship, we saw a couple of pods of dolphins, and we got to watch them from our balcony!
We didn't rent a car on the Big Island, and that is our one regret about the whole trip. We really didn't see enough of the island.
After Hawaii, we traveled to Kauai. To me, Kauai is like Oahu but even more fabulous. It is green and lush. And unpopulated. The few towns are adorable beach towns.
Kauai has many areas that are unreachable by car, so we chose to take another helicopter ride. The views were phenomenal, and worth the incredible airsickness I felt. (We had given Crumpet a Dramamine, and he fell asleep. The pilot told us that most children fall asleep on this trip!)
Check out the rainbow behind the helicopter. We saw incredible rainbows on this flight. Kauai is very rainy which is why it's so green.
We flew through Waimea Canyon, which is often called 'The Grand Canyon of the Pacific'. It truly was like the Grand Canyon, and it was stunning.
We flew right up to this amazing waterfall, which was featured in Jurassic Park.There were waterfalls everywhere!

Especially, here, a spot up in the mountains, which is officially the wettest place on Earth.
The trip was amazing. It was one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. I was very glad to get back to the landing pad though, before I got sick. The girl sitting next to me was not so lucky though, poor thing...
After our flight, we rented a car, and drove to the North Shore of Kauai. This is where the cute towns are, and we saw beautiful scenery. We stopped at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

All of the white spots on the cliff are birds.

There were many different kinds of birds at this park, including the Nene goose, which is native to Hawaii, and very much endangered.

This cool old lighthouse stands at the top of a cliff in the park.

After the wildlife refuge, we visited this wet cave. Crumpet Sr. really wished he had a kayak so we could explore further into the cave...

We did explore all the way to the back of this dry cave, using my camera flash as a flashlight. Spooky!!

More roadside views:

At the end of the day, we found this friend in our room:

On the second day in Kauai, we went to the beach and Crumpet Sr. went snorkeling.

Can you see the eel?
Crumpet and I explored some tide pools while Dad was swimming, and then Dad buried him in the sand:
When we got back to the ship, we took some last photos of the ship:
And found this display:
They sell a how-to dvd for creating towel animals. We didn't buy it, but I kind of wish I had! I'll have to google some directions!
On the way back to Oahu, the cruise ship passes the stunning Napali coast. This is another part of Kauai that is difficult to reach. We flew by on the helicopter but it was hard to get photos. We sat on our balcony, snapping pictures and oohing and aahing...
I LOVE the wrinkled mountains on the islands of Hawaii.
There were some gorgeous rainbows as we traveled along the coast.This double rainbow reflected in the water and came right up to the ship:
This was an amazing trip, and we absolutely know how lucky we are to live here and be able to explore these islands!

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