A Day at Pearl Harbor – Pacific Aviation Museum

This is part 2 of our day at Pearl Harbor, which began with about 3½ hours at the USS Arizona Memorial. We would have less than 2 hours to go through the Pacific Aviation Museum, which I knew would not be enough. It had become clear that to see Pearl Harbor properly requires a well-planned 3-day visit, not a few hours.

My regular readers know that I’m “just plane nuts”, so there’s a lot more information about planes here than normal people will want to go through, but I hope that you all enjoy this look through the excellent museum.

At 3:00 pm, after about a 15-minute wait, our shuttle bus left the USS Arizona Memorial to take people to both the Battleship Missouri and the Pacific Aviation Museum.
Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
Hanging in the entry hall of Hanger 37, the first of 2 hangars to go through, is a 1/3 scale model of the first airplane to fly in Hawai’i, a Curtiss P18 Honolulu Skylark. On December 31, 1910, thousands of people who had paid $1 each watched pilot J. C. “Bud” Mars make history with it at Samuel Damon’s Moanalua polo field.
Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
Admission to the museum is $25 per person, but we had a 2-for-1 coupon in our Entertainment Book, making both the book and the museum a great value. The museum displays begin by showing what a paradise Hawaii was for military personnel.
Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
Shortly before 08:00 on on Sunday, December 7, 1941, though, that paradise turned into hell for many. I found that abrupt change in displays of paradise and then incoming hell to be very effective, reinforcing the shock felt by the people who were here that day.
Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
The first display aircraft is a Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21 “Zero”. Although portrayed as one of the Pearl Harbor attack participants, this particular aircraft was built in December 1942. It had a maximum speed of 335 mph, but has been re-powered with a Pratt & Whitney R-1830 to keep it in flying condition – only one flyable Zero in the world still has the original engine.
Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21 Zero - Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21 Zero - Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
The Curtiss P-40E Warhawk was the principal Army fighter on Oahu in 1941. This aircraft is a replica, painted in the markings of the one flown by Lieutenant Ken Taylor, one of the few pilots able to get airborne during the attack on December 7th. He was able to shoot down 2 Japanese aircraft before being wounded, but he saved his aircraft.
Curtiss P-40E Warhawk - Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
A secret plan to bomb Tokyo using modified land-based Army B-25B Mitchell bombers launched from an aircraft carrier was developed by Lieutenant Colonel “Jimmy” Doolittle to boost American morale and shake Japanese confidence. This flight deck scene shows “Ruptured Duck” pilot Lieutenant Ted Lawson talking to Doolittle prior to their very successful April 18, 1942, attack at targets in the Tokyo area. This particular aircraft was built using parts from several wrecked B-25J airframes.
Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
The Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless, operated by both the US Navy and Marine Corps, is regarded as the most successful American dive bomber of World War II. They could drop bombs while in near-vertical dives, and were responsible for sinking all 4 of the Japanese aircraft carriers at the Battle of Midway, a success that turned the tide of the war in the Pacific.
Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless - Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
In this scene, U.S. Marine Captain Joe Foss stands by as mechanics ready his Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighter at Henderson Field for another mission over Guadalcanal. In his 51 days based there, Foss downed 26 Japanese aircraft, and was awarded the Medal of Honor as a result. This particular aircraft, #12296, crashed and sank in Lake Michigan on June 21, 1943, following an engine failure. It was recovered in 1991, and is now one of only two flyable Wildcats still in existence.
Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighter - Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
At 4:00 pm, Cathy came back to herd me on to the next hangar :) As we walked to Hangar 79, this great parking sign caught my eye.
Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
Sitting in the yard outside Hangar 79 is Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress, serial #41-2446, which first arrived in Hawaii 10 days after the Pearl Harbor attack. It was used for anti-submarine patrols until being assigned to northern Australia in February 1942. A few days later, during an attack on a well-defended invasion fleet off Rabaul, pilot Red Easton was forced to crash-land in the jungles of New Guinea. Known as the “Swamp Ghost” since being discovered in 1975, it was recovered in 2006, and recently returned to Hawaii to await a restoration estimated to cost $5 million.
Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress - Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
The entry to Hangar 79, looking back at the control tower, is spectacular for anyone with a passion for flying machines :)
Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
These bullet holes in the upper window glass of Hangar 79 were never repaired after the attack of December 7, 1941.
Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
Hangar 79 is very different than Hangar 37 – no elaborate displays have been built, and most of the aircraft are newer. The documentation of each aircraft is still very good, though.
Hangar 79 - Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
This CH-46E Sea Knight transport helicopter served with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 (HMM-364), the “Purple Foxes”, based at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, California. Just one week ago, one of the helicopters known as the “Phrog” made its last air show appearance, as it’s being retired from service, having been replaced by the MV-22B Osprey. Space is quite tight in Hangar 79, and this photo was created by stitching 2 photos together, as even with an 18mm lens I couldn’t get it all in the frame.
Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
Jim starts to show us a move he made many times in Viet Nam, climbing into a Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter (commonly known as the “Huey”). The first Hueys arrived in Viet Nam in 1962, and served the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps in medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), transport, aerial assault and general utility roles.
Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter - Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
Sitting at the back of Hangar 79 is “Cheeky Charley”, a Douglas C-47 Skytrain/DC-3A that is under active restoration. This particular aircraft served in the Pacific from 1943 to 1945, then went into commercial cargo service in Australia and later Hawaii. In April 2012, with total time of 55,000 hours on the airframe, Charley was towed from the Honolulu International Airport to its new home here.
Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
A final shot, of the sign thanking the “Hangar Owls”, the restoration crew.
Hangar Owls at Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i

We caught the last shuttle bus as the museum closed at 5:00, and made our way back to the city. Although hot and tired, we all went to the Kani Ka Pila Grille at the Outrigger for dinner. It was, as always, excellent in every way, and a very good band was playing as well.

After dinner, MJ and Jim drove to their condo while a half-sack of Fire Rock Pale Ale in our beautiful hotel room provided a tasty calm-down for Cathy and I. We discovered this beer in Lahaina and it was usually the choice for both Cathy and I when we were in a beer mood.
Fire Rock Pale Ale, Hawai'i

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A Day at Pearl Harbor – USS Arizona Memorial

The only big day we had planned for Oahu was a visit to Pearl Harbor, which we had booked months ago for the 4 of us. The USS Arizona Memorial was the first priority, next was the Pacific Aviation Museum, and if we had any time left there were more sites to see at Pearl Harbor.

A quick summary of a story you’ve all heard many times – on Sunday, December 7, 1941, shortly before 8:00 a.m., Japan attacked U.S. forces at 6 sites across the island of Oahu. In less than 2 hours, Pearl Harbor and several other military installations were left in fiery ruins. A total of 2,390 Americans were killed, over 320 aircraft were destroyed or damaged, and 21 vessels were sunk or damaged. The attack immediately brought the United States into World War II (and caused the Alaska Highway to be built) – it’s hard to imagine what the world might look like if the attack had not happened.

This was the view from the front of our hotel, the Outrigger Reef on the Beach, as we waited for MJ and Jim at 10:30. That’s the Trump International Hotel across the street, with prices starting at about $400 per night and going up to pretty much any amount you want to spend.
View from the front of the Outrigger Reef on the Beach, Hawaii
Finding a place to park at Pearl Harbor was a bit of a challenge, but I dropped the others at the gate and at 11:10 we were all ready to enter World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.
World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument - Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
Tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial are free, and the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center has an average of 2,000 first-come/ first-serve tickets available each day, but they apparently go quickly. By paying $9.00 each, we reserved an audio tour through the site, with a 1:30 visit to the memorial, which is accessed by boat.
Tickets for USS Arizona Memorial, Hawai'i
The first site on the audio tour is the Tree of Life, by architect Alfred Preis, on the left in this photo. The design is also used as the side windows in the shrine room of the memorial – it “has come to be known as a symbol of peace and harmony”.
Tree of Life Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
The first of 2 galleries that visitors go through is the “Road to War” Museum, which describes the long and complicated series of events that preceded the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Road to War Museum - Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
The military buildup in Hawaii, particularly keeping the U.S. Pacific Fleet there after manoeuvres in the spring of 1940, was felt by President Roosevelt to be “a restraining influence” on Japan, but Admiral Yamamoto stated that it was “tantamount to a dagger being pointed at our throat.”
Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
This large, very detailed model shows the Japanese aircraft carrier IMF Akagi as she looked on the morning of December 7, 1941. The 36 aircraft on deck, half of the aircraft carried on the ship, were part of the first wave of the attack – they could all be launched within 15 minutes. The Akagi, 855 feet long and with a crew of 1,600, was one of Japan’s 2 largest carriers.
Aircraft carrier Akagi - Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
The content of the Attack Museum begins as the Japanese aircraft begin their attack. Above the visitor is a 1/3 scale model of a Japanese Type 97 B5N2 Nakajima Torpedo Bomber known later in the war as a “Kate”.
Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
Throughout the site, the balance of written descriptions, photos and artifacts is excellent – while the horror of that morning is clear, the burned body in front of the bombed car in the centre of this photo is one of the very few like that.
Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
For me, small items like this are very significant in telling the story well – the edited speech that would become one of the famous in the country’s history.
Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
It’s quite incredible that some of the artifacts on display still exist. Despite the awesome damage done, the attacks on the island’s airfields – Ford Island, Hickam, Wheeler, Ewa, Kaneohe and Bellows – caused relatively few deaths.
Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
The treatment of American citizens of Japanese heritage following the attack on Pearl Harbor is in a display that’s currently being rebuilt, but the introductory panel makes me certain that it will be as unbiased as the rest of the presentations.
Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
This bronze near the exit from the Attack Museum shows the position of the USS Arizona Memorial over the ship (it doesn’t actually touch the ship).
USS Arizona Memorial - Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
This covered area allowed us to get out of the sun while we waited for our tour to begin. The bell from the USS Arizona hangs there.
USS Arizona Memorial - Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
While the others stayed out of the sun (it was about 88°F – 31°C), I had more to see. Along the shore between Contemplation Circle and Remembrance Circle, panels describe the path of the attacks.
USS Arizona Memorial - Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
At the Battleship Missouri Memorial, you can tour “Mighty Mo”, the last American battleship ever built and the last to be decommissioned. The surrender of the Japanese on her deck on September 2, 1945, brought the Second World War to an end. We ran out of time before getting to that site.
Battleship Missouri Memorial - Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
The 75-minute tour that we booked for 1:30 began with a 23-minute documentary film about the attack, and then about 200 of us boarded a Navy boat to the memorial.
Boat to the USS Arizona Memorial - Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
The Bowfin Submarine Museum, with over 4,000 submarine-related artifacts, from recruiting posters to battle flags, is located within walking distance of the Arizona Memorial. It’s seen here from our shuttle boat. The USS Bowfin, dubbed the “Pearl Harbor Avenger,” was launched on December 7, 1942. She completed 9 successful patrols and sunk 44 enemy ships before the war’s end.
Bowfin Submarine Museum - Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
Construction of the USS Arizona Memorial began in 1960, and it was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1962. The structure is 184 feet long, 36 feet wide and 21 feet high at the ends, tapering to 27 feet wide and 14 feet high at the center. The concave silhouette symbolizes America’s initial defeat and ultimate victory in World War II.
USS Arizona Memorial - Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
The centre of the memorial is the Assembly Room, from where visitors can look down on the deck of the USS Arizona a few feet below. Even with hundreds of people there, there was hardly a sound. During the peak summer months, an average of 4,800 people come though the memorial each day, totalling 1.8 million last year.
USS Arizona Memorial - Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
This was the base of Gun Turret No. 3. The ship was hit by four 1,757-pound bombs – the last one hit near Gun Turret 2 at 08:06, went through the armoured deck, and 7 seconds later, the forward ammunition magazine detonated. The explosion killed 1,177 of the 1,512 crewmen on board at the time.
USS Arizona Gun Turret No. 3 - Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i
The day before the attack, the USS Arizona had taken on a full load of fuel – nearly 1.5 million gallons. About 500,000 gallons remain in the ship’s tanks and are leaking out at the rate of 4-9 quarts each day. I’m one of the people who see it as the tears of the ship, but the reality is that some day the tanks will corrode through and release all of that oil, and studies are under way to try to find a solution that doesn’t desecrate the tomb of 948 of the men killed that day, as well as others who survived but have had their ashes interred in the ship.
Oil leaking from the USS Arizona - Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i

The Shrine Room, where the names of all the men killed in the explosion and sinking of the USS Arizona are listed, is currently being rebuilt, so we didn’t get to experience what many people say is the most moving part of the tour. The rebuild will be completed by November.

The choppy water wasn’t conducive to good viewing into the water, but the ship could still be clearly seen.
Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i

Just before 2:30 pm, we sailed away from the memorial and would soon be headed for the shuttle bus that would take us to the Pacific Aviation Museum. This post has gotten long enough, so I’ll continue the day on another post.

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Back in Honolulu, Switching from Ship to Hotel

Saturday evening was a busy night for most of the passengers on the Celebrity Solstice, but not in a good way. For about 2,400 of the 2,800, this was our last night on the ship – on Sunday morning we had to disembark in Honolulu. The other 400 would continue to Australia on her.

For many, it was the end of their vacation, and flights home were booked for Sunday. Cathy and I chose to stay in Honolulu for 4 nights, though, as the ship had allowed for no good beach time, and we couldn’t imagine leaving the islands without some time enjoying the sand and sea as well as the sun.

When I looked out our cabin windows at 06:05 Sunday morning, we were already well past Diamond Head. We were in no hurry at all to get off the ship, so had booked the latest possible disembarkation time – 9:30. That would give us a relaxing morning, and might even allow for an early checkin at our hotel.
Diamond Head - Honolulu, Hawai'i
Approaching the harbor 5 minutes later.
Approaching Honolulu Harbor, Hawai'i
There were lots of people already out enjoying the warm water as the sun came up.
Aa Moana Park - Honolulu, Hawai'i
A few hundred cars had been gathered in the container yard beside the pier we docked at, and this group, 100 or so, were all damaged, some badly. I’m curious as to why they were there. I initially thought they it was a rental fleet, but a few didn’t looked like rental cars.
Damaged cars at Honolulu, Hawaii
As we docked, Holland America’s Oosterdam was approaching – she too was on a repositioning sailing to Australia.
Holland America's Oosterdam approaching Honolulu, Hawaii
Just before 08:00, the 2 Atlantis submarines (of the tourist type) were being towed past us, out towards Diamond Head somewhere.
Atlantis tourist submarine at Honolulu, Hawaii
Cathy and I love the canopied hammocks on the ship, and decided to spend one more morning there. MJ and Jim joined us there while we waited for our disembarkation time.
Canopied hammock on the Celebrity Solstice
The ship’s crew was very busy as we relaxed. They had to make the ship perfect for the passengers who would soon be boarding. Although everything was already clean, it was all cleaned again, including getting a few grains of dried salt off the windows.
Window cleaning on the Celebrity Solstice
Fifteen minutes before the allocated time, the 4 of us went to the main dining room as requested, to await the call to disembark.
Main dining room on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
We were group #35 to leave the ship that morning, with perhaps 60 people in each group. That makes disembarkation so easy, so stress-free. As we were leaving, a large team of agents was being briefed for the arrival of 2,400 new passengers starting in about 90 minutes.
Disembarking a cruise ship at Honolulu, Hawai'i
Even finding our luggage was easy – all the bags were set out in groups matching our numbers. I overheard a Celebrity agent phone a woman, who had already left in a taxi from what I heard, to tell her that she’d forgotten a bag there. That’s impressive luggage control!
Disembarking a cruise ship at Honolulu, Hawai'i
Unfortunately, with 2 large cruise ships docking at the same time, that’s where the efficiency ended. We needed 2 taxis, and the lineup was very long. I spotted a Hertz shuttle bus, and instead of waiting for a taxi, Jim and I caught it to the airport to get the Hertz car he had rented, while Cathy and MJ had to wait 45 minutes in the heat to get a taxi to our hotel.
Disembarking a cruise ship at Honolulu, Hawai'i
The rental car area at the Honolulu airport is quite easy to find and navigate.
Getting a rental car at Honolulu airport, Hawaii
Right in front of the generic silver rental car Jim had been assigned, this Challenger RT was waiting. Aw come on, Jim, see if you can get an upgrade – I’ll even drive it for you! :)
Challenger RT rental car at Honolulu, Hawaii
The traffic in greater Honolulu is quite bad, although it doesn’t look it in this photo taken on H1. I was surprised by the size of the freeways, but also by the speed limits – 45 mph is the norm, and you can see a sign reducing it to 35 in this photo. Given the short distances involved, I suppose that 45 is reasonable, but those signs look funny on a freeway.
Freeway H1 in Honolulu, Hawaii
Jim and I got to the beachfront hotel that Cathy and I had booked, the Outrigger Reef on the Beach, just before 11:30, and within a half hour the 4 of us were checking out our room, #1436. It’s a mid-priced room, with a partial ocean view which we’re very pleased with. The beach isn’t a priority for MJ and Jim, so they booked a much cheaper condo a couple of miles from us.
The view from the 14th floor of the Outrigger Reef on the Beach - Honolulu, Hawai'i
When MJ and Jim got word that their condo was ready, they left, and after having a look around the property a bit, we went for dinner at the Shore Bird Restaurant & Beach Bar, one of the 3 restaurants in the hotel. The food, service and location were all excellent, and after dinner, as the sun started to set just before 6:00 pm, we walked a few feet from our table to enjoy the beach.
The beach in front of the Outrigger Reef on the Beach - Honolulu, Hawai'i
Just after the sun set, this huge storm moved in over the beach, and when the rain started, I’d never seen a beach clear so fast!
Storm over the beach at Honolulu, Hawai'i
One more photo taken from our room, then we did some exploring of the streets around the hotel, lined with some of the best hotels in Honolulu, and some very interesting shops.
The view from the 14th floor of the Outrigger Reef on the Beach - Honolulu, Hawai'i

The next day was planned to be spent at Pearl Harbor with our friends.

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Exploring Lahaina, & Scuba at Lanai

On Friday night, our ship stayed in the harbour at Lahaina, Maui, allowing me to book an early-morning scuba trip to the island of Lanai for Saturday.

Just before 06:00, I boarded a tender to get back ashore from the Celebrity Solstice. The seas were rougher than they had been the previous evening, which surprised me.
Catching an early-morning tender ashore at Lahaina, Maui
It’s about a mile walk from the tender dock to Malo Pier, and the first few blocks afforded great views of the harbour and the Solstice.
Celebrity Solstice at Lahaina, Maui
Now that’s a Neighborhood Watch sign I hadn’t seen before!
Neighborhood Watch shark sign at Lahaina, Maui
At 06:30, I met the guys from Extended Horizons. Signing up was very well organized, and gave me confidence that we’d picked the right operator. The boat isn’t launched until all the paperwork, gear assignments and initial briefings are finished.
Extended Horizons scuba trip starting at Lahaina, Maui
It was about 45 minutes across to Lanai, and although, the seas were quite rough, divemasters Erik and James gave more detailed information about our first dive site, called Wash Rock. It would allow depths of up to 80 feet, with bottom times of up to 40 minutes. My first impression was that the bottom had little colour compared to my best-ever dive at Grand Turk, but there were lots of fish, and wonderful lava formations.
Extended Horizons scuba trip at Lanai, Hawaii
Extended Horizons scuba trip at Lanai, Hawaii
A few minutes away by boat, our second dive spot after a light lunch was First Cathedral, an aptly-named lava formation that really has to be seen to be appreciated. I haven’t found any photos online that do it justice. I didn’t even bring my underwater camera – I don’t dive very often, and need to focus on things that are much more important than a camera. First Cathedral only took us to 60 feet, allowing for 50 minutes bottom time. The next photo is of James, divemaster for the group of 5 divers I was in.
Extended Horizons scuba trip at Lanai, Hawaii
Extended Horizons scuba trip at Lanai, Hawaii
I can’t say enough about the professionalism, and the passion for the sea, that all 3 of the Extended Horizons crew showed. All the way back to Lahaina, a post-dive talk about what we’d seen continued, and this summary was written up on a whiteboard as we talked. If we’d been on a Maui land vacation instead of a cruise, I’d have been diving with them every day after that.
Dive record from Extended Horizons, Maui
Getting our gear together and saying goodbyes back at the Malo Pier (and buying a “Dive Cathedrals” t-shirt :) )
Extended Horizons scuba trip ending at Lahaina, Maui
The old Malo Pier is in tough shape and has been fenced off.
Lahaina, Maui
The road to the Malo Pier goes through the middle of a very large cemetery that has several signs posted stating “Burial Site. Keep Out!”.
Burial site at Lahaina, Maui
I saw many of these signs posted on telephone poles as I walked back to town to meet Cathy and the others for lunch. Wild dogs killing pets – wow!
Wild dogs killing pets at Lahaina, Maui
MJ wanted to have lunch at Cheeseburger in Paradise, a spot she and Jim had discovered on their last visit to Maui 2 years ago.
Cheeseburger in Paradise - Lahaina, Maui
Yes, the burgers at Cheeseburger in Paradise are large and very good! Add excellent service and a great local vibe and it goes on my Highly Recommended list.
Cheeseburger in Paradise - Lahaina, Maui
A little park near the tender dock that attracts locals.
Lahaina, Maui
Back at Lahaina Banyan Court Park, an art show was being held, with dozens of artists in almost any media imaginable. Some of them are very good, but we didn’t add anything to the collection.
Lahaina, Maui
I was very tired from the dives and walking, so I took some final shots of Lahaina and we took a tender back to the ship just before 3:00.
Lahaina, Maui

At 6:00 pm, we sailed from Lahaina, bound for Honolulu, where we would disembark the next morning.

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Exploring Lahaina, Maui

On Friday and Saturday, we were in Lahaina, Maui. I had a 5-hour scuba charter booked for Saturday morning, but other than that we had no plans. Seeing the sun rise from the top of Haleakala is one of the must-sees on Maui, but even with our overnight stay, this trip didn’t allow for it (I saw it in 1970, though, and can still remember it :) ).

My day started rather late again – this is an HDR image created from 4 images I shot at 06:12.
Sunrise off the coast of Maui
Despite the very high cost of electricity in Hawaii ($400 seems to be the average monthly bill for a home without air conditioning), we’ve seen surprisingly few solar or wind installations. This wind farm on the southwest coast of Maui is by far the largest we saw.
Wind farm on Maui
I love the morning skies- this was shot at 06:30.
We had agreed to a late start for a wander around Lahaina with our friends – the tenders had been running for over an hour by the time I shot this at 09:00.
Lahaina as seen from the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
Lahaina Banyan Court Park was a lovely spot to start the day ashore. The single banyan tree that covers the park was imported from India in 1873, and is now one of the largest banyan trees in the world.
Lahaina Banyan tree
The main thing that I wanted to see was the Whalers Village Museum, so we took a cab to Ka’anapali ($15). The museum is located in the very attractive Whalers Village mall.
Whalers Village mall, Maui
Despite being Maui’s 3rd most visited attraction, I didn’t have high hopes for the museum because it’s part of a shopping mall and admission was only $2 each for Jim and I, and $3 for the youngster, Cathy. MJ had been here 2 years ago, so went shopping instead.
Whalers Village Museum, Maui
As soon as we walked in the door, I knew that my notion about the museum’s quality was wrong. There’s an audio tour available, but I’d be the slowpoke in the group even without that. A speaker from NOAA was about to begin, so we started with that. The speaker was very good, and we had barely started on the museum itself when our planned 1-hour visit was over, so Cathy went to find MJ and tell her to plan on another 45 minutes.
Whalers Village Museum, Maui
The displays in the museum are very high quality, the interpretation clear and well researched. The “forest” in this photo mural is baleen.
Baleen in the Whalers Village Museum, Maui
The collection of scrimshaw is notably good, with some unique and very high quality artifacts.
Scrimshaw in the Whalers Village Museum, Maui
These 5 teeth show the traditional process of creating scrimshaw. Crewmen on whaling ships had a lot of time to kill until the next time the call “Thar she blows!” got them back to their hard, dangerous work, and creating scrimshaw was a very popular pastime.
Scrimshaw in the Whalers Village Museum, Maui
This is a good example of the wonderful detail in the museum – it shows the book whose illustration was copied to create the scrimshaw.
Scrimshaw in the Whalers Village Museum, Maui

I thought that I was quite knowledgeable about whaling, but I could have easily spent an hour longer. The detailed descriptions of whaling crew duties and pay was particularly interesting. For anyone with an interest in history, this museum truly is a must-see.

We had lunch in the Barefoot Bar at the Hula Grill, located on the beach at the mall. The food, as always on this trip, was excellent. This wonderful dessert is called Baked Hawaii – it’s pineapple upside-down cake, with Tahitian vanilla ice cream, toasted meringue and caramel rum sauce – yuuuum! ($9)
Baked Hawaii dessert at the Hula Grill on Maui
The view in front of the Hula Grill.
The view in front of the Hula Grill.
Walking on the beach after lunch, Cathy and I had little pangs of regret that we had cancelled a 5-day stay at the Sheraton resort seen in the background. But we’re both really missing the fur-kids, which is why we cancelled that extension to the trip, so we’re glad in the end that we did.
Beach in front of the Hula Grill on Maui
Walking back through the mall to catch a cab back to the pier, this sign caught my eye. From hearing some of the families we’ve encountered, this shop might do really well if they take trade-ins :)
Sign in store - 'Kids Now Available'
Across the street from Whalers Village is the Kaanapali Golf Course.
By 3:15, we were watching surfers while standing in a short line to catch the next tender back to the ship.
Surfers at Lahaina
Looking back at the pier and the Best Western Pioneer Inn from the tender.
Best Western Pioneer Inn in Lahaina
Sunset over the island of Lanai, at 6:14. In just over 12 hours I’d be meeting a boat to go diving off Lanai.
Sunset over Lanai, Hawaii
That evening, the 4 of us had dinner at the last of the specialty restaurants we hadn’t yet tried, Silk Harvest. As always, the food, and the entire dining experience, was wonderful – well worth the extra charge for it ($30 per person, less when you buy a package as we did).

I was in bed early, as I had to catch a tender at 06:00 and then walk about a mile to the pier to meet my dive operator.

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Exploring Kona, Hawaii

On Thursday, we were scheduled to be docked at Kailua-Kona (Kailua Village) from 11:00 am until 8:00 pm, and our plan was to rent a car and just explore Kona district, with a coffee plantation and a historic site being the must-sees.

Sunrise off the west coast of the island of Hawaii at 06:18, from the back deck of the Celebrity Solstice.
Sunrise off the west coast of Hawaii
Our guide in Hilo had warned us that there could be some heavy seas to deal with at Kailua-Kona, where we would use tenders to get ashore, and he was right. What looked to me to be quite calm seas looked very different at the shoreline!
Heavy surf at Kailua-Kona
Heavy surf at Kailua-Kona
We anchored about a mile offshore just before 10:30, and a few minutes later five of the tenders were being lowered. We went to Cellar Masters on Deck 4 to get tender tickets as soon as the announcement was made to do that, but got tickets for tender #31, so a lot of people were there before the announcement.
At 12:15, we finally got to board our tender, and 10 minutes later were ashore.
Boarding a tender from the Celebrity Solstice
We had rented our car from Thrifty, which has an office in the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel, a block from the pier. Imagine our surprise when we arrived and were told that the agent had closed up and gone home 10 minutes before, and wouldn’t be back! With people pouring off a 2,800-passenger ship, he wondered why so many of his clients had been no-shows. The hotel concierge was great, though, and found us a car at Enterprise, where we got excellent service. The lobby of the hotel was a very comfortable place to deal with the mess, at least.
Lobby of the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel
We weren’t on the road until about 1:00 pm, so our plan got modified a bit – we now wanted a coffee tour at a place that also had a restaurant. I noted a sign for Kona Joe Coffee as we drove to a place that had been recommended, but which turned out to not have food available, so went back a couple of miles. As soon as I turned into Kona Joe’s driveway, I knew that we’d like these people :)
Kona Joe Coffee, Hawaii
The cafe area at Kona Joe’s is lovely, and the view on a nice day would be spectacular – a thick haze made it much less so for us.
Kona Joe Coffee, Hawaii
All 4 of us agreed that both the coffee and the food were amazing – and those comments are from people who had been spoiled by excellent food for over a week.
Kona Joe Coffee, Hawaii

Just after 3:00 pm, we began our coffee tour with 3 other Canadians, from Saskatchewan and Alberta. Our coffee guide was Rafael, an agriculture student from Brasil. He apologized several times for his poor English, but it was excellent, and his passion for the coffee industry and specifically this company, was wonderful to see.

Kona Joe is the world’s first trellised coffee plantation – their tagline is “Coffee Grown Like Wine” because they grow it in a similar manner to grapes. Instead of a single stalk, the plant is split along trellises to increase the yield – their entire plantation is only 20 acres.
Kona Joe Coffee, Hawaii
Rafael explained in great detail about the process of getting into the coffee beans. The red “cherries” (and only the red, ripe ones), are hand picked. Large coffee operations pick every bean, ripe or not, with machines – while that greatly lowers the cost of production, it also greatly reduces the quality of the coffee. Having already had a cup of Kona Joe’s coffee, I knew what he was talking about – this is not what I drink at home, unfortunately.
Coffee cherries at Kona Joe Coffee, Hawaii
The cherries are then split open to get the seeds, which are coated with a thick, sweet oil. Some cherries only have one seed, which produces a generally higher quality coffee known as peaberry.
Kona Joe Coffee, Hawaii
I was very surprised by the number of steps needed to get to the final product, and even the fine grading of beans for a specific type. Rafael saw qualities in the beans that I couldn’t discern.
Kona Joe Coffee, Hawaii
The final stop of the 45-minute tour was, of course, the store. At the time I couldn’t wrap my head around paying up to $75 per pound for coffee, but the more I think about it, the more I think that it would be nice to have a “special-occasion coffee” in the same way we do wine – we have the “homers” for our evening calm-down time, and our special occasion wines.
Kona Joe Coffee, Hawaii
Our stop at Kona Joe’s was far longer than we had planned on, and as we left right at 4:00 pm, we were very aware that it would be dark in just over 2 hours, so we made a dash for the other must-see, “The Place of Refuge”, officially Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, Hawaii
I assume because we arrived so late, the woman at the gate just waved us through – we picked up a self-tour map and started out. The Hawaii Tourism Authority summarizes the reason for this existence of this refuge: “Kapu, or sacred laws, were of utmost importance to Hawaiian culture and the breaking of kapu could mean death. A kapu-breaker’s only chance for survival was to evade his pursuers and make it to a puuhonua, or a sacred place of refuge. Once there, a ceremony of absolution would take place and the law-breaker would be able to return to society.”
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, Hawaii
This little bay, Keone’ele Cove, was reserved for royalty. As the ali’i (chiefs) approached in their canoes, a pu (conch shell) was sounded as a warning, as it was forbidden for others to look at or even let their shadow touch the ali’i.
Keone'ele Cove at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, Hawaii
The main wall marking the boundary between the royal grounds and the sanctuary is impressive, up to 10 feet high and 17 feet thick.
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, Hawaii
Many ki’i (carved wooden images) surround the Hale o Keawe, housing the bones of the chiefs that infuse the area with their power or mana. If lawbreakers reached this sacred place, they were safe.
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, Hawaii
This angry-looking ki’i was unique, as none of the others had what appears to be a huge penis. I’m intrigued, but a Google search has been unsuccessful.
Ki'i at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, Hawaii
Don’t pile rocks! :)
We haven’t seen many birds, but this Safron finch came quite close to us.
Safron finch in Hawaii
As we were leaving the park, I made one more detour down a side road that I hoped would lead to a great beach where the main wall ended. It turned out to require a walk that we didn’t have time for, but we did see this trail (upgraded for use by pack animals in 1871) that used to lead to several fishing villages. It is now called the 1871 Trail.
1871 Trail at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, Hawaii
We dropped the cat back at Enterprise just after 6:00 pm, and took a taxi to the pier ($7), arriving as the last rays of the sun lit our ship up.

At 8:00, we set sail for Lahaina, Maui, where we’d stay for 2 days.

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Exploring Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

For our stop in Hilo on Wednesday, Cathy and I hired a private guide to take us on an all-day tour of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. This is a lengthy post, but it was an amazing day, and it took 40 of the 250 photos I shot to share it properly.

The first photos of the day, of the dawn light, were shot from our balcony for a change – this one at 05:59.
Dawn light among the Hawaiian islands
Mauna Kea, 4,205 meters (13,796 feet) high forms the island of Hawaii as you approach from the north-east along the Hamakua Coast.
Mauna Kea, Hawaii
At 07:20, the crew was already hard at work rebuilding the second outdoor pool on the Celebrity Solstice.
Rebuilding a swimming pol on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
On top of Mauna Kea is an observatory complex operated by 11 nations including Canada, France and Japan. Among the telescopes is the largest one in the world, in the W. M. Keck Observatory. It has a 33-foot mirror which is made from 33 small hexagonal mirrors, rather like a fly’s eye.
Mauna Kea observatories
The ruins of a sugar mill, seen as we neared Hilo. Beaches are rare along this coast, volcanic cliffs being the norm.
Sugar mill ruins near Hilo, Hawaii
A bridge on Heritage Drive, Highway 19, a few miles northwest of Hilo.
A bridge on Heritage Drive, Hawaii Highway 19
Although the volcanic cliffs look solid, that is apparently not the case, as this one has slid away to the point that the concrete slab foundation of this house is now hanging over the edge a few feet.
House falling off a cliff into the sea near Hilo
Moku Ola (Coconut Island), a beautiful park in Hilo Bay near the cruise port.
Moku Ola (Coconut Island), Hawai'i
This restaurant, jutting many feet out over the water, appears to be abandoned.
Abandoned restaurant at Hilo, Hawaii
The Pacific Princess arrived a few hours before us, and would leave a few hours before us as well.
The Pacific Princess in Hilo, Hawai'i
The Celebrity Solstice docked at Hilo at 10:30, and we were allowed to disembark at about 11:00. Our guide had us walk a couple of blocks to meet him away from the very busy terminal area.
The Celebrity Solstice docked at Hilo, Hawaii
Cathy had found Warren Costa online while looking for the highest possible quality tour of the volcanic area. He operates as Native Guide Hawaii, was born in Hilo, and among other skills, has worked for the National Park Service. He first took us to an area of beautiful beaches along the Keaukaha coast (that can be reached by Hilo city bus).
Beautiful beach along the Keaukaha coast near Hilo
Once the most popular driving route around the Kilauea volcanic region, a few miles of Crater Rim Road is now closed due to volcanic activity.
It was 1:00 pm when we reached our first volcano-related stop, at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory overlooking the Kilauea Caldera.
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory overlooking the Kilauea Caldera
On the drive up to about 4,000 feet elevation, Warren had given us a lot of information about the volcanoes, and tucked away behind some water tanks, now showed us a cross-section of volcanic layers going back to AD 1500. This was certainly not a site that many people would see. At the 1500 layer was a substance called reticulite, which is mostly air and crumbles like dry foam.
Volcanic layers at Kilauea Iki Crater, Hawaii
The size of the Kilauea Caldera is staggering, and would clearly take days to properly explore. Most of the roads and trails around it are closed due to the activity, particularly the poisonous gases including sulphur dioxide that are sometimes being expelled along with steam from the many vents that are visible everywhere for several miles, even along Highway 11.
Kilauea Caldera
We stopped for an excellent lunch at a picnic site at the Kilauea Overlook, which offers a somewhat different view that the one from the observatory area. This is an incredibly powerful area – not only the obvious physical power of the earth, but spiritual power as well, and Warren feels that power deeply. Traditional Hawaiian beliefs hold Mauna Loa and Kilauea as wahi pana (sacred areas) – this is the home of Pelehonomea, the deity of volcanic power (her name is usually shortened to Pele).
Kilauea Overlook
The crowd of tourists at the parking lot for the Thurston Lava Tube literally made my stomach churn, and I was very pleased when we didn’t stop. A single day can only give visitors a very brief look at the park, and Warren knows how to give people who want to really understand it the best experience. Within a couple of hours, Cathy and I were extremely pleased with our choice for this day.
Crowds at Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii
Heading down the Chain of Craters Road, a 19-mile dead-end road that drops 3,700 feet to the coast, we next stopped beside the road near Hi’iaka Crater, and walked down a barely visible trail towards the crater to get a close-up look at a recent lava flow (1973) as well as older formations. This sliver that Cathy is holding is lava that was spit out by a vent.
A sliver of lava
The colour and texture variations of the lava are endless, depending on the mineral content, the temperature, the pressure that the lava was expelled with, and other conditions.
Some of the lava has so much air in it that it is quite light – I don’t do this with Yukon granite! :) That chunk probably weighed about 50 pounds.
Hoisting a large chunk of lava
We were often walking on thin layers of lava, but it only became obvious where someone had broken through (none of us did, but I can see how a hiker could be injured this way). The layer shown in this photo is less than 2 inches thick.
A lava tube
The texture of the lava can be very different on the bottom side of a layer.
Cooled lava in Hawaii
Among the lava flows, many of these orchids were growing.
Wild orchid in Hawaii
How incredible it would be to see this flowing! At several points through the day, we could smell forest fire smoke, from the area about 30 miles away where lava is currently flowing.
We reached the Hi’iaka Crater a few minutes after 3:00 pm, and I was very conscious of the fact that sunset was only 3 hours away. I’m still rather at a loss for the right words to describe the experience of seeing these signs of Pele’s power.
Hi'iaka Crater, Hawai'i
We were surprised to hear that it can take hours for a tree to burn. When the hot lava reaches a cool, damp tree, a bit of it is cooled enough to slightly insulate the tree, and by the time the trunk burns through, the lava around it has sometimes cooled enough that the rest of the tree doesn’t get burned. When the trunk is completely consumed, a hole remains forever in the cooled lava.
Dead tree on cooled lava in Hawai'i
The views from a mile of the Chain of Craters Road down to the coast is superb – Apua Point is in the centre of this photo. Warren was mostly excited about the great waves, and a forecast for very good surfing the next day :)
I could spend days taking pictures of the infinite variety of lava forms and shapes, especially when various types of vegetation are colonizing it.
At several spots along the top of the slope, two dramatically different lava forms can be seen side by side. The smooth flow is known as pahoehoe, the rough one ‘a’a. The most significant factor in the creation of the two types is the temperature of the lava – pahoehoe is hotter so flows more smoothly.
Pahoehoe and 'a'a lava in Hawai'i
Warren asked if we wanted to go on a hike, and when we answered in the affirmative, he stopped at the trail to Pu’uloa, one of the most revered cultural sites in Hawai’i. Ke ala kahiko (the path of the old ones) is now a 1.4 mile (2.3 km) route from the Chain of Craters Road, marked by cairns. Pu’uloa is home to the largest array of petroglyphs in the state, carved into lava flows from 400-700 years ago, and to us, is a “must-experience”, though relatively few people do.
Trail to Pu'uloa petroglypths in Hawai'i
Untrained eyes would be unlikely to see this spot beside the trail as anything of cultural significance, but the bush at lower right marks a pit created by mahi’ai (farmers) by piling rocks. In such pits, enough soil and moisture could be gathered to grow ‘uala, a small sweet potato. One of things that we really enjoyed about listening to Warren is hearing Hawaiian names and terminology pronounced correctly – although there aren’t many letters in the written language, pronunciation of them is often quite different than English speakers expect.
A pit for growing 'uala in Hawaii
At Pu’uloa, a boardwalk protects the petroglyphs by keeping visitors to a specific route, and above the ground. The area where the petroglyphs have been carved is very much larger than what can be seen from here – there are a total of over 23,000 carvings, some in shapes such as human forms that are easy to recognize, others more abstract.
Boardwalk at Pu'uloa
The name Pu’uloa (large hill) carries a kaona (hidden meaning) – hill of long life. Families with genealogical ties to this land have come here to place the piko (umbilical cord) of their child, in the hope that the mana (spiritual power) of Pu’uloa would bless that child with a long and prosperous life, and root them to their ancestral lands. Each puka (hole) is made for a single piko – of the 23,000 petroglyphs at Pu’uloa, about 16,000 are piko related.
Petroglyphs at Pu'uloa, Hawai'i></center> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <center><img src=“>
The best photo I got of Warren is this one of him taking a selfie among the pictographs for his Facebook page.
Warren Costa among the pictographs
Looking back up at the slope we drove down, I tried to imagine what that would look like with molten lava flowing down it. “Incredible” is a word that I used a lot this day.
Lava flow along Chain of Craters Road in Hawai'i
Chain of Craters Road is now gated about half a mile from where it ends at one of the lava flow that has come across the road in recent years. Work started a few days ago to re-open it, initially just as an emergency access road for residents of Lower Puna who may be cut off if a flow that started in late June crosses Highway 130 at Pahoa.
Chain of Craters Road
At the end of the Chain of Craters Road, a very short walk takes you to the impressive cliff edge – there are several signs warning of the dangers.
The main feature there is the Holei Sea Arch. A photographer there was waiting for what he called “the perfect wave” – one whose spray would hit the top of the arch. Although it could come, I wasn’t nearly that patient :)

From there, Warren drove us back to the pier – we arrived well after sunset, and it was pitch dark. This had been the day that both Cathy and I had been looking forward to, and it was even better than we expected.

At 8:00 pm, we sailed for Kona.

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A Circle Tour of Oahu by Car

We overnighted aboard the Celebrity Solstice in Honolulu Harbor Monday night, and had a car booked from Enterprise for Tuesday morning. The general plan was simply to circle Oahu, or at least the eastern half of it, with stops at whatever spots attracted any of us at the moment.

My day began as almost all of them do, with a quiet coffee or 3 on the back deck. The sun was just coming up when I shot this at 06:09.
Morning light from our cruise ship docked in Honolulu, Hawaii
Although Enterprise was running a shuttle from the ship, Cathy and I walked the 4 blocks or so, and by 09:00 had a full-size car, for about $75. The car had only 9,000 miles on it, and I was amazed at the amount of minor damage on it – a few really bad drivers had obviously driven it! With a half-hour to kill before picking MJ and Jim up at the pier, we went for a drive and then a short walk along the beach. What a way to start a day – ahhhhhh… :)
The beach at Honolulu, Hawaii
The temperature of the sea is about the same as the air, in the low 80s. There are a lot of people living in their cars and vans, and in tents in Ala Moana Park. Lovely for the campers no doubt, but I’m surprised that the city allows it.
The beach at Ala Moana Park, Hawaii
My 44-year-old memory of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific was that it was a beautiful and moving site, and as Jim is a Vietnam vet, we started our tour there. It turned out to be not a good idea. The only bathroom open (men have to stand guard while their wives use it) is a disgrace, and construction has closed or hidden much of the main memorial.
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific - Oahu, Hawaii
The battle-map gallery was open behind a construction fence, but none of the others climbed the many stairs to see it, so I just had a quick look and we continued on.
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific - Honolulu, Hawaii
When I saw a sign for Tantalus Drive, it was irresistible, and I turned right out of the cemetery rather than the way my navigator wanted to go, and it turned out to be one of if not the best experience of the day. It’s a very narrow, steep road that winds up the mountains above Honolulu, and as well as offering some spectacular views, the road itself, with very thick forest tightly crowding the pavement, was wonderful.
Honolulu, Hawaii
On the way back down Round Top Road (which is what Tantalus Drive becomes), Puu Ualaokua Park provided another great view over the city.
Honolulu, Hawaii
The seaward extension of the Honolulu Airport.
Honolulu Airport
Our ship can be seen just to the right of centre in this photo taken from Puu Ualaokua Park.
Honolulu, Hawaii
The road back down from the park to Round Top Road (this road is much wider and more open than Tantalus or Round Top).
Honolulu, Hawaii
From the peace and quiet ot Tantalus / Round Top, we made our way back to the busy H1 freeway, then headed north on H2 to see the famous North Shore. Even though this is the quiet season as surfing is poor, it was still very busy, and although we had an excellent lunch in a tiny cafe in Haleiwa, we made few other stops. This stop provided awesome mountain views, but the sea came right up to a high wall, so no beach.
Oahu, Hawaii
The two crosses on the cliffs above suggested that this might be paradise for many people, but others still want out by any means available.
Suicide crosses on Oahu, Hawaii
The ruins of a sugar mill brought another sad note in the guide book we were using – the son of the owner had died when he fell into a vat of boiling sugar.
Oahu, Hawaii
When very heavy rain started, I almost took a short-cut back to Honolulu, but decided to keep going in the hope that not only the weather but the whole experience would get better. The North Shore had certainly been a dud, although looking back at it now, with a different plan and more time I see how to enjoy the area.
Heavy rain on Oahu, Hawaii
Just after 3:00 pm, we got a view of the Makapuu Point lighthouse, from the opposite side we saw it from the ship as we sailed in. There were many people camping on this beach despite signs prohibiting it, and between those camps and a very large pile of garbage, what might be a very nice beach was far from inviting.
Makapuu Point lighthouse - Oahu, Hawaii
Makapuu Beach Park was lovely from the viewpoint above, and it appeared to be a good body-surfing spot.
Makapuu Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii
Manana Island is impressive, and beaches on the north end (not shown in this photo) make it easily accessible. In the foreground is Kaohikaipu Island.
Manana and Kaohikaipu Islands - Oahu, Hawaii
Sandy Beach Park, seen from the viewpoint at the Halona Blowhole.
Sandy Beach Park - Oahu, Hawaii
Sandy Beach Park - Oahu, Hawaii
This lovely little beach is accessed by a natural staircase down from the blowhole parking lot.
Oahu, Hawaii
Getting a close-up look at the Halona Blowhole. Many people apparently get themselves into trouble and even get killed getting a closer look.
Halona Blowhole - Oahu, Hawaii

We were back into heavy trafic as we neared Honolulu, but had the car back well before the office’s 6:00 pm closing time (they don’t allow after-hours drops), and for our 6:00 dinner reservation in the ship’s main dining room. Although the day hadn’t been as good as I’d thought it would be, we saw some interesting areas and it gave us some ideas for our hotel stay in Honolulu after the cruise. And while we were driving around Hawaii, our friends back in Whitehorse were dealing with several inches of snow!

At 8:00, we set sail for Hilo, on the Big Island. The lights of Honolulu attracted many passengers to the top decks as we sailed away.
Sailing from Honolulu, Hawaii, at night
Sailing from Honolulu, Hawaii, at night
As always, while we’re enjoying ourselves, hundreds of people are hard at work keeping everything in order for us. That’s something we can always count on – even on our worst cruise, on a Carnival ship, that’s been the case.
Oahu, Hawaii

As I finish this, the sky is just starting to turn orange, and we’re 6 hours from Kona, where we have another car rented. My next post will about yesterday’s superb full-day tour of a corner of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with a private guide.

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Arriving at Honolulu by Cruise Ship

We’re now about half-way to Hawaii, “the Big Island”, having sailed from Honolulu last night at 8:00 pm. We arrived at Honolulu at noon on Monday after having the islands in sight for several hours. Sailing in is a perspective that not many get, which is a shame, because it is spectacular, and it’s hard to not put yourself in the position of the early European explorers when they first saw the islands and tried to figure out what they would be like to land on.

Cathy’s only visit to Hawaii was in 1982, mine was in 1970, so we knew that nothing would be the same. We had no plans for the first afternoon on O’ahu, and had a car rented for yesterday for a circumnavigation of the island.

Monday began as usual with a lovely sunrise at 06:20, with only a handful of other passengers on the back deck having coffee (which is available there 24/7).
Sunrise from the Celebrity Solstice near O'ahu
A small Matson container ship seen at 09:20 – an inter-island ship, I expect.
Matson container ship in Hawaii
We could see some islands, notably the big island of Hawaii, but haze and clouds made the sightings unremarkable. By 09:45, though, the eastern shores of O’ahu could be seen fairly well despite the rain that the windward side was getting. The highest land in this photo is Koko Crater.
First sighting on Oahu from the Celebrity Solstice
The spectacular cliffs north of Makapuu Point, and Manana (Rabbit) Island.
Makapuu Point and Manana (Rabbit) Island
My first sighting of a large and beautiful frigate bird.
Frigate bird off Hawaii.
Amazing place. The Makapuu Lighthouse can just be made out in this photo.
Makapuu Point, and Manana (Rabbit) Island
As we got nearer, the volcanic origins of Koko Crater became obvious.
Koko Crater, Hawaii
A final look at Makapuu Point, the lighthouse and Manana Island from the sea.
Makapuu Point, the lighthouse and Manana Island
Koko Head, with heavy surf pounding the shore despite the fairly calm sea (reported as 1-meter or 3-foot seas). Seeing those homes in the background, it occurred to me that choosing a home or building site in Hawai must be exciting if you have a huge budget :)
Koko Head, Hawaii
Koko Head and Maunalua Bay.
Our first view of the towers of Waikiki, appearing from behind Diamond Head at 11:10.
The towers of Waikiki, appearing from behind Diamond Head
Waikiki Beach, with the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in the centre.
Waikiki Beach, with the Royal Hawaiian Hotel
At 11:48, the local pilot met us. I always find it funny that a pilot is still seen as a beter option than millions of dollars worth of electronics on the ship as well as a very experienced captain. Pilots must have a great union!
Hawaiian pilot boat at Honolulu
When discussing which cabin to book on a cruise ship, it’s often said that getting a balcony cabin isn’t necessary because you’re seldom in your cabin anyway. Cathy and I disagree – having a balcony is wonderful at times like this. MJ and Jim joined us, as their balcony is on the port side which is much less scenic for this particular sail-in.
Sailing into Honolulu
A rock wall protects part of the container port and adjacent Ala Moana Park from the surf.
Surf at Honolulu Harbor
This is my favourite image from the entire trip so far, shot from our balcony on Deck 7 as we approached Pier 2.
Classic Hawaii - Ala Moana Park and Diamond Head
While we waited for clearance to go ashore, we went for lunch in the Oceanview Cafe, as did pretty well every other passenger. It doesn’t get over-crowded very often, but that was one example of what it can be like. It can be avoided by going to the main dining room, however, or to varying degrees, to one of the many other eating places on board. This scene was shot from our balcony at 1:20 pm as we got ready to go ashore.
Our friends can’t do long walks, so the Aloha Tower was our only destination by foot.
Aloha Tower, Honolulu
The Celebrity Solstice, seen from the viewing area on the 10th floor of the Aloha Tower. That’s a fuel barge tied up to the ship.
Celebrity Solstice at Pier 2 in Honlulu
The main container port, seen from Aloha Tower.
Container port at Honolulu Harbor
This struck me as being the location of the “Hawaii 5-0″ offices, but I don’t know whether it really is or not.
Hawaii 5-0 offices in Honolulu

While Jim went back to the ship, Cathy, MJ and I took a cab over to the Ala Moana shopping centre to pick up a few things. The size was overwhelming and proved to be a very negative experience until we discovered that the main level we ended up on, which has every high-end brand in the known universe, was only part of it. The lowest level is where people like us shop (that is, people who have the word “budget” in their vocabulary), and we found everything we wanted.

Looking across at the Aloha Tower from Deck 14 of the ship as the sun went down at 6:00 pm. Overnighting on board the ship is an increasingly popular itinerary option, and we have 2 of them on this sailing, at Honolulu and Lahaina.
During our shopping, Cathy, MJ and I decided to something really silly – to get matching outfits. You know, do the thing that tourists get laughed at for doing in Hawaii. Jim was a good sport about it, and the 4 of us got a good reaction back on board when we went for dinner in the main dining room all decked out – to finish the look, I even had a puka shell lei :)
Murray and Cathy on the Celebrity Solstice in Hawaii

It’s now just after 07:00, about 4 hours from going ashore at Hilo for a full day of volcano hiking with one of the best guides on the island. :)

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Crossing the Pacific Ocean on Celebrity Solstice

As I start writing this, it’s 05:20, about an hour before sunrise. I’m on the back deck of the Celebrity Solstice, 8½ hours out of Honolulu, and it’s about 82°F. As usual, only a handful of other passengers are up and about, but crew members are seen often, cleaning or working at all the other jobs that need to be taken care of before the day begins for most people.

I’ve mentioned the wonderful art collection. Among the most unique pieces is “Night Solstice”, by Nancy Friedemann. This is an entire room, which the artist painted on the ship’s walls, floor and ceiling as construction of the ship was being completed. It also includes a glass sculpture and a special soundtrack. It is on the route that everyone takes to the specialty restaurants and the Ensemble Lounge.
Art by Nancy Friedemann on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
I’ve only seen 2 other ships up close – this container ship passed through our wake as the sun was coming up Friday morning.
A container ship seen from the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
Not many people on the ship see the wonderful sunrises. There have been a lot of clouds for much of our voyage so far, but also some wonderful skies at the right times.
Sunrise from the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
The other ship we’ve met, on Friday evening just before sunset.
Container ship seen from the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
As the days go on I find myself less and less driven to do anything – simply relaxing has become the main activity (or lack of activity, I suppose :) ). For many people, shopping is a big part of the cruise experience, and the Solstice has quite a few places to do that – this is the main mercantile “street”.
Shopping on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
The quality of the Solstice experience has been consistently extremely high, and that includes the entertainment. On Friday night the show in the theatre was by Greg Bonham, who not only has a great voice, he blows a mean trumpet.
Greg Bonham performing on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
By Saturday morning, crews were putting the final touches on the rebuild of one of the 3 swimming pools, just in time for what was forecast to be our first hot day.
Rebuilding a swimming pool on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
During our last Celebrity cruise, on the Millennium in 2012, Cathy and I spent a lot of time in Cafe al Bacio on Deck 5, having specialty coffees and pastries. For no particular reason, we haven’t this time, but it’s a wonderful space, and we were there with MJ and Jim on Saturday morning.
 on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
Executive Chef Markus shared his tips on how to cook a perfect steak, or more accurately, how to spice and season a perfect steak.
Executive Chef Markus on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
With people able to see and hear from several decks, the Grand Foyer is an excellent spot for events like the cooking demonstration.
Executive Chef Markus on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
With so many events competing for attention, it’s handy to be able to watch some on tv – such as Dr. Peter Wasilewski’s presentation on the glaciers on Mauna Kea that we missed.
Dr. Peter Wasilewski speaking on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
Saturday afternoon – getting warm and getting close!
Navigation channel on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
We finally made it to one of the regular Hot Glass Shows, and it was so good that I’m sorry we didn’t see more shows. The artists, Helen Tegeler, Elizabeth Perkins and Diane Stendahl, not only create some wonderful pieces but give great narration of the process during the 2-hour shows.
Hot Glass Shows on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
The glass shows are sponsored by the Corning Museum of Glass, and artists get to work on the ship through a CMOG scholarship program. Here, Elizabeth re-heats a piece in the electric furnace while Diane narrates.
Hot Glass Show on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
Helen and Elizabeth work on a piece. Two-person teams are common – in this case, Helen was bringing pieces of hot glass to Elizabeth when things such as handles were being added.
Hot Glass Show on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
Diane nearing completion of a complex little crab-themed cup.
Diane Stendahl - Hot Glass Show on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
As well as the live shows, there’s a Corning glass museum, with some glass creations as well as descriptions of the tools seen in the shows.
Corning glass museum on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
Mother Nature continues to be the overpowering artist on this voyages, with constantly changing skies and light. The first image below was shot at 5:30 pm on Saturday evening, the next one at 06:30 Sunday morning. The morning shot is an HDR image that I created from 3 shots.
Evening sky seen while crossing the Pacific on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
Morning sky seen while crossing the Pacific  on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
Even the public washrooms on the Solstice are beautiful, and attendants are usually close by. There are a very large number of electronically-controlled wheelchair-accessible stalls.
Public washroom on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
I had thought about booking a 3-hour tour of the ship’s bridge, engine control room and theatre back rooms, but had delayed too long and it was sold out (at $150 per person). However, a special tour of the navigation bridge was set up for Sunday morning for those of us who got put on the waiting list. The youngest officer of the ship, a well-spoken man of 21 who already has 3 years of maritime college and 2 years at sea, gave us a good tour of the controls and systems. The woman and little girl in the centre are looking through a large glass panel in the floor.
The navigational bridge on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
Looking aft from the port wing of the bridge.
The view aft from the navigational bridge on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
By 11:30 Sunday morning the skies had cleared, the temperature had climbed into the mid-80s, and the pool decks were packed. I bought a bucket of iced Heinecken and took it back to our cabin so Cathy and I could soak up some sun in solitude.
Pool deck on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
We ordered room service lunch – pepperoni pizza, a roasted chicken sub with fries, and a fruit plate. It arrived within 6-7 minutes, was freshly made and piping hot, and although I gave the steward a $2 tip, it was clearly not expected.
Room service lunch on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
One of the really cool features on the Solstice is the huge manicured lawn on Deck 15, aft of the Hot Glass studio. The lawn is available for various games, or just to enjoy walking barefoot on :) – and there are even foot-baths at each corner of the lawn.
Lawn on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
Even some of the benches around the Lawn Club are works of art. We have come to expect nothing but the best on this ship, and haven’t been disappointed yet.
Artistic bench on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
On Sunday night, the second formal night, when many of us enjoy getting dressed up, the 4 of us went to the French specialty restaurant, Murano’s. As good as the Tuscan Grille was, this may have bene even better. Here, our waiter cooks Cathy and MJ’s lobster beside our table. Jim and I both had veal, and rave reviews were the standard for each dish.
Murano's restaurant on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
Sunday night’s show in the theatre was stunning. “Solstice – the Show” is “a spectacular European-style theatrical circus about the timeless battle of day and night, featuring incredible acrobatics, beautiful movement and haunting music.” I haven’t seen a Cirque du Soleil show (on which this show is modelled), but find to hard to believe that it could be any better than what we saw.
Cirque du Soleil type show on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice
There were dancer/acrobats in elaborate costumes soaring 50 feet over our heads, some amazing jugglers, and the physical power and grace of some of the performers was hard to believe.
Cirque du Soleil type show on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice

It’s now 08:40 and we’ve passed the Big Island of Hawaii a few miles off to port, though it was mostly hidden by clouds. A narrated sail-in (by naturalist Dirk Younkerman) is going to start at 11:45, so it’s time to post this and get ready for a very busy day.

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