Monthly Archives: February 2015

Finally Bora Bora!

After a lazy morning, we hit lunch, then the gym. I wanted to time it properly so we would be able to watch our approach to Bora Bora while I was on the treadmill. The gym is located directly above the Bridge so the view is perfect. Once the massive mountain peaks showed up in the distance, people started popping up on the outside deck with their cameras. By the time we were in sight of the motu, the place was packed with excited fellow cruisers. I finished my steps just in time, and joined Michael outside in the warm humid air. Just as we were pulling closer to the main island and passing the smaller islands into the bay, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of this place. It hit me that we were arriving in a location that was extremely high up on my Bucket List. And I don’t have many of those left now. So, very special indeed.

I looked over at some of the over-water bungalows that Bora Bora is famous for and then down at the stunning colors of the waters. It wasn’t just blue, but there were turquoise and greens, and every color in-between. The land was lush with greenery and coconut trees. And the air was so warm against my skin. I hurried Michael to get in the tender ticket line, while I went and showered. Once I was done, I took Michael’s place in line so he could get ready for our adventure. Once our tender number was called, we milled down with the crowd to take our place on the tiny little boat. Everyone was very eager to get ashore so the energy was high. We were lucky enough to get onto the first tender so our wait time was quite minimal.

We arrived in Bora Bora at 4pm so there wasn’t a lot to do before it would get too dark. We certainly were not going to attempt any kind of excursion this late so we decided to catch up on some Internet to get that out of the way. We knew we had a full day tomorrow so we could take advantage of that if we cleared up our chores. We asked a few of the touts on the tender platform where we could go for Internet, and were directed to a pearl shop down the road. Turns out they also rented cars, scooters, and dune buggies too so we were in luck. One of the things we wanted to do while we were in Bora Bora was perhaps rent a car and go around the whole island. We explored a few of the options but none of them felt quite right. I really wanted to be in the water but the touts said that jet skis were in Moorea, not here. I was sad about that but resigned myself to driving around the island looking for pretty beaches. Unfortunately most of the good beaches were on the motu and not really on the island at all.

As the tenders brought more and more cruisers onto the island, the store started to fill up. And the free internet connection became jammed. I decided to check my emails and clear up any business that had come up before making any decisions about tomorrow. Low and behold, while I was offline for a week, several fires had begun. One of my renters who had just signed a years lease, had a string of bad luck and had to break his lease. He wasn’t even able to pay his last months rent. The timing really could not be worse. I felt like I had been punched in the gut. What was worse, was that I genuinely felt bad for the guy. He was a great tenant until now, and I know how it can be when you are going through tough times. I wracked my brain for ways to deal with this major disaster.

This is one of those major stresses that I have nightmares about. It is hard to rent a place while you are in the city or country but when you are traveling and off the grid for weeks at a time, it’s damn near impossible. Last time I trusted a property manager, he rented to a psycho woman who trashed the house and cost me thousands of dollars. Finding a GOOD renter is a serious job and not many people are able to do it well. Beside me, Michael was dealing with his own emails and though his were not as dire as mine, he had stuff too. People just go nuts when you are offline and don’t answer within one day. One person gave a 72 hour deadline before pulling a plug because they hadn’t heard from me and were scared something was wrong. CHILL OUT PEOPLE… it’s ok to unplug and disconnect. My gods. I muttered to Michael what was going on and he shared with me some of his, and we just put our heads down and tried to push through it.

I answered as many issues as I could, and put out most of my fires, and some of Michael’s. After getting a change of schedule, I had to change a couple of flights. This can be a headache at the best of times but today, it went better than I expected. Right around then, I started realizing I may have to head back to Canada to solve this rental fiasco. But there just was no time! We are supposed to be heading to South Africa just two weeks after we get back from this trip. I have an extremely long list of stuff I have to get done in California during that fortnight. I started to panic, just a bit. I looked outside at the palm trees swaying in the dusk breeze and crab skittering across the dirt road and felt the warm tropical air waft in every time someone would walk in the door. Then, I remembered to breathe.

A solution suddenly filtered through the madness. Thought it seemed far-fetched, maybe, just maybe it could work. I pinged the few people I needed to connect with and by chance, they all seemed to be online. Within 20 minutes, the crisis had been averted. If all goes as planned, I will have a new renter, someone I know and trust, moving in exactly when the other tenant has to move out. Cross your fingers.

Finally, when I felt somewhat calm, I wanted to call my mom and dad. I missed them a lot having not spoken to them in a week. I waffled out loud about calling them and waking them up since it was almost an hour after their bedtime. An elderly couple who had overheard my worrying, insisted, “Call. Absolutely. It is never too late to call your parents.” I nodded, and took their advice. Dad answered quite groggy but perked up immediately when he heard my voice. I shared with them as much as I could in a couple minutes before I let them get back to bed. It was just so great to hear their voices, and know they appreciated the call.

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Liking the ship staff

Woke up early-ish and ate on our breakfast. The gym is getting a lot busier and people have started getting weird about machines. Ugh. I guess it was bound to happen. I think when they realize their clothes are not fitting, rather than cut down on the drinks or desserts, they imagine that a few minutes on the treadmill will solve everything. It’s only a little frustrating when I get asked all the time to assist with how to work the machines. I suppose its one of the hazards of going on a cruise full of oldies. Many automatically assume you are crew, because why else would you be on the ship?

We had a leisurely lunch and then retired to the library. I meant to write but try and I might, I just could not keep my eyes open. I had a micro dream and then was startled awake by another sleepers snoring. Finally I gave up and told Michael we should head back down to the room. We dressed for dinner, then went to listen to Chris for a while. He is one of my favorite parts of this cruise. No matter what he is singing, it always seems to get into my soul. That boy has some serious talent.

We ate dinner and joked with our servers who always bring such a sparkle to the day. We especially like Asep who is labeled “Dining Room Greeter” on his name tag. He has such a sweet smile and always brightens my mood. His costume is really bizarre and we joked in the beginning that it was exactly that of a organ grinders monkey. He has a little red hat and the suit, well, now that we know him, we really think it suits him. It looks like a very fancy bellhop costume from the classic movies of the olden days. He is there at the end and the beginning of all our meals. And at the end, he has a digestif station where he offers little napkins delicately folded with either mints, dates, or our favorite, candied ginger. It’s a daily tradition now.

We head back to hear Chris’s second set and the lounge is packed from all the Trivia leftovers. It will be an hour before they are corralled out for the second dinner seating. Then, for that last hour, we generally have Chris to ourselves. He plays pretty much what ever we ask and well. He did a slow ballady version of Michael Jackon’s Beat It tonight and I was blown away. But perhaps my favorite was when he nailed the Dave Matthews tune “Don’t Drink the Water”. Nailed it, I say. Truly a pleasure to have him as part of our cruise.

Now we are back in the cabin and I am almost caught up on my writing. I am looking forward to Fanning Island tomorrow so I had better get some sleep now. We only have 6 hours there so we had better make it count.

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Sleepy Sea Day

Try as I may, I couldn’t sleep in. I woke up at 4am then 6am then 7am. Finally breakfast came. I was impressed that they finally found a way to get coconut milk onto the tray. I had been asking for days but no one could figure out where to find it. Finally one of our dinner managers said he would find a solution. It really makesWe ate and watched the morning news. The news channels we get are pretty depressing. Fox is all fluff, MSNBC is all politics, BBC is always talking about war. The only exciting part of the newscasts are when the weather man pops up from time to time.

We went for our workout then ate lunch. I think am tired today because I am especially sensitive and touchy. I tried to have a nap in the library but everyone was being too loud. I was so annoyed by the young Librarian who insists on shouting to everyone who asks her a question. I wish she would realize that not everyone is deaf and she could moderate her tone, it is a library after all.

The rest of the day was a blur. I was in a fog and basically just waiting to get back in bed to catch up on my sleep. I know we listened to Chris which perked me up for a short while but as soon as he was done, I was done too. Back in our cabin, we watched a movie called Contagion which kept my attention for a while before I crashed hard.

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Swimming with Wild Dolphins – Honolulu, Hawaii

Woke up unnaturally early at 530am and I was not happy about it. I didn’t really sleep at all, because I kept worrying about not waking up on time. I hate that. I do it often when I have schedules or appointments. Which is why I generally stay away from those types of commitments. Anyway, we didn’t have much time to eat since room service came a bit late. I shoved Michaels pound of meat (bacon, sausage and ham) into a bag and wrapped up my omelette. The bus was arriving in 8 minutes and though I was sure it would be easy and quick to get off the ship, I didn’t want to risk it. Nothing like the wrath of a bus load full of tired tourists angry because you made them wait.

It was still pitch dark out and I was groggy when I climbed on the huge tour bus. I was awake enough to notice that 95 percent of the bus was Japanese. We signed the electronic release form and I played some Candy Crush while we drove to the site. An hour later, we pulled into Waianae Harbor. We all filed off the bus and waited around until we were instructed to follow to the boat. We were all loaded onto the boat and found our seats. The sun was coming up nicely and it was looking to be a nice warm day. We were introduced to the energetic and very chipper crew who had quite the act going on. It was easy to get involved and I was impressed by their ability to get everyone participating. It wasn’t long before I was singing and high fiving with everyone else, even though I was still a little tired. We were all given boat rules and instructions before being fitted with our shorties and snorkel gear.

We sped around the waters looking for pods of wild dolphins. After a good 20 minutes, I started getting worried. I thought how silly it seemed to be looking for dolphins and what the chances were that we wouldn’t even see any. I began to feel doubt and regret that I dragged myself out of bed for this. Plus I was getting cold again. The sun was dipping in and out of the thickening clouds.

Just then, we slowed down and lo and behold, dolphins. And not just a few, A LOT. There must have been at least 60 split into several pods. I couldn’t get into the water fast enough. As I jumped in, I only felt cold for a second before I started swimming my heart out. I was going to get to those dolphins before they swam away. Turns out, I didn’t need to try so hard. They ended up coming to me. They swam around, through and under our group dozens of times. Michael and I got a little carried away and separated from our group a bit. We were so enchanted by the Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins and just wanted to get closer.

At one point, I was swimming just two feet from a mommy and her baby. We swam together for a good half minute before they shied away in a different direction. Those suckers are fast when they wanna be! I felt so blessed to have that special moment. It was unlike any I had before, and way beyond the package dolphin experience you can get with trained captive dolphins in tanks. It’s like the difference between going to the zoo and going on a safari. There is no comparison. By far, one of my fav experiences to date. I only wish I would have been scubaing rather than snorkeling with a large group of 40. It would have been much more authentic to be down under the water with them.

We were meant to go on a second snorkel in a different bay but since there was a surfing competition on, we had to forgo it. We ended up in a really crappy bay that had nothing to see except a few fish and cloudy waters. We did feel that we were ripped off for that second half. The captain cooked up hamburgers on a grill that was attached to the back of the boat. We decided to stick some of the bacon we had brought from breakfast, to make bacon cheeseburgers. The crew was impressed by our ingenuity and remarked that no passenger had ever thought of such a clever idea. Obviously they had never met Michael, The Bacon King.

We headed back to the harbor and while everyone else baked in the sun getting a token hula lesson, Michael and I climbed aboard the bus to wait. We just wanted to get back to the city and get any last minute shopping done. After all, we wouldn’t be in real civilization for a while. Once we were dropped off, we wandered around the area picking up last minute supplies. Finally we boarded the ship and waited to leave Hawaii. We were exhausted so we tried to have a nap after having a snack on the lido deck. But I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned. Finally we just woke up and headed to the gym so I could complete my 10,000 steps. Just as we made it to the top deck, the ship began to pull away.

I walked on the treadmill and watched for whales in the distance. There was one especially active young humpback that was almost showing off. We watched him splashing around and making quite the scene. It was a fantastic goodbye. I watched the Oscars on the treadmill TV which helped the time go faster. The sun sunk lower in the sky and the day was done. My pedometer vibrated my goal completion, so my workout was done too.

We had dinner, listening Chris croon for a while, then retired to our cabin. It was a long day, and hopefully I earned a good solid sleep. I was very much looking forward to sleeping in.

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Diving in Honolulu, Hawaii

I was up and ready to go well before Go time. We ate up our breakfast and got off the ship for the long walk to the harbor. It wasn’t a pretty walk but we made it fun. We walked along the sidewalk bordering the busy road, and passed a lot of nondescript buildings. We walked over a bridge where there was a homeless person sleeping cuddled up to the abutment for shade. I wondered what kind of dreams he was having with nothing but the background sound of traffic. Then I realized that of all the places to be homeless, Hawaii probably wasn’t a bad choice.

We were walking past a bunch of car dealerships when I noticed a man with a bunch of giant balloons. Another man was tying the balloons to the cars for sale in the lot. In that moment, I have never wanted a balloon so bad in my life. These were not just any balloons but the heavy duty extra big, extra round ones that are pretty much indestructible. The kind of balloon that tricks you into thinking you are just a bit lighter, that it just may lift you right off the ground. Michael caught me gazing longingly at the balloon bouquet. I was surprised to hear little Carmella remarking sadly that she wished she had a balloon like that. The were putting balloons on cars, and maybe they would like to put a balloon on a Car-mella. “Just ask!” Michael encouraged me. Well, I did and guess what!? After they got over their initial shock of a grown woman asking with a childlike sparkle in her eyes, the men gladly told me to pick any color I liked. I picked the only red balloon in the bunch. I thanked them profusely and I think they could see that, for me, it meant more to me than a bit of plastic covered helium on a string. I promised to tell everyone where I got it from, and that they should go buy their car from the nice people at Cutter Chevrolet. I left them smiling from ear to ear as I skipped away with my happy balloon bobbing behind me.

The rest of the walk I don’t really remember, it went by so fast. Time flies when you have a red balloon. We got to the harbor and hooked up with our dive shop. I was relieved to find that they were just as personable as they had been in all our prior planning communications. I had dug around for a few weeks, trying to locate a shop with integrity and that special friendliness that only really good dive shops have. They are generally the smaller, less commercial operations and this time, we hit it right on. Hawaiian Diving Adventures uses a boat that was specially made just for diving and their crew is top-notch. It was the first time I had a female divemaster, and Erika was awesome. She was super chill and competent with a sweet, cheerful demeanor. Though she is very beautiful, she obviously has a good head on those tanned shoulders. I felt really taken care of and in very capable hands. Sometimes if you don’t click with your divemaster, it can make for a stressful or uncomfortable experience. I think with diving, trust is paramount and I felt it came effortlessly with Erika and the rest of the crew.

There were only 6 of us diving so we were a very small group which made it easier to be more efficient. One of our fellow divers was from Vancouver and was getting certified today. The rest of us went down with Erika and explored the ocean floor. It was a magical dive with an abundance of colorful tropical fish, including a large school of neon yellow angel fish. It felt just like a Disney movie when one of the curious little fish broke away from the pack to come stare me directly in the face. It was slightly abrupt and surprising but cute nonetheless. I wasn’t really sure what he wanted, when I realized he just wanted to explore me, as I wanted to explore him.

My favorite part of this first dive were the dozen or so sea turtles that we encountered. I was enamored by the heavy-shelled creatures gliding effortlessly past me despite the temperamental current. I saw mommas and smaller babies and territorial daddies all thriving in their underwater home. There were a couple behemoths that were half the size of a small car. I wondered how old they were? And I wondered what they thought of us…

Near the end of the dive, I became extremely cold. Erika had left the three of us so she could assist the pair that were having equalizing problems. I was really impressed that she was able to recognize our experience and let us stay down together rather that cutting our dive short. I made shivering motions to Michael and he gripped my hand tighter. He pulled out his regulator mouthpiece and held his breath waiting for me to return his kiss. I think we have almost perfected underwater kissing. I gripped onto him and let him tow me along rather than expending more energy.

Once above water, I couldn’t seem to warm up. Though I was sitting in the direct sun, I was still shivery. We sped off to another dive site. I actually contemplated not going on the second dive. I was wearing a full wet suit but the wind of the moving boat kept me from warming up. Finally, I told Michael that I would try but if I got much colder, I was going to cut my dive short. This dive was much easier and surprisingly warmer. Even though we went almost twice the depth, the water was still. There was no current so it was like cutting through butter with a warm knife. I was able to warm up considerably and focus once again on the beauty of the ocean. We swam over the coral reef discovering adorable nudibranch, cheeky trumpet fishes, yellow tangs, shy moray eels, and even a sleepy white-tipped shark that was taking a nap under the reef shelf.

Perhaps the most memorable part of that second dive was when Michael had gone off to search out something and came back with a present for me. During most of our dives, we hold hands the entire time. But every now and then, we separate. We take turns discovering some new and interesting hidden jewel then if it’s impressive enough, we call the other over to share. This time I was skimming around the sea floor looking at shells and playfully chasing fish when suddenly Michael grabbed at my hand. He slipped an extraordinarily shiny ring my finger. It fit on my ring finger perfectly. I always dive without jewelry because I know how easy it is to moop (matter-out-of-place) in this very foreign environment. I guess not everyone is so sea-savvy. Michael had found a lost stunning jewel-laden ring in the bottom of the sea, and it looked like it was made for me. He seized the moment, swung around in front of me and got on his knee with one hand on his heart and other hand holding mine. He was proposing to me underwater. How romantic! I nodded giddily in confirmation and we shared another ocean kiss. Best. Dive. Ever.

After diving we had worked up quite the appetite, and I went from peckish to ravenous in a matter of minutes. I needed food STAT. We headed for the nearby Ala Moana Mall and hit the food court. We circled the restaurants and finally settled on a healthy grill. We gobbled it up like we were starving shipwreck survivors. Fed and content, we perused the mall. We watched a cultural show on the stage where dozens of women were performing traditional dance. These lovely older ladies were moving with unparalleled grace and quiet confidence.  It made me proud to be a woman in that moment.

We moved on from the mall after drawing a happy face on my balloon with a marker borrowed from the coffee shop. We headed towards waikiki beach to watch the sunset. On the way, I was drawn to some drumming going on in the distance. I followed my ears and we discovered a Chinese New Years celebration on the street. There were two magnificent red dragons gobbling up the money filled red envelopes and wads of cash people offered in their outstretched hands. I was completely taken with the amount of emotion and comedy these dragons were able to express. It was endearing to watch the children interact with the symbols of luck parading around the square. Some were shy, some were a little scared but most were excited and thrilled to be able to feed the dragon. The well-trained dragon dancers coupled with the loud beating of the drums put the energy levels through the roof.

We continued on to the beach just in time for the sunset. I still had my red balloon tied to my wrist and it accidentally bumped into a few passers-by. Everytime I turned to apologize, I got a huge grin from the person who had been “ballooned”. We sat on the beach and waited when I decided how perfect it would be to be able to share a Hawaiian sunset with my mom and dad. I know Hawaii is at the top of my Mom’s bucket list, so it seemed like a nice gift. They were happy to hear from us and we got to share that last few minutes of a perfect day.

The sky got dark fast, and my feet were more sore than I cared to admit, so we ordered an Uber cab. Our lady driver was very animated and full of energy. She was thrilled to hear we were on a cruise and had experience on the exact Disney ship she was going on in a few months. We learned all about her family and how it is to live in Hawaii. Hawaiians are such a sharing people.

We made it to the dining room and had a fabulous view of the city lights. It was such a great day, we even treated ourselves to dessert. Sticky date pudding and warm chocolate lava cake were too hard to resist so we allowed our sweet teeth a couple bites. We hurried off to the Hawaiian cultural drum show where we watched traditional dancing from not only Hawaii, but Samoa and even the Maoris of New Zealand. An exuberant young boy stole the show with his killer moves and brave face. The only time he showed his age was at the end of a dance. When the audience would burst into applause, he would suddenly become shy and run off the stage. So Cute.

We went straight to bed since our early morning would be even earlier to meet our shuttle to the Wild Dolphin swim.

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Shopping in Lahaina, Hawaii

I was eager to wake up early again to perhaps catch a glimpse of more whales. The sky was grey and it began to pour as I approached the bow. As quickly as it began, the rain stopped. We decided to take it easy since today was a tender (a tender is when they use the ships lifeboats to shuttle people to and from the ship to shore) port which have the tendency to get quite busy. I prefer to wait until the keeners get off so I don’t have to wait in a long line of impatient people. It turns out there will be many tender ports on this trip.

We sat up top on the lido deck and I munched on some customized eggs benny. I am not having bread so I replaced that with an artichoke bottom, then added spinach, mushrooms and crab. It was delicious. Michael took a work phone call while I peered through the binoculars on whale duty. I spotted quite a few in the distance and some were putting on quite the splashy show. The were breaching and tail flapping like nobodies business. No matter how many I see, it just doesn’t get old. I think whales are the excitement equivalent of fireworks and shooting stars for me.

I met a couple from Stony Plain who struck up a conversation when they saw my Edmonton tee-shirt. There are so many Canadians on board that 2 out of 3 people we chat with happen to come from my homeland. I guess it goes without saying when the winters get as cold and treacherous as they do in the Great White North.

Finally we decided the lines would have gone down so we made our way down to the bottom deck. The ocean was quite rough so it was quite dangerous to make the step from the platform to the tender boat. The staff were extremely cautious and assistive, especially with the more elderly folk. Which means everyone but us.

I decided to FaceTime with Mom and Dad so they could see where we were. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to have Mom and Dad on the iPad. Hearing their voice is great but seeing them, sometimes brings tears to my eyes. It’s so special to be able to whip the camera around and show them the island and the waves. As I swept the view of the entire tender with the camera, a bunch of the folks waved jovially at my mom and dad.

We decided to make Maui a shopping day, so we jumped on the Hilo Hattie shuttle. It really wasn’t necessary since it was just at the end of the shopping street, a 20-minute walk. But we decided we would walk back and forth a few times, put some steps on the pedometer. We looked a tons of sarongs, jewelry, and some stunning pieces of art all along Front Street. Everything seemed pretty expensive so we reigned in our need to spend. We did find a few great deals, like a bunch of Maui muscle shirts for $3 and the perfect pink hat with Maui embroidered across it. I was so touched when Bob, a fellow shipmate, saw me coveting the hat and gave it to me. He said it was only a going to be a donation so it didn’t matter which hat he bought, so I traded him the other less-cool hat I was going to settle for. It’s really amazing how such little things can make me so happy.

We pigged out on the poke again, getting more than two pounds at the local FoodLand. It was a very odd shopping experience and we didn’t really like the energy. The only cool part was the guy in the seafood sections who insisted we taste every single kind of poke. How could we argue? My favorite was the wasabi poke and I would have cleaned them out had it not been for the lady behind us. She begged us to leave a little for her son. He had sent her especially for that exact item and if she came home empty-handed, he would be crushed. We laughed and obliged, choosing a few other kinds to make up the two pounds that would qualify us for the poke sale.

Michael found himself a manly sarong and I got a couple pairs of stunning glass earrings. I could see the sunset and sunset in them…and unlike many of the other earrings I have tried to wear, they were virtually weightless. Since plumerias are my favorite flower in the world, when we found them in the bargain bin, we had to get some for my hair. We stretched our day right to the end, catching one of the last tenders back. We had a short dinner and went to bed early since we would be diving so early in the morning.

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Happy in Hilo, Hawaii

It is always exciting when you get to land after almost a week at sea. No matter whether you like the port or not, there is something very “grounding” about it, for lack of a better word. Legs always feel a little funny for the first bit, especially if the seas have been rough. Kind of like the feeling of getting off an especially twisty roller coaster ride. I happen to love it. Yo ho, Yo ho, A Pirate’s life for me!

I woke up super early because I wanted to go to the special ceremony on the bow of the ship at daybreak. Several of the Hawaiians onboard were dancing and chanting performance to announce our arrival. There were a lot of other symbolic meanings that I completely missed because I was so excited about the whales. YES! Whales everywhere! The sun was just coming up and there were about a dozen humpback whales dancing in the seas around us. As we pulled closer and closer to the big island it was as if they were welcoming us, escorting us in. I couldn’t contain myself. At one point, I practically climbed right up on the railing to follow the baby whale that slapped his tail on the surface then swam right past me. He wanted to play! I could almost feel the alarm of the ship’s officers as they watched me from the bridge. “Is that young lady about to jump overboard?!” It’s easy to get carried away when there are whales around.

We went up to the lido deck for breakfast for the first time, so we could watch our ship pull into the pier. I was pleased to find that I had AT&T coverage so I checked my mails and caught up on messages. I was super-excited to find a message from McKenzie. She was on the road already and would meet us outside my ship. She only had a few hours before she had to go to work, so I felt especially honored that she would drive two hours each way just to spend a couple hours with us. I love this girl. She is a gooder.

At the end of the gangway, we were gifted with some purple orchid leis, much like the ones we made a few days before. We met Kenz and her big bad pickup truck on the corner by the Coast Guard. After a heartfelt embrace, I introduced her to Michael. Then I inspected her reconstructed hand and war wounds. She is healing up really well, and I felt so grateful to have her still. There are a few people I know that make this world a better place just by being in it, and she is one of them. A pure soul.

We climbed into her extra tall truck and we were off to the Akaka Falls Lookout. We stopped and picked up a coffee from a cute little local coffee shop. It wasn’t until we were already inside that we realized that it was called called Hilo Shark’s Coffee. Though there were offerings such as Shark Attack and Shark Bite, Kenz just got an Americano. I guess she has had enough shark for a while. I found a sweet little siamese kitty in the back and cuddled her for a while until we had to go.

We hiked the short loop and got to see beautiful super-long spout crashing down the cliff face. It was awe-inspiring. The weather couldn’t have been better, as the sun shone down on us. The forest along the path was so lush and green. It was so easy to breathe. I was feeling super-blessed to be in this space with such special people. Next we went to Rainbow Falls Park, which definitely had attracted a lot more tourists. It wasn’t as grand as the Akaka Waterfall but I appreciated it for the many small pools and the faint rainbow that appeared in the mist above the waterfall.

We decided it was lunch time so we headed in search of poke. We ended up at Suisun Fish Market, where we loaded up on a couple pounds of the freshest poke you ever did taste. We gobbled it down and watched the military planes fly past us overhead. Kenz dropped us off at the Farmers Market and we had one last hug, until next time. We wandered through the colorful fruits and veggies, passing by the vast array of crafts and handmade jewelry. Michael and I strolled down the street wandering in and out of the charming shops. I got very excited when I discovered a large health food store. I have been wanting to get a bottle of apple cider vinegar and this was just the place I needed. After finding it on sale, I got the large bottle and didn’t worry too much about not finishing it. After all, I have almost a month.

We strolled a long the main street and weaved in and out of the shops. I found a pair of good comfy used heels to replace the very sparkly but uncomfortable ones I had brought onboard. I just couldn’t bear the thought of having to wear those foot-killers again. We caught up on our online stuff in an internet cafe, that ended up forgetting to charge us for the coffee. We tried to pay them but they had already closed down the till. This is the kind of laid-back easy going nature of most of the locals around here. They just don’t get wound up about stuff. Or at least the ones we met.

We thought we had more time but were misdirected to the wrong bus, so we became quite worried that we would miss our ship. It’s true that the next island is not all that far away but I have never missed a ship yet. I didn’t intend to start today. We were lucky that Jerad from the Hoppa-on Hoppa-off bus agreed to take us. We gave him all our cash that was left, a measly $5 but he didn’t make a big deal of it. He took it smiling and reassured he would get us there in time. On the 15-minute ride back to the pier, he animatedly shared about his island living experience. I felt so grateful to have gotten “home” in time that I gave him my lei as we were getting off the bus and wished him all the good luck on his future travels.

We enjoyed a lovely dinner then made our way to the show. We enjoyed a bit of the comedian and a short version of the one-man Beatles band. It was fun but I have to admit by the end of the show I was nodding off. It was a long day and I was more than ready for bed. I filled out our room service breakfast order then tumbled into bed.

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Formal Night

Same routine today as every other, except I spent a little more energy at the gym. I seem to be getting stronger. I have decided not to drink alcohol at all for the duration of this trip. I had been getting into the red wine a little too often back in Canada every time there was a hockey game on. Now that I don’t know if the Oilers are winning or losing, I find no trigger to drink. I am finding my tummy aches have all but disappeared and I wonder if its the probiotics I have been taking or the lack of booze in my body. Either way, my stamina has returned and I can really push it in the gym.

During our afternoon library time, I decided to research Hawaii since we are arriving tomorrow. I had tried to organize a visit with my long lost friend McKenzie before I left the mainland. We didn’t come up with any solid plans and I haven’t heard from her for some time so I assumed she was busy. A few months ago she survived a shark attack while surfing. She had to get surgery and I imagined that all the stress was overwhelming. Besides I realized when I looked at the map, that she would have to drive almost two hours to Hilo since she lives on the other side of the BIG island. Still a little tiny piece of me held a bit of hope, that somehow we would still be able to meet up. I miss her.

Tonight is formal night, so we decided to wash some clothes, thinking it would be less busy in the laundry room. Boy was I wrong! That place was packed, I guess everyone had the same idea. We napped until we could get a spot in one of the coin operated washers. It’s really nice to be able to launder your own clothes rather than pay for the expensive ship laundry services. On a month-long voyage, its really necessary to wash clothes, unless you pack your entire wardrobe. As it is, we will be recycling some of our formal clothes being that there are 6 formal nights.

Dinner was delicious with yummies such as garlic buttered escargot and tender seafood on offer. We decided to pack it in early since we would be an early morning. Our first port! I was so excited about getting to Hawaii I tossed and turned. Finally I drifted into a light sleep.

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Fat Tuesday

I was excited to see juicy plump blueberries on my breakfast tray this morning. You can request just about anything on a cruise ship but its hit and miss if you actually get it or not. Last night, when I was filling out the room service order, I dreamed how nice it would be to have blueberries with my morning yogurt. I wrote it down and drew a little picture of a bowl of berries, just to be clear. This morning, not only did we get blueberries but a fresh flower in a mini vase graced our tray! I guess they like drawings. I am already planning what I will draw them tonight.

The gym was quiet again, except for someone who was using “my” pilates machine for a leg press. I was annoyed while I waited, secretly scolding him in my head for misusing the equipment. When he was done, he cleaned the machine and cheerfully remarked how great the show was last night. As he made small talk, his bubbly attitude and positive energy completely disarmed me. Last night, he had been sitting next to us and I thought he was going to dance right off his seat. He was especially exuberant during the sing-along parts. I realized he was a really nice guy and felt ashamed for having judged him in my head.

After showers and lunch, we headed to the culinary demo, but quickly learned it wasn’t for us. The young lady was demonstrating all sorts of natural beauty techniques using lemons, yogurt, cucumber, and the like. It was nothing new for me and I wasn’t crazy about how she presented. I had to catch my tongue several time so I wouldn’t sound like a know-it-all correcting her obvious misinformation. It was clear she had memorized a book somewhere but several of the old ladies were drinking it up so I let it be. Michael and I wandered into the Hawaii talk in the theater. They were telling about all the creatures of the islands and I learned that there are no snakes in Hawaii. Bonus! I don’t love snakes.

At night we participated in the Mardi Gras festivities going on around the ship. There were lots of sparkly hats, colorful masks, and hundreds of beads being gifted around. People were in a good mood and I lasted for a short time before we headed back to the room to catch some Zzzs. Those old folks sure do know how to party once you get a few drinks into them!

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Rocking and Rolling

I woke up from a broken sleep because I kept falling in the crack all night. On most cruise ships, staterooms have two single beds that can be pushed together to make a queen. This makes it easier for them to sell a room to couples or friends. Anyway, inevitably the queen bed inches apart throughout the night, especially with the rocking of the ship and the rolling of the people in the beds. So by morning, someone (usually me) is wedged into a valley the size of the Grand Canyon. There was one cruise line that figured it out and had a nice thick memory foam mattress topper that kept this from happening. Not this one. On many ships, people in the know can request an “egg carton” which is one of these foam egg cartony mattress toppers.  Because of their age and flimsy nature, they don’t tend to solve the problem if you happen to be an active sleeper like me.

In the beginning, our room steward tried to take a short cut by shoving a bunch of towels in-between the beds but that failed miserably. The

next night we insisted on the egg carton and it was marginally better. I am seriously considering finding some string or rope somewhere so we can tie the beds together. I will find a way to McGuyver that bed, if its the last thing I do.

We ate up our room service delivery then made our way up to the gym. I seem to be getting stronger, even just after a couple days. It’s really nice to feel results even if I can’t quite see them yet. The best part of this gym is that they have a pilates rack. I love that I can play on it after the treadmill as its one of the best stretches I can get. It’s so gentle on my muscles and since its fun, I tend to get more of workout  than if I were going it alone on a mat.

I had a bath and the we went up for lunch where I had salad and fish again. The fish had bones today so I didn’t eat it and stuck to the greens. We spent some time in the library in our favorite chairs before deciding to go to the Dutch Tea service in the dining room. It turned out to be mostly sweets and pastries so we could look but not touch. We had one of each of the four savory offerings, smoked salmon, egg salad, brie, and smoked ham. The tea was nothing special but the view sure was. We got a table for two by the window so we were able to watch the waves roll off the side of the ship. The captain had mentioned in his daily update that the swell would increase for the next 24 hours. He warned us that by tonight we could reach 16 foot waves.

After tea time, we tried at the jigsaw puzzle in the library and I was able to fit in two pieces, contributing to the group effort. I felt another serge of energy so we went for about 10 laps around the ship on the promenade deck. Every four laps is equal to one mile and it’s nice to have the seas throbbing around you. By now, the ship was really bouncing in the active ocean so I was glad our walk was even more intense. It takes a lot more muscle to stabilize and keep balance when the ship is so rocky. We had worked up quite a sweat by the end so we returned into our cabin for a shower before dinner.

Dinner was tasty and we got what is becoming our usual table. We made it to the show which turned out to be a tribute to the Beatles. It was a talented young man who was accompanied by the HALcats, the ships band. Half way through the show, the singers wife came out on stage and stole the show. It was a cute act, and I was impressed by how many songs he sang that I knew. I remember singing “I’d like to be, under the sea, in an octopuses garden, in the waves” when I was in kindergarden. It was one of my favorite songs! Did you know they have over 200 songs? And this guy knew every one of them. Infact, he challenged the audience to stump him, and it couldn’t be done.

We got another movie which we didn’t even finish, before we drifted off to sleep. The ship was really moving and I didn’t sleep well because of it. There were times that I thought I would roll right out of bed! I propped a couple pillows around me like a nest. It was a rough night indeed. My poor flower fell out of her glass when it tipped over. I decided it was time to take her out and dry her upside-down so I would have her for the rest of the trip. Our leis are still doing ok although I think another couple days and they will be over. No matter, since by then we will be in Hawaii. Then there will be no shortage of tropical flowers and fresh leis.

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