Number of Cruises: First Cruise
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: January 12th, 2001
Itinerary: Vancouver to Seward
I have cruised regularly since the early 80's, on various different lines and believe that this was cruise# 27. HAL is my favorite cruise line and the NORWAY is my favorite ship. I am 44, married and my cabin mate is 48 and married. Our husbands because of business and other hobbies don't cruise that much, so Deb and I cruise together, usually 3-4 times per year. It works out very well!
I left Memphis on Tuesday January 9th, flying directly into San Diego. We stayed at the Embassy Suites downtown and had a rental car. For what it is worth, the Embassy Suites is a nice hotel but for the price I expected a whole lot more. The hot made to order breakfast was very nice, but the afternoon manager's reception consisted of chips and drinks, nothing more. They did shuttle us to return the rental car and shuttled us to the pier.
On Wednesday we drove down to Tijuana and spent the morning combing the different shops and pharmacies. Please note that if you are going there to purchase medications, there are some good buys, but you really have to know what you are purchasing. There were many items that were cheaper to purchase using my co-pay through the insurance company. If you need narcotics or injectibles you will need a prescription. In the afternoon it started to rain so we headed over to the Barona Casino. What a nice place and very well run. We had lunch there and spent the afternoon. I walked out with about $500.00! They do run a shuttle and will pick you up at your hotel and drop you back off. It was much nicer than the casino's down in Tunica, MS along with some of the ones in Las Vegas.
On Thursday it was still raining so we drove over to the Seyquan Casino. Although not as nice as the Barona, it was still very good to us. Because of the rain, we just went back to the hotel and ate in.
Friday morning is now here, the big day and it is still raining. Two whole weeks aboard the beautiful MS Statendam. I am so excited as I have never been to Hawaii before. Deb lived in Oahu for 7 years, so I had a built in tour guide. Each day in Hawaii had been carefully mapped out to get the most out of our 5 days. Finally the time comes to head over to the pier. The shuttle dropped us off at 11:00 and there was a porter there to take our baggage away. There were some folks already inside waiting for the check in to start. There is a sign that states check in at 12:30, embarkation at 1:30. If you arrive earlier you will need to find the person that hands out the embarkation numbers. Otherwise you will receive one at the door. We were fortunate and received number 2. Embarkation started at 1:15 with the wheelchairs first and then the suite passengers. We were called within 5 minutes of that and were on board at 1:25. They did not escort us to the cabin as had been done in the past, but that was O.K. as we knew exactly where we were going. We dropped off our carry-ons and headed off to the front desk to set up our sign-n-sail card. Then off to the Lido for lunch. Wow, we are finally here! The embarkation lunch started out what was to be the best meals I have had on any cruise. The food was consistently well done. I cannot remember any item that I did not care for. After lunch we set off to explore the ship. I pretty well knew the layout since I had previously been on the Veendam. It was still raining so we busied ourselves exploring and then back to the cabin to unpack. Our luggage was waiting there for us when we returned at 3:00. The lifeboat drill was held at 4:15 and remember with HAL it is MANDATORY to be there. Once that was over an announcement was made that we will depart at 6:30pm since some passengers flights were delayed. Sail away came but it was still raining so we did not go out on deck. We went into the casino for awhile and then went off to dinner. We were in second seating in the smoking section and had the pleasure of sitting with Ermalee and Bill and Eileen and Howard . All I can say is "FANTASTIC". Never had I ever been made to feel so comfortable with folks I had never met before. Each meal was a pleasure!!
The next four days were spent at sea. Unfortunately for us it was cold, rainy and windy therefore no sunning. We made do attending the different lectures, the daily movies, playing in the casino, the various game shows, playing trivia and doing the daily quiz. Debbie won a prize for the daily quiz on Hawaii. We would have much preferred the sun, oh well!. The seas were pretty rough the first three days and nights, and more than half of the dining room was absent. What I still can't figure out is why people do not take the necessary precautions. To be sick and stuck in your room is no way for me to start out a vacation.. There were two informal nights and 1 formal night along with the first night casual. We also had our usual visit to the hair salon. Debbie got me hooked on having my haircut on board. I live in a very rural part of West TN and the best haircuts I have had in the last two years have been on ship by the Steiner girls. We usually ask one of the crew who does their hair and then make our appointments accordingly. I don't mind paying a little more money, since they always do a far better job than my local beauty shop.
As we were waiting to dock in Hilo, we were outside on the lower promenade deck walking and waiting and watching the scenery when a man approached us and told us that whales had been spotted toward the rear of the ship, we ran back there and then after scanning the horizon for about 10 minutes we finally spotted them jumping and splashing in the sea. There were out there the whole time we were docking. Waiting for us at the pier was a group of women dressed in the traditional hula skirts and men in aloha shirts, bidding us welcome with song and dance. We had our only shore excursion arranged for Hilo. It was the Volcano National Park and Hilo city tour and was well worth the price. We started off at a beautiful waterfall ( I can't remember the name) and then headed up to Volcano National Park and stopped for lunch at the Volcano house. What breathtaking views of the Kilauea caldera and the horrible smell of sulfur. We then drove all over the Chain of Crater's road area, looking at the crater from different views and the old lava flow patterns and then headed over to the Thomas A. Jaggar museum. Please don't try and take a piece of lava or rock that you will see on the ground. The legend of Pele (Goddess of Fire) considers them her children and bad luck will come upon you if you take one of her children. The post office there receives the largest amount of packages in the whole United States and these contain rock or lava which people have returned hoping that their string of bad luck will change. After driving through the park, we stopped at the lava tube and had the opportunity to walk through it. It is very cool and damp in there. We then drove over to Kalapana, this is the town that was lost to the lava flow in the 80's. 187 homes were lost and 800 acres added to the Big Island. You can walk all the way out to the ocean on the lava. It has a strange texture to it almost like peanut brittle. We then drove on and stopped at the Macadamia Nut Factory where you can purchase all kinds of nuts in various different flavors and chocolate covered combinations. There is also a self guided tour which go through all the various steps to produce the nuts. We then headed back to the ship for dinner. It was our first Hawaiian night. Wear your best and brightest!!
The casino is closed the 5 days you are in Hawaii. Each evening they have some kind of fun things to do. A slot tournament, you be the dealer clinic, poker tournament, etc. There is no money exchanged for these, just fun!
Our next port is Oahu. Upon arrival we were greeted by a fire ship and a helicopter that dropped flowers. Honolulu is just like any other big city. Lots of all buildings and very very crowded. We made our way by taxi to pick up our rental car at the airport. Then we were off to explore Pearl Harbor, the north shore and then the Polynesian Cultural Center. We drove all over the island stopping to marvel at the 25 foot waves on the north shore and then headed down to the Poly center This was the highlight of the day. Everything and anything you wanted to know about the Polynesian's you can learn about here. It is run by the Mormons and is affiliated with Brigham Young University. The students are your tour guides and run the different exhibits. Each of the students that work there work for 18 hours a week and in exchange they receive an almost complete scholarship to attend BYU. We opted for the Ambassador package which gave us a private tour guide, front row seats at each exhibit, our luau and 2nd row seats at the night show which was awesome!!! We made our way back to the airport and dropped off the car and then back to the ship where we showered and fell into bed.
The next day is Maui. You have to tender into Lahaina. The playground of the rich and famous. Our day was spent on the road to Hana, driving through the rain forest. What a most awesome experience. Deb knew of a place where you purchase a cassette or c.d. which gives you a guided tour of the road to Hana. It tells you all the points of interest, the places where you should stop and take pictures or hikes back in the woods to see a remote waterfall, or where to stop to see one of the last black sand beaches. It took us 3 hours to get up to Hana and for those that have been on that road before, it is now paved and is mostly 2 lane. There are still 600 curves and 54 bridges to go over. Awesome beauty!
Our next port is Kauai. This was an easy day as we just shopped in town and then went over to the Islander Hotel and spent the rest of the day at the beach.
Our last day is on Kona. We tender in to the beach where they do the Iron Man contest swims. We walked around town and did some last minute shopping and then on to or whale watch excursion. We booked this independently through Dan McSweeny's whale watch. He is one of the whale researchers who has been instrumental in identifying over 5000 humpback whales in both the Hawaiian Islands and also Alaska. He really knows where they are. We were able to get up close and almost personal with about 30 or so of these massive creatures. I have attached some pictures that Deb was able to get with her video/still camera. We also were able to see some pilot whales, and bottlenose and spinner dolphins. To see them out free in the ocean without a tank is simply breathtaking. We also were able to hear the males "singing" through a microphone that was placed in the water. Truly awesome. After we had dinner back on the ship, at around 10:00pm we sailed by the active lava flow. This was a totally awesome experience.. You could actually feel the heat and smell the sulfur. Fortunately the weather was clear so we really got a good look at it.
Our next 5 days are spent heading back home. The first two days we had great weather, but then the skies got cloudy again and the winds and the waves picked up. We spent the days again playing Bingo, cards games, enjoying the shows and just relaxing. Our Statendam experience was wonderful.
In conclusion, we had a most enjoyable 15 days. The food and service were excellent. This is a very happy ship. All staff, crew and officers that we encountered were very friendly and seemed genuinely happy . We did run into some minor problems that were addressed to the hotel manager. These problems were acknowledged by the hotel manager and a very nice French wine was sent to our table one evening for dinner.
If you have any questions, please feel free to send me an email.