Our Pacific holiday started in Hawaii, visiting for the second time after some six years absence.
There is an almost infinite number of ways to spent one’s time on the archipelago that is the Hawaiian Islands. Having briefly visited most of the major islands on our last trip, on this occasion we opted for a relaxing stay in Honolulu at Waikiki.
Waikiki is all about tourism with its beaches, hotels, restaurants, shopping and attractions. The most popular tourist attraction is Pearl Harbor with the Arizona memorial and “Mighty Mo” (the battleship Missouri).
The sunken Arizona is a war grave to hundreds of servicemen and naturally a hallowed site to Americans, as Gallipoli and the Western Front memorials are to Australians. Any visitor would be touched by the tragedy of the event commemorated. I had visited the Arizona previously and was equally moved on this second visit. The tour of the Missouri was the first time for me.
The battleship Missouri is the impressive vessel in itself, but also its decks witnessed the ceremony of the signing of the Japanese surrender in 1945. Our tour guide explained how despite the Japanese fears that this event would herald harsh recriminations by the United States and the Allies, General Macarthur, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, essentially just proclaimed an end to hostilities and a future peace.
Among those present on board in Tokyo Bay that day representing Australia was General Sir Thomas Blamey. One of the officers representing the United Kingdom had only days before been released from a Japanese prisoner of war camp and was present despite his weak and emaciated condition. The symbolism of his survival through the horrors of that captivity was particularly poignant for me because my own father had spent three and a half years in Changi and on the Burma Railway.
Back to relaxing in Waikiki. In addition to morning swims at the beach we enjoyed the hotel pool with its café and the nearby Maui Brewing Co. restaurant and bar. We sampled a number of restaurants and a delightful sunset dinner cruise complete with Mai Tais and Hawaiian entertainment. There was also the obligatory shopping, seeking shoes, beach and golfing wear.
There always seems to be something happening in Honolulu. We were told the Waikiki has many street parades and during our visit the colourful rainbow “Honolulu Pride” parade attracted large numbers of participants and spectators.
After several relaxing days in Honolulu we boarded the MS Noordam for our 19 day island-hopping cruise back home to Sydney.
Day 1 – Lahaina, Maui
We opted for a submarine excursion to view the coral reef and old ship deliberately sunk off the coast. The distinctive native yellow tang and larger parrot fish were among the multitude of sea life living off the coral reef and the artificial one provided by the ship. It was an exciting experience diving to 130 feet in the purpose-built craft.
This was followed by a snack of delicious calamari and French fries washed down with some local beer and a Singapore Sling.
Then there was more swimming in one of the ship’s two pools, followed by happy hour, dinner and finally a pleasant session with a string quartet plus piano playing classic ballet numbers.
Day 2 – Kona
Like yesterday there was a shuttle service of the ship’s tenders to and from the island. Today we joined a glass-bottomed boat trip over the in-shore reef and got an even closer look at the sea life through crystal clear waters.
A short dip at the man-made beach near the pier was followed by another visit to the local lunch spot overlooking the shore where again we chose calamari with a different local beer and Pina Colada.
Another swim was enjoyed on board on our return. We set sail during “happy hour” saying goodbye to Hawaii as the clouds rolled across and the mountains behind the town and a bright rainbow rose from the shoreline appearing to wish us well on our voyage home.
After another delicious dinner we finished another enjoyable day by again listened to the string quartet this time playing their “American Songbook” highlighted by Rhapsody in Blue.