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Visiting the 50th State

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It has been a while since my last entry but I have an excuse ...

Louise and I have just returned from a visit to our 50th state. It was the 50th state we have visited together and also the 50th state for the U.S. Of course, I'm speaking of the only state that is impractical to visit in a motorhome! Hawaii is one long wet drive and the puddle is so deep. We elected to make our trip on a cruise, which, in a way, is a little like living in a motorhome.

Our ship, the Celebrity Constellation, was to be our home for the next two weeks. Once we were unpacked, our stateroom became home and we just needed to take any materials we needed for day trips. After nine years of living in a motorhome, an inside stateroom on the lower deck of a cruise ship wasn't really a challenge. In fact, we enjoyed the darkness and slept late several mornings!

Our trip started on the 13th of March in San Diego. After four relaxing days at sea we reached Hilo, Hawaii. Hilo is a wet place being on the windward side of the Big Island as the natives call the island of Hawaii. I've stayed in Hilo several times before (under a previous administration as Louise likes to put it) and always enjoyed the city. My Earth science background has always found the volcanoes, waterfalls and beaches to be very interesting. A cruise really isn't the best way to see Hawaii. We like being on our own schedule and the cruise ship sets a very strict schedule. We took a shore excursion which was a hike on Kilauea in an attempt to see red lava. We had no luck with that but did get a good look at lava trees and many other lava formations. We also had a chance to see the summit features of Kilauea and quick stops at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut plantation/processing center and Akaka Falls before returning to the ship.

Our second stop was in Honolulu the next day. We had both been to Honolulu before so we decided to spend the day on our own rather than go on a tour. We found the shopping to be relaxing and managed to scoop up souvenirs for most of the family in the shopping center right by the dock. Surprisingly the prices were quite reasonable with most shops offering deep discounts. Apparently the state of the economy has left them hungry for business from cruise ships. Of course we didn't have room in our suitcases for all the gifts so we sent those home via UPS. Then we hiked up to the punchbowl which is the cemetery for the Pacific war veterans. It was my first visit and we took our time walking around reflecting on the tremendous sacrifices made by so many for the benefit of all of us. The climb to the punchbowl was exhausting but I kept thinking it was nothing like what these men and women faced during WWII and other Pacific conflicts including Korea and Viet Nam.

The third day in Hawaii and the third stop was at Lahaina on Maui. Here we wanted to do some snorkeling and signed up for a tour with the Pacific Whale Foundation. The cruise ship was much too large for the tiny harbor at Lahaina so we had to take tenders ashore. From the tenth deck of the ship we ate breakfast that morning watching whales surfacing and spouting all around us. This promised to be a great time to do some snorkeling. We got lucky and had an extra adventure when the pilot of the tender mistimed the entry into the harbor and attempted to back up just as a wave swept past us. We climbed the face of the wave with the rear of the tender going high up the face of the wave and then the front of the tender did a nosedive into the surf taking on a fair amount of water. We were returned to the ship and then loaded on another tender for a return trip into the harbor. During our day trip we saw numerous whales and had a nice time snorkeling off the island of Lanai.

So now it is turning into one of those adventures where you say to yourself this is Kailua Kona so it must be Sunday and it was. Four days and four stops, some people were beginning to wear down at this pace. I overheard one gentleman at the guest relations desk inquiring about selling his shore excursion tickets! We went ashore here to walk around the town and do more shopping. After shipping more "stuff" home we had ice cream then browsed through an art gallery. We found a beautiful glass piece that we both like and had it shipped home also! The main drag in Kailua Kona was shut down for the afternoon for a street fair and we enjoyed strolling from booth to booth looking at creations of the many artisans on the Big Island. There were bands playing and there was food for sale. What fun.

Our final stop, now day 5 in Hawaii, Monday, March 23, was in Nawiliwili on Kauai. We again elected a shore tour package. Louise had never been in a helicopter so I wanted her to experience a helicopter ride. I had taken many a helicopter ride courtesy of Uncle Sam. This one was a little different. Blue Hawaii Helicopters runs a first class operation with safety concerns addressed and wonderful pilots, helicopters and staff. We took off from the airport and circled the island flying through many canyons including the Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of Hawaii. We saw spectacular waterfalls everywhere and enjoyed a close look at the dramatic Napali Coast. We returned to the ship for our late afternoon departure and enjoyed some relaxing time poolside as the ship left harbor.

The next five days would be at sea as we returned to the US with a short stop in Ensenada, Mexico. The first day out of Hawaii, there were very few people moving around the ship as everyone was catching up on rest. Most of us managed to over schedule our time in Hawaii. The sea time was welcome. The seas were relatively calm and even Louise who experiences motion sickness fairly easily took no medicine after the first two days at sea out of San Diego. This was our first cruise and we enjoyed it greatly. Food on hand most of the time with no dishes to wash were a treat for Louise. Unfortunately, it was too much of a treat for me. It will take me several weeks to shed the additional pounds I packed on during the trip. We arrived back in San Diego one week ago on Sunday, March 28 and flew back to Texas that afternoon.

It will be a while before we take another cruise but this one certainly set a high standard. For relaxation it would be hard to beat a cruise. We're back in the motorhome and back to our routine. Life goes on and it isn't bad in the motorhome!

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Well, what a coincidence. I just posted a story of one of the days Diane and I were cruising.

Sounds like you had a great time!

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