Honolulu for Kalikimaka Season

Day 76, Grand Asia 2018

Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, Honolulu:

I love Hawaii. I could live here, although I might have trouble deciding on which island. It might not be Oahu, or at least not in Honolulu, which after all is a big city with what is described as some of the worst rush-hour traffic in the country. But regardless, this really is paradise.

The first thing I did when I woke up and realized we had docked early was to take my cell phone off airplane mode and connect to my AT&T network. Finally, a fast Internet connection!

Today the weather was warm, but without the energy-draining humidity of some of our recent ports. As we left the ship, the crew gave us beautiful real-flower leis. Their scent carried us throughout the day.

On previous visits I had knocked off most of the must-do sights here – Diamond Head, the North Shore, Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor. So I pretty much followed my path from last year. A friend and I jumped in an Uber and headed to Costco. It has a great selection of Hawaiian shirts, and I “Snapchatted” with my nephews to get the patterns and colors they liked best.

I did summon enough willpower to pass by the buckets of Malteasers – a family favorite since my sister spent a semester in England in the 1980s. At one time they were a rare treat when someone in the family came back from the United Kingdom. Now you can always buy them at World Market, but Costco’s tubs are an amazing bargain. Still, they are bulky and just an invitation to binge.

Earlier on this trip while ashore we could identify fellow passengers by the clear plastic umbrellas the ship provided. This time, it was the leis. We were not the only ship passengers wearing them in Costco.

The Amsterdam usually docks at Aloha Tower, a cruise pier a couple of blocks from a shopping area. From there you can catch a city bus to just about anywhere on the island. We were told that pier was undergoing construction, but in actuality a film crew had taken it over. So we were about eight blocks away at the Pier 2 Passenger Terminal, normally the home pier for NCL’s Pride of Hawaii. Not as convenient, but better business for the taxi drivers I would say.

After dropping off my Costco purchases on the ship, I walked to Iolani Palace, the home of Hawaiian royalty such as King Kalakaua and his sister, Queen Liliuokalani. I didn’t take the tour, but sat outside to sketch the iconic site. This is the governmental section of the city, and across from the palace is the famous statue of King Kamehameha. On television, this building is the home of Hawaii Five-0, but in actuality it is a judicial building.

This section of King Street is lined with holiday decorations.

I remember from last year that the Kapuaiwa Hale (city hall) lobby hosts a Christmas tree competition.

Just down the hall is a smaller wreath competition, this year with the theme of “Kalikimala Kritters.” Now that I have visited these tucked-away jewels, I feel like I’ve created a tradition and suggested to my sisters that we should spend future Christmases in Hawaii. Why not?

I sketched my way another block or two and returned to the ship. It was mid afternoon, and we didn’t leave until 11 p.m. I just couldn’t summon enough enthusiasm to fight the holiday crowds at Waikiki Beach or the popular Ala Moana mall, so I spent a leisurely hour or so just enjoying the balcony. My cabin stewards had spent a good amount of time this morning washing off the dried salt spray that covered everything during our three days of rough seas. Their jobs never end.

When I headed to the Crow’s Nest for happy hour, I was delighted to see the Christmas tree. Our holiday decorations had arrived earlier in the day and the staff had wasted no time. More trees greeted us at the dining room.

I never made it back to King Street after dark to check out the holiday lights, but we could see fireworks over Waikiki from the dining room window.

Tomorrow Maui will be a tender port, so if the ocean swells are too high we can’t go ashore. The NCL ship will be at our Honolulu berth, so we don’t have the option of staying overnight here as we did last year when we couldn’t tender in Maui. As we sailed past Waikiki, we went to bed with our fingers crossed.