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Review: Miracle Journeys cruise to Hawaii (Oct 19 - Nov 2) with pics!


thenexus2k
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     The first leg of our cruise was four consecutive sea days. Before I begin, let me back up a tad. The day before departure I was reading the LA Times. They were reporting how the power companies would be shutting off power to some towns north of LA due to expected high winds over the weekend possibly knocking over power polls and starting fires.

               

      (Fast forward to the first full sea day). I slept like a log through the night, but when I got up in the morning, I didn’t feel right. I went out to the balcony, and my large balcony seemed awfully small. I felt like I was bouncing around pretty good, and could suddenly imagine, with clarity, exactly how it is that some people accidently go overboard. I went back inside to take a shower, which proved to be very difficult as I had to cling to the safety rail with one arm and wash up with the other. I got dressed and tuned to the ship channel where I saw the ship reading 70 mph winds coming from our starboard-aft corner. We decided to try the sea-day brunch and headed down to the MDR, meanwhile I was feeling worse and worse. I ordered a standard breakfast (eggs, toast, hash, and bacon) which looked delicious. However, I took one bite of bacon, one bite of hash, and I was done. This was probably a smart move, since as my wife stated multiple times (while doing a poor job of hiding evil glee) that I was looking “green around the gills”. Her astute diagnosis was confirmed as we left the dining room and I saw faces that were sympathetic (and probably concerned for their own clothing) as I walked by.

 

     We decided it was probably best if we head to the carnival shop and pick up some Dramamine (They actually had Bonine instead). We took the “long” way to get there, by way of lido deck. On the walk, I noticed that all the pools were drained with netting over them. My sickness addled brain actually thought this was because it was mid 70s and too cold to swim. After obtaining the meds (there was a line of people buying the same thing), we headed back to the room, took the meds and had a seat.

     Now, I had never been seasick. I grew up boating on lakes in MI, and have taken several Caribbean cruises with no ill effects. This was completely new to me. I’ll explain it like this: it was almost identical to a bad migraine, with the very notable exception of having no light sensitivity problems (which was the only reason I was sure that it wasn’t a migraine). If you are reading this, you do not know me, but I can tell you unequivocally that what happened next was so NOT in line with my personality: I became miserable and despondent. I was bereft of reason. Ignoring the fact that rather large winds were buffeting the ship, I began to wonder if this was because we were at the back of the boat (had never booked there before), or if the Pacific was always like this (had never sailed it before). At one point, I actually had the thought (that I only later shared with my wife) that there was no way I was going to sail back from HI to CA for 4 days, and that as soon as we got to HI, I was going to look into booking flights back to LA. Yeah, it was bad.

 

     I eventually retired to the bedroom and lay down. This of course is when I began to worry that I was going to ruin the cruise for my wife, before I looked over to see her sleeping as well. This is when I finally gave in (note: not “up” but “in”) and I SLEPT! I now look at the whole sea sickness shenanigans as a blessing. For the first time in a few years, I actually felt rested when I awoke.  The “time zone effect” was over for the duration of the vacation. The seas were once again calm and I truly began to enjoy my vacation. When speaking of this later with fellow passengers, the rumor was that we had over 20 foot swells, which sounds like a lot to my untrained ear, but the rest of the cruise was smooth sailing.

  

     The other three sea days were great! We did do some trivia. Saw some shows. Walked around the boat and just generally relaxed (and of course ate too much!). I discovered that the popcorn chicken that I loved so much, was actually full sized chicken tenders when you got them fresh, so that was my NEW new favorite. I tried a couple of times to get a Texas Holdem game going, but as usual on these cruises (with the computerized tables and the LARGE rake), there was very little interest. It just could not have been a more relaxing time. We had no internet, no TV, no Phone, work, email, kids, Facebook, etc. We just had each other. I know some couples that would dread this. For us, it rejuvenated, re-energized, and reinvigorated us to realize that we had nothing anymore to take our focus away from just being “us”.

 

     The next people watching moment was actually observed by my wife while in line at the coffee shop. A woman was not just complaining, but being a tad belligerent about the sugar straws. Even though she had received a plastic straw upon request, she continued to question the reasoning.

 

Barista (trying to keep it lite and civil): “We are trying to cut back on plastic to help save the turtles”

 

Angry lady: “Turtles! What do I care about turtles?!? We don’t even have turtles where I live!”

*Angrily grabs drink and storms off*

 

I personally have no dog in the fight, as I rarely use a straw anyway. I just found the reaction humorous.

 

Next up: Maui

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Thanks very much for this review!  We are doing the Honolulu to Vancouver Journeys cruise in April with a couple of friends who are new to cruising.  Looking forward to reading the rest!  Hoping you have some info regarding the special 'Journeys' related activities.

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     A people watching moment happened early in the morning. As I was strolling through the lobby, I passed a couple near customer services.

 

     Woman to Man (exacerbated): “I just need to find out if I need to exchange any, or if they even accept American money on Hawaii!!”

 

I love people.

 

     Anyway, on to Maui! I personally call the three islands we are visiting, the “Goldilocks Islands”. By that, I mean that Oahu has the bigger city, is slightly faster paced, and more touristy. Kona/Hilo seems slower paced, almost rural. Maui, on the other hand, to me, falls somewhere in between and is “juuust right!” There are some larger towns, and some wide open spaces. Large green mountains shoot through the clouds and into the sky to paint a beautiful backdrop. If I were to ever pull up stakes and move to Hawaii, the island of Maui would be my choice to plant my flag.

 

Just sitting on the balcony, watching as the boat pulled in was a treat in and of itself!

 

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Getting off the boat was quick, easy, and painless. The port is more industrial than it is touristy, and it showed. The “terminal” that you walk through is all gray metal and concrete. There is an area right outside the “terminal” where it looked like tours were meeting and cabs were waiting. If you are walking to the street to hit the stores (or in our case, the car rental agency), you have to continue on walking between fenced off areas to get to the main road and it is a bit of a hike.

 

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Above is the walk between terminal and the street. I kept thinking of season 3 of the walking dead....

 

     Our plans today were to rent a car and drive around. We had pre-purchased tickets to the Maui Ocean Center and had tickets to the old Lahaina luau for dinner. There are two rental car agencies right outside the port. The distance from the port entrance is about half of the distance from the cruise ship itself to the port entrance.

 

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Red line is the walk from ship to street. Blue is the walk to the enterprise. You can even cut across the parking lot I believe. 

 

It is that close. I had booked a car rental through Enterprise months in advance. I would highly recommend this, as the price that I heard some paying in the lobby were 50-100% higher than what I paid. The process to get the car went pretty quick and smooth, especially considering the crush of cruise passengers flooding the agency. We made a quick stop at a gas station for a beverage, took a minute to get the top down on the car, hooked up the android auto app on my phone to the car for GPS directions, and we were underway!

 

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Our ride for the day!

 

     Which reminds me, if you are renting a car, be sure to bring a charging cord for your phone! Aside from the obvious benefit of charging, a lot of these cars need the direct connection so that they can integrate and display the turn by turn directions.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, WorkerBee74 said:

Thanks very much for this review!  We are doing the Honolulu to Vancouver Journeys cruise in April with a couple of friends who are new to cruising.  Looking forward to reading the rest!  Hoping you have some info regarding the special 'Journeys' related activities.

You're welcome! I have to be honest, I am not entirely sure what activities were "unique" to a journeys cruise. They did have a guest lecturer that covered topics like star navigation and taking pictures (which had some useful tidbits). There was also a naturalist on board to help spot whales and other sea life, though we never made it to one of those as there was always something else going on. 

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     First stop was the Maui Ocean Center. This is not a long drive from the port (maybe 15 minutes). Carnival had an excursion for this, but once it was decided that we were renting a car, we simply booked the tickets ourselves online. The Maui Ocean Center is an aquarium complex. If you are an aquarium junkie as my wife is, it has everything most aquarium complexes have, just a little bit more and a little bit better. There are loads of exhibits, both inside and out, with tons of colorful and interesting fish, as well as sharks, turtles, and everything else. They also have plenty of real live people around that were eager to answer questions and tell stories about what they do there. We also caught a 3-D humpback whale experience, which was better than I thought it would be.

 

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     After the aquarium, we decided to head up the coast to Lahaina. The drive was awesome! I know a lot of people will talk about taking the northern route. This is not for me! That route is very curvy, with single lane roads. I have heard the views are great, but I would never know as I am sure my knuckles would be white and I would be too focused on driving to actually see any of it. I’ve seen the pictures, they look great, and that’s good enough for me! The southern route is a very wide, two lane road, taken at a leisurely 50 MPH. The views there are breath taking as well! As an added bonus, they have a couple of scenic overlooks where you can park and take pictures at leisure.

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     Here’s another tip. If you decide to drive with the top down, and your hair is a little thin up top, either wear a hat or use some sunscreen! It was a tad painful brushing my hair for a couple days after….

 

     We were a few hours early, so we parked in the downtown shopping district and did some walking. First we headed to the public beach. We did not do any swimming, but the walk was nice and the beach was relatively quiet. I had never seen sand crabs before, but they were in abundance here. I was simply mesmerized by how fast those suckers can move! We then proceeded to the shopping district. It looks like any touristy type shopping district you would find in the Caribbean, but there was one important difference. My wife found a shop that had a lot of flowery dresses. You know the type as they are all over every shop in the Caribbean (and my Wife’s closet), and usually go for $20 - $50. The first one she found, that to me looked no different than others, had a price tag of $1,300. Overall, I did enjoy the walk. The weather was nice and the town was hopping with tourists.

 

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Public beach in Lahaina

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     Next up, was the luau we had booked. What Hawaiian vacation is complete without attending at least one luau? We did some research into this, as the official offerings from the boat seemed a little sparse, and we settled on the “Old Lahaina Luau”. It is a more traditional luau, with a classic show, and does not have the fire twirlers like you see on TV, so if that is a must have, this is not for you. However, I can tell you that it was fantastic! Book your tickets online as far out as you can, as they do tend to sell out. The luau was scheduled for 5:15 and we arrived a tad early. Upon check-in, they give you a traditional ley and escort you to your assigned table. There are around 70 tables, each holding about 8 guests, set in a semi-circle around the central stage. Before dinner begins, you are free to roam around the grounds, take in the various areas that show how coconut is prepared, poi is made, a talk on Hawaiian history, all while walking along the shore watching the sun set. Oh, and I should probably mention that they have an open bar with a rum punch that was great!  

 

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   In a bit of a statistical anomaly, seated at our table were 3 other couples all from the Miracle, 2 of which had vista rooms like ours. They were from LA, TX, and MI and were all very nice and the lively conversation made the dinner even better. Our assigned server had a long Hawaiian name, but we were told to call him “Tim”. He was extremely friendly and a great server. The dinner itself is served buffet style. It contained a bunch of different foods including fish, steak, chicken and poi, with rice and veggies, (all of which I made sure to try) but the main attraction was the pork! Definitely get the pork, it was so delicious! After dinner, they serve a tray with assorted desserts. The highlight for me was the banana bread with an in-house butter that was to die for. They give you a bag of bread when you leave to take with you, which became my breakfast the next morning. Near the end of the meal, and during desert, they start the show on the center stage. As stated, it is a traditional show, with dozens of talented dancers and was very captivating. I only grabbed one bad picture, but between the food, the show, and the lively conversation with my table mates (not to mention the rum punch!), I did not think to grab more pictures.

 

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When booking this luau, that is not Carnival official, you will get some naysayers telling you that you are cutting it close and you may miss the boat, etc. Allow me to give you an official timeline to help allay some fears and stress. The boat was set to leave port at 11:00 with a back on board time of 10:30. We left the luau at 8:12, calmly drove back to the port area, stopped at a Costco to fill up the tank, returned the car, walked to a Long’s drug store to buy another 12 pack (side note: Long’s is EVERYWHERE on the islands, like Starbucks in Seattle), walked back to the boat, took a quick shower and changed, and were sitting on our balcony by 9:32.

 

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Next up: Oahu!

 

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Oahu / Honolulu

 

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     Today, our plan was to visit Pearl Harbor, then do some shopping and hit up Waikiki beach for some swimming. We looked at doing the Carnival Excursion, but opted to get to PH ourselves. Tickets are purchased online for only $1 and you have to schedule a time to be there (we had an 11 AM time-slot). Our cruise Facebook group was most helpful in alerting us when the tickets for our date became available. Originally, before I became addicted to Uber, I was thinking of taking the city bus (“The Bus” as they call it on Oahu), however the ship had some kind of delay getting us released and everyone was late getting off of the ship.

 

     To complicate matters further, the line to get off was long and winding. We got in line in the atrium (which was where you got off and didn’t seem too bad), but then the line wound down the hall, through the casino (which caused a lot of non-smokers to complain and I understand), through the coffee bar lobby, into the theater, to the stage, back out to the lobby and all the way back to where you started, just to get off. Honestly, I thought the line moved along pretty well, but there was a lot of grumbling and a lot of people were nervous that they were going to miss their activities. I did hear that many did not make their appointment time at PH. Once we got off the boat and through the terminal (which is just as nice as Long Beach), we were able to grab an Uber just outside the doors. (25 minutes / $24.09)

 

     We arrived at PH with 15 minutes to spare. They do not allow you to bring anything in with you except your phone and a very small purse. They do have lockers available there if you do need them, but I would recommend that you leave everything on the ship. My wife just tucked her ID and S&S card in her phone case and we were set. At your appointment time, you are ushered into a theater where they show you a movie on the history of PH with a focus on the attack. I found this both interesting and moving. After the movie, you are then ushered to a small ferry boat that takes you out to the Arizona memorial. Your group gets dropped off, and the group that was there, gets on the boat to head back. You get about 20 minutes to walk around and read about the Arizona, before the next group comes and you are taken back to shore. Back on land, you can see the USS Missouri, the Bowfin submarine museum, and an aviation museum. When we were done, we grabbed an Uber and headed back to the ship. (26 minutes / $24.45)

 

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     We had a late lunch on the ship, after which we put on our beach clothes and disembarked again. We grabbed another Uber and had him drop us off at the HRC (18 minutes/$13.20) so that we could grab the shot glass. From there, it was a short walk to the Beach. The beach area itself is nice (but definitely NOT Aruba!) and they have public facilities where you can change and wash the sand off your feet if you need to, and the beach itself was clean and was not awfully busy. My only real complaint about the beach is that in the water, there is a tide line of sharp rocks and shells which wrought havoc on my poor feet! It was fine once you crossed either going out or coming in, but I would definitely get a pair of beach shoes to go swimming. There is also a 3 foot drop off and a decent undertow to be aware of if you bring the kids. After swimming, we walked around town a bit and did some more shopping before calling an Uber to get back to the ship. (35 minutes/$15.59)

 

     That night, we had reservations at the steakhouse on board. I want to say that I very much enjoyed dinner. The food was excellent. The service was great. The Chef came out and talked to us for a bit (his wife worked on board as well). The environment in the actual room was great. The carnival funnel is tainted red and is translucent which paints the room in a warm red glow. My minor gripes were with outside influences. The first is that the steakhouse is on deck 10 and there is a walking deck just outside. Not a big deal, but it’s a little unnerving to look out at the scenery and have a passenger staring back at you. The second gripe I have is that the steakhouse is over the atrium and is open all the way down. This means that in the middle of dinner, you could be treated to sounds of pop songs being played by the band 10 floors below you. The music was not bad; it just was not in keeping with the atmosphere in the restaurant. Don’t read too much into my complaints as I had a wonderful time and would most definitely go back. 

 

     After leaving the restaurant, we walked the ship for a bit, before heading to our balcony to watch the sail away and ultimately fall into bed.

 

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Next Stop: Kona

 

 

 

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10 hours ago, thenexus2k said:

     After the aquarium, we decided to head up the coast to Lahaina. The drive was awesome! I know a lot of people will talk about taking the northern route. This is not for me! That route is very curvy, with single lane roads. I have heard the views are great, but I would never know as I am sure my knuckles would be white and I would be too focused on driving to actually see any of it. I’ve seen the pictures, they look great, and that’s good enough for me! The southern route is a very wide, two lane road, taken at a leisurely 50 MPH. The views there are breath taking as well! As an added bonus, they have a couple of scenic overlooks where you can park and take pictures at leisure.

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     Here’s another tip. If you decide to drive with the top down, and your hair is a little thin up top, either wear a hat or use some sunscreen! It was a tad painful brushing my hair for a couple days after….

 

     We were a few hours early, so we parked in the downtown shopping district and did some walking. First we headed to the public beach. We did not do any swimming, but the walk was nice and the beach was relatively quiet. I had never seen sand crabs before, but they were in abundance here. I was simply mesmerized by how fast those suckers can move! We then proceeded to the shopping district. It looks like any touristy type shopping district you would find in the Caribbean, but there was one important difference. My wife found a shop that had a lot of flowery dresses. You know the type as they are all over every shop in the Caribbean (and my Wife’s closet), and usually go for $20 - $50. The first one she found, that to me looked no different than others, had a price tag of $1,300. Overall, I did enjoy the walk. The weather was nice and the town was hopping with tourists.

 

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Public beach in Lahaina

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     Next up, was the luau we had booked. What Hawaiian vacation is complete without attending at least one luau? We did some research into this, as the official offerings from the boat seemed a little sparse, and we settled on the “Old Lahaina Luau”. It is a more traditional luau, with a classic show, and does not have the fire twirlers like you see on TV, so if that is a must have, this is not for you. However, I can tell you that it was fantastic! Book your tickets online as far out as you can, as they do tend to sell out. The luau was scheduled for 5:15 and we arrived a tad early. Upon check-in, they give you a traditional ley and escort you to your assigned table. There are around 70 tables, each holding about 8 guests, set in a semi-circle around the central stage. Before dinner begins, you are free to roam around the grounds, take in the various areas that show how coconut is prepared, poi is made, a talk on Hawaiian history, all while walking along the shore watching the sun set. Oh, and I should probably mention that they have an open bar with a rum punch that was great!  

 

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   In a bit of a statistical anomaly, seated at our table were 3 other couples all from the Miracle, 2 of which had vista rooms like ours. They were from LA, TX, and MI and were all very nice and the lively conversation made the dinner even better. Our assigned server had a long Hawaiian name, but we were told to call him “Tim”. He was extremely friendly and a great server. The dinner itself is served buffet style. It contained a bunch of different foods including fish, steak, chicken and poi, with rice and veggies, (all of which I made sure to try) but the main attraction was the pork! Definitely get the pork, it was so delicious! After dinner, they serve a tray with assorted desserts. The highlight for me was the banana bread with an in-house butter that was to die for. They give you a bag of bread when you leave to take with you, which became my breakfast the next morning. Near the end of the meal, and during desert, they start the show on the center stage. As stated, it is a traditional show, with dozens of talented dancers and was very captivating. I only grabbed one bad picture, but between the food, the show, and the lively conversation with my table mates (not to mention the rum punch!), I did not think to grab more pictures.

 

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When booking this luau, that is not Carnival official, you will get some naysayers telling you that you are cutting it close and you may miss the boat, etc. Allow me to give you an official timeline to help allay some fears and stress. The boat was set to leave port at 11:00 with a back on board time of 10:30. We left the luau at 8:12, calmly drove back to the port area, stopped at a Costco to fill up the tank, returned the car, walked to a Long’s drug store to buy another 12 pack (side note: Long’s is EVERYWHERE on the islands, like Starbucks in Seattle), walked back to the boat, took a quick shower and changed, and were sitting on our balcony by 9:32.

 

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Next up: Oahu!

 

But did she buy the dress? 😂😂😂

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Jazz - Ha Ha ... NO!  😄 I give her grief, but my wife can be reasonable when approached from the right angle. In this case, it was "Let's put that money towards a future Caribbean cruise where you can look for a dress..." 

 

naxer - No problem! It's one of the main reasons I wrote this. I had a ton of questions I had to dig to get answers for. Hoping to save some people a little hassle. 

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24 minutes ago, CdrescherRBL152 said:

Gald to know you got to go to the Arizona Memorial. We are booked for the 15 day Hawaii cruise in January.The Memorial was being repaired and they were not sure if it would be reopened when are there.

 

About that. Quick editor's note (my wife). The tickets were NOT $1. They are free, but there was a $2 processing fee for doing it online (which is where I got the $1 per number from)

 

Have fun and enjoy!!!

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Kona

 

     This may be helpful for those of you wondering about canceling Carnival excursions and what happens when you do. We originally had booked an excursion to the Kona Coffee factory. My wife is a bit of a coffee nut and thought it would be cool, and I was just along for the ride. Around two weeks before leaving, my wife had a change of heart, and decided that Kona would be a good shopping day and decided to cancel. She simply went online to our booking and cancelled. It could not have been too difficult, as I didn’t hear any complaining. Within 2-3 days, we received a FedEx envelope with a Carnival gift card loaded up with the amount we had paid for the excursion.

 

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     Kona itself is a tender port. I had never done a tender port before, so this was an all-new experience for me. It got off to a bit of a rough start as first the ship was late, and then they determined that the sea was too rough (though it appeared calm to me)and needed to turn the ship 180 degrees. They also had a sort of lottery system to get off the ship. You had to get a number from a designated spot up on lido in the morning, and that would determine your time slot to get on a tender. When it was your time, you met down at deck 2, where they put you on one of the 5 or 6 lifeboats that they had running back and forth, and it took you to shore. When you were ready to come back, you just met one of the boats at the dock, and it took you back to the ship.

 

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     Since the wife and I had no place to be, we didn’t bother to grab a number and just decided to hang out on the boat until the madness died down and we could get off at leisure. We finally went down just after lunch, and found that they were still calling the last of the numbers. It was not a big deal for us, we just had to wait in line for about twenty minutes and we got on the boat. I asked the pilot if he minded if I drove, to which he responded with a laugh but never actually answered the question. The majority of the people on the ship complained about it being “the worst tender process ever”, and that they really "botched it", and that may be true. Personally, my only issue was that it was hot and stuffy with very little air flow in the boat, but I was not in a hurry like others were.

 

     The ride only took about 10 minutes and we were dropped off at a dock near a shopping district. We spent about three hours walking up and down the street doing some shopping for souvenirs and such. I was told by fellow passengers that there was some very good food to be had there, but we did not personally eat anything. Again, the weather was great, and the views were good. There was a lot of interesting foliage to see up and down the street. At one point, my wife went into yet another dress shop, and I looked over to see 2 gentleman sitting on a ledge holding bags. I walked over and asked:

“Is this where the pack mules stand?”

 

     They laughed and said that their wives were in shopping, so I took a seat next to them. A little later, a fourth man came by, looked at us, smiled and shook his head and took a seat next to me to wait as well.

 

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     Sometime after, (as my wallet was lighter, yet the bags heavier), we headed back to the dock to ferry back to the boat. I did stop at another Long’s drugs (seriously, EVERYWHERE), to grab another 12 pack (I was stocking up for the 4 sea days back). The ride back itself got a little dicey when I struck up a conversation with the gentleman seated across from me. He stated that he was "done with football" because of Colin Kaepernick kneeling and the only sport he watched was NASCAR. Being the smart-ass I am, I could not resist taking a friendly jab.

“NASCAR is not a sport.”

 

     This dude turned red and was MAD! I mean he was seriously ready to fight me right there in the life boat. It didn’t matter to him that I had six inches and probably 100 lbs on him, he was going to go all crazy hair and teeth on me. Not wanting to get into a fight over something silly like NASCAR (I really was just trying to be funny), I did my best to smooth things over. My wife (bless her heart, I really do love this woman) started talking to him using what little knowledge about NASCAR she had obtained before I married (and reprogrammed) her and was able to make this all a tad more civil.

 

   That night, we decided to go back to the MDR for the first time since the first night. This time, we were seated in a different section and it was a night and day difference. The service this time was awesome! The food was great, and everything was pretty close to perfect. The server gave us her card, so that we could ask to be seated in her section for the rest of the cruise. We did end up going back almost every night thereafter. I know some people did not like the decor of the dining room, but I enjoyed it and dubbed it the “grape hall”. Those of you that have been there know why, and those of you going will get it quickly.

 

     After dinner, we walked the deck for a bit. They had brought a “Mentalist” on board to do a show that night only. It was held in the main theater and was definitely worth the time. I had never seen a “Mentalist” show before, but he was very funny and had a pretty amazing routine. After dinner, we went back to our balcony to relax for a bit before falling into bed for the night.

 

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Next up: Hilo

 

 

 

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         I'm really enjoying your review with the added bonus of lots of pictures.  I lived in Hawaii for nine years over the years and my wife was born in Hawaii (on Oahu) so we're very familiar with the islands.  Like you, our favorite island is Maui because of the mix of scenery.  Oahu is our least favorite (and where I lived for the nine years).  I've always considered it like Los Angeles just further west.  Unlike LA there are plenty of places to go to escape the crowds.  The Big Island is our next favorite because of the volcanos!

 

My wife tends to get seasick so I always choose a cabin in the middle of the ship (Outside) and on the lowest possible passenger deck.  She's always been fine there.  If the ship has cove balconies I'll grab one of those.  On any ship the areas with the most movement are the front and the back.  It's kind of like a see-saw...max movement on either end but very little in the middle.  The Pacific can be fickle.  Some days it can be the "The Deadliest Catch" and other times it's like you're cruising on a lake.  We did this same trip (out of San Diego where we lived at the time) in 2014 on the Spirit.  By far, our favorite cruise!

 

Again, thanks so much for doing this!

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Hilo 

 

     Hilo is actually the other side of the island from Kona, but it is another climate altogether. Where it hardly ever rains in Kona, it rains very frequently in Hilo. There is nothing to do what so ever in the immediate port area. There are two general stores (not even a Long's!) within a quarter mile and that is it. They do have a shuttle bus that took several passengers back and forth to the Walmart shopping area in town. If you are only going to take one excursion on the cruise, this is probably the best place to do it. This was the case for us, as we had booked a 5-hour tour of the area called "Land of Frozen Fire".

 

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     I started my day by heading down to the sports bar after an early breakfast. We were not in port yet, and it was Sunday, and with the 6-hour time difference, that meant the 1 EST NFL games were starting at 7 am local, and I was hoping to catch some football. I knew from the start that the game I wanted to watch (Lions/Giants) would not be on, and it wasn't. They did however, have several games going on the TVs, so I took a seat to watch. After a while, I noticed that the Lions/Giants game was being shown on one of the smaller TVs, so I excitedly switched seats to get a good view. After about 10 minutes of that, the TV suddenly switched to the game that was playing on several of the other big TVs. I got the bartender's attention and asked if he could switch it back. He stated that he had no control over the TVs and they were controlled "somewhere else" (There was no word on if this "somewhere else" was on the boat, at Carnival HQ in Miami, or my wife with the clicker at the coffee bar messing with me). After he walked away, I glanced back at the TV and saw that it was now playing women's college volleyball. I left in a mix of frustration and disgust. Seriously Carnival, you have a somewhat decent sports bar area, do better.  

 

 

     My wife collected me when we docked, and we headed out to meet the tour. The tour itself was on a 25 person mini bus, and was led by a 20-something local woman who had only left the island twice (to go to Oahu) and nowhere else. She was very personable and knowledgeable about the area, and an overall fun tour guide. I did get a kick out of her whenever she would say stuff like "back in the States" or "do you have these in the States?" 

 

     She drove us through town, where she told us the history that was very much shaped by a couple of Tsunamis, before heading out of town and on to Rainbow Falls, where we stopped for some pictures and a bathroom break. There was no sun at the time, so we did not get a rainbow, but the area was still nice.

 

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     We next ventured off towards the lava flows. On the way, she told us about 2018. Her tale included three earthquakes, mudslides, the lava flow, two tsunami warnings, and a false incoming ballistic missile warning (She definitely did NOT moonlight as a local realtor). We briefly stopped at a road that had been closed due to lava flow damage. It was raining, but the tour provided plastic rain ponchos for our use. It was a short five-minute stop and then we were off to a park nearby that was set up around the lava flows. We were able to get out there (there were bathroom facilities) and take the half mile hiking trail through the woods to look around and take some pictures.  

 

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Next stop was one of the two “painted churches” on the islands. It is a small church that had been completely moved at some point (the reason currently escapes me), and was beautifully painted on the inside with beautifully maintained grounds on the outside.  

 

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     She next drove us down to the water’s edge, where the lava flows had met the ocean and had formed a sea arch. Along the way, we passed an area where steam was still coming up from the ground. At the sea arch, we parked and again were able to get out and walk around to take pictures.  

 

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     Next stop was a lava field which had a sort of pop-up shopping area next to it. I do not know how best to describe it other than that. We were given 30 minutes to look around. Some people went to walk the fields to the ocean’s edge, we went shopping. We bought a hand carved turtle from a woman selling out of a VW bus, walked by the general store and “restaurant” and entered a glassware store. I got to talking to the proprietor, which was a 50-something woman that was born in Wyoming, had lived in Florida, Texas, and California, and had somehow ended up on this very remote part of Hawaii. I would have loved to have sat down and heard her life story. Her and her daughter made most of the glass and ceramic pieces, and there were several local artists that had wood pieces, pictures and paintings that she put up for sale. My wife bought a couple of pretty (surprise surprise) coffee mugs, and paid to have them shipped to us via USPS.

 

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    Our next (and last) stop on the tour was the Mauhna Loa macadamia nut factory. They had a café with hotdogs, drinks, ice cream and other things, as well as a store that sold MANY variations of nuts, chocolates, nick-knacks, etc. We bought a few too many bags of various forms of chocolate covered nuts, a bag of Kona coffee, and a few souvenirs, before getting back on the bus to head back to the ship.  

 

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     Once we were dropped off at the port, I briefly left the area to grab one last 12 pack before getting back on the ship. This was the smallest of the three ports we were at, but had the most security check points. We were stopped at the gate, stopped again at the terminal, run through a metal detector/x-ray combo inside the terminal, checked again before getting on the boat, then run through the Carnival metal detector/x-ray combo on the boat. It was not a big deal at all, I just found all the extra security at this port a bit odd. 

 

     Once back on board, we took a quick shower and watched the sail away from our balcony. From a distance, you could see the many bands of rain hitting different parts of the island. We had dinner in the MDR that night, before doing our nightly routine, and enjoying the balcony for a bit before falling into bed.  

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Next up: Four days at sea! 

 

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Great review!  This is on my bucket list for when retirement happens . I have terrible ear problems from flying so I need to take multiple flights in shorter distances and over a few days.  No time for that currently.

 

Oh boy the NASCAR comment was said to what must be a diehard fan.  People have followed NASCAR probably since being a kid and are a pretty passionate crowd.  We do like the “sport” but we don’t fall into that category but have met the type.  I have seen tattoos with drivers faces on fans bodies, a little weird to me but I won’t mention that to tattooed guy.  Glad your wife was able to deviate conversation.
 

Really enjoying your review.

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LOL, yeah I know. I have a few friends that are NASCAR fans and I like to stir the pot with the comment, I was just completely unprepared for the reaction. I chalk it up to the fact that maybe he was already in a mood from the tender process and the heat and humidity. It is what it is, no biggie. 

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21 hours ago, thenexus2k said:

 

   That night, we decided to go back to the MDR for the first time since the first night. This time, we were seated in a different section and it was a night and day difference. The service this time was awesome! The food was great, and everything was pretty close to perfect. The server gave us her card, so that we could ask to be seated in her section for the rest of the cruise. We did end up going back almost every night thereafter. I know some people did not like the decor of the dining room, but I enjoyed it and dubbed it the “grape hall”. Those of you that have been there know why, and those of you going will get it quickly.

 

 

LOL - DH has always described Miracle's dining room decor as "Late Bubonic Plague."😀However, we've never cruised for the decor. I'm enjoying your review.

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