Leaving Home for San Diego
My plane touched down in San Diego shortly before 2:30 PM, on this 1st day of April. Fool’s Day. It was a beautiful and sunny afternoon, the harbor waters glistening in the mid-afternoon sun.
It was a short taxi ride to the hotel, Embassy Suites. I chose it both for it’s short walking distance to the Fish House restaurant where 25 or so of our Cruise Critic roll call group would be meeting up for a pre-cruise dinner, and for the fact that I had Hilton points that could be used to pay for the room. Hotel rooms are a bit on the expensive side in San Diego, so I was happy to be able to use points instead of dollars. The hotel is also a very quick taxi ride to the cruise port.
I scored a nice room on the 11th floor, with both a city and a harbor view. The room was large and comfortable, with a living room at the front, and the bedroom at the back, with the lovely views.
A little after 6:00 PM, I met some fellow roll call members in the lobby area and we headed out for the short walk to the restaurant. It was nice to put names to faces! There were Susie and Loren, with whom I’d share a few tours during the cruise, and Susie and I would be on the same trivia team throughout the cruise. Jacqui and Jose were along for the walk as well. Jacqui had been our roll call organizer/overseer and it was great to meet her in person after all of these many months of back and forth communication on the boards. Jacqui and I were also going to be spa “partners”, splitting the couples discount for use of the thermal spa and ceramic lounges and aromatherapy steam rooms. It’s a bit pricey if you try to go it alone. It is one of the ways I like to spoil myself if I’m on one of HAL’s ships that has the thermal suite available, as not all the ships do, especially the older, smaller ships. The thermal suite is open every day, from 8 AM until 10 PM. It includes a very large mineral water pool, waters bubbling like a jacuzzi on steroids. There are stainless steel rollers beds at one end where you can lie back and let the bubbling waters massage your entire body in comfort. In another section of the suite, there are 2 steam rooms, one plain old hot water steam, the other infused with aromatherapy scents. I love the aromatherapy one. Outside of the steam rooms are some rain showers, and then there are 6 ceramic tile beds, sort of a flat S shape in design, and heated just enough to lull you off to a splendid little slumber. Ahhhh…….
We had a very nice and delicious seafood dinner, and I enjoyed my table mates and our conversation. Angie and John are a really nice couple who live on opposite sides of the country, yet spend most of their time traveling together. They used to be high school sweethearts, who went their separate ways for a number of years, but I guess you could now call them retired sweethearts. Angie “lives” in Gilroy, which is close to my old stomping grounds when I lived in Monterey. John is from Virginia or Maryland, I believe.
I was also excited to meet Kathy, a fellow world cruise alumni, as I am taking my first world cruise next year and I was full of questions for her, although I haven’t yet asked her all that many. I don’t want to bombard her and scare her off! She’s also on our trivia team, so it has been nice getting to know her on a more personal level.
After dinner, everyone went their separate ways - back to the various hotels where we were staying, and I’m sure we all went to sleep, excited for our journey to the South Pacific to begin the next day.
San Diego to Honolulu
The journey from San Diego to Honolulu took 5 days and 5 nights, including embarkation day in San Diego. We arrived in Honolulu on Day 6, at 10:00 AM. I can tell you that everyone was anxious to get off the ship by then, even though there were tons of things to do on board every single sea day — I for one, was never bored.
The first few days I was very much under the weather - a touch of flu, perhaps, I don’t know. But I didn’t let it stop me from attending lectures and other things that interested me. I was careful to not touch other people, and washed my hands like a crazy person, and by day 4 I was finally feeling more like my usual self. I lost 8 pounds the first 5 days on board. Good thing, because I’m probably going to gain it all back by the time I get home again!
We have a location guide on board who is Hawaiian. His name is Kainoa and he’s really a fabulous speaker, and a wealth of knowledge not just about Hawaii, but about all of the ports in French Polynesia. I’ve very much enjoyed his presentations so far.
On sea days, as I mentioned in my earlier blog posts from other cruises, there is a multitude of things to keep you busy….or not.
There are arts and crafts classes where we learned to make leis, fiber bracelets, flower pieces for your hair, etc. There are computer classes where a Windows expert helps you to navigate your PC, and upload and edit your camera’s photos. You can also learn and play bridge, Mah Jongg, Checkers and Chess. There’s also a social card players room set aside during certain hours of the day.
There are lectures about the history of Polynesia, how life began in the oceans, and port talks that delve deeper into the places we are to visit. There’s a book club, a library, daily trivia contests, happy hours, swimming and sunning. And food. Always, there is food. There’s bingo, dance classes, karaoke, nightclubs, a piano bar, classical strings, and evening shows in the large theatre. There are daily movies - I watched a documentary the other day called Somm. It showcased 4 young men attempting to pass the incredibly difficult master sommelier exam, held in the U.S. each year. The annual pass rate is about 6%. It was fascinating!
There’s a spa and a gym where you can work out or be pampered to your heart’s content. There are quiet decks and lounges if you just want to curl up and read a book, play games on your iPad, or just watch the ocean. There’s also daily Mass, daily Bible devotion and weekly Shabbat service for those religiously and spiritually inclined. Friends of Bill W. meet daily, as well as a LGBT group each evening. And then there's always the casino. I tend to stay away from there.
So, you see, there’s lots to do.
Snort, my traveling buddy for this trip, is nicely tucked into bed for his first sea journey.