Patrick’s Hawaiian Vacation and Disney Cruise Sept 2015
Honolulu and Waikiki, Oahu 13-17Sep15
Travelling from Newfoundland to Honolulu, Oahu can take a full 24 hours, but as you step off the plane and are met with a warm tropical breeze along with a tempature of 85 degrees, you quickly forget about the flights. We are based in Waikiki for our 4 night stay which is a short drive from the airport either by taxi, private transfer, bus or car rental. Driving is very easy on the island, but traffic can be bumper to bumper during business hours as you try to enter/exit the Waikiki area.
Our first day was all about relaxing as we were dealing with jetlag so after breakfast at one of the many restaurants offering views of Waikiki Beach, we strolled 2 blocks over to the Honolulu Zoo. Allow at least 2 hours to stroll the pathways where you experience animals from around the world. The afternoon was spent on world famous Waikiki Beach were the soft sand and warm waters were refreshing. While floating the afternoon away we watched the surfers enjoy the wave action, the parasailers float by and the many catamaran tours offered throughout the area.
Our second full day in Honolulu had us out exploring a couple of the top tourist sites. The historical sites around Pearl Harbour are a must and can take the full day if you want to visit them all. We opted for the USS Arizona Memorial and museum which is always evolving so if you have visited the site in the past, you should keep it on your list of things to do. The Memorial allows you to step back in time and reflect on how the USA entered World War 2. Heading north from Pearl Harbour, you reach the Dole Plantation where you can tour a working pineapple plantation that has been in operation since 1900. For a little extra fun, a visit to the World’s Largest Pineapple Maze (2008) is a must for all ages as the challenge is to find 8 unique points within the maze while being timed. Unfortunately, due to some rains over the last 2 days, the maze was closed during our visit, but we still enjoyed the Pineapple Express Train through the fields.
16Sep was our last full day on Oahu before boarding the Disney Wonder so we opted for a shopping morning followed by an afternoon at Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa. Shopping on Oahu really has something for everyone and all budgets. Waikiki is filled with the simple souvenir shops up to the top name designers all within walking distance of many hotels. Just outside Waikiki you can visit the traditional malls, large brand name stores and a tourist favourite, Hilo Hattie’s. Drive approx. 30mins west of Honolulu, just past Pearl Harbour and you can explore the Premium Outlet mall (yes, the same company that operates the outlet malls we all know in the Orlando area). Not nearly as large as the Florida outlet malls, we still wandered around for a couple of hours looking for any “deals”.
Another 15 min drive further west of the Premium Outlet, we headed to Aulani for the afternoon. This was the first time I had been to the west side of the island, it offers a completely different feel than the Waikiki tourist area. I had a pre-arranged site inspection of the resort with the sales manager which allowed me so much insight to this amazing resort. Yes it’s a Disney property, yet it’s not your typical Disney Resort. The focus is about the Hawaiian history, culture and family. From the moment you arrive, you are embraced into the Hawaiian culture that you become Ohana very quickly. There is too much to talk about in this blog, but I highly recommend anyone adding at least 2 nights at Aulani when travelling to Oahu. If you want to know more about Aulani, please contact me as I would love to share the “hidden” value for you and your family.
Disney Wonder Embarkation 17Sep15
Embarkation day always bring excitment when boarding a cruise ship and Disney Cruise Line knows how to take it to the next level. From the second we were greeted entering the main atrium, we knew the next 10 days were going to be magical. We headed to our Navigator Verandah cabins near the back of deck 5 to drop off our carry-on bags before heading to deck 9 for a quick lunch at the buffet restaurant. Over the next couple of hours we explored the ship which involved a stop at Oceaneer Lab/Club to register our youngest son in the children’s program, a visit to the Buena Vista Theater to view the listing of first run movies that would be played during the sailing and a stop at guest services to obtain tickets for the special character meet & greets. At 4:00pm was the mandatory life boat drill and then off to deck 10 to enjoy the sail away party at the Goofy Pool as we started to sail out of Honolulu. A unique feature of a Disney Cruise is their rotational dining so our first night was at Animator’s Palate where we met our amazing wait staff that would remain without throughout the cruise. After watching the evening main show, we relaxed in our cabin with one of the many Disney movies playing on our tv. Tomorrow we arrive in Maui to celebrate my parents 50th wedding anniversary…the main reason for this vacation.
A unique feature of our itinerary was the overnight stay in Maui and that it lined up perfectly for us to celebrate my parent’s 50th anniversary with a traditional luau. For our 2 days, we decided to “go it alone” from the ship and rent a car to explore. The island is so relaxed it’s a complete change from Honolulu and Waikiki. We headed to the west side of the island to visit some of the top beaches of Kaanapali. Along the drive, there were many places just to pull off the road and watch the local surfers and waves. We settled in around Whaler’s Village and spent the next few hours wave hopping as the surf was rolling. From the beach, we had amazing views of the neighbouring islands Molokai and Lanai. The evening was about my parents as we celebrated their anniversary at the Old Lahaina Luau. I could write a complete blog on the luau alone so let me just say you have to included a visit to the Old Lahaina Luau when you find yourself in Maui. The next morning was an early rise as we headed back to the Kaanapali area as there were surfing lessons for the boys. There were some nerves as the boys had never surfed, but after some time on land with Christian (instructor) explaining the basics, they were quickly hitting the waves for the next 2 hours. After surfing, we headed a little further north for some snorkeling that Maui is famous for and we were not disappointed. Walking 5 feet into the water, we were surrounded by fish of all colors and sizes. The highlight was spotting a sea turtle at rest on the ocean floor and after just a few minutes of watching, he woke, swam to the top for a look around before heading back to his “home”.
Hilo, Hawaii (The Big Island) 20Sep15
Our next stop was the island of Hawaii also nicknamed The Big Island. This is the youngest of the Hawaiian Islands, but nearly twice the size of all the other islands combined. Hawaii is also home to 13 of the 15 world climates so you should expect some rainfall here. Hilo, our port for the day, did not disappoint as the rains were falling yet the Disney Wonder crew had rain ponchos waiting for every guest. As The Big Island is known for volcanoes, we chose to visit the US National Volcano Park as part of a tour through the ship. As we headed approx 45 mins west, the rain started to let up so on arrival at the National Park, it was overcast but still 27 degrees. The highlights of the tour were:
1. Wandering through a rainforest to the Thurston Lava Tube where we “engulfed” in an old feeder tube from an ancient lava flow.
2. Crater Rim Drive that allowed us to view a number of craters and steam vents. If you have time to spend in the Park, consider planning to hike one of the many trails that will have to walking across the craters.
3. Thomas A Jaggar Museum where we learnt about the study of volcanology and view the Halemaumau Crater. The Hawaiian’s consider Halemaumau Crater the home of Pele, the volcano goddess so there are many stories to hear at this sacred site.
Our last port of call had us visiting Kauai which again offers a completely different experience than the other Hawaiian Islands. Only 20% of the island is accessable by road so it’s highly recommended to tour the island by sea or air. There have been dozens of tv shows and movies filmed on the island which run from Fantasy Island to Lost and South Pacific to the Jurassic Park series. Our older kids decided to take a kayak and zipline tour with the ship so they were off for the day. The rest of us chose to book a helicopter tour as we all wanted to see as much as we could. The highlights of the flight include Hanapepe Valley, Mana Waiapuna (Jurassic Park Falls), Olokele Canyon, Waimea Canyon (Grand Canyon of the Pacific), the Na Pali Coast and Bali Hai Cliffs. When weather allows, the flight ends with a desent into Mt Waialeale, the heart of an ancient volcano. To say we were excited about the flight was an understatment. Due to our party size, we had to book 2 departure times so my parents and their friends left at 1pm while we waited for our 2pm flight. As we waited, the weather started to change and the clouds/rain rolled into the centre of the island. Just as my parents’ flight returned to the airport, we were advised that the remainder of the flights were cancelled due to the weather. The disappointment of not taking the tour did place a little damper on the day, but we now have a reason to return on another Hawaiian vacation. Pictures are limited today as we didn’t get much opportunity to explore the island.
At Sea 22-27Sep15
As we left the Hawaiian Islands for Vancouver, there was an excitment among us as the next few days were all about unwinding and enjoying the Disney Wonder. I often wondered if multiple days at sea would become routine, but that was not the case at all. Unlike shorter cruises where you have 1 or 2 days at sea with crowded pool/sun areas, this sailing felt like we were alone onboard. Yes there were 1900 guests sailing, but with the detail on ship design, Disney Cruise Lines is second to none on spreading the action around. At anytime of day, there were plenty of seats to choose from right beside the pools for those who wanted to enjoy the waters or soak up the sun. For those looking for activity, programs were offered for the youngest to the eldest onboard throughout the day. There were dance lessons, cooking classes, children trivia contests, ship tours, family challenges, private lounge areas for specific age groups, first run movies at various locations, galley tours and so much more.
A unique feature of Disney Cruise Lines is their multiple main dining venues that guests rotate through each night. On the Disney Wonder, we started at Animator’s Palate which pays respects to the Disney animation/artists that started it all. Our next night was Parrot Cay which offered a relaxed Caribbean atmosphere and followed by “regal” dining venue known as Triton’s. Attire at each venue was casual, but you always had the option of dressing to the nines if you chose. You may think that changing dining venues each night means new wait staff, but again Disney Cruise Lines ensures your service is always 100% so the wait staff you meet on the first night rotate along with you every night of the cruise. Each night our wait staff had a little surprise “waiting” for us at some point during the meal and by the end of the cruise, it felt like we were saying goodbye to family.
What’s a Disney vacation without the characters. Onboard the ship, there are multiple times throughout the day offering meet and greets with characters. Unlike the theme parks, lines to meet the characters were very short, but there were a few “special” characters that made only 1 or 2 appearances that did draw a crowd. Let’s just say, Capt Jack Sparrow did not disappoint when he made his way onboard.
Disney knows how to entertain and they have not let being at sea hamper their shows. The most popular and look-forwarded to evening is the Pirates in the Caribbean night. You are encouraged to dress the part and let your inner-pirate out. The “show” beings at dinner before guests head to the pool decks to challenge Davy Jones in a trivia game before Capt Hook and his pirates take over the ship. The evening ends with a fireworks display that only Disney can offer at sea. With the popularity of Frozen, Disney has created a second show that again begins early in the day before ending at the pool decks with some of the characters from the movie (yes Olaf is there) and snow at sea!
If you want to learn more about a Disney Cruise vacation for you and your family, contact Patrick today via email or phone 709-722-9887