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Friday, December 20, 2002 Springfield, St. Louis, Honolulu A huge, long day of travel. Leaving from Springfield was the best decision we made about this part of our trip. Baggage check and security too a grand total of 30 minutes. This included waiting 10 minutes for the security personnel to set up for the day.

The flight out to Honolulu was full. Our seats were at one of the bulkheads, which gave up some extra legroom. However, it put us right at the mid-plane galley and lavatory station. By the time we reached Hawaii we were exhausted.

The ground transportation to the hotel was a bust. We were at one exit and the representative insisted that we had to walk to another exit she estimated was at least 10 minutes walk away. We refused and took a cab instead.

The hotel was a welcome sight for weary eyes. Our room was spacious and comfortable. After a light supper of room service appetizers we went to sleep.

Saturday, December 21, 2002 Honolulu, North Shore Oahu Saturday we were both feeling much better. We rented a bright yellow Jeep and toured the island on our own. It was wonderful. We could stop at the beaches to wade in the surf or take pictures. It was relaxing and perfect.

In the afternoon we were feeling a bit jet lagged again so we watched “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” on the hotel’s pay-per-view system. It was wonderful.

Sunday, December 22, 2002 Honolulu, Norwegian Star Sunday morning we had room service for breakfast and waited around for our transfer to the Norwegian Star. We were both anxious about getting to the ship and getting through the check in process there.

The NCL representative who handled the bus loading was rude and abrupt. Neither of us was prepared for her curtness. The ride to the harbor was quick and enjoyable. The mass of people swarming around the pier was huge. The ship itself was even bigger.

Our wait in line wasn’t too bad, and within 30 minutes we were able to enter the pier itself and then rapidly moved to the Latitudes line, as we had sailed with NCL before. We were issued our room keys and ID cards and went up the escalator to the boarding platform. Once on board we were asked to follow a crew-member to our cabin. Even though we insisted our cabin was on the port side of the ship, he insisted on leading us half the length of the ship on the starboard side before admitting he didn’t know where our cabin was located. It was frustration to say the least.

After resting for a few minutes we went in search of food. Imagine our dismay to discover that the only food available until dinner time was cafeteria style. I hate buffet food as it has been picked over by all who proceeded me in line. Our dismay was heightened when we prevented from joining the line as “it vas closink” according to the crew member. We had to go out by the pool to eat hamburgers and hotdogs instead. Joy.

Back in the cabin we were both upset and spent some time expressing our displeasure with this whole experience. By allowing ourselves the chance to say all the petty little things we were feeling we were able to get past the emotions raging inside of us. After resting for a while we decided to try the Italian themed restaurant for dinner. It was reasonably good. By 10 that evening we were both asleep to the gentle motion of the ship.

Monday, December 23, 2002 Hilo, Hawaii and at sea When we awoke on Monday we were already docked at Hilo Hawaii. This is the big island, although the cloud cover prevented us from seeing very far. We had never intended to go ashore at this port, preferring instead to spend a day aboard while everyone else was off. It was wonderful.

We discovered the “Blue Lagoon” snack bar and enjoyed some fried rice and hot wings. We played cards in the game room and sat on the deck enjoying the cool breeze.

In the afternoon we attended the art auction and much to our surprise bought 5 prints, including 3 Thomas Kinkade’s, an Alexander Chen, and a Winne-ther-Pooh sericell. We also received a free lithograph by Perez that we both adore. It was much more than we planned on spending but a steal we couldn’t pass.

That evening we dinned in the SoHo, a Pacific Rim style eatery. The food was good, and we enjoyed ourselves very much. That evening we went to the ‘Stardust Theater’ to see the magic act. We enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Even though the seas were a bit rougher this night, we both slept very well.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002 Christmas Eve and Michele’s Birthday At sea The atmosphere on board was totally different this day. With 2700 passengers and 1100 crew on board the energy level was much different. The quiet spots we had enjoyed the day before were gone. We opted to spend more time in our cabin.

We were discovering that the breakfast and lunch fare wasn’t all that special. Eating in the dining room meant they brought the food to you, but it was little better than what you could get in the Market Cafe buffet.

I explored the Internet Cafe that afternoon and discovered that my mother had sent Michele an e-mail wishing her a Happy Birthday. It was very special and touch Michele deeply. One of the highlights of the trip for her.

Since it was Michele’s birthday we ate at ‘Le Bistro’ the French theme restaurant onboard. It was fabulous. They had all of Michele’s favorites on the menu, French Onion soup, Escargot, Fillet Mignon, Spinach salad, and Chocolate Fondue for dessert. The wait staff was superb and we even allowed our picture to be taken by the ships photographer.

After dinner we went to the forward lounge and enjoyed the evening’s comedy act. All in all a perfect day for both of us.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002 Christmas Day Fanning Island and at sea The day dawned cloudy and raining. The seas were running about 12 feet and the ship was moving quite a bit as we neared Fanning Island. Due to the roughness of the ocean only about 800 people managed to get ashore at all before shore leave was cancelled. It took a couple of hours to recover the people from the island. We headed north once again. Not getting to see Fanning Island left most of the passengers restless and upset.

When the captain announced that the ship had experienced a generator failure that meant traveling at reduced speed; and that we would miss Maui altogether as a result; the mood started to get ugly. We were as upset as any onboard as Maui was the one island we had wanted to see no matter what. We had booked a whale watch cruise from Maui that we were now not going to enjoy.

To substitute for Maui the captain picked Hawaii, again.

That evening we had Christmas dinner in the Aqua, our “assigned” restaurant. We were not impressed. They were ill prepared for the crowd of people at 8:00, and the service was very slow. The turkey was okay, but our table was out in the open and I was continually jostled as wait staff moved behind me.

We retired to our cabin early.

Thursday, December 26, 2002 At Sea We worked at focusing on enjoying our time together and setting aside the disappointments of the trip itself. Sheltering ourselves from the increasing emotional tension of our fellow passengers was getting tougher, however. Except for the lucky 800 who went ashore at Fanning, everyone on board had been trapped there since Monday afternoon, and many were upset by this.

We amused ourselves with gin and cribbage, and reading. We did spend some time out on deck enjoying the sea air.

That evening we dinned at the ‘Ginza’ for Oriental style food. We were massively disappointed with our experience there. I ordered Peking Duck, which I had enjoyed years ago, and was not prepared for the presentation style at all. The skin, instead of being crispy the way I had remember, was soft and barely cooked. Michele’s tempura noodles were equally disappointing. We left after barely touching our food at went to the Blue Lagoon for their fried rice. Knowing that we were missing Maui, and having this poor dinning experience was one of the lowest points of the trip.

Friday, December 27, 2002 At sea and Kona Hawaii Our arrival at Kona in the afternoon was meet with great anticipation by all on board. Most wanted to get on solid ground after more than 96 hours at sea. We wanted an empty ship to enjoy once again.

Since we had left US waters we all had to clear Immigration before doing anything else. Our number was called within 30 minutes of the start so we cleared very quickly. However, some were not so lucky and missed at least half our 5 hour stay in Kona, waiting to be cleared by customs.

We did enjoy having the ship ’to ourselves’ for a couple of hours that afternoon. In the evening we ate dinner in the Versailles Restaurant, where we had been enjoying breakfasts and lunches. It was very nice, but still not up to the standard we had enjoyed 3 years ago on our Alaska cruise.

While Freestyle cruising may appeal to many people, it was not satisfactory to either of us, and we will not subject ourselves to it again.

Saturday, December 28, 2002 Nawiliwili Kauai After sailing in more rough seas we arrived at Nawiliwil Kauai for our last port of call. For the first time since Sunday we went ashore. Our inner ears, now accustomed to constant motion, gave both of us the sensation of swaying even when standing on solid ground. I kidded with Michele that it was an island, and therefore it was floating under us.

We took an all-day tour to see the island, including stops at Waimea Canyon, the deepest canyon on land in the Pacific, Waimea River, where several major motion pictures have been filmed, and the Fern Grotto. We enjoyed the tour, but since it was the sole tour we got to complete it had a lot of pent up expectations to meet. It was fun to see some movie film sites, and we got lots of pictures of scenery.

Back on board we decided to skip our last restaurant reservation and ate in the Versailles dinning room again. It was fine and we were both sad and knowing it was over, and ready to be home at the same time.

In our cabin we packed our bags and settled in for the night.

Sunday, December 29, 2002 Honolulu, plane We were up early and raring to go, only to wait and wait to disembark. Finally ashore we found our bags and boarded our tour bus for the Historic Honolulu and Arizona Memorial Tour. The idiot driver decided to reverse the tour and we visited everything we didn’t care about first and went to the Arizona Memorial last. By the time we arrived at the Arizona it was 10:30 and the line meant we would have to wait until 1:30 to start the tour. The estimated tour time is 75 minutes. The driver was telling us it would take 2-3 hours to clear security at the airport. 1:30 plus 75 minutes is 2:45. 2:45 plus 3 hours is 5:45. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 6:30. This left us no time to eat or relax before being stuffed into the plane for 9 hours.

We were extremely upset at this situation, but in typical don’t-give-a-shit island fashion the driver just smiled and shrugged when we complained. In the end we took our luggage off early and got a taxi to the airport. It meant missing the Arizona, but by now we were tired, hot, sweaty and just wanting to be home.

The plane wasn’t completely full, but those passengers with empty seats next to them laid down before take off so it was impossible to stretch out at all. We had a long, uncomfortable, largely sleepless flight to St. Louis.

Monday, December 30, 2002 St. Louis, Springfield, home We got to St. Louis at 6 am and discovered an earlier flight to Springfield that we could make. After a short wait and bumpy flight we were back in our own town. It felt very good.

Because we were on an earlier flight there was a slight mix-up with our luggage but it was quickly resolved. By 10 am we were home.

All in all we had a wonderful vacation from the ordinary routine. There were aspects of the trip that were unsatisfying, but they didn’t overshadow the time we had together. Spending a week at home after the trip was incredibly nice, and it gave us a chance to be together at home when I was completely removed from work.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.