Saturday, October 29, 2011
Hawaii Cruise - day 7
Almost at the halfway mark! Today we woke up early again and watched us come into Honolulu on the island of Oahu. What a contrast with Hilo - instead of green hills and low buildings, the Honolulu skyline is marked by skyscrapers and settlements cascading down the hillside as if the houses flowed from a fissure on the hillside above the city. We docked next to the Aloha Tower right in downtown. Our tour didn't leave until 10:00, so we had a nice leisurely breakfast in the main dinning room before disembarking.
Today's shore excursion was the Atlantis submarine. We had done this once before in the Caribbean and were looking forward to it again. After standing in line in the terminal building, we boarded a trolly to head toward the Hilton Hawaiian Village resort. This is where one catches the shuttle boat out to the sub.
A few thoughts before continuing, however. First, Honolulu doesn't hold a candle to the big island. It's a big city with bad traffic and a real tourist feel to it. There's an ABC store on every corner (cheap souvenirs), and no real authenticity to it. This is the second time we've been here, and I really tried to like it the first time, but it's just not for me. Second, the next time we're in Hawaii, whether on a cruise or just on vacation, I think it makes sense to just rent a car and drive out of the city to see that parts of the island that interest us, rather than taking the shore excursions. Finally, I'm sitting on our verandah at about 8:45 writing this, and there's loud pounding music from the party happening on the dock. Perhaps I'm just old...
OK, back to our day. We arrived at the Hilton and walked out to the pier where the sub tours leave from (or "from which the sub tours leave" if you want to be grammatically correct). We had to wait about 15 minutes for the boat to arrive, but it was warm and (mostly) sunny and we were surrounded by clear water, so it wasn't too bad. They loaded up 2 subs worth of people on the boat and we took the 10 minute ride out to where we'd meet the subs. After we arrived at the drop zone, we were told to watch for a burst of bubbles on the surface. This would indicate where the sub was going to come up. Sure enough, Rachel saw it, and about a minute later the larger of the 2 subs surfaced. Our boat pulled alongside and the passengers got off the sub and onto the boat, and the next group moved from the boat to the sub. we got to see the sub go down and then waited for the next sub to surface. After the same routine, we boarded our sub. One of the crew members said that he often tells reluctant passengers that there are a lot more airplanes at the bottom of the sea than there are subs up in the air, so everything was going to be fine.
The seats on the sub are arranged in 2 rows, back to back down the length of the sub so that each person is facing a window on the side of the sub. After everyone was loaded, the crew closed the hatches and we went down. Our first stop was at about 50 feet where we saw many small fish, sea urchins and some coral. We then headed further down the slope to deeper waters. The sub company had sunk 2 ships and 2 airplanes as artificial reefs, as well as several other structures to attract coral and other sea creatures. Sure enough, the vast majority of sea critters that we saw were near these structures. We saw lots of small fish, but also saw parrot fish, a black tip shark, a spotted manta ray, 2 huge sea turtles, a school of barracuda, and a moray eel. We went down to over 100 feet, and it was much darker and bluer down there. They had given us a guide to help us identify the fish we saw, and the native Hawaiian fish had a red start next to them. However, once we got to about 30 feet, the stars looked black because all of the red light had been filtered out.
We remained down for nearly an hour, and then surfaced after the big sub had swapped its passengers again. It was a short boat ride back to the Hilton, and then a longer trolly ride through traffic back to the ship. We re-boarded about 1:30, and after a quick stop in our room grabbed a quick lunch on the Lido. We had planned to get back off the ship and walk around a bit, but we decided to just stay on board and relax. Rachel went up to the gym around 4:14, and I went to visit Mama and Aunt Merna for a while. That had been to lunch with one of my mom's former students and then went for a short drive around town.
We elected to stay on board for dinner, and the dinning room was quite empty. Lots of people ate in town, and I suspect that lots of folks were at the big Luau on the Lido deck. Our usual tablemates were not there, and one poor woman was the only person at her table, so she joined us.
After dinner, Rachel and I went ashore briefly to walk around the shops, but really didn't see anything worth a second look. We got back on the ship in time to see a beautiful crescent moon sinking into the harbor, and then caught the last 15 minutes of Chris playing guitar on the Lido deck before heading to Hooters for some wings.
We were tired from our day so we decided to retire early. I was going to read for a while, but ended up falling asleep. About 10:30 I woke up briefly and heard the loud music outside, so I knew that we hadn't left port yet. Later a awoke briefly to silence and the gentle rocking of the ship - at sea again! Tomorrow: Kauai.