By Jordan Burchette, a Los Angeles-based writer and presenter who has done work for CNN.com and Popular Science. Photos courtesy of guest Sharon Johnson.
With the introduction of Holland America Line’s “On Location” program, onboard classes and demonstrations by local artists and professionals allow guests to familiarize themselves with the cultures they’ll be visiting around the world. “On Location” means that Holland America Line guests can learn to tango on the way to Argentina, take a cooking class taught by a Caribbean chef or taste fresh mussels off Canada’s Prince Edward Island.
Mariner magazine recently had a chance to speak with Paki (Pah-KEE) Allen, an “On Location” artist that guests may meet on Hawaii-bound cruises.
Born and raised in Maui, Paki has been demonstrating and teaching Hawaiian dance, music, and language since the early 1970s. As of last December, he’s been educating Holland America Line guests on the art of hula, among other things.
Mariner asked him what Hawaii travelers could expect on board.
Q: What do “On Location” participants take away from your hula classes?
A: The first thing you learn is how we tell stories with our hands.
Before missionaries arrived in the Hawaiian Islands, we had no books, only hula, to retell our history and legends. You’ll see how each motion has a meaning and learn the Hawaiian language — not only dance, but language — as it’s used in hula.
Q: What are the basic principles of hula?
A: In ancient times, hula was a sacred and serious representation of our culture. Though it’s evolved as a source of entertainment, the Hawaiian people still believe hula is an expression of heart and soul. So we want travelers to express their inner beauty.
Hula is joyful, incorporating elements of nature — rain, mountains, beaches. The main thing is to maintain a positive attitude and to reflect through dance what you’re feeling inside.
Q: Do you have a story from Holland America Line guests that stands out the most?
A: While on a cruise last March, one of our guests, a woman, came up to me and held my hand for a half hour. She was in tears. We performed a song that she and her husband fell in love with when they visited Hawaii in the 1960s — she hadn’t heard it since her husband passed away. It was “Ke Kali Nei Au,” or “The Hawaiian Wedding Song.” (It means “Waiting Here for You.”) We performed it and we all had tears in our eyes because she was so moved by that particular love song.
Q: What else can guests expect from the “On Location” program on Hawaii cruises?
A: At sea, travelers can learn how to hula or play the ukulele. They can make a lei or weave Hawaiian fibers and seashells into bracelets. The program encompasses just about everything about Hawaiian culture.
To learn more about what you can expect from the “On Location” program, look for the fall issue of Mariner, the magazine of Holland America Line.