Future Cruise Consultants Denise and Mike Feeney report from ms Rotterdam
The Grand World Voyage started out with a tranquil and relaxing crossing to Hawaii. The journey took four days and was characterized by pleasantly cool temperatures ranging from the 50s to the high 60s and long-frequency swells that gave us a constant reminder that we were indeed at sea on a ship. Those swells, while not especially large or menacing, were just enough to give the ms Rotterdam a constant and gentle pitch throughout the four days.
All around the ship some guests were getting aclimmated to their new home for the next four months while others renewed old acquaintances from years past. There was quite a lot of activity and opportunities to enrich and enjoy throughout the cruise. Dance classes, which will be held every day at sea throughout the journey, had an enthusiastic group come to the orientation meeting. Our crafts sessions started with an overflow crowd in the Lido cafe mid-afternoon. The Explorations Speaker’s series, which are on many Holland America Line cruises, featured several individuals who spoke on a wide variety of topics.
We arrived in Hilo on Saturday, Jan. 24. It was an iffy start with the weather, but we saw a rainbow during breakfast and took it as a good sign. Sure enough, true to Hawaii weather, it changed by mid-morning and we enjoyed a most beautiful day.
We split up, which is part of our plan when we can get the opportunity to go on shore excursions. Denise participated in a botanical walk in a spectacularly lush tropical garden, while Mike explored the origins of the universe and Hawaii. The afternoon was spent wandering and exploring old downtown Hilo. This is a town who’s buildings seem not to have changed much at all in 40 or 50 years.
Saturday was market day so we were treated to a display of local produce proudly offered by their growers. Along with the produce was an adjacent market of crafts and art also produced by a community of what seemed to be multigenerational free-spirited artisans. From ti-dye and Batik to custom surf boards, there was something for almost everyone there.
The plan for Honolulu was pretty simple. On Aug. 8, 1971, we arrived in Honolulu, having been married one whole day. This day would be devoted to retracing some of our first footsteps on this lovely island.
Honolulu was surprising. With 37 years of history and our last visit 17 years ago, that wasn’t surprising. The dock area — at the Aloha Tower and the old downtown area adjacent to the pier — were some of the nicest places we’ve ever docked. The pier itself was decorated with a huge mural depicting guests arriving on the island by ship in the 1930s. The Aloha Tower and adjoining small mall were quite pleasant. Across the street a small park and some early Honolulu buildings stand in beautiful condition.
Waikiki Beach was a bit of overload. There were more shops than ever and everything was very clean — if not overcrowded. The brightest note in all that building and development came from our visit to the Ala Moana Surfrider Hotel. Back in the old days it was showing its age. Today, it is the Grand Old Hotel, the pride of the boulevard. Even though the Royal Hawaiian is currently undergoing major renovations, its beautiful facade has been buried behind a shopping plaza and not visible from the street. The beach side on Waikiki was more popular than ever. The crowds are there, the surf instructors are busy, the outrigger canoes are racing the waves, and people from just about every corner of the world were there enjoying a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
We sailed at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009, for the island nation of Vanuatu. We have seven days at sea, which will be the longest time at sea without touching land on this Grand World Voyage.