You had me at Aloha
Seattle, Vancouver and Hawaii
So I’ve already wrote this blog once, the day I came to publish it, my computer crashed and my document disappeared into oblivion, trust me I spent 10 hours trying to recover it or reset my computer but with no luck. After a day of stress I decided to meditate, and look at it that maybe it’s meant to be and I will write an even better blog second time round.. so here we go again.
This time last year (Sept 2019) me and my family did the trip of a lifetime and made it to Hawaii but we thought why not make it epic and add on some other destinations, places we wanted to visit and explore but not necessarily want to spend more than a few days there.
First off, we flew Manchester to Seattle, we stayed at the Courtyard Marriot in Downtown, Pioneer Square. It was a lovely clean hotel with an indoor swimming pool, that we managed to put to use a few rainy afternoons ( to be expected in the wettest state of the USA).
Like any first day in a new place, I love nothing more than to get out walking and exploring and so, with its skyline dominated by its enormous Space needle, that’s where we headed. Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, and since watching Twilight back in my teens, somewhere I’d always wanted to explore. Known as the Emerald city for its lush evergreen forest setting, (probably thanks to all the rain) Seattle is a vibrant mix of people and places.
No visit to Seattle is complete with a trip up the Sky Needle, built in 1962 for the world fair and at an impressive 186 meters tall, the Sky Needle offers outstanding views across the whole city and is even equipped with its own revolving restaurant. Another historic landmark to visit in Seattle, is Pike Place market, the oldest farmer’s market in the States. This is where locals come to buy fresh flowers, seafood and tourists come to experience the atmosphere, quirkiness and even some fish throwing.
Over 200 stalls of handmade jewellery, oriental health spas, fruits stands and cheese counters tempt you to reach for your purse but even if you don’t intend to buy anything just walking through the sights and smells is an experience in itself.
Just outside the Pike place Market is the first ever Starbucks, often referred to as the original Starbucks, established in 1971, the store has maintained its early appearance over the decades. We headed over to grab a hot cup, as my sister is Starbucks biggest fan. I’m more the type of person that will go to a coffee shop and order a cup of tea. The queue to get inside was at least 50 people long, no exaggeration, we took a photo and headed to a less crowded, slightly newer Starbucks just around the corner.
After a day exploring the city and a little dip in our hotel pool to help our burning feet, we headed to the waterfront. The waterfront in Seattle is beautiful and gives you a real nice view of the city’s skyline, I could walk for hours by the water, no matter what type of body or where I am.
We picked out a restaurant for our meal, it wasn’t the best or maybe I made a mistake, I sometimes feel like the food in the states lies heavy on my stomach. Anyway we were sat in the window and had a view of the harbour, it had started to drizzle with a bit of rain and I suddenly noticed a fin in the water, a black one at that. Knowing that Seattle is a popular place for Orca whales to frequent I jumped out of my chair and ran outside to have a closer look.
There was a man in a kayak getting close to investigate as well, and sure enough as I got closer, it was defiantly an Orca. There was no show, spouting or breaching but just to see the fin of a magnificent creature like that I was amazed.
After a few days of exploring Seattle we took the train to our next destination – Vancouver, Canada. We booked onto the Cascades Amtrak to take us up the coast of Washington state and over the border into Canada. Luckily our hotel was only a stone’s throw away from Kings Street Station, so we walked with our suitcases, in the pitch black and pouring rain to catch our train. With crossing the border we were told to arrive a hour in advance, with our train departing at 7am, we were up to go early.
We were up, on-time and even had prepared a little picnic off bagels and Philadelphia, cookies and fruit to take with us. We travelled in business class, (since we booked the train 10 months in advance it was only an extra $8 each) so we had big leather seats with lots of leg room, next to a huge window. I took my book and headphones, even downloaded some Netflix movies to keep me entertained for the 4 hour journey, but I did not pick up a single thing as looking out of the window was entertaining enough.The scenery went from cities to forest and woodlands multiple times, all the while hugging the coast (for the best views, try to get on the left hand side). I scanned every beach we passed for seals and every stretch of water for whales, it was gorgeous. I got numerous cups of tea from the buffet cart and just enjoyed the incredible scenery we were passing through. We arrived into Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, BC a little after lunch time.
We arrived to bright sunshine and blue sky in Vancouver, I was so excited to be back in Canada, it had been a good few years since I had been here visiting Toronto and Niagara Falls. We hopped in a taxi to take us to our swanky Air B n B, in the Gastown area of the city. We have recently come to realise how amazing Air B n B is, especially for our family of 4 adults – sometimes 5 if Tjay is with us, it gives us the opportunity to rent big spacious apartments or entire properties for less than it would cost us to book two hotel rooms.
Gastown is a diverse and vibrant neighbourhood, a top destination for shoppers, foodies and tourists. Along the historical streets you will find an abundance of trendy shops, amazing restaurants, pubs, bistros and nightclubs. Our apartment was set inside a restored heritage building, it was elegant, comfy and cool, the perfect mix for our time in Vancouver.
Our first afternoon in the city we walked towards Canada Place, the port of Vancouver, watching the sea planes take off from the pier, the forest and mountains across the water, it was so exciting, especially knowing we’d be boarding a cruise ship right here, in just a few days-time.
After a gin and a chill back at the apartment we headed out to a place called ‘The lamplighter public house’ – it was lovely, I had red wine and a veggie burger and we finished our meal just in time to join in with the local pub quiz.
The thing we found in Vancouver was that it was almost impossible to buy alcohol unless you were in a pub or restaurant. Marijuana shops we saw quite regular but not a liquor store for miles and none inside the supermarkets.
We like a drink, thank god we had bought Whitley Neil Gin in the airport before we flew to Seattle, all we wanted were a few beers for the fridge, maybe a bottle of wine. So one afternoon my parents went to see if they could find a store, they took a wrong turn and ended up on Carrall street, now we went through there in the following days on the hop on/hop off bus and that was scary enough. But for my parents it was awful, the street looks like it’s been taken straight out of a Zombie apocalypse movie, it is a street full of homeless people, a lot of them drugged up. I cannot even begin to explain the scenes from that one street, other than its like walking into zombie land, my poor mum found out the hard way after a woman ran and barged her off the path almost grabbing her handbag. She was hurt and upset, just a warning to not wander into this street, even in the day and especially not at night.
For 2 of the days we spent in Vancouver we bought tickets for the ‘Hop on, Hop off’ bus tour. There were 2 routes, city and park. The first day we headed on the park route, right over to the famous Stanley park. Named the best park in the entire world by Tripadvisor, the huge (1001 acres) park did not disappoint, from areas of woodland, to cafes and grassy verges, even totem poles, the park is a vast area to explore. Surrounded by water and bridges, the coastal path on the outer circumference of the park takes you past beaches and rocks, a lighthouse and even the ‘girl in a wetsuit’ statue .
We walked around the edge of the park, enjoying the tide changes and views along the way, as we got to lighthouse point, there was even a little seal that came to show off in the water.
The forest areas of the park are impressive, I felt like for some time a bear might be lurking behind me, the plants and flowers were beautiful, I could have spent plenty more hours just wandering and exploring. Stanley park was by far my favourite part of Vancouver.
As part of our ticket we also were able to grab a short tug boat ride over False Creek, it was only a 5 minute journey over the creek but I had previously read that Orca whales had been seen in the area and so I spent the whole boat ride with my eyes peeled for Orcas. I think you’ll have realised with me now, especially if you’ve read my other blogs that I am obsessed with finding wildlife on my trips – whales, dolphins, turtles, anything you don’t typically find in England .. I’m always on the lookout. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the Harbour and the enjoying the lovely views.
That evening we headed to ‘The Steamworks Brewing Co.’ for our meal. Being my usual self I ordered a jug of wine, but the menu was extensive as was the restaurant. From the outside it looked small and cosy but after entering and being escorted downstairs to our table, we soon realised it was a rabbit warren of dim lit, cosy rooms with multiple bars. I had spaghetti and meatballs and it was delicious, all of our food was lovely, between us we had fish and chips, pizza and a burger and we couldn’t fault a thing.
The next morning was cold and rainy, I decided on leggings for sure but I didn’t really have anything very warm so headed out to the gift shops and bought a typical touristy ‘Vancouver’ jumper and I’m so thankful that I did. The bus being open top, even with the plastic roof over and the windows up, the wind still managed to get in. On the city route we hopped off at Granville island. The Granville island public market is a jewel within the city, stalls offering food, gifts and handmade crafts you can easily get lost in the variety of produce you will find.
As it was a wet and windy day, we thought it was a perfect location to stop for lunch, with the street food style stalls ranging from Thai to Italian, French and even Mexican.. there was something for everyone.
We spent our last afternoon in Vancouver having a little wander around the shops. We found an amazing store called ‘Saje’ and literally spent hours in there. Saje is a haven for natural health remedies, mainly in the form of essential oils. I bought a remedy bar and in it was a roll on relief for stress, one to help you sleep, another for energy and my absolute favourite and miracle worker the ‘peppermint Halo’ mainly used for headaches. I suffer on a regular basis from headaches and so was interested straight away at this oil. You roll it onto the back of your neck, temples, wrists and it works wonders, within minutes my headache is immensely relieved. I wish we had those stores back home, luckily I can order online. After our little afternoon shopping we decided to slowly wander back to our apartment, just as the heavens decided to open and give us a good soaking.
There was nowhere to shelter and within the first minute we looked as though we’d stepped under the shower so we just walked and enjoyed it, I always find once you’re already soaked, its actually quite liberating to walk in the rain. Don’t get me wrong after the half an hour we had to get back I was freezing and ready for a hot shower and cup of tea. My poor sister had had her semi lashes done and spent the whole walk shielding her eyes from getting wet.. safe to say we were happy to get back to our cosy apartment.
Our last evening in the city we spent at ‘The Black frog Eatery’ where I had long island iced teas (has to be one of my fave cocktails, along with a Pornstar martini) and actually changed it up and ordered perogies. I hadn’t had them in years, they were one of my favourite things when I used to visit Michigan a couple times a year. It was my favourite restaurant from all that we had tried and such a perfect way to end our time in this gorgeous city.
The next morning we got up and walked (we booked our air b n b close to the port) to Canada place to board our ship. We were embarking on a 10 day voyage to Hawaii, 5 days at sea followed by 5 days exploring the Hawaiian islands. The Celebrity Solstice was our ship for this trip.
I’ve been on a number of cruises before, a few Carnival ships when I was a teenager around the Caribbean, known as the fun ship, it was perfect for being 15/16. I’ve been on a Royal Caribbean cruise around the Southern Caribbean islands, which was also incredible but then we discovered Celebrity Cruise lines and have been with them since. My parents did a Med cruise with them and afterwards convinced me to join them on the Celebrity Millennium starting in Hong Kong, stopping in Vietnam, Thailand and eventually ending in Singapore. After that amazing cruise we booked another onboard the Millennium around China, Japan and South Korea and this Hawaiian cruise was my 3rd with Celebrity. (I’ve since been onboard the Solstice again around Australia and New Zealand.)
Getting on a new ship is a feeling like no other, the excitement reminds me of being a kid on Christmas morning, running down to see what was waiting for me by the fireplace. This is like the adult version of that, it starts the second I get onboard, with my drinks package, and being handed a glass of fizz directly. (We always look for a deal when we book a cruise that includes a drink package). Since we got on around 11am we had a good explore and then headed for lunch, I love lunch onboard in the buffet restaurant. There is a station for everything – bread, salad, pasta, pizza and then special themed days ranging from American to Indian, Thai to British .. it’s always diverse and its always delicious. I end up with a mountain of food because there is always too much that I want to try.
The day we boarded the ship was a bit cool and drizzly so we decided to spend the afternoon in the solarium, with a takeaway chai latte from the onboard coffee shop Café Al Baccio (included in the drinks package).
We relaxed on the large padded sunbeds, in the warm air of the glass roofed solarium. The pool in there is warm and tranquil and is also dotted with hot tubs where you can grab a cocktail and soak in.
Usually on a cruise I love the first sail-away, it’s exciting and usually spent on the top deck, in the sun, sipping margaritas and dancing to music as we set sail. That day leaving Vancouver, the weather was not on our side, but it was still impressive. We decided to enjoy the amazing views from the comfort of our balcony, wrapped up in our complimentary robes and slippers. We sailed out past Stanley park, under Lions Gate Bridge and into the Salish Sea. It took a good few hours to make it out into the North Pacific, passing the Gulf Islands, San Juan and Orcas Islands as we began our voyage to paradise.
There are many restaurants to eat dinner at, many themed restaurants such as ‘Sushi on 5’,French themed ‘Murano’, ‘Tuscane Grille’ and more, these restaurants however, are not included in the price of your cruise but the Grand Epernay (main dining room) is. The Grand Epernay is a 5 star dining experience, with high quality staff and servers, plus the most incredible food. We eat every night in the main dining room, the food is always sensational, the wine incredible and the staff are so lovely. Since we have been on a number of Celebrity cruises now we have come to know and love some of the staff members. As they also tend to swap ships at the end of a contract, we seem to see the same faces around, a lot of our servers and waiters have become friends.
We always speak to them as our equals and ask about their families, the staff onboard come from all over the world and so I love nothing more than hearing stories of their lives back home. There are a small number of people onboard that always think they are above themselves and speak to them as if they are a piece of shit on their shoe. Every member of staff I have met, has been amazing at their job and would go above and beyond to make sure their guests are happy. The staff seem like one big family and it is so heart-warming to see.
We have met numerous servers and bar staff again on different ships, we have also met ‘Bristol Fashion’ twice, they are the house band on board and the best we have ever seen.
Claire and the boys are amazing, her voice is unreal and the guys are so talented on their instruments, they create an amazing ambience with their music, song choices and lovely way of playing. If you are lucky enough to have them onboard one of your cruises, don’t miss their sets.
Another familiar face on this cruise was our Captain, Captain Alex. This was the second time we had seen him, he previously sailed us safely through Typhoon Damrey in Vietnam (but that’s another story) and since Hawaii we have met him a third time in Australia. He is funny and friendly and has you in stitches with his wittiness and sense of humour. A top class man and Captain, you wait in anticipation for his daily announcement to put a smile on your face.
Before dinner we always go for a drink at a bar, usually the Martini bar which is amazing, has a menu of around 50 different martinis including apple, pear, passionfruit and even chocolate. The menu is extensive and they are all amazing. The bar is fun and swanky and surrounded by an ice panel where you can sit on stools and keep your drink cold and fresh. We also spent some nights, as the weather got warmer, on the back of the ship at the sunset bar. As the name suggests, to sit there at sunset and enjoy the view is magical.
Dinner in the Grand Epernay is one of our favourite parts of the day, we take hours, we’re usually the last table left just chatting away to each other and to the waiters.
We adore the bread and dips you first get presented with, then we always order red wine and sit and chat while we peruse the menu for a while. The starters are always amazing ranging from salads, soups, BBQ pork spring rolls to fish cakes and scallops as well as beef carpaccio.
The main meals every night are sensational, so much choice, often too much choice that we can’t decide. This cruise we had a waiter that liked to bring us an extra meal in the middle for us to try something more. Some of my favourites are the pasta dishes such as spaghetti Bolognese and shrimp alfredo. I also love the duck a’la orange, half a roast chicken and lobster but my absolute favourite is the steak.
The most tender meat I have ever tasted, some nights offered with gravy shallots and veg and others with a peppercorn sauce and potatoe’s. The food onboard is some of the best I have had in my life. And just when you think you can’t possibly fit anymore into your belly, your desert belly wakes up, some nights I can only manage some ice cream but even that is delicious. Other nights the likes of chocolate lava cake, new York style cheesecake, baked Alaska and lemon souffle were put in front of me and I just couldn’t resist. After that we stay a while to let our food digest with a coffee, or in my case a cuppa tea.
After dinner we always find something fun to do, whether we sit out on deck with a gin or two or we head to the ABBA party or silent disco. The silent disco is one of the most fun things to do at night. Me and my sister always go when one is advertised. I have such a close bond with my sister, she’s younger than me by 4 and a half years but we are best friends, we have a secret language that only us understand and too many inside jokes. .
we can literally look at each other and know what the other is thinking. Its special and I’m so lucky to have a lifelong best friend no matter what. Me and her on board, dance the night away, get drunk and laugh till our bellies hurt
As the days went on at sea and the weather started to become warmer and sunnier we spent most of our days out on deck, topping up our tans, having a dip in the pool and just relaxing, floating around in the middle of the Pacific Ocean without a care in the world.
We woke up on our 6th morning at sea to our first sight of land just coming into view, the sun was rising as I stepped out onto the balcony and felt the warm breeze brush my face, I could just see the silhouette of the big island. I was stood singing the beach boys rendition of Hawaii as we sailed into port.
Our first day we docked up in Hilo and our first destination we headed too was Rainbow Falls. The Wailuku river flows over Rainbow falls, the water cascades 80ft down over a lava cave, that according to legend is home to the ancient Hawaiian Goddess Hina, Goddess of the moon.
Rainbow falls is stunning and is best viewed in the morning, before it gets busy and when there is more chance to see the famous rainbow shining across the water.
The short climb to the top of the waterfall is well worth the effort, the new perspective on the falls is incredible, climbing the steps through lush vegetation and the famous Banyan trees is beautiful. I have a thing for waterfalls, they draw me in, they are such a peaceful and special part of nature, I could spend hours just sitting, listening to the water hit the pool below.
Hilo had so much to offer that we just spent an hour at the falls before moving onto Richardson beach. Richardson’s park or beach is the closest black sand beach to Hilo and is known to the locals as the best place to snorkel on the East side of the Big Island. Richardson’s contains a marine conservation area, the Ocean here is fed by fresh water, which forms many ponds in the area, and so combining this with the shallow and almost always current free waters, you can understand why it is a top snorkelling location. The sand on Ricardson’s is mainly made out of black lava and so-called green sand, the green sand is made out of olivine crystals and together give this beach the feeling you’re on a beach in outer space dotted with craters of water.
The beach is stunning, caressed with green vegetation and rock pools, it was also the perfect beach to explore. I am a bugger for climbing, as soon as I see a pile of rocks I instantly want to climb over them or on top. As I explored the area I found a rock formation that I just had to explore, I slipped my shoes off, waded through a freezing cold river of fresh water, that was flowing into the ocean and up onto the rocks.
I climbed to the top to enjoy the view and instantly saw a pod of dolphins, not far off shore, just frolicking in the waves. I was amazed I love dolphins, they are such majestical creatures.
After taking in the view I noticed something moving in the rock pool just below, I climbed down to get a closer view of the water, only to discover a green fin come out of the water. It was a turtle, after a closer inspection there were actually 4 of them swimming in the rock pool just next to my feet.
I was amazed seeing turtles and dolphins within a few minutes of each other, I sat quietly with my feet curled up on the edge and watched the magnificent animals. The Turtle is a scared figure in Native American symbolism and represents Mother Earth, in many cultures the symbol of the turtle means long life and good health.
They are my favourite animal, I’ve been lucky enough to see turtles in the wild a number of times, in Greece, Florida, Costa Rica, swam and fed them in Barbados and I have even been lucky enough to help release baby turtles back into the ocean on a beach in Mexico, but this was special and was only the beginning of what was to come.
It makes me sad that so 5 out of the 6 species of sea turtle are considered endangered, I found a beautiful company ‘Honu’ that make ocean-inspired sterling silver jewellery that helps to save the sea turtles via their partnership with Sea Turtle Conservancy. https://shophonu.com/
Carlsmith beach is one of the most beautiful on the Big Island, this area is mostly made up of lava rocks, but Carlsmith has a rare sandy bottom, making the water clear blue and beautiful. There is no sandy beach but it is a fantastic area to swim and snorkel because the nearshore waters are protected by a reef. The entire area is made up of several large lagoons where fresh water bubbles up from the bottom so can become quite cool in some spots. There is a grassy verge where you can sit and enjoy the sun, or even have a picnic. I first off headed to the grass for a lie down in the sun, after a while I thought I’d dip into the water for a cool off.
On my way into the shallow waters I noticed a couple of signs saying ‘please do not touch the sea turtles’, I was thinking I’ve already been lucky enough to sit and watch 4 of them just a few hours earlier, there’s no way. After a little while of being in the water I felt the tie of my bright red swimsuit get pulled, I thought it must have been caught on a branch or rock or something in the water, so I turned around only to come face to face with a huge turtle, right in front of me, within touching distance. Remembering the signs around the area I backed away but he followed me. (I’m guessing it’s a he)
He was not a shy thing at all, I tried to keep a good distance to just admire him and not touch but he kept following me, whether it was the colour of my swimsuit or our energy was connecting, it was amazing and I couldn’t stop smiling. I have a sneaking suspicion that someone above sent him to say hello and let us know that they were okay, just when we needed to know, it’s what I like to believe, the perfect message. Me and my family spent ages in the water just laughing, smiling and watching this magnificent thing go about his day, one of the most amazing and surreal experiences of my life, one I certainly will never ever forget.
After another amazing meal and evening onboard our ship we arrived in Kailua-Kona on the opposite side of the Big Island to Hilo. Home to shops, restaurants and nightlife you can easily do a self-guided walking tour of Kona’s history.
The town is the start and finish of the annual ironman world championship triathlon, the annual Kona coffee festival and the Hawaiian international Billfish tournament. We walked around the beautiful, quaint town, with views of our magnificent ship in the distance.
Me and my sister did the typical touristy thing and bought Lei’s and we enjoyed a swim at the nearby beach. I’m not a big shopper on holiday and this town was perfect for that, so we had a chilled out afternoon, just relaxing in the sun. After our night of dancing it was well needed.
Our 3rd day island hopping was so exciting because that morning we woke up and were docked in Maui. I woke up and stepped out onto the balcony, to the rolling green hills and beautiful blue sky, I had the impression I was about to go on a helicopter ride to go and meet John Hammond about his new theme-park. After a tender ride to shore we headed to our first location on our day in Maui – Blackrock Beach. As the name suggest the beach is famous for its black rock sticking out into the ocean on the far right side of the sand. We wandered along the beautiful warm sand and watched locals throw themselves off the black clifftop and into the deep blue water below, it’s actually a very famous location with the locals for cliff diving.
I had taken a snorkel and mask with me after reading that Maui is famous for its incredible snorkelling, so I headed into the water to see what it was all about. I was not disappointed. I waded in and under around the area of the Black rock, not as far out as where they were cliff jumping but in the hope that creatures would be lurking in the cliff face under neath.
There was an array of tropical fish, so many I had never seen before, there were urchins in the cracks of the rock, colourful fish of every kind nipping in and out of the plants below and as luck would have it, three more turtles feeding of the scum on the rocks.
. I watched again in awe, not believing that I was so close to such an amazing animal yet again. I watched them swim against the current and feed from the rocks and then float around in a lazy daze, just letting the waves take them, I didn’t want to get out of the water but the next stop was calling.
After yet another amazing experience in Hawaii we headed to Kapalua beach. Ranked number 1 of Dr Beach’s best beaches in the world 2018, Kapalua did not disappoint with its white powder sand and blue crystal water. I had a beautiful afternoon, made all the more special by a small event that happened, probably viewed as insignificant to others but to me it left a special memory that I will always treasure.
After a few hours of swimming and enjoying the beautiful place I noticed a family sat at the top of the beach. There was a couple I’d put in their 60’s with their children possibly two sons with their partners who I’d assume were around 30, not that I’m nosey they just looked like they were all happy and having such a nice time, I was drawn to their energy. They had with them, an older man sitting in a deck chair. As I watched them I saw them remove the shoes of the older gentleman and help him up, they grabbed him either side and began to walk with him over the sand and to the ocean. He was smiling like nothing I’ve ever seen before, you could tell it took a lot of effort for him to get himself down the uneven ground to the water but he looked so made up with himself.
I caught the eye of the young man helping him and smiled, he said hello and told me it was his Grandad and that it was his 90th birthday. That he had been a bit unwell lately but made his family promise to bring him back to his favourite place in the world and let him dip his feet in the ocean one last time. And I was here watching the pure joy emanating out of him as he did so, it was beautiful.
He reminded me a lot of my lovely Grandad Harry, we lost him back in 2011 and not a day goes by where I don’t think of him. He was quiet but a kind, gentle soul, who would do anything to make the people he loved happy.
He was the type of Grandad that would go out and buy us mountains of sweets and chocolate and sit with them in a bowl next to him until we noticed, he loved seeing the joy on our faces when we found our favourite treacle toffee’s. Grandad was unsteady on his feet towards the end but he never ever lost the gorgeous smile from his face, even the last day I ever saw and hugged him, he was struggling, but he still gave me that lovely smile and told me he loved me. Such a special human, who I feel around me a lot, just keeping his eye on me and letting me know he’s there in small but special ways.
Our last night onboard was a stressful one. As we were getting ready to head out for dinner, I received a news update on my phone stating the airline company Thomas Cook was bordering on going bust, considering our flight home was booked with them, it un-nerved me slightly. We went for dinner and although the food was magnificent as always, there was the niggling uncertainty of what was going to happen. Sure enough before dessert was even served it was breaking News that ‘Thomas Cook had gone into administration’ and all flights and holidays were cancelled effect of immediately. Considering we all had to be home for work and other commitments we did not want to be stranded in the States. Our original plan was to get off the ship when we docked in Honolulu, spend a few nights there, fly with United Airlines from Honolulu – San Francisco, spend 2 nights In San Francisco, then fly home to Manchester with TC.
It became apparent that other airlines were offering to fly people home who were stranded, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways stepped in to help those of us stranded in the states. Overall 150,000 people were left with no flight home. I got straight on the phone to Virgin, as you can imagine the line was busy and so me and my mum spent 2 hours, sat in the room, on hold to virgin. My Dad and sister kept bringing us Gin and Tonics to keep us hydrated and help with the stress. After 2 hours I finally got put through to a lovely, helpful lady, she managed to find us a flight home but it was 2 days earlier than we had originally planned, meaning we would have to forfeit our time in San Fran. It was that or a flight a week later than planned, so we took the early option. I’ve been to San Francisco before, but it was still so exciting to be going back.
The only other problem was that it was a flight to London Heathrow, not perfect but at least it was a direct flight from the States to the UK. We ended up having to rent a car with Enterprise to drive ourselves from London back North to home, after a 5 hour flight from Hawaii, an 11 hour layover in SF, then a 10 hour flight to London, it was the last thing we felt like doing, but at least we made it home.
Virgin Atlantic were amazing and very helpful, they got us home quite stress free and for no extra cost, we were however, stuck in a 4 in the middle of a very busy plane.. as opposed to our business class seat on Thomas Cook (we booked 12 months in advance and were offered it for an extra £50, how could we refuse?) but considering the situation, we couldn’t complain.
After all that stress, when we finally had our flight home secured and new itinerary planned, I sat outside on our balcony, gin in hand and just watched the stars pass by as we sailed through the night.
I was finally calming down when I looked down into the ocean and in the light of the ship noticed a pod of dolphins swimming alongside us. I smiled and just thought to myself this is a way of the Universe saying.. calm down, enjoy the rest of your trip, life is beautiful.
As we docked in Honolulu I was so excited, it was Honolulu, Hawaii… the dream destination. Now I’m not going to say I was disappointed but I was definitely surprised. The place was filled with your favourite chain, typical American restaurants such as ‘Dennys Diner’, ‘TGI Friday’s’ and ‘Chilli’s’ all nice enough places but the type of places I would expect to find along International drive in Orlando. I was expecting beach hut style Tikki bars on the beach with fire lanterns and women in grass skirts doing the Hula dance, tasting fresh fish and local cuisine. Instead the beach front was a homeless persons hangout and more tacky than tropical.
There were huge shopping malls filled with all the favourite shops ‘Victoria’s secret’, ‘Apple’, ‘forever 21’ …the lot, perfect to start my Christmas shopping early but not my idea of Honolulu. The buildings were high rise and grey and more what I would expect to find in Benidorm, I had experienced days of paradise, lush green vegetation and animals you would not find back home, to then be thrown back into a typical American city. I still enjoyed my time in Honolulu, just not in the way I expected. We stayed in a lovely Air BnB apartment, equipped with a communal pool, where I got the last of my tan. We spent our afternoons at the beach, watching the surfers do their thing and enjoying the coolness of the water.
I adored my time in Hawaii and cannot wait to go back and explore more of the islands one day, Until that day arrives, Aloha.