I feel like a fraud because I'm writing about Hawai'i so long after my voyage has ended, but I feel like I need to finish it out - so here it goes.
We got into Honolulu and the very first thing everyone did was turn on their cell phones. We were all able to use our phones for the first time in 4 months, and I went up to the top deck and called Kaleigh for an hour and we caught up on everything. It was the only place on the ship with service, so it was packed with people trying to use their phones!
My friends and I got off the ship by 10 am, and headed towards Waikiki beach with our overnight bags. Corey works at the Hyatt in Columbus, so he was able to arrange 2 rooms at the Hyatt on the beach at $130/night each. We had 14 people staying between the two rooms, which made the price about $20 each TO STAY AT THE HYATT ON WAIKIKI. Ridiculous.
We went to the hotel to set down our bags, and back out to the beach to lay out. Check in wasn't until 3, so we found a hotel pool bar on the beach and had a couple beers, enjoyed the sun and each others' company. I took a nap, and when I woke up my friend Andy had come by with this enormous standing board and paddle he'd rented. We took it out and did a tandem ride, and both of us stood up and caught a wave together! It took a few tries, but was very fun. It was amazing to look around and see Diamondhead Mountain as part of the scenery. So weird to think about the last time I was in the ocean looking around me and taking in the view like that was in Cadiz, Spain.. with views of cathedrals in the distance.
I went up to the hotel room to nap for a bit, and everyone came up to wake me and get ready for dinner right after the sun had set. The other half of our group found their way to the hotel after skydiving (they're CRAZY), and we all went out to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner. I'd been craving wings for at least 2 months like nothing I've ever craved in my life, and convinced everyone it was the best choice. So we showed up, I drank lots of pints, had lots of fried pickle slices and 15 wings (at least). Can you say "America" with me?
So we met some Navy guys at the bar, and Ross, Heidi and I ended up going out with them since they knew some local areas and we were some of the only 21+ crowd. This is the first port where drinking age was an issue, which kind of put a damper on things. Regardless, we ended up at this little divey bar, and then at an Irish Pub, and then to a club called McGillicuddy's across the street. Heidi went in the men's bathroom by accident, so she got kicked out and we headed home at about 4 am. What a night though! So much fun. The following day we lazed around the hotel. Slept in until checkout, except for the few who went to check out the Pearl Harbor memorial where the U.S.S. Arizona sank and serves as a burial ground for the men who went down with the ship. I saw it with my family years ago, so it seemed unnecessary. We went down to the beach, grabbed some Subway for lunch and laid out. Heidi made me into a mermaid until I started to burn, and we headed back to the ship around 3.
The night was spent on the ship in transit. I was exhausted and slept a lot that night. We woke up on a new island - the big island - in Hilo. Hilo has no regular bus system; if you see the bus coming, you wave and they pull over. Everything works on island time. I stayed in Hilo with friends because it was $100 to get to Kona, which is the other side of the island.. although that's where most of the action is. I stuck with Megan, Heidi and Shannon. The 3 of us went into the downtown area and paid a van $2/person, rented snorkel gear for $7/person and went to the black sand beach (Richardson's). There were sea turtles lazing around, drooling on rocks and baking in the sun. It was hot out, and the water felt great. It's amazing how graceful sea turtles can be in the water, and how chunky and clumsy the look on land. All of the rock was lava rock, and per usual, SAS had taken over the beach entirely.
After playing in the water and cutting ourselves up on the rocks a bit, we went back to the ship to get ready for dinner. The 4 of us went to a nearby mall to see Harry Potter 7 (so good) and get fish tacos from Maui Tacos. They were SO good going down, but led to the following 24 hours of food poisoning. My friend Will convinced me to get back out of bed at midnight because it was our very last night in port with SAS, and I knew I'd regret it otherwise. So we went to get pancakes at Ken's Pancake House, and met a bunch of SAS kids at a bar across the street from the ship. It was fun and I'm glad I went, though I felt pretty awful the whole time and the whole following day.
I left the ship the next day for a total of 30 minutes to return my snorkel gear. But, that was Hawai'i. My first time there without structure and/or family all the time, and it was a blast. Finals were the following 4 days at sea, so the next week was rough - but living in paradise with my friends for one last time was a treat.
And one last thing - even though it was America, it felt so weird! To hold dollars in my hand from the ATM, to see cars on the right side of the road... and I've never noticed it before because I'm usually in resort areas, but Hawai'i is SO influenced by Japanese culture. It's amazing.