We flew to Honolulu with our bags packed with class kits, summer clothes and John’s ukulele, on our way to 12 days of uninterrupted fun aboard the Carnival Spirit. This is a big boat, with about 2000 passengers and half that again in crew. We were to spend a night in Honolulu before hitting all the main islands of the Hawaiian chain, and from there, cross the ocean back to Vancouver. This is called a “relocation cruise”, when the ships change their voyages from the South Seas to the Alaskan cruise run.
We had about 35 quilters aboard, with various companions, and we all met on the morning after embarkation to pick up last minute instructions, coupons, and the schedule for the 12 days. Our quilters also picked up a journal book and were encouraged to save mementoes from the trip for a “mystery” project once we were at sea.
After our initial meeting, a number of us headed out to the Honolulu Quilt Show, which they generously held while we were there(!). On our way, via public transit, a few of us found an interesting building with some great artwork outside. As always, quilters take pictures for future projects, and this was no exception!
The Honolulu Quilt Show was wonderful, and we all took some more pictures there. The hostesses were delighted to see us, and were very welcoming. And their work was inspiring.
From the quilt show, Susan, Daphne and Sara and I continued on to do some shopping. We found the Fabric Mart, where there were bolts upon bolts of batiks, Hawaiian prints and bark cloth, as well as many other non-quilting fabrics (is there such a thing?). As it was our first day, we didn’t hurt our pocket books TOOOO much!
On board cruise ships, they do everything to help you feel comfortable and welcome. On our second night aboard, we returned from dinner to find the first of many towel animals who would share our stateroom with us throughout.
From the island of Oahu, we sailed to Kawai. Kawai is the oldest of the Hawaiian islands, and so the flora and fauna are more established than on the other islands. The mountains have eroded more than on other islands as well. John and I took a bus tour to visit Waimea Canyon, called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. Our bus driver was very entertaining, and warned us about the local fauna, which he called “killer chickens”. It turns out that mongoose were imported to Hawaii many years ago to try to keep down the numbers of rats which eat the sugar cane. Unfortunately, they found out too late that the rats are nocturnal and the mongoose are not. But mongoose like the eggs of all the ground-nesting birds there, so they proceeded to proliferate on all the islands except Kawai. They were never brought to Kawai.
What this means is that there are chickens EVERYWHERE on Kawai. Our bus driver predicted that, despite all our natural instincts, at one point or another during the day, we WOULD take a picture of a chicken. And we did.
The excitement was intense!
The other thing our driver taught us that day was our “secret password”. For us, it was the name of Hawaii’s state fish. It was vital for us to learn this word in order to get off the bus and back onto the ship (he said), and also if we wanted him to stop his horrendous puns. The fish is called:
Try saying that three times quickly! It does have its own rhythm, though, and I got quite good at it.
Waimea Canyon was beautiful too. Lots of colours and changing shadows as the light changed.
Kawai used to be all about sugar cane, the lifeblood of the economy. But these days, the cost of producing it in Hawaii is prohibitive, so there are only a couple of plantations left. It is exported for final milling, then imported back at greater expense….. who dreamed that system up? Today there is a huge coffee plantation on the island, and they are very happy for the cruise ship visitors. They had a devastating hurricane on September 11, 1992 that wiped out a good deal of the island. Nine years later, the next September 11th event wiped them out again when tourists stopped travelling. The cruise ships have saved them.
ON TO MAUI
Our first stop on Maui was Kahului. We hadn’t booked anything to do there, so we thought we’d try to hire some bicycles and look around on our own. After 2 hours of walking, we didn’t find the bike shop, so we opted to hire a car instead. It was interesting to visit the Sugar Museum, and to drive around a bit. We drove up to Ioa Valley to see its tropical lushness and take pictures of the rock formations (see Daphne’s blog http://daphnegreig.blogspot.com/ for a great picture of that). We booked a whale watching tour for the next day in Lahaina.
It was near the end of the season for humpback whales, but over breakfast, I saw several whales (2 breaching!) from our balcony, so I thought it would be a good day. And it was.
We found whales within 20 minutes of leaving the dock, and it was a competition group: 1 female, 1 baby (already the size of a pickup truck), and 5 or so males, vying for her attention. The baby must have just learned how to breach (lift itself almost completely out of the water and land with a big splash), and it was having LOTS of fun doing it over and over and over! There was a lot of head slapping, bubble blowing, tail slapping, pec slapping, flukes up and, really, everything that whales do, they did. It was spectacular. Of course, you can’t really get pictures of this – by the time you click the shutter, it’s over. So you’ll just have to imagine….. It was an EXCELLENT day!
On our way back to the ship, I took this picture – so you can see what sort of vessel we sailed on.
TO THE BIG ISLAND
The Big Island of Hawaii is huge, in comparison with the others. It is the most recent addition to the chain, and is still growing, thanks to Mauna Loa and Kilauea eruptions. You can fit the entire rest of the state within the area of the Big Island, which is why they call it that. I didn’t realize how many different climactic zones there are on the island. Because of the prevailing NE winds (which keep one half of the island a rainforest and the other a desert), as well as the extreme altitude changes, 11 of the possible 13 zones can be found there. That means they could grow anything there! Not just the world-famous Kona coffee, but cactus and grain and apples and pineapples and anything else you’d like to grow there. If you don’t like the climate/weather, drive 5 minutes!!
We started our two night stop on the Big Island in Kona. I had signed up for a class in Hawaiian quilting given by Barbara Bieraugel at the Quilt Passions shop. It was a great class, and she filled us in on some Hawaiian quilt history. That was what I was most interested in, as I’m trying to write a song about it. She was very helpful. She also prepared her designs so that we could sit and start sewing – she had pre-cut all the patterns for us!
After the class was over, we had arranged to meet a “local” for lunch. Last year I was approached by Peggy to give her permission to use a picture of my “Star and Plume” quilt on a CD cover and poster for her choir’s concert. We got in touch with her and she proposed taking us for a drive. We had lunch in Holualoa Village, an artists’ community with palm trees, coffee bushes, pineapples and ukuleles. It was a lovely afternoon. On our way back to the ship, we stopped in to pick up some authentic 100% Kona coffee. Yum!
It was while we were waiting in line to get back on the ship that I spotted this bumper sticker. I love it!
We left Kona at 6pm and headed for our last stop on the cruise before the big sail across the Pacific: Hilo. We went around the south coast of the island so that we could (hopefully) see molten lava reaching the sea. It was about midnight when we passed it, 3 miles from shore. It would have helped to have binoculars, but it was impressive. Huge red sparks and lava lit up the darkness, creating the newest land in the world.
We had another shore excursion planned for Hilo: a bicycle trip around the crater rim. About 25 of us hopped aboard the vans for the drive up to the Jaggar Museum in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. The air quality that day wasn’t so good – the breeze hadn’t started yet, and the air was full of sulphur dioxide at the top. Not a good place to start the bicycle trip. Instead, we drove back town to the Visitor Center and unloaded the bicycles.
It was an easy cycle – we started at the top of the Crater Rim Drive, so there wasn’t much of a challenge. We really appreciated the slowness of the transportation, so that we could see everything going by and hear the birds. There is a lot growing up there, believe it or not. It doesn’t take long for plants to get started from lava.
There are lots of stories about Pele, the goddess of the volcanoes, and her temper. Of course, visitors must not take lava from the park. There’s a book published that contains letters that accompanied lava rocks tourists took — and then returned to the park, because all of a sudden, their lives took a turn for the worse. Pele’s curse.
If you live on the Big Island (especially below the mountain to the south) you might find one day that your backyard is erupting. The eruptions don’t explode like Mount St. Helen’s did, but rather they burble out. Therefore, it isn’t usual that people lose their lives when Pele’s anger is felt – but it is very possible to lose your property.
Pele is said to appear as an old woman just before an eruption happens. There’s one story of a lighthouse keeper who took in and fed an old woman who asked for assistance. He offered her accommodation for the night, and she agreed. But she was gone before morning, and no-one knew where she went. A few days later, the mountain erupted and covered with lava the village where he lived: all the houses were destroyed, except his. Pele?
ALOHA TO HAWAI’I
It was a wonderful time in Hawai’i, and we learned a lot. We had pretty good weather thoughout, a few good beach days, and a lot of great things to do. I would like to return to the Big Island someday. I think there is much more to see there.
Then we began our 5 days across the ocean — quilting time! Susan and Daphne and I had a full schedule for the rest of the cruise, teaching various classes and doing a bit of singing too. Everyone brought their journals one morning and they made fabric book covers, decorated with ticket stubs, fish, palm trees, and sparkles that they had collected in their travels. Another day we had a great Show and Share. The class I taught was a hand-appliqued Yellow Hibiscus (the State flower).
Apart from the quilting classes, there was lots to do aboard. There were two formal nights in the Dining Room, and a Hawaiian night, where we wore our new outfits from the Islands. There were trivia contests and mini-golf with prizes all over the ship, shows every night (how DID those dancers do it on the rough sea night?), live music everywhere. Pools, a gym and spa, deck chairs, movies, dancing. And the casino, of course.
I set up a “secret” meeting with the companions of our quilters one afternoon and we wrote a song together! It’s called “Aloha to Hawai’i” and is very funny.
It took an hour and a bit to write, but everyone had a great time. There was lots of bonding happening among the participants, and tales were told about quilters that would raise the hair on your head — but I’m sworn to secrecy! What happens aboard the ship, stays aboard the ship…..
We took one more photo op on our last night dressed in our Hawaiian garb. It could be the last time we wear this stuff until our NEXT visit to Hawai’i!
All in all, it was a great working holiday. We motored into Vancouver harbour (one of the great harbours of the world, and I was so excited to sail in under the Lion’s Gate Bridge!) and it was over. One more boat ride – the ferry over to Vancouver Island, and we were home. It was great to end up so close, without an airplane to deal with after the cruise. But, however good BC Ferries may be, the food does not compare with what we had been eating aboard the Carnival Spirit!
The best part of all of this? WE’RE DOING IT AGAIN!! We’ve confirmed that the three of us will meet again in September of 2010 to cruise to Alaska and back. And I will DEFINITELY be singing the “Duck Neck Quilt” song, about a quilt in the Skagway Museum then!