The Emerald Princess. The stern of the ship has an unusual configuration (below) which looks like a giant spoiler on a race car. In fact, that is the discotheque, on the 15th deck. I have heard that it was removed from one of the ships to enhance stability.


Above: Posing at the Botanical Gardens


Above: The street I liked in Honolulu.


The luxury of the Marriott was quite outstanding. The landscaping is a showpiece that draws thousands to see it.



Lahaina is small enough to walk easily.




Downtown Ensenada, Mexico. Yes, I bought another T-shirt.


This was a roundtrip cruise from Los Angeles to four of the Hawaiian islands and back.We met people onboard who live within driving distance of the dock in L.A.who take this cruise once or more times a year. One couple didn't get off the ship -- they booked two cruises back-to-back, so that they just repeated the same itinerary for a second time, making it a 28-day cruise.


Here we visited the Botanical Gardens. The van arrived at the concession building, which is at the top of the hill. Then, a steep path leads down, down, down, with various trails, until getting to the water. There are, of course, a wide selection of plants and flowers.. It is amazing to see what can be developed from a wild patch of land.


In Honolulu, I was impressed by the way the ship was docked. The bow almost hung out over a busy highway. There were stores and things near the dock, but not the places we wanted to see. So we took taxis. One driver pointed out where Barak Obama had lived and gone to high school.

What is the name of that famous pink hotel along Waikiki? I forget. We went there to sit on their verandah and have lunch. They offered high tea, but at $48, we passed on it. We became tea snobs onboard the Queen Mary 2. Now, everywhere we have tea, we compare it to Tea on the Queen Mary 2. On Princess, the scones were tiny and the tea came in bags! Really! I like Hawaii because of the Asian influence. It is as much Japanese as English. Some stores don't even pretend to be interested in English-speaking customers. All of the haute shopping places are there, Dior, Channel, Rolex, etc. etc.

But more than shopping, Hawaii is a place that Japanese couples come to get re-married. Apparently the laws and costs and religious considerations in Japan put a damper on extravagant weddings. So they come to the big hotels lining Waikiki Beach for fancy weddings and receptions. We saw two different brides and many people in formal dress.

In a previous visit a number of years ago, I stayed at a modest hotel near Waikiki. I was there with my crew to install a labyrinth at St. Clement's Episcopal Church. The entire block near the hotel was under construction. Now, it was finished, and it was gorgeous, with two stories of shops, a nice coffeehouse, lawn and palm trees. It ran perpendicular from the busy commercial street one long block to the hotels that faced the water. We stopped there at an ABC store. If you have not been to Honolulu, let me tell you that ABC stores are plentiful, often one on every block in popular areas. They sell the sorts of things tourists like, including macadamia nut candy and flip flops. Me? I'm a T-shirt guy. On my last stay, 8 shirts cost $20. I still wear some of them. This time it was five or six for $20, but I still succumbed.

We have friends in Honolulu, so we went to see them at Saint Andrews' Episcopal Cathedral. Linda is an Episcopal priest, and had worked with her friend back in Massachusetts. It turns out that there are frequent openings, in some of the more remote islands, to fill in as interim priest until they can find a permanent person. We have tucked that fact into our memory banks -- we could stay for a number of months, maybe longer, if Linda were engaged in that work. I love to see her in her long white robe and colorful stole, especially during communion when she holds up the round host and blesses it. It moves something deep inside me, and I am very proud of her. If we were to come to Hawaii. her duties would be mostly limited to Sunday services. Perhaps that would be a good time to do some more writing.

We then attended the Kirkin' o' the Tartans, sponsored by the Saint Andrew Society. Centuries ago, Scottish and English ship captains made Hawaii their home. It is Saint Andrew's, after all (think of the golf course in Scotland). Linda herself is of Scottish blood (ne Ross). At least twenty people came dressed in full Scottish regalia, with kilt and blankets and skirts bearing their family plaid. And, of course, there was a procession with bagpipe player. I very much enjoy that instrument. Have you ever seen a bagpipe player who wasn't sort of stout and bearded and wore heavy clothes even in hot weather? After the service we had dinner at an Irish Pub very close to the ship.Some cruise lines have started staying two nights in Honolulu. That would have been nice.

Nawiliwili, Maui

There's not much to see in Nawiliwili. The harbor itself is very difficult to enter, requiring the ship to use tugs and its own thrusters to swing 270 degrees sideways into its mooring. In heavy seas, they skip this stop and don't try to enter. We went to the huge Marriott complex, which is unbelievable. There are numerous large buildings, extensive pools, landscaping that is out of this world, restaurants. Way out here? I guess that's the point. The cost, as a hotel, is around $260 a night, but much of it is time shares. Ah, just like the Sheraton in Puerto Vallarta, where I go each year. This is on my list, to use some of our timeshare weeks to come here.

Lahaina, Maui

The town is quaint and very walkable. A section of the downtown faces the ocean directly (photo). Linda and I decided to buy some kind of matching outfits. First, we were going to get the exact same pattern, but decided that is too obnoxious. So she bought a beautiful coral dress and I got a formal Hawaiian shirt. They are a bit showy. Where will we ever wear them? We may sound like we have done a lot of shopping, but in fact, our inclination and our budget are both low.

During the sea days back to the mainland, I took a tour of the ship. Limited to 12 people, it cost $150. Yes, that's right -- I had to pay to see the ship. But, given my growing interest in cruise ships, I felt it was worth it. There turned out to be only nine of us. It was quite fascinating. We stood on the stage of the theater, which has features such as a rain curtain and sections of the stage that raise and lower. In the changing rooms, there is a conveyor like they have at the dry cleaners, where you push a button and the clothes go around on a track. That's how they accessed their costumes. We saw how the anchors are raised and lowered. The laundry had a machine that folds everything from sheets to hand towels. Little panels hinged up -- whap, whap, all done. Perfectly folded. There, we were all given fluffy white bathrobes, such as are sold in the shops for $100. The galley was also quite impressive. The sheer size of the food operation boggles the mind. There, we were given chef jackets, which sell for around $45. Add to that the photos taken of us, and we actually recouped the entire cost of the tour. It ended on the bridge with a brief glass of champagne and a quick hello from the captain. I get the idea that ship captains barely tolerate passengers. They are so endless, and boring. If offered a tour on another ship, I would accept in a heartbeat.

Ensenada, Mexico

Our last stop was in Ensenada, Mexico, the day before returning to L.A..Why bother to throw in a stop in Mexico? Because cruises longer than a certain length must visit at least one port in a foreign country, according to U.S. maritime regulations. So, Ensenada, the northern most port on the coast of Mexico, gets a lot of use.

There is a certain sameness, walking through port towns. Many residents are dependent on cruise visitors to make a living. Often,just beyond the port fence, there is a group of people holding up cards about possible tour destinations, trying to get you to take their taxi or bus. To be safe, most people take the over-priced excursions booked through the cruise company. I have yet to hire one of those vendors. I was close in the Bahamas, once. And in Cartegena, Spain. I'm sure there are some horror stories of people who have been ripped off, but I suspect the vast majority of them are safe.

In Ensenada, we took the free shuttle into town, and walked back. There was nothing special about the town. There is dust and noise and commercial enterprise. Personally, despite my language limitations, I like to relate to the locals in some way that exceeds gawking at them from the window of an air conditioned bus as if they were in a zoo. So, when a humble, older man asked if I wanted my shoes shined, I said yes. He had no actual place to do it. I sat on a public bench and he got a few items out of his cloth bag. He was diligent, washing the shoes first, then polishing. Maybe it wasn't the very best I have ever had (not like the guy in the Frankfort train station who used electric buffers), but it was fine, and affordable. I thanked him in appreciation for his work, and he thanked me for the business.

Sometimes when people invite me into their store, I go in and look, knowing I don't intend to buy anything. I'm not sure if that is appreciated. Perhaps I am increasing their anxiety to make a sale. Perhaps I am needlessly getting their hopes up. Even small purchases, in this case, a brown leather belt, are appreciated. Then, of course, we saw the same belt elsewhere, for less. Oh well.


That's all folks. Thanks for amusing yourselves here while awaiting my book, Retired: Gone Cruising. More to come.