Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Trip #1 to Aulani

30 January - 5 February 2013

I can't remember exactly how it happened but it probably had something to do with not making it to Disney at all in 2012.  I don't recall the last year that we didn't make at least one pilgrammage to a Disney location.  So as a result of my oversight, we had leftover Disney Vacation Club points that could not be banked and had to be used prior to our upcoming Use Year in March of 2013.  What a quandry:  another "forced vacation" vs trying to sell or rent our DVC points to someone else.  I decided to take the easier route and started playing with the points calculator at the DVC website when it hit me....we normally take a weekend trip to Las Vegas in February and in recent years, have started taking this trip with friends, Lisa and Tim.  As luck would have it, it was usually around Tim's birthday so that was our excuse for our annual Vegas trip.  A quick check with the DVC points calculator confirmed it - we actually had enough points to book 2 studios at.....AULANI!  It didn't take a lot of arm twisting to convince Lisa and Tim to join us in Oahu at Disney's newest resort for 5 nights.  I didn't have any trouble booking a standard view studio (only 3 months out) for Seth and I but when I went to book another studio for Lisa and Tim, I ended up putting them in an ocean view studio.  LOL!  I guess we'll have to arm wrestle over it when we get there. 

The next step was to book airfare.  I had been discussing another Hawaii trip with Deb and Ron for their upcoming 50th wedding anniversary in 2013.  They had never been to Hawaii before and really wanted to visit Pearl Harbor so we talked about getting an Ocean View Grand Villa at Aulani for August.  I wouldn't be able to book that reservation until January 1.  Deborah was very interested in flying first class to Hawaii so I had looked into it and found very reasonable first class prices on Hawaiian Air.  Again, it didn't take a lot of arm twisting for Lisa and Tim to join us in First Class on our way out to Oahu.

Between connecting flights, the gateways that Hawaiian Airlines uses, pricing, and the days of the week that we would be traveling, I finally settled on a sort of split air travel method of getting to and from Honolulu. I'll be working most of the day on Wednesday, January 30th but leaving a bit early in the afternoon to catch our 6:50 pm flight on Southwest from OKC to Las Vegas ($389 pp RT).  We arrive at 7:30 pm into Vegas and have a 6 hour layover before our 1:40 am flight to Honolulu.  Since we're stuck in Vegas, we'll store our luggage somewhere and take a taxi for a 9 pm dinner reservation at Cut at the Palazzo.  Steak.  Truffle Mac and Cheese. Good wine.  We never have to twist arms very hard.

Our flight leaves Las Vegas at 1:40 am and arrives into Honolulu at 5 am ($1194 pp RT - First Class).  It will be so strange to have a full day when we arrive into Honolulu but I'm sure we'll be a bit jet lagged.  We'll pick up our rental car from Thrifty and fight the infamous Hawaii traffic that I've been reading about.  Aulani is about 20 miles from the Honolulu airport in Kapolei, Hawaii and I've also read that GPS units typically get very confused by Hawaii streets - maybe it's the crazy street names which are all purportedly traditional names - you won't see a "Main" street or "5th" Avenue in Hawaii.

So we are all set for a trip to Hawaii!  I put planning on hold for a bit around the holidays but with only about 3 weeks left before we leave, I've started looking into things to do in Oahu.  I always rely a lot on reading the DIS Boards which, as usual, was packed full of good information about others who have made the trek to Aulani.

So here's the rundown so far:

WEDNESDAY, 30 January

1850 – 1930 Southwest airlines flight 652
OKC to Las Vegas ($389 pp)

2100 – 2330 Cut at the Palazzo (take taxi)

"CUT presents a contemporary twist on the classic steakhouse. From USDA Prime Nebraska corn-fed, 35-day dry-aged steaks to true Japanese 100% Wagyu Beef, CUT caters to true steak connoisseurs. Guests also can enjoy a wide array of entrees including the Kobe Beef Short Ribs “Indian Spiced,” slowly cooked for eight hours; Colorado Lamb Chops with Cucumber-Mint Raita; and Pan Roasted Maine Lobster. To accompany the entrees, guests can choose from a large selection of house-made sauces including CUT’s signature Argentinean Chimichurri, as well as delectable side dishes such as CUT’s popular Creamed Spinach with Fried Organic Egg and the Soft Polenta with Parmesan."

THURSDAY, 31 January

0140 – 0550 Hawaiian Airlines flight 17
Las Vegas to Honolulu ($1194 pp) - FIRST CLASS

0630 Thrifty Car Rental – full size ($226.40)
Honolulu airport FP 1731

1100 - Lunch at Monkeypod Kitchen
booked via Open Table - a new restaurant near Aulani I read about on the Disboards - it had me at "garlic truffle fries"

Grocery shopping (ABC market within walking distance from Aulani)

1600 Aulani Check-in

1900 – Dinner - Azul at the JW Marriott
92-1001 Olani St (within walking distance of Aulani)

"Italian cuisine to invigorate your senses at JW Marriott's award-winning signature restaurant. An evening of elegant dining awaits at Azul. Our chef performs culinary magic, enchanting you with a delicate balance of Italian flavors using fresh island ingredients. Choose from one of the most extensive wine lists in Hawaii."

FRIDAY, 1 February

Lunch - not yet planned

1500/1530 – Traditional Thai Massage at Laniwai, Aulani

1830 – Dinner at Roy's
92-1220 Aliinui Drive (also within walking distance of Aulani)

"Nowhere else will you find a culinary experience quite like the flavors, textures and colors found in Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine. Combining the freshest local ingredients with European sauces and bold Asian spices, each creation leaves you with the feeling that you've just found paradise.

Roy's restaurants feature the finest seafood, with a focus on delicacies from the oceans surrounding Hawaii. Tonight you may find Ono, Opakapaka and Onaga in addition to an array of hand-cut meats, sushi and fresh shellfish—not to mention an award-winning wine list that was designed to perfectly enhance every meal.

Chef Roy has created many signature dishes that have become international favorites through the years. Many of these are featured on our menus throughout the country in addition to the uniquely designed offerings created by our local Chef partners, each of whom has been trained under the tutelage of Roy Yamaguchi himself."

SATURDAY, 2 February and SUNDAY, 3 February

We're very flexible these days.  We'll just see what inspires us.  We might check out:

Gozipoahu - Oahu's only zipline
WaimeaFalls - $15 pp + 25% DVC discount

Dinner (Saturday) - not yet planned
1930 (Sunday) – Ama Ama restaurant, Aulani

"Sit back and let the ocean breeze soothe your spirit at  ĽAMA ĽAMA – Contemporary Island Cooking—an idyllic, beachside restaurant and bar serving modern interpretations of classic Hawaiian cuisine."

MONDAY, 4 February

One-Day Passport Option: allows you to visit all four Pearl Harbor Historic Sites and includes admission to: the USS Arizona Memorial with Audio Tour , to the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Parkthe Battleship Missouri Memorial, and the Pacific Aviation Museum. Reserved Passports to Pearl Harbor can be picked up at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center's NPS Tickets and Information Desk.

2000 - Dinner - La Mer at Halekulani

"Perhaps nowhere is the Halekulani spirit of elegance and romance captured more beautifully than at La Mer. That's because La Mer is far more than a restaurant, it is a destination. Celebrated as Halekulani's finest and Hawaii's longest, consecutively ranked AAA Five Diamond Restaurant, this consummate dining experience is unmatched. The internationally-acclaimed menu features Neoclassic French cuisine expertly crafted and served amid majestic ocean views. Indigenous ingredients are uniquely blended in dishes inspired by flavors from the south of France to produce a dining experience unsurpassed anywhere in the world."  

One of our very favorite restaurants in Las Vegas is Le Cirque at the Bellagio - also a AAA Five Diamond Restuarant so I'm very excited to find La Mer.  Thanks to Open Table - a free service that I've used for years to make dining reservations and to find suggestions of where to eat when we're traveling.

TUESDAY, 5 February and WEDNESDAY, 6 February

1100 – Aulani check out

Free time (Luana Lounge at Aulani)

2255 – 0630 (Wednesday, 5 February) Hawaiian Airlines flight 8
Honolulu to Las Vegas

0805 – 1235 Southwest Airlines flight 1982
Las Vegas to OKC