Sunday, July 28, 2013

Aulani trip #2 - 31 July - 8 August 2013 - our plans

Deb and Ron's 50th Anniversary at Aulani 2013

Ronald and Deborah Switzer (Enid, Oklahoma) - staying in master suite at grand villa
Seth, Eve, Amina, and Rhys Switzer (Enid, Oklahoma) - Seth/Eve in bedroom 2, grand villa; Amina/Rhys in bedroom 2 of 2 bdrm suite until Sunday and then move back into grand villa
Tony and Darcie Sims (Puyallup, Washington) - staying in master suite of 2 bdrm villa
JS, CD, and AK (Houston, Tx) - staying in bedroom 3, grand villa
Wade Hodge and Charles Vorndran (Atlanta, GA) - staying in studio

The Disney Aulani Grand Villa
  • Up to 12 Guests
  • 1 king-size bed in master bedroom
  • 2 queen-size beds in second bedroom
  • 2 queen-size beds in third bedroom
  • 1 queen-size sleeper sofa in living room
  • 1 sleeper chair in living room
  • 3 full bathrooms
  • 2,174 square feet (202 square meters)
  • 3 separate bedrooms and living room
  • 4 flat-panel televisions and DVD player
  • Extra large private balcony
  • Whirlpool tub
  • Full kitchen
  • Dinnerware
  • Glassware
  • Flatware
  • Pots and pans
  • Microwave
  • Toaster
  • Stove
  • Full-size refrigerator
  • Dishwasher
  • Laundry area with washer and dryer
  • Coffee maker and tea service
  • Ceiling fans
  • Wireless Internet access
  • In-room safe
  • Iron and ironing board
Wednesday, July 31st 

Sims arrive Oahu - staying at the base overnight; grocery shopping (non-perishables) at the base commissary

Oklahoma Switzers arrive Las Vegas around 7:40 pm - dinner reservation at Wing Lei, Wynn hotel at 8:30 pm (via taxi) - reservation made

Thursday, August 1st

Oklahoma Switzers depart Las Vegas for Honolulu on Hawaiian airlines at 1:50 am.

Sims check-in at Aulani - 2 bedroom villa

Oklahoma Switzers arrive Oahu (Hawaiian Airlines flight 17) around 5 am, car rental (Alamo full size - $312 and National full size $316), drive to Aulani about 20 miles from the airport, check-in to grand villa;

Breakfast - reservation made: 
Confirmation Number:R18013338830
Time:  07:30 AM Breakfast
Party Size:  6

Kids can use the facilities immediately (pool, beach, etc) even if the villa is not yet ready; grocery shopping at nearby store (*need to make a detailed list);

Lunch - monkeypod kitchen  across the street - reservation made at noon for 8 people, just in case.

J, C, & A arrive Oahu around 1 pm (United flight 201)
Wade, Charlie arrive Oahu around 2:30 pm (Delta flight 837) - car rented and will also transport J/C/A - might need one of us (Seth or Eve) to also go to airport for pick up.

Dinner - C's lamb burgers
Ingredients 1 pound ground lamb, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, 3 green onion sprigs, 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped; 1 teaspoon sherry, 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon molasses, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 4 burger buns, 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled; fresh fruit salad, and baked french fries

Starlit Hui at 8 pm on the Halawai lawn

Friday, August 2nd

Breakfast in the grand villa - Macadamia nut and banana pancakes

Pearl Harbor day - tickets purchased for 10 by Eve (reservation #4-1846066) and 3 by CD (reservation #4-1845481) for 12:30 pm

Arizona tour 
One-Day Passport Option: A one-day Passport to Pearl Harbor 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 & Park, the 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.
(Eve's note:  the arizona and bowfin are adjacent to each other.  the missouri and the aviation museum require a shuttle ride to two separate locations). 

Two-Day Upgrade Option: If you wish to extend your Passport to Pearl Harbor for a second day, you may purchase a $10 upgrade at the Visitor Center's Pearl Harbor Historic Sites' Tickets and Information Desk. The second day is valid for an additional seven days.

Prices: Adult: $55.00, Child (4 - 12): $30.00

Lunch - *no plans yet - will need to probably reserve somewhere near Pearl Harbor if we're even hungry (Schooner's Restaurant?

Dinner at Roy's - this restaurant is just across and down the street from Aulani at the Country Club. Reserved at 6 pm for 13 people - (808) 676-7697

Saturday, August 3rd

Charlie's birthday!

Birthday Breakfast in the grand villa - French Toast Casserole


Charlie and Wade going out for the day with their friend

Lunch in the grand villa - chicken salad
Butter Mochi for dessert?

Snorkeling in rainbow reef
One-Day Rental (unlimited entry for one day) $20 per adult; $15 per child
Length-of-Stay Rental (valid for entire length of stay) $39 per adult; $29 per child

Beachside Casabella (2-seater lounger with awning): $45 for a full day

Stand-Up Paddleboard: $30 per hour (must stay in lagoons)

Authentic Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Experience: Travel as the ancient Hawaiians did aboard an authentic Hawaiian sailing canoe in this experience offered by Hawaiian Ocean Adventures. Visit Makiki Joe's for reservations. Cost is $99 for ages 10 and up, and $79 for children ages 9 and under, not including taxes and gratuities.

Dinner - La Mer - reservation made for 13 in the Salon La Mer - ocean front dining w a prixe fixe menu at 7 pm to celebrate Ron and Deb's 50th wedding anniversary.  Kuulei is our contact ((808) 923-2311) at La Mer and she will email me the menus we can choose from when they are available.  Current large group menu
We opted for the 5 course tasting menu.  Jackets are required for the gentlemen.

Sunday, August 4th

Breakfast in the grand villa - Canadian Bacon-Pineapple breakfast sandwiches

Darcie/Tony check out and can leave luggage in the grand villa
Amina/Rhys move back into grand villa

Honolulu "hole in the wall" food tour  - 9:00 am - 2:30 pm for Seth, Eve, Amina, Rhys, Ron, Charlie, Wade, JS, CD. - booked for $110 per person ($99 + tax)

Pick - up info:  We'll be picking you up (here in town) no later than 9:30 am (here in town), on the Mahukona Street side of the Ala Moana Hotel (adjacent to the world-famous Ala Moana Shopping Center) where all the tour buses get their guests.  Just look for our beautiful Hawaii Food Tours van.

Darcie and Tony leaving Oahu at around 5 pm

Dinner in the villa

Monday, August 5th

Breakfast in the grand villa - Cheesy Ham (Spam) and Hash Brown Casserole

Pearl Harbor (second) day and/or beach/resort day

J, C, and A going to Dolphin Encounter at Sea Life Park in am

Lunch - somewhere

Dinner - Shokudo   - we ate here in February and it was AWESOME - fun, hip place to eat - reserved at 6 pm for 11 people - (808) 941-3701
Ala Moana Pacific Center, Ground Floor
1585 Kapiolani Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96814

Tuesday, August 6th

Breakfast in the grand villa

Wade and Charlie check out of studio - can store luggage in the grand villa

This will be kind of a disjointed day.  We will have 3 cars.  Deborah  would like to see the Polynesian Cultural Center () and J & C would like to go to the Doris Duke Shangri La Center .  Wade and Charlie leaving for airport (Delta flight 836 at 3:55 pm) right after lunch

J, C, ad A are going to surf lessons in the am

Oklahoma Switzers booked for Gunstock Ranch horseback picnic ride at 11:30 am

Lunch - not sure

Dinner - Alan Wong - reserved for 9 at 5:30 pm
1857 S. King St., #208 Honolulu, HI 96826  |

Wednesday, August 7th

Check out of Aulani - they will store luggage for us and we are free to use the resort all day until we leave.
There are shower facilities in the departure lounge.

Aloha Stadium Swap Meet - Wed, Sat, Sun 0800-1500 - GREAT place for souvenirs
Alternate day for Doris Duke Shangri La Center or Polynesian Cultural Center
North Shore - Matsumoto, North Shore shrimp trucks, Dole Plantation, Lani’akea beach to look for turtles.

Dinner - somewhere - maybe Big Kahuna's Pizza
Airport Trade Center
550 Paiea St

Honolulu, HI 96819 (808) 833-5588
Mon-Fri 10 am - 9 pm

J, C, and A depart on United 200 at 7:32 pm 
Oklahoma Switzers depart on Hawaiian airlines flight 8 at 10:35 pm  - return 2 rental cars

Friday, July 19, 2013

HAL Veendam - Canada/New England Cruise - day #10 (13 july 2013) - Boston, Massachusetts

Saturday, 13 July 2013 – Boston, Massachusetts

I have to say that it's actually pretty nice not to have to give away your suitcase the night before you disembark off a cruise ship.  We finished packing in the morning and then just walked off the ship with our luggage once the announcement was made that we could do so. 

We saw all the suitcases lined up downstairs but walked past them and out to the curb where we easily picked up a taxi to the South Station terminal.  The only thing that threw me for a loop was that the taxi driver asked us if we wanted the train side or the bus side.  I had no idea and told him to take us to the corner of Atlantic and Summer as I had read online.

Well, this was the train terminal and when we went in and walked over to the elevator, there was no 5th floor so we went over to the information desk and asked for directions to Package Express.  We were told to walk over to the bus side terminal (Atlantic and Beach st - not Summer St), take the escalator up to the 2nd floor and then take the elevator up to the 5th floor.  It wasn't hard to find but it was a bit of a walk across past the trains when the taxi could have just dropped us off on the bus side.  If you take the silver line bus from the cruise terminal, it does drop you off on the train side. 

 When we got up to Package Express, it wasn't opened yet even though it was past 8:30 am and the sign said that they would open at 8:30.  It didn't take long, though, for the Package Express guy to arrive so we paid $5 per bag (3 of them) and got a ticket stub in return.  It was a little worrisome, though, that our suitcases were moved over near the wall in plain sight.  I guess I had imagined that the suitcases would be moved to the back of the place. 

At any rate, we went back downstairs and could see the gate to Chinatown just down the street.  It was drizzling outside and pretty cool. 

Amina and I had agreed that we would skip breakfast on the ship this morning and just find something to eat in Chinatown.  We walked into the first bakery that we got to and ordered a red bean moon cake and a roasted pork bun.  Both were delicious and just enough for us to share. 

We then had a little time to walk around Chinatown before meeting our tour at 9:15.  The first thing that struck me was that there weren't streets lined with vegetable/fruit stands all over the place as you would find in New York and San Francisco.  There were mostly restaurants and few shops/souvenir stores/grocery stores.  We looped back around to the main gate and sat for a little while watching the birds and listening to a man and woman argue very loudly in Cantonese. 

At the appointed time, we met our tour guide, Jackie from Michele Topor's Boston Food Tours who was actually Japanese but married to a Cantonese man.  Jackie was great - extremely knowledgeable, fun, and generous.  She gave us each a packet of handouts that had maps, some descriptions of the places that we would be visiting, and a list of recommended places.  She walked us over to a small garden area with a waterfall and sat us down to explain a little about what we were going to do and to talk a bit about the history of Boston's Chinatown. She had several props in her bag that she carried including things for us to see on her iPad, smell and taste.  Our group consisted of the 2 of us plus a woman and her daughter, and another woman and her son.  The other children were around 9 and 10 years old.  We first stopped in the Great BBQ where we sampled some BBQ pork (Char-siu).  Delicious.  This shop as a take out source for roasted pork, duck and various other animal parts (liver, tripe, feet, etc).  Ah-Ming was the guy behind the giant cleaver who cut our pork for us. 

On to Ho Yuen Pastry next for a taste of a lotus paste and nut moon cake.  This was a first for me - having not ever tried one of the savory moon cakes - this one even had a giant egg yolk in the middle. 

We then stopped by Wings Live poultry where she pointed out several chicken varities that you could buy here to be slaughtered and eaten fresh.  At Nam Bach Hong Chinese Herbs, she showed us the old scales that the herbalists would use to measure and pointed out the doctor who would examine your pulse and tongue and then present you with your own personalized herb prescription to be filled by the herbalists in the store.  Amina and some of the other women bought white lily oil to help with headaches as well as some tiger balm.  There were quite a few items in that store that really brought back memories of my grandmother - she frequently had various bottles and herbs at home that she routinely used.

At Bao Bao Bakery and cafe we were treated to bubble tea.  Amina and I had tasted bubble tea before but Jackie also ordered some Taro tea which was just as she had described it - like drinking the milk from the bottom of a bowl of fruit loops cereal.  They had the cutest cakes in that bakery. 

We walked through the Sun Sun grocery store and she pointed out various vegetables and other items frequently used in cooking asian food.  She bought a bunch of fresh litchi fruit and we each tried some and then she gave the rest to Amina and I to take with us.  Our last stop was for a Dim Sum lunch at Hei La Moon restaurant - the place was huge and crowded.  Amina tried the chicken feet for the first time - not her favorite.  Jackie ordered an enormous amount of food and we enjoyed it immensely - there were even a few things that I'd never had before. 

We thanked her for our lunch and paid for the tour (including a sizeable tip) and then Jackie took us to a larger grocery store to do some shopping - I was looking for a very specific item:  Soo Pork Jerky.  It's very hard to find outside of the West Coast and, of course, this store didn't have it either.  We really enjoyed this tour and would highly recommend it.

Amina wanted to visit the Emerson College campus so we walked the few blocks to the college which was right across the street from Boston Common.  What we saw was not what we were expecting.  I had gone to the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque for college and Amina had been to the campuses of the University of Kansas, Texas A&M university, and the University of Georgia for various summer studies programs.  The Emerson College campus wasn't really a campus in the traditional sense.  The college was basically occupying the top floors of a couple of large buildings.  It was all indoor with no outdoor campus to speak of.  We walked over to the adminstration side but it was closed.  We then went into the building that housed the dormitory and looked at the exhibits listing the famous grads of Emerson which included Dennis Leary, Henry Winkler, and the guy who co-created Friends. 

At this point we decided not to walk to the Duck Tours about a mile away and chose, instead, to have some relaxing foot refloxology done in Chinatown.  We enjoyed a one hour foot massage and then headed back to South Station to get our luggage (which had to be picked up before 5 pm) and take the silver line bus to the airport.  To catch the bus to the airport, we had to walk back over to the train station where we were originally dropped off.  We paid our $2.50 each to take the bus to the airport and got off at terminal B for our flight on Spirit airline.

It's definitely worth a mention that we will not be passengers on Spirit airline ever again. I had checked us in online the day before fully expecting to pay for our suitcases which were $35 each.  What I was not expecting was to find out that the weight limit for suitcases on Spirit was not the standard 50 pounds but, instead, was 40 pounds.  Additionally, I had to pay $50 extra for my carry on bag while my "personal item" was the free one. 

Drinks were not complimentary on the plane - you had to pay for even just water.  My knees were actually touching the seat in front of me - I couldn't even begin to imagine if Seth and Rhys had been on this flight with us.  The flight was delayed by an hour but we did finally make it back to Dallas around 10:30 pm after a very uncomfortable 3 hour flight.  Lesson learned.

Up next.....another trip to Aulani in Oahu for my in-laws' 50th wedding anniversary in about 3 weeks. 

HAL Veendam - Canada/New England Cruise - day #9 (12 july 2013) - Bar Harbor, Maine

Friday, 12 July 2013 – Bar Harbor, Maine

Our last port on this cruise was going to involve tendering.  On past cruises that were re-entering the US, I recall having to turn our passports in for customs inspections and getting them back later, but on this particular cruise, they wanted everyone to physically go to a customs inspection.  Our tour was meeting at 9 and the inspections started at 8 followed by pick up of tender tickets at 8:30 so we got to the inspection a bit before 8 after breakfast in our cabin.  There was a pretty long line already formed but it moved very quickly despite the grumbling by some of the other passengers about having to wait in line.  While we were waiting, they were making announcements that anyone who was a non-US citizen could go straight to the front of the line.  They made it sound like the non-US citizens were cutting in line but that wasn't actually the case - they had a separate, much shorter line to use.  We walked past the U.S. customs inspectors who merely looked at our passports and then we were given our customs cards.  We then went to tender ticket pickup and saw John and Leslie there picking there tickets up as well.  They were in group 2 while we were assigned to group 3.  We waited in the bar as instructed for quite a long time for our numbers to be called.  I went ahead and called our tour company, At Your Service, to let them know that it was 8:45 am and we were still waiting to be called to get on the tender.

Luckily, they called both groups 2 and 3 together so we took the short tender to the port and easily found a guy in a red shirt from At Your Service who took us to the van to meet our tour guide, Mary.

We made introductions and could tell right away that this was going to be a much different tour than the one we had in Sydney.  Mary was very friendly and full of knowledge.  She really made us feel welcome.  We drove through Bar Harbor and she pointed out a few historical places along the way.  We also stopped at the street where people could walk over the sand bar to the island.  This was a really interesting spot that I didn't read about anywhere during my research.  During low tide (at around 8:30 this morning), the sand bar was exposed and you could literally walk to the island.  When the tide came back in again (around 2 pm), the sand bar was completely under water.  Low tide would happen again around 8 pm.  Mary offered us the chance to walk over the sand bar (it looked to be about 3/4 of a mile long) but we declined and, in retrospect, I really wish we would have done it. 

We stopped briefly at the Acadia National Park visitor center and saw the large model of the island.  I picked up a mystery book for Rhys because it was set at Mesa Verde - one of the last places that my father-in-law was superintendent with the U.S. park service before he retired. 

The scenery at Acadia National Park is just incredible.  The weather was PERFECT and Mary told us the weather had been pretty dreadful right up until the day we arrived. We made a couple of scenic stops on the way to Cadillac mountain - the highest point on the island. 

Amina and I really enjoyed climbing around the granite mountainside and just taking in all the beauty of the area.  We could see the Veendam anchored in between the "porcupine islands". 

We visited the cadillac summmit center and got some blueberry malted milk balls and blueberry soda to try.  We hiked up to what we thought was the summit of the mountain.  At this point, Mary wanted to know if we were interested in seeing more of the park or if we wanted to break for lunch.  We opted to keep going and have lunch later.

Our next stop was the nature center where we filled our water bottle with spring water from Sieur de Monts.  We walked through the gardens, stopped at another lookout (seal cliffs - but, alas, there were no seals to be seen) and then to Thunder Hole.  The hole wasn't terribly interesting probably because it was still pretty low tides - I referred to it as "burp hole" rather than thunder hole.  We even caught sight of a whale.  We made our way out of the park and Mary dropped us back off in Bar Harbor at a restaurant that she recommended we try.  We paid Mary for the tour and tipped her heavily - we were very pleased with the service we received.

Lunch was delicious.  We shared some appetizers:  fried (whole) clams and crab stuffed mushrooms.  I had the lobster tail/claws while Amina tried the clam chowder and crab roll.  We shared a piece of blueberry pie for dessert. 

After lunch, we said goodbye to our tour friends, John and Leslie, and looked in a few shops before taking the tender back to the ship.  I went back to the gym for one more run before the end of our cruise and then watched as the ship pulled the tenders back up. 

We packed up our stuff and went up to the Lido deck for some dinner which wasn't particularly stellar but we had a huge lunch so it was ok.  Since we were in our cabin packing, we didn't have turn down service and no animal on our last night.  We were scheduled for expedited departure in the morning at 7:45 which means we would be taking our luggage with us and disembarking first to make our 9:30 am tour.