The High and Low of Hilo

Aboard the Seven Seas Navigator, we sailed away from Honolulu toward Lahania, Maui where we dropped anchor in the bay and prepared to take the ship’s tender boats in to shore. Lahaina was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1820 to 1845, when the capital was moved back to Honolulu.

There are many different climates in the different districts of Lahaina, and during the tourist season, the population can swell to nearly 40,000 people. The historic district is the driest and calmest and has a small boat harbor.

Ka’anapali is north of a wind line and has double the annual rainfall and frequent breezes. This area has almost four times the annual rainfall compared to the historic district of Lahaina, where 60 historic sites within a small area are managed by Lahaina Restoration.

In the 19th century, Lahaina was the center of the global whaling industry, with many ships anchoring at its waterfront. Today, pleasure craft make their home there. Lahaina’s Front Street has been described as one of the finest tourist destinations in this part of the world.

After a brief ride from the ship to the dock in the middle of town, a short stroll led us to an enormous banyan that covered an entire city block and shaded dozens of vendors selling handmade jewelry, souvenir t-shirts and hats, carved wooden masks and lots of other clothing and edibles.

A short block up the street, our traveling friend and professional photographer Mili Lopez was lured into an upscale cosmetic shop operated by a smooth-talking salesman from Switzerland. Well, that’s where the good looking man said he was from. After a 10-minute eye cream application and the beginnings of a hard sell, Mili let him know she wasn’t going to turn into a customer and we made our way to the end of the block. There, we found a gentleman with a flock of tamed cockatoos, parrots and macaws.

The birds were available for photos for a $20 fee and Mili’s photographic urges took over. The next thing we knew, husband Brad had parrots on his shoulders, macaws on his hands and a rose cockatoo on top of his head and was posed in front of an evergreen jungle. Later that afternoon, Mili’s Photoshop skills came into play and she sent over a close-up of a bright red macaw entitled “Happy Meal” because it had Brad in its mouth.

With time running short, we left the birds and headed for the dock to join an underwater tour of the bay in a submarine. This was not a new experience, but was one of the better ones and the hour under the water was fun. We even saw a sunken ship correctly posed in an area for good photos.

That evening, we had dinner in the ship’s main dining room with a friend from previous cruises, Sissy Lavigne, who is from Shreveport. She has a wonderful way with stories and a delightful Louisiana drawl. My favorite was when she told us she used to spend a lot of time on hunting expeditions in Africa. She said, “Do you know who the male hunters hated to see show up? Me.” At about 95 pounds, you would never guess it to see her, but before her eyesight began to give her trouble, she was a crack shot with “trophies” on her walls and floors at home. “No cats though,” she said.

Nawiliwili, Hawaii, was next up but the captain made the decision to pass. The seas were too high and it was just not worth the risk to try to get into what was described as a very narrow port entrance. Having had champagne and caviar for breakfast, we were content with his decision. The day was spent going to lectures on the culture of the islands.

The following day was the port of Hilo, blessed with dramatic waterfalls, fertile rainforests and blooming gardens, the geographic flipside of the volcanic Kohala Coast. Hilo has existed for a thousand years. There is also the awesome, larger-than-life statue of the Second King Kamehameha, known the world over as the symbol of Hawaii.

King Kamehameha, in 1791, received a prophecy that if he could remove his rivals, he would eventually rule a united Hawaiian Kingdom. He did.

After eliminating his chief opponent in Hilo, Kamehameha used Hilo as a base from which to amass his fleet of 800 war canoes that he later used to conquer O’ahu and Maui. Kamehameha fulfilled his prophecy and ruled all Hawaii until his death in 1819.

We took a Panoramic Hilo tour by coach that included visits to the immediate countryside, Rainbow Falls and a stop to see the King Kamehameha statue. Then, some of us headed off to a shopping center to stock up on a few forgotten things we needed before our final stop in the U.S.

The next evening, there was a ship-wide “down home” get-together. Travelers gathered in designated areas of the ship to meet fellow travelers from their state. What a surprise! We met two ladies from Louisville!

Cynthia Hitchcock and Karen Garvey are just delightful. Both are school teachers and love to travel. Karen had taught our nephew Kevin at Ballard! They were fun and interesting. We made dinner reservations with them for the next night, which was a poolside luau, and we had such a grand time we closed up the party and were the last guests to leave.

Four days of cruising at sea can be daunting if you don’t have a bit of self-reliance. Several enrichment lectures, movies and a couple of books helped to while away the hours on the way to our next stop, Nuku Hiva in French Polynesia.

To get to our first truly South Pacific island, it was necessary to cross the equator. On Regent ships, whenever the ship crosses the equator they hold a “crossing” ceremony for all guests, referred to as “pollywogs,” who are making their first crossing. The ceremony is held on the top deck around the pool and it is usually pretty corny. The corn factor this time did not disappoint. Usually, three or four pollywogs volunteer to also be guinea pigs in the ceremony. There is a “trial” held before a costumed King Neptune who always declares them guilty of some offense. The subject is then given some sort of shampoo with some gooey stuff and then thrust into the pool where it washes off. It is all in good fun and there are lots of laughs. Some feel the volunteers are a bit starved for attention. Oh well.

The night before arrival in Nuku Hiva, we had dinner in the Compass Rose Dining Room (Brad calls it the Lunch Room) with our friends from Utah and Iowa. Beef carpaccio, ahi tuna, cauliflower cream soup, Dover Sole and bananas foster seemed to be the popular dinner items. We adjourned just in time to catch the musical show on the stage and a nightcap in the show bar.

We looked forward to setting foot on shore the next day. Neither one of us can believe that we have been gone for a month and have no souvenirs to show for it. Yikes! VT

Photos courtesy of Carla Sue Broecker.