Arrival in Honolulu, an encounter of the aquatic kind, and tales of abducted luggage

Honolulu's Diamond Head is seen here in the early morning hours of November 27, 2011. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

After being in Honolulu, Hawaii for only a day, I can tell I’m going to like the phrase Aloha! Mahalo.  Everyone in Hawaii, or at least here in Honolulu, seems to sprinkle it liberally in every conversation.

At breakfast: “Aloha! Mahalo.”

At lunch: “Aloha! Mahalo.”

At dinner…well, you get the idea.

Fresh flowers are everywhere in Hawaii, and lend the air an amazing scent. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Welcome to the start of another Live Trip Report here on From the Deck Chair, but with a slight twist: this one is entirely land-based.  It’s been a while since I’ve taken a non-cruise trip, and I have to say, the absence of a ship under my feet and the presence of water under that has me feeling a little, well, different.

But there’s still plenty of cruise-related content to be had this week, including a complete, deck-by-deck photo tour of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America later on in the week. This unique ship is the only cruise ship in the world that is able to operate Hawaiian cruises roundtrip from right here in Honolulu, and we’ve got all the details on her coming up.

Idyllic? Oh yes. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

If I may be going through ship withdrawals, the sun, sand, and gorgeous scenery here in Waikiki are quickly putting me at ease.  Hawaii has, in all honesty, never been on my bucket list, but I am quickly wondering how I could have overlooked this tropical paradise located smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The first thing you notice about Hawaii when you arrive here is how beautiful it smells.  I know that’s an odd thing to say, but even just stepping out of the airport into the night breeze, the sweet scent of flowers and fruit gives your nasal passages a soothing Aloha! Mahalo.

Much like in Mexico, everything in Hawaii runs on its own, laid-back island schedule. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

The second thing you notice about Honolulu is just how much of the city is based around an open-concept to let as much of the beautiful sun and air in as possible. Nearly every hotel has an open-air reception lobby, and the few that don’t seem to be adorned with perpetually open windows, letting that fresh, fragrant breeze swirl softly everywhere you go.  “Breeze”, though, might be a misleading word: I’ve never been to a place where the wind whips and howls like a banshee as it does through the maze of hotels, trees and towers that line Honolulu.  In many ways, the wind is as much a part of Hawaii as the sun and the sea.

Christmas Decorations adorn the elegant Moana Surfrider Hotel in Waikiki. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Today, we oriented ourselves with a leisurely walk around Waikiki. With blue sky, a few light clouds and warm temperatures, it seems everyone here in on “Hawaii Time.”  No one is in any real rush. Cars do the speed limit, and I haven’t heard a single car horn yet. I’ve also not seen anyone typing furiously on a blackberry or iPhone, or running about in the same way many North Americans do.  In fact, I found I was walking a good deal faster than everyone else, so I’m making a concerted effort to slow the heck down.

The International Marketplace is a must-see on any visit to Honolulu. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

One of the first things we discovered, aside from the fact there’s an ABC store on every street, is the International Marketplace. Definitely a must-see for any visitor to Honolulu, the International Marketplace is an open-air market that has a bit of everything, whether it’s shot glasses for $2 or high-quality paintings for $200, there’s something here to suit every taste.

Honolulu is full of unexpected beauty, like this waterfall inside the International Marketplace. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

International Marketplace shopping. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Speaking of taste, there’s such a heavy Japanese influence here that fans of Sushi and good Sake aren’t likely to be disappointed; you can get imported Japanese beers, sake, and even fruit juices.  It all helps to give Honolulu a decidedly more international flair.

The Dolphin Quest lagoon at the Kahala Resort. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

We also had the opportunity to check out the Dolphin Quest swim at The Kahala Hotel and Resort. My fiancée and I have swam with the dolphins once before, during a port call aboard Golden Princess in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  My sister, who is along with us on this trip, has never experienced this before, so she took up the opportunity.  The setup they have at the hotel is every bit as idyllic as you’d imagine.

My sister, left, learns the finer points of dolphin tickling with the assistance of her trainer. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

You won’t find any aquarium-style tank here; instead, the dolphins have their very own private lagoon within a few hundred yards of the Pacific Ocean.  Participants get a chance to interact up-close and personal with the dolphins to learn how they behave and of course, to touch them and feed them.

While “riding” the dolphins isn’t permitted here as it is in Mexico, this is a one-of-a-kind experience that is perfectly suited to passengers arriving via cruise ship for the day.   The Dolphin Adventure Park is located just a ten-minute taxi drive from Waikiki, or roughly half an hour from the cruise pier.

The view from our hotel of Waikiki and the Pacific Ocean beyond. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

In fact, for cruisers who arrive here on ships from the mainland, I’d highly recommend taking a taxi to Waikiki and just strolling around with everyone else – locals and tourists included.  For many people, myself included, the scenery and concept of this part of Honolulu are just so foreign to us that you can’t help but be entranced.  On one side, you have the “concrete jungle” of apartments, hotels, and other rather nondescript concrete structures.  On the opposite side: blue skies, crystal seas, and sandy beaches with palm trees swaying gently in the wind.  If there’s a greater world of contrasts, I haven’t seen it yet.

But as I finish this Live Trip Report off for the day, I have a piece of advice that’s relevant not just for cruisers, but for all travellers.

My sister just purchased one of those fancy new hard-sided suitcases made of lightweight plastic. Made by Heys, this particular suitcase features a vibrant multicolored design that’s difficult to miss and easy to identify.  Perhaps too easy.

You see, someone at Honolulu International simply walked off with it last night.How did that happen, you ask?  Simple – they mistook it for theirs.

After seeing another couple walk out with an identical suitcase as we were entering the baggage area, my sister spotted what she thought was her suitcase, but it had another person’s nametag on it. The only problem was, the nametag was difficult to see in amongst all the other fluorescent colors. And as the luggage carousel ground to a halt, the same conclusion occurred to all of us: there’d been a mix-up.

Even the concrete jungle of hotels and apartments here in Honolulu remains oddly attractive. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

So, just like in Stockholm four months ago, it was off to fill out a missing baggage report.  My sister filled out our contact details here at the hotel, and my fiancée made sure the agents knew that the person would likely be back to claim their luggage.  As with Stockholm, the people at Honolulu International were fantastic and assured us the bag would be brought to our hotel once it was returned.

Sure enough, at 2:00AM this morning, the front desk phoned my sister: her luggage had arrived from the airport.  The couple came back when they realized the mixup.  But we’re fortunate we were on a flight arriving at 10:30pm; had we been on an early afternoon flight, those guests could easily have ended up taking the wrong luggage with them – on a weeklong cruise.

The moral of the story? Make your luggage as distinct as possible. If you have multicolored luggage that should be unique enough on its own, take it one step further: put tags, reflective tape, anything on it that might slow down people who are in a hurry to get out of the airport.

It could save both a rather unpleasant surprise!

Our Live Trip Report from Honolulu, Hawaii continues again tomorrow as we set out on another adventure – this time with a full complement of luggage! 



4 Responses to Live Trip Report – Honolulu, Hawaii – Day 1

  1. elizabeth says:

    wow, I love Hawaii, we spent 5 weeks in Maui last year 2010 and with us we took our 11 year old son who swore he was flying back to canada alone in 2 weeks! I cant miss hockey that long. well after the 2 weeks we were looking for a house we just lived it and so did he. just need to find a job or lots of money . hope to return looking at a cruise to check out the different islands . your story was wonderful.thanks for the great lunch hour. off to work i go .


  2. Thanks for posting I feel like I’m in Hawaii now

  3. […] for places with a lively night life, especially combined with a nice beach. Also, having read Aaron’s live voyage report on Honolulu, I think like I’d enjoy myself outside […]

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