Cruising the South Pacific: How it Came to Be

So how did I come to leave my corporate job and hop a cruise ship to Fiji? Well, it went something like this:

For several years I’ve been receiving emails from a group called Abraham-Hicks. The Abraham-Hicks group does several cruises a year to various parts of the world, and I have been receiving emails describing these fantastic trips for years, always with the same result: I would open the email, read all the exciting details, sigh, and then…delete the email. Those trips were for other people, not me.

Finally, one morning while at work, I opened my Abe Hicks email, read all the details (well, most of them), and said to myself. I’m doing this! I bookmarked the website and started thinking about how I might pull it off. It would take careful planning and a bit of money, but I was determined!

On further study of the details, I realized the cruise set sail from the Port of Sydney. For half a second I thought, I can’t do that. Sydney is halfway around the world! That’s crazy! But then I came to my senses and thought, Of course I can do this. Other people do this sort of thing all the time. Why not me? And so I set about planning the details.

I decided I was comfortable doing the cruise on my own because I’ve participated in Abraham-Hicks events in the past so I know for sure that people who attend those events are generally happy, friendly folks. I was sure I’d find people to hang out with.

As I was planning the details around getting to the cruise ship, I decided that since I probably wouldn’t get to Sydney again any time soon, I should probably spend a few days there and see some sights.

The idea of a 23 hour flight from Nashville, TN to Sydney was daunting. One night, as I shared some of my thoughts about the trip with friends, I was given the idea to split up the flight by stopping over in Hawaii. Perfect! I hadn’t yet been to Hawaii either!

When it came to booking my lodging, I decided not to stay in a conventional hotel. I would use Airbnb for all my stays. I am not interested in the downtown party life, so staying outside the city sounded like a perfect fit for me. Airbnb would provide me a connection to local folks with inside information on best ways to get around and best sites to see – without the influence of tourist industry hype. I had used Airbnb a total of one time prior to this on a short trip to Charlotte, NC, but that was enough to sell me on the idea.

Due to the length of the Sydney and cruise portions of the trip, I decided I would keep my Hawaii stays short. I could take a longer trip to Hawaii another time, so I planned for only 1-2 full days on the island of Oahu for each leg of the trip. That would be enough time to hang on the beach for a day and maybe see a site or two. I was mostly concerned about being able to rest up between flights. I also decided to book different Airbnb locations for each of my Hawaii stays so I would have perspective from slightly different areas of Honolulu – for next time.

I booked my air travel as two separate round trips, one from Nashville to Honolulu, the other from Honolulu to Sydney. I ended up on three different airlines. The Nashville/Honolulu leg was on American Airlines. Honolulu to Sydney was JetStar. Sydney to Honolulu was Hawaiian Airlines. I booked it all through the eDreams website, which I had never before heard of, but after searching on Kayak, that is the booking site where I found the best fares.

So, there it is! In October 2015, I (over)packed my bags and got on a plane, headed for the biggest adventure of my life (so far)!

NEXT STORY: Honolulu – Day 1 – or – Back to South Pacific Cruise page

Hawaii – Redux

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I had one full day to spend on Oahu, Hawaii, on my return trip from Australia. My intention for this visit was to 1) Ship home a suitcase full of souvenirs, and 2) rest. My flight had departed Sydney, Australia at 9:20 p.m. and arrived (on time) at 10:20 a.m. – on the same day!

Traveling from Australia to Hawaii means I had crossed back over the International Date Line, which gave me back the day I lost on my way out. It also gave me a really long day! By the time I made it to my Airbnb room and got settled in, it was early afternoon. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do much that day because of low energy, so I walked to a nearby ABC Store for some snacks and headed to the recreation deck in my building.


This location turned out to be much nicer than where I stayed on my trip out! My room was inside the Aqua Skyline Hotel at Island Colony. My room, being that is was through Airbnb, was privately owned, and therefore less expensive than rooms rented directly from the hotel. As a comparison, my rate for the time I traveled (early November 2015) was $95/night for a Studio Kitchenette. The rate for a hotel-owned room of the same type booking for November 2016 starts at $149/night. The downside to this is, the privately owned room may not be as up to date as the hotel-owned room. I was happy with the trade-off. Another bonus was the last visitors had left two beers in the fridge!

The hotel is located five blocks from Waikiki beach – a very reasonable walking distance! The view from the recreation deck and my room are beautiful! The water in the pictures below is the Ala Wai Canal. The aerial photo is from my room looking down at the pool deck.

My Previous Hotel

As a comparison, on my first stay in Hawaii, the room I rented through Airbnb advertised “‘To die for ocean views’ over Yacht Harbor, Surf and Boating. Comfortable, clean, efficient.” Well. There was no balcony on the unit and the windows began at about waist height, so the only way to see those “to die for” views was to stand at the window.

To be fair, there were plenty of pictures on the listing, and the room was “as advertised.” But when I got there and couldn’t sit at the cute little table next to the window and see out the window, I thought, “Well, this kind of sucks!” Lesson learned!

There was no deadbolt on the door and the lock set was wonky, so at night I propped a vacuum cleaner I had found in the closet against the door as a sort of alarm.

Also, there was only one working elevator in the building, and that elevator only worked some of the time. One day I had called a cab to take me around town and when I left to meet them, the elevator refused to stop on my floor. I could hear it buzzing by over and over again, but it would not stop! I made a phone call to the unit owner, who then called the building management office. I was a good ten minutes late for my cab, but thankfully the driver had waited for me because he knew about the elevator issues in the building!


After a bit of rest, I ventured out to find dinner. Within two blocks of the hotel was a place called Heavenly Island Lifestyle. And heavenly it was! The venue is open air, with an inside space and a patio. I sat on the patio. The view was pretty awesome as well. There’s a busy street on the other side of the fence, but I did not find it at all distracting.

I had a Mai Tai and a scrumptious dish called Kahuku Shrimp Ravioli Nalo Herb Cream Sauce with Organic Cauliflower Saute. It was a green curry sauce, and the flower petally-looking things sprinkled on top are the leaves of baby cauliflower. OMG! I wanted to lick the bowl!

Day Two

The following day (after sleeping way in), I rolled my overstuffed carry-on suitcase down to the USPS office to ship it home. I had had quite enough of carting around heavy luggage and finagling suitcase contents to abide by carry on and checked baggage limits. One less suitcase for my final leg was well worth the cost to ship it!


After the Post Office, I headed over to Waikiki Beach for lunch. I landed at The Edge of Waikiki – Sheraton where I sat at the outdoor patio right next to the beach. I ordered a Margartia and the North Shore Basket, which is fried prawns and calamari. The prawns were huge! It was the perfect thing for me at that moment, as it was simple, and I was in need of some comfort food!

The view was pretty awesome as well.


After lunch (and another margarita) I realized I had not yet sat on the beach – on the sand – in Hawaii. When I stopped in Hawaii on the way to Australia I walked on the beach, but I had not had butt on the sand. I needed to fix this.

There was a small patch of sand very near the entrance to The Edge, and I had been watching a catamaran launch and land from there. As I sat on the sand I saw the catamaran coming in for what I assumed would be the last time, as the sun was not going to be around much longer. After unloading, they hung a banner across the front and a line formed. It suddenly hit me – sunset cruise!

The line was very long, but I thought I should at least ask. I went to the booth and was told they always sell out in advance, but I should go speak with the person who was managing the line. She said they had room for one more! Better yet – if I was paying cash, it would be $40, not the usual $45. I had exactly $40 cash! Yes!

The boat is called Maita’i Catamaran, and get this – free Mai Tai’s on tap! Granted, they’re not strong, but that’s a good thing, as they go down very easily and the trip takes just over an hour, so there’s plenty of time to down a few of them!

This turned out to be one of the best parts of my trip! I sat next to a couple from – Australia – and they were very nice! I also was situated very near the front of the boat (near the nets) so I had a totally unobstructed view. Here are some of the photos: (There are 11 photos in this batch, so get comfy!)

The Australian lady next to me offered to take my picture against the sunset, and this Japanese guy was standing where I wanted to be. Instead of asking him to move, I asked if he wanted to take a picture with me. He gave me a big smile and said, “yes!” As we were getting ready to leave the boat, he made his way over to me and said, “Thank you for taking a picture with me!” Isn’t that great?!



On my walk back to the hotel I decided to stop at Tapas Lanai Bar, which is where I had been heading when I stumbled onto Heavenly the day before. I chose Heavenly over Tapas the first night because, frankly, Tapas Lanai looked a bit like a dive bar. It’s located on the second floor above a touristy shop and the stairway leading up to the entrance is dark and…scary. It just doesn’t say, “Come on in – it’s safe here!” But…I had had several Mai Tai’s, so my inhibitions were numb.

When I entered the place, I saw only a handful of tables and a bar along the wall. Not much seating inside, and there were maybe three tables outside on what they call the “lanai,” but it’s really just a narrow, rundown porch area on the street and next to an alley. I opted to sit outside in spite of the lack of ambiance, as I felt an escape would be easiest from this vantage point.

Surprise – I had a really nice meal! I ordered a salad with green apples, feta and walnuts on mixed greens with a  nice vinaigrette. I also ordered their crab cakes, which were very tasty! It was the perfect ending to a perfect day!

Honolulu After Dark

It was such a warm evening, I decided to take advantage of the pool and hot tub on the recreation deck. It was quite nice! Back in my room, I snapped a couple photos – Goodnight Hawaii!

The next day it was back to the airport for the final leg home!

NEXT STORY: Life on the Celebrity Solstice – or – Back to South Pacific Cruise page


Honolulu – Day 2

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My only priorities for day 2 in Hawaii were to get to two recommended places; one for sushi and one for a Mai Tai. I elected to cab it around town today to give my knee a break. Charley’s Taxi had gotten me to the Urgent care with no trouble, so immediately after my x-ray, I called them again and had then take me over to Lewers Street.

At Teppan & Sushi KAIWA I ordered The Artists Palette (of course) and it was YUMMY! The photo in the menu was pretty accurate. The only challenge with this item is how to eat the end pieces gracefully!

MenuMenu Pic

Is This One Bite?
Is This One Bite?
The Real Deal
The Real Deal!

After lunch I checked my GPS to locate Rum Fire, the location recommended for a Mai Tai. The tricky thing about Rum Fire is that you can’t just drive there. When I tried to map it on my phone there wasn’t a road directly to it, but I knew it was on the beach, so I decided to walk the beach to find it. Turns out it’s actually at the back of the Sheraton Waikiki complex – so you must be staying at the Sheraton to know about it – or walk the beach.

I did a walk-through to scope the place out, and explored the many shops in the open breezeway that runs through the center of the space. There’s also a Koi pond on the left side of the property, with a row of rocking chairs along the edge for people to take a calming break. (I hung there for a bit while waiting for Charley’s to pick me at the end of my visit.)

Koi PondKoi Pond

The Sheraton was so open that I walked in from the back at Rum Fire, through the shopping area and out to the front loading/unloading area, stopped at the coffee bar to get a latte, and then sat at a table in the front of the complex watching people coming and going…for about an hour…and nobody seemed to care! I was fascinated by the number of wedding parties coming through the lobby. Later, I noticed they have a marriage license registration office inside the Sheraton!

Couple Heading Toward Marriage License Office
Couple Heading Toward Marriage License Office
Turtle Sculpture in Front Lobby
Turtle Sculpture in Front Lobby

Back at Rum Fire, I found a seat on the patio that had a tiny bit of shade. The inside (open air) seating was filled and I wanted a view of the ocean so I was willing to get a little warm.  So I settled in…and ordered my Mai Tai! There are several versions to choose from – I went with the Signature version. It was very good!

Mai Tai Options
Mai Tai Options
Signature Mai Tai
Signature Mai Tai

From my seat on the patio I had a great view of the water where there was no beach, so the water came right up to the walkway in front of the restaurant. As I enjoyed the view, I noticed two turtles swimming in the area right in front of where I was seated! I tried to get a good photo, but they were quick! They’d come up for just a second and then – right back under!

The green sea turtle is called “honu” in Hawaiian. It is considered a symbol of good luck. Legend has it that the green sea turtle lead the original inhabitants of Hawaii to the island. 

Green Sea Turtle
Green Sea Turtle, far away
Green Sea Turtle
Green Sea Turtle, closer

The decor at Rum Fire is really pretty cool. There are lots of areas that are just a little different, like this sitting area near the front entrance:

Rum Fire Flaming Chairs
Rum Fire Flaming Chairs

And then there’s the patio…

Patio Area
Patio Area
Patio Seating
Patio Seating

I managed to kill enough time to be hungry again, and I really wanted a burger. I also decided to move to a shadier place while eating – I can’t enjoy a meal when I’m blazing hot! Based on my waitress Teresa’s recommendation, I ordered the Truffle Burger – excellent choice! Teresa was a sweetheart. She was covering too many tables, but she remained pleasant and even let me take her picture before I left!

Burger Menu
Burger Menu
Live Version of Burger
Live Version of Burger
Dinner Guest
Uninvited dinner guest
My Waitress, Teresa
My Waitress, Teresa

NEXT STORY: Traveling from Hawaii to Sydney Makes for a Very Long Day! – or – Back to South Pacific Cruise page

Honolulu – Day 1

NEXT STORY: Honolulu – Day 2 – or – Back to South Pacific Cruise page

I have arrived! Longest flight I’ve ever not enjoyed, I must say that! For the next leg of my trip I will be using a motion sickness patch! Nothing devastating (or embarrassing) happened. It was just an uncomfortable flight with lots of deep breathing and carbonated drinks. And the “good drugs” I got just before the trip so I could sleep on the flight…didn’t work. I was awake. The. Entire. Flight.

But. Other than that, everything went very well and everyone I encountered was very pleasant!For example, at DFW, I was standing in the sink area of the ladies room trying to place an icy hot patch on my back, carefully adjusting my clothing in a way to hopefully not stick the pad to itself or my clothing, but also to not bare my backside to all passers by. A nice Asian woman saw me struggling and asked if she could help. She put it on for me perfectly and went on her way! So nice!

The Shuttle

I decided to shuttle it to my Airbnb location, which is in Marina Tower in Waikiki. I’ve got some great views of the Yacht Marina and the beach from my room on the 32nd floor! The room isn’t ritzy – could use some upgrading – but I’m only here to sleep. And blog.

So…back to the shuttle. I sat next to an alcohol-breathing man in his 60’s. He was really quite pleasant. His wife was seated in the row in front of us. 60’s Guy said he and his wife travel here from Richmond, VA every year and stay about two months. They stay over in Oahu for one night and then catch a flight to the big island for the rest of their stay.

He told me the story of their first visit. He said it was back in the 80’s, and he and his wife stayed on Oahu for the whole trip. Shortly after they arrived they noticed everyone rushing to the shopping centers buying up all the food. Turns out there was a hurricane coming. 60’s and his wife had no idea – had not paid attention to any weather reports. But he said they were stayed on the other side of the island from Waikiki, so it didn’t affect them, except that the entire island was out of power for several days. He said the Navy eventually sent over a nuclear submarine and they powered the entire island from this submarine! That’s quite a story! (We’ll come back to this one again further down the page.)

“Late” Night Snack

By the time I was settled in, my phone said it was 4:30 pm, but my body said it was 9:30(bedtime). Still, my stomach said, I want something good to eat and my heart said, it’s my first night in Hawaii, so let’s make it something cool! The restaurant choices directly across the street are Red Lobster and Outback. No.

The front desk was closed, so I went down to the valet and asked for recommendations for a place within walking distance that would be something a little more Hawaiian than my immediate choices. The valet pointed me away from the beach, which was disappointing,but I was tired, so willing to listen. He said there was a food court just over the bridge. Food court? Like a mall food court? Yes, but there are some Hawaiian and Japanese places there. He said if I went in the other direction the prices go way up. If I had been rested (and clean) I may have opted for the pricier options, but I was tired and travel-dirty, so I headed toward the mall.

First of all, OMG! I have never seen such a large, sprawling, open air mall in my life! The Ala Moana Shopping Center bills itself as the world’s largest open air shopping center, and I believe them. They have over 290 shops, a food court, and restaurants. I easily found a directory kiosk, and after trekking down to Hawaiian Blue Lifestyle (listed under cafes) and learning it was really a smoothie bar, I moved on. I wanted a sit down meal – and a beer. Back at the directory, I realized the restaurants were listed in their own, separate category. I also noticed that they were all on Level 4, which was accessed via the escalator to my right. Bingo!

There was a Japanese Steakhouse, which was fully enclosed and looked very expensive. As I browsed the menu posted at the door, I noticed the music, coming from just over -there. Right in the middle of Level 4 is an open air bar called Mai Tai Bar. There is a stage at one end, where a cute urban hippie couple was singing covers of…wish I could tell you, but it was good stuff. I had found my destination! I bellied up to the bar and was greeted by a very nice prematurely grey 30-something named Zach. As it was late for dinner (in my mind) I settled on the Firecracker Shrimp appetizer with a side of Edamame. And of course, a Blue Moon. So good!

Funny story: I was able to see Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. from my seat at the bar, and I thought, I’m glad I picked this place over Bubba’s, even though they do have an open airspace and I would still be able to hear the music. I like the atmosphere of this place better, and I’ll bet the food is better, too. Soon after my food arrived, I noticed a waiter coming out of Bubba’s carrying some plated food and bringing it into Mai Tai. I thought, that’s weird. I guess you can order from Bubba’s and they’ll let you eat it here.Then I looked around. Mai Tai has no kitchen. My bartender, Zach, confirmed that they use the same kitchen! Anyway, good shrimp and two beers later, I found my way out of the shopping center (I had my concerns about that after jet lag and two beers) and back to my room. The edamame came home with me and was my breakfast this morning – bonus!

Firecracker Shrimp at Mai Tai Bar
Firecracker Shrimp at Mai Tai Bar
Edamame - or - Tomorrow's Breakfast!
Edamame – or – Tomorrow’s Breakfast!

Dinner Guest

Oh, and while at the bar, I met and chatted with a very pleasant black Hawaiian man named Mike. When Mike was young, his father had been in the military and they traveled a lot, and when his father retired, he chose Oahu as the place to raise his family.Mike said he was six when they moved here and he’s never left. As I chatted with Mike I remembered 60’s Guy’s story about the submarine and decided to bounce it off of someone who had been living here at the time. When I got to the part about the submarine Mike raised his eyebrows.

“A submarine powered the entire island?”

“That’s what he said.”

“No, that didn’t happen. The power was out for a few days, but that was it.”

After returning to my room I decided to see what the internet had to say. According to Wikipedia, Hurricane Iwa hit the islands on November 23, 1982:

“The hurricane devastated the islands of Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, and Oʻahu with wind gusts exceeding 100 mph (160 km/h) and rough seas exceeding 30 feet (9 m) in height.”

Regarding the aftermath, Wikipedia says:

“The thousands of Hawaiians without power celebrated Thanksgiving by cooking turkeys on outdoor grills or smokers. Army and Air Force planes delivered 20,000 Thanksgiving rations to the thousands left in temporary shelters. The United States military also airlifted generators to Kauai due to several days of power outages.”

So. No magical submarine. Darn. I liked that story better!

NEXT STORY: Honolulu – Day 2 – or – Back to South Pacific Cruise page