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Sunday, December 18, 2016

THE BEST OF MY GOD 2016

My Grand Ocean Destiny on the Pride of America evolved into My Grand Ocean Destination, a journey that  was a wonderful week of nostalgia with the total spectrum of cuisine.  To recap, I got a call two Fridays ago from Norwegian Cruise Line with an offer I couldn't refuse, but I had to leave the next day.  A week earlier I had checked, and a solo room was in the range of $3000.  As I live a 5-minute cab ride from the Port of Honolulu, the $1,200 price convinced me to go.  However, when you add the tours, special meals, internet and wines, the price doubled.  It was still worth the cost.  Makes me think now that if a high-end around the world cruise provides free tours and drinks, that might be preferred over Princess and Holland America, which are the most economical.

You would think at the price I paid they would stick me in steerage.  However, I was very pleased with the superior location, with a balcony, too.  I actually checked if I could stay a second week, and the answer was, yes, for $3000.

The package of four high end wines for $165 can be recommended.  You can pay $105 for the least cheapest assortment of four.  In any case, a prime advantage is that you can take the unused bottle back to your room refrigerator and have it available for sunsets and lunches.  They don't allow any drinkable liquids on board, even water.  What you can get for 25 cents/bottle at Costco is $3.25 here.  The tap water is drinkable, but, you can always get free water from the ice and water machines, although I suspect that  it also comes straight from the tap.  Yet, psychologically, it tasted better.  The alcoholic drinks pretty much all start around $10.  I did not have to purchase even one because I snuck on board seven of those small bottles of scotch and gin.  I speculated that their X-Ray device only looks for large bottles.

I could not detect much difference between Crystal and Norwegian cruise lines on service, food and room.  On the other hand the bathtub in Crystal was a whole lot roomier than the phone booth that passed for the shower on Norwegian.  The internet on the Pride of America, at $30/day, was much faster than on the Crystal Symphony, for about the same price, but downloading of photos unto this blog site is ten times faster at home.  This is one of those situations where you pay for prestige and type of clientele, and if those factors add to your enjoyment, fine, if you can afford it.  I suspect I especially savored this experience because I had a chance to re-live my past life.  I saw few new things, but cherished the memories.

Highlights, in chronological order:
  • The Decades Party:  This was a flashback to those days when I travelled throughout Asia in the 80's during the days of disco.  Blinking lights to the beat:  I Will Survive, Stayin' Alive, Disco Inferno, Le Freak, Dancing Queen, Funkytown...  They played them all.  Just being there brought back memories.  However, it was more than the music.  
    • American hotels tended to have certain standards, but something like the Lotte Hotel in Seoul had a discotheque where the best looking and most glamorous tended to be women of the night.  You could dance with them and buy them a drink, but it became known pretty quickly that time was a factor.  
    • Many of these hotels had a small band from the Philippines with a female singer.  You made song requests, and Anak always made you a friend of the group, for this was the People Power song of those times back home, written and made famous by Freddy Aguilar.
    • During the height of disco, Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos abdicated to Hawaii.  The People won.  Today, though, Imelda is still a Congresswoman and son Bong Bong a successful politician.
    • This song made my top ten two years ago when I reported on Aguilar, who then, at the age of 60, had converted to a Muslim, changed his name to Abdul Farid, and married his 16-year old girlfriend.  
    • Today, Aguilar is Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's favorite singer.
  • Then there were Bangkok, Taipei, Manila....  So each of these memories are far more complexed than can be adequately explained here, but I'll henceforth keep my stories short and go on next to my Maui lunch of Grilled Spam Musubi, Krispy Kreme Donuts and Guri Guri.  Sad that Henry Tasaka, the Guri Guri Man, had just passed away last weekend.
  • Night view of lava pouring into the ocean.  My night photographic technique needs a total makeover, as none of my shots looked presentable.  Here is the best I could do:
  • Jefferson's Bistro with two soups, Caesar Salad, escargots and two wines.  Note the aloha shirt I bought on board.
  • Tour of movie filming sites on Kauai.  Scroll down for details.
  • Returning to Kilauea, Kauai, was particularly meaningful. Below, a photo taken 53 years ago of Pearl and Pepper at our backyard where South Pacific was filmed:

My two favorite photos from this trip:  lizard at Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts and of Opaekaa Falls:


You can easily see the mountain range showing the highest peaks, including Mount Waialeale to the right, but can only barely discern the falls, our Moon,  a hint of magenta bougainvillea and that frigatebird.  Here is a shot a bit more clearly showing those flowers.

I alerted my Norwegian Cruise Line contact to let me know the next time there is another good deal.  This could become an annual trip, or, maybe even semi-annual, or...

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