Four different people, including shsilver recommended that we visit the Polynesian Cultural Center while we were on Oahu. This seemed like a sufficiently strong recommendation for our entire party to do so. It turns out though, that this is a great recommendation if you're not part of a party from a cruise ship.
We got on the bus at about 9 AM and set out on what would be a trip around most of the perimeter of Oahu. We started by ducking up to Pina Lookout, a site high up a mountain east of Honolulu, from where there are some suitably spectacular views. Then it was back on the bus, with continuing narration of the scenery, until we reached our next stop at the Dole Plantation. Of course, it's really pretty much of a tourist trap -- think Stuckey's with pineapples -- but it would have been nice to have more than fifteen minutes to spend there. They've apparently got a good-sized vegetation maze there, but there was no time to even think about looking at it. The pineapple whip wasn't bad. :)
We cruised past a number of the major surfing beaches on the north side of the island. Apparently, the good surf on Oahu's northern beaches is generated by winter storms in the Aleutians which generate a mild storm surge that travels thousands of miles south since there's nothing to get in the way. We saw a number of people in various stages of surfing, from paddling out to wiping out. Not very many successfully riding a wave, sad to say, although there was a surfing contest going on at one of the beaches.
We arrived at the Polynesian Cultural Center at noon and things went into a hole pretty quickly. The driver let us out and went to park the bus while we milled around. It rapidly became apparent that there was a problem with the tickets for our tour. After about half an hour of assorted milling around, somebody decided that it was ok to go ahead and feed us from the buffet that we were supposed to get as part of the package while they figured out what had gone wrong in the bulk ticketing process. (My guess is that somebody didn't realize that the ship was in port for two days and managed to make just one reservation.)
Lunch was actually pretty good, my favorite being the Hawaiian meatballs over rice. There was also chicken and some pasta, salad, dessert (which I skipped, being full of meatballs), and soda.
With no caffeine.
Did I mention that the Polynesian Cultural Center is run by the Mormons and caffeine is a no-no?
Now, normally this wouldn't be so much of a problem, but daisy_knotwise and I had gotten to bed really late the previous night. We'd watched the after-dinner show of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" -- which reminded me of just how good a job the script writer and director had done with the film -- and had staggered toward our room at 12:45 PM. We went to turn on the lights and discovered that only half the lights in the room would come on. These lights didn't include the bathroom lights or any lights in the vicinity of the bathroom. This was bad, since this was the one area where we really needed some light.
We called up to the Statendam's Front Office and they sent a steward to look at the lights. Of course, he wasn't able to get them to turn on either, but I suppose they had to have someone low-ranking check out the situation since there are probably some passengers who have not yet figured out how to turn on their own lights after six days aboard ship. I suspected a blown circuit breaker, which should be pretty easy to fix if you can get someone to open up the right panel.
Unfortunately, this required rousting a Ship's Engineer out of bed, getting him into full uniform (since it wouldn't do to have him flip the breaker in his bathrobe), and getting him to the appropriate panel. This was eventually accomplished, but by the time this was all over, it was about 2 AM before I got to bed.
So caffeine would have been really helpful about then. I hadn't had coffee with breakfast, since I'm not a coffee drinker and I didn't feel like messing with a potentially touchy -- although pretty good in dock -- stomach. But there was not going to be any caffeine.
By the time we finished lunch, it was after 1 PM and we were told to go get our tickets from the bus driver, who told us that we had to be back on the bus by 3:30. This meant there wasn't really much time to look at much of anything, although we did see the Hawaii show and the parade of floats on the lagoon. But it was pretty much an incomplete day.
You see, I fairly quickly realized that this was the Polynesian Disneyland. Now that's fine, except that we had time to go on one ride and watch the Main Street parade and we had to get back on the bus. This is not a good way to do it.
So if you go to the Polynesian Cultural Center, rent a car. Take your family. Leave the tour group behind.
In the meantime, I have filled up my 128 MB compact flash card in my camera, having taken about 200 pictures. Although I have a few spare 32 MB cards around, I asked Jerry -- who was planning to walk over to CompUSA to get a new flash card for his Digital Rebel -- if he could pick up an extra large card for me.
He returned with a 256 MB card. For $20.
I now have space for 400 more pictures.
God help the photo albums of the future.