Sunday, June 16, 2013


Finally, after a truly horrendous travel day, I woke up to my first Hawaii morning! The boys and I didn't really have anything planned for our first day, so we decided to just wander around Waikiki.

This part of Honolulu gets a bad rap for being really touristy, but this does tend to have some benefits. For one, there are lots of shops around so if you forget to pack something (like enough underwear), you have shopping options (thank you Ross, dress for less). Also, there are great restaurants, easy access to the beach, and lots of crazy people you can watch walk around. 

Oh, and 10 million t-shirt shops. Seriously, do tourists really buy that many t-shirts??

After a lazy day of wandering around and working off our jet lag, the next day we got moving with a tour to Pear Harbor. As I am sure you know, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the US naval fleet on the island of Oahu, with devastating results at Pearl Harbor. It was also the impetus for America entering into the WWII conflict. That was pretty much the extent of my knowledge prior to visiting the memorial and museum.

I'm a history buff, but never really got into military history. Having said that, the exhibits and presentation at Pearl Harbor were super interesting and taught me a lot about the Pearl Harbor attacks that I never knew. There was a video (I love a video!) showing the timeline and details of the Japanese plan--which frankly, was bloody brilliant. Luckily for us our aircraft carriers were out at sea or the twentieth century might have gone real differently. I was also fascinated to hear about all the mistakes the US made prior to the attacks; such as underestimating the Japanese capabilities, ignoring radar indications of the attack, and a lack of cooperation between the Army and Navy.

After spending some time learning about the history of where we were visiting, we boarded a ferry that took us across the water from the museum to the USS Arizona memorial. The 184 foot memorial is built over the wreckage of the Arizona, which was never disturbed as a way of respecting the people who perished inside. I found some really interesting information about the memorial on the national park service website, where its architect, Alfred Preis, said of the design, "Wherein the structure sags in the center but stands strong and vigorous at the ends, expresses initial defeat and ultimate victory....The overall effect is one of serenity. Overtones of sadness have been omitted to permit the individual to contemplate his own personal responses...his innermost feelings."

I was surprised by how moving the experience of visiting Pearl Harbor was, though in retrospect, I shouldn't have been surprised. There are few places that are so symbolic of American perseverance, and until the September 11 attacks in New York City, it was the bloodiest foreign attack on US soil. The museum and memorials not only represent (but literally are) the final resting place of thousands of American soldiers and is a lesson for all of us of the cost of freedom. On Facebook, I posted that while visiting Pearl Harbor I learned a lot and felt a lot. And it's absolutely true. 

After Pearl Harbor, our tour wound it's way through Honolulu giving us a peek at some of the more interesting sights, including the old royal palace. I confess to also being ignorant of Hawaii's history, both and after it's addition to the US in 1959. I had known it was once ruled by a royal family, but knowing something and seeing tangible evidence of it are not the same thing.

Our last day in Honolulu, Chris and I tackled the famous Diamond Head crater hike. Diamond Head is a volcanic tuff cone that looms over Honolulu. Parts of it are closed to the public since the US government has several antenna on it (....or SO THEY SAY), but there is a very popular hiking trail that climbs 560 feet and includes several hundred stairs. Yes, stairs. My ancient enemy! The entire trail is only about 1.5 miles roundtrip, and I would only put it at moderate difficulty. There's no rock scrambling or anything like that, but it does get steep in places.

View of Diamond Head from the air (thanks, Wiki!).

Allow me to fill you in on the typical Maggie hiking script:

(at the bottom of the trail)
Me: We have to go up THAT? I don't know about this, I don't know if I can make it. Look how steep it is! I really don't know if I am going to be able to make it up to the top.

(at the top of the trail)

(at the bottom of the trail again)
Me: You know that really wasn't that bad! I am proud of myself for making it, I don't know why I didn't think I would be able to!

(throughout the entire hike, internally)
Chris: Dear God, of course you can do it, now shut up and hike faster.

So that's pretty much how it went. The stairs were a giant pain in the ass though.

After the hike (which took up an entire morning thanks to the bus ride and mile walk to get to the actual base of the trail--they don't tell you that in the guidebooks), I spent the rest of my last day in Honolulu lazing around the hotel and pool. The next day was cruise day!

Coming up next: We get on the Celebrity Solstice and learn about the norovirus. Stay tuned!

 Me, Kent, and Chris on the beach at Waikiki!

 Hula dancers in the outdoor performance area next to our hotel!

 The USS Arizona memorial.

 Inside the remembrance room on the USS Arizona memorial. On the wall are inscribed the names of all who perished in the Pearl Harbor attack. 

 Oil still continues to seep up from the USS Arizona into the ocean.

 Inside the USS Arizona memorial.

 The Hawaiian royal palace in downtown Honolulu.

 The view from the top of Diamond Head!

Looking towards Honolulu from the top of Diamond Head!

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