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Maui, HI

We arrived in Maui and the weather was perfect. It was sunny and warm, unlike our homes back on the mainland. December is a great time to cruise! We hung out in the theater until our tour was called then everyone lined up to head down the stairs. This is when it really pays to have a disabled person along. We got to skip the line and use the elevator to get down to the ramp to get off.

The tour van was crowded but was decent and we got to see a bit of the island on our way to the rainforest waterfall hike. It was sad to see several homeless tents along the way. With the very high price of housing in Hawaii, I have no idea how anyone can afford a home there other than the wealthy.

When we arrived, our guide doled out sandwiches, chips, water, and fresh pineapple to take with us. They also had backpacks if anyone needed one. I had my combat boots on, long pants, bathing suit underneath, a backpack I brought, and my cane. Since this excursion includes walking up and down inclines and in water, I recommend bringing a hiking stick of some kind.

After a quick trip to the loo, we  hit the trail. The rainforest is beautiful. We saw all kinds of plants and trees you don’t see in Texas or Idaho. Our guide stopped here and there to point them out to us. I liked the massive clumps of bamboo and the pineapple growing from a stump on the ground. We hiked along the ditches lined with concrete that were created to irrigate the fields. We hiked through rushing water over dams. The distance of two miles was fine though the small uphill treks were a little taxing. Walking through the rushing water was the hardest. You have to face it and walk side step to keep from being swept away. Some of us skipped seeing one waterfall due to the long slippery dam with water going over it that had to be traversed to see it. When we reached the area of the biggest waterfall, we had to walk over big rocks in cold knee high water.

Bamboo grove in the rainforest Maui, HIRainforest waterfall hike excursion in Maui, HIHiking the irrigation ditch

At the big waterfall, Bernie and I ate our lunches first as we watched others brave the freezing water in the swimming hole beneath the falls. Afterwards, since my pants and boots were already wet, I decided to go for it myself in my clothes sans my shirt. It really was FREEZING! Getting in slow was not an option. I walked in up to my waist then just dropped down to get it over with. I wasn’t sure I could swim out to the waterfall. My boots were amazingly easy to swim with but the cold water was a bit too much. My first attempt was aborted. I moved around in the water until I felt better then went for it. I swam out behind the fall and stood up triumphant so Bernie could take a picture. Then I swam through the waterfall after others did. The water was coming down pretty hard and I don’t really recommend following my example but I did make it through. A little danger is good now and then and being surrounded by other people in case something goes wrong helps. It was definitely a life experience.

Waterfall swimming Maui, HI

After the swim, we continued our hike to see some other waterfalls. I got stuck for a minute in the big rocks and knee high water on the way back out. I almost fell and needed to choose a better path. Poor Bernie fell and got wet… ter.

Hiking back from the waterfall swim

The next waterfall was down a steep incline. Some went down it and actually jumped off the cliff above it into the stream below and then quickly climbed the rocks back up. One brave (or stupid) young woman did it too. It takes the blissful ignorance of youth to do something like that. We were content to watch from above.

Jumping off a waterfall Maui, HIWaterfallGeorge enjoyed the waterfalls too

We finished the hike and squeezed back into the tour van. When we got back on the ship, we had to change clothes in the shower stall. My boots were full of water in the bottom but combat boots are made for this sort of thing and they eventually dried out just fine and as good as ever. We used the clothesline in the shower to dry our clothes. We had never noticed it being there before on other cruises but learned about it on Facebook. LOL.

For more pics click here.

Hawaii Cruise–Out to Sea

Our ship was the Carnival Miracle. It is bigger than my last ship and more the size of our first ship, the Triumph, which made me happy. It has lots of out of the way places to just sit and relax for a chat or a good read. It has 3 pools and hot tubs. There are pubs, a sports bar loaded with TVs, a piano bar, and the usual sports activities onboard. The miniature golf course is well maintained with easy access to the clubs and balls to play anytime. The adult Serenity area is wonderful! It has hammocks and big covered pods to relax in. The hot tub there is kid free so we spent some blissful time in it. It is all the way aft for a great view over the stern. I also spent some time in the gym on the treadmill and walking around the jogging track. The art déco décor in the dining room I didn’t care for but the staff are great! The food in all the venues was delicious! I loved the banana bread every morning for breakfast and the omelets in the main dining room are the best! The Chinese restaurant was very good while it lasted. They changed it to something else while we were onboard. The ice cream machines as usual got our attention at least once a day. They served regular burgers which I liked better than Guy’s greasy burgers and late at night they opened one buffet line up that served burgers and hot dogs. The internet was not too bad though pricey. I was able to do most of what I needed to do though it did block one of my personal websites so I couldn’t update it.

Carnival Miracle waterslideCarnival Miracle poolCarnival Miracle miniature golf

Carnival Miracle relaxation podsBernie enjoying the Serenity hot tubCarnival Miracle Serenity

We tried a new room type again. Bernie wasn’t that crazy about the plain windowless inside room we had on the Alaska cruise so I found a room for only a few dollars more with large French doors on the outside wall. The view was obstructed by a lifeboat but we could see the ocean a bit and it gave us plenty of light in the room. The room was also bigger with a couch and table that we really like to have. There was plenty of closet shelf space too. The only bad thing was it had only one single outlet for charging devices or running my laptop.

Carnival Miracle French door room

We left Long beach 4-5 hours late. Bernie and I watched them loading all the luggage and groceries and boy was there a lot to load! Wow! 15 day cruises require much more on board than our usual 5-7. When they finally finished, we all cheered on deck as we pulled away from the dock and waved to the dock workers below who were happy to wave us goodbye (or was that good riddance?). We enjoyed the sail away party and music for the evening.

So what does one do stuck on a ship out at sea for 4 days? Lots of folks got sea sick and stayed in their cabins for the first couple of days. For the rest of us there were lots of trivia games, shows, reading time, live music all over, lots of food to be eaten, swimming, the gym, the spa, basketball, mini golf, educational lectures, plenty of group walking, TV in our rooms, movies being shown, and Facebook group get-togethers. I met a group of people I have only chatted with on Facebook and we exchanged gifts from our locales. Even now that the cruise is over, we still chat online.

For some extra fun, we played a prank on our nice room steward. The stewards are always surprising us with towel animals on our beds so I thought we should surprise them back. One day he came to clean our room after we left for breakfast and when he opened the bathroom door he found this:

hawaii2_059

Tee hee! Below was his response we found when we got back:

hawaii2_061

We kept moving the towel guy around and reposing him for a few more days then I left a thank you note and $20 bill in his sleeve on the last day. LOL

During the cruise I checked up on my businesses and got a little work done. I was able to read my business messages, upload or edit shirt designs, change prices, etc. I actually sold quite a bit while I was on vacation doing as little as possible with them. Woohoo! Love these businesses!

For this trip I decided to get more involved in the games. We pretty much suck at trivia games but this time we actually did pretty good. I volunteered twice to be on stage for other games and won a ship medal and a 24 kt gold plated plastic ship on a stick. Finally! I lost badly at another game but they gave us losers the same Hasbro card game that the winners got so I didn’t mind. To get on stage for that one I did a hula to get the emcee’s attention and answered a trivia question correctly. On the way back from Hawaii, Bernie won a ship on a stick for what she had in her purse. Totally awesome! My favorite thing was her picture of a dog which was on her phone in her purse and was a picture of George. Heh heh. I know I could have won another game if I hadn’t gotten sick on the way back. They had a Golden Girls trivia game. Damn! I could have aced that!

24 kt gold plated plastic ship on a stick and medal

So there you have it. Sea days are not boring at all. We found plenty to do. More posts to come with our first port next. For more pics click here.

Hawaii Cruise–The Beginning

It has been 2 years in the making but the day finally came for our 15 day Journeys cruise to Hawaii. A Journeys cruise is a longer than usual cruise to different ports than usual with educational seminars and port specific activities onboard. They only happen 2-3 times a year with Carnival Cruiselines. After setting up a substitute in my RV to handle my gate while I was gone, I donned my Hawaii Bound T-shirt and drove off to the airport in San Antonio. As usual, I parked my truck at Budget secure parking and hopped their shuttle to the airport.

Hawaii Bound

When I arrived at the airport and checked the bags, I had to go to the Clear booth to finish registering and scan both my eyes and fingerprints. Now personally, I find this very intrusive and normally would not go for this service but since I am ex-military and ex-NASA, the government already has all my personal info, fingerprints, eye scans, etc. so for me it was not a privacy issue. My privacy is long gone! With a little searching online, I found a 3 month free trial online for this service and then a significant yearly discount on top of that. The service costs $159 a year I believe but only $99 a year if you are a a member of one of the airline sky miles clubs. It was either American or Delta (I don’t remember which) but joining airline miles clubs is free. What Clear does for you is get you concierge service that takes you to the head of the line at TSA security scanners. Having TSA precheck is great and I highly recommend that but at some very busy airports even that line may be long so Clear will get you to the front of both the precheck and non-precheck lines. If you fly a lot, it is well worth it. If you fly only 1 or 2 times a year, it is not worth it. I had booked a return flight out of LAX with a very tight timeline from the time my ship docked so I thought I would try Clear to make sure I made it to the gate in time. I must say I enjoyed it very much! Getting through security was a breeze on both ends.

I flew Southwest to Los Angeles, CA. I LOVE Southwest! It costs a little more but they let you check 2 bags free and carryon 2 bags free. They also provide beverages and snacks like in the good old days of flying without charge. Getting a good seat is also pretty easy if you remember to login exactly 24 hours before your flight’s departure time. The sooner you login, the better your assigned place in line to board and better your seat choices. Since I was going to be very busy on the gate that day, I paid the extra $15 to have them check me in automatically. I paid it again for the return trip since I would be out at sea the day before my flight back. I rarely pay for auto check-in but for this trip it was necessary.

At LAX, I met my cruise buddy, Bernie Ludwick, at baggage claim and we hopped a pre-paid Super Shuttle ride to the Queen Mary in Long Beach. The Queen Mary ship/hotel is berthed right next to the Carnival cruise terminal just a short walk away or a quick hotel golf cart ride.

The Queen Mary is very old so staying there is a look into the past at cruising in the days before airplanes. Many famous people traveled back and forth between the continents on her. Cary Grant loved cruising on it. What was once considered the ultimate in luxury, by our standards today, is just average. Yes, it seems a bit rundown. The plumbing and AC are weird. The rooms are small. The diner is expensive though the food is quite good. Getting to the various tours requires a LOT of walking. I can’t say I would necessarily want to stay on it again but it was great this one time to see the exhibits and how people used to travel. The Queen Mary is about history, not modern accommodations so adjust your expectations and attitude while onboard.

The Queen Mary floating hotelQueen Mary stateroomQueen Mary room

The next morning, we waited in line for our turn to get a ride next door in the golf cart. We had a lot of luggage with us for the longer cruise or we might have walked over instead. At the Carnival terminal, the lines for the staggered check-in moved very smoothly and we quickly got onboard ship. We ate lunch at the buffet and toured the ship until our room was ready. As usual, we brought our bathing suits, electronics, and medicines in our carryon so we would have them immediately rather than waiting until our luggage was delivered to the room.

More coming soon!

For pics of our Hawaii trip click here.

Quartzsite News

For those who don’t know, we have a sister site, RVQuartzsite.com , to report on the goings on at Quartzsite, AZ this time of year and provide info on staying there. Many RVers spend their winters there boondocking in the desert very cheaply and enjoying all the sales, shows, events, and each other’s company. They are called snowbirds as they migrate south to warmer climates to avoid the cold and snow. Even if you only weekend camp, you may enjoy spending a few days there during the big RV show in January when the population of this small desert town swells to thousands and vendors are everywhere for anything you can imagine and specifically items and upgrades to make your RV life easier. To RVers, Quartzsite is like Mecca. It’s a place you should experience at least once in your life and you will likely come away with many new friends and ideas. Check out the event schedule NOW!