After four long days at sea (1.5 of them being fairly rough for most of the ship) we now approached Hilo, and on Deck 4 where disembarkation was to occur you could tell by the large crowd that gathered upwards of 35 mins before that people were anxious to get back on solid land. One lesson learned here was it does not pay to lineup early as folks would take an elevator down 2 minutes before debarkation and cut the line. On past cruises the stairs leading to deck four were roped off so traffic could flow in an orderly manner, it was not the case on the Golden Princess until our last port which was Ensenada.
A little about the Port of Hilo, for those of you who have not cruised to Hawaii the port is a commercial port and as such there is a lot of commercial traffic flowing up and down the single road that leads from the port to the "main" road leading out to elsewhere on the island of Hawaii. Most of the car rental agencies are located at the airport and due to volume of passengers were only taking the drivers with them on the shuttles. If this happens to your party I would recommend you have them exit the port (stay within the pedestrian areas !) and take a right turn and walk down the road and say meet by the Nissan Dealership or some other building (depending on people's walking speed) as having to drive all the way back into the port can easily eat up one of your precious hours on the Big Island. Another challenge we experienced but most probably will not was the Merrie Monarch Festival, the world's Premier Hula Competition. Our Cruise Director told us there would be upwards of 20,000 people in town for the even and cabs (should you be travelling in that fashion) were going to be hard to get and if you managed to snag one you should probably negotiate a day rate.
Our plan for today was to visit Volcanoes National Park, everything else was secondary to this, the Golden Princess docked at 9am and by the time we were all sorted out and on the road it was about 10:30am. and off we went !
When we first thought about going to Hawaii all we could imagine was beaches and more beaches. Truth be told most of our friends who visit Hawaii end up either on Maui or Oahu and go primarily for the water sports and the beaches. Upon further research Volcanoes National Park was the one big thing I had to see on this island, I didn't care if we went anywhere else. The above photo was the path leading up to the trail of devastation. Beautiful lush rain forest and yet no more than 150 meters away you get ...
Devastation Trail, the aftermath of the 1959 eruption of Kilauea Iki, 54 years later and land is still trying to recover. Unfortunately due to time constraints we did not get a chance to hike to the end or down to the lava flows. Next time for sure !
Why did the chicken cross the road..... No seriously our first time seeing wild chickens (from what we were told due to their diet they are not very tasty at all to eat). Not afraid of people and they come up to the cars looking for handouts.
Interesting looking plant walking back from the Thurston Lava Tube
We were amazed at how lush it could be around a volcano, granted it makes sense due to the composition of the soil.
By the time we got back on board 4:30pm we were absolutely famished, after running around all day (also stopping at Hilo Hatties, Big Island Candy (the most scrumptious shortbread I have ever eaten), and "Walmart" yes you go like 3000 miles on a boat and you end up heading to Walmart, they had some interesting snack items that we had never seen before and the "POG" juice that Charlie was looking for.
Warm Crab & Artichoke Dip with Baguette Chips - Lots of crab flavour, creamy and gooey goodness and I am not even a huge fan of crab, even the odd chunk of crab in it to boot! Wish we had more "chips" for dipping as on it's own it was a little too rich to be eating with a spoon. 8/10
Pad Thai - Disclaimer I am not a fan of Thai food as it does not normally agree with me but I ordered the entree in an appetizer sized portion, noodles were nicely cooked not squishy or hard I would say this would be an "Americanized" take of ethnic food as the spices were a little on the light side as to not be overpowering and offensive to people who are not accustomed to strong flavours. A nice snack. 7.5/10
Smoked Haddock & Potato Chowder - Not being familiar with how a haddock soup should taste this soup was very "fishy" in taste and really really salty, not appetizing at all. 5/10
Cock-a-Leekie Soup - Unlike the last soup this one had very chicken broth like taste to it and was not salty. Rather pleasing and enjoyable. 8/10
Surf & Turf - Everyone at the table ordered the surf & turf and while one person requested a double portion our server Diana was so kind as to double up everyones steak. My fillet mignon was perfect in every possible way butter soft and lots of natural meat flavour, cooked perfectly to medium rare with nice sear for presentation. To tell you the truth I would happily pay $50 at a restaurant for just the steak alone, the bearnise sauce was a great compliment to the meat and potatoes and the shrimp paled in comparison to the star of the show. This steak was so tasty that I ordered another one not realizing that a portion was 1 steak and a couple of shrimp. I ended up consuming 3 steaks, a handful of shrimp and a pile of potatoes.
By far the best food I have had so far on this trip.
Burned Rhubarb Napoleon - After the super filling dinner started to set in, I passed on dessert but Charlie got the napoleon which she felt the pastry was a tad soggy and too much cream filling. A Napoleon is supposed to be multiple super thin layers this was 3. 6/10