HONOLULU, Oahu – Our stateroom on the Grand Princess is on the 12th deck, also known as the Aloha deck. When the elevator door opens on this deck, passengers are greeted with a hearty “Alo-ha!”
Undoubtedly the word in the Hawaiian language best known throughout the world, Aloha has a deeper meaning than hello or goodbye. To Hawaiians, Aloha is spiritual, a way to a harmonious life, and is embedded deeply in the culture.
The meaning of Aloha encompasses love, affection, sharing, peace, compassion and, at times, pity and grief. It is a set of values and a guidance system transmitted orally from the ancients through story telling, and chants and legends, since they had no written language. It’s “do the right thing” and more, as Hawaiians will go out of their way to help a neighbor or even a stranger in need of assistance.
I was eager to learn more about Hawaiian culture and anticipated visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center, a Polynesian-themed park and living ethno-museum, and the Iolani Palace, the beautifully restored palace built in 1882 by King Kal?kaua, the first monarch to circumnavigate the world, who collected the finest in furnishings for the palace during his travels. Unfortunately the Polynesian Center isn’t open on Sundays and we didn’t make it to the Palace before it closed for the day. Nevertheless, I was able to enjoy local folkloric performers of traditional and modern Hawaiian music and dance, The Halau Hula Olana Show, in the ship’s Princess Theater in the evening.
Since Jialin visited Honolulu for several days a few years ago and hadn’t been to Diamond Head, we decided to make that our priority for the day. We opted to take the public city/county buses, which have the catchy title TheBus. The fare is only one dollar per ride, or a 1-day pass can be purchased for $5.50 for unlimited rides. Two rides, No. 20 and No. 23, got us to the base of the Diamond Head Memorial.
As it turned out the walk up the incline that skirts the outside of Diamond Head was a bit arduous until reaching a vehicle tunnel that leads inside. It costs $1 for walkers to enter what is surprisingly a gently rolling expanse of greenery dotted with broad shade trees filled with an abundance of chirping birds. Not what I expected to find inside a volcanic crater, no matter how extinct.
A bit exhausted from the trek up, I declined when Jialin suggested we climb further up the side of the crater to an overlook high above Honolulu. It seemed to me steeper than anything I’ve climbed in my younger days, including several ascents of the Great Wall of China. I rather enjoyed leisurely resting on a bench in the shade listening to the birds and watching four mongooses rollicking around picnic tables searching for scraps and crumbs while Jialin took an hour and a half to tackle the mountain.
I was impressed with the photos Jialin had taken from the summit, particularly the views of Waikiki Beach directly below. So, to the beach was our next stop.
Waikiki was hopping with activity. I suppose it was due to being Sunday, as local youths seemed to preoccupy the beachfront furthest from the big hotels. With less sand and large pools of water near the shore, there were a few young men performing youthful stunts, such as diving off the roof of a shelter at the end of a pier.
Further down the beach, near the fabled Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the beach was a buzz of activity. Surfers carried their boards in and out of the water, three catamarans doing snorkeling and sightseeing cruises loaded and unloaded passengers, and outrigger canoes with tourists paddling erratically launched into the waves. All of this among and despite bronze bodies scattered about nearly every spare yard of sand.
The waves were a bit placid for surfing today, but Waikiki is, nonetheless, nearly synonymous with the sport. (It’s on Oahu’s North Shore, site of the Banzai Pipeline, where seven miles of breaking waves are some of surfing’s most challenging waters anywhere in the world.) Standing prominently near the beach is a statue of local idol Duke Kahanamoku who practically invented the modern sport of riding the waves in Oahu.
Dennis Cox is All Things Cruise Writer and Official Photographer (©Dennis Cox/WorldViews)