2009 World Cruise. It was an overnight sail (probably at a very slow speed) from Hilo to Honolulu. Honolulu in Hawai’ian means ‘sheltered harbour.’ The very, very famous Waikiki Beach (also very, very crowded) is there; as is Diamond Head, the extinct volcanic crater and State Monument.
The ship was welcomed to Honolulu by a traditional Hawai’ian band and dancers at the bottom of the gangway; entertaining us on board and as we disembarked. This we learned was an oft-repeated treat at many of our ports-of-call. Local musicians and dancers met the ship at many of our stops. The iconic Aloha Tower. Honolulu skyline.
Obviously, for me anyway, being a history buff, the Number One must see in Honolulu is the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbour. The tour we selected took us there and then to three military bases (Wheeler Field , Scofield Army Barracks – the largest army base outside the Continental US and HQ of the U.S. Army Pacific – and Fort Shafter where we had lunch. We also went to the Punchbowl National Memorial, final resting place of more than 35,000 Americans who died serving their country and, finally, the Home of the Brave museum. It was a seven-hour jam-packed tour.
Our guide was a young fellow named Brandon who had a real love for WWII military history as pertaining to Pearl Harbour and onward. He had tons of anecdotes and information which means I had a great time.
The Arizona Memorial was very moving and had excellent displays about the attack on Pearl Harbour Dec. 5, 1941. It is quite common for people to bring a lei and and either lay it on one of the steps of the memorial or strip the petals off and lay them on the water. (A Hawai’ian lei is never to be thrown into the garbage. They are always to be returned to the earth by scattering the blossoms on land or sea.) The USS Arizona, sunk by the Japanese during the attack on Pearl Harbour, has never been moved; nor have any of the bodies been recovered. The entire site is a military grave and memorial. There is still a small, slow oil leak from the ship that colours the water these many years later.
At Wheeler Field there is a huge display of US military air planes and helicopters. The guys in the group loved this part. At Schofield Barracks there was a recently revealed memorial called “United by Sacrifice.” The men are dressed in the time-period uniforms of WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Global War on Terror. A most moving and poignant thing happened as we were boarding the bus to leave the base. A young woman, accompanied by an older couple – probably her parents, walked up to the memorial and placed a lei around the neck of the front soldier then draped her arms around ‘him’ and began to cry. A lady who had recently lost her loved one, we surmised. Very sad. But it certainly made everything we had been seeing very real.We had lunch at Fort Shafter Military Club and did a tour of the base afterward.
The final US military installation we saw was The Punchbowl Memorial located in Punchbowl Crater, a lovely setting with gorgeous views and a beautifully maintained site.
We stopped at, but didn’t tour, King Kamehameha III’s palace ; properly called Iolani Palace – the only royal palace on US soil. It was constructed in 1845 and was used as the royal residence until the US overthrew Queen Lili’uokalani in 1893. It was then used as the Provisional Government and Territory building and the first Capitol Building of Hawai’i. Even though it was a functional government building for over 70 years the palace fell into disrepair. It was designated a National Historic Landmark 1962 and after a full restoration it was opened to the public in 1978. The architectural style is completely unique and found no where else in the world – it is called American Florentine.Our final stop was the Home of the Brave Museum, a collection of WWII memorabilia owned and displayed by Brandon’s parents. The small building was jam-packed with weapons and uniform insignias and all manner of items – a treasure trove of history. It was very interesting to check out. If you ever go to Honolulu I would recommend it. We set sail from Hawai’i at midnight and we will not see land again for a week. The Pacific Ocean is VERY big and it takes a long time to get across. Our next port-of-call is the South Pacific Island of Vanuatu on February 3.