Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hawaii for beach haters

I can't even imagine this personally, but I realize there are some out there.. So here you go..

Hawaii for beach haters

By Ali Lemer, Lonely Planet
updated 7:35 AM EST, Mon February 27, 2012
Waimea Canyon State is one of the island's greatest natural wonders with lush green forests that blanket its top.
Waimea Canyon State is one of the island's greatest natural wonders with lush green forests that blanket its top.

(Lonely Planet) -- What's the first thing you think of when you think of Hawaii? The foaming-white sea lapping at a golden-sand beach surrounded by palm trees swaying in the breeze? Well, sure -- Hawaii's one of the world's ultimate beach destinations, an island paradise made for basking in the sun sipping daiquiris or hitting the waves to surf some righteous tubes.
But what to do if you're one of those people who just can't stand beaches? (Scorching sunburn, salt in your hair and sand everywhere!) If you're a beach hater, don't dismiss Hawaii just yet: there's plenty to do on the Hawaiian islands where you'll never have to step foot on sand. Here are some of our suggestions.
HAWAI'I (the Big Island)
Mauna Kea
This dormant volcano's peak is 4205 m (13,796 ft) above sea level -- the highest mountain in the state of Hawaii. (If you measure from its base underneath the Pacific, though, it's 10,000 m (33,000 ft) tall -- making it the tallest mountain on Earth.)
With such a clear vantage point, it's no wonder that its snowy summit is dotted with the greatest collection of astronomical telescopes in the world. The Onizuka Center here offers astronomy displays and nightly stargazing programs to the public.
Experienced mountaineers can even hike 12 miles to the summit through an otherworldly landscape of volcanic cinder cones and ancient archaeological sites.
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
If you'd prefer to see some live volcano action, head southeast to this unique national park, where Kilauea, the world's most active volcano, has been erupting continuously since 1983.
Outside the park boundaries, depending on conditions the day you visit, you may even be able to see fresh molten lava flowing into the sea (which is slowly but surely making the Big Island even bigger, year after year).
But even if the volcano goddess Pele isn't cooperating, there are still plenty of intriguing sights within the park's confines: hollowed-out lava tubes, steaming craters, tropical rainforest and old lava trails.
Rangers offer guided walks and other activities at the visitor center. For information on volcanic activity, the National Park Service has helpful updates (plus lava cam).
Upcountry Maui and Haleakala National Park
The volcanic soil and sloped pastures of Mt Haleakala have sustained much of Maui's farming and livestock for the past two centuries, and the paniolo (cowboy) vibe is still strong in towns like rustic Makawao.
A drive through the plush pastures of the Kula region will take you past cattle ranches, vineyards with cellar-door sales, goat dairies and a huge lavender farm (with a cafe and gift shop offering lavender versions of just about any foodstuff or cosmetic product you can imagine -- and even those you can't).
If you keep driving you can follow a tortuously winding road up the flank of Mt Haleakala itself, up 3055 m (10,023 ft) to the summit, where you can explore the surreal, lunar-like landscape -- home to unique flora such as the ten-year-blooming Haleakala silversword, which grows nowhere else on Earth -- and stare down at clouds filling enormous volcanic craters below you.
If you can get up early (or stay up late) enough, book a tour to catch the sublime sight of sunrise from the peak; you can also have a van take you and a bicycle up to the top so you can ride -- er, roll all the way down.
This colorful town was once the whaling capital of the Pacific, where ships would dock for supplies, sailors and shore leave. Today the dance halls, saloons and brothels that kept the whalers busy have been replaced by the best restaurants on Maui, art galleries that host free "art nights" every Friday, bars with live music from Irish trad to jazz and, of course, souvenir shops (c'mon, it is Hawaii). Meanwhile, Lahaina's seafaring past is kept alive by the numerous whale-watching cruises that depart from its harbor.
Diamond Head
This extinct volcanic tuff cone stands guard over Waikiki, and is O'ahu's signature backdrop. You can hike to the top in about an hour or less -- a paved trail leads 1.3 km (0.8 miles) all the way to the summit, which at 232 m (760 ft) affords some pretty awesome views of Waikiki. (OK, you'll still have to see a beach, but you won't have to step on it. Happy?)
USS Arizona Memorial
The tragic events of December 7,1941 are memorialized at Pearl Harbor, just a short drive from downtown Honolulu. The USS Arizona lies where it sank, the resting place of over a thousand of the U.S. sailors who died in the Japanese attack.
In 1962 the memorial was opened, with a structure built over the ship that allows you to view its remains poking out of the shallow water below; a marble wall inside is engraved with the names of the honored dead. A visit to Pearl Harbor will leave you with a palpable sense of the history that was made there.
Waimea Canyon
This gigantic chasm at the heart of Kaua'i is one of the island's greatest natural wonders, and its red-and-black-striated lava-rock walls contrasted with the lush green forests that blanket its top is a true sight to behold.
Its name comes from the Waimea River, which runs through the bottom; the canyon was formed by a combination of erosion and the partial collapse of one of the island's shield volcanoes.
Waimea Canyon State Park has lookout points over Kaua'i's stunning Na Pali cliffs, as well as numerous hiking trails through and around the canyon, a wilderness lover's delight.
Helicopter ride over Kaua'i
Way more thrilling than a day at the beach is a helicopter ride over the interior of Kaua'i, most of which is too densely forested and mountainous for wheeled vehicles.
Numerous helicopter companies (most based in Lihu'e) offer up-in-the-air jaunts over waterfall-striped Mt Wai'ale'ale, the island's central shield volcano and one of the wettest spots on Earth, and the sheer-hewn sea cliffs of the Na Pali coast, accessible otherwise only by ocean kayak.
Kalaupapa National Historical Park
Hansen's disease (leprosy) was introduced to Hawaii by foreigners in 1835, and soon spread through the islands. King Kamehameha V, in an attempt to stop the epidemic, created a law banishing all those afflicted to this remote peninsula jutting out from beneath the towering sea cliffs (the world's highest) of Molokai's north coast, which became the final home for the unhappy exiles.
Around 40 years later, a compassionate Belgian missionary named Father Damien came to visit, and remained with the colony for 16 years, when he died after contracting the disease himself (Father Damien was officially canonized by the Catholic Church in 2009).
The enforced isolation law was finally revoked in 1969; today, only a handful of patients, all senior citizens, remain. You can visit the peninsula to see the village and Father Damien's church and gravesite only by pre-arranged tour -- either flying down to the peninsula (which takes about eight minutes) or riding a mule down a steep, 2-mile (3.2km) route zigzagging across the cliffs.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wedding at Sea

Rosanne Graff
Shortly after saying "I do" on the MSC Fantasia cruise ship Traci Catalano and Paul England pose with Traci's daughters, Amanda, 11 (left) and Abbey, 14, (right), who participated in the ceremony at sea..
By  Si Liberman

FOR THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH Saturday February 18, 2012 8:19 AM
Wedding ceremonies aboard cruise ships are increasing at a surprising rate, according to the Cruise Line International Association, the trade group for 25 major cruise lines.
More couples, including same-sex pairings, are going that route, buying packages for weddings or civil unions and getting built-in honeymoons.
Carnival played Cupid last year to more than 2,000 couples who purchased its varied wedding deals. And the line expects that figure to increase by 10 percent this year, spokesman Vance Gulliksen said.
An onboard marriage or civil ceremony can range from as little as $725 to $2,500, depending on the cruise line and package selected.
The $725 package on the Italian MSC cruise line buys the service of a cruise officer, use of a decorated private room, recorded wedding music, a floral bouquet for the bride, a sponge cake decorated with chocolate hearts and the names of the bride and groom, a bottle of sparkling wine, a photographer for one hour and a symbolic wedding certificate.
On Princess vessels, $2,250 (which includes the $450 marriage license fee) covers use of a wedding coordinator, a candlelit ceremony officiated by the ship’s captain in the wedding chapel, live music, floral arrangements plus a rose bouquet for the bride and a boutonniere for the groom, a photographer’s services and selection of photographs, a wedding cake, champagne, two glasses and a keepsake wedding certificate.
Aside from the prices, the details of wedding packages are mostly similar on Carnival, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean ships.
If you’re interested in a ceremony at sea or at a port, shop around. And, above all, before sealing the deal with the required advance payment, make sure the wedding will be legal and not just a symbolic exercise.
Los Angeles lawyer Kelly Chang Rickert, who specializes in family law, says that the law in California and other states requires a marriage to be solemnized by a properly licensed individual.
“Select a reputable cruise line,” she suggests, “and conduct research on their procedures.”
Lewis Kapner, a former Florida circuit court judge whose specialty is marital and family law, put it this way: “I believe that the flag of the ship determines the country, so, for example, if someone got married on a Norwegian ship, it would be governed by Norway law. And if the marriage was under Norwegian law, then it would be valid here. It would be as if the parties got married in Norway.”
Many couples nail down arrangements six months to a year in advance.
Most large cruise lines also offer vow renewal ceremonies for married couples. Prices range from Princess’ $205 limited frills deal to Disney’s $1,500 package.
Because of legal limitations, only captains of Azamara, Celebrity and Princess cruise lines are allowed to perform wedding ceremonies. Whether a captain may officiate depends on where the vessel is registered.
A variety of a la carte options are available for a price, such as an open bar, hors d’oeuvres and sit-down dinners for guests.
On Cunard and smaller luxury lines such as Crystal, Seabourn and Silversea, wedding ceremony packages are not offered.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Destination you might have missed

Sardinia, Italy is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The coasts of Sardinia are generally high and rocky, with long, relatively straight stretches of coastline, many outstanding headlands, a few wide, deep bays, many inlets and with various smaller islands off the coast. there are many fabulous resorts along the coast, such as the Hotel Marinedda Thalasso & Spa.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cruise Ship Dress Codes: What To Wear At Sea

Proper Packing

One of the great things about cruising is that even though you'll be visiting several countries (or at least several ports) on a typical week-long itinerary, you won't be living out of your suitcase: You just check into your cabin on day one, put your clothes in the closet, and settle in. The destinations come to you. But what exactly do you need to pack? Evening wear aboard ship is about the same wherever you go, but your destination definitely affects what you'll need during the day.

Shipboard Dress Codes (or Lack Thereof)

Ever since Norwegian Cruise Line started the casual trend back at the turn of the millennium, cruise lines have been toning down or turning off their dress codes. During the day, no matter what the itinerary, you'll find T-shirts, polo shirts, and shorts or khakis predominating, plus casual dresses for women and sweatshirts or light sweaters to compensate for the air-conditioning. The vibe is about the same on the luxury lines, where polos and khakis probably sport fancier labels.

Evening wear aboard ship used to be a lot more complicated than it is today. On most contemporary lines, formal nights have either melted away entirely or slid closer to what used to be considered semiformal. When Oceania Cruises started up in 2003, for example, its dress code was set as "country club casual" every single night, on every voyage.

NCL has also basically ditched formal nights, though its "optional formal" captain's cocktail night accommodates those who choose to dress up. Disney Cruise Line has toned formality down to the point where a sports jacket is considered dressy enough. Most other mainstream lines still have two traditional formal nights during any 7-night itinerary (usually the second and next-to-last nights of the cruise, the former for the captain's cocktail party). For these, imagine what you'd wear to a nice wedding.

Dressing Down

Men are encouraged to wear tuxedos or dark suits; women cocktail dresses, sequined jackets, gowns, or other fancy attire. If you just hate dressing up, women can get away with a blouse and skirt or pants -- and, of course, jewelry, scarves, and other accessories can dress up an otherwise nondescript outfit. (Most cabins have personal safes where you can keep your good jewelry when you're not wearing it.) Men can get away with a blue blazer and tie. Casual nights (sometimes called "smart casual" or something similar) make up the rest of the week, though some cruise lines still cling to an old distinction between full casual (decent pants and collared shirts for men, and maybe a sports jacket; dresses, skirts, or pantsuits for women) and informal or semiformal (suits or sports jackets; stylish dresses or pantsuits). Suggested dress for the evening is usually printed in the ship's daily schedule. Cruise lines also typically describe dress codes in their brochures and websites.

Dressing Up

Most of the ultraluxury lines maintain the same ratio of formal, semi-formal, and casual nights, with passengers tending to dress on the high end of all those categories. Tuxedos are very common. That said, even the luxe lines are relaxing their dress standards. Seabourn doesn't request ties for men anymore except on formal nights, and Windstar, and SeaDream have a casual "no jackets required" policy every day, though dinners usually have some men in sports jackets and women in nice dresses. It's very rare to see anything dressier than a sports jacket at any time, and even those are rare. Most of these lines are 100% casual 100% of the time, with passengers sometimes changing into clean shirts, trousers, and dresses for dinner.

Tuxedo Rentals

Despite the casual trend, there's usually a contingent of folks on board who like to get all decked out. If you don't own a tuxedo or don't want to bother lugging one along, you can often arrange a rental through the cruise line or your travel agent for about $85 to $160 (the higher prices for packages with shirts and both black tuxedo jackets and white dinner jackets). Shoes can be rented for an additional $15 or so. In some cases, a rental offer arrives with your cruise tickets; if not, a call to your travel agent or the cruise line can facilitate a rental. If you choose this option, your suit will be waiting in your cabin upon arrival.

Dressing the Part

Cruise destinations divide easily into warm-weather regions (Caribbean, The Bahamas, Central America, Mexican Riviera, Hawaii, and Bermuda) and the cooler northern regions of Alaska and its milder neighbor on the other side of the continent, New England/Canada.

In the Caribbean and The Bahamas, the temperature stays within a fairly narrow range year-round, averaging between 75° and 85°F (24° 29°C), though in summer the combination of sun and humidity can get very intense, especially at midafternoon. Temperatures on Mexico's Yucat√°n Peninsula and in Central America can feel much hotter, especially on shore excursions to the humid interior regions. The Mexican Riviera is traditionally sunny, with average daytime temperatures in the mid-80s. Bermuda, too, enjoys a wonderfully temperate climate due to the proximity of the Gulf Stream, which flows between the island and North America. There's no rainy season and no typical month of excess rain. Showers may be heavy at times, but the skies usually clear quickly. During the April-to-October cruise season, temperatures stay in the mid-70s to mid-80s, and even in summer the temperature rarely rises above 85°F (29°C), with a breeze cooling things down at night.

Keeping Warm

Southeast Alaska, where most cruises sail, has more temperate year-round weather than the rest of the state, but summers there are still unpredictable. In May, when the cruise season gets going, you may experience icy rain or beautiful, crisp, sunny days. June is the driest of the true summer months, July the warmest (and also the busiest), and August the month with the most rain. Temperatures on summer cruises in Canada/New England are usually very pleasant, averaging in the 60s and 70s. Temperatures in Nova Scotia will be on the low end of that scale, often dipping into the 50s at night, while you can expect hot temperatures if you're sailing from New York, where summer days are often in the 80s or 90s.
(From Frommers.com)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Clients Hawaiian Proposal

Hey Debby,

I just wanted to let you know the dinner was great and the sign was AWESOME!  Hundreds of other guests were wondering who "Gail and BK" were because the lighted letters were up there for hours.  ;-)
 Of course, the most important part was that Gail agreed to marry me and she loved how it all happened! 
I'm attaching photos.
BTW, the crater sunrise was spectacular and the bike ride down was exciting and very enjoyable.
 Thanks for everything!
- Brian