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How to get a better airline seat by cheating.

Airline Seat

I almost did not want to re-post this little trick as it seems too good to be true.  I have not tried it, but wish I would have known about it before my recent trip to Hawaii where we had to sit apart because we booked it separately.   I will be trying it on my next flight.  Let me know if you have any success...

Reposted from LifeHacker


How to lie, cheat and steal your way to a perfect flight.

Flying generally sucks, but it doesn't have to be awful. If you're willing to break a few rules and compromise your status as an upstanding moral citizen, the dark side has a few secrets to help you have a more enjoyable flight.

One of the wonderful things you get, thanks to the internet, is the ability to choose your seat online when you book a flight. The problem is, so many of those seats are reserved for people who have some sort of priority status or are willing to pay around $25 to sit in a seat that's mildly better than the one the airline assigns them. If you feel you deserve a better seat for the price of your patronage and don't want to pay a fee, wait until 24 hours before your flight, or fly the same airline so much that they give you special status, sometimes there's a way around these restrictions.

Some airlines handle seat selections through the URL. Why? I have no idea. It's stupid, because URLs are easy to hack. When you select a seat by clicking on it, often times that seat is sent through a URL variable as you travel to the next page. You might see something like, but it'll likely have a few more variables and be a bit more difficult to parse at first glance. Make an initial seat assignment, note the seat number and letter, and watch the URL to see where your seat appears. Copy the URL, finish up the process, and then go back to change your seat again. When you get to the selection screen, pick a seat that you want that's reserved for someone the airline likes better than you (e.g. an exit row seat or other premium-type seat that's free for special people). Paste in the URL that you copied but change the seat to the premium seat you want. Hit enter and watch your seat assignment change to the fancy seat like it was selectable all along.

Rest of the article here


Today I make wine! - Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. Come follow along...

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Yea!  Today is wine making day. This will be batch three for me, with the first two being an Argentinean Malbec and a big red California Zinfandel. The Malbec, my first, was not so great but from it I learned a lot. I did not get all of the CO2 scrubbed off of it before I bottled it, so it had a carbonated mouth feel. The second batch I made, the Zin was completely yummy but unfortunately is now completely gone... so once again it's wine making day. This time I will blog about all the steps and equipment as I have now become a true fan of making your own wine!

I have to give credit for getting me hooked to a friend that has been making her own wine for several years now. She invited me to a grape pressing party and open house at her new place down by Franktown and I have been hooked ever since. She has since progressed to buying her own grapes in yard lots, and pressing them - hence the pressing party - but she said that she stared with wine kits. The day was very fun and by the end of it I was covered from head to toe in grape must. I think her and her husband are planning on planting some vines soon, so this can be as easy or as difficult as you choose. I like easy and the kits are lots of fun.

I did a little research and found that the local beer brew hut on Chambers and Hampden has all the supplies you need to get started for about $150.00. This includes a 6.5 gallon primary brew bucket, a 6 gallon carboy, long stirring spoon, stoppers and air locks, an auto siphon (very helpful for racking - transferring the wine to another container) and tubing, a hydrometer for measuring the specific gravity, and a bottle filler.

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A few other things I have picked up along the way include a second pail, with a spout (makes bottling much easier) a carboy carrier because six gallons of wine is not a light thing and this will save your back. I am using the plastic carboys. I have read that some people will only use the glass ones. They are heaver, break and are much more expensive. I am unsure of the advantage....

Finally, invest in a drill mounted paint stirrer - above - you will thank me later.  Primary fermentation is yeast eating the sugar in the grapes and producing ETOH (Good) and CO2 (Bad) - During a later step, you will need to scrub off all the CO2 that you can, so you don't end up with champaign and trying to do that by hand with a long spoon is not very easy.


Today I chose a Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile. The brew store has several kits available ranging in price from about $75 to $150 depending on the grape, region and brand. This one was Selection International and was $109. It will produce about 30 bottles when done or about $3.60 a bottle for very good and definitely drinkable wine.

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The kit comes in a box that contains a bag with 6 gallons of grape juice from the vineyard, yeast, oak chips, potassium metabisulphite, a package of isinglass (clarifier), a package of bentonite clay, and some instructions.


The first step is to clean, clean clean - and then when you think everything is clean, clean it one more time. Bacteria is no friend to wine making and can quickly turn your $100 batch of wine into a foul smelling nightmare, so I can't stress this enough. I found the same when Marty and I used to make beer, so take the time, and wash your stuff more than once. There are special cleaning agents available from the brew store that kill wild yeasts and work very well. They also have a no rinse sanitizer that I mix up in batches and keep in an old spray bottle. Spray everything with a good coating of the sanitizer before it touches the grapes. Also, spray the lid to the bag of grapes before you open it, etc. If you are diligent, you will find it pays off in the long run.

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Next put two liters of warm water in the bottom of your primary fermenter and mix in the bentonite clay powder. Bentonite has an affinity for yeast and also stays in suspension in the grape juice, not settling to the bottom. This will help your yeast evenly distribute itself across your grape juice and provide for an even fermentation.

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Next add the bag of grape juice, being careful to not splash everywhere - grape juice stains everything it touches, including the counter. Wipe up any spills as soon as possible if you want to stay married. Fill the grape juice bag with about a half gallon of water and slosh it around to get every drop of juice and pour that into the bucket. Then fill to the six gallon line with water (I use tap water, as ours tastes pretty good, but the instructions suggest you may want to use bottled water or filtered water from the fridge if yours does not)

Mix will with the spoon (don't forget to sanitize it first) and incorporate the bentonite throughout the grapes.

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The next step is to check the specific gravity.  The wine thief that comes in the kit is a great little tool and you drop the hydrometer into it and shake it up and down in the bucket. It sucks up the wine until the hydrometer floats and you can get a measurement. Mine is 1.084. This measurement will tell you the sugar / ETOH content in your wine and is how you monitor the fermentation process. As the yeast eats the sugar and produces alcohol, the specific gravity decreases until it is ready, below 0.996. Did I mention that making wine is also lots of fun with a glass of wine in your hand? The only problem is that the longer it takes, the harder the hydrometer gets to read....

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Once you have your first hydrometer reading, the next step is to mix in the oak chips that came with the kit. This gives the wine some character and mimics aging in an oak barrel. Some kits come with chips, other with an oak cork screw stick that steeps in the grapes like a tea bag. Some kits also come with elderflowers or other items based on the type of wine you are making.

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Mix well to incorporate the oak chips under the surface of the wine. Check the temperature of your grapes, and ensure it is between 65-75 degrees for the yeast to work its magic. It is easiest to modify this by adjusting the temperature of the water you add when topping up to six gallons. Finally sprinkle the packet of yeast onto the surface of the grapes, but do not mix it in.

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Place the lid on the primary fermentation bucket (Spray the inside lip well with sanitizer after cleaning, before you close it) and put an air lock into the hole. Place your bucket someplace within your house that maintains a relatively stable temperature between 65-75 degrees. In my case, we have some lockers in our laundry room that work just perfectly. If all goes well, the air lock should begin to bubble (fermentation should start) within 24-48 hours. The wine should remain in this bucket until primary fermentation has lowered the specific gravity to 1.010 or below - about 5-7 days. The lower the temperature, the longer this will take.

Come back next week and we will move to step two - racking and secondary fermentation.

Step two is Here



Our Vow Renewal and Capt. Howie

If you have been reading along for the last couple weeks, this is out of chronological order, but we just got our photos back from the professional photographer.

Back on April 6th, we did our vow renewal in Waimanalo Beach on Oahu. Originally we had planned to do a sunset ceremony at a place called Pirate Bay on the North Shore, but it sprinkled off an on all morning and by noon it was pretty clear that their was not going to be any kind of sunset that night.

No sweat - Capt. Howie called us and suggested we move the ceremony to his place and the Beach at Waimanalo. When we first decided to do a vow renewal in Hawaii, I researched several options and stumbled across the folks at Above Heavens gate. They seemed like they were just a little different than everyone else out there with a renewal service and we were not disappointed. A bit quirky, but the nicest guy in the whole world, we met Capt. Howie when we arrived at his compound. He has an amazing house and back yard with a waterfall. The grounds are meticulously groomed and he has a coy pond with some of the biggest fish I have ever seen.

We were lucky enough to have our good friends the Ott's and the White's as well as my beautiful girls with us and the photographer shot some very good pictures in the yard. Capt. Howie then took us across the street to the beach and performed an amazing traditional Hawaiian ceremony, complete with the blowing of a conch shell that Dizzy Gillespie would have been proud of.

I don't think I could have asked for anything better. It was exactly what I had hoped for and by the end of the ceremony I was teared up. The photographer, Fernando caught some amazing moments. Thank you Rick and Diane, Marty and Lanette - It meant a bunch to us that you could share the moment with us.

Copy of Hobbit

Capt. Howie's little place.


Before the ceremony


The Fam


All of us


With Capt. Howie


Blowing the shell


During the Ceremony


With our best friends


Reading our vows


Here's to another great 20 years!


This is my favorite shot.  I am blessed to have such a fabulous life and family.









Hawaii Cruise Day 7: Na Pali coast and back to Oahu

Well it is day 7 and almost time to end this wonderful cruise. This morning we had a helicopter tour of the island cued up but mother nature had other plans. We walked over to the helicopter tour office and watched the safety briefing video only to then be told that the flight was scrubbed due to weather 10 minutes prior to our departure. Unfortunately they were booked for the rest of the day and the ship left at 2, Such is life - on to plan B - so we shopped instead. As we were leaving the tour office, the groups for the 10:00 flights arrived. I'm sure they got the same news an hour later as it rained off and on all morning.

About 2 the Pride headed out for the Na Pali coast and the sun came out. This is a beautiful side of the island and we did see some whales in the distance at one point. The plan was to watch from our balcony and the views were fantastic. The ship provided a narration about the Na Pali coastline but we were unable to hear it from our room. Suggestion for NCL - pipe the narration into the rooms on the TV channel that shows the front of the ship. We headed up to the top and saw some amazing untouched beaches and areas accessible only by boat or the most hardy backpackers.

That evening we chose to go to the teppanyaki place and had yet another incredible meal. The chef was fun and at one point pulled me behind the grill to see if I could do the 'egg roll toss and crack on a spatula' thing. Needless to say, the yoke was on me (and the table and the side and the chairs....). He said he was half Japanese and half Philippine. His nick name was jalapeño.

That night we did go see the show, (actually our second) and it was a variety mash up of all of the people who had appeared during the week. Murray the magician was funny, Tim the comedian was even funnier and pulled a dozen people on stage for a rendition of Old MacDonald and the four guys singing do-wap were good, but not really my thing.

The next morning we were in Oahu bright and early at 7. We had breakfast again at Lazy J's and seriously yummy crab cake benedict's. Nutri-systems here we come. The disembarkation was completely painless especially since there are no customs to go through. Although they were calling decks to get off in specific order, James the Concierge was in the main lobby and walked us to the front security card swipe but it was not really necessary as the line moved fast and we saved maybe 5 minutes. I feel guilty cutting even if we paid for it, I'm not used to it and hate to get the stink eye from everyone else. Our luggage was in its designated section and waiting for us. By 9 we were in the shuttle back to Thrifty again.

Our trip to Hawaii was actually two weeks, split 4-7-3 and we spend the first 4 days in Waikiki at the Outrigger on the beach. Waikiki is very commercial, densely populated and fun to see, but I don't need to come back. It is much like walking on the Vegas strip. The Outrigger is nice, and Duke's the in house restaurant is good and had great views. We did rent a Mustang one of the 4 days and took a lap around the island. We went up the West side as far as we could go to Kaena Point. There is a road that goes from the point around to the North Shore but its dirt and you need a jeep. Do you know what the difference between a jeep and a rental car is?  A rental car can go anywhere.  We might have tried but it was muddy and the pony was not the vehicle to try in. This whole area can be missed if you don't have time. Tent city and shanty towns of the homeless are along this whole route. So we backtracked and hit the H2 to the North Shore across the top of the island and through the pinapple plantations.  A very pretty drive.

Back to day 7 of the cruise and 11 of our trip. We had the last few days booked at the Turtle Bay resort on the North Shore. Our car today is yet another land yacht - this time of the Crown Victoria variety. We took the H3 across this time and counter clockwise around the island. We stopped at the Kualoa ranch. This is where they filmed part of Jurassic Park several other films and more recently the TV series Lost. Their movie tour takes about an hour and includes a WWII bunker that they have turned into a movie museum.

On arrival at Turtle Bay we find a absolutely stunning resort with amazing sunsets and a great little poolside bar that you can sit at and watch the surfers go by into the bay. A bit pricey but if you are planning on being in town before or after the cruise - I would highly recommend this place over Waikiki. It's about $50 more a night than an ocean view room in Waikiki, but worth every penny. The little town of Haleiwa near by has great shopping and a little place called Jameson's by the sea that has a good lunch and views of the beach. Don't forget to try the shave ice, and eat at a little shrimp shack. Places litter the North Shore and are all good.

One night we also did a Luau at Germain's. The pork was very good. We tried the poi, it really does not taste like much of anything - mostly just a starch staple of the traditional Hawaiian diet. We skipped the Polynesian Cultural Center because we ran out of time and felt we got enough hula dancing from the Luau.

Well - thats it.  That's my 14 amazing days in Hawaii. The Cruise is with out a doubt the best way to see the islands. The culture is clearly different between each of them and without having to pack and unpack and trudge through every airport it can't be done another way. If I come back, it will likely be to Kona or here to the North Shore again.  Thanks for reading!. I would love to hear your comments if you know of someplace we missed for a return trip. I hope my review has helped a few of you make decisions.  More exhaustive pictures below.


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View from our room at the Outrigger, Wakiki

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Downtown Wakiki

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The obligatory shot of Diamond Head

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Driving up the West side on Day 3 with my girls.

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A random cave on the side of the road.

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Hanauma bay

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We left our lei's behind with Duke for good luck

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The Luau

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Everybody Hula!

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Colleen with a dancer

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Removing the pig

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At Turtle Bay

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View from our room

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The property at Turtle Bay

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I'm not going home... you can't make me!

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The wedding pavilion on property

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More Kitty's... so sad

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This guy was very nice and was by the pool every day. I'm sure he lives on french fries.

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This is Bone Head. The pool waitress said she thinks he is about 15 or 16 and he has no teeth left. They thought he had finally died and then a maintenance worker found him trapped in a hole by the hotel. He was pretty mean and he told you in no uncertain terms to leave him alone if you got close.

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Surfers at sunset by the pool

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Sunset at Turtle bay and our vacation.  Back to the grind.  Aloha and Mahalo Hawaii - we had a wonderful time.










Hawaii Cruise Day 6: Kauai (Updated)

It's day 6 and we are going to be on this island for two days, so we got another Thrifty car. Blue chip rocks. Not so lucky this time, we ended up with a Mercury land yacht. What ever we saved using the they pick the car program, we just lost having to fill this beast up at $4.65 a gallon. Also no iPhone jack... bummer.

This morning the plan was to drive up to Weimea canyon and enjoy the views. Unfortunately we got a bit of a late start and it was much further than we thought. We had a 12:30 tour booked that we needed to be back in Lihue for, and by the time we got halfway up the canyon we had to turn back. We made it to the first overlook about 10:30 but by then the whole valley was socked in and we could not wait for the clouds to clear. Alas, I have to enjoy photos that others have posted of this canyon and have only one to share with you.

We must have pissed of Pele in Kona, or pushed the excessive luxury a bit too far because some guy from Alberta in a rental jeep then backed into our land yacht in the overlook perking lot. (I do have pictures of that, Thrifty!) So at 10:45 we headed back to tube the ditch. Later, when we returned the car, the lady back at the rental place was great. We filled out a form and were back on our way in no time. We'll see if it turns into a problem once the claim is filed.

Our next adventure was tubing the ditch. This excursion was worth every penny. Back in the late 1800's, miles and miles of irrigation ditches and tunnels were hand dug to feed the sugar cane plantations water requirements. The land that these ditches is on is still privately held (now by Steve Case, AOL CEO I hear) and is not accessible to the public. The tour takes you up to the top in one of those six wheel Swiss Army Puitzers and then you get to inner-tube all the way down. One of the tunnels is miles long and not much more than two inner-tubes wide. We were issued helmets with spelunking lights, but use of the light was optional. - Very cool.

At one point they stopped us in a tunnel as a group and we all turned our lights off while we were told a scary story. The whole thing is just one gigantic lazy river, but as the guide said, "we do have class five ripples!"

At the end we stopped in a beautiful meadow next to the river and were served a picnic lunch - build your own sandwich bar.  Jennifer our guide was funny, and Kahana a local girl in her 20's, told us about the mountain and the history of the plantation and camps.

As with the snorkeling, the pic's are on the water camera. - stay tuned.

Pictures updated below

We headed back to the land yacht and decided we would go to the Marriott we had passed on the way from the pier. This is a beautiful property and umbrella drinks at Dukes on the beach were in order. Once there we actually discovered the beach was about a 10 minute walk from the boat. We listened to the live music and enjoyed the early evening.

For Day 7 we scheduled helicopter tour and we found that check in place across the street from the little shopping center also by the ship, so we decided we would give the land yacht back to Thrifty early, as everywhere we needed to go tomorrow was a short walk.

We then headed back to the ship for showers and a quick dinner. By the time we ate - it began to poor - the only bad weather we have really had on this ship so far.  And pour it did - Apparently they don't call this the wettest spot on earth for no reason. Kahana said it rains on average 350 days a year on top of the mountain.

We went to the main (Liberty) dining room tonight and the staff was friendly and the food good. I do understand why some people don't like the freestyle dining thing that NCL does. If you go to the main dining room you get a different table, and different wait staff every time. As a result they don't get to know you like when you have a consistent waiter. They don't memorize your favorite drink, or greet you by name. Also, because this is a US flagged ship, the staff is all US (along with all the labor laws associated with that).

In our experience we found most everyone warm and friendly. They all seem to want to do a good job and if you spend a moment to ask them where they are from and show some genuine interest in them, they almost always show a genuine interest in you and the service is just fine.

The only difference I would be able to put a finger on is a lack of a Disney like 'on stage' presence from a few of the crew when in public areas and ear shot of passengars. We occationally heard chatting in the open with each other about this problem or that.  Also - (and this is my only pet peeve - growing up in the restaurant industry). The tables in the specialty restaurants and dining rooms just did not look vey nice. There were no napkin folds, silverware was in disaray & knives on several tables had the blade side out, table cloths with big steam iron machine creases running across the middle of them.... Ok, enough - I have to provide feedback on something - and thats my particular two cents.


From the entire experience thus far - out of 5 possible stars - I give them a solid 4.9

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The clouds broke for about 30 seconds - other than that - we were socked in

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View from the drive back down

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The gardens at the Marriott in Lihue

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More Marriott

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The bay at Lihue

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Only half the beach is sand, the other half is very comfortable grass

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At Dukes with a boat drink

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This guy wanted our crab wontons

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These were the coolest pine trees

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My next Harley

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Colorado's also!

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The coast line at Lihue

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Here comes Mother Nature....

The Land Yacht and its bloody nose


(updated water pics) - Tubing the Ditch


Tubing the ditch - At the Start


This was a blast


One of the faster sections.


Coming out of a tunnel


Some had pretty low clearances


Good view of next entry


One of our guides, Jennifer


Tomorrow we fly the island in a helicopter (or not....)







Hawaii Cruise day 5: Kona on the big island (updated)

Last night we did the long sail around the top of the big island to Kona. I don't think Captain Buz has too much actual captaining to do on this ship. I think the total distance is only a little more than 100 nautical miles but we puttered along at 2 knots all night long...

Today we snorkel at 12:30 so we got up late and had a nice breakfast in the Lazy J. Kona is a tender port so we hopped off about 10am and wandered around the shops for a little while settling into a little overlook bar on the main drag for a couple of frosty Kona Longboards before the excursion.

So far we have booked everything with either Roberts tours or and nothing through the ship. In each case the tour we ended up on was a combination of ship booked people and direct booked people. Same tour, only difference is we saved about $40 each time booking direct. Thanks Cruise Critic!

Captain Zodiac was indeed an adventure. 14 people on what is essentially a big rubber raft catamaran with two big Johnson 150's strapped to the back. Hang on!,  - then off you go to snorkel one of the most beautiful reef's I have ever seen. The boat is remarkably stable and we never felt like we were going to get tossed off, but straddling the pontoon like a saddle and tucking your inside foot under a rope bar for stability was both a bit scary and cool at the same time.

Once at the reef we had 90 minutes to snorkel. That side of the island drops into the ocean very steeply and 10 feet from shore you are in 10 feet of water but 30 feet from shore you are in 300 feet of water. The resulting fish that like to hang out at different depths are varied and amazing. we saw eels, parrot fish that chomped at the coral and made a crunching sound, and probably 30 or 40 different kinds of tropical fish in every color imaginable.

On the way back, we buzzed the shore line in the zodiac stopping at several caves, blow holes and lava tube exits along the way. At one point we stopped at the face of Pele, a set of lava tubes that looks like the face of the volcanic goddess said to be a warning of her fury.

Of all of the islands we have visited so far, I think I like the feel of Kona the best. Oahu is very commercial and packed with tourists. Maui is nice Hilo on the other side was cool to see, but Kona has a feel to it that I can't describe. Laid back and comfortable, almost what I picture in my mind a 60's beach town would be. (as I write this, we have actually been to Kauai already) If I ever get a wild hair and decide to move to Hawaii, Kona is the place.


Updated Pictures Below

Back to shore about 3:45. Just enough time to grab another Maui Longboard and some island nacho's before the last 5PM tender back to the ship.

Tonight we chose to have dinner in our suite dining room. Wally our butler brought us a menu from the Jefferson Bistro and we ordered when we left this morning. When we got back to our suite, our dining room was all set up with a crisp white cloth, fresh flowers, and a chilled bottle of bubbly. He then served us escargot and french onion soup. I had a shrimp and scallop entree layered with puff pastry and Colleen had one of the biggest bone in filets I have ever seen. We split a whole lobster and finished with tiramisu. Simply divine.

I have read many places that the food on this ship is only marginal. I'm here to tell you - Bobby Flay would be proud.

Once we finished our gastronomic extravaganza, we had espresso under the stars on our deck, then it was a short ten foot walk to our comfy bed.

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Our Dinner

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The little bar in Kona (Hi Ernie - thanks for the Longboards!)

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The POA from shore

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Our balcony from the front (top row, both sides)

Here is the towel animal parade from our room

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Our swans and 'hefelump


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Harry the hair and Cool Runnin'  the duck

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Wild Boar (no name.... he's wild) and Larry (who tastes pretty good with a little drawn butter)

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All over the islands there are feral chickens and cats. Some of the cats are approachable, others, look like they would rip your hand off if you get to close to them.

Someone asked one of our tour guides if the chickens were good eating. She said, well - they scavenge and eat trash all day - but I've heard if you drop one in a pot of boiling water along with a lava rock - then cook it until the rock is soft - you can then eat the rock because it tastes better...

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We had heard that Dog the bounty hunter lived here.... & we had a sighting....


Snorkeling pictures from Captain Cook's Monument


Captain Cook's Monument and the cove


Parrot Fish


Puffer Fish


Lots of fish!


Hard to see here but there was an eel in the hole


Another Parrot


These guys were playing cat and mouse


It was pretty shallow in some places


This hotel (the Sheraton) in Kona was designed by Franklin Lloyd Wright. the rooms on the bottom right have bullet proof glass, not because of security but because the waves kept breaking them.


Tomorrow its off to Kauai for two days......



Hawaii Cruise Day 4: Hilo and Volcano's National Park

Today is Day 4 and we are well rested after a very long day yesterday. Last night we tried out the deck hot tub. Sitting under the stars, with a glass of red wine, a full belly and a days adventure behind us I almost feel guilty at the excess.    ....Almost.

This cruise has been different as we are already almost 1/2 way done and I feel like we have not really used the amenities of the ship yet. Everything I have read on the other posts about not needing much other than a room on this particular ship is true. The food is actually very good, even in the buffet. The first night aboard we went to the 'sampling' at the Jefferson Bistro. This is not to be missed. They had a small buffet set up with samplings of the highlights from all of the specialty restaurants on board. I had crab cakes, sashimi, a small filet, and an assortment of various sides, and three (yes 3) desserts, all wonderful.

We have yet to see a show, or spend any significant time in any of the lounges. With no sea days, its go, go go. The common areas of the ship are nice but not extravagant. This ship is not the Pearl or one of the RCL mega-ships, but it fits its purpose just fine. It is really a floating hotel, unpack once and wake up each morning at a different location, ready to explore.

The Cruise Critic meet and greet was on the first night at five after we got aboard. Quick but nice, we did get to meet most of the ships top staff, something RCL has stopped doing in our recent experience. Five minutes with the captain (Buz), the hotel director, cruise director, chef, and other administration was nice. you could tell they cared, and during the rest of the voyage, if they saw us in the halls, they would recognize us and stop and say hello. A cruise is what you make of it. Set out to be miserable, and you will be. We are enjoying ourselves completely and the few hiccups along the way are just part of the fun.

We also did the pub crawl, directly after the M & G at 6pm on day 1. $20 gets you 5 drinks at 5 different bars in 45 minutes and a grand tour of all of the ships best watering holes. Each person gets a cruise staff generated nickname emblazoned across their chest with masking tape. Some very double entendre. Another not to be missed event and after pounding five drinks, it made the sail away party mute. If you have ever been on a cruise before, you are probably familiar with the kids pirate parade. Picture this, but with adults, drinks and a balloon popping game that is NSFW.

Ok, on to Hilo on the big island. Today we rented a car and were off the ship by 8. Use Thrifty as everyone else mentions and make sure you register for the blue chip program in advance (its free). When you get to the lot to pick up your car, its waiting for you. The ship is full of folks that don't get that message, and this is another opportunity to skip a long line.

We hit the visitor center in Volcano's National Park by 8:45 ahead of all the tour busses. The plan was originally to take a lap around the crater circle drive but mother nature was not cooperating. Since the Japan quake, the lava flow has stopped (everything is connected in plate tectonics). 14 years this thing has produced lava and it chooses March 2011 to stop. Oh well. As a result they have closed the circle drive because they do not know where the lava is currently going. Last time it did this 14 yeas ago it popped out at a new location and they apparently don't want that to happen under some poor soles rental car.

We had read to go left on entry first and down the chain or craters road and were glad we did. We stopped at the Thurston lava tube and were able to explore it alone - very cool. The first part is lit, then has a stairway that goes back up again. the second part goes back some 300 meters but requires a flashlight. We purchased a little LED one at the ABC store the day before but did not realize until we opened it in the car that it did not come with batteries. Bummer. We went in as far as the LED light on my iPhone 4 would allow and at one point turned it off. Pretty scary & Blair Witch like experience.

We then drove to the shore down the chain of craters and stopped at the bottom to see the arch. There is a small parking area at the bottom where the old road that went around the island use to be and if you walk past the shack you can see where the lava has taken back and eaten the road that is now gone.

Back up to the top and by the lava tubes again, now its 10:30 and there are already a half dozen tour busses there - glad we went early. Next we went over to the crater and lava vents. Today they are only spewing steam. None the less, standing next to a steam vent while its spews is quite an experience. My lovely wife Colleen, who is ever prepared had packed a half dozen quart size baggies on the trip and before we left in the morning we hit the buffet and packed all manner of cheese, meat slices, fresh fruit, bread and a bag of Maui salt and vinegar chips. We stopped at a nice spot up by the museum at the top of the creator and had a picnic.

Thrifty has a 'they get to pick the car' option that is cheaper than a midsize option and we ended up with a new Ford Fusion. It was equipped with the new Ford Sync platform and my iPhone sync'ed right up so we had good music for the trip. It is pretty cool technology, but the voice recognition is not quite perfected. When we asked it to "play artist the Eagles" it came up with some 50's band I did not even know I had on my iPhone, and the way the computer voice (we named her Roxanne), said Boz Scaggs almost made us pee our pants.

Our rental car shuttle driver told us about an Orchid farm at mile marker 22 on the way back down and we stopped there and saw some beautiful flowers. One smelled like chocolate. They also had a rare orchid that was symetrical and won some huge orchid beauty pageant prize...supposedly it's worth 20k...

We were running short of time so we skipped rainbow falls and shot across town over to Akaka falls (about a 40 minute drive). Then back to drop off the car and on board again at 5. Dinner was in the Italian place, where we split some carpaccio, a pizza, an order of saltimbocca and the pesto tortellini  along with a nice chianti. We did the wine package on day one, another good deal. Pick any six bottles and save 20%.

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Our vow renewal shot from the photographer.  He photoshopped it a tad....

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The lush gardens above the Thurston Lava Tube

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A new fern, one opening and a fully opened leaf.

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The entrance to the lava tube.

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In the tube

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One of the craters along Chain of Craters road

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Lua Manu Lava Flow

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The end of the path you can walk

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The patterns are pretty cool

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The Holei Sea Arch

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The minerals in the rocks are very vibrant

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A lava tree, or at least where a tree once stood when the lava hit it.

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A steam vent

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The main crater at Kilauea

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This is as close as you can get.

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Nope - we never saw this - but the picture in the gift shop was cool.

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Orchid Farm Pics.

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This is the one that is suppose to be worth 20k. It's way up high so you cant touch it.

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Bamboo patch at Akaka State Park

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A huge Banyan tree

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This one is fallen. you cant tell from the picture but the trunk is about 15 feet across

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Akaka Falls

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Sunset from our balcony tonight.

Tomorrow it is off to Kona for a little coffee and snorkeling.










Hawaii Cruise Day 3: Haleakala Sunrise and Bike Ride

It's Day three on the POA and we are up at 02:45 am. A fact that is made a little better by the very cool Lavazza coffee machine that is in our room.

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The plan today is to drive to the top of the mountain to watch the sunrise.

When we get there about 5, the stars are absolutely amazing. you can see the Aurora Borealis across the top of the sky. The weather is cool but not freezing as we were warned, a sweatshirt is all we need.

At 6:04 am God himself shows up and and provides the below vista.

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Slowly the sun rises and begins to frame the mountain.

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once light hits, the crater is visible.

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eventually you can see the whole top of the mountain.

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 The top of the ridge

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Looking down into the old creator 

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next it's off to the bicycles for a 28.2 mile ride down to the beach.

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All bundled up to ride to the bottom

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At the breakfast stop 1/2 way

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Some of the amazing flowers we saw on the way down  Geeks will recognize this as the flower that sprayed Spock in the Garden of Eden episode.

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Made it to the Beach.... 28.2 miles and I think we only had to peddle 3 or 4 times

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Colleen is a bit frazzled by the experience....

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Here we are on the bike, a few less clothes than we started at the top with.

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Our fantastic guide, Travis

Tomorrow, we are done with Maui and move on to the big island.  Hope to see a live volcano!








Hawaii Cruise Day 2: The Road to Hana

Our first stop on the Hawaii Cruise was in Maui and we chose to go on the Road to Hana adventure. An absolutely beautiful seven-hour drive, that I probably will never need to go on again. Don't get me wrong, it was worth every second, but let's just say the first half is four strait hours of curvey roads similar to the Lariat trail followed by another three hours of dirt roads on a cliff side. Occasionally, it breaks into something that was paved in the 60's but has never seen a pothole repair crew in its life.

Our driver, Henry was fantastic. a local Hana guy who knew tons about all the vegetation and trees. At one point when we stopped he just grabbed a bunch of baby fern and we all tried it. Tasted like asparagus. It would be great in a salad. He said growing up in the 40's and 50's he and his parents just lived off the land and the only time they ever needed money was to go to a movie or a dance. Food is abundant on this part of the island with avocado mountain apple and guava trees everywhere.

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Hookipa Park

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Birds of Paradise at a roadside stand. ($1)

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Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees

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The colors are amazing

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The Road to Hana (This is the smooth part)

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Nua'ailua bay

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...almost liiks like she is superimposed on a green screen.

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Kaenae Park

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I love these trees!

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Agriculture land in the little town of Wialua

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The falls at Pua'a Ka'a

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Waianapanapa State Park

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The Black Sand Beach at Waianapanapa

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The sand was more like the kind of gravel you would put in the bottom of a fish tank.

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The legend of the caves

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My Princess... (I'll save her!)

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The Arch

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Lush Park

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Henry our tour guide

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When we actually made it to the little fishing village of Hana, there was a bank there. Colleen has decided that this will be her new branch, as she loves the hours....

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The Falls at Kipahulu

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The swimming ponds at Haleakala State Park

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A Huge Banyan Tree

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This was the halfway point, beautiful and paved around the right side of the island. The left side, not so much....

Tomorrow we do sunrise at Haleakala and the bike ride!





Hawaii Cruise 2011, Day 1 Pride of America. Our AMAZING cabin, suite 10,000

It's day 4 in Hawaii and out first day aboard the Pride of America. Colleen and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on the 6th and spent the last few days in Wakiki with our girls, and our best friends the Ott"s and the White's. With everyone safely back on an airplane and headed back home, we climbed aboard the NCL Pride for a week of pampering.

Anyone who know's us, knows that we are big cruise fans. I think this is something like 7 or 8 now, but normally we are inside stateroom folks. Occasionally we will get a balcony room, but we don't really do anything but sleep in it, so why spend the $$$. This time we decided to splurge on a suite, and I have to say I think I am now spoiled and will likely never go back.

We started with the regular drop off via cab and slugging of the luggage to the porter to check them. Thats where the ordinary stopped and where things become amazing. Because we had a suite, we did not have to wait to go through security, they had a special line for us, with no one in it. The other one was long. Once inside the cattle call warehouse was full of hundreds of people and seriously long lines, but another desk awaited us where we stepped right up and were warmly greeted. There we met our personal Butler, Wally. Wally is fantastic and quickly issued our room cards then personally took us aboard and gave us a quick tour of the ship. He took us to a lounge and profusely apologized because he said although our room was ready, they had not opened the floor yet, so it would be about 15-20 minutes.

He got us glasses of champagne and we met the Concierge James, who took our dinner reservations for the week. It was probably only 5-10 minutes and they released the floor, and off we went to Suite 10,000.

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Our room

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The Bedroom

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The Dining Room

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The Bathroom.  It's sad, this bathroom is probably larger than the entire room we had on our first cruise, where you could shower, pee and brush your teeth all in the same location just by turning 90 degrees.

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The Veranda... wraps around the front of the ship under the bridge.

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The deck hot tub

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The Bar, with our own espresso machine - Yum!

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The view from our balcony and out our bedroom window.

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They fixed our room up for our aniversary.

Thats all for now... More later about Day 1, the road to Hana......


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