Posts Tagged ‘ziplining’

Ship’s Ahoy! – Experiencing an Alaskan Cruise for the Very First Time – Part I

August 1, 2009

 Part I  | Part II | Part III | Part IV

For someone who’s spent his entire life on an island completely surrounded by water, it’s amazing that your boy has never traveled much on one of them floaty things… What are they called now? A yes, a boat.

I mean there were those times on fiberglass-infested kayaks, small fishing boats, and touristy catamarans all over Hawaii, or that local ferry in Seattle, or even that Honshu to Kyuushu hovercraft in Japan… but nothing really to write home about.

So when the fam wanted to get together for a little family bonding on the water – Alaskan Cruise ship style, I was in like flint!

Now because the ship’s first port of call was out of the Port of Seattle (Smith Cove Cruise Terminal on Pier 91 to be exact), we “Hawaiians” had to fly over to our Northwest neighbor in order to start our Alaskan adventure.

Ain’t no thang. All it meant was that we’d have a bonus night (going) and whole day (coming back) in the Emerald City. Sa-weet! Two vacays in one!

After a quick stay at the Comfort Inn & Suites SeaTac – which was preceded by a high class meal at the Silver Dollar Casino Restaurant & Lounge, and followed by a visit to the “International Festival” at nearby Angle Lake Park the next morning, we were shuttled off to the Smith Cove Cruise Terminal.

Smith Cove Cruise Terminal, Pier 91 - Seattle, Washington
Smith Cove Cruise Terminal, Pier 91 – Seattle, Washington

Much like the airport terminals across the country, this seaport terminal could get confusing and hectic real quick if you aren’t paying attention.

Choose the right boat!
Choose the right boat!

Expect to stand in line for like 20-30 minutes.
Expect to stand in line for like 20-30 minutes.

Following the long wait and mandatory paperwork, we were ready to board yo!

Sign for Holland America Line's ms Westerdam (7 Day Alaskan Explorer)
Sign for Holland America Line’s ms Westerdam (7 Day Alaskan Explorer)

Not sure if this is typical of cruiselines, or we were just waaay too early, but our rooms were not ready when we got on the ship. We decided to kill some time familiarizing ourselves with our home for the next 7 days, and its many amenities.

The Lido Bar
The Lido Bar

The Sea View Pool
The Sea View Pool

Alas, our rooms were ready… If you’re claustrophobic, your stateroom may be a bit tight for you. Check it.

View from the "hallway" to the bed (front door is behind)
View from the “hallway” to the bed (front door is behind)

View from the "bedroom" to the hallway and bathroom
View from the “bedroom” to the hallway and bathroom

Pretty tight quarters for the potty and shower/tub, but it worked.
Pretty tight quarters for the potty and shower/tub, but it worked.

Our luggage was not delivered to our room yet and we wondered where in the heck it was. Turning the corner to get to the elevator answered all of our questions.

Mystery solved: the pile of luggage (ours is in there somewhere) [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]
Mystery solved: the pile of luggage (ours is in there somewhere) [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]

Ed’s Tip: If you love your luggage, buy a hard case. They stack everyone’s luggage near the elevator, on the floor you’re on, before room delivery.

Before we could even catch our breath, it was time for the all-ship, mandatory (yes mandatory!) safety training, where we geared up in our lifejackets (provided in each room) and proceeded to the 3rd floor deck for some instruction.

Cousin Evan in a sea of orange
Cousin Evan in a sea of orange

After roll call (yes, roll call! 😛 ), we were trained on what to do in case of an emergency. Although it was supposed to be serious, we were able to find humor in our fashion.

This is how we roll [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]
This is how we roll [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]

Ed’s Tip: Be sure to study the chart on the back of your room’s door. It shows the quickest, shortest route to your designated meeting area outside, in addition to how to properly wear your life jacket.

Emergency Information on Holland America room door
Emergency Information on Holland America room door

Following the training sesh, we further explored the ship, discovering the Hydro Pool, Thermal Suites, Fitness Center, Lido Pool, and all-important basketball court!

Going left on the Brother-In-Law
Going left on the Brother-In-Law

Brother-In-Law made the mistake of challenging the Sugimotos to a 2-on-2 game of hoops, which led to the following victory and defeat photos. *grin*

2-on-2 champs! [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]
2-on-2 champs! [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]

Maybe next time? :) [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]
Maybe next time? 🙂 [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]

Ed’s Tip: If you try to hoop it up and it’s insanely windy, don’t give up. The wind up there on the 11th floor varies, depending on the weather and what day of the cruise you’re on.

Before long, it was time to get ready for dinner. Since it was casual night, we decided to just eat BBQ food (served next to the Lido Pool) and follow that up with some dancing at the Northern Lights Nightclub on the 3rd floor.

Party animals aboard the ms. Westerdam
Party animals aboard the ms. Westerdam

Holland America’s reputation is that it is more for the older crowd, and nowhere was that more apparent than the empty nightclub that night. We owned the dance floor baby! Later, we were told that formal nights are when the club (and everywhere else) gets crowded.

Ed’s Tip: Party on formal nights. You’ll have more company.

Every morning, you’re greeted with a “Today at a Glance” daily itinerary in your room’s mailbox. Itemizing various activities hour by hour, you’re never short of possibilities to fill your day (e.g. Basketball Shootout, Ping Pong Challenge, No Limit Texas Hold’Em Poker Tournament, Bingo, Digital Workshops, Wine Tasting, Culinary Arts Presentations, Broadway-esque shows, etc.).

On day two, we decided to make it a true vacation and fill our time with long overdue pampering, courtesy of room service for breakfast and the Hydro Pool and Thermal Suites for hard core relaxation.

Room Service for breakfast
Room Service for breakfast

The Hydro Pool
The Hydro Pool

Our view from the Thermal Suites (beds are heated)
Our view from the Thermal Suites (beds are heated)

Ed’s Tip: Part of your fees includes a daily charge of $11 for tip. Since you’re paying for it anyway, you might as well order up room service for those times when you just don’t feel like going out. For the Hydro Pool/Thermal Suites package ($40 per person), order this to start the morning of a full day on the cruise (no docking) to make the most of your money. This way, you’ll have all day and night for in and out privileges. For the Thermal Suites, try to pick an off-peak time to go. With just 6 beds, you will hardly ever find a bed open during peak hours.

And then it was formal night!

I was probably in the minority on this one being that I was fairly excited. How often do we get to play dress up and grind good kine eats like this?

The wifey and I on formal night at the Vista Dining Room
The wifey and I on formal night at the Vista Dining Room

The Crab Cake was a winner for all of us. I ordered two for good measure.
The Crab Cake was a winner for all of us. I ordered two for good measure.

Surf and Turf combo
Surf and Turf combo

Crab Legs!
Crab Legs!

Ed’s Tip: If you’re a big eater, portions will be small. You may want to order up several rounds to satisfy the ol’ appetite.

But don’t forget to leave room for dessert!

Leanne and Lee enjoying their dessert
Leanne and Lee enjoying their dessert

... But not as much as us!
… But not as much as us!

After squeezing in another session at the Thermal Suites, we decided to put day 2 to a close in preparation for the next day’s festivities.

Day 3 called for us to turn our clocks back one hour (from Seattle time to Alaska time) and involved many on-boat activities, including the highlight: majestic Glacier Bay.

Huge glacier wall near Glacier Bay
Huge glacier wall near Glacier Bay

My attempt at an artsy fartsy shot near Glacier Bay
My attempt at an artsy fartsy shot near Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay, Alaska [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]
Glacier Bay, Alaska [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]

Glacier near Glacier Bay (notice the relative size of the ship in the water and the gushing waterfall in the cave?) [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]
Glacier near Glacier Bay (notice the relative size of the ship in the water and the gushing waterfall in the cave?) [Photo Credit: Lee Kojima]

Family shot in Glacier Bay
Family shot in Glacier Bay

Ed’s Tip: Give yourself enough time to eat so you’re not rushing to finish eating in order to get a good view of the scenery. The Glacier Bay Park Ranger Commentary, for us, began at 1PM (check your daily schedule). Also, dress warm. During certain hours, staying outdoors to experience Glacier Bay for long periods of time may prove to be too cold for some.

And then, it was time for socializing with our tour group at the Captain’s Corner of the Crow’s Nest (10th floor Observation deck)…

Our tour group with one Michael W Perry! [Photo Credit: Mark & Carolyn Yasuda]
Our tour group with one Michael W Perry! [Photo Credit: Mark & Carolyn Yasuda]

… with dinner to follow at the Vista Dining Room again (9th floor).

Sitka Sound Dungeness Crab and Artichoke en Bouchee appetizer - Tender pieces of crab and artichoke, braised in shellfish sauce and served in a pastry shell, topped with lemon-Hollandaise sauce
Sitka Sound Dungeness Crab and Artichoke en Bouchee appetizer – Tender pieces of crab and artichoke, braised in shellfish sauce and served in a pastry shell, topped with lemon-Hollandaise sauce

Fairbanks Seafood Platter appetizer - A fine selection of Alaskan spotted shrimp, salmon jerky, clams, hot-smoked salmon and smoked halibut.
Fairbanks Seafood Platter appetizer – A fine selection of Alaskan spotted shrimp, salmon jerky, clams, hot-smoked salmon and smoked halibut.

Ketchikan Fisherman's Chowder - Halibut, salmon, cod, shrimp, thyme, celebry, red-skin potato and corn braised in a creamy clam soup, served with sourdough croutons.
Ketchikan Fisherman’s Chowder – Halibut, salmon, cod, shrimp, thyme, celebry, red-skin potato and corn braised in a creamy clam soup, served with sourdough croutons.

Reindeer Sausage and Vegetable Soup - Rich beef broth with sausage, diced carrot, onion, potato, green beans, peas, cabbage, fresh herbs and finished with sherry pepper to add a little extra spice.
Reindeer Sausage and Vegetable Soup – Rich beef broth with sausage, diced carrot, onion, potato, green beans, peas, cabbage, fresh herbs and finished with sherry pepper to add a little extra spice.

Halibut Caddy Ganty entrée - Topped with sour cream, onion and fresh breadcrumbs, served over olive oil red-skin mashed potatoes, broccoli florets and roasted cherry tomatoes.
Halibut Caddy Ganty entrée – Topped with sour cream, onion and fresh breadcrumbs, served over olive oil red-skin mashed potatoes, broccoli florets and roasted cherry tomatoes.

Razor Clam, Bay Scallops and Manila Clam over Noodles entrée - Tender egg noodles, diced tomato, garlic and parsley, tossed in a white wine cream sauce, topped with sautéed razor clam, bay scallops and streamed Manila clams.
Razor Clam, Bay Scallops and Manila Clam over Noodles entrée – Tender egg noodles, diced tomato, garlic and parsley, tossed in a white wine cream sauce, topped with sautéed razor clam, bay scallops and streamed Manila clams.

Ahhh… the end of day 3. By now, you’ll be getting used to the VERY long days.

Bright blue skies at almost a quarter to 10PM!
Bright blue skies at almost a quarter to 10PM!

Tomorrow, we are expected to see land for the first time in 3 days, as we hit Juneau Alaska at 6AM in the morning. See ya bright and early!

To be continued…

 Part I  | Part II | Part III | Part IV

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Wowie In Maui – Part II

March 1, 2008

Part I | Part II | Part III

We did nothing but feed our faces in the last one di’in’t we? And nooo, it wasn’t due to the “munchies” silly. It was simply because it was all *I* did during my westerly travels in Maui. But trust…, if you are patient enough, I’ll make like Sean Kingston and Shorty, I will take you there.

Put on your walking shoes for a brisk stroll through our first stop – historic Paia Town on Maui’s North Shore.

Wen, Steph, Shorts, Marvy, Mai, B, Jerm, Kawads and Tender Ronie enjoying their walk through old Paia Town
Wen, Steph, Shorts, Marvy, Mai, B, Jerm, Kawads and Tender Ronie enjoying their walk through old Paia Town

This quaint beach town offers a laid-back alternative to the hustle and bustle of some of the bigger towns/cities in Maui.

Paia Town
Paia Town, Paia, Maui, HI (map)

As we move south, we’ll take a lil’ lunch break at Kula Lodge & Restaurant.

Kula Lodge & Restaurant Sign
Kula Lodge & Restaurant Sign

Known for their gorgeous sweeping views of mountain and sea, this restaurant serves up salads, burgers, sandwiches, a few entrees, and their popular gourmet pizzas, baked in a kiawe fired brick oven.

Terrace Special Combo Pizza - Marinara Sauce, Four Cheeses, Pepperoni, Italian Sausage, Mushrooms, Kula Onion, and Sliced Black Olives - $19
Terrace Special Combo Pizza – Marinara Sauce, Four Cheeses, Pepperoni, Italian Sausage, Mushrooms, Kula Onion, and Sliced Black Olives – $19

Kula Lodge Garden Fresh Vegetarian Pizza - Thick hand tossed dough with our Grilled Seasoned Vegetables & Feta Cheese - $17
Kula Lodge Garden Fresh Vegetarian Pizza – Thick hand tossed dough with our Grilled Seasoned Vegetables & Feta Cheese – $17

Bacon - Blue Cheeseburger - Smoked bacon and blue cheese cover this 1/2 lb. Black Angus burger charbroiled to perfection and topped with onions, tomatoes and lettuce on a toasted sesame bun. - $13
Bacon – Blue Cheeseburger – Smoked bacon and blue cheese cover this 1/2 lb. Black Angus burger charbroiled to perfection and topped with onions, tomatoes and lettuce on a toasted sesame bun. – $13

After lunch, be sure to venture outside to view the explosion of colors in their garden.

Garden at Kula Lodge & Restaurant

Garden at Kula Lodge & Restaurant

Garden at Kula Lodge & Restaurant

Garden at Kula Lodge & Restaurant

Garden at Kula Lodge & Restaurant

Have your camera on hand because it’s a definite photo opp out here!

Group shot outside Kula Lodge & Restaurant
Group shot outside Kula Lodge & Restaurant

There is much more to this piece of property than the restaurant and view though. There is a Marketplace (good place for omiyage) and, according to their web site (and namesake for that matter), even a lodge/chalet where you can stay for extended visits.

Kula Lodge & Restaurant
15200 Haleakala Hwy. Route 377
Kula, Maui, Hawaii 96790 (map)
(808) 878-1535
1-800-233-1535
info@kulalodge.com

OK, we’ve finally come to the exciting part of the tour where we can put our forks and chopsticks down and throw caution to the wind. Less biting, more flighting (is that even a word!?). Less food, more of something to put us in a good mood and go “Duuuude!” OK, one too many corny lines. Noted. Let’s head south and hit up Skyline Eco-Adventures from some Ziplinin’!

Skyline Eco-Adventures Sign
Skyline Eco-Adventures Sign

Located along the slopes of Haleakala, Skyline Eco-Adventures was founded in 2002 by father and son team Buck & Danny Boren. These outdoor enthusiasts (one, a former radiologist and the other a Small Business Management college graduate and former surf guide) had tried ziplines in Costa Rica in 2001 and thought that it would be a great, new, environmentally responsible activity to bring back to their home on Maui. The Haleakala Skyline Tour turned out to be the first zipline tour in the United States (there are currently about 15 different zipline tour operations across the United States), and they have since opened a second tour location above Ka’anapali in 2007.

Besides the fact that it is a fun, adrenaline rush of a good time with the ziplining itself, you also get a brisk hike in here and there (required to go from launch pad to launch pad), while getting educated on local issues of conservation and preservation.

“Conservation is extremely important to our company,” explains co-founder Danny Boren. “We donate AT LEAST 1% of our sales (and usually quite a bit more) to protection of Maui’s environment (the groups we donate to are listed on our website). We recycle at all of our company locations, and pay for curbside recycling for all of our employees at their homes.”

Boren continues, “We are also the world’s ONLY Carbon Neutral zipline operator… that means that we offset carbon emissions for every aspect our business (vehicles, store, office). In other words, our company does not contribute to Global Warming. The money we pay for carbon offsets goes toward creating new renewable energy projects across the country. Last year we offset 85 tons of carbon emissions (even though we use less than half of that). There are a number of other things as well, we have a native forest restoration area that we have created alongside our Haleakala Skyline Tour… we pay our employees to go out and work with local non-profit groups, we always buy local first for all products, most of the shirts we sell in our retail store is made with Organic Cotton… etc.”

When we visited the tour, we were educated about the native birds (including the `Alala, `Akohekohe, Maui Parrotbill, Nene and `Io) at each of the 5 ziplining launching points.

`Alala (Hawaiian Crow) info at first launching point
`Alala (Hawaiian Crow) info at first launching point

So with the ziplining, hiking and eduction, you really get three tours in one. But enough with the chit-chat, let’s get a zippin’!

You must check in at least half an hour before the tour starts (see below for times), so that you can fill out the paperwork and get strapped in with the proper gear.

Ziplining Gear
Ziplining Gear

Ziplining Helmets
Ziplining Helmets

Marvin, Steph, Eric, Jeremy and Ronie buckling themselves in
Marvin, Steph, Eric, Jeremy and Ronie buckling themselves in

(Note: If you’re “Monk”-like you may wish to consider bringing a bandana to wear between your beautiful head of hair and the oft-used public set of helmets they require).

You’re then given a quick pep talk and education session and then you’re off on your hike to the first launching point, the Alala.

Eric, Steph (hidden), Marvin, Mai, Shorts and our guide hiking to our first line.
Eric, Steph (hidden), Marvin, Mai, Shorts and our guide hiking to our first line.

Marvin looks concerned while Steph, Shorts and Mai say, It ain't no thang!
Marvin looks concerned while Steph, Shorts and Mai say, “It ain’t no thang!”

The first line is meant to start slow, with each successive line growing in length and speed.

Mai setting up for the Akohekohe line
Mai setting up for the Akohekohe line

http://www.aroundhawaii.com/assets/flash/progressive/FLVPlayer_Progressive.swf
Mai on the Maui Parrotbill line

Shorts getting strapped in for the Nene line
Shorts getting strapped in for the Nene line

Below is a list of the 5 lines and their descriptions:

1) Alala – The Hawaiian Crow (there are only about 52 of these birds left) – 125 ft. long & 25 ft. high. (this is the warm up zipline)

2) Akohekohe – The Crested Honeycreeper (there are about 3,500 of these birds left – they only live on East Maui) – 150 ft. long & 75 ft. high (this one has a shear drop off the take off!)

3) The Maui Parrotbill (there are about 250 – 400 of these birds left, they are only found in East Maui and are the rarest forest bird left on Maui) – 225 ft long & 75 ft. high (this zips over the top of the next zipline)

4) Nene – The Hawaiian Goose (there are somewhere around 1200 Nene left, and as you know it is our State Bird) – 330 ft. long & 45 ft. high (this is a great zipline right down the center of the valley)

4a) Swinging Bridge – during the hike that follows the Nene line, you cross a semi daunting swinging bridge that takes you across a gorge.

Swinging Bridge
Swinging Bridge

And then we hit the mother lode. The zipline of all ziplines. The grand `Io finale.

5) ‘Io – The Hawaiian Hawk (there are around 1500 of these birds left, all on the Big Island) – 750 ft. long – 125 ft. high and you go over 40 mph!

The `Io (Hawaiian Hawk) line view from above
The `Io (Hawaiian Hawk) line view from above

What a rush!

http://www.aroundhawaii.com/assets/flash/progressive/FLVPlayer_Progressive.swf
First Person view of the `Io Line

So why should you try your hand (and feet) at Ziplining at Skyline Eco-Adventures? Boren offers up some reasons, “There are any number of reasons why someone might want to come on a tour with Skyline Eco-Adventures, but the primary reason is that it is just plain FUN!  Customers have the rare opportunity to leap from cliffs and fly hundreds of feet through the air… eventually landing comfortably on the other side of the valley. It is also a fun way to learn about Hawaii, each of our tours shares interesting information about Hawaii, and most customers learn new things while having a great time. Beyond that we are a true local family owned company, and we try to give back to our community in many ways. Lastly, we are by far the most experienced zipline operator in the United States (which sounds a little odd being as how we are from Maui, but it’s undeniably true), and have a great safety record… with more than 500,000 customer zips over the last 6 years we’ve only had about 4 twisted ankles (primarily on the hike) on our tours! We are also the only zipline operator in the country that is fully qualified and insured to build our own ziplines… 100% Maui Made!”

How about the fact that online bookings get a 10% discount, but Kama`aina who call direct get an even better 25% discount!?

Skyline is already looking at other locations around Hawaii and on the Mainland, and hope to launch at least one or two new tours in the next year. For more information or to book a tour, can (808) 878-8400.

Obligatory Group Shot
Obligatory Group Shot

Skyline Eco Adventures
Take Hwy. 37 (Haleakala Highway) to Hwy. 377. Turn left on Highway 378 (crater Road, drive 2.5 miles and look for the red and white building on the left (map)
(808) 878-8400
Tour Departs daily at 8:30am, 9:30am, 11:30am, 12:30pm, 2pm and 3pm.

The Haleakala summit is sooo close I can taste it, but since part 2 of this series is so action packed as it is, it looks like I’m going to have to break the rest of this into a Wowie in Maui – Part 3.

Hang on to your seats, next month, we’ll cover Haleakala National Park and the Hana Lava Tube at Ka`eleku Caverns fo sho, with possible forays into Tedeschi Winery, Sunrise Protea Gift Shop, Tutu’s, Kaumahina State Wayside and Wai‘anapanapa State Park. Stay tuned, Shorty!

Part I | Part II | Part III