Big Birthday Celebration: Disneyland or Cruise?

It’s really hard to plan vacations when you’re in the throes of a “Relocation Year” or “Repositioning Year” as we like to call it. So, we’re still tossing around ideas for how to celebrate Rich’s special birthday in August, and I think we’ve got it down to either Disneyland or a Mexican Riviera cruise.

But with all of this Galaxy’s Edge hype, we’re leaning toward the cruise. We’re not big Star Wars fans – I mean, it’s okay, but nothing to obsess over – so Galaxy’s Edge holds little appeal for us. And we’re hoping it doesn’t change our Disneyland experience forever. And oh the crowds and expense these days – Yikes!

Also, I’m working on my third novel set on a cruise – this time the Mexican Riviera – binge watching our favorite cruise vloggers such as CruiseTipsTV, SoTweetie, and ScottSingerCruises. So I’m totally engaged in the cruise experience.

As some of you know, my other two cruise novels are Real Women Wear Red (Caribbean cruise) and the sequel Real Women Sing the Blues (Hawaii cruise). Originally, there were plans for a third in that series per my agent’s request, but as it looks now, the third book will be a standalone with new and fun characters. I’m really excited about it.


Hawaii Part 12: The Good-bye Luau

Okay, so maybe luaus aren’t for everybody. They are certainly touristy, and I’ve been to a few. But it had been 11 years since we had been in Hawaii and it was my idea that a luau might be fun to reconnect with the whole pig in the ground, Hawaiian music, singers and dancers thing. The problem is the Grand Hyatt doesn’t have a beach luau and those are really the best. Weather permitting, the luau is held in a grassy area not on the beachside of the resort. And should it rain, the luau is moved inside.

The last time we were here, we had the inside luau but the entertainment was in a covered, outside area, giving the feeling of being outside. We were hoping for an outside luau, but, alas, it was not meant to be. The disappointment was – not only had prices shot up – the indoor setup wasn’t as nice this time. Some things should not be revisited, but left to the memory of the past.

One thing I should mention is that the last time we were at the Grand Hyatt, we enjoyed lighting of the tiki torches and Hawaiian dancing and singing outside on the Seaview Terrace. This trip, entertainment varied throughout the week and that show was only on Saturday and Tuesday. We weren’t there on a Saturday and on Tuesday we were having Rich’s birthday dinner at Tidepools during that time so we missed this entirely. So the luau would allow us to experience some of that.

What can I say? By this time we were tired, and ready to go home. We spent the afternoon packing, and if we hadn’t already paid for the luau, we would have skipped it. It would have been better to schedule this earlier in the trip but the only other choice would have been the day we arrived, and we were exhausted then, too. So the good news was, the Mai Tais were free flowing, and the food was delicious. We stayed for some of the entertainment and then called it a night. We had a flight to Honolulu the next morning, and then a long flight to Las Vegas from there (long flight to us – don’t know how some of you do even longer or more flights).

One thing we forgot to mention is that we were able to check in for our flights 24 hours ahead from a kiosk at the Grand Hyatt. And, blessings of all blessings, we were able to change our assigned seats from those middle row seats like we had coming out – to the 2-seat side with window and aisle. WOO HOOOOOOOO!!!! The flight didn’t seem nearly as daunting now. And believe me, it made a huge difference on the flight back – not bad at all!

I should also mention that we spent some time walking the property and taking pictures. Here are some of the beautiful tropical birds in the open-air atrium of the resort. They each had their name posted, and Rich personally addressed each one. πŸ™‚

The next day we ate our final Grand Hyatt Kauai breakfast buffet at Ilima Terrace, returned the rental car, flew to Honolulu, and then flew to Las Vegas via San Francisco from the sky. It was cool to see the San Francisco Bay Area again – our home for 20 years or so – even if from the air. And if we had to give up tropical beaches and the ocean and return to the harsh reality of the desert, well, there was no better time to fly into Las Vegas than at night where we landed around midnight – flight time an hour less going west – woo hoo!

The dry temperature was still warm (app. 80 degrees) but refreshing at that time of night, the neon lights were electrifying, and the pulse of such an exciting city welcoming. We were glad to be back home, and the vacation and birthday celebration had done what it was supposed to do.

Thanks, all, for sharing in our journey. We hope you enjoyed it, too. πŸ™‚

Hawaii Part 11: Back to the Beach

We hiked back to Ilima Terrace for the breakfast buffet, but we were there quite a bit later than usual and it was so busy, we had to wait a bit for a table, right next to the omelet station, instead of the water like we had done before. By now we’ve learned which items we like, which ones we don’t, and which ones we love, so we focused on choosing our favorites.

The rain had stopped, the sun was out, so instead of going to the pool after breakfast, we chose to return to Salt Pond Beach, fully equipped. We wore our swim suits, brought sunscreen, and toted along a couple of beach towels we had picked up at Hilo Hatties the previous day, which we forgot to mention until now.

But wouldn’t you know it – the only road to get to this beach was flooded from the previous day’s rain, and we were warned not to drive through. The other nearby beaches were brown and muddy-looking from the previous day’s storm. We peeked in at nearby Poipu Beach, but it didn’t look much better, so we ended up back at the resort.

As we mentioned, the surf is rough in front of the resort, and mostly surfers dare to get in the water. But we joined the few swimmers, determined to swim in the ocean today. We were so disappointed about not getting to have the full experience at Salt Pond, and had we known yesterday was our one chance, we would have swam in our shorts. πŸ™‚ Still, we did get to wade up to above our knees, and the shorts did get wet.

There are Hyatt-owned condos to the right of the resort, and each day we saw the condo dwellers making their way to the water amenities, included in their condo-fees. But the resort was never too crowded.

There were steps lit up at night for a romantic stroll on the quiet beach.

The following picture shows the area where the surfers hang out.

We splashed around, and then decided to return to the salt-water Lagoon on the other side of the beach.

Next: Now why did we book this Luau? Tired, satisfied, and ready to go home.


Hawaii Part 10: Cocktails and Hurricanes

Instead of the PuPu Sampler Platter for 2 that we had last time, we ordered a full order of the Poke Rolls (loved them), and tried the Chicken Quesadilla. We also ordered our two favorite cocktails: Kauai Red Dirt Margarita (so want one of those again), and the Tai Chi Mai Tai, but this time Rich had the Margarita and I had the Mai Tai. The same musician was playing the guitar, and, of course, he had to play Puff the Magic Dragon:

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Hanalei

Afterward, we decided to try Stevenson’s Library, an intriguing-looking bar above Dondero’s Italian Restaurant, with outside terrace seating in what looked like an old British-colonial mansion you might see in the Caribbean or the Pacific Rim in the 18th and 19th centuries. We didn’t try this place on our last trip because they had a strict dress code. Rich isn’t about to bring a jacket with him to Hawaii. πŸ™‚ Since then, they’ve relaxed the dress code.

Stevenson’s also has live music, and we were lucky enough to snag one of the very popular outside tables. Rich ordered his favorite drink – Single-Malt Scotch – 12-year Macallan, to be exact. I perused the martini menu and came with the Buren’s Blueberry Bonzai – Stoli Blueberry Vodka, Tuaca, and Macadamia Nut Liqueur. Wish we had a pic of the outside terrace, but here’s one of the inside bar.

Then we called it a night. Tomorrow would be our last full day, and we were hoping for sunny skies and one last day at the beach.

Hawaii Part 9: New Beaches

The next morning we decided we needed a change-up for breakfast. True, the buffet came with our room package and had a value of about $50 per day, but we just couldn’t hike down to the restaurant, and sit with crowds one more morning. Each morning we got up later and later, and the later we got started, the more crowded the restaurant was. One thing we need to mention is after all of this walking and hours of swimming, we were really feeling it. How wonderful to get this kind of exercise on a daily basis, but we wanted to take it easy this morning.

We ordered room service, and it was delivered out on our oceanfront Lanai. How fabulous is that? Our own private table with an ocean view. We ordered pancakes and French toast and shared them, along with a pot of coffee. One thing we noticed at the buffet each morning was how delicious the sweets were – the pancakes were amazing – so we passed over eggs, bacon, potatoes, and all that jazz, and focused on the sweets. Yum, yum!

We did hike down to the pool via our secret shortcut stairway, and took the path along the beach. One thing we have to mention is the demographics on this trip. Okay, so maybe the last time we were here, we were the couple in their 30s (or close). It did feel odd to be one of the “older” couples at the resort this time. But it was August and perhaps the “older” couples go to Hawaii for a winter break, rather than during the summer. Or maybe we had lived in Florida for so long, we had gotten used to feeling “young.” πŸ™‚

We noticed a lot of couples and families from Europe – Germany and the UK mostly. One woman said that they had just come from the Sheraton Maui, and if you didn’t get down to the pool by 7:30 a.m., you couldn’t get a chaise. We had no trouble with that no matter what time of day we hit the pool. But Kauai is a quieter choice than Maui – especially Kaanapali – notorious for being full of people from Northern California on Maui in August – like we once were. πŸ™‚

Some sprinkles from Felicia came and went – one time we had to hide underneath one of the “bridges” – you can see one of those in the background in the pic above – until the moisture blew past us. Eventually, we worked up an appetite for lunch. What is it about being in the water that makes you so hungry? πŸ™‚

We decided to check out the The Dock – the quick service pool-side restaurant. So we had the KALUA CUBANSmoke Kalua Pork, Honey Glazed Ham, Sliced Pickles, Spiced Deli Butter and Swiss Cheese on a French Baguette – talk about a combination of Florida and Hawaii. Delicious!

We shared that and a side order of WAFFLE FRIES – with Garlic, Parmesan, and Parsley – so yummy but way too much food! We could have shared just one or the other – ordering both seemed like a waste since we couldn’t eat it all but we didn’t know that ahead of time. Oh well, we’re on vacation. πŸ™‚

The biggest challenge on Kauai is matching up a great resort with a great swimming beach. So, we thought for the afternoon we’d jump in the rental car and check out some beaches on the west side, and if we found a great one, we’re return the next day for a beach day.

On previous trips, we drove all the way to Ke’e Beach – my “ideal” tropical beach – this is what I dreamed of before I ever stepped foot in the tropics and it didn’t disappoint. To get there, you have to drive through Hanalei (remember “Puff the Magic Dragon”) and continue until the road ends and the Na Pali coast begins (pictured at left).

If you haven’t see this, you must. We chose not to on this trip. We headed for some of the beaches on the west we had not seen before. We enjoyed the drive, stopped at a few beaches along the way and were pleasantly surprised by Salt Pond.

One of the stops on the west side of the island – on the way to Salt Pond Beach.

Salt Pond Beachvery Caribbean in look and feel

We had spent so much time in the pool that morning that we hadn’t thought to bring our swimsuits and sunscreen, but when we saw this beach, we wish we had. We waded in wearing our shorts, and it was so fabulous, we made plans to return the next day fully prepared to stay all day – our last full day.

Hawaii Part 8: Tidepools

This is the stock photo of Tidepools at the Grand Hyatt Kauai. Last time we dined here twice – fabulous setting, fabulous service, and fabulous food.Β  So, naturally, we chose to celebrate Rich’s birthday dinner here.

I called down ahead to say that it was Rich’s birthday and to request a waterside table. Well, they said they couldn’t guarantee one, but we could wait for one when we arrived for our reservation. Okay, so we’re not at a Disney resort.

There were two ways to get to Tidepools: (1) down the long hallways through the inside of the resort or (2) from the beach and the grounds. We chose the latter, strolling hand-in-hand along the tropical pathway lit by tiki torches with the thunder of surf crashing on the shore. Ah… give me a moment… πŸ™‚

Some remnants from Hurricane Felicia were expected to sweep the island over the next twenty-four hours, and walking the path way on the way to Tidepools did a number on my hair (grin), but the winds cooled us off a bit from the accumulating humidity. We had a few sprinkles, but not enough to close up the shutters on the restaurant.

When we arrived, a waterside table was almost ready so the wait was practically nonexistent. We were invited to wait in the bar, but as soon as we sat down in chairs outside the bar, we were escorted to our table.

The photo below shows the view from our table. Our waiter was friendly and very good/good enough, but not as spectacular as our previous trip.

Here’s what we ordered:

Appetizer (shared):

AHI SASHIMI – Hawaiian Hearts of Palm, Beets, Shiso, White Soy, Yuzu, Habanero Sauce

Entree (Rich):

WASABI CRUSTED AHI – Coconut Jasmine Rice, Shiitake Mushrooms, Asparagus, Asian Pear, Plum Wine Sauce

Entree (Kathy):

MACADAMIA NUT CRUSTED MAHIMAHI STUFFED WITH CRABMEAT – Yukon Mashed Potatoes, Broccolini, Roasted Banana Butter Sauce

Dessert (shared):

BANANAS FOSTER BREAD PUDDING – Brownie Bits, Caramel Sauce, CrΓ¨me Anglaise

We don’t normally enjoy bread pudding but we do love bananas foster and this dessert seemed like the best one on the menu. It was AWESOME!

We each paired a wine with our entree and our server was helpful with his recommendations, but we have no clue what we ordered – too caught up in eveything else, I guess. And too swept away to write anything down.

We’re also getting it confused with our anniversary meal at Bellagio, which we’ll write up later. πŸ™‚ So important to get everything down before we forget the details entirely.

Koi were splashing around in a big huddle while we were dining – maybe there was some food bubbling up from underground? They weren’t interested in what we were doing at all.

It was really a wonderful meal, and one of our favorite settings we’ve ever experienced. Rich forgot all about turning the big XX.

We finished off the night by romantically strolling back to our room along the tiki-lit pathway (yes, we love tiki torches), through the beautiful grounds, and along the beach.

A perfect birthday evening.

Hawaii Part 7: Couples Massage

We hadn’t done the spa last the time we stayed at the Grand Hyatt – maybe because on our honeymoon we had been at one of the best spas in the world at the Grand Wailea on Maui so this spa didn’t look as good to us. We aren’t quite as spoiled now, and what this spa has that many others don’t are outdoor Hales with open-air treatment rooms.

After we were led to our separate locker rooms where we each enjoyed the outdoor rock shower, we put on our robe and slippers and were then brought out to this Hale and sipped some delicious mango-flavored iced tea and just relaxed before our duo massages. I could have spent a week in this spot – it was Heavenly – I used this word a lot on this trip.

Then our therapists arrived to lead us to the massage tables and left the room discreetly while we disrobed and got underneath the sheets. One side of this Hale had open doors, so it felt a bit freaky being totally nude outside. πŸ™‚

Once we were tucked underneath the sheets, our therapists came in and started our wonderfully, relaxing massages. The massage cream was particularly amazing – must get some of that for home. My moisture-starved desert skin was soaking this up and loving it.

The 50 minutes sped by all too quickly, and we were allowed to privately get up, put on our robes, and then were escorted back to the waiting Hale for more relaxation and liquids – totally necessary after any massage. We’ve had several couples’ massages and this was the best setting yet. Next, we’ll try to do one of those on-the-beach massages you see – maybe on a Disney cruise.

Next on our agenda: rest up for birthday dinner at Tidepools.