Today we leave the ship for the last time. The day starts early as we need to meet our excursion group at 8:50. We need to get all final items packed and ready to go.
We got all our stuff packed and went in search of breakfast at the only game in town…the buffet. We got there and our worst fears were realized. Everyone was getting breakfast there this morning. We hunted for a table, finally waiting for other folks to finish so we could glom their table and went one at a time to the buffet. To their credit, they were able to keep things well stocked. I managed an omelet with bacon. Cheryl opted for the scrambled eggs. Breakfast finished we went back to the room to get our carry-on things and headed to the meeting point for our excursion. We were to meet in the Mardi Gras Nightclub.
When we got there, there were a lot of people, but not overwhelming. One by one the various excursions were called to exit the ship. Finally, our group was called. We disembarked the ship onto the dock and into a large building. There were groups of luggage around the room. We needed to find the group marked Tours and find our luggage. That was not too difficult. We were then led to an area of the floor where our tour would wait to be called to the bus.
Time passed. Once or twice we were asked “Which group are you?”. Doesn’t give us a lot of confidence. Eventually our group was led to our bus. There were only about 12 folks in our group, so we had a small bus. The guide/driver took our suitcases and let us carry our small bags. There was not a lot of room in the overhead racks of the bus, but since it wasn’t full, we all piled our carry-ons onto spare seats. No problem. We were on our way.
We had expected to go directly to Pearl Harbor, but our driver said he was going to drive around Honolulu a bit and show us the city. We first drove to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. We were told to think of this as Arlington National Cemetery of the Pacific. There is a long entryway into the cemetery, flanked on either side by grave markers. Here they used stone markers flat to the ground rather than the wooden crosses used at Arlington. This is because of a problem they were having with termites. The entry drive is also lined with 48 banyan trees, one for each of the 48 states at the time. In 1959 they decided not to add two additional trees for Alaska and Hawaii to maintain the symmetry. We were told that two of the notable people at this cemetery are Ernie Pyle (noted WWII Columnist) and Ellison Onizuka (Hawaiian born mission specialist lost in the Challenger disaster).
Leaving the cemetery, our next point of interest was the State Capitol building. The state capitol building is a large building which houses the governor, lieutenant governor and offices for all of the state legislators. It is an open-air building with eight columns on each side, these columns represent the eight major islands of Hawaii, and are designed to resemble royal palm trees. Behind the capitol building are the castle and other buildings which were the buildings of the monarchy that was replaced when Hawaii became a state. The capitol building was opened in 1969 and replaced the former statehouse, the Iolani Palace, which was our next stop. Both of these buildings would be very familiar to fans of the original Hawaii 5-0 TV series. The statehouse was the statehouse in the series (aren’t they creative) and the Iolani Palace was used as the building which housed the 5-0 team.
After passing the palace, we headed for Pearl Harbor. Along the way our guide was telling about and pointing out various parts of the city. About 30 minutes later we were at our destination. We got out of the bus and headed as a group into the grounds. At the site called Pearl Harbor, there are two main attractions, the USS Missouri and the USS Arizona Memorial. Our guide brought us tickets to see both. The tickets for the Arizona were timed at 2:15, so it was suggested to go to see the USS Missouri first, as we would be leaving the site at about 3:30.
There was a shuttle bus to the site of the Missouri. We got in line when it started to rain. It was still sunny, but it was raining. As it started to rain harder, we boarded the shuttle bus. By the time we arrived at the Missouri the rain had stopped. It is amazing how quickly you dry off when it is about 95 degrees outside. Cheryl and I boarded the Missouri and opted for the guided tour. We were told there was an audio tour, but when we got there there wasn’t one.
A quick history lesson. The USS Missouri was commissioned in 1944 and was quickly put into action in the Pacific. It’s most noteworthy accomplishment was that it was the ship used to sign the final peace agreement ending WWII. In the 60s it was mothballed, then recommissioned in the 80s. It was used during Desert Storm. In 1996 it was decommissioned again. In 1999 it was moved to Pearl Harbor and opened as a museum. There is a nice display at the spot where the peace treaty was signed. Pictures show who was there, and where they were standing. There are replicas of the documents and a replica of one of the 8 pens used by General MacArthur to sign. An interesting note. There were a number of countries represented at the signing, and each signed the document. The signature lines were all in a column with the country name below the line. When it came time for Canada to sign, the representative signed the wrong line. Everyone after him continued to sign on the wrong lines. Some corrections and initialing were required and the document was completed. Oh Canada!
Elsewhere on the ship there are points of interest including some dents where a kamikaze pilot crashed into the side of the ship (one of the crew members happened to snap a picture just as the plane was about to hit). There is also a basketball hoop which reads Harlem Globetrotters where they were once on board. After the guided tour, I decided I wanted to explore and go to the navigation tower, another three levels above the main deck. If you’ve ever seen a movie aboard a destroyer, you know those staircases are not real easy to navigate. Cheryl decided to stay on the main deck. I climbed to the top. The navigation deck was made up mostly of the command center with a few observation stations on the side. Inside the command center was a number of stations with multiple screens in front of them around the perimeter of the center. One of the stations had a panel with lots of buttons. I was looking at it and was asked not to touch any of the buttons (ya think!). In the middle of the command center was a blue seat with arms on a pedestal. It looked very similar to the bridge of the Enterprise.
Once I came down (slowly) I met Cheryl and we headed off the ship to the shuttle bus back to the main area. We waited for a few minutes in a bus waiting area, just long enough for me to get a hot dog and drink. Very good place for a food truck. The bus came and in a short time we were back at the main area. We had a little time for Cheryl to get a quick sandwich and to look at the beginning of an exhibit on the lead up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Finally, the time came, and we got in line to go to the USS Arizona. We were led into a theater for a 30-minute movie. It gave a timeline type presentation of the attack and aftermath. Leaving the theater, we boarded a boat for a 5 minute ride out to the memorial. The USS Arizona memorial is a relatively small building built over the sunken remains of the Arizona. At the time of the attack, the Arizona was carrying a large load of munitions and took a direct hit from a Japanese plane. It exploded and sank in minutes killing 1177 servicemen, 900 of which were never recovered from inside the ship. Inside the memorial is a diagram of the Arizona and where the memorial sits above it. From the memorial, you can see a few parts of the ship above the water and see the outline in the water when looking down. At the rear of the memorial is a wall with the names of all 1177 who died on that day. There are also areas with the names of survivors who have since passed away. Many of these people have been interred in the ship with their shipmates. For the most part, you can hear a pin drop throughout the memorial.
After a short time, we headed to the boat for the return trip. It was now time to head to the bus and the trip to our hotel. We boarded the bus made sure we were all here and started the trip. Originally the bus was supposed to go to the Hilton Hawaiian Village and let everyone off there. Our guide said that he was used to a larger crowd and so he would take everyone to their hotel. Very nice. We arrived at the Hilton, got our room in the Rainbow Tower on the 29th floor. The Rainbow Tower is one of 8 towers on the property. After we settled in, we decided to wander around and get dinner. We chose a pizza place on the property that we had been at at the beginning of our trip. I once again had the Maui Waui Pizza. Sweet and tangy sauce with ham peppers pineapple onions and probably a few other things. Cheryl had a mushroom pizza (how ordinary). Dinner finished we strolled around the shopping area, visited a dress shop then returned to our room. We had a long day coming tomorrow.
Tomorrow: Our flight home.