Our Honeymoon was a 2 centre holiday, with a week in Vegas, followed by a week in the more tranquil setting of Hawaii.
We stayed at the Bellagio Hotel which is arguably the most elegant and luxurious hotel/casino on the strip. Our room overlooked the famous Bellagio fountains from an excellent vantage point of the 22nd floor. This gave us an excellent view across, up and down the strip and we were delighted (it really does pay to mention you’re on your honeymoon when checking in here!).
The fountains perform every 15 minutes and started up as soon as we were in the room. They were spectacular. You can’t really tell from photographs but they really do perform to the music. Mind you, at a cost of $52 million dollars, they ought to.
Being in Vegas, we of course had a mission to gamble in every hotel on the Strip. And so the pockets were duly filled with nickels each day, which we duly lost (now you didn’t think we wanted to lose serious money did you!). The ulterior motive to this was to visit every hotel to take a good nose around. It really is amazing how much money these guys spend on their hotels and the surrounding entertainment/shopping complexes. The Venetian hotel for example has a complete indoor shopping mall attached to it with a huge assortment of up market shops and restaurants, all themed in a Venice type atmosphere (even the Gondolas are here!). I hope they appreciated our daily gambling contribution of…. oooh, I’d say about a dollar fifty.
We went to see a couple of shows while we were here. ‘O’ by Cirque du Soleil is performed in a purpose built theatre within the Bellagio. The whole performance is done underwater and it is absolutely amazing. Just what you would expect from the Vegas arm of Cirque du Soleil. We also saw Lance Burton (Magician). He was average.
No honeymoon in Vegas would be complete without a helicopter ride into the depths of the Grand Canyon . Although spectacular, we did agree that we were not at the most spectacular part of the Canyon (which is at the opposite end from Vegas and so not the most commonly visited from here), and we would like to do it again from the other end at some point in the future.
There are 4 islands of Hawaii and we decided to go for Oahu as our destination as Linda particularly wanted to see the Pearl Harbour museums and memorial.
We stayed at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel which was one of the first hotels to be built at Waikiki Beach over 100 years ago. It is known as the Pink Palace of the Pacific, as it is, and always has been, pink! We were given the traditional Hawaiian welcome of Flower Leis around our necks and also, due to our status, a bottle of bubbly was brought up to our room. We of course opened this immediately to help us relax on our balcony overlooking the Pacific Ocean (with the odd palm tree in sight of course).
Having seen the epic film "Pearl Harbor" a trip to the actual location was obligatory. To be honest the experience was a little underwhelming as, despite the museums and memorial, there was very little sense of history. This is, after all, still a working naval base. However the USS Arizona Memorial is a touching tribute to the 2,390 people who died in the attack on Pearl Harbour. Also on the same site are the Battleship Missouri, which is the ship on board which the japanese formally surrendered to the US at the end of WWII and the USS Bowfin submarine. Both are worth a look around especially if you're interested in things nautical though it helps to be fairly agile when negotiating the hatches inside the submarine!
Polynesian Cultural Centre
They say that no visit to Hawaii is complete without a experiencing a Luau, and we heard that one of the best on the island was at the Polynesian Cultural Centre. This is a park that opens around midday and has various areas representing each island within Polynesia. Hawaii, Samoa, Aotearoa (Maori New Zealand), Fiji, the Marquesas, Tahiti, and Tonga are all represented with interesting exhibits and demonstrations. Samoa was our first destination and the show that they put on was awesome. The majority of the people who work here are students who have come from their home countries to study within Hawaii . They have their keep paid in exchange for some of their time at the centre.
After an afternoon soaking up all the Polynesian culture, guests are invited to the Luau at which entertainment is provided while guests help themselves from a comprehensive buffet with a number of Polynesian specials. The poi bread was very nice, the purple colour made it look appealing, we had tried raw poi (ground taro roots) earlier in the day and not really though much of it.
After the meal, all guests are routed to the main entertainment of the night, Horizons: Where the Sea meets the Sky. This is a spectacular demonstration of Hawaiian dancing, music, drums, spear throwing and generally playing with fire in the most inadvisable way! It is quite a long show, with an interval when fruit and ice cream is brought round served in half pineapples. The whole day was an experience we were glad we took part in.
As you may have read in previous holiday posts, we love our shopping. We had tried to find somewhere to shop around Vegas but, without having a car it was a little difficult to take a look around the area (we got a taxi to the mall, but that proved fruitless).
Thankfully, although Oahu is quite a small island, they do follow the American tradition of the outlet centres and, with directions provided by the Hotel information centre, we were on our way to Waikele. We were not to be disappointed here and stocked up with the usual “stash”.
Allegedly the most famous volcanic crater in the world, Diamond Head was invitingly visible from our hotel balcony and with a spare day with nothing planned, we decided to take a look. The guide book advised water to be taken with us and this proved invaluable advice. It’s a very long trek (just short of an hour) to the top of the crater and it was very hot with very little shade (though whenever we found some, we did take a break from the searing heat). Just as we though we were nearing the summit, we were greeted with the final challenge 175 steep steps with only a 225 foot unlit (read pitch dark) tunnel as a break on the way! An old army command post with an observation deck at the top was constructed here in 1910 and this is still very much in evidence.
Dole Pineapple Plantation
This was a complete disappointment. A mini train ride through fields where, although we were told pineapples were growing, we could see no evidence of this. If ever there was an overrated tourist attraction, this is it.
Waimea beach and Haleiwa
The only good thing to come out of our visit to Dole was the fact that we still had half a day to spare. As we were already half way across the island, we headed for the north coast of Hawaii where the best waves are reputed to be. We headed to the beach of Waimea, where as luck would have it, a major surfing competition was in progress. We watched this for a while as it was quite entertaining and free cold drinks were being freely given out by the sponsor “Mountain Dew”.
After we were all “surfed out” we headed back to the main road which took us through the village of Haleiwa . This has a number of small shops and restaurants and we stopped for a while to check it out. We came across a small glass works where we spent a fortune on a dolphin ornament which they dismantled and very carefully wrapped for us for the journey home in our suitcase (though we were assured that should any breakage occur, they would make a replacement part free of charge). We saw some much larger ones that we liked too but would have needed a third mortgage for any of these.
We searched hi and low for Hawaiian shirts and dresses and although they were abundant in the tourist areas, the quality was not at all good. We came across reference to a shop by the name of Hilo Hattie in our guide book and decided to investigate. This place was stacked high with Hawaiian gear of all sorts, in all prices and we spent a couple of hours finding the likely candidates to be taken home as part of our “stash”. Suffice it to say that none of the garments we purchased here have yet made it out of the wardrobe, but one day we’re sure the opportunity will present itself!