Saturday, February 24, 2007

I Must Be In the Front Row!!!

I have not met my goal of trying to post more often since my vacation, and the prime example of that is the details of the trip.

So in the spirit of B.O.B. and Nick, who are both posting things to remind themselves of weather unlike our own, I thought it was high time to relive the trip.

Now keep in mind, I don't get to travel as much as I would like. I really, really enjoy travelling, and don't have much of the opportunity or the means as I would like. So to say that I was looking forward to the trip, well, that would be a gross understatement.

The itinerary was as follows: Leave Milwaukee at 9:15 on Saturday for a flight of about an hour and fifteen minutes to Minneapolis. About an hour layover in Minny, where we board an EIGHT and a half hour flight to Honolulu. There, we have a two hour layover before a half hour flight to Lihue, on Kauai island. A shuttle to the hotel put us in the room at 8pm Hawaii time, or midnight on the internal clock.

Fifteen hours of travel, mostly in the air would wear you out pretty good..... except we flew first class bitches!!! I kid, of course... but if you ever have the chance at first class, take it. We flew Northwest out there, and despite SkyDork telling me that his airline has the best first class - I was super impressed with Northwest. As with any first class, they offer drinks before takeoff ( I had a Heineken at 9am ), and the seats are large and comfy. They didn't do food on the flight to Minny - but I wasn't going to complain for the hour flight.

But now imagine my surprise when we boarded the flight from Minny to Hawaii. We're still flying Northwest at this point, but the seats are bigger, there's a personal TV screen on your seat, and they have more reclining options. Now we're talking! Mai Tai's for the pre-flight drink, and they asked us if we'd like chicken, steak, or fish to eat. Before they even got to the main course, we had soup and salad - then they brought the steak. We were so busy eating the very good food, I didn't even have a chance to browse the 30 or so movies they had on-demand on my TV. After dessert ( cake and fruit ), I finally plugged into the TV and watched The Incredibles. I was about halfway through that, when they brought out cold cuts and bread, so you could make your own sandwiches. I love me some first class.

Oh, did I mention the free drinks the whole time? I hope I win the lottery some day.

After arriving at the hotel, it was dark and we were pretty tired, so we didn't do much. We did venture down to the beach ( it was about 70 degrees that night there ), and wandered over to a beach side restaurant called Duke's that was attached to the resort. The first choice for food there turned out to be the best one. Great atmosphere, and really good food too.

The next morning gave us our first look at the resort in the daytime. Wow. We stayed at the Marriott Resort in Lihue, and it exceeded every expectation I had. The resort was large, but not too big. Although, something that amused me was the room numbering system. When we checked in, they gave us all the paperwork and room keys. They told us we'd be staying in room 1709. I got exciting, thinking we'd be on the 17th floor, and would have one of the best views around. We got to the elevator and noticed that the first button started with 15. Thinking they were dedicated elevators, I didn't question it until I hit 17, and the ride lasted about 4 seconds. Turns out we were on the third floor ( of 7 in our 'building ). I never asked why they number it that way. The hotel does boast the largest outdoor pool in Hawaii. There's about 5 restaurants on site, and everything is landscaped to perfection. One of the things that struck me about the resort, and many other places in Hawaii, was that almost everything is open air. The airport had no windows - just open spaces where windows would be. The resort, had no doors from outside areas to common hallways. The entrance, no doors - just a big open area under the roof that stuck out, leading into the lobby. I suppose when everyday is 78 during the day, and 70 degrees at night, you can get away with that.

Sunday saw the conference championships for the NFL, and due to the time difference, the games were on EARLY. It's got to be weird living there, and rooting for your favorite team when they kickoff at 8am. Because it was the playoffs, they didn't kick off that early, but it was still afternoon when I was watching the Colts Pats game. I sent Nort a text message following a good play, and he responded with a message of disbelief that I would be watching the game on my vacation. I called him to let him know that I was watching the game in 75 degree weather, with the ocean 150 feet to my right, a huge pool 75 feet to my left, and 10 feet in front of me, behind the bar was a 60 inch flat screen HD TV. Not a bad spot to watch a game. In fact, almost beats being AT the game.

The next few days consisted of sitting at the beach, playing in the ocean, playing catch on the beach, eating at the beach, boogie boarding in the ocean, drinking on the beach, reading on the beach, walking on the beach, and more lounging on the beach. Guess where we spent most of our time while the sun was up? It sounds rough I know, but the sun would really wear you out. Getting to the beach around 9:30, and by 2-2:30 you'd feel tired. I mean, a lifestyle I'd get used to for sure, but I didn't expect that part.

Most of the evenings were spent at the various restaurants or bar areas of the resort. Again with the open air theme, the sushi bar was on the walkway on the second floor of the resort, and there was a poolside restaurant that we tried out. We hit up Duke's a couple more times. We also wandered to the outskirt of the city, and checked out the shops outside the resort. When people tell you that things are expensive in Hawaii, they're not kidding. Robyn saw about 347 pieces of jewelry that we couldn't afford, but we picked up the requisite photo album, shell necklace, and t-shirt. We had the tourist thing down pat. We hit one of the 5 hot tubs that surrounded the pool one night, and Robyn got to do a hula dance another evening. The last night we were there, we went and watched a torch lighting ceremony that was pretty neat to watch.

One of the things I did for me out there was to go hit nine holes of golf. I was able to do this the last day. I hit the Lagoons of Kauai Lagoons course, about a ten minute walk from the hotel. This was by far the best course I have ever played in my life. Now, that's not saying too much, but it can't get much better than this. Not only was the temperature perfect, the lush grass made for a perfect course. Even I hit the ball well on this course. At some point in the next 10-15 years, all my guy friends have to pony up for a week in Hawaii for nothing but golf. It was that good. I even had to call Nort from the course, not to brag about where I was at the moment, and how well I was shooting, but to tell him to start saving up for that trip. Again, if I could just win the lottery.

Quite an excellent vacation. Like any other, it went way too fast. And I'm sure it will be a long time before I get to go back - but I will go back. I'd still like to learn how to surf, and I didn't go scuba diving while I was out there. But I wouldn't have changed the vacation one bit. Everything was amazing. We even talked with some of the locals that worked at Duke's about how perfect the island was... to which one of the girls said that she couldn't wait to get off "this rock". We tried to explain that one alternative to the rock was living in a Wisconsin winter, but to no avail. She was determined to leave, at least to go to Honolulu, where she'd never been. It was so perfect for us, it was interesting to see someone with the perspective that it's not paradise. Must be rough to live there, I'm convinced she was dropped on her head at some point.

I try not to set the bar very high on expectations for things, and try to take them as they come. Everything about this trip exceeded even the lofty expectations I put on it. I didn't want to set the bar that high, but I was so excited about going, it just kinda happened. So imagine how good it was if everything was better than I thought it would be.

Well, everything EXCEPT the return flight. As I mentioned, Sky Dork flies for an airline ( and as I said in a previous post, it rhymes with "Fontinential" ), and he assured me that his airline has the BEST first class service around. So much so, that when it's review time for the airlines, his airline really only cares about how they score for first class in relation to the other airlines. He told me about the seats, the service I'll get from the flight attendants, the personal TV screens, the food choices ( lobster or steak ), and a host of other things. Well, we flew this airline back from Honolulu to Los Angeles.

I'm NOT impressed. Now, granted, it was the overnight flight ( we left at 9pm, arriving in LAX at 5am ) - but Northwest was better by leaps and bounds. The seats were just as big, but didn't have the same recline options, or recline as far back. The food? A cheeseburger that could be generously described as 'microwaved'. That was it. No salad, no snacks, a microwaved burger with fake cheese on it. The TVs? Sure it was a personal TV screen, but if you wanted to watch a movie, you'd pick it from the list provided in the in-flight magazine. Trouble was, they were all on VHS loop - so you couldn't start the movie when you wanted. The loop restarted every 2 and a half hours, so you could watch it then if you wanted, or catch the movie in progress. The movie Robyn wanted to watch was so static laden, she gave up after a half hour.

Now I'm sure it was still a better experience than the coach class, but Lee had set the bar WAY up there. Northwest did such a good job with first class, and Lee had me convinced that his airline would be even better. He tried to explain my experience by saying that he found out that the Hawaii flight is technically a 'domestic' flight, and the super first class experience is what he sees on his international flights. This may be true, but if I ever have to go anywhere domestically, and have the opportunity, I'll take Northwest first class.

But now we've been back for a bit, and resumed the daily rat race. Tomorrow's portion of the rat race includes shoveling an ass load of snow from the weather gods. Maybe tonight wasn't the best time to talk about my trip.... I want to go back.


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