A Travellerspoint blog

Hawaii Revisited-An Night in Wailea

An Night to Remember visiting the Resorts of Wailea, Maui

The drive to the Wailea area of the island of Maui did not take long. Our first stop for a site inspection and cocktails was the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. This oceanfront luxury hotel is adjacent to Wailea and Ulua beaches, and is just steps from the Shops at Wailea. The resort manager met us as we exited our transport and gave us a personal tour of the resort. The resort's oceanfront setting with its new infinity-edge pool and overwater cabanas offered panoramic views of the ocean. The resort grounds were beautiful and the open lobby was very attractive. There were lots of shops and plenty of meeting rooms. The resort's Mandara Spa offered an extensive list of services and signature spa treatments. The hotel guest rooms had plenty of upscale amenities and the on-site dining options included a nightly luau dinner show, snack bar and the Kumu Bar & Grill with locally inspired cuisine.

Wailea Beach Marriott Maui

Beautiful old trees and pond at the Marriott

Open air lobby with Shops at the Marriott

Marriott Pool Deck

More Marriott Pools

Marriott resort grounds

Wailea Marriott guest room

After a tour of the resort, the Manager of the Marriott lead us past the pool deck to a sprawling lawn next to the ocean where a sunset cocktail reception had been prepared. Our group was greeted by waiters with trays of appetizers, cocktails and wine. My fellow planners and I sat at small tables on the lawn and took in the gorgeous sunset. The breeze off the ocean cooled us all after our long walk around the resort and I thought to myself that there could not have been a more spectacular view in all the world right then.

Grand lawn at the Wailea Beach Marriott

Progressive Reception site at the Marriott

Fantastic sunset at the Wailea Marriott

After a relaxed Reception at the Marriott we moved on to our next destination, the Grand Wailea Resort, a short walk down the beach. The Grand Wailea is as grand as its name. A huge stunningly beautiful property, this resort has just about everything you could think of including a lovely Wedding Chapel on site. This resort covered 40 landscaped acres, right on the beach and offers 780 elegantly appointed guest rooms and suites as well as 70 luxury villas. We got quite a workout walking around this resort, but the beautiful scenery was well worth the effort.

Grand Wailea Resort, Maui

Stunning Grand Wailea resort grounds

Grand Wailea on site Wedding Chapel

Grand Wailea resort lobby


Grand Wailea Resort Guest room

The Grand Waliea knows how to throw a party. After our extensive tour of the resort, we were lead to the site of an outdoor dinner and show. Colorful tables and booths were set up with a wonderful selection of food of every taste and description. Although I was far from hungry by this time, I had to "sample" everything. Oh my goodness, the food was excellent! During dinner we were treated to a show featuring Hawaiian dancers and music. With so much walking and so much food and drink, we were all starting to droop in our chairs. The staff was wonderful and took care of our every need and as evening turned into night we were more than ready to head back to our hotel and to bed. But of course, we still had one more stop before we could sleep.

Booths set up for our Dinner and Show at the Grand Wailea

Awesome Hawaiian Show at the Grand Wailea

The final stop for our Progressive Reception and Dinner was the Fairmont Kea Lani where we were treated to drinks, coffee and dessert. The Fairmont is another beautiful property, but it was difficult to appreciate it in the dark. We were lead on a tour around the resort and then served dessert in one of the private dining rooms. I wish I had had the energy to take in the Fairmont’s amenities, but by that time, all I wanted to see was my bed. One day I hope to go back there for a more thorough tour of the property.

Fairmont Kea Lani

Fairmont Kea Lani Lobby

Fairmont Kea Lani grounds

Fairmont Kea Lani one bedroom suite

The ride back to the Sheraton was very quiet. Everyone was nodding off and talking was nonexistent. We had had such a marvelous evening. Each resort was lovely and the food and entertainment were all wonderful. I had taken lots of photos that I knew would be helpful when I got home. The island of Maui has so much to offer and this experience had taught me a lot about its resorts, people and the culture. There was still more to see and learn ahead. I could not believe that I had only been in Hawaii for 2 days! With a good night sleep I knew I would be up for seeing more of our wonderful 50th state.

Coming up, one more day on Maui and then it's on to the island of Kauai! To be continued.........

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.

Posted by Gerriv 07:25 Comments (2)

Hawaii Revisited-Discovering Maui

A Visitors View of the Best Of Maui Resorts and Hotels

The day after my arrival on the island of Maui in the Hawaiian Islands I woke very early feeling wonderful after a good night’s sleep. The sun was just coming up so I decided to make a cup of coffee and enjoy it on my balcony before meeting my fellow planners for breakfast. It was a gorgeous day.

Early morning view of the beach from my balcony

Early risers walking on the beach

Resort View from balcony

A quick look at the days scheduled events showed that it would be a long day of meetings and site visits, so I dressed in comfortable clothes and shoes and headed down to breakfast. A special dining area had been arranged for our group of planners and travel agents in the main conference area of the resort. As I approached our room I saw an omelet station set up outside where a Chef was making eggs cooked to order. Inside our meeting room there were tables set up with everything you could imagine to eat for breakfast including some of the most delicious looking and tasting fruit that I had ever seen. I filled my plate and sat down with several planners that I had not met the night before. Everyone commented on how good the food was and we all feared that we would go home a lot heavier than we arrived if we were not careful.

A short time later the Maui Convention and Visitor Bureau made a presentation describing the history and culture of Hawaii and the island of Maui.

Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands at 727.2 square miles and is the 17th largest island in the United States. In 2010, Maui had a population of 154,834, third-most populous of the Hawaiian islands, behind that of Oahu and Hawaii. Kahului is the largest town on the island with a population of 20,146. Wailuku is the seat of Maui County. Polynesians, from Tahiti and the Marquesas, were the original peoples to populate Maui. The Tahitians introduced the kapu system, a strict social order that affected all aspects of life and became the core of Hawaiian culture. Modern Hawaiian history began in the mid-18th century when King Kamehameha I, king of Hawaii's "Big Island," invaded Maui in 1790 and fought the Battle of Kepaniwai. The King finally conquered Maui a few years later.

The first European to visit Maui was the French admiral Jean-François de La Pérouse, who landed on the shores of what is now known as La Perouse Bay on May 29, 1786. More Europeans followed, among them were traders, whalers, loggers and missionaries. The missionaries taught reading and writing, created the 12-letter Hawaiian alphabet, started a printing press in Lahaina, and began writing the islands' history, which until then was transmitted orally. The missionaries both altered and preserved the native culture. The religious work altered the culture while the literacy efforts preserved native history and language. Missionaries started the first school in Lahaina, which still exists today: Lahainaluna Mission School, which opened in 1831.

The big tourist areas in Maui are the Hāna Highway, Haleakalā National Park, and Lahaina. The Hāna Highway runs along the east coast of Maui, curving around many mountains and passing by black sand beaches and waterfalls. Haleakalā National Park is home to Haleakalā, a dormant volcano. Lahaina is one of the main attractions on the island with an entire street of shops and restaurants which lead to a wharf where many people set out for a sunset cruise or whale watching adventure. Snorkeling is very popular and can be done at almost any beach along the Maui coast.

It was a very interesting and educational breakfast. It was clear to me that the residents of Maui are extremely proud of their history and culture and they welcome all visitors to experience it when they come. From breakfast we spent some time talking to different resort representatives before taking a short walk down the beach to the Westin Maui Resort for a Lunch and Pool Party event. The walk down the beach was a nice change from being indoors all morning. We passed several restaurants and shopping areas along the way. At the pool deck of the Westin we were greeted by the Manager of the resort who took us on a tour of the hotel before we sat down poolside for a fabulous lunch. The Westin is another beautiful property.

Balcony view of the Westin Resort Maui



Beach view from Westin hotel room

Standard hotel room at the Westin Maui

After lunch at the Westin we were given some free time to enjoy the beach or do some shopping. I chose to go back to the Sheraton and relax out of the sun. I took more photos of the resort pool and beach area before heading up to my room.



With the day almost over, the evening was just beginning. At 5:00pm we were all told to meet in the hotel lobby for a trip over to 3 different resorts in the Wailea area of the island for a Progressive Reception event. We would tour the Wailea Marriott, the Grand Wailea Resort and the Fairmont Kea Lani and enjoy food and drink at each one. It sounded like a fun evening and I could not wait to get started!

Next up, a night to remember in Wailea on the island of Maui. To be continued.......

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner, Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 10:43 Comments (2)

Hawaii Revisited-Maui & Kauai

A Return to the Hawaiian Islands brings Information and Enlightenment

My first visit to Hawaii and the island of Oahu was and wonderful 7 day vacation with my husband. My return to Hawaii on this trip was a solo sojourn for the purpose of seeing what the islands of Maui and Kauai had to offer. As a meeting planner and travel consultant for my company Meetings & Events Unlimited, it is often my responsibility to recommend a meeting or vacation destination to my clients. Before I make any recommendations on a destination, I always try to learn everything I can about that destination, including the hotels and accommodations, culture and activities available for visitors. With this responsibility in mind, I eagerly accepted an invitation from the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau and Successful Meetings Magazine to visit the islands of Maui and Kauai with other planners and travel consultants for a week on a Hawaii familiarization trip.

Two weeks after receiving the invite, I found myself on a American Airlines flight to Maui, Hawaii. After 10 hours of travel from Alabama, I met fellow planners at the Maui airport where we all became acquainted on the drive to our hotel. While I enjoyed the scenery and the conversation, I was beginning to feel the effects of the long trip. Upon finally arriving at our destination, I found my accommodations at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa on Ka’anapali Beach well worth the all effort it took to get there.

Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa

Located at the end of the beach at historic Pu'u Keka'a (Black Rock), the Sheraton Maui Resort has 23 oceanfront acres and the hotel is part of the Ka'anapali Beach Resort community which includes the Ka'anapali Golf Courses and Whaler’s Village Shops and Restaurants. The resort is located 45 minutes from Kahului Airport and is a short ten minute drive from historic Lahaina. Noting that our schedule for the rest of the day included an outdoor reception in less than 2 hours time, I immediately headed for my room right after checking in. My "room" turned out to be a lovely 2 room suite with a fantastic view of the resort grounds and the beach. The afternoon sun was starting to set so I got my camera out to record the gorgeous view and the amenities of my suite.


View from my balcony

After taking a short time to relax on my balcony, I changed clothes and headed downstairs to the outdoor area near the beach where the Welcome Reception was about to start. It was a lovely event! The weather was warm and there was a breeze off the ocean. Our hosts for our visit made sure that we all had a chance to relax with some great food, music and tropical drinks. I thoroughly enjoyed myself networking with my new friends. A couple of hours later, I found the long day catching up with me, so I decided to turn in for the night. My first day on the island of Maui ended with the sound of the ocean coming in from my open balcony door, lulling me to sleep. The next day we would explore several Maui hotels and resorts and find out from our hosts what made this island special. I was looking forward to it!

Welcome Reception preparations

Reception in full swing, a good time was had by all!

Next up, more of my visit to the island of Maui. To be continued.......

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner & Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited

Posted by Gerriv 13:33 Comments (0)

A Visit to Hawaii IV-Remembering Pearl Harbor

Touring a Shrine to American History

December 7, 1941 "a date which will live in infamy". That is how President Franklin D. Roosevelt described the day Japanese air and naval forces bombed Pearl Harbor, a US Naval base in Honolulu, Hawaii. The attack is frequently cited by Historians as a major turning point in World War II because it forced the United States to join the war effort against Japan and its allies. After Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, the majority of Americans thought the country should not intervene in World War II. This feeling fell in line with the policy of isolationism American leaders had implemented at that time.

The United States and other nations had placed trade embargoes on Japan to check its expansion, but toward the end of 1941, Japan had managed to capture key territories and oil resources in parts of Asia. America had refused to lift existing embargoes unless Japan left some of these territories, so Gen. Hideki Tojo secretly decided that Nov. 29 would be the last date Japan would accept a settlement with America to lift trade embargoes. When the date passed, Japan devised a plan to invade territories across Asia and the Pacific but was afraid of interference from the U.S. Pacific Fleet based in Pearl Harbor. Thus, they commenced the attack on the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor.

As a student of History at Auburn University, my major area of concentration was American History and in particular the World War II period of time. The bombing of Pearl Harbor had always fascinated me. I read everything I could about it and now that the country of Japan is a close friend and ally of the United States, there is much more information on Japan's point of view and decision making process available to history lovers like me. It was therefore, with a great deal of anticipation and excitement, that I looked forward to my visit to Pearl Harbor on the last day of our Hawaii vacation.

Photo of the USS Arizona which suffered a direct hit during the Bombing

My husband and I decided to rent a car for the day so that we could take our time touring Pearl Harbor and all of the historic sites there, including the USS Arizona memorial. We arrived at Pearl Harbor early in the day and purchased tickets to the museums and the USS Arizona Memorial. There is much to see at Pearl Harbor, too much to see in a day but we would do the best we could. For information on the tour, see the following link:

Pearl Harbor Tour Website

Entering the facility we were told that it was best to start our tour with a short film containing actual footage of the bombing and its aftermath from 1941. From there we would board a shuttle that would take us out to the USS Arizona Memorial site. The film did not start for another 30 minutes, so Reginald and I decided to visit one of the museums. It was a very interesting exhibit containing battleship models and war memorabilia.



Before we knew it, it was time to get in line for the film and trip to the Arizona Memorial. The line to get inside the theater was not all that long and in no time we were seated close to the front where we had a great view of the movie screen. As the film began to roll, I was immediately transported back in time to circa 1940 and 1941 watching the people and events that lead to World War II and the attack on Pearl Harbor. I was amazed at the footage of the actual bombing and the terrifying aftermath. The numbers of injured and killed during the event were staggering. Some 2,388 Americans died in the attack, 1,178 Americans were wounded and 21 American ships were sunk or damaged. It was a real shock to know that 1,177 Americans involved in the attack were serving on the USS Arizona which now lay at the bottom of the harbor with the bodies of all those that died aboard her still in entombed there. With these sobering images and thoughts in our minds, we boarded the shuttle to the USS Arizona Memorial after leaving the theater.

View of USS Arizona Berth at Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona Memorial site, sitting right over the submerged ship

Just before exiting the shuttle after the short ride to the Memorial, a US Park Service guide reminded us all that we would be entering "a church" and to treat the site with dignity and respect. Everyone on the shuttle, more than 50 people or so, heeded her words. You could hear a pin drop as we entered the facility. To say that I was moved beyond words is an understatement. The memory of looking out at the rusting hull of the once mighty war ship, knowing of the souls who still resided there under the waves is one that will remain with me forever.



Hull of the USS Arizona rising out of the water

The hull of the Arizona was so close under the water, I felt I could almost touch it with my fingers

The return trip from the Arizona Memorial was quiet, everyone seemed to be lost in their own thoughts. My husband and I stopped at the Visitor Center gift shop to buy some gifts to take home before heading back to our resort to begin packing for the trip home the next day. It had been a memorable day and a fine way to finish our trip to Hawaii. What can I say about my very first trip to Hawaii and the island of Oahu? The experience was more than I dreamed it could be. It was more than I could ask for and I will remember it always.

Next up, I make a return trip to the islands of Hawaii and learn more about Americas Islands of Paradise.

To be continued.......

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner & Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 07:42 Comments (2)

A Visit to Hawaii III-Oahu in A Day

A Circle the Island Tour of Oahu

With only a few days remaining of our 7 day vacation in Hawaii, my husband and I booked a tour called "Circle the Island" tour of Oahu. Our tour guides, a married couple in a passenger van picked us up at the resort early in the morning. Greeting us both with a Hawaiian Lei necklace, Patricia or Pat as she had us call her, explained that we would be a small group of 10 taking the tour. Leaving the resort we headed toward downtown Honolulu and ran smack into the remains of rush hour traffic, backed up from an earlier car accident. Since arriving on the island, I had been completely appalled at the huge amount of traffic running in and out of Honolulu every day. While it would have been more convenient to stay downtown to be close to all the tourist sites, I was happy to return to the peace and tranquility of our resort after a long day of sightseeing.

Finally moving on with the tour after picking up the rest of our tour group downtown, we headed out of Honolulu up into the mountains. The scenery was beautiful, becoming more green and lush with every passing mile. Our first stop of the day was the Nu'uanu Pali Lookout, a favorite stop among visitors to Oahu. The panoramic views of the Windward side of the island from this lookout point really blew me away in more ways than one. Located at Nuuanu Pali State Park, the lookout overlooks the 985-foot cliffs of the Koolau Mountain Range. The first thing I notice upon exiting the van was that it was extremely windy. The trade winds blow through the valley between the high mountains on either side, forming a strong wind tunnel of sorts. I really had to lean into the wind to get to the viewing spot but the view was well worth it.



Leaving the Lookout, we headed down toward the windward side of the island that we viewed from above. Our tour guides provided fascinating commentary all along the way. Our next stop was a beautiful spot called the Byodo-In Temple. The Buddhist Temple located on the Windward side of Oahu is a replica of the Byodo-in Temple in Uji, Japan. It was simply stunning. There were koi ponds, gardens, a 3 ton brass bell, and a 9 foot lotus Buddha statue inside the temple. We got to walk along the gardens and enter the temple itself to take in the peace and serenity of the site.




Walking out of the Temple, I headed over to the gift shop where I purchased a miniature gong shaped like a Dragon. I keep it on my family room mantel where I can see it and remember this lovely place. Around noon we stopped for lunch at an unusual place. Our guides found a "shrimp truck" where we stopped to sit outside and eat some delicious shrimp scampi and rice. It was a fun eating experience as you can see at this website:

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck

I have to admit that I went back for seconds, the food was so good. My husband teased me about that the rest of the day. The next stop on our tour was Laniakea beach or Lani’s is also referred to as “Turtle beach” because this natural sanctuary attracts so many of the endangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle or “Honu”. Since the year 2000 the turtles have been basking on the beach enjoying the warm sun rays, and the abundance of seaweed growing on the rocks which they feed on. On the right hand side of the beach is a small cove in which the turtles make their way in to the shore thru the channel, the large numbers of boulders and coral reef act as a deterrent to the turtles predator, tiger sharks. We took a few minutes to enjoy the crashing waves of the ocean and the sleeping turtles on the beach before moving on.

Laniakea Beach

The most enjoyable part of the day was the time we spent at Kualoa and the 125-acre Moliʻi Fishpond, one of Hawaii’s most well preserved ancient Hawaiian fishponds. We enjoyed a guided tour of the gardens and learned how ancient Hawaiians developed aquaculture and agricultural practices. Kualoa has been a prime Hawaii film location for TV series and movies. Kualoa has served as the backdrop for the TV show LOST, the original Hawaii Five-0, Jurassic Park, Godzilla and Fifty First Dates movies. Here is a video of what you will see:

Kualoa Ranch Video

It just so happened that the day of this tour was also our Wedding Anniversary. So the guides had some fun with Reginald and me doing a game show where we won a prize. It was so much fun!

Reggie & Me at Kualoa Ranch

Our final stop of the day was the Dole Pineapple Plantation. We were all pretty tired by then so we just looked around a little, bought a few souvenirs and then headed back to the van. It was a beautiful place. Soon enough we were headed back to our respective hotels. It had been a long day, but a wonderful one. I did not see everything there was to see on the island of Oahu, but what I did see, I loved!


Next up, a tour of Pearl Harbor and a journey through one of the United States darkest times in history.

Too be Continued........

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner & Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 10:02 Comments (0)

A Visit to Hawaii II-Honolulu & Waikiki Beach

Sightseeing on Waikiki Beach and Lunch at a Hawaiian Landmark

The world-famous Waikiki Beach is located on the south shore of Honolulu and was once a playground for Hawaiian royalty. Known in Hawaiian as "spouting waters," Waikiki was introduced to the world when its first hotel was built on its shores in 1901. Today, Waikiki is Oahu’s main hotel and resort area and an exciting gathering place for visitors from around the world. All along the main strip of Kalakaua Avenue one will find world-class shopping, dining, entertainment, activities and resorts. Reginald and I left the Ko Olina resort midmorning on a shuttle that dropped us off near the Royal Hawaiian Resort on Waikiki Beach. Built in 1927, the iconic Royal Hawaiian Resort, known as the "Pink Palace of the Pacific," is an exclusive destination known for luxury and romance with unbelievable panoramic views of Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach and the sparkling Pacific Ocean.

Waikiki Beach


The Royal Hawaiian Resort

Kalakaua Ave. in Waikiki

Walking along the busy streets in Waikiki we craned our necks looking at all of the high rise resort hotels, shops and restaurants along the way. The weather was warm and sunny with a nice breeze off the ocean. We finally stopped at the Waikiki Beach Walk development to do a little shopping and more sightseeing before heading back to the Royal Hawaiian for lunch. Our waiter showed us to a nice covered table out on the patio of the hotel restaurant where we had an excellent view of the beach and the imposing sight of Diamond Head Volcano in the background.




Diamond Head is a crater that has been extinct for 150,000 years. The crater is 3,520 feet in diameter with a 760-foot summit. When the United States annexed Hawaii in 1898, harbor defense became a primary responsibility, so one of the major defense forts, Fort Ruger, was built in the Diamond Head Crater. An observation deck was constructed at the summit in 1910 to provide target sighting and a four level underground complex was built within the walls of the crater as a command post. Today tourists often hike some 99 steps to the observation deck to take in the spectacular views of the entire west side of the island.

Knowing that the Royal Hawaiian would be our last stop of the day before catching the shuttle back to the Ko Olina Beach Club, my husband and I decided to indulge ourselves with some seriously large tropical cocktails and some appetizers. Taking the recommendations of our waiter, we ordered Garlic Shrimp and Garlic French Fries to go with our drinks (we really like garlic). Oh. My. God. Wonderful does not begin to describe our meal. The fresh perfectly cooked boiled shrimp and crispy shoestring fries were drizzled with melted butter and minced fresh garlic. It was to die for. We slowly sipped our drinks, ate our lunch and soaked up the astounding views of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head. It as a fabulous afternoon spent watching the surfers in the ocean and the families enjoying themselves on the beach.



Arriving back at our resort later that evening, we relaxed in our villa and reflected on the lovely day we spent in Waikiki. Oahu so far had been a delight and we were excited about doing the “Circle the Island Tour” we would be taking next day.

Coming up, exploring the island of Oahu, more garlic shrimp, giant sea turtles and famous movie and television film sets. To be continued........

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 08:24 Comments (0)

A Visit to Hawaii

The Island of Oahu, American History & Island Cultural Diversity

For most of my life, the state of Hawaii appeared to be a far away paradise filled with palm trees, sandy beaches and the home of Hawaii Five O and the Magnum PI television series. It was not until I studied World War II and the bombing of Pearl Harbor at Auburn University as a History Major that I realized what a huge part of America the Hawaii Islands really are. When my husband and I finally decided to take a resort vacation to that state, I did not hesitate to suggest our first trip be to the island of Oahu and the city of Honolulu, the location of Pearl Harbor.

The Hawaiian Islands are Americas 50th state and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It occupies most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of Australia. Hawaii has natural beauty, a warm tropical climate, inviting waters and active volcanoes. It is a popular destination for tourists, surfers, biologists, and volcanologists. Because of its mid-Pacific location, Hawaii has many North American and Asian influences along with its own native culture. Hawaii has over a million permanent residents along with many visitors and U.S. military personnel. Its capital is Honolulu on the island of Oahu.

Hawaii is one of four states that were independent prior to becoming part of the United States. The Kingdom of Hawaii was sovereign from 1810 until 1893 when the monarchy was overthrown by resident American and a few European businessmen. It was an independent republic from 1894 until 1898, when it was annexed by the United States as a territory, becoming a state in 1959. Hawaii was the target of a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by Imperial Japan on December 7, 1941. The attack on Pearl Harbor and other military and naval installations on Oahu, carried out by aircraft and by midget submarines brought the United States into World War II.

Our 7 day vacation on Oahu began with an 8 hour flight from Atlanta to the city of Honolulu. After several months on a waiting list, I was fortunate to secure our accommodations at the beautiful Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club, about 20 minutes away from downtown Honolulu. My husband and I arrived at the resort late in the evening after the long flight and we were anxious to get to our villa unit. Walking through the door we were very pleasantly surprised at the accommodations. Comfortably furnished and beautifully decorated, the 1 bedroom villa was everything we could ask for and I knew we would not miss the absence of an ocean view. Too tired to fully unpack, we decided to call it a night and start fresh in the morning.

Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club

Villa Kitchen and Dining area

Villa Living room

Villa bedroom

The next day brought a clear warm sunny morning. The first order of business for me was buying groceries to eat during our stay. I had been warned that food on the island was pretty expensive because much of it had to be imported from the mainland. I made a quick trip to a nearby shopping mall on the resort shuttle and was completely taken aback by the grocery store prices. $10.00 for a pound of ground beef was a lot to take in and the prices for milk and cheese was just as off the charts. I would not be gaining weight on this vacation!

After breakfast I set about planning our itinerary for the week. I planned our activities around those of the resort, which included everything you can imagine as well as a Luau near the beach. My plans included a trip to downtown Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, a circle the island tour, and a visit to Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial for our Wedding Anniversary near the end of the week on December 6th. This day, our first full day on the island was reserved for rest and relaxation beginning with a walk around the resort. The Ko Olina was a stunning property. We walked around familiarizing ourselves with the layout of the resort before finding a lounge chair near the beach to relax and look at the ocean.

Ko Olina pool area

Ko Olina beach area

Later that evening Reginald and I had a great time at the resort Luau. Sitting with other resort guests eating delicious island food as the sun went down was a fantastic experience. The entertainment was wonderful and the drinks flowed freely. Everyone enjoyed themselves late into the evening.
Our first day on this island paradise was just as I had hoped it would be and I was excited about visiting Honolulu the next day.

Ko Olina Luau

Luau Dancers

Coming up next, a visit to Waikiki Beach in Honolulu and a circle the island tour. To Be Continued.......

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 07:39 Comments (8)

A Quick Cruise to the Eastern Caribbean

Experiencing the "Star" Treatment on the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship

People who know me, know that I love to travel. Cruise travel is my preferred vehicle to see the world. When I go for too long without sailing on the seas, I start to get antsy and wanderlust builds in my being. So, it was no surprise that as I spent time looking over cruise travel opportunities for my clients, I found one for myself too. I'm always ready to try new things, so a great low fare on a 7 day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean on the Celebrity Solstice grabbed my attention. While the itinerary was not at all new to me, the ship and the cruise line was. In no time at all I had made the cruise booking and my husband did not bat an eyelash when I told him we were going on another cruise, in less than 2 weeks. It's a good thing that we both work for ourselves!

The Celebrity "Star Treatment" was something I had never experienced and I was very excited when embarkation day arrived in Ft Lauderdale. Our itinerary included my favorite islands of St Thomas, St Martin and San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was going to be fun visiting those places again on a new (to me) ship. We arrived at the ship dock early and boarded the Solstice. This is when my Celebrity Experience began. My first look at the sleek contemporary design and modern furnishings took me by surprise. The low techno beat music playing in the background left me feeling like I had stepped into the hottest ultra lounge in Hollywood. I immediately wished I had waited to lose 20 pounds before taking this cruise. I felt more than a little overweight and frumpy as we made our way to our cabin. The cabin interior was spacious and comfortable, the balcony a little small. I knew right away that this was going to be a completely new experience for me and I prepared myself to keep an open mind in the days to come.

Celebrity Solstice

Solstice Promenade Deck


Solstice Martini Bar

Solstice cabin

With sailaway from Ft Lauderdale behind us, my husband and I made our way to the main dining room for dinner. The decor of this room also took me by surprise. Beige chairs, white table linens and chrome fixtures as far as the eye could see. Yes, contemporary was definitely the theme of this ship.


Our dinner companions were from various parts of the southern United States and included one couple from Ireland. We all immediately became fast friends over good food and wine and great service from our waiters. As with all embarkation days, we ended the evening early and turned in for the night, looking forward to the next day aboard the Celebrity Solstice.

Our first full day on this cruise was spent at sea. A wonderful opportunity to relax and unwind from all the hassles of everyday life. After completely unpacking and having a great breakfast in the Buffet, my husband and I found a nice spot on the pool deck, which was my favorite part of the ship.

Solstice pool deck

I was extremely content relaxing in my lounge chair, listening to live Caribbean music with my Kindle e-book reader in hand while we sailed the calm waters headed toward San Juan. My husband Reginald was very happy to have discovered the Spa section of the pool deck that was covered and serene with its own lunch counter featuring light salads and wraps. Reggie is always worried about gaining weight on a cruise. I, unfortunately, am not.
The day passed slowly and we had a real chance to rest before the evening dinner and entertainment began. I love sea days, they truly make me feel renewed.

Solstice Spa pool and deck

The next 3 days were spent in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas and Phillipsburg, St Martin. Having visited all of these islands before, we did not do many excursions, just enjoyed the scenery, the beaches and the shops. I took lots of photos of course, to document the changes year by year. Thankfully, things in the Eastern Caribbean had only changed for the better and the weather was as perfect as always, even in November.

Sailing into San Juan

San Juan cruise ship dock in Old San Juan

St Thomas, USVI

Sapphire Beach on St Thomas

Sapphire Beach Ducks

Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas harbor

Cruising in to St Martin

Phillipsburg, St Martin

Leaving St Martin, we spent two more days at sea before arriving back in Ft Lauderdale. We relaxed and enjoyed the food and entertainment on the ship including champagne art gallery tours, production shows, the casino and of course the pool deck. Before we knew it we were back home in Alabama with Fall slowly sliding into Winter. It had been a wonderful trip on the Celebrity Solstice and I would choose this cruise line again.... I will just lose some weight first.

The End (smile)

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 10:11 Comments (0)

Discovering Alaska Part VI-Skagway Alaska

A Flashback to the Days of the Gold Rush from the Gateway to the Klondike

The last Port of Call on our 7 Day Alaska Cruise was the town of Skagway, Alaska. Skagway sprang up overnight in 1897 as a trading post serving Klondike Gold Rush pioneers about to set off on the five-hundred-mile search for gold. Growing from one cabin to a town of twenty thousand in three months, Skagway, rife with disease and desperado violence, was reported to be "hell on earth." It boasted over seventy bars and hundreds of prostitutes, and was controlled by organized criminals, including Jefferson "Soapy" Smith, notorious for cheating hapless prospectors out of their hard earned gold. By 1899, the Gold Rush was over, but the completion in 1900 of the White Pass and Yukon Route railway from Skagway to Whitehorse, the Yukon capital, ensured Skagway's survival. Today, the town's eight hundred residents have gone to great lengths to maintain the original appearance of their home, much of which lies in the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, and in summer as many as five cruise ships a day call in to take a walk back through history.

For more about this fascinating Port of Call, check out this Video on the Scenery and History of Skagway. Just click here:

History of Skagway Alaska

I walked out onto our balcony just after our ship docked in port. It was another gorgeous sunny day and the first thing I noticed was a long railroad track just beneath me near the dock. This track belonged to the White Pass Railroad. The White Pass Summit excursion had been highly recommended to me by a friend as the thing to do in Skagway. The tour was a 3 to 3.5 hour, forty mile round trip ride on a vintage passenger train that climbs from tidewater at Skagway to the summit of the White Pass - a 2,865 foot elevation. The fully narrated tour passes through two tunnels, over sky-high trestles and cascading waterfalls. I had definitely planned to do this trip, but after reading up on the town of Skagway, I decided that I did not want to spend over half the day on a train, I wanted to stretch my legs by walking around the town and getting a feel for the place. I booked a tour called "A Taste of Skagway" for the afternoon that would take my husband and I on a tour of Jewel Gardens and included a Culinary Chef's Demonstration with wine and lots of samples of different dishes prepared by the Gardens chef.

White Pass Train track From our balcony

We left the ship on foot after breakfast and began a nice long stroll into town. The scenery was beautiful and the storefronts and wood sidewalks of Skagway definitely gave us the feeling of being in the old west during the gold rush.

A ship coming into port as seen from my balcony

Downtown Skagway


We walked around the town popping in and out of the various stores until time to return to the ship to catch the transport for our tour. On the way back I stopped in the White Pass railway ticket office and purchased a great black "White Pass Railroad" backpack. It came in handy for carrying stuff home on the plane.


The "Taste of Skagway" tour took us on a short tour of the town before delivering us at Jewel Gardens. Jewell Gardens is one of the best show gardens in Alaska. In 1996 Charlotte Jewell purchased a portion of what was Henry Clarks’ farm and began to build what was to be the premier show garden in Skagway. The Clark farm was one of several farms in the area that grew produce for the thousands of miners on their way to Dawson City and the Klondike Gold Rush. I was immediately struck by how beautiful and green everything was at the Gardens. Lush flowers and plants were everywhere and you could see snow capped mountains in the background. It was a very peaceful place that Reginald and I enjoyed very much. A guide gave us a complete tour of the gardens and then led us inside the restaurant and tea room where our culinary adventure began.

Jewel Gardens, Skagway, Alaska



Jewel Gardens Tasting Room

The rest of the afternoon passed by as a combination of wine, food and fun! The chef was very talented and amusing and prepared several wonderful dishes using food grown in the gardens. We ate and drank and talked to fellow passengers before making our way back to our transport and back to the Diamond Princess for sailaway. Once again I had enjoyed a marvelous day in Alaska that I would never forget.

Finally after seven wonderful days discovering Alaska, our cruise came to an end. We packed our bags and left the ship in Whittier, headed toward Anchorage for our plane ride home. The 2 hour bus ride to Anchorage was relaxing, with lots of beautiful scenery along the way. Anchorage is a lovely city with wonderful restaurants and places to visit. The time we spent there flew by until it was time to catch our flight at the airport nearby.

My Alaska cruise was a true journey of discovery. To think that all that beauty was part of the United States, my home country, right in my backyard. Why had I waited so long to take this voyage? I really have no idea, but I would do it all again tomorrow!


Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 07:35 Comments (0)

Discovering Alaska Part V-Cruising Glacier Bay

Scenic Cruising off the Coast of Alaska

With an great day in Juneau, Alaska behind us, we next enjoyed two days of cruising Glacier Bay and College Fiord off the coast of Alaska. Before leaving home for the cruise, I placed an order for the Princess Cruises special “Ultimate Balcony Breakfast” to enjoy in our cabin during this day at sea. It was absolutely decadent and delicious. Breakfast, delivered to our cabin, included specialty pastries, fresh fruits, quiche, smoked salmon and other special treats served with a half bottle of French champagne, all for just $28.00 per couple.

Ultimate Balcony Breakfast

We took our time eating breakfast while looking out from our balcony at the glorious scene of a clear sunny sky, snow covered mountains and an ice dotted ocean. Glacier Bay covers an area 1,375 square miles of glaciers and accounts for 27% of the Glacier Bay National Park. It was a large single glacier of solid ice till early 18th century, when it started retreating and evolved over the centuries into the largest protected water area park in the world. Glacier Bay, on the Gulf of Alaska, was known as the Grand Pacific Glacier about 4,000 feet thick and about 20 miles in width which has since then, over more than 200 years, retreated by 65 miles to the head of the bay at Tarr Inlet, and in this process left 20 separate glaciers in its trail. It was first proclaimed a U.S. National Monument on February 25, 1925 by President Calvin Coolidge. The Glacier Bay has many branches, inlets, lagoons, islands, and channels that are a wonder to behold, which is why the area is popular as a cruise ship destination during summer season.


View of Glacier from inside our cabin

After taking lots of photos and video from the balcony of our cabin, I decided to go up on deck for a better view and to listen to the National Park Rangers who were on board giving lectures on the history of the area and pointing out things of interest as we cruised along the Bay.


Later that day we dressed up for the second Formal Night of the cruise. We had a wonderful time talking to our table mates about everything we had seen that day including seals and whales. The food and conversation were delightful, our table was one of the last to leave the dining room because we were having so much fun. My husband and I spent the rest of the evening enjoying the onboard entertainment before retiring for the night.

Me and Reggie

The next day began with a bright and clear morning. We were now cruising College Fiord, where each glacier is named after an American college or university. After a filling breakfast in the Horizon Court buffet, I relaxed on our balcony for most of the afternoon and took more photos of the amazing scenary. I was shocked at how warm it was outside considering how close our ship came to the glaciers. All I needed to be comfortable was my Vancouver Olympics jacket and a pair of jeans. We had been truly blessed with wonderful weather.

Me on our cabin balcony
The Harvard Glacier from our balcony

The second night of cruising around the glaciers ended with Italian Night in the dining room. Everyone was very happy and relaxed after a second day at sea. The food was rich and delicious. Once again our table was the last to vacate the dining room. There was one more port to explore before the end of the cruise and we were not looking forward to leaving our new friends from the United Kingdom. Over the last few days we had learned a lot about each other and we took lots of photos and exchanged addresses and e-mails, promising to stay in touch. It had been a lovely past five days and we planned to enjoy every minute we had left of our Alaska cruise.


Next up: Our visit to Skagway, Alaska and the final day of our Alaska Cruise. To be continued.........

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.

Posted by Gerriv 07:09 Comments (4)

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