June 24th:

Woke up at about 7:30. Since I didn't have anything planned until the afternoon, I took my time getting out of the room. At about 9:15 I went downstairs to the Hospitality Floor and spent about 40 minutes reading my email (they may have high-speed internet in there but the machines are about 5 years old and not as fast as I would have liked - still, it was free, so how can I complain?) and then sending some to a few people.

Next, I walked down to the beach and actually saw the ocean. I walked along Kalakaua Ave toward Diamondhead and took pictures of the ocean, waterfalls, statues, plaques, and Diamondhead. I stopped at the edge of the zoo and turned back toward Kanekapolei Ave and the Hyatt Shops where I had planned to have dim sum at the Seafood Village. The map I had didn't indicate that the place was in the basement, so I had a little difficulty finding it, but find it I did and had some very nice dim sum that was different from what I've had in Philly but still good.

Leaving lunch, I walked the other way on Kalakaua Ave. I was specifically looking for somewhere with a bookstore, but I also wanted to see the International Village and a few other malls along the way. The IV was nice, but it was basically a block full of stalls and carts that all sold essentially the same stuff (jewelry or t-shirts). I walked down to Lewers St, looking in a few shops and malls, and found exactly one bookstore that didn't suit my needs.

I walked back to the hotel to sit down for a few minutes, then left again with the intention of finding and riding the Waikiki Trolley around to sightsee a bit, find more malls, and waste some time before my 4:00 pm pickup for the Paradise Cove Luau. The map I used was from a weekly tourist ad magazine, but their map was a bit out of date. I waited for the trolley where it said it stopped, but I found that it didn't stop there. I did notice, though, a trolley for the Atlantis submarine ride go by, which prompted me to return to my hotel and check in with them for my submarine tour and my dinner cruise (especially since I had expected to catch the Waikiki Trolley to them and didn't know where to find it). As I got back to the hotel, I noticed a nice sign right in front of it that advertised a stop for the Waikiki Trolley! I checked with Atlantis anyway, and found that pickup had been arranged already, and I found the times and locations for that as well. Then I watched some more TV until it was time to go to the pickup.

I got there early, but not as early as some - the side entrance to the Ohana West was overflowing with people. We all waited around as more people wandered up. A Roberts Hawaii bus was already there, and as we waited another one pulled up. Finally, a man appeared, talked to both bus drivers, and then had us line up by the door of the first bus (the second one went around the block to get behind the first, I believe). The guy with the clipboard seemed to be sending more people back to wait than were getting on the bus, but when it was my turn, I got to get on. A bit later, I figured it out - there are three levels of attendance at the luau, and the people on the first bus had the two higher levels (I was delux, the highest). It took a while to process the line, and then when all 54 of us were on, the guy had to go load the other bus ... but fortunately that didn't take long, and we were soon on our way, right into Friday rush hour traffic.

The guy with the clipboard, Cousin K ('cause I don't remember the full name), did a good job of keeping us entertained through the traffic and such - telling us how the luau worked, showing us the proper way to give the "hang loose" sign (the surfer salute, closed fist, thumb and pinky out - it should be pumped, not wiggled, and the back of the hand should be out), also known as the shaka sign (he didn't say why), and telling lame jokes. We eventually arrived, and the deluxe folks got separated out from the rest of the high-payers. We got our own necklaces (the guys got kukui nut leis), then to the picture place (we got our pictures as part of the package), then our first mai tai for free (we also got drink tickets). Lastly, we got shown to our deluxe seating, which was in a raised box at the back of the arena. Then we were free to wander around the gift shops, the arts and crafts booths, the games, and the scenery. There were three events leading up to the actual food: the dropping of the flowers (a guy climbs a palm and throws flowers down); the huki-lau: the pulling in the nets ceremony (audience participation was involved); and the opening of the imu (lots of ceremony leading up to the opening of the pig pit). Then, we ate.

The food was okay. We had garden salad, macaroni salad, and a "massaged salmon" salad (chopped up onions, tomatoes, and salmon), then the main course was fried chicken, egg-battered fish, and the pork, along with rice and poi (which is purple and not very good). The pork was the best, and the poi was the worst, and I didn't eat all of anything (except for the macaroni salad and most of the green salad). Desert was a coconut-topped carrot cake, some coconut-milk pudding (neither of which I ate - don't like coconut), and a slice of pineapple. Not exactly filling.

There were some dancers during dinner, but the real entertainment happened after. Lots of dancers, lots of music, a few audience-participation things (teaching the hula, congratulating newlyweds, etc), and the star attraction, the fire-knife dancer whose name sounds like Ti wa li.

When it was over, I made my way back to bus 7. Within about 15 minutes, the bus had all of its passengers, and we left. Traffic was much better going back, and we made it to the Ohana West in about 30 minutes, disembarking at about 10pm. I detoured over to King's Village for a Subway sandwich (which wasn't actually needed) and got propositioned by one of the very nice looking young women in short dresses and lucite high heels who were walking around the Ohana East ...

Time to get some sleep ...

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