Our family bounced with excitement as we boarded the ship taking us on our Hawaiian cruise. My husband Chris had made all the arrangements. Chris is a “big picture” kind of guy, whereas I'm a more detail-oriented kind of gal. Together, we're a pretty good vacation planning team. This trip however, I was swamped with work, so Chris handled the big picture AND the details.
(Insert dramatic music here.)
Our journey included Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and two Hawaii ports: Hilo Bay and Kailua-Kona. Chris learned the big island is home to Kilauea Volcano, one of the most active volcanoes on earth. He decided rather than staying on board overnight, he'd book us a room at Volcano House hotel in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We'd spend the night on the island, enjoying a rare opportunity to witness the primal creation process up close and personal, then catch the ship at Kailua-Kona the following day.
Unfamiliar with cruising, we were unaware that apparently leaving the ship for a night is not an option. (Details, details!) In Hilo, 13-yr.-old Josh, 16-yr.-old Ashleigh and I stood by, while Chris argued with ship management. He finally won his case based on the facts that our hotel was pre-paid, we live in a free country, and unless they shackled us to the boat, we were going. We left amid stern warnings that if we failed to return on time, they wouldn't wait.
We rented a car and spent a lovely day exploring Hilo. After dinner, we hiked over great chunks of black igneous rock to witness the erupting volcano’s red-hot lava sear a path through lush rainforest, then drop steaming into the Pacific Ocean. We marveled over the experience as we walked back
beneath an unbelievable number of stars.
The next day we took our time exploring steaming Halema’uma’u Crater, the famous black sand beach of Punalu’u Beach, and snorkeling in Honaunau Bay. As we finished our late lunch at Señor Billy’s Mexican restaurant, Chris said, “We'd better get moving if we want to make it on time.”
There was one single-lane road leading to Kailua-Kona. Unbeknownst to us, but a well-known fact among locals, afternoon traffic on this road gets completely jammed. (Details, details!) We'd allowed plenty of time though, so we didn't worry as we inched our way along.
“I left my EpiPen® back at the restaurant.”
Uh-oh. Ashleigh has a nut allergy and must always have her EpiPen® nearby. So, Chris finagled a U-turn and we joined the bumper-to-bumper crowd heading the opposite direction. Traffic moved even slower this way, things weren't looking good.
“Put your hazard lights on and drive on the shoulder,” I suggested. “If I saw someone doing that, I'd think it was an emergency.”
People honked and hollered as we flew past, but at least we were making good time.
We got pulled over by the cop. We tried explaining to no avail. And encouraged by the jeers of passersby, he offered no sympathy, only a warning.
“At least we didn't get a ticket,” Ashleigh said, as we resumed our crawling pace. Chris’s restraining hand, prevented me from bolting over the seat to throttle our firstborn.
Within seconds of reaching the restaurant we secured Ashleigh’s EpiPen® and rejoined the single-file line heading in our original direction. It was soon clear, however, we weren't going to make it.
“I'll get you three to the dock, but I have to return the car,” Chris said as we stuttered up the highway.
“What about you?!” I cried.
He shrugged. “I'll catch a flight and meet you at the next port.”
“It’s our only option,” he squeezed my hand. “Unless…” looking thoughtful, he picked up his cell phone, and while negotiating the traffic jam, he simultaneously negotiated with the rental company who allowed us to leave the car at the dock.
“Grab your duffels!” I shouted as Chris parked. I eyeballed Ashleigh, “
And don't forget your EpiPen®!”
Scrambling aboard the final shuttle heading for the Mother Ship, we congratulated ourselves on our successful mad dash. We trudged back on board, exhausted and ready for naps.
Chris swiped our card key through our cabin lock.
He tried again.
Groaning, we all trudged back to the main desk.
“Our key isn't working,” Chris told the clerk.
“Which cabin, sir?”
Chris told him. He punched some buttons on his computer then blinked at
us. “I'm sorry sir, but you've been checked out.”