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As many of you know, I get to perform on cruise ships. I especially enjoy the Hawaii trips because I can see my family and eat like a pig, then meet up with my friends and eat like a pig, then jump on a cruise ship and eat like a pig. By the end of trip, I get winded putting on shorts. Cruising is a fun way to see Hawaii, and if you can semi-humorously whine about your life on stage, people will pay you to do it. For those of you who are thinking about a Hawaiian cruise, here are some tips. Consider it a travel guide but without useful information.
It is very important to read everything. What may seem online like a well-priced no frills island cruise may turn out to be a one-way ride on the Superferry. It’s very difficult to explain to your new bride that your honeymoon is on an ocean taxi.
There are a few ways to cruise Hawaii. You could take an NCL American flagged ship which stays in the islands for the whole run. Or you can start in California, spend 5 days at sea, then 4 days in Hawaii, then 5 days at sea again. This option is for people who are a) clinically insane; or b) pirates. Spending 4 out of 14 days in Hawaii means it’s not so much a Hawaii cruise as it is an ocean voyage with a few stops to prevent scurvy.
Before embarking on your adventure, please be aware if you get motion sick. I did not know this. Do you realize how embarrassing it is to realize you’re motion sick, AND Hawaiian? That’s like an Italian who can’t eat carbs. The staff on the ship can be very helpful. They recommend all kinds of things that help like ginger, apples, crackers, wristbands, meclizine, singing “Mandy” to total strangers, and cleaning the cruise director’s office. When you feel dizzy, you’ll take any suggestion.
When you first get to the ferry terminal, there is a lot of waiting. Check-in is like a combination of the department of motor vehicles and the emergency room on July 4th. 143 Sudoku puzzles later you are on the ship and in your cabin, which, unless you have a suite, is about the size of a GE washing machine. As far as what to pack, there usually is a formal night and most of the fancy dining rooms require dressy clothes. Other than that, just a few t-shirts and you’re good. For some reason, many male cruise passengers are very comfortable with speedos and very few should be. Many of them go for the “speedos and dress socks” combo, which Vogue Magazine featured in their “Dress to Nauseate” issue.
There is more food than you can imagine. Generally we eat because we’re hungry. On a ship, you eat because it’s there. At all hours. And if you don’t want to go get it, they’ll bring it to you. Room service is free. If you feel guilty there are workout gyms on the ship, but they’re never near the elevator so I don’t go.
Also, you have a cabin attendant who comes into your cabin twice a day and cleans it. It’s really nice. Sometimes when you’re on a ship for a while and you return to Seattle, your wife will remind you that you do not have a cabin attendant at home. Still, she keeps the tips.
The best thing about the Hawaii cruise is waking up at a different port each day. Usually if you wake up each day on a different island, it’s time to put the credit cards in the freezer and check into rehab. Once you disembark the ship, the choices are many. The ship offers shore excursions ranging in price from helicopter rides down to a 50-yard piggyback ride from a local.
At the dock there are free shuttles willing to take you anywhere that accepts money. The most popular of the shuttles: K-Mart and Wal-Mart. Yes, people travel thousands of miles from home to go see the Marts. “Honey, this must be where the natives save on cottonballs. Wow, I feel so close to their culture.” Actually, Hilo Hattie’s is a very popular shuttle as well. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Hilo Hattie’s, it is a place where you can buy clothing that screams “Hey world, I am not from here! And as you can tell by the exact matching pattern on my wife, neither is she!”
Whatever you do on land, the two most important things to remember: how to get back to the dock and when to get back to the dock. It’s not a good thing to watch your hotel float away and all you have is a bag of Hilo Hattie’s shirts and the speedos you’re wearing.
Cruising is actually a lot of fun. I do recommend it. You get to see multiple places and there is a lot to eat and do. And who knows, you may see a comedian whose column encouraged you to take the cruise. Please don’t think he’s not happy to see you. He’s probably motion sick. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to clean the cruise director’s office and piggyback a nice couple from Tucson.
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