If you ask me, choice is one of life’s greatest challenges because eventually by its very definition you need to make one. So, here I am again, it’s another year, another February vacation opportunity; ultimately another choice needs to be made.
Oh where oh where should I go this year? And what should I do once I get there? Said the cobbler’s son :O)
Well, after reviewing multiple options (translated professional & personal zip code fantasies!) I’ve decided upon a rediscovery tour of the Hawaiian Islands. The 1st runners up, The Maldives, Tahiti, Dubai, etc. etc. etc, will just have to take their rightful, patient place in my traveler’s universal category of ‘must see & do, just not now!’
I describe my choice as a “rediscovery of the Hawaiian Islands” because I’ve been fortunate to have traveled there several times on traditional, multiple Island hopper itineraries-staying a few days on one Island and then taking a puddle skipping transfer to another. Can you say fly & flop? But this time, I wanted to see it from what I anticipated would be a unique and rewarding perspective: from the vantage point of cruising on an ultra yacht.
The ship we (my significant only Ms. Reenie is always at my side!) chose, the Safari Explorer, was (1) of (3) ships in the fleet from American Safari Cruises (can you, should you call it a fleet if there are only three vessels?). Their ships range in size from 8 to 36 passengers and sail, depending upon the season, to
Alaska , British Columbia, Sea of Cortez/Baja, U.S./Canada, and most important of all, (because this is after all.. all about me!) to the Hawaiian Islands from October to May.
Our ‘official ‘Hawaiian itinerary included The Big Island/Maui/Lanai/Molokai. The unofficial, actual itinerary was where the wildlife, culture and the real, pristine beauty of Hawaii led our talented and affable captain.
(5) minutes after embarking and setting sail from the Hilo area our published course took a 180 degree turn as we lazily paralleled (20) migrating
humpback whales and their recent offspring, and a school of spinner dolphins intent on doing their best to live up to their name! The only aspects more incredible than the immediacy, and abundance of the wildlife sighting were the resolute discipline of the crew to respect a non-invasive distance from the marine life, and the breadth of their mammal and environmental knowledge that they dispensed with ease, precision, and artistry-as if they were the love children of a maestro conductor and a college professor.
The precedent of flexibility and ‘Hawaiian go with the flow’ had been established and magically mirrored for the balance of the week. We were treated to a blended collage of water sports (snorkeling/scuba diving/kayaking/zodiac tours), contemplative sunsets, cultural immersions, active hikes, bike rides and good ol’ fashioned Happy Hour socializing with our fellow travelers. We would gather at day’s end to reflect and share the personal experiences, activities and insights we had collected during the day.
One of the most unique and enriching aspects of the experience was the familiarity and intimacy of the group that developed and matured as trip progressed. We seemed to magically morph from (12) individual couples to a familial, fraternal group similar to the social dynamics in one of my favorite movies The Big Chill.
I LOVED this ship and experience, but it is NOT for everybody. Travelers accustomed to, and expecting the more traditional cruise experience are best served elsewhere. If multiple dining venues & extensive menu options, nightly choreographed entertainment, spas, large commodious cabins, assigned dining room seating, and a large variety of daily shore excursions and a formal shipboard dress code is what constitutes the ‘DNA’ of vacation success, you won’t find ANY of this aboard the Safari Explorer.
What you will find is a floating house party properly primed (great bar!) and supported by the all inclusive nature of ship board life. Your fellow passenger (historically 50+ years of age) will be successful, highly educated (present party and author excluded!), well travelled, and most willing to share their
respective life & discovery experiences with you over a hearty glass (or two) of scotch. The nightly meals include a choice of meat or local fish accompanied with fresh vegetables & all too delicious homemade desserts. All meals are nicely prepared and graciously delivered in portions that thankfully won’t have you mistaken as cargo as you disembark the ship.
The entertainment, when not generated by the interaction of the passengers, usually consists of a compelling lecture about the local marine creatures or the culture and traditions of the local people. You will find a very upscale but incredibly understated experience. Never to be confused with bohemian, but, with a complete and refreshing absence of glitz and pretense.
In closing I would be remiss if I did not point out that the crew was indeed the crown jewel in the overall experience. The crew (2 to 1 ratio to the passengers) were a magical, eclectic group comprised of eager, gregarious, talented, interesting, and knowledgeable individuals, (where did they learn ALL that stuff..I think they would clean up on Jeopardy or perhaps Cash Cab!) who were ready to please and delight. They essentially personify the essence of what the cruise; authentic, unstructured, beguiling, educational, engaging and just plain and simple..A total ‘hoot!’