Monday, February 1, 2016

It Was Closed !!!!

Depending on how you look at it, this cruise has either been very boring, or full of excitement. Perhaps another way to say it is that so far the cruise is basically boring with a few moments punctuated by panic.

My last email ended with our ship sailing under the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge at sunset, and heading off into the Pacific Ocean for four days of cruising to Honolulu. Shortly after we departed, Lisa and I discovered that in spite of our best efforts, we had left home without several items that we were going to need on this trip. So even though it would cost an arm and a leg, I phoned home and talked to our good friend, Jack Smithson, who is housesitting for us, and made arrangements for him to locate the items that we were missing, and take them to our friendly UPS store. Then I had to find out how the items needed to be addressed before contacting the UPS store to provide them with exact instructions as to where and how the package would be delivered to our ship once we reached Honolulu. I think I probably spent the better part of our first day at sea, simply straightening out that mess.

Our days at sea on the way to Honolulu have been rather rough, and in fact, the pool has yet to be filled for our use. I must, however, complement Crystal on their cuisine. The food and service have been absolutely superb, and as I said earlier, the ship is extremely elegant. On about our third day, we suddenly realized that a mistake and been made in putting our medications together, and a very important medicine had been omitted. Panic very quickly set in, until we were able to determine that the mistake only covered seven days. Nevertheless, we could not go seven days without that medication. So once again I find myself back on the phone trying to coordinate how in the world were going to get medication in Honolulu. Just to add to the fun and games, the physician who prescribed the medication is currently out ill, and so we’re needing to obtain a refill from one of his partners. Before I could negotiate a refill, however, I had to find out where the prescription should be called in. As luck would have it, while I was sitting in the office of the ship’s physician hoping that perhaps he would write the prescription for us (which he did not), one of the patient’s there told us exactly where we could find a pharmacy near to where the ship would dock. He was from Honolulu, and very familiar with the downtown area. Using Google, I was able to locate the pharmacy and contact them by phone, only to learn that when we arrived on Saturday at 1 PM, they would already have been closed at noon. However, they were very helpful, and told me of another pharmacy in their chain which would be open, and I was able to call them and confirm that “yes if we had a prescription sent there, then they would be open until 6 PM.” So now I’m back on the phone making sure that everybody has the right address in all the right information, only to learn that the physician writing the prescription was going to be off on Thursday. That would be okay until I realized that with the time change, and the fact that their office closed Friday at noon, there was only going to be a 60 minute window during which he could make the proper call. More panic set in, although the doctor’s office handled it very nicely by simply leaving a message on the pharmacy’s voicemail. Just to be certain that everything is handled, I went so far as to call the pharmacy to confirm that they had the prescription, and I was glad that I had done so because they had not filled it since our insurance declined to pay. Once I assured them that we would pay in cash, they confirmed for me that they would be open until 6 PM.

So everything had now been carefully arranged and orchestrated. The ship would arrive at noon, we had a shore excursion at 12:45, and would return at 5 PM. We then would have a one hour window in which to run to the pharmacy, grab our medication, and return to the ship. Well, as it turned out, the ship actually arrived in Honolulu at around 11 AM. By the time all the formalities were completed it was 11:30, and Lisa and I decided that we had exactly one hour in which we could grab a cab, run to the pharmacy, get her medication, and at the same time, buy some supplies for our friends who had also forgotten some items from home. Let me tell you that even in the best of circumstances, getting off a cruise ship is not all that easy. You don’t simply walk downstairs to a waiting taxi. We had to go into the cruise terminal, weave our way through the terminal maze, then go down the stairs out the one door that they had open, only to find out that the taxis were parked on the opposite side of the area where the buses were parked. We then ran and grabbed a waiting taxi, and I told the man that we would pay him to take us to the pharmacy, wait for us to come back and bring us back to the ship, all of which he agrees to do. Even though the pharmacy is only four blocks away, four blocks away in downtown Honolulu might as well have been the moon! We couldn’t go up a one-way street; we couldn’t go this way or that way; and after 25 minutes of driving around, we finally reached the pharmacy. The cab lets us off, but can’t park because the area is under temporary construction, and so he drives off with us holding his phone number. We run to the pharmacy door only to find it was not only dark, closed! It was closed because of a power failure! After all of our careful planning, who would ever have thought that we would be shot down by a simple power failure?

I just about wanted to sit down and cry. We desperately needed the medication, and here we were standing right outside the door where we were supposed to be, at the right time, in the right place, and I knew the prescription was there because I had phoned the day before, but the damn place was closed! So, I decided to call the original pharmacy with whom I had spoken. The same lady who had assisted me the other day answered, understood my problem, looked up Lisa’s prescription, found the prescription, and I told her “great! I’ll be there in 10 minutes to pick it up.” She said “but you forgot. We closed at noon” and I looked at my watch to see that it was two minutes after noon. She asked me to hold, and I was on hold for 12 minutes. All the while the clock is ticking about when we had to be back at the ship, and I have a taxi cab circling the block for which I’m paying, while I wait. Finally the lady comes back on the line, and explains that I can go to the locked door and knock and someone will let me in and give us our prescription. I thought that she meant I was to go to her pharmacy, but after some confusion, she was actually telling me to go to the pharmacy that had no power. We ran to the door, banged on the door, banged on the door, banged on the door, and finally a young man comes up and angrily tells us to get away that the pharmacy is closed. I tried to explain that we had been told to come here, but it was like talking to a turnip. As I was getting angrier and angrier, Lisa grabbed me by the arm and told me to run across the street to the Walgreens and get the supplies for our friends, while she sweet talked her way into the pharmacy.

Walgreens, how lucky can you be to have a Walgreens directly across the street, and it’s open. I ran over, grabbed the supplies that we needed, ran back to pick up Lisa who had paid cash for our prescription, and we immediately phoned our cab to come pick us up. Bless the guy; he was right there, took us back to the ship, and received a nice gratuity in return. Now if you think getting off the ship is difficult, let me tell you getting back on is also not quite as easy as it looks. Even though we had only been gone for a few minutes, and the people recognized us, we nonetheless had to show our cruise card three times, we had to go through the body scanner, and have all of our packages searched before running down the hallway to board the ship. The gangway was completely full of people coming off to board their tour buses so we had to patiently wait our turn. By the time we recklessly ran into our room it was already too late to meet our tour at its assembly point in the ship’s theater. So instead, we grabbed everything that we needed, and ran off the ship directly to the bus. Lo and behold we made it!

Judging by the heavy traffic in downtown Honolulu, I was afraid that our tour would turn into what I call a “spam in a can tour.” Surprisingly enough, that was not the case. Downtown Honolulu while busy, was also very interesting. It was clean, modern, and I must say almost breathtaking. I was very disappointed to see that the beach area was no longer the wide-open expanse of white sand that I remember from many years ago, but instead it had been hidden behind a plethora of condominiums and hotels. We saw a sliver of Waikiki Beach, but there was not a square inch of open sand. We continued our drive on into Diamond Head Crater, where we were given 15 minutes to look around. Since we can’t do much walking in 15 minutes, Lisa and I sat on the bench, and we managed to get a photograph of a mongoose, and several birds whose names I don’t know. Back on the bus, we continued to drive around the island to its most southern tip, and along the way made several stops for photographs. As had been the case on the whole cruise, Lisa and I were by far the youngest people on the bus. Rounding the southern tip of the island, we came to a much more quiet area, where President Obama grew up and which he comes to visit every Christmas to see the family. We were told that the average price of a home on the island of Oahu is $750,000. What really blew me away however was to learn that the number one employer in the state of Hawaii is the federal government, followed by the state government of Hawaii. Tourism ranks a distant third in terms of its contribution to the islands income.

Coming to the end of our tour, we drove across the island which necessitated that we climb over the steep hills to come back down into the city of Honolulu.

All in all, I must say that I found our bus tour to be very enjoyable, and I wish we had had more time to spend on the island. Our ship dutifully departed at 1 AM the next morning, and we are spending today and tomorrow at sea on our way to Fanning Island where I can’t wait to see what that adventure brings. When I looked Fanning Island up before this trip, I was told that it was an uninhabited atoll. If that’s true, then I cannot imagine what 900 elderly people are going to do on an uninhabited island for an entire day.

So I guess all I can say is, “stay tuned.” As Yogi Berra used to say, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”


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