Island light: Hawaii and Bermuda on successive weekend celebrations

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by SST, Sep 16, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. SST
    Original Member

    SST Silver Member

    Messages:
    75
    Likes Received:
    168
    Status Points:
    380
    [color=][/color]
    ....and on the cheap, too.

    My birthday and our wedding anniversary fall within a very short period at the end of summer. Sometimes, My wife and I go away for the birthday; other times, we do the Anniversary celebration, and yet others we do both. This year was the latter, with a pitstop at home in San Francisco, but what's wild about it is that we headed four hours out into the Pacific for my birthday and two hours into the Atlantic for the Anniversary, did it all in First or Business, didn't break the bank, and enjoyed what's going on in the Bay Area in between.

    So, I was tempted to call this "Ukulele and a Rum Swizzle", but it turns out the ukulele is popular in the Portuguese community in both places, and not just Hawaiians, and I probably could have gotten a passable rum swizzle in Waikiki even if they had to look it up to make it.

    Here's the back story: I've made Waikiki the go-to chill out place for my birthday in several Augusts, usually via points and cash at the Royal Hawaiian, the Moana Surfrider, etc.--- the Pink Lady is our favorite, especially the older, classic portion, with Starwood upgrades and evenings there, at the Halekulani down the way, or out in Honolulu at some ethnic resto. No dice this year: no c+p rates, freebies are now an astronomical number of points, no AAA rates and $500+/night for "best available" (best for whom?). Even the free night with "x" paid wasn't working.

    Likewise, our anniversary showed the same situation, so Hawaii was out, I thought. Then two deals fell into my lap, simultaneously, and both worked with our schedules, so it was off to the races. Travelocity offered $150 off per person one morning on any package totaling $600 or more, with a limited supply available. I have seldom used Travelocity, orbitz or Expedia for these, but the value was compelling, and we nailed it twice.

    First was a package for Alaska Air flights OAK-HNL along with a "superior room" at the New Otani hotel, by Diamond Head, for three nights that departed on my birthday for a net of about $490 a head. Had I bought the AS fare alone, it would have been $340, so $100 room nights, including the tax, which is a steal for Hawaii, as is Alaska's fare.

    Having seen the New Otani years ago, I knew what we were getting, but a greater gamble was a match Orbitz suddenly offered to Expedia's deal, and I had the option of flights to Bermuda, with a stopover in Miami, for three more nights for about the same if I worked it right. The hotel in Bermuda was Grotto Bay Resort, which I remembered was out by the airport (but on the main island, not the airport island or in St George's parish.... But I wondered if it was substandard.

    The timing was perfect: Night three would be our anniversary, and we were married in Bermuda, so as long as M agreed to the timing as workable with her schedule, and didn't mind a couple of major flights, I was well on my way to requalifying for AA Executive Platinum, a birthday present, and a great anniversary. One phone call with a quick "yes!", and I paid for the whole mess that afternoon, locking in $600 in savings from the portals on what were great deals anyway, and set us up.

    Now, on to the review.......
     
  2. SST
    Original Member

    SST Silver Member

    Messages:
    75
    Likes Received:
    168
    Status Points:
    380
    Hawaii: A whirlwind trip. The Bay Bridge closed for the opening of the new span on Wednesday night, so my Thursday morning had to start early for the run around to the San Rafael Bridge and down thru Berkeley to the Oakland airport, but what can you do? A multibillion dollar public works project decides to unveil the product, after ten-plus years of construction, on my birthday, I can only say I'm incredibly impressed with the new Bridge. Might even allow that as Mrs. SST and I know the engineers, we, uh, had a bird's eye view of the construction.....


    Well, anyway, off to Hawaii early, my fellow San Franciscans deciding to stay home en masse because of the closure, we boarded the AS 737-800 and arrived a few hours later, lunchtime, in Honolulu. A cab ($45) plus half an hour, and we were at the mNew Otani, looking at the wall of the building next door out our window on the backside (good label) of the hotel, facing Diamond Head. A call to the desk got us a room four floors higher and three rooms down, which, while still on the diamond head side, had a view of. ---wait for it--- diamond head!, with the ocean in the distance over green residential areas. Huzzah!

    I suspect the NO will put you in their worst room if you are on a cheapie, unless you ask. Also, the hotel now shows it's age, unlike 20 years ago, when it was happening. In any case, it never had a pool, so beach sunning is mandatory, but the beach was clean, nice, and the water pleasant. There is a huge park adjacent, between the hotel and Waikiki proper, which was actually very nice. The walk to the center was pleasant and not too far, plus you have the zoo and a major event park across the street.

    We enjoyed the excellent breakfast (especially the salmon Benedict), and borrowed beach chairs and towels for the sunning, which was great. There is a bus stop about sixty seconds out the front door, by the Elks Club, but the most useful buses leave from across the park at the zoo area. The iPad was incredibly useful for bus schedules, including for transfers, which we found wonderful for getting around on the cheap (Honolulu taxi fares are now ridiculous, with the meter kicking over $5 before you are a block from your pickup--- it averages $15-20 to go anywhere beyond walking distance). $2.50 bus fares with a two hour transfer are a good deal.

    We walked to Waikiki's center each evening, having drinks at Halekulani, or at the Royal Hawaiian, and finishing up with the piano bar at the Moana Surfrider (excellent piano player, but he finishes by 9:30)...

    Dinners were predictable at Roy's, the Hula Grill, and Halekulani. We visited the huge Okinawan Festival which was in the park across from the hotel--- neat exhibits, food, music, etc, no cover. And we actually went to the Zoo, something I'd been meaning to do for years and always figured it was probably sad. It's not! The Zoo is quite nice, with good exhibits, decent treatment of the animals, and some finds. The elusive Ne-Ne, Hawaii's goose, is there. An elderly Serval. A very charming Toucan exhibit, along with scads of south pacific birds, and some giraffes, hippos, lemurs, etc, all with decent environments, not the cages of old. One bird enclosure has several species out for your enjoyment. The trails lead pleasantly to related environments, and as it was a Friday, it wasn't godawful crowded.

    We also planned ahead and got tickets to the Doris Duke mansion, through the Honolulu museum, which had an Ansel Adams and Georgia O'Keeffe show on. Cool cottage Ms. Duke created, with tons of Islamic art, just beautiful to behold and well worth the planning and tour cost (which included the museum show too).

    A dim sum breakfast once, a trip thru Chinatown, fresh leis, and you had two relaxed people at the end. Booked a return to the airport by snagging the cheap brochure widely available in Waikiki, and calling to book ahead---- preset time, $25 by limo, and we returned to Oakland without incident.

    Spent the last day of Labor Day weekend at the superb Sausalito Art Festival, viewing champagne, quaffing art, and enjoying music, or some combination of the three, near our home.

    And it was off then, a few days later, to BERMUDA....
     
    Sean Colahan and uggboy like this.
  3. SST
    Original Member

    SST Silver Member

    Messages:
    75
    Likes Received:
    168
    Status Points:
    380
    Bermuda is this quaint little (expensive) British island in the Atlantic off North Carolina, not in the Caribbean as some suppose. It is mostly flat with a few hills, some chalk and limestone outcroppings, and grottos, pink sand powder beaches, and the nicest island people you'll find anywhere, IMHO.

    We got married there some (deleted) years ago, and have been back a few times, always staying someplace different. This time, the deal was at the Grotto Bay, which turned out to be far better than we imagined. W e did an overnight at the MIA airport Sheraton, to make the schedule and cheap deal fit, which was good as I had a busy day beforehand, and we left SFO after lunch, nonstop. Got upgraded to a suite (two levels with a spiral stair), and the superb Sheraton bed, with a brief tanning hour at the pool (quiet for an airport property) before our flight out to the Island. I had arranged a $20 rt transfer which went flawlessly (you cannot rent a car on Bermuda), and we were at the hotel in a few minutes.

    The first room offered looked across the bay, over at the airport island, and Mrs SST inquired about another view. Supposedly, only a twin bed room was available (ummmm, not for an anniversary...), but with some explanation a king bed unit was "found". Again, the rule may be to be persistent. We had a superb stay...

    The place is enjoyable, breakfast is good, it is a short walk to the Swizzle Inn, a favorite drinking spot with decent food, and we snagged a cab to the exquisite Tucker's Point hotel for a romantic anniversary dinner. During the day, we took the bus to St George's to see the small town and have a great high tea. Also to Hamilton to wander among the former charming (now Insurance Industry dominated) buildings and find that the Waterloo House, this amazing Relais and Chateaux property right downtown, is now history....weak showing, but still pleasant...

    The Hog Penny Pub, with it's amazing drinks, decent entertainment and great fish chowder, is still there, no cheaper. In all, enjoyable, and we split a cab back with another couple since the bus is once an hour after 7.

    Three nice cats at Grotto Bay, so we had "rental animals" to soothe our pet addiction.... The beach was good, powder sand, and the entertainment, especially Saturday, was decent. Two bars, nice staff, great room for the money, and available transit made this trip a joy. Returning home to the West Coast and our own pets, our place and gorgeous San Francisco is a joy. Both sides of the continent and out to sea consecutively! Great food, especially the Wahoo and rockfish in Bermuda, along with the fish chowder; sesame ahi in Honolulu (thank you Roy!) and rum drinks I'm still recovering from.....

    A great kickoff to fall, San Francisco's best season.....
     
    evanderm, jmgriffin, suenam and 2 others like this.
  4. evanderm

    evanderm Silver Member

    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    39
    Status Points:
    190
    I know Gosling's black seal is available in parts of the US and Canada, never come across the other Gosling's products off the island. I prefer a Dark 'n Stormy, myself.

    Thanks for posting the TR including my birthplace.
     

Share This Page