Black volcanic lava covered the landscape as we flew into Kona, the largest and newest of the Hawaiian islands. Kona is so young in geological terms that very little of the lava has weathered and the landscape is stark, black, barren and unforgiving. Whether its beaches, water sports, marvelling at the volcano or dining watching a magical Kona sunset the Big Island of Hawaii is packed with things to do. Ironically, this severe, rugged wilderness protects some of the most precious, enigmatic jewels of the Hawaiian islands and keeps us yearning to return and discover more.
Flying into Maui from the Big Island on a ten seater, single engine Mokulele Airlines plane was a little bumpy and scary at times. However, the views were magnificent and blissfully distracting as we flew low and closely hugged the coast, leaving behind the Big Island with its turquoise waters and rugged black volcanic landscapes. As we neared the island of Maui the lush, emerald green, mountainous terrain appeared rimmed with small tourist towns clinging to its radiant coastline.
We made it one of our missions while on board this 'floating Goliath' to understand more about the Save The Waves Program and how Celebrity Solstice undertakes its environmental responsibilities as the leader of the fleet. We went straight to the most experienced man in this area and found out some astonishing facts.
Every once in awhile you strike it lucky, a little bit like winning at the slot machines or striking gold in the Yukon. This time we were fortunate enough to organise an interview with the very experienced and knowledgeable Celebrity Solstice Hotel Director, Mario Valentino. The fact he was completely 'hot' was just a bonus (like winning the special feature..........10 times).
The ferry terminal was only a few hundred metres from the centre of town. In Commercial Street (the main thoroughfare through town), it was no surprise to see hundreds of gay men of all ages, shapes and sizes, mmasses of rainbow flags and billboards chocked full of gay events. The first big street banner to catch our attention was a welcome to the National Gay Pilots Association. They were in town for the long weekend. How perfect, we were ready to fly.
We are on our way to Alaska, the last frontier, not by dog sled to find gold in the Yukon, but a more modern, luxurious style of transport, the beautiful Celebrity Solstice. It's a brilliant, hot, late summer afternoon in Seattle harbour for our departure. The sun, gracefully setting over the crowded marina, provided perfect pink and lilac hues. That must be the cocktail hour ambiance we preordered. We are on our way to see magnificent glaciers, towering fiords, breaching whales and wild bears in one of the world's most pristine environments.