At the end of September 2004, I was almost half way through another 6 months staying with my friends in Michigan (they now live in Florida) and on the spur of the moment we decided to go on a cruise to Hawaii.
As you do.
I can't remember exactly how it came about but we saw a great last minute 13 day cruise deal online and we just went for it. Things became a bit hectic after that as once we'd booked it, we only had 3 or 4 days before we were due to fly to Vancouver to catch the Carnival Spirit which would take us to Hawaii over the course of the following 5 days.
The next 8 days would see us going island hopping as we'd cruise from one to another before finally docking again at Honolulu for the flight back to Michigan.
This was my first time leaving America whilst already on holiday there since my run in with immigration the previous year and I know my name was on their list after that fiasco. So it was that I was again questioned at length before finally being allowed to board the cruise ship and there and then I made my mind up to contact Homeland Security on my return from the cruise to complain about my treatment.
I won't go into the details here but some months later I got a letter back apologising for my treatment and was assured I'd never have trouble again.
And I haven't.
From Vancouver we had a wonderfully relaxing cruise to the Hawaiian Islands and I was able to cross that state off my list, leaving only Alaska still to visit. The ship docked at the 4 largest islands - Hawaii, Maui, Oahu and Kauai - and we had plenty of time to explore them all.
We'd hired cars for 'the big island' (Hawaii) and for Oahu (our favourite) and this is my photo at the Hard Rock Cafe at Lahaina, Oahu as it always reminds me of our time there. This has to be the best HRC in the whole world if location is a factor. It's right across the road from the Pacific Ocean with stunning views from the patio where we had our meal, watching the occasional cruise ship out on the water. If you click on this link and pick the patio still on the right, you'll get a view of where we were in this photo.
On the last day, having cruised full circle back to Oahu, we used the rental car and went to Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbour and The Honolulu Hard Rock Cafe on a packed day before heading to the airport for the flight back to Detroit.
It was easily the best cruise I've ever been on and it was a great way to see the main islands which are all so different.