Welcome to the Gathering Place

Picture of the USS Arizona Memorial From the Visitors CenterCredit: Southerngirl09

Discover Honolulu, Oahu on a Diamond Princess Cruise to Hawaii from California

Before we even studied the tour excursion booklet, for our cruise to Hawaii from California, we knew, in Oahu, that we wanted to pay our respects at Pearl Harbor. In order to make the most of our time, and to be able to visit the many key sites, impacted by that day, “…which will live in infamy,” we chose the “Pearl Harbor VIP Military Base Tour.”

Visiting Pearl Harbor was one of the main reasons we’d taken our cruise to Hawaii from California. To hubby and I, the sacrifices made by those brave men and women, on December 7, 1941, as well as the hundreds of thousands of other American service people, since then, have made it possible for us to live in freedom. One of our cherished freedoms is being able to freely travel, such as taking our dream cruise to Hawaii from California.

We docked in downtown Honolulu, beside the famous Aloha Tower. Oahu Island, number three in terms of size of all the Hawaiian Islands, is nicknamed ‘The Gathering Place.’

Pearl Harbor was the focus of our Princess excursion that day. Pearl Harbor is an active US Naval base and home of the US Pacific Fleet. It was here, on December 7, 1941, that the Japanese attacked the United States, bringing the United States into World War II.

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

The Japanese aerial bomb that struck the forward section of the USS Arizona ignited the forward magazine causing a catastrophic explosion that sunk the battleship in nine minutes.
(Quote courtesy of:  http://www.nps.gov/valr/planyourvisit/index.htm)

Our tour began when we disembarked the Diamond Princess and boarded our tour buses at the pier.
Take a Navy Launch Out to the USS Arizona MemorialCredit: Southerngirl09Our first stop was the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. From there, we took a Navy launch out to the USS Arizona Memorial. While at the Visitor Center, waiting for our turn to visit the sunken battleship, we viewed the displays in the museum, and browsed in the gift shop. Before boarding the Navy launch, we were shown a video, highlighting the cause and effects of the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack, which included some real time video.

This graceful 184-foot long memorial which spans the sunken ship's midsection, commemorates the 1,177 crewmen (75 were recovered, 1,102 remain entombed there) who were killed during the surprise attack.”                                                                   

(Quote courtesy of Princess: 

Diagram of USS Arizona MemorialCredit: Southerngirl09

Even now, it’s hard to pinpoint and describe all the feelings we felt standing on the USS Arizona Memorial. Our emotions are many and poignant.

There’s pride and patriotism for all those brave Americans who died that day – died to give my husband and I, and everyone else around us on the Memorial, the freedom to be there.

Memorial Wall at the USS Arizona MemorialCredit: Southerngirl09But like Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, in France, the final resting place for thousands of American troops who perished in the Normandy Invasion, the USS Arizona is a final resting place for her Navy crewman. In fact, we learned, while on our cruise to Hawaii from California, that many USS Arizona crew members, who survived the attack, have chosen to make the Arizona their final resting place, alongside their fellow seaman.

So, when you stand there, on the beautiful Memorial, thank and remember these brave Americans for their ultimate sacrifice.

Oil Leaking From the USS ArizonaCredit: Southerngirl09While paying our respects at the USS Arizona Memorial, on our cruise to Hawaii from California, we also learned another touching fact. Like with many philosophies, in the Hawaiian Islands, it’s an idea that marries ancient Hawaiian/Polynesian culture with modern knowledge. Our guide explained to us that the USS Arizona is still leaking oil, which is a scientific fact. The Hawaiians see this oil leakage as the USS Arizona ‘crying,’ expressing her sorrow for her lost souls. Furthermore, the Hawaiian legend also says that when the last of the USS Arizona crewman have passed, she’ll cease leaking her oil – cease shedding her tears.

And speaking of crewman, one of the highlights of our tour was getting to meet several Pearl Harbor survivors/veterans, who were at the Visitor Center to answer questions about that fateful day, and to share their personal experiences with the visitors.

Wheeler Field

Wheeler Field, a current US Army base, was the next stop on our historical tour. Wheeler Field, with its collection of planes, at the ready, was a primary target for the Japanese during their assault. By bombing our planes, and taking them out of commission, the Japanese military hoped not to have to engage in an air battle with us. However, a couple Army pilots were able to get airborne and fight the Japanese.

Schofield Barracks and the 25th "Tropic Lightning" Division

Like Wheeler Field, Schofield Barracks is also a US Army base and home to the 25th Infantry Division. This Division is also known as “Tropic Lightning.” Stopping here, on our cruise to Hawaii from California, we visited the Tropic Lightning Museum. This Museum is dedicated to this Infantry Division and its history from its 1941 inception, forward.

Fort Shafter and the “Pineapple Pentagon”

United States Army Pacific Command is centralized at Fort Shafter. The “Pineapple Pentagon” was an area of Fort Shafter, so named, as it was command central for Pacific forces during World War II. On our tour, we were able to visit some of the central command buildings.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (a.k.a. Punchbowl National Cemetery)

Punchbowl National CemeteryCredit: Southerngirl09Like the USS Arizona, this Cemetery is a somber place to remember, and thank, all those who’ve died protecting and keeping our freedom alive. Punchbowl National Cemetery takes its name from the Hawaiian name, Puowaina, as in Puowaina Crater, an extinct cone, which is part of the Ko’olau Range volcano. Punchbowl is the final resting place for those Americans who fought, and died, during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Of those buried there, who sacrificed all, during World War II, 776 died during the attack on December 7, 1941.

Home of the Brave Museum

The last stop on our historical tour, during our cruise to Hawaii from California, was to the Home of the Brave Museum. This private Museum contains items from the World War II era. Being able to ‘touch’ these items was a fun, learning experience to close a day full of knowledge and immersion into the Island of Oahu during World War II.

Let’s Discover Honolulu!

Sunset at Waikiki BeachCredit: Southerngirl09On the way back to our ship, our guide pointed out other prominent places in Honolulu, such as the, much photographed, ‘Iolani Palace, the renowned statue of King Kamehameha I, in front of the Aliiolani Hale building, now used to house the State Supreme Court, and finally the Aloha Stadium.

After a snack, back on the Diamond Princess, we had more exploring to do. Our vacation cruise to Hawaii from California voyage wouldn’t be complete without a walk along the world-renowned Waikiki Beach.

In Closing

Like our visit to Lahaina, Maui, Nawiliwili, Kauai, and Kona and Hilo, both on the Big Island, our visit to Honolulu, Oahu was awesome! While we saw much of what we wanted to see, there’s still so much to see and do. Given that hubby and I are both World War II buffs, on our next cruise to Hawaii from California, we’d like to visit the USS Bowfin Submarine, the USS Missouri Battleship, the Pacific Aviation Museum, and the USS Oklahoma Memorial.

And, of course, another cruise to Hawaii from California wouldn’t be complete with visiting Diamond Head and the Polynesian Cultural Center. With so much to see and do, on the Island of Oahu, it sounds like we need to plan another cruise to Hawaii from California.

My Personal Diary of Our Cruise to Hawaii From California
Princess Cruises Website (www.princess.com)
Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org)
National Park Service (www.nps.gov/valr/index.htm)