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Off to Honolulu via Chicago - Part 1 of Our Trip Around the World

Off to Honolulu via Chicago - Part 1 of Our Trip Around the World

Old Jan 30th, 2020, 02:17 PM
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Off to Honolulu via Chicago - Part 1 of Our Trip Around the World

For our 50th wedding anniversary, my husband and I decided to celebrate in a big way and take a special trip around the world. I've described our full itinerary in my trip report, "Celebrating 50 Years - Our Trip Around the World", in the Travel Tips & Trip Ideas forum, but I thought I would revisit each leg of our journey as a separate trip report under the appropriate forum. Part 1 describes the first leg of our trip, from our home town in upstate New York to Chicago and onward to Honolulu.

Winter was hanging tight at home the week before our departure date of March 2, 2019. Temperatures remained in the teens and snow kept accumulating, pretty and white, outside our windows. Pretty as it can be, we know too well the problems snow can bring to the best laid travel plans around here, so we decided not to take any chances with a tight connection in Chicago on our way to Hawaii. O'Hare has been our nemesis too many times to recount here. To alleviate those worries, we made arrangements to fly to Chicago and spend the night before our flight to Honolulu in an airport hotel. As it turned out, weather was not an issue, but we were still glad to have a relaxing evening near O'Hare prior to our departure for Hawaii. Upon landing in Chicago, we hopped on a free shuttle to the Hampton Inn Rosemont, a relatively new Hampton Inn not far from the airport. Unlike most Hampton Inns, the Rosemont had a small bar in the lobby and we soon settled in for a celebratory glass of wine while we decided where to go for dinner. There were a few choices within walking distance and the receptionist at the front desk kindly supplied us with menus to help us make our choice.

Giordano's, a restaurant one tenth of a mile away, had 4 1/2 stars on TripAdvisor and claimed to have the best deep dish pizza in Chicago. Probably this a boast made by many area pizza places, but we decided to give it a try anyway. Crossing the busy highway from the hotel to the restaurant was a bit tricky, but we were soon seated and given a menu by the friendly waitress. Steve ordered spaghetti marinara with an Italian salad and said it was good. I decided on a personal size Chicago style deep dish pizza, which turned out to be an experience in overindulgence. The diameter of the pie was fairly small but it had to be at least 2 inches thick and was stuffed with meat and cheese. It tasted great but half of it was way too much for me. I was happy to have tried a real Chicago style pizza but I think New York style pizza, with a nice thin crust, is more my style.

The Hampton Inn breakfast the next morning was fairly typical, with various hot and cold options to choose from and pretty good coffee. We are Hilton Honors members and often stay in Hampton Inns, finding them to be generally pleasant and comfortable. Soon, the hotel shuttle had us back at the airport, where we found that checking in as business class ticket holders was pretty easy. And we would have sailed through security with our TSA precheck status except for the fact that Steve set off the metal detector. He had carefully tucked his passport away under his shirt in its RFID safe holder, forgetting that the case was foil lined. This had happened to him once before while going through security so I don't think it will happen again.

Flying business class was a new experience for us, as the only other business class flights we had ever taken were unexpected upgrades we had been given many years ago. On this American Airlines flight, the business class seats were like individual pods that reclined into beds. Each pod was supplied with a lovely soft pillow and comforter. So nice! All I could think of were the many long flights we have endured in economy seats over the years. We would spend hours twisting and turning, trying to contort into comfortable positions so we could nap, often with very little luck. It was hard for me to believe, as I settled into this wonderful seat, that I could actually stretch out, with my feet up, and be comfortable on a plane.

But as we were settling in, and marveling at the comforts of business class seats, the pilot made an announcement that, unfortunately, our aircraft had a mechanical issue that would delay our flight indefinitely. Oh no! This was something we really did not want to hear. Would this flight ultimately be cancelled? Would we be stranded in Chicago? Would our round the world trip be off to an unlucky start, stopped in its tracks? After a very nerve-wracking interval, the pilot came back on over the loudspeaker and announced that the issue had been cleared up and, thankfully, we were soon on our way to Honolulu.

Thanks to our business class status, the food was good and we enjoyed the complimentary wine. I chose zucchini meatballs from the interesting menu and Steve enjoyed the sea bass. The large video screen with the Bose headset that came with it, and the great choice of newly released movies, helped pass the time. Before we knew it, the nine hour flight was over, and we were landing in Honolulu. This wonderful trip was off to a great start!
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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 04:45 PM
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Looking forward to reading all the installments - sounds like a trip of a lifetime.

(Ain't Business Class woooooonderfull??? I won't take any long hauls in the back of the plane -- been totally spoiled )
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Old Jan 31st, 2020, 06:54 AM
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Thanks, janisj, for the encouragement. I'm beginning to realize this is going to be a big job but I really want to attempt it.
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Old Jan 31st, 2020, 07:05 AM
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Signing on!

After you've flown business it is SO hard to go back to economy on long haul flights. It's why I have an affinity credit card.

I so agree about pizza - I only eat thin crust these days.
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Old Jan 31st, 2020, 11:34 AM
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So exciting to travel with you Candance, armchair travel in front of my computer is fun.

Yes, the first class comfort is truly a great advantage. Have enjoyed it few times and the comfort, the pampering one receives is well worth the price. Reaching the destination and feeling good as one steps off the plane is one the best feelings.

Looking forward to all the wonderful details and hope to get inspired to plan my own RTW trip someday. Right now, just a dream!
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Old Jan 31st, 2020, 01:36 PM
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Thanks, everyone for the encouragement. And, yes, business class is amazing. We are now totally spoiled!

HONOLULU AND WAIKIKI BEACH:

As a stop-over on our way to Japan, we decided to spend only two nights in Hawaii, which would allow us time enough, we thought, to tour Pearl Harbor, and see a little bit of Honolulu. By staying in Waikiki, we hoped to be near enough to the famous beach to be able to have some pleasant walks near the water's edge, watching the surfers and enjoying the sight of Diamond Head off in the distance. With so many choices in Waikiki, researching hotels took some time. The waterfront view room I was hoping to book was too costly, and the partial views available just looked frustrating, offering only glimpses of the sea around and through the massive collection of high-rise hotels that fronted the beach. I finally let go of the idea of a view and settled on booking a less expensive room at the Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel. At least, as Hilton Honors members, we would get our free bottle of water at checkin. Plus, the hotel's location looked like it would work pretty well for our anticipated strolls out along the beach.

Upon landing in Honolulu, we needed to locate some transportation to the Hilton. After a few inquiries, we were directed to Robert's Hawaii Shuttle Service, which had an office right near the baggage claim area. It was easy to book tickets with this company for the next shuttle to Waikiki, which would drop us off directly at the hotel. At the same time, we could arrange for pickup at the hotel the morning of our flight out of Honolulu. Easy and convenient, and we were soon on our way to the Hilton.

Because of our delay taking off from Chicago, it was almost 7:00 pm before we were able to check into the hotel. That, however, turned out to be a good thing for us. Chad, the pleasant young man at the reception desk, was at the end of his shift and feeling generous. When he heard that we were on a special anniversary trip, he considered a minute before saying that he thought he had the perfect room for us. Located on the 35th floor, this room had a balcony with a sea view, plus executive lounge privileges, which included both complimentary beverages and hors d'oeuvres during the day and free breakfast in the morning. "Would that room be satisfactory?", he asked us, with a straight face. We couldn't believe it. What a wonderful upgrade! Once we settled in, we felt on top of the world, or at least on top of the hotel. We could sit on our balcony, which was furnished with a small table and two chairs, and watch the distant waves roll onto the beach. At sunset, sailboats were silhouetted against the pastel sky, as a few surfers and paddle boarders took advantage of the fading light. The sea almost disappeared at night, but the lights of the beachfront hotels dazzled all around us.

It took awhile for us to tear ourselves away from this wonderful room, but we were getting hungry. To find a late dinner, we didn't go any further than the cafe located off the lobby of our hotel. We ordered a bowl of chili and a sandwich, which turned out to be okay food with a big price tag. But we were happy to be in Hawaii and tomorrow we would be touring Pearl Harbor. Chad at the reception desk had suggested that we consult with the hotel's concierge to arrange for transportation to the Pearl Harbor site. We took his advise and soon found ourselves booked on a bus tour the next morning. Bus tours aren't our sort of thing, but this sounded like the best and easiest option for the short time we had. Knowing that we had a 9:00 am pickup for our tour in the morning, we went back to our room, had a final look at the nighttime view, and went to bed.
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Old Feb 1st, 2020, 04:09 PM
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Joining in. Excited to follow your anniversary trip. We told every hotel we booked it was our big anniversary. Only one place did anything and they did a lot for us. Hotel Bellerive on Lake Garda. Upgraded to a two balcony suite, Prosecco, candy, strawberries dipped in chocolate, wine and more. And a custom made card. It has left such a good impression of the whole area. Can’t wait to read more.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 05:44 AM
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Looking forward to the rest of this story. I like that you're doing this as "something special," too.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 08:50 AM
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Thought I'd post a link to the thread where the OP talks about the whole trip - Celebrating 50 Years - Our Trip Around the World

Here's a map of the overall route -



They're using a Oneworld Explorer RTW ticket; if interested here's a link to a thread I posted about RTW travel on the Air Travel board a while back - still fairly current. Round-the-world and multi-continent airfares

Loving this TR so far.

Last edited by Gardyloo; Feb 2nd, 2020 at 08:59 AM.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 12:33 PM
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So glad to have checked in on the US board. This promises to be an ongoing treat.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 01:38 PM
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HappyTrvlr, that hotel must surely have made you feel special. It is lovely, isn't it, to be fussed over a bit.

Fourfortravel, thanks for following along. The whole trip surely was "something special".

Gardyloo, it is wonderful to hear from you. I read and re-read your posts when I was planning this trip. You are certainly the master at accomplishing this sort of big and complicated endeavor. Thanks for your help!

TOURING PEARL HARBOR:
Both our fathers had served in World War II, Steve's dad in the Navy as a PT boat captain in the Pacific, and my dad in the Army as an infantry soldier in Italy. Although the war wasn't spoken about much as we were growing up, it was not hard for us to imagine the impact the attack on Pearl Harbor must have had on our fathers, our mothers, our grandparents, and everyone close to them. The shock waves the attack sent across America on that Sunday afternoon 78 years ago must have been unimaginable. War had come and everyone's life was turned upside down. Touring the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, and having the chance to understand better what happened there, was moving and unforgettable for us.

Our tour started at a pickup point not far from our hotel. We arrived a little early but it wasn't long before the big Roberts Hawaii Tour bus pulled up. This must be the same Roberts Hawaii company that operated the airport shuttle we had booked. When we boarded the bus, we found that our hotel's concierge had reserved the front seat with the best view for us. How nice. Our bus driver and tour guide soon introduced herself as Cousin Dorothy, and off we went. Cousin Dorothy, who drove her bus with grace and professionalism, was also lots of fun. A native Hawaiian with, as she said, lots of other stuff thrown in, she shared interesting information about her native heritage, the Hawaiian language and her perspective on life in Honolulu. On our way to Pearl Harbor, we detoured past some of Honolulu's attractions before the bus eventually climbed the hill to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, located in what is called the Punchbowl Crater. This cemetery was dedicated in 1949 and now contains the remains of over 50,000 servicemen from World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. Crowning this peaceful and serene place was the Honolulu Memorial where white marble steps led up to the tall and beautiful statue of Lady Columbia, meant to represent all grieving mothers. This was especially poignant as Cousin Dorothy had just pointed out an area of the cemetery where 30 sets of brothers were laid to rest.

After leaving the cemetery, our next stop was the battleship Missouri. This was a rather backwards approach, as the battleship stands as a monument to the end of the war. The Japanese command surrendered on the deck of the Missouri in Tokyo Bay, less than 4 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Our tour of the Missouri was impressive on many levels. To see its massive guns, which we were told could shoot shells weighing as much as a Volkswagen 20 miles with pinpoint accuracy, was amazing. To wander through the ship, peering at the different mess halls and marveling at the small bunks that made up the sailors' living quarters, was really interesting. On one deck, our guide pointed out the spot where a young kamikaze pilot had crashed his plane. His body was found amid the wreckage and the decision was made to bury him in a dignified manner at sea. In order to do so properly, however, a Japanese flag was needed to wrap his body in. A seaman volunteered to sew a flag with the materials at hand and the young man was buried with dignity. After the war, it was reported how grateful his parents were for the care taken of their son. A photo on site shows the pilot as a small boy surrounded by his family. Another moving story that impressed us was told by a young Japanese aide de camp who was present at the surrender. He later wrote about his wonder and surprise at the compassionate terms offered by the Americans. We felt some pride in the fact that after the terrible destruction of such a war there could be compassion shown by the victorious Americans.

After leaving the Missouri, we used our tour coupons to purchase lunch from a food truck parked nearby. We took our food and drink to a picnic table in the shade. I can't tell you what we ate but as I remember is was okay. For the next part of the tour, we drove to the Pearl Harbor National Memorial where we were instructed by Dorothy how to pick up headphones and tour through the exhibit galleries. One gallery outlined, with various exhibits, "The Road to War", the other highlighted "The Attack". There was also a movie which included actual footage of the attack and the resulting destruction. All this illustrated so well the lead up to the attack by the Japanese and the horror of it as it took place. We took the short boat ride out to the Arizona Memorial but we were not allowed to disembark due to ongoing repairs. Back on shore, we wandered with our headphones around the harbor to different listening spots. Soon it was time to regroup at the bus and make our way back through Honolulu toward Waikiki. Dorothy took us by a few iconic sights where we could climb off the bus to take pictures but soon we were in stop and go traffic on our way back to the pickup point. One notable sight as the bus made its way along the crowded streets was the naked backside of a woman strolling down the main thoroughfare of Waikiki, casually window-shopping in her string bikini. I wonder if she realized she was quite an eyeful from the rear.

Cousin Dorothy had picked us up at 9:00 am and we got back to the hotel at 5:00 pm, so it was a long day but well worth it. For our last night in Waikiki, we bought sandwiches at one of the iconic ABC shops and had dinner in our room. The next morning we would meet the Roberts Shuttle to the airport and would soon be on our way to Japan!

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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 01:49 PM
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Along for the ride.

We made several RTW trips when we lived in the Middle East, but it was more about getting from A-B-C and then back to A for us. I'd have loved to make many more stops than we did, but time was always a factor.

Looking forward to reading more about your adventure.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 02:24 PM
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Great reports, Candace. It brought back memories or our visit to Hawaii during our RTW trip.

Be careful about being exposed to Business Class too often, you may not want to ever go back to coach again.
RoamsAround is online now  
Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 01:22 PM
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bon voyage & Melnq8, thanks for following along. And yes, RoamsAround, we are now ruined, and cannot ever envision taking those long flights in coach again.

WE'RE OFF TO THE AIRPORT

The next morning, we took advantage of the complimentary breakfast at the Hilton, and were soon waiting for the Roberts' Hawaii Airport Shuttle to pick us up outside the hotel. When we had arranged for the return trip at the Roberts service counter at the airport, the customer service person had asked about our flight's departure time and had scheduled our pickup accordingly. Figuring that the Roberts people must know how much travel time to allot for the trip to the airport, I wasn't initially worried about arriving in plenty of time to check in for our flight. But we were the first passengers to be picked up by the shuttle, which then stopped repeatedly to pickup other customers on the way. Often, the driver had to wait for late-comers and I began to feel the minutes ticking away. The trip started to become stressful as the bus was slowed by rush hour traffic which was stop and go for blocks at a time and then halted entirely for construction work on the highway. But, stressful as it was, we did eventually arrive at the airport with time to spare. So much time, in fact, that we could take advantage of the Japan Airlines business class lounge. This was the first business class lounge we had ever experienced and we were so impressed by how nice it was. I had some coffee and snacked on a few of the tempting treats offered. Steve, however, had what he thought was one of the best dishes of the entire trip, a Japanese beef curry. He later found out that this curry was a signature dish of Japan Airlines, well known and well loved by Japan Airlines customers. Looking forward to recreating the curry at home, he soon found that the recipe is a closely guarded secret. Although he did eventually attempt to recreate it, he didn't have great luck. I think he would fly Japan Airlines again just to have a chance to enjoy that curry one more time.

It was soon time to make our way to our gate and board our flight. Some 9 hours and 40 minutes later, we would be landing in Osaka.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 01:57 PM
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That kind of thing is why I avoid shuttles when possible! Glad you got to enjoy the Lounge, although my experience of JAL biz class was not all that good.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 03:51 PM
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You are right , thursdaysd, shuttles aren’t the best choice. For the rest of the trip, we mostly used public transportation or taxis. We were thrilled with Japan Airlines business class but we didn’t have much to compare it to. Once we flew on Qatar business class, we were truly spoiled.


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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 09:07 AM
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Waiting patiently for more details on your amazing journey.
ileen is online now  
Old Feb 5th, 2020, 02:24 PM
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I use Robert's Shuttle for Waikiki but that's because my hotel gives it free. For me it took an extra 1/2 hour with the dropping others off or picking people up. If it had not been free, I would have used a taxi!

Looking forward to your trip report...
suze is online now  
Old Feb 10th, 2020, 07:53 AM
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Ilene, weíve been traveling to visit family. I hope to get this report going again in a day or two.

Suze, Iím glad to hear your hotel provided the Robertís shuttle for free. Wish ours had. With all the stopping, it was a frustrating trip to the airport.
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Old Feb 10th, 2020, 10:04 AM
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hi Candace, Oh I knew what I was getting into when I accepted the free shuttle offer Knowing in advance it really wasn't terrible, and only added 30 minutes to the trip each time. I actually like seeing the different fancier properties as we dropped off, or picked people up. But yes if it was on my dime, I'd grab a taxi.

Looking forward to your trip report...
suze is online now  

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