Visiting Pearl Harbor, Oahu

December 7th, 2016 commemorated 75 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor.  National Pearl Harbor Rememberance Day was an opportunity to honour the sacrifice and dedication by those involved in this tragedy, which thrust America into World War II.

We visited Honolulu last October and there was only one place that we had to go to whilst we were there – Pearl Harbor.

Firstly, before you go, don’t feel that you have to use the official cruise excursions to make your trip to Pearl Harbor.  We found that this was a really popular excursion that had sold out before the cruise so with a bit of research we were able to book advanced tickets independently at a fraction of the price with US Parks and Recreation.  These tickets can be booked up to two months in advance.

Tickets for the USS ARIZONA Memorial are free with just a $1.50 booking fee, which is well worth it as you can book a time slot.  We booked a morning slot, which was fortunate as the time slots in the afternoon were cancelled due to high winds. The boat that transports passengers over to the Memorial will not operate if weather conditions are not safe.

We opted to get the Passport to Pearl Harbor tickets which included entry to the USS ARIZONA Memorial, USS BOWFIN, BIG MO and the Pacific Aviation Museum for $65 each.  If you choose this package, plan to be there for the whole day.

On the day we came into port in Honolulu we got off the ship early and caught a taxi outside the cruise terminal with ease, costing us around $25, which took around 20 minutes. Pearl Harbor was quiet at this time, before the cruise excursions and tourists arrived and we quickly visited the information desk where we were handed our tickets and earphones.


Above: cruise port at Honolulu

The USS ARIZONA Memorial is definitely worth the experience, it was very interesting and a poignant tribute to the those who lost their lives.  The Memorial has the names of all those who died and the atmosphere is respectfully quiet.  If you look into the water, you can still see the oil forming on the surface from the USS ARIZONA, 75 years on.

Pearl Harbor is a must for anyone visiting Oahu, for those of you who just want to visit the USS ARIZONA Memorial, you can do this in half a day, leaving the rest of the day to explore Honolulu and visit the iconic Waikiki Beach but we opted to spend the majority of the day visiting all of the sites, still leaving a few hours to hot foot it over to the beach.

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Princess Cruises offered daily lectures on sea days on our way to Hawaii, which allowed us to learn more about the Pearl Harbor attack from experts, before visiting.  For someone who didn’t know a lot about Pearl Harbor before the cruise, these lectures really helped put things into perspective during our visit.


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Cruising from San Francisco

Waiting to board your cruise ship is so exciting, if you have some time to spare before you board, why not make the most of your time in San Francisco and start your holiday early?

Last year we started our cruise from San Francisco, a popular port for many cruises to start from, in particular those going to Alaska, Hawaii and Mexico, with around 80 cruise calls each year.

From the airport you’re looking at around a 45 minute drive to Pier 27 on the Embarcadero, be aware that traffic can get pretty bad along this road so make sure you leave plenty of time to arrive.  We did… we had no other choice, our internal flight from Las Vegas was early in the morning, like, 6.00am in the morning, which meant that our airport transfer picked us up at the airport and we were dropped off and stood waiting to board with all of our luggage by 8.15am.  We stood and watched the passengers from the previous cruise disembarking, which was fun – I love people watching but after a while we started to get a bit hungry and decided that we needed to get some breakfast.

We spotted another English couple who had been on our flight stood nearby waiting also, so we struck up a conversation with them to try and devise a plan to get breakfast.   Our predicament was that we had all of our luggage with us and there was nowhere nearby that was serving food.  In the meantime I was also speaking to my Mum who was back in England.  She got straight on Google Maps and started looking to find nearby places to eat (in hindsight we should have done our homework before we got there – thanks Mum!).  So with our new friends looking after our luggage, we headed off in search of breakfast.

The first place we came across was called the Pier 23 Café but it was closed (we found out later that it opened at 10.00am) so we crossed the Embarcadero and found a lovely little place called the Blue Barn Café  a few streets away that made delicious sausage and egg rolls, made to order.  We headed back to Pier 27 with sausage and egg rolls, one in each hand, for our new friends looking after our luggage, feeling triumphant that we had found something to eat.

Depending on when you arrive at Pier 27 (or Pier 35 on days when there are multiple cruise ships docked), you may not have to wait as long as we did.  Perhaps consider staying somewhere the night before and take advantage of a late check-out?  This would allow you time for a leisurely breakfast and the chance to take a stroll down to Fisherman’s Wharf, without being lumbered with all of your cruise luggage.  We were fortunate enough to spend two days in San Francisco after disembarkation and so we were able to do some sightseeing at the other end of our holiday.  It’s such a great city it would be a shame to fly in and out without stopping to experience what it has to offer.

If there is anything I’ve learnt from this, it’s to make sure that I do my research on facilities around the cruise port in advance – toilets, restaurants etc. and to make the most of our time, before and after the cruise, to maximise our holiday.

Happy cruising!

Related post: A Grand Cruise to Hawaii

Related post: Visiting Pearl Harbor, Oahu

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