United Stops in America

The Costa Luminosa has given us no less than five stopovers in the USA. We have had time to go shopping, to visit family, to go sightseeing and simply to walk the streets with no particular purpose. Most places we would have wished for more time, but we did travel on with the feeling that we had actually visited the USA. And that was good, because clearing the ship on the first morning of this American tour was quite a hassle.

San Diego. We were parked in the middle of town, next to the Noordam from the Holland America Line.

San Diego may not be the most well known tourist trap in the US, it is more known as a border town where Donald Trump’s wall would hit the ocean if he ever got the chance to build it. But even in the United States of Obama the controls can be thorough, something we experienced when the Luminosa was invaded by an unknown number of federal agents on the morning of our arrival. Starting at 6 in the morning everybody had to gather in the onboard theatre where we were divided into groups who were later shepherded past a row of agents with pistols, sharp eyes and rubber stamps to use on our passports. The show took four hours, but then we were cleared for the entire US part of the cruise. When we later stopped in LA, San Francisco, Honolulu and Samoa we were treated as domestic, and we never saw another agent again.

As for San Diego it turned out to be a rather pleasant experience. We docked in the middle of town, we had a short walk up to the main shopping areas and we spent the day searching for clothes, gym-equipment and other items that the shops of the Luminosa cannot provide. The ship-shops are there mainly to trap passenger into spending money on high end clothes and jewelry. If you want toothpaste or a package of Kleenex you have to go ashore.

Santa Monica. Meeting up with The Sister on a sidewalk that made everyone who had had more than two drinks a bit dizzy.

Los Angeles however, seems to be charming only to those who can afford to live along the ridges of the Beverly Hills. We spent the two days in LA (or rather San Pedro, which is the dock district) visiting ES’ sister. She lives in Santa Barbara, where we had a week as late as back in May, but this time we all met up in the LA northern satellite of Santa Monica. This is where some of the medium rich and medium beautiful hang out when they feel like walking the beach and drinking their tequila. It is a nice and affordable, if not particularly inexpensive, place to spend an afternoon, an evening and a lazy morning.

San Francisco in the morning, seen from underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

Family aside, the highlight of this leg of the cruise was San Francisco. We have been there before, arriving by car the first time and by plane the second time, but nothing can beat arriving by sea. At six thirty in the morning chances are that the Golden Gate Bridge is partly packed in cold cotton, but still passing beneath the might towers is a memorable experience. The backlight from the sunrise gave the city skyline a mysterious pale yellow and blue shade, and on our left we passed so close to the Alcatraz that we could wave to the ghost of Al Capone. We spent the day climbing the steep streets, exploring Chinatown, riding the unique cable cars from 1873 and eating oysters at Fisherman’s Warf. The fact that the ship did not leave till the next morning gave us a night on the town, something we get to do way too seldom on this voyage of short and hectic stops.

Honolulu. The USS Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor.

In Hawaii we were back to the ten hour experience, however. As a semi professional historian DHH insisted on one thing – a visit to Pearl Harbor. The site of the 1941 Japanese attack on the US Pacific Fleet is a museum containing memorabilia from both the start and the end of the Second World War, as seen from an American perspective. The USS Arizona is an underwater mausoleum, still containing the remains of many of the 1200 men who died when she exploded and sunk. Just some 300 meters away we visited the USS Missouri where the Japanese signed the document of capitulation some four years later.

The Fifth US stop is actually not in the US, but at a place the Americans call an «unincorporated territory». American Samoa is one of half a dozen spots on the globe that is US territory without being a proper state, the most known being Puerto Rico in the Caribbean. Our impression of Samoa and Pago Pago we cannot give you, this is where we are now spending time in a friendly cafe putting out this very blog post.

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