We tend to avoid shore excursions, like the plague, in the same way we avoid gross generalisations and clichés. But sometimes they are a necessary evil.
Treadwell tends to get huffy that her personal space is being invaded if someone just walks by the cabin, so having to spend several hours in a coach with dozens of people she doesn’t know is tantamount to torture of the most demophobic kind (yes, we had to look up Demophobia, or a fear of crowds, as the closest name for her ‘condition.’ If you want a really good phobia to impress your friends with, try Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, or the fear of the number 666. It’s a real thing, you can look it up).
Treadwell’s phobias also encompass travelling by plane and train, although First Class on the Eurostar is fine. Perhaps she just has a fear of economy travel, which, I confess, is perfectly understandable.
So the idea of an excursion, especially somewhere hot, is enough to make the D.O.G. (Dear Old Girl) break out in hives. But there we were in Maui, Hawaii, and the rental cars were all booked up for the day, so it was a ship excursion or nothing if we wanted to get out and about and see something of the island.
As well as Treadwell’s demophobia, we also believe the usual ship-organised tours tend to be horribly over-priced, often for things you can do under your own steam if you are smart enough (or quick enough to book a hire car), hence I had a tsunami of reluctance to overcome.
But overcome it I did, after a certain amount of humming and hahing at the wide variety of excursions on offer. The Road to Hana sounded like a special kind of torture, a 64-mile drive along a narrow, twisty-turny highway that can take three hours to navigate, non-stop, one-way, on a good day, and we didn’t think it would be a good day. There are 59 bridges on this particular highway to hell, 46 of which are one lane wide. Never mind Treadwell’s hives, both of us would be basket cases after six-plus hours of that.
No, that definitely wasn’t for us, no matter how picturesque the journey. We also passed on the ‘exclusive’ opportunity to visit the 10,000ft volcano Haleakala at sunrise. The idea of doing anything at sunrise is pretty much anathema to us, unless it involves a jolly amount of mimosas and Bloody Marys, and the more we can avoid sunrises, the happier we are.
However, the Best of Maui sounded harmless enough and, even better, it didn’t depart until 11am, which gave us plenty of time to lounge on our balcony beforehand with a room-service breakfast. At six hours in duration, we would be back on board in time for cocktails with the captain, an important ritual as we firmly believe that hob-nobbing with the crew is the best way not to be left behind at a port of call.
We weren’t completely sold on the idea, of course. The Iao Valley State Monument was the first stop, and it seemed to involve a fair bit of hiking to see the bally monument in question. Hiking is not our forte. We tried it in St Kitts once. Once. Up a volcano. Classed as “an easy walk.” Silly buggers. They wouldn’t know an easy walk from the Ministry of Silly Walks. But more of that another time.
Another stop on the tour was the Maui Tropical Plantation, along with an optional extra called the Flyin’ Hawaiian Zipline. Now, anyone who starts dropping their ‘g’s off the end of their words is automatically highly suspect, and ziplining is definitely not our forte, either. Tried it once in Florida. Once. Damned undignified.
But the idea of the plantation sounded harmless enough. The lure of a good cup of coffee is always likely to get my attention, and the D.O.G. is certainly happy when tropical foliage is involved, hence we could both look forward to a highlight or two, despite not having hugely high hopes for being stuck on a coach for upwards of three hours.
And do you know what? A funny thing happened on the way to this particular forum. The coach was only half full, which gave us plenty of space to spread out (and, after five full days of sea-going culinary splendour prior to reaching Maui, we had some spreading out to do), and the first people we met on board were our cabin neighbours from the ship. Delightful couple from Surrey, nearly as well travelled as us, and almost as much fun.
With their company, the hours passed like minutes, and the minutes were a blur of good conversation and wonderful tropical vistas. The Iao monument required only the most basic of perambulations and was, indeed, a fine sight to behold, with its 1,200-ft ‘needle’ rising starkly from the valley floor. The attendant Heritage Park’s collection of different cultural buildings – with influences as diverse as Portuguese, Chinese and Korean – was an unexpected joy, and the Tropical Plantation merely involved a delightful open-sided tram tour around their multi-coloured corner of the Waikapu Valley. And a damned fine cup of coffee.
And the moral of the story? Don’t worry if the hire cars are fully booked in Hawaii – this is truly a destination that rewards relaxed circumnavigation, and the views are totally breathtaking, even by coach. And if we’re saying that, you know they must be good.