Usually we go to Hawaii for Christmas. We're not this year, but it's enough to be able to relive past trips. Here's our sojourn from 2001.
"NO SIGHTSEEING!" That's what the kids said when we first piled into our rental car on Maui. No bike rides down crators, no twenty mile scenic drives through the most gorgeous countryside imaginable. I was thrilled. Welcome to another Levine vacation.
This year we went to Maui. Usually we go to the KaHollywood Manderin Oriental Asian but this year they wanted to put us on a waiting list (despite going there for many years). Amazingly, on Sept. 12 they called with the joyous news that rooms were suddenly available. Could they book us for ten days? Or fifty? But by then we had made other plans. Went to the Grand Wailea on Maui but could only get in for five nights so made arrangements to move up the road to the Renaissance (about which we heard good things). That was a mistake but more on that later.
The Grand Wailea is a true luxury resort but HUGE. It should be called the MGM Grand Wailea. Gorgeous accomodations and a sprawling compound. Lagoons, spas, thirty million dollars in sculptures that no one notices and is primarily used as jungle gyms for kids, its own chapel (tan with Jesus), exclusive shops with prices that were staggeringly ridiculous. You'd have a better shot finding a Jew in the Chapel than at the cashier stand of one of these stores. But the big attraction is water slides. My wife could be on those things all day.
Another exclusive feature is their Grand Spa where a massage is just part of the package. Unfortunately the other part is not a "happy ending". It's an absurd beginning. You're invited to go through a series of kelp baths, loofah sponge baths (administered by a guy named Thor), sea salt exfoliation treatment, and a Japanese Furo bath. You're then offered a selection of massages. My favorite: they pour hot oil on your forehead. All this for only five times what a normal massage would cost (WITH a happy ending). Plus, there is a handout of "spa etiquette". Among the entries: "menstraual cycle ladies on their cycle are asked not to utilize the Terme. The Terme may be used on a seperate day".
Their thatched hut tropical lagoon restaurant is actually named (this is no joke) Humuhumunukunukuapua's. Annie says when she goes on SURVIVOR that's going to be her tribe's name. Lobster at $38 a pound, two pound minimum. Not a lot of Jews there either.
Saw a woman with two cellphones. That was new. Fashion tip: women who could pass for Fran Drescher or K.D. Lang should not wear bikinis. And no guy should wear Speedos. I needed a hot oil forehead massage after one day of gazing at this crowd.
Christmas is always a time of tradition at the Grand Wailea. Japanese carolers in the lobby did their best with "Have a Jolly Holly Christmas". You can imagine.
No Hollywood celebrity sighting. We did bump into Mariner relief ace Jeff Nelson and saw more of a sighting of him than we would have liked. We were all in the ocean when a big wave pulled down his bathing suit affording us a moon I'm sure was intended for the New York Yankees.
Alas, on the 26th we moved to the Marriott Renaissance. If the Grand Wailea is a world class hotel, the Renaissance is where KRTH winners stay. And the appalling thing is that they charge practically the SAME as the Grand Wailea with practically none of the amenities. I guess it's Marriott's attempt at luxury and in their mind it's the chain's crown jewel along with the Courtyard in City of Industry. No fear of bumping into big Hollywood celebrities here. Even UPN executives would rather go to the Travelodge up the road. We stayed in the refurbished Tiki Tacky wing.
Their spa treatment was somewhat more streamlined than the Grand Wailea. Cabana boys will rub you down if no one wants an umbrella plunged into the sand.
But much better snorkling at the Renaissance. And scuba lessons when the cabana boys get done setting up the chairs.
Friday night is luau night. All the big hotels (and the Renaissance) hold luas complete with poi, tropical drinks, lots of pork (you do see Jews here) and shows for the tourists. We strolled along the shore and sampled all the shows. At the Grand Wailea hula dancers swayed to a medley of some traditional Hawaiian song and the Battle Hymn of the Republic. At the Outrigger there was an authentic Somoan fire-eater who twirled flaming batons (and you wonder what kind of careers are out there for majorettes...). Finally, the Renaissance where cabana boys on the main stage cut papayas. I couldn't help but notice there were no Hawaiian comics. Although one emcee did ask "how many of you are from out of town?"
All in all another spectacular vacation and it was great to have the whole family together for a week. Hope your holidays were just as nice.
And now we have Marriott points so we can stay a night free at their luxury resort in Lubbock, Texas.