Tom and I love learning new things. The main point of traveling is broadening our horizons by learning about the culture and history of a place. Six years ago we took a cruise on Carnival Cruise Line and there weren’t any enrichment experiences at all. No books about our destination. No classes or lectures. In fact, when we asked where the library was, the crew didn’t know! One of the reason we decided to book with Holland America this cruise was because of their “Explorations Central” program.
Explorations Central is an enrichment program that teaches about the place and people where the cruise is going. During “at sea” days there are a multitude of activity choices. At least two of these choices a day are Explorations Central programs. This was our favorite part of the cruise.
The daily guide to activities is called the “When and Where.” Every night Tom and I would look at it and mark the Explorations Central programs we wanted to attend the next day. They were our first priority and we were not disappointed with them.
We had lectures by two authors: Ginny Stibolt and Lawrence Tartaglino. Ginny is a botanist who specializes in sustainable gardening by using native plants. She also writes a blog on gardening in Florida. She gave a lecture every day on some aspect of plant life in Hawaii. Her lectures were very in-depth with excellent slides and always taught us something. Lawrence Tartaglino is a retired history professor. He gave a lecture every day that dealt with the history of a Hawaiian island or a particular person related to the islands. Although Tom and I didn’t learn as much from his lectures, he was a little more personable and used humor to good effect.
The lectures were very good, but my favorite part of the Explorations Central program was the presentations by the native Hawaiians. Holland America paid three dancers and a ukulele player to lead classes every day. I attended all of them: “Learning to Hula,” “The History of Hula” and “How to Speak Hawaiian.” Learning the Hula was a good form of exercise and amusement for me. Each dance tells a story and my dances usually told about me being a klutz! It is especially difficult to look graceful when the ship is rocking back and forth.
You might be interested in some history of the Hula. According to legend, the Goddess Pele (controls volcanoes) was angry with her younger sister for stealing Pele’s man. Volcanoes were erupting and destroying everything. The younger sister calmed Pele down and got the volcanoes to stop erupting by dancing the first Hula. Thus the Hula is a sacred dance and an important part of Hawaiian tradition.
I learned a few Hawaiian words. The language only has 13 letters: 8 consonants and 5 vowels. Everyone is familiar with “aloha” which is translated “hello,” “goodbye,” or “love.” But “aloha” means all those things because it means “breath of life.” A traditional greeting between Hawaiians would be to touch noses and foreheads and share the breath of life – aloha. When Captain Cook first came to Hawaii, he tried to shake hands with King Kamehameha I. Consequently, the king said Captain Cook was ha’ole – “no breath of life.” Today a “ha’ole” is any person who doesn’t care about learning Hawaiian history or customs.
The Hawaiians are traditionally very generous people who are happy to share their customs and their island with anyone. If you are not “ha’ole,” then you are “ohana” – family – even if you don’t live on the island. A person is only “malihini” the first time they come to Hawaii. After that first visit, you are “ohana” if you care about the people and customs. Hawaiians typically call everyone “hoa hanau” – cousin – after getting acquainted. My favorite Hawaiian word is “humu humu nuku nuku a pua’a.” This is the state fish – the reef triggerfish – but the name in Hawaiian is “small fish with a nose like a pig snout.”
I loved learning more about Hawaiian culture, traditions, history, and plant life from all the instructors in the Explorations Central Program. The program added to my enjoyment of my vacation. I felt like I learned a lot before we got to the islands so I could learn even more while we were there. After all, I want to be “ohana,” not “ha’ole.”