Sunday Dec 28th Good morning all. It is 6.30am on Sunday morning in beautiful Hawaii. I am writing this whilst I sit out on the balcony of our hotel room overlooking Waikiki beach and the familiar Oceania Pacifica. The sun has not quite risen yet, the waves are gently lapping onto the shore directly below me and it is a mild morning with a gentle offshore breeze blowing. The rest of the family is still asleep after a long day of travel yesterday. The trip from NY to Hawaii took up all of Saturday 27th and was actually about 21hrs in duration. We had the usual hassles. Our car service, booked for 6am and confirmed the night before, did not show. Then, we had a 3 hour delay in LA due to mechanical issues meaning a stopover there of about 6 hours. FYI: LA International airport is not nearly as exciting as the song of the same name would have you believe! We eventually arrived into Honolulu, all a bit faded and dazed, at about 9.30pm local time. Once off the plane we were greeted by Joy, our transfer operator. Joy clearly enjoyed her food. She mumbled something very quickly at me, which she then had to repeat several times before Annabelle deciphered as ‘did we pay for the special Lei greeting?’. Unsure quite what QANTAS holidays had booked, I erred on the safe side and said ‘no’. We were told, politely, to stand aside for the other guests that she needed to greet. Somehow, even if we had paid for this extra greeting, her interrogation undermined any of the possible benefits attached to this ritual. We realised later, after watching the other paying guests arrive, that a special ‘Lei’ greeting involved a similar request about payment and, then, Joy throwing a Lei around your neck! I am glad our money was not wasted there! We were then bundled onto a small bus with two other families. One large and extended family that was straight out of ‘The Castle’. I was pleased to note that they were not staying at our hotel. Our hotel, The Moana Surfrider Hotel is located right on the beach in Waikiki in a grand and beautiful old colonial building right dating back to 1901. It has recently been refurbished and taken over by the Westin chain. Our two adjoining rooms were large and luxurious, much like the hotel itself, and faced directly onto the beach. Mark, Tom and I eventually strolled along the narrow beach where many board riders were waiting to catch the non-existent waves. Waikiki is quite an odd mix of sand and shops, with surf boards and swimming located just a few metres away from luxury shops of the ‘Prada’ and ‘Coach’ variety. We had breakfast in the hotel before Mark and Tom shopped a bit, I blogged and the girls hit the big shops. Mark, Tom and I eventually headed down to the pool/beach area at around 11am. What a contrast! There was ************e on the beach a few hours ago. Now, you had trouble finding a spot merely to place your towel! Give up even trying to find a free hotel chair around the pool or on the beach. It was rather reminiscent of Rhodes last year. The whole place is a bit of a weird blend of modern and high-end shopping glitz with flashes, here and there, of being hit with the ’80s stick’ all set amongst beautiful and lush tropical surrounds but, just a bit spoilt by the enormous crowds. We are really trying to keep an open mind about the place but……?????? Note to self: maybe we need to get out and around and see a bit more of the island than just Waikiki…will act on this tomorrow! We gathered together later that afternoon and decided to head to the Ala Moana shopping mall, about a 10 min cab ride up the road. Here, Mark really excelled himself. He left us girls ‘for dead’ at Banana Republic and Abercrombie & Fitch. There will surely be some good economic news out of the US in the coming weeks. We brought Mark’s shopping bags home and celebrated our successful day; one of only a few for all of us on this trip so far. We had a drink on our balcony whilst enjoying the live music that was drifting up from the Hawaiian band and Hula performance in the courtyard below. We also crowded Annabelle during her Skype call to Matt who, unfortunately, was a bit despondent due to the poor cricketing performance of our boys back home. There is still ‘Sydney’ Matt! Our next important task was to find a place for dinner with a wait queue of less than 1 hour! You actually have to queue to queue for nearly all restaurants at this time of year. We ended up at the hotel next door in the ‘Hula Grill’ of the Outrigger Waikiki. The meal was ok but, being close, we were able to get back and to bed by 10am. We were glad to have a relatively early night.