This is not a joke. On March 18, 2013 the Golden Princess pulled into the port of Hilo, Hawaii where, according to a well-placed crew member, 1900 eager passengers ( out of a total of 2,600) headed down the gangway and into a bus to take them to Walmart. Yes, you read this right.
Hilo was new to many of these frenzied shoppers but that didn’t matter. There was a courtesy shuttle and it would take them to the mega outlet where they could purchase we’re not quite sure what until their hearts were content. The strange thing about this two-week roundtrip cruise from Los Angeles to Hawaii was the hyperactive shopping on board the ship and in every port. It’s common for cruise passengers to buy souvenirs. In fact it is much joked about that these purchases are often found in garage sales. But this amount of power purchasing was a bit unusual.
Imagine visiting Hawaii for the first time and spending much of a short port day in Walmart. Even one of the comedians kidded about it during his act. When he asked a passenger why she would spend her time in Walmart she simply replied, “We don’t have one where we live and we wanted to shop.” Makes sense.
Hilo isn’t this savvy seafarer’s favorite port stop. There are no nearby beaches, the sun rarely shines (this is the rainy side of the island formerly known as the “Big Island” but now referred to as “Hawaii Island.” “To avoid confusion with the state name, everyone is encouraged to use Hawaii Island when referring to the island. A new logo is being unveiled in 2011, and it clearly shows Hawaii as the defining island name,” states the gohawaii.com website.
Some ships stop in Kona where the sun does shine and often. It’s hot there normally. And there are beautiful beaches within walking distance. But ships can’t pull up to a dock and must anchor off shore. This isn’t a problem for ships with fewer than 1,000 passengers, but the Golden Princess can hold 2,600 seafarers and that’s a lot of people to unload into launches especially eager shoppers. We know, we had to take launches in Maui to get to Lahaina and it wasn’t pretty. Well it took a long time, but always worth it to step food on heavenly Maui.
When booking our next cruise we’re going to make sure the ship stops near a Walmart, only kidding. It would be fun to read what columnist/pundit Dave Barry would say about this. By the way, many of the passengers who didn’t go to Walmart opted to take the free bus to Hilo Hatties instead, and some did both.