By Beckie Covill
(From Highpointer Club newsletter, Apex to Zenith, issue 99-4)
Betty Prahler, Manager of Hawaii Operations for Globetrotters MTI Vacations, was most helpful for arranging a meeting and site inspection with Craig Duncan, the Director of Sales at the Royal Kona Resort as well as meeting with a few of the local transportation companies. Betty was kind enough to make time in her busy schedule to fly over to the Big Island from Oahu to meet us. Our thanks to Betty. Craig gave us a nice tour of the facilities, including rooms, restaurants, and the grounds. It’s a fine resort, older but refurbished nicely, and has everything we will need, and at the same time isn’t a luxury resort at all, which we wanted to stay away from to hold down the costs.
I couldn’t be happier with the location of the hotel. Located 9 miles south of the Kona International Airport in downtown Kailua, it is conveniently located within walking distance of many shops and restaurants. There is a small rocky lagoon beach next to the hotel, perfect for snorkeling. We took surfing lessons a few miles to the south, and found some terrific public beaches where we stayed, about a half hour north of Kona. Food and gas are quite expensive here, but the shopping is reasonable, and there are wonderful restaurants just a few blocks away. There is a tennis court on site, and there are numerous golf courses open to the public within a short drive, some reasonable, and some very expensive.
After almost a year of research and price comparisons, we selected a travel agent and tour operator, and the signup form is on the opposite page. The basic package, on the big island of Hawaii, will run 6 days and 5 nights, from Tuesday July 25, 2000 through Sunday July 30, 2000. We will be staying at the Royal Kona resort on the Kona coast on the west side of Hawaii, on the beach.
Many of you took advantage of the early signup price break of $50; which ended September 20th. The tour operator has allocated 115 rooms to us. There is a possibility that more can be allocated later, but this is not guaranteed. If more members signup, then those who are not among the first 115 rooms may be staying at a different hotel than the Royal Kona.
The Basic Package
The Basic Package will include 5 nights on the big island, breakfast every day, a cocktail party upon arrival Tuesday with full appetizers and open bar, a Hawaiian Luau on Friday after the Club hike, a Gala Grand Finale Dinner on Saturday followed by the convention meeting, a lei greeting upon arrival, an intermediate car per room, top-notch trip insurance protection in case of unexpected events, transportation up Mauna Kea, and any necessary inter-island airfare. In a nutshell, you will be on your own for two dinners and five lunches.
What the package does not include is airfare to Hawaii, which will be booked at low group rates for each participant. We are optimistic that this cost will be as low as possible, and will be booked through the Hawaii-based tour operator, who has connections with all the major airlines. Plan on several hundred dollars, depending on how far from the west coast you live.
The package also does not include lunches, or any activities in which you may want to partake.
Access to the Summit
Bear in mind that rental cars may not be driven up Mauna Kea. If you happen to have a 4WD vehicle, you can drive to the observatory lot, or to the summit; however, these vehicles cost substantially more than the intermediate rentals we have arranged. They are few and far between, and are basically overkill anywhere else on the island. We have tied up all the 4WD rental vehicles on the island anyway, so don’t bother.
We initially arranged with bus and van operators who would transport everyone on summit day for a low group rate. This changed due to quota restrictions imposed by the state on the tour operators. They are limited in how many people they can take to the summit, and it just wasn’t going to work out. The plan now is that we will rent approximately 9 large 4WD vehicles, and we will transport conventioneers ourselves. A bus will help shuttle folks from the hotel, and we have arranged for liability insurance to cover the volunteer drivers.
We will try to get everyone to the summit during two days, probably Friday and Saturday. We are making arrangements for both groups, those who will be transported to the summit area, and those who wish to hike from around the 9,500’ level. We will be prepared to transport many of those people down from the summit after their hike up, if they choose.
Volunteers Needed for Driving/Monitoring Altitude Sickness
If you are an experienced driver, with mountain and 4WD driving on your resume, please volunteer to be one of the drivers. We will need around 9 on each of 2 days, so we need about 18 volunteers. Reward is a free box lunch; all others will have to provide their own lunch on summit day. If anyone with a medical background could volunteer to help watch for altitude sickness symptoms for a few hours on one of the days, the Club would be very grateful. The hotel will make box lunches available for a reasonable fee.
Option to Hike The Summit From Sea Level
Those who want to do a strenuous 2+ day hike from sea level will pay an additional cost that has not yet been determined. This will cover transportation to the beachhead, transportation of gear to a campground along the route on the first and second evenings, sag wagon support enroute, and pickup on the summit Friday afternoon. Please contact Dave Covill.
Some members may have accommodations available to them on one or more of the islands, and we would encourage these folks to work with Globe Travel to book their airfare and any additional travel needs such as a rental vehicle, other island accommodations, etc., at low group rates.
We have checked into the possibility of camping facilities for the budget-minded travelers. Click here to read more on this option.
For those who are arranging their own travel and accommodations, there will be a cost to simply attend the convention dinner and/or the luau. This cost has been established, and is outlined on the form.
Arrangements For Solo Visitors
Those who are travelling solo and are willing to share a room with another member can check the box provided. There will be no admittance to the convention banquet and program without paying for the dinner, as the conference room is being paid for by all attendees from lodging and convention dinner fees. Numerous people have inquired about custom packages, and we want to encourage you all to call Cookie and have her help you figure out the cost of what you would like to do.
If you add in the cost of everything you are getting, we’re sure you will agree that you can’t beat the price on your own, and that you will have a great vacation at a reasonable price.
Cutoff Age is 16 at Time of Trip
The cutoff age to qualify for fare and accommodation purposes is 16 at the time of the trip, by the way.
We hope to have an interesting speaker or two lined up by next issue. Stay tuned. Globe Travel has more than 100 persons signed up as of mid-November, with a much higher number having communicated an interest. If you have a specific question, please feel free to contact me, (Beckie Covill) or Cookie at Globe Travel at the addresses that follow.
Folks, as conventions go, this is a once-every-couple-of-decades deal. Most people only get to go to Hawaii once in their life, if at all. Here is your opportunity to go at a bargain price, climb Mauna Kea, and hang out with a couple hundred of your best friends. Sign up soon!