We woke up this morning at the Four Points near LAX. Why not our home 90 minutes away? That goes back to the day before, and our first major travel mixup in the decade plus of international travel. Somehow, someway, we came to believe our flight was on Friday, and both of us were sure of it. We had a busy morning, with the cable company fixing our phone, gardeners coming by, us doing our work and finishing up our packing, but we got out of Vista right at 11:30, just as we planned. And we got to LAX around 2:00, just as we had planned. But our flight was not yesterday, as the kind lady at the Air Tahiti Nui desk told us. So we contemplated driving home, but decided against it because of the horrific Friday afternoon traffic we had just seen on the other side of the freeway as we drove up. We decided instead to get a hotel near LAX, have an easy afternoon and evening, and then come back the next day.

That's what we did, sort of. First, we waited about 30 minutes in searing heat (for LA at least) for the Four Points Shuttle to come. Whilst waiting, we wondered whether we'd told the dogsitter the correct date (Saturday) or the date we thought (Friday), and we were both sure Friday, so staying at a hotel would cost us some points but otherwise wouldn't be an issue. At the hotel, we tried to check in using our Starwood points, only for the agent to tell us that they didn't do point reservations, that we'd have to do that ourselves. Justin asked "so you want me to backup 20 feet, book on my phone, and then walk right back up?" Yes, that's exactly what they needed us to do. So we sat down for about 2 minutes, made our booking, and then went back to the desk. But this didn't work out either, because apparently it takes close to 20 minutes for a new reservation to show up in their system. We went to the restaurant to get some onion rings and drinks, which is probably what they wanted all along. After that, we were able to check in, and went up to our room to drop our gear, then headed out for a nearby dive bar we'd read good things about while waiting for the Four Points Shuttle to arrive. As an aside, we overheard several shuttle drivers telling potential patrons "No Uber customers" - apparently Uber drivers can't pick up folks at LAX, so people take a free shuttle to a hotel and get picked up there. Unsurprisingly, the shuttle drivers were not down with this.

The walk to the bar, Lei Aloha, was a pretty easy one, just straight up Airport and then right on Manchester. We walked past an odd empty block that had nothing but sprinklers and brown dirt, and was full of ground squirrel potmarks. We had several major planes fly right overhead to land on LAX's north runway. We passed by an RV that had all sorts of odds and ends spilled out onto the street, as if the RV was a permanent fixture that no one cared about. We walked under several bottlebrush trees that had been trimmed to walk under, but must have been trimmed by someone exceedingly short, as the trees were trimmed so that the low branches were only to about 5' off the ground. On Manchester, we walked past a Persian restaurant that looked interesting, and thought about going there after a couple drinks at the bar. The bar was basically hidden, as it has no windows, a metal security door, and a small sign above the door - that's it. Inside, there was about a combined 60 watts of lighting (that's old school lightbulb 60 watts, not LED watts), a meandering bar with room for about a dozen people, and a couple small booths.

We sat down next to "Racecar Joe," but only after he picked up his imaginary leprechaun off of one of the seats and introduced the leprechaun to us. We proceeded to drink and talk story with Joe (with him doing 90% of the story telling) for a couple of hours, with the jukebox playing the Stones and the drinks costing between $3 and $5. The bar was exactly as advertised, and we'll be back sometime, albeit hopefully not because we showed up for a flight a day early again. We asked Joe - a regular at the bar and the area generally - whether he recommended the Persian place, and he looked at us like we were crazy for walking around in the neighborhood after dark. He strongly recommended we just get a cab back to the hotel. So we ordered an Uber, and two minutes later there was an Uber to drive us back the 1 mile to our hotel for $4 total. It's kind of amazing that anyone would drive anyone anywhere for $4, but we suppose that if you do enough of those, they start to add up. Back at the hotel, we grabbed dinner and a drink at the hotel bar, which was pretty nice as far as hotel bars go. Back up in the room, we fell asleep almost as soon as our heads hit the pillow. All was good, and we'd made the best of a bad situation.

Until Justin woke up in the middle of the night wondering if we had in fact told our dogsitter Friday instead of Saturday. He hadn't been the one who had communicated with Nick, however, and since Crystal was sure she'd told Nick Friday, Justin just went back to sleep. But when Crystal woke up around 7, Justin asked her to check her texts to see what she'd told Nick. It was Saturday, not Friday. A mild freak-out session ensued. We texted Nick, and also our friend Mike who lives nearby, to see if they could go check on the dogs - and feed them - ASAP. We didn't hear anything, and started wondering whether we should drive back ourselves, but then started doing the math and knowledge of Saturday morning traffic to San Diego during the summer, and wondered whether we'd be getting ourselves into trouble. We started thinking of other people to contact, and tried to rack our brain for anyone who lived near us. Right around this time Mike contacted us, and told us he could handle it. Disaster averted. We told him we owed him big time, and he could put us on the list of emergency babysitters, which, if you know us at all, is saying something. Then again, after finding out we left the dogs at home overnight, maybe he wouldn't want to add us to the babysitter list.

After calming down, we read the news (specifically whether Hurricane Ignacio was still on track to hit Pahoa), and got cleaned up. We also watched the second half of Nacho Libre on TV. After we had packed everything up, it was only 10:30, and the Air Tahiti Nui desk didn't open until 1:00, so we needed to kill some time. Since it looked like a nice day outside, we decided to try the Persian restaurant out, so did the same walk as the day before. The restaurant, Jino Pars, was phenomenal, and well worth the walk. The starter soup was great, the portions were huge, and all had great flavor. Crystal had Lamb Koobideh (half spicy and half not), and Justin had some marinated/grilled rack of lamb (called "Shish Lick" - say that five times fast). Dessert was a chocolate ball filled with raspberry sorbet. After all of that, we slowly waddled back to the hotel, and got flown over by an enormous plane, one of the A380s.

We grabbed our bags, went down the lobby, and caught the shuttle to the airport. Thankfully, the wait was about only 5-10 minutes instead of 30 today. The check-in at the Air Tahiti Nui desk went much smoother than the day before - it helps when you're actually on the flight. The security line was short, and even though they don't do Pre-Check in the International Terminal, getting through went fast. Once past security, we went to the Border Grille so that we could get some drinks and make some travel arrangements.

One of the good things about our flight being on Saturday instead of Friday is that we could now make Mardi Gras 2017 reservations. We wanted to book Mardi Gras at the Four Points on Bourbon Street, which has balconies. A couple months back we looked to make 2016 reservations, but all the balcony rooms were already sold out. So we decided to book 2017, but Starwood makes reservations "only" 550 days into the future. As of yesterday, we could make reservations only up to February 28, 2017, which was Fat Tuesday itself. But today, we could book through March 1, and decided to book as soon as we could. We couldn't turn in points for the room, so we put it on our credit card, but we did book two rooms at the nearby W Hotel (our favorite in NOLA) for Saturday through Wednesday, just booking the balcony room at the Four Points for Tuesday night only. This was the highlight of our time at the Border Grille - the drinks were wildly overpriced (even if tasty), the food was eh, and the service was eh. Thankfully, the International Terminal now has tons of choices (a big change from just a few years ago), so next time we're here we'll find something else.

The plane boarded on time just after 3:30, and we ended up in a window/aisle on the right side of the plane, in a 2-4-2 formation. The only issue was this meant we were on the west side of the plane (since we were flying SSW), so we had to shut the windows almost immediately. It's not as if we missed looking at anything, however, as it's nothing but lots and lots of water between LAX and PPT. Crystal read her Kindle and Justin watched some shows on Polynesia on the headrest entertainment device. We realized that this 8 hour flight was actually the shortest of any of our international travels, by a decent amount no less. The food was blah but it didn't really matter since we were both still stuffed from the Persian food earlier.

We landed a little after 9pm local time in Papeete. On the approach, we noticed a sizeable fire on the hillside, and couldn't tell whether it had been set purposefully or not. Getting through immigration wasn't short, but it wasn't long either. Our bags were already waiting once we exited immigration. We thought there was another line, for customs we figured, but it wasn't a line per se - everyone was just jammed up exiting to the receiving area because there were hordes of people waiting to meet passengers just outside the door. We got through the mess and met representatives from the cruise ship, who pointed us to some buses, some for people and some for bags. On our bus, we realized we were the youngest one by at least 20 years, and wondered whether we'd see anyone in our age bracket [well, age brackets for the next 9 months ;-)]. We figured it more likely to have young honeymooners and older retirees, but not too many people in their late 30s/early 40s, presumably because those folks are stuck at home with their kids.

The bus ride to the ship was uneventful, and town was pretty dead until right about when we got to the pier, where there were some packed restaurants. We just walked right on to the ship, and checked in - the whole process took less than 5 minutes, but we must have been greeted by about 30-40 staff members, all smiling, all Filipino. We were a bit hungry/thirsty, so we decided to change into nicer clothes so we could go up to the bar. The boat has a dress code for after sundown where there are no beachwear, sandals, etc. So Crystal brought some dresses and a pair of heels, and Justin brought some close-toed sandals, linen dress pants, and Hawaiian shirts. After changing we walked around to get the lay of the land, so to speak. Our room is on the 7th floor, and that floor seems to be rooms only, no restaurants or shops or anything. We came in on the 5th floor, and that seems to be the floor with the most action - the main seating area (for presentations and whatnot), one of the restaurants, some shops, and a small casino. The 6th floor had another of the restaurants. The 4th floor had guest services, the SCUBA desk, the concierge desk. The 8th floor is mostly a big deck, with a small pool, a restaurant, a pool bar, and at the back a disco/piano bar. This was the area that was open. We decided to have one drink, then two, and by the time we were finishing our third they were closing the place down. The day ended quite a bit differently, and quite a bit better, than it started.