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Pearl Harbor Dresses Up For Christmas

On the first of the month, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser ran a calendar of Christmas events to highlight the multitude of happenings all over the island. One that caught my eye was the very popular free nighttime ferry ride through Pearl Harbor. The tour takes passengers to see the battleships decorated for the holidays. I had done this several years ago, really enjoyed it and wanted to do it again.

At that time, the procedure was to show up on one of the three nights it was running, get in line and wait for the next boat. This year, however, advance Will Call tickets were required via e-mail prior to the event. (This is just like the daytime tours to the Arizona Memorial.) Immediately after we bought our tickets, they posted a sold-out notice on their website, so I felt really lucky.

We showed up at 7:30 p.m. for our 8 p.m. time slot, as instructed. Tours take about 15 to 20 minutes. Although it was a sold-out event, the turn out itself was low. That’s why we were able to jump on an earlier boat. The volunteer showed me a tall stack of no-show tickets, expressing their disappointment at the unexpected poor turnout.

The volunteer also told me that the interest in this activity is usually really high and always attracted large crowds. However, this year’s low turnout could be due to the new ticket system and the high wind advisories that were in place. Pearl Harbor can actually handle this type of weather while still being comfortable for a ferry ride, but apparently, not many people knew this.

Regardless, I was still looking forward to the ferry ride and the lights. It is really nice to be out on the water during that time of night – to see the lights of the city sprawling up the hills and listen to Christmas music. Children love this and get to have their pictures taken at the wheel of the craft. It’s cool to see these massive battleships and subs decked out in Christmas color. The boat’s crew members are in charge of decorating.

I noticed that even the number of participating boats was significantly less than my first time going. Perhaps some were out of the port. It’s still a treat to see them fairly close, even if they’re not decorated. You can also see the beautiful Arizona Memorial glowing in the harbor.

If you are planning on visiting over next year’s holiday and want to see Pearl Harbor at night, check their website next December (https://www.nps.gov/valr/) or email them at holidayharborlightstour@gmail.com. You could reserve tickets in advance or perhaps by next year, they’ll change back to their original policy of showing up and jumping in a boat. The standard rules apply for the evening too: No bags or purses but cameras are acceptable.

Posted by: Bruce Fisher on Dec 23, 2012