Sunday, April 26, 2015

Marriot's Te Au Moana Luau

The Te Au Moana (which apparently means “The Ocean Tide”) luau was a tough decision. With my mother visiting, she insisted on a luau despite opinions that such entertainment on the island is kitschy at best. Whether you’re reading reviews of Maui’s various luau’s – Te Au Moana, The Old Lahaina Luau, the Grand Wailea’s Honua`ula Luau – on Trip Advisor, Yelp, etc., reviews are scatter-shot to say the least. So, we settled on the luau closest to home, the Marriot’s Te Au Moana luau.

We arrived early, a little after 4pm to ensure ourselves good seating as many reviews I read complained of crowds and winding up in the back row. (Frankly, there really isn’t a bad seat here; you’re either close to the stage or close to the bar and the dessert area. That’s a win-win situation to me.) That turned out not to be an issue and my family wound up in the second row and were seated with a lovely family from Colorado and some newlyweds from Palestine. That’s a good mix of people, ever so fortunate since we found ourselves waiting about an hour for the bar to open and waiting another half hour or so after that for the buffet to be set up. Speaking of the bar, the drinks (mai tais and pina coladas) were included with the price of admission (around $90 per person with our local discount) and were surprisingly tasty and strong, especially the mai tais.

Nice and liquored up, the pig was eventually dug up from a pit adjacent to the bar area. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the pig being dug up as guests seated closer to the pit where to ones up close and crowded those of us from the front rows out. Not really a big deal, though, as the pig was then paraded through the middle of the grounds. The buffet was ready to go soon thereafter, and tables were called to approach the buffet in a nicely organized manner. As for the food itself, there was something for everyone but was mostly neither here nor there taste-wise. And, except for the pork and poi, the food offerings were not particularly Hawaiian.

As dinner wound down after about an hour, the show was ready to begin. Unlike the Old Lahaina luau, the Marriot’s luau is geared more towards dances from across Polynesia and featured the retelling of creation
myths that were compelling, though ultimately contradictory. Fortunately, love stories are a requisite as well, despite the manner in which they always wind up tragically. After various story-telling and dancing*, children were invited up to the stage to learn some hula which I though was adorable though I don’t particularly like children. Then, audience members were selected to learn some dance moves on stage which was hilarious. Problem is, I don’t think either of these segments of the show lasted long enough. Maybe the fire-dancer, up next, had to be home early. Who knows? But I do give serious props to the fire dancer despite a misstep or two. He was a blast to watch and his segment did go on longer than I thought it would. Still, the entertainment portion of the luau lasted less than 90 minutes.

[* - I read a review in which someone – very frustrated or repressed – complained that the dancers were grinding too much. This is a ridiculous observation if one has any understanding of 1) how important family is to Hawaiians and 2) human biology and the origin and point of dancing in the first place.]

Was it all worth the near $100 for the luau? If you take into consideration the mark-up on all goods and service in Hawaii, the price should be about something you would expect. And while this is my first luau, I don’t think there will be any more now that I am well versed in Hawaiian legends. This is to say the luau was a good experience but not so much that I feel the need to ever do it again. Frankly, I’d rather be in the luau, playing with fire.

Leis are offered free shortly after check-in. Men have the option of receiving a fish hook necklace. Parking is free in their parking structure which is to the left as you approach the valet area. Have your parking ticket validated by the luau staff when you check in.