Our sea day after Sydney was uneventful other than my and Randy’s cough, cough, hack, hack, achoo.
In Brisbane, the ship docks right down town, perfect location!
I’m feeling somewhat better physically and much better overall after seeing our friends from the Sun Princess World Cruise of 2012: Wendy & Bob (who visited us two years ago), Donna & Steve (who have visited us twice—for some strange reason they seem to like the U.S., they’re coming back next year!), and Mary & Ian who just got off ANOTHER world cruise (they haven’t visited us yet, but we’re working on them!). All of them were so supportive of Randy when he was ill and they all knew Helen (also on the WC) who died of the same disease Randy had. I think they all never thought they’d see Randy again!
Wendy & Bob met us at the ship and drove miles and miles to take us to the Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin’s zoo, you know, the guy who fed crocodiles and got killed by a manta ray stinger to the chest). Absolutely wonderful zoo, right up there with the San Diego Zoo. We didn’t have a lot of time but we got the shuttle tour, walked about and fed the ‘roos, saw a barking owl on a keeper’s fist and a beautiful python with a black head (also held by a keeper), and then, at the Crocoseum, watched their free-flight show and croc feeding. The rain held off so it was a wonderful day at the zoo!
Wendy also brought us a brochure from OutbackSpirit, the tour company we went with in 2008 on a camping safari from Darwin to Broome to Alice. Fabulous trip, now we’re thinking about doing something with them again.
Only bummer is that our phone is locked so we can’t use a sim card. In order to unlock we have to go online, fill out a form and wait for AT&T to contact us. Considering we’re in the middle of the ocean right now, that’s going to be difficult!
Why, yes, I do have a cold. Not terrible, just enough to make me not want to be around people. The last thing people on a cruise want is somebody coughing all over everything.
So, I probably won’t go on our first opportunity—Hamilton Island in the Whitsunday Islands—to try out the beautiful, high tech snorkels that Greg and Yolanda loaned us. Our next opportunity is Cairns but guess what? It’s the beginning of the box jelly season. Why is that of interest to us? Because the box jellyfish is one of the most lethal—yes, LETHAL—examples of jellyfish in the world. And how, you might ask, do we know it is box jelly season? Because the snorkel tours offered by the ship have the option of “stinger suits.” Seriously, Holland America expects me to sign up for a tour that offers stinger suits? You can’t make this stuff up!
But back to what we’ve been doing: Sydney and Brisbane. Both were catching-up-with-friends type days.
In Sydney, we reconnected with some of our favorite people, our son Greg and daughter-in-law Yolanda; and our old friends (Aside: they aren’t actually our OLDEST friends, just some of our we’ve-known-them-a-really-long-time friends; there needs to be an acronym for that category but WKTARLT doesn’t quite make it), Melinda and Ian. Lots of memories: the day we were in Sydney was Greg and Yolanda’s 16th anniversary; and we watched Ian and Melinda get married on 8/8/08 at 8:08pm after we had driven around OZ (Australia) for about eight weeks.
Melinda is a world-class foodie (in all the best senses of that word) and she shepherded us to a place for lunch overlooking Sydney bay (I know, I know, that isn’t a real place but we overlooked most of the water around Sydney and that’s what I call a “bay”) called Frenchy’s Cafe. Yum, yum, yum! Most of us had to get our second choice because they are so popular they run out of the favorites. But second-choice was awesome. I gotta start taking pictures of the food I’m talking about. My lunch was a quiche, but unlike any quiche I’ve had in like, ever: it was custard-y. Awesome. Delicious. I need a thesaurus to describe it any better!
Then we went to George’s Head Lookout. Awesome! (We managed to get to Sydney on the day in-between the only two rainy days in over two months!) We could see most of Sydney harbor and because it was a weekend, there were lots and lots of sailboat races going on.
All in all, an awesome (I must get that thesaurus so I can stop using “awesome” for everything) day with wonderful friends; one of whom had a beautiful red (of course) Porsche. That friend would be Ian, in case you wondered who would be the sports car owner. Melinda calls it “The Other Woman.”
1700 10/16/17 S 17 45.03 E 168 18.19 Port Vila, Vanuatu
1700 10/17/17 S 21 32.95 E 167 52.25 Tadine, New Caledonia
It’s kind of hard to know where the time goes! But go somewhere it does! Every day! We are now 3 days from Sydney and I have no idea where three weeks has disappeared to.
Dravuni and Tadine are “beach days” even though we are in port as there is absolutely nothing to do on shore except go swimming. We’re not too much for that so we just enjoy the balmy breezes. We did ride the tender (the small boat that is a lifeboat if necessary, holding 150 passengers, and a water taxi at other times, holding 90 passengers) in to each island so we can say we have gone ashore at each port! We have at times been on a tender that was packed (90) and I cannot imagine how they get an additional 60 people on it when it must be used as a lifeboat!
Port Vila was another story completely! We booked an independent tour (meaning not run by Holland America) with Atmosphere Tours that was called, and WAS, the ‘Round the Island Tour. Justin was our guide and he rocked! So glad we did that tour although the van they used had less leg room that the worst coach airplane ride I’ve ever had. Luckily it wasn’t full so we could spread out a BIT, not much, but sort of enough to avoid complete contraction of our leg muscles.
We got to see a lot of the island but best was going to a village where they talked about their life and did a few dances for us and—drum roll, please!—did a fire walk!
1720 10/8/17 Position: S 5 28.59 W167 39.53 (At 2125 last night we crossed the equator)
1525 10/9/17 Position: S 11 38.17 W 169 53.79
1705 10/10/17 Position: S 14 16.42 W 170 40.85 (We will cross the dateline sometime tonight and lose Oct 11th)
The 10th of October was our day in Pago Pago (pronounced Pongo Pongo) in American Samoa (pronounced SAHM-oh-ah) and another food tour. I know, I know, we eat 14 times a day on the ship, WHY would be want a food tour? Because it’s there and we may never have another chance to try these pretty exotic foods.
Six of us had booked a tour with Tisa’s Barefoot Bar (and beach) that included a native lunch and six more had just booked the meal. Tisa picked us up in a pretty ratty bus but it did its job and got us to Tisa’s and on the tour around the island. Well, not quite around the island—there is no road all the way around. She is a native although she lived in California for a while in the 60s so it was an interesting tour with Tisa narrating and giving us a bit of her history on the island as well and us crossing our fingers that the bus would make it up the various hills.
And nicest of all, she closed the bar to anybody but the 12 of us! Not so good for the dozens and dozens of people who heeded our on-board guide who told everybody it was a wonderful place to go for a drink and some time on the beach. Tisa is getting ready to retire and she likes to have fewer people, at most 20, for her meals. Great treat for us! We will be coming back through Pago Pago and Randy would like to go back (I’m not so sure!).
The harbor in Pago Pago is beautiful, if you can ignore the commercial ships and containers. It is a natural shelter from (most) bad weather. They did have a huge tsunami in 2005 and in the mid-90s that pretty much wiped out everything.
Onward to more South Pacific Islands…
1700 10/11/17 Position: None
1705 10/12/17 Position: S 16 23.98 W 178 07.18
For ship’s time purposes, we have crossed the dateline, but it makes a zig (fairly new, in the 90s I think) so that American Samoa is on the eastern side of the dateline and Western Samoa is on the western side. No idea why they put in the zig.
We are in Suva, Fiji; the capital, I believe—at $0.25/minute for internet, I don’t check so many things out! Nothing at all is planned. For us, that is, I think the entire rest of the ship is heading off for parts unknown.
We opted for a leisurely breakfast at the Pinnacle Grill (one of the perks of being in a suite: we can have breakfast in our room or in the Grill. Then puttering for a bit before just going out for a short stroll in the town. We have heard it is the largest city in the Pacific other than Honolulu but I find that hard to believe. Unless you look at the constant stream of busses into the terminal across the street.
We didn’t go far, up to the market—really, really large market!—with every conceivable fruit and vegetable and some I couldn’t conceive of because I’d never seen them before! We saw “ordinary” fruits like papaya and tomato, and extraordinary fruits like drurian. Drurian is possibly the worst smelling fruit EVER (also spelled durian but a drurian by any other name stinks just as bad)! I first had it in Thailand when our houseman offered me a fragrant (that’s putting it nicely) piece. I had learned that it would be very rude to refuse so I (figuratively) held my nose and nibbled on the piece (I think I actually managed to finish it) and thanks Tongsa profusely. Drurian, in Thailand, at least, are expensive and adored, hence the insult if you refuse a proffered piece. To this day I have never had another one.
There was a flower market and we bought a bouquet of ginger and other native plants for our room for what we would have paid for a drink on board—A drink, not drinks for the two of us! We were a little worried that we would be allowed to bring it on board but the woman selling the flowers said the Captain had bought a bouquet this morning. We’re keeping it on the deck as it seems to have colony of ants hitchhiking on it.
Off to Dravuni (no, I can’t find it on our map of southern Pacific islands—it is two miles long and a half mile wide) tomorrow for what Holland America euphemistically calls a “beach day.” Meaning there is absolutely nothing else to do on the island. Several people have organized care packages (first aid supplies, books, crayons, that sort of thing that they can’t get easily) and we may do that on our way back. Yes, we get to have another “beach day” in December when the Amsterdam comes here. O frabjous day.
1700 10/3/17 Position: N 21 18.09 W157 51.94 (HNL)
1830 10/4/17 Position: N 21 16.02 W157 53.58
I’m a little behind on my blog, but then how much can I write when we have 10 out of 12 sea days?
But, we did spend two days in HNL and we had a wonderful time eating our way around Oahu with “North Shore Food Tour” (www.HawaiiFoodTours.com). It was a bit of a negative that we had to sit in the back of the van, four people across but it could have been worse. We got to try the staple of Hawaii, poi. Poi is—well, it’s been described as tasting like library paste (one wonders how people know what library paste tastes like)—pretty tasteless. But it’s apparently very nutritious and easy to digest (it is the perfect baby food) and, at least in HI, readily accessible. Will I search it out on the mainland. Well, no. But I’m glad I tried it and it seems more fun to eat when surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and frangipani blossoms! We saw a lot of Oahu and ate a lot of local foods and came back to the ship in pretty much of a food coma. Missed dinner completely. We were asleep by about 2030.
Day Two in HNL we rented a car, a convertible of course, and managed to get lost in the Enterprise eight-story parking garage. Other than that, we had a wonderful time running errands to Costco (new computer) and AAA and driving around. Randy doesn’t quite get the concept that we have maps available on our phones—he’d rather spread out a six-foot wide paper map and block the driver’s view of the road; much more fun than just saying “OK, Google, where’s Costco?”
After getting the chores out of the way, we succeeded in finding the Pali Lookout with its spectacular view over the area east of HNL.
We also found a sort-of OK sandwich joint, Timmy T’s and generally just enjoyed driving around the island.
Back to the ship for a sail out of the harbor and another five days at sea until we get to Pago Pago.
1700 10/5/17 Position: N 13 30.65 W 160 50.88
1700 10/6/17 Position: N 07 46.18 W 163 01.15
1700 10/7/17 Position: N 01 13.24 W 165 16.37
So we spend our days going to computer classes, and listening to speakers who are both good and bad. We have apparently kept our good speaker, Judson Croft, and acquired an even worse speaker (Dr. Cluny MacPherson) than the one we dropped off in HNL (Dr. Lawrence Kuznetz, from NASA). Dr. MacPherson is lecturing on the history of the Pacific islands mostly since World WarII but that rather boring (to me) topic is not why I think he’s bad. His use of PowerPoint could be the “bad” example to Judson’s “great” example. Judson has lots of photos, not very many words on his PowerPoints. Cluny has almost nothing but words in bulleted lists. Bad, bad, bad! Did I mention boring?
Our minister in our dinner group, Joe, continues to entertain us with stories from his ministerial past. From his second funeral where the widow said, “No, he’s not supposed to be cremated, he’s being buried right after the service” and there was no grave dug and Joe had to vamp while they dug. And the time he and Betty decided to play a trick on his intern. The intern had put a garden gnome in his yard. Joe and Betty bought 20 identical garden gnomes and added one each night to the intern’s garden. About three or four nights into this, the intern exclaimed, “My gnomes are fornicating!”
You can’t make this stuff up!
Lastly, we and three other cabins have no air conditioning. Nor have we had any A/C for the past four days. No solution in sight. We have a fan. I’m so happy.
Much as I love cruising, by the time the fifth sea day in a row rolls around, it does get a tiny bit boring. There IS lots to do, from computer classes (Do More with Edge, Windows 10 Essentials, Store and Share with One Drive—do you sense a tendency toward Microsoft?) to Pickle Ball lessons to Hula and Ukulele lessons to Wine (and Beer) Tastings. There is also lots of music—tending toward 40s, 50s, and occasionally, 60s—and lots, LOTS! of food, of course; it IS a cruise ship after all. The Maasdam is a smaller ship, about 1300 passengers (I don’t have much internet access so I don’t know exactly how small it is), nowhere near the 6,500 passengers of the largest cruise ship and quite a bit bigger than the approximately 140 passengers on our Uniworld river cruise of a few years back.
We also have a few instructional lectures. Some are blatantly commercial (see my comments below on wasting paper) but a couple on every cruise are very good and intellectual. This cruise we have a guy, Dr. Lawrence Kuznetz, who worked on Mars rovers and is very knowledgeable but boring (plus he’s hawking his books). The other speaker is Judson Croft (who should be a PhD if he isn’t) who is speaking on the Ocean. Plus the technology of exploring the ocean. Plus the birds and islands and anything else even distantly related to the ocean. He is enthrallingly entertaining. Even when, as on the first lecture, all the computer tech completely failed so he had to talk for 45 minutes without his slides. And he was still entertaining!
There is no bridge instructor on this cruise so we haven’t participated in any card games. Nor have we gotten involved in Team Trivia. We have been walking the deck, Randy walks a lot further than I do.
Holland America wastes an immense amount of paper. Every day we get paperwork: ads for jewelry sales, art auctions, future cruises, specials at the spa/salon. Each one is on a separate piece of paper, not even double-sided usually. We do have a space in our wastebasket for recycling but still, what an enormous waste. Most of the stuff we don’t even look at, it just goes straight in the wastebasket (recycle area, of course).
Tomorrow we dock in HNL (Honolulu) at dock #2. Or maybe the other dock 2 (A) or the other dock 2 (B). We’ll know in the morning which one it is. And we’ll have our first actual tour, a “North Shore Food Tour” (www.HawaiiFoodTours.com) of HNL for about 6 – 8 hours. We’ll get a tour of the island as well as tasting local foods. I’m salivating already! Nevermind that we eat 16 times a day already, I’m always up for more food and drink!
We are steaming—well, I guess nobody “steams” anywhere any longer!—across the Pacific at between 18 and 19 knots after leaving SAN about four hours late. We had to wait for fresh vegetables and fruits (are martini olives fruit or vegetable) to be boarded. The consensus of passengers we talked to (at the Crow’s Nest Bar, of course) was that the Captain would be mightily pissed that he had to depart late what with dock fees and then having to go faster (more fuel used)!
I am hoping that my computer is not about to give up the ghost. It tells me, when I start it up, that the fan is not working and it may shut down at any time unexpectedly. And we still have 79 days to go.
The internet is, as always on a cruise ship, problematic. It is never fast, often erratic (meaning one never knows if it will work at all), and generally not the quick and easy access I have at home. I tend to forget how much I rely on the internet: “OK google, how do I [fill in the blank]?” or on my Kindle, looking up a word definition, or finding out how serious my error message is, or getting a recipe—OK, OK, I’m not cooking for the next 79 days so I guess I don’t really need THAT!
We are taking computer lessons (no internet access on the Computer Lab computers; Bummer!) from Molly who is not, she says, a nerd. She can’t fix our phones or our computers, she just knows Windows10 inside out, upside down, and backwards. I’m mostly keeping Randy company but I have learned some interesting stuff from her.
The Lido is the casual restaurant on the ship. It’s near the pool and is pretty much just a buffet. It is also jam-packed at lunch time (and presumably at dinner, but I have zero desire to have a buffet with 750 of my closest friends for dinner. Especially when there are only 700 seats available!) and not everybody is as health conscious as we are! We like the Rotterdam dining room and have five very nice dinner companions at an international table: two Aussies (Betty & Joe), two Brits (Liz and David), and a Scot (I have forgotten her name and now can’t figure out how to ask her after having dinner with her for three nights). Betty is an artist, Joe is a minister, and last night we were practically rolling on the floor over her description of a nude painting she had done and had framed, belatedly discovering that the framer was one of her husband’s pastoral assistants and organist!