Why are we blogging?

We thoroughly enjoyed the blogs from those on the World Cruise 2010. They were so useful and some were also very entertaining and so we we started our own, late 2010, ready for the 2011 cruise(s).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Days 96 & 97 On the way to our last port August 28 & 29th

Having had the air conditioning sorted, yesterday, we were somewhat dismayed to find that it was just too cold, even on the warmest setting and woke in the middle of the night and had to open the ranch-slider to the balcony to let in some heat!  Fortunately, the second call fixed it for good and it is now working as it should.

Somehow or other, young Logan wrote our names down for morning bowls but it must have been on the wrong sheet of paper as we never had the call to perform.  Never mind.  Another early coffee with Norm before the 11:30 dance lesson – Foxtrot & Quickstep.

Billed as the International deck party night, our table did its own thing by doing a mix and match with shirts and hats, hence my Union jack shirt and Arab hat. Up on deck we met two lovely ladies we have often sat with for the atrium quiz, Rita and Veronica. Rita is now my adopted Mum!  An amazing lady whose extensive travel experiences are mind boggling.  We didn’t hang around the deck too long (birdie was getting tired of all the attention), even though the dessert buffet was superb and we retired to the atrium for a late coffee and a sit down. 

One of the popular dances Alana has taught has been the disco samba.  A mix of line dance and samba, ideal for those on their own.  With Terry and Kev holding hands, I suggested to Nigel that maybe Kev should be carrying a handbag, and within a couple of seconds, Nigel had it sorted!  The next night, it was Nigel’s turn...

Clocks back again another hour, plus another sea day so no need to go to bed early.


Much the same as yesterday, a relaxing day, with Alana almost back to normal with a Jive class.  Afterwards, we managed an extremely light lunch with just a couple of small sandwiches and a coffee down on deck five and a long chat to Philip.

After an abysmal 7/20 quiz, then a hot spa, dinner was Italian night and we looked forward to winding up head waiter Maurizio, with a litany of fake complaints from everyone on the table.  Maurizio arrived late, slumped into a vacant seat (No Anthea & Dennis) and after we had gone around the table with our tales of misery, he explained he was late as he had smacked his hand when the ship lurched and may have a broken bone in his hand. Immediate sympathy...

To the Vista lounge with a Mexican singer/comedian, Patricio Rodriguez.  A slightly different show from normal but enjoyable. Once again to the atrium for coffee (Paula claims it stops me snoring....) and Nigel’s incriminating photograph, though he does look quite at home.

Ho hum.  The very last overseas port tomorrow – Apia (Samoa).  We have nothing planned and will probably just wander into town and relax, soak up the sunshine (hopefully) before the three day run back to NZ, where we are delighted to see that the thermometer has reached the dizzy height of 18 degrees. We have had our luggage labels issued and have booked to leave the ship at 8:30am so Julie, hopefully, will pick us up at about 9am.  The ship leaves Auckland at 2pm Sunday, so depending on the weather, we may even head to Devonport wharf or Mt Victoria to wave it away and to wave farewell to so many great Australian  people we have met over the last three months.

Only another 11 months now before we return to OUR cabin on OUR ship! 


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 95 - Bora Bora blue August 27th

Like Tahiti yesterday, the stunning colours of the water and the sky at Bora Bora make it a photographer’s paradise, even without the underwater options that for many, had to be cancelled, due to water and tide conditions. By all accounts, it was only the skill of the Captain and crew that prevented this being another sea day.  As a tender port, it was pointless rushing down to get a numbered boarding ticket so we took our time and by the time we collected our tickets, the was no queue at all.  We wandered aimlessly around the immediate port area, debating on whether or not to take a minibus tour, an old American bus tour, one of the basic truck/bus services or twiddle our thumbs.

We eventually opted for a $5 shuttle to Matira Bay and that parked us right outside the Intercontinental Hotel.  Unfortunately, this coincided with an evacuation of the hotel, due to expected high water between 11am and 3pm. 

After kicking our heels for a few minutes (far better than thumb twiddling) we hopped on another shuttle back to the famous “Bloody Marys”, ($5)  famous for purveying drink of the same name. When I was young, I might well have been walloped for saying that...

Opinions seemed to vary and at $9 a pop, some were less than impressed, but those who were a bit later and managed a meal there were happy enough.  We ambled along the local pier and enjoyed the views and the pleasant weather before catching another shuttle (yes, another $5...) back to the pier.  Nothing really tempted us to spend more money, so we were back at the ship 11:30!

Just for a change,  we had burgers from the grill bar.  Paula’s chicken burger pronounced very tasty and my double cheeseburger pretty good too.  As yet, one of the few items I haven’t sampled is a meat pie.  Unlike almost every other item on board, (I nearly put ‘sold’...), these are bought in, and by the looks of them, Mrs Mac is doing a roaring trade.

Having bought just 6 bottle of cider way back in Darwin, it was time to polish off bottle number 6 at the sailaway and whilst the Australians from our table elected to watch a rerun of last night’s rugby victory, the Kiwis and Americans enjoyed a civilised meal in the dining room.  Paula and I watched the theatre show, “String Fever”, featuring an Australian husband and wife comedy duo on cello and violin. The patter was a bit excruciating at times, but the music was great.

Alana was still off sick but we enjoyed Alan’s solo performance as usual.

Once again, at bedtime, the ship was moving around a fair bit as we head for our last port before Auckland. Two days at sea now before Apia.  For the first time in three months, we are now really looking forward to getting home.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Days 93/94 Cruising to Tahiti August 25/26th

Our bowling hasn’t improved so 5 minutes after the start, we were enjoying the coffee – but no mini chocolate doughnut.  Life can be so cruel at times.  There was no morning dance class as Alana was at the cruise staff awards lunch and we had a dining room lunch catch up, with a lady Paula shared a cabin with when she was 17!
To the dance class afterwards but the floor was so crowded that try to do a whisk and chasse was difficult with bouncing into someone so we sat down for a while.
Back at the cabin, the air conditioning engineer called in (it had been reported by our cabin steward) and is now working – rather too well!
The evening meal is often a time to be a little inventive and between us, we cause Watchara all sorts of deviations from standard.  I opted for the herbed shrimp main as a starter, followed by the roast pork.  Garry and Joanne made a tentative announcement that they have provisionally booked on next year’s cruise...  Meanwhile, we are debating whether or not to hop off at San Francisco, as the run back to NZ is almost identical to this sector but with additional Hawaiian stops that we have already done.
Once again, to the Atrium after dinner for Alan & Alana’s entertaining quiz (on Fairy Tales...) then a very pleasant chat with another dance couple from Perth.
Papeete (Tahiti)
A slight relapse on the sleeping patterns and shoulder pain.  Ho hum.  It will give Nina, our acupuncturist something to work on...  We had set the alarm for 7am but woke before that to the usual extra noises signifying a port arrival.
We last visited Papeete about 4 years ago for a long weekend when it failed to live up to expectations due to the weather, a surprisingly sub-standard Sheraton Hotel and the fact that most places were closed for Bastille Day, plus high prices.
This time, the weather was perfect and berthing almost on the sea front is fantastic (a far cry from many stops that are in container ports) with local music to greet us.  We managed eventually to get on an 8:30am Princess Island tour that was originally advertised as being by private car!  It ended up as 4 full sized air conditioned coaches.  Just a two and a half hour tour with about 4 short stops at monuments and a waterfall. Just our luck that as soon as we reached the waterfall car park, it rained! The other stops gave us time for photographs - French Polynesia is a photographer’s paradise, particular if you like beach and waterfront pics, which I do.   I never tire of taking pictures that have nature’s vivid blues and greens.
Returning to the ship at 11:30 meant an early lunch, before heading to town again to wander around.
The contrast between the displayed food here and that in Nice couldn’t have been more marked. How much of that is due to the relative wealth of the South of France is difficult to ascertain.  The harbour-side in Papeete is welcoming and modern, but the town itself is rather tatty and doesn’t have the appeal of the stops in central America for example.  Graffiti blight’s the area, which once again, is rather sad.  
We wandered around for a while but weren’t tempted to spend so we certainly didn’t need any local currency.
We were feeling in need of a drink once back on board so I used one of my reduced stock of Robert Timms coffee bags and we succumbed to temptation by grabbing a (small!) plate of corn chips, guacamole and sour cream and a fresh baked oat and fruit ‘cookie’...
Whilst Paula watched a show by a local cultural group (in the ship’s theatre, which was packed), I spent an enjoyable 15 minutes chatting to young Josh, a Canadian who joined the entertainment staff in Fort Lauderdale.
Just Dennis and Anthea at dinner but a very pleasant meal. Sailaway was very pleasant with a good sunset and the ship cruised out of the harbour past a narrow opening alongside the reef and just beyond the end of the airport runway.  (See pic).
A fair few passengers were excited at the announcement that the Australia vs NZ Tri Nations rugby final would be screened on the large outdoor screen – at midnight...  Before that, we went to an Australian impressionist (Keith Scott) in the Vista lounge.  Another top show and even though we didn’t know several of the Australian politicians, it was still a very funny show.
We grabbed a lounger on deck at 11:30 after Alan’s session (Alana wasn’t at all well) and settled down to enjoy the night air and I elected to try and get excited at the thought of a rugby match.  I’d had enough after twenty minutes but stayed to half time, when NZ were down 20-3. Bed was therefore 1:15am...  Bora Bora tomorrow and nothing much planned.  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 92 - Crossing the Equator - again, August 24th

A determined effort today to eat lightly, but with the prospect of lobster on the evening menu, for formal night, some leeway had to be applied.
It must have been the ‘Night Nurse’ pill for flu, that seemed to ensure a decent night’s sleep as we were both feeling a little lethargic. After an extremely light breakfast (so far so good... but passing by those fresh waffles with maple syrup and cream takes some will-power), we skipped the bowls, but did have the fresh coffee. With a few minutes spare and having ascertained the state of young ‘Snow’, we took a card with us to the medical centre to see if we could say hi.  Snow was sitting in a chair looking very well and was quite adamant that had he had the heart attack at home in NZ, rather than in the Medical Centre, he would probably now be playing on that great bowling green in the sky.  Most of the medics are South African and the fact that NZ were beaten by the Springboks last week, gave them a couple of opportunities to rub it in.   Snow’s All Black jacket was hanging on the wall – with the logo facing the wall - and they had wrapped him in a Springbok blanket! 
Although another sea day, this was going to be a little special as we had the “Crossing the Equator” ceremony, a tradition on board ship where anyone who has not crossed the line before is deemed a ‘pollywog’ and on crossing the equator is then deemed a ‘shell back’.  On the northward part of the cruise, the ceremony had to be cancelled due to bad weather – a fairly rare occurrence over the last three months.  Garry & Joanne were disappointed but ‘volunteered’ to take part in the southbound ceremony.  The traditional ceremony has a court hearing and when found guilty (as they all are...) the victims are covered with fish guts and other crud, but obviously, on a cruise ship, with such a sophisticated clientele(!) the ceremony has to be modified – just a little.
The ceremony was good fun and they were duly smeared with all sorts of goo. The next ‘victim’, young Todd, was shown one of the dancers doing a seductive dance, then laying on a table.  He was blindfolded and told he must kiss her belly-button.  As soon as he was blindfolded, Garry took her place!
The next victim who had been bragging about how much food he had eaten, was ordered by the court to have some excesses removed, so he was also laid out on a table, with sheets held up around him, whilst strings of sausages and pile of spaghetti were thrown out.
Several crew were also initiated, including three entertainers, three navigators and two engineers.  This was a cue for the entertainment staff to liberally smother them with yet more goo and then this almost turned into a mud wrestling spectacle.  A lot of fun, with several entertainers rendered almost unrecognisable.
A quiet day from then on and another 14/20 quiz score.  (The winners managed 18.)
As it was formal night, 4 of our table did their own thing but the remaining six of us managed more than our fair share of lobster tails.   For once, I didn’t take the extra food and managed to survive on just three courses.  (Such will power – again...)
The production show was “Shimmy” which was OK.  In the Atrium afterwards, Dave and Hirma, who are excellent high energy Rock ‘n Roll dancers, tried to teach us a back to back move that pushed my bad shoulder just a bit too far, so a slight relapse just as it was coming good!
Another relaxing sea day ahead – woo-hoo!
We have heard that there were a fair few complaints filed about the cruise on the last sector, so it is interesting to reflect. We certainly haven’t filed any and nor have most of the people we have met or meet regularly, so it must be a small proportion who are actively complaining.  Of course there are those who weren’t too impressed with itinerary changes and shortened port times, hoping to claim extra compensation. Some take a personal dislike to a member of the entertainment staff or who believe every member of staff should speak with an Oxford accent and can pronounce every word in every language correctly, but the reality is somewhat different.
As any rational person knows, hiccups are going to happen and to jump up and down because a specific pool is closed for a day; or the ongoing maintenance disrupts their normal walking path; or reporting the captain as he was witnessed enjoying a solitary beer with a group of passengers; is rather pathetic.  The unfortunate downside is that directives come back from head office that staff have to keep their distance from the passengers, which elicits even more complaints, that they are not mixing with the passengers enough!
Just for the record, we have zero complaints and can only praise all staff for their attitude and helpfulness at all times.  Outdoor astro turf carpet is being replaced and one poor guy seems to spend 100% of his time scraping off the old varnish, sanding and re-varnishing the handrails!  Maintenance has to be on the move and much of it during the day, so some disruption is inevitable, so why do some people feel the need to complain?
The Dawn Princess is a little tired in places, but overall, a fine ship with a great crew.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Days 90 & 91 Highs and lows - August 22/23rd

My resolution of a light eating day evaporated almost immediately as a fried egg and bacon sandwich with HP sauce was on my mind – and I hadn’t had one since the trip started.  Delicious....

 Australia vs the rest of the world at bowls so Paula and I did our bit and won our match, so we picked up a couple of ship prizes that Josh had scattered all over the playing area.  The rule is that if you win your match, you can select a prize from what is littering the floor.

Dance class was a revision of the Mayfair Quickstep (New Vogue) and the Argentine Tango.

As this class is 11:30 to 12:30, we usually opt for a break before heading to the buffet, which we did at 2pm. One of those 5 star days when the buffet had just what we wanted – a tasty Indian chicken curry and rice and also a nice piece of crumbed sole, plus bock choy with garlic and ginger and a tender, rich, tasty beef stew type dish. Oh, the cream of broccoli soup was nice too. Light eating day?  Yeah, right!

Ros and Arnold were away sorting out their cruise extension to Brisbane (saves hiring an Antunov cargo plane from Sydney) so we co-opted the Americans, Randy and Carole into the quiz team.  Two answers were Florida! As we were equal winners, the tie breaker was also an American question – “What is the length of the Mississippi River?” Our guess of 2400 miles was pipped by a guess of 2,800 miles (the answer was about 2,900).  Sadly, I let the team down badly as I didn’t get the correct number of backgammon pieces...  Shame on me.

Evening meal was so appetising, I had the spinach stuffed cannelloni main as a starter, the soup and roast pork followed by the healthy fresh fruit. 

Monday’s entertainer was billed as an instrumentalist and we had never heard of Roland Storm.   He proved to be a talented Australian Rock and Roll singer from way back, who just happened to play excellent piano accompaniment.  Backed by the Princess orchestra, this was one of the best acts so far, but quite why he was billed as an instrumentalist is somewhat baffling. His patter was basically a trip through Australian and international rock and roll history but I loved his playing and his singing voice.  He was so good, we went to see him again Tuesday night at the early 6:30pm show.

Tuesday – highs and lows

I had been good and hadn’t had a full sized, chocolate iced doughnut for several days, (don’t ask about the mini ones that are available with morning coffee...) but rather than upset the hard working bakery department by ignoring their white iced doughnuts, I did my bit for reducing the on board food wastage, but only after the banana, prunes and tinned apricots. A healthy breakfast I think. 

The sea was a lot calmer (thank goodness) and we headed for bowls anyway.  One of the popular regulars, 80 year old “Snow”, didn’t turn up, which was a surprise and just after the game started (ladies vs gents), there was a tannoy call for a ”Code Alpha”.  Little did we know at the time that it was Snow who had suffered a heart attack.  By mid afternoon he was stable but has to be shipped off in Tahiti. Very sad as we have got to know him well and have often had breakfast or lunch with him.  Just adds more weight to our current philosophy of doing what we can whilst can, as none of us knows what is ahead.

To counteract that sobering news, the dance class was interrupted by Cruise Director Warren, who had come straight from a staff meeting, where, as a results of internal recommendations added to by a pile of passenger nominations, Alana was voted the “Employee of the Month” for August.

The applause and cheers from the dance group were something to behold and a clearly disorientated Alana had to try and pick up from where she had left off with the rumba. Regular readers of this blog will know full well that Alana is one of our favourite people on the cruise and we are thrilled that she was recognised in this way.

There was a brief get together for those doing the 75 day cruise next year before we headed for the food (yes, again...) and the “International Buffet”.  Many look down on buffet food and the concept of people helping themselves, but it is not only remarkably efficient, but it allows a quick taste of food you may not normally order in a restaurant. With enchiladas and also sweet and sour pork as options, the light eating day took another hammering - and it would only get worse...

Paula had a morning massage and at 3pm, I was struggling again with my shoulder, so I was despatched to Arlene once again.  Repair is painfully(!) slow and Arlene takes no prisoners.

For our evening meal, we had specifically requested a Thai Chicken curry (the evening meal options never seem to include a curry) and three people had also requested a polenta dish as a starter.  I therefore ended up with a sizeable taste of polenta (with a Bolognese sauce) to add to the country pate and cream of cauliflower soup, before the specially prepared Thai curry.  Our waiter Watchara (from Bangkok) confirmed (after a sly taste!) that it was authentic and Paula soon discovered that the green veg were not beans, but chillies! I just had to finish with fresh fruit salad though...

A somewhat bloated arrival in the Atrium for the quiz and then just a couple of dances.  Plenty of people still around at 11:30pm too.

Two more sea days including the “Crossing the Equator Ceremony” for the Pollywogs tomorrow... Maybe a light food day again tomorrow too – but – formal night and lobster with monkfish on the menu...  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 89 - We are waving... August 21st

As anticipated, the internet is slow (and/or busy) at the moment so no idea when this will get uploaded. We didn’t leave Hawaii until about 1:30am but rumour has it that there were passengers still ashore drinking and had to be rounded up!  We have heard of one family who never stagger out of bed until not much before midday, then complain they can’t get a drink in the middle of the night...  (Smokers too.)

Paula was woken when the ship left and she probably wasn’t the only one, as the sea was anything but calm.  During the night and most of the day, the wave height was no less than 11.5 feet which is about 3.5m in new money. The ship was rocking fore and aft AND side to side, and it is a weird feeling when you are lying down and feel that at any moment, you are going to be tipped out of bed.  Rumour has it that Viagra sales have increased.

Morning bowls was interesting as rank amateurs won – beating many talented exponents of the game.  Early coffee and chocolate doughnut for us as my form continues to decline.  Goodness knows how bad our badminton will be by the time we pick up the rackets.

Dance class was another New Vogue – the “Mayfair Quickstep”.  Chatting to Alana later (much later!) she said that before last year’s World Cruise, she had never danced New Vogue at all, but having done some research, found that it was very popular in Australia and NZ so she swotted up and incorporated it into her programme last year.  The total professional.  The interesting thing is that the range of dances the Australian’s know is vast.  Our previous knowledge seems limited to the competition dances only.  The fact that some couples may know up to 50 dances is mind boggling, as it means that in any given venue or dance, you probably have several couples electing to do different dances!

Of those we haven’t been taught, the “Chicago Swing” (danced to “The Charleston”) looked good, but not too difficult, so Paula was easily persuaded onto the floor and taught it at night by one of the other regulars.  Nice people.  Nicer still that we know already of 6 couples doing the pacific Cruise next year - three of them are the regular evening dancers.

Lunch in the buffet was a “Pâté & Cheese” special and I never got further than the delicious pâté!

Being a busy sea day, the afternoon was a bit of internet catch up time and reading for me, a film for Paula, before our quiz. Another excellent 17/20 - but no win.

The evening dining room menu was “American”, but not the huge portions... I ate off the standard menu apart from the corn chowder.

We just made it to the Atrium in time for Alan’s music quiz and joined two others we hadn’t met before.  Small world yet again.  He is a director of Pukekohe Park raceway, runs an E type Jaguar, an MGB and an MG TF.  We finished equal second.  Afterwards, we spent a bit of time talking to Alan & Alana and DJ Lee.  Alan & Alana have some wonderful cruise stories to tell.

Quotes of the day at the dinner table, (when discussing men’s bravado regarding a successful BBQ).

“No point in me buying expensive cuts of meat for the BBQ, as Arnold will probably burn it anyway...”

“Garry hates to be disturbed by people talking to him whilst he is cooking and drinking, as he remembers to drink, but not to cook...”     

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day 88 - Aloha Hawaii - August 20th

We all have this vision of tropical islands with nothing but clear blue skies and sunshine.  Equally, we have visions of Manchester in a permanent drizzle and although there is a grain of truth in both, the overall reality is somewhat different.  We approached Hawaii and the port of Honolulu under cloudy skies at a very civilised hour (9am) and during the course of the day, there were several light showers.  Cruising in past Diamond Head and Waikiki, what used to be a major landmark building, the pink, Royal Hotel, is now totally dwarfed by tower blocks and Honolulu itself is now a massive town, but still with that world famous beach.

As we approached, we could see the other cruise ship, our old favourite, the Pride of America we cruised on in 2007 with Oscar & Margaret.  That 7 days set us up well and truly and although Paula’s initial response was that the ship was far too big, once on board, it was just like a massive hotel that moved.  The Dawn Princess has a similar number of passengers and it is only when you are getting on or off that you are aware of the 1948 other passengers or the sheer size.  There are times on board, particularly early morning and later at night when it is surprisingly quiet.

Bearing in mind this was another US port, we had no idea what the immigration structure might be, given that we hadn’t been to any other country since LA.  Quite simply, we just walked off the ship.   Over the tannoy speakers we were constantly told to make sure that we removed the lower portion of the green immigration card from our passports on our departure.  What puzzled us was that we never retained the lower portion anyway, as the US immigration officials at LA simply kept the complete document!

This is something you have to be very careful of, as Brian was detained at LA, as they had no record of his leaving the USA in 2009 (on his old passport too) and when he returns to Adelaide, he has to make a PERSONAL appearance at the US Embassy in Canberra, with proof of his employment, documented evidence of being in Australia and his old passport.  Moral seems to be, whatever you do, retain your old passports; don’t destroy them.

Having said that, there was no immigration hassle getting off once formalities had been completed, though funnelling about 1,000 passengers through the single on board swipe card reader creates a bottleneck, but it moved along OK.

Question:  Why, after 80 plus days of getting on and off the ship using the same system, do some passengers get to the machine before looking for their card?  These are probably the same people who hold you up at the supermarket searching for a purse, only after all the goods have been packed... 

Having visited Honolulu several time before, we have often used the trolley shuttles for two or three dollars a day.  Now, the fee is $30 a day!!!  Ignoring the Walmart and Hilo Hattie’s free shopper shuttles, (an excellent way to get around) we took a walk to the Ala Moana shopping centre and that was possibly a mistake, as it was quite warm out in the sun by this time. From Ala Moana we strolled through to “Ross Dress for Less” (yes, again), where we recognised a fair few customers, but these low cost shops probably keep prices down by not employing enough people on the checkouts.  There were between 40 and 50 people queuing to pay at just 4 manned checkouts.

Walmart (such exciting and exotic shops we frequent...) scored us some chocolate macadamia nuts and a couple of bits and pieces before catching their free shuttle back to the ship to unload and rest our tired feet, before heading out again.  With a midnight on board target, there was no rush and the City Tour bus was outside, but he was on his last run, so if we elected to get off, we couldn’t get back to the ship.   We agreed  a $10 fare each instead of $20 and had a narrated tour of the western side of town before getting off at Waikiki.

There we spied a beached whale (see pic) before ambling back to the well known International Market and the Ferrari shop.  Ferrari shop prices. Would you believe $88 for a tie? We left empty handed but I am sure Ferrari could do much better if they really wanted, as with their proud history, there was nothing at all that related to it.  No 250GTO models for example; nothing on the early days of the F1 championship.  Shame.  I may be an Aston Martin fan but I love older front engine Ferraris.  Even Shell petrol managed to sell quite acceptable model Ferraris on a couple of promotions.

We had decided on using a free shopper shuttle back to the ship, but whilst we were waiting, ended up sharing a taxi with port lecturer Debbie and a companion, so the return trip cost us $5 each including tip.

A stroll around the Aloha Tower area where we even considered having an evening meal, but we opted to go back to the ship.

Now I found this intriguing. When we returned the first time, we went through the terminal scanner A, (body) no problem.  This time, we went through scanner B and it took me three attempts to get through, yet I was 100% carrying as before.  Camera (mainly plastic) tucked into a pocket, leather belt with metal buckle (had to remove it), metal watch.  Weird.  I think it may have been the camera.  At all ports so far I have gone through the scanners with no problem, both on shore and on the ship, wearing and carrying basically the same items, camera always in the pocket as it is usually attached to my belt.

Once on board, a relaxing lie down before a welcome shower and a visit to the Horizon Court buffet, as it was open seating in the dining rooms. For probably the first time so far, a rather lack lustre selection so we should really have gone to the pizzeria instead, of picking at the food.

To the Atrium for a while then the comedy magic show by Roy Shank.  Not a bad show but not the best we have seen either.

Upstairs for a while for the deck party, but the weather wasn’t at all kind at 10:45pm and we were too tired anyway, but we did manage to wish Brazilian Barbara a very happy 30th birthday and hand over a rude card with a small packet of Thornton’s chocs.

Now no less than 5 days at sea before Papeete (Tahiti), then Bora Bora, two days at sea before Apia, 3 days at sea then home!  We are currently 22 hours behind NZ time. So just a couple more time changes. 

Most people on board use either personal notebook or lap top computers but the cafe is often full to overflowing with people using the ship’s computers, so if future cruisers are debating whether or not to take their own, the simple answer is yes.

Probably not much in the way of blog posts over the next few days for you to look forward to and no doubt the internet will be slow and busy anyway.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Days 84-87 Just Cruising! August 16-19

As expected, with four days at sea, not too much of interest or use for future travellers, but another idle waste of time to blog followers, especially those on land.

For us, generally busy days with one activity flowing into the next or maybe the occasional break for a read, a nana nap or computer work, not to mention eating.

Although we haven’t reached the dizzy heights of a win or even progress beyond round two in the bowling, it remains a staple part of our daily routine, though I seem to be getting worse rather than better.  Must be the new captain driving differently.

Although our quizzing has been without either drama or major success, young Josh, the new recruit to the Entertainment team, was on the end of Trivia Rage Thursday morning (we play in the afternoon).  Apparently the questions were mainly historical and extremely tough, so several teams upped and walked out and the front desk had a small pile of complaints, partly to do with the quiz, and partly to do with Josh’s responses.  Although we weren’t there, when the walkout occurred, his quip apparently was, “I don’t really worry too much, I am paid by the hour and not the audience numbers”, which we thought a good riposte.  This didn’t go down too well with the miserable few, so along with Barbara and Robert (who resigned as a result of an unwarranted complaint about his speech) Josh is now the new target in the sights of the disaffected few.

However the majority are very supportive of the crew in instances like this and are not slow to voice their opinions either. One trivia presenter (who shall be nameless) gifted our team a bag of prizes, that were duly shared out.

We enjoyed our visit to the Sterling Steakhouse thanks to the generosity of Ros who was only too pleased to share her good fortune at Roulette and Bingo with the table.

For future cruisers, maybe you’d like a sample of what the steakhouse offers for the $20 surcharge?  Hopefully the pictures will tell the real story.  The prawns were Paula’s starter and I had the clam chowder in a loaf.  The normal steaks in the dining room are more than adequate, but the steakhouse lifts it a few notches, particularly on size and variety.  I opted for the Sterling filet, shown on the right of the raw meat sample trolley .

We had another formal night and people do look so smart when dressed up, probably the guys as much as the ladies, though the picture of “3 ladies in black” shows that they scrub well too! The picture shows the fantastic dance teacher Alana flanked by Paula and Hirma, one of the other regular dancers.  Dance classes have been for the waltz (basic as some people have only just joined); the cha-cha (“the Sweetheart”), Paso Doble and a return to the Argentine Tango that we had to leave early for a Crazy Cruiser’s lunch.     

The stage show on formal night was several notches above previous productions, as we had the new male singer at last, (Dan stayed on from Fort Lauderdale) and also they seemed to have actually created some bright scenery with lights. Wow!  Previous shows have been let down in no small way by the rather boring backdrops and the black floor. The show was entitled “Save the Last Dance”. Most people rated this the best show yet. (We have enjoyed them all.)

Thursday evening we went to see Al Katz again. Another good show, followed as usual by a sojourn to the Atrium for coffee before hitting the sack about midnight.

Honolulu tomorrow and a decently long day. Once again, it will be interesting to see what happens regarding immigration and departure, bearing in mind we haven’t been to any other country since Long Beach.  With a 9am arrival and a 9:30pm back on board time, we do have a lot more time than in LA.

Clocks have been steadily going backwards and we have all been promised free drinks all day on September 1st...  Most of you may know what that means.     



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 83 - A tiny touch of Los Angeles - Aug 15th

Having been to LA many times, it is a place that can cater for most tastes.  It marked the end of sector four and the beginning of the last leg. We were awake for the 5am sail in to San Pedro, which is a massive container port, though the passenger terminal is modern and spotless.  As expected, the Immigration system slows things down a fair bit and our scheduled call up at 8:25am wasn’t until 9:15 and the queue was from the Vista lounge stage, out the theatre and along the corridor, right up to Magnums, which is a long queue! Pity those scheduled for a 10:55am interview as I don’t think they managed to get off until at least 11:30am.  As a major port, it is real shame that this isn’t an overnight stop, giving those visiting for the first time, an opportunity to get a full day in at Disneyland or Universal Studios for example, or one of the many tours in the area other than those offered by Princess.  Needless to say, their tour passengers were off early!  We all had to be back on board by 4:30pm and we elected to catch the Princess shuttle at $15 each (Megan & Malcolm caught a local bus for 45c...) from the terminal to the Aquarium, where we were then able to catch a free shopper shuttle.

The shopper shuttle was full to overflowing with Dawn Princess passengers keen to get to the area’s number one Long Beach attraction “Wal-Mart”...  Followed by attraction number 2, just a few yards away – Ross “Dress For Less”.  All seats outside were occupied with patient males.  Apart from Paula buying a couple of tops and a pack of sport socks, plus my purchase of a $7 pair of reading glasses and a pack of socks, that was it for LA for us!

Our Captain is now Vincenzo Lubrano and from past blogs, we don’t really expect to hear much from him.  Sailaway was a sunny 5:30pm departure, heading for Honolulu on Saturday, with a great Dixieland set by the resident orchestra, who seemed to have a couple of new members.

It really does feel like the downhill run for home now, yet we still have more holiday than many people get in a year, so we are treating it as another new holiday and still count our blessings that we are able to enjoy this.

Not sure that there will be much to post over the next few days, but we’ll try.  Hi to Helen who got off in Dover and is now back at work in Australia and is missing the ocean already, though the first part of the cruise was her first ever trip out of Australia.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Days 81 & 82 with Ros on a roll - August 13/14th

Well, just three weeks to go now.  With news of snow in Auckland (a very rare occurrence) the prospect of returning home has taken a hammering!  Paula claims we should probably stay on the ship until the weather improves.

To speed up the morning bowls, today was ladies vs. men rather than the usual knockout.  Mal & I, with our customary gentlemanly demeanour, allowed the ladies to win our match.  Back to knock out on day 2 and Paula and I at least got through the first round but not the second.

Dance class was a revision of the Argentine Tango and also the Disco Samba we’d missed a couple of days ago and for day 2, a revision of the jive.  All pleasant ways to spend an hour or two when not eating or drinking coffee or simply reading and doing Sudoku or blogging.

Ros continued her winning streak by putting in a rare appearance at the big Bingo session, where the pot had to go. A winning line was enough to add to her kitty for the week and she kindly offered to treat us all to a meal in the Sterling Steakhouse, just after the Los Angeles stop.

Garry and Joanne sneaked off to the steakhouse anyway for a romantic evening for tow.  The rest of the table plus Paul & Linda opted to avoid the dress up for formal night.  Our poor waiter Watchara had nothing to do, so he escaped from the deck 5 dining room to see where we were and found us on deck 8 eating pizza!

As is usual on formal nights, we had a show to go to.  Paula and I went off to see “Piano Man”.  Always an enjoyable hour in the theatre.

Night two we went to see the comedian, an American called “Al Katz”. There are three distinct type of comedian so far.  The joke tellers who inevitably tell us jokes that most of us have heard before, (some rather better than others); the monologue/life experience comedians (Billy Connolly/Jasper Carrott type humour) and lastly, the type who are totally off the wall and unpredictable, such as the brilliant David Copperfield.  Al Katz belongs in the second group and was excellent.

Our quiz score on day two was a stunning 18/20, but not enough to win.  However, the winners were next to us and turned down the (Belgian) champagne (sic), in favour of small individual prizes and passed over the bubbly to us.  We may need to acquire enough orange juice to dilute it.  It is a standing joke on the ship that the Champagne is anything but a top quality drink.

Alan and Alana did their usual bit in the atrium, but quite a few have an early start in the morning, so the numbers were down on normal. That didn’t stop the regulars and I was bullied into doing the Gypsy Tap and the Palma Waltz - badly.  By the time I have followed the couple in front and remembered it, it was all over.

Clocks back yet again tonight.  Still no reading glasses so a visit to Wal-Mart tomorrow is on the cards. LA is a major port and a much heralded stop on the cruise, yet we sail away at 5pm and with face to face interviews for ALL passengers, some won’t even get off the ship until 11am, so they have very little time on shore.  Those booked on Princess tours get priority as do disembarking passengers, then it goes by deck, starting at deck 11 and finishing off with those on deck 5. We are scheduled for an 8:25am call.     


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day 80 - Manzanillo Mexico - August 12th

A Ros organised tour today and time for breakfast before meeting at the Magnum’s Bar, ready for our usual prompt getaway. The port is obviously gearing itself up for increased tourism, with Acapulco being dropped, there is an opportunity for Manzanillo to establish itself as a worthy stopover. The town really depends heavily on the port traffic, both containerised and cruise ships and initial impressions are very favourable, with a warm hassle free welcome.  Just walk off the ship and walk back on again with nothing more than the usual security check for your cruise card and your baggage/shopping.  I still struggle to come to terms with the differences between the various countries with their tourist immigration demands and why one or two are so paranoid.

Our tour coach was a full sized one with two tour guides this time and we headed first of all to the pyramids at Colima.  From the photographs, you’ll notice a distinct lack of pyramids as we know them from Egypt.  You’ll also notice that these look as though they were built yesterday, which isn’t too far from the truth, as although these date from around 1500BC (I think), they have a considerable number of people on site with wheel barrows, mixing cement and sweeping, not to mention re-laying the river stones that form the pyramids. Artefacts discovered throughout the area include many pottery depictions of dogs.  Dogs in this region were often reared as potential food rather than as lap dogs or security systems, so the warning from the tour guide, somewhat tongue in cheek, was beware of eating in town restaurants where you see no dogs around. We were informed that when the master died, the dog had to go too.

On then to a Hacienda, the Nogueras museum of original artwork in Comala, that some may recognise as Unicef Christmas cards. The museum also has many pottery items discovered in the area and these appeared to be in remarkably good condition. I think that the creators of Wallace and Gromit might have gained some inspiration here... The road through to the museum was cobbled so wasn’t as smooth as the highways, but we passed by some very nice houses where the local law is that to preserve the area’s beauty and vegetation, (that includes coffee and mango trees), no more than 10% of the private land area can be built on.

Then into Comala for a somewhat hurried 40 minute stop for shopping and a tapas lunch. Genuine tapas it might have been, but Mexican food generally isn’t one of my international favourites.  The fruit for dessert was pineapple, water melon, cucumber(!) and a bland white item I failed to identify that was enlivened by a coarse red powder mix that appeared to be based around red chilli...

The coach ride back through lush vegetation was quiet as most were happy to either doze (might have been the free beer to blame) or simply stare out of the windows until we arrived back at the wharf.  Most of the streets we passed looked very clean and we saw several instances during the last three stops of people sweeping the pavements.  Quite why India is so grubby when there are so many idle hands must be an indictment on the people, as those in central America are not exactly wealthy. There was a fair bit of graffiti unfortunately.

My backpack was already a bit heavy, containing water x 2, a beer, two raincoats we thought we might need, and two packs of some fruit based item that we have no idea what it is!  Another example of helping the local economy.  According to the packets, the translation is “Fruits and sweets of fields of Comala” – but both appear to be guava based yet look totally different.  The pack that Dennis bought looks different again. I went straight to the ship whilst Paula was taken captive by a Mexican bandit in the small trinkets and stalls area.

Just in case anyone from either Manzanillo (unlikely) or Princess (more likely) reads this, there was a massive tent erected on the wharf to house the security screening by the port.  So why did we once again have to queue outside in the blazing sun, when 90% of the tent was unoccupied and the security table and frame were set up in the corner nearest the city?  So all but about 5 people were out in the sun.  We may be “Crazy Cruisers” but “Crazy Queuers” might be just as apt.

Straight up for an ice cream, then a swim in the shaded and quiet Oasis pool at the rear of the ship.  A bit of a nana nap before dinner in the dining room then a temporary halt in the atrium, to listen to an excellent solo guitar player, until the rest of the orchestra turned up to play the sort of smooth jazz I don’t care for, so we retired at 11:15.  Alan and Alana had a very rare night off.

Clocks back 1 hour yet again tonight with two days at sea before hitting Los Angles, another sector port where about 300 passengers will get off and the same number get on.  Our popular Captain, Todd McBain, also gets off for a vacation and we already have our schedule of immigration interviews. Strangely enough, when we arrived in Miami, we didn’t need physical proof of our ESTA authority, nor did we need to fill in the green arrival’s cards, yet we need both for the ship interview, plus the advisory letter from Princess, with our group number and an allocated time...   Ho hum.