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Enjoy the "Treasures of the World" with Bill & Mary Ann on the 2014 World Cruise

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AH HA!! The mystery problem passenger mentioned in the Captain's blog.:eek:

Now we KNOW. Good to have the riddle answered. Reminds me of reading on CC a few years ago about a dude who dressed in a blue tarp every day.:rolleyes:

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Great idea planting a garden in your window! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your voyage.

 

Sue/WDW1972

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Report # 35 Pago Pago, American Samoa February 1, 2014 Saturday Part One Partly cloudy, no rain (predicted), 82 degrees

 

Today's port of call was Pago Pago (pronounced Pango Pango), American Samoa. Five volcanic islands make up American Samoa, one of which is Tutuila, where we docked today. The total land area of these islands is only 76 square miles, but the waters surrounding the islands include 200 miles of economic zone, making their total area 117,500 square miles. This is about the size of New Zealand. The tallest peak on Tutuila is over 2100 feet, and the island is covered with dense growth, a tropical rainforest. Many of these trees house fruit bats, as we would see today. We are here during their wet season, December to March, although the rain that was predicted never did fall. No kidding, that's because we packed those umbrellas again today. It was hot, however. The temps of 82 degrees sounds fine, but believe us, it comes with heavy humidity making it feel much hotter.

 

We have been here before, actually twice before. The first time we took a tour to see the sights and learn the history of the island. Back then, it was not the best of tours. We convoyed in ten small buses to each site, where one guide gave a talk on what we were seeing. The problem arose when the buses began arriving late, and you missed half of the talk. Being in one of the last buses, we ended up hearing just about nothing at the end of the tour. The only consolation was that the tours were cheap, but that was the reason why.

 

The next time we were here, we opted to take a walk through town, past many historic buildings, and the scenic harbor full of fishing boats. That was about the time that the skies opened up, and we decided to head back towards the pier. When it rains here, you know it. Sure wish we could have sent that rain to California, where we needed it and still do. The remainder of our time was spent at the pier souvenier stalls where we found some nice sets of puau shell jewelry, pareos, and t-shirts. The funny thing was getting soaked from the tents overhead that filled with water, then suddenly drained on our heads. Well, that was then, and here is now.

 

The Amsterdam was greeted by a local group of drummers fairly early this morning. How did we know that? Because they were literally right below our window on the dockside. Later in the afternoon, this group would come back with 13 dancers to give us a rousing sendoff. With the town easily accessible, we chose to walk the waterfront once again, taking the same direction as we did a few years back. Don't laugh, but we are still in search of dirt (no, not the gossip-type dirt), but potting soil for our growing garden. Just about the same time we spotted the ubiquitous dubious strange passenger popping out of a shop across the road, we ducked into what appeared to be a local hardware/electrical/plumbing store. Turned out to be a good move, because it was like an Ace Hardware store we have at home. They had two items we needed.....a new thermos, and a bag of Miraclegrow potting mix. We thought we were safe from an encounter with the "priest", but no such luck. We can tell you first hand that he was here to solicit money from the store-owners. When told a definitely, but polite, NO, he stood there staring at them.....perhaps intimidation would work. We quickly paid for our purchases and left. All we saw were the shop owner's heads shaking no, not today. Our purchases were heavy, so instead of chancing being followed by this man to each and every business, we headed back towards the ship.

 

A perfect stop was at McDonalds for ice cold sodas. With the forecast of rain, we almost hoped it would to cool things off. But it never happened. The cafe was full of locals and passengers alike using their email system. Every cafe we saw today was full of people doing their emailing, an indication that the ship's service is still not fixed.

 

We went back out again, thinking we would walk to the left to see what was there. Good thing we did, because we discovered a shoreline spit of beach and park with tables and chairs and some shade too. Bet this place gets busy later, since the Amadea pulled in alongside us around noontime. Anyway, after walking the beach and inspecting the recently-renovated palapas, we stopped at Goat Island Cafe at Sadie's at the Sea. This is an older-style waterfront hotel with a swimming pool, shops, and a couple of restaurants. The sign read that the grounds were for guests only, but we did learn that for a mere $5.00 each, you would have access to their pool and facilities. We were more interested in something cold to drink and food.

 

Making our way to their outside patio, we found a table that faced the harbor and had a stiff, steady breeze blowing. Not sure of the brand, we ordered two local beers with a chicken quesadilla to share. Two household cats seemed to think we should share our meal with them as well. Right next to us, a local couple wre dining on chicken wings, and they readily gave each cat a bone to chew on. They did not only chew them, they devoured them completely. We like animals, so it was nice to watch them enjoy a meal, as long as they were not in our laps.

 

All aboard time was 4:30pm, with a sailaway happening on the aft deck. That gave us a little time to stroll through the numerous tents on the pier to look for treasures. It was tempting seeing the various settings made with the puau shells, but already owning a set was fine. The prices were right, however, and the seasoned passengers were loading up on possible gifts we think. Colorful cotton napkins and placemats were sold everywhere we went.

 

We were finally cooled off by dinnertime, thanks to our room fan and a cold shower. Tonight, we had company, making our table of nine, a table for eleven. Cozy, to say the least. Our guests were half of the Black Tie group, Uri and Val. Having known them from previous trips, they made themselves at home, engaging every one of us in interesting conversation. The mealtime went by swiftly, and our kind waiters were able to handle the extra work with ease.

 

George Sakellariou, an international guitar player, entertained the crowd this evening. We have heard him play on many cruises. The entertainer last night, was a lady comedian, who happened to be a singer as well. You would have never guessed that from her description.

 

Tomorrow is Superbowl Day with lots of fun things happening onboard. We'll tell you about the specials tomorrow.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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According to you Captain's blog, your "ubiquitous dubious strange passenger" was talked to yesterday, and the issue was resolved, supposedly. I hope that is true. No-one, passengers, crew and islanders alike, should have to put up with this kind of intimidation. The poor man may have lost his mind, but he is obviously making life uncomfortable for everyone else. Very unfortunate!

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According to you Captain's blog, your "ubiquitous dubious strange passenger" was talked to yesterday, and the issue was resolved, supposedly. I hope that is true. No-one, passengers, crew and islanders alike, should have to put up with this kind of intimidation. The poor man may have lost his mind, but he is obviously making life uncomfortable for everyone else. Very unfortunate!

 

If this is, in fact, the pax that the Captain had the talk with, it would seem that he was only laying down the law about the pax's behavior on the ship. Not really sure what he could say about what a pax does on shore.

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Report # 36 Sailing Towards Fiji February 3, 2014 Monday Partly cloudy, 85 warm and humid degrees

 

You might ask how did it get to be February 3rd and it is Monday here? Well, simple. We have crossed the invisible International Dateline, where the day ends and the next day begins. It has to occur somewhere in the world, and it happens to be right here around the Tonga/ Samoa area. The clocks went ahead a full 24 hours or one day. Therefore, February 2nd, Sunday, did not exist for us. We do get the day back one hour at a time, as we have been doing since leaving Florida. It will take the complete circumnavigation to get all those hours back. Certificates arrived on or mailslot certifying that we did it at 2:30am last night.

 

The big event of the day is Superbowl XLVII, which if we receive the signal, will be shown in the Queens Lounge, Sports Bar, and on channel 33 in our staterooms. For the last couple of days, "super seats" were offered in the Queens Lounge for a price of $49.95. That would give you a priviledged front row seat with unlimited drinks priced under $7. for the duration of the game. Butler service included. You would have to be a serious drinker to break even on that deal, or not mind the hangover later on. Another deal offered was the same unlimited drink package for $34.95, but no special seating, and no butler. It was obvious to us when we went at noontime to take some photos from deck five, that few chose the butler package. Among them, was our buddy Barb, who was there as a guest of Aart and Ellen. They were in Superbowl heaven with an array of super eats and drinks as they sat behind the roped-off area. In fact, they could have been judges on American Idol, instead of game-watchers. All in good, clean fun.

 

The special eats included crispy-fried chicken wings, sliders, jalepeno poppers, small sandwiches, pizza squares, and chili.......all buffet-style. Plates in the shape of footballs were barely big enough to handle a small amount of each item, maybe. Drink specials included a souvenier glass of the drink of the day for $5.95 and $8.95. Domestic and imported buckets of beer ran from $20. to $22.. Of course, a 15% service charge was added to all of the packages. The food area of the lounge was the busiest, although we did see many folks filling the plates, and leaving the lounge to eat elsewhere.

 

As for us, we stayed in the comfort of our room, while watching the game. Game? It was a massacre, but at least we worked on the window garden, adding more pots with sunflower seeds. We should have a staggered blooming season now. Around 2:30pm, we went up to deck eight to the Dive In Grill to get a hotdog and cheeseburger with crispy naked fries. The service was super fast, since most everyone was watching the game somewhere. Just as well, because it was unforgivingly hot outside today with a following wind. Watching the game to the bitter end took the rest of the afternoon.

 

The upcoming ports in Australia require entrance and exit cards, which were delivered to our rooms today. We had to fill in answers to general questions, and sign them. Australia is very strict with their requirements for entering their country. In fact, the restrictions for bringing any food items off of the ship can result in stiff fines. So by signing these forms, we are commiting to not doing anything illegal or harmful to their environment.

 

Yesterday, we got a form from the Shore Excursion department with tours to book in Alotau, Papua New Guinea on February 19th. Well, this is news to us, since the only other port we were scheduled to visit in Papua New Guinea besides Madang, was Lae, and that was cancelled a few months ago. We'll have to investigate this new addition, because we must have missed the announcement. No one else at our dinnertable knew any more about it than we did. We asked Yuri and Val about the port and they have never heard of it. Living in Australia, Papua New Guinea is an easy vacation destination for them. Now we are really curious.

 

There were only seven of us at dinner tonight, so we had lots of elbow room. The entrees were not too exciting, so we ordered large romaine salads with sesame seed flank steak sliced on top. The always available French onion soup was hot and delicious as ever. Although it is not written in the dessert menu, we found out that all of the jello is sugar and gluten free. We know, you are saying j-e-l-l-o? With a dab of whipped cream, it is a very light way to end a not-so-light meal.

 

There was no live entertainment this evening, but a movie, South Pacific (2001), was shown at 7:30pm and 10pm.

 

And a gentle reminder to turn our clocks back one hour tonight awaited us on our bed this evening. That works for us.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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According to you Captain's blog, your "ubiquitous dubious strange passenger" was talked to yesterday, and the issue was resolved, supposedly. I hope that is true. No-one, passengers, crew and islanders alike, should have to put up with this kind of intimidation. The poor man may have lost his mind, but he is obviously making life uncomfortable for everyone else. Very unfortunate!

 

Does anyone but me wonder how or who is footing the bill for the cost of such a cruise???

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Does anyone but me wonder how or who is footing the bill for the cost of such a cruise???

 

Maybe the money he is getting from soliciting pax on board and shops in ports is paying for his cruise! Not to say he could be a con-artist, but....

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Report # 36 Sailing Towards Fiji February 3, 2014 Monday Partly cloudy, 85 warm and humid degrees

 

You might ask how did it get to be February 3rd and it is Monday here? Well, simple. We have crossed the invisible International Dateline, where the day ends and the next day begins. It has to occur somewhere in the world, and it happens to be right here around the Tonga/ Samoa area. The clocks went ahead a full 24 hours or one day. Therefore, February 2nd, Sunday, did not exist for us. We do get the day back one hour at a time, as we have been doing since leaving Florida. It will take the complete circumnavigation to get all those hours back. Certificates arrived on or mailslot certifying that we did it at 2:30am last night.

 

The big event of the day is Superbowl XLVII, which if we receive the signal, will be shown in the Queens Lounge, Sports Bar, and on channel 33 in our staterooms. For the last couple of days, "super seats" were offered in the Queens Lounge for a price of $49.95. That would give you a priviledged front row seat with unlimited drinks priced under $7. for the duration of the game. Butler service included. You would have to be a serious drinker to break even on that deal, or not mind the hangover later on. Another deal offered was the same unlimited drink package for $34.95, but no special seating, and no butler. It was obvious to us when we went at noontime to take some photos from deck five, that few chose the butler package. Among them, was our buddy Barb, who was there as a guest of Aart and Ellen. They were in Superbowl heaven with an array of super eats and drinks as they sat behind the roped-off area. In fact, they could have been judges on American Idol, instead of game-watchers. All in good, clean fun.

 

The special eats included crispy-fried chicken wings, sliders, jalepeno poppers, small sandwiches, pizza squares, and chili.......all buffet-style. Plates in the shape of footballs were barely big enough to handle a small amount of each item, maybe. Drink specials included a souvenier glass of the drink of the day for $5.95 and $8.95. Domestic and imported buckets of beer ran from $20. to $22.. Of course, a 15% service charge was added to all of the packages. The food area of the lounge was the busiest, although we did see many folks filling the plates, and leaving the lounge to eat elsewhere.

 

As for us, we stayed in the comfort of our room, while watching the game. Game? It was a massacre, but at least we worked on the window garden, adding more pots with sunflower seeds. We should have a staggered blooming season now. Around 2:30pm, we went up to deck eight to the Dive In Grill to get a hotdog and cheeseburger with crispy naked fries. The service was super fast, since most everyone was watching the game somewhere. Just as well, because it was unforgivingly hot outside today with a following wind. Watching the game to the bitter end took the rest of the afternoon.

 

The upcoming ports in Australia require entrance and exit cards, which were delivered to our rooms today. We had to fill in answers to general questions, and sign them. Australia is very strict with their requirements for entering their country. In fact, the restrictions for bringing any food items off of the ship can result in stiff fines. So by signing these forms, we are commiting to not doing anything illegal or harmful to their environment.

 

Yesterday, we got a form from the Shore Excursion department with tours to book in Alotau, Papua New Guinea on February 19th. Well, this is news to us, since the only other port we were scheduled to visit in Papua New Guinea besides Madang, was Lae, and that was cancelled a few months ago. We'll have to investigate this new addition, because we must have missed the announcement. No one else at our dinnertable knew any more about it than we did. We asked Yuri and Val about the port and they have never heard of it. Living in Australia, Papua New Guinea is an easy vacation destination for them. Now we are really curious.

 

There were only seven of us at dinner tonight, so we had lots of elbow room. The entrees were not too exciting, so we ordered large romaine salads with sesame seed flank steak sliced on top. The always available French onion soup was hot and delicious as ever. Although it is not written in the dessert menu, we found out that all of the jello is sugar and gluten free. We know, you are saying j-e-l-l-o? With a dab of whipped cream, it is a very light way to end a not-so-light meal.

 

There was no live entertainment this evening, but a movie, South Pacific (2001), was shown at 7:30pm and 10pm.

 

And a gentle reminder to turn our clocks back one hour tonight awaited us on our bed this evening. That works for us.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

Hi Bill & Mary Ann,

 

Love the posts!

 

Here is some info on Alotau PNG

 

Alotau

 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

Jump to: navigation, search

 

 

 

Alotau

 

 

 

Milne Bay, Alotau

 

 

 

 

Alotau is located in Papua New Guinea

 

 

 

Alotau

 

Location within Papua New Guinea

Coordinates: 10°19′S 150°26′E

 

Country

Papua New Guinea

 

Province

Milne Bay Province

 

District

Alotau District

 

LLG

Alotau Urban

 

Elevation

6 m (20 ft)

 

Population (2012)

 

 

• Total

15,939

 

• Rank

15th

 

Languages

 

 

• Main languages

Tawala, English, Suau, Tok Pisin

 

Time zone

AEST (UTC+10)

 

Postcode

211

 

Location

365 km (227 mi) ESE of Port Moresby

 

Annual rainfall

3,108 mm (122.4 in)

 

Alotau is the capital of Milne Bay Province, in the south-east of Papua New Guinea. It is located on the northern shore of Milne Bay.

 

The town is located within the area in which the invading Japanese army suffered their first land defeat in the Pacific War in 1942, before the Kokoda Track battle. A memorial park at the old battle site commemorates the event. Alotau became the provincial capital in 1969 after it was shifted from Samarai.[1]

 

There is a road from Ulumani to Alotau which passes the local Gurney Airport, named after squadron leader Charles Raymond Gurney of the RAAF, who was killed in the area in 1942. The airport is located 12 km from the town. Alotau is the gateway to the Milne Bay Province which contains some of the most remote island communities in the world. Milne Bay is noted for its coral reef and scuba diving experiences.

 

Alotau is also the annual forum for Australian and Papua New Guinean ministers

 

Regards & safe travels

 

Bellair

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Report # 37 Sailing Towards Fiji February 4, 2014 Tuesday Partly Cloudy, 86 degrees

 

As we continue sailing southwesterly towards Fiji, the seas have remained calm, and the skies mostly blue. The only thing is that it is still hot, hot, and hotter. Guess paradise comes with a price of some kind.

 

It sure was a warm day to have the 5K On Deck for the Cause walk, even at 10am this morning. For a donation of $20. or more, you receive a t-shirt and wrist band, and the proceeds go towards six international cancer organizations. The walk began as scheduled, but as the participants heated up, they were invited to go inside on deck three and walk the hallways. Great idea, and when they were done, sipping gallons of ice tea and lemonade would be an even better idea.

 

We spent some time at the aft pool, and in the pool, although the water was almost hot. There were few sunbathers back here today....only the diehard tough ones with gallons of sunscreen. Actually, we began to enter the Fijian waters where some of the 800 Fijian islands dotted the horizon on both sides of the ship. So we had scenic cruising for most of the day.

 

As we do daily, around 6pm, we go up to the Lido restaurant to check out the entrees to help us decide what to have for dinner. This evening's cuisine included an entree salad, two types of fish, poultry, vegetarian, and veal cordon bleu. The veal dish won out over the others, and it did not disappoint. We had ordered rocky road ice cream when our waiters came with a little birthday cake for Barb. The problem with that was her birthday is tomorrow. Oh well, we all sang her special song along with the waiters, because it is fun. Now tomorrow, Barb will be dining in the Pinnacle Grill with Ellen and Aart, so we plan to celebrate the following day with another cake, this time a strawberry-filled layer cake with roses on the top. Barb loves the idea of a 3 day celebration.

 

Black Tie was on stage tonight with the promise of a new and exciting show. For a change, this time we attended. A funny thing happened at the Goat Island Cafe in Samoa. When we walked into the cafe, a couple approached us, shaking hands with us, and asking how we are enjoying this world cruise. Figuring they knew us, we listened to get some hints, but the only one thing either of us remembered was the man's voice. It was booming, a deep baritone, and we knew we recognized it. But where? Well, it finally dawned on us that we were talking to Con and Sue, the other half of the Black Tie group. Over the years, they had seen us on the aft deck on several grand voyages, and recognized us from there, of course. Yes, we definitely remembered him once he began to sing tonight.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Thank you for your report.

We enjoyed the Black Tie entertainers during the Volendam Trans Pacific cruise 2010.

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Report # 38 Lautoka, Fiji February 5, 2014 Wednesday Chance of rain, uncomfortably hot at 91 degrees

 

Our port of call today was a new one for us....Lautoka, Fiji. We tried to recall if we had been here on prior trips, but nothing looked familiar....so it was new. What they did have here were several offers from local tour operators offering almost too-good-to-be true excursions around the island and surrounding waters.

 

To begin, according to one of their brochures, Fiji is an archipelago consisting of 330 islands, 106 of them inhabited. Their population is around 850,000 people with a blend of Melanesian, Polynesian, European, Indian and Chinese citizens. The last two nationalities were introduced to the area with the influx of the sugar industry. The sugar mill dominates the town of Lautoka, and happens to be the largest mill in the South Pacific. It is not the prettiest of towns, as we were to discover later on, but has its charm of a 1950's era settlement.

 

Originally, we had booked a tour that would have taken us by sailboat to an outer island for 6 or more hours. A lunch was included, but we were concerned that it may be the underground cooking method type of lunch, and we were leary of that, having gotten ill on that type of cuisine in the past. So at the last minute, we cancelled and decided to walk the town. At least, the locals were running a continous shuttle to the center of town, saving us the 15 minute walk in the hottest place we have ever been. This town should have been named Dante's Inferno. With barely a breeze stirring the leaves of the trees, the temperatures soared to over 90 degrees before 9am in the morning.

 

Shortly before we left the ship, there was a power outage, causing the ship to go dark. This is the second time that has happened while in port. Luckily, it did not last more than 15 minutes, although a safety drill scheduled at that time, had to be redone a bit later. With many folks off of the ship, we figured it was a prime time to send off emails, and we did it from the atruim area outside the Ocean Bar. We happened to have ringside seats for the drill, Safety of Life at Sea, as it was taking place on deck three below us. Nice to know that this crew is so well prepared for different scenarios.

 

On our way out of the ship, we crossed paths with Barbara, our port lecturer, who has been a little under the weather. She confirmed a rumor that we recently heard about Phuket, Thailand. The ship will not dock in the usual pier, but we will be tendering to the beachside in a nice bay full of restaurants and shops. In other words, it is not the middle of nowhere, where you have to take a tour, or see nothing. That was good news.

 

Several souveniers stalls were set up along the dock, with the friendly vendors vying for your attention. We would have plenty of time to check them out later, although we did pick up some flyers on tours so we could compare prices with those of the ship. Believe us, there was a huge difference. We knew of many passengers that had made independant plans, such as the CC group. Will be interesting to see how they compared.

 

Following the ship's new map from their booklet was not very useful. Once again, all of the cafes listed were either closed permanently or located elsewhere. We could not even find a decent place to buy a beer, let alone pizza (wishful thinking). We did locate a small housewares shop where we attempted to buy a $1 scrub brush. They would not take US dollars, even if it meant we were willing to pay double (Fijian dollar was 1.90 to the US dollar). Even though we were told the locals would take US dollars, that turned out not to be the case with most everyone that went to town. That is with one exception......the major souvenier market, Jack's Department Store. We did buy a carved mask and a cannibal fork (everyone has to have one of those) for $20.

 

A quick stroll through the veggie and fruit market left us feeling a little less than welcomed, since we were vastly outnumbered by the local Indian people. They probably find it strange that we like to take photos of the common carrots, potatoes, taro root, and what looked like ingredients for kava kava, their ceremonial drink that leaves your mouth and throat numb. Alongside this market was a closed-in fish market, where the catch of the day was being sold. Already mostly gone, the aroma of fish was pretty strong, so we made a quick run through there.

 

After walking each side street looking for cafes that were not there, we climbed back on the bus, and went back to the ship. Cooling off in our room, then hopefully in the pool was a priority at this point. By 2pm, a breeze had come up, and it did help keep us cool at the aft deck. It did help to pay several visits to the shower stall back there as well. That is, until the water was shut off. Later on, we found out that there was a break in the water pipes in the ceiling on deck seven, flooding cabins and hallways. Thus, the water shut-off. Guess that can happen anywhere, but it seems to be happening more often than not.

 

Oh well, good time to stop by the Terrace Grill and pick up lunch, which has been consistently good. Better than room service, we think. And quicker.

 

Sailaway was at 4:30pm, although few people went outside in the blazing sun. Our trusty hotel manager, Henk, stopped by for a chat. We just happened to have a short list of questions for him, which he gladly addressed. The first was regarding the reruns of movie programming on TV. Every two weeks, we seem to be seeing the same run of movies. Now that we are starting the second month onboard, these flics are on their third rerun. We simply asked why, when there are scores of movies to never have to repeat anything. The answer to this was that HAL distributes set movies to every ship in their fleet. They are carefully chosen ( pretty much PG, with not too much violence), but put together for perhaps a two week cruise. In our opinion, this does not work on the Grand Voyages. They are special, according to their brochures. Would it be so hard to tailor programming suitable for longer voyages? It's not rocket science, just common sense to us.

 

Our next question was about the type of beef being served onboard. This year, it is all coming from containers shipped from the US. We can only take Henk's word that it is all prime, not choice, although we can say that the prime meat we buy at home in California is a step higher in taste and tenderness. In addition and also food related, we asked if room service will come with a charge in the future. The answer was a resounding no. The reason we asked was that we had a receipt left on our room service tray, showing what we had ordered, but with a charge of zero. The last shipboard statement we got, every time we ordered room service, it showed up on our bill with no charge. That sure gave us the feeling it would have a charge someday. Henk says NO. And we should not have seen that slip at all, which he noted to alert the kitchen staff to be more careful with their orders. Hope no one gets in trouble, since we did not intend that.

 

Finally, we wondered why some ships have stainless steel handrails to access the swimming pools, and others do not. He said it had to do with the class of ships built. It was a design thing, not a safety concern. We think it should be a safety concern, because every time they wax those fake decks around the pool, someone falls getting in or out of the pool. Again, not a big fix, but those hand rails do help, and we wish they would consider installing them.

 

We ended up staying out back until sunset at the sailaway, since we were joined by tablemates, Bill & Marianne, and Henk & Lucia, our hosts. They shared their activities of the day, which is always fun and informative to listen to. That way we have the info to choose what we want to do next time, if we ever come back here. It was a surprise to see the Carnival Spirit anchored not far from where we were docked. They had been diverted here from Noumea, due to Cyclone Edna that had prevented them from docking there. Captain Jonathon mentioned that this storm had been downgraded to a tropical depression, and would be gone before we arrive there on Friday. Sure hope so.

 

On our way back to our room, we checked out the entrees in the Lido. The Lido restaurant was busy this evening, so it was no wonder that the dining room was half empty. It had to be due to the long day in port that was so, so hot. People were pooped. In fact, there were only six of us at dinner, although we were only aware of Barb being missing (it was her real birthday). Another couple did not show up, forgetting to let us know. We waited for 20 minutes, then decided to proceed with ordering. Just a subtle reminder to always let someone know, and not hold up the crowd.

 

Don't know how many folks made it to the Jazz, Blues & Rock 'n' Roll show this evening. We know we did not attend, because it was more exciting to watch the lightening show on the horizon that lit up the dining room all night.

 

One day at sea, and we will be in New Caledonia.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Report # 39 Sailing Towards Noumea, New Caledonia February 6, 2014 Thursday Partly cloudy, 85 degrees

 

Last night, right before we went off to dinner, we had a special invitation in our mailslot. It was for the Captain's Dinner, but it was for tonight, a formal evening. Usually, they give you a two day notice, with the option of regrets only by noon the day prior. Heck, we did not even have this invitation delivered before noon yesterday. The more we thought about it, with this heat and dressing formally in the Pinnacle Grill, we decided to pass on the invite, and go another time.

 

We felt that there was a hint of a cooler breeze when we went out to walk this morning. At least there is no sign of any cyclone or remnants of it. We have been very lucky so far, crossing the massive Pacific Ocean. Except for some deep swells, the sailing has been smooth, and almost storm-free. The most sealife we have seen recently is here with sightings of some flying fish. Nothing exciting like dolphins or tuna, but at least something alive. Birds are nowhere to be seen.

 

We have never heard of an enrichment speaker series, but we have one this morning. Cary Trivanovich spoke about bullying in schools. Now that is a different subject. John Gascoigne spoke about Western powers and the South Pacific. The morning talk dealt with tropical cyclones by Dr. Whitford. That is a subject that may be of great interest of all of us.

 

There has been a change of the TV line-up. Some stations are still gone such as TCM,CNN, and the Cartoon Network. Re-arranged on the grid are MSNBC, FOX, BBC, ESPN, and classic music. The ship must be receiving a different feed. Whatever they are doing, we do appreciate the diversity of the news channels.

 

Like we said earlier, tonight was formal, but a really different one. The theme was Dinner with the Gnomes. None of us could really figure this one out. Typical decorations were missing, except for the dining room entry with a mini-Gnome village. Our waiters wore nice vests and ties, but were also wearing a pointed hat with black hair and beard attached. Gosh, they looked hot and scratchy. They continued serving us with a smile, even though we told them to take the disguise off. Each of us had a colorful party hat to wear, or not. We're bringing ours home to the kids.

 

And for the fourth time, we celebrated Barb's birthday with a strawberry-filled whipped cream cake. With the entrees of a tasty veal chop with a baked potato, we were full tonight. Good thing we are getting another hour back on the clock, so we can stay up later and let it settle.

 

Tomorrow, we will be in French territory once again on the island of New Caledonia.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Report # 40 Noumea, New Caledonia February 7, 2014 Friday Very cloudy, extremely humid, 86 degrees

 

Well, here we are at Noumea, on the island of Grand Terre, and the capital city of New Caledonia. Along with several other smaller islands.the total population is 245,580 of mostly Kanak natives and French citizens. These islands are situated halfway between Fiji and Australia in the Coral Sea.

 

We are here in the hot season (mid November to Mid April) and also the cyclone season. We have narrowly missed the last system, Cyclone Edna, that blew through here a few days ago. The average temperature is 75 degrees, but the humidity is extremely high, making it feel much hotter.

 

The economy is based on nickel reserves, with New Caledonia producing 20 to 30% of the world's supply. Agriculture is second, and tourism has to be a close third. It is no wonder that Noumea is a huge resort and beach destination with highend hotels, restaurants, and boutiques galore. In fact, the second largest barrier reef in the world is here, earning it the UNESCO World Heritage Site distinction since 2008.

 

There are 3500 species of plants, including orchids and ferns, 4300 animals, and 1000 different species of fish that live in some of the largest lagoons in the world. Some unusual animals include the cagou, an endangered bird that barks like a dog. No kidding. They cannot fly, but can run really fast. Another strange creature is the dugong, or sea cow, a close cousin to the manatee. They live in the lagoons and eat marine plants. Last is the kaori trees, one on the island measures 40 meters tall and is said to be over 1000 years old.

 

We have been here twice, and have taken every tour to see the main attractions. Today, we chose to do the town on our own, since they make it very easy to do so. The best deal here was the Hop On Hop Off bus (HoHo) for $15. per person. That would take us to one dozen stops, where we could get off or stay on to any place we chose. It was good for all day until the last coach at 5pm. Compared to taking the little yellow train ride through the shore excursions on the ship, we saved over $110. And that was only for a two hour ride.

 

So we boarded the bus right outside the terminal building at about 10am. It took about 20 minutes for the bus to fill with passengers, but we expected that to be the case. Following the coastline, the bus went to the morning market, where kiosks were set up with veggies and fruits along with souveniers stands. Port Plaisance was next for shopping, followed by Citrons Beach, one of the "clothing optional" beaches. You should have seen the rubber-neckers on our bus trying to see some of these bathing beauties. We did see one, however. The more family-oriented beach was a stop at Anse Vata Beach. A stop for Duck Island would give people the opportunity to catch a boat to this nearby island for a day of swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.

 

Our destination was the stop at Le Meridien, a five star hotel and resort, right on a private stretch of beach. You cannot see this property from the bus stop, but we knew to walk up the road a piece, then follow the sign on the road that led down to the hotel. No buses are allowed to drive down their driveway. We were welcomed to the hotel lobby that faced the ocean below. Remembering a visit here a few years back, we knew to walk through the lobby and follow the staircase down to the waterside and drop dead gorgeous pool area.

 

It was here that we ran into our hosts with a few other guests, who were enjoying a cool swim in the water. We were told that in order to use one of the hotel's lounges, they wanted $17. each to use them. No one wanted to pay that, so all of the lounges were empty. Except for the hotel guests, of course. Some of our friends did go to the hotel's beach restaurant, ordered some food and drinks, then used the beach with no problems. We simply stolled around the grounds, taking photos, then went back to the bus stop. Wouldn't you know it.....we missed the bus by 2 minutes, so we had to wait almost 1/2 hour for it to come back. Unfortunately, we did not have a schedule, which is probably island time anyway. They come when they come.

 

Since the ship was not leaving until after 6:30pm, we had plenty of time. Guess we could have walked down the hill from the Meridien, but there were few sidewalks and the traffic was flying on by us. The next stop was at Palm Beach, where we followed the side streets to an advertised Italian cafe called La Dolce Vita. The attraction here was a wood-fired oven where they made.....pizza! All types of pizza, and really, really good too. But lunch almost did not happen as planned. We arrived there at 1:25pm, dying of the heat, and in need of something ice cold to drink. One of the waitresses said they were closing at 1:30pm for a shift change. We both said , Oh NO, with an unmistakable body language that said it all. Disappointed, big time. With that, the owner came outside to call us back, and we were seated promptly inside the cool restaurant. Since this cafe was the ONLY one like it in town, we would not have been happy with anything else.

 

Lunch was a delicious margherita pizza, topped with tomatoes and loads of cheese. The beer was No. !, a local brew we understand. We also polished off half a liter of ice water as well. The humidity can be a killer, and if the sun had been out full bore, it would have been worse. Within the hour, the patrons eating with us left, and the staff were setting up for the dinner crowd. Time to go.

 

The following stops on the way back to the ship were the Aquarium, McDonald's, The Melanesian Museum, and the Noumea City Center at Place des Cocotiers. Finally, the last stop was at the ship where we began. We got off at the park at the Place des Cocotiers, where we strolled among the local kids who were hanging out for the afternoon. Many of the shops surrounding the square had closed for the afternoon, so shopping was out. And we really did not need any souveniers from here.

 

What we needed to do was pay a visit to the local grocery store called Casino Supermarket. It is right across the street from the ship, and they have everything you may need. That is, except for alcohol or wine. The aisles that had the wines were cordoned off, but why? The rumor had it that alcohol sales were cut off shortly after noontime, because there is a huge problem with teen drinking on the island. Who knew? Anyway, with the wine shoppers on this ship, we are certain they lost a whole lot of revenue today. We found our few items we needed, including two packages of Australian Tim Tams, a most delectable chocolate covered crisp cookie. They were pricey, but will be so worth it.

 

Sailaway was held in the Crows Nest, but we stayed outside on deck nine as the lines were dropped, chatting with Barbara H, our port guide. We keep each other up to date with pizza restaurants that we discover along the way, since she is also a dedicated fan. Just as we were talking, the ship's horn was blasted three times, almost driving us overboard. When you are not expecting it, that can be startling. In the past, the Captain usually warns the folks outside first. Not tonight. After the horn blasts, all of the cars shoreside blew their horns as they passed us.

 

All of us, without exception, were tired tonight at dinner. Everyone remarked about the humidity, which takes its toll on you. Salads and a light meal was our best bet, as we sailed towards the next port of Isle des Pins tomorrow. The Captain must have pulled in the stabilizers, since we were rolling pretty good during dinner.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Enjoying following your journey. Thank you.

 

The Casino Supermarket is well sited for Cruise Ship passengers visiting Noumea. Sorry you were too late to buy wine, but the Tim Tams will be good:D

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Report # 41 Ile Des Pins, New Caledonia February 8, 2014 Saturday Partly cloudy, 85 degrees

 

If you ever want to witness the most perfect isolated island with beaches to die for, well, you can find it with a visit to Ile Des Pins, New Caledonia. We are not talking about "spring break" type of beaches, but clean, white sand with a consistancy of powder. You barely leave a footprint in it as you stroll the beach. The warm water is as clear as can be, with the color of an aquamarine gemstone. There are no water sports, wave runners, banana boat rides, or the such. And just in case you need to know, there is no nude or topless sunbathing allowed.

 

What you will see are the locals in outrigger canoes, or small boats to take you around the island. Snorkeling is the biggest activity, suitable for all ages. Between the two bays we could easily access from the tender landing, there were plenty of things to do and see. It's a photographer's paradise.

 

For the first time ever on a world voyage, HAL offered tours here. They ranged in price from $65 to $135 for an island tour by minibus, a scenic boat ride, snorkeling, and a short day at Le Meridien Ile Des Pins with lunch, located on the opposite side of the island at Bay d'Oro. Since our stay was only from about 10am to 2:30pm, we found it best to explore the island on our own. We knew the beaches well, since we were here not too long ago.

 

Not much had changed, except for a few more stands of the locals selling arts and crafts and food. Pricey is an understatement, but that is to be expected in such an isolated area of the "French" world. We would find out how expensive later on in the day.

 

Most folks wore their swimwear and aqua shoes knowing that the waters were too good to pass by. There is little in the way of public facilities, except for Kuto Beach, where there are bathrooms and showers for the restaurant's customers. Although many people were using it without patronizing the cafe. The first beach we walked was at the Bay de Kanumera, described as the Little Smiling Bay with a white sand beach perfect for snorkeling. Many locals were here with their little kids, setting up a BBQ for an afternoon of relaxing and eating. Sure looked good to us. Did we mention that the Amadea ship pulled in right beside us around 9:30am? We had mistakenly thought they were on their way to New Zealand, but guess that was wrong. At least, this ship is small....it could have been the Carnival Spirit with tons of passengers.

 

In this bay is a huge limestone rock formation where the ancient people carved totem poles in and among the caves eaten out from the surf. There is evidence that settlements in this area have dated back 4000 years, where people actually lived in these types of caves. It has become a sacred place, and it is strictly forbidden to climb the rock. The attraction here, however, are the numerous tropical fish that like to hide in the dark shallows.

 

Did we mention that it was hot again today? Hot and sticky. We did bring a couple of sodas with us from the ship, and we knew well enough not to bring any food over to shore. Lots of people ignore that warning, and come over with sandwiches, fruit, and pastries from the Lido. So far, we have not seen any bags inspected in this part of the world, but when we get to Australia, that will change.

 

And that leads us to the price of food and drinks on the island. Continuing on with our walk, we cut across the isthmus to the open Bay de Kuto, with a longer stretch of white sandy beach fringed with coconut palms and the island's famous towering Araucaria pines. It is wonderful that these trees are here along the water's edge, because they serve as well needed shade. Many of our guests darted into the water, then headed back under the trees to cool off. If we had followed the road, we would have come across ruins of an old prison, the cemetery, a convent, a church, and a water tower. Can you imagine that France actually sent some of their notorious prisoners to this piece of paradise? In fact, 3000 convicts were sent here in 1872. Would have been better than Devils Island, off the coast of French Guiana, where most everyone died from yellow fever and malaria. We did walk for a piece on the road, until we ran into Bill & Marianne, who had just come form the ruins. With their excellent description of the site, we figured we did not need to go there in this heat.

 

It was time for something cold to drink, so we went to the only bar/restaurant on this stretch of beach. Luckily we had some Polynesian French Francs to spend, because when the cafe owners took US or Australian dollars, they tended to round up the amount a little too much. Therefore, a can of local Numer 1 beer was $12 a can. Ouch. We did order two beers and a tray of crispy French fries for 2400 francs, which was bad enough. That would have cost $36 US. So we figured it had been better to buy the money either on the ship or onshore, and not be gouged along the way. By the way, the beers tasted fine as did the fries.

 

Nearby the cafe, were a number of folks from the Amadea having a riproaring private party. An open bar had been set up under tents with copious food that was brought onshore from their ship. We would have liked to talk to some of these folks, but they mostly spoke German, and did not appear to welcome outsiders.

 

The time had evaporated, and we had to head back to the tenderboat. But not until we located the perfect t-shirt at an artist's boutique, no less. The rest of our coins were used to buy some nice postcards, since we will not be visiting any more French islands on this trip. Oh yeah, while we were looking over many souveniers in a few shops, the "priest" was paying a visit to each stall, continuing to beg for money. It was not working, as many of our fellow passengers warned the shop keepers to ignore the pleas. It has been more and more apparent that this person has mental issues. He was seen by our friends dropping to the floor and doing push-ups in the Crows Nest during the sailaway from Noumea the other night. Forgive us for saying it, but this is not normal behavior. Soon, he will be going home.

 

The dinner menu offered a porterhouse steak, and we had to try it. Although it was not advertised as 22 ounces, it must have been because it covered the plate, with veggies and a baked potato hiding under it. The mastodon of steaks. As hard as we tried, it was impossible to finish the whole thing. We would have had to fast for two days prior. Perhaps they will offer this type of steak once each segment. If so, we will order it, ignoring the teasing remarks made by fellow diners. Hey guys, you got to live a little, you know?

 

We have two days at sea now as we head southwest towards Sydney and the end of the first segment.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Report # 41 Ile Des Pins, New Caledonia February 8, 2014 Saturday Partly cloudy, 85 degrees

 

If you ever want to witness the most perfect isolated island with beaches to die for, well, you can find it with a visit to Ile Des Pins, New Caledonia. We are not talking about "spring break" type of beaches, but clean, white sand with a consistancy of powder. You barely leave a footprint in it as you stroll the beach. The warm water is as clear as can be, with the color of an aquamarine gemstone. There are no water sports, wave runners, banana boat rides, or the such. And just in case you need to know, there is no nude or topless sunbathing allowed.

 

What you will see are the locals in outrigger canoes, or small boats to take you around the island. Snorkeling is the biggest activity, suitable for all ages. Between the two bays we could easily access from the tender landing, there were plenty of things to do and see. It's a photographer's paradise.

 

For the first time ever on a world voyage, HAL offered tours here. They ranged in price from $65 to $135 for an island tour by minibus, a scenic boat ride, snorkeling, and a short day at Le Meridien Ile Des Pins with lunch, located on the opposite side of the island at Bay d'Oro. Since our stay was only from about 10am to 2:30pm, we found it best to explore the island on our own. We knew the beaches well, since we were here not too long ago.

 

Not much had changed, except for a few more stands of the locals selling arts and crafts and food. Pricey is an understatement, but that is to be expected in such an isolated area of the "French" world. We would find out how expensive later on in the day.

 

Most folks wore their swimwear and aqua shoes knowing that the waters were too good to pass by. There is little in the way of public facilities, except for Kuto Beach, where there are bathrooms and showers for the restaurant's customers. Although many people were using it without patronizing the cafe. The first beach we walked was at the Bay de Kanumera, described as the Little Smiling Bay with a white sand beach perfect for snorkeling. Many locals were here with their little kids, setting up a BBQ for an afternoon of relaxing and eating. Sure looked good to us. Did we mention that the Amadea ship pulled in right beside us around 9:30am? We had mistakenly thought they were on their way to New Zealand, but guess that was wrong. At least, this ship is small....it could have been the Carnival Spirit with tons of passengers.

 

In this bay is a huge limestone rock formation where the ancient people carved totem poles in and among the caves eaten out from the surf. There is evidence that settlements in this area have dated back 4000 years, where people actually lived in these types of caves. It has become a sacred place, and it is strictly forbidden to climb the rock. The attraction here, however, are the numerous tropical fish that like to hide in the dark shallows.

 

Did we mention that it was hot again today? Hot and sticky. We did bring a couple of sodas with us from the ship, and we knew well enough not to bring any food over to shore. Lots of people ignore that warning, and come over with sandwiches, fruit, and pastries from the Lido. So far, we have not seen any bags inspected in this part of the world, but when we get to Australia, that will change.

 

And that leads us to the price of food and drinks on the island. Continuing on with our walk, we cut across the isthmus to the open Bay de Kuto, with a longer stretch of white sandy beach fringed with coconut palms and the island's famous towering Araucaria pines. It is wonderful that these trees are here along the water's edge, because they serve as well needed shade. Many of our guests darted into the water, then headed back under the trees to cool off. If we had followed the road, we would have come across ruins of an old prison, the cemetery, a convent, a church, and a water tower. Can you imagine that France actually sent some of their notorious prisoners to this piece of paradise? In fact, 3000 convicts were sent here in 1872. Would have been better than Devils Island, off the coast of French Guiana, where most everyone died from yellow fever and malaria. We did walk for a piece on the road, until we ran into Bill & Marianne, who had just come form the ruins. With their excellent description of the site, we figured we did not need to go there in this heat.

 

It was time for something cold to drink, so we went to the only bar/restaurant on this stretch of beach. Luckily we had some Polynesian French Francs to spend, because when the cafe owners took US or Australian dollars, they tended to round up the amount a little too much. Therefore, a can of local Numer 1 beer was $12 a can. Ouch. We did order two beers and a tray of crispy French fries for 2400 francs, which was bad enough. That would have cost $36 US. So we figured it had been better to buy the money either on the ship or onshore, and not be gouged along the way. By the way, the beers tasted fine as did the fries.

 

Nearby the cafe, were a number of folks from the Amadea having a riproaring private party. An open bar had been set up under tents with copious food that was brought onshore from their ship. We would have liked to talk to some of these folks, but they mostly spoke German, and did not appear to welcome outsiders.

 

The time had evaporated, and we had to head back to the tenderboat. But not until we located the perfect t-shirt at an artist's boutique, no less. The rest of our coins were used to buy some nice postcards, since we will not be visiting any more French islands on this trip. Oh yeah, while we were looking over many souveniers in a few shops, the "priest" was paying a visit to each stall, continuing to beg for money. It was not working, as many of our fellow passengers warned the shop keepers to ignore the pleas. It has been more and more apparent that this person has mental issues. He was seen by our friends dropping to the floor and doing push-ups in the Crows Nest during the sailaway from Noumea the other night. Forgive us for saying it, but this is not normal behavior. Soon, he will be going home.

 

The dinner menu offered a porterhouse steak, and we had to try it. Although it was not advertised as 22 ounces, it must have been because it covered the plate, with veggies and a baked potato hiding under it. The mastodon of steaks. As hard as we tried, it was impossible to finish the whole thing. We would have had to fast for two days prior. Perhaps they will offer this type of steak once each segment. If so, we will order it, ignoring the teasing remarks made by fellow diners. Hey guys, you got to live a little, you know?

 

We have two days at sea now as we head southwest towards Sydney and the end of the first segment.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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