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Explore the world with Pete & Judy on the 2018 Holland America Grand World Voyage

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Day 53 – 26 Feb Benoa, Indonesia

 

Luwak Coffee

 

We stopped at a tourist coffee place called Teba Sari which sells the very expensive Luwak Coffee (about $90 a pound for beans). This is a very popular stop and most tours will end up stopping here at one point or another. If you are interested in tasting the Luwak Coffee you can try a cup for about $4 USD.]

 

If you are wondering why so expensive, it is in the processing

 

luwak (Indonesian pronunciation: [ˈkopi ˈlu.aʔ]), or civet coffee, is coffee that includes part-digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet (Fermentation occurs as the cherries pass through a civet's intestines, and after being defecated with other fecal matter, they are collected.

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My good friend and lecturer Kate Ross will soon be joining you. Please enjoy her lectures and give her a hug for me, Beth Davis. We so enjoyed her on the Grand Asia. Also if you see Alice in the Lido Deck she was such a jewel. Also say hello to her for us Beth and Dan Davis. Love your stories and photos.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

 

We met Kate on 2016 World Cruise. We are looking forward to seeing her again.

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Day 54 - Benoa - 27 Feb 2018

 

Cooking Class

 

A 7 am meeting time for our private cooking class didn’t see so early back in October when I made the arrangements with Chef Mudana who runs a restaurant and cooking school in nearby Sanur. Click HERE for more information about Chef Mudana and his cooking class.

 

We scheduled the Island Delights Package which included an early morning visit to the local market with Chef Mudana as he buys the actual raw ingredients he will use for the class. The cost was 750,000 IDR per person or $55 USD. If you plan to pay in USD be sure you have crisp, new bills as this will make it easier for him to exchange the money later.

 

Here is the schedule for the Island Delights Package:

7.00 am – Traditional market tour

9.00 am – Balinese breakfast

10.00 am – Start cooking

12.30 pm – Lunch together

14.00 pm – Finish

 

Arranging the class via Email was very easy and Chef Mudana answered most emails in a few minutes if he received them during Bali Working Hours. He is very responsive and easy to communicate with.

 

Going to the Fish Market

 

We were in the parking lot at 7AM and I recognized Chef Mudana from the photograph on his web site. Our group of six people squeezed into his SUV and we headed off to the largest fish market in Bali, which was immediately south of the airport. As we crossed over the bridge that leads toward the airport we noticed a large structure under construction on the horizon. This will be the Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) monument, an enormous copper and brass sculpture of the Hindu god Wisnu astride the mythical bird Garuda. This has been under construction for over 25 years at a cost of over $100 million US dollare and is scheduled to open later in 2018. The 250 foot tall, 215 foot wide statue, sits on a pedestal that will bring the total height of the monument to 400 feet, nearly 100 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York.

 

More information HERE

 

After arriving at the Fish Market, which is the largest fish market it Bali, we followed Chef Mudana as he purchased the ingredients for today's meals, which would be both breakfast and lunch. The market was dimly lit with bare bulbs. The floor was puddled with water from melting ice and rinsing water. Fish were on display in various stages from completely whole to filleted and everything in between. Narrow aisles required you to move almost single file around the market without any apparent organization as to the type of fish or signs identifying the name of any vendors.

 

Fisherman, shopkeepers and shoppers all moved with purpose but in relative silence as they quickly completed their transactions without any signs of extended haggling.

 

Ten minutes after we arrived we we watched Chef Mudana as he purchased Shallots, Garlic, Ginger, Galangal, Tumeric, Candlenuts, Spinach, Bean Sprouts, Long Beans, Cucumbers and Celery. He worked quickly and he checked off items from a small shopping list. He joked later that he gets better prices when he shops alone as once the vendors see the tourists in tow, they raise their prices and negotiations become more difficult.

 

Our final stop was in an area where they sold freshly ground coconuts and chickens. We watched for a few minutes as the vendor chopped the coconuts open and then fed the meat into some sort of a grinder that rapidly produced finley ground coconut.

 

Arrive at the Class

 

Our shopping complete, we piled back into the SUV and headed over to Sanur, which is about 5 miles north east of the cruise terminal, arriving about 9 AM. Here is a map.

 

Chef Mudana holds his cooking class in a large room, without walls, adjacent to his restaurant, which is only open in the evenings. A large rectangular island dominates the room with six circular cutting boards (one for each student) neatly arranged along 2 sides. Today’s menu is displayed overhead along one pillar. A beautiful garden surrounds the brightly light room. The room is behind the main restaurant with a small connecting bridge over a pond filled with Koi fish. The setup is beautiful, very professional and creates a wonderful atmosphere.

 

Two assistants, Dede and Made, helped Chef Mudana throughout the day and were very friendly and helpful.

 

Breakfast

 

The six of us were seated at a table next to the cooking island where we enjoyed a light breakfast which was beautifully presented and quite tasty. Our first breakfast course was a selection of fresh fruits followed by some pastries including silver dollar sized Balinese pancakes.

 

After our leisurely breakfast we started to prepare lunch around 10 AM. First up was preparing Bumbu Bali (Balinese paste) which would be used in 3 of the dishes we would make today. Everyone sliced, diced and chopped their vegetables which were carefully laid out at each work station. Chef Mudana was always close at hand to offer helpful suggestions on technique.

 

Making Lunch

 

Making the paste involve smashing on the ingredients with a large mortar and pestle, which everyone in our group had an opportunity to do for a few minutes.

 

As the day progressed, Chef Mudana, Dede and Made would prepare each course, cutting up the chicken, boiling other ingredients, grilling the mahi mahi and flipping the crepes for desert. Everyone had an opportunity to take part in any activity or simply sit back an observe. Each step was carefully explained and the contribution each ingredient played in the final dish explained and discussed. The atmosphere was more akin to standing around a friend’s kitchen helping prepare a Thanksgiving dinner rather than a formal cooking class.

 

Some of the food was spicy and Chef Mudana made 2 versions of each to accommodate everyone’s taste for spicy hot food. He can also accommodate any other food restrictions, just be sure to let him know when you make your reservations.

 

Today's Menu

 

Here is the menu we helped prepare:

  • Bumbu Bali (Balinese paste)
  • Sayur Urab (Mixed vegetables with grated coconut and chili)
  • Ikan Sambal Matah (Grilled fish with fresh chili, lemongrass dressing)
  • Sop Cram Cam Ayam (Balinese minced chicken soup)
  • Sate Lilit Ayam (Grilled minced chicken skewers)
  • Ayam Betutu (Steamed whole chicken with Balinese paste)
  • Sambal Udang (Sautéed Prawn with chili tomato sauce)
  • Dadar Gulung (Balinese crepes filled with grated coconut and palm sugar)

Everything was complete around 12:15 when we all sat down to enjoy our food. We had our choice of beverages including local Beer or soft drinks.

The food was all delicious and we had a wonderful time enjoying our meal along with interesting conversations about life in Bali we had with Mudana, Dede and Made.

Back to the ship

 

About 1:15 PM we took some final pictures and said our goodbyes.

 

If you are looking for something different to do in Bali, I highly recommend taking a cooking class in general and Chef Mudana’s in particular. A World Cruise is all about creating experiences that will result in lifetime memories. This class is something that will always evoke fond memories.

 

We spent the rest of the day relaxing in our cabin. I noticed that the Wi-Fi in the terminal was quite fast so I went ashore around 5:30 and spent some time doing some work on the blog that is much easier with a fast connection.

 

Evening aboard

 

Dinner tonight featured Sweet and Sour Crocodile which was my choice. Similar to pork, it was very nice.

 

Ace McDermott – billed as the Number 1 mentalist – was in the Queen’s lounge this evening. I am not a big fan of mentalist shows, but if you are, then you will enjoy Ace. His presentation was top notch and his performance was enthusiastically received.

 

 

Chef-Mudana-Shopping.jpg

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Thank you so much for the detailed descriptions of the ports and tours!

I am enjoying them immensely! And that lunch!

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Day 55 – At Sea - Feb 28

 

Pirate Drill

 

After a wonderful visit to Bali, we headed north to our next port- Puerto Princesa. We will be passing areas with an higher risk of pirate attacks so today the Captain held drills to exercise the crew on the proper procedures.

The ship held Pirate readiness drills today where the crew would exercise some of the equipment that would be used in the event of an actual attack. The notice on the front page of the When and Where said “Guests are encouraged to take part in the drill, but it is not mandatory”. Some guests failed to carefully read the letter from the Captain regarding the protocol and didn’t realize that the guest role during the drill is to sit in the hallway, away from windows and stay out of the way. They incorrectly assumed that participation meant they may be able to man up one of the fire hoses and actively take part in the training. We heard that there were a few disappointed guests when they realized that their role was more limited than they had expected.

 

Tropical Buffet

 

Today at 11:30 in the Lido Market the ship presented a Tropical Buffet featuring a wide variety of fruits that were purchased in Bali. The line was nearly back to the door of the Lido Pool and was probably about 15 minutes long. Some of the more interesting fruits being served included:

  • Manggoesteen: sweet fruit that tastes like a combination of strawberries, peaches and vanilla ice cream
  • Rambutan: firm and juicy with a sweet taste similar to a lychee
  • Duku: contains 1 – 3 seeds, flat and bitter; the seeds are covered with a thick, clear-white aril that tastes sweet and sour
  • Jack Fruit: similar to pineapple

Afternoon

 

Judy had her usual custom turkey panini for lunch and I captured a few photos of the sandwich making in progress. Whenever the line was more than a few people long, a second person would stop by to help keep everything moving.

 

Evening

 

Prime rib was on the menu this evening and is always delicious. Tonight they also offered Beechers Macaroni, which I can’t resist, so I ordered both and had a little of each – well maybe more than a little.

 

Toni Warne performed in the Queen’s lounge this evening. She is a powerful vocalist with an engaging stage presence. She was a finalist on the UK Version of “The Voice” and has performed on the West End and elsewhere around the world. Her performance this evening featured popular show tunes including hits from Les Misérables and Lion King in addition to the Barbara Streisand hit “Don’t Rain on My Parade”.

 

Tori-2.jpg

 

More on the blog

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Day 56 - At Sea - March 1

 

Today is the second of three sea days between Bali and our first port in the Philippines.

 

Coffee Chat

 

Today’s guests for Coffee Chat with Hamish were: Neptune Lounge Concierge Laurence from Cebu, Lido Cook Hazel from Manila and Print Shop Manager Edwin from Manilla. They work in different roles around the ship, but they are all from the Philippines. They discussed their plans to visit with their families while in Manilla in addition to a little more insight into their daily routines.

 

Hazel is well known by many guests as she works in the Lido Market making omelets in the morning. She makes around 100 omelets per day on this cruise, but that is less than ½ the amount she made during a recent cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam. On that ship she was servicing two lines simultaneously.

 

Edwin works by himself in the print shop, printing 850 copies of the daily “When and Where” in addition to everything else that is printed onboard.

 

Laurence works in the Neptune Lounge where he provides Front Desk services and other support to passengers in the Neptune Suites.

 

Lunch in the MDR

 

We arranged a van with a driver to take us to the Subic Bay/Cubi Point US Navy complex where I spent some time while in the US Navy. While planning for this trip, a couple from Cruise Critic, along with their friends heard what I was planning and asked to go along. We met today for lunch to get to know each other a little better before our excursion.

 

This was my first time in the Main Dining Room for lunch this cruise. Rick and Margaret were also on our trip, so the 9 of us were seated at a large oval table. There was a nice selection including an Asian Burger or some Baby Back Ribs. There was an option called an express special where you could choose two items each with a smaller portion. I chose the Asian Burger and Chicken Soup which were both delicious and I was glad to have chosen smaller portions since they turned out to be plenty big enough.

 

We had a wonderful lunch learning more about our travelling companions, one who left Vietnam in 1975 and spent some time in Subic Bay before heading on to the USA. Another in our group was an officer in the South Vietnamese Army who spent 10 years in prison after the war before being released in 1985 and then getting a USA visa in 1990 where he lives today.

 

Afternoon

 

I lost twice with Texas Hold’em today. The slot tournament was in progress and I bought an entry for $20. Here is how the slot tournaments work. There is one two hour qualifying round each day for three consecutive days. A $20 ticket buys you a chance to play a special tournament slot machine for 3 minutes. At the end of 3 minutes, your score is recorded, and the 6 highest scores achieved over 3 days advance to the final round. During the final round, the 6 players play 6 identical machines, side by side, for 3 minutes and the highest score wins $500 cash in real money. All of the six qualifiers get a Club 21 hat or shirt as a consolation prize.

 

Judy made a coin necklace today in crafts and learned how to make a double slip knot.

 

At the end of the today's second qualifying day, I was in 6th place with a score of 471,000. Many people don’t play until the last possible second on the final day, so I was fairly certain that my score would not be enough to make it into the finals.

 

Gala Night

 

Tonight was a Gala Night advertised as the “White Dinner” symbolizing purity and elegance. Participation in the “all white” theme was very high – I would guess that 90% of the guests made a serious effort to wear “all white”. Our table was hosted by Claudia, the Digital Workshop Host. She was raised in Monterrey, Mexico and moved to Texas with her family when she was a teenager. She was a lot of fun and a great table host.

 

Around the time we were finishing the main course, according the Captain’s earlier announcement, we crossed the equator for the second time.

 

The Holland America Singers and Dancers returned for a performance of the show titled “On Tour” which was advertised to “Deliver a Performance of Rawness and Edge” and create an Arena Band Experience. They danced and sang to a variety of big hits from the past 40 years including “The Way I Love You”, “Under Pressure” and “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. This cast is very talented and full of energy and enthusiasm.

 

After we returned for the evening we discovered our latest pillow gifts – two RFID metal credit card holders. It wasn’t clear how they worked, but we would ask around tomorrow.

 

HAL-4.jpg

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Coming soon-

 

Manila trip to NAS Cubi Point and Subic Bay.

Manila visit to singing cooks and waiters and upside down museum

Hong Kong - Day trip to Macau

Hong Kong - Visit to Tim Ho Wan and Central Escalators

Overland from Phu My to Singapore via Angkor Wat.

 

We are finished in Siem Reap...waiting for our flight to Singapore. 2 hours flight

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Day 57 – At Sea - Mar 2

 

Temperature Checks

 

One common inspection as you transit certain airports around the world are body temperature inspections using infrared cameras. These are used to detect anyone with a fever who may be afflicted with some contagious illness. The 2002-2003 SARS epidemic had a serious impact to the economy of many countries and the airline industry. I have never seen these used aboard ships until today.

 

We received a note, along with a health questionnaire from the Philippine government, that we must complete the form and return it to officials in the Explorers lounge today between 10 and Noon. At the time we received the note we weren’t sure how they would measure everyone’s temperature. There was a lot of joking that they may use more invasive techniques, but most people speculated that they would use some sort of body temperature scanner or something they may stick in your ear. I was concerned that this may result in long queues, but when I wandered over to the Explorers Lounge to check out the situation, I was relieved to see that there wasn’t any line at all. The steady stream of people only stopped briefly to allow staff to scan their cruise card near the Merabella Jewelry store. After their attendance was recorded, they walked aft alongside the Explorers Lounge where an Philippines Immigration official was seating, facing the oncoming people, monitoring infrared images displayed on a camera mounted on a tripod. The official was quite friendly, and he would chat with any passerby and explain the camera and what he was looking for.

 

RFID Wallets

 

We must not have been the only ones unsure as to how to work the RFID credit card holders as we received a copy of the instructions in our mail slots this morning.

 

Casino

 

I won one Texas Hold’em and lost 2 tournaments today. During our first game, around 11 AM, they announced over the public-address system that there was a sperm whale visible off the side of the ship. A few people almost conceded their games as they raced to the open decks once they were knocked out. They came back a little later and reported that the whales were barely breaking the surface and not much to look at.

 

The slot machine final was this afternoon. By the end of the third qualifying day, I was knocked off the board and the minimum score required to crack into the top six was 700,000. The game is 100% luck and you don’t make any decisions – simply press the REPLAY button as fast as you can. I watched the finals, along with a group of about 20 casino regulars, and the winner came from behind with less than 30 seconds to go when she hit a Jackpot worth 300,000 tournament dollars. She won $500 USD – with the other six getting Club 21 Ball Caps as consolation prizes.

 

Dinner

 

Zack, the bass player from the HAL house band, joined our table for dinner this evening. He will be leaving the ship in Hong Kong as he will be starting a new gig with a group called Postmodern Jukebox. They have several groups touring around the world – They achieved their initial success on You Tube and play popular tunes with new and interesting arrangements using a piano as a central instrument. Find out more about them HERE

 

Queen's Lounge

 

Scott Harris was the headliner in the Queen’s Lounge this evening. Scott is one of the best comedians we have ever seen on a cruise ship – ever. His delivery was fresh, and he worked in some funny lines based on current events around the ship – in this case the temperature checks this morning. Scott’s major theme was comparing life events from the older generations with younger generations. Not a new theme, but his insight was outstanding and very funny. He closed his show with a serious rendition of the Simon and Garfunkel hit: Sounds of Silence. At first, I thought he would sing the song as a parody with funny lyrics, but he sung it straight all the way thru and was very good.

 

Scott-singing.jpg

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Day 58, March 3 - Puerto Princesa

 

Puerto Princesa’s Subterranean River National Park is the major attraction for this port. This is an all-day excursion that involves a 2 hour drive each way – followed by a 20-minute outrigger boat ride to the park. Once at the park, you then board a smaller outrigger canoe for the 2-mile trip thru the underground river. After we reviewed numerous reviews online, along with many videos of the experience on YouTube, we elected to not take this tour, but to stay close to town and relax aboard ship.

 

We watched as the people on this tour boarded dozens of vans and headed off to the National Park. After talking with people who went on this tour, we learned that they all had a wonderful time, and everything was well organized. Since the tour uses 6-8 passenger vans instead of large buses, they recommended that you self-organize into groups about this size to avoid random selection of your travelling partners once you leave the ship. Each van was assigned a local guide.

 

There are some nice beaches in the area and a few people organized a van and driver to take them to one of them for the day. They reported that they had a good time. There was some confusion about their meeting place, but they were able to work it out.

 

Going Ashore

 

After spending the morning relaxing in our cabin, we left the ship around 2 PM and stopped by the tourist information tent to see what information was available. The people working there gave us a local map along with a nice shell necklace with a City of Puerto Princesa seal.

 

The ship is moored inside a small, secure port area, that is not open to the public or local taxis. The main gate is about 200 yards away and this is where you will find tuk tuks and other local transportation. There is a small cruise terminal with Wi-Fi but we didn’t check the speed. Next to the terminal were a handful of shops selling a variety of T shirts and other souvenirs.

Off in the distance, on the Puerto Princesa City Baywalk, we spotted a large Christmas Tree covered with buoys, nets, ribbons and bows.

 

A shuttle bus was taking people to the SM Mall, about 3/4 of a mile straight down the road outside the main gate and was running about every 15- 20 minutes.

 

After browsing the shops on the wharf, we went back to the Tourist Tent to wait for the next shuttle bus. After a few minutes we spotted Henk and Christel riding across the wharf on their folding tandem bicycle. It was a hot day for cycling, but they looked cool and comfortable as they headed toward the gangway.

 

SM Mall

 

Our shuttle bus arrived shortly, and we were soon on our way to the SM mall, arrivomg in about 15 minutes. Along the way we passed by numerous shops and businesses, but nothing that look interesting enough to visit on the way back to the ship. We had considered walking back to the ship, but it was hot enough for us to decide to take the bus back as well.

 

The SM Mall was very modern, air-conditioned, with a variety of shops over 3 floors, including a large grocery store and department store. The free Wi-Fi was fast and available throughout the mall. If you want to stock up on anything, chances are good you will be able to find it here. After about 1 hour of browsing the shops we stopped by Jollibee’s, the Philippines answer to McDonalds, and tried their YumBurgers. Judy informed me that a Jollibees was built in San Diego a few years ago.

We took the last shuttle bus back to the ship it dropped us off outside the cruise terminal where they checked our cruise cards as we passed thru but they didn’t have any other security.

 

Sail Away

 

The city put on a very nice departure show with a dozen young girls, dressed in traditional garb, dancing to a lively tune, followed by 5 teen aged girls dancing to a bouncy song with the main chorus “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.” After a few minutes they unfurled a large “Bon Voyage” banner and everyone on the wharf was dancing and waving as the Amsterdam pushed off the pier and started to spin us around to head out to sea.

 

Farewell-Dance.jpg

Evening Aboard

 

Everyone ordered the same thing for our main courses this evening, Fish and Chips, which was a first for this cruise for our table for 10. We also noted that today was hump day for the world cruise as we reached the halfway point.

 

A singer named Giovanni was the headliner in the Queen’s Lounge. Billed as the California Soul Man he sang a variety of hits by Michael Jackson, The Temptations and Lionel Richie among others. His singing was great, but he spent almost 10 minutes introducing songs and chatting about other topics. We would have liked for him to sing more and talk less.

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Day 59, March 4th At Sea

 

Coffee Chat

 

Giovanni was the guest today for Coffee Chat. He got his start as a cast singer on another cruise line but was able to break out and establish his solo show after impressing the cruise director with an informal audition in the crew area.

 

Casino

 

Good day in the casino as I won 2 of the 3 tournaments I entered.

 

Afternoon

 

Judy attended Ben’s drawing class where they continued concentrating on tone and how it helps with composition.

 

The craft today was Lace earrings. Sometimes it takes several hands to twist the wire.

 

Margaret finished her bias cowl that she knit in the possum blend yarn she bought in New Zealand. Judy helped her block the cowl.

 

We will be in Manila tomorrow, and it was scheduled to be another big day for family and friends to visit the ship. Henk sent out a memo today that said that due to 3 other cruise ships being in port, Manila officials revoked permission for anyone but passengers and crew to pass thru the cruise terminal until after 7 pm.

 

Evening

 

Popular choices for dinner this evening included Chateaubriand and Whole Roasted Turkey with Giblet Gravy and Cranberry Sauce.

 

Bernie Fields put on a outstanding show this evening in the Queen’s Lounge. Bernie played a wide variety of tunes on his harmonica ranging from popular tunes like “What a Wonderful World” to classical favorites “Ava Maria”. We have enjoyed his performance several times on other cruises and never miss a chance to watch his wonderful show.

 

Bernie-2.jpg

 

As always, menus, daily programs and more photos on the blog

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Day 60, Manilla, Philippines - March 5th

 

As we arrived at Pier 15 in Manila we could hear the drums and music from the welcoming party for another cruise ship berthed on the other side of the pier. There were 4 cruise ships in Manila today, but we could only see the one that was across the pier.

 

The welcome party and band moved over to our side of the pier once we had our gangway in place and started their welcome show.

 

Operation Fiery Vigil

 

During my time in the US Navy, I have been to the Philippines many times during port visits when deployed to the Western Pacific on various aircraft carriers. The last time was I was here was in 1991 when I was stationed in the USS Midway homeported in Japan. Mt Pinatubo, a volcano near Clark AFB, erupted that year and covered the 3 military bases in the area with heavy ash, forcing the evacuation of all the US civilians and military dependents. The USS Midway was dispatched from our homeport in Japan as part of operation “Fiery Vigil”, with a half a dozen Marine CH-53’s, to ferry the dependents from Subic to Cebu, the location of the nearest operational airport. More HERE

 

We arrived in Subic after dark and embarked about 1,800 dirty and tired people who had been without electricity or water since the eruption. We dropped them off in Cebu 2 days later and then returned to Subic Bay and loaded the remaining dependents for our second and final trip to Cebu before returning to Japan.

 

Visiting Subic Bay and Cubi Point

 

We had arranged for a van to take 9 of us to Olongapo and the old Naval Station Subic Bay and Naval Air Station Cubi Point complex that was now being developed as a special economic zone. Olongapo is about 100 miles west north-west of Manila, about 2 and ½ hours driving time.

 

Manila Stay Tour Company

 

I hired a van and driver for the day using Manila Stay - www.manilastay.com. They provided a driver only – no guide – which is all we needed since I knew where we wanted to go. If I had to do it again, I would have inquired as to the availability of a guide, since they are often quite reasonable and always offer interesting insights along the way.

 

The price for a 12 passenger Toyato Hiace for 12 hours was 11,500 Pesos or about $225 USD. They did not accept USD. I elected to pay in advance using paypal, but I could have paid them on arrival as well. They answered my emails within 24 -36 hours and they were very easy to deal with.

 

A few weeks prior to our arrival, they emailed me our drivers name along with his mobile phone number and vehicle license plate number. Since our exact berth was not assigned until later they told me our driver would meet us outside the gate as close as possible to where we would arrive. As it turned out, having his phone number and being able to call him was crucial – more later.

 

Leaving the ship - Getting Started

 

Our group of 9 assembled in the Ocean Bar at 8:45 AM and we headed off the ship. The welcome bands were in full swing as we passed by and we stopped for a few minutes to pose for some pictures with the various entertainers.

 

We walked alongside the cruise terminal for about ¼ mile, as the interior was still under construction, until we reached a small cul-de-sac with pre-arranged vans dropping off and picking up passengers. There wasn’t any place for cars to wait as security was enforcing a “no waiting” rule. I wasn’t sure if our driver would meet us here and would be circling around every few minutes, or parked somewhere nearby, but currently not visible. Here is where you needed the drivers phone number and your mobile phone. I called our driver, who said he was nearby, but we couldn’t communicate exactly where we were and where he would meet us. I spotted a security guard who was not busy and asked him to speak to our driver and give him directions – then I handed him my phone. The security guard spoke for about 1 minute going back and forth in Tagalog before he handed me back my phone and when I spoke with the driver again – he said he now knew where we were and to stay put. If we didn’t have a mobile phone, the driver may have eventually found us or we may have started to walk toward the main street outside the immediate port area.

 

Bottom Line – When meeting a driver in Manila, have a phone, know how to use it to make local international calls and have the phone number for the driver and the driver’s home office.

 

On the road to Subic Bay

 

Our van and driver arrived in a few minutes and we were on our way at 9:15 AM. It took about 45 minutes to go the 7 miles before we reached the limited access highway. Once on the highway we sped along at about 65 MPH until we reached Subic Bay. What a change from years ago when the Victory Liner took hours to make this drive along 2 lane roads.

We stopped for a few minutes at a very nice rest stop before continuing.

 

In a few minutes I spotted a runway off our right side and realized it was the old Clark AFB. Once again, Clark was seemed much further from Manila and Subic back before they built the modern expressway we were enjoying today. Mt Pinatubo was clearly visible about 10 miles away as we turned west toward Subic.

 

Arriving at NAS Cubi Point

 

In about 20 minutes we climbed our final rise before descending into Cubi Point and turning left on the familiar road that connected Subic to Cubi. I recognized the spot where there used to be an F-8 Crusader on a stick marking the boundary between Subic and Cubi, but any sign of the Crusader or its pedestal were long gone. We continued on past the old AIMD building and air terminal which were largely abandoned but didn’t look that much different than I remember. We continued on toward the water before making a hard left and heading up the hill toward upper Cubi where the clubs, exchanges, admin offices, BOQ and barracks were located.

 

Using MAPS.ME and an old NAS Cubi map I found online, I was able to locate the former Officer’s club, the location of many good times and Airwing parties. It was hidden behind a locked fence and abandoned, with large letters over the door identifying it as something called “SUMMIT PARK”.

 

The old NEX was abandoned and looked as if it was never used for any other purpose and a few of the old signs were still in place. The chapel looked about the same and was still being used as a chapel by the local community.

The post office, located in a Quonset hut, was now the police station. We headed inside to see if they had any better maps or other information. The friendly officers pointed us to a large painted map hanging on a wall in their break area. It looked like it depicted the air station from the 1980’s but I couldn’t find a date. It was fun to be able to confirm what I saw on my smaller map with this huge wall map and we enjoyed chatting with the police officers, even though none of them were around when the US Navy was running the air station.

 

The BOQ looked almost the same as when Judy and I stayed here back in 1979 and the numbers on the doors looked unchanged. I spoke with a current resident who had no knowledge of the building history and I learned it was now a combination of condominiums and rental units.

 

While many of the old Naval Air Station building were abandoned, others were used as schools and there were some luxury villas located on the hill below the officer’s club. There aren’t any restaurants here and the only place where you can buy anything is a small convenience store across from the old BOQ.

 

We had hoped to grab some food here, but since nothing was available, we had to head to the Subic side where we would find all the restaurants. The police recommended a restaurant called Texas Joes which is in what was the NCO club near Alava Pier.

 

Subic Bay

 

Unlike Cubi Point, which has deteriorated but hasn’t changed much, Subic Bay is almost completely unrecognizable and had you not known this was an ex US Navy base you wouldn’t know it by simply driving around and observing. There is now a large shopping mall, numerous restaurants and shops and everything is modern and in good repair.

 

After a nice lunch at Texas Joes, we headed back to the Cubi side to check out the old carrier pier and All Hands Beach.

 

Back to Cubi Point

 

The carrier pier, aircraft parking ramp and the airwing hangar have been transformed into a modern container port.

The All Hands Beach is one of the few items that has retained its name and function since the Cubi Point days. The All Hands Beach is still a beach and the name remains the same. The beach was full of people having a great time trying to stay cool in the hot sun.

 

Down the street from All Hands Beach, we stopped to take some pictures of Grande Island off in the distance. Grande Island is where Tri, one of our traveling companions today, lived for a few days after being evacuated from Vietnam in 1975 when he was a teenager. This is the first time he had been back to the Philippines since then.

 

Olongapo

 

We headed back to Subic and crossed over the bridge into Olongapo and turned down Magsaysay Avenue which was the main drag back when the US Navy was here in force. Previously Magsaysay was wall to wall bars, but it is now a busy street with a normal mixture of ordinary businesses. We drove down to the circle where the Victory Liner station remains before heading back to Manila.

 

Back to Manila

 

The drive back to the ship took about 2 and ½ hours and we arrived around 8:30 PM.

 

Evening on the ship

 

Back on the ship, we were happy to see hundreds of the crew members family and friends enjoying some food around the Lido pool and getting tours around many of the public areas.

 

Up in the Crow’s Nest, The Station Band was given the night off since they were from the Philippines. They were replaced for one night only by the HAL orchestra. The HAL Orchestra was very good, as always, and we enjoyed listening to them for a few minutes before heading off to bed.

 

Before turning in, I wandered down to the Queen’s lounge to check out the Academy Awards which were being broadcast from an earlier recording. There weren’t any decorations or special snacks that were obvious to me, but maybe there had been some earlier as the show was going into its third hour by the time I stopped by.

 

Subic-Bay.jpg

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I like the way you give exact details.

Glad you had your cell phone and the driver's name, phone number, etc. It was nice that a policeman was there to help out.

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