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The-Inside-Cabin

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

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Day 70 – Singapore – March 15th

 

The ship arrived in Singapore yesterday morning at 8 AM. We missed the entire first day of this visit as we were still in Cambodia, arriving in Singapore late last night.

 

The Amsterdam was moored at the Marina Bay Cruise Center, which is a nice, modern facility, but is not very convenient, especially when compared to the alternative, the Singapore Cruise Center located at Harbourfront. We have learned that Holland America has arranged for the Amsterdam to moor at Harbourfront for her next 3 port visits – so good news for those on the next few cruises.

 

There isn’t much to do within a mile of the cruise center, but the ship arranged for a free shuttle bus to take guests to the Millenia Walk Shopping Center, about 3 miles away or 20 minutes in normal traffic. There is a metro stop, Marina Bay, about 1 mile from the ship, but you would be better off taking the shuttle and then using one of the metro stops nearby the Millenia Walk: Promenade or Esplanade.

 

After a lot of traveling over the last few days we decided to sleep in and relax in our cabin until about noon when we left the ship and headed off to visit the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the Gardens by the Bay. It would have been a 2 mile walk to the Marina Bay Sands, so we elected to take a taxi. Both leaving the ship and returning requires going to security and immigration which takes about 15 minutes. Unlike the Kai Tak cruise terminal in Hong Kong, the Marina Bay Cruise Center doesn’t require walking long distances to get to and from the ship.

 

Three taxis were waiting when we arrived at the taxi stand. We climbed into a larger van taxi, which was nice and big, and were on our way for the short ride to the Marina Bay Sands, arriving in about 10 minutes. The taxi drivers all seem to speak good English, but some don’t take credit cards, so I always have a handful of local currency in small bills to pay the fare without needing to expect much change.

 

We had planned to ride the giant Ferris Wheel, the Singapore Flyer, but it is out of service indefinitely for unknown reasons.

 

Marina Bay Sands

 

The Marina Bay Sands is a landmark hotel with its distinctive three tower design with a surfboard looking upper deck that connects the three towers. The upper deck has a pool, restaurant and observation deck. There is a casino, which is located across the street, but is accessible via a tunnel connecting the lower floor of the casino to the hotel.

 

We took the escalators to the lower level where we found a large hallway that passed under the street and connected the hotel to the casino. Once we arrived at the casino entrance we had to pass thru something like an immigration kiosk to enter the casino. Entry is free to tourists, but residents must pay $100 SIN per day or $2000 SIN per year to gain entry. The agent in the Kiosk carefully examined my passport, flipping through every page looking for something – maybe a resident visa instead of a tourist visa – before allowing me to pass and then only after my information was scanned into some system. After casino “immigration” we went thru standard metal detectors before we were finally allowed inside.

 

Spread over 4 levels, the casino has about 160,000 square feet of gaming floor space with over 2,500 slot machines and about 700 gaming tables. There are 13 different types of table games including several versions of Blackjack, Baccarat and a Player vs the Dealer version of Texas Hold’em. More about the various games can be found HERE

 

A large area is dedicated to Rapid Baccarat, Rapid Sic Bo and Rapid Roulette. These games operate like their table versions except that each player sits at their own terminal and places their own bets on this terminal while playing against a single dealer.

 

We watched the Roulette wheels for a while and were surprised to see several players used what we learned was called a “cover all” strategy. The players spent 3-5 minutes carefully placing bets on almost every number with more on some and less on others. They also placed bets on the corners and edges to play multiple numbers. There were a lot of chips in play and when the ball landed in a number, the dealer simply shoveled all the losing chips into a hole near the wheel where I presume they were sorted by machines and made available for reuse later. The players would all win a little each spin, unless the ball landed in the single number they left uncovered. It seems like a very convoluted way to gamble, but I guess it has the benefit of extending their playing time.

 

As we observed in Macau, the baccarat players all ruin the cards dealt by tearing or bending them sharply which results in the cards at these tables are only used once and then discarded.

 

Only soft drinks are served to players at the gaming tables as I suspect this is to prevent “drunken gambling” and is probably a Singapore government regulation as I doubt the casinos would have a problem with gamblers drinking while playing.

 

After we finished exploring the main floor we took the escalator to the upper floors where there was almost nothing but slots and only a few table games and most of those were in various VIP rooms restricted to gamblers who were members of various loyalty or high roller programs. The upper levels, which were open to the main floor below, were much smaller than the main floor as they were only located along the edge of the building. Here is a stock photo of the interior.

 

MBS-casino-interior.jpg

 

After exploring the other levels, we headed for the exit and were surprised to find that you had to pass thru “casino immigration” and security on the way out as well as on the way in.

 

Visiting the top of the Marina Bay Sands

 

Our next stop was to head to the top floors and enjoy the views.

 

There are three ways to access the upper floors:

 

• Eat at one of the restaurants. This requires you to purchase a $20 SIN coupon which can be applied toward your restaurant bill. However, this only gives you access to the restaurant and bar area and doesn’t allow you to go down one floor to the observation deck.

• Pay $23 for access to the Sky Park observation platform. The Sky Park observation platform is one level below the restaurant level but provides better views since you can walk right to the edge. When you are on the restaurant level you must look over the observation deck which obstructs your view and makes taking pictures that don’t show any of the building more difficult. The view from the restaurant is fine if you want to enjoy the view, but you will probably be disappointed if you want to take better pictures. Look at my pictures here and you will see what I mean.

• Stay at the hotel which gives you access everywhere, including the infinity pool, which is only open to hotel guests and access can’t be purchased or obtained any other way.

 

We elected to buy the $20 coupon and headed to the restaurant and bar on the 57th floor (one level above the Skypark viewing area) where there is an enclosed restaurant and bar and another bar outside with high top seating under umbrellas. We arrived after the restaurant closed at 2PM and could only order appetizers off the bar menu.

 

The four of us spent $80 SIN for our coupons and we ended up spending $120 SIN for 4 drinks and a small plate of appetizers. If I had to do it over again, I would have skipped the restaurant and paid the $23 for access to the Sky Park with its better views. After we had our drinks and snack, we spent about 15 minutes walking around the edge of the restaurant level enjoying the nice views. We spent about 1 hour and 15 minutes here before heading back down to the ground floor where we would head over to the Garden’s by the Bay.

 

Gardens by the Bay

 

Gardens by the Bay comprises three distinctive waterfront gardens – Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central and is located east of the Marina Bay Sands. We would visit the Bay South garden which is the largest of the 3 and is accessible via a walkway from the Marina Bay Sands. The main attraction of Bay South are the two air-conditioned conservatories: Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. The iconic “Supertrees” are located here and can be seen from some distance. You can get up close to the Supertrees on the OCBC Skyway, which is an elevated walkway that is connected to the Cloud Forest. By the way, OCBC (Oversea-Chinese Banking Company) is the name of the bank that sponsors the Skyway. More info HERE

 

It was about a ½ mile walk to get to the entrance to the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest, which are connected by a tunnel. The admission price to both conservatories is $28 SIN. We went to the Flower Dome first, but it doesn’t matter which order you visit which dome. An audio tour was available for $4 SIN, but we didn’t get them. Access to the OCBC Skyway was an additional $8 SIN and we decided to forgo that option as well.

 

The Flower Dome is air conditioned, really air conditioned and quite cold – so if you may need a light jacket or sweater if that would be a concern for you. We spent about 45 minutes walking around thru the dome, following a circuitous path, through the various flowers and plants. There was an Alice in Wonderland theme with many statues and other images from the book and movies spread throughout the exhibits. The exhibits here are outstanding and extremely well presented. We don’t generally go to botanical gardens, so I can’t give you a great comparison to others, but we had a good time strolling around and being inside an air-conditioned space was nice when it was much hotter outside.

 

We saw a sign the cautioned visitors to “not touch the plants or cover them with gravel” I am not sure why they needed to have a sign prohibiting covering plants with gravel, but I assume it must have been a problem at some point.

 

Connected by a tunnel, the Cloud Forest is another large indoor exhibit featuring plants from the cool moist Tropical Montain region. A large green “mountain” greets you as you enter with a waterfall cascading down the side from the top of the “mountain”. Following the path, we went inside the mountain and took an elevator to the “Lost World” on the top floor where you will find plants that are typically found around 6,000 feet above sea level. Once we were at the top of the “mountain” we proceed down to different levels including the Cloud Walk, the Cavern, the Treetop walk, Secret Garden and Crystal Mountain. Along the way there is a balcony where we could step out and see the waterfall from a higher vantage point. It took us about 45 minutes to work our way back to the ground level. Near the bottom, there is a theater showing short movies on a variety of environmental topics and climate change.

 

After a quick spin thru the gift shop we headed off to the taxi stand and we were soon on our way for the short drive back to the cruise terminal.

 

Back on the ship

 

Upon arrival at the cruise terminal around 7PM we spotted Laurie Ashworth and Spencer Moran of “Eterni Amici” standing on the curb, with their luggage, looking quite concerned. We asked if they were heading back to the UK or to some other port and they replied that they were concerned because they had an 9 PM flight and the driver, arranged by the port agent, was almost an hour late and counting. They asked where the taxi stand was and how much and how long it would take to get to the airport: 20 minutes and $27 SIN. They wisely decided to make their own way to the airport and we bid farewell as they scurried off to find a taxi.

 

As we boarded the ship we turned in our passports once again – We will get them back when we get off the ship in Maputo for our overland Safari.

 

There was a Singapore theme to the menu this evening. Check out all the menus on the blog.

 

The featured entertainment this evening was the “Instant Asia Cultural Show” which featured a dancing dragon and a selection of other dancers.

Edited by The-Inside-Cabin

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Here is the breakdown of the passengers nationalities for the final segment from Cape Town

 

 

Argentina 3

Australia 20

Belgium 3

Canada 130

China 3

Croatia 1

Czech Republic 3

Denmark 1

France 2

Germany 13

Italy 2

Jamaica 2

Japan 1

Korea 1

Netherlands 28

Peru 1

South Africa 3

Spain 7

Sweden 1

Switzerland 1

Trinidad 1

United Kingdom 12

United States 900

 

Total 1139

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I wanted to thank you for your wonderful report and especially your blog. It was great to find the links to other bloggers on your site. Looking forward to your videos and thank you again!!

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I wanted to thank you for your wonderful report and especially your blog. It was great to find the links to other bloggers on your site. Looking forward to your videos and thank you again!!

 

 

 

Thanks. I am in Fort Lauderdale waiting for Crystal Symphony.

 

My laptop crashed - had to buy a new one yesterday .....fortunately I keep good back ups...no data lost....

 

My 2018 blogs will continue soon.

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I wondered what happened. Glad you are both well! Laptops are replaceable.

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I have followed and enjoyed your blog. I see you are on the roll call list for the 2019 WC which I'll be going.

Safe travels.

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Thanks. I am in Fort Lauderdale waiting for Crystal Symphony.

 

My laptop crashed - had to buy a new one yesterday .....fortunately I keep good back ups...no data lost....

 

My 2018 blogs will continue soon.

 

Sorry to hear about your laptop. After much research on light weight, travel laptops, I settled on a Lenova Yoga 12.5" 2-1/2 lbs. Hope it lasts through our forthcoming Grand Asia, although it won't be getting the workout that yours has received. As I recall, you had a Microsoft Surface?

 

On another note, do you remember if you had to sign for the delivery of the FedEx papers when you shipped your luggage? I asked Scrapnana this, and she wasn't sure, but she didn't think so. I am concerned because we will be out of state for the month of August, when the papers will probably be delivered. We sail on 9/23. I doubt if the HAL World Cruise desk knows the FedEx procedure. Thanks in advance for any info.

 

I will look forward to your report on the Crystal segment. Are you considering a WC with them?

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Sorry to hear about your laptop. After much research on light weight, travel laptops, I settled on a Lenova Yoga 12.5" 2-1/2 lbs. Hope it lasts through our forthcoming Grand Asia, although it won't be getting the workout that yours has received. As I recall, you had a Microsoft Surface?

 

 

 

On another note, do you remember if you had to sign for the delivery of the FedEx papers when you shipped your luggage? I asked Scrapnana this, and she wasn't sure, but she didn't think so. I am concerned because we will be out of state for the month of August, when the papers will probably be delivered. We sail on 9/23. I doubt if the HAL World Cruise desk knows the FedEx procedure. Thanks in advance for any info.

 

 

 

I will look forward to your report on the Crystal segment. Are you considering a WC with them?

 

 

 

We didn't have to sign for the FedEx labels...they were left at our door...if you get the tracking number for your package you can ask them to "hold at station". Then you will have to drive theirs to pick them up....depends how far away the FedEx station is. HAL may have to initiate this, so you can ask Sarah Coles, the HAL FedEx person....to have your documents "held at station"

 

That is what they are doing with our luggage shipment going home.

 

I do have a surface and made the mistake of carrying it with me to a show (went to show early and was working while waiting). and someone spilled a drink.....it was powered off and closed so I thought it was ok, but I forgot about the hinge connection. Should have left it for 24 hours before turning it on.....if you ever get a spill on your laptop....turn off immediately - take out battery if possible.....let dry for 24 hours....then hope for the best.....have a external drive ready and offload your files once it starts up....sometimes it will work for 10 minutes before it goes stupid

 

Now it works only in the tablet mode, so I am able to get all my data off and uploaded to the cloud....fortunately my hotel has super fast internet 90mbps upload!!!!! So moving my mail files was fast....

 

I back up my photos and critical files every night.....but still a pain to get a new computer configured.

 

Everyone should use file history or something while cruising and back up photos every night to an external hard drive...

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Sorry to hear about your computer but glad you both are fine, still enjoyed your trip and didn’t lose your data. Looking forward to your future posts as the others end with the end of the world cruise.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Forums

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We didn't have to sign for the FedEx labels...they were left at our door...if you get the tracking number for your package you can ask them to "hold at station". Then you will have to drive theirs to pick them up....depends how far away the FedEx station is. HAL may have to initiate this, so you can ask Sarah Coles, the HAL FedEx person....to have your documents "held at station"

 

That is what they are doing with our luggage shipment going home.

 

I do have a surface and made the mistake of carrying it with me to a show (went to show early and was working while waiting). and someone spilled a drink.....it was powered off and closed so I thought it was ok, but I forgot about the hinge connection. Should have left it for 24 hours before turning it on.....if you ever get a spill on your laptop....turn off immediately - take out battery if possible.....let dry for 24 hours....then hope for the best.....have a external drive ready and offload your files once it starts up....sometimes it will work for 10 minutes before it goes stupid

 

Now it works only in the tablet mode, so I am able to get all my data off and uploaded to the cloud....fortunately my hotel has super fast internet 90mbps upload!!!!! So moving my mail files was fast....

 

I back up my photos and critical files every night.....but still a pain to get a new computer configured.

 

Everyone should use file history or something while cruising and back up photos every night to an external hard drive...

 

Thank you so much for your response. It is very helpful, both for the FedEx info and for your computer advice.

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Thanks. I am in Fort Lauderdale waiting for Crystal Symphony.

 

My laptop crashed - had to buy a new one yesterday .....fortunately I keep good back ups...no data lost....

 

My 2018 blogs will continue soon.

 

I am so happy to "see" that you are your wife are ok. I kept checking the blog and nothing. I finally came to CC and searched for your thread. I was getting ready to post the question to find out that you both were ok.

 

Will be waiting for the rest of your blog.

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I am so happy to "see" that you are your wife are ok. I kept checking the blog and nothing. I finally came to CC and searched for your thread. I was getting ready to post the question to find out that you both were ok.

 

 

 

Will be waiting for the rest of your blog.

 

 

 

We are fine. Currently in Cartagena on the Crystal Symphony. More posts coming soon.

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Is tomorrow the Panama Canal? One of my favorite vantage points are the “front porches” accessed from the exterior stairs at the front of the promenade deck.

 

Roy

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Is tomorrow the Panama Canal? One of my favorite vantage points are the “front porches” accessed from the exterior stairs at the front of the promenade deck.

 

Roy

 

 

 

Yes, Tomorrow is the canal. Thanks for the tip. We are in 8120.

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Day 71, At Sea, 16 Mar 2016

 

 

It was nice to relax at sea before our busy day in Phuket tomorrow.





Our at sea routine continues almost unchanged: Drawing, Crafts and Knitting for Judy with my day spent in the Casino playing Texas Hold-em followed by evening trivia.



Tonight in the Lido they featured a Makansutra dinner with many of the foods you may find in Singapore food stalls. While we didn’t eat in the LIDO, we found a few of the same items featured on the menu in the MDR including:

  • Singapore Beef Kway Teow ginger
  • Coconut Seabream Fillet in Banana Leaves
  • Hainanese Chicken Rice boiled chicken
  • King Pao

Tonight’s entertainers were a quartet named “Jukebox Rogue”. We are seeing more of these acts put together for the cruise ship market which feature great vocalists from the West End and Broadway. The singers are usually between musical theatre gigs or have come to realize that singing on cruise ships beats waiting on tables. Early groups in this genre included “The Knights” and “Rock Rhapsody”.



 

“Get Ready” was the Jukebox Rogue’s opening number, followed by a string of favorites including: “It’s The Same Old Song”, “I’ll Be There”, “Cherie”, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”. Toward the end of the show they sang “This is the Moment” from the musical - Jekyll and Hyde which really showcased their background in musical theatre.



Juke-Box-Rogue-3.gif









We will be in Phuket tomorrow.

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Day 72 March 17 – Phuket

 

 

Clear, blue skies along with cool temperatures greeted us as we started to back down the channel to our berth at the Chaophaya Deep Sea Terminal. It was still early – the cool temperatures early in the morning, would gradually disappear as the day wore on.





Backing in to our parking spot

 

The channel leading to the Phuket Deep Sea Terminal is quite narrow and there isn’t enough room for the Amsterdam to spin on its axis near the dock. Consequently, the ship must either back in to the dock on arrival or back out when departing. Captain Mercer elected to back into our berth, so we would have a straight shot out to the open sea when departing. Read more about the navigation situation

HERE on Captain Jonathan’s blog.



One of the challenges of planning my private excursion in Phuket was nailing down exactly where the ship would moor. Many of the private tour companies assume you will be starting from a hotel and don’t give you confidence in their answers that know the specific location where they should pick you up. The useful website Whats In Port? mentions two possibilities, one being Patong Beach if you anchor and tender ashore and the other being the deep sea port called Chaophaya Terminal in the area called Ao Markam



The Amsterdam moored at the Chaophaya Terminal - the location is shown on the map below.

Phuket-Area.jpg



The Plan

 

I arranged for a driver and van to take 7 of us to see some sights and do some silk shopping. Phuket SRC Travel did a fine job making our arrangements. You can find them

HERE.



The price for a 13-passenger van with driver was 2,500 Baht ($80) for 5 hours with each additional hour being 300 Baht ($10). The driver spoke pretty good English, but he wasn’t a tour guide, nor was he expected to be a guide. If I had it to do over again, I would have hired a guide to accompany us to provide local insight along the way.



Pre-arranged drivers assemble outside the port gate next to the large warehouse. As you leave the security perimeter near the ship you first encounter a group of taxi drivers and people looking to sell day tours. Keep walking and as you turn the corner, you will see another group of drivers near their vans and busses holding up signs with your name.

Before we left, I confirmed our trip details and general schedule with our driver and we were on our way around 9:10 AM.



Here is a list of or planned stops:



Big Buddha


T
hai Silk Collection Retail Store


Wat Chalong Temple


Jim Thompson Factory Outlet


Jim Thompson Retail Outlet (Central Festival Mall)


China Inn Restaurant in PhuBig ket Old Town


Phuket Old Town Shopping



NOTE: I used Google Maps to estimate the driving times between the various stops and it proved to be very accurate. If you are planning your trip from the USA, be sure to check your driving times in the country of interest for the same time you expect to visit. For example, Since Thailand is 12 hours ahead of the USA central time zone, you should check your driving times around 9PM in the evening to get a more accurate estimate which will include daytime traffic in Phuket.



Big Buddha

 

Traffic was busy, but not too bad and we were able to average about 30 mph on the two-lane city streets. After about 20 minutes we turned off the main road and started to climb up the Nakkerd Hills using a winding two lane road to reach the Big Buddha, Arriving around 9:50 AM, our driver dropped us off by the entrance and then parked in a nearby lot where we would meet him later. Admission is free, and it is about a 5-minute walk over level ground, past some souvenir shops, to get to the base of the Big Buddha.





The Big Buddha sits on a pedestal about 100 steps above a plaza which boasts a commanding view of Phuket and the surrounding area to the north. We spent a few minutes enjoying the view from here before climbing the steps to the top of the pedestal where you can wander around a smaller area with views to the south and west. The Buddha is still under construction – it has been under construction since 2007 – and scaffolding is visible underneath the Buddha where there may be some interior construction taking place as the exterior looks complete.



I allocated 30 minutes for this stop, but we could have easily spent one hour. I didn’t anticipate that simply walking to the Buddha and back would take about 10 minutes with more time required to climb up the pedestal and wander around on the upper level. For a future visit, I would budget 1 hour for this stop.



Baby Elephants

 

On the way back down the mountain, about ½ way, we stopped by a roadside attraction where you could feed a baby elephant using food we purchased for 100 Baht or $3. All the ladies in our group took turns feeding the elephant while we took photographs. The elephant would squeal as he took the food from the basket before giving a wet “kiss” on the cheek of the person with the food.





Thai Silk Collection

 

The Thai Silk Collection, located very near the Wat Chalong Temple, was our first silk shop. The store is easy to find as you can’t miss the large colorful signs on a billboard and the building itself. The shop was almost empty, and we were warmly greeted by a small staff. They had a nice collection of shirts, scarves, women’s dresses and some fabric. We spent about 30 minutes browsing before heading off to our next stop.





Wat Chalong Temple

 

We hadn’t originally planed to visit the Wat Chalong Temple, but since it was so close to the Thai Silk Collection we decided to stop for a quick 15 minute visit. Since we were so limited on time, we could only walk around the exterior of a few of the buildings, which were beautiful with amazing colors and detail. As we were walking around we were startled by the loud and continuous fireworks which were exploding in a nearby brick chamber that was made for this purpose. Apparently, people pay to have fireworks exploded as a way of sending messages to certain gods. After a solid minute of continuous explosions, they finally stopped. Once the smoke cleared, the attendant began to load up the chamber with another huge load of fireworks and the process repeated. Unlike what you would expect in the USA there weren’t any warnings prior to the detonation and everyone was on their own and could you could get as close as you dared.





Jim Thompson

 

Jim Thompson has several high-end silk shops throughout Thailand and with one shop in Singapore. Our next stop was the Jim Thompson Factory Outlet which was on the way back toward Phuket Old Town and the ship.





NOTE: I always plan our excursions, so we visit the furthest stop first. The rest of the day we are gradually getting closer and closer to the ship. This way any problem that occurs far from the ship will give us more time to recover than if we planned the trip stopping at the closest points first.



The Jim Thompson Outlet, (5 90 Thanon Chao Fa, Talat Nuea, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket 83000, Thailand) is located on the second floor of a small, two story shopping centered called “The Courtyard.” The Jim Thompson sign is on the glass windows facing the street and is difficult to see from the street, so look for the large red “The Courtyard” sign as you get close. There is a nice size parking lot right in front.



The outlet spreads over 2 large rooms and had an incredible selection of silk clothing for both men and women, offered at significant discounts over what you will find in their retail store. Even thought they are discounted, this is a store that caters to tourists as the prices are in line with what you would expect to find in the USA for similar quality garments. They also offer a nice selection of silk fabric if you are interested in making your own garments.

 

There was a small gift shop on the first floor where we found a few souvenirs, but we learned that they really prefer local currency and will take dollars only as a last resort. We later found some stores that refused to take dollars – period – despite the ships assurances that dollars were widely accepted. The shops that take US Dollars may be in the most touristy areas or on the stalls on the pier, but once you venture off the tourist tract, don’t assume dollars will be accepted. Be ready with local currency or credit cards.



Central Festival

 

Our final silk shop was the Jim Thompson retail outlet located in the very modern Central Festival Mall, close to old town Phuket. Spread out over several floors, this mall has quite a few high end shops catering to European, Australians and North American tourists. This Jim Thompson store is a pretty good size, but still smaller than the outlet and they only offer clothing, not fabric. They have a nice selection of high quality garments, but the prices are close to what you might expect to pay in New York City, so don’t expect any bargains.



 

A Starbucks is on the first floor where we found some of the location mugs that Judy likes to collect. After about 45 minutes we piled back in the van and headed off to Old Town Phuket and the China Inn Café. Even though it was only 2 miles it took us about 20 minutes to get there, so take this into consideration in your trip planning.



Old Town Phuket

 

There isn’t much parking in Old Town Phuket. Our driver dropped us off in front of the restaurant at 1:45 and he would pick us up at the same spot at 3:30 PM. I estimated it would take about 30 minutes to cover the 6 miles to get back to the ship and with an all aboard of 4:30 for a 5 PM departure, this gave me a comfortable margin.





I found the restaurant using Trip Advisor and it lived up to its great reviews. The manager on duty was the son of the owners, his mother was Thai and his Father Australian. We were surprised that he had never been to the USA as his English and American accent was perfect. The menu had a wide variety of choices and we weren’t quite sure what to order. We asked our server to order for us and he selected a variety of dishes for us to share. They were all very good and the food was very inexpensive – the whole meal for the 7 of us was about $50 USD. They didn’t accept USD but they would take credit cards.



After lunch we had about 30 minutes left to explore the streets of Old Town Phuket. We walked a couple of blocks down one side of the street and then back on the other. Judy discovered a fabric shop selling a variety of fabrics from different materials, but nothing that she found interesting enough to purchase.

 

Our driver was waiting for us and we left promptly at 3:30 and sure enough, it took thirty minutes to travel the 6 miles back to the ship. Once back at the port, we spent about 15 minutes wandering amongst the vendors on the pier before heading back to the ship.

 

NOTE: If I was planning this trip again, I would only visit the Jim Thompson outlet, skip the other two shops and spend more time with the Big Buddha, Wat Chalong and Old Town Phuket. The Jim Thompson outlet had a nice selection of clothing and fabric at better prices.



Back on the ship

 

The main dining room was decorated in green for St Patrick’s day along with a special green menu – copy on the blog. They printed their Irish recommendations in green ink and are repeated here:





Appetizer: Smoked Trout & Bay Shrimp

Entrée: Braised Corned Brisket of Beef

Desert: Baileys Irish Double Cream Cheesecake



Bob and Judy arrived with some amazing hats. Peggy celebrated her birthday and was the recipient of the straw hats that we were all given at dinner earlier in the cruise. They have now become gag gifts for the person with the latest birthday.



Hamish was wearing a funny hat as he announced the evenings guest entertainer: Magician Simon Coronel.





Simon displayed incredible sleight of hand skill by doing a variety of tricks in front of a camera where his image was magnified and displayed on a screen. We watched with amazement as he transformed a $50 bill into a $5 bill right in front of our eyes. Don’t miss this talented entertainer if he is performing near you.





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So sorry to hear about your computer. Can't wait to hear about

the rest of the world cruise and of course you opinion of Crystal.

Enjoy your cruise.

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Day 73 March 18 – At Sea

 

The four members of Jukebox Rogue were the guests at coffee chat this morning. We learned that groups like these (Jukebox Rogues, The Knights, Rock Rhapsody) are formed for specific gigs or a series of gigs by the producers and the individual members often, don’t know each other before they met for first time at their initial rehearsals.

 

Judy finished her Starting Point Shawl and spent an hour this afternoon blocking in on the bed. You can find more information about the pattern
:

 

Popular choices for dinner this evening included:

 

Szechuan shrimp with Thai Basil

Filet of Beef Wellington

Veal Parmigiana

 

Lizzie Ball was the headliner in the Queen’s Lounge this evening. She plays the violin, but surprised the audience when she displayed her great voice singing “Down to the River to Pray” by Alison Krauss in addition to playing the song on the violin.

 

Lizzie-Ball-2.jpg

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Day 74 March 19 – At Sea

 

HR Manager Julie Berndsen was the guest at Coffee Chat this morning. She is from northern England and has been with Holland America for over 20 years. Her duties include working with the crew to ensure that all their pay and personal requirements are met in addition to making sure they are integrated into the Amsterdam team.

 



Tonight was a Gala Night which means that we usually get an officer to host our table. It helps if you tell the Dining Room Manager that you are particularly interested in having a host, as sometimes there aren’t enough hosts to go around. Let them know your preferences and they will always try to satisfy them.



Ivelin Kolarov, the Beverage Manager from Bulgaria, was our host this evening. We had a wonderful time learning more about his background and his experiences on cruise ships and traveling the globe. As a special treat, he ordered a round of Wang Wangs for the table. For those who are not familiar with the Wang Wang, it is a drink that contains virtually everything you may find behind the bar. Popular with the crew, you probably won’t find them listed on the drink menu. If you ask for one they will be able to make it for you with a smile.



Here is the recipe and a LINK with more information:

WANG WANG

Glass: Pint glass

Ingredients:

.25 oz rum

.25 oz vodka

.25 oz gin

.25 oz tequila

.25 oz Scotch

.25 oz Burbon

.25 oz brandy

1.5 oz orange juice

1.5 pineapple juice

dash of grenadine

Garnish: Orange slice and cherry

Directions: Fill pint glass with ice. Pour the ingredients into the pint glass and pack with ice. Top it off with a dash of grenadine. Add the garnish of the orange slice and cherry.



The Holland America Singers and Dancers will perform 10 different shows this world cruise, usually lining up with one of the Gala nights. Tonight’s show was called “After Midnight” and appeared to be a modern-day Cinderella Story but featuring such hit songs as:

· Breakaway

· Rhythm of the Night

· Le Freak

· I Wanna Dance With Somebody



As usual, the show was spectacular – filled with outstanding singing and dancing – with wall to wall energy.

Back in the room we received a portable power strip, useful to recharge our phones on long excursions, as our latest pillow gifts. A complete list of all the pillow gifts is available on the blog.





After-Midnight-2.jpg

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Day 75 - March 20 – Columbo, Sri Lanka

 

Colombo is not one of my favorite ports and I suspect that the main reason HAL stops here at all is to provide a launch point for their overland excursions to the Taj Mahal. I considered doing an independent overland to the Taj Mahal like we did in 2016, but the options for returning to the ship at our next port in the Seychelles were limited and had more risk than I was willing to accept.

 

Welcome Party

 

 

Dancers in colorful costumes welcomed us as we moored alongside our berth in Colombo early this morning. There was quite a variety of dancers and I went down to the wharf to get a better look, even though our tour didn’t leave until 10 AM. About ½ mile away is a Buddhist shrine called Sambodhi Chaithya, made of reinforced concrete, which looks something like a rocket ship from a Buck Rogers movie.



 

Vendors set up temporary shops right next to the ship in permanent shelters selling a wide variety of souvenirs, local clothing and T shirts. One shop offered a variety of gemstones but the ship cautioned that the buyer should beware as the fact the vendor is inside the security area doesn’t mean there quality is guaranteed or in any way endorsed by HAL.

 

A man standing near a van with a “TAXI” sign in the window will arrange for cars or drivers for any length of time. He quoted me a price of $150 for a van with a driver for the day. I didn’t try to negotiate, so I would consider this price the opening bid as opposed to the final price. If you agree on a price, he will summon a taxi from somewhere outside the gate, as the van with the sign is not the actual van you might end up using. Another guest told me later that she arranged for an all-day tuk tuk driver out in town for $25 and had a wonderful experience. I have heard about too many bad experiences with Tuk Tuk drivers here to ever trust one, but as this guest described, there are people who have great experiences with Tuk Tuks.



NOTE: It is important to understand that there are two layers of port security here in Colombo. Close to the ship you will find a gate that limits access to the wharf to those with specific authorization. Once you pass this first gate, you are now in the general port area which is not open to the public and has several gates, which aren’t immediately obvious as they are some distance away. Some taxis, but not every taxi, can access this port area. If you walk outside the port area and want to take a taxi or Uber back to the ship, you may not get further than the outer port gates – leaving you with about a ½ mile walk back to the ship. See the map below for the location of these port gates. It’s possible you find a taxi out in town that has the correct pass to enter the port area, but there isn’t any way I know of to determine this and if you ask the taxi driver, he will probably say yes regardless of his actual authorization.



Plan Ahead

 

My advice for Colombo is to set up your tour or driver in advance. If you do wait until you arrive, then I would suggest negotiating with the taxi dispatcher near the ship and make your best deal here. If you want to experience a Tuk Tuk, I would use one that is already inside the port area, as that way you know they have the proper credentials to return to the ship and I suspect Tuk Tuk’s with port access may undergoing additional screening not required otherwise.



 

Before you start to negotiate for transportation know where you want to go and what you want to see. If you allow the driver to take you to what he thinks is best, you may have a good time, or you may find yourself visiting “factories” trying to sell you more stuff.

 

The Hilton Hotel and other nearby markets are outside the port and about a 1 mile walk, but you have to be prepared to withstand the constant harassment by a wide variety of vendors to sell you something once you are outside the port area. This is not a place where you can have an enjoyable stroll down a street near the port area.

 

Cooking with Color

 

We decided to take the HAL Tour called “Cooking with Color” which was very good and allowed us to interact with residents in a safe and controlled setting. As an added bonus, it didn’t depart until 10 AM so we didn’t have to get up extra early.



 

Our tour met in the Queen’s Lounge and our tour was called 10 minutes before the scheduled departure time of 10 AM. After making our way down to the pier we boarded the bus with 13 other people and were soon on our way. Even though the class was only 7 miles away, it took us about 50 minutes to get there due to the heavy Colombo traffic. The class takes place in the home of the instructor, Mohara Dole, and we learned later that her home in co-located with a small commercial bakery where she bakes a variety of bread and pizza crusts for local grocery stores.

 

Hidden behind high walls, the class takes place outside in a small yard between her home and the exterior walls. Two tables were set up with wooden cutting boards, one for each student, along with a tomato, onion and a bay leaf.

 

Once we were all positioned by our cutting boards, Mohara Dole, explained how the day would proceed. We would all cut up the tomato and onions in front of us and then gather around the main table and she prepared the dishes and combined the ingredients. Our menu for today included: yellow rice, red chicken curry, sliced lotus root, a Sri Lankan gourd in a yellow coconut milk curry, a “mallung” or leaf salad dressed with ground coconut and Mohara's signature eggplant dish with green chilies and onions.

 

We would all have an opportunity, if we chose, to take part in the preparation by stirring in meat, minding a pot, or shaving coconut. Most students gathered around the main table to observe while a handful volunteered to take a more active role. I had an opportunity to help shave some of the coconut as shown in this picture.

 

Pete-in-class-2.jpg

Pete chopping coconut



 

As the morning progressed, Mohara would ask students to sample the dishes in progress and offer an opinion about their seasoning.

 

After we reached a point where the various clay pots containing our food was simmering away, Mohara led us on a tour through her small commercial bakery. As we walked by the various work stations, about a dozen employees were busy preparing breads for the ovens where they would be baked, cooled and then bagged for shipment to local grocery stores.

 

It wasn’t long before the various clay pots containing a variety of rices, curries, sambols and salads were ready. Our class lined up to serve ourselves and found open seats inside her house or in her yard under a tent.

After we were finished eating we gathered in Mohara’s living room and listened to her tell stories about growing up in the forests of Sri Lanka's Vavuniya district in the 1940s and 50s and her future plans. She is looking to sell his business and spend more time travelling, but so far she hasn’t found any interested buyers.

We wrapped up the day with some group photos before piling back into our bus and heading back to the port, arriving around 2:20 PM after another 40 minute drive to travel 7 miles.

 

Back on the ship

 

After a quick stroll thru the shops on the wharf, we returned to the ship and relaxed in our cabin for the rest of the day.

 

The President's Cut

 

All of our tablemates from Table 303 assembled in the Pinnacle Grill at 8 PM for a group dinner. Unfortunately, the pinnacle doesn’t have a large round table for 10 so we were forced to use the long rectangular table by the door. The shape of this table makes conversation with anyone at the ends of the table impossible, but we still had a good time sharing the wonderful food in the Pinnacle. The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the $59, 36 ounce “Presidents Cut”. We ordered one for the table to share and after it was paraded, they took it back to the kitchen to carve up and serve some slices to everyone. The meat was very good, but not so good I would order it for any reason other than the spectacle of seeing such a large cut hit the table.



 

Craig Richard, a saxophonist, was the entertainer this evening. He put on an excellent show playing a variety of popular hits, including a nice medley of Michael Jackson tunes, complete with a white sequined glove.

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Day 76 - March 21 – At Sea - Enroute to the Seychelles

 

Craig Richard was the guest at Coffee Chat this morning. He put on a great performance with his saxophone last evening. He once played with Kenny G at the Miami Jazz Festival. Today we learned that he was a contestant on American Ninji in August of 2017. More about that HERE. He will be presenting a lecture later this week about how he had to rescue himself after he broke his leg in a climbing accident in Colorado’s Black Canyon. More about that

. He will be touring Europe this summer on his motorcycle.

 

Tonight in the main dining room will be an “Indian Dinner”. This was rescheduled from a date before Sri Lanka to tonight so people would have a chance to buy some Indian clothing while in Colombo. Judy brought her Sari that she purchased the first time she was in Singapore in the early 90’s so we were ready for either date. Earlier in the day, Barbara H, the EXC Location guide, held a very useful demonstration in the Crow’s Nest on how to tie a Sari. Judy attended, and she picked up some useful tips for this evening.



 

Ben’s drawing class has progressed to the human head. Judy is learning the proportions of the different areas of the face and head.

 

Peggy, from the Spa, was our guest for dinner this evening. She had remarked to someone at our table that she didn’t have anywhere to wear her Indian garb this evening, so she was promptly extended an invitation to Table 303 and she quickly accepted.

 

The dining room was decorated in the Indian Theme and all the waiters were wearing appropriate Indian costumes.



Highlights from the dinner menu included:

· Indian Cobia Masala

· Three Peppercorn Crusted Striploin Steak

· Lamb Biryani

· Butter Chicken



I joked with our waiter Deden if I could get an extra Peppercorn on the Striploin Steak – why stop with three? I learned later that this refers to the sauce which is made from three different types of peppercorns (black, pink and green).

 

Lizzie Ball was in the Queen’s lounge for an encore performance. She continues to amaze with her excellent vocals in addition to her skill playing the violin. She sang “Bésame Mucho” and accompanied herself on the violin during certain parts. Too Darn Hot (from the musical Kiss me Kate) and Beatles favorite “Drive my Car” were other songs where she sang in addition to playing the violin. Lizzie is a talented performer. Be sure to catch her show if you find her performing in your area.

Lizzie-Ball-1.jpg

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Day 77 March 22 – At Sea

 

Henk Mensink, the Hotel Director, was the special guest for Coffee Chat this morning. He shared an amusing story as to how he met his wife, Christel, along with stories about riding their tandem bicycle and driving rally cars. Henk discussed the challenges of trying to satisfy everyone on a World Cruise and dealing with changes and passengers expectations. Along the way, he emphasized how the crew was the essential ingredient to success. The upcoming drydock was the subject for several questions from guests and Henk provided a brief overview of what changes are in store. He emphasized that the library will remain largely unchanged.

 

 

 

Henk-at-coffee-chat.jpg

 

We crossed the equator for the third time today. The ceremony marking this occasion will take place as we cross for the fourth time heading north along the west coast of Africa.

 

Judy attended crafts today where they designed a unique Eye of the Tiger Bead Bracelet.

 

Ben’s drawing class continued with exploring various techniques in drawing the human head.

 

The ship hosed off the moveable Lido Dome today and we were able to watch a worker walk up and down while working his hose.

 

One of the featured items for dinner this evening was “Grandma's Meatloaf.” It was very good, and we were able to get the recipe which you can find HERE. You will notice that the recipe is for 80 servings. And it calls for 1.5 POUNDS of eggs! I found a conversion website and 1 dozen extra-large eggs is about 1.5 pounds.

 

The Jukebox Rogues were back for their second show and were as good as their first performance. They started the show with a string of classics including:

  • “Walk Like a Man”
  • “Try a little Tenderness”
  • “Singing in the Rain”
  • “Blue Moon”
  • “My Eyes Adored You”

Toward the end of the show they showed off their West End background with a stirring rendition of “Stars” from Les Misérables.

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Day 78 March 23 – At Sea

 

Another lazy day at sea as we continued sailing across the Indian Ocean enroute to the Seychelles where we will arrive tomorrow.

There was a crew emergency drill today at 9:30 AM which caused Coffee Chat to be cancelled.

 

 

The ship will have a silent auction soon to raise money for the Modessa Youth Opportunities organization in Namibia. Guests were requested to turn in their items by 5 PM in the entertainment office.



Featured items on tonight’s dinner menu include:

  • Spaghetti al'Amatriciana
  • Prime Rib of Beef au Jus
  • Grilled Molasses Lamb chops
  • Grilled Lamb Brochette
  • Soft Shell Crab Pad Thai
  • Maple-Lacquered Duck Breast

Craig Richard and Simon Coronel shared the stage this evening in the Queen’s Lounge with each performing a 20-minute show. Simon had a interesting “mind reading” trick when he used a picture which would appear as either a duck or a rabbit depending on the orientation of the drawing when displayed. Craig showed off his skill with the piano with a nice rendition of “Don’t Stop Believing”.



 

We will be in the Seychelles tomorrow for a one-day port visit.

 

Craig.jpg

Craig Richard

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Day 79 March 24 – Victoria, Seychelles

 

It was still early, around 9 AM, when the Seychelles came into view. The most prominent feature at this point were the 3 large windmills situated along the waterfront. The weather was quite pleasant out at sea, with a nice breeze across the deck, but we knew that once the sun got higher in the sky and we were ashore, the day would certainly heat up.

 

 

As we closed on our berth, we could hear the music of the welcome dancers and start to get the lay of the land in the immediate port area.



 

Our plan was to rent a car from Sixt rental cars in Victoria.

 

Sixt advertised that they would meet you right by the cruise terminal which would be very convenient. One thing to always keep in mind, is that the definition of “right by the cruise terminal/ship/port” is somewhat subjective. Sometimes this will mean within a hundred feet of the gangway and other times it may mean right outside the port gate – up to a mile away.

 

The ship did not arrange for a shuttle because everything was so close. Close is a relative term and the town is about a 1-mile walk with the nearest point of interest – The National Museum – about ½ mile away. There were taxis right by the gangway, but after I asked about the prices to take me to town, I discovered that they weren’t interested in short trips at this point and would only consider 4-hour tours. So unfortunately, independent travelers had no choice but to walk the 1 mile to town – at least early in the day. I suspect as the day wore on, the taxis may be more interested in shorter trips.



Note: The price for a 4-hour taxi tour with 4 people max – 3 in the back seat and 1 in the front – was about $150. This was before any negotiation so you may be able to get a better price, but this is the starting point – at least for today. Our rental car would end up costing us about $165 (including gas) for all day. We ended up using the car for 6 hours. As you will read later, the roads here are quite narrow and very unforgiving with no shoulders and steep drop offs. With the price of the taxi so close to the rental car, I might be tempted to rent a taxi here rather than rent a car if I were to do this trip again.



Once the ship was cleared, we left the ship around 10:30 am in search of our rental car. I wandered around the immediate port area and found a few shops, a hut with the welcome dancers in the middle of their performance, a few taxis and the tour buses waiting for the HAL guests heading out on the various tours. The Sixt rental car representative was no where to be found. I called their office and they informed me that their representative was outside the port gate, maybe a ¼ mile away. See the below maps to get yourself oriented and note the location of where you can expect to meet any private tour operators you may have arranged.

 

After about 20 minutes of browsing the port vendors, we headed out to the main gate where we quickly found the Sixt car rental rep in a parking lot immediately past the gate. There is a sign that marks the closest point that private tour operators can approach the gate.

 

We filled out the rental car paperwork in the parking lot, and Elvis, our Sixt representative, called his office for them to deliver our car, which arrived in about 15 minutes. We agreed to meet Elvis at 6pm this evening to return the car, but we would call his office later to confirm the time.

 

The cars here are right hand steer and you drive on the left side of the road. I would be the navigator and Rick would do the driving.

 

On the way to the market we passed by the Clock tower, which is called the Little Ben, which is a replica of the clock tower outside Victoria Station.

 

Our first stop was the Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market. The market is named after Selwyn-Clarke who served the British government as governor and commander-in-chief of the Seychelles from 1947-1951. We parked nearby and walked to the Market and spent about 20 minutes exploring the various stalls and shops. The market is on the small side as far as these types of markets go, and unless you are a fan of city markets, you could put this lower on your priority list of places to see in Victoria.

 

The Arulmigu Navasakti Vinayagar Temple is the only Hindu Temple in the Seychelles. If you are interested in visiting, admission is free, get there before 11:00 as they close at Noon. They open again later in the day, but I didn’t recall the hours.

 

Back in the car, we headed out of town toward the Mission Lodge viewpoint. Even though it was only 5 miles away, it took us about 30 minutes to cover the distance. The road is very winding and narrow, and sometimes it gets down to only a lane and one half. The worst aspect of the road is the lack of any shoulder on the valley side of the road. If your wheel would get off the road, your car would probably hit the frame making it difficult to keep going. Combine this with driving on the left and with a right-hand steer car, navigating the road to the Mission Lodge viewpoint is not for the faint of heart. Rick did an incredible job driving and if I had to do it over again, I would consider renting a taxi instead of self-driving.

 

As you approach the summit, keep a lookout for a single lane road that veers off the right side. This road is only 150 yards or so, but I am not sure what you would do if you came across another car half way up. It would probably be safer for the down hill car to back up into the parking lot, rather than back out into the street, but you will have to play this by ear if it happens. The parking lot is small and would hold about 10 cars or a few buses. And yes, the ship’s tour buses did drive up this narrow road later in the day. I am not sure if they were able turn around or had to back down the hill. Appreciate anyone who made this trip on a tour bus to give me a comment about your experience.

 

Getting to the viewpoint requires walking up 20 or so steps, no handrails, and then walking 150 yards over a level but uneven dirt trail. You also must climb some steps to get over a fallen tree. If it has raind recently, the trail may be muddy, so plan accordingly.

 

At the end of the trail is a small pavilion, open on all sides that overlooks the spectacular view. We spent about 10 minutes here before heading back. There are some ruins of the old Mission Lodge near the top of the stairs by the parking lot, but we took a pass on any further exploration.

 

On the way back down the mountain, we stopped at a wide spot on the road for another view spot that was accessible down a short trail, maybe 50 yards. As we were closing our car, we watched four 30 passenger HAL tour buses make their way up the mountain heading to Mission Lodge. We talked to some people later who were on these buses and they said that the buses made it up the one lane road to the parking lot without a problem.

We walked down this short trail to another small pavilion that provided shelter for people enjoying the view. There were three young men there just “hanging out” as we interpreted their remarks. They spoke good English and surprisingly didn’t have cell phones. It wasn’t clear whether they were students, working or unemployed, but they were friendly, and we chatted for a few minutes before heading back to our car.

 

Going down the mountain seemed a little easier since we were now next to the hill rather than next to the cliff. The drop off when the road ended didn’t seem as steep as it was on the other side.

 

Our destination was The H Resort which boasted that their restaurant “Trader Vics” invented the Mai Tai back in 1944. There are 18 Trader Vic’s around the world with the USA locations being Emeryville, (near Oakland) and Atlanta. Per Wikipedia, the founder of Trader Vics, Victor Jules Bergeron, invented the Mai Tai at his Emeryville location in 1944. His rival “Don the Beachcomber” claims to have created it at his restaurant in 1933. Trader Vics appears to have the stronger case but do your own research and you can be the judge.

 

There are manned gates at the resorts on this part of the island, but they will quickly let you pass if you tell them you are going to the restaurant.

 

Unfortunately, Trader Vics wasn’t open for lunch so we had to settle for walking around the resort and checking out the gorgeous beach. It is a beautiful resort with rooms running between US$400 and US$800 a night.

Heading back to the car we drove over to the nearby Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Resort and Casino. Once again there was a manned gate and the guard informed us that the casino wasn’t open until the evening, so we turned around and headed over to the Boathouse Restaurant, across the street from the beach, about 1 mile away.

The seating is informal, and the place was almost empty. We all ordered Fish and Chips for about $20 each along with local beers for $5 each. The food was OK, but you wouldn’t drive over here for the food. The location was fabulous, and it had a nice laid-back feel and if you were staying in the Seychelles for a few days, this would be a nice place to hang out. We arrived here about 2:45 PM and it took about 1 hour to finish our lunch.

 

We decided to avoid the narrow road thru the pass in the center of the island and instead loop around the northern tip in a clockwise direction. The roads here were not as narrow as those up to Mission Lodge but they still had those nerve racking drop offs instead of shoulders from time to time. Here is a video showing a little bit of the drive.





 

 

We had also hoped that we might enjoy some nice views, but as it turned out, the ocean was hidden by trees and buildings for most of the trip.

 

The drive around northern loop took about 1 hour, and we made our way to the Eden Plaza, south of Victoria, which was the location of another casino we wanted to check out. Unfortunately, the casino was still under construction and wouldn’t open for a couple of weeks. There is a marina next to Eden Plaza where we spotted a large yacht called “Cloudbreak” which you can charter for about $900,000 a week. Check it out HERE.

 

On our way back to return the car, we finally find an open casino, the “Grand Kaz” which turned out to be only about ½ mile from the ship. The casino consisted of two buildings, side by side, one was exclusively slot machines. In the other building, there were other games including: Roulette, Black Jack, Stud Poker, Russian Poker, Casino Hold ‘em Poker, and Texas hold ‘em Poker. We didn’t spend much time here, but we did pick up a few casino chips for souvenirs.

 

We met the Sixt representative back where we picked up the car and completed the paperwork for the rental and then walked back to the ship.

 

Since we were leaving late, 11 PM, HAL brought on some local entertainers who put on a Creole Cultural Cabaret. Here is a short video clip of their performance.

 

Find more pictures and videos on the blog.

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Day 80 March 25 – At Sea

 

Coffee Chat

 

Nyron, the shore excursions manager, was the guest at Coffee Chat this morning. Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, he has since moved to South Africa where his wife is from. He has been with HAL since 1996 and got his start as a Disc Jockey.

Port Talk

I stopped by the Queens Lounge to listen to Barbara’s port talk about Maputo and Reunion. She did a good job of lowering expectations about Maputo and how we should try and appreciate seeing a country that was still in the development stages. I was trying to gain insight as to where the ship would moor, so I could let our Maputo driver know where to meet us, but that information was not presented.

 

Silent Auction

 

Today was the silent auction to raise money for the Mondesa Youth Opportunities located in Namibia. Taking place in the Atrium on Deck 5 from 11 AM to 2 PM, the items up for auction included donations of various items from guests, including some of the pillow gifts we received earlier, along with some guest created art and handicrafts. Other items included lunches, dinners or drinks with various crewmember including Henk, The HAL Singers and Dancers, Mark & Hamish and Michael & Connor from the band who promised drinks along with Mania and Gossip. Tours of the engine room, private lessons from Claudia, the computer instructor, and other similar items filled out the 15 to 20 tables that were spread around the Atrium and the Ocean Bar. Each item had a minimum starting price and a minimum price increment – to eliminate people from increasing bids by 1 cent at a time.

 

We bid on, and won, the drinks with Michael & Connor from the HAL band and the “Whole Chicken Challenge” with Grahame, the HAL band drummer. We weren’t sure what the “Whole Chicken Challenge” was all about, and we discovered that neither did anyone else. After we won, and with discussions with Grahame, we decided that this would be a whole chicken eating contest and we would set something up after Cape Town.

 

The auction raised over $7,000 dollars for Mondesa Youth Opportunities.

 

Dinner

 

This evening we were joined for dinner by three members of the HAL orchestra: Mati, Emilio and Grahame. We had a wonderful time sharing stories about our hometowns and some insight into the HAL orchestra. Since sight reading is crucial for their positions, they all had stories about auditions over Skype where they are emailed some music an hour before the audition and they have to play it live over the internet.

 

Goronwy Thom

 

Tonights entertainer was Goronwy Thom, a comedian, juggler and unicycle rider. He was billed in a very general way as a comedy and variety performer. HAL intentionally disguised the details of any entertainer in the When and Where who plays the flute, violin or juggles for fear that less people will show up. I don’t know if it really matters, but many entertainers we talked to say that it does matter, and they certainly should know.



Goronwy was hilarious, far better than expected and one of the top acts of the cruise. While he may not be the best technical juggler out there, he is one of the best Entertainers in the business. Don’t miss Goronwy if he is performing on your ship.

 

 

More pictures and video on the blog

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