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

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Day 81 March 26 – At Sea

 

Noel, the Onboard Marketing Manager, and Christel, Guest Relations Manager, were the Coffee Chat guests this morning. Noel is from Nashville, Tennessee, and has been with HAL for 7 years, getting her start as a librarian. Christel is married to the Hotel Director, Henk, and they both enjoy riding their tandem bicycle and driving their unique car that Christel drives (Henk is the navigator) to rallies around Europe.

 

Tonight, was a gala night, but we didn’t have anyone assigned to our table as a host. You can see the menu on the blog. Filet Mignon and Lobster tail was the popular choice at our table.



 

Colleen Williamson was in the Queen’s Lounge this evening. She put on a tremendous show, singing one of my favorite songs, Downtown, along with “One Fine Day” and “Cabaret”.

 

We will be in Reunion Island tomorrow.







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Day 82 Mar 27th - Reunion Island

 

Planning for this port was a little confusing, since our itinerary listed La Possession as our destination but the town that the shuttlebus would take us to was called St. Denis, a half hour away (about 8 miles.) Based on my preliminary research I didn’t discover that much of interest. Most of the HAL tours involved various sightseeing trips but nothing that caught my eye.

 

Our plan for today was to take the shuttlebus to St. Denis and wander around looking for some souvenirs, possibly getting something to eat and going back to the ship.

 

We arrived around 7 AM in a commercial port, and there was nothing in immediate area of any tourist interest. The nearest town was several miles away, but walking wasn’t an option as we weren’t allowed to walk through this port. The only way out was to take the shuttle to the port gate where then catch a second shuttle to St Denis. Some shuttles went all the way to St Denis without stopping at the port gate.

 

The weather was very pleasant. The latitude is the same below the equator as Hawaii is above the equator, so it’s not surprising that the weather here and the appearance of the island, has a very Hawaiian look.

 

The Road to St Denis

 

The road to St. Denis follows the ocean on one side with a very steep rock wall on the other. There is a tremendous problem with rock falls and erosion and we observed numerous fences built to keep rocks from tumbling down onto the road.

 

Several hundred yards offshore an elevated road was being constructed on pylons that would run from La Possession all the way to St. Denis. At first, we didn’t understand why they would be building this road, at a cost of almost $2 billion, on an island with such a small population. We learned that the road it will replace (the one we were on) closes about 40 times per year due to high surf and rock falls. This offshore highway will keep the traffic flowing between the two cities. Here is a link with more information.

 

St Denis

 

The shuttle dropped us off at one edge of the Square La Bourdonnais near the intersection of Place General de Gualle and Avenue de la Victoire. See the map on the blog. I didn’t realize that St. Denis had a population of over 200,000 people. It’s a very bustling city with a lot going on. For some reason we anticipated that this be a much smaller town like Victoria in the Seychelles. St. Denis has twice the population of Papette, Tahiti.

 

Most people spoke exclusively French in St. Denis with less English than you might expect in a town we initially thought was a tourist town. Euros is the currency used and dollars were not accepted in most businesses.

We incorrectly assumed that there’d be some sort of tourist information center close to the shuttlebus drop off. We walked off towards the waterfront and wandered around the stores and shops within a block or two and were unable to find any type of tourist stores. We couldn’t find any shops selling T-shirts keychains or anything else you’d expect a town like this right on the water. We later heard that there were tourist shops on a tour to the center of the island.

 

St Denis Casino

 

There is a casino nearby the shuttlebus stop. They require a passport to gain admission. We didn’t have our passports, but they accepted our passport cards. The casino was rather small and spread out over two floors. There were 110 slot machines on the first floor and 40 slot machines on the second floor. Two roulette wheels along with four automated roulette wheels. There were two tables in the corner for some card games.

It was surprising to hear the clank and clang of actual coins dropping into trays from the slot machines. These slot machines were old-school in that they still used coins to play instead of cards, vouchers or bills. The coins they used were 1 Euro metal tokens. I bought a few souvenir chips/tokens at the Cashier cage and we were on our way.

 

The Grand Marche

 

As we were walking back to the shuttle stop, we met a few people we knew from the ship. They told us there was a market (The Grand Marche) a few blocks away that might sell some tourist souvenirs. We decided to walk up Avenue de la Victoire to find the market. The Grand Marche was about ½ mile from the shuttle bus stop.

 

There weren’t any produce, meat or fish here, only dry goods and mostly souvenirs. The place seems to cater to tourists. We spent about a half an hour browsing the various stalls before we headed out to the street to walk back to the ship, not buying anything.

 

Rain was in the forecast, but so far, the skies were clear and it was a pretty nice day. This all started to change as we left the market. Gray clouds moved in quickly and rain soon followed. By now we wished we had brought our umbrella. We did bring lightweight rain jackets that would keep most of the rain off of us. It started to come down hard and we took refuge under an awning for about 10 minutes before continuing down the street back to the shuttle stop.

 

There wasn’t a very long wait for the next shuttle and we are soon on our way back to the port. Once again, we are able to look at the offshore roadway still under construction. We had a better view going back since we’re on the right side of the bus near the window and the bus was in the lane closer to the water’s edge.

 

When the shuttle arrived back at the port we are all required to get off outside the gate to pass through security. There are few pop-up shops in this area outside the gate that sold souvenirs. We bought some keychains and a few other trinkets. If you’re looking for souvenirs this may be the best spot to do your shopping. Once we completed our shopping we went through security and boarded a second shuttle that would take us two or three hundred yards to the ship.

 

Sailaway Party

 

Orlando Ashford and his entourage from Seattle arrived today. Consequently, we would be having a big Sail Away party this afternoon with complementary drinks and hors d’oeuvres. The party was scheduled to start at 5 PM at the Lido pool, but by 4:15 PM many of the tables were already occupied. There were always some chairs available even after the party started. The Holland America station band provided the live music. They were wonderful playing all the hits you would expect at a pool party including YMCA, Celebration and other party hits. Hors d’oeuvres were being passed around by waiters. Drinks, including your rum-based classics, plus whiskey sours were also being passed around by waiters in addition to being available on tables. We had a wonderful time at the party and so did most everyone else.

 

See the blog for a video clip of their performance

 

The party was supposed to end at 6:30 PM but kept going till 7 PM when the Station Band finally wrapped up. We didn’t see Orlando at the party, but he may have been there and we simply missed him, as it was crowded. We did see Gerald, the director of the Mariner Society.

 

Cul 'Afrika

 

Tonight’s show in the Queen’s Lounge was Cul 'Afrika - billed as “Uniquely South African”. They had a unique sound with a very bouncy beat. The group consists of two men and two women. Instead of using the Holland America Orchestra they had their own recorded music. My favorite was a song by South African musician, Sipho Mabuse, titled “Burnout.” Here is a link to a video gives you a sample of their performance.

 

Cul-Africa.jpg

Edited by The-Inside-Cabin

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Day 83 Mar 28th At Sea

 

Colleen Williamson was the guest on Coffee Chat this morning. She is from Lagrange, Indiana, and now lives in Nashville. Before she was able to earn her living as a singer she worked as a Church secretary and for a tanning salon. You can read more about here background HERE

 

Mariner's Reception

 

Orlando Ashford and the other executives from Seattle came aboard yesterday. They’ll be holding special receptions for Mariners and other groups until they depart in Cape Town. Many of these events will take place between Maputo and Cape Town. Since there are so many guests leaving the ship in Maputo to go on safaris and rejoin the ship in Cape Town, they decided to hold a special reception this evening for those guests who would be leaving the ship in Maputo and would otherwise miss the ceremonies.

 

There were two receptions, one for early seating and the other for late seating. The reception was held in the Explorer’s lounge. The lounge was blocked off except for the entrance from the piano bar. As we entered there was a short receiving line with Orlando, Gerald, the director of the mariner Society and Gerald’s wife. We exchanged a few pleasantries, posed for a picture and moved into the lounge where we found our tablemates seated near the piano. Waiters were roaming around passing out drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Ivelin Kolarov, the beverage manager, joined our group as we got to know him when he was hosted our table a few nights ago.

 

Once the receiving line was over, Orlando moved around the lounge and I had a chance to speak with him for a few minutes. I invited him to our Texas Hold ‘em game over the next few days but he chuckled and politely deferred saying that he wasn’t good enough to join our table. We laughed as I replied that we would cheerfully give him personal lessons. Orlando moved on to chat with other guests and I returned to our group until the party broke up in about 30 minutes when it was time to go to dinner.

 

Birthday in the MDR

 

The star of tonight’s menu was a 24 oz. Porter House Steak with the helpful annotation “no small portions available.” I ordered mine medium rare and it was delicious.

 

Tonight was Judy’s birthday. Not my Judy, but the wife of Bob from Arizona. The ship always prepares a nice cake for these occasions along with the singing of the Indonesian birthday song as all the waiters and wine stewards in the area gather to join in. There is a short video of our celebration on the blog.

 

Some of the gifts Judy and Bob received were the straw hats that the ship gave out earlier in the cruise for one of our Polynesian dinners. Our table has been regifting them to the next person at our table who has had a birthday so far this cruise. Since Judy’s birthday was the final one for the cruise she would be able to keep these wonderful straw hats. Peggy and Dawn decorated the hats with Judy and Bob’s names and other bling.

 

Here are the lyrics to the Indonesian Birthday Song as sung on Holland America Ships.

 

“Panjang umurnya” “Long is His/Her Age”

Panjang umurnya

Panjang umurnya

Panjang umurnya

Serta mulia

Serta mulia

Serta mulia

 

 

 

The English translation is below

 

 

Long is his/her age

Long is his/her age

Long is his/her age

And treasured

And treasured

And treasured.

 

The Muses

 

The Muses, a string quartet with electric instruments including two violins, a viola and a cello, were in the Queen’s Lounge this evening. The group consists of four women from Gauteng, South Africa. They fuse classical instruments with contemporary music. One of my favorites was “Paint it Black” by the Rolling Stones.

You can find out more about the Muses here.

 

 

Pictures and videos on the blog

Edited by The-Inside-Cabin

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Day 84 Mar 29th At Sea

 

Coffee chat was canceled today due to a crew drill which was scheduled at the same time. They have these drills at different times of the day about once a week.

 

This evening, about 1 ½ hours before dinner, everyone from Table 303 assembled in Rick’s Neptune Suite for a game of LCR. Never heard of LCR? LCR stands for Left Center Right. It is a very simple and very fun dice game that any number of people can play and requires no thinking, strategy or anything else.

Here is how it works. Each player starts with 3 chips or 3 dollars or whatever you want to play with. The game consists of 3 dice, with each die marked with an L, C and R and 3 dots. Each player rolls the dice in turn and then passes a chip either to the left, right or to the center pot depending on whether a L, C or R appears. If a “dot” appears, then you don’t pass anything. The play continues with each player rolling the dice in turn and passing accordingly. If you have less than 3 chips, you only roll the number of dice that is equal to the number of chips that you have. Play continues until only one player has any chips with all the other chips now in the center.
is a more expansive explanation of the rules.

 

 

Rick arranged to have some hors d’oeuvres delivered so we would have something to munch on during the game. Susan brought the LCR dice, so she oversaw how we played the game and added a twist where if a person rolled three dots then everyone would have to take a drink of wine. LCR is a fun game as no one is out of contention until one person wins. With ten of us playing, each game took about 30 minutes. We played three games before it was time to go to dinner. I won one the first game, Susan the next game and Judy won the last game. We had a fun time and enjoyed Ricks hospitality in his Neptune Suite.

 

 

Tonight’s entertainer was Scott Record an “award winning singing comedy impressionist.” He sings a few bars from a wide variety of songs from various singers, mimicking their style and appearance while taking license with some of the lyrics. He put on a wonderful show and is a great entertainer.

 

See a short clip of his performance on the blog.

 

Scott-Record-2.jpg

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Day 85 Mar 30th At Sea

 

There is a coffee chat this morning with Cul’ Africa, but we were busy in our cabin getting ready for our overland Safari trip tomorrow, so we missed it.

 

Linus Project

 

Judy went down to observe the recognition ceremony of the Linus group. This is the group that knits or crochets blankets for Holland America’s charity. Orlando Ashford stopped by about 10:30 this morning to pose for a picture with all the participants and say a few words. There were over 80 blankets on display representing most of what the participants completed so far this cruise. We heard that the program coordinator, Melvena, was on her last world cruise and that Holland America was looking for another coordinator for next year.

 

Orlando's Town Hall

 

The big event of the day was the town hall meeting with Orlando Ashford, President of Holland America line, along with Gerald Bernhoft, Director of the Mariner Society. The program was scheduled to start at 2:30 PM, but I knew if I wanted a front row in the balcony, so I could take pictures easier, I would have to get there an hour early. I arrived at 1:30 PM and the doors to the Queens Lounge opened a few minutes later. I was probably the 20th person in line. There were plenty of seats available and I was easily able to get my front row seat in the balcony. After the initial rush of people, who wanted to get there early, the room filled gradually over the next hour. Even when the program was about to start there were still a few seats available up in the back.

 

Orlando opened the town hall welcoming everybody and then introducing his boss, Arnold Donald, the CEO of Carnival Corporation, Capt Mercer, and finally his wife, Samantha.

 

Speaking casually and without any notes, Orlando discussed many of the company initiatives and included a few personal anecdotes along the way. Early in the presentation he showed a commercial for Holland America that ran during the Olympics. He asked if any of us had seen the commercial. The crowd groaned that we didn’t get to see the Olympics because the ships TV satellite system wasn’t able to get the signal as we were in the wrong location on the globe and couldn’t “see” the satellite that was carrying that programing. This was a complaint from many passengers during the Olympics, so it was a little funny that Orlando would ask that question before showing the commercial.

 

There is a link to the video commercial that he showed on the blog

 

He continued talking about new developments in the food program explaining how they recently relaunched the Culinary council, which consists of 7 chefs from around the world, who meet from time to time to provide high level guidance for what food is served across the fleet. Following this discussion, he showed video clips of the latest council member, Ethan Stowell before introducing HAL wine curator, James Suckling.

 

Moving on to entertainment, he discussed the initiative with BBC and their latest offering Planet Earth II.

 

Other highlights included:

 

Initiative to bring on more local products that will enhance port visits. For example, when a ship will visit Cuba you can expect to see the ships stocking more items from Cuba.

 

Fuji Film is now a partner and they will be installing photo labs that will allow you to easily transfer pictures from your phone, or other device, to have them printed on canvas, mugs or other objects.

 

A major focus going forward is to enhance the way guests experience ports. He discussed 6 different themes which they will be rolling out on the Maasdam soon, then followed by other ships.

 

The six themes are:

• Photography

• Active Exploration

• History and Perspective

• Food, Wine and Spirits

• Nature and Science

• Arts and Culture

 

The objective is to find ways to make visiting the same port interesting the 3rd or 4th time (or more) you visit.

 

He showed the 2018/2019 schedule for the Maasdam, which includes visits to many smaller ports not normally on many cruise line itineraries, HERE you will find a link to the HAL webpage that shows the various itineraries available on the Maasdam. The Maasdam will also sail with Zodiac boats to use for various excursions.

 

The Oprah Partnership is in the second year and will continue. Orlando recently hosted Oprah on an Alaska Cruise.

 

He discussed how the Amsterdam Wet Dock last year was not originally scheduled, but was added on after his visit to the ship in 2017 and heard many complaints from passengers about the condition of the ship. This was followed by a slide showing the various changes planned for the May 2018 drydock.

 

He concluded by showing a map of the 2020 World Cruise routing which will include Antarctica and Africa.

 

Questions and Answers

 

After a few minutes, Gerald Bernhoff, Oralano, Capt Mercer and Henk assembled on the stage to field questions from the audience.

 

Q-and-A.jpg

 

A few highlights from the Q and A:

 

HAL does not currently plan to build any ships with a passenger capacity of less than 2,500. The economics don’t support smaller ships with the current fare structure. He said that If you want Seabourn size ships, you will have to pay Seabourn prices. They won’t build ships any larger than about 3000, since larger ships are unable to go to the smaller ports that HAL guests enjoy.

 

Nothing on the horizon about crossover loyalty programs amongst the various Carnival Corp lines. None of the lines can agree on what perks should be offered. Orlando said the HAL perks for 4 and 5 Stars are more costly than other lines at the same level. Gerald chimed in and said that while complicated, they are looking at ways to make this happen, but nothing on the horizon.

 

Improving Internet speed and quality remains a major focus. A challenge for HAL is since their ships travel outside the busy areas, there is less satellite coverage than you will find in the Caribbean.

 

The crowd chuckled and groaned when a guest said she was missing Mariner points from a cruise she took in 1956! - Yes 62 years ago - and that the front desk was unable to add the 16 days she said she was due. Gerald said he would discuss this issue with her afterwards.

 

The Guest speaker program will continue but they are reviewing the speakers to ensure they maintain high quality and a consistent standard.

 

Why can’t we get ESPN in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean? ESPN is not carried by satellites is those parts of the world since ESPN caters to a North American audience.

 

A guest commented that she would like to see more parties like the recent SailAway party held at the Lido pool. Orlando commented that for every guest who wants more parties there is another guest who doesn’t want any parties. They are always trying to find the best balance but remain sensitive to guest feedback on this issue. Fill out your surveys!

 

They are committed to bringing the BB King performers to all ships, but need to find ways to do that since many ships don’t have a dedicated BB King lounge.

 

A guest commented that unless the TV’s on decks 1,2 and 3 were upgraded he would be cancelling the 2019 cruise. They are not sure of the schedule of TV upgrades on those decks.

 

Why are we docking in locations so far from the action? Shuttle buses are a pain and eat into valuable shore time? Planning port locations is complex and while money is a factor, it is not the only factor and HAL is always working to provide the best guest experience.

 

What is the future of the library? There will always be a library for the foreseeable future.

 

Another guest complained about the dock locations in Singapore and Hong Kong. Capt Mercer replied that the Amsterdam was confirmed in the more preferable Harbour City location in Singapore for the next 3 port visits. There is a chance they will be able to get the closer Hong Kong location, but getting out of White Bay in Sydney will be almost impossible. The closer berth is reserved for larger ships and those on turnaround as opposed to port visits.

 

There is a video of the presentation boiled down to about 10 minutes on the blog.

 

Amanda

 

Amanda, the assistant cruise director, joined us for dinner this evening. We had a great time and she was a wonderful guest. We love her energy and enthusiasm. She alternates hosting evening trivia at 5 PM in the Piano Bar.

 

Cul' Africa

 

Tonight’s entertainer was an encore performance from Cul’ Africa. Since we needed to finish packing before our overland adventure tomorrow, we missed the show and went straight to our cabin after dinner.

 

As Always - more pictures, videos, and all the menus along with the When and Wheres on the blog.

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Day 86 Mar 31st Maputo and Safari Day 1

 

See the blog for a 1 minute video summary and more pictures.

 

Our first glimpse of Mozambique was the twinkling lights of some coastal residences silhouetted against the ever-lightning morning sky. As the sun cleared the horizon we could start to make out the city skyline and more details of the buildings. Our scheduled arrival was 8 AM, but the Amsterdam was planning on arriving around 6:30 am to allow the Mozambique Immigration Officials time to process our visas and clear the ship.

 

Arrival

 

We didn’t have our first line across until around 7 AM and the port only had one team of line handlers, which meant they could only secure one line at a time. They seemed to be moving in slow motion, taking 15 minutes for all the lines to be secure and ready to put the gangway ashore.

 

We had heard horror stories about massive delays in clearing ships into Maputo and we were braced for major delays. Other ships had reported that Maputo officials had required face to face meetings with every everyone, but today they processed our passports and issued our visas without seeing anyone. The officials processed over 200 passports with sticker visas in about 1 hour and 15 minutes. We picked up our passports at 8:30 am from the front desk. The front desk is always very efficient, and this morning they did an exceptional job processing the passports quickly.

 

Different Safari Options

 

Over 200 people were leaving the ship today for various safaris in and around Krueger. The ship offered two overnight safari options – a luxury version and a more modest version. The Luxury version would go to the Jock Safari Lodge inside Krueger and cost about $6000 USD per person. The less expensive version was priced at around $4000 per person. They were both 4 days and 3 nights and would rejoin the ship in Cape Town. Some passengers found a nice luxury tour thru Abercrombie & Finch for $5000 per person. The cost for our luxury tour came in at $2500 per person. I booked everything directly with the various vendors and didn’t use a travel agency.

 

Our Safari Cost

 

Here is our cost breakdown per person for 5 people using 3 cabins (no single supplement)

 

Safari Planning

 

Before I continue with our trip, let me pause for a second and walk you thru some of my thinking about how I arranged this safari.

 

There are a lot of choices for a South African Safari. You can go dirt cheap at a bare bones “Motel 6” type accommodations for less than $100 a night, or find an all inclusive luxury lodge for around $1000 -$1500 per night. We went on the high end and chose Kambaku River Sands as our lodge. This is an all-inclusive luxury lodge with air-conditioned cabins, gourmet dinners including beer and wine, along with two game drives daily with no more than 6 people per vehicle, included. Check out their website for a full list of their extensive amenities. We booked this in August 2017 and by that time all the luxury lodges closer to Maputo were already reserved which left us with fewer choices at this price point.

 

Kambaku River Sands is 220 miles (6-hour drive not including time for border crossing and rest stops) from Maputo. Here is a map that shows the relative location of several lodges used by Holland America Guests. The HAL sponsored tours went to Jock Safari Lodge and Kwa Madwala.

 

Your first decision when choosing a Safari Lodge is whether you want to be in Krueger (or visit Krueger on your game drives from lodges near Krueger) or stay at a lodge on a private game reserve that is near Krueger.

Krueger has a wide variety of lodges available from bare bones camp sites, huts, tents, cottages all the way up to the luxurious Jock Safari Lodge. Visit the Krueger website HERE to review the various lodging options available.

 

The downside to Krueger is your safari vehicle must have a roof and higher sides (which restrict visibility) and you are not allowed to leave the roads to observe animals. If you book at a lodge on a private game reserve, your vehicle will have lower sides, no roof and will be able to drive off the road to get a better view of any animals. Private game reserves tend to be less crowded as they can restrict access to only those people staying at their lodges, where Krueger is open to all and you will be competing with people in their private cars as well as other game vehicles.

 

I spent several days reviewing lodges on trip advisor as well as the lodges website before choosing Kambaku River Sands.

 

Getting from Maputo to our Safari Lodge

 

The biggest source of concern for this trip was setting up the transfer from Maputo to the Safari Lodge – in our case the Kambuku River sands. I looked at every option possible:

** Renting a car in Maputo for a one way rental

– No one way rentals available

** Transfer to the nearest big city – Nelspruit and self drive afterwards.

– There is no value in having a car once you get to the lodge and I didn’t consider renting a car any further.

** Charter a van from Maputo to the Safari Lodge

– I found Mr Chubby Shuttle – that runs a scheduled service from Maputo to Nelspruit daily and even though they don’t advertise charters, they were happy to charter their 13 passenger shuttle all the way to our Lodge for about $500 total per vehicle.

– Abercrombie and Kent quoted me a price of $400 per person – or 4 times as much as Mr Chubby. We went with Mr Chubby.

** Fly to the nearest airport in South Africa and self drive or taxi to the lodge – The only reasonable flight left at 11:30 am and would arrive at Nelspruit around 4 PM after changing planes in Johannesburg along with a 3 hour layover. After we arrived in Nelspruit, we would be facing a 3-hour drive from the airport to our Lodge, arriving after dark. The only advantage of this option was that you avoided crossing the land border between Mozambique and South Africa – which can have long delays. The airfare was about $278 per person and then we would have to add in transportation from Nelspruit to our lodge.

 

Leaving Maputo

 

Our group of five met on the ship a little before 9 AM and headed ashore to meet our driver. After talking with various people aboard ship, I was able to nail down our exact berth location which would be close to the Maputo train station. This would be where we would meet our driver, unless he was able to get onto the pier itself. Having a cell phone with international service was helpful because I was able to call our driver and discuss our exact meeting location.

 

A couple hundred yards down the street from the ship, there is a temporary roadblock that restricts traffic onto the wharf. If your driver says he’ll meet you outside the gate, this is the gate he is probably talking about. Very close to this gate is the Maputo train station which would be an alternate meeting spot if you can’t agree on another location. Our driver waited near the train station until we called and told him we were off the ship and then he moved closer to meet us at the gate.

 

Our drivers name was Freddie, and he is from Maputo. Another advantage of Mr. Chubby was they are from Maputo and have greater local knowledge of the city as well as the border crossing. The other agencies I spoke with would have sent drivers from South Africa, spend the night in Maputo, and then pick us up the next morning. This is one reason they cost more since we had to pay for the driver’s hotel room the night before. The Mr. Chubby shuttle had a capacity of 13 which gave us plenty room for the five of us. The shuttle was air-conditioned and would normally have Wi-Fi but Freddie forgot to bring the Wi-Fi box which required us to rely on our own phones 3G service.

 

Freddie had to fill out some paperwork and it took about 10 minutes before we were on our way. 90 minutes later we arrived at the border. Along the way we had a nice conversation with Freddie as we discussed life in Mozambique and shared experiences from our hometowns.

 

We had heard many stories about the terrible delays at the border crossing and that there may be unscrupulous people offering services to expedite the process. Freddie assured us that crossing the border would be no trouble as he did it almost every day and knew how everything worked.

 

Yesterday was Good Friday, and tomorrow was Easter which made us concerned that this holiday weekend might have longer than normal delays. Everyone must have traveled the day before as traffic was surprisingly light and we didn’t experience any delays along the way to the border. The roads were very good with the speed limits about 60 miles an hour.

 

Crossing the Border

 

Arriving at the Mozambique side of the border, we got out of our vehicle and entered a single story brick building where we found the Mozambique immigration officials sitting behind an L-shaped counter. This line was short, moved quickly, and we barely stopped walking. The officials opened our passport, looked at the visa, stamped our passports and we were on our way. The whole process took five minutes. It was like a Holland America reunion in the parking lot as every other tour, both private and from Holland America, was crossing the border at about the same time.

 

A few minutes later at the South Africa side, we once again got out of the van, and entered a similar single story brick building to clear South African immigration. There were about 20 people in line and it was moving slow as each person had to have their fingerprints scanned while the immigration official made some entries into a computer. After about 10 minutes, our driver motioned to us to go around the building to a different door where they were opening another line on the other side. This line moved quicker, as there was not a requirement to scan fingerprints. Clearing South African immigration took about 25 minutes. The entire process took about 45 minutes and later we were told that this was extraordinarily fast. I would recommend future travelers plan for more time crossing the border.

 

Nelspruit

 

The roads in South Africa were excellent divided highways and we stopped at the first turn off to use the restroom and pick up some refreshments. We arrived in Nelspuit around 1 o’clock. Our first stop in Nelspruit was the Riverside Mall where we planned to visit a bank to change some money, but it closed at 1 PM since it was a Saturday. Since I had enough Rand to last until Cape Town, we decided to quit looking for money changers and grab a quick lunch at a nearby McDonalds.

 

The roads for the rest of our drive to the Safari Lodge were two lanes, not quite as good as we experienced earlier, but they were OK with an occasional pothole.

 

Arriving at Timbavati Game Reserve

 

Poachers are a real problem in South Africa as rhinoceros horns are quite valuable and can fetch prices over several hundred thousand dollars in Asia which makes them quite a tempting target. Consequently, there were two levels of security to get to our Safari Lodge. The larger game reserve had its security gate, and then a few miles down the road there is another security gate for our specific lodge’s area.

 

After we passed the second gate, a security vehicle led us a few miles to the dirt road turnoff for Kambaku River Sands. The last mile to the lodge was a single lane dirt road that we would travel on over the next several days. About halfway down this road we spotted a dazzle of zebras and we paused for a few minutes to take some pictures.

 

Kambaku River Sands

 

Johan, the on-duty manager, greeted us when we pulled up to the entrance. Hot towels were waiting for us and before we even checked in they asked if we wanted to catch up with the late afternoon game drive. We said yes and after a radio call the Safari vehicle appeared in about 10 minutes with two guests who started earlier.

 

Game Drive #1

 

Nick was our driver and guide and Douglas was our tracker. The tracker sits on a chair welded to the front of the vehicle which gives him an unobstructed view of everything to the front. The guide, in addition to driving the land rover adapted vehicle, provides commentary and insight along the way.

 

In a few minutes we came across a small herd of elephants. Stopping to observe for a few minutes, we got a kick out of watching one of the smaller, younger elephants as he tried to act like a tough guy, bellowing and flapping his ears to make himself look bigger. I have to admit, even though this was a smaller elephant, it was pretty intimidating to see one take a few quick steps toward our vehicle before he stopped. After about 10 minutes we continued down the dirt road spotting some zebras, impalas, and cape buffalo before we stopped around sunset for a snack. Once the sun went down we spent another half hour driving around with the tracker using a flashlight to scan the trees and terrain looking for the reflection from an animal’s eyes. They hope to spot a leopard or cheetah in a tree but we didn’t see any and headed back to the lodge, arriving around 7 PM.

 

Checking in and Dinner

 

After completing our check in process, we were escorted to our cabins. This lodge has only 10 cabins so there’s usually no more than 20 people here at any one time. After dark, we were required to be escorted to and from the lodge and our cabin.

 

The five of us went into the first cabin for our group and we were given an orientation by our escort. The cabins have a large king-size bed, a sitting area with two chairs, a dresser, a minibar and a closet. The minibar is well-stocked with water, soft drinks, beer and wine. There is a large bathroom with double sinks, large shower with two heads with a door that opens to an outdoor shower and a small room with the toilet. The cabin is air-conditioned with lots of large windows and has reasonably fast Wi-Fi. Outside the cabin is a wooden deck with some chairs. There isn’t any television.

 

After we unpacked it was time for dinner and we met our escorts and the rest of our group on the path to the main lodge about 100 yards away.

 

Dinner is served on a long table that seats 30 people. There is enough room for all the guests plus either our tracker or guide who would join us for dinner. Some light appetizers were available along with beverage service before dinner. Beer and soft drinks are included but there is a small charge for wine. One of the cooks appeared in the center of the dining area and after getting everyone’s attention, announced the evenings menu. There are two choices for each dinner and tonight it was either a pork dish or a lamb chop. Note: if you had special dietary requirements, the lodge was more than happy to accommodate them.

 

The food was fantastic and it was fun to be able to talk to our guide over dinner and discuss what we saw earlier in the day as well as our plans for tomorrow. I’m not sure how other lodges coordinate their game drivers but we will have the same guide and tracker for our entire stay.

 

After we finished our coffee and tea we found our escorts and headed back to our cabins to get some sleep as it was a long day and our wake-up call would be 4:30 the next morning.

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This is just amazing! I'm enjoying your blog so much, thanks for sharing your adventures with us!

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Day 87 - Kambaku River Sands - Safari Day 2

 

There is a 1 minute 21 second video that shows some highlights from the second day of our safari on the blog

 

There is a video animation that shows the route of our safari game drive. The total distance covered was 22 miles in about 3 and 1/2 hours on the blog

 

 

Game Drive Rained Out

 

I woke up at 4:30 AM, without an alarm, but to the steady sound of rain drizzling on the roof. Peering out the window, puddles were everywhere with raindrops splashing making it easy to see that yes, it was raining. Rain wasn’t in the forecast and we didn’t know if the game drives went rain or shine. That was a question we forgot to ask.

A continental breakfast was served at 5:30 AM in the main lodge and we were to receive a wake-up knock on the door at 5:15 AM. When the knock never came I wasn’t sure if they were simply late, or whether the game drive was canceled. Since we are already up, we put on our rain ponchos grabbed the umbrella and headed off to the lodge. Rick, Margaret and Susan were already at the Lodge. We learned immediately that the game drive was canceled because the roads during the rain will be difficult to drive on not to mention our personal discomfort of being rained on for three hours. While we were disappointed that we wouldn’t have an opportunity to see animals, we weren’t particularly looking forward to getting that much more wet.

 

A variety of cereal, fruit and yogurt was laid out on the buffet along with some pastries, bagels and English muffins. Coffee was available from a machine that offered a variety of selections including cappuccinos and lattes. Another table had pitchers of juice along with hot water.

 

The main lodge is open on one side, overlooking the surrounding area. There is a deck and swimming pool attached. Our guide, Nick, told us that from time to time elephants would wander up to the lodge and drink out of the swimming pool. We wondered if drinking chlorinated water was bad for the elephants but Nick reminded us that the water they normally drink from the water holes is filled with a lot more nasty contaminants that a little chlorine.

 

 

Off in the distance, but easily visible, were two giraffes munching on some leaves of nearby trees. What was striking about our trip so far, was that the terrain seemed so familiar, much like Southern California, but then these amazing animals would appear with little warning.

 

Giraffe-in-the-mist.jpg

 

Breakfast

 

After chatting for a bit, the manager announced that breakfast would be served at 9:30 AM rather than 10:30 AM. Grabbing our umbrellas we headed back to our cabin to relax or nap until breakfast.

 

Back in the Lodge, there were several tables set up for breakfast with serve yourself pastries, fruit juice, toast and other sides from a buffet. Waiters came by and took our order for eggs. Service was prompt and the food was quite tasty. Light rain continued as we lingered over coffee and tea gazing at the horizon hoping we would see an elephant or some other animal come close to the Lodge.

 

While I headed back to the cabin, Judy went off to the gift shop to see what was available. She spotted a male Nyala wandering past one of the cabins. They both stared at each other before continuing.

 

Judy spotted this Nyala wandering thru the paths near the cabins[/caption]The lodge offers game walks during the day at no additional cost, but we never took advantage of them since we were always tired from our early starts. We did learn that the guides carry a high-powered rifle with them on the game walks in case an animal becomes a threat. They don’t take rifles in the safari vehicles because it’s easier and faster to simply drive away if an animal becomes threatening.

 

We had free time until 3:30 PM when we would assemble for the 4 PM afternoon game drive. Back in the cabin, we took a nap until early afternoon. We went back to the main lodge for a light lunch and then returned to our cabin until it was time to leave on the afternoon game drive.

 

Inside the cabins

 

There are some photos of the cabins and their interiors on the blog

 

 

Game Drive #2

 

As we headed off our second game drive, the roads were still wet with some puddles, but the drainage was pretty good. Since it had rained recently, we weren’t going to be able to drive off the road.

 

Starting on our afternoon drive - a few puddles were sill on the main road from the morning rain[/caption]When you’re on the game drive, there is no program as to which animals you’re going to see or when. You can drive for 20 minutes and not see anything and then right around the next corner is a small herd of wildebeest. There’s probably three or four vehicles from the lodges driving around at any time. The drivers are in constant radio contact with each other so if any one of them sees an animal they alert the other drivers so the rest of us can join them. When we do get a tip from another driver we will typically stand off until they have finished their observation before we move in for us to take a look. Drivers from adjacent lodges use the same radio network sharing information and will cooperate even though they are technically competitors.

 

 

The daily routine consists of two game drives. The morning leaving around 6 AM and afternoon game drive leaving around 4 PM. The exact time varies throughout the year depending on sunrise and sunset.

 

The rain started up again after about 30 minutes into our drive. Our driver showed us where the rain ponchos were stored in our vehicle and we quickly put them on. The rain let up after about 15 minutes and was dry for the rest of the day. In fact it wouldn’t rain again for the rest of our stay.

 

We spotted some impala and zebras, before we got word that there were some elephants a couple of miles away. We raced off in that direction. By the time we arrived the small herd was moving across the road and off into the distance. Since the ground was still wet we couldn’t follow them. As we headed toward the spot where we would take a break we came across a tower of giraffes. We had to look up the names for groups of African animals as they are all not that obvious and usually a little humorous. Oftentimes the only place you might have heard of these names was as a trivia question. For example, elephants can be referred to most commonly as a herd but the term parade or memory is also listed as an optional term for a group of elephants.

 

 

A just before sunset we stopped for a late afternoon snack. The snack consisted of trail mix, nuts, soft drinks or beer, and dried fruit. This is always a good time to chat with the driver and guide about what we have seen and what we are likely to see over the next day or so.

 

 

Once the sun goes down, we continued to drive for about half an hour looking for predator animals: Lions, cheetahs or leopards. The tracker, sitting in front of our vehicle, scans the trees and road in front of us with a bright searchlight hoping to pick up the reflection from an animal’s eyes. We never saw any significant animals after dark.

 

As we pulled up to the main lodge entrance the staff was waiting with hot towels and cold water.

 

 

Dinner

 

After we had a chance to freshen up in our room, we returned to the main lodge for dinner. The dinner choices this evening were mushroom soup, followed by either a filet mignon or a local fish, with pudding or chocolate salami for dessert.

 

 

They moved the location of the dinner table every evening[/caption]After we finished our coffee and tea we headed back to our cabin to get some sleep as once again we are looking at alarms going off at 4:30 AM.

 

Lots of pictures, menus and more on the blog

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Day 88 – Kambaku River Sands – Safari Day 3 --- April 2, 2018





Early Morning Wakeup

 

With the threat of rain gone, we were looking forward to our first early morning drive.



The staff knocked on our door at 5:15 AM and waited for us to respond with some sort of an acknowledgement before they moved on. We were already up and left for the lodge about 5:30 AM where they would have a continental buffet breakfast laid out for us.





Meals are served in the lodge and this is where you will find the lounge, wine cellar, pool and bar etc. The admin building, located at the opposite end of the complex, about two hundred yards away, has the gift shop, front desk and is where we would depart from on the game drives.





Once we arrived at the lodge for our continental breakfast, we barely had enough time to grab a quick bite before we headed off to the other end of the complex to meet our guide and tracker for the game drive. A few people elected to have a snack in their cabin and go directly to the admin building to avoid backtracking and we decided we would do the same tomorrow.



Morning Game Drive

 

The drive is scheduled for 6 AM, but once everyone was present, we left a few minutes early. We headed off over the terrain that was now becoming somewhat familiar. What never fails to amaze us is how we could drive for 10 minutes without seeing anything, and then around the next turn we would see something amazing.







This morning we headed down the paved road for a bit and spotted a hyena laying on the warm pavement. We stopped nearby, and he seemed totally disinterested with our presence. Our guide explained that the animals view the vehicle with human occupants as something familiar, which doesn’t pose any threat, so they leave us alone. Leaving the vehicle or standing up in the presence of animals was forbidden, since that would make us appear differently and may prompt a reaction from the animals we were observing.





A few hundred yards away we spotted several hyenas chewing on what turned out to be an impala. Nick, our guide, explained that the impala was probably killed by a leopard, but then the leopard was chased away by the small pack of hyenas. The hyenas devoured the impala, chomping and chewing, and paying little attention to anything else. Two hyenas were sharing the bulk of the impala, and they would chase away any other hyena that came close. You will see on the video in this post the hyenas chewing away on the impala.





Moving on, we came across some zebras off the side of the road. Zebras, a common sighting for us, but this time we saw a young zebra following the mother closely. Our guide explained that baby zebras have long legs so that their bodies are roughly the same height off the ground at the adult zebras and are less visible to predators.



The Big Five

 

You will often hear people refer to The Big Five:



• Lion

• Leopard

• Rhinoceros

• Elephant

• Cape Buffalo

This term was coined by big-game hunters and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. Now the term, Big Five, is used by every Safari operator, and is of high interest to most tourists as everyone wants to check off the fact they have seen the Big Five. Trying to capitalize on the term Big Five, you may hear the term “Little Five” being used to talk about the elephant shrew, buffalo weaver, leopard tortoise, antlion and rhino beetle. Not satisfied with the big five and the little five there are even more groupings of African animals as follows:

• The Big Seven: this adds the great white shark and the southern right whale to the Big Five

• The Ugly Five: hyena, wildebeest, vulture, warthog, and the marabou stork

• The Shy Five: meerkat, aardvark, porcupine, bat-eared fox, aardwolf

• The Impossible Five: aardvark, cape mountain leopard, pangolin, riverine rabbit and white lion





The safari lodges are highly motivated to make sure you see the Big Five, because the first question you are often asked after you return from a Safari, is “Did you see the Big Five?” They would much prefer that you’ll be able to answer this question in the affirmative.





Keeping track of our big five tally, we crossed the cape buffalo and the elephant off the list yesterday, and today we would soon add the rhinoceros. Driving down one of the dirt roads, we came around a large bush and were surprised to see a large white rhino standing right there munching on some grass. There are also black rhinos in South Africa, but both white and black rhinos are gray. Here is a link to a video that shows the difference.





We have seen rhinos in zoos, and we’re always kept at a safe distance, with the rhino usually behind a moat or some other barrier. This rhino was no more than 15 feet away without any kind of barrier between us. The seemingly total indifference to our presence by all the animals we have seen so far was surprising. We have not seen any of them react to our presence with the exception of a young elephant we saw yesterday. I had expected that more animals might look up, turn their head in our direction, or at least in some manner acknowledge our presence.



The Crime Scene

 

Nick, our guide, jokingly referred to the impala that was killed by the leopard, as a “crime scene”. Finding the leopard responsible was our next objective. Driving down the roads we scoured the trees looking for signs of a leopard and after about 20 minutes having seen none, we stopped for our morning snack. A large termite mound was near where we stopped and we all posed for pictures with the mound in the background.







Continuing our search for the leopard, we spotted more zebras and then we received a radio call, that another group spotted the leopard in a tree and we are on our way to their location.





Spotting these cats in trees requires a practiced eye, and the trackers and guides do a marvelous job of picking them out as they are well camouflaged. Arriving near the other game drive vehicle, we stayed about 50 yards back giving them time to finish their observation. After about five minutes, the other vehicle left, and we moved into position underneath the tree. We were well off the road and as I mentioned earlier this is one of the advantages of being on a private game reserve as you are permitted to drive off road.





Once again, the leopard appeared totally indifferent to our presence, and never acknowledged that a group of seven humans was less than 30 feet away. The leopard was lying on a branch, sat up once and turned around, then lay down again. We learned later that people on other safaris were fortunate to see a leopard up in the tree with an impala that was recently killed. Nick was fairly certain that this leopard was the one that killed the impala we saw earlier that was stolen by the hyenas.



Leopard.jpg

 

 

On the way back to lodge, we came across a large herd of Cape Buffalo. A small baby, that was born earlier that day was just starting to get to his feet and walk. The baby was being sheltered by other Cape Buffalos but once again the animals appeared totally indifferent to our presence.



Breakfast

 

We arrived back at the lodge about 9 AM, in time for breakfast being served at 10 AM.



Breakfast consists of a buffet serving cereals, yogurts, juices, pastries, and breads. After we made our selections from the buffet, servers would come to our tables and take our order for eggs along with breakfast meats.





We finished breakfast about 11 AM. I headed back to the cabin and Judy stayed at the lodge and knit on her latest project. The afternoon game drive would start about 4 PM.





If we were interested, the lodge offered game walks in the early afternoon with one of the guides. We didn’t take advantage of this as we chose to rest rather than do more walking.



Afternoon Game Drive

 

Beautiful weather greeted us as we started our afternoon drive about 4 PM. Zebras were our first sighting but this time they were standing nose to tail in an interesting formation. Nick explained that they may use their tails to swat flies from each other’s faces or to help keep a lookout as they watch each other’s back.







Water holes are where you’ll find hippos. We always take time to drive by them slowly whenever one is nearby. Rarely venturing from the water, and we spotted a hippo swimming about 100 yards away. Fortunately, he opened his mouth and Margaret was able to grab a picture with her iPhone but unfortunately my camera was not in position, so I didn’t get a good shot. We waited around to see if the hippo would resurface but it didn’t.



Lions

 

As were driving off, we received a radio call that was in Afrikaans. We learned later that whenever one of the vehicles spots an animal of high interest, for example a lion or a leopard, they will communicate this to the other vehicles in their local Afrikaans language so not to get our hopes up about what we may get a chance to see. After we received the radio call, our driver told us to hold on and we took off down the dirt road driving faster than we have at any point so far during this trip.







After about 15 minutes of driving we slowed and entered a dry, sandy riverbed that had water only during the rainy season. Off in the distance there was another Safari vehicle observing what we would soon find out was a pride of lions. We stood back giving them time to finish their observation.





Once they left, we approach the lions who were all sound asleep. There was one big male with a mane, a smaller male yet to grow his mane, and two females. Nick explained lion behavior as we observed and remarked that people who photograph lions professionally spend a lot of time sitting around staring at sleeping lions. They may spend days watching lions and only get one or two interesting videos or photographs.





Even though the lions appeared sound asleep, Nick remarked that if an unlucky animal happened to wander nearby they would be on their feet and ready to attack within seconds. By now we are used to animals paying us no attention and we were becoming accustomed to being near wild animals. If we were in our private vehicles in Krueger we would be required to have our windows rolled up in a situation like this.





After about 10 minutes we decided to move on as the lions were showing no signs of doing anything other than sleep.



Elephants

 

Heading back, we came down a long, straight, dirt road. As we returned to our normal patrol area, we came across a half dozen elephants and of couple of kudus. It was fun to watch one of the young elephants try to work his trunk as he didn’t have the dexterity of the adults. He did try to mimic them as they ripped off branches and leaves from trees. After a while the youngster, unable to break the branches off, gave up and started to chew directly on the branches and pushed them in his mouth using his trunk.







The waterhole where we saw the hippo earlier, was our destination for our afternoon snack, and we were hoping we might find the same hippo again.



Afternoon Snack

 

During our afternoon snack break, Judy got a picture of her shawl for her Ravelry page. This project is from a kit she bought on our Perth Yarn Crawl. It’s a kit, by Katia yarns, is 100% cotton with 6 small balls of yarn in shades of pinky-coral that run from light to dark. She started this shawl on our flight to Siem Reap and brought it to knit the morning we sat on the wall to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat. After a quick ‘Cruise Ship’ blocking in our stateroom, she was happy to wear it on our Safari Game Drives. The kit is called Katia Ombré Cotton, the color she chose is S4. The pattern is free on Ravelry

HERE





Unfortunately, we didn’t spot it and we headed back towards the lodge once the sun went down. We probably spent 20 minutes driving around after dark but we have yet to see anything interesting after sunset.



Dinner

 

Back at the lodge, we had about 30 minutes in our cabins, before the guides stop by to escort us to the main lodge. After about 20 minutes of relaxing over drinks, the chef appeared, and she announced the evening menu: ostrich filet or a duck breast with broccoli cheddar soup. Nick had the evening off so one of the other guides joined us for dinner.







After dessert we headed back to our cabins ready to get some sleep for tomorrow would be another early day. Tomorrow would be our final day here with just one more game drive before leaving for the airport.





More pictures and videos on the blog.

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Day 89 – Kambaku River Sands – Safari Day 4 - April 3, 2018

 

More pictures on the blog

 

 

Video

 

Morning Game Drive

 

 

 

 

This morning we stayed in our cabin until a few minutes before 5 AM and went directly to the admin building to join the game drive. It saved us walking to the other end of the compound to get a cup of coffee when I realize I could make a cup of coffee in my room with the coffee maker.



 

Game drives are like “a box of chocolates” as Forest Gump would say: you never know what you’re going to see. I would’ve thought that we would see the same animals in the same spots more than once, but on each game drive the animals we saw were different and in different locations.

 

This morning we saw a tower of giraffes right out of the gate. We have seen giraffes on every game drive, but we have not yet seen any baby or younger giraffes, they all seem to be full-size. As tall as giraffes are, you’d think that they be easier to spot at some distance, but they are concealed extremely well by the trees they are munching on.

 

Continuing, we spotted some elephants off in the distance and we drove off road to investigate. As if out of nowhere, we were in the midst of about 50 elephants. The herd included one large bull, and about a dozen youngsters. It was quite impressive to be in the middle of this herd and watch the elephants move slowly off to the west. We tried to count and after about 50 it was difficult because we are probably counting some twice. Rick was quite confident with his count of 64 and this became a running joke for the rest of the morning.

One baby was nursing from his mother and others were scratching their butts on trees. Once again the elephants were totally disinterested in our presence and didn’t appear to react to our vehicle. This was probably the highlight of our game drives to be surrounded by so many elephants all going on about their normal business. We spent about 30 minutes driving around and through the heard before we headed off in a new direction.

 

The ever present impalas and zebras were spotted as we continued on in search of predator animals.

The radio chirped and when we heard Afrikaans being spoken instead of English we knew we might be in for a treat. Nick informed us that the leopard we saw yesterday was spotted in a tree several miles away and we raced off to get a look.

Along the way we came across another Safari vehicle, from a different lodge, that was filled with children. The only adults were the guide and tracker. We stopped so Nick could talk to their driver. The children were bubbling with excitement and couldn’t contain themselves when they all talked excitingly about the leopard they had just seen. At first we wondered where the parents were and then we saw the parents when their safari vehicle pulled up on our other side. If you look at the video at the beginning this post you’ll see a few seconds were we captured the kids enthusiasm.

 

This leopard sighting was a repeat of the day before. We stood off for about 10 minutes while the other vehicle completed their observation and then we moved into position. After about 10 minutes another vehicle arrived and we moved on.

 

After our midmorning break and snack we continued on driving around water holes looking for a hippo and we spotted one in the water with just his head above the surface. They almost look like an alligator because all we could see was it’s eyes and the snout. This one never opened his mouth so we never had a chance to see more than the top of his head.

 

Doug, our tracker, has an amazing ability spot even the smallest animal. On more than one occasion he would raise his hand, Nick would stop, and he would point out some small chipmunk, tortoise or something equally small. This time he pointed out a tortoise and we got to watch it walk across the road and off into the grass.

Around the next corner we came across a herd of the Cape Buffalo walking across the road. Once again there was a white rhino nearby. They must hang out together.

 

A couple of wildebeest stared at us as we drove by on our way back to the lodge. Our final sighting of our safari, moving amongst the wildebeest, was an African warthog made famous in the movie Lion King as the character Pumbaa.



Leaving Kambaku River Sands

 

Checkout time was 11 AM which was the same time our driver would pick us up to take us to the Hoedspruit airport.



 

Throughout our stay we noticed an array of solar panels several hundred yards from the main admin building. The manager offered to give us a tour and we accepted. Kambuku River Sands is working hard to be totally self-sustaining. Energy collected in the solar array provides a significant portion of their energy. A neighboring lodge about 10 miles away, under the same management, is totally self-sufficient made possible because they don’t have air conditioning. A building next to the array contains a couple dozen batteries to store energy and a generator that is used to augment the solar power when necessary.

 

Back in our cabin, we finished packing, and Nick and Doug came by to carry our bags to the main lodge to meet our driver. One nice feature of Kambuku River Sands is that you have the same guide and tracker for your entire visit. This way they know what you’ve seen and your interests.

 

Our van driver went by King George. He was chatty, friendly and gave us a lot of interesting information as we drove on our 40-minute drive to the Hoedspruit airport. The airport is quite small, with only six flights a day. We arrived about an hour and a half before our scheduled takeoff.



Flying to Cape Town

 

We checked in at a small counter in the lobby of the terminal where they insisted on weighing our carry-on bags. Since they weighed more than 15 pounds each, they wanted to check them both. We managed to convince them to only check one bag and we would hand carry the bag that contained our laptop and meds.



 

The terminal has a few souvenir shops with a small snack bar. About 45 minutes before takeoff we went through the security which consisted of a metal detector and x-ray machine. About 20 minutes before scheduled takeoff we headed out to the airplane walking on the ramp and up the mobile stairway as this airport is way too small to have jetways. Our aircraft was a 74 passenger Bombardier – Dash 8 Q 400 turboprop.

 

We weren’t quite sure what to expect on South African Airlines but as it turned out the service was fabulous. Everything was complementary including beer and wine. We were served a light snack which consisted of marinated meat, vegetables, cheese, crackers and an apricot Danish. After the first food-service the flight attendants continued to walk up and down the aisles offering more beverages, potato chips or other snacks. The flight was smooth and we landed about 20 minutes early at 3:45 PM.

 

Cape Town airport was much larger than Hoedspruit airport. Our plane parked way out on a ramp and a shuttlebus came out to take us to the terminal. Our bags were delivered within 15 minutes after the airplane was parked. We had arranged for a shuttle bus from Citi Shuttles and our driver was waiting for us with a sign with my name and we were soon on our way. I highly recommend Citi Shuttles for any local transportation requirements you may have in Cape Town.



Back on the Ship

 

We arrived at the cruise terminal 25 minutes later. There was no immigration since we were already in South Africa, but we did go through standard security in the terminal before getting on the ship. We were in our cabin about 5 o’clock.



 

Waiting for us in the cabin was a bottle wine from the Mariners event that we missed along with the Waterford Crystal Sugar Bowl that was a gift given out during the Mariners ceremony.

 

For the rest afternoon we unpacked, took a nap and then headed up to the Lido pool to soak in the hot tubs.

We joined our table again at 8 PM, and we heard the stories of the ship’s late arrival to Cape Town due to another ship that didn’t leave on time and was blocking our berth. This caused a several hour delay which caused many of the ships tours to have to be rearranged. It just goes to show that even in a port with modern facilities, not tendering and no poor weather, and you can still have delays.

 

There wasn’t a show tonight so after dinner we went back to our cabin to get ready for our tour tomorrow.



A few notes about the Safari.

 

We scheduled our Safari for four days because that’s the time that was available between Maputo and Cape Town. As it turns out our four day, three night Safari was about the right length of time for us. After our fifth game drive it started to get a little repetitive and even though each drive was different and we were seeing animals in a different setting, unless you know you are a Safari aficionado I would recommend 3 to 4 days maximum. The safari was an amazing experience and is one of the highlights of the cruise. If you have never been on a safari - DO IT.







I might do it again given the chance, but if my time was limited in South Africa, I would probably consider other options first.

Edited by The-Inside-Cabin

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Day 90 - April 4th - Cape Town, South Africa

 

More pictures on the blog

 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

 

The Amsterdam would have a special guest this afternoon, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who would receive the first Shared Humanity Award from Holland America in recognition of a lifetime championing equality and peace. The event was scheduled for 4:30 PM in the Queens Lounge. It was announced that Archbishop Tutu, while present, would not be speaking. Orlando Ashford and Robert V Taylor, a friend and colleague of Archbishop Tutu, and president of the Desmond Tutu peace foundation, would both be making some remarks. Unfortunately, we would be on our all day private excursion and would miss this special opportunity. The event was recorded and we were able to watch it on the TV in our cabin when we returned this evening.

Today's Plan

 

Our private tour would make a big loop to the Cape of Good Hope, with stops at the following points along the way:



St. James Beach:

This is where they have some colorful beach changing huts like the Brighton Beach boxes near Melbourne Australia. We saw those on our 2016 World Cruise. You can read about that day here and here

• Boulder Beach and the Penguin colony: more about that HERE

Cape of Good Hope:

Natural Yarns: this is an online yarn retailer. I contacted the proprietor, Gina Ross, and she invited us to stop by her house where she runs her business and has a retail display.

Chapmans Peak view spot:

• Mariners Wharf’s: Wharfette Bistro for lunch HERE and HERE

Table Mountain



Transportation Options

 

I chartered a 13-passenger van from

Citi shuttles, which is the same company I used for the airport transfer after coming back from our Safari. The total for the van was about US$370. With seven in our group, the cost was about $55. per person. Other options I considered were the Cape Town Hop On - Hop Off bus which runs a trip to Cape of Good Hope and an outfit called Exclusive Cape Town Tours. I went with Citi shuttles because their price for a 13-passenger van was the same as others for only a seven-passenger van. Whenever I do a private tour I always try to get a bigger van than required so we all have more space to spread out.



Starting Out

 

Our driver, Jan, was waiting for us at 8 AM outside the cruise terminal.



 

As we headed off towards our first stop, St. James Beach, Jan suggested that we drive by some colorful houses in an area called Bo-Kaap. When slaves were liberated back in 1834, developers built houses in this area. They were painted bright colors to express the freedom of the new homeowners. Preservation began in 1943 when 15 houses were restored by a group of citizens.

 

On the way to St. James Beach, we drove up to a view spot where we discovered a small outpost with a shark spotter, Liesel Benjamin. Liesel maintains a watch over the water below and keeps a sharp lookout for sharks alerting swimmers using beach flags as well as posting warnings on a web site. Shark Spotters is an organization that works to “find a balance between recreational water users safety and white shark conservation” more about them HERE.



St James Beach

 

St. James Beach is on the body of water called False Bay, which is huge. You can’t see across so it looks as if you’re on the ocean. The main feature of St. James Beach are the colorful changing huts right on the sand. Unlike the changing huts we found in Australia, these are open to the public and only used for changing. Individuals can’t use these as day shelters. There was an interesting sign near the entrance to the beach that cautioned visitors that this area was known to have robberies, so everyone should stay alert and to report any suspicious activity.





Boulder Beach and Penguins

 

Boulder Beach was our next stop, home to an African Penguin colony. We didn’t realize it at the time but when we were dropped off at Boulder Beach we were about 3/10 of a mile away from the Penguin colony, which is part of the Table Mountain national Park. As we walked down the path that connects Boulder Beach to the Penguin colony entrance we spotted numerous penguins along the small fence bordering the path. Had we known the precise location of the Penguin colony entrance we could have parked much closer and saved ourselves some walking.



 

Admission to the penguin colony is 76 Rand or about $5.75.

 

Once inside, we followed a path for about 200 yards to an observation area overlooking the beach. We were pleasantly surprised to see that there were hundreds of penguins on the beaches near the observation areas. It was well worth the time, money and walking to see them. We spent about an hour here, including all the time walking from our original drop off spot to the Penguin colony. If you started at the spot closer to the Penguin colony entrance you would probably only need 30 minutes.





Penguin.jpg



 

Cape of Good Hope

 

Back in the van, it was another 40 minutes to get to the Cape of Good Hope. Admission to this park is 147 Rand or about $11. We were only going to the Cape of Good Hope, but Cape Point is here as well and the admission allowed us access to both. There wasn’t much of a line when our vehicle stopped to pay the admission, but as we were leaving, the line had inexplicably grown to over 100 cars.



 

There isn’t much to see at the Cape other than a sign marking the spot as the most southwesterly spot on the African Continent. The view of the ocean is amazing, and this marks the spot where the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean meet. If you have more time, there are some trails leading up a nearby hill that probably offer views toward Cape Point and the Indian Ocean.

 

Everyone took turns posing for pictures behind the sign and our photo is shown here:



Natural Yarns

 

Natural Yarns, in the town call Imhoff’s Gift was our next stop and was about 45 minutes away. As we were leaving the Cape of Good Hope, we spotted a female ostrich along the side of the road. I was surprised to see an ostrich as I didn’t think they were in this area.



 

Note: Imhoff’s Gift was named after Cape Commissioner Baron Gustav Wilhelm van Imhoff. He gifted the land where the town, Imhoff’s Gift, is located to farmer Christina Rousseau in the mid 1700’s as a thank you for her efforts to supply ships with fresh produce.

 

On the way to Imhoff’s Gift we stopped by two spectacular view points: Noordhoek Beach/Chapmans Bay and Chapman’s Peak.

 

Gina Ross runs the online only yarn shop called “Natural Yarns” from her home in Imhoff’s Gift. We contacted Gina before the cruise and she was willing to open up her home, where she has one room set up as a retail space, for the yarn shoppers in our group: Judy, Margaret, Peggy … and Rick. Gina features yarns that are locally sourced and dyed most notably merinos, cottons and mohair yarns. South Africa is known for mohair that is harvested twice a year from the angora goat. Judy assisted Rick in selecting yarn to be shipped to his Mom in California.



Lunch

 

The Wharfette Bistro, part of Mariner’s Wharf in Houts Bay, was our choice for lunch. Their specialty is “Fish and Chips.” Orders are placed at a counter where you then wait for your food which you can either take away or eat at one of the picnic tables outside on the covered patio.





Table Mountain

 

Our final stop was Table Mountain. Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain overlooking Cape Town, rising 3,500 feet above sea level. The top of the mountain is flat, hence the name Table Mountain. Most visitors take the cableway to get to the top, but some folks hike up using a variety of trails and starting points – more about hiking

HERE

 

The weather on Table Mountain can change quickly and the top is often covered with clouds even when the rest of the city is clear. The clouds that cover Table Mountain are referred to as the Tablecloth. Check out the current conditions HERE which will also tell you if the cableway is operating and give an estimate of the waiting time to go up as well as come down. Waiting times can exceed 90 minutes each way so be prepared for some long waits. You can save some time by buying your tickets online in advance which allows you to bypass the line to buy tickets and proceed directly to the line for the 65 passenger cable cars.

 

We arrived around 5 PM and even though there was no line for the cable car, there were about 50 people in front of us to buy tickets. I pulled out my iPad and using the free Wi-Fi in the area, I was able to buy tickets on line (price 293 Rand or about $22) and “print” the image to my iPad and save the image as a screen shot. The tickets had bar codes which they scanned off my iPad.

 

The ride to the top takes about 5 minutes. It doesn’t matter where you stand in the cable car as the floor rotates several times on the way up, so you will get a view of every direction regardless of where you begin.

Once at the top, there are a lot of trails to explore, all with amazing views of Cape Town below. A gift shop, restaurant and coffee bar are also available, along with free Wi-Fi.

 

We arrived at the top around 5:15 PM and spent about 45 minutes wandering around the various viewpoints. If there hadn’t been a line for the cable car to go down, we probably would have left right then, but at 6pm the line was listed at 90 minutes, which meant we would be ready to go down at 7:30 which was the time of the last cable car. Sitting in the coffee bar lounge watching the sunset was more appealing than standing in line, especially since they stopped letting people up in the cable car so the line wasn’t going to get any longer. About 7:20 PM we headed back to the line, which was down to about 10 minutes and headed back to the bottom.



Back to the Ship

 

UBER was available, and a car picked us up in a few minutes. Uber and taxi fares are inexpensive here, so don’t hesitate to use them. Be prepared with local currency as the cabs we used didn’t take credit cards.



 

The UBER driver dropped us off at the cruise terminal a little after 8 PM. By the time we went thru security and got back our cabin it was 8:15 – a little to late to join our table for dinner. We opted to head to the LIDO pool and soak in the hot tub.

 

Afterwards we got cleaned up and headed to the LIDO for a late night snack and then back to our cabin for the evening.

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I really appreciate your meticulous details.

Thank you for sharing so much, while taking us along.

Barbara

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I really appreciate your meticulous details.

Thank you for sharing so much, while taking us along.

Barbara

You're Welcome - thanks for following. I try to write these so they are useful for people planning to visit these ports.

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Day 91 – April 5th, Cape Town South Africa

 

Pictures and Videos on the Blog

After getting up early for most of the last week, we slept in this morning and left the ship around noon. The skies were clear blue but looking over at table Mountain there is a small clump of clouds at the summit right over the viewing area. If you have an interest in going to the top of Table Mountain you want to do it whenever you see a clearing, because if you wait you may find the cable car closed or the weather and visibility not suitable.

 

Bunny Chow

 

While researching Cape Town for this trip I discovered two local dishes that I was anxious to try: Bunny Chow and the Gatsby sandwich. Bunny Chow, is a quarter loaf of bread that’s hollowed out and filled with a curry of lamb, chicken or vegetable. Bunny Chow was created in Durban, South Africa and is quite popular with Indians. The Gatsby, is a large submarine type sandwich, with a loaf of bread sliced lengthwise, hollowed out, and filled with a variety of ingredients with the common ingredient to all Gatsbys being French fries. We’ve read that a Gatsby can easily feed two people.

 

Unfortunately, we would only have time today to sample one, and we chose Bunny Chow which was featured at the Eastern Food Bazaar.

 

The Bizarre was about two miles away from the Amsterdam. We hailed an Uber which came in seven minutes. Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the Eastern Food Bazaar.

 

The Eastern Food Bazaar is an Indian food court featuring a variety of Indian cuisines. There were probably four or five different stalls each featuring a different style of Indian food. After checking them out, there was one which featured Bunny Chow. This was not a typical tourist spot, as the clientele seemed mainly local.

 

Ordering was a little confusing. At first, I waited in line and asked the server behind the counter for Bunny Chow but he said I needed to pay in advance and then give him the receipt ticket. Each item on the large menu behind each stall has an adjacent number. After noting the number of the Bunny Chow we wanted, I waited in line, paid the cashier who gave me a receipt that I then handed it to the server behind the counter. The price for one order of Bunny Chow was 55 Rand (US$4.00).

 

We ordered the chicken Bunny Chow which was served with a side salad and rice. One order was enough for the both of us. There is a lot of bread and we probably ate about half. The food was mildly spicy, hot and very good. We spent about 25 minutes here before heading out to the street to order another Uber to take us to the Victoria and Alfred (V and A) waterfront back near the ship. Here is a link to a map of the waterfront area.

 

V and A Waterfront

 

The V and A waterfront has a large shopping mall and a variety of other shops, restaurants and outdoor plazas to explore. This is the destination of the ship’s shuttle bus. One strategy if you didn’t feel like walking as much would be to take the ship’s shuttle bus to the V and A Mall and then walk back to the ship which is just under a mile away. Not easily seen on the map is a swinging bridge over a small canal which connects the waterfront to the wharf area. The swinging bridge is about 3/10 of a mile from the ship. This entire area is filled with tourists and is quite safe.

 

We had the Uber drop us off near The Watershed, which is a large open building filled with a variety of stalls, each featuring a different vendor. Featuring local craftsmen, this is a good spot to shop for souvenirs or other local goods. A yarn shop called cowgirlblues has a small shop here, which we discovered after wandering around for about 10 minutes.

 

Cowgirlblues Yarn Shop

 

Cowgirlblues is a Cape Town based dye house and design studio. Specializing in South African wool and mohair, they sell yarn and a selection of scarves, shawls and socks. Judy bought some Merino Lace and some Kidsilk (a mohair and silk blend) in two colors; Cobalt and Faded Rose.

 

There were a lot of interesting shops and you could easily spend an hour to wander about. We needed to get back to the ship, so we made our way to the exit and headed towards the swinging bridge.

 

Nobel Square

 

Along the way we came across Nobel Square, featuring statues of the four South Africans who have won the Nobel prize: Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela. There was a one-man band playing an interesting style of music using a didgeridoo, guitar and keyboard. We watched for a few minutes before moving on.

It was a beautiful day, and while walking back to the ship, we noticed that Table Mountain had finally cleared up so it would be a spectacular view from the top.

 

Back on the Ship

 

Back on the ship we had about an hour before our fourth and final muster drill for this cruise. Muster drills for long cruises are held once a month.

 

Mania and Gossip

 

You’ll recall that several weeks ago we placed a bid during the silent auction for drinks with Connor and Michael from the HAL orchestra, which they advertised would feature mania and gossip. This evening was the night we agreed to meet in the Crow’s Nest. It was fun chatting with Connor and Michael, and they didn’t disappoint with the mania or the gossip. The featured drink was the Wang Wang along with some very tasty hors d’oeuvres. We didn’t get much juicy gossip but we did enjoy hearing about what goes on sometimes during the one-hour rehearsals prior to the evening’s performance. Michael brought several party hats and his recorder and offered to play a song of my request. I asked him to play in In A Gadda Da Vida, by the Iron Butterfly, first performed in 1968. (Here is a

to that performance.) Michael wasn’t familiar with the song but after I played it for him on my phone he picked it up very quickly and performed a nice rendition. Here is a short video of our mania and gossip hour.

 

Our happy hour ended a few minutes before 8 o’clock and we headed straight to the main dining room where Michael would be our guest for dinner. We enjoyed his company very much as did the rest of Table 303.

 

Alan Committee

 

Comedian Alan Committee was featured in the Queen’s Lounge this evening. Alan put on a solid performance, that was quite entertaining. He was one of the better comedians this cruise. A native of South Africa, he mentioned that this was his first performance on a cruise ship, any cruise ship as he spent most of his time previously doing comedy clubs throughout South Africa, the United Kingdom, Los Angeles and New York. He plans to tour Australia later this year so if you’re in the area he’s definitely worth seeking out.

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You're Welcome - thanks for following. I try to write these so they are useful for people planning to visit these ports.

Would like to echo our gratitude for your thoughtful, detailed, well written reports and wonderful pictures.

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Would like to echo our gratitude for your thoughtful, detailed, well written reports and wonderful pictures.

 

Thanks - appreciate the feedback

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Day 92 - At Sea - April 6th

 

 

It was nice to have a sea day, after almost a straight week of being in port.







No Coffee Chat this morning because there was a crew emergency training drill.





We stuck to our routine: Me playing Hold-em twice and losing both tournaments. Judy went to the Crow’s Nest with the knitting group.





I spent most of the day in the cabin editing our safari video and going thru the hundreds of still pictures, culling them down to 30 of the best.





Brett Cave was in the Queen’s Lounge this evening. We missed his first show back on April 2nd, since we were on safari. Brett sings and plays the piano, putting on a high energy show that showcases his powerful vocals.





Pictures and videos on the blog

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Day 93, Walvis Bay, Namibia - April 7th

 

Namibia looked bleak from the ship as the first lines went across to start our mooring to the commercial wharf here in Walvis Bay. Off in the distance I could make out some of the sand dunes that are a feature of some of the available excursions. Closer to the ship were some warehouses, cranes and other items to help load and unload ships. A couple hundred yards away was the first gate where the ship’s shuttle buses were staged. Several hundred yards further down was the second gate which stopped most car traffic. A temporary craft market was set up along the roadside outside the second gate. There is some question as to whether we would be allowed to walk through the commercial port area at all. In some commercial ports we must take a shuttle bus directly from the bottom of the gangway. As it turned out passengers could walk completely out of the port here if they so choose.

 

Immigration

 

The first step today would be to clear Namibian immigration. They required a face-to-face review of our passports. We docked around 8 AM and the officials were late getting on board. Some people with early private excursions were starting to sweat since they hadn’t anticipated long delays getting off the ship, particularly in a non-tender port.

 

Yesterday we were given letters describing the immigration process along with a number to indicate the order in which we would see the immigration officials. As usual they start off with the letter S for the suite people and Present’s Club members. I also suspect that the people on Holland America tours were given a low number as well. We had number six but since we did not have a tour arranged and hadn’t really planned to get off the ship early our number didn’t really matter.

 

Progress was slower than expected as our number wasn’t called until 9:30 AM. Final call for everyone was 10:45 AM. For those planning to stay on the ship, there was no need to go through immigration. When we went to the Explorer’s Lounge when our number was called, there were several people super anxious to get off and were trying to get into the line before their number was called. Christel, the guest relations manager, was monitoring the line and turned several people away who had gotten in line before their number had been called. A few managed to sneak by or if they were especially insistent were able to get themselves cleared.

 

Future cruisers note, when in Walvis Bay plan your shore excursion meeting times accordingly, to accommodate potential delay in immigration. At a minimum I would set your expectations with your tour company that your arrival time may vary based on the speed of the immigration.

 

Shuttle Bus

 

We left the ship around 12:30 PM and walked out to the first gate where we would catch the shuttle bus. There was probably a half-dozen people waiting in no particular line. But since it was such a small group it didn’t really matter as everyone got onto the next shuttle bus. We did learn later that earlier in the day there was a real mob scene for the first shuttle buses with no one from the ship providing any order, so it was a free-for-all. The shuttle buses were not on any schedule and they weren’t a standard size. Some of the buses had a capacity of 40 passengers while others had a capacity of 15 people. The daily When and Where advertised that the shuttlebus would go to the Dunes Mall and then to the Lagoon Waterfront. There was the usual caveat that the shuttlebus schedules, routes and destinations were subject to change without notice. Sure enough it appeared each driver would decide based on the passengers or some other criteria whether or not to go to the Lagoon or simply to the Dunes Mall.

 

As we were waiting for the next shuttlebus, several passengers and crew members were walking back from the second or further gate and told us that there was a craft market right outside and was probably less than a quarter mile away. We learned later that it was about a mile walk to the Lagoon waterfront and several passengers did make the trip on foot.

 

Dunes Mall

 

One of the smaller shuttle buses arrived shortly, and we are soon on our way to the Dunes Mall, about 3 ½ miles away. On the way out, we passed the tourist information center which was about a 1 mile walk from the ship. I was surprised that we didn’t see any taxis or the usual group of people selling tours outside either gate. We learned later that the city has been cracking down on taxis and vendors to avoid unscrupulous people hassling the tourists. The good news is you won’t get hassled as you leave the gate unless you choose to wander down the side of the street where the temporary craft market is located. But the bad news is if you’re expecting to find a taxi or get a last-minute tour on the wharf, you’re probably not going to find anyone available.

 

With all the warnings about West African countries, we expected a situation closer to Maputo than the very nice and clean city we discovered. This isn’t much of a tourist city and there’s not a whole lot going on in Walvis Bay itself, but it appeared very safe and I wouldn’t hesitate to walk around by myself.

 

The Dunes Mall opened in October 2017 and is very modern. There were a few taxis in the parking lot of the Mall, but they were not actively soliciting rides. There wasn’t any taxi stand nor did we see many taxis driving around the city at all.

 

Here is a schematic of the Dunes Mall along with a link to their website and a list of the stores. Namibia has their own currency but the stores in the mall all readily accepted South African Rand, US dollars or Euros. Your change, however, will be in the local Namibian currency.

 

We walked from one end of the mall and back taking a quick spin through the grocery store which we always find interesting to see what types of products are for sale in various countries. We did notice a can of Coca-Cola labeled with the words “San Diego”. After about an hour of wandering through the mall we headed back to the shuttlebus stop which left shortly after we arrived. Our next stop would be the Lagoon waterfront. We weren’t quite sure where the Lagoon waterfront was located, and my reviews of the available maps didn’t make its location clear. There is a map on the blog that shows the various points of interest.

 

Lagoon Waterfront

 

The Lagoon waterfront has two souvenir shops, a couple of restaurants, and a few smaller huts that were selling various souvenir items. If you’re looking for T-shirts, keychains and other logo items this is where you’ll find them as we didn’t see tourist items In the Dunes Mall.

 

A small boat arrived at a nearby pier that was filled with ships passengers returning from one of the HAL shore excursions. We learned later that this was the Dolphin and Seal Safari – this was a $139.95 tour (4 hours) that cruised Walvis Bay Lagoon and advertised “you will observe seals and other wildlife.” Here is a photo of the boat that was used – looks crowded – but everyone we spoke with loved this excursion.

 

We spent about 45 minutes browsing the souvenir shops and grabbed the next shuttle heading back to the ship, arriving around 3 PM.

 

Back on the Ship

 

Once back on the ship, we had to clear immigration again. We headed down to the Explorers Lounge but when we saw how long the line was, stretching all way back through the casino, we decided to go to the MYO Choir’s performance in the Queen’s Lounge and go to immigration later.

 

The Mondesa Youth Opportunities (MYO) was the charity that the ship supported with the silent auction, raising over $9,000. More about the MYO HERE

 

The MYO choir consisted of about a dozen youngsters probably aged 10 through 16 and they put on a wonderful show. They played several different styles of xylophones, some looked like the planks were the size of a 2 x 4.

 

On the way back to the cabin there wasn’t much of a line for immigration, so we breezed through and cleared our departure requirement.

 

Brazilian Navy

 

Up on deck I noticed the Brazilian Navy corvette “Amazonas”, a 300-foot-long, 2,000 ton offshore patrol vessel was moored at an adjacent berth. The Amazonas was built by BAE Systems in Portsmouth VA. Walvis Bay is the headquarters for the Namibian Navy which has 4 patrol craft, a corvette and a logistics support ship. The Brazil Navy has a long-standing military cooperation agreement with Namibia to enhance their shared interest in the security of the South Atlantic Ocean.

 

Evening onboard

 

During dinner we heard about two tours that got great reviews: One was the tour to Swakopmund, a town about 25 miles north of Walvis Bay. The other was the 4 x 4 excursion to the dunes, but the ride was very bumpy so bear that in mind. I would consider arranging for a taxi to take us to Swakopmund for a few hours the next time we are in Walvis Bay.

 

The food in the main dining room was the standard Holland America fare, but up in the Lido they had advertised an African Braai cook in. Braai is a South African term for what we would call a barbecue cookout in United States.

 

There were no guest entertainers tonight in the Queens Lounge since we were leaving late, but they did have a local Namibian cultural show. The show consisted of rhythmic dancing, playing along with a variety of percussion instruments.

 

Namibian-Culture-Show.jpg

Edited by The-Inside-Cabin

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Day 94 – At Sea - April 8th

 

Walvis Bay turned out to be a very nice port, even though we didn’t do very much except visit the mall and the Lagoon Waterfront. On a future visit we look forward to taking advantage of other opportunities. The outlook for our upcoming African ports wasn’t quite so rosy. We received a rather dire letter today from Capt. Mercer outlining the various precautions we should take when visiting our upcoming African ports: Luanda, Banjul, Dakar and Praia. You can read a copy of the letter here. After reading this letter, and listen to Barbara’s port talk, we were almost ready to hide in our cabin and never go ashore.

 

We are signed up for a HAL tour in Angola, but we have heard stories about even people on HAL tours getting hassled. We’re never sure about how old those reports are or if there are any other extenuating circumstances. Nevertheless, we will maintain extra vigilance when we are going ashore in the next several ports.

 

Coffee Chat

 

The guest for coffee chat this morning was Shiv Charan, the Executive Housekeeper. Shiv is in charge of all the cabin stewards as well as the laundry. One interesting tidbit was that he asked for and received six extra people for the laundry on the World Cruise because there are so many Four Star Mariners and above who get complementary laundry. Shiv hails from Delhi, India, and has been with Holland America for 10 years. He has been on other cruise lines since 1996 and on HAL ships for the last 10 years. Prior to cruise ships he worked ashore in hotels for 11 years.

 

Around the Ship

 

Judy went to knitting this morning and in the afternoon we both worked on editing pictures. I continued to work on some videos for the cruise director, Hamish. Hamish is putting together an end of cruise video and he was looking for videos of ship activities that I have shot; like the SailAway parties.

 

Dinner this evening had Sautéed Calf’s Liver with Apples and Pancetta as one of the choices. I’m not a big fan of liver and neither was anyone at our table. I know that some people enjoy liver and I tried to find out how many dishes of liver were served. No one was talking, and I couldn’t get the answer.

 

Jo Little

 

Jo Little was the guest entertainer in the Queens lounge this evening. She’s billed as a singer but she’s also a comedian. About half of her 45-minute show she tells jokes through the form of long stories. Then she sings songs the rest of the time. Her shows are very entertaining, even though it did take us by surprise as we were expecting 45 minutes of only singing. We learned later from talking with the HAL musicians that backed her up that her early show was different than her late show and that during rehearsal they only rehearsed the songs and not the half of the show that was jokes. This made them be on their toes since they weren’t quite sure when the songs would start and end.

 

More pictures on the blog

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One evening on our last cruise, five of us ordered the liver & onions at our table. DH was the only one who missed out and ordered something else.

Barbara

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One evening on our last cruise, five of us ordered the liver & onions at our table. DH was the only one who missed out and ordered something else.

 

Barbara

 

 

 

Thanks for the feedback. How was the liver? I think it only appeared once in 113 days during our cruise....

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk Pro

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We had it a couple of times during our 57 days on the Volendam. The liver & onions were delicious.

Barbara

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Day 95 - At Sea - April 9th

 

Coffee Chat

 

Grand Voyages, particularly the Grand World Voyage, have more onboard activities than your normal Holland America cruise. One of those is resident clergy. Today during Coffee Chat, all three of the clergy were guests: Rabbi Gan, Father Murphy, and Reverend Von Heyking. Hamish asked them one by one how they came to be on the cruise ships. They all had different but similar stories. The common theme was generally that their first contract was on relatively short notice. Someone had to back out, a replacement was needed quickly and one of their acquaintances gave them a call and ask if they were available to cruise on short notice. After their first contract they realized it was a good fit and the rest is history.

 

Art Auctions

 

Several activities that are common on shorter cruises are missing on the Grand World Voyage. The two most obvious are art auctions and Black Label Photography. The art auctions will not make an appearance until after the Amsterdam leaves drydock May 12, but the Black label photographer arrived in Cape Town and started to advertise that service. I don’t expect them to get much business, but it’s probably viewed as a way for a photographer to gain experience before the busy Alaska season.

 

Talent Show Signup

 

Toward the end of the cruise, there’ll be a guest Talent show. In the Where and When today they announced that they will be accepting sign-ups in the piano bar at 10 AM. Pretty much anything goes as long as it’s under three minutes. There isn’t any quality cut and there aren’t any auditions. Everyone who wants to perform is given an opportunity. Singers who require piano accompaniment are allowed a short time to collaborate with Connor who will be playing the piano during the talent show.

 

Drawing Class and Movies

 

One of the ongoing controversies all cruise was the conflict between the Drawing Class and the 3 o’clock movie which are both held in the Wajang Theater. The drawing class starts at 1:30 PM and ends at 2:15 PM while the movie starts at 3 PM. You would think that a 45 minute break between events would be enough to deconflict these two activities. But many people want to arrive an hour early for the movie and sit in empty seats but are disruptive to the drawing class which is still in progress. In some cases the movie people have even asked the drawing people to move so the movie people could sit in their preferred seats. That’s one of the problems made worse when everyone has a book read or an iPad to play games on. They don’t mind arriving extra early for events when it’s so easy to pass the time while waiting in any venue.

 

Gala Night

 

The dress code tonight was Gala. In addition to the normal Gala Night trappings, tonight’s theme was “Out of Africa” with the waitstaff wearing African safari garb. Large-screen TVs were near the entrance to the dining room playing scenes from the movie Out Of Africa. Adagio, the piano and violin duet, were playing background music from the station behind the entrance on Deck five. There is a short video clip of their performance on the blog.

 

 

Adagio.jpg

 

Gala night means that we have one of the small square menus, usually with some form of the lobster available and we usually have someone from the ship’s staff to host our table. Marco Arnout, one of the ships second officers, was our host this evening. It is quite unusual to get a deck officer, so we were quite pleased to have him hosting our table this evening. Marco has been with Holland America for 10 years. His contracts are three months on – three months off.

 

Bruce Parker

 

Bruce Parker, California Soul Man, was the featured guest entertainer in the Queens lounge this evening. He sang many of the classic Motown hits and put on a marvelous show. Bruce is an incredible entertainer with a great voice and a captivating stage presence. Some of the songs he performed included:

 

• How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You

• Stand by Me

• (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay

• Three Times a Lady

• Unchained Melody

• My Girl

 

Don’t miss Bruce Parker if you find him performing at a venue near you.

Edited by The-Inside-Cabin

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