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Stow Away with Bill & Mary Ann for 181 days on Amsterdam's So. Pacific & 2020 WC

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On 11/3/2019 at 8:08 AM, WCB said:

Report #8   Day at Sea Enroute to Hawaii   November 2, 2019   Saturday   Mostly sunny & 78 degrees   42  Pictures   Part #1 Of 1

Bill & Mary Ann


PS  To answer the question asked, yes, Dolly is here.



4 hours ago, Oak Hill Cruisers said:

Great reporting, as per usual.  But we have to again ask; is Dolly aboard?  She was on the 2018 WC with us.  Just curious as to if she is continuing her 30+ years of literally living on the ms Amsterdam.

See post #56

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19 hours ago, WCB said:

Report #12   Hilo, Hawaii   November 6, 2019   Wednesday   Cloudy & 85 degrees    79 Pictures     Part #1 Of 2


The “Big Island” of Hawaii has it all. With 4,028 square miles, it is larger than all of the islands combined.  You’ll never see it all in one day.  Most visitors stay on the western coast around Kona due to the fact there are nice beaches, restaurants, and shops located there.  On the eastern side is the island’s capital, Hilo  Their population is about 43,000, and they get around 130 inches of rain a year.  That’s what creates the brilliant green rain forests, waterfalls, and fertile valleys. 


Kilauea Volcano and Park is a must-see.  It is only 30 miles from Hilo.  Just don’t take a piece of volcanic rock for a souvenir, or you may be haunted, according to Hawaiian folklore.


Our port of call today was Hilo.  Looking from the top deck of the ship, we could see both Mauna Kea at 13,796 feet in elevation, and Mauna Loa, the most massive mountain on the planet.  Who knew???  The summit rises 56,000 feet located beneath the floor of the Pacific Ocean.  Then Mauna Loa rises 13,677 feet above sea level.


Another famous event occurred here back in 1779, when Captain Cook met his fate with an attack by the natives.  A monument marks the spot where this occurred, and just happens to be one of the best places to snorkel.  We recall having a meeting with spinner dolphins while snorkeling here in Kealakekua Bay many years ago.  Exciting, but we had to get out of the water since it could be dangerous.


We left the ship somewhere around 10am, and took the free shuttle bus to Walmart.  There must have been 100 people waiting for that bus.  We picked up the few things we missed yesterday, and got back to the ship by noontime.  Seems that every time one of us goes through security, the beeper goes off.  Must be the new brace, and it will be something to get used to….like it or not.


Then we were off once again to walk to lunch at Pond’s Restaurant, located on Ice Pond.  This is a spot where fresh water rises from beneath the lava beds, we have been told, and mixes with the sea water.  It is much cooler and clearer in this little cove.  And the restaurant happens to be built right over the pond, where one can lean out the opened windows and even feed the koi carp that are caged underneath.  Not a fancy place, it is good home cooking at its best.  Again, we shared a burger and fries, then added a brownie and ice cream dessert.  A walk was in order after this meal.


The skies had clouded up by now, and it had turned hot and muggy.  Although we packed the umbrellas, it never did rain until later in the day around 6pm.  It came down quick and heavy, then it was gone, cooling things down briefly.  Our hike took us to Banyan Drive and the hotels that line Hilo Bay.  Our guess is that these were built in the 1950’s or 60’s, and are the least touristy places compared to some of the other islands.  Swimming here has to be done in the hotel pools.  Lining Banyan Drive are over 50 old banyan trees, planted from 1930 to 1950 by famous people.


Liliuokalani Gardens is located in this area.  It is a 30 acre Japanese garden with fish ponds, pagodas, and stone lanterns.  We would save this for last after we stroll over the walking bridge to Coconut Island.  This little spit has a pavilion and picnic tables and a place for the boys to show off their jumping skills for the young ladies.  Today there were few kids, since it was Wednesday and a school day.   


Back in the gardens, we took our time walking around the meandering streams and ponds.  Many benches are placed here and there, so we sat on one near a grove of volcanic rocks and ferns.  We spotted a mongoose briefly, then suddenly saw a mature one running with a little critter in their jaws.  Thinking they landed a fish, it turned out to be a dove.  Guess they will eat anything that moves too slowly.  Out of the ferns came a dozen more fighting to get a bite of the catch.  Years ago, these mongoose were imported to help get rid of the rats.  What they did not realize was that rats are night creatures, while the mongoose are day hunters. So both species flourished.


We got back to the ship by 4:30pm, and relaxed in our room for the rest of the afternoon.  Dinnertime found us ordering mahi-mahi and leg of lamb….both excellent again.  The Captain had announced that we might be able to see some activity from Kilauea Volcano between 10:30 and 11:30pm, and it would be viewed from the starboard side of the ship.  As recent as 2018, there has been massive lava flows, ash plumes, and earthquakes.  Not sure that we would see any activity tonight, since that has ceased.  Many years ago, while on a Royal Caribbean ship, we witnessed the cascading streams of lava at night.  It was a thrill to see.  As this is being written (10:45pm), we are far from the shore, and it is raining hard outside.  So doubt there will be anything to see under these conditions.


Tomorrow we will be in Kona, or last stop in these lovely Hawaiian Islands.


Bill & Mary Ann



One of the directors at our bridge club is on this cruise (he is also a national director and directs at big tournaments). He is not directing on this cruise. His name is Bernie and his wife's name is Mary and they live in south Florida Have you met them?

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Report #13  Kona, Hawaii   November 7, 2019   Thursday    Mostly sunny & 89 degrees      84  Pictures    Part #1 Of 3



Well, here we are, in the final port of the Hawaiian experience……Kona, on the island of Hawaii.  To be exact, it is located on the leeward or the drier side of the large island.  Once known as the playground of the royals, Kona is tourist hub of souvenir hula dolls, condos, and expensive tropical drinks.  Looking deeper, we found the ¾ of a mile walk on Ali’i Drive full of historical landmarks as well as a shopper’s paradise.  One of those landmarks is the Hulihe’s Palace State Monument, built in 1838 as a vacation home for the Hawaiian royal family.  Today it houses a museum of artifacts, photos, and furniture of that period.  Another icon is the Moku’aikaua Church, built in 1837, the oldest Christian church in Hawaii.


Some of the shops they have here include Donkey Balls, Kona Brewing Company, Shave Ice, Da Big Bags, and many restaurants like Humpy’s.  One of the more fun places has to be the marketplace under tents, where you can find island treasures and fresh produce. 


And as far as the activities Kona has to offer….they are endless.  It is a haven for snorkeling, deep-sea fishing, glass bottom boats, and kayaking.   Shore excursions had a total of 20 tours that had helicopter rides, bus sight-seeing, adventure, and culinary skills.


And it was a tender port, like in Lahaina.  The ship dropped her anchors after 7am, and the tenders were running before 8am.  Looking from our veranda, the swells did not seem deep at all, but occasional waves made the process slow down.  The fellows that help the guests in and out of the small boats are well-trained.  And over-seeing this operation is Henk, our hotel director.  He has seen many accidents with tendering over the years, and is very active with the actual transfer of guests. 


We had our usual dining room breakfast, waited for the majority of tours to go off, then went to shore around 9:30am.  Even though rain showers were in the forecast, we highly doubted it and left the umbrellas behind.  What a surprise we had as the boat was halfway to Kailua Pier when we spotted a whale alongside the Atlantis Submarine.  Then a pod of dolphins joined the whale.  It was a surreal moment and we hoped to see more once we landed on shore.


There were more tropical fish to see right off of the tender.  Locals were tossing pieces of bread in the water to attract the damsels, needlenoses, tangs, and parrot fish to name a few.  Then we made our way to Ali’i Drive, the main drag, where we watched a local fisherman snagging small fish.  He pointed out this huge cloud in the water very close to the seawall.  It was a shoal of sardines, he said.  This was what drew the dolphins.  And sure enough, there was a couple of pods working the waters right in Kailua Bay.  Lucky to be able to see all of this, because later in the afternoon, they were all gone.


From there, we continued on our walk past the historical palace and the old church.  We did make it a point to walk through the tented marketplace where souvenirs and produce were sold. A close to monkeypod wood turtle bowl and a smaller bowl for dips or chips were a good buy.  The turtle bowl will be used for our pillow chocolates here and also on the upcoming world cruise.  Besides an array of island treasures, they also sold tropical flowers and fresh produce in this market.


The Kona Inn Shopping Village was just beginning to open their shops.  We found that Hilo Hattie’s had a store here, which we did not remember.  Used to have to walk uphill to find their larger store. So we are not sure it is still there.  And for those that might want to know, we did see free shuttles to Walmart and Hilo Hattie’s at the tender boat drop-off point.


Continuing on, we did discover that Bubba Gump’s had indeed been closed.  So sad, as it sat right on the volcanic beach with a nice breeze.  It has remained empty.  We did duck into some shops on our way to the Royal Kona Resort Hotel.  Still too early for lunch, we strolled the property taking many photos.


Turning back, we headed to Poncho and Lefty’s, a Mexican restaurant with great food and ice cold drinks.  The only thing was we did have to use stairs to access the balcony tables, but it was OK.  I will do stairs for nachos and ice cold beer and soda.  And how about a dessert of mud pie?  Yes, this was a good substitute for Bubba Gump’s today.


If we had not indulged with the ice cream pie, we would have stopped for a shaved ice on the way back.  There is a particularly good spot for these treats with Scandinavian in the name. 


Right next to the palace museum is a small beach which is protected from a bulkhead wall.  It was here that we discovered a young green turtle forging among the rocks for algae, we assume.  At one time, we had seen dozens of these native turtles swimming among the volcanic shoreline, but today there was only one.  And it blended in with the rocks, making it hard to see him. 


The only birds we saw were a huge flock of small doves, mixed with some yellow canaries, and one finch.  Someone had thrown seed down for them, and they were pigging out.


The ride back to the ship was a bit rocky, and we did notice that the swells were increasing since we had left earlier.  The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to photo downloading and report research from all of the nifty brochures and maps the locals handed out.


A bon voyage sail away happened once again on deck eight aft.  Many folding chairs had been placed around the railing…something we have not seen on past cruises.  We joined friends Denise and Howie to watch for whales and dolphins.  Guess what?  A whale appeared and put on a show with its tail splashing over and over….something we have never witnessed.  Then the whale dove deep, and the sightings were fewer.  Lucky again.


On the southern part of the island, we could see ominous black clouds coming with rain showers.  Even though we never felt the rain, all of us got treated with a most unusual rainbow.  Just as that faded, the sun was ready to set.  Guess what?  We finally caught the green flash this time.  It was brief, but everyone saw it, clapping after it happened.  How about that…what a way to end the day.


Dinnertime offered another fish entrée of barramundi. One of us tried it, and the other had a crispy spring roll, tomato bisque, and a chicken Caesar salad. A tiny pineapple crisp was just enough for us to share.  Another nice meal.


Walking through the casino, we noticed it had finally opened up for gambling.  Ever since we reached the first island of Oahu, the machines and tables have been shut down. Guess it has something to do with being within waters of the USA.


Showtime was a comedian by the name of Tim Kaminski.  After five days of ports, we were finally tired this evening, so missed the performance.


Looking forward to two days at sea as we head towards Fanning Island, a total change of pace compared to Hawaii.


Bill & Mary Ann


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1 hour ago, WCB said:

Report #13  Kona, Hawaii   November 7, 2019   Thursday    Mostly sunny & 89 degrees      84  Pictures    Part #1 Of 3



Walking through the casino, we noticed it had finally opened up for gambling.  Ever since we reached the first island of Oahu, the machines and tables have been shut down. Guess it has something to do with being within waters of the USA.



Legalized gambling is not allowed in Hawaii.

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Report # 14   Day at Sea   November 8, 2019   Friday   Mostly sunny &79 degrees


A day at sea was exactly what everyone needed after five full days of exploring the lovely islands of Hawaii.  And the weather was cooperating too.  Warm, balmy, and no sign of rain showers, it may be a good day to go to the pool.


It deserves mentioning that the laundry service has been wonderful.  Naturally, getting the laundry done complimentary is nice, but now it seems to be coming back to us same day.  Small notes have been included from the person that folds it, taking credit for doing a good job.


A photo competition was announced this morning, just like they have on the world cruise.  It’s really a pretty good deal, since for $5, a print is made of your entry, and it is returned after the contest.  Certainly an 8x10 photo costs a lot more than that in the photo shop.  The categories are landscape, people, wildlife, architecture, and miscellaneous.  The winners will be displayed December 15th.


The next port will be Fanning Island, a very tiny island that can be called basically native.  This will be our fourth visit there, and we doubt much has changed since the first time we set foot there.  What is different about this stop is the fact that many passengers are bringing donations of all sorts for the islanders, especially the kids.  While in Hilo, for instance, one lady was pulling a full size suitcase on the bus to Walmart.  Someone asked her why, and she answered that she was going to fill it up with toys and balls for the little kids.  However, we also know that any bulky donations will not be allowed on the tender boat ride to the island.  So for that reason, a donation station was set up in the Atrium this morning for collection.  Everything will be brought over by the crew.  The ship also brings essentials over like food and beverages we heard.  We are sure it will be appreciated by the locals, as much as selling their wares to most everyone.


We noticed that America’s Test Kitchen has been conducting sessions twice a day on sea days.  But we have also noticed that the “hands on” cooking classes have been eliminated.  Also, we don’t see their signature red aprons as a perk anymore.  Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. 


Finally, we made it to the aft pool to enjoy the gentle breezes and not-too-hot sun.  A high number sunblock is mandatory now, since we are approaching the Equator in a few days.  Many passengers were relaxing back here for a change.  There were plenty of lounges and towels set up, and there was even a surprise happy hour around 2pm.  Certain drinks, mostly the sweet ones, were buy one get one for $2.


Lunch was around 3pm in the Lido.  On this cruise, there is no manned sandwich station, only a variety of pre-made sandwiches.  Now these sandwiches are piled high without wrappers.  And the potato chips are in a large bowl…again, not in small bags.  Guess this is the new save-the-paper campaign.  The extensive salad bar is still there with service from two waiters.  The nearby station has a pasta bar with three types of pizza.  Today we sampled the veggie and pepperoni pizza, and found the newer version much improved even since last June.  It appears all of the recipes have been tweaked to the better.


Dinner was in the Pinnacle Grill at 8pm, our first one on this cruise.  The menu is the same, but the price had gone up to $39 per person.  Both of us ordered the wedge salad, with a side of the clothesline bacon.  Good combination, we thought.  Remember when we used to get a bowl of assorted breads and rolls?  Well now the bowl had only two rolls.  Much better, since we tend to munch on this while waiting for the meal to start. Fills you up too quickly.  Now if we wished to have more, our waiter would have brought whatever we wanted.  Wisely, we said two rolls were sufficient.


Our meal consisted of the small filet, French fries, and mushrooms.  The steaks melted in our mouths, and were almost fork tender.  We did save a little room for desserts of cherry Garcia ice cream (special request), and one tasty small slice of key lime pie.  Arlin, the Pinnacle manager, said we came at a good time, since the restaurant was filled entirely around 6pm.  For that reason, or service was perfect, without waiting too long between courses.  That’s the way we like it.


Ukebox was the name of the group of entertainers tonight.  We finished our meal just in time to catch some of the show, although they were on the grand cruise this year.  It seems that most of the good acts re-appear on other HAL cruises of course.


One more day at sea before another port.  Hope to enjoy it as much as today.


Bill & Mary Ann

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thank you for taking us along on your journey, love your perspective on things.  And apologies if it's been mentioned, but I've read through twice and can't seem to see it.....but where can I see the photos mentioned in the headers of your daily reports?   


enjoy those sea days....


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Report #15   Day at Sea   November 9 ,2019   Saturday   Partly cloudy & 81 degrees   Part #1 Of 1    21 Pictures


This morning brought us sightings of flying fish, and one booby, a bird that delights in hunting them.  The fish are fun to watch as they suddenly appear by popping up out of the water, sometimes singly or by the dozens.  You can compare it to popcorn sizzling, then popping all at once.  In some areas of the world, the birds seem to know to follow the ships, because these fish will fly to get away from the ship.  Once they are air-borne, the clever birds dive for them.  Sometimes they are successful, and other times….not.  Anyway, while we are walking our miles in the morning or afternoon, watching the display is always a good excuse for stopping for a few minutes.  Never know what you may see when you least expect it.  And as always, we are on watch for dolphins and whales……both of which we will see , especially if we left the cameras in the room.


Breakfast was good as always in the dining room.  We have been learning more about the newest crew members to join the HAL group.  Namely the Thai crew, and the re-introduction of the European staff in the Pinnacle Grill restaurant.  Many years ago, when the alternate restaurant was called Marco Polo, the wait staff was European, mostly Italian.  By the way, it was complimentary back in those days.  And those days are long gone.  Eventually, when the Pinnacle Grill was born, we noticed the wait staff was mostly Indonesian.  Last night, we were surprised to find two waiters from Serbia working there.  They were friendly and got our orders perfect, which all of the wait staff does.  Guess the industry is leaning towards diversity these days.  We have also heard that some of the different nationalities have been having difficulties in obtaining visas, so the company has to have other options for the employment pool.  We might add here that a Cellar Master’s dinner was held in the Pinnacle tonight for $95 per person.


Being that we are in the middle of the South Pacific with few islands around us, the internet has been squirrely.  Right now, we are dealing with the “minute” package, which for us, is 600 complimentary minutes between the two of us.  Also, some of the folks booked with a perk of some free minutes as well.  However, for those who purchased a megabyte plan, such as the Premium plan, they have the better deal.  The time is not ticked off by minutes, like for us.  When we get into these “iffy” areas, we can tick off minutes only to discover, we cannot log on, wasting 10 minutes for nothing sometimes.  We really wish in the future, they have one system that will be fair for all.  For this 51 day cruise,  megabyte plans were available before the trip, or the day or two after we boarded for a little more money.  At some point, we will have to purchase either a 31 day plan or a 20 day one.  Then we can have internet (when available) for 24 hours a day.  Perhaps in the near future, a better solution will be developed that will fit everyone’s needs.


Once again, we made it to the aft pool for some cloudy sunning, visiting with folks we know, and catching up on reading a “real” hardcover book.  We are happy to report that there still is a library on this ship.  It is self-serve, and perhaps less of a variety as in the past, but it still works.  Also, there is a fairly good amount of borrowed books, donated by guests who left them onboard.


Lunch was taken in the Lido with two generous portions of salad and a couple of tasty slices of pizza.  We needed to keep it light, since we have been invited to an early dinner at 6pm in the lower dining room.  The theme of the meal was President’s Club Musical Chair Family Dinner.  There are 12 such members onboard for this trip, so three oval tables in the center of the dining room were reserved for our group.  The musical chair part of this was that each table was hosted by either by Captain Jeroen, Henk, the hotel director, and Roland, the food and beverage manager.  At the start of each course, the fellows changed tables.  The family part was the fact that the meal was served family-style with the courses on platters to be shared.


The two of us were seated with two nice ladies, Ruth from Michigan and her companion, Kathy, from South Carolina.  And our host for the first course was Henk.  Meeting these ladies for the first time, they were a bit on the quiet side.  However, as the evening progressed, they joined into the conversation, and felt more at ease.  The next rotation brought the Captain to our group, then finally, Roland joined us for dessert.   


The starters were seafood deviled eggs and a mezze plate (olives, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, and roasted cherry tomatoes.)  A mixed salad was added to our plates as well.  The main course included linguini, beef brochettes, roasted chicken, and a vegan burger.  Sides were sautéed spinach, grilled fennel, and cherry tomatoes.  We could have a little of each, or as much as we wished.  Garlic bread and rolls were included as were a New Zealand white, and a California red wine.  Since one of us does not drink wine, a cocktail was substituted.  Finally, dessert was offered with a mango & blueberry cobbler (the best), and a coconut dulce de leche torte.  If that wasn’t enough, along came the waiters with gormandizes of petit fours from the Pinnacle Grill.


Peter, the head chef, came to each table of guests along with one of his top chefs who was responsible for this lovely meal.  We all thanked him for his efforts. One by one, the other two tables broke up, except ours.  Henk joined us and Roland claimed a victory, because our table had lasted the longest.  It was fun getting to know the officers a little better as well as some of the other President’s Club members.  The evening ended around the same time our regular meal ends every night…about 9:30pm. 


So we asked the Captain if he expected rain tomorrow, and could not say no.  Should be an interesting stop whether it rains or not.


The entertainer for tonight was a comedian named Mike Robinson, another fellow we had while on this year’s world cruise.  Bet he comes back again next year.


Bill & Mary Ann


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6 hours ago, tutuwahineLV said:

thank you for taking us along on your journey, love your perspective on things.  And apologies if it's been mentioned, but I've read through twice and can't seem to see it.....but where can I see the photos mentioned in the headers of your daily reports?   


enjoy those sea days....



The photos are found on their blog, which is off-site.  https://cruisingwithbillandmaryann.blogspot.com/

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Report #16   Fanning Island, Kiribati   November 10, 2019   Sunday   Partly cloudy & 84 degrees    Part #1 Of 5   80  Pictures


Sometimes around 7am, the Amsterdam sailed into the waters right off of the opening to the coral atoll of Fanning Island, or Tabuaeran, Kiribati.  Once the ship was positioned in a favorable position for tendering, the anchor was dropped.  Although not our first time here, today’s visit promises to be a nice experience.  The weather was good, already most warm and humid when we went out on the veranda.  Being located so close to the equator, it is normal to get rain showers any time of year.  Today, we were lucky, as the rain stayed away.


For some strange reason, the port guide for Fanning Island got misplaced.  So what little one of us recalls is that about 2000 people live on this circular atoll of 13 square miles with a lagoon of 425 square miles in the center.  And what a lagoon it is…….waters the colors of deep blue to soft turquoise.  Almost surreal.  The coral-based land is full of coconut trees, which is one of their products they export.  From the coconut meat to the copra, and other by-products, this industry employs many of the men.  Other exports are seaweed, which we understand is sold to Japan.  Fishing sustains this group of natives, as well as raising pigs and chickens.  You will find no stores, restaurants, buses, or even restroom facilities.  Yep, this visit gives a whole new meaning to touring.


The duration of today’s port was short, with us leaving at 2pm.  It had been extended to 3pm, so that was better for most everyone.  And with it being a tender port, it had been made clear at one of the port lectures, that it might not be the port for those with walking difficulties.  Knowing that sometimes the ocean swells appear suddenly, making the process iffy, we decided to skip breakfast, and go over to the island early.  So by 8:30am, we were on the second boat over. 


Once at the pier, we discovered that the landing had been re-built, and done right.  No more sheets of plywood covering the old wood, this was newly built with pressure-treated lumber.  Quite often, this area gets hit hard with hurricanes and winds that will rip most of their structures apart.  So finally, we found they figured out how to do it right.


At the end of the covered pier, was a group of singers greeting everyone.  And right in front of them was their signature 5 gallon bucket for tips.  In fact, there were several spots with the same buckets, and we give them credit for thinking big.  We do know for a fact there was a record amount of donations coming over to these folks from or ship.  Last night, Henk mentioned that medical supplies, food staples, and other practical items were to be gifted to the community. 


Set up right near the landing pier, were tables of treasures being displayed for sale by the local ladies.  Most of the items were made with small seashells, as well as shark-teeth decorated knives.  Everything was priced to sell, and sell they did.  This is the best way to help support their way of life, even if it is in a small way.  The locals were just as we remembered….welcoming and polite.  Many wanted to connect with the passengers, even the kids.  We saw no signs of kids begging anywhere, unlike what you might find in other places such as the Amazon River for example.


Continuing onward, we followed the one main dirt road that leads down the center of the narrow atoll.  The Pacific Ocean is on one side, while the lagoon is on the other.  Lining the road are the basic homes of the locals, which can range from small thatched-roof huts, to more substantial homes with metal roofing.  Some folks have generators, solar panels, and a shared well for fresh water.  Most everyone owns domestic pigs, having them tethered with a rope.  We did spot three little piggys running down someone’s lane…..cute as can be.  Many dogs roamed around the village, but we saw absolutely no cats. 


Every so often, we had to move aside for the locals on bikes and even motorcycles.  What we did not see, were local men with the flatbed pick-up trucks that used to drive 8 people at a time down the road to see the few sites here. They charged $10 for a 15 minute drive.  Our only guess is that something happened that made them quit doing it.  The road is easily walked, which is what we did, snapping pictures all of the way.


Our destination was the school property, where we found the kids in their classrooms.  Thinking it odd that school was in session on a Sunday, we realized that it was Monday here.   Last night, the Captain mentioned during dinner that we had indeed crossed the International Dateline, thus losing one day.  But he decided not to impose it yet.  Perhaps before we get to Samoa.  Since there are no clocks on Fanning Island, he felt it would not matter anyway.  Further up the road, we found the church and their huge meeting place.  We also witnessed one of the men opening a pile of coconuts with a hatchet.  First he drained the coconut milk in a bucket, then tossed the halves in a pile.  The meat inside was ready to be dried in the sun. Hard work, but it keeps them in shape.  No need for exercise gyms in this part of the world.  The ladies do not have the convenience of washing machines and dryers either.  They wash the clothing in large tubs, then hang everything on a line to dry. 


The temperature seemed to be rising, so we headed back to the pier area to check out their treasures.  Another seashell necklace was added to the collection.  Then we went off to the other end of the island to see the monument and the channel where the water creates a strong current with the tides.  No one swims here, or they would be swept out to the ocean.  There were many people swimming in the lagoon today, or relaxing on what little sandy strips of beachfront there was.


By 11am, we boarded a waiting tender boat, and were back right before lunchtime in the dining room.  The ice teas were so good, we must have had four glasses.  Gan had missed us at breakfast, and seemed happy to see us. After lunch, we went back to the room and worked on photos, and possibly slept a bit on the veranda.  The heat of the day had gotten to one of us, despite that fact that we consumed water and soda while on the island.  By the way, we had been advised that no food was allowed to be taken over, but we overheard some folks on the tender boat that they had back packs full of snacks.  Perhaps things that are sealed, like crackers are OK, but not fresh fruit or sandwiches from the Lido.  If people ignore these warnings in New Zealand or Australia, they would be fined.


The time for our perks had come. And we had a vase of beautiful flowers and a 12 pack of Coke Zero waiting for us in our room as well.  The gift is appreciated, although the number of sodas has shrunk from a 24 pack, to 17 cans, to 12 cans.  Down-sizing has hit each and every nook and cranny.


Watching the last tender come back after 3pm, we had intended to go to the sail away at the aft pool.  But we ended up staying on the veranda, and boy, did that pay off.  Once we were 10 minutes away from the shoreline, we spotted hundreds of dolphins quite a distance from the port side of the ship.  They were involved in a feeding frenzy, working the waters that probably had a shoal of small fish.  Never have we seen such a massive display of dolphins doing their thing.  Thanks to the better camera, many shots were successful in capturing this scene.  Denise and Howie, who did go to the sail out, confirmed that they had not seen this.


Later on, we took the time to watch the sun go down, but with many clouds on the horizon, the sun disappeared rather quickly.  Dinner followed and we had one shrimp dish, and one duck entrée.  Both were good, as we told Philip and Peter when they paid a visit to our table.  They have been conversing with each and every dinner guest at least once a week, making sure they are keeping the folks happy….and a tad bit fatter too.  Philip also confirmed something we heard from the Captain last night, concerning the 2021 world cruise.  It seems that the company’s policy now is to have two captains share the time on that long cruise.  One will begin in FT. Lauderdale, while the second one will join in Singapore.  That will be different….


A few days at sea will be nice in order to be ready for American Samoa.


Bill & Mary Ann


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Report # 17   Day at Sea   November 11, 2019   Monday   Mostly sunny & 81 degrees                 Part # 1 of 1   38 Pictures


We now have a few days at sea on our way to Samoa.  But the funny thing, is that we are not exactly sure what day it really is?  Technically, we have crossed the International Dateline, according to the Captain.  However, for some reason, it has not been acknowledged.  And when HAL wrote this itinerary, they miscalculated the actual day we would cross.  So we are due to lose a day very soon.


Right about when we were heading for breakfast, a breaker tripped, shutting off power to our desk area, including the TV.  We were most concerned about the computer, since we had just worked on yesterday’s report and photos.  It was waiting in the outbox to be sent.  Hopefully, we had not lost the whole thing. We immediately reported the outage, and our room steward arrived shortly thereafter.  He is not allowed to repair anything electrical, so he reported to the proper department, where nothing happened.  Assuming that in an hour’s time, it would be resolved, was too much to expect.  But it was probably put on the bottom of a growing list.  It took another phone call, and it was done by the time we got back from the pool at 3pm.  Thankfully, nothing was lost.


Today, November 11th, was celebrated on the ship as Veteran’s Day, Remembrance Day, and also Armistice Day.  Poppy pins had been given out a few days ago, and we were invited to wear them today.  A wreath service took place in the Mainstage at 10:30am, where the Captain and Cruise Director joined the onboard chaplain and rabbi with reading of names and opening remarks.  There were three readings of poems and prayers, as well as two minutes of silence.  We have never had such a moving tribute on past cruises during this time of year, but this was especially appropriate since we are sailing in the South Pacific where so much had happened in the past.  We will remember them was the ending prayer.


At some point today the Amsterdam crossed the Equator, putting us in the Southern Hemisphere.  Despite the comfortable breeze at the Seaview pool, the rays of the sun were indeed intense.  We have wisely graduated to #50 sunblock, one we purchased while in Sydney earlier in the year.  Seems to be working so far.  We spent the better part of the day at the aft pool, but noticed that some folks in this group of people are saving lounges with their belongings from 8am in the morning.  Then they go off for hours to do other things, expecting to find everything still saved.  Although there are rules posted that unattended items will be removed after 45 minutes, we have not seen that enforced.  Truthfully, it appears that there is a shortage of deck crew members, since towels and glasses are not gathered up often enough.  And yes, we have seen items removed on other trips.


We understand that there have been a few problems with the arts and crafts class too.  It appears that many of the crafters take seats in the Lido well before class time, making a shortage of seating for the lunch crowd.  The craft instructor has come up with the idea of tickets being handed out such the same as they do for tendering.  That way, the area they occupy will be opened when the class begins at 2:30pm.  Seem to remember there was a similar problem during the world cruise too, and that session is full to the brim with students.


Dinner for us was in the Pinnacle Grill once again.  It worked out fine since the dining room menu did not have any exciting entrees that really caught our attention.  So this evening, we ordered one halibut and one lamb chop dinner.  The chef has a new recipe for cooking the fish.  It was covered with a seasoned bread crumb mixture, something similar to the wasabi-crusted steak we have in the Tamarind Restaurant.  It was as moist as ever, and tasty with a nice sauce on the side.  The lamb chops were tender and savory too.  We had enough time to catch the end of the show by Tim Kaminski, a comedian who returned to the stage again.  So far, it appears that the Amsterdam is sticking to the traditional show time on these longer cruises.


Bill & Mary Ann


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Report # 18   Day at Sea   November 12, 2019   Tuesday   Mostly sunny & 81 degrees   Part # 1 of 1   16 Pictures


Another day at sea brings us a little closer to Samoa.  The weather has been quite hot, even hotter than we recall.  But then, this is the first time we have sailed during this part of November in the South Pacific.  A little bit of rain might be welcomed.


A normal thing that eventually happens is running out of certain food items….namely assorted berries.  The fresh strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are gone.  But we do have blueberries, which we order daily to top our Greek yogurt.  All of the granola cereal is gone, so they substituted ground up muffins crumbs.  Our waiters giggled as they served it, knowing that we would not be fooled so easily.  The flavor is similar, but the texture was not.  The next big delivery should be in Samoa or one of the Fiji ports.


The usual itinerary for a sea day included Polynesian crafts and ukulele lessons.  Shore excursions continued their talks on what to do and see in the upcoming ports.  The fitness center had sessions on getting and staying in shape, while the shops pushed their newest collection of gemstones.  Microsoft classes have kept many people up-to-date on getting creative.  The traditional staples for games are trivia, bingo, bridge, and casino games. 


Despite the heat, we spent some time at the Seaview Pool, where most folks went in the pool, and stayed there.  Joining the crowd were two of the Polynesian ambassadors.  They wowed the guests with cannon-balling into the pool.  This is something we would rarely see on the grand voyage.  Actually, it is one of the things that you cannot do according to the rules posted. 


One highlight was a sighting of dolphins on the starboard side of the ship.  It was a rare announcement from the bridge.  Yes, there were a dozen or so dolphins a distance away, but nothing compared to the group we saw leaving Fanning Island.  At least many folks got to see them.  Denise and Howie joined us for a bit, but did not last too long.  It was really that hot with a following breeze.  That’s the killer.  We left shortly after they did, and went to lunch in the Lido.  Don’t know if we mentioned this already, but we were told that another salad bar might be added at the opposite end at the lunch time, and the sushi/sashimi station might be eliminated on the upcoming world cruise.  The custom sandwich-making station will return as well.


During the afternoon, our veranda is in the shade.  So it is a perfect spot for cooling off and relaxing without any distractions.  We have to admit, we are enjoying being back on deck six for this voyage.  One thing we have noticed is that we do feel the motion way more than being on deck one.  And the air-conditioning is not as effective up here.  Maybe because heat rises.  Deck one is cool as a cucumber in these hotter climates for sure.


We took a few moments to write some positive comments on the Share Your Thoughts card and turned it in to the front desk people.  We do know these remarks are important to those staff and crew members who have gone out of their way to make our stay even better.  One of our comments concerned getting personalized notes from the crew member in the laundry that folds our clothing.  It said, “Your laundry was neatly folded by Rio, and please enjoy your stay with us.”  What a nice communication.


This evening was gala night, the second one of the cruise.  You know what?  The majority of folks dressed for the occasion too.  Every bit as much as on the grand voyage.  We figured that it had been such a warm day, that many people would not bother with the jackets, suits, and formal dresses.  But we were wrong.  Nice to see.  Our meals were good again with one order of halibut and shrimp, and one cheese ravioli for a change.  Surf and turf was not described, but the surf was lobster tails with a small filet.  While we were waiting for our dessert, bosche bol (chocolate éclair), our morning waiter Gan came along with two servings of a birthday cake, compliments of Sue and Leon.  They happen to be from our area in California, and we met them on this year’s world cruise.  Anyway, it was Sue’s birthday, and they shared her special chocolate dulce de leche cake with us.  Sue is an avid golfer, so her cake was decorated with a golfer hitting a ball with his club.  They sure know how to make one feel special here.  Two desserts in one evening will have us walking double the miles tomorrow for sure.


The show tonight was a performance by the singers and dancers – The Midnight Hour.  Seems they have refined their show to a rousting time.


One more day at sea, and we should be in Pago Pago.


Bill & Mary Ann


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Report # 19   Day at Sea  November 13, 2019   Wednesday   Partly cloudy, sprinkles & 81 degrees   Part # 1 of 1    9 Pictures


Something was different when we went to breakfast this morning.  The entrance to the lower dining room was decked out Indonesian-style.  Our waiters yesterday mentioned that  the menu was Indonesian Rijsttafel, but what we did not realize, it was going to be similar to the sea day Sunday buffets on the world cruise.  In other words, every item would be served in small portions from the extensive menu.  The dining room chairs were festively dressed with dark red and white chair covers, and matching runners were added to each table after breakfast was over.  Denise and Howie did attend the lunch and said it was wonderful.  All of the waiters dressed in their native clothing for this special one hour meal.  If they repeat it, we will go. If not on this cruise, then perhaps the next one.


Around 10:30am, the Lido Pool was turned into a Marketplace with drink specials, music, booths, towel folding demos, raffles and sales, of course.  Bargains started at $10 and up, which seems to bring the wise shoppers out.  The good thing about these affair are that they draw people away from the Seaview pool.  For that reason, there were fewer folks baking their hides out there today.  We also figured that many of yesterday’s sunbathers got too much sun, and stayed out of it today.  What they missed were a few bouts of sprinkles, which actually felt good.  Normally, when you see a few drops, you need to gather your things and run for cover.  Rain can turn torrential in seconds.  Today, the navigation crew steered around the worst of it, and we escaped getting soaked.  The nice thing is that we had more of a breeze today…most welcomed.


Port talks are already on Fiji, followed with the shore excursions desk opened for booking tours.  No need to stand in line at the desk to book these organized trips now, as you can fill out a form and put it in their box, or do it with the Navigator site on your computer or cell phone. 


We had been gifted two $25 beverage cards from our travel agency, so we have been buying bottles of Vitamin water at the Explorations Café.  Today we used the last of the balance, but still had a little left.  The girl behind the counter said since nothing cost $1.40, we could not buy anything else.  So we asked to add one more bottle of water, and we would put the balance on our shipboard account.  Made sense to us, but she could not do it, saying that our card had the discount attached to it, and she could not do that.  In her mind, we would lose that amount.  Yes, it was not a lot of money, but there had to be a way to utilize the entire amount.  And there was…..  We were already on our way to the Ocean Bar to  listen to the band, which just happened to be the 6:30pm Happy Hour. We asked the waitress if we could order two sodas in cans (unopened), and use the card along with the shipboard card.  Of course, she said with a smile.  And it did work just fine.  She even brought us a jar of peanuts.  So it pays to ask.


Dinner was good again.  One of the seafood entrees was monkfish, something neither of us has ever tried.  Denise had looked it up online, and when she found a photo of the actual fish, it was more than off-putting.  What a strange-looking creature.  So when we asked our waiter, Tama, if he recommended it, he shook his head and reported that it might not be the best choice.  That was enough for us, so it was salmon and chicken cordon bleu.  Both were excellent, but the chicken was the best.  It was not the “I wonder if this is frozen?” chicken, but made in the kitchen from scratch chicken cordon bleu. Dining room manager, Hadi admitted it was a new recipe, and once again, it was a winner.  Good thing we will be in a port tomorrow to get more exercise walking to burn off these calories.


The clocks went back one hour tonight, and we think that Friday, the 15th, will not exist, since we will be observing the crossing of the international dateline.  


Bill & Mary Ann



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You made me curious so I googled monk fish, and it sounded intriguing:

Cooked monkfish doesn't flake like most fish: They're juicy, with a nice bite and a texture similar to that of a cooked lobster. Flavor-wise, the fish is very mild, so it's receptive to many different preparations. It's particularly delicious with bright, acidic sauces.” 

Then I saw a picture: 😬😲



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Report # 20   Pago Pago, American Samoa   November 14,, 2019   Thursday   Partly cloudy, showers, & 84 degrees   Part # 1 of 4   80 Pictures


Samoa is a group of islands located halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand.  There are two main islands, Tutuila and Opolu, as well as eight small islets. So today’s port of call is Pago Pago (pronounced Pango Pango) on the island of Tutuila.  The city sits within a beautiful harbor with a backdrop of forested mountainsides.  This island and surrounding islets boasts the only US National Park in the Southern Hemisphere.  All of American Samoa combined equals 76 square miles  Ninety percent of the islands are covered in untouched rainforest, as well as historical sites, beaches, and villages.  Did you know that today Samoans are regarded as the largest full blooded Polynesian race left in the Pacific?  Never knew that.


Shore Excursions offered three tours, one of which featured an Ava ceremony, where the drink of kava is made in a communal wooden bowl.  During this ceremony, the drink is offered to all, using the same bowl.  Reluctant to try this at one of these affairs, we tried to stay in the back of the group, attempting to blend in with the wallpaper.  Wouldn’t you know it….. the “Chief” came right to us with the kava, a really odd-looking drink that resembled muddy water, which we had to pretend to drink to be polite. It literally numbs your lips as well as all the way down.  An acquired taste perhaps, but a sacred thing here.  We did see many tour groups go off stuffed in the local open-air mini buses.  We have done them all.


The ship docked by 8am, but it took a while to get cleared by the authorities.  People must have begun congregating outside the stairs to Deck A, but were warned to relax.  And by no means, were you allowed to bring any food off the ship, and only bottles of water were OK.  This had to be announced twice.


As for us, we went to the dining room for breakfast first, then left about the same time the cleaning crew began washing balconies again. The separating panels were opened between the rooms, and two fellows came through with the hoses.  Everything gets sprayed including the lounges and foot stools.  We don’t believe the room stewards are required to maintain the verandas like they used to.


Right on the pier is the marketplace under a series of tents. Every Samoan treasure you might expect can be found here from island clothing, wood carvings, coconut and shell jewelry, and beach items.  We found them to be a bit pricy, but tomorrow’s port might have a lot more bargains as we recalled.  One important tool was right at our fingertips as we passed the local information table.  One very large native fellow handed us a map of the island and everything we needed to know for our visit. 


Once out of the port, we turned right, and began our long hike all the way around the harbor.  Well almost….it really is a long deep bay.  Did we mention it was hot and humid?  With a strong breeze blowing and the many clouds that came over, it was tolerable.  At one point, it did begin to rain, but stopped as fast as it began.  Felt so good.  We passed the main part of town which included shops, coffee houses, a few grocery and hardware stores, a post office, and even a McDonalds.  An interesting stop was at their produce market which featured pineapples, coconuts, bananas, plantains, and taro root.


There were no beaches up this end, but if you had taken a $5 bus ride, they would take you to one.  Sue and Leon happened to go past us in one of these shuttles, and they had the driver stop and ask if we wanted to go to a beach.  Passing on the idea (no swimsuits on), we really needed to walk, so off they went.  Will ask them tomorrow at breakfast where they ended up.


Up this end is their largest soccer field, some churches, bed and breakfast inns, and the Ronald Reagan Shipyard.  The furthest we got was the Starkist Tuna Processors, one of the biggest employers in town.  We could smell the oily aroma of tuna a mile away.  This was a good point to turn back, where we took what should have been a shortcut, but wasn’t.  So we ended up hiking all the way around the soccer field, because it has now been fenced off completely.  Our only concern was that we were running out of water, and needed to rest in some shade for a couple of minutes. 


So we ducked into one complex where we located a soda machine with ice cold drinks for 75 cents.  We drank our first strawberry Fanta, not the orange flavor we knew as kids. Sure was good.  Taking our sweet time, we made our way back to the ship by 1pm.  Cooling off in our room with more to drink, we headed off again to find a place for lunch.  This time we turned left, following the main road past the working cargo area of the bay.  Commercial fishing boats were docked here, and the nets were being worked on. Always interesting to watch the fellows mend nets or add floaters to the ropes.


Right where the road turns, are a group of trees that are home to fruit bats.  We could hear them before we saw them.  During the heat of the day, they like to  hang upside down in the highest limbs, and fan their wings to keep cool.  A few strays will take flight, but for the most part, they are lazy, spending their time sleeping.


Sadie’s by the Sea, a hotel, is located around the bend.  Next to that is Goat Island Café, where in the past, we have enjoyed a nice lunch there.  So today, we did the same, taking a table out on their covered patio.  Local draft beers were served, then we shared a cheeseburger, and a very expensive slice of  passionfruit cheesecake with vanilla ice cream.  Something to remember is when dessert is not listed, it is always wise to ask how much.  After the fact, we felt $11.50 was a bit steep, as it was almost as much for our entrée.  At least we shared and did not order two.  And it was really good. 


A little further up the road, we noticed the kids were getting out of school.  At all levels, the kids wear uniforms.  Island-style, the girls are in sarongs and the boys in a lava-lava, a sarong made for guys.  Even the little kids wear them over shorts.  All of them wore a white shirt or blouse.


Across the road is a public beach with domed patios, where locals have meeting places.  Some are large enough for a small concert.  The shallow waters here have signs posted that the water is checked weekly for bacteria.  If it is not safe to swim, they let you know.


Back at the pier, we checked out the stalls of treasures.  Inquiring about a sarong, one vendor said it was $20, reduced to $16, then again to $12.  That told me….come back at 5pm, and it would cost $5, what it was really worth.  Truthfully, we did not see a whole lot of folks buying here.


The remainder of the afternoon was spent on the veranda, as well as working on the photos.  The Amsterdam left right after 5:30pm, with a lot of horn blowing as we exited the harbor.  We now have a short distance to travel to the next Samoan port of Apia.


Dinner for us was in the Pinnacle Grill, where we had halibut and one gigantic grilled pork chop.  First time to try this entrée, the pork chop was enough to feed two very hungry guests.  We did save a little space for a scoop of ice cream and the tiny cheesecake lollipops…..so cute.


And finally, we will be crossing the International Dateline tonight.  So our clocks have to move forward one hour tonight, as well as skipping Friday the 15th.  It will not exist, as we will wake up on Saturday, November 16th.  We will get this “lost” day back in about 10 days from now.  At that time, we will have two days in a row with the same date.  Funny, huh?


Bill & Mary Ann     



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