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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 11/11/2019 at 12:33 PM, WCB said:

Gan had missed us at breakfast, and seemed happy to see us


It looks like the crew of the Amsterdam remains on the Amsterdam. We loved Gan's quick and personable service. He must have been home since the fall of 2018 to enjoy his new baby.


I am enjoying your trip report!

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20 hours ago, TiogaCruiser said:

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: 😬😲




Great picture of the Monk fish.

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Report # 21   Apia, Samoa   November 16, 2019   Saturday   Sunny & isolated thunderstorms  87 degrees     Part # 1 of 4    80 Pictures


Our port of call today is Apia, located on the island of Upolu of Western Samoa.  It is another island of white sandy beaches, sheer cliffs, fertile valleys, waterfalls, and  rainforests.  Larger than Pago Pago, Apia has a population of 37,000  consisting of a collection of 45 villages.  And it is an easy place to visit from the pier, either by taxi or by foot. 

We left the ship around 10am, and encountered another souvenir market set up on the pier.  Locals from Digicel were selling sim cards for $5 for one hour.  Many folks were buying too.  Denise and Howie had already scoped out the wooden kava bowls, showing us one similar to their purchase on a previous visit.  Only it was double the price today.  Comparison shopping in town should be better.


There was no doubt about it…today was going to be a scorcher.  If it was not for the breeze that came up, we expect there may have been a few cases of heat stroke victims.   So far, today’s predicted temperature was 87 degrees with humidity to match.  That’s the killer, and something we are not used to living in Northern California. 

Taking our time, we hiked the main road to the new bridge over the river, which is being re-done.  Japan happens to be helping with the funding for this bridge.  Directly across the street is the Sheraton Hotel, and the place where we would end up for lunch.


Further up the road is their visitor’s center, a nice air-conditioned building complete with maps and restrooms.  While chatting with the director, she mentioned that it had been raining heavily the last two days and having a sunny day was lucky.  We agreed.


From here we went to the fresh fish market, finding that ¾ of the catch was already sold.  Among the larger fish, we also saw many colorful tropical species, such as parrot fish.  The other choices were yellow fin tuna, snapper, lobsters, crabs, rockfish, barracuda, eel, and marlin.  The vendors kept busy by fanning the fish with palm fronds, keeping the flies away.  One thing we noted was that none of the fish were cleaned (gutted).


Across the street was a large food court, where the locals were buying breakfast.  Next to that was their flea market.  If you can’t find Samoan treasures here, you’ll find them nowhere.  And much better prices. Cuff bracelets in green and turquoise were a good buy for one of us.  Samoa is famous for their traditional arts of carved hardwood bowls and platters, as well as tapa cloth-making, coconut jewelry, and body tattooing.  Most all of the men and women sport tattoo art on their bodies that represent their beliefs and values.  These services and products were available in this area.


Checking the map, we looked for the street that would lead us to the produce market.  However, the map showed street names, but we saw no such signs at the intersections.  We knew to go uphill from the Town Clock, passing many small shops and cafes along the way.  An interesting fact is that their three largest supermarkets stock goods mainly from both New Zealand and Australia.  Passing by a large lumber yard, we found the Fugalei Market, where every type of vegetable and fruit can be purchased.  Fresh flowers too as well as more souvenirs.  And a three piece coconut jewelry set was only $5, not $20 like at the pier. 


There was even a Do It hardware store, similar to our Home Depot.  Passing through this store, we exited a side door, and came out at another church, a Seventh Day Adventist Church.  Directly down the street from here was a McDonald’s, where we briefly stopped hoping to buy sodas to cool us off.  We soon realized that they were not taking US dollars, but local money ( Western Samoa tala, which equals 2.67 to 1 US $), and credit cards.  So we continued on to our next destination.


That was the Catholic Cathedral, Immaculate Conception, a truly impressive work of art.  The carved wooden ceiling was most beautiful, as was the series of stained glass windows.  A dome feature over the altar is created in the Samoan fale, with the structure actually extruding from the roof of the church.  We have read that their church choirs are some of the finest, and if we had visited on a Sunday, we would have been invited to join the services.


Finally, we were more than ready for cold beers and lunch at the Sheraton.  The poolside restaurant there is Aggie Grey’s.  Of course, we ordered a Margherita pizza and two or three Taula Draft beers.  Had we been here on Friday, the beers would have been $5 during their happy hour.  Today and the rest of the week, the drafts were $10.  Expensive, but this was our first pizza of the trip, and it was really good.  However, their desserts were outrageous.  One conservative slice of cheesecake was a whopping $25, and a bowl of vanilla ice cream was $20.  Really?  And we thought $11.50 was bad in Pago Pago.  At least we knew ahead of time, and decided the fruit in our room would do just fine. By the way, credit cards accepted here were Visa, Mastercard, and more recently, American Express.  Always good to know. 


Thankfully, a strong breeze accompanied us all the way back to the dock.  We happened to discover a hidden marina café area very near the dock area called The Edge.  And their beer was half the price of the Sheraton.  That is probably why the place was full of customers. 


We got back to the ship by 3:30pm, and the all aboard time was 4:30pm today.  Our veranda was so hot, we could have fried an egg on the end table.  Once the ship left the harbor, the Captain took us past a few of the smaller islands where folks spend their day snorkeling and kayaking.  Surfing is accomplished in parts of the island, but recommended only for the experts.  Coral reefs, high waves, and currents can be powerful here.  We did watch for turtles, but the most of those we saw were in the form of wood carvings in the market, not the waters.  There was a chance to still spot some humpback whales, as their season is August through November.  They come here from 4000 miles away to mate, give birth, and rest.  No sightings today…..darn. 


Dinner was good once again with salmon and a roasted chicken with ½ leg bone.  What?  Had to order it to find out what it was.  White breast meat with one little leg sticking out of the middle.  Sometimes their descriptions are comical.


As we are heading further west, the clocks went back one hour tonight.  Fine with everyone.


Bill & Mary Ann


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Report # 22   Day at Sea   November 17, 2019   Sunday   Mostly sunny& 82 degrees   Part # 1 of 1   15 Pictures


Having that extra hour sure helped put most everyone in a good mood this morning.  From the greeters, supervisors, and the wait staff in the dining room, to the front desk folks, and officers we encounter…..all start the day with a hearty hello, and hope you had a good evening.  Nice to start each day with a smile.


And today, being a Sunday at sea, they had a Sunday Brunch in the dining room from 11am to 1pm.  Unlike the pre-set tasting brunch of the world cruise, this menu had choices of starters, mains, and desserts.  It just included a mix of breakfast and lunch items.  We did hear it was most delightful, and the food excellent.


Shipboard life continued with lectures now all about our stops in Vanuatu.  It has been many years since we visited that part of the world, so these talks help us remember where to go and what to do.  Fiji tours were described in detail with the upcoming ports of Suva, Dravuni Island, and Lautoka.  Judging from the pink shore excursion envelopes we see in the mail slots, passengers are booking their tours after the lectures. 


We had another relaxing session at the Seaview pool, and we think there was a slight drop in temperatures compared to the heat of Samoa.  Many folks get into the pool, and never get out.  Slathering on the sunscreen has kept us from burning. 


Spending the afternoon working on the computer, we missed the entertainment of the Ocean Quartet.  They have gotten much better since they arrived, playing popular tunes for the dancing crowd.  And with tonight being another gala evening, the mood was more formal. People still like to dress up, we are happy to report.  Much to our delight, we had company at our table tonight.  Shiv, the Executive Housekeeper joined us for an evening of good conversation.  Meeting him several years ago, we have gotten to know him quite well and visa-versa.  For our entrees, we ordered the grilled yellow fin tuna, and were pleased with it. Dessert was cheesecake, and was not shared.

We did notice that several junior officers were hosting tables, which is not always the most comfortable thing for them to do.  Anyway, by 9:30pm, Shiv asked if we were going to the show, Darren Dowler, a comedian, impressionist, and musician, but we said probably not.  So we stayed and talked until closer to 10pm.  Wonderful evening.


Tomorrow we will be in the first port of Fiji…..Savusavu.


Bill & Mary Ann



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Report # 23   Savusavu, Fiji   November 18, 2019   Monday   Partly cloudy & 80 degrees     Part # 1 of 4   80 Pictures


Fiji is an English-speaking country, since it was colonized by Britain.  It gained its independence in 1970, but still retained some of its British customs.  Along with Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia, Fiji is part of Melanesia.  Located on the south coast of Vanua Levu Island, Sausavu is a harbor town, which was once a trading center for sandalwood, copra, and beche-de-mer (not sure what that is).  Something of the sea, we assume.  Tourism is their newest industry with many luxurious resorts with some of best diving or snorkeling in the world.


Shore excursions offered six tours to see the copra factory, where coconut oil is made, or visit a traditional village to witness the process of kava-making.  Visit waterfalls and swimming holes with a hike through a rainforest.  Snorkel to see marine life at a lighthouse reef.  Two excursions were described as challenging and came with warnings like steep, slippery, muddy, and unpaved.  Also a few village tours required the ladies to dress moderately – knees, shoulders, and midriffs covered.  No shorts allowed as well.  The best hint:  restrooms are rustic.  All of which is best known before booking.


This is our third visit here, and from what we see from the ship, not much has changed.  Before we left the ship, we felt we better get some local Fijian money.  Seems that we recalled the vendors did not accept the US dollars.  However, we were told at the front desk that they had run out of money temporarily.  So we went over without it.  This was a tender port, and the guests had lined up to get their tender tickets.  First the tour groups went over, then they announced the tickets by number and color.  It was very early on, that an announcement was made that guests could go down without the tickets.  There was no rush to go there since few things opened until after 10am.


On the way over in the tender boat, we practiced saying “Bula”, the Fijian greeting.  Most every native we passed greeted us with bula, meaning hello and welcome.  The boat dropped us off at the Copra Shed, which was once the place copra was loaded onto ships for export.  These days, it houses restaurants, small shops, and the Savusavu Yacht Club.  A table was set up next to the welcome band of singers.  They were handing out maps of the town and the outskirts.  There was one main street full of typical markets like grocery, housewares, and hardware stores.  Small cafes were also on this street with Indian and Chinese food among them. 


We took a left turn and followed the main road where many locals had set up a craft fair.  The tables were full of trinkets, mostly shell jewelry, some wood carvings, and knick-knacks from Fiji.  One colorful sarong caught our eye, and the seller admitted she handmade all of her clothing items, adding that nothing was made in China.  Why she said that, we don’t know.  Other things unique to Fiji are the carved wooden cannibal forks, which we already own.  How many cannibal forks does one need?  Gruesome thought….


Our first stop ws at their local produce and frozen fish market.  Much smaller than the one in Apia, they still had the same assortment here.  Some of the more unusual fruits we saw were passionfruit, pawpaw, jackfruit, and the prickly green soursop.  They also sold the roots used to make the kava drink, a type of peppermint if our memories are right.  Two sizes were sold, $25 to $50 Fijian dollars.  That is $1.88 to one US dollar.  Most of the fish we saw in their deep freezers were barracuda.  One nice lady was selling some fashion jewelry, along with honey and jams.  A necklace and earring set she claimed her daughter made was tapa cloth with a painted design.  Quite unique, we purchased it for $10 US. 


Continuing along the edge of the bay, we took photos of the pleasure boats in the sheltered cove while walking on a path under the shade of the trees.  Locals stopped and greeted us, shook our hands, and asked where we were from.  They were most welcoming.  At the end of the trail, we joined the main road again.  Across the street was the road to the airport, and the other side of this peninsula, where the high end resorts were built along the beach and hillsides.  Too far to walk, although, the weather was more tolerable today compared to Samoa.  The skies had started out overcast, but later in the morning, blue sky appeared along with a nice breeze.


We did pop in and out of the local shops, discovering that most places did accept US dollars, as well as New Zealand and Australian dollars.  Credit cards were happily accepted, except for Discover.  One of the nicer stores was Jack’s of Fiji, which you can find in most of the larger cities on all of the islands.  It is more like a department store, with a small section of quality souvenirs.


The sidewalks at the other end of town were being fixed, so walking became harder.  With the traffic opposite ours (British), we were uncomfortable walking in the street to get around the barracades.  So we headed back to the Copra Shed in hopes of getting some beers.  We were seated on their patio over-looking the harbor, but there appeared to be no waitresses to take our order.  We waited for 20 minutes, and decided to leave.  The place was filling up with more customers, but with no servers, no one was going to have fish and chips or beers anytime soon. 


We were back to the ship by 1pm, and eventually went to lunch in the Lido.  The dining room has been closed most all of the port days on this trip.  Guess it depends on the percentage of folks that book tours for that decision to close it.  Besides the Lido, there is always the Pinnacle Grill (most afternoons), the Dive-In Grill, or room service.  None of which we have done yet, except for the Lido.  Have we mentioned how good the pizza has been?  And their custom-made salads are the best.


All aboard was 4:30pm, and we left the harbor shortly after that, sailing along the coastline of the island.  We are now headed to Vitu Levu Island, and the city of Suva, one of the largest commercial cities in the South Pacific.


We stayed on or veranda to watch the sailing out of the harbor, instead of going to the sail away at the Seaview pool.  We doubt that having this veranda will be in or future, so we must take advantage when the best scenic sailing is on the port side. 


Dinnertime had another favorite entrée for one of us…..chicken parmegiana with spaghetti and marinara sauce.  Salmon was the other choice.  Both excellent.  More walking will be in order tomorrow.  And a new singer by the name of Lumiri Tubo was entertaining in the Mainstage.  She had a powerful set of lungs for sure.


Bill & Mary Ann


PS  In regards to the question on the measles outbreak in Samoa, we have not heard anything about it.

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2 hours ago, WCB said:



PS  In regards to the question on the measles outbreak in Samoa, we have not heard anything about it.


Surprised passengers were not notified, several children have died, some Australian and New Zealand  medical/nursing staff have travelled to Samoa to assist local staff, and  a supply of vaccine.

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Report #24    Suva, Fiji   November 19, 2019   Tuesday   Cloudy & 82 degrees  Part #1 Of 4    80  Pictures


Did you know that Fiji has 333 islands, that are situated in an area of 19,995 square miles of Pacific Ocean?  The largest island, Viti Levu, is where the main port of Suva is located.  It is the capital of Fiji as well.  And it happens to be our port of call for today.


Europeans and Chinese traders came here for sandalwood, hardwoods, marine life, and beche-de-mer.  There goes that name again.  Even Captain Bligh sailed here in search of supplies after his crew mutinied on the Bounty in 1789.  The British ruled from 1874, and were responsible for bringing indentured laborers from India to work the sugar cane plantations.  By 1970, Fiji gained their independence and declared themselves a republic.


The most recent census was in 2007, where the population was recorded as 837,271.  English is the official language, and Christianity, Hindu, and Islam are the main religions.  Suva is a modern city with trendy shopping malls, restaurants, entertainment and cultural activities.  However, you can still find a huge farmers market and fresh flowers.


There was a big crew drill this morning that took over an hour we heard later.  We left the ship in the middle of it hoping the elevators were still working.  They were, and we were off by 10:30am.  This port area is busy, and we were channeled out by going through a dark building as work was being done nearby.  Outside the gate, we encountered the taxi fellows who always want to give you tours.  Been there, done that, we just wanted to explore on our own today. 


Entering the downtown area, we found it was hustle and bustle with lots of people and traffic.  Typical big city.  Located right on the corner was their extensive produce market, where we took a spin through first.  The vendors had every  type of fruit and veggie piled on plates and calling their piles “heaps”.  Everything was sold in heaps, except for the eggs which were crated.  On the outside corner, was the flower market, where we promised one vendor we would be back.


Then we passed by their movie theater and the shopping mall, which we avoided visiting.  The most popular places were Burger King and McDonald’s, which were already full of passengers doing free wifi.  A bit further up the street, we walked past Albert Park, where a government building faces a huge soccer/cricket field.  Right across the street from here was Thurston Gardens.  These gardens opened in 1913 and was the original site of the first Suva village.  The museum on the property houses some artifacts from the MS Bounty and samples of the cannibal history of the island.  This museum is the oldest of its kind in the South Pacific.  One nice lady vendor was selling her wooden jewelry there, and we did pick up a set. 


It was heavily overcast today, and it even began to rain a little.  It sure was not the best day for snorkeling.  By the way, the ship offered 16 tours today.  Speaking of rain, we learned that the summer months of December through April is the wet season.  Then May to December is winter and the days are warm, but mostly dry.  Just the opposite of where we live. 


We walked the seawall passing the official residence of the President of the Republic of Fiji.  He and his family reside in a beautiful white home on top of the hill.  The entrance is guarded by a soldier who stands with his rifle, and occasionally marches back and forth at the gate.  Across the road is a helicopter landing area, which is off limits to all.  Then we passed by the Chinese Consulate and Embassy houses.  Locked gates and security cameras revealed high security here. 


We reached the end of the seawall where a river drains into the bay, and figured it was a good place to turn around.  Bet we were greeted with two dozen “bulas” from the locals as we walked the few miles around the bay.  Many people like taxi drivers, moms with kids, or workers come to this stretch, park their cars, and have lunch.  Or even take a quick nap in the heat of the day.  Some young ladies were fishing from the wall, but we would guess the waters were questionable with sewers draining into the bay.


Lunch was on our minds, so the best place for that would be the Grand Pacific Hotel, an icon of Suva.  Walking through the lobby, we entered their elegant patio which faced the ocean.  A lovely swimming pool stretched out from the center of the garden, and sure looked inviting.  Not one person was swimming today. 


Ordering beverages first, we both had their Fijian Gold draft beers.  Then we shared a chicken and avocado burrito with cornmeal fries.  Adding one order of French fries, and finally a slice of spiced cake with vanilla ice cream, left both of us happy.  But a strange thing happened when we paid with our credit card.  It would not work in the server’s handheld little machine.  She tried it twice, so we asked to pay in US dollars.  She said fine, but then tried one more time.  Well, the third attempt worked.  Sometimes when the process is tied to the internet, and if that is slow, it fails.  One other thing we found out was that they did not accept American Express.  Fijian dollars would have been better, but we did not have any. 


On the way back, we did stop at the flower market, where we picked out an assortment of tropical flowers.  The friendly vendor proudly trimmed the stems and made a lovely arrangement.  All of this for a mere $10 USD.  We may have gotten a bonus of a few ants in the deal, but a bit of spray will take care of that.   


We had an invitation for a special cocktail party for the 12 of us President’s Club members.  It was held at 7pm on the aft deck nine, above the Seaview Pool.  We did learn that one couple had to fly home due to poor health, which was sad, since they had intended to stay on until May.  Anyway, six small tables were set on the railing, and each had an assortment of canopies and nuts for us to munch.  Waiters took our drink orders, and offered more hot treats.  Hosts included Henk, Christel, Shiv, Philip, and the new sommelier, and food and beverage manager who recently joined the ship.  By now the sun had actually appeared, but was ready to set.  It gave all of us a treat when it did go down below the horizon.  We stayed until 8:15pm, but had warned our waiters that we might be a bit late.  Well, we were a lot late, but they took good care of us as always.


Dinner entrees were a breaded haddock and one hamburger stuffed tomato.  That was different, but it should have been the cabbage wrapped entrée.  Actually, the tomato was much better.  So was the apple tart with vanilla ice cream.  OK…..more walking will be needed tomorrow on Dravuni Island.


Bill & Mary Ann



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We visited Fiji in 1982 and on an ill-fated 7-day cruise of the Fijian Islands, we spent 2 days in Savusavu while they tried to fix the ship be were on. At that time Savusavu consisted mainly as a small industrial port and we were unable to go ashore due to some local unrest.


Beche-de-mer (English translation is Sea Beak) is sea cucumbers. 

Edited by GeorgeCharlie
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Report #25  Dravuni Island, Fiji   November 20, 2019   Wednesday   Cloudy & 79 degrees      Part #1 Of 4   81  Pictures


Leaving the port of Suva last night at 11pm, we figured we had a short distance to sail to our next stop at Dravuni Island.  This tiny spot of paradise is located in the Kadavu Island group, which is south of the large island of Viti Levu.  It also happens to be part of the Great Astrolabe Reef, where experienced divers come from all over the world to do scuba and snorkel excursions.  Volcanic in nature, this island is a mere two miles from tip to tip.  And surrounded by white sandy beaches with swaying palms. 


The village there consists of around 300 people, most of whom work in Suva, the capital city.  The majority of the local vendors are the ladies, who stay here to tend the family.  There is a primary school for the little ones, and we have been told that the older kids go to Suva for higher education.  Our first visit here was about 5 years ago.  Back then, we found a few tables of sarongs and t-shirts, as well as island trinkets.  We would discover that things have changed since then.


The ship dropped anchor about 7am, and the tenderboats were off and running.  Ticket numbers were called immediately, but it became apparent that although guests had gotten the tickets, they either went to breakfast, or back to bed.  The cruise director called at least 10 ticket numbers in a row, then eventually announced more, since the folks were not coming.  And since the last boat back to the ship was at 4:30pm, there was no rush to go over.  We headed over around 10:30am under mostly sunny skies.  Despite the nice breeze, it was obvious that it was going to be a warm one, compared to our stop in Suva yesterday.  Bet there will be some pretty bad sunburns at the end of the day.


Like we said, there were four times more tables of treasures, and way more massage areas set up.  That seems to be a big thing here, although we did not see anyone getting one.  So we headed for the hike that took one of us up to the peak.  Along the way, were cages of domestic white pigs.  At least they were in the shade, but really bothered by a million flies.  Near the halfway mark uphill, we noticed there had recently been a fire.  Whether it was deliberate or not, who knows?  When the going got rocky and steeper, one of us decided it best to stay back under the shade of trees.  Guessing it would take at least a half hour to make the summit, the adventurous one of us just had to do it.  Several other folks did it as well, even some in their swimsuits, flip-flops, or even barefoot….insane.


Resting against a tree turned out to be fun as the friendliest people stopped and chatted.  Some even joined me, and told their husbands to go ahead.  Like me, pictures would make us happy.  When my adventurer returned, he was covered with ash from the burned brush, mostly because he continued to another peak where most people did not go.  Good thing we have Spray and Wash.  Going downhill was tricky, but with a little help, I made it back unscathed.


Back in the village, we searched for the special t-shirts we purchased on our first visit.  New styles were sold, and nothing caught our eye.  Except for one sarong that had the entire map of the Fiji Islands on it.  Eight US dollars was a good deal, even if the name Dravuni was not on it.  Guess it is just too small to count as one of the 333 islands.


We made our way through the village houses to the opposite end of the narrow island.  Few people went this way, because it led us into the deeper mangrove forest.  That is where we located the old cemetery and the raised graves made with volcanic rock.  On top of each grave, was a strip of cloth and empty plates, cups, and silverware.  There must be some meaning to this.  Most of the graves had no markers, while some were dated as recent as 2000.  Following the trail further, we came out to a secluded beach where some passengers were sunning and snorkeling.  Back at the tender pier, some locals were giving a $10 boat ride around the island.  We remembered they tended to speed around the end of this island, and that happened today.  At least four people were further out in the water, when the boat almost ran them over.  Freaked them out so much, they got out of the water, and left.


It would have been nice to go for a swim, but we did recall that the sands were peculiar here.  You tended to sink to your knees, making getting out hard.  With a compromised knee, well, that was not worth taking a chance of further injury.  Even too much walking on the beach was much more vigorous, so we limited that to a minimum.  We did not pack sand back in our shoes, but we sure did pick up some nasty sticky burrs walking back to the village.  Took a while to get rid of them. 


Thank goodness the ship set up a drink stand on the beach.  Even though we had brought plenty of water, it was not enough.  The ice cold water and lemonade was great.  Also, some local fellows were selling cans of beer for $5, and plenty of people were happy as clams with that.  The restrooms left a lot to be desired, but there was always the water, if get the drift.  Talking to some of the guests on the way back to the ship, they reported the fish sightings were hit and miss.


Back onboard, we cooled down with several sodas, then went to lunch in the Lido.  It was more crowded than usual, since both the dining room and Pinnacle were closed.  The salads we have custom-made there are really good, especially when you add a few slices of pizza. Since there were too many hands in the cookies, we had the fruit in our room for dessert.  So much of the fresh fruit and berries have disappeared, so we hope the delivery they got yesterday will bring it all back. 


Sail away was accomplished right from our veranda, since the scenic sailing was on the port side today.  Other than a few flying fish and three birds, the view was of the several islands and islets with remote resorts on them.  The colors of the water revealed where some of the shallow reefs were.  They even stationed a small motor boat where one of the dangerous reefs was.


This evening we were invited to celebrate Denise’s birthday in the Pinnacle Grill.  The four of us met at 7:30pm, and we were escorted to the back room at a special table.  We all had a wonderful conversation about how we had spent the day.  Howie had stayed in the village, and actually joined the head of the village and a few locals in a pow-wow.  He learned a lot about island life, while Denise climbed almost to the summit, a lot further than one of us.  What a way to spend your birthday.  Our meals were excellent, and Denise was even presented with a chocolate mousse cake with Happy Birthday on it.  Oh boy…double desserts….and more walking will be needed tomorrow.


It was nearing 10pm when we left the restaurant, so we did not go to the show which featured singer Stephen Clark with music from around the world.


One more Fijian port of Lautoka will end our visit to this part of the Pacific Ocean.


Bill & Mary Ann


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Report # 26   Lautoka, Fiji   November 21, 2019   Thursday   Scattered showers & 85 degrees   Part # 1 of 4   81 Pictures


Lautoka is situated on the west side of Viti Levu, the same island as the capital of Suva.  It is Fiji’s second largest city after Suva.  The population is around 50,000 people of mixed origins.  Native Fijians, Indians, and Chinese worked in the sugarcane plantations in the early 1900’s, and many of them stayed.  And sugarcane is still grown, milled, and exported from here.  In fact, Lautoka’s sugar mill is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.


More of a “1950’s” look about it, the town has ethnic shops and restaurants, as well as a gigantic produce market.  The highlights in town are the sugar mill, a botanic garden, a Hare Krishna Temple, and a Sikh Temple.  The largest department store was Jack’s of Fiji, again with the nicest clothing and souvenirs.  They are a chain that we have seen in every Fijian city, with the exception of Dravuni Island.  And they did accept most credit cards, although not all of the shops did, we heard.


There were 10 ship tours offered which included firewalking, visits to nearby trendy Nadi, a day at a mudbath spa, and more cultural villages.  Adventure and beach tours included two sailings to a private resort with lunch, and one zipline.  We have seen the firewalker show and thought it looked painful.  The fire pit was dug out between 12 to 15 feet in diameter, and 3 to 4 feet deep.  Large smooth river stones were placed in the pit, then eight hours before the ceremony, a log fire was lit over the stones, heating them up.  It is considered a sacred celebration and definitely part of Fiji’s charm.


The Amsterdam arrived around 7am, and when we were cleared, Justin, the cruise director, came on with the usual warning about no fruit, sandwiches, meat, or animals were allowed off.  And in addition, he had another warning concerning passport stamps.  It seems that some folks in town will offer to stamp passports with the Fiji stamps that are unauthorized.  Most folks do not realize that this infraction can make your passport unacceptable and void.  Who knew?


When we were here in 2007 and 2016, the store, Jack’s of Fiji, supplied buses to shuttle the passengers to the center of town (and their store) for free.  But last night, the shore excursions staff offered a round trip ticket for $15 per person.  They stated that the distance to town was 2 ½ miles, but we remembered it was closer.   More like 1 ½ miles.  So around 11am, we went off the ship, picked up a map, and headed to town on foot.  Yes, it was warm but there was a breeze.  And as far as the thunderstorms predicted, it never happened.  Of course, we did have one umbrella with us just in case. 


This was a very commercial port with a pine wood chip factory near the pier. Also close by was the sugar cane factory where huge trucks were bringing their loads of cut canes from the plantations.  We even saw a train arrive with several cars full of cut canes.  In the mountainsides, we could see smoke coming from  the fields being burned.  It sure put a haze in the air, along with other factories spewing smoke from tall stacks.


Along the main road were murals depicting the history  of Lautoka and its part in the success of the sugarcane plantations and factories.  Most interesting.  Had we taken the shuttle, we would have missed all the info and photos.  And the street trees were beautiful…in full bloom.  Vibrant reds of the flame trees and bright yellows added much color to this industrial area. 


A popular spot in town was McDonald’s, and the only recognizable fast food restaurant we saw.  It had the most traffic even this early in the day.  Within 15 minutes, we reached the center of town and the busy main street of small businesses and cafes.  Most every restaurant was either Indian or Chinese food.  Our main destination was the gigantic produce market…even bigger than the one in Suva.  They had most every veggie and fruit you can think of, even some apples, which have to be imported.  They cost about 25 cents USD.  The fresh cut pineapples looked the best to us.  Heaps of peppers and coconuts were numerous.  Imported sacks of spices were sold by the kilo, like we might find in Mumbai for instance.  The vendors and local customers greeted us with “Bula” over and over.  Many asked where we were from, and liked to hear about the United States.  After taking a gazillion photos, we made our way to the main street, ducking into some larger department stores, mostly to cool off in their air conditioning or fans. 


If there were any suitable restaurants, we might have looked for some cold beer.  But we did not find any in this part of town.  Heading back down towards the water, we found a nice bayside walkway with trees for shade.  But the best part was the strong breeze coming off of the bay.  This stretch of tree-lined walkway continued almost all of the way back to the pier.


Checking out the pier souvenirs, we found nothing we needed.  Usually Jack’s had a collection of their clothing and wooden products, but we did not see their products here at all.  With Lautoka being the fourth stop in Fiji, we think the folks are shopped-out.


Back on the ship by 2pm, we relaxed on the veranda until time for lunch at 3pm.  The Lido was pretty busy, since the dining room was closed once again, and many folks had just returned from their tours.  The line was a bit longer for custom salads, but well worth the wait.  Pizza was not ready, so we skipped it today.


Before we left the ship this morning, we noticed that there was a major leak in the ceiling halfway down the hallway.  Water was coming out of one of the light fixtures outside a room.  That cannot be a good thing.  But there were at least four crew members beginning to fix it.  We hoped that the water would not be turned off in our section, as sometimes they do.  Probably a good time to leave, although it was still being worked on when we got back and our water supply  was never affected.  


Working on photos and reports kept us busy until all aboard at 4:30pm.  The Amsterdam left on time, and the Captain mentioned that we might be headed into some rough weather. If he kept the speed at 16 knots, we might be able to outrun it.  He did not elaborate beyond that, but we heard that the dining room waiters were told to put everything on the floor tonight after dinner service.  That says it all.  


Dinner was good with another new fish entrée of mahi-mahi.  One of us ordered the pork piccata with spaghetti and marinara sauce.  Really good.  Philip stopped by, as he does quite often, and since we missed the swordfish last night, he said he would try to serve it tomorrow if there is some left.  Tama, our waiter, said it was covered with a banana leaf and grilled with spices.  Everyone who ordered it was pleased with the flavor and the moistness.  So we shall see.


Crossroads was the theme of the performance of the Amsterdam entertainers in the Mainstage.  We caught some of the show, but it had been a long day, so we turned in.


Tomorrow will be a most welcomed day at sea before we arrive to Vanuatu.  And since we are traveling further west, the clocks went back one hour tonight.


Bill & Mary Ann


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Report #27  Day at Sea   November 22, 2019   Friday   Mostly sunny & 82 degrees      Part #1 Of 1   5  Pictures


Three things were good about today.  First, it was a day at sea…..much needed by all.  Then we had put the clocks back one hour last night, getting much needed sleep.  Finally, there was a special lunch in the dining room at noon with a Seafood menu, which brought a smile from many folks.  And actually, there is a fourth thing, as we will be putting the clocks back again tonight.


Now that we have left Fiji behind, the next country to visit will be Vanuatu.  Shore excursions gave a lecture on their tours in the upcoming ports.  Then later in the day, the culture and the general port information was discussed.  We can always catch these presentations on our TV, which we always do.  If the sun is out, so are we.


And for the first time in many days, the humidity was much less this morning.  There was a freshness in the air, making it very comfortable at the aft pool.  Lots of folks are working on their tans, as well as enjoying the pool.  We have a team of four Polynesian ambassadors onboard that have been giving dance and ukulele lessons in the morning on sea days.  Later at 4pm, they have a sunset music hour at the Lido pool.  So during their free time, they relax at the Seaview pool, the fellows sipping cold beer sometimes.  They are very friendly, and love interacting with the guests.  But today, they broke out with a Polynesian song (not loudly), which was very good, and a couple of fuddy duddies asked them to move away from them and stop singing.  How rude was that?  With that, other guests moved away from the rude folks.  The foursome quietly picked up their things, and left the pool area.  Guess they cannot afford to offend anyone, or they might lose their job here.  Takes all kinds…..


The seafood lunch sounded good, but since we had eaten a hearty breakfast, we kept with our routine of the 2:30pm lunch in the Lido.  Having custom salads have helped keep the calories under control, as long as we stay away from those cookies.  They are finally marked with nuts, or no nuts.  And they are smaller than they used to be.


We are finally getting to the end of our complimentary minute vouchers, and will need to purchase one of the internet plans soon.  The megabyte internet really is the better system, because with the premium plan, you can accomplish what you want without watching the minutes disappear.  Some days the internet works OK, and other times, well it leaves a lot to be desired.  Anyway, they are selling the plans now at a better rate as the days get less to the end of the cruise.  No doubt about it, the internet has been a sore subject with most everyone that bought one of their plans.  And now we understand better why so many people search for free internet in the ports.


The sunset was just OK, but Denise captured a gorgeous sunrise this morning.  Still nothing like in Kauai.  Dinner followed the sunset, and it was kingfish for one of us, and wienerschnitzel for the other. The warm German potato salad was perfect with the veal dish.  The swordfish was not available since they ran out of the banana leaves for that special entree.  Hope they serve it again.


Also, thanks for the finding the meaning of beche-de-mer. Who would guess it was sea cucumbers?  Certainly, not us.


Ready to turn those clocks back again.


Bill & Mary Ann


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