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


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Report #37    Rarotonga, Cook Islands   December 1, 2019   Sunday   Mostly cloudy, rain & 76 degrees      Part #1 Of 4      81  Pictures

 

This morning when we arrived to the waters off of the Avarua Harbor, the Captain came on the speakers and announced we had a problem.  He said that the tender situation onshore was not a problem, but there was a significant swell at the tender platform of the ship.  In his opinion, if he could stabilize the ship in the best position, it may be possible to take over the most able-bodied passengers to shore.  So shortly after 8am, they began calling tender ticketed people, and proceeded to load each and every one slowly, but safely.

 

Originally, we had intended on going to breakfast, but knowing that this operation could be halted at any moment, we forgot eating, and went down to deck A, and boarded the second boat over.  And yes, making that transfer to the tender boat was dicey, but with the help of at least four well-trained crew members, we did just fine. 

 

So here is a bit  of general info about Rarotonga.  It was the Maori from New Zealand that settled in the Cook Islands in the 6th century AD.  Their double-hulled canoes have become a part of their traditions.  In modern times, the attraction to Rarotonga and the other Cook Islands, is the marine life, as well as the constant warm weather.  And we do know that ATV trips up the now dormant volcano can be a real treat.

 

Shore excursions offered four tours.  Two of them involved a lagoon cruise or a beach break.  An island discovery tour revealed their culture and legends of the island.  Then lastly, a 4x4 adventure went up 984 feet for spectacular views.

 

However, yesterday we learned that all of the tours had been cancelled, and every one’s money had been refunded.  Their excuse was that the local  tour operators could not provide insurance coverage on any of the excursions.  And with today being a Sunday, not much would be opened. Great planning coming here on Sunday.

 

The Avatiu Harbor was our drop-off point  In fact, back in 2016 while on the world cruise, an accident occurred with a tender boat being tossed up on sharp coral while navigating through a tight opening at an alternate entrance.  Our friend Barb was on that boat, and said it was the best 3 hour tour she ever had.  But because of the damage it caused the boat, and the stranded passengers, the Captain at that time said he would never attempt using that entrance.  He would cancel the port instead.  Lucky for us, the waters at the regular harbor were behaving.

 

There were a total of four tents of souvenirs and a very nice info area, where we picked up maps.  Checking out some island sarongs, we were told the price would be 1 to 1 with the US dollar.  Even though the rate was $1.56 NZ dollar to the $1 US, they took advantage of the benefit on their end.  We really did not need anything, so we bought nothing. 

 

We should mention here that the weather was not the best today, although it could have been worse.  It was totally overcast and sprinkling lightly.  The streets were full of deep puddles, and we found out later that it had been raining here for five days straight.  The light drizzle was tolerable, and we never had to use our umbrellas.

 

With most everything closed including shops, museums, government buildings, and restaurants, our only choice was to take a long walk and enjoy the scenery. What they did have were the island buses which all went clockwise today.  And here is the other bit of misleading info, we were told onboard that the fare was $5 for the bus, when in reality, it was $8 for the ride all away around the island.  A one way trip to a beach or resort would have been $5.  The ride round trip would take about 50 minutes with many stops.  During the week, these buses run in both directions, but one way on Sundays.

 

Our hike turned into walking a dog, probably homeless.  He was a bike, motor scooter, and truck chaser.  How he still has all of his legs is a miracle, as we did see one dog with a missing back leg.  So as we made our way out of the downtown area, we passed many waterside homes and businesses.  Each and every one of them had dogs that were running loose.  We have never seen so many dogs, and sure did not want to get in the middle of a fight.  Oddly enough, this male that stuck to us, and kept the other dogs away.  It became comical watching him chase people on bikes, then drive the neighborhood dogs away.  Too bad we did not have some food to give him, because we were forbidden to take anything off of the ship.  On the way back, he turned and continued walking with us, until a cute local gal strolled by, and he took up with her. 

 

We passed the Tamarind Restaurant we usually have lunch, then continued up the road to a convenience store and gas station. They were opened for business, but every establishment was closed for the day, so we ended up turning around, as it would be a long walk back.  Several of the island buses were beginning to pass by on their way for their clockwise ride, many of the guests waving, even if we did not know all of them.  People were just happy to have something to do here.  We even had a nice local gal stop and ask if we needed a lift, leading us to think that not many folks walk this road.

 

It is interesting that being closed Sunday in this day in age, since most everywhere else in the world, this would be just another day for making money.  Life has a different pace to it on these islands.  And the fact that the Cook Islands are the world’s second largest producer of black pearls, they sure could have sold many of them today.

 

One place we did want to stop at was the Cook Island Christian Church, one of the oldest in the islands.  Mass was in progress inside, with the overflow of locals sitting outside.  We joined them to listen to the lively choir singing, when one nicely dressed lady (completely in white), came over and invited us to a tea following the services.  It would be served next door, and we were welcomed to join the large group.  That sure made our day, even though we did not have the time to stay that long, the gesture was quite thoughtful.

 

We also walked to the water’s edge and checked out Trader Jack’s which is always opened.  Well, today it was not, but the dog that had adopted us, had gotten into last night’s garbage, and was licking paper plates and tin foil.  What a life, and what a mess he made.

 

There was one small café opened in town, and it was already bursting at the seams.  We felt the better bet would be to return to the ship, and have lunch there.  Getting back on the tender boat was a piece of cake, but the ride became rough on the way back.  It must have taken at least 20 minutes to unload everyone, as the boat was dipping two to three feet, and separating from the landing.  We heard later at dinner that a lady had a fatal accident here not too long away, so the safety measures were in full force today.  The crew were taking no chances, and when they said “go”, we went.

 

For the remainder of the day, we chilled out on the veranda, and had a nice lunch in the Lido after the crowd had thinned out.  Originally, we had reservations in the Pinnacle for an 8pm dinner, but we switched to the dining room because they had prime rib and another new fish, sea bass.  Both were excellent….again.

 

The show tonight was another performance by Abba Fab, the foursome that sing songs from Abba.  Boy that sure took us back a long ways……

 

Well tomorrow will be a day at sea, then we will have several French Polynesian ports in a row.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

 

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Report # 38   Day at Sea   December 2, 2019   Monday   Mostly sunny & 79 degrees   Part # 1 of 1   28 Pictures

 

Today will need to be a very restful one, because starting Tuesday, we will have six ports in a row.  Now that’s what we call hard work.  And knowing that so  many major cities in the US and Canada are experiencing either snow or rain and definitely colder temps, we will savor each and every day we are in the South Pacific.  Even if it does rain, it will not be cold, and it usually is passing as quickly as it began.

 

We were back to normal with breakfast in the dining room and our most friendly waiters, Gan and Chandra.  The new Thai waitresses have been teaching us some new words in their language, so we have a test when they come around serving coffee.  We are getting better at saying hello and thank you, even though the accent is not exactly the same as theirs.  And yes, you can teach old dogs new tricks.

 

After a short walk on the  promenade deck, we stopped to check out the Christmas scene in the lower atrium.  Originally, we had thought the gingerbread houses were artificial, but with a closer inspection, we found they were freshly made with real food.  We could smell the marshmallows, graham crackers, and fruit loops among other things.  That’s when Thomas, the food and beverage manager came out of his office to chat with us.  He told us that he is responsible for the train and the tracks around the display.  Even better than that, it really works.  Well almost.  A few spots in the tracks are not making a good connection, so he has a small train to test it.  Nothing like a train set to turn us all into little kids.  Before we knew it, Christel joined us, followed by Henk.  It has been a real treat for us to see this pre-Christmas decorating.  In a few days, these displays will be officially lit up to coordinate with Rockefeller Plaza in NYC and the lighting of the Christmas tree there.  Should be cool.  We are not too sure about the constant Christmas tunes all over the ship, as it still seems too early for us.  But we guess that the majority of the guests like it.

 

Sales were pitched in all of the shops, and lectures were held as well.  The ports of Cook’s Bay Moorea, Avatoru, Raiatea, and Fakarava were discussed with shore excursion in minds we are certain.  And here is a new twist, at least to this ship…..three excursions in Bora Bora, Raiatea, and Tahiti, and or Moorea have been bundled and offered at a 15% discount.  They range from about $250 to $290 for the set of three.  Our guess is that they need a certain amount of participants in order for the tours to go.  This way, they are certain to add some folks to their list.  Perhaps this is done on the other HAL ships, but we have only seen it here once or twice, and never on the world cruise.

 

Since the sun was out, and the temperatures quite tolerable, we spent a few hours at the Seaview pool.  Chatting with friends, catching up on yesterday’s port activities or the lack of in the case of Rarotonga.  Many other folks had the same idea as us, because the deck was crowding with sunbathers.  When the Captain came on with his daily noon updates, he mentioned that tomorrow might bring some rain with it.  Gosh, we sure hope not, as Bora Bora has to be the most gorgeous island there is to see.  Without the sun shining, all of the color is washed out.  Especially the water.  We will all keep our fingers crossed for a good day like today.

 

This evening was another gala night.  Did we mention that originally there were only four scheduled?   We thought that was odd, since gala nights usually occur once a week on the longer voyages.  So now we have found out that there are a total of seven galas.  The menus reflect it with special appetizers like escargots, large shrimp cocktails, surf and turf, and their best desserts.  We had one cod entrée and one sweet and sour duck, which was ordered really for the noodles with vegetables.  Both were outstanding, and we let them know how pleased we are for whatever they are doing in the kitchen.  Desserts were flourless cake and passionfruit cheesecake.  Thank goodness the portions are on the small side, or we could not enjoy all of it.

 

The singers and dancers did a nice performance tonight with “Dance”.  In our opinion, they are superior to some of the professional acts that have come and gone.  It is nice that the group has been on stage more often during this trip, compared to the world cruise.  We are fairly certain they will be staying on for the entire grand voyage.

 

Looking forward to exploring Bora Bora tomorrow….rain or not, we will be there.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

PS  Wish we could help with locating ship tiles, but we do not have any idea how to locate the older ones.  Good luck with your quest.

 

 

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Report #39    Vaitape, Bora Bora   December 3, 2019   Tuesday   Partly cloudy & 86 degrees     Part #1 Of 4    80  Pictures

 

The last country we will visit on this cruise happens to be French Polynesia.  It consists of 120 islands spread over five archipelagos that covers 1.7 million square miles.  That is massive considering it exists in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Added together, their population totals 270,000 people. 

 

The group named the Society Islands is the largest with nine islands and five atolls.  There are two groups within these islands, one called the Windward Islands consisting of Tahiti, Moorea, Maio, Tetiaroa, and Mehetia.   The other group is the Leeward Islands, which have Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora, and Maupiti, as well as four uninhabited islands. 

 

The remote Tuamotu Archipelago has dozens if not hundreds of atolls including two we will visit….Rangiroa and Fakarava.   Less visited are the Australes and the Gambiers.

 

Last but not least, are the Marquesas, our final stop being the island of Nuku Hiva. 

 

The climate is typically warm and balmy with up to 2500 hours of sun annually.  The hot and rainy season is December through April, while the cooler dry season is July through October.  Their language is primarily French, Tahitian (Reo Mao’hi), or English.

 

Fine black pearls are the first and foremost treasures of the South Pacific, and here is a bit of information on them.  The actual color of the Tahitian cultured pearls come from the pinctada margaritifera, an oyster of the cumingi variety.  Cultivated in the Tuamotu and Gambier islands, they come in diverse sizes, shapes, surface quality, and endless shades, ranging from pale gray to black.  A pearl reaches maturity in 2 years.  An interesting fact is that these same oyster shells were used for button-making in the 19th century for Europe.  Now they are used for cultivating the expensive pearls.  Did you know that  you would have to open 15,000 oysters to find one natural pearl?  The most sought after shades are green, blue, golden, silver, purple, eggplant, rainbow, or “fly wing” green.

 

Another product that comes from here is Polynesian vanilla with beans that grow on vines.  The flowers must be artificially pollinated to produce fruit.  This variety is known worldwide for its powerful fragrance and strong taste.  Rich in oil, the beans are shinier and more scented than other species.  The islands of Tahaa, Raiatea, and Huahine produce most of the local supply.  And it can be expensive.  We have read that you can make your own vanilla extract with some of the good beans added to alcohol, such as vodka.  In a short time, the mixture is ready to use for cooking and baking.

 

And another product is called Monoi, which is an oil produced from the tiare flower and copra oil (coconut).  It is considered a precious sacred oil, and is said to create a unique silky and light feel when applied. Might have to buy some and try it.

 

So that brings us to our port of call today, which is Bora Bora, no doubt, one of the most breath-taking beautiful and romantic islands in the world. It is said to be 7 million years old with population of about 9000 people.  The island is 5.5 miles long and 2.5 miles wide.  It is 20 miles around and dotted with over-the-water luxury bungalows where you can watch lagoon fish and giant rays swimming under your room through a glass section in the floor.  Crazy expensive, but something many tourists love to do.

 

Water related activities have to be on top of the list for things to do here.  You can go out in a boat, outrigger canoe, or kayak around the many coral gardens.  Snorkeling can be done just about anywhere, as well as scuba or helmet dive.  Ever safely hand feed sting rays or reef sharks?  We have done this more than once here, but also find that this can be done from a glass bottom boat ride, or while on a deluxe lagoon cruise.  And you  don’t even have to get wet.  The multi-color blue/aqua lagoon is three times larger than the land mass here, and the southeast end of the island is the Coral Garden, where 700 species of tropical fish live.  At Matira Point, where we went today, there are manta, gray, and spotted leopard rays.  And the entrance to the lagoon is through a 180 foot deep pass where the grey sharks and barracudas hang out.

 

A very nice “le truck”, an open-air bus with wooden seating, can take you around the island where besides wonderful scenery, you can see what is left of the American  military bases and cannons left over from World War II.  The highest point on the island are Mt. Otemanu at 2385 feet, and Mt. Pahia at 2169 feet in elevation.  They are covered with luxurious vegetation with tall palm trees and dense jungle growth. 

 

The ship offered eight tours today, which included two site-seeing excursions and six adventure/water tours.  We have done some of them many times, and found the one that we swam with the rays and sharks quite a thrill.  However, the last time we did this, we had a boat with a not-so-easy access to the water.  The worst part was getting back into the boat with the sharks right beneath your feet. 

 

The forecast included scattered thunderstorms, which we have experienced on a few past visits.  So we packed the umbrellas, even though it was partly cloudy, we knew that could change.  One of us got up very early to watch the sailing into the lagoon from deck six forward.  Denise was there as well, and eventually they were joined by a few other camera buffs.  They agreed that the clouds made for some not-so-great photos, and of course, the sun was rising directly behind the peaks, washing out the color even more.  As the day wore on, the clouds left, and the colors intensified.  So did the heat factor…… but the rain never did fall.

 

So around 10:30am, we headed down to the tender platform when the tickets were not needed anymore.  Even though we can go anytime, we have not exercised this privilege many times on this cruise.  Makes no sense to us to rush over when nothing is opened yet.  The ride over the Vaitape Harbor only took about 15 minutes, and it was smooth as glass today, unlike the last two ports we had. 

 

Right out around the back of the souvenir building, we found several le trucks waiting to transport the folks to Bloody Mary’s or Matira Beach.  It is really a good deal, since it only costs $5 a person.  Lots of people were doing this today as an alternate to taking the tours. 

 

From the stop at Matira Beach, we continued hiking up the road to check out some resorts.  The Mai Tai is a nice property with many bungalows both over the water or on land.  They also have a nice outdoor restaurant, where we have had lunch before.  As it was still early, we continued on to check out the Sofitel, another very upscale resort.  However, we were shocked to find it was closed for renovations.  Nothing was opened at all there.  But right next door to this hotel, was the Royal Bora Bora, which opened for business two months ago.  Asking if we could tour the property, they invited us into the lobby.  Then we exited at the infinity pool and their restaurant area.  Checking the menu, which was tempting, it was still too early for lunch, but we certainly would have stayed here if it were around 1or 2pm.  Most times, if you purchase drinks or lunch, they will allow you to use their pool and the beachfront with no extra charges.  That is not the case everywhere, as we would discover later. 

 

So turning back, we walked down the lane to Matira Beach and the Intercontinental Bora Bora Resort and Spa.  They offered a day  package that gave you access to their beachfront, and restrooms.  A lunch was included, but not the beverages.   And the cost was a whopping $65 per person.  We saw no one take them up on this, mainly because the public beach was right next to the hotel…..and it was free.  The only bad thing was that the restrooms on the beach were closed for renovations, so there was no public facilities.  And with a  group of about 75 local kids on a field trip in the water, it was way too noisy and crowded to stay here.

 

The best decision we made today was leaving our shoes on.  There is so much small broken coral, that it is impossible to avoid stepping on it.  Even in the white sandy parts, the coral is hidden underneath.  Even though we did not feel the water between or toes, we also did not have to dry off and try putting the socks and shoes back on. 

 

Taking our time strolling on the edge of the gentle surf, really paid off.  Eventually, we left the crowd behind, and we were among just some locals snorkeling offshore.  That’s when we looked down and spotted two large rays coming right to us in the shallowest of water.  They must have been at least three feet across.  One was a tan color, while the other was mostly black.  Two different varieties we suspect.  The water must have been about 6 inches deep, but the rays came as close as two feet away from us.  We figured that this is the area the boats bring people to feed them, and these rays associate people with food.  Of course, we had none to give them, but they did not know that.  What we did get was a whole lot of pictures, hardly believing  what we were seeing.

 

As it was getting very hot, and we were in need of refreshments, we made our way back to the road, and hiked the rest of the way to Bloody Mary’s.  This is one of our fun spots that we always frequent, except on Sunday when they are closed.  It is described as the famous restaurant with distinct island ambience and delicious food.  Opened in 1979, it has sand for the floor and coconut stumps for chairs.  Formal it is not.  But we always have a good meal here , and today was no exception.  Sharing a Jimmy Buffet burger with an side of fries, we downed a total of four beers (Hinano).  We really needed the liquid, even though we had taken two bottles of water, the muggy heat really did get to us. After lunch, we picked up a souvenir t-shirt, then walked out on their pier to take more photos of the mountain peaks.

 

We could either take the le truck back, or a van…whatever came first.  A van pulled over, and we climbed inside for an air-conditioned ride back to the pier.  From there, we picked up more brochures with info on Raitea, Papeete, Moorea, Rangiroa, Fakarava, and Nuku Hiva.  Their booklets contain many facts we could not find elsewhere.  And their maps are excellent. 

 

Going left up the main road, we went into the large tented area next to the pier.  This is the first time we saw something in there, like a nursery of plants, island clothing and jewelry.  Wood carvings and more souvenirs were also for sale.  Passing by several roadside tables of more treasures, we did not see the same type of pendant we purchased a few years ago.  It is a carved silver seashell with a single black pearl attached to the bottom.  Many ladies from the ship asked where I purchased it, but they were not being sold anywhere now.  So glad we bought it back then.  

 

There is one nice clothing shop there, and we did find another Bora Bora t-shirt as well as a powder blue visor, which are hard to locate in most ports. Baseball caps are everywhere, but not visors. 

 

Back at the tender pier, we were happy to see our waiter Chandra, who gladly poured us a couple of cups of lemonade…ice cold.  Back on the ship, we cooled off in the comfort of our room, and worked on photos and reports.  With the sun going down on the port side of the ship, we could not use the veranda.  It was still way too hot out there.  

 

The sun did set shortly after 6:30pm, then we headed for dinner.  The choices were a bit strange this evening with the fish entrée a yellow fin sole (OK), but a chicken breast cooked with spices in a banana leaf.  The spices were fine, but for some reason, the chefs like to add jalapeno pepper to it, making your lips tingle.  For that reason, two scoops of biscotti ice cream settled the heat down.  Good excuse for eating dessert right?

 

There was no show tonight, since we did not leave the port until after 10:30pm.  At some point, the Paul Gaugin cruise ship pulled in beside us, ready for a full day or more in Bora Bora.  And something we sort of remembered from last time, the casino on the Amsterdam was opened, and on a 24 hour basis.  The slot machines were on day and night, but the tables would close as usual.

 

Our next port will be in Raiatea tomorrow morning, and we should be docked this time.  So much easier than tendering.

 

Bill & Mary Ann   

 

 

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Report #40    Uturoa, Raiatea, French Polynesia   December 4, 2019   Wednesday   Mostly cloudy & 85 degrees    Part #1 Of 4    80  Pictures

 

Today we visited the second largest island of the Society Islands….Raiatea.  It was so close to the island of Bora Bora, that we could see the outline of it from here.  Located 125 miles from Tahiti, about 12,250 residents live here.  The ancient name of this island is Havai’I Nui, meaning springing waters.  Raiatea has a total of 88 square miles and shares the same lagoon as nearby Tahaa, an island of only 34 square miles.  The coastline of Raiatea is lined with deep bays and white sandy beaches. 

 

This island boasts the peak of Mt. Tefateaiti at 3,333 feet high, with the highest peak on Tahaa, Mt. Ohiri at 1585 feet in elevation.  There are maraes, or ancient sacred sites that are famous among the Polynesians.  One such marae is Taputapuatea, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2017.   It is considered the largest one in all of the islands. 

 

Raiatea also participates in the Hawaiki Nui Va’a, the famous international outrigger canoe race.  And with all of the natural harbors, this is also a nautical base for yachties and cruisers. 

 

The largest town in this area is Uturoa, and the port we docked at today.  It is a small town compared to some we have visited, but there are markets, local goods, arts and crafts, and a few churches.  Outside the village, there are many things to do and see.  Shore excursions numbered 10,with 4 adventure and culture tours, and 6 site-seeing tours.  You could learn all about tiare growing and cultivation of the vanilla beans.  Both are a big business here.  The famous Anapa Pearl Farm offered up close tours to see the oyster beds as well as their shops.   The adventure and water excursions took in snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, and hiking.  This island has the only navigable river in all of Polynesia, where you can motor up Faaroa River.  We have done a few of these tours, but the most memorable had to be the one where we saw the vanilla plantation and tiare gardens.  Also, we did a tour that took in Tahaa, a very pretty and rural island.

 

The Amsterdam arrived to a balmy, cloudy day, but soon we had some sun.  And when it appeared, it was major hot.  We are here at the start of the wet season, and we almost wished it had rained today.  The humidity was so high, we did not stray too far out of the area. Around 10:30am, we wandered up to the two story marketplace, where we found some fresh tropical flowers.  Buying a bunch of colorful ginger and bird of paradise, we brought them right back to the ship before heading out again.  Good thing we did, since later on, most all of the flowers were sold.

 

Then we turned right, and walked the waterfront, past the marina, and the two churches.  On the waterfront, there are a few expanses of parks with concrete benches and trees for shade.  In one spot, it opens up into a field where the international race is usually held.  It was really exciting when we happened to be here during that competition a few years ago.  Many rowers were practicing in their long boats at the time, and we had “ringside” seats, so to speak.  When this event is happening, the locals drive out the food truck (roulettes) and serve all sort of good food to the crowd.  We did see a few of those today when we walked back after noontime.

 

A bit further up the road, we walked into another public park area, where a local group were having a catered party of some sort.  This was right off of the water, and near an area where people can enter the water with ladders to swim.  There are public restrooms here, and on a weekend, it is full of families enjoying the day with picnics and swimming.

 

That was about as far as we got.  Thank goodness there was a breeze, but clouds were forming and it seemed to make it hotter, if that was possible.  We made a visit to the Catholic Church, then walked the town’s central shopping district.  That’s when we spotted a small department store that was selling Hinano products.  We did find two t-shirts with the famous Hinano girl on them, so this saves us the trouble when we are in Papeete tomorrow.  There is a dedicated Hinano shop there, but it is always crowded, and probably more expensive.

 

Then we went to lunch across from the cruise ship.  Remembering we had an excellent pizza there, we thought the place looked different.  It had been remodeled since we were here last, but the food and beer were still the same. Denise and Howie were already there, and confirmed the pizza was good.  As crowded as it was, we eventually did get waited on by a waitress.  Or was the waitress a waiter?  Certain that the person was a man, this is a common sight in French Polynesia.  We also added a dessert of profiteroles, which was decadent.  This is going to be difficult to give up once we go home.  Right before we left, the owner happened to spot Bill taking a photo, and he came over to chat with us.  We asked about the remodeling and he said, yes, they did.  Then he said wait a minute, went to the back room, and came out with a memento of the restaurant….a keyring with the name – La Raie’Gate.   Sure was nice of him.

 

After relaxing for an hour, we made our way back to the marketplace to check out the souvenirs on the second floor.  Always intending to look and not buy, we did find a most unusual item.  It was a woven bracelet with the outer shell of a vanilla bean wrapped in it.  It had the most delicious aroma, we bought it for $10.  Hope the fragrant smell of vanilla lasts for a while, because it reminds us of chocolate chip cookies with vanilla ice cream.  Perhaps wearing the bracelet will be a substitute for the real thing.

 

There were several souvenir huts along the pier area, but most of the items were pricey.  Certainly we will see the same things in Papeete tomorrow.

 

Instead of going to the sail away on the aft deck, we went to deck six forward.  Denise and Howie had the same idea, as we all enjoyed watching the ship sail out of the harbor, and through the most narrow passage here.  The direction we were going gave us a perfect view of nearby Huahine, which was confirmed by Denise’s new phone with GPS.  Even though rain looked imminent, it never did come down today.

 

At 6:45pm, there was a tree-lighting ceremony in the atrium, viewed on decks 3,4, and 5.  Knowing it would be too crowded, we did not attend.  But we are hoping to hear about it tomorrow.  On our way to the dining room, we saw the confetti that was used to mimic snow.  The staff had the Lionel Polar Express Train in action, as well as serving punch, hot cider, hot chocolate, and even Christmas cookies.  The lyrics to three Christmas songs were printed for all to follow.  And while we are thinking about it, several of the officers will be going home tomorrow until the beginning of January and the start of the world cruise.  Hope we get to say goodbye.

 

Dinner was good, but it has become apparent that many favorite items of food are now gone.  For instance, there was only enough romaine lettuce for one Caesar salad, there was no honey mustard dressing for the replacement dinner salad.  At least the swordfish entrée was delicious as was the alternate Caesar salad.  Tomorrow there will be a huge delivery of supplies and food taken onboard in Papeete.  That should take care of us until we are back in San Diego.

 

This trip is going by way too quickly now…….

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

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We have been following your adventures for a couple of years and look forward to your WC adventures.

 

I just learned a not to be missed performer, Naki Attaman, joined the ship in Papeete.  He is a well known pianist from Turkey who puts on two amazing shows.

 

We met him on the Prisendam two years ago.  During dinner, I discovered that we graduated from the same high school in Texas a year or so apart.  Talk about a small world.  
 

If you get a chance, please tell Howard that Naki is the entertainer Steve and Lenda told him about this summer.

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Report #41   Papeete, Tahiti   French Polynesia   December 5, 2019   Thursday   Thunderstorms & 85 degrees   Part # 1 of 4   80 Pictures

 

 

Today’s port was Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, situated on the island of Tahiti, and the largest of the islands.  Papeete is the seat of government, as well as the commercial, industrial, and financial businesses and services for the country.  The residence of the French High Commissioner lives here.

 

Over 30,000 years ago, migrants arrived from Southeast Asia and settled in Polynesia.  They remained isolated until the British arrived in 1767, followed by captains Cook and Bligh, and French explorer Bougainville.  The British brought missionaries, and that is when everything changed with the introduction of Christianity. 

 

The best way to get to know this city is by visiting their Marche Municipal, or the Marketplace.  Spread over 7000 square meters, you can find a full range of authentic Polynesian products and get the feel of their way of living.  You can buy uru (breadfruit), sweet potatoes, bananas, pineapples, limes, and mangoes to name a few.  Deep sea fish, lagoon fish, tuna, mahi mahi, swordfish, and parrot fish….some of the largest we have ever seen.  Tropical flowers are also sold here as well, and at a reasonable price. Handicrafts from the Austral  islands include woven hats and baskets, while stone and wood carvings can be found from the Marquesas.  Other sale items are monoi, the coconut oil, and a wide array of shell jewelry.  Pearl items can be bought on the outside tables, and island clothing is available on the second level.

 

There were 13 ship tours here with site-seeing, culture, and water activities.  There were a few island bus tours with lunch, a 4x4 ATV ride to see cascading waterfalls, tropical vegetation, exotic flowers and killer views.  There was a guided tour through downtown, which we always do on or own.  Or you could book a swimming and snorkeling excursion, sailing in a catamaran, or enjoy a sunset sail and cocktail on a 65 foot boat.  The most expensive tour were a choice between an overnight in a bungalow or a bungalow over the water in Moorea.   That cost from $800 to $950 a person, and the transfer there was by ferry.  We have participated in them all, except for the bungalow.

 

And this was the first port that we encountered heavy rain.  Once the sun came up, we could see the heavy black clouds coming our way as the ship entered the sheltered harbor at Papeete.  While we were having breakfast in the dining room, we could see sheets of water running down the back windows.  Recalling that this is fairly normal for this time of year, we all hoped it was passing, and it would clear up.  And it did just that.  There were showers off and on most the early morning, but the afternoon was rain-free, at least in town.  No matter what, we took the umbrellas and did use them.

 

Before we left the ship, we hunted down Henk  (Christel), the hotel director, and Shiv, the executive housekeeper.  They were all leaving today for a short vacation, then will return in Cartagena in early January.  The Mensinks will be able to spend Christmas off of the ship, but Shiv has the longest flight home to India. 

 

Our job for the morning was to make or way to Marche Municipal, or the Marketplace.  Remember the information building that used to be right across from the pier?  Well, it is no longer there.  All that is left is a tent with tables of souvenirs and clothing.  No more welcome dancers.  By the way, we were handed an ad for pre-booking tours for Moorea tomorrow.  Three excursions offered were island tours from $40 to $50 per person. 

 

Then we made our way towards the marketplace via the fabric shop street.  Had to stop by the shop where we purchase the floral fabrics for blouses.  The owner immediately recognized the print I had on today, as we bought the fabric last year.  Originally, we had decided not to buy more, but knowing that might be a bad decision, we did come back on our way back to the ship.  Hard to resist some of their new prints and the fabric is a blend with rayon, not just cotton, which can fade.

 

The traffic was stopped dead all around the market. The locals were out and about early today to get the best buys.  The stop was really for photo-taking only, since we would stop here on or way back to the ship.  We did go up the escalator to stroll around the upper shops.  The nicer jewelry shops are on the second level, but it also extremely hot up there.  It was necessary to use the stairs down, because the escalator was broken again.

 

From here, we made our way to the Cathedral and the French Polynesian Assembly building.  Both were open for inspection, as well as the Assembly Garden.  Formally named Queen Pomare IV Garden, this pond was used to fill canteens because the water was believed to be pure.  It was kept a secret for many years, but it was also mosquito-laden back in the 1800’s.  Examples of many tropical plants and trees are labeled in this secret garden.  It is dotted with some interesting tikis too.

 

Across the street, we entered Bougainville Park, which was started in 1934.  The highlight of the park is a huge breadfruit tree.  The bust of Louis Antoine de Bougainville stands tall at the entrance.  He is flanked by two cannons from old ships. 

 

From here, we back-tracked to the market to purchase some beautiful flowers for our room.  They are heavy and buying them after our first walk was a good idea.  And the bouquet of ginger, bird of paradise, and proteas will last until the end of the cruise.  Many guests thought we could not bring the bouquet onboard, but we know that you cannot bring them off, but you can take them onboard.   

 

With a quick clean-up and re-trimming, the bouquet lit up or room with color.  Then we were off and running again.  Time for lunch.  By now, most of the showers had ended, and the sun was peeking out.  The streets here have been undergoing renovations, which has made walking much more pleasant on the wider sidewalks.  Sort of reminded us of the fancy streets in Rio.  Initially, we were going to hike the Pomare Boulevard along the harbor, but it was closed in the center section.  We had to go back in order to cross the street.  It appeared that the center section of harbor park was being remodeled.

 

So we had to negotiate the street getting to the restaurant L Apizzeria.  We had to trust that the cars would avoid the deep puddles on the side of the street, and they did.  In fact, cars will stop and let you cross when you step into the street.  That does not happen in most big cities, as they would sooner run you over than stop. 

 

Finally at the restaurant, we discovered the door was open, and we were seated right away.   We were the only tourists in there, as many of the business folks dine here at lunchtime.  Of course, we ordered pizza, this time a Hawaii one, and two large Hinano beers.  Delicious as always, we ended the meal with a dessert of profiteroles.  So good.  With the heat, rain, and humidity of the day, relaxing here under a nice ceiling fan, we appreciated the stop even more. 

 

Back to the ship, we did make the one stop at the fabric shop, then took advantage of the rest of the afternoon cooling off in our room.  Directly across from our veranda was the that tall-masted sailing vessel with a lot of activity happening there.  Has to be a training boat, we assume.   Around sunset, they played the French National Anthem, and lowered their flags for the evening.  We could also watch the roulettes being set up for tonight’s dinner onshore.

 

Dinner for us was in the Pinnacle Grill, which was not crowded.  Both of us had the wedge salads with the special clothesline bacon on the side.  The small steak was perfect with fries and ½ of a baked potato.  Dessert was one slice of Key lime pie and three scoop of Cherry Garcia ice cream.  On or way to the elevators, we did stop in the show lounge to watch the local show, Mana, the Spirit of Tahiti.  It was outstanding as always, drawing the biggest crowd so far.

 

Since we stayed until the wee hours of the night, there was no sail away.  Tomorrow, the ship would silently leave the harbor, and float over to the sister island of Moorea.  

 

Bill & Mary Ann  

 

 

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Report #42   Opunohu Bay, Moorea   December 6, 2019  Friday   Mostly cloudy & thunderstorms  & 84 degrees   Part #1 Of 4    80  Pictures

 

Last night, we had a special delivery from St. Nicholas of the Netherlands.  A card was handed to us from St. Nick (one of the dining room staff), the patron saint of children, and it was for St. Nicholas’ Eve, December 5th.  This feast is celebrated annually with the giving of a gift, such as the chocolate letter S and one chocolate chip cookie we were given.  The card was signed Sinterklaas 2019.  This was a new one for us.

 

The name Moorea means yellow lizard and it is or port of call for today.  A mere 10 miles from Tahiti, Moorea was formed by a volcano millions of years ago.  It is known as the magical island or Tahiti’s little sister.  About sixteen thousand people live here, and that number increases with visitors from all over the world. The island is shaped like a heart with two quite scenic bays on the top.  One is Cook’s Bay, and the other is Opunohu Bay, where we would drop anchor today. The island is located about 30 minutes by boat from Papeete, and has a total of 37 miles of road around the coastline.

 

The fast ferries we saw yesterday bring many locals from the hustle and bustle of Tahiti for rest and relaxation on weekends.  Every day at the arrival of the ferries, two island buses leave to the little village of Haapiti, one on the east coast, and one on the west coast.  The fare is 300 Pacific French francs or $3. per person.

 

Shore excursions offered six site-seeing, water, and culture tours with snorkeling, picnic and ray feeding, or a 4x4 safari adventure, an island drive, dolphin watching, and finally a photography expedition.  Adventure and more water tours included a catamaran escapade, jet ski, ATV tour, or a CATA jet boat.  And we saved the best for last….a dolphin encounter at the Intercontinental Hotel Lagoon, which was $240 each. 

 

One of us was up with the crack of dawn, and filmed our sailing around the entire island of Moorea.  It was finally decided we would be tendering from Opunohu Bay, and not Cook’s Bay as it was written on our itinerary.  And we soon found the reason why.  The Paul Gauguin ship was taking Cook’s Bay this morning.  Both bays are scenic, but we really prefer Opunohu for its location and tender landing shopping.  

 

We left the ship around 11am to a very warm and cloudy day.  Thunderstorms were in the forecast, so we packed umbrellas.  It was a smooth ride over, and we discovered that the landing spot had gotten better since we were here last.  Back on the world cruise earlier this year, we had to scrap this port due to an extremely bad storm.  That meant stranding some folks that had done the overnight tour in the huts over the water.  They had to fly to the next port of Bora Bora.  So we were happy to be going there today.

 

Once ashore, we located the really nice local lady vendor that has supplied us with her shell jewelry for several years now.  Even though she speaks little English, she did remember us.  And of course, we found a suitable set of a necklace and earrings.  She always loved to pose for photos, and we took another one today.  From here, we walked to the main road, and ran right into Denise and Howie.  Both of them shared stories of their trip in Tahiti with us, saying they saw everything that was promised on their all day private tour.  The only thing they missed was the Marketplace, since it had closed at 5pm.  They will be back on another cruise, and so will we.

 

Continuing up the road, we made it to the Intercontinental Resort and Spa about 12:30pm.  We happened to run into a couple from the ship, who directed us to the opposite side of the resort.  What a surprise we had to discover that there was a dolphin exhibit here, as well as a turtle recovery area in their lagoon.  The majority of the bungalows were here, built with a manmade lagoon in the center.  Just gorgeous.  Following the signs, we located the turtle enclosure, where a couple of fellows were swimming with their “patients”.  Some of these green turtles were full grown adults, and some smaller ones too.  Then we found the dolphin area, where three adult dolphins were swimming in their private quarters.  Apparently, they have a tour that lets you swim with the dolphins, as well as watch them doing acrobatics and water ballet.  This happened to be one of the ship’s tours, and it ran about $240 a person for a 2 hour visit.  Although we did not see the actual show, we did get to see the dolphins swimming…..and for free.  The two males and one female were 8 feet in length and weighed well over 450 pounds.  Recently, a young girl was attacked by the same type of dolphins while vacationing in Mexico, and just by watching them, we could see how that could happen.  A person, especially a kid, would not be a match for such strength and speed.  We did recall learning that these dolphins are capable of ramming sharks and killing them.  Of course, we got a million photos of them.

 

Moving on, we were in search of lunch and beer.  Beer first since it was a long and hot walk from the pier.  Making our way back through the lobby, we were seated in the Beach Bar, where lunch was being served.  The Hinano beers were ice cold and the breeze cooled us off.  Guess what we ordered?  Well, a ham and cheese pizza naturally.  And it was tasty, just like we remembered. Two scoops of vanilla ice cream finished the meal perfectly. By the time we were ready to go, there was lightning and thunder so close, we knew it would rain soon.  Asking our waitress if they had rain yesterday, she said yes, and it was heavy.  It had rained all night, but cleared up this morning. 

 

We began our walk back, when it did begin to sprinkle.  Not enough to open the umbrella, it barely got us wet.  Truthfully, it would have felt good.  The rain held off for the rest of our stay.  And as we have been doing, we stayed on our balcony during the sailing out of the bay.  It was just as scenic from our side of the ship.  Before we knew it, the sun was going down, and the picture-taker had only done half of the photos by 7pm.  But then, over 600 had been taken.   

 

Dinnertime found us ordering mains of a moonfish entrée and one sweet and sour pork.  Again, both were excellent.  Testing every fish entrée has been a success this trip for one of us.  No fishy smell and no bones is what our waiter, Tama, has advised.  Now we trust his opinion. 

 

Tonight’s entertainment was a BBC Earth footage accompanied by music from the orchestra.  This seems to be the way many of the cruises are going with the shows at night.  And perhaps it is a good thing.  We missed this show, because tomorrow is another Polynesian port – Rangiroa.  Got to rest up for this one.

 

Bill & Mary Ann        

 

 

 

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Report #43   Avatoru, Rangiroa, French Polynesia   December 7, 2019   Saturday   mostly cloudy & thunderstorms   84 degrees    Part #1 Of 4     80  Pictures

 

Rangiroa in Tahitian means “immense sky”.  What it should mean is immense coral atoll with an equally impressive lagoon.  The atoll is 174 miles in circumference, with a lagoon measuring 48 miles by 16 miles wide.  The interior lagoon is so massive that you cannot see the land of the atoll on the opposite side.  It is the largest atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago, and the second largest in the world. 

 

Rangiroa consists of 250 islets separated by shallow channels between the ocean and the lagoon.  The biggest passes are located at the Tiputa and Avatoru villages.  And these two places are where most of the 2500 inhabitants live.  They are mostly employed by the airport, wharves, and hotel facilities.  We do think that Rangiroa is the seat of the government for the Tuamotu Archipelago too. 

 

The Dutch navigators found this coral-ringed island in 1616, but it was not until the Catholic missionaries arrived in 1860, that their economy was boosted by the introduction of the coconut trees.  Today the industries are tourism, copra harvesting, and fishing. Pearl farms are also a big business here. This area is also renowned for the flourishing marine life, which attracts divers worldwide. 

 

Tiputa is the  only pass deep enough to accommodate cruise ships, as well as local freighters from Tahiti.  Early in the morning and later in the afternoon, you can see the spectacle of dolphins playing in the rapids of the pass.  Later in the day, we were witness to this activity.

 

Dreamy beaches and coral reefs are ranked among the best in the world.  Glass bottom boats, snorkeling in coral gardens, swimming with dolphins and deep sea fishing are among the most sought after things to see and do here.  There are reportedly over 700 species of fish in this area, among them are huge concentrations of gray sharks, tame dolphins, and sometimes the hammerhead sharks.  Avatora pass has the white tip sharks and manta rays. 

 

What is there to buy here?  Pearls, honey, and wine.  Yes, they grow and produce their own wine on this atoll.  Can you imagine growing vines on a coral island with no soil with temperatures in the mid 80’s?   For the last 10 or more years, these vineyards have been successfully planted under the shade of coconut palms.  The grapes of red and white vines are then processed in a winery in Avatoru.  So if you see a Wine of Tahiti, this is where it originates.  

 

There are many types of lodgings here,  and most are hard to find, as they are buried in the coconut trees and lush vegetation.  They are referred to as harmonious with the environment.   

 

The modest airport has a 984 foot wide land tongue where we saw an Air Tahiti plane take off.  They have regular flights from Tahiti, and this airport terminal only opens for a short duration.  No flights?  They lock it up and go home.

 

One attraction here is the Pearl Farm, where they offer a free tour if you are vacationing here.  They will even send a free shuttle to get you there.  However, when a cruise ship is in port,  the ship offers a tour for 1 ½ hours for $30 per person. We found it to be a very interesting tour where we learned the process of grafting to harvesting, as well as grading and sorting.  Naturally, there is a showroom where you can purchase some of their stunning but expensive creations.  By the way, on our first visit to Rangiroa, we happened to walk here, and were invited inside for a “free” tour.  Not intending to stop here, we had some time to spare since the restaurant we wanted to lunch at was not opened yet. 

 

We left the ship around 11am, and saw that two small freighters were unloading supplies to the islanders.  These ships come from Tahiti we read. Many of the tours started here with the glass bottom boat ride ($80 for 1 hour) and the snorkeling tour ($90 for 1 hour) leaving right from the same pier.  Van after van passed us along the main road on their way to the Pearl Farm.  Lots of folks arranged independent dive expeditions today a well.

 

Taking our time, we eventually walked over 4 miles to reach our lunch destination – the Mai Tai Resort. Beginning our hike, right near the tender landing spot, were rows of souvenir tents with rather pricey items that we have seen in most all of the Polynesian ports so far.  Right where the road took a left turn at the end of the Tiputa Pass, was an area well known for dolphin-watching.  We would stop here on the way back.  Thats about where we ran into Denise and Howie, who were in awe of the amount of coral piled everywhere here.  It really is pretty with streaks of pink within the bleached white rocks.

 

It was also around here that the partly sunny skies turned cloudy and with it came some rain.  Since it was so warm and muggy, it actually felt good.  One thing we did remember was how things can turn on a dime, and sun goes to sudden downpours within minutes.  For that reason, we did pack the umbrellas today and did use them periodically.

 

One of the nicest and nearest resorts is the Kia Ora Resort and Spa.  If you follow the signs off of the road, and go down a sandy driveway, you will find this resort facing the lagoon.  And this is where the majority of guests end up for beers and wifi, of course.  Crossing over a few more small passages, we were mesmerized by the action of the lagoon with the ocean.  The tide was up, so the ocean water was rushing into the lagoon.  This is the way the lagoon is flushed with fresh water.  When the tide goes out, so does some of the lagoon water, sort of like a filter system.  Cement bridges cross over these passes, so you can watch the fish coming in and out with the flow of rushing water.  

 

Passing the school area, we finally came upon the airport runway.  At the terminal, they were opened because a plane was due to land.  On the roadside, there are several spots to sit, so we did for a few minutes, enjoying the breeze here.  About another mile up the road, we arrived to the Mai Tai, which also is built right on the lagoon.  The nice thing about going here is the fact that no one from the ship comes here.  We had the entire bar restaurant to ourselves with the best service from the friendly staff.  One thing we can say about Polynesia, is that we have never been rushed for any meal.  Everything here is done on a much slower and relaxed pace, which is nice.  However, once we savored our shared ham and cheese panini with skinny fries, downed a few Hinano beers, followed by a shared dessert of profiteroles, we had to leave in order to make it back to the pier on time.  All was aboard was 4:30pm, and we figured it would take over an hour to get back.  We did have one question for our waitress.  The menu had a fruit name we were not familiar with.  The word was “ananas”, and we were surprised when she translated that into pineapple.  Come to think of it, pineapples do not come from a pine tree or an apple tree.  So ananas is probably a better name for the much loved fruit.  See, we can learn something new almost every day.

 

There was one last stop we wanted to make, and that was at the dolphin-watching corner.  Not expecting to see anything there, we were quite pleased to see the big dolphins swimming and jumping in the turbulent passage.  We stayed as long as we could, but had to move on to make one of the last tender boats.

 

Making it back to the ship by 4:15pm, we made our way to deck six forward to watch our exit.  This should be the best place to watch for dolphins.  Denise and Howie had the same idea, and we joined them to watch the show of dolphins as we left.  A handful of guests had made their way to the bow, leaning over the railing and even standing where it is normally not allowed.  It surprised us that not one security officer was out there telling them to stay away from the edges.  This would not fly on the world cruise, as the security officers really adhere to the rules.  After all, it is for our safety.  Once the ship gained some speed and the winds picked up, all of the decks cleared quickly. We could watch the rest from our veranda and be out of the wind.

 

Darkness came swiftly with a fairly decent sunset.  Dinner had yet another fish entrée called papeo, which turned out to be a white fish sautéed in a frying pan perhaps. And delicious again.  The veal cordon bleu was equally as good tonight. Thinking we may stump our waiter Tama with the “ananas” question, he answered…..pineapples.  Guess this word is also used in Indonesia as well, but spelled nana.  Who knew?  Tama was most pleased he knew the correct answer.

 

Philip stopped by with two possible candidates for our world cruise dinner waiters.  We left the decision up to him, and we are certain none of us will be disappointed.  Our only request was that we have two waiters that will be on for the entire 128 days.  Sometimes their contracts end halfway through the trip, and we have to start all over again. 

 

It had been one long day with a lot of exercise, so we missed the show of Naki Ataman tonight.  He will be back one more time, so we should be able to catch his act then. 

 

We will sleep really good tonight for sure…….

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

 

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Sorry you missed Naki’s show, but hope you catch his other one.  Unless he has changed the order, his first show “ Around the World With Naki Attaman” is a substantial part of a show he did for a UN gathering.  He was asked to represent Turkey 🇹🇷 at that cultural conference.  Hopefully, he will be on the world cruise and you can see it then.  

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Report # 44   Fakarava, French Polynesia   December 8, 2019   Sunday   Thunderstorms & 82 degrees     Part # 1 of 4    80 Pictures

 

The old name for Fakarava used to be Havaiki, and we are not sure why they changed it.  Fakarava used to be the capital of the Tuamotu Archipelago, but they changed it to Rangiroa.  This atoll is the second largest atoll in Polynesia, and it is  located southeast of Rangiroa, our port of call yesterday.  This ring of coral is 37 miles long, and 16 miles wide, shaped like a rectangle.  There are two main villages of Tetamanu with a population of 12.  The other village of Rotoava has the majority of people at 750. 

 

There are two passes to enter their lagoon.  On the north end is Garuae, the largest pass of French Polynesia, and at the south end is Tamakohua or Tetamanu.

 

Fakarava is part of the six atolls that were named the Natural Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1971.  This area is known for its idyllic dive sites and emerald waters.  Although with today’s clouds, the waters were not as brilliant as they usually are when the sun is out.  They still ran tours that took the folks to see the many rays, hammerhead, tiger, nurse, and black tip sharks.  The ship did offer one excursion to snorkel the coral gardens for 1 ½ hours for $120 per person.  There were four start times.  With this deep water swimming, they should have seen barracudas, groupers, sting rays, and other smaller tropical fish.  The north passage of Garuae reportedly has waters that are 98 to 131 feet deep, and that’s where you can spot the silhouettes of the large predators such as the hammerheads.  We feel it would be much better to see this from the safety of a boat. There is no worse feeling than seeing a large shark, then you don’t see them, knowing they are still lurking nearby.  Guess we have watched way too many movies and educational shows on the species to know fear when we see it.

 

Other things to see here are the pearl farms, pearl shops, and the laid-back feeling of being on an isolated atoll.  Being that today was a Sunday, many places were not opened for business.  Going over on the tender by 11am was a good idea, mostly because the weather looked like rain would arrive at any time.  Of course, we did pack the umbrellas, and yes, we did use them.  It was obvious by the deep puddles in the coral-based road that it had been raining here last night. 

 

We headed right past a few tables of souvenirs, and a new mini market that was built since we were here last.  All we saw were dozens of guests wrapped with the blue and white striped beach towels heading towards a beach along the road.  Funny thing, we noticed that a line of folks were already waiting to go back to the ship at 11am.  Even though the sun was not out, it was still plenty warm and humid.  A little sprinkle would feel wonderful.

 

In this area were various bikes to rent.  A few folks did just that and took their time riding up and down the road.  There was little car traffic here, so it was fairly safe to ride or walk.

 

Near the tender landing was a group of young local fellows feeding chunks of fish to some nurse sharks.  These six foot sharks came right up to the edge of the water, and everyone had a chance to take a lot of pictures as they did.  They seemed almost tame, and we are certain they are for the most part.  One black tip shark tried to sneak in with the nurse sharks, but the guys shooed it away.  These might be more aggressive.  Some men were actually walking in the surf with their aqua shoes, but the local guys made them get out. They did not need to do that, but there are always some folks that need to get the perfect shot.  As the group of onlookers got bigger, we left.

 

Many swimmers were in the water, unaware of the half dozen sharks a hundred feet away from them.  We did see some smaller fish, like the needle nose long and skinny fish, but not much else.  Guess you have to be where the coral reefs are to see the majority of the 700 varieties. And for those who just wanted to relax, there were many coconut palms to sit under. 

 

A few local shops were opened in the morning to sell pearls, sarongs, and t-shirts.  The Catholic church was opened to see, but the mass was long over.  The interior is painted a cool blue with a vaulted ceiling.  Quite cozy, it even had a sizable cemetery in the rear.  We would come back later to explore it. 

 

The other church on this atoll is the Tetamanu Coral Church made from coral in 1874.  It is located at the southern pass, and way too far to walk.

 

Every 20 feet we walked turned out to be a photo op.  The water of this lagoon is so transparent that the horizon seems to blend with the sky.  And with the blackness of the rain clouds, the photos were quite dramatic.  Eventually we reached the end of the coral road, and the beginning of the sandy road to the  Pearl Havaiki Resort.  This is where we have always been able to find some good food from a beach shack on the property. The only problem today was that it was closed.  In fact, the entire resort was closed for 10 days, we were told.  Right near the entrance, a group of locals were cooking ribs over a fire, and selling a meal deal to the guests from the ship.  Hinano beers were only $5.  We were not so sure about trying the food, so we walked back to the tender pier to see what was opened there.

 

It had begun to rain by now, but not too bad.  Meeting up with Denise and Howie, we all agreed it felt good.  They went up to the BBQ, and we headed back to the church to check out the cemetery in the back.  Seems like a strange thing to  do, but it is part of island life.

 

At the pier area, we did see a small café opened with many people drinking Hinanos.  The seating area was covered, and there was room for us.  And just in time.  We no sooner sat down, when the rain really came down in buckets.  It literally flooded the surrounding grounds, but we were dry, and already enjoying the cold bottles of beer and an order of French fries.  Their idea of catsup is BBQ sauce, and it really was good. 

 

The driving rain did not let up much by the time another tender boat arrived.  We seemed to be the only ones with umbrellas today.  People that had come over to swim, were wrapped in wet towels and complaining about being cold.  Oh well, this is really the first stop that we got rain like this, so we considered ourselves lucky. 

 

Back on the ship by 3pm, we went to put our things away in the room, then headed for a Lido lunch.  Salads and one slice of pizza would be just enough to tide us over till dinnertime.  Then back in the room, one of us went out on the veranda and spotted a big black tip shark right below us in the water next to the ship.  Wow, yelling SHARK, Bill ran out with the camera, and got some shots before it dove under the ship.  Never seen that before, except for the whale that came alongside in Antarctica in 2010.  That was a thrill too.  Looking up at the navigation deck, we saw the officers had also spotted the shark.

 

Working on the computer, we stayed in the room during the sail away back out through the pass.  There was a lot of turbulence, but with the help of a pilot, we went right through it with ease.  As the pilot dropped back into the waiting boat, the Captain blew his horn four times, saying thanks and goodbye.  Even with the rain storm, it had been a fun day for us.

 

Dinner was in the Pinnacle Grill with wedge salads, clothesline bacon, and entrees of halibut and lamb chops.  One of us ordered basmati rice, but got beets.  Oh well, there was so much food, we did not change it.  Actually the beets were good for a change.  They went well with the mushrooms and French fries.  Key lime pie and two little scoops of Cherry Garcia ice cream finished the meal.  Keeping dinner light in this restaurant is next to impossible.

 

Annie Gong and her magical orchestra was the entertainer tonight.  We have gone to her shows on several world cruises, and have enjoyed her style of music. 

 

And finally….we have a day at sea tomorrow.  Want to bet that a lot of people will sleep in late?  And by the way, the clocks had to go ahead ½ hour tonight.  If we remember right, the next ½ hour ahead will be when we leave Nuku Hiva two days from now.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

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WCB,

 

We have greatly enjoyed your detailed and informative posts. We are going to visit some of these same ports on the Oosterdam in March and April and would like to access your photos.  Unfortunately, we can't figure out how!  Any help would be much appreciated.

Thanks, in advance.

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Report # 45   Day at Sea   December 9, 2019   Monday   Mostly sunny & 83 degrees    Part #1 Of 1

 

The Amsterdam is now sailing in one of those areas of the world that requires one half hour difference in a time zone.  That means that the Marquesas are on a different time that the rest of Polynesia.  Perhaps it is the distance between the rest of the archipelagos that makes this necessary.  We will be gaining another half hour once we leave the island of Nuku Hiva tomorrow. 

 

The dining room seemed fuller this morning with more guests than usual.  Maybe these passengers have been dining in the Lido, and want to try it before the trip is over.  As for us, we have always preferred the meals here, and even more so, the excellent waiters we have.  It is almost like assigned seating for the six of us that have been sitting at these same tables for at least three years now. 

 

There is a new guest speaker by the name of Captain Paul Eschenfelder, and his subject is paradise undiscovered or Polynesia before Captain Cook.  And the follow up lecture on the final port of call, Nuku Hiva, was discussed by EXC Guide Helena.  We have visited this island so many times, we have lost count.  It is another laid back village where you can walk and explore the few sites right in town.  The best we can hope for is that it does not rain like in Fakarava.  As exciting as it was, coming back soaked to the bone was not the best experience for some folks.

 

Another guest chef joined us recently.  Her name is Nina Curtis and she demonstrated how to make Vietnamese salad rolls and sunbutter sauce.  We have not attended any of the classes, but Denise has enjoyed most all of them.  There is no more “hands on” cooking classes like we used to have.  And we have not seen the four star perk with getting the America’s Test Kitchen aprons either.  Glad we got them when the getting was good.

 

Ship sales went on in every shop, including a wines of the world festival with unlimited wine tasting for $25 plus 15% service charge.  This will take place December 11th at 1pm.  Bet this would appeal to many of our friends that love wine.  Sip and savor with the guest chef still happens for $7.  That was popular on the grand voyage this year as well.

 

Yesterday we received the last of the President’s Club amenity of sodas.  Usually we get a bouquet of flowers, but the ones we bought in Polynesia will last until we leave. Then today, we got an invite to a President’s Club cocktail gathering in the Crow’s Nest on Thursday.  It will be hosted by the new hotel director, Craig Oakes, who replaced Henk in Papeete.  We met him a few years ago, and found him to be delightful.

 

We spent the majority of the day at the pool, and really were glad that the weather has eased up on the humidity.  Even the temperature seemed more tolerable, because there was a nice breeze.  Not sure how long this will last as we travel further north.  It is difficult to wrap our heads around the fact that this is the month of December, and here we are baking in the tropical sun. 

 

After lunch in the Lido, we caught up on internet work.  It has been taking a lot of time to send emails, especially those with photos.  It could be the area in which we are sailing, but with the megabyte plan, we do not worry about the time it takes to complete sending or receiving.  If we were still relying on the minute plan, we would have used them up in a hurry. What we really like is having the freedom to research things we need to know, just like we do when we’re at home.

 

One of the mysteries has been solved, thanks to the help of our friend Richard.  That netted ball that was being dropped on the flag pole of the bow was actually the signal to those who need to know that we were at anchor, and not on engine power.  Normally, we would be at the sail away festivities in the Seaview pool area, so we have never seen that ball dropped on the bow.  Learned something new once again.

 

This evening was gala night # 6.  There was a big turnout for tonight dinner in the dining room.  The majority of people did dress for it, although some did not.  The choices for entrees were the usual, but we both ordered the halibut, which was cooked with a panko topping with a sour cream sauce on the side.  Smashed red potatoes were under the fish, keeping it moist.  Truthfully, the fish was way better than in the Pinnace Grill last night.  We think that while the lamb chops were grilling, the cooked halibut was put on hold, then microwaved to keep it hot.  That tends to toughen up the flaky fish and dry it out. So in the future, we decided it is wiser to order the same entrée, so it is cooked together.

 

Dessert was good…..a slice of lemon meringue cheesecake with blueberry compote.  The texture of the cheesecake was firm and really rich.  We suspect it may have been a frozen product, and we were correct.  But with the quality of the dessert, it was even better than the gelatin-like cheesecake that is made here, in our humble opinion. 

 

Tama brought the menu out for tomorrow, as he usually does.  Once again, monkfish is one of the entrees, but we are still not sure if we will try it.  Hard to get that imagine of that ugly fish out of our minds. 

 

The show this evening was oddly named….Atlantic Crossing – Cool Britannia.  Should re-name it Pacific Crossing. Anyway, the singers and dancers did another fine job as did the lighting crew with the stage’s back round dancing as much as the performers.

 

Ready for one more port, then a lot of days at sea.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

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On 12/9/2019 at 2:12 AM, WCB said:

 

 

Darkness came swiftly with a fairly decent sunset.  Dinner had yet another fish entrée called papeo, which turned out to be a white fish sautéed in a frying pan perhaps. And delicious again.  The veal cordon bleu was equally as good tonight. Thinking we may stump our waiter Tama with the “ananas” question, he answered…..pineapples.  Guess this word is also used in Indonesia as well, but spelled nana.  Who knew?  Tama was most pleased he knew the correct answer.

Bill & Mary Ann

 

 Ananas is Dutch for pineapple, hence the Indonesians knowing the word

 

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On 12/9/2019 at 1:20 PM, pvlover said:

WCB,

 

We have greatly enjoyed your detailed and informative posts. We are going to visit some of these same ports on the Oosterdam in March and April and would like to access your photos.  Unfortunately, we can't figure out how!  Any help would be much appreciated.

Thanks, in advance.

 

Here's the link to their blog.  You can see their photos there.

 

https://cruisingwithbillandmaryann.blogspot.com/

 

L.

 

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