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John and Diane's Latest Adventures - 2020


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Thanks for the update.  I have been to Bay of Islands twice, both times during rainy weather, but it seems to be a wonderful place to spend a week on land.  Beautiful scenery. I'd love to visit again!



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Looks like you will have an overnight in Perth.  I did a circumnavigation cruise of Australia two years ago and we docked at Fremantle for Perth.   Fremantle is small and has one or two shuttle bus routes that as I recall were free and go to the various attractions in town. We walked all over the downtown area and it is quite charming. Perth is a comfortable train ride from Fremantle and the station was very close to where we docked.  We loved Perth. . . took the Hop On Hop Off Bus there. 

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As always, you have such a great attitude.  It's not the cruise you signed up for but it will be great.  The photos have been awesome.  That sunset photo from Auckland was absolutely beautiful.  Hopefully Tim is able to board during your cruise.  Considering the changes in itinerary, do you ever pick up an extra bag of chips or tim tams in case you have a few unexpected sea days?  The Amsterdam will never run out of food and beverage but no one wants to be without their special snacks.  Cherie

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Friday, March 6, 2020

At Sea en route to Sydney


At last year’s Captain’s Dinner in The Pinnacle, we were fortunate enough to be seated with the captain and, since this particular dinner was the last of twelve, we offered the opinion that Captain Jonathan must be quite ready to be finished with this particular part of his responsibilities.  He agreed wholeheartedly, at which time John suggested that it might be a good idea to have one big, elegant dinner in the dining room, call it “The Captain’s Dinner,” serve wonderful food and include lots and lots of free wine.  I guess there was conversation with Seattle about how much money was lost in The Pinnacle ($90,000) and, presto change-o, the Captain’s Dinner this year was held last evening in the Dining Room.  We don’t know if it had anything to do with John’s suggestion, but I’d like to think so.  


It seemed as we entered the Crow’s Nest before dinner that everyone had worn their very best outfits, from ball gowns to Armani tuxedos to colorful kilts.  Since there were dinner seatings at 5:30 and 7:30 (and we were to attend the latter one), we all headed for the dining room where there was a 15-minute delay while the first seating finished and the tables were reset.  One thing we noticed was that all of the ladies who host in the Dining Room wore beautiful black dresses.  We knew from Josephine, the evening dining room hostess, that she had gone shopping in Auckland to find “the perfect dress.”  Isn’t that what every woman looks for?


We were fortunate enough to have Henk Mensink, the Hotel Manager, host our table.  He and his beautiful wife Crystal are friends from our first WC in 2008 and we always get along well.  Henk usually sits with us at least once during the cruise, and we were quite honored that it was such a special night to have him join us. 


The dinner began with a cocktail called a Pear Blossom Martini.  My first glance at the glass made me think of a lava lamp, because there were small green bubbles floating up to the top.  Henk told us they were pear-infused vodka inside of an edible “skin.”  The rest of the drink consisted of lychee nectar, sugar syrup and a topping of sparkling wine.  For someone who doesn’t usually have cocktails, this one was pretty good.  


The two wines chosen for the dinner were Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and Decero Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina.  Jacques had told us that these were new wines that were previously unavailable on the ship but had been ordered specifically for the Captain’s Dinner.  I stuck with the Sauvignon Blanc and found that it quickly went to the top of my “favorites” list.  


Since all elegant meals must have an amuse bouche, and since ours was even better, we had three.  There was a little glass container with asparagus panna cotta, a thin slice of cucumber filled with crab, and a “mojito sphere.”  That last one was interesting.  It was another one with a “skin” around a liquid that tasted like a mojito.  


For our first course, there was a choice between tiger prawns and a “sprouting salad of baby beets.”  Since the second involved goat cheese, I opted for the prawns.  A green pea soup was the next course, followed by a choice of “New Zealand Sea” or “New Zealand Land.”  The first had a fish filet, scampi and oysters, while the second had a rib-eye filet, crispy sweetbread, and short rib terrine.  I had the fish, but the “Land” looked great too.  For the vegans among us, there was an option of fava bean-stuffed mushrooms.


As a dessert course, the choices were Manuka honey custard with ice cream and lemon curd or New Zealand artisan cheeses.  Since it’s Lent and I’m not eating sweets, I opted for the cheese plate, which was delicious.  


We loved the entire experience, and felt like we had dined in a five-star restaurant.  Virtually everyone we spoke to said pretty much the same thing, and I think that almost everyone thought this was a dinner worthy of being called “The Captain’s Dinner.”  


Tomorrow is Sydney, and everyone’s pretty excited about it - especially as it’s the beginning of our two-and-a-half week tour of coastal Australia.  There’s rain forecast, but what the heck - it’s going to be warm rain!






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Saturday, March 7 and Sunday, March 8, 2020

Sydney, Australia


What a place!  The excitement began at about 6:00 in the morning on our first day when we had one of the world’s best sail-ins, past the world-famous opera house and under Sydney Harbour Bridge.  We’ve done this sail-in several times, but it never loses its fascination for us.  We also love the fact that this is one of the most beautiful harbours in the world, but I imagine the English convicts who saw it didn’t think so.


Australia requires that every passenger, crew member, and officer go through a “face to passport” check with an immigration officer, much like we have to do when we return to the United States from overseas.  After we did that, we hopped on the ship’s shuttle and headed to Darling Harbour (doncha just love that name), the center of a lot of Sydney’s excitement and nightlife.  It was named after Ralph Darling, a British Lieutenant General, who was kind enough to name it after himself in 1826.  


We didn’t stay there long, but headed along Sussex street, which led us right into the middle of Chinatown.  As we had been warned, the area was very quiet, with few residents and even fewer tourists.  After a stroll through that area, we went directly to Paddy’s Market, a square-block building with small, indoor markets selling almost everything.  I’m not a shopper, so we just wandered through, enjoying the wares on display.  Slightly later, our friends Ginni and Leslie went through the market with serious shopping on their minds - and apparently they were very successful at it.


We left the market after having lunch at the third floor Asian food court, enjoying teriyaki chicken, fried rice and curried chicken.  We knew that George Street would lead us directly to Circular Quay, where we used to dock, right in the middle of the city.  If you haven’t been to Sydney, it’s the place from which you can take the best photos of the bridge and the opera house, and it’s also the ferry headquarters for the city.  Along the way we walked through Queen Victoria Building, the home of incredibly upscale shopping as well as lovely restaurants and tea rooms on the top level. It also has some beautiful stained glass along the walls and ceiling of this wonderful historical building. We kept wandering until we reached the Quay and then bought an Opal Card, similar to London’s Oyster Card, which is used for any public transportation in and around Sydney.  The first use of the card was to hop a ferry back to Darling Harbour and then board the shuttle back to the ship.  


A quick shower and a nap later, we met Rich and Ginni to take the shuttle back to Darling and our ultimate destination:  Baia Restaurant, one of our favorite places to eat Italian food.  As we were eating, the rain began just sheeting down, so we were fortunate to be under cover and just able to watch.  The pizzas and calamari were delicious (as usual) and it seemed like it was expensive, but when converted to US dollars (1 dollar = 1.5 Aus dollars) it wasn’t so bad.  


We finished dinner at about 8:00 and the regular Saturday night fireworks didn’t begin until 9:00, so we went on a Tim-Tam hunt.  If you’ve never had Tim-Tams, you should check out the cookie section of a large supermarket.  They’re one of Australia’s prize products, and we usually buy them in whatever Australian port we find ourselves.  The interesting thing was that the cookies we bought in 7-11 were $4.50 a package, but when we got to Woolworth’s (yes, they still have them here), they were on sale for $1.76, so that’s where we stocked up.  


By the time we returned to Darling Harbour, the fireworks (and the rain) had begun.  We 

watched what we could and then it was time to return home to the Amsterdam.  As an aside, whenever we’re in port, there’s a large sign raised on the side of the ship which says “Welcome Home,” and it really feels like it.  When we returned to our cabin, I checked my IPhone and it said that I had walked 7.8 miles - just reading that made me tired.  

* * * * * * *

Sunday was almost as busy as Saturday.  We met our usual partners in crime, Rich and Ginni, took the shuttle to Darling Harbour, the ferry to Circular Quay, and then a ferry to Manly Beach watching the beautiful sailboats as we crossed.   I know that it’s Bondi Beach which gets all the press (and the tee-shirts), but we much prefer Manly (and not just for the name).  We love the incredibly long stretch of pristine white beach, the surfing contests (one was going on yesterday), the Corso, a super-wide pedestrian-only street which leads one from the harbour to the beach, and Hugo’s, our favorite harbour-side restaurant.  That was our first stop, where we had pretty much a reprise of last night’s dinner.  We shared pizzas and calamari and enjoyed a beautiful view.  The place was packed, as it is almost every Sunday, and we were lucky to get a table without a reservation.  


Then we proceeded down the Corso, peeking into the restaurants, grocery shops, pharmacies and surf shops as we continued toward the beach.  That’s where we discovered that, like last year, the annual Manly surfing contest was going on, so we watched for awhile before heading back to our ferry.


Since we had a 5:30 all-aboard and a 5:00 last shuttle, we hastened aboard the ferry to Circular Quay and then the shorter one to Darling Harbour, where we found our shuttle back to the ship,and arrived in plenty of time.  We were even early enough to get ready for the 5:30 sailaway, where the hors d’oeuvres consisted of about six different kinds of cheese as well as almost unlimited oysters.  I’m not a fan, but those around me were really happy with the shellfish and gobbled them down.  


It was nice to be back at the table for dinner, and even nicer that it was a “set the clocks back an hour” night.  We skipped the show and went to sleep early, doing our best to make up for two incredibly active days, miles upon miles, and meal after meal.  Now, as I sit at the table in the library across from my library friend Frances, it seems as though I may actually have recovered.  











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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

At Sea en route to Townsville, Australia


It’s our second sea day, and it seems as though we are crossing the Atlantic.  There are sizable swells, gray skies, high winds, and occasional rain.  Here we thought we were supposed to be in Australian late summer - I guess not.  I really don’t mind, since it just keeps me inside to read or write, but John and company were rained off the paddleball court yesterday.  I think he’s going to give it a break for awhile, since his tennis elbow has returned with a vengeance.


Last evening our friend Martha invited us to join her in The Pinnacle Restaurant to enjoy the “A Taste of Tamarind Restaurant.”  You probably know that Tamarind is a permanent restaurant on Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam (and probably others), but on other ships, it appears as a “pop up,” and on this cruise there will be three chances to enjoy it.  They did the same thing last year, but we didn’t enjoy it then nearly as much as we did last night.  We think they’ve really upped their game.  


We were a group of seven:  Martha, Will, Nancy, Greg, Heo, and the two of us.  Although we were crowded into a corner table, it just made things more interesting, as when we had to decide whose silverware and water glass was whose and then laughed about it.    


Tamarind calls itself a “pan-asian” dining experience, and it’s fun to decide which asian dishes to enjoy for the courses.  Most people choose two starters, a main, and a dessert, but I limited myself to one starter before I realized everyone else had ordered two.  That was OK, since I got to share some excellent choices from others’ plates.


I had the satay sampler, which included lamb, pork, beef, chicken, shrimp and pickled vegetables set off with two dipping sauces, sweet and sour as well as peanut sauce.  It was delicious, even though I couldn’t tell the difference between the lamb, the pork and the beef.  Maybe I just used too much sauce.


The other choices were shrimp tempura, spring rolls, Thai beef salad, a dragon roll (somewhat like a California roll, but with a “tail,”) and a veggie rainbow roll.  The soups were laksa and “Jewels of the Sea” with shrimp wontons.  I tried John’s dragon roll and I think I’ll have it next time.  Everyone’s reports were “two thumbs up” and then we were ready for main courses.


The mains are divided into four of the Chinese elements:  water, fire, wood and earth.  I had the ginger and garlic seared lobster (water), which was fantastic.  John and Martha had the Penang red curry coconut chicken (fire), which came in a large bowl - it was really too much for one person.  Will enjoyed the wasabi and soy crusted beef tenderloin (wood) , and Heo had the Korean duck breast bulgogi with sticky rice cake(also wood).  The other choices were barramundi, lamb with mint, sesame udon noodles, and sweet and sour vegetable tempura, the last two from the “earth” category.  Along with our mains, there were several side dishes, including rice, garden vegetables, bok choy and mushrooms.  If we’d had three thumbs, they would have all been up.


Even though everyone said they were full, it was dessert time and no one would pass it up.  There were three choices:  chocolate mousse in a dark chocolate shell, Thai mini donuts, and a huge “fortune cookie” with a chocolate ganache filling.  Since it’s still Lent, I had a delicious plate with strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.  It’s nice to have that option, especially since our friend Ginni is seriously allergic to chocolate and she’d have to have something besides the menu offerings.


We were, as usual, the last people to leave the dining room, so we spent time chatting with Tina, the Pinnacle manager and taking silly photos.  It was a wonderful evening, and now we have the sommelier dinner on Friday to which we can look forward.  





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Wednesday, March 11, 2020 Townsville, Australia At home, it’s very strange for us to have rain and 85 degree weather at the same time, but that’s what it is today in Townsville.  This is a beautiful little tropical town, with more friendly people and hundreds of palm trees.  We were here last year and enjoyed it just as much then.   Since the rain was pouring down, we waited until about 9:30 to disembark the ship.  By then the rain was light - just enough to ruin one’s hair and create puddles to skip over.  We’re docked a bit of a distance from town, so our complimentary shuttle took us right into the city center, where our first job, as usual, was to find a post card and get it in the mail.  After that was taken care of (with international stamps at $3.40 Aus), we decided to head down to The Strand, a blocks-long park that runs along the sea. On the way, however, we were waylaid by a friendly little coffee shop.  When I opened my wallet to pay for our cappuccinos, the cheeky young man working there commented that I had a really nice “California accent.”  I asked him exactly what that meant and he replied that you can just hear it.  Finally he admitted that he had caught a glance at my driver’s license, and we both had a laugh over that.   Coffee stop complete, we walked the rest of the way to The Strand, a beautiful part of Townsville with grass, tropical trees (I love the banyans), children’s play areas, war memorials, and a large swimming complex which is being renovated.  Sidewalks line both sides of the park area, so we just walked and walked, John taking photos while I read every historical marker. Finally we arrived at our destination:  Longboard, a bar and grill which sits right on the ocean and is somehow connected to Longboard on the Big Island of Hawaii.  In fact, their most popular beer is Longboard Lager, which we’ve enjoyed in Hawaii.  This time, however, I stuck to pear cider while John had a local draft beer.  We had agreed to meet Rich and Ginni there at 12:30, but since we were there at 11:45, we texted them so they’d be early.  Once they arrived, it was time for calamari, fish and chips, and a good time.  Whenever we’re at Longboard, we always run into shipboard friends and today was no different.   When lunch was over, we began the trek back to the shuttle and managed to fit in 4 miles for the day, which was good considering we didn’t even go to the gym this morning.  Between the shuttle and the ship there is, of course, a large building with a bit of a local market inside, so I was able to pick up a couple of things that I’d been looking for, including a loose cotton tropical dress and a “fake gold” necklace so I can have something around my neck and not worry about someone stealing it. It’s been a good day and we find Townsville a lovely stop along our “tour of Australia cruise.”  Tomorrow is Cairns, where there’s more rain forecast, but heck, that’s what umbrellas are for.  







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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Cairns, Australia


I am convinced that the most beautiful sunrise and sunsets in the world are seen from a ship in the middle of the ocean.  I’ve included one of each so you can see what I mean.  We just oooh and ahhh every time we see one or the other.  


John and I spent three days in Cairns a few years ago, flying up from Sydney and enjoying our own “shore excursions” here while waiting to rejoin the ship.  We took the beautiful old train to Kuranda, spent a day in Daintree Rain Forest, and snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef for a full day.  We loved the town and enjoyed everything we did.


Today we’re here again, but the weather is entirely different.  Previously, we had three days of sun, to the point that I developed quite a sunburn on my back while snorkeling, but today was rain, rain, rain.  The forecast said that it would stop between 10:00 AM and noon and then come back with a vengeance in the afternoon.  So what did it do during that two hour “break?”  It rained, rained, rained.  Luckily for us, last night’s “pillow gifts” were collapsible umbrellas which are black outside with a light blue map of the world inside.  Even more than the aesthetics of the gift, however, it was perfectly timed.  


When we were here last year, we found a lovely little coffee shop, so the first search was for the same one.  We’re not sure it was the same, but it did have really delicious cappuccinos.  After that, the next stop was Woolworths for a few items.  First, of course, were Tim Tams, but in addition we wanted to pick up a few things to send home for our granddaughter’s Easter basket.   Having found that, John saw some particularly tasty looking crackers, two boxes to keep in the room and a box to take to Rich and Ginni’s next “suite party.”  


Passing an open-front tour office, we struck up a conversation with a lovely young lady named Beth, an American from Montana, who thinks she’ll go back to the States sometime, but not to the Montana winters.  Coincidentally, one of her best friends is one of the newscasters on our local news station, so we’ve been assigned to contact her friend and tell her hello.


On Beth’s recommendation, we went to a small Greek restaurant for lunch.  John had what turned out to be a deconstructed lamb gyro, which he was nice enough to share, and I had pita bread and tzatziki, a dip that was as good as what we had in Rhodes a few years ago.  I washed it down with a cider, and we were happy campers.


I’d intended to save time this afternoon for a pedicure, but when I stopped at the salon, they told me that their nail lady was out for the day, so no luck.  By then it was time to come back “home” to the ship so that John could have a nap and I could do a bit of writing.  I’d looked forward to seeing one of the new entertainers tonight, since they all changed out here, but it turns out that the evening’s entertainment is Bombshell, the movie about Roger Ailes and three female newscasters at Fox.  I really want to watch it, but it doesn’t begin until 9:30, so I guess I’ll wait until tomorrow and watch it on TV.  


We now have three sea days coming up, even though two of them are labeled “Scenic Cruising - Great Barrier Reef.”  I just hope the weather clears up a bit, since heavy grey skies make it really difficult to see what’s under the water.  We’ll just have to wait and see - and that seems to be the theme of this cruise!


P. S.  the four-masted ship is a Windstar cruise.  










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Friday the 13th of March, 2020

At Sea en route to Darwin, Australia


Today is supposed to be “Scenic Cruising of the Great Barrier Reef,” but there really is nothing to see, since it’s cloudy, which obstructs any ability to get a glimpse of the reef.  I don’t hear anyone complaining, though, since a sea day is a sea day, and now we get three of them before Darwin.


What are the words of the old song?  “Shall I stay or shall I go?”  That could be us, after today’s announcement from the president of Princess Cruises that all Princess ships are being called in and cruises cancelled.  In addition, the Seabourn world cruise was terminated in Perth, after which all passengers were flown home.  So . . . will we soldier on or just call it a day?  I mentioned that Seychelles and Reunion were cancelled, both at their request, but that information was on the news and has not been announced onboard ship.  I figured that they were just deciding which ports to use instead, but now I think they’re deciding whether to continue or just scrap the whole thing.


Our 3/4 circumnavigation of Australia is scheduled to end in Perth, after which we have seven days across the Indian Ocean.  Our last hope, I believe is South Africa, but their numbers are increasing and I know that countries are terrified of cruise ships, even though everyone onboard here has been on far longer than 14 days.  We’re a bit torn on the subject, but we, like almost everyone onboard, feel very safe and healthy, except for the colds and coughs that always plague a world cruise.  


Anyway, I shall keep you updated on our progress (or lack thereof), and I just hope that if we get cancelled, we hear about it before Facebook!

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I guess today's post was appropriately timed, because in his midday update, Captain Jonathan read a message from HAL's head office in Seattle.  In it, we were told that even though some other cruise lines are cancelling cruises, the Amsterdam is going to continue our cruise as planned, making changes as necessary.  I think almost everyone was glad to hear that, since that's what we signed on for, no matter how much the itinerary has changed.  We feel like anyone on a world cruise should be grateful for the opportunity, no matter where the winds  (and viruses) take us.

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18 hours ago, tennisbeforewine said:




I guess today's post was appropriately timed, because in his midday update, Captain Jonathan read a message from HAL's head office in Seattle.  In it, we were told that even though some other cruise lines are cancelling cruises, the Amsterdam is going to continue our cruise as planned, making changes as necessary.  I think almost everyone was glad to hear that, since that's what we signed on for, no matter how much the itinerary has changed.  We feel like anyone on a world cruise should be grateful for the opportunity, no matter where the winds  (and viruses) take us.

Better hope this really does happen. HAL is now one of the few that have not announced any form of a suspension of cruises. This afternoon Royal Caribbean, NCL and other lines that are part of their groups have joined the list. With Royal Caribbean its U.S. departures. New port closures being added including those in Canada. Hope everything works out in the end. Also all Florida theme parks will be closing too. I was out short time ago to pick up a couple of prescriptions and our Publix was a bit crazy.

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We know about the other cruise lines' decisions, but we also realize that we are as safe onboard this ship as we would be at home - probably more, and no one has to worry about people hoarding toilet paper (although I still don't understand that, since coronavirus is a respiratory disease).  If we have to return home mid-cruise we'll do so, but in the meantime we're certainly enjoying our current location.  In fact, my next activity is choosing what to wear for this evening's gala night.  


Thanks for your concerns and we'll keep you updated - except that you'll probably hear it before we do.

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