Monday, September 3, 2012

17 - 29 August

Friday 17 August – Pacific Ocean

Papeete – Tahiti          Currency – French Pacific Franks

We moored right in the middle of the town of Papeete and after clearing customs entered this far flung French town.  It was a small town which was very popular in the past but since the money problems in Europe the French have not been travelling and some of the hotels etc. have closed down and this is effecting the employment and there is huge unemployment.  Everything was so expensive, a postcard cost me $4 US, I bought a blouse for the party tonight which was lovely but Oh so expensive. 

When we left the ship, there was a market right next to the ship and we all walked towards it, it was full of lovely local goods especially black pearls and shell jewellery.

Yvonne, Pat and I wandered around the town, walked through the market and by that time we had seen just about everything there was to see.  

There was a lovely church in the centre of the city and all the paintings and stain glass windows depicted natives and the Virgin Mary was holding a chubby black Christ.

Lunch was next on the agenda, chips, hamburger and a beer was well over $30 US but of course it was very nice.

Back on board well before the time and we were entertained by a local dance group, lots of hips moving and the men just wore lap laps, I saw a lot of tattoos in areas where you wouldn’t see if they were wearing shorts.

We left this lovely harbour about 1700 hrs, not sure if I would like to live there as it was very French and they tend to be very ‘self-centred’.

That evening after dinner we had our last Ultimate Deck Party as from now on the weather would be getting colder and colder.  We all dressed up in anything tropical, a number of men and women had bought grass skirts and a lot more men wore bright Hawaiian shirts.  There were a heap of people up on deck dancing the night away with the band and it was sad to think that we were starting our list of ‘last times’.  The evening was lovely and the weather was perfect. 

Saturday 18 August, Sunday 19 – Pacific Ocean

The weather is cooler, the weather is still calm and the waves are not high.  Sea life continues on its normal pace, it is hard to imagine getting up and going to work, shopping for food etc.

Monday 20 August – Pago Pago Pacific Ocean

Pago Pago – American Samoa   Currency – American Dollar

Samoa is in two parts, American Samoa and Samoa which recently changed its time zone by 24 hours so that they are in line with New Zealand.  The local people are lovely; they are very large and make us look quite thin in comparison.

I had booked a tour which took me into the country; we travelled in open vans which is a great, not a lot of fun in the wet season.  We stopped off at one of the oldest churches on the island, there were churches everywhere, I think every denomination was represented.  Every person on the island attends service on Sunday.

The village we went to was not a big one and they were pleased to see us as the last cruise ship was in February and tourism is their main means of economy.  There was an official welcome from the village elder and man climbed a coconut palm and threw down a coconut which was grated up and they made thick milk which we tasted.


There were a number of fire pits where they were cooking sweet potato, taro and chicken and we were all given a taste and then there was traditional dancing by the men and we were introduced to the village Princess.  The picture below shows a lady holding a coffee fruit which they bake and boil and grind and the result just tastes like coco and is quite nice although nothing like the real thing. 

We then travelled back to the ship and sailed away into the sunset.

Tuesday 21 August, Wednesday 22 August & 24 August – Pacific Ocean.

Life continued as usual, Master Chef Alfredo Marzi who is a world famous chef had been demonstrating his cooking skills over the last few days and on the 24th, there was a competition between the Ship’s Captain and the Master Chef and I was chosen as one of the tasters.  It was a lot of fun and the food was fantastic.

You may have noticed that there was a day missing, the 23rd.  We jumped a whole day, yes 24 hours, we had put our clocks back a whole day over the last 3 months and it was time to give it back.  The ship had a special 1 hour on the 22nd for people who were having birthdays or anniversaries where they could get together and celebrate the day that never was. The International Date Line is an imaginary line running North and South along the 180th meridian of longitude that designates the beginning of each calendar day.  At the International Date Line, +12 hours and -12 hours meet, bringing about a 24 hour time change.

The 24th was a very important date for the Sun Princess Choir; it was the date of our final performance.  We sang 10 songs which included Waltzing Matilda and I Still Call Australia Home and the Kiwi’s also sang a song.  It was standing room only and when we finished there was not a dry eye in the house.  The Choir Master is going to have those two songs shown on the big outdoor screen when we sail into Sydney Harbour on Wednesday morning.  I cannot explain how much I enjoyed being in the Choir, it was weird feeling for me to wake up singing one of the songs.

That evening number of the people that I had spent most of the cruise with went to the Stirling Steak House which is a special restaurant that has a $20 cover charge and they serve up steaks that you would die for.  We finished the meal at 2230 which was the time for the ‘great balloon drop’, this is done from the 8th deck and we were on the 5th deck, dancing continued into the late hours.  The end of the cruise seems to be flying towards us.

Saturday 25 August – Auckland, New Zealand – Pacific Ocean

Currency – New Zealand Dollars

Goodbye to the Kiwi’s, I was our first taste of what is coming up in 4 days time.  I have met a lovely lady called Pam and she lives in Christchurch, it was sad to see her leave but we have made plans to meet up and travel the canals of Europe together in 2014.

As John and I have been to Auckland a couple of years ago so I decided I would just spend the day walking around the shops and Pat and I caught a ferry over to Devonport for lunch and a wander around, we saw the local Sea Scout hall which was right on the sea front.   Gavin, went sailing on an American Cup Racing yacht and some others went to see the glow worm caves.

Back on board in time to see the traditional Maori dancing troupe, already missing Pam, hope she got home safely.

Sunday 26 August – Paihia, Bay of Islands – New Zealand

One of the most socially and culturally significant locations in New Zealand, it is the cradle of modern New Zealand. In 1840 the British made a pact with the Maori chieftains which changed the course of the county’s history.  The Treaty of Waitangi was signed here, guaranteeing Maori tribal authority.

This was a tender port which means that we had to leave and enter the ship at deck 2, straight onto the ship’s tender and boy was the sea ever rough. 

Paihia was a county town and it would be very busy during summer.  The locals all came into town and set up craft stalls which did a roaring trade and we doubled the size of the town the 5 hour we were there.  Pat and I boarded a local ferry and travelled about 15 minutes to Russell Island which was another lovely summer resort with some lovely old houses which have been converted to boarding houses.  I looked at the price of houses and they averaged $600,000 NZ.

Back on board a little before time as the Captain asked people to board early as he was expecting the weather to turn bad.  It seems that the weather was really bad yesterday and was going to be bad tomorrow.  We have been so lucky with the weather with only a few wet days in 103 days.

We had a bit of excitement early in the morning of the 27th, we had a total power failure which sent the ship into total darkness and everything came to a total stop.  The ship uses generated power to run the 4 diesel engines so we just floated in the ocean.  You realise how noisy the ship usually is when everything stops, I could hear the people in the next cabin talking.  I had no idea what had happened only that we had stopped and my ‘cave’ was very dark and of course my torch’s battery had gone flat.  I knew where the clothes I wore that night so I got dressed and then got back into bed and waited.  The Captain told us that there was  an electrical problem and the engineers were working on it, it took about 2 hours to find the problem which was a transformer.  A bit of excitement and we had something to talk about at breakfast.

Monday 27 August and Tuesday 28 August – Pacific Ocean.

These two days are full of ‘lasts’, last trivia, last Formal Dinner, last Bingo and of course packing or at least pretending to start packing.  It is really sad and we are having farewell breakfasts and lunches and evening drinks.  We have spent a lot of time together and there have been a number of shipboard romances which we have watched blossom.

On Tuesday afternoon the ship had a fair in the Atrium where each department provided entertainment and the navigation team were showing nautical knots and I must admit I knew them all and I taught them the one handed bow line.

I finished my packing this afternoon, had to because our luggage must be in the corridor by 2200 tonight, it just seems like yesterday that they were doing that in Dover which was half way.

My steward left a gift on my bed last night, a towel folded elephant.

I am not looking forward to tomorrow when we all disembark.  My flight is not until 2000hrs so I guess I will be spending hours in the airport, hope I am within my baggage allowance (I bought an extra 20 kgs on line yesterday).