Sunday, September 1, 2013

11th August to Sydney

11th and 12th August, the ship is heading west south west as we commence a great circle towards the beautiful islands of Hawaii.

We have a number of sea days ahead of us which we all enjoy, the weather is cool and the waters are choppy.

Monday night was the first formal of this sector and once again I dressed up, it’s all good fun.

I was in the theatre tonight and as I was waiting to leave, I saw a man go past and thought that I recognised him but not from the ship.

The next day I had asked for a get together of Scout Leaders, (I had been going to do it all cruise) and in walks this man again.  It was John Darbishire who was the Chief Commissioner for South Australia when I was in and he had boarded the ship in Los Angeles, 2 days ago.

13th and 14th August, the ship is still heading west south west as we commence a great circle towards the beautiful islands of Hawaii.

Distance travelled from Los Angeles to Hilo 2152.9 Nautical Miles.

Thursday 15th August, this morning at 0800 we started heading into Hilo Harbour and we were on the deck as we tied up for the day.

Hilo, Hawaii.  Currency – U.S. Dollars.

 Somehow, Hilo has survived tsunamis, rainfall measured in metres, leprosy, bloodbaths, betrayal, flash floods of bubbling lava.  

Settled by the Polynesian 1000 years ago, the beautiful paradise was the trading and cultural centre of Hawaii.

There are five volcanoes that form the Hawaiian Islands and overlooking Hilo is Mauna Loa which is the largest volcano on Earth.

Today, Ann, Maisey, Judy and I were off to see the island by air in a helicopter but that was not until 1300 so we caught the shuttle into the town centre and spent a few hours in Walmart which is like Kmart but bigger and certainly cheaper.

They have a great system here in the islands, all the local shopping centres provide free bus shuttle for ship passengers.

At 1210 we were at the airport to be weighed and to receive our safety briefing before we could climb on board the helicopter.  We had chosen the eco-helicopter which is a bigger one that takes 5 passengers and has glass all around and we had to wear dark clothes to cut down on the glare.

I was lucky enough to have the front window seat, seating was allocated by weight and as I was sitting in the front I was in charge of the handle to eject the door if there were any problems. 

It was funny, the lass strapping us I handed me a devise and put it on my lap, I thought it was the door ejection switch so didn’t want to touch it but later found out it was my mike switch!!

We took off and went over the city and headed towards the coastline to the sea where the hot lava enters the sea.  I thought that we would be flying over the volcano crater but it is really different here.  

The 5 volcanoes are in the centre of the island and the lava flows through huge lava tubes from the volcano to the sea and it is totally underground and there is huge area which is barren and totally lava, sometimes breaking through the earth to show red through the ground.  Not sure if I am explaining this well, perhaps the pictures will help.

Lava going into the sea
Lava tunnel with lava

Forrest on fire 
 The pilot then showed us the burning trees that catch fire from the heat of the lava, you could see the different colour of the lava which showed the age of the flow, going back thousands of years to yesterday.

We left the lava area and flew to the hills to see the waterfalls and then our time was almost up so we asked the pilot to buzz the ship on our way back to the airport.

We were back on the ground all too soon, couldn’t believe that 50 minutes could go that fast, it was expensive ($270) but loved every minute.

We waited around the airport until our video was finished; they had cameras both inside and outside the helicopter.

We were soon back on the ship and waiting for pilot to take us out of the harbour and we stayed out on the deck till well after sunset.

Captain James Cook not only ‘discovered’ Hawaii, he was killed there.  At first, the natives revered him as the reincarnation of the music and fertility god Lono.  Cook was bludgeoned to death by islanders, who later gave him a VIP funeral, consisting of disembowelment, baking his flesh and cleaning his bones – interestingly, the same way Europeans prepared the remains of Saints.

Distance travelled from Hilo to Honolulu  209.1 Nautical Miles

Friday 16th August found the ship berthed at Aloha Tower on the island of Oahu.

Honolulu, Hawaii                Currency – US Dollars.

Pearl Harbour named for the pearl oysters once harvested in the bay is Hawaii’s largest natural harbour, the island of Oahu is only 44 miles long and 30 miles wide.

Today we are going to see the island by limousine and we thought that we were going to have a 10 seater and ended up with a 16 seat limo.

We felt like movie stars when the limo pulled up at the ship and the 6 of us piled in, the only problem was that the windows were tinted so no one could see us when we did the royal wave.

With the exception of Judy, we had all been to Honolulu before so we decided just to drive around the island; we drove through the city first and stopped at a supermarket to stock up on goodies and grog.

The island has beautiful beaches and although it was early in the morning there were heaps of people surfing.

Diamond Head which became famous because of the TV show Hawaii Five 0 was name because British sailors in the 1880’s mistook the glittering calcite crystals in the lava rocks for diamonds.

We stopped to look at the blow hole and right near was the beach were Burt Lancaster and Debora Kerr filmed the romantic romp in the surf in the film ‘From here to Eternity’

Beach from "Here to Eternity"

We stopped about half way around the island for lunch at a lovely restaurant where I had a lovely meal of fresh fish and by this time I had drunk about 4 large vodka and tomato juice.

It was a great day and our driver was a lot of fun and we felt like movie stars and we were sorry when we pulled up at the ship terminal late that afternoon.

Ann and I dropped off our gear and the grabbed a taxi to see the fireworks on the beach in front of the Hawaiian Hilton hotel which happens every Friday evening and it was Friday.

We grabbed a table and ordered a Blue Hawaii and watched the sunset and then the fireworks, we had to rush back to the ship when it finished as we were sailing at 2200.

We were back in board and eating a late meal when we left Honolulu on our way to Nawiliwili.

Distance travelled from Honolulu to Nawiliwili  93 Nautical Miles

Saturday 17th August we travelled north westerly to the island of Kauai.

Nawiliwili, Hawaii    Currency – US Dollars.

Geologically Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands and it is the fourth largest island and first settled hundreds of years ago.

The remote northwest shore of Kauai has provide a stunning backdrop for movies lie Jurassic Park, King Kong, Blue Hawaii, Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Descendants and of course South Pacific.

Anne and Beverley had tours but Ann, Maisey, Judy and I decided that we would make use of the free shuttles and go to the various shopping centres around the island.

We had a great day wandering around Walmart and Hilo Hatties which are great shopping places, cheap and they sell everything.  I bought an oyster to Maisey had a ball scooting around Walmart in a scooter shopping trolley, here she is enjoying some light reading.  Maisey has adopted Marti who is a gay member of the entertainment team as her son so she bought him a male calendarput in the Pandora charm I bought last year but I had lost the pearl on board the ship.

We had another great day and this time I bought some wool and knitting needles and also a pair of bathers for $13 as well as other things I ‘really’ needed.

We were delayed for about an hour and finally set sail about 1730, we will be spending the next 5 days at sea.

18th – 22nd August the ship sailed across the Pacific Ocean.

The weather is beautiful and the seas calm, I love the sea days, we never seem to do much but the days fly by and especially now as we are now almost into single numbers before we arrive home.

We have been eating out on the deck most nights and there have been parties on the deck and at 0100 21st we crossed the equator and entered the Southern Hemisphere for the first time since early June.  Gosh, it is hard to believe that we have travelled for 3 months, I have booked again for next year but only for the section from Dover to Sydney.

“King Neptune’s Renewal of Vows” was carried out on deck at 1100 with new crew members and a couple of passengers were covered in slime and eggs to welcome them on their first crossing.

I booked my air ticket back to Darwin today, I had put it off for a long as I could, I plan to stay overnight in Sydney and catch the 1000 flight direct to Darwin, just couldn’t face the long wait at the airport and arriving at 0130.

Distance travelled from Nawiliwili to Pago Pago  2282.4 Nautical Miles

 Friday 23rd August we arrived at the island of Pago Pago.

Pago Pago, American Samoa.                Currency U.S. Dollars                  38 degrees.

The Samoan Island chain lies in the centre of the South Pacific, about 3000 kilometres south west of Honolulu.  Since 1899, it has been divided into Western and Eastern or American – Samoa.  The islands comprise the only American territory in the Southern Hemisphere.

Family members stay together, even after death.  There are no public cemeteries for Samoans; the graves of loved ones line up alongside the fale (meeting house). 

We, all 5 of us boarded one of the local busses for a $15, 3 hour island trip around the island.  We travelled round the coast and stopped at a few of the local sites for pictures.  We stopped at a local bulk warehouse so some of the people on the bus could re-stock up on their alcohol.

The locals were extremely friendly and waved to us as we went around the island, tourism is their prime revenue raiser and the island people especially the villagers seemed to be doing in hard.

The island is the same as most of the pacific islands, lush green foliage, high mountains and bright colours.

Annie and I went across the road from the ship for a great chinese meal, I went there last year and enjoyed the meal then, nothing changed, the food was plentiful, cheap and delicious.

This is the first Church on the Island

I took a heap of clothes down to the 5th deck this afternoon to be given to a charity organisation in Fiji the day after tomorrow.  It worked out well as we were going to take our extra clothing to one of the churches this morning but the ship will do it for us.  I left a lot of clothes in Auckland last year.

1700 saw us sailing slowly out of the harbour on our way to the islands of Fiji and later on in the evening sitting out on the deck eating our evening meal bathed by the light of a huge full moon.

Saturday 24h August the ship was sailing on a west south westerly heading through the Pacific Ocean.

This morning a 1130, all six from our dining table joined the head waiters and the head chefs for a Wines of the World experience.  

The idea was that we sat at a table and were presented with food to match the wine, and then move to another table with another wine and food.  

We moved a total of 6 times all the while we were serenaded by a singing band made up of waiters, all the head staff were dressed up.  We finished after 1400, feeling very mellow

Sunday 25th August.  We didn’t have one as we crossed the International dateline and lost one whole day.

Distance travelled from Pago Pago to Suva  681.9 Nautical Miles

Monday 26th August we arrived in Suva and were cleared to leave the ship at 0700.

Suva, Fiji.   Currency – Fijian Dollar                  Weather a lovely 28 degrees.

The Fiji archipelago consists of more than 300 islands, ranging in size from more than 7,000 square miles to tiny coral atolls that barely break the surface of the sea.  The capital, Suva is located on the south eastern corner of Viti Leva.

Waking up and walking out on deck this morning I was welcomed by a waft of hot sticky air and a soft drizzle of rain.  I love looking out and seeing the green lush trees and palms and the mist hovering over the mountains.

I had nothing planned for today so wandered off the ship about 0900 after breakfast and caught the bus into the city and wandered around the shops.  The clothes were so cheap and I bought two new dresses and a nice top for 135 Fijian dollars or $60 I know crazy after giving away most of my clothes the other day.

The city was clean and the people were friendly and happy to see us and appreciative the ship stopped.

I popped into a hairdresser and had my hair razor cut for $10 US and the young Chinese chap did quite a good job.

I strolled back to the ship, stopping off to walk through the local market to look at the produce.  It was interesting they sold fruit and vegetables by the ‘heap’, a ‘heap’ of tomatoes was $4.

Another nice day and this time we all went outside for the sail away which was 1530 knowing that the next one would be very colder as we were going back to winter.

It was interesting, we were still outside at 1800 and the temperature had dropped about 10 degrees in a short period of time.

Tuesday 27th and Wednesday 28th August, we were navigating through the South Pacific Ocean as we head towards the northern island of New Zealand, the weather is cooler and the sea is choppy.

We had a hypnotist on board and Maisey offered to be ‘put under’ along with some others and the show was fun but at the end he left her with the idea that her belly button had fallen out and all the air was coming out of her tummy and she was to think it was funny and this was to last for 10 minutes.  Well, it seemed that Maisey didn’t hear the funny bit and became quite hysterical as she thought she was doing to die, it was awful and we had to find the hypnotist to get him to ‘snap’ her out of it.  She didn’t remember much of it but I don’t think she will be offering again.

Distance travelled from Suva to Auckland  1132.6 Nautical Miles

Thursday 29th August we navigated the Jellicoe Channel and 0530 the local pilot boarded and we entered the Rangitoto Channel to our birth at the Princess Wharf.

Auckland, New Zealand               Currency – New Zealand Dollar

Goodbye to the Kiwi’s, over 300 went off and the same amount came on.  It was a bit sad as it was the start of the end. 

I have been to Auckland a number of times so I decided I would just spend the day walking around the shops and Ann 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.   

The weather was cold and the rain and sun took turns in coming out and at one stage we even had hail, fortunately we were in the Fish and Chip shop, eating when that happened.

Back on board in time to see the traditional Maori dancing troupe and I put on my warm coat, beanie and gloves to watch sail away as we didn’t leave till 2100.

Distance travelled from Auckland  to Bay of Islands 124 Nautical Miles

Friday 30th August we travelled slowly to our next port.

Paihia, Bay of Islands – New Zealand              Currency – New Zealand Dollar

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, at least it isn’t raining.  Another perk of being Elite is that you don’t have to wait in a cue to board the tender; you wait in a lounge until the tender is ready and we walk straight on board. 

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.  

Ann 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.

While we were wandering around we saw a number of children in traditional dress walking toward one of the hotels and so we followed them and had the pleasure of watching the children from the local school perform traditional Maori dance.  

The weather had turned really miserable so Ann and I returned to the ship and had a late lunch and this time I did not go up to watch us sail away.
Saturday 31st August and Sunday 1st September – 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.

We six girls have been to Trivia twice a day, every day we have been at sea and we never get more than average but on Saturday we came second and we got excited and so did the rest of the room, we got a prize!!

I am not looking forward to tomorrow when we all disembark, I am trying to stay on the ship as long as I can but will still have to be off by 1000 at the latest as the new passengers come on for the cruise to Hawaii.  I have booked into the Airport Hotel and fly out on Tuesday morning. 

Distance travelled from Bay of Islands to Sydney 1157 Nautical Miles

Monday 2nd September –Sydney

Sydney Harbour, there is no place like it for an Aussie. Sailing through the heads, early in the morning and seeing the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge come in to sight in front of you. 

Home after 104 days at sea, stopping at 40 ports, travelling through the Panama and Suez Canals, visiting ANZAC Cove and seeing the Little Mermaid, Cathedrals, Mosques and so much more. 

I have met some fantastic people who are in their 80’s and you would never guess their ages as they are young at heart and mind.  

Couples who have celebrated 65 years of marriage and who are as devoted to each other as when they were first married.  

Men and women whose partners passed away and they continue cruising by themselves although it is hard at times when the memories return.

It has been a wonderful experience which I will cherish forever.

Distance Travelled               Nautical Miles

Sydney to Dubai                              7,962

Dubai to Dover                                 8,717.2

Dover to New York                           4,534

New York to Los Angeles                 2,507

Los Angeles to Sydney                     7,832.9

Total distance travelled                  34,634.10