Day 28 – November 22, 2012 – Apia, Samoa
You never know what to expect. Today’s surprise was the gauntlet of taxi drivers! Usually Holland America takes us to nearest town on a bus… and we’ve grown quite spoiled to these Grand Voyage accommodations! Ha! Today we were met by a wall of large Samoan men right behind the gates of the pier, longing to take us in their taxis. So hard to choose… hoping you do so wisely. And so we finally said yes to Simone – in his lava lava, bare-feet, and floral shirt. And when he took us to his car… aye adai! It was the oldest one we saw all day, the air-con didn’t work much, the tires were about to split, and it had a hard time chugging us up over the hills… but all’s well that ends well, and we enjoyed our day.
We saw the beautiful Papapatai Falls and an incredible resort on the opposite side of the island from Apia. We visited Villa Vailima, the home of Robert Louis Stevenson, and also stopped at a gorgeous Catholic Church… all open air.
It’s a quaint place, little villages, thatched roofs. Simone is a chief in his family, lives in a farming village and has no electricity. They cook their food with wood, and they catch their water. Again… reminders of Guam everywhere… and probably what Guam was like 40 years before we moved there.
(By the way… Gary gave him money at the end of our tour to go buy some new tires!)
Day 29 – November 22, 2012 – At Sea
Notice that it’s still November 22, still Thursday, still Thanksgiving Day. We’ve crossed the Dateline.
It felt a little odd this morning… no preparations to be made, no hustle and bustle. We filled the day with nice conversations, good food, samba lessons and reading. Gary actually got on a bike today. He’s been giving his achilles a break.
Thanksgiving Dinner was very nice this evening with Carol and Evan. The dining room was filled with American flags and red, white & blue streamers… making sure we Americans were honored on our holiday. I had two courses of delicious pumpkin soup, and also had two desserts… pumpkin and pecan pie. The turkey was good, the plate was filled with vegetables – so we truly had our traditional meal.
Day 30, 31, 32 – November 23, 24, 25, 2012 – At Sea
Movies, dancing, reading, relaxing. “Hawaii”, “Amelia”, “Pearl Harbor”.
Another beautiful formal night, a dessert extravaganza, lovely gifts of commemorative plates. We crossed the equator Friday night and loved watching our tv screen count down to zero from the south, then begin moving up into the north.
Day 26 – November 20, 2012 – Fiji
What a special day! We docked in Lautoka and were told we weren’t at an island with any pretty beaches. All aboard was 2:30, so really not enough time to get out to the gorgeous areas of Fiji… so we got off the ship with no expectations other than to meander and see what we could see.
First of all… BULA! It’s the greeting, and everyone says it! People just walking down the street, all determined to make us feel welcome, just grinning and saying “Bula!” We were in a mix of Polynesians, African descendants, Indians… and the clothing and shops depicted this beautifully. I got carried away! Bought a beautiful dress from India – with the little pantaloons and a pretty scarf. Also bought an amazing necklace and earrings – later coined my Fijian Bling!
We loved the local produce market! Got great photos and later went back for amazing pineapple. There was a parade for peace in the home… women all dressed beautifully in their traditional clothing… the variety of cultures – and a marching band playing “Onward Christian Soldiers”, but also doing a fun dance to the percussion beat right at the intersection where we happened to be standing.
We took a nice long walk that actually began at a mosque where children were at school, on around to a Krishna temple, and ending up inside a Methodist Church where women were having their weekly gathering. We sat down quietly in the back on old wooden pews and were treated to the most heavenly choir singing in Fijian. Maybe the most special moment of the whole day.
So much about the place reminded us of Guam. It was a hot and humid day – which made our break for drinks and a tropical smoothie that much more delicious. They had no bottled water, so we got sodas. Gary had a Coke and I had a Fanta. I was reading the label, and it’s bottled right there – probably right next door to the sugar cane factory. Carbonated water, sugar and ascorbic acid in my drink… certainly no corn syrup. Mine was ‘made in Fiji’, but Gary’s was ‘lovingly prepared’ in Fiji! Isn’t that great.. a Coke, lovingly prepared!
This was a place on the globe we’d happily return to!
I wore my pretty new dress to dinner and loved playing dress-up.
Day 27 – November 21, 2012 – At Sea
Just another beautiful day in paradise – cruising along. Samba lessons. Formal night – so I wore my black velvet dress with my new Fijian Bling. Again – loved playing dress-up. And of course, more steak and lobster. For entertainment tonight we went to the movies… “South Pacific”.
Day 23 – November 17, 2012 – Auckland, New Zealand
We were off the ship as soon as possible this morning… 7:00, and there was Mandy – waiting for us at the docks, looking just the same as she did 30 years ago when she came to Portales as an exchange student! What fun!
We spent the whole day together, with her showing us a variety of things around her city. We had a wonderful breakfast of Eggs Benedict and coffee. (We’ve learned how to order in Australia and NZ now that we’re leaving… long black and flat white.) We took a beautiful walk along a rugged shoreline with fabulous homes, went to her house and had tea and strawberries with her kids, a grand drive to see where she used to live in the country – near the dotcom mansion, then to the Sky Tower… the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere. That’s tall! We stood at the top watching bungee jumpers, and being a little amazed at how we couldn’t bring ourselves to stand on the glass flooring!
Lunch at a food court in a grand old brick building, walking in the rainy weather back toward the ship, another chance for coffee and gelato before coming back aboard. (Should have made arrangements for Mandy to come aboard… but didn’t start the process soon enough.)
Only two stops in New Zealand. Not enough. We must return someday.
We pulled out at 5:00, went to the dining room – where we were the only two from our group tonight… so enjoyed a relaxing evening alone. Afterwards we went to the hot tub to unwind and warm up from today’s chilly temps, and it’s early to bed for us. Time for books and good night’s sleep!
Grand Asia – The Pacific
Day 24 – November 18, 2012 – At Sea
Sleeping in, talks on what-to-do in upcoming ports, lounging in warm sweats in the cool breeze and sunshine on the back deck and our own verandah. More wonderful entertainment tonight… Graffiti Classics.
Day 25 – November 19, 2012 – At Sea
Sleeping in, chatting with Rick & Sue (From Manly, she lived in Lubbock as a child while her father went to Sunset School of Preaching), finishing our books (I have become enchanted with Mark Twain), more relaxation. G visits with Cal, and learns he’s the rabbi onboard. Who knew!
Day 22 – November 16, 2012 – Waitangi, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
The day begins early because we keep losing time. Every day we reset the clocks! Gary dashed off to his final acupuncture appointment with Christopher from Sydney at 8:00. I met him in the standard after-the-appointment-spot by the pool, coffee in hand at 9:00.
We pulled into this gorgeous Bay of Islands around 11:00… truly a bay, filled with over 100 wonderful islands. Rode our tender boat into Waitangi, and started walking to Paihia over a bridge and along the beach. I commented that we’d surely get a beautiful photo of the ship today. I had no idea!!!
Once we made it to the little town, our first and only plan was to find some restrooms. Gary saw a sign for “Public Toilets”, but joked that he was on his way to find out how much the chopper ride would be… as it was parked right there. Ha! A man instantly answered from the shop we were passing by with the price! There he was, brochures in hand, a reasonable price, and the pilot was ready to go right then. Snap decision, and we said yes.
Fabulous ride! Amazing views of all these emerald islands with shining white beaches with turquoise water. Right by the ship of course, all the way to the end of the bay where the first island crops up. Our first time in a helicopter, and another amazing day of memories!
The rest of the time was spent meandering, drinking coffee, strolling back to the ship along the beach, stopping every few minutes to enjoy another view from another bench on another strip of beach. This is a special place on the globe!
Back on the ship, up to the Lido for supper, out on the back deck for a lovely sunset sail-away.
Day 19 – November 13, 2012 – Eden, Australia
A lovely stop. A little piece of paradise… a camping area, a retirement community. The people rolled out the red carpet for us! They were out clipping hedges along the walk ways, visiting with us, welcoming us to their home. We loved it! We only had a few hours, but we enjoyed the cool, cloudy day… made our way to the boardwalk along the lake to see the black swans, then along the beach – another gorgeous strip of sand and surf.
Day 20 – November 14, 2012 – At Sea
Truly… we loved Australia, and it was a bit sad to leave it behind. No worries… Holland America to the rescue!
This was a magnificent day. It began out on the Lido deck with special solar eclipse viewing glasses and coffee – bundled up in sweats and hoodies.
Today we had Viennese Waltz lessons, then had to hurry on down to the Wajang Theater for our theme movie, “First Knight”. It was Medieval Night on the ship, so the place was decorated with royal crests, and our crew was decked out in shining armor. Another beautiful formal night on the Amsterdam – Gary in his tux, I in my new green blouse from Singapore – G dining on steak, I chose lobster. Another evening of photos and dancing. And a spectacular show for us… I consider it a consolation prize for having to say goodbye to Australia… a performance by Melissa Manchester! “Midnight Blue”, “Through the Eyes of Love”, “Don’t Cry Out Loud”… we were treated to a really wonderful night of music.
Day 21 – November 15, 2012 – At Sea
Oh we love the sea days. Late breakfast, reading and writing, more Viennese waltz lessons, a fun question & answer session with Melissa Manchester. Another delicious supper, more dancing, and one incredible show tonight! “Ash & Mike”… two young men from Australia – amazing musical talent and energy. Loved, loved, loved their show. Another perfect day.
Day 17 – November 11, 2012 – Sydney, Australia
Up early this morning to be in the Crow’s Nest at 6:30 to cruise into Sydney. Oh my! How wonderful to see that bridge and the Opera House come into view. Finally… we have been to Sydney.
Enjoyed our day. Toured the Opera House, browsed through the crowded Sunday market at The Rocks, had lunch in a courtyard, walked out on the bridge, desperately searched for my Australian sweatshirt until I had success, had chocolates and Starbucks (and got a great new coffee mug), found the gorgeous St. Mary’s Cathedral complete with another grand park and gardens, more fabulous old buildings, more wonderful gardens, and a long walk back to the ship. That’s a full day! Gary may stay in bed where he’s already reading, but I’m off to see the 9:30 showing of the traditional Australian dancing. I presume I’m in for didgeridoo music!
Day 18 – November 12, 2012 – Sydney, Australia
We love this place! Would love to come back for a longer stay sometime. Today we took the ferry across the harbor to Manly. Enjoyed the pretty beach, the seaside shops and street cafes, both got haircuts, and just had 3 relaxing hours. Finished up in that area with gelato, then dashing back onto the ferry, and back across the harbor. It’s just wonderful to pull up to those wharves right next to the famous Opera House.
All aboard was 3:30, so we’re pulling out in the afternoon, making our way south.
The sail away was incredible! I got a great video… out on the lido, band playing, everyone festive, cameras flashing, under the bridge, out of Darling Harbor. This was a place!!! Can’t wait to return someday.
Day 15 – November 9, 2012 – Brisbane, Australia
What a pretty place! The meandering Brisbane River defines the contours of this city. We had a full day here. Although we’re home now, the Amsterdam is still docked, and we won’t pull out until 10:30 tonight.
We shopped in the ritzy district, rode the bus out to the koala sanctuary, and strolled through the beautiful botanical gardens. Perfect weather… well, it rained on us a couple of times, but it wasn’t cold, and we dried right out.
What fun to see the koalas and kangaroos. We had a sheep dog demonstration, and saw sheep shearing. Brisbane kicked off Christmas tonight in their shopping area, so we heard live music, saw Santa arrive in a convertible, with children all decked out in Christmas costumes. We drank coffee and had expensive pudding at a “Pig ‘n’ Whistle Pub” out on the sidewalk.
The prettiest part of the day was the time we spent walking through the beautiful Queen’s Park next to the grand Parliament building. Just a beautiful climate, gorgeous flowering trees everywhere… with remarkable violet blossoms. We never feel as adventurous as we do in non-English speaking countries… but it’s always nice to feel so safe and have no one trying to force you to buy a trinket! (ha ha.. I take that back. There was that Israeli girl in the mall who was determined to sell me a mineral mask!)
Day 16 – November 10, 2012 – At Sea
Gray skies, more reading. An incredible Mongolian Barbecue feast for the noon meal on the Lido. With the chefs dressed in Chinese finery cooking my cabbage, then another man chopping fresh avocado and pineapple for me… live music on the keyboard, Indonesian decorations – just for the day… I get overwhelmed. Almost to tears. So thankful this is my life.
Day 10 – November 4, 2012 – At Sea
Today’s momentous occasion… the black and gold ball. Me in my dress of pewter-bronze (the closest I had to precious metal) and G in his tux with the tie to match me. Steak & Lobster, photos and dancing in the Queen’s Lounge. Steiff Teddy Bears in our room wearing Grand Voyage scarves.
Day 11 – November 5, 2012 – At Sea
Billy Joel tunes in the piano bar this morning. Tango & Fox Trot reviews at dance class. G is reading a book on Relo-Ville, and I’m reading a biography of Mark Twain. We passed through a gorgeous channel… tropical islands, white sand beaches. The sea has some swell. I don’t ever feel it.
Day 12 – November 6, 2012 – At Sea
It’s election day… but we’re on the other side of the dateline, so we wait. I got online and paid some taxes and insurances, and wrote e-mails regarding business, and got all stressed out. Ready for retirement when I get on these ships! I sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water” at the piano bar tonight, and enjoyed the other ‘acts’. People do love music on Holland America.
Day 13 – November 7, 2012 – Hamilton Island
Today we opted for a smaller outing to the “inner reef” rather than the Holland America excursion on the “outer reef”. Saved $400, but may have chosen poorly. Well… you couldn’t choose poorly. It was a beautiful day of snorkeling in a safe little bay off of an island near Hamilton. The water was cold, the coral was lovely, the fish were colorful and varied, and the jellyfish were plentiful! We had full skin suits and were happily safe.
Hamilton Island is a pretty little resort island – the streets are large golf cart paths, and the whole place felt like an amusement park with a gorgeous tropical setting. It was a great exchange for Papua New Guinea, with a huge disappointment at the end of the day with an Obama win. We’re just in shock. Cried in the room, not in the mood for dining and dancing, but did go to the evening show of The Aussie Boys who lightened our load.
Day 14 – November 8 – At Sea
We’ve learned the Bolero – a beautiful dance. We’ve donned the satin blouse and the black bow tie. We’ve had more delicious food, and read more of our books.
Day 9 – November 3, 2012 – Darwin, Australia
Didn’t realize I’d feel so giddy about arriving in the Land Down Under! What a fun day. Off of the ship to do a tiny bit of walking in Darwin, then back to the ship to catch our excursion to the Adelaide River to see the jumping salt water crocodiles! What a great little river boat cruise. High entertainment with gigantic old crocodiles leaping up out of the water to snag some meat.
We stopped into a local pub in Humpty Doo on the way. What a name! And what a place! It was like some bad Hollywood set for Crocodile Dundee.. and it was real! Old guys with beards, barefooted, playing pool and gambling. Aboriginees and Aussies.
Our sail-away party on the Lido deck was amazing! Shrimp on the barbie – and steak and salmon and chicken. Spectacular fruit. Australian folksong playing, and a huge pink sunset to make everything perfect.
We are just so “at home” here. I never even write about the food. It has become quite common to me, I suppose. Every day it is over-the-top wonderful.. and since this is our first cruise without grains and nightshades, it’s been a tiny bit different, but very easy for us. The entertainment is also first rate, as always. Annie Frances has wowed us on two separate nights. Elliot Finkle is on board. We’ll go to his classical concert tomorrow afternoon.
So far the seas have been so calm. It’s like we’re gliding down a smooth highway at 20 miles per hour.
Day 6 – October 31, 2012 – Lombok
We had hoped for Bali. There’s no place like Bali! But we rode our tender and shuttle into the main city and did a little shopping. I bought a couple of blouses from department stores, and we enjoyed our little photo shoots. What we saw of this island was horribly filthy, and it makes you at once sad for our crew and happy for our crew. They truly have great jobs aboard these ships.
Came back on board to find letters in our rooms announcing that we will not be stopping in Papua New Guinea because it’s been deemed unsafe. The kidnapping of Westerners was being called for by the extremists last week in Indonesia… so we’re presuming it’s along those lines. We’re not sad to miss the port, just sad for the state of the world!
Day 7 – November 1, 2012 – Komodo
Well, well, well… we have seen the Komodo Dragons! A fun and exciting day, taking our little trek through the national park, seeing those creatures up close and personal. It was hot, it was humid, and they were scary!
Day 8 – November 2, 2012 – At Sea
Going along and going along. Gary had acupuncture before breakfast. We’re having our Australian immigration/passport checks today onboard. Maybe a movie, maybe more tango lessons. Still in beautifully calm waters, the occasional pod of dolphins, Indonesian islands in the distance.
Day 4 – October 29, 2012 – Java
Huge day on the ship! Over 1000 family members will be coming aboard to see their loved ones. We would love to be here to witness the reunion, but we’re off on an all day excursion. Our room stewards have just come in to quickly make up our room, with us protesting – telling them to just move on! But they were flying through their job, making everything fresh. Their wives and children, parents, in-laws… all here to greet them! Gary gave them $20 each to give to their families to help pay for their traveling expenses to get here. As soon as they left our room, I burst into tears. Oh my! How hard these men work. How pleasant they are. I’m always amazed.
It’s day’s end. An amazing day. It began with no expectations, and it was one grand moment after another.
We had a long caravan of large coach tours, and were given a police escort for the 2 1/2 hour coming-and-going drive to Borobudur. It was a wild ride, people on the sides of the road waving and smiling at us, a stop for Java coffee along the way, rice fields, smoking volcanoes, extreme poverty, wealth, mosques, churches, temples, mangoes and jackfruit.
Our guide, Supri, was wonderful… giving us history, interesting facts, singing John Denver’s “Country Roads”… his first English lesson in school. He told us he was Muslim, but his siblings were Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist – they all get along, very common. At the end of the day he made his plea that we would tell our friends and family back home that Indonesia is safe – no more terrorists – please come visit. We can imagine that he and all the other guides and drivers were quite worried that today’s grand tour would be cancelled – as a terrorist plot was just uncovered here two days ago, and a call from the extremists to kidnap Westerners. What misery.
Borobudur was amazing. It was massive. It was hot. We were astounded at some of the people from this ship willing to try to climb the steep steps. It was built in the 9th century, and like Machu Picchu, eventually abandoned then rediscovered. Another UNESCO Heritage Site. What an honor to visit!
Because we’re tall, because I have blonde hair, because we had our great Panama hats on today, we were asked to be in photos with people. Oh my!! I was so overwhelmed to pose with the three-generation family. To know that such a horrific little percentage of people in this world can wreak such havoc on us… and here was this family almost giddy to take photos with the Americans. Just another moment in this day that was pushing me to the brink of tears.
Another one… eating the lunch at the hotel at Borobudur. Chicken satay with peanut sauce, the good vegetables… but the tears came from the sweet treat of tapioca paste wrapped in banana leaves. Such a taste of Guam!
We stopped at a silver and handicraft market on the way back to the ship. A truly pathetic little puppet show troupe was all set to perform for us as we got off the buses. Elderly men, a woman with a grating voice, the man playing the large drum asking for a cigarette light from one of the gong players during the show. It was a come and go event – people would watch for a few minutes, then meander off to the shopping. I was enchanted with this charming little group of players with their ancient instruments and their bright but tired clothing. I spent the entire 30 minutes just sitting there soaking it up while Gary went about taking photos. In the end, I was the solo audience.
Just a wild ride back to the ship. We were careening through the highways – just like you do in Indonesia! But the police had their lights spinning, and the bus drivers weren’t giving an inch to anyone. What a scene! But we were back at the ship right on time at 5:30, and without the theatrics of the caravan, there’s no way it would have been possible to have such a full and amazing day. It goes into our record books of unbelievably memorable days!
Home for supper in the Lido and early to bed!
Day 3 – October 28, 2012 – At Sea
This day begins with a huge agenda. Must buy a watch at the poolside sale. Must sign up for excursion tomorrow. Must get dressed up for dinner and dancing tonight. Ahhhh… we’re back!
The day ends. I bought my watch, we got the excursions, I sewed a button on a blouse, and we got all dressed up for a beautiful night of black and white. Unbelievably, we also found time to lounge upstairs in the sun, and to go see “The Artist”, the wonderful silent picture film. A wonderful and relaxing day.
We both had lobster for dinner, and because of some mix-up in our station’s ordering, our guys – Dinny and Widi – brought us a 2nd go round. Yes… two lobster tails each!
This was Gary’s first night to wear his new tuxedo, and he looked like a million bucks of course! A nice evening of dancing after dinner, then onto the show to see Annie Frances – an incredible singer from Australia. It’s always a beautiful night on the ship when everyone is decked out in formal wear. Just a very special way to step away from reality!