Dawn Princess Cruise. April 18th.2009. Sydney - Honolulu -Sydney 35days. Saturday April 18th. dawned, we were all set to board the Dawn Princess, for our round trip cruise from Sydney to Honolulu and back; after months of planning, which involved many hours exchanging information with other enthusiastic cruisers, on Cruisecritic.com
We arrived at the Cruise Terminal at about 11:30am, later than we'd previously arranged, but just in time to be recognised by Trish and Richard from our Cruise Critic Roll Call. Unfortunately we didn't get to see our friends Dawn and David, who were going to have a coffee with us prior to boarding the ship and within what appeared to be only minutes, we were on board and in our room before noon.
Our first stop was The Venetian Dining Room, where we enjoyed a lovely lunch. Then afterwards we went in search of the Maitre'd to arrange two tables of eight, where we could share dinner with members of our Cruise Critic Roll Call. Neville the Maitre' d, instantly remembered us cruising on the Dawn Princess last September, so this proved to be very simple.
At 4pm. We met with several of our cruise critic Roll Call friends at Windjammers bar on Deck 15. Cruising under the Sydney Harbour bridge was absolutely awesome, there was a great feeling of excitement around the ship and shore side, as the Dawn Princess passed under the Bridge. Although we couldn't see her, we were conscious that our dear friend Gai, dressed in yellow, was waving a huge flag of Australia as we cruised past Mc Mahon's Point.
After cruising through "The Heads" it was time to return to our stateroom and change for dinner. Our dinner mates on the first night included Trish and Richard, Coral and Norm, from Melbourne and Colleen and Geoff, from Canada. Kim & Narelle, Ros & Peter, Russel & Louise, Peter and Yvonne, all Aussies were seated at the adjoining table. It was a very enjoyable dining experience.
The seas proved to be extremely rough the first night at sea, but Dennis and I slept like babies. At 6:30am, as arranged, I met with Colleen for our walk around the Promenade Deck which proved somewhat difficult due to the rough seas.
The rough seas continued on Sunday April 19th. and many passengers experienced the effects of sea-sickness. We both felt fine and took the opportunity to unpack and tidy up our room. We told our room Steward to take a day off and not bother with our room. Monday April 20th. the seas were still very rough, but by Tuesday April 21st, ,became much calmer.The food and entertainment is very much to our liking and our room steward is second to none.
April 23rd. Our first port of call, Nuku'Alofa Tonga is a deep water port, where we docked. We were able to leave the ship by 8am and by 9am all 19 cruise critic members were travelling in tandem on the two buses. The first bus was driven by the tour organiser Toni and had 11 passengers. Our bus, driven by Leni, Toni's wife, carried eight passengers. Our first stop was at an ATM, where we withdrew local currency to pay for our needs in Tonga. As our tour was a full day, we needed to stop to pick up food for lunch. Toni suggested a local bakery, where we bought some cream buns cheese bread and drinks. We passed numerous small villages, each with their own pristine Mormon Church and generous smattering of pigs and dogs. One of the attractions on route was the Kings Palace, but the most spectacular sight in our opinion, were the Blow Holes. Stretching or many kilometres along the coast, they provided a magnificent display with each incoming wave. At the end of our tour, we felt that Toni and his wife had given us a good insight of Nuku'Alofa Tonga.
April 24th. Vava'u, our second port of call. The Dawn Princess dropped anchor inside the channel just before 7am.and the ship's lifeboats were used to tender the passengers ashore. Richard and Patricia, from Melbourne with Narelle and Kim from Sydney, made up our group of six and we were ready waiting for Semesi, "The Roadrunner" when he arrived in his 8 seater air conditioned four wheel drive mini-bus at 8-15am. Our three hour tour of the island was absolutely fantastic. The first place we visited was a vantage point which provided an amazing panoramic view of the northern coastline. Earlier in the week Semesi had cut down the dense undergrowth in the bush so that we could reach this remote spot. Afterwards he drove us to a secluded beach, where we all enjoyed a local beer. He then surprised us with a stop at his plantation; an enormous expanse of land overlooking the ocean, inherited from his father and planted with numerous tropical plants including, Pineapples, Bananas, Taro, and Carva. April 24th repeated due to the International Date Line. Another day at sea to relax.
April 25th. Anzac Day. We were scheduled to visit the Island of Raratonga, but due to bad weather conditions the Captain announced that we 'd only be stopping to enable the evacuation of a sick passenger. Early in the week, Russell and Louise, from Melbourne, received the news that Louise's father had died, (RIP) so they left the ship in Nuku'Alofa Tonga , with the intention of reboarding the ship in Raratonga. Imagine our feeling of excitement to see them transfer from the Tug to the ship during the evacuation process. Our hope is that that the sick passenger will also have a happy outcome.
The ships Officers conducted a Dawn Service, in remembrance of the ANZACS and AT 4.00PM another service was held on the deck 15, attended by a high proportion of the passengers . I'd purchased some Australian flags for this occasion, which I distributed among the observers. It was indeed a very moving event.
April 26th. Another Sea Day for rest and relaxation. The first of our Cruise Critic Luncheons,was held in the Venetian Dining Room, something I'd arranged, attracted 43 C.C.members,100% of our Roll Call, and everyone said they had had a very good time, which pleased me immensely.
Tomorrow we stop at Papeete and we're looking forward to spending the day with our lovely Tahition friend Floride at her beach side home.
April 27th.Papeete Floride was waiting for us, as arranged, when we disembarked the ship at Papeete. We walked across the road to Le Marche, where we purchased a lovely Tahitian Pearl ring to match the Tahitian Pearl pendant we bought two years ago in Rarotonga. Afterwards Floride took us to a material shop, which had some beautiful Tahitian patterned material, so we bought a few metres with the intension of having it made into a skirt in Pago Pago, where there are lots of sewing shops. Floride then drove us to her home by the beach, overlooking Moorea, there we shared a delicious lunch of Pork in long bean sauce with vegetables and Tofu, accompanied by a bottle of Australian Chardonnay. About 4pm. Floride drove us back to the ship, while on the way stopping at Le Marche where she bought us a beautiful arrangement of flowers for our stateroom. It was truly a most enjoyable day.
April 28th. Another glorious port day on the magnificent Island of Moorea. We were both feeling rather tired, and chose to spend a quiet day on board, as we have visited this Island many times. After lunch we enjoyed the screening of the movie Flash of Genius, based on a true story, which we both thoroughly enjoyed.
April 29th. Bora Bora Our favourite Island. where we've formed a friendship with a very good looking Tahitian guy called Stephane of MATA TOURS. I'd arranged for a group of 18 from our Cruise Critic Roll Call to go with Stephane for a boat ride around the Island, which included feeding and swimming with Stingrays and Sharks, Snorkelling, some time at Muri Beach and a short stop at Bloody Mary's Bar, before returning to the dock to board a Tender for our transport back to the ship. Everyone in the group said they'd thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
We now have five days at sea, with one day of scenic cruising around Christmas Island, before reaching our next port of call, Honolulu. The weather is lovely and hot with a few scattered showers. There is a very warm and friendly atmosphere on board with Australians from NSW, WA, SA and Qld, forming the majority of the passengers. The crew also appear happy at work. Emma, who works in the gift shop, was on our Cruise to Antarctica, aboard the Sky Princess.
We have been told from a reliable source, that a man and a woman were removed from the ship in Tahiti due to their raucous behaviour! We fortunately have not witnessed any untoward behaviour, since we boarded the ship in Sydney.
Our skills at trivia are improving; we've now won one game, but didn't like the prize, a cross stitch purse, so we gave it to Narelle and Ros, members of our Cruise Critic Roll Call, who were not part of the winning team.
So far peace reigns in the laundry, this morning however, when I set out for my morning walk at 5:50am a queue was already forming with determined passengers, laundry in hand. The laundry opens at 7:00am!
Just before we got to Christmas Island we crossed the Equator. The ship arranged the usual ceremony and King Neptune arrived in time to preside over the proceedings. As is the tradition, there was an opportunity to "kiss the fish" and the ships photographers took a photograph of each participant. For the occasion, a huge fish had been bought which we were told cost $600.00, I think it was a tuna. Later we arrived at Christmas Island where we cruised the western shoreline for about 3 hours. The short stay culminated in the ship doing a 360 degree turn to calibrate the compass.
One of our trivia players put a suggestion to me (the appointed team leader!)that we formulate a brain team for just am "one off" game, all men ofcourse! They came in about 4th. whereas usually one of our mixed teams comes in second, enough said.
We enjoyed our 2nd luncheon, with 30+ C.C. members present.
May 4th Our last "sea day" before we reach Honolulu. We had another luncheon, with 30 + members of our "role call" present.
May 5th Honolulu. Trish, Richard, Norm, and Coral, were among those passengers disembarking in Honolulu. We will miss them a lot. Our group of sixteen who meet nightly to share dinner, will be reduced to twelve.
As we have seen most of the tourist attractions in Honolulu, we planned to take a taxi to the Premium Outlet Centre and shop till we dropped. However this didn't happen, as we found some amazing bargains at the Macy's and Ross, shops that were within walking distance from where the ship was docked. May 6th. Maui. The ship anchored off the port of Lahaina, where we took a forty five minute, two dollar, bus ride along the coast road to the Queen Mall. Here I found a beautiful boutique called Serendipity, where I got two very nice outfits to add to my cruise wardrobe. Dennis also bought a very comfortable pair of Rockport shoes.
May 7th. Hilo. Colleen and Jeff very kindly offered to share a rental car with us for the day. We met as planned in the Atrium. While waiting to disembark Russell and Louise joined us, they also had booked a Rental Car for the day. On the way to pick up the cars Russell and Jeff agreed to hire a vehicle which would accommodate the six of us. This proved to be a great decision as we all had a wonderful day, touring the Volcano National Park, with a brief stop at a winery and an hour of retail therapy, before returning to the ship.
Captain Todd M Bain, gave us an added bonus as we left Hilo and travelled along the coast to where the Lava from the active Volcano was flowing into the sea. He slowed the ship down and manoeuvred the ship as close as possible to the shore for a better view. Apart from the volumes of steam rising from the sea, we could clearly see the red hot lava flows, which would not have been visible had it been light.
May 8th. Kona. We started the day slowly, with nothing planned except a visit to Walmart, we had missed this store in the previous ports. When we reached the quay, we were glad to find that there was a free shuttle to Walmart and we were there in about fifteen minutes. After another good dose of retail therapy, we returned to the ship in time for lunch in the Venetian Dining Room. After lunch, with only three hours left to shop in the USA, we decided to take the free shuttle to Macy's. to buy some shirts and trousers for Dennis. The driver of the shuttle was very accommodating and waited to take us back to the quay.
May 9th. The first of five days at sea, we shared lunch with Gaye and Gary, members of our C C Roll call, who joined the ship in Honolulu. They'd been having dinner at the early seating, but with a little encouragement decided to join us at second seating.
After lunch we met with other Cruise Critic members in the Jammers Lounge. Two more members Suzie and Mino, who also joined the cruise in Honolulu, came too. Afterwards we played Trivia and once again lost by only one point, but we had some fun.
May 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th. We enjoyed four more lovely sea days, with very calm seas. On May 11th. I organised another luncheon in the Venetian Dining Room and about thirty of our Cruise Sports turned up.
May 14th.Apia Western Samoa. After five days at sea, we were very much looking forward to meeting our tour guide Mark Birtwistle, who said he'd be waiting on the dock. Unfortunately we were delayed getting off the ship because of the Swine Flu screening by the local authority, which required the recording of body temperature of everyone disembarking the ship. While waiting I must admit to feeling a little anxious, wondering if Mark would be there, but then I sighted him holding a very large placard with my name on it, so I waved to him and he recognised me from a photo I'd emailed to him. Eventually our group of twenty C.C. members disembarked and we set off for our tour of Apia in two mini buses travelling in tandem, ten members in each bus. Mark was our driver and guide, whereas the second bus had a driver and a Samoan guide.
After a brief stop at an ATM, Mark's aim was for us to arrive at Robert Louis Stevenson Museum/House, before the hoards of Princess Buses got there. This we achieved and we were actually the first tourists to arrive.
Our day started off with lovely sunny skies, but then it deteriorated and we experienced a number of very heavy showers, while driving around the Island on roads that were frequently heavily pot holed. It was a very long way to Lalomana Beach, but when we arrived, we were blessed with bright sunny skies and perfect swimming and snorkelling conditions. The open air restaurant on the beach serves fish and chips, burgers seafood etc. I was told there was another restaurant a little further down the beach which also sold nice food. After about two hours the skies clouded over and it started to rain again. We packed up and after another very long ride on similar dreadful roads, Mark very kindly offered to provide a shuttle service to the ship, for any of us who wanted time to shop in the market or go to Aggie Greys. Aggie Greys is a lovely old hotel steeped in history, many famous people have stayed there and rooms are named after them. We were happy to go straight back to the ship and have a rest before dinner. It had been a long day, but we'd had a good time and felt the tour was very good value at $30US. P.P May 15th.Pago Pago.American Samoa. On a previous visit to this port, I discovered the sewing shops! Darlene, a local lady who has a sewing shop that is only a very short walk from where the ship docks, made me a matching skirt and top with material bought at a nearby store. I was happy with the result, so this time I brought with me some material that I'd been intending to make into an outfit for over ten years. I don't do much sewing these days! I was also hoping to get a dress made out of the lovely material our friend Florida bought for me. Gaye had a dress in need of alteration, so after breakfast, we all made our way to the sewing room. Darlene was excited to see us and agreed to do the sewing. Although she was very busy sewing graduation dresses. Gaye and Garry had plans to take the local bus trip around the Island, which we'd done on a previous cruise. When we arrived at the bus station, Christine who was one of my early morning walking companions on the promenade deck, was negotiating a deal with the bus driver, this resulted in a two hour trip for $6US P.P. It was starting to rain so we decided to take the trip too. In no time the bus quickly filled up with fellow passengers from the ship and we were on our way to Leone, the second largest town in Pago Pago and former capital of American Samoa. The bus ride along the coast road was very pleasant and provided us with a good insight to life on the island, the driver was happy to stop the bus whenever someone wanted to take a photo.
We returned to the ship to have lunch in our favourite dining room, the Venetian. After lunch the rain had stopped, so we decided to go to the Pago Pago Yacht Club and have a beer, before returning to collect my outfits from Darlene. The Yacht Club is about fifteen minutes walk from the ship, the Market, which was adjacent to the dock on our last visit, is now located on an ocean front block within metres of the Yacht Club, so we spent some time browsing around the stalls. Unfortunately on our way to Darlene's sewing shop, the skies opened and we got drenched. No matter, it was warm rain. Some of our group enjoyed a fun filled day at Tisa's Barefoot Bar, which is very popular with some of the ships crew members,
May 17th. Tin Can Island, NUAFO'OU. Dawn Princess circumnavigated the Island, which is a submerged volcano, between 10am and 12noon. We were given the opportunity to post mail from the Island, in the traditional way which started back in the early 1900's. A local used to dive off the cliffs and swim out to collect the mail sealed in a tin can, this was because of the inaccessible shore line and shallow waters. After a diver was attacked by a shark, a boat was thrown off the cliff for the diver. Nowadays, the boat is launched. I'm told it can take up to six weeks for it to arrive in Australia!
May 18th.Suva. We have been to his port a number of times and it has failed to inspire us. So after a very short walk on land we enjoyed the quiet atmosphere of the Dawn Princess.
May 19th.Port Denarau. We were both feeling in need of some quiet time, so decided not to take the half hour tender ride to Port Denarau, but from all the reports, it appeared we missed out on a very pleasant day. So I guess we need to go back! One of the Princess shore excursions was late returning to the ship, so we were delayed leaving. This wasn't considered a problem as we had three days at sea,May 20th. 21st. 22nd. to make up the time.
May 23rd. Unfortunately we hit really bad weather and our arrival into Sydney was delayed by about four hours. This created havoc for many passengers with flights booked for the morning of arrival. While eating lunch in the Venetian Dining Room, we enjoyed the approach to Sydney cruising past the Opera House and under the Sydney Harbour bridge with beautiful blue sun filled skies.Absolutely magic!!! No one was prepared for the calamity experienced when we eventually docked in Darling Harbour around noon. The Australian Health Authority refused to clear the ship for the disembarkation of passengers until everyone was screened for the Swine Flue! At first we didn't see this as a problem, because we had been through this procedure in previous ports. In Sydney it proved different and the disembarkation of passengers didn't commence until late afternoon. Fortunately for us we were in contact with our family throughout the day and our daughter and son in law were just entering the car park as we exited the terminal. We were home about forty minutes later. This was indeed a most enjoyable cruise, made extra special by all the wonderful members of our Cruise Critic Roll Call.
May 18th.Suva. We have been to his port a number of times and it has failed to inspire us. So after a very short walk on land we enjoyed the quiet atmosphere of the Dawn Princess. May 19th.Port Denarau. We were both feeling in need of some quiet time, so decided not to take the half hour tender ride to Port Denarau, but from all the reports, it appeared we missed out on a very pleasant day. So I guess we need to go back! One of the Princess shore excursions was late returning to the ship, so we were delayed leaving. This wasn't considered a problem as we had three days at sea,May 20th. 21st. 22nd. to make up the time.
May 23rd. Unfortunately we hit really bad weather and our arrival into Sydney was delayed by about four hours. This created havoc for many passengers with flights booked for the morning of arrival. We however enjoyed the approach to Sydney cruising past the Opera House and under the Sydney Harbour bridge with beautiful blue sun filled skies, while eating lunch in the Venetian Dining Room. No one was prepared for the calamity experienced when we eventually docked in Darling Harbour around noon. The Australian Health Authority refused to clear the ship for the disembarkation of passengers until everyone was screened for the Swine Flue! At first we didn't see this as a problem, because we had been through this procedure in previous ports. In Sydney it proved different and the disembarkation of passengers didn't commence until late afternoon. Fortunately for us we were in contact with our family throughout the day and our daughter and son in law were just entering the car park as we exited the terminal. We were home about forty minutes later. This was indeed a most enjoyable cruise, made extra special by all the wonderful members of our Cruise Critic Roll Call.