Rotterdam Cruise Review by kakalina: The Glory of the South Pacific
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The Glory of the South Pacific
March 8, 2010 m/s Rotterdam Hawaii, Tahiti & Marquesas
Captain: Rik Krombeen Hotel Manager: Robert Versteeg Chief Officer: Robert Jan Kan Cruise Director: Eric Dowis Guest Relations Mgr: Susana Beleo Executive Chef: Karl Eller Dining Room Manager: Kiki Basuki Beverage Manager: Alphonse Xavier
I apologize in advance that I didn 't keep notes during this cruise. I was having way too much fun. Therefore this review may ramble a bit more than usual.
We left the Phoenix area about 4 am on Sun. the 7th. We had a smooth and easy drive to San Diego. We made very good time and arrived at 10:30am. We had requested an early check in at the Holiday Inn on the Bay and had no problems getting into our room. We explored the area for awhile checking out the progress on the new cruise ship terminal. It looks pretty cool.
At about 5:30 it was raining so we grabbed a cab to Denny's for dinner. About a dozen of the CC group showed up and we had a good time More getting to know one another a little before heading back to the hotel and a good nights sleep.
Monday March 8th
We watched the Rotterdam pull in early in the morning with great excitement and anticipation. No matter how many times we see it the sight of "our" ship pulling into port is a gorgeous one.
As usual we swore we would wait awhile and not be the first in line again, however we didn't and we were. This is where the delays started. The lovely Rotterdam was in code red. Still! Again! We had read on the boards about it but had hoped the code would be over before boarding. The long wait to board while the ship was supercleaned went fairly quickly as we sat with friends and talked about the cruise to come.
We finally boarded about 1pm. We went straight to the Lido and had a small lunch as we waited for the cabins to be readied. It wasn't a long wait. We found cabin 1930 aft, Dolphin Deck. As this cruise was oversold and fully booked there were no upgrades available. We settled in and unpacked and begin to roam what will be our new home for the next 33 days.
The ship is beautiful. The artwork and color schemes are well done. The Chinese Warriors in stone near the Explorer's Lounge are fantastic. The atrium design is gorgeous with Atlas still carrying the weight of world above a clock structure. We were prepared to dislike the Retreat area but had tried to keep an open mind. Of course with the Code Red it was empty as were the pools and hot tubs. We spent most of the day wandering around and meeting old friends and making new ones. A note here about the Retreat. Once the Code Red was over and we hit warm weather it got a lot of use. However, in our meeting with the Captain and the Hotel Manager we were told they will not be installing the "wading" pool on the other S & R class ships as they go through drydock. There have just been too many problems with leakage into the cabins below.
We did check out the casino action. I had some good luck on one of the slots and met the Casino workers. Many thanks to Elena, Christopher and Eduardo for a many enjoyable hours there.
Finally, at 7pm the Rotterdam sailed out of San Diego harbor and our adventure becomes reality.
As we left so late in the day there really wasn't much of a sail away party. The layout of the Retreat area made any and all sail aways very difficult. The large number of chaise lounges go in double lines right up to the rails of the ship making it difficult if not impossible to get to the rails for picture taking and just plain old gawking at the scenery. There was no room for the band when they played which was rare, and when they did play there was no room to dance. It is a poor design. At 9:30pm there was an "Opening Night" program with the CD Eric Dowis. We did not attend as we were hot in the casino that night.
Day 2 Tuesday Mar 9
We woke up having some nice waves during the night to rock us to sleep. As we are still close to SD it is cool outside. We spent the early morning wandering around the ship. I stopped in to speak the Guest Relations Manager Susan about our CC meet and greet. Everything was set. The loveliest invitations were made and sent out by JocelySue, otherwise known as Jocelyn and Emilien. At 10:30 DH and I went to make sure the Crows Nest was set up for our meet and greet. Everything was wonderful. They closed off the small smoking area for us but then had to add the entire other half of the CN. We were a large group and almost everyone showed up plus a few. We had over 90 people. Many thanks to Steve and Kathy, otherwise known as Samkmm, for making the wonderful name tags. They had the name and dates of the cruise, a cool picture and our screen and real names. Very cool and well done. We all finally got to meet and had a great time putting faces with names. The Captain, HotMan, Guest Relations Manager, Beverage Manager and Culinary Manager all showed up. The Captain spoke of many things and they all answered questions from the group. As G&G posted elsewhere there were some questions regarding the time of the happy hours in the bars. The Captain put it to a vote and the very next day another happy hour was added for the late diners. How wonderfully quick was that response!! There was also a question and a vote regarding show times. That vote was 50-50 and no action was taken. It was extremely thoughtful and nice for all of them to show up at the meet and greet and take the time to answer our questions. Coffee, tea, cookies some crudities and some Mimosa's were offered by the staff. It was a lot of work for them and we appreciated the effort it took for all of them to be there. We all had a teriffic time and stayed for over an hour or better. We discussed our plans for goods to be taken for the folks at Fanning Island and one of the CC guys volunteered to handle that part of the goup. I can only beg his pardon for being unable to remember his name. I have it written down somewhere. Oh well, the effort he made was much appreciated. We talked about the various tours we had set up and all decided to have a second CC get together after the Hawaiian Ports and before the French Polynesian ports to finalize our tour information. Besides we're always up for a party. The staff and crew are bending over backwards to make this CC group feel at home and wanted onboard. We all thank them again for the participation. We tried to get a group photo but no one had a wide angle lens as the group was so big. Random photos will be posted on our website when DH gets them all together and sorted out.
The show tonight is the Rotterdam cast in Love, Broadway. I must admit I miss the big production shows and wish they would bring them back. They so underutilize the talents of the casts. In 33 days they did 4 shows of 45 minutes each. They did not perform elsewhere. What a waste of those talented people. They sang and did a very little dancing. There are only 4 singers and I think 3 dancers now. Very disappointing although they were very good. The Neptunes play each evening in the Ocean Bar. They are a very good band. There is no band in the CN any longer. Once in awhile there was a solo guitarist but you could only hear him on one side and it wasn't dancing music. The only dancing was in the Ocean Bar which we did not spend any time in as they have banned smoking in that bar now. The Piano Bar seemed to keep quite busy after it opened at 9pm. Of course, each evening the Adagio Strings played in the Explorer's Lounge while coffees, cognacs and drinks were served. We did not see a lot of business in "the Mix". On and off there were a few people but we never saw anywhere but the piano bar area with more than one or two people.
There is now something called Mind, Body Spirit which HAL offers. There is a "lifestylist" ours is named Meagan. She does Aqua Aerobics in the am, Tai Chi, Fitness classes and etc. She also ran some games like Scattergories and such. There was also an afternoon stretch offered. There was an acupuncturist onboard. Sessions were offered in the spa. I didn't partake but do know someone who did and said it was quite restful. It'd take a lot for me to think someone sticking pins in my body was restful. To each his own.
Day 3 Wed Mar 10 through Day 5 Fri Mar 12
Sea days are sea days and boring if you are not experiencing them yourself. Let's just say we had fun making new friends and visiting with old friends we sailed with before. There was plenty of things to do every day. We played Canasta a few times with CC friends Ron and Susan. Joined a great trivia team made up of mostly CC friends. Hey Marianne, Laurel and Bill. We did good. Here is a list of entertainment for the sea days.
Wed night there was a John Denver tribute in the showroom by Jim and Anne Curry. It was very good. Bob Mullins played the guitar in the CN. There was a 50's and 60's prom night with DJ Greg in the CN late in the evening. DJ Greg is one of the best DJ's we sailed with. It is a pity that most nights the CN shut down after 10pm with a few exceptions. Today's daily program the life of the Captain Rik Krombeem. He is the 2nd youngest Captain in the fleet. He is originally from the Netherlands but now lives in South Carolina with his family when he is not sailing the high seas for HAL
Thurs: Tonight's entertainment was Lance Ringnald the Olympic Gymnast. His show was very interesting until he began to sing. He was a good gymnast. He worked the silks and did other feats of an Olympian nature.The daily program featured our travel guide CJ Rogers. A Southern California gal she married a sailor and got the travel bug. Her first job with HAL was port and shopping Ambassador on the Statendam. She loves working for HAL. The event manager Missy begins giving Spanish lessons in the showroom lounge.
Fri: Tonight's entertainment is Classical Pianist Halida Dinova, we did not attend but others said she was very good. Today's daily program featured lecturer Dan Ostler. We have sailed with Dan and his lovely wife "The Starlady" Donna. Dan is a graduate in Biophysics from the University of Waterloo. His early career was in medical radiation physics. He was in on the cutting edge of laser research. Retirement brought out his love of cruising and the desire for them to travel together as lecturers on the HAL circuit. His lectures throughout the cruise were interesting and informative.
Tomorrow we begin touring the Hawaiian Islands. PART II The Hawaii'an Islands
Before I start on the islands I have some catching up to do. There are so many memories bouncing around in my brain I have trouble getting them all out. When I told you all about the first CC meet and greet I left out one of the best things. Ruth and Jim V. ( otherwise known as JIMVRHOVAC) were part of our CC group. They are two of the nicest and most generous people we've ever met. They had gifts for staff, crew and passengers alike. At our meet and greet they presented the HotMan, Robert Versteeg and the GRM, Susana Beleo with some wonderful slippers. They also presented a pair to Jocelyn for the work she did with the lovely invitations, and a pair to Virgil and myself. He got big yellow duckies and I got soft cuddly Penguins. Thanks Ruth and Jim for being such a class act. I also mentioned when we boarded the ship was in Code Red. In 21 cruises this was our first Code Red. For the most part it wasn't a problem; except in the early mornings. DH and I are early risers as were quite a few pax on this cruise. I am usually up by 5 or 5:30 and DH oftentimes is up earlier than that. We couldn't get hot drinks in the Lido during the Code Red. They sent someone up to man the coffee/hot water machines about 6am. That's a long time to wait for your first hot cup of whatever. Thankfully the Code Red didn't last but a few days. I hope we never run into another one.
Another minor complaint was the washing down of the aft8 deck every morning. I understand they must do this to get rid of the salt build up; but do the have to get every single seat wet! Again, for the early morning folks we were searching for towels to lay on the seats so we could sit down and watch the sunrise.
The Rotterdam was kept clean and spotless throughout the cruise. The cleaner they used on the handrails ate off all the paint and wax so they were sanding them down and varnishing them throughout the ship for the duration of the cruise. They have a lot of handrails on the ship.
Sat Mar 13 Hilo, Hawaii
The coastal town of Hilo is he largest settlement on the island of Hawaii and overlooks Hilo Bay. Mauna Loa, considered an active volcano, and Mauna Kea a dormant volcano are nearby. Hilo biggest production is Macadamia nuts and it is also the wettest city in the US and one of the wettest in the world. They have an average rainfall of 127.77" of rain per year. Wow! We're lucky to get 4 or 5" of rain a year in the desert Southwest. Downtown Hilo was almost destroyed in the tsumani of April 1, 1946. They established the Pacific Tsumani Warning Center here to prevent such widespread loss of life with an early warning system. The last of the sugar plantations closed down here in the 1990's. They made an economic recovery with tourism and nuts.
We took a ship's tour here in Hilo. We docked at 10am in nice weather. Our tour was early and we were off the ship and ready and waiting in the terminal for our tour guide to take us to the Nani Mau Gardens and the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory. Last time we were here we went to the Botanical Gardens and loved it so much we wanted to do something similiar. We took a nice air conditioned bus to the Nani Mau Gardens first. The drive was lovely and the bus driver pointed out different types of trees and flowers along the way. My favorite thing was when asked what the plants growing along the route were she explained the were called sidearhodas. It took a minute or two to sink in that's what she called unknown flowers on the side of the road. She also pulled into the Queen's Park where we had the opportunity to walk about a bit and take pix. Then on to the gardens. We toured through the gardens in a tram rather than just walking around. Which was a good thing as there was a lot of ground to cover. We saw loads of trees, flowering bushes, fruit and nut bearing trees and etc. We did get off the tram and walk through the amazingly lovely Orchid gardens. There were many differing varities of orchids here. Some were teeny tiny and some were huge. They were all beautiful. They look sort of ethereal just hanging in the air and growing on the trees. They don't even graft the orchids to the trees. They just take an orchid and press the roots into the trunk of a tree, within days the orchid takes root and becomes a part of the tree. We thought that was really cool. By the time we got to the nut factory we were very hungry. We headed straight for the snack bar and each got a sandwich. This was made with locally grown tomatoes and onions. It was a very delicious sandwich. There was a place to go watch them shell and package the many different nut products they sell there. We did of course buy some macadamia nuts and some of the shortbread cookies they make also. The cookies are wonderful and I am eating one right now. We stopped in at the warehouse building after our tour to visit our friend Leona who works at Lin's Lei shop right there in the building. We did buy two lovely leis which we wore all evening. A note here, on all of our other cruises to Hawaii there have always been several "tropical nights" or " Hawaiian dress nights". There wasn't a single one scheduled on this cruise. It wasn't a big thing but was very noticably missing. The ship no longers gives out leis to the passengers either. I didn't miss that as much as not having the Hawaiian dress nights. Tonight's entertainment was the vocal magic of Ventriloquist Don Bryan with Noseworthy. I did hear some good things about this act but must admit we did not attend as we were busy elsewhere doing other things. The movie Blue Hawaii was shown throughout the day in the Wajang theater. Darbie and the HalCats performed in the CN at 9pm. Darbie went home in Honolulu so we did not have any HALCats after that port. There was no sailaway party.
Sun Mar 14 Lahaina, Maui
We did not have any tours in Lahaina. It is one of our favorite towns to just window shop and watch the tourists in action. We anchored about 7:30am and tendering began around 8am. We ran into a little trouble with the CD here when we went down to tender in. Being 4 star mariners we get priority tendering as one of the perks. The CD informed us that we would have to wait until all the tours had left the ship and that we needed to go wait in the showroom until that time. We inquired what part of priority did he not understand. He insisted on his views and we went up the stairwell to wait for the first tours to start coming down. I guess he must have called someone to check on the "new" mariner status and he came up after a few minutes and allowed us to board a tender.
We walked off the ship and went over to the 2nd largest Banyan tree in the world to walk about and see all the wares being offered by various and sundry vendors. We found a few things to buy. An interesting new thing here for us. Normally one pays the vendor for the product and walks away. In order for all the vendors to take credit cards and such they now operate with a central cash register in the old courthouse gift shop. You take your purchase ticket from the vendor, go inside and pay then take the receipt to the vendor and get your merchandise. It worked very well and saved us some cash for a better use such as the casino. We went to Cheeseburger in Paradise for a late breakfast/early lunch. The cheeseburgers were wonderful as always. Thus fortified for awhile we went on to peruse the shops for awhile. We had plans to meet some other CC'ers for late lunch/early dinner at Bubba Gumps. If you've never been to a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant you have missed a great fun place. We had wonderful food and cocktails. We all ate shrimp of one kind or another and lots and lots of hush puppies. Yum yum good. We all talked and laughed and got to know each other a little better. After a long lunch we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant and continued on our hunt for the best deal ever on anything we could find. We sat on the benches on Front street overlooking the ocean and our ship. It was such a beautiful sight.
After a long and tiring day we made our way back to the tenders and back aboard the ship. We showered and got ready for a lovely dinner in the Pinnacle Grill. I want to take a moment here to thank all the wonderful folks in the PG. We took advantage of our 4 star status to eat there quite often for both lunch and dinner. Colin, the manager of PG is a fantastic man. He runs the place in a totally professional yet friendly and welcoming manner. We made reservations on the first day for the entire trip and it worked out very well indeed. The waitstaff in the PG is now almost all Indonesian women. Miss Ni, Naomi, Natalie, Dita, Shanty and Cleopatra. We enjoyed all of you very much. The PG chef is fantastic and we enjoyed every single dish we tried and I think we tried them all over the month we were onboard. We spent quite a bit of time in Canoletto's restaurant also. The food there was wonderful as was the Manager of the restaurant Glen. There was a brief moment at the beginning of the trip when we were denied entry to the Canoletto's as DH was wearing shorts. Under the impression that the dress code for Canoletto's was the same as the Lido we checked into it. It turned out Glen had just been moved up from the PG and wasn't aware the dress code was different there. Once he checked it out there was never another problem. He provided us with a nice bottle of wine for the error and all was right with our world again.
Tonight's entertainment was a variety show with Jim Curry and gymnast Lance Ringnold. It was a repeat of their original performances. The movie was 50 First Dates also taking place in Hawaii. There was a concert under the stars on the big screen in the Retreat a Cher concert. It was very nice and comfortable to watch outside.
Mon Mar 15 Honolulu, Oahu
Honolulu is the Capital of Hawaii and is located on the island of Oahu. It is the largest city and port in the state. Here you will find the famous Waikiki Beach, the mighty Mo and the USS Arizona Memorial. Honolulu is a big city but there is so much to do here. Luau's abound along with great shopping at Ala Moana Shopping Center.
We docked in the rain at 7:23am. For the first time in many visits there were no Hula dancers welcoming us into port. We always enjoyed getting to the rail early and watching them dance us in. This day started with a move for us. It was unfortunate that two of our CC group had to fly home from Honolulu due to an illness. We were very sorry to see them go. We did however go to the front office Mon morning to see if that OV cabin was available. We were very lucky and were able to move into it right away. A cabin with a view was a lagniappe we were not expecting. Although sorry for the misfortune of others it was a lucky day for us.
We had made plans to spend the day visiting friends. When we called however our friend was at work. When his work opened up we went over and visited for awhile and bought some souvenirs. As we were headed back to the ship I heard the sound of pounding feet behind me and then a tap on the shoulder. Our friend had taken the day off work and persueded his wife to do the same. We spent the entire day and most of the evening with them. It was wonderful to catch up and have some quality time together. We could not for the life of us remember the all aboard time. We just knew is was earlier than we are used to in this port. We finally decided to settle on 8pm and they took us back to the ship in plenty of time. All aboard was actually about 10:30pm. Oh well, better safe than sorry. It was later this day that the Ken napping took place. I will not go into detail here as there is a whole thread devoted to the memory of "Poor Kenny". Suffice it to say we had an extra primo good day and night.
There was local entertainment in the show lounge this evening. At 9:30pm there was a local Folkloric group "Drums of Polynesia" brought onboard. There was also dancing under the stars with the HalCats. Although there is very little room to actually dance at the Retreat where they played.
Tue Mar 16 Nawiliwili, Kaui
We docked at 7:30 am with some light local showers that soon cleared up. Known as the "Garden Isle" Nawiliwili is the oldest inhabited island in the Hawaiian Archipelago. In the hills and valleys of the islands are said to be the homes of the "menehune", leprechaun like creatures who are never seen, but are believed to perform great works overnight. The only navigable river in Hawaii is here, the Waimaia River. We have gone down the river before to the Fern Grotto which is amazingly beautiful. We had no plans for this island. We did a tour here in Oct that was very interesting and decided to do the WalMart thing. We picked up a huge, giant thank you card for the HotMan . We are all going to sign it at the next meet n' greet and present it to him for all his hard work on our behalf. Some of you may remember our dear friend Rita "Kryos" who spent a great deal of time on this board and was supposed to go on this cruise with us before her untimely death in July. Kaui was her favorite island so I had a special lei made and took it down to the water. I had a private and personal ceremony then tossed it into the water after I cut the string. It was a very memorable moment for me. Tonight's entertainment is some of the cast in "Dinner Belles". I did attend but was not impressed.
Wed Mar 17 Kona, Hawaii
We dropped anchor at 8am and tendering procedures shortly followed.
The island of Hawaii is by far the largest and newest in the Hawaiian Island chain. It has the most varied environment; from warm beaches to tropical rain forest, to the freezing highs on the mountain tops of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. There are the ranches of Waimea, an active volcano zone of Kilauea and other numerous ecologies in between. Kona is a friendly and charming small town with a centrally located pier. The Hulihe'e Palace is located here the summer residence for Hawaiian royalty. We have friends that have a business here and they are quite devastated that HAL is dropping Kona from most future cruises to the area. We were told the main reason is the very high rates the city charges for tendering insurance. I was unable to verify this from sources at HAL. We have always loved the quiet prettiness of Kona and will miss stopping there. We met up with some CC friends and once again found our way to a Bubba Gumps for lunch where we ran into more CC'ers. We had a great time together talking and laughing. A lot of laughter went on during this cruise. It was made so much better by having good companions to share it with. Tonight's entertainment in the show lounge is the comedy of Marty Brill. I like comedians. I usually laugh in the right places and enjoy it. This man appeared to be in his late 70's and wasn't all too steady on his legs. His routine was as old and tired as he appeared to be. It is just a shame that HAL was unable to get better quality entertainment for this long cruise. Today is St. Patricks day and they crew decorated the ship up very nicely. There was a giant Shamrock cake and ice sculpture in the MDR and some lovely decorations in the Lido. We appreciated the extra effort it took..
Part III Cook Islands and Sea Days Thurs Mar 18 at sea
Our speaker/lecturer featured today is Charlie Urbanowicz. We have sailed with Charlie and his lovely wife Sadie (Carol) several times. We have always enjoyed their lectures and talks. Charlie has a PH.D in anthropology from the U of Oregon for research in the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga. In '72 he tqaught at the U of Minn. and in '73 he joined the faculty of the Calif State Univ in Chico. He retired from there in Dec '09 as a Proffesor Emeritus in the Dept. of Anthropology. His many lectures throughout this cruise were beneficial and interesting. The showroom at sea featured the laughter and patriotism of the instrumentalis Johnny O. We did not attend but some others said they enjoyed the show. Today's movie in the Wajang Theater was "The Informant". We spent some time lounging in the retreat area and some time lounging in the Casino area and some time ; well, you get the idea.
Sat Mar 20 at sea
Today we cross the International Date Line. From this day forward for some time all the dates on the ship will be confused. Originally our plans said there would be no 19th and two 20ths. Then it changed to no 20th and two 21st. It got so confusing for reservations for PG and Caneletto dinners that they had to print a new itinerary sheet on the daily program. Then we lost the 19th again. It was interesting to say the least. The International Date Line is an imaginary line extending between the North Pole and the South Pole, arbitrarily demarcating each calendar day from the next. The Date Line is a consequence of the worldwide use of timekeeping systems arranged so that local noon corresponds approximately to the time at which the sun crosses the local meridan of longitude. When crossing the Date Line on a westerly as we did one loses a day. When crossing on an easterly course, one experiences the same day twice. Performing in the show lounge this evening is Judy Carmichael grammy nominated Jazz Pianist. Our first kakaoke night with DJ Greg late this evening was fun. Today was our 2nd CC get together. It was wonderful. The GRM Susana Beleo arranged for invitations to be sent to everyone in our group. They even sent one to me first for approval before sending out the rest. They were so nice and accomadating. They roped off an area for us in the CN and the HotMan stopped by. In my earlier posting on Kenny the Brownie I told how the HotMan Robert Versteeg brought in two trays of brownies for us to munch on. There were other goodies that they provided also. We had a mircophone provided which allowed us all to be heard. We made final plans and arrangements for our tours we booked privately. Here is where the GRM really excelled. She allowed for our CC tour groups to get tender tickets and be first off the ship when necessary. It was an amazingly nice offer and we took her up on it for our private tours on several islands. All in all it was a great day and now I can look forward to 2 wedding anniversaries. I told DH this means he must buy two presents but he never did buy that.
Sun Mar 21 Tabuaeran ( Fanning Island )
Halfway between Hawaii and Australia, the Republic of Kiribati ( keer-ah-bhass) is a scattering of 32 coral atolls, each defined by its ring shape and interior lagoon. Tabuaeran, also known as Fanning Island or Fanning Atoll, is one of the Line Islands of the central Pacific Ocean. The island is coral reef in an oval form, resembling the shape of a human footprint, and lies 228 nautical miles north of the equator. Its land area is approx. 13 square miles with an enclosed lagoon of 426 square miles. The greatest depth is 50 ft. and is otherwise very shallow. The land is thickly covered wit coconut palms and remains of native bush reaching he ights of 60-90 ft., thus making the island visible from a vessel 15 miles out. The atoll was discovered and named by American Captain Edmund Fanning, "Pathfinder of the Pacific", on June 11, 1798. At the time, the atoll was uninhabited, and like all of the Line Islands it has no truly native population. We anchored near the island 7:30am. There was quite a bit of rain and a cool breeze that became windy later on in the day. Apparently the date change confused the locals also as they thought we were coming in the next day. They all ran out of church and started putting up tables as soon as the ship was sighted. By the time the first tender got in they were all set up. There were locals in native costume to welcome us on the docking area for the tenders. As we had loads of stuff for the locals our group was on the first tender to the island. We were met at the dock by folks directing where we should put the things we brought for the school kids and the medical supplies etc. Our group was later met by the Mayor and the Chief of Police and taken on a tour of the island and schoolhouse. There was lots of handmade artwork, carvings, highly decorated and stylized knives and lots of shells and jewelry. We met a very interesting man and his two teenage sons who had been on the island for two months. They arrived in a yacht and were waiting for propitious weather to leave. In the meantime the said the locals were treating them wonderfully with many shared dinners and such. The family has been traveling around the world for over 20 years. Amazing folks and very nice. One of our group CirqusKid was clever enough to bring fishing line and hooks and other small metal things for trading purposes. He did very well there. The weather was a little on the cool side for us so we did not do more than walk along the beach on the waters edge. This was a new port for us and we enjoyed walking around and meeting the locals. The school children were out and performing local songs and dances throughout out our stay there. There were also kids in native costume that charged one dollar for a picture with them. They were very cute. As today is our 30th wedding anniversary we dined in the Pinnacle Grill for dinner which we will do several more times on this cruise. Colin, the manager is a wonderful man and so very professional. We enjoyed everything about every one of our meals there including the many lunches. They brought us out a lovely chocolate whipped cream frosted cake that was totally delicious.
There was no show in the lounge this evening instead the movie The Blindside" was shown. At 9 & 11pm our very own "Starlady" Donna Geisler, was up on the sky deck pointing out the Southern Cross and other really cool stars and such.
Sun Mar 21 (again) scenic cruising of Christmas Island
Kiribati is more a sprinkling of far-flung coral atolls than dry land, more deep blue ocean than sandy beach, more coconut trees than people, more Catholic churches than ancient island beliefs. Kiribati is far away, hard to get to, untouched and deeply religious. It is also blessed with myriad reefs, billions of tropical fish swarming over the coral, and plenty of WW II wrecks. The atolls are scattered over the equator so the weather is dependably warm, though often tempered by cool breezes off the sea. Kiribati or Christmas Island is the largest coral atoll in the world, with more than 100 lakes or ponds dotting the interior to support the huge number of birds. A large bay on the east coast is known as the Bay of Wrecks because so many ships have floundered there. The main settlements are London and Banana. Extensive coconut plantations support copra industry, and fish farms have been established in some of the lakes. Captain James Cook discovered and named it on December 24, 1777.
It was amazingly lovely to cruise through those crystal blue waters and see the islands as we slowly passed by. It is hard to find adjectives that don't seem over the top, when in fact, the entire experience was over the top. Tonight in the showlounge John D. Smitheman "the Mario Lanza of today" performed a songfest. I don't care for my parents music and that was mostly what we heard on board this cruise. Even the HALcats didn't play much rock n' roll but the few times they did people actually got up and danced.The movie in the Wajang theater today was Serious Moonlight.
Mon Mar 22 - Wed Mar 24 at sea
Mon - Today was the King Neptune Ceremony. Crossing the equator is a momentous event and requires the permission of King Neptune. This seafaring tradition aboard ships had been around for as long as anyone can remember, The festivities are marked by the appearance of King Neptune. Chief of the Water Deities. They symbol of power is the trident - a spear with three points. He uses this powerful staff to shatter rocks and call for or subdue storms. Neptune created the horse and upon these powerful creatures, with their brazen hoofs and golden manes, threw his chariot over the sea, which became smooth before him. Thus, we honor Neptune in return for safe passage and smooth waters. Naturally, there must be a sacrifice to Neptune! "Pollywogs" are crewmembers ( or any passenger) that have not yet sailed across the equator. A sampling of them will be brought before the great King and his mermaid Queen to be judged. All hail King Neptune.
The ceremony was very well attended with the usual jostling for seats down front that were immediately obscured by those standing in front. They have gone to using colored whipped cream as opposed to the actual garbage they used to use. It is much easier on the pools filtering system. Various crewmembers were required to "kiss the fish" ( which had a huge hole in it from a gaff or large fishhook) and knelt in front of King Neptune. In the end the officers and Master of the ship gave their thumbs up or down to determine the fates of the poor " Pollywogs". When the afternoon was over all had been turned into shellbacks. The Lido pool area was decorated with a big facsimile of a ship over the jacuzzi's. It looked pretty cool.
Tonight in the Showroom at Sea was a variety show with John Smitherman and Judy Carmichael. At 11pm was the Filipino Crew Show. They always work so hard on their own time to make their show exciting for the guests. I always enjoy the crew shows. The nice thing is you can watch it on TV in your cabin the next day should you miss it for any reason. Today' s movie in the Wajang Theater is Michael Jackson - This Is It. ( In my opion they picked some strange movies for this age group of pax). Tues - Explorations speaker, Donna Geisler: Passionate about her stargazing and explorations of the night shy, The Star Kady is the perfect guide for your introduction to astronomy and sky watching. Her stargazing workshops and astronomy lectures on the high seas have convinced hundreds of people to get out, look up and rediscover the night sky. You will find the current P resident of the Bruce County Astronomical society informative adn entertaining. Donall present you will facts with an appealing blend of humor, wonder and narrative. And, to add to your astromomical delight, she will invite you to an onboard Stargazing Club and give you a thrilling laser our of the night sky from the Observation Deck. We have sailed with Donna and her husband Dan Ostler several times. We always enjoy their lectures and talks. In fact my husband says Donna is the only person who was ever able to make him see a constellation. He finally saw and was able to find on his own later the Southern Cross. How cool is that?! Tonight in the showroom lounge in Guitatist George Sakellariou. The movie in the Wajang Theater was All About Steve. DJ Greg had a Beatles tribute which was pretty decent. Wed - Global Positioning Systems One of the methods our navigators on the Bridge use to derive the ship's position is and electronic navigation system named GPS, or Global Positioning System. It is a military satellite navagaion system that is owned and operated by the US Department of Defense. The Stars of the Showroom at Sea present "It Takes Two". We did not attend as I didn't care for it the first time I went. Todays movie The Box. Over the last few days we have been cementing friendships began earlier in the cruise. Playing canasta, visiting the casino now and then, reading new books and just generally being laaazzzyy. We are having way too much fun here.
Next up Rarotonga and French Polynesia Part 4 - French Polynesia
Regardless of the extent of my vocabulary there just aren't words to do French Polynesia justice. The golden sand, the blue sky, the myriad shades of blue in the water and on the reefs. It is indescribably beautiful.
Thu Mar 25 Rarotonga
Rarotonga is complete with miles of white sand beaches, glittering lagoons, small villages, and volcanic peaks covered in luch vegetation. The Cook Islands are an independant country associated with New Zealand and named to honor Captain James Cook who cahrted the remote group in 1770. The fifteen islands in the small archipelago are spread across 768,800 square miles of open sea. Two parallel narrow roadways ring Rarotonga's 20 mile circumference. The port capital can be seen on foot, as this picturesque little South Seas town winds only a mile or so along the curving waterfront between Avarua and Avatiu, it 2 harbors. Virtually every sight and most of the shops sit along or just off the main around the island road.
We anchored off Rarotonga at 7:30 am. We have a wonderful snorkel tour planned today. It is a private tour arranged by Min52 from our roll call. We have been looking forward to this a lot as this is a new port for us. We got the first tender off to shore and then walked around a bit waiting for the photographer to get there. We always like to get a photo in a new port. We wandered up the road and visited a few souvenir shops. We picked up a few small things and got some local money for our collection.
About 8:30 we wandered back to the dock area to look for our tour bus. In short order the tour bus arrived and after some small confusion about it being a private tour we all got on the bus. There were a lot of us and a small open air bus but we all managed to squeeze in. There was quite a drive from the dock to the beach where the boats were but we all enjoyed the scenery and the company. Interesting side note the signs on the buses for destination read clockwise and anti-clockwise.
We arrived at the beach area and spent a bit of time waiting for two stragglers who apparently missed the bus and were on their way by taxi. We did a head count and couldn't figure out who was missing. It turned out they were waiting for some folks staying at a hotel not from our CC group. We all boarded the 3 boats waiting for us and off we went on our adventure.
The boats had glass bottoms. At first when we were moving you couldn't see anything but once they stopped at our snorkeling spot there was a gorgeous view of all the sea life. The water was warm and clear as a bell. There were literally hundreds and hundreds of fish. There were giant clams that were so beautiful. All the colors of blue, deep purple, turquoise and even green were the clams. There was even a cage that protected the baby clams from octopus(ses). The most amazing thing to us about this spot was the numbers of blue starfish! The most amazing electric blue you've ever seen. I didn't even know there were blue starfish. But I did get to seem them and got some photos.
We all climbed back into the boats and were taken to a motu ( small island ) where our picnic was held. This was a beautiful place. We passed several dogs that were standing on the coral and actually fishing for their dinner. Very odd to see. We walked through the shallow and very warm water to the beach area. There were well decorated picnic tables and shade area around. The tour guides did a little talk and cut some local fruit. We tried something called Paw Paw that looked like cantalope and tasted wonderfully good. It has a sweet/tart thing going. We all munched on the fruit while our tour guides did demonstrations of husking coconuts and tying pareos (sarongs). Lunch was announced and according to local custom the women and children ( there were none there ) eat first and then the men are served. They offered up a local prayer and then the food was available. There was grilled fish that was delicious, fresh rolls, salad and fruit. Orange drink and water were also available. Things got very quiet while eveyone ate the wonderful food. The atmosphere was great and we all had a really good time. Way too soon it was time to leave our idyllic isle and head back to the ship or some shopping. It was an absolutely wonderful introduction to the wonderful underwater sights yet to come.
Tonight in the showlounge was another "hilarious night with comic Marty Brill". Again. The movie in the Wajang Theater was Brothers.
Fri Mar 26 sea day
Today is a sea day. We spent some time in the casino, some time playing Yahtzee or canasta, watched the world go by as we sat in the Retreat. We spent a goodly amount of time in the Retreat area this cruise. We like the big screen back there. The pizza in Slice is very good. The few odd times I didn't care for the offerings for lunch I just got a slice or two of Quattro Frommagio pizza and enjoyed every bite. Tonight in the showroom is the soprano sensation Jennifer Fair. It is a formal night. There were tons of things to do on sea days. Even Spanish lessons in the showroom. The lecturers were wonderful and interesting. The teas very good including the French and Indonesian teas I attended. Todays movie in the Wajang Theater was Planet 51.
Sat Mar 27 Raiatea
Raiatea is the second largest island in French Polnesia, and is located 120 miles northwest of Tahiti. Tahitians believe Raiatea to be the sacred birthplace of their gods and their religious and cultural beginnings. In fact, the most important and well-preserved religious site in all of Polynesia is hee. With the large protected lagoon around Raiatea, the area has naturally become one of the top locations for sailing, deep sea fishing and scuba diving. Uturoa is the pricipal village, the Administrative Center for the Leeward Society Islands. Uturoa had been described as a sleepy little waterfront town reminiscent of Papeete from years past. On this spectacular, mountainous island, visitors can venture up the Faaroa, the only navigable river in French Polynesia. It is only here, on the slopes of sacred Mount Temehani, that one can glimpse the rare tiare apetahi, a flower found nowhere else on earh. Mount Temehani is also the supposed birthplace of Oro, one of the principal gods of Polynesia. You can also visit the haunting site of Marae Taputapuatea, the beset preserved and most sacred site of pre-missionary Polynesia. There are no beaches on Raiatea. Instead, the island is surrounded by very tiny islands called motus, which are abundant with beautiful beaches that are excellent for relaxing and swimming.
We did not plan a tour here in Raiatea as we have done all the tours they offer on previous visits. We decided to do a little bit of shopping and make today a rest day before all the heavy snorkeling we have planned for the next ports. We met our friends Ron and Susan and the 4 of us wandered off the ship about 9am. This is a very pretty little town but did have quite a bit of damage from the cyclone that came through here in Jan. The beautiful water lily gardens they had were mostly dead because salt water got into them during the storm. They did manage to preserve a small area still full of water lilies, we could only mourn the loss of the koi and lilies that used to be there. The town was already hard at work to redig the canal and get all the salt water out before filling with fresh water again. We could see where many trees had been lost on the hills and mountains as well. We wandered into town and in and out of stores looking for the ever elusive perfect souvenir. We did find the farmers market and spent some time looking at fruits and vegetables we didn't know the uses of. Some looked very good and other just looked weird. We found the flower market inside the farmers market and stood in amazement as the worker made these huge tropical floral arrangements for $12 USD. Both of us bought flowers for our cabins and took them back right away. They are just lovely with antrums, ferns, protea, ginger and lilies. Later I had gone to the front desk for something and there were Jim and Ruth V with a least 5 or 6 huge floral arrangements for the ladies at the front desk. They are such kind and generous people. The ladies at the front desk glowed amongst the flowers all day long. Sailaway was early at 4:40pm. We were disappointed that there was no sailaway party from our first Polynesian port. Tonight in the showroom is "Carme" showing us what it was like during the days of the Rat Pack in Las Vegas. Not our cup of tea. Today's movie in the Wajang Theater is Couples Retreat.
Sun Mar 28 Bora Bora
Finally, Bora Bora. The most amazingly beautiful part of FP in our opinion. For many, the highlight of Frenh Polynesia is Bora Bora. some regard it as the most beautiful island in the Pacific because of its lush green volcanic peaks, huge lagoon, and the chain of sandy Motu flanking its coast. It is as near as it gets to that picture perfect tropical island. People come to dive and fish in the coral filled lagoons, the most popular being Coral Gardens, a natural underwater park, located to the southeast of the island. Off Point Matira there is an area where huge and graceful manta rays congregate. With impressive peaks and beautiful sites, this is an island not to be missed. We have private tours booked for both days here in Bora Bora. Todays tour is one we have looked forward to ever since I read about it, researched it and booked it for 36 of the CC group. We all met in the Ocean bar per prearrangement. I had the tender stickers ready and passed them out to everyone as they arrived. Once we were all there I let the agent handling that know we were ready. We were quickly taken down on the tender as a group. We got off the tender and looked around at the dock area. Not much has changed since we were last here. The same hungry looking dogs lying in the sand near the stalls that sell tours and jewelry. We left the ship a little early so we wouldn't have to deal with the crowds of those on ships tours. There was time to do a little shopping in the nearby stalls. Although we were early I began to get a bit nervous as I kept looking for Patrick and his boats to show up. Of course, they did show up. Three outriggers all decked out in Polynesian style. The cinemetographer from the ship was there and filmed us as the boats pulled away, all three boats are in the DVD of the cruise. The three tour guides were quite a treat also. All decked out in lava-lavas. It wasn't until our first snorkel stop we found out under those lava-lava were thongs! Oh My! Complete and totally bare buttocks. Young, firm . . . Oh well back to the snorkel tour. The boats all stopped at the coral gardens in deep water. Once we were in the wonderfully warm water we could see swarms and tons and well, oceans of fish. Reef fish, needle fish, angel fish, trumpet fish, butterfly fish and evey other tropical fish you could think of. All just swimming by and waiting for us to take pix of them. We all just swam and took pix for as long as we could. No one wanted to leave this beautiful spot; but we had much more ahead of us. Next, we were boated to shallow water about chest deep. Here were the sting rays. Probably about 40 or 50 of them here. The tour guides had fish to feed them and it was so amazing. You could hold the fish in the open palm of your hand and the rays would go over the top of your hand and suck the fish out. They can form a pretty tight vacuum with their "mouths" and the guides said the best way to feed them was through a small hole on either side of their eyes. We got some amazing pictures of people being "swarmed" by rays. It was very exciting and so very lovely. The water was so clear I swear you could read newsprint on the bottom if your eyes were that good. Next was a very exciting part of the tour. We all went outside the reef into the deep ocean. Here we were advised to be careful and stay relatively close to the boats. That's because we were suddenly snorkeling with sharks!! Black tipped reef and lemon sharks to be exact. This was so scary and marvelously exciting at the same time. I was able to get pix of sharks heading right for me. For some reason we didn't stay here as long as the other two places but it was long enough. It had been a long morning and we were all ready for some lunch. The boats proceeded to the motu where we would have our lunch and visions of the usual fish and chicken went through our heads. As we arrived at the motu the first thing we noticed were the picnic tables set up in the water. How cool is that!? We got off the boats and wandered up to the motu. What should meet our eye but the grill. And what a grill really long and totally loaded with lobsters cooking away. The "chef" had a 5 lb brick of butter he was using on the lobsters. There was another grill with fish on it and several magnums of french champagne, white wine, red wine, beer and soda for all. The tour guide blew his conch shell for everyone to gather round him. We were very surprised when the did the uncovering of the imu. On top of everything else there was a suckling pig, vegetables and a pumpkin pudding being cooked in the imu. It was a veritable feast. We sat at the tables sans silveware. The object was to rinse your fingers in the ocean and watch the little minnows come up and eat what washed off. We all ate until we could barely stand. There was music from the tour guides and singing also. We all ate and talked and flopped in the warm and shallow water. All good things much come to an end and eventually we had to leave our island paradise. We did manage to get a group photo taken. We made it back to the ship around 4pm. A side note. As our boats were coming around a sharp curve on the way back to the ship we passed an over the water bungalow hotel. The curve is very sharp and those at the hotel can't see the boats coming around the corner. Well we turned the corner and there on the patio of one of the bungalows was a young couple who thought they were all alone at the end of the world, so to speak. Here they are having an intense "personal" moment when a boatload of tourists with cameras at the ready come upon them cheering and whistling and applauding. How embarrassing. The poor young lady couldn't get up and run for cover as the entire porch was open. She was sitting on her mates lap. Bouncing up and down. He just hid his face in her shoulder and hair but she was on complete display. The next boatful of our goup said she had managed to pull a towel up to her chest. Someone on our boat was hear to yell something about YouTube. This was without a doubt the best tour we have ever taken in our lives. Bar none! There was no show in the showroom tonight just the movie 2012. there was dancing under the stars with the HALcats. Today's movie was Men Who Stare At Goats in the Wajang Theater.
Mon Mar 29 Bora Bora
The Polynesian lauguages are French and Tahitian. Each island group has its own language, e.g. Tuamotuan in the Tuamotus and Marquesan in the Marquesas. these languages, together with Tahitian, are East Polynesian languages and members of the vast Austronesian language family. The Polynesian's closes relatives include Hawaiian, Maori, Marquesan and Tuamotuan; other Polynesian languages such as Samoan and Tongan ae also quite closely related. Because of the way the Tahitian language is pronounced, it is generally easier for North Americans to pronounce Tahitian words than it is for them to pronounce words in French. Unlike French or English, there are no confusing rules about how words are pronounced. In Tahitian, each letter has a certain sound and that sound remains the same, no matter what the combination of letters. Before the arrival of the missionsaries in teh 1700's, the Tahitian language had never been writte, the missionaries took the sounds of the language and matched them to letters in our alphabet. As a result, only 16 letters are used: five vowels (A,E,I,O,U) and eleven consonanats ( B,F,G,H,K, M,N,P,R,T,V).
We have a private tour that YaYaCruisers booked for 6 of us. Today we are snorkeling with the giant manta rays. We have been so looking forward to this. When we boarded our very nice boat for the tour the guide wanted to take us to the Coral Gardens and Stingray area. We told him we had done that yesterday and wanted to swim with the rays. He took us on a long boat ride to get there. We got to see some of the beautiful scenery around Bora Bora. So many over the water bungalows and resort hotels were out of business. Between the bad economic climate and the cyclone a lot of them went under. Even the old Bora Bora Hotel which has been around forever went bankrupt since last year. We went out to the area where the manta rays live. Apparently they don't come out much during the day and prefer to feed at night. We were fortunate that we found one who was feeding. We were able to get some pretty good shots of the manta ray before it took off into the deep. We had a couple onboard with us who hadn't seen the sting rays so we went on back to the shallow area where they hang out. We all had a good time with the sting rays again. Then we headed on back to the ship. We went to Bloody Mary's for lunch with our friends Ron and Susan. We bought tee shirts and other souvenirs, had a good lunch in a great atmosphere. The open air walls, the sandy floors and the native ambience make this a great touristy place to visit. The Vanilla Rum Punch was pretty good as were the cheeseburgers.
We did a little shopping after we had gotten back to the ship and cleaned up. I ran into a tour guide from some previous tours named Nora. She asked after our friend Rita. When I told her Rita had passed away she was very sad and told me she would take all teh flowers from her tour boat at the end of the day and have a Polynesian ceremony for Rita's spirit. We shed a few tears but it made me so happy that Rita was remembered as far away as Bora Bora. Tonight in the showroom at sea was a variety show with George Sakellariou and Carme. We didn't attend. The movie in the Wajang Theater was Old Dogs. We turned in early as two days of snorkeling and fun in a row was very tiring.
Tue Mar 30 Papeete, Tahiti
Since the seond half of the 19th century, the quality of the site of the haror of Papeete has been a major factor in the developement of the port. As early as 1843, after the annexation of Tahiti by France, Admiral Bruat advised the government to chose Papeete as the capitol. However, it was not until the end of the 19th centurythat the first cruise line quay was built thus pemitting the docking of ocean liners. The quay ws later enlarged in 1928 and then replaced in 1938 by the excisting docking facility. the facilities wee finally completed in 1957 by the installation of an oil tanker wharf. The true development of the Port of Papeete began in the early 1960's with the establishment of the CEP ( Center for Experimentation in the Pacific ) and wih the military authority's need for a perfectly equipped reserve naval base in Papeete. The Port of Papeete was first created as a public establishment on Jan 5, 1962, lare construction operations to imrove the existing facilities have followed, and paricularly construction of the 1.37 mile by 16.25ft dike built on the coral reef and the constructiono f the embankments on the islet of Mutu Uta. The toal cost of the improvements reached 1.086 billion French Pacicif Francs, of which 931 million was contributed by France, 55 million was charged to the local territory and 10 million was to be paid by the Port of Papeete. 18 of our CC group had independently booked a private island tour here in Papeete. Papeete is a large city and there is no way around that. Upon disembarking from our ship which docked here at 7:49am we discovered they had made improvements to the dock area. There was now some shade over the benches along the wharf. We were greeted by local ladies in local costume with a local band playing Tahitian music. The ladies were handing out Tiare blossoms to put behind your ear. They are quite small, white and have a lovely smell evocative of gardenias. There were some very buff local men with chest high drums at the end of the pier. They were playing some great rhythmic music on the drum whilst shouting every so often. They were in costume and looked very sharp. We all kind of grouped together and waited for Michael our tourguide to show up. Michael showed up right on time, he owns the tour company and greeted all of us. He waited with us until the bus showed up. He introduced us to our bus driver and tour guide Angel then left us on our own. Angel was a really nice lady with a great sense of humor. She gave a little talk as she drove us out of the city and on to our tour sites. We went to the waterfalls in the rain forest which were breathtakingly beautiful. I think they were way prettier than Akaka Falls in Hilo. We followed a trail through the forest and over a wooden bridge. At the end of the trail was the waterfall. The trememdous echo of the sound of the falls was really amazing. Of course the walk up meant we had to walk back after viewing and taking pix of the falls. Along the way were giant ferns, bamboo, ginger plants and many other varieties of tropical growth. Lots of moss and slippery rocks also. We made our way back to the bus and someone said something about beer. Angel heard and said there was one place on the island that actually sold cold beer and she would stop there in awhile. We went on to see a blowhole that wasn't blowing very much but was making some rather fascinating noises. Then we went on to a black sand beach. This was really neat and had a gift shop and some memorial statues and such. Let me tell you that black sand in the sun can get very, very hot. It was getting past lunch time for us folk who have been trained to start lunch at 11:30am onboard. Angel decided it was time for a pit stop and took us to the store. Unfortunately the store wouldn't accept USD. In an offer that still astounds me in its generousity Angel offered to front the money to the store and would settle up with us later. She wasn't the only generous one, a few people on the bus had local money and offered to buy also. The upshot was we all went into the store, bought beer, soda. and since there was a bakery right there on the premises we bought several baugettes of freshly baked French bread. Oh the glory of the smell, the taste and the texture. We drand the beer and ate the bread and we all got a little happier. Remember, there were only 18 of us on a full sized a/c tour bus. We spread out and had a great time. We decided we all needed some more beer and bread and bathroom breaks. Angel pulled into a little store on the Tahiti Iti side and several of us went shopping. Back on the bus there was more beer, bread and this time someone wonderful person had bought some cheese. And not just any cheese, but some really, really good cheese. Once again the baugettes and cheese were passed around to pull off a hunk and pass it on back. By this time Angel is asking do you want to see this place, or that place, and we are chorusing not really. After a truly lovely tour of the island of Tahiti we wound our way back to the docks. A very happy group of people piled off the bus and reckoned up with the tour guide. I think she made out very well in tips. I know we tipped her very well because of her taking care of the bill at the store, she didn't have to do that.
We went back to the ship and had dinner. We asked our friends Ron and Susan if they wanted to go out after dark and check out the roulettes ( Tahitian roach coaches ) that set up every night at the wharf. We agreed and met up in the CN to go out to the pier. We strolled out in the heat of the night and walked over to the wharf area. I'm not sure what I was expecting after the various tales I had heard about the local transvestities hanging out at the roulettes, but what I saw was pretty boring; I guess the trannies were elsewhere that night. There were about 6 of the roulettes most vending some sort of oriental food. We walked around and checked out all the locals which was interesting until I spied a hugh wharf rat just strolling across the tiles. I suddenly had an urgent desire to be elsewhere and desired to go back to the ship which we did.
Tonight there was no show in the lounge. The HALcats performed midships at the Lido pool and they had a big screen movie in the showroom entitled Play the Game. The movie in the Wajang Theater was The Stepfather. We stay overnight here but leave at 5am for Moorea.
Wed Mar 31 Moorea
Moorea is sometimes described as a huge garden with tropical scents, covered by trees and carefully maintained gardens. This jewel of the pacific has a distinctive trident shape with its two famous bays. Moorea emerged from teh water 3 million years ago and today counts 12,000 inhabitants concentrated in the many villages located seaside. Its suface is 83 sq miles andit is only 10.5 miles away from Tahiti. Because of this sort distance, Moorea often carries the nickname of "Sister Island" ( of Tahiti ). Moorea is the best kept secret of the trio and famous French Polynesian islands. Beyond the picture postcard lagoons and white sand beaches lies an island waiting to be discovered.
We anchored at 7:23 am. Over the years we have done many tours here and this time we booked our favorite tour through the ship the Motu Picnic and Ray Feeding. This is a wonderful tour and we enjoyed it very much as always. Our tour group left in 3 boats to the motu where our fun begins. The boat trip was really wonderful and on the way to the motu we came across a pod of dolphin out for their morning feed. It was glorious to sit there and watch them play, jump and spin. Have you noticed how dolphin always look like they are smiling? After they glided out of sight we continued along the fabulous coastline until we reached our motu. The water is so clear here you can see every facet of the coral as our boats go through the water.
We finally pull into the motu where we disembark our boats which are then taken to another side of the island. From our seats in the boat we could see the sting rays sliding by on the sandy bottom. We found our friends and staked out a table in the shade and out of the traffic area. Their was a local band that played for us most of the time we were there. Where we snorkel is a waterway between two motus. This gives the water a mild but very pleasant current. One walks up the beach as far as you want then out into the middle of the water. Then just float all the way down to where you started. The coral here is amazing and lots and lots of tropical fish. There is even a moray eel hiding in the coral reefs. Of course we go up and down and through and over the reefs until we are exhausted. But having lots of fun.
Lunchtime rolls around and we make it back to our table. There is fresh fruit, BBQ chicken, fish and sausages both regular and extra spicy. There is pasta salad and "poisson cru" a local salad made with fish marinated in coconut and lime juice chopped with onions, lettuce and spices. It is very good. We ate a good lunch and then breaking all the rules our mothers taught us went right back into the water. And had a good time and not a single cramp anywhere. We swam and swam until they said we had to leave and go back to the ship. Disheveled and tired, sunburned and windburned we couldn't wipe the smiles off our faces as we headed back to shower and change. This is perhaps our favorite tour ever through the ship. Moorea is my personal favorite island. It doesn't have a lot of stores or much of a town. But the haunting green beauty of the mountains and the valleys contrasting with the amazing blues and greens of the waters touches me somehow deep in my soul.
Tonight in the showroom at sea is Duo Des Iles a variety show with a difference; expect the unexpected with Eric and Wendy. We did not attend but I think I heard is was a magic type show and quite good. The movie in the Wajang Theater is Pirate Radio.
Thu Apr 1 Rangiroa
Rangiroa, named for the Polynesian work Ra'iroa ( large sky ), is the largest atoll in the Society Islands group, and it ranks as one of the workld's four larges. A true atoll, the coral ring is comprised of 240 motus separated by more than 100 hoa ( tiny channels) . The lagoon is approximately 994 miles and is so large that when you stand on one side, you cannot see the other. At more tha n 43 miles long and 16 miles wide it is very large. Avatgoru, the main village, is on the atoll's northwestern side. Tiputa, Rangiroa's other village, is a few miles east of Avatoru near the secondary reef entry point. Most first time visitors are mesmerized by the stunning array of color in the lagoon and surrounding open sea. Snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts are well rewarded - don't miss the opportunity if you are a water fan.
This is the final new port for us. We were on deck bright and early to watch us pull into the anchor spot. It is so beautiful here. The colors in the lagoon are unimagineable. So many varied shades of blue, turquoise, green and white. It is a magnificient looking island. We dropped anchor about 7:45am. Since we didn't book a tour here we thought we'd get off and roam about the town for a bit while we decided what to do. Wrong! There is no town here. There were three or four little huts selling shells, jewelry and sarongs. That was it. There was one dive shop but it was limited to 12 people and were booked up. We wandered about for a bit and then headed on back to the ship for a lazy day onboard. We did talk to many who took one of the ship snorkel tours and they said it was amazing. Lots of fish, eels, octupi and such.
Tonight the stars of the showroom at sea performed in Songbook. I did attend this show and have to admit I walked out on it after about 20min. I never missed a production show and loved the dancing and costumes. This was 4 people standing in front of mics and singing one at time. Boring. They were doing love songs from the 40's & 50's. Double boring. At least to me. Others may have enjoyed it immensely. I can say it wasn't very crowded at any time. The movie in the Wajang Theater was Everybody's Fine.
The daily program did mention today's unique once in a lifetime event, a simultaneous Total Solar Eclipse and Total Lunar Eclipse. See the stargazing reference desk in the Atrium for details. We over heard many people talking about this strange event and when it might be viewed. Now, we know there can be some weird things in the other hemisphere but this. Of course, it turned out to be the ship's April's Fool joke on us all.
Fri Apr 2 at sea
Another wonderful sea day with an entire day ahead and very little required of us. We did lazy day things and played some games and might have made a contribution to the casino or two. Pfffft, like a quick gust of wind the lazy day is over and it is time for dinner in the Pinnacle Grill with Dan Ostler and Donna Geisler. They are wonderful people and we enjoy their comany very much. I believe this is the 6th time we've cruised with them. This is a wonderful restaurant and we have eaten here frequently. After dinner we may have made a short visit in the casino and then off to the Captain's Cocktail Party in the Crows Nest.
We arrived right on time and after a short wait we were quickly escorted into the CN. There was a receiveing line with the Captain, HotMan and CD. We sat at a nice table with Jim and Ruth. We had a great time and were served quite quickly. The Captain came over and sat with us for awhile. Jim and Ruth presented him with a pair of great slippers. He is such a good sport and immediately exchanged his shoes for the slippers. Pictures were taken and hands were shaken and in the ensuing excitement the shoes disappeared. Poor Captain Rik was forced to spend the evening in his slippers which wasn't bad but he also had to make it back to his cabin without his shoes. It turned out that the Chief Engineer and his wife spirited away with the footwear. Everyone had a great time and it was over way too soon. Tonight in the showroom at sea was the vocal stylings of Annie Francis. We have sailed with her before and was looking forward to her show. Unfortunately she was taken sick and unable to perform. The movie in the Wajang Theater was The Invention of Lying.
Sat Apr 3 Nuku Hiva, Marquesas
Nuka Hiva is the biggesdt island of the Marquesas archipelago, and the second largest island of French Polynesia. Today, of the 10 Marquesas Islands, only 6 are inhabited. Nuku Hiva's characteristically jagged terain present spectacular contrast againt the tranquil blue sea. With deep valleys radiating from the high plateau in the center of Nuku Hiva, getting around by road is difficult, often requires 4-wheel drive and is a case of constant ups and downs. The north coast is one of the most beautiful of Polynesia, boasting spectacular basalt pinnacles. This is where the villages of Hatiheu, Aakapa and the bay of Anaho are found. The Maerican reality televisions program Survivor filmed its Marquesas series near Anaho. Also to be seen is the village of Taipivai, where Herman Melville resided. Taiohae, on the south coast of Nuku Hiva, acts as the administrative and economic capital of the Marquesas and had an entiing atmosphere of both a colonial port and Stone-Age art hub. Many 19th century vestiges of French colonialism can be spotted around town, alongside newer reproductions of old Polynesian art.
Our final port. We can't believe it is already here. It seems as if we just got onboard. Nuku Hiva has some stunning mountains as we pull into our anchor spot. The water is such a deep, deep blue here. We drop anchor about 8am. There are no ships tours offered here and JocelySue of our CC group arranged a private tour for many of us. I had planned to go on the tour but woke up not feeling well and had to cancel. I think I got too much sun over the last several days. This is a quiet port. There are a few jewelry kiosks, a large covered area where many locals set up there tables full of shell jewelry and a dive shop. There is a lovley walk way along the sea line that has many old carvings of Tiki gods. It is a lovely place to walk about. Up the road there is a grocery store and some homes. It is very likely that you will run into kids on horseback going from one place to another. If you are up to a long walk about a mile in is a very beautiful church. It is quite an uphill walk though.
We pulled out of Nuku Hiva about 5pm. There was no sailaway party from our last port how very disappointing. Tonight the showroom at sea was supposed to feature Annie Francis but again, she was too ill to perform. The movie in the Wajang Theater was The Road.
Sun Apr 4 through Fri Apr 9 Sea Days
The next 6 days are all sea days. Most of us are catching up on some rest after all the busy, busy days in ports. These long, langorous days ahead mark the beginning of the end of our cruise. There is a hominess about the ship now that many of us don't want to give up. I did find myself extremely lucky in the casino today Easter Sunday. I put $37 in a one cent machine and walked away with $1600. Yep! From a penny machine. The ship was decorated very nicely for Easter. There were early morning services aft 8 and also in the showlounge. Tonight is the black and white ball. I got all gussied up for dinner with my friends and then we went to the show first. The show tonight was the multi-instumentalist Kuba Kawnik. Let me tell you this guy was amazing. The things he could do with his instruments just left me flabbergasted. I enjoyed him the most of any show on this cruise. When the show let out headed up to the CN for the black and white ball. Sat with some friends and we had a good time. I danced with several officers, the Captain and the HotMan. I had a few of those delicious mango daquiris ( thanks Bruce and Pat ) and had a great time. The movie in the Wajang theater was The Blindside ( again ).
Mon 5 - Another nice lazy day. Whatever we did it filled up the day. Had another wonderful lunch in the PG. The five onion cream soup is to die for. We did get the recipe and DH is planning to give it a try soon. We had dinner in the Caneletto with friends. The showroom at sea tonight presents the comedy and music of Dan Riley. The Indonesian Crew show was tonight. These folks work tirelessly all day and then do this for us at night. My friend Ufiq was in the show along with several others I know. It was a delight as always. I did notice that now you can buy a DVD of the crew shows at the Explorations Cafe. Not necessarily the crew on your ship but generically done. There was a rock and roll night with Lauren and the HALcats in the CN which was well attended. The movie in the Wajang theater was Up In The Air. (again) Tues 6 - We did the normal sea day stuff today. The CD Eric Dowis was unable to make it to either of our CC gatherings. To make up for this he sent us all invitations to a private Q & A with him at 9:30 this morning in the showlounge. About half of our group showed up. It was interesting in that Eric is a very funny man. He should be making his living as a comedian and I mean that most sincerely. There were some basic questions and answers nothing earth shattering or news worthy. Tonight was the Master Chef dinner and we dined at Caneletto again. Annie Francis finally made her performance in the showroom at sea tonight. She was very good although I think she lost a few people when she began to yodel. It was karaoke night with DJ Greg again. The movie in the Wajang Theater was Public Enemies. Wed 7 Another typical sea day doing typical sea day stuff. We did receive invitations to dine at the HotMan's table tonight in the MDR with cocktails in the CN first. We got all dressed up ( even got DH in a suit for a change ) and headed up to the CN. The other six people invited were all from our CC group. There was Virgil and I, Ron and Susan, Mike and Sue, Bruce and Pat and the Hotel Manager Robert Versteeg and the assistant GRM Nellike ( who we sailed up the Amazon with ). It was during this time that Ron and Susan admitted they were the culprits behind the Ken napping of the brownie. It was so fun to learn who did it and who all knew who did it. We had a marvelous time at cocktails and then headed down to the MDR. Since a few of us hadn't finished our cocktails one of the very nice waiters carried them behind us and reserved them at the DR table. There was a fixed menu all tied up in a scroll at our plates along with place cards. Dinner was shrimp cocktail or escargots, salad or chicken soup, surf and turf and the Chef's chocolate mousse for dessert. It was a wonderful dinner full of laughter and stories. Lots of toasts were made to poor Kenny and Ron and Susan for pulling it off. Pictures were taken by the ships photographers and copies were in our cabins the next day. It was a marvelous evening and we had a fantastic time. The food was good, the wine was better and the company was the best ever. Today was the walk for the cure onboard. On deck for the Cure is the innovative fundraising initative founded by HAL in 2006. and now involves four additional sister companies. Guests are invited to make a $15 donations and participate in a 5k walk around the ships teak decks, while wearing a custom designed tee shirt and wristbank. A post walk pink lemonade reception signifying the color associated with breast cancer research is held for all walkers. HAL has given more than $1 million to the Komen fund through the On Deck for the Cure program. An estimated 80,000 pax have participated since the program has begun. Tonight in the showroom at sea is a variety show with Kuba Kawnik, Annie Francis adnd Dave Levesque. The movie at the Wajang theater is Armored. Thu - 8 Explorations speaker David Levesque is a graduate of the US Coast Guard Academy and received a Master of Arts in history from Vermont College. Studing and lecturing under the many distinguished scholars David has discovered a deep passion for the human past. Today, his area of expertise include voyages of exploration, navigation arts, ancient civilizations, and general history around the world. He is currently a part time faculty member of the Social Sciences department at the College of Southern Nevada. A unique combination of thorough knowledge of and affection for his subjects as well as a wry, light hearted touch always makes David's lectures entertaining and informative.
Today was our final luncheon and CC group get together. Kiki Basuki the DRM and Robert Versteeg the HotMan were kind enough to allow us to put together a good bye lunch. They sent out invitations to all our CC members. We met outside deck 4 MDR and were escorted in to several tables in the rear of the MDR. Ron and Susan provided wine for everyone along with a bottle or two from a few others. We had a great lunch and a truly excellent coconut cream pie for dessert. We all had a last chance to connect, trade phone numbers and email addresses. There were a few tears, a lot of hugs and man heartfelt goodbyes. We received an invitation to take a tour of the bridge this afternoon at 4pm. We met at the front office and about 7 people were escorted up to the bridge. It was very interesting and we took lots of pictures. One of the cadets led us through and explained the functions of most everything there. It was exciting to stand on the "glass deck' and see nothing below you but water. The Officer of the Watch was Alison one of the first women with HAL to make that rank. It was extremely interesting. Tonight showroom at sea presents the cast in Amore. There is line dancing in the CN at 9pm. The movie in the Wajang theater was Julie and Julia. Fri - Apr 9
Well, it's finally here. The very last day. This has been such a wonderful voyage. We've made some great friends, shared some amazing experiences, visited some fantastic places and seen things that took our breath away. The crew, staff, CC members and everyone else couldn't have been nicer, more generous or friendlier. It was certainly one of the best cruises we've ever been on and a great deal of that was due to the kindness of spirit and heart of the Captain and the Hotel Manager Rik Krombeen and Robert Versteeg. They went out of their way for all of the CC group members. Our thanks to them, the CC group, our new and old friends for making this a voyage of a lifetime. We are finished packing by 10am. We have been invitated on an engine room tour at 11am today. We have never toured the engine room and are very excited by the chance to do so. We met with a small group of 6 at the front office and were escorted down by one of the engineers. We went first to the control room. Lots of video cameras, computer screens and switches and the like. They had a big bubble gum machine that dispensed ear plugs instead of bubble gum. We got our ear plugs and proceeded into the bowels of the ship. I am not a technical person so I can't tell you what I saw. I can tell you what I saw was usually huge, generally greasy and always noisy. It was an eye opening experience and I am very glad we had the opportunity to visit here. We spent a little time in the casino. Had dinner in the Caneletto for the last time with Ron and Susan. The showroom at sea presents the cast in Sing That Song. Last chance karoke with Greg in the CN. Went to the casino for the last time and made the rounds of the ship saying good bye, thank you and passing out little envelopes to those we wished to thank a little more personally. We made arrangements to meet our friends in the CN in the morning for a final good bye. Disembarkation went very smoothly and we off the ship and in a rental car and on our way home by 9:30am. We reached Phoenix about 3:30 that afternoon.
We loved everything about the Rotterdam. We had been concerned about some of the horror stories that came out right after drydock. We did not run into any problems and do not know anyone who did. The ship was marvelous, the trip was great and we would sail the Rotterdam any chance we get. Less
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