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6 South Pacific World Cruise Reviews

We greatly enjoyed the 2013 HAL Grand World Voyage (115 days) on the ms Amsterdam. It's a little sad getting back to the real world after the adventure, the glamour, and the pampering over the past four months. However, we do have ... Read More
We greatly enjoyed the 2013 HAL Grand World Voyage (115 days) on the ms Amsterdam. It's a little sad getting back to the real world after the adventure, the glamour, and the pampering over the past four months. However, we do have some fabulous memories. In case it might be useful for anyone else, the following is a wrap-up of what this incredible journey was like for us. When we started the World Voyage, our hunch was that 115 days might drag on forever, but it didn't -- the time actually flew by. We felt very comfortable with the daily schedule and began to think of the ship as our home that was being magically transported to places around the world about which we had always dreamed. Many other destinations that we thought we would never visit in our lifetimes turned out to be equally intriguing and exciting as well. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. General Impressions The ms Amsterdam is an excellent sized ship for a world cruise. It's big enough to contain everything a person could possibly need in a home-away-from-home: several excellent dining venues, lounges, theatres, classes, deck chairs, etc. Although it's classed as a medium-sized ship, the Amsterdam had many of the advantages of a small ship: we recognized most of the passengers and staff (and knew many of them by name), and it wasn't a long walk from one end of the ship to the other. Our stateroom (Verandah Suite) never felt confining; there was enough room for everything we brought with us. The ship's staff and crew always reacted positively to passengers' comments or requests. We frequently observed them going out-of-their way to ask if guests needed assistance. Especially striking was the positive, helpful attitude of the "Front Desk" (Guest Relations) staff on this Grand World Voyage. Without exception, they were always friendly, always cheerful, and always willing to help. We have never encountered anything like this on other cruises. Bravo! The Cruise Director, Bruce, seemed to be especially attuned to the special needs of guests on a long journey such as this one. We understand that Bruce has been with Holland America since 1992 and has served on 18 Grand World Voyages -- nine of them as Cruise Director. We can't say enough about Bruce; he is undoubtedly one of a kind and a real asset to Holland America Line. We packed almost exactly the right things to bring on the cruise, due to our reading of numerous message boards on the Internet, including CruiseCritic.com. Pre-cruise assistance from Holland America was almost non-existent. Perhaps they believe that pre-planning should be simply personal preference, even for people who do not cruise often. For this itinerary, both us brought too many cold-weather clothes (e.g., sweaters and jackets were not needed). The weather was beautiful almost the entire four months -- remarkably good luck! - We never had seriously rough seas -- a few days of gale force winds, but nothing serious. That's really amazing for spending this much time on the open ocean. - Temperatures were moderate to warm the entire time, with the exception of early in the cruise along the west coast of Peru until we left the cold Humboldt Current. There were also cool rainy days in Cape Town and Richards Bay, South Africa. However, it needs to be said that these "cool" periods meant temperatures were in the low 60s. - During the early part of the cruise we missed two tender ports -- Easter Island and Rarotonga -- due to windy conditions and moderate swells. However, as we went along, local people in many ports told us that we must have brought good weather with us, because "the day before you arrived it was terrible weather." - In Asia and Africa, we had a few days with brief rain spells that didn't spoil our enjoyment in visiting these locales, including Nha Trang, Sydney (Day 2), Albany, and Cape Town (Day 2). The rain for our mini-safari from Richards Bay was uncomfortable and limited wild-animal viewing, but we liked the experience nonetheless. - Captain Mercer always kept us updated on meteorological conditions and any future weather or sea problems that we should anticipate. Things We Liked No decisions, no work, no worries for four solid months Free time for us to do as little or as much as we wanted to do We went places we never thought we would ever see (e.g., Tasmania, Sri Lanka, Namibia, Devil's Island) The two weeks we spent visiting New Zealand & Australia (actually 3 weeks, if sea days are included) were absolutely great. These two countries made a very favorable impression on us -- wonderful ports and wonderful people; we left reluctantly, wishing we could stay longer. Touring some of the most renowned cities of the world (e.g., Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Cape Town) with free time built into the schedule was exciting and enjoyable. The desert experience in Namibia of riding in 4x4 vehicles on the very tall sand dunes was a thrilling adventure beyond our expectations. Professional entertainment in the Queen's Lounge almost every night aboard ship for four solid months was enjoyable. There were at least 60 different acts; some were hits and some were misses -- that's understandable. We did hear complaints from veteran world-cruise travelers that there were no "big-name" entertainers this year as they had seen in the past. Nonetheless, we went to the shows almost every night. That's something most people can't do at home. The 6-person Amsterdam Orchestra was superb. The orchestra remained intact (no changes in membership) for the entire four-month journey. Their challenge was to accompany each of the visiting professional singers and solo artists nearly every night, with a different style and tempo. They were always the perfect complement to the guest performers. As we understand it, the orchestra members receive their music the day of the performance and then do one rehearsal. We don't know how they managed this so well. Outstanding meal programs -- a wide variety of selections, superb preparation, wonderfully presented and served. Preparing 5,000 excellent meals per day for passengers, crew members and officers for four solid months in locations all over the world must be a huge challenge. Holland America delivered supremely well. The main dining room and Lido buffet offered consistently excellent food served by correspondingly excellent staff. We were very lucky to be assigned to a table at dinner in the main dining room with two other couples with whom we were compatible and whose company we enjoyed for the entire voyage. Other passengers were not so lucky. Pinnacle Grill is an excellent specialty restaurant on the Amsterdam. The atmosphere, staff, and food quality were always superb. Much of this can be attributed to the managers -- Kim & Tina -- who are first-class professionals. The ship has a particularly good library, including two librarians on-duty for the full cruise, as well as a book club, and a book exchange. There were many special benefits (perks) for cruising on a Holland America Line Grand World Voyage that we greatly appreciated. These included the following: - Pickup and delivery of luggage from our homes by FedEx one week before departure was a brilliant and prized benefit for Grand World Voyage guests. At the end of the voyage, our luggage arrived at our home by FedEx one day after cruise disembarkation. - Complimentary shuttle busses available at every port where it was needed - "Good Morning Amsterdam" TV show taped before a live audience every sea day - Special gifts for all World Voyage passengers on many formal nights - Ship-board activities, including photo contests, HAL Chorale, book discussion groups, exploration speakers, sit & knit group, and many qualified instructors on varied topics such as dancing, tai chi, watercolor, arts & crafts, bridge, etc. We heard someone say, "If you're bored on a HAL world cruise, then you're a boring person." - Special events in the Pinnacle Grill -- Captain's Dinner, Murder Mystery Shows, Le Cirque - Special educational emphasis on regions where we were traveling was especially well done. We clearly felt a cultural immersion at many ports, and we thought it greatly enhanced our experiences. These included Travel Guide Barbara's presentations, selected local menus in the dining rooms, country-oriented pool deck parties, as well as folkloric shows or local performing groups brought onboard the ship for entertainment. - Several-day visit by Holland America's CEO indicated to us the importance the cruise line places on the Grand World Voyage and on its guests. - Very big, labor-intensive (for the crew) special party in Bali, arranged to coincide with the HAL CEO's visit, was just amazing. - Two highly talented dedicated florists were onboard for the entire cruise, and they created beautiful, artistic fresh flower arrangements all over the ship which were refreshed frequently -- wow, they were great! - On this long voyage, crew members seemed to enjoy getting to know the passengers, including their drink and food preferences. - Medical and dental department on board for the entire cruise. One of us had an abscessed tooth and might have had to leave the ship if the dentist and his equipment had not been available. We were aware of other passengers that were treated by the medical staff for broken limbs and other ailments. Travel Guide Barbara has been a staff member on 15 world cruises and has worked for Holland America for more than 20 years. She presented a 45-minute lecture in the Queen's Lounge several days before every one of the port calls on this cruise. The insights she passed along were always pertinent, useful, and based on her experience. She never pushed shopping at particular stores, rental car companies, etc. The Digital Workshop (sponsored by Microsoft) was very well done. "Techspert Tom" was an unusually good asset for the cruise. He is one of the best personal computer teachers we have ever encountered -- relaxed, patient, knowledgeable, and always current on new technology. His classes were informative, and he even tailored some of the material for the world-cruise experience. We congratulate Holland America and Microsoft for developing this relationship. Areas for Improvement For passengers, use of the Internet was expensive, and reliability was spotty during long stretches. We were very happy that some access was provided, especially for this lengthy cruise when it was essential for many of us to stay in touch with family or to communicate in the event of an emergency. We were frustrated with the limited bandwidth onboard ship. We understand why reliability is so bad when we are in the middle of the ocean or in less-developed parts of the world. However, that doesn't mean that we were happy with the situation. Holland America was very late in sending detailed information to passengers in sufficient time before the cruise. Even though most of us made reservations more than a year in advance, they waited until the last minute to give us the details we needed for advance planning. As an example, we would have preferred knowing the themes for the 19 formal nights at least 3-4 months in advance, for shopping purposes, but that didn't happen. We talked to passengers who never received advance information, and many others who received theirs only days before their departure from home. We didn't understand the need for 19 formal nights on this voyage. That's too many, for myriad reasons. Perhaps we could understand having one formal event per week. The Grand World Voyage was 16 weeks long, so 16 formal nights should have been the absolute maximum number. We paid a lot of extra money for a stateroom with a verandah we couldn't use, because guests in the adjoining stateroom used their verandah for cigarette and cigar smoking many times during each day. Spending a day on Easter Island was one of our reasons for booking this particular Grand World Voyage. Getting so close, but not being able to go ashore due to choppy seas, was a big disappointment. That much being said, we believe Captain Mercer made the right decision to curtail tendering passengers to the island; we don't fault him in any way. We were just frustrated that the opportunity eluded us. We found this hard to believe, but apparently fellow passengers could not be trusted. Early in the voyage we put refrigerator magnets, from the ports we visited, on the outside door frame of our stateroom. Our Bora Bora magnet disappeared after a few days (obviously stolen), so we removed the magnets off our door. Down the hall, another room was doing the same thing, and despite their magnets also being stolen, they continued displaying them. After about 2½ months, five of their magnets had been stolen. They put a sign on their door asking that the magnets be returned; but, of course, they weren't. By the end of the voyage, eight magnets had been stolen from their door frame. Unbelievable! Summary Holland America's 2013 Grand World Voyage was everything we had hoped for, and more. We had wonderful experiences that will remain with us forever. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
We did the 30 day Hawaii South Pacific Cruise. While the Rotterdam is an older ship there is still a lot of charm. Enjoyed the library area and the lounge areas on that level were very comfortable. While we had an inside cabin, it was ... Read More
We did the 30 day Hawaii South Pacific Cruise. While the Rotterdam is an older ship there is still a lot of charm. Enjoyed the library area and the lounge areas on that level were very comfortable. While we had an inside cabin, it was roomy and comfortable. The ship is due to go into dry dock in Germany this December. Besides doing refurbishing, they need to do a major disinfecting of the whole interior. People have been getting sick aboard the Rotterdam for the last several cruises. You couldn't escape the racking chest coughs that so many passengers had. Thank goodness I travel with an antibiotic, as the only thing the ship offered was Cipro which is for gastrointestinal problems. Three of my table-mates were diagnosed with pneumonia upon seeing their personal physicians when returning home. Probably my major complaint was watching them change the beds for the next cruise and realizing that they did not remove the mattress pad or the blankets for washing. I'm sorry I didn't realize that at the beginning of the cruise. The crew was a wonderful group of friendly and helpful people always ready to help. The food was very good and choices were plentiful. The entertainment left a lot to be desired. There were a few talented entertainers that offered us an opportunity for a pleasant evening. Seeing the South Pacific Islands was wonderful. The views from the boats on snorkeling trips were amazing! Moorea was by far my favorite with Bora Bora following right behind. If your a lover of poolside sunning and swimming, you better love the sun as there aren't any shaded areas to place a lounge chair - forward or aft on the ship. One pool is also not enough to accommodate the many guest, but that's OK because they only have about 50 lounge chairs around the pool. All in all, it was a wonderful adventure and good value. The 30 days at sea seemed to fly by. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
Background: We're 60 year old Australians with 10 previous cruises on different ships (and many different cruise lines) with which to compare. This was our first cruise on a British ship except for cruising on the original Oriana ... Read More
Background: We're 60 year old Australians with 10 previous cruises on different ships (and many different cruise lines) with which to compare. This was our first cruise on a British ship except for cruising on the original Oriana way back in 1984! The official sector of the around the world cruise was from Sydney to San Francisco but we were allowed to embark in Brisbane. This added another 3 nights to the cruise making it a total of 28 nights. British pounds which are used onboard are now only $1.50 as our exchange rate has improved. Embarkation: As we live near Brisbane we drove and left our car at a nearby car storage. As our return trip would be by air from USA, they would collect us at the nearby international airport. Their shuttle service was efficient. Arriving after 11 am, we were forced to stand in line at the cruise terminal until midday when they opened the counter. The line moved slowly as only about 3 cruise staff processed the 300 odd passengers boarding here. Gradually more staff appeared (maybe they had been on lunch?). We couldn't understand why the process wasn't started earlier or more staff used as with other cruise ships at this port. With such a relatively small number of passengers embarking here, the process should have been quicker. Once on board, we were directed to our cabin where we left our hand luggage and went for lunch. Throughout the cruise we had 5 Cruise Critic meetings with our small group followed by lunch in the MRD. The Ship: Built in 1995, the Oriana was showing its age but the recent refurbishment helped it feel modern. Public areas were nicer than we expected. Carpets looked new and the crew were constantly painting and undertaking other maintenance. It had recently been converted to an 'adults only' ship. The recently added 'duck's tail' to the lower rear of the ship seemed to help it handle some rough weather near USA. With 1800 passengers it is a comfortable size and has a good layout. The promenade deck was very wide and great for walking. While the majority of the passengers were British, there were a large number of Australians. We did get the impression that some of the reserved Poms were taken back by the comparatively loud Aussies. As mentioned in previous reviews, passengers in the rear restaurant complained of noisy vibration. At a 'question & answer' session, the captain apologised for the excessive vibration and said it was due to the 2 propellers being slightly out of timing. He said that it was worse at certain speeds which they were trying to avoid. Fortunately we weren't in that restaurant but did find the noise from the vibration excessive when in the Pacific Lounge which is on the deck directly above the rear dining room. It appeared that certain performers were moved from here to the front theatre for this reason. After the captain's comments, the noise did appear to reduce. In the interest of hygiene we would have preferred if the public toilets had the main door left open as on many other ships avoiding the need to use paper towels to open them. Also some public toilets regularly were out of order. Cabin: The overall size of our inside cabin is not large, but sufficient for two people and our luggage. Unfortunately as we booked late (at a good price), we had a 4 berth cabin. The top bunks against the walls caused problems as we had the queen bed arrangement. Also there is no space between the end of the bed and the wardrobe on one side and the desk on the other. The shower was fairly small but the curtain didn't get sucked inwards. The flat-screen TV was a reasonable size. The a/c made the cabin freezing even on the highest setting (this was fixed after complaining). There was a small fridge which was handy for keeping our supply of Coke & snacks cold. Ice had to be requested (we had a standing order at noon each day). Also if you want a top sheet, ask for it. Food & drinks: We found the service in the main dining room to be fine but the standard & variety of food was inferior -- certainly not to the quality of food on American ships like Princess. There was a noticeable lack of seafood other than fish -- not even the usual prawn cocktails (as my DW is not a seafood lover she was reasonably happy with the quality). We laughed at their idea of tiger prawns - extremely little in size & in number. Even on the formal 'black tie' nights the food was nothing special! Our wine waiter was prompt & reliable. As this is a British ship there were strict rules on dress code in the MRD (we were aware this of pre cruise). There were 6 Black Tie & 7 Smart (jacket required!!!) nights on this cruise. This was different to the relaxed Aussie & American cruises. After experiencing the long lines at the buffet the first morning, we used the MRD for breakfast most other mornings. Also the food seemed improved and the atmosphere more relaxing for breakfast. We enjoyed the popular fruit smoothes but missed the large American style pancakes and freshly made waffles. Also fresh fruit at times was in very limited supply. We did use the buffet for lunch but wished the quality of the food was to a higher standard -- much of it looked like leftovers. Trays are still supplied. On some port days many passengers were late for the early sitting in the MRD. As a result there were long lines in the buffet as only one side was being used (the other side was kept closed in the evening as it led to one of the extra-charge restaurants on the rear deck). We did use this Italian extra-charge restaurant on the evening leaving Sydney. The view of the harbour as we sailed out was fantastic but the service was extremely slow and the food disappointing. To receive better quality food an additional payment was required! We were pleased to see hand-sanitizers at MRD and the buffet -- their use was strongly encouraged. Alcohol was reasonably priced. We used a soft drink card for post-mix drinks which only gave a small saving but was convenient and time saving. Surprisingly low-priced duty-free spirits could be bought and consumed in your cabin. Also P&O UK has relaxed views on the amount of wine brought onboard. Staff and service on board: Organization on the ship was generally excellent with the one exception at Honolulu where maybe USA customs clearance could have been handled better to avoid long lines. Tendering, which occurred at only one port, was well organised with no delays. The crew who were mainly from Goa, India were polite but didn't seem cheerful. Generally they were not up to Princess' standard. The reception staff were friendly and polite. Captain Camby, who was the youngest in the fleet, was very popular especially with the females as he was a John Travolta lookalike. We found him to be very approachable, humorous and conveyed information in great detail. Cruise Director, Michael Mullane was also popular and did a great job. Both performed well together one evening in the miming game, 'Give Us A Clue'. A 4 page daily newspaper printed for Australia as well as Britain was popular and much appreciated. Prices in the photo gallery were half that of Princess. Having several laundrettes on board was a bonus. Also surprisingly they were free but this can cause problems as some passengers used them to wash a few clothes only at a time causing delays. Entertainment: The program of entertainment was much organised with a full colour 'Your Cruise Overview' printed at the start of this sector. This listed the dress code and all the evening activities for each day. On cruises we enjoy the shows in the evening. The performers in the Headliner Company did a superb job. Also we were pleasantly surprised to find they did 8 different shows during the cruise -- certainly more than Royal Caribbean offer! These were the highlight of our evening. On 2 occasions we even saw their repeated show the next night. Unfortunately the main theatre (the Theatre Royal) had a design fault with the seating. Many of the flip-seat bases were sloping downwards causing us to slide forward. Also to increase the capacity of the theatre, legroom was minimal. The alternative entertainment area (the Pacific Lounge) was laid out like a lounge - as a result its capacity was limited. Also unless you arrived early, one's view could be blocked by supporting posts. Most of the guest entertainers were British (our favourites were a singer, Emily Reed and comedian, Richard Guantlett) and of an acceptable standard. This cruise consisted of many sea days. The program of activities was good and my DW loved participating in the passenger choir but missed not having Zumba. The many guest lecturers were popular (almost filled the theatre) and very informative -- every sea day had presentations by at least 2 lecturers. There was a cinema on this ship with good movies but we didn't have time to see any - for us days at sea go by quickly. We should mention that we were travelling with friends with whom we spent at least 2 hours each sea day playing cards. The only suitable location for this activity was in the buffet. Shore Excursions & Destinations: We normally try to avoid shore excursions organised by ships as we feel that they were too expensive although on this ship they were more reasonably priced than American ships. Armed with maps & information collected before the cruise (supplemented with detailed free local maps picked up on land), we easily explore ourselves. Also as we had been to New Zealand before this worked extremely well. The other Pacific ports of Bora Bora & Papeete were easy to explore ourselves; whereas, in Honolulu we with our friends found a great guide who copied the ship's sightseeing tour for much less cost. Disembarkation: As we had been cleared by customs at Honolulu everything went smoothly and on time leaving the ship. There was the usual line waiting for taxis but this was well organised. Conclusion: P&O UK proves that you get what you pay for. In our opinion the service and entertainment are excellent whereas the food was generally disappointing. There is certainly no heavy selling while on this ship. Generally we would recommend them as long as you remember these are British ships. While onboard we didn't take advantage of P&O UK's Future Cruise Credits scheme as it was too restrictive but would consider cruising with them again. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
This was a very good cruise for us, I'll rate it a 4.5 out of 5.0, as I intend to be 'Fair&Balanced', but Hey!! we had a Tsunami and a helicopter medical evacuation as extra entertainment..so maybe a 4.75 would be more ... Read More
This was a very good cruise for us, I'll rate it a 4.5 out of 5.0, as I intend to be 'Fair&Balanced', but Hey!! we had a Tsunami and a helicopter medical evacuation as extra entertainment..so maybe a 4.75 would be more appropriate. It would probably take a Seabourn or Oceania to rate a 5+ by me, so consider my critique with that in mind. Some people grumble..we don't. We are 'active'. We hiked, snorkeled, and rented 4WD Land-rovers,Jeeps etc. I say that right off because we did NOT go on 'organized' HAL tours; as we were NOT in need of mobility aides etc. However...we seemed to bump into fellow cruisers in all sorts of places!! So, fear not, we saw most of what everyone else saw..and perhaps more than most. Also, age-wise we're on the 'younger' end of the passenger list intentionally so, as we enjoy the company of experienced cruisers; we just walk a lot faster and maybe sleep less.My REVIEW will be chronological later, I will add those details later in the ports-of-call section. Embarkation at SanDiego went very smooth; especially so because we stay the night prior at the HolidayInn across the St. from the pier. I highly recommend doing similar for anyone worried about Air connections etc. Door-to-Stateroom Luggage Service was too $expensive$ for us ($975 bucks) but it's the way to go methinks if one is a bit 'gimped up' or money isn't a concern.The ROTTERDAM seemed to be ship-shape. It's not new. We like that. It's classy..not glitzy. Just the right size vessel for us means less than 2000 pax and more than 500. Is it comparable to OCEANIA's newest Uber-classe cruiser? Probably not...but it was a good $$value$$ for the fare spent.Clientele/Fellow Passengers: We didn't meet anyone who had NOT cruised before. We are entering our early retirement years and we were nearly the youngest except for 2 honeymooners. No teens at all. Most passengers have their money working for them by now; not the other way around. Did anyone grumble? Yep. No different than any other cruise. The same people I avoid back home I avoid on a cruise. Generally a sedate, yet interesting mix of people aboard from US, Canada, Germany, UK, Sweden, OZ and Japan. Few from elsewhere. Stateroom: We were on Deck #3 near the front, with large window looking onto the teak Promenade, our favorite area. Our Neighbors had a 'Lanai' Rm. which allows for walking directly onto the deck. A decided advantage if handicapped. PLUS, Lanai's get their own deck lounger-chairs!! A source of irritation to certain passengers who felt slighted. Hmmm. (Deck #9 Skydeck loungers were usually nearly empty all day). You make the call on THAT one..I'm too diplomatic.Public Rooms: Very good. Clean, clean, clean. Any lapses noted by others as regards upkeep or tidiness was unfounded in our experience; and trust me, we CARE about such stuff. Housekeeping? Excellent. The ambiance of the foyer, library, etc was sedate, and appointed in quite good taste, with a nod to wonderful Oriental antiquities in display cases and a superb array of Nautical framed pictures and plaques etc all thru the ship. Nice. Again, classy..not glitzy...yet not dowdy by any means. Library and Internet Cafe were BUSY!!Casino: Busy with the regulars. A solid crowd for the popular Poker Table most all the time. A smoker's hangout. We don't do casinos. Pools and Lounging Areas: It was Hot and Sunny nearly every day, lounge chairs were at a premium poolside around the main pool (which has a retractable roof). The Rear/Aft splash pool was where the cigarette smokers hung out. Way up top Deck #9 was wide open for Sun-worshippers...no Pool. Deck #3Promenade was nearly filled with readers and nappers every day. Lots of book readers on this cruise. Few swimmers. Non-swimming pool-side chair-hogs? Yep, like always. Dining: We went with OPEN-SEATING on Level 4...with a twist. We clicked with some great fellow cruisers. So how did we do it? We all asked to be seated together at the same time and same table each night. Presto!! Instant fun table every night. We 'thanked' the Dining Rm. Steward beforehand. The food was great. We took Lunch at the Lido every day, and accepted a gracious invitation to join another couple one evening at the Pinnacle Grille on one occasion. Wow!! Nuff said.Bars and Drinking: The Ocean Bar served up nice cocktails before Din-din and adjoined the dance floor; with the Neptunes trio providing Smooth Jazz music. The MIX Lounge had PianoMan and a 'NameThatTune' ambiance. The Crow's Nest DJ (the loneliest man on the ship)...Located Wa-aay up top, was sparsely (none)attended due to the demographics of the clientele EXCEPT on one of the last nites...The Black&White Ball!!! When certain of the crew got to 'let their hair down' a bit til the wee hours. It was a light drinking crowd overall. No bubbas jumping in the Pools. No CountryWestern, no Heavy Metal...and surprisingly, no Lawrence Welk. Floor Shows/Entertainment: Good. Great musicians, I 'got' the risque jokes of the comedians, and the singers were all A-OK. My wife loved every minute of every show. And as a neat surprise, the smooth Soul sounds ala Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke were performed by my fave, Jackie Wilson's son.Lectures/Education: I took in Frank's Microsoft/Computer classes. Very good fella and I learned a LOT!! We didn't do Cooking or Health things. Dunno.Cruise Director and Officers: STEVE the Cruise Director was more than up to the task; and LISA the Shore Guide/Guru was just peachie-keen and knowledgable about everything. The Officers handled EVERYTHING in such a professional way. Hospitable and just fine in all ways.Tendering and 'Days at Sea': Because this cruise involved a LOT of sea days AND many tenderings to small islands I must say WE had no problems whatsoever. Some pax got a little 'stir-crazy' and some were barely physically able to manage getting in and out of the Lifeboat Tenders very well. My advice? Call it a Life when such things get to be too much. When one's cruising days are over...they're over. My day will come as well. Nuff said.Now, on to the Islands. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
My husband Greg and I, both age 52, cruised for 32 days aboard the Dawn Princess, traveling from San Francisco to Sydney. I am a deputy district attorney and he is a retired sheriff's deputy. The trip was great. It was relaxing and ... Read More
My husband Greg and I, both age 52, cruised for 32 days aboard the Dawn Princess, traveling from San Francisco to Sydney. I am a deputy district attorney and he is a retired sheriff's deputy. The trip was great. It was relaxing and fun, and overall the staff was wonderful. We really got to know the staff on a cruise this long the maitre d' and waiters, the gym trainers, photography and excursion staff, and even the shop girls. If I had it to do all over again, I would: 1. Take along my own blow dryer. The old hotel-type blow dryer in the room was terrible. 2. Bring binoculars!!! We missed a lot by not having any. 3. Ask for an egg crate mattress topper the first second of the cruise. The beds were terribly hard. 4. Bring my own laptop. I spent an obscene amount of money at the Internet Cafe just to write home. With one's own laptop, one can compose off-line and then log on to send the emails. The Internet Cafe computers will not let you compose off-line. 5. Never, ever, ever leave a valuable wedding ring out on the table in the cabin. Mine disappeared the last day of the cruise. Following is a series of "Cruise Reports" I sent family & friends during the trip. ********************************************************* CRUISE REPORT No. 1 - Day 2, DAY AT SEA At the Internet Cafe for the 1st time. It costs an arm & leg of course, 250 min for $100, which works out to 40 cents per minute. Much cheaper than pay-as-you-go for 75 cents/min. I managed to nab the last entry blank for the free drawing for up to 500 minute, but there were no more for Greg; the Internet manager said "no more entries", which is bogus. Greg marched off to the Purser to complain. The Net is pretty fast at least right now. Impressions so far: 1. Ship is very small compared to others we've been on, particularly the only other Princess ship we've experienced, Diamond Princess. 2. Our fellow passengers are mainly geriatric, as expected. We are definitely in the minority age-wise. There is a handful of babies/kids, so scarce you rarely see them. This a.m. we were wondering what happens if someone dies on ship? Is there a morgue in the infirmary? LOL. 3. We were the ONLY diners at our Table-For-8 last night. Nobody else showed up. Perhaps it was due to many people not yet receiving luggage and the Oldsters falling asleep early? Hopefully more will turn up tonight; if not the Dining Manager said he'll move us to another table. I do like our waiter, a friendly Filipino named Rolly, and assistant waiter, Percy. Most of the crew is Filipino, including our steward Edwin. 4. The cabin is small, especially compared to the one we had on the last cruise we took, Carnival, with the kids. But we managed to find places for everything. The beds were in twin formation and I at first wanted them put together, but Greg talked me out of it. There's more room as twins. If we want to get 'friendly' he'll visit (don't read that line, kids - lol - NOBODY wants to think about their parents 'doing it'). 5. We're celebrating our 15th anniversary tonight. There were balloons on our doorway this a.m. 6. The food is variable in quality: good turkey yesterday at the welcome buffet; dinner (prime rib) was basically tasteless; mushroom soup, grainy. Fettuccine wonderful, but I only ate a little as to not fill up. Not used to so much food any more. Had a good omelet this a.m. Coffee and juice - blah. 7. Tonight is first formal night and captain's cocktail party. 8. The ship is rocky and it's on the coolish side. 9. Show last night that we managed to attend (sleepy as we were) was dancers and a comedian who was not terribly funny, but all right. We had a group of folks from Perth behind us. They were fun. I signed up for a 'bulk pass' for spin classes in the gym. That will ensure that I go because I already paid! ==================================================== CRUISE REPORT No. 2 It is the 3rd day of the cruise, 2nd full sea day. We are making our way slowly toward Hawaii.... takes 5 days to sail there. The ship holds 1,950 passengers, compared to the Diamond's 2,670. It seems a lot smaller. A smaller ship is easier to navigate through, although we enjoyed the 'big ship' atmosphere of the Diamond. Latest impressions: 1. Last night we were STILL the only diners at our Table-for-8. The Maitre 'd said that two couples changed to 'anytime dining' and the 3rd never materialized. So he spoke to 2 couples at another table who have agreed to come over tonight. Hopefully we'll hit it off and we'll have some dining mates. It's very lonely eating alone every night. Particularly last night, when we celebrated our anniversary. The ship gave us wine (not very good wine, lol) and a little cake and we had nobody to celebrate with except the wait staff. :-( 2. Bad stuff: I'm going to turn the computer over to Greg for this part: ******** I arrived at the Venetian restaurant waiting for Karen and thought it would be nice to have a table next to the window. I asked the Head Waiter for one, and he said there was none available. I asked if he would mind if I looked. I went around and found an empty table by the window. I looked for the Headwaiter, caught his eye and pointed to the table with my hand. He quickly walked over to me, pointed at me and said, "I run this floor, not you!" I was horrified that he would talk to me in such a manner and I said, "Excuse me?" Then he said in a demanding tone, "What is your cabin number!?" I asked why he would need that and he said, "Obviously you are not happy with my service, so I was going to make a report of the incident." I told him that there was no need for that, because I was going to report him immediately, and I walked out. I told the front desk, who then directed me to the maitre d'. I accidentally interrupted a meeting he was having with some other staff. He and the staff were appalled that the waiter had said that and told us he would take care of it. I also met the maitre d's boss, the head of food and beverage. A nice "commander", white uniform with bars on her shoulders. She was from the Netherlands (like my grandfather). I told her about the incident, too. I hope the headwaiter is doing dishes for the remainder of the cruise. (Karen now: We ended up lunching at the Italian specialty restaurant for pizza, where we had a charming waiter who taught us a few words of the Filipino language. That helped offset the terrible experience above.) ************ 3. The beds are SOOOOOOOOOOOO hard. Hardest beds I've ever slept on!!! But I guess one gets used to most everything. As for the cabin being cool, that's partly due to the thermostat, which we need to play around with. 4. Eating: Ate TOO much. Greg says he's going to stop because he doesn't want his paunch back. We took gobs of formal portraits last night and he looks great in his 'monkey suit' tux. I am still too zaftig :-( Today we're going to walk the Promenade Deck and I have spin (bicycle) class again at 4. 5. The shows last night were 'Piano Man' and a comedian, but after dinner we took off our formal gear and decided we were too tired to enjoy a show, so we just crashed! =========================================================== CRUISE REPORT No. 3: Latest impressions: 1. We finally got Table Mates! Neville, the maitre d', came through and brought over 2 young couples from a table for 10 where 6 people were no-shows. Both were very nice. One couple. Antoine and Stacey, is from Canberra, Australia. They can't be more than 30, if that. He's in I.T. and she's a security & exchange advisor. The second young couple - Greg & Anne - are newlyweds from New Mexico. Greg was a stenographer for the White House until recently. He got to ride on Air Force One with the president. Also, a couple originally assigned to our table finally appeared, an older retired couple named Howard and Donna. So we had a full house last night, lively conversation, and a much more pleasant dining experience. Hope everyone continues to show up. 2. Last night we saw 'Piano Man' in the Princess Theater which was pretty good, and later the same comedian who was at the welcome show. He was good, not great, but good. 3. We bought a couple of formal pics that came out very nice. 4. Greg walked 10 laps around the Promenade Deck yesterday - 3 laps is 1 mile. Later he walked 4 laps with me, after I did my 2nd spin class. My butt hurts from that hard bike seat; wish I had brought my padded bike shorts, darn it darn it. 5. Right now we're eavesdropping on the Photoshop class being given here in the Internet Cafe. We're thinking of signing up for classes because the teacher seems very good. It's pricey, $25 lesson, but you can buy a package for somewhat less. (1 free if you buy 3.) 6. What's on tap for today? Free digital photo class given by one of the photogs (you can buy future classes...always a sales pitch, lol). Game of scrabble with the game we nabbed from the Game Room. My 4 p.m. Spin class. Lying around. Ah this is the life..... ============================================================== CRUISE REPORT No. 4 Back on the Internet after 2 days away. Here is my latest cruise report: We are now sailing toward Christmas Island aka Kiritimati. It was originally planned as a port call, but the captain announced a few days ago that we would simply cruise around it (he called it 'scenic cruising') because the ship would get stuck in sandbars if it tried to dock. Ergo, we are beginning 5 sea days in a row before we reach the next actual port, Bora Bora in French Polynesia. We took the cruise mainly FOR the 'sea days', so we don't mind. That said, we did enjoy our two days in port in Hawaii. Yesterday we were in Kona. We "tendered" into the small port along with the Tahiti Princess. We were very excited about our excursion, which was advertised as below: "Big Island Spectacular Helicopter Tour: A 2-hr helicopter flight will introduce you to some of the most spectacular sights on the Big Island from the air. Discover the Big Island's beauty & volcanic fury on this extensive aerial tour. Fly over Kilauea's most recent eruption sites & follow the surface activity down to the devastated village of Kalapena. View lava flows, the Puna Forest & black-sand beaches formed of lava that has been cooled by the water & ground smooth as glass by the sea. Explore the lush rainforests of the Hamakua Coast. Pass through the deep & immense tropical valleys of the Kohala Mts with waterfalls tumbling 1000's of feet - the perfect ending to your Big Island spectacular." The only part we got to do was the italicized portion, the rain forests! NO volcanoes to view, no lava! We were quite upset by the way it came about: we were met at port by the helicopter co., Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. We were all weighed to ensure we were under the 250# maximum (even with a week's of cruise food under our belts, we made it easily lol). Then a 50-min van ride to the helicopter site. Then a safety briefing, orientation, and fitting with safety devices. THEN an announcement: due to weather (rain), we would not be flying over the lava sites. They said we could either cancel completely and receive a full refund, or pay 1/2 for the "Kohala Coast Adventure" to see the rain forest and waterfalls. The latter cost was $250. We reluctantly agreed because we'd come all that way and would have wasted most of the day at port. The flight was just ok, not worth that much money for sure. We later complained to the Excursions Desk and just now found out that we're being refunded an additional $50 so the total cost is now $200 each (rather than the $439 originally paid for the whole trip). So, no lava, no volcanoes. That was the sole reason Greg wanted to do the helicopter tour. We suspect they knew when we were at the dock that they couldn't fly the lava part but didn't want to tell us then, because everyone might cancel and they'd lose all the $. A German couple we met from the Tahiti Princess wasted ALL day because they were told to delay their 10:45 a.m. flight to ours, and then were carted all the way in to the heliport, and then told 'no lava flight'. They canceled and forlornly drove back to the dock with us. Back at the dock, we visited the local Wal-Mart. I bought a $13 travel hair dryer because I hate the hair dryer in the cabin; it's an old flat hotel type that takes frickin' for-ever to dry one's hair. Wish I'd brought my own. $13 is a small price to pay for not having to hassle with that crummy ship blow-dryer. Also bought some souvenirs WAAAAY cheaper than on port. Back on ship, decided to dine at the Sterling Steak House. It's $15 per person. We were the only diners at 6 p.m. Even had a personal visit by the Maitre d', Neville. I have seen more of this Maitre d' on this cruise so far, than all my other cruises combined.....I barely knew WHO the Maitre d' *was* on the other cruises. He is a very nice man. The steak at the Sterling was wonderful. We both had 'butterflied' filet mignon, medium. It was perfect. Melted in one's mouth. You cannot get that good a cut of meat anywhere else on the ship. Dessert, raspberry crème brulee and chocolate dipped strawberries (which I got to go in a tin foil swan). The soup (clam chowder) and salad (Caesar) were just so-so. Unfortunately our dining experience was marred by something dumb that I did - during dinner, I accidentally 'formatted' my 4-gig photo card inside my camera, effectively wiping out a week's worth of cruise photos! Suddenly it said 'no image' when I tried to go back. I panicked and Greg told me that there is recovery software out there. After we ate we high-tailed it to the Photo Desk where the kindly photogs began a laborious process of recovering what they could with a SanDisk recovery program on their computer. (Apparently I'm not the only numskull who's done this.) For $9.99 they put my images on a CD...it took two. They saved most of my pictures. Some were lost and some were corrupted. I have a 2nd 4G card, so I'm not going to use the original card because Greg might be able to recover more at home. Lesson learned: NEVER mess with the formatting control when there are pics on the disk! (Note written to my 18-year-old daughter Stephanie....Oh Stephanie! I promised you to "G", the nice 27-year-old Hungarian photo dude, if he saved my photos....he has a lot of land in Hungary....he asked this a.m. if I'd called you! I showed him your picture and he likes you. LOL!!!!) The Wal-Mart shuttle driver in Kona told us something startling: someone on our ship died and was carried out in the a.m.! He said that was why all the police cars were on the dock. He said they call our cruises "for the newly wed and the newly dead". Remember I was wondering if they have a morgue in the infirmary for people who die on the cruise?! I guess they do! What a way to go.... Today's plans: at noon we are meeting Derek's parents' friends for lunch. (Derek is Greg's lifelong friend, best man at our wedding; his parents' best buds from Toronto are on this cruise! We've spoken on the cabin phone w/them and will meet them at last today.) Then at 1 p.m. I am taking a photo class from Will, the ship's Cockney speaking photog (who assisted the Hungarian in recovering my photos....but I have just one daughter to offer, lol). At 4 is my Spin class with the good looking sexy Aussie/Brit trainers, and tonight is 'Contemporary Country' singing and a comedy hypnosis show (probably one of those fake hypnosis things)! ============================================================ Addendum to CRUISE REPORT No. 4 Just realized I never reported on Honolulu! We assembled in the Princess Theater at 8:30 a.m. for our tour. I've certainly enjoyed the 1-hr time turning back for 3 nights in a row; that gave us the sleep we needed. We were herded out of the ship (like Dad said, with a smaller ship it wasn't like a small invasion of a country) and onto buses. Our driver-guide who called himself "Cousin Goodlooking" from Roberts Tours was very funny and informative. He used a conch shell to call us back to the bus each time we stopped. He narrated the entire trip which took us nearly 3/4 of the way around the island of Oahu. We stopped at a scenic cliff where warriors were forced to their death. Then the Dole Pineapple Factory for 1/2 hr, long enough just to roam the gift shop (I got a lovely turtle necklace). Next stop, Sunset Beach, the famous surfing beach. I wandered into the water planning just to get my feet wet, but the waves kicked up and I got soaked to my crotch. It was nice and warm! I stopped at the restroom; by then everyone else was on the bus; Greg talked the driver into driving forward and making me think I was being left. (!!) Hmmph. Then we headed to our destination, the Polynesian Cultural Center. It's smack in the middle of Mormon Town. The Mormon missionaries settled in this town called Lanai (sp) and built a large Temple and Brigham Young University, Hawaii. The cultural center belongs to them and is staffed by work-study students from the university. They're actually from Tonga, Samoa, and the other villages represented. They get room, board, a free education, and a stipend to work there; not a bad deal. It was hot hot hot there, esp during the canoe show where I sat in the blazing sun. But quite interesting. The BBQ lunch was so -so very tough chicken. We hung out at the cultural center with a young couple from Switzerland, Francesco & Silvia (or something like that) who live across the hall from us on the ship. He's a police officer and she works at a bank. The ride back was similarly narrated. We made one stop at a Kona Coffee House where we got free coffee and macadamia nut samples. Back at the dock, we roamed the nearby shopping area. Greg wanted to go to Waikiki but it was getting late so we skipped it and went back on the ship. Dinner and then we collapsed exhausted into bed! ======================================================== CRUISE REPORT No. 5 Today is the 2nd of 5 sea days as we meander toward Bora Bora. Tomorrow is 'scenic cruising' around Christmas Island. The weather has changed to *muggy*. Greg walked/ran 4 miles this a.m. & came back dripping wet from the humidity. While we ate breakfast a short time ago, it was raining outside. The weather report said 80's with 80% humidity. Yesterday we had a nice day; lunched with Derek's family friends the Irwins from Toronto, whom we found very nice. Then we watched "Kung Fu Panda" in the Princess Theater (I fell asleep during the middle...I seem to do that at movies, lol). I missed the Photo class due to lunch running long, but it's being repeated today, so I will go then. I did my Spin class/workout in the afternoon. and at 7 p.m. watched the country show (without Greg). Then dinner. Then we went to a "comedy hypnotist" show where I volunteered to participate, and from what everyone's told me, I was the life of the party! I was determined not to get kicked off like I was on Carnival for smiling. Well, I played my role very well! And believe it or not, towards the end I believe I *was* hypnotized because I was totally energized afterwards, felt 'high', and was running like the Energizer Bunny til about 1 a.m.! Today I'm the cruise celebrity with tons of people coming up to me and telling me how funny I was, and asking if I was really hypnotized. Good thing I was energized, because we ended up doing laundry til 1:30 a.m. (by then I was tiiiiiired). The dinky Laundromats here are very inadequate for the number of passengers coupled with this being a very long cruise where doing laundry is necessary. Each laundry room, just one per floor, has just TWO washer-dryer stacked combos. The Diamond had quite a few more, as did the Carnival ships we took. That room is stuffed from dawn to late evening. It's supposed to close at 10 p.m. but we used it long after that. Using the ship's laundry service would be very expensive as they charge quite a bit per piece, not per bag as Don and family enjoyed on Holland-American. At dinner we had just one couple joining us, the older couple originally assigned to our table. No sign of either young couple. The Australians have been missing in action for 3 nights. We have fun with whoever shows up. This a.m. we joined a "police & firefighters get-together" in one of the lounges. About 30 retired cops/firefighters turned up from the US, Canada, and Australia. Everyone was retired but me. I was the only deputy DA there, and only woman! We enjoyed the gathering. Most fun was a retired Jewish NYPD cop telling us about working undercover among the Hasidim. He's from Queens so was happy to hear my family hails from there, at least once they made it to the U.S. The retired NYPD cop was working for the railroad when the 2nd jet flew into the 2nd World Trade tower....he watched it happen. The ship's captain inspired cheers yesterday at lunch when he announced over the P.A. that we will now receive Fox News on the stateroom TVs. The rest of the cable is still 'out' but at least we can get some news. So we heard about the Senate vote for the bailout yesterday. No ship newspapers any more....one passenger told me she was told they cause too much 'paper waste'. I don't remember if I mentioned that we received an add'l $50 off our truncated helicopter ride, for a total of $200 each, which is a bit more palatable. Complaining apparently does work. Another lazy day today; my photo class, Spin at 4, and I guess watching the VP debate on the stateroom telly. Comedy show tonight. It is so wonderful to just relax when my usual life is so hectic and go-go-go all the time. ======================================================== CRUISE REPORT No. 6 We just finished a 2-hr 'scenic cruising' around Christmas Island, part of the Line Islands between Hawaii and French Polynesia. The captain explained that there is little to see and the prettiest way is from a distance. Apparently a lot of WW II litter remains on the island and they're not so nice up close. Also since there's so little to do people would tender over, wander about for 10-20 min. and then demand to be tendered back, but would have to wait an hr or more in the hot sun because others were still being tendered over. Also they could only bring about 60 at a time (rather than the usual 100) to avoid being stuck in sandbars. We had a great view from our own cabin. Wish we'd brought binoculars. Neighbors loaned us theirs a couple times. Hoped to see sea life but did not, other than a large sea turtle that made a couple of brief appearances. Now we begin a couple more sea days until our first port in French Polynesia, Bora Bora, where we are taking a 2-tank scuba dive. We booked tours in Papeete and Moorea as well. Yesterday was lazy....took the photo class, did my Spin class + a circuit class, had dinner and watched a comedy show (Don Ware, black comedian from L.A. - he was just ok...spent a lot of time insulting Germans and old people, lol). Tonight they're showing "Swing Vote" which we haven't yet seen, so we'll attend. People came up to me all day yesterday exclaiming about the hypnosis show and how funny I was. I was a minor celebrity! I read in a cruise review that the ship has 'egg crate' mattress toppers! I immediately asked our steward. He said he'd do what he could. At bedtime we had pillow top mattress toppers, not exactly egg crate, but they do soften the hard mattress quite a bit. We're happier. I wish I had read that particular cruise review earlier! One needs to ask for the topper immediately, apparently. A very little known fact. I'll know for next time. CRUISE REPORT No. 7 I am having a hard time keeping days/dates straight. Hmm, according to the Princess Patter it's Sat. Oct. 4th. We have been on this ship for......10 days! The big 'activity' today was crossing the equator. The ship had a big ceremony featuring King Neptune on the deck. We skipped it. I saw it on the Diamond Princess in '05-'06 and recall it as crowded, hot, and noisy. Ran into some of our dining mates later and they confirmed it as being crowded, hot, and noisy. Instead, Greg and I took a Photoshop Basic Tool Box class from the Internet teacher, part of Princess' 'Scholarship at Sea' program. It was an excellent class. Basic, but I learned a lot and Greg learned things too. We've signed up for 3 more Photoshop classes to learn things like Layers. I've used Photoshop but only know a fraction of things about it. Now it's another of those wonderful lazy, hazy sea days. Greg already did his 4-mile walk around the Promenade Deck (Deck 7). I'll attend the 4 pm Spin class and then work out afterwards. Had some excitement during Spin the other day. A passenger, an elderly German, walked into the Spin room about 1/4 of the way into the lesson. He climbed onto an unoccupied bike in the back of the room. Our instructor asked if he was joining the class & told him it cost $10. He said something I didn't understand. Then the other gym instructor, Stephen, walked over to him and explained that it was a fee class. I was directly in front of the man and couldn't see him, but heard him arguing with Stephen. It seemed he did not want to pay the fee. There was more discussion and I heard Stephen say, "You don't need to shout at me, Sir." Ultimately they walked into the main gym. I heard later that Security was called on the guy. I also heard that the passenger grabbed Stephen. However, I did not see that as they were behind me. I was later asked to give a statement to Security, as the man had complained all the way to the captain about Stephen. I felt Stephen acted completely appropriately. Apparently the guy was a millionaire German lawyer.....the Germans have a bad rep on this ship, as demanding and obnoxious. Last night we saw "Swing Vote" in the Vista lounge (they play recent DVDs...quality isn't so hot but you can't beat the price, free). Great movie and very timely at the moment. Tonight is the 2nd formal night. Entertainment is a dance show or 'Passenger Feud'...we'll probably attend the latter. ============================================================ CRUISE REPORT No. 8 This will be a short one! Fifth straight day at sea. Amazingly the days go quickly, even when one is doing basically nothing! Today I attended the 2nd of the 4 Photo classes. Learned a little about composition. Greg and I started a Scrabble game in our room that we tabled, when I had to go to class. He did his 4-mi walk around the Promenade deck while I was in class. Tomorrow is Bora Bora with a scuba diving trip planned. We have 3 ports in a row after Bora Bora is Papeete, then Moorea. We have tours scheduled in each port. Then onto Samoa, Fiji, and then New Zealand.... Last night we dressed up again for formal night. I actually enjoy the formal nights as long as they're not too frequent, lol. It's nice to get dressed up and see everyone else that way. We had a group pic taken at our table. It's nice to have a full table again. Ohhh, we have gained weight....inevitable....even with Greg's walks and my Spin classes and workouts... Skipped the shows last night.....the shows here are nothing to write home about, lol. Tonight is the black comedian who insulted the Germans and old people, with the promise of 'all new material' - we'll go see him. =============================================================== CRUISE REPORT No. 9 As I type this in the Internet Cafe, I'm watching Bora Bora fade away into the sunset. What a wonderful day we had today!!! Awoke at 6:45 a.m. to Bora Bora approaching and sat on our deck as the lush green hills came into view, along with the thatched roofs of a mega expensive hotel. We ordered room service for breakfast to save time (coffee, juice, fruit, cereal and milk.) At 7:45 a.m. we assembled in the Princess Theater along with others on tours & were seated with the 7 others signed up for scuba diving. After quite some time, our group was called & we boarded the ship's tender for the ride to the island. Immediately upon arrival we were greeted by the dive boat captain who ushered us onto his boat. Nemo Diving was their name and they were fantastic. The crew consisted of the captain (and owner) whose name was Ivan (I think) & Jean-Paul & Elise. They were French. Most charming, esp. the lissome Elise, aged 29, who had every male on the boat staring. We suited up in shorty wetsuits, put on our buoyancy vests and weight belts, and were helped with our tanks. Then we fell backwards off the boat into the water. I was more than a bit terrified about doing the latter, but they talked me through it. Elise was assigned to our group of 4 and she was great. She took special care of me and made sure I was ok. We almost immediately met up with a group of lemon and black tipped SHARKS. Yes, actual sharks, not 5' from us. They had sucker fish hitchhiking with them, which was funny. We saw many clownfish (Nemo!), a lion fish, Morey eels, and sea cucumbers. We got to pet the cucumbers and hold a big anemone. The water was warm and it was so clear. We went 65' on that first dive. It was better diving than we had ever done, including the Great Barrier Reef. We returned to the boat, had tea and cookies, and then went on a FAST motor boat ride to another spot where we suited up again and went back in (this time I wasn't so afraid of the free fall, but I did forget to hold onto my mask LOL). Back down and saw different critters including sting rays, but from a distance as to not scare them away. Lots more to see and the water was still clear. I accidentally went up too fast but we were only 35' down so it wasn't too bad. We had so much fun.......the crew was great......we saw so much...it was awesome. We hurriedly signed up for another diving trip in Moorea. We had planned to dive just once because it's pricey, but the diving in Tahiti is so awesome we can't pass it by. (We were going on a 4 WD jeep ride in Moorea...traded in those tickets for diving tickets.) We dive only on vacation, and who knows when we'll have such great opportunity again. We regretted not having an underwater camera. Another passenger took pics with his and says he'll email some to us. We bought a $20 underwater camera from the photo shop which we will use on the Moorea dive. As for the rest of the Bora Bora visit, the ship officials had warned us that the place is PRICEY. They said a coke costs $10! We didn't buy any food/drink but just a plastic ashtray for Steph's collection and some postcards and stamps set me back $25. Incredible. We looked at black pearls but definitely didn't buy any. We returned to the ship because we were grubby and hungry and had lunch at the buffet. Once back, I realized I forgot Travis' sand. He's asked for sand from each island. So as to not let him down, I went back a 2nd time on the tender about 3 p.m. I was the only one on the tender going back out that late, & got some great pics of the ship and island. They packed on the people going back to the ship.........I got my sand and got right back on. It's 6:25 p.m. now - we showered the muck off and took some departing pics. Tonight I think we will sleep VERY well. Tomorrow, we will be in Papeete. We booked a 'leisurely tour' of the sights...no diving offered. Then it's Moorea. ========================================================== CRUISE REPORT No. 10 Today we are in Papeete, which is in Tahiti. I always assumed Bora Bora was Tahiti but it isn't it's French Polynesia. Tahiti is an entire separate island. Papeete is a 'big city' compared to Bora Bora, and Moorea as well I hear. It's not that nice of a place. It's crowded, full of cars, and the downtown business section is like being in Mexico. We went to the flea market. Prices are much too high, and every stall pretty much sells the same stuff as the next. I did manage to get a nice shell necklace for $5 at a souvenir shop at Lighthouse Point. Saw the same necklace elsewhere for $20-30. (The dollar is not doing well next to the Tahitian franc, apparently.) We went on a bus tour called "Leisurely Tahiti" where we saw the main sights, including Lighthouse Point (the highest northern part), the Araphne (sp) blowhole, One Tree Hill, and other points of interest. Then we went shopping and returned to the shop mid-afternoon. Because we didn't actually dock at Christmas Island, we gained time so the captain decided to 'overnight' here in Papeete. But we didn't even like the town, so no way are we going out there at night - especially when food and drink costs an arm & leg & it's all free on the ship, lol. It was hot and muggy, and this is the DRY season. Glad we aren't here during the wet/humid season! We heard today that the German passenger who scrapped with the gym trainer was ousted from the ship yesterday in Bora Bora. The captain put him off! Glad to see he backs up his staff. The guy had no right to abuse the trainer. Tomorrow Moorea and diving, yayyyyy! ========================================================== CRUISE REPORT No. 11 We were in Moorea yesterday, which is a GORGEOUS island. The coastline is breath taking. We were lucky and our side of the ship faced the pretty part. I got some wonderful photos. We tendered to the shore bright and early (7:30 a.m. had to meet in the Princess Theater) with our diving tour. We were met by the dive staff and piled onto their boat, which was quite a bit larger than the Bora Bora outfit's boat. Once again the crew was all French perhaps it's a requirement in French Polynesia to be French to run diving outfits! We were once again divided into groups of 4 per guide. The diving was good but not as great as Bora Bora. The water was clearer in Bora Boar and the sharks were bigger. In Bora Bora, we saw huge lemon sharks; here there were just the small black tip sharks. Also the 'shock factor' of being with sharks had worn off and these little 'uns didn't look scary. We did 2 dives just like in Bora Bora, both about 60' down. My rustiness was showing on the 1st dive because I swam around too much and went through my air quickly. I tried to tone it down the 2nd dive. I guess when you only dive every 2 1/2 years, it's easy to be rusty. We got to stroke the back of a Moray eel. I tried to pet another one and Greg says it almost bit my hand off. I was just trying to pet its silky head! We bought an underwater camera from the Photo Shop on the ship for $19.99, free processing included. On the 1st dive we couldn't get it to work. Ernie, one of the port excursion guys, came along on the 2nd dive and got it to work by opening the case and advancing it. We used it down below and wondered if anything would come out. Lo and behold, they did - we got some good pics from the dive. We also purchased the video that the Dive Staff produced to prove that we really did dive in Tahiti! We didn't do anything else on Moorea but dive; I wanted to go to Belevdere (the lookout mountain) but Greg wanted to return to the ship so that's what we did. We left Moorea at 4:30 p.m. Today we spent much of the day in Photoshop class. We both learned a LOT. (Layering, photo retouching, saturation, enhancing, hue etc.) The ship computer teacher, Stephen, is really good. We were in class from 9 a.m. til after 2 p.m. with just 40 min for lunch. We had stayed up late last night and had to get up early, so once class was over we went to the room and crashed. I slept right through my Spin class time first one I've missed! But hey, isn't that what vacation is all about doing nothing if you want! Tomorrow is Raratonga, a territory of New Zealand. We have a Circle Island tour scheduled. It's another tender port, aughh....hate those tender ports.... ======================================================= CRUISE REPORT No. 12 Yesterday we went to Rarotonga. That's in the Cook Islands, which is midway between French Polynesia and Samoa/Fiji. It's the largest & by far most populated Cook Island, but I think our ship doubled their usual population, lol. Someone once quipped, "Rarotonga is like Tahiti without the French". It's a protectorate of New Zealand. Rarotongans have dual NZ citizenship and NZ pays a crapload of money to help run the place. It's a pretty island with some nice beaches. We took a Circle Tour which went around the entire island in 3 hrs with numerous stops. Much of the tour was interior so we saw loads and loads of trees! A highlight was a coconut cracking demo. Greg volunteered (well, I volunteered him lol) and learned to crack one open. So if we get stranded in the jungle some day, we won't starve. Prominent throughout Rarotonga is their fertility god. He is a squat little thing with a GIANT male member. He's everywhere! We photographed that statue numerous times. We even posed holding the local paper in front of a biggggg statue; wonder if our family paper will publish it? He graces the $1 Rarotonga coin, with Queen Elizabeth's mug on the other side. I read in my Frommer's guide that Queen Liz was none too happy to share billing with the large phallis-ed fertility god. I made sure I got one of those coins to take home! Our tour stopped at the "Perfume Factory" where they were giving out samples of a nasty herb drink called "Nana" and of coconut liquor. The former tasted nasty. The latter was very good, esp mixed with milk. Greg bought a small bottle the bottle was in the shape of that ubiquitous god - and we smuggled it onto the ship. Weather was nice. Sunny and not too hot. We wore bug spray as precaution, but did not notice any biting bugs. Dinner last night, I had filed of sole. Both times I've had sole it's been delicious, melting in my mouth, and I usually don't like fish. Last night there was a movie in the Princess Theater, "Dark Matter". I fell asleep and missed the end (just like falling asleep at home on the couch lol). Greg said it was depressing. Today we got up and raced to the Computer Cafe to attend Practice for the Photoshop classes we took. Learned some new stuff. It's fascinating. Tomorrow we'll be in Pago Pago (pronounced "PaNgo PaNgo"), America Samoa. Then on to Fiji. Greg managed to nab an empty washer and is doing our wash. It's dog eat dog to get the laundry done in the inadequate Princess laundry rooms. Happily our diving photos came out!!!! ========================================================= CRUISE REPORT No. 13 We just left American Samoa, after spending the day here. It was a bad day to visit because (1) it's Sunday and most places close on Sun. because everyone's in church there are TONS of churches here, and (2) it's White Sunday, a big day, which means anything that wasn't already going to be closed, was. White Sunday is Children's Day....like in Mother's Day or Father's Day. The kids dress in white and get gifts and don't have to do chores. (I remember as a kid asking my mom why there wasn't a Children's Day. She said, "EVERY day is Children's Day." Hmmph.) The only shopping was a sprinkling of booths behind the ship and a variety store across the street. I think the whole ship was in the variety store when we went there. We bought a bar of Irish Spring deodorant soap because our one bar is almost gone. Prices were very reasonable here, unlike Tahiti where the prices were INSANELY high. It was cool to see the U.S. Flag flying. We stopped in at the Seaport Police HQ and Greg got two patches. He's going to send SBSD patches to the Chief. We also visited the Police Dept and arranged to swap patches. Too bad Greg didn't think ahead; he could have bought a bunch of patches from the uniform store and exchanged them out throughout the world. (All cops seem to love trading patches.) Samoa is divided into two: Independent Samoa and American Samoa. We visited the latter. The Samoans are very, very friendly. On our bus tour, most everyone waved to us. Samoan men are big on the main! Shirts go up to 4XL for good reason. Most men wear skirts called lani lani. We took a bus tour through town, stopping at "Flower Pot Rock" (a big rock in the ocean with vegetation that resembles a flower pot, ergo the name). I collected sand for Travis at that beach. The bus was a primitive affair with wooden benches and open windows. I heeded the ship lecturer's advice to take a towel to sit on. Weather was on the hot & humid side in the a.m. and was more pleasant in the p.m. They warned us to expect rain, and I schlepped along my packable REI raincoat and umbrella, but there was nary a drop. We've been super lucky with weather throughout this cruise. Our main stop was for an "Ava" ceremony with dancers in native costume. Greg drank from the coconut shell the Ava drink, which he said tasted like soapy dishwasher. Perhaps it was? The captain announced that at 2 a.m. we will cross the International Dateline and lose an entire day! It's Oct. 12 right now and tomorrow it will be Oct. 14. Oct. 13 will disappear. Oct. 13 is the Canadian Thanksgiving and there are gobs of Canadians on this cruise, so the captain promised we would still celebrate their Thanksgiving tomorrow with turkey, etc. We have been turning back the clock many nights; I think tonight is the 5th time. Love that extra hour of sleep. It would stink the other direction, losing an hour each time! ===================================================== CRUISE REPORT No. 14 I'm watching the city of Suva recede into the distance as we sail away from the Fiji Islands. This was our last stop in the South Pacific. Now we're heading to the more temperate climate of New Zealand. Two sea days ahead, and then we'll be in Auckland, NZ. We were warned by the port lecturer Ronelle Adams that Suva was not a pretty place and one needed to get out of Suva to see Fiji. She was definitely right. (Janelle, btw, is an excellent port lecturer the best of any I've heard on the numerous cruises I've taken. She is independent, meaning she doesn't work for the ship, so her talks are not slanted toward shopping & spending money at 'approved' places. She gives useful advice, like to take a towel for the hard wooden benches we experienced on the bus in Pago Pago, and to not wear jewelry or flaunt money in Suva.) Our tour today was "Countryside Drive & Firewalking". I'd give it a C-. The drive took about 45 minutes through pretty countryside, with very little narration by the 'guide' whose English was hard to understand. We whisked by the local jail & prison too quick to get a photo (ok, I know that most tourists aren't into jails & prisons, but we are!!). The firewalking was in Pacific Harbor at a little village made up to look like Fiji of old. We were given 45 min. to shop in the little stores (reasonable prices, esp compared to the ridiculous prices in Tahiti). Then we were herded into an amphitheater to watch the firewalking. But we were quite far away from the 'stage', separated by a lagoon, and it was hard to see the coals you had to just accept they were 'white hot'. There was steam and such, but we expected close up viewing of RED hot coals. Then there was a lot of dancing and booty shaking and that was it, back to the buses and back to the shipyard. Not worth $79 pp. (Saw much of the same poverty we saw in Tahiti & Samoa rundown shacks with tin roofs and laundry hanging everywhere. Makes you realize how well off we are the "first world".) A better tour was of Parliament, etc. taken by Donna and Howard from our table. Greg and Anna from our table took a similar tour but paid very little because they did it from the port. Pat & Tom Irwin, our new Canadian friends, paid a buck each to ride a city bus through town. Tom said he paid less than a dollar to call home wish I had known we could do that. Once we returned to the ship, we had lunch in the Horizon Court and set out to explore downtown. A shuttle deposited us at the priciest dept. store which we quickly abandoned and walked around the various streets. Shopping was disappointing - all I bought was some sunblock - and we headed back to the ship. (I noticed that the police and the merchants all seem to be Indian. They are the "merchant" class in Fiji.) We've started playing the afternoon Trivia game with the 2 younger couples from our table, Greg & Anna and Antoine & Stacey. We lost (again). Try, try again. It's currently "half price" Internet time between 4 and 6 p.m. Nice to get a discount, esp. since we've paid (hold onto your hat) $500 so far in Internet charges, just to keep you people informed, lol. Ship entertainment lately has been pretty lame two different Australian comics. The one night before last spent the whole show doing yo yo and spinning top tricks. Greg & I always sit right up front. So naturally we get chosen.....or at least Greg does. He went on stage and helped the comic by pretending to pump up a giant top (he made faces behind the comic's back). The comic told him to cheer and "run around the audience, rip your shirt off" well, Greg did just that, to the delight of the audience. Many people commented later that he was hilarious and the best part of the show. Last night was a 'comedy magician' , Steve Hart, who did lame tricks but he was better than the yo yo/top fellow. Tonight we can choose between an Australian singer or a film I've never heard of ("Married Life"). Yesterday we celebrated the Canadian Thanksgiving with turkey dinner & the worst pumpkin pie I've ever eaten. We are now a day ahead of the North Americans and catching up to the Australians. CRUISE REPORT No. 15 - Auckland We are cruising along the coastline of the North Island of New Zealand, on our way to Wellington, which lies at the southernmost tip of the North Island. It was chosen to be the capital of NZ due to its location in the middle of the country, at the bottom of the North Island and just before one gets to the South Island. Auckland used to be the capital, but it was switched to Wellington to be more fair to the Southerners, such back in the olden days it took several days for South Island lawmakers to make it to meetings in Auckland. We learned that fact, along with zillions of others from Barry, our bus driver for our excursion yesterday in Auckland. He was great. He's been driving tour buses for 39 years after a gig as a carpenter. He talked (while driving!) almost nonstop for the 250-mile round trip drive we took from Auckland to the Waitomo caves and back. I learned all about NZ history and politics from him. Yesterday was awesome. We arrived around 7 a.m. to the large port of Auckland, parked directly alongside a luxury condominium and hotel - one could literally see inside people's living rooms in the condo complex. We boarded our tour bus at 7:50 a.m. after being cleared by NZ customs. They had a cute little beagle 'sniffer' dog to sniff your hand luggage (purses etc) to make sure you didn't smuggle food off the ship. We were also warned to bring only commercially bottled water with seal intact, which turned out to be something they didn't care about. But Greg thinks we shouldn't take chances, so I had to buy another bottle for tmr and not just fill up my bottle with ice & water from the Horizon Court like I usually do. Then we drove out of the city and into the country. NZ countryside is stunning, all green with rolling farms with lots of cows grazing bucolically (dunno if that's really an adjective, lol). Finally (about 2.5 hrs later) we reached the Waitomo caves The caves were formed 24 million years ago by the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that created NZ. They are covered with crystal stalactites and stalagmites, discovered in 1887 by the Maori, the indigenous people of NZ. The caves have been a tourist attraction since 1889! Back in the olden days people snapped off stalactites for souvenirs; thankfully nobody can do that now. The coolest of all is the glowworms, insect larvae that gives off light to attract flying insects for food. They look like sparkling little stars in the walls and ceiling of the caves. We took a silent boat ride thru the glowworm cave (so as not to scare them off). It was so so so so so cool. Naturally you can't take photos but I bought postcards. We also walked thru one of the caves. Once we were done, we crowded the tiny souvenir shop where I bought a photo of us emerging from the cave along with an info CD on the glow worms ($20 US, cheaper than ship photos, lol). Then we drove to a country farm where we had lunch served by the family. It was excellent, meatloaf which I liked - lamb which I didn't, lol - potatoes, salad, kiwi, and a decadent chocolate cake with ice cream and berries that rivaled deserts on the ship. The 11-year-old son of the family helped clean up. He was a very polite boy named James. He let us pet his 3-mo-old pet lamb. Just as I snapped a photo of Greg with James and the lamb, my camera battery went out! It's a Canon rechargeable so I was out of luck. NO photos for the rest of the day! I felt like my hand was cut off. Greg had a perfectly wonderful camera left behind in the cabin!!!! So photo less, we toured the nearby Otorohanga Kiwi House native bird park, where we saw the 2 captive Kiwi in a nearly dark area since the birds are nocturnal. We learned that their eggs are huge, weighing about 1/5th of the females' body weight. The birds are covered with shaggy plumage that looks like fur, and they don't fly, which means they were nearly wiped out by imported predators. The rest of the preserve had other birdies. Greg had a duck nearly take off his ring! And we saw a mom and her 3 babies which would have made an awesome photo, waah. (Note to self: ALWAYS bring a 2nd charged battery, 2nd scan disk card, and maybe a 2nd camera with you!) After the bird park we headed back, accompanied by Barry's informative monologue. He dropped some of us off near the Auckland Sky Tower, which is 1,076' high, taller than the Empire State Bldg and the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. For about $22 U.S. each we took an elevator to the observation deck, which commands sweeping views of the city and outlying areas. We saw the cruise ship parked at the dock. Greg found out they have a Skyjump where you wear a harness and unlike a bungy jump, you're not falling by your ankles. But it was already closed (a secret yay from me, cos it was like $150 NZ....subtract 25% for US!) Since we had no camera we enlisted a couple of passengers to photograph us. Hopefully they'll not lose the scraps of paper with my email addie on them and will remember to email the photos to us. The Sky Tower has clear glass parts of its floor where you can see to the bottom. It freaked me out but Greg gleefully walked and jumped ! on it. After we finished, we walked back to the ship. We bought water at a convenience store and I got shiny coins for my collection and to give Travis. We were the only ones at our table for dinner. We were both exhausted after the long day, so we turned in fairly early. Great day!!!! Today is a sea day and tomorrow we begin a 3-day marathon of NZ ports: Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, one after the other. We have a short city tour in Wellington, a wonderful train trip booked in Christchurch, and a tour in Dunedin that includes the Larnach Castle. It was cool yesterday, long sleeve weather definitely. I wore my hoodie for the first time. Today it's cool out and quite windy. Most of the deck chairs are empty. (Guess what - I have NEVER laid out during this entire cruise....neither of us have ever swam in the pools, and we've been in the Jacuzzi just once!) ======================================================= CRUISE REPORT No. 16 - Wellington The ship has just departed the harbor at Wellington, which well earned its famous name "Windy Wellington" today. We arrived around 8:45 a.m., 45 minutes later than expected. That messed up the tour schedule, compacting ours, making us lose out on climbing the bell tower at New Wellington Cathedral. :-( We chose "Uniquely Wellington" which featured the cathedral, Parliament, and Te Papa Museum. Parliament was really interesting. We were given a guided tour by a very knowledgeable & articulate young guide. We sat in the VIP viewing section for Parliament, which was not in session due to it being election time. Our guide explained the system which is similar to the UK's. Then we sat in the Maori small session room, decorated with symbols of the local Maori tribes. After a whirlwind tour of the Cathedral, we had a quickie walk thru of the Te Papa Museum which was interesting but like most museums, you can only see a fraction in the short time allotted. Then the driver dropped us off downtown. We shopped a bit and then came upon the city cable car. For $5 NZ we bought a round trip, for the 3 1/2 minute ride up the slopes from Lambton Quay to Kelbum where there is a cable car museum and the botanical garden. We looked at the museum but passed on walking thru the large garden. Then we walked around some more and caught a shuttle back to the ship. By now it was 3:45 p.m. and we hadn't eaten since 7:30 a.m. we thought we'd die of starvation. Cruise ship passengers aren't used to going without food for more than 2 hrs at a time, lol! At the port, we learned that we could buy a low cost phone card to call home. We put off eating long enough to buy the $5 NZ ($3 US) card and call Travis. It was great to hear his voice after so long. We talked to him for a while and also to Kathy, the housekeeper who's watching him. Glad to hear all is well. Then a late lunch and to the cabin, where Greg promptly fell asleep and I watched the middle-end of "Son of Rambow" on the cabin TV. (Just ran outside to try to see the pilot of the pilot boat leap from the ship to his boat missed it by a second, again! - yaaargh. Omigod it's freeeeezing outside, so cold and windy! What a change in weather from the South Pacific! Yesterday the ship's boutique was having a run on warm weather clothing by people who packed for the first part of the ship the warm part forgetting about the chilly last part. All that excess Alaska inventory got put to use.) The ship is passing these 2 really cool lighthouses, one on top of a hill and the other on the beach - saw those when we sailed in this a.m. The Internet cafe is on the opposite side of the ship from our room so that's why I'm seeing the scene in reverse now. Tomorrow we're in Christchurch.We booked a train trip that is touted as one of the top 10 train rides in the world. Will let you know if it lives up to its billing. Re ship happenings: Last night was an excellent performance by an Australian singer. Best show we've seen yet on the Princess. Tonight is a new comedian. ======================================================== CRUISE REPORT No. 17 Been very busy going from NZ port to port, so this is the 1st opportunity I've had to sit and write. Right now we're doing 'scenic cruising' through the 'primordial landscapes of Fiordland' along the west coast of the South Island. There are 14 fiords (openings) and we're cruising through 4 of them. As I type this at the Internet Cafe I can see amazing scenery outside. At 8 a.m. the captain awoke us with an announcement that we had arrived and Greg & I sleepily went to our balcony and gaped at the amazing scenery complete with waterfalls and small islands. We even saw dolphins cavorting, although mainly all I saw was the splashes WISH WISH WISH we had brought binoculars, darn it!!! We are not getting off all the sightseeing is from the ship. Commentary is being provided by a retired park ranger (Fiordland National Park is one of the largest parks in the world.) We are SO GLAD we have a balcony cabin. Starboard side has turned out to be very good for sightseeing. Now for a quick rundown of the past several days, where we visited Christchurch and Dunedin: CHRISTCHURCH: The morning began poorly. We were supposed to meet on the pier at 8:05 for our train trip, so we got up early, met up with Donna & Howard from our table who were also going on the tour, and headed to the gangway. We found an enormous queue of people there. We got at the end of the queue which snaked around into the cabin area of Deck 5. There we stood for 25 min. The Australian customs folks came on board with their 'sniffer' beagles. As we shuffled forward, we discovered that people were blithely cutting in line from the stairwells, elevators, and opposite side the end of the line became meaningless. It took forever to disembark. We complained to the Shore Excursion office for whatever's that worth. It would have been lots better to meet in the Princess Theater like they did when we arrived late to Wellington. We boarded a bus for a 2-min ride to the train station where we got on the TranzAlpine Express train. It was a special train reserved for the ship. That also began poorly because we ended up with lousy seating squashy 4-person tables where we were seated backwards. Donna wanted her and I to be at opposite sides where we could photograph each side and share pics, a good idea that didn't work out. The couple we ended up with at our table were cranky people from Florida. The woman's first comment to me was 'watch your feet, my shoes have no toes' and I hadn't even stepped on her &*^^%$# feet. No 'hello, where are you from', etc etc. Greg ended up sitting alone for some time at a distant table. There was a great table open, but it was marked 'crew area' and they refused to let us sit there, even though the crew used it for nothing more than their duffel bag-jacket storage. In the end it didn't really matter because I discovered the open area at the end of the train where the photo taking opportunities were terrific. Donna joined me and we spent 2/3s of the 2 1/2 hr train ride out there. The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful, the snow capped mountains of the Southern Alps, rolling fields, sheep. I was very glad for the $48 jacket I had bought the day before at the boutique. Once we disembarked, we boarded a coach for the rest of the tour. Greg raced ahead and nabbed the front row seats for the 4 of us, which turned out to be wonderful we got a great view ahead and to the side. (He had to fight people off who tried to take the 2 seats he was saving for D & H). We stopped at a gorgeous country home for tea (or coffee) and homemade cookies. The garden there was beautiful. Then we went to the barn area where the husband of the family demonstrated sheep shearing. First we got to watch the family dog expertly herd the sheep, and we were allowed to hold and cuddle a 3-week old lamb. Its mom bleated frantically as she ran around looking for her baby. When baby was finally released, it ran to her and suckled and then tore off together to the other end of the pasture. The drive back was as beautiful as the train views, if not more so. The interior of the South Island is breathtaking. I took so many photos my battery wore out! We drove past an area where a scene from Lord of the Rings was filmed, with broken rock tops on top off a cliff. Our visit to the actual city of Christchurch was unfortunately really truncated as we ran out of time. The driver basically drove quickly through, narrating what we were seeing, and we never were able to get out. We need to return to see the town! DUNEDIN The very next day we arrived in the Dunedin area. Like Christchurch, the ship docks about 30 minutes away at a nearby port. Christchurch's was Lyttelton and Dunedin's was Port Chalmers. Our tour was city drive & Larnach Castle. The castle was built in the late 1800's by an Australian for his wife. We found out later that other tours got to see the whole castle but we were only shown the first floor - need to chat with the Tour Desk about that. It was very interesting although it's hard to see with 40+ other people crowded with you. Then we went through the outside gardens. An extra treat (?!) was watching ducks in a pond copulate! It was basically a gang rape! Greg filmed the whole thing on his camera. The girl duck did not look like she enjoyed a bit of it - small wonder, with her neck being bitten while the male wrestled her onto the shore, did his quick business, and then sauntered off without even asking if it was good for her, lol? We piled back onto the bus and toured the city. Then the driver let us off and Greg and I literally raced to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory where for $18 NZ each we took the factory tour. (Much cheaper than what the ship's tour cost!) It was interesting and we got free samples. Then we walked to the courthouse and for watched for about 2 min a civil trial (boring). Then we ran into a Dunedin police officer who wound up giving us a private tour of the police station! He was really nice. We spent about 40 minutes there. He even let us tour the lockup and take pics. Then we went back to town and shopped briefly, and then boarded a city shuttle back to the ship. Dunedin is Gaelic for Edinburgh and has a Scottish flavor. Robbie Burns' statue is the middle of the city in the 'octagon'. A treat for me was seeing scads of school youths in their uniforms. They all look so cute. Several let me photograph them. BACK ON THE SHIP Filet mignon last night. I didn't like it my steak was kind of tough. The steakhouse's filets are much better. Entertainment was a crew talent show that was very cute. Greg was tired and skipped it. The other night there was a comedy magician. Attendance for the 10:15 p.m. show was light as usual, which seems to unnerve the entertainers. I was called onto stage to help with a card trick. I was a bit embarrassed because I had dashed to the room after dinner, torn off my clothes to add to the laundry, and was wearing whatever was handiest: jogging capris and a sleeveless top, and my Crocs. But, oh well, lol. The magician was selling DVDs demonstrating tricks; he autographed one and gave it to me for free for helping him. That really good Aussie singer is on again tonight. We will be at sea for the next 2 days. Then we're dumped out at Sydney and the cruise is over. We are looking forward to our 3 days visiting the Carters. Then it's a looooooong (17-hr or so) flight back to LA. We are looking forward to coming home, though I'm not looking forward to gong back to work! OK, that's it for now cos I want to see the fiords! =============================================================== CRUISE REPORT No. 18 It's almost over! Part of me is really sad, and part of me is glad. We are tired of living in a shoebox and not being able to move past each other in the tiny cabin. Looking forward to our BIG home again and all our own things. And not having to fight for the washer/dryers. It was a lovely day yesterday for the fiords. They are stunning. I love NZ!!! The fiords make up 5% of NZ. We heard that last year, the weather was terrible and it rained and was overcast during the scenic cruising. The captain had to bypass Milford Sound completely due to weather - and that's the prettiest one of all. We were super lucky with weather this entire cruise. Hardly any rain at all, and never during the port excursions! The ship ROCKED & rolled all night last night. It was so bad that the late show featuring 'physical comedy' was wrecked - the performer couldn't do his handstands, juggling and unicycling with the ship going every which way. Greg went to that show and I went to Lisa Crouch's 2nd performance. (She's the awesome Australian singer I wrote about the other day.) Greg left the physical comedy show and joined me at Lisa's show about half way through. He said he felt so sorry for the performer who couldn't do his act. The rocking is soothing for sleeping. Dunno if we'll be able to sleep once we get off without the rocking! Greg said, "I am not going to rock the bed for you"! Tonight is the final formal night. No way are we having photos taken not when we're fat at the end of the cruise. We had all those taken in the beginning when we were still slim. Also tonight is "New Year's Eve" even though it's not even Halloween! It sounds like we did on the Diamond Princess, when it really WAS New Year's Eve. Maybe we'll go, maybe not. It features a champagne chandelier, champagne and dancing. Wonder if you have to PAY for the freakin' champagne like they made us do on the Diamond? We went through Australia immigration this a.m. Everyone was given a time to show up. Ours was 8 a.m.! Greg went 15 min early to get in line. We got through in 15 min. All they did was glance at our cards, write Q (for quarantine) if you checked 'yes' for bringing in wood/shells/food, and stamp our passports. They didn't want to look at the wood/shells/food; that comes at disembarking. =========================================================== CRUISE REPORT No. 19 This will be short as I have only about 14 minutes left of Internet time!! Packing like crazy to get off ship tomorrow....I hate packing....trying to cram it all in especially the stuff I've collected. I love papers, brochures, etc etc. We did the final trivia contest just now. Tanked like usual. Those questions are hard! We do it with our younger table mates though sometimes Donna helps out. She's good on medical Qs, as she was a nurse. Bought the 2nd Ports of Call DVD because Greg and I are in it! Walking out of a observatory in Wellington and holding a lamb in Christchurch! Also on the train in Christchurch. One hour back tonight and we are on Sydney time. Amazing to be on the other side of the world. Jeff is picking us up tomorrow. Hope he finds us in the crowd. It 's been nearly 3 years since we've seen the Carters. We're looking forward to hanging out with them for 3 days. Gotta get back to the *&&^%$ packing they want our bags out before dinner. Love to all, =============================================================== POST CRUISE REPORT Hi all! We have safely arrived in Sydney and were off loaded from the ship this a.m. (As one comedian on the ship remarked, "You go in as passengers and go off as cargo".) It took longer than expected because the Australians want small groups which is better in the long run, because there is less commotion in the terminal. I had yellow 'quarantine' tape around one of my bags, which is ironic because that bag had very little of the 'contraband' they're interested in. The inspector checked the bags, rinsed my sea shells, and passed me on. I was worried that Jeff wouldn't recognize us but he noticed me right away! He had been there since 8 a.m. and it was 10 a.m. so he'd had quite a wait. Some unhappy news: I lost my wedding ring last night. I had taken it off in the afternoon so as not to snag it while packing. I had put it on the small shelf ledge by the bathroom in the cabin. Greg noticed it there and I said I left it there on purpose. I forgot to put it on before dinner. When we returned around midnight, it was gone. The steward said he never saw it. So it either fell into the trash bin, or................? The trash is all incinerated. The purser sent security, who did a thorough search of our cabin - they found my sewing kit and Greg's coffee card under the bed but no ring. They prepared a report but that's not going to help anything. The only hope I have is somehow it fell into my suitcase. [POST SCRIPT: The ring never materialized. Gone forever.] Speaking of rings, Greg discovered that he's lost a couple of diamond baguettes on HIS ring. Hope these are not signs of anything untoward! So now it's 3 days in Sydney and then we fly home on the 29th. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
This was my 22nd cruise with Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines and was a sector of the "Black Watch" 2008 world cruise. I flew from London (Gatwick) on an exclusive charter operated by ThomsonFly. I was in the economy section but, despite ... Read More
This was my 22nd cruise with Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines and was a sector of the "Black Watch" 2008 world cruise. I flew from London (Gatwick) on an exclusive charter operated by ThomsonFly. I was in the economy section but, despite this, there was adequate room even for a 13-hour flight to Lima with a refueling stop in Barbados.The catering and cabin service was good. Clearance through immigration and customs at Lima Airport was swift and trouble-free. We were quickly transported to the ship at Callao and boarding procedures were efficient and friendly. Unfortunately, my cabin was not ready but I could use the ship's facilities including the dining rooms and bars until all was prepared. The ship is getting on in years but still looked relatively smart. The refit carried out in 2006 had certainly made the interior more attractive. I still have regrets, however, that the library which was previously on the Marquee deck is now on the Lido deck with much reduced views. As I had been wait-listed for a single cabin and this was allocated at a fairly late date I was given an inside cabin for the first time. It was adequate, no more. The catering was excellent. I think this improves over the years. On most evenings I dined in the Glentanner restaurant. The menu is not extensive but I enjoyed every meal. I normally had breakfast in the same location but occasionally tried the poolside. The latter didn't impress me as much of the food was often cold. I lunched in the main restaurant on most days but occasionally enjoyed the excellent fish and chips in the Marquee cafe.The theme nights with Indian , Thai and Chinese meals were first rate but you had to be up early to book as they were usually over-subscribed. As ever, the service in the restaurants was very good. The Thai and Filipino waiters were attentive and always cheerful. The same could be said of the bar staff in the Lido and Observatory. I was a trifle disappointed in the cabin stewardess who on most days didn't manage to service my cabin before the afternoon. I suspect that she had to look after too many cabins. The reception staff were efficient but less passenger-friendly that the rest of the staff. The entertainment on board the ship was probably the weakest point of the cruise. The cabaret acts were mostly pretty poor, notably the so-called comedians. The resident dancers and singers were good but underutilized. It was very disappointing that there wasn't the normal classical group to give afternoon concerts. The exceptions were the lecturers who were both interesting and informative. Sandy Gall was very good as was the port lecturer. The itinerary was interesting but, as on any cruise, there were highs and lows. It was disappointing not to be able to land on the first two islands, Easter and Pitcairn because of sea conditions. There was marginal compensation at the latter as some of the residents came on board. The French Polynesian islands were attractive with Fakarava Atoll the pick. Raratonga in the Cook Islands was lovely and, in my mind, the perfect South Sea Island. The visit to Tonga was a shambles as it coincided with the call of the QE2 on its final world cruise. Although we berthed alongside and the QE2 anchored off there was an undignified squabble over the limited availability of buses. New Zealand, as ever, was the star attraction with calls at four ports on both islands and a day's cruising in the fjords. The cruise ended with a roughish ride from Milford Sound to Sydney. There we had just over a day in the city before the seemingly endless flight on Qantas back to Heathrow via Singapore. Luckily this was problem-free and the flight landed on time. One thing I should add is commendation for the Master of the "Black Watch" on this cruise. He was very high profile and was seen around the ship in a daily basis. His "star-gazing" sessions in the South Pacific were high points in the entertainment. In all it was a good cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008

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