Trans-Pacific Cruise
March - May, 2013

Click on ThumbnailBy Jack Welsch

Introduction

At 6 weeks, this was our longest trip to date. We'd wanted for years to visit New Zealand and Australia. From all we'd heard, New Zealand was nicer and therefore a higher priority. Given the length of the trip, we didn't want to go all the way down there for a week or two so waited until after my retirement. Even at that, getting there requires a LONG time sitting in an aluminum tube so when we saw an opportunity to make the flight only one way, we jumped on it. We flew to Auckland and to avoid the long trip back, returned to the US by cruise ship. As you would imagine after a glance at the globe, there were a LOT of days at sea. In fact, there were two separate occasions of 5 sequential sea days. Many friends have said that they'd go crazy but we really loved those relaxing days.

While we did not realize it at first, this was really a series of three shorter cruises, one from Auckland to Sydney, one from Sydney to Vancouver and, unfortunately, one from Vancouver to Seattle.

The cruise line

The ship was Holland America's Oosterdam. This was the first time we'd traveled on Holland America and we'd heard mixed reviews. Many frequent travelers swear by it and will travel on no other. We were, frankly, unimpressed. Until the last leg of the trip, there were no major issues but a it was death by a thousand cuts; a series of minor aggravations that added up to a general dissatisfaction. The last leg was simply horrible but more on that later. (If you just can't wait, click here.) It must be said, however, that nothing is perfect and this line has its good points.

Internal links

Given the legth of this journal and the many days at sea, I'm providing these links in case you just want information on specific ports, etc.

My Journal

Tuesday, March 26th - Home to San Francisco

We'd arranged to have a driver pick us up and take us to the Newark airport.  He was right on schedule at 10:00 AM and we were at EWR a few minutes after noon.  Though the weather on Monday had caused 2 hour flight delays here in the Northeast, our weather this day was perfect.  We had 4 bags to check and two carry-ons so, for the first time ever, we used a skycap to schlep them for us.  Lunch was at Ruby's Diner and we took off on time for San Francisco.  We'd paid quite a bit more for premium economy seats but the extra leg room made it a bargain. 

We were a little early into SFO and had over two hours to kill.  Had a good but expensive panini and wine at Il Fornaio at the far end of concourse C.  Its location (and probably the prices) made for a blessedly quiet meal.  We were late off the gate and held on the apron for a while.

Wednesday, March 27 - Over the Pacific

It would be cute to say we didn't even exist on Wednesday but, since we took off from SFO just at midnight, we actually did live for a few hours during Wednesday until we crossed the International Dateline, when it suddenly became Thursday.  Totally logical but still a bit weird.

Thursday, March 28 - Auckland, NZ

On this flight, premium economy really paid off.  Over the years, business class has gotten nicer and nicer but more and more expensive.  Premium Economy is much like business class used to be except that, while seats (and pitch) were similar, elbow room was still tight.  Configuration on our New Zealand Air 777 was 3-3-3.  Meals and service were great.  No matter how you cut it, though, the trip was LONG.  I did sleep much more on this flight than ever before but at one point I figured we must have only a few hours to go, only to discover we were still 7 hours out or about what it takes to fly from New York to Paris.  Ugh!  I was on the window with Lin in the center and a nice Kiwi with a US green card on the aisle.   He was friendly and gave us some good tips but slept soundly for much of the trip, making it hard to get to the head!

We arrived in Auckland on schedule at 6:00 AM and breezed through the formalities.  There were folks there from Holland America to greet us and many more.  The bus ride was about 45 minutes and Robert, the driver, was a pretty good tour guide as well.  Of course, our rooms were not ready so we took a walk around town.  My watch had started acting crazy during the flight over so we found a place to get a cheap watch to get me through the trip.

Fortunately, when we arrived back at the hotel at 10, our room was ready and the bags already in it so I took a quick shower and we both took a little nap, getting up at 12:15. 

St. Matthew's ChurchSince this was Maundy Thursday, while Lin was getting dressed I walked around the corner to St. Matthew's Church to find out what time services were.  Inside, a woman was arranging votive candles and small stones in the middle of the nave to form a labyrinth.  I offered my help but she said she had just finished and we had a nice chat.

After meeting Lin, we had a delightful lunch of fish & chips at "Tony's Lord Nelson" restaurant on Victoria street and had a great time talking to the waitress.  Back in the room we found a gift of New Zealand sparkling wine from Winston and Natalie, who live in Nelson, NZ and whom we met on our Tahiti cruise 10 years ago.  I sent some e-mails and wrote in my journal while Linda took another nap.

St. Matthew's ChurchChurch was at 7:00.  We got there at about 6:30 and were standing in the back.  Seats in the nave had been arranged in a circle around the labyrinth.  We were looking for a bulletin and trying to decide where to sit when a priest came along.  I asked him about a bulletin and he said worship was in the quire and the bulletins were up by the altar. We ended up talking to him for quite a while.  Fr. Nelson is a US expat and has been here for several years.  Their choir was only 4 voices, one for each part, but they were amazingly good. This is an Anglican church and we are Episcopalian so the liturgy was, of course, similar to ours. However, the words were very different so the bulletin was essential.  Amazingly, during the peace and when he administered communion, Fr. Nelson called us both by name.  During the foot washing, members of the congregation were invited to wash each other's feet and a large number did that.  One thing that was surprising was that in this huge church with assets of over 2.5 MM (Linda read the annual report), there were only 32 people present for the service, including two priests, two deacons and the choir. 

After church, we ended up at Bellota, a tapas restaurant across the street from the hotel.  It was relaxing and therefore precisely the right thing to do.  We got to bed around 10, I guess.

Friday, March 29 - Auckland, NZ

I was amazed that I slept almost through to the 7:00 wake-up.  By law, all stores here must close for Good Friday and Easter Monday.  Most restaurants close as well so town was essentially dead.  Breakfast was around the corner at "The Coffee Club", a New York-esque place with prices to match.  I'd feared that it would also be closed but we lucked out. 

Church was at 10:00 and it was absolutely amazing.  Because Good Friday is such a somber occasion, we have little or no music on Good Friday at St. Mark's back home.  Here we experienced just the opposite; the music was a major part of the service at it was wonderful.  The choir was only 8 in number but they sounded like 30 and were backed by a cello and oboe as well as the magnificent pipe organ. Early in the service the choir sat in the last row, just behind us, but later moved to the quire.  Fr. Nelson had told us that Good Friday was the best service of the year and I'm glad we got to experience it.  We were really wishing the ship was leaving on Sunday so we could celebrate Easter Vigil and Easter here.

After picking up cameras, etc. in the room, we walked to the waterfront to investigate possibilities for the day.  We had originally planned on taking a ferry to Waihiki Island where Linda's neighbor on the plane said we'd find a quaint village and lots of wineries.  However, with many places closed by law, coupled with a Jazz festival providing throngs to compete for what was open, we opted for a 1.5 hour harbor tour with Fuller's.  The day was perfect for a harbor tour and the captain/narrator had a great sense of humor.  We had a 10 minute stop at volcanic Rangitoto Island.  I walked around for the short time available but Lin sat on deck.

Sky TowerWe returned to our room to find that some joker had put a "Having a Grand Sleep-in" sign on our door so the room was not made up.  A call brought someone quickly and we decided to vacate to the nearby Sky Tower to give her freedom to work.  A senior fee of $18 per person got us to the top of the Sky Tower where we watched two people drop off (tethered, of course).  At Sky Tower$230NZ a crack, the cost per second of adrenaline is staggering.

Since we had to have the checked bags out by 8:00 AM, we got them almost totally packed before dinner so we would not have to face the task afterwards.

We'd made 6:30 dinner reservations at "The Grill" in the hotel.  The meal and service were outstanding as were the prices!  Our waiter, Steffan from Manchester, UK, was entertaining as well as efficient.  After finishing a $97NZ "moderately priced(!!)" Pinot Noir, Steffan said they also sell it by the glass do we each downed an additional $20NZ glass.  It was an expensive evening but worth every penny.

Saturday, March 30 - Auckland, NZ

The wake-up was at 7:30 so we could put the bags out.  We'd hoped to then go back to sleep but, of course, that didn't happen.  The Coffee Club was absolutely jammed with other old folks going on the cruise and service was correspondingly terrible.

We hung out a bit in our room but headed for the port at about 10:00.  We had the option of an included transfer but preferred to escape the crowd so opted for a cab.  When we got to the pier, however, we were initially told we could not board until 2:00. A few minutes later it was 1:00 and then 12:30.  At that point it was only 10:30 and our choices were to be first in line and stand for 2 hours or try to compete for a place to sit and then get into a long line and maybe wait for 2 hours anyway. We chose the first option, ending up with new friends Bob and Gail. The gates opened at 11:45 and we were on the ship right at 12:00. 

Lunch was in the Lido.  That's normally a buffet but for the first 48 hours of a cruise, Holland America stations attendants to get your food so people don't touch it.  This is an attempt to curtail Rotavirus and seems to make sense.  However, it really slows things down.  By the time we explored the ship a bit it was almost 4:00 and our bags had already been delivered.  We got them pretty well unpacked by time for the lifeboat drill.  HAL (Holland America Line) does these drill the old-fashioned way out on deck by the boats but have mercifully eliminated the need to bring life preservers.

By the time we were settled, had a short rest and dressed, it was time for dinner in the Vista Dining Room.  We normally choose traditional late seating but the thought of 36 dinners with the same people didn't seem appealing so we broke with tradition and chose open seating.  We had to take a beeper and wait but had our table only 10 or 15 minutes later.  Our wine steward for the evening was Leo and he was excellent.  We ended up at a table for 2 with Mark and Nancy from Melbourne.  They are delightful younger folks with 3 girls at home.   We headed for bed but stopped at the Ocean bar to dance one nightclub 2-step.  We were already asleep when the ship departed port at about midnight.

Easter Sunday - March 31 - Tauranga and Rotorua, NZ

RororuaThe tour we'd booked was "Hells Gate and Rotorua Highlights".  We had to be in the Vista Lounge at 8:20 for our tour so ordered a wake-up and room service for 6:00.  They arrived simultaneously.  We were loaded onto one of 4 busses for a drive of about 75 minutes to Hell's gate, an area of intense thermal activity.  The Earth's crust there is only about 1.5 miles thick as opposed to several hundred miles elsewhere on Earth. There were all kinds of fuming, bubbling, boiling etc and the hydrogen-sulphide smell was very strong.  The place really did look like something from Dante.  We walked for quite some distance there with an excellent guide.

Rainbow SpringsOur next stop was at Rainbow Springs where there is a Kiwi sanctuary as well as some touristy zoo-like attractions.  We were able to just make out the large beak of one Kiwi who was hiding at the back of the nocturnal exhibit.  (The one in the picture is stuffed.) Opting out of a continuing walk, we had a bite in the café before heading back to the bus.

The last stop was at Matai Maori Village, which a Maori family operates under lease from their tribe. I expected it to be pretty lame but it Matai Maori villagewas actually not too bad.  They put on a pretty entertaining show, followed by a delicious meal that had been cooked in a pit.

We were back on the ship at about 4:30. I fought with Wi-Fi on my laptop and even tried their machines without success.  After a lot of aggravation, the IT guy finally admitted that their system was screwed up and suggested I try again later.

After a bit of dancing in the Ocean bar, we had dinner with Peter & Susan and M??? & Lorraine.  It was a great table and we lingered until late. Leo was our wine steward again.

Before bed I got online and sent quick message home.

Monday, April 1 - At Sea, White Island, NZ
(Noon Pos'n 37º 32' S, 177 º 24' E)

White IslandI was up at about 7:00.  "The Explorer" said we'd be at White Island at 9:00 and Lin wanted to stay in bed.  I got breakfast at the Lido and ate on the stern, then got to the rail just as we arrived at the island.  I spend over 90 minutes on deck as we circled the island.  We were on the second circuit when I gave up and came inside.  I could not connect to Wi-Fi from the room so went to the Crow's nest to send e-mail home.  Lunch was in the Vista Dining Room.  In the shops, I found a watch like the one that had died on the way over at a reasonable price so snatched it up before going to the Promenade Deck to read. 

After dressing for the formal night, we were in the Ocean Bar at 5:00 for Dancing.  I skipped out for a bit, though, to pick up my watch, which had been left behind to get the band shortened.    
This night we had a different wine steward who was impossible to find.  Had great table conversation and there were only a handful of diners in the restaurant when we left.  Danced a bit more and met Ian and Halley from near Sydney.

Tuesday, April 2 - Napier, NZ

Clearview EstateBreakfast was delivered 7:00.  We'd booked a wine tour so were once again loaded onto a bus.  Fortunately there was only the one bus for this tour.  It was quite some distance to Clearview Estate Winery, a boutique operation.  They had tables set up under trellises and served food as well as the wines.  I winded up buying a gewürztraminer and a reserve chardonnay. Back on the bus we drove a distance again to Abbey Cellars, a fairly new operation in a beautiful building in a beautiful setting.  That was a more traditional tasting with everyone standing by the counter. 

NapierWe took the option of getting off the bus in Napier and walked the streets for a while.  While there were several restaurants, we found none that struck us as especially nice and prices were nuts so we went back to the ship.

By the time we got back our best lunch option was on the terrace.  Lin had a hamburger and I some Mexican food from a small buffet line there.  The sun had come out a bit and we loafed the afternoon away. 

Dancing was supposed to start at 5:00 but did not start until later. This was to become a troublingly common theme.  The band, Brian and the HALcats played excellent Jazz but were horrible for dancing.  Dinner was at 7:30 at a table for 2 in spite of my request for a larger table.  The wine steward was good once she was located but it was still a bad experience.  Linda's legs were hurting so we headed for the room where she slept while I read.

Wednesday, April 3 - Wellington, NZ

Old St. PailsAnother cloudy day and lots of wind.  We had booked nothing so grabbed a taxi.  The driver, Cecil, is from Fiji.  Went first to Old St. Paul's church, then to the rose garden, parliament and the top of mountain.  Cecil dropped us back at the ship an hour and $100NZ later.

Pinnacle GrillWe enjoyed a fantastic lunch inthe Pinnacle Grill for a $10pp surcharge. I had filet and Linda penne with chicken.  The meal was excellent and service impeccable. Once again we enjoyed a lazy afternoon.

Didn't get to Ocean Bar until almost 5:30 but, though Viviane and the HALCats were supposed to be there, all was silent.  Got talking to Betty who said no one had been there at all.  She and her husband are from SD but now live in a large RV driving from place to place.  The band finally arrived at 6:30.  Betty's husband, Dwaine, arrived from his Windows 8 class but by that time it was hard to talk.  When the band broke at 7:00 we put our heads into the theater to hear a bit of the very funny comedian.

Dinner was again at 7:45.  We were at a table for 6 but with only one other couple, Adele and Bill from Long Island.  We had an absolutely great time with them and were THE LAST to leave.  We are normally among the last but this broke our record. 

Went to the Explorer Lounge to get a Spanish Coffee to take to the Ocean Bar but ended up sitting for a while, talking to the waiter, Jivanni [sic], and listening to Adagio, a duo of piano and violin.  We arrived at the Ocean Bar in time for the last song.  These guys, who had started late, were finishing early!  Nice work if you can get it!  Talked for a while with some other dancers, Michael and Phyllis and it was close to midnight when we went to bed.

Thursday, April 4 - Akaroa, NZ

AkaroaThis was my favorite stop on the trip! The day started out as yet another crappy one with very low skud. 

Linda just loves dogs and one of her "must-do" agenda items was to see sheep dogs at work. Our tour of a working sheep farm was late so we ordered breakfast for 9:00.  Unfortunately, we awoke much earlier to the sound of the crew lowering the tender from just below our balcony.  By the time we took the tender and met the group on the pier, it had started to clear and the day would end up being one of the trip's most spectacular.  We were a bit delayed getting started but loaded into 4 vans to travel across the Banks Peninsula to the farm.  The farm we visited is a family operation and the children there are from its seventh generation.  The drive was spectacular with beautiful vistas of the juxtaposition of land, sea and sky. While many people apologized that the summer's terrible drought had reduced the beauty of New Zealand, the scenery was still spectacular.

ShearingFirst stop was the shearing shed where the grandfather and present patriarch talked about the farm and family's history and well as explaining the operation.  His daughter-in-law then gave a demonstration of how a sheep is sheared.  I've got to tell you, it's a LOT of work and I confess this woman was in a lot better shape than I am; I'd have been dead before I finished!

That exercise completed, we headed out behind the shed to a grassy area that sloped downward for a ways before rising to a distant pasture where there was a flock of sheep.  Susan, the daughter-in-law, introduced her two dogs, which were of two types, a "barking dog" and a "non-barking dog".  At a whistled command, the non-barking dog set off like a shot towards the sheep.  I'm not sure I've ever seen an animal run that fast.  In a moment he was at the far side of the flock, herding them towards us.  Apparently the ram took exception to this, however, as he turned on the dog and things came to a halt with the two staring at each other.  At another whistle from Susan the barking dog shot out every bit as fast and the sheep were soon moving past us into the pen. 

We were invited to the farmhouse for scones, tea, and a relaxing time visiting this beautiful homestead.  This family lives in a remote but absolutely stunning place.

AkaroaBack in Akaroa, we took the option of getting off the van at the "French" end of town and wandered towards the pier.  Akaroa is absolutely gorgeous and the beautiful sunshine really brought out the bright colors of homes and gardens.  We stopped for lunch at Bully Hayes restaurant and ate on the terrace overlooking the bay.  Lingering over a plate of fish and chipAkaroas along with a bottle of local pinot gris while enjoying the view was incredibly relaxing and enjoyable.  It wasn't at all cheap but was worth every penny.
Linda bought a blue pearl pendant for herself and a pair of cufflinks for me from a shop on the pier before we reluctantly boarded the tender.  This was an absolutely perfect visit and one we will not forget.

We danced a bit before dinner but afterwards, I got my Spanish coffee and we headed for the room.

Friday, April 5 - Port Chalmers/Dunedin, NZ

Lousy again when we awoke overlooking the port.  We wanted to take a train trip and I had battled with myself as to whether it was better to book the tour through the ship or directly with the railway.  In the end we booked it through the ship and that was probably a good idea as we boarded the train at the pier rather than in Dunedin, about 8 miles away.  We met the tour at 8:30 and got the best car I think; one with huge windows.  Rode about an hour to Pukerangi stopping in Hindon along the way.  In Pukerangi we traded places with the folks on other side.  Great views but lousy pics as result of window glare.  Sat with nice folks from Auckland who were originally from South Africa.

We took the option of getting off at the beautiful station in Dunedin to look around the town a bit.  Weather was still dreary, though, so we bought some gifts and grabbed the shuttle back to the pier.

Danced to Brian & HALCats before dinner, sitting with Michael and Phyllis.  I requested a table with Leo as steward and sat with 4 folks from Auckland.  Interesting conversation, much of it about politics.  

Saturday, April 6 - Fiordland [sic] Nat'l Park, NZ
(Noon Pos'n 45º 15' S, 166 º 50' E)

We set the clocks back during the night as New Zealand was just going off Daylight time and woke to an absolutely stunning day!  During the day we cruised through Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound, and Milford Sound.  I spend much of day running around taking pictures.  Such amazing sights!  Milford Sound reminded me very much of the Three Gorges of the Yangtze.

We went to the Ocean Bar to dance but the music wasn't suited to it.  At dinner we requested and got a table with Leo again.  At our table for 6 were a couple from Brisbane and two women, one from Maryland and one from Oregon. 

Afterwards, we went to a Port & Chocolate tasting in the Pinnacle Bar and straight to bed after that.

Sunday, April 7 - Tasman Sea
(Noon Pos'n 44º 07' S, 160 º 53' E)

I thought I was up at 8:00 and ready to go by 9:00 but I'd forgotten we had to set the clocks back yet again so it was an hour earlier.  Lin stayed in bed as I ate in the Lido.  Ended up drinking coffee and chatting with Michael for quite a while.  Lin was eating room service breakfast when I got back.  Spend the rest of the morning sorting and renaming photos. Lunch was in the dining room, then I went on deck to read, broken by a trip to the 3:00 tea. 
Dinner was black tie again.  Did a little dancing to Vivianne, then looked in on a doctor/comedian (such a combination!) before dinner.  Sadly, dinner was with a couple who were not terribly happy with life, I think.  Their son was at the table when we arrived but declared there was nothing he liked on the menu and left to get a pizza. The woman said she felt the same way and was tempted to join him.   Our problem was exactly the opposite; we had to choose from among many tempting dishes.

Had a Spanish Coffee and listened to Adagio for a while but Lin was falling asleep so we headed for the room.

Monday, April 8 - Tasman Sea
(Noon Pos'n 43º 46' S, 152 º 24' E)

Tasman SeaAnother sea day. I confess that, contary to most others, I was disappointed at the Tasman Sea. It has a reputation as being one of the roughest in the world and I was looking forward to an adventure. However, during our two days on it it was a mill pond. The captain said that even he was astounded at its tranquility.

We slept late and were slow getting started. We'd been invited to a brunch for the folks going through to Seattle but went for a small breakfast at about 9:00.  Ate on the stern, then checked e-mail.  I went on deck to read while Lin went to find a lounge below.  There was a brunch at 11:00 in the Vista for the Mariner's Society.  That's for return cruisers but since this trip counted as two for us we were invited.  Holland America has such loyalty among many of its passengers it resembles a cult.  They give large medals for 100, 300, 500 and 700 days and many people were wearing them at the brunch.  I saw a lot of gold ones indicating 500 days.  Amazing!

I read on deck for a while but it was pretty cold so I came in.  There were samba lessons at 2:30 and we watched for a bit before going to a Q&A about life at sea with the captain.  He is a real riot.  Took a bit of a nap before dinner.  For no good reason we were tired after dinner so I just got a Spanish coffee and we went to bed.

Tuesday, April 9 - Hobart, Tasmania, AU

What a perfect day!  We'd been a little concerned because we had a tour leaving at 8:20 and we had to clear Australian immigration before that.  We were told to report to the Vista Lunge 45 minutes before the tour with our passports so we had room service breakfast and got to the lounge at about 7:30.  The system worked like clockwork and we were through the process of immigration and check-in in for the tour in 15 or 20 minutes. 

BonorongOur tour was to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a privately-owned refuge.  They have about 80 volunteers who rescue orphaned animals, many as a result of road-killed parents.  Apparently, Tasmania has lots of road kills and, of course, many are marsupials.  We were told that a joey can live for 4 days in the pouch of a dead mother so the volunteers rescue them from the dead mothers.  The refuge nurtures them and returns them to the wild when they are ready.  There were LOTS of kangaroos running around and, since we were the first big bus there, many were waiting for us near the entrance.  Bins of free food were positioned around and we got to hand-feed the kangaroos as well as pet them on the chest.  What an incredible treat!  When you rub their chests they put their heads back and have such an expression of ecstasy it's amazing!

BonorongWe also saw lots of Tasmanian Devils, some emus, several koalas, one of which we could pet, and a wombat.  All in all, this is a great place to visit.

Afterwards, we were driven to Richmond and given about an hour to wander around this quaint town.  I especially enjoyed visiting the Anglican Church of St. Luke the Physician.

SalamancaBack at the pier, we took a shuttle to Salamanca, an area of shops and restaurants, where we wandered around a bit but were unable to find a restaurant that really struck our fancy.  We started walking back towards the ship and, after a fair bit of frustration, came across Mure's on the wharf quite close to the ship.  They have a simple operation at ground level but a nice restaurant on the upper one.  Of course, we chose the latter (whch is why we don't have any money!).  We shared a dish of "flathead" fish and chips and a bottle of locally-made Sauvignon Blanc.  It was quite expensive but the meal, service and view made it a bargain.

Back on the ship, Lin took a nap and I read on deck until I got frozen out.  We were too tired to dance so went straight to dinner and straight to bed. I think we may be getting old!

Wednesday, April 10 - At Sea - Bass Strait
(Noon Pos'n 40º 53' S, 148 º 38' E)

It was almost 9:30 by the time we got out of the room. Lin tried to call the salon but there was no answer so we stopped there to make a nail appointment before breakfast.  Since it was too late to do otherwise, we went to the Lido and ate by the inside pool.  Checked e-mail, then just loafed around until Lunch in the Vista, right by the stern windows.  Lin then went for her appointment while I read on the stern deck.  When she found me, she said her key card wouldn't open the door so we got that fixed, then looked for a place to relax. Came across a presentation for people who, like us, were going across the pacific so watched that through, then settled in the Pinnacle to read and write.Chocolate buffet

We had 6:30 dinner reservations in the Pinnacle Grill and it was magnificent.  Décor is a bit funky, the meal (filet for both of us) was excellent and the service extraordinary.  The lobster bisque was superb.  Bill and Adele were at an adjacent table and we chatted with them a bit.  Afterwards, I got my Spanish coffee. We were going to dance in the Ocean Bar but it had been pre-empted by a chocolate buffet so we headed for bed.

Thursday, April 11 - Melbourne, AU

Tiger KangarooApparently, the weather forecasters here are no better than at home; the forecast was for mostly sunny and 72F but it was cloudy and cold and rained a bit. We had booked an all-day tour called "Wildlife and Wineries" and got underway at about 9:30.  The ride was about 75 minutes to the first stop at Healesville Sanctuary in the Yarra Valley.  The sanctuary is similar in principal to Bonorong but it's a larger, government-sponsored operation.  Though it was larger, there was no interaction with the animals so it was a little less interesting to us.  We did get to see dingos and platypus that we'd not seen before, however.  All in all, it was nice.

Rochford WinerySecond stop was at Rochford Winery where there was an excellent tasting and a superb meal.   Mine was "beef cheek" which I was told was probably rump roast.  I learned later that it is really the facial cheek from a cow! Hmmmmm.  Anyway, it was good.  Lin had chicken.

Next was a stop at Dominique Portet winery.  Portet is a 9th generation winemaker from France.  I hate to say it since I love the French but neither the wines nor the experience was equal to those at Rochfort. 

While there my brand-new watch band broke spontaneously.  Ugh!

Port of MelbourneBefore getting back to the ship we did a lot of driving up and down the streets of Melbourne, which is a city of about 3.5 million.  My guess is that the purpose was primarily to run out the clock since we arrived back exactly on schedule at 5:00.  Unfortunately, I left one of my Tilley hats on the bus!

Had dinner with three other couples.  One guy was a Brit and a real riot.  He had an endless series of jokes for us.  He suggested we call when we come to Ireland.

After dinner, I got my Spanish coffee and went to the shop to get my watchband fixed.  They wanted me to supply the missing pin from the links they'd removed but I refused.  It was a bit tense for a bit but after I told the manager I wanted to return the watch they folded and asked that I return for it in an hour.  Sat with Ian and Haley in the Ocean Bar to kill the hour, then picked up my repaired watch without a problem.  Vivianne's group took a break at 10:30 so we moved to the Queen's Lounge and Brian.  Danced one swing but then quit and headed to bed.

Friday, April 12 - At Sea
(Noon Pos'n 35º 25' S, 148 º 53' E)

For many, this was the last full day at sea but for us, merely the end of our second week.  Woke at 9:00 to sunny sky.  Lin was still in bed so I ate alone at the Lido, then brought her tea, edited pix until she was ready, and sat with her as she ate.  Checked e-mail, then went our separate ways.  The day did not stay sunny, however, and clouds persisted for much of the day.  The highlight event was the finals of the "Dancing with Stars at Sea" competition.  We went primarily to support our friend, Ian, who was to dance the Tango so we were shocked when they also introduced Adele, who would be dancing Foxtrot.  Adele earned a well-deserved first place while Ian was not in the top three.  Adele was, as they say here, absolutely brilliant. Ian did well at the routine he was given but the routine had him doing very little; I think he was robbed.   Adele's husband, Bill, was two rows behind us so, of course we spoke to him afterwards.  He suggested we meet for a drink and then dinner.

We finished the afternoon by enjoying much of one of the bottles of wine we'd bought in Hawke's Bay as we watched the southeastern tip of AU from our balcony.  Is it OK to drink NZ wine in AU waters??

We met Bill and Adele in the Ocean bar as planed at 7:00 but we learned that Adele had hurt her ankle right before her performance so none of us danced that night.  Bill had made dinner reservations for all of us. When we checked in, I asked for a table with Leo as always but we got another wine steward.  I was unhappy but let it go to maintain harmony.

After dinner Bill & I got a Spanish coffee and we all sat in the Pinnacle lounge until after 11:30.  When we headed up, the ship was silent and luggage was piled high in the lobby. A sad night for many!

Saturday, April 13 - Sydney, NSW, AU

Oosterdam & Harbour BridgeI had put in a wake-up for 5:30 and was on deck before 6:00 to witness our arrival into Sydney harbor.  We docked at Circular Quay immediately across from the Opera House and had a million-dollar view of it from our balcony.  Sydney is a beautiful city made even better by today's sunny skies.

It was strange not being among the throngs dragging carry-ons as they awaited departure clearance. While they struggled, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the Vista.

ManleyIt was a short walk to the ferry dock where we bought tickets to Manley. We got perfect seats right at the bow on the second deck so were really able to enjoy the 35 minute ride.  Manley is a cute-if-touristy town and we enjoyed the short walk to the beach on the other side of the peninsula, stopping to shop for some trinkets and sundries.  This being Saturday, the streets and beach were mobbed and there was a surfing competition going on.  In a bit we headed back to the pier and again got ideal seats on the bow for the ride back. 

Lunch was a pizza and wine at the Eastbank Café on the quay near the Opera house.  Lin convinced me to take a tour of the Opera House while she had another glass of wine. I'm glad she did; the place is fantastic and the guide, Nick, was perfect.  It's obvious he loves the place.  By the time the tour finished Lin and I were both worn out so we returned to the ship and drank some wine as we awaited the dreaded emergency drill. HAL makes everyone attend every drill, even if the'd been on the previous leg. As if we'd have forgotten in the last 2 weeks!!

Once again we waited eons for Brian's group to play in the Ocean Bar and danced only twice before heading for dinner.  We'd made reservations as the dining room was mobbed when we left Auckland but we needn't have bothered; the place was half empty when we got there.  We were told the crowd that does crossings is much older and therefore eats much earlier.

Sunday, April 14 - At Sea
(Noon Pos'n 30º 24' S, 156 º 00' E)

I had a wake-up at 7:45 because of my 8:30 appointment for a $35 (plus tip) haircut during which I had a lecture from my Czech barber about how great it was to live under communist rule.  Hmmmm…

Breakfast was in the Vista after which we checked e-mail and I sat on deck while Lin took a nap.  We went for lunch a bit after 1:00. Because the Vista was already closed, we tried the Lido but that was mobbed.  Eventually we had cheeseburgers at the Terrace Grill.  By this time the swells had picked up and the ship was pitching enough that the movable panels over the pool were slamming back and forth.  Not the roughest seas we've ever experienced but certainly interesting.  We returned to the room to read and write.

After a drink (actually 2 since it was happy hour) at the Ocean Bar, we headed for the Vista for dinner and sat with Yvonne and Joseph from Melbourne.  Actually, he's originally from Graz, Austria.  Enjoyable evening.  Drank my Spanish Coffee at the Explorer's Lounge, then danced a bit at the "50s & 60s Prom" at the Queens Lounge before quitting.  Sea was rough enough to make it quite difficult to dance or even walk. Actually, I like it that way; helps me remember that I'm at sea!

Monday, April 15 - At Sea
(Noon Pos'n 26º 01' S, 161º 42' E)

Well, it's time to start paying back all the hours we've earned and we set the clocks ahead for the first of many times.  Seas eased during the night and it was pretty calm by morning.  Was after 9 when we awake so we ordered room service.  It took forever to come, was cold and missing the juice and tea.  Ugh.

Just a lazy day at sea with lunch at the Lido.  Spend much of the afternoon on deck 10 where I got more sun than I have in a long time.

Linda's heel was giving her fits so we skipped the dancing but sat in the Ocean Bar before dinner.  Bed right after dinner again.

Tuesday, April 16 - Noumea, New Caledonia

I had set an alarm for 7:30 and we were docking as we dressed for breakfast.  There was a native group on the pier welcoming the ship with drums, dancing, etc.  We finished breakfast in the Vista at about 9:00 and left the ship.  Had to take a shuttle to the cruise ship terminal, which is in town, not at the pier; very strange.  After discussing options, we got money from a bank ATM and wandered around town, looking in shops, mostly at jewelry.  I'd hoped to catch a cab but a woman in the information station said you could not normally get a cab to just show you around.  In the end, we returned to the cruise ship terminal and bought tickets for the hop on / hop off bus at $10 each. 

Got off at Baie de Citron and, after researching options, ate a pizza (and 2 glasses of wine each) at Duke's Restaurant and Bar.  Hopped on again to the terminal, then caught the shuttle to the ship.  All in all, New Caledonia was OK but isn't somewhere that will call me back.

Checked e-mail, then I sat on deck for a while and joined Linda for a nap.  Woke to drums, etc from the pier.

Wednesday, April 17 - At Sea
(Noon Pos'n 20º 39' S, 172º 01' E)

my I ate a quick bite alone at about 9:30 then sat on deck.

Enjoyed a nice Indonesian brunch at 11:00, then sat on deck some more. Got lots of sun on face even though I stayed out of the sun.  Had to retreat from two severe showers but the day was otherwise nice.

Danced to Brian at 6:00 and we ate alone at about 8.  I got Spanish coffee but Lin headed to bed.  I stayed a while, checked e-mail and went to bed.

Thursday, April 18 - Suva, Fiji

Pacific HarborHad a leisurely breakfast in the Vista as we approached Suva and it was after 10:00 by the time we wandered off the ship with no specific plans.  Of course, we were accosted by countless tour operators but ended up taking a cab with Rishi Ram just because his smile told me he was a nice guy.  We agreed to go with him to Pacific Harbor at a cost of $50 US per hour.  The port at Suva is something less than beautiful but the drive westward along the coast was fantastic and, of course, I took lots of pictures.  Stopped at Pacific Harbor and did some shopping.  It's a beautiful place but, of course, Rishi got his cut (I saw the payoff).  That's SOP, I know, and it doesn't even bother me.  Then stopped and had a beer at The Pearl resort which is absolutely beautiful.  It was almost 2:00 when we got back.  I ended up paying $180US; a little high but worth it. 

Fishing in SuvaHad a bite to eat in the Lido, then Lin went to the room as I walked back into town to grab more pics.  I was only out for about an hour, then put on my bathing suit to swim and sit on deck to read.

We went to the Ocean Bar as per usual but danced little.  Dinner was with an Anne Marie and Jim.  Nice conversation.  Got a Spanish Coffee and went to the Lido Pool for the Polynesian party but didn't stay long.

Friday, April 19 - Dravuni Island, Fiji

Dravuni Island has a population of only about 200 people.  Holland American treats it rather like a private island but provides nothing but tender service. By the time we ate breakfast in the Lido, it was about 10.  We still had to get tender tickets but could go directly to the tenders rather than wait for a number to be called.  Once on the island, we walked to the right for a short distance, looking at the wares in some stalls along the way.  We also had the opportunity to visit a school not far from the beach.

There were no chairs but Lin found a bench in front of one of the many massage tents and the lady there was happy to have her sit as I swam and wandered around.  After an hour or so, Lin was getting antsy so she headed for the ship while I walked in the opposite direction along the beach.  Just sat on my towels looking at the sea and read for a while before walking to the end of the beach. A lot fewer people there, of course.

It was almost 1:30 by the time I returned to the ship to find Linda in the room.  We ate in the Lido, checked e-mail and hung in the room until the tenders were retrieved and the ship got underway.

Skipped dancing and went to the Pinnacle for their special "Le Cirque" dinner with wine pairing.  It was an absolutely perfect dinner.  Nutmeg Squash soup was outstanding as was the rack of lamb.  The merlot from Sicily, of all places, was particularly good.

Saturday, April 20 - At Sea
(Noon Pos'n 15º 40' S, 176º 49' E)

Got up at about 8:30 and had breakfast at the Lido, then loafed the day away.  Spend the morning sitting outside on deck 3.  After lunch Lin went to the room and then to a movie as I sat by the pool.  Got more sun than I have in recent years.

Did some sorting of pics, then dressed in black tie and went to the Ocean bar before meeting Adele and Bill for dinner.  Danced a bit more and headed up just before 11.

Sunday, April 21 (the first one!) - Apia, Samoa

This was the first of two days in a row that were both Sunday!  How does that happen? Between Samoa (formerly "Western Samoa") and American Samoa, our next stop, lies the International Dateline, where we would recover the day we lost when we flew from San Francisco..

I was already up and dressed when our room service breakfast was delivered at 7:30 just as we were docking in Apia.   

By 9:00 we were off the ship and talking to a young taxi driver, Koolio.  We agreed to a 3-hour tour for US $120 and set off.  After a stop for gas it was southbound over the mountain, stopping at a Bah'ai temple along the way.  We were going to stop next at what Koolio said was the best waterfall on the island but the rain and mist on the mountain was so bad we didn't even bother.  We did stop at a small but beautiful waterfall near the south shore and were the only ones there.  Koolio led me to the base of the falls for photos.  It would have been nice to take a swim but while I had a bathing suit, I'd failed to bring a towel so missed the opportunity.

Second stop was at a beautiful waterfall.  However one bus had already arrived and while we were there 3 more joined them so we beat a hasty retreat.  Stopped at a third small waterfall near the north shore, then headed back to town. 

We'd read about how many churches we'd find in Samoa and how seriously they take their faith.  Wow, was that ever true!  There were churches everywhere and many had throngs entering or exiting.  Most folks, men and women both, were dressed in white from head to toe.  Also worthy of note is that virtually every man, including Koolio, was wearing a lava-lava, which is essentially a skirt.

Went stopped at the Anglican church in Apia but by that time it was late and the church was locked so we made our last stop the allegedly-famous Sadie Thompson Inn for lunch.  I paid $140US for the 3.5 hours and Koolio left.  Unfortunately, this being Sunday Sadie Thompson's was the only game in town and were not serving lunch so we had to get another cab to the ship.

The shops in town were all closed but there were many stalls set up near the ship so we did a little shopping before re-boarding.  Nothing very exciting, however, other than a shirt for Eric.

After lunch we headed for the Vista to stake our seats for the 3:30 show by the youth group from a local interdenominational church.  We were really early and the kids were still practicing so I was afraid we'd get run off but were not.  When it got close to show time, however, a lot of people streamed in together so I suspect they had closed the doors with us inside.  The show was GREAT! 

Afterwards, we left the ship again to wander through the stalls and got caught in a rainstorm.

We were both whipped so took a nap and didn't get to the ocean bar until 7:30.  Dinner was with Jan and Murray from Canberra.  Murray is a consultant on contract and project management and we all were very compatible.  We were, of course, among the last out once again.  I got my Spanish coffee and took it to the internet lounge to check e-mail before bed.

Sunday, April 21 (the second one!) - Pago Pago, American Samoa

We had crossed the International Dateline during the night so awoke to Sunday once more!  The bad news is that the stores were closed again.  Breakfast was delivered at 8:00 as the ship was docking and we were already dressed.  It was just before 9:00 when we wandered off the ship and my eye caught a particular taxi driver named Vai ("Water" in Samoan).  He quoted me $20 per person per hour but when I said another guy had a sign for $15, Vai's price quickly dropped.  Vai's English was less than perfect and he repeated himself a lot but he was very eager to tell us about the island and had an interesting high-pitched laugh that made me smile every time. We saw a lot of the island and got back about 11:20 to wander through the stalls on the dock.  Got tee shirts for the grandsons and myself.

American Samoa has fantastic natural beauty but I must say that the locals apparently don't value it as there was trash everywhere. Yes, I know that's quite common in the third world but the difference between Western Samoa and here was striking. That notwithstanding, everyone was beautifully turned out in their clean, white Sunday clothes.

After lunch I returned to shore and walked to a supermarket to look for a CD but found none and bought only hair spray.  Back on board, I edited some photos and e-mailed them home.  Lin and I had cheese and wine on the deck, then went directly to dinner.  Sat with Dave and Sharon.  Skipped the Spanish coffee and were trying to decide what to do when we met Bill and Adele.  At their suggestion, we all went to the 2-for one deal in the Crows nest and it was after 11 when we hit the rack.

Monday, April 22 - At Sea
(Noon Pos'n 09º 07' S, 168 º 54' E)

This was the beginning of the first of two 5-day "at sea" stretches. I was up at 8:00 and Linda a bit later.  We made it to the Vista at 9:20, just 10 minutes before the doors closed and had a table to ourselves.  Checked e-mail and spent the morning and first part of the afternoon reading on the balcony.  I had developed a rash from the sun and decided to spend the day indoors.  At 2:00 we went to a "Tour of France" wine tasting which was very enjoyable; the sommelier, Philippe, does a real nice job. Afterwards, it was back to the room but the balcony was off limits as it was now in sun.

Had a drink in the Ocean Bar but didn't feel like dancing.  Dinner was with Lily and Ed from Calgary and originally Goa and Brian and Marilyn from Australia.  Nice table and we were among the last out again.  Ended up at the Piano Bar with Lily and Ed until the pianist quit at 11:00.  He was doing an American sing-along and it was a lot of fun.

Tuesday, April 23 - At Sea - Crossing the Equator
(Noon Pos'n 02º 20' S, 166º 50' W)

I thought it was 8:30 when I got up but later discovered it was only 7:30.  Lin was up at 8:00 and we ate in the Vista, then returned to do reading, writing and editing pics to be e-mailed home.  Read on the balcony and ate in the Vista.  Soon it was time to go to the Seaview Pool for the "Crossing-the-Line" ceremony.  Though we didn't actually cross the Equator until about 8:00 PM, celebrating it then would have apparently messed with the evening's schedule so the ceremony was held much earlier. It was to start at 1:30 so we went at 1:00 in order to get seats.  Given our latitude, it was bloody hot on deck but the ceremony was a blast.  "King Neptune" was there, of course, and the people who represented the shellbacks were all members of the crew.  One of them was Philippe, the sommelier, with whom we had gotten friendly.  Each one had "charges" read against him or her and then they had to kiss a large fish (looked like a tuna to me but I'm no expert), then get covered with colored slime.  After that, a "court" made up of ship's officers got to decide whether each would be thrown in the pool.  Kissing the fishI think the lucky ones went into the pool as the others had to bake in the sun with the slime all over them.  At the end, the "dignitaries" left and lots of folks jumped or were pushed into the pool.  By the time it was over, things were a real mess.  Of course I kissed the fish!!  Afterwards, it was back to the room.

From the bridgeWent to the Ocean Bar but didn't dance again.  On the way to dinner we met Philippe and I said that I was envious of his participation as a shellback.  I also mentioned that, in truth, we had still not crossed the equator and by my math would not do so until about 8:00.  He was unaware of that but said he'd try to get a photo of the GPS when we did.  A few days later he e-mailed me a photo from the bridge.  Cool.

After dinner we went to the piano bar and stayed until it closed at 11:00.

Wednesday , April 24 - At Sea
(Noon Pos'n 04º 34' N, 164º 45' W)

Lazy day again.  After breakfast in the Lido, we went to the Seaview and, after a short time in the sun, found a table in the shade where we read for the rest of the day, with lunch grabbed from the Lido.  I was ticked that 24 hours after the ceremony, they still had not opened the pool back up so went down to the front desk to protest.

Once again, we didn't dance but had a drink in the Ocean bar.  Sat with Brian and Marilyn at dinner, then went to the Piano Bar where we sat with Bill and Adele.

Thursday , April 25 - At Sea
(Noon Pos'n 10º 56.7' N, 162º 47.5' W)

We'd set the clocks ahead again before going to bed so it was about 9:00 when I first awoke.  My rash had kicked up again so I took a Benadryl and went back to bed.  It must have zapped me as it was well after 11 when I awoke and noon by the time we left the room.  Having missed breakfast, we had lunch in the Vista, then I sent some e-mail and hung out on the balcony.

At 2:00 we went to a Washington wine tasting but they didn't have a quorum so it was cancelled. 

There was nothing going on in the Ocean at 7:00 so we went to the show, a comedian followed by a violinist.  Lots of people had said the comedian was great but I thought he was OK at best.  The violinist, however, was excellent.  Dinner was again with Murray and Jan from Canberra and Brenda from Queensland.  During desert we were served a glass of champagne sent by Philippe as a consolation for the cancelled tasting.  Mine ended up getting spilled in my lap, however, so after dinner we just went to bed.

Friday, April 26 - At Sea
(Noon Pos'n 17º 32.6' N, 160 º 43.3' W)

We were up before 9:00 and ate in the Vista, then went to the Internet Lounge for e-mail and hung out there for the rest of the morning.  Lunch was in the Lido, then we hung out some more.  Listened to the band in the Ocean and danced only once, then had dinner in the Vista.  As I was getting my Spanish coffee, Linda ran into Bill so the 4 of us sat in the Pinnacle Café until well after closing time.

Saturday, April 27 - Nawiliwili, Kauai, Hawaii

We set a wakeup and ordered breakfast for 7:30.  After breakfast, we made one run at immigration but the line was too long so we returned to the room.  Having tried to call Dad several times on his cell, we called the nurse's station and they took a portable phone to him.  We were happy to talk to him and to learn his spirits are pretty good in spite of his being in a nursing home for rehab.

At about 9:00 we tried immigration again and found the line tolerable.  However, making us wait with everyone else, they let us pass by because we were Americans.  Why they could not have done that before the wait can only be explained by the fact they are government employees.

There was a bit of confusion on the pier but we finally got a cab at $60/hour to take just the two of us on a tour.  The driver, Scott Ferguson, was very friendly and very knowledgeable (or at least opinionated) on a number of subjects.  We opted  to go to the North Shore, which was stunning.

After doing some shopping at the very touristy Hilo Hattie's, I got the bright idea that it would be fun to get a cummerbund and bow tie in a tropical print and Scott stopped at a shop for me but we struck out.  The shopkeeper said he has told the manufacturer that people want them but they are no longer made.

Got money from an ATM and had Scott leave us at Anchor Cove.  Ate fish & chips and downed some some "Kalapaki Breezes" on the deck at J J's Broiler, then walked around a bit, taking pictures.   Back on the ship, we called sons Don and Eric but were unable to reach Steve.

The sommelier dinner in the Pinnacle at 7:00 was absolutely superb!!!  Got out at 10:30 and hit the sack.

Sunday, April 28. Honolulu, Hawaii

Not REALLY Hawaii Five-0We had not booked a tour and figured we'd catch a cab to Pearl Harbor as a start to the day.  We saw the ship's tour lady on the pier and asked if we'd be able to get a cab at Pearl for the return and she warned us that we could be waiting for hours to get in and could still be turned away if the crowds were too bad!  That was the end of that plan and we bought tickets for the hop-on/hop-off bus/trolley.  There seem to be many companies doing a similar thing but the one at the pier has three lines, red, green and pink.  The red line uses double-decker busses to service the pier and we took it to the DFS center where we caught the green line, which uses trolleys and provides a nice tour including a visit to the inside of Diamond Head's crater.  The driver gave excellent commentary and stopped several times so we could get out to take pictures.  We left it at Waikiki and waited only a few minutes (but enough for some pics) for the Red line.  We got off at Ala Moana Mall to have lunch and see if I could buy a Hawaiian tie and cummerbund set.  Lunch was at "Islands Fine Burgers and Drinks". The mall was huge and a complete zoo.  It had, however, every high-end store on the planet; Prado, Dior, etc.  We struck out on the tie and cummerbund and, totally exhausted, took a cab to the ship with a fruitless stop at Men's Wearhouse along the way.  After a little shopping on the pier, we re-boarded the  ship for the next 5-day leg across the Pacific.  When we departed at 6:00 we were on our balcony, enjoying the sparkling wine we'd been given by Winston and Natalie.  We remained there until dark, seeing a magnificent sunset behind Diamond Head.

Dinner was with Hilda and Bud from Victoria and their daughter, Karen from Vancouver.  Karen consults on project management.  Delightful dinner and we were again among the last out.  Sat at the piano bar for only a short time before heading up. Set the clocks ahead again before going to bed.

Monday, April 29 - At Sea
(Noon Pos'n 25º 31' N, 154 º 09' W)

This was the beginning of the second 5-day "at sea" stretch. Got up at about 9:30, ate in the Lido, read, edited some pics, sent e-mail and wrote until lunch. More of the same until time to go for drinks.  The band was not playing between 7 and 8, prime time for drinks and dancing for many.  Go figure.  Sat next to the Catholic priest, with whom we had become friendly, and had a nice conversation.  We got to the Vista at about 8:00 and had to wait 10-15 minutes for a table with Leo but it was worth it.  Just the two of us at dinner.  Went to bed directly afterwards.

Tuesday, April 30 - At Sea
(Noon Pos'n 32º 04' N, 148 º 10' W)

I was up at about 8:30 and Lin a bit later.  Breakfast was in the Lido and while eating we saw a lot of dolphins.  Unfortunately they were traveling in the opposite direction so we didn't see them for long but it was great.  Tried to check e-mail but Internet was down again so we played on our tablets in The Observation lounge.  Lunch was in the Vista right at the stern, then we went directly to the Italian wine tasting.  While 28 had signed up, only 6 showed, including 2 who had not signed up so it was cancelled yet again.   Read for a while, then I got online and did some work for the church choir.  Enjoyed some wine on the balcony until time for ready for dinner.

The highlight of today was the coronation of a new king for the Netherlands; the first in many, many years.  HAL being, of course, a Dutch line, it was a big deal and the Dutch people on board were invited to a cocktail party to celebrate.  We were fortunate to have two of them, Bea and Weibe join us for dinner.  They were really pumped up and shared their excitement with us. At their suggestion, for dessert we all had Boerenjongens, which is a sundae with gin-marinated raisins.  Weibe suggested we needed additional gin so I ordered 2 shots which we poured on top.  We had a great time together and I believe I was the last passenger to leave the dining room.

Honoring the kingGrabbed a Spanish coffee.  Looked in at the Northern Lights Lounge where they were doing Wii bowling and the Piano bar where there were no good seats before heading to bed.  Our room steward follows the old custom of making crazy shapes with the towels and tonight's was in keeping with the coronation. Turned the clocks ahead yet again before bed.

Wednesday, May 1 - At Sea
(Noon Pos'n 37º 57' N, 141 º 32' W)

I awoke at 8:45 but it was probably 9:30 when we finally crawled out of bed.  Amazing how tired we are! People think this is all fun but it's hard work! Checked e-mail, then say in the Observation lounge listening to the travel trivia game.  Though we did not play, we'd have definitely won if we had done so. 

I had just noticed on the large GPS screen that we were now traveling east instead of northeast when the captain's 1:00 PM report indicated that we had turned to an easterly heading so that we could receive a medication drop from a C130 for a passenger with a serious problem.

At 2:00 we went down for a "Premium wine tasting", assuming that it would be cancelled this time as well but it was not.  Philippe said he was holding it regardless of attendance and, coincidentally, we had 11 or 12 in attendance.  The Merlot was only OK but the others were excellent. 

We had skipped lunch earlier and were heading for a late lunch when we noticed that the ship had slowed considerably so we rushed to Deck 10 and got a spot on the rail to watch the drop.  There was quite a wait but eventually a C-130 was sighted at which time, of course, my camera battery died!  After the drop was made I rushed to the room for a spare and managed to get some more shots.  On the way to a now VERY late lunch we came across Josef and Lorraine and he wanted help with his new watch which is like mine.  Consequently, it was 5:00 by the time we ate.

For reasons that are unclear now, I apparently failed to make any notes about the evening so, except for a picture that says we were in the Explorer Lounge at some point, the rest is lost to history . Such a tragedy!

Thursday, May 2 - At Sea
(Noon Pos'n 42º 55' N, 134 º 03' W)

I awoke at 7:30 and decided to close my eyes for a few minutes and opened them again at 9:00.  We were scheduled for a Mariner's Brunch at 11:00 so skipped breakfast and hung out in the room.  Had brunch with a Swiss guy who was interesting to talk to, then tried without success to check e-mail.

Though there were only 6 people present, Philippe proceeded with a nice Champagne tasting (actually, 2 were not really Champagne).  Afterwards, Lin got her nails done while I went to an interesting "Inside Magic" presentation by the magician we'd missed last night.

On the way back to the room I grabbed some nachos thinking Lin would soon be back but she was almost 2 hours and by that time they were gone as was some red wine.  When Lin returned, I tried to check e-mail.  Got into Outlook but not Yahoo.

We had a drink in the Explorer's Lounge before dinner but Adagio was not scheduled to play until 8:30.  Except for the show, there was no musical entertainment available at all.

Dinner at the Pinnacle was perfect!  Got to the room at about 11:00 and set the clocks ahead for the last time.

Friday, May 3 - At Sea
(Noon Pos'n 47º 32' N, 127 º 03' W)

I was up at 8:00 and tried again without success to get e-mail.  Lin wasn't feeling well so it was 10:00 by the time we got to the Lido for breakfast.  Checked e-mail again and got in finally, when returned to room for some work at the computer.  I got a lot of work done on improving the New Product Development assessment tool I use in my consulting.

Pinnacle GrillGrabbed some lunch from the grill before the last wine tasting.  This was the Italian tasting hat had been cancelled earlier in the week but there was a change.  This time Philippe who was dressed in ship's uniform instead of tux decided we'd do a blind tasting.  Wines presented were a Prosecco (no confusion there!), a 2008 Barbera, a 2010 Super Tuscan and a 2007 Brunello.  Philippe reminded us about what to look for in color, nose, etc, and challenged us to write the name of each on the placemat under the glasses.  Surprisingly, Lin and I each independently got them all right!!

Dinner in the PinnacleGot a lot more work done before heading for dinner at the Pinnacle.  Lin had reserved a table in "Section 1" which is somewhat set off from the rest of the restaurant to keep us away from the racket from Vivienne in the Ocean Bar.  Sadly, they hadn't saved it for us. The headwaiter, Sebastian, was really apologetic and gave us another that was also pretty quiet as well as two classes of champagne as compensation.  He also checked back when the band started to be sure we were OK.  Dinner was fantastic.  Lin had filet and I strip.  We shared a bottle of the Sicilian merlot we'd had at the Le Cirque dinner.  All in all a perfect evening though we were both sated by the time we got to the room and neither of is slept really well.

Saturday, May 4 - Vancouver, BC, CA

We were docking when I awoke at about 6:30 and, sadly, we were on the pier side.  After breakfast in the Vista, we got off the ship and simply walked to Gas Town and browsed in a few stores before returning to Canada Place to get some good views of the harbor. 

After discussing options, we headed back to the ship early to beat the passengers getting on in Vancouver.  We had learned to our disgust that our past night aboard was to be totally spoiled because HAL had sold 1 day cruises and this would become essentially a booze cruise.  I got the bright idea of eating in the Pinnacle and it turned out to be a perfect choice, which became more and more evident as the masses came onboard.  This is definitely the Carnival crowd not, HAL's. 

After lunch, Lin went to the room and I went to the Seaview to read and take pics.  At the risk of some hate mail I will say that, while the eye candy was much better, these people do not belong on OUR ship!

Went down and started packing at 3:00 but had to break at 4:15 to AGAIN go through the safety drill.  Again, these new folks exhibited their ignorance by bringing their beer along (forbidden) and talking through the whole thing. 

After packing, we had time to read a bit before dressing for dinner.  Our assumption that the Ocean Bar would be a zoo was valid so we went to the Explorer's Lounge to listen to Adagio.  It became pretty crowded with mostly "our" people but a few newbees. 

I had made a 8:00 reservation at the Vista but, because I knew there was to be a wedding reception there, I stopped by before 7 to check with Yopi.  Apparently Doody had not made the reservation (not the first time for him) and Yopi said if I wanted Leo it would have to be right now or 8:30.  I raised hell and he gave me 8:15.  At 8:15 we had to elbow our way through the wedding guests and hordes of others. Doody was at the desk and said started with, "But…"  I said "No 'but', you made a reservation, Yopi confirmed it and I will sit in Leo's station NOW."  He said he'd put us elsewhere and have Leo cover it and I refused that as well as it would have been unfair to Leo.  Interestingly, within minutes we had a table that we'd sat at twice before and, as it was a 4-top, there would have been room for two others!  The place was an absolute zoo with zillions of shouting people everywhere.  Leo and Andri, the waiter, soon know how pissed we were and Gordon, the assistant Manager came to talk to us.  I told him that HAL was finished as far were are concerned. He said that the new crowd had already keyed graffiti into the brass in one of the elevators and broken 3 glasses on deck 5 before grinding the glass into the rug.  Nice folks.

In the end, the crowd thinned out and things got a little more civilized.  It was sad to say good bye to Leo, with whom we had become quite close (we still occasionally correspond!) 

Got one last Spanish Coffee, listened to Adagio for a bit and went to the Piano bar.  Sadly, that was a zoo, also, so we headed up.  Unfortunately, I let my anger get the better of me and had a hard time sleeping.  Even played on the tablet on the balcony for awhile but even that didn't help.

Sunday, May 5 - Seattle, WA

I awoke at 6:00 as we were nearing Seattle.   Breakfast came at about 6:30 and we were ready to go by 7:30.  We were among the last off the ship shortly after 9:00.  There was a lot of confusion about the transfer but eventually we got on and were at the Sheraton Downtown and checked in by 10:00.  Pike Street MarketRoom was not ready so we left 6 bags with the bellman and walked to Pike Street Market to look around.  Had a bite to eat while looking at the harbor, walked quite a bit and were back by 11:20.  Sat for a while but had the room shortly after 11:30.  Linda napped and I tried to do so as well.  Read for a bit, woke Lin and we walked to KuKuRaZa for popcorn.  Loafed until time to dress for dinner.

Chittenden locksOur friends, Mike & Sandra picked us up at 4:30 and took us first to see the Chittenden locks and then up along the water to see the crowds on the beach before arriving for our 6:00 reservation at Ray's Boathouse for an absolutely perfect dinner.  Beautiful window seat overlooking the channel great food and, of course, great conversation with longtime friends.  Got back to the hotel at 8:30.

Monday, May 6 - Home

Part of our package was a transfer to the airport so we had vouchers for the shuttle.  Grabbed it at 7:15 and were at SEATAC about 45 minutes later.  For international flights, we normally fly out of and into New York or Philadelphia and use ground transportation from there.  Since this was a domestic flight and you can no longer avoid a connection without paying ransom even when flying between major hubs, we'd planned on making the connection in Newark and then flying to AVP near home.  Since departure time was not until 10, we had a leisurely breakfast at Bigfoot Food & Spirits.  With time to kill and free Wi-Fi, I checked the statistics for the flight to EWR but, sadly, didn't bother with the one to AVP. That was a huge mistake!.  I thought about calling our driver to confirm his picking us up at the airport but I figured I'd do that right before we boarded the plane in Newark.  That turned out to be another huge mistake.

The flight we'd booked from Newark to home gave us well over 2 hours to connect so we settled down for a bite to eat and some good wine at Le Grand Comptoir.  Eventually we wandered to our gate but still had time to kill, or so I thought.  While we were sitting there, I checked FlightAware to get the flight status and found it had already left!  While we were away, the airline changed the departure time and never notified us!!  Yes, the boarding pass has the correct time but, more like a novice than the seasoned traveler that I am, I hadn't checked it!  Of course, that was the last flight of the night.

I called the driver to tell him of our situation and to ask whether he could come for us if we could not get a rental.  He could but of course that would mean waiting for 2 hours for his arrival.  He gave me a number for Budget and, after a fair bit of delay and aggravation, we got a car and drove home.  The pity was that the driver had picked up another customer who had the same change the night before and was wondering what time we'd arrive. Had I called him from Seattle, he'd have raised the issue.  So, rather than getting home earlier than expected, we were later and a lot more tired.  Not a great way to end the trip!  Oh, our bags had gone on to AVP to be picked up in the morning.

The bottom line

Though I was very unhappy with Holland America, especially about their disrespect on the last leg, the trip was a great one and we're glad we went. In fairness I must say that in spite of many small and one huge aggravations they had some plusses; food was very good, the menus never repeated even over all those days and their intimate wine tastings (when they actually came off) were heads and shoulders above the rowdy ones on Princess.

Given all of that and while I swore that nothing would entice me back to HAL, I confess that we've signed up for another cruise with them.

I enjoy creating my own pages but one of the limitations is space for pictures. If you want to see a map and many more pix from this trip, check out my blog on TravBuddy.