Trip to Anywhere

2016 World Cruise Part 1

Posted on 02/15/2016

Hello Friends,
I have been on the World Cruise for just over a month now and am writing to let you know what has
been going on as we progress around the world.
The first day had a few difficulties as they had changed my cabin without asking or notifying me. I was
shocked to learn this as I had selected my cabin over a year ago. I was told that I had been upgraded but
I don’t think a smaller cabin located under a restaurant and next to a staff stairway is an upgrade. It
took a few days to work this problem out and when I had given up that there would be a solution I
finally started putting my things away. Of course the next day I was notified that there was another
cabin available. I met with the hotel manager and she took me to see the cabin. When we went to the
door I realized it was the same cabin I was in in for the 2013 world cruise. I took that as a good omen
and made plans to move there the next day. Meanwhile we were crossing the Caribbean toward our
first port of call in Costa Rica. The second morning of the Caribbean transit I was up on deck early and
saw a magnificent rainbow that stretched across the entire horizon. This was yet another good omen as
later that day I ran into an old friend from my first world cruise. Jessica is a lovely lady from Long Island
who I played trivia with on that first world cruise. We immediately had that same connection we did
previously and we chat and hang out by the pool for part of almost every sea day.
The seas have been unbelievably quiet up to this point in the voyage. The Caribbean was like a still lake
and the Pacific has been almost as calm. We had 2 slightly rocky days on the Tasman Sea but it also
calmed down for the other 2 days it takes to cross. Our first port was Puerto Limon in Costa Rica. Andy
and Oscar and some of their friends were in Costa Rica but didn’t expect to be on the Atlantic Coast so it
was a great surprise when I got an email from them saying they were going to meet me around noon the
day I was in Puerto Limon. Since Oscar grew up in Costa Rica and knew the area he was our tour guide
for the day. We had a great local lunch and drove around the town to see some historic places before
visiting a waterfront park area. Looking out to sea we could see an island that Columbus landed on. It
was a little sad to see them leave since I wouldn’t see them for more than 4 months. Back at the ship
we set sail early to be at the Panama Canal early in the morning to begin our transit. It was a perfect
day along the canal. It was partly cloudy, a constant 10 knot breeze and the humidity was low. I
watched our progress through the first lock from the gym, which is a great place to see all that goes on
at the locks. I have been working out every day there as well as in the pool. The scenery going through
the canal is beautiful. There are small islands all over and plenty of wildlife. I think the men enjoy the
engineering while the women enjoy the scenery. We also had a good look at the parallel canal that is
being built. Evidently they have pushed back the opening date on the new canal to 2017. Although I
have been through the canal 4 times I have never set foot on Panamanian soil so I was really looking
forward to the next day spent in Panama City. I didn’t see any tours that interested me so I made a plan
with a friend, Charlene, from the 2013 World Cruise to go to a big mall to pick up a few things. On my
list was caffeine free diet coke, a phone cable for my friend Alice who had an all-day tour, watch
batteries for 2 of my watches and an alarm clock because I had knocked over and broken mine in the
middle of the night. The shopping mission was accomplished and we had a chance to see a few things
along the way back to the ship. The most impressive thing we saw was the Frank Gehry designed Bio-
Diversity museum which is part of the Smithsonian.
We had a string of 8 sea days sailing toward Nuku Hiva, in the Marquises Islands, the eastern-most part
of French Polynesia. I love sea days and my typical schedule follows. I get up and go to the gym for an
hour on the recumbent elliptical then I get some breakfast and lounge by the pool, talking with friends
or reading for about an hour. Next, I do my water aerobics, shower, dress, go to trivia, go to painting
class, grab an afternoon snack, read by the pool or take care of errands, go to the cabin and dress for
dinner, have dinner, go to a show, sometimes stop by the piano bar then go back to my cabin to sleep.
During these sea days and up through Tahiti we have a Polynesian Cultural team on board and they do
some fun activities like making shell necklaces, making a head lei, learning to play a ukulele and more.
This has been a fun addition to the cruise that wasn’t in the past world cruises I have taken. When we
leave French Polynesia a Maori (New Zealand native people) Cultural team will join us and so on for
several parts of the trip.
Much as I like sea days it was exciting to look out the window and see the island of Nuku Hiva and other
small islands breaking up the monotony of the vast ocean. The harbor at Taiohae was beautiful. A large
anchorage filled with sail and work boats was surrounded by lush, green, rugged mountains. We went
ashore by tender and checked out the vendors but found the prices were very high for locally made,
beautiful items. The most beautiful place in the town was the Catholic Church, built in an island style
with religious carvings of local wood depicting the stations of the cross and other scenes with the figures
in Polynesian dress and faces. We walked to the far end of the town and back which took quite a long
time. The other really interesting thing we stumbled on during the walk was an archeological dig of a
site that is over 5,000 years old and contains stone tikis and other large statuary. After another sea day
we landed at a group of small islands that form a coral atoll in the Pacific. Avatoru is the largest of these
small islands that make up Rangorora in French Polynesia and its inhabitants are some of the nicest
people in the world. If you asked where something was they would walk with you to make sure you
found it. The pace of life is slow and easy. I went into a small store in the front of the owner’s house.
They carried drinks, a few toiletries, canned goods and so on. The husband of one of my friends was
having trouble with a sty in his eye and seeing that she carried basic medicine I asked if she had any eye
drops. She said she didn’t carry them but to wait a minute. She went into her house and came back
with a new bottle of eye drops that were hers. She insisted that I take them and wouldn’t let me pay
then she closed her shop to walk me to a nice beach for snorkeling. A few of her friends were at the
beach so she introduced me to them and when it was time to leave they waked back to the tender dock
with me. What great people!
Tahiti was next on our French Polynesia portion of the cruise. My plan for the day was to do some
shopping at the Farmers Market and take a walk along the waterfront. The shopping went well and in
addition to a few gift items I bought a beautiful bouquet of tropical flowers for my cabin and they lasted
2 weeks. The walk around the waterfront on Boulevard Pomare was lovely and Moorea, our destination
for the next day, was visible across the water. Moorea is considered the most beautiful of the French
Polynesian islands and I can’t agree more. There are many famous movies that have been filmed there
including South Pacific. I took a ships tour snorkeling with rays and black tipped sharks. I have done this
before and liked it so much that I wanted to do it again. The sharks just circle around and through the
area and are beautiful to observe. The rays are very social and like to slide along your legs. Their
underside feels like silk and their backs feel like suede. When they rub against you it is surprising how
strong their muscles are.
Our next stop after a day at sea was Roratonga in the Cook Islands. The Cook Islands are a territory of
New Zealand. We arrived early but the heavy swells made it impossible to tender in. This was my 3 rd
attempt to visit Roratonga by ship and I thought it would not be successful but the captain decided to go
around to the west side of the island where there is a smaller harbor. My original plan was to snorkel at
a beach on the east side of the island along with one of my tablemates, Jo. There were beautiful
beaches right where we got off the tender so we decided to stay there. We found a spot on the beach
under some trees and set up to enjoy a day on a tropical beach. We didn’t know then but we were in
for a lot more than a day on the beach. The channel through the reef into the dock is very narrow and
the current is very strong. As we were sitting on the beach watching one of the tenders entering the
channel it got caught in the current and ran aground on the reef. There were about 100 people on the
tender and it was hard aground. The driver tried everything to get off to no avail. The bad part of this
was that the tide was going out and after an hour the entire bottom of the tender was exposed. It was
hot and after about an hour staff from the ship come over in another tender with cases of water which
they walked out to the grounded tender. Some of the more fit passengers donned life vests and walked
to shore on the reef but it was a very hard walk. Then a zodiac came and shuttled some of the
passengers to the shore. As the tide was not scheduled to come up for about 6 hours a tug was finally
used to pull the tender off the reef. That even took a while and at one point the tender was tilted
precariously to one side, sort of hanging over the reef. We all cheered when it came off the reef. That
tender is still out of commission and it is taking longer to go into tender ports. It is supposed to be
repaired while we are in Sydney in a few days.
After leaving the Cook Islands we had 3 sea days to reach New Zealand proper. The Pacific continued to
be calm. We crossed the International Date Line during these sea days and lost the day of January 29 th .
On Feb. 1 we arrived at the Bay of Islands on the north end of the northern island of New Zealand. It is a
beautiful place which you enter from the Pacific at Cape Brett. Cape Brett features an island of solid
rock with an arch in it that is large enough for a 40 foot boat to go through. I have done that on a
previous trip to the Bay of Islands. As you sail up the bay the mainland is to the right and to the left are
hundreds of small and large islands. The area is full of Maori history (the aboriginal people of New
Zealand). The treaty between the British and the Maori was signed here at the Maori village of Waitangi
which is now a cultural heritage site. What made this treaty unique for the mid to late 1800s was that
the Maori were given the bulk of their native lands and were given full British citizenship. A few miles
away on the mainland is the town of Paihia and across the bay connected by ferry is the town of Russell.
Waitangi has the treaty house and a cultural museum. Paihia has the ferry terminal, a village green
which has crafters who sell hand-made items when ships are in or other events are taking place and
many small shops, a grocery store and plenty of restaurants. I always enjoy shopping there and then
taking the ferry over to Russell. Russell is the oldest town in the area. Darwin stopped there on his
famous voyage and found a town of bars and brothels serving seafarers. He was so appalled by the
town that her donated much of the money that built the first church in Russell. Today Russell has a
Victorian flavor, art galleries, antique shops, quaint hotels, restaurants and a beautiful waterfront
promenade along the beach. The day we were in the Bay of Islands was a national holiday so the bay
was full of boats – mostly sailboats –and the craft markets and restaurants were full of people. It was a
festive crowd and New Zealanders are so courteous it was easy to negotiate the crowds. I have been to
the Bay of Islands 4 times but never tire of visiting there. It is a truly beautiful place.
It isn’t far from The Bay of Islands to Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand. I have also been there
numerous times but never tire of sailing in past a very tall white lighthouse that looks like a Chesapeake
Bay screw-pile lighthouse only about 4 times taller. Just past the lighthouse to the right is the lovely
small town of Devonport while just beyond it on the left is the city of Auckland. They are quite a
contrast as Devonport is a small Victorian era town with beautiful old homes, small streets across from
beaches, cafes, galleries and beautiful flowers and huge old trees everywhere. Auckland is high rises,
marine terminals, the sky tower, and a busy downtown anchoring a sprawling city. I always take the
ferry over to Devonport when I am in Auckland because it is a lovely town, I have done most of the
attractions in Auckland, and because I like Devonport’s big suburban style grocery store. I always go
there to Devonport to enjoy the town but also to re-supply my protein bars and caffeine-free Diet Coke.
Beyond New Zealand and Australia it is impossible to find those things. The ferry terminal in Auckland is
next to the place we dock and a round-trip 15 minute ride to Devonport only costs $12.
After a sea day we arrived at Picton, New Zealand located on Queen Charlotte Sound at the north end of
New Zealand’s south island. The sail in Queen Charlotte Sound to Pucton is one of the more beautiful
sails one can experience on a cruise ship. Picton has a ferry terminal which brings in a lot of passengers
and their cruise business is growing because of the location near the cut between the north and south
islands. I notice a slight growth in the number of businesses and more vendors at the waterfront but the
town is still a lovely spot with wonderful people. I bought a few things from the vendors and then made
my way to the shop where I have had a haircut in the past. After my haircut I headed to the main street
and checked out a few shops. I stopped in at the library where they were inviting people in to use their
free internet and the rest rooms. I don’t like to use public internet, I would rather pay the price on the
ship, but most of the passengers and crew are in constant search of free internet. When I am in New
Zealand, and especially Picton, I always have the feeling that I have time-traveled back to the late 1950s.
I have mentioned that to others and they generally agree. Once we left Picton and sailed out of the
Queen Charlotte Sound the water became a little rougher. We entered the Tasman Sea during the night
and by the time it was morning we had some of the roughest sailing so far on the trip. It only lasted
until early evening and then it settled down. We had 2 more days on the Tasman to get to Melbourne
but it stayed calm the rest of the way.
We arrived in Melbourne, Australia; a city I have never been to before. I had planned to take the Hop
On Hop Off Bus there but learned that for $14 I could buy a transit card that would get me anywhere in
the city and included an hour long Tram/Streetcar drive around the most historic central part of the city.
I opted for that. The bus into the city was very nice and left us at the Arts Center. From there it was a
very quick walk to my first destination – a nail salon. I was told by the lady at the info center at the port
where I could find several nail salons that were very clean and not too expensive. She was right and I
was able to get what I wanted for half the price on the ship and about the same price as at home. It was
very pleasant and I was out and doing other things by 10:30 so it didn’t waste a big part of my day. Next
I walked around the central shopping district but only bought a few cards that I particularly liked. After
that I went on the Tram tour around the center city. I learned a lot about Melbourne in that hour and
saw many things I would be interested in doing but that will have to wait for my next visit. What I did
after the tour was go down to the riverfront where there are lovely paths along both sides, cafes, boat
rides, benches and occasional pedestrian bridges to cross from one side to the other. The weather was
perfect and the walk was perfect too. Eventually I made my way back to the Arts Center where I caught
the bus back to the port. It was a great day and I wish we had another day to explore more of
Melbourne.
After an earlier than usual departure from Melbourne we spent the evening, night and next day sailing
to Sydney. We headed in from the sea at about 5:30 AM so by the time we were approaching the
Circular Quay area of downtown the sun had just come up. At that time the light was beautiful for great
photos of iconic places such as the Opera House, the Harbor Bridge, Fort Denison, The Rocks, and
Sydney Tower. As many times as I have sailed into Sydney I still get excited and will get up at whatever
time it is necessary to view the sail-in. It is really the most beautiful approach to a city in all of the
world. Unfortunately, we were at the new White Bay terminal which is not easily accessible to the
Circular Quay area where the Sydney ferries and trains are located. My choice of transport to Circular
Quay where I was meeting an Australian friend who I met on the Antarctica trip last year was a ferry
between White Bay and Circular Quay. My ferry arrived just a minute or 2 after 9 and I found David at
Starbucks a few minutes later. After happy greetings we sat down and made a plan for the day. We
had discussed by email train trips and decided to head south along the coast to the lovely little beach
town of Kiama. The 2-hour ride gave us lots of time to catch up and for him to describe the areas we
were going through. Once we were out of Sydney and the suburbs, we passed by rivers and harbors,
small towns, a few industrial areas and mountainous regions; but for much of the trip we were riding
along the coast and a National Forest. The scenery was beautiful. Once we arrived at Kiama. We
headed from the train station to the waterfront where there is a rocky point with a lighthouse and a
blow-hole. The surf was not extremely strong but we saw a few blows through the blow-hole and I got a
good photo of one that was pretty strong. We stopped at a restaurant on the waterfront for some lunch
and walked through a park and around town for a while. One of the things I found interesting about
Kiama was that there was not one continuous beach but several inlets from the sea where beaches were
nestled right up along the town between rocky inlets. There were surfers on most of the beaches we
walked past and the waves looked a lot better than at Cape Canaveral or Cocoa Beach. The train ride
back to Sydney was around the end of the school day so there were groups of students getting on and
off the train heading home for the day. Back in Sydney we stopped at a pub in The Rocks before I caught
the shuttle back to the ship in White Bay. It was so nice of David to come down to Sydney and show me
such a lovely day.
We were in Sydney for 2 days so I had planned to go by ferry to Manly Beach. It is a place where I like to
walk along the beachfront which has a promenade that stretches from one side to the other of a fairly
large inlet. I had made up my mind to change my plan and go to Watson’s Bay (suggested by David) but
a friend I had said something to about Manly caught me at breakfast and wanted to go to Manly with
me so that is what we did. We took the ferry to Circular Quay then transferred to the ferry to Manly. It
has been 3 years since I was there and I found the shopping a little more upscale than the last time
which is good and bad. Luckily it was a beautiful day and the soft sand beach, good waves and the
lovely walkway along it haven’t changed. My friend Bonnie, who I see in the gym every morning, is
really into walking so she was thrilled with Manly. At one point we stopped and sat down on a bench in
the shade and suddenly a critter jumped from a rock behind us onto the grass about 2 ½ feet from my
feet. After I got over being startled I realized it was a lizard that was about 20-24 inches long. It seemed
harmless and didn’t appear bothered by us so we got our cameras out and took pictures of it; in fact, it
almost seemed to be posing for us. Others walking by stopped to take photos too. Eventually a little
boy came by and of course ran up to it so it jumped back onto the rock where it had come from and
then went up a tree. We took the ferry back to Circular Quay then walked over to the shuttle bus at
The Rocks that took us back to the ship.
Sydney was the end of the first of the four segments of our trip. Several terrific people I have met left
the ship the morning of our second day and of by the time we returned from Manly there were about
100 new passengers taking their places. I hope everyone receiving this is well.




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