Sunday, October 03, 2010

Hawaii to Fiji

Oct 3, 2010 – Sunday – Volendam at sea, enroute Hawaii to American Samoa – see my previous blog entry for a description of our first day at sea after visiting Hawaii.

Oct 4, 2010 – Monday – Volendam at sea, enroute Hawaii to American Samoa – When I look out the porthole windows in my cabin this morning, it looks like we have returned to a gray northwest autumn day. However when I step outside on the Promenade Deck, it is obvious we are in the tropics as the warm and humid air hits my face.  After lunch, I went for a swim in the Sea View pool; swimming all by myself in the warm rain – great fun!

I listened to a couple of talks about our upcoming ports of call and Holland America’s 2011 cruising season in Europe.  I am interested in taking a Mediterranean cruise, and some of their repositioning cruises departing London or Amsterdam look to be very good value.  They stop in France, Spain and Portugal before entering through Gibraltar. I also listened to Dan Osler’s talk on European exploration of the South Pacific.  His talks are always interesting.

We are currently passing close to the Line Islands, although they are not within sight, just a spot on the course map NW of us.  We are also north of Kiribati, which are slightly better known islands in the middle of the Pacific, but again, they are out of sight.

Oct 5, 2010 – Tuesday – Volendam at sea, enroute Hawaii to American Samoa – There was a King Neptune ceremony held this morning on the stern deck Sea View Pool area.  Some pollywogs were initiated – judged by King Neptune (Jimmy, the Cruise Director). Every initiate had to kiss a big old ugly fish, be slimed with spaghetti and goo, and then accept punishment by either sitting out in the Sun or jumping into the pool.  The pool looked pretty disgusting after a few of the pollywogs washed off all that spaghetti and goo.

Other than the King Neptune ceremony, it was just another day at sea on our way to Pago Pago, which is still three days away.  We will actually cross over the Equator later this evening close to midnight or early tomorrow morning.  We are still struggling against a strong 30 mph wind from the East as we steer a SSW course.

This evening, I went up to the Sky Deck and caught my first glimpse of 47 Tucanae through my binoculars, a spectacular globular cluster near the Small Magellenic Cloud (which I did not see due to cloud).

Oct 6, 2010 – Wednesday – Volendam at sea, enroute Hawaii to American Samoa –Other than one astronomy lecture I want to attend this morning, the day is free to do as I wish.  There is no Internet connection or cellular repeater service today due to our position on the globe.  I take the opportunity to take photos of the inside of the ship, since there is some beautiful artwork (sculpture, painting, tapestry), and the public rooms and atrium are so classy looking.

I reserve a table for four at the Pinnacle Grill this evening.  Since it is formal night anyway, I thought it was about time we tried this specialty restaurant again.  I had the Caesar Salad to start (hand made at the table), and had Filet Mignon with baked potato and garlic butter sauce for my main. Others had a beef skewer flambéed with brandy before being served; Lobster tail served the classic way with drawn butter; and Steak Diane, which was also flambéed before being served.  Everyone except me had Cherries Jubilee, which again, was also flambéed before being served. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  There is a $20/person charge for this restaurant…well worth it for a nice change from the other options for dinner.

After dinner, I go to see the show: a Chinese performer playing the dulcimer.  He was very good.  I hadn’t appreciated just how flexible the dulcimer is – he played Chinese opera, contemporary pop, show tunes, and even a Dave Brubeck jazz number.  Afterward, I changed out of my dark suit and went upstairs to the Sky Deck to observe the stars with Donna.  I meet a young Dutch gay couple who are still dressed in formal wear, and who are so cute holding hands as they walk along.  John and I lend them our image stabilized binoculars (which they really appreciate) so they can see Jupiter and its moons and also the Pleiades.

Oct 7, 2010 – Thursday – Volendam at sea, enroute Hawaii to American Samoa – This is our last day at sea before landing in Pago Pago tomorrow morning. I slept in until 9am this morning, which is the latest so far on this trip.  After a breakfast of fresh fruit, Swiss Muesli, and French toast in the Lido, I went down to the Explorations Lounge and had a nice cappuccino while I woke up.  At 11am, I attend

We went up to the Lido buffet for lunch, where I had some Indonesian food - the feature today.  It was very good, and as expected it was a bit spicy.  After lunch, I went for a swim in the Sea View pool on the stern deck.  It was great to get some exercise, and also to be in the warm Sun for about a half hour.  This pool is salt water and is not as heavily used as the main Lido pool (fresh water).  After my swim, I have a cappuccino in the Explorers Lounge while Eugene, a talented guitarist plays soft tunes.  This is the life!

I went to see the Filipino Crew Show this evening, which was very entertaining.  They did the usual folkloric singing and dancing, which was all very well done.  One number was really funny, since two guys came on stage in drag.  One guy’s tits were oranges, which kept falling out of his dress, so he was constantly picking them up and stuffing them back in place – hilarious!

Oct 8, 2010 – Friday – Pago Pago, American Samoa – I set my alarm this morning, so I would see and photograph our arrival in Pago Pago.  The island of Tutuila is strikingly beautiful, with tall craggy mountains covered in vegetation.  The channel into Pago Pago harbour is narrow, and the harbour itself is quite small, however there was a cruise ship docked ahead of us – the Sapphire Princess.  It was huge compared with Volendam.  Needless to say, it was pure bedlam in the little town with two cruise ships in port at once. 

I went ashore for an hour in the morning.  Once I found the post office and mailed my postcards, and then wandered up to the Governor’s Mansion, I returned to the ship.  It was hot and humid, and I was glad to return to the comfort of the ship.  First thing I did was go for a swim in the pool.  There were some tropical downpours while I was swimming.

There were some Samoan visitors to the ship today.  They all had cameras and were taking photos of themselves, so I volunteered to take their photos a couple of times, so everyone could get into the shots.  I went to the show lounge this evening to see “Black Tie”, an Australian music and stand-up comedy show.  It wasn’t bad, but appealed more to the older folks.  Afterward, Donna called me to say the view from the Sky Deck was superb.  I saw the Large Magellenic Cloud and the Tarantula Nebula, as well as the Small Magellenic Cloud and 47 Tucanae.  It was my first time viewing the LMC and Tarantula.  Of course, it was a lovely warm tropical night, and the strong winds were gone.

Oct 10, 2010 – Sunday – Volendam at sea, enroute American Samoa to Fiji – We lost Saturday, Oct 9th last night as we crossed the International Date Line.  This morning we passed by Niuafo'ou, an island in Tonga.  It is a volcanic island which most recently in 1946 forced evacuation of its inhabitants.  We sailed quite close to the shore – perhaps within five miles - I take some photos.  We had lunch with Donna, “The Star Lady”, who we met in Costa Rica a couple of years ago on an astronomy themed tour.  She passed out “star” glasses, which we all donned and then had the waiter take our photo (much to his disgust).  We thought it was funny!

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