Hawaii to Samoa

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Oct 3, 2010 – Sunday – Volendam at sea, enroute Hawaii to American Samoa – I sleep in this morning, since this will be a lazy day at sea – the first of five days until we reach Pago Pago in American Samoa on Oct 8th. We had both lunch and dinner in the Lido restaurant today, so it was casual all the way. We avoided the formal night this evening as best we could. I picked up a slight burn yesterday from my time out on deck and in the pool.

I attended two lectures today – this morning Donna's "Excited about Exo-planets", where she talked about the recent discovery of a new exo-planet that appears to be Earth-like. Of course, she also described the history of the hunt for planets outside our solar system. This afternoon I attended a lecture by Dan Ostler (Donna's husband) where he described how the Polynesians navigated across the open Pacific Ocean; and also described how the ancestors of people of the South Pacific migrated across the world eastward from Africa. They were both good lectures which I enjoyed.

Sunset over the Hale o Keawe, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Honaunau, HawaiiLater this afternoon I make a presentation to the Astronomy Club group hosted by Donna. I showed RASC Victoria Centre - 2010 Calendar photos and gave a brief explanation behind each photo. I also added a shot of a sunset viewed through the Kikis from Pu-uhonau o Honaunau – Place of Refuge, and finished off with a photo of the lava flow into the ocean. Both photos were taken last October, and both represent opportunities missed on this voyage due to cloudy weather.

This evening we go up to Deck 6 forward to do some astronomical observing. There are no lights on this small deck located right in front of the bridge, so it is very dark, and the views of the night sky are superb. Despite some cloud cover, the Milky Way was just as bright as we observed on September 28th, and Jupiter's four most prominent moons were all lined up on one side of the planet (8pm local time). Speaking of time, our clocks are set back another hour this evening, making us five hours ahead of Pacific Time.

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 go 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 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.

King Neptune ceremony Aboard Volendam, crossing the Equator, enroute Hawaii to Pago Pago, Pacific OceanOct 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 cross 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.

Filet Mignon & giant prawns in the Pinnacle GrillI 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. My observing buddy and I lend them our image stabilized binoculars (which they really appreciate) so they can see Jupiter and its moons and also the Pleiades.

The Explorations Espresso Bar aboard VolendamOct 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 sleep 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 go down to the Explorations Lounge and have a nice cappuccino while I wake up. At 11am, I attend a lecture by Donna showing how the turning of the Earth affects what we can see in the night sky.  She had some audience participate for this presentation, which was fun!

We join my friends in the Lido buffet for lunch, where I had the feature today Indonesian food. It is very good, and as expected it is a bit spicy. After lunch, I go for a swim in the Sea View pool on the stern deck. It is 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 a talented guitarist plays soft tunes. This is the life!

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

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