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Vancouver to Hilo – day 5 at sea

Oct 6, 2017 – Fifth day at sea – enroute from Vancouver, BC to Hilo, Hawai’i

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

There is a Deck Sale this morning beside the Lido Pool, which is always a good time to buy Holland America Line apparel at discounted prices, but I don’t find any t-shirts or golf shirts I like. The ship’s photographers are also there selling photo albums and cameras – a new sales angle for them!

Ginny Stibolt’s talk this morning: How Modern Farming Changed a Civilization –  Beginning in the 1800s, farming crops such as sugar, pineapple, and others changed Hawaii in many ways. What I learned:

  • The last sugar mill  in Hawai’i closed in 2016
  • Pineapples don’t ripen after being picked
  • Not much pineapple is commercially grown in Hawai’i now – new crops have taken over the lead, including Roundup-ready crops, GMOs, seeds, papaya, Macadamia Nuts, Cacao (source of chocolate), coffee, floral crops – native and exotic.

I go for a swim in the Ocean View pool in the stern of the vessel after lunch today. It is the first day which is warm enough outside for swimming. The water is cool, but I enjoy the exercise!

My friends have been raving about the quartet playing chamber music at the Lincoln Center Stage venue aboard ship, so I join them this evening. The Masterworks by Brahms is an absolutely stunning performance! People are raving about this group, and the venue is full for virtually every performance.

I have been setting my clocks back an hour most evenings before I go to bed since we are sailing westward. As of 2AM we will now be on Hawaii Local Time, so there will be no more time changes until we start sailing back to Vancouver.

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Vancouver to Hilo – days 3 & 4 at sea

Oct 4, 2017 – Third day at sea – enroute from Vancouver, BC to Hilo, Hawai’i

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

Ginny Stibolt’s talk this morning: Hawaii: A Timeline of Paradise – The origins of the beautiful Hawaiian Islands, the nature of their plants and animals, and how the natural aspects of this paradise have changed over time. I learn that native species in Hawai’i are rare, and even rarer now that many invasive species of plants and animals have been brought in by settlers.

Anti-crepuscular rays at sunset

Anti-crepuscular rays at sunset

My friends and I go up to the Lido for lunch, but can’t find a table, so we go down to the dining room and have a very nice lunch with a couple from Langley, BC, and a woman from south Florida.

Oct 5, 2017 – Fourth day at sea

As is my habit while aboard ship, I go up to the Explorations Cafe for Continental Breakfast: the essential cappuccino, a blueberry cake and some muesli. I find a chair in the adjacent Crow’s Nest Lounge with a forward-facing view and chat with a woman from Parksville and a man from Seattle. The man from Seattle is folding US Dollar bills into origami figures he invents. One is a dress shirt and a tie – very clever!

I meet my friend in the Explorations Cafe for coffee at 10:30AM, and then sit outside on the Upper Promenade Deck 3 to listen to the first four chapters of my Margaret Atwood Audible book The Handmaid’s Tale. I go down to the main dining room for lunch, and sit at a table with the woman from Richmond and her mother from Sidney again – even on a ship this big, you can bump into people more than once! I have a lovely spinach and mushroom salad with grilled salmon on top and some frozen yogurt for dessert.

Ginny Stibolt’s talk this afternoon: Ancient Farming: Roots of a Civilization – she follows up yesterday’s talk by describing how Polynesian wayfarers brought seeds, cuttings, and root stock of plants they’d need in unknown lands (Hawai’i).

This evening, my friends and I have dinner at Tamarind, a Pan-Asian restaurant featuring the cuisine of Southeast Asia, China and Japan. We are all very impressed with the food and service. Our selections:

  • Jewels of the Sea – shrimp-filled wontons with sliced baby bok chop, lemon grass-sesame broth
  • Crisp Fried Soft Shell Crab with Thai dipping sauce
  • Hoisin-Lime Glazed Sea Bass – pan-seared, wok-cooked Asian greens
  • Penang Red Curry Coconut Chicken – spiced chicken, snow peas, eggplant, zucchini, pimientos, opal bail, lemon grass, lime juice, red curry, coconut milk
  • Taiwanese Braised Pork Belly – soy-egg, pickled vegetables, sticky rice, bok choy with oyster sauce
  • Mango Cloud – light egg white soufflé mango sorbet
  • Thai Mini Doughnuts – chocolate, mango & ginger sauces
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Vancouver to Hilo – day 2 at sea

Oct 3, 2017 – Second day at sea – enroute from Vancouver, BC to Hilo, Hawai’i

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

At Ginny Stibolt’s talk this morning: Rainforest: The Most Diverse Ecosystems in the World, I learn:

  • Photosynthesis and respiration are equal and opposite natural cycles
  • Only about 20% of oxygen produced is supplied freely to outside the rainforest, 80% is consumed internally to the rainforest
  • Forests only temporarily sequester carbon, unlike oceans where carbon is more-or-less permanently sequestered
  • In Borneo, 700 tree species are found in 25 acres
  • 80% of insect species are found in tropical forests
  • Old cellphones are being used in the Amazon to detect the sounds of chainsaws cutting trees, and transmitting reports back to authorities. They are powered from solar panels.
  • Costa Rica is restoring their rain forest by planting at least 15 native species of plants and trees

It is 19ºC at noon today, but when I was outside on Promenade Deck walking four circuits, I was wearing my fleece jacket zipped up because of the cool breeze. I go to the Explorations Cafe at noon for a cappuccino and have a chocolate chip cookie and a couple of little cocktail sandwiches for a lunchtime snack, since I’m skipping having a big lunch today. This afternoon the mv OOCL London container ship is very close to the Eurodam (see banner image above).

I go to see an hour-long video this afternoon produced by the BBC: Earth Inside Earth: A Privileged View. This is very interesting, highlighting wildlife photographers working in the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Desert in Jordan, with Capuchin monkeys in SE Asia, and with breeding Adela Penguins in Antarctica.

 

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Vancouver to Hilo – first day at sea

Oct 2, 2017 – First day at sea – enroute from Vancouver, BC to Hilo, Hawai’i

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

I have breakfast in the main dining room this morning. I am seated at a large table with five other British Columbians from Sidney, Richmond, Nanoose Bay, and Vernon. Obviously this cruise appeals to Canadians, especially those of us from the west coast, since it departs and returns to Vancouver.

Speaker: Ginny Stibolt

Speaker: Ginny Stibolt

My friends and I are very pleased with presenter Ginny Stibolt, a botanist, naturalist and dedicated gardener. She gives wonderful talks about the natural world around us almost every day we are at sea on this cruise. This morning’s presentation is: Oceans: The Real “Lungs” of the World. – “We can thank the oceans’ plants for the oxygen in our atmosphere”.

This afternoon, there is a presentation “Make the Most of Your Visit to Hilo and Honolulu” by the onboard EXC Guide Eve. I’ve visited Hawai’i so many times, I could probably give this presentation, however I attend anyway so I can pick up any updated information about our ports-of-call.

Joe sipping some Prossecco in the main dining room on Gala Night

Joe sipping some Prossecco in the main dining room on Gala Night

It is Gala Night this evening aboard ship, which means most people are dressed in their best. My friends and I go to the main dining room at 5:30PM, and although there is a long line to get in, we are given a window table on the top level normally reserved for fixed seating guests. I order escargots, arugula salad, and beef tenderloin steak with prawns (see photo in the banner image above). We have a bottle of Proscecco sparkling wine, which goes nicely with pretty well everything we order, including Beef tenderloin steak with prawns (banner image above) and a vegetarian entree.

After dinner, we go to the main showroom to join the captain in a toast to a successful voyage, and then stay for the Off The Charts – Billboard Hits Rewind show, which is excellent…performed by the ship’s entertainers. The show is quite a big step up from the ship-board shows I’ve seen on other Holland America ships. I don’t know if HAL is upgrading all their shows, or this is unique to their larger ships like the Eurodam.

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Victoria to Vancouver & Eurodam departure

October 1, 2017 Sunday – Victoria to Vancouver and Eurodam’s departure

2017 Hawai’i Cruise

My friends and I take the BC Ferries Connector bus service from Victoria direct to the Vancouver Cruise Ship Terminal. This is a great service, since once your checked (and tagged) bags are on the bus, they will be delivered right to your cabin on the ship! Since there are quite a few tour groups jamming the ship’s public areas, we go to the Seawest Lounge aboard the BC Ferry Coastal Celebration and have some snacks and coffee. A modest fee is charged in this area, but it is nice and quiet, getting us away from the crowds, and the snacks and beverages are included.

It is a cool and cloudy morning as we cross the Strait of Georgia to Tsawwassen Terminal. The bus goes directly to the cruise ship terminal and takes us right to the entrance, where we pre-clear US Customs and Immigration, go through ship’s security, and finally check-in to receive our cabin key cards. Boarding the ship after that is simply a matter of walking the gangways until we are aboard the Eurodam and have ship-board security scan our cabin key cards for the first time. Within 10-15 minutes after entering my cabin, my main checked bag arrives at the door, so I’m all set for the upcoming trip!

JoeTourist: Eurodam &emdash; Wendy and Joe on Deck 5 Forward as Eurodam departsI meet up with my friends in their cabin this afternoon while the ship is still docked. My friends found the bars aboard ship have a dozen beer on sale today, so we sit on their verandah watching the loading activity before our departure. I decide to find some lunch in the Lido, bringing a nice vegetarian sandwich back to their cabin to eat and have a beer with it!

Later, we go out onto Deck 5 forward to watch Eurodam leave the dock and depart Vancouver harbour under Lions Gate bridge. I try out my GoPro Hero5 Black camera by taking a video time lapse with it all the way until we clear the bridge and sail past English Bay into the beautiful sunset. I’m also shooting with my Canon 6D dSLR since it is so beautiful as we leave port.

When we go for dinner in the main dining room by 7:30PM, there is quite a line of people waiting, however we are seated within about 10 minutes or so and have a lovely dinner as the ship sails down Georgia Strait and the Salish Sea. I return to my room and work on my computer since I still have LTE and later 3G connection with my Canadian cellular service as we sail past Victoria to drop off the pilot and continue out the Strait of Juan de Fuca and into the open Pacific Ocean. The signal from the 3G lasts a surprisingly long time past Sooke! I guess it’s because I’m on the side of the ship facing the Canadian shoreline.


Eurodam departs Vancouver from JoeTourist on Vimeo.

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2016 Solar Eclipse Cruise in SE Asia

Feb/Mar 2016 Solar Eclipse Cruise map in SE Asia aboard the Volendam

2016 Solar Eclipse Cruise map in SE Asia aboard the Volendam

In March 2015, I booked a Holland America cruise in southeast Asia, which takes me to the southeast Asian countries of: Singapore, Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The Volendam leaves Singapore on February 16, 2016 on the 30-DAY ASIAN ADVENTURE & INDONESIAN SOLAR ECLIPSE COLLECTOR cruise, sailing north to Malaysia, Burma/Myanmar and Thailand before returning 15 days later to Singapore. We spend two nights in Singapore, and then depart again on the Solar Eclipse portion of the cruise, which sails south to a variety of ports in Indonesia. We observe the solar eclipse on March 9th in the Makasar Strait, between the islands of Borneo and Sulawesi. Weather permitting, our ship will be positioned on the eclipse centreline, which will give us 2 minutes and 45.5 seconds of totality. The cruise terminates in Singapore with an overnight at the dock on March 16 & 17.

My booking is actually two back-to-back cruises, both departing from Singapore. I am paying the Single Supplement (150% of one fare) for a cabin on the Main Deck. As I write this in November 2015, Holland America indicates some classes of cabins on this cruise are Sold Out.

The Sun in eclipse totality - 3rd contact & diamond ring

The Sun in eclipse totality – 3rd contact & diamond ring

Sky and Telescope are running their solar eclipse tour aboard the same ship, however I did not book with them since I wanted a 30 day cruise, and their arrangements are for either 9 days or 15 days. I board the Volendam two weeks earlier in Singapore than the S&T tour’s departure date and visit three more SE Asian countries, which appeals to me. The downside to booking directly with Holland America instead of through S&T is that I won’t be able to attend their enrichment presentations while aboard the ship. To be honest, I don’t much care about this, since there are only two or three of their presentations I would want to attend. I don’t really need any coaching on the technical aspects of observing a solar eclipse while aboard a ship, since I have experience from the 2012 Solar Eclipse Cruise aboard the Paul Gauguin in the Coral Sea.

In May 2015 I booked my flights from Vancouver to Singapore through Cathay Pacific airline. This is optimum timing from the departure date to get the best fare possible. If I booked this fare today (some six months later), the airfare would cost many hundreds of dollars more, since it is closer to the departure date.

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2012 Total Solar Eclipse

November 14, 2012 – Wednesday – Total Solar Eclipse of the Sun – observed from aboard the Paul Gauguin cruise ship sailing about 200km south of New Caledonia in the Coral Sea

Map of 2012 Solar Eclipse track in the South Pacific

Map of 2012 Solar Eclipse track in the South Pacific

I am up at 5:30AM, beating my alarm by a few minutes. Skipping breakfast, I gather my eclipse gear and setup on the Pool Deck. I mount my Kestrel 4500 portable weather station on a nearby towel deposit box, and also mount my little Fuji point-and-shoot camera on the same box to take some HD video during Totality (and a minute before and after).

My observing log entry for the eclipse:

Date/Time – local ship’s time
Start: Nov 14, 2012 6:49AM
Finish: Nov 14, 2012 8:12AM

Location: On the totality track 200km south of New Caledonia in the Coral sea, South Pacific
Position: 26° 40′ 0″ S 166° 46′ 54″ E

Observers: 320 passengers (and some crew) on board the Paul Gauguin cruise ship

I observe a total solar eclipse from the pool deck of the cruise ship Paul Gauguin, as part of a TravelQuest tour group. Rick Fienberg and Bill Kramer, in cooperation with Captain Ante-Toni Mirkovic decide to turn the ship 180° just before 1st Contact in order to avoid a large cloud which is starting to obscure the view of the Sun. This proves to be a good move, since we are now slowly sailing away from the clouds in the area, and yet continue to stay within the maximum totality centreline track.

  • 1st Contact 6:57:20AM Alt=26º
  • 2nd Contact 8:01:20AM Alt=40º
  • Totality lasts 3 minutes, 1 second
  • 3rd Contact 8:04:21AM Alt=40º
  • 4th Contact 9:16:47AM Alt=57º
The Sun in eclipse totality - 3rd contact & diamond ring

The Sun in eclipse totality – 3rd contact & diamond ring

A few minutes before 2nd Contact, my portable weather station records the expected sharp drop in temperature, and the light levels are greatly reduced. About 10 minutes before 2nd Contact, Venus is visible to the left of the Sun, and then as darkening continues, Saturn also appears equidistant between Venus and the Sun.

A dramatic darkening occurs during totality (2nd Contact to 3rd Contact). During totality, I visually observe spectacular coronal streamers. Although I do not find that Bailey’s Beads are easily observed during this eclipse, I observe a red glow around parts of the perimeter of the Sun and some solar prominences are visible.

There is lots of hooting and hollering as the (second) spectacular diamond ring appears at 3rd Contact. I capture these human reactions to experiencing a total solar eclipse using my little Fuji XP point-and-shoot camera using its HD video mode.

I stop observing and photographing the eclipse shortly after 3rd Contact, although I continue to take temperature readings.

Everyone has a smile on his or her face after the event is over, and there are lots of stories told afterward at lunch and dinner. Despite it only being 9:30 in the morning, Corona beer and cocktails are served to celebrate our success. I have a celebratory cappuccino, and finally have my breakfast mid-morning at La Palette.

2012 Total Solar Eclipse – Bill Kramer’s Eclipse Chasers website, including his personal report and links to other reports


Air temperature during the 2012 Total Solar Eclipse while aboard the Paul Gauguin in the Coral Sea

Air temperature during the 2012 Total Solar Eclipse while aboard the Paul Gauguin in the Coral Sea

I take temperature measurements from my position on the Pool Deck before, during and after totality. My readings are measured with a Kestrel 4500 personal weather station, which is mounted about one metre above the ship’s deck.

6:57AM 23.2ºC – 1st Contact
7:20AM 22.0ºC
7:39AM 20.9ºC
7:55AM 20.5ºC
8:01AM 20.2ºC – 2nd Contact
8:04AM 19.8ºC – 3rd Contact
8:12AM 20.3ºC
8:25AM 21.3ºC
9:00AM 24.2ºC
9:16AM 24.0ºC – 4th Contact
12:20PM 20.4ºC

The temperature drop is 3.5ºC, which is much lower than expected. Obviously the mild climate near the ocean’s surface results in less daytime heating, and therefore less temperature range is covered for this eclipse at this location.

I dedicate the temperature measurements I took during this eclipse to the memory of Jim Low, a long time member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Toronto Centre. If Jim had survived, I’m sure he would have traveled with his fellow Toronto Centre members to Australia, and would have recorded the temperature drop, as he did when I traveled with this group to observe the Total Solar Eclipse (my first) from the Libyan Sahara Desert in 2006.

 

On board the Paul Gauguin – Fiji to New Caledonia

 

November 11, 2012 – Sunday – Our first day at sea – enroute from Lautoka, Fiji to New Caledonia

The ship’s clocks were set back an hour last night, so I wake up around 5AM. I have to fill in some time before I can get a cappuccino and a French pastry at La Palette at 6:30AM. I am battling a nasty cold I obviously picked up while aboard the flight down to Fiji…damned airliners!

TravelQuest and Wilderness Travel have fully chartered the ship, so they have arranged a wonderful array of enrichment speakers, which start their presentations today. When we are at sea, there are four presentations scheduled for each day. What a change from the Incan Empires Cruise on the Rotterdam last year, where there was a dearth of enrichment speakers!

9:30AM Speaker: How to Experience and Enjoy the Eclipse – Rick Fienberg gives an engaging talk about the basics of total solar eclipse watching, covering off the best ways to experience the eclipse, a bit of advice about photography and visual observing, safety tips, the sequence of events, and some practical advice on how to enjoy this special experience.

11AM Speaker: Seabirds of the South Pacific, Living on the wide, wide sea – Dr. Roger Lederer describes a wide variety of seabirds who inhabit the islands we are traveling to, and also mentions other notable seabirds who inhabit other parts of the Pacific Ocean.

2:30PM Speaker: Coral Reefs – Ethan Daniels‘ presentation shows us how coral reefs formed eons ago, what wildlife make their home in the reefs, and where the great reefs of the world are located. Ethan works part-time for Wilderness Adventures, and spends the rest of his time researching the biology of reefs and the wildlife in Indonesia and other areas where the world’s greatest reefs are located.

4PM Speaker: Anatomy of the Sun, from Core to Corona – Holly Gilbert works for Ames/NASA in Solar Physics as a solar prominence specialist. Despite confessing to not feeling well because of the ship’s motion, Holly delivered a great talk with lots of information about the various layers and processes going on with the Sun.

I meet my cabin stewardess Diojani this afternoon; who is a very nice young woman who keeps my stateroom immaculate throughout the voyage. I find out from the bridge (through the Front Desk) that Magnetic North is 349º True in this area of the world, so I calculate the magnetic declination to be 11º East in order to setup my Kestrel weather station’s wind direction. I go for dinner to L’Etoile, the main dining room again, and meet another interesting group of people. I turn in early, since I’m still not quite comfortable with all the time zone changes lately.

November 12, 2012 – Monday – Second day at sea – enroute from Fiji to Ile des Pins, New Caledonia

As I mentioned previously, TravelQuest and Wilderness Travel have an excellent choice of enrichment speakers aboard, so here is today’s line-up, along with some of my comments:

9:30AM Speaker: Capturing the Eclipse in Images & Video – Bill Kramer (Eclipse Chasers) gives advice I mostly agree with, but then he says to not set cameras over ISO 400, which I disagree with. My thought is that we are on a moving platform, so capturing sharp, in focus images without any apparent image motion is important. I think that means using higher than normal ISO. Lower ISO will give a richer image, but we can’t afford that while on board a ship.

11AM Speaker: The Navigators – Human Settlement of Oceania – Mark Eddowes is an anthropologist from New Zealand who is based in French Polynesia, and gives a very interesting talk, although it takes almost twice as long as scheduled. He describes how the Lapita people migrated from SE Asia to the western Pacific Islands.

2:30PM Speaker: The Sun-Earth Connection – Holly Gilbert is a solar specialist from NASA who talks about the solar wind, solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and solar prominences, and how these various phenomena affect the Earth.

4PM Speaker: Highlights of the Southern Night Sky – Rick Feinberg highlights all the same objects to be found in the southern night sky which I would have talked about. He starts off his talk describing how our location on the Earth affects what we observe in the night sky, and goes from there.

I am thrilled with the quality of the presentations given today, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming presentations during the rest of the cruise. I have an hour long nap before dinner, since this “cold” I thought I was suffering from is actually a throat infection, which is making me quite miserable and tired.

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Departing Lautoka, Fiji aboard the Paul Gauguin

November 10, 2012 – Saturday – First Landing Resort, then board the Paul Gauguin in Lautoka, Fiji

JoeTourist: Lautoka & Nadi &emdash; Left Foot Island at First Landing ResortI fell asleep at the computer last night while composing my first JoeTourist blog entry, so I finish that entry this morning, finalize the photos for a new Lautoka album on my JoeTourist photo hosting service, and then log into the Internet service to use my allotted one hour connect time before I leave. Of course, once I upload all the photos and do the other online work, there is only a bit of time remaining to browse facebook, and send a couple of emails. Internet aboard the ship will be low speed and expensive, so I’m glad to take advantage of the shore-side connections this morning.

I will board the Paul Gauguin this afternoon in Lautoka, so I pack up this morning, and my porter Koso comes at 11AM to pick up my big bag, which he will store until I leave for the ship at 2PM. I have arranged with the front desk to take their shuttle for FJ$20. In the meantime, I find a table between the bar and restaurant under the shade trees, and settle in for a while. I have a Coca Cola to start, and then later have a delicious roasted chicken salad for lunch. It is garnished with strips of something preserved in soy sauce, which gives it a nice flavour. That takes me to 1PM, while I work on my travel journal off and on.

I talk with a group of Road Scholars who just disembarked the ship this morning. They are being shown around the area, doing village visits, and having lunch at the resort. Some of them stop to chat with me, and they seem to know all about the solar eclipse group boarding the ship this afternoon.

It is soon time for me to leave, so Koso pulls my bag from storage and I take the First Landing Resort shuttle to the Lautoka wharf. The driver is Indian, and once he knows I am going on a cruise to see a Total Solar Eclipse, he tells me Indian women who are pregnant have to stay indoors that day, and can’t watch the event. I’ve heard of this before in other cultures, most notably the Arabs. It is a bit inconvenient when we arrive at the gates to the wharf, since security won’t let any vehicles through without a clearance sticker. So I have to walk through the gate and pass security with my cruise ticket and passport, rolling my bag behind me. Once they check me off the list, I’m good to go. It is a short walk to the gangway, but I have no luggage tags once I get there, so a porter helps me lug my big bag up the gangway to the main lobby area. I’m about a half hour early, so they are still getting organized for boarding passengers. The cruise director ushers us into Le Grand Salon, where they are all setup to check in guests and take security photos. They also take our passports – to be returned when we disembark.

My cabin is very nicely appointed, despite being on one of the lower decks. The ship was refurbished a few months ago, so all the fittings look fresh and new. It is certainly a smaller ship than the Holland America ships I was on previously, and the decor is not as opulent as the HAL ships. The pool is tiny, but there is lots of space on the top two decks, so observing the eclipse should be no problem. The Promenade Deck below the lifeboats doesn’t go all the way around the ship, and isn’t used much. In fact, there aren’t any deck chairs on this deck, which is kind of odd.

We are serenaded by a group of Fijian men with traditional songs on the dock as the ship leaves, but it isn’t announced on board the ship, and so very few passengers go out on deck to enjoy the sendoff. I go for dinner to L’Etoile, the main dining room this evening, and I request to be seated at a large table. Since I’m traveling alone, this is a good way for me to socialize with people I might not otherwise meet. As it turns out, I know a couple seated at the same table this evening from a few years back when we both were on one of TravelQuest’s Costa Rican Southern Sky Fiesta tours.

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San Diego to Victoria – flights

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 – Day 31 – San Diego, USA to Victoria, Canada

I wake up around 5:30AM this morning as the transverse thrusters are turned on in preparation for our arrival in San Diego. This has been my wakeup call whenever the ship is arriving in port throughout the whole cruise. Thom the Cruise Director comes on the PA system at 6:30AM explaining how the disembarkation process will work, although we were already briefed at the Farewell Event yesterday. My deck ends up being called upstairs to clear U.S. Immigration fairly early, so after I go to the Lido buffet for breakfast around 8AM. I get to say goodbye to a steward who calls me by name and is always joking around.

The immigration clearance is going well for the rest of the passengers, and they appear to be ahead of schedule before things go off the rails. They can’t find a Mr. Jones, and until every last person clears immigration, nobody can leave the ship. The Express Departure time of 8:45AM goes by, as well as our departure window of 9:00AM. Finally about 9:15AM, they announce the Express passengers can leave the ship. We are called at about 9:45AM, which still leaves us plenty of time to find our bags and catch a taxi to the San Diego airport. After arriving about 20 minutes later at the airport, we check in with no line up, and then it takes 20 minutes to go through the security check to get to our gate.

There are lots of Rotterdam passengers aboard this flight, and the flight is also full of holiday travellers. San Diego airport has free Internet like Vancouver, which is a great idea. Of course, the system is swamped, but I manage to catch up with my email and facebook before they start loading the flight. As usual, Alaska is using a newer Boeing 737-800, and flight 483 departs on time at 12:20PM. I manage to take a few photos of San Diego from the air before the aircraft turns north.

Alaska Airlines offers in-flight Internet through the Gogo service. They want US$9.95 for the two-hour flight, which is a bit rich, but I might be interested if this were a longer flight. As the flight progresses, the landscape changes from farming valleys with irrigation ditches to desert, and later to frozen lakes and some snow cover. We hit a few bumps in the middle of the flight, so the pilots climb to a new flight level and things smooth out again. Horizon Airlines flight 2388 from Seattle to Victoria leaves on time, my bag appears on the belt in Victoria Airport, I clear Customs and Immigration, and I’m driving home by 6:30PM. It’s good to be home.