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Cusco to Lima to Pisco

Tuesday, December 6, 2011 – Day 16 – Cusco to Lima, then to General San Martin/Pisco, Peru to embark Rotterdam

We are up at 6AM for a 7:20AM transfer to the airport for our 9AM flight to Lima. These early mornings will come to an end after today, once we return to the ship (thank goodness). Our LAN Peru flight arrives in Lima on time at about 10:30AM, but the checked bags take awhile to show up on the belt before we go to meet our driver in the Arrivals area. He only speaks Spanish and there appears to be an issue with something, so he calls the office so I can talk to them in English. They explain it is a 3.5 hour drive, and they want to ensure we arrive on time, so want to know if skipping the lunch stop along the way is OK with us. I readily agree and hand the cellphone back to our driver, so he can be told of our decision in Spanish.

JoeTourist: Lima to Pisco &emdash; Heading south on the freewayWe are out of the airport parking area by 11:00AM, which gives us plenty of time to drive south on the Pan American highway to the deep-water port of General San Martin, where Rotterdam is docked until a 6PM scheduled departure. All three of us are out of bottled water, so we know the Spanish word is “agua” and the driver understands we need to purchase some water before we go too far. Clearing the worse of the traffic snarls in Callao and then heading south through the coastal area of Lima takes the better part of an hour before we hit the toll road where our speed increases to 90 kmh. After picking up some bottled water at a gas station convenience store, we are ready for the next 3 hours in the Hyundai minivan. The air conditioning is on, and we are all in good spirits as we head south down this toll road, which is a freeway most of the route we take.

Just south of Lima is the high-class areas of Miraflores, Barranco and Chorrillos. Beautiful, mostly empty beaches dominate this area, with lots of beach facilities available. The changing scenery outside is amazing: huge mountains of sand I have not encountered since my trip to the Libyan Sahara. There is sand everywhere…dunes, beaches, hills and mountains, conglomerate ridges, and lots of beautiful colours. Further south along the coastline are numerous communities near the beaches, which are obviously vacation homes since they are within an easy commute from Lima. I see three vultures and one hawk sitting quite close together on a gravelly hill, which is odd to see these predators together.

Winding our way through Pisco is tricky, since the main road along the shoreline is closed for repair. All the big trucks are all turning tight corners in city streets, which aren’t designed for heavy traffic. Once we leave that congestion behind, we drive along the coastal road south of Pisco, and soon spot Rotterdam in the distance across the bay! This area is called Paracas, and is very sandy and incredibly flat. A tsunami would do some serious damage, since the bay is shallow and the land is flat. Even with a warning, it would be virtually impossible for residents to escape a tsunami since there are no elevated areas for many kilometers inland. There are refineries on the inland side of the road, and there are also fish processing plants in this area. The stink takes awhile to clear out of our vehicle as we proceed around the bay, heading for the ship.

We arrive at the ship by 3:30PM, so we are early, since the ship departs at 6PM. Our driver did a great job manoeuvring through all the traffic today…he must be exhausted. We are very glad to be back aboard the Rotterdam – our home away from home. We are looking forward to exploring new ports as she sails northward up the Pacific coast of South and Central America during the last half of our trip.

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Panama to Peru – at sea

After we leave Panama, we have two days at sea before arriving in our first port of call in Peru. I know many people who have yet to take a cruise have concerns about “sea days”. In particular, the question is often asked: what do you do with yourself? Perhaps you can find answers to this important question by reading my travelogue below.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 – Day 10 – At sea

Rotterdam with flags flyingToday and tomorrow are “sea days” until we reach our first port in Peru. I look forward to sea days, however some might wonder what happens aboard ship on these days when we are not in a port. How do you avoid tedium?

JoeTourist: Rotterdam, the ship &emdash; Sports Deck stern bar & entertainment screen and lounging poolWell, for starters there are 52 activities listed on today’s program starting at 7:00AM and finishing at midnight…or later, if you are up to it! These are just the planned activities offered by the ship’s Explorations staff. A sampling: listening to enrichment and travel information lectures, playing trivia, staff interviews, spa & acupuncture treatments and exercise programs, food cooking demos, playing games (bridge, trivia, shuffleboard, tennis, ping pong, chess), learning to dance, wine tasting, learning about computers, watching show lounge performances, listening to music in bars and lounges, dancing, or watching first run movies and recorded concerts.

Activities you do by yourself or with travel companions might include: reading a book, walking around the deck, drinking and eating, snoozing, writing a journal or novel, working on crafts and hobbies, swimming, sunbathing, taking photos (ships interior), planning your next cruise, cruising the Internet, playing board games, calling home, booking upcoming shore excursions, shopping, gambling, walking the decks for exercise, or meeting and sharing stories with fellow passengers during meal times, and of course people watching.

So what did I do today?

I have breakfast in the main La Fontaine dining room, sharing a table with a couple from Texas. He is a dedicated birder, she is a retired Spanish teacher, and they are both very well traveled. We spot a Spinner Dolphin out the window as we eat and converse. After breakfast, I fast walk a kilometer around the Lower Promenade Deck before going to the show lounge to listen to the tail end of an interview with the three young men who are the Matinee Idols group (on-board entertainment). I stay to listen to Lisa the travel consultant talk about things to see and do in Peru, taking some notes. Later in the morning, I drop into the Culinary Arts Center to see the Pinnacle Grill chef prepare Prawn Bruschetta and Steak Diane, complete with yummy samples. Afterward, I update my travel journal in the Explorations Lounge, and then meet my friends beside the Lido pool for a light self-serve taco lunch.

In the early afternoon I go back to the show lounge to listen to Willie Friar, who talks about The Life of Peru Through the Years, an enrichment presentation that reviews the history, culture, and life today in Peru, with an emphasis on Lima and Machu Picchu. This is the first guest lecturer on this cruise. Both my friends and I previously mentioned this omission to Thom, the Cruise Director. To his credit, he was already on the issue with their head office, and Willie boarded the ship in Panama City. It’s too bad she didn’t board the ship before we transited the Panama Canal, since she was head of the Canal Authority’s public relations before she retired. She could have enlightened us on the San Blas Indians and the history of the Canal earlier in the cruise.

JoeTourist: Food &emdash; Server finishing Steak Diane at the tableMy friends and I go to the Pinnacle Grill this evening for a special dinner since it is formal night. My friends both have Steak Diane and I have Filet Mignon and giant prawns for our main course. For starters, we have Caesar Salad (made from scratch) and Lobster Bisque. For dessert we all order the same: Cherries Jubilee, which is flambéed at the table. Having Cappuccinos all around finishes things off nicely. All the food is superb, as we always expect from the Pinnacle Grill. The young maître ’d Martijn keeps things moving in the restaurant, and is the gracious host. Our dinner service takes two hours, which makes for a nice evening…worth getting dressed up for.

The ship crosses the Equator into the Southern Hemisphere around 11PM local time. The ship is making good speed at nearly 20kts, despite having a headwind of some 34kts. Our arrival in Trujillo, Peru the day after tomorrow appears to be on schedule.

Thursday, December 1, 2011 – Day 11 – At sea

For breakfast this morning I again go to La Fontaine the main dining room. This morning I have a delicious Italian Frittata, which is made with egg whites, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and a dollop of sour cream. I also have two cappuccinos and take my time talking with my fellow passengers at the breakfast table, easing into the morning as I like to do when I’m home.

Although I’m getting excited about seeing Machu Picchu, our first port of call in Peru tomorrow is Trujillo. I am taking a shore excursion to see some of the ancient sites: Huaca Dragon (dragon temple) and Chan Chan Citadel in the nearby Moche Valley, and the caballitos de totora (reed boats) at Huanchaco Beach. It should be an interesting day…my first in Peru. I go to the show lounge later this morning to listen to Willie Friar’s talk about Trujillo and Pisco, which gives some good background information.

JoeTourist: Activities & Services &emdash; King NeptuneThere is a King Neptune Ceremony held this afternoon to initiate those crew members who have not crossed the Equator before (Pollywogs). Thom the Cruise Director is the “Prosecutor”, and either the captain or one of the senior officers plays “King Neptune” (hard to tell who is under that big wig). Once the Pollywogs have been “charged”, they have to kiss a giant fish and get slimed with spaghetti and goo before they jump into the Lido pool.

We are currently sailing down the coast of Peru, but we are sufficiently offshore to not see any land. We do spot some fishing boats and freighters, as well as some sea birds. We are sailing through the cold Peru ocean current (9°C water temperature) which brings the air temperature down to 20°C this afternoon despite us being only 5° south of the equator. Out on the open decks, people are wearing light jackets, while many are staying inside today. Some of the Pollywogs were visibly shivering once they got wet. Apparently tomorrow in Trujillo we should experience mild, but not hot temperatures, although we will still have to wear sunscreen to avoid sunburn.

We have a wonderful Indonesian-themed dinner in La Fontaine the main dining room this evening. I then go to the main show lounge, where the Trio Passión Española from Barcelona puts on a terrific show of flamenco and “Spanish jazz”. Nancy Ruth – vocals and guitar; Luis Robisco – guitar; Paquito Escudero – percussion. Nancy happens to be from Sidney, BC, Canada, which is a half hour drive from where I live! Looking back on the cruise so far, I have gone to more live entertainment in the last 11 days than I have attended in the last year at home.

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Fuerte Amador, near Panama City

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 – Day 9 – Fuerte Amador, near Panama City, Panama

Rotterdam is anchored for the day in Panama Bay, however I have no shore excursions scheduled, so I can take it easy today aboard ship. This ends up being a wise decision since it pours rain most of the day. I go ashore for about a half hour to have a look around the local community of Fuerte Amador, however there is nothing of interest to me there…just tour and taxi stands, souvenir shops, and a few restaurants. There are also some very expensive-looking boats moored in the local marinas.

I spend a quiet afternoon working on my notebook computer annotating the 160 photos and videos I took of our Panama Canal transit from yesterday. I also enter place name location data for each photo to supplement the GPS position tagging. I find doing this as I travel rather than after I return home makes it much easier to cope with all the photos I take on my travels. I can turn out regular blog entries while I travel, and I can update my JoeTourist website much more quickly after the trip ends.

The Matinee Idols perform in the show lounge this evening, singing classic songs from the stage and screen from the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. I find it kind of funny that the songs three young men (Nicholas Rodriguez, Austin Miller and Connor O’Brien) are performing were hits when these guys weren’t even born! The tenor has the strongest voice, but the other two are good singers as well. I enjoy their show. Two of them had roles on soap operas (daytime drama TV shows), hence their group’s name. I saw them hanging out on the deck earlier today. They stood out since they are young and good-looking, as compared with most of the rest of the men on this ship, who are generally old and not-so-good looking!

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2011 Panama Canal Transit

Monday, November 28, 2011 – Day 8 – Panama Canal Transit

I skip breakfast this morning and get out on deck by 6:45AM in order to see our approach to the Panama Canal from the Caribbean side near the city of Colon. The Sun is up and it is raining as we approach the first set of locks at Gatun. My camera lenses are fogged up since I just brought them out from the cool, air-conditioned ship’s interior to the warm and humid outside air. It takes them about a half hour to warm up and become clear of the condensation. I stay outside most of the rest of the day in order to observe all the various fascinating phases of the Rotterdam’s transit.

The Gatun Locks consist of three locks, and are the most dramatic of all the Panama Canal locks, since they lift the ship 26 metres above sea level to Gatun Lake. The navigation channel across Gatun Lake forms the largest single segment of the transit. We encounter another tropical rainstorm as we cross the lake. As we move through the narrow Culebra Cut (or Gaillard Cut), freighters are moved out of our way so we can pass, since the dredging of the Cut has narrowed the navigation channel more than normal. Passenger ships such as Rotterdam have priority for daytime passage through the Canal, and actually become a bit of a spectacle for locals, who sometimes park to watch us pass by.

As we approach Pedro Miguel Lock (a single lock), the new 6km long Pacific Access Channel is easy to see to our right. It is a huge swath of construction that goes all the way from Pedro Miguel Locks, past Miraflores Locks, and out to the Pacific Ocean. The new locks will consist of three chambers, whereas now Pedro Miguel has one chamber and Miraflores has two chambers with the small Miraflores Lake between them. This $1.5 billion expansion project will deliver a third set of locks capable of moving larger ships through the canal system. The existing lock systems will continue to operate, so throughput will be significantly increased. I find the construction fascinating to see while it is in progress.

We experience a beautiful day for our Panama Canal transit. It is not too hot (about 26°C and not too rainy (only 3 rainstorms). I enjoy the day immensely, but manage to pick up a mild sunburn from staying outside most of the day, despite ducking under shade whenever possible. There is a commentator aboard the ship, who describes each phase of the transit and gives some background information about the canal over the PA system. She does not talk continuously the whole day long, thank goodness. I understand the transit charges for Rotterdam today amount to some $350,000, or $250/passenger!

JoeTourist: Panama City &emdash; Panama City at nightAfter completing the transit, Rotterdam anchors near a small community called Fuerte Amador on the Pacific side, which is in Panama Bay – about a 15 minute tender ride to shore, and about another 15 minute drive to Panama City. The skies clear this evening, so I go to Deck 6 Forward and take some photos of Panama City at night, which is a spectacular sight!

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Bahamas to Colombia – at sea

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 – Day 3 – At sea

I have a very nice breakfast this morning in La Fontaine, the main dining room. I am seated at a table for four, and meet a couple from Chemainus who used to do the mapping for BC Parks interpretive signs, and a young woman from California who is debarking in Callao/Lima to realize her dream to see Machu Picchu. The couple relate how they traveled to Ft. Lauderdale by train using Amtrack from Seattle to Chicago, then to Washington, DC, and finally to Ft. Lauderdale. Apparently their arrangements cost about the same as flying, and it took 3-4 days. This strikes me as a great way to avoid the hassle of the airlines and airports if you have the time to spare.

I attend a presentation by Martin, the Shore Excursions manager this morning, where he reviews all the excursions for the first half of the voyage. He mentions that all Holland America excursions to Machu Picchu depart the day after our scheduled arrival in Callao/Lima because the ship is often late arriving if the seas are rough off the South American coast. This is a concern of mine, since we leave on a flight from Lima airport around 2PM on the first day of arrival, so I hope the seas cooperate and the ship arrives on time. I’m resolved to not worry about it, since there is absolutely nothing I can do about weather in the Pacific or when our ship arrives in port some two weeks from now.

JoeTourist: Days at Sea &emdash; Eastern end of CubaAt noon today I spot the eastern end of Cuba from the right side of the ship. The captain announces we are passing within 6 nautical miles from the tip of Cuba at 2PM. The island of Hispanola is visible from the other side of the ship, but it is really just a smudge on the western horizon as we sail between these two large islands. I take some photos of both, but because it is midday the results are washed out despite using a polarizing filter.

The green flash captured at sunset from the Deck of the Rotterdam Cruise ship

The green flash captured at sunset from the Deck of the Rotterdam Cruise ship

It is formal night this evening and my friends and I go to Canaletto, the Italian-themed restaurant. The food is wonderful, and the serving staff is very friendly. After dinner on the Lido deck, I see the Green flash of the setting Sun from the poolside table in the Lido as the ship sails up the coast. My friend takes some good photos of the green flash from the deck above, however I’m pleased to visually observe this apparition. This is a personal first for me after many years of trying! Afterwards, we we go to the deck above the bridge to observe the night sky. It is nice and dark up there – Jupiter is directly overhead, Orion is laying on his side in the East, the Pleiades (M45), Andromeda Galaxy (M31), the M35 open cluster, and the red star in Taurus are all easily observed with both my image-stabilized Canon binoculars and unaided eyes since it is so dark.

I go to the late show at 10PM, which highlights Broadway song-and-dance. This is the first time I have seen the ship’s singers and dancers. The numbers they perform are really well done and it is fun to watch.

Thursday, November 24, 2011 – Day 4 – At sea

I decide to go to La Fontaine, the main dining room again this morning for breakfast. I am seated at a table for six with a couple from Calgary and a couple from Houston, Texas. The woman from Houston is originally from South Africa and spots my JoeTourist Africa t-shirt I’m wearing, so she and I talk for quite awhile about South Africa. She was pleased to hear I drove from Johannesburg all the way down the Wild and Garden coasts to Cape Town. She related some interesting stories about the gold mines when she was living in South Africa many years ago. As many South Africans did, she decided to emigrate when she was a young adult because of the personal security issues plaguing the country.

JoeTourist: Rotterdam, the ship &emdash; Promenade Deck in the tropical sunshineI attend another presentation by Martin, the Shore Excursions manager this morning, where he reviews all the excursions for the second half of the voyage from Ecuador up the Pacific Coast to Mexico. I might decide to book a tour in Guayaquil, but otherwise I think the shore excursions I have pre-booked will work fine for me. After lunch, I sit out on the Lower Promenade Deck in a deck chair and read The Black Echo – a book on my iPad. It has taken me awhile to get into this book, but now I’m actively reading it. This is classic cruise ship stuff – reading a book in a deck chair, and I’m not alone. There are dozens of passengers doing exactly the same thing.

It is American Thanksgiving today, so roasted turkey is on the menu in La Fontaine the main dining room this evening, however I have the grilled salmon instead. I also order a bottle of California white wine, since my friends and I feel like some wine with dinner this evening. Most times we don’t bother drinking with our meals since it is pretty expensive. We have some nice desserts and cappuccino to finish.

We manage to find some of the last seats available in the first show in main showroom to see Lance Ringnald, a two-time Olympic gymnast gold medal winner who does a great acrobatic show using silks hanging from the stage ceiling. I saw his act on the Volendam on last year’s cruise, and was eager to see a repeat performance. He didn’t disappoint. This is not typical of the featured entertainment you expect to find on a cruise ship, but Lance has perfected a nice combination of gymnastics, acrobatics, and funny banter with the audience that works well and is entertaining.

I go to bed after the show, since we are in port tomorrow in Santa Marta, Columbia, and I have a half-day shore excursion to catch at 8:35AM.

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Boarding the Rotterdam in Ft. Lauderdale

Monday, November 21, 2011 – Day 1 – Boarding the Rotterdam in  Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA

Although I had a good night’s sleep, I awake early at the Alhambra Beach Resort. I need coffee, which won’t be ready until the continental breakfast is available at 9AM, so I walk the half block to the beach to have a look around. It is quite a spectacular beach – straight and long, and lots of white sand. Ernesto, the guy who runs the Alhambra tells us the sea temperature is 82°F right now, and it goes up to about 85°F in mid-summer. There is the usual collection of joggers and walkers on the beach and walkway at this early morning hour.

After returning from the beach, I get myself some coffee, which perks me up. As I go back to help myself to some of the continental breakfast goodies, my friends open their door, so we have breakfast together on the patio. We all enjoy the warm breeze, remarking what a contrast it is to when we left home (-5°C). We are anxious to get aboard the Rotterdam as early as possible today, so after we finish breakfast and repack it is 11AM (check-out time). Ernesto calls us a taxi to take us to the cruise terminal. We are early for our 1PM check-in time, but they are processing passengers slowly, and we step aboard by 2PM.

JoeTourist: Ft. Lauderdale &emdash; ms Noordam & Liberty of the Seas alongside pierOur cabins are not ready because the debarking passengers were late leaving the ship this morning. Housekeeping staff needs a bit more time, so we go to the Lido and have a late lunch, taking some time to explore the ship. It appears to have the same layout as the Volendam, the ship we cruised on last year at this time. The décor is different, but it will be nice to already be familiar with where everything is located.

There is a mandatory safety drill with everyone going to his or her lifeboat stations before our departure. Our bags finally arrive later in the afternoon, so I unpack before heading to the main dining room for dinner. The ship is late leaving at 6:30PM, so my friends and I get to see the ship’s departure from our window seats in La Fontaine, the main dining room. I remember the shipping channel from when my mother and I traveled on the Oriana way back in 1968, although obviously Ft. Lauderdale is built up a great deal since then. At the end of our meal, we are served a glass of champagne as a way to thank us for our patience with the late cabin availability and late luggage delivery – a nice touch from the housekeeping manager.

Once the ship is in open water, she proceeds at just over 20 knots, which is pretty fast for a cruise ship. The captain obviously wants to make up time for our late departure, so our beach time on Half Moon Cay won’t be shortened. He also announces that our departure time tomorrow will be pushed an hour later, since he doesn’t expect to arrive on time.

I sign up for 100 minutes of Internet time this evening at a cost of US$55.00, with a bonus of 10 minutes extra. This satellite service is available on most cruise ships, and is obviously very expensive. It is slow and unreliable, but I’m amazed it is available at all. It’s nice to keep in touch while sailing the oceans, and I can do it from the comfort of my cabin if I wish, since the wifi service is available from most areas of the ship.

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Auckland to Kerikeri, New Zealand

Oct 22, 2010 – Friday – Auckland to Kerikeri, New Zealand

My friends and I disembark from the Volendam for the last time this morning at our assigned 9am time. We pre-cleared New Zealand customs and immigration while we were at sea on the 19th, so we simply walk ashore, let the Beagle dogs sniff our bags for any unauthorized foods, and then pick up our bags, which are waiting for us in the departure hall.

End of 2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam


My friends and I decide to roll our bags the six blocks to the Hertz car rental office. The last block was a steep hill – a killer! I rent a Ford Mondeo, with the three of us named as authorized drivers. I pull out of the rental office driving on the left, and make it the three blocks to the on ramp and onto the motorway (freeway), heading north across the bridge and out of town. I am very anxious to get out of the city before noon, since this is the Labour Day holiday weekend. We are on the road by 10:30am, making our way north to Kerikeri with only moderate traffic.

The Frederick Hundertwasser Toilets in Kawakawa

The Frederick Hundertwasser Toilets in Kawakawa

We make a brief pit stop at the service centre just south of the new toll section of the motorway near Warkworth, where we pay the NZ$2.00 toll fee for a rather ridiculously short stretch of toll roadway. There is no toll booth – it is a self-serve system where the toll can be paid at a vending machine in the service centre, by using your cellphone, or through a website.

Our next stop is to see the Frederick Hundertwasser-designed public toilets in Kawakawa. Kerikeri is only about 20 minutes further down the road, however some of the roads had changed so the in-vehicle GPS we were using takes us down the wrong road. We end up at a dead end at the Stone Store & Kerkeri Mission House, so have to find our way back into town and approach Glenfalloch B&B by using a newly constructed diversion road. We finally find the place after asking for directions. By now it is 3pm, so we are glad to be done with our first day of driving on the left side of the road. Keith, who owns and runs the Glenfalloch B&B isn’t home, but the front door is open so we go inside and wait. He arrives just a few minutes after us, so we are soon settled into our rooms, and he makes us some coffee.

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Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Oct 20, 2010 – Wednesday – Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Port of call on a 2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

This is our first port of call since our departure from New Caledonia. We are anchored in the Bay of Islands, so we are tendered ashore to the Waitangi wharf. They have shuttle buses to take passengers to Pahia, which is the main town for the area.

We go ashore on the tender and take the lunchtime version of Darryl’s Dinner Cruise. We find the boat on the pier in Pahia, and have a very nice time with a bunch of Australians, who are on a bus tour of New Zealand. It is a bit choppy out on the harbour, however we travel around the little bay by Pahia, as well as down to within sight of Opua, then around Orongo Bay. There are some beautiful glimpses of Volendam before we return to Pahia wharf. Along the way, we are served our choice of New Zealand Lamb Chops, roast venison, or catch of the day, along with salad, steamed potatoes, and even a bit of chocolate for dessert.

JoeTourist: Food &emdash; Wendy McDonald's birthday aboard ship in the Rotterdam dining roomAfter walking around Pahia for a while, we return to the ship mid-afternoon. It is Crew Performance Night in the Rotterdam Dining Room, so the dining room serving staff dance between the tables, starting with placing napkins on everyone’s lap through to serving Baked Alaska (sans sparklers). After the Baked Alaska, the servers surround my friend who is celebrating a birthday and sing her a version of “Happy Birthday” in Filipino. Her chocolate cake is served in addition to the Baked Alaska, so everyone is overstuffed by the time we leave the dining room.

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At sea – New Caledonia to New Zealand

2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

Oct 18, 2010 – Monday – Volendam at sea, enroute to Bay of Islands, New Zealand

I go to the Rotterdam Dining Room for breakfast this morning. They serve complimentary cappuccino with breakfast, and I have a nicely-cooked Spanish omelette. The woman beside me is from Sarnia, Ontario, and reveals she was the female “volunteer” from the audience who was chosen to hula while the Polynesian male dancers gyrated around her at yesterday evening’s folkloric performance in Noumea. She seems to be quite pleased with her experience.

Shipbuilding competition - Raftea from Nanaimo succeeds in the payload test

Shipbuilding competition – Raftea from Nanaimo succeeds in the payload test

The shipbuilding competition among the passengers winds up today. This is a contest where passengers scrounge materials to build a model ship, which must pass seaworthiness tests in the pool. A New Zealand teams wins, but a Canadian team is in the running too.

Since this is a day at sea, I attend two presentations. The first one is “Things to See & Do in New Zealand”, presented by the onboard travel guide, Susan. Most of what she had to say is stuff I already know, however her handout will be useful, since it gives us a list to work on while we have the rental car in New Zealand. The second presentation is by Donna Giesler, The Star Lady titled “Constellations of the Zodiac”. Donna does a pretty good job of humouring those in the audience who believe in astrology, while also highlighting the astronomical facts about the constellations, some of which are included in the Zodiac. This is her last lecture for this cruise.

We go for dinner in the Rotterdam Dining Room this evening. We are seated at a table for six with an Australian couple. They regale us with their experiences as they toured across Canada by rail & rental car, and we generally get along famously. The ship is rolling the most we have experienced during the whole voyage, despite the winds not being the strongest. The wind is on our bow, and the sea swells are the largest and have a long period so the ship plunges down into the big troughs between the waves. The ship’s clocks turn forward one hour tomorrow morning, so we lose another hour after gaining all those hours as we sailed westward across the Pacific earlier in the cruise.

Oct 19, 2010 – Tuesday – Volendam at sea, enroute to Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Jimmy, the Cruise Director emcees “Time to Say Goodbye” in the show lounge: a show put on for everyone who is departing the ship in Auckland. He gives us lots of useful information, and ends the show with staff from all the departments coming on stage for a group farewell song – a very nice ending to this cruise.

Goodbye Volendam 2010 from JoeTourist InfoSystems on Vimeo.

HINT: Click on the little four segment icon beside the “HD” in the lower right corner of the video window to view the video in high definition mode.

I have a curry lunch in the Lido and eat on the Sea View pool deck in the shade. It was cool but not cold, and the sky is clear and sunny. I have one last swim in the pool. The ship is rolling quite a bit today, so the water in the pool is sloshing around a great deal, however I have the pool to myself.

It is formal dress tonight. After we have before dinner drinks in my cabin, we go to the Rotterdam Dining Room and are seated with an elderly couple: Celeste and John from California. They are both genuine characters and have lots of stories to tell – we all have a good time. They lived in northern Mexico for twenty years, but moved to California after John’s health deteriorated.

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Cruising from Fiji to Vanuatu

2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

Oct 13, 2010 – Wednesday – Volendam at sea, enroute from Fiji to Luganville, Vanuatu

JoeTourist: Food &emdash; Flambe Seafood Skewer in Pinnacle GrillIt looks like the North Pacific outside: grey clouds down to the deck, rough seas, and drizzle. Of course, step outside on the Promenade Deck and the warmth and humidity immediately hit you in the face. The next four days will be interesting, since we have four ports of call starting tomorrow with Luganville, Vanuatu. We then stop in Port Vila, Vanuatu and two stops in New Caledonia.

My friends and I go to the Pinnacle Grill this evening to celebrate my birthday. I have the Seafood Skewer and Cherries Jubilee for dessert. Both are flambéed at the table, which is pretty special. It was a nice way to celebrate my birthday – aboard ship and at sea in the South Pacific!