Cruising from Hawai’i to American Samoa

2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

Honolulu to Pago Pago route map
Honolulu to Pago Pago route map

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 a very casual day at sea. We avoid the formal night this evening as best we can.

I attend two lectures today – this morning Donna Geisler’s “Excited about Exo-planets”, where she talks about the recent discovery of a new exo-planet that appears to be Earth-like. Of course, she also describes the history of the hunt for planets outside our solar system. This afternoon I attend a lecture by Dan Ostler (Donna’s husband) where he describes how the Polynesians navigated across the open Pacific Ocean; and also shows how the ancestors of people of the South Pacific migrated across the world eastward from Africa. They are both good lectures which I enjoy very much.

Kilauea Volcano - volcanic flow into the ocean
Kilauea Volcano – volcanic flow into the ocean

Later this afternoon I make a presentation to the Astronomy Club group hosted by Donna. I show RASC Victoria Centre – 2010 Calendar photos and give a brief explanation behind each photo. I also add a shot of a sunset viewed through the Kikis from Pu-uhonau o Honaunau – Place of Refuge, and finish off with a photo of the Kilauea 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 is just as bright as we observed on September 28th, and Jupiter’s four most prominent moons are 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 grey northwest autumn day. However when I step outside on the Promenade Deck, it is obvious we are in the tropics as the warm, 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!

Later, I listen 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 attend Dan Osler’s talk on European exploration of the South Pacific. His talks are always interesting, and reveal little-known historical tidbits.

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.

Oct 5, 2010 – Tuesday – Volendam at sea, enroute Hawaii to American Samoa

King Neptune ceremony
King Neptune ceremony

There is a King Neptune ceremony this morning on the stern deck Sea View Pool area. Some pollywogs are initiated – judged by King Neptune (Jimmy, the Cruise Director). Every initiate has 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.

Small Magellanic Cloud & 47 Tucanae - taken from New Zealand later in the trip on Oct 26th
Small Magellanic Cloud & 47 Tucanae – taken from New Zealand later in the trip on Oct 26th

This evening, I go up to the Sky Deck and catch 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 in that area of the sky).

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 service today due to our position on the globe. I take photos of the inside of the ship today, since there is some beautiful artwork (sculpture, painting, tapestry), and the public rooms and atrium are so classy looking.

Cherries Jubilee being flambeed
Cherries Jubilee being flambeed

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 try this specialty restaurant again. I have the Caesar Salad to start (hand made at the table), and I have Filet Mignon with baked potato and garlic butter for my main. My friends enjoy: beef skewer flambéed with brandy before being served, Lobster tail served the classic way with drawn butter, and flambéed Steak Diane.

Everyone except me have Cherries Jubilee, which again, is also flambéed before being served. Needless to say, we all thoroughly enjoy ourselves! 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 evening show: a Chinese performer playing the dulcimer. He is very good. I hadn’t appreciated just how flexible the dulcimer is – he plays Chinese opera, contemporary pop, show tunes, and even a Dave Brubeck jazz number.

Afterward, I change out of my dark suit and go 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.

Oct 7, 2010 – Thursday – Volendam at sea, enroute Hawaii to American Samoa

Cappuccino in Explorations Café
Cappuccino in the Explorations Café

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 has some audience participate for this presentation, which is fun!

I join my friends in the Lido buffet for lunch, where I have 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 awhile. This pool is salt water and it is not as heavily used as the main Lido pool (which is fresh water). After my swim, I have another Cappuccino in the Explorers Lounge while a talented guitarist plays soft tunes. This is the life!

I attend 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!