Cruising from Fanning Island, Kiribati to Bora Bora, French Polynesia aboard ms Statendam
February 28, 2014 – Friday –Fanning Island to French Polynesia – Day 1 at sea
Since we crossed the International Dateline again, we get to live February 28th for a second time today, a day at sea enroute to Bora Bora. So I’m calling today February 28B, and yesterday was February 28A. The ship also crossed the Equator last night, so we are now officially in the Southern Hemisphere and the South Pacific Ocean.
I go to the coffee chat interview that the Cruise Director Armen does each morning in the Crow’s Nest Lounge, because he is interviewing Emile and Marie-Claude, the duo of Band Artistique, the act I saw two nights ago in the Showroom. They reveal they have their two pre-school children with them onboard, and will be performing next in Germany for a few months.
I meet a couple who ran into the Jones Act issue as I did on the Big Island of Hawaii. They had planned to stay with friends overnight on the Big Island, but like me, they decided not to risk the wrath of the US Immigration coming down on them in future. They did not stay overnight with their friends, but just visited them when we pulled into Kailua-Kona.
I watch my first movie while aboard ship this afternoon. Amelia is a biographical account of Amelia Earhart’s adventures and eventual attempt at flying around the world. She and her navigator were eventually lost over the part of the Pacific Ocean we are currently sailing through. She was attempting to land on Howland Island, but never made it. Hilary Swank and Richard Gere were the two stars playing Amelia Earhart and her husband/publisher George Putman (respectively). Not a bad movie, from someone like me who rarely watches movies.
March 1, 2014 – Saturday –Fanning Island to French Polynesia – Day 2 at sea
Our second day at sea is routine, however the weather is certainly warming up. The temperature at noon is 30℃, but the humidity is down to 66%. It is mostly sunny, with some clouds in the sky. The deck chairs are full of people tanning this morning. I walk a couple of circuits around the Promenade Deck, but otherwise stay inside where it is cooler. I take a tech class this morning on the Windows App Store. It certainly has come a long way from when it started, and offers a serious alternative to the Apple App Store for Mac. There is always something to learn while aboard cruise ships.
I sit in the library and finish reading a book on my iPad that is 611 pages long! It is time once again to do some laundry before the busy days in French Polynesia, so I throw a load into the self serve laundry located on my floor at lunchtime. There are only two washers and two dryers on my floor, so it is always busy. It is $2 to wash and $1 to dry, so for $3 I can have as many fresh clothes as would cost $20 to have done by the ship’s laundry service.
The captain reports we passed within 6 nmi of Starbuck Island at 1AM this morning, so we are in a very remote part of the South Pacific right now. As of noon today, we are still some 500 nmi from our destination of Bora Bora, so at 18 kts we still have about 28 hours of travel time. The schedule calls for us to arrive at 4PM tomorrow. The captain feels we should meet that goal if the winds continue to cooperate.
There is a tropical rainstorm this afternoon. It looks grey and wet outside through the windows, despite the warm temperature. New to this cruise are art exhibitions and auctions, which are held during the day in the Ocean Bar. I can’t image lugging paintings home aboard an aircraft, but obviously they must do pretty well at selling aboard ship. The ship’s crew set it up for them and tear it down a few hours later, and store all the paintings, restoring the bar area for general use after the art auction is over.
It is formal night this evening, so after having a nap in my cabin, I get dressed in my dark navy jacket, black pants, shirt and tie. Dinner in the Rotterdam Dining Room is very pleasant, since I am seated with a couple at a table for four. There are only three of us, so it is easy to talk. Like most of the passengers aboard, they have cruised extensively. In fact, they did this particular cruise just last year! Probably the most interesting cruise they mention during our conversation is a repositioning cruise from Singapore to Amsterdam, with stops in India, the Seychelles, around the Cape of Good Hope, and then northward. They said the ship was only about half full, so there was lots of service from the staff, and they got to know both the staff and passengers well. This interests me, since I had planned to take a similar cruise but in reverse – Europe to SE Asia through the Suez Canal.
March 2, 2014 – Sunday – Fanning Island to French Polynesia – Day 3 at sea, arriving in Bora Bora
Essentially, this is a day at sea, however we arrive as scheduled at Bora Bora this afternoon at 5PM. The seas this morning are much reduced, the grey skies are gone, and things are looking decidedly tropical outside. As we pass through the channel into Vaitape harbour, there is another cruise ship anchored: the Artania, registered in Hamilton, Bermuda. The island and the volcanic mountain are as I remember them, but I can’t quite place where the airport is located. I’m assuming it is to the east of us, further down the lagoon.
The ship clears immigration by 5:30PM, and there are already 200 people waiting to go ashore on the tenders. I’m in no rush to go ashore this evening, but perhaps I will go after I have dinner in the Rotterdam dining room. There is a Polynesian BBQ and buffet on the Lido deck, which I will avoid! After dinner, I decide to stay on board the ship, and simply enjoy the views of this tropical paradise from the ship’s decks.
February 28, 2014 – Friday – Tabuaeran, Fanning Island, Kiribati
We arrive at Fanning Island at 7:30AM. It is 26℃ (79℉), 84% humidity, and a Sea Depth of 2,460 metres just outside the entrance to the atoll. Obviously the ship won’t be anchoring; instead it holds position with engines running until we leave at 2PM. This illustrates just how steep the fall-off is from the shores of this island atoll. The tendering is slow, with a couple of hundred people waiting at any one time from the 8AM start. I wait until mid-morning and then go downstairs to get a tendering ticket. I’m in the tender and on my way within a half hour. It is a long 25-minute ride to the tendering dock ashore.
The area around the dock is crowded with islanders hawking shell necklaces, singing kids wanting dollar bills to help buy school supplies, and islanders dressed in strange costumes of coconut husk armour (again wanting a dollar or two donation for a photo). There are also a few trucks with seats in the back that take passengers on a drive around the island for $10. The day is beautiful and sunny, but the seas are a bit choppy outside the lagoon. I’m glad I went ashore, even though I returned an hour later after a walk-around.
Living conditions are certainly third world. There is debris all over the island, since the islanders seem to have no plan to manage their garbage. They have no running water, collecting rainwater for drinking, dump their sewage in the lagoon, and have no electricity (other than what a few solar panels provide to individual families who can afford them). I don’t see any satellite dishes for TV reception, although there is a radio tower on the island, so I assume they can use radio to communicate with the outside world when needed.
The islanders seem happy, but this place appears to have little going for it. Holland America ships call a half dozen times a year, but otherwise there is no tourism. The islanders fish the lagoon to feed their families, and harvest seaweed for export. Cargo ships must call, since they have canned food, staples, and fuel to run a few trucks and motorcycles on the island.
Our ship sails from Fanning Island a bit after 2PM, so it is more-or-less on time, although I don’t think it matters much since our next port-of-call is Bora Bora, where we have an overnight stay before moving on. It will take us two days to get there, and the captain says we have to average 18 knots. There is no bad weather forecast, so we should arrive on time.
For the first time on this cruise we have a strong wind to contend with. We are currently steering a SE course, and we have a 40-knot easterly wind buffeting the ship. I have to give up my star gazing from Deck 14 Sky Deck because I am being literally blown off my feet, despite the tantalizingly dark skies above! Needless to say, holding binoculars still to observe with is virtually impossible, despite having a Plexiglas shield surrounding this deck forward.
Cruising from Hawaii to Fanning Island aboard ms Statendam
February 25, 2014 – Tuesday – Hawaii to Fanning Island – Day 1 at sea
We have cloudy skies this morning but a tropical rain shower comes down while I’m having breakfast in the Rotterdam Dining Room. By the afternoon, the skies mostly clear, with a few clouds along the horizon. This is our first day at sea after leaving Hawaii, so we have a full slate of speakers to choose from today, all presenting in the large Showroom at Sea:
10AM – South Pacific Highlights – Kainoa & Sophie (Excursions) – I follow along with Sophie to get any tips for the excursions I have already booked for French Polynesia.
11AM – Animal Communication and Language – Clive Catchpole – It is often said that language is the difference between us and other animals. Clive presents many ways animals communicate and yet they don’t use ‘language’, as we know it. As usual, it is a superb presentation.
2PM – The “Stories” of Mutiny on The Bounty – Charlie Urbanowicz – Charlie describes the events leading up to the “Mutiny on the Bounty” and what became of the crew after the 1789 mutiny. I hadn’t realized that the Bounty failed to sail around Cape Horn due to extremely bad weather, and ended up sailing to South Africa and the Cape of Good Hope, and onward through the Indian Ocean, around the southern shore of Australia, and then to Tahiti. No wonder the crew mutinied, since it took them well over a year to sail “the long way” from England to Tahiti!
I received my certificate from the captain for crossing the International Date Line. At midnight tonight, the ship’s clock jumps ahead 24 hours, so tomorrow will be February 27. We lose Wednesday, February 26. After we leave Kiribati and head to French Polynesia, we sail back across the International Date Line, so we will get to live February 28 twice!
February 27, 2014 – Thursday – Hawaii to Fanning Island – Day 2 at sea
The Republic of Kiribati modified the International Date Line eastward to include all their islands in one time zone (and day) in the mid-1990s. We crossed the International Date Line last night on our way to Fanning Island so we lost February 26th (arriving tomorrow).
The captain announces that we are currently in the Inter-tropical Conversion Zone, which means grey skies and showers. He says that our arrival at Fanning Island tomorrow will be challenging, since the charts in the area are out-of-date, and there will be 1.5 metre swells, so he plans to seek shelter to make tendering possible. He cautions us that it might take awhile to start transferring passengers ashore.
I have just spent the last half hour taking photos of the rain clouds surrounding us, mainly using my in-camera HDR with the Canon 6D to catch the subtleties of the scene (see banner image above). I return to my cabin at 5:00PM and observe a Frigate bird heading straight for the ship, and then the rainstorm begins! Kainoa just finished telling us in his Fanning Island presentation today that Frigates will fall out of the sky if they get wet, because they lack the oils in their feathers to repel water. I assume the Frigate bird found a place to roost on the ship.
I go to the Showroom this evening to see Band Artistique, two performers from Montreal who have performed with Cirque de Soleil. The man (Emile) and woman (Marie-Claude) combine comedy, juggling, magic, and physical humour in a superb way. It is very funny, and quite amazing too! France’s Got Talent 2014 video
February 24, 2014 – Monday – Kailua-Kona, the Big Island of Hawaii
My excursion this morning leaves early. I have to be at the assembly point at 7:50AM, and when I show up five minutes early, my group has already left for the tender, so I quickly follow. Our bus is waiting for us on the pier, but we end up waiting for a few people who obviously showed up on time or a little late. This inexpensive tour ($40) is called Kona Highlights, which is really just a nice drive south of Kailua-Kona (and back). We stop to sample some coffee at the little town of Captain Cook, where I get to sample some Kona Peaberry coffee – very nice, but I’m not paying $50 for a bag of it!
We then proceed onward to my favourite place, Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, or Place of Refuge down on the shoreline. It is volcanic down here, as is most of the Big Island. I take a few photos and just relax under the shade of the palm trees and take in the sound of the ocean swells crashing against the black volcanic shoreline and surging into the bay.
There are no turtles today in the Ali’i landing bay, but the place still feels wonderful – I can feel the good mana here, and I’m not one to normally believe in superstitions. We only have an hour, but I enjoy it immensely. Next, we drive to the nearby Painted Church in the community of Captain Cook. This little Catholic Church is a popular stop for sightseers. I get to try out my new fisheye lens inside the church, taking a photo of the alter, the whole ceiling, and part of the walls.
After we return to Kailua-Kona, I find a little general store, where I buy some supplies before returning to the tender dock. As we approach the ship anchored in the bay, the tender has a terrible time trying to tie up, since there is quite a bit of wave action. Once the tender ties up, it beats against the gangway, wreaking the landing platform. Passengers are unloaded when there is a lull in the wave action, so the unloading process takes over 20 minutes. This isn’t the roughest tender landing I have experienced, but the tender was certainly bucking against the gangway landing in an energetic fashion.
As always, I’m glad to be back aboard ship and in my comfortable cabin. I toss my dirty clothes into the self-serve laundry, while I try to take advantage of the high speed Internet access I have with my cellphone connection to the Rogers/AT&T LTE. Since we are anchored offshore, I sit out on the Promenade Deck facing the shoreline to get a decent signal. This convenience will end once we sail away from the Big Island of Hawaii across the Pacific Ocean enroute to Fanning Island and French Polynesia. I will then be back to using the slow, unreliable, and expensive satellite connection aboard the ship.
The ms Statendam arrives early in Hilo, and docks at the pier in the harbour. I have some breakfast and gather up my cold weather gear for my big trip up to the summit of Mauna Kea. I disembark, find the shuttle to Harper’s Car & Truck Rental. and rent a 4×4 Ford Ranger truck, which Harper’s allow on the Mauna Kea access roads.
Once I’m off in my little truck, I work my way out of Hilo and drive up the Puainko Street Extension, which becomes the H200/H2000 Saddle Road. I stop to pick up some refreshments from a corner store, since I will skip lunch. I’m glad I brought along my vehicle GPS from home, which guides me through several complicated twists and turns until I get out of the city. The first half of the 45-mile drive to the summit takes me along the Saddle Road Highway (2000), a paved 3-lane road all the way to the Mauna Kea Access Road turn-off, and then up to the Visitors Information Station (VIS) on a good (but steep) 2-lane paved road all the way through ranch country.
I stay at the VIS for 45 minutes in order to acclimatize myself to the elevation change (sea level to 9,000′), and then put the vehicle into 4-wheel drive and start up the gravel road to the summit. The road surface is washboard, so having 4WD is great to keep traction and stability. A few miles before the summit, the road returns to a paved surface, since dust control is a big factor with these expensive observatories.
There is snow on top, and the air is clear and cold. I pull on my winter coat, which I have been dragging around with me on this trip just for today’s adventure. It is wonderful to finally see all these observatories in person, especially the ones Canada is involved with. The Canada-France-Hawaii (CFHT) observatory has a prime location on the end of the north ridge, and is a beautiful, brilliant white structure. The Gemini North observatory is next to CFHT, and is a silver structure with bulging air vents all around the lower part of the dome…again, a very beautiful design.
I drive around to see all the observatories up close, but unfortunately I can’t stay for the VIS’ tours inside some of the facilities. The sky is a deep blue and crystal clear, and the observatories are stark white or silver, so I use the High Dynamic Range feature of my Canon 6D dSLR. This allows me to capture the scenes much more successfully. I shoot lots of photos, since I probably won’t return to Mauna Kea again. I can see the summit of the mountain and the trail leading to it from Gemini North, but I have to be careful to not exert myself too much while at 4,205 metres (13,792′) elevation, since the amount of oxygen available up here is less than half than at sea level.
Reluctantly, I have to return to my cruise ship, so I start the drive down the mountain, with my vehicle in low range 4WD and in 2nd gear as well. I barely touch the brakes for the whole way down the mountain until I shift out of 4WD at the VIS before returning to paved roads. The return trip to Hilo and sea level goes without a hitch. I return the vehicle to the rental company, and I’m back on board the ship a couple of hours before departure time.
February 22, 2014 – Saturday – Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
The ship anchors offshore from Lahaina, and tenders are used to transport passengers ashore. Early this morning, I see Humpback whales from the ship, and I manage to take some pretty decent photos of them “flipper flapping”, blowing and breaching (see banner image above).
I am on an excursion today – the West Maui Snorkel Cruise, which uses Trilogy Elua an excursion catamaran sailboat. As it turns out, the whale watching as we motor to our snorkel location is the highlight of the trip, since we see a mother, baby and escort Humpback whale perhaps 10 to 20 metres from the boat. The bonus is that I shoot video of this encounter! The crew deploy an underwater speaker so we can hear the whales communicating, which is very cool!
The snorkelling is also wonderful in nearby Olowalu Bay, where I swim with a turtle for awhile. After returning to Lahaina, I give the tacky little town about 10 minutes of my time before returning to the comfort of the ship!
Elika Santos is a young Hawaiian male singer who gives a terrific performance in the Showroom At Sea this evening. He is trained in opera, so has a very powerful voice. He sings pop, opera and Hawaiian songs. I’m going to look him up when I get back home, so I can buy some of his music to listen to.
February 20, 2014 – Thursday – The North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii
We arrive in Honolulu harbour on time this morning. The early morning approach offers some superb views of Diamond Head and the south shore of Waikiki and Honolulu before we slip into our dock at Pier 2.
I am on an excursion today, our first of two days in Honolulu. The Explore and Taste Oahu’s North Shore tour is a 6.5 hour all day affair run by Roberts Hawaii, which visits the tranquil Byodu Temple after we travel over the H3 freeway through the Koolau Mountains to Kaneohe. The temple is quite beautiful and tranquil despite the groups from the numerous tour buses wandering the grounds.
We then stop at Chinaman’s Hat Rock, which is a rock sticking out of Kaneohe Bay. We drive by the Crouching Lion restaurant (now closed), which my friends and I stopped at for lunch the last time I visited Oahu. Our stop at Malaekahana State Recreation Area offers a great view of the ocean and a spectacular beach, not often visited by tourists or locals. (It looks like Malaekahana is now operating as a campground and retreat.) As we pass the Polynesian Cultural Center, our guide explains how the students study at the Brigham Young University and the adjacent Latter Day Saints temple in Laie, and also work at the Polynesian Cultural Center to pay for their education.
Our destination for lunch is just up the road: Fumis Kahuku Shrimp (Yelp reviews), where we have a pre-ordered lunch of shrimp, cod, or chicken. Most people order the shrimp, which is a large portion that comes in a Styrofoam plate along with some salad and rice and a soft drink. I find the Lemon Pepper Shrimp to be very tasty. There is a washbasin to get the grease off after the meal is finished. Shave Ice can be purchased for dessert, for those so inclined. This is very casual dining, but the food is very good! The James Campbell Wildlife Refuge is visible out by the coastline from here, and the shrimp ponds where the shrimp are raised are right beside this roadside stop.
We carry on to see Sunset Beach for a quick 10-minute stop, then pass by Tunnel Beach, both of which are world-famous for surfing (see banner image above). There are lots of surfers riding the waves.
Waimea Bay Beach Park is the next stop to see the turtles in the bay feeding on the algae. We spot one turtle. We then turn away from the coastline, driving through the little town of Haeliwa, and make our final stop at the Dole Plantation. This is the typical tourist trap if ever I saw one, but thankfully it is only a 20-minute stop before we carry on back to Honolulu over the H2 and H1 freeways, passing Pearl Harbor along the way.
The ship stays at the dock overnight, so we sleep aboard.
February 21, 2014 – Friday – Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
I don’t have any excursions booked for today, so I get up and have a leisurely breakfast in the Rotterdam Dining Room. I go ashore from Pier 2, walking a few blocks up South Street as far as the Mission Houses, the Kawaiaha’o Church, and then cross South King Street to see the State Capital and Iolani Palace.
I return to the Mission Houses for their tour of the inside, paying the $10 admission. It was very interesting hearing how the missionaries from Boston sailed around Cape Horn, to live and work in Hawaii. They supported themselves by printing and selling (or bartering) books and documents. They gave the Hawaiians their written language, introduced them to western music melody, and of course as missionaries, converted many of them to Christianity. I don’t have time to go into the Iolani Palace before it closes, so I return to the ship to freshen up and have some lunch.
I spend the afternoon aboard ship, swimming in the Ocean View Pool and generally relaxing. I am also taking advantage of the roaming package I purchased from Rogers, my cellular provider in Canada. The roaming package includes 15 minutes for voice calls, and also includes 200Mb of data. Since I have high speed LTE connectivity here, I can ignore the ship’s slow and expensive satellite Internet connection, and get a few things done online. I also call Harper’s Car Rentals to change my arrangements on the Big Island of Hawaii to a one-day rental with no drop off in Kona, which they happily do for me.
Cruising from San Diego, California, USA to Hawaii aboard ms Statendam
February 15, 2014 – Saturday – Enroute San Diego to Hawaii – Sea day 1
I wake up too early at 7AM and need my morning coffee, so I go to the Explorers Café for a cappuccino. After sitting in the leather recliner looking out at the calm Pacific Ocean from the quiet library, I am feeling much better, and then go for breakfast in the Rotterdam Dining Room, which opens at 8AM. I have a cup of tea and a frittata as I chat with my fellow passengers.
Since this is a day at sea, the entertainment staff have a full slate of activities scheduled. All is revealed in the daily newsletter published each morning. I’m big on enrichment talks, so I go to all of them:
11AM Showroom – Pacific People: How the Islanders Arrived – Charlie Urbanowicz explains how the original inhabitants of the islands crossed the Pacific Ocean and where they came from. I learn that human migrations used cloud tops over the island groups for navigation. I already knew they used wave patterns, the Sun and stars to navigate.
3PM Showroom – The Wildlife of Remote Pacific Islands – Hawaii and Tahiti – Clive Catchpole presents some of the fascinating and unusual creatures that inhabit these isolated islands. Clive points out that the Pacific Islands we will be visiting have very few endemic species. Most species were imported. He points out that the Humpback whale migration is in full swing right now, and we will likely see them in Maui. He also talks about the big seabirds, such as Albatross (offshore), Boobies, Gannets and Frigate birds found near shore.
After dinner, I enjoy a Benedictine liqueur while listening to Catch A Wave, a Beach Boys tribute band this evening in the Showroom. The tunes are very well done, with a near-perfect 5-part harmony, and they are dressed in the early striped shirts and white pants the Beach Boys originally performed in. However they just stand there – no movement or dancing around during their performance.
After the show, I go to the office to check that they know about my departure from the ship in Hilo, and re-boarding in the following day in Kailua-Kona. The young woman tells me my plans are contrary to the US Merchant Marine Act (successor to the Jones Act), and I will be subject to a $300 charge by the US government for contravening this maritime law. She points out that the cruise line has no problem with me leaving and rejoining the ship on the Big Island of Hawaii, but the US government does.
This means I have to cancel my plans to see Mauna Kea at night, so I send an email to the Old Hawaiian B&B to cancel my night’s stay in Hilo. I will also have to contact Harper’s Car Rentals to change my arrangements to a one-day rental with no drop off in Kona, but I can wait until we arrive in Honolulu so I don’t have to pay the expensive per minute rates while aboard ship.
This is very disappointing, since I was looking forward to seeing the night sky from Mauna Kea. Perhaps I’ll drive up there during the day, since my rental car is a proper 4×4 Ford Explorer truck. I will have to decide very soon how best to use my day in Hilo, and the following day in Kona.
February 16, 2014 – Sunday – Enroute San Diego to Hawaii – Sea day 2
I wake up at 8AM this morning, which is a bit late for me, so at least I’m starting to get into “holiday mode”. I go to the Rotterdam dining room for breakfast and have a cappuccino, and Eggs Royal (2 poached eggs on an English muffin with smoked salmon and some home fries), hold the Hollandaise sauce.
I am starting to know the layout of the ship. The Statendam is the oldest ship in this series, and it is showing its age a bit, however as with other Holland America ships, it is kept up-to-date and spotlessly clean, and has a rich-looking décor without being “over the top”. My cabin is mid-ships on Main Deck. Since my cabins on my two previous Holland America cruises were near the bow, I have to learn the most efficient way to get to the places I most want to go to: the Showroom At Sea, the Explorers Lounge, the Rotterdam dining room, the Lido buffet, and the Sea View pool.
It is formal wear tonight so I dress in my blue blazer jacket, dark grey dress pants and white shirt and tie. The Maître ‘d seats me at a large 8 seat oval table in the middle of the dining room. I order Rack of Lamb and have a glass of white wine…a very nice dinner indeed.
I go to the Showroom tonight to see Bob Mackie’s Broadway, which is a song and dance show well performed by the ship’s resident troupe of entertainers. The Bob Mackie costumes look great, and I always enjoy the singing and dancing of the resident entertainment troupe.
February 17, 2014 – Monday – Enroute San Diego to Hawaii – Sea day 3
This is another day at sea, so I take in more enrichment speakers. Kainoa is a Hawaiian man aboard the ship as the Location Guide. Strictly speaking, he works for the Excursions Department, and his job is to sell passengers the ship’s excursions. Kainoa takes it up a notch, and gives very interesting talks on the ports, and is more like another enrichment speaker in my books.
9AM Showroom – Location Guide Kainoa Present: Honolulu & Oahu – Kainoa recommends going to the Ala Moana Beach & Magic Island, which are between the cruise ship dock and Waikiki, about 2 miles from the cruise dock. This sounds like a good plan for me, since I’m going on a North Shore tour one day, but I have the second day we’re in port to myself. He also mentions the Foster Botanical Gardens. Apparently they are both 2 miles from cruise dock.
2PM Showroom – Amazing Voyage of Charles Darwin – Clive Catchpole – Darwin’s work as a naturalist aboard the Beagle was nothing short of amazing. Keep in mind; Darwin was trained in both theology (which he hated) and botany (which he loved). The ship discovered Beagle Passage, an easier alternative to going ‘around the Horn’ of South America. Darwin noticed that mockingbirds and finches differed from island to island in the Galapagos Islands. Darwin predicted the decline of the Aboriginals in Australia, and waited 20 years to publish his famous work On the Origin of Species in 1859. Clive is an outstanding speaker, with a dry sense of British humour.
3PM Showroom – Location Guide Kainoa Present: Kingdom to State – Kainoa describes how the US annexed Hawaii, over the objections of the Hawaiian monarchy. Business interests drove this annexation. Now there is a “Nation within a nation” – Hawaiian sovereignty movement.
I saw an old guy in the casino yesterday with a t-shirt slogan that simply said “I’ve been there…”. When Kainoa recently asked people in one of his talks who were first time cruisers, nobody raised their hands! That speaks volumes about the demographic on this cruise. Arman the Cruise Director mentioned in a previous session in the Showroom At Sea that one passenger has spent something like 10,000 days on board Holland America ships…more than 27 years, which exceeds Arman’s age!
February 18, 2014 – Tuesday – Enroute San Diego to Hawaii – Sea day 4
I go to the Rotterdam dining room for breakfast and have a Southwest Omelet and a cappuccino. One couple is from Connecticut and another couple is from Toronto, so they both have storm stories to tell – ice and hurricanes. The Toronto couple were aboard the Prinsindam when she sailed around South America and further south near Antarctica. Apparently the ship nearly capsized when it was hit with a double wave. According to them she was heeled over 60 degrees, they lost 80% of the crockery, and there were several injuries among crew and passengers. I may reconsider my plans to do that cruise!
As in past cruises, the older folks are about evenly split between reading paperbacks and using various brands of electronic readers. I’m using my iPad for occasions when I feel like reading. I have a 650 page book I’m working on, and I also loaded a couple of year’s worth of magazines on it, so I have lots of reading material. My music is on my iPhone, and my documents are on my MacBook Air, so I’m well equipped to entertain myself with my high-tech gear.
There is only one enrichment talk today:
10AM Showroom – The evolution of life on planet Earth – Clive Catchpole – Clive has turned out to be a real treasure on this cruise. He is witty, has a dry sense of English humour, and presents the most interesting lectures. I always take lots of notes at his presentations.
There are no presentations this afternoon that appeal to me, and I have nothing planned. Several passengers and Clive have mentioned there is a Lysan Albatross flying with the ship, so I grab my camera and circle the outside decks looking for this bird to no avail. As usual, I skip lunch in favor of having a cappuccino and a couple of cookies in the early afternoon around 2PM. I take my iPad and read my book for an hour while I have my coffee.
The ship has been lurching a bit in large 8’ swells, which are apparently coming from a couple of storms north of the Hawaiian Islands, where the captain tells us the swells are 20’. Weather reports are apparently good for when we arrive in Hawaii, but at the moment they have overcast skies and rain. We also have had overcast skies but no rain since we left sunny San Diego. The outside temperature is a mild 21°C during the day…not exactly time for swimming in the outside pool, but pleasant enough.
I go to dinner this evening at 6PM, my usual time. I am seated with two couples that are both from Burnaby, so our table isn’t just Canadian…it’s British Columbian! One couple booked the cruise three weeks before departure date, and paid half fare. Obviously they didn’t get their choice of cabins, but they were upgraded from an inside cabin to an outside cabin, so they did pretty well. His luggage was lost by Air Canada/United in Denver, so he only has one pair of pants to wear, and had to rent a tuxedo for formal night, as well as buy spare socks and underwear in the shop. Apparently United will be paying them $300 for the inconvenience, and will ship his bag to Honolulu.
February 19, 2014 – Wednesday – Enroute San Diego to Hawaii – Sea day 5
I wake up at 6:30AM, which is too early, but setting the clocks back an hour last night has screwed me up. I head up to the Explorations Café for a cappuccino at 7AM. Yesterday the captain reported we were moving clear of the big swells and would experience confused seas, and that’s exactly what I see out the windows this morning. We still have overcast skies, and the sea is grey just like at home during the winter months. The ship is making 17.7 knots this morning, and we are within a day’s sail of Hawaii, so I’m sure the captain is pleased to be on schedule (as am I).
I’m looking forward to the end of these days at sea. At day 5, I’m finding it a bit tedious, although I am certainly catching up on my rest! Breakfast in the Rotterdam dining room this morning was very pleasant. I was seated at a table for six: 2 Brits (SE England), 2 Americans (S central WA), and a Canadian woman (Calgary). We discuss the XL oil pipeline proposal. Of course the Americans are all in favour of the pipeline, and hate Obama. The English complain about the long tags on their clothing and other goods, which now have to accommodate all the languages in the EU.
I decide it is time to do laundry this morning since I’m not interested in any of the morning presentations, and we are experiencing a tropical downpour outside. It costs $2 to wash (including detergent), and $1 for the dryer. I buy a roll of quarters from the front desk, so I’m set for the trip. While I wait for my laundry, there is a balloon toss game being played in the Atrium. It’s called “keep the guests busy” on their fifth day at sea!
By Noon the Sun is out and the clouds are mostly cleared in favour of blue sky. People are out on deck sunning themselves almost immediately! I decide to have some lunch in the Lido and eat out on the Lido pool deck where the HAL-cat band is playing. Now this is the typical cruise ship experience…all I need is a beer! It’s formal night tonight, so perhaps I’ll have a glass of wine with dinner.
1PM Showroom – The social life of animals – Clive Catchpole – Clive talks about Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins, who defends Darwin’s views about individual selection theories, but proposes that Evolution is all about genes being passed on, and believes that genes are immortal, unlike human bodies, Dawkins Book: The Selfish Gene 1978. This was another first-rate talk by Clive! He won’t be back until we leave Hawaii.
I was going to listen to Kainoa’s talk on the History of the Hula after Clive’s presentation, but decide to skip it in favour of going for a swim in the Sea View Pool. The water is cool, but it is great to swim a bit – a refreshing break from all my inactivity so far on the cruise.
I dress for dinner and am seated with the couple from Atlanta, and the couple from Burnaby I previously met, and one other woman. After dinner, I go to the Showroom to see a magician and comedian act, but he is less than entertaining, so I leave mid-way through the performance.
Since it is clear outside, I go up to Deck 14, the Sky Deck to measure the sky darkness with my Sky Quality Meter and to observe the stars. The lights are on up there, but I get an exceedingly dark reading. I also see the Orion (the Warrior) constellation on his side and Cygnus (the Swan) constellation, which is also flying on her side.
Tomorrow morning we land in Honolulu, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. I think it’s safe to say everyone aboard is looking forward to it. I know I am!
Victoria to San Diego flights, and departure from San Diego aboard ms Statendam
February 14, 2014 – Friday – Victoria, BC, Canada to San Diego, CA, USA
It is a stressful day flying from Victoria to San Diego. First of all, my alarm awakes me at 3AM, and I am out the door in less than an hour and in a taxi to the airport. After I check-in at the United counter at Victoria Airport, I pass through security and then have time for a cappuccino from the new Spinnakers on the fly in the holding lounge at the gates while I wait for my flight to leave at 6:30AM.
After we board, the aircraft sits on the apron for about 15 minutes, but the pilot finally announces we are ready for departure. Apparently the delay was caused from San Francisco, where there was some doubt we would get a slot for landing due to fog. The weather cleared enough for landings in San Francisco, so we take off from Victoria. The first hurdle is cleared, and I’m on my way! This flight is very odd: there are no children or babies aboard, and everyone is very quiet…a bonus for me since it is so early, and I’m not a morning person.
The flight down is very scenic once the Sun rises. We fly inland from Victoria to San Francisco. It certainly is very foggy in San Francisco as we approach, however there are clear patches and the pilots bring the aircraft down perfectly and everyone leaves the aircraft quickly. I’m thankful for this, because I’m still nervous about all I have to endure before boarding my next flight to San Diego. As soon as I leave the gate, I can see the airport is being renovated…never a good sign for someone not familiar with a large airport.
Before I can claim my bag, I have to clear US immigration. Two large aircraft from China have just arrived at the same time as our little aircraft. For some inexplicable reason, we have to go through security again before we can get to US immigration. There is a woman in uniform at the crossroads of a major intersection inside the airport that insists on directing all of us to the busiest security checkpoint with hundreds of those Chinese passengers waiting in line. As I reluctantly follow her bad advise, I stop to ask a man with a badge if this is the best way to get to my gate. He immediately says “no”, and thank goodness he volunteers to lead me and some of the other passengers from the Victoria flight in the opposite direction to another, less busy security checkpoint. He also points out that some of our tickets are marked “TSA PRE”, which means we are entitled to use a priority line. Although we still have to go through the security checkpoint, he probably saves us a half hour of waiting!
It ends up taking me about 10 minutes to clear security. At that point, I can go through US immigration, but wait…there are those hundreds of Chinese passengers ahead of us again! After about 20 minutes of waiting, they open up additional immigration agents, so I finally get processed for entry to the USA. Now I go to the baggage carousels and find my bag, and proceed through yet another US inspection. I re-check my bag for the next flight, and I’m off to find the boarding gate.
As it turns out, the gate for my San Diego flight is only the third gate past the baggage checkpoint I’m already at, so I arrive 45 minutes early! This flight only has a few empty seats, and we are back to the typical flying bus scenario: crying babies, sneezing and coughing kids, old folks who struggle down the isle to their seats, and the rest of us, who just want the flight to end.
We take off northward from San Francisco, and then circle around and fly down the coast to San Diego. The urban development between San Francisco and San Diego is impressive. This is a very crowded patch of the USA. We touchdown in San Diego at 12:25PM, arriving on time! Thankfully, the cruise terminal is a short taxi ride from the airport, so after I deal with the surely Russian cabbie, I present myself at the check-in for the ship. It is fairly well organized, but with over a thousand passengers checking in, it takes a bit under an hour to wind my way through the various lineups before I am issued my Holland America ID card and walk on board the Statendam.
I knew ahead of time that this day would be stressful, and it was, but ultimately everything worked out fine. I’m safely aboard the ship, and I still have time for a late lunch in the Lido buffet before I unpack my bags. I have a quick look around the ship’s outer decks, then go back to my cabin for a well-earned shower and nap. By this time, it is nearing departure time, but as per Holland America’s policy, there is a mandatory lifeboat drill before we leave.
Once that is over, the ship slips away from the dock, turns around in the harbour and heads out past the city as the sun sets off our bow. San Diego has a beautiful harbour, and the setting Sun gives the place a wonderful glow, so we have great views of the marinas, city centre, airport, and naval base as we sail away. A lovely Moon rises from the California hills behind the city as the pilot leaves our ship. There is a dense fog bank waiting for us as we clear the entrance to the harbour and head off across the Pacific Ocean, bound for Hawaii.
After spending an interesting hour on deck during our departure, I drop off my camera gear in the cabin and get dressed for dinner. The Rotterdam Dining Room offers classic table service with a 4-course menu, which I always look forward to. Since I am traveling solo, I always make a point of asking to join a large table, where there are many people to meet and talk with. It is so interesting to hear their stories and tell them mine as we work our way through our fine meals.
I have five days at sea to look forward to before we arrive in Hawaii!