November 16, 2012 – Friday – Ile de Mare, New Caledonia
I don’t have anything planned for today’s port of call, however the daily program says there is a free activity where everyone will be driven by bus to Wabao village. The Captain of the Paul Gauguin and the village chief will exchange gifts at a welcome ceremony. So a hundred or so of my fellow passengers (and me) pile into buses and make the 20-minute journey down the road. We encounter cute children dressed for the occasion, who sing us a few songs. The captain and the chief make brief speeches, and then there is some food for those who decide to stay. The rest of us return to the ship, or are dropped off at a snorkel area called Yenjele Beach. The beach looked divine, but I stayed on the bus and returned to the ship for lunch, and have a snooze in a sofa in a shady spot on the pool deck.
I meet some interesting people at dinner in L’Etoile this evening. Two couples are dedicated eclipse chasers, and are from the same university town in New Hampshire. One elderly couple are SCUBA divers, with the wife having done over 1,000 dives, and her husband having done over 1,500 dives! She no longer dives, but her husband continues. The husband of the other couple was an engineer with AT&T before it was broken up, after which he retired and went into the telephone standards industry. I also meet a Brit living on the Isle of Man who arrives at the table a bit late. He is a live wire, and apparently spends his retirement kite surfing at various locales around the world. He really likes going to South America, where he asserts the best kite surfing in the world can be found.
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
Today 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?
Well, 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!
My friends and I go to the Pinnacle Grill this evening for a special dinner since it is formal night. For starters, we have Caesar Salad (made from scratch) and Lobster Bisque. My friends both have Steak Diane and I have Filet Mignon and giant prawns for our main course. 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.
There 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.