2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam
I am really enjoying myself aboard Volendam. She is a very nice ship, and the crew are absolutely first rate. Despite the ship being ten years old, there are few signs of wear and tear. All the fixtures and rooms are in excellent shape. Nothing is too much trouble for my cabin stewards, and the staff always have a friendly smile on their faces and greet every passenger. I’m surprised to find that there is a good mix of ages aboard the Volendam. It isn’t just old people aboard, although they certainly are the majority. There are lots of middle-aged people, and I even spotted an officer with his wife and two young kids.
Here is our cruise to Hawai’i as it unfolds day by day.
Sept 24, 2010 – Friday – Volendam at sea, enroute Seattle to Lahaina
Last night the ship was really pounding into the oncoming waves. The wind picked up to 32-47mph during the night, so I found it a bit uncomfortable at the start. Eventually, I relaxed and fell asleep. At breakfast we find out that Donna Giesler “The Star Lady” is on the program as an Explorations Speaker. We previously met Donna on the Southern Skies Fiesta in Costa Rica 2009 tour. We attend her talk this morning, and have some fun reconnecting with her afterward. Donna is thrilled to find out there are other dedicated amateur astronomers aboard.
At 2pm the captain announces we have a medical emergency, so the ship will head back toward the Oregon coast. A few hours later a helicopter airlifts a man off the ship, after which the ship turns back to resume our course for Lahaina. Dinner this evening is formal dress, so everyone is wearing their best in the Rotterdam Dining Room – a beautifully appointed large two level room in the stern with big windows overlooking the ocean. Both the service and food is impeccable.
Sept 25, 2010 – Saturday – Volendam at sea, enroute Seattle to Lahaina
We crossed a time zone last night, so our clocks go back one hour. We are now one hour earlier than the Pacific Time zone we left in Vancouver and Seattle. We had another night of rocking and rolling as we continue to battle our way against a strong (35-40mph) southerly wind. I slept fine, as did the others in my group. I have a cappuccino and a muffin in the Explorer’s Lounge for breakfast this morning, since there is a line-up for the Rotterdam Dining Room (the other source of Cappuccino in the morning). I have to have my Cappuccino to start my day! Yesterday’s medical evacuation put us behind schedule by several hours, and so far the ship has not been able to make up the time because of the rough seas. Hopefully we will soon be in calmer waters, where she can make more headway and get us to Lahaina on time. I really want to take the snorkel/sail trip I have booked for the West Maui coast.
This afternoon I attend the Astronomy Club, an interactive session hosted by Donna Giesler, the “Star Lady”. She reviewed how stargazing usually works onboard cruise ships, and introduced everyone to planispheres. As it turns out, cruise ships are excellent sources of light pollution, having extremely well-lit decks and other outside spaces. This makes it very difficult to take advantage of the extremely dark skies that would otherwise be visible from a mid-ocean voyage. The session finishes up with my friend showing his time lapse video of the night sky Northern Stars Overnight, taken from Yellow Point Lodge on Vancouver Island, Canada.
Sept 26, 2010 – Sunday – Volendam at sea, enroute Seattle to Lahaina
This evening, we go to the Pinnacle Grill, which is an exclusive restaurant aboard Volendam. The meals and service are classic and flawless – a notch up from even the Rotterdam Dining Room, which already sets a high mark. I have a spicy coconut milk soup to start, Filet Mignon and giant prawns for the main course, and a chocolate soufflé and cappuccino to finish. Others in my group have Rack of Lamb and Steak Diane (which is flambéed at the table). Well worth the $20 per person premium charge, although the three of us have complementary invitations from our tour company. We will be back for more!
We check out the top-most deck Donna proposes observing from this evening. It is still incredibly windy due to the oncoming 33 knot wind we are still bucking. We give it up, since it is impossible to hold still long enough to observe anything. This is a shame, since we have clear skies. Jupiter is up, as well as the Gibbous Moon. The Summer Triangle is directly overhead, and I’m sure we could observe other objects if only the wind would abate long enough for the ship to steady.
Sept 27, 2010 – Monday – Volendam at sea, enroute Seattle to Kauai
I sleep in again this morning. It is warm enough today to swim in the pools, if only the seas would smooth out. I have a light breakfast in the Lido, and then go back downstairs to retrieve my notebook computer, and then trudge back upstairs to the Explorations Café for a cappuccino. If I continue to use the stairs, I’ll stay in shape while aboard this ship! Many of the older folks have Kindles, and are busy reading their books…many more are reading printed books, of course. There are a group of people having a church service in a bar right between the casino and main atrium area where the jewellery and duty free liquor is sold. Quite a series of contrasts!
Despite being four days out of Seattle heading south, we continue to battle strong winds and heavy seas. Over the last 24 hours, the outside temperature has climbed to nearly 20°C and passengers are now out in deck chairs, and sitting beside the pools in their shorts and swimsuits. However we all continue to lurch down the passageways as the ship pitches and rolls in radical fashion. Until a few hours ago, we were battling southerly, and then south-westerly winds between 25kts and 45 kts. The wind continues to be strong at 30kts, but it has now switched around, and is coming at us from the north. I’m feeling fine, as is the rest of my group, but some passengers and crew are seasick. I think everyone is looking forward to our arrival in Hawai’i. Hopefully we will find calmer waters for the rest of our journey through the tropics!
At 3pm today the captain addresses the ship, telling us that we will not be stopping at Lahaina on Maui. The combination of losing so much time due to backtracking for the medical evacuation on the 24th and the exceedingly rough seas and storm force winds means there is no way to make up for lost time. We will be proceeding to Nawiliwili Harbour, Lihue, Kauai (which was our next scheduled stop). This means at least one more day at sea, however by my estimate we should easily arrive on time in Kauai on the 30th. Everyone I talked with seemed to be fine with this deviation. Our shore excursions will be refunded, as will our port fees for Lahaina.
We are currently 870 miles from Kauai, proceeding at 20kts. Daytime temperature is 24C, so things are warming up nicely outside.
Sep 28, 2010 – Tuesday – Volendam at sea, enroute Seattle to Kauai
The captain announces we will arrive in Nawiliwili on Kauai tomorrow at 5pm, so we will be staying overnight, leaving the following afternoon. This is great, since it will give us more time on Kauai, and makes our car rental the following day more appealing, since we will be able to get away from the crowds.
It is formal night again this evening. We have reservations in the Rotterdam Dining Room for 5:30pm. My laundry appears in my cabin this afternoon just in time for me to use my only white dress shirt for this evening. They have pressed all my clothes, including the t-shirts. My socks and underwear were wrapped in tissue paper, sealed with a gold sticker, delivered in a woven basket. Pretty deluxe!
At 8pm this evening, we join Donna Giesler and some others up on the top deck to observe the night sky. Donna has already requested that the deck lights be turned off, so it is pretty dark up there. We observe the sky below Sagittarius into Scorpius, so that is a real treat, since from our home northern latitude we can’t see this far south. The Summer Triangle is directly overhead, as is Cygnus. The Milky Way glows brightly, especially in Sagittarius.