2016 Solar Eclipse Cruise in SE Asia

Feb/Mar 2016 Solar Eclipse Cruise map in SE Asia aboard the Volendam

2016 Solar Eclipse Cruise map in SE Asia aboard the Volendam

In March 2015, I booked a Holland America cruise in southeast Asia, which takes me to the southeast Asian countries of: Singapore, Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The Volendam leaves Singapore on February 16, 2016 on the 30-DAY ASIAN ADVENTURE & INDONESIAN SOLAR ECLIPSE COLLECTOR cruise, sailing north to Malaysia, Burma/Myanmar and Thailand before returning 15 days later to Singapore. We spend two nights in Singapore, and then depart again on the Solar Eclipse portion of the cruise, which sails south to a variety of ports in Indonesia. We observe the solar eclipse on March 9th in the Makasar Strait, between the islands of Borneo and Sulawesi. Weather permitting, our ship will be positioned on the eclipse centreline, which will give us 2 minutes and 45.5 seconds of totality. The cruise terminates in Singapore with an overnight at the dock on March 16 & 17.

My booking is actually two back-to-back cruises, both departing from Singapore. I am paying the Single Supplement (150% of one fare) for a cabin on the Main Deck. As I write this in November 2015, Holland America indicates some classes of cabins on this cruise are Sold Out.

The Sun in eclipse totality - 3rd contact & diamond ring

The Sun in eclipse totality – 3rd contact & diamond ring

Sky and Telescope are running their solar eclipse tour aboard the same ship, however I did not book with them since I wanted a 30 day cruise, and their arrangements are for either 9 days or 15 days. I board the Volendam two weeks earlier in Singapore than the S&T tour’s departure date and visit three more SE Asian countries, which appeals to me. The downside to booking directly with Holland America instead of through S&T is that I won’t be able to attend their enrichment presentations while aboard the ship. To be honest, I don’t much care about this, since there are only two or three of their presentations I would want to attend. I don’t really need any coaching on the technical aspects of observing a solar eclipse while aboard a ship, since I have experience from the 2012 Solar Eclipse Cruise aboard the Paul Gauguin in the Coral Sea.

In May 2015 I booked my flights from Vancouver to Singapore through Cathay Pacific airline. This is optimum timing from the departure date to get the best fare possible. If I booked this fare today (some six months later), the airfare would cost many hundreds of dollars more, since it is closer to the departure date.


Panama to Peru – at sea

2011 Incan Empires Cruise

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?

Rotterdam, the ship - Sports Deck stern bar & entertainment screen and lounging pool
Sports Deck stern bar & entertainment screen and lounging pool

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!

JoeTourist: Food - Server finishing Steak Diane at the table
Server finishing our Steak Diane at the table in the Pinnacle Grill

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.

JoeTourist: Activities & Services &emdash; King Neptune
King Neptune reads the charges to the Pollywogs

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.


Coromandel Peninsula

Oct 29, 2010 – Friday – Whangamata, Coromandel Peninsula

Whangamata beach & offshore islet
Whangamata beach & offshore islet

After breakfast this morning, we decide that today will be a “beach day“, borrowing a term used on cruise ships. Peter lends us some beach towels, and we sunbathe on the beach, wandering back and forth, and generally soak it all in for an hour or two. Nobody wants to burn, so we reluctantly return to the B&B to get cleaned up a bit.

We go to town for a coffee and a snack from one of the local bakeries, and after a bit of window shopping in town, we spend most of the afternoon at the B&B relaxing and having tea with Peter around 4pm. For dinner, Peter suggests we try a Thai restaurant in town. We order the deep fried Snapper, which is good but not very big. We also order some vegetables to go with it, and share the platters, however even with rice, the meal was a bit too small for three people. Oh well, it won’t hurt us to go away a bit hungry for once on this trip, especially after all the food we consumed on board the Volendam!

Oct 30, 2010 – Saturday – Whangamata, Hot Water Beach, Onemana Beach, Coromandel Peninsula

After breakfast, we drive up to Hot Water Beach, which is spectacular with the surf crashing along the kilometer or so long sandy beach. Getting there however was stressful, since soon after we left Whangamata we encountered the K2 Cycle Race – a huge bicycle race going on along the highway. There were hundreds of bicyclists racing along the road in huge groups. New Zealand roads are so narrow and generally there are no paved shoulders, so the bicyclists took the lane, which held up traffic and caused some near accidents. That said, Hot Water Beach was worth seeing, and the trip back was less stressful since we were driving against the flow of bicycles, which were still being dispatched down the road.

JoeTourist: Coromandel &emdash; Blue and white shell

We stop at Onemana Beach on the way back, which is yet another spectacular beach along the Coromandel Peninsula. There is a small community here, and the beach is virtually deserted at this time of year. After returning to the B&B and having a bit of a rest, Peter serves us tea at 4pm. Afterward, we go back to Oceana’s restaurant for dinner and have their specials again. Good food at a great price.


Ninety Mile Beach

Oct 24, 2010 – Sunday – Kerikeri – Ahipara and Ninety Mile Beach, New Zealand

Mangonui Fish Shop
Mangonui Fish Shop

After having poached eggs and toast for breakfast, and doing a load of laundry at the B&B, we drive north from Kerikeri. First stop is Mangonui; a very picturesque harbour town with fish boats on the dock, an old hotel, post office, and courthouse. Next stop is Cable Bay, which has a nice rough sand beach and some lovely homes overlooking the beautiful bay.

We then drive over to the Tasman Sea side of New Zealand and see the southerly part of the famous Ninety Mile Beach at the little community of Ahipara. This will have to do, since we decided the 90-mile drive to the northern tip was going to be too much for us.

We then drive back south, taking a secondary road, which goes through Broadmead and re-joins Highway 1 at the Mangamuka Bridge. This section of road is paved, but very narrow, and seems to be an endless series of hills and curves. It is slow going until we are back on Highway 1 heading east. We then re-join Highway 10 north to Kerikeri. It is an interesting day, but we are tired by the time we get back to the B&B later in the afternoon after filling up the rental car with NZ$100 worth of gasoline. New Zealand gasoline prices are about 25% higher than what we pay in Canada.

JoeTourist: Glenfalloch B&B &emdash; Joe sampling Taylor's Port - Rich Old Tawny 1981
Joe enjoying a Rich Old Tawny port

We decide to have a steak dinner at the B&B this evening, so we go to the supermarket to purchase four New Zealand steaks, some ready-made salads, and some New Zealand wine. We prepare everything, and Keith volunteers to cook the steaks. The meal is pulled together in short order, and we all sit down on the back patio by the pool to enjoy the delicious food. Keith pulls out some Taylor’s Port – Rich Old Tawny 1981 to finish the meal with. The Rich Old Tawny was twenty years old in 1981, so it goes down nicely – a very fine port indeed!


At sea – New Caledonia to New Zealand

2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

New Caledonia to New Zealand route map
New Caledonia to New Zealand route map

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 astrological 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 on Vimeo.

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.


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!


Cruising Seattle to Hawaii

2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

Volendam's Atrium: Promenade Deck 4 - Front Office & Shore Tours. Ocean Bar Deck 5 above
Volendam’s Atrium: Promenade Deck 4 – Front Office & Shore Tours. Ocean Bar Deck 5 above

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.

Turn back from Hawaii route off the Oregon Coast - map
Turn back from Hawaii route off the Oregon Coast

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.

JoeTourist: Activities & Services &emdash; The Star Lady - Donna Giesler demonstrating how to use a Planisphere

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

JoeTourist: Food &emdash; Filet Mignon & giant prawns in the Pinnacle Grill

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!

Vancouver to Hawaii - route map across the North Pacific Ocean
Vancouver to Hawaii – route map across the North Pacific Ocean

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.

JoeTourist: Activities & Services &emdash; Tissue-wrapped socks & underwear in a basket as delivered from the ship's laundry

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.



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

Sept 23, 2010 – Thursday – Volendam in Seattle, Washington, USA

We arrive in Seattle on time at 7am. I discover my cabin is near a big noisy winch motor, which starts up as the ship approaches the dock. I rest in bed for another half hour before getting up and join my friends for breakfast in the Lido. Lots of passengers are disembarking in Seattle, so it is pretty busy this morning. I plan to walk to Myrtle Edwards Park on the harbour, and then go to the Space Needle, so I wear a raincoat and leave the ship a bit after 9am. There is a mist coming down, but it isn’t too bad. I find out where the entrance to the Elliott Bay corridor park is located, and start off. In true Seattle fashion, the mist soon turns to light rain, and then it really settles in and I am starting to get wet. I pull my camera bag’s raincoat over it, and put up my hood, and then decide to wait it out under a tree. No such luck – it looks like the rain is here to stay for the day, so I head back to Pier 91 and re-board the Volendam.

Chris Paris behind the Explorations Espresso Bar
Chris Paris behind the Explorations Espresso Bar

After drying off, I find the Explorations Café and Lounge, order a cappuccino, and settle in with my notebook computer. I think this will be my usual haunt, since it is quiet here, the view is great, and it is an Internet hotspot. I experiment with the ship’s Wi-Fi, ensuring auto login is off. I’m in good shape for staying connected while crossing the Pacific Ocean.

The Rotterdam Dining Room
The Rotterdam Dining Room

My friends and I go to the Rotterdam Dining Room for dinner at 7pm this evening, however all the open seating is taken until 8pm. We sit in the Explorer’s Lounge until then. We are seated on the upper deck of the Rotterdam Dining Room, which is normally reserved for fixed seating. It is a very elegant dining room, and needless to say, it is huge. Service is excellent, the food is very nice, and probably what surprised us all…the portions are not too big. We all have Scallop Ceviche for an appetizer and Alaska King Crab Legs for our main course. I have a tiny Caesar Salad and an equally tiny chocolate cake for dessert, with a cappuccino to finish. All in all, everyone agrees it is a very satisfying meal.

Volendam's departure route from Seattle - map
Volendam’s departure route from Seattle

By the time we leave the dining room at 10pm, the ship has cleared Cape Flattery and is taking a 10-15 mph wind from the south. We are currently on a westerly heading, however I expect we will soon swing around to a SW heading, since my handheld GPS tells me that is the direction to Lahaina, Maui – our first stop in Hawaii. Distance to Lahaina is 2,253 nmi or 4,157 km. Our speed is 16kts, so that means it will take us 5 days, 21 hours to arrive. By 11:20pm, the ship has changed heading to 223° (SW) and the wind has increased to 23mph still from the SW. I tried to connect to the onboard Internet, but no go. There is no on-board cellular service either, so I suspect the satellite link is being disrupted by the pitching of the ship.