I ordered room service breakfast for this morning at 6:45am, since I’m signed up for a Sail and Snorkel excursion that leaves at 8am. I enjoy my favourite bagel and lox, along with a continental breakfast and coffee. I’m at the appointed check-in spot outside the cruise terminal by 7:45am, and we walk to the catamaran tied up just down the dock from the Nieuw Amsterdam.
Although I forget to bring the floating handle for my GoPro, I manage to hang onto it, not dropping it to the bottom as I snorkel today! I take 4k video underwater of the fish at the first snorkel stop at Boca Cathalina, and of the ship wreck at the second stop. The Antilla shipwreck site is a challenge, since the wind is up so the water is rougher, there are crowds of people swarming all over, and some of the excursion boats are literally right over the wreck! Despite all these odds, I manage to shoot some video and survive the experience, however I’m glad to be back safely onboard the excursion boat. There is unlimited Rum punch and other beverages on the return to town.
I had thought I would wander around Oranjestad town, but it is already too hot for me, so I return to the ship. After dropping my snorkel stuff in my stateroom, I first grab a table in the shade beside the Lido pool and have a beer, a Dive In Impossible burger and some fries for a late lunch. I then return to my stateroom to get cleaned up and relax while transferring my photos and video to my MacBook Pro.
My dinner this evening is in the Main Dining Room at the same big table as two nights ago, where I join a mix of Americans and Canadians. We enjoy back and forth banter, recollections of past travels, and even some more serious subjects. I have shrimp crostini as a starter, and roast chicken with stuffing for my main – both very tasty with a glass of Pinot Grigio wine. I finish with a chocolate torte for dessert and a cappuccino. After dinner, I go to the B.B. King’s Blues Club to enjoy some great performances by the troupe of musicians and singers.
The ship is docked in Kahalui harbour by the time I get up this morning. There is no rush, since my snorkelling excursion doesn’t leave until Noon. After breakfast, I spend the morning taking photos of the north shore of Maui, Kahalui and the harbour, and the storm clouds over the West Maui mountains from the top decks of the ship.
PacWhale Eco-Adventures’ Catamaran hosts the Turtle Snorkel Adventure excursion today. We leave the harbour terminal at 12:15PM by bus to Maalaea Bay boat basin, and board a large power catamaran just before 1PM. The captain chooses Olowalu Bay on the west side of Maui as our snorkelling location, which is the same bay I snorkelled at back in 2017 when I took an excursion from Lahaina. We have lots of time for snorkelling, and they provide beer, wine, other mixed drinks, along with a BBQ lunch afterwards. I’m glad this is a Holland America excursion, since the tour boat has some engine problems just before we dock, so it is a slow process to maneuver alongside and disembark our rather large group. We arrive about a half hour late to the ship, but they wait for us.
As the ship is about to leave port at 6PM, the storm clouds over the West Maui mountains behind the city and harbour become even more dramatic looking than in the morning, as they are now backlit by the setting sun. Likewise, the slopes of Haleakala are reflecting the light from the setting Sun, creating an intense red hue as we sail out of the port this evening on our way to Honolulu.
We arrive in Nawiliwili harbour at 7AM this morning. I am taking an early snorkel excursion to Poipu Beach, but I have time to grab a cappuccino in the Explorer’s Cafe and some scrambled eggs from the Lido before clearing the ship and finding my snorkel tour group in the terminal building. We are soon off in two 9-passenger vans to the assembly point where we are given fins, a wet suit, and snorkel and mask for those who need it (I always bring my own snorkel and mask)). We are then driven to Poipu Beach, but after some serious discussion by the tour leaders, they decide to cancel the snorkel. The water is too rough and the waves breaking onto the beach are too aggressive for our group to safely enter the water.
Actually, I’m relieved, since even before they told everyone about the cancellation, I was concerned about the wave action. In any case, if we had gone in, there would be nothing to see with all the sand being stirred up from the bottom by the big waves.
I peal off my wetsuit and pull on some shorts and a shirt so I’m more comfortable. Apparently this is the first time in four years they have had to cancel a snorkel tour. We help ourselves to the soft drinks and snacks they provide before we are taken on a scenic drive, and then back to the ship to say our goodbyes to the good folks at Sea Fun Kauai. There’s always next time!
My friends and I have dinner in the Lido this evening. Two of us have the Filet Mignon and another has thick-cut roast beef. It was all very good…perhaps one of our best meals on this cruise. Despite being a casual, buffet-style restaurant, the Lido serves excellent food, which is especially appreciated when you want to skip the formal table service available in the other restaurants aboard ship.
March 7, 2014 – Friday – Rangiroa, Tuamotu Group, French Polynesia
The ship arrives at Rangiroa before 7AM, and enters this atoll’s lagoon. Like Fanning Island, this atoll is remote, but unlike Fanning, the entrance to the Rangiroa atoll is sufficiently deep to allow ships to enter the sheltered lagoon through a proper navigation channel. Tendering to the little town of Avatoru is easy in these calm waters.
The snorkelling on the one-hour excursion to the little islet in the lagoon is wonderful. The water is clear and about five metres deep, and there are lots of fish, despite the same location being used by a half dozen boats. There are some sharks swimming along the bottom. The coral is in good shape, and there is no current where we are snorkelling. This is my last opportunity to snorkel on this cruise, and it is probably the best experience of them all.
Although we have clear skies while I’m snorkelling, the clouds soon gather in the afternoon, so it is grey but warm at 29℃ and 72% humidity. Although the islanders have power and communications, they must collect rainwater for drinking and washing. Our snorkelling guide tells us they had four days of rain before our ship arrived, which they are very happy about.
I grab a late lunch in the Lido and take it down to the Ocean View pool, a deck lower on the stern. As I eat and sip a Beck’s beer in the shade, I gaze at the view inside the lagoon and soak in the heat of the day. This is what cruising is all about!
We leave Rangiroa promptly at 5PM, and clear the narrow channel out into the open ocean by 5:30PM. The pilot departs, and we are on our way to Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas group. We have a day at sea before we arrive, since the Marquesas are a considerable distance away.
March 4, 2014 – Tuesday – Raiatea & Taha’a, French Polynesia
My excursion this morning is called Land and Sea of Taha’a, which involves a boat ride from Raiatea where we are docked in Uturoa harbour, to Taha’a where we are picked up by 4X4 trucks and taken on a tour of a black pearl farm, and then a vanilla plantation.
Then we return to the boat and go to a motu for a swim and snorkel. I’m very impressed with the island of Taha’a. The roads are paved, the houses are neat and tidy, and the infrastructure is all there. This contrasts with Bora Bora, where they have dirt roads and everything is done in a haphazard way. The swimming and snorkelling is in shallow water, and I spot several Puffer fish – a first on this trip.
Our departure from Raiatea this afternoon is most interesting! Instead of leaving through the opening in the reef adjacent to the harbour that we entered through, the captain and pilot opt to take us on a scenic cruise between Raiatea and Taha’a, heading towards Bora Bora, but along the shoreline of Taha’a. A spectacular sunset occurs just south of Bora Bora as we sail away, and there are rain storms and huge cumulo-nimbus clouds to the west of us. We even see a funnel cloud appear out the bottom of a particularly large, dark cloud!
I had hoped to see a Green Flash as the Sun set this evening, but it was not to be. Despite this, I take some wonderful sunset photos, some including Bora Bora in the distance. The shoreline along Taha’a is absolutely stunning as we sail along in the early evening hours. It is a beautiful ending to a wonderful day, as I go back inside to get dressed for dinner.
March 3, 2014 – Monday – Bora Bora, French Polynesia
I have some breakfast in the Lido early, since I have to be ashore for my excursion by 9AM. Another cruise ship has anchored beside us, replacing the one I saw yesterday. Bora Bora is obviously a popular port-of-call! After breakfast, I take the 10 minute tender ride ashore, and eventually we are collected and board our catamaran. We actually depart a bit early since everyone is present from the ship. Moana Adventure Tours runs this excursion with four Tahitian guys. They are well-rated on TripAdvisor and I can see why – I had a great day, as did the others from the ship on this excursion!
First stop on the tour is just around the seaward side of the closest motu (islet) to Vaitape harbour, so we arrive there in only 15 minutes. We see Stingrays and Black-tipped sharks in the shallow water. Most of the people get into the water with them, however I stay aboard and get some great photos and video from the deck.
Next stop is about 20 minutes away: a small, private motu where there are coral reefs and a nice sandy beach. It is a wet landing, so everyone gets in the water here. I have a wonderful hour poking around, taking photos and video of the fish and the coral formations in the shallow lagoon. The excursion guys serve snacks and drinks under the shade of the palm trees before we return to the catamaran for the trip back to Vaitape harbour. This 3.5 hour excursion couldn’t be much better, but I’m very glad to head back to the ship’s air conditioning, since the oppressive heat hits us once we are back in the town of Vaitape.
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.
I have the morning to myself, despite the ship being anchored offshore and tenders running to the little village of Easo. I take a 2.5 hour tour called “Luecila Beach & Scenic Drive” leaving at 12:15PM. We are taken to a beautiful white sand beach near the main town of We on Baie de Chateaubriand. Richard is our tour guide, and does a good job describing their local customs as we drive for the half hour it takes to get across the bushy central part of the island to our destination on the other side.
The fine white sand beach has to be at least 3-4 kms long, and has some very nice coral and fishes, which I snorkel out to see. The water is a bit cloudy because of the swell coming into the bay, but in spite of this, I enjoy the hour swimming in the tropical waters. I see a few fish, and some live coral, and briefly spot a small shark swimming below me. There are only about a dozen people on the beach, other than our group of about 30, along with a few beach dogs.
Richard tells us there are only about 10,000 people living on the island, despite it being geographically quite big. Tourism is their only industry, so the economy is not great, since they only see about two cruise ships per week on average. There is one 4 star hotel located in We.
I depart on an all-day tour to Amédée Lighthouse, which is located on an island by the same name offshore from Noumea. This was not the tour I wanted, but it was the only one available which offered some snorkelling, after I boarded the ship a few days ago. We are taken to the boat basin, where we are joined by passengers from the P&O Pacific Jewel. Needless to say, there are lots of people on this large excursion boat, the Mary-D. The passengers from the P&O ship are mainly Australians, and many are families with young children. This is not my ideal tour, since it is quite noisy!
Despite that, the tour was well done. The lighthouse on the island is made of metal, and was shipped prefabricated from France in 1862. We had a superb lunch with wine and punch included, and with entertainment from a singing and dancing troupe. I enjoyed the lovely (alcoholic) fruit punch, along with the BBQ pork and seafood, and lots of salads and pasta dishes.
The only real disappointment is the snorkelling in the lagoon on one side of the island. I snorkel after lunch and find the reef is totally dead, although there are a few fish swimming around, and the Striped Sea Snake (poisonous) also makes an appearance! They also offer glass-bottomed boat rides and rides out to the edge of the reef, but I don’t bother with those excursions. After snorkelling, I prefer to just sit under a shade tree.
I learn from the Pacific Jewel passengers that on eclipse day their ship missed being on position on the Line of Totality. Apparently about 600 passengers had booked their cruise predicated on that happening, although there was also a large group of passengers who didn’t care one way or the other. That would be totally devastating for those who expected to observe Totality, but didn’t get the chance. Apparently the ship left port a bit late, and encountered strong headwinds, and couldn’t get to the position in time.
Friday, December 16, 2011 – Day 26 – Huatulco, Mexico
Since I’m not interested in all the tourist shops available at this cruise port; I go on a snorkel cruise excursion this morning. It is quite a bit of fun, and provides a good opportunity to get away from the ship for a couple of hours. They make us all sign waivers and wear a silly yellow floatation device (which is deflated), but otherwise it is a well-run activity. They take us on a ten-minute boat ride to one of the little bays we saw this morning as Rotterdam pulled into the port.
The group of snorkelers is lead by the crew, and despite several hundred other people swimming in the same bay, there are still a surprising number of fish to see and photograph. I even see a lobster on the bottom before we return to shore. The flippers they give us earlier are necessary, since there are some fairly strong surges as we do the circuit, especially when we are lead into a cave with a narrow opening.
As always, I’m happy to return to the ship to have a shower and put on fresh clothes. I spend part of the afternoon doing one final load of laundry before the end of the cruise. My friends and I have some Becks beer on the stern deck as we pull out of the bay. We decide to have a casual dinner in the same place since the weather is so warm.
Cunard’s Queen Victoria is docked beside Rotterdam at the pier. It is an impressive new ship, with five decks of veranda suites. She is huge – much wider and higher than our ship, but not too much longer. Cunard still runs their larger ships with two classes of passengers, so I expect the two gangways are for First Class and Tourist Class. Seeing this ship brings back memories of when I sailed aboard the Cunard Princess in the 1980’s from Vancouver through the Panama Canal and the Caribbean. The Cunard Princess was a small ship with some 800 passengers, so it was a single class (Tourist Class) ship.