January 27, 2013 (Papeete, Tahiti)

January 27, 2013 (Papeete, Tahiti)

Papeete (meaning water from a basket) is the capital of French Polynesia and is located on IMG_4994


the island of Tahiti. It is the primary center of Polynesian public and private governmental, commercial, industrial and financial services as well as the hub of tourism. Papeete was first settled by British missionary, William Cook, of the London Missionary Society in 1818. Queen Pomare IV moved her court to Papeete and made it her capital in the late 1820’s and the town grew into a major regional shipping and transportation center. France took control of the Tahitian islands and made them a protectorate in 1842.

We took a tour of the island today called “In the Footsteps of Gauguin”. Paul Gauguin journeyed to and toured Papeete in 1891. He stayed for a couple of years before returning to France to sell his art. After not much success in France he returned to Papeete in 1895 spending time in the area until his death from a heart attack in 1903 at the age of only 55. The Gauguin museum is in poor condition and is getting ready to close for a five-month renovation project. It features a retrospective of the artist’s life in the islands through letters, writings, documents and his household items. There are many copies of his work represented but no originals.

Also on the tour we visited the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands in the residential district of Punaauia, which has an excellent collection. There were wonderful items related to local culture, traditions, geography as well as a lovely tropical garden right at the water’s edge.

Along our journey to the Gauguin Museum we stopped in a beautiful lush valley filled with lush vegetation and enormous plumeria trees covered with fragrant white blossoms. A valley at Arahurahu is where we visited a Marae, which is a Ceremonial meeting place. Here we saw two human-like statues, which are very similar in style to the statues found at Easter Island. They are much more human like with less exaggerated features and were much smaller in size. The statues could also represent women where the Easter Island statues only represented men. At this site there was also a stage area created out of volcanic rock, which was used for religious ceremonies and festivals. Archery was a sacred sport, which called for human sacrifice. There was a high platform where sacrifices, including humans, were performed. This practice was abandoned when the missionaries arrived. They also used this area for festivals and civic events.

It is a Sunday so most everything is closed today. The downtown area near the port is very well developed and where many of the hotels and resorts are located. Many of the buildings are in poor condition and are in need of paint and repairs. Graffiti is very common throughout the island. Many of the homes are poorly constructed, dated looking and also in need of repairs. There appears to be little new construction and our guide told us that even Hilton and Sofitel recently closed their hotels due to the lack of business.

When we returned to the ship a local Folkloric Show was presented as the night’s entertainment.

January 26, 2013 (Sea Day)

January 26, 2013 (Sea Day)

We have been changing our time by one hour back for each of the last five nights since we left Easter Island. You would think that we would be having too much sleep but we have been enjoying the extra hour of the day.

Today is Australia Day, which is a holiday in Australia when the nation comes together as a nation to celebrate what is great about the Australia and being Australian. It commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet of 11 convict ships from Great Britain, and the raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove by its commander Captain Arthur Phillip, in 1788. More than a barbecue and fireworks, it is a celebration of the pride felt by Australians not only of the past but of the present.

We attended a port lecture with Barbara on “Things to See and Do in Auckland” this morning. Also this morning we attended a cooking class with chef Kevin on how to prepare Dungeness Crab Cakes with a Thai Sweet Chili Sauce and Marinated Cucumbers.

This afternoons activities included the movie Australia with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, which we enjoyed. Tonight’s entertainment is another concert by the group AbbaFab performing the music of Abba.

January 25, 2013 (Sea Day)

January 25, 2013 (Sea Day)

This morning the guest at the “Good Morning Amsterdam” show was the onboard Acupuncturist who is from Australia.

Sandra Millikin’s lecture was on The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Sandra showed slides of what they were and what we know about them. They also have influenced modern architecture. David Pasta lectured on,” What’s Coming-Global Warming or Global Cooling?” where he discussed how the earth’s temperature has been rising and the melting of the polar ice.  From his data points it appeared that it was possible that this might just be a normal cycle. He did agree though that more than 80% of scientists studying this field believe that there is some degree of global warming and that man has played a part in it.

The ships Safety, Environmental and Health officer Andrew gave a talk on how the ship leads the industry in preserving the environment. The ship recycles everything possible. They are only allowed to release water from the vessel, which has been cleaned to a certain standard and only when out to sea and not in any port. Food waste is ground up and discharged into the ocean. Some paper waste is incinerated while plastic, glass, aluminum and other items are recycled at ports where they can be properly handled. The ship is able to create its own drinking water from salt water for use onboard the ship.

The show this evening was a variety show with Jack Mayberry and David Howes who have both performed previously.

January 24, 2013 Sea Day- Cruise Pitcairn Island

January 24, 2013 (Cruising Pitcairn Island)

Pitcairn Island

On this day we cruise the island of Pitcairn which was discovered on July 3, 1767 by the crew of the British sloop HMS Swallow and was named after Robert Pitcairn, a fifteen-year-old crewmember who was the first to sight it. In 1790, the mutineers of HMAV Bounty and their Tahitian companions, some of whom had been kidnapped from Tahiti, settled on Pitcairn Island and set fire to the Bounty. Today, the island is inhabited by fewer than 60 people, from nine families, making it notable for being the least populated jurisdiction in the world. Its largest population was in 1937 with 233 people, but through emigration to New Zealand the population has dwindled.

The island has quite fertile soil and is able to produce a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Fish are plentiful in the sea, so nearly daily someone goes fishing. The Pitcairners are involved in creating crafts and curios mostly of Miro wood, which is a dark, durable and beautifully grained wood. Typical carvings are of fish, sharks, whales, turtles, as well as walking sticks, vases and wood boxes. Pitcairn also produces some of the finest honey in the world, which they export to New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Also exported under the brand “Delectable Bounty” are dried bananas, papayas, pineapples and mangoes.

Typically the ship would allow the Pitcairners onto the ship to give a talk about the island and to sell their handicrafts and honey but not this time. A ship that visited the island a couple of weeks ago brought the flu virus, which has been so prevalent in the U.S. in recent weeks and nearly a third of the population was ill. The captain was not willing to allow the islanders onto the ship from fear they would bring the flu bug onto the ship. Because of this we were only able to cruise around the island before setting sail for Tahiti.

Before we left the MS Amsterdam fulfilled the islanders wish list for items like meats, poultry, ice cream, soft drinks and liquor, which were donated to the locals. This was accomplished by the islanders coming out to the ship in a motorboat and ship’s crew throwing boxes of goods to the islanders. This minimized the risk of crew catching any germs.

The island is fairly small, measuring about two miles across, but is very green looking with steep cliffs and jagged rocks at the point that the island meets the sea. We could see several homes and buildings on the island, which looked fairly simple and plain. Clusters of pine trees were visible from the coast but otherwise there was not much to see from the sea.

This evening we were invited to join the captain for a cocktail party and dinner in the specialty restaurant called the Pinnacle. Each formal night the captain hosts one of these parties for the passengers until all of the guests have had a chance to be included. Cocktails and appetizers were served in the Wajang Theater, which had been converted to a party room with tall cocktail tables draped in white linens. Crewmembers who were dressed in all black served the guests.

A five-course dinner was served in the beautiful Pinnacle restaurant, with an officer seated at each table. We were seated at a large table for ten with officer Frizzo who is the second in command, and his girlfriend, Jennifer, who works in the front office. The meal included a cup of soup, a starter of lobster skewers, a green salad, a lamb entrée and a medley of chocolates, cheese and coffee flavored gelatins for dessert.

The entertainment tonight was a gentleman by the name of Nick Page who was a wonderful vocalist from London’s West End. He performed songs from Michael Buble, Broadway, Frankie Valli, Pavarotti, Les Miserables and more.

When we returned to our cabin after dinner there was a small plate of chocolates and a thank you note from the captain thanking us for coming to the dinner. We also received a two-piece ceramic tulip vase as our gift for tonight’s formal night. The vase has an illustration of a building in Holland where they grow tulips.

January 23, 2013 Kent’s Birthday!!!!

January 23, 2013 (Sea Day)

It is Kent’s birthday today. He received cards from the captain, our travel agent, new friends onboard and Mark. He made a special request that he did not want to have a cake and all of the waiters singing for him at dinner.

We attended Good Morning Amsterdam this morning as we usually do on sea days. Today’s guest is the Chef Kevin who oversees the Culinary Center onboard. He is from Vancouver and has a fine arts background.

David Pasta lectured on “When Will the World Run Out of Oil”. He discussed how the world’s oil supply is unsustainable and that it is mandatory that we find alternative fuels.

After a delightful lunch in the main dining room we attended a classical music appreciation lecture where we listened to classical music that has accompanied motion pictures. That was followed by the movie of the day, which was a documentary on Ethel Kennedy that was produced by her youngest daughter, Rory. It was a moving documentary chronicling the life of her mother Ethel Kennedy from the time she grew up until 2011. It had a wonderful collection of family photos and film clips from her life including her very public life with husband Bobby Kennedy and their eleven children.

For Kent’s birthday dinner we dined at the specialty Italian restaurant called Canaletto. The German boys Allan and Matthius joined us for dinner.

Canes, walkers and scooters – Old People.  There are many older people on the cruise who are still out there enjoying life.  Many are slow and use all sorts of tools and devices to get around.  At least they are still here!  Many passengers get frustrated with them, but we say, “Go for it!”  We have heard stories about some passengers whose families have put them on the ship to keep them in a safe place where they will get food, care and have social opportunities—all for less money than a nursing home.  Sounds like a good deal for me.  Some say that some of those passengers “just aren’t right in the head.”  But, they are here.

January 22, 2013 Sea Day

January 22, 2013 (Sea Day)

Today is a quiet sea day with a wide variety of activities onboard to chose between or to just do nothing. Both of us are suffering from colds so it is a good day to take it easy and rest.

Explorations speakers include Sandra Millikin speaking on the Taj Mahal and David Pasta speaking on the predicting of earthquakes, tsunami’s and volcanic eruptions.

The crew prepared a special Mongolian barbecue poolside for lunch. You could select from a buffet of vegetables, meats and noodles of which the crew would stir- fry with sesame oil, garlic and hot sauce.


January 21, 2013 Easter Island

January 21, 2013 (Easter Island)

Easter Island Moai

Easter Island QuarryEaster Island Kent and Moai The weather today is mostly sunny and very warm. It looks like the perfect day to visit this unique and very isolated island. Sometimes things can be very deceiving, and todays adventure was one of those days.

Because there is no pier large enough for our ship to dock, our visit to Easter Island requires us to take a tender from the ship to shore. The tenders are small life- boats that are lowered from the ship into the water and used to transport passengers from the anchored ship to a small dock on the island. Each tender holds something like 75 passengers and they run all day long while we are in port. Unfortunately the weather is often very rough here and only about 30% of ships actually disembark passengers. We were lucky to have made it onto the island although it was much later than anticipated. Around 8:00 in the morning we went to the theater to get our tender tickets to go ashore as soon as possible.  We had intended to go ashore by 9:30 with some friends to take a private tour with a local guide our friends had met last year. Due to the weather the tender boats were getting beaten against the ships loading platform causing damage to them. Additionally it was taking a very long time to get the tender boats loaded with passengers as they bounced up and down in the rough seas. We were finally allowed to take a tender a little after noon due to the delays with the tenders. The tender we took to shore has been smashed against the ship splitting the fiberglass body and breaking out a window, which was now covered in plastic. When the large waves crashed over the bow of the tender buckets full of water poured into the boat. The short distance to the protected dock ashore was very close but took us awhile to get there as we rode each swell in the sea up and down. Shortly after we made it ashore by tender the captain stopped all tenders due to the high seas and unsafe conditions. Many passengers were unable to go ashore and were very disappointed.

The tour guide our friends arranged for our 9:30 tour was waiting for us at 1:00 PM.  So we convinced our German friends, Allan and Matthias to join us for the island tour which now as four hours rather than seven.  The tour van was dirty and had loose seats, but, at this point we didn’t care.

Easter Island is a part of Chile and keeps the same time as Chile so we have not yet changed our watches from Fort Lauderdale time. Easter Island is located 2,237 miles west of Chile and 1,290 miles east of Pitcairn Island, making it one of the most isolated, inhabited places in the world. The island is almost triangular in shape and is approximately 17 miles in length and 8 miles in width at its widest point. It was given the name Easter Island because the Dutch discovered it, on Easter Sunday in 1722. Literature suggests that Easter Island was settled around 300-400AD about the time that Hawaii was settled; however some scientists say the island was not inhabited until 700-800AD. More recent studies, including radiocarbon dates from what is thought to be very early material, indicates that the island was settled as recently as 1200AD, the time of the island’s deforestation.

The island is nothing like the tropical paradise you would expect to find on an island in the South Pacific. The island is mostly barren with grassy hills and clusters of small trees, which have only existed on the island over the last thirty years or so. Before that it was completely barren without trees or grass. The roads are mostly dirt and gravel and many have been eroded from recent rains.

Easter Island is most famous for its large stone statues called Moai, which were carved from 1100 to 1680. There are a total of 887 statues, which have been inventoried on the island as well as in museums around the world. The statues are all of men, mostly torsos, some kneeling on bent knees with their hands over their stomachs. Many of the Moai are buried up to their necks by years of shifting soils. Some have been restored, although most remain in their original state–often broken, unfinished and many deteriorated by nature. Today the Moai are all natural stone in color but when they were first completed they would have been smoothly finished and beautifully painted in bright colors.  As many as 1,000 family members would carve on a statue at any given time.

We visited the quarry where most of the Moai were carved from stone and later transported around the island. They believe that Moai were made in the likeness of actual people by their families to honor them, especially if they had what they believed was high energy. They believed that the energy was highest in those who were first born and that if you were born of parents who were also first-born that you possessed even greater amounts of energy. If you were the first-born they believed that you should never cut your hair. This may account for the hat like pieces on the top of some of the Moai’s heads. They believe that this may represent the hair that would have been tied up on top of their heads.

We also visited two of the three craters created by the volcanoes that make up the island. These craters are very large and are filled with fresh water from the rain. At one time this was the only source of fresh water on the island. Today the craters are like a huge bowl with a beautiful lake inside filled with a wide variety of plants growing on the waters surface. The craters are so lush that it is hard to imagine that they were once just molten lava.

By the time we finished our tour and returned to the tender dock it began to rain like crazy. The ride back to the ship was a wild one but we all made it back safely and the ship was on its way towards Pitcairn Island.

At dinner the champagne was flowing to help smooth the anger of the passengers who were not able to go ashore at Easter Island. The entertainment on this night was a British gentleman by the name of David Howes. David can play just about any musical instrument and even some items that are not musical instruments. He played the piano, euphonium, a baby euphonium, a trumpet, a post horn not to mention he played a garden hose, showerhead and hose and even an old persons walker. He had incredible energy and was very entertaining and funny.

January 20, 2013 Sea Day

January 20, 2013 (Sea Day)

This mornings Good Morning Amsterdam show included a chat with the onboard florists from Holland who are responsible for a large array of floral arrangements throughout the ship. We attended Barbara’s presentation on “Things to See and Do in Moorea and Bora Bora” for our upcoming stops in a week or so.

David Pasta presented a lecture on the ancient people of Easter Island and why and how they may have carved the giant Moai statues. It was a good background for our visit to Easter Island the next day.

Sandra Millikin presented a lecture on the architecture of the South Pacific, which also included a discussion about how the South Pacific style influenced architecture in the states. Restaurants with tropical themes became popular in the states in the 60’s and 70’s.

There was a large pool party this afternoon with the orchestra playing, food was served and many games were played. The weather was quite warm in the sun but very pleasant in the shade and all had a good time.

The entertainment this evening is a comedy show with a touch of magic performed by Martin Daniels. Kent was lucky enough to be picked out of the audience along with two other gentlemen to be a part of the show. Since Kent is always looking for a reaction he could not resist telling the audience he was a porn star when asked what he had retired from. That brought a roar from the audience and Martin was quick with his jokes that followed. It has allowed Kent to meet a few more folks onboard who have stopped to make a comment on his performance.

January 19, 2013 Sea Day

January 19, 2013 (Sea Day)

Today was a quiet day of relaxation after two weeks of going, going and going. Most days we are up by 7:00am and do not get to bed at night before 11:00pm at the earliest. There were 64 activities of things to do on the daily bulletin although we did very few. Kent went to the movie theater and saw Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl” while Mark napped.

People We’ve Met:

Staff—There is Christopher in the sundries shop.  He is from Alaska and has been quite “lucky” meeting people on the ship and off.  He sometimes gives us the scoop on attractive passengers and crew.  There is Pedro, from Chile.  He manages the Jewelry shop and sales events.  He is going to give Kent some Spanish lessons on sea days.   Tom is the techspert on the ship and is quite friendly.  Adele is the Hostess on the ship from South Africa and is fun, especially when we attend the Good Morning, Amsterdam talk show.  Bruce, our gay Cruise Director is also very friendly, but he called Kent “ma’am” yesterday, so Kent isn’t a fan.  Our dining room staff are mostly very helpful and are largely from Indonesia and the Philippines and work around the clock.

Fellow Passengers—We’ll start with the gay ones:  There are Stephen and Patrick.  They live in Boston now and own and run an antique shop in the Jamaica Plaines area and two guesthouses.  Patrick is originally from Ireland.  They have been together 26 years.  Patrick just turned 50.  They will only be on the ship until Auckland.

Ken and Fred are now living in Ft. Lauderdale.  Both were living on Long Island and were married with children, but are now divorced from their wives and have been together 12 years.   Fred was a teacher and Ken was a banker.  They are members of our Cruise Critic group.

Ron and Dave are living between Colorado and Florida and are Republicans.  They seem to know a lot of people from previous cruises.  We plan to hook them up with two German fellows (Allan and Mattias) who want to meet some Republicans (see explanation below).  They are from Stuttgart, Germany and have taken a year off to travel.  They sailed the Queen Mary to NYC, drove across country to San Francisco, Vancouver and back through the lower states to Ft. Lauderdale, then on to South America.  They got on the ship in Lima and plan to travel the world until July 2013.  In all their time in the USA, they had not met Republicans.  After watching the election results during their travels, they are most interested in talking with a Republican to get another point of view.

Jim and Ernie are from Vancouver and have organized a tour on Easter Island for us.  They saw it last year on their 2012 world cruise, but wanted to do it again with the tour guide they had last year.  They recommended that we buy Carnival Cruise stock, as with only 100 shares, you get cabin credits from Holland America….to help pay for your bar bill!

Jan and Jan are two retired librarians from outside Denver.  They love reading and eating cotton candy served before dessert in the Canaletto Italian restaurant on board.

Some singles are Tom, from Lake Como, Italy.  He is doing very will with a painter worker on the ship.  Horace is from Vancouver and is an avid photographer.   Ken is from Detroit and just enjoyed a trip to the Galapagos from Lima and rejoined the ship in General San Martin.

Mature ladies—Maureen lives in Berkeley but is from England.  She runs the craft courses on board and is supplemental ship staff.  Verna is from Canada, but now lives in Hilo, HI and also just returned from the Galapagos.  Charlene, from Chicago, spends the winters usually in Spain, but decided to do her first world cruise this year.  Leslie is from Florida and is one of the most striking and stylish women on board.  She will join us for a tour on Easter Island.

Cabin:  Our cabin is about 200 square feet.  We were happy that we could put all of our clothes away in the closets.  We have a sofa, chair and cocktail table, along with a desk/makeup table/chest of drawers.  The bathroom is adequate and we don’t think it is too small.  We have a window and someone comes to clean it everyday!

Laundry:  We purchased the unlimited laundry package for the entire 4-month cruise for $600.  We have been on the ship for two weeks and we have submitted about $170+ worth of laundry.  So we think the laundry package was a good deal.

The entertainer this evening was a comedian and impressionist by the name of Scott Record. He had an incredible talent for impersonating famous singers from Frank Sinatra, Elvis Pressley and Michael Jackson to Roy Orbison. He was very funny and entertaining.

It was a formal night for dinner, which also meant that we would have a gift awaiting us when we returned to our cabin after dinner and the show. On this night the gift was a digital picture frame which you can load your photos into and they will create a slide show with the photos rotating.

January 18, 2013 Sea Day

January 18, 2013 (Sea Day)

David Pasta’s lecture today was titled: “The Most Dangerous Volcanoes on the Earth Rim and the Pacific Ocean” where he discussed deadly stratovolcanoes of the Pacific stretching 20,000 miles along the western and eastern continents as well as the islands of the Pacific Ocean. Something not to give much thought to because we have little control over volcanoes even though they can be devastating and often give little or no notice prior to erupting.

Sandra Millikin lectured on: “Strange Buildings” where she showed slides of weird and wonderful buildings around the world. Some built by famous architects like Gaudi while others were built by unique owners and builders to promote a business or satisfy a whim.

High Tea was served this afternoon with a selection of mini cupcakes in addition to the normal scones, sweet treats, cucumber sandwiches and the like. Six of the gay boys attended the tea.  On her way out, an older lady (93 years old) stopped to ask “where all the ladies were?”  One of our six said:  “Well, we could tell you we are priests, but we’re not…we’re Gay!”  Although that surprised her, she seemed content with the answer and moved on.  They also served chocolate and strawberry milk to wash down the cupcakes, which was a first.

There was an afternoon piano concert by piano virtuoso Nadia Zaitsev who played a variety of classical music. She was excellent and very enjoyable.

The show this evening was call “Vocalize” and was performed by the Amsterdam singers and dancers. The show had a mix of Jazz and Blues standards. The cast has many costume changes and the show is very physically demanding with one musical number after the next.