Category Archives: 2011 Australia

2011 May 2-13 – Days 118-128 – Nawiliwili, Kauai – home in BC

The ship docked in Nawiliwili at 8 am in the morning.  We had spent a month on Kauai in 2010 and had pretty much covered all of the island while  we were there so we did not feel the need to do any tours or go anywhere.  We enjoyed a nice warm day that included a leisurely walk into town and a bit of shopping.   The next two days were spent on Maui, at Lahaina.  We had plans to go to Cirque Polynesia and rent a car for a drive around the island as Maui is an island we have not seen anything of except Lahaina.  But, in our usual lazy fashion we did neither.  We walked all over town, found a barber to get our very shaggy hair cut (which, in my case, took the fellow over an hour and a half because he spent so much time talking about every possible thing that he disliked in Canada – he was a displaced Canadian from Toronto; a victim of police brutality he said. I did not ask for any details).  After the long, arduous session at the salon we wandered back to the ship and stayed there until the ship set sail for the Big Island on May 5.

We have also visited the island of Hawai’i several times and have driven all over the island on one trip or another.  But the ship offered a tour to a seahorse farm and we thought that would be fun so we signed up.  We were driven to the OceanRider Sea Horse Farm and spent over an hour learning all about the techniques and research being done to raise sea horses for the pet trade so they will not be depleted in the wild.  The company has been working for 13 years to create breeding programs and commerical markets for their farm-raised sea horses.  It was very interesting and something new. This is a baby sea horse. We were not supposed to photograph them and I had forgotten and snapped this pic before John reminded me.They loved to link tails and float around.  When our tour was over we did a walk along Ali’i Drive in downtown Kailua-Kona and then went back to the ship. The last port of call in Hawai’i was Hilo, on the other side of the Big Island.  Kailua-Kona is on the dry side, Hilo is on the wet side.  It is rare to have a rain-less day in Hilo but we were blessed with one.  The Hilo side has the quickest access to Volcanoes National Park so many of the guests were off to see the calderas and and the active lava flow of Mt. Kileau which is adding a few feet to the island every year.  The volcano has been erupting continuously since 1983.

All we did in Hilo was walk into town, which was much further from the port than we remember.  It took  us over an hour and a half, but we did walk around the Banyan Park and the Japanese Gardens on the way.  There is not much to Hilo except a long street of tourist shops.  We only bought some ice cream before walking back to the ship.

This 13-day cruise was, for us, a leisurely ride home.  We did not feel it was necessary, nor were we inclined, to do very much.  The islands of Hawai’i were familiar territory, and our next five days we spent at sea.

We arrived in Seattle on May 12 and were picked up at the terminal by one of John’s American cousins.   We spent the day visiting relatives.  Back on the ship that evening we packed our luggage in preparation for disembarking the next day in Vancouver.  A one-hour flight brought us to Kelowna and an hour later we were home. And so, another wonderful adventure concluded.

(I am currently sorting photos to put in a blog about our 62-day Grand Mediterranean/Black Sea Cruise in 2012.  Stay tuned.)

2011 April 22 – Day 108 – Viatape, Bora Bora

I love Bora Bora.  We had stopped there on our Holland America Cruise to Australia and I was very happy to stop again on our way home. It is one of the most beautiful islands I have ever seen and we were fortunate to have clear skies for the sail-in.  Often the top of the mountain is shrouded in cloud.We took part in quite a unique tour on this day.  We went walking underwater with the fish of the reef. A small boat took us from the ship to another boat anchored in the lagoon.  We were given instructions and communication signs before moving to the dive boat, and, one at a time, descended the ladder chest-deep into the water.  A large, 50 lb. helmet was placed over our heads and rested on our shoulders. This helmet had an air hose attached so we were able to breathe normally when we went 10′ under the water to the sandy ocean floor.  It was a bit tricky to stay on the bottom to walk around as my body kept wanting to float but I mastered it after awhile and we had a great time.  I had my little waterproof camera to take pictures and the tour company also had a photographer (in scuba gear) that took some of these pics. Close up and personal to the fishies.  This guy was right in front of my helmet face.

We were given chunks of bread and were swarmed by hundreds of fish.  We were able to spend about a half hour in the water.  It was a very different experience and we thoroughly enjoyed the day.He has a large chunk of bread in his mouth and the fish come eat it.                                                                                          Dancing on the ocean floor.The next day we docked at Papeeté, also a French Polynesian island, and a port we visited on our way to Australia.

2011 April 30 & May 1 – Days 116 & 117 – Honolulu, Hawai’i

For most of the passengers (approx. 1700) on the Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas this was Day one of a 13-day cruise of the Hawaiian Islands and on to Seattle and Vancouver.  For 155 other folks it was an extension of the 17-day cruise to Hawai’i from Sydney, Australia as they were staying on board for back-to-back sailings ending in Vancouver on May 13, 2011.  For us, however it was a continuation of an adventure begun on January 4 when we set sail on a 45-day cruise to Sydney, Australia.  We then spent 52 days touring the eastern half of the country before boarding the Rhapsody on  April 14.  We too were doing back-to-back sailings, the 17-days plus the 13-days to get us home again.

Honolulu is a familiar port for us.  We have stopped here a few times and have been to Pearl Harbor, the military bases,  Diamond Head, and other places of interest.  On this turn-over day when one cruise ends and another begins we walked over to the Aloha Tower and climbed to the top to see the view.

The next day at 8:30 am we did a tour to the north shore of Oahu. We had never previously been outside the city so we were happy to have the chance to see more of the island.  We drove across the island to the east coast on the H3 Interstate which is a 15 mile stretch of elevated freeway (built that way so as to not disturb the landscape) that links two military bases.  There are no exits and no crossroads on this section of road.

The scenery on the drive was very reminiscent of the island of Kaua’i; tall, sharp mountainsides and thick vegetation.

    Our first stop was the Byodo-In (Japanese) Buddhist Temple.                      The temple and grounds were beautiful.

We also went to Sunset Beach and saw two monk seals basking on the warm sand.  Our guide was very excited.  He said he had lived on the island for 40 years and had never seen a monk seal on the shore.  I am not sure if that was true or not but the seals do prefer the northern islands, although we have seen them on the Big Island which is the most southern of the archipeligo.                                 Beautiful day, beautiful beach.  At Turtle Bay we, appropriately, saw Hawaian Green Sea Turtles.  The Dole Pineapple Plantation in the middle of the island has the world’s largest maze.  We didn’t think we would have enough time to solve it so we didn’t even start.  The bus will only wait for a few minutes before leaving you behind. We were back onboard by 2:30 and worked on photos and read our books until dinner. After dinner was the mandatory muster for safety instructions and then we sailed out of Honolulu Harbour on our way to Kaua’i.

2011 April 25-29 – Days 111-115 – Moorea, French Polynesia to Honolulu, Hawai’i

The second sea day out of Moorea we crossed the equator and King Neptune had to bless all the polywogs (those crew and guests that had never crossed the equator before).  At the completion of the ceremony you are a shellback and have Neptune’s permission to cross his boundaries without ceremony in the future.  John and I were initiated on the Holland American Rotterdam in 2009 when we did the World Cruise so we did not have to participate again.  Of course, it is voluntary anyway – except for new crewmembers who must go.  It was a fun thing to watch.

Annointed with a raw egg.

With some added flour to make it messy.  We arrived in Honolulu on April 29 after four lovely, quiet, lazy days at sea.  We have been to Honolulu several times and all we did was walk around some of the city streets near the terminal. The ship stayed in Honolulu overnight because the next day,  April 29,  was the last day of the 17-day cruise from Sydney, Australia to Hawai’i.

If there is a fire truck nearby one must check it out.  Well, someone must check it out.  Me, not so much. The iconic Aloha Tower at the harbour.

We said goodbye to our tablemates that evening and they caught flights back to Australia the next day.The majority of the guests disembarked the morning of the 30th and then all the cabins were cleaned and the ship was re-stocked for the arrival of the guests taking the 13-day cruise around the Hawaiian Islands to Seattle, WA and on to Vancouver, BC.


2011 April 24 – Day 110 – Moorea, French Polynesia

It was Easter Sunday the day we were in Moorea and despite it being a semi-overcast day we enjoyed it very much. We spent the morning on the water looking for spinner dolphins.  The marine biologist who led the tour knows all 150 of the local area dolphins on sight and has a 95% success rate locating them.  We were in the 5% category.  Despite almost going all the way around the island we did not see a single dolphin. We did see some fabulous scenery.  Dr. Poole, the marine biologist, said that Michener was wrong when he said that Bora Bora is the most beautiful island in the world.  “Bora Bora has the most beautiful lagoon,” Dr. Poole said, “But Moorea is the most beautiful island.”  And it was lovely; with knife-edge peaks jutting up all over and thick vegetation covering every inch.  Not to mention the glorious colours of the lagoon.  Really spectacular scenery.-

After our tour was over we wandered around the pier markets for a little while – the nearest town was a distance away from our tender berth. After dinner we attended the inter-denominational Easter service led by a Catholic priest.  He asked John plus four of the children in attendance and the Captain (who was from Owen Sound, ON) to do the readings.  The cruise director plus some other members of the senior staff were there as well.  It was a short service but we really appreciated the opportunity to worship on the special day. The captain never directs the ship into a harbour or port.  There are harbour pilots that come out to the ship on a small boat and literally hop aboard the moving vessel to sail the ship in. The process is reversed when the ship sails out as well.  The pilot will direct the ship until it  has cleared the harbour then the pilot boat will come along the cruise ship and the pilot will hop from one vessel to the other and head back to shore.   They get very good at jumping from one moving object to the other.    We set sail for Honolulu which was four sea days away.  The ship would be in Honolulu for two days as the last day of the 17-day cruise from Sydney, Australia included a day in Honolulu.  The next day the 17-day cruise guests disembarked and the 13-day cruise guests that were going around the Hawai’ian islands then to Seattle and Vancouver embarked.  We just stayed put. We were blessed with a beautiful sunset on the Lord’s day of resurrection.

2011 April 23 – Day 109 – Papeeté, Tahiti

Tahiti was another of the islands that we had visited on our cruise over to Australia and neither of us were hugely enamoured on that day – the artwork of Paul Gauguin notwithstanding.  On this cruise we did a tour that took us inland; from sea level to 4800′ and back again and had a really good day, so we came away with a more favourable opinion of Tahiti; which is the largest of the Polynesian islands. This beautiful yacht was berthed right beside the Rhapsody.

We were picked up by our driver, Allan, and taken through Papeeté to the end of a steep valley in the middle of an ancient caldera.  We crossed a river a couple of times, and saw many waterfalls; some had a sheer drop of over 1300 m.  Allan would stop the truck along the way and tell us about the plants or climate or other interesting things.  He was also very good about giving us photostops. It was still the ‘wet’ season but we were blessed with a rain-free day.  There were two other couples in our truck; a couple from Germany and one from Australia.  The ride was too rough for the German lady and she got car sick as soon as we went off-road.  It must have been a very long afternoon for her.  We, fortunately, were fine.   We almost got John positioned right to catch the waterfall in his hat. We arrived back at the ship at five and enjoyed a Tahitian Folkloric show in the theater after dinner.

2011 April 18-22 – Days 104-108 – Lautoka, Fiji to Raiatea, French Polynesia

We had a second April 18 when we crossed the International Date Line between Lautoka and Raiatea so we had three full sea days before arriving in the first of four ports-of-call in French Polynesia.

April 19 was Tropical Night on board.At Raiatea, after the ship entered the reef the captain had to almost encircle the island to get to the port so we had a lovely slow sail and we spent the time on Deck 5 taking photos of the beautiful water. The two tours we were interested at Raiatea were fully booked so we had no tour.  Raiatea is only 99 miles around and you can do it by taxi in about 3 hours.  We considered making the trip with our table-mates Bill and Carol but we all felt disinclined to be crowded into a small vehicle with no AC for that long.

Instead we waited until the masses had left the ship then  walked into town. We walked the length of the main street and then back along the coast. Checked out a few shops, but, as usual didn’t buy anything.  It was a lovely, warm day and we enjoyed taking an easy stroll. The ship remained docked until 6 am then slowly sailed the 55 km over to Bora Bora, one of my very favourite South Pacific islands.

2011 April 15-18 – Days 100-103 – Sydney, Australia to Lautoka, Fiji

Our first three days out of Sydney were all lazy sea days.  On sea days we walk the deck, read, and visit with folks we meet around the ship.

The 15th of April was a formal night and as Gold members of the Crown and Anchor Club, we were invited to a Meet and Greet with the captain before dinner.  We docked at Lautoka, Fiji at 9:30 am and set off to a Fire-Walking Cultural Show at the Westin Hotel.  Fiji is comprised of 33 islands with 333 provinces and over 300 dialects.  It is the largest producer of sugar in the world and has the largest sugar mill in the world.  The brown sugar is sent to New Zealand to be made white.  They also export mahogany.Lautoka is the second largest city after Suva, the capital, which is on the other side of the same island.  When we were there in 2011 they had 27% unemployment.  The minimum wage was $2.50 per hour ($1. US = $1.75 FJ) and the average wage was $4.50.  Homes and lots were VERY expensive – $750,000 AUS for a house and $320,000 AUS for land.  Even an apartment was over $300,000 AUS.

There was quite a bit of preparation and turning of the rocks so I think they were not as hot as we were made to believe by the time the men walked across them. Still, the rocks were steaming and I certainly wouldn’t do it.  There was definitely a knack to it.  The dances were very good as well.  It was a good afternoon. There are several places in the Fiji Islands that do demonstrations of fire walking on the hot stones, but only one tribe of the Fijian people can do it. The most popular drink is Fiji is kava.  It is made from the fruit of the Kava tree and it numbs your tongue and causes you to relax and  go to sleep.  Fiji rum is 58% alcohol and they make a popular local beer.  We were served snacks during the show and had an hour to wander the resort.              There was a  beautiful pool and access to a lovely beach. The bus picked us up and we were driven to the largest Hindu Temple in the Southern Hemisphere. A circuitous route took us back to the ship in time to get ready for dinner.  The cruise ships provide live entertainment in the theater every evening.  Most evenings we go; if we don’t we will read or walk the deck before bed.  During the night of Monday, April 18 we crossed the International Date Line so when we woke up on Tuesday, it was April 18 again. We had three more days at sea before our next port-of-call Raiatea, French Polynesia on April 21.

2011 April 13 & 14 – Days 98 & 99 – Surfer’s Paradise (Brisbane) to Sydney, Australia

We were on the road by 9:30 am; driving from Surfer’s Paradise up to Brisbane for our 2:15 pm flight to Sydney.  We returned our last rental car, and checked in for our flight only to find it was delayed until 3.  Whiling away time in airports is not my favourite thing, but, unfortunately in these times; it is a fact of life.   The plane was further delayed another half hour so it was to 3:30 before we took off.  We arrived in Sydney at 5 and got on the hotel shuttle for a ride to the Travelodge.  It ended up being a two hour tour of Sydney as our hotel was the last one on the circuit.

We checked into the hotel at 7.  Considering the only thing we had to do that day was take a one and half hour flight from Brissie to Sydney it had turned into a long day.  We were also too late to go to the storage place and collect the luggage we had placed there on Feb. 23.

After we had the $25 per person buffet breakfast in the morning we walked over to the Dymocks Building on George Street and got our two large suitcases.  We had arranged for a late check-out (12 noon) so we took our bags back to the hotel and did a bit of re-shuffling to reduce the number of pieces of luggage we would have to handle.   By this time it was about 10:30 so we took a walk down to The Rocks and Circular Quay to see where we had to go to board our ship later that afternoon.

     There were nice black and white murals on the tunnel walls. When we booked the first leg of the Holland America  2011 Grand World Voyage to take us from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Sydney, Australia (45 days) there was included in our fare $3500 for our return flights to Vancouver.  However, the reason we took a cruise ship to Australia was to avoid the 16 hours stuck in an airplane.

After I had made a rough calculation of the time frame for our Sydney to Sydney travels in Australia John Googled the Sydney Harbour website to see what ships would be leaving about the time we were due back in the city and where they were going.  He found a Royal Caribbean 17-day cruise from Sydney through the South Pacific to Honolulu, Hawai’i.  That is okay, we thought, it is only 5-6 hours from Hawai’i to Vancouver.  We have done that several times.  But, thinks John, the ship will not be stopping in Honolulu. Where was it going from there?  Another Google search of the ship’s itineray revealed that it’s next trip was a 13-day cruise around the Hawaiian Islands, to Seattle to Vancouver.  The cost of those two back-to-back cruises for the two of us was $7200.  Just over double the airfare for 30 days on a cruise ship instead of 16 hours in an airplane.  It took us exactly 10 seconds to make that decision!

My dad always sailed Royal Caribbean for his holidays and we had been on a couple of trips with him.  The ship that was taking us home from Sydney was the Rhapsody of the Seas; the same ship we were on when dad had taken all of his family on an Alaskan cruise in 2000.  As a matter of fact the Rhapsody’s sailing schedule was due to the fact it was re-positioning from a winter schedule in the South Pacific to a summer schedule doing Alaskan cruises out of Seattle and/or Vancouver.

Back at the hotel we checked out at noon, loaded all our bags into a taxi that took us to the pier and we boarded the Rhapsody.

We had some lunch and re-familiarized ourselves with the ship’s layout before finding our cabin.  The ship was over two hours late setting sail due to re-fueling, and, by then we had already had dinner and met our new table-mates; two nice Australian couples doing the 17-day Sydney to Hawai’i cruise. So, here we are again.  On another cruise ship sailing for a month to get home.  We have been to some the ports-of-call before, but there are stops at a few new islands to visit before the ship gets to Hawai’i.



2011 April 5-12 – Days 90-97 – Cairn’s to Surfer’s Paradise, Australia

We had booked an airplane flight over the Great Barrier Reef but we woke to wind and rain.  It had not let up by the time we dressed and had breakfast so we called the tour company to cancel.  The lady at the Tourist Info Center where we had booked the flight told us to bring in our credit card for a re-imbursemetn and when we arrived she told us that the flight company had told her that they would have cancelled the flight themselves anyway.  So much for seeing the reef.  Rats!

Despite the rainy day we decided to drive north out of Cairns to Port Douglas.  The weather wasn’t too bad on the drive up but by the time we had stopped at Flagstaff Lookout and had taken a few photos of Four-Mile Beach the sky opened again and after having some lunch we drove back to Cairns in pouring rain.  By this time, I admit we were getting pretty tired of the rain.  But, it is the wet season, so it was expected – not appreciated; but expected.Thus, the afternoon was spent in our hotel room re-packing luggage for our next day flight to Brisbane and reading, banking, and, as always, sorting and uploading photos.

Our flight to Brisbane left Cairns at 1:50 pm.  We spent most of the morning in the airport because we had to check out of our hotel by 10:30.  The rental car was returned with very few miles added to the odometer.  The window seat on our flight offered some nice views. We arrived in Brisbane at 3, picked up a car and drove the one and a half hours to our hotel seven miles from Surfer’s Paradise.  We were spending our last week in Australia at the famous resort area.  The week, like our week on Phillip Island, was a time-share exchange.  Surfer’s Paradise is a seaside resort on Queensland’s Gold Coast in eastern Australia. It is like the American Honolulu, Miami, or LA.  People from all over the country go there for their holidays to enjoy the beautiful beach, warm ocean weather, and the many theme parks and attractions.Our first day was pretty much a down day. We bought some groceries for breakfast and lunches, and purchased passes to Seaworld, Warner Bros. and Wet n’ Wild, as well as the dinner show Outback Australia Spectacular for the upcoming Tuesday night. Day 2 was spent at Sea World.  We went to three shows and had just finished watching the dolphin show when it began to rain again.  We were going to go on some rides, but the cool, wet weather changed our minds. The famous Surfer’s Paradise beach.  It is over 40 miles long.  Too cool for visitors that day though.

Day 3 (Apr 9) was another down day.  This whole week was planned to be quite lazy.  We had been on the go, more or less, since January with only the odd day to laze. We had decided that we would rest somewhat on our last full week in Australia.  The only thing accomplished this day was mall wandering and grocery shopping and reading.The view from our balcony at the Radisson Gold Coast.  On Day 4 we had planned to go to Warner Bros. but, instead, spent the entire day in our room relaxing and reading. We didn’t even go out for one meal.  Finally, on Day 5 we ventured out once more and spent the day at Warner Bros. Movieland Theme Park.  Our dinner show reservation for the Outback Spectacular is located at Warner Bros. so we were glad to get the directions sorted.

We saw several of their shows. Some of them, like the Wild West one, were very lame.  Batman wasn’t a lot better.  The Stunt Driver show, however, was pretty good.  Very similar to the one at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.   One cannot go to a big theme park without going on some rides. We thought the Superman roller coaster seemed fun, but the line was very long, and so we decided to look further.  There wasn’t too much of a line at the Lethal Weapon ride so we joined the queue.  What we did not realize was that the people were entering from the back of the building due to some repair work being done on the front.  The line was long, it was just all inside the building.  We decided to stick it out and while we inched forward we heard regular announcements about not going if you are pregnant or suffer from heart conditions and such.  The one that had me a bit concerned was the announcement that you must remove all objects from your pockets, even if the have Velcro closures, take off any sandals or flip flops, and hats and leave all your belongings in bins before getting on-board.  Why, we asked ourselves, were we here?

It took about half an hour to reach the ride which lasted exactly 70 seconds!  (I know.  I counted.) You hit speeds of 80 kmph (50 mph), encounter 4G forward and reverse force and turn completely upside down five times within two corkscrews.  We were wobbling so bad we could hardly walk when we go off.  We were nauseous and had a headache as well.  But it was a really fun 70 seconds!   And, once again, it began to rain and since we still were suffering the affects of Lethal Weapon we called it a day and went back to our hotel.

The next day was our last day and we spent it lazily at the resort, only venturing out to go to the Outback dinner theater.  No photos allowed but it was a great show, lots of equestrian riding and Aussie stories; and a good dinner – one of the best we had in the country; so we definitely ended our Australian Adventure on a high note.  Our flight from Brisbane to Sydney was scheduled for 2:15 the next day.