Tuesday, January 4, 2011


DAY 36 We awake docked across form another HAL ship. It is much bigger than we are. We head to breakfast for the last time in our special dinning room and have our last eggs Benedict. Carolyn will really miss this tomorrow!!

Back in the room we gather up the odds and ends and head down to the Neptune Lounge to wait for our number to be called. Most people seem to be waiting in the suites. There is no pressure on the suite passengers to leave.

About 9:30 they call the first group and then about 10 minutes later they call our group and maybe six others. Of course, by the time we work our way down to the level of the gangway it is packed with people. There was only one card reader so things were moving very slow. People are getting really antsy and Elizabeth just continues to call one group after another!!

We are finally off the ship and breeze though immigration and customs. There is a bit of a wait for a taxi, but we are soon off to the airport. Security is a pain and we are stopped for a baggage check. Both bags are completely unpack and the contents sent back through x-ray. At last we make it to the waiting area for our flight. From here things go smoothly. The flight is uneventful and JW is there waiting for us in luggage pick up. The luggage arrives intact and we head back to Brenham. We love this luggage direct, makes things so easy!

The cruise was great. The itinerary was very nice, we enjoyed seeing all the islands. For us though, it is probably a one time cruise itinerary. We do like the Neptune Suites on HAL and have tentatively booked a 14 day Round trip Alaska trip for next year. We leave on Jan 9, 2011for a 71 day circumnavigation of South America including Antarctica and the Amazon River. After that we will work on plans for the next bucket trip.


DAY 35
Another nice day and a good breakfast. .It is our last full day on the ship. We will miss the breakfast service! We spend the morning packing and weighing and rearranging the suitcases to get only one that is over weight...we hope!We are using luggage direct service for the first time.

Dick tries for the disembarkation talk, but it is packed so we watch it later in the room.
We have the TV on while we are packing and a 14 day Alaska trip is shown...it sounds interesting with stop in Anchorage, Kodiak, Sika and Victoria...either new ports or ports we haven’t been to since our first Alaska cruise 20 years ago. Carolyn goes down and books a suite for the last cruise next September. We may/probably will move it to 2012. But it gets us the $200 OBC and the $200 deposit.

Dick watches TV movies and Carolyn finishes packing and sits on the veranda for a while. We go to dinner in the dinning room and enjoy one last dinner with our friends. Back in the room we put the luggage out. We are using luggage direct so we won’t see the bags until we get to Houston.

Our travel companion is going to miss all the attention and nightly chocolates.


DAY 34
Today is a little grey, but looks like the clouds will lift. It is much cooler now. We head to the King’s Room for our usua morning fixl. Then have every intention on doing the kitchen tour at 10:30, but get busy talking in the Lounge and forget about the time.

We do make the last cooking demonstration with Chef Kartik. He is the Indian Head Chef in the Pinnacle.
He is doing Pawn Coconut Curry. We aren’t real fans of curry, but we will give it one more try since he is cooking a dish he loves from "home" We are blown away with the chile and chile peppers he adds! It is a wonder the show and the kitchen didn’t go up in smoke! The sample is not near as loaded with chile pepper and not hot, but we just don’t like the spice combo that makes a curry.

We spend the rest of the day reading and napping on the veranda. The sun does come out, but it is cool. We are eating in the Pinnacle again tonight and it is another and last formal night. We go to the last of the shows in the showroom "Amore". It is nicely done with beautiful costumes! We also loose our last hour tonight and will be on San Diego time tomorrow.

The  moon rises off our balcony...what a perfect night.


DAY 33
It is finally a beautiful sunny day! After our usual good breakfast, Carolyn adjourns to the veranda for a day of reading and napping!. Dick is out some but spends most of his time on the computer. There are lectures but he only makes the afternoon one.

It is one lazy day! We order room service and have dinner on the veranda as the sun sets. It has been a wonderful day!


DAY 32
We sleep late and barely make breakfast at 9:25. We aren’t the only sleepy heads...the King’s Room is full! We actually spend a long time talking with a couple we often sit with. The A/C went out over night on our deck...everyone is hoping it is fixed soon...they had the ceiling in the hall on the floor working on it as we came down.

Chef Thomas does his last cooking session Mexican Chocolate Crepes this morning so we are both there. The crepes are really good. He recommends the same crepe maker Carolyn has used for years to make omelets.

Dick watches some of his DVD’s on his computer and goes to his lecture this afternoon. Carolyn sits on the veranda..it is stormy, but with the deep overhang our veranda stays dry so it is pleasant. She works on the blog and reads. Chef Thomas is doing crepes on the Lido so she goes up for a Banana’s Forster and a Chocolate with Kuluha after a snack in the Neptune. After lunch she post all the trip reports for the islands to the blog and works on the memory book. The A/C is fixed so the room is comfortable
We order angle hair pasta with meat sauce last for our dinner tonight. Holland American’s food is just as uninspired as it was eight years ago...lots of steak, potatoes, and the same steamed plain vegies...no Italian which we love and are really missing. As it turns out, tonight is also Asian Night in the dinning room so we have several plates of our favorites to go with the angle hair!

Our stewards strik again playing with our traveling companion...we have really enjoyed their service.


DAY 31
We are up a little earlier today and make it to the King’s Room about 8:30. The staff is off their mark today. I order grits and cream of wheat! Oh well, I won’t starve, but since there are four staff that work there every day and we are there most every day, ordering the same thing everyday...you get the picture!

This morning Chef Thomas is cooking again...Spanish Omelets this time. We really enjoy this Holland American program and Thomas is a hoot! The omelet is an open face one. He gives lots of pointers on what to use as fillings and how to serve it for breakfast, lunch or dinner or as an appetizer if any is left over.

Dick goes to the lecture in the afternoon and to the marionette talk by Phillip Huber. Carolyn has a club sandwich from room service then goes to the flower arranging talk and watches the ship’s florist arrange some vases for areas in the ship. She is using tropical greenery and flowers she cut yesterday at a local farm as the ship didn’t get their supply of flowers as planned in Tahiti. It was amazing to watch her work with all the parts of the plants coming up with two beautiful arrangements!

Carolyn ordered a cheese plate for four for our little get together in the room. It came a little late and was only a serving for one...room service, except for the breakfast card routine, has been less than wonderful...they have rarely brought all that was ordered and have had to go back for things.
We have a good visit with the Rodriguez’s. They have been having problems with a diesel smell in their room along with so others, but so far we haven’t had that problem....

We go to dinner together and have a pleasant evening. Tonight we loose another hour. Think there is only one more to get to San Diego time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


DAY 30
Finally some sea days. Actually this is the first of six in a roll. This will be our record for consecutive sea days...we will see how Dick survives! We go to the King’s Room for a relaxing late breakfast about 9. There is no one there, but two couples come in just before closing. The sommelier is talking at the Coffee Chat so we both head to that. We really like Tony. He is from Canada and has a good sense of humor.
From there we go to the Culinary Arts demonstration where Executive Chef Thomas is cooking up Chicken Trinidad with orange rum sauce and fruit gratin. This has been the most enjoyable feature of the cruise. We get to taste the fruit dish.

Dick goes to the lecture and Carolyn goes to the Neptune Lounge to post some of the blog. We are not eating lunch today as we have Pinnacle Grill reservations tonight and want to be hungry so we can really enjoy the wonderful food
Carolyn meets with the future cruise planner in the Lounge thinking she will buy two future cruise credits, but Holland America does not work like Princess. If you don’t use the credits within the four years, you can’t get your money back. Since we have cruises paid for and planned for through 2012, she doesn’t think it is worth it and passes.

We go to the Pinnacle Grill tonight and have another great meal.


DAY 29 This is another, but our last, up early to go ashore day. Breakfast is delivered to our room at 7:00AM and by 7:40AM we are sitting in the Oceans Lounge with other Cruise Critic members waiting for the tenders to be called. And waiting, and waiting, and awaiting, etc., etc., etc.!!! No PA, no nothing until 8:30AM when they announce that tender service has started. Of course, we all have tickets for the first tender and we have not been called so how could it have started?

Finally, about 8:45AM, they call our tender ticket number, #20, and we all proceed down to A Deck to board the tender and go ashore. By a little after 9:00AM we have met up with our tour provider, Jocelyn and have boarded her PU truck. Carolyn gets in the front seat and I get in the back seat along with a couple from Bellingham, WA. The other four persons get to sit in the open back of the truck on benches! Don’t you just love 3rd world tours?

Nuku Hiva is made up of very jagged terrain and, in fact, the harbor at Taiohae, where we land, is on the edge of a caldera from an extinct volcano. Leaving the harbor area, we turn left and then begin to climb out of the caldera on a steep, narrow road with frequent hairpin, switchback turns. Upon reaching the crest of the steep cliffs surrounding the harbor, we stop of a look back down into the harbor below.

We continue on, heading either up or down hill but never level for several miles. We stop at and over look for the site where the 2002 Survivor Micronesia was filmed.

When head steadily down toward Taipivai where Herman Melville lived for several years. At Taipivai, we are back to sea level and then we begin another climb up a river valley. After several miles, the pavement give way to a dirt and gravel road and we begin to kick up dust which coats the people in the back of the truck. We stop to view a very crude industrial facility that is processing cocoanuts into copra

and to look at waterfalls dropping hundreds of feet into the valley. At the bottom of these falls is a small electrical generating station using the falling water to produce electricity for the town of Taipivai and its environs. We drive to Hatiheu Pass for what is considered the most beautiful view on the Island the overlook for Hatiheu Bay, It is truly beautiful! Then we turn around and head back the way we came after.

On our return, we head a little ways toward the other side of the island to see the change in the vegetation and make a stop at a developed overlook and get a spectacular look down into the bay in which our ship is anchored. We can also see the rim of the largest extinct volcano, there are three on the island. Our guide also uses this stop as an opportunity to collect her fee of $55US or 5,000XFP per person. From here we return to the dock area; everyone in need of a restroom!

We visit the craft vendors and hope to find wood carvings as these are supposed to be the craft of choice on this island. Unfortunately, all the good stuff has been snatched up while we have been sightseeing or there was not much to be had. After examining everything to be had, we buy a carved letter opener with a tiki on it and a swatch of Tapa cloth with a black symbol drawn on it. Carolyn says the Tapa cloth will frame nicely and will make a nice addition to our art collection. The beach doesn't look that wonderful so having exhausted our options, we head back to the ship.

As we are about to get underway, one of the Cadet Officers gets his fingers smashed between the tender and the dock as he is attempting to remove the mooring line. After much backing and filling, he is brought onto the tender and sits just above us. His fingers are badly injured with one of them having a nail just hanging by a thread. He tells someone he can move them so maybe they are not broken but his right hand will be out of action for quite sometime judging by its appearance. This is the second accident while tendering on this trip. Fortunately no one was hurt on the first one. The tender captain’s skills have been so poor, we hope there will be no reason to need the tenders on the way back to San Diego!

After returning to the ship we put on swim suits and head up to the pool for a swim and a dip in the hot tub. That done, we return to the cabin and gather a snack from the Neptune Lounge along with a club sandwich from room service then nap and read until sail away. There is deck barbeque for Oktoberfest, but the menu doesn’t sound good so we wait for our regular seating. We visit with our friends at the next table and invite then for wine and snacks in the room on the 17th. We will get some food from the lounge and try the two French wines we bought in Papeete. Dick goes to bed after dinner and Carolyn goes the showroom to see "Songbook", which turns out to be the best show yet!



DAY 28 All the sun and fun of the last five ports has caught up with us. We sleep in and drag ourselves to breakfast in the Kings Room. It is nice not to have to eat in the room and then rush off the ship to do something. Once again we remind ourselves that we really like a day or two between ports. There is not much on the schedule except the lecture at 2:00PM. We go to the Coffee Chat with our "favorite Cruise Director," Elizabeth, to hear what a staff member has to say about living and working on the ship then retire to the veranda to work on the blog and the pictures for the rest of the morning. Carolyn gets the report from yesterday written and postsl it on Cruise Critic. The reviews we read were all good for yesterday’s tour guide, but his service was bad yesterday so she wanted to let others know.

We are both stuffed after our very good but heavy meal last night. Carolyn makes lunch from the light buffet in the Neptune Lounge and a ice cream cone later. It is very pleasant out on the veranda and a nice nap takes up most of the afternoon for Carolyn. Dick gets the blog reports up to date. Carolyn picks the pictures for the blog and Dick smalls them. We are way behind so we hope to get things close to current today.
Dinner is the Master Chef’s Menu and there are only two seating...no anything dinning tonight. Most of our neighbors dine in the room from the sounds of the carts going down the hall. The meal is good and the staff entertains with dancing and singing, but it slows the service down. This is something we could do with out and is very similar to what was done on Carnival this summer.

Back in the room we fill out our last room service breakfast card since we will meet the CC group for another organized tour. We certainly hope this one goes better than the last one. Carolyn goes to the computer lounge to try to up load reports and pictures to the blog. After getting to The Raiatea post the connection slows down so she calls it a night!


DAY 27
We are awake before the wake up call, but are already anchored in the large lagoon inside the Rangiroa Atoll or ring of coral, off Avatoru Motu. Rangiroa means "large sky" in Polynesian and is a true atoll made up of 240 motus, islets, separated by 100 hoa, tiny channels. It is the fourth largest atoll in the world. The lagoon is more than 43 miles long and 16 miles across. Actually you can not see across the atoll from sea level and up on deck 8 you could barely make out the distant tree line.

We ordered a room service breakfast last night as we have to meet the Cruise Critic group in the Oceans Lounge at 7:45AM. We all tender ashore at one time to meet the two tours that are scheduled with Ugo. There are thirty of us, eighteen are going to the blue lagoon and twelve are going to the Pink Sands Beach, both over an hour’s boat ride away.

Things go very smoothly and we are all on shore by 8:45AM. Unfortunately things fall apart on shore.

Ugo is there and wants the 18 people for the Blue Lagoon first. He puts eight in a very small boat with NO shade cover for an hour long ride to the lagoon. Then he puts the other 10 in a larger covered boat. He keeps telling the rest of us we will go in the next boat and hops in the boat he just loaded and tells us our boat, for Pink Sands, is on the other side of the pier as he is leaving...we turn around and ask the guy, but he says, "No, Ugo told him, Blue Lagoon." He has a nice little sign all written in English to that effect with prices. He also has a list of five couples off the boat that Ugo had given him..two couples on that list are already in the boat. He tells our group he will take us to the Blue Lagoon, but not Pink Sands. After some discussion six of our Cruise Critic group pay and get on his boat. The five couples on the list had evidently made separate arrangements by internet with Ugo. Three others are no shows on the next tender so the ten of us head out. The boat captain speaks very little English, so we hope for the best, but at this point our little group is under the impression, we will meet up with the rest of the Cruise Critic group at the Blue Lagoon.

It is a rough, almost 90 minute, ride to a very beautiful lagoon surrounded by small motus. We see the rest of the Cruise Critic group, but they are on one of the other islands. So, we are on our own. The boat anchors but we are still some distance from the island. We hop out (Carolyn sort of falls out) as there is no ladder offered. We wade ashore and the guide starts to unload the supplies. There is another boat with four French couples, already on our motu, that turn out to be part of our group too.

Once we are all ashore and have a small snack and drink, the guides start a cocoanut husk fire in the grill and we are ferried across the lagoon in a small motor boat to snorkel around some coral heads. The Lagoon is really beautiful but there is very little sea life. There was an invasion of the crown of thorns star fish a few years ago that killed all the coral. It is growing back but the lagoon bottom is a desert. We do snorkel and enjoy finding what we can and playing with the huge blue and purple lipped clams. We wade in the shallows among a huge nursery of black fin sharks and other reef fish. Carolyn does a little shelling.

After about an hour or so we are ferried back to the first motu where another boat has arrived with five more people off the ship. They bought the tour once off the tender and were about forty-five minutes behind us. The guides have fixed a barbeque of fish and chicken, cevieche, rice salad and a wonderful coconut bread. There are four guides now and three play and sing for us as we eat.

Then we play in the water, feeding the baby sharks, snorkeling or just laying on the beach. One guide picks a baby shark up so we can feel it then shows how to put it to sleep!

We load the boats about 1:30 to begin the trip home. After moving out into deeper water the boats stop and the guides feed the larger sharks. We can swim with them...some do, but we pass on the swimming and just watch. These sharks are four to six feet long and there is at least one big lemon shark (third most aggressive variety) in the mix. At this point the guide for the boat of Frenchmen swims over to our boat for a huge fish head which he holds out of the water as he swims back to his boat. He feeds the sharks there and actually catches one about four feet long and hauls it aboard for his guest to see!

While all this is going on there is a bit or drama on the third boat. The five guest from it are on our boat for the shark feeding as their boat wouldn’t start...there had been some problem with the motor on the way out...now it is dead! After watching the shark show we start back about 2:00PM, the extra people still on our boat. Two guides stay and continue to work on the other boat motor. We assume someone will come back to help them.

It is an even rougher ride back as the swells are even higher and we are heading into the wind. Finally we are back to where we can see the ship and are close to land. We turn away from the ship and every one is a bit disturbed...remember we don’t speak French and the guide doesn’t speak English. Actually this turn is for the Tiputa Pass to see the dolphins running with the tide and is a bit scarey.

The current is creating really high swells and we are in a really small boat which is full! We do see some dolphin, but have visions of capsizing as the boat runs with and across the current! Exciting? Yes! Will we do it again? No!

We come out of the pass, make one stop to shift around coolers, leave the boat of Frenchmen and head back to the dock where we catch one of the last tenders. After cleaning up we have a cocktail and mull over the day and watch a very nice sunset.

In conclusion, I would not recommend Ugo for a tour. The trip is very expensive, $100+ per person, and he delivered the promised tours for ONLY 10 of the 30 Cruise Critic people even after months of planning. The 10 that went to the Blue Lagoon in a covered boat were the winners. The others did not get what was promised: neither a covered boat for the nearly three hour round trip to the Blue Lagoon nor the promised trip to the Pink Sands Beach. BUYER BEWARE!!!

If you dive or have snorkeled in other areas of the world you are better off waiting and taking a tour from the ones offered on the dock or just walking to one of the nearby beaches. What we saw we had already seen the on the other islands with much less hassle and a lot less money. Many people just went to the beach and thought it was great. As we sail out of the lagoon we could see that beach area and it is a very nice sand beach. We have a nice dinner in the Main Dinning room and visit with the neighboring table about our day. They went to the beach and had a great time.