Sailing toward Hawaii…Four days until we reach Kona, ..The Big Island…

A fancy outhouse on a tropical island.

Today, at 12:45 pm is the Crossing the Equator Ceremony which we’ll attend poolside, taking photos we’ll post tomorrow.  In these past four and a half years we’ve crossed the Equator on four occasions; twice on a ship and twice while on in the air.

Crossing  the Equator on a cruise ship is particularly festive when there is usually a ceremony filled with hilarious activities centered around King Neptune. Tomorrow, we’ll return with our photos from the event.

Pristine beach and sea views.

In May 2015, while on our way from Hawaii to Sydney we thoroughly enjoyed the activities surrounding “King Neptune” and hope this ship will provide an equally entertaining Equator crossing event.

Otherwise, today will be a relatively quiet day for us.   With four more sea days, until we reach Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii, where we spent Christmas with 12 of our family members in 2014, we’ll be reminded of how long it’s been since we’ve seen everyone.

A school of fish swimming by the tender.

As we count down to 23 days until we reach Minnesota, the time apart becomes more apparent than ever. We haven’t seen son Richard in Henderson, Nevada since January 3, 2013 (when he wasn’t able to join us in Hawaii in 2014), a full four and a half years ago. Nor, have we seen some of Tom’s siblings his retirement party in October 2012 and others during Christmas in Las Vegas since 2012.

My eldest sister (four years) also lives in Las Vegas, Nevada about a 30-minute drive from Richard’s home.  I haven’t seen her since December 2012.  My dear sister has been lying in bed with the same spinal condition as mine for the past 12 years. 

Care for a ride on a small boat?

Seeing my dear sweet sister is a sorrowful reminder that had I not changed my diet five and a half years ago, lying in bed, unable to walk and in constant pain could have easily been my fate.  My hearts breaks for her. 

But, a life without the pleasure of many foods isn’t for everyone.  For me, it was a no-brainer…be in a wheelchair or give up the foods I loved.  I choose to give up the foods.

The sun reflecting on the sea at the end of the day.

The end result of that decision has enabled us to travel the world, an impossible thought six years ago, a reality today.  There’s no doubt I’m eternally grateful as is Tom.  And although, I continue to struggle with this lingering and annoying gastrointestinal thing I remain hopeful for the future.

The next leg of our journey await us; our family, our friends and the memories of the hot summers and wintertime frozen tundra of Minnesota, which in itself I do not miss at all.  We adapt, we change and our priorities change along with us.

We sail on…

Be well.

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Photo from one year ago today, May 3, 2016:

“Pinch me,” I gasped, “Is this real?”  We could hardly believe our eyes when we saw two buffalo walking on the beach with their owner.  He’d brought them for a swim in the river next to our house.  The black spot in the ocean is a small buoy.  This was our first photo in our upcoming series of photos of “Sightings on the Beach in Bali,” one year ago.  For more photos, please click here.

Leaving Suva, Fiji today for the vast open sea… A peek at early cruise ship history…

Despite their increasing success, these early cruises, called “excursions”, were difficult to plan with existing ships. Constructed as ocean liners, they did not meet the requirements of the pleasure-seeking market. They offered few amenities aboard. 

Note:  Due to the poor signal, formatting has been difficult for today’s post, especially when copying information from another site.  We apologize for the spacing and font differential throughout the post.


With the ship refueled and provisions in the final stages of the loading process, Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas will be departing Fiji around 5 pm.  As mentioned in yesterday’s post, we have thousands of sea miles ahead of us.


We can only imagine what it must have been like generations ago for travelers to make their way across the seas, on a much longer and more hazardous journey.


In perusing online I stumbled across this site with the fascinating story of the world’s first cruise line.  For those who prefer not to click on links, here are a few morsels directly from that article with photos.

SS Albert Ballin was an ocean liner of the Hamburg-America Line launched in 1923 and named after Albert Ballin, visionary director of the line who had killed himself in despair several years earlier after the Kaiser’s abdication and Germany’s defeat in WW 2.  In 1935 the new Nazi government ordered the ship renamed to Hansa (Ballin having been Jewish).

The German shipping magnate Albert Ballin was responsible for turning Germany into a world leader in ocean travel prior to World War I. It was Ballin who also invented the pleasure cruise in 1891.

Born in Hamburg on 15 August 1857, Albert Ballin was destined to become a pioneer in making ocean travel a more pleasant, even luxurious experience. 

As a Jew, for most of his life, he would walk a fine line between social acceptance and scorn. But the “Kaiser’s Jew” long enjoyed financial and political prominence before falling out of favor and being branded a traitor to Germany as the First World War and his own life drew to their bitter end in 1918. Born in a poor section of Hamburg, Ballin (pronounced BALL-EEN) had achieved greatness and strongly influenced the passenger ship industry by the time he took his own life at age 61.

A decade before Albert Ballin’s birth, the company he would later head, the Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien-Gesellschaft (Hapag) had been founded on 27 May 1847, with the goal of operating a faster, more reliable liner service between Hamburg and North America, using the finest sailing ships. At that time a “fast” east-to-west Atlantic crossing took about 40 sailing days. The return voyage, with favorable west winds, required “only” 28 days.

This German postage stamp was issued in 1957 for the 100th anniversary of Albert Ballin’s birth in Hamburg.)  A “packet ship” gets its name from the time when ships were employed to carry mail packets to and from British embassies, colonies, and outposts. The term “packet service” later came to mean any regular, scheduled service, carrying freight and passengers – such as the Hamburg-American Packet Company.

Nevertheless, there was stiff competition for passengers on the North Atlantic route. Internationally, shipping lines in Britain and Prussia (after 1871) fought to attract passengers, but there was also competition within Germany itself between the port cities of Bremen (Bremerhaven) and Hamburg. In 1856 Hapag, under its first director, Adolph Godeffroy, put its first steamship, the Borussia, into service, becoming the first German shipping firm to do so. As time went by, coal-powered steamships would cut the travel time between Hamburg and New York down to just six or seven days.”

For our “history buff” readers and for the remainder of the story, please click here.  We found the story interesting causes us to further appreciate the quality of the experiences we’ve had during this period in our lives with advanced design, amenities, convenience and technology.

During many conversations with passengers on this cruise and others, a common topic of conversation has been how modern conveniences and technology have greatly enhanced travelers desire to see the world in part by cruise ship.
THE FIRST CRUISE SHIP WAS A “PRINCESS”: – The Prinzessin Victoria Luise was the world’s first cruise ship.

For us, it’s added considerably to our ability to visit more countries in shorter periods of time.  Although ports of call stops are often for only one day, it gives the traveler the opportunity to get a sampling of the flavor and persona of the city and a country.

However, our opportunities to stay in many countries for longer periods has provided us with a perspective that often proves to be very different than one might experience in a single day or two (such as these two days in port in Fiji).  
If anything, our longer stays while immersing ourselves into the culture and lifestyle of the locals leaves us appreciating and feeling more inspired than when we may spend a mere day in any location while on a cruise. 

Over these past two days, we’ve had an opportunity to share some of our Fiji lifestyle stories after spending four months on two islands, Vanua Levu and Viti Levu, both very different while possessing the similar friendly Fijian nature of its fine people.

Photos of the ship and her public rooms – as seen in Scientific American.
Fiji consist of 332 islands (of which 106 are inhabited) and 522 smaller islets. The two most important islands are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, which account for about three-quarters of the total land area of the country.”


So off we go, to the Pacific Ocean, finally after almost two years departing the South Pacific.  We’ve had quite an adventure and yet look forward to the next leg of our journey.


Tomorrow, when we return here to post, we’ll be on our way hoping to share the excitement as we head toward Hawaii for three days visiting three ports of call.  In a funny way, it will feel like going home after spending eight months in the islands.


Back at you soon.

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Photo from one year ago today, April 30, 2016:
No photos were posted one year ago when the Wi-Fi signal on the ship, Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas.

Limited number of ports of call on this cruise…Long way yet to sail…9368 km, 5817 miles (5055 nautical miles)…

Isle of Pines coral reef is stunning.

The ship docked at the Port of Suva, Fiji early this morning for an overnight stay.  Why they chose this port for the extended stay baffled us until yesterday when the captain explained in a seminar held midday in the Palace Theatre.

Passengers seemed to enjoy the white sand beach and crystal clear sea.

The ship needed to refuel and gather provisions for the upcoming journey consisting of 9368 km, 5817 miles, 5055 nautical miles in order to sail to Seattle by May 15.  We boarded the ship one week ago today and the time is flying by more quickly than we’d expected.

These types of garments are not for me but it’s fun to check them out.

The ease of life aboard ship along with a pleasant routine we tend to embrace within the first few days, the days almost pass in a blur.  We probably don’t spend more than nine hours a day in our cabin, sleeping, showering and dressing for the day and then for the evening.

There were lots of trinkets for sale in New Caledonia.

Tom and I have the managed the small space in the cabin of 164 square feet down to a science.  We maneuver around one another with a flow comparable to a well-practiced dance where we seldom bump into one another.

After 18 cruises in similarly sized cabins (this is the smallest to date) we’ve managed to make the most of it in keeping the space tidy, organized and free of clutter.  On this particular cruise, we have a phenomenal cabin steward who’s efforts include consistency and organizational skills similar to our own. 

Green themed sarongs.

Each morning as soon as we depart for breakfast she cleans our cabin to perfection.  By the time we return to get our laptops to head to the Diamond Lounge to prepare the day’s post, every last item is completed with nary a wrinkle or item out of order.

Tourists typically purchase tee shirts and beach towels.

Today, we arrived a little later than usual when we lingered at the breakfast table chatting with other passengers, all of whom were about to explore Suva for the day.  We didn’t arrive in the Diamond Lounge until 10 am when in most cases, we’ll be done preparing the post by 11.  This accounts for today’s slightly later posting.

A tiny row boat at the ready.

As we’ve recounted the details of our four-month stay in Fiji on two islands, from September 8, 2015, to January 4, 2016, we giggled over our varied experiences during that period.

Ship passengers peruse the many shops in Isle of Pines New Caledonia.

Whether it was the ants that filled the mattress and pillows on the bed on our first night in Savusavu; buying Kava for the chief when we visited the Vuodomo waterfall; the nightly visits by our neighbor Sewak’s adorable dog Badal who happened to arrive while we were dining, hoping for morsels of meat which we always provided; or the trips to the outdoor markets for food and supplies, we continue to relish the experiences, good and not-so-good yet today.

Two sleeping dogs seemed unfazed about the stream of visitors.

Unfortunately, it was on the second island in Fiji that I contracted this lingering intestinal bacteria I’m continuing to purge from my system with carefully selected foods, supplements, and portion control. 

A rusted outboard motor fashioned into a work of art?

Regardless of the ups and downs, we continue to feel a powerful sense of joy wash over us each and every day.  From the couples with who we’ve become friends aboard this ship; to the many email messages we continue to receive from readers and friends we’ve made along the way; to the anticipation of the upcoming Alaskan cruise and of course, seeing family and friends in less than a month.

Clouds above the pretty beach in the Isle of Pines.

Today, at 1:30 pm the newer movie, Lion, filmed in Tasmania is playing at the Palace Theatre.  We’re certainly looking forward to this movie when our recent stay in Tasmania left us with an appreciation and gratefulness for the three months we spent on the exquisite island.

I haven’t owned a muu muu since I was pregnant in 1966.  (That certainly “dates” me!)

Every day as time marches on, we’re reminded of our growing past experiences in one way or another.  And yet, there’s so much we’ve yet to see.  The future looks bright and filled with wonder.  May good health keep us on track for that which is yet to come.

We offer the same wishes for all of you; good health and well being.

______________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, April 29, 2016:

Sunset on the last night of our cruise to Singapore one year ago today.  For more details, please click here.


Visiting Isle of Pines, New Caledonia…”New’ places to visit…The fun continues with flourish…




View of the shore as our tender pulled into the dock at Isle of Pines, New Caledonia.

This itinerary’s ports of call are a little repetitive for us. Having been to most of these ports, we tend to hesitate when considering if its of interest to get off the ship. In many cases, since we don’t shop, visiting ports we’ve visited in the past holds little appeal.

As soon as we disembarked the tender we walked toward the rows of shops.

These two ports of call on this ship’s itinerary we’d hadn’t visited in the past are:  Isle of Pines, New Caledonia and Mystery Island, Vanuatu both of which we visited over the past several days, each of which we thoroughly enjoyed seeing and now sharing.

Now on our way to Fiji, we have little interest in getting off the ship after spending a total of four months on two of its hundreds of islands and thus, we’ll be content to stay on board and enjoy the quiet while other passengers check it out.

An old structure at the beach.

We realized this 24 night cruise would consist of many repeated ports including the arrival in Hawaii in nine days (including crossing the International Dateline).  After spending eight months in Hawaii, we may only disembarked in Lahaina, Maui which we’d visited during our six weeks in Maui in 2014.  Its a fun little town and we’ll surely enjoy seeing it again.

A round house at the beach in Isle of Pines.

However, we didn’t choose this cruise for its ports of call.  We’re using this cruise as a pleasurable means of getting from Point A to Point B; Sydney, Australia to Seattle, Washington, getting us close to our upcoming Alaskan cruise from Vancouver, British Columbia, ending in Seattle, Washington and then on to family visits in both Minnesota and Nevada.

In our old lives, the prospect of an Alaskan cruise would have sent us to the moon with delight.  Now, although enthusiastic over this cruise, its a normal part of our daily lives of world travel, another interesting stop along the way.

An old structure on the narrow beach road.

Don’t get me wrong.  We don’t take any of these opportunities lightly. But after four and a half years of travel, we’ve settled into an easy acceptance of new spaces, new places and new adventures which seem to continue in our path as we navigate from one part of the world to another.

We walked this path with other passengers to arrive at the main area of the port of call.

The highlight of our lives surely is in the “new.”  New locations, new people, new cultures, new scenery and new wildlife surely seem to set our hearts and minds whirring with excitement. 

Of course, our upcoming return to Africa may be the exception.  Most likely, it will seem new to us after being away for almost four years, having left South Africa in February 2014 and Morocco in May, 2014.  (We won’t be returning to Morocco on this upcoming visit instead visiting several other countries on the vast continent).

Helicopter at the local police facility.

As for Isle of Pines, New Caledonia here’s a little information from this site:

“The Isle of Pines (French: Île des Pins; name in Kanak language Kwênyii: Kunyié) is an island located in the Pacific Ocean, in the archipelago of New Caledonia, an overseas collectivity of France. The island is part of the commune (municipality) of L’Île-des-Pins, in the South Province of New Caledonia. The Isle of Pines is nicknamed l’île la plus proche du paradis (“the closest island to Paradise”). It has snorkeling and scuba diving in and around its lagoon. Species of tropical fish and corals can be seen in the transparent water.
The island is around 22°37′S 167°29′E and measures 15 km (9.3 mi) by 13 km (8.1 mi). It lies southeast of Grande Terre, New Caledonia’s main island and is 100 kilometres (62 mi) southeast of the capital Nouméa. There is one airport (code ILP) with a 1,097 m (3,599 ft) runway. The Isle of Pines is surrounded by the New Caledonia Barrier Reef.
The inhabitants of the island are mainly native Melanesian Kanaks and the population is 2,000 (estimated 2006) (1989 population 1,465).
The island is rich with animal life and is home to unusual creatures such as the Crested Gecko Rhacodactylus ciliatus and the world’s largest gecko Rhacodactylus leachianus.
The pic Nga is the island’s highest point, at 262 metres (860 ft) elevation. River Ouro is the longest river.

History

Melanesian people lived of the island for over 2000 years before the island was first visited by Europeans. Captain James Cook in 1774 saw the island and renamed it on his second voyage to New Zealand. Cook gave the island its name after seeing the tall native pines (Araucaria columnaris). He never disembarked onto the island, but as he saw signs of inhabitance (smoke) assumed it was inhabited. In the 1840s Protestant and Catholic missionaries arrived, along with merchants seeking sandalwood.
The French took possession of the island in 1853 at which time the native Kunies opted for the Catholic religion. In 1872 the island became a French penal colony, home to 3,000 political deportees from the Paris Commune.

Sights

The ruins of a penal colony can be seen in the village of Ouro in the west of the island. The water tower of Ouro which was built by prisoners in 1874/75 and renovated in 2005 is still used today.
On the cemetery Cimetière des Déportés near Ouro a pyramide-shaped memorial and the graves of 300 deportees who died here between 1872 and 1880 can be seen.”

A church or public building?

As illustrated above, there wasn’t a lot of possible sightseeing venues in the small village.  The scenery, gorgeous beaches and the shopping certainly bring cruise ships to the area aiding in providing income for the locals as they present their various wares for sale.

Unlike our usual mission to check out the scenery and culture, we found ourselves wandering through the lean-to shops in the popular boutique area which required a bit of a walk on an uneven path.

Hibiscus type flowers growing along the path to the boutique area.

Cruise passengers generally gravitate to shopping areas hoping to discover that perfect item to bring home to family and friends.  We’re more interested in observing local crafts and craftspeople. 

In many ports of call, as was the case in both Isle of Pines and Mystery Island (photos coming soon on this island), many of the items offered for sale are trinkets made in China that we’ve seen in other ports of call throughout the world. 

Regardless, we enjoy ourselves, taking many photos, chatting with passengers on the tenders on the round trip back and forth to the ship and later discussing our varied opinions on what the area had to offer. 

Scene down a private road.


As is the case for most passengers on cruises, they’re optimistic and upbeat in describing various ports of call rather than expressing any disdain over any potential lack of appeal.

Last night we had a fabulous evening with two couples we met, one of which we’ve spent the past two nights.  All from Australia, the conversation was spiked with typical and appealing Aussie speak and good humor which we’ll miss as we make our way out of the South Pacific in weeks to come.

We are both doing well, enjoying ourselves while feeling settled and familiar with this cruising way of life while over this extended period.  Once again, it’s become “home” to us.

Be well.
______________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, April 28, 2017:
The workaround for grabbing last year’s photo is not working around again due to the poor signal on the ship.  Today’s a sea day with everyone is online.  We’ll post the missing photos once we move to a new location.  Thanks for your patience.

Updates on a few general items… Cruising right along… Figured out a workaround for “year ago photos”…

 
The coral reef in the Isle of Pines was exquisite.

Of course, not surprisingly, being unable to post the “year ago photo” was nagging at me.  I tried numerous workarounds only to discover one I hadn’t considered earlier finally working this morning.

Tom on the beach in Isle of Pines, New Caledonia.

Me, at the beach in the Isle of Pines.

Later today, we’ll go back and add them to the posts we’d missed over the past several days since boarding the ship.  Today is Day 5 on this 24-night cruise and its flying by more quickly than we anticipated. 

View toward our tender boats waiting at the pier to return us to the ship.


Having such an exceptional time seems to contribute to time passing in a blur, although I’ve yet to have a taste of wine which has been disappointing to resist in the Diamond Club’s Star Lounge on deck 5 when drinks flow “free” and freely from 5 pm to 8:30 pm every evening. Tom, a non-drinker when not cruising is taking up the slack.

Resisting the delicious latte is also challenging but I’m staying firm on avoiding anything that could be construed as acidic for my still delicate digestive tract.  I faltered yesterday when I ate sauteed green peppers as a side to my scrambled eggs paying the price for the remainder of the day and night.   No more peppers for me, especially the less ripened green variety.  I learn as I go.

White sand beaches.

Again, at the moment we’re comfortably situated in the other Diamond Lounge on deck 14 which is packed with other experienced cruisers such as us who’ve cruised often enough to be granted this priority status.

Many Australians were wearing these handmade head wreaths in commemoration of Anzac Day.

The complimentary foods changed throughout the day with delightful looking sandwiches, snacks and desserts accompany a wide array of beverages, coffees, teas, lemonade and juices, none of which are suitable for me.  Instead, I sip on the boring plain water.  Oh well.  I stick to the plan regardless of temptations.

Writing in the sand.

The lively chatter helps distract me from potentially dangerous consumables, especially when now I’m sitting here with exquisite views of Mystery Island in Vanuatu (soon we’ll get off the ship to explore), friendly people all around us and not a care in the world.

The tropical island musicians and dancers greeted us in Noumea, New Caledonia.

A few items we’d like to share:
1.  The return of the “year ago photo” after finding a suitable workaround.  Over the next few days, I’ll be updating the previous posts with this feature.
2.  So far, we’ve had an excellent response to our invitation to the “Readers Meet & Greet” we’ll be holding in Minneapolis on June 9th close to Highways 394 and 494.  If you’d like to attend please RSVP by email, comments or Facebook. 

Noumea, New Caledonia performers entertained us at the port.

3. We’re considering a similar event in Henderson, Nevada in July (well after the 4th).  If you are interested, please email us and we’ll notify you as to a date, time and location, hoping you’ll be able to attend.
4.  Thanks to all our of new readers who stopped by to read yesterday’s tribute to our friend Glenn who passed away a few days ago.  And of course, our love and continuing prayers for Staci, Glenn’s wife who supported and greatly appreciated the posting of the story.

Another Noumea performer.
5.  Cruising activities tend to be repetitive.  We’re continuing to visit as many ports of call as possible to keep our readers engaged as we make our way across the sea.  Please hang in there with us as we continue with the remaining 19 nights aboard this ship.

6.  If you’ve posted a comment at the end of any day’s post and haven’t seen a reply from us, please bear with us.  The slow Wi-Fi has prevented us from replying to comments.  I’m hoping to discover a workaround for that feature as well.

The pier where we waited to reboard the tenders to return to the ship.

As soon as we finish up here today, we’ll be heading to Mystery Island, Vanuatu and sharing photos in days to come.  Upon return, we’ll be stopping at the Future Cruises desk to see what the future may hold for us. 

May your day be filled with ease and comfort.

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Photo from one year ago today, April 27, 2016:

Last year at this time, we were on Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas.  This is the Flowrider on that ship.  Later we’ll post a photo of the same event on this ship.  For more details, please click here.

We lost a friend, a reader, an adventurer…May he be remembered with great love…

 
Glenn and Staci had the opportunity to enjoy traveling together.

In many ways, the friendships we’ve been gifted in our travels have taken on a new meaning.  No longer is it the dinner parties at their homes and ours, the getting together for a barbecue or picnic or a dinner and drinks on the town.

The relationships we’ve developed over these years of world travel have morphed into an entirely different context.  Our friendships grow in short moments in time; on cruises, at public venues, in small towns and online.

The online aspect is most surprising to us but then, marriages and lasting relationships are often built and grown through the magic of the Internet, which had become a common medium for incorporating new people into our lives.

In no way can we diminish the power and significance of this means of making friends.  Through social media, including chat sessions, Facebook, blogs, and email, we’re easily able to develop meaningful friendships through the written word.

Without the benefits of the inflection in one’s voice or the expressions on one’s face, somehow many of us who are comfortable communicating online, allow ourselves the privilege of becoming close and connected with those we meet along the way in cyberspace.

Such was the case with our online friends, Staci and Glenn whom we met a few years ago via our posts.  From a message online and in an email, dear Staci informed us that Glenn passed away a few days ago due to a brain injury.

Ironically, Glenn had sent us a beautiful email on April 13th which I won’t re-post in its entirety with respect for the privacy of Staci and the family.  But today, we will share but a snippet that he shared with us for his love for travel. 

 Glenn wrote:

“Years ago I took off for a year and visited Africa riding hot air balloons over seven countries. I navigated some of the most terrifying rapids in the world under Victoria Falls and kayaked the Zambezi River for a month all the way to the Indian Ocean.”

Glenn went on to share his myriad worldwide experiences making valuable suggestions to us for our upcoming return to Africa which we took seriously as we read that April 13th email, realizing his thoughtful suggestions were meant to enrich our experiences in every way possible.  That was who Glenn was.

Now after he has passed he’s left the world another legacy, the generous donation of his liver and kidneys that are now ready to be transplanted into as many as three fortunate recipients when a transplant list is often lengthy and unyielding. 

As we continue to travel, we have the “world” with us, enriching us, embracing us and leaving us with memories that neither time nor place can strip away.  Thank you, Glenn, for being a part of those memories. 

May you travel on that river of eternity with the sun on your handsome face, fearless and passionate for the treasures this exquisite planet bestowed upon you and for the treasures you bestowed upon others both in life and in death.

Staci and family; no words can ease your sorrow.  May your hearts and minds flourish with good memories as you work your way through this sorrowful time.  Our thoughts, love, and prayers are with you always.

________________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, April 25, 2016:

No sooner than we stepped off the shuttle bus in Darwin, Australia, we spotted this local zoo staff person promoting the venue to the ship’s passengers while holding this baby croc.  Its mouth is wrapped in a rubber band as shown.  For more details, please click here.

Isle of Pines, New Caledonia…Planning a get-together with our readers while in Minnesota…Please RSVP by email…

The beginning of the miniature golf course on deck 12.

Our ship, Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas has reached land after two and a half days at sea since leaving Sydney on April 22nd.  We plan to embark on a tender boat for a 20 minutes ride, to have an opportunity to browse the island and take some photos.

All is going well thus far as we thoroughly enjoy every moment aboard the ship, meeting more and more wonderful people, engaging in lively conversations while sharing endless stories of travel and life.



A small uninhabited island off the coast of New Caledonia.

Many passengers aboard the ship are from other parts of the world beside Australia and  are of varying ages.  We received the following information from the Diamond Club concierge where we’re seated at this time.  See this information below:

Passenger stats
Australia:  1889
US:            830
Canada:     147
UK:            103
NZ:             81
Germany:    44
Brazil:         10
Ireland:       10
Other:         92
Total passengers: 3186
Diamond Club & above: 880

Ages of Passengers
22 – 30:         75
31 – 40:         89
41-50:          151
51-65:        1162
66-75:        1311
75 and over: 305


The basketball play area on deck 12.

Last night we had another engaging evening in the Sapphire Dining room while half of our table of 12 became engrossed in a discussion about politics.  Not precipitated by either of us, Tom was excited and animated to participate in discussing world affairs with a few other politically minded individuals at our table.  He was in his element.

Based on the fact that we prefer to keep our views under wraps in our posts, he was thrilled to be able to spew his opinions with other like-minded individuals.    I listened intently occasionally interjected a short blurb into the conversation. 

Another island in New Caledonia.

When the dining room was about to close, we wandered to the Palace Theatre to see a comedian performing a late night “adult” show.  Both of us dosed off during the show.  I awoke with a stiff neck and rattled Tom’s shoulder stating, “Let’s go to the cabin and get some sleep.” 

Off we went to our cabin for what proved to be a good night’s sleep.  By 7:30 am we were seated in the Sapphire Dining Room with two couples at a shared table for breakfast.

Rock climbing wall.

As for the upcoming date for our get-together in Minnesota, we’re shooting for Friday, June 9, 2017 from 6 to 9 pm.  We’ll get back to our readers with a location once we have an idea of how many people may be able to come. 

The location will be near Highways 394 and 494 located close Minnetonka/Plymouth.  The exact location will be posted over several days as the time approaches. 

Please email me if you’d like to attend at the link on our web page on the right side of each day’s homepage or by clicking here.

Today is ANZAC day, a day of remembrance for lives lost in wars in Australia and New Zealand.  A presentation was conducted on the ship’s pool deck at 5:45 am.  We didn’t attend but later watched the event on TV. 

We’ll be back tomorrow with photos from our visit to Isle of Pines, New Caledonia.  Have a blissful day!

Based on the poor Wi-Fi signal aboard the ship, it appears we won’t be able to post any “one year ago” photos until after we arrive in Vancouver on May 15th.   Thank you for your patience.

Settled in at last…Tomorrow’s post will include date and time for upcoming get together with our readers in Minnesota!

Musical instrument display in the stairwell.

We’re finally feeling settled in.  Wandering about the ship, we familiarized ourselves with all the many venues, bars, restaurants and shops and theaters.  My FitBit is practically smoking with all the steps we’re taking walking throughout the ship off and on all day.

It feels especially good to be moving about as much as we have each day when in Fairlight, there were days I wasn’t quite up to getting out as I’ve been over these past few days since I changed my diet even further.

Staff preparing the Star Lounge for the nightly Diamond Lounge.  We’re Diamond Club members after collecting sufficient points to warrant access to many services provided to members including a nightly “”party” which includes complimentary food and drinks from 5 pm to 8:30 pm.  Last night, we left in time for an enjoyable dinner in the Sapphire Dining Room, sharing a large table with other friendly passengers.

In sheer desperation, I adopted the FODMAPS diet including only those foods that are acceptable for my usual way of eating.  The elimination process was a challenge after cutting out most dairy, cream, onions, garlic, cauliflower, avocados and more.

Within 24 hours I was almost totally pain-free, can now consume hot tea, eat a normal sized meal and have even managed to have a small breakfast and dinner.  The bloating is reducing a little each day and I can go almost the entire day without thinking of my gut discomfort. 

Each passenger finds a groove which enables them to participate in activities they find most pleasurable.  Many sit quietly and read or play games on their iPads, tablets, and phone with little interaction with others.  We’re both social butterflies. That’s our groove!

Hopefully, as time passes, I’ll be completely free of any discomfort from the annoying Helicobacter Pylori, its resulting ulcers, and its varied symptoms.  The ship is doing a fine job of preparing my meals including the new exclusions I incorporated into my usual food list.

For information on the FODMAPS diet, please click here.  Ironically, this scientifically backed approach to intestinal health was developed by the Monash University in Australia.   So far, so good!  Our fingers are crossed.

Stairways to the Promenade Deck where many passengers gather throughout the day and night.  (It’s also easily accessible by multiple elevators).

At the moment, we’re seated in the Diamond Club Lounge on deck 14 that has a constant flow of complimentary food and beverages.  The seating is inviting and comfortable, the conversation welcomed and easy flowing with other members who’ve had many similar cruise experiences to ours.

Busily, I’m typing in an attempt to complete today’s post considering the Wi-Fi issues that continue while we’re out to sea.  We have no idea if this will improve or worsen along the way.  It’s simply a part of life “living at sea” as we have on many cruises, this as #18 since we began our travels.

Finally, I broke the awful cycle of awakening between 3 or 4 am and staying awake.  To help with this process, I’ve been listening to podcasts on my new smartphone when I go to bed instead of staring at the screen. 

These passengers were in the queue at the guest services desk for a variety of reasons.  If and when we have a customer service issue, we call rather than stand in this long slow queue.

If I awaken during the night, again I’ll listen to the podcasts and am lulled back to sleep.  My phone has a timer to turn off the podcast automatically.  As we all know having sufficient sleep it vital to feeling well during the day.

Apparently, there’s a lot of truth to the fact that staring at screens before bed has a bad effect on sleep.  Once I received my own phone, my sleep habits worsened.  Now, as of several days ago, I’m getting back on track.

Oh well, a part of the aging process may result in a variety of health issues, including a variety of conditions, sleep problems and generally not be feeling as well as we may have felt decades ago. 

One night soon, the staff will entertain us while dancing and singing from this upper walkway.

But, making every effort to combat these “afflictions” can be highly instrumental in ensuring we build ourselves back up to optimum performance and health.  It’s an ongoing process that, if ignored, can result in permanent disability and a lack of opportunity to live life to the fullest.

Need I say, we’re grateful and happy to be able to surpass some of the issues that come our way.  Oftentimes, it requires more than just a good attitude.  In our case, it’s required analyzing the circumstances, searching for solutions and implementing a new and comprehensive plan. 

No, it’s not always easy or convenient.  Not being able to eat many foods I like with my already limited diet is annoying.  Giving up coffee and caffeine was hard.  But, in this life, we have little time or patience for wasting even another day feeling less than ideal.

We continue on with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and hopefulness for the future.  May you also find peace in your journey to wellbeing.


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Photo from one year ago today, April 24, 2016:
Here again, we’re unable to get into our site to post the “year ago photo” due to the nature of the Wi-Fi signal aboard the ship.  This issue may continue through these remaining 22 more nights on this cruise.  Once we’re settled in Vancouver, we’ll go back and make all the corrections including line spacing and other errors we’re unable to correct at this time.  Sorry for the inconvenience. 

No Wi-Fi all morning…Late posting…Cruising along…Immigration issues at the port…

 
The Promenade deck is a favorite of ours.  Its comparable to a long street in the ship where there are bars, dining establishments and shops.  Great people watching!

It’s almost 5 pm and the first time today we’ve been able to get online except for a few instances on our phones.  Its been frustrating to say the least. No doubt, its due to the vast number of passengers of this ship using their phones and iPads..

We’d hope to get today’s post uploaded close to our usual time but based on the 3,825 passengers on this ship, the connection  is and will continue to be sketchy to say the least.

Our standard balcony cabin is small but we’re fine with it.

After paying over US $500 for the VOOM high speed unlimited Wi-Fi for two devices for this 24 night cruise, we expected a little more.  There’s no point in bringing it up to customer service since its clearly outlined that the ship’s service may be unavailable at times.

Beside that inconvenience we are doing FABULOUS!  Although the ship, Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas, is old and a little dated (built in 2000, refurbished in 2015) its in good condition with all the amenities a passenger could expect for this cruise line. 

Our toilet seat had a huge crack in it.  Last night they replaced it upon our request.  The bathroom is tiny with little storage space but we make it work.

Yesterday’s boarding process was relatively easy except for one not-so-surprising glitch…immigration.  With copies of all of our bridging visa documents on hand, we still got whisked away to be “reviewed” in a separate area. 

The agent mistrusted what appeared on the computer and refused to look at our documents.  Weird.  However, neither of us panicked when we were certain we had the correct documentation.  Instead, we waited for over 30 minutes while the agent satisfied her curiosity that her superiors in Sydney had in fact done the documents correctly.

I offered the name of the supervisor in Sydney suggestion she contact her for confirmation.  Instead, she plodded along trying to read the laws while we waited to ensure it had been done correctly. 

View of the Sydney Opera House from our balcony prior to sailing away.

Finally, she let us board the ship reminding us we’d have trouble if we wanted to get back into Australia at any time in the future..  With no plans to return, we weren’t worried.

Back on track, we boarded the ship to warm welcomes from staff, glasses of champagne (we declined) and with a short waiting period until our cabin was ready.

In no time at all, our bags were delivered to our door, except for Tom’s suitcase containing two power strips (referred to as “power boards” in Australia).  Later in the evening he had to go to security to retrieve his bag after the power boards were confiscated.  They aren’t allowed to be used on ships.  Instead we’re supplied with extension cords.

I started shooting a few photos before we made a mess unpacking our bags.

Most passengers don’t have everything they own in their cabin, like us and don’t have power boards in their possession.  For our lifestyle, we need them and our adapters in our possession everywhere we travel.  We have to way to “leave them at home.” 

Once we unpacked, neatly folding and hanging our clothes, we began to feel settled and comfortable.  As Diamond Club members we’re provided with free drinks in the Star Lounge each evening.  Usually this runs from 5 pm to 8:30 pm but last night’s muster drill at 5 pm, caused the happy hour time to be from 6:15 pm until 9 pm.

Alas, we had so much fun, the time slipped away and suddenly, it was almost 9 pm.  By the time we made it to the dining room it was closed.  Immediately, we took the elevator to the buffet, the Windjammer Cafe only to discover it too was also closed. 

Most likely, this was the last of many photos we’ll have taken of the Sydney Opera House.  Goodbye Sydney.  Aside from a few glitches, it was grand.


Then, we headed back to our cabin to order room service only to find there wasn’t a single item on the menu that I could eat.  Since I haven’t been able to digest raw vegetables these past months, salads were out of the question.  The remaining options were sandwiches and wraps.  No good.

Tom refused to order anything with me being able to eat which was entirely unnecessary as far as I was concerned.  Who misses the first night’s dinner on a cruise?  Isn’t food what cruises are always about for many passengers? 

The perception that cruises have food available 24 hours a day is not necessarily true.  Sure, there was food but nothing either of us wanted to eat.  We laughed.  Only us!  Fun over food!  We went to bed without a morsel after haven only eaten a few bites of cheese back in fairlight before we left for the cruise terminal. 

Tonight, if we stay at the Star Lounge until happy hour ends at least we’ll make it to the dining room well before the 9 pm closing.   Since we always select “My Time Dining” we can eat anytime we want before the 9 pm closing.

Surprisingly, we were starved this morning and we each had a good breakfast in the main dining room.  The head maitre’d met with me to review my food list and fully understood my restrictions.  My usual meal consists of fish, chicken, beef or pork (no sauce) and two sides of non-starchy vegetables.  Its not filling but the hunger abates in no time at all.

This afternoon when we couldn’t get online to post.  Instead we went to the main theatre, The Palace, to see the movie, “La La Land.”  What a fabulous movie!  If you haven’t seen it we couldn’t recommend it more.

Now, we have to get ready for “formal night” with another upcoming happy hour and tonight…dinner in the main dining room.

Cruising is fun and we’re not missing a beat.  Today at noon,we experienced our first one hour time change.  There will seven one hour time changes plus one entire day.  Ha!

Have a wonderful day or evening wherever you may be.

________________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, April 23, 2016:
The signal is too weak to post the one year ago photo.  We’ll add it tomorrow if we can.  Thanks for your patience.

Final expenses for Fairlight/Manly Australia…40 days gone…On to cruising…Favorite photos…

 
Beautiful sky at sunset, taken from our veranda.

Tom’s shot of a stunning sunset.

Its about 10 am Saturday, April 22nd on this side of the International Dateline.  During our upcoming cruise, we’ll cross back to the opposite side of the International Dateline gaining a day.  We’ll post this peculiar phenomenon when it occurs on May 1st during the upcoming cruise.

The Sydney Opera House at night, taken from the Manly Ferry.

Luna Park in Sydney Harbour at night, taken from the Manly Ferry.
Saying we’re excited is to minimize the extent of our raging enthusiasm.  It’s not that we’re anxious to leave the South Pacific after almost two years.  It’s simply that we’re excited for what is yet to come.

A Cockatoo visitor in the yard.

Our friend, Mr. Magpie, who visited us inside the house.
In reviewing how much time we spent since arriving on land in Australia on June 11, 2015, is shown below using the online “date to date” app at this link:


“From and including Thursday, June 11, 2015

To, but not including Saturday, April 22, 2017

Result: 681 days

It is 681 days from the start date to the end date, but not including the end date or, 1 year, 10 months, 11 days excluding the end date.”

Hand feeding Kookaburra in the yard.
The interior of the Sydney Opera House as we waited for the performance to begin.  In a short time, almost every seat was occupied.  We had excellent center seats four rows from the stage.

Wow!  We’ve been in this part of the world for a very long time although the diversity of our experiences have been vast.  We won’t take the time to list them all here today but feel free to review our archives during these above dates. 

The cafe where we had a beverage the morning of our final appointment at the immigration department.

Now, packed and ready to leave for the port at noon today, our hearts are filled with joy and satisfaction for the time we spent in this part of the world.  Even with the fact that I’d been “under the weather” since a spine injury on June 1, 2016, which followed with the exacerbation of the Helicobacter Pylori infection I acquired in Fiji in 2015, we still had a great time.

The scene in Manly near the ferry.

These two difficult scenarios confirmed how resilient and dedicated we are in continuing our journey, even with stumbles along the way.  Never once during this extended period of less-than-stellar health, did either of us lose hope and faith that we’d be able to continue on.
Offseason bloom on the grounds of Fairlight Gardens.

Nor did we ever get on one another’s nerves, not for a day, not for an hour.  Mr. Overly Grumpy never reared his ugly head.  Then again, Ms. Overly Bubbly made fewer appearances than usual.  Now, we’re both in the Overly Bubbly mode with plans to stay that way going forward.

Ken and Tom drinking beer.

Me and Linda toasting at lunch.
We met friends Linda and Ken from South Africa in Sydney for lunch.  It was a perfect day among friends!
Our experiences in Fairlight, although limited as I was slowly improving, were delightful with opportunities to meet with old friends as shown in today “favorite photos.”
St. Patrick’s Estate in Manly, a popular event venue.

Of course, no experience compares to the daily sense of comfort and companionship we spent with our kindly landlord, Bob Reed. This morning,  Bob sent us the following email as posted below.  It warmed our hearts to be able to develop such a fine relationship with this kindly man, now a lifelong friend.  There’s no doubt we’ll stay in touch.

The grounds at St. Patrick’s Estate were prepared for a wedding.

Bob wrote the following:

“Good morning Tom and Jessica, welcome to your new adventure upon the high seas and continuing adventure that most of us only dream about. 

How lucky I have been to have met you both and have had the pleasure of your company for the past 40 days.
Those happy memories will stay with me forever.
Even though I cannot be with you as you travel the world, your wonderful website will be my companion to where you are and what exciting places you are visiting.
May good health be your constant companion during your world travels.
Jessica, I will also miss the wonderful dinners you cooked for Tom and me and our daily conversations solving all the problems of the world.  Well trying anyway.
Hopefully one day our paths will cross again and we can spend time together reminiscing about the happy times we spent together.
You both left a little bit of your hearts here at Fairlight Gardens.
Lots of love as you travel the world.
Bob Reed”
Tom in a pub with me for dinner in Circular Quay.

Reading Bob’s thoughtful message brought tears to our eyes.  How did we get so lucky to become friends with yet another very special person?  We truly are blessed.
Giant surf at Manly Beach on a gorgeous day.
Rather than write back to Bob in an email, we decided to write back here:
Dear Bob,
No words can express how much we’ve appreciated your kindness and love and for of your constant and thoughtful attention to our needs.  Above all, your efforts at building a lasting friendship among the three of us will always be treasured as one of our favorite memories of the time we spent in Australia, here in beautiful Fairlight, a gem amongst towns throughout this fine nation.
Thank you for your lovely property, your attention to detail in every aspect, driving us about town and spending time with us.  You truly optimize the essence of friendship and generosity.
We hope that someday our paths will cross again but if they do not, no worries, we’ll always carry you in our hearts wherever we may be.
Much love and good health always,
Jess & Tom
Bob and Tom at Dobroyd Head.
Should any of our readers decide to visit Sydney, we assure you an excellent experience if you book Bob’s lovely property, either Fairlight Gardens private apartment, as we did with this link here. For Bob’s Fairlight Gardens Bed and Breakfast, please click here.
Bob and I a Dobroyd Head.

There’s no doubt in our minds that Bob will ensure an equally exceptional stay for our readers as well.  If you have any questions, you can be assured he’ll reply promptly.
Bob, Bev, and Colin (a popular name in AU and UK) when they all joined us fo dinner at our apartment.

As for our final expenses, current to the last expenditures of two days ago, they are listed below.  We’ve found Australia to be more expensive than many parts of the world but have found staying in holiday homes is much less costly than staying in a hotel. 

Christine, Tom and I at dinner two nights ago.

With the excellent public tranportation services in Sydney and surrounding areas including buses, trains and ferries, its not necessary to rent a car.  We managed very well taking advantage of the affordable public transportation and of course, Bob frequent insistence on driving us on many occasions.

Expense US Dollar Australian Dollar
Vacation Rental  $ 4,564.08  $ 6,053.92
Airfare   $    217.00  $    287.83
Taxi   $    105.01  $    139.29
Ferry (OPAL Card)  $   140.00  $    185.70
Shipping  $   460.00  $    610.16
Groceries  $ 1,014.25  $ 1,345.33
Dining Out  $    361.43  $    480.24
Entertainment  $    102.06  $    135.38
Medical & Pharmacy  $ 1,230.26  $ 1,534.68
Total  $ 8,197.09  $10,891.59
Average Monthly Cost  $ 6,233.20  $ 8,282.22
Avg Daily Cost – 40 days  $    204.93  $    272.30

In less than two hours, we’ll be out the door and on our way by taxi to the Sydney Cruise Terminal arriving in about 45 minuter.  Our next post will be uploaded aboard the ship tomorrow with photos for the next 24 nights. 

Out to dinner with friends Christine and Colin, who we met on our last cruise which ended 40 nights ago.

We hope our readers will continue to travel along with us during these upcoming 33 nights at sea, plus an additional two night gap while we stay in a hotel in Vancouver.  We plan to share many new stories and exciting photos along the way.

Cruise ship in the Sydney Harbour.

This morning while still dark at 5:45 am, we could see our ship, Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas, entering Sydney Harbour.  What a sight!  We can hardly wait to board!
A bunny we posted on Easter Sunday, spotted on a walk with Bob.

Happy day to all!

_________________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, April 22, 2016:
Due to poor signal aboard the ship one year ago today, we didn’t include a photo. Instead we posted a list of some on the freebie on the ship, Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas.  Here they are:
Some of the “freebies” included on this particular cruise are:

  • Fitness center to include a few free classes and activities
  • Trivia games
  • Daily Mass
  • Men’s Shed
  • Water aerobics
  • Mensa challenge
  • Movies shown daily inside the large theatre and outdoors on giant screen by the pool
  • Dance lessons
  • Mini golf tournament
  • Lectures and seminars
  • Singles gatherings
  • Bridge lessons and tournaments
  • Shuffleboard, ping pong, video games
  • Napkin art workshop
  • GLBT meetings
  • Ice Skating and skating shows
  • Rock climbing
  • Paper aeroplane making
  • Drama class
  • DreamWorks characters on display in Promenade Deck
  • Voyager Scavenger Hunt
  • Karaoke auditions and eventual show in theatre
  • Shows in the main theatre in the evenings at 6:45 pm and 8:45 pm, different each evening
  • Live music at various bars both during the day and in the evenings