We have had… heat, and a lot of it. New Zealand was fairly comfortable in temperature for the most part (probably about 65 F or 18 C), but as we got to Australia it has gotten hot (probably about 85 F or 32 C) and humid, soooo incredibly humid.
Alright, what have we been up to? Well, I have been working on my sewing and writing wedding invitations! The sewing I have been doing is sewing little purses for all of my bridesmaids using the MacBeath tartan. Just to brag a bit – take a look, there is a pocket on the inside, too!! And the picture with the envelopes? All wedding invitations! So, while I have been in the world of weddings, Stuart has been just plain working and working hard. The heat outside hasn’t been helping and the temperature in the Engine Room has been over 100 F or in the 40s C. Waaaay too hot! We’ve had to host a few dinners, one on a Gala night, and the other because the people we had the Captain’s Dinner with liked us so much that they asked us to join them in the dining room. Unfortunately for Stuart I am fairly social around the ship, so next week we have to go to another dinner, this time in the Pinnacle though, with some guests that I see quite often at breakfast time. My mom recently asked where we usually eat dinner. Typically, we eat downstairs in the Officer’s Messroom, which doubles at the Officer’s Bar. So, here’s a picture of us in our usual seats.
The last we talked we had been to Bora Bora and had a lovely day there… let’s pick up our story from not long after that:
February 23rd we were in Nuku’alofa, Tongatapu, Kingdom of Tonga. For those wondering why there are so many words to the location, I’ve found that most islands their full names have at least three parts. The first is the city that you are in, the second is the island that that city is on, most likely followed by the country. For a place like Honolulu in Hawaii, you have an extra part because you would also include the state, Hawaii, in addition to Oahu, the island that Honolulu is on. Any who, so we were in the city of Nuku’alofa on the island of Tongatapu which is part of the Kingdom of Tonga.
Tonga is a relatively poor country by either American or British standards. Stuart was unable to get off the ship here so I went ashore with Bienelisa. Right off the ship they had probably twenty tents set up with people selling their various goods. Mostly jewelry using pearls as we are still in the region that has a lot of the black pearls that Tahiti is known for. The black pearls come from the sea water and the pink ones come from the fresh water. I’m sure there’s a more technical explanation for where you get them and what not, but it is specific to the South Pacific region. So, we walked through and looked at the various stands. I didn’t get too awful much, but did get a couple little things. After that we walked into town to a market which as some crafts but also a lot of fruits and vegetables. On our way we stopped at a little restaurant. The restaurants here are primarily open air – there’s no door to open to walk in and all of the seating is in some version of outside. We both got the “tropical blend” fruit smoothies that they were offering. These were quite delicious and were very much so made with fresh fruit with all of the seeds from the passion fruit in the smoothie. Honestly, that was about it. I don’t think I would ever vacation to Tonga. While it felt safe for Bienelisa and I to walk around during the day together, I think at night if it were just the two of us I wouldn’t feel very safe to venture out at all. A note on the topography of Tonga – and you can see it in the picture just how flat it is. The majority of islands that we have gone to in this region have a lot of mountains, where as Tonga is very flat.
After leaving Tonga we had a couple of days at sea. These sea days were fairly uneventful aside from that there was a party in the Officer’s Bar called the “Glow B” (instead of “OB”). A couple of the girls in the Cast (the singers and dancers onboard) organized it. Stuart and I went down and actually had a fairly good time. Basically the decorations were glow sticks and things that glow in the dark. While the party itself wasn’t that exciting, it did get a lot of the Officer’s and crew out and about to be social which is nice. Any time that Stuart goes out to something that happens later at night he does what we call a “pre-sleep”. Basically we have dinner, get done dinner at about 6:30, head up to the cabin and he goes for a nap from about 7 or 7:30 until either 10:30 or 11:00. This is because it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is onboard, he has to be at work every day by 6:00am, and ideally by about 5:45. So, he goes for an early sleep to get a few hours, and then if we end up heading to bed at say 1:00am he gets another 4 ½ hours of sleep and it nearly equals a full night’s sleep. I realize that to most of you this probably sounds like a weird way to live – and it’s certainly not something that we do, or he does, every night. Typically, if we know there is a party that we want to go to we will go to bed early the night before, and then plan on going to bed early the night after. Quite a lot of parties that happen people try to plan on “hour back” nights, or nights that we change time zones going backwards, which allows people an extra hour of sleep. (PS Even though it doesn’t look it in the picture, Stuart was having fun! )
I was talking to my grandma the other day and she was saying that the time change to Daylight Savings Time was going to be happening soon and how people always struggle with it. In general, on the ship we change time zones about twice a week. This cruise is a bit different – there was one week when we were crossing from South America to the South Pacific that we had an hour back every night for 6 nights in a row.
February 26th: Auckland, New Zealand:
Alright, so those sea days come and go pretty uneventfully and we are off to Auckland, New Zealand. Auckland is the big city in New Zealand and pretty much feels like a big city. The guy onboard that has my old job (he’s in charge of the Youth Program) was tasked with going ashore to buy X-Box supplies for the ship, and asked if I would mind going with him to help make sure he got the right stuff. For those of you that know me and know how not into video games I am this may sound funny – but, after working in ClubHAL for a million years and needing to be able to make an X-Box work no matter what, I was definitely the right person to go with him. So, we walked around, managed to get the X-Box stuff for the ship, and managed to stop for a bit of Wi-Fi so I could call home. Unfortunately, we had an early enough departure that Stuart wasn’t able to get off the ship here. The nice part, however, was that Stuart had arranged for us (just us – date night!) to have dinner at the Pinnacle. As part of his perks for his work he can go to one of the specialty restaurants onboard for free, with a plus one, once per month. As we hadn’t used it yet that month, we figured we needed to use it before the month was over!
February 27th: Tauranga, New Zealand:
During the day, as usual Stuart was at work. I went ashore to walk around a bit, and then went for a hike with my friend Bienelisa and a few other people. For those wondering who this Bienelisa girl is – she works on the ship and we’ve been sailing together for about 3 year. We hiked up a small mountain, and there were sheep along the trail which was pretty fun. (See the picture with the sheep, there were some lambs as well. For those looking closely, that is our ship in the background!) After that we made our way back to the ship, stopped for ice cream where they made fresh raspberry ice cream (basically they had a machine where they mixed fresh raspberries with vanilla ice cream) it was delicious. Luckily, we were here late enough for Stuart to get off the ship for dinner. Not overly eventful night, we found a place for dinner, had some poutine and were happy campers.
February 28th: The sea day in between were pretty uneventful. I did some knitting, a little bit of sewing… I worked on my French a bit. I’ve started getting movies from the crew office on DVD’s and when I am in the cabin working on sewing I have them play in the background in French. I’m not sure how much it is overall helping my comprehension, but I like to think it helps some. The best ones have subtitles to, so even if I don’t hear the words, I can recognize them when I read them.
March 1st: Wellington, New Zealand.
Wellington had a shuttle bus that would drop us off in two different locations. In the morning I went ashore and walked around a little bit, and then went back onboard to see Stuart for lunch time. I got a message from one of my friends onboard saying that they were unable to go on their tour and if I wanted to take it. Now, I should explain about tours. Crew members are allowed to sign up for tours to go as an “escort” and if they get the tour then they can go on it free of charge – you just have to wear your name tag and be nice to the guests, fill out a little form explaining if the tour was good: if the guide was good, whether or not you could understand them easily, if things went on time, etc. So, I was given one of these tours. The tour I got was “craft beer, chocolate, and coffee”. It was really fun! The group of guests that I went with were a great time. All of them had been to New Zealand before and were just looking for a way to see a slightly different part of the city. We went to two different craft breweries, one of which also does coffee roasting (weird combination but it works for them), as well as an artisan chocolate company.
After that I went back to the ship to get Stuart to go ashore. He was done work at about 6:00pm and we took the shuttle in for what ended up being a rather long adventure. The 4th Engineer that is on shift with Stuart asked if he could come ashore with us. What ended up happening was he wanted to go hang out with some younger friends and hang out at a fancy bar where people were paying twenty New Zealand dollars for a drink. Stuart and I decided to ditch them and we found a little Mexican restaurant not far from there for dinner. Most often when Stuart and I go out to dinner together we share whatever we get, so we had nachos and a chimichanga. Just writing this makes me want nachos. (Sorry – no picture from dinner tonight!)
March 2nd: Picton, New Zealand
Picton was not a very big town, and similarly to the day before, I had a friend that was unable to go on their tour and they asked if I would like to take it. So, off I went to the Maori cultural center. This was far more interesting than I thought it would be. The Maori are an indigenous people to the South Pacific region all the way over to New Zealand. The nice part was how beautiful the drive was. There were lots and lots of wine vineyards. The region is known as the Marlborough region. There was also a surprising amount of logging that was happening on the mountains and in the area. Apparently pine trees are big trade from New Zealand.
March 3rd-4th: A few more sea days happen. The most notable part of what happened in these sea days was some progress towards me getting a job back onboard again! While it hasn’t yet amounted to anything, it is nice to know that the management onboard the ship wants me back. Now we just have to convince the head office! We’ll see! Time will tell. (Spoilers… it didn’t work).
March 5th and 6th: The next port that we have is Sydney, Australia. Yay, Sydney! Stuart and I did not wake up early to see the sail-in under the Harbour Bridge. Our thought process was that we would see the sail-away the next day. Unfortunately, his work ended up running late the next day and we didn’t get to sail under the bridge together at all this time! Oh well – we will know for next time to wake up early!
Sydney was fairly uneventful. My phone plan is only US based, but for $10 I can have cell phone service for 24 hours in another country. I opted to do this on that first day and was able to call home and get a whole bunch of bills paid the first morning we were there. The first afternoon I went ashore with Bienelisa (as usual). We had a small lunch and did a bit of shopping. The best part of the shopping was a kids store where I was able to find some adorable onesies for gifts for a couple of Stuart’s mates that are expecting some wee ones. (Wee is Scottish for “small”).
Sydney night Stuart and I were able to go to dinner. His work was absolutely crazy on Sydney day 1, but he eventually got off work. We just went to where the shuttle dropped us off, in an area called Darling Harbour. (For the US people out there: Harbour is one of those worlds that much of the rest of the English speaking world spells with a “u” in it. Other words like this are colour and favour.) It’s a nice area with lots of local restaurants… and we ended up at the Hard Rock Café. After the day Stuart had at work though, just some basic food was exactly what he needed. We walked around a bit later, and although Stuart offered to stay ashore longer, we needed to get back to the ship so that he could sleep.
The extra sleep was a good thing, because his next day at work was even longer, completely missing the sail away. However, I will say we were able to sail away because of his hard work! During the day on this day I went into town and walked all the way over to where the Sydney Opera House is. It was a nice walk and it was pretty cool to see the Opera House in person.
These sea days passed by without too much excitement.
This stop was Townsville. The town itself wasn’t hugely exciting, and it was raining for part of the day. The really exciting part of this day was that I got both my Indian Visa completed as well as my Sri Lankan Visa! Yay! The other part is that I found a shop that had Steak Pie and Sausage Rolls (both Scottish dishes that Stuart LOVES) and was able to bring them back onboard to surprise him. The other good part that I found about Townsville was they had several second hand shops! I was lucky enough to get one pink long sleeve shirt, a blue t-shirt, and a sewing measuring tape for the grand price of $5 Australian, or about $4 US.
March 10: This day we were in Cairns. This was once again a daytime port that Stuart wasn’t able to get off the ship at. This is also the port near the Great Barrier Reef. I ended up going with some people out to Fitzroy Island and snorkeling on the Reef. The most exciting part of this was definitely seeing the giant Sea Turtle! Second best was the lovely “stinger” suit that I got to wear to protect from jelly fish stings)
March 11-13: More sea days. Not much exciting during this time. Stuart and I hosted a table in the dining room on the 12th and 13th. The 12th was a Gala Night though so we had to get all dressed up. We ate at the table with a lady that I met at the knitting club. The next night was with the couple that we dined with at the Captain’s Table about a month ago. These folks are really nice, thank goodness. Easy conversation. The gentleman in the couple chatted with Stuart about Star Wars and Star Trek and those type things. It was a nice evening.
March 14: Darwin, Australia, also known as the hottest place, but with the best Wi-Fi. Again, Stuart wasn’t able to get off the ship. I got off the ship, found out the entire downtown area has free Wi-Fi and pretty much spent the morning ashore calling home. There were some shops and whatnot, but most were somewhat expensive so I didn’t enjoy them much. I was back onboard in time to see Stuart for lunch though.
March 15-16: More sea days! I managed to complete another purse on my lovely sewing projects, as well as take apart one that I hadn’t really done right and fix the seam on it. I also had two passengers ask if I could fix various seams on some garments for them, and one crew member in need of a new button and button hole on a dress she had just bought. This was kind of fun actually.
March 17: Technically we were at Komodo Island this day, but Stuart and I had both been ashore there before, and you can’t go ashore unless you are on a shore excursion here, so we opted not to go. The reason you can only go with a shore excursion is that the whole island is a National Park that has wild Komodo Dragons everywhere. Theoretically should you go off the path or away from your guides the dragons might eat you. Better safe then sorry! This was also St. Patrick’s Day and Stuart and I went to this meet and greet with the Suite’s guests for a bit which was kind of fun.
March 18th: Bali, Indonesia!
What a great time we had in Bali!! I got a tour for the morning, going to a couple beautiful temples and having a nice drive around the island. On the drive around the island I got to see a bit more of the crazy driving, and also the power lines! Take a look at them and tell me how that is safe? Stuart had to work all day but was able to get off work a bit early, at 5:15, and as usual we went to dinner. However, this dinner was just amazing. We took a Taxi and our driver asked where we were going, we said that we didn’t have anywhere planned and he recommended we go to this specific restaurant that he knew of. He was probably related to someone that works there or owns the place, but in this case it worked out great. We pulled right into the restaurant (not on the street, literally into the restaurant) and instantly there were people opening the doors for us, welcoming us to this restaurant. We took about two steps away from the car and then we could see the beach. While the restaurant specialized in fresh seafood, we just had a few jumbo shrimp and some fried rice and were happy campers. We sat at Table 29, since as Stuart pointed out I am still 29 for a little bit longer! It was such a beautiful spot. During our meal there was a little band that came around to play songs, a Balinese dancer, as well as some kids playing on the beach and some folks that rode by on horseback. Stuart would also want me to tell you there was a little cat that kept visiting our table. Unfortunately, all we had left for food was fruit and it wasn’t interested in melon for some reason.
P.S. for March 18th: Happy Birthday to our nephew Tyler!!
Alright – I think we’re all caught up! I’ve got to keep up with this more, because that was a lot!
Update on Stuart’s work:
Everything is going pretty well. They are replacing a motor in one of the Azipod’s when we are in port in a few days which will mean his longest day at work yet. He is hoping he’ll be done by 10:00pm. Big ugh. Theoretically he’s got a good crew working on it with him. The rest of his work is kind of just steadily going along. Good days and not so good ones. Definitely counting down the days until we get to go home!
Where we’re going next:
March 20th: Semarang, Indonesia
March 21st: At Sea, Crossing the Equator
March 22nd-23rd: Singapore, Singapore
March 24th (my brother’s birthday!)-March 26th: At Sea
March 27th: Colombo, Sri Lanka
March 28th: At Sea
March 29th: Cochin, India
March 30th: At Sea
March 31st (my birthday)-April 1st: Mumbai, India
April 2nd-3rd: At Sea
April 4th: Muscat, Oman
April 5th-9th: At Sea
April 10th-11th: Al’aqaba (Petra)
April 12th-15th: At Sea
April 16th: Naples, Italy
April 17th: At Sea
April 18th: Barcelona, Spain – AKA Time to go home!!!