January 31, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 26

Day 26 – At sea on our way to Waitangi, New Zealand. Seas are pretty calm, temperatures in the low 70's with sporadic rain. The prediction for tomorrow is better.

Barbara gives a presentation on Auckland and Picton, our upcoming ports on Day 28 and Day 30. New Zealand has very strict agricultural laws, and the only food or liquid any passenger is allowed to bring off the ship is commercially bottled water. Port officials use canines to sniff out anything else, and of course all passengers are subject to search. I think I will not carry my own water bottle like I have been doing in other ports, if I get thirsty I can sample a local brew.

I learn a little background on the Maori cultural welcome team we have on board. The group is officially sponsored by the government. The leader is the head of the cultural studies at the university, and the others are all graduate students doing an internship as part of their studies. Their mission is a combination of education, entertainment, competition and presentations to represent the Maori culture in all aspects of New Zealand life including religion, tourism and the political process.

The captain has announced that to help compensate for the lack of tender 9, he is going to arrive in Waitangi several hours early. He didn't say so, but this implies they he was unsuccessful in securing a local vessel to use as a tender.

One of our other guest speakers, Joseph Kess, does a presentation on the expectations and findings of the early Dutch, British, and French explorers this afternoon. His presentation is good, but it is hard to be attentive mid afternoon.

The skies have cleared to partly sunny. After having spent over 70 years of my life in the Northern Hemisphere, it sure creates a strange internal feeling to have the sun in the North as we travel West. For those of you with no sense of direction, it probably doesn't matter.

It occurred to me that some of you are probably wondering what you would do on a ship all day, day after day between ports. I thought about just listing the activities for a complete day, but that would probably take 3 or 4 pages, so I will try to group and summarize the major organized activities. Activities today are:

10 various fitness activities; Catholic, Jewish, and interdenominational services; Watercolor painting, arts & crafts, knitting, and needle crafts; 3 seminars on Windows; 2 levels of bridge and many other board and card games; 2 different deck game sessions; 6 different lectures; A main stage show with 2 performances; A different movie every day, usually shown 2 or 3 times per day; Several sessions of trivia; Bingo; 3 different food and/or beverage preparation demonstrations; Gatherings of groups such as veterans, LGBT, friends of Bill W. and cigar smokers; Use the fitness center; Go to the casino; Read; Walk; Swim; Giant chess; shuffle board; Ping pong; Sun bathe; 4 Venues to dance and/or listen to music; Use the library; about 6 bar/lounges; and of course eat any time you want including daily afternoon tea.

I'm sure I have missed many others, including taking an afternoon nap, typing a blog or sitting on your balcony, sipping a glass of wine and watching the dolphins swim by.

Next on my agenda is The Maori Cultural Show in the Queen's Lounge. An extravaganza of costume, dance and song. I quickly leave the show to catch the last few minutes of happy hour in the Crow's Nest, and then to the Lido for dinner. A small salad and small portion of roast pork loin. (Definitely a smaller portion than what they would have served in the dining room.)

I Listen to Debby Bacon for an hour, and then go to tonight's show. While waiting for the show to start, I catch Gene Young to ask if he can have some influence on adjusting the cold temperatures in many of the public areas of the ship. Most people are bundled in sweatshirts, jackets, etc. Those that know me realize if I thinks its cold, it must be really cold for other people.

Simeon Wood plays several flute type instruments. Of course the standard concert flute, a bass flute, a curved pan flute, a long whistle, a short whistle, a recorder, and an instrument he designed himself, a cane flute. Yes a standard metal walking cane that he fashioned into a flute. I'm glad Debby was next to me so she could identify the pan flute for me, I had never seen one before.

The arrival party begins at 6:30 AM tomorrow morning on the bow of the ship. I guess that means an alarm clock day.

January 30, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 25

Day 25 – At Sea. The skies are cloudy, the following seas are less than 3 feet, and the temperatures in the mid 70's. There is a very slight roll and pitch to the ship.

I think later today I will construct my device to measure pitch and roll. I am not positive of the specific nautical term for such device, but I believe it is called an inclinometer. It will have to be such that Agung, my room steward, doesn't remove it. Room stewards are most particular about where everything in a room is placed, much more so than the passenger. Everything has to be just so.

I listen to a Q&A session with author Paul Theroux. He has traveled his entire life, starting with the peace corps in the 1950's. He publishes about a book per year, and still has not embraced the cell phone, internet, or computer. He reminds me of many politicians. When asked a specific question he rambles on about something unrelated for 10 minutes until everyone forgets what was asked. Not that his response isn't interesting, just not on topic. He is not here by accident, he was invited by HAL. He resides on the North Shore in Hawaii for 6 months, and the other 6 months each year his home is on Cape Cod. That is, unless he is traveling.

After a 10 minute break I listen to Neil Cooch, Jeweler from the worlds largest Opal distributor, talk about the history and different types of Opals. One of the luxuries of ship travel, you can entertain yourself gathering information you really don't care much about, and probably will never use again. He will be showing, and selling Opals for the rest of the day. Prices of the opals he will be showing range from the thousands to over $1,000,000 just for the stone. I think I'll buy a dozen.

I return to my room and construct my device for measuring pitch and roll. With no ruler, I use a folded 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper for measuring. After some very precise measurements I determine that the grids in the carpet pattern will precisely indicate 1 degree of pitch or roll, I can easily measure to an accuracy of ¼ of a degree. (For the non nautical readers, pitch is fore and aft movement, roll is side to side)

Constructed of very high tech sophisticated materials including pink thread, a color from my travel sewing kit I am unlikely to use, a safety pin, a magnet, and scotch tape, I am ready to go.

I can suspend it anywhere from the ceiling where I have clear carpet underneath. When not in use, I will just move it to a wall of the cabin, or drop it in a drawer. My first measurements: 1 degree of pitch and 2 degrees of roll. I am pleased with my design. I doubt if any other passenger has such a device is their cabin. Probably no other passenger would want one either.

Today I can get a better look at the bottom of the hull on the ill fated lifeboat # 9. There are several holes in the outer skin, but they do not go all the way thru the hull. Will it float for a long time? Yes. Does it need major repair? Yes. Do the passengers need to be concerned? No. As is the lifeboat can be used, well it can as soon as the propellers are replaced. The capacity of the remaining lifeboats exceeds the combined passenger and crew headcount, and there are a number of additional inflatable life boats as well.

While on the subject of the "reef excursion", Captain Jonathan has been quoted as saying he never wants to come to Raratongo again. I also have heard the story and pictures made the Florida newspapers.

In the afternoon I listen to a presentation by Alan Wright about the constellations of the southern hemisphere and a number of tips for those entering the hobby of astronomy. We are planning for a night of stargazing as soon as the weather cooperates. Since he boarded in Papeete it has been too cloudy every night. I will think of Robert and Jane if the skies do clear.

A few days ago I met Pocahontas, the daughter of the woman that concerned us on departure day when she needed a wheelchair to leave the Lido deck. Mom is fine, but spends most of her time in the cabin. Her daughter Pocahontas and a number of other relatives are traveling with her. They cruise often, and will be spending about 200 days on the Amsterdam this year.

The main show in the Queen's Lounge tonight is just described as "Bobby Brooks, back with an all new show." I don't remember his previous show, I must have been very impressed, or there is a possibility it has just slipped my mind. I will attend to see what I have forgotten.

Having attended, I now know it must have been a night that I skipped the show. It is reassuring to say the least that it has been confirmed that my memory is still intact and that I never forget anything. He is a vocalist, singing songs from the 50's and 60's. OK, but not a big favorite for me.

When I return to my cabin, I find it has been invaded by an elephant. Every night some sort of critter is on my bed or hanging from the ceiling. Monkeys, lobsters, turtles, shrimp, dogs, swans, peacocks, you name it, there is something every night. The one I have not seen yet is a dead chicken, a creation my son learned many years ago. With all the chickens on the islands here, you would think that would be appropriate, but it isn't.

I told you four days ago about 3 people admitting they were sick at dinner. I just learned that one of them has been quarantined to her room until today. I doubt it was her choice, I will guess she went to the medical facility and was given no option.

Previously I checked out the on board shop. The only medical related items available are Tylenol and cough drops, none of the OTC cold medicines that available at home. Band aids and Q-Tips are not available either. Again, I'm glad I brought my own supplies and hope I carry them all back home.

We are currently have sailed about 7900 miles from Florida, and have 500 miles to go until our next port. Time for a check of the pitch and roll instrument: 1 degree pitch and 3 degrees roll.

January 29, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 24

Day 24 – At Sea Friday 1/29. I did not skip a day, Thursday 1/28 did not exist for me. We crossed the international date line and went from Wednesday 1/27 to Friday 1/28. Did anything important happen on Thursday?

Again another beautiful day, partly cloudy, light seas, temperature about 75. The wind is variable, first on the starboard side, then the port. The ship has a light roll as a result. Barbara gave a presentation on The Bay of Islands, our next tender stop on Monday. With one tender out of commission, they are trying to make arrangements for a local craft to use as a tender.

In addition to all the new entertainers brought on board in Papeete, A group of Maori are on board teaching passengers a little of the Maroi language, dance, history, local skills, etc.

I attended another excellent presentation by Alan Wright this morning, he explored the question of whether there is other life in the galaxy. I will leave it up to you to form your own answers.

Nothing has been said about any rampant illness on the ship, but the crew has been very busy disinfecting everything for two days. Any surface that can be reached is being wiped down, carpets are being shampooed, and decks are being scrubbed. More cleaning than I usually observe. The residual odor of bleach disinfectant is prevalent throughout much of the ships interior. Hopefully this is just proactive cleaning.

Several unrelated tidbits I learned since yesterday. Our captain, Jonathan Mercer, originally from the UK is now almost a neighbor, residing in Merritt Island, Fl.

I now understand my mix up with Dolly's age. She has been telling everyone for many years that she is 92. She is not the first lady to fib about such things, but usually the number chosen is much smaller.

This cruise originally intended to stop in India, but that port was scratched by the time I booked. (Robert, don't read the rest of this paragraph.) Last year when the ship did go to India, not only were the required visas very expensive, time consuming and difficult to obtain, but when the ship arrived there were many visa and passport problems with local officials. All passengers were eventually allowed entry, but it was such a hassle, passengers recommended not to stop there this year. Apparently HAL listened.

Tonight is another formal night to celebrate crossing the dateline. The dining room is decorated with black and silver streamers, and umbrellas hanging from the ceiling, but thankfully no chair covers. We have already been told that everyone will receive a Bowler hat tonight. And yes, the floral centerpieces are only 4 inches high.

I am beginning to forget about some of the stuff I have already written about, so please forgive me for any repetitions.

In addition to my two partially filled suitcases, I brought an empty one so that if I did buy any souvenirs I would have a way to carry them home. What I didn't anticipate was all the "stuff" that we would be given for various occasions. So far these items include the 528 page book "The Happy Isles of Oceania" by Paul Theroux. A small travel pouch with hand sanitizer, etc. A Shoulder travel bag. A Panama hat. Tonight, a Bowler hat. A 6 x 9 traveler's journal. Various certificates such as for Crossing the Panama Canal, and Crossing The International Dateline. And we are only on day 24!

I am also saving the daily program, the nightly card wishing us good night, often with different words of wisdom, and the currency and language translation cards we are given for each port. Along the way I may have to buy another suitcase, or two.

I go to the dining room at my usual time. To my surprise I am taken to a table in the upstairs dining room. Along with 5 other passengers I am seated with Barbara, our Location Guide Expert. She explains that she is hosting the table tonight, and our choice of red or white wine is on her. (Of course, actually HAL.)

The beef tenderloin is excellent, the first time it has been offered as a plain steak. The service is excellent, by far the best I have experienced, and true or not I am immediately left with the impression that the better wait staff is assigned to upper dining room.

Barbara has been with HAL for 25 years, and has obviously travelled the world many times. She knows minute details of every port much as you would know the neighborhood where you live. For example not only where to buy local ice cream, but what flavors are the best and what time of day to go there to avoid any lines.

Barbara tells us that Paul Theroux will be signing his book at some point in the next few days. She also shares that most likely we will receive a rolling duffel bag before the end of the cruise to help carry home all the stuff we acquire. Maybe I won't need to buy another suitcase after all.

HAL is trying to get a local boat to use as a tender at our next port. Barbara says there are appropriate boats in the harbor, but the question is are they available or have they been booked for other purposes by others.

With luck, replacement shafts, propellers, and rudders for the lifeboat will arrive in Auckland by our arrival on February 2nd.

Tonight we have set our clocks back another hour. For those of you that have lost track of the time difference, it is 1:00 AM Saturday Jan 30 here on the ship, and 7:00 AM on Friday Jan 29 in Florida.

January 28, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 23

Day 23 – January 27. A sea day, no excursions, no alarm clock. I stayed up late listening to Debby at the piano last night. In the middle of the night I downloaded my email, and posted yesterday's ramblings. I have found that if the internet is going to work at all, between 2 and 5 AM is the best time. Not many other passengers are up and about during those hours, and most of the crew doesn't use the internet on the ship as it is too expensive. So if I write something really stupid, blame it on the author being half asleep, or just realize it may be the words of a drunken old salt, your choice.

The seas are about the same, skies are cloudy, with temperatures expected to be in the high 70's. The ship has its usual slow gentle roll. A training drill for the crew at 9:30 awakens all of us that are not up. I go to look at the damaged life boat. Both props are badly bent, probably beyond salvage. Both rudders are bent, and there are several gashes in the hull, but I don't think the hull was punctured. In several areas the fiberglass looks spongy as if the internal honeycomb structure has been destroyed. I wasn't able to get too close as the area was roped off for workers removing trash from inside, and removing the stainless guards from around the propellers.

The other day I related stories about some eccentric passengers that frequently sail the World Cruise. Last year there was a passenger that soon earned the nickname "glove lady" as she always wore gloves. She had the habit of going thru the buffet and picking at all the food with her gloved hands, and then putting it back. The staff quickly observed this behavior, and replaced any food she touched. Obviously she was spoken to, and the behavior didn't stop. At the next major ports she was physically escorted off the ship, probably wearing gloves, never to be seen again.

Another lady became known as the "Hat Lady". Everywhere she was seen, she was always wearing a very outrageous hat. Nothing unsafe or disruptive to others, just eccentric.

The last eccentric tidbit for the day. A few days ago Dolly reached the milestone of 4000 days aboard the Amsterdam. On second thought there is nothing eccentric about this, just smart retirement.

I take my Kindle out to a deck chair on Deck 3 to read. The salt spray is most annoying, and I doubt if the salt is good for any electronics. I don't stay too long.

Many public areas of the ship are cool or downright cold depending on your temperature preference. This afternoon I go to the Queen's Lounge to attend a lecture by Alan Wright. The person in front of me is bundled in a heavy sweatshirt with the hood tied snugly around his head. He is not alone, nearly everyone is wearing a jacket. Yes I would even say it was cold.

Alan is the best of all the speakers we have had so far. His thoughts organized, his diction clear, and he is obviously very well versed on the subjects of his presentations. During the 60's he was the head of the Australian observatory, and during the various Lunar explorations he worked closely with NASA. His talk today was about the moon.

I went to the gym today to weigh myself. I was happy to see my weight hadn't changed even a tenth of a pound since I weighed myself about 2 weeks ago. My joy was shattered when I got off the scale, and the reading still didn't change. No matter what I did, it always displayed the same. There was nobody around to ask, so I left with an unknown heavy burden. How heavy, I have no clue.

Tonight's show is another performance by the Amsterdam Singers and Dancers, a tribute to Elton John. An entirely different show than the previous one's they have performed.

I am very curious as to just how much pitch and roll the ship is experiencing. The Captain doesn't tell us during his daily updates, and the navigation TV channel doesn't either. I'm thinking about how to construct a simple instrument in my cabin to give me actual measurements. I don't have much to work with, but I think I have everything I need. Later, its time to change for the evening. (Long pants and unsalted shirt.)

I ultimately decide on the MDR for dinner. If for no other reason we are offered free wine as a result of the problems yesterday. My worst dining room experience so far.

There are 6 of us seated at a table for 8. All people I have not met before. One couple orders dinner, eats their shrimp cocktail and then leaves stating that it it takes too long to get served in the dining room, and they prefer the Lido except for the shrimp which unlike everything else sometimes takes 20 minutes in the Lido. OK, I wouldn't feel comfortable doing this, but to each his own.

I don't order an appetizer, and order pasta for dinner. Everyone else has their appetizer as expected. We have to catch a waiter and ask to get water and beverage refills. Three entrees eventually come, but not mine. I tell everyone to go ahead and eat while it is warm. I wait and wait. After about 10 minutes, the waiter is nearby and I ask him where my dinner is. He mumbles something I can't understand and runs off to the galley, to eventually return just as everyone else finishes. Dinner takes over two and one half hours! When we leave, the rest of the dining room is empty.

All is not for nothing. I learn a little more about Holland America's wine selection. They only buy in bulk from wineries that can supply the entire fleet at the lowest cost. They do not have any type of wine steward on board, nor any one even attempting to be a wine steward. No one on the HAL staff knows much about the different wines, only its name and the price. Maybe now I understand why one passenger felt it necessary to bring 12 cases of his favorite bottle. He simply did not trust HAL to have a wine he liked.

Tomorrow, Thursday/Friday is another sea day.

January 27, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 22

Day 22 Roratonga, Cook Islands. "All passengers rescued. No casualties" Well that is how a TV headline would probably read.

When I awake, the ship is approaching Roratonga. The Captain has taken the ship to the leeward side of the island where there is a small pier with a 50 foot wide channel thru the coral reef. He decides the conditions are not favorable, and proceeds to Avatiu, our original destination. The crew prepares the forward loading platform for the tenders, but the sea swells are too great and the tender dangerously slams into the platform again and again.

The crew regroups and tries the aft platform. No better. The Captain and his top officers assess the situation. They decide to try the dock on the leeward side of the island. The platforms are secured and the ship moves halfway around the island with the four tender/lifeboats following.

The ship is positioned using our thrusters as the water is too deep to anchor. After much consultation it is decided that we can safely load the lifeboats. Tendering begins. The process is slow because of the swells. Several passengers turn back once they see how much the tender is bouncing around. I am on the third boat for my tour which has been delayed about 2 hours.

In my opinion, Rarotonga is by far the nicest island we have visited in the South Pacific. The tour guide speaks very well. At a rest stop we are treated to real coconut water and fresh coconut. There is very little run down housing, and the only abandoned hotel property is the Sheraton that was never completed. With a small theater, many restaurants, stores, and lodging choices, the island is developed, but not overcrowded. Our tour lasts several hours.

Back at the dock, I find one of the tenders has run aground attempting to navigate the 50 foot wide channel. Don't rush to judgment on driving skills. There is a cross wind of about 30 MPH, a strong rip current, and large waves at the entrance to the narrow channel. Without warning the tender was pushed up on the coral reef.

Tender 9 has been grounded for almost three hours with about 100 passengers on board. The captain, hotel manager, safety officer, medical team and cruise director have come to shore in another boat and have walked out to the reef in chest deep water to the stranded tender. They carry cases of bottled water, towels, and additional medical kits with them. The tender sits at about a 15 degree angle, with the stern almost out of the water as the tide has continued to go out.

Some passengers are loaded six at a time into a small inflatable boat and brought to within 20 feet of shore where they are then able to walk in the waist deep water. Many others are led to dry land across several hundred yards of coral reef, in water that varies from inches to about 3 feet deep. Others remain on the boat. No one is seriously hurt, but some passengers have cuts on their hands, legs and arms where they were knocked over by waves or stumbled on the coral.

A small local tug boat makes several attempts to pull the vessel off the reef. The first attempt fails when the tow line snaps like a rubber band. Heavier lines are brought from the ship and attached to the tender and the tug boat. The line pulls tight, but does not break, nor does the tender move. The waves hitting the tender and the coral reef are probably 5 feet or more, and the tide continues to go out. For about an hour the tow line is kept taught, and then suddenly a larger wave comes and lifts the tender just enough so it can be pulled free. The tender makes it back to the ship and the remaining few passengers board without further incident.

After the grounding no more passengers were allowed ashore, and the balance of shore excursions for the day were canceled.

The stranded tender passengers reported that there was no panic whatsoever, in fact they laughed and joked to pass the time. Everyone eventually was safely returned to the ship. The Lifeboat was hoisted aboard, but is no longer functional. Passengers affected are being assigned to other lifeboat stations, and by dinnertime the passengers from the tender found a letter from the captain, messages from the front desk, and several bottles of wine in their cabin.

Adrienne told me that I would have many stories to tell when I returned home. I did not expect one about a "Reef Excursion".

The next few days we are at sea, expecting our next port to be Waitangi, New Zealand on February 1.

January 26, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 21

Day 21- Skies are partly cloudy, the wind is blowing about 30 mph directly on our port side. Temperatures are in the mid to upper 70's. The choppy seas are covered with white caps, and the ship is rolling enough that it is wise to have a hand rail close by. There sure is a big difference in the stability of the smaller Amsterdam compared to the larger ships I often cruise on.

We have new guest speakers on board, but I have no interest in either of the topics being discussed today. I plan to spend a little time working on my other passion, model railroading. The NMRA is holding their international convention in Orlando in 2017, and the Orlando N-Trak club, is planning to have a display layout at the convention. I need to help design some control logic for crossing gates. Don, is writing the software for the Rasberry Pi 2B that will control the gates, some grade crossing flashers, and some sound effects.

Yesterday as I walked some of the cabin hallways, I noticed many passengers were getting notifications about problems with their Australian visas. Not sure what the problem is, but many passengers either didn't request the required visas, they weren't delivered by their travel agent, or Australia won't allow them to have one. No, I did not get banned – yet.

Our scheduled tendering port for tomorrow is Rarotongo, Cook Islands. The captain has already announced that at the moment the seas are too rough to tender. He and the port authorities will make a final decision on what to do in the morning. I believe the last two world cruises didn't stop here either because of unsafe conditions for tendering.

I have been told that many of the more eccentric frequent world cruise passengers are missing this year because the itinerary is nearly the same as last year. That hasn't prevented some interesting tidbits of information from surfacing about some current and prior passengers.

Over the 115 days, we have 14 scheduled formal nights. One guest claimed on social media to have packed 40 evening gowns. No chance of being seen in the same gown twice. I usually travel with one suit and one tie. Thanks to Santa Claus I have a couple of extra ties for this trip.

At boarding in Ft Lauderdale, a passenger boarded with his personal 40 plus inch TV. HAL policy permits whatever you want as long as nothing is removed from the cabin, and no damage is done.

A lady arrived with 15 suitcases. The crew stowed them somewhere during the cruise as there is only room for 2, and any others that you can nest in the 2, under the beds. I suppose it's one way to save on laundry charges.

Previously A guest booked a second cabin solely to have the extra storage space. Or maybe the husband/wife thought he/she might be kicked out before the end of the cruise and wanted to be assured of a place to sleep?

And probably the smartest passenger brought 12 cases of wine. No settling for second best if the ship runs low on his favorite bottle. Yes he pays a corkage fee. Maybe he owns a winery? I don't know, he hasn't invited me to join him.

I go to the dining room tonight. I have dined with everyone else at the table before. Unfortunately 3 of the other 6 passengers admitted to feeling sick. Yes, I felt a little uneasy. If I tell you in a week I am dining in my room, you will know why.

Our first new entertainers were an Australian husband and wife singing and playing piano, guitar, or a violin. For the first 3 weeks HAL has done a good job in selecting a wide variety of entertainment.

On the chance that we can tender, I have set my alarm for 7:00 AM. There seems to be something wrong with that while on vacation.

January 25, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 20

Day 20 Moorea. Moorea is about 12 miles from Papeete, Tahiti. The skies are very cloudy as we anchor and begin our tendering process. The air temperature is quite pleasant, but inside the tender it is sweltering as usual. The boat has a rated capacity of 100 passengers for tender service, and 150 as a life boat. Nearly every time I have been on the tender it is packed. If we tried to get 150 passengers in the boat, the last 50 will be sitting on the laps of the first 100. I think whoever designed the ratings system must have used 50 pound kids to calculate capacity.

The entrance/exit to the tender is mid boat on either the port or starboard side. There are 8 fold down seats in the passageway, for the last few passengers that board. Surprise, there are some passengers that always insist on sitting in those seats even when they are first on the boat. Obviously this blocks the entrance for everyone else as they have to climb over knees, legs, feet and bags to board. This is one case where HAL should say something, but the tenders are operated by deckhands that will say nothing. The lack of respect by some people never ceases to entertain me. I suppose it does give me something to write about.

I take a 3 hour tour around the island. As the morning progresses, the sky clears and the sun becomes very hot. All of the land near the water is built upon, and a few houses are starting to be built on the sides of the hills. There are a few major hotels, a new one under construction, and several falling into disrepair, having failed as a business. The scenery is spectacular, and the two protected bays very calm.

Electricity first came to the island in the early 1980s, and is straining to keep up with demand, outages are frequent. There is a public water system, but whenever it rains, sand an dirt gets into the mains and muddy water comes out of the faucet. Yuck. I'm glad I brought water from the ship.

I'm back on board by 1:00. Since I have been going thru two sets of clothes each day, I decide to do laundry again. Good decision, all 4 machines on deck six are empty. Tomorrow being a sea day the laundry will probably be much busier.

While the dryer is running, I send yesterday's post, with a picture of the sunset. What a painful process, the email with the picture attachment takes over 20 minutes to send. I hope it gets posted. Please enjoy the sunset as there won't be many more pictures unless internet speed improves. Everyone is complaining about the slow speeds. It has been this way for years and HAL has made no attempt at any improvements. The only thing that has changed is that more people want to use it. I will guess this will be question number one for Orlando Ashford.

Happy hour has been daily from 4 to 5. This works well for early diners, but not those that don't eat until 8:30. They have requested some adjustment. Today they add another happy hour from 6 to 7. Good for the passengers, but several members of the bar staff just lost some break time. The word is that the extended hours will likely remain for the rest of the cruise.

Tonight my dinner choice is prime rib. I go to the dining room and ask the hostess for three things: to share a table with others, to have a table with a waiter, and to have the waiter bring food. She agrees. I am seated with two couples that are on the fixed dining at 5:30. Their table is set for 6, but the other seats have never been filled so they have asked the manager to please have someone else sit with them. I guess after 3 weeks they want a fresh face.

Tonight's entertainment is Bayne Bacon, a musician and comedian. Contrary to what many passengers think, he is not related to Debby Bacon, the piano player. His jokes are good, but his piano and guitar playing are overpowered by the ships orchestra.

The ship is currently about 18 degrees south of the equator, and 150 degrees West, headed on a course of 247 degrees (basically west). There is a couple degrees of roll from the wind and seas directly on our port side. Tomorrow will be a sea day. No setting an alarm tonight to catch an early excursion.

January 24, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 19

Day 19 Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia. Is is a gorgeous South Pacific day. The sun is hot, the skies partly cloudy, and there is a nice breeze off the ocean. Papeete is a modern developed city. The port is busy with several cruise ships, a ship from China with several 100 foot diameter satellite dishes, a roll on roll off ship unloading cars, some container ships, and general cargo ships.

The harbor also has many private yachts. It is only a short walk from our gangway to the almost bustling center of town. I say almost as today is Saturday and most shops and stores are closed.

I take a seven hour bus tour around the entire island. We see the Norman Hall house with many artifacts of his varied career, black sand beaches, a lighthouse, several museums, and stop at several overlooks. The scenery is as expected, lush heavy vegetation, rocky coast line, steep mountainous peaks. We also pass three of the four McDonalds on the island and the one KFC that failed. Chickens run wild on the island and free for the taking, so the natives didn't see any value in unhealthy fried chicken.

There is essentially one road that encircles the island. With everything being closed today the traffic wasn't bad, but on workdays the traffic jams are horrendous, our guide says that he must leave his house at 4 AM to arrive in town by 8 AM.

The sunset this evening is gorgeous, I hope the picture above does it justice. Something I have never seen before, just as the sun is going below the horizon, the last sliver turns bright green for a fraction of a second. I tried but did not capture it with my camera. Maybe next time.

The staff roasts several pigs in the Lido deck for a Polynesian dinner. There is only one show this evening at 9:30, A group of native drummers and dancers performing traditional Tahitian dance and music.

I do have to tell you about the arrival of our most traveled passenger to the Queen's Lounge. Dolly arrives with no less than seven of the ships staff. She is on the arm of the hotel director, I don't recognize the others. They carry a chair for her and place it in a vacant spot about 10 feet from the edge of the stage, the spot I now recognize as where she always sits. Her glass of wine arrives seconds after she sits. She is dressed in a reddish burgundy floor length gown with matching evening gloves that come four inches above her elbow. Formal dress of the 20's and 30's is not dead.

Our next port, Moorea is twelve miles away. We leave Papeete at 5:00 AM to arrive by 7:00. We are not going to Cook's bay as originally planned, but another only a few miles away.

January 23, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 18

Day 18 – We arrive in Rangiora about 2 hours early. This is a circular atoll with one channel into the center. About 3,000 people live here, 2000 in one village and 1,000 in the other. Skies are sunny, high 80's with a gentle cooling breeze. Humidity is relatively low, less than 70%. We anchor about a 10 minutes tender ride to each village. One of my tours leaves from one village, the second from the other village. The only way to get from one to the other is by boat even though they are probably only a quarter mile apart.

The other ship in the port is the Mariner, a ship larger than the Amsterdam. She is here about every two weeks for much of the year, so it is no surprise that she earned the prime anchorage. In 2016 a total of 29 cruise ships are scheduled here.

My first tour is a glass bottom boat tour. The most encouraging part is that the coral reef is much more healthy than any I have seen in the Caribbean, but the discouraging part is that the guide tells us some parts are dying. The fish are very plentiful, including a number of sharks. The glass bottom boats are crammed together with the scuba dive boats and the swimmers snorkeling. No dive flags or safety rules here, it's each man/boat for himself.

The second tour is to a black pearl farm. The guide does an excellent job of explaining how pearls are farmed. Interestingly the seeds for the pearls come from the Mississippi delta in the US. I learn that black pearls are not really black, they are gray in color. Sorry kids, I don't purchase any, but I did see one passenger purchase thousands of dollars worth. Probably to resell somewhere in the world.

There are a number of pearl farms on the island. This one currently employs 16 workers, several years ago the number was 150. Tourism is the largest source of income for the island.

On the way to the pearl farm we pass the airport. A single runway with a small building that serves as the terminal. We see a Tahiti Airlines plane land, so there must be some scheduled service.

The teacher from the local village school brings a handful of her students to meet the passengers on the pier. They are learning to speak English and are very excited to meet and talk with English speaking visitors.

The tenders are very hot and crowded, and loading and unloading is very slow due to the waves and mobility issues of many passengers. Our tour fills the last tender to the ship.

Tonight's shows are new performances by three of the entertainers. They are all leaving the ship tomorrow, and according to Gene Young, our cruise director, thirty new entertainers are boarding for the next stretch of our cruise.

Overnight we cruise to Papeete, for our scheduled arrival at 8 AM.

World Cruise 2016 Day 17

Day 17 – At sea on our way to Avatoru, Rangiroa. During the night there was heavy rain, or at least so I am told. Being in an inside stateroom I am oblivious to anything happening in the outside world. There is a little sound of the air handling system, an occasional rare voice in the hallway, and the creak and moan of the ship as she flexes with the seas. I have no idea whether it is day or night unless I turn the TV to the bridge camera. By noon the skies are mostly blue, temperatures in the low to mid 80's and the sea swells are minimal.

Avatoru is a circular atoll, only a few yards above sea level. We will be anchoring in the center with another ship from Papeete. The captain says he is still in negotiations for exactly which spot will be ours.

Barbara gives a talk on Rarotonga, our port of call in 7 days. I am sure they have their reasons, but I wish her talks were just one or two days in advance, not a week. I doubt if I am alone in forgetting most of what she said last week. I can only guess that they hope her descriptions of what to do and not do will encourage more tour sales.

There has been no information on the passenger that was hurt yesterday. This morning a room steward found a guest non-responsive in his cabin. Again no further information. HAL is very tight lipped about everything, and I have yet to see any officers out and about the ship. Unlike every other ship I have been on.

In contradiction to what I just said, we have received notice that Orlando Ashford the President of Holland America Line will be sailing with us from Sydney to Cairns, Australia. Among other duties he will be hosting a Q&A session open to all guests. Of course all questions must be submitted in writing and will be screened and selected as the company deems appropriate.

CSI, Cruise Specialists Inc, not Crime Scene Investigation, has at least four representatives on board. They host various functions for their customers and book new cruises, but mostly they are here to solve the multitude of problems their customers have. ETA's (Electronic Travel Authorizations) that have been paid but not processed, on board credits that have been promised but not delivered, compensation for transportation to the ship that was prepaid but unavailable, shuttle drivers that wouldn't accept vouchers, etc, etc. This is the same company that after 3 requests could/would not quote me for the cabin I desired. I stuck with my usual travel agent, and had no issues.

You may wonder why HAL even allows a travel agent to be on board, when they have their own agents selling future cruises. One of the rules is that these travel agents can only talk to passengers that booked this cruise thru that agency. They are forbidden to even talk to any other passengers, even socially.

My take, stick with suppliers that have a good track history, and take care of as many arrangements as you can yourself or directly with the cruise line. Needing to have four representatives on board only indicates to me that they knew they had many problems to solve.

Most of you know that I am not an athlete, and fact have little interests in sports in general, but somewhere along the line I learned that when using a track one always goes in a counter clockwise direction. Whether it is a dog track, a horse track, a Nascar track, or a running track. The same holds true on the walking tracks on a ship, and on ships there are even discreet signs pointing passengers in the right direction.

I make my way to deck 3 to walk. There are probably 51 walkers. 50 going counter clockwise as expected, and this one lady in her hot pink and neon green outfit with matching sneakers and socks going clockwise against the flow. There is always one, the world will never change.

Tonight we have three shows, the "Mentalists" or mind readers, and two performances of the "Jack Pack" singers. Entertainers that have performed previously, but I must assume will have new material for tonight.

The internet has been totally dead for the last two days. A few passengers used a connection in port yesterday, but paid rates they felt were pretty high. I will catch up my blog postings as soon as possible.

Tonight is going to be a Lido night for a light snack, and timing that will allow me to see both shows. The food is so good in the Lido, and it is so much easier to resist the appetizers, rolls, and desserts, that the dining room is becoming less appealing.

While in the Lido, the Jack Pack boys are at the next table planning tonight's show. We joke with them that now that we know each move, we won't let them get away with anything else.

After dinner I stop at my cabin before the show, there is a note about tomorrow's excursions. The captain lost in his negotiations for the prime anchoring spot, and the tenders now will be running to two different piers, and all the shore excursion times had to be adjusted. Since this is the only port I am doing two short excursions, I tender to one pier, return to the ship and then tender to the other pier for the second excursion.

January 21, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 16

Day 16 – Jan 20 We arrive at Nuku Hiva. The sky is overcast with temperatures in the mid 80's at daybreak. It rained early in the morning. I watch our approach from the sports deck. Dan is next to me. He was here last year on the world cruise, before that he had never even heard of the island despite a history of 22 or so previous world cruises. One of his first cruises was on a ship built in the early thirties, I can only imagine the elegance of ships from that period.

He is not sure if he should count one of his world cruises or not. About half way through the cruise the ship caught fire, and all the passengers were transferred to another ship going the opposite direction, so he never did actually complete that voyage around the world. Cunard sold the ship and it was completely rebuilt and he sailed on her again years later under a different flag.

All of the Polynesian islands are volcanic in origin. The bay we are positioned in is where the caldera of the volcano collapsed many thousands of years ago. The ships information channel says the water depth under the ship is 1,030 feet. Anchoring is not possible and therefore we are using the ships propulsion and thrusters to keep us stationary.

The French officials are still working to clear the ship, a process that has already taken an hour and a half and is not complete. Probably the Captain anticipated that he should arrive a little early.

My tour doesn't leave for several hours. Basically it will be a drive around part of the island with stops at various locations for pictures and explanations by a guide. There are no tour buses, private vehicles are used for the tour, and at each stop everyone gets out and gathers to hear the one English speaking tour guide. HAL isn't even sure how many vehicles will be available. Some of us have confirmed tickets, others are on "standby" if there are enough vehicles.

The same tender process as before, get a number for the tour vehicle, walk down to deck A when your color or number is called and board the tender for the 10 minute ride to the dock. The dock is barely long enough for one of the tenders. Our cars are waiting nearby. I'm lucky, being the first to arrive at vehicle #3 I get the front seat in the Ford ranger truck with A/C, a luxury many of the vehicles don't have. The temperatures are in the high 90's by the time we leave and the humidity is probably higher. Extreme even for the South Pacific. The rain holds off except for a brief sprinkle which just makes it more humid.

Three ladies traveling together share the back seat. One of them falls climbing in the first time, but fortunately is unhurt. They spend most of the 3 hours talking amongst themselves about previous trips they have taken, who they are dining with tonight and what jewelery they should wear. They seem to care little about the tour.

There are about 16 or 18 vehicles, and we travel in a caravan from stop to stop. At the second stop a gentlemen somehow managed to fall into a 3 or 4 foot deep construction pit. This delays the excursion for about half an hour. Several of the drivers rush to his aid and get him lifted out of the pit. One of the good things HAL does is have a staff member on each tour. She is obviously trained in first aid, and applies a number of bandages, but the bleeding from his arm won't stop. The tour continues without the one guest. Our driver later tells me he was being transported to the local hospital, I'm surprised he wasn't just taken back to the ship. The local hospital is about a 2 hour drive over the island, and is equipped only for basic emergencies as there is a shortage of facilities, equipment, doctors and nurses. Even for childbirth, women are sent to the next nearest hospital in Tahiti, 500 miles away.

The air becomes much more pleasant as we drive to a higher elevation. The driver turns off the air, and opens the windows. We stop beside the road 2000 feet above the bay under some power lines, the guide tells us that half of the electricity on the island comes from hydroelectric generators, and the other half from gas generators on the other side of the island. She asks if there are any questions. One of the passengers asks the guide to tell him about the zip line overhead. I honestly think he wasn't being a smart ass, but just clueless.

The driver speaks little English, but I learn about his family, his three children, and when we drive through the valley he proudly points out his home and the school his children attend about a 100 feet away. The village where he lives has a population of about 400.

At our last stop we sample a number of local fruits including grapefruit, mango, pineapple, and coconut. Our driver points out his 13 year old daughter that is helping sell locally made crafts. Mostly wood carvings and shell jewelery.

Only about 3000 people live on the island. This year they expect 12 cruise ships to stop. A supply ship comes from Tahiti about once a week. The topography is rugged volcanic mountains with lush vegetation. Some of the stone carvings are native to the island, while others have been relocated from Easter Island. I'm glad I stopped and took the tour so now if anyone ever tells me they are coming here I can say "Have a nice time" instead of saying "I wish I were going with you".

I am absolutely soaked from perspiration by the time I return to the ship. I shower and head for the crow's nest for a cold drink. I make happy hour with minutes to spare.

Earlier in the day I had looked at tonight's menu. Nearly every choice is fish or seafood. I decide this is a good night for the buffet instead of the dining room, so do hundreds of other passengers including Dolly. She is there with her escort from the ships staff. I don't know his position, but Dolly is often being escorted by a staff member with several stripes on his jacket. If I had served in the navy maybe I would recognize his rank.

The Lido is packed. I have a bowl of "dutch pea soup", as near as I can tell it is just thick pea soup with carrots and ham. It is excellent as is all of the food I have ordered so far. In the Lido food that should be served hot always is, a basic expectation I have for any food venue.

After dinner I listen to Debby for a hour on my way to the main show for the evening. Pete Neighbour, an English musician transplanted to South Carolina, with the Amsterdam band, plays jazz from the swing era.

Tonight we turn our clocks back another 30 minutes. I am now five hours behind Florida. Tomorrow is another sea day, then on Friday we arrive at our next port, Avatoru, Rangiroa.

January 20, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 15

Day 15 - It is cloudy and raining this morning. The seas are nearly calm. The Captain says the weather conditions are unsettled for the next several days. Tomorrow we arrive at our first port in the South Pacific – Nuku Hiva. We expect an early arrival, time that will be used to prepare the tender. Trust me, there will be no competition for anchorage space. Ours will be the only cruise ship here. The tiny island has one small dock that can accommodate only one tender.

There are no presentations I care to attend today, so I decide it will be a good day to do laundry. With only two sea days in the next seven I expect many others to have the same plan. I go to the front desk to get a roll of quarters, and stop by the laundry on my way back to the cabin. Three machines are empty. Unless someone takes all three, I should not have a wait. I pack up all the clothes that need washing, even those items that I have worn only a few hours and could wear again.

All three machines are still empty, but it is a challenge to even get in the room as one lady is ironing men's socks and underwear with the only iron, and three others are trying to unload dryers. The timers on the machines are digital and very accurately display the time remaining. I leave and return just as the washer and then the dryer finish. Some guests try to fold everything as it comes out of the dryer. I just stuff everything in my laundry bag, go down four decks to my cabin, dump it out on my bed, and have it all put away in a matter of a few minutes. From start to finish including the trip to the front desk and my laundry for the week is completed in less than an hour and a half, faster than I can do it at home. I now have clean clothes for two weeks, but I will probably do laundry again in about a week.

The Lido deck is packed at lunchtime. The crew is preparing a stir fry on deck beside the pool. Each guest chooses what ingredients they want, and then the staff does the stir frying. I decide to go to the mostly empty Lido Buffet and have a slice of Pizza. Personally I prefer thin crust, and this is a very thick crust, but the flavor is excellent.

I share a table with Linda, whom I met on the first or second day of the cruise. She had a plumbing issue in her cabin, and it took six attempts to get it fixed. And to think I thought my four calls were unusual. This is her first cruise on Holland America, and obviously she is not impressed.

Another couple join our table. They are avid bridge players and often sail as paid instructors. This cruise they are just fare paying passengers. I ask how the system works for passenger instructors. I learn that the instructor openings are filled through brokers that are paid a fee by the individual. The compensation which usually is in the form of expenses and reduced passage varies widely depending on how desperate the cruise line is and how many instructors are available to fill a need. Everything is theoretically negotiable, but in reality the cruise line usually says this is what we will do and it is a take it or leave it proposition. At the end of the cruise, staff ratings and guest ratings pretty much determine if the individual will be offered future opportunities.

I am seated at a different table tonight and meet three passengers for the first time, the other couple I had dined with before. The front end of the dining room is managed very well for seating guests, but I see great variations in waiter training and overall service. Nothing to complain about, just an observation.

Tonight's entertainer is Robbie Howard, a singer that had his own show in Las Vegas for ten years. He impersonates the voices of many of the vocal stars in Las Vegas from the 60's and 70's. Very appropriate for this audience.

While waiting for the show there was a gentleman behind me that has learned he can not handle a long cruise. He is getting off the ship in Papeete, despite having paid to go to Sydney. No, he will not get a refund.

When I boarded the ship, and Adrienne and Steve were still on board we saw an elderly passenger that was having difficulties. She was unable to stand or walk and needed a wheelchair to leave the pool area. Since then I have seen some of the people with her, but not the elderly woman.

Speaking of Steve, batman is protecting my room thermostat. Anyone that knows Steve will understand. For the rest of you, don't even ask.

No birds or other boats today, but by sunrise we should see our first Polynesian island.

January 19, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 14

Day 14 – At sea. Another beautiful day in the South Pacific. Temperatures are in the high 80's, seas almost calm with no whitecaps. There is a very small pitch to the ship today and no roll. Less than 2 days of travel to Nuku Hiva and our first glimpse of land since Panama last Monday. No ship sightings, no birds, no sea life, but lots of water. Warm, blue, undrinkable water with trash floating in it from our throw away society.

Sarah Chandler, the saxophonist for last night's show, was the guest on the "Good Morning Amsterdam" show this morning. She divulged that for the several days on the ship without luggage, she wore clothes scavenged from lost and found. After attaining a masters in music and art in London, she turned down a full scholarship to further her musical education to do her first contract with a cruise line. That was about 15 years ago, and she has been on cruise ships ever since doing a ship gig about once each month. In London she has put together a group of female saxophone players, that do concerts and convention entertainment. They are also working on their first album. At sea while not performing she pursues her other passion of painting watercolors.

Holland America awards Grand Dollars to the winners of various games like trivia and staircase golf instead of the trinket prizes awarded on most cruise ships. This morning just for attending the "Good Morning Amsterdam" show, everyone was given four grand dollars. To undertand the value of thee precious dollars, if I accumulate 4996 more I could get $100 on board credit. I doubt it.

Barbara tells us about our upcoming stop in Moorea in six days. Another French Polynesian island noted for its scenic beauty.

This morning there is a packet of forms that need to be completed for immigration officials at a number of our upcoming ports. The forms are all filled in with our passport information and whatever else the ship can complete. The accompanying letter very clearly states what questions on which forms we need to finish. What they do not give us is an interpretation of the question.

For example many countries ask our embarkation port. For some that means Port Everglades, for others it means the previous port the ship stopped at.

The other common question with different meanings is "How long were you in the country?" If we enter the country multiple times with sea days between entry ports such as Australia, they want the sea days counted as being in the country. Other countries interpret the question differently, only wanting the days on land.

This lack of clarity creates the longest lines yet at the customer relations desk. It is quickly explained that no one on the ship knows how to complete these questions either. A decision was made, maybe a coin toss, and the front desk personnel complete the 6 or 8 questions the guests couldn't figure out. Whether right or wrong, all the passengers are in the same boat.

My cabin is near the bow of the ship. Sometimes when I look down the long hallway, about a sixth of a mile away, I see what looks like an outside window. Is it a suite with the door open? Today I decide to investigate. It turns out to be an outside door that leads to a small deck on the aft of the ship. This is the only access to it as the stairways are roped off with signs that say "no access". There are a few lounge chairs, a space that is always shady, an excellent unobstructed view behind the ship, and no passengers. I need to remember this. I would be a perfect place to take a picture of the sunset, except we are headed the wrong direction, and no I'm not getting up at four AM to see a sunrise.

Tonight is another formal night. No special decorations, just chair covers and floral centerpieces that do not block anyone's view. I arrive a little later and am seated at a different table with a different waiter. One of the guests I have dined with previously, the others are all new faces. As always the food is good, but too plentiful. I have blackberry soup, lamb chops, grilled cherry tomatoes, and a sugar free fruit crisp.

After dinner I stop and listen to Debby on the piano for about an hour. Every night she has a different theme. She prepares it during the day and then does the same set at 7 and 9 to precede the theater performances. She has told us that every night will be different for the entire cruise.

Tonight's show is the Amsterdam Singers and Dancers. The second show of six they will do before leaving the ship in March. I suspect in Hong Kong but don't know for sure. Basically the main showroom will also have a different show each night for the entire cruise. Nothing but the best for Holland America's World Cruise passengers. That reminds me that even the front of the ship has been specially painted for the world cruise. I have a picture, but unfortunately won't be able to post it until I return home.

I also learn today that the captain officially announced that there are 824 passengers. Many are getting off in Hong Kong, and many more in Sydney. I haven't met anyone getting off in Dubai. I would guess only five or six hundred are doing the full cruise. Put another way, we are currently sailing at about 70% of capacity, probably not enough to be profitable.

January 18, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 13

Day 13 – Sunny skies have returned. The air temperature is about 80. The 25 knot wind is mostly on our stern and the following seas are probably 4 feet. At 9:30 AM We were about 1100 miles from our next port, and had traveled 4200 miles since leaving Florida. In case anyone is thinking about jumping ship, the closest land, other than the sea floor, is also 1100 miles away. Today the ship has a slow pitch, but no roll. I suspect a slightly larger ship would experience no motion at all. With no roll, I walk the outside promenade.

I really had anticipated using the pools, but have learned that the environment is such that I don't want to take the risk of slipping or falling. The decks around the pools are very slippery when wet, and the only way in and out of the pool is to climb over the side or use a ladder. There are no steps or handrails around the pool. My next swim will where I live, probably in May, at the North Spa Pool.

The internet this morning was the best it has been yet. I guess everyone is watching football and not trying to read or send emails. I quickly send yesterday's post.

It has been several days since the birds gave up flying with us, and we have not seen any other ships since the fishing boats spotted 5 days ago. The commercial shipping lanes from Asia to the Panama canal are far to our North, and those ships too large for the canal and headed around South America are far to our South. One thing that is still visible every few minutes is bits of floating garbage. Usually chunks of Styrofoam cups or plastic water bottles.

Early this afternoon I did spot small dolphins about 50 yards off our port side. There were well over 100 of them. Of course I didn't have my camera. By the time I went to my cabin and returned they were out of sight.

Barbara's talk this morning was introduced by four Polynesian natives in native costume doing a traditional dance. They are on board for various enrichment programs for the passengers such as learning to play the Ukulele, making Polynesian shell jewelery, and learning Polynesian dance. They have also held classes on Polynesian history and language.

Barbara tells us that our docking arrangements in Papeete have been changed, she says for the better. The knowledge she has gained in her 25 years with Holland America, and the fact that she remembers so many minute details is amazing.

I get in about in hour of reading, then the battery in my Kindle was almost dead. Even when totally powered off, the battery runs down. Have I mentioned that I now realize I made a mistake when I bought a Kindle?

Eight days ago I mentioned that one of our entertainers boarded in Florida without her luggage and instruments. Well, now that her luggage has arrived and the entertainment schedule reworked, Sarah Chandler will be our entertainer in The Queen's Lounge tonight. Sarah is from the UK, and plays several saxophones and the flute, accompanied by the Amsterdam orchestra. The quality of the entertainment has been good.

I go to the Lido for dinner. The turkey is real turkey breast not the chopped, formed and rolled variety. Two slices with sweet potatoes is more than enough. I am slowly becoming a convert to dining in the Lido instead of the dining room. The selection is better, the food always hot, a pet peeve of mine, and the service of course is at my pace instead of being at the mercy of other guests and demands on the waiter.

Speaking of dining, everyone on the full World Cruise is invited to dine with the Captain. My invitation is for March 26, 2016. I honestly don't think I ever in my life have made a dining reservation over two months in advance. Captain Jonathan Mercer seemed very personable during the Captains reception, but I never see him around the ship like is common on many vessels. In fact there are two other captains that I see more often. Passengers, both licensed captains, but not licensed for the tonnage of this vessel. In the event of an emergency I would be willing to overlook that detail.

For anyone wondering exactly where I am, the ship is at 4 degrees 46 minutes south, 123 degrees 39 minutes west at 9:44 PM ships time, or 2:14 AM Eastern time.

January 17, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 12

Day 12 - I awake to foggy, rainy weather. This was not in the forecast. The seas are about 4 feet with some whitecaps. The ship is rolling a little more as the waves and the 24 knot winds are hitting us directly on the port side. The captain announced that we had a 2 knot current behind us, giving us a push that is used to conserve fuel not alter our arrival time. Today's highs are expected to be in the low 80's.

Barbara the location guide, and Byron the shore excursion manager, give a presentation on the various excursions available for the next few weeks. The information is interesting, but useless for me as I booked all my excursions weeks ago. Byron is a riot, and does a good job of explaining the pros and cons of each tour. At one point where a couple of guests are shown catching fish, and he is explaining an available fishing tour, he announces that the slide on the screen is a complete fraud and is totally deceptive and misleading. Barbara can't believe what he is saying. He goes on to tells us he took the photo in the Caribbean, not New Zealand.

I haven't written much about the passengers. As a group they are well seasoned travelers. It wouldn't surprise me if half the passengers have done one or more world cruises before. I shared a table for lunch today with 2 other passengers, one was on his seventh world cruise and Linda was on her third.

At the other extreme, the other night in the theater, the lady sitting next to me was on her second cruise ever. When I thought I was safe saying something like "you must have enjoyed your first cruise to have signed on for going around the world?" I was emphatically told that it was the worst thing she had ever done in her life, it was terrible, and she hated every minute of it. Unfortunately, or more likely fortunately, the lights dimmed, the show started, and the conversation ended. There must have been more to the story.

I have encountered several other passengers that have only done a few few previous cruises. There probably are about 2 dozen passengers under 25, more than I anticipated. While there are a number of passengers in their 90's there are very few with scooters or walkers. Many less than on shorter cruises. Most passengers are Americans with the next largest number coming from Canada. I have also met passengers from the UK, Belgium, Spain, Austria, Russia and quite a few other countries. If I were to list Brooklyn in this list it is because of accent not geography.

I think my original estimate on the number of solo passengers was probably low. HAL has said nothing about passenger demographics, but customers have said a large number of repeat world cruisers, and a large number of solo passengers is quite common on the World Cruise.

Tonight's dinner theme is "Tropical Paradise Dinner". The dining rooms are decorated with palm trees, some real tropical flowers, but mostly plastic and glitter from china. The tablecloths are white with symmetrically spaced multicolored napkins. There is a silk lei for every guest. And this is just a dinner, not even a "gala" event. And no, they don't save and reuse the decorations, tomorrow there will be dozens of cabins sporting plastic palm trees and paper parrots as guests will be allowed to remove whatever decorations they want after 10 PM.

Returning from taking a few pictures of the decorations, one of the 5 "recliner" type chairs in the library is unoccupied. I have had my eye on them since I boarded the ship, but they have always been occupied. They look like they are probably the most comfortable seating on the ship.

I settle in to the soft over-stuffed leather seat, take my shoes off and put my feet up on the ottoman. I've been anticipating this for days to be able and sit back with my feet up. They just haven't started putting Lazy Boys on cruise ships yet.

Well these chairs may be comfortable for some people, but for me there is no back support and I find it to be the most uncomfortable seating I have found on the ship. I abandon the chair within a few minutes. I'm glad there are others that can enjoy them.

Speaking of the Library, The Amsterdam has a librarian on board. He helps with recommending and locating books for guests, and checks them in and out. He also calls guests when a requested book has been returned. In addition to the legacy library functions he also assists passengers with their ipad and smart phone questions. Not the largest library in the world, but I bet the most used if measured by customers per day per square foot of floor space. The pay probably stinks, but the travel benefit is awesome. Sorry Melinda, don't quit your job, I haven't spotted a job for Fluffy yet.

Tonight's menu has several of my favorite dishes. Definitely a dining room night. I work on a plan. It probably has been several days since I attended happy hour. I think I will have a drink tonight, actually two as the second is only $1. If I go to dinner 15 or 20 minutes later than usual, most likely I will be seated with a different group of guests. After dinner I can listen to Debby at the piano for an hour or so and then go to the second show. All I know is that the show is about dance styles originating from different countries of the world. After the show I will finish writing this post and if I have Internet service will post it. Yes, this sounds like a plan, time to clean up for the evening and head to the crow's nest.

The first part of the plan works as planned, I have a couple of drinks with Dan in the Crow's nest. There are only about 30 people in the room, and just 6 of us at the bar. I get to the dining room about 20 minutes later than usual, just as planned. Then the plan goes astray. Everyone else is late tonight, and I'm seated at the same table for 10. There are only six of us for dinner. We have been together 4 or 5 times now, the chicken kiev is good.

Dinner is served quickly, so I go to the early show instead of the late show, I will catch Debby later.

Julian and Carlisa are from Australia and New Zealand respectfully. They have danced all their lives, beginning as young children. After a few twists and turns in their careers they found themselves as competitors for about 10 years on the international dance competition circuit.

Finding the cost of international competition becoming prohibitive, they both moved to London for a change in career direction. Most recently they have been exclusively working on cruise ships. They married a few weeks ago, and are on a working honeymoon.

The program was a series of different dance styles that originated in different nations such as Spain, Cuba, United States, Brazil and several others. Dance styles that you see primarily in competition.

After the show I listen to Debby for an hour, then finish writing this. It will be posted when we have satellite service.

January 16, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 11

Day 11 (Jan 15) – Another gorgeous day at sea. Partly cloudy, high about 80, light winds with waves less than 3 feet. This morning at 9:30 ships time we crossed the equator and are now in the Southern Pacific. We are not quite half way from Panama to Nuka Hiva.

First I need to correct a previous detail. I have since learned, directly from the source, that Dolly is not 97, but 92. My apologies Dolly.

The few months a year she is not on the ship may be at any port/country in the world. She says she considers herself a gypsy and doesn't have a place on land that she calls home.

For Adrienne I can now report that today was the day you have been waiting for. The first day that I saw a woman having lunch in the Lido with uncombed hair, wearing pajamas, slippers, and robe. You read where others have reported this behavior, I can now confirm it has happened on this cruise, and probably will again.

Actually I will add that I have been a little disappointed at the passenger dress. During the day, the proliferation of tee shirts, with some of them sleeveless was unanticipated. In the evening the dress is better, and there are some men with jackets every night. For formal nights the dress is pretty much as I expected with about 15 percent of the men wearing tuxedos, and another 10 percent of the men that don't wear any jacket.

In the dining room last night there were two situations that I find of encouraging interest. The lady that was making a fuss insisting that she be seated at the table I was at did not get seated there. I don't know where she went, but she didn't get to bully the system and have her way.

There also was another incident in the dining room where a passenger was creating a fuss, possibly it was the same woman. I'm not sure whether if it was an issue with the service, the food, or what, but when she wouldn't calm her temper after a few minutes she was forcefully escorted from the dining room. Thanks Holland America for having a spine.

Considering this is so early in the cruise I can only expect there will be more lapses in acceptable behavior.

I attended a presentation by Barbara our location guide. She talked about what to expect at our stop at Avatoru, Rangiroa French Polynesia. The short version is not to expect any tourist infrastructure, just enjoy the natural beauty. I will write more after I have been there.

Barbara's presentation was immediately followed by a lecture on giant squid. They have been spotted and written about for centuries but none has ever been captured alive, and only one has even been filmed, in Japan 3 years ago.

I spent most of the afternoon reading, the first time I have even turned my Kindle on since boarding the ship. When I return to my room, I find my room key no longer works. The key code was corrupted by the magnetic Kindle cover. Another of many reasons that I realize I made a bad choice is choosing a Kindle. The front desk reprograms my key, I am now very conscious to carry the Kindle away from where I carry my key.

I download about 300 camera images from my camera to my laptop. Since the internet is so sporadic and slow my plan at the moment is to sort the images while on the cruise and then post them to the appropriate locations in the blog as soon as I return home.

Tonight's show is the "Jack Pack" a group of four young (26 to 34) male singers from the UK. They formed the group only two years ago and sing songs similar to the Rat Pack stars of the 60's and 70's in the US. They were semifinalist on a UK TV talent show, have released 1 album and have their first song in the top 10 in the UK.

It is the first time any of them have been on a cruise, and they find keeping their balance on stage difficult with the rocking of the ship. Their performances have been in the UK, Europe and Asia. Interestingly their past bookings usually only comprised of doing 2 or 3 songs, often doing two venues in the same evening. Here they were on stage for an hour non-stop. Audio feedback was a nagging issue throughout the show., and even though they came close I still did not need earplugs. Gene Young, our cruise director is juggling the schedule so they can do another show before leaving the ship in Papeete to return to Europe.

Tonight we turn our clocks back again, the last time for a few days. No we don't turn them back an hour as you would expect, but 30 minutes! I can't tell you why. If I had good internet service I would research that question and share the answer. I will speculate there is a political answer, I can't imagine a business one.

World Cruise 2016 Day 10

Day 10 - At sea heading west. The skies have cleared and the sun is back. During the night the seas increased a little. I am awakened at 9:30 by a practice fire drill for the crew. We were given notice of the drill the night before, and it was time to get up anyway.

The first thing I read this morning is a note from the captain explaining that we will have very little if any satellite communications for the next 6 days or so. Any TV will be spotty and internet connections will be nearly impossible. This is because we are located in an area where there are very few people and therefore no satellites positioned to service this part of the world. I try, but there is no connection.

The ship is talking to us with her characteristic groans and moans as she pitches and rolls a small amount. I try walking around on the outside promenade deck, but there is just enough motion that walking is a little difficult for me. Probably if I had a few drinks it would be easier, but I choose instead to walk a treadmill in the gym.

During the day I listen to several presentations on world explorers. Milt Keiles is the guest speaker. He covers many of the early explorers, but not my favorite, Henry Hudson.

George Stosur is also doing a series of presentations focused on geography. So far all the presentations he has given I have heard on a previous cruise, probably HAL but I'm not sure.

Guest speakers are usually retired, and have some sort of expertise in a subject that will be of interest to the passengers. I don't know the details of the financial arrangements, but they are part passenger and part staff with duties limited to the presentations.

Tonight there is only the one show instead of the usual two. If I go to the dining room, I most likely wouldn't be able to attend, so I go to the Lido instead. Unlike most other ships the food in the Lido is prepared to order and served by the staff instead of being piled in steam table pans and picked over by the passengers. The Lido also serves every item that is being offered in the dining room ad then some. I have spinach linguine and ice tea, skipping any rolls or dessert.

The entertainers, Jeff and Tessa Evason, are "mind readers". How they do it I don't know, and just like when I watch a magician, I don't want to know. The show is very well done. They have performed all over the globe and have an exclusive arrangement with HAL for cruise ship performances.

Shortly after the show, the musicians are doing a jazz program in the ocean bar. Often this venue is used for ballroom dancing each evening, and this will be the first time I go there. I share a table with Karla from Miami and Mike from the UK, two younger solo travelers. They know each other having met several months ago playing trivia on a different cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong. The world of cruising really is a small world.

The sax player is exceptional, and just like everywhere on the ship I find no need for earplugs like I usually do on other ships.

Tonight we turn our clocks back another hour. As I write this we are nearing the equator, have traveled 3000 miles from Florida, and have over 2300 miles to travel to our next port.