February 29, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 55

Day 55 - At Sea. We continue our northerly course through the South China Sea. Gale force winds combined with the ship's speed result in apparent winds on deck of over 60 mph. The captain acknowledges the winds are impeding our progress but has refrained from saying we are behind schedule. Except for a drop in temperatures to the 70's, there is no change in the forecast until we are very near the Hong Kong Harbor in about 2 days. Despite the strongest winds of our voyage, the ships motion remains just about the same, some pitch with little roll. Water sloshes in the pool but doesn't go over the sides like it did as we were leaving fort Lauderdale.

It has been declared by the medical team that I am not a threat to other passengers, and have been released from cabin confinement. (Their judgment is only medical, not psychological.) The entertainment early today is the Oscars which is being shown live in the theater. Oriental stir fry is being prepared on deck for lunch. I'll pass on both. To be smart I will be careful with what I eat for several days. I would like a cheese burger with bacon, lettuce, and tomato and an order of cheese fries but settle for a plain turkey sandwich with ice water.

I take a walk around deck 3, yes it is windy, I remove my glasses for concern they might be blown off. Replacement parts arrived in Jakarta, and life boat 9 repairs continue, the propeller, shaft, rudder and guards have been replaced on the starboard side. The port side of the life boat hangs out over the side of the ship several feet and I doubt they can complete repairs until the boat can be lowered to a dock.

I have almost become a 100% convert to the Lido. Tonight will continue that trend. I have plain egg noodles, about as bland as one can get, except maybe for plain white rice.

On the way back to my cabin after dinner, I walk by the Pinnacle Grill. Passengers are standing in the hallway waiting for a "Captain's Dinner". As I approach the front desk, someone frantically comes up behind me. "Where's Steve?" Anyone know where Steve is?" I'm not sure what I am wanted for. I turn around, but don't respond. Actually nothing, but the photographer Steve is. Especially when he is holding up the start of the Captain's dinner. He was due there 15 minutes ago and no one can locate him. Can't have a captain's dinner without taking all those pictures to sell.

I will listen to Debby and then go to the main show. The singers and dancers will be doing their last show tonight before being replaced by a new troupe in Hong Kong. "Rock at the Opera" whatever that will be.

Yesterday I mentioned about some passengers that were getting off the ship for various reasons. I forgot to include one category. Those that are removed from the ship against their free will. Yes, it does happen occasionally. I don't know all the details but it was a female, note that I didn't use the word "lady", that was insisting on running around the ship naked. I know no more. Any notions I had that human behavior would be better on such a long cruise have been totally dispelled.

I rarely go to the Crow's Nest after 8, and tonight I couldn't if I wanted to. It is closed for a private function. A party for the crew only. They deserve it, the first one I remember for them.

Tomorrow is the last day at sea before arrival in Hong Kong.

February 28, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 54

Day 54 – At Sea headed North to Hong Kong. We are about 1200 miles from Hong Kong. We are headed directly into 35 Mph winds and the resultant ocean swells. The ship is riding quite smoothly for the sea conditions, with no roll but with the often present pitch. Enough pitch for the ship to creak and the elevator cables to slap around, but not enough to make walking difficult. Seas are predicted to increase tonight. I will get out my measuring device if the ship pitches or rolls substantially more.

Last nights entertainer was Pingxin Xu playing a hammer Dulcimer. I must admit I never heard of such an instrument before. Essentially it is about 3 foot wide with about 150 strings that are played by striking them with a very narrow hammer, thus its name. High notes to low notes are arranged just the opposite of a piano.

This show falls into the same category as many of the entertainers on board. Yes it was very enjoyable, but would I spend $50 for a ticket and drive 30 miles to go to the same performance locally? Probably not.

It probably was inevitable that it would happen sooner or later, but I have been stricken with the feared noro virus or something similar. I am restricted to a liquid diet, and confined to my cabin for at least a day. No, liquid diet does not mean beer and gin. I am not sure if this is the result of my shore excursion in Indonesia, or came from another source.

The ship treats any illness very seriously. To help them spot any common sources I was asked to complete a detailed questionnaire about what and where I ate for the four previous days, a task I could not complete in the detail asked. In case what I have is contagious, I am isolated to my room until released by the medical team. A special team has been to my cabin to sanitize it from top to bottom, and to do the chores my room stewards normally take care of. Free laundry is available if needed. If I am unable to take any tour excursions, I will be given a full refund. Most surprisingly HAL will issue a future cruise credit for each day in confinement. All steps to encourage reporting any illness and to encourage compliance with procedures to prevent any illness from spreading.

Looking at the good side of this, tonight was another formal night, and the only show is a brief second performance by two previous entertainers. Missing a formal night doesn't bother me in the least. Room service has been prompt, food has arrived hot or cold as appropriate, and someone always calls about ½ hour after delivery to verify everything is OK.

While on the subject of illness, I can only say with confidence that some passengers have passed, I have no idea how many. There have been other passengers that were transferred to shore facilities with serious but not life threatening conditions, and others that went to shore facilities for treatments or diagnostic procedures that then rejoined the ship.

There are about 200 passengers getting off the ship in Hong Kong, no word yet on how many are boarding. A number of passengers are also leaving the ship for several days to take side trips to the Great Wall, Beijing, Xi'an and the Terra Cotta Warriors or other destinations.

February 27, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 53

Day 53 At sea. The weather continues to be very good. Temperatures are in the low 80's, the seas basically calm, the skies are cloudy. We are headed North towards Hong Kong in the South China Sea.

This morning we have the King Neptune Ceremony to celebrate crossing the equator. Actually it will be later today when we actually cross the equator, but as the captain said, 10 AM was a convenient time to have the ceremony. The Lido mid deck is packed. Many members of the crew and staff participated, whether by choice, by assignment, or by the fact this cruise was their first crossing of the equator I don't know.

All kissed the fish and were then covered with muck from the bottom of the sea. It was messy, as Gene said, sit in the front rows only if you are wearing clothes you are willing to throw away. The pool was drained and 4 hours later they are still cleaning it.

The weather forecast is for deteriorating conditions tonight and tomorrow with gale force winds and building seas. This is a part of the world where we have few alternatives, there is no easy way to avoid the weather. Our speed is about 18 knots, the fastest we have cruised on this voyage. I don't know if this speed is required because of the distance we need to travel, or to miss some of the worst weather in front of us. Currently the wind is directly on our bow at about 25 MPH, which makes standing on any of the open decks very breezy.

I was getting so accustomed to turning our clocks back and enjoying extra sleep, but tonight we have to turn them 1 hour forward. I'll get the hour back later, guaranteed.

I have told you many stories about our eccentric passengers and their unsavory behavior. Today, with her permission, I would like to tell you just a little about a different kind of passenger.

Fanci has MS. There is no cure for MS, and eventually her condition will worsen. Last year she was mostly bedridden and her wish was just to improve enough to be able to get around in a wheel chair again. Well she did improve, not only to get back into a wheel chair, but to be able to get around with a walker.

She had always dreamed about traveling to other parts of the world and realized that as time went on it would be less and less likely she could fulfill her dream. Ultimately she booked the full 115 day world cruise from Florida back to Florida. Unfortunately, and for reasons I don't know, her husband was unable to travel with her, so she courageously ventured out on her own.

Like most patients with MS she has good days and better days. She would never attempt to get into a bouncing tender, but she has gone ashore at some ports. On her good days she is totally dependent on her walker to get around the ship. On better days she may take her walker to the back of the theater, and then walk the last 50 steps to her seat.

Sometimes she walks to the dining room. The wait staff sometimes carries her plate in the Lido, other times she insists on doing everything herself. A characteristic of most people with limitations.

Occasionally early in the voyage she had great days and was able to dance a few steps on the dance floor, but she confided that she paid for it the next day with additional pain and now forgoes dancing.

She pushes herself to do everything she can, and to enjoy life as much as possible. Regardless of what she is doing, or how she is feeling at the moment I have never seen her without a smile.

I hope Fanci's story is an inspiration to anyone that sits home feeling sorry for themselves. To add my opinion, if travel is your dream, a cruise ship is the best way.

Fanci's husband will be joining her in Hong Kong for the rest of the voyage to Florida. I wish them both a Grand Voyage.

February 26, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 52

Day 52 Jakarta. During the night the stench of the polluted air in the region fills the ship. There is no escaping it. Reminds me of what the pollution from the steel mills was like in the 60's before any attempt was made to control it.

I made a mistake yesterday. Lunch was provided with our tour at a 5 star hotel and conference center located next to the temple. I drank ½ glass of water before remembering I shouldn't do that. Well, I paid the price during the night for my slow response time. By morning my wisdom dictated that I skip my tour today, 5 hours on a bus would not be a good thing. A smart decision. By late afternoon I am feeling better.

The cruise terminal is in the middle of a heavy industrial port. There are container ships and docks all around for as far as the eye can see. Thousands of containers piled on the docks. Since it is raining fairly steadily, "far" is only a mile at the most. The center of the city is probably 10 miles or about an hour away.

As the day progresses the skies clear of rain, but the smog is ever present. I'm sure it would have been much worse without the rain. By afternoon, the sun is out but temperatures are only in the low 80's, much lower than predicted.

We are visited today by about 700 family members of the crew. I can only imagine how overwhelmed many of them are with the elegance of the ship compared to their surroundings at home. They are extremely friendly, and ask to have their picture taken with many of the passengers. We are happy to oblige them. Some groups appear to be exploring the ship on their own, most are accompanied by a crew member, most likely family.

The captain leads a group of about 15 uniformed officials on a tour of the ship. He poses with many of them for photographs as they depart on the pier several hours later.

Most passengers go ashore, most for a shuttle bus ride to a shopping center an hour away, a much smaller number on an organized tour.

We do not take on any provisions, but the workman from Harding tells me the propellers and shafts for the life boat are scheduled to arrive today. I see a box on the pier that most likely contains the two shafts. Hopefully the propellers have already been loaded aboard, as they are not on the pier.

With our departure scheduled at 6:00 There is a sailaway party with free beer, wine and soft drinks from 5:30 until 7:00. I attend until the ship has cleared the harbor, hoping for some photo ops as we leave. There are none. A quick bite in the Lido and then listen to Debby until 8:00 and then catch the main show. Yes, I am pretty predictable, beverage, dinner, Debby, show, it is my usual evening routine.

Our entertainer tonight is a Flautist, Clare Langan from London. She gives an excellent performance, Debby agrees and says it is one of the best shows she has ever seen on the ship. Playing the flute herself, she is qualified to judge. Strictly by coincidence Debby Bacon, her husband Ron, and I, often wind up seated together at the back of the Queen's Lounge. 95% of the seats are on a flat floor, and we sit at the one area that is raised by about 2 steps, always guaranteeing we have an unobstructed view. The theater is so small, being at the back isn't that far away. I feel they are the best possible seats, I hope none of the other passengers catch on. After 7 weeks I doubt if they will. Normal human behavior will dictate that they seek a seat as close to the stage as possible, even if their view is blocked.

For the next four days we will be at sea headed about 2000 miles North to Hong Kong. Tomorrow we will be crossing the equator for the second and there will be a King Neptune ceremony at 10 AM. With no tour, I intend to sleep late. I may or may not make the ceremony.

February 25, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 51

Day 51 Semarang Java, Indonesia. As the ship backs into the port, there is about a 100 piece marching band playing on the pier to welcome our arrival. It is a combination of college cadets, military personnel and police officers. After the gangway is in place, the departing passengers pass between two lines of officers that salute the passengers as we walk by in single file. The kind of reception I would normally associate with the arrival of a head of state.

About 80 passengers are taking the same tour I am. We occupy two large buses, and are escorted by two police cars, one in front, and one behind. Being escorted by the police means many things. Traffic lights are ignored. Speed limits are ignored, and we travel as fast as the bus is capable. If there is a vehicle in front of us going a little slower, that means we use the opposing traffic lane regardless of any oncoming traffic or road conditions. Yes even on very windy narrow mountain roads, the whole road was ours for the taking. Oncoming traffic is forced off the road, and often forced to stop. Stop signs and traffic signals are for others, not us. Nothing slows our buses.

Most local residents along the route wave, or at least look up to see what all the noise is about, yes sirens blared for the entire 4 to 5 hours we were on the road.

Actually the ride would make a good amusement park thriller ride. I would call it "The Bus Ride". Despite the many close calls and narrow misses, the buses did not have a single dent. The drivers are good, and all the fellow passengers on my bus at least survived the trip, even if they wouldn't say they enjoyed it. Most of us actually did.

The Temple of Borobudur is over 1000 years old, and like many other historic sites lay buried in the jungle covered with vegetation and volcanic ash for centuries until discovered in the 1900s. The carvings are numerous and very detailed, and the grounds well manicured. Many of the passengers climbed to the top and walked around the many levels, I did not as some of the steps were 14 or 18 inches high, too high for my old short legs. The humidity was very high, and temperatures probably in the low 90's

The other main stop on the tour was at the train museum. They probably had about 30 old narrow gauge steam engines, mostly from the early 1900s. I doubt if any of them were functional anymore. Our 30 minute train ride took us by many rice paddies and across a lake where many of the locals were fishing from their boats. Again the passenger cars were from about 1900. I rode on the platform between cars for a better location to capture some images. Unlike other countries, the engineer and conductor could care less.

About 15 tour buses arrive at the pier within minutes of each other. Only about 30 minutes after boarding time. I can't imagine how late we would have been without the escort.

Tomorrow we will be in Tanjung, Priok, (Jakarta) Indonesia. We have been told the traffic here is probably the most congested of anyplace in the world.

February 24, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 50

Day 50 At sea. The temperature is a very pleasant 82 degrees. Skies partly cloudy, and the seas almost flat. We are technically in the Java Sea, cruising Westerly off the North coast of Java. The water is relatively shallow, sometimes only 50 feet deep. Every mile or so we pass a small fishing boat, sometimes I think some of them deliberately try to get right in front of us. Soon we pass some of the many oil drilling platforms in the region. The flaring flames reach hundreds of feet in the air.

Agung had a great time with his family yesterday. His wife came and picked him up at the pier and then they met their children at school. The kids didn't know he was coming and were super excited to see him.

Hanif's family is coming to the ship to visit him tomorrow.

I decide today should be a laundry day. Days I have shore excursions, I go through several sets of clothing, and laundry is so much easier when there is just one medium sized load. My initial idea that the laundry would be a good place to pick up rumors has turned out to be false. Usually the only other person in the laundry is someone doing ironing, today the same woman was there for hours.

I have no idea who, but somebody must have decided the detergent they brought from home would be better than the free detergent included in the $2.00 washer price. Two machines were solid with suds. If the machines weren't sealed there would have been suds running down the hall. I wonder how many rinses it is going to take to get all the soap out?

We now have several tailors on the ship that boarded in Darwin. They are taking measurements and orders for custom tailored clothes, primarily shirts and suits, that will be delivered when we arrive in Hong Kong. A custom shirt starts at $135, and a suit jacket at $550. I have no need, but many other passengers do, especially those that almost live here.

A couple of other details from yesterday. Never advertised, but our tour bus had free internet access all day. Our guide told us that internet service in Bali is good for most residents. Most homes have drinking water and electricity, but laundry is done by hand in the canals and rivers. The water was so dirty I can't imagine how one would get clothes clean.

Our tour yesterday was over 8 hours long and included lunch. If we have heard it once, we have heard it at least 42 times, "drink plenty of water", "stay hydrated", "take bottled water with you when you leave the ship", etc. Most passengers have caught on, and take water with them. When we arrive at the Safari Park, all bags are searched and all food and water items are confiscated. I understand several possible reasons why.

When we get to lunch, no water is served. If you want a glass of water, it is extra, and not included with our tour. Not exactly good planning on HAL's part. Most everyone buys something, either water, Coke, or beer. We must remain hydrated, even if we feel this was pretty cheap on HAL's part to not even include a glass of water with our $225 tour, or to at least tell us in advance it would be extra. I'll see what happens tomorrow.

Speaking of HAL being cheap, it is standard procedure that when an entertainer has finished a show, the audience is asked if we would like to hear that person again. Of course some passengers always say yes. Gene's (the cruise director) standard answer is "we will see what we can do".

In reality the entertainer is always booked to do just one show. If they do a second show, they are not compensated for it. I can imagine the pressure, realizing if they say no to a second free show they might not get any future offers of employment at all. I'm sure they quickly learned the ways of HAL and have priced their performances accordingly.

Tomorrow I need to be ready for my 9 hour shore excursion to the Temple of Borobudur just after 6 AM. Of course with part of the trip by narrow gauge steam train, it is OK to get up so early. Normally breakfast isn't even being served until 6:30. I am concerned I will have to order room service. Despite my many cruises, I have never used room service even once.

It usually doesn't work, but I will try to get to sleep early tonight, tomorrow is going to be a very hot long day.

I listen to a lecture about pirates, I'm pretty sure I have heard this program before, or one very similar. A stop at the Crow's Nest for some socializing and probably just ice water. Dinner will definitely be in the Lido as soon as it opens in preparation for early bed time.

I stop at the cabin after dinner before I go the listen to Debby. I'm spared. With a 6:00 AM docking, breakfast service starts at 5:00 AM instead of the usual 6:30. I won't be there that early, but at least I don't need to order room service. The latest weather forecast is for cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 90's.

February 23, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 49

Day 49 Benoa Harbor, Denparsar, Bali, Indonesia. As we head into the harbor it is raining, by the time we dock the sun is out, the skies are partly cloudy and the temperatures are only in the upper 80's. Some of the crew are getting off the ship to visit family, many other crew members have family coming to visit on the ship.

My 8 ½ hour tour first takes us to Bali Safari Park. A very well done drive thru animal park with all the usual creatures, hippos, elephants, tigers, buffalo, snakes, etc. Our first stop is for a bird show. The seating is mostly in the sun, and the heat is brutal I would guess the temperatures to be in the upper 90's and the humidity at a similar number, with no breeze. We then walk quite a distance to the Sapo Lion Restaurant for lunch. As the name implies, it is adjacent to the lion area, and they put their noses up to the windows. I suspect they see lunch. Service was quite slow despite the fact there were only 4 other customers in addition to our group of 25 in a restaurant that could easily seat 250.

Finally we board the air conditioned vehicle for the 45 minute tour of the animal areas. Definitely the bast part of the park.

After the animal park we travel to a wood carving studio. The work is beautiful and ranges from small carvings to some that are 15 feet tall. The carving detail and quality is unequaled by any I have seen previously.

This stop is followed by a stop at an art painting studio. They work in both water colors and acrylic. Once they have a design, they make may copies of the same image. I didn't see anything that impressed me, but I'm not an art lover either.

Our final stop is at a Batik factory and store. The cloth is very colorful, but again I have no use for it. Quite a few ladies took this tour specifically to buy Batik, and they did.

The architecture in Bali is very ornate, a reflection of their strong religious heritage. There are temples everywhere. Of course housing is very primitive by US standards, but the people appear very happy. Our guide tells us that the average wage in Indonesia is the equivalent of $400 USD per month. Any place that there is a few feet of open space is planted in either rice or corn. They grow two rice crops and then one corn crop on each plot each year.

Probably 75% of the vehicles are scooters, sometimes with 4 passengers piled on. I don't know how I manage this, but our bus was stopped by the police in a roadblock where they were checking every vehicle. The stop only took a minute or two, and we were on our way.

We arrived back at the ship about ½ hour after all aboard time, but we didn't hold up our departure time. The ship was unable to leave for several hours because the water was too shallow in the harbor and we needed to wait for the tide to come in.

After a quick shower I go to the Crow's Nest. Many passengers have seen Jack A. in action. Tonight he must have forgotten to pick up a napkin from the dining room, he picked up the peanuts and dumped them in his shirt pocket.

Quite a few passengers are less tolerant of his behavior than I am, and feel someone from the ship management should talk to him. Most of us know that will never happen. Thankfully he leaves the ship in Hong Kong.

Please don't think the passengers I write about most frequently are representative passengers. In reality they are a very small percentage, the majority of the passengers are delightful and very nice.

I spoke with Dan briefly before heading for dinner. Dan has been on 14 full or partial World Cruises. This year when the families of the crew were visiting he did the same as he has in years past, passed out candy to all the kids as they toured the ship. Another neat idea.

Totally unrelated. A detail I learned in Australia, that despite being a very democratic idea, would never be permitted by our politicians in the US. In Australia voting is mandatory, and each time you do not vote you pay an escalating fine to the government.

We turn our clocks back another hour tonight, and are now 12 hours ahead of US Eastern time.

Tomorrow is a sea day as we continue West towards Semarang, Java, Indonesia.

February 22, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 48

Day 48 – At sea. It currently is 90, with scattered clouds. The seas are near perfectly flat. We are sailing just south of the 18,000 islands that make up Indonesia, headed to our next port of Benoa, Bali, Indonesia. For the geographically challenged, we are 10 degrees South of the Equator, and 120 degrees East. The Captain's forecast for Bali is temperatures in the 90's with thunder storms and a 70% chance of rain. I won't melt from the rain, but maybe from the heat and humidity.

We are passing numerous volcanic islands about 8 miles to starboard. There are a few small fishing boats, and now that the water is calm I can again see the ever present floating trash.

The ocean temperature here is also 90 degrees. I don't think I mentioned this while I was in Australia, but despite miles of coastline, and warm waters, swimming in the ocean isn't possible in the northern half of the country because of salt water crocodiles that are quite aggressive, and box jellyfish which are called "stingers". They are about the size of a thumbnail, nearly invisible in the water, and have 30 foot tentacles which deliver a very painful sting.

This morning Barbara gave her talk on Semarang and Jakarta, our next two ports. To give a quick summary, it is going to be very hot and humid, and the traffic in Jakarta is the worst in the world. Even with extra time scheduled into the ship tours, they often are 2 or 3 hours late returning to the ship because of the traffic. She strongly discouraged passengers from trying to go very far on their own. Travel times are just too unpredictable.

Tomorrow we are expecting about 700 visitors, relatives of the crew, visiting the ship. There are also some crew members, like my stateroom attendant Agung, that will be getting off the ship to visit his family.

My tour tomorrow is to several artistic centers around Abud and then on to a Safari Park, where we have lunch amongst the lions and other wild animals. The real "Animal Kingdom" experience?

Before dinner I stop at the crow's nest to have a soft drink. Our latest entertainment is present. I learn Jack is his real name, When I chose the initials JA I was thinking a name that starts with Jack, but had no idea that really was his name. Shortly after I arrive a private party breaks up in part of the room. Jack walks around to the just vacated tables pouring any leftover champagne from customer glasses into his glass! Many times my daughter Adrienne told me I would probably have many interesting stories to tell, but I couldn't even begin to imagine a story like this would be one of them. This guy is a real nut case.

Our show tonight is English comedian Paul Adams. A good and clean show, and again a performer that works for HAL often.

Alarm for the morning just to be safe, but I should be up by 8 AM without it.

February 21, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 47

​Day 47 At Sea. The temperature this morning has held right around 80. Light winds out of the West, and seas are calm. It has been raining since sometime during the night, sometimes just a drizzle, other times quite heavy. Being a sea day, the weather bothers no one. By noon time the sun starts to break thru and the captain says we may have some lingering showers for the rest of the day. Looking at the dark cloud bank about 10 miles in front of the ship I would say there is no doubt about more rain.

Our next port is Benoa in Bali. My room steward will be getting off the ship to have a short visit with his family. HAL has extensive ties to Bali. For many years they have sponsored a training school here for many of the service positions on the ship. The school has mock ups of the many cabin configurations HAL has on its various ships, and much of the different equipment found in the galleys etc. Many present trainees are the third generation from the same family.

Other passengers have also told me that HAL has a financial agreement with the government when Indonesians take employment on a HAL ship. I don't know any details nor can I substantiate if it is true. I do know you will find many Indonesians working on HAL and many other cruise lines.

Many passengers are asking their room stewards not to service their cabins while we are in any of the Indonesian ports so they can have a little extra free time. I also have given my room stewards part of their extra gratuity so they have it for their families.

Tonight is another formal night, or gala night as HAL likes to call them. There are no special decorations. It seems like a contradiction, but on gala nights the menu is very limited compared to other nights. I will go to the dining room and I plan to order half of the surf and turf, maybe 2 halves – yes, just right halves, the halves that won't kill me.

Tonight's show is a production show of the singers and dancers. This is their next to last performance as they are scheduled to leave the ship in Hong Kong. Though they are very professional performers, they do very few shows compared to what is found on most ships. Again another adjustment for a world cruise so as to maximize variety in the entertainment.

The safe in my room is like a bank vault as I have currency for the many different countries I will be visiting. So far my planning has been excellent as I only have $10.50 in Australian money that I didn't spend. The bills I can convert to USD when I return home, but the 50 cent piece may be best used to make a refrigerator magnet.

I have over 1,000,000 Indonesian Rupiah for my next three ports. Before you jump to the conclusion that I must be filthy rich, you should know that is the equivalent of about $75 USD.

Tonight we set our clocks back another hour. 25 hour days sure sound nice, but the biological clock just doesn't change as quickly as one can change the hands of a clock. I have heard of several passengers that are having a very difficult time sleeping during the ships "night" time, and staying awake for dinner. Yes, an afternoon nap just may be in order for today.

Well I never left time for the nap, choosing happy hour instead. I almost couldn't control myself, but the laughter was worth forgoing the nap.

In Sydney we took on quite a few new passengers. This has provided the usual entertainment of lost people such as the couple looking at the piano, and saying I wonder where the piano bar is? It must be downstairs. Etc.

Fortunately I don't know his name, so I'll just refer to him as JA. He joined the ship in Sydney. JA sits next to me in the crow's nest and orders a double Happy Hour drink. He starts bragging to Ron on the other side of him about how he just got on the ship and is going all the way to Hong Kong and then getting on another ship to go home to the US. He doesn't realize Ron has done multiple world cruises plus others. Ron is not impressed, remains a gentleman, and says nothing.

JA then carries on about how he smuggled two bottles of vodka onto the ship by refilling water bottles but leaving no air space so there would be no bubbles if shaken. He didn't say how much he paid, but the same two bottles on the ship would cost him $21. A few minutes later I happened to turn towards him and he is pouring something into his drink under the edge of the bar. I just looked, I may have even glared. JA noticed me and offered the explanation that he was adding more vodka to the drink he just bought at the bar. How cheap can one be. This is behavior I would expect of a college student. I decided it was in my best interest just to move so I didn't say something I shouldn't. Besides he was about 6'- 6'' even if he did look to be 60+.

I pick up my drink and go talk to Brian and his wife. Ron leaves at the same time for dinner. Five minutes later I watch JA take a dining room napkin out of his pocket and unfold it on the bar. He walks along the bar picking up any remaining glasses of mixed nuts and dumps them on the napkin. He folds it up, puts it in his pocket and leaves. He is fast, he has had practice with this before. Jeremy and Oliver, the bartenders, don't notice. I'm flabbergasted at the behavior of this old man in a tuxedo.

Tomorrow is another day at sea, who knows what entertainment awaits me.

February 20, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 46

Day 46 Darwin. We arrive on time at 10 AM to blue skies and warm temperatures. It is currently 86 and the highs for the day are now predicted in the mid to upper 90's. My tour doesn't leave until later, giving time for the day to warm up.

Darwin is a very modern city, being totally destroyed in WWII and then again by a typhoon in the early 70's. It is primarily an industrial shipping port, but tourism is becoming a significant part of the local economy. Natural gas, lumber, bauxite, nickel and other minerals are major exports.

Last night ventriloquist and comedian Patrick Murray gave us another very enjoyable performance with his dummy Matilda. Personally I think he has been one of the best of the many good entertainers we have had so far.

Debby was called to play in the Pinnacle Grill for a special function last night so instead we had two musicians from the orchestra playing during the time slot Debby is usually at the piano. They played with a great deal more energy than Debby, don't spend as much time talking about a song as playing it, and delivered a very enjoyable time for all even though they refused to sing any of the songs played. They played every song that was requested, and most from memory.

Yesterday I spent about 45 minutes with Myron, the shore excursion manager, filling him in on some of my past observations about some issues with the tour escorts, and tours themselves. He immensely appreciated the the information on the escort, and already was aware of the problems with the tour guide at the Opera House. As I suspected, the only reason our tour didn't get to see the main hall was because the tour guide didn't know what he was doing. HAL maintains an evaluation of each tour guide they encounter. In many cases they ask for specific guides that have done a good job previously, and in this case they will never accept this tour guide in the future.

There are at least 6 trucks with provisions already lined up on the dock. There are also three refrigerated containers. I wonder if we will get propellers here? At least more goldfish? Definitely getting meat string, Planter's mixed nuts, and bar stock.

Many of you know that I have always liked being around water, so today I am taking a boat ride around Darwin harbor. I might be deprived of salt air if I don't get out on the water once and awhile.

Due to our later departure at about 8 PM, the only entertainment tonight is the movie "The Martian" showing in the Queen's Lounge. I doubt if I will attend.

I'm back from my tour, and surprisingly learned a new rule for tour buses. I thought I had written about all of them already but hadn't. Tour bus drivers should always take driving directions from the guides. We were on a very narrow road in a park that ended in a "T". The guide told the driver to go to the left, that it would circle around to the exit. You know the rest, about a half mile or more later the road ended and there was no room for the bus to turn around. The driver had to back down the narrow twisty road. Like all Aussies I've encountered he was good natured about it, and yes he did an excellent job. I didn't hear the guide giving him any other driving tips.

Tides here in Darwin can be up to 30 feet. Since leaving this morning, the tide has risen over 20 feet, making the ramp back to the ship very steep. Because of the extreme tides they have built pleasure boat harbors with locks to the ocean. The basin is allowed to only fluctuate a few feet. Water from the ocean is used to fill the lock and the basin on high tide, and water from the basin fills the lock on low tide. Very ingenious, I had never heard of this being done before. Besides the infrastructure of the basin being less costly to build, the other advantage is that the shoreline around the basin remains much more attractive than it would be if there were a 25 foot change in water level twice a day.

I don't know what the high temperature was today, but it had cooled to 93 by sunset. I escaped any rain, but there is still the possibility of a storm tonight.

We set our clocks back another 30 minutes tonight. We are now only 14 hours ahead of Florida. (7 AM in Florida, 9 PM here.) We will be at sea for the next two days, scheduled to arrive in Benoa (Denpasar), Bali, Indonesia on Tuesday, Feb 23.

February 19, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 45

Day 45 At Sea. Last night we encountered severe thunder storms, heavy rain, lightning, and gusty winds. Or at least that is what I am told. Being in an inside cabin I hear nothing and see nothing. Just fine with me.

Most of the day temperatures have been in the mid 80's with cloudy skies. Several times it looked like it was going to rain but it didn't. The seas are pretty calm with only a light chop. There isn't even enough roll for the ship to talk to us. I spent much of the day listening to speakers.

My first lecture this morning was presented by the reef captain that has been on board for several days. The Australian government sets the rules for which ships require reef captains along the 2000 mile reef. Ships above a certain size, ships of certain types, and ships containing certain cargoes are required to have reef captains when navigating anywhere near the great barrier reef. Essentially the rules catch all cruise ships, all commercial freighters, and some private vessels. The reef captains themselves are provided by a private company, and retained by the shipping lines as needed to comply with the law.

In some cases they get on and off the ships from a pilot boat, at other times they are dropped on or picked off by helicopter. It is not uncommon for them to remain on a ship for 4 or 5 days, and to remain away from home for a month or more, primarily going from one ship to another. A much more demanding schedule than harbor pilots that we frequently see in many ports.

The next lecture covered the history of grand travel from the 19th century thru modern times. More so in the past than today, world travel was only affordable to the wealthiest of families.

The last speaker of the day talked about some sailing myths, and the origin of many phrases that have come from the sailing world.

When we get to Indonesia, many of the crew will get a few hours off to see their families. Other crew members are having their family visit them on the ship. In the case of cabin stewards, they only get time off when their work is complete. I have been spreading the word for several days to other passengers to forgo having their rooms made up on the days that their room steward may be with their families. I was told it is not sufficient just to use the "Privacy Please" indicator, each guest must write a note and stick it to their cabin door.

When I first told Agung that I didn't want him making up my room it brought the biggest smile to his face. The word finally began to spread rapidly today, and many doors now have notes, of course the final decision for each crew member schedule is made by the supervisors.

I also tried to convince Oliver and Jeremy that we would tend bar for ourselves so they could have some extra time off, but they doubted the beverage manager would go for that.

The fire drill for the crew was held as scheduled this morning. Another time I wish I had my camera to capture the crew in full gear headed to the "test fire". An area with artificial smoke that blocked all visibility.

We are expected to arrive in Darwin tomorrow at 10 AM. Currently the forecast is for temperatures in the upper 80's with a chance of showers. Better than the 100+ temperatures that were predicted several days ago.

February 18, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 44

Day 44 At Sea. Today it is a cooler 85 degrees, partly cloudy skies and calm seas. We are headed in a Westerly direction, anticipating arrival in Darwin in two days. We have gone thru the Coral Sea, past the Great Barrier Reef, and are leaving the Pacific Ocean, soon to be in the Indian Ocean.

Life boat 9 still is missing shafts and propellers. This morning there is a note in my door that the dry cleaning system has failed, and it is hoped we will be able to pick up repair parts in Hong Kong in about two weeks.

I had a chat with Patrick Murray this morning on our way to Deck 8. Patrick will be doing another show before he departs in Darwin, then he will be bouncing around various Holland America ships sailing in Australia and Asia until the end of March with "Matilda" his dummy. I also learned that a few years ago he performed at Kings Ridge, the community I live at in Clermont, Fl. Small world.

Speaking of small, I also learned the other day that the youngest, and smallest, person on the ship is also from Clermont. No it's not me, his name is River. He is just over a year old. In fact HAL has a minimum age requirement of one year, and he was five days short of that when we started the cruise. Pleading by his grandfather, and maybe a threat of canceling four other passengers, and they relented to let him sail. He is here with his sister, mother, and grandparents. Very mild tempered, and well liked by all of the crew and passengers, well all except Dolly, she believes that a cruise ship is no place for children. River likes to chase ping pong balls on the Lido deck, and has been training to tend bar in the crow's nest. During a time when he was under Grandpa's supervision not his mother's, I'm sure.

At our stop in Cairns, we loaded on at least six large 50 pound boxes of fresh cut flowers. Yesterday and today the florists have been busy replacing many of the floral arrangements around the ship. They are very creative, as should be expected from the professionals they are. I believe they are from Amsterdam. (The florists, not the flowers.)

This morning Myron and Barbara gave a 45 minute presentation on the excursions for all of our ports of call for the next month. Way too brief to be of much value. Maybe 60 seconds at most about any particular tour. Even though I have already booked all my excursions, I am going to meet with Myron to see if I mistakenly have chosen any excursions that are inappropriate for my physical abilities. There are inconsistencies in excursion descriptions, and we keep getting notices about changes.

I'm still amazed at the number of guests that are wandering around when we are in port asking the shore excursion staff if there are tickets available for this or that excursion. One of the more ridiculous ones was a passenger in Cairns, 2 hours before all aboard time, wanting to go snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. We had been told numerous times that it was at least a 2 hour boat ride to the reef, and the only way HAL was able to even offer a reef tour was to charter a high speed catamaran exclusive for its use. Some people will never get it.

Tonight's entertainment was Greg Andrew doing an Elton John impersonation. As has happened on several occasions, the technical staff managed to substantially sabotage the show. Greg sang and played the piano, but he was difficult to hear because the band was amplified to a much higher level than the piano and Greg's voice. Probably 50 people left the show early, more than I have seen leave any other show. No, I was not one of them.

Tomorrow is another day at sea. There will be a fire drill for the crew at 9:30, so I can almost guarantee everyone will be awakened if they are not already up and about.

February 17, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 43

Day 43 At Sea. The winds are light, seas flat, and the air temperature in the mid 80's. Skies are partly cloudy with the expectation of some rain expected later in the day.

If you were to read our itinerary published before leaving Florida, you would expect that we would be anchoring at the Sherrard Island Anchorage tonight. Well that just isn't going to be. We have been told several stories. The historic purpose of the anchorage was to provide a place for the captain and crews of sailing vessels to get some sleep. That really doesn't apply to modern vessels. Then we were told that we weren't stopping because we would be arriving after sunset and that wouldn't make sense as there would be nothing to see. It wasn't mentioned that if we had set our speed to arrive before sunset, we would have. We are cruising only at slightly more than 50 percent of our rated speed.

The latest rationale is that if we stopped, additional officers would be required to weigh anchor when we left, and that we may need to turn on an additional generator in order to make Darwin on schedule. An additional generator means more cost. More cost means less profit. Isn't crude oil selling at bargain prices now?

Most passengers agree, this may be as close as we will get to the real reason. By not stopping, profits are enhanced.

What are we missing by not stopping? Nobody knows, but probably not much. There is also the speculation there was never any intention to stop here, but by listing it on the itinerary, it looked like we would have fewer sea days.

We are headed towards Darwin by following a channel between Australia and the great barrier reef. Our course zig zags along the coast, but basically we are headed North or North West and then will be headed more Westerly later tonight. There are numerous small barrier islands, some barely sticking above the water, others fairly large, but none appear to be inhabited. The channel can not be judged by open water and in some places the channel is barely wide enough for two ships to pass, even though the span of water between land masses is several miles.

The ship is actually pretty quiet today. A little too warm for the deck walkers, the big "sale" on the Lido deck by the pool only draws a handful of attendees, and few people ever use either of the pools. After Barbara's talk on Darwin, and the morning lecture on the economic and social benefits of well managed tourism, I return to my cool cabin to type.

There was another sighting the other morning, I think about the fourth of the cruise so far. A gentleman on the elevator, headed to the Lido, wearing only his boxer shorts. No robe or slippers. Enough said.

I chat with Pat during happy hour. He is one of the "other" captains on the ship but not rated for this tonnage. Yesterday he spent much of his day with the Captain Mercer and his wife being tourists in Cairns. One detail of interest, the captain has been telling the home office for years to not include the Sherrard Island Anchorage in the itinerary. The home office doesn't listen, but once on the high seas the captain is the boss so we don't stop.

Speaking of Happy Hour, Jeremy and Oliver usually serve about 30 customers. Sometimes fewer, and occasionally more. They also serve hot appetizers which I have totally resisted so far, and peanuts and goldfish. Yesterday they ran out of goldfish, and when asked when they would have more, Oliver didn't know because fishing is prohibited around the great barrier reef. I didn't make this up, I'm just repeating what I hear.

Simple dinner in the Lido, now off to listen to Debby for an hour and then the main show for the evening, Gary Guthman on the Trumpet.

Debby finally has her voice back. One of the difficulties of working on a ship is that there are no such things as days off because you don't feel well. Her entire routine tonight was songs about animals. I'm sure just for my children she played the Chicken Dance and about 20 people danced. Of course the bribe of 10 grand dollars each may have been an influence. It's amazing what people will do for a few cents.

Gary's program was mostly songs from the 40's. The theater is a little over half full, the smallest attendance for any show so far. I think his program is too old even for this crowd.

I had always mistakenly thought that time zones were fairly well organized. Well I am learning differently. Tonight we set our clocks back ½ hour for the next time zone in Darwin. Whether in 30 minute steps or an hour, by the end of April I will be back on Eastern time. It is 9:12 PM here, and 6:42 AM in Florida. Tomorrow is another sea day.

February 16, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 42

Day 42 Cairns Australia, Tuesday, 2/16/16. A few light clouds, sunny and HOT. It is 85 when I go for breakfast at 7:30, the forecast is for temperatures in the mid to upper 90's. It is the hottest day of the year in Cairns, but better than some other possibilities.

We are docked at the international cruise terminal, the "Pacific Princess" is in front of us. She too is on a world cruise, having left Florida a few days before we did. I had considered taking her, but felt the Amsterdam better suited me. Not surprisingly there are passengers on the Amsterdam that have friends on the Pacific Princess, world cruisers are a relatively small community and many of them do it every year. They got together at a nearby shopping area to share stories. I am told the Pacific Princess has less than 300 passengers, even though her capacity is about 800. If this is true, maybe prices will be more attractive next year.

My tour today is the "Kuranda Experience". Essentially a 21 mile narrow gauge train ride to the village of Kuranda. The railroad was originally built in the late 1800's to serve gold miners in the area. Now it is strictly a tourist train, utilizing two 1970 era, 1000 hp clyde-emd 8 diesel-electric engines to pull about 20 coaches up the 2% grade. The undercarriages of the coaches are from the 1910's, but have been totally rebuilt and refinished recently.

The track is in excellent condition. Over the 21 miles, there are 15 tunnels and 55 bridges, some wooden, others steel.

Unfortunately visibility from the coaches is rather limited by small low windows, safety bars about 4 or 5 inches apart, and heavy vegetation blocking many scenic views. Kuranda has a very busy tourist shopping area and other sightseeing possibilities including an extensive butterfly farm. There are many cafes from which to have lunch, and much needed cold beverages.

The return trip is by modern aerial cable car, completed in 1995. Going over the tree canopy in 6 passenger gondolas with large windows, and also making several scenic stops during the 4.7 mile journey, was definitely the best part of the excursion. We view the extensive forest, several waterfalls, and can see over the city of Cairns out over the great barrier reef miles away.

By the time I get back to the ship I am drenched from head to toe with perspiration. A nice cold shower and I go to the Crow's Nest for about 6 large glasses of ice water before dinner.

Tonight's entertainer is Dale Kristien, actress and singer who starred in Phantom of the Opera in New York for a number of years. She sang several songs from Phantom plus other numbers. Her voice reminded me of Martha Carres. A few of you will know that name.

The crew, staff, and cruise director are happy today, all the corporate executives have left the ship.

Tomorrow is a day at sea, I plan to sleep late.

February 15, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 41

Day 41 Townsville, Australia. This port was not on our original itinerary, it was added after we were unable to stop at Mooloolaba due to the seas being too rough, which resulted in the port officials closing the port. The temperatures are in the low 90's, bright sunny skies and a very light breeze. Fortunately the relative humidity is low at 45%. In the shade it is comfortable, but in the sun it is hot. My hat is giving me my money's worth, same for sunscreen.

We dock at the pier where sugar is normally loaded. Waiting for the shuttle bus into town, a local radio reporter is interviewing passengers on the pier and moments later a TV crew arrives. On the bus, they are playing the radio and the top news story is the visit of the "Amsterdam". After a 10 minute ride to the town center, I find the local paper is distributing free newspapers, on the back page is a headline "Amsterdam In Town Today". It is very obvious the locals are doing their best to make us welcome, and our presence is a big event.

During our drive we pass what I think is going to be a cruise terminal pier. It appears to be complete, but there is no signage and no activity. It also could be a ferry terminal, I'm not sure.

All of you have probably referred to some boats as being "cattle boats", especially some packed tenders from the larger ships. At the pier next to us is a true cattle boat. It is being loaded with live cattle. I have no idea where they are being shipped to, but the boat looks a little like a cruise ship with four decks of balcony cabins, but instead of glass doors there are cattle gates. At least they have a nice view on their voyage, in fact a better view than I have.

There are also at least 3 smaller freighters in port. One ship is loading nickel ore, the other two container freight. The only active workers are two barges dredging the harbor, and several workers busting up concrete on the pier. It is possible today is some sort of Holiday, or maybe Monday isn't a normal work day, I haven't heard.

I take a walk around town. There is not too much here. Several gardens, a long water front, 2 large public salt water pools and a large granite mound that sticks up hundreds feet in the middle of town. There is a walking trail to the top, I decline even though there would be a nice view from the top. The store fronts are typical of any midsized city. There are a number of hotels, banks, cafes, etc. The city is very clean, and traffic is almost non existent. I can see why they are excited to have 1000 visitors dumped into the center of town for a day.

After a couple of hours I return to the ship. It is still nearly deserted. I take the opportunity to do laundry, all the machines are empty. After the laundry is complete I go to the medical facility to retrieve some of my drugs they are storing for me. After 10 minutes, she is unable to find them. I don't panic, but do volunteer to help. A full sized refrigerator is full. I quickly recognize my zip lock bag at eye height right in front. She tells me that the next time I come back to tell them they are on shelf two and it will save a lot of time. Maybe that would have been a good idea for every passenger six weeks ago? I thank Chris and say nothing more.

As the ship is preparing to leave, I am paged to call the front desk. They think I'm on shore even though I have been on the ship for hours. I call, and they act surprised, really suspecting I'm not on the ship. Later I did have a thought. What would happen if I didn't call? How long would they "wait" for me? How much trouble would I be in if I then check off the boat tomorrow morning? Probably not a process to mess with. Just laugh that they missed me even though they scanned my card. Stuff happens.

I go to the Lido for a turkey dinner, listen to Debby for an hour, then go to tonight's show. It's an alarm clock day tomorrow in Cairns as I have a tour first thing in the morning. A 20 mile train ride, followed by a cable tram over the rain forest canopy. So far the weather forecast is clear and sunny, but with temperatures in the upper 90's.

February 14, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 40

Day 40 At sea. Clear skies, temperatures in the upper 70's, winds out of the South at about 17 mph, almost flat seas as we head in a North Westerly direction towards Townsville. Another near perfect day.

I talk to Barbara a little about Townsville, and learn my guarantee is worthless, she has never been there before. What I am able to learn is that it is an industrial port primarily exporting minerals and livestock. The cruise terminal is still under construction, so we will dock at one of the industrial berths, and utilize shuttle buses to take us to town. It is universal that cruise passengers are not permitted to walk on industrial piers. Smaller ships have been stopping here, but we are the largest cruise ship to date. Weather is forecast to be sunny with temperatures in the 90's for then next several days.

We are presently sailing near the edge of the great barrier reef, and have a "reef pilot" on board. Australia is off to our port side, and occasionally reef islands appear above the water on our starboard side. Looking at the navigation chart, there are very specific channels thru the area for ships. I expect this pilot will be with us for several days.

This morning Orlando Ashford, President of Holland America Lines, along with a handful of other top level executives from HAL and parent company Carnival gave a presentation followed by a Q&A session. The big question about the poor Internet service was answered with a non committal "we are working on it". I am told it is exactly the same answer they have been giving for several years. A detail of personal interest. We are told they are making plans that we will be able to tour HAL's newest ship, the Koningsdam, while we are in Civitavecchia in April. I think this will be just before her inaugural cruise.

A few more details about the "beach party" two nights ago. The band played non-stop from 5:30 to 9:30. About half a dozen lifeguards from Bondi beach in Sydney were brought on board. They are all volunteers so I'm sure the several days on the cruise ship was used as a special reward. They along with some of the musicians, dancers and singers played in the pool and sand, and also kept the guests out of the water. When I mentioned they had beach balls, did I mention several of them were over 6 feet in diameter? One ball nearly fills a hot tub.

The food included lobster, crab legs, shrimp, prawns, oysters, sushi, caviar, etc The open bar not only included the usual soft drinks, champagne, beer, and wine but everything else you could imagine.

Later in the evening the captain, many of the other ships officers, many of the ships staff, and the representatives from the corporate offices joined the party. Many of those that attended said it was a good party, but would have been better if the music wasn't so loud.

Tonight it is still party time. Orlando Ashford is officially hosting a cocktail party for all guests before dinner. I expect the usual receiving line to meet all the Carnival and HAL executives followed by drinks, and appetizers. After formal dinner in the dining room, the Valentine's Day Ball will be in the queen's lounge. Entertainment to be provided by the Amsterdam orchestra and Australian singers Liam John Burrows and Darcy Jones. (No, I have never heard of them, but I am sure some of you have, otherwise the internet knows.)

During the reception I meet two couples from Oregon that just joined the cruise in Sydney. They have been traveling together for over 25 years, and have a unique way of determining where and how to vacation. They agree on a budget for transportation and lodging, and the length of time away from home, and then draw straws. 1 of the four chooses a destination and makes all the plans. Everything is kept in total secrecy from the other three. They have taken a number of cruises and trips to China, India, Mongolia, Iceland, Russia, and many US destinations. Some trips have been for 3 or 4 days, others for a month or more, depending on budget and time restrictions. What a neat idea.

Dinner was one of the best I've had in the dining room. After dinner I need a quick shower. During the Q&A the CEO was asked why it has been so cold on the ship. I think someone has responded by turning off all the A/C. I'm drenched. I may or may not make the Valentine Ball, but I do plan to get off the ship tomorrow just to see the local town with no hurry and no shore excursion.

February 13, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 39

Day 39 – Not Mooloolaba as scheduled, but a day at sea. I awaken to rainy skies, visibility some times as low as ½ mile, temperatures in the mid 70's, winds gusting out of the East at up to 35 Mph, and choppy seas with a 10 foot swell. Despite the weather conditions the ship stabilizers are doing a good job and the ship is quite stable. Actually if we had to miss a port, this was a fine day to do it.

Melvin Foster is the guest lecturer this morning. He joined us in Sydney and I expect he remains on board until Hong Kong. His talk today was about some of the early explorers of Australia and other lands in this part of the world. He is a good speaker, and his presentation interesting.

As is the usual process, yesterday he was the guest on Good Morning Amsterdam morning show. A total surprise to everyone, he proposed to his girlfriend on the show. She said yes, but did not receive a ring. He was advised it would be much less expensive if he waited to return home to purchase it instead of on the ship. Melvin is probably in his 70's.

At noon the Captain tells us that the weather will gradually be improving over the rest of today and tonight. HAL has secured an extra port of call on day 41, Townsville, Australia. Our ship just fits, so we will be docking, not tendering. I will learn more later.

In the afternoon I listen to a presentation by Andrew Johnson on how the same word, phrase or gesture has different meanings in different cultures around the world. Often a phrase that is very positive in one culture is very derogatory or offensive in another. He also touched on tipping in different cultures and how such a practice is very offensive to some. All information very appropriate for his audience on the Amsterdam as we travel the world. The 100 passengers that attended came away better educated, the 900 that didn't probably don't care anyway.

Dinner will be in the dining room tonight. Several hundred guests have left and have been replaced with new passengers to meet. After dinner tonight's entertainment is comedian Patrick Murray with his "dummy" Matilda. I have seen him at least once previously, and my memory is that he does a good show. I will be there.

After dinner and an hour with Debby I return to my cabin just before the show. Patrick and I meet in the hall as his cabin is across the hall from mine. As often is the case with comedians, as he starts some jokes you suddenly remember exactly what he is going to say. Fortunately much of his material was new based specifically on his long flight to Sydney and life on the Amsterdam the last few days. Of course it would be impossible for me to have forgotten any of it, especially considering I don't remember when or on what ship I had seen him.

The ship has now turned to the North West, and as the captain predicted, the winds have dropped and the seas have come down from earlier in the day. Our stop in Townsville will be for about 8 ½ hours. Though it is close to the Great Barrier Reef, there is no information yet about any available tours. I'm thinking I will just visit the town. There is no time for Barbara to give a presentation before we arrive, so I will just stop and have a quick chat with her at her desk. I can almost guarantee she has been here before.

February 12, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 38

Day 38 – At sea. Another beautiful day. Temperatures this morning in the 70's, essentially calm seas, and mostly sunny skies. We are headed almost directly North towards Mooloolaba. We can see the Australian coast about 25 miles off our port side. We occasionally pass other commercial shipping. The winds and seas are expected to increase significantly later today and tomorrow.

The captain has given us a copy of our trip log from Florida to Sydney, the first segment of our World Cruise. We have officially traveled 11,066 nautical miles or 12,725 statute miles. On board we have 1067 guests and 635 crew. I'm suspecting the 824 I was told earlier in the cruise was not the total number of passengers, but the number that are doing the entire world cruise. That would be consistent with the number of passengers that are only doing the first one or two segments.

If we were traveling at our rated speed of 21 Knots, we would consume 39,500 gallons of fuel per day. Since we usually travel at 50 to 75% of that speed, our fuel consumption is much less, how much less is carefully guarded proprietary information. That sounds like a lot of fuel, but when calculated as people miles per gallon (includes crew) it works out to be about 25 miles per gallon per person. And that includes fuel for operation of everything else on the ship. The larger ships are much more fuel efficient.

Tonight we are having a beach party by the Lido pool. That portion of the Lido deck has been closed all day as the decorating crew makes preparations. In addition to the expected decorations of beach balls, umbrellas, and six foot long sandals, at least 2 tons of sand is being spread on one end of the deck. It has been stacked in the corner for the last 3 or 4 days, hundreds of 100 Kg bags of "play sand". Putting it down will be easy, but I expect it is going to get tracked throughout the ship and will require a major cleanup effort following the party.

Entertainment is going to be provided by the top rated Australian party band "Hypnosis". I could hear them rehearse from deck 9, they are loud. Ear plug night for sure, free drinks courtesy of HAL will help. The last two nights there has been no entertainment in the Queen's Lounge. Having lavish parties instead of entertainers is the norm for HAL when the executives from the main office are on board, a usual occurrence during a world cruise.

The captain has just announced that the Port of Mooloolaba is closed due to unfavorable sea conditions. He and the staff are evaluating alternatives. It is totally to be expected that there will be deviations, it's just that Moo-Loo-La-Ba is such a fun name to say. This was going to be the first time HAL has visited the port. At least I can say I listened to Barbara's talk. I think the only port on our entire itinerary she hasn't visited during her long career.

I walk around the ship several times. Lifeboat 9 appears to only be missing shafts and propellers. For field repairs at sea, the fiberglass work looks good. Given a little time and dirt, you will never know where the repairs were made. Time goes by so quickly, the "reef excursion" seems like a distant memory.

As late afternoon approaches, temperatures have risen to the mid 80's, winds have increased and are now directly on our starboard side. The moans and groans of the ship and slapping elevator cables have returned. Maybe before bed I will take a measurement of pitch and roll. At the moment it is no more than on previous days.

All the chairs from the Crow's Nest have been moved to the Lido Pool for the party, effectively canceling happy hour for tonight even though it is still listed on the schedule. I don't know if it a misprint, but the schedule is showing only the dining room on deck 4 for open seating being open for dinner, no listing for the 75% of the passengers on fixed dining times. All appearances are that HAL is expecting that everyone will be at the pool party. Maybe an unreasonable expectation as the area is not large enough for all the passengers. I'll find out.

I head to the party about 20 minutes after it opens. It is packed. Ear plugs are not enough. The band can be heard in many areas of the ship, sound traveling down open staircases. The only food being served is seafood. I pass for obvious reasons. I get a free drink, heavily poured by Oliver, and go to the Lido for some food. Pea soup and a small Australian meat pie. Both are good. I hear comments about the beach party from other guests, many negative, probably the best being "The Holland America Brand has just been Carnivalized".

Debby is the only alternative entertainment tonight. When she arrives for her show, she has totally lost her voice. Even with a microphone she can't be heard. Being the trooper she is, she plays, but obviously does not sing.

There has been no word on the medical emergencies of yesterday. There is no decision yet on any alternative for Mooloolaba, but the passengers are hoping for an extra day in Cairns. Even though the ship can't stop in Mooloolaba, we are handing off an officer to a pilot boat as we pass by. He is needed on another ship. We weren't told which officer we will be losing.

February 11, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 37

Day 37 Our Second day in Sydney. Another beautiful day with mostly sunny skies and temperatures rising to the upper 70's. Before I look outside the P&O Pacific Eden has docked behind us. She is about the same size as we are.

The drive to our first stop is over an hour. Traffic and construction slows the bus quite a bit, but we finally arrive at Featherdale Wildlife Park. Part sanctuary for endangered species and part zoo. Very well done, we spend an hour wandering among the kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, reptiles, Tasmanian devils, wombats, and many species of Australian birds.

Our next stop is supposed to be for lunch, but instead our nearly new Mercedes bus is randomly pulled over for an inspection by local authorities, two RMS inspectors go over the bus with a fine tooth comb first checking paperwork, weighing the bus, testing lights, signals, tires etc. they continue by checking luggage compartments, and walking thru the passenger aisle several times. I'm not sure what they were looking for beyond checking that everyone was wearing a seat belt. Of course I buckled mine as they entered the bus.

The driver shared with us, after the 20 to 25 minute inspection was complete, that this was the first time he has ever been stopped in his 15 year career as a commercial bus driver.

We continue on to The Mountain Heritage Hotel. An elegant restored early 1900's hotel in the blue mountains with a gorgeous view. The lunch was as one would expect in any fine resort. Perfectly prepared and presented. HAL could not have done better.

After lunch we continued to the Waradah Aboriginal Center in Katoomba where we were treated to a short presentation of dance and cultural history. After a brief walk we could view the blue mountains and the valley from an observation area. The guide likes to describe the area as being like the grand canyon, but with trees. Personally I think a comparison with the grand canyon is too much of an exaggeration, a comparison with the smokey mountains would be more appropriate.

Due to the delays and the traffic, we arrived at the ship about five minutes after boarding time. As I entered the ship, they were conducting a safety drill. Not hearing the announcements, I ask and learn the drill is just for the new passengers that boarded in Sydney.

Tonight there is a large sail away party with beer, wine, soft drinks and various finger foods. I decide it will be my dinner.

As we sail out of the harbor, the "Explorer of The Seas" is berthed in the International Terminal. We pass the bridge and the opera house and I get a few last pictures. About 5 minutes later the ship comes to a halt and the captain announces that a medical emergency requires the evacuation of a passenger. It will be a 20 or 30 minute wait for a police boat to arrive for transport.

A few minutes later there is another medical emergency just inside the Lido from the party. A lady has collapsed to the floor. There are about 25 small sailboats off our stern, tacking back and forth across the harbor. The sun sets, and we sit. We remain in the harbor for about 2 hours dealing with the two emergencies before continuing on.

No alarm, tomorrow is a sea day and I will sleep late. Tonight we set our clocks back one hour. When it is 1 AM on Friday on the ship, it is 10 AM on Thursday in Florida.

I think I mentioned this before. I am finding that the Internet works best about 3 or 4 AM ships time, the one downside to this schedule is that after I am up for the 5 or 10 minutes sending the post and getting any email, I find I am too awake, and toss and turn for an hour or more before falling asleep again.

February 10, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 36

Day 36 Sydney, Australia. I'm up at the ridiculous hour of 6 AM to watch our arrival into Sydney Harbor. The air temperature is about 68, the humidity high, but the skies clear. It is expected to warm to the high 70's today.

Our ship passes the world famous Sydney Opera House. The International Cruise Terminal is just past the Opera House but is reserved for a Princess ship. We are much smaller and can go under the Sydney Harbor Bridge where we then turn around, and back into the White Bay Cruise Terminal. Our terminal is about a 30 minute bus ride to the city center and the Opera House. Free shuttles are provided until 11 PM tonight.

My tour for the day is a combination of city sights, a tour of the opera house, and a stop at Bondi beach. I find the outside of the opera house much more impressive than the inside. Unfortunately our tour doesn't show us the interiors of any of the major halls, just one of the smallest theaters. The streets of Sydney are very narrow, and our large bus seems to go around and around the same blocks over and over. This is because of construction, traffic congestion, no turn lanes, overpasses that are too low, and streets that are too narrow.

Bondi beach is famous for surfers. There are several thousand people at the beach, we are told on a summer weekend 50 thousand or more is not uncommon. The bus drops us off near one end of the beach and the driver tells us he will park near the other end. We have almost 2 hours for shopping and purchasing lunch. Most places are selling fish or seafood items. I do a real cop out and go to McDonalds. Tastes just as bad as in Florida.

The passengers on the bus today were all properly behaved ladies and gentlemen, so I have nothing more I can write about them. However let me tell you about the tour company guide. He tells the bus driver to leave without even counting passengers on the bus, or letting the HAL escort board.

The escort bangs on the door and the driver stops. The guide then tells us he forgot his name tag, he also does not wear any sort of uniform which most of the other tour guides seem to be wearing.

We get to the Opera house, the bus parks as close as it can, several blocks away. The guide leads us up the many front steps, and we stand in the lobby for 15 minutes while he is in the ticket line. He then approaches us and tells us we must go to the sub level for tour groups.

Yes there is a group tour office there with little to no line, but he doesn't have the required voucher for the tickets, nor does he have his cell phone to call his office, he says he left it on the bus. Fifteen minutes later, our guide from the opera house begins our tour by going back up all the steps again. Starting half an hour late may be why we didn't get to see any of the main halls, but that is only speculation on my part.

Sydney is the largest city in Australia, hundreds of high rise buildings are under construction, there is a lot of traffic congestion, and housing is very expensive. I see no blighted areas. The average rent for a 2 bedroom apartment is reported to be $500 USD per week. Lofts built into old warehouses on the waterfront sell for 3 to 10+ Million USD!

We stay in port tonight. Many passengers are having a night on the town, not me. I have another tour early in the morning. On the ship there is only one show tonight, a comedian at 9:30. I will skip it, sleep is more important.

February 09, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 35

Day 35 – At Sea. There are a number of perils at sea, there have been for many years. Many of them today are a much lesser risk due to new standards, materials, systems, and seamanship practices. Hitting an iceberg and sinking is very unlikely. Pirates still roam the seas, but in very limited areas of the world. Illness, which still can run rampant through a ship is very unlikely to result in mass casualties. Running aground today is usually just an inconvenience (Concordia excepted). Of all perils, probably fire is the most feared today.

We are headed North Easterly on a course that is expected to take us to Sydney tomorrow. About 3 AM I am awakened by the smell of smoke in my cabin. At first I wonder am I just dreaming? Did the ships alarm awaken me? Neither. I turn on a light. Everything in the cabin appears normal, the hallway is quiet. I conclude that the prudent thing to do is to call the front desk. They answer promptly, even at 3 in the morning. The source is located, the ship has passed through a cloud of smoke originating on land, and it was pulled into the ventilation systems before they could be shut down.

Yes, with this additional information I conclude it was probably from a garbage dump or trash incinerator, there is a distinctive smell to burning garbage. With any concern relieved, but wide awake, I email yesterday's post then crawl back into bed. Most of the passengers never smelled the smoke, that is probably a good thing. By the time I shower at 8:30 the odor is mostly gone.

The morning temperatures are in the low 60's. The skies are mostly clear, and the seas are nearly flat. We need to travel quite a bit East before we can head North to Sydney. There are a few other ships in the distance.

I go to the Lido for my usual bowl of Special K. Still plenty of cereal, but they have run out of skim milk. I have to settle for 1%. I assume the ship stores will be replenished in Sydney

The workers continue to work on the life boat repairs from sunrise to sunset, again having lowered the boat to the dock for easier access while we were in Melbourne. The work crew has increased to four. Two from Harding, and two that I suspect are from the ships regular crew. The fiberglass work appears to be progressing, but slowly. The outside 25% of the hull can only be reached while the lifeboat is on the pier. Mechanical repairs of the shafts and props don't appear to have commenced. I suspect they are awaiting replacement parts, in which case installation should only take a few hours once they get the correct parts.

When we reach Sydney we are going to loose about 150 to 200 passengers and board a smaller number of new passengers. The weather forecast for our first day in Sydney is for sunny skies and temperatures between the high 60's and high 70's. I hope they are right, but weather forecasts have a way of disappointing many.

I listen to retired astronomer Alan Wright for the last time this morning, he is disembarking in Sydney and returning home to Tasmania. I've said it before, but worth repeating, he is probably the best speaker I have ever encountered as a guest lecturer on a ship.

Tonight there will be a Mardi Gras party in the crow's nest from 9 to 11 PM. By noon the room has been heavily decorated with purple gold and green streamers and hundreds of "coins" spread out on all the tables. The bar is even using Mardi Gras napkins instead of the usual plain white. Masks and beads will be given to guests. The table decorations are cleared for "tea" and then restored for the evening activities. I take a few pictures.

HAL has a team of employees with the sole responsibility of decorating for various activities. My understanding this staff is added only for the World Cruise. Much of their work is done in the middle of the night while most of the ship sleeps.

With a long tour first thing in the morning, I decide to forgo the Mardi Gras party and retire early. Maybe I will even be up in time to get pictures of our arrival into Sydney Harbor and our docking at the White Bay Cruise Terminal.