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.