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The Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, part 39

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The Grand Asia & Australia Voyage - Holland America Amsterdam, September 19-November 23, 2008

Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Thirty-nine

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November 6 (Thursday, Day 51, Cruising Coral Sea) -

Flowers on the Amsterdam

More after the jump . . . We were exhausted from two days in Sydney (or maybe just from the whale watching tour). Filbert planned on doing nothing but that was interrupted early on. His alarm went off at 8 AM from yesterday and then again around 8:15 AM. (Oops.) Then the phone rang a little before 10. Then an announcement concerning a staff fire drill was piped into the cabin around 10:30 AM. That's when he decided to get up.

Snookums had already showered and attended the 9:30 and 10:30 Dam Dollar events.

We went to lunch and Charlotte sat with us. Charlotte commented on the fact that Filbert said about 3 words during the 45-minute period he was sitting there. He was pooped. He went back to the room for nap and Snookums continued to sit at lunch for another hour or so. It was just a slow day.

We were invited to join Captain vanZanne and his wife for drinks and then dinner so we put on our formal outfits and went to the Piano Bar. Everyone in a suite gets invited to the Captain's table once during the cruise. This was our night. The menu in the normal dining room was featuring kangaroo and ostrich so Snookums arranged to have that saved for our dinner tomorrow night.

After drinks we went to the Pinnacle Grill for the Captain's table. It sat 16 and included the Captain, his wife, the Hotel Manager (Snookums sat next to him) and the First Officer. They split up the husbands and the wives so Snookums was at one end and Filbert was at the other end between the Captain and the First Officer. Snookums's end was definitely made up of the extroverts since we were loud and having a good time. Filbert's end of the table was much quieter! The Captain was pretty subdued the whole time, too, and seemed to be almost ticked off at one of the men on Snookums's end due to his jokes. Oh well, we were having a good time.

The food was superb although Snookums didn't appreciate the fancy caviar first course or the second course made up of ahi tuna (kind of like sashimi). She liked the Thai lemongrass chicken soup and watermelon sorbet and filet mignon with a lamb chop (everyone else got a filet and a lobster tail). The dessert of three chocolate items was a real treat, too. Filbert said that the red and white wines were very good, too.

The Hotel Manager, Villem somebody, said that he had just come from a welcome aboard party for the 100 guests that came aboard in Sydney. Anyway, he said that he had just kicked a party crasher out of the party. There is a man onboard that attends all of the parties to get the free drinks. Villem finally had enough and called him out and said "You are not invited". Then he saw the man sitting at the bar in the welcome aboard party room and so Villem finally told the bartenders that the man is never to be served free drinks on this cruise again! That was pretty funny since it had just happened. We were asking him about pesky guests and he had a real-life story to tell that had just occurred.

Villem also said that we almost didn't dock in Fremantle due to the strong winds. We knew it was windy but Snookums had no idea that strong winds could affect the control of a big ship like this. But, the entrance to Fremantle is kind of tricky and the Captain wasn't sure it was safe. For some reason, though, he decided he could do it. Snookums learned that the harbor pilots that come onboard really don't do anything and don't even have much advice to offer. They don't know the cruise ship at all so they can't really offer any help.

The First Officer told Filbert's end of the table that the horn that we had heard around 7 AM on our day of docking was aimed at a canoeist who was trying to get himself run over by our ship! Filbert and I remembered hearing the ship's horn blast and Filbert immediately went outside to see what it was all about but he didn't notice anything. Now we know the story.

We got back to our room to find two large stuffed koala bears as the Australian gift. We sure hope that one of the gifts is going to be a large suitcase to send the free items home.

Sunset, November 6

November 7 (Friday, Day 52, Cruising Coral Sea) -

Snookums woke up at 8:30 and immediately went to work out and then went to shuffle quoits and got one Dam Dollar. When she got back to the room, Filbert was showered and on the internet. She showered and then we went to the 10:30 soccer kick Dam Dollar event and each earned one Dam Dollar.

Suite guests were invited to a special Cabaret Lunch in the Queen's Lounge (the big showroom) so we went to it. Kiwi champagne cocktails were served right away and we passed on them. Then a first course of a mussel, a shrimp and a lobster medallion was served and Filbert ate both of ours. The soup course was jellied consomme (cold) and by then we decided to find out what the main course was. It was going to be Dover sole and veal tenderloin so we decided to go to the Lido buffet. The cabaret entertainment consisted of the showgirls giving a fashion show of the Bob Mackie costumes and of one of the singers singing a song. We left before we saw anything else and enjoyed Japanese food from Lido.

For those people not following NCAA basketball: Today our version of USA Today International had the women's preseason poll in it. UConn is ranked #1 and last year's National Champion, University of Tennessee, is ranked #6. UT lost all five starters (and all five starters played in the WNBA this past season which is incredible) but is still ranked #6. Head coach Pat Sumitt is 16 victories shy of 1,000. Having a great coach and no starters certainly helps when the preseason polls come out!

Snookums attended the English High Tea at 3:30 but was disappointed in the raisin scones. She hoped that Cunard shared its recipe with Holland America, but that wasn't the case. It was a nice spread, though. They have tea at 3:00 every day but she hasn't been to any of the "normal" ones. She saw this one advertised as the English High Tea so she went.

Filbert enjoyed most of the day on the verandah and Snookums stayed inside where it was warmer. We went to the free throw contest and won Dam Dollars. Snookums found a dime on the ship. That means she has now found money in every country except Vietnam! Each coin was worth less than $0.10, but she has a knack for finding money on the ground and that continues to be the case on this cruise.

Dinner was a normal dinner in the dining room but last night's formal menu had kangaroo and ostrich on it. Since we were at the Captain's dinner and had to eat from his set menu, we had arranged to have our kangaroo and ostrich tonight. Snookums thought that both of them were remarkably similar and that they tasted like beef. Filbert thought the kangaroo was tenderer than the ostrich. We both managed to eat both servings of meat.

November 8 (Saturday, Day 53, Noumea, New Caledonia - 100 French Pacific francs to the dollar) -

Surf on the reef
Sailing in

We docked around 7:30 AM and our view was of the 2-story port terminal and city so we had a great view. Noumea is populated with around 90,000 people and is the capital of New Caledonia. It is French speaking. It is an island and it's completely surrounded by a coral reef so we were really looking forward to snorkeling (although the ship didn't offer any snorkeling excursions). There was a wood drum band and singers/dancers wearing grass skirts (men) and flowered long muumuus (women) to welcome us and we watched them from our balcony. They were singing in French so we couldn't understand them, but it was very pleasant.

New Caledonia greeting

We got off the ship pretty early in order to start our snorkel quest. We hit an ATM and found the city bus ($2 each) to take us to Anse Vata which was the best beach area and that is where the water taxis where. Prior to the cruise, Snookums copied the relevant pages from Fodor's for each of our ports and the one for Noumea said that the best snorkeling was at Duck Island so that's where we wanted to go. By mistake we stayed on the bus for two extra stops and walked back to the water taxis. It was no big deal since it was a pleasant walk along the beach. We found the water taxi and bought our $10 round trip tickets and headed to Duck Island (or Īle aux Canards in French).

Duck Island
Departing the taxi stand

There was a restaurant and some chaise lounges for rent but we decided to dump our stuff on the washed up coral and attack the water. Chairs are for sissies! The beach was made up of some sand, but most of it was dried coral and shells that meant it hurt to walk on. Luckily the water was only about 15 feet from where we put our stuff.

The restaurant
Information stand

We got our snorkel stuff on and waded in. The water was much colder than Bali but Snookums had her wet suit so she survived. Even in the water that was about 2 feet deep there were big colorful fish. We finally got set and took the plunge and swam out to the reef about 20 feet away.

Closeup of a fish

Next: The snorkel continues!