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The Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, part 43

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

Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Forty-three

(Remember to click "read more" if you're looking at this from the main medary.com page to get the whole article!)

November 9 (Sunday, Day 54, At sea) -

Partly cloudy at sea

Snookums woke up since she had to go to the bathroom. When she realized that it was 9:32 AM, she threw on some clothes and walked up two decks for the Dam Dollars ring toss. She won both throws and walked away with three Dam Dollars before returning to the cabin and showering. Filbert woke up around 10:30 but didn't go to the Dam Dollars Frisbee throw with Snookums who only managed to win one Dam Dollar. We spent the rest of the morning on the verandah enjoying the cool breeze and glass-like smooth ocean.

More after the jump . . . One thing that was not written in the journal regarding our days sailing near Vietnam and Thailand was that there were crewmembers on guard for pirates. On Deck 3 the fire hoses were unrolled and ready to be used to blast water at approaching ships. There was also a Long Range Acoustical Device (like a big circular speaker on a stand) at the very back of Deck 3 pointed towards the ocean. It was basically a huge speaker that would blast loud sound 100 meters away. The decibels would be at such a level that the pirates' ear drums would burst and prevent them from coming closer to be able to board our ship. When a crewmember was asked about the fire hoses, the answer was that they were being dried! Also, a passenger was told that there were so many crew members on Deck 3 that night since that's where they were taking their smoke breaks. Well, that wasn't true. They were standing guard but the passengers weren't supposed to realize that. We knew all about it since Gary had wandered down to Deck 3 (where there are lots of passenger cabins) and figured it all out from his Navy days. Today the lecturer spoke about pirates and so now people on our ship have figured out what was going on a week or two ago.

We decided to buy a Holland American shore excursion for $149 each to take us to The Pearl South Pacific Resort (a buffet lunch of local and Indian foods included) since the man at the Shore Excursion desk (who lives part of the year in Fiji) said that the closest snorkeling to where we docked in Fiji was at this resort.

Filbert was grumpy all day, partly from too much sun yesterday, and mostly from having to work on the journal all day long, rather than sitting out on the verandah listening to the radio and searching for sea life. After Snookums does the writing, Filbert picks the pictures, re-formats them (to make them smaller--this takes up less space in the Word document and the web page). Then he carves the Word document up into 10-photograph segments (more or less), copies all of those segments over to uploadable web page files, corrects the various characters coming out of Word that need to be replaced in order that they display correctly on the web page (such as quotation marks, apostrophes, dashes, signs, and the like) and sets up the HTML formatting for the web page medium. (Note that the pages aren't uploaded after all that . . . that comes later.) Anyway, he worked on web pages (with a break for lunch) from about 10:45 AM until after 5 PM, thinking that this was a whole lot like work, and wondering about staging a revolt against The Man--or at least against The Blog.

November 10 (Monday, Day 55, Suva, Viti Levu, Fiji Islands - 1.80 Fijian dollars to the dollar) -


Filbert set his alarm for 6 AM to watch us sail in but ended up sleeping in due to a poor night's sleep. The Suva police band welcomed us in but our side of the ship looked out to sea so we didn't see or hear it but everyone said it was a great marching band. Snookums saw a little of it since a suite guest was in Neptune Lounge and offered their suite to anyone on the 'wrong' side of the ship. Many Fiji men wear 'skirts' and this was true for the policeman. The policewoman in the band wore white skirts, too, but they were 'real' skirts and not the 'sarong-type' that the men wear.

Fiji is made up of 333 islands and the largest and most populated one is Viti Levu. Its capital city is Suva and that is where we docked. Viti Levu has around 350,000 people on it and 80,000 live in Suva. There is Dengue Fever in Fiji and we were warned to use Deet insect repellents and that people on shore excursion busses would be given Deet moist towelettes.

Snookums got off the ship at 8 AM and wandered around downtown looking for an ATM, postcards and a post office for stamps. She was successful in finding all three within five blocks of the ship. She walked through the produce market and although it is the largest in the South Pacific, it wasn't a very good one. She had to ask what one of the vegetables was and it was casava (a root vegetable that tapioca comes from). She knew all of the other fruits and vegetables.

We met our tour group at 9:45 and got on the air-conditioned bus with tinted windows (which meant there wasn't any photography on the 50-minute scenic drive to the resort). It started raining halfway there but stopped as we were getting close. A trio of men singing the Bula song greeted us at The Pearl South Pacific Resort in Pacific Harbour. Bula is 'hello' in the Fiji language and we heard it a lot and from everyone. We took our snorkel stuff to the water activities desk and asked where the best spot to snorkel was and was told that no one really snorkels right there and instead a boat takes resort guests to Village Island at 9 AM every day. (It was around 11 AM when our bus got to the resort.) We put on our snorkel gear and waded in the ocean. We snorkeled for 30 minutes and saw lots of sand on the bottom of the ocean and not a single fish. The water was kind of choppy due to a storm and visibility was around 4 feet, but we still though we would have seen a fish or two. But, nope! Well, the water was warm and we weren't in a cold, snowy place so we still had fun.

The Pearl South Pacific Resort
A little lizard

We got cleaned up and decided it was time for lunch. The resort didn't have a buffet and instead we were provided with an entree and dessert of our choice. Filbert had the skewered prawns with a spicy salsa and substituted an onion, basil and tomato salad for dessert and Snookums had the nasi goreng and lemon tart. There was one local item on the menu but it wasn't available. Filbert bought two different Fijian beers (Foster brews three different beers on Fiji).

After lunch we walked around the nice resort grounds. The beach was very beautiful (even if the water contained no fish) available. We found a large hammock and rested in it until it was time to get back on the bus.

A tough life
Warning: Gravity affected coconuts

We got back and Snookums immediately went to the shore excursion desk for a refund due to the various problems (no buffet, tinted windows didn't allow much of a scenic drive, no bug repellent towelettes were available, snorkeling is not done at Pearl Resort). We were given a 25% refund due to the buffet issue and Snookums documented the issues and asked for a larger refund due to the other three problems. More to come.

We had 1.95 in Fiji coins that needed to be used since the ship won't exchange local currency in coins. We also had paper money worth 2. Snookums went off the ship again (in the rain, but it was a warm rain) and went to a grocery store. She ended up buying a 2-liter bottle of Coke Zero (2.29), some chewy candies (.99) and a single-serving package of cookies (.60) and used 3.90 (about $2.15) and donated the extra 'nickel' to the cashier. It was interesting to see that Australia, New Caledonia and Fiji don't have 'pennies' and instead round to the nearest 'nickel'.

After dinner we went to see the comedian and juggler, Tyler Linkin. He was very funny and Filbert laughed a lot. We were sitting in the balcony and the comedian once commented (in a positive way) about the guy upstairs.

November 11 (Tuesday, Day 56, Crossing the International Date Line) -

Snookums woke up and put on workout clothes and went to Dam Dollars. She only won one and was very mad at herself. It was a football toss with an Australian Rules football (slightly bigger than an NFL football). It was outside on the sports deck and everyone was saying to throw it hard due to the wind. Well, she overthrew it. It had a perfect spiral (which was irrelevant) but was long. Arghhhhh. Only one Dam Dollar for her. She followed that by a punishing workout. Filbert went to the lecture on watching whales and dolphins from the ship since we should see some migrating whales and dolphins near Hawaii.

The sea was very calm (like glass) and the temperature was around 80. The sky was overcast and it was raining a little bit when we went to the outdoor ring toss. (The sports deck where a lot of the Dam Dollar events are held is literally two decks above our cabin since our cabin opens to the landing of the stairs and elevators so it's very convenient to attend the Dam Dollar events that are outside. The indoor events are at the other end of the ship and down four decks.) Filbert won two Dam Dollars and Snookums won one. She now has a total of 50 which is enough for the jogging suit. Her next goal is a T-shirt or sweatshirt.

Around 2 PM there was a 'Brightstar' announcement on the PA. That is Holland America's version of 'Code Blue' and the first one we've had during this entire cruise. We'll keep our ears open to hear what happened.

Brightstar call instructions on the Bridge

We are scheduled to cross the dateline at 3:30 AM while we are sleeping tonight which is why we are having two November 11s. Today's Daily Program lists the date and then in parentheses it says 'first one'. The carpets in the elevators will say 'Tuesday' for two days in a row.

We received a follow-up letter from the shore excursion manager about our comments regarding the Fiji tour. We were not given a larger refund than the previous one of 25%, but were satisfied with the response.

None of us had dessert tonight (well, Gary had the sundae since it was made with his favorite kind of ice cream - coconut) since we were saving up for the 10:30 PM Chocolate Extravaganza. We went up a little early to take some pictures. The event wasn't planned very well since it was held in the un-airconditioned pool area and the roof was open about half way. Many of the desserts were melting and the ice sculptures were making streams of water on the floor. We didn't slip, but it's possible others did. We got some desserts and took them to our cabin.

The Chocolate Extravaganza:

Ice dolphin
Ron the bar guy
Photo Title

Next: Apia, Western Samoa!