Journeys: Coming Attractions

Y’all may have noticed that I’ve not been posting our travel journals for a while–since 2012, in fact. Part of it was simple burnout, part was a lack of time to do it because of all the travel we’d been doing (see below, not an exhaustive list!), part because I had three major and two minor surgical operations (and Snookums one more) that we somehow fitted in between scheduled trips, and part sheer lazyness.

Well, I’m going to try to get up on the horse–or the camel, depending on the trip–again.

I’m putting this post up as a kind of table-of-contents to the upcoming travel journals and, in some instances, photo-essays, for various trips we’ve taken since the last quarter of 2012.

As I actually complete the posting of those journals/photo-essays, I’ll turn the following journey names into actual links that you can follow to check them out.



The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Holland America ms Amsterdam, September 20-December 5, 2012 (Journal)

The 2013 19-Day HAL Alaska Tourcruise, Holland America ms Statendam, July 20-August 11, 2013 (Journal) – Published in full January 4, 2016

The Belize Escapade, September 22-29, 2013 (Photo-essay) – Published in full January 6, 2016

The 2013 Incan Empires Voyage, Holland America ms Statendam, November 1-December 4, 2013 (Journal)

The Key West Escape, January 27-February 1, 2014 (Photo-essay)

The 2014 Caribbean Voyage, Celebrity Eclipse, February 7-22, 2014 (Photo-essay)

The 2014 Basketball & Cruising Extravaganza, NCAA Women’s Final Four + Sydney, Australia & South Pacific Crossing, Holland America ms Oosterdam, April 3-May 11, 2014 (Photo-essay?)

The 2014 Quebec Excursion, July 15-23, 2014 (Photo-essay)

The 2014 Alaska Cruise, Holland America ms Amsterdam, August 23-September 7, 2014 (Photo-essay)

The 2014 Atlantic Crossing, Regent Seven Seas Mariner, October 12-November 5, 2014 (Photo-essay)

The 2015 Caribbean Voyage, Celebrity Eclipse, January 31-February 15, 2015 (Photo-essay)

The 2015 Basketball & Cruising Extravaganza, NCAA Women’s Final Four + Viking Star European Cruise, April 2-May 31, 2015 (Photo-essay)

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage

Contributed by: filbert Friday, October 16 2015 @ 07:05 AM CST

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

The Itinerary

This is the table of contents for the online version of our trip journal. Here are the chapters:

WARNING:  Links here are broken . . . I need to fix ’em.

Part One – Seattle to Hakodate, Japan.

Part Two – Hakodate, Japan to Yokohama, Japan.

Part Three – Yokohama, Japan to Kobe, Japan.

Part Four – Kobe, Japan to Nagasaki, Japan.

Part Five – Nagasaki, Japan to Hong Kong, China.

Part Six – Hong Kong, China to Singapore and back to sea.

Part Seven – Semarang, Java, Indonesia and back to sea.

Part Eight – Lembar, Indonesia to Komodo Island, Indonesia.

Part Nine – Darwin, Australia to Hamilton Island, Australia, and back to sea.

Part Ten – Brisbane, Australia to Eden, Australia.

Part Eleven – At sea, viewing a solar eclipse, to Auckland, New Zealand.

Part Twelve – At sea, to Fiji, Samoa, and across the Equator.

Part Thirteen – At sea, to Hawaii, to San Diego, and home.

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Part 12

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Holland America ms Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Twelve

November 18 (Sunday, Day 59, At Sea) –

Snookums went to Total Body Conditioning this morning and also went to “Things to See & Do in Lautoka”. Filbert played Team Trivia and he and Laura got the bonus question for the team so every team member won a Dam Dollar. (What is the largest mammal to make a nest? Gorilla.) Three teams tied for first and they got second but didn’t get any Dam Dollars for second since there were so many teams in first. Sharie’s team got first again for the second time in a row, though, and she has only played the last two times!

After lunch we looked at the art displays created by the passengers attending the watercolor classes. They are being auctioned off and HAL is going to triple the amount of money raised by the passengers and all of the money will go to the Educational Outreach Youth Program of Apia (Samoa). Snookums was really hoping to find a painting of Borobudur, but settled on being the $3 winning (and only) bidder for a “picture within a picture” of Macchu Pichu since that is on a future cruise itinerary. The talent of the artists on this cruise is outstanding.

Snookums went to crafts class and made a tapa cloth greeting card and later on went to “Fab Abs” and Laura and Sue (crafts classmate) were there, too. When she got back, she laid out on the verandah and read from 5:30 until 7:15 PM and enjoyed the bright sunshine. Filbert spent most of the afternoon writing inside although it was in the low 70s, sunny and calm. Tomorrow’s forecast at sea is for the mid-70s.

At dinner, Mr. K (our assistant dining room manager) gave us a jar of sambal. We still have the Korean chili sauce and the Vietnamese chili sauce in our room refrigerator (and have been bringing one or both of them on most nights) but now our waiter can be responsible for putting the jar of sambal on our table every night. Yum!

Dancing band, Lautoka, Fiji

November 19 (Monday, Day 60, At Sea) –

Snookums went to Fab Abs (and was happy to see that she met last week’s goal and got a trophy on the face of her watch) and after a leisurely breakfast with Filbert in Neptune Lounge, went to “Things To See & Do in Apia”. Snookums filled in for a missing player in the noon Team Trivia and the team got second place (but not due to her help).

Filbert watched three NFL games on TV throughout the afternoon while Snookums was at lunch and then at crafts where she made a crochet and wood bead necklace. Nancy, the crafts instructor, said it takes her about six to eight weeks of full-time work (or more) to prepare for a 75-day cruise. In today’s craft, for example, each of the fifty participants received homemade kits that contained seven crocheted balls and wood beads. Nancy did the crocheting and prepared the necklace holders so that all that was left was to thread the items onto the necklace holder and then crimp one end. No wonder it takes her at least six to eight weeks to get all the kits ready. After crafts Snookums splurged on the goodies in Neptune Lounge. She had a piece of chocolate cake, a chocolate chunk cookie and two dark chocolate nut clusters and then wrote the journal on the verandah (although it was cloudy and only in the high 60s). Then she went to the fitness class and was the only one there so Kristina put her through a hard workout on the weight machines.

Filbert did take a break from watching NFL games and went to Cluny Macpherson’s lecture on “New Zealand’s Past” and said that finally there is a good lecturer on board the ship. Then he got a salad from Lido for a very late lunch.

Prior to dinner there was a wine and cheese soiree in the Crow’s Nest for suite guests and Snookums enjoyed a free virgin skinny cosmopolitan that had freshly squeezed grapefruit juice in it and it was very good. We talked to Roberta and Larry and then Adelle, the social hostess, joined the four of us. She told us about how she supports a youth center for 15 5-7 year olds in Ethiopia with the money she earns on the ship and how she goes to it during her “vacation”. The children spend most of the day there and get three meals and education before returning to their homes at night. The parents try to eke out a living selling coffee beans and things like that on the street and are too poor to afford school for their children. Once they reach primary-school age, the children go to boarding schools.

November 20 (Tuesday, Day 61, Lautoka, Fiji; $1.00 FJD = $0.57, $1 = $1.77 FJD) –

Snookums went to Fab Abs and was the only one there so Kristina put her through the paces and made it hard. At 8 AM we docked in Lautoka, population of 52,000. Lautoka is the second largest city in Fiji and four years ago we were at Suva, the largest, and didn’t care for it. Lautoka is in the heart of the sugar cane growing region, and sugar is the second most important industry behind tourism. Lautoka is considered to have the best climate in Fiji. Most snorkeling is not actually done on either of the two large islands where 80% of the population lives, but rather boats go to the other 298 islands or so. The beautiful pictures that are shown for tourism are mostly on the much smaller islands. Fiji is the first country on the face of the earth to see the sun rise since it is located on the 180th meridian. Postcards mailed from the ship were a bargain at $0.60 each (although they were probably much cheaper at Fiji Post).

When we got off the ship at 9 AM, we were surprised to find that there were tours that could be purchased right then and there. This was the first port that we had seen on this cruise that had tours to easily buy off the ship. There was a nice information tent, too, but nothing was being sold (other than tours). It was strange that there weren’t any vendors at the port. Rather than waiting for the next free shuttle, we walked to town (about 20 minutes) and saw a bunch of people, mostly women, lined up for the “Stop violence against women and children” rally. We kept walking and soon after that we heard the local band and saw the rally people marching behind it. Traffic was stopped at the intersections where the band did some dancing while playing. It was fun and a lot of the participants in the rally were waving at us.

We went to the Central Market and all of the produce looked very nice and the prices were clearly displayed. There were only two items that we had to ask about – taro root and kava. Kava looked like dried ginseng or ginger with long branches coming out. They looked root-like. They were expensive, too, at around $10 per pound. (Kava is a ceremonial drink that supposedly has narcotic-like properties.) Snookums bought four heaps of three different varieties of hot peppers to share with the Indonesian staff in Neptune Lounge and Arya, our Indonesian table waiter. The hot peppers cost a total of $1.70 and had she been thinking, Snookums would have bought some for the room stewards (Fausi and Suan), too. We bought canned corned mutton ($1.60 for 7 ounces) at one of the many, many grocery stores. Filbert bought Bounty (rum and cola ready-to-drink bottle for $1.60) and two cans of Fiji Gold beer ($1.25 per can) at one of the many liquor stores. Most of the liquor stores were actually in cages and the customer stood outside of the cage and told the caged clerk what was needed. The clerk then put the items through a little opening in the cage. Crime is on the rise in Fiji. At this point there was nothing else we wanted to buy but we still had Fijian currency left. Filbert found an air-conditioned coffee shop (no Wi-Fi available) and bought a $3.35 iced coffee (very, very expensive since it was in a new air-conditioned shop) while Snookums went off in search of souvenirs to spend the remaining $10.50. She bought a cannibal fork (yes, Fijians were cannibals until the late 1800s), a kava bowl and a very small tapa cloth purse. (Tapa cloth is a non-woven fabric made by beating a paper mulberry tree’s inner bark to reduce its thickness.) She probably could have spent less than the $10.50, but she was done and felt good helping the Fijians.

Fiji was very nice in that everyone spoke English and everyone greeted us with “Bula” for hello. Vendors did not try to get you to buy their items. They left you alone. Taxi drivers did, too. It was not a high-stress day like Vietnam where you practically had to beat the vendors away. In fact, Sharie told us that she was going to buy a $6 sarong but the vendor suggested that she just buy two yards of the fabric (at $1/yard) instead since it was the same thing! When we were outside the Central Market and were looking for the souvenirs a woman actually led us to the crafts market. That hadn’t happened in any other country. Snookums really enjoyed the day, but Filbert was sweating profusely and wasn’t too excited about another market. It was 90° and cloudy for most of the morning but the humidity was quite high. We took the shuttle back to the ship at 1 PM and Filbert immediately showered the sweat and grime away. Snookums went to Neptune Lounge and gave the peppers to Sari who was absolutely thrilled.

Snookums went to the 5 PM Total Body Conditioning class and Laura was the only other guest. Kristina now knew us well and told us that per the HAL/Steiner Spa handbook, she is required to wear a full face of makeup, including foundation, and bright red lipstick. She teaches fitness classes and sweats. Making her wear makeup is ridiculous! (Kristina wears minimal makeup, like eyeliner, and her boss on this cruise doesn’t mind. On a different HAL ship, though, her boss made her follow the rules.)

Snookums decided that our dinner tablemates needed to try the three different kinds of peppers so she cut up one or two of each kind and put each in some sweet soy sauce (per Sari’s advice). She took the three condiment cups to dinner and various crewmembers wanted to know what they were. (She also had the bag of chilies for Arya and the crew was jealous of those.) The largest pepper was a habanero pepper and it seemed to be the hottest but it also had the largest quantity of pepper per sauce. The medium-sized pepper was more like a Thai chili. The smallest chili was shorter than a matchstick and the vendor insisted that it was lethally hot, but it really wasn’t. Everyone at dinner enjoyed the taste test and put the various strengths on their appetizers, as a dip for raw vegetables and on the entrees. It was a great evening. The reports back from the crewmembers were that the medium-size pepper was the hottest followed by the largest pepper and the tiny pepper wasn’t hot at all. Some of the crew ate all three sizes raw, in one bite!! Our waiter said that he was going to cut them up and share them with his friends, probably in sambal or some other Indonesian dish.

November 21 (Wednesday, Day 62, At Sea) –

Snookums woke up and worked out. After a leisurely morning, we both went to Team Trivia since Snookums told Sharie’s team that she would play on it for one day. Snookums got one answer correct, but her team didn’t win any Dam dollars. Filbert’s team tied for first and he won two Dam dollars. After that (around 1 PM), Snookums decided to spend the day on the verandah, including ordering a club sandwich from room service. She slept and read and read and slept and used a beach towel for a blanket since it was only 82° (and humid and windy which was why she was just a tad chilled). Filbert listened to his shortwave. After Snookums woke up the last time she finished her book and then decided to use the hot tub since she was pretty sore from her most recent workouts. Much to her surprise, it was 6:30 PM and dinner was in thirty minutes at Canaletto for the six of us since we wanted to skip a formal night. The ship did lose an hour at 2 PM, but it still didn’t seem possible that Snookums spent 4.5 hours on the verandah. Snookums skipped crafts but told Sharie that she wasn’t attending. Sharie was going to miss it, too, since Sharie was helping with the arts and crafts silent auction (similar to the watercolor one the other day). Snookums even missed the 5 PM exercise class but learned that Laura attended which meant that Laura had a one-on-one Abs session with Kristina. (And Laura had already paid for 12 60-minute personal training sessions with Kristina and had one more left.)

When we returned to our room after dinner, and since it was a formal night, (but Filbert wore shorts to Canaletto), we were happy to see presents on the bed. We received two packages of Reidel red wine tumblers, two wine aerators and two copies of a $14.99 2012 pocket wine book. Filbert spent an hour or so paging through the book and learned that fresh watercress makes any wine taste “revolting”. So, don’t bother pairing any wine with a watercress salad.

Today’s Explorer had the biography for Executive Chef Ed Sayomac in it. Ed, from the Philippines, started with HAL in 1981 as a General Purpose Assistant Pantry which meant that among other duties, he served food in Lido, prepared room service short orders, cut fruit and served ice cream. He accepted the Executive Chef position in 2000. That is some success story.

November 22 (Thursday, Day 63, Apia, Samoa; 1.00 WST = $0.44, $1 = 2.29 WST) –

Snookums went to Fab Abs and then the morning went by slowly since the ship didn’t dock in Apia until noon. Apia has around 50,000 residents and is literally the only “town” on the island of Upolu. It is the capital of Samoa. Writer Robert Louis Stevenson spent the last four years of his life here.

We left the ship around 12:30 and walked five minutes to Palolo Deep Marine Reserve. We paid our $2 per person (4 Tala per person) and went snorkeling in the 85° water. It was fabulous and we saw a lot of blue tipped coral that actually looked like it was under a black light since it was so bright. (Naturally it didn’t photograph well.) We also saw a lot of bright blue starfish and lots of colorful fish. We saw large schools of little light grey fish that looked bright blue. The water was so warm and it was so nice that we were there for almost 2.5 hours.

Blue tipped coral
Blue starfish
Little gray fish

We walked back to the ship and took off our wet bathing suits and dropped off our snorkel equipment and walked to town. We stopped at the post office to mail three postcards to the U.S. but they didn’t take credit so we went to the bank across the street and used the ATM. Then we mailed the postcards ($1.15 each) and kept walking and found a grocery store. Several $1.40 bottles of Vailima lager beer, a Samoan daily paper ($1.10), a can of Coke Zero ($1.10) and $2.50 Samoan-made bars of soap later, we took a cab back to the ship for $3 and didn’t try to bargain for the fare. The internet’s weather forecast was for a heat index of 111° at 1 PM and it sure felt that hot at 4:30 PM! We got back to the ship a little before 5 PM (darn, too late for Total Body Conditioning…) and showered the day’s grime away. Snookums had a ridiculous looking sunburn from her wetsuit. She had definite lines between pale white skin and bright red skin on the backs of her legs and arms. That’s what happens when you are facedown in the water for a couple of hours without sunscreen!

At 4 PM there was an island dance show in the Queen’s Lounge put on by Apia Outreach Program. The monies raised by the two silent auctions from the watercolors and arts and crafts was tripled by HAL and then donated to this group that helps orphans and underprivileged children. It amounted to $10,000 which was the most ever and a HUGE amount in Samoa. (The average personal income is around $8,000.) Four years ago on this same cruise, the donation was $1,500 and that seemed like a lot of money. So, $10,000 was certainly not expected by the group leader. Snookums heard that there were around 100 people on the ship that gave monetary donations that had nothing to do with the silent auction and that’s what helped get the total so high.

For people wondering what a typical HAL dinner might be, Snookums ordered an appetizer-size portion of the pasta entrée (Marco Polo Pasta – penne with tomato sauce, broccoli, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and grilled chicken) followed by a Boston and romaine lettuce salad (with kidney beans, tomato, radishes, onion rings, bell pepper, and cucumber) and Yankee beef pot roast for her entrée (with root vegetables, topped with frizzled onions and served with mushroom medley and mashed potatoes). For dessert she ordered all three regular desserts (excluding the non-sugar added offering and the various ice creams, fruit and cheese offerings): chocolate raspberry bash pie (a chocolate, cream cheese and raspberry pie), “DAM” devil chocolate cake (a chocolate cake) and a cappuccino bomb (rich coffee ice cream encased in a decadent dark chocolate shell). Snookums typically orders ONE dessert or even orders the fruit item listed as the first starter on the dinner menu for her dessert, but when she saw three chocolate desserts on the same menu, she went for it and enjoyed all of them. (The chocolate raspberry bash pie was the best followed by the cappuccino bomb. The “DAM” devil chocolate cake was filled with too much chocolate mousse-like filling for Snookums’s taste but she ate it all.)

Our waiter also gave us some homemade sambal that was made from the Fijian chilies. Among other things, it consisted of chilies, lots of olive oil, onions and lemongrass. Filbert and John F. enjoyed it and said it was very spicy.

November 22 (Thursday, Day 64, At Sea; Cross International Dateline (Thanksgiving)) –

Snookums woke up and went to Total Body Conditioning and worked up a good sweat. She showered and ate breakfast and Filbert was still asleep. Around 9:45 AM Filbert showed up in Neptune Lounge and he was showered and ready for the day. At 10 Snookums was invited to a special invitation suite-only event with three other women to see Edy’s flower storage area and workshop. It is tiny. A new shipment of flowers arrived yesterday in Samoa from New Zealand which meant that they were more expensive than normal so the quantity was smaller than normal for the $5,000 spent. It was still a lot of flowers, though.


Since the International Dateline was passed, complimentary Borderline drinks (champagne mixed with pineapple juice) were served during breakfast hours in the dining room and Lido (but not in Neptune Lounge). The ship is back to being on the same day of the week as the U.S.!! The ship is still four hours behind central time, though.

While Snookums was touring the floral areas on Deck A, Filbert attended the “Hawaii Overview & Things to See & Do in Honolulu” lecture and then stayed for the “Some Legacies of Colonial History 1: Troubled States” lecture by Cluny Macpherson.

Snookums then shopped the “Black Friday” sale. (The International Date Line must have screwed up the store employees since the ad that was delivered to each cabin last night talked about Black Friday although the sale was today, Thanksgiving Day and the ship’s second Thursday). Snookums bought five lottery scratch cards from the casino since she wants to win a woman’s polo shirt in the losing ticket raffle. For her $5, she also got two used decks of cards and two $5 match play certificates as part of the Black Friday bonus. One of the scratch cards was a $2 winner that Snookums turned in for $2 cash.

Snookums returned to the cabin and watched NFL Thanksgiving football on TV while Filbert stopped by for a quick five minutes before leaving again for his noon team trivia commitment where he won three Dam dollars since his team won the whole thing and got the bonus question correct. It’s sunny and 85 and there are a few tiny whitecaps on the water.

Snookums went to crafts and made an amethyst necklace and Nancy Grace (the crafts instructor) even gave everyone matching earrings that she already made. Stringing the amethyst on the beading wire didn’t take too long so Snookums then updated the journal for a few hours prior to going to Fab Abs at 5 PM.

The dining room was decked out in red, white and blue streamers and U.S. flags to celebrate Thanksgiving. We found out that our waiter (Arya) and another waiter worked from midnight until 4 AM putting up all of the decorations. Luckily he was given breakfast and lunch duties off! Mr. K even gave the two men at the table red, white and blue flag bow ties. (John F. didn’t come to dinner since he ate a bad hamburger at lunch and was feeling its effects. The five of us, though, managed to have a good time anyway.) Most of us ordered turkey dinners and we were sharing the foods from our plates that we didn’t like with the people that did like those things (just like a family does!). And we all made pigs of ourselves by ordering seconds on dessert – excellent pumpkin pie and average pecan pie.

As we were leaving the dining room we decided to take some of the decorations for Filbert’s sister who LOVES the 4th of July. (HAL throws most of the decorations out and we only took those that were destined for the trash.) Filbert and Big John started taking them down from the ceiling. We also saw Arya stand on a chair to take some down. When Big John saw this, he went ahead and took 2/3 of all of the decorations down since he could just stand on the ground and reach up and take them down. He didn’t need a chair to stand on. Waiters were coming up to Laura to thank her for her tall husband since he was saving them so much clean up time. (Most Indonesians are shorter than Americans and they are definitely shorter than Big John. [“Big John” is Snookums’s name for John M. since we have two John’s at our dinner table.]) Filbert walked away with ten streamers and six American flag posters and everyone was happy and Filbert’s sister will be very, very happy!

During dinner Sharie told us about her tour of the bottom three decks of the ship. She got the tour since her travel agent belongs to a special group and this was a perk. She learned that towels last around three months each and that the linens are weighed before washing since each load can be 100 pounds. The dryers can hold 150 pounds and those loads are also weighed. The laundry room staff is made up of the newest Indonesians on the ship. After they work ten months in the laundry room, they’ll be “promoted” to working in Lido. Sharie said that she was sweating after just a few minutes in the laundry room. She saw the Morgue (which is currently empty) and it is next to the “Thawing Room” (and she thought this was hilarious). Both of these rooms are across from the all important “Ice Cream” room.

November 23 (Friday, Day 65, At Sea) –

We both woke up around 9:30 and made it to the 10 AM King Neptune ceremony. It was held today since we were going to cross the equator around 10 PM. This was the best King Neptune ceremony we’ve seen. The theatrics and script were very funny. Rather than smearing food on the offerings (crewmembers who crossed the equator for the first time) to King Neptune (Poseidon), pastel colored meringue or mousse was smeared on them. Passengers were served Equator Slings (rum, vodka, gin, and yellow fruit punch) and everyone had a good time.

The Fish. Kiss It.

Snookums and Filbert both played Team Trivia since Snookums filled in for John F. since he was sick. The team got first place, too. Snookums attended crafts later and made a kukui nut necklace and Nancy gave everyone matching kukui nut earrings, too. Snookums was the only one at Total Body Conditioning and had a good workout.

We ate dinner at Pinnacle Grill with our tablemates, minus John F. who didn’t want to push his luck. We had a good time and Big John and Filbert each ordered the 22 oz. porterhouse. Snookums really enjoyed the Steak Diane (without the cognac) and two of her three desserts. (The day before she special ordered the chocolate lava cake without Grand Marnier and also requested plain Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream without the Baked Alaska part.) We spent three hours there and had a good time although neither Snookums nor Filbert thought the fresh raspberry cheesecake had any cheese in it.

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Part 11

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Holland America ms Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Eleven

November 14 (Wednesday, Day 55, At Sea) –

Look! Up in the Sky!

Filbert set the alarm for 7 AM and we got dressed and went outside to the aft pool on Deck 8 for the eclipse. It started out cloudy, but it seemed like the captain was trying to take us to the sun. Around 7:30 we were able to easily see the eclipse using Filbert’s pinhole telescopes. (The paper glasses also worked, but the pinhole telescopes were easier to use.) Around 8:05 AM the maximum coverage occurred of around 60%. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, casting a shadow over the earth. After that scintillating show, we ate breakfast in Neptune.

The Eclipse

After quick showers, Snookums went to the 10 AM Shore Excursions overview only to learn that it had been canceled. So, she went to the Shore Excursions desk instead and asked her Fiji snorkel question. Follow-up is required and an answer will be forthcoming. Then she attended the 11 AM “New Zealand Overview & Things to See & Do in the Bay of Islands”.

While Filbert’s team was earning second place at the noon Team Trivia Challenge, Snookums and Sharie planned their day in Hilo, Hawaii. Snookums has a rental car reservation and Sharie and John will join Snookums and Filbert for the day.

The ship’s clocks were moved forward at 2 PM and then Snookums made an island beach greeting card in Crafts class and Filbert attended Beth Foggin’s “Canadian and American Exiles”. He was not impressed with this Exploration Series speaker and hasn’t been impressed with any of the speakers on this cruise. Filbert spent the rest of the day on the verandah writing his book, even though it was cloudy and a bit chilly.

Snookums attended Total Body Conditioning and Laura was the only other attendee. Kristina still managed to work both women very hard.

Snookums and Filbert got dressed for the “Medieval Night” formal night in their Renaissance Festival costumes that Snookums’s mother made and everyone loved the outfits. After dinner they could have attended 1982 Grammy Award winner Melissa Manchester’s concert, but instead went to the “Medieval Night & Jousting Competition” in the Crow’s Nest. However, the jousting was pretty lame and no other passengers wore costumes so they went to the Melissa Manchester concert. Her adult daughter even joined her on stage for one song which she didn’t do for the 8 PM show.

Medieval Night

November 15 (Thursday, Day 56, At Sea) –

Snookums went to Total Body Conditioning and learned that Fitness Instructor Hamish is leaving the ship tomorrow, prior to his contract being up. He lives 30 minutes from Waitangi and is basically “jumping ship”! This means that Kristina will have to teach all the classes every day which isn’t fair, but that is how it is on a ship. Snookums later learned that Hamish will lose the $500 in his shipboard account, and a $500 balance is required in order to prevent crew from leaving, and he will never be able to work on cruise ships again. He will also lose his last paycheck, but they don’t get paid much so that won’t be too much. He was also responsible for his own transportation back to his home, but since he lived in Waitangi, that cost was zero. Hamish is only 21 and has a lot of life to learn!

Snookums and Filbert ate breakfast in Neptune Lounge and Filbert had a lively political/General Petraeus discussion with Dave and Ralph. (Ralph and his wife, Kathy, were on the 2008 Asia/Australia cruise with us but it took us about 20 days on this cruise to realize that!) Everyone had a good time. Then it was time for showers and both went to “Things to See & Do in Auckland”. Filbert stayed for the first part of the “Sir Peter Blake” lecture before going to his Team Trivia Challenge. Filbert’s team got second place (and one Dam dollar) and today Sharie joined a team for the first time and her team got first place!

Snookums was busy investigating what to do in Apia, Samoa and Honolulu and even had the front desk make free copies for her of parts of Frommer’s Honolulu.

The ship lost another hour at 2 PM and Snookums took a quick 30-minute power nap before making a rose quartz gemstone chip bead necklace in Crafts. Filbert wrote more of his book on the verandah on the sunny, but cool, day. Snookums went to Fab Abs and only two others were there (Laura – tablemate and Sue from crafts). Kristina managed to find all sorts of great ab exercises using the stability ball and at the end of the class Snookums’s entire body felt noodle-like and worn out.

November 16 (Friday, Day 57, Waitangi, Bay of Islands, New Zealand; 1 NZD = $0.82, $1 = 1.23 NZD) –

Snookums went to abs class and then we left the ship as soon as it dropped anchor and and tendered to Waitangi around 11 AM. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed here in 1840 between 46 Maori chiefs and the British and it granted the Maori citizenship and land rights while accepting British governorship. The Bay of Islands is dotted with nearly 150 islands that have escaped development and the townships are all on the mainland. It was around 60° and partly cloudy.

We took the shuttle to Paihia, about one mile away. Paihia was settled in 1823 by the Europeans as a mission station and is now a vacation base for people exploring the Bay of Islands. We climbed a few steps up to an overlook. At the base of the overlook was a nicely decorated public toilet, too, with plants growing from the roof and artsy pieces here and there. Then we went in search of lunch. We decided to have fish and chips ($6.50 per person) but it ended up not being that tasty since there was a lot of batter and it wasn’t flavorful. But, it was lunch. Then we went to the craft market on the Village Green. There wasn’t much there so we started to walk to the overlook hike. We stopped at the small grocery store and identified things we would buy later in the day but Filbert went ahead and bought some Coke Zero. A 660 ml bottle cost $4.19 while a 1.5 L bottle cost $3.19. Both were cold so he bought the 1.5 L bottle. Australia and New Zealand must have some kind of high tax or surcharge on individual-sized bottles since water and sodas are very expensive in small bottles.

Paihia Village Green craft market

We continued walking to the end of School Road and found the hiking trail. We walked uphill for about 40 minutes in a New Zealand rain forest. We made it to the overlook and had a clear view of Russell, the first national capital until 1844, as well as Paihia and the surrounding “towns” of Opua and Okiato and Waitangi. It only took around 25 minutes to walk down. It was a great workout and the temperature warmed up to around 65 and was now mostly sunny (although we were covered by the tree canopy) and was a perfect day for a hike.

New Zealand flowers
Rain forest path

We walked back to the ship and stopped at the full-size grocery store and bought beer, New Zealand licorice for Mom, pineapple lumps (New Zealand candy that is pineapple flavored marshmallows covered in milk chocolate) and milk chocolate Hokey Pokey mini candy bars. Hokey Pokey is kind of like the middle of a malted milk ball in texture but without the malt. Snookums loved it! (The pineapple lumps and Hokey Pokey are for sharing with our tablemates so we also bought some New Zealand-made low carb/diabetic bars for the diabetic at our table so that person wouldn’t feel left out.) Filbert also bought a $7.30 1.25 liter bottle of Scrumpy (hard cider) since he had never seen it in that size before. There were several kinds to choose from so he went for the 8.2% alcohol rather than the 5% alcohol.

We got back to the cabin around 5 PM and Snookums took a nap. It was our neighbor’s 63rd wedding anniversary and we gave them a card earlier in the day. At dinner, Filbert and Snookums received an anniversary cake and Snookums thought maybe it was for the couple in the cabin next to us. Mr. K, assistant dining room manager, showed us the work order that listed our names, November 16 and our cabin number for our anniversary. Now we know why we didn’t get our cake on October 16 – someone wrote down the wrong date. Mr. K thought it was strange that we were having a second anniversary and we assured him that we had nothing to do with it and that no singing was required. Our table enjoyed the cake, though!! Snookums also brought the pineapple lumps and shared them although it appeared that only Snookums and Filbert tried them. Snookums thought they were good, but she likes just about any kind of candy. They were pineapple-flavored marshmallows covered in milk chocolate. The rest of the bag was given to Arya, our table waiter.

November 17 (Saturday, Day 58, Auckland, New Zealand; 1 NZD = $0.82, $1 = 1.23 NZD) –

Welcome to Auckland, ye of too few limbs

We docked at 7 AM in Auckland, population 1.4 million. Auckland is known as the “City of Sails” and there is an average of one boat for every three households. But, since it was rainy there weren’t a lot of boats out and about. Snookums went to the fitness class but there was only one other passenger there and Kristina was going to be the HAL escort on a shore excursion so we both told her that we didn’t need class today and she left the gym to get ready.

It was only 59° and still rainy so Snookums and Filbert decided to do something inside. We chose Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World and Antarctic Encounter and used its free 9:30 AM shuttle to get us there. We spent about an hour inside and enjoyed the world’s largest Antarctic penguin colony, seahorse exhibit, various fish tanks and the transparent tunnel with four species of sharks, fish and rays swimming overhead. It was still raining when the shuttle returned us near the ship and we decided to walk along Queen Street. We stopped to sample Manuka honey which is native to New Zealand and has antibiotic healing properties. It tasted caramel-like. We ended up at a grocery store and bought a 1.25 L bottle of feijoa hard cider ($9.75) since that is a new fruit to us. We also bought Greek tzatziki flavored potato chips and Moroccan lemon chicken flavored potato chips. Snookums spent $0.12 for a single piece of Hokey Pokey the size of a large marshmallow covered in milk chocolate. Had Snookums not purchased the milk chocolate Hokey Pokey mini candy bars yesterday to share at the table, she would have bought five more of this version of Hokey Pokey since each one was a very large piece of Hokey Pokey rather than little bits of it in a milk chocolate mini candy bar. We had $9.50 in New Zealand currency left and needed to spend it.

The grocery store had a coffee shop with free WiFi (with purchase) so we purchased two meat pies for a total of $9.60 NZD ($7.80 USD) in order to use up our New Zealand currency. We spent an hour using the WiFi and then headed back to the ship in the rain.

Thirty minutes after we returned to the ship, the 3 PM New Zealand Cultural Arts Show took place in Queen’s Lounge and we attended. Eight Maori men and women did various dances to show off weapons and movements. The Haka dance was the final performance and that is the dance that the Maori warriors used to do prior to a battle. Each man slapped himself in the chest and thighs many times as well as showed his tongue and made his eyes pop to look more ferocious. By the time it was over, it really did appear that they were ready for battle.

Haka dance

After the scintillating show, we both read and ultimately took two-hour naps and woke up in time for dinner. After dinner Snookums shared the milk chocolate Hokey Pokey mini candy bars (along with a low carb/diabetic bar) with the tablemates.

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Part 10

Contributed by: filbert Friday, October 16 2015 @ 06:45 AM CST

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Holland America ms Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Ten

November 9 (Friday, Day 50, Brisbane, Australia; 1 AUD = $1.04, $1 = 0.97 AUD) –

A Wary Brisbanite

Snookums went to the fitness class and after a fast breakfast, we left the ship. We took the shuttle from the Brisbane Cruise Terminal to the Treasury Casino which is in the heart of Brisbane’s downtown. Brisbane has a population of 2 million. It was partly sunny and a high of 80 was the forecast for the day. We walked to and through the City Botanic Gardens which was established in 1855 and saw ibis, eel and iguanas. Then we continued walking to the bohemian West End and ate gyros in front of one of the many sidewalk cafes. Filbert went in the Avid Reader bookstore while Snookums was content to sit on a bench outside and watch the world go by. Then we walked to Queen Street Mall and while Filbert was buying books in Dymock’s, Snookums bought some zip-on/zip-off pants that were on sale (and they were long enough!). After that we sat in Starbuck’s and each bought a beverage in order to have 30 minutes of free WiFi. Snookums found a receipt with the passcode on it and was able to use another free 30 minutes. We also bought two boxes of different flavors of Tim Tams (cookies that Australia is famous for) for tonight’s sail-away party.

We walked back to the shuttle stop and decided not to wait in the huge line of HAL passengers for the free ride back to the ship. We opted for the $5.20 CityCat boat back to Brett’s Wharf. It was a great way to see the Brisbane River and the great architecture lining its banks. It started raining about 5 minutes before the boat got to our stop so we moved from our comfortable outside seats to the inside ones. There was a grocery store at Brett’s Wharf so we bought some Australian beer and some milk for Laura M. since she had been craving “real” milk for weeks since the ship’s milk is the UHT milk that has a distinctly different taste than what we are used to getting in the U.S.

Although our verandah looked out on the dock and not the better view across the river, we still had dinner for everyone on our verandah. It was raining pretty hard but we were able to stay dry. There was a high school prom or something taking place in one of the wharf buildings and it was fun to watch the guys in their tuxes and the girls in their fancy dresses.

At night we got poppies on our bed for Remembrance Day and Veterans Day and the daily Explorer showed a 6 AM sunrise service on November 10 since we are in port on November 11.

November 10 (Saturday, Day 51, At Sea) –

Although there was a 6 AM Veteran’s Day sunrise service poolside, Snookums and Filbert slept past that time. Snookums woke up and went to the fitness class and then she and Filbert ate a quick breakfast before going to the 9 AM lecture on “Things to See & Do in Eden”. Travel Guide Barbara had to stretch the lecture to last 30 minutes since it doesn’t sound like there is much to do in Eden. It will be the maiden port of call for the ms Amsterdam so there will be a ceremony that day between city officials and the Captain.

It was gloomy outside and only around 69° and the sea was rough and got much rougher as the day went on. It rained off and on, too. It is only supposed to get to 71° in Sydney tomorrow. The TV channel that was used to show the Melbourne Cup is still coming in so we get ABC (Australia Broadcast Company). It’s nice to watch “local” news at 6 PM. Not only do we get the weather forecast, but we get updates on Prince Charles’ Diamond Jubilee tour of Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand as well as cricket news. Filbert used the radio most of today, too, and got Brisbane stations very clearly.

Snookums took a nap until lunch and Filbert joined John and Laura’s team trivia team at noon. They didn’t win, but he came up with three correct answers but didn’t push too hard on two of them so they weren’t used. For a rookie, he more than held his own, though. It looks like Filbert will be busy every sea day at noon for the rest of the cruise.

After lunch we went to the “Saturday Morning Market” around the pool. Not only were various departments selling items (15% off bottles of wine, $1/minute neck and shoulder massages, $10 handbags) but there was a display of fruit and vegetable carvings and fruit was handed out and there was also a table with Indonesian coffee and hot tea. And, an officer manned a table with various navigational things on it (maps, charts, sextants) and it was next to a table that was manned by an officer (or cadet) that displayed all of the lifeboat provisions. It was the first time Snookums had seen a “Morning Market” on any HAL cruise so that was neat.

We lost an hour at 2 PM but that didn’t stop Filbert from continuing his simulation on Civilization 3 (which he has been playing for several weeks now) while Snookums went to crafts and made a New Zealand Possum Fur Brooch. Possums are endangered in Australia but they are a nuisance (and officially poisoned) in New Zealand.

Snookums went to Fab Abs and Filbert went to the gym, too, and worked out hard for 50 minutes. His grey t-shirt was thoroughly soaked from his 15 minutes on the bike and his weight workout.

Dinner was different. We knew that our four tablemates had other plans so we invited the two couples that we ate with during the Pinnacle Grill Indonesian dinner (David and Mary, Roberta and Larry) to our table. We also received a complimentary glass of champagne with dessert to salute those people whose dedication and service to their country will never be forgotten. It was a good dinner and a fun evening.

November 11 (Sunday, Day 52, Sydney; 1 AUD = $1.04, $1 = 0.97 AUD) –


Because we booked this Grand Voyage early, we were given a free shore excursion. We decided to use it on the 9-hour “Discover the Blue Mountains” for $194.95 per person.

On our way to the Blue Mountains, we stopped at Featherdale Wildlife Park. This amazing park contains a variety of Australian wildlife including kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, reptiles, Tasmanian devils, wombats and various species of Australian birds. Snookums enjoyed feeding the kangaroos and could have spent more time at this stop. But, when you are on a tour, you have to do as you are told.

Action shot! Kangaroo eating ice cream cone!
Multiple koalas

We boarded the bus again and had a two-course lunch at The Mountain Heritage Hotel. Then we boarded the bus again and traveled west to the Blue Mountains—an awesome Grand Canyon-like rock formation among deep valleys and cascading waterfalls. The Blue Mountains are a UNESCO World Heritage Site—an area of breathtaking views, rugged tablelands, sheer cliffs and deep, inaccessible valleys covering more than 2.5 million acres. We finally arrived and saw the famous rock formation known as the Three Sisters. We also got a free culture show at the Koomurri Aboriginal Centre in Katoomba. However, there were so many people in the audience that not everyone got seats, but we did. It was also difficult to hear the explanation that the Aboriginal man was giving. Oh well. Then we boarded the bus for our long ride back to the ship. Since we had been to Sydney before it was probably a good enough use of our time, but we don’t need to return to the Blue Mountains anytime soon.

View from the hotel
Blue Mountains overlook

November 12 (Monday, Day 53, Sydney; 1 AUD = $1.04, $1 = 0.97 AUD) –

The Bridge

We got up and walked to the Sydney Bridge Climb office which was about 15 minutes away. We scheduled this Discovery Climb tour on our own for $218 per person (the ship charged $349 per person which included round-trip transportation!). Gary, our tablemate from our cruise four years ago, did the Bridge Climb and kept talking about how neat it was so we decided we had to do it, too, and booked our time slots while still home. We got harnessed up and spent the next 2.5 hours climbing the Sydney Bridge and learning how it was built. There were only six of us with the guide. Because the climbers are actually above the moving traffic, climbers are not allowed to bring anything with them other than glasses and sunglasses. Everything is attached to the jumpsuits that are worn, including handkerchiefs that are wrapped around wrists in case a nose starts to run. The climb itself was not very taxing and the views were great since it was sunny and clear. It was quite windy and Snookums got cold when in the shade, while Filbert was very comfortable. Our guide had recommended that we take our clothes off before putting on the jumpsuits since it was such a hot day. Snookums would have been more comfortable wearing that second layer, but she survived.

After our exhilarating excursion we ate lunch at the Harbour View Restaurant. Filbert had a meat pie, mashed potatoes, peas and two beers for $23 (the beer cost $13 since alcohol is so expensive in Australia). Snookums’s lunch was chicken schnitzel, fries and a salad for $13. After lunch we decided to walk to the ship’s shuttle stop at the Marriott Harbourside in order to use its free WiFi and on the way we bought a huge lamington using our last $4 Australian. A lamington is an Australian sweet that consists of a pound cake or sponge cake covered or soaked in chocolate syrup or chocolate icing/glaze and then rolled in coconut. It was delicious and we both enjoyed it. We used the free WiFi at Marriott Harbourside for an hour and then caught the last shuttle back to the ship. By the time the ship left Sydney at 4 PM, it had already been a full day.

November 13 (Tuesday, Day 54, Eden, Australia; 1 AUD = $1.04, $1 = 0.97 AUD) –

Welcome to Eden

Snookums went to Total Body Conditioning and was the only person there so Hamish worked her hard for 40 minutes doing drop sets. Her quads were dead by the time he said, “Finish with 100 sit-ups”. Ugh. She did get her trophy on the face of her watch for last week’s efforts, though, and is hoping to get another trophy this week. This workout should definitely help with that quest! After cleaning up and eating breakfast (which Filbert skipped), we tendered to Eden. It was cloudy and 59° which is below normal for spring. It was a nice temperature for walking around, though.

Eden has a population of 3,600 and was the first whaling station in Australia. It is 300 miles south of Sydney and is located on a deepwater bay where humpback whales are frequently seen during their southern migration to Antarctica from late September until the end of November. We didn’t see any, though. It’s home to one of the largest fishing fleets in New South Wales and supplies Sydney and Melbourne with fresh fish. This was the maiden call for the ms Amsterdam and there was supposed to be a plaque ceremony in the Crow’s Nest for the Captain, officers and Eden city officials. Guests were not invited.

We walked up Warren’s Walk which was a nice paved path that meandered up a steep hill through some nice gardens. Four volunteers were weeding it, too. Then we went to the Eden Killer Whale Museum ($9) to learn about some of its history. We saw the skeleton of the orca whale “Tom” who led a pack of orcas in the hunt for baleen whales on their southward migration each year. (Yes, orcas hunt baleen whales by herding them together and then the whale hunters could more easily kill the baleen whales and feed the tongues to the orcas. “Tom” came back year after year for this herding process.) Then we wandered around downtown, which appeared to be about five blocks long. There were nice views of the ocean and bay in lots of spots and it seemed like a very bucolic town. We enjoyed the free WiFi at the library and then it was time to catch the tender back to the ship. We had just enough time, though, to buy a 6-pack of Victoria Bitter ($15) and a 6-pack of Carlton Draught ($15). (Alcohol is NOT cheap in Australia.)

Old Tom

After lunch Filbert made two pinhole solar eclipse telescopes for the partial eclipse that we hope to see around 8 AM tomorrow by taping two empty 12-pack Coke boxes together and putting a pinhole in the end of one of them. Snookums attended Australian High Tea and enjoyed a lamington, jellyroll and cherry almond tart. Then she went to Fab Abs and tried to work them off!

We enjoyed the $69 per person Australian dinner in Pinnacle Grill and met John and Jenna since we were seated with them. They are from New Jersey and Hurricane Sandy impacted their house but they relied on their daughters to get it fixed. We started off having roasted kangaroo (tasted like a good piece of very tender beef) and emu (very tough and chewy, although it had been marinated for six hours and then tenderized) followed by shrimp on the barbie (two grilled shrimp). Then it was time for the crocodile soup that tasted just like a chicken vegetable soup. The fish course was paperbark-smoked barramundi with pineapple and riberry sauce and the barramundi was served on a large piece of paperbark (thin bark from a tree). The entrée consisted of two lamb chops served with a parsnip puree and asparagus. Dessert was an Australian velvet crumble that tasted like a strawberry streusel bar cookie. Four different wines were paired with the courses, including a dry Riesling from Eden. Kim, the Pinnacle Grill manager, delivered a boomerang to each gentleman. The funny thing was that there were stickers on the back of the Australian-made boomerangs that said “$20.00 Apple Tree Mall, Branson, MO”. Kim explained that she tells corporate in Seattle what she needs and corporate does the sourcing. So, the boomerangs were made in Australia, but were shipped to the ship in Seattle from Branson, Missouri! It was a fun evening and even the Pinnacle Grill servers were able to enjoy it a bit since they were able to dress casually in tennis shoes, blue jeans, white t-shirts and cork hats (worn in Australia to keep the flies away).

When we returned to our room we had two pairs of eclipse glasses on our bed to wear for the partial eclipse in the morning.

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Part 8

Contributed by: filbert Friday, October 16 2015 @ 06:35 AM CST

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Holland America ms Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Eight

October 31 (Wednesday, Day 41, Lembar, Indonesia; 10,000 Rp = $1.04, $1 = 9,610 Rp) –

We took the first tender at 7 AM to meet our guide, Eko. Sharie and John also came with us. We drove to a Sasak village of 300 households. Women weave ikat cloth or songket cloth and each sarong takes about one month to complete. The village seemed to be a cooperative village where money from the tours or purchases is shared. We saw the outside toilet and the freely roaming goats and chickens.

Weaver, with kid
House on stilts

Then we drove to a couple of shops to try to find a batik shirt for Filbert. Unfortunately, the XL was too small. However, Snookums found one for herself for $4.85. By the time she was finished trying it on, she was sweating profusely since the dressing room was very small and had no airflow whatsoever.

Then it was time for lunch. Sharie and Snookums each ordered rice ($0.50 per person) and fried chicken with Lombok sauce ($4 each). Eko had explained to us that the chickens on Lombok are free range and are small with very little fat. They were definitely small, but the spice on the chicken was very hot. Filbert ordered the spicy fried chicken and his was even hotter but he ordered a can of Coke ($0.60) to help with the heat. John ordered shrimp with Lombok sauce for $3. We were also given little containers of brown pudding that tasted like flan. Lunch was small, but tasty.

One horse-power

After lunch we went on a beer quest. Lombok is 85% Muslim and the first convenience store we stopped at didn’t have any beer. However, Sharie was able to buy some basic school supplies for her trip to the Komodo Island village tomorrow. We got back in the minivan and the driver stopped at four other places for beer before being successful. Filbert and John each bought two big bottles ($5 each – not cheap!) of Bintang – one cold and one room temp to take back to the ship. On the way back to the ship we stopped at a pottery village. Lombok is known for its brown pottery. Filbert spotted our travel wall item. (We purchase one piece of “art” for our hallway walls that depicts something we have seen on each trip. Snookums was hoping to find a street artist in Borobudur, but there were no paintings there.) It is a small round flat piece of pottery (like a coaster) with twine poked through the edges for decoration and for hanging purposes. On the front is a painting of red chili peppers. “Lombok” means chili so that makes it significant. And, we ate plenty of chili at lunch and saw them being grown in the Sasak village, too. Snookums wasn’t too impressed with Eko and the private tour, but it beat taking the free shuttle one hour each way to Mataram Mall and cost $88 for the four of us.

After a quick shower, Snookums took a bowl full of three bags of candy corn to Neptune Lounge for everyone’s pleasure and gave two bags of it to Kate for the Front Desk staff. Happy Halloween!

Filbert and Snookums put on their Star Trek “The Original Series” costumes that were made by Snookums’s sister, Judy, and went to dinner. Many people, including the sing-along pianist, commented on them. La Fontaine dining room was decorated for Halloween, too, with lots of party decorations hanging from the ceiling. And there were little plastic pumpkins with candy in them at each table. Snookums appreciated the Tootsie Rolls, Swedish Fish and Smarties a lot. No one else at the table minded her eating most of them, so she did! The waiters wore felt pumpkin hats, too, that looked very hot, but they were troopers.


After dinner Snookums and Filbert went to The Monster Mash in Crow’s Nest in order to participate in the costume contest. Although many people thought Snookums and Filbert should have won the “best couple” award, they did not. It was a great day though!

November 1 (Thursday, Day 42, Komodo Island, Indonesia; 10,000 Rp = $1.04, $1 = 9,610 Rp) –

Kampung Komodo

Snookums organized a tour of Komodo Island with Komodo Mega Tours for $85 per person that included both a dragon trek and a snorkel. HAL only offered tours that included either a dragon trek or a snorkel/village tour and not both. (And HAL’s cost $119 per person.) 34 people signed up for Snookums’s tour and we met in Ocean Bar at 8:45 AM for our tender. (If you didn’t have a pre-arranged tour, you were not allowed to tender to Komodo Island National Park since reservations with Park Rangers are required.)

After tendering to Komodo we went on an hour walk to try and find dragons in the wild (there are no fences). There were four of them lying very close to each other and we also saw a 1.5-year old dragon that was about two feet long skittering about. It didn’t stay close to the four adults since the dragons have been known to eat each other. In fact, a mother is very protective of her eggs, but once they hatch, the mother dragon will eat the newborns. Around 30% of them survive. Dragons grow to around 10 feet long and weigh about 250 pounds and can live to be 50 or so years old. Besides the Komodo dragons, a type of monitor lizard, there were a lot of Timor deer roaming all over the place. The deer seemed to be more skittish of the humans than they were of the dragons and the dragons eat the deer! The island also had wild boar and buffalo on it, but we didn’t see any. It was during the dry season and it was very brown and dusty (and HOT). Dragons eat every one to three months and can run up to 11 miles per hour for short distances. The two Park Rangers with our group carried long forked sticks to supposedly poke the dragons back. One of the members of our group put a green umbrella (used for shade) on the ground in order to take a picture. A dragon showed some interest in it and the Park Ranger immediately turned around, saw the green umbrella on the ground and got excited until someone picked it up.

The Natives
Dragon and deer
Close enough
Drooling dragon

After our trek, as we were returning to the pier to get on our boats for the snorkel part, a dragon walked/slithered across the path we had just been on. Someone said something to the Park Ranger about this dragon and the Park Ranger didn’t seem to care too much. There are 2,500 Komodo dragons on this island and we saw six of them. There are also 300 stilted houses, with goats and chickens, that make up the fishing village of Kampung Komodo. Two of our tablemates, John and Sharie, took the tour to this village and said that the goat smell was quite strong and that it was a rather depressing village. While they were there, the children yelled “dragon” and were throwing rocks and sure enough, there was a dragon. John and Sharie weren’t supposed to see any dragons on their tour, but since it’s an island with 2,500 dragons on it and no fences, the dragons can go where they want and one obviously wanted to visit the village, too.

Three local boats took 26 of us to Pink Beach (Pantai Merah). (8 people decided to return to the ship after the hot, dusty trek.) The boats tied up to a mooring and we all jumped in and snorkeled. (Normally we would have photos of this, but Filbert left the underwater camera’s battery in the recharger in the cabin.) The fish were pretty, but the stars of the show were the beautiful soft coral reefs. The most vivid colors were bright green and purple. The current was strong and the water varied from very hot to very cold. Snookums didn’t wear her wetsuit (stupid decision!) and decided to let the current take her to the beach to warm up. With the hot sun, that didn’t take too long. And, the sand was pink from tiny pieces of coral.

After awhile everyone ended up back on the boats and we headed back to the pier, 30 minutes away. Lunch was served on the boats and included fried chunks of fish (like chicken nuggets) in a delicious tomato, red pepper and sweet chili sauce. There was also fried tofu (not a favorite of Snookums’s) as well as a cooked cabbage and carrot mixture, rice, fried noodles and fresh pineapple. Everyone was happy with the food and several people told Snookums that the dragon trek and snorkel tour was the highlight of their cruise.

Komodo lunch

After the boats returned to the pier, Filbert took the tender back to the ship while Snookums shopped. She could have purchased Komodo dragon carvings, pearls, and t-shirts but ended up just buying six postcards with her remaining $5 worth of Indonesian money.

After getting back to the ship, Snookums showered and was going to attend the fitness class but took a two-hour nap instead! We received a letter that Papua New Guinea was being canceled and instead we would overnight in Brisbane. Free champagne will be served at Tuesday night’s dinner for our inconvenience. Given Papua New Guinea’s crime rate and HIV rate (around 50%), not many people are complaining about this itinerary change. Prior to going to bed we set our clocks forward 30 minutes.

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Part 6

Contributed by: filbert Friday, October 16 2015 @ 06:25 AM CST

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Holland America ms Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Six

October 21 (Sunday, Day 31, Hong Kong, China; 1 HKD = $0.13, $1 = 7.75 HKD) –

Nan Lan Garden, Hong Kong

Snookums was the only person at the 7:30 AM fitness class so Hamish had her do a 23-minute “drop set” circuit on five machines. It was an absolute killer workout and although it only involved weights (and no specific cardio exercises), she burned 350 calories and was dripping wet by the time it was over.

We took the metro ($1 per person) to Nan Lian Garden. On the way there, two uniformed women approached a rider and gave her a ticket for eating (maximum fine is $250!). Then the metro police got off at the next stop. It was all very low-key. They got on at a stop, approached the seated woman (who put her food away), wrote the ticket and handed it to her and then got off at the next stop. There must be cameras on the metro and when an infraction is seen, these “metro police” obviously get on the metro to hand out a ticket.

Tranquil Nan Lian Garden is surrounded by high-rise apartments. Nan Lian Garden is an 8 ½ acre public park built in the style of the Tang dynasty which means that it has a one-way route through it and that every hill, rock, body of water, plant and timber structure has been placed according to specific rules and methods. It was very peaceful and beautiful.

Nan Lan Garden, 2 more pictures

Across the street was the Chi Lin Nunnery. It was established in 1934 and is a large temple complex of elegant wooden architecture, treasured Buddhist relics and soul-soothing lotus ponds. The complex also includes a series of temple halls, some of which contain gold, clay and wooden statues representing divinities such as the Sakyamuni Buddha and bodhisattvas. No nails were used in any of the buildings.

Chi Lin Nunnery

We then went to a grocery store in the metro station and bought Hong Kong beer. And, since we spent at least $5 on beer, the grocery store was giving, for free, one can of $1.15 beer. (Most of the beer was priced in the $0.75 range so the store was giving away an “expensive” beer.) We took the metro back to the ship, ate lunch and then went back to the cruise terminal to use the free WiFi.

All aboard was 4 PM and Snookums managed to get back a little before then. Then we had the lifeboat drill at 4:15. Snookums’s legs were absolutely dead from the 23-minute morning workout and all she wanted to do was sleep. She finally did after the drill but then the ship’s horn woke her when we were sailing away at 5. Luckily we got to turn our clocks back one hour after dinner.

October 22 (Monday, Day 32, At Sea) –

Snookums went to the 7:30 total body conditioning class (and got the trophy on her watch for achieving last week’s goal) and then the “Things to See & Do in Singapore” lecture. At 10 AM Filbert and Snookums went to the “Meet & Greet” for the new cruisers that read but the only people that attended were about 40 of us that boarded in Seattle – no new passengers showed up! Snookums hurried back to the cabin and put together a birthday gift for Sari, a 28-year old Pinnacle Grill woman from Bali that works in Neptune Lounge. (Her husband, Benny, is a room steward from Java.) Snookums was able to give her a KC Royals baseball hat, Royals t-shirt and candy corn in a Japanese gift bag along with a Japanese greeting card. Snookums then took it to Sari in Neptune Lounge and sang “Panjang umurnya” and Sari was really surprised. Then it was time for a short nap on the verandah in the hot, humid weather.

Snookums went to crafts and made a beaded circle that can hold a scarf or be worn as a ring. The craft kits ran out extra fast since a lot of the new passengers showed up. Sharie saved Snookums a place since Sharie showed up at 1:15. Snookums showed up at 1:50 for the 2:30 class and by 2:15, all the craft kits were gone.

After crafts Snookums went to the “Oriental High Tea” in Queen’s Lounge. It was also the “World’s Largest Cruise Event” since HAL kicked off a weeklong sale today so the Future Cruise Consultant gave a sales pitch. Queen’s Lounge was decorated with red lanterns and the food display looked great. Each place had a ceramic Oriental tea cup (like a tumbler), too, which was a nice touch and free champagne was handed out. Snookums didn’t eat or drink anything since she weighed herself yesterday and gained a little weight so she is not going to eat sweets for a week.

Filbert spent most of the afternoon either on the verandah listening to shortwave radio (and only got Chinese stations) or in the cabin on his computer playing his simulation game. Snookums went to the 5 PM Fab Abs class and for once Snookums wasn’t the only attendee. Five other people were there. Three were new passengers along with Laura (tablemate) and Brooke (she comes most mornings). It was still very hard since doing 30 of ten or twelve different ab exercises is hard whether or not you’re the only one doing them. And, a two-minute plank is still 120 seconds long regardless of the number of participants!

Dinner was “Oriental Formal Night” and once again Snookums wore her kimono and Filbert wore his outfit from India. After dinner the crew sang to us and presented us with a delicious anniversary chocolate cake that everyone really enjoyed.

Oriental Formal Night dining room decorations

October 23 (Tuesday, Day 33, Nha Trang, Vietnam; 10,000 VND = $0.48, $1 = 20,831 VND) –

Ah, Vietnam

We took the first shuttle to town in order to try to see most of the sights before the heat of the day hit. We walked to Cho Dam Market which is an open-air market selling souvenirs, fish, meat and produce. Like most third-world markets it was hot and humid and walkways were not obvious (and were not flat and smooth). In fact, scooters often drove down the aisles which was a bit unnerving. After we had our fill there, we walked to the supermarket identified on the map, but it was out of business. We continued walking back to the shuttle stop and managed to buy two kinds of beer ($1 and $.75 each) at two liquor stores. We also walked by the Nha Trang Cathedral or the train station. We weren’t sure which it was, but it was a very nice French colonial building. Given that it was October in Vietnam, it was actually bearable. There seemed to be a slight breeze and it was partly cloudy.

We found a high-end air-conditioned mall with a supermarket and bought $0.62 chili sauce to share with our tablemates, $1.00 fish sauce to take home and more Ha Noi beer (and it was cheaper at $0.40/can!). Snookums had the equivalent of $0.55 left in Vietnamese dong and went back in the store to spend it. She bought three packages of cookies ($0.08, $0.21, $0.25) and was a little upset that she left a penny (or 200 VND and this small of denomination is not available) on the table. (One of the prices was printed higher on the shelf than what the product rang up for.) She could have spent it all, but that’s life.

Due to construction we had to walk on the beach and then it started raining. It was a warm rain and our Tilley hats provided all the protection we needed. The shuttle took us back to the ship. Filbert immediately returned to the cabin while Snookums shopped at the vendors on the pier and bought three greeting cards for $1 total after bargaining from a starting price of $1 each.

Around 4 PM there was a knock on our door and an amuse bouche of gazpacho was delivered. (Tonight is a Deluxe Verandah Suite dinner event.) Snookums went to Total Body Conditioning at 5 with Laura and two others and took a quick shower prior to the 6:00 suite cocktail party in the Culinary Arts Center. The nouveau dinner followed in Pinnacle Grill and we sat with another couple from Deck 7 and with 1st Officer Leon and his Shore Excursions girlfriend, Leondra. We started with apple rutabaga soup and then had an endive salad with pomegranate vinaigrette. Next up were glazed oysters and the entrée was a boneless rack of lamb. Dessert was a delicious raspberry, lemon and basil millefeuille. The Pinnacle Grill servers wore sleek black silk pants and black turtlenecks. Captain Eversen referred to them as “ninjas” in his speech and they looked like that. Their uniforms were new since this was a brand new event that Henk Mensink (Hotel Director) came up with. It was a rousing success. When we returned to our cabin, there were two chocolate bowls with chocolates in them waiting for us along with a thank you card.

October 24 (Wednesday, Day 34, Phu My, Vietnam; 10,000 VND = $0.48, $1 = 20,831 VND) –

Snookums went to Total Body Conditioning and stayed scummy. The ship docked at a factory area and the closest town was 45-minutes away. Most people went to Ho Chi Minh City (at least 90 minutes away) but we stayed on the ship since we were in Ho Chi Minh City in April. Snookums played the daily quiz and the topic was Ho Chi Minh City. She also managed to take two 2-hour naps during the day and the first nap was on the verandah and she woke up drenched in sweat.

At dinner Snookums found out that she missed yesterday’s crafts class which involved making a greeting card from cancelled stamps. The class was at 2:30 which was also the “all aboard” time. Snookums never reads the detailed events for a port day but will from now on! She never thought there would be a crafts class on a port day.

October 25 (Thursday, Day 35, At Sea) –

Snookums went to Fab Abs and later went to the lecture on “Indonesia and Things to See & Do in Semarang”, She also picked up her daily quiz prize of a deck of HAL cards since she won the Ho Chi Minh quiz. She was able to squeeze in a morning nap on the verandah, too, prior to the Mongolian BBQ lunch by the pool.

She finally bought a pair of black capris for $16.77 that have been 50% off since the first day on the ship. We had to turn our clocks back an hour at 2 PM. Filbert went to the “Singapore – Secrets of Success and Vulnerabilities” lecture while Snookums made a Halloween fabric necklace at crafts class.

We went to the $69 per person (including wine) Vietnamese Dinner in Pinnacle Grill and we were seated with Dale and Jane from Australia. Other than the boring entrées (a pork stew with coconut juice and a steamed barramundi with ginger sauce), the other courses were excellent including the shrimp toast, grilled beef roll, prawn and green mango salad and chicken pho soup. None of us could figure out why the two entrées (served family style) were bland and tasteless. The desserts of banana sago cream and coconut and a four-colored drink were good although the bottom color of the drink was mashed green lentils and they were chalky! Each guest was given a Vietnamese conical hat, too. It was a nice evening and well worth the price.

October 26 (Friday, Day 36, Singapore; 1 SGD = $0.82, $1 = 1.22 SGD) –

Without having breakfast, we got off the ship at 8:30 and took the subway to Bugis. We had our subway card leftover from our April visit so that was very handy. We walked to Arab Street and the Sultan Mosque but everything was closed due to the Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice). It was also a Singapore public holiday even though only 14% of its population is Muslim. For breakfast we ate $5 Singapore chicken curry. It wasn’t very big and wasn’t that good, but it was the only restaurant that was open and it had a very limited menu due to the holiday.

Sultan Mosque

Then we walked to Little India. Filbert had the best haircut for only $10 and Snookums had her eyebrows threaded for $5. It was the Festival of Lights and there was a large street fair with all sorts of Indian merchandise for sale. Snookums looked for more mojari shoes like she bought in Mumbai in April for ~$10, but they were $60 here!

We left Little India and wandered to Bugis Street. It was a festival, too, and had vendors like at the Missouri State Fair selling pots and pans and mini-washing machines. Snookums had a delicious slab of purple yam ice cream between two wafers. She could have had it on white bread, like Wonder bread, but opted for the more normal ice cream cone wafers. Filbert went to a bookstore while Snookums shopped Bugis Street. Neither one bought anything, but each had fun. Snookums got her hair cut for $33 and the stylist shampooed it after the dry cut. Interesting! We wandered back to the ship for a leisurely, but late, lunch.

Festival in Little India

We had a restful afternoon in preparation for our HAL excursion to the Night Safari. The Night Safari is the world’s first wildlife park purpose-built to be viewed at night. It is not an ordinary zoo simply illuminated by night or a modern version of nocturnal houses found in many zoos. Set in 98 acres of dense secondary forest, the Night Safari offers the unique experience of observing wildlife in a tropical jungle at night. Through the use of subtle lighting techniques, guests are able to view the 1,000 nocturnal animals of 100 species in vast natural habitats. Snookums has wanted to see the Night Safari since first visiting Singapore in the late 1980s (?) while with her family on a trip to South Korea for her father’s “Revisit Korea Program” due to his service during the Korean Conflict. In fact, on that trip to Singapore, Snookums and her sister were actually riding on a Singapore public bus to the Night Safari when they found out that the public bus stopped running earlier than when they would be done at the Night Safari so they got off and returned to their hotel!

Our tour bus left 10 minutes late since a passenger was late. Snookums didn’t know that tours actually waited for people and would have preferred the bus to have just left, especially since no one really knew the status of the person that we were waiting on. The bus finally pulled up to the Night Safari and our tour guide said that since today was a public holiday, it would be crowded. He was right! HAL had no business selling tickets to the Night Safari on a public holiday. While we stood in line to get on the tram, our guide kept saying that he didn’t think we would have time to do the tram since the line was so long. He even went and bought bottles of beer and water for everyone since it was so hot and so crowded and the line was so long. We did manage to get on the 40-minute tram ride which is the main highlight of the Night Safari. After the tram ride, those people that were physically able quickly followed the guide along some of the walking trails to see more animals. This was one of the few HAL excursions we bought and once again, there were too many people on it that couldn’t walk well enough to be on it. HAL really needs to figure out how to say “no” to people or how to put less able-bodied people on a slower tour. All in all, it was a great night after the first few minutes of panic when the guide said that he didn’t think we would get on the tram due to the length of the line.

October 27 (Saturday, Day 37, Singapore; 1 SGD = $0.82, $1 = 1.22 SGD) –

Snookums’ neck really, really, really hurt her when she woke up. No alarm was set to wake us and we left the ship around 10 AM. We had to be back by 2 PM so we decided to have an easy day and just go to one of Filbert’s favorite bookstores, Kinokuniya. While he was browsing, Snookums went searching for an acupuncturist or chiropractor. She didn’t find one. Filbert bought a book about Scotland’s history and one about the history of half-forgotten Europe. We got back to the ship and Snookums went to crafts to make a flower postcard. Considering we were in port, it was a very low-key day for us.

October 28 (Sunday, Day 38, At Sea) –

Snookums’ neck still hurt so she didn’t go to the gym. Filbert and Snookums attended the “Things to See & Do in Lombok & Komodo Island” lecture and followed that with the “Semarang, Jogjakarta and Borobudur” lecture. We were hoping to learn more about Borobudur, but didn’t. The lecturer, Jim Placzek, is not good and was one of those presenters that shows ten year old data and he prefaced many slides with “I’m sorry you can’t see this slide…”. Filbert also attended Richard Ojakangas’ afternoon lecture “Geology of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea: The Most Volcanic & Seismic Region on Earth” and he said it was only slightly better.

While Filbert was at the afternoon lecture, Snookums went for her first acupuncture treatment for her neck and then immediately went to crafts to make a capiz shell pendant necklace. Although she was 25 minutes early, she got one of the last two necklace kits. The jewelry crafts classes “sell out” very fast! The acupuncturist recommended using the sauna and staying away from the gym for another day. Snookums followed both recommendations.

Dinner was another formal night – Movie Star Night. Snookums wore her brightly printed long dress with a beaded neck strap and Filbert wore his suit. The dining room was decorated with various movie theme decorations. Once again HAL did a great job decorating.

Moonrise, October 28

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Part 13

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Thirteen

November 24 (Saturday, Day 66, At Sea) –

Snookums went to Total Body Conditioning and then had a 75-minute massage that was concentrated on her left shoulder. After the massage she signed up for two more. Filbert spent part of the morning in the library doing his research on Honolulu until it was time for Team Trivia. Since Snookums filled in on Filbert’s team yesterday, she had to fill in on Sharie’s team today. Each team member earned one Dam Dollar and neither team placed.

Immediately after trivia Snookums had her third $29 floral arranging class and made a flat, round arrangement using dried leaves that the florist has only ever seen in Fiji. We each got five orchids, three roses, five stems of baby carnations and a few stems of mums to go with the greens and the dried leaf that was woven into an abstract design. After the flower class, Snookums and Sharie hurried to crafts and made a Hawaiian door hanger. It was the lamest craft to-date, but considering Nancy’s other crafts have been really nice, that’s okay.

Floral Arrangement, Another One

Snookums went to 5 PM Abs Class, but Kristina was nursing a very sore back and since Snookums was the only one attending, Snookums told Kristina to take care of her back and not worry about teaching a class and Snookums rode the bike for 20 minutes instead.

We got dressed up and went to the 6:45 PM medallion ceremony and wore our silver medallions that we were just awarded for reaching 300 actual days on a HAL ship. (Snookums was actually awarded hers in July on the Alaska cruise but HAL obviously forgot and gave her another one which meant another free photo with the Captain.) The six of us from dinner sat together and had a good time and even had a group photo taken (for free!) since all of us were medallion awardees. The dining room was full of star shaped brightly colored helium balloons and each place setting had a shiny pointed party hat. Shiny streamers were piled in the middle of the tables, too, adding to the festive atmosphere. It was called “Celebration Day” and HAL created it to celebrate the special moments in our lives with shipboard family and friends. Our table definitely celebrated and even took a lot of the decorations since we are going to surprise our waiter, Arya, on his November 30th birthday with a party after dinner.

Pointy Hats

Since we have the largest cabin we volunteered to hold all of the decorations. We returned to our cabin carrying eight party hats (two of which were filled with table streamers) and 20 helium balloons. People laughed when they saw us. For the formal night gift, there were two identical serving plates on our beds showing our itinerary.

After that quick stop, we went to the 9:30-10:30 PM Dessert Extravaganza held on the 3rd, 4th and 5th deck Atriums. It was the typical “Midnight Dessert Buffet”, but having it spread around the three atriums was a great idea and caused people to mingle more (in a good way – there were tables and chairs tucked here and there in order to sit and enjoy dessert before wandering to the next floor). We really enjoyed the peanut butter pie!

November 25 (Sunday, Day 67, At Sea) –

Snookums went to Fab Abs and was surprised to find Filbert already showered when she returned to the cabin at 8:15. After her own quick shower, we enjoyed breakfast in Neptune Lounge which we hadn’t done in a few days. Then it was on to Barbara’s lecture, “Things to See & Do in Hilo”.

Snookums checked email after that and was very saddened to learn that the dear friend that we met on the Asia/Australia 65-day cruise four years ago (and had cruised with him and his wife three other times since then) had passed away. Gary and his wife returned home in mid-August from a HAL cruise and he was diagnosed on August 31 with pancreatic cancer. He passed away on October 13. Gary’s enthusiasm for life will be sorely missed.

Filbert went to Team Trivia and got second place and two Dam dollars. Snookums attended crafts and made a floral fabric shoe bag that only involved threading the drawstring through the casing. She likes those kinds of crafts. Snookums also learned that the crafts instructor is given a budget of $0.20 (yes, 20 cents) per student per craft. Today’s craft involved a large piece of cotton fabric, 18” drawstring and three felt flowers as decorations. It was definitely more costly than $0.20. And let’s not even talk about the amethyst and rose quartz necklaces… Crafts Instructor Nancy Grace is great.

There was not a 5 PM fitness class. It was replaced by “Evening Stretch Class” since a passenger requested it so Snookums didn’t go. Supposedly it will alternate with a “sweaty” class every night from now on.

At dinner we each hoisted a glass in memory of absent friends (Gary).

November 26 (Monday, Day 68, At Sea) –

Snookums went to Total Body Conditioning and then she and Filbert ate breakfast in Neptune Lounge. Yesterday Snookums told Sari (Pinnacle Grill steward who works in Neptune Lounge) that today it was Roberta’s birthday. Sari had a cake made and Snookums brought a helium balloon from the 20 in our cabin. Roberta and Larry showed up for their breakfast and we sang “Happy Birthday” and “Panjang Umurnya” to Roberta and then had some cake. Snookums then had to go to her 10:15 AM massage. Brigitte kept her for 90 minutes although the massage was only supposed to be 75 so Snookums was happy! Filbert went to Team Trivia and won another Dam dollar and got one of the questions right for the team (and would have had another one right but no one listened to him). The photos from the medallion ceremony were delivered to our room. The photo of the six of us is great whereas in the photo of the two of us, we both look scared to death or pyscho.

Snookums made a flower lei at Crafts and then went to the Hawaiian High Tea but didn’t see anything different and left. The entrance to the Dining Room was decorated in a Polynesian motif, but the display of tea-time foods wasn’t very unusual. Snookums took a 2-hour nap (one of her few on this cruise) since the 5 PM class was once again a stretch class. Tomorrow it definitely is a sweaty class since Snookums talked to Kate (Neptune Lounge concierge) about it and had already written a complaint letter but Kate showed Snookums the Honolulu Daily Explorer and it says “Fab Abs” at 5. Filbert spent most of the afternoon on the verandah listening to Honolulu radio. It is supposed to only be in the mid-70s tomorrow.

November 27 (Tuesday, Day 69, Honolulu, Hawaii) –

Snookums was the only person at Fab Abs and then we took our passports and went through U.S. Customs. After a quick breakfast, we left the ship and decided to ride the Waikiki Trolley for $30 per person. We got off at the Honolulu Zoo and spent a few hours wandering around. It’s a nice small zoo and Filbert found an eCoupon that saved us each $6 so our admission was only $8 per person. It was definitely worth that. The zoo had a Komodo Dragon and several Japanese tourists stood in front of the window and took photos. However, it was small compared to the ones we saw in the wild so Filbert didn’t bother taking a photo.

Rush Hour at the Honolulu Zoo
Blue Tongue

We asked the zoo cashier for a plate lunch recommendation and she directed us to the 51-year old Rainbow Drive-In about 1 mile away. It was a nice walk, although we were starving, and we each ordered the mixed plate for $7.25. It came with two scoops of white rice, mayonnaise-based macaroni salad or vinegar-based coleslaw and a thin piece of tasty soy/teriyaki marinated beef, a breaded chicken cutlet and a piece of lightly breaded mahi mahi. It wasn’t healthy, but it sure hit the spot and filled us up. Snookums then got a slush float for dessert which was a bright red (cherry?) Slurpee-like frozen drink with a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream in it. We walked back to the trolley stop and when we were less than one block away, we saw it drive off. We sat on a stone wall in the shade with Waikiki Beach at our backs and waited 35 minutes for the next trolley. It was a nice wait and we used the internet on our iPhones and also made some calls. The temperature for the day was in the high 70s and just perfect.

When the next trolley showed up we finished our scenic Diamond Head sightseeing tour and saw the Diamond Head lighthouse, some overlooks and the inside of Diamond Head crater, a 760-foot tuff crater. We got back to the ship around 5 PM and showered for our dinner on the verandah.

Inside Diamond Head Crater

John and Sharie came to dinner at 7:30 after being onboard for only around 20 minutes. They stopped at the Hawaiian Luau BBQ on Lido and got the free fresh orchid leis. The four of us enjoyed a nice view of the harbor and good weather while eating our dining room dinner. Laura and John stopped by at 8:15 and said “hi” before going to their cabin to relax from their full day which included hiking Diamond Head. The four of us went to the “Drums of Polynesia Cultural Show” at 9:30 PM and quickly decided that the Maori Cultural Show was much better. We stayed for the entire show though.

Sometime during our dinner, our neighbors, Phil and Flory, disembarked the ship due to Flory’s pneumonia. The ship’s doctor determined she needed to be hospitalized so the ship’s staff helped Phil pack up and they departed earlier than their December 5 planned disembarkation date. Prior to her pneumonia, they were an independent 88-year old couple. Her pneumonia, though, weakened her and Phil was not able to help her as much as he wanted. We hope she makes a full recovery in the Honolulu hospital.

Snookums went to bed while Filbert stayed out on the verandah listening to Honolulu radio until he could no longer get a station after our 11 PM departure.

November 28 (Wednesday, Day 70, Lahaina, Hawaii) –

Snookums went to Total Body Conditioning and did a calisthenics-based circuit workout with the other two passengers there. She worked up a good sweat and got her heart rate high, too. After a quick shower and a quick breakfast, we went to Queen’s Lounge to wait for our 4-hour West Maui Snorkel Cruise ($144.95 per person) on a Trilogy Catamaran. We took the tender to the pier and soon boarded the catamaran. There were only 20 or so passengers so luckily it wasn’t too crowded. Before we even left the harbor (and before the safety briefing was given) we saw a pod of spinner dolphins. The captain gave the safety briefing and we were able to watch the antics of the many spinner dolphins spinning and flipping for us. It was amazing. People on the ms Amsterdam and in the tenders were enjoying the show, too. The crew of the Trilogy served us various fruits and sweet breads for a light breakfast.

Dolphins just off the Amsterdam

We got to the snorkel spot and jumped in the frigid 78° water. Snookums was freezing, even in her wetsuit, and Filbert was fine. We saw a lot of lava-based corals and various fish (not many, but a good variety in very, very clear water) and the highlight was seeing two big turtles at two different times. We followed the first one for awhile and then saw a second one surfacing and watched it until it dove and hid under some rocks. Then it was time for Snookums to return to the catamaran since her teeth were chattering.


There were chips and homemade salsa waiting for us and plenty of sunshine in the 80° warmth. Lunch consisted of various wraps and just like always after a snorkel, they tasted great. The chocolate chip cookies for dessert were also very good. Snookums finally warmed up prior to the catamaran returning to the pier although she kept her black fleece sweatshirt on the whole time while lying on the trampoline part of the catamaran.

Sunning Snookums

On the way back to the pier we spotted two Hawaiian humpback whales. The migration just started and the Trilogy captain had only seen one prior to today so it was neat that we saw two. They surfaced a few times and we saw the flukes when they dove back down.

After we returned to the pier we walked around Lahaina for about an hour. We bought Maui Brewing Co. Coconut Porter beer for Filbert, Spam flavored macadamia nuts for a Christmas gift and a Hawaiian shirt for Filbert. We finally got back to the ship around 3:45 and were pretty tired and felt sunburned, but we weren’t.

Prior to dinner we saw the full moon rise over the mountains of Maui (or maybe it was the island of Molokai?).

November 29 (Thursday, Day 71, Hilo, Hawaii) –

Snookums left the ship as soon as it docked at 8 AM to get the rental car. Soon after, she picked up Filbert, John and Sharie and headed for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, 4,000 feet above sea level. It was around 72° and sunny in Hilo (population 42,000) and we were hoping it would be like that at the top. (The last time we were in Hilo we rented a car and about 10 minutes before we got to the national park, it started raining and visibility was bad so we only visited the visitor center.) After an uneventful 40-minute ride, we paid our $10 per vehicle entrance fee and parked at the visitor center for information. After a few minutes we decided what we wanted to see. It was still sunny and only 60° due to the altitude.

At the Volcano

Our first stop was just to walk across the street and go behind Volcano House (a lodge that is closed for renovations) to see Kilauea Caldera and its lava from as recently as 1982. We were the only people there and it was neat. Large plumes of smoke were coming from Halema’uma’u Crater and there were even places that looked to be very close to us that were sending up plumes. We didn’t smell any sulfur but Filbert and Sharie could taste it in the back of their throats. Visibility was not crystal clear since the trade winds weren’t blowing. As a result, the plumes of smoke were going straight up and just kind of hanging in the air and not blowing away. We also saw four kalij pheasant walking across a trail. We were hoping to see the endangered Nene (Hawaiian goose) but we didn’t. Luckily Filbert and Snookums saw them at the Honolulu Zoo.

We got back in the car and drove to the Thurston Lava Tube but first stopped at the Kilauea Iki overlook and looked at the Kilauea Iki Crater which is a hardened lava lake still steaming from the 1959 eruption. People were hiking across the 2.4-mile lake, too, but we didn’t have the 2-3 hours to spend doing that. We finally made it to the Thurston Lava Tube which is a 500-year old lava tube formed when an underground channel of molten lava drained from its cooled walls and formed a massive hollow chamber. To see it we had a short 0.4-mile walk through a lush rain forest.

At the Lava Tube with John and Sharie

We got back in the car and decided we had time for one more stop and went to the Pu’u Pua’i Overlook and saw another view of the Kilauea Iki Crater as well as a lava mound. Several parts of the national park were closed due to high amounts of sulfur dioxide gas (Kilauea produces 250,000 to 650,000 cubic yards of lava per day) but we were very happy with what we saw.

We got back in the car and our next stop was Akatsuka Orchid Gardens and Sharie bought some hermetically sealed live orchids that she’ll “smuggle” into Canada. (It is legal to bring them into mainland U.S.)

We drove to Hilo Bay Café since Diane Fast, the Amsterdam’s pianist, said it served the best hamburger in the world. Well, the burgers were good, but not great. It was a nice lunch, though, and since it was located in the same strip mall that contained WalMart, we were able to do last minute shopping. Sharie purchased a Hawaiian baby outfit for a baby that was born while she was on this cruise. The WalMart didn’t have any local beer, though, so after we left WalMart we drove to the grocery store across the street and Filbert found some Hilo-brewed beer and John found Rolling Rock (which isn’t available in Canada) and everyone was happy. The line at WalMart for the free shuttle back to the pier was long since there was a 5,000-passenger Princess ship in port today, too. We were very happy to have a rental car.

After filling up the car and returning it to Alamo (intermediate car for a total of $45.42), we made it back to the ship around 3 PM. All aboard was 4:30 and two passengers (Peter and Kendra) and a crewmember (Christopher, the acupuncturist) were late and boarded the ship at 4:46. It’s a good thing the ship waited for them since the next port is San Diego on December 5. The three of them also rented a car and went to the volcano and obviously did more hiking than we did!

November 30 (Friday, Day 72, At Sea) –

Snookums went to Total Body Conditioning at 7:30 AM and then Filbert and Snookums ate a leisurely breakfast in Neptune. Around 9:15 AM there was an announcement for a specific guest to call the Front Desk. Snookums asked Kate what that could be about since Snookums never remembers hearing an announcement like that while the ship is at sea. Kate explained that the guest was supposed to be quarantined in her room but was walking around the ship! At that point, Snookums realized who the guest was (and her cabin number).

Filbert left in order to go to Merryl Kafka’s lecture, “Fish Diversity and Adaptations” and he said it was dry, but okay. Snookums went to Travel Guide Barbara’s “Spamming with the Travel Guide” and learned that SPAM stands for Spiced Ham and that Polynesia citizens consume 16 cans per person annually. In the U.S. it is produced in Austin, Minnesota and Fremont, Nebraska and the SPAM Museum is in Austin, Minnesota. There is even Turkey SPAM (and there used to be a kosher SPAM product) and there is also a SPAMMobile (like Oscar Mayer’s WienerMobile). It was a silly lecture and cooking demonstration, but fun. Barbara grew up eating SPAM and still buys it. She had never heard of SPAM flavored macadamia nuts and plans on buying some the next time she is in Maui.

Snookums returned to the cabin prior to Filbert. When he came back from Team Trivia, he was not happy since they finished out of the money for the first time ever. Lunch was a special Indonesian lunch by the pool and it was very good and the servers were wearing their Indonesian clothing and looked very nice. Due to the quarantined guest wandering around the ship earlier in the day, the whole ship was put in “Code Orange”. This meant that no guests were allowed to serve themselves and not even salt and pepper shakers were on the tables. At night the menus are sanitized after each guest uses them and the entire ship gets extra sanitization (like the fitness center being fogged and the floors and handrails on every deck sprayed with disinfectant). All because of one or two stubborn guests…

Clocks were again set forward and then Snookums went to crafts to make “bath fizzies”. They have to dry overnight so Snookums’s team (and she volunteered to be the team leader) won’t get to find out if they worked until tomorrow’s craft class. While Snookums was at crafts, Filbert went to Jon Bailey’s 3 PM lecture, “Another Op’nin’ Another Show: The Broadway Stage – Mirror of our Lives”. He left after 20 minutes since the topic didn’t interest him. (Tablemate John F. said it was a great lecture, but John F. is a Broadway buff.)

When Snookums returned to the room she found Filbert mopping up a broken bottle of Hawai’i Nui Brewing Hapa Brown Ale that fell out of the refrigerator when he opened it. The ocean swells are big and the ship is doing a lot of rocking and rolling. No one seems to be getting sick, but there is a lot of slow and steady motion. Snookums went to the 5 PM Fab Abs and there was one other man there. Kristina was also doing a personal training session for a crewmember so Fab Abs consisted of various ab exercises performed for two minutes at a time. When she finally said “One minute for this one”, we both rejoiced. That’s sad when an exercise for one minute seems like an easy thing!!

At 7 PM we took 21 helium balloons that we absconded with after the Celebration Day formal night to Mr. K (Assistant Dining Room Manager) for him to hide until our surprise 29th birthday party for Arya, our waiter. Dinner was uneventful until the birthday cake and balloons came out. Snookums pulled out the leftover Celebration Day party hats and streamers and passed them around. Mr. K made Arya sit down at the empty table near the three tables that he served and the entire 5th floor dining room staff came over to sing Happy Birthday (and Panjang Umurnya in Indonesian) to him. Arya was very, very surprised and neither Snookums nor Filbert had ever seen a waiter have a guest-organized celebration like this. At the end of the singing, some of Arya’s fellow workers smeared frosting on his face and then doused him with water! It was all in good fun. Mr. K thanked our table for showing such support to one of his employees. Our three tables pitched in to buy Arya the $29 photo that was taken of him at one of the Australian ports when he was working the tenders. We also gave him a 2012 Grand Voyage green messenger bag, $60, a bottle of champagne, a 6-pack of soda, a bag of Moroccan lemon chicken potato chips (that Filbert and Snookums bought in Auckland and decided that neither of their diets needed) and a bunch of HAL milk chocolates that are left on every bed pillow nightly. It was basically a party in a bag. There was a karaoke pajama party occurring in the Crow’s Nest until 10:15 but by the time we left the dining room it was 10 PM and we called it quits. We had a fun night.

December 1 (Saturday, Day 73, At Sea) –

Snookums went to Fab Abs and upon returning to the cabin, was happy to find Filbert ready for HAL’s 9 AM “Walk for the Cure” 3.1-mile walk around Deck 3. Filbert and Snookums led the whole way and finished in 47 minutes and probably did 13 laps rather than the official 12. After the walk Snookums enjoyed her piece of white cake with pink frosting (but didn’t like the pink frosted spice cookie) while Filbert drank two glasses of water. We went to Neptune Lounge for a late breakfast and since the ship was still in Code Orange, Kate and Sari had to serve the coffee and food.

Filbert went to Team Trivia and his team got 2nd place, the bonus question and an additional dollar since Gene Young screwed up a question and gave everyone in attendance a dollar because of it. After lunch we moved the clocks forward an hour for the last time, and Snookums went to crafts to stake out her spot in order to make an elegant glass pendant necklace. (When jewelry is the daily craft, the spots fill up at least 45 minutes prior to the start of the class.) When the glass pendants were distributed, Sharie was very happy with her blue one and Laura, who came to her first crafts class, was thrilled with her purple one. Normally Snookums doesn’t care, but today she traded her green one for a blue and yellow one so that she can wear it to South Dakota State University basketball games. Everyone was happy. Crafts Instructor Nancy had a dolphin quiz prior to the class and our team came in second. However, everyone at crafts got a prize of a silver polishing cloth so all was well.

Too soon it was time for Snookums’s 5 PM Total Body Conditioning. She was the only one that showed up and Kristina worked her hard. With two fitness classes and the walk, today was an extra-active day.

Snookums spent most of her down time today writing the journal. She still has many port days that are just in note form and need to be flushed out. With only three sea days left, she has her work cut out for her in order to get the text done prior to leaving the ship. Filbert hasn’t spent much time choosing the photos for this journal so he’ll be extra busy when he gets home.

Right before dinner the Captain made an announcement that due to so many cases of GI illness (around 15), the ship is in Code Red which means that the library and Jacuzzis are closed and waiters will be serving the bread and butter at dinner along with salt and pepper. (Anything that can be handled by passengers is no longer allowed.) He announced that there would be no Fall Ball tomorrow night and Snookums bets that there will not be the Sunday morning market (with popcorn and cotton candy) that she heard about this morning from Randall, the onboard marketing manager.

December 2 (Sunday, Day 74, At Sea) –

Snookums woke up at 9:40 in order to make her 10:15 massage. Filbert slept until 10 AM and Snookums and Filbert didn’t see each other until they passed each other as Snookums returned to the cabin and Filbert went to noon Team Trivia. Snookums showered and then it was off to a celebratory lunch since Filbert’s team won trivia and got the bonus and therefore he got 4 Dam dollars. After lunch Snookums sat and talked to Laura until it was time for crafts where she made a Christmas card using the technique of iris folding. Filbert attended John Pippenger’s Public Forum on “Trade Deficits”. A Public Forum is where a guest can sign up to give a lecture. He and Big John discussed it at dinner and other tablemates joined in.


When Snookums went to the 5 PM Fab Abs class, the ocean was like glass and it was sunny and 70°. She was the only one there so Kristina had her use the Pilates Reformer machine. Once again, a 30-minute abs class made her entire body feel like jell-o.

Formal night dinner was fun especially since there was free wine, beer and sodas due to the Code Red cancellation of the Fall Ball. Our table was louder and more raucous than usual and even the Captain looked at us (twice!). That made us laugh even more and Laura actually thought she hurt her side laughing so much. We took the fall-themed centerpieces and Sharie really wanted the garland in order to decorate her front door at home since it matched the fall flag that she has so Arya got her some of it from the entrance.

December 3 (Monday, Day 75, At Sea) –

Snookums went to Fab Abs and was the only one there. People must be sick, tired or packing since the morning class usually has at least four people in it. She worked hard, but only burned 89 calories since abdominal exercises don’t seem to burn too many calories even though the abs “burn”!

Filbert went to Team Trivia and although his team got third for the day and one Dam dollar, they finished first for the segment so each team member got $50 shipboard credit which is a whole lot better than getting Dam dollars!

The Grand Show Buffet was in Lido and it was a nice buffet with crab claws and other pricey things. Snookums had beef stroganoff but really enjoyed her pieces of pecan pie and carrot cake. Snookums and Filbert sat with Laura, Big John and the other two women from their winning trivia team. While eating lunch by the pool, they saw the shipbuilding sea trials. Four guests (or four groups of guests) made model ships out of material found on the ship. They had to float and hold 24 cans of soda. All four of them were seaworthy and there was a 4-way tie for first so each participant was awarded 100 Dam dollars. However, one of the boats was head and shoulders above the other ones and HAL actually “bought” it for 200 Dam dollars and will display it during the 2013 World Cruise that starts this January.

Snookums, Sharie and Laura went to crafts (Sharie always did crafts and this was Laura’s second time) and made holiday stickpins and earrings. Sharie and Snookums then went to the guest talent show which was not too bad. After that it was time for bingo ($20 for 3 cards) with the winner getting a 7-day cruise so Snookums and Sharie stayed for that (and Laura came for it). Laura had won two other Bingos during the cruise but most days there weren’t the necessary 15 participants so a cash Bingo wasn’t held and a Dam dollar Bingo was played instead. Snookums and Laura stood up since each only needed one more number, but as they were standing, a woman yelled, “Bingo”. The woman’s card was verified and she won and then Kevin, the Assistant Cruise Director called one more number just for fun and Snookums would have won. Oh well. The “Win a Cruise” lottery was also picked but the winner wasn’t present. Snookums spent $20 on that, too. It was a good thing that Filbert won $50 earlier in the day since Snookums just spent $40 of it!

After Bingo Snookums had just enough time to get ready for Total Body Conditioning. As frequently happened, she was the only participant so Kristina did a kick boxing class. In 30 minutes Snookums burned 325 calories so it was a great workout.

At 7 PM we had our last Deluxe Verandah Suite event which was a “Sweet” Champagne Farewell. There were probably only around 32 guests in attendance since several got off in Honolulu and others didn’t want to possibly get exposed to the Code Red germs. It was a “Sweet” champagne farewell since Mumm’s champagne was being served. Snookums enjoyed two different non-alcoholic drinks – one was grapefruit-based and the other was raspberry and they were both quite good. Luckily at just a few minutes after 8 PM, Filbert realized it was time for dinner so our party of six left and went to the dining room.

There was a poem on the table explaining that wine, beer and sodas were free tonight (again) since it was a near-final culinary civility. Filbert and Laura have nine bottles of wine left from their shared wine package of 24 bottles and only one more dinner (tomorrow night’s) so seven bottles are going to be delivered to cabin 7028, our cabin.

December 4 (Tuesday, Day 76, At Sea) –

Snookums woke up and went to Total Body Conditioning and was the only one (again). Filbert was ready for breakfast when she returned so after a quick shower it was off to Neptune Lounge. After breakfast we (Filbert) finally started to pack. Snookums filled out the guest satisfaction surveys and gave top scores to just about everything except for some of the lecturers. There was even a rainbow outside.

At noon Filbert went to Team Trivia and his team won today but since it was the final day, Gene gave all participants 20 Dam dollars. After lunch, Filbert returned to packing and Snookums went to crafts and made sun, moon and star earrings (and Laura was there for a third, and last, time in a row). At 4 PM we went to redeem Filbert’s Dam dollars. Laura and Sharie gave Filbert many more so his own pile of 70 or so grew to around 150. He picked out two HAL coffee mugs, an 8MB flash drive, a mini-Maglite, and a nifty daypack (that he gave to Snookums). Snookums wanted the HAL silk scarf and Cruise Director Gene Young gave it to her since the guest satisfaction surveys had been turned in. Both Filbert and Snookums were happy with the prizes.

Snookums was hungry around 5 PM so we went to Neptune Lounge. The morning’s disembarkation presentation was on TV and Snookums watched it. It was pretty good since Gene made around ten funny (and very creative) videos. Gene also asked Nestor (wine steward) to sing “Imagine” in Tagalog and he was very good. Finally it was time for the crew farewell and most of the crew seemed to fit onstage. It was a very nice disembarkation and crew farewell lecture.

From 4:30 – 7 PM there were complimentary drinks in all of the bars for the “After Party”, but Filbert finished up his final glass from a box of wine and Snookums didn’t want anymore non-alcoholic drinks so HAL saved money on us.

Big John didn’t make it to dinner since he was quarantined as of around 5 AM today. Hopefully he’ll feel better tomorrow. Laura figures he got it from all of his time in the casino playing poker. He even played last night from 9:30 until around midnight.

December 5 (Wednesday, Day 77, San Diego, California) –

We got off ship at 9 AM and took the airport shuttle for $7 per person. We were at our Southwest gate by 9:35 AM which has to be some kind of a record. We got to our house at 6:30 PM. It was a great trip home after our best cruise ever. We traveled 22,218 nautical miles or 25550 statue miles and averaged 17.7 knots.

We were saddened to learn a few days later that Flory, our 88-year old suite neighbor, passed away on December 5 in Seattle after surgery. Her husband Phil still plans on taking a March, 2013 Mediterranean cruise. As recently as five years ago, the two of them took self-directed bicycle trips across Europe so cruising was their answer to easier travel. They were a delightful couple and enjoyed every day to its fullest.

This cruise was our best ever for several reasons:
– We really enjoy having a Deluxe Verandah Suite for Grand Voyages due to the Grand Voyage perks like the hosted mini-bar and special suite events.
– Neptune Lounge is a family all its own and we enjoyed meeting several great friends there every day.
– Our tablemates were fantastic and we’ll definitely see each other again.
– HAL crew members on Grand Voyages are more relaxed and even friendlier, if that is possible.
– The fitness and crafts instructors were great.

We wish smooth seas to everyone!