Be Back Whenever

Cruise on Holland America

South Pacific Cruise with the “older” clientele

After spending about 2 months in Australia, we had to figure out some way to get back to the U.S. or wherever we went next.  We see “repositioning cruises” advertised all the time, mainly between the U.S. and Europe but we figured the cruise lines have to get their ships back to the west coast in time for the Alaska sailing season after spending the Southern Hemisphere summer sailing in Australia/New Zealand and the South Pacific.

Off the Chief Travel Planner went to Google and quickly found a website, www.repositioningcruise.com. It turns out there weren’t many to choose from, but Holland America was moving the MS Noordam from Sydney to Vancouver starting on April 13 and we could disembark in Honolulu on April 28.  Yes, that makes this a 16-day cruise. We crossed the International Date line so repeated April 21, just like “Groundhog Day”.

Rommel, the bartender

Our favorite bartender, Rommel, in the Pinnacle Bar.

Fortunately, most of the days at sea had flat water and sunshine. Humidity increased as we approached the equator, reaching 98% in Pago Pago.

International Date Line Certificate

Official recognition of crossing the International Date Line.

agendas for April 21

A daily schedule was in our cabin every night for the next day. Two of them had the same date … different agendas for the 2 days it was April 21. Per, our Norwegian friend, celebrated his birthday twice!

Boarding the ship in Sydney – no problem!  Mark had to go on a hunt for his luggage but discovered it was in Ship Security waiting for him to remove the knife they saw when x-raying the bag before it was loaded on the ship.  We traveled with a sharp cooking knife after being in a number of apartments with less than sharp knives! They missed/ignored the corkscrew, a knife on a cutting board from Tasmania, and a Swiss Army knife he had.  The knife was returned on the last night of our cruise.

Our cabin was compact but had enough room for our few clothes.  Let’s just say that Gala Nights didn’t see any tuxes or ties or jackets on Mark.  Susan used the cruise as an excuse to buy a few clothes in Sydney and Melbourne.

Cabin 1

This was home for 16 days.

Average age of 1900 passengers – guessing 75-80 or so!  We’re sure we were in the youngest 10% of the passengers – about 190 people.  We saw one baby, about 5 children under 15 and the associated parents of said children, and a family of 4 from Alabama.  We met one lady who just retired and 2 women with their 85-year-old mom.  The other 170 people in the “10% Club” we can only guess at.  The ones we put in the club are either truly younger or have really good genes.

The passengers were a majority Americans but LOTS of Canadians and Australians with a handful of other nationalities represented – German, New Zealand, UK, Norway.

We met some fun people – Per and Lise from Norway, Tim and Debbie from London who traveled for 5 months before the cruise, Jan and Chris (UVA grad) from Texas.  We quickly found our favorite bars and bartenders and got into a routine – wakeup, coffee, breakfast, workout or walk, read, watch movies, sit in sun, before dinner drinks with the group, dinner at 8 PM, after dinner drinks, bed … repeat!

Mark and Per with sculpture

This is what two passengers do when they’re the last out of the dining room and have had a few glasses of wine in the evening plus a Hendricks and Tonic and pepper and cucumber.

Per and Lise

Per and Lise live in Norway. He’s a ship’s master/captain and they have some interesting stories about taking oil ships around the world.

Tim and Debbie

Tim and Debbie live in London and are semi-retired, traveling while they’re young! Tim loves Bingo and Debbie knows all about Elvis.

Two nights Tim and Mark stayed out late (1:30 AM) and they’re sure they were the last 2 passengers awake on the ship.  We often were the last table to finish dinner and the last bunch to close the bar – about 11:15 PM.  With a passenger list as old as on this cruise, the dining room was packed at 5:15 when it opened for dinner and fairly empty at 8 PM when we went to dinner.

We made stops in New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and Pago Pago, American Samoa.  You can check out the map on the Trip Statistics page to find the locations of the various islands.  We also had 5 straight days at sea before we arrived in Honolulu.

Dravuni Beach

Dravuni Beach wasn’t as soft as Kuto but had warm, clear water.

Dravuni Fiji

Dravuni Island, Fiji

Fiji sunset

Sunset in Fiji

Kuto beach

Kuto, New Caledonia. This was the best beach of the entire trip with soft sand and warm water.

We rented a car in Lautoka, Fiji, to drive to Nadi for some shopping. Driving was a piece of cake and the roads were great after 2 weeks on Indian roads.

The local bar at the the port on Easo on Lifou, New Caledonia.

I have no idea what this plant is. It resembles a poinsettia with leaves/petals that are partly red and partly green.

Lifou view from the church

We trekked up this hill on Lifou in New Caledonia to see a church with a great view.

Pago Pago port

This is the Pago Pago port in American Samoa. Susan didn’t see much of the port after she slipped in mud on a sidewalk and sprained her wrist.  She was the third or fourth person to slip in the same place that day!

Pago Pago sunset

We had a lovely sunset as we left Pago Pago.

Disembarking in Honolulu – piece of cake! The ship arrived on time in Honolulu about 7 AM and our flight from Honolulu to Maui was booked for 12:15 PM.  (Susan likes to allow lots of time!) Everyone on the ship had to clear US immigration before they could go ashore in Honolulu and clearance was to be held in the theatre.

Mark and Susan climb out of bed at 6:30 AM, shower, and hustle off to the theatre where the line for US passengers’ immigration is half the length of the ship!  We started timing the line because we bet it would take at least an hour to clear U.S. Immigration, but the line moved in a slow walk to the front of the ship where the ship scanned our cruise card and a U.S. Immigration official looked at our passport for about 3 seconds and waved us on.  They made no differentiation between passengers disembarking for good and passengers just going ashore for the day. Total time – 8 minutes from the start of the line to the end!  Note: International visitors took longer – about 45 minutes.

Hey!  We have time for a quick breakfast before we pick up our hand luggage in the room, leave the ship, walk through a warehouse, turn right and find our suitcases sitting in the Pink group!  Holland America gave the disembarking passengers (us) the standard Customs cards the night before.  What would you think?  Somewhere we’ll have to go through Customs, right?  Wrong!  We picked up the bags and walked out the door, across the street and took a taxi to the airport.

Mark’s comment about Customs – “This would have been the time to bring back a $20,000 watch”.

Fooling your Garmin Exercise tracker – method #2

We took a cruise ship from Sydney to Honolulu for 16 days, including doing April 21 twice.  We had plenty of time to make a few observations.  One of these life altering observations is you can fool your Garmin Fitness tracker on a ship just as well as you can on a rough road in India. Doing laps around the Promenade Deck of a cruise ship that’s moving will also make your Fitness tracker think you’ve walked up 10 flights of steps!

The scenery was a bit monotonous but the ship was much smoother than the safari vehicle.

Holland America MS Noordam

This is the MS Noordam, a Holland America cruise ship, sitting off shore in the South Pacific.