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”.
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.
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!
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.
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”.