I have been meaning to mention this.  You might be enjoying my narrative, but if you want a bunch of beautiful pictures of where we are, follow Captain Jonathan Mercer’s blog by going to  www.captainjonathan.com and signing up.  He’s very good and an easy read, in every way my favorite captain, on any line.


January 19, before Office hours, I saw Rebecca from Shore Excursions.  She gave me the scoop on accessibility fro our tours and, tickets for all three tours in pink envelopes, ready for distribution.  I worked the usual office hours, took Elvon to the gym, did a little more paperwork, walked the deck and went to dinner, where Nicola, the Communications Officer, was our table guest, and we found him delightful.  He is really enjoying his job and the fact that it gives him a chance to see the world and meet all kinds of people.  He’s from Serbia, and plans to go back in a few years and start a software company with a couple of friends.  The others may be already working on it.  He is accumulating a little seed money, which you can, when you work at sea, fed and housed.  We wish him well and will surely have him back to the table.  The entertainment was Robbie Howard, straight from Vegas.  He managed to sound like every other Vegas entertainer we knew, except maybe Celine Dion.


On January 20, we were in Taiohae, Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia.  I had been here before, and had a plan.  After an enormous breakfast in the Lido, I went to the gym with Elvon, and got off the ship around eleven, starved for Internet.  So much for my resolve; it’s both a necessity and an addiction.  The restaurant I used last year was closed, but the next one was open, with twice as many customers.  I bought the obligatory Coke, and set to work.  Well, it was cheap, but not even as good as the ship’s, with all the traffic on it.  I am persistent, though.  It took me three hours to give up.  As I was leaving I heard there was a good, but expensive source right across from the tender pier.  It’s “Tiki Net” and they want $2.50 for 15 minutes, but they let you plug your computer in, which it would need soon, and it was nice and fast.  I considered it ten bucks well spent.  In a couple of days, we’ll be on Rangiroa, where the Shipleys and I accessed the Internet from plastic chairs by the sea, on the 2013 Grand Asia.


I got back to the ship, and took Elvon to Sailaway, which was beautiful.  The entertainment was Pete Neighbor, Jazz Clarinet.  Nice.


At  sea, on January 21, bright and early, I sat down with Tina to finalize our lists and get more Pinnacle dates, as I had a newsletter to write.  I wrote it during and after office hours.  One of my cruisers came to tell me her ukulele group would be performing at 4:00pm in the Crow’s Nest, so I duly appeared there.  By 4:30pm, I had had enough of the Polynesian team and none of our passengers, so I went back to work on my letter.


I had some help.  My bus monitor, Bridge Instructor Gail Hanson, who had been a court stenographer, proofread for me and an engineer passenger helped me figure out what had gone wrong with my Excel spreadsheet.  During all of this, I had been re-filling our dinner table.  Four of our tablemates were dining in Canaletto, the night I had Rebecca Antuna, from Shore Excursions, come to the table.  I filled it with four of my people.  We all had a wonderful time, including Rebecca.


The entertainment was the Jack Pack, who were repetitious, within the same cruise; still easy on the eyes, but they need to learn more songs.


On January 22, we were tendered off Rangiroa, French Polynesia.  Oceania Marina was at this tiny Island, too.  I had not been able to find Didier’s email and we tendered to a different pier than in 2013.  I had no idea how far it was from his house, but I knew I needed a plan that had nothing to do with any place where the other 2,000 people might be.


First, I want for a walk, and watched the local dogs chase the local chickens.  They are all food, here.  It was a beautiful day, if a little hot, and there’s a paved road that follows the beach, with just one house between road and beach all around.  I found a house with a big dish, but the occupants said it was just for television.


When I had walked my quota for the day, I cleared my throat in French, and started looking in earnest.  The third place I tried took me in.  I got the password off the router itself, and they brought me a chair and a glass of water.  I had wonderful contact with the outside world for about an hour and a half.  I was with the family in a breezeway, which consisted of one outside wall, a cement floor and a roof, with an ocean view.  It was the coolest part of the house, which was why everyone was there, and to make it cooler, they brought out a fan.  When I had to go back to the ship, they didn’t want to take any money, but I left ten bucks under the router, which had done yeoman service, compared to the wimp on the ship.


My hosts turned out to be the Harrys family.  So here’s a picture of our relatives in French Polynesia:

160122-007 RangiroaLesHarrys

Sailaway was just beautiful.  Rangiroa is an atoll, a circular mass of coral, with a lagoon in the centre.  There is a hole dredged through the coral for ships to get in and out.  There were two of us going out at about the same time.  We left first, with Oceania Marina following closely.  You would think I would have fabulous pictures, from our stern, of her “shooting the hole”, but, alas, the sun was such that I couldn’t see what I was taking so I pointed and I shot, and I wasn’t so lucky.


Showtime was a repeat performance for Sarah Chandler and Robbie Howard, and it was good enough.  We love having live entertainment every night after dinner and taking an elevator one deck home.


On January 23, we docked in Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia.  We were going to be here Papeete until 5:00am, and I have been many times before, so Elvon and I had a leisurely breakfast and an hour in the gym, and I did some work, before going out around two.  The market was closed, so no flowers for my desk, but I did get good Internet at the yoghurt shop I used last year.


Ten of us went out to the food trucks on the pier.  After we walked around for a while with no real consensus, nor table space for a large group, we split into twos and fours.  It was a magic night, and the food was great.  Our group had raw tuna and barbequed baby calf, with French fries.  Then we moved on to another truck for crepes.  We waddled back to the ship.  I later learned that we should have waddled past the truck to where local artists were doing very interesting things.


The entertainment we missed was Tahiti Ora, an excellent troupe, all drumming and shaking their grass skirts.  Elvon liked it, for the third or fourth time.  The ships male officers had a party in the Pinnacle for Dolly, who marked 4000 actual days aboard.


In Moorea, French Polynesia, the next day, I left Elvon pedaling in the gym and got off at ten, with Stan and Marilyn.  We were going to the Hilton , for beach time, lunch and Internet.  We got all three and a great taxi driver to boot.  Not cheap, mind you.  The Hilton wanted $90 for its day pass.  It was, however, cheaper and better than the ships excursion, which included a night in the hotel.  We’re told that was a lot of fun, but they were leaving the Hilton at 11:00 m, as we were arriving.  One could mimic this excursion with a ferry ride from Papeete, two taxis and a hotel room.  I would, if the hotel had easy access for Elvon.  It does not.


The Hilton’s lunch was delicious, though.  I had more raw tuna.  This is the place to eat it.  Elizabeth, our taxi driver, was right on time to take us back.  Of course she was.  She’s Swiss.  Her parents moved to Moorea, 85 years ago.  She was born and educated on the island and she’s a tough old bird.  She was a great source of factoids, though, and sharp as a tack at 78.


Dolly was still glowing, and wearing her sparkly commemorative tee shirt, when we got to dinner.  She detained us long enough to make us late to table and our stewards mad.  The entertainment was Bayng Bacon, a repeat, but still fun, comedy, piano, vocals, the works.  “She got the gold mine, and I got the shaft.”


Finally, at sea, on January 25, I started preparing for my wine talk.  It’s the same talk every year, with the addition of whatever monograph the International Wine & Food Society sends me.  This year it’s “Taming the Screwcap”, which I expect to be very interesting.


I took Elvon to the finals of “Crew Chopped” where Gene, the Cruise Director and Pieter, the Executive Chef, were battling it out against Mark, the Events Manager, and Paul, the Culinary Operations Manager.  That promised to be hilarious.


Then I went to my desk to handle the usual and talk needlepoint with Al Vence and Linda Linthicum.  Well, just Linda, really, but you almost never see these two lovebirds apart.  I love it.  Now I have an order for a better needlepoint kit, a book on stitches and a Swiss Army pocket knife.


It was a DV Lunch day in the Dining Room, so I collected Elvon from his culinary event and off we went.  At 2:00 pm, we went to the Culinary Arts Centre, where Jacques, the Cellarmaster, was giving a talk called “Wine About It”.  I think he stole said title from yours truly, who calls hers, “Wine with Helen.”  He dispensed useful factoids, like, the best price-performing wine in the supermarket is on the top or bottom shelf.  They are trying to get rid of the stuff at eye level.  Jacques has no input on the wines served on board, except for on a World Cruise, when he can buy wine in wine producing ports.  His favorite is Villa Maria sauvignon blanc, which is from New Zealand.  If you ever get to Cape Town, taste the wines of St-Constance, Franchode, rather than Stellenbosch.


I went back to my desk to clear my email and Donna Kasprick stopped by to share a dive photo of herself in the cockpit of a WWII bomber under the sea.  Dee Westcott took it and printed it for her.  These two have become dive buddies.  It took 40 minutes to download my email, and prompted me to write to one sender to please only put small pictures in emails.  His had taken 20 of said 40 minutes.  It can be tough out here.


Rebecca had given me all the tickets in bright pink envelopes, by cabin.  I had to remove the ones that were not being used, before I delivered them.  I needed the Auckland Wine Tour ones for the wine stewards.  That done, I made the deliveries and got back to my cabin at 7:15 pm, just in time to change for dinner.


I ordered the California Sauvignon Blanc, from our Navigator’s package, that night.  It was Greystone, 2012.  The color, smell and taste were off.  I figured it was corked.  So, I asked Romeo, our wine steward, to show me the cork.  It was synthetic.  I figured that meant it couldn’t be corked.  Romeo said it was just old.  2012 is not that old.  Our education is just beginning Stay tuned, as I prepare for and deliver my wine talk in the next episode.’’  Anyway, Romeo replaced it with Nobilo, a perfectly acceptable New Zealand sauvignon, from the Admiral’s package, as if it were from the Navigator package, so we were happy.


The entertainment was “Strings Alive,” a violin and a guitar, and they were excellent.