2023 – 3 – Grand World 3.2 of 5 Africa

2023 – 3 – Grand World 3.2 of 5 Africa

We weren’t in Africa yet on Monday, March 6.  It was another sea day.  I dealt with that which needed dealing with and got a log, a blog and a newsletter out.  Happy hour was positively riotous, with the two couples and my 2012 table-mate, Beryl Mitton.  Beryl is a stitch.  She was bitching about all the youngsters holding up the line of boats at the waterfall.  She said she gave them the finger, but old ladies are invisible, so it didn’t change anything.  It made us laugh, though.  We know.

We had Wilco, the Chief Engineer, for dinner at the table and he was very entertaining, too.  We closed the dining room.  Then we went up to the “Crew Party” with passengers included.  I had a gingerale and hob-nobbed with Henk, the Hotel Manager, Christal, his wife, Manesh his 2IC, Shiv the Chief Housekeeper, Maja, the Front Desk Manager, Michelle the Groups Coordinator, Elijah Rock, the Singer, and Mark Palmer, the Comedian.  I also greeted about thirty passengers that I knew, fifteen of whom were DV.  Are you still wondering why I like this so much?

Tuesday, March 7, was another sea day.  I spoke to one of my passengers, who had just got back on board, having been prevented from visiting Oz, on a whim of Australian customs.  So they had spent a couple of weeks on Mauritius.  There are worse places, especially in March.  I live in one of them.  Dee Wescott came by to chat and t tell me how right I was about a world cruise making caregiving easy.  She is delighted with the progress Wells is making, just by being around a lot of people that he can have fun with. 

Elijah Rock had some time on his hands so he spent 15 minutes worth of it with me.  I liked that.   We had the lecturer, Daniel Silke for dinner and he was delightful.  We also liked the guitarist duo CH2.

On Wednesday, March 8, we were happy to be in Maputo, Mozambique.  I went on a ship’s tour.  I met up with a few of my people, which was an unexpected pleasure.  Our guide, Bartolomeo, was very good.  He first took us to the Central market, which had a lot of food, wigs, and the usual crappy souvenirs.  I did, however, manage to lay my hands on a great present for Robbie.  It was one of a kind, and I am pretty sure it was used, as it is quite misshapen and seems to be missing a bar.  It was probably a lunch box but my plan is to fill it with Robbie’s balls, as I give him about a dozen a day from my desk,  He takes them into the living room to play, and comes back when he has lost the current one under the sofa.  I’ll keep them in this now and expect to be entertained by him trying to get them out.

After the market, we went to Independence Square, getting our history lesson on the way.  Maputo was German at first, then a Portuguese colony.  Samora Machel, whose statue dominates the square, declared independence in 1984 and later signed a major agreement with Ronald Reagan, whereby English became the language of trade.  Now it’s taught in all the schools and basically taking over.  His second wife, second wife, Graça Simbine, married Nelson Mandela after Machel was killed.  She must have been something.  But, I digress.  Mozambique has been a democracy only since 1994 and is still struggling to get its infrastructure up to speed. 

We were there on International Women’s Day and saw a lot of women demonstrating in the square.  They still have a ways to go to be equal to the men here, but they have come a long way in a short time.   We visited the Iron House – yes, a house made entirely of iron in a very hot country.  It was built to house the Portuguese Governor, but he quickly realized it was more like an oven and moved out.  Then we visited their museum of natural history, full of stuffed animals, many in rather gruesome poses.  Then there was the collection of elephant fetuses.  They haven’t got over the recent civil war, which lasted 15 years and wiped out most of the schools.  They still have 65 students per class, while they try to catch up.  Many people still don’t have fresh water either.  Things could definitely be better.  They are getting help, but that is worrisome, too.  For instance, there is now a brand new bridge connecting Maputo to South Africa, which saves a lot of time.  It was paid for by the Chinese Government, who have been investing like mad in infrastructure, all over the world.  When they want to rule the world, it won’t take a war.

It was a good sailaway and I just had dinner right there on Deck 9, Aft, with the Starrs, Park and Annie.   The movie was Nelson Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom, and, for once, the movie was good.

Back at Sea on Thursday, March 9, and it was business as usual, Happy Hour and dinner in the Pinnacle as a group again.  We were missing a few people, three of them from my dinner table.  They had the hysterical comedian for dinner and I was missing it.  It happens when you are booking entertainers who only have a couple of possible nights, in this case, only one and it conflicted.  No biggie.  We still had a very good time.  Elijah Rock was on stage again, in his final appearance.  We’ll miss him.

We docked in Durban, South Africa on Friday, March 10 and I took another ship’s tour.  This time I hooked up with Beryl Mitton, which is always a pleasure.  Durban is the biggest port in South Africa and the port for Johannesburg.  We were on our way to visit the Zulu nation in the Valley of 1000 Hills.  The diverse clans became the Zulu nation in 1816 and they have had nine kings since then.  They are not crowned, they are coronated, just so’s you know.  It’s a beautiful drive to get there and is very picturesque country with picturesque natives. 

They had a dance to show us.  It was the wedding dance, depicting the contract (11 cows for a wife), the engagement, and the wedding itself.  Sailaway was fun.  The Rolling Stones Lounge band is leaving us and so, after dinner, they gave a concert on the main stage.  They are excellent but when they said it was music from the 60s-70s-80s, they were smoking something.  It was heavy metal from the 90s and 2000s.  We should know.  We were there.  They weren’t. 

Saturday, March 11, we should have been East London, South Africa.  We missed another port because of weather and likely poor planning, on Holland America’s part.  These big ships can’t really do the little harbours.  I spent some of the time working on my July in Napa.  I finished and sent a log and a blog and started a newsletter for March 13.  Had dinner at the table and enjoyed another hysterical round of Mark Palmer.

On Sunday, March 12, we were in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Today’s tour has been much modified from the tour description.  It was a “townships” tour and if you have read Trevor Noah’s book, which I highly recommend, you’ll have an idea of what we were supposed to be in for.  We had already had a letter from the shore excursions department that we were NOT going to walk around the townships speaking to the residents as advertised.  That came as no surprise.  I imagine we would be either resented or targeted, or both.  But it was good for us to see.  Port Elizabeth is on Nelson Mandela Bay and is home to Nelson Mandela University and the Nelson Mandela stadium.  It has a new name “Gqeberha“ but no one but the Xhosa (Zulus)  can pronounce it, so it still goes by Port Elizabeth.  It wasn’t named after the Queen, either, but rather one Elizabeth Duncan, who was honored as a “perfect person”.  The fact that it was Sunday, didn’t improve the tour.  Most things were closed, like the school we were to visit and the Post Office, which is closed permanently, thanks to the Internet, as if there wasn’t enough unemployment in these parts. 

Mandela and his Nelson Mandela Foundation, built houses and schools, both of which vastly improved the lot of the common people, at least at first.  But without employment, youth turns to crime.  The prosperous looking houses have ADT signs in their front yards that say “ARMED RESPONSE”.  Rubbish is picked up once a week, but it has to be gathered into bags or containers and Port Elizabeth isn’t known as the “windy city” for nothing, so it is all over the place.  Our guide, Mongo, thinks the younger generation is more environmentally conscious and it’s the old folks who are used to just tossing trash.  He was born is a shack and now lives in a Mandela house.  Here are a few pics:

Mixed neighborhood, shacks with outhouses and some Mandela houses.

Typical Mandela houses

Better Houses

With front yards that discourage loitering.

And litter everywhere.

We stopped once.  It was some sort of public building with good rest rooms.  We were met by the police who opened the gate for our bus to pass and closed it after us.  There were free soft drinks and a couple of artisans selling their wares.  I was first to buy a beautiful beaded collar and, when she was down to only one and it was red and black, I bought that, too. A good few of us were wearing them around the ship for a couple of days.  They are surprisingly warm.    

We stopped at Nelson Mandela Stadium, where there should have been a larger craft fair, but no one showed up to let us in.  Maybe because it was a Sunday, maybe they just didn’t want to sell to us.  You have to wonder why not.  We were open to buy.  Back on the ship, there was a production show, and it was very, very good. 

2023 – 3 – Grand World 3.1 of 5 – On to Africa

2023 – 3 – Grand World 3.1 of 5 – On to Africa

On Monday, February 27, we were at sea.  There was plenty of work of all sorts and I did it until four o’clock.  Then I took a wine glass out of my bar cupboard and stepped out to our block party.  That was a lot of fun.  It got too crowded in our hall, so we took it to our elevator lobby and ended up with a bunch of port side people, too.  Henk and Christel came by and it was great to see her.  Old friends, Ginny and Dean are on our block and I think I have made some more friends, Rolande from Quebec and Leigh and Ken Parrot.

I had planned to hold a lottery at Happy Hour, to see who got to go to GOLD in Cape Town, but there was now no need, as they had given me 24 seats, so we will all go, except for the three people who wanted the fancy French meals.  I would have been with them, but my job is to go with the majority, and so I will.

Elijah Rock, a classic crooner, with a bit of tap dance, was on stage and he was excellent, not to mention easy on the eyes.

Still at sea on Tuesday, February 28, same drill, checked my email, did the client work it brought and the shipboard admin.  I don’t go to lectures or concerts, nor do I participate in arts and crafts, Bridge, or Trivia.  I pretty much just do my jobs, log and blog, and have my fun in the evening.  If I tried to fit the other stuff in, I would just be stressed all the time, and not do as good a job.  It helps that I really enjoy what I do.  From the time I was in kindergarten, I was the kid that organized the playground games at recess.  It’s in my DNA.

Beryl came to office hour to tell me that she and Nona had booked a tulip tour in Amsterdam and I should, too.  I duly went up to the shore excursions desk and did that.

My cabin is next door to one of two Pinnacle Suites and I was going to dinner with the occupants this night.  Kelly, from Arizona, and Polly, from Georgia, had invited me over for a glass of wine before and I was dying to see the suite.  I have a client in Montreal, who thinks this just might be the ticket for two women traveling together who can’t see sharing 250 sq. ft. and one sink.  Kelly and Polly are very happy in the Pinnacle Suite.  It’s 1290 sq.ft. including verandah, almost as big as my apartment in Montreal, which is 1350  sq.ft.  It has a separate master bedroom and the living room converts into a king bed at night.  They both have wide screen TVs, there’s a dining room, an enormous deck, with a hot tub, a walk-in closet and two bathrooms.  The master bath has a tub and a shower.  Kelly has all that and Polly uses the shower whenever she wants it, because the powder room, which is her bathroom, is, well, a powder room.  They each have a desk.  Polly has the better one of these.  It’s in the dining room.  There’s a huge armoire of dishes and glassware for entertaining and a butler’s pantry with a full-sized fridge, sink, counter, etc.  Singles pay double for regular cabins, so this really does start to make sense, especially if you can pick it up as a last-minute upgrade to a Neptune suite. 

I missed Trevor Knight at the dinner table, but you can’t have it all.  Kelly and Polly and I ate in the dining room and got along like a house on fire.  We’ll do it again.  We split up after dinner, as I wanted to see the movie, Tar, with Cate Blanchett.  What a mistake that was.  None of the movies has been good.  They are picked because they are award winners and/or Oscar nominees, and I don’t know who thinks they deserve it.  This one was bloody awful.  It was dark and slow moving and it never pulled itself to a conclusion.  After 2 hours and 38 minutes of freezing my butt in our meat locker of a theatre, they just rolled the credits, with no warning. 

Yes, we were still at sea on Wednesday, March 1. I had a newsletter to deliver and elected to do that early in the morning, as it would serve as a reminder for Ken Stein’s talk in the afternoon. 

I did a final check with Nyron that we did, indeed, have ONE catamaran and TWO buses.  Then I went to the Hudson Room, where Ken Stein was scheduled in our Distinctive Speakers Series, at 4:00pm.  Being after Bridge, allowed us to attract a bunch of Bridge players and I charged them, too, because Holland America was making us pay for the audio-visual support. 

Next I was off to a cocktail party in Dan’s room on Deck 5.  Dan is a single guy, who was once one of my Distinctive Voyagers.  He likes to have little parties to get people he thinks should meet, together.  He has reconfigured his cabin for more space by having one of the beds collapsed and stored behind the couch.  It works well.  I think there were nine of us in there and we could all sit down in an oval configuration and share one conversation.  Brilliant, Dan.  Good choice of people, too. 

We had Elijah Rock for dinner and I was delighted to be seated beside him.  He is an exceptionally nice man.  Trevor Knight was on stage again, with an all John Denver program – very easy listening. 

Finally, on Thursday, March 2, we docked in Port Louis, Mauritius and it was time for our shore excursion.  Everyone was on time so off we went. There was a surprise waiting in the parking lot. We didn’t have two big buses, we had four little buses.  The one I had only had a driver on it, so I assumed that was the case for all four buses, and adjusted the tips accordingly.  At the end of the bus ride, ride, there was a bigger surprise.  It wasn’t a big dock and a 120-passenger catamaran but a very small dock and three much smaller catamarans.  That’s challenging for the structurally impaired, or just old and rickety.

The Catamaran experience itself was wonderful, especially wonderful for those who were able enough to get onto the bows of the cats.  It required a lot of sunscreen in the morning, but none later in the day when it had clouded over to an absolutely perfect temperature.  Weather wise, it was a glorious day.  It would have been too hot for most other activities, but this one, full of wind and water, was perfect.  The experience differed markedly from the tour description, mind you, which promised, coastal scenery and deep-water snorkeling.  

The coastal scenery was only briefly visible in the river on the way to the waterfall.  The rest of the time, it was just water, water all around, punctuated by parasailing activity, which was beautiful to watch.  The waterfall itself was lovely.  While we took small boats to get our photo opportunities, the crew cooked the BBQ lunch in the protected water of the river, and served it to us, just as we came out of there.  It was positively delicious. 

I understand there was a good snorkeling spot near a reef, but that recent weather activity had so churned up the water that there was nothing to see.  So, they took us to a beach to swim and snorkel, and, again, the time passed the fastest for those able to get into the water and enjoy it.  The swim cooled us off.  There was enough wind to hoist the sails on the way back, but they kept the motor on to meet the schedule.    I spent sailaway with Becky and Mario and a very nice Canadian Couple, who now live in Malta.  Dinner at the table was fun but the movie was worse than Tar, if that’s possible.  It was the critically acclaimed “The Banshees of Inisherin”.  It has all Tar’s faults and was gratuitously gruesome to boot.  Now I know I have to see the rest of the movies, just to see if it can possibly get any worse.

On Friday, March 3, we were in La Possession, Reunion.  I worked in my room all morning, mostly writing up yesterday’s shore excursion.  Then I went out in La Possession.  I took the shuttle into town accompanied by a lot of crew.  Once there I found the old market, now ye olde souvenir mart.  There was nothing there I wanted to buy, so I went clothes shopping.  I found the shops, a pair of white tights, and some wonderful gelato, which I shared with a nice gal from the ship, named Julia.  I somehow had managed to walk even further from the shuttle pickup.  Good thing I speak French.  It made it easier to get turned around and pointed in the right direction.  Next I found a bus, boarded it and asked the driver if he went down where I wanted to go.  He did. Bon.  He did not take cards, nor US$.  Not so bon.  I told him how old I was, and how tired I was, and asked him what I should do.  “Faites ce que vous voulez” he said.  So I sat down on the bus. When it was time to get off, I gave him a couple of bucks, thanked him and told him to “Faites ce que vous voulez avec ça”.  “Oo la la, merci” said he.  That will get paid forward.

I went to sailaway where we learned we would be bypassing Madagascar.  It was being hammered by cyclone Freddie and it was going to get worse before it got better.  We were going to give it a very wide berth.  I hung around enjoying sailaway in the dark, until it was time to go to the table for dinner and our terrific entertainer, Elijah Rock.

Back at sea on Saturday, March 4, I took some calls and did some work.  Office Hour was busy and I got the bill for the AV for Ken’s March 1 talk.  It was less than half of what I expected.  I signed that chit and set to thinking what I was going to so with the extra money I now had.  I figured out a good solution.  The next three talks are going for a bargain rate.  I can’t make them free because too many people had already paid, but those that did, get the rest for free. 

Happy Hour was good, with the Hobsons, Peggy and Vicki and Doris.  I had dinner with Shari and Pat and the three of us enjoyed the wine Cher recommended, Andrew Peace’s Langhorn Creek, Cab Sav 2021, Western Australia.  We also enjoyed the production show, Avalon Ballroom.

Sunday, March 5, we should have been in Tolanero, Madagasgar, but were were at sea, again.  I spent a good part of the day creating another newsletter, for delivery on March 6.  Now that I had a plan about what to do with my fee-based speaker series, I spent some time creating a spread sheet to deal with it.  I solve most of my problems with spreadsheets.  I don’t like to brag, but I just might be the queen of paperwork.  Computer-based paperwork, that is.  The comedian on stage, Mark Palmer, was hysterical.  He got right to the bone with the COVID jokes, like you couldn’t even cough to hide a fart, the fat passenger ship jokes, the obnoxious airplane passengers.  Really edgy stuff.  I loved it.

2023 – 2 – Grand World 2.3 of 5 Farewell to Australia

2023 – 2 – Grand World 2.3 of 5 Farewell to Australia

On Monday, February 20, we were still at sea, going around the land down under.  I produced a talk in my Distinctive Speakers Series, and it went well and I got a Newsletter out quickly about the RPYC Nepalese Dinner available, tomorrow. The talk, on being a Navy Diver, went very well.  The man is a very entertaining speaker. 

The next day we docked in Freemantle, port for Perth. With just a day’s notice, I only had two couples take me up on the New Members’ Dinner at the Royal Perth Yacht Club, and both would be making it there on their own.  I decided to conserve energy (mine) by going out after noon, shopping a bit in Perth and taking a taxi from downtown Perth, which would be closer.  It was a long walk to the train Station from the ship, but the train was clean and pleasant to ride.  It dropped us off in the center of town, where there was a post office and an information Kiosk.  I got a map and found out where David Jones was.  I also got directions as to where to find “tea” after I had shopped.  The shopping was disappointing, as it is most places in the world, now.   I find nice outfits but they are usually made of heavy synthetics. I sweat in synthetics, and I like to travel light.  I’ll be wearing my old silk clothes until I die in them, at this rate.  Even when  am ready to spend money, I don’t seem to be able to.  The downtown core has been turned into a bunch of walking streets so it is like a big outdoor mall.  I found the recommended place for tea (the experience) and it wasn’t really, but they did have tea (the beverage) and a millefeuille, so I made do with that.  Then I walked around some more, had a gelato, and decided to go to the yacht club early.

When I got there, the new members ceremony was about to start.  I spent some time chatting with Kelley, the Club’s Marketing Manager and Janet, the vice Commodore.  Gillian, the membership person promised to look out for my people as they came in.  Then I noticed Becky and Mario, and excused myself to join them.  At that point the speeches began.  We got a short history of the club, the flag officers and the new members.  We also learned about a few of their traditions.  For example, they race dressed all in white.  In 2023.  Just imagine. They also have a nice tradition of ringing the bell to buy a round for the house.  You have to do it when you have done something wrong, like show up for a race in red, or something good, like winning an important one.  The vice-commodore rang it to welcome the new members, so we all got a free drink.  All but Tracy and Tom, who were still downstairs, too shy to come up while all this was going on.  We met up just after and in time for Kelley to give us a special tour of the Alan Bond America’s Cup room.  You can guess what’s in there and you’d be right:  a board room table and chairs, and a lot of photos and memorabilia af the 1983 America’s Cup that this club won from the USA after 132 years.  In a glass case, facing you as you enter the door, is the replica cup that the NYC gave to RPYC, when they won.  The real thing moves around every time it is won by a different club, of course.  They keep the room locked at all times, unless there’s a meeting going on.  They found it like this, when they came back from Alan Bond’s funeral.  Kelley was the one who opened the door.…..

We broke the contemplative mood by going downstairs to dinner, which was scrumptious.  The Nepalese food was a nice change for us.  They sat us at a table for 10 with a flag officer and four members.  We made a couple of new friends and I will certainly be getting the RStLYC to be writing RPYC for reciprocity.  None of our members should ever have to miss this place if they are in the vicinity.  OK, so it’s half way around the world, but…we travel.

Still in Freemantle, the next day, I went ashore in Freemantle.   First I had some DV business to attend to and I had a thank you note to write to the Royal Perth Yacht Club.  It included this:

PS for my Zuiderdam friends reading this, I found the trailer to Untold – The New Documentary about the America’s Cup that Kelley recommended.  It’s coming to Netflix and we’ll be watching when we get home.  New Documentary About Historic 1983 America’s Cup To Debut On Netflix (forbes.com)

I went out well after noon.  It was a long walk to anywhere from the ship here.  I took the free shuttle bus into Freemantle.  From the drop off point, I walked around, browsing the stores and sizing up where I would break my fast, come 4:00 pm.  I found a semi-upscale noodle shop, two doors down from a gelato place.  Those would do nicely.  Then I got on the free bus that circles the town, dropping locals off at the beach or the train station, and providing a scenic ride for the tourists, with a couple of good museum stops.  Things that are free have their own cost, mind you.  I noticed that the driver was in a secure looking cage, and that should have bothered me, but it didn’t, until a very dicey looking character got on at the beach.  We had had one of these guys on the train in Adelaide, too.  Substances obviously played a part in his behavior, and my fellow passengers and I gave him a wide berth.  He got off at the next stop, giving the bus a good hard bang with his bag, as he did so.  The bus driver went a half a mile down the road, stopped the bus, came out of her cage and checked us all.  We were fine. 

At the stop for the train station, she told us that was the end for this bus and we should get out and take the next one.  I met up with Tracy Li, who had been to Perth and was now having a look at Freemanle.  As we rode into town, I told her about the noodle shop and asked her if she fancied joining me for yum cha.  She did, but wanted to take the bus around its route first. That was only twenty minutes so I agreed.  I had already forgotten about the local color.  Of course he re-boarded, where the last bus had let him off and made us all nervous again, this time for a lot more stops.  Really ruins the sightseeing, that.  He got off before we did, but this time, we did get off at the yum cha stop and went in and had it.  It was mediocre dim sum, but the décor was nice and it was still satisfying.  The ice cream cone at the gelato place was even more so. 

Sailaway was nice and I gave the entertainment a by.  It was the movie Armageddon Time, which I figured would be way too dark.

Back at sea on Thursday, February 23, It was about time I got serious about what I was going to do in Africa, so I got hold of Nona, who had just taken the Grand Africa in October and I picked her brain for the second time, parsed it as best I could and booked some ship’s tours.  I went walkabout looking for a room for the next Distinctive Speaker and came up with the Hudson Room, after Bridge.  There’s another room, The Stuyvesant Rom, which would have been perfect and even has a permanent screen, but the Friends of Bill W. have it every day at four o’clock, leaving no room for the Friends of Helen M.  We’ll go with the Hudson.

Then I did some research on restaurants in Cape Town to make use of the overnight there.  I found a good few and decided to narrow them down to ones with an African Experience or great food in a beautiful old building.  Speaking of dinner, we had a wonderful young guest, Leah Dann. She’s the current lecturer on bard and, by all reports, she’s excellent. She’s a PhD Candidate studying marsupials, so it’s no wonder we found her in Australia. She has put the more mature lecturers to shame. The show was interesting.  Our dance band took to the World Stage, with Jazzed-Up Beatles music.  Who doesn’t like that?

At sea again on Friday, I was still researching restaurants, when Barbara, the Virtuoso host, stopped by.  She and her husband had lived in Cairo for a good few years and they would take short vacations in Cape Town the way Elvon and I used to go to Bangkok or Singapore.  She knew the territory and helped me narrow our choices down.  She really vouched for GOLD, the African Experience, with the drumming and dancing and native African foods.  It was sold out on the Internet, so I crafted this sad little email:

Subject: At Sea and Hoping against hope

I am traveling around the world on the ms Zuiderdam, which will overnight in Cape Town on March 14. It would bea particular delight to be able to dine, with a few of my ship mates, at your Restaurant. We would be ordering the full Monte, with the drumming to start. I see you are sold out to Internet orders, but my experience at home (Montreal,now, and Napa for 25 years) is that you have a little wiggle room for particularly worthy guests. I can definitely get mine to dress up and behave. They are world cruisers, after all.

Please let me know how many of us you could possibly accommodate. I would need a minimum of four and could probably fill 8 seats easily. I will be meeting the group for dinner tomorrow night and would like to present then.

Thank you for your help.

Purrs, Helen

I also wrote to The Mount Nelson, Azure in The 12 Apostles Hotel and Ellerton House.  Our overnight, March 14, is a Tuesday, which a bad night to be dining out, but I had to try.  That’s the night we have.

I ate at the table and went to the show.  It was Trevor Knight, an Aussie, who had spent time in the USA in the 60s and performed with the Kingston Trio, John Denver, etc.  He was born in 1948, so one of us.  I thoroughly enjoyed him, right down to Puff, the Magic Dragon.  I can’t remember now if it was in this show or the next that he actually recited “The Cremation of Sam McGee” and all us Canadians recited along with him, as much as we remembered.  Quirky, and fun.  He’s a Horse Whisperer, too, and gave a few lectures on horses.

Saturday, February 25, was another day at sea, with a lot to do and a fun answer from GOLD, the African experience:

Dear Helen,

We would hate for you to feel lost at sea and a little hope goes a long way.

Please see what we can offer :

18h30 OPTIONAL interactive djembe drumming experience followed by a soothing hand washing ceremony R120pp

19h00 our Set African Feast (set menu attached) served at your table in sharing and individual portions, together with live entertainment R455pp + 10% service charge

We have made a provisional booking for you at 18:30 on the 14th of March 2023 for 8 of you, dressed and ready to behave as we do in Africa – with some rhythm and laughs.

Please let us know if there are any dietaries we need to be aware off. We look forward to welcome you and the crew soon –bring your land legs.

Kind regards

Lita Brits

PA to the Managing Director

So I started working on a newsletter, as this was very good value to us. 

Dinner in the Canaletto was a lot of fun.  Twenty-one people came, including the Sanders.  Instead of sitting at one of the tables for 8, I sat with them and Addy Adler, who had wanted a picture with me badly at the last party.  She got it this time:

And we made out in time for the Production Show: Classique, which was a repeat but better than the first one.  The cast is coming together nicely and we are getting to know them.  They are great kids.

Sunday, February 26 was another busy sea day. Dinner was fine and the comedian, Martin Ralph, was pretty good.

2023 – 2 – Grand World 2.2 of 5 More of Australia

2023 – 2 – Grand World 2.2 of 5 More of Australia

I neglected to mention that we actually docked in Hobart, Tasmania, yesterday evening, February 13, which was why I was in the Crow’s Nest early. It’s interesting to be on the pointy end going in and I had friends in the persons of Cindy and Frank.  I had also been nursing cold symptoms for much of the day and had taken a COVID test to be sure it would be OK for me to come out.  Of course, it was, or I wouldn’t have.

I was glad of the port day, too, as I could use it to rest and recuperate.  I missed a good day, though.  It was a holiday and the tall ships were in town.  The yacht club, which was just beside us, had opened its main committee boat for public viewing.  They use it to open and close the festival.  Nona texted me from shore about it, adding that Princess Diana had been on it.  I would certainly have grooved on that but every once in a while, you have to take care of your bod, so it will take care of you the rest of the time.

I also missed Bonorong Wildife Sanctuary, which I am noting here for the next time.  Dee never misses it.  You can cuddle the animals, all but the Tazmanian devils, who will take your arm off.

Today we were cruising Cape Raoul and it was scenic.  While I was working in my cabin, with the balcony door open, my steward knocked on the door with a delivery.  It was a lovely box of truffles and the box itself was made of chocolate.  It came from Anvers, Tasmania, a gift of one of my couples, in thanks for my efforts to get them into the group.  It was gorgeous and yummy, somewhere between milk and dark chocolate.  The rose came from the Captain and crew.

I was suitably cheered up, tested myself for COVID, again and went to dinner, just with Lynann.  The Wescotts are having two big Pinnacle parties and we are invited to next month’s one.  It was fine with me.  I like Lynann and it gave us the chance to have a nice frank conversation, talk a little business and dish the dirt.  Australian Comedian Jim Short was on the Main Stage and he was pretty funny. 

Tuesday, February 14 was Valentine’s Day and we were still at sea.  Three or four people had business with me and I puttered the afternoon away, took another COVID test and went to dinner.  On formal nights, the ship sends us an officer, as a “table host”.  That means he buys wine for us.  Tonight’s was an Officer Cadet, named Ranier.  He is Dutch and 22 years old, lots of fun for the LOLs.  We gave him an earful of the kind of stuff the ship wants to learn by sending the officers out among us.  He’ll have plenty to report. 

We weren’t going to dock in Adelaide until early afternoon, on Wednesday, February 15 so I did a bit of yacht club research in the morning.  I found out that the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron was in the Outer Harbour, where we were docking, and that it had Wednesday night races, which I took to mean “Sailors Suppers”.  I took down its address and web site and filed it away for later. 

At three o’clock, I went out with Nona and Beryl. We caught the commuter train into the centre of town and took off for Rundle Mall.  It was a useful sort of shopping trip, got a few essentials, but didn’t see a suitable pub.  So we took a tram back to the train station and got the 5:42 back to Outer Harbour.  Ir was 6:30 by the time we got there and Nona liked the Yacht Club idea.  Tom and Tracy McClintock happened to be in our rail car, so I asked them if they would like to join us, and they did.  We took a short taxi ride to the club and I presented my credentials.  They were accepted and we were invited to choose a table on the patio.

The patio overlooks the harbour and beyond that a breakwater that they must have sold to build their nice modern clubhouse because this is the view:

Most of the tables on the patio were taken.  By all that’s right and holy, these people should have been in their boats, tacking and jibing and coming about, but, there was no wind.  It was a beautiful night but it was dead calm.  So the race had been called.  A couple of officers came over to talk to us and next thing you knew, someone was on a microphone introducing us, with our hometowns, and my credentials from two yacht clubs.  We were being treated like celebrities. 

The food was delicious and people kept stopping by our table to chat.  It was a fabulous experience.  One of the members even drove us back to the ship.  Now THAT is hospitality. 

When I got back to my cabin, the message light was on, on my phone.  I decided to leave it for the morning.  I won’t be doing that again.  It was Linda Starr, telling us they had hired a driver for a wine tour to the Barossa Valley in the morning, and would I like to come.  About that pig’s ass, but I had to ask if Nona could come, too, because I was committed to her.  Yes, she would be welcome, and yes, she wanted to come, so tomorrow is well taken care of.

Still in Adelaide, on Wednesday, February 15, Nine in the morning came quickly and the four of us were out meeting Slade, right near the ship.  It was his first wine tour.  Arthur and Linda had talked him into doing it in a bar the night before.  He had done a little research, and he knew who the top three boutique wineries were, so we were all set. 

Our first winery was Kies, where we were greeted by Megan, who was lovely, of course.  What was more lovely is that they don’t charge for wine tastings in the Barossa Valley, which is the Australian equivalent of Napa, where they charge plenty.  Megan explained basket pressing to us.  It’s not something we had heard of before.  We do it with bladders in California.  I really liked the 2020 Klauber Block Shiraz and the 2020 Cab Sav, The Suit.  It’s a pity I am too cheap to give the ship another $18 for corkage as these were good value at AUD 35 and 55 respectively.  I am regretting this as I write.

Next came a strange interlude where we tried to find Slade’s second winery and ended up on all sorts or roads where there was nothing at all.  In the middle of all this seeking, we came upon his third winery, so we decided to go in there.  It looked good to us:

And we thought we looked good on its steps.  We went inside and found Luke to take care of us.  The winery was Chateau Yaldara and Luke was a big, burly guy, covered in tattoos, and just as nice as could be.  We tasted a 2022 Sauvignon Blanc that wasn’t acidic at all.  I loved it and I should have bought some.  Next we had the 2018 Foundations Shiraz, which was perfectly delicious.  I wasn’t as big on the Petit Verdots, but their Tawny (Port that you cannot call Port) was to die for.  His wife had incorporated it into chocolates that made me break my fast.  Now, if they had been selling those, I would surely have bought some.  It’s probably just as well, though, because the temperature was going up over a hundred and we were a long way from the ship.

We left Chateau Yaldara very happy and got happier still when we happened to spy the big signs for Keller Meister that everyone had been telling us about, everyone but google maps, that is.  We turned in there and it was just stunning, as were the wines, served by the very personable Kerry.  She served us a very nice 2021 Pinot Gris from the Eden Valley, called Rambling Ruins and a 2019 Barossa Grenache Shiraz Mataro called The Funk Wagon.  When we reacted nicely, she got into the Luxury reds, like the 2020 Black Sash Old Vine Barossa Shiraz, which goes for $88.50AUD and the 2018 Roccamora Single Vineyard Ancestor Vine Stonegarden Eden Valley Grenache at $175/bottle, and the 2017 The Meister – Single Vineyard Eden Valley Shiraz at $265/bottle that won Best of the Best Shiraz at the 2021 Halliday Wine Competition.  She never charged us a penny to pour all this beautiful wine.  This Napa girl thought she had died and gone to heaven and this is what heaven looks like to Nona and Helen.

Slade dropped us back at St. Francis Cathedral in Adelaide around two o’clock, as it was on Nona’s bucket list and the Starrs wanted to see it, too.  The more I tour churches in other parts of the world, the more I appreciate Montreal, where we decommission churches that are more beautiful than most new world cities’ cathedrals.  I’ll bone up on ours if anyone who visits me is interested.  St. Francis was in easy walking district of the Central Market, and markets are always on our list.  So is Chinese food and Slade had told us of BBQ City, with the Ducks and Char Siu hanging in the window.  We went in and had a meal that doubled as breakfast and supper.

So, we went to the early show, and it was a good one, a local Australian group, called “The Beggars”.  They were very like The Seekers (Georgy Girl, etc.) and very entertaining. 

Friday, February 17, we were in Penneshaw, on Kangaroo Island.  It was a tender port, there was no rush to get off, and I had work to do.  When I did go out around noon, I met Lynann on the tender and we hooked up.  We took the shuttle up to the top of the mountain and then to the center of the tiny town.  There are only 5,000 people on this little piece of heaven, and they are spread all over the place.  Their lifeline is a very businesslike looking ferry to the mainland.  On days like this, when there’s a ship, there’s a crafts market and artists and other vendors come over from the mainland.  Their wildlife rescue team has a booth, too.  That’s the kind of thing I like to support, so I bought six art carts for $20 AUD, which was actually a bargain, period.  They had brought a rescue joey with them.  This little guy was the size of your fist, all pink and hairless, when his mother got killed.  He’s eight weeks old now and appears to be thriving.  I asked to take his picture and was told I had to buy something, and, since I already had, you get a look at this adorable little guy.  They have a few months to go before he is up and running and ready to re-join a herd, if one will take him.  But he’s awfully cute and I wish him luck.

We went around to the rest of the booths and had some interesting chats with the vendors.  One of the things we learned is that we are one of the friendliest ship populations they have had through.  I get that.  We are together for four months and get to be more like family.  Someone told me the gelato place down the road’s product was special, so I planned to break my fast with a salted caramel honey gelato in a magic cone.  I could just taste it, as we went through the local IGA, which was a good one. I popped another six yoghurts in my bag for breaking other fasts.  I can’t have tea all the time, too many carbs.

Lynann fell in love with the blue-eyed Greek, who was dispensing the gelato.  He had run out of salted caramel but one scoop of honey gelato and one of the darkest chocolate gelato I had ever met satisfied me but good.  Lynann wanted to take the vendor home with her.  He was pretty cute. 

Our table was reunited for dinner and Jim Short was on stage again and even better than the first time. 

Back at sea on Saturday, February 18,  office hour was quiet, so I had a long talk with Manesh, 2IC to the Hotel Manager.  If anyone is going to Singapore anytime soon, eat at Zam Zam.  It’s Malaysian, Indian, Arab fusion.  Have matapa, which is naan with meat curry with everything in it. The fish head curry is fabulous, too.  Are you salivating yet?  We talked about a lot of food and some drink.  I recommended the Atlas Gin Bar for his next trip, and we’ll both end up in the Newton Circus Hawker Center, eating chili crab, because we always do.

We had our 4th of 6 cocktail parties, with 47 people attending.  The hors d’oeuvres are good and the wine flows.  No one complains.  A couple of people, hearing about the RSAYS wanted to know when the next yacht club would be, so I’ll research Perth.  Thirty of them came to dinner in the dining room afterwards and that was a lot of fun.  There is a core group that likes to come to these things and they are getting along famously. There was a production show on stage to top the night off. 

There was one more sea day, Sunday, February 19. I did a little googling for yacht clubs in Perth and struck gold.  We are going to be there on a Tuesday night, when there isn’t usually all that much doing, but it seemed this Tuesday was the night of the New Members’ Dinner.  We had either lucked out or were going to be summarily turned away.  So I wrote the club: “I am a member of both the Royal Hong Kong (life absent) and the Royal St. Lawrence (active) Yacht clubs. Attached is one of my letters of introduction.  Currently sailing around the world, on the ms Zuiderdam, I will be in Perth on Tuesday, February 21 and staying overnight. I would love to bring a few friends to visit. Would it be appropriate for us to come to your New Members “A Taste of Nepal? It sounds delicious. How many people would you allow me to bring?“

And in a second email, quickly added: “ After I wrote that, I continued browsing your site and it brought back a great memory. I was in Newport in 1983 for the America’s Cup. As a member of the RStLYC, I was on one of the Canadian frigates that was serendipitously used as a buoy by Australia II and the British entry, Victory.83, at the start of their race. I’ll never forget that experience. They went around us three or four times and we couldn’t figure out how Australia II was turning on a dime… It’s history, now.”

As it was Sunday, I didn’t get an immediate reply, but when I did, it was perfect.  Our little group of six was back at the dinner table, after a few days off, and it was fun catching up.  The show was Sand Artist, John Thiering, and it was very clever, but it was hard to stay awake. 

2023 – 2 – Grand World 2.1 of 5 Sydney and Port Arthur

2023 – 2 – Grand World 2.1 of 5 Sydney and Port Arthur

Monday, February, 6, is a national holiday in Australia.  It’s the day the treaty was signed in 1840.  We spent it at sea.  The desk was busy but I won’t bore you with the details.  We had dinner in The Pinnacle for 27 people and it went very well.  Everyone dressed up and behaved themselves and many told me they were pleased with the seating arrangements that had them meeting new people.  I felt like Perle Mesta.

On Tuesday, February 7, still at sea, my email bought a question about the Zuiderdam, from friends who were booking a cruise on her.  I answered: “BB King is Rolling Stone here – more rock, less blues.  How good it is depends on the band.  We have a good one at the moment.  The first one was just too loud.  They have a piano bar with two pianos in it and it’s a nice place to have a drink.  The decor of the ship is pleasant.  It’s a good long walk end to end.  The Crow’s Nest doubles as the Explorations Cafe and has games and such in it.  That doesn’t thrill me.  A lot of the furniture is very uncomfortable, so you can’t light in one place for too long.  She’s a really pretty ship but this crowd, veterans of many world cruises, wishes they had the Amsterdam back.  It was cozier.

The food is good.  The dining room menu sometimes has three things I really want one night, and nothing the next, but we always get well fed.  The Pinnacle is still delicious.  I took 26 people there last night.  They paid for themselves but I poured from my Cellar no 2, and the Merlot was very popular.  Luna Pinot Grigio was on the list but they had run out of it, only a month in.  The substitute was fine, but I am sure Mike Moone would not be pleased to have made the list, only to have had them not buy enough wine. 

The entertainment is pretty good but they have a nasty habit of skipping a night at least once a week.  That never used to happen.”

The next day, Wednesday, February 8, was our last day at sea before Sydney.  I worked the office hour, put together and delivered a four-page newsletter, including two pages of spreadsheets on our activities in Sydney.  I stopped in the middle of my deliveries to eat something at my 3:30 pm breakfast time, and again later when the Canaletto opened to get a couple of dates.  Then I fielded a bunch of phone calls about Sydney, packed my overnight bag, and went to Happy Hour.  There were a lot of people there, with last minute Sydney questions.  Dinner was good and Cantare, too.

Finally, it was Thursday, February 9, and we were docked in Sydney, Australia.  The ride in on the shuttle rom White Bay to Darling Harbour was uneventful.  With my backpack on my back and Roffice doubling as an overnight bag, I was still mobile but not ready to walk a mile.  I pretty much had to, though.  I found the signs confusing, did not fancy escalators up, with no promise of escalators down on the other side of the highway, etc.  I was a pretty unhappy camper, to tell the truth.  My “go-to”, in such situations, is the best hotel I can see from where I am.  Fancy hotels have doormen, concierges and taxi ranks.  The mistake I made was thinking the taxi rank on the side street beside the hotel, was the official one.  I got a map from the Sofitel concierge and just took the first taxi in the rank.  Google had said it should cost $13-$16 to get to the Sydney Boutique Hotel in Darlinghurst.  I didn’t negotiate on the way in and I never asked to see the meter.  I paid the little shit the $47 he asked for just to get it over with.  And Google had been right.  I was robbed.

Putu, the desk clerk, was the first to offer sympathy for that, and he sweetly schlepped my bags upstairs, too.  It was a nice little place, and I had a nice little balcony, but there was no nice little elevator.  I had been so busy organizing opera tickets and dinners before for a lot of people, that I had been glad to just fall in with the hotel already chosen by Dorothy’s daughter.  And, wouldn’t you know it, my gel polish manicure had parted company with one of my nails last night and needed to come off. 

I found a thing called “Nail Lab” just around the corner and Putu showed me the quick way to get there.  They only had an appointment to remove my red claws, with no time to re-apply.  I took it and postponed my meeting with old Hong Kong friends, Helen Pakchung and Nick Hamilton-Kane, a half hour to fit it in.  There was a cute little coffee shop with a terrace behind, next door to the nail place. I texted all this to Helen and they arrived, by train from the suburbs, fifteen minutes early and popped into the nail salon, where I was having my nails stripped, right in the window.  They went next door and I joined them in due course.  It had begun to rain, so we sat inside after all.

Then the skies opened.  Helen and Nick, who live there, had never see anything like it, except in HK, of course, where we called it a typhoon.  There wasn’t as much wind involved as a proper typhoon, but there was thunder and lightning and it was pelting down in buckets.  It never bothered us a bit and was over by the time we were done catching up over pastries and hot chocolate.  I am so lucky to have good friends all over the world.  Next time I come to Sydney, I am invited to stay with them, and I think I will.  Here’s a picture for my HK friends, who will remember Helen and Nick.  It was taken after the rain stopped, by Vicki, whom we just happened to meet. 

Back at the hotel, I made a phone call to the company that was transporting my Opera goers back to White Bay Cruise Terminal after the performance, and got that all squared away.  Then I used the services of the excellent Putu, to help me organize an Uber to take Cindy, Frank and myself to the Opera.  Vicki had done the same.  The Ubers duly arrived and took us to the Opera for about $15AU each.  It was about the same distance I had paid the $47 for, grrrrr.

I was able to pick up all the tickets I had booked at Will Call and those who had booked their own had no trouble either.  They did organize one big table for us for dinner and it did have a lovely view over the harbour as promised.  So far, so very good:

Don Giovanni, from seat F23 in the Sydney Opera House, was nothing short of magnificent.  I had bought that seat back in October, and it was one of the best in the house.  Everyone on our group had pretty decent seats, too, as this crowd was willing to pay for the best.  They weren’t coming by here that often, after all.  The sets, costumes and performers were all exceptional and three and a half hours passed swiftly for most of us.  There was, of course, no photography allowed during the performance, but Dee got this shot of the curtain calls:

The van driver was a good communicator and I was able to send that contingent off in a timely fashion at the end of the show.  I had left my hat at the dinner venue, and Cindy Lai, bless her, retrieved it for me while I was getting the van people off.  Then our little hotel contingent of seven, set off to find an Uber.  It had been easy when we had good WiFi, but, despite having been able to talk on the phone to the van driver, it wouldn’t work well enough on the cell network to find us a ride – or two.  So we walked out, found cabs, negotiated and got back to the hotel for less than $20 per cab.  As we were getting out of our cab, I got a text saying the minibus had just delivered my ten people back to the ship.  We had lost the others, but Frank and Cindy and I had a nightcap at the Kings Cross’ Rooftop bar, down the street.  There we met a delightful young couple and felt young again, ourselves. 

I woke up early in the hotel, on Friday, and realized I hadn’t planned this stayover well at all.  The smartest thing I could do was probably to take an Uber right back to the ship, drop my stuff and come out again, the ship’s shuttle being one of the better ways to get to Darling Harbour.  I managed to shoot myself in the foot again, this time with Uber.  While on hotel WiFi it would only let me book 40 minutes in advance and wanted $37 for that ride.  Once I had it booked, a cheaper, immediate ride presented itself.  I clicked and took it, getting to the ship for $22.  I asked the driver if the first ride would self-cancel as I couldn’t cancel it once I had left the WiFi and he said it would.  It didn’t and Uber charged me a $30 cancellation fee.  I am so careful not to waste a penny of my clients’ money but, when it’s my own, and I am in a hurry, my guard is down.  I have put in a claim with Uber, who seem to be ignoring it, so I’ll be claiming through PayPal.  It’s all a large PIA. 

I had enough time on the ship to clear my email before getting back in the shuttle line, which was unexpectedly long and slow.  But, I made it to Darling Harbour with 5 minutes to spare to meet my people who wanted to be led to DimSum.  Most of them had gone on their own, wanting to do Paddy’s Market before, rather than after.  Some opted to walk and five of us decided on a taxi, so we walked back over to the Sofitel, as I had done yesterday.  The concierge ordered us a big one this time, but, after about 15 minutes, it had failed to appear, so we took two regular cabs, for about $10 each. 

We had the usual trouble finding our way in to Zilver, but it was very rewarding, once found.  It’s one of the best Dim Sum places in the world, outside of Hong Kong. I don’t have pictures, I was too busy eating.  Next we betook ourselves to Paddy’s Markets, which is rather a shadow of its former self.  I won’t be back here again, I am afraid.  I did get a battery into my cheap watch that will give it another couple of years, and I now have a few more pairs of underwear.  Lynann and I had a nice chat with an ABC, but that was all. 

The journey back to Darling Harbour was no fun and it could have been so easy, had the locals we talked to, a parking monitor and a bank security guard, known how simple travel in Sydney had become.  What none of us knew is that you can tap your chipped credit card to take any public transportation.  We couldn’t get a taxi, but there was a tram that would have been a lot of help.  As it was, we ended up walking all the way to Darling Harbour from Haymarket, which wouldn’t have been a big deal, had we not been old and somewhat decrepit.  It was a 13,000 step day and my ankle had a lot to complain about.  Lynann was just so tired that she missed the step getting into the bus and scraped her shin on it.  I am terrified of broken skin in that area, having known of a couple of horror stories personally.  So we got her a wheelchair and whisked her into the medical centre on arrival at the ship.  Her cut was duly dressed and is probably going to be just fine, but you can’t be too careful of such a thing.  We aren’t sure the nurse agreed with us.  She had the personality of a rock through it all and we pretty much missed one of the best sailaways in the world.  This is what it looked like from the medical centre on Deck A:

Lynann’s own balcony was better:

There was a race going on.  Note the black jib.  There were a lot of black sails.  Must be something new, and doubtless fast, but pretty ugly, particularly when both jib and main are black. 

Somehow, we both managed to hobble to dinner, which was good and we were rewarded with some of the best entertainment so far, pianist Hyperion Knight.  He really lifted our spirits.  I love a good pianist. 

Back at sea on Saturday, February 11, it was a fairly easy office hour, with thanks and good reports of Sydney.  Cher came by to tell me to tell all of you about George’s Restaurant in Darling Harbur, where the Internet is blazing fast and it’s not crowded at all. 

Fifty people attended out third cocktail party and 32 of them came to dinner afterward.  These dinners are a lot of fun and there was a production show to follow. 

I took Sunday, February 12 in Port Arthur, Australia pretty much off.  It was a tender port and pretty windy.  I elected to stay on board and try to catch up with my logging and bloging.  I spent the Port Arthur sailaway in the Crow’s Nest with Frank and Cindy, and we had Hyperion Knight at our table for dinner.  He was the most absolutely delightful dinner guest you could imagine. 

2023 – 1 – Grand World 1.5 of 5 Tonga to Sydney

2023 – 5 – Grand World 1.5 of 5 Tonga to Sydney

On Monday, January 30, we docked in Nuku Alofa, Tongatapu, Tonga.  That’s a mouthful.  I got some work done, research for upcoming ports and such.  Then I went out for a little walk around town, which isn’t much but the weather was getting interesting.  Here are some clouds gathering at the back of the Zuiderdam:

Those fluffy little marshmallows bulked up until they became a full-fledged squall.  We were having sail-away on Deck 3, being entertained by the police band and dancers on shore, when it hit.  The entertainers bravely waited until the last minute to scatter, as did we.  In fact, we waited a little longer, but when the drops started bouncing 10 inches in the air on the exposed part of the deck, we all ran for cover.  It was over in fifteen minutes and the ship sailed. 

There was a movie on the Main Stage tonight.  It was “Joyride” and the description was most unappetizing.  I decided it was time for more Rolling Stone and Piano Bar.  Those who went confirmed the wisdom of that decision.  Everybody I talked to had walked out in disgust. 

Tuesday, January 31, was a sea day.  We are hearing about the flooding in Auckland and, of course, we are all worried that we may not even land there.  It’s a couple of days out.  When I was done with the office hour, I posted a log to Distinctive Voyages and a blog to WordPress and went out on Deck 3 to a nice lounge chair, with my computer.  Lots of wind made it a bit of a challenge but it was lovely out there and I didn’t blow away.  Stephen Barry was back on the main stage and he was even better than the first time, more relaxed with the audience.

At sea, again on Wednesday, February 1, after office hour, I called the people who had not responded re our upcoming shore excursion, and I called Nyron to get the last few answers to questions like “Is there water on the bus?” Then I wrote and delivered a newsletter.  A bunch of people, including Linda Starr came to Happy Hour.  I had asked her to come to discuss how to handle the slower walkers, to whom I had already delivered tour stickers.  Linda agreed to stand at the end of the gangway from 7:25 with a DV sign.  She had the good idea to make it a large DV logo with “Friends of Helen M.”  on it.  If you know who “Friends of Bill W.” are, that might give you a chuckle.  It did me. 

We had a nice dinner and saw Saxophonist Barry Seacroft again, on stage.

Finally, on Thursday, February 2, we made it to civilization, Auckland, New Zealand.  Fans of green tipped mussels unite.  We did and we didn’t.  The Starrs know a seaside dive a short ferry away that has super ones for half what we paid, but we were happy.  I had introduced Ken and Noreen Stein to The Occidental Bar on Vulcan Lane, about 8 years ago, and it has been that for them, ever since.  I wasn’t going to argue.  It’s a Belgian bar and “moules frites” is a Belgian dish.  Lynann came with us and Dee and Wells found us after their errand in Sydney.  A half kilo of Mussels was $22.95 and a whole kilo was $27.95.  That’s about $3.50 US for the second half kilo.  We probably should have shared but most of us didn’t.  We just stuffed ourselves. 

Then Nona, and I went to Chemist Warehouse for some cheap drugs and I let her talk me into walking further up the very steep hill, which necessitated walking down the next street.  One shouldn’t do that on a full stomach and a bad ankle.  By the time we got back to the ship, I had to lie down and meditate.  I don’t sleep in the afternoon, so I just lay there and moaned. There was no entertainment that night, but I didn’t need any.  I just took my sorry, stuffed ass to bed.

I got up early on Friday, February 3, because it was our Shore Excursion Day, in Tauranga (Rotorua), New Zealand, kind of like the Teddy Bear’s Picnic, after all those sea days.  There had been a bit of a mix-up and at one point the ShorEx department had put a different meeting place in the Navigator App, from the one I had in my newsletter.  So I took one of my “Friends of Helen M.” signs, added the correct location in felt marker, and put it in the wrong place to catch anyone who might have gone there.  My good people all duly showed up, on time, in the right place, and off we went, in two buses, one with me, and one with the Starrs.

The guides were Maori and so very interesting to talk to, especially the one on my bus.  One of the places we passed early on was a surf beach, and it was lined with hundreds of holiday homes.  There were no tents or trailers here.  These were the second homes of the well-to-do.  One of them bore the name of the owner’s race horse.  You get the picture.  Then we passed a golf course, one of six on the island, and more prosperous looking suburbs. Next was a large retirement village of smaller but nice homes.   When they started building them about 30 years ago, you had to be 65 to qualify, but the demand is so high that they have raised the age bar to 75.

Autearoa, where we were, means land of the common people.  We were visiting the Ngāti Mākino, a group of approximately 2,000 members, based in the Bay of Plenty. The Ngāti Mākino Deed of Settlement is the final settlement of all their historical Treaty of Waitangi claims, resulting from acts or omissions by the Crown prior to 21 September 1992, and is made up of a package that includes an agreed historical account and Crown acknowledgements; cultural redress; financial and commercial redress.  The benefits of the settlement will be available to all members of Ngāti Mākino, wherever they live.

It looks like a pretty good deal now, but you have to remember that this an indigenous people whose ancestral lands were confiscated and they got maybe 22% of them back.  These tours are a way to tell their story.

Maori means common or natural people.  The tribe we visited are the Ōtamarākau and the Marae is the village. Only no one lives there.  They all live either on farms or in those nice suburbs we passed.  The Marae is a meeting place and burial ground.  They come to it to honor their ancestors and to teach the likes of us.  We had to go through a little ceremony to acknowledge that we came in peace.  I was the group leader but, not being male, ineligible to speak for us.  That was when I was pleased to have the Rabbi as the second bus monitor.  Arthur Starr did us proud. 

We sat in the meeting house and learned our lessons, surrounded by pictures of dead ancestors, some pretty recent looking.  Then we were taken around the property, on foot and by little van.  We learned how they cooked “hangi” style, burying the meat and veggies covered in leaves and with hot stones, for hours.  Our guide explained how his tattoos honored his ancestors and admitted that he was in his forties before he got them.  Like, when they came into fashion?

He was a lovely man, as were his stories, and his fellow tribesfolk.  One of the things we learned, from the topography and the story that went with it, is that the Maori invented trench warfare.  I’ll spare you the grizzly details here, but catch me over a glass of wine, some time.  The lunch they gave us, which had been cooked in the hangi method, went way beyond our expectations and was even served with very nice New Zealand wine.  We are now considered part of the tribe and will be welcomed back whenever we choose to return.  This is a class act. 

Ours was only the sixth group to visit this particular Marae and had the honor of planting a tree to mark our passing through.  Here is Dee getting the job done.  She’s good at that.

We named ours “The Distinctive Tree” and it’s a Manuka tree, yes, like the honey.  The honey is named after the tree on which the bees feed.  This is the best medicinal honey you can get.  It really will get rid of your cold and a good many other ailments, but you must buy the unpasteurized version.  The pasteurization process eliminates the healing properties.  Of course the unpasteurized stuff is four times the price, and may be hard to get, anywhere else in the world.

The highways are in excellent condition and there are cycle paths within sight of the main highway, but at a safe distance.  You can cycle the whole length of New Zealand, both North and South Islands.  The cycle path even has its own little bridges.  Exports are timber, dairy products, meat and Kiwi fruit.  Tepuke is the world capital of Kiwi Fruit.  They grow on vines, like grapes, and are coddled with fans and such, like Napa grapes. 

We got back in time for a nice sailaway, a good dinner and a good entertainer.  She was Debora Krizak who sang the kind of songs we like to listen to.

I can’t tell you much about Gisborne, New Zealand, because I didn’t even get off on Saturday, February 4.  It was a tender port, which wastes a lot of time, the weather was iffy, to put it nicely, and I had catching up to do.  You would have thought it was this blog, but it was regular client work and more prep for Sydney.  I had two outings planned for 23 people, some of whom were doing both, and the Sydney Opera House buying sites, yes, with an “s”, had proven to be a nightmare.  So I sorted that lot out and got it on to spreadsheets, with everyone’s cellphone, which I was very glad of in Sydney. Then I got out a letter for our dinner in the Pinnacle, which was coming up soon.  The male quartet “Cantare” were easy on the eyes and ears.

On February 5, we docked in Wellington, New Zealand and it was time to go out and play a bit.  Nona and I got off around 10:00 am and took the ship’s shuttle to the middle of town, Lambton Quay.  From there we took the cable car up to the top of the Botanical Gardens.

The path through the Botanical Gardens is supposed to be downhill, but it’s not that clearly marked.  I did know, that when it came out on the street, it would continue downhill.  But, it might not continue to Begonia house, which Nona and Annie wanted to see.  I found out that it would, but Annie was sure the uphill path within the garden was shorter.  It might have been, but it was miserable, for none more than Annie herself, who has vertigo.  But we made it, and the flowers were, indeed, beautiful.

And so were the natives:

Yeah, well.  On down the hill we went, through this cemetery, with its quaint, pathetic inscriptions.

Then we ambled along Lambton Quay, where I bought myself a very soft Merino and Possum sweater, with which I am well pleased.  From there we took the shuttle to its second stop, near the harbour, the Te Papa Museum, and the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club.  The goal was a beer at the Yacht Club.  The reality was folkloric dancers, people jumping into the harbour from a commercial platform, never intended for that, some time with a friendly Irish Setter, a look at a closed yacht club, and food trucks.  OMG.  There was Mr. Circle, a Chinese pancake food truck whose product looked like something I had been introduced to in Beijng.  Since the YC was closed, I went straight there while Nona browsed the rest of the offerings.  The weather was getting worse, and they were closing down.  By the time she figured out she wasn’t going to find better, my pork belly pancake was ready.  It was huge, so we just split it and that was perfect.  The next thing Nona did was take a picture of the food truck, in case she should run across one again.  It was truly yummy.  That was an 11,000 step day, a thing I hadn’t been able to do for years, and I rewarded my ankle with a nice hot bath. 

The entertainment was a movie, again, and I skipped it, again, and curled up with my book.

2023 – Grand World – Part 1.4 Polynesia is Forever

2023 – Grand World – Part 1.4 Polynesia

Monday, January 23 to January 29

On Monday, January 23, we were docked in Uturoa, Raiatea, Society Islands, French Polynesia.  The Internet is good on Port days, so that’s when I make any phone calls I have to make, using WiFi Calling.  I also book things, like the van for the ride back, lunch at the Occidental Bar in Auckland, where they have the best green tipped mussels, and Dim Sum for a lot of people at Zilver, in Sydney.  Then I put the finishing touches on my pre-Cocktail Party Newsletter, which I planned to deliver on the 24th.

Around mid-day I went out for a walk around the town of Uturoa.  It’s a neat little place.  I walked as far as this pretty little roundabout, which shows off the geography nicely. 

Then I walked back along the main street, browsing shops along the way, finding nothing at all to buy.  But I was never so glad I had gone out as when I came upon this Lion Dance, ushering in the year of the Rabbit and calling down prosperity on, wouldn’t you know it, a bank.  They were suiting up in the street when I came upon them and I followed them right into the bank. 

How good was that?  It was a lot better than the ship’s entertainment that night.  That was the Biddys a good concept but the jokes were old and the rewritten songs, just silly.  The Lame Old Ladies, Lynann, Dee and I, could have done a sight better. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Raiatea, Society Islands, French Polynesia 

I didn’t need to go out again, although Linda Starr later informed me I had missed some good, cheap snorkeling.  A local boat was taking people out for $25 each.  They went to a little atoll, with a reef, and the fishies were very, very pretty.  It only took a couple of hours, total, and is a one-of-a-kind experience.  I felt rather a dunce.  I did get my newsletter out, though, and more nice deck time, both lounging and walking.

There was a lovely sail away.  I introduced two of my Hawaii people, Bob Todd and Beryl Mitton, to each other.  Then I enjoyed a good dinner and a good entertainer.  He was Stephen Barry, and he’s headed for Broadway in March.  He’ll be in “The Bridges of Madison County”, doubtless with a lot less grandstanding. His voice is excellent and he’s easy on the eyes.  Watch for him. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Bobi Salzman’s electric wheelchair is still giving a lot of trouble.  It won’t hold its charge for more than a half hour or so.  She has a new power supply and the whole joy stick apparatus on order, as well as a power supply for her oxygen, to be delivered to the ship in Auckland.  She’s being awfully good about it, but it’s not fun. 

My office hour was pretty busy, with signups and opera traffic, still.  Now they are starting to pay for the ride home that I have arranged.  I wish I had got a picture of Henk striding through the Atrium with a broom in his hand, announcing “new Broom, Sweeps Clean”. 

At five o’clock we had our second Cocktail Party, supposedly to welcome guests who boarded in Papeete.  I didn’t have any but was happy to host another free cocktail party.  Some people are just discovering that the wine is free at these things.  I’ll have to mention that in a newsletter and see if attendance goes up. 

There were about six tables, all on a raised section and poor Bobi couldn’t eat with us after all.  I’ll try to have that fixed for the next time.  On the Amsterdam, there was a ramp up to the raised part, but this is a different ship.  The Chinese people were at my first table, and so were Tracy, with her bit of Mandarin and Mario, who had been communicating with them by translating machine.  It was so good to see them smiling and becoming part of the group.

I figured out a new fun trick. I table hop and let the servers choose which will be my main course and dessert tables, when I order from the first place I sit down.  Then I order a bottle of wine from my package and have it delivered to the table they are planning to serve me dinner at.  It’s half gone by the time I get there and it’s a very happy table. 

Since dinner was earlier than usual for me, because of the cocktail party, I killed some time in the Rolling Stone Lounge, where I was joined by Peggy, Vicki and Doris.  We had a wonderful time.  I was even dancing.  At 9:30 pm, I joined my table mates at the main show and it was excellent, Saxophonist, Barry Seacroft, from New Zealand. 

Back at sea on January 26, I dealt with some business by email and some more at my office hour.  Cher is interested in a DV that goes to Alaska.  I told her there were plenty of them I could help her find and started by referring her to the one I am hosting this summer.  I worked over the pictures I took last night and had tea with Bobi again.  This time I didn’t run off to deliver newsletters, but I did make a couple of laps around the Promenade deck to work off the scones and all.  At 6 o’clock, I went poolside in my fascinator for the Derby Party.  It wasn’t much, and at 6:30, I was due in the Crow’s Nest anyway, for Happy Hour

On Friday, January 27, we were still at sea at Sea.  My nailpolish started to go last night, so I called as soon as the Spa opened at 8:00 am and got an appointment for 9:00 am.  Now my fingernails are as red as my toenails.  I wasn’t happy with the creamy color I had chosen a couple of weeks ago, anyway. 

As usual, I found too many small things to do with my day and didn’t have time to write.  After dinner, I decided to skip the Biddies and had a delightful night in the Piano Bar.  Lots of my people were there.

Saturday, January 28, 2023, was a lost day crossing the dateline. For us, there was no Saturday.  That caused a little problem in the Hudson Room on Friday night when the Rabbi’s Shabbat services, held on Friday night, collided with the Priest’s Saturday evening mass, held the eve of Sunday.  They did manage to sort it out.  They are the friendliest of competitors, probably even friendlier than the hosts on board.  And we are very friendly.

Sunday, January 29, was a sea day, so an office hour.  One of my people got me going when she found something booked in the Explorer’s Lounge at the time of Sandra Hobson’s talk on hearing.  I investigated and all was well. Sandra’s talk went very well.  There were 15 people in attendance and any comments I got later were very positive.  I learned we start developing speech and language in the womb and about the challenges deaf people face growing up, the biggest of which is figuring how not to look stupid when you can’t hear.  I also learned why they now sell you a pair of hearing aids, when it used to be just one.  We hear differently with each ear.  The left ear is dominant for pitch and music, while the right ear performs better with speech and grammar.  We want her back to get into the nitty gritty of what, and what not, to pay for when buying a hearing aid. 

For Happy Hour, I had finally organized for Bob Michie and Dee Wescott to meet face-to-face.  I am sure it was disappointing for him, when she told him she wasn’t organizing any diving this trip and doubted that her friend, who was doing it, would welcome another person.  By coincidence, a couple who had lived 15 years in Waikoloa, HI, where the Wescotts live now. Mario and Becky and Sandra and Dan were there, too.  A good happy hour. 

There was a production show after dinner and it was good, too. 

2023 – Grand World – Part 1.3 Crossing the Pacific and Polynesia

2023 – Grand World – Part 1.3 Crossing the Pacific and Polynesia

Monday, January 16, was the seventh of eight days at sea and I still wasn’t sick of it.   There’s so much work to be done at the beginning of a world cruise that they are a blessing.  Don Giovanni at the Sydney Opera House is popular and people are coming in with their particulars, credit cards, etc.  A few people came by with credit card information, but I couldn’t buy anything.  The Internet wasn’t cooperating.

I had a massage booked at the spa, with Titaka, but the ship had commandeered her for training.  The Spa manager tried to convince me to take another kind of massage or to reschedule.   I tried to learn more about the different styles of massage and couldn’t wrap my mind around it.  All I knew was that it was stressing me out and that’s not what a massage is supposed to do.  So, I cancelled the whole package of them and felt immediately better.  I worked in my room for a bit and went to Elliot Finkle’s Classical piano recital at two o’clock.  I love a good pianist playing classical music.  It was a small venue and it was packed.  I worked some more, went to Happy hour and dinner.  The entertainment was the movie “The Woman King” with Viola Davis.  She is always good but I wouldn’t have wasted my time on it, if I wasn’t on board ship.

Tuesday, January 17, was day 8 at sea, and business as usual. Kilmainham Jail have replied and I am holding a reservation for a private tour for between 20 and 35 people at 6 euros each.  Brilliant. I’ll ask my Dublin friends Mary and Sean to help me find a pub and invite them along.  My people will love them.

I wrote another newsletter and then I had tea with Bobi Salzman and ran off on her to deliver it.  Then it was time for Happy Hour and dinner.  Chris Pendleton was on the Main Stage again and she was great, again. 

Land Ho, on January 18.  It was Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia.  It’s a tender port and tendering was difficult because of waves and dock conditions ashore.  After all this time at sea, it wasn’t easy or safe to get off.  I’ve been here before and I was still catching up with myself.  I did some of my own client work and was very happy to get email confirming Tracy LI into the group. 

I had an email from the Chinese people’s son in Vancouver.  I send him my newsletter by email and he translates for them, emailing me when he needs clarification.  It’s working.  Tracy Li is from Vancouver, too, and she knows a bit of Mandarin.  Hopefully she will help.  They can always use the Chinese alphabet to communicate. 

I also got email from the Sydney Opera House Box Office to the effect that each customer would have to be beside me to authorize a transaction on his or her credit card.  So, I spent most of the day chasing them all down and meeting them here or there, until we had bought all the tickets and dinners.  It really WAS megaproject.  Three people are staying overnight in Sydney after the Opera.  One of them is flying out the next morning and the other two are joining me for Dim Sum.  I’m thinking I would like to do the same and maybe offer it to the rest of the group.  I decided to mull it over for a day or three.

There’s no Happy Hour on a port day.  I go to sail away instead.  There was an odd event called a “Glamp-Out” on the Lido Deck, that our table decided to skip.  That turned out to be a wise decision.  Lynann and I went up after dinner to see how it went and the crew were mopping up, because it poured, and the band played on.  Too loudly for our tastes.

We were back at sea on January 19.  There is still plenty of office hour traffic, with people coming to sign up for tours and my other offerings.  I decided to stay overnight in Sydney and booked myself into the Sydney Boutique Hotel.  There were seven of us at Happy Hour.  Rebecca Kelly was back on stage doing Carole King songs.  I only stayed for about five minutes.  I left because I hate it when the performer involves the audience in the show.  I was later told she settled in and was very good.  My loss. 

Friday, January 20, was another sea day.  I spent the morning before office, making birthday cards for February.   If I get better pictures, I may re-make but these are nice. 

One of my people is becoming my fitness guru. She came by to show me her Renpho Mini Percussion Massage Tool, which she highly recommends for my arthritis and other structural defects.  I thought about getting one from Amazon and having it delivered to Auckland, when I remembered the voltage differential cum power supply problem.  I will get one, but not until I get back to North America.  I’ll get a little manual Bodo at Chemist Warehouse, instead.  It’s a piece of wood carved just so, to get into knots in muscles and ligaments. 

The Starrs stopped by to chat and I spent a good part of the afternoon figuring out how to book a vehicle to transport my people back to White Bay Cruise Terminal from the Opera.  I did come up with a plan.  In doing so I realized I would have to nail it down and collect up front,  not to get left holding the bag.  I would set it up to make a bit of a profit and then spend it on wine for the group.  I‘ll be buying wine, anyway.  All of this in mind, I wrote and delivered my first “OperaLetter” not to be confused with a “NewsLetter”, and only for those who had Opera tickets. 

Six people at Happy Hour, a fine dinner, and Classique, a very nice production show.

Finally, on Saturday, January 21, we docked in Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia.  I went walkabout, looking to buy this and that, and coming up with not much other than some Arnica, by the French company, Boiron, which I swear by.  Yes, I know you can get it in Quebec now, but I am pretty sure the French stuff is stronger.  You can’t really tell, because they don’t have to print the strength on the packaging of homeopathic medicine in Canada. 

I was looking for yoghurt, fruit yoghurt in one serving containers, that I could keep in the fridge in the cabin.  The ship doesn’t stock those anymore, to save packaging waste.  I met Wells Wescott, tooling around on his scooter near the Papeete farmer’s market, which ain’t what it used to be.  I went sailing off a curb in the middle of the sidewalk, where it should never be, and came down hard on my bad ankle.  More Arnica tonight for sure.  But I was lucky I didn’t fall and just kept going.  I did aim back towards the ship after that, though.  Before I got there, I passed a bar, full of temptation, in the persons of Peggy, Vicki and Doris.  They hailed me down and I bought a beer and a snack in the hope of getting WiFi that both my Fitbit watch and cellphone could use to sync.  I was tired of being 5 ½ hours off.  It never happened.  There were just too many people in the bar.  For some reason, the iPhones could connect and the Androids could not.  You can imagine how happy that made me.  I feel I am being pushed towards an iPhone again and I hate the #$%^&*(*&^%$%^& things.    

Back on board I dealt with my messages, wrote a bit, and soon it was time to go out to the food trucks, always an event in Papeete.  There are a lot less of them than there used to be, COVID casualties here, too.  We went out early though and here is our dinner table, transplanted from the Zuiderdam.

And this is the Zuiderdam herself, by night:

We got back on board and I killed a little time in the piano bar before the folkloric show.  Both were very pleasant experiences. 

We sailed from Papeete to Morea at 5:00 am.  Needless to say, I didn’t go to sailaway at that hour.  Ken and Noreen, and who knows how many other young romantics, had taken a ferry over and slept in one of those romantic little huts over the water.  I have always wanted to do that but certainly not alone.  It’s way too romantic

I had a lot of paperwork to do, both for the Distinctive Voyage, and for clients back home.  So I stayed on board, got it done and didn’t feel one bit sorry for myself.

I was done in time for sailaway, but by the time I went to my room, stowed the computer, put on some sunscreen and got up to the Lido, aft, it was starting to sprinkle.  One of my couples had a little table against the wall with a bit of shelter, and I stayed with them, flattened against the wall in what turned out to be a real squall.  When it rains here, it pours.  Then it’s over, but it sure breaks up the party.

It was Chinese New Year’s Eve and Holland America decided to welcome in the year of the rabbit with a whole suckling pig at the Lido Buffet.  He was gorgeous.  I met Doris Reeves and the two of us bonded over suckling pig appetizers with roast duck pancakes. 

Kung Hei Fay Choy.

There were no such things in the dining room, when I went there at 7:30 pm, as usual.  We did manage to persuade our DR supervisor to get us more of the duck pancakes, though.  I wanted my whole table to have them, and they didn’t want to miss out on Chinese New Year, either.  The pancakes were good but better when we had them closer to the source. 

The main stage entertainment was a movie:  “Love Affair” with Warren Beaty and Annette Benning.  I passed in favor of a scotch at the Piano Bar.  It was a good choice. 

2023 – Grand World – Part 1.2 Panama to nowhere yet

Tuesday, January 10 was the start of 8 days at sea.  An amazing thing has happened to my left ankle.  It no longer hurts when I get out of bed and put it on the floor.  All this walking the decks of a moving ship, delivering newsletters, appears to be really good for it. I am delighted. I’ll get a few massages, too, but just a few, as they are about three times the price I pay in Montreal and I don’t even know how good they will be.  It would be hard to beat the people I have looking after me back home. 

Quite a few people want to go to the Opera, and some have very specific requests.  One has to have an aisle seat or she will be very claustrophobic.  I got on the Opera House site and saw that aisle seats were almost gone, and half the price because they don’t have a full view of the stage.  Since she was part of a group of three, I got back to them with this info to see what they wanted to do.   Some people already have Opera tickets but like the idea of the Ouverture Dinner and ride back to the ship

Holland America allowed free phone calls to do some insurance work for a passenger and it turned out well. He is going to be able to have acupuncture treatments and we can start the paperwork much later, when we see how it’s going and have better Internet. 

The Opera thing is fast turning into mega-project.  We are seeking tickets for Don Giovanni, on Thursday, February 9, 7:00 pm show.  It’s a 3 hour and 20 minute show, including one intermission.  It will let out at 10:30 pm or so.  Then we’ll want a ride back to the ship.  This is a pay as you go for my subscribers.  I am just hands on the keyboard.  I have shared with the Shore Excursions Manager, that I am doing this and he is OK with it. Ours will include choosing their own seats, dinner and the ride.  Getting all this is turning out to be tough.  The Internet is not cooperating. 

At 2:00 pm, I had my first real meeting with the Shorex Manager.  The first thing he wants me to do is to have everyone watch his video on their stateroom TV that tells them how to book shore excursions and cautions about not booking that which they cannot handle.  It’s a perennial problem, mine and his.  It breaks our hearts to say no to our handicapped guests but it is getting harder and harder to accommodate them.  I volunteered to pay for easy tours out of my own pocket, when he told me HAL would not be offering alternatives. 

At Happy Hour, we worked n a birthday party for Sandra Hobson.  Sandra is very interesting.  She’s an Audiologist, because she has been deaf herself all her life.  They think it was the measles she contracted at age 2.  She copes amazingly well, lip reads, has super hearing aids, speaks a couple of kinds of sign language, etc.  They are on this cruise for their 50th wedding anniversary, which we’ll celebrate May 10.  Everyone was gone by 7:00 pm and I still had a half hour before dinner, so I went and sat with Elizabeth and Reuben, with whom I had sailed in 2012 and 2014.  He used to be the Dominican Republic’s ambassador to different countries, like the USA. 

Dinner at the table and an Elliot Finkel performance.  He’s a concert pianist whom we all know well.  He’ll be having dinner with us one of these nights. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2023, the second of eight sea days. The office was very busy.  It was sign ups and Opera stuff and a sad case.  One of my people was almost beside herself.  She had been sleeping on Deck 3 for a couple of nights.  Her cabin is under Rolling Stone.  She didn’t mind that the band played until eleven, but when the disco music started up after that and didn’t quit until 2:00 am, she couldn’t take it.  I promised to talk to the powers that be and get her relief. 

She had no sooner left when Shiv Charan, the Housekeeping manager came by.  We are old friends.  I decided to ask him how full the ship was, to get an idea of what my chances of getting a better room for Susan might be.  He reported 1228 passengers of a possible 1960.  That looked like plenty of room to me, so I told him why I wanted to know.  The next thing you know, he was back telling me to tell Susan to pick up the key for 1085 from the front desk and see if that one would suit.  She checked it, she liked it, she moved and she’s delighted.  She sleeps all she likes now.  Thanks, Shiv.

I had an appointment back in my room at 2:00 pm, with my Taiwanese people.  The husband came with his translating machine and after that was taking too long, he called his son in Vancouver.  I spoke to Jason and we exchanged emails and agreed that I would email him a copy of what I was sending to be printed and he would translate for his parents.  Very nice of him. 

I worked on the Hobson’s birthday party with them at Happy Hour and I learned that when you need to clear your ears on an airplane, you shouldn’t hold your nose and blow (the Valsalva method), you should hold your nose and swallow three times (Toynbee Method).  It’s safer.  And Sandra told me that I may refer anyone in the group with a hearing problem to her.  We have some interesting benefits.   She is also willing to give a lecture. Her company was called “Helping you Hear”  HuH?

Dinner at the table was fine as usual, and the entertainment was a special treat.  Chris Pendleton turned out to be a she, funny as hell and a good fiddler to boot.  I took a picture of my wine because I liked it so well.  A French name on a new world region famous for a grape, can yield a marvelous wine.  Old world know how and terroir.  Good formula.

Thursday, January 12, 2023, the third of eight sea days.  Right after my Essentrics workout, I got to work on Sandra Hobson’s birthday party.  Everything onboard is both easy and complicated.  Sandra just has to talk to the Neptune Concierge and glasses and hors d’oeuvres will appear magically on the designated day at the appointed hour.  I had to craft invitations for her to pass out and we would have to keep track of cabin numbers to tell the Dining Room manager, for the after party dinner.  I made up a spreadsheet and started populating it. 

The Sydney Opera House project is not getting any easier.  There is quite a lot of interest and the Internet is starting to fail.  Bob Todd and I spent almost an hour getting him seat G24, only to fail when the site insisted sending him a code by text, which, of course, he wasn’t receiving.  We all have our phones on airplane mode to avoid huge onboard roaming charges.  I’ll have to gather everyone’s particulars, email and snail mail addresses, birthdays, the works and call it all in when we arrive Nuku Hiva.

I got some tipping envelopes and filled them with cocktail party tips, had tea with Bobi  and printed and delivered Newsletter #2.   Then I went to Happy Hour for more party planning, dinner and a pretty terrible show from Rebecca West called “How to be a Headliner”.  It was everything you hate about these shows, the formula of it.  I was bored to tears or maybe sleep.

Friday, January 13, 2023, day 4 of 8.  Another busy office hour, with one lady

patiently waiting, until all my people were seen, to come and inquire as to why not she, and her partner, weren’t in the group.  She had been before and hadn’t changed travel agencies.  I agreed and did something about it.

We all got dressed up for formal night, me in my best formal wear that hasn’t fit for about five years, and ate surf and turf and drank free wine, courtesy of the captain.  Our table host was Maria, the Hotel Manager’s Executive Assistant.  She was lovely.  There was dance music everywhere on Deck 2, but not much dancing as there wasn’t all that much room to dance with all of us milling about. 

Saturday, January 14, 2023, day 5 of 8, I did a bunch more work with the Shore Excursions Manager and saw a bunch more people.  Our litigious society has spread around the world now.  Some drivers and guides are forbidden to lift the devices into their vehicles, so the handicapped people need a caregiver of their own to do it.  All of them are within their rights to refuse.  Even the ADA rules do not require a service or venue to have personnel to provide assistance like lifting wheelchairs and scooters.  Facilities, yes, lifting, no. 

Sandra Hobson’s birthday party in their Neptune Suite was fun.  The Neptune concierge did them proud with the hors d’oeuvres and about half of us repaired to the dining room for a jovial birthday dinner topped off with Panjang Amurnia.  Certa mulia.   Pianist Elliot Finkel was on the main stage and this show was better than his first.  He’s very good.

Sunday, January 15, 2023, was our 6th day at sea and with execrable Internet, which was the only bad part of it, really.  I did a little research on Dim Sum at Zilver in Sydney and Paddy’s market and that looks very doable.  Same thing on the Occidental Bar in Auckland.  I also talked to Tina in the Pinnacle and we can have 10 to 26 in Section 1.  The date will be Feb 6.

Dan and Sandra were at Happy Hour again, joined by Keith Bean & Cher Arceneaux.  Cher had a tip for me that Titada was a good massage therapist.  So, on my way to dinner, I stopped by the Spa and asked that she do the massage I had planned for tomorrow.  That settled, I toddled off to dinner, where Elliot Finkel was our dinner guest.  He’s a lot of fun as well as a very accomplished pianist.  In his seventies now, he still practices four hours a day.  On the ship, those turn out to be 4 am to 8 am.  At home in New York City, he and his wife have seven cockatiels and four finches.  The cockatiels have bowls set at the dining room table, with whatever Elliot cooks for them that day, quinoa, pasta, whatever.  Each has his own way he (or she) likes it.  This explains why his wife rarely joins him on board.  Who would take care of them?

There was a production show after dinner.  What a great night.

2023 – Grand World – Part 1.1 Fort Lauderdale through the Panama Canal

Our first day, Wednesday, January 4, was a sea day, and I had plenty to do.  One of my tasks as a DV Host is to make sure everyone on my manifest got their welcome packet and to see if they have any questions about our offering.  I got most of those calls done between my 4:00 pm breakfast and my 8:00 pm dinner, on embarkation day.  They were routine and pleasant, or I left messages.  Everyone had the packet, which taught me that the sooner you call, after delivering, the less likely they are to have lost it, or maybe World Cruise passengers are just more savvy.

One of my passengers was having a terrible time settling in.  She has both a power chair and a walker and it wasn’t working in her little cabin.  Life was very tough.  She had been DV Host for years and has done 13 cruises with Holland America.  She’s a 5* Mariner and was hoping for better treatment.  I couldn’t do anything for her as she knows the ropes as well as I do and had already contacted the powers that be.

Another passenger told me he couldn’t speak English and hung up on me.  I’ll have to see if I can find an interpreter when I find out what kind of Chinese he speaks.  It’s not Cantonese, for sure. 

A single man  turned out to be my proofreader.  He noticed that the Jan 6 cocktail wasn’t in the Amenities notification.  I was blindsided by the fact that I actually have six(6) cocktail parties to offer my people, and had missed that one on the list.  My first newsletter was destined to come out the very next day.

People told me their nicknames and if they went by their middle names and stuff like that.   All good. I updated the manifest before I went to my 11:00 am Office Hour appointment near the Front Desk. 

There were a couple of people who knew people who should have got a Welcome packet and didn’t.  No surprise.  There usually are. One couple, whom I have had the pleasure of hosting on a world cruise before came to say I was the best DV host they had ever had.  I hope they hold that thought until it’s time for the comment cards. 

Some came to volunteer to do deliveries for me, if I needed help.  Very sweet of them, but so far, so good.  Some came to say they were delighted with the program and wanted to know how to pick a cruise that’s a DV for the future.  I was happy to help.

As soon an I was able to get away, I hastily worked up a newsletter to correct the omission of the January 6 Cocktail party and add whatever else I did know.  I delivered my newsletters during the ship’s Block Parties, which was interesting.  I kept getting offered food and drink but both my hands were occupied holding the newsletters or putting them in the doors.  When they offer a three-handed version of homo sapiens, I’ll be signing up.

Five people came to Happy Hour, and they were all very nice.  Then I had very good lamb chops for dinner at “the table” and we all went to see the Lincoln Center Stage – our classical quintet, playing rock, pop and jazz on the Main Stage.  It was good and I was ready for bed, after that busy day.

I didn’t know it then, but my good friend, Denis Mavrias, (Chef Dr Pizza Guy) died on January 4.  In a strange turn of fate, I was unable to make it to my own family for Christmas, because of terrible weather, and a tree falling on the train tracks, so I spent Christmas Day with Denis’ family.  Most of you will die laughing when I tell you they’re Vegans, but I was glad to have had that time with him.   He was a good, kind man, and we had some great times together over the last couple of years.

We docked in Falmouth, Jamaica, on Thursday, January 5.  I went walkabout with Dee and Lyann, but not before I took care of important business.  I am still sorting out discrepancies between my manifest from Distinctive Voyages and Michelle’s from Holland America. 

Around 11:00 am, Dee, Lynann and I got off to go shopping in Falmouth, Jamaica.  We dubbed ourselves three Lame Old Ladies, and went off to find a taxi.

We rejected the first one that was presented and took the second.  He had a lot better attitude and took very good care of us, his charges.  We were very pleased with Delano Crooks, despite his somewhat suspect name.  He took us to a local shopping center, where we wouldn’t get robbed and that was good for basics.  Soon we were out of time and back in the tourist shopping compound by the ship.  Prices were high there and so was my sales resistance.  I did enjoy my late afternoon breakfast, though.  It was a beef and cheese patty with scotch bonnet sauce, and a beer.  Just right. 

Sail away was delayed and delayed again and I pretty much missed it.  Won’t do that again.  I had dinner at the table and we all went to see the comedian, Steven Scott, who was hilarious.  We met him after, and Dee presented him with an invitation to dine with us.  He had one night free, January 8.  We took it.  His schedule is a lot more crammed than ours. 

Back at sea on  January 6, I printed a birthday card along with my cocktail party speech and two new shore excursion flyers, which I now have. In the Atrium for office hour, I met more nice people.  I had tee’d up a dinner for 16 in the dining room for after tonight’s welcome cocktail, and it’s already booked up.  Nice.  I’ll do it sooner in the future and get more participation.

I took my cocktail party speech to tea around 3:15 and it worked very well as breakfast for me.  The cocktail party came of without a hitch.  63 of 80 people came.   I had recruited Dee Wescott, one of the best photographers I knew to take pictures and she did a great job.  Arthur and Linda Starr came too, so I could introduce them as our bus monitors.  I just can’t be in two buses at once and the Rabbi and his wife are a popular choice. 

The Sydney Opera idea floated well, so I’ll be doing that for sure.  After my speech, I usually invite everyone to say a bit about themselves, but this group was just too big.  We had three tables for dinner in the Dining room and I got to eat a course at each of them.  It’s a great way to get to know the guests and we were done in plenty of time to make the show, which was “Dance Fever”.  It’s nice that we still have singers and dancers on board, albeit a couple less of each. 

I finished the latest Louise Penny novel on my Kindle and, while I was exiting, it presented a critical error and threatened to never work again unless restarted, rebooted, or put in communication with Amazon support. 

On Saturday, January 7, we were docked in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. The first thing I did was deal with the kindle.  I wanted to be in port if I really did have to access Amazon support.  Like everybody else’s, it isn’t much these days and I dreaded the thought.  Luckily the simple restart fixed the problem, and I will travel the world with all of my Kindle content, which is substantial. 

A good few emails flew around, as the manifests got sorted out, until they now match and in spite of that, I did get a couple of hours in Puerto Limon with Nona Hamilton and Beryl Mitton, my 2012 tablemates.  We just had a walk in the park, a beer, and shopped the dockside market.  I got a white embroidered blouse, a pair of colorful pants, and a sloth.  The sloth is a stuffed toy, so I don’t have to sleep alone.  He’ll go to Ginger’s Toy Tea next December, having been around the world.  I’m not hard on my sloths.

Sail Away was nice.  I spent it with three of my people.  We had one of the lecturers, Mike West, and his wife for dinner at the table.  Then we went to see Steven Scott again, doing old Catskills schtick.  We won’t get him for dinner tomorrow, as the ship has fingered him to do a funny interview in the Ocean Bar, with Cruise Director, Ian at 9 pm, and performers don’t eat before they perform. 

Cruising the Panama Canal on Sunday, January 8, I found Bobi in her power chair in trouble again.  She had just settled into her re-designed room, when she was hit by another plague.  Now her power chair wouldn’t charge and her Oxygen machine went that a notch farther, when its charger actually drained its battery.  While she was telling me all this, Henk, the Hotel Manager, innocently stopped to say “Hi” to both of us.  I’ll bet he was sorry when, like Shiv before him, he ended up spending most of the day in Bobi’s room, calling on assorted experts as needed. 

Through all of this, Bobi has maintained a very decent amount of good humour.  She went from being a DV host to the wheelchair in a surgical accident, meaning back surgery gone south.  I am going to just keep exercising my little heart out and do my damnedest to stay off the operating table.  So far, so good.  And the folks kept coming by for the usual conversations.

We are going through the Panama Canal today and it’s pouring rain for a lot of the time.  It’s still interesting but I don’t have a lot of time to pay attention, yet.  I had a cruise to help book with the Future Cruise Consultant,  and some advice to give on insurance.  One of my people fell in his cabin on day one and it aggravated an old back injury he got in the service.  Dr. Kim’s acupuncture is helping but it’s pretty expensive.  He was wondering if his insurance, Holland America’s platinum, would cover it.  I am pretty good with insurance claims so I told him to go back and get a doctor’s letter to submit with the claim, and that if Holland America wouldn’t help him with the claim, I would. 

We all decided to go for an earlier dinner so as to be able to catch Steven Scott’s interview with Ian, as Steven had agreed to meet us for drinks privately after.  The ship was having a “Burgers and Beer” thing on the Lido, by the pool, that looked like it would work.  I went with Nona and Lynann.  The burgers were sliders, one beef and cheese with bacon, one chicken and avocado and one vegetarian.  Nona and I had them bring us two beef and cheese, no vegetarian.  And we ordered three Laguanitas or whatever the name is, supposed to be good.

Well, when it came, everything was cold, there was no bacon or avocado to be seen anywhere, both burger and bun were dry and they brought the wrong kind of beer.  You had to be there.  The ship sends supervisors around to every table to ask if you are liking the food and service.  When our guy came over and asked “How’s everything here?” all three of us pounced in him at once “Terrible” was our verdict, in one voice.  You shouldn’t ask when you don’t want the answer.

Steven the comedian’s interview with Ian was fun but we never got our private time.  Holland America were picking him up at 5:30 am to catch his plane in Panama and he had to go pack.

On Monday, January 9, we were in Fuerte Amador, Panama, having stayed overnight. If you didn’t take a shore excursion, there was nothing but two shuttles.  You couldn’t walk in the port.  There was a lot of construction going on.  Our first shuttle went to Isla Perico, where everything was closed, but Vicki and Peggy saw a HOHO from there, found a way to take it , and that was good.  Nona and I didn’t see that so we decided not to get off the bus at all.  We rode back to the ship, switched buses and went to the mall. 

I forgot the name of the mall, but it was a plenty glitzy one, with Chanel and Gucci and Louis Vuitton and all, just like home.  I live within five minutes’ walk of all this stuff.  Luckily, it also had ordinary stores, too, like H & M and the shop where I bought a couple of plain dresses for wearing like blouses.  This is how I supplement my wardrobe, without having multiple suitcases.  At the end I’ll just toss whatever I no longer want, whether I brought it with me and it wore out, or I bought it and don’t like it all that much, after all.  I had brought a dying bra with me, and it had had the nerve to get to extremis on day 2 of the cruise.  I repaired it but it will go again, soon.  I replaced it at this very American mall, for the very American price of $52.99.  Some things aren’t optional.

I got back to the ship and spent an hour or so working on pictures.  The weather had worsened considerably and there was heavy rain and thunder.  Some of it loud enough to be scary, but I just worked on.  At one point, we had an announcement that the ship had been struck by lightning but that it was nothing to worry about.  When it was time to go looking for something to eat, I decided on French Fries from Dive-In, poolside.  It turned out that was where the lightning had hit.  Tim told me he was in the hot tub at the time and that was an experience and a half.  He was probably 10 feet away from the point of contact.  The plexiglass roof took the blow.  I got this picture:

I did go to sail-away after that, where the hors d’oeuvres completed my breakfast, and spent some time with Peggy.  We didn’t sail away when we were supposed to.  The Volendam did, though, and it was fun waving at her.  The weather got nasty again, and I headed back to the room to work until dinner time. 

The entertainment was a movie on the big screen of the Main Stage, “Panama”, 1989.  It wasn’t very good.  I kept falling asleep.