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Monday, November 19, 2012

Hawaii Cruise log, Part 3

Hawaii Cruise Log, Part 3 Day 16 Sunday, November 4 Today was the first of 2 sea days on our way to the French Polynesian Islands. After breakfast we were out in the sun for a bit, and after lunch we watched, "The Five Year Engagement" which was a huge disappointment to me. We worked out, Chuck in the gym, and me at the pool. I am really enjoying the chance to swim every day now. I have worked my way up to swimming laps for 30 minutes and unlike working out on the treadmill, I feel great and very relaxed when I am done. We and went to dinner at the Horizon Court and I had an absolutely delicious piece of cheesecake for dessert.After dinner we wentto a show in the Princess Theater. This show was called,"The Piano Man" and was performed by the singer and dancers on the ship. The show featured songs by Billy Joel, Barry Manilow and Elton John. It was quite good. After the show, my stomach was bothering me so we went back to the room. Maybe I ate too much rich food tonight?.... Day 17 Monday, November 5 Today was the worst day I have ever had on a cruise…not just this cruise, but of all the 7 cruises we have been on, today was the worst. It was probably a 24 hour intestinal bug that goes around many cruise ships. I was so sick today that all I wanted to do was stay in bed. I did go with Chuck for 3 meals, but more too keep him company than to eat.I found out later that if the ship's doctor had known I was sick I would have been quarantined to the cabin for 24 hours. I had brought Pepto Bismal and didn't need to go see him.I ate bland food for the day. I went back to the room and went back to bed. Poor Chuck…he stayed with me but took a nap, and then it was lunchtime. This afternoon, there was an informational lecture about our next 3 stops in the French Polynesian Islands. I knew I couldn’t make it through the lecture and thought Chuck would go, but he stayed with me. They always show the port lectures on TV so we were hoping to hit it before we actually arrived on our first island of Bora Bora tomorrow. There was a concert at 3:00 p.m. The performer was a concert pianist from Australia and she was to be performing with the ship’s orchestra, and she was supposedly fabulous. I decided to go to the concert with Chuck and was feeling better, but still not 100%. I am so glad I went. This performer was amazing, and in between selections she gave little anecdotes about her life which made the concert much more personable to the audience. I thoroughly enjoyed her performance, and have never seen a pianist that was SO immersed in the music she was performing. It was easy to tell that she that she is very passionate about the music she performs. She put her whole body into each piece, swaying back and forth as she played and leaning forward at times as though she wanted to be a part of the keys. I went back to the room, and while Chuck went to workout, I took another nap. By dinner time, I was feeling well enough to have a roll, mashed potatoes, and a bit of roast turkey. And I even had orange Jello for dinner…that was the best tasting Jello I had ever had since it was also the most flavorful thing I had had to eat since the night before. I started to feel even better as the night went on. It was early to bed tonight so I can hopefully get a good night’s rest for our tour excursion tomorrow. Day 18, Tuesday, November 6 Today we are in Bora Bora.I am feeling fine today, thankfully. We went on a bus tour in an open windowed old bus with plastic seats with small cushions (fortunately). This island was at one time a U.S. military base and it is possible to still see some of the remains of the bunkers around the island. Our first stop was to a roadside stand with natives who were selling parehos ( wraps that women wear as dresses, and men can also wear them)and we were given a demonstration as to how to wear them correctly. There was also a display of native fruits that we could enjoy. Once back on the bus, we went to an area next to the water where you could see a large group of holes in the sand near the water. These were the homes of land crabs, and we were instructed to take the flowers that had been attached to the inside of the bus and throw them out the windows near the holes. Once the flowers landed, land crabs would crawl out of the holes, grab the flowers and drag them back into their holes with them. It was pretty interesting to watch. We later saw land crab holes throughout the other Polynesian Islands as well. The beaches here are all around the island. I was really surprised at the number of broken down homes that were right on the water here, and looked like they were about to fall apart, but were on prime beachfront land. Most of the families live in houses on land that has been passed down from generation to generation. I asked the tour guide about how little the families seem to have here. She said most of them are very happy as long as they have a boat. Even a small boat is enough to take them out fishing and with fish and home grown fruits and vegetables, they don't have a need for too much else. The last stop on this tour of Bora Bora was a restaurant named, ‘Bloody Mary’s” which is a well known watering hole for tourists, including Jimmy Buffet. The building is not that large, but it does have a thatched roof, and a sand floor. When you walk inside, instead of a coat check area, there is a sandal check. At meal time, there is a trough filled with water, fish and lobsters, so customers can choose their dinner. The tables were nicely laid out with white tablecloths and place settings, but with sand for the floor. We were quite thirsty at this time, so Chuck went to buy a soda. The Diet Coke he bought costs $5, and if he had bought a beer, it would have cost $10!!! Definitely a tourist trap! I need to say that the island that I had heard so many wonderful things about was a huge disappointment to me because there are so many stray dogs around that don’t have homes that it’s hard to overlook them and see the beauty before me. I asked our tour guide about them and she said she originally was born and raised in Papeete,Tahiti and when she came here, that was the most surprising thing to her. She said people don’t have the money to spay or neuter their dogs so the dog population multiplies and no one takes are of them. Day 19, Wednesday, November 7 Today we were on the French Polynesian island of Moorea, which is pronounced Mo o rea. When we woke up we were already tendered in the bay and when I looked off the balcony, the view took my breath away. In front of me were mountains, and one in particular looked like “Bali Hai” from the movie South Pacific. Later in the tour we were told that a lot of people think that it is the mountain from the movie, but that the movie was actually filmed in Hawaii, and they did some modifications on a mountain there to make it look the way it does. We got off the tender and walked onto a strip of road that was littered with craft tents from the natives. We are getting used to seeing these now because they are at all the French Polynesian islands and since tourists are the main source of income, this is a big deal. I am not all that interested in the shell and black pearl jewelry that the native sell, nor the parehos. But I always like to look. I did buy 2 small shell hair clips today because it has been so hot I need to pull of my hair back in a ponytail but then the front part hangs in my face, The young girl I bought them from seemed quite grateful. The main strip was quite hot, but there were places to sit along the bay area and the breeze was amazing. You could walk about 15 feet into the shade near the bay and be perfectly cool. We saw a lot of land crab hole along the waterfront, and I pointed one out to a lady who was about to sit down on a rock next to a crab, and she screamed. Everyone around her laughed about her reaction, including her. Eventually we were able to board our air conditioned bu and met our tour guide who was a blonde, blue eyed man named, “Blanc” which as he explained means white. Although it is unusual for a Tahitian to be blond haired and blue eyed, he explained that his mother was of Swiss background, and his father was Tahitian. Blanc spoke both English and French quite well, so took turns speaking in both languages. He also speaks Tahitian and made fun of us who only speak English. He took us to the top of a lookout where we could see both Cook’s Bay, named after Captain Cook, and the bay where our ship was docked. There were some absolutely amazing hairpin turns he had to take to get us up to the top, and I am sure I am not the only passenger holding my breath as he maneuvered to the top of the hill. We stopped at a few other lookouts and at one, were able to see some of the huts out on the water that belonged to different hotels on the island. From this viewpoint, we could also see a beautiful reef where the water ranged in depth from 3 feet to 9 feet. This meant that we could see beautiful colors where the water got deeper and then more shallow. Across the bay from here we could see the island of Tahiti, where we will be tomorrow. I must say that this was the most beautiful port I have seen so far on this cruise and I fell in love with the natural beauty. Unfortunately, I did once again see a lot of stray dogs and that was sad. I thought how much fun it would be to move here and start a dog rescue center. But the beauty of the island overshadowed that for me. We went past an school of agriculture that Blanc told us French Polynesian students that were not really strong students academically were often sent here for 3 years to learn how to grow plants which would lead them to a vocation. It is the French Polynesian counterpart to America’s vocational schools. If someone wanted to teach in the agriculture school, they would need to go for 3 more years. Like Bora Bora, we saw many families whose homes were not fancy, and were right on the water, but they fished and grew their own fruits and vegetables and could support their families on that alone. Gas on the island is $10 per gallon, which explains why we saw so many mopeds. Our tour took us all around the island. Toward the end of the tour, Blanc took us to a store which sold black pearl jewelry and told us that his wife worked at this store so could get us a discount on the jewelry we bought. This store had snacks and souvenirs as well as pearl jewelry. I asked about the post cards and they were $4.00 each here…Yikes! Bottles of wine here ran about $18 per bottle. We did buy a bottle of Coke to share here for about $1.29 which wasn’t too bad. It was quite hot still so we were happy to head back to the tender and get onboard the cool ship, although it did make me sad to leave this beautiful island. Day 20, Thursday, November 8 Today we were in the port of Papeete, in Tahiti. Papeete is pronounced Pa pai et tai and is the capital of all the French Polynesian islands. To be honest, I was not impressed. It was similar to any big city you might find…such as Los Angeles or New York City. I personally don’t like big cities, except I must say I am partial to New York. The ship was docked so we didn’t have to take a tender in. We went to the shore at about 9:15a.m. to see what we could explore before our 11:50 a.m. tour time. As soon as we were off the ship, I began to sweat, and was not happy about it! At first we wandered around in the city. There was a shopping center across from the ship’s dock so we headed there. The shops were all outside shops and I was getting quite hot. I found 3 post cards to send to family members, but they cost $1.10 each, which is a LOT more than we are used to paying for post cards in the U.S., but certainly a lot cheaper than $4.00 each as they were yesterday in Moorea!!! We saw a McDonalds which had everything written in French on the signs. It was really too hot to hang out in the heat so we headed back to the ship, but on the dock there were some natives doing Tahitian dances, making baskets out of palm fronds, and also necklaces. There was also a craft market there, and a local tourism information center which was air conditioned. I decided to stay there and explore while Chuck went back onboard for an hour. I didn’t buy any crafts because they just weren’t my style, and I am so very tired of seeing parehos. When the time came for us to meet the tour guide on the dock, it was very confusing. There were tons of people all crowding around trying to get to the right excursion. We finally found our bus, which looked rather like a Greyhound so although the seats were comfortable, the air conditioning was low, so we all had to open the windows to get some cool breezes in as the bus was moving. On the way out of the city, the tour guide explained many of the different parks, beaches and buildings we were passing. The first place we stopped was an island museum. Although they didn’t have a lot of actual artifacts, there was a lot of written history and pictures to go through. It was cool in the museum, which was probably the best part of that whole experience. There was a small gift shop, rest rooms, and a soda machine. We had been given some French Polynesian coins the day before so we used them in the machine and got rid of most of our coins to buy a Coke. Next stop was to an open air reconstruction of an old Polynesian temple. Chuck got out and took a few pictures but I wasn’t interested and was too hot. As we left that area, the guide made sure to point out all the road side stands selling fresh fruit from people’s trees like pineapple and papaya. There were also stands selling sea urchins, which apparently taste pretty good. Next stop was a garden with a gift shop and a very beautiful water fall. When we were on our way to the South Pacific, I thought I would see many waterfalls, but this was the only one for the whole trip since this is out last day of actual touring. This garden also had a pretty pond with lily pads in it, and a few hiking trails but we didn’t have time to hike, plus it was too hot anyway! The best part of this visit was the waterfall and we made sure to take some pictures by it. The next stop was at a lovely Chinese woman’s house. She is actually from Tahiti, and married a man from England. Together they run a restaurant on the island right down the street from her their home. But she gives tours of the grounds of their home, and points out all the specific plants and their uses. She pointed out one that can heal skin cancer, and some that heal that itching from mosquito bites. She also showed us the Noni plant which I have heard a lot about. She says it is a cure for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. That sounds quite interesting to me since I do have high cholesterol so I am going to look into it a bit more when I get home. If I could drink a natural juice to lower my cholesterol, rather than having to be on daily medication for it and followed by a doctor, I would much rather drink the juice! I took some gorgeous pictures of her plants and the grounds of her home, which overlook a beautiful bay with mountains in the background. At the end of the tour, we were led to a gazebo and treated to fresh pineapple juice and fresh fruit which included pineapple slices, coconut, bananas and gooseberry jam. The fresh pineapple juice tasted absolutely refreshing since it was pretty warm out, and if you weren’t in an area where the breeze could reach you, the heat was pretty bad. The last stop of our tour today was to a fern grotto. I had never seen one before and so we walked through an area that almost seemed like a jungle for 5 minutes, and then came out into a clearing with a huge fern covered rock formation with a huge cave-like opening in the bottom where people were swimming. It was quite pretty and the water looked dark but refreshing. We headed back to the city of Papeete. Gas here is $8 per gallon, a bit cheaper than in Moorea. The city was hugely disappointing. It’s not what I think of when I think of Tahiti. On the way back to the city, on the quieter roads, the tour guide pointed out stands on the side of the road where people were selling fish they had caught that day. There were bags of parts of fish that you could buy, or whole fish hanging up. Well, I guess you at least knew they would be fresh!We were the last tour back to the ship, but because we booked the excursion through the Princess Cruise line, we were not concerned about being left behind. The ship will always wait if there is a cruise excursion that they sponsor that has not returned to the ship. If you are on your own though, the ship won’t wait, and people have had to fly to the next cruise stop to catch up with the ship in some cases. Chuck is concerned about that so we always book tours through the cruise ship, or just explore the port town on our own so we are close to the ship. This was our last port stop so tonight as we left the island of Tahiti, I tried to get in as many shots as I could. Moorea is right across the bay, visible from Tahiti so I got some shots of a partially cloud covered Moorea as well. I also got an amazing view and some pictures of a prism next to the clouds. It wasn’t an actual rainbow, but it was rainbow colors and was beautiful. I was on the 15th deck, out toward the back of the ship though and it was so windy that it was hard to make sure I took good pictures that weren’t blurred because of the wind.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hawaiian Cruise, Part 2

Part 2, Hawaiian Cruise Day 7, Friday, October 26 Today we had to be in the tour meeting area at 7:40 a.m. to meet the tour bus that took us to Pearl Harbor. As soon as Chuck woke up, he called me over to the balcony doors to see Diamond Head which hovered in the distance over the city of Honolulu. Getting up this early was hard for me, especially on vacation, but this was a chance for a lifetime, so we got up early, ate a quick breakfast, and went to the meeting area. After getting on the bus, we had a few quick stops in downtown Honolulu, including a palace of ancient kings and queens. It was pretty hot today and I hadn’t realized Hawaii was going to be so hot. I had heard it had a pretty constant average temperature of 82, but what I didn’t know is that the humidity is very high so it’s not a comfortable type of heat. Back on the bus we took about a 1 hour drive to Pearl Harbor. On the way there, the bus driver gave us a rundown of how Pearl Harbor came about and what to expect at the memorial. Once we arrived at the memorial, we had a chance to see a huge world map that had been painted on the sidewalk outside the museum. The bus driver gave us a geographical history of how that day came about and played out. It was really neat to be able to see the involved geographical areas while hearing about it as well. We were able to go to a museum that had great information of events leading up to the Pearl Harbor attacks. After the museum, we all lined up outside a theater, and if we hadn’t been with this pre- arranged tour on the cruise, we would have had a very long wait. People were arriving at 10:30 and couldn’t get tickets till the 2:00 show, which is the preview to actually going out to the actual memorial. The movie that we saw was about 20 minutes long and had actual footage of the Pearl Harbor attack which was amazing to me. In fact, it had footage from the Japanese planes in terms of what they saw in front of them, and other Japanese planes on top of Pearl Harbor, but underneath the plane that actually took the footage. It was a realistic look at the attack. Immediately after the movie, we were ushered onto a ferry and taken over to the memorial itself. We were told to be quiet and respectful of the more than 900 men who were still entombed in the USS Arizona, underneath the water. They asked us not to talk, or if we did, to keep our voices low. I expected almost total quiet when we arrived so was very disappointed to hear a dull roar when we arrived. It was not quiet and solemn like I expected. It was not even quiet. I was disappointed in that. After all, these men gave their very lives for our country, and the least we could do is be quiet for the 20 minute time period we were to be over their watery grave. When we first walked onto this great white concrete monument, the top of a part of the ship was sticking out of the water on our right. And also just past the actual edge of the walkway we were on; you could see a tower with a ladder inside that these men had surely climbed up and down during their time of duty on the USS Arizona battleship. I was not teary eyed till I saw that ladder. It was such a sad event in our nation’s history. Chuck had often told me about the oil that still bubbles up from the ship. During the informational talk, it was stated that the way the oil is still floating up to the top of the water, it is estimated that there is still enough in the ship to continue leaking for another 30 years. The ship has now become a home to many types of fish who swim in and out and around it. I tried to get some pictures of the fish, but was not able to. I did get pictures of the oil floating up to the top of the water, and will be writing a hub and including pictures of that. Far away from the memorial, you can see the USS Missouri, which is the ship that the war ended on. It is said that the USS Arizona signifies the beginning of the United Sates involvement in World War II, and the Missouri signifies the end of it. Each group of visitors is allowed 20 minutes only on the memorial, and is then ferried back to the mainland. There are other ships to tour while at the park, but we were on a schedule with the tour, so after a few minutes in the gift shop, we boarded the bus to go visit some other areas of Oahu. But I wanted to just mention that while in the gift shop, Chuck bought a newspaper from Philadelphia that was a copy of the printed newspaper announcing the end of the war. It was pretty neat to see what was going on in Philly that very day. Once on the bus, our driver headed off to the rain forest area of Oahu. I love rain forests so I was pretty excited to finally be able to see the lush foliage of Hawaii. We went to the top of a lookout area and it was amazing to see the view from there. Mountains lush with green vegetation led down to towns and then the ocean. We also saw a lot of chicken running wild all over the island. Apparently they got loose during a typhoon in the 1990s, and have multiplied all over the island. From there, we went to the punchbowl, which is a cemetery for veterans that were killed in the pacific, and their spouses can be buried with them. We saw the gravesite of Ernie Pyle, and a few other heroes I had never heard of, but Chuck had. This site sits above Honolulu, and from there, you can get a pretty good view of the city. We were dropped off back at the ship at the end of this tour, but the tour guide gave us a choice of going back to the ship, or getting dropped off at Hilo Hattie’s, which has been voted the best place to buy authentic Hawaiian clothing in all of Hawaii. Each island we are going to has a Hilo Hattie’s, but the one in Honolulu is the flagship store and at 30,000 square feet is the largest. I opted to go for the largest one of course, and we spent about 45 minutes exploring the store. When we first got off the bus, we were greeted by a beautiful Hawaiian girl who gave us leis made out of shells. Once inside, we had our choice of free samples of coconut or pineapple juice, and saw the largest Hawaiian shirt in existence, according to the Guinness book of World Records. It was huge. I wish I had taken a picture. Being a bargain hunter, I was disappointed in Hilo Hattie’s. The clothes were beautiful, but expensive. And although they had a bargain section, both Chuck and I couldn’t find anything we liked in our sizes. So, I left without buying anything. They had Hawaiian foods, macadamia nuts, coffee, cookies, etc. that were all for sale for tourists, and quite tacky Christmas tree ornaments, but more for tourists than what I was looking for. There was a free shuttle back to the ship so we took that. One thing that I thought was pretty funny is that all the Hilo Hattie stores and Walmart stores on each island have free shuttles from the cruise port to their stores. We also saw a few free shuttles to K-marts! After dinner, we went to a show of authentic hula school for children. Most of the dancers were little girls but there were also a couple of boys in the troupe. They were absolutely adorable, and they also have 3 adult women that did hula dancing for us as well. The woman that runs the school has done so for about 30 years, and interpreted many of the songs as the dancers danced. It was a really cultural experience and you could tell the children really enjoyed performing for us. We stayed in Honolulu till 11:00p.m. So when we left we couldn’t actually see any parts of the island…. Day 8, Saturday, October 27 Today, we were in the port of Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii. I am very confused by all the different islands, but will always remember Kona because I had one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had there! We got off the ship, and this was a day we had not planned any excursions. Instead, we walked around town, and shopped in some stores and saw some historic buildings. It was very hot and humid again, and I was not happy to be sweating so much. The shops were all air conditioned so I browsed to cool off, and see if I could find some Hawaiian type of clothing that was a bit more form fitting and didn’t make me look like a whale. I never realized how large Hawaiian clothing can make a person look because it is not form fitting and just floats with a lot of material all around one’s body. I finally found a beautiful Hawaiian shirt at a good price, and also a casual long shirt to use as a night shirt, or just to hang out in while we are in the cabin. As we were checking out some of the many stores and small shops along the main street in Kona, Chuck found a place that was giving out free Kona coffee samples. They said their best selling coffee was the dark roast but when I tired a sample, it was way too bitter for my tastes. So I tried the medium roast and the vanilla macadamia nut coffee and was instantly hooked! I got a cup, and Chuck got a cold drink, and we headed out to a park that was part of the front lawn of the Kona Inn. We sat there drinking our drinks, and watching the waves come in and hit the sea wall. We could see our ship out in the bay in the distance and it was a beautiful, peaceful time. Although it was hot, “Vog” set in, which is a fog brought about from volcanic action. This brought in clouds and cooler breezes. There was an active volcano 96 miles away from us, and even that far inland, brought volcanic fog. We had wanted to go see the volcano, but we were only in port for about 6 hours and didn’t have time to go. We bought some vanilla macadamia nut coffee to bring home with us, and headed back to the ship. We have gotten into a routine of heading back to the ship after touring, grabbing a quick lunch, taking a nap, working out, having a glass of wine on the balcony, and then going to dinner. Afterward, we go to a show depending on what is happening that night. Tonight, on our way out of the port, we were treated to an amazing view of the port of Kona fading away in the background, with huge beautiful mountains in the foreground, all at dusk, with the moon rising slowly over the island as we left. It was a sight I will never, ever forget. We saw a guy who is a Las Vegas entertainer, named Tony Tillson, in case any of you have ever heard of him. He sang a lot of the older songs from the fifties, and a lot of Sammy Davis Jr. songs…. Day 9, Sunday, October 28 Today we were in the port of Nawiliwili on the island of Kauai. Chuck has often told me that this is his favorite Hawaiian island because it is so green and lush and I was looking very forward to seeing it. In the past few days, I hadn’t seen a lot of the mountainous, green, lush Hawaii that one often hears of. And no waterfalls yet either so I had high hopes for this island. We boarded a bus and thoroughly enjoyed our tour guide, who asked us to call him, “Uncle Willy.” Uncle Willy is a Hawaiian native who has hardly any teeth left, and a very strong native Hawaiian accent, which made it hard to understand him at times. But nevertheless, he gave jus lessons in the Hawaiian language and culture throughout most of the day! Our first stop was to an area where they filmed Jurassic park. It was truly beautiful, and on one side of the valley, we could see red cliffs with caves where ancient Hawaiians had buried their ancestors. Then it was off to the beautiful Waimea Canyon. This canyon was called the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific” by Mark twain, and once there, it is easy to understand why. This canyon, although smaller in size than the Grand Canyon, was created at the same time. The striated rocks are beautiful, and there was lush green vegetation throughout the canyon, which gives it a different type of look than the more rock filled Grand Canyon. It was a beautiful site to behold. There were some beautiful breezes at the top of the canyon, but we were still thirsty, and Chuck bought us some refreshing pineapple chunks that had just been picked that morning. These containers of fresh pineapple were sold at a tent just before the canyon view area, and there were other choices including coconuts. That was to be our lunch today so it was a very cool and refreshing treat. Back on the bus, we headed to the Spouting Horn through a lot of small little towns, including Hanapepe, one of my favorites. The vegetation was beautiful in this part of Hawaii, and I took as many pictures as I could throughout the bus window. We drove by many coffee farms, horse and cattle pastures, and beautiful flowers were everywhere. In the background everywhere were gorgeous high, green mountains. We stopped at a gift store in Hanapepe, which was a pure tourist trap, but really neat if you wanted to see jewelry made by native Hawaiians, and they also had free coffee and pineapple juice. From there, we went to the Spouting Horn, where water spouts high through a lava tube, and makes a noise like a loud dragon right after it spouts. I took some pictures of the many chickens that were walking about, as this island has plenty of wild chickens as well, and also some native beautiful flowers. There was another comedian on tonight, but we opted to eat in the buffet, and headed back to the room to watch another movie…. Day 10, Monday, October 29 Today is the first day of the four sea days we have between Hawaii and our next stop, which is Apia. On all of the cruises we have been on, this company named, “Bijou Ternier” always has a great sale where everything is $10. They carry belts, watches, pashminas, tote bags, costume jewelry, men’s and ladie’s wallets, sun hats for women, sunglasses, etc. I forgot to bring a watch, so I got one there, and Chuck bought a belt. This sale is pretty funny because people get so excited about it that before you know it, the lines to check out are backed up about 20 – 30 people long. Some men waited outside the dining room where this big sale is held, warning all the men that were just coming in, that they didn’t want to go in there!!! The men that do stand in line with their wives to check out often complain about the long lines. I think they should just go find a place to sit down and wait for their wives while the women wait in line. I have never heard a woman complaining while waiting in line to check out. The men’s attitudes always make me laugh. I did suggest to Chuck that I wait in line with our purchases while he went off to do something else. That worked well. The seas were pretty brought today, at between 4 and 7.5 feet. It didn’t bother us too much, except it was easy to lose your balance when walking on the ship. I have been either walking on the treadmill and swimming every day as a workout, or just swimming, and always followed by a few minutes in the hot tub ( I know, rough life, huh?!!!) Today I choose to just swim as a workout. But because the waves were so high, it was pretty crazy. Trying to swim in the pool was like trying to swim in the ocean. The waves were sloshing back and forth in the pools so much it was really a fight to swim laps. Afterward, I sat in one of the hot tubs for about 10 minutes. The water in the hot tubs does not slosh back and forth because there are drains all around the top of the tubs that take care of the extra water. This hot tub was in the sun, but since at this point it was about 5:30 p.m., it was not too hot, and the water itself was warm, but not hot. It was one of the most relaxing moments I have had on this cruise, and as you can tell, there have been many relaxing moments! After working out, we sat on the balcony with a glass of wine and some snacks Chuck had bought on one of our stops, including Hawaiian macadamia nuts. We were hoping for a sunset but there were clouds around the edge of the horizon so we didn’t get an actual sunset, but saw the sun disappear behind the clouds. It was still beautiful. Tonight was a formal night, so we got dressed up, and went to dinner. Chuck doesn’t like having to pose to get formal portraits done, but we agreed to get one set of portraits taken on each of the four formal nights so we can end up with one nice portrait from the trip. They take pictures all the time on the ship and on port stops, so we have lots of pictures to choose from, but we will only get one portrait picture. We skipped the show again and watched a movie on the art channel about the Spanish painter Goya…. Day 11, Tuesday, October 30 Today was another sea day which means another day to relax. After breakfast we spent some time on the promenade deck in these seriously comfortable deck chairs. The promenade deck is covered so we had a beautiful view of the ocean going by, but breezes and shade to keep us cool. I wrote some articles to publish when we get back on Hub Pages, and Chuck read more of his book about Ronald Reagan. After a nap we worked out again, of course! We had wine on our balcony, and hoped for a beautiful sunset, but there were so many clouds in the blue sky, and on the horizon, that the best we could do was see the sun disappear behind the clouds. This was still a pretty sight though. Just before the sun went behind the clouds, it shone on our faces, and was warm, but not hot. The breezes blew across our faces, and for what must have been at least the 10th time on this cruise, I thought,”This must be the most relaxed I have ever been!” As you can tell from that sentence, this is a very relaxing cruise. And we aren’t even to the halfway point yet! There is a pizza place called, ‘Alfredos” on the 5th floor, right next to the Atrium. The dining area is quite fancy, but they only serve pizza. Diners have their choice of 6 different types, and each pizza consists of 6 slices so we went there and each had our own. Because this restaurant is right on the atrium in the middle of the ship, we were able to hear the classical musicians play for most of our dinner. It was wonderful, and of course very relaxing. After dinner, we had some time before the show, so we went out to the movies under the stars area and watched the last half of the movie, ‘People Like Us.” It was a bit confusing if you haven’t seen the first half. After the movie, we headed to the princess theatre to see the Comedian/Musician Lorenzo Clark. The show was about 1 hour long and 10 minutes in, it seemed a bit familiar to me. As he went on, I realized that we had seen this same performer on a different cruise that we had gone to on a previous Princess cruise. Because the last times we were on princess were in 2009, 2008, and 2006, I was hugely disappointed that here was the same guy, with the exact same show we had seen before. It was very disappointing, and not even that good the FIRST time we saw it!... Day 12, Wednesday, October 31 Today again was another day at sea. We passed the equator today and the sun was very strong all day…obviously it would be being this close to the equator. We laid in the sun on the deck near the pool for about an hour, and on the big screen near the pool, we heard a concert by, “Pink.” Many of you may not know who she is, but she’s a current musical star today, and both Chuck and I were impressed by her music. I thought she was a much harder rock musician than she turned out to be. After the sun, and a quick nap, we headed to work out. I usually walk on the treadmill every day now for 20 – 25 minutes, and then swim in the pool for 15 – 30 minutes, followed by a 10 minute soak in the hot tub. It is so relaxing. I have only been able to get Chuck to come into the hot tub once, but today, I had entered into a conversation with 2 other women in the pool, and he had stopped by before going back to the room. I encouraged him to come into the pool with us, and he did. We had a great conversation with an older mother and her daughter who cruise all the time. They have had 17 cruises on Princess alone, and the mother used to cruise transatlantic cruise in the days of the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, and told me that she thoroughly enjoyed those cruises because her husband had a steward, and she had a stewardess who would help them lay out their clothes and get dressed for each evening’s dinner. That seems silly to me, but she loved it. She also said she was a self proclaimed snob in her younger days because she loved the class system on the Queen Mary where she always travelled first class. That meant that people in the lower class staterooms could not come up to first class, but if you were travelling first class, you could go down to the lower levels and enjoy the entertainment down there if you so chose. That’s too reminiscent of the Titanic for me. We had a nice chat with both those women, and went for a nice soak in the hot tubs, which by the way, are not so hot that they make you tired. After our time in the pool, we of course sat on the balcony with a glass of wine (one of Chuck’s favorite things to do!) and tried to see a sunset, but the clouds again got in the way. We went to dinner at the Horizon Court because we had spent so much time relaxing at sunset, that we were running short of time if we wanted to get to the 8:15 show. The Horizon Court is the buffet where we can eat whatever we want, so is quicker. We had just enough time to eat and made it to the theater about 2 minutes before the show started. Tonight after dinner, we went to a musical production called, “Stardust” presented by the ship’s singers and dancers. I enjoyed the costumes very much. The music was from the 1940’s and 1950’s and while Chuck recognized most of it, I didn’t. One of the songs was,”Hey There…you with the stars in your eyes.” It was a good match for the crowd of people onboard this cruise though since most of them are over the age of 65. Today was Halloween and although Chuck and I don’t like it, the rest of the cruise passengers and crew seemed to. Many of the passengers and most of the crew in the buffet area were dressed in Halloween costumes. It was nice for the crew to be able to dress in something other than their same old uniforms. It was obvious that they were having fun with it. There was a Halloween party in one of the dancing venues at 10:00 p.m. obviously; we did not go to it. After the show we came back to the room and watched the movie, ‘The Notebook,” one of my favorites…. Day 13, Thursday, November 1 Today we put in a load of wash just before breakfast. That’s one thing we like about Princess Cruise lines…you can do your own wash onboard the ship. It’s $2.00 per wash and another $2.00 per dry, so for $4.00 we have been doing one load per week, which gets us through. We remembered this about Princess so brought our own laundry soap and dryer sheets, but if people need to purchase laundry soap onboard, they can do so for $1.25. We are doing one load of wash per week, and that seems to work out well for us. After breakfast we decided we had had too much sun yesterday and didn’t want sunburns so we walked around the ship, exploring the library, and there was another big sale of leftovers and clothing from the ship’s stores so we spent some time in there. At this point, it was 11:30 and we found ourselves in the atrium, near the International Café. This was an area that I thought we had to pay for the specialty foods behind the glass which were very different than the food in the Horizon Court Buffet, but I found out it was free, except for the specialty coffees in the café next to it. They had delicious things to eat, such as shrimp salad with very large shrimp, Waldorf salad, ham and cheese paninis, tuna sandwiches and mozzarella cheese and tomato paninis to name a few. They also had one type of soup available, but I had never heard of it before. From 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., a classical strings group plays in the atrium so we took some of the delicious food from the International Café and ate it with the concert from the string quartet to dine by. It was really a wonderful lunch. After lunch we headed to the Princess Theater to hear a port lecture all about the Samoa Islands. We will be visiting Western Samoa (Apia is the port) tomorrow, and American Samoa on Saturday. We learned quite a bit about the customs of the Samoan people and found it quite interesting. After the talk, we went back to the room for a nap, and then to work out. Chuck now joins me after his workout in the gym, and we swim for a bit then sit in the hot tub. The hot tubs are a bit disappointing in that they have jets but no bubbles coming up. It is still quite relaxing. We have made friends with an older woman and her daughter, both from Canada, and they have gone on 17 princess cruises so it’s fun to pick up information from them. We had dinner tonight in the Horizon Court buffet, and found some absolutely delicious beef tenderloin with your choice of horseradish sauce or gravy, and we also had mashed potatoes, creamed spinach ( me) and a really yummy chicken and mushroom pot pie which I am hoping to find a recipe for when we get back to real life! After dinner and dessert, (I had a fantastic piece of Amaretto cheesecake) we headed back down to the room and watched another movie. This time it was Roman holiday which was the first movie Audrey Hepburn had a starring role in. We could have gone to the show to see a Gypsy fiddler, but we opted not to…. Day 14, Friday, November 2 Today we arrived in Apia, which is part of Western Samoa. We didn’t have a tour until 2:00 p.m. because the ship didn’t actually arrive in Samoa until 10:00 a.m. We had time to eat both breakfast and lunch on the ship. When the ship first docked, we were greeted by a group of Samoan traditional musicians and dancers who performed for us on the dock. We could just watch from our stateroom balcony. The first thing I noticed about Samoa was the temperature. It was SO hot, even just on the balcony. And the heat was made worse by the humidity. I only stayed out on the balcony long enough to take a few pictures, and then went back indie. On the way to lunch, we heard some people talking in the elevator about how some of the people who had afternoon excursions, but had gone out on the dock when we first arrived, were trying to give their tickets away for afternoon tours because they couldn’t stand the heat at this port. Since I don’t really like heat and humidity, I was not looking forward to our afternoon tour. But at 2:00p.m., we arrived at the Princess Theater with about 298 other cruise passengers for our tour of the island. We ended up waiting for 30 minutes, and while we waited, they theater’s screen repeatedly showed the Pop concert that had been pre-recorded. At the beginning of the cruise, all passengers were offered the opportunity to join the Sapphire Princess Pop Choir. I had thought about it, but it involved a committed rehearsal time frequently throughout the cruise and I had wanted to relax with no commitments so I opted not to join. After watching the concert, I was glad I did! Although they had plenty of spirit, the group was pretty bad. Part of the reason they were so bad is the music they performed. The cruise director’s assistant and another staff member were the directors…yes I meant to use the plural form there. There were 2 directors and apparently they weren’t together in their directing because the choir members started and stopped at different times. The musical numbers chosen were songs like, “We Are the Champions” by Queen, and “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond, and also “Oh What a Night” by a musician I can’t remember. But they were not very good choices for a group of about 60 members. Plus to add to the music, they were all taught hand motions. I don’t mean to criticize, but the whole thing was pretty bad, and the group was off key a lot. At least they looked like they were having fun performing. And since it all was recorded on the ship’s DVD, which is for sale, I am sure the cruise line will make some money on the whole venture. After 30 minutes of waiting, the group of 300 of us were ushered off the ship into waiting mini buses that had open windows because there was no air conditioning. Our guide for our bus trip was a very nice young native woman named Peti (pronounced like Betty but starting with a P) She didn’t have a microphone so it was a bit hard to hear her. We were ushered around town to a bunch of stops which really could have been done away with. The first stop was to a fish market, but because we were in a different time zone, this was actually Saturday for the Western Samoans, and many of the stores close at 1:00p.m. on Saturdays. This meant that we arrived at an empty fish market with the only clue that earlier in the day it had even been a fish market was the lingering smell of dead fish. Instead of getting out at the fish market, they gave us 15 minutes to go through a nearby market selling clothing and jewelry. This market also looked as though they were closing soon and had just stayed open for the cruise ship customers. But 15 minutes was not nearly enough time to see all the vendors. After perusing as many as we could, and not buying anything, we hopped back onboard, and were taken to the Parliament building. This building is only 1 year old and it was obvious that the Samoan people were very proud of it. When we arrived here, we were told we had 30 minutes to explore, except that being a Saturday, the building was closed so there was nothing to see. We couldn’t walk inside, and could only take pictures of the outside of the building, which is in a rather industrial area, so was boring. I did take some pictures of some of the flowers and trees in the area. Back onboard our hot mini bus, we were next taken to an outdoor fruit market. This was a bit more interesting, but could have been seen in 15 minutes instead of the 30 minutes we were allotted. There were lot of fruits available for purchase including bananas, bread fruit, mangoes, and cabbage which we saw priced at $3.00 per head, and $15.00 for a medium sized pumpkin. The prices here were outrageous. After this, we were driven to a different part of the island to see the only thing worth seeing, in both Chuck’s and my opinion. The Robert Louis Stevenson home and museum. On the way, we saw many sights that were unusual, including actual graves in the front lawns of people’s homes. In Western Samoa, people are given the choice to either have their relatives buried in a cemetery or in front of their homes so they can be near their remains. We also saw plastic bags of garbage which were inside wire cages on top of 4 foot poles. I asked about this and was told it was to keep dogs and cats out of people’s garbage before the garbage trucks come to pick it up. My favorite part of this island was going to see where Robert Louis Stevenson lived. During the last 4 – 6 years of his life have heard information about his living here the last 4, 5 or 6 years of his life. I will have to Google this when we get back home to find out which is the absolute truth. Apparently Robert was in Hawaii on vacation with his family where he heard wonderful things about how friendly the Samoan people were, and how Samoa is a wonderful place to visit. He took his family there, and indeed fell in love with the friendliness of the people on the island, so built a home there. When we arrived at the home, called, “Villa Vailyma,” we were instructed to take our shoes off. We were ushered into 8 different rooms of the home, and in each room, a Samoan native, dressed in native attire, was there to tell us about each room, and answer questions. I found it interesting that RLS wrote 13 books during his time there, which is approximately 1 book every 4 ½ months. That’s a lot of writing. He died young, at the age of 42, and I suggested to Chuck kiddingly that maybe the heat on the island killed him!!! But apparently he died of Tuberculosis. After the tour of the house, and the extremely overpriced museum, in which post cards were for sale at $3 each, we were ushered to a side porch where drummers and dancers performed a 40 minute show, which included a traditional Kava ceremony. We were given refreshments of coconut water from straws inserted into coconuts, and also coconut meat. I liked the meat much better than the juice which was warm and sweet. We were taken back to the ship at this point. Both Chuck and I have decided that Western Samoa is not a place we would like to return to in the future. Once onboard ship again, it took awhile to cool off. Then we went for dinner at the Horizon Court buffet, which we are finding much better for food we enjoy than the actual dining rooms. After dinner, I saw part of the movie, “Snow White and the Huntsman” starring Kristen Stewart. It was better than I had expected but not Chuck’s cup of tea, so he went back down to the room. On the ship’s TV channel, the movie, “The Descendants” starring George Clooney was on. I had never seen it, but had heard good things about it. Since it has been filmed in Hawaii, and we had just recently left there, it was really great to be able to watch it and recognize places we had just left…. Day 15, Saturday November 3 Today we arrived at Pago, Pago, which is actually pronounced, “Pango Pango.” This is American Samoa which means it is an American Territory, but its citizens can’t vote. I was unsure of how hot it would be, and since we didn’t have an excursion planned for the day, I wore my bathing suit underneath a black dress that I have been using as a bathing suit cover up, although it looks like a dress. As soon as we got off the ship, we saw a multitude of tents set up like a market with vendors selling clothing, lots of jewelry, and wooden items such as wooden bowls with four legs. There was also a tent set up manned by the National Park Service. We went there to find out if we had enough time in this port to go to the National Park which has a beautiful beach as well as a rain forest. We had 6 hours left in port, but if we took a bus there, we may not be able to get one back right away. This made Chuck nervous because if you are late from an excursion and it’s not one through Princess, the ship will leave you behind. Instead, we opted to walk to a beach that was about 15 minutes away. It wasn’t a very large beach, but the scenery around it was pretty. Chuck forgot his suit so he waded and I swam for just a bit, then we laid in the sun for awhile before heading back toward the ship, and the town beyond. I took a lot of flower pictures on the way back, and it was now very humid so we were very happy to have the opportunity to slip into a Oceanic museum sponsored by Noah…this is the national organization that makes maps of the ocean floor. This center just opened in August so it only had 2 rooms available to explore, and there wasn’t too much there, but it was very cool inside so it was a nice treat. We walked past the ship into the main part of town. Although we both decided that we wouldn’t mind coming back to American Samoa to do some more exploring someday, after we got away from the shoreline and were in town, it was so hot and humid that I had sweat dripping down my nose! We went to a post office so Chuck could mail some post cards, then went to a few shops which were really not very nice. The down itself was what I would call dingy. Transportation is mostly through small buses with wooden seats and open air windows. We were really thirsty so before heading back go the ship, we found a supermarket and went in to see if we could find something to drink. This store was incredibly expensive for most things. A bottle of Yellow Tail wine was $14.99 although at home in the states it would have cost $6.95. I saw some Avon deodorant which I know is 99 cents since I used to sell Avon. Here, the same bottle of deodorant is $2.99. Post cards here were $1.00 each, whereas in Hawaii they were 4 or 5 for $1.00, depending on where you shopped. Surprisingly, the same can of Coke in a refrigerator near the cash register that would have cost $1.39 cost 75 cents in Pago Pago. After the supermarket experience, we walked back to the ship and browsed through the vendor tents, but didn’t buy anything. Back on the ship, we had lunch and a nap. The heat really tires me out. Chuck went to work out, but before joining him, I decided I had skipped the scones with whipped cream for too many days and headed to the food court to have some with a cup of orange herbal tea. The scones with whipped cream were SO good that when I took my first bite, my jaw ached with pleasure. I have never had that happen before, but it was an absolutely delicious treat. I met Chuck in the workout area. He is now swimming with me every day after his workout and then we sit in the hot tub for 10 minutes or so before heading back to the room. Tonight, the sun set at 6:15 but once again, there were too many clouds down near the horizon so we couldn’t see the sunset. It was very windy on the balcony, so we had wine, but it wasn’t as nice as when the sun is setting and we still have some light. We actually haven’t seen a sunset yet because the clouds are always in the way. After working out, we went to dinner in one of the restaurants but became frustrated because everything takes so long there compared to the ease of the food court where you can serve yourself.