1989 World Cruise


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Sagafjord World Cruise 1989

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Greetings from the Middle East (of the Atlantic). Things are finally settling down in the Tour Office after a very hectic first week. Everyone had to pick up pre-paid tour tickets and book ones they still wanted before they sold out. The shore excursions are selling like they've never sold before for American Express on any ship and we have long waiting lines. It really keeps us hopping.

Click on the link below to see a map of the Pacific Ocean.


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Sunday, January 15

Hi all,

MONDAY - We dock in about an hour so I'd better get this finished. Last night we had an informal dinner in the dining room so I wore the jacket Jeff loaned me instead of my tuxedo. Nice to be casual for a change! We have quite a group at our table. Ann Menges is the lady from Fort Lauderdale whom I met at the jigsaw puzzle table. She's in her 50's, quite large, and very funny. John and Catherine are from Napa Valley, around 60, and also good fun. Then there's a petite aristocratic English lady, about 75, who we call Lady Jane! Her real name is Yvonne, but Ann dubbed her Lady Jane because she is sooooo English. She has the most colorful facial expressions and between being a little dizzy and terribly proper she makes a humorous contribution to our table. The newest addition is Madame Sylvie from Geneva, Switzerland. She speaks some English but I enjoy the chance to use French with her every evening. A large percentage of the staff speaks German - many are from Germany and Austria, and of course, many of the Scandinavians speak it. There are even a few Swiss Germans on board, several Spanish-speaking passengers, and the band is from Poland! It's great to practice all my languages on the ship.

The job is going well here in the office. Jim and Tom, my supervisors are good to work with and they mostly stay in the back office while Birgit (German) and I staff the desk. Birgit is actually employed by Cunard, but works with us in the Tour Office. We handle strictly shore excursions and have nothing to do with American Express financial concerns. We just bill passengers through their ship bill so we don't handle money. Now that we've gotten most of the passengers squared away with their itineraries we have time to read up on countries to be visited, prepare the itineraries for our overland tours and write letters.

My cabin is quite small, of course, but does have a porthole. Crossing the Atlantic, though, they were all closed, but hopefully they'll be re-opened shortly. My cabin is the furthest forward of any and it really amplifies the swells. The first couple days out of Barbados we had pretty rough seas and I couldn't stay in my cabin at all unless I was lying on the bed. No problem sleeping, but anything else was out of the question. I never did get really sick, but it wasn't until 3 days ago that I felt really normal again. Now I'm fine and enjoy the up and down. At the worst part it was so bad that it knocked me to the floor once trying to go into the cabin! Nothing subtle about the motion! We have room service for everything and the young Philippino who does my cabin is named Joel, but he says his friends at home call him Toto!

Yesterday they had a huge Norwegian buffet at noon with beautiful ice sculptures and food layouts. I had intended to take a picture but ended up taking 4 because I couldn't get it all in with one. Quite elaborate. In the dining room we order off the menu and there are always fancy things like caviar, crepes suzettes, etc., and on different evenings they feature different themes or nationalities. Ann has instituted the tradition of trying each other's new items with our 'baby spoons' (coffee spoons). I still like ice cream for dessert best.

We have a total of 465 passengers on board, 372 of them American, with fair numbers of British, German and Canadian, as well as smatterings of 7 other nationalities. I had been under the impression it holds 900, but 465 is full enough. Nicer this way - I'm learning the names of many of the passengers and staff and it's more personable. I guess 900 includes the crew. There are over 300 staff and crew, of which less than 50 are Americans. That's fine with me, of course.

We of the Tour Office are considered staff, which is nice, as we can do things with passengers or crew, either one, whereas the crew are not allowed to participate in activities with passengers. That means we can eat with the passengers or go to the show (e.g. George Kirby, comedian, Saturday night - great!) and go wherever we like on the ship.

We're almost ashore so I'll close this epistle and get ready to land.



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Friday, January 20


Hello all,

We had a sudden itinerary change so I'll try to get a letter off before we leave port. We got in this morning with plans to be in Abidjan from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm with a morning city tour. Due to tides they forced us to schedule a 1:00 pm departure - dangerous thing to do at the last minute when passengers have all been told the later time. We probably succeeded in informing everyone of the change, but when we got back from the tour we were told because of a problem with the refueling barge, we couldn't leave until 6:00 am tomorrow, forcing us to bypass Lome, Togo and go directly to Walvis Bay, Namibia. Many passengers were quite disappointed (me too) but there's nothing we can do about it. So we have a little more time here but as we have to be in the office from 3 - 5:00 pm it doesn't leave us much opportunity to explore anyway.

We did have three cities in West Africa and our tours went very well considering we had told people not to expect the best conditions. I found Dakar, Senegal to be a very interesting city. Women in all these 3 cities are dressed extremely colorfully. The temperature was in the 70's and sunny. Some magnificent building contrasted with the most primitive of shacks. Lina would have loved some of the architecture! Markets were great! So crowded with everything imaginable from African to western, stereos next to carved elephants, and jeans next to native costumes. Talk about high-pressure salesmen. They don't take 'no' for an answer.

It was great to see Becky Mullet in Banjul. She came along with us on our morning tour, and as our guide wasn't very verbose she added some informative input. Dakar and Abidjan are both over a million people; by contrast Banjul is just 40,000. You need to be really careful in the big ones, but Becky said if you're robbed in Banjul just yell 'thief' and all the people will take after the culprit and very likely beat him to death. He's lucky if the police get there first! Gambian people seem very friendly in general. Banjul is primitive with dusty streets and terrible roads. Dakar and Abidjan are both modern cities with contrasting sections of town. Abidjan especially is a magnificent city with heavy European influence. Still, the most impressive thing in Abidjan was the river laundry. This is a commercial business, washing clothes for pay and done only by men! The river was packed full, mostly with rubber tires with cement blocks in the middle where the men would pound the clothes to clean them. On the shore women sold lye soap by cakes, and nearby someone was roasting peanuts. In the background a beautiful, ultra-modern catholic church gave a stark contrast. On the Banjul trip we visited a little 'factory' where they made batik material - the famous African colorful tie-dye cloth. The place we visited was run by the woman who introduced it into the Gambia. We saw them washing, dyeing, waxing. . . The whole process. I was able to bring Becky onto the ship for lunch and she ordered about everything on the menu. I had told the people at my table ahead of time and they had saved up chocolates for her. Madame Sylvie gave her a bar of Swiss chocolate. She had quite a care package with the peppernuts and chocolate from Lina. After lunch we went to the market together. About the only thing I bought was a beautiful wooden mask for less than $7. Most people had paid anywhere from $10 to $25 for the same thing. I enjoy the bargaining and have been able to get some super prices for myself and for some of the people on my tours. Today I bought one of those beautiful butterfly pictures like Lina has, glass and frame included, for $4.

I'm really sorry we can't go to Lome, especially as that's supposed to be the cheapest city in West Africa, but what can you do? We'll be at sea 6 days now getting to Walvis Bay, Namibia. Tally Ho over the sea!



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Sunday, January 22


Hello all,

Today was a quite significant day so I decided to write about it while it was still fresh in my mind. I was quite disappointed not to get to go to Lome, Togo. However, today was some consolation as we got to cross the Equator at zero - zero, in other words, at the Greenwich Meridian. Zero degrees latitude and zero degrees longitude. Even very few of the seasoned crew and staff have ever done that. If you look on a map you can see that there are not many routes that would take you to exactly that point. On our monitor screen it always shows our exact location, speed, time and other pertinent information. We watched the degrees and minutes count down to zero this morning at 9:00 am and I took a picture of the monitor at 0' - 0'!!

Yesterday in the office I was booking some of our tours for Father Norris, the Catholic Priest on board, and he asked if any of us play the piano. I said I did, so he asked me to play the piano at mass this morning and I consented. Later I found out I was to play the organ. I got up this morning a little early and practiced about 45 minutes and played 'Holy God We Praise Thy Name' and 'A Mighty Fortress is Our God' for them. I was actually quite impressed with the amount of Scripture incorporated into their liturgy and certainly got more out of it than from the formal, dry Protestant service that followed.

TUESDAY - Shortly after lunch yesterday we started receiving reports of smoke and it wasn't long before we could see it start wafting up the stairway from the lower decks. Fire in the crew galley! It didn't take them too long to get it under control, but not before a stinging black smoke had filled a good part of the ship. From our office door we couldn't even see to the other end of the hall. They sent passengers out on deck for fresh air while they extracted the smoke and pumped in new air. Earlier in the morning we had had some kind of problem with the smokestack and it showered the rear deck with cinders, putting holes in a few clothes and catching the golf course carpet on fire! The excitement never seems to end on the ship. Two fires in one day.

Sunday night we had a special Equatorial Dinner. The actual food served was fairly typical, but the menu that evening had them listed in all sorts of interesting fashions. After dinner they had a big initiation in the ballroom for the Pollywogs, passengers who had never before crossed the equator. King Neptune and his queen and full court reigned over the ceremony and pronounced sentence as the Pollywogs paraded before them in small groups of 3 to 6, or even individually. Some of them were to dance, yodel, sing, or kiss a huge ugly fish (wrapped in plastic)! My friend Ann was given King Neptune's big staff and was ordered to direct the orchestra, which she did in fine fashion. It was a fun evening for everybody.

I really haven't had much chance to write to people yet. I've gotten one off to you at each port and a birthday card to Gaylene, and that's it. I should have a chance now that things are calmed down and our tours the next while are in ports where we don't have quite so many apprehensions as in West Africa. Thursday, in Walvis Bay, I'll be leading the tour to the Namib Desert and a uranium mine. From Cape Town I'll be doing the 4-day overland to Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls. From there I should be able to send a bunch of cards.

SATURDAY - Thursday we were in Walvis Bay and I went on the trip to Rossing Uranium Mine, one of the largest in the world. Bigger than Butte's pit. Right on the coast the climate is cool and foggy like San Francisco, but one mile inland it's hot desert. The huge sand dunes come right up to the town and right down to the ocean. We drove to the little German town of Swakopmund, which is very European, and then drove through barren desert to the mine. It was a fantastic tour and we were impressed with the management and the way they take care of their employees. The mine comprises 35% of the total value of Namibia's exports and they hire on a non-racial basis. They house and train their employees (2500) and provide courses and activities for the wives and families. An enjoyable day with a delicious buffet lunch at a golf course!

This morning the sun woke me up at 6:15 so I went out on deck to enjoy one of the most fabulous views I've ever seen as we pulled in to Cape Town, South Africa. I'm afraid this surpasses Leningrad in my book of most beautiful cities. Right at the bottom of Africa, nestled against towering mountains, a modern, colorful, clean, gorgeous city greets visitors. At the dock there was a welcoming committee to greet us with a Scottish bagpipes band, the Salvation Army band, baton twirlers, Indian women dressed as they used to in the deep south of the US, and an old classic Rolls Royce to take the captain for a ride. Usually (almost always) Table Mountain behind the city has a tablecloth of clouds resting on top, but today was one of those very rare days where the wind had blown until 3:00 am and the sky was crystal clear. It should be covered by this afternoon again according to local reports. Tomorrow morning at 6:30, 21 of us leave for Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls.



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Chapter 4, DURBAN to MOMBASA
Thursday, February 2


Hello all,

It seems like there's so much to tell in a short time. Since arriving in Cape Town 5 days ago I've seen and experienced so much. Saturday evening in Cape Town I met a family on the dock admiring the ship. We started talking and then they took me for a walk along the beach and then for a drive up to the 'rimrocks' for a fantastic view of Cape Town, Table Mountain, and the Sea. We talked about South Africa nearly the whole time. The main thing that struck me from that conversation and all others since then was that 10 years ago nobody would have ever believed that so much progress could be made dismantling apartheid in so short a time. The beaches are integrated, restaurants, shops, businesses, etc. Even the universities are fully integrated. About the only areas that aren't are housing, primary schools and voting. Housing is becoming slowly integrated, but that of course takes time. Schools are officially open, but, of course, one must attend the school in their own district so it's a direct result of the population of a given district. There is now a parliament for the 'Coloreds' and one for the Asians, and they're working on establishing one for the Blacks. The opinion of this family was that most realize that discrimination on the basis of color is wrong and even the official interpretation of the hard-line Afrikaans church has been changed to that position. The big problem they see, though, is handing an equal share of government in a highly sophisticated country to people who are uneducated and untrained. So they've decided they will educate and train them and bring them gradually into a partnership. One has to remember that millions of Blacks have poured in from rural areas and from other African countries due to the high standard of living they could attain here, but were from very primitive backgrounds. On the other hand, there are many successful and rich Black businessmen in South African cities. When we arrived in Johannesburg on our way to Zimbabwe we were met at the airport by two gals from American Express, one black and one White. They have worked side by side in the office for 6 years. When I was last in New York, one of the staunch anti-South Africans in the Amex office had stated that he was indignant that he had friends (Black) who would not be able to do things or go places with him in South Africa because of their color. I was told there are very few places left like that, at least officially, but out in rural areas people might give you dirty looks if you walked into some restaurants with a Black. I can't imagine anything like that in our own country, of course!! It's such a shame, really, because they've come so far and changed so much, and yet get no credit whatsoever from the press and politicians around the world. It is just a fabulous country with wonderful people of all colors, yet such a totally false picture is painted of them. As one of the passengers pointed out, they get the heat here because apartheid has been an official policy, whereas apartheid in Israel, and many other countries including the US just exists. Here they are at least doing something about it, and in a big way.

Sunday morning in Cape Town we were up early for a 6:15 departure and a two-hour flight to Johannesburg. We had drinks and snacks in the VIP lounge during a layover and it gave us time to write postcards, look around, shop, etc. Nice airport. Then on to Harare, Zimbabwe (Salisbury, Rhodesia). Harare is actually a modern and magnificent city, but in our short city tour we saw almost no Whites. It was Sunday afternoon and all the shops were closed but there were people all over the street. We stayed in the Sheraton, which was opened in 1985, built by the Yugoslavs, owned by the government, and run by Sheraton International. It was a surprisingly fabulous hotel with outstanding food. In general, the city had conspicuous evidence of 'Independence' in 1980, but it is still an impressive city. Monday morning we had another early morning flight to Victoria Falls, arriving at 9:00 am. We proceeded directly to the falls. They are 1 1/4 mile wide, but very different from any falls I've ever seen. As you can see quite well from the pictures, the water plunges into a deep gorge, which allows for perfect viewing from high on the other side. Because of the temperate climate and the constant drenching from the spray, there is beautiful, lush vegetation covering the cliffs. As we walked along the paths enjoying the views we were soaked as though it were raining hard. It was well worth it and even felt good. From the Falls we visited an African village museum then checked into the historic Victoria Falls Hotel - Huge and impressive, it overlooks the gorge and the bridge over to Zambia. Beyond the bridge the spray clouds rise up hundreds of feet. After a magnificent buffet lunch we had a little free time, which I used to walk to the bridge and across into Zambia. It was hot, but with a pleasant breeze. At 3:30 we went for a visit to a crocodile farm where they showed us the whole process of raising crocs and explained their life history to us.

Then we went on a cruise on the Zambezi River above the Falls and the motors didn't even give out on us. We saw hippos in the river and a few impalas on the shore. There were black thunderclouds all over the horizon and as the sun sank behind them, the blue sky above them took on the strangest colors. It resembled a rainbow shattered around the clouds or northern lights in the daytime. I've never seen or heard of anything quite like it. The locals had never either. The cruise was nice and relaxing. Back at the hotel they had an African Spectacular show with traditional dances and costumes. They had a big BBQ set up for after the show, but just as they started the last dance the clouds broke loose and the meal had to be moved under cover. They're prepared for that and it didn't detract from it at all.

Tuesday morning we were supposed to have free time until our 10:30 departure for the airport, but several of the group expressed interest in getting over to the Zambia side, so I made arrangements for the bus to take us across and turn around just before Zambian customs. The views from the other side are even better and our driver dropped us off at the parking lot on the other side and we all walked back across the bridge and reboarded on the other side. Wonderful experience. Back in Harare that afternoon, we visited a lion and cheetah park (private) and we drove into the area where the lions were kept. They are magnificent creatures. We saw several perched up on rock mounds sunning themselves. Later we drove to the Lake McIlwaine National Park and wandered the dusty backroads looking for animals. We saw impalas, tsessebe (antelope), wildebeest, waterbuck, ostrich, zebras, and giraffe. It's a beautiful fertile region and even the drive there and back was an adventure.

On our last day of tour we headed for the Harare airport and had to pull over on the way to allow a stream of police and diplomatic vehicles to zoom by. Zimbabwe president Mugabe was returning from a trip to Europe so we got to see him briefly in his black limo. A little added excitement, but it did throw things behind at the airport and we were about 45 minutes late leaving. Back in Johannesburg we had about 4 hours between flights and we were taken into Johannesburg to Gold Reef City, the equivalent of Disneyworld and Epcot Center a la South Africa. We were given a good tour on the whole gold process. First we saw a gold pour where they actually poured the molten gold into a cast and out came a shiny gold brick! Then we went underground into the mine. The mine is real. The gold reef is the enormously rich area around Jo'burg from which they have taken literally millions of tons of gold. So, it was a real mine we got to explore with our carbide lamps and hardhats. After seeing their miniature scale reproduction of the process from start to finish we headed back to the airport and flew to Durban.

Before heading back to the ship our driver took us through the center of town and along the beach. A nice little tour through an impressive city. Very different climate from Cape Town. Looking at a map one would expect similar conditions, but Cape Town is on the Atlantic with that cold Antarctic current keeping temperatures moderate. Durban is on the Indian Ocean and it's hot, muggy, and tropical. Me, I prefer Cape Town. Both are beautiful cities, however. Our driver in Durban was evidently one of the old-line apartheid Afrikaaners. One of those who states his opinion about Blacks without regard for modern reforms. I could surely see the roots of apartheid and the barriers to overcoming it in him. But of all the people I met in South Africa he was the only one that was not willing and wanting to work at the racial inequities. In spite of that he was an excellent guide and gave us a good glimpse into Durban life in a short time. We got back to the ship just in time to sail at 6:00 pm off into the torrid tropics of the Indian Ocean. It's almost always a bit warm in our office and in my room, and I often wish I could go jump in a snow bank back home. Ron, in our NY office mentioned in a telex that it was 0 degrees in Montana on Groundhog's Day, but maybe that was just West Yellowstone. Now it's Saturday the 4th. Happy Birthday to Lina, a card is following. We have people disembarking in Mombassa so maybe I can send this letter to the US to be mailed. You'll still get cards from different countries, but the news will get to you a little faster this way. An awful lot of people on the ship are sick, but I'm fine and never even got the measles.



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Thursday, February 9


Hello all,

Well, I think I've been doing pretty well so far in getting letters written. I just hope they are getting through to you. Last Sunday I played the organ for mass and then again last night for Ash Wednesday mass. I enjoy it, both the playing and the mass, and I'm enclosing a copy of the 'missalette' so you can get an idea what it's like. They have a layman who reads two fairly long passages of Scripture, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament, and then the priest reads another from the Epistles. We have Sunday mornings off when at sea so it gives a little break from work.

Monday we arrived in Mombasa, Kenya to start on our safaris. It was a very hot, muggy morning with cloudy, hazy sky. I got my group rounded up (23 + me) and headed for the airport. There the local agent met me and informed me that only half of the group would be in the lodge we booked, Intrepids, and half would be in a lodge a mile away, which was also 'very nice'. I told him I didn't like the idea, but there was nothing he could do about it there. We flew to Masai Mara National Park in the three Cessna 402 eight-seater planes, flying about 11,000' in altitude. Even with the clouds it was a fun flight with a fuel stop in Nairobi. This is the dry season in Kenya and we expected heat and dust in Masai Mara. But, totally out of character, they had had torrential downpour for over a week and everything was soaked. So, we had to land at a paved runway an hour's drive from Intrepids, as theirs was unusable. We all packed into Landrovers for the exciting drive over on horrendously muddy roads. I doubt if a 4-wheel drive pickup could have made it, unless maybe Merrill were driving it! On the way we saw literally hundreds of animals. There was almost never a moment when there were no animals in sight. Just fabulous. The rains had naturally given everything a lush appearance instead of the dry brown one normally expects on safaris and the landscape was glorious to behold. Many scenes could have come right out of central or eastern Montana with the vegetation a little exaggerated. Flowers of every size and color contributed much as well. We finally got to Intrepids at 2:00 pm for lunch, which was a beautiful buffet. The manager at Intrepids had only been given reservations from our Kenya agent a few days earlier and didn't even know we were to all be in the main lodge. There wasn't much she could do, as they were fully booked, but we arranged things as best we could and there were very few complaints. 'Very nice' turned out to be their fly fisherman's camp down on the river. The mile drive took over ten minutes due to the condition of the road. The tents had good beds and carpeted floor, but they had canvas outhouses and outdoor showers for facilities. While that didn't bother me at all, you don't put cruise ship passengers who have paid for first class accommodations in a place like that. It didn't detract from the safari, though, and all in all people were happy.

At 4:00 that afternoon we took a game drive. See if you can find a picture of a topi. It's an antelope-like animal with big shoulders and beautiful colorings. They were in great abundance along with gazelles and impalas. We came upon a pride of lions, at least 20. They are such regal creatures, no fear, and just look like they own the world. It didn't bother them at all that we came right up next to them in our Landrover to take pictures. The elephants were another matter! We found two mothers with their young and they let it be known they didn't like us near them. They would trumpet loudly, obliterate the bushes and trees around them, and then start to charge us. Our driver was ready to speed away, as they can be quite dangerous. On the safari we saw baboon, buffalo, elephants, giraffe, Grant's gazelle, hartebeest, impala, Thompson gazelle, warthog, waterbuck, wildebeest (gnu), zebra, topi, mongoose, cheetah, hyena, lion, and many birds - crested crane, grossy ibis, wooly-necked stork, hornbill, secretary, ostrich, vulture, Egyptian geese, black-bellied bustard, lilac-breasted roller and ducks.

Even though it was cloudy and cool with occasional light rain, it didn't hamper much and we could even have the top off the Landover most of the time. The Landrovers are really amazing. Our driver had to go through some of the deepest mud holes and worst ruts, and only once did he have to have another give a push to get out. The land was just drenched, even on top of the hills. Like driving through a swamp. Another impressive aspect was the birdlike. Not just the big ones I mentioned, but a host of smaller ones with brilliant colors. I had to think how Aunt Rosy would love to see them.

I was hoping it would dry up so we could fly from Intrepid's runway, but rain continued to fall through the night. At dawn we had another drive before breakfast and saw a lot more animals. At 10:00 we left to drive back to the camp with the paved runway and saw a mother and young cheetah right in the road. The little one was playful as a kitten would jump on his mother and then go tearing off again. Cheetahs are the fastest land animals in the world.

During the flight back to Mombasa the clouds broke just enough so we could see the snow on Mt Kilimanjaro. All in all it was a fabulous two days and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Back at the ship there were vendors all along the pier hawking their wares so I went for a little shopping with Ann. We are both really stubborn bargainers and have a lot of fun together. Managed to get a small pair of wooden giraffes for $2, then two more pair of impalas for the same price. There were also beautiful wooden bookends with elephant head on the sides and we each bought a pair of those. Just before the ship sailed I told one of the fellows I'd give him a pair of shoes for a wooden giraffe about 18" tall. They were a pair of black dress shoes from Kmart that didn't fit me very well and that I seldom wore. He was thrilled and would have given more, but I was happy with my giraffe so we sailed away into the wild blue yonder with all our new treasures.

SUNDAY - Wednesday was a busy day in the office because Mombasa was a major passenger change port. Over 100 new ones joined us so we had a lot of tickets to give out. After lunch I was able to play duplicate bridge for the first hour before going back to work. Played with a Polish woman named Elisa and then a man took over for me for the last hour. I was pleased when we took first place. Since Mombasa we have changed tables in the dining room. Ann, John, Catherine, and I moved to another section and joined two women named Mary and Martha from California. Our waiter is much better and we really have a good time together. They all told me to send greetings to Mom and that they would like to know you. I've told them about your foot-working and a bunch of other things about our family and they find it quite fascinating. As one might expect, there are a lot of people getting sick on board and Friday evening I worked the feet of a woman who had been sick with a fever for over a week. The doctor said it was a virus and just gave her antibiotics so she wouldn't get infection. That didn't help her fever or make her feel better. After I finished working on her feet at least she felt better and the next morning she ate a healthy breakfast and the same at lunch, so maybe it did her some good.

Friday we docked in the Seychelles at Victoria on Mahe Island. The Seychelles are a collection of many beautiful mountain islands with fantastic scenery. I mailed you a card from there. At 8:30 I took a group of about 60 people on a tour by glass bottom boat. We headed out over the water to St. Ann Marine National Park. It was warm and humid but the sea breeze was nice. Over the shallow reefs we could watch the fish and the coral under the boat. The fish we could actually watch just as well over the side of the boat. We threw them bread and they'd come in swarms to get it. They would even come up and take the bread right out of our hands. When we ran out of bread I tried just sticking my fingers in the water and they still came around. One of them decided my finger was bread and tried to nip it. I decided I'd better not let a big fish try that! We had a rest stop on Round Island for soft drinks and coconut and a walk around the island. Back at the ship I went into town for a bit but things are very expensive so I just got a few postcards and sent one home. At 2:00 pm I escorted the afternoon mountain drive. I took the 8 German-speaking ones and we took off in a van. Steep, winding roads, waterfalls, lush vegetation, and fresh mountain breezes. . . We stopped at a botanical garden to see some huge coconuts, flowers, trees, turtles, and birds. It was a pleasant and relaxing day. The Seychelles are really an island paradise.

Yesterday we found out that Indian Prime Minister Rajhiv Ghandi is going to be inspecting the fleet in Bombay when we arrive and both the harbor and airport will be closed at certain times. You can imagine what a panic that threw the office into, especially since we have two overland tours with tight schedules commencing in Bombay. To make matters worse, over the weekend it's not possible to communicate with Air India and other important agents. My trip to Kashmir, in northern India at the foot of the Himalayas could be in jeopardy, so I hope things work out.



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Monday, February 20


This could turn into a pretty long letter, so I'd better get started on it if I hope to send it with someone from Singapore. It was nice getting letters again in Bombay, though I didn't actually get them until I rejoined the ship in Goa after the Kashmir trip. From bits and pieces of news I've picked up it sounds like a bitter winter back home! I had to snicker a bit about our educated scientists who were so concerned about the greenhouse effect. I read an article a few days back that they now expect 1989 to be colder than normal due to the change in currents in the Pacific. Tell Max Baucus to ease up on his legislation for a while! Sounds as though you could use a bit of that greenhouse effect anyway. It's warm here, though.

Back to tales from my journal. The last letter left off just before arrival in Bombay, India. The ship was supposed to be in early so immigration officials could board by 4:00 am. We were late and they got on at 7:00 with my Kashmir group supposed to leave at 7:30. You don't rush Indian bureaucracy so I was thinking we might not make it at all. However, they got our paperwork done first and we were on the bus by shortly after 8:00. We drove to the gate, but due to the extra tight security for the president's visit, they would not open it and we had to maneuver backwards through a very tight street past a dozen other buses to get out. It took us about 20 minutes and we didn't get to the airport until 25 minutes before flight time! The Amex agent had gone ahead to check us in and get boarding cards and to my horror he had checked in one too few! There were no more seats to be had and the supervisor wouldn't budge. I had to ask for a volunteer to take an afternoon flight, thereby missing half the tour in Kashmir, and Rita Grob from Chile volunteered, bless her heart. Certainly nobody else would have. The rest of us boarded and I started looking to see if there were empty seats. There weren't but there was a woman with three children, each in a seat. I told the flight attendant the situation and said I'd be glad to give her $100 if she'd hold one of the kids. We went up to ask the captain, but by the time we got there Rita was already on. They had managed to find one last seat in first class for her! She deserved it. We were about half an hour late leaving, which made our connection in Delhi tight. It was the same plane (Airbus 300) going on to Srinigar, Kashmir, but due to security regulations we had to deplane, go to a different terminal, go through security, and reboard all over again. At least our luggage didn't have to change! We made it anyway.

Srinigar is the capital of the Indian state of Kashmir. Nestled in the Himalayas at 5200', it is surrounded by 12,000' ranges. The people are 95% Moslem and very different from the rest of India. It is a disputed area, claimed by both India and Pakistan, with the Kashmiris themselves preferring independence. There had been considerable rioting and anti-India demonstrations for several days prior to our visit but the day we arrived was the first day of normality again - whew! Flying it to Srinigar we had beautiful views of the snow-covered Himalayas. It had snowed in town that morning, but was mostly sunny, 45 degrees, and no snow when we arrived. We felt suddenly transformed into another world entirely. The 23 of us were loaded into 7 passenger cars for the wild transfer to our houseboat on Dal Lake. They drive on the left most of the time, but they really don't hold to any traffic laws. They mostly use the gas, the brake, the horn, and prayer! Never have I seen driving like that. Srinigar is a most fascinating city. Houses seem to be thrown together haphazardly and appear unfinished. We were told the 'unfinished' open areas on top become their bedrooms in the summer and in the winter are used for storage. People everywhere - dressed for winter with lots of layers of sweaters and blankets.

At the pier we boarded Shikarahs, water taxis, for a 5-minute ride to our houseboats. The Shikarahs have thick cushions to lean back in during the ride. Comfortable. We had 6 houseboats with 3 to 5 people in each. Fabulous! They were incredibly beautiful with intricately carved furniture, thick carpets, paper mache lamps, crystal chandeliers, and a houseboy in each to tend to us. We had a nice cup of hot tea served in our own boats and at 4:30 we took off for a tour of the town. It was just crazy. Our most experienced and jaded travelers were blown away by it. Friendly, smiling, warmly dressed children. We were, of course, the oddity. There weren't the beggars like in the rest of India. Tiny little shops jam-packed with thousands of items. We drove to one of the oldest mosques in the world, 14th century, and then walked along the river and through the market. People keep their hands warm with Kashmiri hand warmers - ceramic pots with woven handles full of hot ashes. They hold them underneath their wraps, which explains why so many look pregnant or very large. They work well. The mountains over the city could easily be the Bridger Range, but the huge castle on the hill in the foreground might give it away to someone guessing.

We visited a carpet factory and saw the whole process. Beautiful silk carpets, which can take several years to finish. Then in the showroom people were given the opportunity to buy, as we were shown hundreds of colorful carpets. We were served dinner back at our houseboats, quite tasty. Then merchants would come to us in the comfort of our luxurious living rooms and display their wares. A lot of Kashmir wool and silk, paper mache boxes and bangles, hats, gloves, leather, etc. I bought a pair of antelope gloves for $7 and a Kashmir wool hat (like Russians wear) for $6. Then I had to get a bunch of paper mache articles because they were so lovely and so cheap.

Each room had a wood stove to keep it warm for the first part of the night, but we had electric blankets to take over for the rest. Unfortunately, this time of the year they frequently have power outages and the electricity was out most of the night. It was cold in the rooms, not more than 40 degrees by morning. People took it in stride fairly well, though, and after a hot breakfast were ready to go again. We got back on our Shikarahs for a tour around the lake. It's quite shallow and there are three sections to it. One part is full of houseboats and little shop boats. Historically this started at a time when only residents could own land in Kashmir. Because of the climate and beauty, outsiders wanted homes there and were forced to build boats on the lake. This evolved into a real destination for tourists and the boats became more and more luxurious. On this part of the lake we also visited a paper mache factory and watched them make things and, of course, had our chance to buy. The second part of the lake is open area for water skiing and swimming in the summer. The third part is the famous floating gardens. First they plant reeds close together. When they're grown they clip them short on top and below the roots. The remaining beds float to the top as thick mats. They then dig up mud from the bottom to use as fertilizer and soil and plant all kinds of vegetables on them from lettuce and tomatoes to squash and watermelon. Even in winter they can grow hardier vegetables because the water doesn't freeze and that protects the roots. They grow 60% of their vegetables there in Dal Lake. When they want to make a more permanent garden they plant fast-growing willows, which grow down and anchor the island into the lake bottom. Ingenious. The lake was named by the first Englishman to visit. When he asked the name of the lake he was told Dal, which means lake in their language. So the lake is actually named Lake Lake. We had lunch at the Oberoi Hotel, which used to be a palace, and then headed to the airport. Security was incredible, even compared with the rest of India. They've had two hijackings out of there and with the political problems they let nothing by. They almost didn't let me take my Swiss army knife on board.

We made it though, and even got to Delhi on time by 4:30. There we had a short tour of the city between the airport and hotel. They have some impressive sights and I hope to see more of them someday. We visited a minaret built in 1193 and near it is an iron pole over 1800 years old that never rusts. Scientists have researched and studied to try and figure out why it doesn't, but as of yet it still remains a mystery. They have a legend that if you can stand with your back to the pole and touch your hands behind it, all your wishes will come true. I was the only one that could manage it and that was barely. We stayed in the Delhi Oberoi Hotel, which is one of the nicest hotels I've ever seen. Unfortunately, with a 3:30 am wakeup call the next morning we didn't have much time in the evening to take advantage of the facilities. I was content to finish my paperwork after dinner and go to bed.

It was indeed an early morning with our flight at 5:40. We arrived in Goa at 8:30 and had a city tour before returning to the ship. Goa was a Portuguese colony up until 1961 when it was finally given over to India so it was quite different from typical India. We saw some of the ancient churches where St. Francis Xavier worked and saw his body as well, which is supposedly miraculously preserved. It was an interesting area, but we were all glad to get back to the ship at noon. We were tired, but it was one of the most delightful trips I've ever done. The Taj Mahal trip didn't fare quite as well as ours. That first morning in Bombay they got caught up in the commotion at the airport and were delayed 4 hours. On the way back from Delhi to Bombay they were 2 hours late and kept the ship from leaving on time. Other than that it supposedly went quite well, but Jim and Tom, who both went along, went through enough stress doing the whole thing. Mrs. Cody, who reminds me of Denise Field, fell at the Taj Mahal and broke her hip. So she had to leave the ship, stay in Bombay by herself to have a hip operation. I felt really badly for her. She enjoyed everything so much.

I would have liked to go to bed early that evening but I emceed the Sailor's Choir program with one of the stewardesses from British Columbia. A bunch of the crew get together and sing songs for the passengers. It was kind of fun and working with Melanie at the mike worked well. It was a tired boy that went to bed that night after midnight. Fortunately India is on a weird time zone and we got to move clocks back 1/2 hour.

WEDNESDAY - It was nice to have a day at sea after the time in India, although it was a fairly hectic day last Saturday. As you can see from our itinerary, Amex offered no tour as such in the Maldives, but the ship set up a picnic on the beach at a resort hotel and we sold tickets for it at $5 each. We sold lots that morning, as it was the last opportunity to buy. After lunch I played a quick game of Scrabble with Shirley Zuffinetti and then duplicate bridge for the first hour before going back to work. I played with Ed, the director, and when I left his wife took over. We came in first.

The Maldives were really beautiful. We arrived by 7:30 am and I didn't even set my watch. Once the thrusters start coming out (to move the ship sideways) and then the anchor comes down the noise about knocks me out of bed. My cabin is the furthest cabin forward and just happens to be right over the noisemakers. Out on deck it was hot and humid and the sun was already strong. Ann, John, and Catherine, and I went first to Male, the capital, for about 45 minutes. As it was a government holiday, banks and offices were closed, but stores were open and welcoming. There is a big beautiful mosque built by Colonel Khadafi and that was where all the leaders were meeting. There were soldiers and police toting machine guns everywhere. T-shirts were only $1 each in kid sizes so I bought one each for my niece and nephews.

After our brief shopping spree we took our shuttle boat over to Villingili Island where we were having the picnic. It's a lovely coral reef island with palm trees and nice resort hotel. Mary and Martha had gone snorkeling earlier and Martha was returning just as we arrived. She gave me her equipment and Mary showed me how to operate it. The first time I stuck my head in the water I felt panicky because my brain said I can't breath under water! I got the breathing down, though, and we headed out to see the coral and the fish. The beach was shallow for about 100 yards out, first nice white sand, then coral, and at the edge of the reef a sheer drop into infinity. We had to wear shoes because the coral is sharp and rough. It was a magical world under the water. Not only was the coral colorful, but the fish were unbelievable! Had people showed me pictures of fish with those colors and designs I would have thought they were fake. The water was bright green until the edge of the reef where it was a deep, deep blue. It was a nice way to spend a morning, especially since we had no tours and were free to relax and enjoy! Jeff should have been there with us - he'd have been ecstatic with the snorkeling.

Now, back out at sea we are gearing up for our last big fling in the office, preparing for overland tours in Bangkok, China, and Japan, which come one right after the other. After that it's 8 days at sea between Tokyo and Honolulu. This letter should be going with Gilbert and Dorothy Larson back to the US to be mailed. They are a really nice couple that were with me on the Victoria Falls tour and the one to Kashmir. They leave us two days from now in Singapore. In spite of that, I believe I'll finish this epistle now and start another to be sent from Hong Kong or this will be much too long to be readable.

Today they did a big 'country fair' bazaar on the ship to raise money for an orphanage in Penang where we dock tomorrow. They had all kinds of good ideas such as guessing the weight of the cruise director, mock gambling tables, a jail, lottery wheel, a raffle for $500 off any Cunard Cruise, straws stuck into green vase foam with a few of them having colored ends denoting prizes.... It was fun and I'm sure they collected a lot from this crowd. Our young opera trio is doing 45 minutes of German songs from Brahms, Schubert, etc. tonight so I think I'll put this in the envelope and head up there.



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Friday, March 3


It seems like a lot of water has gone under the bridge since the last letter! It's a good thing I keep a detailed journal or I'd never be able to remember back to the tour in Penang. It's nice to come back to the ship between trips and dump things in my room where they can stay till the end of the cruise. I've never really been much of a shopper in my travels, but I find myself picking up a lot of things in the various ports now. Some things are such bargains. Some things are irresistible. I can just imagine what it will be like tomorrow in Hong Kong and then in China!

Thursday, February 23, we docked at Georgetown on the island of Penang in Malaysia. It was really hot and humid, but our tour buses were nice and cool. One thing I've found surprising is the number of countries where they drive on the left side of the road. Do you realize that beginning with Namibia, Southwest Africa, we have not been in a country where they drive on the right!? I had no idea it was that widespread. Hong Kong is the same; China will be the one exception until Hawaii! Penang is a beautiful tropical island. Our first visit was to the Snake Temple where they have live vipers draped over the alter. Our guide emphasized we were not to pinch the snakes! He had good reason to warn us... They looked fake but were as real and poisonous as could be! In a side room they had snakes that were defanged and you could get your picture taken with them draped around your neck. I had to think of Elizabeth Mullet or Bethann. We took a long drive through the town and along the coast to the Batik factory where they produce the dyed, colorful cloth so common that region. I took some pictures but forgot to turn the flash on and they're a bit dark. We got back to the ship at 11:45 and had to be back aboard by 12:30 so I went to the bank to get some of the larger coins that aren't so common in circulation. In one bank I found out there is a $1 coin only available at the Central Bank, which is about 10 minutes walk. Of course I couldn't resist that so I headed down there. Stopped at another bank on the way to see if they had them but had to go on to CB. At CB they did indeed have them but didn't take foreign money so I had to go back to the other to change, return to CB for the coins and run like crazy in the heat and humidity back to the ship, barely making it on time. I had gone off without my landing car, which made it especially important to get back on time. I was really worn out after that. By late afternoon my lower back started hurting, more internal than spine, and I had to go to bed by 5:30. I couldn't get comfortable in any position and at 10:30 I got really sick at 'both ends'. That was minor compared with the back pains though, and at 2:00 am I finally went to the nurse and got a pain injection right in my back. Then I was finally able to sleep. I worked my hands and feet quite a bit and by the next day was considerably better. Considering the way so many have gotten sick and stayed sick on this ship, I was thrilled to recover so quickly. I've never seen so much illness among a group of people as on this ship. Even people who have been on lots of cruises say this is exceptional. I've worked feet for people a few times, including Ann's just the other day. If Mom wanted to come on a world cruise she could more than pay for her fare just by keeping people healthy!

Friday the 24th we arrived in Singapore about noon. I was in charge of the tours there and the local organization was quite good. First we went to the top of Mt. Faber for a panoramic view of the city. A modern and impressive skyline. On to the botanical gardens where there was a proliferation of orchids and plants of all kinds. Traveler palms are a beautiful symmetrical palm, which collect rainwater at the base of the leaves. Even in dry weather one can normally find a refreshing drink at the base. From the gardens we drove to Chinatown and visited a Hindu temple. Our planned walk through Chinatown had to be cancelled due to a torrential downpour. It came down in buckets. Just running 15' from the bus to the building left us soaked to the bone.

Singapore is a surprising city. The most striking thing is how clean it is - spotless! The people are industrious, thrifty, ambitious, successful and so neat. There is about a $500 fine for littering and it is enforced. I don't believe I've seen a cleaner city anywhere in the world. I didn't have a lot of time for shopping, but did manage to send about 6 postcards. We sailed Saturday at 1:00 pm so our time there was relatively short.

Sunday was our only full day at sea before Bangkok (Pattaya) and there was quite a lot of preparatory work for both my tour in Bangkok and the upcoming China tours, so it was one of the most hectic days yet. More so because Birgit was gone on the tour to Kathmandu. Sunday night was the crew talent show and there were some incredible acts. One of the dining room stewards dressed as an Indian Faqir and took a real wine glass, bit off a large chunk and chewed it up, holding the microphone close so we could hear quite well. As if that weren't bad enough, he then proceeded to take several double-edged razor blades and chew them up. Unbelievable, especially since there was no trick involved, just concentration! In another act two of the Bavarian waiters did a loggers dance, which really made me feel as though I were sitting there in the southern German mountains watching them carry on.

Monday morning the 27th we pulled into Pattaya, a port about 2 hours drive from Bangkok. This is a tender port, which means we don't dock, but take the ship's lifeboats the last stretch to shore. It makes things more complicated, but they handle it quite efficiently. The first thing I noticed was the intense heat, and it was only 7:30 in the morning! On shore a welcoming committee, which included two elephants was waiting for us. On my tour 109 we had 26 English-speaking passengers and 8 German-speaking. We had a beautiful 44-passenger bus and a nice 26-passenger one. I escorted the Germans, but was in charge of the whole tour. We had Jonelle from our Golden Door Spa as the staff escort on the big bus. She's been really helpful to us on several tours. We left promptly at 9:00 am through Pattaya and the Thai countryside. There's actually a lot to see on the way. The Buddhist presence was conspicuous. There were little Buddhist temples all over the place, even in front of secular businesses. Frequently we'd see a store where they were sold and there were all kinds and sizes of them in the yard around the store. There were also fields where salt was extracted from the seawater and sold in big white bags. A lush countryside with bananas, mango, pineapple and all sorts of fruit growing. The 4-lane highway was decent by Asian standards, but there were many trucks and the air pollution was bad.

We arrived in Bangkok about 11:00 and drove another half hour through town to the Gold Buddha Temple. The Buddha is solid gold and weights about 5 tons. Outside, hawkers sell all kinds of souvenirs and tourists crowd inside to take pictures. Bangkok is enormous with horrendous traffic, filthy air and water, but fascinating and exciting and has a million things to make you want to shop and buy. We had lunch at our hotel, the Dusit Thani, a gorgeous luxury hotel in the heart of the city. Excellent meals and service, rooms beautiful with all kinds of amenities - even baby powder! After lunch as our German bus was pulling out of the hotel parking lot a car tried to go the same place we were going, resulting in scraped fenders. That meant both car and bus had to go to the police station to settle the matter. Fortunately, the English bus was behind us and had plenty of seats. We hopped on with them and wound our way across Bangkok to the Royal Palace complex. People had told me how fantastic it is and how I should be sure to take lots of film, but nothing had really prepared me for the overwhelming nature of it! No picture could ever capture it. It is a massive complex of temples, palaces, museums, etc., done in gold, jewels, marble, and who knows what all!? It was so bright and powerful to behold. Too much glitter can be overdone but this was not at all tacky, one of the most harmonious blends of brilliance ever created by man. We stayed about half an hour, wandering through the grounds and buildings, staring and marveling. Among other things is the jade Buddha, about 2 feet high, carved out of one solid piece of jade. Ran out of film, of course. Before going back to the hotel we stopped at a shop for 20 minutes where I picked up a Thai silk tie in electric blue. It took us over an hour to drive back to the hotel through that traffic and it was very little faster than walking would have been. After dinner I tried calling Fred and Minh Kauffman, but the girl that answered said they were in Vietnam till next month. I had a headache most of the afternoon but decided I was in Bangkok only once and would go out and see what it's like at night anyway. Silom Road, which started right at the hotel, just happened to be one of the premier night shopping streets in the city. It came alive at 7:30 pm and tables sprang up side by side on the sidewalks for blocks and blocks. I stayed out till 11:00 and it was still going strong. Merchants were selling everything imaginable. It would have been great having Jeff there for the gray market shopping! All the big names were for sale everywhere; Ralph Lauren, Polo, Bennetton, Rolex, etc. They are imitations of course, but you can't tell and the quality is there. The street was so full of life, people, lights, and products. I ran into three of the Polish guys from the band and they were buying up watches like typical Polish bargainers - getting them for $12 and $13. The supermarket was also open until midnight and I went inside to look. Prices weren't necessarily cheap, but the contrast to outside was remarkable. Fascinating evening.

At 8:00 the next morning we drove 15 minutes to the river for our morning Klongs tour. The Klongs are the canals that wind all through the city. We had a whole boat with capacity of about 30 for just our small German group. We drove between houses and shops and churches and service establishments, all with their porches on the water. Some were actually boats and some just buildings built right on the water. Merchants sailed up to us in other boats to hawk their wares. In the floating market area one could buy almost anything right out of another boat. We stopped at a couple shops, but the most interesting aspect was being out on the water and taking in all the sights. On the way back we got a good view of the Royal Palace from the river, also the magnificent Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Back at the dock we waited over half an hour for our bus to show up and finally I sent my small group back to the hotel in taxis. The noon traffic was at its worst again and it took over an hour to return. Incredible!

Back at the ship we learned that Birgit had had quite a time with the Kathmandu trip. One man had a heart attack and had to stay behind with his wife in Nepal. They lost two pieces of luggage returning from Kathmandu to Bangkok. The hotel in Kathmandu was full and they were put in very poor supplementary accommodations. But other than that they had beautiful sunshine for their scenic flight over Mt. Everest and they had a super adventure.



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Chapter 8, HONG KONG
Sunday, March 5


Our three days at sea between Pattaya and Hong Kong were again full of activity as we were all busy preparing for our China tours. I had to especially make sure to get everything done as I leave tomorrow on the long 7-day tour. I'm really pleased to be able to make this one, as I had not expected to do such a major one on my first cruise. Among other things those few days, I worked Ann Menges's feet. Her right ear was completely stopped up and she had a sore throat. I found some spots that really made her jump and the second morning her throat was much better. Still couldn't hear out of her ear, though, and the Doc said she had some kind of infection inside her head and gave her some medicine. Mom could have cleared it up I'm sure. It's still not normal. Yesterday morning we sailed into Hong Kong and docked in Kowloon. In spite of the haze and high fog, the arrival afforded some nice views. We had tours that were to leave at 8:30 and 9:00 am, but the ship wasn't even cleared until 9:45, so that threw them behind schedule. I was on a morning tour of Hong Kong and we first went to Tiger Balm Gardens. Rather gaudy in its color, but different and fun to see. Then we drove up Victoria Peak for a spectacular panoramic view of Hong Kong and the surrounding islands. Hong Kong is supposed to have the highest population density in the world, but in spite of that, we were surprised at how much greenery and wooded areas there are on the island. Really beautiful. This is early spring here and the temp was generally in the upper 60's. A pleasant change from the heat of Bangkok. Our tour continued through residential areas, commercial sections, past beautiful beaches, floating restaurants, and hundreds of junques out in the harbor. The port is an enormous shopping complex itself and there are shops any direction you walk from it. The bargains don't seem to abound as they are said to have in the past, but I went night shopping at outdoor stalls with 4 of the crew and we still managed to find a few things we couldn't resist. Hong Kong is brightly colorful at night, with huge neon signs that sometimes meet in the middle of the street. This morning I escorted a shopping tour. We took people first to a jewelry warehouse and then to Stanley Market, one of the most famous in Hong Kong. It was a lot of fun as well. This afternoon I spent quite a bit of time in the office, finishing up last minute details and, of course, getting this letter and my photo list ready to give to Allan and Terri Baer tonight. So, enjoy the pictures and I'll send a letter from Tokyo telling you all about my China adventures.



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Chapter 9, TOKYO
Friday, March 17


"You'll always remember your first trip to China. Not only that, you'll never forget it!" Those were the profound parting words of Tom Cecil from our office as I prepared to leave Hong Kong. That now seems like a long time ago, but he was very right. It's a good thing I have my journal to more or less type out of, or it would be very difficult to record the trip so you can share it with me. The tour filled 12 pages of my journal.

Monday, March 6th, our group met at 9:30 am to go to the Hong Kong airport. We had to be there early as the security check is very tight. When we got there I also found out our flight was 25 minutes earlier than according to my itinerary. No problem though, and soon we were on our way to Shanghai. Customs and immigrations at Shanghai were some of the smoothest I've gone through with a group. We had a group visa and they opened up another line for us and just checked each person off as they went through. Took less than ten minutes. We soon had our baggage and were out in the lobby where our national guide, Jiang, was waiting for us. In China a group has a national guide who stays with them the whole tour somewhat as an escort and a local guide who is really in charge in each city. Jiang doubled as local and national guide while we were in Shanghai and was very helpful. We had a modern, comfortable bus and were loaded by 3:00. We didn't have to worry about our luggage in China. It was generally checked at the hotel to the airport, flight, and clear to the hotel in the next city. . . Never lost any either. None of us felt particularly tired yet so we decided to do about an hour of sightseeing in Shanghai before going to the hotel for check in. Shanghai is enormous. Estimated population is over 12 million, second only to Mexico City. Traffic is also quite heavy, although there are many times more bicycles than cars. People, people, people! We drove to the 'Bund', the riverfront in Shanghai. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we enjoyed strolling around there for about 20 minutes, taking pictures, talking with people who wanted to use their English, and enjoying the fresh air. The government buildings across from the water are large and imposing, though modern in appearance. From there we headed back to the hotel.

While driving, Jiang gave us a wealth of information about China. This trip has so impressed me with the history, culture, and adaptability of this country. Just before we arrived in Hong Kong they had shown the movie, 'The Last Emperor' on ship. Much of it was filmed in the Forbidden City in Beijing (Peking) and followed the story line of the last man to be emperor in China. Began early this century when he was crowned at the age of 5 and continued through the rebellions, civil war, war against Japan, the communist triumph in 1949, and up through his death in the 1960's. Fascinating movie, which I definitely plan on seeing again. Jiang really expanded on the history for us. The Cultural Revolution from 1965 to 1976 was a period when they really went overboard with their communist ideals. About the only people who were 'good' during that period were farmers and very poor laborers. Teachers, professionals, and many other educated people were thrown in jail or put under house arrest. To me it is absolutely astounding that a country of this great size would take only 10 years to realize they were heading in a bad direction and throw it all out the window. They now seem to view that era as a bad mistake, but they've learned many lessons from it. Now the attitude seems to be, "If it's good for China, we accept it whether it's called communism or capitalism." An incredible difference in mentality from the East Block countries. It was only about ten years ago that China started really opening up to foreign tourism and they have made gigantic strides. Beginning with shabby hotels and difficult bureaucracy, they have quickly moved to beautiful accommodations, smooth functioning operations, good buses and general good conditions for visitors.

Internally they have implemented family planning, which limits families to one child, introduced a salary bonus system, and greatly improved living and education conditions. Some of the things they've done would seem awful to us, but certainly appear to be right for China. From a Christian perspective, I can see some of the reasons the country is so open to the Gospel. Communism pretty much eliminated ancestor worship and after 40 years of official atheism, the people suddenly find themselves with religious and cultural freedom that they've never enjoyed before.

From a business perspective, a doctor or professor may earn less than $100 a month, though he may earn extra with lectures and private tutoring. A common laborer may actually earn much more than a doctor because he can double or triple his salary by performing well. That's one of the key ingredients that has been missing in the USSR. Education is free clear through university. Students have to pay for their meals, but these are also subsidized for poor families.

We checked into the Shanghai Hilton by 5:30 - a fabulous hotel! I was able to enjoy a USA Today from the gift shop. Later in Beijing we even had CNN News by satellite 24 hours a day direct and uncensored from the US! During the sports segment I found out that the University of Montana had defeated MSU in overtime - can you believe that in the middle of China!? Those two hotels were certainly as good as any I've stayed in. Our dinner that night was a Chinese banquet with 12 courses. Delicious and we all managed chop sticks quite well. The meal took 2 1/2 hours. Later I went up to the lounge and had coffee with a couple of the passengers in their panorama bar on the 24th floor. With the prices, I'm glad I didn't have to pay for it!

Tuesday was a brisk, windy morning and about 35 degrees, but sunny. We went first to the Shanghai Museum where it was nearly as cold in as out. There were some good exhibits from Chinese culture, archaeology and art, as well as a good shop. From there we went to see the Yu Gardens, which are attractively laid out with stone, shrubbery, ponds, and bridges. Chinese gardens certainly don't need to rely on flowers for their beauty. After lunch we went to the Xinhua Workers Area, a somewhat self-contained residential neighborhood. We first went to a kindergarten where the children performed for us. They were so cute, I'm sure several in our group would have loved to take kids home with them. One 6-year old boy played classical piano for us and he wasn't playing child's version. Then we visited a home where the hostess answered questions about their lifestyle. They had three rooms altogether and lived there with two grown but not married sons. They have a better than average standard of living because her husband is an engineer. He was in jail 3 years during the Cultural Revolution, but they are again members of society in good standing. From there we went to the Shanghai arts and Crafts Trade Fair. It's more like a museum with gorgeous handiwork, especially the ivory and jade carvings. I didn't buy anything there because things at tourist shops definitely tend to be higher priced. In China they actually have two currencies, one for the tourists and one for the locals. The former is called F.E.C. and 3.70 equal one dollar. This is the only currency accepted in tourist hotels and shops intended for tourists. The local currency is not meant for tourist use but is obtainable on the black market for 6 or 7 to the dollar. I got some of that money and bough some souvenirs in local stores and got some great buys.

That evening we were treated to a performance of the Shanghai Acrobatic Theater, which is world-renowned. They've even performed in the White House. It was a most incredible show. There were gymnasts of outstanding ability, jugglers, balancing acts, a live ape and a live panda. Some of the acts would be a progression of impossible feats to more impossible feats and sometimes we almost couldn't dare to look. The MSU cheerleaders could take a few lessons but spectators would have heart attacks watching. One young girl took a wine glass without the wide bottom and balanced it between her eyes. The glass had a blue liquid in it. Then she took a flat, square piece of glass and laid it on top of the glass. Then she took another glass and balanced it in the middle, then 4 smaller glasses and balanced them on each corner around the bigger glass. Then another flat piece and another layer and more glasses, each layer alternating red and blue. She finally had 4 levels all balanced by the small end of the goblet on her nose. It looked like a big chandelier upside down. As if that weren't enough they brought out a sturdy card table and she climbed onto it with no assistance and without touching the tower on her head. Then they brought her two ladders, one on each side, and she climbed four rungs with nothing but her own balance holding the ladders in place. That should be enough for any act, right? Then another girl came and stood under her while she stepped onto the second girl's shoulders. Then the second girl climbed those freestanding ladders, all the while balancing the girl balancing the glasses on her nose! When she got to the top they both stretched out their arms with nothing holding them except the feet of the girl on the bottom. Mind you there was no easy way to undo the whole procedure; she had to come down the same way and reverse the order. Too much! It was also fun to see the live panda perform. He came riding in on a chariot pulled by a german shepherd dog. They're such beautiful animals. In all it was a superb two hours. At intermission I went out to see if they had film and saw they had those little wooden dolls like the ones in Russia. I only had enough local money to get two, but was pleased to at least get them. I never saw them again later on the tour.

Both our in-China flights were changed on us requiring us to totally revise our itinerary. This evidently is still the norm in China. We were supposed to have an early pm flight to Xian, but that was changed to 6:30 pm so we did more in Shanghai. Wednesday morning we went out into the country and visited a commune. They have more space out there and homes are generally bigger. Many farmers have a private home even though the land it is on belongs to the government. Families are generally given about 40 square meters for a garden plot as well and they can do what they want with whatever they can produce on it. The commune is really a self- contained town of about 14,000. We first went to the clinic where they do acupuncture. They had just finished an operation so we didn't get to see them in action, but I got a good picture of their charts on the wall. The pharmacy was interesting. It was for traditional medicines and there were hundreds of bins and containers of herbs, powders, minerals, and snake skins etc. etc. Probably as good as modern drugs. From there we went to the commune's wooden duck factory. They really do every step by hand from the carving to painting and packing. I had to buy a couple to show you when I get home. Everywhere we went we were met by friendly, smiling faces.

After the factory we made a short stop at a kindergarten and just stayed out on the playground with the kids, taking their pictures. Then we visited a private farmhouse, which was different from the city apartment. Interestingly, though the house was quite modern there was no indoor plumbing and the only 'toilet' was a bucket with a lid in a room about the size of a closet. In the summer they bathe in a basin and in the winter they go to the public bathhouse. Afterwards we had a Chinese lunch, family style, at the commune. Dish after dish was set before us on the big round tables and we could take what we liked. We liked a lot! Delicious meal, good service, and the people were happy. I paid $100 cash for our group of 24. Some of the women had trouble with the oriental type toilets there (a hole in the ground) so we had to make a stop back at the reception area for western restrooms before heading back into Shanghai. There were also a couple shops right there so some of us took the opportunity to see what was buyable. I got a kick out of their cashier system. The sales girls wrote up a sales slip and attached it with the money from the customer to a clip and sent it sailing via overhead wires to the cashier in a little window 8' above the floor. She would certify the transaction and send the stamped slip with the change back to the sales girl. Back in Shanghai we visited a carpet factory. Much bigger than the one in Kashmir and with plenty of light. We saw them doing the whole process from the weaving to the cutting. The cutting is done to give actual relief to the design and make it stand out more. I bought a small one-foot square carpet for $15, pure silk and exquisite. Nearby was a jade and ivory carving factory. One of the jade carvers was a coin collector so we gave him a set of US coins and he gave me a piece of lavender jade. They literally carve the jade and create the most beautiful artworks. Also the ivory carvers do extremely delicate work. One worker may spend up to two years working on one big ivory tusk, carving out an incredibly intricate scene. Our last stop in Shanghai was the Jade Buddha Temple. Besides many elaborate decorations there were two buddhas carved from jade, one of them over 2' tall. On the way to the airport we made a rest stop at the Xi Jiao guesthouse where Chairman Mao used to stay whenever he was in Shanghai. Beautiful gardens and fountains and a nice hotel. Also a good coffee shop and gift shop. My people were such shoppers.

We got to the airport at 5:45 for a 6:30 flight and that was plenty of time as things were well organized. No problem until my problem passengers came along. We had a man from Germany on the trip who has only one leg and travels in a wheelchair. He and his wife booked every big trip on the cruise and absolutely refused to be talked out of any of them. It was a ridiculous undertaking for them and unfair to the group, especially as he is frail as well and can barely even stand up holding on with both hands. His wife carries an oxygen bottle everywhere and security at the airport didn't know what to do with that. It's naturally a very suspicious looking object to carry on an airplane if the officials aren't familiar with such things. . . And who ever heard of someone going to China if they needed to carry an oxygen bottle with them? Well, security discussed it until nearly plane time and finally decided they'd go with us to the plane and if the crew would sign responsibility for it they'd let us go. Of course the crew had never been confronted with such a situation and they weren't about to sign. After 20 more minutes on the plane I finally told Mr. & Mrs. Koschitz we couldn't hold up the flight any longer and would have to leave the bottle there in Shanghai, which we did. Because of the flight change we were already late getting to Xian, so all that didn't help. On the flight they served tea and orange juice and then came around with big stuffed dolls, a gift for each passenger. That's customary on inland flights in China.

We got to Xian at 9:10 pm and it was warmer than in Shanghai, a lovely evening. Our local guide was a tiny gal named Fan, but she was organized and turned out to be very good. The Golden Flower Hotel was also a beautiful hotel, though they didn't have a fitness center. They're in the process of building a new wing and that will have all those kinds of extras. After a quick group dinner in the hotel we headed for bed to be ready for a big full day excursion the next day.

Thursday I let the people sleep in a little and we didn't start off until 10:00. It was about an hour drive through the country to our destination and it was fascinating to see the rural areas and how different it was from the Shanghai area. Towards the end we began seeing the mountains that rise up abruptly from the flat plain. Our big interest was the 6,000 terra-cotta (baked clay) warriors, chariots and horses in the huge funeral vault of the Emperor Ching. He had them built during his reign 2200 years ago and put in vaults about 1 1/2 miles from his tomb to 'protect' him after his death. They are all life-sized and every face is individual and unique. It took thousands of man-hours to accomplish the feat and, in fact, wasn't even finished until after his death. Impressive. After a country lunch in a little restaurant we visited the Huang Chi Hot Springs, which the emperors had used as a thermal resort. Beautiful buildings, gardens, the whole bit. This was also the place where Shang Kai Shek lived until the famous incident at the beginning of the civil war when he had to flee. We saw his room and the bullet hoes in the walls. Hearing their perspective puts a little different light on history. SKS was, of course, strongly anti-communist and when the Japanese invaded China he refused to work with the rebel groups against the invaders and continued to focus his force on the communists, thus allowing the Japanese to conquer China. Many people never forgave him for that and this decision was probably one of the major factors that gave the ultimate victory to the communists and exiled SKS to Taiwan. Officially he has been regarded as an enemy of the people of China, though even that image is beginning to soften now as the Chinese rethink their political and cultural future.

On the way back to town we stopped at Ban Po Village archaeological site. Shades of Mesa Verde National Park, with the artifacts and evidence of lifestyle 6,000 years ago. After dinner that evening we were treated to a performance of the Tang Dynasty Theater. It was a beautiful display of Chinese costumes, dancing, and singing. It reminded me of the Mazowsze show we saw in Warsaw, but with Chinese flavor. Highly enjoyable.

Friday our supposedly early morning flight was changed to 2:40 pm so we went into town and visited a lacquer factory where they make those big Chinese room screens and hand paint them. We watched them paint with gold, basically free hand. These people are so talented and artistic. We also visited the Wild Goose Pagoda before going back to the hotel for lunch. Ironically, Buddhism was brought to China from India by a monk and now Buddhism is much bigger in China than in India. He stored his Sanskrit writings here at the pagoda. It's a tall building and one of our more ambitious group members hoofed it clear to the top in the short time allotted for it. I'm not sure it was worth the view since it was fairly hazy that morning. On to the airport and this time had no problem getting on the plane. Every city or airport or region of China is likely to have its own idiosyncrasies, though, and one at the Xian airport is that every piece of checked luggage must have a lock on it. Evidently something was once stolen from a suitcase and they won't have that happen again. I bought little locks for the ten that didn't have them and we put them on. The locks were only about 30 cents each and good ones. Our gifts on this flight happened to be Chinese ties - I got three of them!

The Beijing airport is quite modern and even has jet ways. Unfortunately we didn't get to use them and there was no one to help Mr. Koschitz. I ended up literally giving him a piggy back ride up two flights of stairs into the terminal - we had to get him there somehow. I'm legally not allowed to touch him but there were many times on the tour I had to help just to keep the group moving. We met our last local guide, Song, and headed into the Beijing Shangri La Hotel, a dream hotel. So organized, so efficient, so immaculate. We had a great western dinner and it was late enough that there was nothing else planned for the evening. Watching CNN and seeing weather from Montana and different sports scores was good relaxation for me anyway.

Saturday was the big day of the trip. We had a 2-hour drive northwest into the mountainous region. It was impressive to see how many trees they had planted. Beijing used to be much dustier and dirtier because of the dust storms, but the thousands of trees planted in the last few years have cut it down considerably. Our first stop was the Ming Tombs. At the entrance was the Sacred Way, lined with huge statues of various animals. Got a good picture of most of my group in front of one of them. The Ming Dynasty basically coincided with the Middle Ages in Europe. There were 17 Emperors of which 13 are buried in tombs scattered over a fairly large valley. We visited the Chun Lin tomb, one of the last emperors. They had a museum containing artifacts, which had been excavated from one of the other tombs. The Chun Lin tomb has not been touched and is actually deep beneath a hill of dirt. His tombstone is a large tower and we were able to go up several levels to enjoy a commanding view of not only that tomb area, but also many of the surrounding ones as well. It was a gorgeous day with blue sky and warm.

From there we had a 40-minute drive to. . . The Great Wall. This was really a highlight of the tour for me. From quite a distance we could see it snaking across the mountains. We went to the Badaling section where much of it has been rebuilt. Our schedule was nice because we arrived just in time for lunch and people could eat as fast or slow as they liked and have the rest of the time until 2:30 to explore. After lunch I chose the more difficult side and hiked clear up to the highest point on the wall. It's a long way and toward the end the steps get high and really steep. We were so lucky to have brilliant weather because even then the wind was sharp. The wall tower at the top afforded such spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and the wall winding its way through them. It was truly a thrill to be able to stand there and take it all in. An 82-year old man from Spain made it all the way to the top with me and on the way down we made things easier by sliding down the handrail in some places! Back in Beijing we toured the Summer Palace for a little over an hour. It's in a pretty setting on a manmade lake. One of the most impressive things there is the Long Corridor. It must be at least 2 or 3 blocks long with painting all over the sides and ceilings. There are so many that if you looked at each painting for just one second it would take over 4 hours to go through it! The other high point at the palace was the marble boat. It's an actual big boat made completely of marble and floating on the lake at the end of the long corridor. That was no easy boat to build! From there we went back to the hotel by 5:30 and dropped most of the group off there. Eight wanted to go into downtown Beijing to go to the Friendship Store for an hour. Friendship Stores are the stores especially for tourists, which have all kinds of neat things, but at higher prices than in local stores. For dinner that night we had a famous Peking Duck dinner. Yum. They don't carve up the duck as we would a turkey. They just slice off the skin and you eat it in a little shell similar to a taco.

Sunday was our last day in China. We spent the morning in the heart of Beijing. We first had a 20-minute photo stop at Tian An Men Square, which is the largest square in the world. In the middle is a large monument to the peoples' heroes and heroines who died in WWII, the civil war, and the war against Japan. On the south is Mao's tomb and people were lined up for blocks to go in and have a short glimpse. On the north are the city gate and the entrance to the fabled Forbidden City. On the west is the enormous Hall of the People, which was built entirely in 10 months, and on the east is the historical museum. Impressive surroundings. From there we went to the Forbidden City where the movie 'The Last Emperor' was filmed. That was another real thrill to walk through it. It is a large place, over 1/2 mile from north to south. We went through at a rather brisk pace, seeing only the most important things, and still took over an hour and 20 minutes. It is surrounded by a great wall and inside are great open areas, temples, throne rooms, living areas, gardens. . . A virtual city in itself.

After a spicy lunch at the Beijing Hotel we met up with the people from the 3-day tour. That gave us a few more minutes in Tian An Men Square for pictures and then we took off in convoy, 7 buses, for Tianjin and the Sagafjord. Again, driving through the countryside was as interesting as many of the sites we had seen. The road was very good, 4-lane most of the way. By 4:45 we were back at the ship, ready for sailing at 6:00. Most of the group had been exceptionally healthy during our whole tour, but by the next morning after getting back to the 'bacteria bin', as I dubbed the ship, almost everyone had sore throats or colds, myself included. My throat was really bad for a while, but I'm starting to feel a little better now. I use Tiger Balm Ointment from China to rub on my throat.

I didn't have much time to recover. We had only one day at sea before arriving in Pusan, Korea. I hope we never come back there again. We had more nuisance with customs there than anywhere so far. Some of our tours had to leave as much as an hour late and they were tightly scheduled already. I was in charge of the morning city tour and it was kind of weak. We saw a bit of the city and then drove 45 minutes through the mountains up to Pomosa Temple. This could have been fascinating had the guide given good background info. As it was, after 5 minutes of climbing up steep steps and general disorganization, most people were ready to go. Back at the ship at 2:00 pm I really didn't have time to do anything else so I didn't even go back into town to try any shopping.

Then we had one more day at sea yesterday before getting to Tokyo. What a difference - these people are organized! We had a super full day tour to Mt. Fuji and Hakone National Park. It was partly cloudy, but just before we got to the mountain the clouds cleared and the peak came into full view. From our lunch hotel we got several more excellent views and as we drove to Hakone we saw the splendid ice and snowfields from all sides. Not bad, considering that only about 10% of all foreign visitors who go to Mt. Fuji ever get a glimpse of the summit! A rarity, which we enjoyed thoroughly. At Hakone we drove up another mountain and took a cable car higher yet. The cable car went right over the old caldera of a volcano and the sulfur clouds were billowing into the wind from down below us. At the bottom of the mountain on the other side we got on a big scenic boat and took a half hour cruise across Lake Hakone, all the while enjoying the pleasant weather. From there we came back down to the coast and got to ride the bullet train back into Tokyo, about a 40-minute ride. They leave and arrive ON TIME! Comfortable too. Now, back on the ship I'm madly rushing to get this long epistle finished and type up the photos list to send along so you can see some of the evidence of what I've been talking about. I'm really quite tired and am definitely looking forward to the next eight days at sea. They should be very slow compared to the whole trip heretofore!



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Chapter 10, LOS ANGELES
Sunday, April 2


This will no doubt be the last chapter of my 1989 World Cruise book, although there should be a few more postcards to follow. The eight days at sea from Tokyo to Hawaii were great and it was nice to be so busy. First I'll back up to the second day in Tokyo and continue across the ocean from there. Friday the 17th, St. Patrick's Day in Japan. I was in charge of the half-day tour of the city and was on the German bus. It was a bright sunny morning even though it had rained in the night. Tokyo is really a very nice city. We visited the Meiji Shrine in the middle of beautiful gardens, the Emperor's Palace grounds, and Asakusa Temple & shopping complex. The drive through the city was as interesting as the stops themselves. We saw a huge net and were told it was a golf-driving range - they have to conserve space, naturally. A big baseball stadium showed us that baseball is indeed the most popular sport in Japan. The cherry blossoms were just ready to come out and looked loaded with springtime energy. I was again impressed with shrubbery trimming and sculpturing. A clean, modern city, busy with lots of traffic. Lots of green.

In the evening I went into town with one of the waiters from Chile. We just got on a city bus and went until we decided to get off. Fantastic night lights. We went into a little specialty shop just to look. They sold things like crystal and nice gifts, as well as fruit for gifts. One single orange cost $4. A nice little cantaloupe of sorts in a plain box was $80!! Really! A box with one melon, 2 apples, and 6 oranges was $120! We ate in a little local cafe on a side street and had a big bowl of Japanese noodles for about $3 each. Then we topped it off with a milkshake from McDonalds. Yum. Back on ship they were warning us of gale force winds once we set sail and that we should tie down anything that might fall.

Saturday was indeed a rockin' 'n a rollin' day at sea, but not as bad as they thought. Finally a truly slow day in the office. Our Tokyo tours had been good so we didn't even have people coming in to complain. I decided to send about 40 China postcards from Hawaii as I could use US stamps to mail them and would have 8 days at sea to write them. It was nice to have some relaxed time and get a few things organized. The rough seas didn't make me feel bad, but it made me sleepy and I could hardly wait to go to bed.

Sunday I played the organ for Palm Sunday mass and accompanied Mary Catherine, our social director, on 'Were You There?' I was going to go to the spa afterwards and work out, but there was a big flood and it was out of order for several days. The one who filled the pool forgot to shut it off and damage was major. For the rest of the week at sea Jim gave me afternoons off so I was able to play duplicate bridge and thoroughly enjoyed it. Monday afternoon I played with a fellow who was just starting duplicate and we came in first place. Not only that, but we scored the highest score they've had on the ship! One thing after another went right. Most of the week I was able to get a lot of letters written, play piano, play bridge, and start on my photo albums.

Thursday, March 23rd came around for us twice! We crossed the International Dateline going from West to East so we gained back all at once the 24 hours we lose individually going around the world the wrong way! Saturday we arrived in Honolulu. A friend of mine from LA, Sandy Lubarsky, who spends about as much time in Hawaii as in LA, was there to meet me and put a lei around my neck. I was in charge of the morning tour of Honolulu, Waikiki, and area. The city is surprisingly beautiful with its buildings, parks, fountains, and royal palace - the only one on American soil. The drive around the tip of the island was spectacular. Lush, green mountains. We returned to the ship via Pali Pass with a nice view of the island and the sea. Back at the ship I was able to take Sandy on board for a tour and lunch. Then we spent the afternoon together walking the beaches, swimming and shopping. That evening the Honolulu Boy Choir performed on ship and we enjoyed watching that. Ann, Sandy and I watched as two other big cruise ships pulled out of the port ahead of us and then had a snack at the midnight (11:00pm) buffet before Sandy had to leave. We set sail at midnight.

Easter Sunday morning we arrived in Lahaina on the island of Maui. I was on the beautiful full-day tour of the island. It took us over two hours to drive from the ship up to the top of the Haleakala Volcano at 10,000' above sea level. That is supposedly the highest climb in the shortest distance in the world and the scenery is fabulous. The inside of the crater was barren wasteland, whereas the outside had extreme changes in vegetation as we changed elevation. We drove back down the mountain for lunch at Maui Tropical Plantation. Good buffet. That's where I called home from. After lunch we had a little tram ride through the plantation to see all the different types of fruit and flowers. Fun. After that we drove to the Iao Valley, which is inside an extinct volcano and receives over 400" of rain a year. The famous landmark there is the Iao needle, a pinnacled peak that juts high from the valley floor. Another is a stone outcropping, which strongly resembles JFK. That evening the four of us from our office went out for dinner together at a pretty little restaurant right on the water's edge. The waves would come thundering in below us and crash somewhere beneath the building.

Monday was our last Hawaiian port, Hilo, on the big island of Hawaii. I was lucky enough to accompany the 11 passengers who had booked the helicopter tour over the Kilauea Volcano, the most active volcano in the world. The 45-minute flight was really something to behold. The volcano was belching steam and smoke and we couldn't fly into it, naturally. We flew low over lava pits where we could see the red, fiery lava spitting up around the edges and cooling to dark red and black liquid. When it erupted in 1983 it buried a subdivision area. A swimming pool showed where a home had been. A solitary stop sign sticking up indicated a former intersection. Many parts of the flow were still active with black and red oozing lava. Where it reached the sea it put out a beautiful steam cloud and even there we could see the crimson flow put out one last gasp as it was finally quenched by the more powerful sea. Some powerful illustrations of nature!

Tuesday we were back at sea for the last lap to LA, where most of the passengers end the world cruise. That afternoon they had to work on one of the generators and we only had the service of three out of six during that time. It got really warm in some parts of the ship for a while. I went out on deck and had a swim in the crew swimming pool, which was COLD. The temp outside (air) was well below 70, so it was definitely refreshing. Ahhhh. For dinner Ann and I just had fruit plates brought to her room and then our foursome of Ann, John, Catherine, and I spent the remainder of the evening playing bridge. On the ship there is a quiz every day with a prize to the first person to turn it in correctly. Wednesday Mary Catherine used the quiz I had brought from Instyprints about the USA landmarks. People had a lot of fun with it. Thursday there was a costume contest in the evening and I put on my Bangkok monkey mask, wrapped myself in towels and had a lot of people guessing who was under it all. There were a lot of good entrants and it was a fun evening. Friday afternoon I played bridge with Francis, the Rabbi's wife, and we came in first out of 9 teams! Yesterday was April Fool's Day and we had a 3-hour stop in Ensenada, Mexico to let off passengers who boarded in Hawaii. US law doesn't allow a ship flying a foreign flag to carry passengers directly between US ports so they had to bus up to San Diego. Our table sixsome went to town together for a farewell drink. All but Ann Menges are leaving us in LA tomorrow.

End of an era!



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Sunday, April 16


This letter was not going to make the scene, but I decided I really should have a final chapter in my World Cruise Book.

Sunday, April 2, we arrived in Los Angeles by 6:30 in the morning. US Customs take longer than any other country on the whole cruise. It was 9:30 before they let people off the ship. Sandy Lubarsky was there to meet me and I called Kermit right away and he joined us for lunch on the Sagafjord. Then the three of us took off in Kermit's car for the afternoon. Mostly we just drove along the coast and enjoyed the sunshine and the views in the Palos Verde area. We managed to get in some shopping as well. I needed a big photo album and we picked up some ice cream cones for Ann Menges. We had tea with Ann on the ship before Kermit and Sandy had to leave. We sailed at 5:00 pm and our office was open from 5 to 7 for the new passengers who boarded in LA. There were nearly 350 new ones for the Panama Canal segment so we had a busy 2 hours selling tickets. In the dining room Ann and I had a new table since our other four had left us. We joined Father Norris and Martha Frasch. Martha has a son who lives in Manhattan, MT! Our waiter now is Alex from Austria and he's very good. The food for some reason has been much improved these last two weeks.

Monday was a busy day in the office with tours selling like hotcakes. We continue to break records for tour volume on the Sagafjord. In the evenings we had practice to for the Sailor's Choir, which Melanie, a stewardess from BC and I are organizing.

Tuesday we were in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, right down at the southernmost tip of the Baja California Peninsula. It was a warm, sunny afternoon. We had a half-hour ride by glass bottom boat out to Los Arcos, the arches and rock formations, which so distinctly mark that attraction. Then we had a short van ride up over the hills and had a couple photo stops. There was a decided difference between the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez in both color and tranquility. At the end of the tour the passengers got a complimentary drink at a little pierside cafe - all this for only $14! Ann and I did a little shopping, but Cabo San Lucas tends to be more expensive than most of Mexico due to its isolated situation.

Thursday morning we docked in Acapulco and I was in charge of our morning tour. Beautiful organization at the local level. Loading went smoothly, guides were excellent, and the itinerary was good. First we went out to the Mirador Hotel to see the famous high divers leap from 135' cliffs into an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. After a drive along the famous Acapulco Bay and through town we had a shopping stop where prices, of course, were higher than most places. We continued high up to an area called Las Brisas for beautiful views then ended our tour at the Princess Hotel, one of the top hotels in Mexico. Built like a pyramid, it has 7 swimming pools, fountains, golf course, splendid beach, flowers and trees. It really is a gorgeous resort. Two of the pools are salt water and five are fresh. Our guide assured us they were soon going to build one without water for those who don't swim very well! Back at the ship I had lunch with Ann, and then the two of us went out on one of our famous shopping sprees where we offer $2 for everything. It's amazing what you can pick up for that! We bought big wooden Tucan (bird) banks, t-shirts, silver bracelets, etc. Prices are much better on the street where you can bargain than in the shops.

Sunday, April 9 we sailed into Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica. We had 270 people on our full-day tour to San Jose and it was one of the best of the whole world cruise. Puerto Caldera itself is nothing, not even a town. Our tour started with a vintage train ride up to the capital city. The train loaded right on the pier and was decorated with balloons and Costa Rican flags. The local organization here was fantastic. Our guide was Costa Rican, but his father was an American, so his English was superb. All the guides evidently were outstanding. The train was open-air and as we ascended to the central plateau the temperature dropped to comfortable levels. On the train they gave us drinks, fruit, and candy. The pineapple was the sweetest and best I've ever eaten and the little coconut balls they served were so good I could have eaten a dozen - as it was I stopped with about half that many! The agent promised to send me the recipe.

The landscape changed as we climbed to an elevation of 3500', becoming much greener. At the end of the train ride we loaded into nice modern buses and drove on into San Jose to the Sheraton for lunch. They fed nearly 300 people buffet style in one big ballroom and never had a line at the buffet table! Delicious food. Then we drove through the city, through one of the wealthy residential areas, past the president's home and finally to the National Theater. It is a gorgeous building patterned after some of the great opera houses of Europe. It was built between 1894 and 1897 at a cost of $3 million. Today that wouldn't even pay for the gold leaf inside. We were treated to a string quartet playing classical music and listened to one of the guides tell us about the building. The building's background is interesting. Back in the 1890's when Costa Rica was still a little nobody country, Guatemala had a world famous opera singer. They invited her to come sing in San Jose, but she knew that their auditorium was so primitive people had to bring their own chairs. So she wrote them a note that said, "No way, Jose!" Then some of the socialites, bankers, liars, businessmen, and tour guides got together and decided they needed an opera house. They begged the government for a tax to pay for it. They didn't know what they were getting themselves into back then, obviously. But they got the tax and the national theater and it is one of the most impressive theaters in Latin America.

After the little concert we proceeded to the National Museum, which houses a lot of pre-Columbian art and also has a room dedicated to Costa Rican President Arias. He must be quite a man. You're probably aware of his efforts in the Central American Peace plan and that he won the Nobel Peace Prize for it. Seeing the way the country functions and the peace mindset of the people it's understandable. A president can only be elected for one four-year term and he has about a year and a half to go. Costa Rica in general is amazing. It is the most stable democracy in Latin America. They have NO military whatsoever, and this considering they have neighbors like Nicaragua and Panama! Their crime rate is very low and standard of living relatively high. People pay a 9% income tax to pay for medical care, water, electricity and education. There is no welfare as such; you work if you want to eat. Instead of importing expensive machines from the rest of the world they put their people to work, for example, cutting the sugar cane and picking coffee. The Costa Ricans are beautiful people with lots of smiling. Very friendly. Gambling is legal, but modified to favor the people to prevent organized crime from coming in. Education is free and in all schools from the beginning on children wear uniforms to impress them with the idea that all people are equal. It's wonderful to see a country where the people and their rights are so important to the government. The US could learn a few things here!

The highest mountain in the country is over 11,000' and has ice on it but never any snow. Some kind of strange climate phenomenon that prevents it from snowing. On the way back down from San Jose by bus we stopped in the quaint little town of Sarchi. Sarchi is famous for its woodworking and carving, especially wooden ox carts. The designs are suspiciously similar to some from the Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch country. As the area has had settlers from many places, I wonder if there wasn't some of that influence here originally. We were back to the ship by 6:15 with 275 tired but very happy passengers. That evening we had another Sailor's Choir performance, which Melanie and I organized and emceed. It wasn't professional, but it was a lot of fun and the passengers enjoyed it.

Tuesday we spent the day transiting the Panama Canal and our office was closed so we could enjoy it. It was interesting to stand up on top of the ship and watch our progress. Really hot, though. The Sagafjord paid a total of $35,000 to go through the canal. The QE2 has paid the most, $99,000! It saves a lot of time and money over they alternative, though. There are actually a series of locks and a couple inland lakes. The locks are there to bring the ships up to the level of the lakes, not because there's a difference between the two oceans. It was easier to do that than carve the canal down to sea level all the way through. I couldn't believe they do no pumping in the locks. They use all natural fresh water, of which they have a great abundance due to an average rainfall of over 200' and a natural river and lake system.

On Wednesday we 'steamed' into Cartagena, Colombia. Literally steamed, it was hot and humid! After the three very successful tours we'd had in Mexico and Costa Rica we were nervous about Cartagena. No air- conditioned buses and temps in the 90's. Although it was hot the tour was great and Cartagena proved to be a most fascinating historical city. I was on the first bus, which had about 22 seats. We first headed high up on a hill to La Popa Monastery for a great panorama of the city and an interesting visit inside the compound and little chapel. From there we went to the massive San Felipe fortress, which so faithfully guarded the city for many years. The legendary Don Blas was the hero of many battles and he lost a leg in one, an arm in another, and had all kinds of other injuries. When England's Vernon stormed Cartagena they came with the largest fleet that ever sailed in the Caribbean before or since. It included troops from Virginia who were English, not Americans, as it was in the mid 1700's. The British even produced victory medallions ahead of time to honor their great victory over the Spanish. Ironically, Don Blas himself finally died of wounds received during the fray. The medallions story reminds me of 'Poor Grizzlies'! We were able to explore the fortress a bit, wandering through some of the dungeons and enjoying the view and fresh breeze. From there we proceeded down into the old city, which is still surrounded by a 7-mile wall. Inside, the architecture is old Spanish colonial with beautiful homes and buildings and narrow streets lined with flower-covered balconies. We got off the bus in Columbus Square and walked through the inner city, seeing the statue of Simon Bolivar and the beautiful church of San Pedro. Simon Bolivar liberated 5 countries of South America and our guide told us those five countries all have the same flag. Check on that one. Finally, we drove out to the resort peninsula area of Cartagena, Boca Grande, with its fancy hotels and lovely beaches. We had refreshments and folklore show at the Hilton, then of course a shopping stop before heading back to the ship. Shopping in Cartagena was actually a lot of fun. I ended up buying a bunch of t-shirts and a few other souvenirs. It was kind of like being back in some of the African countries and Ann and I had a lot of fun together. After lunch I went with Ron Hudson back to the Boca Grande area for some sun and surf. The water temperature was perfectly comfortable and there were good waves pounding in to the white sandy beaches.

Thursday was the last full day in the office and we kept ourselves busy cleaning things up and throwing away. Managed to play an hour of bridge again before going to work in the afternoon and a game of Scrabble with Ann later. Even with the last minute packing that keeps most people busy, I've had quite a bit of time to enjoy the last few days on the ship.

Friday we made our last call at Georgetown, Grand Cayman. We had an island tour with nearly 200 people on it, but the tour itself is a bit weak. There's just not a lot to see or do on the island, which is only 1 1/2 times the size of the District of Columbia. I, however, was lucky, as I got to be in charge of the Atlantis Submarine tour. That was fantastic. We had two dives with 27 passengers on each. The sub goes down as much as 130 feet and cruises along the Cayman reef. It was such an exciting 45 minutes under water watching the brilliantly colored fish and studying the myriads of coral. We even saw a sunken ship. Just an all-around delightful adventure. The Cayman Islands are actually tops of subterranean mountains, so at the edge of the reef the ocean floor suddenly drops away over 1,000 feet. On the reef itself there are areas of beautiful white sand. We were told that 75% of it is actually formed by the fish eating the coral and what they can't digest is deposited on the bottom as nice, white sand. After lunch that afternoon I felt too lazy to go back on shore so after a little nap Ann and I played three games of Scrabble. That evening was the big farewell party and dinner for all the world cruise passengers, our last formal evening. The evening show was the Norwegian Dancers, about 20 of the crew in traditional Norwegian costumes performing the folk dances of Norway. Always a big hit with the passengers.

Saturday we were only open in the morning just in case there were any refunds needed and then we packed it all up and closed down the office. For me I feel just right about the world cruise. I don't feel like I can hardly wait to leave the ship, nor do I feel badly that the cruise is over. It will be good to get home again, of course, but I will certainly hope to come back again. The cruise in general was really far better than I'd expected even though I was definitely looking forward to it. Great experience, but now it's time to head home and shovel the snow off the garden so I can plant it!

Endfully, Kent

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