2003 World Cruise


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2003 World Cruise

Cruise Updates 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Hi All,

Greetings from the Radisson Seven Seas Mariner and the Panama Canal. It's about time I get something written here at the beginning of this 6-week cruise from Ft Lauderdale (Jan. 7) through the canal to Los Angeles (Jan 21) and down to the South Pacific. I get off the ship Feb. 21 in Sydney, Australia and plan on staying down there for a few days visiting friends in Australia and New Zealand.

Since the Seabourn Sun is no longer in service, many of our passengers from last year came along over to the Mariner, so even though I've never been on this ship before, I know a lot of the passengers and quite a few staff and crew. The Mariner is a new, spacious ship for about 700 passengers and is the first all-suite, all-balcony ship built. It is indeed beautiful. I'll write more on the ship when we have 6 sea days after LA. I'll share the views with you at 2003 World Cruise slideshow. If you want to see where in the world I'm talking about, click on www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/au.htm.

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Update #1

Our first stop was GEORGETOWN, GRAND CAYMAN.

I've been to the Cayman Islands several times before and wasn't too excited about it, but decided to go ashore and see how much it's changed. Then I remembered a former ship friend, Johan Bjoeroe, was a pilot here. After asking around a bit I found him out at the airport. He was really surprised and it was great to see him. He was just getting ready to take a group of our passengers on a half-hour flight-seeing tour of the island and invited me to go along. Beautiful. The many shades of blue and green in the waters around the island were exquisite. Then we had lunch before I had to go back to the ship.

The Cayman Islands were actually discovered by Columbus 500 years ago this year in 1503! It was his fourth and final voyage and it was only because he was blown off course between Panama and Hispaniola that he discovered the islands. Today the islands are known mainly for tourism (miles of white, sandy beaches) and banking. There is also a huge melting pot of cultures, which reflects in the local language, cuisine, and art. The Islands received their independence from Jamaica in 1959, but still remain a British Crown Colony. And yes, they speak English and they drive on the left hand side.

The next day we made an afternoon stop at ISLA SAN ANDRES, COLOMBIA. It's a small island and there's not much there. However, the infamous Jones Act requires all non-American flagged ships, when taking passengers from one US port to a different US port, to go to a FAR-foreign port in between. Central America and the Caribbean are not considered far-foreign and do not qualify. Most Panama Canal cruises stop either in Cartagena, Colombia or one of the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) to satisfy the Jones Act, but Isla San Andres is OK as well, even though it's a ways from South America, because it's actually part of Colombia. I just went ashore and had a short walk in the jungle, admiring the trees and flowers. It was hot though, and it was nice to get back to the ship.

Saturday was our PANAMA CANAL TRANSIT. We were excited to see the QE2 pull up along side and transit in the locks parallel to us. The Mariner would pull forward into a lock, then the QE2 would pull up along side in her locks. This allowed us to see people on QE2 decks the whole length of the ship several times, and since the locks were only about 20 yards apart we were able to wave and yell and greet people we knew. Captain Warwick and his wife Kim waved at me, as well as numerous passengers, staff and crew I still knew. It was really quite a thrill. I also got some good photos. I'd been through the Canal ON the QE2 several times but had never had the opportunity to get pictures of the ship IN the canal, so the vantage point on the Mariner afforded a perfect place to capture the QE2 on film. After our transit of the first half of the canal we anchored off the Gatun Lake Yacht Club for a few hours. Passengers were allowed to go ashore there and use the facilities. They had refreshments, fresh fruit, drinks, and ice cream - all complimentary - and also folkloric dances and native Indians in traditional costume (or LACK thereof!!) selling their wares. However, the highlight for me was seeing Yvonne Lohrer again. We worked together on Sagafjord and Sun and she is now back in Panama where she grew up. She drove over for the day with her parents to see some of her old friends - staff and passengers. It was so good to see her. Funny, when I first saw them arrive, I headed for her mother to give her a big hug, thinking it was Yvonne! I ended up giving them both a big hug. :) The ship sailed late afternoon, which meant we went through the Miraflores Locks at night. That was a new experience for me seeing the locks all floodlit. Meanwhile we enjoyed a stunning buffet dinner out on deck as we exited the Canal and headed out into the Pacific Ocean. And off we go to Costa Rica!

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Update #2


Monday, January 13 we were in Costa Rica for the day. We didn't do much, but it's such an interesting country I'll write about it anyway. More interesting is what happened to me that evening after sailing, but you have to read about Costa Rica first before I tell you that part.

It was hot, spelled H-O-T! There is not much near the port, but most people take tours up to San Jose, Sarchi, the rain forest, or river rafting etc. The tours here tend to be really good, and Costa Rica is quite a civilized country, so it's a popular destination for anyone who takes the effort to do something. For the less ambitious who just go ashore and look around, they normally ask why we stop here.

Costa Rica is a different world compared to her Latin American neighbors. There is free education through high school (95% literacy rate), a very low infant mortality rate, and a virtually nonexistent suicide rate. They have also had universal health care in place for five decades. Believe it or not, they have NO army or military force of any kind - this in a country sandwiched between perennial tinderboxes Nicaragua and Panama!

Costa Rica is bountifully blessed by nature as well, with magnificent scenery and a wealth of resources. Mountains rise to 12,000 feet and the central highlands enjoy a comfortable temperate climate compared with hot, torrid weather on the less populated coasts. It is rich in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and minerals and cheap hydro-electric power is abundant for industry. Paradise?? It gets better!

The forests are rich in ebony, balsa, mahogany, and cedar. More than 1,000 species of orchids grow wild and prolific. Abundant wildlife includes puma, jaguar, deer, monkeys and 850 species of birds. The country has a thriving eco-tourism industry, featuring some of the best preserved jungles and national parks in the tropics. Semi-active volcanoes also make for interesting sightseeing.

It's a fairly safe country so there is a pretty good tourism industry, including visitors from the US, but perhaps more significant is the high number of Americans and others who retire to Costa Rica! Not quite as popular as Florida yet, but getting there. :)

Svein and I went ashore and looked around the arts and crafts stalls in the terminal building. Costa Rica has some interesting crafts, especially wood products of all kinds. We had fun looking at the diverse wares, t-shirts, coffee, rosewood boxes, canes, traditional dresses and shirts, post cards and multi-wood cutting boards. The quality of the work is high. This jaded world traveler bought a few postcards!

We walked down to the beach for a bit, but it was almost too hot to be out in the sun. I did find a bunch of mother-of-pearl shells and brought a few back to the ship. They polished up beautifully.

We came back for lunch onboard the ship where I had a tuna steak that wasn't quite done enough. There may or may not be a connection, but by dinner I wasn't feeling very hungry. Svein and I were dining with 2 passengers from our group, so I couldn't refrain from eating, but I only had a broth soup and a small steak. By the time dinner was over I had to get back to the suite fast, and promptly lost my dinner! About midnight, I lost my lunch and breakfast as well. I also had diarrhea all night and through the next morning and was one sick puppy! I haven't felt that ill in years. I didn't go to the doctor, as I figured he'd just tell me to wait 24 hours and see what happens anyway. If it was food poisoning, it just had to go through my system, and if it were a virus it would have to run its course anyway. The next day was pretty miserable, but I asked around to see if anyone else was experiencing any ill effects. By evening I'd heard of a couple others so I decided to just go report it to the doctor the next morning so they'd have it in their records.

I told the doctor I hadn't come to see him because I didn't have insurance and didn't want to pay for him to tell me I'd get over it in a day. He's French and assured me he is not in the medical profession as a business like US doctors, but to help people, and I shouldn't worry about that. Pretty nice. Then he found out I speak French and work as a tour guide in the western national parks and he was quite excited. He's been to many of them and loves them, but hasn't been to Yellowstone, and he's wanted to go there for a long time. We did finally get around to the reason for my visit! He doubted if it were food poisoning and without saying it in so many words, let me know it might have been. . . .THE VIRUS! Well, it's certainly not something I would wish on anyone else, believe me. So far, 4 others he's seen seem to be having the diarrhea only without the vomiting, so hopefully it won't turn in to anything major onboard. On the bright side, it did help me lose about 5 pounds in one fell swoop! Yay!

Weather continues to be good, but our call in HUATULCO, MEXICO had to be cancelled because the swell was too big to operate the tender operation. So on we sailed to Acapulco, which will be detailed in the next issue.

For all of you in cold country, I'll try not to get too much sun if you'll try not to get too much snow!

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Update #3

Hi all,

Thursday, January 16 we were in ACAPULCO, MEXICO for the day. This is the most popular port of call on Mexico's west coast and is included in the itinerary of virtually every ship that passes between California and Panama. Jaded travelers often turn up their nose at the thought of 'Acapulco again'! However, there are good reasons all the ships call here and Acapulco has much to offer.

First of all they have nearly perfect weather with an astounding 360 days of sunshine a year on average with daytime temperatures comfortably in the 80's! Acapulco has pretty much been a household word since the 40's when the jet set brought out the lounge chairs and the photographers. Almost overnight, Acapulco became a glamorous destination, a world of movie stars and cliff divers.

Miles and miles of golden beaches are covered with swimmers and sunbathers, although swimming is less recommended anymore due to the polluted water in the bay. The pollution does not stop the young children, however, from waiting alongside the pier for ship passengers to throw coins into the water. The kids promptly dive in after the coins and jubilantly retrieve them before they hit the bottom. But the more famous divers of Acapulco are not near the ship. The Mirador Hotel has been made famous by the daring feats of divers that do perfect swan dives from the top of 130 foot high cliffs at La Quebrada into the wild waves far below, as tourists look on, awestruck. The divers seem to take it all in stride, but you can't help but gasp the first time you see it.

Today it is a thriving city of over 2 million people with great diversity. Shopping opportunities range from local Mexican handicrafts markets to Walmart, Costco and Sam's Club! (yes, really). The markets have aggressive vendors, desperately competing for customers. A lot of people get irritated with the constant haranguing, but you just have to ignore it and look at what you want to look at. Even the taxi cab drivers come at you is swarms when you exit the port building.

The city has changed since I first came here by ship 14 years ago. The more fashionable zone continues to move south, around to the next bay. Grand, opulent hotels and vast golf courses have been built along the endless stretches of beaches out of sight of the masses and the crowded city center.

The city was founded clear back in the 1500's and was an important port city for Spanish galleons sailing between Spain and the Orient. But sea traffic dwindled when Mexico gained independence in the 1800's and Acapulco saw few visitors until 1927 when a paved road over the mountains led it to become Mexico's first resort city on the west coast.

Svein and I spent several hours just walking the long promenade along the beach, going in and out of shops and markets, and finally enjoying a late lunch of fresh fish of the day at a local restaurant. Eating plenty of the lime slices provided with meals will counteract just about anything! :)

Saturday we were in CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO. Talk about change. The first time I came here with the Sagafjord there was hardly anything beyond a few shops and a local market on the pier. It has developed into a beautiful resort town with facilities of all kinds, including some very high-class resorts and spa hotels. The architecture is tastefully designed to fit into the desert/coastal environment and creates a stunning view as you sail in from the sea. We walked over the hill to the Pacific beach where thunderous waves were crashing on the wildly sculpted rocks. We climbed up over rocks and down the other side, to little secluded coves, and over more rocks and over more sand. It's a popular area to combine rock climbing with beach walking. There's a lot of snorkeling out at the end of the cape so when we reached the end we just took a water taxi back to the town center. There are now fancy shops, chic restaurants, coffee shops, internet cafes, and an impressive yacht club with dozens of expensive yachts! Of course there are countless local markets as well, but unlike Acapulco, the vendors are laid back and pleasant. The area boasts some of the richest marine life in Mexico. In the bay we saw flying fish, sea lions, and thousands of birds. Friends of ours went on a boat tour around the corner into the Gulf of California and saw lots of whales. They would come up almost right next to the boat. We sailed away at sunset as the clouds turned flaming red and lights twinkled from the expensive homes up on the hillside. On to San Diego Monday and Los Angeles on Tuesday, where we officially start the world cruise.

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Update #4

Sunday, January 26, 2003

January 20 we were in San Diego for the day and on the 21st we were in Los Angeles. I won't waste much time on those two ports, even though San Diego is one of my favorite. They just are not terribly exotic to most of my readers. In San Diego I mostly walked and shopped, picking up some things I needed for the next month. In Los Angeles my friend Doris Gnagey picked me up for the day. First I was able to get her on the ship and show her my luxurious home. I think it's safe to say she was duly impressed. Then we went out for a delightful Mexican lunch and went for a walk on Balboa Island. Back at the port I brought her on for afternoon tea (white glove service!) until all visitors had to proceed ashore. She sat in her car and waited until we sailed away in the dark.

Now we are enjoying 6 days at sea sailing from Los Angeles to the South Pacific. The first stop next Tuesday is Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas Islands. There's not much there except solid ground on which people can put their feet after a week at sea! But, more about that later. These nice sea days make for a good opportunity to tell a little more about the lovely vessel on which we are sailing.

As I mentioned in my first update, the Radisson Seven Seas Mariner is the world's first all-suite, all balcony ship and has a capacity of about 700 passengers. For this segment there are only 399 guests so there is plenty of space. In Los Angeles the ship officially started her 2003 World Cruise. Although Svein and I are only sailing as far as Sydney, February 21, the ship continues on to the Orient, India, South Africa and back to Florida on May 9. Cousin Elizabeth sent an email asking who Svein is. Svein is my co-host and we worked together on Sagafjord for 7 years. He is retired and hosts for Virtuoso several times a year. When there is a large group they need 2 hosts and this is the 4th time we've gotten to host together. Yes, he's Norwegian, but he's had a home in Florida 30 years.

Let me start with our suite (we don't call them cabins on this ship)! We have a separate sitting area with full sofa, table, easy chair, desk, TV/VCR, refrigerator and fresh flowers. They keep the fridge stocked with water and soft drinks for us. In most parts of the world we get CNN and ESPN by satellite. Our balcony has a small table and two recliners. The bathroom is all marble with gold and silver fixtures. We have down comforters on our beds and a nice walk-in closet to hang all our fancy duds. (I think Doris was surprised to find that not only do I have my own tuxedo, but I own several!)

Dining is divine on the Mariner. We have 4 restaurants to choose from. The main one is the Compass Rose and it has open sitting. That means we don't have assigned tables. When we go to dinner we just ask for a table for however many people we have in our group that particular evening. The Signature is a French restaurant and Latitudes has a different theme every week. Both of these require reservations. The Mediterranean Bistro has an Italian Steakhouse flair with a wonderful buffet of tapas and Italian appetizers for starters and another buffet with scrumptious desserts like tiramisu. Complimentary soft drinks and wine are offered in all four dining rooms. Svein and I have breakfast and lunch up in the Verandah restaurant. It's pleasant to sit out on the aft deck in the fresh air listening to the water churning out behind the ship far below us. The ship is so smooth there is virtually no vibration and often that churning sound is the only indication we're at sea. People who have been in so-called 'vibration cabins' on other ships would be amazed that a ship could be so quiet. It's an ultra-modern propulsion system that also makes the Mariner highly maneuverable.

Public rooms are spacious and corridors are wide. There is a large open deck area on the top deck with a swimming pool, 3 Jacuzzis, and lots of chairs. Other sport facilities include paddle tennis, ping pong, golf putting green, quoits, shuffleboard and a jogging track. The computer room has 16 computers and we can go online to check emails or surf the web 24 hours a day. There is a good program of guest lecturers and entertainers who come and go along the way. Currently we have Art Buchwald and Marion Davies. Lots of others too, but those are two names many of you will recognize.

Doris Gnagey wrote a little paragraph of her impressions of the Mariner I thought I'd share with you:

I was thrilled to get the opportunity to tour the Radisson Seven Seas Mariner while she was docked in LA Harbor. If I only had one word to describe my feelings it would be "WOW". As I toured the ship, I was awe struck of the atrium with its spiral staircase from the bottom level to the top. The elegant dining rooms (not just one but several) were magnificent. The theater was so charming with seating to watch the performer or to socialize with your fellow passengers. The sun deck and the pool area seemed to be such a relaxing place to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. If I never get to sail on a ship of that magnitude, it will always seem like I did on that day.

Who knows, maybe she'll get to sail someday.

Sailing out of LA we had pretty cool weather for the first couple days with temps only in the low 70's. Brrrr. However, it's now back up into the 80's during the day so it's most pleasant dining out on the aft deck. Mind you, through much of the South Pacific we will wish the temps were only in the 70's!

We crossed the equator this afternoon so we're in the southern hemisphere. And yes, the water really does swirl the opposite direction when it drains. There was an initiation for 'pollywogs', that's people who have never crossed the equator by ship before. They do all kinds of nasty things to them, like put jello in their hair, but all in good fun. For a great example, check out my website and see a photo of cousin Bev jumping into the pool during her initiation! Once pollywogs are initiated they become shellbacks and have free access to the seven seas.

After the ceremony the Super Bowl was on down in the conference room, well sort of. We are way out of satellite range for any kind of TV, but they broadcast two internet websites onto big screens so we could follow a text version of the play by play. Not quite TV but definitely better than nothing at all. The game's not quite over yet, but it looks like Kermit Kauffman is going to be happy with his Bucs.

Meanwhile we continue on to the South Pacific, tropical isles and sandy beaches!

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Update #5

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Land Ho! After 6 wonderful days at sea we saw our first land Tuesday and had a day in NUKU HIVA in the Marquesas Islands of the South Pacific. This is a common first stop on the way from California to Polynesia, only because it's the first land anywhere. Usually passengers come ashore, walk around a few minutes, then go back to the ship and wonder why they stopped there. Radisson had different ideas. They arranged for most of the island's vehicles, private and otherwise, to shuttle guests up the mountain to a feast, complete with barbecue, live music, and crafts. The locals had cooked a pig on coals buried in the ground and they threw in bananas for good measure. It had been cooking for about 2 days and it was tender. Along with the pork and bananas they served salad with marinated fish. There was a whole other table with various local delicacies - stuffed cabbage with chicken fafa in young taroroot leaves, canapes with fresh tuna, breadfruit chips, hearts of coconut, fresh coconut, sweet coconut balls, baked breadfruit in coconut milk, coconut cake, and banana pumpkin bread pudding. Local Marquesan musicians provided a nice background, the local school children sang and danced, and various artisans displayed their handicraft for sale. Oh, did I mention this whole shindig was complimentary to all Mariner guests?

It was interesting driving up there. The dry season should be over by now, but it hasn't started raining yet. Oddly, most of the vegetation was still brown, but most of the trees were either in full bloom or bearing fruit. We saw a great variety of flowering trees and shrubs on the way, including breadfruit, coconut, papaya, mango, banana, bamboo, banyan, flamboyant, mimosa, frangipane, hibiscus, bougainvillea, star fruit, ginger, and PPTO trees. The banyan trees have long vines that grow back down to the ground and become roots. They are massive trees. Who knows what the PPTO trees are in English, but if you pronounce the four letters individually you'll have the name of the tree as it's called in Marquesan. They have long pods filled with small, hard, red coral-like beads. They string them like pearls for beautiful jewelry. I picked up a half cup full of them off the ground and brought them back to the ship so if anyone wants a special bracelet let me know! Here's the kicker - most of the trees and shrubs were originally imported from North and South America! And one more tidbit about Nuku Hiva, an episode of Survivor was also filmed here.

Today we were in PAPEETE, TAHITI and had a complimentary tour for our Virtuoso guests. It was a hot day with temps in the high 90's. We had 4 buses and went first to the Museum of Tahiti, then to a 'Marae' a Polynesian outdoor temple where they originally performed various ceremonies, including human sacrifice. Today they did some native dances and sang for us, but there were no sacrifices. The historic rituals still affect their culture, but today most Polynesians are Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, Seventh Day Adventist, Baptist, or some other western religion. We continued on to a small garden park and walked a few minutes back to a beautiful waterfall, cascading off the rugged mountain into a pool surrounded by blooming trees and shrubs of all kinds. Then we went to the Intercontinental Beachcomber Hotel for a lunch in a gorgeous setting by the pool. A nice breeze kept it comfortable in the shade, but I was in the sun quite a bit and can feel it this evening! When I get back home after this cruise I'll look half Polynesian!

All these south sea islands are volcanic, and the mountains soar straight up from the coast to form rugged chains of high peaks. Unlike Nuku Hiva, Tahiti is very lush and very green! Many of the same trees and flowers cover the lower areas of the island, but low hanging clouds in the steep mountain valleys give it a more mystical appearance.

Tahiti is the largest of the 115 islands and atolls that comprise French Polynesia. Mountain peaks tower above dense rain forests, and waterfalls pour from wild cataracts into cool streams and pools. The French painter, Paul Gaugin, probably did as much as anyone to make the area famous with his artwork. However, visitors expecting the world of Gaugin will be surprised at the modern, bustling capital city, Papeete. The laidback Polynesia is found in more remote parts of Tahiti, or on other islands like Moorea and Bora Bora where we'll be the next two days. Papeete is very French, very busy, very developed, and perhaps not as welcoming as many of the other islands. Oh, did I mention expensive?! Fortunately for our Virtuoso guests, their outing was complimentary today!

We sail at midnight and have a whole 20 miles to cover between then and 8:00am! Moorea is clearly visible from the ship even now after dark.

This chapter has gotten long enough, so I'll send if off and start a new one for the next islands. Wish I could share some of this warm weather with some of you in cold areas.

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Update #6

Hi All

Friday, January 31, 2003 we were in MOOREA. It's just exquisitely beautiful! It would be hard to imagine a more beautiful place in the tropics. Its jagged peaks cloaked by lush greenery and encircled by the deep blue of the ocean and sky make the perfect dream of Polynesia. Moorea is only 12 miles west of Tahiti but is as peaceful and friendly as Tahiti is hectic and urban. The most striking feature of the island, viewed from our ship, is the tall spire of Tohiea Peak, which soars to nearly 4,000 feet like a needle. Moorea and this mountain are believed to have inspired James Michener for Bali Hai so we usually just refer to the mountain as Bali Hai. The island is almost triangular, fringed on all sides by a coral reef and a translucent green lagoon inside the reef. It's a paradise for diving and snorkeling and is unique in the Society Islands in that it has magnificent expanses of both white and black sand beaches (Tahiti has only black). There are only about 12,000 inhabitants on this jewel of 50 square miles and just one 40-mile road encircles the island. There is little access to the rugged interior other than by jeep or foot, but if you are a mountain climber who likes heat you should definitely visit!

Saturday we spent the day in BORA BORA, which is almost as gorgeous as Moorea. Both islands, like Tahiti, are lush and green with every kind of tropical flower and fruit imaginable. Of course, it's the steep volcanic mountains rising majestically up from azure seas that really make these islands special. All these south sea islands are volcanic and out beyond the coral reefs the water depths plunge to thousands of feet. I went with "the two Carols" to the Bora Bora Hotel for sun and lunch. I've known Carol Farber and Carol Mann since Sagafjord days and they are as different from each other as can be. Carol M is extremely elegant and proper with not a hair out of place. She goes swimming wearing her hat and sunglasses and a long cape. Carol F talks nonstop and is down-to-earth and like a mother hen. We swam in the beautiful water, then waded among colorful fish and fed them bread crumbs. I took a nap in a hammock in the shade, enjoying a gentle breeze. The hotel has luxury thatched roof huts on stilts out over the water which go for about $700 a night! However, tourism is down, so you could probably get a deal for only $200 if you looked. Then we had lunch in the open-air restaurant with stunning views of the lagoon with its multiple shades of green and blue inside the coral reef, and somber dark blue beyond. We rode an open truck-bus back to the pier where Carol M had to have a good look at the local black pearls before returning to the ship.

On Moorea and Bora Bora, the locals are decidedly laid back, enjoying a low-stress lifestyle, reflecting the idyllic scenery around them. Unlike France, the islands in this area are 80% Protestant! The rest are a mixture of Catholic, Mormon, Seventh Day Adventist, and Asian religions. Two years ago on a Sunday in Bora Bora, Svein and I went to church and they were having a choral festival. We were awed as various choirs belted out hymns with traditional Polynesian volume and energy. Whew! They can sing.

Finally we had a peaceful day at sea after 3 strenuous days of palm trees and beaches!

Monday we were scheduled to have a call in RAROTONGA from 7am to 3pm. However, there is no protected bay there and the ocean swell was too big to run tender service, so we had to give up and sail on toward Tonga. We just called it our Rarotonga Roar-By!

I felt like Rip Van Winkle this week. Tuesday evening I went to bed and didn't wake up again until Thursday morning when we arrived in Tonga. Well, that is actually true, but not because I was sick. Wednesday didn't exist since we crossed the international dateline. Tonga is the first country west of the dateline so it's the first country to welcome each new day. When it's between 11:00pm and midnight in Tonga the whole world has the same day for one hour.

We were to have just an afternoon call in TONGA, but due to our 'Roar-By' we were here the full day. This is the smallest kingdom in the world, consisting of just a few tropical islands. The royal family lives in a palace made of white Victorian timber that was prefabricated in New Zealand in 1867. Captain Cook made 3 visits to the islands between 1773 and 1777 and he named them the Friendly Islands, due to the welcome he received. Today they are still friendly islands. It's fun walking around Nuku Alofa, the capital city. It seems the modern world hasn't quite corrupted this town yet. People smile and greet each other and visitors, and are quick to help in any way they can. Their local handicrafts specialize in straw baskets and mats, woven tapa cloth and tapa art, shells and shell jewelry. And none of it's made in China! Thanks to the British corruption, they do drive on the left however, but that will be the case for the rest of our cruise until I leave Australia and New Zealand.

Before I close this update I want to just touch on our cuisine on the Mariner. This morning for breakfast I had an omelet, corned beef hash, sausage and English muffin. Yesterday was perhaps healthier - just fresh mango, papaya, pineapple and cottage cheese. There's such a great selection we don't get bored with any meal. Here's tonight's menu (from the main dining room) for your drooling pleasure, though for space concerns, I've had to leave out some of the extra description of items.

Appetizers: Chilled Fricassee of Baby Vegetables with Black Truffle (garnished with herb goat's cheese stuffed mushrooms); Chilled pineapple fruit cup; Homemade Alaskan crab cake; and Gruyere Crisp and Air Dried Swiss Beef. Soups: Turkey albondigas soup (with spinach and spicy turkey balls); Chilled tomato consomme; and Swiss barley soup. Salads: Mimosa salad garnished with chopped eggs and balsamic vinaigrette; Garden greens with sliced tomato and bell pepper; and Caesar salad. Pasta dish: Fettuccini with garlic parsley and olive oil; and plain pasta with tomato sauce. Main courses: Grilled grouper fillet with black olives and bell pepper coulis; Grilled capon breast on garbanzo bean mash; Medallions of beef with a light mustard sauce; Zurich style veal in a mushroom cream sauce with Berner roesti; Vegetable and Tofu Cannelloni; Sirloin steak of black angus beef; Boneless breast of chicken; and Salmon fillet. Oh, did I mention dessert?... Grand Marnier souffle; Zuger kirsch cake (sponge cake with vanilla cream and kirsch water); Peach yogurt timbale; Ice coupe 'banana sundae'; Mango sherbet; Peach and rice terrine with berry compote; Butterscotch, vanilla, pistachio or banana ice cream; Peach frozen yogurt, Fresh fruit; International cheese board with crackers. Anybody hungry yet?? And I've only managed to lose about 5 pounds so far. Oh yes, that's only the main restaurant. The other three have themed cuisine which the chefs change every 5 to 10 days. Yum yum! Speaking of which, it's 7pm and I'm getting hungry. I better get this sent off and head for dinner!

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Update #7

In update #6 I detailed the dinner menu in the main restaurant. However, we didn't eat in the Compass Rose that evening. Instead, Svein and I and the two Carols dined in Latitudes with a South Beach (Miami) theme. It was one of the most incredible meals I've eaten in my life! They served us 25 courses! Granted they were small portions, but we ate virtually everything they brought us, including 6 main courses and 4 desserts! Amazing.

Sunday, February 9, we had a Virtuoso tour in AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND and it was excellent. The weather was perfect with a few clouds and 80 degrees. New Zealand is so civilized even though they do drive on the wrong side of the road. It's nice to be here after several weeks of Polynesia. As Svein pointed out, we had had about enough of palm trees and beaches. (jaded?) We had good motor coaches, drivers, and guides, and the planning was impeccable. We drove through the city, then over the harbor bridge to the north shore. We had English tea with scones and muffins in a hotel in Devonport where we also enjoyed great views of the Auckland skyline across the harbor. Auckland is known as the city of sails due to the thousands of yachts and boats. There is one yacht for every 4 households here and they dot the seascape with pretty white sails! Considering that the labyrinth of waterways is ringed with volcanic hills, all covered with subtropical vegetation, the city can rightfully boast one of the most picturesque settings anywhere.

We drove through the countryside to the north, leaving the calm waters and white sand beaches of the east coast for the wild ocean and rocky, black sand beaches of the west coast. It's like going from Florida to Oregon in half an hour! There we saw a gannet colony with thousands of the big sea birds. In addition to the wildlife there were dozens of surfers, taking advantage of high surf crashing in from the Tasman Sea. From there we proceeded to Gracehill Vineyard for an exquisite private lunch in a country setting. This was one of the nicer tours we've been on with Virtuoso.

We were back to the ship by 4pm and my friends John and Julia Ensom picked me up for the evening. First I brought them on the ship to show off a little. They were duly impressed. It was nice having a relaxing evening in their home and the Mariner didn't sail away until midnight.

Monday night I enjoyed a rather unique dinner - in the galley (that's kitchen, for you landlubbers) with three other guests and the chef. They set up a table for us right in the middle of all the cooking and preparation and it was fascinating to see the organization and efficiency of production. We started with caviar, which is not exactly my taste (I don't care to eat unborn fish!) but from there the meal was superb. I had a little extra portion of wiener schnitzel, so I wasn't going to have dessert. However, they brought us each a little basket made of chocolate braid, filled with chocolate mousse and I didn't want to hurt the pastry chef's feelings. I ate it. Wasn't that noble of me. An interesting side note; the chef is Swiss and he admitted at the table he thought I was a Swiss who spoke really good English!

Tuesday we were in WELLINGTON, New Zealand's delightful capital city. Temperatures this time of year (like August in the northern hemisphere) run in the 60's at night and 70's during the day - perfect! The downside is the high winds they get, often accompanied by rain. Wind is so common that locals rarely use umbrellas - if you see one, the owner is most likely a tourist! Svein is not much of a sightseer, so here I decided to go exploring on my own. I did something most uncharacteristic of me. This museum-non-lover went to the Museum of New Zealand. That's probably the first time I went to a museum by myself and of my own volition since going to the Louvre in Paris in 1974! My main reason for going was an exhibit on the film, Lord of the Rings, which was filmed here in New Zealand. It not only showed where much of the scenes were filmed, but also many of the extraordinary techniques used. For example, they started working on Hobbiton in the Shire over a year before filming. They planted hedges and trees and reshaped the land into gentle knolls, building little hobbit houses into the hillsides. They used a great combination of live actors and animals with something called digital duplication. They hired horses and horsemen from all over the country, but they used digital techniques to make more of them and even to change features. I'm going to watch Lord of the Rings and the Twin Towers when I get home and see how much of it I can recognize after seeing the exhibit. The rest of the museum wasn't bad either.

After that I meandered through town and took the cable car to the top of 1,980' Mt Kelburn. The view of the city and bay was spectacular. The surrounding jagged mountains seem to come crashing down into the graceful, curved harbor. I then enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the botanical gardens back down to the city. The gardens were well done. In this climate almost anything will grow, so there are trees, shrubs and flowers from all over the world. Specialty areas include a rose garden, a herb garden, a rock garden, Australia garden, Begonia House, and Observatory.

New Zealand is such a civilized place! After Polynesia this country is truly refreshing. They do have some quirks though, but I think I'll save that subject for the next update. We are on to Christchurch on the South Island tomorrow.

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Update #8

Happy Valentines Day Everyone,

Greetings from a very rough and wild Tasman Sea! But that comes at the end of this update, so back to the beginning first.

Think Christchurch - think flowers. Think flowers - think Christchurch! CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND, the Garden City, is one of my favorite cities in the world, and the wealth of flowers and gardens is a big part of it. Wednesday, February 12 we spent a perfectly beautiful day in our first port on the South Island. The North and South Islands of this country are as different as night and day. The North, dominated by Auckland, is like an enormous rolling farm. The vast majority of the population lives there. The South Island, on the other hand, is rugged and wild and much of it has been preserved in parklands. Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island and is filled with public parks and private gardens, all boasting a stunning array of flowers. Much of the city center is reserved for pedestrians instead of autos, and old gothic buildings dominate the skyline. The town's centerpiece is Cathedral Square where one finds the Town Crier, Visitor Information, street musicians and entertainers, food stands, souvenir shops, ice cream, post office, and of course the Christ Church Cathedral dating back to 1864. The gently meandering Avon River wanders through the heart of town, framing another of New Zealand's brilliant botanical gardens, this one boasting an English teahouse and an observatory. Punts (small boats) still ply the waters gracefully; offering rides in a gondolier style. I wandered through the gardens, enjoying the vast array of vegetation. They really can grow almost anything here in this temperate climate. Here summer highs tend to be in the 70's, whereas winter lows may dip into the 20's. They are preparing for their big, annual flower festival. They have competitions to find the best flower garden in town and hundreds of residents work hard to try to make their garden special. I met the two Carols in Cathedral Square and we decided to have lunch at an English Pub on the Avon River. Fish and Chips was the order of the day and it was good. One more interesting note on Christchurch is the International Center for Antarctic Information and Research. Because of the proximity to Antarctica and increasing polar research, the ICAIR was set up in 1992 as a joint venture between New Zealand, the US, and Italy. The center has exhibits on Antarctica's history, wildlife, and natural beauty.

Thursday we docked in Port Chalmers, port city for DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND. The city was settled by Scots and named New Edinburgh, but soon the name was changed to Dunedin, the old Celtic name for the beloved Scottish city. Carol Mann and I took a ship's tour and enjoyed a train ride on the Taieri Railway, a narrow gauge train through Taieri Gorge. It was a nice 3-hour ride with much diversity in scenery and lots of tunnels and bridges. The train left right from the dock, went along the harbor into Dunedin, and then continued through a rural area with lots of sheep before turning into the gorge and following the river. It's late summer here and they've been having a drought to boot, so the landscape was pretty brown, but we saw lots of forest, cropland and a wild, scenic river gorge. On board they served us coffee, tea, and shortbread and later a nice lunch. We got off the train after 3 1/2 hours and boarded motor coaches for the ride back to the sea, with a short tour of Dunedin on the way. Dunedin is the largest university center in New Zealand with over 20,000 students and has an interesting octagon-shaped city center. Sailing out of Port Chalmers, the ship hugged the coastline for a few miles so we could see the cape and the large colony of breeding albatross below the lighthouse.

Today, Valentines Day, we had a couple hours in MILFORD SOUND, a spectacular fjord complete with steep cliffs, soaring mountains, cascading waterfalls, and distant glaciers and snowfields. The morning had been cloudy and foggy, but by the time we entered at 1:00pm, the sky had cleared and there were just enough clouds to give perspective. As the ship slowly wound her way through the fjord we were treated to one stunning view after the other. We took lots of photos with the digital camera, so I'll have to decide which one to send along with this update, then put a few others on my website. Now we are on our way to Tasmania and the swell is over 20 feet, with individual waves much higher than that. Occasional big waves have sent a few things sliding off tables and shelves, but the ship is pretty well secured. We already made our cabin wave-ready! It's expected to continue through the evening and the night. Some of our guests will spend this Valentines Day confined to their suite!

I mentioned NZ quirks in the last update. My favorite one is a traffic regulation. If you are making a left turn, you have to yield to any oncoming traffic wanting to turn across traffic in front of you! The equivalent at home would be if you wanted to make a right turn, you would have to yield to oncoming traffic wanting to turn left in front of you! I suggested just not signaling, then they wouldn't know I was planning on turning. That happens, but usually results in rude gestures!

We sail away from New Zealand hoping to come back soon and looking forward to Tasmania and Australia in the days ahead!

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Update #9

Sunday, February 16, we arrived in HOBART, TASMANIA after a couple fairly rough days on the Tasman Sea. Most of Australia is in a drought and has been suffering extreme hot, dry conditions for the past four months. However, our arrival coincided with a cold front and it was cloudy, breezy, and only in the 60's! Brrrr! I had to put a sweater on to walk around town. Tasmania is that little island just off the southeast coast of the continent and it's a beautiful place. Hobart is the capital with a population of about 200,000, and is sandwiched between 4,000' Mt Wellington and beautiful Storm Bay.

Radisson put on another of their complimentary shore events for all guests and they did it up right. We boarded motorcoaches at 4:45pm and enjoyed a scenic drive through the country for an hour and a half, heading southeast to Port Arthur. Tasmania was founded by the Brits as a penal colony and Port Arthur was an actual prison for the hardcore prisoners. Today it is a national historic site. (When I came through Australian immigrations the officer asked me if I had a criminal record and I replied that I didn't know you needed one anymore!) For our group of nearly 400 guests they had set up a huge tent for dining. We had a short, guided walk around the grounds to learn the history and drama of the place. They did a dramatic reproduction for us with actors dressed as soldiers and convicts of the 1800's, including an escape attempt. It failed of course, as it usually did back then. During our meal a troupe of young performers, ages 7 to 16 did a delightful program of song and dance. Even the 12-piece orchestra was made up of young people. They did a great job and we all loved it. Meanwhile, the ship sailed from Hobart and came down around the coast to Port Arthur and picked us up right there. Such service.

Tuesday we were in MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA, our last port before Sydney where I have to leave this wonderful ship. I'd just as soon stay on for the rest of the world cruise! Oh well, we have to go back to the real world some day. Melbourne is a delightful city. In fact an international group of economists voted Melbourne as the world's most livable city last year. Its city center is the envy of many other big cities, which have been suffering urban sprawl and suburban mega-malls! Melbourne's downtown is the life of the city, with wide streets, wide sidewalks, trolley cars, and lots of people! Similar to Salt Lake City, the founders wanted streets wide enough so a team of horses and a wagon could turn around in the middle of the street without having to back up. Today traffic is limited to the trolleys and delivery traffic, so most of the downtown is virtually a pedestrian zone. The city is also laid out on the American grid system of square blocks. Streets are connected with a myriad of arcades, all lined with little shops and coffee houses - they love coffee here and I thoroughly enjoyed having several good cups of coffee (the ship's one negative is they have awful coffee!) The historic buildings have been protected since the 1970's, so renovations preserve and highlight old architectural styles, which contrast remarkably with flashy new skyscrapers. I enjoyed several hours on my own, just wandering through the shops and arcades and enjoying the atmosphere. I did spend some time on the phone, because I found I could call the US for less than five cents a minute!

Today is our last day at sea before arriving in Sydney tomorrow. My bridge partner and I won the club championship today as our last hurrah before I have to leave. We do get a free day in Sydney tomorrow yet and stay aboard one more night before disembarking Friday morning. Sydney is also one of my favorite cities, but I'll do one more update and include Sydney and my adventures driving up to the Gold Coast and flying over to New Zealand for a couple days, before heading home. Oh yes, the photo is of me with Carol Mann, caught at one of her weaker moments!

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Update #10 (final)

"Cruise update" is only partially true on this one, since I've disembarked the Mariner and done some shore-side travelling, but why change names now?

Oh, before I continue, I want to remind you that you can view a few photos from the cruise at the 2003 World Cruise slideshow.

Thursday, February 20 we arrived in SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA for two days. It was nice to have a free day before disembarking the ship. Svein and I had one last leisurely breakfast out on deck, enjoying great views of Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House while dining. Incidently, the Danish architect who designed the famous Opera House studied at MSU in Bozeman! Sydney is such a good city to explore. I walked the city center area from one end to the other, through the parks, China Town, Darling Harbour, downtown pedestrian zones, and Market City. Market City is an enormous covered market with individual vendors selling everything from produce to souvenirs to shoes to jewelry to clothes. It also had some of the best prices on things in the city. In Darling Harbour I went to a big store themed to the Australian Outback and they do a free 30-minute show demonstrating the didgeridoo (aboriginal instrument made of hollow tree stems) and accompanied by music and slides of the outback.

Friday morning we had to be up early for disembarkation and it was pouring rain. Australia has been gripped by their worst drought in 100 years, so the rain was a welcome change. I rented a car for 3 days and headed north up the coast, driving through heavy rain and foggy, misty conditions all day. Multiple accidents on the motorway caused horrific traffic jams and a 2-hour drive to Newcastle took me over 5 hours. After moving 10 miles in 2 hours, I took off west into the country and took a 50-mile detour so I could enjoy the countryside instead of fumes and brakes. It was delightful. The drought was quite evident, though some things were showing signs of life already. Blackened areas testified to the wildfires of the past months. I finally gave up driving and checked into a motel at 10:30.

Saturday was much better, cloudy but only a few showers. It was nice being able to see the scenery. As I headed further north it got greener and lusher. This area had started getting rain nearly two weeks earlier and it was obvious. The coast made for a lovely morning drive, but after a few hours I decided to leave the Pacific Highway (the main road) and go inland again. It was beautiful and I saw kangaroos like we see deer at home, more big birds than I've seen anywhere, and even a peacock strutting on the shoulder of the road. The terrain was hilly, covered with lush forests. Most people think of Australia as dry, but the east coast is subtropical, and (other than this past year), gets lots of precipitation. I returned to the coast just in time to leave the state of New South Wales and enter Queensland and Australia's famous GOLD COAST. This area is very much like south Florida, but without the Hispanic influence or hurricanes. It's developing rapidly and there are miles of high-rises along white-sand beaches. They even have names here like Miami Beach and Palm Beach.

Vicki Scotts is a good friend from QE2 and Royal Viking Sun days and now she and Jamie and their two boys lives on the Gold Coast. Vicki is expecting a baby girl in a few weeks, so her activities are a bit limited, but Jamie and the boys and I went to Surfers Paradise to swim and body surf the big waves. The waves really come crashing in off the Pacific there. Later we enjoyed a dip in their own pool, then lounged around the Lagoon at the neighboring Hyatt, and in the evening finished off with an Aussie BBQ. The Gold Coast claims to have the best weather in Australia - they say one day's beautiful, and the next day is perfect! However, I arrived on a cloudy day, enjoyed one gorgeous day, and left in a tropical downpour. So much for averages. They were so happy to get rain again after the long drought, though, that I can't begrudge them a little less-than-perfect beach weather.

There is so much to see and do in Australia. Some day perhaps I'll have to organize a tour down under and take in the highlights of Australia and New Zealand. With the world political climate, this seems to be a particularly good time to visit here.

Now I'm spending a few days in New Zealand before returning to winter. I hope you've enjoyed the cruise updates and have been able to explore the world vicariously through these writings. So, signing off until my next adventure....


The internet address below is an internet site which has a nice map of the Pacific Ocean. You can see where we are sailing.


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