Tuesday, February 28, 2012

26Feb Sydney

Crab cake and grilled scallop at the Pinnacle restaurant on board with my parents, Greg, Steve and Louis

Prawn bruschetta

Most tender tenderloin steak

Cosy interior of the restaurant

Lime pudding. yum

Raspberry sorbet

Quite artistic!

High tea time at the Crow's Nest Bar

On the Sports Deck with the city view

Ship's spa

Dinner at La Fontaine restaurant right next to our usual table

LA based celebrity chef George Geary and Neil joined the ship in Sydney
For more information;

Theme of the restaurant tonight is Exotic Fish!

Our dinner table mates with newly joined George and Neil while Diane and John flew to Cairns to maximise Aussie experience on inland

25Feb Sydney, Australia

Most of fellow passengers are getting excited about coming into Sydney after sailing the vast Pacific Ocean for nearly 3 weeks with just few ports to visit.
I had to admit that I was also getting emotional as I have my parents and friends on the ship’s visitor list.
It will be a busy day in the first day of Sydney.
We got up early even before the ship entered into the harbour.
It was quite an experience to sail in between North and South Heads of Sydney where divides the ocean and the harbour.
Within an hour, we were already passing in front of the Sydney Opera House and for the first time, we were sliding under the Sydney Harbour Bridge!

Few people were disappointed that we are not docking at Circular Quay with fantastic view of the city, Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
But, I thought the Barangaroo terminal at Sydney Darling Harbor would be better location in terms of tourist attractions.
It is closer to the city center, Fish market, China town, shopping and etc.
Port authority organized a shuttle bus to Pitt Street where is close to Circular Quay anyway.

We only managed to get off the ship around 10am even though our ship docked at 8.30.
It was a bit of frustration for waiting the ship to be cleared as there are few things to be done before lunch appointment at the Pinnacle restaurant.
My friends Steve and Louis drove our car to Barangaroo terminal to meet us up.
I took over the car and drop them off in the city while I was gone to pick up my parents.
Our little Maltese Coco was jumping around us with joy when she saw us after 2 months.
Due to usual Saturday heavy traffic, we were late coming back to the ship with my parents.
I am glad that we were only 10 minutes late for the lunch when we came on board with my parents, Steve and Louis.
We showed them around the ship top to bottom after nice lunch at the Pinnacle and had glass of champagne in our cabin balcony.
They were impressed with interiors of the ship and the services around the cruise facilities.
It was 3pm when it was high tea time at the Crow’s Nest Bar on top deck which we all also enjoyed.
Greg went out to pick up his friend Sharyn while I was gone to drop Steve and Louis off.
Sharyn was happy to stay for dinner with our table mates whom she already has met over the years and I pre-arranged another table for 4 of us with my parents.
Everything went well as planned and I was especially happy that we sat at the table right next to our usual one.
I was so glad that everyone enjoyed the day especially my proud parents who were so happy to see me in 2 months.
What a day of both excitement and emotion!
I have been in and out of the ship and driving around but I drove off Sharyn to her home in Manly and my parents in inner west after dinner.
I was exhausted but came with great satisfaction.
Now, the part two of our holiday starts! ^^;

Passing Lord Howe Island

Ball Pyramid Island just off the coast of Lord Howe Is.

Entering Sydney Harbour in between North and South Heads

North Head, Manly where few people already up and about the sea on boats and canoes

Classic view of Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Magnificent view of the city

North Sydney suburb Kirribilli where Australian Governor General and Prime Minister’s houses are located

Luna Park under the bridge

Temporary cruise terminal in Barangaroo at Darling Harbour

Welcome to Sydney

Greg, Barbie and Susie on deck

Hey, we got the Harbour Bridge on our back

Aren’t we glad that our ship is not so tall?

Bridge climbers enjoying the view of cruise ship

Lined up for the Opera House

Saturday, February 25, 2012

21Feb Mardi gras from New Orleans

We just crossed the International Date Line this morning.
The date of 20th was skipped as it doesn’t exist on our cruise calendar.
We simply lost a day as yesterday was 19th and today is 21st.

The biggest party of the whole cruise is on tonight.
It is Mardi gras night!
Lido pool deck is transformed into street of New Orleans.
It starts at 5pm shortly followed by King and Queen’s parade in fancy frocks.
It is open bar with freshly cooked unlimited Southern style foods.
Lobster tails, Fresh oysters, King prawns, Cat fish, Gumbo, Jambalaya, assorted meat BBQ, more than 20 different hot dogs…
Cat fish was the most delicious.
I started with New Orleans beer.
Band of jazz musicians are directly flown from New Orleans.
Music was great and so was the atmosphere.
So many people were dressed to the party in fancy costumes and dancing around.
It was fun night as everyone was having great time.

Royal courtesy to the Queen!

Passengers voted for King and Queen are in their royal gown and posing for photo shot along with other characters

Beads and feathers are abundant – John, Widi the waiter, Diane are backing me and Woody

Cruise director Bruce is in disguise as a clown. But we all know who you are, Brucy! ^^

Cat fish and crispy soft-shell crab – delicious!

Jambalaya rice anyone?
Philiphino cook Romel is also enjoying himself.

Busy bartenders.
Yes, sir, 5 more Peña colada?

Jazz band from New Orleans joined the ship for the party

One of on-board medical officers Holly and her hubby Peter, loveliest people on earth.

Ship’s Spa girls Taiwanese Ping and Japanese Nao are both having good times

Waiter Harisman from Indonesia is always happy with his signature big smile

Lobster tails, King Prawns and Fresh Oysters came in tons

Cruise marketing manager John joined our table and Pam. Pam in purple feather is from Sydney and is presenting opals and other gemstones for passengers.

Greg is flanked by Adele the ship’s entertainment hostess and Char the on-board travel consultant

Mardi gras night is getting deeper as people are partying harder !!

19Feb Pago Pago, American Samoa

Village is full of smoke as their Sunday tradition starts with indoor BBQ. Pilot boat is leading us into the port.

Pago Pago, (it is pronounced as Pango Pango) small town of eastern Samoa is the port where the ship docked today.
Western Samoa, meanwhile, is independent country now called Samoa as their eastern neighbor decided to be part of the US territory and became American Samoa.

This Polynesian island was very quiet as it is Sunday morning.
The islanders, mostly Christians and Catholics, were in church services.
It was not even 10am but I could feel it as if I was in sauna.
Greg and I first walked off the ship and strolled around the small town and we did it within half an hour.
Only business and retails opened on Sunday are run by Koreans and Chinese.

Colorfully painted local bus. Just hail the bus as there are no bus stops in town.

Wood carving monument.

We bumped into Martha and Pam in town and agreed to hire a taxi to go around the other side of island.
I was happy that it was four wheel drive taxi with air conditioner.
Taxi driver’s name is Laki and pronounced and meant as is lucky.
It would take about 6 hours to drive around the whole island but we only wanted taxi for a couple of hours as the ship leaves at 1pm.
Soon, we spotted a mini island called Fatumafuti.
It looks like a flower pot and standing tall just about 10 meters off the coral coast.
Laki explained that every back number plates of vehicles have a picture of this cute island on them.
We also have spotted numerous churches nicely painted in different colors on white.
Every church goer dressed up nicely with their traditional dress and hat.
Coconut trees and tropical fruit trees are everywhere.
It is really peaceful and quiet place with whole population of 60,000.
There is no city as the island is surrounded by continuous of small towns.
We stopped at small local grocery shop and found whole buffet set up for take away foods as well.
They are taro dish, ham dish, pasta dish and coconut fish…
I was glad to see how they cook and present bread fruit dish with coconut.
Later we dropped by a big supermarket run by Korean.
I could see a lot of frozen foods directly imported from Korea.
We bought a packet of chips made of bread fruit that tastes just like potato chips only nicer.
Korean kimchee and cucumber kimchee were there for me also. ^^
Pam and Martha were also fascinated by some of local designed home ware and crafts.
We finally left the place with few more packets of chips and kimchee containers.
It is so interesting to see a Samoan man in traditional dress came to the market and bought few containers of kimchee.
Funny to hear that Laki’s favorite food is Korean, too.

We drove off to place called Leone in western coast.
This place was wiped away when tsunami ripped through the whole town all the way up to mountain and valley in 2009.
Ruined houses still remain as villagers still carry on their quiet lives.

These easy going people love everybody with welcome arms.
So much of love to give away.
Polynesian way of life I guessed.
God bless islanders!

A church

Coconut trees, palm trees and African tulip tree complete a picture of tropic!

Another church in Pago Pago

A mural in town where tuna fishery is the island’s biggest industry

Utulei beach is the view from the Governor’s and Lt. Governor’s residents built on the hill top

Long canoe is about 50 meters length

In front of local landmark Fatumafuti, the flower-pot island with Laki the cab driver

Laki is showing off his body tatto

Futumafuti Flower Pot Island

Another beautiful church

Nicely dressed very young church parishioners ^^

40 years old lone palm tree still survives even after tsunami hit in Leone

Remains of tsunami damage in Leone

Bread fruit chips – delicious

Once beautiful Rainmaker hotel has been abandoned for a long time is in great location of the harbor entrance.