Los Angeles to Sydney cruise

Jan 20 to Feb 17, 2002
by Grant C. Vogel

This is our ninth cruise with Holland America. 132 days including this cruise.

Jan 20. David came over at 4 p.m. and took us to the Los Angeles cruise terminal. Our ship was to leave Los Angeles at 9 p.m.. When we got to the terminal Mike and Donna were there to see us off. David left soon as he had somewhere else to go. Mike and Donna stayed with us as we went through the scanner and we went on to the ship, put our luggage in our room, and went out on the promenade deck and waved goodbye to them. Mike took quite a few pictures. At 6 p.m. we had dinner, then being tired we went to bed early. The ship left at 9 p.m. We'll be cruising four days. Our first stop will be Kona, Hawaii, Friday morning at 6 a.m.

Four days at sea. First day mostly finding our way around the ship, doing my two mile walk each morning, going around the ship seven times on the promenade deck. This is the same floor as our cabin. so we not only see lots of water through our nice large window, we also see people walking the deck. The windows are tinted so we can look out but nobody can look in from the outside. After the first day we found plenty to keep us going. Every day there is a movie in the theater at 2 p.m. A live show every evening. We did find a couple to play pinochle with; we played with them once and expect to play with them again after we leave Hawaii.

Friday Jan 25, Kona, Hawaii. Having been here several times before, the last time about seven months ago, we did not go on any tours,. We walked around town and to an Internet cafe to read our mail and to send some to the kids and family. We did take a free bus ride to a shopping center just to see the area. Not bad.

Sat Jan 26. Honolulu. Again no tour, a free shopping area bus. Went to an interesting coral jewelry factory and then a large shopping area with hundreds of shops all outdoors. Very interesting. Did break down and bought a Hawaiian shirt. Wore it that evening at dinner and to the show. Don't know when if ever I will wear it again. That evening a local group put on a nice show for us on the ship. Left Honolulu at midnight. We will be at sea about six days; during this time we will cross the international date line. We will also cross the equator.

Wed, Jan 30. I have neglected to report the past three days. Well, we left Hawaii Saturday evening. Sunday morning we went to church,. A real nice church service. I think there were about 200 or more people there. Reading the bulletin showed that Rev. Douglas Van Gessel was the minister. We know Willie Van Gessel and know he has a brother that is a preacher. After the service we met the minister and sure enough he is a brother of the Willie that we know who also lives in Leisure world not far from us. He sure seems like a nice person and had a good service. That is one of the great things about Holland America cruise lines. They have religious services on all their ships. Many cruise lines have none or very limited church services. On Holland America they have a priest, a rabbi and a Protestant minister.

One other thing of interest, we met and played pinochle with the ship's doctor, Dr.Van Dyke and his wife. They are both very nice. Other than that most days are much the same, lots of eating, a two mile walk every morning, often go to a movie at two p.m., live show at night, oh yes we go to dance classes, lectures, watercolor classes, play trivial pursuit. There's plenty to do on this beautiful new cruise ship.

Some time during last night we crossed the equator and are now in the southern hemisphere. In a few days we will cross the international date line and lose a day. We will go from Jan.31 to Feb 2. I think this will more or less bring us up to date. The day we crossed the equator the ship celebrated King and Mrs. Neptune. Quite a show. We received a document that we crossed the equator and Jan.31 that we crossed the international date line, and we have a document to prove it. We are feeling fine and enjoying the cruise.

Feb. 3. Sunday. Every day is much the same. Went to a real nice church service.

Feb. 4. We visit the small island of Vanuatu. This is our first stop since we left Hawaii. It was raining a little. We walked around town and went back on the ship by lunch time. Most people here spoke English but in the store they would not accept our money. They said go to the bank and change it. We did not do that.

The 5th, Tuesday, all day at sea, doing our regular thing.

Feb 6, Wednesday. Noumea, New Caledonia. Last evening they announced that because someone needed special medical attention the ship would go full speed to New Caledonia about midnight. We had been scheduled to get there at 6 or 7 a.m. At 8:15 we went on a nice two hour highlight tour. It was quite warm but interesting, On this beautiful island, mining nickel is their important industry. We had a real nice stop at a resort area where we were given coffee and fruit juice and took some pictures. This is where they have a statue of Mary on a high peak that rotates looking over the island so she can bless and protect the whole area. We finished the roll of film taking pictures of dancers in grass skirts alongside the ship.

7th, Thursday, regular day at sea.

8th. Our first stop in New Zealand. At the Bay of Islands, about 1:30 p.m. we went on a three-hour tour that was mostly a long bus ride across to another island by ferry. Lovely country, many hills and mountains all around. One stop on our tour was by a nice stream that had about a 20-foot waterfall. Took a picture of the waterfall. Got back just in time for dinner. The ship was all decorated for the grand Mardi Gras celebration for tonight after dinner. Much singing and dancing and a Mardi Gras parade. Then we went to the evening show; it was a great show, dancing and singing, fancy costumes, the stage background was great and changed often

9th, Aukland, New Zealand. Went on a three and a half hour tour, highlights of Auckland, New Zealand's largest city. Took us around the city to the top of a hill in the city which was an extinct volcano. They had cows grazing. the steep side of the extinct volcano to eat the grass. There we had a great view of the city. Then went to a large museum for an hour. Back to the ship, played trivia, and then dinner.

Monday 11th. Christchurch. The ship docked at Littleton, a harbor about ten miles from the city of Christchurch, the other side of the mountain. At nine a.m. we went on a three-hour tour of the city, went around the harbor and countryside. A beautiful country, had a nice lunch in a lovely park area next to a small river that runs through Christchurch. Instead of going back to the ship at the end of the tour, we got off the bus downtown. Seems like every third business has email signs. Ten free minutes with purchase. One said, 3 dollars for an hour, NZ money. (40-cent dollars.) We went in and had lots of time to read and send email, even read and added to the family page. Then checked and Donna had already answered what we had just sent so we answered her email. It only cost $1.20. Would have cost $45 on the ship. Every day at 1 p.m. an odd but familiar figure appears near the cathedral.. He is known locally as the wizard of Christchurch. He was considered a crank at first but always attracted a crowd; he always has a message, sometimes political, social, religious or something else. About fifteen years ago the city considered him valuable to the city and put him on the payroll, even though he often targets the city government. He drives a VW bug; it's half of two bugs, the front end of both. I took a picture of it. Back to the ship to play team trivia. Small group, only two teams because many were still on tours or in town. Coming back to the ship, instead of going around and over the mountain we went through a mile-long tunnel to get to the ship. A real nice shortcut.

Tuesday,12th. Dunedin, New Zealand. Today the weather is dark and light rain. At 9 a.m. we went on a three-hour city tour. This is along the harbor, around the university, took a picture of Nancy in front of an interesting front of the university. Then visited the Theomin home, built about 1900, has 35 rooms. Daughter lived there alone for 65 years. When she died she gave it to the city about ten years ago. Rest of the day same as most days on the ship. This is our last stop in New Zealand.

Wed 13th. An interesting day at sea. Today we have been cruising Milford Sound. Kipling called it the eighth wonder of the world. Most of the day we were cruising between islands or sheer cliffs that went about straight up on both sides of the ship, even snow covered mountains, and this is summer. One peak 5560 feet, and the depth of the water about 1700 feet below sea level. I took many pictures of the mountains. We had a nice sunny day. Lucky as they get about 253 inches of rain a year here. This evening we had a very elegant dinner with the hotel manager of the ship, Mr. Mensink. Starting at 6:30 with a cocktail party, then to an exclusive dining area and had white and red wine, a five course dinner, it was 9 p.m. by the time we finished the course, everyone was all dressed up. Today we had our pictures taken with the dinner group and had someone take two pictures of us with our camera.

14th. Regular day at sea.

15. At sea all day. Afternoon played pinochle with the doctor and his wife. Tonight we celebrate Nancy's birthday because tomorrow we will be in Sydney and some of our table friends won't be with us as they plan to go to the opera in Sydney. When we got to our table there was a big cake on the table Happy Birthday Nancy, and balloons above the table with NANCY letters on the balloons. One of our table friends furnished a bottle of wine, one some chocolates, and they went in together and bought Nancy a nice pin. The waiters sang happy birthday, lots of pictures were taken, it sure was a nice evening. I finished the second roll of film in our room, Nancy with the balloons.

16th, Sat. All day in Sydney. Went on a tour of the city this morning, we took some pictures including the opera house. Afternoon took it easy. After dinner we have to pack our suitcases as we leave tomorrow. This is our last full day.

17th. About 4 p.m. we got on the plane, had a thirteen hour flight back to LA. David was waiting for us and took us home.