ED’S 82 DAY GRAND ASIA & PACIFIC SAILING WITH HOLLAND AMERICA – PART 28

December 05, 2018 – Nadi, Fiji

Nadi (pronounced Nandi) is Fiji’s third-largest center and its gateway town. Most budget and mid-range accommodations as well as the vast majority of shops and restaurants are in or just north of the town center. A 20-minute drive over a short bridge to the east lies Port Denarau, home to six international luxury hotels (and counting), the shopping complex and marina, and large private homes.  A shared beachfront and free shuttle bus makes it easy to get around Port Denarau and access the restaurants and spas of each hotel. Denarau is built on reclaimed mangrove mudflats; most of the beach has dark-grey sand and murky water makes it unsuitable for snorkeling.

Having said all that, our focus today was on golf!  The plan was to meet another couple to make a foursome.  However, when we got onshore (this is a tender port), just our friend Terry was waiting for us.  It seems his wife Cynthia was not feeling well and opted out of golf.  Rather than an awkward 3-some, Karen bowed out of golf and thought some shopping might be in order.  When our friends Jillian and Ed saw Karen and inquired what had happened, they graciously invited Karen to join their group to go to the mudbaths.

Their first stop was at Garden of the Sleeping Giant.  Founded by the late American actor Raymund Burr (anyone remember Perry Mason?) in 1977 to house his own orchids, the garden now displays more than 2,000 kinds of orchids across its 50 acres. It’s located in the foothills of the Sabeto Mountains.

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From there, it was on to the Sabeto Hot Springs and Mud Pool for a naturalistic bathing experience north of town, where you can take a dip in these underdeveloped thermal bathing and mud pools in the lush Sabeto River Valley.  Anyone looking for an expensive spa experience substitute will be disappointed. The admission fee is approximately $30 Fijian Dollars.

Before the mud…

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After the mud…

The cleanse…

The massage…

And then the drinks!  Life is good!

While Karen was enjoying her adventures, Terry and I checked in for our golf game.  The cost was $90 Fijian dollars for green fees and $65 Fijian for club rental.  Works our to about $95 CAD, so not too bad.

We were teamed up with another couple of guys from the ship.  The course was reasonably good.  A different type of grass which made the greens a bit tricky but no excuses.  We had a wonderful day albeit very hot and humid.  Our round was about 4.5 hours and we really enjoyed a local beverage after the round.  I’m very glad we had the chance to play golf in Fiji…it made up for our missed round in Mooloolaba, Australia!

ED’S 82 DAY GRAND ASIA & PACIFIC SAILING WITH HOLLAND AMERICA – PART 27

December 03, 2018 – Mystery Island, Vanuatu

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A regular stopping place for South Pacific cruise ships, this tiny islet off the southern tip of the Vanuatu archipelago is totally uninhabited. Surrounded by clear blue waters and sheltered by coral reefs, it’s the perfect spot for swimming and snorkeling. It only takes about 45 minutes to walk around the sandy shore (in low tide).

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Although the island is uninhabited, there is quite an infrastructure for the tourists.  When ships moor, villagers come from nearby Anatom island (off the larger volcanic island of Tanna.  Locals also entertain visitors with charming dancing and singing.

There are bathrooms, restaurants and lots of shopping stalls selling a wide variety of trinkets, hats and t-shirts, etc.  The real draw though is the beach.  The sand is lovely and the water warm with a relatively gradual drop off.  It really is a lovely way to spend a relaxing day.  While we did not go, some of the snorkelers were very happy with the amount of sea life they saw including many varieties of colourful fish, large starfish, turtles and the occasional small shark.

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Used as an Allied forces landing strip in World War II, the grassy landing area dominates the centre of the island.

That’s our visit to Mystery Island…next stop Nadi, Fiji!  Thanks for letting us share our adventures!

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ED’S 82 DAY GRAND ASIA & PACIFIC SAILING WITH HOLLAND AMERICA – PART 26

December 02, 2018 – Easo, Lifou, New Caledonia

Easo is the capital of Lifou, the largest and most populated of the Loyalty Islands. Home to around 10,000 Kanak people, it’s a simple, relatively undeveloped and largely unspoiled place, famed for two things: a sandy palm-fringed beach that fans out on either side of the main dock, and a very friendly atmosphere.

The island itself offers a diverse landscape that ranges from the steep cliffs of the northern coast to the pristine white-sand beaches and stunning turquoise waters along the southern coast.

Coming off the cruise ship and up the hill we have two choices…a grotto to the right and the snorkeling beach to the left.  Walking with friends Jillian and Ed (yes, two Eds are better than one), we head first to the cave/grotto.  First stop on the way was to buy a couple of fresh coconuts from a couple of enterprising young kids…$2 each and mom had to wield the machete to open it up for us to enjoy the coconut water.  In the picture below, they are holding a “coconut crab” which we are told tastes very much like lobster!

Along the way we pass several traditional “huts” and a church where Sunday service is in progress.  The people are dressed up for the day.

The cost for entering the cave is $10 each and one of the locals shows us the way down.  It is quite steep and although some steps have been carved into the rock, it is still quite a hike.

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We are rewarded with entry into the cave where a perfectly clear pool of deep water appears.  First to make the leap into the water is the other Ed.  It was a shock to the system just how cold the water is, but given how hot outside it is, apparently quite refreshing.  Next in is Karen who is hesitant at first but takes the plunge, literally.

Click here to see Karen’s plunge!

Heading back up the road, now to see the snorkeling area.  Not that we plan on snorkeling but more interested in seeing the area.  Beautiful coral reef and our walk in the heat is rewarded with a local beverage.

This ends our visit to Easo.  It’s a tender port so we get some great shots of the ship heading back.

 

ED’S 82 DAY GRAND ASIA & PACIFIC SAILING WITH HOLLAND AMERICA – PART 25

Nouméa, the capital city of New Caledonia is on the ocean. Several bays extend along the city, providing magnificent beaches and points of view. Besides its natural features, Nouméa also has very attractive cultural offerings for tourists who choose to visit there.

Gorgeous bays and splendid islets.

Facing the lagoon, the Caledonian capital is the picture of the Pacific: a city to wander about in and live well, especially on the waterfront. The bay attracted the first Europeans to settle here starting in 1853 and has still kept all its appeal, as testified by the very beautiful beach on the Baie des Citrons and Anse Vata. Both offer an ideal setting for a day of exploration or of lounging.

Our idea of seeing what the area has to offer is by renting bicycles and riding out to these beaches.  The bike rental shop is right inside the terminal and so getting bikes is easy and convenient.  Although the bikes and helmets are not anywhere new, they look like they will be ok for our 4 hour rental.

The route we are taking has a combination of bike lanes, sidewalk or roadways to get us around the parts of the island we want.  Our first stop though is the Port Moselle Market with its 5 pavilions.  Three of the five pavilions are set aside for fresh produce, mostly locally grown. Piles of pineapples, bananas, dragon fruit, passion fruit and other exotics jostle yams, taros, sweet potatoes, plantain bananas and others, depending on the season. And there are plenty of delicious specialties to tempt you: honey, preserves, fruit or vegetable pickles, pastries, spices and more.

The ocean produce pavilion, near the wharf overlooking the fishing boats provides glittering displays of succulent lagoon and deep sea fish and shellfish, caught and landed that very morning… stalls overflowing with mangrove crabs, huge blue prawns, octopus, lobsters, golden-lined spinefoot fish (picots), bluespine unicornfish (dawas), red mullet and mahi-mahi.

And finally, had we had time, we could have browsed the many stalls selling hand-crafted items, sarongs, jewellery…but no retail therapy today.  Instead, we picked up a baguette (this is a French colony island after all), sausage and fresh cheese for our planned picnic lunch.

Our first goal was to reach Baie des Citrons (Lemon Bay).  Orientated north–south and less than 30 minutes from the city centre by bike, trendy Baie des Citrons attracts locals and visitors alike. The beach is great for swimming, while the strip of restaurants, bars and nightclubs along the main road could easily divert us from our bike ride with promises of cold beer and fresh seafood.  The Beach was dotted with locals and tourists alike although, it is not the nicest beach we have seen.

Continuing along the bike route we come to the next beach – Anse Vata.  Orientated east–west, this popular beach is a hotspot for visitors to Noumea, with hotels, restaurants, shopping and other attractions. On a breezy day at Anse Vata, such as we had, we could watch the colourful kite- and windsurfers skimming up and down the bay.

As we round the tip of the island, we finally find a spot shady enough for our picnic.  The baguette, cheese and sausage were excellent as we sat along water’s edge and soaked up the atmosphere.

The ride home should have been easy and straight forward but when we got to the street I thought we should turn at, the street sign said something else.  Unsure, I asked a local lady for the street we were looking for and she pointed further down the path we were on.  No problem, we rode for another 20 minutes or so until the next intersection and turned at it.  Turns out, it is the wrong street and we had to stop for directions at a Vietnamese grocery store…no English!  Thankfully a customer came in that could speak some English (the primary language is French) and he pointed us in the right direction but we were a couple of miles off course and the way back was certainly more difficult.  The road less travelled, as it were.

New adventures, even when you don’t expect them!  We did get the bikes back within the 4 hours we had rented them for.  We still had time before we sailed so we walked up to the Place des Cocotiers, the heart of the city. The square slopes gently from east to west and at the top is a band rotunda, a famous landmark dating back to the late 1800s. Place des Cocotiers is the main square complete with botanical garden, its palms and large spreading trees doting the landscape.

That was our day in Noumea, New Caledonia.   Thanks for following along!  Next stop is Eosa, Lifou, New Caledonia.

 

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Heather’s Relaxing Stay At Paradisus Cancun!

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If you are seeking a vacation that is a delight for the senses then Paradisus Cancun is the place for you! From the moment you arrive the aromatherapy surrounds you creating a feeling of relaxation. The open lobby is a vine covered oasis with plenty of seating for families or groups as well as secluded spots for couples. This is a place you will want to spend your time in! Check-in is quickly handled in a welcoming plush, quiet, air conditioned room. Spacious rooms feature comfortable beds, plenty of storage, large cascading rain showers and minibars filled with soda, water, beer and snacks.

Gourmet dining is available at more than ten restaurants – there is something to suite every taste! In between meals you can enjoy a latte from the Nespresso coffee corner or grab a cold treat from the gelato shop. If you are looking for a little extra indulgence I would recommend renting a Bali Bed at Coco Beach Club where you will be treated like royalty with sparkling wine, a tray of fresh fruit, a menu full of delicious food and drink service.

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The spa features countless treatments available in a relaxing atmosphere. Guests in Royal Service rooms have complimentary access to the hydrotherapy circuit which is a refreshing treat after a hot day on the beach. Speaking of the beach, this is the highly sought after white sand and turquoise water that makes you feel like you truly are in paradise.

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Treat yourself to a little luxury on your next vacation at the Paradisus Cancun!

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ED’S 82 DAY GRAND ASIA & PACIFIC SAILING WITH HOLLAND AMERICA – PART 24

November 27, 2018 – Sydney Australia

Day1:  Sydney, spectacularly draped around its glorious harbour and beaches, has visual wow factor like few other cities.Scratch the surface and it only gets better. We are almost all on deck as we sail into Sydney Harbour for some of the best views of any port we have docked in.

Of course the most recognizable landmark in Sydney is the Opera House.  Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, this World Heritage–listed building is Australia’s most famous landmark. Visually referencing a yacht’s sails, it’s a soaring,commanding presence. The complex comprises five performance spaces for dance,concerts, opera and theatre. There is ongoing renovation work, scheduled to be completed in 2021, but we did not notice any of the work.

The ms Amsterdam is a small enough vessel that we are able to sail under the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge, unlike the massive Royal Caribbean ship, Explorer of the Seas which you will see in some of the pictures above.

Sydneysiders love their giant ‘coathanger’ (Harbour Bridge), which opened in 1932. The bestway to experience this majestic structure is on foot. Stairs climb up the bridge from both shores, leading to a footpath on the eastern side (the westernside is a bike path). Climb the southeastern pylon to the Pylon Lookout or ascend the arc on the popular but expensive BridgeClimb.

The harbour bridge is a spookily big object – moving around town you’ll catch sight of it in the corner of your eye, sometimes in the most surprising of places.Its enormous dimensions make it the biggest (if not the longest) steel arch bridge in the world.  The two halves of chief engineer JJC Bradfield’s mighty arch were built outwards from each shore. In 1930, after seven years of merciless toil by 1400 workers,the two arches were only centimeters apart when 100km/h winds set them swaying.The coathanger hung tough and the arch was finally bolted together. Extensive load-testing preceded the bridge’s opening two years later.  It is a sight to see.

We have been to Sydney a few times before, so we were not as excited about seeing the sights but rather happy to be meeting up with our friends Gary and Chris O.  It was so good of them to pick us up at White Bay Cruise Terminal and take us out for a walk about of the city.

We parked the car near St Mary’s Cathedral and started off from there.  Parking near downtown Sydney is expensive -$10.00 per hour.  We were gone for 4hours, so yikes $40.00! 

Our path took us around the Opera House, through Darling Harbour and into an area called “The Rocks”.

Sydney’s oldest colonial neighborhood, The Rocks is a warren of atmospheric sandstone warehouses, quiet courtyards, and cobbled alleys on the western side of Circular Quay. The birthplace of modern Sydney, this was where the First Fleet of British colonists and convicts stepped ashore in 1788. Enjoy spectacular views of Sydney Harbour Bridge looming over this historic district, and Sydney Opera House opposite. The oldest remaining building is 1816-founded Cadmans Cottage, beside the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), a handy starting point for a walk around the area’s 19th-century buildings, heritage pubs, cafes,shops, and galleries.

The Rocks was a destination because the last time we were in Sydney, we went to a beer festival there and had pizza at the Australian Hotel.  Not just any pizza mind you but Karen loved a tandoori chicken pizza with mango chutney and mint yogurt dressing on top.  We had to go back and try it again!

While it was good, they have changed the recipe and it was not as we remembered it.  We actually liked the kangaroo meat pizza better and the local brew was excellent.

Some great sights on our walk back to the car but again, we were enjoying the company of our friends mostly.

A drive over to Manley Beach which is one of Sydney’s most famous surf spots just to re-acquaint ourselves. It is a huge sweep of golden sand backed by pretty pine trees. It’s actually three beaches in one—South Steyne, North Steyne, and surf-friendly Queenscliff, stretching almost two kilometres—and is the first of the city’s Northern Beaches which run from here up to Palm Beach.

The real destination was to the North Heads, a scenic spot on the cliff side from which to get great views of the city.

Luckily the weather was very cooperative today,although not as hot as Sydney can get at this time of year.  Our next stop and the one we have really been looking forward to is to Gary and Chris’s house!  They are such wonderful, warm people and both are excellent cooks, have great taste in wine and love to entertain.  It was a fantastic evening!  Thanks to our very good friends!


Day 2 – Oh dear, the weather has become very nasty. We are being pelted with sheets of rain and they are forecasting a month’s worth of rain in one day!

However, not to be deterred, Chris and Gary show up to take us first to an aboriginal art studio named Kate O Gallery where we were introduced to a large variety of original art that ranged in price from a few hundred dollars to over a million dollars! It really was spectacular!

Braving the rain, we went for lunch to an Israeli restaurant called Kepos & Co. with a very unique menu.  The food and wine were exceptional and we really enjoyed the hummus made fresh at the table and warm bread baked in their wood fired oven.

As our time was winding down, we took Gary and Chris on board the ship for a tour (pre-arranged) as they have never yet sailed.  It was a lovely way to finish our visit, showing them where we are living for our 82 day experience.

Sadly, we bid them farewell as we prepared to sail away from Australia and start our South Pacific journey back home.  As the weather was not very favourable today,we experienced some rather rough seas…the worst we have had so far on our journey.  It was interesting watching the small pilot boat navigate 20 – 30 foot swells.  Our evening entertainment was also cancelled because of the motion of the ocean.

ED’S 82 DAY GRAND ASIA & PACIFIC SAILING WITH HOLLAND AMERICA – PART 23

November 25, 2018 – Mooloolaba Australia

Our first time to the Sunshine Coast in Australia and a port of call that is on many ship itineraries but rarely do they actually get into port because it is a tender port where they use a couple of the ship’s lifeboats to ferry passengers into town.  The swells can get quite high there and it becomes too dangerous to run the tenders.

In our case, it looked like we would make it and I was invited along for a round of golf.  I was quite excited about this because I hadn’t played in the last couple of months and I have never played golf in Australia.

Unfortunately, just before anyone disembarked the ship, the Captain announced that we were abbreviating our stop in Mooloolaba by 2.5 hours.  This made it too tight to get in a round of golf and so the decision was made to cancel golf and perhaps try for another port of call.

What was a huge disappointment turned out to be a delight!

Mooloolaba sits on a spit of land between an international standard marina on the Mooloolah River and beautiful ocean beaches with great surf that the Pacific Ocean has to offer.

Visitors can enjoy the intimate restaurants, shopping, sparkling white beaches with highly patrolled areas for swimming and surfing, walks along the boardwalk and through tropical foliage. The town – with approximately 17500 residents – is situated approximately 100 km (1 hour) from Brisbane.

The ship’s tender dropped us off at Mooloolaba Wharf, one of Mooloolaba’s best drawcards. If you’re into boats then it is a great place to wander about and pick out your dream cruiser or yacht. If boating’s not your thing then content yourself with a wander around the great clothing and specialty shops. There’s also a variety of restaurants and bars to choose from which offer great al fresco dining.

 

We started off with a stroll along the waterfront and made our way to the Mooloolaba Esplanade which is a shopping destination and is the perfect place to go in search for the perfect cup of coffee, lunch, bathing suit or special dress. There’s a variety of clothing boutiques offering fashions from Australia and around the world. There are also specialty jewellery stores, galleries and specialty stores selling homewares and gifts.  After some retail therapy, we opted for one of the many, many restaurants and in this case a coffee and wine bar.

A lovely lunch of some tapas and a nice cold glass of white wine before we had to start back, along the spectacular beach toward the Wharf to catch our tender.

 

Mooloolaba Beach is one of the most picturesque on the Sunshine Coast with its clean, white sands and azure waters. The beach is patrolled every day of the year by lifeguards and is perfect for those a little more timid in the sea as the waves aren’t too big. The beach is the perfect hang out as long as you remember the sunscreen!

 

True to the Captains best judgement, the seas were significantly rougher on the ride back to the ship and we were happy it wasn’t worse at that point.

Now for a day at sea before we arrive in Sydney, home to our friends Gary and Chris who we are excited to visit with.